24 april 2020 | Learn to see

You can have the most expensive camera there is, all the lenses a photographer could desire and have average photos. That’s because the camera doesn’t make your pictures. It starts with you. It starts with seeing.

Framing becomes a second nature

What is a good photo? It’s one where everything comes together. There is balance. It’s tells you enough but never too much. Don’t just take a photo but take a composition. And that is a form of art. You camera is just the tool. Sure, a very important one but in the end it’s just a ‘dumb’ device. You are in charge. It’s you that has to press the button at the right time.

A good picture just gives enough information to get the right balance
(credit: Jan Mateboer)

If you do photography for a longer time (like years) you start to develop what I would call: Automatic framing. That means that it doesn’t matter where you are, you are framing. You always scan for scenes and compositions that catches your eye and could be a potential photo. Even when you don’t have a camera with you. It has become a second nature. And a great picture starts with seeing. To see what others don’t see. And that is a journey. A wonderful journey. And you can train that.

Some tips:

Just keep training!

One thing you should never forget: keep training. As with any hobby or profession training is incredibly important. It’s not something you learn in one week. It takes time. So take pictures whenever you can. Go out every day!

Don’t make it difficult

A great picture can be simple. The light that falls on a leaf or a window with flowers can make a great composition and have atmosphere. Start with things that are close to you. A building, a balcony, your garden, the street, anything can work. Nothing is wrong.

Photos are everywhere. Even in your own garden.
(credit: Jan Mateboer)

Look for structures and patterns

Structures and patterns are everywhere and they can make an interesting subject for your photo. A building with repeating balconies, the pavement on the street or trees in a forest. Always look for them.

Structures are everywhere and can give interesting compositions
(credit: Jan Mateboer)

Learn from others

Don’t make the mistake to think that viewing the work from others is like cheating. It’s not. View the work from others and ask yourself why you think a photo is good or not. Why did the photographer choose the composition he did and why does it work (or not). View websites from photographers, magazines and newspapers. Make a scrapbook of photos and work you love and view them regularly to bee inspired and be motivated!

I know it’s not the right time now but visiting a museum can be a real inspiration. Paintings from the great artists can give valuable lessons on improving your photography! And there is always Google.

Learn from the work from others! (credit: Piet den Hertog, Artfocus)

Photo books

There are hundreds of photographers who made great photo books. Look at markets, second hand shops, garage sales for photo books. I bought some great photo books at book markets for a very small amount of money. And I get excited when take the time to browse through them.

Markets are a great place to find photo books

Of course there is so much more to dive into. I am working on a new eBook where I can cover these subjects in more detail. Stay tuned!

So, I hope you have a great weekend and keep your camera close! Don’t forget to take a look at the great offer from Practical Photography Magazine!

 

17 April 2020 | What lens to use?

If you start with photography one thing that can be overwhelming are lenses. What lens is best and what lens should I use in what situation? We will try to give some guiding tips.

A lens is a very advanced part of the camera. Actually it consists of several lenses precisely placed. To keep it short. The light comes through the lens and lands on the sensor in your camera. And your picture is processed. So you can imagine a lens is an incredibly important part for the quality of your photos. Most camera brands have a wide range of lenses.

There is one aspect of a lens that is very important: Focal length. Focal length defines the angle of view. So simply put: What you see through the lens from the point you are standing. Focal Length is measured in mm.

There are three kind of lenses:

The standard lens
In photography a standard lens is 50mm. The human sight is considered about 50mm. So that’s the ‘basic view’.

The zoom lens
Anything above 50mm is a zoom lens. It brings subjects closer than you would see with your eye.

The wide angle lens
Anything below 50mm is a wide angle lens. You will see a wider range of subjects than you would normally see.

You can have a lens that has a fixed focal length or a lens that has a range of focal lengths. For example a 18 – 55 mm lens. That means you have part wide angle and a small range of zoom in one lens.

Here you can see a scene taken with three different lenses at the same viewpoint.

 

What lens should I use?

Now that is a good question. And not answered quickly (as you might guessed…). And while there is not just one answer we can give some guidelines.

Standard lenses can be used in a wide range of subjects. Usually where you can get close to your subject and you have the space to move and take different angles.

Zoom lenses are great for situations when you can not get close to your subject. For example at sport games photographers have long lenses. Sometimes up to 600mm. That way they can capture the emotion of the players in great detail. But also wildlife photographers use zoom lenses to capture animals. And take a zoom lens for making great portraits.

Wide angle lenses are often used for landscapes, architecture and interiors.

 

Zoom lenses are great for subjects you can’t get close too.

You can make great portraits with lenses from 56mm to 90mm.

 

In this picture a wide 12 mm lens was used to capture the room.

 


Less wide lenses, like 35mm for example, are often used for subjects like street photography.

A matter of perspective

One aspect of lenses is an important one. And that is perspective. For example a wide angle lens can change the perspective dramatically. Vertical lines in you tend to lean to each other.

With a wide angle lens the perspective changes. For example buildings tend to lean towards each other.

Zoom lenses tend to make the foreground and background look closer to each other.

 

You have the best lens

All right, we talked about lenses and of course there is a lot more to tell and to dive in. We will save that for later.

At the end of this newsletter I want to tell you just this. Don’t invest in new lenses because you think you can make better photos in an instant. Only invest in new lenses if you are searching for new creative ways to make new pictures. The lenses you have are the best you have. Use the lenses you have to further train your photography and seeing! That’s where it starts!

We will talk about seeing (and I mean ‘next level seeing’) in the next newsletter.
I wish you a great weekend!

And take a look at this great offer: Practical Photography. A digital magazine with great advice and tips. Now 13 digital issues for $15.49!

10 april 2020 | More on composition: The grid

As we mentioned in our newsletter past week, composition is a key factor in photography. What you put in your photo, and not, is very important for your final image. And that takes practice. Taking pictures frequently helps you develop a feeling for the right composition.

But there is a very strong tool that can help you with getting a strong composition: The grid. The grid is a very handy function that many cameras have. If you want to know if your camera has this function please refer to your user manual or browse through the menu of your camera. You can of course always
Google it through ‘your-camera-brand grid’.

Also on your phone you can use the grid. The standard camera app on the iPhone has a grid option you can enable in the settings. Also on Android the camera apps mostly have this function available.

So, what is the grid?

Well the grid exists of four lines. Two of them are placed horizontal and two vertical.

By placing your subject on one of the four crossing points you can create a more interesting and balanced composition. And not only you can use the crossing points but also the horizontal lines are a great guideline to place your horizon. Placing a horizon in the middle does often create a less interesting picture. Placing it on one of the horizontal lines gives more dynamic and interesting picture.

Photo without using on of the horizontal lines.

Photo with use of the horizontal line for the horizon. This photo gives a more interesting and dynamic image.

The rule of thirds

With using the grid you are using a technique that has a long history: The rule of thirds.

This technique is being used in paintings, photography, film and video. Many great painters of the past used this in their paintings. And if you watch a film, please notice how many times this technique is used to setup a scene.

 

 

So as you can see, the use of the grid can really get your pictures to a next level. But keep this in mind. It is not a hard law and it always depends on the subject and the effect you want to reach. Sometimes it is more interesting to place a subject in the middle. Keep trying!

Want to get more inspiration on composition?
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3 april 2020 | Composition

A side of many things that are the key elements of a picture, like sharpness and light, there is another important aspect: composition.

What’s in and what’s not

If we would look up what the definition is of composition we would get something like this:

” Organization of the different parts into one whole ”

It means what you put in your photo and perhaps more essential: what not.

When you make a picture of a scene there are several ways to do it. You can try it from a low angle, from a higher angle, take a step left or right. And all of these perspectives can be good. So the question is: What defines a good composition?

Well simply said: A good composition has all the information needed for the picture, but nothing more! And that’s is the key. The art of omission.

Every element in a picture should be there for a reason

Every time you make a picture think about your composition. What should I include and what not. Check the following elements when making your composition:

The main subject

Once you decided what your subject will be go find the best angle. Give your subject a prominent place in your image. Keep the light in mind, how does it fall. Is another position better for the subject. Try different options.

Leave out disturbing elements

Look at anything that can be distracting and doesn’t help the picture. For example hard shadows can draw away attention. Also lighter elements in the picture often attract the viewers eye. So try to to avoid that if it harms your main subject.

Foreground and background

Mind that a background can take the attention away from your subject. Or it can help your subject. That’s the choice to make at that moment. It might help to add a foreground. This can make the picture more interesting and dynamic.


Using the leaves as a foreground gives a more interesting image

A good composition will give more interesting pictures that attract the viewers eye. But the key is training and keep on trying. Make pictures every day!