Action Photography - The Tips You Should Use

By Autumn Lockwood  

Getting great photographs of the world in motion is a difficult task. More than any other kind of photography, action photography demands lightning-quick reflexes, a solid foundation in composition and other photo elements, and a little bit of luck. That being said, anyone can learn to take great action shots if you're willing to commit a little time to understanding the methods to the madness. Here are some techniques on how you can get started taking action photos.

Know Your Subject Matter
Due to the short amount of time you have to shoot, it's important that you understand the subject you're photographing. For example, with basketball, if you're not near the basket, you won't get a good picture of the next dunk. Before you start shooting a particular subject in action, take time to understand your subject so you can anticipate the action before it happens.

Get the Subject in Action
You want to always try to get the subject at the time when the action is at its maximum impact. For example if you're photographing snowboarders jumping off a ramp, know what type of shot you want. Do you want the launch, the landing or the highest part in the jump? Action photography can be captivating if you compose the picture to include the most interesting part of the action. So, always be thinking of the best way to compose your picture.

Focus in Advance
Many professional photographers will focus their cameras on an empty space where they expect something to happen. This is an easy thing to do if you know the activity you're shooting, and will save you valuable time when someone is flying through the air in your frame and you have milliseconds to react.

Pan with the Subject
It is important in action photography that you convey motion in the final print. While some subjects will have obvious motion, such as a basketball player frozen mid-dunk, others may require a bit of work on your part. Panning is when you move your camera to keep up with the subject as they pass in front of you. This will give you the end result of the subject being clearly in focus but the background being blurred by the motion of the camera.

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Having the Right Film and Using a Flash
High-speed film (800 or above) is usually best for action photography. High speed film will let you use faster shutter speeds in more varied light situations and help you to freeze actions perfectly. For ultra fast movements, a flash can also be helpful however most consumer level camera flashes won't work well beyond 10 feet.

Frame the Image for Action
Try not to stop the action of a subject in your photograph. While freezing an action in progress is a good goal for an action shot, allow the viewer room to follow the action to a possible conclusion. For example if you have someone jumping down some stairs, position the subject near the top of the picture and have some stairs below so it's easier to understood the outcome of the action.

Go with Digital
Action photography takes an enormous amount of patience and practice, and up until recently also required an enormous amount of film. Thanks to digital cameras and their near-endless supply of photographs, you can now practice your action shots without taking such a huge hit on your wallet. And even better, many digital SLRs have continuous shooting modes that allow you to shoot 10-50 images in rapid succession so you can have more opportunities for the perfect shot.

Anytime your shooting action photography safety needs to come first you so can avoid injuring yourself or the subject in motion. Never position yourself where you run the risk of getting hit by vehicles or athletes, and make sure that the people you are shooting are aware of where you'll be during the activity. Beyond that, the more you shoot, the better you'll get!

10 Tips to Improve Your Black and White Photography

By Stephanie Gagnon  

In a world of color, sometimes you just can't beat a strong black and white image. Black and white photography can be an amazing tool to conveying a mood story or statement to your viewers. While a color portrait can tell a story too, the absence of color in black and white imagery can often present a much stronger impact to viewers. Here are a few tips on creating strong black and white photographs.

1. Right Subject Matter 
The first thing to consider is your subject matter. Would it be strengthened by the absence of color? The truth is - not every image will look better in black and white. Sometimes color is needed to distinguish your subject from the other elements in the image. So really evaluate whether or not your chosen image will benefit from a black and white conversion.

2. Shape and Form 
As previously stated, sometimes color is needed in an image to separate, distinguish and add interest. When you shift an image to black and white, you can no longer rely on it to add interest or a focal point to your photograph. That's why form and shape are incredibly important in black and white photography. You'll have to look beyond colors and instead focus your attention on shapes and lines, arranging them in a way that emphasizes the most interesting aspect of the shape or create an intriguing composition of different shapes.

3. Pattern 
In colored photos, patterns can often go unnoticed because the colors draw all the attention away from it. However, black and white photographs give you a much better chance of capturing interesting patterns because the distraction of color is no longer present, giving subtle patterns the chance to take shape and emerge.

4. Texture 
Texture is a crucial element to black and white imagery. Textures provide us with tonal contrast and relay depth to the viewer. Without textures - you would simply have a smooth flat surface showing some shade of gray, but with texture we have something interesting and inciting to view. Try combining a variety of textures, like a glossy pen next to a textured sheet of paper sitting on a dirty desk for instance. The right textures combined together will help to add interest and appeal to your photograph.

5. Composition 
A strong composition is even more important in black and white photography than in color imagery. Remember composition elements such as the Golden Ratio and Leading Lines when composing your image. These elements will help pull viewers in and keep their interest in the absence of color.

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6. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting 
This of course is of vital importance in black and white photography. Lighting is always important, however, in black and white photographs, proper lighting can make or break an image. Good lighting can help increase the contrast within your image providing more interest to your portrait or it can be used to create drama, mystery, and moody contrasts within the image.

7. Slightly Overexpose 
This is more of a personal suggestion. But I always slightly over-expose when I shoot. It helps bring all the tones up a little so you don't loose any details in the dark shadows. Of course, you don't want to over-do it and blow out your whites, but a slightly over-exposed image can be tweaked more easily to suit your needs.

8. Avoid Noise 
Sometimes grain can add to an image, but always be intentional about your use of it. Many people will shift a poorly created image to black and white to hide the noise in their image from poor setting choices. If you are intentionally shooting to create a black and white image, be very conscious of your settings and choose them wisely. Most of the strongest and most well known black and white images are crisp and sharp. So don't let your ISO get too high.

9. Shoot in Color then Convert to Black and White 
Many digital cameras now have the option to shoot in black and white. Even if you know you're going to be converting your image to black and white - always shoot hem in color first! When your camera internally converts your color image to black and white - all kinds of detail and information is lost in the conversion. Rather than risk a sub-par creation - shoot your image in color and convert it to black and white on your computer where you will have much more control of the finished product.

10. Contrast 
When converting your photograph to black and white, pump up your contrast. Whether you use an action, level layer or curves in your conversion, your black and white photograph can handle a lot more contrast than a color image. Make your blacks a deeper black and your whites a brighter white. You can always pull up a histogram in photoshop to check your levels but you will want a healthy looking mountain in your histogram to have a strong image.

Portrait Photography Tips For Good Looking Portraits

By John Best  

The ability to take great portraits depends on following a few essential "rules" I've boiled down to these portrait photography tips. Even if you are just starting out, following these guidelines can assist you in improving your portraits.

Types of Portraits

First, it is important to understand the different types of portraits which you can take. There are three basic types of portraits. They are:

1) close-ups or head shots, 2) head and shoulder shots and 3) environmental shots. An environmental shot is a type of portrait where the photographer focuses on the subject and the environment that surrounds the subject. This type of shot provides character to the subject.

The type of portrait you choose depends on the purpose of the portrait and the mood you want to convey. A more formal portrait, for example, might feature an upper body shot. A less formal portrait might be an environmental shot. A great environmental portrait can be achieved provided that you frame the environment and the subject well. Arches, doorways and windows can all be used to your advantage for framing an environmental portrait.

Portrait Photography Tips: Posing

There are also different ways in which the subject can be posed. Many of the best portraits are taken when the subject is not actually looking directly into the camera. In fact, great portraits are often taken when the subject is completely comfortable and natural. Allow the subject to sit or stay comfortably.

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You might have them sit on a chair or even on the floor. Encourage them to be comfortable. If you need less of a relaxed look, you can always move in closer to focus on a face shot.

Portrait Photography Tips: Depth of Field and Focal Length

Both depth of field and focal length are critical to creating great portraits. When you have a shallow depth of field, the focal point will be sharp while everything else becomes blurry. This can prevent the background from distracting the viewer's attention from the subject.

A larger aperture setting will result in a shallow depth of field with a background that is softer while the subject is sharp. Likewise a smaller aperture setting will result in both the foreground and the background appearing in focus and sharp.

Zooming or walking in closer will help you to fill the frame with the subject of the portrait. This does not necessarily mean you must do a facial or close-up shot. Filling the frame with your subject will still allow you to achieve a 'tight' full-body shot.

Portrait Photography Tips: Lighting

Lighting is critical to good portrait photography. There are various types of lighting that can be used in portrait photography. Main light should typically be diffused or you may have results that are too harsh. You can diffuse the main light by placing something nearly transparent between the main light and the subject. Generally, the main light should be positioned approximately 45 degrees either to the left or the right of the portrait subject.

Fill lights are also used, typically opposite the main light source. Fill lights should be used with less intensity than the main light source; however. One of the advantages of fill lights is that they can soften shadows that may be created as a result of the main light.

Side lights or hair lights can provide lighting for the subject's hair. This can give your portrait depth and can also help in separating your subject from the background.

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