Thursday, August 18, 2011

Capturing a Better Picture: Tip #1- Angles

Happy Friday sweet friends... I have no idea where this week went, but it's okay with me! I'm so excited to just have a weekend full of family time... and you?

Today I have a little treat for you. I've been asked a million times over for photography tips... and I've sat on it, and sat on it, and sat on it... and I made excuses- but most of them panned out (especially the lack of being able to take photos because of all the rain we've had). However, I finally decided I needed to just "jump" right in... but then was overwhelmed... I had NO idea where to begin. In fact, so manyofyou are on different levels (I'm pretty sure, some of you even take MUCH better pictures than I do)... some shoot with point and shoots (P&S), others with DSLRs.. where was I to start? So, I finally decided to start with the basics (add my own little flair to everything), and go from there... so hopefully this lesson doesn't bore you too much.. I find that it's a necessary one to start off with.

Whenever we are out and about, I always spy on anyone with a camera in their hand-whether it's the P&S, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, iANYTHING, DSLRs, etc. I'm interested in what they're photographing, but also interested by how they use their electronic device in order to capture whatever it is that has their attention. Most of the time, people shoot "straight on"... do you understand what I mean by that? They don't tilt their head, they don't get down low, they don't look up high... this might even describe the way you photograph. I'm here today, to tell you... to step outside "that box"... it's a whole new world, when you look at it from a different angle.

The photos that I've taken for this lesson, were taken at 5:30 pm... as the sun was starting to set... also known as "golden hour"... that is of course, when the clouds aren't in the sky. In future posts, I'll talk about how times of the day may interfere with, or bring good/bad photo results... but for now, lets talk about how/why angles can be so "magical"...

One of the first things I notice when I exit my house to take photos, is the timing/lighting... it's definitely one of the first things you want to adjust on your camera as soon as you're outside. This is not just for those with DSLRs... with P&S you can adjust your ISO as well... what's ISO? ISO is the setting on digital cameras that controls the speed that light enters the lens and is recorded on your camera sensor. We'll talk about what settings to use generally for indoor lighting, but for outdoors, I try and stick between 200-250. On extremely bright days, I'll go down to 125. If you're shooting only in AUTO, this could partially be why you aren't achieving the photos you want to capture... but right now, you don't want me to rant about "getting out of AUTO mode"... lets get back to angles...

One of the ways to achieve warmth in a photo, is to have the sun directly at the backside of whatever the object is that you are photographing. In the initial picture of the peppers above, you could tell the sun was there, but it didn't illuminate the peppers quite as well as in the photo below... all I did was take a couple of steps to the right, and angled my camera up a little.

Moving in a little closer, I was able to actually catch some "sunspot" glare in the photo (bottom right for those of you that are oblivious). Some people think sunspots are hideous and would never have them in the picture... I happen to LOVE them.. and think they bring an extra dosage of "warmth" to a photo. Do you see how the peppers are "backlit" by the sun... it gives them a soft glow... to me, it radiates warmth... I can feel them "cooking" in the sunlight.

Ever hear someone say, "Let me give you my "left" side... it's the "better" side" when taking their picture... or " I'm a lot thinner if you photograph me with my right side facing outward"? I've heard it quite a few times... and I'm pretty sure I've told someone once or twice that I like one half of my body better than the other... well the same goes for most objects. Just because at first glance they might not look so pretty... doesn't mean, they don't look pretty from the "other" side. Take a look, it might actually surprise you.

After taking a closer look at the back side of this plant, I was still not impressed, until I looked down and around a bit more, and found a flower with most of its petals still on.

Again, many people just "shoot" straight on... so, when they take a picture like the one above, they don't accomplish very much. It looks like one big green blob.

See how different the green looks? By changing my angle, I've added depth to my photo, and also gave it a "layered" look... If I had manipulated my manual settings a little differently, I might even have been able to create a different look... but I was too distracted by my little cutie and her walk by these crazy plant things.

For the record, I probably would NEVER have photographed these crazy plant things on any given day... but as soon as my little one started walking beside them, I noticed how "small" she looked compared to them. She's a tiny critter, and I know that (she's only a whopping 24 lbs!), but often times it doesn't translate through my photos... when I saw her up against these plant things, it put it all back into perspective, again... as to how tiny my little Charlotte is. It'll be neat to photograph her near these things next year-to see how her growth progresses. Angles can help define height in your photos.

Sometimes when you look close enough, and angle your camera in "just right" you'll find texture like no other texture... texture that makes you feel like you are being "tickled" by that weird furry thing, just by looking at the picture... again.. work with the object's shape, and what makes the object unique. So many beautiful things, always have something "off", otherwise we'd never stop to take a look at it. Sometimes if you get down low to the same level as your child to see what they see... it even looks different from their point of view {as you can see in the picture below} I was looking up at it, like Charlotte was...

Sometimes, the angles we choose, can create an illusion. Remember, I told you angles were "magical"... I wasn't kidding. In the above photo... I took a picture like anyone would. I held up my camera with no rhyme or reason, and snapped. Yes, it's kind of pretty... being able to see all the green from the rice/plants/gardens around... but I want to show you how that gravel road can be an illusion. Inthe above picture, there's no magic... you see where the gravel road starts, where it leads, and how long it goes. However, when you get down low (and place your camera near the ground), you can create the illusion of a road that never ends (if there was a "road" nearby where cars weren't driving onit, I would totally haveshown you another example). Because the focus is in the middle (we'll talk about f/stop in another lesson), you can create a road where you don't see the beginning, and you certainly have no idea how long it goes on.

Even when you stick a person in the picture, it doesn't diminish the illusion... in fact it makes the viewer question, "how far do these 4 legs have to walk?" or "how did they get to where they are?" , etc... I think you get the picture (photography puns are my favorite!) ... moving along...

Yes, some pots of flowers would be a beautiful picture to capture... In fact anyone that knows me, knows I'm a sucker for the imperfect, disheveled look, and predictably would take a picture of these pots because of it. Now, the normal person would just "snap" and walk away... but not me, this curious girl had to make my way a little closer to take in those beautiful colors, but more so, also because I saw something "fluttering" nearby. I just happened upon a beautiful butterfly... and had I just taken the predictable photo and walked away, I would never have happened upon it. Lucky me... and you can be just as lucky, if you spend an extra few seconds/minutes checking something out.

Some of the most difficult subjects to "shoot" are "little people"... there is no doubt that they move around so much, that to actually get a shot of them, you have to have your camera on the perfect setting/adjusted just right, in order to capture a clear picture. Because they move around so much, it's actually very difficult to photography a child "straight on"... you see, in the above picture... I told Charlotte to just stand still... and she was still either moving her arms/hands or didn't even want to look right at the camera. So what's a mom to do? That's right, GET IN THEIR FACE! The idea is to "capture their innocence", and the only way to do that, is to have them look up at you and some way... you see, if you "shoot" them head on, you're on the same "playing field" as them, and their eyes don't look the same. If you get them to look up at you, the light floods in... and it's way easier to get a focus on one thing (like the eyes or belly) vs. getting a focus on the entire body.

So now it's your turn... go out and enjoy the beautiful afternoon sun (right before sunset it best!) and practice your angles... just keep on shooting... and if something doesn't look quite right, try a different "look"... we live in a digital age, and you don't need to worry about wasting any film. Please leave a link if you practice and share your results on your blog... I'd LOVE to see what you all have come up with.
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  1. Thanks, Karen! Love the tips. Just what I needed--something to think about! Thank you!

  2. WOW, these are some awesome tips friend!! i'm seriously on the edge of my seat waiting for the next set of tips. :D

  3. Great tips! I can't wait to get them a try. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this post.

  4. I still have a standard SLR (not digital) ~ insert wistful sigh here :O)

  5. These are awesome!!! Thanks for sharing your tips - it gave me a lot to think about, getting outside my own "box" of taking the same kind of pictures over and over!!!

  6. I came over from FaithBlogs, and I'm so glad I did! Your blog is delightful! I was in need of inspiration - I'll be looking for texture shots tomorrow.

  7. great tips - and as always, you're pictures are breath-taking. love her little toms. :)

  8. Thank you! This was exactly what I needed.. Great first lesson. Can't wait to learn more from u! Like Camera settings.

  9. Thanks for doing this Karen! I'm so happy you're doing this! I take it this was all in Manual mode?

  10. Loved this post.. and am looking forward to more! Also, I'm just a tad bit jealous that she has Toms and I don't... ;) Can't wait to take my camera out on a walk tomorrow!

  11. IT'S THE BELLY THAT DOES IT . . . FOR ME. My grand daughter has a BELLY . . . and some "meat" on her bones! Oh, Karen . . . these pics are WAY more than about just photographic magic . . .they are proof of REAL magic . . . the love of a mom and dad!

  12. Thanks for the tips! You're a fabulous photographer! I wish I had half of your creative talent!

  13. wow... that´s great!! :) I am looking forward to your next tips! :)

  14. my friend Rachel sent me a link to your blogs, they are very helpful and your pictures are great! Thanks!