General Photography Tips | Photocrati WordPress Themes for Photographers Tue, 03 Nov 2020 13:31:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 General Photography Tips | Photocrati 32 32 5 things to think about when planning a creative photography project Tue, 17 Nov 2020 14:00:00 +0000 Doesn’t matter what it is, if it interests you, photograph it

The best photographic projects stem from a fascination with the subject matter.  You will be spending a lot of time working on any particular project, so make sure you feel inspired, motivated, and ready to return to it many times.

I see plenty of photographers shoot subjects that seem to be ‘on trend’ rather than something they are intrigued by.  If you like photographing teapots, then go for it, the images will reflect your passion.  The breadth and quality photographs will reflect the effort put in.

5 things to think about when planning a creative photography project

Think of a linking theme for your images

Have a look around the internet and your local area to find a subject matter that you think will pique your interest.  Also start to think about what the cohesive theme for the ultimate set of photographs might be. A project is a set of images that hang together as a collection.

Consider an initial visit during which you take a broad variety of images. Afterward, looking through the catalog some frames will jump out and push you towards a creative theme. Then return to the venue to pursue your goal.

The images below show a theme not only of steam trains but also focus on the state of repair and amount of work required to reconstruct an old and battered train or carriage.  Establishing the theme was the starting point for the steam train photographic project at this visitor center and how they are fixed up over many years to their former glory.  

Do you want a person in each image or are you looking for openings with the theme of ‘seeing through’?  The possibilities are endless!  For example, I could have chosen – peeling paint, the color red, details, signaling paraphernalia, or even coal and steam. 

Think of a linking theme for your images
Photographs on the theme of decay

Consider the angles, composition and lighting

The challenge is to take better and more interesting photographs than anyone else. This a useful goal to have when thinking of a new creative project.  This sets the bar high and encourages you to rise to the challenge of making the best work you can on location.  You want your ultimate set of images to stand out. There will be a simple shot of record as it’s known, here is a train and I’m going to photograph it. However, look again, a steam train can be represented by a detail of one of its huge steel wheels, or maybe a driver’s cab, or the old-world font on the side of the boiler. So, then there is a theme – elegant decay, steampunk architecture, or charming old fonts.

Be acutely aware of the light and weather conditions as well as the surroundings and constantly be on the lookout for an interesting shot or group of shots. It may mean coming back later in the day or when the venue first opens.

Consider the angles, composition and lighting
Details at Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire

Choosing the camera and lenses for the photo session

The kit you use for a photographic project is important – both the camera and lenses are key. Personally, I go to a new venue with one lens and one camera.  This means when confronted with many new scenes and options my choices are limited technically.  So, I have to think creatively to get a cohesive set of images that work well together without being ‘samey’. 

Think about what you are ultimately trying to achieve i.e. with a shallow depth of field or everything pin sharp with a large f-stop.  My favorite cameras and lenses are from Leica but obviously any camera even an iPhone with a committed project will be interesting.

Photograph in RAW and process later

Later, after the photo session, the software that images are processed through will make a huge difference to the final look of the photographs.  It really is true to say that if the starting point is RAW files then the finished photographs can be greatly enhanced by careful processing using contrast, exposure, and every other available setting.

Lightroom which has been developed especially for professional photography is an excellent package for processing images. The other experiment which you can easily explore in Lightroom is the option to present your final images in black and white. With a quick click of a button, you can view your color files in black and white and adjust the tonal response to your liking.

Photograph in RAW and process later
Railway project photograph in black and white

Douglas Fry Photographer is a corporate photographer in London.  Over a typical year, he covers about 300 photographic commissions around the UK and Europe for Piranha Photography. All Photos in this article are by Douglas Fry and shared with permission.

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Protect yourself with this simple backup workflow Tue, 16 Jan 2018 13:00:42 +0000 Protect yourself with this simple backup workflowAs photography business owners it’s our obligation to protect ourselves with liability insurance. And at the same time, from data loss.

That’s why I recommend having a simple backup workflow.

Below is my current workflow, and one you’re welcome to model yours after.

  • Lightroom catalog on an external RAID
  • Clone of external RAID in the same room
  • Clone of external RAID offsite
  • Additional clone of external RAID offsite
  • Backblaze of entire computer and external RAID
  • Amazon Photos backup of external RAID
  • Google Photos backup of external RAID

With all of this redundancy, I am guaranteed to recover lost data from the main drive if something happens.

Please do the same and protect yourself, and your business.

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How to use a tripod the right way Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:14:19 +0000 In this video, you will learn how to use a tripod the right way. Because the last thing you want is your camera hitting the floor.

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Shooting Sports 2 – Courts – Volleyball and Basketball Thu, 04 Feb 2010 19:30:31 +0000 In my first article, I talked about some general considerations in shooting sports – the gear, the camera settings, etc. If you haven’t taken a look at that article yet, you should read it before this one.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the considerations specific to shooting court sports — volleyball, and basketball. These are usually indoors, but the same principles apply when they are played outside.


I’m going to assume that you are basically familiar with the game and are just looking for advice on how to capture the best angles.

One thing that is important – the ability of the players with respect to the height of the net; this is going to influence their style of play.

Smaller and shorter players are going to play less aggressively on the offense — no big jumping / spiking shots from above the net — and slower on the defense (since the spikes are not as hard, they are going to be slower, and more looping over the net). Most of the “spikes” will land farther back, which will push the defense towards the back line.

The formation of the players, however, is not going to change much, so most of the angles for shooting will be the same.

Here’s a list of great “shots” you should try for:

  • The serve
  • The serve receive
  • Setting for the hitter
  • Outside hitter
  • Inside hitter
  • The dig
  • Setter to middle hitter
  • The double block

And, for advanced high school, or college players – there is also hitting off the 10-foot line.

A few words about backgrounds

One of the best things you can do for your backgrounds is to get some height, and lose some depth of field. Since most gymnasiums are barely-lit caves anyway, you’re probably shooting wide open (at your widest aperture) or close to it, so that takes care of the depth of field.

Getting some height – you hope that the bleachers are close enough that with the lenses you have, the players are not too far away.


Most of my volleyball shots have been with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. The 24-70 is useful for wider shots of the entire team, especially during time-outs or breaks when they are meeting with the coach for strategy, and you want those wide-angle “huddle” shots. On a crop-sensor camera, the 24 is not really wide enough, you’ll need a true wide-angle. (I have the 16-35.)

Serve and Service Receive

Ok, let’s play some volleyball.

In the diagram below, you can see the layout of the court. The “X” is the player serving the ball. Theoretically, a player could serve from anywhere behind the back line of the court, but practically speaking the server will usually be inside the box. The “O”s are the players receiving the ball. Most teams these days are using the three-person receive. From the starred positions, you can see the angles involved in shooting the server, and the receivers.


All three positions have advantages and tradeoffs. Position 1 has some height – you’re up in the bleachers, shooting down a bit, that cleans up the background for the server. However, the angle on the service receive players (“O”) is not so good – you might get a good shot on the player A, but the B and C players are likely to become obscured by A.


Position 2 has a great angle on service receive players A and B, but now you run the danger of C becoming obscured by the pole, the antenna, and the net.

Position 3 is at the intersection of 1 and 2 – so it has a great angle on both the server, as well as the receiving players, but it is down lower, so you don’t have the height.


In our next diagram we can see the typical formation of a game in action:


Let’s assume that the setter (the “O” near the net) has just received the ball, and is setting up for the outside hitter (the “O” that is coming in from outside the court). Depending on who you want shots of, there are a variety of positions you could shoot from.

#1 – you get a great shot down the net of the outside hitter going up for the ball. While it would seem that the setter is going to obscure the shot, most of the time the setter will move back off the net slightly as the hitter jumps, to cover defense in case the shot is blocked and comes back over the net. Note that you can be anywhere along the line of sight, and still get the same shot. It’s just that moving back and up will clean up your background. This is a good place to get those setter-to-middle-hitter shots as well.


#2 – If the hitter can get above the net, you get great shots of the hitter and the opposing blockers. Note that the follow through of the arm on a right-handed hitter will possibly obscure the face – things are happening quickly here, but you want to either capture the shot just as the hitter reaches the apex of the jump (when the arm is cocked back and is beginning to travel forward, but has not yet obscured the face) or immediately after contact with the ball, when the follow-through of the arm brings it down. With the second situation, the ball should be in-play with the opposing blockers, either going to one side, through, or over the block. (Again, if the hitters are getting above the net, shooting from here will also be good for the setter-to-middle-hitter shots.)

#3 – You get a great shot of the hitter’s face, through the arms of the opposing blockers. The best time to get this shot is just as the hitter hits the apex of the jump – there is a split second when the hitter’s head comes down to see the blockers and the court before the wrist snaps to hit the ball. (There is an “arc” of where you might want to be.) By timing it correctly, the hitter will be at the apex, and the blockers will be on their way up. This will give you the best angle on the hitter’s face.


#4 -Great shots of the defense covering the spiked ball – the dig.

#5 – Can see the blockers faces as they cover the spiked ball from the outside hitter.

After each game, the players switch court sides. So, you have a chance to get the “other half” of the game during the second game. (For example, in the previous diagram, the setter is usually going to have his/her back to you. In the second game, s/he would be facing you, allowing you to get some great shots.

If (and this is a huge if) you can get some significant height – like from an overhead catwalk, a balcony, or by using your Spiderman powers to crawl up the wall – then consider it – especially for those shots of the hitters. Any height you get will make the jumps look more impressive, and will give you that much more chance to catch the players faces in the picture.


Basketball courts are bigger than volleyball courts. Since I usually have supplemental lighting (see the first article for links to articles on adding strobes to basketball) that lights up half the court, then I usually focus on half of the court at a time. Since the players switch sides halfway through the game, I do not have to move the lights. I can focus on shooting offense for half the game, and defense for the other half, resulting in a nice balance of shots.

Basketball is a really good time to learn to shoot with both eyes open. An errant ball, a player overshooting the net, all can result in having a large person suddenly (and violently) invading your personal space.


#1 – I can cover a lot from this position, and in fact it is probably my favorite on-court position. All of the offensive players are facing me, because I am close to the basket. If the point guard drives to the basket, I’ve got the shot. If an outside player does a 3-pointer, I’ve got the shot. If there’s a drive down the outside line when the offense is coming down the court, I’m in line to get the shot.

One of the only bad things about this position is that one of the referees tends to stand just out of bounds behind the basket, so they will be in your way quite often. Another disadvantage is that you do not have any height with this. In fact, I like to get down on my knees to shoot from this position, it does two things – it visually anchors the player to the floor, and any jumps look even more dramatic. Any dunks are easily covered from this position as well, especially if the player hangs off the rim with his tongue flapping in the wind.



You can also use this position for getting down-court shots of the defense. However, you’ll need at least a 70-200 lens for this to get the reach. If you have strobes set up to light only half the court, then that’s another issue.

Robert Haney, Jr. drives to the basket

#2 – Great for shots of the defense at work.

Another diagram:


#1 – This is great for getting shots of a layup, and some basket action shots. Note that most players are right handed, so they will naturally favor approaching the basket to the right side. If players are left handed, then shoot from the other side, or wait until they are playing the opposite end of the court.


I hope this helps with your basketball and volleyball shots!

Up next – Field sports – Football.

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The Tuesday Composition: Repetition Tue, 29 Sep 2009 09:21:55 +0000
Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley
Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

A while back we talked about visual echoes–and we primarily focused on repetitions of two similar or contrasting objects. Today I’m going to revisit that topic with a greater emphasis on repetition generally, whether two, eleven or a million similar image elements.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the echoes post, I suggest going back and and reading it now, many of the ideas in today’s post will relate to and reflect on the ideas I presented there.

Repetition is a powerful and amazingly versatile tool.

One of my favorite uses of repetition in composition is in simplifying an image. In general, images with many kinds of disparate elements can be harder for the viewer to make sense of–put enough elements together and you take away an easy sense of what elements of the image are important, dominant.

Repeating patterns in an image can help organize all of those elements into a pattern that’s easier for the viewer to understand. Salt Polygons at Sunrise has hundreds of elements, but our eye quickly integrates the underlying pattern of the salt polygons and makes sense of what’s going on in the image. A random collection of that many disparate elements in an image would feel much more chaotic. (Of course, that might be what you want, but more often, my own work tends towards less chaotic.)

Clouds Forming in Alpenglow, Eastern Sierra, California
Clouds Forming in Alpenglow, Eastern Sierra, California

Like visual echoes, repetitions of similar objects can guide us to compare and/or contrast the elements in the image. This is a particularly crucial part of  Clouds Forming in Alpenglow. While the repeated pattern in the mountain peaks does simplify the image a bit, the repeated pattern of the clouds is far more important.  A single diagonal cloud would tell the viewer very little about the dynamics of what’s going on behind that cloud; however, three clouds each moving in a parallel direction away from the repeated peaks in the image presents a much deeper question as to what’s going on. In this case, that pattern isn’t an accident, the clouds are literally being formed downwind of the peaks, and the blurred cloud motion helps to confirm that fact.

Dawn Migration and Tabular Iceberg, Greenland Coast
Dawn Migration and Tabular Iceberg, Eastern Coast of Greenland

Salt Polygons also compares repeated elements, and “shows us” depth and scale as a result. We “see” the repetition of polygons, we compare them and (subconsciously) notice them recede as we move up the image (as well as change in shape), and we quickly and intuitively grasp that we’re looking across a vast, flat plane of these polygons.

Finally, one can strengthen the power of repetition by putting the repeated elements into a line, and making use of the special   properties of lines and edges that we’ve talked about in earlier posts.  Dawn Migration and Tabular Iceberg provides a very simplistic example, comparing and contrasting the repeated, blurred bird images in this print becomes more interesting as our eye is guided through the composition by the lines of the flock.

Desert Rhythms
Desert Rhythms VIII, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley

Beyond a certain number of repeated elements, our repetitions often lose their their independent existence and begin to take on the sense of a single object, a rhythm, a texture. My sand dune abstracts, such as Desert Rhythms VIII, contain a number of examples of that idea. Even short of these extremes, though, a rhythm, that is, a repetition not only of elements but of distances between the elements, strengthens the power of repeating elements and helps unify them into a single visual element.

With all these possibilities, compositional repetition is an important tool for creating powerful and effective images.

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A simple cheat to direct a viewer’s eye Mon, 31 Aug 2009 18:13:59 +0000 We can’t always control the shoot as much as we’d like. One of my regular gigs is shooting real food prepared by real kitchen staff at real restaurants. The shots are more about the cooks and the restaurants than about my photographic prowess. Many times food comes out of the kitchen looking perfect, other times … not so much.  On these assignments I’m also usually restricted to available light, or minimal supplemental lighting. Immediately I’ve lost control over two key aspects of the shot. It’s on assignments like these that I’ll often employ a trick that’s so simple I’m almost   embarrassed–vignetting.

By artificially darkening the corners and edges of images we can direct the viewer’s eye toward the center. The trick is to not overdo it, but to have it be subtle. If you look at an image and think, ‘Oh, darkened corners,’ you’ve most likely gone too far. There are several points along the way where you can employ this trick, but my preference is in Photoshop, after the image has been cropped and the contrast adjusted.

My personal method involved the Quickmask tool and an Adjustment layer. On you image, enter Quickmask mode (Q key command) and select a round paint brush of appropriate size. Then simply mask the majority of the image. Remember this is a mask, not a selection, so the areas you paint will not be affected by the next step.

Quickmask mode
Quickmask mode

After you’ve masked the appropriate areas, exit Quickmask mode (Q key command again.) The areas you haven’t masked will now be selected. Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer, New Adjustment Layer, Curves) and bring the mid-tones down to the appropriate point. I usually use 10% as a good starting point. This is the area where you can go too far if you’re not careful, so take your time.

Drag mid-tones down about 10% to start
Drag mid-tones down about 10% to start

The great thing about doing this on an adjustment layer as opposed to directly on the image is the ability to edit the curve as well as the layer mask after the fact.

Raw file
Raw file

File with darkened corners
File with darkened corners

Sometimes we simply have to go with the situation presented to us. Those situations don’t always allow for full control at the time we shoot. But using a number of little techniques and gimmicks can really help a shot pull through.

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