Shake, Rattle and Roll

With the lovely auto-immune issues I seem to be saddled with, I seem to quite often be victim to my hands shaking like aspen leaves in a high wind. It happens most often when I've worked beyond my limits, and am reaching exhaustion.  As you can figure, shaking hands and photography do not mix. So what can you do to help with the problem if you also fight a bit of palsy? There's always using tripods and remote triggers, of course. Modern cameras also have a 'vibration reduction' feature, which is some help. There are a few other things you can do, too. I have to admit, though, that the lighter the camera, the fuzzier the picture. It seems almost impossible for me to get a completely sharp shot on my cellphone, for instance. They usually turn out somewhat 'artistic'. 😉 You can try leaning on things. Keep your elbows close to your body instead holding your camera waaaay out at the end of your arms swinging in mid-air. Yeah, I know, those LCD viewfinders make that tough. Rather than inhaling and holding your breath, exhale slowly while clicking. I also use a multishot setting when I take pictures, quite often. In other words, the camera takes more than one picture while I have the shutter depressed. Sometimes the second is sharper than the first. You might just catch everyone's eyes open, too. 🙂 If you have a choice, make sure that your shutterspeed is faster than the length of your lens, at the very least, and faster than 1/125 a second or more so that the fast shutter speed can make up for your wobble and bobble. So those are a few ways that you can sharpen up your photos, rather than being doomed to fuzzy 'art' shots. Along that line, let me show off one of my newest lines at Zazzle. It's sporting a head of curly hair with fun pink highlights, and says 'I'm not gray, I'm Chrome!' in honor of all of us who are joining the Gray Hair Revolution, and owning our status as Natural Queens! So if you want to shout to the world that you earned every one of those lovely chrome strands, check out my store! 🙂 Find the Chrome Hair Travel Mug Here. It's Customizable! Have a great day, and don't forget to encourage someone along the way! Cheryl  

The Horizon Matters

The cutest picture ever (to Corgi Geek fans, anyway) is making the rounds of the internet. I traced it back to the Geeks are Sexy website, but if anyone knows the photographer, holler and I'll slap up the appropriate attribution. I would have attributed this to a common every day FRAP (frantic random act of play) but they are carrying weapons, signifying something more dire. This claims to be a LARP, or live action role play, or perhaps a reenactment of one of the Welsh wars.... we hope. The Welsh may be finally ready to take back Wales and conquer the Western World while they're at it. All those loving Corgis may just be the first vanguard ... or this could be simply another skirmish in the Stubbies -v- Tails debate. 😉 Ok, so whether or not the Corgi army is battling for freedom is not really the point, you're wondering what this has to do with photography! This picture demonstrates something that I see a lot of times when we're in a hurry to take a picture, or only really paying attention to our subject matter or foreground, and that's the apparent tipping of the entire planet slightly to the left. In this case, if you straightened and cropped the picture in post you might cut something important out of the picture because it's pretty tightly framed, so it's better left alone. If you do have plenty of room around your subject this is something that can be fixed, you can level and then crop pictures in every photo editing software I know of, which means it's a really common problem, it's not just that you personally are a numskull. 🙂 I've done it a lot of times. We usually have one hand that is stronger than the other, so if you hold the camera with two hands it will often be tipped a little. Or the weight balance of the camera is a little off, and you just have to train your hand to feel how to properly hold it to make it level so that when you are in a hurry the motion is natural. Some cameras have a visual grid in the viewfinder that makes this easier to do, others don't. If there is the potential of it being a really cool picture, take several shots at varying distances so that you'll get something you can edit into what you wanted, then trash what didn't work out. And if you have to make excuses for your shot, it didn't work out. Toss it. Fix it, or Forget it. Do better next time. So now you'll get all picky about horizons, right? Ok, so now you have to learn the difference between a receding shore line or river bank. Sometimes they'll still just look sort of wrong to me. Here's a good example. So try to keep your horizon level as best you can, except when it's not. 😉 Now go do something fun, and don't forget to take pictures! Cheryl

Sexy, Grumpy, Feminine, or Masculine?

So I belong to a photography group on Facebook, and a lot of boudoir shots are posted there. Basically mostly nekkid ladies. Being a woman, I look at faces, rather than just the interplay of light and shadow on curves, so to speak. 😉 If any of you are going to do boudoir... please learn to pay attention to facial expressions. Yeah. That's that thing that happens *above* the shoulders. So many young ladies are trying for sexy and just end up looking grumpy. Or constipated. Or just plain uncomfortable. Soft lighting is not enough, you have to make your model comfortable, and really know how to read expressions, or you'll end up with a model that looks like you just offered her a dead mouse on a plate and she's trying to stay polite. If you are not going to take the time to be aware of what your model is feeling or portraying, stick to landscapes. It's very worth your while as a photographer to spend time learning body language as well as flattering posing. Weight on the leg closest to you means that hip is going to look huge, as we have discussed before. Crossed arms is a closed off-putting pose, for the most part, especially on a female. Shoulders square to the camera is masculine, but also somewhat confrontational. Your model may have an inviting smile, but the crossed arms subliminally say 'Not Open For Business.' If you were to turn her a little diagonal to the camera and have her bend her elbow, placing her hand on her hip, perhaps, it would be an open position, inviting. A whole different impression, one that most people couldn't put a finger on, but someone who does portraiture should know this stuff. A dropped shoulder toward the camera is feminine, so if you have a man that wants to look masculine, you better not pose him with a dropped shoulder or head flung back and his leg bent at the knee like he's being kissed a la 1940s movie style. And yes, I've seen it done in an engagement shoot. And for heavens sake when you take pictures of people don't have them sitting in a chair with the camera pointing straight at them and their legs apart. Just not good. It's called the toilet seat pose. Just a couple of thoughts.

One more thing…

In yesterday's post I talked about what white balance to use for moon shots. (The moon in the sky, not someone's backside!) I didn't say anything about adding some perspective. A lot of times people will take a picture of the moon or some other large thing... but it just doesn't look so cool. You get the 'well, you had to be there, it was thiiiis big' explanation while looking at a really unimpressive photo. One thing that will help that problem is learning how to crop a photo to cut out the distractions. Big important thing. Many, if not most, pictures could be improved greatly with some cropping. The quickest and easiest thing to do is to provide some sort of context or perspective in the photo to show the size of whatever you're photographing as compared to something that's familiar to everyone to show scale. Think like a crime scene photographer. Lay down a dollar bill if it's a small thing, for instance. When you're talking an enormous old growth tree, put your kids in front of it with their arms outstretched. We've all seen the famous pictures of the California Redwoods that look like just big trees until you notice the liiiiiitle guy standing at the foot of those gnarly roots wearing the red wool shirt. That's perspective. It's also more interesting to us as people when there's a person or animal in a shot. That's why we like beautiful lake pictures with a canoe and a fisherman. It's easier to imagine ourselves enjoying the scene, putting ourselves into the picture. In my photo yesterday, I chose to photograph the moon through the tree branches in order to show it's relative size and nearness, which I believe was much more effective than a clear shot into the middle of the sky, with nothing else to show perspective. It's also a less boring composition. Oh. Round thing. Ok. As opposed to the negative space fingers of the branches reaching into the positive light of the moon. It's more interesting, see what I'm saying? If you can show the size relationship of your subject, letting the photo give the explanation, you'll have really made a big step forward in your work. Have fun! Keep shooting.

Better Profile Shots

Profile shots are when we're taking someone's picture from the side. I threw off a couple of shots of my son to illustrate a point to improve your profile shots. Ok, in this first one besides the huge light-ball shining off of his nose which we just won't talk about, 😉
The eye focused straight forward.
notice his eyes are pointed straight forward, focused tightly in on the television. Watching music videos, no doubt. So you have this sideways view of kind of a glassy eye-lens, and it's just not really attractive. How do you avoid this? Easy. Ask your victim, um, subject to move his eyes very slightly towards you. Usually it's easiest to just pick something to look at, and tell them to look there rather than trying to explain that they need to choose a point 45 degrees off center from where they are presently gazing. 'Look at the speaker' is much easier. 🙂
Nice easy fix, and no icky big white blob this time!
Notice how much more pleasant this looks? That's the key to better pictures. Small stuff counts. Along with his eyes he turned his face just a little toward me, I focused in a little tighter, and made sure that the background was entirely the glass of the door facing out into the snow, so that he didn't have the glowing ball of the door handle coming out of his nose again. He does have a line under his nose from the screen door, and if I wanted to I could remove that, but it's not excessively distracting for the point of this picture. I shot this on the 'shade' setting, then converted to black and white in Elements by using the Adjustment Layers setting, and desaturating. It was shot at 200mm, f8, ISO 1600 at 1/6 second, handheld, ambient light. I haven't sharpened it, either, which I usually do by using an unsharp mask. Hope you've found this helpful. Have fun, keep shooting! 🙂