fbpx

Week 48 – Bokeh Lights

It’s week 48 of the challenge. This week’s theme is bokeh lights.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 48: Bokeh Lights

November 25 – December 1, 2020

This week’s challenge is bokeh lights. I’m a bit uncomfortable using the term bokeh as it can mean a lot of things regarding the quality of the out of focus areas in an image, but a lot of people use it to refer to just out of focus areas and especially to lights, so I’ll use it here anyway.

If you focus on something, then lights in the background or foreground tend to look like circles. This will occur most when you’re using a wide aperture. This week, try focusing on a subject when there are lights in the foreground or background and using a shallow depth of field to create the circle effect. If you don’t use manual exposure, try out aperture priority mode and set a low number for your aperture (ex: 1.8 or 3.5). Below are a few examples.

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.

Week 47 – Balance

It’s week 47 of the challenge. This week’s theme is balance.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 47: Balance

November 18-24, 2020

This week’s challenge is balance. There are two ways to apply balance in a photo: visually and with storytelling. I try to do both whenever I can.

The below examples show storytelling balance. The first image shows a bride and groom dancing with the wedding party dancing in the background. The wedding party adds to the story of the day and contrasts with the couple dancing closer together. The second image was a family playing a game. Their contrasting expressions add interest and mystery to the story. The bottom image is a favourite. The guests kept trying to get the couple to kiss and the groom’s sister/bridesmaid was covering her eyes because she thought it was gross. This one is also a good example of visual balance as the couple and bridesmaid balance out the sides of the frame and they’re the same distance from the edges of the frame.

Below are some examples of visual balance. I used objects, like the fountains and driftwood, to balance out each half of the frame with a couple on the other side.

Now go try to find multiple subjects or a subject and an object to balance your frame from side to side or top to bottom. Think about both visual balance and storytelling.

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.

Week 46 – Flash Photography

It’s week 46 of the challenge. I can’t believe there are only six weeks left!

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 46: Flash

November 11-17, 2020

This week’s theme is flash photography. Whether you just have the pop-up or small flash on your camera or an external flash, on or off camera, the below tips can help you achieve better flash photos. I’ll follow the tips with some examples and explain how I made them.

Tips for getting better flash photos:

  1. To get a more natural-looking light instead of the bright flashy look flashes often give, adjust your non-flash exposure to just a stop or two below zero before adding flash. This will make your background show up without flash and let the flash add a more subtle light to your subject. If you just use auto mode, the camera will often make the background very dark and the flash very bright.
  2. Bigger is usually better – a bigger light source will create a softer light, which is usually more flattering and natural-looking for photos of people. This is about relative size, not just the size of the light, so a light that’s closer to your subject will appear larger and create a softer light. For example, the sun is very large, but very far away, so it’s a fairly small light source and can create harsh shadows. A pop-up flash on camera is a small light source, even if you get close.
  3. You can make your small flash larger by using a diffuser or bouncing it off something. There are lots of diffusers you can buy for external flashes and even pop-up flashes, along with reflectors that go on the flash, like this Flash Bender that I’ve used. Even the tiny white card that’s built in to your external flash will help spread the light out a bit. You can also rotate your external flash to bounce off a white ceiling or wall, which creates a big, soft light source. If you just have a pop-up flash, you can try holding a piece of white paper under and in front of it to diffuse and direct the light towards the ceiling.

The above photo was taken in 2008 on my first DSLR, the Canon Rebel XSi, using the pop-up flash. Settings were 2 second shutter, f5.6 aperture, and ISO 100. I used a tripod to set up the camera and fired it remotely, then ducked out of the shot to create a ghostly image of me while the flash fired and capture the rest of the scene for the entire exposure.

The above photo was taken with an external flash held by a friend to my left. Settings were 1/200, f11, ISO 100. The goal was to balance the background exposure with the flash exposure to allow the sky to show up and people to be well-lit at the same time. If I hadn’t used flash, since the sun was behind them, the people would either be shadows with the sky properly exposed or the sky would be close to white when the people were properly exposed.

The above two wedding photos were taken using bounce flash, meaning I tilted the head of my external flash (on-camera) at the ceiling (first photo) and at a wall (second photo). Bouncing off a wall can create a more dramatic, dimensional look than bouncing off the ceiling. Settings for the first are 1/160, f2, ISO 1600 (I use higher ISO to keep the background well-lit). The second is 1/200, f2.8, ISO 3200.

The above photo was taken with an off-camera flash to my right, placed slightly behind the groom. I used a darker ambient (background) exposure to isolate the couple. Settings were 1/200, f2.5, and ISO 400.

The above two photos are my most commonly used wedding lighting these days, though I occasionally use the ceiling/wall bounce method described above. I have an external flash on camera, usually aimed upward with a flag or the white card pulled up to bounce light forward. And then I’ll place another flash or two off to the side or behind to create a rim light for more dimension and interest. You kind of have to play with the background flash power settings to find the best look, which is where digital cameras really come in handy since you can review on the LCD. Settings on the first are 1/200, f2.8, ISO 500 and the second 1/200, f2.8, ISO 800. I made the background/ambient a bit darker on these to isolate the couples slightly.

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.

Week 45 – Candid Relationship

It’s week 45 of the challenge and this week’s theme is pretty much my favourite thing to photograph: candid relationships. Read below for more about this.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 45: Candid Relationship

November 4-10, 2020

This week’s challenge is to capture a candid relationship. This can be a relationship between people or animals. If you don’t normally photograph people, now’s a good time to give it a shot. Or you can use a timer and try to capture yourself interacting with another person or pet.

Here are some tips on capturing candid relationships:

  1. I’ll often 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. During events like weddings, it’s a bit easier as people just naturally get used to having a photographer around. If you’re photographing people you live with or have a relationship with, just tell them you’ll be taking some candid photos here and there and to try not to pay attention to it.
  2. It doesn’t have to be completely candid. You can set up a scenario or let people set up their own, while fully aware that you’re there to take photos, and then let them interact in that situation. All of the non-wedding photos above were pretty much taken in this way. They planned some things to do during the shoot, which makes it not purely documentary, but I didn’t give them any direction while they did those things, so the relationships captured were still candid.
  3. If people are uncomfortable, I usually tell them I’ll throw away the unflattering photos. You can also take a little break and interact with them more before taking additional photos. If they really object and you’re just taking photos for fun, find some different subjects.
  4. Timing is important. If something obvious is happening, like people about to cut the cake or do a first dance at a wedding, I try to take some photos as I anticipate the moment to get my exposure and composition right, then photograph the moment, and keep taking photos to capture the reactions. You can find out more about this topic in my free ebook.
  5. Take more than one photo. I always take at least two photos when photographing people and even more when taking candids where expressions and movements are changing. I have had second photographers at weddings take one candid of a guest and had to throw it away because their eyes were closed or they sneezed or something. You never know what could happen in the 1/250th of a second (give or take fractions of a second) it takes to capture a photo.
  6. Try not to be too obvious. I don’t use flash for candids unless I’m at a wedding where there’s a lot of things to distract them from my flash firing. If your camera beeps when you take a photo, disable that in the menu. Also, if it has a quiet shutter mode, use it.

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.

Week 44 – Zoom/Move While Shooting

It’s week 44 and this is a fun technical challenge: zoom or move while taking the photo.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 44: Zoom/Move While Shooting

October 28 – November 3, 2020

This week’s theme is to zoom your lens or move your camera while taking the photo. That means you set a slightly long (or very long) exposure and create movement with your camera.

Of course all the examples I have involve flash and moving the camera, since I don’t have a zoom lens and I like my subjects to be in focus. The advantage of using flash for this is that your subject (or whatever the flash hits most) will still be frozen (at least somewhat, depending on shutter speed). Then you can move your camera around to cause any background lights to look like they’re moving. Another way to do this is to zoom your lens or rotate your camera.

If you don’t use flash, everything will likely be a blur, unless your subject is also moving the same way and speed as the camera. A real challenge here would be to try to move your camera the same speed as your subject to keep them sharp and the background in motion. We’ll get to this in the last challenge, panning, but you can try it out this week. I think it would be really cool to try to track your subject while zooming. You can also pause for a bit to get part of the photo sharper.

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.

Week 43 – Framing

It’s week 43 of the challenge and there are a little over two months left of this crazy year. I hope photography has given you something fun to focus on in unusual times. This week’s theme is framing, which is explained more below.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 43: Framing

October 21-27, 2020

This week’s theme is framing. Framing is kind of like a picture frame, where you use elements of the scene to frame your subjects. You can use obvious things like windows, doors, and mirrors. Or you can shoot through something in the foreground, like leaves. I like putting my lens really close to leaves of a bush to create a blurry foreground element (more on this here) that puts focus on the subject and adds a pop of colour.

As usual with composition challenges, think about the way your eye moves through the image. The framing element(s) should draw attention to your subjects, not (just) to itself. It can also add to the story, like the photo of the couple taken through the car window or the video lighting equipment used as framing in the first photo.

Framing can also make a moment feel more intimate as it creates separation between the camera and the subjects. If can feel like peeking in on a private moment.

You can, of course, also do this with subjects other than people, like a tree, an animal, a building, etc.

One thing to be cautious with when framing your subject is focus. You’ll typically want to focus on your subject and not the frame, though rules are made to be broken. You should move your focal point around to make sure it’s on your subjects or use focus-and-recompose. If your framing element is really close to the lens, your camera probably won’t be able to focus that close anyway, so letting your camera choose what to focus on may work in that case.

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.

Week 42 – Catch Lights

It’s week 42 of the challenge and I’m all caught up now. How about you?

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 42: Catch Lights

October 14-20, 2020

This week’s challenge is catch lights. This one requires a subject. If you don’t have someone to model for you, try a pet or a self-portrait.

Catch lights are that small reflection in someone’s eye that gives them a little sparkle. Portraits that lack them can look a little lifeless (or you can intentionally have no catch lights for a moody, dark look).

The easiest way to get a catch light is to have the subject facing the camera and have a light source hitting their eyes. I actually didn’t have a lot of portrait examples because most of my portraits are actually lightly directed photos of couples of families, so they don’t involve people looking at the camera. But I did find a bunch of candids that feature catch lights anyway. Turns out people crying really makes those catch lights pop, plus the catch lights give the eyes some extra emotion.

I find the nicest catch lights come from a larger light source like a window, a reflector, or the sun. A pop-up flash can produce a very tiny, pinpoint catch light, which doesn’t look great. If you’re having some trouble figuring out how to get catch lights, try using a constant light source like a video light or a lamp and moving it around your subject while looking at their eyes to note if there’s a catch light. Alternately, you can move your subject around until you see the light in their eyes.

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.

Week 41 – Photograph an Animal

It’s week 41 of the challenge and this week’s theme is to photograph an animal.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 41: Photograph an Animal

October 7-13, 2020

This is a pretty simple challenge this week. Go photograph an animal, either a pet or a wild animal. Get close, use a zoom lens, capture their relationships with each other or humans, or get creative by combining this with any of the previous week’s themes. Here are a couple of animal photos I captured, mostly at client sessions or weddings. If you have a pet at your wedding, you can bet I’m going to take a ton of photos of it.

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.

Week 40 – Light Painting

It’s week 40 of the challenge (or it was two weeks ago, but I’m catching up). This week’s challenge is light painting, which is a good one to do with a friend or a tripod.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 40: Light Painting

September 30 – October 6, 2020

This week’s theme is light painting, which is when you take a long exposure photograph and use a light source to “draw” something through your image. I’m also including things that “draw” for you, like cars driving by. You’ll want to use a longer exposure starting around half a second or up to as long as you please. It’s also good to keep your ISO low so you don’t end up with too much noise. I’ll include my settings in captions below to illustrate.

The above two photos were taken during a wedding and without a tripod. The first image was taken with mostly the sparklers providing light (and some ambient from the moon and a nearby building). The girls are blurry because of camera shake due to the slow shutter speed. The second image was taken using flash, which froze the girls’ motion, though you can see some ghosting behind them.

The bottom four images were all taken with a tripod or the camera resting on a ledge. I recommend this method for taking long exposure photos so the stationary, non-light parts will be sharp. Lights, or very well lit things like subjects with flash, tend to be frozen in a long exposure image because your sensor captures their light faster than things that aren’t as well lit. Hence why the sparklers still look sharp in the first two examples even without a tripod.

So this week, go find some sparklers, flashlights, a video light, glow sticks, or something else that provides a bright light, and paint something in the air. Or go capture some car taillights or headlights going by. Just set your shutter speed to half a second or longer and set your ISO between 100 and 400 or so. If you want the non-light things to be sharp, use a tripod or rest your camera on 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.

Week 39 – Triangles

It’s week 39 of the challenge. I’m getting a bit behind here, so I hope you’ve been able to continue with the challenge titles or just used it as an opportunity to catch up. I’ve started two new day jobs in the last month or so and have gotten a bit overwhelmed with that, editing, and running my course and this site. But I’m going to try to keep this going until the end of the year. Feel free to ask questions in the Facebook community as usual. I’m still checking in there.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here. You can also see every week that’s been posted so far here. Scroll to the bottom to sign up for weekly theme emails.

You can follow me on Instagram at @documentyourdaytoday and use the hashtag #documentyour2020.

Week 39: Triangles

September 23-29, 2020

This week’s theme is triangles. Geometric shapes catch our eyes, but the triangle in particular is a very strong shape. It can draw your eye in and keep you looking at the photo as your eyes move from point to point. By triangle, I mean actual triangles, lines that converge to form a triangle, or just three noticeable points that create a triangle when mentally connected.

I couldn’t come up with some examples containing actual triangles for you, but here are a couple of ways to use them. You can use them in portraits by positioning three people to form a triangle (or even fewer people with their limbs or heads forming a triangle). These examples are candid, but this can work really well with portraits.

These aren’t perfect examples of triangles, but they give you an idea of how angles that converge at three places can draw your eye around the frame. These strong angles are kind of hard to ignore.

Get out there this week and find me some better examples of triangles or position three things or people to form a triangle in your frame.

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.