Introduction to Photography Part 2 – How to Take Better Photo’s

30 April 2017|

 

In Part 1 of this Introduction to Photography series I provided some tips for taking better photos that I first shared in an Introduction to Photography course that I ran at our local Community Resource centre back in 2012.

These are general basic tips aimed at the beginner photographer starting out with a point and shoot or entry level dslr camera.  In the future I might write some additional posts on more advanced techniques and more in depth articles for advanced camera users, particularly in relation to equine photography, but for the moment I am just focusing on the basic information aimed at helping new photographers take better photos.

 How to take sharp in focus photos:

 These are the things that need to be taken into consideration if you are having problems with taking photos that are nicely focused.  Some of these points apply whether you have a point and shoot or a dslr camera and some of these points such as aperture and shutter speed require significant further in depth study.

  • Make sure you are not too close for the camera to focus.
  • Check the focus point is locked on subject before taking photo
  • Hold the camera correctly and steady to keep it stabilized
  • Check how you are standing to avoid camera shake
  • Make sure there is enough light for the exposure
  • Check the focus point is on the subject before shooting
  • Use ‘Sports’ mode or faster shutter speeds for moving objects
  • Clean the camera lens and viewfinder with a lens cloth
  • Use a lens and aperture that is suitable for what you are photographing ie a fast (f2.8) lens is needed for sports but not for landscapes (eg f11, f16)
  • Use a tripod
  • Increase ISO in low light situations
  • Pre-focus – half press shutter release button before pressing fully to take the shot.
  • Back button focus (BBF) if you use a dslr camera that allows this function
  • Point and shoot and most entry level dslr cameras have specific modes that are best suited for specific subjects such as portraits, landscapes and sports (these will be discussed a bit later).

Girl jumping bay thoroughbred horse over showjump

Finding the Light

Good lighting is the biggest key to successful photographs – this is particularly important for basic or entry level cameras. This doesn’t mean the subject always needs to be facing direct light from the sun or flash, but the subject does need to be evenly well lit.

For portraits, positioning the subject in open shade and utilizing reflected light or fill flash rather than a strong direct light will produce photos with better depth, colour and dramatic interest.

Landscape photos are generally best if you take them with the sun behind you as everything in front of you will be evenly lit without harsh shadows – utilizing early morning and late evening for landscape photography will also produce better results than during the middle of the day.

Composition tips for better photographs

 Use the edges of the viewfinder to frame the subject

  • Take a photo of the full scene. Then be selective, move closer to the main subject – consider what you are taking a photo of.
  • Watch out for distracting elements – trees or poles growing of peoples heads, rubbish, power lines and move around or zoom in to remove them.
  • Tell a story with close ups of the subject
  • Keep the camera and horizon line straight
  • Find the focal point – the main point of interest and highlight it.
  • Use the Rule of Thirds
  • Zoom in to the subject so that it doesn’t get lost in the image.

Girl riding black warmblood dressage horse

 Rule of thirds: To add dramatic interest to your photos and to create pleasing compositions, use the rule of thirds for composing each photo rather than placing the subject dead centre of the photo.  Some cameras will have a little grid that you can display over the image in the viewfinder or LCD display to help you with this. 

Place important elements of the subject or scene at any of the four points where the lines cross.  Place horizon lines along the top or bottom horizontal lines.  This can also be done when you crop the photo in post production.

Once you are familiar with using the Rule of Thirds you can experiment with breaking it and see how dramatically it can change a scene.

I hope this second installment has answered a few questions you may have had and given you a few things to work on the next time you use your camera.

In the final installment (Part 3) of this article, I will discuss how to use the various Camera Modes from the basic Automatic Modes (Portraits, Landscapes, Sports) to the more advanced modes on dslr cameras Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.

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Why I chose the 5D Mark IV for equine photography

20 April 2017|

Some photographers get all bent out of shape about which is better, Nikon or Canon, I’ve had both, they are excellent brands but for me personally, the Canon line feels better in my hand and I find it more intuitive to use than Nikon.  I also now have a decent investment in Canon glass that I am very happy with, especially my workhorse 70-200mm 2.8L which is the original non-IS version that has never let me down in nearly ten years of hard use. 

I am not a tech junkie – apart from pre-purchase research to make sure what I am buying will suit my needs, a camera models specs are not something that I remember or to be honest, really care about further than ‘does it suit my needs’.  So this post is about the 5D Mark IV’s suitability for equestrian event and equine portrait photography rather that the nitty gritty technical aspects of the 5D Mark IV that you can find in a million other places on the web.

It was a big decision to invest in the 5D Mark IV obviously it wasn’t cheap, but apart from the price tag, I have always been comfortable shooting with a crop sensor and really appreciated the extra reach that I got with a CS body, especially with the 70-200mm 2.8L lens.  The extra reach was something that I didn’t want to give up – I’ve never had grandiose notions about full frame cameras, want I needed and wanted apart from the obvious image quality, has always been speed and reach. 

That did leave me in a quandry recently when it was time to upgrade my equipment.  I do not find that anything more 7fps is necessary for equestrian sports of any kind – sometimes I would actually prefer to be able to knock it down a bit to 5 or 6 frames per second (mostly because I hate culling technically perfect shots that are not suitable for sale simply because the horse and rider are not in the right stage of the stride or movement). Honestly, if a professional equestrian photographer relies on a spray and pray approach and needs more than 7 frames per second to nail the shot then they need to go back and look at their technique and timing.  

I find for may way of shooting that a max 3-4 shots is all I need to get 2 or 3 keepers from a sequence – admittedly I am a horse owner and rider and that definitely makes it easier to know what is the right moment to capture.  High speed continuous  shooting does has its advantage at horse shows when I am tired at the end of the day or if I am talking to someone and not focusing 100% on what I am doing (ugh a Catch-22 is so hard – I never want to be rude, but I also need to focus on my job).

Anyhoo, not needing or really wanting more than 7fps made it easy to discount the 14fps of the 1DX Mark II, and for the price, so did the fact that it only has a 20 megapixel sensor resolution.

That left me with choosing between the 7D Mark II, the 5D Mark III and the 5D Mark IV.

The main reason I didn’t want the 7D Mark II or the 5D Mark III is that they are both old technology – the 7D Mark II was released in late 2014 and the 5D Mark III in March 2012.  I’m not the type to run out and update equipment as soon as the latest model is released, I’m quite the opposite and actually get emotionally attached to my cameras.  I still own all the camera equipment I have ever purchased and have never upgraded until I absolutely had to – so I buy based on ‘need’ rather than ‘want’.   

Knowing that I will still be using the same body in 3-4 years and the fact that the current price tag of the 7D Mark II and 5D Mark III is still significant, the decision to get the 5d4 was much easier.  Ok, I will admit that my wonderful husband had a large say in the decision as well (thanks hun!).

Just an FYI,the other thing I decided during my research was that for equestrian photography the Canon 80D would be a better choice than the 7D Mark II and the savings could be spent on better glass.  I am sure many would disagree with this, but honestly I think the 80D is a better option for a passionate hobbyist or even someone thinking about starting in equestrian event photography (the caveat that I would ad with this is a solid education and understanding on how to accurately edit images in Lightroom and or Photoshop and the use of monitor calibration hardware). 

Obviously the 5D Mark IV is a superior camera to the 5D Mark III and the 7D Mark II…and so it should be for the price.  The 30 megapixel censor and  improved 61 point auto focus sealed the deal for me.  The phenomenal low light capabilities of the 5dmkiv was not really a deciding factor for the work I do – at least I didn’t think so before I started using it.  I’ve now found that there is a whole other world of low light landscape photography available to me which is awesome for equine photography sessions when there are stunning evening and sunset skies to capture.

The video capacity on the 5D Mark IV is also very useful to me as I do use it for ‘Highlight’ videos in private sessions and I have also started doing the same at equestrian events.  I’m not passionate about videography so its not something I would use in a big way, but I certainly appreciate that I don’t need to drag a separate video camera with me when I need one.

The other thing that I really love about the 5D Mark IV – and it sounds a bit daft as its just a convenience thing – is the touchscreen because it is so useful!  I’m sure its the years of conditioning from using smartphones but I’m glad its there to use if and when I need to.

And as for the images from the 5D Mark IV?  I absolutely LOVE them!  Upgrading to such new technology did mean that it was also time to upgrade my workhorse 70-200mm 2.8L lens.  While I never regretted not buying the IS version in the original version, I did get the 70-200mm 2.8L IS II to pair with the 5D Mark IV.  

Between the speed, the image quality and low light capabilities of this body and lens, I don’t think I could have any more perfect camera equipment for equestrian photography from everything from portraits to showjumping, dressage, mounted games and any other type of horse photography I ever do.  

There really isn’t anything that I can fault about this camera, the images are super sharp even wide open, the autofocus is incredibly accurate no matter what I am photographing from portraits to showjumping to galloping horses, the colours are just beautiful, the dynamic range is incredible and amount of detail that you have access to in low light is phenomenal.

I have had to upgrade Lightroom,Photoshop and my computer but all of that is to be expected and part and parcel of operating a photography business.

Here are some of the first photos that I took with the 5D Mark IV, with pretty much out of the box settings (excluding aperture and shutterspeed).

Chestnut arab horse portrait Canon 5dmkiv 70-200mm 2.8L IS II Chestnut arab horse portrait Canon 5dmkiv 70-200mm 2.8L IS II

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black horse lunging Canon 5dmkiv 70-200mm 2.8L IS II Black horse lunging Canon 5dmkiv 70-200mm 2.8L IS II Black horse portrait Canon 5dmkiv 70-200mm 2.8L IS II

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Canon 5D Mark IV and 70-200mm 2.8L IS II un-boxing video

14 April 2017|

I’ve never done a video blog before but the un-boxing of my new Canon 5D Mark IV and the 70-200mm 2.8L IS II lens seemed like a good enough excuse to dip my toes in so to speak and try our first vlog.   I have to say it was much harder that I anticipated and I came very close to not posting this, but decided to take a deep breath and do it anyway seeing as camera equipment un-boxing videos are just about always done by men!

I’ll post some of the first photos taken with my new equipment soon 🙂

 

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Introduction to Photography – Tips for Taking Better Photos #1

5 April 2017|

Way back in November 2005 when I was doing traditionally painted pet portraits, I wrote an article ‘How to take Good Photos of your Pets’ for clients who I wasn’t able to visit in person to take photos as reference material for their paintings.  This blog post article has been one of the most frequently visited pages on my website over the last 11 and a half years, and even though I had not started my career as a professional photographer at that time, the suggestions in the article are still valid today.  

Before I go any further, I think I should pat myself on the back for having maintained this blog for 12 years in August.  That is no mean feat!  Twelve years of (relatively) consistent blogging that chronicles my progress as both an artist and photographer.  I never imagined that I would still be blogging twelve years later when I posted My First Ever Blog Post on 1 August 2005.

Anyhoo, while I was cleaning up the hard drives on my computer today, I unearthed a document that I wrote for an Introduction to Photography course that I held at our local community centre in 2012.  I had planned to add it to my blog back then but obviously didn’t, so I thought it might be a good idea to add it now as I frequently get asked all sorts of photography related questions that my Intro to Photography course notes can answer.

I will start with the basics that anyone with any type of camera (even a phone camera) can start with, some things are common sense, others are little tips that people can struggle for years with until someone points them in the right direction.  I will separate my Intro to Photography course notes into several blog posts and then will expand the information to include information specific to dslr cameras and more advanced photographers.

Tips for Taking Better Photos  ©2012 Michelle Wrighton

Get to Know your Camera

Knowing what functions your particular camera has and how and when to use them is the first step in taking better photos, especially if your camera has more creative functions than a basic point and shoot model. 

The user manual is an invaluable tool to help you learn how to get the most out of your particular camera.  Read it thoroughly several times, and every few months read it again to refresh your memory.  

Underline important information and experiment with different camera settings for the same subject as you read the manual to get a feel for how each setting alters the end photo. 

If you do not have the user manual for your camera, they can normally be found by searching the internet.

How to hold a camera

Moving the camera (camera shake) while taking a photo is a common cause of blurry photos and chopped off heads in photos of people.  Both of these problems can be easily avoided.

  • Use two hands rather than just one to stabilise the camera. 
  • Hold the camera up to your face, rather than at arms length as this will reduce camera movement that will cause blur.
  • Use the viewfinder rather than the LCD screen whenever possible as this will help prevent blur and make composing the photo easier. 
  • Stand either with feet shoulder width apart, or with legs together, one foot in front of the other, toes pointing outwards to stabilize your body. Tuck your elbows into your sides so they don’t move around.
  • Use your right hand to hold the camera with forefinger lightly on the shutter release button. Depending on the camera, the left hand either supports the weight of the camera or the lens barrel.
  • Make sure the camera is perpendicular to the subject ie: vertical (or horizontal if shooting from above) to the ground. Taking a photo with the camera at an angle to the subject will create distortions in the photo.
  • For dslrs, especially with a long lens, using a tripod, timed shutter delay or shutter release cable will always help prevent blurred photos from camera movement (especially if you have shaky hands), but you can also lean the edge of the camera or your body against a solid object such as a pole, wall or tree to help you keep still while the photo is taken.

Practice makes Perfect!

 Unlike the days when photography was film based and costly for rolls of film and printing, digital cameras allow us to take as many photos as we want without costing anything.   Memory cards are relatively inexpensive and worth having several in the 16-128GB range.  

There is nothing like frequent practice to improve your photography skills.  Don’t be afraid to press that shutter release button! Think about each image before you create it, the composition, the angle, the lighting and try different variations taking several photos with each variation.  Use the zoom on your camera, or your move your position to get different views of the subject, from close up to including as much of the background as possible and with the light source coming from different directions.  

Take photos looking both up and down at an angle to the subject to see how the angle of the camera lens will cause distortion in the photo. This can make some very creative photos, but it can also ruin a good photo and can be very unflattering for portrait photography when it is not used intentionally.  By practicing these things you will soon work out what makes a great photo and what makes an awful one.

When starting out with photography it is best to keep the sun (or main light source) behind you so the subject is fully lit (backlight photography is beautiful,but it does take some experience and knowledge to get it right).

Play with different creative settings on your camera, shooting the same object to see how each setting changes the final photo.  These creative settings will be discussed in more detail later in the course.

Look through the different photos you have taken and select the ones you do and don’t like.  Doing this shortly after taking the photos when the memory is still fresh will help speed the learning process.   With experience, you won’t need to take as many photos to get good ones, but its always a good idea to take 2 or 3 photos of the subject (pausing for a few seconds between each one) to allow for accidental movement of the camera or subject, or people blinking etc.

It doesn’t cost anything but a little extra time, your number of really good photos will increase and you can simply delete the ones you don’t like.

To be continued in  Part 2 of the Introduction to Photography.

 

 

 

 

 

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AMR South West State Championship Show

21 January 2017|

I was honoured to be the official photographer at the 2016 Australian Miniature Horse & Pony Registry South West State Championship Show in Manjimup.

It was a lovely day despite the heat and it was great to see some lovely mini’s strutting their stuff for judge Tiffany Maddox.

Here is a selection of photos from the show.

All photographs can be viewed and purchased here:  AMR South West State Championship Show

AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse AMR South West Championship Show Miniature Horse

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Hair of the Dog Top Ten Enhance Creativity Challenge

5 January 2017|

This week I was honoured to place in the Top Ten for Nicole Begley’s Hair of The Dog Enhance Creativity Challenge.

There were many amazing entries into this challenge, so I was very pleased to be listed in the Top Ten, and to also be the only non-dog related image with this creative edit in my signature Colour Explosion style.

Signature Colour Explosion on black background edit

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Equine Photography – Examples of Artistic Edits

27 September 2016|

There are a variety of different artistic edits that I can do with the horse photographs I capture at events or private sessions.  More complex artistic endeavours require a considerable amount of digital painting to create the final image that I see in my mind, but I also do standard Photoshop editing such as black and white conversions, background replacement and removal of distracting background items or halters, leads and bridles.

I thought I’d share the before and after examples of a black and white conversion with removal of background elements (fence post, fencing wire, trees) that enhances the original image and puts all the focus onto the horse.

Eagleburra Park Shooting Star

Artistic Edits - Eagleburra Park Shooting Star - rearing black and white

A few other examples of artistic edits on horse portrait photographs.

colour explosion artistic horse photography

Signature Colour Explosion artistic photography by Michelle Wrighton

Michelle Wrighton Equine Photography - Black background artistic edit Grey Horse portrait textured backgroundThe Wind Of Heaven Michelle Wrighton Equine Photography artistic editGreen Eyes - Gandalf
Shadows and Light Fine Art Horse photography Bay horse portrait photography Looking Back artistic edit Inspiration - Horse Art artistic edit

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Equine Photography – Dardanup Tip Top Showjumping

19 September 2016|

A few of images from Dardanup Horse & Pony Club Tip Top Showjumping on 18 September 2016.  It was another incredibly well run event by Dardanup Horse and Pony Club and while it was freezing cold, the weather held (mostly) and it only rained for a few rounds.

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-45cm-214

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-55cm-041

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-65cm-042

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-75cm-030

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-85cm 033

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-85cm 200

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-105cm 092

Equine photography Michelle Wrighton tip-top-showjumping-115cm 008

Tip Top Warm Up

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Black and White Fine Art Horse Photography – Video

9 July 2016|

I thought I would try something a little different to advertise some of my Fine Art Horse photography so created this video with a selection of my favourite black and white horse images.  I quite enjoyed putting it together and I think it is an interesting and rather unique way to show some of my horse art and photography.

I hope you enjoy and would love to know what you think of the video.

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Archived Horse and Dog Event Photographs

7 July 2016|

I have finally had time to go back through my archives and compile a list of horse and dog event photography from 2007-2014.  This includes all portrait sessions and commercial photography sessions for this time period.

I’m not planning to upload all these photos to the new photography website because a) there is unlikely to be much call for them and b) during this time period only purchased photos were fully edited so it would take me months to edit and upload them.  I would just like my client’s to know that the photographs I have taken from these past events can be retrieved if they have been lost or damaged.

All archived client photographs that have previously been purchased as prints or downloads are readily available to re-order if they have been lost or damaged.  Due to the amount of the work involved, requests to upload photos from an archived event will incur a $50.00 admin fee.  This fee will be credited to print purchase from that event.

Previously purchased images are available free of charge as they have already been fully edited.

Photographs from archived private Pet and Children’s Portrait and Commercial Farm and stud sessions can be uploaded to private galleries on http://www.michellewrightonphotography.com free of charge.

At some stage in the future I will start deleting the oldest event photos that havn’t been purchased to free up space on my hard drive and backup storage.  As a service to my clients, all purchased images will be archived indefinitely.

List of Archived Event Photography 2007-2014

2007

All Private Pet Portrait Photography Sessions
Roleystone T-Ball – season games
Roleystone T-Ball – States U11’s and U13’s games

2008

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
1 March 2008 Western Classic Dog Agility Trial
25 Jan 2008 CAWA Dog Agility Committee Fundraiser
1 March 2008 Western Classic Dog Agility and Jumping Trial
14 June 2008 CAWA All Breeds Championship Dog Show
21 June 2008 CAWA All Breeds Championship Dog Show
15 Oct 2008 Navel Base Dog beach
21 Jun 2008 CAWA ALL Breeds Championship Dog Show
14 Dec 2008 Western Horse Clinic, Foxwood Farm

2009

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
10 Jan 2009 Navel Base Horse Beach
18 Jan 2009 Navel Base Horse Beach
20 Jan 2009 Navel Base Horse Beach
24 Jan 2009 CAWA Championship Dog Show
25 Jan WA Palomino Assoc Championship Horse Show
30 Jan 2009 WCRC Agility Dog Trial
7 Feb 2009 Pinjarra Horse and Pony Club Twilight Gymkhana
8 Feb 2009 Gosnells Horse and Pony Club All Breed Show
15 Feb 2009 Peel Horse and Pony Club Show Jumping Day
21 Feb 2009 Paint Horse Championship Show
21 Feb 2009 Ian Francis Cutting Horse Clinic
22 Feb 2009 Orange Grove Horse and Pony Club Gymkhana and Working Hunter Show
8 March 2009 Wallangarra Horse and Pony Club ODE
20 March 2009 WA Quarter Horse Association Championship Show
28 March 2009 WA Terrier Club Championship Dog Show
16 May 2009 Coolup Cutting Horse Club Show
24 May 2009 SPPHAWA Winter Gala Standardbred Horse Show

2010

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
2010 Boyup Brook Country Music Festival
2010 Mayanup Campdraft
6 June 2010 Dardanup Heavy Horse and Liberty display
7 Nov 2010 Henty Fun Day
2 Nov 2010 Dinninup Upper Blackwood Ag Show
30 Oct 2010 Harvey Dickson’s Rodeo
5 Dec 2010 Warren H&PC camp

2011

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
All commercial Photography sessions
19 Feb 2011 Boyup Brook Country Music Festival
3 March 2011 Mayanup Campdraft
29 Oct 2011 Harvey Dickson’s Rodeo
1 Nov 2011 Dinninup Upper Blackwood Ag Show
19 Nov 2011 Collie Ag Show – Hacking, Show Jumping

2012

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
All commercial Photography sessions
11 March 2012 Mayanup Campdraft
6 Nov 2012 Dinninup Upper Blackwood Ag Show
11 Nov 2012 Blackwood Horse and Pony Club Gymkhana

2013

All Private Pet and Childrens Portrait Photography Sessions
All commercial Photography sessions
9 March 2013 Mayanup Campdraft
4 May 2013 Bridgetown Harness Racing
13 October 2013 Collie Horse and Pony Club Gymkhana
5 Nov 2013 Dinninup Upper Blackwood Ag Show
23 Nov 2013 Bridgetown Ag Show

2014

18 May 2014 Blackwood Pony Club Rally – Teenage Rampage Display

2015 to Present

All images from events from 2015 onwards are available for viewing and purchase directly from my website.

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