Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Watermark a Photo with Photoshop - Text Watermarks

If you want to protect your photographs that you post online, it's a good idea to add a watermark. While some people will still be able to get around a watermark through cropping or other methods, for the most part a watermark will keep your images safe. And if someone does decide to take your photo, your watermark can be considered a form of advertisement.

In Adobe Photoshop you can add a simple text watermark or even your logo. We'll start by learning how to create a text watermark.

Text Watermarks

1. Open your photograph in Photoshop.

2. Create a new layer. Layer > New > Layer or Shift+Ctrl+N

3. You can name your layer watermark, or leave it as layer one if you don't plan on doing any other editing. I always recommend labeling layers appropriately when working with multiple layers. The settings below are what it should look like:

4. Using the text tool, click on the image, a flashing cursor for the text bar should show up. Write what you want your watermark to say.

5. The text may be to big or to small at this point. You can quickly see what your watermark will look like by selecting the layer, then selecting the font tool and scrolling through the fonts/sizes at the top of the screen. Be sure not to have the text itself selected or this will not work.

Three steps to quickly sampling fonts.

6.  While you want to protect your image, you do not want the watermark to become the focal point. They look best on the lower portion of the photograph and in neutral colors (white, black). You can reduce the opacity for the layer for a more translucent look.

Tip: You can find the copyright symbol in your character map. In Windows, click the start button and type "character map" then click the program, scroll through, and find the copyright symbol.

Focusing on Close Up Photography

Getting closer to a subject to focus on the details that are normally missed can make for an inspiring and intimate photograph. We are surrounded by things that can be turned into works of art just from looking at them from another angle.

Focusing on these flowers makes them pop out amongst the rest of the garden with similar looking blooms.

If there is a background visible behind your subject, try to make it as plain and unobtrusive as possible. This can usually be done with a low aperture.  Since you are shooting so close to the object, the background will probably come out blurry anyway. High quality lenses can be used to produce stunning bokeh. Be sure that the background doesn't distract from the main elements in your close up.

Your camera's position and zoom can affect the perspective of your photo. To give the shot depth, move close and zoom out. Sometimes this will make the center is bulging, so be careful. Similarly, to flatten the perspective, move out and zoom in. 

These flakes on a tree came out blurry, it's important to check with your LCD screen if possible to see if the details are as crisp as you wanted before moving on.

Even when you use a tripod and remote cable, or self timer the image can come out blurry.  With close up and macro photography the camera needs more light to get the subject in detail. The shutter has to stay open longer which leaves your image more vulnerable to being damaged by movement. If you think you have everything perfect and that the camera isn't moving at all, double and triple check your focus. Try kicking it back or forward, then zoom in on your camera's LCD screen to see if anything changes. 

Remember that review of the LCD screen is a small guide. When you upload the photos later you may find that ones that looked absolutely perfect are blurry when they hit the screen. Try taking as many photos as you can of your subject. Zoom in, zoom out. Move close, move back. Change the depth of field. Play around and take as many as you can. When you load the photos and pick out your favorite, look at what the settings were. After awhile you will notice the settings or the 'feel' of the photos that that catch your eye more than other techniques you have tried.

There are also macro lenses and filters available that can help you get super close shots. A quality macro lens will let you get super close and not have the blurry bulge that can happen with some filters.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taking Pictures of Strangers

When taking pictures of strangers you should always ask permission, if you plan to use it for resale or print, you want to get signed documentation that this person is letting you use their photo. If it's for a personal project that isn't public, it's fine to just ask for permission.

Photos that you plan to label as photojournalism and editorial pieces don't always need to have a signed contract between you and the model/subject, but it's always good to cover yourself just in case.

When you ask someone if you can take there photo, be confident. Try not to dance around the subject. Have a clear outline of what you are going to say before you say it. Confident people come out much less suspicious than someone mumbling and stuttering as they explain why they want to take pictures of a random stranger.

Many people are happy to let you take a few shots. Remember not to push it. You just met this person, don't make them feel uncomfortable by holding down your shutter and snapping off a hundred photos or dictating poses. Even street performers, public figures and celebrities can be taken off guard by an over snappy photographer.

Now let's say that you plan to use a photo in a commercial piece, or in your gallery for resale. You need a model release. Here's a site with more information about when you need one and when you don't:

Here are a few sites that have some basic templates, and examples of model release forms. Read them! Don't just slap your name on it and go without reading it.

Tips for Taking Tack Sharp Photos

Achieving tack sharp images involves lots of small things that add up to a noticeably sharper photo.

The term, "tack sharp" describes an image which shows the main subject in super sharp focus. The image has clean lines, crisp details, and absolutely no blurring. Getting this high level of sharpness is one of the keys to a truly eye catching photo.

The Countdown...

1. Use the sharpest aperture

Camera lenses can only achieve their sharpest photos at one particular aperture. This is typically 2-3 stops down from the widest aperture. Look for the lens you are using in a search engine to see if someone has already done the work for you.

Make sure that you take into account the shutter speed and depth of field while trying to stay close to the optimum aperture. 

2. Lower your ISO

The higher your ISO, the more digital noise you will get in your photo. Your photo will lack sharp detail and include little specs of fuzz.

Whenever possible, use your camera's lowest ISO setting. on most entry level dslr's that is around 200. If you have to go higher because of light and the movement of the subject, then go higher, just realize that you are sacrificing one for the other.

3. Single point autofocus is your friend

When you use automatic focus, most cameras will try to keep as much of the scene sharp. This is fine when you want to see detail everywhere, but this does not mean that the main subject will be tack sharp.

Switch your camera into single point focus mode to stop the camera from trying to capture the whole image super sharp. In single point autofocus mode your camera will focus sharply on just one point, which is usually the center of the frame. Half press the shutter to get your subject sharp and then move the camera while still holding the button. When you find the perfect composure, press the shutter all the way down.

4. Better lenses

Quality lenses make a huge difference in the sharpness of your photos. Try not to fall into the trap of buying cheap lenses just so you can have a collection. Even if you only invest in one single high quality lens, you will notice the difference from your kit lens. It will be like the heavens are shining down on you and your camera when you see the sharpness and quality and better lens will give you.

5. Lose the lens filters

Filters reduce the sharpness of your lens, which will affect the final image quality. If possible, take them off to improve clarity.

There may be some instances where you need to use a neutral density filter, or polarizer to get the shot just right. That is ok if you are willing to reduce sharpness to get the shot. Sometimes it's best to throw the rules to the wind so you can get the shot.

6. Use a tripod

This should really be the #1 accessory when you are trying to get a sharp picture.

"It's three legs and a camera stuck on top, how complex could it REALLY be?" Get a cheap tripod and find out (just kidding, do research). You'll realize that with a cheap tripod the camera suffers shakes from using the shutter, even when triggering it remotely.

Quality tripods will prevent the camera from the shakes, and moving.Some tripods will let you add accessories and become your second collecting hobby (next to collecting for your camera).

8. Remote cable or timer

Pressing the shutter button with your finger on your camera can cause minute shaking even with a quality tripod. A cable release or remote control is cheap way to avoid this problem (Opteka sells a remote for canon dslr's for about $20). If you don't want to shell out another $20 into your new found (expensive) photography hobby, you can use the camera's timer. The two second timer is generally long enough to avoid shaking from touching the shutter to effect the image.

9. Mirror lock-up

When the mirror flips up to take the picture, it causes your camera to move. You can usually set the MLU to hold the mirror in a retracted position. This can make a big difference on how sharp your photos turn out.

10. Turn vibration reduction off

Many newer dslr cameras and lenses come with a built in vibration reduction system, sometimes called an image stabilizer. When your camera is mounted on a tripod, the camera can get confused and add movement to the phone.

Frolicking along and can't be bothered with a tripod? Here are some quick pointers to get the most out of hand holding. 

1. Find/Make a makeshift tripod

You didn't think you'd get away from using a tripod that easily did you? Try resting your camera on a tree branch, a fence post, a rock, or something to keep the camera as still as possible.

2. Increase your shutter speed

A faster shutter speed will capture movement much better. You should stick to the rule of thumb that says that you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/focal length, which means that if you are using a 100mm lens, you want to use a speed of 1/100 or faster.

3. Shoot in burst mode

Rather than taking photos one at a time, just hold down the shutter and snap away. Chances are that one or two will be sharp.

4. Find a way to steady yourself. 

Tuck your arms to your sides or lean up against a wall or tree (that you decided not to use as a makeshift tripod. Breathing can cause movements in the camera, so try and relax yourself and not make any jerking movements. 

5. Image stabilization - on

Since you're not using a tripod, use the image stabilization. This is what it was made for, the handheld warrior.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5 Essential Tips for Black and White Photography

Black and white photography offers a unique perspective on many subjects. Removing color brings out the hidden details, textures, and shapes.

Black and white photography is sometimes treated as the "poor relation" of colour photography. After all, why limit yourself to shades of gray when you can use the entire spectrum of colours?
In reality a black and white photo can often look even more stunning and captivating than the colour equivalent. Color can sometimes act as a distraction in a photo, and removing it can help to re-focus the viewer's attention on the intended subject.

Black and white photography can be largely boiled down to five key concepts. Developing your familiarity with them will help you take more informed black and white shots, and the same concepts can also be used to improve your color photos.

Shape and Form

When you remove color from an image you can no longer rely on it to provide interest or a focal point in a scene. This may seem obvious but it can be easy to forget. By doing away with color we also remove one of the most potentially distracting elements in a photo.

Shape and form become more obvious in the absence of color.

Form and shape are all-important in black and white photography. When looking for a good shot, look beyond the colors in a scene and instead focus you attention on the shapes. Arrange them in a way that emphasises the most interesting aspect of the shape, or creates an intriguing composition of different shapes.


Without differences in colour to separate elements in your scene, you must instead introduce contrasting shades into your black and white photos.

Use contrast to help separate and define the objects in your scene. 

You can use contrast to help your main subject stand out - for example by photographing a light subject against a dark background - and also to add depth by including a variety of tones and shades in your photo.


Many patterns, particularly subtle ones, often go unnoticed in colour photos, because the colours draw attention away from the pattern itself. Black and white photography gives you a much better chance of capturing interesting patterns because it focuses the viewer's attention on the shapes formed by the elements in a scene.

Patterns stand out much more when photographed in black and white. 


In the same way that patterns can be lost in colour photography, textures can be too. When we see a colour photo, our mind immediately begins to identify and label the elements in the scene, meaning that we often do not really "see" the photo, but instead see our mind's interpretation of it.

Textures add a real depth to a photo, drawing the viewer into it. 
When we photograph in black and white, the mind no longer has that colour information to work with, and so pays more attention to elements such as texture, making them appear much more prominent.


Lighting is absolutely key to a good black and white photograph because it affects all of the above elements - shape, contrast, pattern and texture.

When thinking about your lighting, consider how it will influence all of these factors, and choose a setup that enhances as many as possible.

Good lighting is essential in bringing out all of the above qualities.

Side lighting often produces the most dramatic black and white photos. It picks out the edges of shapes and increases contrast by adding highlights, and the shadows it creates add interest to the scene as well as enhancing textures and patterns.

Friday, April 20, 2012

10 Top Photography Composition Rules

There are no fixed rules in photography, but there are guidelines which can often help you to enhance the impact of your photos.

It may sound clichéd, but the only rule in photography is that there are no rules. However, there are are number of established composition guidelines which can be applied in almost any situation, to enhance the impact of a scene.

These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs, lending them a natural balance, drawing attention to the important parts of the scene, or leading the viewer's eye through the image.

Once you are familiar with these composition tips, you'll be surprised at just how universal most of them are. You'll spot them everywhere, and you'll find it easy to see why some photos "work" while others feel like simple snapshots.

Rule of Thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

Balancing Elements

Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the "weight" of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

Leading Lines

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey "through" the scene. There are many different types of line - straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc - and each can be used to enhance our photo's composition.

Symmetry and Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made., They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.


Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.


How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting - look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn't distract or detract from the subject.


Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.


The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.


Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background "noise", ensuring the subject gets the viewer's undivided attention.


With the dawn of the digital age in photography we no longer have to worry about film processing costs or running out of shots. As a result, experimenting with our photos' composition has become a real possibility; we can fire off tons of shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your composition - you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.

Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the "rules" above should be taken with a pinch of salt. If they don't work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they can often prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

3 Portrait Composition Tips for Framing Your Subject

3 Portrait Composition Tips for Framing Your Subject

Move beyond simple snapshots and learn how to capture more engaging, interesting portrait photos with these essential composition tips.

People are probably the most interesting photographic subject - they're infinitely varied, convey a unique personality and vibe, and as humans it's in our nature to find them fascinating. So it's hardly surprising that they make such a popular subject for professional and amateur photographers alike.

Finding a successful portrait composition is harder than it might seem. Anyone can point a camera at a person and grab a snapshot, but it takes more skill and technical knowledge to capture a photo which is truly engaging and full of character. Follow these tips to help take your portrait photography to the next level.

Don't Leave Too Much Headroom

Headroom is the amount of space between the top of your subject's head and the top of the frame. It might seem like a trivial matter, but it's important to get this distance just right. Fail to do so and you'll end up with a photo that has lots of space above the subject, or one where they appear "squashed" up to the top of the image - both of which can be highly distracting.

The amount of headroom required depends on how closely you're photographing your subject - the more you zoom in, the less space you should leave. This might sound a bit vague, and that's because there really are no set rules for getting the "correct" headroom. Just be aware of it before you press the shutter, and recompose your shot until the headroom no longer draws your attention - that's when you know you've got it right.

If in doubt, set your lens to a slightly wider angle and capture more of the surroundings than you need. This gives you a bit of space to play with later on, allowing you to crop or recompose the photo once you've had a chance to examine it on your computer.

Pay Close Attention to Eye Position

Following on from the concept of headroom, you also need to be aware of where your subject's eyes are positioned. The eyes are likely to be the focal point of your portrait photo, and they're where most people will look first, so you need to position them properly within the composition.

Position the subject's eyes about one third of the way from the top of the frame for a natural, balanced composition.

Most experts agree that you should follow the rule of thirds and compose your portrait so that the subject's eyes are positioned roughly one third of the way down from the top edge of the frame. This gives your portrait's composition an inherent balance and a natural, pleasing feel.

Of course, there are situations where you might want to adjust the subject's eye position to show more or less of their body or the surroundings. This is absolutely fine, and you shouldn't be afraid to experiment with different portrait compositions - rules are there to be broken after all. However, the rule of thirds eye position works well in most cases and makes a great starting point to adjust and build on.

Fill the Frame with Your Subject

There's nothing worse than a portrait photo which lacks impact, and the most common cause of this is choosing a composition where the subject doesn't take up enough of the frame. It can be tempting to include as much of your subject as possible - their face, their hair, their body, their surroundings, and so on - but all this does is introduce distractions into the scene, reducing the effectiveness of the photo as a whole.

Don't be afraid to zoom in close, cropping out all unnecessary detail. 

Rather than try to include as much detail as possible, do the complete opposite. Choose the most interesting thing about your subject and concentrate solely on that, cropping out everything else. Usually this means zooming in on the subject's face to capture their features and expression.

Don't be afraid to chop off parts of your subject such as the top or sides of their head; it all helps to reduce distractions and focus the viewer's attention even more intently on the important parts of the photo. It's usually not a good idea to crop out the subject's chin, as this can appear unnatural, but even this can work in certain circumstances so don't be afraid to give it a go.

These portrait composition tips may seem simple, and they are, but it's amazing how often they are overlooked, resulting in underwhelming photos which could have been avoided. Add them to your mental checklist and be sure to apply them next time you're photographing friends or family, and see how much difference they can make to your shots.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

7 Landmark Photography Tips for Avoiding Clichéd Photos

Some landmarks have been photographed so many times we feel we've seen them from all angles. 

The problem with photographing famous landmarks is just that - they're famous. So famous in fact that even if you're never visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Sydney Opera House, or the Pyramids, you've probably seen so many photos of them that it feels like you have.

As photographers this presents us with a unique challenge - finding a new angle or creative viewpoint that avoids clichés and shows off the landmark in a way that people are not so familiar with, and perhaps have never seen before.

This is tricky but it can be done. The key is to take a step back and see the landmark through fresh eyes, rather than being influenced by what we've seen before. Use the following tips to avoid the tried-and-tested shots and capture something more original and intriguing.

Get the "Postcard" Shots out of the Way

It's a good idea to get a few of the more common viewpoints "in the bag". There's a reason we see these pictures repeated over and over again - they can actually look pretty good.

Snapping these more traditional angles early means you won't be tempted to take them later on, leaving you free to concentrate on finding more unique, creative compositions.

Look for a New Angle

Once you've got the common shots out of the way it's time to be a bit more imaginative. Rather than following the rest of the crowd, explore your scenery for interesting people or objects to include, or unusual viewpoints to shoot from.

Finding a new angle for your landmark photography can be as simple as shooting your subject through the branches of a tree, framing it reflected in a puddle, or holding your camera at an extreme angle to get an unusual shot.

Don't underestimate the power of this though - changing your viewpoint even slightly can result in a vastly different photo, and one that is much more interesting than the shots we've all seen a hundred times.

Focus on Something Else

Rather than using your landmark as the main subject of the photo, shift your attention to something else, and make the landmark a background object.


A traffic jam leading to the Arc de Triumph or a feeding camel in front of the Sphinx would both make for uncommon photos which are more likely to capture people's attention. They also convey a sense of the environment, putting the landmark in context.

Concentrate on Details

It's natural instinct to try to fit the entire landmark into the frame - I know I'm guilty of doing this. Unfortunately this often makes the landmark look small and underwhelming, leading to a photo which lacks the impact you were trying to capture.

The great thing about famous landmarks is that they're so well-known you don't need to photograph the whole thing for people to know what it is. Don't be afraid to leave parts out, zooming in closer to frame the most important areas and ignoring everything else.

For a more abstract effect, you can take this technique even further, focusing your shot on a single detail such as a rusted bolt on a bridge, the face of a large sculpture, or the patterned tiles on a building's roof.

Shoot in Bad Weather

Most people do their best to avoid rain, sleet, snow, wind, and other unpleasant weather. As a result there aren't nearly so many photos of famous landmarks in these conditions, making them a perfect way to set your shots apart from the rest.

Just because the weather is unpleasant doesn't mean your shots have to be dull and lifeless. Clouds filter sunlight into striking shafts, puddles create intriguing reflections, and snow swirls into fascinating shapes, making shooting in bad weather a potential gold mine of great photos.

Avoid the Rush

Most landmarks are busy tourist attractions, and are swarming with crowds of people all day long. This can make for interesting photos in itself, but often it can be difficult to find a composition which isn't ruined by dozens of tourists. Find out when the landmark opens and closes, then avoid the peak times to give yourself a better chance of snapping some unspoiled pictures.

As an added bonus, the lighting in the morning and early evening tends to be much better suited to photography than the harsh midday sun. The long shadows pick out important details, and the rich, warm colors add real atmosphere to the shot. These times are known as the golden hour, and many professional photographers swear by them.

Include People

Although large crowds of tourists can ruin a photo, one or two well-placed people provide an added focal point for your shot, creating a more engaging image overall.

Look out for opportunities to include people in your landmark photos. An intimate couple taking a morning stroll, a street vendor setting up shop, or a monk tending the plants outside a monastery all give your scene a "story" which draws the viewer in more deeply than photos without that human element.

Landmarks are without doubt one of the most popular subjects, and it can sometimes seem that there are no original shots left to be taken. However, that couldn't be further from the truth, and by using and combining the above tips you'll have no trouble capturing some truly unique landmark photographs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Convert a Color Photo to Black and White Using Photoshop

Convert a Color Photo to Black and White


The Channel Mixer is easy to use but gives you complete control over the appearance of your photo when converting from color to black and white.
Traditional photography forces us to choose between color and black and white at the time of shooting. Digital photography removes this limitation, allowing us to shoot in color and convert to black and white later.

This flexibility allows us to compare the same photo in both forms, so that we can choose the one with the most impact. It also allows us to tweak the way our shot's colors are converted, so that we can produce the exact effect we're after.

There's more than one way to convert a color photo to black and white using Photoshop, but the method I discuss here will give you the most control over the final image. This will help you produce the exact effect you're after and end up with the best results.

Digital black and white - the wrong way


Two of the most commonly used methods of shooting digital black and white photos are either by using the in-camera "black and white" mode, or by using the "grey scale conversion" option in your graphics software. However, both of these tend to be very simple conversions, and usually leave us with an image which is flat and bland.
Digital photos are composed of three channels - red, green and blue. The grey scale version of each of these channels looks different, bringing out texture and detail in different areas. Black and white camera modes and software grey scale conversions work by either combining equal amounts of these channels, or even worse by just discarding two of the channels and using the grey scale of the remaining one.

Each channel produces a very different grey scale image.

Ideally we would like to have full control over which channels are used in producing our black and white image, and the proportions in which they are mixed. Thankfully most graphics programs, such as Photoshop and GIMP offer a tool to do just this - the Channel Mixer.

Converting to Black and White Using the Channel Mixer


I've written this tutorial specifically for Photoshop, but it works in almost exactly the same way in any graphics program, so you'll still be able to follow along:
Start by loading in your color image.
Begin by taking a look at each of the three color channels, just to get an idea what they all look like, and to see if there are any which look better than the others. Press Ctrl+1 to display Red, Ctrl+2 to show Green and Ctrl+3 for Blue. Press Ctrl+~ when you're done to switch back to color mode.
Now that we have seen our three channels it's time to convert our image to black and white by using a combination of them.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer. You will see the following dialogue box:

Photoshop's Channel Mixer dialogue box.
Tick the box at the bottom which says "Monochrome". You should see your image change to black and white.

Next, adjust the three sliders labelled Red, Green and Blue until you get an image that you like. The "best" settings depend on the image and your personal taste, but keep their total around 100%, otherwise you'll lighten or darken the image. If you do find that your total is too high or low, you can use the Constant slider beneath to compensate.

Notice that you can even set channels to negative values, which can produce some interesting effects.
When you're happy with your image you can click ok and save your newly converted black and white image.

Friday, April 6, 2012

5 Keys to Finding the Perfect Portrait Location

5 Keys to Finding the Perfect Portrait Location


Learn to choose great portrait photography locations. Put your subject at ease, capture their personality, and guarantee stunning photos.

One of the most important aspects of portrait photography is picking a suitable location. Your choice will drive all other decisions about the shoot, including what lighting and props to take, which clothes the subject should wear, and the most suitable poses to use.

Shooting in a studio with a plain background is a popular choice, but it can be expensive, and these types of shots have been done a million times. You can usually get much more interesting, engaging pictures by using your imagination and choosing a more unusual portrait location.

Choose a Meaningful Place

It's easy to choose a portrait location based on convenience. For example, if you live near a leafy park, it's tempting to use that as your default shooting location. But while this may look attractive, it's not always the best option.

Remember that every subject is a unique individual, with their own personality. This is what makes them so interesting, and it's something you should try to capture in every portrait you take. Choosing a suitable location is an important part of this.

Take the time to get to know your subject. Find out about their hobbies and favourite places and incorporate them into your photography. If they're an avid horse rider, shoot them at their stables; if they love to surf, go to their local beach.

By using a location that means something to your subject, you'll get much more personal, meaningful photos. As an added bonus, they're likely to feel more relaxed, helping you capture more natural-looking shots.

Use Natural Lighting

Most professional portrait photographers swear by natural lighting, and some refuse to shoot in anything else. If possible, choose a brightly lit location which offers plenty of diffused, natural light.

Choose a location with plenty of soft, natural lighting.

When shooting outdoors it's important to avoid the direct midday sun as this produces very harsh shadows. Look for some light shade such as an overhanging tree or covered seating area, where the sunlight is softer and more flattering. Alternatively, shoot in the morning or early evening when the sun isn't as strong.

If you're shooting indoors, try to position your subject near a large window so that you can make the most of any available natural light. Depending on your budget and the equipment you have available you can compliment this with some artificial lighting if necessary.

Set Up Near Shelter

If you choose an outdoor portrait location, there's always a chance that the weather will spoil the party. Sometimes you'll just have to take a chance and hope it stays dry, but try to have a backup in case the weather turns bad.

Anticipating bad weather means you can stop it ruining your shoot, or even incorporate it into your photos.

Look for a location which has some sort of shelter nearby, such as a bridge, bandstand, or cafe. These can be life-savers during a quick shower, helping you keep yourself, your equipment, and your subject dry - particularly important if they're paying!

If the weather gets really bad you may even be able to move your whole photoshoot under cover. With open-sided shelter you can often recompose to keep a natural background behind your subject, and as long as the lighting is good enough nobody will ever tell you weren't fully outdoors.

Choose Somewhere Quiet

Crowded places, like cities or busy public parks, are among the worst locations for a portrait shoot. You'll be constantly waiting for people to move out of frame and dealing with questions from passers-by, plus your subject will probably feel very self-conscious and struggle to relax.

Shoot in a quiet place to avoid disturbances and help your subject relax. 

Finding a quiet, secluded location is not as difficult as it might seem. If you must shoot in a city, get off the beaten track - by moving just a few hundred yards away you can usually find a spot where you and your subject can set up undisturbed.

Better still, avoid cities altogether and head for remote beaches, grassy fields, and woodland. These all provide great backdrops to a portrait photo, and are often completely deserted, giving you free-reign to move around and experiment with different poses and angles.

Don't Let the Location Distract

A suitable location is crucial in portrait photography, but always remember that it's not the main subject, so don't let it overpower your scene. From time to time during your shoot, check the photos you've taken - if your eye is drawn more to the scenery than the subject, you're putting too much emphasis on the wrong thing.

Your location should never take attention away from your subject.

A simple and effective technique is to open your lens's aperture up nice and wide. This puts the background out of focus, preventing it from being too distracting, creating a sense of depth in the scene, and drawing the viewer's eye to the main subject.

Choosing an effective portrait location takes time and thought, but it's something that you should always aim to get right. By doing so you'll be able to tell a story with your pictures, and capture the essence of your subject's personality, resulting in much more engaging, personal photos.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Panorama Photography Guide

Panorama Photography

Panoramas are a striking way to photograph a landscape, and are a lot of fun to shoot. Learn how to capture and stitch a successful panorama.

I really enjoy taking my camera out to explore new places and see what interesting subjects I can find. Often when I do, I'll stumble across a stunning landscape that would make a great photograph.
Unfortunately, you often can't fit enough of the scene into a single frame to do it justice. This leaves you with two options - either shoot a smaller part of the scene, potentially losing some of the overall impact, or take multiple shots that can be stitched into a panorama.
Panorama photography is generally very easy, though it does require you to plan your photo in advance and be methodical with the way you shoot it. Follow these steps to ensure your panorama photos come out just the way you intend.

 Planning your panorama shoot...

When photographing panoramas choose a location with a consistent tonal range. Because you are shooting a much wider angle than a regular shot it is easy to end up with a scene with so much contrast that you lose most of the detail.

 Choose a scene with an even level of contrast throughout so that you don't lose detail.

Shooting in the harsh midday sun is a sure way to create too much contrast in your panoramas. Instead, shoot closer to the start or end of the day, or when the sky is overcast, as this will help reduce the contract, allowing you to capture detail in all areas of the scene.

Sunrise and sunset can make for dramatic panoramas, but the rapidly changing light conditions mean you have to work quickly. Get to your location with plenty of time to set up your equipment so you don't miss the critical moment.


 You can photograph panoramas with a hand-held camera, but you will achieve better results with a tripod. A panoramic head on your tripod is ideal, but they are very expensive, and you can still achieve some superb shots with a standard tripod. You can use a spirit level to ensure your tripod is perfectly level.

 Panoramic tripod heads produce the best results but are expensive.

Set your camera to shoot in JPEG rather than RAW. RAW files give more detail than we realistically need, and their large file size can cripple your computer when stitching shots together.

Avoid using filters, such as polarizing filters, when shooting panoramas, as they produce very obvious color changes at the edges of your shots, making them difficult to blend together when stitching.

Make a set of cardboard frames in varying panoramic ratios (3:1, 4:1, 5:1 etc). These are perfect for visualizing the scene when you are at your shooting location.

Setting up


Mount your camera on your tripod in portrait rather than landscape. This allows you to capture more vertical detail, giving depth to your panorama.

Set your camera's zoom to somewhere around its middle setting. This is where lens distortion is at a minimum, which will make stitching the shots considerably easier.

Look through your camera's viewfinder and ensure you can fit all of your scene in. It is important to include more of your scene than you actually want, because you will lose some of it through cropping during the stitching process. A good rule of thumb is to try to contain the part of the scene you actually want in the centre two thirds of the image, giving you a generous border top and bottom.

Including some foreground detail will add depth and interest to your panorama, but be aware that the closer something is, the more it is affected by alignment issues (called parallax error). When shooting, keep foreground objects away from image overlaps as much as possible.

Composition is just as important in panorama photography as it is in any other sort; don't get so bogged down in the technical details that you forget to photograph a visually appealing shot.

Carry out a few test pans of your tripod to ensure that your panorama's horizon is level. This is also a good time to figure out roughly how you will divide your scene into separate shots.

Focus on an object in the foreground and use a narrow aperture to give you maximum depth of field.

For consistency between shots, lock as many of the camera's settings as you can, including focus, white balance (or use a preset), shutter speed, and aperture diameter. This will make stitching and blending your panorama as easy as possible. Some cameras offer a panorama mode that locks all of these setting for you, based on the first image you shoot.


Choose a shooting direction, e.g. left to right, and stick with it. Starting off one side of your scene, begin photographing. Work carefully but quickly to minimise any differences between your shots, especially when shooting in rapidly changing lighting conditions.

Get plenty of overlap between your photos - around 50%. This gives you plenty of pixels to play with when stitching your panorama.

Allow an overlap of around 50% between shots to aid in stitching the panorama.

Be careful where you place your overlaps - avoid moving objects such as people or cars, and keep split lines away from any foreground objects or stand-out features in the scene.

When shooting multiple panorama scenes, separate them by shooting a frame with your hand over the lens. When reviewing your photos later this makes it much easier to see where one panorama ends and another starts.


Stitching your panorama together should be simple if you've followed the advice above. You can either do it manually for maximum control over the outcome, or use one of the excellent panorama stitching programs available, such as AutoStitch.