Friday, August 24, 2012

You never know what you're gonna get

I'm not talking about boxes of chocolate or life in general, but todays theme: Photographing kids!

I love to photograph kids. Kids can be shy, they can be funny, they can be playful or difficault, but in general kids never seem to worry about how they are going to look at the finished photo. Kids never pose in a certain way to hide things about them selves that they don't like. In other words; kids are wonderfully natural  in front of the camera!
When photographing kids, as with every other portrait photographing, you'll always get a better result if you manage to capture eye contact. There is so much communication going on by eyes!
Some kids are very playful, and to manage to portray them you'll have to be able to play as well. If you expect kids to stand still, look at the camera, putting on a smile, you're in for a suprise.

 Rule number one is to recognnize that things might not go according to least not according to your plan! The best plan is to decide to play along, and never-NEVER- be stressed out.

Some of my best child portraits have been made while having a conversation with the kid. Hold the camera in your lap, talk about anything, and just pick up the camera every now and then to shoot a few shots. At this point you might understand that the main key to good portraits is communication.

If the kid is a bit shy it's a great idea to move the camera down, get down on your knees and capture your shot from below. This way the kid comes out stronger and more confident, and it's much easier to get the much wanted eye contact!

Although it's sometimes cool to break the rules (like the two photos above), in general it's a pretty good idea to at least move the camera down to eye level. Informal portraits often use the rule of placing the eyes 1/3 from the top of the frame. I've talked about this in the blogpost "Starting to think within the frames".

So far - so good, but what about smaller children who you can't communicate with the same way as you'll normally do with larger ones?

Princess Sofia, 6 days old,  is fed up with photo shoot!

Well, you'll just have to apply everything you know about light, composition and depht of field. I always think it's a pretty good idea to move up close, especially if you will shoot good infant photos. Be sure to light up the room, and never - EVER- shoot the flash straight into the poor babys face!

If the baby is sleeping you can carefully move up close and capture the little toes, fingers and ears.

Of course, photography is also about taste. Many mothers and fathers would like to have a favorite toy og outfit in the photo. It's crucial that this doesn't steal the attention from the child. I belive the child should be the centre of attention in the frame. Also plan, so there'll be no distractions -visual noise- in the background.

Hope this was helpful.

Take care!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All the beautiful people!

There's a common perception that everyone else looks so much better in photos. Many seem to think they can't look good, except for that one photo they use for everything because they feel that this one portrays them the way they are. Let me tell you; everyone can look great in photos!

They joy in the eyes, of a  person who is satisfied with the photos you've shot of them, is priceless!
My dear friend, Astrid
EXIF: f/2 - 1/100 - ISO100 - 50mm - WB/cloudy

The portrait on the right is of my dear friend, Astrid. She's one of the strongest and also most loving persons I know. I wanted to portray her, powerful and feminine. In other portraits I might have worked with a higher f-number, but I really wanted her to stand out from the background. In this shot I have used the Sigma EX DG HSM 50mm lense, a great lense for portraits.

In the post Starting to think within the frames I talked a bit about placing the eyes on the line 1/3 from the top. In this shot you can see she stares straight to the right in this line level.

Complementary colors are good in any photos, and her golden colors stands in wonderful contrast to the ice blue sky.

Bridal journeymen
EXIF: f/4.5 - 1/160 - ISO200 - 80mm - WB/cloudy
Now, if you want to learn how to shot great portraits from scratch there are some guidelines to follow. First of all you need to create a relaxing atmosphere between you and the person you will portray. You need to make the person trust you and you must keep your body language positive. People feel very fragile when someone is moving this close to them, so it's very important that you treat them with respect and show them that you are trustworthy. Smalltalk and keeping eye contact is alfa and omega.

EXIF: f/4.5 - 1/160 - ISO200 - 50mm - WB/sun
Photographing kids is so much fun! You really never know what you'll get. Kids are so natural in fromt of the camera, and they often completely take over the direction of the shoot. To photograph kids you'll have to know how to play. 

I'll talk about baby photography in a later post

When talking about portraits, there is one thing I haven't mentioned yet, but is very important. If you want to take great people photographs you have to get rid of the pop-up flash. Please. The pop-up flash is the cruelest invention in the history of digital photography. So many great shots have been ruined because of this! The pop-up flash creates a merciless flash that flattens the dept, highlights and destroys everything in it's way. Turn it off. Buy a directional flash. Or, at least cover it with a diffuser. To create great portraits you need soft and indirect light. Natural daylight is of course best, but with a directional flash you can shot the flash up in the ceiling to spread the light.

EXIF: f/ 5.6 - 1/200 - 70mm - ISO100 - WB/sun
Pay attention, because this is important! People tend to always look at the other persons eyes. In portaits the old saying, the eyes are the mirror of the soul, couldn't be more true. So, focus on the eyes. Always make the eyes razor sharp! 

If the person is staring into the camera, and their eyes are sharp, it is almost like there's some kind of communication going on. Try it out!

None of my examples this time has been shots with f/11. f/11 is the ultimate aperture for classic portrait shots. At f/11 you get the whole head of the person in focus, but to use this you need a lot of light. In my next post about portraits I will show you some classic f/11 shots.

'Till next time; take care!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Starting to think within the frames

-A bit more about sections and composition

EXIF: f/20 - 1/60 - 60mm- ISO200 - Flash/compulsory
I can't pinpoint the day, or shoot when it really hit me how important it is to compose the photos. This knowledge grew on me, and in the beginning I composed purely on intuition. Later on I have read the theory, and see that many of my good intuitive shots are following the rules of sectioning and composition. And the bad...well, bad intuition.

Now, I can't help my self for thinking in frames no matter what I look at. Any of you seen Alice in Wonderland the Tim Burton version? I love that film, but what makes this film interesting in this case is the unique use of absolute thoroughly convincing picture frames from start to finish! It's a study in composition and sectioning. 

In pop music it's pretty obvious that you have to compose to create a great melody, but you also have to follow a set of rules -you have the verses, the chorus and maybe a bridge. 

The river Glomma at it's end in Fredrikstad, Norway
EXIF: f/9 - 1/60 - 20mm - ISO200 -WB/Cloudy
In the post "Diagonal Flower Power" I talked about the use of diagonals as a trick to lead the viewers eye through the shot. In landscape photography you can use roads, or rivers to make diagonals or to take the viewer straight into the photo.

Somehow I think diagonals from bottom left to top right works better than bottom right to top left. I don't know why, maybe it's because I am used to read from left to right? Any of you have theories on this I'll be happy to hear from you.

In the waterglass photo on top, the diagonal is "cut". It moves from the center of the shot to the top left. This works better than a diagonal that moves all the way.

Repetition is also a trick to remember when it comes to photo composition. To repeat shape, or elements in a certain order will make the image look more graphic. I think this photo from Pierre Andrews Flickr photostream is a great example of both diagonal thinking and repetition. There's a whole group on Flickr dedicated to pattern photography if you need inspiration.

EXIF: f/5 - 1/60 - 50mm - ISO100- WB/shadow
Many times, however, you are set to photograph one single item; a flower, a person or a car. This is the times you decide where to put the "object" in the frame. Take a look at the portrait to the right. Why did I cut the top of the head of the model? And why does it work? In this case I have used two different rules. First I have placed the model within 2/3 of the shot from left to right. The last 1/3 is "empty", or air as I like to call it. And second, and this is why I can cut my models head top off and get away with it, I have placed her eye precicely in the center on the 1/3 line from the top.

If you don't believe me, look at the lines in the photo to the right.

The trick with the eye is just a fraction of what you need to know about portraits of course, but it's such a great tip that I know you'll test it. You can of course place the eye in the line crossing on either side as well.

One last thing; as you've been reading this blog you've probably started to get that photography is not about "snaps" or "clicks". Photography is about carefully planning everything from light, section, frames, dept of field and a number of other things that I haven't talked about yet. So let's get rid of the therms "clicks" and "snaps" once and for all when talking about photography. Am I right?

So there you have it- my friday blog post about thinking within the frame!

Have a great friday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keep your eyes on the Horizon...

-Landscape photography

Have you ever photographed wonderful landscapes, and returned home just to see the photos didn't come close to what you where experiencing? Landscape photography is quite fun, if you just have a plan for what you want to capture, and how you want to execute the shoot.

EXIF: f/8 - 1/125 sec - ISO200- 55mm - no flash
Professional landscape photographers shoot their photos at two times during the day. I guess you know this already; at sunrise and at sundown. The reason why is very simple; these are the two times during the day when the light is soft and beautiful. In the middle of the day the sun is too sharp, the contrasts get too big and the shadows too dark.

The photo to the right is from mid winter, when the days are short and most of the light during the day is soft and beautiful. The wood in the water is the remains of an old ship wreck. 

The timber is black, but it reflects just enough light because it is covered with a thin layer of ice. It's sundown, the sun has just dipped beneath the horizon making the sky look like champagne. This is of course the dream lighting for any photographer.

Wide angle lenses are the best choice for landscape photos, but you can shoot great photos with your kit lense as well. The photo above is shot with the 18-55 kit lense that came with my camera kit. 

Many seem to think great photos depend on great equipment, but this is not true. You can be a great photographer with the equipment you have. People are often a bit  suprised when I tell them I "only" have a Canon eos 450d.

Back to the photo, and back to the headline of this post "Keep your eyes on the horizon...". The horizon is your secret guide to landscape photography. The horizon gives dept to your photo. In this shot I have placed the horizon in 2/3 of the frame; 1/3 sky - 2/3 sea. I did this because I liked the small ripples in the water in the foreground, and the sky wasn't all that interesting. I think it's a good rule to always think in thirds when shooting photos. This brings dynamic to the shot.

Now, to the mistake I've seen too many times. The horizon line. Look at the horizon in the first picture. It's a straight line, and in 90 degrees to the frame of the image. If you look at the photo to the left you see the horizon line lean to the left making the sea pour to one side.

ALWAYS STRAIGHTEN YOUR PHOTO! Please. All photo editing programs have a feature called straighten. 

I think landscape photography is much more interesting when there are several textures in them, like reflection from water, clouds, rocks and so on. If you shoot early morning photos waters are almost always like mirrors. If you want the whole photo to be in focus, you turn your program wheel to Av (Canon) / A (Nikon) and choose the highest f-number avaliable. To use high f-numbers requires a tripod. It doesn't matter if the exposure is long, the landscape is not moving anyway.
EXIF: f/7.1 - 1/4000 - 20mm - WB/sun
Silouettes are often great in landscape photography. The photo on the left is shoot in broad daylight, so I had to compensate by turning the shutter speed to the max. It's also shot with backlight which helps to enhance the silouette of the diving tower. I have used the diving tower to decide the section within the frame, usually I wouldn't put the horizon line in the middle of the photo.

There's a lot more to landscape photography than what I've mentioned today, so I'll have to come back to you on that...

Hope you all are having a great day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Yesterday I mentioned my ambition to always post razor sharp photos, but I didn't really elaborated the techniques that leads to razor sharpness. So in todays blog post I'll give you some hints and tips.
EXIF: f/4 -  1/200 sec - 60mm - ISO100 -WB/sun - no flash
There are several actions you can take to make sharper photos.

ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number the less sesitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to compensate so you get faster shutter speeds. The cost of high ISO is noisier shots, or high grain.

Now, we don't want noisy shots, do we? Look at the top of your camera, you'll see a button called ISO. Turn on you camera, twist the program wheel to M, click the ISO button and set the ISO to 100. From now on have your ISO set to 100. Don't worry, you can always turn the ISO up whenever you need to, and in Auto mode the camera will always choose ISO for you.

By now I'm starting to think I can write an entire book just about camera settings...

Light is crusial. Having turned the ISO down, you have to make sure the lighting is good. You can use studio lamps, flash or natural day- or sun light. You might also have to turn down the shutter speed. When turning down the shutterspeed the camera is much more sensitive to movement. Most lenses have an in built IS (Canon) VR (Nikon) -to reduce vibrations. In situations you're not able to use a tripod the IS/VR is a great helper.

EXIF: f/5.6 - 1/80 sec - 60mm - ISO100 - WB/shadow -no flash
Triphods are very useful if you want sharp images, and in combination with a set timer or remote control you really have a winning setup for sharpness. This ensures that the camera doesn't move at all. Just make sure the subject is in focus, and move away.

In situations you can't use a triphod, you are much better off if you can lean against something or twist the camera strap around your elbow

EXIF: f/14 - 1/160 sec - 60mm - ISO100 - WB/flash
This photo is shot today. I got this wonderful gift from my dear
friend Marion by mail this morning.
Finally; editing! You always have the opportunity to do some after work on your photos before showing them off. All editing programs have a feature called sharpen, but be careful to use it. It's always pretty obvious if you have sharpened your image too much, because all edges will look thick and unnatural. In practice this means that the photograph must be reasonably sharp before you add the final touch. 

Today I have talked about sharpness in general. I will talk more about focal point and dept later on.

Hope some of this has been useful. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Diagonal Flower Power

EXIF: f/6.3 - 1/100 sec - iso100- 60mm-sun-no flash
I love shooting photos of flowers, and I never lose my amazement of the variety of color and shape of these wonderful miracles of nature. Think this is why almost every person who have a camera, tries to capture the beauty and color of flowers.

To photograph the essence of a flower is not difficult, but one has to have a plan of execution.

Of course everyone has their own photo style. I like to think that it's pretty easy for other photographers who know me to recognize my photos.

If your eye is not trained to study photography, your creative brain takes over and sort of fills in the gap between a poor picture of a flower and your own experience of how this flower really looks like.

You like it, because you like the color or that kind of flower, -you might even have one in your own garden.

Many can relate to this when talking of cute puppies or kittens. A picture of a kitten or a puppy can be a blurry, trerrible wrong cut piece of crap -photography wise, but because you like kittens and puppies you still like the way the picture makes you feel. Kittens and puppies are cute.

Still, to make a good quality photo of a flower, or a puppy for that matter, it takes more than just a snap with camera set on auto. You need to think section, focalpoint, section and dept of field.

Initially want all my photos to be razor sharp and focused. If I publish a photo that isn't sharp, it's only because I have decided to blur or glow it. I am my own worst critic, both when it comes to sharpness, section and expression.
EXIF: f/5.6 - 1/80 -iso100-60mm-shadow-no flash

The problem with sharpness in photos is often due to light conditions. If you set your camera to auto, the camera will compensate the dof to get more light.

Fact: The lower f-number - the more light gets through - the narrower dept of field .

Above you see two very different flower photos.The pink peony is a macro shot directly from above and, as you can see, I have done quite a bit editing to it after. In an earlier post I talked about sections. In this photo I have used both the rule of thirds and another trick; diagonals. I love diagonals. You can get away with a lot as long as you have a strong diagonal in your shot. The purpose of the diagonal is to lead the eye through the photo. I'm not very fond of selective color, but sometimes it works. I think it turned out ok in this photo because the BW in this particular case is the wood. Wood has such a great texture in it self. By making a photograph like this, you show off the flower in all it's beauty, and also play with the ideas of popart.

The photo of the bud is a very different photo. This particular bud is a delphinium. The photo was shot after some heavy summer rain last summer and, as you can see, from a very different angle. If you want to shoot great flower photos you can't be afraid of getting your knees dirty. You can of course have a little spray bottle with you if you want droplets on your flower, even if it's dry.

As you see the background is smooth against the wet bud. This is due to the aperture setting and the distance to the background. I think the droplets really make all the difference in this photo. It makes the little bud look a bit sad and melancolic. I guess you can spot the diagonal? Yes, it's in this photo as well. The flower stem makes a quite natural diagonal through the photo.

EXIF: f/7.1 - 1/160sec - iso100 - 60mm -shadow -no flash

Remember it's always fun to shoot photos from different angles. The last photo I will like to show you today is this single dahlia . When inspecting the flower I noticed the very strong stripes in the petals, and decided to pick the flower and hold it up against the sky when photographing it.

In this shot the eye moves from the center of the shot and out, due to all the lines pointing outwards.

So there you have it; my three very different angles to flower photography!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I want it SO bad!

-Up close and personal with a beautiful berry

Yesterday I bought strawberries. Huge, shiny red strawberries! 

I just knew I had to photograph some before eating them.

I absolutely love making photographs of single or just a couple of berries. A berry is such a treasure when you move up close and personal to it. Of course berries look delicious in color and shape by them selves, but when you see them trough the macro lense you'll be amazed!

The first thought that comes to mind when photographing food is to make it look delicious. I guess you've all seen terrible examples of blurry  food photos, often shot with too much flash, thinking you will not survive if you eat that. Am I right?

Food should look delicious. The photo should make people think "I want that!" or even better "I want that SO bad!"

A couple of years ago I bought a little nylon photo tent of the Internet. It's no more than 40cm x 40cm x 40cm. I must say, 12$ well spent. I shoot most of my food macros in this tent. It even came with different backgrounds in black, red, blue and white.

I've done several berry shots with white backgrounds, so I decided to do a black one.

I put a cup under the black cloth to place the strawberry upon, and got out my flash and maco lense.

Now, I didn't want shadows on the wall in the back of the strawberry and I most certainly didn't want a huge bright flash destroying the beautiful texture of the berry. The simple solution to avoid both is to shot the flash in the roof of the tent, and as you can see this brings out the texture of the berry.

Black velvet backgrounds is cursed with attracting dust, and in macros you see every single piece of it. The best thing to do is to use a dust roller before photographing, but sometimes you have to remove some dust by editing afterwards.

EXIF:  f/13 ~1/125 ~ 60mm ~ Flash, compulsory

I have used  aperture f/13 as some of you, who photograph yourself, can see. This is because I wanted the whole berry to be sharp. A lower f/number would have made parts of the berry blurry.

The strawberries didn't taste much, but the joy of immortalizing one of them overshadowed the dissapointment.

So, there you have it; my shiny red strawberry in black velvet!