Types of Photography
Sometimes the hardest photos to take are the ones of the places we are most familiar with. When was the last time you took a walk through your own neighborhood and found interesting things to photograph? If you’re like many people, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time doing that at all. Usually, when we decide to go out in search of photographs, we leave the places that are familiar behind in favor of unfamiliar, new, and therefore interesting things to take pictures out. But if you ignore the photographic potential of your own neighborhood, you are actually doing yourself a disservice. Not only are you missing out on photographs that will be important to you personally in the years to come, you are also missing out on photographic opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
##Exploring your neighborhood
Whether you live in the suburbs, in a rural community or in a city center, start by walking around your own neighborhood. Spend some time looking at the details. Try to see the place you live through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live there. Try to view your neighbor’s fence or that row of mailboxes in a different way. Are there any interesting textures or patterns that you might be able to capture? What about color? Are there any places that you’ve never explored in your own neighborhood? Let’s say you never really gone into the local mom-and-pop market, or you’ve never stood at the top of the hill at the end of your street. It could be that you’ve never really spent a lot of time walking around your neighborhood at all—if you make an effort to explore the once-unseen corners of your community, you’ll almost certainly find details that surprise you. And if you traverse your neighborhood on foot, you’ll also notice that things look really different from the sidewalk than they do from the driver’s seat of your car.
##Try to capture a sense of life where you live
Your neighborhood, like any neighborhood in the world, has its own unique qualities and personality. Things happen in your neighborhood roughly the same way they happen all over the world, but with a certain unique tempo. For example, it could be that your neighbor three doors down always begins his morning by retrieving the newspaper off of his driveway (yes, it’s true, some people do still subscribe to the morning paper). It could be that your other neighbor always goes for a jog or walks the dog. As the day progresses, neighbors get in cars, take their kids to school, or send older kids off to the bus stop. Shops open for business, people pick up coffee, people go to work, have lunch and come home again—and those routines change only as people move in and out of the neighborhood.
If you know your neighbors very well, start by informing them that you plan to spend a day photographing life in your neighborhood. If they know what you’re up to, they’re going to be less surprised (and possibly annoyed) when they see you out there first thing in the morning snapping pictures of them as they get to their cars to go to work. And if you don’t know your neighbors very well, try to focus on the less personal details, or use this project as an excuse to knock on doors and introduce yourself. Being open about what you’re doing is going to help avoid the perception that you’re a weird stalker with a camera—that’s the last thing you want said about you, especially in your own neighborhood. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that you should always get permission to photograph someone else’s child—even if it’s somebody you know.
Now when you’re working on this project, don’t just hang back and shoot everything as it happens. Think about how you can capture life where you live in an interesting and unusual way—even if there isn’t much that happens in your neighborhood that could be classified as interesting or unusual. Try to get some close shots. Look at the details. For example, instead of just zooming in on your neighbor as she embarks on her morning walk with her dog, try to capture the expression on the dog’s face. Try to capture that moment when she first puts the leash on her dog’s collar. Zoom in, and capture those moments that transpire between people and animals, or between two people, or between people and whatever it is that happen to be doing.
##Street photography (even in the suburbs)
Neighborhoods and their personalities can vary a lot. You may live in an area that mostly has houses and not a lot of services—if that’s the case you may have to spread out a little and find the places where people congregate. Parks make good locations for this type of work, or you can go a little further and take photographs at cafés or corner stores. Even if you’re in the suburbs, this is still a form of street photography, so you’ll need to gather your courage. A lot of people find it exceedingly difficult to photograph strangers, and if that’s you, you’ll have to adopt a new strategy. For example, you can try stealth photography—a smart phone is great for that because you can pretend to be doing something else on it while you are secretly photographing suburbanites in their natural environment. You can also shoot from the hip, which is a technique that involves selecting a narrow aperture to assist with blind focusing, and taking pictures while your camera is hanging on a strap around your neck or literally at your hip. When you’re not looking through your viewfinder, people aren’t usually going to suspect that you’re taking photographs, and that will help you feel bolder. Shooting from the hip is fun but it does take some time to master, so if you’re not getting great results right away, keep trying. That one magical shot out of dozens that maybe didn’t work so well will really help get you hooked on this technique.
If you’re not planning to be stealthy, you can take one of a few different approaches. First, you can shoot first and not ask any questions later. A lot of street photographers just walk straight up to the person they want to photograph, take the picture, and walk away. Most of the time your subject is going to be so surprised that they won’t be able to think of anything to say to you before you disappear. Your next approach could be to simply strike up a conversation with your potential subject and then ask him whether or not you can take his picture. I think you’ll be surprised by how many people are flattered and perfectly willing to be your subject. Just keep in mind that you may get less natural photos, because your subject is naturally going to be attempting to pose for the camera. So once you’ve obtained permission, try to carry on the conversation so you can capture some natural expressions of the person laughing, or thinking seriously about serious questions. The less posed the photo will looks, the better.
If you don’t think photographing strangers (or even your neighbors) is necessarily for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still capture images of your neighborhood. Focus more on the non-animate elements of life where you live, such as fallen leaves on the sidewalk, or squirrels in the trees. If you live in a more rural area, try taking photographs of livestock or interesting outbuildings like barns and sheds. You could also shoot fences—weathered fences in particular make for interesting photos.
Suburban neighborhoods have occasionally been criticized for being a little cookie cutter. If your neighborhood fits into that mold, try to capture the repetitiveness of the houses and yards as a pattern. If there are any identical houses in your neighborhood, consider taking pictures of all of the similarities. For example, you can stand on the sidewalk and try to capture two or more identical homes in the same frame. You can do the same with similar mailboxes, similar cars, or similar people. Don’t forget those perfect, manicured lawns—the truth is that some people in suburban neighborhoods like to create a pretense that everything is perfect when it may not be, so if you can find the one flaw in that otherwise perfect landscape, capture it for a photo that contains some irony.
I won’t lie—photographing your own neighborhood can be a little bit of a challenge. It can be hard to find inspiration in ordinary places, and the place where you live can, on the surface, seem pretty ordinary. But the truth is that you can find something interesting to photograph no matter where you go, so if you’re not feeling inspired right away don’t worry, just keep looking around and eventually a subject will reveal itself to you.
1. Explore your neighborhood
2. Capture a sense of life where you live
– Photograph your neighbors (with permission)
– Try to find a unique perspective
3. Suburban street photography
– Use stealth techniques (smartphones, shooting from the hip)
– Shoot without asking, or
– Get to know your subject first, then ask permission
4. Look for patterns
– Photograph cookie-cutter houses or mailboxes
– Look for flaws
Ah, the family vacation. If you have small children, you’ve long ago left behind the idea of a romantic holiday in Paris, visiting The Louvre or backpacking in the high country. Your holiday destinations no longer include wine trains, fancy restaurants, and nightlife. These days your vacations are all about the kids.
Of course, I think it’s pretty safe to say that all but the snobbiest of parents love Disneyland. Even if you don’t much like the crowds and the long lines, you have to love the looks on your kids’ faces when they get to meet Elsa, Captain Jack, or The Mouse himself in person. But theme parks can be hazardous, too, both for your sanity and for your camera. What are some of the best (and safest) ways to capture those theme park adventures? Keep reading to find out.
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Confession: I love cooking shows. I love cooking blogs, too. And it’s not just because I hope to one day be able to re-create all those recipes for my own family table, it’s also because I just think there is something magical about the process of taking raw ingredients and transforming them into something delicious. And there’s something even more wonderful about beautiful photos that chronicle the process.
The very best food blogs have this down to a science. They know exactly how to light and shoot the process of preparing a recipe in order to make it as enticing as possible to an audience. You can do the same thing, too, and you don’t even need a food blog. Here’s how.
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The other day, while surfing around the Internet in search of inspiration, I noticed a banner entitled “delicious Instagram food pictures.” And, I did not click on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love looking at delicious food pictures, and I am, in general, a fan of Instagram. But this particular food photo that was used for this particular banner did not make me suspicious that there would be any actual delicious food photographs behind that link if I clicked on it. Why? Because whoever shot and/or chose that particular photograph clearly lacked some basic knowledge about what exactly a delicious Instagram food photo should look like. Do you know what makes a photo look delicious? Read on to find out. Continue Reading »
Photographers spend a pretty large part of the learning stages trying to master the art of the perfectly exposed photo. A perfectly exposed photo, as they would have you believe, has a classic bell curve-shaped histogram that rises in the middle and tapers off gradually towards the highlight side and the shadow side. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way disparaging that classic histogram or the perfect exposure that goes along with it. But we should be questioning that word “perfect,” because perfect is nearly always in the eye of the beholder. And while there is a lot to be said for mastering that classically “perfect” exposure, you should not underestimate the power of also mastering the moody exposure. Read on to find out how. Continue Reading »
We tend to think of our cameras as tools for capturing reality. When you take a photo, it’s like a two dimensional copy of the real world, with everything reproduced more or less accurately. But if you’ve spent any time really studying the photos you take and comparing them to the real world, you’ll see that this is not always the case. Variations in focal length, camera angle and in your lenses themselves can produce subtle—and not so subtle—distortions of the reality you thought you were accurately reproducing. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Read on to find out why. Continue Reading »
It’s true that Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday, but there’s no reason why you need to live in America to photograph the things you are thankful for. The sentiment of Thanksgiving is a universal one – we all have things in our lives that we’re grateful for, whether we celebrate them with a formal occasion or not. So what better month than November to express thanks through photography? Keep reading for some great ideas.
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This is a question I hear from photographers at all learning stages, and unfortunately I can’t give you a black and white answer. Travelling with or without your DSLR is a very personal choice, and you might make a different decision than I would. What I can do for you, however, is give you a list of questions that you’ll want to answer before you decide whether to pack up your DSLR or leave it at home. Continue Reading »
Photographing strangers while out in public is one of the biggest challenges that any photographer has to face, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a professional. It can be really scary to walk up to someone you don’t know and ask for a photo—and it can be even scarier to get that photo without that person’s permission.
Now, photographing people (or anything, really) at night is a different kind of challenge. Put those two things together and that you got a pretty big hurdle to overcome. Today, we’re going to talk about how to get over that hurdle.
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If you started your photographic life during the digital era, you may not have a whole lot of familiarity with black and white photography. But back in the old days, anyone taking photography classes always learned first in black and white. Black and white film was easy to develop and print, and it did a very good job of teaching students about things like light, contrast, form and texture. So can you still get great black and white photos with a digital camera? Absolutely! Keep reading to find out how.
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Sometimes it seems like the weather is constantly driving us inside. It’s either too cold to have that outdoor party, or it’s too hot. It’s raining, or it’s snowing, or it’s too humid. There are definitely more reasons to cancel an outdoor party then there are to keep it where it is. So what do you do when it’s your job to take pictures of that outdoor event, but the venue suddenly changes to an indoor one? Keep reading to find out. Continue Reading »
Sometimes there really doesn’t seem to be anything to take pictures of.
Your house is boring. Your backyard is boring. Your kids are playing video games so, you know, right now they’re pretty boring too. You’re tired of the same old, same old, and you need some inspiration.
Fortunately, despite how you may feel at this particular moment, there really is no such thing as boring when it comes to photography. If you look hard enough, you can always find some new way to feel inspired or some new trick to try. One of the first things I suggest is to just page through my list of tips and tricks – there’s almost certainly something here you’ve never tried before. But if that seems like a daunting task, have a quick read through these ideas instead.
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You know it’s true. You are a human being, and that means you love a good zombie apocalypse.
OK, so maybe I exaggerate, maybe not everyone loves zombies. But there’s no question that as the Halloween season approaches, ghouls and goblins are on everyone’s mind. And for some reason, zombies are at the top of everyone’s list of favorite monsters. People love zombies, zombie movies, and seasonal zombie paraphernalia. I even have some friends who had a zombie wedding. So let’s have a little fun this month and take some pictures not just of those cute little trick-or-treaters, but of those decidedly less-cute zombies that are going to start wandering the streets in the days to come. Does that sound like a challenge? I hope so!
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Landscape photography has a few basic rules that most people learn pretty early on. First, when you shoot a landscape, you need to use a small aperture. That small aperture makes it possible for you to keep the entire scene in focus, from foreground to background.
Another landscape photography rule you probably learned early on has to do with your ISO. Low ISOs, you’ve been told, are critical for landscape photography because your ultimate goal is to capture as much detail as possible. When you use higher ISOs, you can get problems like excess noise, limited total range, and muddy colors. So landscapes need to be shot at ISO 100 or, if your camera gives you the option, at ISOs even lower than that.
So what is a conscientious landscape photographer to do after the sun goes down?
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When you think about black and white photography – classic black and white photography – you probably first think about beautiful, small aperture landscapes with big, bold skies and lots of natural beauty. But the chances are pretty good that you have also seen plenty of beautiful landscapes that are not in black and white. Have you ever thought about why some photographers choose to shoot in color and why some photographers choose to shoot without? How can you arrive at the best decision when it comes to choosing black and white versus color?
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