HOW TO TAKE PICTURES OF FOOD!

This is a subject I haven’t done in a while. It seems that not many people take food pictures, so, I really haven’t done a blog on food photography in a long while. (This blog site is almost 5 years old). But, sometimes when I get on Facebook, or some other social media, I find people taking pictures of their food they just cooked, and wanting to show everyone. Dang, it looks good too! At least the food. But, sometimes the food I see posted would look really good if they knew how to take pictures of food. DO YOU FALL INTO THAT CATEGORY? Do you take pictures of food, but, just do standard snapshots? Well, let’s see if I can help you with that.

Here is a great article from AMY RENFREY Posted at Picture/Correct that is perfect. Read through this and see if this will help:

Photographing food is a lot more difficult than it seems. Not only do we have to work to get the right composition but we have to use light in a very specific way. We then need to style the look of the food in order to make it appealing. In this article I’ll give you some handy tips for creating tasty and mouthwatering images.

“Homemade Hamburger with Bacon” captured by Daniel Carlbom

Helpful Tips for Lighting Your Food

Food photography looks good if the food shows textures. Texture is a vital factor to making food sell. Enhancing texture is done through side lighting. Side lighting reveals texture, as it brings out the brighter areas and shadows on the food to make it more appealing to the viewer.

“Fresh Tomatoes” captured by Jens Cramer

A lot of food photos are taken using the soft, diffused light from a window. Window light is subtle light that works to emphasize contrast without really having to do anything overly specialized. Many food photographers use a softbox to create that “clean and white” look, but they never light the front of the food.

Don’t Light Food from the Front

Beautiful food photography relies upon the angle of light for contrast to create texture. Even the most even surfaced foods, like cheese, need side lighting to generate some appeal. If the food is lit front-on we lose the texture that side lighting offers. Flat light can make food to appear boring and tasteless.

Control Light With a Gobo

Side lighting, using diffused window or softbox light is a common way to light food; yet sometimes we don’t want light on one part of the food. In this situation we need something to reduce the light on that area. This is where your trusty gobo comes in handy. A gobo is a go-between. It’s a portion of black material or cardboard that reduces the lighting in one section of the image. I use a range of gobos to cut light out of a food image. I have large and small ones that help me do this. These pieces of black cardboard cost me under ten dollars from an office supply shop.

Cutting light from food shots using a gobo is commonly used in a rustic type of food image. Food images of country kitchens, wooden benches, and old cutlery are things that come to mind when thinking of darker, dimly lit food photos. Many wholesome food products are photographed this way. Foods such as brown bread on wooden boards, homemade vegetable soups, and pasta and rice are examples of foods used in a country shoot.

Add Another Diffused Light Source for Bright Images

On the other hand you can use the “bright light, white” technique of shooting, as well. You may have seen brightly lit photos of breakfast cereal like puffed rice, sweet cakes, and biscuits. This approach simply uses side lighting and another light to illuminate the background. Softboxes, white shoot-through umbrellas, and reflectors are utilized in this style of food photography.

Food photography is a lot of fun but very demanding work. It’s incredibly meticulous and fastidious at the best of times. If you like still life and paying attention to finer details, food photography might be right for you.

About the Author:
Amy Renfrey writes for DigitalPhotographySuccess. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (Drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students.

Here is some more great food photos:

fries and steak on white ceramic plate
Photo by Carlo Fuentelsaz on Pexels.com
blur breakfast close up dairy product
Photo by Ash on Pexels.com
cherries
Photo by Анна Галашева on Pexels.com

If you would like instructions on how to create your own light box, click the link below:

Understanding depth of field for beginners (or for the pros)

Depth of Field for Beginners

You may have heard the term depth of field (DoF), but if you are new to photography you may not yet be taking advantage of how DoF can enhance your photos.

A basic definition of depth of field is: the zone of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus. In every picture there is a certain area of your image in front of, and behind the subject that will appear in focus.

Understanding depth of field in photography.

This zone will vary from photo to photo. Some images may have very small zones of focus which is called shallow depth of field.

Here’s a series of images with very shallow depth of field.

Others may have a very large zone of focus which is called deep depth of field.

Here’s a collection of images with much deeper depths of field.

Three main factors that will affect how you control the depth of field of your images are: aperture (f-stop), distance from the subject to the camera, and focal length of the lens on your camera. Here are some explanations and answers to other common questions concerning depth of field.

How does aperture control depth of field?

Aperture refers to the access given to light from the lens to the camera sensors. The size of your aperture (the diameter of the hole through which light enters the camera) controls the amount of light entering your lens. Using the aperture (f-stop) of your lens is the simplest way to control your depth of field as you set up your shot.

Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field

It may be easier to remember this simple concept: The lower your f-number, the smaller your depth of field. Likewise, the higher your f-number, the larger your depth of field. For example, using a setting of f/2.8 will produce a very shallow depth of field while f/11 will produce a deeper DoF

The image on the left was captured at 250th of a second at F5.0 which resulted in a very shallow depth of field,
The image on the left was captured at 250th of a second at f/5.0 which resulted in a very shallow depth of field. Because of this the background is out of focus allowing the subject to stand out. The image on the right was captured at 1/5th of a second at f/32 which created a deep depth of field and a sharper background.

How does distance control depth of field?

The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower your depth of field becomes. Therefore, moving further away from your subject will deepen your depth of field.

How does the focal length of a lens control depth of field?

Focal Length refers to the capability of a lens to magnify the image of a distant subject. This can get complicated, but the simple answer is that the longer you set your focal length the shallower the depth of field. Example: Your subject is 10 meters (33 feet) away, using a focal length of 50mm at f/4; your depth of field range would be from 7.5 -14.7 meters (24.6-48 feet) for a total DOF of 7.2 meters (23.6 feet). If you zoom into 100mm from the same spot, the depth of field changes to 9.2-10.9m (30.1-35.8′) for a total of 1.7m (5.7′) of depth of field. But if you move to 20m (66′) away from your subject using the 100mm lens, your depth of field is almost the same as it would be at 10 meters using a 50mm lens.

Image of a swan hiding in the tall grass captured from about 5 meters with 300 mm focal length created a DOF only about 5cm.
This image of a swan hiding in the tall foliage was captured from about 5m (16′) with a 300mm focal length lens. This combination of focal length and distance created a depth of field of approximately 5cm (2″).

What if I just have a point and shoot camera, or don’t know how to change those settings?

Even with a point and shoot camera, there are ways to control your depth of field. In the Scene Modes menu, look for a symbol of a human head, which is the setting for portraits. This will give you a narrow depth of field. In the same menu there is also a mountain symbol, which is a setting for landscapes, which will give you a deeper depth of field.

If you are a beginner with a DSLR there are some simple ways you can control depth of field and still use and automatic shooting mode. By choosing Aperture Priority mode you can set your aperture to get the depth of field that you want, and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed.

Can I set the depth of field exactly for each situation?

Yes, but because changing your aperture affects your shutter speed, the result may not meet the needs of your image. For instance, if you are trying to increase your depth of field by reducing aperture size you will also need to increase (slow down) your shutter speed which could make your image blurry. Understanding how all these settings work together can increase your control over depth of field.

Is depth of field equally distributed in front and back of my focus point?

No, it’s usually about one third in front and two thirds behind your focal point, but as your focal length increases it becomes more equal.

How will understanding depth of field improve my images?

Managing depth of field is one of the most important tools at your disposal, because having tack sharp images is one of the most important factors to getting that great shot. Knowing how to make the parts of your image you want sharp and the parts you want to be out of focus, is a great artistic tool to create great images.

Getting the right DOF for your shot can make the difference
Getting the right depth of field for your shot can make all the difference.

When should I use a shallow depth of field?

Using a shallow depth of field is a good way to make your subject stand out from its background and is great for portrait photography. Shallow DoF can also be useful in wildlife photography, where you want the subject to stand out from its surroundings. This is also useful because many wildlife photo opportunities are low light situations, and increasing your aperture size will give you more light. Shallow depth of field is also effective for sports photography where many times you want to separate the athlete from the background to bring attention to them. The result of this should also help give you a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

This image captured at 300mm focal length and F/ produced a very shallow DOF. Because of this very shallow DOF it is important to set your focal point on the eye. Notice how the bird appears to pop out from the background.
This image captured at 300mm focal length and f/5.6 produced a very shallow depth of field. Because of this, it is important to set your focal point on the subject’s eye. Notice how the bird pops out from the background.

When should I use deeper depth of field?

In landscape photography it is important to get as much of your scene in focus as possible. By using a wide angle lens and a small aperture you will be able maximize your depth of field to get your scene in focus.

In this landscape captured at 50mm at F/16 Focus point was set at 8 meters which made everything from 4 meters to infinity in focus
This landscape was captured with a 50mm focal length at f/16. The focus point was set at 8 meters, which made everything from 4 meters to infinity in focus

How can you determine depth of field?

There are several on-line sites that will provide depth of field charts for your camera and lenses. Also, there are a number of apps available for smart phone users that can calculate it for you while you’re in the field. Most cameras have a DoF preview button which will give you a preview as you look through the eye piece. (This is probably the easiest and most under-utilized method.) Using this button may cause your image to appear darker as you view it through the eye piece, but not to worry. Your image will be properly exposed as long as you have the correct exposure settings.

Can depth of field be adjusted to get everything in focus?

Yes, using what is called the hyperfocal distance. When you are focused at the hyperfocal distance, your depth of field will extend from half the distance to your focal point to infinity. Use a DOF calculator to find your hyperfocal distance. If you don’t have a DoF calculator, a good rule of thumb is to focus a third of the way into the scene. Using an aperture of about f/11 or higher with a wide angle lens will maximize your depth of field.

What about depth of field in macro photography?

Because most macro images are produced in low light and with a longer focal length, the depth of field is often very shallow. Adjust your lens to the smallest aperture that the light will allow. It may also be necessary to increase your ISO to allow you to properly expose the image and to maximize your depth of field. Still, in many macro images your DoF may be very minute. With this very narrow focus it becomes necessary to use a tripod, because even the slightest movement of the camera will move your macro subject outside your depth of field.

120 mm Marco at F8 still is a very shallow DOF with the lens only 15 cm from the focal point on the front flower.
This 120 mm macro even at f/8 still has a very shallow depth of field.

What is bokeh?

Bokeh (boh-ke) comes from the Japanese word meaning blur. This effect is produced by the out-of-focus areas in your image that are beyond the depth of field. Bokeh commonly refers to the pleasing circle shapes caused by the shape of the lens aperture. Usually created when shooting with your aperture wide open, such as f/2.8, bokeh can also be created with smaller apertures if the background is distant enough.

Bokeh in this image caused by the distance from the subject to the background which fell well beyond the DOF
Bokeh in this image was created by the distance of the subject to the background, which fell well beyond the depth of field.

To summarize controlling depth of field:

Increase depth of field

  • Narrow your aperture (larger f-number)
  • Move farther from the subject
  • Shorten focal length

Decrease depth of field

  • Widen your aperture (smaller f-number)
  • Move closer to the subject
  • Lengthen your focal length

Take control of your depth of field. Understanding how these adjustments control your it will greatly improve your photography. What questions do you have about depth of field?

The post Understanding Depth of Field for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

Here are some more amazing photos demonstrating depth of field:

aromatherapy beautiful blooming blur
Photo by Palo Cech on Pexels.com
orange tabby cat near window
Photo by Wojciech Kumpicki on Pexels.com
photography of woman surrounded by sunflowers
Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com
autumn autumn leaves blur close up
Photo by Valiphotos on Pexels.com

Learning photography from artists like: Van Gogh

If you are a good photographer, do you consider your photos to be art? Photography is just another form of art, and once you master all the basics of photography, then one thing you can do is to study art from the best artists. And I do mean you can learn from artists like Van Gogh.

I found this amazing article from THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL that helped me to get a better feel of thinking that photography is also an art, and should be treated that way. Let’s read this article:

In keeping myself motivated as a photographer, I love to look for inspiration from all across the creative spectrum. Today I want to share some ideas with you from the painter Van Gogh that I hope will bring some exciting new ideas for your photography.

I love who I am when I am taking photos. It is one of my favourite things, and I would imagine it’s the same for you. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

To have my camera in my hand, exploring, finding beautiful light, and capturing interesting people I meet along the way, is immensely satisfying and massively fun. 

However, life often gets in the way (who’d have thought it!), and I get distracted and lose my creative energy.

For example, I have too many conversations with my accountant, or I am doing a lot of admin or rushing around doing the tasks that are super important to make my life function but aren’t conducive to creativity.

I have been a photographer for over two decades, and I know that making time for being creative is really good for me. Of course, it’s good for my career as a whole, but more than anything, it makes me happy!

And don’t we always need more things to be happy about? 

These ideas are timeless because they remind us what we love to do, and why – take photos, be creative, and make things.

van gogh and photography

I’ve also included some ideas that are reassuring – offering guidance on some of the common challenges that we all face as creative people. 

So let’s get started!

1. “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” Vincent Van Gogh

One thing I regularly hear from people when they arrive on my photography workshops is how they can’t do things. 

It could be: I can’t be creative! Or I can’t shoot on manual, it’s impossible for me! 

To me, this is just a habitual way of thinking that is not based on facts. Just because we can’t do something now, does not mean we will never be able to.

It is therefore an uncomfortable and unfamiliar feeling for us to be faced with things that we don’t understand, and so we really struggle with learning. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

Photography almost always shows us the things we have struggled in the past to do. Because photography is a unity of skills – the ethereal concept of creativity and the highly technical world of cameras, computers, and post-processing software

Many of my students fall into two camps: those who are comfortable with the technical, but not the ‘arty/creative’ side of photography. Or the reverse: very intimidated by tech, gear, etc but very comfortable with the idea of being creative.

If, though, we want to get really confident in photography (and we should because otherwise, why would you be drawn to this medium?), we have to overcome the discomfort and look to learn about these things we struggle with.

Here I can offer some inspiration. It is possible for anyone to learn anything. No one is too far gone, too un-creative or un-technical. It just comes down to belief. Can you believe you can find ways to learn what you need to learn to become comfortable and confident shooting? 

If you say yes, you are halfway there. Saying yes to learning is the first step. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

“Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. When I believe I can, I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi

And how about we just decide to be people who are learning new things? Be like Van Gogh and always be doing things we don’t know how to do.

2. “Seek only light and freedom and do not immerse yourself too deeply in the worldly mire.” Vincent Van Gogh

This talks about how much we need to detach ourselves from normal life, and the endless tasks of our lives in order to create. Being creative connects us to the world in a completely different way to how we normally live. 

In ‘normal’ life, we are living on the surface. We are doing a lot, we are being busy, we are jumping from task to task. We are responding. And that’s all totally necessary to take care of our lives. 

But it is not the only way to live. It’s the least enriching, and least satisfying way to live. 

And it’s definitely not the mode to be in when you’re being creative. 

van gogh and photography

When you are out shooting, when you are creating something, it has to come from a different part of you. Because taking photos is the work of the soul, not the mind.

It’s diving deep into yourself and using everything you are, everything that you’ve experienced, known and loved, and bringing that out in your images. 

But real life knocks very loudly and getting yourself into your creative flow state can be challenging. Even I, a professional photographer who shoots all the time, find it hard sometimes to switch off my mind when it starts reminding me about my mundane daily tasks.

So what I do when I am finding it hard to connect to my inner creative spirit, the inspiration I seek when I am out shooting is finding other ways to stoke my creativity

That either involves going out into nature, searching for beautiful light or looking at other artists and what they have created.

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

I also love to read about what my favourite artists have said about making things, because it helps inspire me and helps me leap into a state of wanting to go out and create beautiful photos. 

When Van Gogh said “The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting,” feels mostly very true to me.

We are rarely totally living in the moment, totally alive to everything that is around us, connecting to the world that we see.

Totally normal of course, we all do it. But I also think it’s important to carve out time to have those moments of deep fulfillment, of connection, deep beauty, and joy. This is what photography brings into my life. The chance to slow down, to see and be present for what life is. 

3. “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh 

Photography is an inner game. 

Taking good photos has nothing to do with your current skills or your ability to nail sharpness or your exposure. It’s everything to do with what you believe about yourself and what you believe is possible for you.

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

If you start with this idea of not being able to do something,  you won’t be able to do it. You have to overcome that mind of yours that loves to remind you of your inadequacies.

But it is also to say that all people who create, have fear. You are not alone when your mind tells you you’re not much of a photographer, or you might as well as give up because your photos are boring.

Your job is to ignore whatever rubbish your mind is saying about your photography, as Van Gogh says, and silence your mind by doing

Creativity comes from such a magical and mysterious place– you can’t just find it anywhere. You can’t quantify it or set an exam for it. The fact that there is often no way to quantify if your photos are any good can create some anxiety.

The way to overcome this is to just get started. Just go out and shoot. Don’t worry if it’s going to come out well or not. Don’t pre-analyze what you may or may not achieve or what you are or are not.

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

The mind is clearly an incredible organ, but it’s not always on your side. It can dissuade you from doing things you love before you’ve even got started, so regardless of the outcome, go out and shoot and love the experience. 

4. “Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.”Vincent Van Gogh

It’s really easy to get so familiar with our world that we stop seeing what is beautiful and awe-inspiring in the world around us. It’s normal to see your everyday environment and not be inspired by what’s there. Our eyes get dulled to the familiar world around us. 

That’s often why we travel or go to new places, to see new things. 

But here is a big change we can make right here and now in our photography. When we are prepared to really find the magical and beautiful in life, wherever we are; when we can learn to be impressed and excited about what is, we will see more and more opportunities for photos. 

We don’t need to travel or find new things to be inspired to shoot, we just need to connect with what is enchanting in this crazy, wild, and incredible world. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

5. “Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.” Vincent Van Gogh

In many ways, I think learning photography now is harder than in the past. And that’s not because there are so many photographers, or because of smartphones, etc. Instead, it’s because of the amount of information out there, and the multitude of opinions. 

The internet has given us so much incredible access to information and to communities and groups where we can share our photos. But often, instead of it being an empowering experience, it can become disheartening. You can get into the habit of judging your photos on how many ‘likes’ they receive.

When you post your photos online, you can get a whole raft of opinion back that is often useless for your photography. 

People who aren’t necessarily any more experienced than you will share their random thoughts. (And I can guarantee there are very few professional photographers hanging out online doing constructive criticism on photos.) It’s also so easy to get dissuaded by what other people say about your images. 

van gogh and photography

To make something unique and interesting, and to shoot with creative freedom, you need to be very careful about where you get feedback and who is giving it. You need to give most of your time creating images. Then find people you really trust – whose photography you admire – and seek feedback from them.

That’s how you can learn to grow and get better as a photographer. 

6. “It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.” Vincent Van Gogh

Photography often becomes viewed as a series of technical tasks that need to be learned. To learn the way of the camera is to unlock all the gifts of photography. 

For me that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The camera is merely the tool to execute your vision. That’s not to say the tool doesn’t have lots of cool and exciting features. I mean, I love tech, and I love what it can do. However, all of that gear is not going to get you great shots if you don’t know how to see, use your imagination, and bring feeling to your photos. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

The key to accessing amazing photos all around you is to start to really learn to see.

You might say – but of course, I can see what’s around me! But you would be wrong. There is so much visual information around us, that our brain blocks out most of what is there. What we end up seeing is a mere fraction (less than one percent) of what is going on around us.

What is even more surreal is that because of how our brains like to make our lives as easy and simple as possible and to create habits in how we think and do things, we often see the same things over and over. We don’t notice the different things in our environment.

If you think about a street you’ve maybe walked down hundreds of times and all of sudden you have the urge to look up to the tops of the buildings. And it’s like – wow, I don’t remember seeing that.

This happens all the time with everything in our world.

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

Therefore, it is a good job as a photographer, to learn to open our awareness. Learn to see beyond what our brains feed us. Learn to look for a long time, and pay attention to what is around us. 

This helps to develop our patience too. Developing patience in looking for shots is a great skill to nurture as a photographer. I find people are usually too quick to move on from a scene or a subject.

When we are patient and take that extra time working on a scene or subject, we often find more qualities of the subject are revealed. More ideas spring to mind too. Perhaps things in the moment change; like the light or things moving around the subject, thus, changing the possibilities of the photo.

Learn to really look at the world and it will open up so many incredible facets to your photography. 

7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

7. “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” Vincent Van Gogh

Completely. 

I don’t just mean nature in a traditional sense – the beautiful flowers, people, or landscapes. It’s when we bring the idea of beauty into our photography that we see that we can capture what is beautiful to us, in any guise. 

For me, it’s often the interplay of cities and nature. The smash of orange fruit on the tarmac. The gorgeous colors of the sunrise above a housing complex.  Or the dramatic, metallic grey of a sky before a storm. 

I would actually expand this idea to say there is beauty in all things, you just need to develop your ability to see and find it all around you. 

Conclusion

I hope you found these ideas from Van Gogh useful for your photography. I would love to know what you thought, and if any of these ideas felt like they inspired or taught you something valuable. Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

The post 7 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

Other amazing photos that are inspiring, like art:

person walking near columns
Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com
hands in front of white and black background
Photo by Matheus Viana on Pexels.com
abstract art artistic autumn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
artistic eye makeup
Photo by Jessica Gaudioso on Pexels.com
silhouette photo of trees
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com
three women wearing turbands
Photo by Dazzle Jam on Pexels.com

HOW TO PREDICT DRAMATIC SUNSETS

Sunset photos are probably the most loved photos people take pictures of. Sometimes you wait for the perfect sunset, and it never comes. Well, I just found an amazing article on How to Predict a Good Sunset. This has helped me tremendously, and I hope it helps you:

Summer sunset over Marietta Ohio just after a storm had past through earlier in the afternoon.
“Red Sky”  Summer sunset over Marietta, Ohio

One question every child asks is, “Why is the sky blue?” But let’s look at why is the sky red at Sunset. Light from the sun is made up of all the colors in the rainbow. As the sunlight enters the earth’s atmosphere, the short wavelength of blue light is scattered in all directions, more than any of the other colors, causing the sky to be blue during the day.

At sunrise and sunset, the light has farther to travel due to the low angle of the sun in the sky. This causes the blue light to be blocked and scattered away, allowing the longer wavelengths of red and yellow colors to appear in the sky.

I am sure you wish there was some magic formula that could tell you exactly the night for photographing a beautiful sunset? It’s not that easy, but hopefully, we can discover some ways to increase your odds.

Let’s take a closer look at some other factors that will help you predict brilliantly-colored sunsets.

You have no doubt heard the saying “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight”. This saying can also help you predict sunsets (and sunrises) if you know the weather forecast. Look for a red sky at sunrise ahead of a storm and at sunset after a storm. Knowing what to expect weather-wise is key to anticipating the right conditions for a shoot, so the first thing you need to do is find a good weather app or website.

A website such as Intellicast.com will give you a detailed hourly report for key factors: cloud cover, air quality, humidity, and wind speed.

Winter sunset after a snow storm.
Winter sunset after a snow storm.

Clouds and Cloud Cover

Clouds are a crucial factor to predicting dramatic sunsets, for without clouds there is not much to see.

One common misconception of brilliant sunsets is that clouds create the colors; in reality clouds only serve as the canvas to display the colors that the light is painting. High to mid-level clouds are the most effective canvases, as they will reflect the colors of the setting sun. Puffy clouds on the horizon at sunset will more than likely not allow the sun rays to pass through them, thus muting the colors. Lower clouds (such as dark rain-filled clouds) are not very helpful at reflecting much light.

If the clouds on the horizon are low and thick, the sun will not be able to shine through them. It is also worth noting that too many or too few clouds can be detrimental for an optimal photo, so check out your detailed weather report for cloud cover percentages between 30 to 70 percent at sunset.

You can observe cloud conditions in the afternoon and if the sky looks favorable, you can hope that these clouds will still be present at sunset. No guarantees, but if there is not much wind these clouds may stick around to create a beautiful sunset.

A brief description of fair weather clouds that may produce dramatic sunsets:

  • Cirrocumulus Clouds – These look like ripples on water. Blue sky is the usual backdrop.
  • Altocumulus Clouds – Often occur in sheets or patches with wavy, rounded masses or rolls, like little cotton balls. They are generally white or grey and usually appear after a storm.
  • Cumulus Clouds – Easily recognizable, large, white, and fluffy, often with flat bases.
  • Cirrus Clouds – Generally characterized by thin, wispy strands. These clouds arrive in advance of frontal systems indicating that weather conditions may soon deteriorate. Nevertheless, these are one of the best kind for photographing dramatic sunsets!
DSC_1917
If you see this kind of sky in the afternoon with calm winds, chances are good you are in for something special at sunset.
5939386215_2d2133ebcc_o

Clean Air

Clean air is very effective at scattering the blue light. For this reason, one of the best times for dramatic sunsets is right after a rain or wind storm. While lower clouds rarely reflect brilliant colors (as mentioned above), note that where the lower atmosphere is especially clean, as in over open oceans in tropical regions, more vivid colors are allowed pass through. This is the reason so many beautiful sunset images are captured in the tropics.

Humidity

The amount of humidity in the air will also have an effect on the colors of your sunset. Lower humidity will produce more vibrant colors. With higher humidity, the colors will be muted because of the water content in the atmosphere. The seasons of autumn and winter typically produce lower humidity than in the warmer seasons.

Wind

Wind is a factor that can either enhance or destroy a beautiful sunset. A change in wind direction can cause the clouds to develop ripples or billows, which can create a beautiful effect as the setting sun reflects a nice red glow onto the ripples.

Also, as established earlier, clean air will produce more brilliant colors, and a nice breeze before sunset can help clear the air.

Unfortunately, the wind can become a negative factor on those days when favorable clouds are present in the afternoon, but a weather front moves through with strong winds that remove those clouds and leave you with a clear sky at sunset.

This is another instance when a good weather app or weather website can give you an indication on its radar as to when a front may move through your area.

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To summarize your sunset prediction, look for:

  • Mid to high-level clouds
  • 30 to 70 percent cloud coverage
  • Clean air
  • Lower humidity
  • Calm winds

A final thought to consider when photographing sunsets – sometimes the afterglow of the sunset, which can occur 15 to 20 minutes after the sun goes behind the horizon, can be much more spectacular than the actual sunset.

Generally, all these weather-related rules also apply to photographing sunrise, but the visual signs are more difficult to spot since it is darkest before the dawn. A good time to photograph at sunrise is in the fall and winter when it occurs later in the day than in the summer months.

The post How to Predict Dramatic Sunsets appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

More great sunset photos:

symmetrical photography of clouds covered blue sky
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com
light sea dawn landscape
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
beach birds calm clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
brown and green grass field during sunset
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Expanding Your Photographic Creativity !

The new year has come and gone and we find ourselves well and truly into 2020. Traditionally, many significant goals are made around the new year mark. But setting goals is a great way to work towards achieving a desired outcome at any time of the year. So why wait? Here are some simple creativity goals you can set yourself to expand on your photographic practice right now.

creativity goals post-it notes

Goal 1: try new subject matter

There’s nothing wrong with specialising, but branching out in photography can often reveal surprising creative opportunities.

For the first of our creativity goals, grab a pen and paper. Your task is to list at least 10 subjects that interest you but that you haven’t photographed in a while (if at all). Bugs, aviation, food, architecture… the list can be as varied as you’d like.

Once you’ve finished compiling your list, narrow your results down to the three most appealing (and doable) options. You want topics that interest you, but are also realistic and achievable.

creativity goals photographing insects
One of my chosen subjects for this goal was insects. f/4.5 1/1600 ISO 640

Once you’ve decided on your top three, set a reasonable time frame to photograph your chosen subject matter (it can be weeks, months or even years!).

You may also need to consider what photographic equipment you require for your goal. And don’t forget to do your research. Good research into a subject and a realistic time frame will help you make an actionable plan to achieve your creativity goals.

Keep your list nearby as motivation. You could stick it on the fridge, or in your camera bag…somewhere that will remind you of your goal. You could even use the list as a check-list of sorts. The point is that you have identified topics of interest and made a commitment to work towards a corresponding goal.

By creating a list of new subject matter, doing the research, and setting an actionable goal, you’ve already created a solid foundation from which to launch into new photographic opportunities.

Goal 2: room for improvement

Goal setting is a great way to check-in with your own creative process. Grab yourself another sheet of paper and a pen (don’t worry, the whole article isn’t about list-making) and jot down two or three aspects that might be hindering your creative practice. Some ideas are:

  • Running low on time for creativity
  • Lack of photographic direction or improvement
  • Difficulty with the technical aspects of photography
  • Suffering from creative blocks
  • A decrease in inspiration

Next, write some actionable goals that will make a positive impact in the areas you’ve identified as needing improvement. Here’s my list:

  1. Running short on time – dedicate 30 minutes to creativity a day – 1 week
  2. Creative block – photograph at least one favourite subject each week – 1 month

You’ll notice I also added a time frame to complete or perform these goals – this will give you motivation, and a concrete idea of how your goal will impact your practice.

Again, choose a realistic time frame. You can always elect to tackle a goal for a week and then expand the duration from there.

creativity goals abstract photography in black and white
Photographing a favourite subject regularly is a goal that can keep you motivated within your creative practice. f/4.0 1/100 ISO 100

Put your list on your cork board, in your organiser, as an alarm on your phone…whatever works. The list serves as a reminder for you to make time for growing your own practice.

Do your best to achieve the creativity goals you’ve set, but don’t worry if you can’t get everything done. Goal setting is about gradual growth, and every small step toward your goal is a victory. Just do your best!

Goal 3: try new tools and techniques

Not everyone has a spare camera, lens, tripod, etc laying around. But if you do, setting a dedicated goal to put some of your underused equipment to good use is a great way to expand your creativity. The same goes for testing out some new photographic techniques.

blurred and abstract photography creativity goals
Adopting a goal to take up blurred or abstract photography is a great way to expand your creativity. f/1.8 1/320 ISO 800

You don’t have to set a terribly elaborate goal to make a difference. Committing to experimenting with an old lens can offer a completely new perspective.

Shooting with film for a month can test your photographic approach.

Setting a goal to get out of Auto Mode or tackling a new technique each week in-camera or in Photoshop will grow your practice significantly. Setting creativity goals based around new tools and techniques challenges your photographic approach, thus, building your creative repertoire.

Goal 4: taking time out for inspiration

We touched on this before, but inspiration can be a fleeting phenomenon. One minute you’re bursting at the seams with creativity and then running on empty the next.

Creativity goals inspire us to take the time to do a stock-take on our own creative levels. Everyone feels creatively drained from time to time, but making a dedicated gap in your schedule to check-in with what is going on in the artistic sphere creates more opportunities for gathering inspiration and technical knowledge.

research creativity goals in photography
f/2.2 1/80 ISO 200

Start by setting a goal to dedicate at least 15-30 minutes per day for a week to inspiration. Reading books, going to exhibitions, researching websites (like Digital Photography School of course!), filling up a visual diary, and even checking Instagram can all contribute to a greater grasp of photographic theory and execution.

Motivational text for creativity goals

Once your set period of inspirational activities is over, review and make adjustments to your goal so it better suits your daily regimen.

Then…start again!

Soon, you’ll be in the habit of surrounding yourself with inspirational resources that recharge your creative practice and keep you abreast of creative possibilities and solutions.

Conclusion

Goal setting may seem daunting at first. However, once you break the process down, the usefulness and accessibility of goal-making become more apparent.

Goals encourage us to take active steps towards bettering our photographic practice. By making creativity goals, we commit to expanding our creativity incrementally, bettering our theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

The post 4 Goals to Set for Expanding Your Photographic Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Creative photos to think about:

man holding ice cream cone under cloud
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com
close up photo of cat s eye
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com
assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl
Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com
woman with floral headdress lying on green leaf plants
Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu on Pexels.com
art attractive beautiful beauty
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com