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Week 15 – High Camera Angle

This week’s theme is high angle, meaning that your camera will be higher than your subject. I find this type of composition effective for candid photos or for making a portrait look more candid. It gives the feeling of peeking in on a scene. It can feel more intimate. Or it can just give you a new perspective on something you usually don’t see from above. It can also be very flattering for portraits because it makes the person’s eyes look bigger and reduces the chances of double chins.

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 14 – Backlight

This week’s theme is backlight. Backlight is when the light is behind your subject. You might have gotten advice to put the sun behind you when taking photos. That might be good advice for landscape photography, but when it comes to photos of people, backlight is my go-to.

Backlight provides a nice, even light on people’s faces because they’re in the shade of their own bodies, but it can be brighter and more flattering than shade because there’s more light wrapping around and bouncing off surfaces nearby. You also don’t have to worry about people squinting when facing the camera if the sun is behind them and not you. This is a simple technique to use when you’re photographing a large group. Everyone will be evenly lit and it will be more flattering than lighting that has more contrast.

Here are some tips on using backlight for portraits/candids (but you can apply it to other subjects and scenes as well):

  1. Put the sun behind your subjects and expose for their faces. If you’re using a cell phone, this is really easy as you can just tap on their face on the screen and your exposure and focus should both adjust for the face. I won’t get into how to do this with other cameras since it will be different depending on the camera or what exposure mode you’re using, but if you’re finding the exposure isn’t working out and you’re in an auto mode, try filling the frame more with your subject (i.e. get closer).
  2. You can get that pretty, glowy rim light around their bodies/hair by putting your subjects in front of a darker background. If the background is bright, like a sunny sky, you won’t see that outline.
  3. When you expose for your subjects’ faces, the sky will probably go white or very light. Don’t worry about it. Your subject is more important than the background (usually). If you really want the sky to be blue, you can try using RAW format and underexposing, then adjusting the shadows and highlights when editing to make the subjects brighter and sky darker. But most of the time, I think a white sky looks fine.
  4. If you aim your camera towards the sun, you can get a hazy look or sun flare, which can be an interesting effect sometimes. If you’re getting those effects but don’t like them, use a lens hood or just hold your hand above and in front of your lens (like an umbrella) to block the light from hitting the lens.

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 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’re stuck in your house alone, 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 #documentyour2021.

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 #documentyour2021.

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 #documentyour2021.

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 #documentyour2021.

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 #documentyour2021.

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 #documentyour2021.