all for the love of taking photos

Posts tagged “portrait photography

How to make the most out of your holiday

Boomerang Beach

Boomerang Beach

Took the family out on a short holiday just for some quality time with the wife and kids.  The destination was Pacific Palms beach near Forster NSW around 300 kms north, north east of Sydney.  A beautiful town surrounded by water, Wallis lake and and the Tasman sea which meant a lot of places to see and of course a good reason to go on a holiday ,of course like any other family we were so excited to go on this trip but apart from building new memories with my wife and kids I was looking forward to take some scenic shots knowing that the place we were going to was surrounded by water. As a photographer I already had a shot in mind, but with scenic or landscape shots the biggest factor is being at the right place at the right time.

Day 1: ETA 30 mins, I was already busy scanning the nearby scenery as a drove past them for some photo opportunities. We got to the resort around 6pm unloaded all our stuff and prepared for dinner. Played with my kids tucked them in bed and sat down with my wife and watched TV.  Initially planned to leave and drive around to scout for locations but was too tired and decided to sleep. Day 1 0 shots.

Day 2: Aimed to get up around 5:30 am for some dawn shots, great morning for twilight shots. The moment my alarm went off pushed the snooze button and when I did get up it was already 7:30 missed it! Took the family out and went to visit as many beaches as we can. There were at least 8 beaches to visit so we aimed to see at least 3. We spent most of the day at Forster, family picnic, family photos and we got to see dolphins! We got back to the villa around 5:30pm and by this time dark clouds loomed over us, weather forecast…thunderstorms. Nice! to me it meant lighting strikes, long exposure with rocks water and lightning, dream shot.  9pm after spending time with the kids drove off to the nearest beach, no lightning, no moon, will have to shoot in pitch black darkness and rain my only option was to drive back and hope for better weather the next day. Day 2 15 family shots, 0 scenic.

Day 3: We had friends come over to join us the night before, after breakfast it was pool time with the kids, good thing there was a hot tub next to the pool (swimming in winter time) and by the time we finished it was almost lunch time and we had planned to have a picnic at a nearby park in Booti Booti (20 mins from the resort), more family time! played catch and threw some frisbees with my kids, strolled on the beach and we got to see more dolphins. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Wallis lake and did some fishing, dusk arrived and the sky was filled with colours, orange, purple and blue. Finally a chance for my first scenic shot on the trip but I was holding a fishing rod with my hands tainted with bait.  Day 3 0 shots.

Day 4: Our last day, this time I was determined not to leave empty handed.  Got up at 5:30 went to Boomerang beach, which was about 5mins drive from the resort (by day 4 I knew my way around).  Waited at the parking lot for dawn.  Felt braver that morning since there were also some surfers getting their boards ready, got my gear, carried them and walked to the left edge of Boomerang beach and got started. Took a few long exposure shots that resulted in the image you see above. The morning of our last day, finally I get one! Just one , and it was worth the wait, I was happy with the exposure and composition and found it useless to take more shots as they would just have been the same, I sat there and admired the view some quiet time for me.

When I got home to process the images I took, I immediately started on the scenic shot from Boomerang beach, took me no longer than 20 mins to finish it and it was already  up on Facebook in less than an hour, 4 days and one scenic shot.  Then I moved on to editing the family shots I took on day 2, then I realised and remembered that the 1 scenic shot did not make the trip more special nor did it make the trip more worthwhile but I have already taken the most important photo of the trip on Day 2.

…capturing memories with my family that lasts a lifetime.

my family

my family

when was the last time you went on a holiday with the people that matters the most?


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 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


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


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…


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.