Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bokeh in Portraits

 
Bokeh, the beautiful discs of color and light in the background
of a photo really adds SPARKLE to a portrait.
 
To learn how to create bokeh using your aperture
 
When shooting portraits, I often use a wide aperture
between f/1.4 and f/3.2 to create lovely bokeh.
 
 
The depth of field (How deep the range of focus in front and back of my focus point.),
is so narrow in the photo above, even her shirt is blurred.
 
In other words, the depth-of-field was so narrow...her shirt
which is within inches of the same plane as her face is not in focus.
 
I shot this next photo with my aperture wide open at f/1.4 on my 50mm lens.
 
 
This creates a pretty, dreamy look. 
The sliver of focus with an f/1.4 aperture works
because the subject's face is straight at the camera...
thus the facial features are on the same plane of focus.
 
I also shot at f/1.4 in this next photo, but the subject's face is at
a slight angle.  This meant the eye on the left is a bit further from the
focus point and with the very narrow depth-of-field, that eye is slightly
out of focus.
 
 
So, if you're shooting at such a wide aperture, make sure your
subject's face is straight at the camera or you will get facial blur.
 
 
When taking portraits, look for light sources in the background.
That's why I love to backlight!
 
 
In this next case, the light source is the water with
lots of glittery light reflections.
 
 
You can capture background bokeh in every season!
 
Shooting in the woods is awesome for seasonal bokeh!
 
 
 
 
Even winter, with no leaves on the tree, can be a wonderful time
for bokeh.  Just make sure there is light in the background!
 
 
The glints of light off snow also creates bokeh!
 
 
Create some DAZZLE in your portraits by capturing BOKEH!

Creating Bokeh

 
Last week, I stopped at my favorite Farmer's Market store to
pick up some summer sweet corn.
 
While there, I noticed this red tandem bicycle parked under
a tree laden with apples. 
 
Fortunately, I had my camera with me because I couldn't
resist photographing the lovely scene.
 
While photographing the pretty apples, I thought this would
be a good way to explain how to create bokeh...beautiful discs of lighted blur
in the background of your photos.
 
 
Bokeh (pronounced BO-kah) adds drama and beauty to
photos and is easy to achieve if you pay attention while you are shooting.
 
 
Rather than explain all the math and numbers
involved with creating bokeh...I will keep this on
the simple side.
 
Bokeh is created when the camera captures and blurs light twinkling
around something in the background.
 
SOOOO....this means, you will want to make sure you have
this light in your background.  Trees or other greenery that allow
glints of light to shine through are perfect backdrops for creating bokeh.
 
I took this photo of a bowl of nectarines in my backyard 
while standing and shooting from my normal height.
  I did not capture any light glints shining through that thick tree line in the background.
 
You can see there is no bokeh in the background making
the photo rather boring and flat.
 
 
By just squatting down so I can capture sunlight shining
through the upper tree branches, I create bokeh and beauty in the photo.
 
In other words, you must have light shining through or around something
to get the bokeh!
 
 
I used a 50mm 1.4 lens for all of the photos in this blog post.
You can use any camera to create bokeh, but if you
are using a point-and-shoot or your phone camera,
you will need to place your subject a distance from your
background to get the bokeh.
 
If you are using a DSLR camera, I suggest you learn how to use
your focus points.  This is different with every camera, so sit with your
camera manual and learn how to use focus points.
 
Practice using the focus points and you will get
great focus results in almost every photo you take forever more!
 
Let's get back to that apple orchard.
 
I shot in Aperture Priority mode because I wanted to control the aperture.
You can also shoot in manual.
 
Notice that I have about six feet between the apples I
am photographing and the background that I want to blur into bokeh.
 
 
 
Now you are going to control your aperture to get the blur.
Aperture controls depth-of-field meaning how much in front and
in back of your subject is in focus.
 
A smaller aperture (Larger number!) means a greater depth-of-field
or more in focus.
 
Here, I had my aperture shut down to a tiny f/22 and you can see that
even though the background apples are six feet away...they are still
pretty much in focus.
 
As explained, the smaller aperture created a deep depth-of-field.
 

Next, I opened up the aperture to f/11 and the background apples
are starting to blur.

 
At f/8, you can begin to see the bokeh!

 
Here's f/5 and the bokeh is bigger and more defined.

 
With the aperture much wider at f/3.2, I get a  much shallower depth-of-field
thus, more blur.  You can't even tell those are apples in the background.
But the discs of color and light...bokeh....add beauty and sparkle!

 
With the aperture all the way open at f/1.4 on my lens,
the depth of field is so narrow, even the apples I am shooting
are not totally in focus.
 
 
So which of these photos is correct?
 
ALL of them!  It's always up to YOU as the photographer how much
bokeh you prefer.  YOU get to create what YOU like!
 
Experiment and practice with various objects and light situations
and you will be creating bokeh like a pro!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Still-Lifes


This summer I have gotten into still-life photography and
absolutely LOVE shooting them outside in the early morning sunshine.
 
I wanted to share mine, to inspire you to look around your own house
for pretty, colorful items and treasures that will make a pretty photo.
 
Still-lifes are a great way to learn and grow as a photographer
and use your imagination and creativity.
 
Start with just a few simple things on a table.

 
For tips on shooting still-lifes and capturing the
light, CLICK HERE.
 
Still-lifes can be anything that stays still.
Maybe some interesting tools you have on a work bench.
various spoons you have in the kitchen drawer.
 
When I was planting my summer herbs, I created a still-life
arrangement with the gardening tools and plants.


 
Pretty things around your house can be used. 
It's fun and simple to match colors.
 
Try using the artistic filters in Photoshop to
make your still-lifes look more like paintings
Watch my VIDEO TUTORIAL to learn how to do this. 

 
I became very observant this summer and considered
things I never really noticed as possible still-lifes!


 
One morning I looked out the window and saw the sun sparkling
off the morning dew, so I plopped a pitcher of flowers onto the grass
and shot VERY low...lying on my stomach in the WET grass!

 
I came up with this next idea when I saw my pretty glass pitcher in a cupboard.
I got it as a wedding gift and rarely use it. 
I like the shape, so I put water into the pitcher and added food coloring!
 
This photo was used by The Farmer's Almanac in an
article about pink lemonade!

 
My kids went blueberry picking and I really loved the color
so I photographed them.
 
 
 
This began my obsession with photographing food!
We had these grapes in our fruit bowl, so I used them in a still life.

 
 
I actually went to the grocery store and selected the
most colorful and interesting vegetables and
went crazy photographing them inside and outside.



 
I got to eat some yummy salads..and YEP...
I photographed them!
 

 
If we had strawberries in the fridge...I photographed them
on the kitchen table.

 
Lemons anyone?

 
My daughter was home for the weekend and I made her breakfast.
Yep....I photographed it and now this photo is on the
website of an egg farmer in Germany!

 
I also photographed my poached egg breakfast one morning.
 
 
A friend brought me some cherries, so I took some photos.
 

 
I just want to open your eyes to photographing
the simple, everyday things in your life.
 
Just add a vase of flowers (fake flowers photograph beautifully!)
table linens you already have in a drawer. 
Use interesting chairs and tables you have around the house.
 
 
Let your imagination run wild and enjoy shooting
some still-life photos of your own.
 
Better yet, frame them and hang them in your home.
ART that contains your own treasures!

Tips for Photographing Still-Lifes

 
Still-life photos are beautiful taken outdoors in the summer
months.  Simply gather some of your favorite items
or poke around your house for interesting things to add to
your still-life.
 
My friend Carol was out for her daily walk and found this chair
in somebody's garbage.  She actually carried it for a full mile
to her house thinking I could use it as a photo prop!
 
I spray painted it pink and was excited to use it for a still-life photo.
 
 
My friend Rol lives on a few acres of land and much of it
is untouched nature.   I look along the edge of his driveway
for seasonal wildflowers or tall grasses.

 
I don't have to go too deep into the thick of things to find
beautiful settings for my still-lifes.
 
 
First I photographed with my still life facing the sun.
You can see in this next photo that the scene is flat and rather boring.
I see annoying shadows on the chair which always happen
when a person or still-life is facing the sun.
 
This is why I much prefer to backlight.  I want to play with the light!
 
 
 I turned my scene around so the sun is shining behind my
still-life set up. 
 
I shot this while standing and it's still boring.
 
At this height, I am not capturing the sun shining through
the greens.  It looks flat and lifeless.
 
 
So, I stoop down and now I am seeing the light
in the background which gives the photo depth
and interest.
 
I shot this in aperture priority mode at f/11.
The tiny aperture allows for a deeper depth of field
so more of the scene is in focus.
 
 
Next, I opened the aperture all the way on my
Canon 50mm 1.4 lens.
 
A large aperture creates a shallow depth of field so much
less of the scene will be in focus.
 
Here I focused on the pink watering can and just about
everything else has some blur.
 
It's also MUCH prettier!  See how the light in the
background created beautiful blur?
That's called bokeh  (Pronounced BO-kah) and it is
highly desirable in photo backgrounds!
 
 
I played with different angles, but
notice I am still crouching down with my aperture open to get
that magical light and beautiful bokeh.
 
 
Look at the dramatic bokeh in close-ups!
 
 
Here's another still-life I shot in my backyard against
a dark green tree line.  Boring with no bokeh!
 
 
So I moved my still-life to an area of the tree line where the
trees were lower, thus I was able to infuse light and
create dazzling bokeh.
 
Bokeh is created by light shining around something and trees are
perfect for creating bokeh!   If your lens doesn't open to 1.4...
place your still life far away from your background to get the bokeh.
 
 
Moving just a tad, I was able to capture some
natural sun haze which I think is pretty.
 
 
Close-ups, shot low with sun and trees in the
background will create the pretty bokeh.
 
 
Find all kinds of fun things to photograph in your home.
Use interesting tables, chairs, table linens, vases, and flowers!
Fake flowers photograph beautifully.
 
To see my still-lifes from this summer, CLICK HERE.
 
These tips should light up your outdoor summer still-life photos.