An ethereal, dreamy landscape photo can be a nice change of pace from the common ultra-sharp, super-vibrant photos we are used to today, and it can invite the viewer to find their own meaning and message within the image. If you are looking to create such photos in your own work, this great video tutorial will give you five tips to make it happen.
Coming to you from Sapna Reddy with B&H Photo Video, this awesome video tutorial will give you five tips to help you make more ethereal and dreamy landscape images. As you will see, fog often plays a role in these images, so brushing up on basic meteorology and keeping an eye on your local forecast can make a big difference in your ability to find the right conditions for such photos. Learning where fog forms, what time of day it tends to appear, and having a strong grasp of local topography can help you find the magic spots with the right conditions and good scenery for an image. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Reddy.
Feeding ducks is something everyone enjoys but next time you head off for your Sunday morning stroll around your local pond, pocket your camera as well as the treats you take for the Mallards and Swans.
1. An opportunity to get close to wildlife
As ducks are used to people visiting with goodies they’re not usually skittish so getting close to them shouldn’t be a problem. Even still, taking along a small bag of birdseed to scatter will keep the ducks in front of you for longer increasing the chances you have of getting a good shot.
Flat banks are the perfect location for photographing ducks as the low angle gives you a shot that has more of a duck’s eye view. If you don’t want to work hand-held, take along a light-weight tripod or beanbag to sit your camera on.
2. Which season is best?
Winter’s a great time to head to the water’s edge as the sun sits at a lower angle for longer which means you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn for softer light. You’ll also get mist rolling over the water – perfect for silhouetting a bird against. For a bit of variety try shooting their reflections or look for interesting behaviour such as fighting or preening activities.
3. Need more details?
If you find their feathers are lacking in detail try adding a little fill-in flash. Just remember for birds such as Swans that have lighter feathers you’ll need slightly stronger light. This time of year when lakes can be slightly frozen light will be reflected off the icy surface back under the duck, highlighting detail in their plume. For particularly gloomy days switch to a slightly higher ISO so you can use a quicker shutter speed. If you’re out when the sky is rather bright keep an eye on your exposure if Swans are around as a white bird against a bright sky may mean your camera underexposes the shot.
For shots of birds in flight make sure you’re on continuous focus and get the focus locked on the bird straight away. To freeze their movement in the air or when they’re splashing on the water try a shutter speed of around 1/500sec but if you want to be a little more creative try to blur the motion of the wings with a slower speed of around 1/30sec.
Landscape photography is often associated, or even equated, with the use of wide-angle lenses, however, this can lead to formulaic compositions. Telephoto lenses may seem like the province of wildlife photography, but alternating with them brings new creative opportunities for landscape photography.
This is illustrated by the two opening images of my photobook Our National Monuments, compared to their wider counterparts.
For many years, I was heavily influenced by the near-far compositions of David Muench: a graphic and impactful foreground subject, with mountains in the background, all often below a dramatic sky. Photographers such as Galen Rowell would embrace that esthetic. His most used wide-angle lens was a 24mm, with the occasional 20mm, but since then the short end of the 16-35mm lens has become a standard, with focal lengths of 14mm, and more recently 12mm fairly common at a wide end of a zoom.
Wide-angle photography was one of the main reasons I turned to a large-format camera – which is severely limited for telephoto lenses. There is much to be said for this approach. It helps place the viewer into the scene, depicting everything that someone standing there may see, naturally creating a sense of depth. On the other hand, they shrink the backgrounds, for example diminishing the impact of huge mountains and placing the emphasis on foreground elements that are more common than those mountains. If, in addition, you process them the same way, images can end up all looking the same.
Telephoto lenses are heavier to carry and more challenging to use than wide-angle lenses. Compositions need to be more precise, as small changes have greater effects. You have to look harder for them, as they form only a small portion of your field of view.
That latter point is maybe what makes telephoto landscape photography so compelling: when you pick up a small portion of the scene, you direct the viewer to something that you found interesting but they may have missed. This makes those shots intrinsically personal.
A group of photographers standing at the same scene with a wide-angle lens is much more likely to produce similar images than if they were using a telephoto lens.
Even with close to 500 pages, packing 60+ national parks in my photobook Treasured Lands was such a challenge that almost each image had to represent a different location. Our National Monuments had more room, and I could use multiple images to represent single locations. In two cases, I repeated images taken at the same time from the same viewpoint, looking in the same direction and differing only by the choice of the focal length.
Example #1: Our National Monuments Cover
During the afternoon I spent at a petroglyph site in Ironwood Forest National Monument, besides close-ups of petroglyphs and flora, most of my compositions consisted of wide-angle photographs with etched rocks in the foreground. At sunset time, I made one more such photograph at the widest setting of my 16-35mm lens (page 247). The foreground includes the main mountains in the monument, Silver Bell and Ragged Top. However, being located more than 20 miles away and only about 4,000 feet high, they appear tiny on the horizon.
Because of my awareness of that mountain, I still noticed the distinctive profile of Ragged Top, the crown jewel of Ironwood Forest National Monument. Between two wide-angle shots, I zoomed into the peak with the 100-400mm lens for a single shot at 340mm. Although the resulting image is just a crop of the previous image, it is entirely different, conveying a sense of majesty rather than of space. The perspective looks natural enough that without comparison, I suspect you wouldn’t have known it was made with a super-telephoto lens. A bit of cropping enhanced the image’s symmetry, making it an excellent cover image for Our National Monuments.
Example #2: Our National Monuments Half-Title Page
In Our National Monuments, there is a second pair of images where one is a crop of the other. They were photographed from the summit of Snow Mountain in Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. During my spring visit to the monument, the low-elevation hills were lush with an explosion of verdant grass and wildflowers. From the trailhead, it did not seem like Snow Mountain would live up to its name, but as I neared the summit, I found a landscape still emerging from the winter. Photographing towards the south let me include north-facing slopes with some snow.
The comparison between this image (page 83), and the following is even more striking because the two focal lengths are not that different. The wide image was photographed at 54mm, which by today’s landscape photography standards is quite long, and the telephoto image was photographed at 240mm. The graphic quality of the latter made it a good choice for the half-title page, the first image inside the book. One of the challenges with telephoto lenses is to create a sense of depth, as the perspective that helps create it with wide-angle images is now compressed. In this case, depth is created by atmospheric perspective, the drop off in warmth and contrast occurring naturally with distance, and it would have been ill-advised to apply a “dehaze” correction.
Here’s a technical detail that illustrates the depth of field issues with telephoto lenses. When I photographed the Ragged Peak image, I thought that the cactus in the foreground were far enough that they would be subjects at infinity, like the mountains. I therefore used an aperture of f/8. On the Sony a7R IV, diffraction begins to limit sharpness after f/6.7. On the LCD, the image looked sharp enough, but when reviewing the image at 100% on a computer screen, it turned out that the mountain was a bit soft because of insufficient depth of field.
Applying Topaz Sharpen AI worked but necessitated doing it selectively, as the software over-sharpened the mountain crest. You’d think that the difference would not be noticeable on a 10×12 inch print (the size of the book), and indeed the original image looks acceptable, but my daughter was able to tell the difference between two test prints viewed side-by-side.
Using this Depth of Field calculator with the circle of confusion 10 microns appropriate for the Sony a7R IV 61 MP full-frame sensor (2.5 times the pixel pitch 3.76 microns as explained here), we find a hyperfocal distance of 1,450 meters for 340mm and f/8. The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can focus on and still have perfect infinity focus.
Read also: What is Hyperfocal Distance and How Do You Find It?
All this means that in this case, to get perfect infinity focus, I would have had to focus close to a mile away! Would stopping down to a sharpness-degrading f/22 have helped? The hyperfocal distance would still be over 800 meters, or half a mile.
Telephoto lenses can help you make different landscape images, but they present many challenges. Not only do you have to pay more attention to compositions, but also they require a more careful technique. As we’ve just seen, depth of field is limited, particularly so with high-resolution sensors, so focusing has to be very precise, and even though the closest element may seem far at hundreds (or maybe thousands) of feet away, advanced techniques could be necessary. Since they amplify the effects of vibration, even in a small breeze getting a sharp image can take quite a bit of work.
Below are 13 practical tips in no particular order for overcoming this challenge. All images in the article were photographed with the Sony FE 100-400 lens for Our National Monuments, but not used in the book.
Tip #1. Check Sharpness
Shots can look great at a glance on the LCD, but turn out unusable in print because they were not sharp enough. Checking the camera LCD at 100% magnification to see if your shot was sharp before moving on to the next one is always a good idea to prevent disappointments. That practice is all the more important in telephoto photography because there are so many reasons why telephoto images may lack critical sharpness. If you notice that images are not sharp, then it is time for some of the adjustments described below.
Tip #2. Mind Focus and Depth of Field
One reason why it is more challenging to get sharp images with telephoto lenses is that the depth of field area is so much smaller than for normal and wide-angle lenses. Any imprecision in focusing shows up. Manual focusing at 100% magnification is the most reliable way to proceed, but if you use autofocus, but sure to check if it is perfect.
For an indication of how narrow the depth of field area can be, refer to the above example in which we saw that with a 340mm lens on the Sony a7R IV, even at f/22, the depth of field area including infinity starts half a mile away, meaning that you cannot have any object closer to half a mile and infinity in perfect focus at the same time.
Tip #3. Consider Focus Stacking
At a longer focal length, getting a foreground and background both in focus can be impossible. Stopping a lens down to f/22 is not optimal because it results in degraded image quality due to diffraction. In addition, the requirement to use a slow shutter speed makes the capture more vulnerable to vibration. A useful alternative is to merge exposures made with different focus points at f/11, a feature automated by Photoshop.
Tip #4. Time for Better Air Clarity
Air clarity is an overlooked issue with telephoto photography. Often with those compositions, even the closest subjects can be far enough that image degradation due to air quality is quite noticeable. On a hot afternoon in the desert, looking in the viewfinder of a telephoto lens, you can see distant elements vibrating due to air convection.
Even in windless conditions, if you take a picture in those conditions, nothing at a distance comes out sharp. In the cooler temperatures of the morning, the air is often more clear, and that is often the best time for telephoto work. In addition, at dawn and dusk, when the sun is not out, haze is much reduced.
Tip #5. Use a Polarizer
Haze consists of particles in the air that reflect light, reducing contrast and desaturating colors. A polarizer makes the haze disappear because it cuts reflections. The more distant the subject, such as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from its Northwest rim, the more haze there is, which makes a polarizer particularly useful for telephoto shots.
Tip #6. Use a Sturdy Tripod
The main reason for unsharp telephoto images is unwanted camera motion. Handholding a telephoto lens with successful results is difficult. Those lenses are often large and heavy. Small camera movements affect the composition. You need faster shutter speeds for sharp images, with the general rule that you need an exposure time in seconds faster than 1/F, where F is the focal length in millimeters. This is difficult to attain in low light, particularly if you stop down and use a polarizing filter.
In the slightest of breezes, even a tripod that works fine for normal lenses is not enough to stabilize a telephoto lens. Typically, I use a series 2 tripod and a medium-size ball head. However, that combination is often insufficient for a telephoto. On road trips, I pack a series 3 tripod and a full-size ball head. While I don’t like to hike too much with that setup, it works fine for roadside photography and short hikes. I have found it makes a significant difference for telephoto lenses.
Tip #7. Use a Tripod Collar
Tripod collars are often used on telephoto lenses to reduce the strain on the lens mount caused by a heavy lens with a long lever arm. That is a good enough reason since the strain could result in long-term misalignment of the lens mount. The issue relevant to this article is that without a tripod collar, the offset of the center of gravity degrades the stability, and the lever arm of wind pushing the lens is larger.
Most high-end telephoto lenses come with a built-in tripod collar. Lesser telephoto lenses don’t, but you can buy a third-party collar for them. Once I added a tripod collar to the Sony 70-300, I noticed a higher success rate, whereas before I often struggled to get sharp images. However, in terms of weight and bulk, the difference with the better Sony 100-400 became minimal.
Tip #8. Stabilize the Tripod
Even though a light tripod is not optimal for telephoto photography, sometimes that’s all you got. You can somehow make it into a heavier tripod. Many tripods come with a hook at the bottom of the center column or the platform, from which you can hang weights, such as your camera bag or a shopping bag that you load with rocks.
Another related technique is to apply downward pressure to your tripod. The easiest is to press on the top of your camera with a hand, but you can also step with your feet into a strap attached to the center column or platform. Note that while those solutions address the lack of mass of the tripod, they don’t address its lack of rigidity, hence the “somehow”.
Tip #9. Use a Remote Release
Unless you use an extremely sturdy tripod, pressing the shutter will result in some camera vibration. For normal lenses, with a self-timer delay of 5 seconds (but not 2 seconds!) the vibration dies down enough, but in my experience, for telephotos, 10 seconds is more appropriate. The problem is that quite a bit can happen during those 10 seconds, including a gust of wind picking up. And there are those situations when the shot needs to be timed, for instance for a wave. A remote release alleviates those issues.
Tip #10. Time for the Wind
Telephoto lenses are particularly sensitive to the wind because of their physical size and magnification. If you pay attention to the wind pattern, you’ll notice that it is almost never uniform. There are gusts alternating with calmer periods. Try to release the shutter during a lull. It can take a lot of patience, but such lulls often happen.
Tip #11. Shelter from the Wind
Not only the wind is not uniformly distributed in time, but the same also applies in space. When I stepped up on the summit ridge of Dona Anna, the wind hit me with full force, but by descending a few meters the downwind side of the summit, I found enough shelter to photograph at sunset. Even a tree can offer enough shelter.
Getting lower to the ground usually results in lower wind speed, so just lowering your tripod can help, with the additional benefit that a lower extension means higher rigidity. Besides taking advantage of terrain configuration, you can shelter your camera with your body. Among many other useful applications, an umbrella makes an excellent wind shelter. For roadside shots, I have used my car as a shelter, either by pointing it towards the wind and standing behind the rear hatch or even by shooting from a seat.
Tip #12. Crank Up ISO
If you are not able to get out of a stiff breeze, unless you have the beefiest tripod, there are always going to be some vibrations. The shorter the shutter speed, the lesser their impact. Everything else being equal, you can get shorter shutter speeds by increasing ISO. Increasing the ISO from base 100 to 400 in the daytime doesn’t result in significant noise and loses only minimal detail, but it divides your exposure time by a factor of four.
Tip #13. Take Multiple Exposures
In some situations, you may not have the time to check at 100% magnification that the shots are sharp, maybe because there are quick changes not to be missed, such as the sun cresting above the horizon. That is a case where making redundant exposures can be useful to increase the chance that you got a usable shot.
About the author: QT Luong was the first to photograph all America’s 62 National Parks — in large format. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Luong was featured in the film The National Parks: Americaʼs Best Idea by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. His photographs are extensively published and have been the subject of large-format books including Treasured Lands (winner of 10 national and international book awards), many newspaper and magazine feature articles, solo gallery and museum exhibits across the U.S. and abroad. You can find more of his work on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This article was also published here and here.
Editing video can be a cumbersome and drawn-out task depending on the type of shoot. However, there are always ways to smooth out and streamline your workflow that can make a world of difference. Here are 10 tips from a professional filmmaker.
My first comprehensive video shoot taught me a lot I wasn’t prepared for. I had spent so much time honing settings, working out how to shoot for certain color grades, and focusing on the shooting side of the work, I had neglected a lot of the basics. When I got back to my computer, did my usual backing up process, and prepared for the edit, I realized the mountain ahead of me that I needed to scale.
There are a lot of ways you can make this mountain more manageable, and Film Riot cover 10 in this video. The one that I deemed most important to improve on personally is incidentally the first on this list: organize. I’m typically organized to an irritating degree, with preparation and order being top of my list when it comes to planning a shoot. However, what I hadn’t prepared for, was the organization of footage once it has been shot. I spent hours searching through clips looking for moments I knew I’d filmed, but wasn’t sure where. This was repeated in a number of other ways — some of which Film Riot mentions in this video — but I knew for the next shoot I’d adjust them all.
So, if you’re new to videography, the tip I would most recommend taking on board from this list is organization. Grouping your clips, labeling them, and removing the need to sift through all of your content while compiling the footage can save you enormous amounts of time.
Photographing lively animals like cats is all about patience – try not to get frustrated if your animal won’t do what you want. Remember, it is at heart a wild animal and they won’t always do what you want them to do. You might want to sit around with your camera without taking photos a few times too so they get used to seeing the camera and won’t attack it or run away when you take it out of its bag.
2. Be Ready
The most difficult thing about photographing animals, no matter how large or small, is that they move at the most inopportune moments. Setting your camera to continuous shooting mode may help you capture a good shot as they run off in a different direction. DSLRs feature quick continuous shooting modes but don’t worry if you’re not a DSLR owner as many compacts also have a continuous shooting mode built-in. Compact camera owners can also switch to sport/action mode to increase your chances of getting a blur-free shot.
3. Ask For Assistance
If you are looking to capture some action or movement shots, get someone else to play with your cat, distracting them so you can get some shots of them swiping and jumping without them going for your camera. Try getting your cat to run by throwing a toy or treat, and snap it in full run. Quicker shutter speeds or switching to sports/action mode will help you freeze your cat’s movement. To further enhance the feeling of speed, pan your camera, following your cat as they run. This will, hopefully, keep your cat sharp while the background is thrown nicely out of focus. If you don’t want to have a go at panning, pre-focus on a spot where you know your cat will run through and hit the shutter button when they come into frame.
4. Candids & Close-Ups
Another technique, to create a more wild effect, is to watch your cat outside for a while and snap more candid style shots of it hunting or climbing on a wall. Try shooting side-on so you can get a shot just as it leaps into action.
If you want some close-up shots of your feline friend, try dangling a toy above it to get it to look up from the ground. You could also try getting your cat to paw at you to give the impression that it’s leaping. Dangling a toy will also encourage your cat to keep still and keep its attention focused, to stop it from wandering off. For less action-based shots, why not try capturing it lying down or stretching. Some really lovely shots can be taken while they’re resting/sleeping, for example.
When buildings are illuminated at night their shapes and features are enhanced in a very different way than by daylight and it’s a great time to take photographs. The most challenging thing is getting the exposure and colour balance right, which we’ll help with, otherwise, the standard rules of composition apply which we’ll cover briefly first.
1. Composition – Don’t Forget The Basics
When shooting upwards expect the building to slope inwards at the top, especially when a wide-angle lens is used. Move to a higher position to reduce the distortion or use a special shift lens that’s designed to correct perspective but these are expensive and aren’t really a sensible option for the casual shooter.
Try to include the whole building by using a wider angle lens or stepping back to a more suitable viewpoint. Choose the position carefully. The same building could be shot head-on, at an angle of, say, 3/4 or by using a telephoto to capture a section with a more graphical feel. Don’t forget you can zoom with your feet as well as your lens, too. When it comes to focusing, manual is your best option.
When the sun goes down the light changes in two ways; firstly the exposure time required increases and secondly the colour of the light becomes warmer. Let’s first look at the exposure. In low light, the shutter speed that’s necessary to ensure a good exposure will usually be too long to avoid camera shake when hand-holding the camera. Using a tripod enables you to shoot at these long exposure times of between 1/15sec and several seconds or even minutes. If you don’t have a tripod you can usually find a wall, lamppost or tree to support the camera, which can help considerably. Or you can try switching to a higher ISO as most cameras now cope well in the higher ranges. This means that in low light situations, such as shooting buildings at night, you can take photos with minimal noise or blurring. You’ll also want to put your camera’s self-timer into action or use a remote release if you have one as even pressing the shutter button can introduce shake that’ll leave your with blurry shots. Consider using the Mirror Lock-up function, too which can be accessed via your camera’s menu.
Low light can also fool the camera’s meter and this happens because it looks at the mass of dark and tries to compensate to make it mid-grey. By doing so, you get an exposure time that is too long for all the illuminated parts of the scene, such as neon lights, street lights or spotlit areas of a building as they become grossly overexposed.
To avoid this, you need to compensate for it. As a guide, use your exposure compensation setting to reduce the exposure by a couple of stops when most of the area is in darkness and by one stop when the building has a medium coverage of illumination.
4. Colour Balance
Illuminated buildings offset against a dark sky can look great, but you have to be careful with the colour as there can be a slightly orange or yellow cast created. Buildings illuminated by artificial light can also be problematic, depending on the lighting used in them. Two popular types are Fluorescent and Tungsten. Fluorescent tend to be used inside in offices and Tungsten in spotlights that part illuminates buildings.
With digital cameras, you can preview the image to check the colour balance and if it doesn’t look right, just change the white balance setting you’re using. Cloudy will warm your shots up while the Tungsten options will give your images a more blue tone.
Take care when carrying a camera around at night, especially if you’re venturing off the beaten track. Keep alert and where possible, take a friend with you.
6. What To Capture
Look for tall buildings you can shoot from. From up high you’ll be able to shoot skylines as well as focus on single buildings. For something different, try to shoot the same location in daylight and in the evening. You’ll soon see how buildings have a very different feel at night. Cropping in on illuminated buildings can make the image more striking and reduce the black from the surrounding, unlit areas. To give streetlights a ‘starburst’ use a small aperture which will also give you front-to-back sharpness in your shots too. Exposure times will be longer but if you have your tripod, this won’t be an issue. If people are still exploring the city you can use them to add more interest to your shots. Get creative with silhouettes against well-lit structures or how about using slightly longer shutter speeds, say 1/2 a second, to blur the movement of people who pass through your shot. Don’t increase your exposure times too much if you want to keep the patterns people create passing through your images though as anything above 15 seconds will probably remove them from your image. Bridges can be used to draw the eye through the image to a particular structure or focus your attention on famous buildings and landmarks which are guaranteed to be lit-up at night.
When using a tripod on terrain that is rocky, uneven, or hilly, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your tripod is as stable as it can be. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but they will hopefully help prevent any accidents such as your camera taking a plunge in a river!
1. Weight And Load
Before you venture out make sure you’re using a tripod that can support the weight of your gear. Also, if you’re buying a new tripod and are planning on getting larger heavier lenses in the future do take this into consideration when making your purchase. Look for a light tripod rated for the highest weight as you’ll soon notice the weight of your tripod once you’re halfway up a wet, uneven hillside.
2. Assess Your Environment
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure that the area is stable enough to stand your tripod on before setting up. If you’re working on very rocky terrain or near the edge of a big drop, make sure the tripod is not liable to slip.
It can also take a while to set your tripod up so it’s always a good idea to find your location and have some ideas about composition before putting your camera on its support.
3. Legs Before Column
When setting up, extend the legs before extending the centre column. Extending just the centre column is one quick operation and you are ready to shoot, but it is not good technique and can leave you with an unstable base to work with.
4. Adjust The Legs
Extend the fattest leg section first and keep the thin, spindly legs till last for when you really need the height. Having a wider base to work with is always a wise decision as they are more stable. Many tripods now offer various angle settings that lock at different degrees.
5. Ensure Your Tripod Is Level
Many tripods and tripod heads have built-in spirit levels to help you keep the tripod level. If your tripod hasn’t, buy a spirit level to fit onto the camera’s accessory shoe.
6. Position Of Your Tripod’s Legs
Point one of the legs towards your subject so you have room for your feet between the two other legs. This will mean you have one less thing you have to worry about falling over when working on tricky terrain.
7. What Feet Does Your Tripod Have?
Most tripods have rubber feet which absorb shock and offer good grip, but some do have spiked feet. Spiked feet can be bought as optional accessories or sometimes you can get both types in one. They’re particularly useful for outdoor photographers as most of the time you’ll end up working on loose soil, dirt, and other surfaces that will be uneven.
8. Keep It Stable On Windy Days
Some tripods have a hook which you can feature a centre column hook, you can hang a bag of stones or other weighty objects off it to balance the tripod. Another option is to take a heavy camera bag and wrap the strap(s) around the tripod’s head to add extra weight. For lighter tripods, use your body as a shield from the wind. Sticking spiked feet into the ground will also help keep the tripod still, they’re particularly useful when working at the coast to stop waves knocking your gear into the sea.
Another option is to use a piece of string or some nylon webbing can add extra stability. Tie one end to the centre column and have the other tied in a loop. Next time in a strong wind, have the string/webbing hanging down and slip your shoe into it and lean down. Your body weight will give extra stability.
The beauty with photography is you’re not restricted with how you can take a photograph. You can play with as many lights as you can afford, add filters, gels and play with numerous other gadgets to alter the look of your photograph. But even though there are all these toys waiting to be played with, one of the simplest ways to change the way your image looks is to get up high.
1. Gear Choices
A telephoto lens is useful for pulling distant scenes to you while a wide lens is great when you’re trying to get a whole town/city in the shot. A tripod’s also handy if you’re using longer lenses but not always a necessity and they won’t be allowed in some locations. If shooting at night, a camera with good low-light capabilities will come in handy.
Don’t look for your nearest skyscraper, get in a lift, ride to the top floor and start snapping shots of the city. You’ll cause more trouble than it’s worth, and there are plenty of other places that don’t have huge panes of glass between you and the view.
If you’re away you probably have a balcony you can get a few shots from or if your hotel has a roof terrace head up there with your kit and set up somewhere out of the way. Just ask if it’s OK to do this first otherwise you could raise a few eyebrows. Look out for observation decks, bridges and even the big wheels that are popping up in cities. These usually take an hour to complete a full circle giving you ample time to get a few cracking shots.
3. New Look
Shooting straight down on a building that’s been photographed hundreds and hundreds of time will instantly make your shot stand out and it will give you the opportunity to include the nearby streets to highlight the shapes and patterns not usually seen. You’ll also be able to see how shadows are elongated and help add texture to your image. If you’re not far enough away from the town/city all the buildings could appear to be all on the same level so you’ll have nothing that distinguishes between foreground or background interest. To combat this problem look for something you can have in your foreground to help break up the shot.
4. Not So High
If heights aren’t your thing why not try climbing a few steps or even standing on a wall to escape the standard view we usually see in shots. Looking over the bannister of a spiral staircase, for example, works well but it is something that’s overdone and a little clichéd so be warned. Try taking a walk up a hill in the countryside near a city and you’ll be able to shoot down to capture a cityscape.
5. Close-Up Work
Look out for buildings which stand out and use your telephoto lens to home in on them. These could be well-known landmarks, churches or even football stadiums.
6. Keep Your Feet On The Ground
If you want a series bird’s eye view why not try a spot of kite photography? Some have even tried throwing their camera up in the air to put a unique twist on photography from a height. Although, this isn’t something we’d recommend doing!
When it comes to landscape photography, a wide angle lens is most often the tool chosen for a given scene, simply because most scenes have a lot to take in. However, wide angle lenses come with their own unique challenges and pitfalls. This great video tutorial will show you five helpful tips for improving your landscape images when working with a wide angle lens.
Coming to you from Photo Tom, this awesome video tutorial will help you take better landscapes photos when using a wide angle lens. By far, the most common mistake I see photographers make when using wider focal lengths is not including a foreground element of some sort. The danger is that wide angle lenses tend to push the background away, and without something in the foreground to give the viewer’s eye a place to enter the frame and travel to other elements, it can feel like an empty expanse. Including even just a small element, like a well-placed rock or flower, can make all the difference. Check out the video above for the full rundown.
A portfolio review is a great way to get feedback and direction for your photographic practice. It’s also a great way to connect with industry professionals. If you have been considering getting your work professionally reviewed, this article can shed some insights on what to expect and how to prepare.
What Is a Portfolio Review?
A portfolio review is pretty much what it says on the box. It’s where someone who has experience within your field gives you advice on the work you are creating, which may include feedback about the work itself or broader career advice. Reviewers may be other photographers or they may be folks who more broadly work with photography, such as art buyers at a commercial agency, photography agents, or curators at public or commercial galleries.
As with any feedback, listen to what the reviewer has to say, consider whether it’s relevant to you, and thank them for their input. But only accept what moves you and feeds you creatively. This is your photographic practice, not theirs.
Do Your Research
My first portfolio review was by a commercial photographer who worked primarily in architecture. I had no architecture images in my portfolio and didn’t plan to shoot it. I am sorry to say that it just wasn’t a good fit. Although he had valuable advice, I had to really sit there afterwards and figure out how to best apply it to what I wanted to do. With this sour taste in my mouth, it took me several years until I jumped back into the review pond, so to speak.
Surprisingly to me, the commercial photography agents really enjoyed these images. I thought these would be too “artistic” for a commercial portfolio, but they said these images really show who I am as a photographer.
Within the last two years (thanks, pandemic!), I’ve had two reviews: one by a commercial photo agency working closely within the type of market I am working in, as well as one by a group of reviewers from a broad art background. These were significantly better with practical advice I could use right away.
It’s very important to research who your reviewer or panel of reviewers are. All reviews and feedback are great because they’ll provide a different point of view, but not all feedback may be relevant. If you work in fashion, a reviewer who specializes in portraiture might have feedback that might be transferrable, for example. But if you work primarily with a very commercial approach to portraiture, an art curator might not be the greatest person to review your work. It’s about finding the right balance between what you do and what insights the reviewer can offer.
There are a few things to do to prepare for your review. First and foremost is to consider how long your review is. If you have an hour-long review with a single reviewer, that’s a very different experience than a quick 20-minute session, speed-date style where you might see several reviewers.
After speaking with an art curator, I was able to better contextualize and speak about my project.
In addition to the length of time you have for your review, you need to also consider the type of feedback you are looking for; you might want to show a selection of images from a few different projects or series. If you are still working on a series but have photographed some of it, perhaps show your work in progress. Generally, commercial reviewers will be more interested solely in the images, whereas an art reviewer will want a bit more context in terms of what the project is about, which makes sense, as in advertising, you really only see the image, but at a gallery, artworks tend to have little placards explain what the series is.
What you present to a reviewer is ultimate up to you. You want to show work that shows you in the best possible light. You want to make it easy to look at the images. But you also want to consider the type of feedback you want on your work; such as where to pitch a specific project, how to develop some things you are working through, or perhaps even working out what order to present your website in. These and others are all questions a reviewer may be able to offer advice on.
With consideration to these factors, I’d tailor a portfolio with 8-12 images. If you have a longer session, you might consider making two or three smaller portfolios for different projects. There’s a big debate with print or digital, but ultimately, it comes down to what will work best for your specific images. If you’re creating commercial work meant to be viewed digitally, then do that. But if you are creating art pieces that will show best only printed at a specific size and specific paper and will look awful otherwise, then that kind of answers your question. Make your work look its best while being easy to navigate for the reviewer.
Look for Bargains
A portfolio review isn’t exactly cheap. My first review cost nearly $800. That’s probably why I didn’t get any more for several years. But there are often free reviews available, for example, through photo festivals or professional photo bodies. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these and put yourself forward when these opportunities arise. Coincidentally, my two recent reviews were free and I got them through a professional body as well as through a festival. So, it’s definitely a good idea to “shop around” and keep up to date with local photographic news either via newsletters or by connecting with local art or commercial bodies.
Listen to Feedback
Some practical takeaway advice I got for my commercial review was to have your site start right, ideally with an overview page with a breadth of your work. It also really got ingrained into me to work on the text and say a lot more than what I think might be needed in explaining and contextualizing my art images.
If you are stuck on how to setup your website or show images which are visually very different, a portfolio review might be just the thing you need!
These are all practical things I could do right away. The whole point of a review is to get better; it’s well enough to get advice, but you have to actually put in the elbow grease and try to apply the feedback to your specific circumstances.
Keep in Touch
My final bit of advice is to keep in touch with your reviewer. Networking isn’t some big scary thing; the hard part is over. You’ve already met, they know a bit about you, and you know them. Now, it’s just about keeping that line of communication going.
Maybe send them a postcard or a copy of your book if you have one. If you have work in a show or a new commercial project, share that with them. They work in the arts, and they are as excited by photography as you are, if not more. Share some photography with them!
Title image provided by Roberta Govoni. Roberta’s work can be seen on her website and Instagram.
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