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Ray Davis

Winter Photography Tips

Yes, it’s almost Christmas and yes, there’s the tree to decorate, and those holiday cards aren’t going to print themselves, and you really should untangle those strings of lights. But winter isn’t just about Christmas so if you feel like taking a break from Santa and his friends here are a few tips for capturing some non-Christmas winter snaps.

1. Get your equipment prepared. Don’t forget spare batteries (the cold will sap their energy faster) and try and think about packing some hand warmers in your camera bag to keep your camera all warm and toasty.

2. Overexpose! One of the main problems with photographing snow is the fact it’s so shiny and white. Your camera’s light metre will struggle with all that white shininess and read it as grey. Many point and shoot cameras have a “snow” mode you can use or for a DSLR try overexposing the shots (try +1 or +2 if you have automatic exposure compensation).

3. Try a graduated filter.
For grey-sky days a graduated filter can give the sky a bit of colour and make the pictures look a little less overcast. The advantage of a graduated filter is that it’ll leave the foreground of your shots with the natural lighting.

4. Snow looks pretty by moonlight. Yes, it’s even colder if you go outside at night but snow can look especially pretty by moonlight or the reflection of outdoor lights. Wrap up warm, grab a tripod, and give it a shot!

5. You don’t need snow to get winter shots. If your area doesn’t get snow that doesn’t mean you can’t get good winter photos. Often winter skies make for interesting shots, and ice or frost can also be great subjects.

Documenting the Decade

There’s less than two weeks until 2009 turns into 2010 and over at The New York Times they’re looking for photographs to document this first decade of the 21st century. If you’ve got photos that you think capture important moments of the last 10 years you can submit them over there and maybe you’ll start the new year by having your work published by The New York Times! You can submit up to 5 photos and a short essay to go with them explaining why you think they fit the bill for illustrating the past decade. If nothing else it’s a good excuse to look back through your archives with a nostalgic smile!

Tips for Better Backgrounds

The next few weeks will provide plenty of opportunities for most of us to whip out the camera and snap a few portraits. From candid shots of visiting friends to the carefully composed holiday family photo, the background is almost as important as the subjects. Poorly composed backgrounds detract from the faces you want the focus on so to help you get some good portraits this year here are a few tips for getting good backgrounds.

1. Think about the background. Ok, so that one seems obvious but many people don’t give the background of their shot any thought until they’re sitting at the computer trying to crop parts of it out. Of course for candid shots you may not have a lot of control over the background but taking a quick glance before you press the shutter will give you a chance to take a step to the left and crop out that overflowing kitchen trash can.

2. Get up close. If the background is undesirable, but you can’t fix it get in close and let your subject fill the frame. This can work especially well with kids who look extra-cute close up.

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3. Use your aperture. Aperture can be used to control depth of field and depth of field makes nice blurry backgrounds so even if the kitchen trash can is in the shot it’s not so distracting. Essentially a wider aperture makes a blurrier background and a small f stop number gives you a wider aperture. For a more tips on aperture click here.

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4. Check out your neighbourhood. If your own home doesn’t really lend itself to providing a good background you may find that there’s somewhere nearby that does. It might be an open field or it might be a graffitied wall, that all depends on the photograph you have in mind but a short stroll with camera in hand might give you a bright idea.

5. Increase the distance between your subject and the background. This is another way of increasing the blurriness of the background and can be especially effective if you don’t have control over your aperture setting.

Like anything practice makes perfect so get out there and play, and if you find yourself with a portrait you love but the background still needs work check out this quick fix for cluttered backgrounds guide. Happy holiday snapping!

Quick Tips for Photographing Autumn

Up here in the Northern hemisphere autumn is most definitely on its way. In my town we went from 90F+ last week to 60F this week and some rain came along too. It’s not bad news though because autumn can be the best time of year for photography. The light is great and there’s all those pretty colored leaves to document. Here are a few quick tips to help you make the most of the season:

1.Take advantage of the shorter days. You don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to photograph a sunset and that pretty warm evening glow occurs early in the evening. So even if you’re too lazy to photograph in the beautiful first-light/last-light in summer now you can get out there and capture it.

2. Get the details. Leaves are, of course, a big part of autumn photography. Put your camera on a low f-stop and get in close, capture the color and the detail of the leaves. Don’t leave out the big picture but these closer shots can really capture the color of the season.

3. Make the colours go further, try shooting reflections.

4. Use autumn as a backdrop. The colours and the crisp blue skies make great backgrounds for photographing people, if you like a non-themed photo to send out as your holiday card now is a good time of year to get the family together and shoot it.

5. Don’t forget the non-leaf parts of autumn! Photograph other things that make you think of autumn, whether that’s jumping in puddles or sipping apple cider there are great photos to be had there too.

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