Things to consider before going out looking for great landscapes

After choosing the destination you want to travel, one good tip is to gather all the information you can about the locations and landscapes near the place you’ll visit. It’s good to have a good idea of the customs, sites to see, price and exchange food and accommodation, etc. Consult guidebooks, you will find lots of information and great tips. Almost all Cities and States have an official tour guide on the web.

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How to take great pictures in your backyard

You can take a variety of different photos and photo projects in your backyard, depending on what you are photographing, patio landscaping is not the most exiting option but is something you can do right now without leaving your house. With a camera and a good imagination, you have a number of different options to take pictures in your backyard.

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Great places to photograph exotic birds

Wild bird photography can be quite challenging. There are many articles on the Internet that cover everything from how to setup the camera to how to take the perfect shot when the birds are flying, they share a lot of details but they don’t have much information for an amateur bird photographer. After many experiences photographing birds, I decided to write this guide and include the best recommendations and places to take beautiful pictures.

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Producing Professional Website Images For Landscaping and Building Exterior Cleaning Industry

A few weeks back a good friend asked me to help him with some images for his website in the landscaping and pressure washing niche. I obliged, as any good friend would. In this post I’d like to tell you what I learned about taking pictures of pressure washers in action and give you some tips how to photograph different surfaces like concrete and vinyl. Basically as part of the business he has created a buying guide how to choose which pressure washer people should get based on their needs. And he wanted to get some unique photographs of the machines in action to put in the guide.

Techniques For Action Shots

If you’ve visited this website before you would know I am mostly into shots of scenery like mountains and rivers. It is a much different skill taking shots of people and machines that are 10 feet in front of you. The first thing I did was schedule the shoot for 11am. This made sure that we had lots sunlight to get the images we needed. Sunlight is important because we wouldn’t be using any lights as this was a very low budget production. So on the day he brought out the Generac pressure washer with adjustable pressure and he wanted me to take a variety of photos of him pressure washing different surfaces around the home – driveway, patio, fence and house siding.

For the driveway pictures I took aim at the action of pressure washing instead of him. This is a technique I learned from photography school. You should always focus on the action instead of the person performing the action for website pictures. So I got about 100 different pictures over the 1 hour he was pressure washing the surfaces. Now that the surfaces were partially cleaned he wanted me to take shots of the surfaces to show before/after style shots on a page on his site.

How To Take Pictures of Concrete, Wood and Vinyl Siding

To take pictures of these surfaces is no different than taking a picture of grass. The hard part is finding the right angle to get the best lighting. Do you go directly over it? Do you point at almost parallel to the surface? What I found was a 45 degree angle from the surface worked best to capture perfect lighting to show how much cleaner the clean part of the surface was.

When it came to the vinyl siding it got more difficult to capture the contrast between clean and dirty the closer I got. I was forced to back up 15 feet to get the proper contrast and lighting. I think this was due to the shininess of the surface reflecting the 1pm sunlight into the lens causing a glare.

Editing For The Internet

I’m like most other photographers in that I use Photoshop for all my editing. When doing the editing I had to be mindful that these images were going on a website and not into a magazine or book. The difference is that it needs to be compressed so that it will load fast. Also since most people are often viewing on a mobile phone these days the size of the image needs to be adjusted accordingly. I did all this in 2 hours in Photoshop and my friend had the best 20 images to use for his website. At the moment the pictures aren’t live but I’ll let you know when they do go live.

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5 Tips for Wildlife Photography

There is nothing quite like the beauty of a great wildlife photo, and any photographer interested in nature will most likely want to try their hand at wildlife photography at some point.

Wildlife photography is not without its challenges, however. Animals can be constantly in motion or uncooperative, but there are a few tips that can help you get the most of your wildlife photography experience:

Use The Light
The best hours of light for shooting wildlife photography are early in the morning (get up early and be ready for the sunrise), and later in the afternoon to take advantage of the last hours of light. The midday light can be particularly harsh and lessen the impact of your images, although an overcast day is an exception to the rule and can provide hours of optimum shooting.

Proximity
Shooting your subjects from a distance with a longer lens will lessen the likelihood of you spooking an animal and ruining the shot. Birds are often best photographed from a distance because they can be disturbed more easily. Using a lens with a focal length of 1500mm or more is generally a good place to start.

Shooting at a wider angle can be provide a powerful image because it can better show the subject in the environment in which it lives. Shooting closer is the flip side of shooting wider and produces its own unique result.

Positioning
No matter what vantage point you’re shooting from – whether it’s in a boat or in a jeep in the safari – you always want to make sure you’re in the best position. Position yourself so that your subject is facing you, but don’t use artificial means to attract the animal’s attention. This can scare the animal away, while waiting for the animal to turn towards you, or exhibit a certain natural behavior, will produce a more natural a rewarding shot.

Practice
It sounds obvious, but the old adage of ‘practice, practice, practice,’ applies to wildlife photography as it does to most anything else that requires developing a certain skill. That said, you can practice closer to home before heading to the wild, whether it’s shooting dogs at a local park, birds flying at a nearby lake or the pesky ones on your balcony, or horse racing at the track (or in a jumping competition). All of these can help you get comfortable with your camera setting and being ready when that right moment in the wild presents itself.

Patience
Finally, you’ll need all the patience you can muster while shooting wildlife photography, for a variety of reasons. Foremost is the fact that animals in the wild can be anything but predictable. Getting to thoroughly know your subjects and their movements and habits is essential, and requires plenty of patience.

Your own hasty movements can scare your subject away, so you’ll need to move slowly or wait for your subject to come to you. Just know that the shot you’re looking for doesn’t always come while you’re in what you believe is the best location.

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The Benefits Of Entering A Photography Competition

It’s not always easy to get your photographs out into the wider world. While you may take stunning photographs, it’s not quite so simply getting them into the public eye. A great way of getting your work out there and increasing your visibility is to enter photography competitions. There are some amazing competitions out there, for all different types of photography, so you can be sure to find something that fits your style.

Why Enter a Photography Competition?

While using online platforms such as Flickr and Facebook are a great way of showcasing your work to your peers, it doesn’t quite carry the same weight of having your pictures judged by professionals. Entering a photography competition can be a greatly satisfying experience and helps you to really push yourself to capture award winning photographs.

Not only does it give you the opportunity to get you work out in front of the experts, but it can also lead to the kind of exposure people tend to dream about. So many people will view your photographs and this can be a hugely rewarding for any photographer. Let’s not forget about the fantastic prizes you can win.

Depending on the competition, you can win anything from cash prizes, to gift cards, photography equipment and even master classes with the professionals. Imagine winning your very own exhibition space! These are the kinds of prizes and opportunities that can lead to greater exposure and better photographs down the line.

A Great Experience At Every Age

We recently had a young photographer write us about her experience of entering an under 18’s competition all the way in Newcastle. Here is what she had to say:

“I love photography and this year had an amazing chance to take part in a photography competition in Jesmond. I entered the ‘Wildlife in Jesmond Dene’ category for those aged 12 to 18 years old. With a grand prize of £60, I thought this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

My mother took me to stay at a boutique hotel in Jesmond overlooking the park so I was able to go out and take pictures as soon as I got up in the morning. I was able to get some really great shots of some of the birds and squirrels in the park and it was such a fun experience. While I didn’t win, I would recommend this to anyone no matter what age as it is a great way to challenge yourself and meet people in the photography world.”

How Can I Enter One?

There are great websites out there that list all the competitions currently being held, including information on the kind of prizes up for grabs. Some even provide you with photo contest tips so you can really help to improve your chances of winning. It’s about more than just taking a great photograph; it’s about really understanding what the judges in each competition are looking for.

Competitions have all sorts of different categories, from wildlife, to landscape, food and music. There is a little something out there for everyone, so play up to your strengths and interests and find the competition that suits you. You never know, you may just win yourself an excellent prize.

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Top 5 Puppy Photography Tips

There are few images as captivating and precious as the ones taken of puppies. Puppies are by nature precocious animals that touch the hearts of everyone in their presence and when the right photograph of them is taken.

However, as with children puppies are still in the learning stages and will have naturally short attention spans and will not respond like adult dogs to the camera. So, you will have to employ a series of tips and tricks in order to capture that perfect, precious moment that only a puppy can deliver for your photograph.

What follows are five top photography tips that will help you get the most out of your session with puppies. Before you start taking photographs, it is important to have the right setting that is safe and protected because puppies are vulnerable to catching illnesses. This also means that anything chewable needs to be safe as well or at least kept away from the puppy like your camera gear.

Let the Moment Happen

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is that you should not try to force a great photograph or attempt to create the perfect pose or look for the puppy. You’ll only get frustrated which will make the session even less productive. Instead, you should try to create a fun, happy atmosphere that keeps the puppies happy and entertained.

Wear them Out

A puppy is a bundle of energy that is raring to go. So, before you start the photo session, play with them so they can expend that energy. While they will still have plenty left, it will take the edge off of the puppies and slow them down just enough to get better photographs. Make sure you reward the puppy with some delicious puppy food after the session. You’ll still need to use a fast shutter speed and plenty of light to capture the right photograph.

Go to Their Level

Like all dogs, puppies tend to focus on the ground instead of looking up. So, you can get better photographs if you get down more to their level. This will mean being on your knees or even in a prone position to get the right shot. However, this will pay off as you will see more of their faces which make for the best photographs.

Be Gentle with Timid Puppies

Not all puppies are open and playful as many will actually be scared of being in new surroundings. So, start off with having the timid pups playing with their owners so that they can relax. In fact, you might be able to capture the perfect photo by backing off and using a telephoto lens. By keeping your distance at least at first, you can help bring out a timid pup’s playful side.

Go Where the Puppy Takes You

By letting the puppy explore and play, you can follow them and get some pretty amazing photographs. You will want to contain the pup to certain areas, but for the most part letting them lead will help relax them so that they are more playful and provide you with the perfect photograph.
By following these tips, you can get the most out of your photo session with puppies and in turn increase your chances of getting that perfect photograph.

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Rice Terrace Photography in China

I am a rice-lover and even have a really nice high-end rice cooker, so I’ve always wanted to photograph the stunning terraced fields you find in some Chinese locales. While Californian rice fields are generally uninteresting wide, flat expanses in China there are some hilly and mountainous areas where by necessity fields must be created on hillsides. Since rice can only be grown on level land (rice fields must be flooded and water runs away on a slope) steps had to be carved out of the hills so that flat areas could be created. These flat areas are generally evenly spaced vertically so that it naturally becomes easy to see the contour of the land in a way that it difficult with only light and shadow. It is like a contour map has been superimposed on the landscape. So today I thought I’d share a few tips on choosing locations to photograph terraced rice fields in China. In particular the Longsheng rice terraces.

Xishan Shaoyue 西山韶乐 – Our first spot is Xishan Shaoyue. It is the most popular place for rice terrace photography in Longsheng and for good reason. There are three separate sites all visible and easily accessed from Xishan Shaoyue and most of the really stunning photos are taken in this area. As is usual, best times for captures are in the morning and evening.

Qianceng Tianti 千层梯田 (Thousands Layers Fields in English) – Qianceng Tianti is not nearly as picturesque as Xishan Shaoyue and has only one site rather than three. To get memorable shots here you will need good timing, patience and persistence. Perhaps a misty day where clouds give more relief and depth to the scene?

Jinfoding 金佛顶 (Golden Buddhist Summit in English) – This site is further afield and as such is less frequented. If you want to be the only photographer on site this is the location for you. Travel lightly here, though, as it can be a long walk for the out-of-shape. Hiking time is between one hour and two hours depending on your pace, so take some food and your usual short hiking gear including survival knife and compass . Due to sun position this location is best shot in the evening.

Best Times For Shooting

From mid-May to early June: the rice terraces are full of water and the reflections will make for some interesting effects. Workers begin transplanting after the first week of June for about one week, so there will be people on the terraces making it easier for viewers of your photos to judge scale, and adding human interest.

Early October: At this time the rice is ready for harvest: the terraces look like soft swaths of gold.

On snowy winter days: If you are there in winter you will get some unique shots if you are lucky enough to be there on one of the few snowy days. But, if there is no snow, winter is a pretty uninteresting time on the rice paddies – there’s no water in the fields and everything is a dull brown.

From July to early August: Fresh rice shoots are coming up at this time – think vibrant green steps.

Enjoy, and good luck getting that award-winning shot!

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Selling Athletic Shoes with Photographic Art

Big brands have always used professional photographers to sell their products. In this article I take a look at some of the best adverts ever created, using photography as the main focus.

Reebok CrossFit – Realflex

Back in 2011 Reebok commissioned a whole production team to produce a set of “action” photos to be used in their new ad campaign. The advertisements were promoting the company’s new range of CrossFit shoes called “Realflex.” The ads also had another objective, and that was to highlight Reebok’s new-ish affiliation with the fast-growing sport of CrossFit (see site).

The Realflex shoe was a flop and was quickly replaced with the Nano. The Nano is now in its fourth year of production and has been a big hit with the CrossFit community. Reebok’s affiliation with CrossFit has also been successful, and the company still sponsors the annual CrossFit Games held in California.

The original set of ads was very well executed and does a good job of capturing a staged moment in time. I do feel one or two of the photos could have been more realistic, however one of the ads ticks all the right boxes and was worth the entire team effort. You can see my personal favorite ad here.

Nike – Air Max

Back in 1987 the world was a very different place. No mobile phones (or should I say “usable” mobile phones), no public Internet, and you still needed to use your imagination when watching a movie, as CGI was still in the making.

During this time period I was still a child. I remember scrolling through a random magazine in a store and instantly my addiction to sneakers began with my first visual of the Nike Air Max. I’ve tried searching for the exact ad that I discovered, but the closest match I could find was this (see here).

This ad and shoe are the reasons why I take photos — it sparked a fascination with the brand, the shoe range and product advertising, all in one flick of a page. If I live to see 100-years-old I am confident I will never have a more influential experience ever again.

Every aspect of this ad spoke to me, and looking back at it now, I can see why. The shoe is hovering and glowing. It looks futuristic (even now). I knew I wanted them there and then, but I also knew I would love wearing them even before I tried them on.

I know I am not alone when I talk about how good the advertising was by Nike back in the 1980s. I would even go as far to say it was genius, and I am not just talking about the Air Max. The Air Jordan brand enabled Nike to dominate the basketball industry for years. Even after Jordan’s retirement they still managed to keep the brand going, making Michael Jordan a billionaire.

If Jordan is a billionaire, can you image how much money Nike has made from awesome advertising and marketing.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Photography

In the past, photography was only for those who took classes and studied about the basics of photography and those who wanted to become professional photographers. It has not become mainstream until a few decades ago when advancement in technology has improved and cameras have become affordable and more user-friendly, and taking photos have become a must in every occasion.

The advent of social networking sites over the past several years has pushed photography into the forefront of social media. Updating your social media account is no longer complete if you do not post a photo or two. This is what made photography not just a profession but a mainstream hobby as well. Digital cameras have become smaller and smaller and smartphones feature cameras with high resolutions that can compete with those of digital cameras. With smartphones, you no longer need to carry a separate camera around. But if you want professional looking photos, digital cameras are still the way to go.

Photography subjects are no longer limited to landscapes, people and such. Anything you see around you can be used as a subject, even those as mundane as a fly. Here are the different types of photography.

Nature and Wildlife Photography

This is one of the most famous types of photography. Nature shots –beaches, grasslands, forests, waterfalls, etc., are the favorite nature subjects of photographers. Wildlife photography on the other hand captures different types of animals in their natural or man-made habitats. Animals in their natural elements are very popular subjects among wildlife photographers, using very powerful lenses so they can capture their subjects even from a far distance. 

Macro Photography

Macro photography takes photos of small things in vivid details. It uses a special type of equipment, the macro lens. This type of lens zooms in on the subject with clear precision to capture the minutest detail of the subject. 

Aerial Photography

Photos taken from high above are categorized as aerial photography. Photographers ride in helicopters or small planes to capture images from a high altitude that otherwise cannot be taken with precision when taken from the ground. Aside from riding an aircraft, recent technology has allowed photographers to mount their cameras on drones that are remote-controlled. This way the camera angle can be varied as the photographer requires. 

Commercial Photography

This type is done to showcase a product and present to consumers the product’s specifications, physical appearance, etc. Appliance photography shows consumers the best rice cooker as shown in this site or other products and how you can benefit from them based on their specs and features. Product shots also come with home appliances reviews at sites like http://www.homecentric.org so consumers can compare different brands and types, not only through the specifications but through the high quality photos as well. 

Sports Photography

Sports players in action are the subjects of this type of photography. Special camera equipment are used in this type to be able to capture moving images clearly and without any blurs. 

Underwater Photography

Underwater life is showcased using special underwater cameras. Regular cameras cannot be used in underwater photography unless the equipment specifically indicates otherwise. The richness of marine life is captured not just for show but for study and research as well.

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4 Tips for Great Outdoor Photos

In a world where so many of us own a digital camera, just about anyone can fancy themselves as a photographer. Of course, there is a big difference between being able to take photos and being able to take good photos. Venturing outdoors can make it even tougher to take a quality photograph, even though it gives photographers the opportunity to capture something unique and beautiful. Make sure that once you get comfortable getting pictures of things like sunsets and other natural features, try giving some new things a try (like action sports or wildlife). For those photographers hoping to take great outdoor photos, here are a few tips to help you out.

The first thing you should know is that the best light is either the half hour before sunrise or the half hour after sunset. Using the sun properly is a key component to any outdoor photo, and the times around sunrise and sunset create the most unique combination of light and shadows for taking photos. It may not seem the like the obvious or optimal time to be out taking photos, but not having direct sunlight is advantageous for outdoor photographers, and if you make a point to head out and take photos around sunrise or sunset, the difference will be obvious and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

You should also be cognizant of composing outside photos, as they can be a lot more complicated and contain more variables than indoor photos. Amongst the light, sky, terrain, and any other objects that may make an appearance in your photo, there’s always going to be a foreground, middle-ground, and background in an outdoor photo, and you need to be aware of how they relate to one another. If you’re careful and meticulous about how you frame things and make sure that everything in the photo serves a purpose, you’ll be able to take spectacular outdoor photos.

Another key to taking outdoor photos is using the horizon in the right way, as the horizon line can be a great tool for taking beautiful and unique photos of the great outdoors. If you put the horizon in your photograph, always make sure that it’s either at the very top or the very bottom of the frame; never put it in the middle. The point of putting the horizon in a shot is to either emphasize the sky or the ground (possibly a body of water), and so you should get as much of the sky or ground in the photo as possible. This is accomplished by placing the horizon at either the top or bottom, dedicating as much space as possible to the phenomenon you’re hoping to capture in the photo.

Finally, when taking outdoor photos, don’t be afraid to explore and try new things (one thing I’ve really gotten into lately is wildlife photography – specifically big game like elk and deer ) . For example, try using a wide-angle lens. The outdoors know no borders and neither should your camera, so try to broaden your scope with a wide-angle lens that will allow you to capture more of the environment around you. Obviously, it’s impossible to capture the entirety of the environment around you in one photo, but a wide-angle lens will help you to get as much as possible in one photo, and that should be your ultimate goal with outdoor photography.

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Advanced Photography Tips

I’ve always specialised in landscape photography. I absolutely love roaming the countryside and taking pictures of sunsets behind a mountain and capturing shots of trees and wildlife. However, I’ve recently started making photography more of a career than a hobby. Unfortunately landscape photography does not pay the bills at the moment. So while I save up to take trips further afield to capture some more unseen sceneries I decided to take portrait pictures for paying customers.

Below are some of the things I learned from this experience. Hopefully it will help fellow photographers wanting to earn some money taking pictures of paying customers.

Families

The highest paying customers you need to focus on is families. If you advertise your services, try targeting stay-at-home moms, who in my experience pay the highest fees to capture the so called perfect family portrait. It can be difficult at times, and children will test your patience! The trick is to work efficiently and have everything set up before the family arrives. Most children will get impatient if they have to hang around, and in my experience, if you can get the pictures taken within the first 20 minutes, most children will behave. I learned this lesson the hard way when taking a family portrait in a garden. In the short time it took me to set up my camera, the two children started fighting with each other and their clothes ended up being so muddy we couldn’t continue the photo shoot. From that day on, I started setting up my equipment a lot faster!

Models

The second best paying customer is women wanting some headshots for possible modelling or acting jobs. To have these professionally done is usually out of their budget, so you can get plenty of customers if you undercut the competition in price. I charge half of what the cheapest photographer charges in my area. This has brought me a lot of customers, who go on to refer their fellow acting and modelling friends. The big problem with models is that their standards are incredibly high. Any blemishes on their skin is an issue. So I started offering photoshop beauty retouching services.  This is a great add-on service which has been very well received. There’s plenty of YouTube videos showing you exactly how to retouch pictures using photoshop. If you look at a magazine like Vogue you’ll see some great examples of photoshop retouching.

The main problem is that retouching isn’t enough sometimes. Many of the younger girls have skin problems such as acne. This can’t be hidden completely. Make-up can help but usually isn’t enough. I’ve spoken with a dermatologist, as this was causing me to lose some customers. She advised me to buy special acne make-up. In case that didn’t cover up the acne sufficiently, she told me to try out some over the counter acne products. I did some research on the Internet and after reading a Revitol Acnezine review I decided to test this product out. So far I’ve seen good results with customers. If you need some quick spot remedies, you can read more on http://everythingaboutacne.com.

This might seem a trivial point for a photographer, but if you’re working with beauty concious clients, it’s vital that you can offer a service that goes beyond just taking a picture!

I really hope that sharing these experiences has helped some photographers who are thinking about making photography into a profession. As you can see, there is a learning curve, but if you love to take pictures, it’s all worth it!

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Taking Photos While on a Hunting Trip

Many outdoor adventurers seriously commit themselves to what they are doing. There may be people who think that these people are wasting their time and money, but they have no idea with the kind of commitment these adventurers out there are for. It is for the love of such an activity that brought people of similar hobbies this kind of great experience. And it is not just some run-of-the-mill experience. Outdoor adventurers seek the best experience ever, by equipping themselves the best equipment fitted for the journey. Not every journey you seek is the same as the previous. There will always be subtle differences, even if the location is the same. You will not be standing on the same position at the same time by your next visit. Nowadays, looking for the best location for bow hunting has either become too easy or too difficult – depends on the circumstances that you are facing.

Bow hunting is one of the most enjoyable outdoor adventures there is. In some cases, bow hunting is used as a recreational activity for ex-military personnel who had been serving their duties back in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead of being holed up in their homes, they are given the opportunity to enjoy themselves with fellow ex-soldiers. Instead of chasing after human enemies and detecting hidden bombs, they are out there hunting for deer and other wildlife permitted for hunting on designated grounds.

A few of my friends just bought new bows and crossbows based on online reviews and planned on taking the weekend for a bow hunting trip. As a photographer catching on to new inspirations, I volunteered to to go with them on their adventure, even if I have no idea how hunters do their thing. But it was an opportunity for me to see how hunters hunt for their prey and how much I can learn from them.

Hunting Photography

The word play seems to fit. Photographers also ‘hunt’ for places to take great shots, and hunters also hunt for places to take the best ‘prey’. Whether they are out for bird hunting or deer hunting, capturing the moment when deer and birds run and fly could turn out to be a very fantastic shot.

What I learned from going with these hunters is that their principles in hunting are almost similar to that of photography.

First of all, hunters practice patience. If you are taking wildlife and nature photography, you employ this habit, too, in order to get the best shot. To hunters, they should not get dispirited when they lost their chance to get their hunt. There is always another chance to hunt, no matter how many hours they spend sitting, standing or not seeing their target at all. Second is being confident of themselves – choices that you make, and in the abilities that you possess. Second guessing may work in some cases, but most of the time your shots suffer. Trust your instincts, be confident and you will get the perfect shot, both in photography and hunting.

After the day was over and my friends caught their target, I took a photo of them all to commemorate their hunting experience for that day. I took a picture of my friend with his new compound bow and the target at his feet.

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Photographing Inanimate Objects

The goal of a photographer is to bring a still image to life. This is particularly challenging when the subject of an image is itself inanimate. Capturing an object in motion is very different from taking a photo of a bowl of food, or a piece of jewelry.

The way I like to think about the difference between the two is that when I’m photographing something moving, I’m capturing an event. Something happened – and here is the image to show you what happened. If I’m taking a photo of an inanimate object, it’s more of an examination into the object. It’s a more detail oriented process. In this situation, my goal as a photographer is to not merely capture an object in the frame, but to examine it – to reveal its essence, not just its form.

In my opinion, this is the difference between someone who takes passport photos for a living and someone who’s a genuinely excellent photographer. Taking a passport photo is about what something looks like. ‘Here is the face of this person, so that you can verify that it’s the same person going through the border’. Taking a portrait of a person’s face is different – we’re not just trying to capture what a person looks like – the camera does that for us. Our goal is to capture who that person is – what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. What are their hopes and dreams? The very best photographs are those which capture something that the camera itself is incapable of.

In my experience, the trick to being able to do this is to know the subject. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, a building, a plate of food, or a piece of jewelry. In the vast majority of cases, the more you know about a subject, the more you’ll be able to capture its essence.

To help you understand this concept better, I’ll give you two examples of recent jobs I had where I went above and beyond in order to try and get a better set of images for the client. In the first, I was asked to take photos of a few plates of food for a cookbook (the food was delicious). I won’t name the cookbook right now as I’m not sure it’s public information yet. This chef cooks Japanese food, and although I like sushi, I don’t really know all that much about Japanese cuisine. So I went to do some research about Japanese culture, mainly here. There is a Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi that is quite distinct from the western tastes. It emphasizes understatement, subtlety, and sparseness and prioritizes asymmetry and simplicity. In particular, wabi-sabi imagery usually involves large empty spaces. So when I shot the photos, I tried to emulate this aesthetic – rather than taking the typical, extremely vivid, vibrant, photos that most food photography goes for, I tried to make the images sparse, with open spaces between plates and muted colors. I tried to highlight the simplicity and subtlety of this chef’s food, and he was very happy with the end result.

Another example – I was asked to take some photos for an artisan jewelry designer. She uses less expensive gems and handcrafts jewelry out of them. My thinking was that the photos of her jewelry shouldn’t be like your standard photos of diamonds and emeralds, with black/white backgrounds and an obvious focus on the expensive materials that make up the piece. Instead, I figured I should try and show off the craftsmanship – the essence – of the client’s work. So I went and did a bunch of research on the gemstones she uses on this site (there’s a great table with a lot of information). She uses a lot of turquoise, carnelian, lapis lazuli, amazonite and various forms of agate. These are all earthy, rough gemstones – so I lit the jewelry to highlight the flaws of these stones rather than just their beauty. I also tried to position the jewelry in such a way that the craftsmanship of the pieces was clear to see – focusing on the connecting wires and intricacies of the knots and things like that.

Hopefully, these two examples will help inspire you to really dig deep into your subjects when you’re photographing them.

These are the two sites I used when I was researching:

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/articles/beauty-wabi-sabi

http://www.semipreciousstonesguide.com

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Photography on the Go

Photography is a great way of capturing moments in our lives. We can take pictures of beautiful landscapes in our country or whilst on holiday in a foreign country, sunrises, sunsets, the ocean… and we can also capture those precious moments with our families while on vacation, and also with our friends and acquaintances. Pictures are just such a great way of capturing, for almost forever, those special moments in nature and with our loved ones.

For many, many years we’ve been capturing different moments in human history and in our personal lives, cameras have developed with us to a point where professional cameras are hardly needed anymore as we all carry one with us in our pockets or bags. Nowadays, mobile phones are used more for photography and sharing our shots on the Internet than for their actual use like phoning and messaging others. It is true this is very practical as we don’t need to carry some big, professional camera with lots of lenses to capture those precious moments that only stay with us for a few seconds. Mobile phones have opened up the world of photography to many who were interested in it but couldn’t afford to buy an expensive camera. Now, anyone can take pictures and share them on the net through websites and apps such as Flickr, Viewbug, and Instagram… On the other hand, because so many people take so many pictures and just share them online, some may believe that the essence of photography is slowly being lost.

I mostly carry my phone on me when I go out and about with family, it’s lighter and it doesn’t take up as much space as my professional camera. A while ago when we were looking for a new jogging stroller for our baby and while reading online reviews I found one model that had a lot of storage space at its base. I thought to myself that it could be used for keeping my camera case when we go for baby walks and we bought the stroller. Recently, when going out with family I decided to use the stroller’s storage and to take my camera along with me to see what I could capture. Getting home and seeing the results I know I will definitely be taking my camera out a lot more often with me since the difference in quality is amazing.

Beautiful photos in crisp detail and quality of the children having fun in their little strollers, their delightful faces as they are pushed around, and all the pictures looking fantastic due to the camera. I captured amazing landscape shots with vibrant colors and photos of my family and kids, plenty of fun pictures of them playing and running around, really capturing those happy moments. A normal phone camera would not have worked out the same way.

People should definitely remember that as easy as it is to simply bring a phone along with you to take all your pictures is just not, and will never be, the same as using a proper professional camera. Why capture those special happy family moments with a phone when by simply taking a good camera along you can get all those happy memories in a great quality, capturing all the tiny details on the children’s faces as they play and have fun.

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Shooting Interior and Exterior Pictures of Houses

As a freelance photographer I end up doing a lot of interesting shoots, and although I have been doing this for some time I still end up learning a lot during some of my shoots. A recent niche that I found which might be of interest to other photographers looking at expanding their portfolio is doing photo shoots for property rental companies. Most of the images you see online are not of a good quality, and property agencies end up leaving money on the table by not showing potential clients the true aspects of the property they are trying to rent.

As they say “first impressions are important” and if the image the client sees is not of good quality, they might click over to the next option.

Shooting houses for rent by any property management company in Fresno CA is just about the best bread and butter job you can land. You know there will always be work as units are vacated and updated the companies need recent pics for their websites and online listings. What trips up a lot of pros is not knowing how to manage the light schedule, and knowing what is going to be the right shot that will turn a one-time request into ongoing traffic. I recently had to shoot some property that local house owners were going to list with a management company I am on retainer for and I thought it would be a good idea to walk you through how I put it all together.

Building the schedule around the light

The first thing I always do is locate the property on a map and look at what the lighting is going to be like throughout the day. I compare that to my availability schedule and put together options for the times to schedule the shoot. I then offer those times to the manager or owner so we can mesh schedules better. Exterior shots you can usually do on a return trip without any company, the interiors you need access so making sure that you are going when there will be light is essential. It is always easier to schedule a night shoot, and I’ll talk about what to do about that when you are inside too.

Indoor versus outdoor

The first thing you should remind yourself of is nobody rents or buys a home they see in the dark. Forget dramatic exterior options under a full moon. You want a standard high noon day. Avoid shooting the exterior when shadows are cast because the picture will start to create a narrative. You don’t want the picture to create a narrative; you want the agent to create it. When you move indoors high noon can work, but you really want to find out what light the rooms get best and go at that time. Bring your lights to shoot rooms that are shadowed.

What is the most important thing to show?

When I shoot an exterior I think about the narrative. People want to see the front as if you were approaching as a guest. I stay away from driveways but will emphasize gardens and landscaped backyards only if there isn’t a problem with dramatic shadows. You want flat and open, not drama.

How to avoid problems with windows and mirrors

Inside you are going to run into reflective problems with windows and mirrors. This is one of the reasons a “high noon” shoot works better. The general light will reduce the black mirror effect in windows. Alternately, I bring two or three light stands and bounce the light off the ceiling at a point in the middle front of the mirror. This creates an additional cascade of light that will prevent reflection as well.

Contact me if you want to know more about this niche or if you know of a property management company that is looking for a photographer to improve their online portfolio.

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