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Inspiration in a bundle

Here's a book that can inspire you to build a relationship with other creative people through a blog. If you get inspired, you need to pass it on. More »

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The Heart of a Hobbyist

The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer. More »

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10 Things I Learned in 2012

If I had to give beginning photographer one piece of advice, it would be this: welcome discontent with your craft. It means you are about to experience change, and improvement. More »

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Creativity, Camera, and Photoshop

Do you like photography and Photoshop? Digital imagery is not just about one or the other. The trick is to maintain your balance. More »

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

Why I Love iPhone Photography

Just a couple days ago, I traveled without a dSLR. And fell in love with photography all over again. Find out why the iPhone is one of the handiest cameras around. More »

Category Archives: 52 Project

How to make a high key portrait

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Low contrast lighting can be interesting, too.

A low contrast lighting situation is often called ‘flat,’ and there is a reason for this. Low contrast means there is less difference between the darkest part of the photo and the lightest part of the photo, resulting in a relatively even distribution of light. The resulting image for an even lighting situation is low contrast.

Flat or low contrast photos rarely register as interesting to our brains because contrast is one of the principles that make images attractive.

We create contrast with color, as in the photograph below. The color of the tree limbs and trunks and the grass in the background are darker than the color of the dried grass. Rendered in monochrome, this photo has high contrast because of the color in the original image.

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Contrast from dark and light colors.

We also create contrast with light and shadow. In the photo below, the darkest darks are almost black, while the lightest lights are very bright due to the strong sunlight streaming in the window. The high contrast makes it an attractive photo.

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Bright light creating high contrast.

How do we create attractive low-contrast photos?

High key images are very well lit photos. However, we can still create some contrast in a high key image, using both color and light.

How to make a high key photo in camera

As soon as you find a light source, in my case a North-facing window, position your subject so that the window is perpendicular to the subject and to your camera. This gives you a side-lighting situation which gives you a gradation of the light from one side of the subject to the other, and creates the 3D effect on your portrait.

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Overexposed in camera but with side lighting to create soft shadows.

Your camera settings should be toward overexposure. Don’t worry about losing some detail in the highlights. Instead, hold on to the medium shadows so that you will be able to create some contour in the portrait. I overexposed this portrait by three quarters of a stop.

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Contrast using bright light from a window.

Although the lighting is mostly bright and made brighter in the image captured with the overexposure, if you position the lighting so that you still hold on to some shadow, you can create a high key photo with some attractive contrast.

Processing a high key photo

Here is a video explaining how to process a high key image using Photoshop.

Here is another video explaining how to process a high key image using Lightroom.

High key images can make your portfolio a little more interesting, and high key images give you the opportunity to experiment with how much you can push the exposure of an image without losing attractive lighting.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

 

Create Nostalgia in Your Images with an Easy Curves and Channels Conversion

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Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It carries within it memory and desire.

Evoking nostalgia with an image is not an easy thing to do, unless you achieve this by specifically choosing content that evokes childhood memory, or memory of a lost love, for instance, or a memorable trip somewhere exotic.

But how do you use the power of color to evoke nostalgia? This tutorial will show you an easy, step-by-step conversion using Photoshop to create nostalgic photos. In the conversion, you will learn how to add subtle duotones in your photograph that will help you create sentimentality in the image.

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An image that works well in monochrome works best for this processing technique.

What types of photos work?

For this conversion, we have to work from a monochrome base, so it’s good to choose photos that look good in black and white: high-contrast photos that use light and dark to highlight what’s in the frame.

After you choose your photo, open it in Adobe Photoshop. Any version will do.

Step 1. Make a copy of the image, so you can work on it without changing the original.

0backgroundcopy

 

Step 2. Create a Black and White of the image on the current layer.

1BWadjustments

 

Step 3. On the black and white layer, go to Adjustments>Curves.

3Red_channel

Step 4. Choose the Red Channel on your Curves window. Move the curve according to what hues you want in this channel.

3aredchanneladj

 

Step 5. Go through the same process with the Green Channel curve.

4Greenchannel

 

Step 6. Go through the same process with the Blue Channel curve. You get the picture.

Step 7. This is an OPTIONAL step. You can dodge and burn using a non-destructive technique previously shown here on Imagine That! And your image is ready!

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The mostly red brick background and the light on the statues made this an easy duotone choice.

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I chose a bluish cast on this conversion because it helps the image show how the stone statues were cool to the touch.

Conclusion
Although you might not be the mushy type, this conversion is useful to make dramatic duotone images and it works with landscapes really well. Why not give it a try this week, and see what emotion you can create in your images?

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
When You have to Wing it
From Idea to Image Part I: Planning
From Idea to Image Part 2: Lighting Clothing

How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively

 

 

 

Multiple Planes Instantly Transform Your Imagery

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Most of us see pictures in two dimensions.

This is because our lens is directly parallel with the scene we’re trying to capture, so we ‘see’ the scene as the plane directly in front of us.

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Parallel composition using only one plane directly in front of the lens.

But seeing can change; we can learn to see in multiple planes, to create a three dimensional rendition in an image that is two-dimensional. It’s like ‘fooling’ the eye looking at an image, much like a sketch of a building using perspective fools the eye into thinking it is three-dimensional. The transformation in imagery comes about from a change in seeing multiple planes in an image we want to capture.

Multiple planes in photos create the illusion of depth.

One of a photographer’s challenges is to see multiple planes, and make photos that look like the scene itself—with volume, with mass, alive in all its dimensions.

Here are a few things I’ve tried that you might like to, and give depth to your compositions.

Make an image that identifies different planes

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An image with two planes.

This photo of the doorway to Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai opens directly to a courtyard encircled by Buddha images. By taking the photo of the doorway and including the Buddha statue in the background, the image identifies two planes, one of the door diagonal to the camera, and the Buddha on an intersecting plane, like in the illustration below.

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Illustration showing the set up to the temple photo with two planes.

In a similar composition below also of a door to a temple in Bhutan, there are three planes identified. The first plane is the door itself, parallel to the camera. The second plane is the ground leading the eye inside the door to the courtyard, and finally the third plane is the building beyond the open door.

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Three planes intersecting in an image.

Use perspective in the background

Perspective is useful, and we can create this in several ways.

Standing at an angle to the subject achieves depth in the photograph. In the example of the daisies, I stood at an angle close to the row of flowers, making sure I had a shallow enough depth of field to create blur in both the foreground and the background. The combination of the angle at which the photo was taken and the blur from a shallow depth of field created the depth necessary to make the photo a bit more interesting than just a straight shot of lines of flowers.

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Standing at an angle and using shallow DOF created a dynamic photo of a row of flowers.

Another way to create perspective is to use the background lines. In the photo below of the path around a crafter’s village, I stood behind some merchandise and included the lines of the road leading into the horizon. This instantly creates depth.

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Using the line of the road to create perspective.

Still another way to create perspective is to include the natural perspective that is created by lines in a landscape. In this photo, the river snaking through the Punakha valley leads the eye from the foreground to the background. Lines in the frame can help us use perspective which gives the image depth.

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The river runs through the valley, and creates perspective in the frame.

Suggest other planes in the image

Planes gives the audience ‘layers’ of information in a photo.

In this photo of a temple, I used the reflection of some of the temple elements to suggest its presence. Although the only clues the viewer gets of the temple are the spires reflected in a lotus pond, the viewer can figure out its location, toward the back of the pond, and expands the image to encompass a mysterious part of its story. This sort of complexity in visualizing seems fresh to the viewer and tickles the imagination.

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Suggesting other elements that are present beyond the frame creates an opportunity for the viewer to fill in other planes.

This week, try creating images with multiple planes. Upload your best image to the Imagine That Photography Tribe page on Facebook, and discuss how you changed the way you see.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Things that can Change the Way You See in Photography

Week 4 Module Looking for Light 
10 Things that will Transform Your Photographic Composition
10 Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

Using a Limited Color Palette

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One ‘disadvantage’ of being a visual glutton is that colors distract you.

It’s easy to get distracted by the colorful when you are searching for images to capture. This is one reason why Southeast Asian temples, different festivals, and markets are at the top of a photography enthusiast’s list to visit or experience.

Although colorful photos are attractive, to the viewer sometimes they are confusing. The kaleidoscope is clamoring for attention; the viewer does not have an easy time deciding where to enter the image visually, and how to exit the image with ease. This is where the photographer comes in, to make the experience of viewing a photograph a lot easier on the audience.

Photographers have many ways to help audiences enter and exit a photograph. We can use composition techniques to gently guide the eye across the image. We can help using balance. We can simplify the image accessibility using only light and dark, in a monochrome. We can use contrast between the sharp subject and the bokeh background.

We can also use color to help the audience access our images. That is, instead of including a rainbow in the image, we can limit the image’s color palette.

Finding a limited color palette is a challenge and requires some visual discipline. Knowing your color complements on the color wheel is essential knowledge here, and you’re going to have to practice seeing these combinations and then making decisions about the composition so that your image framing is of the limited part of the color spectrum.

What are some things you might look for in an image with a limited color palette? Here are a few important advantages.

You can focus on shapes and patterns.

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Limited color palette: using hues of the same color

The image of the trees in various hues of warm colors was set off in great contrast with the green of the rest of the forest.

The similarity between the shapes of the trees are made interesting by the variation in their hues, making the image vibrant.

You can focus on content.

 

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Limited color palette: the color as a message.

These pilgrims praying around a stupa are wearing the shades of pious people—the monk’s wine-red robes. Set against the whitewash of the stupa, the red jumps out at us in the photo, like the fervent devotion of the praying women.

You can focus on contrast.

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Limited color palette: subtle contrast in color.

You can always make monochrome images to set off high contrast subjects. But sometimes, you may want color to help you give the image an emotional facet. In the early morning mist the air turned blue and the terracotta silhouettes of the fence posts and the bare trees set off a good color contrast.

Your assignment this week is to find some images of limited color palette, and to explain your thinking on one of them that you’re particularly proud of. Why did you pick the elements in the frame? What does the color tell us about the message in the image?

Good luck! Post your work in the Imagine That Photography Tribe page on Facebook.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts

The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity

Keep it Simple

Dochula Pass Bhutan monochrome landscape layered landscape black and white clouds Himalayas copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

First of all, let me apologize to the Tribe for a long break from the blog. I’m currently completing a doctorate, and studies have taken up all my time. I will do my best to regularly write for the blog.

As we grow in our skills as photographers, it’s easy to find ourselves feeling like there should be more to what we can do.

When doing work for Canon PhotoYou,  Readers Digest’s photography magazine, for example, I set out on my first assignment thinking I had to do something different for the story: that my compositions had to include something more than what I usually know how to do . But as I actually began shooting, I realized something. The skills of composition that allow you to create a well-designed image aren’t complicated.

I realized that keeping a composition simple was inevitably what made it work.

This week’s module is about simplicity in composition. By keeping it simple, you keep the composition clean.

How do you keep it simple?

Find an uncluttered background.

Portrait by Aloha Lavina in Bhutan Bhutanese girl tego Punakha travel portraiture travel portrait copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

I could have taken a frontal shot, but this profile works better because the background is uncluttered.

Moving around the subject is one of the best things you can do while shooting. You’re not going to run out of film, right? Take shots from different angles to discover what makes the best, most uncluttered background for your subject.

Pay attention to colors in the foreground, subject, and background, and create harmony.

Moving around also gives you somewhat different color palettes to choose from. Complementary colors are the most attractive, such as blue and yellow. (Although these colors don’t have to be exact, they can be approximately in that hue.)

Phobjikha girl Bhutan Bhutanese girl night portrait high ISO copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

This handheld shot at high ISO was composed with the blue light in the background balancing the slab of yellowish stone in the foreground.

Often simple lines help your compo.

Pay attention to the lines in the composition. Lines lead the eye in often very graceful ways, and sometimes crossing lines also give a tension to the image, pulling the eye in different directions, but in a way that makes the viewer think.

river Punakha Bhutan Bhutanese landscape copyright Aloha Lavina

The S curve. Grace, personified.

Go back to basics of design.

Don’t forget your basics of design we have talked about in a previous module called “What’s in the Frame.”There is no substitute for good design in an image.

Dochula Pass Bhutan monochrome landscape layered landscape black and white clouds Himalayas copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

My most favorite image of Bhutan is this layered yet simple design of the Himalayan range.

It’s how you see that makes the image, not content.

Finally, one last tip: it’s your inner vision that really counts in image making. Things that seem mundane can actually make great images, memorable images. Interpreting the image from the elements you see in the physical world is the act of creating the photograph. Ask yourself, what are you trying to show or say with the image? This thoughtfulness separates the snapshot from the photograph.

iris flower purple Paro Bhutan foliage nature copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

A lonely iris in Paro, Bhutan.

If you’re still game, let’s make some images this week, paying attention to the compositional tips above. Post your best image in our Facebook page, and let’s get this show back on track!

Week 18 Module: Make Postcards with Your Travel Photos!

Bhutan Gangtey mountains color camp dwarf bamboo yak herders tent copyright Aloha Lavina

Note: I’ve been away both traveling and taking doctoral courses, so we skipped two weeks of tutorials. Here is hopefully the new start of something that is possible and will continue.

 

This is the postcard I wanted to send you from Bhutan when I was there.

Postcard from Bhutan Thimpu copyright Aloha Lavina Buddha on mountainside sunrise

Actually, it’s a photo I took in Thimpu, just as the sun was rising, of the giant Buddha glistening in the early light on the mountainside overlooking the capital city.

Haven’t you ever wished you could share your travel experiences with someone through a postcard? There is magic in receiving one of these little old-fashioned gestures in the snailmail. The magic comes from the fact that someone is “wishing you were here,” and that they were thinking of you when they enjoyed their travels.Bhutan Gangtey mountains color camp dwarf bamboo yak herders tent copyright Aloha Lavina

But sometimes, you can’t find postcards that you would like to send. Or maybe you have no time to shop for postcards because you are 3000 feet above sea level, camping with yak herders in the hills of Gangtey in central Bhutan.

The solution is to bring the photos home, work with them a bit, and produce your own postcard.

Here’s how.

This week, take some photos of the place you are and turn it one to a postcard. Then, send it to someone.

And enjoy the magic of their surprise.

Week 15 Module: Silhouettes

Bhutan archer archery national sport of Bhutanese sunset Paro silhouette copyright Aloha Lavina

One of the favorite themes of shooters is the silhouette. Silhouettes are the result of exposing for bright light behind a subject. The camera underexposes anything that is in front of the bright light, resulting in a photo that features a darkened shape—the silhouette.

Silhouettes are one of the creative ways to interpret a scene. With some basic techniques, you can create stunning silhouettes.

1. Look for familiar shapes against a brilliant sky.

This photo is of one of the most recognizable bridges in Burma, the U Bein Bridge. It is a long bridge made of teak wood, and in the evenings, you can see locals cross it, walking their bikes. The sunset was brilliant on this day, so I decided to include a lot of the amazing sky by using a very wide lens. It’s important to wait until the people in your frame are separate shapes, not ‘stuck together’ because they are passing each other. If they are parts of the same shadow, you will get some unrecognizable lumps in your image which are, needless to say, confusing for the audience.U Bein Bridge, Myanmar Burma Burmese bridge famous Burmese bridge sunset silhouette copyright Aloha Lavina

2. Shoot silhouettes in naturally occurring frames.

If you are indoors, you can use doorways and windows to provide back light for your silhouettes, adding a geometric frame to your image. This image in Burma was taken at a temple, and the man and woman who were passing one another looked dynamic framed within the graceful arches of the temple entrance.Myanmar Burma Burmese temple silhouettes walking frames Buddhist Burmese Buddhism silhouettes copyright Aloha Lavina

3. Stack elements in the image.

If you are faced with a landscape of hills overlapping with some structures in front, like in this sunset photo of a temple on Inle Lake in Burma, you can create an image that has scale. I also waited for some light rays to show up when clouds obscured part of the streams of strong light coming from the setting sun, giving the image added drama. Stacking elements in the image works only if there is a gradation in the silhouetted shapes, or that some shapes are lighter than others, and some are darker. With the different intensities of shadows in the silhouette, the image becomes more dramatic because the gradation adds depth to the photo.Inle Lake Burma Myanmar Shan State Burmese lake sunset silhouettes copyright Aloha Lavina temple Burmese Buddhist pagoda

4. Partial silhouettes work, too.

This partial silhouette of an archer against a brilliant sunset sky in Bhutan is dramatic because even though his identity is obscured by shadow, we see the color of the ribbons of winning archery shots he’s made that day, and the ends of his arrows.

Also notice that I had a low viewpoint. I actually noticed the sky, and then immediately crouched with my camera almost resting on the ground, tilting it at an angle so it would catch the archer and the beautiful sky behind him. Getting a shot from a low angle gives you more brilliant light behind your subject, and makes it easier to create a silhouette.Bhutan archer archery national sport of Bhutanese sunset Paro silhouette copyright Aloha Lavina

5. Same principle, different value. Or, breaking the rule.

Most silhouettes are dark shapes against bright light. What if we reversed the exposure and underexposed on the background? The result is that the exposure on the sliver of light on a person can outline them against a very dark background—sort of a reverse silhouette. This is called ‘rim light’ because it traces the rim of a subject.

In this photo, I decided to create a ‘reverse silhouette’ because the rim light and smoke made for an interesting graphic composition. It’s a ridiculously underexposed image, but I like it.

Bali Balinese man smoking smoke black and white reverse silhouette faceless portrait trademark of Aloha Lavina copyright All rights reserved

One of the portraits from my Faceless Portraits project 2007-present.

So there you are, four basic techniques for making silhouettes, and one rule breaker. This is the project for this week: Go out during the golden hours and find some silhouettes! Post your best shot in Imagine That Photography Tribe.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

Week 14 Module: Photographing Architecture

Getty museum abstract architecture blue and white california copyright Aloha Lavina

Buildings were one of the few things that held still long enough to get an exposure.

In the early days of photography, of course the cameras were not as sophisticated as they are now. No Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilizer technology, and film of course had a limited ISO capacity. So one of the few things photographers could capture with the long exposure times their cameras needed was architecture. Buildings and monuments didn’t move.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok airport Thailand airport architecture night copyright Aloha Lavina.

Suvarnabhumi Airport at night via iPhone. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Later on as camera technology grew more sophisticated, the tradition of photographing architecture continued for several reasons, but the one that most emerging photographers cited is that it is easy to get into your portfolio. Architecture doesn’t change as much as say, people’s faces. Buildings are easy to find anywhere that’s inhabited. And you only had to wait for light, to make a good photo.

Simple as it sounds, there are a few techniques that transform an architectural photograph from a snapshot to a fine art piece. This module brings you some tips that could do just that.

Focus on Lines and angles and composition

Architectural photos are all about the language of geometry. The photographer finds how the structure’s lines and angles add to the design of a building. A common technique is to take a slice of the structure and highlight it in the image. This sort of abstraction eliminates the clutter, makes the composition cleaner, and renders an interpretive image.

Getty museum abstract architecture blue and white california copyright Aloha Lavina

Getty Museum and sky. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Focus on color

Colors on a building are no accident; like everything else, they are part of the design.  Sometimes, the colors in a building can be used as elements in a composition.

Adding Context

Where is the structure? What surrounds it? Sometimes it is better to include this part of a building’s story. Other times, it isn’t a big help to the composition. It’s the photographer’s decision to add context or to cut it out. Everything you include or exclude in an image adds to the message and effectiveness of that image.

Luang Prabang temple storm Laos Asian Asia southeast asia Buddhist temple copyright Aloha Lavina

Wide angle shot of a temple with storm approaching, Laos. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Light and shadow

Here is a great video talking about using light and shadow to make an architectural photograph with character.

What’s it like at night?

Night photography is a great way to explore architecture. Buildings are lit at times to showcase their forms. Here is another tutorial from expertvillage on how to take a photo of a city at night.

Finally, how about some inspiration? Click on these links to see what I mean about the elements discussed in this post.

 50 Stunning Examples of Architecture Photography by Smashing Mag

Maxwell MacKenzie’s Website

Finally, your goal this week is to apply these tips and tricks to your photography. Experiment with your imagery, and take photos at different times of the day. Then, share your best image on the Imagine That Photography Tribe Facebook page! Have fun!

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

Editor’s Picks from Weeks 11 and 12

Imagine That Photography Tribe
Imagine That Photography Tribe

Bokeh Baby! Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

In our Week 11 Module, the Tribe produced some gorgeous bokeh with shallow depth of field and being mindful of the placement of light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Bokeh Baby! Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Bokeh Baby! Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Bokeh Baby! Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Bokeh Baby! Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

The following module for Week 12, we learned how to add a texture layer to our photos in Photoshop, to add a bit of drama to the images.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

 See more posts from the Tribe when you join us! Join the Imagine That Photography Tribe on Facebook to participate in weekly modules, discuss photography, and learn tips and techniques, one week at a time.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Stripped to its Essence: The Beauty of Black and White
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively

Week 13 Module: A Stranger’s Story

Burma Myanmar rice field worker harvesting rice harvest Southeast Asia Burmese copyright Aloha Lavina

A photographer collects stories. Those stories can be about people.

When setting out to photograph a stranger, there is no way you can predict who you’ll meet, and even less chance of developing some definite expectations of what images you can make and take home. You need to be open to anything and flexible enough to change focus at a moment’s notice. Here is a how-to video from Clay Enos.

(The only thing I disagree with that the video says is about the lighting. Enos prefers “flat light” but I like contrasty. It’s a matter of taste.)

When I’m on the hunt for portraits, I’ve got a couple of lenses I like to use. A zoom that has a 50mm focal length within its range is good for closeups. A long telephoto is good for portraits of people whom you want to catch in their candid moments or without intruding on their privacy.

To help you maximize your chances of capturing memorable portraits that have impact, there are some things you can apply.

1. Wait for the decisive moment.

Cartier Bresson once said, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.” Finding this decisive moment is one of the most exciting things you can search for in your quest for portraits. Being patient and waiting for moments can result in expressive portraits.

2. Provide context for your subject.

Using the environment can help you tell the story of your subject. Whether it is about work, play, or other themes, giving bits of the surroundings can add impact to the story because the elements around the subject add to the narrative of who they are, what they do, linking their story to the viewer’s story.

3. Document a 1000 words.

That old cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words” can come true in your photography. While roaming a place, look out for moments that hold special significance to the people you are photographing. Sometimes you’ll find these vignettes that encapsulate universal experiences, such as wanting something we can’t have. Portraits that have stories in them are often some of the most powerful ones we can make.Burma Myanmar Burmese woman smoking cheroot headscarf Mandalay copyright Aloha Lavina

4. Interact with your subject.

It helps you sometimes to interact with your subject. Some would argue that interacting with your subject changes the image; that by imposing yourself into their lives, the photographer changes the natural way a local person would act.

5.  Keep your distance.

Conversely, you can keep your distance and use a long lens. Using a long lens, what I call the “sniper method” of portraiture, allows you to capture people in their natural state. Because you are not intruding upon their attention, you would get portraits that are more candid.Burma Myanmar rice field worker harvesting rice harvest Southeast Asia Burmese copyright Aloha Lavina

6. Know the angle of your light source.

I like dramatic lighting, so I always look for things like rim lighting, or light falling on the face of the person I am photographing. Burma Myanmar monk studying students boys in temple school copyright Aloha Lavina portrait lighting light

7. Watch out for body language.

A portrait can express a story even without the face completely visible. Often, body language can tell the story.Burma Myanmar monk portrait Inle Lake Burmese monk Burmese monk ceremony copyright Aloha Lavina

Although by no means an exhaustive list, these tips can help you start your search for the stories of strangers. Your assignment this week is to make some portraits of people you don’t know. Choose one photo that turned out special, and tell the stranger’s story on our Imagine That Photography Tribe Facebook page.

Have fun!

Join us, the Imagine That Photography Tribe, as we embark on a year of photography projects designed to improve and practice photography skills! Simply Like us on Facebook, and you will be able to see weekly posts, contributions from Tribe members, and talk photography! Participate and be included in weekly roundup articles published right here on Imagine That! Also get the chance to see your work in seasonal e-publications released by Imagine That.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Composition and the Use of Color
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Are You Paying Attention?

Week 12 Module: How to add a grunge texture to a photograph

iPhone 4s photo with grunge from an app action copyright Aloha Lavina Bangkok train tracks BTS tracks Bangkok city

This technique has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t lost its fun factor.

I’m talking about adding a textured layer to your photo.

Adding textures to a photo can be done with an app on the iPhone, such as what I did with this photo here. Without the texture, the photo itself was a linear, kind of boring snapshot. With the grunge layer applied with the app, I got a dramatic effect and was able to bring attention to the lines on the train platform.

iPhone 4s photo with grunge from an app action copyright Aloha Lavina Bangkok train tracks BTS tracks Bangkok city

Grunge texture on a photo using an app in the iPhone.

This module is about adding a grunge layer to your photograph to add drama and to bring attention to a particular element in the photo.

Do you collect textures?

When I am shooting, I often come across different textures that would make for interesting overlays for my images.  I shoot them and keep them in my hard drive for future use in a folder marked “Stock textures.” That way, I am always ready in case the mood hits to create a textured photo with a grunge effect.

What photo should you make with this effect in mind?

Any photo can work with this effect, but it might help you to shoot a photo that had just one thing as its subject. That subject could be a person or object in the frame. If the subject is light itself, the photo will probably not work, since its subject needs the context (which we will cover with texture) of the whole picture to work. Similarly, if you had a composition in which you had to balance the frame using two different elements, this effect would harm rather than help your composition. So pick a photo that has one clear thing that you’re focusing on. This is where we will center the composition as we apply the texture.

How do I add textures using Photoshop?

There are a couple of things in Photoshop you have to understand before you can work with a texture layer on top of your actual image.

The first thing is how to use layer masks work. Here is an excellent tutorial that shows you that.

The second thing you need to review is how to use the Blending Modes. Here’s a tutorial that shows you what Blending Modes do to an image.

Now that you’ve reviewed your knowledge about Blending Modes and Layer Masks, here is a video that shows you how to add a texture layer to make a dramatic photo.

Finally, I just completed a short video tutorial on this same topic. If you would like to learn a simple way that I use to add texture to a photo, head on over to my Youtube channel.

The assignment this week is to shoot textures and an image that you would like to apply texture to. Now that you know how to use layer masks and blending modes, experiment and see what works. The only limits to your textured imagery is your imagination and creativity!

If you would like to participate in weekly modules on all kinds of topics in photography, why not join the Imagine That Photography Tribe? Like us on Facebook, and get updates on weekly lessons, have a chance to discuss photography with cool Tribe members, and get free ebooks with your photos featured!

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Stripped to its Essence: The Beauty of Black and White
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively

Stripped to its Essence: the Beauty of Black and White

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Editor’s Picks, Week 10 Module “Monochrome Madness”

Monochromatic photography is making imagery that has only one hue. Between black and white, the grayscale in between make up the range of frequencies in a monochromatic image. It can be warmer, with a yellow tinge, or cooler, with a bluish hue.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Ker GL 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Maybe the sentimentality of the classic film days and photography greats shooting in black and white makes black and white seem more gritty. Maybe this led to monochrome being a preference of photojournalism in the days before newspapers could print in full color. Or maybe it was the other way around, the newspaper photographs being the inspiration for shooters to use monochrome.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Prima Ongsvises 2012.

But actually, monochrome is the most unrealistic of imagery. Without the color of real life, the monochrome photograph is extremely interpretive, stripping an image to its essentials.

Form

The way in which we seek to see the world, looking for edges to find shape. Like a lens seeking contrast to focus, we are captivated by the forms without the distraction of color. We are able to find harmony in the ways the pieces of the composition fit.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

 

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

Light

If we could see in monochrome only like a motion picture camera, we would strip the image to its muse. The values of light and dark would jump out at our vision, and we choose how to arrange it artfully. Monochrome allows us to focus on only the difference between highlights and shadows. We can make a picture with just a shadow, and a patch of light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

Contrast

Monochrome allows us to add drama without color. With only the intensity of the difference between the whites and the blacks in the image, we can add a little vision and make a single image a narrative.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

 

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Week 11 Module: Bokeh Baby!

portrait with bokeh copyright Aloha Lavina

Blur has never been more beautiful.

Bokeh is technically the way a lens renders out of focus light. Different lenses produce different bokeh. Sometimes, a lens can produce bokeh that’s so creamy you could spread it on bread.

Hmong woman and bright light, Vietnam copyright Aloha Lavina.

Creamy, spreadable bokeh.

Other times, there’s a texture to the bokeh.

portrait with bokeh copyright Aloha Lavina

Sometimes the lens can produce some texture in the bokeh.

This week, let’s have some fun producing bokeh, baby!

Here’s a video on how to set up a bokeh producing situation at home.

If you’re having too much fun, here’s how you could control the shape of the bokeh your lens produces.

And finally, here’s some inspiration of creative ways to use bokeh in your compositions.

Now go, and make some beautiful blur.

 

Week 10 Module: Monochrome Madness

monochrome using iPhone 4s copyright Aloha Lavina

They evoke the romance of earlier years in photography.

They remind us of iconic photographs by some of photography’s greats—Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson, and of course, Ansel Adams. We’re talking about black and white photographs, of course.

When some of these iconic photographs were made, the photographer had to capture a world of color and see in monochrome.

How can we share in this great photography tradition and participate in some monochrome madness? In this week’s module, let’s find out.

What should you consider when making a monochrome image?

Design elements

Composition in monochrome images is not any different from composing color images. But since there is no color information, the elements of shape, pattern, contrast and lighting are so much more important.

monochrome using iPhone 4s copyright Aloha Lavina

A monochrome I shot using the iPhone 4s and converted using an app called Snapseed.

Shapes and patterns

Shapes and patterns are important in black and white because they are much more prominent without the color to distract from attention to them. Take a look at these samples and see what I mean.

Composing a monochrome photo challenges the photographer to visualize how shapes and patterns would affect the composition more than any thing else in it.

Here is Ansel Adam’s philosophy of capturing something visualized.

 

Contrast

Contrast is important in monochrome because it helps us to delineate the edges of the subject and other elements in the image. Making the edges between the blacks and whites clear helps the image gain a clear composition. There are many ways to achieve contrast in making black and white images.

One is by dodging and burning. Dodging and burning is a technique from the film days that involves changing the brightness of bright parts and darkness of dark parts in the photograph. Dodging makes the bright parts brighter, and burning makes the dark parts darker. You can dodge and burn using Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop, but this destroys pixels. So it’s better to use a non-destructive technique such as in this tutorial.

Here is another way to create a high contrast image in black and white.

Lighting

Lighting is always important in photography, so it goes without saying that it is also important in monochromatic photography. Dramatic light is something that helps a monochrome image a lot. The contrast between the lights and the darks in the photo happens when there is a full range of tones in the photo, and this full range is achieved when the light is ‘just right.’

To control the light that makes the photograph, pay attention to the exposure. You need to make good decisions about the exposure made by the three settings of aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Too fast of an exposure, and you risk having no details in the shadows, or dark parts. Too slow, and you may risk blowing out the highlights.

Post processing work

Most dSLRs have a Monochrome shooting mode these days. This means the black and white conversion is done in camera. This might be all right, but you will find that camera conversions into monochrome are quite bland and do not have the high contrast drama that you might appreciate in a photo. So the tendency for a shooter to underexpose the image is quite possible. (I know I tend to underexpose a LOT when shooting in monochrome mode.)

Probably a good way to make monochrome images is to shoot in color first, then convert the image to a monochrome. There are several ways to do this. One is the method done in RAW in the video by House of Photoshop, above.

Another, easier way is to use Channels to make the black and white conversion.

Here is yet another way to convert a color photo to black and white, by Joey L.

 

Pick a way that works for you, a way that seems more intuitive. This frees you up to make more artistic decisions about the conversion you are making.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! We have photography modules weekly with our Imagine That Photography Tribe. Simply Like us on Facebook, and get weekly updates with photography tips and tricks. Talk photography with some cool folks, and enjoy being featured in a weekly Editors Picks and a chance for your photos to star in a seasonal publication for Tribe members.

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Confessions of a Photoshop User
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos

 

 

Editor’s Picks: Week 8 Module Finding Your Balance

Imagine That Photography Tribe

The Tribe has done it again!

Check out this beautiful collection of images from our Week 8 Module, “Finding Your Balance.”

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

If you would like to participate in weekly modules on all kinds of topics in photography, why not join the Imagine That Photography Tribe? Like us on Facebook, and get updates on weekly lessons, have a chance to discuss photography with cool Tribe members, and get free ebooks with your photos featured!