Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A few tips on taking on a 365 photo a day challenge.

One of the greatest advantages of digital is the ability to shoot and view photo's immediately.  FOr some this is also one of the problems as millions of photo's are taken every day of all types of boring or useless subjects.  There are two type's of photography that digital makes easier and can either be a great advantage or just plain awful.  The first is the self-portrait (or selfie in the current vernacular) and the Photo-A-Day project.  I will leave the former for a future post in the next day or two while I address the later today.

With the simplicity of the digital medium there are many people who start and finish a Photo-A-Day challenge and many more who fail because they get overwhelmed by the idea.  With so many people attempting it some of the work can be uninspired or not all that good. The question that comes to mind here is "Why should you take on such an endeavor?" Now everyone will have their own idea as to why they want to attempt it the best reason I can think of is that it help's to improve your photography.

I say this with a bit of experience behind me.  I have been a photographer for more then 40 years and have shot just about every genre there is.  On December 31 2010 I took up my first 365 day challenge with the hope of just completing it.  Now three years later I continue to march forward taking at least one image a day.  There have been day's when I have had a photo's that were less then inspired but not that many.  What I want to share here are a few tips that can help you complete a year in photo's.

Tip 1.  Don't let the 24 hour's of a day be a barrier.  There were many days when I shot my image in the final hour and sometimes those were my most popular or creative photo's.  Just relax and look for something to photograph.

Tip 2. You don't have to go far.  I have found that close to 80% of my photo's were created in a 15km radius from my home and a large amount of that in my house it's self.  I have used a variety of knickknacks as subjects and tools for light.  Use natural light, flashlights, flash or any ti=hing that emits light.  You will be surprised by the results.

Tip 3. Always have a camera handy.  One of the great advantages with the new technology in phones is that they have become very capable cameras as well.  While some will dispute this I think that if you learn the limitations and strengths of this tool that you have with you every day you can create some wonderful shots.  The small and unobtrusive nature of the camera makes it possible to find subjects while you grocery shop, ride the bus or just about any time during the day.  When this camera does not suit your vision, chose a better tool.  I still use my DSLR and the lens selection I have when I need them to create the vision in my mind.

Tip 4. Improve your sense of vision and become aware of the environment around you.  Look for and observe light whether you are taking a photo or not.  Be aware of where it is coming from, is it direct, being reflected off of a surface, is it hard, is it soft.  Look for pools of light and how shadows work to create depth and mood.  Look for subjects in the every day, things or scenes you might have otherwise walked by.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities there in front of you.

Tip 5. Change your angle and point of view. Get low, get high, move closer, back up, angle your camera.  These are simple ways to make your shots more exciting.

Tip 6. Be aware of your framing and pre-visualize your final result.  By this I mean as you frame up the scene in your viewfinder look at areas that can be distracting and think about how you can minimize them.  This can be done knowing how you want to crop the image and thus you shot it the way you choose knowing that your presentation can eliminate certain distractions. You can also eliminate distractions by going back to tip 5.

Tip 7. Post-processing is our friend.  There are very few images that can be considered a pure photograph.  Journalistic images should fall in this category but otherwise photographs have been manipulated from the birth of the medium.  How much post is up to each individual.  I will selectively spot images at the very start eliminating bright spots that draw the eye or dark spots that stand out against light areas.  If they take the eye away from my subject I remove them.  After that I choose whether an image needs to have areas lightened or darkened or to apply filters for a certain look or effect.  While photoshop is great for this there are apps such as Snapseed, iPhoto, Jazz or others that can be done on your mobile device and are quick and easy to work with.  Explore them and learn how to use them.

Tip 8. Share your work.  Get in the habit of posting your image of the day to a variety of social media sights.  I start be posting my photo's to Instagram as it allows me to then share to my Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and Flickr feeds.  I also share to Streamzoo, Tadaa, Pheed, EyeEm, Mobli, Tuding, Pressgram and OkDoThis which are photo sharing communities I access through my iPhone.  I also share to a couple of local meet-up groups.  By doing this it keeps me motivated and gives me encouragement and feedback that helps to keep me going.

Tip 9. Finally the most important tip I can give is to have fun.  This is for you and you alone.  You can experiment and try new things and learn techniques through taking a photo a day.  Once you start making the choices and create the vision you see then it really does not matter what other's think.  There will be nay sayers but there will also be helpful critiques that you can choose to use to make your photography better.  After all it is for you and that is what makes this project so enjoyable and intriguing. 

To illustrate some of my thought process I will share my photo for today.  I woke up and came to my office and notice an interesting pattern of light being cast on the wall from the sun through the blinds.  I picked up this Ironman figure that I had on the shelf and positioned it on a small box with the light behind.  I then got a flash light and had my son hold it with the beam of light on Ironman.  I adjust my Canon 7D to shoot at 800 ISO at f5 (to soften the edges of the light beams on the wall due to depth of field) and 1/250 to eliminate camera shake.  I left the whit balance on daylight so I get the warmth of the tungsten light.  I rotated and cropped the image in photoshop and added the frame with OnOne's Perfect Photo suite 7.
One final tip.  Don't be afraid to include your family photo's in your challenge.  This is especially true on special days like New Years day.  My youngest son felt that since it was the start of a new year we needed to start the day with a special breakfast.  He and my wife made a fruit salad (with marshmallows and chocolate chips added).  It was a nice way to start the day and I wish all of you that have read this far a very happy and prosperous New Year.

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