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Tips for Better Pictures

 

Today's e-tip:

Social-Distancing Photography

During a global pandemic, you need to find creative, social-distancing outlets for your photography. This is the ideal time to become a better photographer by expanding your skills.
Social-Distancing Photography
If you’re on our mailing list, it’s probably because you purchased one of our camera CheatSheets, so you already own a camera.

You don't have to travel and rub-shoulders with fellow photographers to get great images. You can do it right at home.

Photography is the perfect thing to do in times like these. Here are some ideas for social-distancing photography.


Social-Distancing Photography
 

Shoot a Sunset (or sunrise)
Wherever you live, the sun rises and sets on a daily basis. Weather can have a big impact on sunrises and sunsets, so watch the weather forecasts for clear skies. Sunrises are my personal favorite, mainly because there are fewer people around – perfect for social distancing! If you live in an area where the horizon is obscured (cities, forests, etc.), try to find a high-place to shoot from, where you will have a better view of the horizon. Also, try to find a foreground object to shoot with the sky in the background. I use Google Earth to search for good places to shoot from.
Sunsets 

Go for a Walk in the Woods
There’s nothing better for the soul than walking a trail thru the woods. Hearing the birds chirp or the rushing water of a stream or brook, feeling the soft underfoot of old leaves – these will uplift your spirts. And springtime is the perfect time to do it. Bring your camera along and look for good compositions. A winding trail can lead to great composition; so do streams and rivers. Look straight up at the trees. Shooting straight up with a wide-angle can yield very interesting images. Shoot some macro – close-ups of budding trees and shrubs; daffodils, crocus, or interesting patterns on old leaves. There is lots to photograph in the woods.
Sunsets

Shoot in your Backyard
There’s lots to shoot in your back yard. We don’t often think of photography around where we live, but, some of the same things I mentioned above (in the woods) are probably within a few feet of your abode.

Backyard


Turn your Kitchen Table into a Studio for a Day.

Shoot table-top photography on your kitchen table. For lighting, you can use an open window for nice soft light, or you can use a lamp or two. Set up some still life settings. Look to the old master painters for ideas - van Gogh, Cezanne, Caravaggio, etc. Use a piece of cardboard or an old sheet for a background and use one or two lights. LED light bulbs work great for lighting, just be sure to use a “custom white balance”, as LED lights tend to be very blue (6000+ degrees kelvin).

Sunsets

Try a Portrait
If you have a willing subject, try shooting a portrait of a family member or someone you know (just keep your 3-foot distance!). Try indoor portraits by a window for natural-lighting. Or try using a flash, but be sure to "soften" the light from the flash. You can do this with a softbox, or the really low-tech solution I used to use in the 70’s by putting a tissue or white handkerchief over the flash. Try putting the light at different angles from the camera for different effects. Or try an outdoor portrait. Look for a shady spot on a sunny day. Try using a reflector to provide some highlights on your subject (that will probably require a tripod, as you won’t have enough hands to hold the camera and a reflector!). Or try shooting a portrait on a cloudy day.
Portraits

Animals
Pets are great subjects. No pets – then walk quietly in the woods with a long-lens. Look for birds, butterflies, foxes and other wildlife that may be native to where you live.

Animals

Old Buildings
Find some old abandoned buildings in your area. Old buildings can be great subjects. Try shooting them in black & white – you can do this in-camera (JPEG only) or turn any color image into black and white with most post-processing programs. You can even shoot in infrared, even if your camera hasn’t been converted. All you need is an infrared filter (one like this: https://www.amazon.com/Green-L-Infrared-Filter-Camera-Digital/dp/B07RPJSQLD/ref=sr_1_3 ) for your camera and a tripod. (be sure to get the right size filter for your lens). Just shoot in Manual mode and use custom white balance. You’ll have to estimate the exposure. Start with ISO 800, f5.6 and a 20 second exposure on a sunny day– adjust as necessary. Be sure to shoot in LiveView mode. The reason for the long exposure is that if your camera isn’t converted, it’s trying to filter-out most of the infrared.

OldBuildings

Night photography
Try shooting a full-moon. The best "moon" pictures always include something in the foreground, so don’t just get a picture of the moon by itself. Try shooting the stars. Night-sky shooting requires a wide-angle lens, high ISO speeds and long exposures (about 20 seconds, depending on the ISO speed and how dark the sky is). Even in suburban areas, night-sky images can be captivating.

Night

Try Different Techniques
Try shooing with different techniques. Learn the effects of a polarizing filter. Try infrared. Try shooting macro. Try looking for shadows and experimenting with different compositions. Try shooing reflections. Experiment with silhouettes. Shoot a single subject from many different angles, to see which you like best. Shoot from ground-level. Shoot from above. Try some long-exposures of water. 

Other



Summary

You don’t have to travel to take great pictures – you just have to have a little imagination and desire.


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