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Tips for Creative Digital Photography and Lighting
1. Remember, portraits are usually in the vertical orientation, so do not forget to rotate the camera out of the landscape or horizontal mode. Try both orientations since sometimes horizontal may work best! Break rules only after you understand them. Leave some negative space.
2. A great portrait does not always need the face - add mystery. Less may be more!
3. Props or the environment are often an important part of the portrait. This includes clothing. Be aware of everything!
4. Look for a plain or simple background. Avoid distracting the eye with a busy background or an over-bright sky. You may need to move your subject. Sometimes standing a bit further away and zooming in to throw the background out of focus will be needed for a background to be less distracting and make your subject stand out easily.
5. Be aware of various skin tones and preset your White Balance to a neutral target (custom white balance (WB) with a white or grey WB card or by shooting a color checker WB card to correct later.
I always say you need to know the rules before you break them! But when you do, here are some exceptions:
1. Taking pictures in the Golden Hour around sunrise and sunset. Requires more stamina and early to wake and late to dinner, but the light is gorgeous and an accepted rule for professional nature photographers. Mid day is a challenge but the shadows create magical contrast and quiet more intimate scenes. There are lots of ways to counter the harsh light, but that is for another blog posting. This is also a great time to shoot with an infrared converted camera. Always have your camera at hand, any time of day.2. Rule of Thirds. This is a good start but not the only guideline for composition. It is essential however to not place the horizon line in mid image. That is a snapshot, not a photograph. Avoid fly by shooting, where thought is not required. Slow down. Move and reposition. These Orca whales divide the scene but the dramatic back lighting and reflections overcome that restraint. These tomatoes are another example.
3. Trust your TTL (Through the Lens) camera metering. Metering is set to put mid gray in the middle of the tonal range. Therefore, if your image is mainly white, this will be metered as mid gray. Thus, the resultant image will be midtoned and the snow, grey and not white. For a largely white scene such as a snow scape or fog scene, when shooting in aperture priority, add +1 or more exposure comp.
4. All photos should have a bell shaped histogram and thus average. Wrong. Every image should have its own shaped histogram depending on the tones in the image. A purely black and white zebra, will only have tones at both ends of the scales. An image with dark to mid tones, like this cabbage and pepper abstract, will have a left shifted curve. There is NO NORMAL.
5. Always shoot with the sun to your back. Most of the above images prove that wrong and boring. Nothing is as magical as back light and as revealing of texture as side light. Move and explore the potential of light.
During the winter, when days are short and weather unpleasant, still life photography or painting is a great project. Key elements to consider are:
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