My approach to my art is universal. Although these images are of people, wildlife and nature, I’m certain that utilizing these same techniques will greatly improve the quality and creative style of my artwork images. And so, I’m taking you outside the realm of glass on a little family vacation detour. This fresh perspective on photography demonstrates how easy it is to control, and even manipulate images to make them emotional charged and super exciting.
Okay, maybe 10,000 pictures since I was given my new camera in May is an exaggeration. But my family, often the reluctant subjects of my curious eye, will back me up.
I can and have easily take 500 – 600 pictures in 15 minutes. It turns out, every day and every outing offers new photographic opportunities. But some days I need a break from viewing the world through a narrow lens and I purposely leave my camera home.
I almost always regret not having my camera at arm’s length. Yesterday for example, I saw Sandhill cranes down the street. The tall, red headed birds are usually very passive. They spend their days walking slowly along the grass shoulder digging in the soft ground for bugs.
But yesterday, one bird in a group of four was swinging it’s head and flapping it’s wings. It kept jumping up off the ground and did a lively dance for the other three birds. On these missed occasions, I try to live in the moment and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is, a beautiful glimpse of nature. Then I assure myself it wasn’t my last chance to capture exciting wildlife pictures. The next time a great picture presents itself I’ll be ready to click away.
After taking so many pictures, I’ve noticed that keeping some concepts in mind results in significantly better, more emotionally charged images. Following are some great examples taken on our summer vacation. These images demonstrate how a little forethought can improve your pictures.
Here’s what I learned.
For comparison sake, here’s the camera I’m using. I’m not endorsing this particular camera. But I am suggesting that a better quality piece of equipment with professional grade settings and increased pixels will nurture your artistic style, and drastically improve your image quality. My camera is a Nikon D3500 with 24.2 million pixels. It came with 2 lenses: 18-55mm and zoom 70-300mm.
1 Lighting in EVERYTHING!
I can’t stress enough how much good lighting adds to the artistic value of any image. Lighting creates a mood. Lighting breathes life into still images. Lighting is the single, most important aspect you can control. Use it effectively and you’ll create amazing, personalized images. You’ll immediately notice an increase in the professional quality of your images. The extra effort has such a positive impact that the resulting pictures will leave a more memorable impression.
So, how do you catch and control the ever elusive light?
Once you find an interesting subject and composition move around and take pictures from several different angles. Changing your position can help you enhance the effect of the light you have and add higher contrast with shadows.
A good rule of thumb is to have the sun at your back. Then the strong light won’t create a hot spot in your image and the front surface of your subject will be illuminated.
If you’re taking a sunset or sunrise picture, experiment with your camera’s aperture and try several different settings. Try the effects mode to get more vibrant and artsy versions of the scene. I often take the same picture with auto mode, then effects mode and then manual mode and adjust the aperture for unexpected, cool results. Later, I compare the images and keep the one I like best.
For more dramatic affects, take pictures in different conditions. Take them early in the morning to capture long purple shadows and the pinkish hue that fresh sunlight casts on everything. Or take pictures late in the afternoon when the sunshine gives objects a golden glow.
Taking pictures in the rain can also be fun. The movement of the falling water combined with soft lighting can really romanticize an otherwise boring setting. Fog is also intriguing. The subtle tones and soft edges it creates can be useful for setting a peaceful or mysterious mood.
2 What if the lighting is gloomy and you can’t change the scene without losing the moment?
You could, of course use your flash. But I find them to be too harsh. The bright white light washes out soft colors and makes everything look hard. And a flash often gives subjects the dreaded, red-demon eyes that threaten to haunt you.
Instead, try changing your camera settings. I used, night portrait mode, it’s the setting of a figure with a star over their head, to take pictures of two adorable dogs under a canopy. You could also try the special effect setting to give the picture a surreal feeling. You don’t have to pay for film, so take as many pictures as you like. Experiment and try new combinations just to see what happens.
3 Zoom in. Get up close and personal.
Go ahead, snap the standard composition of your selected subject showing the complete scene and the entire subject. Get that picture out of the way. Then get artsy. Zoom in and take more pictures. Crop out the unnecessary noise. Fill the viewfinder with intricate detail, rich color and plush texture.
Treat the viewer to your special representation of the scene. In doing so, you share an intimate, highly personal experience. I’m finding that tight, close-ups are more engaging. They stimulate the imagination and invite the viewer to participate. They encourage them to imagine the remainder of the scene and the unique circumstances under which the picture was taken. That’s fun stuff!
4 It’s easy to capture pictures of wild animals running away from you. Taking pictures of them looking at you is hard.
Apparently, wild animals don’t like to have a large black tube pointed in their direction. They run. Fast. And friends and family are not impressed with butt images, no matter how exceptional the lighting is.
To be a successful wildlife photographer takes patience. You have to quietly place yourself in the right position. Then you wait for the animal to feel comfortable enough to ignore your presence and go back to their natural routine.
I find using a telephoto lens and sport mode helpful. The zoom lens gets you close enough to show detail like feathers and eye color. And sport mode enables you to take pictures is rapid succession. This way you can capture all of the animal’s graceful, live-action movements as they happen.
Hint: When closing in tight with a telephoto lens try to position your subject in the exact center of your viewfinder. When taking pictures in sport mode the camera focus is in the exact center. If your moving subject, like a flying bird, is centered the subject will be crisp and clear. If it’s not centered, the camera focus isn’t in line with the subject and the subject tends to be blurry.
5 Try to take pictures of people in action to show their personalities.
We all love the group picture of everyone standing in a line with the vacation destination’s beautiful scenery spread out behind them. It’s effective, but not very imaginative. Go ahead and take the same picture everyone else has taken this summer. Get it over with.
Then try something new. You can do better. Try stacking your family and friends in a gnarled old tree. Or have some standing and some sitting on the sandy beach. Have the kids gather on the rustic stairs of the rental cabin or on the tailgate of the family car. Include props that represent the trip like fishing poles or Broadway show tickets. You don’t have to make a big deal out of staging your family. They’ll mutiny if you do. But a little creative positioning adds so much enthusiasm and excitement to the standard family portrait. And once the family sees the entertaining results, they’ll actually look forward to posing for you next time.
6 Effects are a lot of fun.
Using the effects mode can really exaggerate a scene and make it more vibrant. It can also be used to focus the viewer’s attention on a specific element, of your choosing, in your picture. That’s powerful!
That said, I use effects in moderation. The effects mode sometimes causes distortion or it confuses the focus on the subject. To be on the safe side, when I take pictures in the effects mode, I also take it in automatic mode. Then later I review the two images on my computer and keep the one I like best.
7 Oh, and here’s a useful tip.
Don’t worry about taking notes or cataloging how you take test pictures. After downloading your images, you can access all sorts of relevant information about each picture. Right click on the image. Then click on Properties. In the General tab you can see the file type, the image size and when the picture was taken. For more in-depth information click the Details tab. Here you can see what F-stop, Exposure time and ISO speed you used. You can also see if a flash was used and other helpful information. If you like certain results, use this information to duplicate them on another picture.
Note: I’m using a PC with Windows 10. My pictures are stored in the Pictures folder. If you’re using a different system you may have to search for this information, but I’m certain it’s there.
8 Here’s a huge time saving tip for sorting your favorite pictures.
If you already know how to do this, good for you! Feel free to skip this part. But, if this is new for you, this is a game changer!
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit I just learned this incredibly useful trick. Especially considering the massive number of pictures I take for my videos, website, social media and for fun. My daughter showed me this trick when I asked her to pick the best images from our family vacation. The take-away is, no matter where you are or what you do, there’s always something new learn.
Here’s the picture grouping trick my daughter showed me.
Bring your pictures up to full size one-by-one. Check to see if you like the composition, the focus and lighting. If it’s a keeper click on the heart icon at the top of the page. Click the heart on all the images you like. When you’re done, go back to the thumbnail screen. Then click on View. Then click on Group By and select Rating. All of the pictures you gave a heart will be grouped at the top of the folder. Then you can look through the grouped images and sort them further picking the very best images. At any time, you can remove the heart and the image goes back to the bottom of the folder. Or you can go back and add a heart to any image to move it to the top group.
If your system works differently, don’t worry. Try clicking around. It’s likely your system has a similar feature, it’s just a matter of finding it and using it.
9 Get in the picture.
Make sure you’re in some of the pictures. It may not seem important now. But when you look back it’ll remind you of the fun you had taking great pictures. And you’ll recall the cherished time spent relaxing with family and friends.
10 My last bit of advised is this.
Don’t hold back. Set your imagination free and take lots of pictures. I’ve realized that if I’m compelled to take pictures of a single subject over and over, it’s because the lighting, composition or cropping could be better. Once the magic combination is achieved, I’m content to replace my lens cap and just enjoy the scenery.
Vacation is wonderful! I’m always rejuvenated by extended excursions outside of my glass studio. These refreshing departures from “work” inspire new design ideas and artistic directions. Now that I’m back I’m ready to channel my renewed energy back into creating exceptional art.
I hope you find value in these little tips and they lead you to new creative discoveries in your glass studio, as well as outside.
Follow my blog for more tips and tricks.
Upcoming Classes and Webinars
Sculptural Fused Glass, 4-Day, Hands-on Workshop
October 15-18, 2019
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You’re invited to join me for this intense workshop held in my private studio in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Class size is limited to 4.
Sculptural fused glass is the creation of three-dimensional forms that rise above a flat plane. Artists create 3-D works by using multiple methods and techniques with complete freedom of materials and process.
In this comprehensive class you’ll learn how to design, build and creatively display multiple stunning pieces of art that reflect your personal style.
You’ll push the boundaries glass imposes. You’ll use innovative approaches to design and combine multiple advanced techniques to construct original sculptural art.You’ll enjoy: the one-on-one instruction, making large scale projects, the well-equipped classroom, and the intimate class size.
Its hard-core fusing in a nurturing, relaxed environment. You’ll love the concentrated, in-depth study and creative momentum you’ll gain while actively producing nonstop, for four consecutive days. You’ll also learn how to design and build custom art glass displays that enhance your original work.
Due to popular demand, I’m now extending the hands-on curriculum to include a professional photo shoot of your completed sculptures.
You’ll leave class with several completed sculptures, a working knowledge of kiln operation and custom project-specific firing guides. You’ll have the design confidence and hands-on experience to rise above and take your work to the next level.
NEW Class Update and Special Offer.
Register now and for the first time EVER, all class materials are included!
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AND, a professional photo shoot of your completed sculptural masterpieces.
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November 15, 2019
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January 14, 2019
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January 16, 2019
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