all for the love of taking photos

Posts tagged “photography

How to capture the best candid moment.


Capture those rare candid moments

Photo tip of the day: Shoot between poses to capture the most honest candid moments.

Whenever I take portraits I would always remind myself to be mindful and ready in capturing those candid reactions of my subjects. I would rarely put the camera down as I find that the most honest and sincerest photos I come up with on every portrait session, I get between poses or directions. Those unguarded moments will always reflect more personality and tell more of a story.

Of course making sure your subject is relaxed and comfortable is key and a good sense of humour or pleasing personality would go a long way too.

Planning for your kid’s party.

A few times a year I get booked to cover a children’s party. I truly admire and appreciate the parents who give their children the best they could offer for a celebration their young toddler would hardly remember without photos to look at. I love taking photos of kids and I truly believe photographing children is not as simple as it may seem. Best to do it in a controlled environment like a studio or in an outdoor setting, 1 subject, one candid moment, capturing sincerity, personality, cheekiness, the ‘oh so cute moments’ and of course genuine joy of being a kid.

Kiddie parties are different altogether, there are so many uncontrolled factors which  involves a lot of chasing, running around and documenting every  moment in the event .  It’s like a mini-wedding with more bubbles, confetti, screams, cries and laughter. In all the fun and madness, as a photographer I still have to deliver the same style and consistency in my work that all my clients expect. Not that it’s a lot of work but its more about exceeding expectations. Kiddie parties can be artistic too…

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Hiring a professional photographer to cover a children’s party would probably be last on the list when planning for one and most would probably ask a friend who has a good camera to take photos. Honestly, I have 3 kids of my own, and its not about the money I’m spending but the memories I’m investing on. Your kids will barely remember the extravagant party you threw for his/her first birthday and Im sure you wouldn’t too. Good images last a lifetime and snapshots taken from your phone or of people standing around taken by your friend would just be forgotten. Looking back and remembering the little things, the moments, a different perspective, the best light, and the emotions. Im sure great memories has more weight than gold.

How much do you value family memories?

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
– Aaron Siskind

A family portrait, your family and your story.

To me one of the most rewarding aspects in photography is the opportunity to witness and take part in a special moment which I hope to share with my subject/s or clients, whether it would be for a wedding, an event, a portrait, or a family photo. Although to most, family portraits would be a priority of less significance or importance , taken for granted and often gets pushed back and postponed. Priorities, schedule, work, more important tasks, momentarily separation by time or distance are among more popular excuses to postpone what could be the most important investment one should make…

An investment on lasting memories captured in the best light and frozen in time.

Why should it be so important?

Photos showcase your family, images of your history, the individual personalities of each member of the family, the bond, the love and the stories which can be handed down through the next generation as part of your family legacy. A reminder of good times or of lessons learned from the bad, of breakthroughs and victories. A good family photo is always the best topic of any conversation, the centerpiece of your home, a focal point of adoration which always brings a smile or a stimulus purely out of a conveyed emotion. A photo printed and on display and an image file kept safe will always give you a visual reference of gratefulness, of accomplishments, blessings, family milestones, events, changes, maturity, growth and of course riches.

Invest in memories and spend a special moment with the people who matters the most.
When was the last time you’ve had your family photos taken?

As a family man with a loving and supporting wife and 3 wonderful kids, I always make it a point to document and capture everything. Have the best photos printed, framed and displayed in a feature wall at our home.

As a photographer I always strive to create the best visual memories. Knowing how special and important these memories are, would be more than enough reason to always give the best effort in capturing these moments and with no compromises.
Following my simple formula: ASK, LISTEN, OBSERVE, and then CAPTURE. Outdoor, indoor, or at the comfort of one’s home, candid, environmental or creative, it will always be a pleasure capturing the story, taking family photos and of course building and nurturing new relationships. Extending the family!

To think that for most people when asked what object would they first save from their home in a time of calamity or catastrophe, their family photos.

Spend a few minutes and sit down with your family and look at old family photos. What comes to mind after you have viewed them?

Treasure what you have today, for yesterday is past. Appreciate the love of family and friends, for the time they are here.
Author Unknown

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

Autumn Fairy

creative editorial by Nino Estrada

Autumn Fairy

Taken June 2010

2 Light set-up

1 Fill light

f:11, iso 200

Model: Isidora Sukkar

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.

A reason to go on a holiday…

Use all the elements

Another reason to go on a holiday.

Here’s one more reason to book a holiday soon…to practice your photography. Spending time with the people that matter most is all about building memories.  Taking pictures may be an afterthought to some or to most, taken for granted with snapshots by simply documenting the event only to be reminisced long after the experience has past.

Make most out of the moment by telling a story within the story.  Use all the elements available to you in an image to show more about the holiday experience.  Don’t be afraid to use your camera flash when you have no choice but to shoot under harsh lighting conditions, when at a beach at high noon. Make sure there’s something to look at when you compose for that shot, use your foreground, the subject and the background to convey a story, experiment with your exposure settings to show movement, drama or action and most important of all take your time. Allow some time to look around, slow things down, look for angles and absorb the view or the experience. Don’t rush it!

show action

A holiday picture can be more than just an image of your family standing in front of a landmark or a view.  You can use it to practice telling your story within a story.

Parent warning:  children may suffer from posing exhaustion while taking a good picture.

slow things down and look around

Native Colours

character in a story

Character in a story

A straightforward composition, slight colour tweaking, her favourite past time, her native garments, her favourite spot, her eyes, her experiences, her mannerisms, her personality, her character and her story.

A portrait does not only show an image but a good portrait will also show the subject’s personality, attitude, state of mind, their mannerisms and most of all reveal and showcase their character to tell a story.

Offer more than the subject’s face, challenge yourself in paying more attention on the smallest detail and sometimes you don’t need to be fancy.

All you need is an interesting subject and a character in the story…

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…

Food Photography – lighting

Food Photography by Nino Estrada

Food is one of my favorite subjects.

Food photography may take a lot of technical experience, trial and error and research to come up with commercial level food shots, but taking photos of food is one of the most satisfying discipline that combines 2 equal passions (for me at least), food and photography.  On this series I will try to share some tips on taking photos of food similar to what I posted above.

Most big production food photography will involve a food stylist, but not having a highly paid food stylist should not discourage you from taking wonderful photos.  All you have to remember food photography is all about making food look beautiful, enticing and almost edible in a 2 dimensional environment whether it’s for a cookbook, menu, and packaging or for an editorial food shoot.

If an ordinary guy like me who just happens to love taking photos can do it, you can too.

Part 1-Lighting.

I decided to post this image taken in a controlled lighting environment so I could describe how it is usually done in a professional studio and the purpose of this post would be finding creative ways in replicating the shot without breaking the bank.

This shot was taken with a Fill light (F5) in front at 4o’clock position for texture Main Light (F8) at 10 o’clock position raised at 45 degrees.  Key to this lighting set-up is using soft shadows to give depth and texture to the photo.  Since this shot is taken with strobes shutter speed was kept at 1/200 (well within the shutter curtain sync speed) and the exposure was adjusted using my aperture value, which on this shot was F11 and ISO was at 200.

Knowing the setting and lighting position should enable you to come up with a similar output with DIY set-ups using household items to be able to experiment and practice.  Items such as a desk lamp with halogen bulbs, plastic container to diffuse the harshness of light and a tripod should be a good start in having a DIY food photography studio at home featuring your homemade cooking or that wonderful dessert you bake on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Remember; try to define shapes and forms of all the elements on a plate and experiment with focal point using all available apertures.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and write down different lighting set-ups until you have defined the different mood each light adjustment can bring.

Create the mood with lighting, not an expert but just sharing the passion.

Deeper side of your subject

portraits of Iloilo

This photo was taken at a photo assignment I did a few  years back.  I saw this gentleman outside a Catholic church asking passers-by for some extra change.  I approached him hoping to start a conversation.  He ended up sharing his story of losing everything, his livelihood, his love ones and according to him his dignity.  I stood there and listened to him thinking of ways to encourage him (keeping the story of Job in mind), I decided to just listen and hear more, as a father myself I can only imagine the pain and hurt he’s been through.

It would have been very easy for me to take a portrait of this gentleman in his current state, sitting right next to this picturesque building door with crowds walking past him with only him noticing me and looking straight at my lens but I have come to know the man, I have heard his story and I felt it was more satisfying to show him in a different light, a smile.  To  him, his smile might have lasted for a second a mere reaction to whatever I said, maybe it was because he found someone who listened to him or maybe I had something on my forehead he found amusing I wouldn’t know, for that moment he forgot the hurt he forgot the pain…he smiled. For me his smile will surely last for more than a second, the conversation etched in my mind and the image printed and framed will always remind me of the deeper meaning of the photo and the story behind it.

A deeper meaning, a story within a story…

Nino E.

photography by Nino Estrada

Hi everyone,

Here’s my first entry into my weekly photography blog.  Sydney based professional photographer, I aim to freely share some practical knowledge and techniques when it comes to creative photography although I must admit I still have a lot to learn and I only have my works to speak for themselves and 14 years experience in both film and digital photography, I only hope that readers would see the passion and love I have for this craft and hopefully one day have the same appreciation and interest in photography.

For the people I have collaborated with in the past and/or  currently working with, this blog is also to acknowledge my appreciation for the creative input and hard work.

For all our clients, past or current whom we have established great relationships with, you have all become my dearest friends and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity and trust you’have given me in doing these assignments.

For our future clients, at the end of the day or at the end of each assignment what matters to me the most is your friendship. Not only do I make sure that I give you images that are creative, elegant, artistic and professionally done we are also in the business of building relationships.

Read the blog, check my website, join us on facebook or  follow me at twitter, I am always just a few clicks away.