Photography HOW TO: photograph fireworks!

Ah, the Fourth of July. Picnics, parties, beer, and brats (that’s bratwurst, not BRATS, well… hopefully not brats 😉  )
And of course, there are fireworks. I’m sure there’s a long and delightful history about why we Americans light up the skies with fireworks and you’re welcome to Google that information in your spare time 😉

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I have always been particular about fireworks. By particular, I mean terrified. Then, seven years ago I had two little girls and now Mommy has to put on the brave face. What better way to enjoy those loud, blazing balls of fire raining down on you, but by trying to photograph them! Total transparency here- last year was the first year that I ever tried to photograph them. I’m going to try again this year if this Summer of Unending Rain gives me the chance (Ohio friends know what I’m talking about). You can try, too!

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1. Remote shutter release like THIS
2. A DLSR and basic understanding of photography
3. A dark place with a clear view of the sky

IT WOULD BE HANDY TO HAVE:
1. tripod
2. wide-ish angle lens that will focus to infinity. Use what you’ve got though, you can make nearly anything work.

I’ll post my photos with my settings to give you an idea about where you can start, but every lighting situation, lens and camera body is different. For what it’s worth, I took these on a Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 35mm 1.8 lens. I wanted a wide angle lens, and my 35mm is the widest I’ve got.

First things first- get a good spot! Some people like to have cool landmarks in their photos, but I want an unobstructed view. We parked ourselves far across from the field where the fireworks would be shot off. I can fake being cool with fireworks, but only from a safe distance.

Second, turn off your flash. You want the only light your camera sees to be the fireworks themselves. Relatedly, turn your ISO down. Mine was set at 100 for all these photos. Again, we want the only light to be from the fireworks themselves, so we don’t want our cameras to compensate for the dark and make images brighter.

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ISO-100, 35mm, F-16, SS 8.0 seconds

Aperture is next. You’ll want a long focal length. Anywhere from F-11 up will work well. The fireworks will be far away, and we’re going to try to focus to infinity. You’ll want to look up your specific lens if you don’t know how to set it to infinity or even if it does such a thing. A note about my specific 35mm– it is a G lens, meaning “gelded” and does not focus to infinity which made things a little harder. What I did was set my focus to manual and focused on the very farthest thing from me, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Set your shutter speed to a reeeeeaaaaaalllllly long exposure. There won’t be a ton of light, we’re using a low ISO and a small aperture (the larger the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture opening). Mine was set anywhere from 8 seconds to 13 seconds. Now you see why you’ll want that wireless remote- there is absolutely no way you can have your hands on your camera when that shutter is released or you’ll get instant camera shake and blurry photos. I would fire off my remote shutter release as soon as I saw the firework shot off- when you see that first streak of light FIRE! If you have a tripod- USE IT. The less motion around your camera the better.

Play around with your shutter speed and see how the speed affects the amount of light let in. The longer you leave your shutter open (hello, 13 whopping seconds) the more light will enter your lens. The cool thing is the light is moving! Since our shutter is super slow, it’s not going to stop that light motion and you’ll get those awesome light streaks.

Get out there, and give it a shot! Share your attempts over on Wendy B Photos on Facebook!

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Safety in photography: holiday edition

I saw a really good post over on newbornphotography.com about taking safe photos during the holiday season. To most of us pros, they are common sensical but there are a lot of people who will try to take photos themselves (and hey man, more power to you if you want to give it a shot). One of the first things they talk about is the danger or wrapping your child in Christmas lights. Just– don’t. It’s so unsafe for so many reasons, not the least of which is the lead the wires are coated with. In fact, you should wash your hands after handling the lights yourself!

I love the look of “twinkle lights” in holiday photography- it’s a safe way to incorporate lights without risking anyone’s safety.  I had one of my daughters sit for a minute so I could show you a couple safe twinkle lights. I’ll do a tutorial post on how I shot these twinkle lights shortly ;D ::UPDATE  read how to create this backdrop HERE ::

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If you’ve looked back and found that WHOOPS you’ve done this, don’t worry about it. Most people really don’t know better. Before I had any idea what I was doing, I’m about 98% sure I tried something with lights. But I won’t do it ever again. Your safety as my client, or your child’s safety if you’re trying this on your own, is more important than getting a bunch of “ooh that’s so cute!” comments on your Facebook feed (and you betcha I’m going to post to my Facebook).

 

There is one other big thing I can’t stress enough when talking about safe photography, though not holiday related. Let’s talk about railroad track photos.

Never, ever EVER (for real) take photos on railroad tracks. Nothing ruins a photo session like being hit by a train like happened below:

http://petapixel.com/2014/06/20/photographer-missouri-hit-killed-amtrak-train-photo-shoot/
http://www.diyphotography.net/train-kills-one-photographer-injures-two-taking-photos-train-rails/

Even if you’re preeeeetty sure the tracks are “dead” meaning they haven’t been in use (that you know of) you are still trespassing and breaking the law. Please, don’t ask us to shoot on tracks. I don’t like having to tell my clients no, but I won’t hesitate to do it. I love my clients but there’s no way I’m going to jail for you or anybody! If you read that like Garth Algar from Wayne’s World, award yourself one gold star.

I know there is a ton of info out there and a lot of people feel :so what: when it comes to things like this, but if you’re my client, my friend, I will never ever put you in harms way.

My feelings about #3 …

So, over on Wendy B Photos I shared an article by the amazingly talented Amy Tripple Photography. It’s a list of things photographers want their beloved clients to understand. It’s one of the few times that I thought YES YES YES. I wish I knew how to say this! But then I don’t have to say it, because Amy did it so well. I wanted to talk about #3 on the list.

It hurts my feelings when you joke about my pricing.

  • When you imply that my prices are getting too high, it feels like you’re saying that my work isn’t worth what you’re paying. I’m quite sensitive about my pricing and it feels incredibly vulnerable to have to put a price on my passion and art. There are so many parts of running a business that I can’t expect you to know about: taxes, a studio, equipment, website fees, a salaried studio manager… these are just a few of the things I’m desperate to tell you about when you make a joke that “this hour had better be amazing because we sure are paying for it…” I can’t, of course, so I try to remember that you probably don’t understand all the costs involved in running a small business and continue on with your session.”

While the above doesn’t happen to me during sessions, it stings when someone inquires about a future shoot and straight away asks, “What do you charge?” or they make comments like “when is your next sale?”; it makes me think that the person doesn’t put any value into the work; they’re only looking for someone who is “cheap” even if that’s not the case at all. I know cost is one of the most important things that potential clients consider, but it should never be the #1 most important. How much do you value your photos? I’m neither the most expensive nor the cheapest person working the block so to speak and I do the best I can to work with families for whom budget is the #1 deal breaker. ** if you are worried that you cannot afford my pricing, TELL ME. If you book out far enough in advance, I can gladly take small payments over time so that you can be paid up in time for your session**

I do *everything* I can to provide professional, affordable portraits be they family, maternity, newborns, etc. I do NOT believe that professional and personal photography should be a luxury only the wealthy can afford. There are a lot of people who could never afford to spend $400, $500, $1000 on photos. Does that make them less deserving? I don’t think so.

Does that mean that other photographers need to lower their pricing? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Each one of us sets our pricing in line to where it should to be for our specific needs. None of us will have the same pricing structure, even if we’re located in the same zip code. What works for one of us will likely NOT work for another.

I am priced as low as I can be, while still being able to cover my costs of doing business and as any other small business owner can attest, it’s not cheap doing business. There are times when I need to increase my price, or my product pricing but I have done and will continue to do everything I can to make professional photos available to as many people as possible.

I can’t thank my clients enough for being understanding of the ways in which I operate my business ❤ ❤

What makes a Mini Session “mini?

If you haven’t heard, I’m holding #SpringMiniSessions on April 25th. Now, you might be asking, “What makes a mini session with Wendy a MINI? What do I lose out on if I book during a mini sale?” The answer is time makes it a mini, but you don’t lose out on anything… want to see why? Read on, my friend.

what makes a mini session "mini"?
what makes a mini session “mini”?

It’s true that I am generally one of the lowest priced photographers in the Cleveland area with my experience (there are people out there selling sessions for $60 a pop, but buyer beware :more on that later:)  and it’s true that I provide digital files for sale below the industry norm, not to mention my prints available to all clients a la carte start at $2, so just what makes a mini a mini? (mini mini miiiinnnniiii!)

In short, a mini session with wendy b photos is a strict, set amount of time typically 30 minutes or less. It comes with fewer digital files included on your disk but additional digitals are discounted so you can add files easily. I restrict the number of people who can participate in the mini (usually five people tops) because more people = more shoot time= more edit time. You know what they say about time and money after all.

I offer mini sessions a few times a year; during spring (going on now), fall, and then winter. Minis are a great way to get that family shot you want “just a nice one of the five of us”, update your family photo wall, or grab some quick shots of your little kiddo hitting a fun milestone.

Minis are perfect for the budget-minded as well. Right now, my mini session is 35% off the regular family session price. If you have referral credits, you can in most cases apply them to your mini session, reducing the cost another 10%. Email wendy@wboycephotos.com for info on referral credits!

So, now you know! I have four spaces left for my April 25th family mini sessions– book yours today!

Photography how-to– adjusting settings for DARK rooms

I asked over on my Facebook page if anyone had some photography questions I could help with. One of the respondents said that she was having trouble with her pictures coming out dark and in some cases, blurry. This is a pretty common complaint so I’m going to talk about a few things that may help you get that shot. You will need a basic understanding of photography and the exposure triangle, but I’ll try and explain the whys and whats of everything! If there’s something you’re unsure of, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you 😀

These tips will be most beneficial if you have an SLR, but you can try to make it work if you’re using a point and shoot. Most newer PNS cameras have a settings option.

If you remember nothing else, remember this– LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT. You need light, the more the better.  These photos were taken during a recital rehearsal and it was asked that no flash be used. Obviously in a large, dark auditorium, there won’t *be* a lot of light. So what can you do?

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settings: SS 1/5th, ISO 400, f3.8 focal length 20mm

Let’s take a look at this photo my friend was kind enough to let me use for demonstration; it’s a little dark, but the biggest issue is the blur.

The shutter speed was to slow  at 1/5th of a second which lead to motion blur. I keep my shutter speed close to 1/100th of a second when I’m working with kids. You need a fast shutter when your subject is ALSO fast 🙂 But how do you keep your shutter speed high, without getting a totally black picture since that fast shutter doesn’t let in as much light?

The first thing you’ll want to do in a super dark room, is turn up your ISO. Your ISO setting tells your camera’s sensor how much light is available, or how much light to compensate for in very basic terms. If there is a lot of light, you set your ISO to a low number, if it’s a big, dark place your ISO needs to be high– 800, 1600, maybe 3200. You’ll want to experiment with your camera though- a high ISO introduces film grain.  You can see that the ISO was set to only 400. My friend could have turned up just that ISO alone and would have been able to use a faster shutter speed which would have reduced the motion blur. Problem solved!

A note about grain: To most people a little grain isn’t noticeable, and in most cases if you print a typical snap shot some grain won’t be super detrimental to your print- though, I wouldn’t print larger than a 5×7 of a photo that was visibly grainy (have I lost you? Take a look at a post my friend and photo-inspiration Katy wrote about grain).

This next photo is the perfect DARK example. Whoa.

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SS 1/25th, ISO 1600, f 6.3, focal length 150mm

You can see from the settings that the ISO was high, so why was this still so dark? In this case, it’s the f-stop (f 6.3) which may have killed the photo. I know this was shot with a zoom lens; when you zoom in (that 150MM is zoomed in) your aperture closes down. When your aperture is closed down, it doesn’t let the light in. If you have the ability, open up! If you can’t open your aperture, you’ll have to zoom with your feet. Physically move yourself closer, zoom out and you will be able to open your aperture more. If you’re not able to be up and moving around, get in early and get as close as you can- be that mom (or dad), ha!

To review, if you know you’re going to be in a dark room, turn your ISO up- way up, keep your shutter speed as close to 1/100 as you can, and open up your aperture! Let as much LIGHT in as you can. Like always, your individual settings will vary from shot to shot so get to know your camera so you can adjust on the fly like the pros 😀

Need more help? Have questions about shooting in manual? Leave a comment and I’ll try to be in touch!

Photography how to: create star bursts

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    Oooooh, bright shiny lights. I love how the tree is glowing and the lights are bursting, don’t you? I’m going to talk you through how you can take a picture of your family’s tree (if you have one). You will need a basic understanding of photography, you’ll need to understand shutter speed, but that’s not super hard 😀
    You’ll need:
  • tripod or something sturdy to set your camera on
  • camera with timer and manual settings
  • pretty lights to photograph (I have a crap load of lights on my tree and still want MORE! ahaha)
  • an dark night… ooh

You might want:

        • a remote shutter release

So, first things first- turn off all the lights. Light is the number 1, most important thing you need when taking pictures, and in this case, you need to eliminate all outside light because you want the only light source to be your tree.

You’re going to set your shutter speed to a really, slow, really long which is why you need something sturdy to set your camera on. Any tiny movement will RUIN THE SHOT FOREVER! Well, ok, it’ll just ruin that one shot but you’ll have to reshoot and if you’re a perfectionist, that’ll drive you crazy. My shutter speed on the above was 13 seconds– the shutter was left open for 13 full seconds allowing all the twinkly light to enter. I had my ISO turned as low as I could, which is 100. Your ISO setting tells your camera how much available light there is- a low number means there’s lots of light and the camera doesn’t need to compensate for that. A high number means there’s very little light. Logically, you’d want to set your ISO to a higher number since there is very little light- BUT in this case we are going to make up for the low light with a slooooooooow shutter speed.

I closed down my aperture to F-11; there’s a long explanation about the blades in your lens and angles, so you can read up on the specifics and I encourage you to but I’m not going to get into it all. You’re going to want to be stopped down to at least F-11, the further down you’re closed the more dramatic your burst will be.

Next, you’re going to frame up your shot. Select your focus point, you can pretty much just point it toward the middle and go at it. Your lens will be stopped down so almost everything will be in focus. Remember, you need something sturdy to hold your camera or you’re going to get motion shake. Use a tripod, or, rig up something sturdy to angle your camera correctly. If your camera has a timer setting USE IT. If your camera has a remote setting, invest in a remote.  I use the word “invest” loosely–I have this little guy . $7 folks. Worth it if you have a Nikon DSLR (there are millions for Canon and other bodies as well). Go ahead now and take your first shot. How’d it look? Good? No good? Post your picture to my Facbook page wendy b photos. If you don’t like what you got, shoot again!

You can use the settings I have listed as a starting point, but if your photo isn’t “right” make adjustments and try again. Every situation is different, you may have more or fewer lights on your tree, you might have more ambient light, make the adjustments for YOUR specific situation. And, feel free to ask for help 😀

 

f-11 13″SS 100 Iso