Aug 19, 2014

Triangles, Diagonals, and Patterns in Composition

How is everyone doing? Hanging in there? Well, today is our last day of composition and the rest of the month will be easy breezy! Today's focus will be on adding triangles and diagonals in your photos to make a stronger composition and more interest in the photo. This may be tricky at first but really my favorite pictures just have these elements without me trying. Remember I don't do posed pictures because I don't know how to pose people and my little kiddos don't hold still for more than 2 seconds. All but one of the following examples were not 'posed' so you can see that it is possible to get the shapes in the photo without forcing it. If I get a triangle in my photo, then it is by chance, but it looks good!

Here are some examples of triangles in my photos.

Similarly, diagonals can enhance the composition of your photo. Here are two examples.

Lastly, finding patterns or repetitions can have an impact on your photos, especially if the pattern breaks in the photo. For example, in this photo I took with my camera phone (which is HORRIBLE and my pictures are always awful using it!), there is a pattern of the buckets in the playroom. John's cute little body tucked in the space breaks that pattern and gives interest to the photo.

YOUR challenge is to practice looking for triangles, diagonals, and patterns when taking photos. Share your favorites with the rest of us!

For those smarty pants among us, challenge yourself by finding as many triangles as you can in one shot. Or find triangles and diagonals in subjects you normally don't shoot (nature, architecture, pets, etc). Find triangles in the shadows. Be creative!

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Jul 31, 2014

August Challenge- Photography

Hi everyone! I am thrilled you are joining us in this month's challenge. My goals for this month is to introduce you to shooting in manual (for those of you who have that capability with your camera), learn to play with natural light, learn some basics of composition to enhance your photos, embrace photographing your every day life and not a posed fantasy world, and to spark a little creativity in your photographs. Not too much of a tall order in just a short 31 days! :) Hopefully everyone can learn even a smidge about photography...even those of you who solely use a cell phone for their photos.

Think your kids won't sit still long enough for photos? No problem! I don't even know how to do posed photos. :)

Here is a quick overview of the month's plans. You are welcome to go at your own pace since I know we all have busy schedules. Please post photos and questions in our Facebook group page so we can see how you are doing, give praise, and offer constructive criticism!

Fri, Aug 1
Sun, Aug 3 
Wed Aug 6
Sat Aug 9
Sun Aug 10
Tues Aug 12
Wed Aug 13
Fri Aug 15
Sat Aug 16
Mon Aug 18
Tues Aug 19
Thurs Aug 21
Fri Aug 22
Back to school photos
Sat Aug 23
Photo shoot somewhere fun
Sun Aug 24
Natural smiles
Mon Aug 25
Self Portrait/mom in picture
Tues Aug 26
Self portrait/mom in picture
Thurs Aug 28
Fri Aug 29
Sat Aug 30
Picture at 10am
Sun Aug 31
Significant other 

*these dates have a hyperlink to a post with information.

As you can see the bulk of the learning will be the first half of the month and the creativity portion will be the second half of the month.

Again, thanks for joining us and I am eager to see everyone's photos this month!

Please be a fan of lil Mop Top on facebook!! I link up to these parties!

Shooting in Manual- Indoors

Hi everyone! Welcome to the August Challenge: Photography! Now that we know each other, we are going jump right into the hardest part of the month: learning how to shoot in manual. The rest of the month will be downhill from here. :) If you have a point and shoot camera, then today will not really apply to you. Of course, feel free to read along! If you use an iPhone to take most of our photos, then maybe some of this will help when you can change some of your settings. (This is a total guess though since I don't have an iPhone! ha!) Personally I have a low end dslr- Canon Rebel T3. I don't know much about any other cameras so you will most likely need your camera manual to find the buttons we are using today or do a quick search online.

First, switch your camera to M for manual. On my camera is it the round dial at the top where you have all the choices for different shooting mode (Automatic, Av, Tv, etc). Hopefully this will be the last time you ever touch that dial and keep it on M forever!!! Also be sure to turn off the flash. If you are shooting during the day then you should be able to set your camera that you don't need the flash. I haven't used my flash since I turned the camera to Manual about 1.5 years ago.

Now that we are shooting in manual, we have three ways to control the lighting in the camera. I am just touching on the basics as I understand it. So there is probably more to it than we are going to discuss, but at least it is a good starting point!

Below is an example what your screen might look like on your camera. The top row here are the three things are looking at today: Shutter speed (ex 1/100), aperture (ex: F5.6) , and ISO (ex: 200).

1. Shutter Speed (SS): This is how quickly the camera takes the picture. You can hear your camera click as it takes a photo. The longer the click, the slower the shutter speed and vice versa. This is shown as a fraction on your camera (1/100, 1/300, etc). So an example of a slow shutter speed would be 1/50 and a fast shutter speed would be 1/2000.
  • The faster the camera takes a picture, the less light will hit the camera. The slower the camera takes a picture, the more the light will hit the camera. Think of elevator doors closing. If they close slow, lots of people can get in. If they close super fast, very few people can get in. This is the same thing with shutter speed and light.
  • The faster the camera takes a picture, the less blurry the photo. So if your child is moving quickly, you will need a higher SS to keep it from being blury.
  • The more light you need, the lower you will need your SS so that way the camera has more time to capture the light.
  • When inside photographing my kids who move a lot I try not to go below 1/125 otherwise the photos will tend to be blurry.
  • Remember that YOU can make the camera move when taking the photo which means the picture can be blurry. So try to be as steady as possible when shooting with a lower shutter speed. If you are using a really low shutter speed, use a tripod or set the camera on something (like a counter) to keep it from moving.
Here is an example of where the dial is to change the shutter speed. Yours may be in a different spot so if you don't find it check online or use your owner's manual. Once you find it, practice changing the shutter speed and taking random pictures to see what it does. (We will get into more practice of how to know where to set it later down in the post).

2. ISO: kind of like an internal light to help in low light situations. You can up the ISO if the photo is coming out dark, however the higher the ISO, the more 'grainy' the photo will become. You will want to keep the ISO as low as possible but I have found there are just simply times when I have to put my ISO as high as it can go (and even then it isn't high enough!). The below camera example shows that the top arrow button is used to access and change the ISO. Again check your manual if you can't find your button. :) Practice changing your ISO and taking random pictures to see the affects of different ISOs.

3. Aperture (f-stop): The opening in the lens for the light to go through. This is shown on your camera like f/2, f/3, etc. or F2, F3 (like in the above example)
  • The smaller the aperture (ex: f/2), the more light will come through. The larger the aperture (ex: f/11) the less light will come through.
  • The f-stop also narrows in the focus and sharpness on the photo. So if you shoot with a low aperture, then there will be a smaller area in your photo that is in focus (more out of focus background/foreground). If you shoot with a higher aperture, then there will be a larger area of the photo in focus (not as much of a blurry background). This means you need to be careful that if you shoot with really low aperture, the whole body may not be all in focus. This is not necessarily a bad thing but just keep that in mind if you are wondering why only part of your kiddo is in focus or maybe just one of the two kids in the photo are in focus.
This may be harder to find on your camera because I think to access the aperture on some cameras you have to hold down a button and turn the dial at the same time. For example, on my camera I hold down the Av button (the top button where the trash can is on the above picture) and then turn the dial that I use to change my shutter speed).

Confused yet?! :) Don't worry!

So if you haven't already, I want you to play around for a minute with those three settings before we continue. Take a picture of anything (it can be the wall) with the highest ISO and then the lowest ISO. Note the differences. Do the same with the aperture and the SS. Just get used to changing those settings before we even move onto setting the camera for a particular situation. If you have a zoom lens, then changing the zoom may allow you to change the settings more.

Ok, so now that you know how to change each of those three settings, let's figure out how to set the camera to take photos! It is a nice balance of all three settings to get the picture just right. :) We will focus on indoors only today. I know that most photographers really LOVE the outdoors for pictures because of all the natural light, but I am a realist. I am inside a lot with the boys so I need to be able to take pictures of us inside doing our daily thing.

Taking photos INSIDE: I ask myself a couple questions. Is my subject moving? (which is almost always answered with a yes!) Do I have a lot of natural light? (ie am I near a window) Do I have one person in the photo or more than one person? Do I want the whole photo in focus or do I want a bit of a blurry background?

So here is my process as I take photos.

1.First and foremost I need to make sure I have enough light (which we will talk more about in a couple days). If possible, turn off the lights and pull up all your blinds/shades to get in natural light. Then take your photos near the windows or open doors if possible.

2. I always start my SS at 1/125 when inside since the boys are always moving (I need to minimize motion blur but let in lots of light). Once I have the rest of my settings punched in, then I can take a test shot to check  my SS based on how close I am to a window or open door. If the window is letting in a ton of light and the boys are really close the window then I may need to up the SS to keep the photo from being too bright. If we are further from the window then I mostly keep it at 1/125.

3. Then I set my aperture. If I just have one kid in the photo then I set it around f/2. However, this is because I  usually don't have a ton of light (I need a smaller aperture to let in more light). So this could change for you depending on how fancy your camera is and what kind of lens you are using. If I have more than one kid in the photo then I bump it up to f/3ish so they can both be in focus and increase the aperture if I have more people in the photo. (This may also be limited by your lens. Some lenses won't go that low with the aperture).

4. Lastly I set the ISO since I want that to be my last resort for adding in light. I start with 400 inside the house and bump up from there if needed. And since my camera doesn't handle low light well, I usually have to bump it up.

Here are some examples of photos I have taken around the house and the settings. Yours could be quite different based on what kind of camera you have and the lens you are using. But at least you can see some examples.

1. Boys in the bath: taken around 6:30 at night, only lit from window (no lights on in the bathroom)
ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/200
The bathtub helped reflect some light on their faces (not a ton though!), the SS was high enough to keep out most of the motion blur, and the aperture was high enough to keep everyone in focus and still let in enough light.

2. Matthew sleeping in John's doorway:
ISO 6400, f/2, SS 1/60
I had to turn on the bathroom light to get more light in here for this photo and still I had a really hard time getting the camera to focus. Matthew obviously isn't moving so I set the camera on the floor to keep it steady and lowered the shutter speed  and aperture to let in as much light as possible. Not the best possible quality photo but pretty good! Notice since it has a low aperture, the foreground (the carpet) and the background aren't in focus.

3. Matthew's hair cut- the whole wall of the shop to Matthew's left was windows and they had lights on.
ISO 800, f/3.5, SS 1/200
I needed the SS high enough to keep out motion blur and I wanted the aperture a smidge higher so that way the background wasn't blurred out.

 4. Thomas near the windows in the kitchen and I think I had the back door open to let in light in the front right of him.
ISO 1600, f/2.8, SS 1/125
Since he wasn't facing the windows I had to bump up the ISO. If I had him facing the windows I probably would have been able to lower the ISO a bit since there would be more light on him.

So, now it is time for you to practice, practice, practice! It takes a while to remember how all the settings change and how they affect each other. Take a bunch of pictures but try not to get frustrated. Plus remember that my examples are with lenses I bought and not the lens that came with my camera thus your numbers may not be exactly like mine. I will share pics on facebook with my kit lens so I can join in on the sharing fun! Also remember that once you get the feel for your own house then you probably will know what the settings are without a lot of guessing and checking. Notice my settings aren't drastically different in my house from location to location, especially the SS, so it just minor changes as we move about.

So once you get a photo that looks properly exposed (not too bright and not too dark) then share it on facebook. I don't care if it is a photo of a stuffed animal since it makes things less complicated that good ol' teddy isn't moving. I would love to see how you are doing!

For those pros out there, we would love to see a share with your settings too and any tips you might have for the newbies!

Please be a fan of lil Mop Top on facebook!! I link up to these parties!

Playing with Light

I hope everyone has started to get the hang of changing up the settings on their camera to shoot in manual. It takes lots of practice so keep up the good work! Today we are going to play with different light around your house. Just like yesterday, make sure your flash is off, even if you are using a point and shoot.

Natural light (ie the sun) is going to be the best light. That means if you are in your house the natural light will be coming in from windows and doors. If you are taking photos inside, turn off the lights and open up the blinds/shades to let in the natural light. (If you are using a point and shoot then you may need the extra light from light bulbs but try without the lights to see what happens!) Then place your subject near the light source. Try point their face (if you are using a person as a subject) toward the light to get the sparkle (catch light) in their eyes.

How do you do this with moving little kids? Well, my kids rarely sit still long enough for a posed picture. So I try to get them to play near a window or the door (assuming it isn't the baby who will run outside if the door is open!). Then I can take pictures of them in nice light while they are playing. I am also known to bribe with treats/rewards if I really want a picture of something special.

These two pictures below are Matthew and John looking out the window in our kitchen. I am pretty sure I gave them a reward (like a cookie) if they sat for 5 photos. (not that this was something special but I wanted to practice that day!) These pictures aren't particularly exciting, but it is good practice anyways!

In this photo below, notice I opened the door here to let more light on Matthew while was playing a game. This room is a bit darker so I tried to direct the light onto him. It kind of gives him a neat glow on the side of his body.

This cute picture of Bella twirling is obviously next to lots of windows.

I opened the blinds all the way up on the window to my right in this photo. It puts a nice light on us as John reads to me. (You can see the left side of the photo is brighter than the right due to where the light source is).

John and my dad are next to the windows in my kitchen for this photo. So they are being lit from the front and the side. I also like that because of the light we can see their reflection in the table.

This photo of Thomas is in the living room without a ton of light. So notice how his face is kind of perpendicular to the window (one side of his face is light more than the other). He still has nice sparkly eyes since he is toward the window. You can put the subject in a spot where it is lit but the light falls away quickly to make it a dark background. Garages are actually a good place for this because if you put your subject close to the light (the edge of the garage) then the background will be dark, thus hiding all the junk in your garage. :)

This one of Thomas is in the same room as the photo above but just closer to the window and a different angle so the light is hitting him a little different.

In the photo below, Matthew is in the same room as Thomas was in above. He is pretty close to the window but hiding behind the chair. I took the photo through the chair legs and you can see how his cute little tushie is lit up.

You can also do the opposite of making the background dark. If you shoot up against a window, it will 'blow out' the background and you can't see any messiness outside the windows like in the the below photo of John by the window. If you have a point and shoot, this won't work well because it will be more of a silhouette photo, but that can be cool too.

So YOUR challenge for today is go through your house and notice where the light is hitting. (Of course, this will change throughout the day!) Look for bright spots on the floor or shadows. Are there any neat places to take pictures where there would be good lighting? Places maybe to avoid? Which rooms have lots of light for nice bright photos and which rooms may have lower light for darker or dramatic photos? Are there any locations where there is lots of reflected light (like maybe a kitchen with white cabinets). Then try to take some pictures of your kids, or still life if you don't have cooperative kids handy, and see what light looks best, which way should they turn, what is more dramatic, what looks bad, etc. This is also perfect for practicing setting the camera for manual! :)

For those of you who are advanced participants, try to go out of your comfort zone in your house. Find new places to shoot, dramatic light (maybe striped light through blinds or dappled light), etc. Or try to use unique artificial light (ex: ipad light, light from an open fridge door, computer screen) if you have natural light down pat. Or for a bigger challenge, try to make the shadow the subject of your photo.

I am eager to see what everyone comes up with on facebook!

Please be a fan of lil Mop Top on facebook!! I link up to these parties!