Nature Photography – Let Nature Do Most of the Work

Nature photography requires all the usual camera skills, so it is important to know how to use your camera. But really good nature photography also requires sensitivity to nature.

Have you ever met someone who has thousands of dollars worth of gear, can talk all day about cameras and lenses…but still takes lousy photos? Such people fail to understand that good photographers are not judged by the equipment they use, but by their results. Of course technical knowledge is important, but it will only take you so far.

When it comes to nature photography, it is essential to understand how natural light can trasform the impact of a photo.

There is a simple saying which is good to remember when starting out: you can’t take a good photo in a bad situation. This simply means if you approach your subject at the wrong time of day, or in the wrong weather conditions, no amount of technology is going to solve the problem. On the other hand, if you get the light right, you don’t need any technical wizardry to get the shot. Nature does most of the work for you.

As soon as light is mentioned, most people automatically think early morning and late afternoon. Any photographer with an ounce of experience soon learns that these are generally the best times to take nature photos. Although it is not true all the time, it is a good place to start.

When the sun is very low in the sky, it creates a soft, warm light that is very attractive in a photo. Shining from a low angle, it also illuminates the face of the subject more evenly. Furthermore, due to the lower contrast, the shadows you can see are less harsh than in the middle of the day. So for several reasons, early morning (up to about 9am) and late afternoon towards sunset are often the best times to take your photos.

Most people know this. The trouble is, most people don’t make the extra effort to put it into practice. Are you prepared to camp overnight to be on location at sunrise to get the perfect shot? If photography is important enough to you, you will go to these lengths and more. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but once you get that once-in-a-lifetime image you will agree that the reward was worth the effort. This is standard practice for a nature photographer.

Should all nature photography be done in the early morning or late afternoon? In a word: no.

As they say, rules are made to be broken. You would be mistaken to think that this one simple approach works all the time. So what are some of the exceptions?

Black and white photography is a little different from other photography. Instead of subjects being defined by subtle shades of colour, black and white photography makes use of strong lines and shadows. The best effect can be produced by higher contrast in the light. So when you are thinking black and white photography, you may find yourself seeking the brighter light of the middle part of the day.

Rainforest photography is another departure from general landscape photography. Under the rainforest canopy, the sunlight can become such a patchwork of light and shade that a perfect exposure is impossible. For the best results in the rainforest, I usually look for overcast conditions, with perhaps a little mist for added atmosphere. Under these cloudy skies, the best times are usually in the middle part of the day, when the light is fairly bright. This helps you avoid a too-dark image.

When it comes to wildlife photography, you can take a lesson from the landscape and a lesson from the rainforest. If you photograph your subject in sunlight, early in the morning and late in the afternoon is usually best. At these times the contrast is reduced, and your subject is bathed in soft, warm-coloured light.

However, some wildlife subjects are best captured on a cloudy day, just like in the rainforest. The muted light eliminates a lot of glare, so shiny surfaces (a frog’s skin, a bird’s feathers etc) can appear much clearer and more colourful on a cloudy day. The lower contrast of this light also means important details of the subject will not be lost in shadow.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of examples. You could go on forever identifying which subjects work best in different types of light. I simply hope these ideas get you thinking about natural light and how it can improve your photography. Once you let nature do most of the work for you, will may just find that the technical aspects of photography become a little less challenging.

 

Best Photography Techniques Using a Green Screen

Most photographers and small photographic studios do not have a high volume of customers over which they can evenly spread the cost of overheads for there business. Customers of portrait photographers, require a never ending selection of backdrops and locations in which they want their photographs taken. The purchase of printed backdrops or finding on location shots suitable, takes time and money. Re-using old backdrops doesn’t give the photographer or the client the quality they require even with modern props. Buying new backdrops is expensive and might not be popular with many, but there is an inexpensive alternative. Simple photography techniques using green screen.

So to start with, when there is a need to take pictures on location, there are so many variables that are not controllable by the photographer. For outdoor shots the weather is the biggest variable. Watching the weather reports hoping the forecaster is accurate in there prediction of fine weather. Or with indoor shots, it’s the space, the lighting and controlling the people from wandering in and out of shot. How can you make all of these problems disappear?

The typical solution is professionally printed backdrops or muslins. These come in a variety of indoor and outdoor designs. The problem is each screen is quite expensive and if only rarely used is uneconomical. A few colored muslins and 1 or 2 backdrops with popular themes can be a wise investment. The trouble is how do you know which them will be popular in the future.

There is one other problem with using printed backdrops: There are times where a client would like to use a certain location that the backdrop companies do not carry (often due to it being a location that is not considered famous, or is too local for a national company to print). Now it is true that there are companies that will print out a backdrop for you, but with this method we return to the issue of owning a rarely used screen. On the other hand the photographer can shoot on location, but yet again these shots are not guaranteed to give the best results each and every time.

But there is a great solution to all these problems, photography techniques using green screen. This system works by first of all asking the client exactly what they have in mind. They then schedule a photo shot at a later date. The photographer collects the necessary background shots, by either taking the shots or buying from the huge choice online. The portrait is taken in front of the green screen and next using the easy chroma key software, he removes the green screen and replaces it with the stunning background shots the client asked for. Finally when the client approves them he prints them off, wasting no time or money.

 

Best Photography Classes in Chicago

Whether you are looking to become a professional photographer or you have recently picked up this popular hobby and you want to improve your current photography skills by learning a new trick or two, you are more than likely going to want to take a few classes. When it comes to finding photography classes in the Chicago area, you will find that there are several different options to choose from, depending on the type of setting you are looking for, as well as the types of courses offered. Each of these varies greatly from one institution to the next.

If cost and time are a major factor in your decision on what types of classes would be right for you, then you should try out the Chicago Photography Center. They offer one of the most affordable and quick photography classes in the Chicago area. Founded by students and photography instructors in the summer of 2002, the Chicago Photography Center is a nonprofit organization. They offer evening courses and workshops under a hundred dollars as well as a seven week course that runs $350, or $250 for non-darkroom courses. They offer a classroom, darkroom, computer lab, studio, and gallery space in an informal setting, making it the ideal place to brush up on your skills.

Looking for something a little less informal? If you are looking for photography classes in the Chicago area that are more geared toward a degree program, Harrington offers a specialized digital photography school where you can earn an associate’s degree. Led by experienced professional photographers, Harrington’s program sets you up to join in this highly competitive field as a professional photographer yourself. You’ll be required to purchase your own camera and equipment but are provided in return with state of the art labs, studios and software.

Still not elite enough? Columbia College Chicago offers some of the most exhilarating photography classes in the Chicago area, and in fact the largest photography program in the country. Offering the most up to date innovations in the industry as well as a rich history behind photography, taught by over 70 professors, Columbia College will surely meet all your needs. Students at Columbia are eligible to obtain a B.F.A or a B.A. in photography or they may couple it with another major as a minor.

If you still want to take some photography classes in the Chicago area, but your heart is set on a broader art program, Truman College might be best for you. They offer areas of study in liberal arts and science programs that specialize in areas of art, illustration and design, intended to be used as a transfer program to a college or university offering baccalaureate degrees. The programs may also be used to get your foot in the door of a professional career in the many aspects of art, illustration or design.

This is in no way an exhaustive list of the places in Chicago offering classes in photography. No matter what type of setting it is that you are seeking, be it formal or informal, expensive and tuition based or inexpensive and nonprofit, you will no doubt find a variety of places offering photography classes in the Chicago area. You can find more information on the programs listed above by searching for the following:

o Chicago Photography Center
o Harrington Digital Photography School
o Columbia College Chicago
o Truman College