November 13, 2012

Photo Journal - Going Manual

I decided it was time to take the final plunge!  Full manual mode, baby!  Working so much with sports photography I'm often using shutter priority mode; otherwise, I pop on over to aperture priority mode. Considering the vast amount of soccer games I photograph, I can't believe that I haven't posted any soccer shots.  I'll have to do that soon.

I've been doing a lot of photography reading, from the mechanics to composition to posing.  The most frequented advice is this:  practice, practice, practice.  Did I mention practice?  It's a bit tricky to do that with the guys; even if they were willing subjects, most often they are not home during sunlight hours.  Then came Sunday - with no Bears game until later that evening, leaving the light-filled afternoon free!  After church, we had a nice dinner, with the promise of warm, gooey brownies in the oven.  So I cut a deal:  warm gooey brownies in exchange for 20 minutes photo fun with me.  Each. Yes, my men can be bribed.

Depending on whose perspective, it worked out great for Roger (or insert Justin's name instead), because my camera battery was on its last blinking bar.  Only one lucky individual got to have a photo shoot. (Or reverse that - only one unlucky person had to endure a photo shoot.)

Here are some photography skills I worked on:

  • I would only use one lens today:  I chose the 50 mm - 1.8 (aperture) lens because I wanted to blur the background so my willing subjects would be defined.
  • I kept the aperture the same, wide open for that blown out background; the iso was adjusted once from 200 to 100 with plenty of light outside; then only the shutter speed was adjusted to compensate for the changing light - lots of clouds rolling in and out over the sun, which was a fine challenge to figure out exposure settings as I went.  I've got a few examples to record down below.
  • It is a well-known fact that Roger and I aren't exactly photogenic; we tend to freeze in front of the camera, or give squinty, overly-toothy-populous smiles. I read a few ideas to help us, and we had a few good laughs and even success!  I'll tell more about that as we go.
  • It is challenging to come up with some different poses for guys - so easy with girls, especially with props.  I love movement in photos, whether from the wind blowing or from a person's expressions, gestures, or carrying themselves.  But for today,  we worked more on conveying emotion through the eyes (vs. the caught-in-the-headlights deer look and vs. big grins).  Besides, it was challenging enough just to switch to manual.

Here's an example of adjusting the shutter speed for a better exposure.

This photo is too dark.
The sun had been bright, so the shutter speed was set to a fast speed. Faster opening and closing of the shutter lets in less light.  Like a quick blink.

However, the sun here went behind the clouds, and it became darker.  There was now less light when the shutter opened and then quickly shut - not much light went onto my photo. It turned out dark.

 To let more light get at my photo sensor, the shutter would need to stay open longer before clicking shut - a slower speed was needed.    Kinda like saying, "Hey!  Slow down! Keep that door open longer to let more light in, so I can see what I'm doing in here!"

Even though the sun was still behind the clouds, the shutter now stayed open longer in this second photo (after being adjusted to a slower speed), giving the light more time to come into the photo.

Here my photo is much brighter (actually too bright; I'll have to tweak that a bit more) because the slower shutter stayed open longer to let more light in before closing shut. That's the only difference between these two photos.

Know what's really cool?  I just explained that! Guess it's finally clicking. (Pun slightly intended.)  There are other ways to change the amount of light coming in.  For today though, I just adjusted the shutter speed.  There's more than one way to skin a cat! (Really, that's a dreadful phrase.  Sorry, cats and cat-lovers.)

On to the next photo tip I learned. 

When having our photo taken, Roger and I will often pull back our chins or lift them ridiculously high.  Both scenarios leave us looking a bit silly and thick about the neck or double chinned.

Solution:  Point your forehead/nose towards the camera.  You'll feel a bit like a turtle, but the effect through the camera lens makes it work.

Even though this isn't a drastic example, the first photo looks pretty good (because I was moving around to get a better angle). But...

In the second photo, without moving anymore,  I asked Roger to lean his forehead towards the camera.

Cool! It angles the face and chin area.

Take a lesson break!  
Here's a photo that we like:

There's a little bit of a backlighting issue here, but let's ignore that for a moment. 
Relaxed eyes and  a relaxed smile with just a slight upturning of the mouth's corners.
(Plus, forehead/nose leaning in towards camera; an improvement over its first take.)
*Sigh!  Love my guy!

OK.  A little about the light coming from behind (thus the term backlighting)  Of the myriads of things that have been said and learned, I'll just say here that in this next photo his eyes don't sparkle with catchlights and overall they are dark, not giving much detail.  Most photographers have reflectors (which they would place in front of him) that would bounce some reflected light back into his eyes.  Of course I don't have one, but one solution is to use a piece of white tagboard/foamboard instead. The white would bounce the light off of it towards his face. Next time maybe I'll try that.  Or, I could have adjusted his position so he had a bit of light captured in his kind eyes.

This next photo is one of Roger's favorites.   
It's another photo with the light coming from behind,
but his looking up caught some sunlight, and...
having him look up into the camera helped his eyes stay open wider,
counteracting the tendency to squint when he smiles.

Another photo tip...
take time to see the most flattering angle for the subject.
Consider the angle on this photo to the left.

Now compare that to this next photo:

Are you hanging in there with me in this really long blog post today?
I had so much I wanted to put into practice.
Next time, I'll break it up into shorter, more frequent posts. Good idea?
Until then, here's more:

I like movement in photos - my style preference.
So, I like that the wind is blowing his jacket here.

Much can be critiqued about this photo, but since I've kept you here so long already, let's just compare this to the next photo with a few comments.

First, the exposure is adjusted - the lighting is better.

With his walking movement, this picture is more interesting because: his body is angled in several places (such as head tilt, shoulder tilt, hip tilt, and the hands are on different levels).

Did you notice his forehead/nose is leaning in towards the camera, too?  Extra benefit is that it makes him look like he's leaning in to see/engage you.

I'll just finish up here by showing a few more photos. 
Did you catch that?  A few more photos!
Normally if just ONE photo turns out great, Roger and I get excited.
So, yes, there is hope for the supposed un-photogenic out there that are like Roger and me.

My favorite:

Roger's favorite

I love my husband!
Roger, you were so patient to let me play and practice with my camera, using you as my subject.
Of course, it is somewhat your fault, because you gave the camera to me as a gift.

And Readers, thank you for your patience as you read through my photo journaling.
Hope this helps the few of you who are also finding their way in this happy hobby of photography.
To the rest of you, thanks for encouraging me along - even though the details of the process are less than interesting to you!  

Ah!  Now to enjoy those warm gooey brownies!


  1. Hi mom :D
    Tell dad he looks extremely handsome in these pictures. Gentlemanly, even. P.s. nice work.

  2. MAHM! dads a stud.. and you took nice pictures. P.s. there's still hope for all us non-photogenic people after all. p.p.s. nice shed.

  3. Nice work Karen! we should collaborate! You can take pictures of my garden and I'll post them with my blog! If you've read several of my blog posts you know how much I love, NOT! my camera. Actually, you can take all of my pics for the blog! Oh, you look good too, Roger!

    What do your kids want?

  4. my beautiful wife loves me ! She doesn't show all the shots where I look " un-photogenic " Thank you dear.

  5. Karen, ALL of these photos look wonderful! And, these tips are great!! Bookmarking this, for sure. :)
    LOL....but I have to say. I'm imagining asking *my* subjects to tilt their chins down (I'm picturing little chins being buried in chests & goony-faces saying cheese!) (We're still working on how to smile without baring our teeth "like dinosaurs"!)
    Roger, your pictures turned out very photogenic, indeed! Those last two are my favorites, too. :)
    We had fun on Sunday!! Wishing you all a lovely ~ and delicious ~ Thanksgiving!

    1. The chin thing.... it's more like jutting your face toward the camera, with your forehead/nose leading. It feels like stretching your neck out like a turtle! We had quite a few laughs - but it worked!


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