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
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 filterwill 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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Here are some examples of awesome storm/lightning photos:
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:
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Now I switch to portrait mode at the bottom.
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.
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.
If I don’t change the mode, I just get in closer, you can see it starts to blur out the background.
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!
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
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).
Get closer to your subject. The closer you are the more magnified the depth of field becomes, allowing for more bokeh.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!