Tag Archives: photomatix

national-geographic-winner

The Real Secret to Taking Spectacular Photos

I just got this a little while ago, in large part to having read Tom Ang’s enlightening “how to win photo competitions” post – and also because I just got an email from National Geographic telling me I’m close to getting this shot published in an issue of their “your shot” issue.

 

It really got me thinking about what it takes to take a truly great photo and it’s actually very simple. Here’s the real secret:

Show people something they’ve never seen before

If you think back to a photo that really inspired you or moved you, it was probably a photo of something that you’ve never seen before. Or it was a photo of something you have seen – but captured in a really unique way that you’ve never seen before.

There are billions of photos out there of people posing in front of things, there are billions of photos out there of places and things – and they all eventually fade together – but what makes a photograph really spectacular is something that captures attention.

This is why I love HDR, tiltshift, fisheye shots, and anything else that’s just different from the norm. You don’t even have to go anywhere to take a spectactular shot – just look around wherever you are and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

To help you get started thinking in the right direction, here are 10 ideas:

1. use shadows

2. get closeup

3. capture patterns

4. use long exposure

5. get low

6. blur it

blurred Ineta

7. use lots of empty space in your composition

8. use reflections

9. capture motion

10. get down, look up

And that’s not even scratching the surface – there are plenty more resources for taking unique, interesting, and creative photos.  Not often discussed, but perhaps equally important if you are planning to do this as a business is to make sure copyrights are set in place as well.  A great resource to gather information on how to do this properly is www.mydefence.ca

While I’m mentioning resources, I should say that when I established my company, I had many questions on the business side of things, since my background was on the creative side. I found a great book at garybizzo.com that really helped me with the business side so I could focus on the artistic/creative side.

Anyway, all that said,  go out there and capture something truly unique.

photomatix-coupon-code

Photomatix Coupon Code – Free Download & 15% Discount Promo

Updated 9/23/2013

Photomatix Pro is by far my favorite program for creating and tone mapping HDR photos. It’s easy to use and gives you simple controls for getting the awesome color effects you see in all those great HDR’s, without having to open up Photoshop and knowing how to tone map by hand.

I recently got the people at HDRsoft to create a Photomatix coupon code for our readers (anyone can use it) for 15% off any of the HDR software programs:

This coupon code will work for any of these products:

  • Photomatix Pro (standalone + Lightroom plug-in)
  • Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle (standalone + plug-ins)
  • Photomatix Essentials / Light
  • Photomatix Plug-In for Apple Aperture
  • Photomatix Tone Mapping Plugin for Photoshop CS2/3/4/5/6

To get this discount applied to your order, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Photomatix  page
  • Click the buy button for the software version you need
  • In the box where it says “Coupon Code” put in: VPGo30x2013
  • Click the recalculate button
  • It will show you the special discount applied with your new price
  • Complete the rest of the order form
  • You MUST follow the Photomatix  page link in order for the discount to be applied

That should do it. To give you an example: the regular price of Photomatix Pro is $99 so with this coupon code you should be able to get it for $84.15.

Photomatix Coupon Code

Once you have Photomatix installed you can go through their short tutorial (which you can see once you launch the program). It’s pretty clear and easy to follow. Once you have a chance to experiment with your own HDR photos, you might want to join the Flickr HDR group. Hope to see you there.

IMG_3094-Edit

How to Take Amazing Portraits in Sun Every Time

This is a Guest Post by Susan Black. She is a Tampa Wedding Photographer and specializes in Tampa Senior Pictures.
Do you have a technique you would like to share on Visual Photo Guide? If so drop us an email at via our Contribute form.

Do you want to take perfectly illuminated portraits of outdoor subjects in bright sunlight? How about in situations where they’re standing in front of a bright background? Do you hate dark shadowed “raccoon eyes?” The answer to make your outdoor portraits pop, is to expose for the sky. Use this tip to make the shot every time!

Using a SLR 35mm autofocus camera and flash, you can create flattering and dramatic outdoor portraits with ease.

Technique:

With the flash turned off and your camera set in manual mode, use the camera’s internal exposure metering system. Looking through the viewfinder, press the shutter button halfway to illuminate the internal panel. The exposure meter is generally in the center on the bottom as you look through the viewfinder. (-2…1…0…1…+2)

To make the adjustments, start by selecting either your f stop or shutter speed. Aim the camera towards the brightest part of the picture, in this case the sky. Using the meter as a guide, adjust your shutter speed and f stop until reading is centered at 0. With the exposure set, turn on your camera’s flash, stand within a normal flash exposure range (6 – 10 ft.), focus on your subject and shoot.

Your flash will fill in and illuminate your subject nicely. If you desire more or less exposure on your subject, step forward or backwards accordingly. Some flash units can also be adjusted manually to allow shorter or longer bursts. This is also an option.

Very important, — always pay attention to the changing light. The sun going behind a cloud while you are shooting can affect the results of your image. The sky is no longer as bright as when the full sun was exposed so you will need to check your exposure meter again for the change in light.

Last, but certainly not least, be kind to your subject, don’t have them facing so they are looking directly into the bright sunlight. They will appreciate it and it will help to avoid squinty, closed looking eyes.

Examples

The image examples below were shot using a Canon 5D Mark II and Speedlight 580 EXII mounted on camera. The lens – 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS.

Photograph 1, was shot using the camera’s internal exposure meter as a guide. ISO was set at 100, f/13 the aperture with a focal length of 135mm. The meter centered at 0 at 1/125 of a second for the shutter speed. Here’s the result:

IMG_3093-Edit

Photograph 2, shows the camera aimed toward the bright sky behind my subject, adjusting the shutter speed and f stop until the camera’s internal meter was perfectly centered at 0 . This recorded at 1/400 sec, f/13, ISO 100, 135mm. Here’s the result:

IMG_3094-Edit

Photograph 3, the exposure meter was set for the sky, flash turned on, aim, focus and fire. Here’s the result:

IMG_3095-Edit

Sum it up: 1/400 sec, f/13, ISO 100, 135mm with on camera flash. Pretty Blue sky, white billowy clouds, nicely illuminated subject…that’s a wrap!

Fisheye Lens Example

Nikon 10.5 mm Fisheye Lens – Instant Fun!

About 11 months ago I decided to take a plunge and buy the Nikon 10.5 mm fisheye lens for my Nikon DSLR camera (D50). After seeing some of the cool shots on Flickr taken with fisheyes, I wanted to play with one myself.

I was a little weary to get it since my Nikon camera is only 6 megapixels. I remember having talked to a salesperson at a local Ritz and him telling me that a fisheye lens will not do well with a low-megapixel camera like the D40 or D50 since it tends to squeeze and distort the image. He said they were better suited to film cameras back in the day. Plus at just under $600 it felt like I was taking a risk getting a lens that might not produce good images.

Well I’m glad I didn’t listen to him and ended up getting the lens anyway. I got the The Nikon AF Nikkor 10.5 mm 1:2.8 G ED for my D50 from Amazon and I can say that it’s been a really, really fun lens. I’ve taken thousands of shots with it and it always adds a cool perspective to my series.

Sometimes I almost feel like I’m cheating – it’s just too easy to take a really cool picture that stands out from the rest. You can check out some of my favorites here:

The lens is really good for taking photos of small spaces such as cramped rooms and anywhere where your field of view is really constricted – think a bathroom on a real estate shoot. Conversely, it’s also awesome for wide open spaces where the perspective will add even more of a sense of grand scale.

Parking in Kofu

Pros?

(The pros definitely outweigh the cons if you ask me, but I’ll try)

Instant fun!

Gives you cool perspectives that no other lens can

Small so it takes up little room in your camera bag

Takes shots

Cons?

In some shots you may have some serious chromatic abberation at the fringes. Errrr, I think that’s right anyway – basically you might have some messed up color and distortion near the edges of the photo. I’m not a huge purist as long as the pic looks cool, so this part doesn’t bother me like it might some people.

It’s a fixed lens so there’s no zoom – you’ll have to move the camera back and forth to adjust what actually fills the frame. The nice thing is that small lateral or up and down movements make a hige difference. Ok, so this part is not really much a con, but I’m trying to come up with a balanced review.

Since there’s so much stuff in the shot, keep in mind that your camera’s built in flash will probably not illuminate all of it, especially in the bottom of the shot (since the lens itself will block light). Here’s an example of what I’m talking about (see the dark area in the bottom of the shot). You’ll either have to not use flash, deal with it, or get an external flash unit.

At $500+ dollars it’s not the cheapest lens, but definitely one of the most fun ones that will let you take some very cool and unusual shots.

If you’re thinking about getting one for yourself or a present – check out the latest prices for the 10.5mm Fisheye lens on Amazon. If you buy through the link above it will help support this site and encourage more posts like this (and make my day).

Happy shooting!

Fred Rogers with the Neighborhood Seen on his show. ONE TIME USE

Mr. Roger’s Tilt Shift Neighborhood

By Denise Dougherty of Sunshine Spirit Photography

Are you old enough to remember the television show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? The opening scene was a model mock-up of the perfect little neighborhood. That is a fine example of tilt shift photography images, and perhaps nostalgia has something to do with why these types of photos are adored. They’re colorful, cute, and they tend to make this big world around us feel a bit cozier.

There are several methods to achieving this look in a photo. One is to purchase a lens. Lensbaby came out with a series of lenses in 2004, fairly inexpensive and compatible with all of the big name slr’s camera companies. A Nikon or Canon tilt shift can run you up to a couple of thousand dollars.

Toys Of Switzerland
Creative Commons License photo credit: VinothChandar

Another technique is to use Photoshop. Okay, so it’s not a look that you get sooc (straight out of the camera), but it can be decently achieved when using the right photo and Photoshop tools. Due to the nature of the shot needing to look like a model, an aerial view of something would help give it the right effect. So, photos from high places, such as a tall building, a rooftop, ferris wheel, helicopter, or a bridge would lend itself to a workable photo. It would also help to have clusters of the same subject type, such as people on a boardwalk, running a race or in a parade. Another idea that works well is to photograph large motor vehicles like busses, trucks, trains, airplanes or boats. A few simple steps in Photoshop, like pumping up the hue and blurring part of the image will give you a cute little tilt shift photo!

By blurring a large portion of the photo and leaving just a small slice, about 1/3-1/4 of the photo in focus, you create a shallow depth of field. There is also a site called tiltshiftmaker.com that will help you transform your sooc images into tilt shift works of art.

Tilt-shift photography images are fun and are becoming pretty popular. I personally feel a bit like a kid in a toyshop when I view these photos because they look like a fun toy to play with. Tilt shifts are fun shots that would look great in a kids’ room. As kids’ room décor is becoming a bit more sophisticated, this still gives a child-like feel, but has a mature look to it as well. I also think they’d be a great addition to an office, as they are fun and can attract positive energy to the place you probably need to seek a little joy when you look up from your desk.

These shots can also make a great 365 project or 52-week project for photographers, because we love to challenge ourselves and look for inspiration. By purchasing a special lens, using your Photoshop techniques, or scanning for tilt shift software on the internet, the project is all about having fun and learning something new.

UPDATE:  I’ve found a Tilt Shift Photoshop plugin that can achieve this affect called:  FocalPoint 2  Try it out for free and don’t forget to use our exclusive 15% OFF coupon code: vizphotoguide 

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