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!

Simplicity – Made Complicated…

I am just kidding about simplicity being made complicated.

My goal as a photographer is to capture images that make a clear statement. My integrity, character, skill, morality and intent respectively should not/cannot be with-held or disguised. This is not a case for a lack of discretion but rather the purpose of clarifying our visual communication.

Visual communication is vital to many areas of life, like business, self-preservation and interaction (both personal and professional). Communication by hand signs is called Sign-language. Sign-language combines motions or gestures that give intuitive and definitive meaning as well as a visual alphabet. These signs are simple and distinct from any other sign making its meaning clear.

This is purpose we want to have in photography, so several things should be brought to its least complicated form to communicate well.

Glass trinket box

First, what is my object or subject? What about my object or subject am I communicating? What draws out the subject? What clarifies my point of communication? What distracts from my subject? What obscures my point of communication? These questions seem tedious and a waste of time, however I can assure you that as soon as these questions become sub-conscious and your actions to correcting these issues are instinctive your image quality will rise with all haste.

The picture above of a glass trinket container is an example of keeping the setting simple. This image communicates the object is the glass container and that the design is important because of the glass clarity.  The surrounding set-up is designed to support the showcasing of the glass container and its design. The lighting of the object is important or there would be no exposure to see the container or its design.

A simple surrounding, focus on the object, light the object well and if necessary add intriguing lines. Enjoy!

Portraits – Posing

Posing for portraits can be a unique skill of its own when taking portraits. However it is not impossible, so take heart; you will find your niche?

“Posing” as I am using it for this post is meant as “A particular way of standing or sitting, usually adopted for effect or to be photographed, painted, or drawn.” Some would say posed shots can be organized by looking at the camera or not, but that is not totally correct.

Before going on I would like to define candid to clarify more of the differences to posed and candid shots.

Candid:

  • Truthful and straightforward; frank.
  • (of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, esp. without the subject’s knowledge.

Basically, it can be a little difficult knowing a posed photo from candid if the photographer  and subject or model are good at directing and holding a pose. Poses can seem candid and in reverse a candid shot may even seem posed. The difference between posed and candid lies in the knowledge and participation of the subject or model.

We want the pose to look natural and comfortable as if the subject or model is supported. Tension is noticed by a viewer most often subconsciously, and tension is created by the appearance of the subject’s discomfort.

While choosing a pose which accentuates your subjects beauty, take care to make your support visible. For instance, if you have your subject prop themselves on one arm, make sure their arm is visible through the camera. I want to leave you to use your own creativity in methods of support, but illustrating tension, the subject will seem to be performing an isometric crunch on the front lawn. This obviously is not our intent.

Turning the shoulders to one side or the other from the relative position to the hips will show a slimmed abdomen.

A bent knee (in a seated position) will draw muscles tighter in the thigh and hip for contrast to the extended leg.

Drawing the shoulder back and down will show a relaxed chest and shoulders.

One of the main visual queues for poses is the positioning of the subject’s head. If they are not comfortable their head will be pushing forward or resisting a fall backward. Keeping the head in a neutral position will certainly cut the visual signs of strain, offering the best start for positioning.

Candid shots will be our topic for Friday’s post. Looking forward to another visit then!

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.

Learning Your Equipment – Part 3

Learning your equipment sounds really easy until getting out into the field and realize, “I never thought about how to evaluate the amount of light put out by my light source!” Now this opens up a new area for questions and learning. “How sensitive is my camera to light?” “How does my camera’s sensitivity measure against its shutter speed?” “How does my camera’s sensitivity to light change with each aperture stop?”

Some answers can be “too simple” or rather purely informational without direction as to the application of the information. So in this post I hope to bring you two options explaining their application to the best of my ability.

Option 1: Light meter. Handheld light meters get more expensive the fancier features they contain. There is an excellent article by B&H Photo on learning about handheld light meters and information to help you choose the appropriate light meter for you. Most digital cameras are equipped with light meters (if you will remember the light meter I referred to in my first post on “Learning Your Equipment”). However, there is one key difference between a handheld light meter and a light meter in your camera.

The difference in light meters held in your hand or in your camera is this, the meter’s location. Now what will help you most? A light meter showing you the amount of light surrounding your subject or the amount of light around your camera? Answer: You want to know the amount of light around your subject. That makes it a little difficult to measure the light around your subject with your camera when it is more efficient to have it set-up on your tripod.

Option 2: Requires a lot of experience and a trained eye and mind. Using your own vision to estimate the light around your subject is cheapest and builds your skill. I am still tweaking my own skill, so I am not much practical help at this time. Some practical pointers to come in Fridays post.