Tag Archives: howto

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

8 Things that will Inspire Your Next Portrait Shoot

If you make portraits all the time, where do you get inspiration for a varied, exciting portfolio?

Many might say it’s one thing—their favorite face, a specific lighting type, or concepts. But if you really want to keep inspired and keep making beautiful pictures of people, it’s important to take inspiration from the photo shoot itself. If your favorite thing is missing from a shoot, you can still get inspiration from other factors that go into an awesome photo session.

Here are eight sources of inspiration for your next photo shoot.

1. Motion

portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Add motion into a portrait and make it pop. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

We take still photos, but there is no reason why the results can’t be dynamic. One of the easiest ways to evoke this dynamism in your photograph is to ask the model to move. A slow series of motions can help you create fluidity in the image, especially in situations where your background or clothing may not be that colorful. The flavor of a movement can spice up a photo, giving it more impact.

2. Emotion

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Evoke emotion from your subject. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Not all models are great actors, but there are techniques to bring out emotion in your subject. Playing music during a photo shoot, or talking about memories, can trigger emotion in the model. This is sort of delicate; you don’t want to have a model turning despondent on you during the shoot, so it’s important to be sensitive while directing a model’s emotional response. But you can evoke emotion that translates into a facial gesture that makes a portrait stand out.

3. Shapes and Lines

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Shapes and lines can help you compose a portrait, even close up.

Sometimes, something as simple as circles and arrows or lines can make a portrait pop. Using these shapes to add contrast or texture, or using lines to lead to the face can help you get a good portrait.

4. Poses

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Change up the poses and find some inspiration in your model's flexibility. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Changing it up during the shoot, directing the model to contort or show the extent of their flexibility can help you create unusual portraits. Constantly trying new directions for poses helps you learn versatility in your own direction skills, too, plus trains your model to visualize what their body is doing for an image.

5. Lighting and contrast

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Contrasty lighting can help you make unusual portraits. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

If you are practicing making portraits with natural light, you can create situations that utilize the high contrast, harsh light that streams in even at midday. Because the light is so contrasty, your portrait will pop with the hard light and shadows. The trick here is to use exposure compensation well, as well as metering. Metering on the middle values (grays) can help you make sure both the shadows and light are delineated well, and underexposing a bit can help, too.

6. Location

portrait with foreground texture copyright Aloha Lavina.

I've never met vines that didn't inspire a portrait. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Some locations are better than others. Even if you have never been to the location before, spending a few minutes scouting around for things you can use to add texture, depth, or interest to the portrait can help inspire your portraiture.

7. A prop

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

A prop can help create frames, leading lines, and depth in a portrait. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

In case the location and lighting are not that amazing, you can always bring a prop. When using a prop, it’s often inspiring to challenge yourself—how will it enhance the photo? Is it the positioning, the texture? Can you use it to contrast the skin? To add a frame to the image? Using a prop can inspire creativity during a photoshoot.

8. Simplicity

Krystal Vee portrait by Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

Simple compositions can be inspiring. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

No matter what the situation, at times going back to basics can be a way to inspired portraiture. Simplicity often gives you a clean composition, a graphic quality to the photo, and an uncluttered result. If your background and clothing for instance are both gray, you can still create a pleasing portrait using lines, curves, and a fierce pose.

The next time you schedule a photo shoot, pay attention to these eight things. One of these might just be the inspiration you need to make stunning portraits.

 

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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

The finished black and white image, ready in 12 easy steps.

How to Convert a Color Photo into BW Using Channels

I’ve been busy off the grid for a couple weeks. Last week I spoke at Create Without Limits, an invitation only event for corporate executives where we discussed ideas about how art and business collide and synthesize. Two weeks ago I ran a workshop for emerging hobbyists in Bangkok, and promised the participants a short tutorial on how to convert a photo to black and white.

I chose to teach a BW conversion using Channels because it seems to me to be the easiest, apart from just using the Black and White automatic conversion on PS4 and PS5 (which is pretty good, and very easy). The workshop students also needed to practice using layers, so the Channels conversion was a good way to do this.

Step 1. The first thing is to start with the original file, and adjust Levels.

Adjusting levels using the dropper tools.

Step 2. Use the black dropper tool to choose a black point. Set the dropper over the darkest part of the photo, and click once.

Adjusting black point for levels.

Step 3. Choose the white point by clicking on the white dropper tool, then clicking on the whitest point in the photo.

Choose a white point to adjust levels.

Step 4. Choose the gray point. I chose a section of the man’s hair, that I saw was halfway between my blacks and whites.

Choose an area that is halfway between black and white for the gray point in levels adjustment.

Step 6. Now we’re ready to make the photo black and white. Make a new layer and name it “Channels.” Then click on each channel in the Channels menu to see which channel suits the subject’s tones. I chose the Green Channel for the man’s tones, and the Blue Channel for the shadows, because the Blue Channel’s shadows seemed richer, grittier, which is the look I want.

The Channels Menu is right beside the Layers Menu.

The Green Channel's tones looked great for the man.

The Blue Channel looked perfect for the background, to bring out rich blacks and grittiness.

Step 7. After picking these two channels for my subject and background, it’s time to blend the two layers. There’s a simple way of doing this. Put the layer that has the least change ABOVE the layer that has the most change. I moved the Blue Channel layer on top of the Green channel layer, so that I could just mask out the man.

Blending the two channel layers into one image using layers.

Step 8. To mask out the man, simply click on the Add Layer Mask button (it looks like a square with a circle in the middle) which is at the bottom of the Layers Menu on the right side of the screen. Then I take a soft brush at 100 percent opacity and brush the man so that the Green Channel layer for the man’s tones become blended with the Blue Channel layer, the background.

Tools for blending the layers: Layer Mask, Brush. Easy peasy!

Step 9. After blending the two channels layers, it’s time to refine the image. I found some spots on the background that were distracting in the photo. So I chose the Clone Tool, sampled areas close to the spots, and ran the Clone Tool over the distracting spots until the image looked cleaner.

So many distracting spots! They must be removed to give the image a neat finish.

The Clone Tool icon looks like a stamp.

After removing the spots, I merged the layers using this shortcut: Command + Option + Shift + E.

Step 10. Looking at the photo, I wanted more contrast between the black background and the lighter subject, so I decided to (1) use the Burn Tool to darken the shadows. (2) Don’t forget to name this layer “Burn!”

The Burn Tool helps to darken areas of the photo if you run it over that spot. I use no more than a 20 percent opacity.

Step 11. To sharpen the photo and add more contrast, I used the Unsharp Mask tool located under Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. A window pops up asking you to put in Amount, Radius, and Threshold. For Amount, I typed in 120. For Radius, I put in 1, and left the Threshold at 0. Then I clicked OK.

Sharpening using Unsharp Mask.

Step 12. Last step! I flattened the image (Layer>Flatten Image) and resized it for the web, and here it is.

The finished black and white image, ready in 12 easy steps.

It’s not that difficult to convert a color photo into a black and white image using Channels. Try it and see!

_________________
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:
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Confessions of a Photoshop User

Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

 

good light copyright Aloha Lavina

Light is the Thing

Make sizzling portraits tip # 4: Make a portrait in good light.

Portraits resonate more with a photography audience because people seem to prefer looking at photos of people, and also because most people alive these days are visual learners. That means we prefer to see things to make sense of them.

A long time ago, when radio was the most common mode of entertainment, most people preferred to learn by listening. Now with more than half a century of television, the advent of the internet and our ability to produce multimedia, we’ve reached an age of visual references. But with this new profile of the average audience member, photographers also have a new challenge. With the countless choices to look at or watch online, the photograph has to really stand out for it to be noticed.

We could start with content, by making a portrait that has interesting elements.

But content will only go so far; after all, there are sites online which trap attention by titillating their audience. What the photographer needs is great content and fantastic light.

great light copyright Aloha Lavina

Good light helps your photo create impact. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Light is still the thing when it comes to photography. Without dramatic lighting, a photograph doesn’t achieve as much impact.

Here are five tips for achieving great lighting in a photograph without it costing too much.

1. Shoot at the right time.

Sunlight remains the most beautiful lighting a photographer can get, and it’s free! Scheduling a shoot in the early morning or the late afternoon can do wonders for your portraits.

good light copyright Aloha Lavina

Shoot at the right time to get good lighting. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Use a reflector to fill in shadows.

I’ve talked about how side-lighting makes a portrait dynamic. But at the times of day when the light is best, it also has intensity in one direction, and positioning the subject so he or she is lit from one side produces strong shadows on the other side. Placing a reflector in the shadow side can fill in these shadows and bring out detail.

3. Control the light indoors using a window.

Indoor portraits are great because you can do these any time during the day. Even though the sunlight has become harsh in the later part of the morning, during midday or the early afternoon, you can control window light by positioning your model at the right spot near a window. If you really feel that the light is still too contrasty and the shadows are too deep, you can diffuse the light simply by covering the window with a white sheet. This in effect makes the window into a huge softbox, softening the light and the shadows on your subject.

portrait at sunset copyright Aloha Lavina

A window can help you control light. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

4. Control the light outdoors using a shelter overhead.

When shooting outdoors, especially when the soft light of early morning has been replaced by the harsh light of midday, you can still shoot some amazing portraits. Looking for something that you can use to shelter the model—a roof, a tree or awning. You can even use a hoodie or a hat. As long as the model’s face is in the shade and you are in the light, what you will get is a shooting situation where you can control the light on your subject. (You can even act as a reflector by wearing white to the shoot.)

5. Learn how direction and intensity affect your images.

With a lot of practice, you too can spot good lighting for a portrait by paying attention to direction and intensity, and how these affect your photos. Starting with the basic lighting situations, you can then move on to experimenting with tough lighting, such as high-contrast lighting and backlighting.

Light still reigns as the most important ingredient in a portrait. Without good lighting, a portrait is just a photograph of a person. Using the right lighting, you can make a beautiful photograph that stands out.

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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:
10 Cliches a Photographer Can Believe
Making Expressive Portraits
Concept is Everything
Using Location to Make Your Portraits Sizzle

10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

high key portrait beauty a beautiful overexposed photo

See How Easily Your Photos Can Create Impact

A peculiar vocabulary exists that photographers use to describe photos. “Moody,” “bright and happy,” “cheerful,” and once, I even saw “brooding.”

That the vocabulary exists means that there’s a certain feeling we get from an image. Looking at some of the words we use to talk about imagery we look at suggests that maybe there is something we can do while we’re making images that creates the emotional effect in our audience. If we can do this, we achieve what we always want every time we click that shutter: to create a memorable, impactful image.

Creating an impact with your image begins with the concept you’re after. Rules aside, what do you want your image to make us feel? Often, the conceptualization is where you can distinguish your images from someone else’s.

I’ve written before about creating impact with decisions about color, or by design and composition, or using shadows and light. I’ve also mentioned what I call subjective exposure—an exposure that is made because that’s how I feel rather than following a technical process for getting a correct exposure.

Subjective exposures can be creative, and they involve the heart rather than the head.

If I want to give you a sense of winter in a shot, I’ll use Auto white balance since it produces images that are less warm than say, Cloudy white balance. Then, I might overexpose a lot using exposure compensation in Aperture mode. This is a simple way of creating a high key image, an image that is overexposed but artfully so.

high key portrait beauty a beautiful overexposed photo

Overexposure can work in a photo. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Some people will say this is bad because you lose a lot of detail in the shot. But what if that was the effect you wanted? What if you wanted beauty to float in a cloud of nothingness?

Similarly, you could underexpose the heck out of an image for effect.

The Balinese make offerings to spirits daily. For those of us who are not Balinese nor scholars of their culture, seeing the intimate act of communing with spirits that live amongst the trees and flowers of Bali feels like a sort of intrusion. But the Balinese make their offerings because they believe it is part of the balance of life. They really don’t mind the photographer with the telephoto lens, especially if you are far away.

undexposed photo of woman in Bali making offering

Mood is created with exposure in this image. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

I underexposed the photo to give it the mystery I felt while documenting the offering this woman was making to the spirits. The underexposure cut out the distracting background, and it also accentuated the light that fell on her face as she prayed.

Sometimes, when you let go of the rules that tell you what a good exposure is, you discover something about making images that create impact. You might make photos that don’t look like everyone else’s.

Now, wouldn’t that be something.

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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:
Making Expressive Portraits
Five Variations on a Theme: Shooting Silhouettes
10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures

Mandalay Burma temple silhouettes against a frame.

Five Variations on a Theme: Shooting Silhouettes

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.

 

U Bein Bridge Burma Myanmar sunset

1/350s @ f/6.3 17mm, ISO 125. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

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, like in the right side of the image where there is a crowd of people watching the sun set. 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.

2. Shoot silhouettes in naturally occurring frames.

 

Mandalay Burma temple silhouettes against a frame.

1/1600s @ f/2.8 55mm ISO 400. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

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.

3. Stack elements in the image.

 

Inle Lake Burma lightray and temple sillhouette at sunset

1/2000s @ f/11, 200mm ISO 400. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

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.

4. Partial silhouettes work, too.

 

Bhutanese archer against a brilliant sky

1/1600s @ f/ 8, 55mm ISO 400. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

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.

5. Same principle, opposite effect. 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.

 

Balinese man smoking black and white rim light

1/5000s @2.8f 170mm, ISO 200. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

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.

So there you are, four basic techniques for making silhouettes, and one rule breaker. If you’re looking for an outdoor project that you can do for a couple hours after work but will get your creative juices flowing, why not try a silhouette or two this week?

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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:
10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures
Let the Shadows Speak
Going to Burma

Girls on bikes, Hoi An Vietnam.

Keep Your Camera in Motion

Spice up your travel photography tip # 3: Learn how to capture motion

If you’re looking to spice up your travel photography, you can keep your camera moving!

I kid you not. Most of us who are new to travel photography or photography might think that the only way to get a good photo is to keep absolutely still when taking it. Yes, this is a general rule. Holding the camera steady when taking a photo is one of the essential skills a developing photographer needs to master. There are even breathing techniques we use to make sure our images come out sharp.

It’s also a general rule that we have to keep our shutter speed inversely proportional to the focal length of our lens to make a sharp photo. That means if your focal length is 50mm, you have to make sure your shutter speed is 1/50s or faster.

These two rules are good to know and keep in mind. But sometimes, you have to break the rules to be creative and have some fun. Here’s how breaking these two rules in photography can help you capture motion  and spice up your travel photos.

Girls on bikes, Hoi An Vietnam.

ISO 125, 1/25s @ 22mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Slowing down shutter speed to a value lower than the inverse of your focal length and moving the camera from one side to another can result in images that show motion. Let’s break it down into details of what we have to do to make these kinds of shots.

First, set the camera to Shutter Priority. This is S Mode on a Nikon and Tv mode on a Canon. Then, set ISO to the lowest possible. I used ISO 200 on the Nikon and ISO 100 on the Canon.

Try to shoot motion in the times of day when there is less light, like early morning or late afternoon. Using these techniques when there is a lot of light results in overly overexposed images, which will not work.

 

Bali market, Indonesia

ISO 200, 1/15s @ 24mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The shutter speed that can allow us to keep sharp a walking person is at about 1/15s. If your focal length is 24mm, like what I was using for the photo of the man in the Balinese market, this shutter speed is much slower than what I require to take a sharp photo. But what I did to make the man sharp against the moving-like-a-blur market was to focus on him when he was walking initially outside of my frame, and then following him while keeping the shutter release depressed. I pressed the shutter release just as the man walked into the frame I had decided beforehand. This technique blurs the background and everything else but keeps the man sharp, making this photo that captures motion in the bustling market.

This technique of moving the camera from one side to the other is called panning. Panning can also be used for faster objects, such as the people on bikes in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hoi An Vietnam bicycle banana seller

ISO 100, 1/30s @ 17mm. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Capturing motion is simple and fun, and the resulting images spice up your travel photography. Why not try it today?

Up next: Spice up your travel photography by eating lots of colors, right here on Imagine That!

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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:
Playing with Monochrome Picture Mode
Don’t Put Away Your Camera Away After Sunset
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo

Two women walk down an alley in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Playing with Monochrome Picture Mode

Spice up your travel photography tip # 2: Play with Monochrome Picture Mode

Sometimes, I get too serious.

I mean, walking around in a place I haven’t been, enthralled by all the new things I see, I sometimes forget that the best thing to do with my camera is play. That’s right, play: that state of experimental joy that feels good in itself because it’s relaxed and holds no pressure.

Walking around in Hoi An in the middle of the day, it is hot. The shadows are sharp, the light is harsh. The common response is, put the camera away, have a superb Vietnamese coffee, and practice portraits by people watching, take a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room until the light softens and turns a warmer color in the late afternoon.

Or, keep walking with the camera on Monochrome Picture Mode and make some monochrome images.

I decided to play with this feature of the 7D and learned some new things.

Shoot in RAW + JPG

Ducks on a motorbike, Hoi An Vietnam.

Ducks on a motorbike at the market, Hoi An Vietnam. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Most dSLRs now allow you to choose both RAW and JPG as the output files when you shoot. RAW isn’t really a picture file per se; it’s a composite of all the information the camera gets when you take a photo. So if you choose Monochrome Picture Mode and shoot in RAW, you’re still taking all the good stuff from the scene you captured even though the image shows up monochromatic in your LCD display. Shooting the extra JPG file gives you a ‘true’ monochrome image, processed in camera.

Play with Exposure Compensation

Shooting JPGs will allow you to hone your skills in shooting black and whites. The fun part of shooting black and white is getting to use and learn about exposure compensation. This is the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ calibration line you see on the top display of the camera. Plus on a Canon means you compensate by ‘adding’ more light or overexpose, and minus on a Canon means you compensate by ‘subtracting’ light or underexposing. What do these pluses and minuses do? They actually allow you to make images darker (minus) or brighter (plus). (And you can use exposure compensation even when you shoot in color.)

Make Subjective Exposures

 

Two women walk down an alley in Hoi An, Vietnam.

One of my faves from Hoi An is from playtime with Monochrome Pic Mode. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Black and whites need pronounced blacks and glowing whites, so you can use exposure compensation to make what I call a subjective exposure—an image that looks like what I have in mind. This means you can underexpose or overexpose to taste, and play with the amount of light you let in the camera when you capture the image.

Playing with the Monochrome Picture Mode on your camera while traveling can help you have fun and learn something new about controlling how you make images.

Up next: Spice up your travel photography by shooting motion, right here on Imagine That!

_________________
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:
Don’t Put Away Your Camera Away After Sunset
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Let the Shadows Speak
All You Need is a Window
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo

 

Night photography tips: water reflections.

Don’t Put Your Camera Away After Sunset

Spice up your travel photography tip # 1: Don’t Put Your Camera Away after Sunset

Photography is about light, so what should we do when the sun goes down and the light is scarce?

Travel photography is challenging in that the lighting is always unpredictable. We have to work with light that’s available, and when the sun goes down and there is very little light, we might figure to put the camera away.

But with some patience, a steady hand, and a tripod, we can make photos at night that can spice up our travel photography.

Handheld shots

 

Handheld shot after sunrise, travel photography tip

A handheld shot after sunrise, during the blue hour. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The shot above was taken just after sunset, in the ‘blue hour,’ the nickname for the time when the sky is turning blue after the sun disappears over the horizon. I had my camera on Aperture priority, so I dialed up to ISO 800, chose the widest aperture I could get, f/2.8, and held my breath as I took the shot at 1/90s.

This next shot was also handheld, but I increased the ISO to 1250, since I wanted more sharpness and needed an aperture of f/5.6.

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The effect of increasing ISO in these shots is that there appears more noise in the photo, that disturbing grain that shows up, especially in the values between midtones and shadows. If you can live with some noise, you can still use a high ISO for handheld shots, or you can clean up the grain with a noise reducing software. For these shots, I processed the noise as best I could using the Luminance slider in Lightroom. This tends to soften the edges in the photo, so I balance it by adding a little more sharpness using the Sharpness slider.

Using a Tripod

The best part about using a tripod on night shots are the light trails that vehicles make as the slow shutter speed works. Here in the shot below, a motorbike in Da Nang, Vietnam creates a curvy red light trail at an intersection. I shot this at f/8, ISO 160 at 30 seconds. Tripods allow you to lower your ISO and effectively your shutter speed, so there is less noise in the shot.

Light trails from a motorbike. Night photography tips.

A motorbike turns, from its tell-tale light trail. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

If you want light trails to be red in your shot, stand at the side of the road where vehicles are moving away from you; that way, you catch their tail lights. If you stand at the side where vehicles are coming toward you, you could have these white light trails, which are less exciting than the red ones.

How to take night photos. Tips on travel photography.

White light trails are from vehicles moving toward the photog. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Another great thing about having a tripod for your night shots is the ability to take those wonderful reflections of city lights on water. In Da Nang, one of the suspension bridges has lights with changing color. I waited for the cyan to go on, and made an exposure at f/8, ISO 160, at 15 seconds.

Night photography tips: water reflections.

The bridge at Da Nang, Vietnam. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Keeping your camera with you after sunset is a great way to spice up your travel photography. With some simple decisions about ISO and the use of a tripod, you can make exciting shots that would not be possible during the day.

Up next: Spice up your travel photography using your camera’s Monochrome Picture Mode, right here on Imagine That!

_________________
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:
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Let the Shadows Speak
All You Need is a Window
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo

 

 

Different face structures require different lighting setups. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

How to Make the Most of Your Photographer

Some of photoshoots require more time invested, yet they remain the most memorable and successful.

Investing time, thought and effort into a project pays dividends for the client. You not only get your money’s worth from all the people you’ve hired, but you also build strong relationships that can only enhance your brand. Giving time, thought and energy into a collaborative effort can create win-win situations that serve as fertile ground for growth, be it for the client or the creative team.

Here are some tips from a photographer’s point of view.

1. Communicate ideas as much as possible.

 

Communication is key to collaborative creativity. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Time spent in planning a photoshoot is time wisely invested. For a photographer, information about the concepts the client has in mind, the colors and shapes and textures of the products she is shooting will help in the creative decisions. For example, light reflecting off a smooth surface behaves differently from light reflecting off a rough surface. If your photographer knows what materials you used to make your product, he or she can decide what sort of lighting suits that product. Similarly, a concept cannot be translated into an image unless the photographer has all the information necessary to ‘form a picture’ of what the client has in mind. Guessing or leaving this thinking process to the last minute can greatly impair the photoshoot’s effectiveness from lack of time to think through the concept and the added pressure of  reconciling a lot of novel elements in the process.

2. Give the photographer a lot of chances to make good decisions.

A lot of considerations go into a photo session. One of the most important ones is lighting, especially when there are models involved in the shoot. Different facial structures require different lighting set ups to either hide or show certain features. Introducing your photographer to your models before the shoot can help the photographer to think of the lighting decisions for each model’s facial structure and build. Allowing for this to happen by investing time in a meeting between the models and photographer can benefit your brand because the photographer is given more chances to succeed in making images that are interesting and propel the ideas behind your brand.

Different face structures require different lighting setups. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Organize the materials for the shoot.

Photographers pack with great care. A lot of photogs clean their equipment, follow long packing lists, and prepare a lot of small items that can make a difference between a good shot and a great shot. A good photog knows that preparation saves a lot of time; knowing where to reach in the bag when needing something is efficient and good practice.

In the same way, organizing the clothing or accessories can help a photoshoot move along smoothly. For example, organizing the clothes into sets and labeling them clearly with models’ names in the order of the shoot can really speed up the work. Because some shoots require a lot of moving and changing of lighting equipment, being ready with the clothing and accessories gives the creative people in your team more time to take so they can create their magic for you.

4. Trust the creativity of your team

You hired the makeup artist whom you thought would interpret the concept well and has great skills to execute it in makeup or hair. You hired the photographer whose vision and images match your brand’s beauty.

You must trust their creativity, skill and vision, right? You hired them, not someone else.

In a moment of creativity, the creative person is drawn into flow, a state of seemingly effortless innovation. Trusting this process, for many, have produced great leaps in executing a vision. Interrupting it will stilt the creativity and ‘burst the bubble’ of concentration, and it is a difficult thing to re-enter at will. If you had planning sessions and every one in the team is conscious of the time you have to make the magic happen, trust that what the creators do, in their own separate domains of skill, are geared toward making beauty for your brand.

5. Respect talent and skill.

If everyone could do what any one else could do, all images would look the same. We would not have any moments when we look at a photo and our breath catches because it is just so what we wanted to say.

Respect a unique vision and the passion that creates it. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The creative world is wonderful because each photographer, each makeup artist, pushes him or her self to do better, to learn something else. If you took this energy and passion and channeled it into your brand, you would have power indeed—power to distinguish your product from the others of the same kind, and power to make people look at your ad twice, catching their breath.

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Develop a Creative Vision
Change the Way You See
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

A few lines and a simple color palette are sometimes enough. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Develop a Creative Vision

This is the second in a series of posts about how changing the ways we see as photographers can change the stories in our photos.

Reading this article on the journey from snapshot to expressive imagery got me thinking about how to make creative vision concrete for people learning photography. I want to share some insights here and hopefully make this abstract and wonderful idea into something you can practice after reading this post.

One of the most challenging parts of being creative is to look at things from a different perspective. We may find that subjects we shoot don’t vary in a topical way. We can shoot faces for the rest of our lives, or land and water. Others of us just hunt for light, and make images from that. But a viewfinder is a viewfinder is a viewfinder. To really make a new image, we have to practice seeing in ways that make our efforts more expressive, and less of snapshots.

The best way to learn something complex such as creative vision is to break it up into discrete, bite-size skills. That way, someone can practice a skill and hone it until it becomes a part of the natural repertoire before moving on to the next.

The reflections of colors on the water, rather than the content, make this photo more interesting. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

See the colors

Spotting pleasing or unique colors to create an image is a great skill to have. Although it seems that luck has a big part to play in finding pleasing color palettes in our found images, it is also a matter of being a skillful observer. Ask questions like, is an explosion of color a great background for someone in silhouette? Will walking to another vantage point give the shot a better background? We don’t have control of what colors present themselves to us from day to day, but we do have control of where we stand and what we include in the frame. Training ourselves to think about color will produce images that use the color in expressive ways.

The values in this image made it a good choice for monochrome. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

See the values

The world is in Technicolor and we can’t see in monochrome. But imagining the values—the intensity of black, white and shades of gray in between— rendered by the light reflected by the color spectrum, gives us a creative way of seeing. Seeing a scene from darkest values to brightest is like putting a gray filter over your eyes. Seeing in values helps us to compose using them, instead of using shapes or positions of things. Seeing this way can help us break out of basic composition into the next level.

A few lines and a simple color palette are sometimes enough. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Seeing simplicity

Every beginning photog has heard the phrase “fill the frame.” This is great advice; when we compose, we don’t want nor need clutter. What we want is to use the shapes, color and content in a photo to speak to the person looking at it. Learning how to notice and photograph detail can help us zoom in on a story, and make our images more expressive.

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Change the Way You See

This will be the first in a series of posts about how changing the ways we see as photographers can change the stories in our photos.

The approach on each photo assignment is different. Even travel photo assignments differ even though they are on the same general topic. Shooting dance on four separate occasions, I learned about how I had to change the way I looked at the subject, so I could tell the story of each performance from a different perspective.

The eyes of a tourist

 

I love the way the dancer kicks the bottom of the dress to create movement. Burma, 2010. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

When I shot this set in Burma, the assignment was to show Burmese dance as a traveler would see it: in a staged performance, from a distance. I had little background in the dance forms and the stories behind each one. That limited knowledge produced shots from a spectator’s point of view. Luckily I had brought along a long lens, suitable for isolating the dancers and capturing uncluttered portraits showing off the costume and motion against a simple background.

The eyes of a storyteller

Dance acrobatics are important parts of a dance story. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2010.

I love Hanuman, the character in the Ramayana epic. When I shot this assignment at the Chalermkrung National Theatre in Bangkok, it was a behind the scenes story of the dancers who made Hanuman come alive every night at a national theatre in Thailand. I had to shoot the story as I saw it unfold, embracing its unpredictability, paying attention to detail. So I did a little abstraction and a little action. Framing the story with images of detail helped to give the necessary background for the actual dance shots, and the action shots gave me the necessary storyline. Hanuman is a singularly amazing character, but he’s actually several guys in a specially made papier mache mask, whose acrobatics on stage are remarkably demanding.

Symbol in dance can make for some great surprises. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2010.

The eyes of surprise

No one knew that rain was going to come from the umbrella. The dancer at Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok in a free-form modern dance gave us a few surprises. First, he wore an expressionless mask which contrasted with the bright costume and the even brighter umbrella. His movements were quick and energetic. And when he sprung the confetti on us, streaming from the umbrella, it was the biggest surprise of all. Less than a minute of white confetti catching the dim light in the dinner theatre, plus not being able to move because there was simply no time, gave me a limited window for a shot. I put the camera on burst mode and tried to anticipate the next twirl.

The challenges for photo assignments make for fantastic learning. Whether your goal is to get a travel story or capture how an event makes you feel, it helps to look at each assignment with different eyes. Changing the way you see can change the story.

Pools of light and pools of shadow create drama in this image.

Let Shadows Speak

Dynamic lighting in a photo begins with direction and quality of light, but it doesn’t stop there. Part of the effect in dynamic lighting is where the shadows fall. You know that rule in physics that says ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’? This tension also works in photographic lighting, except that we could rewrite the rule as ‘for every light there is an equal and opposite shadow.’

So controlling the light means controlling the shadows. This effect can create lighting that is dynamic, three dimensional, and eye catching.

We can learn basic lighting conditions, whether in a natural setting like in travel photography, or in a more controlled setting like when using strobes or window light. To add to this wonderful skill is the ability to read the stories that shadows tell.

Telling stories with shadows is a great way to learn dynamic lighting. When we can learn to see where the light falls, how much it falls off and in which direction, we can start designing images that tell stories.

Where you stand to take a photo affects where light and shadow fall in the final image.

The photo of the two people was lit using ambient light, light from broken walls and holes in the ceiling of an abandoned mansion. There was light coming from above both the woman and the man, and the shadows falling around them framed the shot. If I had moved a little to the left, two things would have happened: the man would have been out of the line of sight of the 50mm lens I was using, and the woman would have had less shadow on camera left. Positioning the camera where it was, I was seeing the way the shadows would frame the scene. Moving around is one way of controlling the direction and amount of shadow in a photo.

Pools of light and pools of shadow create drama in this image.

Another vantage point that was deliberate was in the next photo where the model is below the camera; I was standing on a ledge in another broken building. The light was coming from camera left, through a broken wall. The harsh midday light created deep, dark shadows around and beside the model, making shadows on the wall, and forming pools of shadow around the path she walked. The mystery created by the shadows gives the photo a story telling quality I would not have achieved if I had the whole scene lit up.

Paying attention to shapes created by shadow can make a shot dramatic.

Lighting a scene, we know, doesn’t need to be complicated. In this shot of some Indian fashion, I only had a high window to work with, and a distant doorway some 300 meters behind the model. I found a place where the window light would directly shine on her face and side. Having done this, I also saw that the curvy geometric shapes and their shadows in the image complemented the pose and dress of the model, so I played up the shadows by underexposing the background and using a small aperture. The slower shutter speed gave me a sharper take on the dress plus created a three dimensional image. Controlling the settings to augment shadows in a shot is another way of allowing shadows to tell part of the story.

Telling a story with a photo doesn’t just depend on where light illuminates and what it illuminates. Where the shadows fall also speak stories.

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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:
All You Need is a Window
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

 

A floor to ceiling window camera left created this creamy lighting on model Chloe.

All You Need is a Window

As well as an inspiration on photo walks, light is easy to find at home. All you really need is a window. At any time of day when there is light coming through a window, you can use it to create a beautiful side-lit portrait. To make a portrait with side light, position the subject parallel to the window, like in the diagram below.

A lot of painters use window light.

Beautiful side light creates classic lighting for a portrait. The shadows created on the side away from the window make for dynamic lighting because the shadows actually show the contours of the subject—essential for a three-dimensional effect.

A floor to ceiling window camera left created this creamy lighting on model Chloe.

My friend DJ posed beside a window and his long hair made a 'rim light' effect with shadow, too.

If you’re looking for inspiration this week, try some photography at home! All you really need is a window.

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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:
Let the Light Inspire You
Photography Doesn’t Fix Everything
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

The girl in the polka dots is actually Nook Wiwanno, a Swedish-Thai model based in Bangkok.

The Girl with the Polka Dots

Light it! Shoot it! Process it! Welcome to our second installation of the 3inOne Workshop© series.

I had always wanted to do a shoot with a car, but not just any car. A car with a classic beauty. So when the owner of a 1959 Mercedes Benz agreed to let us use his car in a photoshoot, I designed a shoot called “Classic Beauty” and headed out to the man’s apartment building parking lot to make some images.

I wanted to shoot classics, so we used polka dots, strings of pearls, long gloves. The model was the perfect beauty for this shoot. Nook, a Swedish-Thai model, is statuesque and models H to T or “head to toe” in Tyra Banks‘ lingo. She can lower her eyelids just a tad and give you the most arrogant, sexy look one moment, and then soften her whole face the next.

On photoshoots, I always bring portable flash guns. In this case the shoot started at around 11 am after makeup. It was cloudy; this shot was taken in the rainy season in Bangkok when the clouds are thick and gray. I decided then to use only natural light with a couple of reflectors to enhance it and control where it was most intense.

The girl in the polka dots is actually Nook Wiwanno, a Swedish-Thai model based in Bangkok.

This particular shot was taken inside the driver’s side of the Merc with the door open. I had one assistant hold a large six-feet by four-feet reflector with the silver side toward the model. This reflector was position outside the windshield, angled at 45 degrees. This created the side lighting that gives us a three-dimensional effect in the image. The subtle highlights on the model’s arm is from the same source as the more pronounced highlight on the steering wheel.

This shot used two reflectors, much like a main light and a fill light.

I also placed a smaller 60-inch reflector with the silver side up, below camera, on the model’s lap. This light was to fill in the shadows on her face, and to give emphasis to her lips, the subject of the photo.

I used a very shallow depth of field, f/2.8, to give the shot a dreamy quality. I also shot it from slightly above, so that the subject of the shot (those lips!) would be framed by the model’s hands and the polka dot hat she wore.

Lastly, the light on the hat is from above, and that’s the sun diffused by the clouds on this rainy day.

So there you have it, an image shot with natural light.

Stay head on over our next 3inOne © post, which is a detailed, illustrated tutorial on how to process a fashion portrait using Adobe Photoshop.

I’ll be happy to answer questions you post in the comments.

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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:
The Girl in the Pink Dress
Shooting the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe
The Man at the Window
How to Stay Creative

Sunrise and mist, Bhutan.

Beginner’s Guide to Light

At some point in their journey, people with cameras begin to photograph light instead of “look what I saw.” Light is the main ingredient in the mix of elements that make an image. Content, composition, technique will all pale if the light isn’t “right.” But is there a “right” light? Here are some common lighting situations that could help you create compelling shots. Practice looking for them, and you will see your images increase their wow factor.

Back light

Dancer with rim light, Bali.

Back light is when the light source is behind the subject. This means that it is directly in front of the camera, with the subject in between. The photo of the dancer sitting was lit with two windows behind him, lighting him like a halo around his head and body. This line of light around a subject is called “rim light,” as it creates a rim of light outlining the subject. To shoot this kind of shot, I had to use exposure compensation, overexposing to making sure I had a balance between the bright light I wanted to capture, and the man’s features.

Backlit spools of thread at a weaver's shop in Burma.

In cases of really bright light behind the subject, like in this shot of colorful spools of thread in by a window, the patterns created by the light and shadow make for an interesting picture.

Front light

When the light is right in front of the subject, it is easier photograph, but if the light is directly in front of the subject, it may result in a ‘flat’ photo. ‘Flat’ lighting is light that evenly spreads on the subject. I try to avoid this because it makes a photo look two-dimensional; it is the shadows in a photo that create a three-dimensional effect.

Dancers putting on makeup, Bali.

In the photo of the dancers putting on makeup, their light source is directly in front of their faces. I could have taken the shot with the light behind me, but I broke away from that and instead focused on the mirror one of the dancers was holding. My thinking was, the composition was more interesting with the dancers echoing each other’s postures. But most importantly, the light from the window was reflected on their faces into the mirror, and the mirror’s image was thus well lit for my camera to capture.

Top light

Light from above of course is quite common. When you travel, mostly the sun is your light source, and most of the day the sun is right above your subjects. So it’s important to know how the light from above will affect your images, and what you can do to minimize the shadows that the sun from above will invariably create in your subjects.

Early mornings and late afternoons are great because the sunlight is more orange; the angle of the light is also more from the side, especially at sunrise and sunset. But also in the hours right after sunrise and the hours just before sunset, the light is not as harsh as in midday.

Man asleep in his ox cart at midday, Burma.

Having said that, though, one of my favorite shots from Burma was taken at around 11 am. This man was sleeping in his cart while his oxen were grazing. The shadows were harsh, but it worked because the content of the photo made for a good contrast. To get this shot, I had to close my aperture to f8 and used exposure compensation to get details in the sky and the immediate subjects in front of me.

When there is harsh light, like in midday, I look for subjects who are under a sort of shelter. When there is a covering above the subject, the harsh light does not create equally harsh shadows on their faces.

Girl in pink hat, Burma.

Shan woman at a temple, Burma.

Both the photos of the woman in the turban and the little girl in the pink hat were made around midday, but both were under a kind of shelter–the temple roof for the turbaned woman and her pink hat for the little girl.

Side light

This is my all-time favorite kind of light. Side light is light coming from the left or right of the subject. It was used by the masters of painting–Rembrandt used side light in his paintings to give the picture a three dimensional effect. When the light falls on one side of the subject, the other side is in shadow. The shadows are what give the picture a 3D look.

Monk at old wooden temple, Burma.

The monk walking past old wooden doors shows how shadow and light can create the contours that make the subject seem three-dimensional.

Sunrise and mist, Bhutan.

In the early morning shot of a misty scene in Bhutan, the side lighting created by the sunrise gives us a sense of the overlapping hills and the thickness of the mist.

Like every skill, seeing the light–its direction and quality–takes practice. But with some basic knowledge of lighting situations, any person with a camera can practice the right skill and do what photographers do: capture the light, and make it look fantastic.

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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:
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative