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THE #1 BIGGEST PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKE YOU NEED TO STOP NOW
 
 

   When it comes to photography, a lot of people start out the same way. We get a camera and lens in our price range, and immediately start going out and taking photos. The problem with this is we don't quite know what we're doing right away, and we make some mistakes that makes our work look very amature. The biggest thing I see happening time and time again that makes me cringe is when a new photographer is taking a photo of a subject, and they tilt their camera on a 45 degree angle. This tilt is referred to as a dutch angle - and in most cases it's a huge no-no. Some reasons behind people taking photos like this is because they feel it makes the photo look artistic, or they want to capture certain aspects of a scene so they tilt the camera. Unfortunately, dutch angles make photos look amature and uncomfortable. If you want to capture more aspects to a scene, zoom out if you have a zoom lens, or step back to allow you to capture more of the scene. If you're looking for things to look more artistic, tilting your camera won't do it. Things that do make more artistic shots is proper lighting, outfits/costumes, and post processing. It's incredibly rare that a dutch angle is going to make your photo better. The only times I've seen dutch angles implemented in a way that actually helps is when a scene requires a cinematic look, or to create tension, or drama. Other than those reasons, dutch angles are rarely something you want to be busting out on a photoshoot. Straight lines, and well composed shots will always be the way to capture a winning photos.

Matthew Bell
HOW TO POSE CLIENTS NATURALLY
 
 

A lot of people have asked me how I go about getting my clients to pose naturally. The answer is really simple. Be confident, fun, interactive, and playful. Avoid awkward poses, and run with anything and everything that happens. There isn't all that much more to it. If it's a new type of photo shoot and you're nervous about how to pose your clients, do a bit of research and do your best to replicate photos that you like. Get your clients in a simple pose, and then start to joke and coach and play. This will help make your photos look so much better, rather than stiff, rigid and awful.

TO CROP OR NOT TO CROP

YOU CAN VIEW THE HIGH RESOLUTION JPEG IMAGES HERE(CROPPED AND EDITED) & HERE(NO EDITED OR CROPPING)

Cropping has to be one of the most debated aspects of photography. On one side of the spectrum we have people who crop photos, and see no harm in doing so. On the other side we have people who think cropping an image is something you just don't do. I'm one of the believers that as long as you're not relying on cropping, there is no real harm in it.

There are a few reasons why you may want to crop a photo. Maybe you took a fantastic photo, but you accidentally got your horizon on a slight angle and didn't notice until you were in post. Maybe the composition is slightly off, but the photo is really good. Perhaps a quick crop would take it from a nice photo to absolutely stunning. Another good reason is you love the composition, but there is something distracting in the shot. (Although it can be argued that you could / should have zoomed in or compose the shot slightly differently not to show the distraction. I have to agree with that argument.)

Like everything else in photography, you need to strive to get it right in the camera. If you start to rely on cropping to get your photos right, you're never going to get better at being a photographer. Cropping shouldn't be a crutch - it should be a tool in the tool box that only gets used when needed. Unless, of course, you plan on taking a photo and intentionally doing a stylistic creative crop. In that case, crop away. 

I've provided an example of a photo that I recently took. I absolutely loved the shot, but decided to crop. I didn't like the original composition, and I feel the photo benefited from being cropped in slightly. I like delivering high quality product to my clients, and if cropping the image every once in a while is what it takes, so be it. 

My opinion stands that in a perfect world you shouldn't have to crop your photos, but realistically it is not the end of the world if you do. Be cautious of over cropping, because if your clients want a massive print they might not be happy that they image quality is poor because you relied on cropping. Always strive to capture the photo properly, and only crop of you absolutely need to.

HOW TO TAKE PROFESSIONAL LOOKING PHOTOS

What is it that makes someone's photos look professional? Are they just getting lucky? Let me tell you now, it's not luck. If no matter how hard you try, your photos are still turning out amateurish and bland, then this post should help you out.

Let me start off by saying, this is a loaded topic to try and cover, but I'll give you the three easiest ways to make your photos look better.

The three biggest things to focus on are composition, where your focus is, and editing. For example, If I'm taking head shots of someone, I need to keep a few things in mind. Am I taking the photo from a flattering angle, and composing the shot in a way that looks good? What's in the background - is there anything distracting? Am I cutting off any body parts at weird spots (ie: someone's wrist, elbow, fingers, etc.)? Make sure to use the rule of thirds to give a boring photo a bit more interest. If you keep your subject in the middle of the photo and have a lot of empty space all around them, then your photo will lack interest.

Next, I need to think about where the focus is going to be. Obviously when it comes to headshots the focus is the persons face, but that's not all. I'm a huge believer that the focus should be right on your subject's eyes. If the focus misses and hits your subject's ear or nose, it can really make your photo look distracting and bad.

Lastly, spend time with your editing. Shoot RAW and try to give your photo some emotion. Bring out colours, add some contrast, convert to black and white. One thing that helped me with editing was looking at some photos that I like from other photographers and thinking, "What is going on in this photo that I like? Do I like the crunchy contrast, the exposure, the white balance, the punchy colours?" And then I would try and replicate their styles into my own work and then make it my own.

Photography is all trial and error. With lots of practice and education, you will eventually have your own shooting and editing style. For now, just get out there and shoot and have fun!

DOES NOISE/GRAIN MAKE YOUR PHOTOS UNUSABLE?
 
 

I'VE ATTACHED A FILE SHOT AT 12,800 ISO. Feel free to pixel peep, and play around with it. If you decide to try and edit the photo, share it with me!

YOU CAN Download the RAW file - HERE -
AND YOU CAN View and download the edited high resolution JPEG - HERE -

Sloane High ISO My Edit.jpg


One of the biggest things that photographers try to avoid is noise. (Grainy photos caused by bumping up the cameras ISO to help expose the photo). Is noise really a bad thing? No it's not. Noise is not something to be scared of at all. I hear people say things like "the D5500 can't handle much higher than 1600 ISO before the photos are unusable" this is absolutely not true. Do the photos have noise? Yes, but the photos are absolutely usable.

Obviously when shooting at higher ISO's the image quality, and dynamic range begins to degrade, but for the most part you really don't have to worry. If you shoot RAW, you can always edit and bring back some details in post. When you're looking at a photo and you're seeing noise, is it because you're zoomed in and pixel peeping? If so, of course your seeing noise when your zoomed in 1:1. That same photo looks great and noiseless when printed because you can't pixel peep a print. 

One huge tip to keeping your image quality up, and noise down is to make sure you get your photo properly exposed in camera. If you are using high ISO and still accidentally underexpose your photo, bumping up the exposure in post will really quickly degrade image quality and create tons of noise. I've taken photos at ISO 12,800 that I've used because I exposed it properly in camera. If I shot that same photo at 12,800 and had to bump up the exposure in post, it would have been trash. 

In summation, don't be afraid of using high ISO, and don't be afraid of a little noise. Just make double sure to expose the photo properly in your camera when using high ISO or you'll hate yourself when it comes time to edit.
 

YOUR PHOTOS EXPOSED
 
 

I'm launching a new segment of videos called "Your Photos Exposed" where I go over, and critique your photos! All you need to do is upload 5 of your best photos to a website like 500px, or Flickr, and send me the link through one of the submission pages on the site. I will be randomly picking submissions for critiquing so if you're not picked right away, keep submitting and hopefully you'll get yours chosen!

NOTE: Do not send me links to your Instagram page, I will not be critiquing photos on Instagram. 

This is a great opportunity for you to get an honest perspective on your photos. I will give you advice on what you're doing right, and what I think you might be able to improve upon. 

THE NEW NIKON D7500
 
 

Let me start by saying I really wanted to love the d7500, I really did. Now that's not to say that I HATE it, but upon looking at the specs I have to say it really left me wanting more. After a little while of complaining it dawned on me what the d7500 is meant to be, and it made me appreciate it a little more than I did at first. I'll explain in a moment but let's start with some specs. 

The positives:

- 4K capability

- The same great sensor as the d500

- Movable touch screen 

- 8fps

- 51 focus points

Now let's talk about some of the negatives

- One memory card slot

- $1250 USD price point

Wait...is that it, is that all I see that bothers me about the d7500? I guess it is. So why was I upset? I was upset because it feels like a half assed step up from the d7200. The d7200 has a good sensor, dual memory card slots, 6fps, full HD (no 4K), 51 focus points. Over all, it has very similar specs to the new Nikon d7500. 

But realistically what did we expect? When it comes to the 7000 series, every new model has sort of been a baby step from the last. Nikon likes come out with a killer brand new camera (something like the d500) and then take the sensor, and few other aspects, and toss it into a 7000 series camera. Which honestly makes perfect sense. It's not supposed to be a ground breaking camera, it's just meant to be a more cost effective version of the ground breaking camera. If they didn't come out with this d7500, the line up would start to be stale and outdated. 

Now I know what you're thinking. And yes I absolutely agree. The one thing that really bothers me is the fact that they did away with the dual memory card slot, I can't wrap my head around that decision but they must have their reasons, or else they wouldn't have done it...right?

All in all if you're looking for a revolutionary, ground breaking, camera the Nikon d7500 isn't it. But, If you're looking for a good mid-high end camera, that shoots 4k, and will handle well at higher ISO's, this isn't a bad option at all. Just be weary of not having the back up memory card slot. I say If you really want to upgrade and can justify the cost difference, the d500 is still certainly the way to go.

I TOOK STUNNING HEAD SHOTS WITH AN "OUT DATED" LENS

I recently was approached to do some head shots for an actor. He needed updated shots, so we picked a day and went downtown. I took my Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 macro with me and a bunch of gear. (3 Flashes, umbrellas, tripod, stool, reflectors etc.) I only ended up using the 70-200, the stool, and the reflector. I think the photos turned out absolutely great, and I took them all with an "old" lens. Thats the thing about camera gear, you don't NEED the newest, best gear to capture great photos. You just need to know how to take great photos with the gear you have. In this case, I needed to make sure that my shutter speed was fast enough to compensate for my shaky hands (because this lens doesn't have any vibration control). I also knew I needed to have a nice low aperture so I could blur out the background. Lastly, I needed to make sure I was hitting my focus properly. The Tamron 70-200 Macro is a bit soft when its stopped down to f/2.8 and used at 200mm. I had to be mindful of this, or it would result in a very soft image which is the last thing I'd be looking for in head shots of this nature.

TIP: If its really sunny outside, place your subject in the shade and use a reflector to bounce some ambient light back on to their face!

Here are some of the images that I personally like the most from the shoot.

 

 
 
HOW TO INSTANTLY TAKE BETTER PHOTOS

A lot of people think the key to getting great pictures is the camera, or the lens that they use. I can't count the amount of times I've heard something along the lines of "if only I was using THIS camera." or "if only I had a better lens." Let me tell you right now that if you're that person, you need to cut it out. It's absolutely possible to take stunning photos with nearly any camera that is made today, even your phone, and I'll tell you how to do it. 

   Firstly, you need to get the proper composition. It's true, the first step to taking a stunning photo is proper composition. You can have the best lighting, gear, camera, lens in the world and if your composition is off, the photo won't look great. Here's an example:

 

Bad-Composition.jpg
Good-Composition.jpg

 

   In the first image we have a photo of a cat with a poor composition. There is too much dead space in the bottom right of the photo, That cat is too far off to the left of the image, and he's placed up too high, causing him to look out of the frame, which to me, causes unnecessary tension to the photo.

   In the second image we have a better composition. The cat is positioned better in the image, as he is sitting lower in the scene. He's looking more into the frame, as opposed to out of the frame. Setting up the image like this, causes the photo to have a little less dead space around him, which I think is more appealing. 

 

   To get and even better composition for a vertical shot like this, it would be ideal to get a little closer and fill the frame even more with the cat, making sure not to cut off important parts of his body. You could also go horizontal with an image like this as well, making sure to keep the same framing of the cat, which would give us a better feel of what the cat may be looking at. But, ultimately, I think vertical was a better choice for this photo, due to the over exposure of the background.

   Now that you have better composition, the next step to taking a great photo is lighting. You can have an amazing camera and lens, but if you don't use proper lighting to your advantage, you're photos may still turn out dull. When I'm talking about lighting, I don't necessarily mean using flash, or studio lighting. I also mean using natural lighting, like outdoor light. If you're taking photos indoors, think about how the light is playing with the room, and set up your subject accordingly. If I'm doing indoor head shots, and I don't have my lighting kit, I like to use a window as my light source. I get my subject to look out the window and let the natural light do it's work. The more light available for your image, the less work your sensor will have to do. I'll show you an example of two shots. One I took with a Nikon d750, and the other with an iPhone.

 

   The photo of the man, was taken on a Nikon d750, and the photo of the cat was taken with an iPhone. As you can see, it doesn't matter what type of camera you use. As long as your composition and lighting is good, your camera will be able to produce really nice photos. 


There are tons of other tips for making sure your photos turn out really well, but these are two tricks that everyone can start doing right away, and your photos will turn out a lot better because of them!

I hope this helps,

- Matthew

WHAT IS AN F-STOP?

I've been asked this question a lot from people who are just starting out. I'm going to give you the most simple explanation of an f-stop that I can think of.

No matter what lens you have, it has an opening that can be made wider, or narrower. This opening is called your lenses f-stop (or aperture). It is designed to let a certain amount of light in to your camera. The lower the f-stop that your lens can go, the wider the opening will be, which allows more light in to your cameras sensor. These numbers often go as low as  f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8 which is great for shooting in low light situations. By being able to utilize these lower f-stops you can achieve faster shutter speeds, and not have to rely on boosting your cameras ISO (sensor sensitivity).

Now, In conjunction with letting light in to the camera the opening also plays another huge role. It creates depth of field. Depth of field is essentially the area that is in focus. The lower the f-stop, the shallower the depth of field, which means less of the image is in focus (from front to back) which really helps to separate your subject from the background. Here is an example. If you are taking a close head shot using an 85mm f/1.8 lens and focus on your subjects eye, the background will melt away almost instantly. The eye will be in focus, but everything from the ears and beyond will become blurry - very cool.

NOTE: Be very careful if you are shooting at lower f-stops. Because the depth of field is so shallow, the slightest movement can cause your photo to be out of focus. Try not to focus and recompose, but rather get your focus point where it needs to be and try locking in your focus a few times to make sure you've got the shot.

The higher you set your f-stop (something like f/8, f/11, f/16) the more of the image will be in focus. This is great when you are taking landscape photography, group photos, or using flash in a studio.

There is a lot that goes in to using your f-stop properly, and takes some practice, but knowing what it is, and how it works is half the battle.

- Matthew

tl;dr

The f-stop is your lenses aperture. The lower the number, the more light is let in to your camera. With a lower number, you can also get a really blurry background.