History Records

Recording history via photography is something that may seem as a profession for the unskilled, however consider taking the challenge of recording the events of your family alone. The difference between recording the events for a city records and those of which concern a family are more quickly understood in an experience to which we can relate. A family’s social calendar maybe busier than a city’s but things occur on a greater scale in a 24 hour period within the city limits than a family.

Take the challenge of recording the events your family encounters through photography. It is may not be as easy as anticipated. Events may involve one person or multiple. Please also take notice of everyone’s right to privacy. I have heard stories of families taking snapshots of other at times that are extremely personal. The purpose of this challenge is not black-mail gathering but learning to discern between photo emphasis.

Every family I know has pictures of the firsts in the lives of their children or wish they did. I wish that I had more photos that surround my memories of the last few months I had with my grandparents. You see, there are many levels in photographing history than appears on the surface.

We have covered some basics to photographic records and I will take some time to list these levels (perhaps not in the best order).

  • Physical event and motion
  • Elements included and worn during the event
  • Emotions, communication and facial expression
  • Overall event (purpose and reason for gathering)
  • Accomplishments
  • Experiences (from a personal perspective)

There really are a lot of things to fill your time with family events. Now consider the skill required to put your talent in such a time crunch on a scale of 18,000 families. I think we just discovered a fascinating career!

Lighting – Part 3

Lights are not easy to work, however not impossible. Directly lighting an object without first being reflected or diffused should be carefully handled. We will get into the reason for this point in a moment but let us first remember what transpired bringing us to this point.

In the time this blog has been in operation, we have discussed contrast, highlights, shadows, elements, focus, scene design and light source positioning in preparation for this new level of photography design. Direct lighting will be harsh and bright; so what else around the object should be lit to make sense of the scene?

What elements are important to the message of your photo? Remembering to keep it simple and thus unifying the message, light the desired elements enough for the purpose. If this photo involves a model, be sensitive to their comfort. Natural poses may be comfortable for a short period but if continued may become an irritation.

Irritation can be something the model will have to fight through for proper facial expression, motion stability to prevent blurring with moderate to slow shutter speeds. None of these issues are worth battling when they are avoidable.

Take a look at some advertisement photos and notice how little they add to the photo. At the same time, notice how they add, what they add, why they add and where they add those extra elements. This is not to learn the style or technique of another photographer, but to learn a principle, “Too much spice can ruin the soup” and not enough means it is a good start though undesirable.

Light can change the focal point of shot by misdirection, improper power setting and poor timing with the camera shutter. Be sure to know your equipment. Acquaintanceship means nothing when you are entertaining a customer and simultaneously troubleshooting your lighting system. You are the expert of your equipment. Learn it well.

Portraits – Setting

As fall approaches the possibilities for outdoor portrait settings are wide open. The weather cools down to temperatures pleasant enough that a smile automatically graces your face without thinking about it.

Personal Note: I walked outside last week with a cup of coffee in my hand; as the door opened I felt the wind rush and I was surprised that it felt cool for what I was expecting. Walking out front with the cool temperature sensation continuing on my arms and face, I began to smile. Taking in a breath of fresh, cool air it only seemed natural to smile and laughter began to bubble up from a heart full of joy and inspiration.

With cooler temperatures and fall rains, fall bearing trees begin to produce their fruit and leaves change color making this the perfect time for many portrait occasions. This opportunity is too good to pass up, so with school starting up it is a good time to pick out a park or garden that provides the situations you want. Let us discuss some possibilities.

    1. Park bench
  • There are at-least three angles or perspectives on one place, so do not be too hasty on abandoning one place for another.
  • A Change of sitting positions offer more variety without changing locations.
  • Simple elements such as a book, flower or jacket can take a picture from good to favorite as quick as your shutter can move.
    2. Tree row
  • Peeking from around tree trunks are a nice touch for mystery and surprise, however caution is to be used to prevent too much of your subject from being hidden.
  • Taking shots of a pair of children can be fun especially when the camera is using a vantage point to see both children.

These are just some thoughts for you to use as you design your personal portraits.

Learning Your Equipment – Part 4

Learning the capability of your equipment and how it will see a scene you shoot and utilizing that knowledge, I think is a skill akin to that of Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso or Rembrandt van Rijn. You think this is a little over stated? Perhaps not. Not only will you notice the shading caused by the light, the setting around your subject and how you want to set-up your shot, but when your new skill is perfected you will be able to estimate with some certainty the shutter speed necessary to render your subject perfectly lit.

As I have personally begun my own education in estimating shutter speed in connection with proper exposure, I understand it takes a little time and thought before pushing the shutter button. I was the impatient student ready to push the shutter button expecting a miraculous photo worth thousands of dollars. Even if I were completely talented, talent can be formed and shaped. So now I understand the value of learning the basics and the power of their effects in a photo. So get ready: Here we launch into a few practical steps to learn and practice in “self-metering” light.

Where is your subject? Sitting in light, with face shadowed? The location of your subject relative to your light source is important to note because a person’s face is a delicate surface to capture.

What is the part of your subject you want properly lit? Eyes more specifically than only the face for best expression. What I meant by a person’s face being a delicate surface to capture is that being so well-shaped it is deeply shaded or over lit. Proper lighting may require a longer exposure time than you are used to, but keep a tripod or mono-pod on hand to help steady your camera.

How is the background lit in contrast to your subject? Is the background part of the photo as you planned? Be sure to plan steps to include the background elements essential to your designed shot.

Personality

Have you ever been around people who always make you feel welcome and valuable? They just seem to exude an appreciation for your company, a genuine interest in your thoughts and statements.

Some people would call them a “Type A” personality.

There are times that I see the personality of the subject perfectly captured in a photo. I take a long, hard look at those pictures while asking myself questions similar to the following:

  1. What element say “personality” to me?
  2. Why do these elements communicate “personality” to me?
  3. How can I re-create the element?
  4. How can I distinguish between elements and the personalities they portray?
  5. What color tones were used?
  6. How do the color tones in this photo add to the subject’s personality?
  7. What clothing colors bring out subject personality?

As you can see there are a lot of things that can add to or take away from personality. In the blog post “Simplifying The Message” I mention that it is important to keep the message uncluttered and intentional. It is possible the only thing that shouts “personality” is the pose they assume as the shutter opens. Sometimes the simplest things are what makes the shot rather than the complicated set-up or costuming.

There are a lot of options at your disposal when displaying personality and be free to explore them!

Lists of shots

This post will not be as in-depth as others but if you take it seriously, can leave you with a very large load of homework. *Grin*

It has been my experience that I have all of these great shots in my head that I can either set-up or capture in theory. (In other words all of the elements I see in my imagination have been seen together at one time, at the same time.) However, when I find myself in a place that I have imagined a shot, I can not remember the elements I previously envisioned! Perhaps you also have experienced that disappointment and  horror of not being able to provide the photos I had in mind for my customer, now feeling like I will have to sell the shots I currently have twice as hard to make up for my lost enthusiasm. (This photo was taken in October of 2011. This is one of the times when I saw the shot, remembering it was something I had imagined without requiring me to add extra elements before immortalizing the scene.)

Here is how I am changing that costly error.

I have begun making a list of shots to compose by category, location, priority or time of day. (A time-saving tip is to input all of this information into a spread-sheet and then when I am ready to print a hard copy of my list I can prioritize them in the order that I will be shooting.)

I do not know about the rest of you, but I think about the next better shot all the time. My imagination especially runs wild after a shoot and I have just taken some exceptional shots. After I come down from the high of “a job well done”, I catalog the position and settings of the equipment set-up asking “What made the difference?” and every other question “9 ways from Sunday” about how it can be made better.

Elements of…SURPRISE!

I have for years, been thinking about “the perfect shot” and how I would shoot it, so as to contain all elements and little background pieces that will make it refreshing and new at every glance. In short I wanted my photos to be timeless, refreshing, new and always showing something new to the viewer.

Bringing together every element in one photograph can either take so much time that you lose the interest of your subject, lose money or make the scene too busy. The object of photography is quite different in that each element draws the viewer’s focus, directing their attention to and unifying the photo as it all points to the primary subject.

For instance: say a photographer is shooting a cover photo for a band. There are five members in the band and they want to show case the instruments as well. If each member of the band plays different instrument, that means there are 10 things to fit in the frame besides finding the right background to fit the music album’s theme. [Notice we have begun to number the elements that will be in the shot. This is ways I begin to organize a group shot.]

The last article we posted “Rough start…Smooth finish” we talked about texture and how it can add to your photo. Now we are looking for a background that will bring the band members and their instruments together as a visually cohesive group. The background should resemble a place that the band would frequent, such as a recording studio room, city square, performing arts center or even walking through a parking garage on their way to a performance. (Feel free to think “outside the box.” No one really likes the stereo-typical band shot.)

One thing is certain, that when one thing is slightly out of the “norm” but obviously intentional, it will captivate the attention of the observant viewer and usually becomes a favorite. So have fun as you add to your “repertoire” of creativity!