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Useful Photography Tip

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.


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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.


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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.



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The image above didn’t originally look like that. Originally, the warm sunlight was only on the left side of the image (the pole) while the right side wasn’t touched by the light at all. Instead, it looked very blue and presented a mixed lighting situation. It didn’t look so great.

The way to fix mixed lighting situations when dealing with natural light has to do not only with proper white balancing, but also with gradients in Adobe Lightroom in order to correctly color balance other parts of a scene.

Gradients allow you to do a whole slew of things: add in extra lights, make those lights look like they are gelled, change white balances, add sharpening, etc.

This is a but of a longer Useful Photography Tip, so hit the jump to see what we’re talking about.

[click to continue…]

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 3.02.41 PM

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You know that you’ve all had this problem–you shoot in RAW, but the image looks nowhere as good as the JPEG preview on the back of your camera’s LCD screen. So you go through the basic adjustments panel in Adobe Lightroom and with lots of disappointment, realize that you can’t make the image look like the JPEG.

We’re not going to tell you to shoot in JPEG (though there is no real problem with that) so what you should do is scroll down the the Camera Calibration section of Adobe Lightroom’s Develop panel and click on Profile. When you do this, you’ll get the camera profiles and even some of your own if you’ve bought them.

Own a Fujifilm camera? Velvia and Astia are finally yours…digitally that is!

But that’s not the end. You need to go in and sharpen the image, maybe kill some image noise, add a bit more contrast, boost the clarity and maybe mess with the exposure a bit. Then you’ve got an image that’s ready to go.

Go give it a shot.

Mary and Tommy Sutor's Wedding Batch 2 (42 of 149)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 10

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If there is one very big sin in shooting group photos: besides not posing everyone in the most flattering way that you can, it’s about not getting everyone in focus. It’s very easy for someone to photograph a couple and only end up with one person in focus with the other one blurred into oblivion…or the bokeh.

Don’t let this happen.

For starters, physically walk up to the couple and tell them all that you want them all on the same plane–use your forearm as a reference point. Tell them you want everyone up to your arm. Then when you go to shoot, consider how many people there are. How many rows deep are these folks?

With your current focal length, what aperture can you stop down to and still get everyone in focus?

When you’ve figured this all out, shoot the image and ensure that everyone is in focus and in sight. This means that you’ll need to also position folks so that they’re clearly visible in the image.

Just make sure that they’re all on the same focusing plane.

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

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Your camera is at the lowest ISO setting it could possibly organically be at, your shutter speed has hit the maximum setting, and you still want to shoot an image with the lens wide open. The challenge: the sun is way too bright and giving off too much light to let you get anything near a correct exposure.

So how do you shoot the photo? There are three different ways.

The first one is the simplest and least expensive. Try to backlight the subject. Of course, this is tougher if your subject is a flower or your children running around because it means you need to get very low to the ground. But otherwise it’s a solid option.

The second option: use a shoot through umbrella or a translucent reflector to diffuse the sunlight. This will usually kill enough of it to let you get a more balanced exposure. In the case of the umbrella, it can also be used as a fun prop.

The final option: try a variable ND filter–which is what film photographers used to use. These filters let you cut out a specific amount of like that you set them to just by turning them. The quality of these filters has improved so much that it’s bound to not ruin the quality of your image.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer GM5 Panasonic hand (1 of 1)ISO 4001-320 sec at f - 2.8

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While many street photographers tend to shoot with their cameras in shutter or aperture priority, lots of street photographers shoot in manual mode. If you’re looking to give this a shot, then we recommend a very handy trick (literally) to make metering a scene and people in the scene even easier.

When you point your camera at someone, it’s bound to try to meter for skin or for the person. In that case, a good place to start is to point the camera and lens at your hand, take a meter reading and adjust the shutter speed, ISO and aperture based on this. Then depending on if your scene is more dominated by shadows or highlights, you fine tune the exposure from there before even putting the camera up to your eye to shoot.

By metering off your hand, you’re exposing for a similar subject in most likely similar lighting and you’re that much more likely to get the exposure correct the first time around. Plus, folks don’t think that you’re posing a threat to them.

Go ahead, try it out the next time you go to shoot street photography.

Chris Gampat Lauren Englebert portraits Early winter 2015 first batch (3 of 8)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

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“Come on, smile.”

The problem with this is that your portrait subject can end up giving you some sort of really awkward expression that isn’t genuine and that clearly translates into that when you take their photo.

Meet Lauren: a fantastic woman I know here in NYC that wanted her portrait taken and that gave me the very same situation. So with this, I, as a photographer, faced the problem of not only making her deliver a genuine smile but also delivering an image that looked great in the end. So here’s how I did it and how you can, too:

– Pre-focus on an area of their face (in this case I chose her right eye that is camera left, closest to the light source and also closest to the camera.

– Politely ask for a slight sliver of a smile

– When the subject states that they hate their smile, try to figure out a way to make them genuinely elicit a feeling that will render a facial expression in the direction of what you’re going for.

– When Lauren gave me an awkward smile, I very seriously yet jokingly said, “A little less awkward and terrible please.” Because she knows me, it got a genuine giggle out of her. Because I had been pre-focused, I snapped the photo at that exact same time.

Yes, Lauren knows me, but even with other people that I’ve done this method with I’ve gotten it to work. The way that you get to this to work has to do with sitting down with the person first, getting comfortable with them, understanding where they’re coming from, having an actual conversation, and most importantly getting them comfortable with you.

So what’s the overall secret? Do something on the spot that makes them elicit a facial expression or body language that you want to capture. But first, have a personable conversation and relaxation time. Have a cup of coffee with the person first and chat a bit, it makes them realize that you’re a human and not just someone with a camera.

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