Tools and Techniques for Creative Photography

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  • a bookby Neil Creek

    TOOLS ANDTECHNIQUESFOR CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY

  • Welcome to the second book in the Photo Nuts series, Photo Nuts and Shots, Tools and Techniques for Creative Photography. This book follows on from Photo Nuts and Bolts which explained the workings of the camera, how to control it and what that understanding means for improving your photos.

    Photo Nuts and Shots continues the learning process in photography, building on your knowledge of the camera, and turning its attention to helping you become a better photographer. This doesnt just mean knowing how to expose or compose, but also how to think.

    This book is best viewed in full screen mode using Acrobat Reader. Press Ctrl+L (PC), Cmd+L (MAC).

    High Dynamic Range image created from a series of photos at different exposure settings Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

    http://www.digital-photography-school.com/nuts-f

  • A note from Darren Rowse Editor of Digital Photography School I have lost count of the positive emails of thanks that Ive received from readers of Neils first dPS eBook Photo Nuts and Bolts.

    Its a book that teaches new and emerging photographers the basics of how a camera works and it has helped thousands of dPS readers gain more control over their digital cameras.

    Understanding how cameras work is important, but it doesnt guarantee youll use it to its full potential any more than knowing the theory of how violins work will get you a place in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

    The ability to shoot the wonderful images that your camera has the potential to take comes as you practise and experiment with different techniques, develop skills and find your own style as a photographer.

    Photo Nuts and Shots extends beyond the theory presented in Photo Nuts and Bolts and propels photographers forward into the wonderful and creative world of becoming a photographer.

    About the author Neil graduated from Monash University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

    He enjoys science and art, especially so when the two meet. At age 16 he built an 8 inch reflecting telescope from scratch to further his love for astronomy and from which came an interest in optics.

    Digital photography has been a passion since 2004, combined with Neils enthusiasm for learning and teaching. He has been writing his photography blog for five years and has been a staff writer at Digital Photography School for three. In 2008 Neil took the plunge and decided to become a full-time photographer. Recently he has been running a series of portrait photography classes.

    Neil loves to capture the beauty in the world, and share it, as well as what he has learned while doing so.

    twitter.com/neilcreek

    facebook.com/neilcreekphoto

    neilcreek.com/blog

    Credits and copyright Written by: Neil Creekwww.neilcreek.com

    Publisher: Darren Rowsewww.digital-photography-school.com

    Graphic Design/Layout: Naomi Creekwww.starfishblue.com.au

    Front cover model: Celina www.fablesinfashion.com

    Version 1.0.1 Copyright 2011 Neil Creek

    All photos and illustrations by the author unless otherwise noted.

    All rights reserved.

    No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise without prior written consent from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. You may store the pdf on your computer and backups. You may print one copy of this book for your own personal use.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this book is based on the authors experience, knowledge and opinions. The author and publisher will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information in this book.

    http://www.digital-photography-school.com/nuts-fhttp://twitter.com/neilcreekhttp://facebook.com/neilcreekphotohttp://neilcreek.com/bloghttp://www.neilcreek.comhttp://www.digital-photography-school.comhttp://www.starfishblue.com.auhttp://www.fablesinfashion.com

  • Thanks and acknowledgmentsWriting this book has been a new and challenging experience for me, the contents being entirely new for the book, as opposed to being built on blog posts as was Bolts. I have learned much about photography, writing and myself through the more than 30,000 words that follow. Finding the inspiration and motivation to write has been a constant struggle, one shared by my very patient and supportive wife Naomi.

    Her continual encouragement and sometimes necessarily less than gentle pushing made this book possible. In addition to the support she gave me through writing, she is also completely responsible for the layout, and has turned my plain word-processed document into the gorgeous book you are reading. It is with much love and gratitude that I thank Naomi for her pivotal role.

    Thank you to Darren Rowse of the Digital Photography School, with whom I have been working now for a number of years. Though my commitment to the dPS blog has had to take a back seat while I wrote this book, his confidence in me has never wavered. That he approved my suggestion of a series of books before the first was published says much about his commitment to supporting my work.

    Finally, thanks to you, the reader, for buying the book. I hope you find it interesting, educational and inspirational. I trust you will also enjoy the rest of the series going forward, and if you have not yet read the first book, Photo Nuts and Bolts, you may consider doing so if you enjoy this sequel.

    What you will learn Being a good photographer requires a diverse range of skills: the ability to understand and control exposure, an understanding of light and its qualities, how to compose an image and making sure your image is as sharp as you need it to be. Beyond the technical skills, however, photography is also a way of thinking. Its about understanding and appreciating art, as well as creating your own. Its about feeling a mood, capturing it, and conveying it to your audience and even telling a story with the frame.

    It is my goal with Photo Nuts and Shots to introduce you to some of the most important skills and concepts behind good photography, make the complexities as simple and clear as possible, and set you on the right path to expanding your own abilities. This book doesnt get into many specifics or minutia, but gives you the intellectual and creative tools to be able to work out the details yourself.

    With an understanding of the camera you will become a better photographer, and hopefully enrich your appreciation and enjoyment of the craft.

    The next logical step after learning to take better photos is knowing how to process the results, to create the best possible looking photos, and present them in the best way for your chosen media. The third book in the series Photo Nuts and Post will cover these topics, so look out for it in the coming months.

    Your mileage may varyAs a creative art medium, there is no right way to do photography. The camera is merely a tool, and the huge variety of tools and controls available to photographers on their cameras and in software are there only to give us more creative freedom. Just because tools are available to us, like metering modes and ISO settings, does not mean we have to use them in the same way that any other photographer does. Each photographer will have their own unique approach to photography, and so long as the result is what they want, no approach is better than another.

    That isnt to say that you dont need to know how to control your camera, or the software that you use to create your images. A capable photographer knows how the tools work, and how to use them to create the image they want.

    Naturally, I must write this book from my perspective and based on my experience. I have my ways of taking photos, getting the correct exposure, ensuring my image is focused how I want it to be, setting the scene and telling a story. The techniques I talk about here work for me, but I am always learning and expanding my understanding of photography. Ill certainly do things differently ten years from now, though how I do things now works for me now.

    When you read this book, keep in mind that it is written from one perspective. You may disagree with some of what I say, and instead develop your own way of doing things. However, I believe that by explaining my methods I will be able to help you become a better photographer and take better photos the way that works for you.

    http://www.digital-photography-school.com/nuts-fhttp://www.digital-photography-school.comhttp://www.digital-photography-school.comhttp://www.digital-photography-school.com/nuts-f

  • Contents Intro ........................................................2

    A note from Darren Rowse About the author Credits and copyright...........................3

    Thanks and acknowledgments What you will learn Your mileage may vary .........................4

    How to learn photography ...................6

    Photo Nuts and Bolts Gaining confidence Learning is a feedback loop ..........7

    Using the histogram ......................8

    How to see ..........................................11

    Photo appreciation ......................12

    Artistic intention ..........................14

    Learn the rules and then break them ..................................15

    Emotions .....................................16

    Motivation ....................................17

    The quality of light ..............................19

    Brightness ...................................20

    Position .......................................21

    Size ..............................................22

    Colour ..........................................23

    Surface qualities ..........................25

    Reflection ....................................26

    Refraction and projection ............27

    Restriction ...................................28

    Time .............................................29

    Flare .............................................31

    Composition techniques ....................36

    Leading the eye ...........................37

    Rule of thirds ...............................38

    Lines ............................................39

    Framing .......................................40

    Multiple planes of interest ...........41

    Isolating the subject ....................42

    Positioning yourself .....................44

    Content ........................................47

    Action ..........................................50

    Breaking the rules .......................53

    Gotchas .......................................54

    Getting the sharpest photos possible ...............................................56

    Image focus .................................57

    Movement during exposure ........61

    Practical exposure..............................67

    The exposure triangle, again .......68

    The learning process ...................69

    Stay aware of the light .................72

    Be aware of surface qualities ......73

    Creative decisions .......................75

    Going manual ..............................77

    Pushing the limits ........................78

    Know what to sacrifice ................79

    Dynamic range and clipping ........80

    On-location thought process ............82

    Assess the light ...........................83

    How long do you have ................84

    Check your camera .....................85

    Planned or spontaneous? ...........86

    The right gear ..............................88

    Get your exposure right ...............89

    Position yourself ..........................90

    Timing the shot ............................91

    Creativity .............................................92

    Meaning and message .......................93

    Intention vs interpretation ............94

    What do you want to say?...........95

    How do you say it? ......................96

    What not to do ............................98

    Some additional thoughts ...........99

    Light and mood .................................100

    Telling the story .........................101

    The emotion of light ..................102

    Building a lighting scheme ........104

    Natural light ...............................106

    Waiting for the light ...................109

    Conclusion ................................110

    Stay in touch with dPS .....................111

  • How to learn photography

    Photography is a fun, creative and accessible hobby, but there can be a steep learning curve. I believe that anyone can become a good photographer, but there are few that can be great. The only thing you need to become a good photographer is commitment. The commitment to learn how your camera works, to practise often, to examine your photos and see how you can improve them, and the commitment to stay with the hobby when it seems you arent getting better.

    One serious mistake I see many new photographers making is to compare themselves and their photos to other, more experienced photographers, and feel inadequate. Every great photographer was once a beginner, who fumbled with their first camera and made exactly the same mistakes all new photographers make. Do not forget that photography isnt just about taking jaw-dropping photos, its also about capturing memories and emotions. Its about sharing your experiences with others and your future self.

    Do not get hung up on the worth of a photo. If it means something important to you, then it is a worthy photo. Beautiful photos may have no particular meaning to you, so they can be worth less than a very personal photo which isnt necessarily as beautiful. Take photos for fun, take photos because they mean something to you. If you can do this, then youll never become discouraged by comparing your work to that of others.

  • Photo Nuts and BoltsThis would be a good time to recommend that you read the first book in the PhotoNuts series (if youhavent already), also available from the Digital Photography School. Bolts explains in detail how the camera works, and how the various settings affect your photo. The book you are reading now, Photo Nuts and Shots, is a comprehensive guide to improving your photography through technique and attitude, and this all assumes and builds upon a thorough knowledge of the camera and how it works. If you would like to purchase a copy of Photo Nuts and Bolts you can find it at digital-photography-school.com/nuts-bolts

    Now that you have learned the foundations of photography, you can apply them!

    Gaining confidenceAs I alluded to above, the biggest obstacle to becoming a better photographer is confidence. Given that there is a serious commitment to improve ones photographic skills, the only thing standing in your way is your own opinion of what you can achieve. This is true at all levels of photography. Many accomplished natural light photographers dont have the confidence to work with artificial lighting, and landscape photographers may lack the confidence to work with people.

    Unless you can overcome your lack of confidence to tackle a skill, you will be unable to improve. This can be a difficult thing for people who have a shy or reserved personality. The best way to build your confidence is to spend a l...

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