all for the love of taking photos

Posts tagged “photography tips

Swept Away, creative photography by Nino Estrada

Swept Away by Nino Estrada

Swept Away by Nino Estrada

Just another artistic swimsuit photo to end the summer. Telling more of a visual story with the all the elements in the shot.

A colourful world – using colours creatively

use colours to enhance your subject, and tell a story

What is colour? Objects absorb and reflect different wavelength of light, and how each object absorbs and reflects the different wavelengths is how they form colour. A red rose, well in this case its petals absorb all wavelengths of light except red. Some objects will reflect more than one colour in such cases when an object reflects yellow and red then it becomes orange.

In photography the colours we choose or capture impacts the overall emotion, mood or roles in an image. Knowing how to use or capture the colours around us is an important technique one can use and creative photography. Using a a single tone or many, combinations of different colours or the right composition or placement of colours will most definitely improve the way you tell a story or ‘the story’ in your images.

Let’s start with some general colours:

Red – in photography this colour is the most powerful or dominating colour. It represents passion, love, danger and yes stop. Stop because this colour grabs immediate attention. Personally I treat this colour with great respect, if you’re not careful it can be a distraction.

Green – the colour of nature, colour of health and life. Green is very soothing and calming but can easily be dominated by other colours. That is why in a landscape photo you tend to easily overlook this colour and search for other much vibrant colours such as colourful flowers.

Yellow – colour of nature and autumn. Yellow is also a strong colour such as the colour of the sun and of course all drivers will know that yellow means ‘caution’, feel free to use it but with a bit of restraint.

Blue – is a colour that can portray both positive and negative emotions. Coldness, sadness and loneliness are well portrayed in blue but can also represent serenity, peace, sereneness and tranquility.

loneliness, coldness is portrayed by the colour blue

Another important part of using colours as a technique in creative photography is understanding how to combine colours. It is crucial to know which colours clash and work well together. Clashing colours can either provide drama or just create confusion while using the right harmony of colours enhances an overall theme and a sense of completeness. Have a look at a colour wheel, the primary colours sit equidistant to each other, and flows from the closest shade to the next. Contrasting or complimentary colours would then be the opposite colour where it sits on the colour wheel.

It is also important to know how different colours behave in a 2D environment. Warm colours such as red and yellow would seem to pop-out or advance while cooler colours like blue and green tend to recede.

The next technique you can apply is knowing and experimenting when to mute colours or when to make them bolder or harsh. It will all depend on the story you would want to portray.

Remember, use colours to enhance your subject, as part your composition and to tell a much better story. No! Selective colouring when finishing your images is not a technique, to be honest Im not really fond of seeing them.

“ Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy

A story to tell workshop, August 2012

nino estrada photography workshop, model shoot

A group of people giving up a day, sharing the same passion, honing their craft, a day of camaraderie and fun.

Spent a day sharing what I know in photography last Saturday (August 12, 2012) with a group of great people. I can definitely say I’ve learned more from them that they did from me, from the conversations and the behind the scenes moment of the workshop.

The workshop was a fast track to artistic and creative photography, from the basics of proper shooting posture, operating their cameras to exposure and composition. Applying all these knowledge in being creative in artistic in their story telling. Knowing the basics gave them the freedom to experiment and of course creatively ‘break’ the rules.

artistic and creative portraits by Nino Estrada

To all the participants, our photographic journey continues, it’s just more fun now as we have all built good relationships sharing the same passion…taking fantastic images.

courtesy of Noel Gosiengfiao

Watch out for the next one and of course the next series.

In the right light

In the right light

In portraits, remember to place that catch light to add some sparkle on your subject’s eyes.

Photography is derived from 2 greek words “photos” and “graphe” together it means “drawing with light”. Whether you would like to take photos using ambient or natural light or having full control using flash, light is an important aspect of a photograph. The type of light, angle, direction, and amount should always be factored in. Each element will have a its own unique effect and can change the overall appearance of a photograph.
Taking photos during mid day with the sun at its peak will result in deep shadows hence the need to use flash to properly expose your subject and the background. An afternoon sun can produce a nice glow to your subject when directed at the back of your subject. Overcast conditions are always good for taking portraits although a fill-in light should be used such as light bouncing off a reflector.
Always remember, if you can’t control the light or the direction it’s coming from, try to move your subject or yourself. Trying different angles and subject placements would do wonders on a photograph.
Using flash or strobes is always good in terms of making an image in a controlled environment.

Chase the light and tell a story

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” – Ansel Adams

Through the horizon

Hyams Beach Jervis Bay, NSW. Photography by Nino Estrada

Keep your horizon straight

This is one of the most basic fundamental you can apply to capturing an image. Keeping your horizon straight provides the proper perspective to your photo. A sloping horizon would most likely ruin what could be a beautiful photo. Hopefully after reading this post you would be able to avoid this mistake that I have also done in the past.
With the horizon straight or level, the viewer does not need to tilt their head or look an image upside down to appreciate your final output. A straight horizon will also avoid making your main element seem like they are falling or sliding out of the image, making water appear to be leaking outside the frame or making your subject look like they are struggling to find their balance just to stay in the same spot.

When looking through your viewfinder or LCD screen, make sure that the horizon is parallel to the border of the frame. You could also use a hot shoe spirit level, which especially handy when taking scenic, seascapes or landscape shots. The last resort is to adjust it on a digital darkroom, although I would certainly always suggest getting the shot right the first time to make processing a lot easier. A thought that would often appear in my posts…don’t waste time processing a bad picture.

This small detail can greatly affect the overall impact of your photo and would sure convey a much different story. The general rule with horizons is that they should either be straight or sloping at an obvious angle, otherwise it would appear to be a mistake. As for all rules, it can be broken but remember that it should complement the overall theme and composition of the photograph. Knowing the rationale behind this rule would allow you to experiment effectively.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

The full picture

Use the whole image to tell a complete story

Another critical element of a good photograph is composition, understanding this key element will allow you to tell more of a story, add depth, show complexity, convey drama and  create an emotional response.

The right spot.

Putting you subject at the centre of a photo may be adequate in taking photos but it does not always tell a good story.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the Rule of Thirds, it is a creative guideline for taking photographs that will allow you to give your image a more dynamic flow.

Placing your subject one third of the way in any direction will allow you to fill the rest of the image and tell a better story.  You can use this in a variety of ways such as: conveying movement, creating drama and anticipation around your subject, connecting with the subject’s eyes or when placing your main subject among other elements.

Using the rule of thirds gives this image a sense of motion. A journey towards a destination.

The Focal Point

A good image will always have a good focal point where the eye normally rests. The subject’s eyes, a subtle sparkle reflecting on a window, a bright spot or a rock, always remember that everything should lead to the main element of the photograph.  Busy can be good only if it complements the main element, but be careful in all the confusion make sure the viewer is not left to be just that, confused.

What’s in the background

Yes, the background is also a critical element of the final image.  The background should complement your subject and should be able to provide a cohesive theme to support the story.  The background should not clutter the image, distract from your main subject or distort the overall impact of the main element in the story.  Always note how your background blends with your subject, be wary of accidentally making your subject grow horns by placing your subject in front of a pole or a tree branch.  Experiment on depth of field to create drama or uniformity.

The foreground.

A foreground can also add cohesiveness to the main story or be taken for granted to be a distraction.  I usually choose to use the foreground to make the image complete, but I also make sure that the foreground does not interfere with the main subject such as covering important elements of my main subject.  Using the original part of the scenery, like leaves or grass is also more appealing and conveys a better story than cropping the legs or taking half body shots.

Draw the viewer’s eye

Add depth to your image and draw the viewer’s eye to your main subject.  You can do this by using leading lines, colour contrasts, lighting, and framing or by adding some mystery to the image by positioning the subject to the right.  Generally people look at an image left to right as this is how we normally read.

Create a full picture, use the entire image to tell a story…

“I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.” – Ken Burns

8 simple ways to improve your photography.

P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E !

Peer group, join a group having a similar interest bonded by the same passion for photography.  Join a group who shares the same interest in photography as you, even having a photography buddy will help. Not only can you learn from each other but you can also encourage and push each other to learn and improve. Safety in numbers also works when shooting in an unfamiliar environment.

Joining a group can also help you build a network, photography groups or clubs are usually informal and very diverse no matter your background.  One huge benefit of joining a group would be access to free information and knowledge sharing.  Look for a photography group or club close to you or go online and join different photography forums.

Sign-up for a photography forum, read through the other topics and you can choose to be active as well.

photography by Aly Reyes

Join other people with the same interest in photography – photography by Aly Reyes

Read the manual, it would be surprising how much you can learn by just reading your camera’s user’s manual.  I know it can be cumbersome but the manufacturer spent  huge amount of dollars just to write the content, type set and print that booklet that comes with a brand new camera. Want to find out the different exposure settings available to you? Read the manual.  What settings to use on action shots, portraits or landscape? Read the manual.  Want to know how to make the background blurry and have a nice bokeh? Read the manual.  Some people would like to say this as RTFP or read the fine print.

For any additional gadget, gear or equipment you buy…Read the manual

Ask, when you don’t understand something, all you need to do is ask.  Find a photography mentor or approach any photographer you admire and ask away. Yes, you might get a rejection from an ego maniac who will make you attend 5 of his workshops to get an answer to a simple question but almost all good and established photographers out there would be more than willing to answer your question, trust me I have done so in the past and not only did I get useful tips but most of them have now become more than mentors, they are now my buddies. Also feel free to drop me a question, either send me an email or post your questions here .

Control.  Be in control of your camera, your camera is your tool and you are the photographer.  If your camera has a manual mode, shoot in manual mode.  While your camera features can be handy, the fastest way to learn is to manually control your exposure settings.  Control you shutter speed, aperture (f-stop), ISO and even the white balance, experiment and be creative with it.  Try not to always shoot in bursts and hope to get lucky, take your time, anticipate and compose your shot.

Technique, learn the basic techniques and try new ones.  Learn the proper posture when taking photos: legs apart, shoulders square, left elbow tucked in to support the lens (right elbow if you’re right handed)   and establish a good base.  Learn and try different techniques such as: lighting, posing,  long exposures,   night photography, bracketing, panning, time lapses, monochrome, duotones, tri-tones, high key, low-key, low light, infrared, using filters, composition, framing, action shots, 360°, double exposures,  image stacking, image stitching, panoramas and the list just goes on.

Try other techniques such as IR photography. More at

Internet, having trouble understanding the techniques stated above?  Search the internet.  The internet is making learning, both fun and easy.  Just do a search on monochromatic images and not only will you get good written content but a video tutorial too. With digital cameras, gone are the days of keeping a notebook inside your camera bag (although I still have mine, I started when I was 14) to write down different settings you’ve done in the past, you can now just do a search and see images on the internet posted with camera settings to help you achieve the same result. Want to learn basic Photoshop?  Search the internet.  The only thing you need is the willingness to learn and the desire to develop new skills.

Commit, commit to learn, shoot and try new things.  Commit to continue learning, photography is easy to learn and hard to master (yes, like playing drums).  Rest assured even the most experienced photographers   are still cramming on books and searching the web for new things, to enhance their craft and set themselves apart. The barrier of entry into photography is easy, what will set you apart from the others is to be  exceptional at it, so never stop learning.

Experiment, never be afraid to try new things, learn new styles and develop your own.  Key to improving your photography is executing a concept (more on this on my next post). With digital cameras you no longer have to count how many shots you have left in a film roll, or learn how to manually reload a spool and cut negatives,  so take your camera with you all the time, look around, slow things down, compose, apply what you have learned and shoot.  Find good reasons to bring your camera and keep shooting.

Want to learn or improve your photography?  Remember, P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E.

The camera is your tool…

it's about you and not what camera you are using

The photo above was taken with an entry level dslr with a mounted kit lens…

As most of you might have heard in one form or another it’s not the tool it’s how you use it.

The purpose of this post is to encourage most people to express creativity in taking photos regardless of what camera they are using.

Thanks to modern technology It is safe to assume that most people nowadays have an access to a camera in any shape or form.  From mobile phones, compact point and shoot, and professional cameras. The camera is your tool when taking photos, like a carpenter who uses a hammer, as long as that hammer is purpose built to drive nail into wood so is any camera purpose built to take photos.

Dont be discouraged if you don’t have the latest gigapixel camera with a ‘Hubble’ like digital zoom functions or the newest pro consumer camera with cool ‘Red Rings’ or named with a ‘VR’. Focus on telling a story with your photos, experiment with angles and vantage points, take time to look around and of course have fun, it’s all about making that one single moment last a lifetime regardless of camera brand or make.

Taken with a 6megapixel compact camera

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having the latest gears and professional equipment they are just better tools, as long as you can afford it and would take time to train yourself to fully use an expensive gear and maximize  its features.  Learn, learning is the best way to develop the need for better equipment, with more knowledge and experience it establishes the need to find better tools. Read, always read the manual that comes with the gear. Plan, plan to purchase these types of gears based on need and upgrade to improve your photography and not purchase them on impulse and thinking that they will make you a better photographer,  you are the photographer and the camera is your tool…

Remember if you need professioal quality photos now, you could always hire a pro or learn from a pro.

The story starts with the eyes

The story within a story

Under the soaring afternoon heat, doing some initial prep work for a group shoot in a small barn I noticed that a small crowd had gathered to checkout what was going on. It wasn’t often that a group of creative people with cameras, reflectors and make-up kits venture into a small farming bario without attracting some attention.

I stood by the barn door and saw a peeping eye right next to a small partition on the wall. Checked my camera settings, aimed my lens, composed the image, made sure I had the right focus and pushed the shutter button. Soon after I took the shot, the kid noticed me and shyly tried to walk away, I caught him just before he left and asked him if he wanted to see the photo I just took, he obliged, we sat down and he asked me what was going on. His curiosity instantly turned into a deeper need to learn and to ask more questions and as far as I remember I might have spent an hour just sharing the passion of taking photos, the discipline of slowing things down to look for moments such as this and the joy of dissecting every mental image.

He ended up staying with us for the rest of the shoot and afterwards said our goodbyes, packed up and left. I will never know if this kid ever tried to pick up a camera and fiddled with it, one thing I know, every time I see this image I will always remember that this curious eye turned into a moment for me to share the passion of taking snapshots such as this.

The story in a portrait starts with a well focus eye…