Imagine that you could have any image on your background and could change it instantly for a totally different look…well you can and it’s really simple! Using a projector and a newly released ‘background kit’ the creative world is your oyster regardless of smartphone, tablet or camera.
Slide projectors hold a world of creative possibilities to project images into your picture and they are available on Ebay for £20 upwards. The issue has always been: who has a selection of cool slides perfectly crafted for creative photography…well the solution was launched this week.
Creative backdrop and effects kits are now available from Spiffy Gear from as little as $17 USD.
They also launched a more elegant and portable solution than an old projector for strobists (that’s people with flash guns also know as strobes or speedlights these days) called the Light Blaster.
Whichever solution you go with, the possibilities really are endless…I’ve ordered mine!
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Dramatic photographs don’t depend on what equipment you have, but your ability to think.
Opportunities for great shots are everywhere and in this article I’ll show you a few fool proof places to look and get you thinking what is possible instead of just accepting what is in front of you.
To make this applicable to a wider audience, I’ll pack my DSLR away and only shoot on my iPhone 5 and use a single app: Camera Boost.
The magic happens when you observe something pleasing and instead of just snapping, take a moment to think…how can I make this look amazing? What would [insert name of your favorite photographer] do?
At this point I’ll assume you’ve read my 10 free lessons and remembered to get close, change your perspective and followed my rules on composition, etc.
Personally, I like to take pictures that look better than what is in front of me, to bend reality to my whim and to get what I consider to be the best shot.
This comes from knowing what is possible and I’ve learnt this by seeing lots of amazing photographs and by trial and error, but a quick cheat is to learn with what I call live filtering.
Now, we’ve all added filters to pictures afterwards, but that’s soooo last season darling!
Apps such as Camera Boost for iOS allow you to load Live filters (which it calls presets) which immediately change the live view before you take the picture.
By spending some time playing with these in different situations you’ll soon learn what works for your particular tastes. All the pictures in this article were shot in this way, but if you normally shoot on a DSLR it will still help you learn about what effects work best and you can apply them in post processing.
Strong sun light in the form of sunny spells can provide great drama when combined with black and white or even Lith filters.
Experiment with filters, you are looking for anything which simplifies and enhances the element with caught your eye.
By ignoring what you’ve been told about having the sun behind you and shooting directly into the sun you can create some great images. This works with both colour and black and white filters.
By positioning yourself in front of the sun and experimenting with either the cameras angle in relation to the sun or by obscuring the sun with your subject you’ll start to see and control ‘Lens Flair’. This adds atmosphere and endless creative possibility.
Rain on glass:
Miserable dark rainy weather can leave you feeling flat and wanting to stay at home, but even these conditions are ripe for moody and artistic shots.
On a rainy day, cars provide the perfect combination of protection and portable wet glass windows to shoot through. The wet glass obscures details and effectively adds a physical alternative to depth of field. From countryside to urban to portraits, there is a world of possibilities waiting for you.
If you own or do buy camera boost, then checkout this article and the amazing vintage filters you can download.
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If you want studio quality portraits on a budget or just want to take you flash / strobist photography to the next level, I’ll show you a cheap (under £44) and simple setup which packs a punch every time and you can take anywhere.
What you will need:
I’m assuming you have some of this kit already, but here’s the list with a few budget bits that I used for this shot:
1) A DSLR or compact camera with a flash hot shoe.
2) Any simple flashgun,
I used a cheap Yongnuo YN-460* from EBay costing £29.99
3) A sync cable £1.89 from eBay or,
I used a Yongnuo RF602* wireless flash trigger from EBay cost £18.
4) An white shoot through umbrella with bracket from EBay cost £9.99 upwards, I used one of these.
5) Someone to hold your umbrella or,
I used a cheap eBay light stand (Konig branded) £17.99
6) A homemade tin foil reflector costing £2.00 (see video) or,
30” silver reflector on eBay from £5.99 (I used a LastoLite one at £17.85)
So, total cost £44 on a tight budget or for all the kit including flashgun, wireless triggers, umbrella, lighting stand an amazing £82!
* These items are great starter gear and I even use them commercially for simple tasks. Nobody knows, as I put black electrical tape over the branding on all my kit anyway.
How to use them – Clam shell lighting made easy:
The flashgun will throw out soft light from above the model and the reflector will bounce it back up and act like a second light.
This gives your pictures a sophisticated studio look with the minimal of effort, cost and fuss.
Setup so you model will be 3 feet from a white (ish) wall.
If you have a zoom set it to 70 – 100 mm, the lens will dictate where your camera will be positioned and working on a table makes this setup much easier as you will need to shoot in-between the umbrella and the reflector as above.
Setup your umbrella directly above the camera pointing down at your model at around 45 degrees.
I set mine as high as it would go and it rubbed the ceiling.
(If you’re using wireless triggers, one goes on the flash and the other on the camera.)
Your reflector will need to be at 45 degrees, but play with this for the desired effect.
You can use assistant or get the model to hold it or I find a table works well (unless they have boxing gloves on of course)
Turn on your Flashlights to manual and ¼ power, position your model and shoot.
I shoot with a zoom set to 70mm in aperture priority at f5.6 or below, with auto white balance and auto Iso…simple really.
If your camera is selecting a shutter speed less than 1/100th of a second, then turn up the power on the flash gun or you may get blurred pictures.If you enjoyed this and other articles….subscribe below or like Lightism on Facebook to keep up to date.
If you want inspiration or just want to the amazing possibilities of what camera phones can do these days, then you should checkout the winner’s gallery of the 6th International iPhone Photography Awards announced this week…errm, I suppose I should mention that includes two of my images….* blushes *
The iPhone Photography Awards celebrate some of the best phone photography from around the world and the possibilities of this relevantly new, but rapidly developing pocket technology has to be seen to be believed.
In a few weeks, I’ll be writing a tutorial on how this shot which received an Honorable Mention in the Landscape category was taken:
So, without further ado here is the 2013 Winner’s Gallery:
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In this article I’ll show you technology release this week which will improve the quality your photos, sort thought them, selecting the best ones, make animated pictures from any multiple shots you have and securely backs up all of your photos from you phone
…at no cost, all while you sleep!
Sounds like the stuff of science fiction I know, but this week Google announced and launched amazing advances in imaging technology embedded into it’s social network Google+
Let me show you how to utilise this to make your photos much better at no cost and minimal effort, even if you don’t plan to use their social network (which is actually really good and well worth a look)
Here’s their very short promo video to show you what it can do
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What you need to do:
1) Create a google+ account which is very quick especially if you have a googlemail account already at https://plus.google.com/photos
2) Download the google+ app to you iOS or Android device.
3) Start the app, login and enable auto backup of your photos (you get 15 GB of space)
4) Sit back and wait!
What will Happen:
Photos you take from now on will be processed and after a while will appear in the app much like the video above.
Older photos will take a while to appear, this could be because I have thousands of photos on my iPhone 5, but a day or so later the app told me it had made me a sweet little animated picture of a cub scout lighting a fire from a sequence I’d long forgotten, whilst other pictures are just automatically enhanced.
So, here’s the trick: how to download or share the photo without using google+ after it’s done all the hard work and made you look like a brilliant photographer:
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If you shoot from a traditional camera, you can simply upload you photos to Google+ and still get the same benefits!
By understanding how the brain works when it first sees an image, you can produce more engaging pictures regardless of which phone, tablet or camera you use.
As you look at a picture for the first time, you’re eyes dart around the image like a psychology-powered scanner, all the while the brain is interpreting the information and building up an understanding of the information contained in the picture…or reading the picture if you will.
It happens in a fraction of a second, without you even realizing it, but by understanding what the brain does you’ll start to get an insight as to why some images are striking and most just don’t leap out.
Contain the eye:
Firstly, your eye is drawn to the brightest or most colorful part of the picture, then the eye starts to wander around to see what else there is to see.
So by controlling the light on your subject, which sometimes can be as simple as moving them a little, you can make them the focus of the picture.
Another trick is to keep corners dark or free of important details, it keeps our eyes from wandering off the edges.
Control the mood:
If you read English you usually start at the top left, and work our way to the bottom right.
At the very least, we read an image from left to right.
This makes the left of the picture the past and the right is the future, so, if your subject is looking or facing left it has a retrospective feel and right is more optimistic. Sounds crazy, but it’s true and you can use this to set the tone of the picture.
Questions in the shadow:
Finally our eyes look into the dark areas, though this only happens if you’re still curious enough to see what is in the shadows; if the composition is weak you might have moved onto another picture before the eyes get a chance.
Artists and painters discovered that the inclusion of an s-shape or even a backward “S” is aesthetically pleasing and helps keep the viewers attention for longer (the Venus de Milo is the proud owner of an S-shaped body according to art critics).
Here is an article on this very subject:
If God was a photographer – Advanced composition
Everyone is unique and we each see the world though our own special lens so to speak, but have a look at the three images below and try to become conscious of where your eye starts, where it goes. Can you see any S or reverse S shapes, are there more than one?
Taking it Further:
If you want to start to develop you eye further, you’ll love these articles:
A great way to develop both your photography and your eye is to start entering photographic competitions and as they range from a great snap of your cat though to prestigious awards, there’s something for everyone.
So, to take a good photograph, you need to know what good looks like….competitions provide a great source of amazing images and better still, the chance to get involved and win stuff!
PS. There are many competitions for smart phone, tablet and compact camera users, so don’t let not having a fancy camera put you off for a second.
Inspiration & Stimulation:
Whatever your genre, or style, there is a photo competition out there for you and they are often free to enter.
They provide a wonderful opportunity to see what is possible and popular in your chosen niche.
Even if you don’t enter, they still provide a FREE source of inspiration which is bang on trend.
The very best source is the recently renamed PhotoContestInsider where there are currently 243 open contests just waiting for you. You can subscribe to a free weekly update of use their search facility to find suitable ones.
Once you find a competition, check out each of the previous year’s winners – try to see how the genre’s style has developed over the years and where it’s heading.
Shooting with a Purpose:
Getting involved with a competition will give you a purpose to get out there and shoot.
Having a purpose or assignment is a great stimulus for getting creative and getting more use out of your camera.
Some competitions have a brief which is a simple set of rules defining what they are looking for, a bit like if you were shooting commercially for a client. This does make it easier for you to hit the mark.
Take a wider look:
Why not take a look at the winners from other genres and ask yourself these questions:
1) Why does the picture work?
2) What elements can I apply to my own photos?
3) What ideas can I ‘borrow’ from this genre to set me apart from the entries in my own genre?
Taking it Further:
If you want to start to develop you eye further, you may like these articles:
To celebrate the release of the blockbuster movie The Great Gatsby, we take a look at the Vintage Hollywood Glamour genre and show how you can shoot it at home with a few simple household objects including a mirror, gaffer tape and a flashlight.
Inspiration – Glamour of the Gods:
To get a FREE flavor and the back story of Hollywood, here’s a short video review of the recent exhibition “Glamour of the Gods” which toured London, Europe and the US.
It showcased Hollywood portraiture from the industry’s golden age, the period from 1920 to 1960. All the photographs are drawn from the extraordinary archive of the John Kobal Foundation in London.
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If that leaves you wanting more, then the Glamour of the Gods is available for Ipad at the app store for £4.99. It contains over 230 images and really is an amazing reference for the genre.
I’ll show you how to get two very different looks with two lighting setups using just a single light and a few neat tricks.
To make this relevant to as many people as possible, I’ve shot both pictures in the same small domestic room with a sofa and using simple low cost household objects, instead of studio equipment.
After that, we’ll take a look at post processing made easy to push the look further.
What you’ll need:
1 x 60 watt daylight balance bulb
1 x Desk or a Lead Lamp
1 x Hand Mirror
1 x Role of Black Gaffer Tape
1 x LED Flash Light
1 x Step Ladder (optional)
Look 1 – Soft Vintage Glamour:
This is a pretty, slightly dreamy look with additional light in the eyes to draw your attention and darkened corners to keep your eye from wandering out of the picture.Top Tip: I really like the plain background, but a popular trick in Hollywood is to shine a light on the background through a bamboo pot plant, this gives the background a different dimension.
This look is achieved using a single daylight balanced bulb in any sort of desk or lead lamp which throws the light in a single direction.
This is placed to camera right at a similar height to the models head; I used a step ladder to support it.
The step ladder allows you to vary the height in small stages like a lighting stand, but it’s free!
The light is pointing mainly at the background, but the very edge (which is where interesting light lives) is skimming her to provide dimension to her body.
The camera is mounted on a tripod, or you could rest it on a chair with a few books under it if you don’t have one. It’s in aperture priority at f5.6 (30th second) at 70 mm and using manual focus.
I’m using the self timer to free up my hands for my next trick…
The light in her eyes is coming from a hand mirror; it’s reflecting back the light from the lamp.
I’m stood holding it to the camera left…clever huh?
Look 2: Dramatic Vintage Glamour
This second look uses same setup with only a minor adjustment of the lamps position, the introduction of a dark background and a flashlight to light her face.
The important thing to do in this shot is to use spot metering to get the correct exposure on her face and under expose the rest of the picture. In my case it was 2 stops darker than the evaluative metering suggested.
Here is a very simple video to teach you this very very simple principle…it will make a HUGE difference to your photography.
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For the background I used a piece of black velvet which I hung over the step ladder and taped to the wall. This background was positioned at an angle to the model; this was to shield the background from most of the lamp light.
The under exposure with the spot metering took care of the rest and made the background pure black.
I’m stood in the same location as before, but this time with a fairly bright LED flashlight with a new style CREE led which doesn’t have much color cast.
The shot is setup with the models eyes closed and she opens them wide as the self timer triggers to minimize the time looking at the flashlight.
Top Tip: If your flashlight is stupidly bright, you can soften it by placing white material or even tissue in front of it.
Post Processing – Adobe Light Room:
I’ve been working on a forthcoming project with a very talented software, app and light room specialist and together we’ve created a simple 5 stage light room preset which will transform your images in just a few simple clicks.
Each stage has a couple of options; this gives you the ability to really control the look whilst it’s still as simple as child’s play.
The Hollywood Vintage Glamour Presets will retail for £9.99,
but for a limited time are available for only £1.99 (link below)
[cleeng_content id=”799083722″ description=”Download our Hollywood Vintage Glamour Light Room presets for only £1.99 for a limited time only” price=”1.99″ t=”article” referral=”0.1″]Thank you so much for supporting Lightism by purchasing our presets.
You will need download, unzip and install the presets into Adobe Light room, this is really simple to do:
1) Download and unzip the files.
2) Start Light Room and click on the develop module in the window drop down.
3) Make sure an image is selected from your catalog
4) Scroll down the left section until the section reads “User Presets”
5) Select “New Folder”, Call it ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour’.
6) Find the new folder, right click on it, and then import, and you get the presets in a nice tidy folder
In the preset menu, these presets have been abbreviated to ‘HVG’ (Hollywood Vintage Glamour)
Here is the zip file:
Enjoy and if you have any issues or problems, please email me directly at support@Lightism.co.uk
Thanks again for your support,
If you’ve ever wanted to own an iconic Leica camera, but couldn’t afford to, here’s how to get the some of the best bits for a few dollars. Learn the Leica look, think differently about composition, retro pimp your iPhone and learn how to get the Leica look in your smart phones and cameras photos.
If that wasn’t enough, this article contains 2 x Leica style iPhone preset filters and several FREE Adobe Lightroom presets, as well as a generous helping of the expertise you’ve come to expect from Lightism.
My Affair with Leica:
A couple of years back I was working on a Sony project with a chap who had shunned the usual Canon and Nikon’s hardware and had a Leica. I thought he was mad, but then I saw his images and my affair with Leica began. Leica cameras produce pictures with a wonderful aesthetic due to the amazing no compromise quality of their lens and the way the rangefinder forces you to rethink composition.
I went digital and forked out £6,800 for a used Leica M9 and a single lens! No zoom, no auto focus…what a culture shock! Still, first picture I took with it (below) was one of two of my photos which made last year’s Sony World Photography Awards.
Get inspired and learn the look:
Leica manage a wonderful curated gallery containing Leica users best photos called ‘LFI Master Shots Gallery’, its available FREE on the web or Apple devices. The gallery is a wonderful recourse to get inspired, view great pictures (including a few of mine) and learn to recognize that Leica look.
I think the M8 and M9 galleries are my favorites and I like that strong graphical and street photography look in high contrast black and white.
If you’re looking for other sources of amazing images, I recommend two (non-Leica) ones in a popular article called:How to train your eye to take better pictures.
Learn to see like a Leica:
If you’ve never used a range finder camera before, let me explain the BIG difference:
what you see in the through the camera is a wider view of the world than the picture you can take.
The actual picture area is marked by lines within that wider view. This is because, unlike with a traditional camera, you never look through the lens. You focus and compose through a window on the top right, just like on a disposable camera.
Initially this sounds a bit mad and certainly takes a bit of getting used to. However, the wider view gives you the opportunity to see more of the world and makes you think differently about composition. So, unlike you normal camera you’d also use this type of camera with both eyes open.
That’s were Viewfinder Classic for iPhone comes in ($1.99), it has been designed to capture the decisive moment. The screen of the iPhone turns into that immense, bright viewfinder, that lets photographers focus on the act of capturing light and the essence of a picture.
There is no viewfinder blackout, no distractions, just the full picture, full screen, across the whole viewfinder, except on iPhone 5 where it uses most of the screen in this version.
When you first start it’s almost too simple, but that is the point.
The central square is that point at which the app reads the exposure and focus, the trick is to pop that over the subject and press the pass button to lock it. Then and only the do you re-compose your picture, whilst observing the wider scene that is visible.
The longer white lines around the frame show equivalent to a 50mm lens and if you pinch the screen, the lines move to 35mm which is wide angle. It does take a bit of getting used to and if you love simplicity, this will really deliver.
I was recently asked to beta test the new version and it takes this great product further into the rangefinder experience. The new version can be used in auto exposure or you can use the side dial to manually control the exposure.
Make your iPhone look like a Leica:
For me Leica’s aren’t just wonderful cameras, but are beautiful to look at. They encompass iconic design, nostalgia and heritage. If you like the classic rangefinder camera look then you can pimp your iPhone with Gizmon. It’s not just a case, but has a shutter button, an optical viewfinder and above all looks cool.
Get the Leica look: Learn to shoot high contrast B+W:
The best time to shoot high contrast is when the sun is out, but not directly overhead.
I prefer to shoot contre-jour (French for against the light) so the camera is pointing directly toward a source of light like below.
In these sort of conditions, you’re camera or device won’t be able to cope with the difference between the brightest (the high lights) and the darkest parts (the low lights) of the pictures.
Generally, what will happen is you will lose (blow out) details in one or the other, giving you silhouettes in the dark parts or white areas in the bright parts.
Usually this is a nightmare, but this is exactly what we want to exploit to create high contrast strong images!
Learn how to become the master of your camera or device:
The trick is to tell the device or camera what is important in the frame so it can set the exposure accordingly; this is called spot metering and is super easy on many camera phone and tablet apps.
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With all of these methods, you’re looking for that sweet spot, the one you’ll find just before the point of way too much! Experimentation is the key.
The poor man’s Leica:
For Apple devices I love Hueless, its amazing! And the developers tell me it’s dubbed the poor man’s Leica at £1.49.
My favourite feature will help you with the above; it’s a simple exposure slider… it’s wonderfully simple app and has the ability to slide the brightness (exposure) up and down so you can instantly see the results.
Again, I was invited to beta test this app and it just got way better by producing images in a higher quality tiff format.
Leica style filters for iPhone:
An amazingly powerful, well thought out iPhone camera app is Camera Boost and for £1.99 it’s a steal.
What I like about this is the ability to create and share image presets, these act like a traditional camera filter and you can see the effect live before you take your picture.
If you own an iPhone and are a regular here at Lightism, consider it an investment as we will be bringing you more filters for this app in future articles.
Spot metering is a breeze and you simply tap the screen on or around the part of the image which is important to you and again, you can instantly see the results, much like the video above.
So, the developer and I have created three exclusive Leica style filters to help you start taking strong stylish pictures.
There is one color and two black and white preset filters and all the pictures in this section are shot with them to give you a feel. Remember you can see the results live as you take the picture, not like many apps and instagram where effects are applied afterwards.
We are offering all three Leica style preset filters for download and immediate use once you have the Camera Boost app installed for only £0.99 from the link below. They are a great starting point, but feel free to modify them in Camera Boost to suit your own tastes.
[cleeng_content id=”571143521″ price=”0.99″ description=”Buy all 3 Leica style preset filters for immediate use with the Camera Boost app for just £0.99″ referral=”0.1″]
All you need to do is tap on the link from your iPhone with Camera Boost installed and they will appear on the alphabetic preset menu under L. In the app, you simply tap on the [PR] at the top of the screen, scroll down and tap on the filter to select it. You then flick the menu upwards to make it retract and shoot away! Don’t forget to tap on the part of the screen that is important to you to set the exposure as demonstrated in the previous video.
Install straight to iPhone:
Create your own high contrast lighting:
Another way to intensify the contrast of your photos is create high-contrast lighting. One technique is to shoot your subject in a dark room with a bright light source shining through a window. The sun works a treat, it’s best to start with the curtains closed and slowly open them bit by bit. The object is to light part of your subject with bright light and let the rest fall into shadow; this dramatic contrast is what you are looking for.
Even just a room light with a single window will provide enough contrast, even on a overcast dull day. The picture above was shot in those conditions using Camera Boost on an iPhone 5 and with our exclusive Leica preset filter.
FREE Leica style Lightroom presets:
Like-a-look offers a range of Lightroom presets available for purchase, but in there Flickr group kindly offered several FREE black & white Leica style preset for you to download and try.
In this article you will learn how to shoot amazing images of moving objects, use perspectives, tell a story, freeze action and create blur regardless of which smart phone, tablet, Gopro or Camera you use. I’ve chosen cycling as a theme, but the same rules can be applied to all moving objects, from a race car to a child playing in the park.
Dealing with a moving subject need not just mean capturing it whoosh by; there’s a lot more about motion which you can capture just making the right connections in your mind, and then apply to any moving subject.
With cycling (and most moving objects), there are two main perspectives. The first is the traditional spectator, the second is a point-of-view ‘participant’s view’.
Do you want your viewer to be a spectator or to feel like an active participant? What do you want to tell your viewer about; is it a product, a lifestyle, a race or the thrill of riding?
Take a moment to stand back and think about it and a whole new world of possibilities exists. Once you’ve decided on the story your shot will tell, only then think of ways to capture that standpoint, and be creative.
These days cameras and camera phones are small and light; I always ask myself where could I put a camera that I haven’t tried before? I’ve even been known to mount my phone to a kite to get a different perspective (though experience teaches that a very good protective case is needed).
Vary your angles:
Don’t always shoot from standing; if you vary your position you will achieve much more professional looking photos. Think about getting very low down to the ground, or using a ladder (or a tree) and shooting down. Use your environment; if the route goes through a city try and find a building or bridge to get up really high.
Vary your perspectives:
Continuing with the cycling example, if you were trying to photograph a race or event see if there is any opportunities to
wander around to get close ups of bikes, and riders.
Try to position yourself on the inside of a bend, it’s the classic spot for great cycling pictures, as the cyclist wants to go the shortest route round the bend, so they will come much nearer.
Top Tip: Why not see if you can become a marshal or get involved to gain access to positions you wouldn’t normally have access to?
Generally, try to check out a few different perspectives and don’t be afraid to experiment!
The same applies if you’re in control of the situation, for our bike shoot we visited a town, countryside, shot from a low angle, panned passing bikes, visited a cafe, shot abstracts, shot details and a lot of hanging out of the back of a moving car on a private road.
Using all these different perspectives gives an excellent overview of a situation and helps the photographer tell an interesting story.
Think of any good movie where someone drives a car at night.
Every few seconds you’ll get a different perspective: the camera starts inside the car from the rear, cuts to driver in side profile, cuts to rear view mirror, cuts to driver from outside the car, cuts to driver passing by, cuts to car from the rear, etc, etc.
Next time you watch a movie or TV count the perspectives in each scene, and be inspired by them.
BLUR v FROZEN:
Controlling blur means understanding shutter speed. The easiest way to is to imagine your camera is your eye, and your eyelid is closed until you press the shutter…
This article has an additional 60% of valuable expert content which you can purchase for a micro payment to help support Lightism on the link below:
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…It opens, for an instant, and closes again.Watch the road out of the window and open and close your eyes as fast as you can; if your eyelids were shutters these “photos” of the traffic would be frozen in action—the image would be sharp. The second time, open your eyes five times longer and you’ll see the cars moving (unless you live in LA)—this image would be blurred.
The amount of time that the shutter (your eye) was open is called the shutter speed. It’s measured in fractions of a second. If your camera has an ‘S’ or sports mode, it will select the highest speed it can: given the amount of light you have available.
The second half of that last sentence is a really fundamentally important point about photography, by the way—all cameras need a certain amount of light to take a picture. The faster the shutter speed, the less light gets into your camera. So, for a camera to be able to use a fast shutter speed and therefore freeze action, you need to take pictures on a bright day, with lighting or with flash.
Some devices or apps let you set the shutter speed and some don’t. For the purposes of this next exercise, it doesn’t matter too much, but it’s always useful to know what’s going on.
For those with devices where you can set the shutter speed, here’s a couple of ground rules: even with a stabilized lens you can only really hold your camera still at speeds above 60th of a second, and to freeze action you’ll need to be roughly higher than 500th of a second depending on the speed of the action.
Cameras often want to set speeds like 30th sec or perhaps even slower, so keep an eye on the settings.
For me, cycling is about the sensation of movement, freedom, speed, etc. and to convey that I do like some blur.
These next few images are shot on a camera phone with a lomo app to give them a toy camera / Instagram feel. I’m cycling and holding the camera phone at the same time (not very clever I know), but what is interesting is that on an autumn morning in the woods (in low light) you don’t need to travel very fast to get this kind of feeling on motion. The app doesn’t allow you to set the shutter speed, so all I can do cycle faster or slower and experiment.
Try it in bright sunshine and you’ll need to travel much faster for the same effect, so to control the amount of blur with a simple device you simply need to experiment with the brightness of the day verses the speed of the motion.
An exciting option is to mount a smartphone to the bike (a quick internet search will show you how to do that for free), then with a time lapse app such as Time Lapse for IOS or Lapse It for Android you can take high speed images without even touching the device. When the ride’s over you’ll have plenty to pick from.
Scale up the idea of using motion and you can mount the camera to a motorbike, skateboard, car, kite — whatever you use the same rules apply…just use your imagination.
CREATING BLUR FROM A STATIC POSITION:
To create blur and give a sense of motion from a static position you have a few options:
Panning is a simple technique where you move your camera or device, effectively tracking the track the passing object in a smooth sweep whilst pressing the shutter. The aim is for the object and the camera to stay in a fixed position with each other and that causes the background to blur out and exaggerate the sense of speed. The horse below was shot with the standard iPhone 5 camera app.
My son adores pictures of him on his bike where I exaggerate the speed by panning faster, again it works really well in wood or other low light situations. If you experiment with moving the camera whilst pressing the shutter, you can get some really create and fun shots. For those of you with the ability to control your shutter speed, 1/60th of a second and below is your playground. Below is my sons favorite “epic” shot, I moved the phone forward with a slight twist to the left as I pressed the shutter which also helps guide you eye down the path.
The second option is to fake blur after the photo (post production) with an app like After Focus for Android or AfterFocus on IOS. Below you’ll see a static shot I took on my smartphone and how you can use an app to add different types of blur, the second example is more effective and is called a motion blur.GETTING CREATIVE:
As with any subject, there are so many creative ways to capture it, these are only limited by your own imagination.
Here are a few suggestions for you to experiment with:
Reflections are a great way to capture things, be it in puddle below or reflections in glass, here’s an article called 6 Creative ways to exploit reflections for better images on that very subject
Playing with shadows provides a world of opportunities.
This was shot whilst cycling one handed a little faster than walking pace with the pool of light coming from behind me.
I love pools of light and again they provide great opportunities (see above) and in the shot below. I saw the light while cycling past, went back and just played with lighting sections of the bike, but you could light anything in this way.
Most of all think, experiment take lots of pictures and have fun!