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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tricks and Tips to Getting Better Candid Photographs

Photo Tip World Definition- Candid = photographing someone's spontaneous and surprising emotions and actions.

There is no better way of encompassing a human personality's than photographing candidly. Posed images often seem bland and plastic because they lack a real world, spur-of-the-moment liveliness. This is because you can't truly capture human emotions by controlling them -- instead you must let them play out on their own merits. By letting emotions and reactions take their own path, you're allowing the subject to be open and sincere with the camera. This has many obvious and less obvious benefits: you let your subjects become comfortable with the camera, you add interest to the photograph, and you tell a story while depicting the person in a more appealing light.  So, candid shots are about letting people act as themselves while vividly capturing the depth of feeling. Here are some important tricks and tips to getting better candid photographs. 

The subject stands out here because of the emotion peering out of the unfocused foreground elements.

1. Take your camera everywhere. Yes everywhere...errrr...let's say nearly everywhere.  Leaving your camera at home is a bad mistake.  Natural actions and emotions tend to only occur once, and since you normally don't have second chances, you should take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. Always having your camera gives you those better opportunities with candid photography. Great moments can be captured anywhere or at any time, so be on the look out.

2. Analyze and approach situations strategically.  Are your subjects comfortable with you?  When do your actions begin to interfere? What is likely to occur (this helps you position yourself in the prime location before the picture even comes about)?  This analysis will help you determine one of two distinct approaches:

This shot is worthwhile because of its observation of compositional rules and how it captures a man's surprising toothy grin.

-Separation- When you deem that your presence will negatively affect the picture or the subject, step back from the scene and be unobtrusive.

-Joining- Approaching a subject can result in spontaneous moments. Catch the surprising emotion of the person veering into your viewfinder. Stay with a subject long enough and even some posed shots can turn into candid ones (like the one above). 

3. Shoot a lot and be patient.  Human actions and reactions take time and they tend to play out on their own.

4. When considering technical aspects: kill the flash and photograph in RAW color format. Consider changing some of your images to black and white in post processing programs later. B&W is about the vivid and powerful contrasts that simplicity brings to the table. The way that black and white encompasses emotions makes it an important consideration for candid photographers. Also consider your camera's focal length: make sure to use a wide angle lens to give a sense of environment and a telephoto to isolate the person's emotions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Comprehensive Guide to Blue Hour and Five Examples for Inspiration

When all fails in a day full of photography, blue hour is there for you.  No matter the weather or the day of the week, the sky (almost reliably) turns into a nearly deep blue a few minutes after the sunsets. While the loss of sunlight is the cue to packing up for many photographers, that is a big mistake. When using color film remember that on a rainy day the sky doesn't go from gray to black, but rather gray to blue to black. The fact of the matter is a lot of fresh opportunities present themselves after a sunset, so a photographer must always be ready to shoot at this time. What I like to do is scout an area for potential photo-ops before the sunsets and occasionally I set myself at the best place possible for blue hour. But remember that blue hour, despite its deceiving name, is only at its prime for a few minutes, so plan ahead. Here's a great tool to calculating the time of the "blue hour:" The following are a few good examples of blue hour photographs and the reasons why they are good:

How this photograph captures color, as well as the essence of the time period it was shot in makes for a vivid blue hour shot. This image is visually alluring because it observes two guidelines of composition: the rule of thirds and leading lines. This makes the viewers eyes "flow" with the image in an interesting and appealing way. On the other hand, this image is also a prime example of the importance of mood in a blue hour image. This is depicted through the Christmas lights, which acts as an contrast to the dark blue coloring of the sky.

The interspersion of patterns, texture, color, and greenery in Fez, Morocco, make this blue hour photograph work. In this instance, the pinkish blue sky is an attractive feature that lures the eye to the horizon of the photograph, allowing a viewers eyeballs to begin its journey through the city. The coexistence between the sky and the scene itself adds value to the image. This image also acts as a good reminder that its important to observe the cycle of lighting and wait for the most compelling lighting in the atmosphere (as it did here) in order to get the best shot possible.

 This image is a good example of blue hour photography because of the utilization of multiple factors. For one, the color is integrated very well into the image.  The fire does a good job of fully illuminating the scene, adding a sense of atmosphere, as well as creating an orange colored glow on the faces of the subjects. Furthermore, the silhouette adds a sense of energy and mystery to the scene. On the issue of composition, the use of the rule of thirds and the presence of rich texture in the snow add considerable weight to the overall value of the shot.

This dramatic photograph was taken after a full day of rain storms in Ireland (actually its still raining in this photograph). But after the sun had set, this image had become possible without a bleak and gray sky. Without shooting during blue hour, the photographer would have come across poor lighting and rain drops in his images. Furthermore, the photographer, used the silhouettes of the tree to fill the emptiness of the sky in a visually arresting way.

This photograph demonstrates how timing is key in blue hour photography: this image most definitely wouldn't have worked 10 minutes before or 10 minutes after the shutter clicked. This image also acts as another good example of contrast, with numerous and interesting dark and bright regions seen in this photo: such as the shadows on the ground, the branches against the sky, or the lights of the scene.

1. Blue hour lasts only a few minutes so plan your shots ahead of time and scout.
2. Blue hour occurs after sunset, when the sky is almost reliably blue.
3. Try using silhouettes in your blue hour images.
4. The deep blue color of the sky affords a great opportunity to create lighting contrasts. Using artificially lit subjects against the sky makes for a dramatic scene.
5. Understand timing and color is everything.  

Images are copyright Chase Guttman and Peter Guttman.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Five Photography Resolutions for 2011

A new year means another 365 days (sometimes 366) of happiness and sadness, peace and violence, sunrises and sunsets, and of course photography. Throughout the history of business, companies have tried to come out with the best new products, whether it be camera body's, lens', flashes, or accessories. While photography hobbyists will always be buying the newest "thing" as long as there's a market to do so, at the end of the day, photography comes down to the ability of the person behind the camera. So the photographer must always strive to become better and hone their skills. Here are our five quick tips to getting better photographs in the new year.

1. Fill the frame and get closer. Getting closer to a subject helps you to become more intimate with a subject and capture them in a much truer light. For portraits, remember to focus on the eyes because they truly are the gateway to the soul. In landscapes, experiment with focusing on a single detail in a scene and keeping it simple.

2. Be aware of backdrops. What is behind your subject is just as important as your subject itself. Cleaner backgrounds are a good place to start because they help to isolate the true topic of your image. Complicated backgrounds are trickier. Remember not to have backgrounds that are too distracting, but one's that add to the overall worth of an image. A good way to enhance the background of your image is to change your perspective or decrease your camera's depth of field.

3. Understand flash better. It's very important to remember that flashes only go so far. Understanding the limitations of your flash, help you to better manipulate lighting conditions. Also, experiment with flash fill. Flash fill allows you to get rid of shadows, without weirdly exposing anything else (to do a flash fill you must either use a gel or lower the stop of the flash). I, on the other hand, personally try to avoid straight forward flashes. For less overly exposed results, I "bounce" the flash off the walls when I'm indoors, by aiming it away from the subject.

4. Take some vertical pictures. Vertical imagery offers different compositions that horizontal can't, and therefore can create a greater diversity of a visual experience.

5. Follow the basic rules of composition. Observing the rules of composition, help make your snapshots into more powerful visual statements by helping you create a more dramatic setting.

...and some extra tips for safe keeping...

6. Practice, Practice, Practice. I hate to go this route, because everyone says this, but practice makes perfect. So get out more often with your camera and with more memory cards. Since most people learn by doing, grab your camera and try some of these things out for yourselves. If you really want to go all out, try a Project 365.

7. Know your camera. Read your camera manual! Its a vast collection of free photo tips bundled into something you've probably left in your garage, or worse yet, thrown away (don't worry, you can usually download them online). Understanding camera modes (tutorial to come), ISO, file formats, etc., are a good place to start.

So happy new year and happy shooting in 2011! From...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Comprehensive Guide to Water Photography

Water is part of our daily lives and is one of the most fundamental natural elements essential to human life. Hence, water is a cherished part of human society, and we naturally are appealed to it's nearly spiritual properties. Being photographed in it's many forms, water is a critical part of photography because it's everywhere in the natural and man-made world. So how do you make your snapshot of a waterfall, current, or water droplet become a visual statement?

First you must understand that images of water usually comes in two forms: one that depicts movement through a "milky" motion blur and one that freezes the fluids motion at a given moment, so it looks like shards of smashed glass. The difference is the blur the eye sees present in the water. In going about a water shot, you must pose the question of what emotions you're trying to evoke. I think the spur of the moment feeling that fast shutter speeds capture (that is without a motion blur) create energy. On the other hand, the silky properties of a long exposure evokes a tranquil and meditative feeling. The trick to making your water images stand out is controlling and manipulating those emotions in a way you personally see fit.

Here's some of my simple tips-

Moving Water
-Make sure you've made a deliberate choice of the amount of blur you hope to capture in your shot (below are some exposure ideas for two approaches). 
 -Don't paint an image that is solely exclusive to water. Capturing a secondary subject (such as a person) will help better pass off emotions to your viewer.
 -Don't forget the importance of composition. Finding unique and "extreme" perspectives make for more visually interesting photographs because they offer something away from the norm.
-Generally, the sun is a problem when photographing water. Look for shaded areas (but remember having an image that is half shadows and half sunlight has negative factors because it distracts away from the subject).
-Add some scale. Providing a scale for your landscape images add context to your shots. Scales add a wow-factor to landscapes, by impressing your viewer with the size of your subject.
-Look for interesting textures, color and odd movements because they act as alluring components to the image. 

Still Water-
-When photographing still water, carry around a polarizing filter to help make colors in your images pop. Polarizing filters reduce reflections off of objects and in return enhance the saturation of objects colors. 
-Remember to capture the bluest of waters you need some sun in the sky to reflect off of the surface.
-Look for forms of reflections. The stiller and calmer the waters are the better the mirror images you can catch. Try to capture the two symmetrical objects perfectly aligned or consider what I call "half-reflections" (an image of water that only shows the reflected image, not the "actual" element). 
-Don't forget the importance of other elements and distinguish the roles they play in your images. 

Some quick guidelines for your exposures:
Milky motion blur= 1/4 of a second or longer

Frozen moment= 1/125 of a second or shorter
Macro water droplet images= 1/400 of a second or shorter

Images are copyright Peter Guttman.

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Chase Guttman is a talented and passionate, award-winning photographer having shot everything from landscapes to wildlife to portraits and events all around the world. Chase Guttman is also an affordable NYC assignment photographer, ready to fulfill your photographic wishes with his distinct style and attention to detail. He also runs this popular photography tips and guide blog, with weekly insights into photography that helps everyone from amateurs to pros better their photographic skill. Visit us at our website:

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