Why Study The Old Masters To Improve Your Photography?
Excellent article from Videomaker on Rembrandt Three Point Lighting techniques, and how light can be used to create three dimensional form and a sense of atmosphere.
Students that subscribe to the newsletter will be familiar with my thoughts on how to improve your photography by adopting a more rigorous working methodology.
For those that have not yet subscribed (for news, discount vouchers and links to helpful content), then I shall outline the basic process.
Given that there is a lot of technical information to absorb and remember, I have broken down the creative photography process into a series of easy to follow steps. I teach this to beginners that would like to take more control of their cameras and boost their skills by trying to give them a core knowledge from which they can experiment, using a simple, tried and trusted tick list.
It starts with a basic philosophy.
Light is constant. Cameras try to render pictures that are neither too light or dark.
Cameras are also capable of six useful things.
- They can blur backgrounds, for instance, in a sharp portrait with a soft, out-of-focus backdrop.
- They can do the opposite, and keep everything sharp as in a quality landscape.
- The can speed-up and freeze fast moving subjects such as birds in flight.
- They can slow down, and add motion blur. A good example is soft, misty trails in a waterfall.
- They can focus on anything you choose, and also track moving objects
- They can add light with flash.
A combination of the above will allow you to capture good shots in virtually any situation. In order for us to take advantage of these six conditions, we must avoid the auto-features built into the camera, and start to think for ourselves.
Firstly. It is useful to decide what ‘kind of look’ do you want your picture to have before you start. Do you want a soft background or sharp. Are you trying to freeze water droplets or deliberately make them smoother, for an arty image?
If you can answer this question then you have some ‘intention’. Great masters like Ansel Adams used this to create some of the best images ever made, and often called it ‘pre-visualization’. In layman terms it simply means deciding what you want your picture to look like, and then working towards it, while adjusting the process, and assessing the results.
In other words, implement a working method that you can rely on.
Here is one useful sequence that I encourage students to follow.
How To Stop Using Auto
- Take a shot in ‘auto’ as a test, to see what the camera suggests.
- Decide on the final look of your image and how it may differ from the ‘auto’
- Choose a non-auto mode such as Aperture Priority (A/Av).
- Select an aperture based on the desired look. More wide open hole for blur, (smaller f: number), or more closed hole (higher f: number) for sharper shots.
- Check the shutter speed: the failure to do this is the most common cause of shaky shots. Minimum desired hand held speed is 1/60th sec. for regular shots.
- Increase the ISO to force the camera to ‘go faster’, i.e. increase the shutter speed to freeze action. Or, decrease the ISO to help the camera ‘go slower’ and create some motion blur.
- Take a picture.
- Review the picture on the screen and look at the data to decipher any issues.
- Use Exposure Compensation to lighten or darken the image to suit and take a second shot.
Allowing light into the camera through a hole in the lens (which creates a small electrical signal), and controlling the amplitude (of that signal) with the ISO button, provides us with a shutter speed.
We need more light, and a higher ISO (boosted signal or gain) to generate a faster shutter speed.
For a slower speed, we need less light and a lower ISO.
This is known as The Exposure Triangle, and once you have a good understanding of how these three things interact, then you can shoot any subject, and begin to experiment with different ‘looks’ whilst retaining control of your exposures.
Putting It All Together
Certainly, there are other factors involved in achieving a particular effect such as correct focusing, the amount of zoom and proximity to the subject, and whether to hand-hold or employ a tripod for stability. These are best demonstrated person to person. However, I have found it useful to adopt a basic mantra for students starting out with Aperture Priority that goes:
“Choose an aperture. Check your speed. Change your ISO’
This is the basic formula that can help you improve. For Instance there is no need to learn all the f: numbers, as long as you can remember that the biggest hole in the lens (smallest f: number) lets in most light and creates the most blur, and conversely, the smallest hole (largest f: number) keeps things sharper and the lack of light will cause the camera shutter to slow down. Everything in-between is just a variable on this. Holding an old-fashioned lens up to the light and clicking through the apertures on the dial will demonstrate this, as it shows the aperture hole increasing and decreasing as you click.
Maintaining at least 1/60th sec for general photography is a useful rule of thumb. Speed up the shutter (a higher number 1/250th, 1/500th, 1/1000th) by increasing the ISO to freeze action shots. Turn down the ISO for slower speeds (lower numbers i.e. 1/30th, 1/4, 2 secs, etc) for special effects, and use a tripod or a table to avoid camera shake.
As I said, this is the core knowledge that other techniques rely on, so let me show you how it works on a 1-2-1 workshop. Once you learn this correctly, then you will have a reliable working method that can be used to expand your handbook of techniques, and help you figure out the settings that other people use, just by looking at their pictures!!
Then you can begin working on the important things like mood, atmosphere and storytelling, as in this sombre image of a foggy Forth.
Have you purchased a new camera for Xmas, and not looking forward to reading the online .pdf manual. Do you know a friend that wants to improve their skills, and would appreciate a unique present for their birthday?
Buy Gift Vouchers for one of my super photographic workshops and quickly learn the secrets to improving your skills.
Instruction starts at 35.00 for an hour, 50.00 for two hours and 95.00 for three. A second person is welcome free of charge to help split the costs.
BOOK HERE to buy a voucher, Simply add an amount to your basket, pop in your details on our secure shop and an e-ticket voucher will be emailed straightaway. A date will then be arranged for your fun and informative workshop.
Gift Vouchers 121 Workshops for 2018
My personalized classes help you get to grips with your camera faster. Take a look at these examples of how I can help you take better pictures.
- Learn with a professional tutor, in plain English. No technical expertise required. Ideal for beginners and those wishing to improve.
- Tips on Setting Up the Camera for beginners, Menus, and which buttons do what?
- How To Use and Choose Focus points for arty images.
- How to blur backgrounds
- Getting the exposures right, and editing in-camera
- Learning to read and understand all those pesky numbers
- Tips on better portraits and moving subjects
- Tripods and filters for Landscapes and Long Exposures
- How to move off ‘Auto’
- Creative editing techniques
- Book a fun Photo-walk to help you practice.
- Book a session to hone a particular technique
- Advice on how to shoot your first wedding
All workshops are bespoke and cater for beginners through to advanced.
Special discounted group rates are available for schools, recreational clubs, leisure groups and company social events.
Contact Tony for a ‘per head’ quote and to have a chat about your requirements.
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Photography Workshops: An Easy Guide
Go here to find information on my new photographic workshops, including my fast-track 1-2-1 tuition. Discover how and why I can teach you to ‘think like a photographer’ and create great images based on your ‘intention’.
My unique teaching method includes a guide to understanding the basics of photography by asking yourself some simple questions about what you ‘intend’ the image to look like, before you begin.
Understanding this allows you to make simple changes to your camera based on the outcome you are aiming for, rather than trying to remember tons of complicated technical information.
Learn how to implement a simple step-by-step checklist. Unlock the secrets of reviewing images correctly, to help achieve consistent exposures and enhance your skills and knowledge.
Photography Services Background
I have been a professional photographer for over twenty years, providing photography, short promotional films, and educational workshops for schools, businesses, charities and marketing agencies.
I have gained an excellent reputation for delivering clear instruction, in plain English, with a minimum of technical jargon. Sessions are short, with an emphasis on practical, hands-on advice. Coffee, and lots of fun are included free of charge.
My work has been published in magazines, and commissioned by corporate organisations, local businesses and agencies.
Originally based in London and Edinburgh, I work closely with WEX and collaborate with a great group of creative film-makers, musicians, 3D visual artists, motion graphics experts and artisans.
Leave me a message via our Contact Form or call for some honest advice.
+44 (0) 7855 382 565