Archive for December, 2008

How to Photograph Fireworks

December 31, 2008

Fireworks photo © Copyright Ed Krimen

It’s New Year’s Eve and that means it’s time for fireworks! Fireworks are really easy to photograph, but there’s a few things you’ll need to make your fireworks photos look their best.

I’ve written an article entitled “Top 5 Tips for Shooting Fireworks” that explains it all, but here’s the basics of what you need to know:

  1. Use a tripod. With a tripod, you’ll get nice steady shots without having to worry about shaking the camera.
  2. Use your camera’s remote control or timer. This way you won’t move or shake the camera at all during the shot.
  3. Long exposure times and shutter speeds. Try setting your camera to 3- or 4-second exposures, or even longer. If your camera doesn’t allow for manual exposures, try using one of these modes: fireworks mode, nighttime mode, or landscape mode.
  4. Turn off the camera flash. Since it’ll be dark, the camera will think it needs the flash, but it really won’t need flash because the fireworks will be bright enough. Flashes only illuminate the area within a few feet of the camera anyway.
  5. Location, Location, Location. Location and timing are always important factors, as we learned from Michael Reichmann’s article “Where and When“ in the Photobird Learning Center. Make sure you have an unobstructed view of the area where the fireworks will be shown.

Read the article “Top 5 Tips for Shooting Fireworks” for more details.

Happy New Year!

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Fashion Photography, by Bruce Smith

December 30, 2008

So you got a new digital camera for Christmas. And somehow you were able to take a few photos without getting your finger on the lens. And now you say you’re ready to photograph the world’s elite supermodels.

Not so fast!

First, you need to get the book Fashion Photography by Bruce Smith. Bruce Smith has been a world-class fashion and beauty photographer for thirty years, and he also teaches master classes in France, Italy, and the United States, as well as runs workshops in the United Kingdom. In his new book Fashion Photography: A Complete Guide to the Tools and Techniques of the Trade, Bruce Smith explores every aspect of fashion photography, from high-end couture and beauty for both editorial and commercial clients, to runway, swimwear, lingerie, and more. His book provides the information, inspiration, and tips and tricks the aspiring fashion photographer needs to create stunning, commercial pictures and to open industry doors.

At nearly 200 pages, Fashion Photography by Bruce Smith provides you with the knowledge necessary to get a good head-start in the industry. The book starts with a very brief look at the equipment you’ll need, including the different types of cameras available, computers and software, studio lighting, location lighting, and other equipment. Needless to say, at two pages dedicated for each of those topics, you’re not going to learn everything you need to know about cameras in two pages, but I think that’s expected; you should learn more about cameras from other sources and your own experience. The brevity in this part of the book seems to serve merely as an introduction and starting point for the book.

Next, Bruce Smith explains building and working with your team of assistants, stylists, makeup artists, and models. He provides insight into showing respect to models and other members of the team to ensure everyone works together well to produce the best pictures possible. He writes: “If you want to get the best out of your models, don’t do anything that will upset them or cause them to lose respect for you as the photographer. It’s all part of generating a good vibe. The same can be said about any member of your team. Show everyone respect and you will gain respect yourself. You will also have a happy team that thrives on positive energy — pictures don’t work without it!”

In his book Fashion Photography, Bruce Smith covers a very wide range of topics, including but not limited to pre-production steps such as building a set, various types of lighting, and production considerations on the day of the shoot such as metering, composition, and directing models. In the last part of the book, Bruce Smith writes about many more topics such as post-production work and editing, marketing yourself, and developing your individual style.

The book seems to be very thorough in covering what’s needed to get started in fashion photography. Most importantly, the advice seems sound. Fashion Photography is well designed with very large, inspirational photographs. The text could be larger and heavier, but I guess that would also mean the book would need to be larger and more expensive. Nonetheless, the content is very valuable if you’re looking to expand into fashion photography. It’s a bargain at less than $20 on Amazon.com.

Fashion Photography is published by my favorite book publisher, Amphoto Books, which also publishes Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson. Understanding Exposure is listed as a prize each month for the Photobird Photo Contest, but the winners actually get to choose a book. Winners may choose one of the books listed on the page at http://amphotobooks.com ; click the book covers and if “Amphoto” is listed under the ISBN number at the top, then the book is available as a prize. The following books are also available as prizes:

Enter the Photobird Photo Contest for your chance to win Fashion Photography!

Before you buy Fashion Photography or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of our Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com. For each product you buy after your click, we receive a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish the Photobird Daily and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your support!

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See more great photos and photography articles in the Photobird Daily.

Sign up for the Photobird newsletter.

Visit Photobird.com, the easy way to share your photos.

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Change Your Perspective

December 29, 2008

“Amanda”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

One of the easiest and quickest ways to make your photos stand out, even if you have a simple point-and-shoot camera, is to change your perspective when you shoot your photos. In other words, don’t always take your pictures from eye level. Shoot from below, shoot from above, shoot from anywhere other than straight-on at the same height as your subjects.

Composition is the most important element for great photos, which I explain further in my article in the Photobird Daily entitled “Composition is Key“, the first part of “Photobird’s Simple Guide to Great Photos“.

We’ve written about camera angles before in the Photobird Daily article “Liven Up Your Camera Angles“.

Ryan Brenizer, a professional photographer, has some additional tips for changing your camera angles, which he’s written in his blog post at this link and are summarized below.

Stand on things. Especially when you’re outside, it’s not easy carrying a ladder along with you when you shoot. But look for other sturdy objects that you can stand on and shoot from. In one example, Ryan was hanging off a lamppost to get a shot. I’ve stood on benches before. Try sitting on or standing on ledges and concrete planter boxes. Just be really careful, and don’t step on the tulips! If your city has hills, use the different elevations to your advantage. Consider bringing along a plastic milk crate, which might be light enough to carry.

Kneel. This one is pretty easy. Sometimes, to get the right angle, you don’t even need to kneel; just bend over a little or a lot depending on the subject. This is especially good for photographing children and animals, and if you do it often enough, it’ll become second nature.

A perfect example of this is the photo I took of Amanda, shown above. To get this shot, I was on my knees and sitting on my feet, which allowed me to easily change the angle and adjust the composition.

Lie down. Very few photographers will actually get into their work enough to get on their stomach or back to get the unique shots that lying down provides. With this very low perspective, you can get tall grass or flowers in front of your subjects. Or, as world-renowned wildlife photographer Art Wolfe shows us in this very entertaining video we wrote about in the Photobird Daily article “Do Whatever It Takes to Get The Shot“, he’s willing to do almost anything to get that award-winning shot — even get down and dirty with big, fat, blubbery seals.

Raise your camera above your head. You’ve seen the paparazzi do this to get photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the airport. You can do the same thing, and it’s easier with point-and-shoot cameras than with DSLRs because point-and-shoots allow you to compose photos in the LCD and DSLRs are heavy which can make this position difficult for long periods. The best cameras for this are those with articulating LCD screens that partially detach and flip out from behind the camera. You can raise them above your head and even lower them to get the kneeling perspective without having to kneel.

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“Wayne America” by Vicki Tinnon

December 26, 2008

“Wayne America”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

This wintery photo entitled “Wayne America” by Vicki Tinnon has a wonderfully nostalgic, All-American feel to it. The winter sun that is low on the horizon illuminates everything in the photo beautifully. The earthy, warm-toned rolls of brown grass contrast nicely with the huge blanket of snow in the foreground and the industrial cold and gray of the concrete and steel buildings in the background. You can find more photos of Wayne, Nebraska in Vicki Tinnon’s Photobird photo album entitled “Nebraska Life“.

Vicki Tinnon submits many of her photos for the Photobird Photo of the Hour. You can see more of Vicki Tinnon’s inspiring photos in her Photobird photo album at photobird.com/vickitinnon. Vicki Tinnon won the Photobird Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for May 2008 with her photo “Moving In“.

Photobird.com is the easy way to share your photos. You capture and share so many great photos on Photobird.com that we created the Photo of the Hour feature to give you the opportunity to share your very best with the rest of the world.

It’s really easy to submit your favorite photos to be featured on the Photobird Photo of the Hour: Simply view the photo from your photo album and click the “Submit for Photo of the Hour” checkbox. There is no limit to the number of photos you can submit and we always like to get new submissions.

In return for each photo we use on the Photo of the Hour or People Places and Things, you get more storage space for your photo album so you can store more photos. Details are here.

If you’d like to keep some of your photos private while you share your favorite photos with the world, you can read how easy it is to do that with Photobird photo albums in our Photobird Daily article entitled “Show Off Your Photos, and Keep Some Private“.

You may also discuss your favorite Photobird Photos of the Hour in the Photobird forums.

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7 Days Left: Photo Contest for December

December 25, 2008

“Merry Sparkling Christmas”
© Copyright Duane R. Schoon

One of the spectacular photos entered in the Photobird Photo Contest for December is Duane R. Schoon’s photo “Merry Sparkling Christmas“, shown above. The photo is very creatively orchestrated using a 30-second exposure and a sparkler to create the light.

Note also that the composition of the photo has the tree off to the right instead of directly in the center. This composition using the Rule of Thirds makes the photo more dynamic and allows the city lights in the background to play more of a supportive role in the photo.

As you may be able to see by looking at the photo, to create the Christmas tree effect, the sparkler is started at the bottom of the tree and is zig-zagged up to the top where the “star” is. A very cool shot indeed!

Merry Sparkling Christmas everyone!

There’s just 7 days remaining in the Photobird Photo Contest for December. Be sure to enter your photo before the end of day December 31. The theme of the contest is “Up”.

Photobird Photo Contest details:

The two winners for the Photobird Photo Contest for December will each receive the following cool prizes:

Read more details about the monthly contest here.

Every monthly Photobird Photo Contest has two winners. At the end of each month, we pick one winner for the Photobird Award, and we will tally your votes to determine the one winner for the People’s Choice Award.

See the previous contests and their contest entries at this link.

Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to have your family and friends vote for their favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award. (You can send them a quick little reminder here.)

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below or in the Photobird forums.

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L.A. Never Looked So Good

December 24, 2008

“A Happy Sky Over Los Angeles”
© Copyright Dave Jurasevich

Los Angeles has nice beaches and a few nice neighborhoods and towns in the area, but otherwise, it’s not a place I get excited about visiting, especially with all of the traffic.

But I really like this photo entitled “A Happy Sky Over Los Angeles” that I saw on the Astronomy Picture of the Day. I’ve written before about a few of their photos that I thought you might like as well, such as “From Moonrise to Sunset“, “Planets Ahoy“, and “Aurora Persei”.

In the photo above, I like the relatively smooth landscape of the valley floor, with the thin haze illuminated by the city lights. The city lights dotted at the bottom are cool too. Note that the composition of the land and sky uses the Rule of Thirds.

I like the openness of the image, which makes it feel like you’re there. The silhouettes of the trees in the lower left and in the upper right help give the photo perspective and depth; they act as a frame for the photo, which we’ve written about before in the Photobird Daily.

Finally, the planets and the Moon in the photo are very secondary, at least for me. They’re attractive yet miniscule — overshadowed by the rest of the image. Perhaps even elegantly so. Highest in the sky is Jupiter with Venus under it, and of course, the crescent Moon. The Astronomy Picture of the Day seems to think the two planets and the Moon make a face, with the two planets as eyes and the crescent Moon as a smile. I really didn’t “see” the face there the first few times I looked at the image, and I think it’s a stretch, but it’s a neat idea.

Whichever way you look at it, I hope you agree that it’s a beautiful photo.

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Best Selling Cameras on Amazon.com

December 23, 2008

There’s still time to order your cameras from Amazon.com and have them delivered in time for Christmas. But you must order your cameras with one-day shipping before 3pm Pacific Time today, Tuesday, December 23 and they will arrive on Wednesday, December 24. Amazon.com has more details at this link.

Amazon.com keeps a running tally of its best-selling digital cameras, updated hourly. Check out the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers page at this link to see the complete list of cameras.

The Canon PowerShot A590 IS compact digital camera, shown above, is still in the number one position of the best sellers list, as it has been for as long as I can remember. Its price has lowered $10 in the past couple of weeks. It’s now only $97 with free shipping when you buy the camera from Adorama Camera through Amazon.com. A great deal for a very popular, highly-rated camera.

Here are some observations about the recent list:

  • Canon still dominates the top 10 list, taking the top 9 positions — an incredible feat which still astounds me even though Canon has always dominated this list. The Nikon Coolpix L18 in Ruby Red is still holding on to the 10th spot.
  • The Canon Rebel XSi, which is the only DSLR in the top 10, has moved up from sixth place to third place. A lot of people might be finding Rebel XSi’s under their Christmas trees this year.
  • The Canon PowerShot SD770 IS in blackhas joined its silver sibling at the top of the list. The black version wasn’t on the list previously, but the silver was always near the top as I recall.
  • The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS in pink is back on the list, and this time, she brought along her cousin the Canon Selphy CP760 Photo Printer, also in pink. The two of them are sold together in a deal that costs under $170, which appears to be quite an amazing deal — if you’d like a pink camera with matching photo printer.

The top 10 list for the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers page is below. Click on any of the links to go to the Amazon.com page for that camera to read reviews and obtain more details on each camera:

1. Canon PowerShot A590 IS
2. Canon PowerShot SD770 IS (Silver)
3. Canon Rebel XSi
4. Canon PowerShot SD770 IS (Black)
5. Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
6. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Pink) with Selphy CP760 Photo Printer (Pink)
7. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Blue)
8. Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
9. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Silver)
10. Nikon Coolpix L18 (Ruby Red)

Before you buy a Canon digital camera or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of our Amazon.com links on this page or anywhere on Photobird.com. For each product you buy after your click, we receive a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish the Photobird Daily and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your support!

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Photo Shoot with Martin Scorsese

December 22, 2008

Image © Copyright Image Mechanics

I’ve written a couple of times before about Image Mechanics in Los Angeles. They’re a small, cutting-edge company that pushes photography equipment to its limits. The company serves leading advertising and celebrity portrait photographers around the world. Image Mechanics provides high-tech photography skills and expertise to its clients who require the highest-quality results at lightning speed. I wrote previously about their photo shoot with Steven Spielberg and about their photo shoot for a Marshall’s catalog in which they shot 14,000 RAW files and a half-terabyte of meticulously organized data over a four-day period.

Image Mechanics worked with photographer Michael Grecco to shoot Martin Scorsese for DirecTV Magazine. I wrote about Michael Grecco’s book Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait last month in the Photobird Daily. The Scorsese shoot location was in New York, yet Michael Britt of Image Mechanics, DirecTV art director Ben Hilts, and Michael Grecco traveled from L.A.

Michael Britt of Image Mechanics explains in his article about the shoot that there was a problem right after he got off the plane in New York, the night before the shoot. His Tenba travel case containing the PowerMac G5 that he needed for the next morning’s 8:30am call time didn’t make it on his plane. He wrote that if necessary, he’d buy a new G5 tower at the Apple store just for this shoot. That’s how serious these guys are about making sure their clients are well served and the shoot goes smoothly.

In his article, Michael Britt includes a time-lapse video showing some of the shoot with Martin Scorsese. He also goes into detail about the rest of the PowerMac G5 lost-luggage story, how he manages around similar travel crises, and more details about the shoot.

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1 Week Left: Photo Contest for December

December 19, 2008

“Fly”
© Copyright Pradip Datta

As I wrote last week, I generally prefer color photos over black and white photos. I’ve been thinking about that some more, and I think the reason I don’t care for many black and white photos is that there are few really good ones. The reason there are few really good ones is that I think black and white photos need to be extra special to reach a decent level. In order to create extra special black and whites, the photographer needs to know photography really well and usually have a lot of experience.

Color photos are easier to appreciate because color appeals to us humans. With black and white photos though, there’s no color so we must rely on other unique, attractive characteristics of the photo to enjoy it. If the black and white photo has no other unique, attractive characteristics, then it won’t be a good photo. With black and white photos, there’s no color in the photo, obviously, so the photographer needs to make a special effort to make the photo attractive in some other way. That’s hard to do, and a lot of people don’t know how to make a photograph look good without color.

One person who does seem to know his black and white photography is Pradip Datta who entered his photo “Fly“, shown above, into the Photobird Photo Contest for December. His photo works well for a few reasons. First, he’s using the Rule of Thirds with the positioning of the vertical pole on the left. The horizontal bar at the bottom with the two birds on it works well as a framing feature. Finally, the bird taking off is shown in an unusual, stretched form that we’re not accustomed to seeing; we usually see birds in flight with their wings extended to their sides and we usually don’t see their legs in flight.

How would this photo have worked in color? Probably not very well at all. Imagine a blue sky, brown or black poles, and green palm trees at the bottom in the far background. All of that color would have detracted from the elements I wrote about above, especially the unique form of the bird in flight. Therefore, the photo is best in black and white. Do you agree or do you have another perspective? Please let me know in the comments.

There’s just over 1 week remaining in the Photobird Photo Contest for December. Be sure to enter your photo before the end of day December 31. Your photo can be in color or black and white, and the contest is free to enter! The theme of the contest is “Up”.

Photobird Photo Contest details:

The two winners for the Photobird Photo Contest for December will each receive the following cool prizes:

Read more details about the monthly contest here.

Every monthly Photobird Photo Contest has two winners. At the end of each month, we pick one winner for the Photobird Award, and we will tally your votes to determine the one winner for the People’s Choice Award.

See the previous contests and their contest entries at this link.

Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to have your family and friends vote for their favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award. (You can send them a quick little reminder here.)

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below or in the Photobird forums.

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“Big Bear Lake, Ca. 2″ by David Cresine

December 18, 2008

“Big Bear Lake, Ca. 2″
© Copyright David Cresine

This coming Sunday, December 21, is the first day of winter and that means snow! David Cresine has submitted many snow photos for the Photobird Photo of the Hour and “Big Bear Lake, Ca. 2” shown above is one of them. To see more of David Cresine’s snow photos, read our snow photography tips below and take a look at his “Snow Forest” photo album inside his Photobird photo album.

Photobird.com is the easy way to share your photos. You capture and share so many great photos on Photobird.com that we created the Photo of the Hour feature to give you the opportunity to share your very best with the rest of the world.

It’s really easy to submit your favorite photos to be featured on the Photobird Photo of the Hour: Simply view the photo from your photo album and click the “Submit for Photo of the Hour” checkbox. There is no limit to the number of photos you can submit and we always like to get new submissions.

In return for each photo we use on the Photo of the Hour or People Places and Things, you get more storage space for your photo album so you can store more photos. Details are here.

If you’d like to keep some of your photos private while you share your favorite photos with the world, you can read how easy it is to do that with Photobird photo albums in our Photobird Daily article entitled “Show Off Your Photos, and Keep Some Private“.

You may also discuss your favorite Photobird Photos of the Hour in the Photobird forums.

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