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Monday, March 27, 2017

Picture Practice - Blur

Day 27 - Blur

You probably thought this lesson was going to be about bokeh, or background blur again, but this time I'm talking about motion blur.  In my post about burst photos, we used that function to stop/freeze the motion and you may wonder why in the world we would want to purposely blur the focus when we've worked so hard to get it sharp. Obviously, this is not something you do to every photo, but it can be very effective to exaggerate motion and create a sense of excitement. I haven't really tried using motion blur before, so I am anxious to to give it a try as well.
 Source: Picsart
Panning is a technique that will allow you to create photos where the subject is fairly clear and the background is blurred by motion. To do it, simply move your camera with your subject. This means that you will actually move your phone itself--if your subject is moving from left to right, your camera will move (or turn) from left to right as well, matching the movement of the subject. Because the shutter speed in your phone camera is fairly slow, your subject should stay in focus, while the background will be blurred, giving the impression of movement.
Source: Picsart

Using a slow shutter speed is the best way to capture motion blur when using a DSLR, so using an app such as Camera+ that allows you to slow down the shutter speed (keeps the lens open for a longer period of time) should create the same effect with a phone camera. The key to remember when using a very slow shutter speed is that the camera must be held very steady, so this is a good time to use a small tripod or steady the camera on a stable surface.

Finally, motion blur can be added after a photo is taken using editing apps. iColorama ($2.29) for both iPhones and Androids, has a motion blur option and Focus In Motion ($0.99) which is for iPhones only, is designed specifically for that purpose. I purchased Focus In Motion and tried it out with an old photo I had on my phone.  Here is a before/after so you can compare.



This was pretty fun to play with, but there is definitely a learning curve. There is a "bubble" that you can place over the subject that you want to stay in focus (you can adjust the shape horizontally or vertically). I couldn't seem to get it shaped well for this picture, so I then discovered that there is an option to "paint over" your subject with your finger.  This was much more accurate, although I should have used a smaller brush size, as you can see above. Then you press the "Blur" button and choose the direction you want the blur to go. Have fun capturing motion today, even if you have to do it in an editing app.
Sunday, March 26, 2017

Picture Practice - Depth

Day 26 - Depth

Well, when I set up these prompts, I didn't really realize how much we would have already talked about Depth and how several of the techniques we've practiced enhance the illusion of depth in such great way. But, let's go on and study it a bit more. Creating a dramatic sense of depth can take a two-dimensional image and give it a real three-dimensional feel.  We've already talked about using leading lines, diagonal lines and framing to enhance the sense of depth, but there are a couple more ways to achieve it.

**Layering - Overlapping objects help the viewer to recreate the three-dimensional scene in their mind. This allows them to become a part of the photo, as if they are seeing it firsthand. Of course, the Smoky Mountains provide a great example of layering! Layering is most effective when there is a noticeable difference in the color and/or texture of the layers.
In this next photo, the layering is provided by both the mountains and the clouds. Even the reflections in the water seem to provide some depth.
**Include a foreground object - We talked about this a bit in the Landscape lesson, but here it is emphasized again. Not only can a foreground object provide a sense of scale, but it portrays the depth of the image more accurately as well.
 **Shoot in Portrait mode - I am so used to shooting things in landscape/horizontal mode, that I sometimes forget to turn my camera vertically, in portrait mode. Now that Instagram will allow rectangle photos as well as square ones, there are no limits on the shape. Shooting vertically often allows your eyes to narrow their focus side-to-side and see more of the depth of the image. Next time you prepare to take a horizontal shot, double-check to be sure that it would be more interesting in portrait mode.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Picture Practice - Lens Flare

Day 25 - Lens Flare

Lens flare is occurs when the strong rays of light hit the camera lens and produce a slight sun burst. This light can create light streaks  or reduction in contrast and saturation. If you are like many phone photographers, you probably have accidentally produced lens flare at one time or another and immediately deleted it because you thought you had ruined the image. Photographers have used all sorts of tricks to avoid it or minimize it, but I think it is time to learn to use it to your advantage.

When I took the photo below, I used the zoom and the Camera+ app to adjust the exposure and took 2 different photos.  I took this one first, but I was trying to capture the sky, so I exposed it to the sky and tried again, since this one seemed over-exposed.
Here is the second photo. While the sky has more character, the mushroom in the foreground got lost in the dark.
Once I was able to review the photos, I was surprised to see the lens flare in the first photo. The sky is over-exposed, but it produced such a sparkly flare on the dew that I loved it.

Shooting directly into the sun can definitely over-power your subject if you are not careful, so it is tricky to achieve a balance that is appealing to the viewer. You can do this by cropping some of the light out the photo.
 One other trick is to use an object to mask some of the light source. In both of the photos below, I used the trees to black our some of the light. As I looked at the screen, I was able to move around until I could see the "starburst" effect and then snapped the picture.
I hope that today provides you with an opportunity to get outdoors and some sun to practice this with. Have a sun-filled day!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Picture Practice - Timer

Day 24 - Timer

There are many uses for the timer function on your camera, but it often allows the photographer to be in the picture rather than behind the lens. The same is true with your phone. It is really easy to use, but is often overlooked, so let's go through the steps to use it.  (By the way, I probably should have mentioned this before, but if you have an iPad, the options are just the same as on the iPhone.)
1. Open the camera app.
2. Across the top of your screen, there are several icons. From left to right, they represent:
Flash, HDR, Timer and Filters.  Yep, the timer button is the one that resembles a tiny clock.  Click on it.
3. You have the option for either 3 seconds or 10 seconds. I always choose 10 seconds--which is just barely enough time to get back into place if you are going to be in the photo.
4. Once the camera fires, it does a set of 10 burst images, so that you can pick the one you like best (just like in our previous lesson)

1. To access the timer, be sure it is "On" in your camera settings (tap the settings icon at the top of your camera screen). You can choose 2 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds. I would choose 10 seconds since it just barely give your enough time to get into place if you are going to be in the photo.
2. You also have the option to choose whether you want the camera to take 3 consecutive shots (like a burst). I would also choose this, as it will give you a better chance of getting a good shot).
3. Once this has been activated in your settings, a timer icon (like a small clock) will be on your camera screen.  Tap that icon and then take your picture.
4. If you activated the 3 consecutive burst shots in your settings, you can then go through the steps we talked about previously to select your favorite shot.

While "selfies" are a really popular way to be "in the picture", the timer on your phone provides another way to compose your images while including yourself.  Another great use of the timer function is to get a better picture if you don't have steady hands.  Sometimes, holding the phone is a particular position causes my hands to shake a bit more than others. Pressing the shutter button actually shakes the camera even more. This is a great time to use the timer: You can activate the 10 second timer, set the camera in a steady spot such as in a beanbag or on a tripod and let the timer set off the shutter rather than your finger.

In the photo below, I zoomed in, set my focus, then activated the timer. I quickly set it back down against a piece of driftwood to take the picture.
For timed pictures, I actually like using the Camera+ app best. It allows options of 5 seconds, 15 seconds and even 30 seconds. In many cases, having that longer time is very desirable to get yourself or objects into the correct position. The other thing that I find very helpful is that when it gets down to three seconds, it counts down out loud so you know when the photo is about to be taken.

One final note, most of us enjoy taking photos of children, scenery or beautiful flowers, but don't really enjoy taking or looking at photos of ourselves. When I see a photo of myself, I instantly notice that one of my eyelids is always droopy, that I needed to hold in my tummy or see the dark circles under my eyes. Sadly for me, I often let those things overshadow the twinkle in my eye or the bright smile. But, when I look back at the photos of my family when I was growing up, I never see those things in my parents. My daddy was almost always the photographer, and although she is no longer with me to ask in person, I suspect that my mama was a bit camera-shy. There aren't very many pictures of her and even fewer of my daddy. I would give anything these days to have selfies of them or photos where they set a timer to get in a photo along with us. I bet your children and grandchildren feel the same way about you!!  So get out from behind that phone and get into some pictures!!
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Picture Practice - Just A Hint

Day 23 - Just a Hint

Today's prompt is probably one of my favorites--especially for Instagram/phone photos. Because of my daughter and her husband's desire to keep their children's identities private on social media, I use this technique often and have found that it really helps me connect with and appreciate tiny details more.  (Can you tell I love little feet and hands???)
Look at the difference in the next two photos.
  *  Such a sweet photo of two cousins at the library.
** This photo, while it has a distracting purse in the background, captures the connection between the two cousins, without even seeing their faces.
And in this next pair of photos I took while on a walk with the grandkids, the first shows Toddler D looking at a dog through the slats of a wooden fence. I know that because I was there, but it is hard to tell by just looking at the photo.
However, the next photo is much more interesting. While we don't know for sure what he is looking at, we do know that it is interesting to him! And all we can see is the back of a toddler and a fence. I simply moved behind him and asked him to look again while I snapped this picture.  (Does anyone else think those knots in the wood look like a fox above him??)
While I use this technique when photographing the children, it also a great way to add interest to other photos as well.
The pattern and repetition in the bark of this tree takes center stage when that is all that is showing.
And how about this beautiful pink rose.
It really becomes a dramatic picture when only a portion is seen and the distractions are cropped out of the picture.
While you can certainly crop a photo to produce this effect, taking a photo with this end-result in mind allows you to really focus on the tiny details, so try doing it straight out of the camera for today.
The other day, while babysitting, I was taking a few pictures of BabyD2 as he pulled up on various objects. I really wanted to remember the details in his tiny feet--how they curl "just so" when he pulls up and how he raises up on his tippy-toes to reach for Papaw's remote control. So I took this photo:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Picture Practice - Perspective

Day 22 - Perspective

According to the dictionary, the definition of Perspective (with regard to photography) is:  "a technique of depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface".  Just like most of the techniques we have talked about so far, showing a dramatic perspective increases the appeal of an image. You may have noticed while shooting from a low angle or landscapes that some of the "lines" in your photo seem to almost converge or disappear into the distance.  The farther the object is from your camera, the smaller it becomes. This is perspective.  While shooting "head-on" or forward facing can produce a pleasing image, showing the perspective in a scene often produces a much more interesting photo because it creates a sense of depth.

Let's go back to the cotton fields. I loved the endless rows of cotton and took a ton of pictures of them.
But, it wasn't until I got at one end of them and shot down the row, did I get the image I was looking for (I even painted this one when I got home).
If these look like leading lines,you are right! They don't necessarily lead your eye to another subject, but they do draw your eyes into the photo.
Here's another--the lines of markers seem to converge on the left side of the photo. Instead of standing directly at the end of the row, I chose to stand slightly in front of the row so that you could see that there were inscriptions on each stone--a dramatic reminder of the many lives lost.
Another way photographers can use perspective in their photos is to give the viewer a different look than they are used to seeing. For example, you can take a picture of your morning coffee cup and it can be a nice picture. But, if you place it at the far edge of your table and shoot from the other end, looking level with the table, it becomes more interesting because the perspective draws your eye to the end. It is more interesting because we are not used to seeing the cup that way.
One more way that you can add visual interest to your image is to break the rule of keeping the horizon level, and turn your phone a bit. Now, I'm not talking about the trend that was popular a few years back where EVERYthing is tilted (many of my daughter's bridal portraits were taken using this trend), but occasionally, it is a fun technique to try. Just be sure that it looks intentional, rather than you like you  tried to get it level and couldn't quite do it. Or like the photo below, you might do it by accident and find that you kind of like it like that!
Here are a couple more photos that employ some of the techniques we've talked about to enhance the sense of perspective.
Remember, to get a great shot, don't just stand there, move your feet.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Picture Practice - Silhouettes

Day 21 - Silhouettes

A couple of weeks ago, when we featured different lighting techniques, I mentioned that we would soon be talking about silhouettes.  Today is the day! Back lighting is used to create interesting and dramatic silhouettes.
To create a silhouette, you want to be positioned so that your subject is blocking the actual light source.  Be sure that you are also careful about extraneous objects--the photo below was almost a complete disaster when I noticed that the silhouette also included a stick protruding from the front of Ron's body---yikes!!
In the next photo, I knew that I was about to have the opportunity for a great silhouette, so I lodged my kayak between some rocks near the shore and asked Ron to paddle into the sun's glow---unfortunately someone else entered the photo as well. 
Just after the sun went behind the trees, I asked him to do the same for me, moving a little bit closer so that no one else was in the photo.
Today, see if you can capture a silhouette of something in your everyday life. Remember that you can often control the darkness of the silhouette by simple editing after you take the photo. Let me know if you'd like to know about some simple editing you can do with your phone. I have a couple of favorite apps I use, but I often just use the editing tools available on Instagram or those that come with my phone camera.

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