Holiday Parades

Since yesterday was Labor Day, “Happy Labor Day!” I am grateful for the opportunity and ability to earn a living by labor!

Parades are some of the best times to get shots of the children and the excitement on their faces of the candy flying in their direction or fantastic clowns pulling their usual antics. Keep your camera handy because these moments can come faster and more frequently than every day events! In addition to those great shots of the children there are plenty of opportunities for any number of shots and a wonderful way to meet friends and neighbors.

The plethora of shots I speak of can pose some wonderful opportunities for learning the speed at which your shutter should open and close depending on your style. Artistic shots may use some motion blur while viewers of portraits prefer eyes perfectly in focus. However, more than talking about techniques in this post which we have more than amply covered before, I encourage you to take these opportunities to train yourself to anticipate each shot.

In a spontaneous environment such as a parade the subject of a shot seen is all too easy to forget. When the subject is forgotten, proper lighting can be one of the most elusive prey to capture. Thus when the photo is taken, the subject is either under or over exposed. So be wary to survey the amount of light around your subject rather than the light filling your general surroundings. It is an easy mistake to make, but “perfect practice, makes perfect!”

So enjoy the opportunities you have for pictures, because if I have learned anything it is this, if I don’t pick up my camera and take some shots, I give myself less opportunity to get better by learning from my mistakes!

Learning Your Equipment – Part 2

Asking questions can open a whole new set of opportunities to you and not just in learning your equipment, but also for the availability of “pre-designed studios”. Allow me to explain: Friday afternoon I was in the local IKEA store, and with my camera over my shoulder I kept seeing one stock shot after another. So I found a floor sales assistant and asked for permission to take photos in-store. After some checking up the chain of command I was given the “okay” to take photos of the store product and section design.

Now, please understand this is a casual business agreement. Because I want something to push my business ahead, IKEA or any other company you ask for this kind of  permission will also want something in return. This is a kind of business bartering and be ready to handle it with care and wisdom. IKEA obviously does not want me to obstruct the shopping experience of their other customers, and so I carefully choose which pieces of equipment I will use while taking photographic shots.

Also, IKEA appreciates name publication and rightly so! Each company in a free market thrives on word of mouth recommendations and name recognition. I as a business owner and sole operator understand this and I am willing to give them what publicity I can in exchange for my ability to profit of photographing their store design and product layout.

As a benefit to me and a method of contact for the store management, I gave the employee my business card. In case you didn’t catch it, I just got publicity and name recognition with this employee which IKEA has asked of me by handing out my business card. Now, this is not a game of “one-up-manship”, but on the contrary; this is “I help you for helping me” business. A kind of “Thank you for permission”, “And you for your consideration.” Beautiful business assistance.

Cloudy skies, with a chance…

“The weather forecast for today is cloudy skies, with a 97% chance of distracted photographers…” Have you ever had that feeling of someone watching as you set-up a shot with the thought in the back of your mind, “I am so distracted with everything else but my shot that I will miss it!”

Shooting under cloudy skies can pose quite a challenge, but do not let the challenges get you down! This is only an opportunity to learn more about the equipment you have and how to use it with the utmost efficiency.

Most camera manufacturers have come to realize the difficulty of the outdoor photographer. With such an understanding they have built-in some wonderful features in the White Balance settings that allow for these difficulties.

Thin clouds present the most different obstacle because prevailing winds in the higher atmosphere is either your best friend or worst enemy. By that I mean, if the wind is strong enough to keep the cloud layer moving you will have an even lighting providing that the cloud layer is constant in thickness. However, if the wind gusts or is too slow, the thin cloud layer will be easily burnt through (typical of southern climates) and thus give times of harsh and direct sunlight.

Spotty clouds are always changing amounts of light and seem to be playing the “peek-a-boo” game for that perfect shot. Frustrating? That would be a kind way of speaking about this problem!

Thick clouds project a cold or harsh look on and around the subject, whereas with every subject I have photographed warmer colors are always more inviting. Yes the cloudy setting will eliminate most if not all of the gloom emitted by the clouds, but in all of these scenarios there is the problem of constant change in amounts of light and then the unexpected objects that reflect the sunlight when the sun is unveiled.

What is the answer? In my experience when shooting with ever-changing lighting, I will use the “Shade” White Balance setting. This will lighten the shadows so as to compensate for the sharp contrast in lighting and still avoid most of the over exposure on the surfaces that are given direct lighting!

When I began shooting in these conditions, I came to my senses about halfway through the photo-op. It was easy to have a moment which I call a “professional hissy-fit”, but when you are with a client, it is best to remain cool, calm and collected. As I reviewed the shots, I realized that we had last shot in shade and all of the photos after still turned out very well, with detail I did not expect in the shadows.

Times like this one are great opportunities to learn how your camera functions and understanding precisely how each setting will help or hinder you in achieving your goal.

So the next time you are out and about with a camera in your hand, take the opportunity to master an obstacle and become that better photographer!

*NOTE: These mentioned White Balance settings are not “industry standard”, so their names and usage may vary according to manufacturer specifications.