Moving Pictures

The quality of your photography can depend on how you adapt to your environment, especially when you can’t control that environment – like in the great outdoors.

I have done many indoor photo shoots for studios where you could control the lighting, the subject and the direction you want to follow but outside there are many elements to consider which often involve split-second decisions on how to get that perfect photograph.


In a studio, I can sit the subject where I want, talk or arrange it/them perfectly and take a photo pretty quickly. Studio shots are meant to be a bit lacking in movement as they are primarily taken for atmosphere/mood, products or display. They are organised and the items/people are naturally stable in that environment. When taking photos outside there is more movement – nature does not sit still and neither do the products/subjects that work outdoors. Imagine which is more realistic – a tractor driving through a field of tossing grasses or a tractor sitting still while grasses bend in the wind? I guess it depends on the effect you are after, but the real action does depend on a real subject which moves around and reacts with the scenery. When you intend to take action photos, capturing them as realistically as possible means that the subject will be moving, and the landscape will be interacting.

The advice I can give regarding this is to have a brief list of all the items that you have to make sure are right to capture the photo. For example, the subject must look comfortable and natural; the product should be performing as per intended, and you should take a lot of photos to make sure there’s a goodie in there somewhere. Posing in the great outdoors not only takes a long time to shoot properly but can look contrived depending on the skill of the model and of the photographer, and the appropriateness of the product’s intended movement.


There’s nothing like going outside to take the perfect photo when the weather is against you. Adjust all your camera settings, play with the scenery and still the sun can shine too bright, the wind can blow your model’s hair around too much and honestly, why did that fly have to fly right into the photo you just lined up? The best way to cut interference down to a minimum is to adapt and work with the unusual conditions to create something very different to what you are used to. Instead of worrying about the high contrast in your shots, include it to be part of the style of what you are creating and see if you can get some brightly coloured parts to shine as well as the white sky (and use a polarising lens of course!)

On a dull day, it’s not as hard work, as adjusting the curves in Photoshop will easily brighten up the dull colours while retaining mid-level shades. Another tip is to take a lot of photos in the adverse conditions to make sure that a fly, a frown or a lot of windblown hair don’t get in the way of the perfect photo!

How to make your photos interesting

One of the many ways to make your photography interesting in the great outdoors is to vary the angle and depth. You can do this in a studio too, but without the action part (flying hair, moving product, interactive landscape) it’s just not the same. And sometimes it’s too much trouble to make it appear the same.

Next time you want to capture something interesting outside, try varying the angle and depth. Everybody’s had a go at flower closeups, but have you tried doing a closeup of your child while the background blurs behind them? Have you tried lying on the ground looking up at a moving tractor or looking down upon your subject from a height? The best angles for use in design seem to be the ones that are “from an angle” – they are not straight-side or front-on or back-on shots. They are the ones where you see the “corner” of the product, the person who is facing a 135 degree rather than a 90 degree angle. And the good ones also involve the person looking off into the distance or looking at you from their angle as opposed to facing you and looking at you.

Try to let a bit of real world in and being natural. If someone does have a bead of sweat or a wrinkle or large feet, let the manager within you go and take a photo of it. We are swamped with airbrushed and sterilised photography and it’s great to see something that is believable and real. If the product has a scratch, has some dirt on it or is not quite right – clean it up to an acceptable standard and leave a little on. It helps increase the realism. It helps photos relate to real human beings who are also not airbrushed.


The most important thing is to take a lot of photos when in the great outdoors. I often take 1000+ photos in one day of shooting and normally I get a handful of absolutely brilliant action shots. I also get about 300 almost-but-not-quite shots and 650 good-for-family-albums duds. The reason for this is that I am working with tractors in particular, where the angle of the front-end loader matters, the tractor name should be readable, the subject’s facial expression should be favourable and the action of the implement should look busy. It’s a little precarious sometimes to get all of them right…but playing with angles and depth and being able to adapt to the weather on the day means it’s much easier to capture something to be proud of.

For more examples of great action photos outdoors, visit

A very annoying fly

A good action photo with lots of colour

Too much sun creates a pink tractor

Towards Better People Pictures!

This article provides a brief tutorial on how to take better people pictures. The topics covered include getting to know your camera, online understanding your subject, a bit of posing, and fill flash.

How many times have you been in a friend’s home and looked at the family and friend photos plastered on their refrigerator and thought, “What were they trying to capture in that photo?” or, “Wow, that’s a good photo!” ?? Actually, we all likely have been in the same place before and, hopefully, seeing other people’s photos causes us to pause and think about improving our people photos. In that vein, here are a few quick tips with examples that will help you put better people pictures on your refrigerator and elsewhere around your home and office.

Get to know your camera…

The best advice that I can give you is to get to know your camera better. Spend some time taking photos around the house, of your family, your home, anything, and then figure out what you feel you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well, and use this as a learning time. And, push your camera to its limits; figure out what all of those different settings mean so that they can be useful. By getting to know your camera better, you’ll take much better photos when the important time comes!

What’s the subject?

Or, as another question, what’s the story that you want the photo to briefly tell? If the subject of your photo is a person or people, then focus on them. Consider tightly focusing on your subject, so that’s the story that’s told by the photo.
(See Photo 1. Person photo)

If the main subject of your photo is not the person but the location, then adding people helps to provide perspective in telling the story of the room or your vacation. The story in this type of photo typically says “we were here – see?”


The most common way to take a photo of someone is to place them right in the middle of the your viewfinder, facing right at you, and then click. Easy, but not always very interesting. Consider moving the subject(s) off center a bit, to add some visual interest to the photo. Also, instead of having your kids directly facing the camera, have them turn their shoulders or head a bit. Instead of their hands down to their sides, maybe your subjects could be holding something that’s important to them or helps to better tell the story of the moment, whether you’re on vacation (a fishing pole? Hiking stick? Shopping bag?) or having dinner with the family (fork of food; ice cream!).

Also, if the subject is people, consider focusing on them from the waist or knees up (is it really important what shoes they wore?). The important thing in the photo is a person’s face, and the more of their body that appears in the photo, then the less distinct will be their face.

Watch the background!

Now, this is a mistake that all photographers make, even the professionals. It’s just that the professionals have made it so many times, we’re more likely to also be thinking about the background. Hopefully, the background of your people photo adds to the story and does not distract or detract. A background that’s “busy” will take the focus away from the people in your photos. Also, watch out for how your subjects are placed against the background, as having a pole or something stick out of someone’s head isn’t too appealing (although, there are many times when it’s funny).

Watch your flash!

One way to help to separate the people in your photo from everything else, to help them to better stand out in the image, is to use a little fill flash. In a darker room, or outdoors when the natural light is weak, turning on your flash will help to make the people stand out better in the photo. And, a dramatic shot can frequently be made if you will place a sunrise/sunset behind your subject and add the fill flash. The sun light can fool your camera into thinking that there’s plenty of light (which there is!), but your subject will appear dark against the bright sky unless you add some dramatic fill flash to help the subject “jump out.”

Also, learn about the limits of your camera’s flash. When a flash is used well, it’s hard to notice it. But, when you poorly use your flash, the mistakes will leap out at you! You’ve got to love those learning moments! Most on-camera flashes are designed to work well only within a certain range; and, the reasonable flash range is dependent on the sensitivity (ISO/ASA rating of the sensor) that you’re using in your camera. If your camera is set to an ISO of 200, and the manual says that the best flash range is 3’ to 15’ (1 m to 5 m) for ISO 200, then that’s the range where you’ll get the best results, particularly around the middle of that range. If you increase the sensitivity (ISO rating) to 400, then you’ll increase that range by double the amount or, in our example, from 6’ to 30’ (2 m to 10 m). But, be certain to find the limits of YOUR camera!

Frequent flash mistakes are taking the photo with the flash too close to the subject, so that the subject appears “washed out.” Also, beyond the reasonable range limit of your flash, it’s just not going to help, which is why I always chuckle when I see all of those flashes going off in stadiums from the upper deck, trying to photograph a player way down there on the field! People’s glasses can cause difficult reflections with a flash; but, people who wear glasses tend to be more aware of this issue and slightly turn their heads so that they’re glasses won’t directly reflect back to a camera. And, if you have glass or reflective surfaces behind your subject(s), then those surfaces can reflect your flash, so think about shooting at a slight angle to glass, reflective and light-colored surfaces.

So, here are a few simple tips towards more appealing people photos. And, the most important tip is to spend some quality time with your camera so that you’re more likely to produce quality photos!

Children in the Studio

Photographing children, illness as in most people, has a lot less to do with my equipment, lighting and props, than with my rapport with my subjects and the environment I provide or seek out for them. The environment has just as much to do with the subject’s comfort and demeanor as it’s actual presence in the shot.

For example, these girls are sisters, they were rolling around a platform of down and pillows, ribbons and bows, frolicking together, like they might on their own bedroom floor. As is ideal, I was eventually just a guest to their fun, instead of a photographer trying to illicit some trained response from them. Their smiles are genuine because they are smiling for one another, not for me. The pillows and ribbons are never seen in the shot, but are as important as the girls themselves.

On the viewer’s left is the older of the two sisters, not looking at the camera. In traditional photography, the subject’s lack of eye contact with the lens could have been seen as a flaw and this print may have ended up on the darkroom floor. Modern photography is much more in tune with seeing people as they are, as natural as possible, which is most often captured when they are not intently staring at the camera. I would say my best portraits are those where my subject is looking elsewhere. No where is this as evident than with children. If a child is looking at me, they are thinking of me and what I am doing. There is nothing endearing about that. If they are looking somewhere else, we are more likely to catch wonder and curiosity or if we’re very lucky, happiness. Children grow and change daily and parents are always taken with a photo that really shows them as they are everyday, an image they want to capture. It so happens this older sister is also the shy one, the one who “looks away.” True to her personality, the younger sister is not only more outgoing, but more affectionate as well. The older sister’s hand reaching up to touch her shoulder might seem a distraction, but in fact, it was her trying to politely distance herself from her baby sister, who was all too happy to snuggle up. She actually said to me; “She’s touching me.” Naturally, we laymen wouldn’t know this by looking at this picture, but we must always remember who the client is. Their mother knows these things instinctively and she was the client.

Most of all, when shooting children, no tool is as important as time. You may even have to convince parents to accept a larger appointment block, but be sure to point out their stress will be less if they know that time is not an issue. Children will photograph best when they have had a chance to warm up to the photographer, adjust to the environment and really be themselves. Once this has been achieved you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy their comfort zone and have a safety net for unexpected surprises. Children are after all, delightfully full of those.

Photographing Inanimate Objects

Before I became a professional photographer, I never noticed in an average day how often we come across photographs of anything and everything. Photographs make up every magazine, billboard, clip art, product label and the list goes on and on.

Before I became a professional photographer, I never noticed in an average day how often we come across photographs of anything and everything. Photographs make up every magazine, billboard, clip art, product label and the list goes on and on.

Every time we see a photograph, it’s easy to overlook that there was a photographer, some type of studio setting, a shoot and various other details behind that image. Ironically, the industry of shooting inanimate objects can be just as interesting and lucrative as that of live subjects, if not more. There is no limit to the usefulness of inanimate object photography. Children and families get older and will inevitably require more photography, whereas an inanimate object can have a nearly limitless shelf life, if any at all. The most obvious venue for these shots are of course in advertising, product marketing and all types of commercial exposure. The most successful photographers can spend their lives shooting models in the latest high fashion, athletes in their tennishoes and the most modern of automobiles as they roll from the assembly line onto the showroom floor.

The portrait above is another example of inanimate photography. Still a type of marketing, this imagery uses emotion and symbolism to attract it’s admirers. Images like this use a combination of items and the way they are presented together to inspire some type of reaction from the world around it. These reactions depend on each viewer’s own personal experience, life and loves. Since the public is so diverse, this makes for a boundless target audience. These types of pieces are often used in an environment or on an item when hoping to achieve a certain atmosphere or idea. Imagine office walls, book covers and themed stationary. All of these created from photographs.

This portrait may conjure up memories of their favorite coffee shop. It may remind another of their writer’s block woes, all nighters in college or their grandmother’s old Royal. At the same time, these items can be moved around, one or two substituted with something else and an entirely different product is created, an entirely new emotion evoked.

About The Author


I shoot different things for different reasons. In the moment, while taking the photograph, it usually feels right. I’m not thinking, at all. But even if I know why, at the time, do I really?

I’m a Photojournalist, by trade, however I sketch ideas for photographs; structured ideas of things I’ve seen and things I’ve imagined, most of them requiring a studio. ‘Umbrella’ was something I had seen, which didn’t require a studio.

I was in New York, and it was midnight. I was alone, on my way to Port Authority, and I saw a woman. She was standing under a street lamp, at a crosswalk, holding an umbrella. The rain had stopped and the light had changed, but she didn’t move. She stood there, perfectly still. I remember the light being beautiful, and the scene strange, so I sketched it.

Five years later, I re-created the scene in Santa Barbara, California, where I was living. I grabbed a 4×5 camera, a friend, and set it up around midnight. To get the height needed, I stood on the camera’s case and put the tripod on a small slope.

With two sheets of film, I took a reading. Four Seconds at 5.6! Wow! On the second take, it was done. I overdeveloped the film and printed it on Charcoal paper. It worked. It felt like New York and it’s one of my favorites.

Take Better Photographs With Fill In Flash

The first time that I heard a comment about my pictures and my use of fill in flash, ampoule I had no idea what my photographer friend was talking about. So I just smiled and acted like I knew what he was talking about. Not being one to be left in the dark, though, I decided to do my homework. What I discovered has been an asset to my photographs and particularly to my wedding photography work.

Fill in flash is used when photographing subjects in bright sunlight. Using your flash in the bright light??? Yes! Bright sunlight can lead to harsh shadows, particularly on the face. By using fill in flash, you can supply extra light evenly across the face, while having little to no effect on the already bright areas of your photo. The light boosts your shadows and gives a much more pleasing result.

Fill in flash is also appropriate when your subject is backlit. It allows you to keep the details of the background while avoiding a silhouette of your subject. Your flash illuminates the front half of the subject, while the backlighting usually gives a very appealing highlight to the subject. The third use of your fill in flash is in shady areas. Using your flash while the subject is shaded keeps any harsh sunlight off of them, while allowing you to control the light that falls on the front of them.

Three pieces of advice, though… First, don’t stand too close to your subject or you will wash out the front details. I would suggest standing no less than 5-6 feet away from your subject. If you need to get in closer, use your zoom. Secondly, experiment with your camera’s flash settings. I used to rely solely on letting my camera decide if the flash needed to trigger or not. Now instead, I turn the flash off “automatic” and chose the “force flash” option. This means that my camera flash will go off regardless of the light meter reading if the flash is open. If I think then that turning the flash off would be appropriate, I just close the flash hood. Lastly, if you think that your camera’s flash is too bright on your subjects, an inexpensive fix is to rubberband a coffee filter to it. It’s cheaper than a flash diffusion hood, and you can simply throw it away if you don’t like it!

Play with these ideas! See what you think! Some photographers shoot with no flash at all, while others rely on what the camera tells them. Knowing when to take advantage of what your camera’s flash can do, though, can help prepare you the next time a new lighting situation arises.

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Direct Sunlight: with and without flash

Backlighting: with and without Flash

Shade Example: with and without flash

Water Spouts – Are You Ready?

So I was on my way to begin shooting for my 2008 Dogs of Key West Calendar and off to my right I spotted two water spouts. Like any good photographer (and terrible driver) I pulled my car over to the side of the road jumped out with my Nikon D70, through a 70-200mm VR lense on and started snapping away.

The moral of this story is not to chase storms or throw your car on the side of the road every time you get the urge that something “might” happen. The moral of this story to be ready! Always be prepared and USE your equipment. We all spend tons of cash on our cameras, lenses, tripods etc… and so its only natural that we also spend the big bucks or complex bags and gear covers.

The thing is if I had to pull my car on the side of the road and go to the back of the car to unpack my camera bag and walk over to the bridge the water spout would have been gone and I would have missed my shot. When I drive, my camera is always on the seat next to me. When I’m out on a shoot, my camera is armed and ready in my hand ready to shoot. That’s what I mean by being prepared.

I once over herd a conversation between a student and Pro Nikon photographer. The student asked the photographer approximately how long it took him (the pro photographer) to take a picture.

The Nikon Pro replied “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

The Student said “from the moment you see something, how does it take you to pull out your camera and start shooting?”

The Pro replied: “Son, if you saw it you missed it.”

These are words every professional or wanna be professional photographer should live by.

About The Author

My name is Colby Gwyn-Williams; I am a professional photographer specializing in Pet and Action photography. Photography is not only my passion, it defines my life. I have been an animal enthusiast since my early years on our family farm and photographing since I was strong enough to hold my Mother’s old Nikon F2S Photomic camera. The earth and the creatures that inhabit it have become the visual playmates of my own personal “rabbit hole,” and, like Alice in Wonderland, I would like to invite you on an adventure by going through my site and seeing the world as I see it through the “looking glass” of my lens.



Eye Examination Photograph – Slit Lamp

This is a photograph shot inside an operating room. There was no operation in progress during or after the image was photographed. However, recipe an examination is quite a daunting process for an ophthalmologist, viagra sale when the patient is an infant. Infants obviously tend to get scared of lights being shined into their eyes by strangers!

Anyway, sick as a photographer in an OR, it is a very different experience from shooting in your own studio. For one thing, a medical photographer has to come to terms with the fact that his assignment is NOT the most important work going on at any given minute, and the photographer does have to take the backseat. By this, I do not mean to imply an ego hassle. The fact is, that a photographer needs to understand that he does not have the freedom to set up lighting conditions to his preference. Also, the photographer rarely gets the opportunity to get a posed shot. To put it in a nutshell, a medical photographer needs to have a quick mind, a good versatile on camera flash and an adjusting attitude.

The attached image shows the slit lamp examination of the eye of an infant. The child is sedated before the examination, so as to allow the ophthalmologist enough freedom to perform tests. When the doctor focused the slit lamp on the eye, it provided the right opportunity to shoot an image that would depict the procedure. The slit lamp light on the eye could easily have been lost if a fast shutter speed was used. Of course, a flash WAS used to shoot the image. However, it was bounced off a wall so as to soften the light. Also, the image was slightly underexposed to allow for the slit lamp light to come through. The flash lasts for a fraction of a second, and speeds as high as 1/250 second are enough to sync the shutter with the flash. The flash duration is less than 1/1000 of a second by the way. Now, balancing flash light with ambient light is the mark of a good photographer, be it medical imaging or any other indoor/outdoor photograph. In this case, a slow shutter speed was used to be able to capture the light on the eye.

It is very important for a photographer to keep a cool head in a situation as this. The infant was anesthetized just for a few minutes, so the doctors work deftly on their tests. There are not many second chances if you miss a good image in a place like this, so knowing your equipment like the back of your hand does help. You wouldn’t want to use a new camera/flash model in an OR, just as a good hunter wouldn’t go after the prize catch with a new rifle! Lastly, when in doubt, shoot extra. That goes in terms of number of shits as well as the composition. You can always crop later!

About The Author

Siddhartha Mudaliar, photographer, INDIA

Short films: the writing/directing pitfall

Often seen in student films the writing/directing syndrome is the source of many mistakes that could have been prevented by giving more control over your creation to another person.

Going to screenings of film schools is always an enjoyable experience. It’s a great learning tool as well, as when watching these films it is generally easier to analyze what are the strengths and weaknesses of them, and how they could have been better, than in big productions. I believe that the reason behind this is that the teams producing the student films are generally minimal in these situations, which means that there is less crossover control of what is done. What I mean is that each person is going to do his or her own task and not worry too much about what the next guy or girl is doing. Which results in some mistakes not being prevented by looking over someone’s shoulder to see that they are doing something wrong because you are already too busy on your own task.

Obviously mistakes still happen in big productions, but they come generally down to bad decision making at a higher level, and individual errors are generally prevented by the fact that a team of people performs most tasks.

By watching student film after student film, a pattern emerges. Writer/directors. The majority of student films I have been given the chance to watch suffered that syndrome. I believe it is generally a bad thing for the production when the team is reduced and let me explain why.

When working with beginners, directing is crucial. When working with beginners who think that they know perfectly what they are doing (i.e. film students) directing is critical. According to my previous point regarding individual mistakes, in a small team if each person is too busy with his/her own task to check on what the other guys are doing, this should logically be the director’s responsibility to see that every member of the crew is doing the job right, and is doing what the director expects. This adds an extra load of work on the director compared to bigger productions.

In such a stressful environment, the director ends up having to act even more as a commander of anything to do with the production. Of course some have the luxury of a PA to look after the crew while they are focusing on the actual directing, something often forgotten in student productions but that saves from the extra work of working in a small team.

But even in the ideal situations of the director not having to worry about individual mistakes thanks to the PA, we come back to the issue of the director being the writer as well. Whereas the team has the PA or the director to remind them of what they are supposed to do, the writer/director has only him or herself to get reminded of the story, its mechanics and how the characters should be on screen. There is no balance, and seeing the magic of his or her story coming to life easily carries the director away. And he/she forgets to actually give some real directions to the actors.

Whereas in a situation where the writer is a different person than the director, and very importantly the writer is present during the shoot, the writer can be the reminder of what has to be done and can be here to prevent the director from making mistakes and criticize what he or she is doing.

Of course if you are writing/directing you can still try to hide behind the belief that your story is so incredible that you can’t let anyone ruin what you have come up with. But given the very little amount of writing/directing geniuses coming out of film schools every year, giving away the writing or the directing to someone else could be the best thing to do in order to learn more. Chance are, someone else directing your story might make you amazed of how differently if can be interpreted and fuel your creativity. And directing something you didn’t write could make you so much more focused on the acting and actually making a good film rather than trying to reproduce what was inside your head when you wrote the story.

Image courtesy of Brandon Otto.

Photographing Black Dogs

A better title might be, “Can you find the dog in this picture?” You would be amazed at how many times we can wind up with a photo of a black dog where the bushes or shadows behind him cause him to magically disappear just as you try to get that shot of him looking absolutely adorable.

You are convinced that you could see a black dog separate and apart from the background and yet when you look at your photo, the dog is largely NOT part of the picture.

It’s an easy enough remedy, you just need to be aware that it will be an issue ‘before’ you take the shot, not after you’ve lost it. It’s all about lighting. Funny how most things dealing with photography always wind up being about the light! If you are shooting indoors and can manipulate lights you will have to check your background to make sure it’s not too ‘busy’ or too similar to the dark coloring of the dog.

In the studio I would have a ‘hair light’ at the ready. This is also called a key light and would be directed toward the hair of the dog from one or both sides of the frame and situated behind the dog facing toward the dog from behind. I would set them so they are directed toward the center of the dogs back and higher than the dog so that the light highlights the hair from behind “off-stage” so to speak. Obviously you set them out of camera range and check the viewfinder to make sure they pick up the highlights on the hair.

Try to look for situations in nature when you are outdoors that mimic this process if you need or want to use a natural setting. A reflection from a white wall or white vehicle can add needed light but do not expect it to have the same intensity that a key light would have in a controlled setting.

Now you will notice that I have included two images of the same black dog in this post. The first one I would like you to refer to is the photo of a black dog laying down in front of a show jumping field. This would be the WRONG way to set up an image of a black dog. There is far to much going on in the background and the shadows are to extreme across the dog. The subject gets lost in the image.

The next image for you to look at is the close up of the black dog with the green background. This is the proper way to photograph a black dog. Keep in mind when photographing black animals that not every hair has to be in perfect focus and light. In fact having some shadow can help an image show depth and create character in your image. In this image here you see just that, a heavy shadows across part of the dog and yet all the detail and dog and his character shine through the image.

The easiest method for outdoor shots is to be aware of the background relative to your subject at any given time. If you are setting up a shot in a specific area for a pet that will be brought in at a later time, you can always use the old stand-by, the faithful dark-haired stuffed toy dog, pony, cat, or monkey and light you setting for that. It’s quick, easy, usually inexpensive and pretty efficient. When Fido shows up with his owner, you are good to go!

About The Author

My name is Colby Gwyn-Williams; I am a professional photographer specializing in Pet and Action photography. Photography is not only my passion, it defines my life. I have been an animal enthusiast since my early years on our family farm and photographing since I was strong enough to hold my Mother’s old Nikon F2S Photomic camera. The earth and the creatures that inhabit it have become the visual playmates of my own personal “rabbit hole,” and, like Alice in Wonderland, I would like to invite you on an adventure by going through my site and seeing the world as I see it through the “looking glass” of my lens.

Wrong way to photograph a black dog

Right way to photograph a black dog