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Useful Photography Tip

fireworks for the 4th

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If you’re in the US (where most of our readers are from) or Canada (where lots of readers come from), you’re going to be celebrating the celebration of your nation’s birth very soon. If you’re a reader of this site, then you’re probably going to have your camera in hand as you’re celebrating.

Don’t do that.

No, seriously–don’t handhold the camera. Instead, to get those trademark beautiful fireworks images you should get your hands on a tripod, point the camera and lens up to the sky, stop the aperture down, and use a slow/long shutter speed to capture those picturesque light trails.

As for lens choices, it really depends on where you’re standing. If you’re on flat even ground near sea level, then opt for a telephoto lens and pray for the best. If you’re on a rooftop of some sort or really high up on a building, then go for a wider lens.

Then when you’re all done, turn your lens to your friends and family and try to capture beautiful candid moments as you and your loved ones are celebrating.

And as always, have a happy celebration on Independence Day.

Model: Asta Paredes

Model: Asta Paredes

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Let’s think about the way that we naturally see light in the world: the sun, street lamps, ceiling lights and many more are all above us. So with that in mind, it just makes sense to say that the light that we ordinarily see on a consistent basis is above us, correct?

That’s the basis behind today’s Useful Photography Tip: to get more flattering light on a subject we recommend that you place your light source above your subject but not directly above lest you create shadows under the chin and eyes. Instead, bring it above and to the front to evenly illuminate the person’s features. That means that what you’ll be doing is shooting a photo subject with the light source (like a flash or strobe) behind you, above you, and facing down towards your subject.

If you’re using natural lighting like the sun, then don’t put the sun behind you. Instead, put it behind your subject and spot meter for their eyes. This is called backlighting. In fact, we recommend that any constant light be backlit unless it isn’t very intense on the eyes.

Remember, it’s all based on how we naturally see light when shooting a portrait.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400

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Many street and landscape photographers try to see and photograph the world in terms of shapes. If you think that seeing the world in black and white is tough enough, then seeing shapes in the way that they do can be even tougher–but here’s a great exercise to try out. It’s designed to help you figure out the shapes in the world.

Take four of your images and physically print them out. Get away from a screen of any sort and make black and white prints of these images. Then take one of your images and on a separate sheet of paper draw out the geometric lines that you see in the same way. Want to make it easier? Use transparent sketch paper and with the sketch paper over the image begin to sketch the lines out that you see underneath. Think of it as a grid overlay but instead you’re adding more lines in.

Continue to do this with each photo.

When you’re all done with the sketches, take them and study the lines. Then walk around and look for places and scenes with similar line establishments. You’ll begin to see that you’ll start to think and physically see more in terms of geometry.

Give this a shot before you seriously take your next set of images and you’ll see how you’ll start to see and think differently.

SAMSUNG CSC

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The idea of zones and how they should be exposed when shooting landscape images isn’t at all new. But for years in digital photography, what photographers needed to do was do some sort of merging process that included the highlights, shadows, midtones and much more. In more recent years though, imaging sensors have become much better and can capture amazing amounts of detail in the shadows of an image. At lower ISO settings, these are very easy to push and get more out of.

In contrast, not as much detail can be captured in the highlights. So the best way to take a photo of a landscape without using a graduated ND filter is to simply underexpose the image. This will capture lots of details in the highlights and then in post-production it will allow you to push the shadows for even more details overall.

The key to doing this is getting less contrast throughout the image. If you choose to use a graduated ND filter of some sort, then you can create an image with even more details overall.

Alternatively, Adobe Lightroom 6 lets you combine the highlights and shadows of two images together into a single HDR that won’t look over processed.

Literally, that’s all. It’s really that simple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Years before light meters were invented and used by photographers, they used a specific set of rules to figure out what their camera’s exposure settings should be adjusted to. Today, this method is still used by some film photographers and very much so by street photographers.

What are we talking about? It’s called the Sunny 16 rule–and it’s the basis for how the Phoblographer tests a camera’s metering system.

So how do you do it? The Sunny 16 rule states that on a bright sunny day with little shadows your scene will be exposed at f16 and your shutter speed will be the reciprocal of your ISO. So that means that if my film is ISO 100, then I’ll be shooting at 1/100th and f16 on a bright sunny day with little shadows. From there, you figure out the other parameters based on how much sunlight is affecting the scene. Is it getting a bit cloudy? Then open up to f11. Even more shade? Then go down to f8. In the NYC subway system? Well, you’re going to have to get really low down in the settings.

So why would you do this? By simply looking to a scene and knowing what the exposure will be, you won’t need to fully rely on a light meter or your camera’s metering and instead you’ll be able to figure out what the exposure will be. In turn, this will get you the image that you want in a much faster process.

Chris Gampat Raiyan Saed's portraits (7 of 11)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 3.2

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When shooting portrait subjects, there are typically three lights that you talk about: a main light, a fill and a hair light. But when shooting outdoors with lots of natural light, those rules to go out the window. Your main light often becomes the sun, whether diffused or not.

This tip is a bit more advanced and requires you to build on things cumulatively. First off, when shooting outdoors, we think that you should always try to shoot in the shade where you’ve got more control over the light. After you’ve got full control of the light, you can use a flash to add in a bit of fake sun.

Look at the edge of Raiyan’s face camera right, see the light? It was a flash in a beauty dish, but gives a natural look of sunlight.

So how do you do this? Let’s recap:

– Shoot outdoors

– Use the shadows and get total control over your lighting situation

– Place a flash either with the wide angle diffuser, in a beauty dish, or in a rectangular shaped softbox to add a bit of rim lighting

To make this even more emphasized with the look of sunlight, try adding a gradient–which builds even more on other tips that we’ve done. It’s all about adding the extra rim light that looks very natural but subdued.

Give it a shot. This is something you have to do more than us telling you about it.