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8 Tips for Taking Sports Photos Like a Pro

Are you looking to shoot better sports photos, and make an impact? Sports photography presents you with many opportunities to capture dramatic and vivid imagery that will last a lifetime. No other medium presents you with heart-pounding action, vivid color patterns and unique shooting opportunities.

The steps and guidance featured in this tutorial cover a broad range of areas - from perfecting shutter speed, to making sure you don't miss the action.

Following these eight tips should greatly improve your photography, and have you become the envy of all your friends. The key, above and beyond these eight tips, is to always keep shooting! Practice makes perfect, ensuring you have a steady hand and are ready when the big play happens.

1. Prepare to Use High ISO

Looking to capture the perfect shot but maybe the lighting isn't great? Trying to stop the action at a little league game and needing a higher shutter speed? Raising the ISO on your camera will allow you to shoot at a higher shutter speed, giving you a better chance of getting the perfect shot.

Professional sports photographers use a shutter speed of around 1/1000 of a second to stop motion. During the day this is simple. At night however, you may need a faster F Stop than your lens is suited for. To compromise, you increase the ISO (what used to be film speed) of your camera. This now allows your camera to see more light.

Depending on the camera, you may also want to use Auto ISO to allow your camera to automatically choose the best ISO settings for you. The one unique feature about this is that the auto system doesn't change your ISO at full steps, such as 400 ISO to 800 ISO, instead it can change your ISO from 200 ISO to 210 ISO. Consider this setting if you are just starting to use ISO settings for improved night shooting.

2. Try Something Different

Every sports picture doesn't have to look the same. A few years ago, several photographers from a little American magazine tried something different for football. Instead of shooting at eye level, they laid as low to the ground as they could in the end zone with a wide angle lens. What did this do to their pictures? It presented them with a new angle to help tell the story. Who were these people, you ask? Sports Illustrated photographers. Now, everyone does it.

You don't have to be shooting professional sports to try something different. Even when I photographed high school football, I would always look for new angles and ideas.

By trying something different, you allow your creativity to flourish and capture something that everyone else doesn't have.

3. Don't Forget the Surroundings

This may seem like a no-brainer, but don't forget your surroundings. Whether it be a stadium full of cheering fans, to the tailgating outside, the surroundings present unique opportunities to capture the spirit of the game without shooting the action itself.

Before tip off of a basketball game, court side is also a great place to shoot pictures of team spirit.

Even after the game begins, don't forget the surroundings. If you have a wider lens, such as a 10.5mm or 14mm, climb as high as you can and take a shot showing the whole stadium full of cheering fans.

4. Be Prepared With an Equipment Belt or Bag

Ever wonder why sports photographers carry so much equipment? It's because we like to build bigger muscles while walking.

All joking aside, once you are on the sidelines or in the middle of the action it's hard to run to your bag and change equipment. Many sports photographers use one of three things to carry their equipment while working on the sidelines: a fanny pack, a belt system or a photo vest.

The belt system allows me to quickly change between lens and keep all my compact flash cards together in safe place. On the sidelines, this allows me stay prepared for the action with a variety of lenses and, since it has covers for each holster, also offers rain protection for outdoor sports.

The key to having a good system is finding one that fits well and works for your specific needs. Visit your local camera store, try them out, and see what works best for you.

5. Long Glass Goes a Long Way

The key to capturing the perfect shot in sports comes down to relatively few things. One of the most important things is glass. Sports photography, unlike any other type, occasionally requires the biggest and most expensive equipment available. This allows you to shot from anywhere around the stadium, including the end zones in football, creating the perfect head on shot.

I say occasionally for a key reason. As we mentioned earlier, cameras now can do cool things with high ISO settings. This now allows people to use slower lenses for shooting sports, such as an f/4.

When looking for good glass for sports photography, consider these factors:

Consider a long lens such as a 300mm or 400mm if you can afford it. If not get a 70-200mm. Choose a lens with an f/stop of f/2.8 of f/4. Try and avoid f/5.6 like the plague. The bigger and heavier the lens, the better it usually is. Make sure the lens has a tripod mount built in. Look for lenses that have stood the test of time: there is a reason Nikon and Canon don't change their lens line up often.

When buying good glass, it's not like buying a new camera body. A good lens will last at least 10 years with proper care and maintenance.

6. Don't Chimp, Please.

Every sports photographer is guilty of "chimping". If you're unfamiliar with the term, this definition will clear everything up.

Essentially, chimping is when you check every photo you take on the LCD. Why is this bad? It takes your eye off the action and puts it on the camera. This is bad for two reasons: (1) you can get hurt more easily, and (2) you may miss a good shot.

When you chimp, you take your eyes off the field and the action. If you're shooting football, you can easily be run over on the sideline when not paying attention.

While reviewing your pictures is ok, there is a time and a place to do so. In sports, after the shutter clicks there's no second chance. You must move on to the next play.

7. Use a Slow Shutter Speed

A slow shutter speed? Earlier I said to use 1/1000 of a second to capture the action and stop it...

Along with trying something different you should try a different shutter speed sometimes. If you're shooting baseball and want to capture the swing in a perfect silhouette, I don't suggest shooting at 1/60 of a second. If, however, you want a cool blurry background shot, it works great.

Many professional photographers from Getty Images and Reuters use this technique to add energy to their pictures and create great looking clean backgrounds. Shooting at 1/100 of a second or 1/80 of a second allows the player to be in focus and sharp but the background to be very blurry and creates a cool effect.

8. Avoid Using a Flash

When shooting professional or college sports, flash photography is typically strictly prohibited. Flash can distract the players and cause coaches to go crazy. There are a few exceptions, including basketball and other indoor sports, but on-camera flash is usually never allowed.

When shooting outdoor sports such as football or baseball, you should never use an on-camera flash. This is why ISO settings are so important.

Now, if you are shooting a local sports event or a lower-level event, such as high school football, then flash is usually acceptable. I always check with either the coaches or the school's athletic director to ensure no one gets upset when the flashes start popping.

Many sanctioning bodies have specific rules for photographers, so before you shoot an event be sure to read these so you know what is ok and not ok.

By Dak Dillon, Adapted from: http://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/8-tips-for-taking-sports-photos-like-a-pro--photo-296

Valentine's Day Photo Tips

Sure, chocolate hearts are nice. Flowers are, too. But if you could use your creativity to make something unique for your sweetheart--of your sweetheart--wouldn't you want to do it? Here's your chance!

Looking for Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Him and Her? What about the gift of a beautiful portrait of your sweetheart? You don't need any fancy gear to achieve professional-looking results--just your starter DSLR and the kit lens that usually comes with it, and a little creativity. Yes, it's true that with a typical maximum aperture of f/5.6 you won't get the kind of flattering focus fall-off you'd get with a wide aperture telephoto, but if you're willing to make a few minor adjustments in post-production using full Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you can create a beautiful portrait of your sweetie that looks like it was made with high-end gear--just in time for Valentine's day.

Gear: Just the Basics

You can do this with any DSLR and 18-55mm (if you're using an APS sensor) lens, which is typically packaged with a beginner or mid-range camera. The Nikon D3200, Canon EOS Rebel T3, and Sony Alpha A3000 are among many DSLRs bundled with kit lenses. While not absolutely necessary, you may want to use a tripod such as the 3Pod P5CRH, and/or a compatible wireless off-camera TTL flash with a diffuser such as the 16x16-inch Glow Pop Soft Box for Shoe Mount Flashes. If you have nice, broad window lighting, you don't necessarily need a flash. If you're shooting at night or in a basement studio, you will need to bring your own diffused light.

Lighting: Go Big Or Go Home

If you don't wish to invest in a flash yet, scout out a location with lots of diffused light.Experiment! Try different positions and see how the light falls. Experiment with posing, having the model face the light, or away from it, and see how the light and shadow work on her face. Keep in mind the line going down the face down the ridge of the nose is a good divider between dark and light sides, with the interplay of light and dark in the shadows creating a more dramatic effect. This approach is known as Rembrandt lighting, and is often used by professional portrait photographers.

If you are using a flash with a diffuser, place the flash and diffuser about a foot or two away from your subject's face. Don't worry about light fall-off, since this is going to be a head-and-shoulders portrait.

By Mason Resnick. See the full article here: http://www.adorama.com/alc/0014524/article/valentines-day-photo-tips

10 Tips for Getting Better Holiday Photos

The holidays make for fantastic photo opportunities. Even the least photographically-inclined reach for a camera to do the annual group portrait. Use these tips to make great photos of Christmas, Hanukkah, or the mid-winter holiday of your preference. This year, you'll come away from the holidays with the absolute best photographs you have ever created. # 1 Compose Creatively and Move in Close

Whether you are photographing the symbolic subjects of the holidays or your friends and family, getting creative with your composition certainly cannot hurt. This means paying special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo.

There are two main concepts to keep in mind when composing the scene artistically:

Off-center your main subject. Instead of placing your main subject in the center of the scene - with a lot of dead space around it - move your camera until this subject is off to the side. This works especially well if you can balance your main subject with something in the background, on the other side of the picture. For example, if you are photographing a beautiful candle, try placing it on the right with the Christmas tree (or an equivalent supporting element) blurred softly in the background on the left. This will result in a photo that both records the candle in all its beauty and does so in an artistic, creative way. Move in close. Especially when you center your subject but even when you off-center it, moving in close is the one thing that will make the biggest difference in the success of your picture-taking. The simple fact is the audiences are always more impressed when the subject is huge and impossible to miss. Therefore, you want your subject to fill the frame. Say you are photographing the candle mentioned above, but don't have a Christmas tree (or its equivalent supporting element) in the background. In this case, you might want to instead move in as close as you can. Causing the entire frame to be filled with your subject will inevitably result in a photo that has true impact on your viewer.

# 2 For Better Family and Group Portraits The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is this: you absolutely must take a lot of photos.

There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. People generally complain about having their picture taken and want the experience to be over quickly. They have been trained by bad portrait photographers in the past to hate both the process and the results.

So it is your job to overcome these hurdles. You need to work quickly in order to get the job done within their limits of patience. And you need to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible, so they remember it in a positive light.

Above both of these tasks, though, you need to get the absolute best photos you can. And more than anything else this means taking a large number of photos. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, having a large number of photos will give you the best chances of catching everyone looking their best.

# 3 Shoot First, Ask Questions Later Especially if your subject is a child opening a gift - or playing with a gift for the first time - you know that, within a split second, the scene can change. There is often just a few brief moments when that "magic spark" appears.

That's why it is so important to be fully prepared to capture that moment when it happens. Of course this means having your camera on hand and the batteries fully charged... After all, you can't capture the moment if you don't have your camera on you and ready to go.

However, even more than having your camera on hand, this equates to being assertive with your picture-taking. Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment's notice, anticipating when the magic spark will surface. If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking the picture, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment.

Either way, shoot quickly and shoot often. Don't be shy - getting a great photo of the right moment is rewarding and well worth the extra effort.

# 4 Don't Use Flash Indoors The flip side to Tip #5 is to turn off your flash indoors, whenever you can possibly get away with it.

The flash can be a real lifesaver, no doubt about it. This burst of artificial light can mean the difference between a decent photo and a totally blurry, unusable image.

However, the light from flash units - especially from the tiny on-camera flash units found on most every camera - tend to produce harsh, flat, and cold light. This is rarely a complimentary way to illuminate your subject.

If you are shooting indoors during the day, make your portraits with your subjects standing near a window or door instead of relying on the flash. Get between your subject and the window - in other words, don't include the window in your composition, as this will throw off your exposure meter.

If you are shooting indoors at night, try to flood the room where you are photographing with as much light as you can - turn on whatever lamps you have at hand. This will help reduce those harsh, flashed-out subjects, as well as other problems like red-eye.

# 5 Use Flash Outdoors

Most people think that using flash is synonymous with photographing indoors at night - at a Christmas party for example.

However, flash need not be relegated to indoor, night photography. Flash can be a big help when it comes to shooting outdoors during the day. Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece.

The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.

Try it out... next time you are photographing friends or children outdoors, turn your flash on and see if it works for you.

# 6 Look for Reflections

One the quickest and easiest ways to add an artistic touch to your holiday photos is to focus on capturing reflections rather than the object itself.

Simply keep an eye out for interesting splashes of color, reflected from Christmas lights and other holiday decorations.

This is one time when rainy days are your friends - puddles in the street can be a perfect source of abstract images - photos that suggest the essence of the holidays without being direct and explicit.

You can also look for interesting shadows and other graphic elements. Or you can include out of focus Christmas lights, to give your photo an evocative, unique background.

# 7 Blur, Swirl, and Zoom Those Christmas Lights

Tired of the same old Christmas tree photos? If you want to try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed - anywhere from 1/2 second to 2 or 4 full seconds. Then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea here is to intentionally blur the colorful Christmas lights... and in order to blur a stationary subject, you need a slow shutter speed and controlled camera movement.

If you use an SLR camera with a zoom lens, you will have a little more freedom and speed with your zoom. Thus, you will not need as slow of a shutter speed as those using compact zoom digicams. All the same, you can create this effect with either kind of camera.

For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera securely on a tripod to keep it from moving while you zoom in or out during the exposure.

If you want to get even more creative, you can simple move the camera around while the shutter is open. For this technique, you can leave your tripod at home. That's right... I said it... this is one of the few times I advise you to not use a tripod.

# 8 Give the Gift of a Photograph

Whether you are a last minute shopper or not, we have the perfect gift idea for you: a family photo.

Parents and grandparents in particular love photos of the family and children as a holiday present.

This is such a cherished present, we will be offering a few of the most helpful pointers for getting great portraits in the upcoming tips. In the meantime, pick out a nice frame, get some good inkjet paper if you shoot digital, and get ready to give a gift that, if done properly, can bring tears of joy to their eyes.

# 9 Plan Ahead: Charge Batteries and Clear Cards or Buy Film The last thing you want to have happen is to get all set up for the family portrait or holiday photo to realize you forgot to charge the battery!

In addition to making sure your batteries are charged (or you have replacements on hand), you will also want to make sure you have a place for your potential images to be recorded.

If you shoot digital, offload and archive your images so you can free up space on your flash memory card. If you use a conventional, film-based camera, be sure you have an extra roll or two of film on hand.

Here's a bonus tip for you generous gift-givers out there: before wrapping up digital camera and film camera gifts, charge up the batteries and insert the memory card or film. This will make it all the more fun for the recipient to enjoy your nice gift - right out of the box!

Either way, being prepared will make those once-in-a-lifetime moments that much easier to capture.

# 10 Don't Eat Yellow Snow; Don't Photograph Blue Snow (for those travelers)

If you go out photographing snowy outdoor scenes, most camera meters will be fooled into underexposing your picture. Instead of nice, bright white snow, a bluish cast will give your snow scene an extra cold feel (and an unnatural look).

To remedy this, use your camera's exposure compensation feature or a manual exposure mode to force an addition 1 to 2 stops of light to reach your film or CCD. If you have a point and shoot camera or a compact digicam, your camera may not feature manual exposure but it will likely have the exposure compensation option. Look for a little +1 or +2 symbol.

If you have a film or digital SLR camera, you will likely have these +1 and +2 exposure compensation options as well as a manual exposure mode.

Adapted from: http://www.betterphoto.com/exploring/topTen/holiday-photography-tips.asp

Take Better Food Photos When You Travel: 5 Tips For You

The best food and travel photographers out there are the ones that can get the shot they want no matter where they are. Here are some tips on getting the most out of food photography while traveling. 1. Hello, natural light!

The best lighting is the kind that is offered to you for free from sunrise to sunset and it's always available. Few lighting specialists have been able to replicate the temperature and intensity of natural light through expensive lighting equipment. But why bother when you can simply sit by a window and shoot? Natural light can always make your food photos look great but you have to know to use it. The light on a sunny, cloudy and rainy day can change the mood and scenario entirely.

2. To use or not to use the flash.

Generally, we'd say not at all. You have to realize that although photographing food is on your agenda, being blinded by your flash and strobe lights every few minutes isn't on everyone else's. We generally go with the approach of shooting things the way the human eye would see it. If a restaurant has dim lighting, you should capture that as it's probably been done for ambiance. A brightly-lit photo taken with direct flash will flatten the subjects and you really won't be able to capture just how romantic it was in that restaurant in Marrakech.

3. Composition.

It doesn't matter what you're shooting with a $40,000 Hasselblad or a $200 smartphone; your composition is what matters the most and what sets photographers apart.

When shooting food, take multiple shots at multiple angles. Your goal is to widen your reader's eyes and whet their appetite. You want them to wish the photo was a scratch n' sniff. Some dishes might look better cropped in tighter or zoomed in, some may not. If you're eating a fantastic dinner with a multi-dish spread somewhere in Ethiopia, an overhead shot is a great way for the reader to get a sense of just how much food was there.

4. Running and Gunning.

If you're in a foreign country, you're going to stand out regardless. You're going to stand out even more if you're snapping photos of food. When we shoot food while traveling, it is our goal to be quick and discrete like a ninja, not to cause "ripples in the pond." It's crucial that you know your camera inside out and practice switching settings in different situations.

Try giving yourself 30 seconds max to get multiple shots of your subject. If you absolutely need more time to get your shot, it doesn't hurt to let a chef, owner or even server know what your intentions are. Many instances we actually got better access to the inside of a kitchen or something unique because we were upfront about what we were doing.

This is different though when shooting in a foreign space as you don't know what you're dealing with. I've been approached and threatened by angry people understandably, but I've found that if you don't speak the language, saying hello, waving, smiling and gesturing at the camera has had positive results. A compliment on the food is always a sure way to be diplomatic.

5. Travel Light.

How many times have you walked down a street and been stopped by the presence of someone completely decked out in camera gear – camera with flash and telephoto lens, huge backpack and those "fashionable" lens vests? People will usually run away like squirrels when they encounter someone like that and you'll lose your potential great shot. Part of being able to "run and gun" is traveling with minimal baggage, literally.

We carry our equipment in a nondescript bag so as to not draw attention and usually only bring one lens, the one we use the most. When you've have too many lenses in your bags, not only is it heavy, it can slow down your creative process trying to figure out which you should use. When you have one primary lens, you simply pull out the camera, shoot, put it away and move on to the next thing. Learn that lens inside out and learn to love it like a significant other.

When you travel with smaller bags, you also have more options in where you want to dine. Lugging a huge camera bag may not be very comfortable if you want to dine at the bar or at a standing table by a window.

BY Dylan Ho + Jeni Afuso Photo Complements Roberta Parkin. (adapted from: http://www.thekitchn.com/5-tips-for-taking-better-food-photos-when-you-travel-guest-post-from-dylan-jeni-190758)

10 Macro Photography Tips

1. Make Sure Your Subject Is Perfect When you're working at such close focusing distances any imperfections become more noticeable and they can end up distracting the viewer or spoiling what could be an excellent shot. However, taking the time to look at your subject, making sure the butterfly you're photographing doesn't have a damaged wing or your fungi specimen isn't dirty or had a bite taken out of it, will mean you won't be disappointed when you review your shots on your computer once home.

2. Get Up Early Not everyone's a fan of early starts but if you want to shoot macro photography out in the field, it's something you should get used to doing. Some subjects tend to be less active in the morning, especially when it's still a little chilly, making them easier to photograph and plants, flowers and other foliage are less likely to have had a bite taken out of them early on too. Morning's can bring a sprinkling of dew which adds another level of interest to your shots and morning light is softer and warmer too.

3. Try Backlighting Low, morning light makes it easier to backlight your subjects which can give your macro shots an interesting twist. Objects which are slightly translucent such as leaves, flower petals and butterfly wings look really good when light shines through them from the back. Keep a close eye on your shots though as the light levels can fool your camera into thinking the scene's too bright and it will underexpose the shot. If you do have problems just use exposure compensation to fix it.

4. Switch To Manual Focus When working close to a subject autofocus tends to end up searching backwards and forwards for something to focus on. Eventually it may focus on the right point but it's much quicker to switch over to manual where you'll be able to focus more precisely. If you're not used to using manual focus it can take a little bit of practice but if you try shooting flowers, fungi and other objects which are less likely to fly or run off, you don't have to rush so can take your time in getting your focusing spot-on. Then, once you're used to working manually, move on to more tricky subjects such as insects and other wildlife.

5. Try Pre-Focusing Some macro subjects such as insects move fast and scare easily so pre-focusing your lens before they come into frame can increase your chances of capturing a good shot. Find something that's of a similar size of your subject and position it the same distance away as your subject will be when it lands.

6. Pack A Polarising Filter A polarising filter can be fitted to a lens to ensure the colours captured are the same as the real thing, giving your shots more punch in the process. Attaching a polarising filter to your lens will slow your shutter speeds down, however so make sure you're using a tripod to stop shake which can spoil your shot when working hand-held.

7. Avoid Shake Camera shake is more noticeable when working close to your subject so always use a tripod. If you have one, use a remote release to fire the shutter button so you don't have to touch the camera or use the camera's self-timer. Making sure your image stabilisation is on and using quicker shutter speeds, which you can get by switching to a higher ISO if you're working in low light, will help keep movement to a minimum but it's still best to fasten your camera to a tripod.

8. Windy Days Are Your Enemy As already mentioned, any movement in the frame is exaggerated when working at such close focusing distances so what may seem like a small breeze to you can look like a strong, winter gale blowing through your image.

You can hold your subject in place with plamps etc. or if you're patient, just wait for the wind to stop blowing. You can also try and shelter the plant you're photographing with a make-shift shield. Card works well but if you're out in the field try using your camera bag or even your own body to shield your subject from the wind. Also, using a slightly quicker shutter speed will freeze motion but this isn't always possible, especially when working in darker locations such as woods.

9. Get In Close Then Add Some Space By isolating part of a flower, insect or leaf you can create strong, abstract shots. So find detail that interests you and really zoom in close, filling the frame with striking shapes and interesting patterns.

Don't forget to try the opposite too so your subject has some space to 'breath'. Why? Well it can help give your image context as well as create a sense of scale in your shot. Do keep your background simple if you do this though as you don't want it to distract from your main subject.

10. Light Your Shot Well Where possible, try to use natural light, however there are times when this isn't possible such as working in the woods where light levels are lower or when you're working with subjects that move quickly.

Rather than using your camera's built-in flash which is harsh and often too direct, try using a ring flash which can give a more even spread of light. Watch out for overexposed 'hotspots' appearing on your subject and when using natural light, make sure your own shadow isn't caught in-frame. You may also need to use a reflector to bounce much needed light into dark areas of the shot. You can buy reflectors but one made from a piece of card and silver foil can work just as well.

Planning to Panning - Tips to Capture Motion

Panning is a photographic mind game. But a very cool mind game.

Technically, you should not be able to show motion in a still photograph. After all, the image on the paper is not moving; it's not going anywhere. But your mind takes the blurred image and tries to make sense out of it:

Understand the basic concept. Panning works when you move the camera in perfect motion with the subject. It's not enough to just swing the camera from side to side. You have to move it in perfect synch with your subject. Choose the right subject. Generally (and up to a point) it is easier to pan with a fast-moving subject than a slow one. Sprinters running sideways to you are great examples. They are moving fast enough that you can pan smoothly with their motion, and they are running in a straight line. People walking are almost impossible; they are too slow to get much blur and it's difficult to pan smoothly. Football players are tough because they move erratically.

Use Manual Exposure or maybe Shutter Priority metering. Whichever you choose, the object is the same. You don't want the shutter speed to change while you are shooting.

Pick a good shutter speed. This is important; however, there is no "correct" shutter speed for panning. The longer the shutter speed, the more blurred the background will be. A long shutter speed will make your subject pop out from the background, and that is good. But the longer the shutter speed, the more difficult it is to get the subject reasonably sharp. It's a balancing act. As a starting point, let's go back to the example of the sprinters running across the picture. Try anything between 1/8 and 1/60 of a second. Beyond 1/8 of a second it's really tough to get sharp, but it can be very interesting. Above 1/60 of a second, the camera will probably stop too much action and ruin the effect. Except for low-flying jets at air shows. Then you might need 1/500 second, and that brings us to our next problem.

Find the right background. The right background is almost as important as the right subject. The background must have some detail in order to produce the pleasing streaks you are looking for. That is why the jet is a bad subject for panning when it is up against a plain blue sky. Pan all you want but the sky will still be a featureless blue. Nothing will look as if it "moved." On the other hand, backgrounds with too much contrast will often make bad backgrounds for panning. Just one person in a white T-shirt can create an unsightly white blob in your photograph. Choose carefully.

Use the viewfinder correctly. Your viewfinder is your friend when it comes to panning. The best trick is to find a focusing mark in your viewfinder and put it on your moving subject. Now, try to keep that point perfectly aligned with your subject. Crosshairs would be perfect, but we don't have them in camera viewfinders, so we have to make do with what we've got.

Practice panning smoothly. Fluid, smooth motion is the name of the game. No jerking, no rushing, no hesitation. Stand with your body facing where you ideally want to shoot the picture, then rotate your shoulders to pick up your subject in the viewfinder. Start shooting before your subjects reach the ideal point; keep shooting after they pass that point. Follow through just like a good golfer. And practice. Good panning shooters literally go out and just practice their movements.

Go for the Goldilocks Effect. The combination of subject motion, panning, and shutter speed is not a precise science. Don't be afraid to adjust to conditions.

Try. Evaluate. Retry. Experiment! There is no right way, just infinite variables that can produce interesting results. For instance, if instead of "panning" you could rotate your camera at the same speed as the turning of the carnival Ferris wheel, you might get something cool.

Adapted from Panning 101 by Jim Richardson, http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-tips/motion-photography-panning-richardson/

14 Tips For taking Better Portraits of Loved Ones Part 2

Photo Courtesy of André Williams.

08 Focusing your camera When using wide apertures (especially f/2.8 or faster), your depth of field decreases dramatically, so ?it's crucial your focusing is bang on, otherwise you could end up with out-of-focus facial features; the person's nose may be sharp but the eyes soft.

With tightly composed photos, focus on the eyes; with wider compositions, focus on the head. To help with pinpoint focusing, manually select a single autofocus (AF) point.

A good technique is to set the central AF point, half-press the shutter button to focus on the eyes/head, then recompose to position your subject off to one side before fully pressing the button – this is often a much faster way of shooting than fiddling with AF points.

Alternatively, set AF points in the top corners and place them over your subject's eyes to take your shot. Either option will help you position your subject off-centre for a more balanced composition.

09 Posing for portraits How your subject stands, poses and looks will have a dramatic effect on your results. A slight change in facial expression – such as whether they smile or not – can radically change the entire feeling of the photograph.

When shooting, try and capture a range of expressions so you can pick which you prefer when editing them back home on the computer.

Also consider setting up portrait shots where your subject looks off-camera, up or down, or to one side. Play around and see what works.

10 Get artistic with flash lighting Equipped with a flashgun, remote triggers and a good-sized diffuser, you open up the possibility of a vast array of clever and cool lighting set-ups.

Light your subjects from the side to add drama to your portraits, and get creative by under-exposing the sky or background, dialling in -2 stops of Exposure Compensation to capture a moody backdrop behind your subjects.

11 Stand by me Consider investing in a flashgun stand. A stand not only acts as a second pair of hands, it also enables you to position your flash up high or down low, pointing the head exactly where you want the light to hit.

12 Using fill flash on sunny days Although it may seem odd to use flash when the sun's out, that's precisely the time when you should use it! Portrait Photography Tips: use fill flash on sunny days

The sun can cause all sorts of problems for portrait photographers: harsh shadows across faces, unbalanced exposures and burnt-out highlights.

Use a bit of 'fill flash' and you'll instantly improve your portraits; your camera will capture a much more balanced exposure, because your flash will light up your subject while the camera exposes for the background.

13 The benefits of off-camera flash A flashgun is detachable and can be fired via a cable, or wirelessly using a remote control attached to your hotshoe (some of the latest SLRs can even fire flashguns remotely, without the need for an additional trigger).

You can also use two flashes in unison for more complex lighting set-ups. Using a remote trigger will enable you to fire one flash, to act at the 'master', which in turn will fire the second 'slave' flash unit at the same time.

Attach diffusers and softboxes for a bigger, softer – and more flattering – spread of light.

14 Five flash upgrades & add-ons

A hotshoe flashgun (or two). Flashgun diffuser. Flashgun softbox. A remote flash cable. Wireless flash triggers.

Adapted from Digital Camera World. http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/09/06/14-portrait-photography-tips-youll-never-want-to-forget/3/

14 Tips For taking Better Portraits of Loved Ones Part 1

(Photo Courtesy of Toni Inniss)

Portrait photography tips can run the gamut from simple tweaks to your camera settings to the seemingly impossible task of getting children to stay still. Although many photographers upgrade to a decent SLR to give them more control when they take family portraits or pictures of friends, getting great shots of people is always a challenge. The difference between amateur and professional portraits can be vast. So we've compiled this list of 14 of the most important portrait photography tips for any photographer to know.

01 When to use Exposure Compensation A common photography problem when shooting portraits light skin tones is under-exposed portraits. You'll notice this more when shooting full-face photos or when there's lots of white in the scene – brides at weddings are a prime example. To brighten up subjects when using Aperture Priority mode, you can try using Exposure Compensation.Try dialling in up to +1 stop of positive Exposure Compensation to lighten up people's faces.

02 Aperture advice When shooting portraits, it's best to set a wide aperture (around f/2.8-f/5.6) to capture a shallow depth of field, so the background behind your subject is nicely blurred, making them stand out better. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode to control depth of field; in this mode your SLR will helpfully set the shutter speed for a correct exposure.

03 Shutter speed settings When setting shutter speed, factor in your lens's focal length otherwise camera-shake (and blurred results) will become an issue. As a general rule, make sure your shutter speed is higher than your effective focal length. For example, at 200mm use a 1/250 sec shutter speed or faster. This also means you can get away with slower shutter speeds when using a wide-angle lens – such as 1/20 sec with an 18mm focal length.

04 Increase your ISO People move around a lot as they're photographed, not to mention blink and constantly change their facial expressions – and there's nothing worse than a photo of somebody half-blinking or gurning instead of smiling! To avoid these problems, and to prevent motion blur appearing, you'll need to use a fast shutter speed. This will also help to ensure sharp shots and avoid camera-shake because more often than not you'll be shooting portraits handheld.

05 Lens choice Your choice of lens has a big impact on your portrait photos. A wide-angle (around 18mm) lens captures a wider angle of view, so more of your subject's surroundings will be in shot.A telephoto (over 70mm) lens captures a narrower angle of view, and less of your subject's surroundings will appear in frame. Focal length also affects depth of field (DoF).

A wide-angle lens will capture more depth of field compared to a telephoto lens. This is why telephoto lenses are favoured over wide-angle lenses for portraits, as they further knock backgrounds out of focus to make people more prominent in the scene.

06 Creative compositions Don't be lazy with your compositions. Too often photographers stand back, thinking it's best to include all, or at least the top half, of their subject.Zoom in instead to fill the frame for a more inspired photo composition. Positioning your subject to one side of the frame, with 'space to look into', is a great technique to master, as is experimenting with wide apertures to capture a very shallow depth of field.

07 Use a reflector A quick and affordable way to brighten up your portraits and to give them a professional look is to use a reflector. Use them indoors (near windows) or outdoors to bounce light back onto your subjects to fill in unwanted shadows. Many reflectors come double-sided or with detachable covers, ?so you get a choice of white, silver and gold reflective surfaces. The white surfaces of reflectors can also double up as diffusers to soften strong direct sunshine. If you're really strapped for cash, you can make a reflector by simply using a large sheet of white cardboard – which you can also cover with tin foil for a silver effect – and it should still work a treat!

TO BE CONTINUED... (Extracted from Digital Camera World)

Tips For Better Indoor Photos Using Available Light

Sometimes a picture of a room is only that--simply a depiction of an enclosed space, without character. However, this month on our blog we look at some useful tips to capture the warmth, mood and appeal of your interior photos using the available light.

Step 1 Find an appropriate interior. Look for grand rooms that are well lit and not mobbed with people. Museums, post offices, mansions, and estates that are open to the public can work. Contemporary interiors are just as viable as classic ones. If your room is subject to variations in lighting across the course of a day, determine what time looks best.

Step 2 Pick your angle. Make test photographs of the room from all of its corners to see which angle is most flattering to the space. You can move decorative elements like tables and chairs to better effect, and open or close drapes and doors. Low camera angles show off a room well, but aim the camera directly into the space: Tilting up or down can create perspective distortion.

Step 3 Set the exposure. To get as much of the room as you can in sharp focus, set the smallest aperture possible. This will probably result in a slow enough shutter speed to require some form of stabilization to prevent blur from camera movement. Be prepared.

Final Step Shoot, then tweak. If you will be producing an HDR composite, as van Hannen did, make your exposures by autobracketing in the aperture-priority mode. Start the sequence with a remote trigger or your camera's self-timer to prevent having to touch the shutter button. Later, in software, add warmth, contrast, and sharpness.

Adapted from Popular Photography: http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2012/11/tips-better-indoor-photos-using-available-light

10 Photography Rules To Break

Over the years, we've heard certain guidelines, maxims, and rules repeated over and over again by nature photographers. We've even repeated a few ourselves, before stopping to think, "hey, some of these have merit, but most don't." Here are 10 of our favorite "rules" that have little or no basis in reality. Go ahead and break them.

[ED. NOTE: While these entries are grounded in nature photography, many of them can certainly be extrapolated into just about any discipline.]

1. A good exposure has a bell-curve-shaped histogram.

Break it: The shape of the graph doesn't actually tell you whether exposure is "good" or not, just how tones are distributed. For instance, proper exposure for a dark backlit scene, with just a fringe of light and very few midtones, will have a histogram that resembles an inverted bell curve.

Although you should generally avoid overexposure of highlights (a histogram bulky on the right side) and underexposure of shadows (bulky on the left), this isn't always so. In that backlit scene, keeping the highlights from overexposing will likely give you a dark image with some shadows ending up as pure black.

Read more at: http://www.popphoto.com/gallery/nature-how-to-10-rules-to-break

This Photo: 1/15 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, expopsure compensation of -.3.

Above Photo by: Johannes Martin

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