Here's where we get into the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the rule breaking, experimentation, fun stuff! Are you ready?
You needed that foundation in basic photography to be able to wander away from the rules to experiment with different ways of creating a truly unique image. This week we will discuss the following:
- breaking the rules to create unique images
- shooting through objects
- blowing out images on purpose
- shooting on different levels
- hill top shots
- creative exposure
- intentional blurring
- negative space
The very first step in creating unique images is to not be afraid of making mistakes. You have to experiment and mess things up and accumulate a lot of bad images before you finally take a "keeper." And that's all part of it! Don't have any fear...don't let anything hold you back. Some of the absolutely best images I've ever captured were happy accidents.
For me, the most important part of creative photography is capturing every single element in a moment almost in a dreamlike way. I want the viewer to look at an image and feel everything from that moment, but also be drawn to it because of the technique and mysterious way in which it was shot. I want there to be some element of question to the photograph. I want to leave the viewer with something to think about, so it's not just a straight forward shot. They have an opportunity to be a part of the experience themselves, which is an amazing gift with photography or any art.
There is a reason why you decided to take this course...it's a "creative" photography e-course. Which means that creating unique and different images is something that excites and interests you. You probably have some images in mind that you are drawn to...that inspired you to break out of the ordinary and take photographs that capture more than just an image. This lesson is all about finding your particular photographic style, and breaking the rules to do it!
So let's start with creative exposure. We've already learned how to properly expose an image. We can take that knowledge now and break the rules a bit to experiment how over exposing and under exposing on purpose can add a creative element to your photographs.
It is challenging to tweak exposure on a point and shoot or phone camera if you do not have complete control of the settings already, but you can often attain the same look in an editing program by adjusting exposure. So if you are using one of these kinds of cameras and have limited control, just keep in mind that you are taking an image you would eventually like to adjust creatively in an editing program.
There are many practical, helpful reasons to over expose on purpose! Many times when I am taking photos of brides getting ready, the room will be completely cluttered, the walls will be covered with wallpaper or some other thing that typically would not make for a well composed image. Basically, too many things in one place distracts from the primary focus: your subject.
This is one place where properly over exposing your images can come in handy! I do what is called "blowing out the background." To do this you have to meter off your subject. I try to get a properly exposed meter reading, and then gradually adjust the exposure to over expose until I get the results that I want. The trick is to not lose too much detail in your subject by over exposing, unless that's what you're going for. Here are a few examples:
With this image I wanted to blow out the wall panels and ceiling tiles, but I wanted my subject to be properly exposed. I exposed just a couple of bars over on the light meter in order to get the look I wanted.
With this next one, I wanted to achieve the same thing...blowing out the details in the background to draw the complete focus to my subject. This was easier because she was backlit already, so I didn't have to over expose too greatly, which helped maintain the details in her white dress.
In this next image, I actually wanted to lose details in my subject. I wanted a very dreamy photograph, one that was a little obscure and more like art than a portrait. I still metered off of my subjects in this image, but I over exposed more than I did for the ones above. Also, I was shooting into the sun.
You can also create a very dreamy affect over exposing and losing some details in your subjects, but you want to make sure that their features are still quite visible. You can see below that their skin is a bit overexposed, but you can still see their faces enough to make out who they are:
And, then there's my favorite way to over expose, which has a lot to do with composition as well. For these following shots, I meter off my subjects and very minimally blow out the sky so it appears like absolutely nothing is behind them. This also creates "negative space" which we'll discuss in a bit.
To capture images like these, you have to keep experimenting. It will take some time to feel comfortable with just how much to overexpose in a particular situation. Things to remember when purposely over exposing are:
- meter off your subject
- decide how much detail you want your subjects to retain
- shooting into the light is easier to "blow out" a background, so place your subjects in front of the light source
- take multiple images at different exposures to see the gradual shift in blow outs
Shooting Through Objects
Shooting through objects is, well...one of my favorite things to do. One of my very first weddings I spent the majority of the ceremony standing in the branches of an apple tree, using the leaves and blossoms to create areas of blurred color to block out something I didn't want in the frame. Often, if you're doing this at a job, people will assume you are taking photographs of the things you are placing in front of your frame (leaves, etc.) and not your subjects. So I often let them know what I am doing.
Shooting through objects is not only a way to add a creative element to your photographs, but it also can help frame a subject, block out things you don't want (but can't move!) in your frame, and add a bit of color pop to your photographs (you can start a theme in a series by using the same color!).
You can use ANYTHING. That's the awesome part about it. When I'm out shooting, I grab a leaf, a flower, put myself in a tree and shoot through the leaves, use a scarf, put my hair in front of the lens...you can use anything.
The trick to this is putting something right up close to your lens. Like practically ON it. Depending on the effect you want, it can either be touching the lens (which will give it a very hazy look to whatever color your object is), or you can be inches away from the object which makes a more solid color in your photograph. This week's video goes over this, so make sure to watch it.
If you are using a point and shoot or phone camera, you can do the same thing! Your lens is smaller, so you need to use some smaller objects so you don't block the lens completely.
I shoot through objects for many reasons...but the most practical reason is if there is something in my frame that I can't move. There may be a beautiful spot on the sidewalk I would like to take a portrait, but there is a car parked right in the frame. I will grab a leaf and use it to block out the car, while focusing on my subjects and adding a creative element and color to my photograph!
In the above photograph, there were some things on the table I didn't want in the frame, but I didn't want to cut my subjects off, so I used a yellow leaf to create that hazy color, which I think adds so much to the photograph! In this case, the leaf was pressed right up to the lens.
I've also used this trick plenty of times inside (especially when I'm shooting a bride getting ready, because there's always a lot going on in the room). That way I can have the entire focus on my subject, while adding some color AND block out unwanted objects from the frame.
Another reason I do this is to creatively frame my subjects. Sometimes when you are far away from your subjects, there can be too much going on in the frame and your eyes just don't know where to gravitate. In this case, I use objects to frame my subjects in-camera.
In the above photograph, in order to let the object frame my subjects, I had to hold my lens back a bit. This created more of a solid color. When you are experimenting, you will find that in order to get it just right, you have to move around a lot. Keep moving and changing where your object is placed, because with just a little movement, it can change completely. I'm typically moving all around (in a tree!) to get everything lined up just the way I want it.
If you are looking to add just a wee bit of color to make your photos stand out, but don't necessarily want to block out anything in your frame, you can hold the object right up against your lens and it will create a haze like this:
Here are some other examples of what I've done in the past to add something different to what would otherwise be just a normal photograph:
So when you're shooting, always be on the lookout for objects you can use! Bold colors are great, but experiment. You can shoot through objects that are stationary, like the following:
This photo was shot through a fence. I love what it adds to the photograph and how it's framing her face.
You can also find me laying on the ground (on my stomach) shooting through grass, flowers, bushes, and well...anything else that is around. It gives the photos an interesting angle and adds so much to the composition:
Another alternative to solid objects, is to purchase some Rosco Gels. You can find a swatch book here. Rosco gels are little clear plastic strips that you can hold up to your lens (and carry in your pocket!) to add some interesting color effects to your photographs:
I like Rosco gels against a very plain background that is usually white or a neutral color.
Using Rosco gels with a subject:
So experiment with different types of objects...they can add so much to your composition and really help create a completely unique image! Take many different shots to see how you like to position objects in your frame, and how you like them to compliment your subject. There's so much you can do!
Blurring subjects on purpose is another one of my favorites. To do this, you need to find out if your camera has an optional "manual focus" switch. If it does, turn the switch to manual and adjust your focal ring to blur the image to your liking.
If you are using a point and shoot or camera phone, your ability to control the focus is usually pretty slim. This is another opportunity to take photos with the idea in mind that you would like to tweak them in a certain way in an editing program after, which we will do next week! So don't be frustrated!
I typically do at least a couple of "blurs" per shoot, just to compliment a picture that is in focus (using the same composition for both). Here are some examples:
I love blurring city shots. There's a lot going on, and if you blur it just a little bit, you soften up the image and create a photograph that almost resembles a painting. I love how all the colors merge and the whole scene blends.
You can also do it with portraits. I love doing this because it's taking a subject and shifting the focus from the details to the colors and composition:
With intentionally blurring portraits, you'll want to experiment with just how much detail you want to lose. It typically depends on the colors, the textures, and the distance to your subject.
Landscapes are also beautiful when blurred slightly:
So don't be afraid to adjust your focus! Sometimes having less detail in a photograph tells more of a story about the image. It leaves a lot of mystery for the viewer.
Negative space is the space in a photograph that is blank. It is one of my favorite ways to photograph subjects. As a photographer, if I wanted to hang a giant photograph of myself with my daughter on my living room wall, I would want it to be more like art. Not an upclose shot of our faces, or something that was particularly posed. I love how paying attention to negative space in your frame can instantly take a portrait and turn it into something completely out of the ordinary!
We'll talk about composition in next week's lesson, but I want you to get a feel for how negative space can really affect an image.
This is one of my favorite family portraits. I love how the subjects are the only focus, without any background noise to distract from them. In order to create negative space in a photograph, you either need a plain background (which can be rather hard to find!), or you need to create it using your position in relationship to your subjects.
For most of my negative space shots, I need to be lower than my subjects. By doing this, I am shooting up into the sky, which creates a nice clean backdrop of negative space. You want to pay attention to just how low you are in respect to your subjects, because sometimes shooting from below can be unflattering.
You can also create negative space by shooting at the same height as your subjects, but finding a way to frame them from a distance. Of course, you need to have the appropriate background. Hilltops are great for this!
To shoot the above image, we were on a mountaintop and I positioned myself very far away from my subjects. I put them on the highest possible place, framed the shot by cutting off the rock they were standing on, and took the shot with the intention of capturing mostly sky. I love how they are the focus, and the surrounding sky adds so much to the photograph, but doesn't take away from them.
Another reason this comes in handy if there's a lot going on in the background and you really just want to capture your subjects, without distraction. For the following picture, I was crouching on the ground and shooting up to position my subjects against the sky:
This allowed me to cut out picnic tables, trees, power lines, and other people! It also creates a very unique family portrait.
For me personally, I am drawn to negative space in photographs because I love simplicity. I really like clean images without too many distractions. I strive for this in my shoots. Here are some other examples:
Hilltop shots tie right into the idea of negative space. For example:
This is all about framing your subjects. You need to find an area outside that is higher than you (the photographer). Place your subjects on the highest point, go below them and frame it so that you are cutting off the ground beneath their feet. It typically takes me a few shots to get it just right.
You can also choose to not cut the ground out completely. When you are framing your subjects with the ground included, make sure you level the ground with the rest of the frame:
You can also add some props to your photos! Try a big balloon, or an umbrella, or funny hats, or a hula hoop:
In order to get a nice silhouette, try to shoot with the light behind your subject and under expose enough to darken your subject. This may also take a couple of test shots to get just right. But the results will be well worth it! My clients always love these shots the best.
This concludes this week's main lesson! Don't forget to watch the video and check out the photo challenge! Happy shooting!