“Your First Ten Thousand Photographs Are Your Worst” – Henri Cartier – Bresson. I believe this is true. Learning photography is not a day’s job. It requires persistence and guidance. It is a continuous process wherein you get to learn something new each and every day. Like every other art form, there are many genres in photography and each one of them is a completely different study. But photography is all about creativity, no matter the genre. So, seasoned photographers always try to find new ways to expand their creative index.
If you haven’t read my previous post on Creative Photography Techniques, I highly recommend you to do so before reading on. In this post, we will be discussing some innovative and cool techniques which will help you improve your pictures. Let’s get started!
Bokeh is a pretty old but neat trick which involves selective focusing. It is a Japanese word which literally translates into “BLUR”. To do this trick all you need is a camera ( if it’s a DSLR, it’s better), a fast lens, and lights. The picture here is a clear example of a beautiful bokeh. All you need to do is, place your subject in the foreground and make sure that the lights are in the back. Focus on your subject and you will see that the lights in the background turn into a mesmerizing blur. This is obvious since you are focusing on the foreground. Don’t use broad sources of lights because then the background will merge and you won’t have those blurred circles. Use point sources of light like fairy lights, traffic lights, etc. You can get really creative with it. Try doing the same thing with leaves on a tree, balls, flowers, etc.
Note: A fast lens is a lens which has a small aperture number. Try to do this trick with the fastest lens you have f/1.4 or f/1.8 will work wonderfully. This is because, wider the opening of your lens, the lesser is the depth of field and therefore the background becomes even blurrier.
Bokeh is not just restricted to point or round figures, you can even create a custom bokeh. Instead of these round lights, you can make stars, hearts, Christmas trees and many more shapes. All you need to do is, cut some black paper in a circle (the same size as your lens’s front element). Now make the shapes using a blade in the middle of the paper. Paste it on the lens and shoot. Make sure to use manual focus and the largest possible aperture, since a lot of light will be cut out. For a full tutorial on custom bokeh, click here.
A Silhouette is a fantastic way to add a touch of mystery to an otherwise boring frame. The details of the subject like the face, contours, colors, etc aren’t visible to the viewer, at which point the viewer tries to imagine them. This makes it very interesting. Luckily, you don’t need to be a master to create an image with a silhouette. It’s a basic technique which involves using shutter speed and metering. Don’t worry, if you don’t understand metering now. Put your camera in the auto mode and point towards a bright source of light. In this case, towards the sun. Now, check the meter and take note of the aperture and shutter speed.
Next, put your camera in manual mode and plugin those recorded values. Focus on your subject (the meter will indicate that the exposure is way too off but don’t worry, we need it there). Take a picture. You should observe that the subject is completely black but the brighter colors are perfectly exposed. If the subject is still visible, play around with the shutter speed until you get the desired results.
Actually, you are underexposing the subject intentionally so that the other elements are perfectly exposed. You need to practice it for a while before taking shots without switching modes.
Tip: Try changing the white balance!
3. Using Fill Flash and Rear Flash
This technique is a bit tricky but it will come in handy in a number of situations. In your camera’s main menu, go to the flash options. There you will see a number of options like Red-Eye Reduction, Normal, Slow, and Rear. Depending upon your camera’s make and model, the option will vary. We are going to use two methods for this trick. The first is using a fill flash and the other is using a rear curtain flash. Let’s start with the first.
1. FILL FLASH
Have you ever used a flash in broad daylight? Sound weird, right? Well, using a flash in daylight can enhance your pictures in a different way. There are situations when you have to shoot against the ambient light. It can be frustrating at first because your phone’s camera will do it automatically but your SLR won’t. SLR transfers that feature to the user in the form of manual mode. If you shoot against the light without the fill flash, you will end up with a silhouette or if you expose the subject, your background will be completely blown away.
In those cases, pop up your flash and shoot. The flash will light up the shadows and dark areas so that the exposure is balanced. It is easier said than done but you have to work a bit with the flash compensation to adjust its intensity and the camera’s exposure so that the photo doesn’t appear unnatural. For a more in-depth tutorial, click here.
PS: It removes the lens flare altogether.
2. REAR CURTAIN FLASH
First, select the rear flash in the flash menu of your camera. This option is made for using a camera at slower shutter speeds. While shooting in low light or at very low shutter speeds, it allows you to freeze the subject in motion. It basically commands the flash to fire twice within a single shot. Let me explain with an example. Suppose you are shooting at a speed of 1 second. As soon as you press the shutter, the flash goes off once. Now, before the shutter closes, the flash just goes off again. Hence, the subject is lit twice and the motion is frozen.
This trick renders some beautiful images which depict motion and flow. Both of these tricks work well with the onboard flash but if you have a Speedlight, the effects would be much more pronounced and sharp. Also, you will need a tripod for this technique. So make sure you have one before going on the shoot. Check out some great tripods for everyday use (click here).
Panning is a photographic technique which involves slower shutter speeds and a bit of practice. This technique is used to capture fast-moving objects and freeze them in motion. Unlike faster shutter speeds where the subject is completely frozen, the subject remains in focus, crisp and sharp but the background is a blur. For this trick, you need to be very stable while handling your camera or better use a tripod with a pan/tilt head. I’m sure this image will help you in correlating what I say.
The trick to capturing such images is to keep the shutter speed slow, around 1/5 – 1/2th a second. The aperture should be around f/8 or f/5.6 and try to keep the ISO to a minimum. Make sure to use the AF-C mode or continuous autofocus mode on your camera. Before the subject begins to move, lock in the focus at the subject and as it moves across the frame, you have to move the camera too. Don’t forget to press the shutter button. The autofocus will track the subject as it moves across the frame. Practice the horizontal movement a few times before clicking a picture. Read more about pan/tilt heads (click here).
5. Using Backlights
Using backlights effectively in your photographs can enhance its visual impact many times. Backlights nothing but the light from the sources behind the subject. In contrast to the case of silhouettes, we will not expose according to the background but the exposure will be just perfect to record the details of the foreground and the background. While setting the exposure, one needs to take care that the background isn’t blown away. I would suggest reducing the exposure by 1/2 stop.
Notice the golden outline on this bub. This is a perfect example of the correct usage of the backlight. It adds an additional glow to your work. This technique works magnificently on outdoor portraits.
As I said, a photographer never stops learning whether he is a beginner or a professional. Every day there is something new to explore. These tips do require practice but will greatly enhance your pictures. In the end, the whole point is to be creative. Sine, it’s an art form, let your creativity flow. You might even come up with your own tricks and techniques.
I hope you enjoyed reading this second part of creative photography techniques. Shortly, I will do a third one too. If you have any questions, feedback or queries, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to answer. Also, if you have some new creative tips for our readers, be sure to leave them below as well.