Tag Archives: photography tips

Five on Friday – A Photography Exercise to Improve Your Pictures

Today’s Five on Friday is a five step photography exercise to help improve your photos!  This is a fun exercise to do if you’re stuck in a photography rut as it really forces you to see things differently.  You’ll need at least a half an hour for this, but don’t be surprised if it turns into much longer than that!  The only equipment you’ll need is a camera and a subject to photograph.  It doesn’t even have to be a fancy SLR, a point and shoot or even your phone will do!  The point of this exercise is to make you see one subject in a variety of ways, and in the process learn to train your eye.

Without further adu, 5 tips to improve your photography today:

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Grab your camera and scout out your location.  My location is fairly humdrum- I was out running one day when I passed by the marquee for my local middle school.  Planted in front of the sign was a small crop of tulips that had just bloomed.  After my run (and a shower!), I grabbed my camera and headed back over to my location.  The photos below were all shot with a Nikon D7000 and my Tamron AF 60mm f/2.0 lens. (*Both of those links are affiliate links that will bring you to Amazon. I get a small compensation if you purchase anything through my links).

Fairly plain and boring right?  Read on to find out how to turn this into something magical!

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1- Get down low and be aware of your background.  For these flowers, standing above them and photographing them from 5 feet above them isn’t going to create a visually appealing photo.  For this first picture, I got down on their level and moved myself around so that the American Flag was in the background.  Be aware of what is in your background.  If it is distracting, move around or move in closer/zoom in to eliminate it.  If there’s something interesting, move around yet again to include it.

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2. Look for leading lines.  Leading lines (in this case, the flower stems) draw the eye into the photograph.  In this photo, the stems draw your eyes upward to the bright red flower.  Look around in your location for something that could be considered leading lines and photograph it with your subject at the end of those lines.  You’ll be amazed at how abstract your photos can turn out!

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3. Get close and personal.  If you have a macro lens (or a macro feature on your point and shoot), use it and see how close you can get to your subject.  In this case, I moved in close to the stamen of the tulip.

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4.  Don’t have concrete feet.  I always remember a college professor who told us (in an education class) that as a teacher, we shouldn’t have concrete feet- as in, don’t act as if your feet are planted in one location, make sure you move around.  In this case, I laid down on the ground to shoot these flowers from down low.  So many photograph flowers from above, but look how interesting the lighting is when I got down low.  It makes these flowers appear as if they were on fire!

I once read that a photographer pretended that their subject had a clock drawn around it, and then proceeded to photograph it from every “hour” angle. They positioned their camera at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and so on.  By photographing 12 different angles, you might find a different perspective you would have not other noticed.

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5.  Turn around.  Yup– do a 180 and turn around. You’ve been focused on one subject this whole time, turn your body around and find something else behind you to photograph.  I turned around and on the other side of the sidewalk was this puffy dandelion.  I know they’re a weed, one that many wish they didn’t have in their yard, but I find them whimsical and oh so fluffy.

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So there you have it- 5 tips, and a half an hour (or more) and look at how far your photos have already come.  You’ve gone from a boring scene and turned it into a work of art.  Remember to take your time and have fun!  If you try out this exercise, I’d love to see your before/afters! Link up to them in the comments above.

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Five on Friday: Tips For Using A Lensbaby Lens

My first installment of Five on Friday is going to focus on photography (like all that /f/ alliteration?). Today I’m bringing you five tips for using a Lensbaby Lens. I bought my first Lensbaby lens a few months ago, and have fallen in love with it’s ‘back to basics’ mentality. For those who don’t know what a Lensbaby is, it is a series of lenses that have selective focus. The lenses are flexible, and you bend and twist them until you get one spot of focus (which they have dubbed the “sweet spot”) surrounded by creamy blur. They are fun to use (and have definitely taken off with the return of the vintage and toy camera look that photographers are looking to achieve in their photographs!), but they have a definite learning curve. As I’ve gotten to know my Lensbaby Composer, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that I’d like to share with others who are just getting started.
{One quick piece of background before I get started with the tips– the Lensbaby is a completely manual lens. You manually set your camera settings and you manually focus the lens.}

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1. In most of the Lensbaby lenses, you can change the aperture. I have the Composer, and like many of their models, it comes with a series of interchangeable aperture plates that you stick right to the front of the lens. When you put the Lensbaby on your camera, the camera will read f/0. You set the aperture by picking a plate, and using the magnetic wand to attach it to the front of the lens. No matter what plate you put on, the camera will still read f/0. My first tip is this– do not pick the largest aperture you have right off the bat! You may be tempted to put that f/2 plate on there so you can get lots of blur, but as a beginner who is just getting used to the bending of the lens, finding the focus will be extremely difficult! I recommend sticking with an f/5.6 or smaller, as their focus spots will be much larger.  In the picture below, I used f/5.6– at first, I had f/2 on, but I couldn’t get the whole yellow ribbon in focus, so I switched to a different aperture.  This first tip is a biggie– I wish someone had told me this tip up front because it would have saved me from countless frustrating hours trying to find the focus!

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2. Now that you’ve practiced finding your focal point, you can begin experimenting with the different apertures. For this second step (and tip) I recommend practicing by photographing stationary objects. Following around your pets or kids might not be the way to go. When you have to manually focus and they’re constantly moving, it might get difficult! I started out by shooting lots and lots of flowers and other objects in nature.

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3. Tip three involves the light meter in your camera. Since you have to manually set the shutter speed, I use my light meter to help me pick my speed. For some reason though, my Lensbaby pictures come out dark, so I intentionally overexpose by 2 or 3 stops in order to get a properly exposed image. Your miles may vary though, so be sure to check your playback and/or histogram.  The first shot below is what it looks like when my light meter is telling me the shot is perfectly lit, and the one below that is overexposed a bit.

 

 

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4. Now you’ve mastered the finding the focal point, focusing and getting your exposure correctly… it’s time to move on to the fun stuff! Tip number 4 is to use that sweet spot of focus to draw your eye into the focal point. In this case (photo below), I placed my subject (my cat- who was sitting on the piano bench) at the very lowest point of the frame, and used the blur to draw your eye down the image from top to bottom. Normally, when using the standard ‘rule of thirds’ my subject wouldn’t be this close to the edge of the frame, but because of the blur the Lensbaby creates, it helps draw your eye downward.

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5. The last tip is to use the Lensbaby to help clear up an otherwise cluttered or distracting background. In the picture below of my fiancé and myself, we were closer to the trees in the background than it looks, and even using my largest aperture lens (a 60mm f/2 macro) I still couldn’t get the trees to blur enough, and they were proving to be too distracting in the photograph, so I switched to my Lensbaby and successfully turned those trees into wonderful bokeh.

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Do you have a Lensbaby? What have you photographed with it? Have any other tips to share? I’d love to read them and see any links to pictures you’ve taken with your Lensbaby! Leave me a message in the comments!

Stay tuned, because I have an upcoming post about how to make custom shaped bokeh using your Lensbaby Lens!

Ready to purchase your own Lensbaby?  Amazon* always has it for a great price!

*Please note that this is an affiliate link and I receive a small compensation if you purchase this item through my link.

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