Hints: Best Photo Tips Ever!

Hints: Best Ever

If you’ve my blog posts regarding photography, you’ve heard me almost if not full on RANT about the flood of marketing hype on technology vs art. I’m a firm believer that buying a new set of paints, brushes, canvas and an easel does not make one an artist. The same holds true for photography. You can purchased the biggest, best, camera; the latest apps, the latest software and it won’t make you a photographer. It’ll just make a big dent in your bank account.

You’ve heard me go on and on about exposure, composition, lighting and knowing camera limitations. I like other photographers would be more than willing to answer questions, offer how-to’s and hints, coach those interested in the medium as an art form.

It makes me think about time I was at an event talking with another photographer, when an acquaintance came up to me. The person was there to photograph the event. Their images we way over exposed. The photographer (well actually, picture taker) asked for my help to figure out the problem. My problem was I was handed a Nikon camera when I shoot Canon. I had to figure out the menu navigation in order to help solve the problem. The photographer (picture taker) couldn’t even navigate the menu.

After getting the “picture taker” situated, it dawned on me; This person is the Official Event Photographer? Are you kidding me? Hey why not, the person has a “big camera”, they must know what they’re doing.

Anyway back to the original idea behind this post. I have a “Google Alert” set for portrait + photography, so interesting articles come in to my inbox. The other day, there it was. The article that summarized every really cool photography hint to the non-photographer. Guess what, no special camera/phone, no wiz-bang app, no marketing hype, just good-ole photography basics. The best advice anyone could give a wanna-be and good reminders for the seasoned photographer – like me! So I decided to include the article for  your benefit.

http://www.telegram.com/entertainmentlife/20170102/avoid-dull-snapshots-tips-for-taking-stunning-pictures

Please look it over. In fact, book mark it as you may want to go back to it again. I have to hurry up and finish my post so I can go back and read it again. Afterwards, take a moment to give me your thoughts on the hints. Remember the goal is not to make you a National Geographic staff photographer, but to help you improve your photos on Facebook. Let me know what you think. You can even post your questions for more discussion. Happy shooting!

tom-szabo.com logo

tom-szabo.com; jewelry, photography & scuba instruction.

Commitment to Craft

Commitment To Craft

Those of you who know me are probably aware of my commitment to my craft – Photography. I’m willing to help people solve a problem. I use this medium to share tips and techniques. Yes, I’ll give you suggestions/critique on your work. It doesn’t matter to me if you use a DSLR or a cell phone camera. Although I have my opinion about cell phone shooters – chuckle!

It’s been my expressed opinion that people often fall into the trap of believing high-dollar corporate marketing about their technology vs individual skill. Meaning buy our product and you can create like the pros. If that were the case, our entire golfing population would be on the pro tour because they bought expensive golf clubs. Now we all know the truth behind that one.

To be a good – not necessarily award winning photographer, takes time, effort and knowledge. Time spent experimenting with your tools. Effort to work at your craft. Learning about your camera, exposure, composition and lighting. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect you to get a degree in photography. However you need to learn enough to achieve the results you desire. Buying the latest and greatest technology doesn’t do that.

You may have heard my comment: A poor image with an Instagram filter is still a poor image. Can filters and special effects enhance your results? Bet your media card it will. It all starts with a well done image and that happens using the skills I mentioned above.

A great way to begin understanding what makes good photography is to study those recognized for being a master of their craft. Why do art students spend so much time in class and places like art museums? They’re studying the masters. It doesn’t mean you copy them, but you need to recognize what makes them a master and try the studied technique.

On occasion I’ve offered a link to a photographer I feel has a “Good Eye”. This link just came across my inbox: https://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2016/nov/16/patrick-harbron-intimate-rock-photography

Take a look at Patrick Harbron’s work. Most of it seems was created during the age of film photography. You’ll see how He uses composition, lighting and equipment to get his results. If you’d like a discussion about what film teaches us, that’s another topic. Does Mr. Harbron get special access at events? Probably. But might you’ll be able to get special access at your child’s next performance or sports outing? Maybe – give it a try and let me know about your results. Oh yeah, be sure to check out Mr. Harbron’s work.

tom-szabo.com logo, commitment, craft

tom-szabo.com; jewelry, photography & scuba instruction.

Sun – For One Light Portraits

Sun: A very interesting portrait video came across my feed today. I wanted to share it with you.

First of all most Facebook photography I see has one thing in common – Bad Lighting! Please stop and think for a minute; where does your outdoor light come from? Of course the sun. So that means you have a single source for your photos. In this video photographer Aaron Anderson talks about shooting portraits using – guess what: 1 light. Think of his one light as the sun. I know, what a concept – LOL.

In the video you’re going to see a lot of studio equipment. Yes, but pay attention to the main tools he uses, a strobe, a camera and a reflector. That’s it. What Aaron does do however is CONTROL the illumination. Don’t have a big DSLR? no problem use your cell phone camera. Remember his main light placement and position your subject using the sun in the same relative position. Oh you don’t have a white reflector card? How about the side of a building, a newspaper, a blanket. Look at what’s at hand that you can use.

You may not have Photoshop to make the post process editing. Don’t worry, you’re not a pro trying to sell your work. Paying attention to your subject position will get you better results than what you have been doing.

Watch the video and pay attention to what Aaron is doing with his 1 light (like the sun). Enjoy and feel free to post your thoughts and/or results. I’d like to see your results.

 

Portrait photography tom-szabo.com

Relaxed portrait pose for a high school senior.

Photographing Flowers – Easy?

Photographing Flowers!

In a recent article by Hana Tavener for I-News – The Essential Daily Briefing, she listed five suggestions to help you photograph flowers.

1 – Get Close

2 – Focus/Depth of Field

3 – The Whole Wide World (or field of view)

4 – Timed To Perfection (Time lapse)

5 – Vary Your Conditions

You can learn more by reading the entire article.

Let me suggest that you look over the 5 topics listed above. Do you see anything that says walk up to a flower and push the button? Of course not. To create good photography, you need to to use the gray matter between your ears – your BRAIN. Learning a little about photography also helps. That means reading to learn about your camera, exposure, composition and of course shoot and shoot and shoot some more. You can’t create art by buying the most expensive camera and simply point it at a subject.

First of all let’s get down to basics – your smart phone is NOT smart! You are a “Human” with the power to learn and think. That also means applying what you’re thinking and learning. So by all means, read. Then go out and apply what you read by shooting. That’s how you become a better photographer (vs. a “pitcher-taker”).

In addition, search for well known photographers. read what they write and study their work. It really helps. Good luck and keep shooting.

purple cone flower

Purple Cone Flower shot in author’s back yard.

Pin Hole Camera – Make Your Own

Pin Hole Camera – Make Your Own

Pin Hole Camera? What’s that you ask? This is the most simple form of film photography you’ll find. It’s a great way to make your own camera and learn more about photography. If you have kids, they’ll be intrigued also. Remember film is light sensitive, so you have to devise a way to protect your film for handling. Also, film needs to be developed, so you may want to learn how that works also.

This article came through my inbox. It has some photos of other pin hole cameras and “How-Tos”. These are great for black and white film. If you have any questions or want more information, feel free to email, text or call me. Enjoy the read!

tom-szabo.com, tom szabo, jeweler, photographer, scuba instructor

Light, It’s All About The Light!

Light, It’s all about the light.

Light! My wife Diane and I like to vacation at Siesta Key Florida. The beach has the softest and whitest sand you’ll see anywhere. During our walks on the soft powder white sand, Diane gets tired of my commentary on the people taking photos with their cell phone cameras. It generally goes something like this “there’s another photo that won’t turn out very well!”

Even though she gets tired of listening to me, I’m right. Two major problems I see: Stop putting the sun at your subjects back! Number two, move in closer. So let me spend some time again talking about lighting. Why my comment about sun placement? Camera sensors don’t have the capability that our brain does. Sensors can’t adjust the image we see through our eye and correct the exposure. Don’t believe me? Take the scenario I just described and experiment. Put the sun behind your subjects back. Look at their face. I’m sure you’ll see the detail in the face. That’s because our brain and eyes work together to adjust the lighting and see the detail. Now take the picture. How much detail do you see in the near black orb called the face. Almost none.

So how do you fix this problem. You have to train your eye to evaluate scenes for lighting. Look for the highlights and the shadows. Make slight adjustments in subject positioning to reduce the amount of shadow in the subject. Take a picture after your adjustment to see the results and continue to adjust your subject. Eventually you’ll begin to learn what works.

Another way to learn is to observe what other photographers do. I’m not saying to copy their technique as much as observe and adjust. Evaluate the lighting of the scene and subject to see how they work with light. Look at what award winning photographer Irene Chen has accomplished in her photography. Although she uses studio lighting for the award winning images, see how she uses control over lighting to work her magic. Read more about her work.

You’re welcomed to ask me questions. Or just give me your comments.

Film used in family portrait photography. Light.

Portrait photographers strive for detail in their final prints.

Film Photography – Dead?

Film Photography – Really?

Film, remember that stuff? With the explosion of digital cameras today, most of you would likely wonder why shoot on film? Let me back you up a bit. Before digital, you had to put more thought into your photography based on the type of shooting and light conditions. You selected film to support your planned shooting.

Cameras were available in varying sizes. The size concept was based on the physical size of the negative you were shooting. Real photographers would argue the benefits of shooting 35mm, 2-1/4, 4X5 and 8X10. Who cares, you say. Well it all boiled down to the larger the size of the negative, the sharper and more detailed the print. Speed was also an indication of the density of the film. The better the density of the negative, the better the image quality. So if you could record an image on a larger negative size, then you could get incredible detail in your print. That is what photographers would strive for.

So here comes this photographer, Pali Kalsi. He started photographing on the larger formats and got intrigued by the results. To the point where he decided to build an 11X14 camera. Those of you who still remember film cameras and negatives, think back to the negative size for a 35 mm camera. Now imagine a negative 11 inches by 14 inches. The detail in an 11X14 print would be simply amazing.

For more details and to see some of Pali Kalsi’s work, check out this article. As always, let me know your thoughts!

Film used in family portrait photography.

Portrait photographers strive for detail in their final prints.

Fashion Mags – Photo Lighting Tips

Fashion Magazines – Photography Tips

Fashion magazines – OK, I admit to looking at them. No, No, really, I’m not that way. The fashion industry spends A LOT of money on photographers to advertise their products. So it stands to reason that they would be hiring the best fashion photographers, they can get. So why not look at their work for hints, tips and how to’s?

Next your going to ask me what should you look for. I’ll offer two things to look at: Poses and Lighting. Poses should be pretty straight forward. No you don’t have to expect your subjects to be professional models. But when you tell your child to hold for a picture, suggest body positioning or hand placement that you’ve observed in a magazine.

As far as lighting goes, start with reading catch lights. These are the white dots that appear in the subject’s eyes. If you look close enough you may be able to count the number of dots in a single eye. This will tell you how many light sources the photographer used. Upon further review you might be able to tell if they are round or square, further suggesting square reflectors, rectangular or square soft boxes or round for umbrellas.

In addition to the catch lights, look for highlights positioned against shadows. This will help you identify the main light position relative to the subject.

To help you get started, look at the images used in the article at this link. Tell me what you think or feel free to ask me your questions.

Girl poses in doorway.

Can you determine the light source and direction for this portrait?

Light Planning

Light Equals Photography

Light plays a powerful role in photography. In addition, it is relative. A scene/subject will often have varying degrees of illumination. These are commonly know as highlights and shadows. Both highlights and shadows can be a creative tool.

Your job as a photographer is to understand the it, evaluate it creatively and control how the camera captures it. Wildlife photographer Taylor Glenn does a great job of controlling how his wildlife portraits are lit. He often photographs captive animals in studio where he can plan and control the scene. To learn more.

Photography, Portrait, Pet, Cleveland, Northeast Ohio

Not all wildlife need be wild!

Light – Composition For Photography

Use Light and Composition

If you’ve been following me for a little while, you’ve heard me comment about understanding light in order to improve your photography. In the article attached to my post, I’d like you to examine the photographs of the artist – Vivienne Gucwa. First, notice how her images evoke a mood. Whether it’s the night scene or a snow storm. It sets the mood for the subject.

Secondly, when you look at her images do you notice your eye moving through the image. That’s her use of light combined with composition to accomplish that. Next time you pick up your camera think back to Vivienne’s images for inspiration. What are your thoughts?

Mount Rushmore Light Show

Electric lighting on Mount Rushmore at night.

Golden Hour Photography?

Golden Hour vs. Mid Day

The Golden Hour as referred to by photographers as the hour around sun up or sundown. The sun and atmosphere combine to give the photographer unique and colorful lighting. Photographers often avoid shooting mid day. Why? The more direct and overhead sun causes a lot of shadows, a lot of contrast and deep dark shadows.

So do you put the camera away during mod day? Absolutely not. This is where you have to be a photographer not a “snap-shot-er”. Huh? Yes, spend the time looking at the scene obviously for composition but also for lighting. Can you position your subject in a location where the lighting is softer and away from dark shadows? Can you shoot in an area that is in shade? Of course you can. You may have to think a little bit and take the time to find a location that gives the light you want.

Take a look at what Chris Gampat has to say on this topic. At the same time look how He controlled the light in his images.

Golden Hour vs. mid day photography

Choose an environment that offers soft light. If needed, add fill flash.

This Portrait Video Will Make You Think About Lighting

Portrait Photography And Lighting.

Portrait photography requires that you always think about lighting. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a boat-load of studio equipment or a cell phone. I found this short video demonstrating 3 different set ups. These set ups will demonstrate how you can change the result using some minor tweaks of lighting.

Obviously you’ll notice how much equipment a professional photographer uses. That’s not the point. The point here is when taking a picture of another person or persons, you have to open your eyes and plan your shot accordingly. I hope you find the video helpful! Feel free to post your questions, comments or thoughts.

tom szabo, tom-szabo.com, portrait photographer for families, high school students and executives

Notice how your eye is drawn to the subject in this image?

Think About The Colors To Enhance Your Portraiture

Do you really love your family? Silly question right? Because you love them, why would you share them through lousy pictures? Today with the proliferation of smart phone camera technology, it’s too easy to shoot without thinking. I suggest taking about 3 seconds to examine your subject and their surroundings before you start snapping away. Of course think about the lighting, but don’t forget about the colors in the subject and scene. The color scheme should compliment the subject not cause conflict. Check out what Chris Gampat has to say on this topic.

Make Shutter Speed A Photography Tool

If you have read some of my posts, you may have read this before: “You’ve got to be smarter than the camera!” That means understanding how the camera works and camera limitations. Cell phone manufacturers want you to believe that you can take professional photos with their product. Well, even a blind squirrel finds a nut! Good images are made not taken. So that means what I said earlier – “You’ve got to be smarter than the camera!”

Lets start with one of the tools used to create good images – Shutter Speed. Simply the time the sensor is exposed to light from a scene or subject. That time be be a fraction of a second to minutes. Shutter speed can be a very creative tool. Read on to learn more and see some wonderful examples.

Photographers – We All Were Beginners!

As a photographer and a Scuba Instructor, I often tell beginners: “We all started as beginners”. It’s a thought we should all remember. We need to be reminded that we had to work to get where we are today. Here’s an interesting blog post that talks about the road we travel to improve as photographers:

A Declaration Of Love To All Our Crappy Shots

Enjoy!

Why Does This Photo Look So Bad?

Cell phone, point-n-shoot or DSLR camera, it doesn’t matter. A bad photo is still a bad photo. As I said before, A bad photo with an Instagram filter is still a bad photo, it just has an Instagram filter! Do you even recognize that you’ve taken a bad photo – maybe, maybe not.

Many unsuccessful photo are the result of not paying attention to lighting. I created a short video to demonstrate one of the major outdoor lighting problems and a couple hints to help correct it. I hope you find it helpful. As always, let me know your thoughts.

7 Tips To Look More Professional!

Using LinkedIn as an example, look at the profile pictures that people use? In addition, have you noticed how many people don’t have a profile photo?

Let me offer some suggestions as to how your professional head shot should or should not look:

  1. Lighting – Look at your photo to insure the lighting is even and flattering. Stay away from bright backgrounds when you are in shadow. When taking your picture in the office, use fill flash. This will keep the big black covers off your eyes. Oh yeah, take off the sunglasses. If you have dark hair, don’t stand in front of a dark or black wall. Your hair will practically disappear from your head.
  2. Exposure – Many sites may darken your photo. So if your photo is already too dark, you may disappear from view. Check that your photo has enough brightness.
  3. Location – Find a location that compliments you and makes you the appear as the subject. Stay away from photos taken at parties or your night out with the gang. In case no one told you, your car is absolutely the last place to take your professional head shot as a “selfie”. In addition, forget the “duck-lip” look.
  4. Color Balance – If you want to look professional, use the proper white balance setting on your cell phone camera. This is why your picture looks overly red or blue. Pay attention to the ambient light. If there is a lot of a single color in the lighting (a lot of red lights from the neon Budweiser sign at the bar), go to another location.
  5. Crop – There are way too many profile photos where the subject was cropped from a group photo. That hand on your shoulder from the person standing next to you is a dead give away. Crop the photo to include your head and shoulders. Don’t crop off the top of your head an ear or your chin. Stay away from cropping too little. You become almost unrecognizable when dropped from the waist to above your head.
  6. Aspect Ratio – Make sure you maintain the correct aspect ration on your photo. That will prevent the photo from being squashed making you look like a “pin-head”. Make sure the file is sized so the image does not shrink after you upload it. When this happens, you may almost disappear on some screens.
  7. Photo/No Photo? – Use a photo as opposed to the grey silhouette icon.  Most professionals will delete connection requests from unknowns with no photo.

To truly be viewed of as a professional in your industry have a professionally created head shot done. How can you be viewed as valuable if you won’t invest in yourself? If you have any questions or want to learn more about your professional head shot, please feel free to contact me.

Fairport Mardi Gras Parade 2015!

Everyone has been to a parade at some time. Lake County Ohio residents and even folks from out of town annually come to watch the Fairport Mardi Gras Parade.

With cell phone technology, people will photograph and video all kind of events, including parades. Again this year I had the privilege to carry the banner f or the Painesville Area Chamber of Commerce. The difference this year is I used my iPhone 6 to shoot video as a member of the parade. What a different perspective. It took  some editing to get it cut to it’s final length, but here it is. I hope you enjoy the parade from my perspective!

Make Your Photography Subject Standout!

Anytime I look at an image, I expect a clear answer to the question: What’s the subject? When you ask this question, is the answer clear to you? Let’s not be concerned with camera exposure at this point. Let’s think about composition. How do you use your camera so its obvious who or what is the subject of your image. Here’s a great article to help you emphasize the subject of your photograph:

Six Ways to Draw The Eye to a Specific Subject in a Photo

Photography Tips

The tips in this article should help you to open your mind when you look at the cell phone camera screen. Although I follow the author’s comments under the section “Avoid Using Flash”, I’d suggest using flash. The reasons cited are valid for the pro photographers, but the people I see using cell phone cameras might not even notice the problems mentioned. I’ve seen too many pictures ruined by not using flash vs the down side noted in the article. So read on!

http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/lff2EpQRe0r6hLsYFDCtZI/Tips-for-pictureperfect-photographs.html

People Photography – Your Eye Is Key

If you’re not looking at your subject and visualizing the resulting photograph, chances are you’re DOOMED! That’s right take a quick look at the surrounding elements and the subject then ask yourself: How will this look when finished? For People Photography, the first thing you should check is whether the face is in shadow or not. If the face is in shadow, then move to illuminate the subjects face. In addition, what background elements are there to add or distract to the surrounding environment. Want to improve your photography? Read, Practice; Read, Practice; Read, Practice; then repeat.

Check out this article to see what I mean.

Portrait Photography Projects

Photographing Snow

This has been a real cold and snowy winter here in northeast Ohio. If you’re like me, you see a lot of people post pictures of snow scenes on social media. One problem I see consistently with these photos is they are “under exposed”. That means they are too dark. I have to admit my cell phone produces the same results.

I finally said, enough is enough. I started to scroll through the camera settings on my cell phone and found what may be referred to as “exposure” or “brightness” control. I pointed my cell phone out the patio door and took two pictures of a snow scene in my back yard. The first was shot at the normal exposure. The second photo I increased the exposure by +2. You’ll notice the show is much whiter. Actually the +2 setting is a bit too much of an increase. A setting of +1 or +1.5 might have been enough.

Anyway, try this with your cell phone. Scroll through the settings menu looking for your phone’s exposure compensation control. See how much difference it makes. Then tell me what you think.

Snow scene normal setting

Snow scene photographed with exposure adjustment set to normal.

Snow scene brighter

The 2nd. image was captured with the exposure set at +2.

Tips On Wildlife Photography

Let me suggest that you first look at the images in this article. Then look at some of the pictures on your cell phone camera. Do you see a difference, aside from the subject. Read the article looking for tips that might apply to the picture you’ve taken. I’d like to hear your comments.

Matthew Gillooley: Tips on Photographing Wildlife

Draft

Is Hollywood In Trouble?

Let’s face it technology is blasting ahead at warp speed. Look at your cell today as compared to 1, 3 and 5 years ago. Still photography and video photography cell phone capabilities are more advanced than ever. So should Hollywood cinematographers be worried? Check out the work of Tristan Pope using an iPhone-6. Would you buy a ticket to see his work? Let me know your comments.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/427034/iPhone-6-camera-short-film-captured-on-Apple-device

3 point Photography Checklist

When I watch cell phone picture takers, I can tell the image will not be what they expected. Just by watching, I can see the result will not work. Why? Most cell phone camera picture takers haven’t a clue about photography. So if you fall into this category, here’s a great into article with 3 things to check.

http://www.dnaindia.com/scitech/report-a-new-year-tech-resolution-take-photos-like-a-pro-2050816