On Wednesday, we will feature articles from some of the most inspiring personalities in various creative fields. Watch out for excellent posts by leaders in photography, business and social media marketing.
Interested in how creating images is like making a feast? Check out my interview with Wacom and LEARN about:
- My Retouching Process
- Creating my Photographic Style
- Why my Wacom Tablet is Essential
View the Wacom blog to read the special edition of AfterCapture and see more video interviews – including an interview from one of my favorite photogs Colby Brown. Awesome video done by the talented Weston Maggio and Joseph Sliger.
Is there anyone else who can’t live without their wacom?
I’m sure many of you are going to be taking snapshots in continuous mode of the glorious display of fireworks. It’s one of my favorite holidays and I’ll be hanging with the beautiful Petra Cross on a nice hike in North Berkeley! I wish to leave you with a wonderful article on 10 tips for shooting fireworks displays by Michael Zhang. Michael runs the wildly popular PetaPixel blog, geared toward tech-savvy digital photogs of the Web 2.0 generation. As a professional photographer, I’m so edified by the growing number of photography enthusiasts and we probably have great photography resources, such as PetaPixel, to thank for the explosion of interest. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
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Post + Photo By Michael Zhang of Petapixel
Monday is the 4th of July, which means there’s going to be FIREWORKS! Huzzah! It also means a lot of photography blogs will be posting tips and advice on shooting these firework shows. Instead of posting some ordinary article with things I’ve learned, I decided to ask for tips from my Twitter friends. Let’s get started!
Stabilize Your Shot
tripod, cable release and a bit of trial and error…
Use mirror lock up, use a remote shutter release, and, most important, bring a flashlight!
Since you’ll be photographing at relatively slow shutter speeds, a tripod is definitely important. You’ll be pointing the camera up at the sky, so you probably won’t be able to find anything to set the camera down on that will suffice if you don’t bring a tripod.
A cable release will allow you to avoid any blur caused by your finger pressing the shutter. The longer the exposure, the less this initial shake of the camera will matter, but having a cable release is still very helpful. You can get one for as little as $5 (shipping included) on eBay for either Canon or Nikon.
Finally, you can further reduce blur by using the mirror lock up feature of your camera if it has one (Perhaps Google it to find out?). What this does is cause the first press of your shutter to lock up the mirror of your DSLR, and allows the second press to take the photograph with only the shutter curtains opening and closing. This avoids the swing of the mirror that occurs when you normally take photos, reducing any blur that would have been caused by it.
Instead of having your photo turn out like this,
you can end up with clearer, sharper shots like this:
Fireworks look better in a context – just air as the background is boring – Get foreground; Try to be upwind of the launch site
My favorite fireworks-shots I’ve taken have all had people in them, holding very still. I like working with the silhouettes.
I’ve definitely found these things to be true as well. You can take really nice looking photographs of fireworks against the dark backdrop of the sky, or you can include things in the foreground, especially silhouettes of the people watching, to make the photograph a lot more unique and interesting.
Shoot a Lot
Persistance. Accept that to get 1 decent shot, you are gonna shoot 100 crap ones.
Definitely true. Out of the hundreds of photographs I’ve taken at firework displays, only a handful of them turned out well. The others were either poorly framed, poorly exposed, poorly timed, or all of the above. Thus, shoot as much as you can to increase the chances that you’ll end up with a good shot. To do this, it would be wise to bring as many memory cards as you possibly can.
Set and Forget
bring a tripod, find steady ground, shoot shutter and use a remote release. Shoot a pic or two before the start to check settings
shoot without looking through the viewfinder after you have made all the necessary settings on the camera
If you’re intent on leaving the show with a good photograph, then go ahead and shoot the show like you would shoot any night shot. On the other hand, if you’d like to enjoy the show as well, figure out the settings you need to use, take some test shots, and from there on out just enjoy the show and snap shots using the remote shutter release. Here’s a photograph that I took with a 10 second exposure and a remote release while watching the show at the Butchart Gardens in Canada:
If you DO end up shooting through the viewfinder, you’ll probably want to shoot with both eyes open in order to see when the fireworks are launched and the path they’re following.
ohhh yeah bring a monopod too to prod people outta the shot..
Haha. I’ve never had to do this one before. Maybe it might come in handy for some of you though.
Unconventional Focus Trick
For unconventional advice, change the focus while shooting to get focus-to-blur effects.
Now this is interesting, and not something I’ve done before. During the exposure of the shot, manually throw the shot out of focus to end up with an creative and interesting effect. Here’s the example that @dhavatar provided:
tripod and remote trigger. Use bulb to time the shots. Leave shutter open until the series of fw is over. Repeat process :)
fireworks, you hv 2 learn how to predict when firewrk will explode. I use bulb mode and expose for duration of burst, no longer.
The “bulb” setting on your camera allows you to determine how long the shutter stays open rather than having it expose based on a fixed amount of time. You can press and hold the shutter when a series of fireworks are launched, and then release to close the shutter after the series ends.
Cover the Lens in Between Fireworks
If it hasn’t already been said, put the camera on bulb setting so the shutter remains open and use a hat or something dark to cover the lens between bursts.
a longish exposure f8 for 1/4 sec will show nice trails – needs good timing. Use a tripod. or set cam to bulb on tripod, cover lens w black card press shutter.Remove & replace card to get multi-fworks trail. Press to end
If you’re not including things in the foreground, you might want to cover up your lens between firework bursts to prevent ambient light from adversely affecting your shot.
Using Light Creatively
Sparklers + long exposure = great portrait opportunity. Also light painting.
An interesting thing to do during firework shows is to turn your back on the fireworks and capture the expressions of the people watching, using the brief flash of the firework to expose the image.
This sparkler and light painting idea is pretty great. Imagine a photograph of a firework exploding in the background while your friend holds a sparkler or writes a message with lightin the foreground. That would be pretty epic. Be sure to let me know if you end up with a photo like this!
Use Optimal Camera Settings
bulb mode with external shutter release. just make sure your aperture and focus are set correctly before shooting.
So what ARE the settings you should be using for this kind of photography?
ISO: You’ll probably want to use the lowest you can, which is most likely 100. Going with a high ISO will introduce a lot of noise in your photo, which is something you definitely want to avoid when taking long-exposure night shots.
Aperture: If you’re shooting just the fireworks, it will probably help to go mid to high (f/8-f/22). You don’t want any depth of field or the lack of sharpness that comes from lower apertures. If you’re taking portraits with fireworks in the background, then you might want to go lower to throw the fireworks out of focus.
Shutter Speed: This really depends on the type of look you’re trying to achieve. If you use a relatively fast shutter speed, your firework might look like this (this is 1/400 of a second):
Use a slower shutter speed, and you might end up with something more like this:
Focus: Since the fireworks are exploding pretty far away from you, set your focus on infinity and change it to manual. You don’t need the camera attempting to focus on the fireworks, since you know what it should be focusing on already.
Focal Length: This really depends on many factors, such as where you’re sitting and how much of the sky the fireworks take up. Generally I’ve found that it’s safer to go wide, since you can always crop afterwards if you capture too much sky. If the lens you bring isn’t wide enough, you might be fiddling around with the framing all night.
Modes: In general, try to stay away from automatic modes. This means setting both your exposure and focus to manual. This allows you to determine the correct settings for your photographs and have your camera come up with consistent shots. You don’t want the camera to try and figure out the proper exposure for each shot, since it’s not a situation where a camera excels at determining the proper way to expose.
Good luck shooting on Monday!
Publicist and brand builder Elena Verlee is one of Forbes Magazine’s “20 Women for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter,” holds the distinction of an All Facebook “10 Facebook Pages Every PR Professional Should Be Reading” and is a Visa Business Network Syndicate. Whew! When she’s not racking up limelight honors, she manages the high-growth and technology PR agency Cross Border Communications, which services the UK, Canada and the US, and maintains the irresistible PR in Your Pajamas, a blog that focuses on equipping smaller-budget entrepreneurs and businesses with do-it-yourself marketing savvy and know-how. In this guest post, Elena talks about how entrepreneurs (who, like most of us in the photography industry, probably never studied writing) can craft on-target media pitches to maximize exposure for their business. Here are her top 10 most vital tips for DIY marketing magic!
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Post by Elena Verlee.
I have friends whose big dream is to sequester themselves and write a book. Although I like to write, it’s not something I dream of doing day in and day out. I don’t like sitting in front of a blank page, but I do know that once I get an idea and get started, things usually flow.
Most entrepreneurs I know are not writers. You started your business because your passion and natural gifts are in a particular space.
Most entrepreneurs I know didn’t realize how much marketing they would need to do in order to succeed. And that effective writing- from websites to sales materials, direct mail to blog posts – will be a crucial part of you getting heard above the noise.
If you’re doing your own PR, writing a media pitch can be downright intimidating. I know it’s hard to sit down to a blank piece of paper. So I’m sharing with you some questions I ask our clients, in order to help your creative juices flow and create a compelling media story.
Photographer and writer Guy Tal rises above the white-noise chatter of the blogosphere with his deeply subtle, radically humane reflections on artistic inspiration. Guy approaches life with a unique-order joie de vivre, and as a photographer, his landscape images lend vibrant and fresh energy into the medium. As a writer about the craft of photography, his profoundly philosophical and measured meditations stir my soul. It’s with great excitement that I present to you Guy’s guest contribution — in this moving, incisive essay, he explores why artists create and, alternatively, why we create excuses for our perceived imperfections. Ego and insecurity have no place in our lives, they are but self-fabricated delusions that only interfere with what’s really important in life: quality experiences endowed with truth and meaning.
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The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
Ever wonder what makes one image “better” than another? In some cases it may be obvious – one may have more compelling subject matter, another might suffer from poor technique, some benefit from fortuitous circumstances (“same place, but with a rainbow on top”) etc. Still, most of these can be canceled out through practice or luck. There is still that “something,” though — that elusive “je ne sais quoi” — that sets off great from good. It is why some can produce great work more consistently than others, even working in the same medium and with the same subjects and using the same tools.
Everybody has that go-to text that they consider indispensable to their personal or professional growth and game. For some, it might be a pop-psychology self-help title or a favorite French cookbook. For me, David Meerman Scott’s most recent book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, is my latest marketing bible. It is no small honor, then, to have this global leader in web public relations and marketing strategy guest blog for my site. He is not only the author of seven books, but also a highly sought-after public speaker. With a wealth of experience delivering addresses to international audiences, he has developed a power-packed, ten-point toolbox for sharpening your public speaking skills. Here, he shares with you everything you need to know (and then some) about how to maximize your impact when you stand up behind the mic.
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Photo of me presenting in Istanbul, Turkey, courtesy of MediaCat.
Post by David Meerman Scott
I’ve been to something like one hundred conferences and corporate events in the past several years as I travel the world delivering keynotes and running seminars. I’ve seen a few great speeches. Sadly, most speeches I see are not very good. Some are downright terrible.
I’ve been collecting some observations on what makes a good presentation and also drawing from my own experience.
Most of us have an opportunity to speak, perhaps at your industry event, or your company’s sales conference, or to a local club.
Make the most of your opportunity.
Take it seriously
If 200 people are in a room and you speak for a half hour, you are taking up 100 hours of people’s time. I see many speakers “wing it” and it makes me feel sorry for the audience. Don’t look bad.
Know the conference organizer’s goals
When I speak, I work with organizers to deliver three goals in equal proportion: Education, entertainment, and motivation. Since I am a paid speaker, I must deliver on all three so the conference organizer is happy they invited me. You need to know the goals for being on the podium too. Why were you invited? How would the organizer define success?
When someone says: “Let me tell you a story…,” you’re interested, right? When someone says: “Let me tell you about my company…,” is your reaction the same? It doesn’t sound like a way you want to spend your valuable time, does it? Stories are exciting. Most presentations are dry. Open with a story. Tell stories to illustrate your point. It’s fascinating to see an audience sit up and pay attention when you start to tell a story on the stage.
Nobody cares about your products (except you)
Yes, it’s just like what I say about Web marketing. What people do care about are themselves and ways to solve their problems. A speech is not about you; it is about your audience. You must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Even if you’re asked to speak about your company or your products, make it about your customers or the problem you solve instead.
Prepare and practice
Run through your presentation as many times as required so that you are completely comfortable with the material. You should know the presentation so well that you could do it without PowerPoint and without notes.
Don’t use PowerPoint as a TelePrompTer
Slides are great for showing images, charts, and the like. Consider showing a short video. But definitely don’t use slides to show bulleted lists of text. Yawn! Way too many people just read off their slides. Don’t! PowerPoint is not a speaker’s crutch; it is a way to illustrate your spoken point. By the way, some of the best speakers don’t use slides at all.
There is nothing worse than a presenter fumbling with technology on a stage. Everyone becomes uncomfortable and it is nearly impossible to make up that bad first impression. You should plan to arrive at the venue with plenty of time to spare and go to the room at least one hour prior to when you go on. You may need to arrive much earlier if there are sessions before yours because you will want to set up and test your equipment and stand on the stage to get a feel of the room. Use the microphone to hear your voice. Get as comfortable as possible with the venue before people arrive (or when they are on a break). The conference organizer and the A/V people will love you for arriving early! And when you are comfortable with logistics, you will deliver a better speech.
Bring an electronic copy of your presentation
I always carry my presentation on a memory stick and wear it around my neck from the moment I step out of my house until after I have presented. I wear it on the plane and in the hotel. I wear it out to dinner. You never know what may happen to your computer (I spilled water on my computer in Brussels once and fried it), so having that backup is comforting.
Don’t go long
When you build a speech and deliver it for the first time, it almost always runs long. Don’t go over time! It’s okay to end short because you can take a few questions, but running long makes the entire event schedule get out of whack. Worse, they may pull you off the stage, which looks awful.
Be aware of body language
My friend Nick Morgan, author of Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma says: “When words and body language are in conflict, body language wins every time.” If you are nervous, it shows. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, it shows. If you aren’t having fun, it shows. And your audience will always react to your body language instead of your words.