I’ve been down and out with migraines, but there are more Blissdom recaps to come. I have a photography session today, and one last one tomorrow. Today’s focuses (ha! I’m punny!) on capturing the moment in photography to help you capture and save the moments that mean something to you. Aimee Giese presented a ton of tips, and I need to go back and read this again myself!
Aimee Giese, otherwise known as GreebleMonkey:
As a photographer, think about how you are. Are you a mom? A professional photographer? A combination of the above? Think about who or what you shoot. Is it people, your kids, landscapes, light? What do you shoot with? Do you need to get a better lens, upgrade your camera, get better apps for your phone? It’s your eye and creativity that makes you a photographer, so work with the tools you have. That’s what’s important.
The first thing that anyone needs to do is to practice. Make time outside your busy lives to practice. Take 20 minutes to play around with something to see how you can make it work. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, she’s a big proponent of getting into manual mode. You have a better opportunity to carve out what you’re trying to create. This is what you need to practice so you can capture the moments later.
Play with your camera. Think about different ways you can shoot things. You may not always want to shoot playful photographs, but push yourself to try different things within your photography.
Find your style. Figure out what you love to do and that you do well. Also, you want to redefine your style when you’re ready to change. It’s ok to move across styles.
You need to anticipate what will happen in the photo. And that means you need to figure out where you’re going to be in the room and move there. Think: ”Where would I get interesting angles? What would I do to get the most benefit?” Then, turn around and shoot photos and you can catch accidents. Just keep shooting because your favorite photograph may end up being something you catch accidentally. If you get one good photo out of 30 pictures, you’re doing well. Congratulate yourself when you do that. Don’t be afraid. It’s digital – it’s just space, so delete it later.
Think about what you do. What are your activities? Do you travel, do you play sports? What do you do? Really think about what the things in your day to day life that you’d like to photograph. If you like to be in nature, would you like to photograph nature a lot. If you live downtown, are you interested in taking pictures of the amazing architecture around you. There are people who are turning the mundane into beautiful. That’s the first place to start. Where you are and what you do may turn into what you like to photograph.
Once you start thinking about what’s going to happen next, you can start to capture the moment. Anticipation is key. Once you start to think about what’s going to happen, where do I need to be, what do I need to do with my camera – that’s when you start to get the photographs you want. Once you start thinking about it, these things get easy. Once you figure out where the pinnacle of the moment that’s happening, you can catch them.
Follow the action. Kids or whoever you’re with are doing things. Capture the moment of what they’re doing rather than when they’re sitting and smiling at you. Those are when you can get the good moments. It’s in the details when you can get away with some of the depth of field changes. You can also do this with your point and shoot with the portrait setting. You can force it later with editing, too. When you start to anticipate, you will take better photos.
How do you get cooperation?
People look a million times better when they want to have their pictures taken. You will all develop your own style of how to do this. Aimee will have conversations with her subjects to get them relaxed. Explain what you’re going to do. She’ll get down on a kids’ level. She’ll explain: This is what we’re going to do, this is what to expect from me, this is what you need to do. The other big thing she does is that she’s a total goofball and she’s willing to do is have them do their silly faces or mad faces and get whole series of them laughing or otherwise capturing natural emotions more than telling them to simply smile. Find out what they like to do and get pictures that capture what they’re doing rather than just capturing a smile in a pose.
You can also make your own luck. If you want a snowy photo – have someone throw snow if it isn’t snowing. Talk to your subject and let them know what you’re doing so that it isn’t a surprise. This can create some truly fun photos. Tell kids to reach out at you because it creates an interesting photo when they interact with you. It will show exactly what’s going on with you – have them hold leaves towards you, show how the superhero eats with chopsticks, etc.
You can also sneak around. Shoot from far away with a long lens. You can stand far away and capture moments from people when they have no idea that you’re photographing them. You can get the best pictures of people when they don’t know that you’re taking them. Go into stealth mode. Catch moments through windows. Capture times when people are way into something and focused there.
What else makes your photography interesting?
Find the details. She’ll take lots of pictures of macro nature. Whenever you’re covering anything, you want some close photos, some middle, and some pulled back. You want a variety of those photos. When Aimee is taking those photos somewhere, she’s constantly stepping forward and back to capture details and other portions of the scene. This is how you’ll remember places you’ve been and things you’ve done.
Turn the camera and move it around up and down and around. Shoot at crazy angles. Get down on the floor – that will capture something different. Do what you need to do to capture the angle that makes the photo. Lay on your back if you need to. Sometimes you don’t even have to look through the camera; you’re just trying to get interesting angles. When you create these angles, it makes for more action in the photo because it throws people off kilter.
It’s important to look for light. You want to try to capture during the golden hour. It will move throughout the year, as it’s best during the hour before sunset. In the morning and in the afternoon, the sun is more diagonal – when it’s more above us, it creates long shadows. If you shoot mid-day try to reflect the light. Have a building blocking you, but watch how light will hit on people’s faces. Looking for light doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine. You’ll look for the light that’s available and look for interesting ways to use the light that’s available. You can use a piece of foam core to reflect light back on people.
So many people say don’t shoot into the light, but put people in front of the light and let it come through their hair. Think about moving yourself through the scene to figure out where it’s reflecting best and where you can see the colors and the details and more. One of the most important things you can learn in photography is learning how you can use the light. Use to your advantage whatever light you have. Windows are awesome for this because they frequently aren’t harsh light.
People often don’t think about where they can position themselves for where they can get a photo where something in front is in focus and everything else is blurry. You can still see the background, but it’s creating a sort of lost feeling sometimes. When things are blurred in your depth of field and they create a pattern that is interesting, it’s called bokeh. Generally this happens with the bokeh in the background but it can be used in the foreground instead. Use depth of field and get into the mode of the subject you’re photographing.
People think that in the olden days, photographers didn’t edit photos, but they did. They would change things during the processing. This is something you can bring out the emotion or change it to black and white. If color isn’t adding to the feeling of the photo, change it to black and white. If you have emotion and the color is detracting from it, change it to black and white. How your editing is going to enhance the photo is key. Good editing can’t necessarily save a photo, but it can enhance it. Because you edit your photos doesn’t mean you aren’t photographers.
What are your pitfalls? Are you frazzled, are you hungry, are your kids hungry? Figure out what didn’t work in your photo and then remember it for next time and do something different. Recognize that something may not be good and then move on from that.
Focus on their eyes, but that’s not the only thing. It’s also in their toes and in the surprises. That’s part of what is magical in photography. Sometimes it’s all just luck, and other times it takes your skill. Remember your frame – you can go big. A photo of someone riding across the mountains would never work if you zoom in on the rider. You need to see the whole scene. Sometimes it’s the small details where you really need to get in close and capture just part of a subject because the details are key. Sometimes you need to have patience. You know something is going to happen, and you just need to sit and wait for it because it may not come for awhile.
She doesn’t use a tripod when doing nature photography. She considers it a breathing exercise and holds her breath. She will wait and capture it. It may take 50 shots before you catch it, but keep at it. At the same time, breathe. You’ll then think about all the things you’re doing. And then all the things you’re doing and all the practice will come to you.
Most important, emotion trumps everything. If you’re in a terrible light situation and just have whatever camera, shoot it anyway. Get it. Even if it’s grainy and you can hardly see anything. If you see the expression on your child’s face or something that will remind you of the moment, you will have a photo and you got it. You may not put it in your portfolio, but they are the memories. Even if they’re terrible, you have that moment. It isn’t just sad emotions, but happiness, too. Whatever emotion is there, it’s what you want to capture. Get what’s happening in their emotional state. Life isn’t always happy. She wants to capture everything. At the same time, you won’t capture everything. Sometimes you’ll miss the moment and you’ll be sad that you didn’t get the photograph, but that’s ok. You can get the next one.
Photography is fun. Don’t get bogged down in what you don’t know. Stick with what you know and what you have fun with until you’re ready to move on. Photography needs to be about having fun.
What lens do you use when you shoot far away?
Aimee has a 70-200mm. She uses a 15-70mm close up. She does buy the ones with the lower f-stop though. She recommends renting a lens to try out before buying. There are a lot of places that will do that. If you don’t like it, you aren’t stuck with something you don’t like or that is really hard to focus.
If someone is in the market and new to photography, where do you start?
Go back to thinking about who you are and what you want to shoot. Aimee does portraits, so her close up lens is the most important. If you want to do sports, the far away lens is more important. There are great websites for camera reviews – dpreview.com which has exhaustive information about cameras. Having said that, the other site that is really great for lessons is digitalphotographyschool.com that has amazing tutorials about just about every topic.
When people are thinking about getting a new camera, the kit lenses are garbage. If you can, try to buy the body only. Buy the lowest acceptable body you can afford and then spend your money on the lens. Aimee had a Rebel for years and probably would be fine still using it today. When you spend your money on the lenses, that’s where you get the bang for your buck. Anything you can buy now is fine. Anything over 5mp you can make into an 8×10 photo with no problem.
When is golden hour?
It depends on where you live. It’s the hour before sunset. It will vary based on daylight saving, etc. It’s longer in the summer – closer to an hour and a half. it also may be a bit greyer, too, depending on where you live. Watch it every day to see how it looks.
When you follow the action, do you pan or hold it steady?
Aimee doesn’t pan, but you can. In cameras, there is a setting that when someone is coming at you, it will continually focus when you have them coming towards you. When you have someone going side to side, you have to wait for them to come back into the frame. She will focus by pressing halfway down, then wait for him to come back into the frame and shoot.
For someone who is an amateur, you get lost in the picture and not living the experience at the moment. How do you enjoy what you’re doing and still photograph it?
There are certain places where you won’t get photographs that satisfy you and that the experience is worth more than taking the perfect picture. You need to find the balance with this and decide when you take the photograph and when you enjoy the experience. Learn to also trust yourself and know you’ve gotten that photograph, and it’s time to put the camera away. That’s part of the evolution as a photographer.
Do you have any tips on low light photography?
The lens – the lens she uses goes down to 2.8. The camera opens up at a lower f-stop and lets in the most light possible. Some of them are also one good photo and 50 bad ones. She also shoots at a high ISO – start at the lowest ISO and keep bumping it up during the day as you need it. At night, you’re at 1600 or 3200. The ISO changes with the light you’re dealing with, and adjust everything else to accommodate that. That said, you will start to get grain in the photograph when it’s low light. Anything 1600 or above will start to show grain. She sometimes also will edit afterwards to hide some of that and add the color saturation.
What do you use to edit?
Aimee uses Photoshop because she’s a graphic designer. She spends a lot of time editing them. She’s quick, but she edits every photo, too. If you’re just stepping up away from the free tools, she suggests using Light Room to edit photos. You will also shoot in RAW and need a RAW processor. Photoshop Elements is a great add on. When you put an image into Light Room, images will go grey. You can put in settings from your camera into Light Room so they don’t have that happen.