ADD “BOKEH” TO YOUR PHOTOS:

woman holding fireflies
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

What is Bokeh?

I don’t know if this is a new fad in photography, but, it seems to be a very popular item lately. Take a look at the photo above. See in the background and the foreground, those out of focus lights that look like “blurry lights” ? That is the Bokeh! And it can add a lot of interest to your photos.

Just to clarify, I have found a photo that has Bokeh in it, and circled those lights that give us the “bokeh” effect. They are circled in yellow:

I went to my usual photo collection sites, and typed in “Bokeh” and got a ton of photos like this:

yellow bokeh photo
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

That kind of photo is not something I like a lot. I just wouldn’t hang that on the wall. I like them in the background of the main subject, something like this:

close up photo of mushrooms
Photo by Visually Us on Pexels.com – See the blue “Bokeh” in the background?

If you want to put Bokeh in your photos, you will need to do the following:

USE THE RIGHT LENS:

Bokeh starts with lens choice. Go for a lens with a wide maximum aperture (ideally, f/2.8 or wider, but f/4 can work, too).

If possible, pick a lens with a high number of aperture blades (remember: the more circular the aperture shape, the better!).

And go with a standard or telephoto focal length, not wide angle.

SELECT A LARGE APERTURE

Bokeh is only affected by one camera setting: the aperture. So make it count!

For the strongest bokeh effect, dial in your lens’s lowest f-number. (Though if your lens goes to f/1.2 or f/1.4 and you’re shooting from up close, you may want to narrow the aperture just a bit to prevent your subject from going out of focus.)

If you’re not sure how to adjust the aperture, by the way, consult your camera manual. You’ll generally need to shift the mode dial to manual mode or Aperture priority mode, then rotate the corresponding aperture dial until it gives you the result you want (though some lenses offer an aperture ring on the barrel, which you can turn to manually set the aperture).

selective focus photography of light bulbs
Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT

Determine the subject you want to photograph, then get close. Remember, you can either move close physically, or you can use a long lens for a tighter perspective.

If you have the time, try both; the effect will be slightly different in each case (longer lenses compress the background, which gives smooth bokeh, but you may lose a bit of intimacy), and you may find you prefer one look over the other.

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POSITION YOUR SUBJECT TO GET THE BEST BACKGROUND

If you can move your subject (or, in the case of portraits, if you can ask your subject to move), then put them in front of a uniform, non-distracting background.

And bring them far away from the background, so the bokeh effect is more pronounced.

If you can’t move your subject, then try to adjust your perspective. By getting down low, you can remove distracting background details from the frame; by moving to the side, you can increase subject-background distance; and so on.

beige a freestanding letter decor
Photo by Arun Kumar on Pexels.com

DIAL IN YOUR REMAINING SETTINGS FOR A GOOD EXPOSURE:

At this point, you’ve done everything you can for the best-possible bokeh.

So determine the remaining settings you need for a good exposure (e.g., your shutter speed and your ISO). Focus on your subject. Check one last time to ensure the background doesn’t include any distractions.

And take your photo!

After you capture a shot or two, check your camera’s LCD. Pay careful attention to the quality of the background. Ask yourself: How does the bokeh look? Is there anything I can change to make it better?

person pouring wine on glass
Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

CONCLUSION

This is a wonderful thing to try if you haven’t yet. If you are doing it for a customer, or even yourself, you will find you will love the effect. Good luck!

UNDERSTANDING “RAW” AND “JPEG”

The back of a DSLR camera and showing the settings

If this title sounds a bit technical, then you are right. But to some photographers, this is totally something they are used to working with all the time. So, for you new photographers, and those who haven’t tried RAW format yet, I hope to clarify today, exactly why there are 2 different formats to your camera, and why you would use either one.

WHAT’S THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO FORMATS?

These days, pretty much every camera – including smart-phones, has the option to shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both. These are file formats, simply different ways of rendering and storing your image after you hit the shutter button.

However, while both RAWs and JPEGs will do a decent job of faithfully capturing a scene, they aren’t equally capable and do offer different functionalities, benefits, and drawbacks.

So let’s look at some quick definitions before doing an in-depth comparison:

WHAT IS “RAW” FILE?

RAW files are unprocessed, unfiltered, raw data that comes straight from your image sensor.

Therefore, a RAW file cannot be viewed by the human eye (it’s not a visual display!), and must be converted to another file format such as a JPEG or a TIFF for actual viewing. In other words, it is only data. It is not an image.

Because RAW files are unprocessed, they have zero sharpening, chromatic aberration removal, saturation, contrast, etc., applied to them. In fact, when RAW files are initially rendered for viewing, they tend to look quite unimpressive, with low contrast, low saturation, and a touch of softness.

Note that different cameras produce different RAW files, such as .CR2, .NEF, and .CR3. So when processing a RAW file, your software must be compatible with the specific RAW format.

WHAT IS A “JPEG” FILE?

A JPEG is a standard image file format that’s readable by pretty much every image program on the market, as well as internet browsers. In other words, a JPEG is an essentially universal method of displaying images.

However, unlike a RAW file, a JPEG is a processed version of an image. In fact, a JPEG image always starts out as a RAW file, but then undergoes various modifications, often including:

  • Compression (where some image data is deliberately discarded)
  • Sharpening
  • Increased saturation
  • Increased contrast

This processing occurs in your camera, by the way, not on the computer (though you can certainly further process a JPEG in a program such as Lightroom). So as soon as you put your memory card into your laptop and pull up a JPEG, it’s already been edited in camera.

THE BENEFITS OF SHOOTING IN “RAW”:

Remember how I mentioned that JPEG files are compressed and are missing data, whereas RAW files are, well, raw?

This comes with a serious consequence: RAW files can be converted into beautiful, large, detailed images. And while JPEGs can look great, you may end up with unpleasant compression artifacts such as banding, halos, loss of detail, and more.

RAW files allow for greater highlight and shadow recovery

RAW files contain information at dynamic range extremes – the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. So even when an image appears totally blown out or underexposed, you can often recover detail in clipped areas.

But JPEGs discard this information, so if you blow out the sky and want to bring back some detail, you’re probably out of luck.

RAW files allow for extensive image adjustments (i.e., post-processing)

RAW files are uncompressed. Therefore, you have plenty of latitude when post-processing your photos. You can tweak contrast, change colors, adjust tones – and a RAW file will take it all in stride.

JPEGs, on the other hand, cannot be modified extensively. And when pushed or pulled too much, JPEGs will start to show banding and other problematic artifacts.

WAIT !!!! JPEG DOES HAVE SOME ADVANTAGES:

Remember how RAW files contain all of the information captured by your camera, whereas JPEGs are compressed? Well, it majorly reduces JPEG file size – so while a RAW file might take up 20 MB of storage (or more), JPEGs take up substantially less.

This is a big deal for two reasons:

  1. If you’re working on a computer with limited space and you don’t want to spend lots of money on external hard drives, JPEGs can be a lifesaver.
  2. You can fire off bursts of shots without stopping because your camera can record JPEGs much faster than RAW files. Here, the specifics will depend on your camera; for reference, the CANON EOS R5 can shoot around 350 JPEGs at 12 frames per second, compared to 180 uncompressed RAW files.

Don’t want to spend lots of time behind the computer? No problem; JPEGs are instantly viewable and are processed in camera.

Yes, you can process them beyond your camera’s sharpening, contrast, and saturation adjustments, but it’s not a requirement, and you can share JPEGs to social media without stopping for a lengthy Lightroom edit.

pathway between trees towards house
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

SO, WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

If you want to create high-quality prints, or you want to spend time post-processing (i.e., enhancing and correcting) your photos, or you want the ability to do either of those things just in case, then you absolutely must be shooting in RAW.

In fact, if you’re on the fence about shooting in JPEG or RAW even after reading this far, then I highly recommend you just switch your camera over to RAW and leave it there. RAW files are just too darn useful to give up unless you have a really good reason to shoot JPEGs.

And if it helps, nearly all professionals and serious hobbyists shoot in RAW, especially those who photograph:

  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife
  • Flowers
  • Insects
  • Architecture
  • Cityscapes
  • Weddings/events

Of course, as I emphasized above, there are reasons to shoot in JPEG. I’d recommend going the JPEG route if you absolutely hate post-processing and don’t think you’ll ever want to work in Lightroom; that way, you’ll have easily shareable images that require no extra work. And if you don’t have the storage for RAW photos, then JPEGs are the way to go.

I’d also recommend using JPEGs if you’re photographing on a very tight deadline (self-imposed or otherwise) and you need to get your images uploaded and viewable, fast. If you’re shooting a family party, for instance, you could work in JPEG then immediately share all the images on Facebook without a significant delay for editing.

Finally, you might consider using JPEGs if you want to use your camera’s burst mode without restraint. The other option, however, is purchasing a camera with a very deep buffer, and I’d urge you to go this route if possible (that way, you can shoot indiscriminately and you can capture RAW files).

lake and mountain photo
Photo by Geoffrey Werner on Pexels.com

CONCLUSION:

What I would do if you are set up to work on “lightroom”, shoot some photos in “RAW”, then shoot the same type photos in “JPEG”, and then work with both of them in “Lightroom”. The only way to know which you would like better is to try them both. You might just become a master of “POST PROCESSING” when all is said and done. Which is not a bad thing.

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This article is mostly written by Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School. Thanks for helping us all with this information.

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY IS RIGHT IN YOUR BACKYARD!

white and black birds piercing on tree branch
Photo by daniyal ghanavati on Pexels.com

It is always a good idea to keep practicing your photo skills. One way to do that is to go out in your backyard and look for the different types of wildlife there is in your backyard. That could include squirrels, birds, butterflies, and other bugs. They all become a great photo opportunity.

Photo by Korie Cull on Unsplash

USE A GOOD TELEPHOTO LENS FOR WILDLIFE

To get the type of photo, like the very first picture of the bird above, you will need a good telephoto lens. This allows you to get your image to fill the frame. And of course the big thing, is that you don’t scare the animal away. You just can’t go up to most of these animals and ask them if you can take their picture.

Photographer using a macro lens

USE MACRO LENS OR CLOSE-UP FILTERS FOR INSECTS

A macro lens is the best lens for getting close-ups of bugs, critters, butterflies, rodents, etc. The price of a good macro lens could run you over $500 or more, but, you could also accomplish some good close-up photography with a set of “close-up filters”. Practice your aperture settings with macro photography, because if you use F2 to F5.6, you might find that the front of the bug is in focus and the back of the bug is not. Sounds like tripod work might be in order, or adjust your ISO setting to around 800 to 1200. Then you can have some help still with your shutter speeds.

SPECIAL TRAINING SESSION ON HOW TO BE CREATIVE IN YOUR BACKYARD:

And now, some ideas of how you can be creative with your back yard photography, here is a great YouTube video on being creative with wildlife photography in your own back yard. This is a great video from Nikon, and the European rep showing how to do the best work in your backyard. Please watch, because even I learned some great things from this video:

Just click on the play button and you will have this amazing training session.
praying mantis on a succulent plant
Photo by suellen baker on Pexels.com

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USING “COLOR” TO LEARN ABOUT “SEEING A PHOTO”

sliced fruits on tray
Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com

A photographer, who does writing for major publications had just come out with this idea of “How to See a Photo” by taking a photo with a different color each day. This will help you to understand color, even the subtle colors to help with creating an artful photograph.

She Said:

Color may make up the majority of our world, but photographing it might not be as easy as you think. Sometimes the abundance of color can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to find the color you’re looking for at all! Before taking up the challenge, grab a pen and paper. Write down a heading for each color and list as many different things you can think of under each. Sometimes it’s even worth Googling specific color schemes, just to give you some ideas of what to look for.

Next, designate a day for each color you would like to photograph. And it doesn’t have to be the generic gamut of colors either. Why not try looking out for a more pastel pallet? Soft pinks, greys, and blues make wonderful, atmospheric photographs. More earthy colors like oranges, browns and dark greens are great colors to keep a look out for in Autumn.

close up photo of rainbow colors
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

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LOOK FOR BOLD COLORS

As you start this exercise of shooting a different color each day, first look for BOLD colors. These are sometimes harder to find than the subtle colors. So, for example, look for GREEN. What would you take that is a strong GREEN color?

green pine tree leaves
Photo by Alexander Tiupa on Pexels.com

Now, as you pick a different color each day, think ahead of time of what you would take a picture of that color, and then see if you can be creative with the color chosen.

And a softer color pallete…

Once you have moved through your own assignment of the bold colors, then go to the soft color pallete:

aged armchairs near small table in patio
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

TRY BOTH STYLES OF COLOR: BOLD AND PASTEL….

And then your next challenge would be to find a photo that would combine both BOLD and pastel in the same photo.

Focus on Photographing a Different Color Each Day to Practice the Art of Seeing
The foreground of this image is made up of bold, contrasting colors while the background is predominantly made up of a soft pink pallet. The bold and soft colors emphasize each other and create a more dynamic image. The negative space around the top half of the image is important too, it maintains balance, making sure the full extent of the color palette isn’t too overwhelming.

CONCLUSION:

While color is all around us, it’s easy to take for granted. Simple exercises like focusing on photographing a particular color each day help keep your practice fresh and unique.

Keep your eyes peeled and don’t be afraid to explore, color often reveals itself in unexpected and fascinating ways!

HOW TO GET THE BEST WINTER PHOTOS

Photo by Colby Thomas on Unsplash

We still have a few months left of winter in the northern half of the world. And when I take a look at all the submitted photos online, I keep wondering why people would post those photos. A reminder that snow is white, not grey. So, how do we get beautiful, amazing white snow winter photos? We will go through that step by step.

WATCH FOR CONTRAST TO HELP OUT

Photo by John Price on Unsplash

The camera system has a hard time with just white scenery. The best exposure and autofocus situation will be best when there is some contrast to the image. Notice with this above photo, the contrast between snow and the leaves and branches. Good contrast, and the snow came out white! (White snow makes me happy!)

In most cases though, you don’t have that big of desire to have all your photos to be close-ups of snow on trees.

YOU WILL NEED TO OVERRIDE WHAT YOUR CAMERA METER SAYS

You’ll need to dial in one or two stops of positive exposure compensation. Due to the quirks of its meter, your camera will try to make the snow look gray. Exposure compensation will counteract the meter to keep things bright.

Note: If you’re shooting in Manual mode, you can simply decrease the shutter speed by a stop or two to achieve the same result.

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LEARN HOW TO USE “LIGHTROOM” FOR YOUR WINTER PHOTOS:

Photo by Lanny Cottrell – Image lightened and contrast added through “lightroom”

One thing to understand, that I have found, no matter how hard you try with your camera, getting it perfect, getting the snow to look white, and the other trees, mountains to have nice rich color may require some work on “lightroom” to get it right. I absolutely love how my winter photos have turned out since I have used “lightroom”.

GET YOUR PHOTOS WHILE THE SNOW IS STILL FRESH:

Photo by Lanny Cottrell -Editor of 123Photogo
Facebook photo of Orem, Utah with Mount Tipanogos in the background after a snowfall.

There is something really magical about taking your winter photos right after a snowfall. The snow hasn’t had time to settle, everything is covered in snow, and the beauty of winter is amazing just then. As they say, sometimes in photography, the best photos come from just having good timing.

TRY TAKING PICTURES WHILE IT IS STILL SNOWING

Photo by Steven Wright on Unsplash

Taking pictures while it is snowing shows that you will do anything to get the “perfect photo”. It takes some fortitude to go out during the snowstorm, but, the pictures are real. As you do this, make sure you use a somewhat fast shutter speed to get your snow to stop in mid-air. If you can’t get a fast enough shutter speed, raise your ISO up higher to be able to make those changes.

bare trees on snow covered landscape
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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WATCH OUT FOR YOUR BATTERIES

Oh yeah, the batteries go weak when they get cold. If you are planning on going out for an extended time, make sure you have some extra batteries. And keep your batteries in your pocket as much as possible when you are not using the camera, or put your spare batteries in your pocket, and alternate them.

TRY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES WHILE OUT IN THE SNOW:

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Winter storms create amazing photos that you can’t get any other time. Try different angles, perspectives of what is amazing about the storm. You will capture photos that a lot of people miss.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

CONCLUSION:

Winter is an amazing time to take photos. Be brave and go out and take a few photos. The winter scenes are always amazing, and you can get photos that not many people capture.

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