For the Love of Photography

Story Telling Moments ..

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

All photos copyright © 2012 by Rob van Elven, Sydney, Australia.

Notice of Liability
The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis, without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book, the author shall not have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer software and hardware products described in it.


For the Love of Photography

Tips for the casual photographer, who wants to create storytelling images, while the family is waiting. 

 Table of contents

Introduction Preparation Opportunity All about the light Understand how the camera sees the world Composition Routine checks Editing Storytelling images Experiment! Thank you

Sydney. About 4 years ago. looking at training videos and simply learning-while-doing. Photo: Taronga Zoo. that decisive moment. I started listening to photography podcasts and they made me more interested in taking control of my camera. Photo: Sydney sunset. 4 . with the camera simply on Automatic. For the majority of years. all I focused on was just the composition. hunting for the perfect composition. I am a visual person and have always enjoyed looking for that great light. like me. that captures it all. bought an entry level DSLR and started reading books. who enjoys capturing the daily family adventures wants to know how to create compelling images doesn't always have lots of time to make these images.For the Love of Photography INTRODUCTION This ebook is aimed at a casual photographer. Not sure what to make of this. I replaced my Nikon CoolPix 990.

. having the camera ready (not tucked away in the bag) having the right settings dialed in (knowing your gear) being in the right position related to subject. I got quite good in spotting potential photographic opportunities and being ready for that "decisive moment".The majority of my photography is when we are out and about. 4. a bush walk or when we are returning books to the library. light and background not being afraid to walk the arc and keep shooting. Part of that is: 1. This can be during a visit to the park. 
 Photo: In Singapore. 3. Pretty much in all these "on-the-go" situations. so you have something to edit later. stuck on an island. we do not specifically stop to take photographs. 2. Over time.. I try to always bring my camera..

When you go from indoors to outdoors. A tip here is to point the lens inwards (pointing to your back. 6 . I carry the camera over my shoulder. This avoids the situation where you start the next day with some wacky white balance from the day before. On the go. My indoor default settings are: Aperture priority. Generally it is a good habit to change the camera settings back to your “default” settings after a day of shooting. In our house the camera is always close by. you have to be ready for that unexpected photo moment. taking pictures of the group. somewhere between F 2. rather than pointing outwards towards whatever you want to bump into). lens hood is on.8 to 4 800 ISO (so it is possible to get a good shutter speed outside and inside) White Balance set to Daylight. update your camera settings. ready to be used when an interesting picture moment presents itself.For the Love of Photography Preparation As the resident family photojournalist. You might want to change your ISO settings or white balance. When you are part of a group. My lens cap is off. try to be in front of the group. Lens cap off.

If you know your subject. dialed in the right settings.Opportunity [Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity] For a lot of great photography it is all about knowing your subject. When you notice great light somewhere. Luck might bring you a great natural expression when the kids simply carry on playing and forget about the camera. A certain room in the house can have wonderful afternoon light streaking in. especially when they sit on your hand. This often gives me very natural expressions. You have prepared the camera. . try to bring your subject to it.. Try to encourage your children to play there for a while. panning shot with slow shutter speed.. Rainbow Lorikeets are very common in Sydney and easy to photograph up close. I always start to talk about a favorite toy or activity he likes to do. When I photograph my son and need him to forget there is a camera. Photos. you can prepare yourself to bring the right lens. be there at the perfect time for the best light or simply know how to engage the subject and get a great pose and expression. You have set the stage and now have your favorite subjects in gorgeous light. left to right: Late afternoon backlight. top to bottom.

This only took a few seconds to set up . Create an interesting composition.For the Love of Photography In the photograph on the side. unless shoot down for a specific reason.. there are a few things that have to come together. all just within the short attention span of a pirate high-on-sugar. Have an interesting subject 
 Photo left: I always see so many photographer take the photos from their eye level. my son just came back from a pirate birthday party and I wanted to take a quick shot with him still in his outfit. Photos below: Great directional window light. 
 Here is my list for creating "luck": Find interesting light and know how to use it for a photograph. to get compelling images or capture wonderful moments. Australia flag behind him for some color. put the subjects in it! 8 . Often you want to be at the subjects eye level. Understand how the camera sees the world. In general. He simply stands near the open door of our garage..

Photography is all about the light. you start to realize that they are almost certainly taken at either dusk or dawn. you will notice great light everywhere. warmer during the morning and late afternoon) . If you study beautiful landscape photography. The light at that time of day is beautiful for photography. Photo: Beautiful light in Kiama. Photo: The smoke from the hazard reduction burns created some interesting light the next morning Learn to see the differences in light will help to improve your photography. This is called "active seeing". Australia Seeing the light is understanding the various properties of light and what effect they have on the photograph: direction (where does the main light come from related to subject) quality (soft or harsh shadows) intensity (has consequences for shutter speed and or aperture) color temperature (varies through the day.. NSW. which can sometimes be quite frustrating if you realize that you left your camera at home again. Once you realize this and start "seeing the light"..All about the light Interesting light is what can potentially make a great picture.

generally not very pleasing for skin as it highlights imperfections. highlights texture. it is always in relation to the subject. front light. Photo left: backlight highlights the spray
 10 . back light. It can serve you well when you are trying to photograph a tiny bird in a distant tree but for most other subjects. I love that light direction but it does present some challenges. side light. Light from the side. Backlight creates a bright rim around the subject. It can take some practice to get the exposure right. Photo: Top to bottom. Just compare the flying mud in the first and second photo and notice how much more texture it has in the second. The old master painters already knew. "Light illuminates.For the Love of Photography Direction of light When we are talking about the direction of light. Mid day sun or a flash bounced of the ceiling might do this for you. is generally not the most interesting light for a photo. as the camera is often fooled by the bright light and wants to turn the subject into a silhouette. you want to see some shadows to give the subject form and depth. Direction of light makes a big difference in a photo. The height of the light source is also important. Not very flattering. Something to avoid is dark shadows under the eyes ("raccoon eyes"). Front light coming from behind the camera.The side light and resulting shadow at work for you. It can be great for landscapes. Some specific light and shadow pattern is even called Rembrandt light. shadows define" is what photographer Rick Sammon always says. that light coming from an angle creates depth in a painting.

the sun is fairly bright. Photo: Whale watching near Forster.Things to look out for with backlight: 
 Needless to say. I used fill flash to brighten up the face Lens flare 
 Even with the lens hood on. While composing the shot. make sure something is casting a shadow on the lens. 
 It is a very popular look at the moment. If you want to avoid it. Photos above: local park. strong backlight causes lens flare. you are highly likely to get lens flare shooting with back light. Backlight lights up the spray. If you have a live view LCD. my son going in the cold water.
 This can be the shadow of a tree or a cap in the hands of a friendly assistant. NSW. avoid looking directly at it through the viewfinder. you can use that instead.

the eyes often look lifeless 12 .For the Love of Photography Exposure The camera light meter can be fooled by the bright light behind the subject. you can fix this by adding some + exposure compensation (find this useful dial on your camera) using fill flash or using a reflector (I bought a cheap reflector off eBay for this) A reflector or fill flash can also help create catchlights in the eyes. If this is the case. Photos: Without catch lights.

Not the best light for general people photography. If a room is barely lit. Photo right: Soft afternoon light Intensity of light Light intensity has consequences for your choice of shutter speed and aperture. I trigger the camera with infra red remote. Shadows can be very harsh when the sun is high in the sky. the golden hour (early morning.Quality of light Quality of light for the photographer is mainly the quality of the resulting shadows. you will end up with a slow shutter speed. It takes time for the camera to gather all the available light for a correct exposure. late afternoon) is the preferred time to shoot.but also new possibilities with shadows. but perfect for black and white photography. Photos: Harsh midday shadows create raccoon eyes. For people and landscapes. 
 . Photo: one of my first experiments with my new tripod. where you want the strong contrast..

called neutral density filters. Your shutter speed will go quickly towards the max value for your camera. but high aperture number f22 is small lens opening. The other extreme is when you want a shallow depth of field in bright light. you can buy a filter for your biggest lens. a broad depth of field. I think of it like squinting your eyes. For this you set your aperture to the lowest value (creates a big lens opening). unless you need a slow shutter speed for a waterfall shot. Filters can be expensive and to save cost. everything is sharp. It cuts reflection and saturates the colors
 14 . I have a polarizer filter that I use for when it is really bright. Photo: Polarizer filter is a pair of sunglasses for your camera. Then buy step-down rings for the smaller sized lenses. but takes a longer time to gather enough light through that small opening) use flash ( this can actually kill the ambience of the scene that was so interesting in the first place ) put your camera on something to keep it still during the slow shutter speed (which is what I did in the image below) Too much light is usually not such a problem. some options are raise the camera's ISO and/or open aperture (go to lower number) (somewhat confusing at first.For the Love of Photography To counteract a blurry image in a low light situation. There are also specific filters for reducing the amount of light.

Things to look out for: A camera set to "Auto white balance" usually does a great job getting it right. When you try to capture that warm light during the sunset. Indoor lights can range from orange to a more greenish tint. Photo: RAW allowed me to warm up the image by changing the white balance (and fix my exposure) Photo: Ship ahoy. Our eyes automatically adjust. the auto WB will neutralize the orange cast. so we are often not aware of these changes in "white balance". I generally shoot in RAW which allows me to change the color temperature later. Morning light
 . on the computer. Auto WB can sometimes work against you. Tip: If your camera has Live View you can immediately see the result of the WB preset without taking a test shot. For this reason I pretty much always have my WB set to daylight.Color of light The color temperature of sunlight varies during the day. In that case it is better to change it to a WB preset.

Use what is called the areal perspective. the photograph only shows the world as 2 dimensions (no depth). NSW. fences. Photo: Three Sisters. Sometimes pointing the lens down. mid ground and background) Use what is called a linear perspective. A common mistake with the way we see a scene and the way the camera sees the scene is to have that tree in the distance. (person next to big waterfall) Objects higher in the frame appear to be farther away. Australia. the haze or fog you see between distant mountains. appear in the photo as growing out of the subject’s head. mid ground Sisters. national park in the background. telephone poles).
 16 . Foreground foliage.For the Love of Photography Understand how the camera sees the world 3D world versus a 2D photograph We see the world in 3 dimensions. repeating shapes that appear to get smaller and form leading lines into an image (a road into the distance. there are a few things you can do: Have layers in an image (foreground element. to include more foreground. To create the illusion of depth in the image. creates the illusion of more depth in a scene. It can also be used to our advantage as can be seen in the image on the beach. Photo: The 2D photograph makes the relation between the ice cream and flag more apparent than what it would have appeared to be on the actual beach. Sometimes it can work to include a familiar object into a scene to illustrate the size of subject. Katoomba.

a potential situation for exposure compensation. as photographers need to recognize this and should compensate the exposure. Don't forget to reset the exposure compensation when you move to a new location. is often referred to "18 % grey". Based on that measurement. used fill flash to balance foreground and background. For the average scene it creates an acceptable exposure. I speak from experience. it calculates the exposure. If the scene appears very bright. What the camera does in response. Photos bot: Tricky exposure. We. is set an exposure that actually under exposes the scene. Things tend to get off track where the scene has more "bright" or "dark" areas than the typical average scene. A photo in the snow is one of those situations where the camera incorrectly assumes it is a neutral grey scene with lots of light.About exposure The light meter in the camera reads the reflected light from the scene.. Looking through mailbox opening in door. you typically need to overexpose. Photo top: Sand boarding at Stockton Bight sand dunes. until the snow in the photo is back to white. the camera assumes there is too little light and wants to overexpose the scene. Bright beach. "neutral grey". If the background in a photograph is mainly dark. As a rule of thumb. The value the light meter is calibrated for. "middle grey" or as I call it here. you might need to underexpose. if the scene has more dark than light tones relative to the subject.
 . Simply keep an eye on the LCD and adjust the exposure compensation.

the subjects are of course. maybe during a holiday. the resulting picture will possibly be not too exciting.For the Love of Photography Have an interesting subject This is not meant to be the really obvious one. but if that waterfall is not too exciting to start with. You simply need a better waterfall! A quote from National Geo Photographer Joe McNally sums it up nicely: "Want your pictures to be more interesting? Stand in front of more interesting stuff!" 
 18 . In other situations. you can do everything right (technically). When you take family pictures. always interesting.

a repeating pattern. half press the shutter-release button with subject in center B. Advanced how-to-confuse-you-more Tip: I use a technique called Back Button Auto Focus.). The idea is to learn what works for you and understand why in general certain compositions look more pleasing than other compositions. you have to A. These are some of the things that I consider when composing a photograph. For every photographer. recompose the shot keeping the shutter release half-pressed C. 
 To focus-recompose a shot. a center composition can work very well. when you have focus. I have heard that composition is looking for things that stand out. 
 The center is usually where people start.. we remove things that do not contribute to the photograph. an interesting composition is a series of very personal choices. then full-press the shutter release. Any of the suggestions on composition that follow in this chapter. It should never stop you from trying different things that "break" the rules. But know them before you break them.
 . Photographers do it exactly the opposite. What am I trying to say with this image? Where do I place my subject? 
 "Dead center is deadly" is what photographer Rick Sammon often says. It is often good practice to recompose the shot and move the subject away from the center (look up ”rule of thirds” for more on this. because that is typically where your camera has the main focus point.Composition Painters start with a blank canvas and add things. are just that. For pictures that illustrate symmetry. It is beyond the scope of this ebook but I have added some links in the last chapter. This can be something with a different color.

which is what I have to do most of the time myself. the sky or the foreground. don't stop after one or two shots and move on. If you start approaching your photography like this. keep them straight.For the Love of Photography Horizon line Think of what is more important. In essence. try a Dutch angle and . Avoid the almoststraight horizon unless you want that to become your style. with main light now coming from a different direction. if they are supposed to be straight. If the sky is more important. try a photo with the horizon placed lower than the center line. shoot from low. If you are going for the crazy Dutch angle. The final thing about horizons is. Camera height. A small change in camera position will change the position of the horizon line in the photograph. try a vertical. 
 Rick Sammon: "Use your camera like a space ship. you will soon find out that your favorite image is often closer to the end of the series than the start. shoot from high. When you have people in the frame. Most photo software has the ability rotate the image and fix the horizon on the computer. Keep on shooting Walk-the-arc? If you notice something that made you stop to take a picture. go for the crazy tilted camera. "walk the arc". If you have taken a few images with the camera horizontal. so interesting pictures often have a different point of view. composition is all about making conscious choices about where you place things in the frame An interesting photograph often means an interesting angle or perspective. Walk-the-arc means. in case you think the foreground is more interesting.. meaning move it up down.". Try to think what height you will photograph from. We typically see the world at eye level. walk around the subject and take images from all different angles.. 20 . Place the horizon higher in the frame. think about whether you really want that horizon line to go straight through the neck.

Getting closer means less distracting elements in the frame and thus often a stronger image. Elements that come in the frame at the edges can sometimes be very distracting. you're not close enough". wrist and avoid cutting off finger tips. check all the borders of the photograph. In close-up portrait we don't need to see the top of the head. is knowing which portion of the subject to keep in the image and where to make the crop. So don't crop at the knees. I also try to keep lines straight (horizontal or vertical) that are near the edge of the frame. Cropping Related to getting closer. Photo: Notice how the frame above the TV has nothing to add and can be removed from the image. Border patrol Just before you press the shutter. The general rule of thumb is not to crop at any portion of the limbs that bend. Getting closer Famous Magnum War photographer Robert Capa said it like this: ”If your pictures aren't good enough. .

Photo: Leave some space in the direction of where the subject of the photo is traveling. Stagger the subjects for a more pleasing composition. is to look at photography that interests you and try to understand how the images are balanced. •how complex the element is. Elements that are visually heavy pull the eye more than elements with less visual weight and in order to get a good composition. •whether it has the same or a different color. The best way to practice visual weight.
 22 . Empty space can be used to balance different elements in a composition. Balance and empty space Elements in an image have a certain "visual weight". Photo: Singapore. Awkward positioned hands can draw unwanted attention to them. all elements need to be visually balanced. it is best to leave some additional "empty" space in the direction where they are traveling. Also notice the low point of view when photographing children. Be careful how you position the hands. Factors that contribute to visual weight: •relative size of the element in the image. •whether it is sharp in focus or out of focus. build triangles. For photographs that have something moving. getting rid of Mosquitos. •how much contrast it has. Your eyes would naturally look at the brightest part of the image first. Hands close to camera can appear larger than the subjects head depending on the type of lens used and can often appear brighter than the face if they are closer to the light source.For the Love of Photography Group portraits and hands When there are a number of people in the photograph and you have the ability to arrange the group.

Avoid fingers or feet that are cut off at awkward positions. • No distracting elements creeping in near the edges of the frame? (The end of a branch that doesn't add anything to the picture. than distance between subject and camera.Routine checks Things to consider before pressing the shutter Just before you are about to hit that shutter button.. Usually avoid a crop on a limb where it bends. try to keep these aligned with edges of the frame. Reframe the image if necessary. check the edges of the frame. elbow) •If you notice strong horizontal or vertical lines near the edges of the frame. for example f2.(wrist. A small aperture produces that creamy background. Remove them by slightly changing the position of the camera!) •Check if any parts of the image are cut off at an unpleasing angle. . knee. Photo: my son had climbed into the bin to rescue a piece of art he had created which we had thrown away. The effect of the out of focus background is enhanced. Border patrol. look for contrast in the background. • Can you enhance the contrast by changing the camera position? Find a clear non-distracting background for portraits Do I want to blur the background? Use a smaller aperture.8 vs a larger aperture f8. A bright spot near the edge of the frame draws your eye away from the main subject of the photo. do a quick few final checks. when the distance between the subject and background is much larger. which is called 'bokeh'. He was unable to climb out. Photo: Looking at a Huntsman spider that was caught by a very brave photographer. just like with a horizon line. Focus on the spider. Is the head of the subject in a clean spot? • No branches or poles sticking out of subject's head? • To make the subject standout against the background.

similar to how this is done in landscape photography. Photo: Chameleon. The little I know about lenses is.For the Love of Photography Do I see catch lights in the eyes? Slightly looking up towards the light produces this. Creatively. you might want to put the focus elsewhere in the image. As for the area of focus. For portraits (multiple persons) •If there are multiple persons in the image and they all need to be in focus. So if people are more or less on the same focus plane. that they often perform their best somewhere in the middle of aperture ranges. This is often near f11 or f16. but that doesn't always have to be the case. it depends on how they are positioned in relation to the camera. The way the focus for a lens works. The way depth of field works is that the area of acceptable focus starts about one third 24 . perpendicular to the camera is in focus. If they are not in the same plane of focus. Do I have my focus right? For portraits (one person) •If there is one person in the photograph that needs to be in focus. the entire plane. you might have to focus a little further into the scene and increase your depth of field. is looking slightly up for that tiny catchlight in eye! Generally you focus on the person that is closest to camera. Catch lights make the eyes more lively. taken through smudgy glass at zoo. In landscape photography. is that once you focus at a certain point. as to where to put the focus. the best way to focus is to put the autofocus point onto the inside corner of the eye. you can focus on one of them and they all will be in focus. the first thought might be to set your aperture to the highest number (deep depth of field) and focus on the furthest point in the scene.

It will soon become second nature and your photography will improve. . There are several ways to keep the focus locked. Pre-focus. you can switch off the auto focus (usually there is a switch on lens). and then wait until the subject reaches that point.also notice the white spot (car window) in the background. Do a quick border control each couple of photos you take. Once you have pre-focussed. like I do. Panning is a technique to follow the action with camera set to slow shutter front of the focus plane and ends about two thirds behind it. For some situations where the subject is in motion.. it can be tricky to get focus... Shoot from various angles. Walk-the-arc. try to change your position. Photos: Get closer . When you use the back button-auto-focus technique. The cut-off helmet was not intentional but user error. Photo: pre-focus and panning. Some cameras allow you to assign focus lock to a specific button. Once you have taken a few shots and checked the exposure and focus on the back of your camera. The eye is pulled away from the bright shirt to that spot and back. the rule of thumb is to place your focus about one third into the scene.. If you need a deep depth of field. It can help to pre-focus on an area where you want to make the photo. you simply let go of the button you assigned to focus.

pick the best and delete the rest. • A small selection from those will be shown to the world 26 . seems to speak for that approach. rating the best with two stars • Only these two star images get edited.. • I then select only the one star images and make another pass. Pick your best.For the Love of Photography Editing. delete the rest The secret of a pro is to shoot a lot and to show very little. then delete the rest. Pick your best. learn what works and what didn't. I still edit. a one star rating.. I use Lightroom for my post processing. The case where TIME photographer Dirck Halstead found the now famous Monica Lewinsky photo in his archives. My editing workflow is as follows: • I look through all the images in a shoot and give each one I like. Some photographers keep everything they shoot.

Photos: ..The unrated ones will be looked at one more time. just in case I missed a gem. I only go to Adobe Photoshop if I need to do some more specific finishing to a photograph. For the few images that I decide to work on. a few shots after this was taken .new years eve fireworks.. this is my post processing workflow in Adobe Lightroom: • I often crop to make the image stronger • Straighten the horizon if necessary • Dodge and burn (selectively darken and brighten parts of the image) • Increase contrast (shooting RAW usually produces a flat image that needs a bit of a contrast boost) • Add vignette (darken the edges the draw eye into the image) Photo: . but then deleted.a bit of Photoshop fun! . This is a fraction of the price of a full Photoshop version. Fond memories when my tripod tipped over onto the rocks. Adobe's best kept secret is Adobe Elements.. they are an amazing combo.. Together with Lightroom.

28 . My family is quite used to having a camera pointed at them.For the Love of Photography Storytelling images Many photojournalists will tell you the secret to getting natural looking images. is to be patient. I am able to capture some great expressions and touching family moments. You have to wait until the novelty factor of the camera wears off and everybody goes back to what they were doing. They often forget that it is there and that is when the magic happens.

If you add them together in post production.Experiment! Don't let all the high tech cameras and "rules" about composition. fool you into thinking that photography should not simply be fun. you get to see these wonderful star trails. Set your camera to 30 s exposure and take a number of images in sequence. Below are a few examples of some of my photography experiments. 
 A tunnel and light streaming through door opening. I love to try things and it is often the best way to discover new techniques and create surprising images. . Shadows and reflective surfaces. Star trails from our drive way.

com/ PhotoNetCast The ProPhotoShow http://www. It was certainly a good excuse to look at my older images and see where they would fit to illustrate a Shutters Inc The Candid Frame http://www. but rewarding in the Blogs: The digital photography school http://digital-photography-school. I will list a few podcasts and blogs that have great photography related Digital Photography Cafe http://digitalphotographycafe.thisweekinphoto.shtml Life's what you make The Digital Photography Experience http://dpexperience. As with my photography. this ebook is one big The Digital Story Depth of Field http://www. Photo focus Big Lens Fast Shutter http://biglensfastshutter. They re-ignited my passion for photography and helped me take control of my Back button auto focus Nikon: http://mansurovs. a few hours here and there and finally completed it during the downtime of a 9 hour flight to Hong Kong. The Podcasts are all free and can be downloaded via iTunes or directly via the websites: This Week In Photo http://www. the experience of making this was sometimes frustrating (when I stuffed up the layout again and again).com 30 .For the Love of Photography Thank you As with my backbutton_af_article. I created it on my iPad in Pages.
 Cheers from Canon: http://www. To sign off.

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