photo tip tuesday

Photo Tip Tuesday: Giving in to the Flash

Well, I finally did it. After years of declaring my hatred for on-camera flashes, this past Saturday right before the engagement shoot, I caved.

I have always been a huge fan of natural light. It's generally that natural light filtering through the leaves of a tree that will inspire me to pull out my camera in the first place. I always thought the flash ruined everything. Ruined textures, washed out skin tones, created horrible hot spots, uggg. Plus I had these sweet lenses with low f-stops, what was the point?

Then I started doing portraits. Of people (who move). In areas with poor lighting that I couldn't control. In rooms with no windows. I started thinking I might need a flash. I also was turned on to all of the fancy, cool flashes available to those without built-in flashes on their camera (like me).

What I settled on was the Canon Speedlite 430EX with a diffuser. It's not going to replace shooting with natural light entirely but I'm hoping it will come in handy during those shoots that could just use a tiny bit of help, as a filler light. It also works in those poor lighting situations that are out of my hands. Now I'm feeling pretty foolish for rejecting the idea of a flash for as long as I did. I'm still learning how to use it but I can tell it is something I will be getting a lot of use out of already.

Photo Tip Tuesday: How to make a Screen Shot

Ok so I don't know if this should count as an actual "photo tip" but I thought it could be useful anyway!

My friend Chris asked me this morning how to do a screen grab which is essentially a picture of what is on your computer screen. Usually people do this for websites like when they are on the front page of Etsy and want to save the page as an image file (.jpg, .gif, etc) . It's also helpful if you are having technical difficulties and getting error messages, you can take a screen shot and send it to tech support.

There are several ways this can be done. If you're on a PC, here's all you have to do:

1. On your keyboard in the upper right corner above the "Insert" key, hit "Print Scrn."

2. Open whatever photo software you use (Photoshop, Paint, Microsoft Picture Manager, etc).

3. Under "Edit," click "Paste" (or Ctrl + V).

4. If it asks about the canvas size (as it did when I used Paint), click "Expand canvas."

5. Voila! The default file type will vary depending on the program you're using, but you can save it as whatever image type you need, most likely a .jpg if you're going to post it on your blog or share it in an email.

Make sense? Once I figure out how to do it on a Mac I will post that too! Happy screen grabbing.

UPDATED: Kerry just left me a comment explaining how to do it with a Mac- "Shift+Command and the number 4 together. You will get a little icon and you pull it to the size you want and you have your screen shot ." Thanks Kerry!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Pet Portraits

I was inspired to write this post after reading this article by Kim Brebach from the Digital Photography School. Pets can be such fun subjects to shoot and people looove to see them! Just check out Flickr sometime if you don't believe me. Here are some tips I've come up with for better pet portraits:

1. Patience

Apollo on Seth's lap. He didn't just stick his tongue out on command! Patience...

This may seem like a no-brainer but it's definitely key when taking pictures of pets. For every good shot I have of an animal, I probably have about 15 losers. Just getting them to look at you and give you the time of day period is an exercise in patience! Take the time and be persistent.

2. Get Low

Katie the German Shepherd was grateful that I did not make her get up to take this shot.

If your pet is on the ground, get down there too. Your picture will look so much better if you are on their level, right there with them from their point of view. It's also probably not an angle you generally shoot from and it can be a cool perspective.

3. Fast shutter speed/high ISO

Considering how fast animals can move, make sure you have your shutter speed set accordingly. Shooting on an automatic setting does not usually do this for you. If you have the "action" setting option on your camera that looks like a
little running man, set it to that. If you're inside, consider a higher ISO. High ISOs can lead to graininess but you don't want a seriously blurred image so you can probably deal with some grain.

4. Stick a person in the shot

Abby getting a hug from Nicky

A person's relationship with their pet is special. Without posing them, just watch them interact and try capture those little moments. If the love is there, these pictures will just take themselves.

I have a few more tips on pet pics but I will save it for a later post. Have fun shooting!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Prepping Pictures to Post Online

Say that three times fast!

I talked about this a bit in my last Photo Tip Tuesday regarding contrast but for this week I decided to show exactly what I do to a picture before posting it on Etsy. I usually use Photoshop but today I am using Microsoft Office Picture Manager which I think most PC users have on their computers.

So here is the picture I'm working with. Even though it looked pretty good when I was taking it (using natural light), now it's obvious that it's too dark and could use some cropping since there appears to be an unwanted object in the frame in the left.

Let's start with the cropping- what you'll want to do it simply click "Edit Pictures" in the tool bar then click "Crop." This will show you small lines along the edges of your picture; just grab one of those edges and pull it in (from the top, sides and/or corners) until you like the composition of the picture. Click "ok." That left me with this:

Still needs some brightness. I first clicked "Auto Correct" just to see what it gave me which was this:

Too dark for my taste. So I hit "Edit Pictures" again and then "Brightness and Contrast" on the left-hand side. This is when you get to play around. I like adjusting the midtones since it's a bit more subtle then changing the overall brightness. I slid the midtones up to 60 which looked much brighter but still washed out. That was easily fixed with a slight contrast raise (up to 10). This is the final result:

Like I said before, some people prefer brighter photos, some with more or less contrast, etc. Also everyone's monitor calibrations are configured differently. Just play around and see what works for you. Also, to prep it for posting to my Etsy site, I also had to resize the image which you can also do in the "Edit Picture" mode under "Resize." Good luck!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Just a Little Contrast

I hear many people who are going on vacation lament, "I just want to take better pictures, my camera is so bad ." Well, that could mean a lot of things but one thing I noticed is that often the pictures themselves are pretty good- cool subject, nice composition, so what's the problem? Sometimes it all comes down to a simple fix- contrast.

When you're disappointed in a shot that looks washed out or less bright then you imagined, simply adjust the contrast. You can do this in any photo editing program that comes already installed in your computer (Microsoft Picture Manager in Office, or Paint). Can't find one? Try downloading GIMP for free. Also if you post your photos on Flickr, they have a program (Picnik) that allows you to edit pictures you've already uploaded and it's great.

So here's what I mean. I'm using some pictures my friend Jackie took on a trip to Costa Rica (i.e. beautiful scenes, average camera).

In this example, changing the contrast also changed the color of the sky which you may like or you may not. If you don't, that can be fixed in color correction but that is a different post for a different Tuesday!


This next one (a "Resplendent Quetzal") is tricky because it was shot through a telescope and could probably use other kinds of adjustments but here it is with just the contrast:

There's no magic formula for adjusting contrast, you just have to play around with it and see what works for each picture. You can also try the "Auto Fix" which works very well for some photos that just need a slight tweaking. Sometimes less is more; you can also try reducing the contrast for a lighter, less saturated picture. So try it out, get crazy, and let me know how it goes!

Photo Tip Tuesday

I know, I know, a tip is long overdue! I have one I'm working on but I'm thinking it is not going to come together today... still working on the visuals. I'll finish it soon, promise! PTT doesn't have to be on a Tues anyway (it's my blog, I say so).

Photo Tip Tuesday: Online Resources

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be heading to Ghana tomorrow to visit my friend for 10 days of some much needed R&R. I don't know if I will be update my blog while I'm there so I thought this week I'd leave you with some online resources that I enjoy and visit on a regular basis. Yay for link love!

Interested in selling your work? These guys want to help. Lots of good leads on where to start and how to succeed.

"We find the best photo shiz anywhere." This site is dedicated to all the crazy and innovative things you can do with your photos, the funnier the better.

Digital Photography School
A great resource for anything photo-related. How to pack for an African safari. Tips for photographing butterflies. Equipment reviews, post-production ideas; if you need it, it's in there. Plus photographers love to leave comments so if you are considering any kind of purchase, it's a great place to check out.

B & H Photo

I've never been to their huge store in NYC (someday!) but I love their website. Well categorized, clean, live chat with staff and large inventory; I often stop here first for price comparisons and options. Also their customers leave long, detailed reviews on their purchases which helps immensely when researching a product.

Do you have any to recommend? See you in two weeks!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Overcast Can Be Optimal

Just because the sun and blue skies aren't out does not mean you should reschedule that photo walk you've been planning. In some cases, overcast can be a better shooting condition than you might think.
For one thing, while bright sun can create interesting shadows and lighting, it can also create a lot of blown out "hot spots" that are often difficult or impossible to correct later. Any extreme in a photograph, light or dark, is bad because your camera is not recording information/detail in those parts of the image. Even if you plan to use Photoshop or another editing software, if the info isn't there, the program can't help much.

Shooting on an overcast day there will be virtually no glare from the sun or dark, unwanted shadowing. This is something to especially consider if you're planning on doing any nature close-ups like flowers, leaves, insects, etc.

Grasshopper! Concord, NH, 2009

Another overcast perk is the clouds. Clouds can provide a lot of interesting textures and contrast to your picture, even if you can't tell right away. I shot this picture on a cloudy day and while these clouds looked fairly non-threatening in person, a quick simple contrast adjustment created a dramatic difference.

Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Plain, MA, 2010

Same with this picture shot on a fairly "flat" day-
Solitude, Madison, NH, 2007

Don't forget too, if you really like the blown out/high contrast look, it's always better to get a good shot with as much information as possible and work with it later when editing. This will give you more options/control over your image and what you want to do with it!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Bokeh/Shallow Depth of Field

When I first asked my friends what kinds of tips they'd like to learn, one said, "I just want to take better pictures." Pretty broad, I know, but it made me think of something I see a lot of in photography and that is bokeh. Bokeh is that very soft, blurry, sometimes "buttery" background in pictures, often portraits, that creates a really lovely intimacy with the object in detail and a nice distortion to the rest of the picture. This is called "shallow depth of field."

sepia bee snap dragon photograph"Sepia Bee," f/5.6

Shallow depth of field is one of the first things you learn about in Photography 101 and I won't get into all the technical stuff (but you can learn more about it here), I'll just skip to how you do it.

With automatic cameras it can be hard to achieve since they focus automatically but the little flower symbol is the Macro setting intended for close-ups so try that. For those with a few more setting options, set your camera to "Av" (Aperture Priority) and scroll it down as low as it will go, for most standard lenses f/5.6 or f/4, etc. Then get as close to your subject as you can so that the focus is on the object. With this shallow depth of field, the object close to you should be in sharp and in focus with the background nice and soft.

This method is wonderful for portraiture and if it's something you think you'd like to do more of, consider investing in a macro lens or one with a crazy low f-stop like 1.4. They can be expensive but the images they produce will not disappoint.

Need more inspiration? Blogger dooce loves using the shallow depth of field in her gorgeous family portraits. Also professional photographer Me Ra Koh is a frequent bokeh creator in her stunning wedding photos. There are also a ton of groups on Flickr dedicated to the beauty of bokeh.

Have fun experimenting and if you have any questions about depth of field or photography in general, please let me know!

Photo Tip Tuesday: Consider Stationary

black & white Boston photo cardsOk so this is more of a photo BIZ tip but I've been getting some inquiries lately about how to start selling photography so I figured it was relevant. Today's tip is to consider selling your work in a form other than a print. What, you don't want to put your pictures on coffee mugs? That's cool. But I'd highly recommend considering stationary.

flower postcardsI thought of this from my own art shopping experiences. Sometimes people (like me) just don't have the money or wall space to buy an expensive, large print. Should those people still be denied your beautiful work?! Hardly! True, this would not be a huge sale for you but think of it as a way to keep your work in your buyers' minds. Maybe they will enjoy the card they bought so much that they'll come back to you someday when they have more money or space to buy the larger print.

mini note card stationary with envelopeIf you're selling them online and don't like posting inexpensive items (minus all the fees sometimes you don't wind up with much profit), try selling them in sets. If you're selling them in shows, choose a nice display and they will fly. I bought this greeting card rack from Displays2Go for a very reasonable price and it's served me well. Even if you're charging a small amount, these sales will add up, I promise!

Need a bit more inspiration? There are plenty of groups on Flickr featuring stationary ideas including Handmade Cards and MOO. If you have any questions or would like to add more info, please feel free to comment or contact me directly!

Photo Tip Tuesdays

This spring I am taking a class at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts called Digital Photography II. I haven't taken a photo class like this since college and I figured a refresher couldn't hurt. For our first assignment, we were given a checklist of things we should be able to locate and use on our camera. Sounds easy right?

This list made me realize how many features I'd been ignoring or knew little about, if at all! It also occurred to me that if I had that much to learn about my camera, there are probably others out there who do too. This prompted me to think about starting a weekly series providing very basic photo tips that could maybe help you and your photography. Sure, you could read your camera manual cover to cover and scrutinize the little black and white pictures but who does that?
I will start the photo tips next week but in the meantime, let me know what questions you have! No question is too basic, sometimes those are the best kinds to get the ball rolling.