Soften Flash Shots

Cover your pop-up flash with a tissue for softer looking portraits.

This was one of the 101 Tips I offered at Toronto’s PodCamp 2015 in my photography workshop.PB180162

If you’re shooting with a point-and-shoot camera or most DSLRs (the big cameras) on automatic, the camera’s flash unit will popup and fire if there’s not enough light to produce a property exposed image.

The problem with this automatic pop-up flash mode is often the camera gets the exposure wrong and the pop-up flash just overexposes the photo (which is often a portrait thus washing out the face producing a pretty ugly image).

One of the easiest ways to modify your pop-up flash is to drape a layer of translucent tissue paper over the flash head. Add extra layers as necessary to reduce the amount of light hitting your subject. (BTW the photo above was taken at Jennifer Rozenbaum’s Boudoir Workshop which is returning to Toronto April 25. Check the Henry’s website for details. Highly recommended.)

If you’re in a room with a ceiling at normal high above you and if the ceiling is painted white or a light cream colour you can hold a blank piece of paper at an angle in front of the flash forcing the light to bounce up to the ceiling where it will bounce back down again gently illuminating your subject.

Experiment with modifying the light from your popup flash for much softer and lovelier images.

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Shoot Closer

This is the number one way to shoot photos just like the pros and to get radically better images.

Almost every amateur photographer I see shoots from too far back from their subjects.

Here’s what happens:

  • Your subject doesn’t dominate the image
  • It or they don’t fill the frame
  • There’s more chance for distracting stuff in the background to compete for your viewer’s attention
  • You can’t direct your subjects as easily when you’re too far back
  • At weddings and outdoor events more aggressive photographers can get in front of you

Now as to how close you should be I’d recommend getting within touching distance.  Then step back one step and shoot another shot.

You’re going to be amazed at how much better your images look just by getting in closer

 

PodCamp Photo Tips – Post Online

At PodCamp Toronto (morning campers) 2015 I did a 45-minute workshop on how to get better images with your camera (including IPhone and other smart phone cameras) and I promised to add commentary here for each tip.P2170027

This morning it’s about posting your images online. (That’s a shot from PodCamp.)

Posting your images online isn’t much different than how we used to shoot a roll of film and a week later get back the developed prints from our local drug store.

By posting your images you’re sharing your joy of photography with your friends and everybody else (depending on how you set your privacy settings) on Facebook or on your blog or on your own online gallery.i-wVRscDq-X2

The photo gallery site Flickr offers one terabyte (which is huge) of free space for you to post your photos. I’ve setup Flickr sites for myself and for my Toastmaster Club and Amateur Radio Club.

I’ve also got a professional SmugMug site for clients that costs about $60 a year.

One of the advantages of uploading your images to an online site is you can get the images off your smart phone or tablet with its limited storage capacity and they remain available to you from anywhere there’s WiFi.

One of the disadvantages is if the online site goes out of business there’s a real good chance your images will disappear. (Burn a DVD of your collected images to keep them safe or add them to your home computer or an external hard drive (I’ve got two under the computer desk.)

There are tons of other photo sharing sites like 500PX (Caution re: Adult Content) and special interest groups. Have fun and share your art!

PodCamp Toronto Review

I might call it PodCamp Toronto – light.

Why light?

Well some years I guess there were over 1,000 attendees and the Roger’s Centre at Ryerson University’s three floors of workshops were packed and the hallways were always crowded.P2170027

This year, not so much.

Not that is necessarily a bad thing.

In my workshop Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos we had 50 or more participants and I don’t think anybody walked out. The campers were enthusiastic and we whipped through the major of the 101 tips (but I wished I had spent more time on getting images out of the camera and safely in hard drive storage but I’ll do that here in a later post. Stay tuned).

P2170013I want to thank all my friends (In Photo: Donna Papacosta of Trafalgar Communications, Bill Smith, (centre) president of the Oakville Camera Club and surprising and delighting me no end my first managing director at my first real job as a photographer at my first real newspaper Regis Yaworski. (Photo right)

Thank you all for being so supportive. It meant a great deal to me and i was very moved.2ae28fc

The rest of PodCamp Toronto 2015 was very good as well but we could have used more campers. To get more campers I’d offer that the Ryerson students consider advertising PodCamp Toronto a lot more in mainstream media during the 30 days running up to the event. And as much I do know it’s 2015 not all of us have smart phones and it would have been nice if the seminar schedule had been actually posted on paper somewhere.

Where were all the public relations executives? I saw a couple of the regulars but there was a decided lack of guys in expensive suit jackets trying to appear hip and failing abysmally in comparison to some 19-year-old with big hair, blue jeans and something cool they just threw on.

I had to laugh that in the seminar on media relations education, the students were still complaining about how irrelevant and out-of-date was the Canadian Public Relations Society. Kids, we were voicing the exact same complaints back in the mid 1970s! The future of public relations is hidden somewhere else (podcasting?) so get out there and make it happen. Listen to Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The information you need is there!

We also ran out of free coffee after lunch and that’s not much of complaint as there were gallons of Tim Horton’s coffee but it’s a thought. One year a cookie company provided unlimited cookies and I almost went into cookie-induced blood sugar shock! This year we had crunchy bars but they all had milk chocolate and I’m lactose intolerant so I couldn’t get my sugar fix. Likely a very good thing.

Finally, I’d recommend to the organizers that you really want to pick your presenters and notify them of your decision with a lot more notice than three days out. It takes time to put together a professional presentation and no time at all if your presenters just show up and talk off the top of their heads. The problem is most presenters can’t do an impromptu talk that actually entertains and informs.P2170023

One neat thing I saw was one of PodCamp Toronto’s sponsor’s new audio interface. Yamaha (who have always had a good name when it comes to audio, guitars, even motorcycles) were demoing their new AG series high-resolution (24bit/192kHz) standalone mixer/USB audio interface.

I’m not podcasting (yet) but I do quite a bit with audio to accompany my private client’s slideshows and this looks like a super solution to getting good audio from mics and musical instruments into your audio and video productions.

At what I believe is $99 for the AG03 with three analog inputs and $199 for a really lovely six analog unit, Yamaha looks like it has a winning unit for podcasters, musicians and any project where you need to get your audio online.

YAMAHA+AG+06-5If I can get my hands on the AG06 I do a review of the unit. 🙂

Right now I’m using my Zoom recorder with its XLR (These are three pin mic pro-level microphone connectors) inputs and I’m outgrowing it. Time for a mixer interface and the Yamaha one looks ideal.

Back to PodCamp I found most of the other seminars I attended ranged from not-very-good (No relevant content. Why this talk and why this audience not addressed.) to transcendent (Anthony Marco and Bob Goethe — Bob is a fellow Amateur Radio op out of Quebec who stopped me in the hall to say Hi. We met through blog posts!) as Anthony and Bob did the unexpected.

Their session was called “The Session at PodCamp That’s About Podcasting”. The title was ironic and Anthony said they were expecting a handful of friends to show up but instead the room was packed and Anthony and Bob took us to podcasting church with an invocation to future podcasters to forget about being good – let alone perfect – to forget about what mic – to forget everything but the love of podcasting.

I Tweeted one of their quotes which went something close to “podcasting is listening to people you like, talking about shit they love.”

I can’t make PodCamp today (starts at 11am) as I’m working on a workshop on Lightroom I’m giving at the Oakville Camera Club on Monday night but if you’ve in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood there’s still plenty of great sessions on the schedule.

PodCamp Toronto – The 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos

Hello PodCamp Toronto participants and welcome to Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos workshop which took place on Saturday, February 21 at Ryerson University.

Here as promised is the entire list of my tips. (See below.)

Over the next few weeks I’ll expand on one or more tip in every post. What this means is inside of a few weeks I’ll present you with an entirely free Photography 101 course suitable for photographers using IPhones and other smart phones, point-and-shoot cameras right on up to the top-of-the-line digital single sense reflex (DSLR) pro cameras.

Why do I do this? I love photography and have been shooting for over 50 years and shooting pro for just about all that time. Photography has been very good to me and I love teaching it to students at all levels. My workshops (see below) are non-technical, plain English explanations of how your camera works and how you can be a much better photographer regardless of your camera.

Let’s start with shoot more – shoot everyday. If you want to master your camera and improve your photography techniques this is the easiest and fast way to do it. It doesn’t matter what you shoot but it does matter that you create a goal.

Perhaps you’re shooting for yourself (maybe it’s photos of the new baby) or maybe you’re shooting for your personal or professional website or blog. Adding photos to these sites or to your Facebook or Twitter pages on a daily basis will help radically increase your traffic flow.

If you’re really stuck for what to shoot, set yourself up a simple project. With spring around the corner (It’s -10 degrees C as I type this.) how about shooting flowers at Canada Blooms, March 13-22 at the Direct Energy Centre.

Here’s a tip: You can bring in a monopod but not a tripod. Shooting flowers at the show is great fun. Arrive early in the day and you’ll miss the crowds. I’ve gone a couple of times now and came back with great photos. BTW (another tip) pack your own lunch as food can be costly at these shows.

Finally (and here’s the pitch…you had to know there was a pitch 🙂

I teach photography classes to individuals and groups and I have been doing these classes for years. My three-hour workshops are $300 (inclusive) for individual one-on-one sessions or the same price for small groups up to 10 people (making this a $30/student deal) anywhere in the GTA.

You arrange for the space (can be a coffee shop if we can get a private corner) or somebody’s home or apartment and find some friends and I’ll teach you how to use your cameras and become much better photographers. i do a basic point-and-shoot (including IPhone and Smart Phones) course as well as a DSLR Basic and Advanced course. I offer advanced classes in flash, HDR and black and white street photography which includes a walk-around shooting session. I can get you started using photo editors as I can teach most of them but I do specialize in Lightroom. I also do a very popular class on Shooting Better Vacation Shots that ends up as a slide show or album of your best images.

If you’re interested email me at peter@peterwest.ca for more information.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos

Peter West Photography

http://www.peterwest.ca
peter@peterwest.ca

Shooting Tips:

Shoot more – shoot everyday – set yourself a goal
Post your images online
Post your edited images if you want to look like a good photographer
Post only your very best images if you want to look like a great photographer
Shoot closer – get even closer
Look for the garbage can in the background of every shot
Use simple uncomplicated backgrounds (brick walls)
Take 2 or 3 frames when shooting portraits to avoid closed eyes
Stop shooting everything at your eye level
Shoot kids and animals at their level
Use a cheap LED flashlight or movie light for effects
Cover your pop-up flash with a tissue for softer looking portraits
Use a mini or Gorilla tripod to shoot night shots
Use the camera’s self-timer at night
Use “scene” modes to shoot speciality shots (fireworks, flowers, etc.)
Turn off vibration reduction when using a tripod
Don’t amputate limbs
Focus on eyes in portraits
Keep your horizons straight
For “golden” light shoot the one hour of sun rise and sun set
Shoot in bad weather (rain, fog, snow) for amazing effects
Cover your camera with a plastic bag for foul weather shooting
Use a lens hood to reduce flare
Use a reflector (white shirt, pop-up reflector) to add light
Shoot couples close and groups even closer
What To Buy (and not buy)

A soft eye-glasses cleaning cloth
Buy a second battery for point-and-shoots (P&S) and bigger cameras
There’s two ways to buy a tripod – expensive and really expensive
External flash or better two external flashes for pro results
Softbox (preferred) or umbrella (cheap) to diffuse flash
Extra memory card(s) of moderate speed ($30 or so)
A fast second lens for DSLR (50mm f/1.8 = $150 or so) for low light and portrait work
Consider a macro lens – remember you’ll only buy one
Buy camera that takes different lenses if you’re serious about photography
A second body is necessary if you want to shoot weddings and get paid
BTW the wedding photographer’s lens 70-210mm = $2500!
Get a camera bag bigger than what you need right now
Consider buying a printer ($100 to $1000)
A neutral density filter is a must for waterfalls and gritty daylight flash shots
A polarizer filter for shooting sparkling water and to darken skies
Reflectors ($25) instead of flash or as a second light source
The vacation zoom lens – 18-270 Tameron ($350) cuts down on the weight
Use foam core in white and black to build a cheap home studio
Comfortable camera strap is a must and cheap
Small monopod (instead of a tripod) for stability ($50-$75)
Advanced Shooting Tips:

Read your manual 😦
Go online and Google tips for your type of camera
Read photo magazines at the library
Take a course with me 🙂
Take a free online course (www.creativelive.com)
Scan Flickr, Pinterest, www.500PX for ideas
Visit art and photo galleries for more ideas
Give yourself a big assignment or project to do
Shoot with friends or create a shooting group
Shoot special events (Gay Pride, Toronto Zombie Walk)
Don’t shoot protests without long, long telephoto lenses
If unsure of what’s happening, take the high ground (Dan Rather)
Learn to find the light
Learn the rule of thirds and when and how to break them
Learn near – far juxtaposition of objects in frame
Learn Rembrandt lighting
For portraits/boudoir use window light for warm effect
Shoot into the light for special high key lighting effect
Beyond “scene modes” learn manual, aperture, shutter and P modes
Practice on your cat 🙂 or a vase of flowers until you get it
DSLR black and white – shoot in colour and desaturate in software
Bracket your exposures when especially shooting landscapes
Learn to use your camera’s histogram
On vacation always carry a pocketable (smart phone is fine) camera
Turn off your camera’s beep sounds
Bounce your flash to get even flattering light indoors
At parties/weddings shoot photojournalism and pose couples/groups
Shooting stuff for EBay etc. use a light tent (DIY or $100)
Learn to shoot in HDR (high dynamic range) for exciting images
If you’re publishing as a pro, always get a model release

After The Shooting

Get your images out of your camera into your computer
Edit your images in software (see list on my site)
Mac or PC computer with 8 gigs of RAM edits fine
Purchase an online SmugMug Gallery ($70/year) or free Flickr gallery
Buy an external one-terabyte hard drive (wired or wireless)
Use ICloud or DropBox storage
Print or make an album of your best (vacation for example) images
Use them as Christmas presents
Format your memory cards only after uploading images to computer
Accidental deletions (not formatting) can be fixed
Store your edited images in two places and maybe burn a DVD
Put your images in photo and digital frames
Use your images as computer backgrounds
Join an enthusiasts’s online group and share your images

Advanced Editing

Shoot in JPG format for fun and RAW format for perfection
Use a light meter
Learn Ansel Adam’s Zone System
Use a PassPort Checker to create a custom profile for your DSLR
Use an ExpoDisc to get a perfect white balance
Edit in Lightroom or Photoshop or free Picasa or IPhoto
Use external editors like NIK or Exposure 7 software
Calibrate your monitor if you’re printing ($150 gizmo)
Use VSCO for I-Phone and other smart phone editing
Use Camera Noir to shoot amazing I-Photo black and white images
Consider shooting film!
Join a camera club

Saturday 3pm Ryerson U

Yup my session Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos will be part of PodCamp Toronto 2015 at 3pm on Saturday, Feb. 21 and I’m looking forward to seeing you there.PB180162

PodCamp Toronto is a FREE unconference that’s devoted to all things social media, marketing and communications.

Held annually at Ryerson University the two-day event is well attended and despite the unconference moniker features amazing presenters talking about cutting edge topics.

The Law of Two Feet applies and if you’ve never seen this law in effect you’re in for a treat.

Speakers who offer something of value pack their rooms. Speakers who don’t have anything worthwhile to say can watch as their audience members respectfully and quietly just leave the room. As a professional speaker, this can be a truly humbling experience.Gay Pride-1-312

Knowing about the Law, my session on photography will feature my normal “NO TECHNICAL TALK – PLAIN LANGUAGE” explanation of how to get radically better images regardless of what camera you own.

SO DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU TO PODCAMP.