Thursday, 28 February 2013

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How to Pose for a Photographer

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Hiring a photographer for a professional shoot is the best way to capture a moment forever, whether it is for an engagement, wedding or family portrait. A professional photographer is also a must-have for head shots, if you are looking to break into a career of acting or modeling.
A photographer will have plenty of ideas for the shoot and will recommend locations, clothing and poses. However the customer can research posing for the camera ahead of time, to adapt their photo session with their own sense of style and to convey the image and emotion that they most want to express:
Tips for Posing at a Professional Photo Shoot
1. Angles and Gaps
If your photo is taken straight on, with your hands by your side and your feet together, you will look wide and the photo will lack character and presence. The best way to flatter your figure and look animated is to create gaps and angles with your body. This is as simple as placing your hands on your hips and posing on an angle or standing with your feet crossed, one hand on your hip and the other in your hair.
Some people may even want to consider looking in the mirror beforehand, to determine which side of their face looks better. It is commonly known that most faces are not symmetrical and in the case of a breakout, taking more pictures on, and "your good side" will result in a better shoot overall.
2. Think Emotion
Usually when a photographer pulls out the camera many people default to the wide, cheesy grin. This is great in a casual photo with friends but a professional photo shoot demands more character and personality.
One tip to convey the emotion that you want for your photos is to envision how you felt at a relevant time and to express this feeling with your facial features. For example, a photographer may have a couple looking at each other for an engagement portrait. Think of the difference it will make between the couple simply smiling at each other, or thinking of the first time they said, "I love you." The overall impact is significant.
3. Avoid the Double Chin
Creating the best angles for your body and conveying emotion in your facial features will result in a great picture, unless of course, you have a double chin. Many people's instinctive reaction is to pull their head back when they are confronted with a camera. Instead, make a conscious effort to pull your chin away from your chest. This may feel funny at first, and look strange outside of a portrait, but it looks much better in the picture.
Of course, your photographer will help to make the photo shoot the best it can be, especially since the result will reflect upon the photographer's talent as a professional. Finally, always discuss your objectives and goals with the photographer so that the shoot can be a collaborate effort and as a team, photographer and client will work toward the best possible photo shoot for the customer's intention.

Amazing Black and White Images in 3 Minutes Using Photoshop

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I am not sure how many people out there in the industry use this. When I first learned this trick it really struck a chord with me. Have you ever had an image that just was destined for black and white, but when you converted it things were just "off?" Perhaps it had too many low key-tones or there was a section that was too dark and automatic conversion just wont cut the mustard or maybe you just want more creative control over your image. Let me share my secret with you. Actually how much of this is a secret I really can't say. It just sounds better when I use the word secret...
The name of the game is splitting channels. The program, Photoshop.
Step 1: Splitting the channels of a RGB file. You do this by selecting the channel tab in the Layers Panel. You then click the carrot in the panel. A drop down will appear. The option to separate channels will be available. Select this option.
Step 2: At this point you will see three separate canvases open up each on is a different gray-scale file.
Step 3: You then compare the three separate images against a the single desaturated RGB image.
The red channel is loaded with highlights - notice them predominantly in your Red Channel image? Green Channel has more middle tones and finally the Blue Channel holds the darkest values. A lot of times you may not even need the blue channel image. In some cases, you can chose to use it as a layer mask for extra depth as you build your final piece. The Blue Channel typically holds the most noise if you're shooting at a higher ISO. Eliminating or minimizing the use of the channel can clean up you B&W image quite a bit.
Step 4: Loading the channels. Simply copy and paste (or click and drag) the green and blue channels into the red channel file. Or the Red and Blue Channels into the Green file. It doesn't matter as long as you have all three channels layered in one file.
a.) I sometimes place the green channel over the red channel, and change the layer properties of the green channel to "soft light" to blend the two layers together. This deepens some of the shadows and softened some highlights. Play with the opacity until you like it... you can also mask off some areas as well. It's wide open to how you want to work it.
b.) I then place the Blue Channel mask on the top layer and air-brush at 20% just to bring back some details in the shadows adding some extra depth and a bit more tonality. As mentioned above, sometimes this layer isn't even necessary.
Lastly: My final 3-minute B&W Conversion. It's a different way to control your digital B&W conversions.

How to Win a Photography Competition

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Competitions are fun and exciting but no fun if you're not winning any. In order to win a competition you have to know some basic photography skills. Those skills should include lighting, shutter speed, ISO, aperture and most importantly how to compose an image that inspires or sparks flowing emotion.
This "how to" manual will not explain the basics of how to use your camera but instead, how to increase the chances of your skills winning a competition. First of all it is important to understand the competition you want to enter. Homework is no fun but it is pertinent in finding out how to compose an image tailored for the competition. Competitions come in many forms, but most commonly they are judged by prominent photographers or by your peers. Some competitions use both photography judges and peer votes.
Read the rules
Reading the rules is one of the most important steps to follow. Without reading the competition rules you might as well have not entered. It's happened before, photographers win the competition and later come to find out they are disqualified for something as simple as the photo was manipulated too much. Save yourself some embarrassment and read the rules.
Know your judges style
When the competition is judged by a panel of photographers it is important to understand who the judges are. Many photographers enjoy different styles and will judge accordingly. Find out who the Judges are and study their portfolios. Typically there are two styles that photographers lean towards and those are the journalistic and creative styles. Those who love journalistic images don't like much retouching and generally despise overly edited photos. The creative photographer enjoys clean edited photos that can range all the way into heavy manipulation of the photograph creating an imaginary look. Make sure your images lean toward the majority of the judges styles. Typically Nikon shooters lean toward journalistic, "National Geographic" type images and Canon shooters lean toward colorful highly retouched images.
Build an army
If the competition involves voting don't kid yourself. Your photograph will never be good enough to match the Facebook/twitter army. Build up a base of followers to your photography page on social media networks. I have seen poorly composed images win and stunning once in a lifetime photos lose simply because other photographer had more friends on Facebook. So build an army that loves your style of photography. Join and get involved with photography groups and networks online and prepare for that great battle. Once you have your fight, let everyone know every day that they can vote for your photograph and to share the news with their friends. Don't be shy and feel that people will hate you for posting too much.
Conclusion
Following these simple rules will increase the chances of you winning photography competitions and winning some of those really nice prizes. Don't just rely on your awesome photography skills to do all the work. Only the photographers with the smarts, hard work and fake friends get a payout.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tricks in Photography for Beginners Part 2

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What is ISO?

ISO or ISO speed is your camera's sensitivity to light. In the old times with film cameras, this was known as "film speed". The higher the ISO setting you use, the brighter the photo. If you use a lower ISO setting, then the photo will be darker. To perform amazing tricks in photography, you must master this setting

ISO is only a support setting
Even though technically this setting is important, your photos' brightness is still at the mercy of your camera's shutter speed. Read my first article, Photo Tricks and Effects For Beginners to learn more about that. For example, Lets say you use an ISO at 6400 or higher. If you are taking pictures at high shutter speed like 1/1600, then your picture will almost be guaranteed to come out dark or pitch black.
That's why before you calibrate your camera's ISO speed, you must first calibrate your camera's shutter speednot the other way around. ISO only serves as a minor adjustment to the overall brightness of the photo. If you are serious about being good with tricks in photography, then don't ever confuse the priority.
General ISO settings
In general situations, ISO 100 - 400 is recommended. If you are aiming to create photo tricks in special situations, then that's a different story.
ISO settings for light painting
If you are performing special photo tricks and effects like light painting, then you must do it at night with little to no light at all. It's impossible to do it in an environment with bright lights. While you setup for your light painting, it's recommended that you at least make your ISO 100 or lower.
If possible, make your camera's ISO "1". For those using point a shoot cameras that doesn't have that capability, look below later for more information on how to change that for free.
The reason you want a lowest ISO possible is because light painting involves capturing bright light trails. If the ISO is too high, the light trails will start "splattering", and you will also start noticing "ghostly shadows" from unwanted subjects around you.
ISO Setting for Sports Photography
If your goal is a spectacular sports photo tricks, then you must do it during the day time with bright sunlight, or in a very bright environment. Sports photography involves capturing a "frozen" moment of your subject at the climax of the game, so the goal is to avoid having too much motion blur. The only way to reduce motion blur while the athlete is in motion is to increase your camera's shutter speed to at least 1/500. This shutter speed makes your photos very dark.
Even if you max out your camera's ISO speed, it will still be dark. That's why taking sports photos in a dark environment is impossible. There won't be any tricks in photography that can help you.
However, if the above conditions are satisfied, then alter the ISO speed to general settings of 100 - 400. Since you probably desire crisp clear photos, any higher ISO is not recommended. I recommend you use ISO bracketing within that range to reduce chance of missed shots. Read my article, Tricks in Photography With Bracketing to learn more about that.
ISO Speed Setting for Portraits
If you are taking regular portrait photos or family photos, then your ISO speed can be a little more flexible. Just remember that high ISO speed creates noise which makes your photos come out with grainy effects. This can increase drama and romantic emphasis.
ISO settings can vary greatly depending on the environment you are in. If the setting is a bright sunny day then use lowest ISO possible, matched with 1/50 to 1/80 shutter speed. If you are taking pictures indoors, then use a slightly higher ISO setting of 250 to 400.
I hope this article has helped you performing amazing photo tricks and effects. Good luck.
posted by michaelabela.weebly.com

Dog Photography - Capture The Beauty Of Your Pets

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Dogs are perhaps one of the most difficult subjects for photography. Just like small children, you can't really expect them to sit still long enough for a good photograph-they're most likely going to fidget, run around and be distracted by an interesting object somewhere else, even with repeated requests to hold still. In addition, dogs also easily become fatigued during lengthy photography sessions, just like little babies and toddlers. But despite the difficulty in taking pictures of pets, the effort is still worthwhile and many families always try to include their pets in their family photos or even their wedding gallery. After all, your beloved furry friend is still a part of your family and has created many memories with you that deserve to be immortalised in photos for the years to come.
For those who are planning on hosting a dog photography session with their beloved pooch, always keep in mind that the secret to getting good photos of such a difficult subject is to be prepared. It's very important to take treats with you and reward your pet especially when they are cooperative. Treats can keep your pet in a happy mood and maybe alleviate fatigue; in addition, you can also use treats to lure them into a position or pose that you prefer.
In addition to bringing along some treats, another tip to get good pet pictures is to use natural light. This tip is actually applicable for different situations-whether you're taking photos of your pet, real-life weddings, landscapes or still life. Natural light is best at bringing out lovely details, such as your pooch's big, warm eyes, and this also guarantees that colours will not look washed out. Most importantly, natural light will not scare your pet the way a bright and sudden flash would.
Another tip for taking pet photos is to always keep your pet's personality in mind. Just like people, your little furry beast will not be comfortable doing things that it doesn't really like-and this discomfort will likely be evident in photos. As such, if your pet simply loves to lounge around, take pictures of him doing just that. There is no point in forcing your pet to do something that he doesn't like as this will only make the session less enjoyable for both of you.
Lastly, always be patient. As mentioned earlier, pets are just like small children. They are always full of energy and could probably care less about how they look, so you can't really expect perfect pictures every single time. However, do remember that these minor imperfections-fur out of place, dirt in their paws-are the very things that make them who they are.

How To Take Cute Pictures of Kittens

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Recently I had the joy of partaking in some photography for a pet rescue organisation. They wished me to take pictures of quite a few kittens and cats on the same day. This was a fantasy come true to me. Not only am I a pro photographer but I love all cats and kittens too. I felt this task was a lot of fun yet especially difficult.
You may have heard that cat photography is very challenging. It's hard to think that taking photos of sweet little kittens might be very difficult. What is so tricky about this sort of photography? It is the similar thing that makes other types photography difficult; quick motion. Let's discuss tricks and techniques to work with some of these common difficulties.
Kitten photography
If you are photographing kittens the initial thing to realize is that you will be photographing an unpredictable subject. It is very exceptional for a kitten to just sit down and look at the camera. You must use toys to guide your kitten without intimidation or concern. It is imperative to encourage the kitten to be as relaxed as possible. A playful kitten is very hard to photograph. A relaxed kitten is ideal.
How can you make a kitten feel chilled out? One of the ways that kittens unwind is by letting them burn off as much hyper-energy as possible. Once they start to fatigue then you will have a better likelihood of gaining those cute photographs you have in your mind. You can ask someone to tinkle a toy or blow a whistle over your shoulder so that the kitten looks in the direction of your camera. You may also offer them a little bit of food and the moment they raise their head up after eating, shoot the photo. Strive to get them to look in the direction of your camera if doable. This can be difficult if they are still in play mode. This is why I say it's better to take pictures of them when they are beginning to calm.
If you would like a spontaneous and enjoyable playful photo then it may be at a nice idea to let your kitten have some fun with a ball of string or toy. You can take some splendidly natural and fun photos this way. You can take a shot of your kitten stretching up and playing with toy. You can also take a shot of your kitten being very interested in something. These natural and fun and honest pictures work very well as an alternative to the average pet portrait photo. I have taken many spontaneous pictures this way.
Professional Pet Photography Tips
What are the correct shooting modes to use for photographing kittens? Many who have not learned manual mode well are likely to shoot in semi-automatic shooting modes. I do not believe you can get the right shot when the camera dictates the settings for you. You are more clever than the digital camera. I always photograph in the manual setting mode for absolutely everything. Kittens included.
Understanding Your Camera To Get Cute Photos
What is the reason for this It is because I comprehend more than the camera does. I understand what will work. I need to have complete control over my fstop because I want to control my own depth of field. If you let the digital camera dictate your f-stop then you are letting the camera to decide your depth of field. Your camera does not recognize how to create a wonderful shot, it merely knows that it needs to expose for lighting and capture depth of field. It does not understand how to get clear photos of moving kittens.
Where To Position Yourself
I frequently position myself about a meter away from my kittens. As the focal point shifts all the time I make use of auto focus. (Due to the motion of the kittens). Using manual focus can take too much time for your kitten to jump into the plane or focus, if at all. I chase the kitten around with my finger on the button, continually focusing and refocusing. To help me to get sharpness of the kittens eyes I am careful and particular about what aperture range to shoot with. I am inclined to use an f-stop somewhere between F5.6 and F8. This allows me to have a fairly small depth of field without focus problems. 
Shutter Speed and The Flash
I use a shutter speed of about 200th of a second or more. Your kitten can move very fast and you want to be able to freeze the fast action without blur. If you are using the speedlite you will see that you do not need to be troubled about shutter speed. Flash will stop the action at around 250th of a second. This is really handy to work with due to the fact all you have to do then is set your fstop knowing the flash will manage the shutter speed, so to speak.
F Stop
If you set your aperture to a wide setting, like F2.8 or F4, you may find clarity eludes you. This might be because your kitten has jumped out of the focal range and the image is no longer holding sharp focus. However, if you use a slightly smaller aperture you might find you tend not to undergo this predicament. Aperture and depth of field are directly linked. It is significant that you get the right f-stop for the distance away from your subject. In other words the larger the aperture the closer to your subject you need to be. Contemplate this when you are photographing your kittens.
What happens if you don't have flash?
Just prior to one of the photography sessions my flash decided to stop working. Thankfully I was using continuous studio lighting. I made the decision to take my flash off the camera. I then produced my photos at 6400 ISO, 200th of a second and F 7.1. I used a very high ISO to compensate for the soft light. I had to get as much light as I possibly could. I also needed to use a high ISO so that I could utilise a fast shutter speed. Using an F stop of 7.1 allowed me to get some clear and tack sharp shots.
How to photograph kittens in creative ways
I photographed a mixture of normal and candid, yet lighthearted, photos. I made the decision to create a succession of these photos in monochrome. I call this my "Black and White Kitten Series".There are lots of chances to make some very inventive photographs of kittens. You might create some intentional blur, side profile photos, extreme macro photographs or even use aids such as baskets or flowers.
Always Aim For Lots Of Light
Just remember the secret to taking photos of kittens is light and motion. It is preferable to get as much light on the scene as possible. Window light is pleasant but you also want to light up the scene from the opposite side. You may want to employ reflectors but it may distract the kittens. Alternatively you may want to bounce the flash off the ceiling as I did.
(Before my flash stopped firing.)
Bounce The Flash To Create Soft, Yet Strong Light
Bounced flash is good. It is also helpful to have a white card on top of your flash unit. This white card aids in directing the lighting from the ceiling downward onto your subject. It is not ideal to blast your kitten with front-on flash. The flash may damage their eyes and frightened them.
Be Spontaneous
You need to be ready to be flexible and open minded when you photographing your kittens. Always position yourself on the ground and shoot from an angle that's near to the ground.. This will assist you to focus on the eyes. Be ready to move about with your kitten. It is important to provide them encouragement along the way. After you photograph them offer them a small treat. Animals know when they are treasured.
Photographing kittens calls for practical skill and good lighting. It also requires the photographer to be calm about the shoot and relaxed. Some days are better than others. Sometimes your kittens are not afraid of the camera. They will look at the camera with curiosity and even move toward you start sniffing the camera. This is a great shot if you can capture it. If you are photographing scared kittens then be very gentle and very patient.
Photographing kittens is a fun and challenging experience. Always treat your animals with greatest respect and love at all times. Kittens and sensitive little souls and have to be treated with respect.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Posing Guide: 54 Portrait Ideas

I have come across this quick posing guide and I felt I should share it with you.  It will jump start  you on the right track, particularly if you are still new in this field.

Follow http://michaelabela.weebly.com downloads section to get a large version.


If you are interested in furthering you knowledge about this subject  Posing Secrets - The Photographer's Essential Guide Vol.1  by Malcolm Boone is a unique and practical tool which will guide you step by step, in mastering the art of posing a model.  I strongly suggest that you give it a thorough look.  It is definitely worth the money!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

As a Photographer Shall I Share Digital Files With My Clients?

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To share or not to share? In our modern technological age it might seem strange to a customer when they are refused to be given digital files of their photos. However, many photographers still provide their customers with prints only. Why? What can possibly go wrong if a photographer does give the digital files to their customers? What is the right thing to do?
Let's first consider the legal side of the question. Photos are a result of a photographer's work, thus they are copyrighted to the photographer. A customer pays for a final product, which in this case are prints. So, it is a decision to make for every photographer what to do with digital files of the photos. But what is the right decision?
Before trying to answer this question, let's analyse what stops photographers from providing their customers with digital images. Any customer wants the best quality images for the money they paid. Even if polished to a high standard as a digital image, a photo can look far from perfect if printed in a wrong way. As a professional, a photographer knows what is the best paper for his/her photos to be printed on, what the best printing settings to be used etc. If a customer has digital files of their photos, they might want to reprint them. Then they might go to a printing lab where they might come across less experienced stuff, or simply go for cheaper printing options, and, therefore, might get poor quality prints. Those poor quality prints, however, might be associated with the photographer's work and damaged his/her reputation.
Therefore, many photographers simply don't take chances and give only prints and albums to their customers or give prints and low resolution files with no printing rights.
With the development of social networks and digital technology customers' requirements are changing too. Nowadays, customers might not need printed images at all, as they find it more convenient to store digital images and photo albums on their hard drives or web than having a pile of printed photos or a bulky photo album on their shelf. Also, social networks made sharing of one's photos with their family and friends really convenient by uploading digital photos on one's profile. Thus, digital images are what many customers are after now, and for them prints are no longer a main product that they pay for, they are rather an add-hock extra. So, it appears that offering prints only is no longer satisfactory, and moreover, might leave many customers unhappy or even lose them.
Now, taking into consideration the above, let's answer the question posed in the beginning of the article: as a photographer shall I share digital files with my clients? And the answer is... that there is no perfect answer or advice. It seems that every photographer has to weigh his/her risks of losing their customers vs. risks of damaging their reputation. Also, if a photographer gives low resolution files to their customers, they might print them in even worse quality.
Myself, I believe that the best strategy would be to give your customers high resolution files with the right to reprint and focus on good communication with them. My experience shows, if you explain them possible issues which might occur if they choose to print the photos somewhere else, there is a big chance they will perfectly get it. You can advise your customer on printing options as well. Also, if you don't build in a high margin into your own printing price and are open about suppliers and prices, then your customers are most likely to come back to you for reprints.
Modern technology comes to the rescue too. Nowadays monitors have a good resolution and a great quality of image, much better than it used to be in the past. So, even if your customer gets a poor print, they most possibly will see how different it is from the perfect picture they can see from a modern monitor.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How to Store Files Online

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Have you ever experienced the loss of all of your digital files including your precious photos, videos, your favorite music or important documents? Many people have, and they all wish they stored those files that were so important to them in a safe place. Most people don't realize the risk of losing their precious digital files until it happens to them. Imagine having beautiful pictures and/ or video's of your child growing up or other memorable events and then losing all of it due to a computer crash or worse, for example in case of a fire. Today it really isn't that difficult or time consuming to backup your digital files in a safe way.
In the past, the most common way to do this was to backup these files on cd-rom's, DVDs, USB sticks, memory cards, or external hard-drives.
Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of these types of securing your digital files.
Cd-rom's and DVDs: 

These types of storage media are vulnerable because they wear easily, they do not have a lot of capacity, and because you can only store a limited amount of files on these types of storage media, it soon becomes an expensive way to make backups.

USB sticks, memory cards and external hard-drives: 

On these types of storage media, you can store a lot more of data, and unlike cd-rom's and DVDs, they are not vulnerable to wear. Even if you use them more frequently.

But all of these storage media have the same disadvantage. You cannot access your files wherever you are unless you have those storage media with you all the time. Imagine being somewhere, talking to someone and you want to show that person that one photograph or video. With more and more people owning a smartphone these days, storing files online is becoming more and more popular. By storing your digital files such as photo's, video's, and other documents online, you can access those files wherever you are and by storing your files this way, you can be sure that your files are backed up in the safest place possible.
So if you still didn't take action to secure your files because it seemed to expensive to burn your files on cd'r/DVD or to backup your files on USB, memory card or external hard-drive because it seemed to time consuming to you, I recommend checking out the possibilities of storing your digital files online.

Create The Most Romantic Valentine's Day Gifts For Her

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The concept of photo books of love is somewhat akin to that of an old fashion photo album, but with some marked differences. Whilst they're both books which allow you to flip through the pages, take a trip down memory lane and relive magical moments, the differences lie mainly in the area of luxury and high production values. Whereas an album would generally tend to be some form of scrapbook with the individual photographs glued or taped onto the pages, a photo book is a professionally printed volume custom designed and made for the occasion. Whether you're a new couple in the first flush of love, or have been married for many decades, you're bound to have taken huge number of photographs of each other, and it's these that you can now use to put together a book which tells the story of how in love you are.
If you ask the average woman about Valentine's gifts, her response may well be a somewhat weary admission that 'it's the thought that counts', meaning that they're not holding out any great hopes of receiving a stunning gift. For many people, it's seen as enough that the day itself isn't forgotten, but one way of making Valentine's Day as romantic as it possibly can be is to both remember it and take the time to create romantic gifts for her which are totally personal.
Taking the time to sit down and go through your photographs, select the favorites and then have them immortalized between two covers will clearly demonstrate that you're taking the day and the commitment it represents seriously. You could have them organized chronologically, charting the ways in which you've grown and changed during your time together, or you could group them thematically, putting all your favorite holiday images together, for example, or devoting a portion of the book to shots of you kissing or holding hands. The choice is yours, and it's this flexibility which means you can create a book which you're completely certain she's going to love.
Once you've selected the images which you want to use, you just have to upload them to the website of your choice. The process of turning a disparate selection of images into a coherent book, a process which was once the preserve of professional artists or printers, has been rendered quick and simple. The software has been built with the assumption that you're a beginner, so that what could be a complex procedure is broken down into a series of small, easily grasped steps. You're able to choose everything from the size and shape of the book to the number of pages and whether it will be hard or soft backed. Designing the individual pages themselves is the fun part of the task, and you can really go to town by adding specific backgrounds and frames, or by including text. Since this is Valentine's Day, you might want to augment your images with quotes from her favorite love poems, or best love romantic films. If you're feeling really ambitious, you might even want to pen a few heartfelt lines of your own.
When you've created the perfect book it will be printed to the kind of high standards usually preserved for Hollywood celebrities or famous film stars, with rich, thick glossy pages and stunningly detailed printing. It doesn't begin and end with books, however, there is a wide range of Valentine's Day gift ideas for her, ranging from stunning artworks to personalized t-shirts. And it's not a one way street, of course - the same items represent terrific valentine's gifts for him ideas and, no matter what they say, the men out there are secretly every bit as romantic as the women.
If you want to show the special woman in your life just how dear she is to you, then creating valentine's gifts for her will get the message across loud and clear. Crafting photo books for love, rather than for sale, will demonstrate that you've genuinely thought about just how much she means to you, and then turned those thoughts into a stunning gift.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Building a Home Photography Studio on a Budget

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As I continue acquiring lighting equipment and backgrounds for my home studio the need for a better computer display reared its head. Until recently I was using my home built Intel quad core PC with a 52" Hitachi HD plasma display.
While using a large display was certainly convenient, there were many issues such as colour depth or quality, contrast range and even at times problems with surprisingly the DPI. So I decided I needed a higher quality display on which I can review images immediately using Lightroom and Nikon tether.
This got me thinking and researching the options available to me. The first search online revealed the benefits of an IPS display; while subsequent searches brought to my attention the Dell 24" IPS display. Reading various reviews resulted in mixed messages, while a handful of writers claimed Dell's offering is the next best thing since sliced bread, others were not so complimentary.
My background is in I.T and after working for almost 22 years in the industry I have a relatively low opinion of Dell's manufacturing quality. Bearing that in mind I started searching again and found myself face to face with the details of an LG IPS236V LED display. Further investigation revealed a very high number of positive reviews. The specifications were impressive, and the additional features offered were attractive although not necessarily beneficial.
So to cut a long story short, last weekend I purchased the LG display, and carried it home like a kid with an over-sized lollipop. At home I feverishly unpacked the monitor, pulled off the protective film and powered it up. Initial impressions were good, but once I fired up Lightroom 3, the Wow factor really set in. The detail and colours are stunning, while the esthetic design is simple and attractive.
Well finally to the point of my post. There are many IPS monitors out there, with some of them priced in the $1000's, but as I'm trying to assemble my studio equipment on a budget I chose to buy the LG IPS.
Here in China many people buy online using the Chinese equivalent of eBay called "Taobao". Taobao is great for many things, but I'm a hands on kind of guy, I needed to touch it and feel it, before purchasing it. Through my wife I also have met a very knowledgeable and reliable Chinese computer guy who has done many repairs, upgrades etc for us in the past. Not wanting to risk disappointment I engaged our Chinese computer guy to help us purchase the LG display. The total cost of the display after a little bargaining, which is almost mandatory here in China, 1200 rmb, a little shy of $188. Really quite the bargain in my humble opinion.

Basic Photoshop Editing

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Most people limit their photo editing to the basics and there is software available online for photo editing, with the most popular being Adobe Photoshop. People can use Photoshop for free, via the trial version, but must be careful because some websites offer free Photoshop and people later realize that the files are laden with viruses. The Adobe website trial version of the software is good for 30 days. However, if you want the full capabilities of Photoshop, you have to buy the full version. The thing is that the complete version has a lot of features that ordinary photographers may not need. Most average photographers need the following photo editing basics.
1. Correcting Exposure
This is probably the most common adjustment people do to their pictures. Photoshop allows exposure correction of photos in a wide range of formats, including RAW and JPEG files. Wrong exposure can be corrected by going to "Image" in the menu, clicking "Adjustments", and then clicking "Levels". The histogram will be shown. You can make fine adjustments by moving the sliders. The photo will turn darker or lighter, depending on which slider you move and how you move it. Adjust the sliders until you get the desired brightness.
2. Correcting Blown Highlights
An easier way to do this is to go to the "Curves" option. But this can be an annoying command for beginners. It takes a while to perfect this, but it is worth practicing the "Curves" command because it can correct blown out highlights or lighten up shadows to retrieve more detail. The best way to avoid this problem is to underexpose the camera in high contrast environment.
Balancing the overall exposure is tricky. Another way to tone down very bright highlights is to use the selection tools to select highlights. You can then choose to darken these highlights. This is also tricky. Make sure you have a backup copy of the file, in case you mess up the current one during the post-processing.
3. Editing Color Casts
Color casts are usually an in-camera error. This can be corrected at first by making sure you choose the correct white balance during your photography session. Setting the white balance in your camera is a no-brainer. But before you correct the color cast, make sure you have corrected the exposure first. Once the exposure is fixed, fix the color cast by using the "Color Balance" tool and the "Color Match" tool.
4. Color Editing
Aside from color correction, another easy adjustment you can do is altering the color of your photos. This can range from simply making your photos appear warmer or cooler. You can also mute colors to create a classic grayscale photo. You can also saturate the shades to make the photo more expressive. More advanced photo enhancement includes muting other colors, and making one shade stand out.
5. Sharpening
Even correctly focused pictures can be enhanced through sharpening to make outlines more obvious and compelling. It is one of the basic photo editing that can be done even with other types of software tools. Just make sure you do not over-sharpen your photos.
There are other basic photo editing techniques, like red eye removal and noise reduction. But make sure you edit your photos to enhance them. Over-enhancement can backfire and make your photos look peculiar. Make sure you save your original files separately from your edited files so that you have something to go back to if the editing work goes awry.

Beach Portraits, Hints and Tips for an Awesome Session

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In this article, we will introduce you to a few hints and tips that will make your family beach photography session go off without a hitch. We intend to share this knowledge with you, so your session will be amazing.
Please make sure you touch base with you photographer as soon as you arrive on vacation. As you well know cell phones are sometimes unreliable while on vacation, so it is critical you call and touch base on a land line in your condo. When you call to touch base, your photographers should go over essential things like directions to the beach you use, what to bring, what not to bring, etc.
The best tip we can offer in preparing for your session, is that you should allow the children to relax for the most part of the day. This simple tip, is the main reason most photography subjects look so fresh and relaxed. They have been lounging all day.
Sessions on the beach are often hot in nature. A cold water goes a long way, hint, hint. Bring a few for everyone, and you will stay much cooler during your beach session. Younger kids might even enjoy a break mid-season with a juice box, or similar drink.
Now onto the day of your session. Most all reputable photographers will demand you leave all personal items in the car. This includes cell phones, cigarettes, and cameras. Your photography session is going to be full of fun and exciting things, and any distraction is just that, A DISTRACTION. And though it should go unmentioned, it is not a good idea for adults to consume alcohol before the session.
Most importantly, relax, have fun, and enjoy your family beach photography session. The more fun you have, the more fun the memory. The session will be filled with some awesome moments.
We do recommend you also avoid tanning sprays if you do decide to lay out the day of your session. Even with a shower, they leave a residue that makes you appear shiny on film. Best to avoid them, your skin will thank you for it. The oils also soak into your skin, which in turn makes sand stick to you like crazy. Its touch to wipe off, and can slow down the progress of the session.
Please also bring baby wipes if you have a leaky baby. We all go through the age where things come up just as easily as things go down. So if you have a "leaky baby", it is a good tip to bring baby wipes!
Sand loves skin, and sticks to it often. Baby powder can prevent this. Before your session, lightly dust you legs with baby powder, and wipe off with towel until the powder residue is no visible. Like magic, the sand will now fall right off your legs. It just will not stick.
See, didn't we promise some good tips and hints. Now your session will be a memory that will last a lifetime. Have fun, and enjoy. It is these moments that make your memories last a lifetime.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Six Tips on Event Photography

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As a photographer you are not just there to take pictures, but to create memories and capture those memories in your photos. I have been in many events, which I noticed a photographer as an extra person, taking the camera everywhere and just click away. Below are some basic tips to help you turning the event into a success story.
Get involved in the event
I believe a role of a photographer is to get involved and to bring life into the event, making every moment remembered, every frame cherished, and every click significant. When you get involved, you stamp your signature in every photo.
Do individual portraits
When at an event, people love to strike a pose. Let them be free and do a portrait pose. Give it a theme; Classic, movie character, funny, romantic and even erotica are people's top choices. This is one on one relation with everyone in the event. Not only they love this interaction, but also, the organizer would enjoy discovering you giving the guests the red velvet treatment and attention.
Use props
Props do magic. Hats, glass, cigarette, mustache, message card are simple strategic theme to get people excited and to take part. In any event everyone competes to get attention. What better way to involve them in their moment. A fun moment they never forget and they will share forever.
Look for candid shots
Other than taking wide shots of the entire event, look for candid shots. Each person at an event has a candid moment, which your camera brings to life. Always be ready and do it discreetly because if they see the camera, they try to behave and act cautiously.
Encourage the theme of the event
Whatever the theme of the event, blend with it and encourage it. Be involved and encourage the members to realize and appreciate the theme of the event.
Find special moments
In every occasion, you can find many unique moments that need expression through the camera's lens. Freeze this unique moment in your frame forever; The faces funny and strange impressions, the falling glass of Champagne on its way to the ground before it breaks and the funny wardrobe malfunction are some of the suggestions you can always find in every event. Use the zoom in feature and get the target object as close as possible for the best result.
posted by michaelabela.weebly.com

Monday, 4 February 2013

Photoshop Tip - Skin Retouching

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One of the most fundamental and utilized skills of retouching portrait images with photoshop, is skin correction. Fine lines, discoloration, etc are prominent especially in closely framed shots and can make the subject feel insecure. The dilemma with skin retouching is that often, the final product looks over-produced and fake. The goal is not to erase the subject's personality, but to highlight the best features by minimizing distracting shadows and lines. If there are specific areas you want to conceal, first start by using the clone tool or spot healing brush on those places. Then, try this trick to achieve a soft, natural glow without turning the subject into a plastic doll.
1. Open image in Photoshop

2. Click and hold 'Cmd J' to create a new layer from the background or combine previous layers for a cohesive slate by holding, 'Shift, Option, Command, E.'
1. Open image in Photoshop.
3. Click the 'Filter' tab from the main toolbar and navigate to "Blur" → "Gaussian Blur"
4. When the pop-up box appears, make sure the preview screen is zoomed out enough to see your image. Increase the percentage blur until facial imperfections disappear, but not so much that facial feature distinction disappears. In most cases, I land somewhere between 18%-30%.
5. Click 'OK.' Your image now has a significant blur over it entirely. Don't worry, we're not done! At the bottom of your adjustments panel, click, 'add layer mask.' A box will appear to the right of the blur layer. This is your mask. With the mask highlighted, click 'Command I' to invert the box so that it is black and the image appears sharp again.
6. Select the brush tool and decrease the opacity slider in the layers panel to about 30-40%. This is up to your discretion, depending on the level of blur your want. For the most natural looking effects, I find that somewhere between 30-40% yields the best results for smoothing without looking overly retouched and allowing the skin's natural texture to show.
7. Select a soft, round brush with 0% hardness and make it white. Zoom in on the features you want to smooth in your image (Command +) and with a small, circular brush tip, paint over the features. The areas you paint with the white brush will uncover the Gaussian blur on the black mask below your image. Only the parts you paint will reveal the softer texture, while the rest of the image remains sharp.
8. Once you are happy with the results, zoom out (Command -) and start a new layer to continue your edits (Shift, Option, Command, E).
I use this technique for editing almost all my close portraits and often in wedding photography as well. It is especially flattering and once you get used to the process, the whole thing takes me only 1-2 minutes! I hope it works for you as well!
posted by michaelabela.weebly.com

Portrait Photography for Couples

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Portrait photography is a wonderful chance for couples to create lasting images to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, engagements or pregnancy. Or perhaps you just feel like a fun photo shoot with the one you love! Couples portrait photography sessions are an informal opportunity to capture these special moments together on film and can be adapted to a range of different situations.
Many couples choose portrait photography for a milestone in their relationship like an anniversary or engagement. You could even give a voucher for the photo session as a gift to surprise your other half. For couples who have just got engaged, a photo shoot is a fantastic way to get used to being in front of the camera before your wedding, and get to know your chosen photographer. You can also use the pictures from your photo session as 'save the date' cards or incorporate them into your wedding invitations or thank you cards.
You needn't be restricted to couples photo portraits in the studio either - lifestyle portrait photography is becoming more and more popular, and allows you to choose a location that is important to you. Perhaps you could have your portrait photographer come to your home and stage a photoshoot in familiar surroundings, or in your garden. Alternatively, why not celebrate the occasion at a place that is extra special to you - where you first met, where you married, or another venue that holds personal memories for you.
One of the nicest aspects of couples portrait photography is the fact that you have your partner with you - so even if you're feeling shy or nervous, you have your most trusted companion with you to coax out a natural, glowing smile. There's no reason why you have to pose or look directly at the camera, either. Sometimes the sweetest couples portraits are candid, with the subjects exchanging loving looks, or from a distance, embracing or holding hands. Your photographer may also take detail shots and close-ups to capture all the little glances and movements that show the depth of your relationship, and your surroundings.
To help you get into a relaxed mood, why not bring along your favourite music, or your special song as a couple? Sometimes photoshoots can be a great excuse for a mini party, and if you're celebrating a special occasion, you may even be able to bring some nibbles and a bottle of bubbly to really get rid of inhibitions in front of the camera!
Couples portrait photography is the perfect way to celebrate and treasure your relationship, whether you've been together for just a few months or many years.
posted by michaelabela.weebly.com

Say 'I Love You' With Valentines Photo Books

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When it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day, the key is to track down a gift which will let your other half know, in no uncertain terms, just how much they mean to you. The easy way of doing this might seem to be all about spending the maximum amount of money, but the truth is that there are some things which are far more important than being lavish with your cash. The best Valentine gift ideas are those which demonstrate the highest degree of care and thought. More than any amount of money, the fact that you've spent time and trouble getting things just right will let the love of your life know how much they mean to you.
Creating a gift yourself by making a unique bespoke object designed with your other half in mind is the most certain means of doing just this, but actually crafting such an item is something which not very many people will feel confident enough to even attempt. If you don't have the artistic or craft based skills necessary to make something of an extremely high quality then the fear that you're going to end up with a gift which is shoddy will stop you even attempting it. Whilst it's probably true that it's 'the thought that counts', even the kindest thought won't totally make up for something which looks amateurish.
Fortunately, digital technology has advanced to the point where it is friendly and excellent enough to allow anyone with a collection of digital photographs to create something which encapsulates the required level of personal thought and care, whilst still being produced, printed and put together to the very highest standards. If you've ever ordered a set of digital photo prints, then you'll have a pretty fair idea of how the technology in question works - put simply, the hard work has been taken out of it so that you, as a consumer, are presented with a few simple choices and options, and are guided forward one easy step at a time.
You might want to create a volume which tells the story of your relationship all the way from a photograph taken at the party at which you met, for example, through your time together and up to the day. Alternatively, you might wish to arrange the book as a series of 'chapters', each one containing images taken during a particular year of your life together. If you've been a couple for a number of years then it's even possible to utilize images which are only available in the form of old fashion printed photographs. These can just be scanned onto your computer and then saved as a digital file, meaning that they can be included in your book just as easily as photographs taken a few weeks ago.
When you've selected the images which you are certain touch the heart of your partner, you merely have to upload them to the website you're using. Actually creating photo books online has been made quick and simple and, thanks to the photo book offers which can often be found, it's also an option which is highly affordable.
Once you've uploaded your images you just have to work with software which has been created with the first time user in mind. No matter how little experience you have, you'll find yourself moving forward via a series of logical, incremental steps, selecting things like the size and shape of the book and then the look and layout of each page and the presence of any text. By combining words and images you can create a stunning love letter designed to let the recipient know how genuine your feelings still are.
Whether you create stunning photo books to treasure for decades, or a selection of photo greeting cards based on your own images, you'll be crafting something which merges the personal with the complete professional.
posted by michaelabela.weebly.com

Friday, 1 February 2013

Learning to Pose Models Through Paper and Dolls

by Michael Abela

When I was of a younger age I use to pass many time drawing human figures on paper and cut them out.  Likewise I used to look up for actors, singers and celebrity photos in my aunt's magazines and cut them out too.

With a few cereal boxes by my side than I glued the photos onto the cardboard sides and made numerous standing up characters.  Little did I know that years later all this play time would reward me with insight in the human body and posture.

If you are one of the many that still find it difficult to pose a model, I suggest you spend some time playing around with these paper figurines. But what is the one particular thing you should be looking for in these paper models?

The answer is found in their shadows.  Standing the figurines in front of a hand held torch, one can observe the graceful lines of each particular pose.  Moreover, one should be careful in spotting the 'S' curve in various figurines and adopt them in your photo shoots.

If you do not have much time on your hands, you can always experiment with dolls and the like.  Only through observation, trail and error can one grasp certain concepts that are of vital importance. In understanding the way the human body moves, your model can be guided to pose more gracefully.

Posing Secrets - The Photographer's Essential Guide Vol.1  by Malcolm Boone is a unique and practical tool which will guide you step by step, in mastering the art of posing a model.  I strongly suggest that you give it a thorough look.  It is definitely worth the money!