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Week 38 – Spotlight

It’s week 38 and we’re so close to the end of the year. If you’ve done every week, I’m seriously impressed. If not, hop on this week’s challenge. Though those of us on the smoky west coast may need to make our own light indoors.

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 38: Spotlight

September 16-22, 2020

This week’s theme is spotlight, or pools of light, which is when there is only a portion of your scene that has light in it, like a spotlight on a dark stage.

Part of the magic of this is due to the dynamic range of cameras vs. the dynamic range of our eyes. In the range of the brightest light to the darkest dark, our eyes can only see part of what exists, at least at the same time. Cameras can only capture a certain range of light, less than what our eyes can see. Our eyes adjust to the lighting in our environment and adjusting your camera’s exposure does the same thing. So if you capture more detail in highlights, you might have to sacrifice detail in the shadows. Hence, why if you expose for really bright highlights, like on a spotlit subject, the darker parts of the scene will go really dark or even pure black.

That’s the key here: exposing for highlights. And noticing when a scene has more dynamic range than your camera can handle. If your subject is in really bright light and nothing else is, you can get the spotlight effect. Below are a few examples. For the first two images, I noticed the spotlight effect during wedding ceremonies, both due to the sun shining through trees or buildings. Actually, I think the first one was a portrait I took in the same place as the ceremony because I thought the lighting suited them. The third image of the groomsman putting on his tie was candid as well. He was in a foyer that was kind of messy and normally lit, but a skylight above him was really lighting up his face. I exposed for the light on his face and everything else went dark. The last image was in a beam of sunlight breaking through the trees, though this time I purposely placed them there.

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 37 – Mood

It’s week 37 and the theme is mood. This year has been a mood and it’s time to express it.

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 37: Mood

September 9-15, 2020

So, we’ve already done expression and emotion without showing a face. This week, we’ll combine these concepts along with some other factors that influence mood in an image: colours/editing, lighting, composition, framing, etc. Below are some example photos that make me feel something from romance to intimacy and joy to solitude. The images are about the people and their faces and body language convey their emotion, but there’s more to it than just that. Below, I’ll discuss some other ways to create mood in an image.

Here are some ways to create mood in photography:

  1. Colour and editing: black and white images can feel more serious and solemn, but also can be romantic and intimate. Some photographers say that if colour doesn’t add anything to your image, make it black and white. I personally only make something black and white if that edit adds something, like enhancing a serious, elegant, or romantic mood. It’s good to think about what the colours in your image add to it though and what kind of feeling they convey. Bright colours convey joy or excitement. Warm colours and lighting create a warm feeling. Cool colours are peaceful and calming.
  2. Lighting: pretty, glowy backlight or warm lighting can make an image seem happier, warmer, inviting, or romantic. Darker, semi-silhouetted lighting creates mystery and intimacy. Overcast skies can feel kind of sad or lonely.
  3. Framing: framing can isolate your subject, drawing attention to them, but it also makes them feel separate from the rest of the image, or the rest of the world. Like the fourth image of the couple framed in the doorway, the framing makes it feel like you’re peeking in on an intimate moment.
  4. Composition and position relative to other people: putting people in the middle of a lively crowd creates an excited mood, while the photo of the little girl sitting in the sand with all the adults’ legs around her creates a feeling of solitude. Think about what other elements you’re including in your image and how that changes the feel of it.

This week can be pretty simple, just conveying a mood in your photo. But if you take into account all of the above, it can be a real challenge, but it can create a powerful image.

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 36 – Slow Shutter Speed

It’s week 36 and this week’s challenge is slow shutter speed.

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 36: Slow Shutter Speed

September 2-8, 2020

This week’s theme is slow shutter speed, which I’m realizing is a technique I don’t use very often, so I had to pull some older personal photos for this post and even one on film. The main purpose of this challenge is to show motion using a slow shutter speed. I’ll get into the technical ways to do this near the bottom of this post.

A slow shutter speed means using a lower number, like half a second or a second instead of a higher number like 1/500 of a second. When your shutter speed is slow, that means it’s open for longer. While the shutter is open, your camera is capturing the image. So, for example, if someone runs by, you’ll capture their path from when the shutter opens until it closes. If the speed is pretty slow, they’ll show up as a blur. If it’s fast, their motion will appear frozen.

Below are a couple of examples showing different shutter speeds in the same situation. The left image has a speed of half a second, which isn’t super slow, but was slow enough to blur the dancing fountain’s water. The right image is at 1/500 second, which is fast enough to capture fast human motion, but still somewhat blurs the water.

Here’s another example of the classic waterfall shot. I used a tripod and a shutter speed of 20 seconds. Notice the cars going by in the foreground just show the blur of their taillights (which is another classic slow shutter speed exercise).

The below image was taken on film, so I’m not sure what the shutter speed was, but it looks pretty slow since everyone appears kind of ghostly and faded. If someone moves during a slow shutter speed photo, they can appear as a blur or ghosted. This ghosting happens with slow shutter speed photos using flash too, but the subject that’s lit by the flash will appear frozen while a ghost image of them appears blurry nearby.

Below are two examples of light painting. Light painting is when you use something brightly lit, like sparklers in both these examples, and use it to “paint” in your image. Since the sparklers are so bright, they get captured on the camera’s sensor faster than the rest of the scene. So while the girls look blurry in the left image, the sparklers look pretty sharp. The left image uses a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds and the right is 8 seconds (with a tripod).

Here are a couple of ideas of how to get a slow shutter speed if your camera doesn’t have manual exposure or you don’t know how to use it (check out my Camera Basics online course if you’re ready to learn):

  • If you don’t know how to use manual on your advanced camera, you can use shutter-priority instead. It’s usually denoted by S or Tv on your exposure dial. Shutter priority lets you set your shutter speed and the camera will choose the aperture to get a proper exposure. Choose a shutter speed of 1/15 or below. You can also set your ISO to auto in your settings or just choose an ISO yourself if you know how. If the image is over or under exposed, use exposure compensation to make it brighter or darker. This is usually done by pressing the +/- button and turning your main dial (also used for shutter speed without the button pressed).
  • If you’re using a phone or point-and-shoot, try taking photos in a dark situation. These cameras will usually compensate for the lack of light by lowering your shutter speed.

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 35 – Negative Space

It’s week 35 of the challenge and it’s almost fall over here in the northern hemisphere. I’m actually pretty proud of myself that I’ve been writing these weekly posts for so long. And if you’ve been participating, even if not every week, I’m proud of you too!

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 35: Negative Space

August 26 – September 1, 2020

This week’s theme is negative space. Negative space is essentially space that surrounds the subject of your image and is basically left unoccupied. It may draw your attention when looking at a photo from afar, but when you get close, your eye goes to the subject and the negative space itself isn’t very important. It can be a blank space, filled with a pattern or texture, or just be an out-of-focus scene that doesn’t grab your attention away from the subject.

Here are some tips on using negative space in photography:

  1. If you make the negative space much larger than the subject, like in my middle left image above, it can capture the viewer’s attention even more. That image intentionally breaks the rule of thirds and the lack of balance between background and subjects makes the eye want to linger on the subject.
  2. You can use the sky as a blank background, creating an effect like you’re using a photo studio (see the bottom left image above). Put the sun behind your subjects and expose for the subject. Usually if the sky is bright enough, your background will go white, creating the ultimate negative space.
  3. Putting your subjects into an empty negative space can create a dramatic composition, so pay attention to where you place your subject. Think of symmetry and rule of thirds.
  4. Be careful of random distracting objects in the background as the viewer’s eye will go right to them. You don’t want to draw the eye away from your subject.

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 34 – Rim Light

It’s week 34 of the challenge. I can’t believe how quickly this year is passing (and yet slowly at the same time, somehow). This week’s challenge is a pretty type of light: rim light.

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 34: Rim Light

August 19-25, 2020

Rim light uses one of my favourite types of light: backlight. When you backlight something (i.e. put the light behind them), that thing ends up in the shade of itself, but with some light wrapping around and bouncing off surfaces in front of it. If you just have a bright sky or some other bright background behind your subject, you won’t see the bright light wrapping around its edges. But if you put something dark behind them, you’ll see a line of light around their edges. That’s rim light.

There isn’t too much to it. Just find a darker background and some light behind your subjects (or create either or both of those things). If you need some advice on getting a proper exposure, you can check out this post from when we did backlight.

Rim light often creates a pretty, glowy, kind of magical feeling. It also helps to separate your subject from the background. Think about using it in romantic or whimsical scenes or where your subject and background are similar in colour and brightness.

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 33 – Love

It’s week 33 and this week’s theme is love.

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 33: Love

August 12-18, 2020

This week’s theme is a simple one, no explanation or advice needed: love. Photograph people/animals expressing love or even an inanimate object that symbolizes love to you. I mostly photograph people, so my favourite photos of love are of couples and families. I find body language does a good job of conveying love in a photo, as well as the way people look at each other (though I find eyes closed can be very expressive as well). Below are some images that scream love to me. Let’s see what says love 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.

Week 32 – Macro Photography

It’s week 32! This week’s challenge is a technical one you may not have tried yet, macro photography. It’s also a technique I don’t use often, hence why every example photo in this post is a ring shot from a wedding.

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 32: Macro

August 5-11, 2020

This week’s theme is macro photography. Macro photography is very close up photography, usually of small subjects and often produced at greater than or equal to 1:1 scale. You may have noticed your lenses can only focus at a certain distance from your subject, so you can’t get really close up photos with a normal lens. To get closer for macro photography, you can buy a macro lens or a lens with macro capability. The 18-55 kit lens that comes with Canon and Nikon DSLRs says it has macro capability, but it can’t get as close as a true macro lens.

There are alternatives to using a macro lens though and they can be a lot more affordable.

First, you can just turn your lens backwards and hold it in front of the camera opening. That’s what I did in the photo below. It can be a bit tricky to get focus while also trying to hold the lens in place and hold the aperture open (if needed). You can buy a reversing ring for pretty cheap to mount the lens on the body backwards instead.

50mm lens (I think) held backwards, 1/250 sec, ISO 1000 and unknown aperture held open with my fingers

Second, you can buy extension tubes, which can be fairly affordable. They go between the lens and the camera and get your front element closer to your subject. I had a cheap set years ago, which didn’t maintain the connection between the lens and body and so the aperture couldn’t be changed unless the lens had an aperture ring. There are more expensive ones that work like a normal lens though.

Third, and my current favourite, are close-up filters. I have a set from Polaroid that are pretty cheap and work great. They come in different magnifications and you can stack them. Make sure to buy the right size for your lens. You’ll want to look up the filter size or diameter for the lens you want to use them on. Below are a couple of examples I took with the close-up filters.

Here are some tips for capturing great macro photos:

  1. Since you’re so close to your subject, the depth of field (area in focus) will be very small. You’ll probably want to use a higher aperture to ensure you get focus.
  2. You can use autofocus if you want, though I find autofocusing once and then locking focus or using manual focus works best. Then I rock slightly back and forth and take several photos in order to get at least one in focus. I often do this in live view so I can see focus more clearly. The focusing difficulty comes from any slightly hand shaking changing the distance from your lens to your subject, moving the plane of focus. You could also use a tripod to carefully obtain focus once and lock it.
  3. Think about your composition and context. In the above two ring photos, I included elements of the weddings they were taken at. I especially love the first one that shows it was a rainy day at an apple orchard wedding. Composition of the background is important when your subject takes up a lot of the frame.
  4. Make sure you have enough light. If you have low light, then you’ll either need to raise your ISO and get more noise or use a low aperture, which can make your depth of field too narrow and hard to get focus. You can use a tripod and a low shutter speed if possible or add some light. In the image below, I used a Polaroid BrightSaber video light to create a narrow beam of light across the rings. It was a pretty dark reception, so this helped me get more reasonable settings than I would have otherwise.
35mm lens with close-up filters, 1/200 sec, f4.5, ISO 1000

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 31 – Repetition

It’s week 31 and the theme is apparently another thing I don’t use often enough: repetition. Read below for some examples and tips.

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 31: Repetition

July 29 – August 4, 2020

This week’s theme is repetition. I had a hard time finding many recent examples in my work, so I pulled a few old non-people photos from the archives. The left top and middle photos were taken on film prior to 2009. Even though I didn’t find many examples with people in them, repetition can be a great way to draw the viewer’s eye to your subject, like in the bottom two examples. Or just lead the eye through the frame if there is no particular subject, kind of similar to leading lines. Repetition can take the form of leading lines too, like in the top two examples.

Here are some tips on using repetition in your photos:

  1. As I’ve said in other composition challenges, think about the way your eye moves around the frame. If you have a subject, you’ll probably want to use repeating shapes/objects to draw the viewer’s eye to them.
  2. Think about breaking up the pattern with an object or person. Imagine your whole frame is a pattern, like a brick wall or a flower bed. If you put something in there that doesn’t fit in, that’s what the eye will be drawn to, so pay attention to your composition (think rule of thirds or symmetry). This works well with my bottom two photos that have subjects in them. It’s more of a distraction in the black and white photo of the ocean steps and I kind of wish that random element on the right middle step wasn’t there.
  3. Keep an eye out for repetition in patterns or groups of objects in your daily life and you’ll get better at spotting it. Examples could be rows of trees, a patterned wall, a bunch of benches in a church, a line of people, a row of lockers, windows, etc.
  4. Try zooming in on the repeated items, so other things don’t distract the viewer from the pattern (unless intentionally like with a subject or a well-composed different element).

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 30 – Dappled Light

It’s week 30 and the challenge is dappled light. Something I often avoid, dappled light can create some interesting effects. Read on below for some tips.

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 30: Dappled Light

July 22-28, 2020

This week’s theme is dappled light. Dappled light is when spots of light come through something like trees, leaving bright and dark spots on your subject.

Above is an example of unintentional dappled light, taken many years ago before I really learned to see light well. Notice that the bright and dark spots on people’s faces are random and unflattering. This would have been better taken from the other side with the sun behind them. These days, I usually try to avoid dappled light, but it can be used purposefully with interesting effect.

To avoid it, either try to find a solid patch of shade or put your subjects with the sun at their backs (backlight). I used backlight in the photo above, which prevented dappled light from hitting my subjects and left them in nice, even shade. Notice the dapple on the grass, which makes the space a bit more interesting.

If you want to actually have dapple hit your subjects, try putting the light in front and let it hit them directly. From above or the side can work too. Above are some examples of intentional dappled light. It can create some pretty bokeh in the trees and create a moody feeling for your subjects. But you have to be careful where the light falls. Pay attention to the shadows on people’s faces to make sure it looks good. Another important thing to consider is your exposure. You’ll want to expose so your highlights don’t go pure white (ie. get blown out). To do this, try metering off the highlights.

You can create dapple in the usual way by using trees, but you can also create dapple by holding lace or a loosely knit/crochet blanket up between your light source and your subject. This will create a more artsy, dramatic dapple than the examples I showed above. I might try this myself this week.

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 29 – Photograph a Passion

It’s week 29! This week’s challenge is to document a passion, either yours or your subject’s.

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 29: Photograph a Passion

July 15-21, 2020

This week’s theme is to photograph a passion. It’s more of a relaxed theme with no technical guidelines, so just go take some photos of something you’re passionate about or photograph someone else engaging with whatever they’re passionate about. This can include hobbies, work, or whatever else inspires you. Check below for tips on getting a self-portrait if you want to try that this week.

In case you decide to document yourself pursuing your passion, here are some tips on taking self-portraits.

If you have a point-and-shoot or camera phone, you should be able to put it in timer mode, set it up on a tripod or table, and just press the shutter before you get in position.

For those of you with DSLRs:

Set up your exposure while looking at the area you want to photograph. You can use a stand-in object to focus the camera.

Use the self-timer:

I’ll let you look this one up in your manual or online, but typically you want to change the shooting mode to remote timer. If you go into your menu on some cameras, you can set it up to take a certain number of shots at a set interval, which can be great for getting more candid style photos.

Then press the shutter halfway down to focus on your stand-in and press all the way to initialize the timer. Go get in the photo!

Use a remote:

This is similar to the self-timer method, except you can hold the remote in your hand and trigger it as many times as you like. Wireless remotes can be picked up for about $20, like this one for Nikon or this for Canon. Make sure to check that it’s compatible with your camera model before buying. Put your camera in remote mode, set the exposure and focus (some remotes/cameras will let you focus remotely as well), and get in the shot.

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.