Thursday, December 10, 2009

Learn to be a photographer

Last Tuesday we went to Disney World to celebrate my youngest daughter's birthday. While we were in the park I took the opportunity to look around and notice what sorts of cameras the other vacationers were carrying. If I had to guess I would say that maybe 25% of the cameras that I see now at Disney World (or at a school function) are really nice DSLR's.

While it makes me happy to see so many people buying cameras that are capable of taking great pictures, it also makes me sad to see so many people using a $700 camera the same way that they would use a $100 camera. It's like buying a Ferrari and not learning how to drive a stick.

Learn about shutter speed and you can take pictures like this...

I've been trying to put together a lesson plan for a class (or classes) that I want to teach after the holidays. I meet so many people who have these nice cameras and just don't understand how to use them. The problem for me is trying to figure out what it is that people really want to learn. I have no desire to teach someone what all of the buttons do on their expensive camera. I do, however, love teaching people how to take good photographs. Once you learn how to take good photographs you can do it with any camera.

The trouble with photography is that the hardest thing to learn is the very first thing that you have to learn. The great thing is, once you learn that very first hard part, the rest is much easier. My fear is that people will come to my class thinking that I will simply show them what setting to put their camera on so that they can take a good picture and then be shocked when they discover that I actually planned to teach them how photography really works. The truth is that modern cameras have a hundred different settings for every possible situation and yet none of them will ever be able to take a picture as good as a photographer with his camera set to "manual." Only the photographer knows what he is taking a picture of. Only the photographer knows how he wants the picture to look.

Learn about aperture and ISO and you can take pictures like this...

The good news is that you don't have to try and learn what all of the buttons do on your fancy camera because you really don't need those buttons at all to be a good photographer. In fact, if you plan to use all those "auto" settings on your camera then you really wasted your money. While it's true that your $700 camera may take better pictures than your $200 camera, I can guarantee you that it won't take $500 worth of "better."

The bad news is that you are going to have to learn a little bit about photography if you want to be a good photographer. You need to understand shutter speed and its relation to motion blur and ambient light. You need to understand aperture and its relationship to depth of field. You need to understand ISO and its relationship to grain. Finally, you need to be able to put these three things together and understand how they interact with each other. It sounds daunting, I know, but if you can just find your way clear to learn it you will suddenly discover a whole new world is available to you.

You can see much more of my work on

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa

Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa has some of the most beautiful stained glass. The temple is very modern with low ceilings (for a temple) so instead of the typical tall windows, it has these beautiful long windows that take up the entire wall. I love shooting Bat mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah portraits against those windows.

For this picture I used a flash off-camera left with a shoot-thru umbrella. This allows me to really frame the face with light.

This shot is all natural light but requires careful positioning to balance the face just right. Turn the face too much towards the window and you will wash out the right side... turn it too little and the left will be dark.

For more Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah pictures taken at Zedek, please visit my photography website.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to balance flash with ambient light

I just finished up an article on that details the steps I take when shooting an outdoor portrait with a flash. The trick is knowing how to balance out the flash so that it doesn't overpower the ambient light. One of the pictures that I show in the article is from a recent portrait session with Kelly:

For more Tampa portrait photography, visit my website.