Friday, June 27, 2014

On Hiatus

Hello all,

The blog will be on hiatus until July 11.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Shades of Gray: B&W Flower Photography

With the abundance of cheap/free photo-filtering software that's available now, black and white and sepia toned photography have experienced a popularity surge. But what makes a good black and white photograph? This week's episode of TwoFeetPhoto will be all about how to take great pictures of flowers - in black and white.

Black and White Flower Photography Basics

So what are some of the elements that go into a great black and white photograph? In this post, I talk about the three main elements that make up a good photograph: subject, lighting, and composition. It's no different for black and white photography, but, as ever, there are a few extra considerations.

1. Texture

Particularly with a subject like flowers, we are drawn promptly to color. Well, that's too bad, because this post is about black and white photography.

One of the keys to producing high-quality black and white photographs is to choose a subject with lots of texture. As one element is removed from the image (color), the others (texture, composition) become more prominent. Use this to your advantage, showcasing different aspects of your subject. Photographs of roses like this one, for example, are often odes to their deep red color. However, a black and white image allows the viewer to appreciate the delicacy of each petal, the unique way they fold together to form the whole flower. These details are often overlooked in color photography.

2. Contrast

I know I titled this post, "Shades of Gray," but that doesn't mean your photograph should be a big, gray blob. When shooting in black and white, you have to think about the tones in the image, and not simply the colors. Colors of the same tone will appear the same shade of gray once converted, leading to a boring, washed-out image.

Picking scenes that have more contrast will provide for stronger photographs. They will naturally have the variation of tones needed to create an interesting black and white image.

3. Lighting

Okay, so if you've been reading my blog, you should know by now that you always need to be paying attention to your lighting. However, it becomes even more important in black and white photography. Why? Like I've said above, black and white images remove a natural focal point from a scene - color. 

Stripped of color, your subject can appear drab and boring (so pick a high tonal contrast scene!). You'll want to ensure that your lighting enhances and does not detract from your subject. This could mean several things - as mentioned in #1, texture is an important element in black and white photography. So the harsh light you would normally want to avoid may become your friend. Harsh side lighting emphasizes texture differences in subjects. So, experiment with your lighting, like usual.

4. Simplify

Like we've been talking about, black and white photography obviously cannot rely on color to make an impact. This creates a separate problem, though -- that is, how does one separate the subject from the background? Normally color is a great clue, but that doesn't apply here. You don't want your subject to blend into the background because they are the same tone. So, a scene with tonal contrast is important (sensing a trend here?).

But it's also important to simply the image. This allows the subject to have a greater impact, making up for some of the oomph it might be lacking from its colorless appearance. Additionally, having a simple background lets the subject stand apart more strongly. You can see how the black background (converted in photoshop) in the above image lends the bloom even more power.

So, what do you think? Do you ever convert images to black and white, or are you a color-lover? Let me know in the comments.
Check back next Friday for the next installment of...TwoFeetPhoto. Please remember to share, follow, and subscribe via the fancy sidebar options! Here is my tumblr and here I am on bloglovin.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Small Considerations, Creative Photography Tips, and More Wheelbug Photos

Creative Photography Tips

Surprise surprise, I'm back again! This week I'll be talking a bit more about achieving creative insect photographs.
So if you don't like bugs, look away. Because I do. (If you missed it, this article also talks about improving the artistic elements of your photography.)
Wheelbug nymph, late instar

1. See Eye to Eye
Like I've talked about previously in my article, "How to take Great Pet Photographs with a Smart Phone," perspective is important in photography. Particularly when photographing subjects that are shorter than you, it's important to bend down and shoot at eye level. The last time I checked, most insects are shorter than even me, so getting your knees dirty is important here. 
The subject's eye, in clear focus, in a photograph allows the viewer to make "eye contact," and thus feel more connected to or invested in the photograph. If you don't believe me, try it. Do a google search for animal photography. Are you more attracted to photos in which you can clearly see the animal's eyes, or not?

Wheel Bug, late instar nymph
2. Know your diagonals

This is a trick I often see portrait photographers use. To make a static shot more dynamic, tilt your camera and shoot at an angle. The strong diagonal line of the wooden railing in this shot adds drama and movement to a photo that is, quite frankly, otherwise quite boring. The new angle forces the viewer's brain to reevaluate the subject and examine it more closely, resulting in a viewer who is much more engaged with your work.
Also notice here the eye contact the insect is making with the viewer.

Yup, more wheel bugs

3. Patience is a virtue

Particularly in nature photography, some of the most striking images come from simply waiting until something fantastic happens. I followed several of these nymphs along wooden railings through a forested area of a local park. Finally, this scene happened. If you've ever watched a wheel bug, you know that they have quite interesting behaviors. When threatened, they rear up on their hind legs and splay their front two legs out. These two guys (girls?) ran into one another and got startled.
I used the flash in this photo because I realized that I needed a fast shutter speed to freeze the action of the two insects in the setting of the dim woods. As a downside, you can see the "flattening" effect the flash has on subjects - which is why I don't normally use it.

So, what do you think? Will you try any of these tips?

If you enjoyed this post, you can find me here on Tumblr or follow me here on Bloglovin'. In addition, you can utilize the snazzy sidebar items to subscribe via email or RSS feed. Check back every Friday for a new article!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pluses and Minuses: Exposure Compensation (Advanced Photography Part 1)

Advanced Photography Part 1: Exposure Compensation

So, you've read all of my Photography Basics series, but want more? Well, I'm here to help. This week's topic will be exposure compensation.

What is exposure compensation?
Exposure compensation is a feature you should find on most "pro-sumer" and advanced digital and film cameras. It allows you to make manual adjustments to the exposure time, separate from the aperture and shutter speed adjustments.

The button usually looks something like this:

Exposure compensation will allow you to either add or subtract time from an exposure. Usually, the increments are -0.3, -0.7, -1, 0, +0.3, +.07, +1, etc. The negative values shorten the exposure time (decrease light, increase shutter speed), while the positive values will lengthen the exposure time (more light, slower shutter). Make sense?

Okay, so when would I want to use exposure compensation?

Advanced digital cameras have complicated computers inside of them that calculate the exposure for us, eliminating the need for manual calculations for each shot. However, sometimes these computers make errors - and exposure compensation can be used to correct them. It also can be used to achieve different artistic effects in images.

White or Black Subjects

Many automatic exposure calculators have difficulty with white or black subjects, such as these egret chicks. All-white subjects, particularly against darker backgrounds, are often overexposed by automatic readings. This means you may end up with a completely white subject - not desirable. In this situation, you will want to decrease the total exposure - reducing the light and allowing detail to be rendered properly in your subject. You can use exposure compensation to do this. You will probably want to take several shots - a few with no compensation, a few with -0.3, some with -0.7, etc, depending on how bright it is. This is called bracketing your exposure, and some cameras can even be set to do it automatically. 

Sloth Bears

For very dark or black subjects, the opposite tends to be true. In-camera exposure calculators will tend to underexpose the image, resulting in an entirely black subject. Increase your exposure (positive exposure compensation) to avoid this problem.


Backlit Subjects

Backlit subjects suffer from being a relatively dark object in a relatively bright field. The exposure meter will be fooled by this, recognizing the overwhelmingly bright scene instead of your intended subject. This can produce a very underexposed subject. To remedy this, try bracketing your exposure upwards - ie, positive exposure compensation. Alternatively, if you want to silhouette your subject against a brilliant background (perhaps a sunset?), bracketing down (negative exposure compensation) will help you.

Strongly Illuminated Subjects

Subjects with very bright lighting may also benefit from bracketing down of your exposure. Taking multiple shots with different exposure settings is the key to achieving the perfect exposure in difficult lighting.

So, have you ever used the exposure compensation setting on your camera? Do you use automatic bracketing? Let me know!

Did you see last week's post on why you should always bring your camera?

Want to see more tips? Check back every Friday for a new post. Click here to follow me on Tumblr and here to follow me on Bloglovin! Don't forget you can also use the nifty sidebar to subscribe via email or RSS feed