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photography tips

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 27 – Leading Lines

It’s week 27! We’re past the halfway point. How are you doing so far? This week, we’ve got a composition challenge: leading lines.

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 27: Leading Lines

July 1-7, 2020

This week’s theme is leading lines. Leading lines are a way of drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo and towards the subject of the image.

Easy places to find leading lines are roads, walls, fences, rows of trees, or shorelines. Sometimes they lead towards a specific subject and sometimes they converge at a point. Below are a few examples (mine always lead to a subject because I love photographing people). Even if they don’t lead to anything in particular, they can create depth in your image and encourage the viewer to keep looking for longer.

Here are some tips on using leading lines in your photos:

  1. Look for strong lines created by nature or the built environment. You may have to adjust your angle to get them to lead somewhere interesting.
  2. Think about the way you want your viewer’s eye to move through your image. Lines can lead from an edge towards anywhere in the frame, but they let you control the way the viewer tends to move through the image.
  3. Place your subject where the lines converge (or adjust your angle to make the lines lead to it) to create an emphasis on the subject.
  4. A leading line doesn’t have to be straight. It can be curved or it can be less defined, like the edges of a flower bed. I included an example above where the bridesmaids create a leading line towards the bride.
  5. Be careful with strong lines that aren’t leading where you want them to. If you want the viewer’s eye to go to a subject, but there’s also a strong line that doesn’t lead towards the subject, it’ll create confusion and can draw the eye away from the 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 26 – Sun Flare

It’s week 26 of the challenge. That means we’re halfway through the challenge and this crazy year. I hope you’re all keeping well and the second half of the year is better than the first!

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 26: Sun Flare

June 24-30, 2020

This week’s theme is sun flare or lens flare. Sun flare usually happens when the sun hits the front of your lens, creating effects including starbursts, colourful lens flare shapes or streaks, and haze. Below are some examples of each of these, followed by some tips on how to achieve it.

Here are some tips on getting sun flare in your images:

  1. Place your subject with their back to the sun (i.e. have the sun in front of your camera). I’d recommend aiming at something in front of the sun, not at the sun itself. Looking at the sun through your camera can be very bad for your eyes.
  2. Watch the flare through your viewfinder or LCD while composing your image. You should be able to see it, especially the colourful shapes created by it. Move your camera around to change the location and effect of the flare.
  3. If you want flare, you need to let the sun hit the lens. Things that can prevent this are lens hoods (the plastic cylinder that you can remove from the front of your lens – they come with more expensive lenses), standing under an overhang, or blocking the sun with trees or other objects. So, of course, if you want flare, avoid those things.
  4. Lens flare is often considered undesirable, so more expensive and modern lenses are designed to avoid it. You may get more flare using an older or cheaper lens. A cheap filter that screws onto the front of the lens can also cause flare.
  5. If you want a starburst effect, try using a higher aperture. The top left image here was taken at f13. It also helps to hide the sun partly behind something, so the rays are more obvious against the background.
  6. It can be tough to focus with a lot of light coming into the lens. You can block the sun temporarily by holding your hand up in front of and above the lens to get your focus, the remove it before taking the photo. Once you’ve focused once, you can lock focus by switching to manual focus or using autofocus lock (look up AF lock or AF-on in the manual or Google) so you don’t have to keep refocusing, assuming you’re keeping the same distance from your subject for multiple photos.
  7. Golden hour is a good time to get this effect because the sun is lower in the sky, so you can aim at the sun without crazy angles.

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 25 – Photograph Emotion Without Showing a Face

It’s week 25 of the challenge. Almost half way! This year has just flown by for me. This week’s theme is about showing emotion without showing a face.

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 25: Emotion without a Face

June 17-23, 2020

This week’s theme is emotion without a face (i.e. conveying emotion without including someone’s face). This is primarily about body language and I’ve included some examples below. Some of them show parts of faces, but the focus is on the rest of their bodies, not their faces. I’ll let you interpret the emotions yourself. This is pretty simple, so I don’t have any tips this week. Good luck finding (or creating) some expressive body language!

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 24 – Foreground Focus

It’s week 24 of the challenge. This week’s theme is a creative storytelling challenge. I’ll get to that below. First, I’ll remind you that my new Camera Basics course is still on sale for $37 until June 15th. If you want to finally master manual exposure and all the other settings on your DSLR or other advanced camera, check it out.

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 24: Foreground Focus

June 10-16, 2020

This week’s theme is foreground focus. What I mean by that is focusing on something that isn’t the main subject of the image or story. Or focusing on one of two subjects/elements of your image while the other is blurred. This could also work with the foreground element blurred and there’s an example of this at the end.

I actually don’t have a lot of examples of this (or at least couldn’t find many because I didn’t have time to go through hundreds of thousands of photos to find more). I’m going to do my best to explain it with a few examples. Below is a good example of one thing happening while another closely-related thing happens in the background. The story of the image is this relative taking photos of the wedding ceremony and the focus is on that. The couple in the background provides balance to the composition and a mirror image of her LCD.

The below image is focused on the speaker, whose face you can’t see. He becomes the most important thing here because he’s the most in focus, but the crowd listening is also a part of the story.

The below image is a bit different because it’s the same group of subjects in focus and out of focus, but putting the focus on the child’s feet creates a more visually interesting image than the reverse. You can also get a clearer idea of what they’re reading with this focus and angle than you would if I tried to get their faces sharp and in full view. Plus, her toes are super cute.

Here’s an example where in hindsight, I think focusing on the foreground would have been better. I just wasn’t quick enough. This kid ran by the couple and past me as we were taking some portraits. You can still make out her expression, but I kind of wish she was the focus of the photo.

So the main idea is to start telling stories with multiple components. Try photographing a scene where you could get a good photo by focusing on the background instead, but changing the focus changes what the viewer sees as important.

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 23 – Photograph at Subject Level

It’s week 23. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any rougher this year, they do. But we’ll keep going, keep documenting, keep learning, and remember this period in history when times are better. It’s also cool if you want to just take a break from this and focus on activism or listening to others’ voices instead.

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 23: Subject Level

June 3-9, 2020

We talked about photographing from a high angle and a low angle, so this week is about photographing at the subject level, meaning getting on the same level as your subject.

There’s not much to this theme, so I’m just going to make a list of times when photographing from subject level can be useful.

  1. When photographing children or animals. People are so used to seeing children and animals, especially pets, from above, so it can be different to see them on their own level. It also brings you more into their world, getting closer to their point of view.
  2. When you want yourself to be less noticeable. By that, I mean you’re getting more into the scene and more intimate with your subjects. When you use an obvious angle like the high or low angle, I feel like the photo becomes more about the photographer and their point of view. Subject level is more about the subject’s point of view and can draw the viewer into the moment and emotion.
  3. When you want parallel lines to appear parallel, like on a building or a block wall, for example. If you shoot at an angle, perspective causes lines to converge towards one another. If you take the photo straight on, at subject level, the lines will appear more parallel and perpendicular.
  4. One little tip: if you have a tiltable LCD on your camera, use it with live view to get a lower angle without having to sit or lay on the ground.

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 22 – Artificial Light

It’s week 22 of the challenge. I’m so excited to finally launch my online course. It’s about all the little technical things that are so confusing when it comes to learning photography. If you’ve got a DSLR or other manual-exposure camera, check it out to learn what all those buttons do and how to use them quickly and easily to get the photos you envison. It’s on sale for only $37 until June 15, 2020. If you’ve taken one of my in person workshops or a private lesson, online access is included (just email me about 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 22: Artificial Light

May 27 – June 2, 2020

This week’s theme is artificial light. This can include flash, indoor lighting, video lights, or whatever else you can find (street lights, flashlights, sparklers, etc.) The examples below are lit by (from L-R for each row): indoor tungsten lighting in a pub, indoor fluorescent lighting in a store, subtle bounce flash on the couple with tungsten lighting in the background, harsher off-camera flash on the couple with tungsten background lighting that’s mostly drowned out by the flash being so bright, video light at front-side, video light behind the subject and mostly natural light on her face.

Here are some tips on using artificial light:

  1. I might have talked about this when talking about window light, but be careful with mixed lighting. If you have indoor lighting and a lot of window light, you might end up with weird colours or skin tones. This is why I generally prefer to use natural light in the daytime (and turn off indoor lighting) and use indoor lighting alone at night. Fluorescent like they use in offices and stores tend to have weird colours either way, but tungsten and compact fluorescent lights are decent if there’s no other colours of light interfering.
  2. Try using flash. If you have an external flash, you can point it at the ceiling or walls if they’re a neutral colour. This turns the ceiling or walls into a big, flattering light source. That’s what I did in the third image (with the couple dancing with a visible background). I exposed a bit darker than I would with no flash and then added some subtle flash, pointed at the ceiling, to put a nice, clean light on the couple. The image to the right of it was under exposed a lot, then off-camera flash was added to the side to create a more dramatic light on the couple. The background lighting (ambient exposure) is determined by your exposure before adding flash. The exposure of the subjects is determined by the flash and the ambient light combined. So if you set your exposure to be close to a proper exposure without flash, your flash will be less powerful and create a more natural-looking effect.
  3. I used a video light in the last two images. Actually, the first was at a meetup lead by Christina Craft and someone else held the light and the second, I just used the light that the videographer set up. But sometimes I use my own video lights as an easy light source. Video lights are great because they provide a constant light source so you can see what your lighting will look like before you take the photo. Flash takes a bit more trial and error. If you don’t have an actual video light, you can try using a flashlight, a lantern, a lamp, or a shop light for a similar effect (though probably not as powerful).

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 21 – Photograph an Activity

It’s week 21 of the challenge. I’m less than a week away from launching my first online course and I’m super excited! I love seeing all the photos everyone is taking for this challenge and can’t wait to help more of you with making sense of your cameras.

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 21: Photograph an Activity

May 20-26, 2020

This week’s theme is to photograph an activity. It’s so simple, I’m going to forgo giving any tips this week. But think about telling a story and maybe try using a slow shutter speed to show motion if you’re up for an extra challenge. Below are some examples to hopefully spark some inspiration.

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 20 – Blurry Foreground

It’s week 20 of the challenge. It feels like this year has been going so quickly, and yet slowly at the same time. I’ve finally had a chance to really work on getting my beginner’s photography workshop online and I’m so close right now. If you’re still fairly new to photography, the course will help you with all the settings on your camera and all the technical stuff that might seem confusing including manual exposure. In the meantime, let’s keep going with the challenge and get creative with our photography.

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 20: Blurry Foreground

May 13-19, 2020

This week’s theme is blurry foreground. A blurry foreground is actually even easier to get, technique-wise, than a blurry background. Depth of field (or what’s in focus in your photo) tends to be more behind your subject than in front, meaning that things in the foreground have a bigger tendency to go out of focus than things in the background. You just have to make an effort to put something interesting in the foreground.

Here are some tips on getting a blurry foreground and making it look interesting:

  1. The closer the foreground element is to your lens, the blurrier it’ll be. I’ll often stand behind or right inside a bush to get some leaves or flowers framing my shot. Also, try using a low aperture to get a shallow depth of field.
  2. Make sure you’re focusing on your subject. If you’re really close to the foreground element, the camera probably won’t focus on it anyway because lenses can only focus so close. But if your camera actually tries to focus on the foreground, you’ll want to move your focal point onto your subject. With a cell phone, and some newer cameras, this is as easy as tapping on your subject to get focus. With DSLRs and similar, you may need to change your camera to use a single focal point. The search terms that can help you figure out how might be “changing focus points” or “how to change focal point” along with your camera model.
  3. Think about using things with an interesting shape or colour as a way to frame your subject. The first two images show one of my favourite techniques, shooting through a bush to create a pretty blur in the foreground and draw the eye to my in-focus subjects. A string of lights or a sparkler can also make a fun, bright foreground element.
  4. The key here is really to think about where you want the viewer’s eye to go in your photo. Composition is very important as you want the blur to lead the eye to your subject and not cover them or distract the viewer.
  5. I find using a foreground element can create the feeling of peeking in on a scene or moment, so I prefer to pose my subjects in a more candid way for these.

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 19 – Low Camera Angle

It’s week 19 already. Are you all hanging in there? With all that’s going on right now, I totally understand if you’re getting behind, but let’s keep trying and find some inspiration in our daily lives.

You can check out the full list and more information on the challenge here along with links to each week that’s been posted so far. Scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for weekly theme emails.

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

Week 19: Low Angle

May 6-12, 2020

This week’s theme is low angle. Like shooting from a high angle, being at a low angle can give you a different perspective on a scene.

The above two photos have the couple in the same spot, but I used a longer lens for the second photo (35mm for the first and 105mm for the second). Both of these photos have a similar feel to the high angle photos in that it seems like you’re peeking in on a moment rather than being a part of it. Part of that is that the couple is partially obscured by the trees, but the angle also separates them from where you’d normally focus your attention.

There are a couple of things to note in the above two examples. First is that using a low angle puts the couple in an open space, which draws your eye to them. It can also help you cut out distractions, like a messy room.

The second thing is that the couples are looking at each other, giving them a defined chin line and profile. You’ll want to be careful with low-angle photos of people because it can create a double chin, whether someone actually has one or not. If you’re not convinced, put your phone in selfie mode and hold it at chest level to take a photo of your face. You can avoid this by watching the angle of your subject’s head. Looking at the camera from a higher angle isn’t the most flattering in general. Standing a bit farther away can make the angle less dramatic looking and is more flattering than standing right in front of and below your subject.

The above two photos show how a low angle can create a more unique composition. The first creates a dramatic profile and uses a white sky to make it even more impactful. The second uses a tilted low angle to enhance the appearance of movement and fun atmosphere.

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.