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What is Macro photography?

Macro Photography is a relatively new concept to me – I wasn’t aware of the term previously as I had never attempted to take pictures of this sort, but now that I know what it is it’s sort of captured my attention. If you don’t know what it is, macro photography is basically really really close up photos of things – from what I’ve seen, most people take macro photos of bugs and snowflakes. While the terminology is a bit confusing (why isn’t it micro photography? When I was in college, ‘macroeconomics’ was the ‘far out’ kind of economics, and ‘microeconomics’ was the economics of an individual company or industry. Don’t know why this seems to be reversed in photography), macro photography is basically a cool method of taking a picture of something pretty small, but still getting a lot of detail. You can also use macro photography techniques to take pictures of things that are actually quite big, but you take a photo of a really small section  – generally this will reveal details/patterns that you never noticed.

Wood Macro Photo

Take a look at this photo of a block of wood above. When you look at it from a far, a piece of wood is just a piece of wood, but up close (and with the right camera settings and the right equipment), photographs can reveal previously unseen or unnoticed patterns. The photo below reveals the patterns on the surface of the wood which I think are quite remarkable. It allows you to kind of ‘see’ the wood in a new light – the see the individual fibers that make up the bark, and how they form to make the piece of wood as a whole.

Dandelion Macro photo

This is a photo of a dandelion, but I think it’s pretty stunning. The close up view of the dandelion reveals detail that you wouldn’t normally see – and the lighting in the photo is warm and inviting as well. Flowers are another thing that people like taking macro photos of. The only criticism I would have of this particular picture is that the colors are kind of one-note – normally, if I were taking a photo, I’d be shooting for a greater variety in the color palette.

So, on to technique. If you want to take a macro photo, how do you do it ? Not that long ago, to take reasonably good macro images, you needed some pretty expensive, specialized equipment – at the very least, you would’ve needed a specialized add-on lens of some sort to increase magnification on your camera. In today’s increasingly technologically advanced world, this is no longer the case. If you have a reasonably good DSLR camera (not a point and click, and definitely not your damn smartphone), you’ll probably be able to find a macro setting on your camera that will serve you reasonably well for any macro photos you might want to take. Once you’re on this setting, depending on how good your camera is, it should be pretty straight forward. If you’re a pro, there are probably more adjustments you want to make to your camera, and you may even have a specialized macro lens just for shooting macro images, but since I’m not a pro I guess that stuff is beyond me for now.

Hope you found this info about macro photography somewhat interesting

-J

How to take great Portraits

Portrait photography is probably one of the most difficult and misunderstood forms of photography. People take passport photos, and photos for their driver’s licenses, and they just assume that that’s all there is to portraits – a tacky blue or worse, some kind of weird cloudy background, a photographer says ‘move your chin up a bit’ – smile, snap, snap, done. You collect your photos two hours later and that’s all there is to it.

Well, I beg to differ. Portrait photography is extremely difficult to well – specifically because unlike some other kinds of photos, portraits need to combine form and function, style and substance – one the one hand, you’re taking a photo of someone so that they can use it for a specific purpose – whether it’s just as a record for the family to keep, or some other reason – one of your goals is to make the person look the best that they can look. Typically if you’re taking a portrait for a client, they won’t be best pleased if you produce a photo that they look terrible in.

On the other hand, portrait photography is a kind of art – you’re capturing the face of someone, at a certain time, in a certain place, at a certain age – this person that you take a photo of will never again be the same – by definition, they will have experienced different things and thus be a slightly different person. You’re capturing a cocktail of moods, emotions, aspirations and thoughts, and it may be that this person never really feels the same way as when you took their photo ever again. As a photographer, it’s almost your responsibility to try and reveal all the things going on beneath the surface of a person – faces are extremely expressive, and with the right photo, you’ve not only produced a picture of a person, but a close representation of exactly what that person was thinking and feeling at that precise moment.

Anyways, enough of my rambling about what I think of photos – my guess is you’re here for the tips on technique. Keep in mind, I’m by no means an expert photographer – just an amateur who has taken portraits for friends or family a couple of times. That being said, here’s some things you should keep in mind when taking a portrait:

  • Always keep the purpose of the portrait in mind – when you’re taking a picture of someone’s face (as opposed to an inanimate object or a landscape or something), that person should always be part of the discussion. If they hired you to take the portrait of them, try to be amenable to what they want – if someone’s paying you, they’re paying you to produce something that they like, not to produce something that you like. If you’re taking a portrait for your own ‘art’ purposes, make sure that you get the consent of the person you’re taking the photo of, and try not to make them look bad.
  • Play with perspective – the majority of portrait photos are taking at eye level straight on – but unless you’re taking a photo for the purposes of some kind of official document, this is not a necessity. Try playing with different angles and perspectives – this can help create a unique piece in what is a sea of mediocre photos of people looking straight at the camera from the same angle with the same ‘say cheese’ smile.
  • Eye contact with the camera is not always a good thing. Obviously in some cases, the subject staring directly at the lens can have a striking effect – but at other times, it may make for a more interesting take if the subject’s eyes are looking at something else.
  • We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again – a photographer is in the light manipulation business – nothing more, nothing less. Whether it’s knowing how to adjust the settings on the camera to get the exact amount of light you want, or setting up/recognizing a situation with great lighting, photography and light are inextricably linked, and a photographer’s job is to know how to manipulate light so that he/she gets the desired results – his/her job is not just to push the button at the top of the camera. This applies for portraits as well – play with the lighting in the shot to try and get unique/interesting effects.

These are just some basic tips for those of you who’re interested in portrait photography. Hope you found it useful!

Tips for the Beginner Photographer

Image of a camera lens taken from pixabay

Image of a camera lens taken from pixabay

Hi all,

This is kind of my first real post here, so to start off I hust want to say thanks for checking out my own tiny personal corner of the internet, and welcome to this site. While I’m still mostly an amateur photographer, I hope to one day be able to work on the craft and perhaps transition into being  fully fledged professional. I love taking photos – ever since I was a child I was more of an observer of stuff than a participant, and I guess this has carried through into my adulthood.

To start off with, I just wanted to write a quick post that’s basically about a regular person can improve the photos they take just by following a few basic rules. These are mostly suitable for beginners – obviously I’m not a pro, and I still don’t think my photos are at the level yet where I’d be comfortable trying to give advice to people who do this for a living.

  • Practice makes perfect: I know too many people who think that they ‘take great pictures’ or ‘would make great photographers’. I don’t know why people expect that they can be good at something without knowing proper technique or putting in the time and effort to learn it. People don’t pick up a tennis racket and just assume that they’re great at tennis, and yet this often seems to be the case when it comes to photography. If you think you’re a good photographer, but you’ve never attempted to practice and you’ve never tried to read about technique or study it, even as a hobby, then chances are you’re not a good photographer.
  • Learn about your camera: Each camera is different – and camera’s, at least good ones, are not commodity products that can just replace each other. A camera is a bit like a baseball bat, or perhaps like a violin – to an outsider or a beginner, they all seem similar, but the more you know about music, the more you appreciate the fact that there are some violins that are easier to play than others, and there are some violins that sound better than others, and each individual instrument not only sounds different, but actually feels different to the user. Get to know the specific camera that you’re using, get familiar with how it feels in your hands and how to get the best results out of it and you’ll become familiar with it and it will show it the photos that you take.
  • Use flash outdoors: This seems to be one of the many things that separate good photographers from regular people who just take pictures on special occasions and whatnot. Experience photographers, whether professionals or hobbyists, tend to use flash most of the time, even when it’s sunny. The reason for this is that flash is essentially a way for a photographer to control the light in any given scenario – particularly if you’re outdoors, the sun might provide enough light, but chances are it won’t provide light in the right intensity or direction for a great photo. Using flash, you can control the direction of the light, and control over lighting is one of the most essential tools at a photographer’s disposal.

Well, as mainly a hobbyist right now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but these are just some basic beginner level tips that I thought of when. Hope you found them useful! If you want a more comprehensive guide, check this out, and also this.

-J