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Week 13 – Photograph Hands and Feet

This week’s theme is hands/feet. This is pretty simple and open to interpretation through different styles and techniques, so I won’t give you any tips this week. I included some examples below though.

Hands and feet are a good way to capture emotion without showing faces and, in my opinion, count as a portrait of someone or multiple people. They can also show relationships and personality. And if you don’t have anyone else to photograph, you might even be able to take a self-portrait like this without using a tripod, timer, or trigger.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 12 – Night Photography

This week’s theme is night photography. You can take photos outdoors or just practice your low light photography inside, like using a streetlight shining through your window, string lights, or a bedside lamp.

Here are some tips on night photography:

  1. Find a light source. For the above photos, from left to right and then down the rows, my light source was: sparklers held by wedding guests, sparklers, lighting in the tent and a bit of recently set sun, a streetlight, general ambient light on the street, a video light held to the left. You can also use a flashlight, portable string lights, your phone’s screen or flashlight, or a camera flash of course.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use high ISO. This will let you have a higher shutter speed. It’s better to have a grainy/noisy photo than a blurry one, unless you like blurry.
  3. Try playing with light painting. Light painting, like in the top right image of the girls with the sparklers, is done by using a slow shutter speed (experiment starting at 1/2 a second or lower) and a moving light source. You can move sparklers or a flashlight or use something that’s already moving like cars driving by. I highly recommend a tripod or monopod for that slow of a shutter speed. I didn’t use one in the sparkler painting photo, which is why the people are blurry. The light will probably still be sharp, but everything else will be blurry if you don’t use a tripod (or put your camera on a table or something).

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2021.

Week 11 – Using Symmetry in Photography

This week’s theme is symmetry. Symmetry is one compositional tool you can use to make your images more interesting and pleasing to the eye. Symmetry is when one half of the image is identical to the other, split vertically or horizontally (or both). It doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical to have the desired effect, especially if you throw something like a couple or other subject into the image. In that case, you might rely on the overall environment to provide the symmetry.

Here are some tips on using symmetry:

  1. Be careful about angles and cropping to avoid an unsettling slightly crooked look. If you stand slightly off-center to a symmetrical scene, then all of the elements of the scene will be skewed, which can be distracting. I’m definitely guilty of not squaring my frame properly, as you can see in some of my examples with a lot of lines.
  2. Try including other compositional techniques as well to keep visual interest up. Some examples are rule of thirds and leading lines. Pay attention to where your eye goes in the frame. It should still have a focal point or subject.
  3. If a scene is pretty symmetrical, but contains a distraction off to one side, try cropping in closer to remove it.
  4. You can create symmetry by using a reflection, such as with a body of water or using a mirror/phone.
  5. Look for symmetry in your environment. Buildings are a great source of this, especially places like churches or commercial buildings.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 10 – Hard Light

This week’s theme is hard light. Lighting challenges are my favourite because they can be hard, but this is a different kind of hard. Hard light creates sharp, hard-edged shadows and tends to have a lot of contrast. It’s created by a small light source, or relatively small (like the sun, which is big, but far away). You can encounter it outdoors on a bright, sunny day. This kind of light can be hard to work with, but check out some examples below and tips on how to get great photos in hard light.

Here are some tips on working with hard light.

  1. Pay attention to the shadows. Shadows can be really unflattering in a portrait or they can be dramatic and interesting. Pay attention to the way the shadows fall and what they hide and reveal.
  2. For portraits, hard light can be most flattering as a side-light or closer to sunset. At midday, it can create raccoon eyes and a shadow mustache.
  3. When taking portraits at midday, I often try to find backlight rather than deal with hard light, but it can be worked with. You just have to be careful of your posing. Sometimes I have people look to the side, at each other, or close their eyes, still paying attention to the shadows.
  4. Hard light, or full sun, can be great for capturing a landscape with a lot of contrast. Like the example of the couple with the cloudy blue sky above, putting the light behind you (the photographer) can allow you to capture the full range of colours and tones in a scene and get a beautiful sky, where backlight would tend to wash out the sky (unless you add light to your subjects).
  5. Use the shadows. Like in the photo of the little girl walking on a log above, harsh sun can create great shadows in a scene.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2021.

Week 9 – Photograph a Meaningful Location

This week’s theme is meaningful location.

If you photograph people, this is something to think about. Lots of people want to go to a pretty location, or even a studio, for portraits because they think it will look nice. But location can also play a role in documenting your subject by capturing an important part of their memories and adding personality.

You should also consider location when you’re just documenting your own life. 10-20 years from now, maybe you’ll be living in a different place or your favourite bar or store will have closed down. Why not document them and the impact they have on your life while they’re here?

Below are some photos I took of clients in places that have meaning for them: their homes, favourite stores, bars/restaurants, and places they engage in their hobbies. I’m not going to give you any tips this week. Just go out (or stay in) and capture a place that’s important to you.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 8 – Black and White Photography

This week’s theme is black and white. This is pretty simple since you can take a photo of pretty much anything and edit it in black and white, or make it black and white in camera. I tend to deliver my clients’ photos all in colour and just use black and white when it really calls for it. Below are some of my fave black and white images from my work.

Black and white can be used to “fix” a technically imperfect photo that has too much noise/grain, weird colour (often due to mixed lighting), or even a lack of sharpness, but it can also be used to put the focus on the moment or composition. Some people say if colour doesn’t add anything to an image, then make it black and white. I tend to approach my work from the opposite perspective (if the colour doesn’t take anything away from the image, keep the colour), but they do have a point.

Here are some tips on getting better black and white photos:

  1. If you set your camera to shoot in black and white, you can get a better idea of what the finished image will look like. Some photographers even set their camera to black and white so they can focus on light and composition without the distraction of colour, then edit the RAW file (which can be edited in colour or black and white, no matter what the camera is set to). You can set most digital cameras to monochrome in the picture styles menu.
  2. Look for contrast. Whether it’s differences in colour or dramatic lighting, contrast can have a big impact in black and white.
  3. Pay attention to composition. Removing the element of colour leaves you primarily with composition, lighting, and focus to control where the eye goes in your image. Look for strong lines, shapes, and shadows/highlights when composing.
  4. If there’s a busy background in your image, it’ll be harder to differentiate it from the subject in black and white. Try to hide or crop out distractions. You can also use backlighting to separate the subject from the background (see the dancing photo with flash behind them).
  5. Play with some different editing methods, even if you have little experience with editing. For example, in Adobe Lightroom (which I use to edit), you can try adjusting the clarity to add more definition, adjusting the curve to add contrast to specific tones, or use the HSL/grayscale tools to make certain colours brighter or darker.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 7 – Get Close to your Subject

This week’s challenge is to get close. Getting close allows you to focus on emotion when people are involved and get a different perspective on things. I’m going to focus on photos of people here, but you can certainly apply it to other things. Don’t worry about getting super close with a macro lens or otherwise, since we’ll cover macro photography later in the year.

Below are some examples of photos where I got close to the subjects to capture their expressions and emotion. Some of these were taken with a 35mm lens, so I was literally very close to them. Others were taken with a 50mm to 85mm, which allowed me to stand a bit farther away. The first three are portraits, the fourth is a candid but obviously very camera-aware, and the last two are candids.

Here are some tips on getting closer:

  1. To get a good close-up candid, you can either use a longer lens or work on being less noticeable. Usually people will notice me less and less as the day goes on when photographing a wedding or a documentary session. I start out chatting with them and getting them comfortable with me and eventually they just continue their day without paying me much attention. This does take some practice though, so you may find a longer lens the better choice to start. As for photographing your own family, the less you ask them to smile for the camera, the easier you’ll find it to take candids.
  2. Be careful getting close with a really wide lens (shorter than 35mm) because the edges can get distorted, along with people’s facial features. Think about how you look in a phone selfie versus in a photo taken from farther away. Cell phones tend to have wide lenses.
  3. Pay attention to expression. Getting close puts the focus on expression and emotion. For more tips on expression, check out the post from week 5.
  4. Getting close to your subject or using a longer lens and being relatively close will both create a shallower depth of field (and blurrier background), so if your aperture is fairly low, your subject will be more isolated and stand out more. This is great for putting the focus on your subject, literally and figuratively, and can help take attention away from messy backgrounds. For example, the bottom left photo in the set above shows a mother dancing with her son and a blurry bartender in the background. The focus and depth of field make the bartender and other background elements barely noticeable.
  5. Don’t be afraid to cut off parts of people’s heads/faces and get super close up, as below. You don’t even have to include more than just a mouth or eyes, or even hands/arms, to convey emotion.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 6 – Window Light Photography

This week’s theme is window light. Window light can actually create various dramatically different looks, but I find it’s mostly flattering or interesting (and sometimes both). Below are some examples of different ways to use it, followed by some tips.

Here are some tips on using window light:

  1. Watch out for mixed white balance. That basically means light coming from two different kinds of sources, like window light (which is usually kind of blue) plus overhead lighting (which is usually more orange). When you have two different colours of light, they can create some really ugly skin tones and colours in your image. This may not be as crucial if there are no people in your photo.
  2. Using more dramatic, directional window light can emphasize texture and create shadows you may not want in a photo of a person. If someone has very rough skin or a lot of wrinkles, and doesn’t like those things, then I suggest avoiding side light. Having them face towards or away from the window will give you a more even, universally flattering look.
  3. If you’re struggling with getting enough light on your subject without cranking your ISO way up, move your subject closer to the window, which will make them brighter. Also avoid having the window behind your subject, since they’ll be in the shade of their own body. Same thing goes for inanimate objects, of course.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 5 – Photographing Expression

This week’s theme is expression, as in facial expression (though you can also use body language here). If you don’t normally photograph people, you can challenge yourself this week to try. You can take a self-portrait if you don’t have anyone to photograph. Or get clever and find an expression in an animal or inanimate object.

Expression is very important in portrait and documentary photography that involves people. It can tell a story and make the viewer feel something.

Last year, I took the below self-portrait for this challenge. It can be tough to get a natural looking expression in a self-portrait, so you may want to use a timer and move around a bit until the timer goes off. You can also use a remote and take multiple photos while changing your expression. Just trying to hold a pose while waiting for the timer off is likely to get a fake-looking expression.

Below are some expressive photos I love from my work, from laughter to tears and everything in between.

Here are some tips on capturing expression through photography:

  1. For a portrait, I find I get the best expression by having a fairly continuous dialogue with the subject, at least at the start. Unless they’re a professional model, most people feel awkward in front of the camera. Chat with them to help them feel comfortable. Tell jokes or be silly to get them to laugh. Try giving them prompts to get a certain reaction. If there are multiple people, get them to interact with each other (ex: with a couple, tell one to whisper a joke or something romantic in the other’s ear).
  2. For candids, interact with your subjects if they’re not engaged in what they’re doing and feel awkward with the camera. If you’re documenting your own life, there’s no need to approach it like strict photojournalism. You’re a part of your story, so feel free to act like it. You can get some great expressions by playing with your kids or talking to your spouse, for example. Sometimes I’ll start a documentary session by chatting with my subjects so they get comfortable with me and then slowly fade into the background as they go about their day.
  3. Get close to your subject to put an emphasis on their expression. This can also be done by having a clean background without distracting elements. Even if the background is a bit messy, you can use a shallow depth of field (i.e. a small area of focus) to draw the eye to your subject’s face.
  4. Think about using other elements of the photo to reinforce the emotion being expressed. This could be lighting, composition, or colour scheme. For example, you could reinforce a sad expression with cool colour tones and dim or dramatic lighting. We’ll cover this more in future weeks.

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.

Week 4 – Mirror and Prism Photography

This week’s theme is mirrors/prisms/phones. These are a few similar tricks you can use to create a surreal, double-exposure like effect in camera.

The basic idea is to hold your phone face up, without a case and with no lens hood on your camera, with the edge right up against the lower part of your lens to create a reflection of what’s above. You can tilt it up and down a bit to change what’s reflected. Just experiment until you see something interesting through your viewfinder or on your LCD.

You can, of course, also use an actual mirror. Your phone is handy because you usually have it with you. If you’re using your phone to take the photos, you might want to try a mirror, or check out the prism idea below.

Here are a few of my attempts. It can be really cool if you have an interesting sky, but it was pretty grey out, so I just went for reflecting some trees. I also tried it out on some flowers, which created an interesting gradient effect on the bottom instead of the brighter soil that was there.

Another option is to use a prism. A prism is a clear object with flat surfaces that refracts light. You can search for photo prism to find lots of examples of things to use. Below is an example by my friend Bud, who is awesome at this kind of experimental photography, using a triangular prism. You can use them in a similar way to a mirror and just play around with it until it looks the way you want.

Photo by webmeister Bud

If you have any questions, join us in the Facebook group. I’ll be checking in there daily to see your work and help you achieve the best results.

If you’re just finding this now, you can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2022.