Category Archives: Learn photography

Spring Is A Great Time For Flower Photographery

Flower Photography Is Easy In The Spring
(here are a few tips that I have found helpful)

change perspective
This daffodil is growing in my front yard.

The first sign of spring for me is the daffodils.

Tip #1: Always have your camera handy.

I will never forget my first trip to visit the area where I now live. It was during Spring Break – April. I had to stop and take pictures of the daffodils by the side of the road even before we reached our destination. They were beautiful. I still love them.

Right along with the blooming of the daffodils comes the willow tree buds. It is truly amazing how one day there are a few tiny buds and the next day, the tree is practically covered with leaves. The color of the first leaves is quite different than later when the tree has settled into full leaf. It is more of a bright, lime green.. very refreshing.

I am trying to notice now the chronological order of spring blooms. As of today, April 6, SpringFlowers-abundanthere is what I have blooming around me:

  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinths
  • Bartlett pear trees
  • Cherry trees – all varieties
  • Poppies
  • Tulips
  • Creeping phlox
  • Azaleas (just starting)

I will update as more flowers and trees awaken.

Shoot earlyTip #2 – Get Out Early

They are called “the Golden Hours” for a very good reason. Your so-called ability as a photographer is sometimes no more than knowing and following through on what you know. Every nature photographer will tell you that the best hours for flower photography are early or late, but I prefer early.

I love the dew drops that form just before dawn. And the light is so different than when the sun makes its way high into the sky.

Set your alarm clock if you must, but get out early.

Tip #3 – Change Your Perspective

Even though the flowers look fantastic, a normal picture as you stand in front will just get mild appreciation, and you will be disappointed most of the time. With flower photography, or any other type of photography, you need to really practice the concept of thinking about the final image as you shoot, not after it’s too late and you are looking at the images on your computer. Here are a few ideas to change your perspective.

  • Get down on the level with your subject.
  • Get under the subject and shoot up.
  • Shoot through the foliage to capture the glint of sunlight.
  • Change your position to add or eliminate from the background.

Shoot macroTip #4 – Shoot Macro (close-ups)

The details of flowers never cease to WOW me. Shoot a single blossom or even part of a flower. Make sure you steady your camera for this, possibly using a tripod or your camera bag as a tripod.

Tip #5 – Use Aperture Priority

This is a bit more techy, but it will pay off in spades. I usually go for a large aperture. Large apertures are the smaller numbers, like f/2.8 or f/4.

Using large apertures will give that nice blurry background that you desire. It sets the flower off as the star of your image.

I have written more about the subject of flower photography, especially Spring flowers at Squidoo. Here is the link: Photography Tips For Spring Flowers.

Boyscouts Would Make Good Bird Photographers

Their motto is “Be prepared.”

pileated woodpecker
This is the Pileated Woodpecker – about 15 inches tall. Woody Woodpecker was modeled after this magnificent bird.

One of the most important tips I could give any beginner or would-be digital SLR photographer is to always be ready. Always have your camera with settings that will allow a quick photo when the opportunity arises.

Wondering why I am giving this advice right now? I was hoping you would ask 🙂

This past weekend was a monumental one in my life as a photographer. I captured the picture of my dreams!

It’s the Pileated Woodpecker pictured here.

And here’s how I got this amazing bird picture:

I have been getting ready for this photo for almost 7 years. Oh, it’s not like I have been consciously thinking about and preparing every day for that long. Nope, it’s just that I have done my due diligence to lure birds to my camera with purpose and diligence.

bird photography- downy woodpecker
My feeder has given me many great shots of birds that look very natural.

I started with a bird feeder years ago. Then I got this idea that if I had a bird feeder that looked like a bird’s natural habitat, the images I got would be so much better. I found an branch on one of the trees in my yard, and I did some tree surgery, cutting it off at just the right spot so I could fashion some holes for bird food that had branches near them for the birds to perch on.

The project took me several hours, and I actually had to start over after botching it the first time. But in the end, I had a “natural” bird feeder.

I have taken many a bird photograph over the past 6+ years from the comfort of my back deck and my kitchen window.

It was a great day when I realized I did not have to go out in the cold for these pictures. I could take them through the kitchen window. The birds didn’t like me on the deck, but they could care less if I am inside looking out. Sometimes they come right up to the window and pose, or at least they look as if they are posing.

I usually keep my camera loaded and nearby.. like a boyscout, I am ready.

However, when the pileated woodpecker showed up on my suet feeder, I was so excited I froze. I could not bring myself to move and reach for the camera. It was there for only a few seconds before it flew off into the distant trees.

I was only a little disappointed that I did not get that picture. The feeder was not positioned well for a good shot. So I took the time to reload the feeder and reposition it so that I could get the best shot possible.

Then I waited… for two days.

I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.
I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.

Sunday morning, my patience paid off. The woodpecker flew in from the west and I calmly picked up my camera. It already had my most powerful lens, a Sigma 18-250mm zoom lens, attached with the lens cap off.

I snapped off several good shots, and then, instead of flying into the distant trees, the bird flew up into the tree next to the house, and I was able to get another shot of it there. This one was not quite as sharp as I would like, but it is definitely a more natural looking photo.

So, the “Tip of the Day” is: Be Prepared.

5 Photography Tips For Digital SLR Photography Beginners

chipmunk - photography tips for digital slr beginners
This is one of the first shots I got with my original Canon Rebel

If you are just starting out in Digital SLR photography, this one’s for you!

It’s hard for those of us who write about photography and are familiar with digital SLR cameras to put ourselves in an absolute beginner’s shoes. It’s been awhile since we were there where you are. And for that reason, we take some things for granted that just seem natural to us.

So, in an attempt to think back to the day I got my first Canon Rebel, here are some things that, while normal for me now, were totally foreign at the time.

Digital SLR Photography Beginner’s Tips:

  1. digital slr photography beginner
    Patience is a virtue for digital slr photography beginners

    Read the Manual – This is not meant to be funny or demeaning. Some new camera owners will page through the manual step-by-step, but most of us are so anxious to start taking pictures, we never actually get this done. The manual contains the answers to all the questions, even the ones you don’t know enough to ask. Camera makers take pains to explain every facet of the camera in that manual, so spend some time with it.

  2. Set the Picture Size and Quality – This setting is in the Menu. Nearly every digital SLR has a dedicated button that says “Menu”. Use it to find the area where you can set the size and quality of your photos. Set it to the largest and finest setting. (If you don’t know what RAW is, don’t use that one yet.) Do not make the mistake of setting your camera to a small photo format so you can continue to take pictures on the same storage card for a year. The simplest reason to take pictures at high quality is that you could get some good photos that you would want to decorate the walls of your house or office, and they will have to be high quality in order to get large prints.
  3. Set the mode dial to either P or Auto – These dial settings will let the camera make all the important decisions about choosing the right aperture and shutter speed. Then, as you read through the manual and test how the other features and mode settings work, you can learn and change which dial settings you prefer to use. But using the Automatic camera settings will help you to get the most consistently good images without knowing what an aperture or shutter speed is. (But definitely learn these things because that is how you will really improve the quality of your photos.)
  4. Get a large storage card (or two) – Back in the day, cameras came with a token storage card – one that would allow you to take a few pictures at a good quality and size setting. Now, new cameras require that you buy a storage card separately. Get a good quality card with at least 8GB of storage capacity (32GB is even better). You surely don’t want to be a some important event and run out of space on your camera.
  5. Have Patience – You will not learn everything about digital SLR photography in one afternoon or even one month. So stay calm and stay with it. Also, have patience with each individual picture. Look at the view finder with a critical eye to see if the shot can be improved somehow. Do this, and you will improve the number of “keepers” you get right away.

Bonus Tip – Take tons of shots. They cost nothing. The second or third shot, even if it is exactly the same, may be sharper than the first one or be better in some other way. Just keep shooting. You can always delete identical shots after you have examined them on the computer.

And if you take more blurry shots than you think should be normal, read this article about “The number one reason for blurry shots.”

Also, if you have not already taken advantage of the free e-book, fill in your email address on the right side of the page and download it. It has some excellent hints for improving your photos without spending another dime. And they also qualify as photography tips for digital SLR photography beginners.

 

Spray and Pray – Learn From The Good AND The Bad

How does a beginning Photographer take better pictures?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “spray and pray?” It means that you take tons of pictures and hope one or two will be worthy of keeping.

princess taken with no thought
This is the first shot – no thought given to composition.. just point and shoot.

There was a comment recently on one of the camera forums that basically suggested we go back to film photography. The reason was that it will give the photographer reason to think before shooting.

“Spray and pray” is not a tactic that one would employ when doing film photography. It would be far too expensive and, indeed, a waste of time. Continue reading Spray and Pray – Learn From The Good AND The Bad

Easy Bird Photography

Bird Photography Might Be Much Easier Than You Imagined

Don’t think you need the most expensive camera or lens for bird photography.

bird photography - house finchI am a fan of easy, even when it comes to something that seems difficult like bird photography. Most of the birds I photograph are common, not exotic, and I don’t have to travel to the depths of the Amazon River Basin where no civilized man has gone before to get the pictures. Rather, I simply take them from the comfort of my own home.. right outside the kitchen window. Continue reading Easy Bird Photography

What Do I Photograph When I Don’t Know What To Photograph?

What do I photograph?

Now that I have my new camera, what do I photograph? I mean, after I have photographed everything around me?

Have you ever come to a place that you just look around for something to shoot but can’t think of anything? It’s kind of like “writer’s block.” In fact, it happens to me quite often. The way I get past this problem is by visiting a few different web sites that have photographer’s challenges. Continue reading What Do I Photograph When I Don’t Know What To Photograph?

Photography Tip – Using The Self-Timer

Self-timers.. most cameras have them.

What is the Self-Timer good for?

Excellent question.

Tack-sharp photos using the self-timer
Get really sharp pictures using your camera’s self-timer.

We are all familiar with this scenario: group shot and we all want to be in it. Put the camera on a ledge or table. Press the shutter button and run around to get into the shot. Self-timer gives us 10 seconds to get into position, and… Bam! We got the shot!

Well, contrary to the popular belief that the self-timer is only good for taking a group shot like this or a self portrait, this handy little feature is good for much more. Continue reading Photography Tip – Using The Self-Timer

Take Sharp Pictures – Discover THE #1 Reason For Blurry Photos

Great Discovery – Why Many Pictures End Up In The Trash Bin

My goal for this post is to reveal what I consider to be the #1 Reason for Blurry Photos.

Have I mentioned yet that I teach photography? To kids.

That’s right. I get paid to do what I love.

blurry photos - no more
Welcome to Moe’s
Once I taught my granddaughter the “secret” about blurry photos, she started getting sharp photos nearly every time. This one was taken in a rather dark restaurant. Notice the nice, sharp foreground in the picture.

In my experience, I have found there is one mistake that is made WAY more than any other, and when I show my young proteges this little secret, they immediately do two things.

First, they have an “aha” moment when the lightbulb goes off in their brain. It’s the lightbulb of photography knowledge and understanding. Continue reading Take Sharp Pictures – Discover THE #1 Reason For Blurry Photos

Capture Fall Photography Color

Fall photography opportunities abound with a wonderful array of color and creative ideas for photographers. The rich reds, oranges, and yellows are quick to bring a “WOW” from your viewers.

Here are a few ideas about how to use this time of year to get more out of your photographic experiences.

Use your kids and your imagination.

We sometimes get so involved with the beautiful color, we forget to include people. They will add so much interest to your work.

Fall color with kids
Taking pictures of your kids and grandkids reaches a new level when you can add the interest of fall.

In the picture above, I asked the kids to imagine there was something mysterious above them. Continue reading Capture Fall Photography Color

Maybe You Don’t Need That New Camera Gear To Take Better Pictures

“To Buy or Not To Buy,” That Is The Question

I don’t know about anybody else, but I have had “gear envy” more often than I like to admit.

RedHeaded Woodpecker
I did not need an expensive long-range lens to get this picture.. I got the bird to come to me.

I have told myself many times, “If I just had that lens (or new camera) I would be able to take better pictures.. AWESOME pictures!”

It’s really easy to get the “itch” for a new camera or some other piece of photography gear.

And, in my own defense, I like to think that with each piece of camera gear, I have gotten better as a photographer. But, is it because of the gear?

Maybe I have gotten better because I have learned more about the Art of photography rather than the equipment. In fact, I have long been a proponent of the idea that the gear does not make the picture, the photographer makes the picture.

But it sure is nice to be able to have the best camera or lens available, right?

What I have done in my reflections on gear vs craft is to come up with some reasons to put off buying and decide what are the important aspects of each shot.

And I have mentioned it before, but it is an important thought, “A good photographer can get a show-stopping shot using the most expensive camera or a cell phone or even a pin-hole camera.

So let’s take a look at some reasons to not buy the next best piece of camera gear.

Continue reading Maybe You Don’t Need That New Camera Gear To Take Better Pictures