Whether you’ve been a photographer for 10 weeks or 10 years, we’ve all heard the cautionary tales about yet another creative who’s packed it all up, sold off all their gear, and decided to do something else in terms of a career.
It’s with that in mind that I am writing about the importance of personal projects.
Most people hear those words and think of young art school students, who pull together friends to shoot some fun stuff in between their demanding curriculum of school mandated projects. Now while that is a good example, it is worthwhile to note its importance on the healthy creative ‘paid/personal’ work balance that really never goes away, but we often forget nonetheless.
A few notable professional examples of photographers who still instill said balance in their careers are Chase Jarvis and Joey L, both of whom preach a lot on this topic as they realize the long-term benefits and how it impacts their careers, and more importantly their overall creativity as well.
Well, this sounds all warm and nice, but how can you make this actually work? Here are some pointers:
Setting aside the time and sticking to it. Dependent on your focus, it can be as long or short as you prefer. The most important part is making sure you focus on unplugging from usual everyday routine.
Finding the right amount of time that works for you. It can be as short as a week, or you can do something for half a year. Finding what works best for you will take time; don’t despair.
Wedding photographers use the seasonal downtime to work on personal work and new ideas for the upcoming busy season. Commercial photographers can be lucky enough to have three busy months of big work can allow them 2-3 months of traveling and shooting passion projects.
Realize the workflow benefits as well as the creative ones. Walking around new cities with your camera can be therapeutic and a great way to shoot new plates for composite work or even limited run fine art prints.
Prospective clients sometimes follow photographer’s personal work closely for outside-the-box ideas for their creative needs or briefs. What starts out as something small may suddenly become a new direction for your career.
Start small and slowly expand your comfort zone. Like shooting cityscapes? The nearest city will always be great for discovering new neighborhood pockets or even new ways to shoot the same ones again.
However, when comfortable why not discover somewhere new by train/car/or even plane? Think #wanderlust. The creative lifestyle can be tough, especially when it involves family, so why not bring along your loved one/ones to help you unplug and remember why you work the long crazy hours?
Remembering why you picked up a camera in the first place. Ask a lot of professional athletes who get paid millions to play a game, and most (if not all) will say the best time in their career was the times coming up — the time before the money, contracts, and endorsements.
Being a creative is no different: picking up your camera with no creative brief or for no monetary gain can remind you why you got into the field to begin with. Doing anything for a career, it will eventually become a ‘job’ — getting burnt out on a fun, creative outlet is inevitable, and it’s all in how you remedy the pain.
Oftentimes in the roller-coaster lifestyle of being a full-time creative, we only come to these lucid understandings after some time away from it all entirely, whether we take a 9-5 job to help bring in a steady paycheck or just unplug from the creative side and move to another spot behind the scenes.
However, it doesn’t have to take such a stark departure to help bring about that understanding. Instead, try to remember the importance of on-going personal work while you’re in the midst of your creative career.
This week in our photography education and resources group our theme was animals. Congratulations to the winners !!
Here’s my top ten tips on taking great photographs of your pet:
1. Start with Your Pet’s PersonalityBefore you start photographing your pet ask yourself ‘what sets it apart from other animals?’ Think about what type of personality it has and then attempt to capture some of that in your shots. For example if everyone knows your pet as a sleepy, lazy or placid little thing set up your photo shoot around it’s bed or where it goes after a meal to lie in the sun and you’ll have every chance of capturing a shot that sums your pet right up. Alternatively if your pet is hyperactive, inquisitive and always on the move it might be better to do your shoot at a local park where it’s racing around, jumping for balls or playing with other animals.
2. Think about ContextIn choosing the location to photograph your pet you might want to consider a variety of other factors also. For starters choose a place where your pet will be comfortable and at ease. Also consider the familiarity of the location and the emotions that it will evoke in you as the pets owner. For example you might have a place that you and your pet have had some special moments together that will mean a lot in the future as you look back over your shots. Lastly consider the background of your shots. Ultimately you don’t want your backgrounds to be distracting from your photo – sometimes the best locations are the plainest ones – a large patch of green grass, a well lit room with white walls and plain carpet etc can be ideal. Of course this can also be tool plain and sterile – my motto is that if the different elements in the background of the shot don’t add to it avoid them.
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3. Get in ClosePets come in all shapes and sizes but in most cases they are smaller than a human and as a result they tend to end up getting a little lost in photos unless you make an effort to get up close to them. Of course getting close is not always easy, especially if you have a pet that likes to move around, but it’s worth making the effort as the detail that can be gained and the personality that can be captured by an up close and personal photo shoot with a pet can really lift a photo to a new level. If you can’t physically get close to your pet get your camera equipped with a zoom lens. The added benefit of a long focal length is that it will help with isolating your pet in terms of depth of field (ie give you a nice blurry background so that your pet is center of attention with no distractions).
4. Get On Their LevelGet down on your pets level where you can look upon them eye to eye. Images taken by a photographer standing up and looking down on their level not only leave you too far away from your subject but they also mean the shots end up having a very ‘human perspective’. Getting down on your pets level means you enter their world and get a glimpse of what life looks like from their angle – you’ll be impressed by the results as they are more personal and have a real element of intimacy.
5. Mix Up Your FramingPets, like human subjects’ look different from different angles and framing them in a variety of ways can bring out different perspectives to your shots. In your photo shoot take some tightly cropped facial shots (even focussing right in on single features like eyes, noses, ears, whiskers etc) but also make sure you take three quarter body shots as well as full body shots. In this way you end up with a series of shots that give viewers of your photos a full perspective on who your pet is.
6. LightingLight makes any photograph what it is and when it comes to pets it’s especially important. In general I wouldn’t recommend using a flash as they tend to distract pets and in some cases will even frighten them. The other issue with flashes is that they can create spooky red-eye problems with some animals (in the same way they do with humans). Natural light is a much better option than using a flash and so where possible outside photo shoots tend to work best (or at least in a well lit window inside). The only exception I would give for using a flash is when your pet has very dark (or black) fur as it tends to absorb light and a flash can add detail. With dark fury pets you might want to slightly over expose your images for this same reason. Alternatively with white pets you run the risk of over exposing shots so try to find a location out of direct sunlight and definitely avoid a flash.
7. Include PeopleOne of the best things you can do to add context to a shot is to include the special people in the life of your pet in the image. Shots with the owner or other family members interacting with your pet can make the images incredibly special for years to come. You might like to try posed shots but sometimes it’s the candid shots of owner and pet at play (or snoozing together in front of a fire) that really capture the character of the pet and evoke emotion.
8. Freeze the ActionMany pets present a challenge to photographers because they are active and always on the move. The key with any subject that’s on the move is to freeze their action by using a fast shutter speed. Most digital cameras these days will allow you to shoot in full manual mode if you feel confident to get the mix between shutter and aperture right – alternatively you can work in shutter priority mode where you set the shutter speed and the camera automatically does the rest by picking a good aperture to work with your shutter speed. The last alternative is to use ‘sports’ mode which will mean the camera will select the fastest shutter speed possible for your situation. Once you’ve got your shutter speed nice and fast make sure your camera is always at the ready so you can anticipate the actions of your pet. If they are a fast mover you might also want to consider shooting in continuous mode (burst mode) to take a quick series of shots in a row. This can also lead to a wonderful sequence of shots that work well together.
9. Be PlayfulPets can be playful little critters and rather than attempting to contain this to get them posed for that special shot it’s often very effective to go with their playfulness and make it a central feature of your image. Include their toys, stimulate them to look longingly into your camera by holding a special treat above your head or take a picture with them sitting on top of you mid wrestle etc. Make your photo shoot a fun experience for both you and your pet and your shots are likely to reflect it.
10. Catch them UnawaresPosed shots can be fun and effective but one thing I love to do (whether it be with animals or people) is to photograph them candidly paparazzi style. I have very fond memories of stalking a friend’s dog as he played in a back yard one day. I took shots while he dug up flowers, as he buried a bone, as he fell chased a bee around and ask he sat contentedly with his head sticking out of his dog house. The whole time I photographed him he was barely aware of my presence so the shots were very natural without me distracting the dog from his ‘business’.
Update – 11. Try a Wide Angle LensOne of the techniques I’ve experimented with lately is using a wider angle lens. This allows you to get in close (point 3) but also fit in a lot of the pet. The other benefit of it is that using a wider angle lens will often give your image a little distortion that will give your image a new creative and fun perspective.
Most pet owners would quickly agree that their animals are more than just pets; they are beloved members of the family. These days, I get a multitude of clients hiring me to shoot family portraits that include their pets, and oftentimes the animals are front and center, ready for their close-up! While it may seem like a daunting task to get an animal reined in for a portrait, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are a few quick setups to consider between pets and their owners when shooting family portraits. (And don’t miss the photo gallery to see more adorable images!) Patience is key when dealing with animals. A good finger puppet also works great now and again!
1. Owners looking at their pets
I have the owner look at their pet, smiling, and the animal look at the camera. This gives a natural, candid feel, looking like the image was just snapped in the moment.
2. Down low
Shoot low and use the feet and legs of the owners as the focus of the portrait. This is a great pose for owners who don’t really want to be in the shot and helps you incorporate the environment from a different perspective.
3. People blurred behind the pets
This is a good pose for people who don’t want their photo taken but still want to be in the portrait. It also puts the focus on the pet and creates a position of importance.
4. Mirrored posing
When posing a family with pets, have everyone (pets included) in similar poses. This helps create symmetry and balance in the image.
5. Owners kissing their pets
This pose creates connection with the animal while also conveying the love and bond they share.
6. Looking in the same direction
I do this pose because it gives more of a dramatic, exaggerated feel to the image, creating the illusion that the animal is posing for the portrait as well.
7. Shooting the profile
If you shoot the subjects side on, with the owners looking directly into the pet’s eyes, the result is often an image with a light, humorous feel.
Also keep in mind…
I am often able to get the pets to look in different directions with a treat, toy or ball or squeak toy. I can also usually get them looking at the camera by making really strange noises, like barking, meowing or kissing sounds.
I usually have an assistant on set who is comfortable handling animals. They put the pet back in position, over and over, until we get the shot.
This week, in our photography resource and learning group, the challenge was to show motion in your images.
There were so many great entries. We spoke alot about shutter speed this week and how it affects motions as well. There are several articles posted here on the blog as well in the photography learning group ! Congratulations to this weeks winners !
The shutter keeps light out of the camera except during an exposure, when it opens to let light strike the image sensor. In respect to just exposure, faster shutter speeds let less strike the image sensor so the image is darker. Slower speeds let in more so it's lighter.
As the shutter speed gets slower, the image gets lighter. The reason you don't usually see this effect in your images is because when you or As the shutter speed gets slower, the image gets lighter. The reason you don't usually see this effect in your images is because when you or the camera change the shutter speed, the camera changes the aperture to keep the exposure constant.camera change the shutter speed, the camera changes the aperture to keep the exposure constant.
In addition to controlling exposure, the shutter speed is the most important control you have over how motion is captured in a photograph. The longer the shutter is open, the more a moving subject will be blurred in the picture. Also, the longer it's open the more likely you are to cause blur by moving the camera slightly. Although you normally want to avoid blur in your images there are times when you may want to use it creatively.
A fast shutter speed opens and closes the shutter so quickly a moving subject doesn't move very far during the exposure. A slow speed can allow moving objects to move sufficiently to blur their image on the image sensor
Capturing movement in images is something that many photographers only think to do when they are photographing sports or other fast moving subjects.
While there is an obvious opportunity in sports photography to emphasize the movement of participants – almost every type of photography can benefit from the emphasis of movement in a shot – even when the movement is very small, slow and/or subtle.
Tips for capturing movement:
1. Slow Down Your Shutter Speed. The reason for movement blur is simply that the amount of time that the shutter of a camera is open is long enough to allow your camera’s image sensor to ‘see’ the movement of your subject.
So the number one tip in capturing movement in an image is to select a longer shutter speed.
If your shutter speed is fast (eg 1/4000th of a second) it’s not going to see much movement (unless the the subject is moving mighty fast) while if you select a longer shutter speed (eg 5 seconds) you don’t need your subject to move very much at all before you start to see blur.
How long should your shutter speed be? – Of course the speed of your subject comes into play. A moving snail and a moving racing car will give you very different results at the same shutter speed.
The other factor that comes into play in determining shutter speed is how much light there is in the scene you are photographing. A longer shutter speed lets more light into your camera and runs the risk of blowing out or overexposing your shot. We’ll cover some ways to let less light in and give you the option to have longer shutter speeds below.
So how long should your shutter speed be to get movement blur in your shot? There is no ‘answer’ for this question as it will obviously vary a lot depending upon the speed of your subject, how much blur you want to capture and how well lit the subject is. The key is to experiment (something that a digital camera is ideal for as you can take as many shots as you like without it costing you anything).
2. Secure Your CameraThere are two ways to get a feeling of movement in your images – have your subject move or have your camera move (or both). In the majority of cases that we featured in last week’s post it was the subject that was moving.
In this type of shot you need to do everything that you can to keep your camera perfectly still or in addition to the blur from the subject you’ll find that the whole frame looks like it’s moving as a result of using a longer shutter speed. Whether it be by using a tripod or have your camera sitting on some other still object (consider a shutter release mechanism or using the self timer) you’ll want to ensure that camera is perfectly still.
3. Try Shutter Priority ModeOne of the most important settings in photographing an image which emphasizes movement is the shutter speed (as outlined above). Even small changes in shutter speed will have a big impact upon your shot – so you want to shoot in a mode that gives you full control over it.
This means either switching your camera into full Manual Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. Shutter Priority Mode is a mode that allows you to set your shutter speed and where the camera chooses other settings (like Aperture) to ensure the shot is well exposed. It’s a very handy mode to play with as it ensures you get the movement effect that you’re after but also generally well exposed shots.
The other option is to go with Manual mode if you feel more confident in getting the aperture/shutterspeed balance right.
How to Compensate for Long Shutter Speeds When there is too Much LightI mentioned above that one of the effects of using longer exposure times (slow shutter speeds) is that more light will get into your camera. Unless you compensate for this in some way this will lead to over exposed shots.
Below I’ll suggest three main methods for making this compensation (note – a forth method is simply to wait for the light to change (ie for it to get darker). This is why many shots that incorporate blur are taken at night or at dawn/dusk):
1. Small Apertures So how do you cut down the amount of light that gets into your camera to help compensate for a longer shutter speed? How about changing the size of the hole that the light comes in through. This is called adjusting your camera’s Aperture.
If you shoot in shutter priority mode the camera will do this automatically for you – but if you’re in manual mode you’ll need to decrease your Aperture in a proportional amount to the amount that you lengthen the shutter speed.
Luckily this isn’t as hard as you might think because shutter speed and aperture settings are organized in ‘stops’. As you decrease shutter speed by a ‘stop’ you double the amount of time the shutter is open (eg – from 1/250 to 1/125). The same is true with Aperture settings – as you decrease the Aperture by one stop you decrease the size of the shutter opening by 50%. This is great because an adjustment of 1 stop in one means that you just need to adjust the other by 1 stop too and you’ll still get good exposure.
2. Decrease Your ISO
Another way to compensate for the extra light that a longer shutter speed lets into your camera is to adjust the ISO setting of your camera. ISO impacts the sensitivity of your digital camera’s image sensor. A higher number will make it more sensitive to light and a lower number will make the sensor less sensitive. Choose a low number and you’ll find yourself able to choose longer shutter speeds.
3. Try a Neutral Density Filter
These filters cut down the light passing through your lens and into your camera which in turn allows you to use a slower shutter speed.
It is sort of like putting sunglasses on your camera (in fact some people actually have been known to use sunglasses when they didn’t have an ND filter handy).
For instance, if you’re shooting a landscape in a brightly lit situation but want a shutter speed of a second or more you could well end up with a very over exposed image. A ND filter can be very helpful in slowing the shutter speed down enough to still get a well balanced shot.
It is the use of ND filters that enabled some of the shots in our previous post to get a lot of motion blur while being taken in daylight.
Another type of filter that can have a similar impact is a polarizing filter. Keep in mind however that polarizers not only cut out some light but they can impact the look of your image in other ways (ie cut out reflection and even change the color of a sky – this may or may not be the look you’re after).
Two More Technique to Try
Another technique to experiment if you’re wanting to capture images with motion blur is to experiment with Slow Sync Flash. This combines longer shutter speeds with the use of a flash so that elements in the shot are frozen still while others are blurry. Read more about Slow Sync Flash. Another technique worth trying out is panning – moving your camera along with a moving subject so that they come out nicely in focus but the background blurs.
The two winners of this weeks photography challenge black and white in our photography learning group are:
Lorretta Matthews Clarke & Bayley Nichelle Shock
Congratulations ! You will be featured on our blog, business page and you win free snow overlays !
Are you a photographer? Would you like to participate in our weekly challenges, win photography resources and be involved in continuing education for your career?
Join us :https://www.facebook.com/groups/FarmTruckEducation/
The reason posing can create problems is because inexperienced clients will look to you for direction. If your client is waiting for you to tell her what to do and you freeze up or don’t have any decent ideas you will struggle to create good photos. It’s up to you to take charge and tell the model how to pose. The key is preparation – you need a set of poses you can suggest to the model. With small children I photograph them in their natural environment, with natural behaviors. I do not force smiles, nor do I pose them heavily. Who are we kidding, a 3 year old will stay in a pose for maybe 2 seconds. The best captures I have ever shot of toddlers is chasing after them, making it a game and photographing them doing what they love. Look for those little opportunities when they stop, snap, ask them to look at you, snap...
Before the shoot
Here are some points to think about before the shoot:
What kind of shoot is it? The posing requirements for a family portrait are very different than a fashion shoot. You can think about posing once you’ve decided what type of photo you are going to create.
Look for inspiration online. Chances are you have a few favorite photographers you follow on websites like Flickr and 500px. You will find some good poses in their portfolios. Download your favorites to your smartphone (or use Pinterest to create an inspiration board) Then you have something you can show to your model. Don’t try and commit the poses to memory – you will forget them under pressure. Printing little pose cards for your back pocket also work really well. Just tear each one off as you go !
Match the pose to your model. This is important. You’ll see some wonderful poses in fashion magazines. But many of them need a professional model to carry them off. Your model may not be able to do that, especially if she has a different body type than the people in the magazine.
During the shootNo matter how experienced or inexperienced your model is, here are some tips to help you find the perfect pose during the shoot:
Build rapport. This is essential. If your model likes you and sees what you are trying to achieve she will work harder. If you talk to her about things she likes you will see more life in her eyes and get better expressions, including natural smiles. She will be more relaxed. If your model is tense, you are going to struggle to get natural looking portraits. Take the pressure off her and bring it back on yourself. Assure her that if the photos don’t work out that it’s your fault, not hers. Build her confidence.
Look for natural expression. As you talk to your model you will notice natural expressions and mannerisms that you can use. Don’t be afraid to say “hold that pose” or “do what you did just now again”.
Adapt poses. When you suggest a pose, treat it as a starting point, then adapt it to suit your model. If she looks unnatural in a certain pose, then adapt it so it suits her body and the clothes she’s wearing. With any session, regardless if it is a family, toddler or individual, have a starting point and go from there. Adapt, and rely on a posing app on your phone or small pose cards in your back pocket. Pose cards are a saving grace with clients that have never been photographed before. You can show them the card to let them know what you are looking for. Often times the visual helps tremendously.
Simplify. Keep everything as simple as possible. That applies to composition and the clothes and jewelry worn by your model. If she has too much jewelry on, ask her to remove some. It will improve the composition. If you’re struggling to find a good full-length pose, move in closer and shoot from the waist up, or do a head and shoulders portrait. The background will go more out of focus, and there will be less of the model in the photo.
Pay attention to detail. Especially hands, hands are a pet peeve of mine. Hands should never be flat to the camera and never in a fist. Every part of the body that can bend, should bend. Look at photos where the model’s hands look elegant or are otherwise well posed, and ask your model to do the same. Check her hair to make sure stray strands aren’t blowing across her face or eyes. Look at her clothes to make sure they aren’t wrinkled or creased in a strange way.
Find something for your model to lean on. This makes it much easier to find a natural looking pose.
Use props. If the model has something to hold or otherwise interact with, it gives her something to do. If she is having fun you’re more likely to get a great expression.
At the end of the day, go into your sessions feeling confident. Take pose cards and use them. It will take the pressure off you to remember them while you are there shooting. I still bring mine to this day and I follow the flow of those cards pretty closely. Plan your shoot ahead of time and think about what your vision is for the session ! If you feel like you have failed during a session sit and write down why you were not happy with a session. Use it as a learning experience for next time and nail it !