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30 Ways to Use Patterns in Photography to Create Unique Images

beach resort

Do you ever go outside or on a trip and you want to take amazing photos, but you don’t know where to start?

Maybe you took pictures of the monuments or vacation activities, but nothing that seems spectacular.

Sometimes it’s not about what we shoot, but the way we shoot it. We see something others don’t see.

Composition is the way we put our subject in the photo so that it has the most weight and impact.

I discuss the rules of composition in this post, if you need a refresher –> 13 Composition Rules to Take Your Photography from Boring to Striking.

Today, I just want to talk about one of those rules: patterns.

Patterns in photography make things flow. They make ordinary things seem more interesting. They even make shadows come alive.

Take this photo I took on my cruise last January. I took tons of photos of family and beach and fun things we did on the cruise and in Mexico on our excursions.

But one of my favorite photos I took with my iPhone while I was laying out in the sun. To me it represents the relaxation on the trip and reminds me how I was able to get away from the crowd and find a quiet place on the boat to relax.

I want to share with you these examples of patterns so that next time you are out shooting, you can make something as mundane as umbrellas or leaves into something amazing.

30 Ways to Use Patterns in Photography

Shadows

Interrupted Patterns

Abstract

Nature

Aren’t those inspiring! I love the use of patterns in photography!

So if your photos are feeling a little bland or boring, using patterns can help spice them up a bit. Keep that in the back of your mind next time you are out shooting.

patterns in photography pin

What kinds of patterns do you use in your photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

15 Sunny Day Landscape Photography Tips to Maximize Shooting Time

male photographer shooting a landscape photo

As a landscape photographer, many things are out of your control when you go out to shoot.

You can research your locations and make plans to see certain sites.

You may take the week off work to travel to far away destinations, only having one day at each spot to get the photos you want.

So what happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate with you and your photography dreams?

In this post I talk about weather and how you can maximize whatever is happening outside –> 5 Tips for Using Weather to Create Amazing Photography.

As part of that post, I discuss sunny days and how they can affect your photography. Today, I want to expand on that point and go much deeper.

When you are starting out, you think that a sunny day must be the perfect day to take pictures. Clear and bright. Sounds great, right?

Not really.

Because a clear, sunny day is so bright, the sun tends to wash out details and color. They aren’t as vibrant as your eye sees them because they are kinda overexposed, due to the sun.

At noon, the sun is super bright and harsh, which makes it hard to get an evenly lit photo. Shadows are deep and highlights are easily blown out. It makes for a tricky situation.

But have no fear! I have lots of tips to help you maximize your shooting time, even on a clear, sunny day.

After all, you can’t plan 6 months in advance for the weather when you are buying your plane ticket to your dream location. You can get a general time of year, and then after that it’s all a toss up.

15 Sunny Day Landscape Photography Tips to Maximize Shooting Time

Go at sunrise or sunset

So I’ll start with the most obvious and go from there. If you can, shoot at sunrise or sunset. This is true for any weather, but especially when the day is clear and sunny.

Shooting at these golden hours will allow you to have amazing light, when the sun is low on the horizon and doesn’t cast harsh shadows.

It’s totally dreamy no matter what kind of outdoor photography you are doing.

Sunny 16 rule

There is a fairly well known rule in photography called the Sunny 16 rule.

The rule states: On a clear, sunny day, at an aperture of F/16, you will get a proper exposure if you use a shutter speed that’s the inverse of the ISO you’re using.

Who made the rule? I have no idea. Do I use it often? Not really. But it helps you get a good start when shooting in manual mode on a sunny day.

Let me give you an example to make it easier. On a sunny day, if you set your aperture to F/16 and ISO set to 100, to correctly expose your image the shutter speed needs to be set to 1/100 (the inverse of the ISO number).

So start there and adjust as needed for proper exposure.

Open shade

This is especially true with portrait photography, but it works with the details of landscape photography.

Obviously, you can’t put a mountain under open shade on a clear day.

But you can get detail shots of flowers, wildlife, small rock formations, etc in the shade of trees or deep in the forest.

This works really well with macro photography, because you only need a little shade to capture great details.

Sunburst

I love a good sunburst in landscape photography, and a sunny day is the perfect day to grab one. Here are a few tips to get a good one:

  • Hike up your shutter speed to f/16 or so to catch the sunburst.
  • Shoot towards the sun with a solid object covering the sun, where it just peeks out behind something.
  • Minimize sun flare by using a lens hood or covering the top of your lens with your hand.
  • If flare is still a problem, take a composite shot (using bracketing) to take one photo with the sunburst and one with your finger blocking the sun. Stitch them together to eliminate flare.
sun peeking thru the trees

Don’t show sky in the photos

Not every landscape photo needs to have an amazing sky. If it is too sunny and your sky is washed out, just crop it out of the shot (in camera) or put it at the top third line to minimize it’s effect.

Shooting deep in the woods is great on a sunny day because you don’t see the sky at all and the bright light helps illuminate the trees for a beautiful feel.

Use a ND filter

An ND (Neutral Density) filter is a piece of plastic you put on the front of your lens to block the light coming in. On bright days, they can help you get a more even, less blown out exposure.

There are two types of ND filters: full and graduated.

A full ND filter will make your whole photo darker, which is great if your whole photo is too bright. This might be useful if you want to use a wide open aperture and there is too much light.

A graduated ND filter will make part of your photo darker because it starts dark at one end and goes gradually lighter throughout the frame. This might be useful if you just want to darken the sky but keep what’s below the horizon the same.

Choose the filter that fits your lens. You need one for each size of lens you use for landscape photos.

Don’t overexpose

When it is super sunny outside, it is easy to overexpose your photos. By overexpose, I mean too bright with many highlights blown. Here are some tips to help get the right exposure:

  • Turn on the highlight blinkies on your LCD screen, so they will flash when you have blown out highlights.
  • Use your histogram to see your exposure (see this point below).
  • Use your light metering to make sure your photo isn’t overexposed.
  • Use a higher shutter speed and/or stop down your aperture to let in less light.
  • Make sure your ISO is at the lowest it can go.

Don’t shoot at noon

Like I said in the first point, the midday sun is going to be the brightest and harshest. So avoid this time at all costs. This is pretty self explanatory.

Shoot stopped down

I touched on this above, but I wanted to discuss this a little more.

Shooting stopped down means to use a higher aperture number. This is great because many landscape photos, where you want to get everything in focus, require a bigger depth of field.

I wouldn’t recommend going to the highest aperture available, because that can lead to a not so clear image. But if you can go up to f/16 or f/18, you will cut out a lot of light from your photo.

To find out more about aperture, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

couple hiking

Scout locations

If feels funny “complaining” about a sunny day when you are on vacation. I mean, isn’t that what we want?

If shooting on a clear, sunny day is causing you problems, put down your big camera and enjoy your vacation. Here are a few things you can do instead:

  • Eat lunch
  • Take a hike
  • Scout locations with your iphone
  • Take a nap (so you can shoot sunrise the next day).
  • Sightsee or take tours of interesting monuments or buildings where you will be shooting indoors.
  • Edit the photos you have already taken.

Use your histogram

Getting the right exposure is tricky on a sunny day because if you just rely on what you see on the back of your camera, your eyes aren’t adjusted properly to see things clearly. The screen is little and the brightness of outside throws everything off.

As I mentioned in a point above, one way to deal with this is to read the histogram on your camera and see if it makes sense.

Are your highlights blown out? Are your blacks clipping?

You want to get as much information in the middle of the histogram as possible so you have more to work with when you edit.

For more information on reading a histogram, read this blog post —>10 Steps to Manual Mode: Histogram Basics.

Shoot in RAW

I shoot RAW 99% of the time, but on sunny day’s you especially need to shoot in RAW. Why? To help fix some of the problems the sun creates when you are editing.

  • You can bring up the shadows and even out the exposure easily.
  • You can use the graduated filter in Lightroom to darken the sky if needed.
  • You can recover some highlights, although if they are totally blown they are gone, even in RAW.
  • You can brighten the colors if they seem to be washed out by the sun.
  • So much more, I can’t even list all of the ways.

If you want to find out more about shooting in RAW, check out this post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg.

Shoot HDR

Sunny days can create harsh shadows and blown highlights. Your camera has a hard time capturing that kind of range in one photo.

That is why it is awesome that we can shoot HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with our DSLR and some post processing.

Basically, you use bracketing (mentioned above) to take 3 or 5 photos at different exposures. Then you take them into Lightroom and blend them together to make one photo that has a huge light range.

Here is a link to a post by Picture Correct to see how it works —> HDR Photography Basics and How to Get Started.

Shoot with the sun behind you

This is where portrait photography and landscape photography are total opposites.

You don’t want to be between your subject and the sun on a bright, sunny day when you are taking a portrait. The sun would be in their face and they would be squinting.

But for landscapes, you need to have the sun behind you (if possible) so that your subject will be lit as much as possible. Of course, you can’t move mountains, so this only works in certain situations.

Capture reflections

Sunny, clear days are great for taking beautiful reflections of mountains in a lake. Blue sky, calm water and your golden.

One problem you might have in this scenario is glare. If you are getting too much glare on the water from the sun, use a polarizing filter to cut through it. This will make for a beautiful reflection and photo.

For more ideas on using reflections in your photography, read this blog post —> 30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images.

The moral of this story: don’t let a sunny day ruin your photography dreams. Use these tips to make the most of them and you’ll be able to capture some beautiful photos you will be proud to share.

Do you have any tips I may have missed? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

5 Tips For Using Weather to Create Amazing Photography

cloudy day

When I first started getting interested in photography, I thought that a bright, sunny day would be the best day for taking pictures.

And while I love the bright blue Colorado skies, they aren’t the best for taking photos. Especially at high noon.

6 Types of Weather and How to Maximize Them

sunny beach photo with boat

1. Sunny

Like I said above, I used to think a sunny day was a perfect day for photos. But this isn’t true.

If you have a sunny day, that usually means the sun is going to be too bright to take evenly lit, evenly exposed photos. Everything is too harsh or blown out to make a good image.

So what can you do if you need to shoot on a sunny day?

Here are some tips:

  1. Try to capture a sunburst (for landscape photos)
  2. Block your lens from lens flare with your hand or a lens hood
  3. Try to shoot in the morning or evening (if possible)
  4. Find open shade (if you are shooting portraits) to cover your subjects from the sun.
  5. Have your subjects face their shadows to avoid harsh dark circles under their eyes and squinting.

Here are some examples of awesome sunny photos:

cloudy day

2. Cloudy

For most photographers, cloudy is the ideal weather if shooting during the day.

For landscape photographers, clouds add interest to the sky and decrease the highlights. For portrait photographers, clouds give a more even light so people won’t be squinty or have blown out skin.

So if you have a cloudy day to shoot, be thankful! Get your camera out and take some amazing pictures, no matter your subject.

Here are some examples of awesome cloudy photos:

child playing in puddle

3. Raining

Most people would look at a rainy day and just give up. But if you can brave the weather, you can get some unexpected shots you can’t get any other time.

So pack up your gear, cover your camera with a large plastic baggie and get out there.

In Colorado, my favorite part about shooting in the rain is that we almost always have rainbows after rain. And they are spectacular.

Here are some examples of awesome raining photos for inspiration:

snowy scene with wolf

4. Snowing

If you live in a snowy climate, you don’t want to quit shooting outside for 6 months out of the year. That’s crazy!

There are several things you can do to take advantage of the snow:

  • Take kids playing in the snow, snow angels, snowball fights, building snowmen
  • Watch the forecast and find a day that will be clear right after a snow storm. That will give you a clean, crisp snow for landscape pictures.
  • Before a snow storm, you can get some great cloudy shots that are dark and moody.
  • I love to take pictures of single snowflakes. They are so individual and unique. Great for macro photography.

For more tips on winter photography, check out this blog post —>12 Quick and Simple Tips for Winter Photography.

Here are some examples of awesome snowy photos:

lightning over the mountain

5. Stormy w/Lightning

Storms are great times to take photos. Dark clouds, lightning and wind can make for epic pictures. And lightning isn’t an easy thing to capture.

To catch lightning, here are some tips:

  • Safety first. If the lightning is close by, shoot from a car or building instead of standing out in a field somewhere.
  • Use a tripod to get crisp, clear images.
  • Use a long exposure to capture the lightning.
  • Use manual focus because your subject is not there when you are setting the focus.

For more information on lightning photography, I love this post by Click and Learn Photography –> How to Photography Lightning: Top Tips for Shooting the Storm.

Here are some examples of awesome storm/lightning photos:

tornado

6. Tornado

This one is kinda scary. Tornados are dangerous, no joke.

If you can get in with an experienced storm chaser, you might get a shot at a great photograph. Or if a tornado comes to your town, you might get a shot.

Tornado photos are mesmerizing, just like the movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the movie Twister, and I still sit down and watch it when it comes on tv.

I don’t have any tips on this one because even though I grew up in Texas, I have never actually been in a tornado.

Here are some examples of awesome tornado photos for inspiration:

5 Tips For Using Weather to Create Amazing Photography

1. Get a good weather app

In order to shoot the weather, you need to know what will be going on day by day. And although the joke around our house is that the weather man has the easiest job, weather forecasting can be quite complicated.

Here are a few weather apps to help you know what’s going on in advance:

2. Protect your gear

You may have thousands of dollars invested in your camera gear. You don’t want to get it ruined by weather.

  • If you are going to get wet, cover your camera with a weather proof case or a large ziploc bag.
  • If you are out in the cold, let your camera climatize to the weather so you don’t get hazy photos.
  • You can use a clear filter to cover your lens and protect it, if necessary.
  • Keep your camera in the bag when you can and have a good camera strap to keep it close when you are using it.
  • You may also want to purchase camera insurance just incase something happens to your gear.

These tips will help you keep your gear safe in different weather scenarios.

3. Be creative

When you have interesting weather to shoot in, creativity is the name of the game.

Anyone can shoot on an overcast, boring day. That’s easy.

But shooting in a storm or in snow can present its challenges. Use composition and lighting to bring out the best in these situations with creativity and experimentation.

4. Dress for the occasion

A photographer that is cold or wet is probably not going to take as good of shots as someone who was prepared for the situation.

Shivering makes for shaky photos. If you are uncomfortable, you won’t slow down and take more time to get the best shot.

So make sure you have the appropriate rain/snow gear for your situation.

  • Use gloves made for photographers to keep your hands warm.
  • Proper coat, footwear and hats are a must too.
  • If you need it, grab an umbrella to cover you and your gear in rain.

5. Try again later

Weather situations can be unpredictable. Sometimes they can be amazing and sometimes they are a straight up disaster.

If things don’t turn out right the first time, don’t give up.

Watch the weather and try again. That is the great thing about digital cameras. You can keep taking shots until you get it right.

Each time you go out, you will get better at the photography and braving the elements.

I encourage you to look at the examples provided for each weather condition and take note of the tips given.

Then the next time a challenging weather condition presents itself, instead of packing it up, be creative. Try something new.

You never know what you might get. The weather change just might give you your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken!

What is your favorite weather to shoot in? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge to Preserve Your Holiday Memories This Year

family photo 2018

Halloween is over and Christmas will be here before we know it.

The photo above is our family Christmas card photo from 2018. I love my crazy family, especially during the holidays.

A few years ago, I participated in a 25 Days of Christmas scrapbooking challenge. I took 25 pictures (one for each day) in December and made a separate scrapbook page for each one.

I lost the book I made when we had our house fire 5 years ago, but I still remember how much fun it was to document our Christmas traditions we participated in with our family.

So this year, I want to encourage you to do a 25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge. You don’t need to make the pictures into a scrapbook, although you can if you want to.

couple kissing with christmas present

25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge FREE PDF

Sign up for this download and keep it handy to remind you of all the fun ideas for your holiday photography. This checklist can get your creativity flowing and help you enjoy this season even more!

By signing up for this PDF download, you will also join our email list for weekly photography tips straight to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time!

The main point of the challenge is to slow down during the holidays and take photos that remind you what the season is all about. You can do this whether or not you have children at home.

I will give you 25 days worth of prompts, and you can do them in whichever order you want. No rules, just take photos (starting December 1) and enjoy your holiday season.

Here we go!

little girl decorating the Christmas tree

25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge

  1. Your favorite Christmas tree ornament.
  2. Watching your favorite Christmas movie.
  3. Doing a service project or good deed.
  4. Baking your favorite holiday cookie.
  5. Wrapping presents.
  6. Christmas lights.
  7. Drinking hot cocoa, cider or egg nog.
  8. Making a Christmas craft.
  9. Decorating the Christmas tree.
  10. Reading a favorite holiday book.
  11. Singing Christmas carols.
  12. Writing a letter to Santa.
  13. Sitting on Santa’s lap.
  14. A collection of Christmas cards.
  15. Donate to a toy drive or angel tree.
  16. Your favorite nativity set.
  17. Christmas pajamas or shirt.
  18. Visit a local nursing home.
  19. Hang Christmas stockings.
  20. Christmas family photo.
  21. Make a gingerbread house.
  22. Presents under the tree.
  23. Your favorite Christmas tradition.
  24. Something you are grateful for.
  25. Opening presents.

I believe that finding fun things for your family to do during the holidays will create memories your kids will look back on for the rest of their lives.

And of course, we want awesome holiday photos to record those memories with. If you need help in this area, check out this blog post —> 10+ Ideas to Make Your Holiday Photos Rock This Year.

I hope you are able to finish this challenge with your family this year. To help you, we have a FREE printable you can print out and hang on your refrigerator to remind you of all the fun activities for the month. Just fill out the box below!

couple kissing with christmas present

25 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge FREE PDF

Sign up for this download and keep it handy to remind you of all the fun ideas for your holiday photography. This checklist can get your creativity flowing and help you enjoy this season even more!

By signing up for this PDF download, you will also join our email list for weekly photography tips straight to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time!

I hope you have a memorable and Merry Christmas this year!

Christmas Photo Challenge pin

What other fun activities do you like to do during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

How to Use Leading Lines in Photography For Better Compositions

father and suns standing on wooden sidewalk

Once you understand the basics of shooting in manual mode, focusing and finding the light, you would think your photos would be amazing.

So why do they seem lack luster and boring? Composition.

Composition helps you see how to place your subject for maximum impact and creativity.

I discuss the most popular rules of composition in this post –> 13 Composition Rules to Take Your Photography from Boring to Striking.

One composition rule we are going to discuss in more depth today is leading lines.

What are leading lines?

Leading lines are lines you use in your photo to lead your viewers eye thru the photo to your subject.

They can be straight or curvy and can be found all kinds of places.

Here are some examples of leading lines in my own photography:

I love using paths to help lead the viewer thru the photo, just like I did here with this gravel path thru the aspen forest.

father and suns standing on wooden sidewalk

This photo of my husband and sons a few years ago also uses the wooden bridge to lead your eye right to the subjects.

trail down to lake powell

The lines of the trail (Hole in the Rock) leads your eye up the photo and into the water at the top (Lake Powell, UT).

I love leading lines because once you start learning about them, you see them everywhere. And using them properly can make your photos more captivating and interesting.

Here are some examples of leading lines I found online:

These examples use lines (curved or straight) to lead your eye thru the photo and to your subject.

You can do the same thing by using leading lines as a compositional element in your photos. So keep an eye out for lines, curves and how they can lead your eye thru a photo.

Adding this technique to your photography skills can elevate your photos and make people take a second look. And that is the goal after all, right?

leading lines pin

How do you like to use leading lines in your photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

Winter Photo Bucket List to Create Treasured Moments

woman in snow wearing goggles

Winter is almost upon us, here in Colorado. We actually got snow here before Halloween! That’s crazy, right?

Winter is a time for cold weather, snow activities, cozying by the fire and indoor sports.

I love winter photography, because of all the reasons above. Here are some tips for beautiful winter photography —> 12 Quick and Simple Tips for Winter Photography.

So today, I want to give you a bucket list of winter photos that will help you capture fun moments and get some great images this winter.

This list isn’t the end all, be all. It is just a few fun ideas I came up with the celebrate the season with photography.

If you like this list, you can get a free download in checklist form at the end of this post.

gloved hands holding a snowflake

Winter Photo Bucket List

Here is the list I have come up with to give you ideas of what your family can do to get amazing winter photographs. These activities can also bring your family together.

  • Make a snow angel
  • Hot cocoa by the fire
  • Skiing/snowboarding
  • Ice skating
  • Ice hockey
  • Christmas activities (see other list below)
  • New Years Eve party & decorations
  • The clock turning midnight on New Years Eve
  • A glass of bubbly on New Years Eve
  • Kids wearing snow gear
  • Snow sledding or tubing
  • Snowball fight
  • Find an individual snowflake
  • Building a snowman
  • Footprints in the snow
  • Writing a message in the snow
  • A child looking out a cold window
  • Indoor basketball game
  • New Years resolutions
  • Watching a movie in your pajamas
  • Valentines activities
  • Eating a warm meal (soup, comfort food)
  • Playing a board game as a family
  • Putting together a puzzle as a family
  • Go bowling
  • Visit a nursing home
wool socks

I can’t wait for winter this year! I am going to try to capture everything on this list!

I did not add Christmas activities to this list because I think they require their own list. Here is one I made on my homesteading blog that will work just fine —> A Country Christmas Bucket List to Bring Your Family Together.

I hope this list helps you capture all of the winter feelings and activities going on in your life. It really is the best season!

What did we leave off the list? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

kids sledding in the snow

​Winter Photography Bucket List PDF

Sign up for this download and keep it handy to give you new ideas of what to shoot this winter for amazing winter photography. This checklist can get your creativity flowing and help you enjoy this season even more!

By signing up for this PDF download, you will also join our email list for weekly photography tips straight to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time!

8 Ways to Turn Blurry Photos into Tack Sharp Images

family taking a picture

When you are first starting out with photography, all of the knowledge you need to take an amazing picture can be overwhelming.

You might be learning how to shoot in manual mode on your DSLR, find the light and edit your photos.

One major problem most new photographers have is getting blurry photos when they thought they nailed the focus.

Now, I’m not talking about a blurry background. Nailing a portrait where your subject is in focus and the background is blurry can be a great day for a new photographer.

You can find out more about getting a blurry background (bokeh) in this blog post —> 5 Ways to Get A Blurry Background in Your Photos.

I’m talking about taking pictures that don’t have anything in sharp focus.

So today, we are going to troubleshoot your photos and find out what you might be doing to cause blurry pictures. Then we are going to tell you how to fix it next time for tack sharp images you will be proud of.

8 Ways to Turn Blurry Photos into Tack Sharp Images

1. Aperture too low

Aperture is the F-stop number on your lens. This number controls the depth of field (the part of the photo that is in focus) in your photo.

A smaller number means the lens lets in more light, which makes for a brighter picture with less in focus. This is called shooting wide open (usually between a 1.6 to a 5.6 f-stop number) or with a shallow focus. Your focal point will be in focus, but everything in front or behind it will be blurry.

The problem with shooting at a lower aperture number is that it gives very little room for error in your photo because the focal plane is very small.

How to fix it: If you are having a hard time nailing focus while shooting wide open, you might want to stop down (use a larger number aperture) to get more of your picture in focus.

To find out more about aperture, read this blog post –> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

blurry shot of bikes

2. Shutter speed too slow

Shutter speed is how fast the shutter moves when taking the photo.

The slower the shutter moves, the more light that is able to get in. This makes for a brighter photo. The faster the shutter moves, the better its ability to freeze motion or action in a photo.

When you are shooting a photo of a subject that is moving, you want to make sure your shutter speed is quick enough to catch it. Otherwise your photo will be blurry.

If you want to use a slow shutter speed to blur motion, you want to do it intentionally. To do this, you need a tripod. That way the slow shutter speed will catch the subject in motion (waterfall, person on bike, car passing by) and everything else will be in focus.

How to fix it: So if you are shooting a subject that is moving and you don’t want blur, you need to bump up your shutter speed. I suggest 1/200 for kids, 1/250 (or more) for sports shots and higher for faster moving subjects.

For more information on shutter speed, read this blog post –> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Shutter Speed Basics.

3. Choosing a focus mode

Many times blurry images can come from not setting your focus correctly in your camera.

There are 4 focus modes in your camera that you can choose from, depending on what you are shooting and your lighting conditions. If you choose the wrong one, it may lead to your camera not focusing correctly on your subject.

  1. Auto Focus- In this mode, the camera finds and chooses the focus to use. If you are going thru the work of shooting in manual mode, you don’t want to use this mode. You want to find the focus on your own.
  2. Single Focus- In this mode, the camera focuses when you press half way down on the shutter, and by the time you finish pressing all the way down, the camera takes the picture. This is the mode you want to use when your subject is still because it doesn’t use as much battery.
  3. Continuous Focus- In this mode, the camera continues to find focus all the way up to the instant that you snap the picture. This is good for action pictures when your subject is constantly moving. But the constant refocusing can take up more battery than the single focus option.
  4. Manual Focus- If you use manual focus, you are using your hand to turn the lens to focus your subject. This is how it was done in the “old days” and how many professional photographers still focus. It takes a lot of practice to learn to focus manually, but you can focus things better this way. Especially if you are trying to focus on a subject in the dark (night photography) or on a busy background.

How to fix it: So look thru the settings on your camera and choose the focus mode that best goes with your situation. Try it out for awhile and see if it helps get your photos tack sharp.

For more information on focus, read this blog post –> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Focus Basics.

4. Dirty lens

If you are carrying around your camera a lot, especially on vacation or out and about, you may get it dirty.

Little specs of dust and dirt on your lens can affect your focus and make your photos look blurry.

You want to check your lens every so often, especially before you take important photos, to see if it needs to be cleaned.

How to fix it: If it does need to be cleaned, make sure to use a lens cloth or lens pen to clean it. Otherwise, you could scratch the lens just like if you were wearing glasses.

5. Not the best lens

We all have to start somewhere, so don’t feel bad if you can’t afford top of the line equipment right from the beginning. Lenses are expensive and most of us can only afford an entry level camera and kit lens as our first DSLR.

But there is a reason why these cameras and lenses are cheaper. Several reasons in fact.

But the one we are going to talk about today is lens quality. The kit lens is a great starter lens, but it isn’t always going to give you tack sharp images. It has its limitations.

How to fix it: If you feel like your blurry images have to do with your caliber of lens, there are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Don’t shoot to the edge of the aperture. This means don’t shoot at the very lowest or very highest the aperture can go. The middle ranges are crisper than the apertures on either end.
  2. Don’t shoot to the edge of the zoom. If your kit lens is a zoom (they usually are) don’t shoot at the very lowest or very highest it can go.
  3. Upgrade your lens as soon as possible (a 50 mm 1.8 is a great start).

Knowing the limits of your camera and lens can help you get the most out of them until you are ready to upgrade to the next level.

6. Camera shake

Camera shake is when the mechanisms of the camera itself causes blur at low shutter speeds. Even when you use a tripod.

This can be very frustrating because you would think using a tripod would end blur. But that isn’t always the case. Especially on very low shutter speeds.

How to fix it: Use a timer or remote to take a photo with a very low shutter speed. Put your camera on a tripod and set your settings. Then either set a timer or use a remote to put some time between when your camera is getting ready for the shot and when it is actually taking it. This will reduce camera shake.

couple looking at the back of a camera

7. Not “chimping”

To “chimp” in photography means to look at the back of your camera at the LCD screen after you take a shot.

Many professional photographers will say this is a bad practice because it interrupts the flow of a shoot and makes you look like an amateur.

But when you are an amateur and still trying to make sure you nail focus, chimping is your friend.

How to fix it: So if you want to know if you nailed focus at your shoot (instead of afterwards when it is too late to change), then look at your LCD screen on the back of your camera and zoom in to check for focus.

8. Hand shake

Hand shake is just like it sounds. It is when your hands shake taking a picture, which can cause blur.

The best way to avoid hand shake is to bump up your shutter speed. I don’t shoot under 1/160 hand held, but everyone is different.

How to fix it: When you are shooting hand held, know your limits for hand shake. Do some tests to see what your minimum shutter speed can be for hand held images before you get hand shake. Then don’t go below that number without using a tripod or setting your camera on a flat surface.

The moral of the story. . . There are many reasons why your photos might be blurry. In order to find out what’s going on with your photos, go over each of these reasons one by one to find out the culprit. In fact, it may be more than one that is causing you issues.

Then once you find out what is going on, set some limits in your photography to keep these things from happening again: higher minimum shutter speed, higher minimum aperture, using a tripod, etc.

Knowing the limits of yourself and your equipment can help you get those tack sharp images you are looking for. Then as you get better and you are able to buy better equipment, you can revisit these minimums and see if they can be changed. But first, you need to know what they are.

I hope these tips give you the crystal clear, tack sharp photos you are looking for. You can do this!

Which of these these problems gives you the most trouble? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images

green trees reflected in lake

Earlier this week, I discussed water photography and how to use water in different ways to make your photos pop!

You can read that blog post here —> 7 Clever Ways to Capture Water In Your Photography.

But today, I just want to share with you some ideas from around the internet (who are we kidding, Pinterest) that use water (and other things) to make reflections in their photography.

There are many pictures that just amaze me and help me get inspiration for my own water and reflection photography.

But water isn’t the only way you can get reflections in your photography. Mirrors, glass, cds, or any other shiny or reflective surface will work just fine.

So check out these images and if you find some you really love, go follow the photographer on Pinterest for more inspiration.

30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images

1. Shattered mirror

2. Compact reflection

3. Mountain reflection in lake with foreground

4. Silhouette reflection in water

5. Landscape reflection in lake without foreground

6. Building reflection in puddle

7. Landscape reflection in a glass of water

8. A human reflection in multiple shards of glass

9. An object reflection on a shiny surface

10. A human reflection on a shiny surface

11. Animal reflection in a lake

12. Inverted reflection using a glass ball

13. Reflection in a store window

14. Using a mirror to hide body parts

15. Symmetrical reflection of bridge in body of water

16. Reflection for the side of a mirror

17. Reflection in a spoon

18. Reflection of a face in a mirror (with step back)

19. Reflection in sunglasses

20. Reflection in an eye

21. A shot of a reflection without the original source

22. A reflection in a CD

23. Reflection in an iPhone

24. Reflection in a railroad track

25. Reflection in a car mirror

26. Reflection in a glass shard

27. Reflection in repeating mirrors

28. Reflection in dew or a water droplet

29. Reflection of the sky in a building

30. Reflections in bubbles

Aren’t these images just stunning? And so imaginative too.

I feel so inspired, I need to go find a reflective surface and start shooting!

I hope this list has helped you feel inspired too. Reflections can be a great addition to your portfolio and open up your creativity to new ideas!

reflections pin

What is your favorite reflective surface to use in photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

7 Clever Ways To Capture Water In Your Photography

mountain reflection in lake

Landscape is my favorite type of photography for many reasons.

If you want to learn more about landscape photography, check out my tips in this post —> 10 Tips for Beautiful Landscape Photography.

Water makes a great addition to landscape photography by bringing in movement and emotion to a scene.

But water isn’t only for landscape photographers. Just about any genre of photographer can use water to add creativity to their images.

7 Clever Ways To Capture Water In Your Photography

1. Waterfalls

When I think about water in photography, I always think of waterfalls. They are so iconic in landscape photography and they take some practice getting just right.

The thing you want to know about shooting waterfalls is that you want them to be silky smooth in order to get the dreamy effect that is desired.

In order to do this, you need to use a slow shutter speed to slow down the water and make it smooth and flowing.

waterfall
This stock photo shows a creamy waterfall in fall.

Tips for shooting waterfalls:

  • Aim for an exposure between 0.5 and 10 seconds to make the water creamy
  • Use a tripod and a shutter release cable or remote if possible
  • The best times for waterfall shots are at dusk and dawn
  • If you need to shoot a waterfall during the day, using a neutral density filter to cut down on sunlight will make the sky not blow out from the long exposure.
  • You can also use these tips for rivers and streams

2. Reflections

Grabbing a mountain reflection of a large lake can make an iconic landscape photo.

The biggest problem I see with trying to take this type of picture is to get the water still enough to make the reflection.

Let’s go over some tips to make this type of photo second nature for you.

mountain reflection in lake
I took this picture in the mountains Blue Mountains above Blanding, UT.

Tips for shooting reflections:

  • If you shooting a large lake, try to take the photo on a calm day so the wind doesn’t make the water choppy.
  • Use a long exposure to make the reflection clear in the water.
  • If you are taking a symmetrical reflection of a mountain in a lake, the best composition is to have the horizon in the middle of the photo for a mirror image.
  • You don’t have to have a large body of water to make a reflection. Even a small pool or puddle can make a dramatic effect.

For more reflection ideas, check out this post —> 30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images.

3. Splash

Splash photography can be done as part of a landscape photo (think waves hitting rocks), inside the studio under lights or even a child splashing in the mud (as seen below).

Either way, splash photography creates movement and motion in a photograph that can bring out your creativity.

little girl splashing in puddle
This stock photo shows the curiosity of a child as she splashes in the mud.

Tips for shooting a splash:

  • To catch the splash in motion, you need to use a faster shutter speed.
  • In order to use a faster shutter speed, you will need an adequate amount of light in the photo.
  • To get creative with splash photography, drop an object in the water and catch the movement at the moment of impact.
  • You can also have someone jump in a pool or whip their wet hair to incorporate splash photography in your photos.

4. Underwater

Did you ever try using a waterproof camera as a kid on vacation? I did and it was so fun.

Now, of course, those pictures didn’t turn out super great. It was a cheap camera and an amateur photographer.

Underwater photography is a genre all it’s own and can be very expensive. But the photos you can get are like you are on another planet. So amazing!

jellyfish
I took this jellyfish photo in an aquarium several years ago, but the concept is still the same.

Tips for shooting underwater:

  • You will need to get a camera especially for underwater photography or get a housing for your DSLR that has a light for dark photography.
  • You will also probably need a wet suit and other gear for diving or water activities.
  • I don’t know much about this genre of photography, so check out this post for more information —> Underwater Photography for Beginners.

5. Ice and snow

In the winter time, our water pictures can turn into amazing photos of ice and snow.

Capturing everything from frozen lakes, icicles, snow flakes and snowball fights can add interest to your photos.

frozen water on ground
I noticed the patterns the ice were making in the water, so I took a picture of it.

Tips for shooting ice and snow:

  • Protect your gear from the cold. Keep it near your body or in your bag when you aren’t using it.
  • When shooting snow covered landscapes, make sure your white balance is correct so that your white photos don’t look gray or blue.
  • Use your macro lens to capture individual snow flakes.

6. Drops of water

Drops of water can add more dimension to an otherwise uninteresting subject.

Drops could be perspiration, rain drops or dew. It could be freshly washed produce or a drop in a bucket of water (with ripples).

However you do it, drops of water add some creativity in your photography, which is always a good thing.

dew drops on grass
In this stock photo, a blade of grass might be boring by itself, but with the dew it looks amazing!

Tips for shooting droplets:

  • If you are shooting dripping water or a drop of water into a bucket, you should use fast shutter speed so that the drops don’t run together into a stream of water.
  • You can use the droplets to get a reflection of the subject or its surroundings.
  • Don’t overdo the drops, especially dew drops or rain drops. A little goes a long way.

7. Thru water

Our last type of water shot is when you shoot thru the water to see what is below.

This could be used when you want to see rocks at the bottom of the river, fish in a pond or coins at the bottom of a fountain.

river rocks in water
Seeing the colors and shapes of the rocks thru the water gives the photo an extra dimension in this stock photo.

Tips for shooting thru water:

  • You will need relatively clear water to pull this photo off correctly.
  • Use a polarizing filter on your lens to cut the glare of the water. Otherwise you won’t be able to see what’s beneath.
  • Hold your camera at around 45 degrees below the horizon to cut the reflections on the water for best results.

Isn’t water amazing? There are so many things you can do with it to add dimension and depth to your photos.

I hope this list has gotten your mind rolling as to what you can do with water in your next photo shoot. Using water properly can take your photos to the next level. So get out there and shoot!

What is your favorite way to use water in your photography? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

5 Ways to Get A Blurry Background In Your Photos

juniper tree with berries in snow

When I first started photography, my goal was to make my pictures look as professional as possible.

Of course, I failed miserably for several years. They just looked like snapshots, not professional photos.

But learning one thing started to turn my photography around. Today we are going to talk about that one thing: getting blurry backgrounds in my photos.

It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but in the beginning, it was. Having a blurry background and crystal clear subject takes your photos to the next level.

So let’s talk about what it means to have a blurry background and different ways to accomplish this depending on your type of camera.

What is a blurry background called?

Getting a blurry background in your photos is called Bokeh.

Nikon USA defines Bokeh as “the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider.”

Bokeh is the look you get with of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.

It is also known as creamy bokeh or buttery bokeh.

For other photography definitions, check out this blog post —> 30 Basic Photography Terms for Beginners.

bokeh christmas lights

Why should I want a blurry background in my photos?

As mentioned above, using bokeh can elevate your photos from snapshots to professional photos.

Bokeh is used in portraits, still life and macro photography to lead your eye to the subject and make it the center of attention.

It can also help you separate your subject from the background, which can be distracting or uninteresting. It is definitely a trick you want to have up your sleeve as a photographer.

5 ways to get a blurry background on your photos

1. Wide Aperture in Manual Mode

The best way to get a blurry background (or Bokeh) is to use the manual mode in your camera to choose the settings necessary.

Bokeh is created by using a wide aperture, so that only your subject is in focus and everything else gets progressively less in focus as it moves further away (from the subject).

To understand the basics of aperture, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Aperture Basics.

For creamy bokeh, the smaller number the better.

On your DSLR camera, this may be f/5.6 down to f/1.2. It just depends on your lens and it’s capabilities.

The lower the f-stop on your lens, the more expensive your lens will be (most of the time).

But don’t worry. You can still create bokeh with a kit lens, set at f/5.6. It just won’t be as creamy and distinct as the f/2.8 or f/1.2.

juniper tree with berries in snow

2. Aperture Priority Mode

If you aren’t ready to shoot in full manual mode, there is a short cut to help you get bokeh without it. It’s called Aperture Priority Mode and it allows you to choose the aperture for the photo while the camera chooses the other settings for you.

Aperture Priority Mode is a setting on your camera’s dial. It is set as AV mode for Canon and A mode for Nikon.

To use Aperture Priority Mode to create background blur, follow these steps:

  • Switch your camera to Aperture Priority Mode
  • Choose the lowest aperture setting your lens will allow.
  • Focus on your subject. If this is a person’s face, you should focus on the eyes.
  • Take the picture and see what you get!
  • Test different apertures to see which one completes the vision for your photo the best.

These pictures are taken in Aperture Priority mode. Notice how the background gets blurry and you can’t read the writing as well as you use a wider aperture.

Aperture f/11. ISO 500. Shutter speed 1/25 sec.

Aperture f/8. ISO 500. Shutter speed 1/40 sec.

Aperture f/4. ISO 500. Shutter speed 1/160 sec.

3. Portrait Mode on iPhone

If you don’t have a DSLR camera, don’t fear! You can get this look with your iPhone by using portrait mode.

  • Open your camera app on your iPhone and choose the portrait mode at the bottom.
  • Use the rules of composition to frame the person you want to take a picture of.
  • Then take the picture!
  • You will be amazed that the background of the person will be blurred out and look much better than your regular snapshot (or selfie).

Here is a photo of my son (can’t you tell he’s thrilled) with the regular photo mode on my iPhone XR. You can see the background is fairly clear.

teenager in red tank top

Now I switch to portrait mode at the bottom.

teenager in red tank top on iPhone camera

Now you can see that the background is blurry. Of course, part of his hair is too. The iPhone is only simulating what the DSLR can do, so it isn’t perfect. But it is much better than it used to be.

teenager in red tank top

4. Move Closer With Your iPhone

If you don’t have the Portrait mode on your iPhone, you can still get bokeh by taking a close up photo.

  • Open your camera app on your iPhone and choose the photo mode at the bottom.
  • Get close to your subject, such as a flower or snowflake.
  • Use your finger to click on the subject you want in focus.
  • Take the picture!
  • If your background doesn’t blur, get closer to your subject and try again.
  • You will know when you have gotten too close if your camera doesn’t focus at all.

Here are the fall flowers on my front porch, taken from a regular distance with the regular photo mode.

fall flowers

If I don’t change the mode, I just get in closer, you can see it starts to blur out the background.

flowers closeup on iPhone camera

So even if you don’t have a newer iPhone with Portrait mode, if you get in close enough you can get a blurred background. I didn’t know my fake flowers were so dirty!

flowers close up

5. Blur In Editing

If you can’t seem to get the hang of getting creamy bokeh in camera, you can always give it a little boost in Photoshop.

To do this, you need to mask out the subject that you want to keep in focus. Then you use the blur tool to add blur to the background.

Here is a video to show you how to add blur to a background:

As always, it is better to get the bokeh in camera. But this is a quick way to save the photo if you didn’t do it originally.

6 Tips to Get Creamy Bokeh in Your Photos

  1. Use the lens with the smallest f-stop numbers. This may be a prime lens and will probably be your most expensive lens (but not always).
  2. Get closer to your subject. The closer you are the more magnified the depth of field becomes, allowing for more bokeh.
  3. Create distance behind your subject. Instead of having your subject stand against a wall, have them move away from it a little. This will give separation from the background and help create more bokeh.
  4. Use a long focal length lens. The longer the focal length, the creamier the bokeh because longer lenses compress the image which makes the bokeh more pronounced.
  5. Be careful of movement. If your subject is moving, you might want to choose a bigger aperture number to make sure that person stays in focus.
  6. If you are using your iPhone in portrait mode, watch for inconsistencies in your bokeh. Since the iPhone is only simulating a low aperture, sometimes the results can be choppy. Hopefully it will get better in newer iPhone versions. See example below.
fruit tree

In the photo above, you can see that the iPhone portrait mode is trying to simulate a wide aperture, but it kind of missed the mark. The fence is going in and out of focus and it looks a little funny. Just watch out for this in your photos.

***Disclaimer: This post is written in September 2019. I am using a iPhone XR to take these photos. I am sure the technology will advance in the future, but this is what we have right now.

If you are just starting out (which I assume you are), this may all be a little overwhelming. That’s okay! Everyone has to start somewhere.

So pick one of these techniques and give it a try. I know that you will love the results and it will make you want to learn more!

I am here to help and guide you to becoming a better photographer. Click on the other blog posts linked throughout the post for more tips and tricks for better photography. You can do this!

blurry background pin

What other questions do you have about Bokeh? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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