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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Importance of Backgrounds- How to Use Backdrops to Improve Your Photography

Professional photographers know that setting up a shot and concentrating on the subject is crucial, but the importance of backgrounds should not be overlooked.  This is a problem among amateurs, who set-up spectacular landscape or portrait shots, just to find out something in their background ruined the photograph to begin with. What you capture behind your subject can often make or break your photographs. Generally speaking, there are two approaches to developing an appealing background in your photographs:
This image was shot upward to avoid a potentially cluttered background and allow for the monochromatic sky to be used to emphasize the person's character.

-Clean and Simple-  With straightforward, uncomplicated backdrops you can isolate the true topic of your image and accentuate the details of your subject. By keeping your backdrops uncluttered, you identify the central theme of your photograph for the viewer. Make sure that whatever background you choose complements the story you're trying to tell.

Here it's not clear where the background starts or ends, and creates a visually interesting shot in one sense.

-Intricate and Complicated- Intricate backgrounds are potentially beneficial because they can tell a story all their own. Try not to have backgrounds that detract from the overall meaning of the photograph.  Instead, they should add a sense of place.

How Can I Improve the Backdrops in my Images?
1. Survey the scene and approach accordingly. For example, when photographing a landscape you want to maintain the integrity of the atmosphere you're trying to capture. Therefore, cropping out or removing any Coca-Cola cans, car bumpers, or extraneous visuals from your shot is in your best interest. If you can plan your photographs ahead of time, you can ensure that the background is clean. But, if any issues arise you can change your perspective, move your subject,adjust your depth of field via aperture or lens selection, remove superfluous objects, adjust lighting, or add motion blurs, among other things.

2. Avoid distracting elements. Distracting objects take away from your photograph's message, unless of course that's part of your message. This means don't have objects protruding out of your subject's heads. 

3. Look for contrasts. Contrasts help to make elements stand out and seem more appealing. 

I find this to be a good balance between the space devoted to the foreground and the background while the backdrop successfully adds character and a sense of place to the subject.
4. Use your foreground and background space strategically. All elements in your photograph are important, but consider which you want to stand out most. Amateur and beginner photographers are generally advised to fill the frame with their main subject, and by doing so you're emphasizing the foreground and minimizing the background.  This means that you'll have less opportunity to utilize a background to its fullest extent.  If your background establishes a sense of place or has some importance, than filling most of the frame with your subject may not benefit your photos, as you may be sacrificing potential background "real estate."   If, however, your background is visually intrusive or difficult to work with, then minimizing this real estate could work to the photograph's advantage.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Capture the Essence of Children- 11 Tips to Photographing Energetic Adolescents

Children let out the deepest of emotions and tend do the most amusing things. They're always on some sort of quest and are on the move with seemingly unlimited energy. For those reasons, photographers pursue children as subjects (quite literally) and can have difficulty doing so. This blog post addresses the variety of challenges that children pose to photographers and how to get the best end results.

1. Quick Shutter Speed. Although experimenting with motion blur can sometimes enhance your shots, it can also ruin them.  With subjects as energetic as kids, you need to quicken up your shutter speed for the best results (like 1/1000 sec.).

2. Go Candid. Candid photographs make your shots have real emotion and allow you to really expose your subject's character. With children, candid photography is the best guarantee for consistently good photographs. Besides, your little subjects are likely to get restless with your posed shots.

3. When Posing Shots With Kids Make It Quick and Interesting.  To avoid the "are we done yets?" there are a few tricks you can try. For instance, work quickly, prepare for the shots ahead of time, experiment with different poses and expressions, incorporate comedy, and place your subjects in their "natural" environment.

4. Get on their level. When you get at someone's level you are entering their world and are making the subject feel more connected with the photographer.  This will allow you to better capture the child’s character.

5. Interaction is Key. Incorporating people and things (that your subject can interact with) into your images, helps to fuel the story you're trying to tell.

6. Eyes say it all. Focus on the eyes, because they tell the story of anyone’s soul. They're also one of the most distinguishing and interesting details to capture in youngsters. 

7. Continuous shooting. You should always expect action when approaching photography of children. Flipping your camera into burst mode ensures you never miss a moment. In other words, take lots of photographs because you never know what will end up to be worthwhile.

8. Fill the Frame. Getting closer to a little one helps you to become more intimate with your subject and capture them in a much truer light.

9. Don't stay in one place. In all likelihood, your subject won't stay still if they're of walking age, so you shouldn't either. Move around and experiment with different positions and angles.

10. Value Backgrounds. What is behind your subject can be just as important as your subject itself. Your backgrounds can isolate the topic of the image or can tell a story all their own.

11. Add Extra Omph with Composition. Adding certain compositional elements can enhance your photographs. Always be on the lookout for textures, patterns, symmetry, etc.

And one extra crucial tip...courtesy of a reader...

12. Patience. Cooperation is very hard to get from kids when a camera is pointing their way, so be patient. Not everything works because there is no formula to art. That's why you must let things take its course. Remember if you stay with a subject long enough, you might just be able to craft something worthwhile. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Guide to Panning in Photography- Tips to Mastering This Important Art

Photo Tip World Definition- Panning = a useful technique where a photographer keeps a fast moving object in focus while allowing the background to blur. This is accomplished by moving the camera (or panning it) at the same speed and same direction as the subject.

The blurry background and focus on the jaguar helps capture the energy of the animal

Panning is a technique that adds a new layer of dynamic energy and realism to your images. Sometimes action photographs tend to "kill" the energy of their photos by completely freezing the frame. Panning moves away from a standard approach and creates an emotional feeling about the subject. Panning results in interesting imagery that can border on abstract and although it can create rewarding effects it’s a technique that is hard to perfect. Here are some tips to mastering this technique and improving your action photography. Starting with a quick how-to:
1. When possible, set-up in a location that provides an open and unobstructed view of your potential subject.
2. Before the subject approaches, pre-focus your lens on the location and direction you predict your subject will take. Use manual if you're familiar and comfortable with the mode.
3. Set a longer exposure than usual, making sure that ISO and aperture compensates for any potential overexposure.
4. As the subject gets closer to your frame, carefully move the camera at the same speed of the subject as you click the shutter. Make sure to do this while tracking the object's direction and movement.  Avoid shaking and try to move as smoothly as possible. 
5. Continue to pan, even a little after the exposure finishes to ensure that your subject ends up crisp and sharp.

Secrets to effective panning shots: 
1. Backdrops can be crucial. Simplistic, monochromatic colors are easiest to work with, but sometimes the more complicated backgrounds can tell a story all their own.
2. Since the goal is to capture a subject in focus, look for movements that are easily tracked. Generally speaking, the straighter the subject moves, the easier it will be to capture the object perfectly. Also, avoid very fast objects, longer exposures, etc. because they make your end goal harder to achieve.
3. Although the common goal that photographers have when they "pan" is to capture an object in sharp focus, many eye popping and abstract photos are results of trial and error.  Don't click delete too fast.
4.  It's unrealistic to expect your subjects to be perfectly sharp.   
5. Practice, practice, practice. Keep trying until you get it right.  
6. If you're having difficulty keeping the subject sharp, use a tripod with a swiveling head, so to minimize shake.
7. Experiment with flash if you're close enough to the subject.

Images are copyright Chase Guttman and Peter Guttman, respectively.

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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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