5 Tips for Great Holiday Card Photos

 

Creating Memorable Images for your Holiday Cards.

Article by Jenn Gidman    Images by Kristi Bonney

Photographing and choosing the image to use for your annual holiday card can be a tough decision, but the driving force behind your final selection should be what moves you the most. What you love about your kids, for example, are the same things your friends and faraway relatives who are getting your holiday card love about them, too.

Look for personal, emotional moments for family and individual portraits.
Have a plan in mind before you start taking pictures. If you want to include more traditional posed images as options, get those shots out of the way first. Don’t force the emotions, though. Have the family stand tallest to smallest in front of a barn or brick wall, or ask Mom and Dad to stand in the middle and then have the kids gather round and start hugging. As the photographer, just go with whatever they’re doing and start taking pictures.

© Kristi Bonney

It’s also ideal to get the family outside and capture them as they interact with nature. Holiday card photos don’t have to be stuffy! Make it kind of like a “Hey, wish you were here!” postcard. A 70-200mm zoom lens is perfect for these type of shots, since you just can stand back and observe as they run through the leaves or go sledding. The point is simply to place your family in an environment they love being in (this can be a room in your house, too). Put your family’s personality into it and showcase the environment at the same time.

© Kristi Bonney

Parents often like to focus on a single child for their holiday card, a touching way to show your faraway family and friends how a child has grown over the past 12 months. It’s a great way to make a connection with your loved ones. Fill the frame with your child doing something interesting or something she likes to do every year, like reading a certain holiday book or rearranging the ornaments on the tree or trying to untangle the Christmas lights. It speaks volumes about your child’s personality, and your family and friends will get the card and say, “Oh, that’s so Jane!”

© Kristi Bonney

Try different angles to showcase family traditions.
As a photographer, I’m always seeing photos everywhere I go. During the holiday season, I’ll see little snapshots of the memories that are happening right before my eyes. Always have the camera ready, and try to capture those moments from all different angles. For instance, as we decorated Christmas cookies, I wanted to get a couple of pictures more or less straight on to capture the whole essence of the episode. In one image of my daughter, I got down a little lower to get the plate of cookies in the foreground and my daughter slightly blurred in the background. This image really gives a sense of how many cookies we were actually decorating, as well as how much fun she was having. She’s also got this really funny expression on her face that she always makes when she concentrates. It’s great to capture that, because it’s one of those little things you look back on when they’re older and remember how they were and what they did when they were younger.

© Kristi Bonney© Kristi Bonney

It’s also cool to get pictures like this from above. I love getting shots of the entire messy table while we’re making cookies or wrapping gifts. That perspective can show a lot about the person or family. For instance, I really wanted to capture all the hands that were digging in to the cookies during our decorating session. My mom was visiting, and we don’t get to see her a lot, so I thought it would be a neat shot to get up on a chair and take a picture of all of their hands from above to really show our fun, chaotic family tradition.

Capture the solemnity and respect for your holiday when the lights go low.
The holidays can also be a really reflective time, and it’s wonderful to show that in a holiday card photo as well. A menorah image, for instance, can really capture the feeling of Hanukkah and the emotional impact of the moment when you’re in front of the menorah and thinking about the holiday and your life in general. For lit menorah shots, I’d recommend people use a reflector, as well as a tripod and shutter release to keep your camera stable, and keep your lens wide open. I literally lowered my eye into the viewfinder just so I could see where my reflector was hitting, because I wanted the light to bounce off of the metal of the menorah.

© Kristi Bonney

Incorporate your holiday decor into the image.
You could take some really fun shots using materials for holiday decorations. For example, you might ask your child to blow some glitter into the air and try to capture that. For an image like this, it’s important to light the glitter from the side, so use a reflector or just position your subject so that the glitter is sidelit. You’ll need to use a faster shutter speed to capture the glitter in midair, so shoot for at least 1/500th of a second. Also, use a smaller aperture so that more of the scene and glitter are in focus.

In my family, we make paper snowflakes to decorate the house, which are fun to use in our holiday card pictures. To create a blurred snowflake effect, hang paper snowflakes at varying intervals and pull back when you shoot. You can also switch it up and try something like placing the edge of a paper snowflake on the outer edge of the lens so that it creates a cool blurred effect along the edge. Or you could use colored paper to give it a bit of a glow. The snowflakes can also be used to frame your subject, which makes for a nice composition.

© Kristi Bonney

Take the picture for your card with the end result in mind.
When you’re composing your image, think ahead about how you want the actual holiday card layout to look. For example, do you want it to look more like a landscape image or a portrait? Also consider where you might want to place the text. Either take the picture and leave room for text, or plan on framing the image on the card, with room for text on the side of the image. Finally, don’t be afraid to play around in post-processing and edit the photos. Play around with the settings if you need to to add more warmth to your image and make it a true reflection of your family.

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5 Cool Features on the New Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBy Jeffrey M. Greene

Canon finally upgraded it’s popular 7D series DSLR yesterday with the new
Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

Optimized to make even the most challenging photographic situations
effortless, the 7D Mark II has a pro-level set of cutting-edge features
and a robust, ergonomic design. The new 20.2 Megapixel APS-C
CMOS sensor with Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, plus a host of
new and refined capabilities, makes the EOS 7D Mark II the
perfect camera for photographers looking for a pro-grade APS-C DSLR.

Here are 5 significant upgrades:

20.2 Megapixels
APS-C CMOS Sensor utilizing Dual Pixel technology.Canon 7D Mark II

65 point auto-focus system
All cross-type 65 pt sensor utilizing Canon’s ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR) focus system.65pointAF Eagle

10 frames per second
When shooting in continuous mode. Shutter rated for 200,000 actuations.10fps bike

Dual memory slots:
For Compact Flash and SD (SD, SDHC, SDXC) memory cards.CF and SD

GPS
For geotagging images with longitude, latitude, and attitude…

Pre-Order the Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Omega Photo is now accepting pre-orders for the Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Canon EOS 7D Mark II – body only    $1799.00
Canon EOS 7D Mark II w/ Canon 18-135 f /3.5-5.6 IS STM     $2149.00

Call or stop by Omega Photo to reserve yours now.

Omega Photo
210 105th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

(425) 455-2126

5 Tips For Awesome Summer Photos

Beaches provide excellent opportunities for digital photography because of their vast natural beauty. Impressive colors, textures and most of all – amazing light. Many consider a beach vacation to be a dream destination for a family trip, honeymoon or a casual get-away. Follow these tips to capture more exciting and creative beach photographs…

Capture the Fun!

Capture some the fun by getting your friends or family to run on the sand for some wonderful action shots. Be sure to protect your camera and lens from any kicked up sand!

Sunsets

Once the sun has started to set, grab your tripod to take images of the sky and sea. The water will look calm and there will be many captivating and vibrant colors. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod because of the lower light levels.

Avoid Shadows

When there is a bright sun, it means that harsh shadows are inevitable. There are a few things you can do; use fill-in flash which will bounce some light into the subject’s faces, especially the eyes to counteract the shadows. You can also zoom in closer using a standard or telephoto lens, cutting down on the amount of shadows.

Unique Subjects

Beaches are great settings to photograph wildlife. Birds like seagulls and sandpipers are a good choice. Make sure you use a good quality zoom or telephoto lens (at least 200 mm) to get close without disturbing your feathered friends.

Always Have a Camera

Finally the above tips are all useless if you don’t carry a camera -a cell phone doesn’t count- around with you at all times. You have to be ready to capture that great moment or happy event, so keep a camera in your pocket, bag, or pack at all times.

 

10 Tips For Awesome Fireworks Photos

Fireworks 4bannnerJuly Fourth is just a few days away so I thought I would share my top 10 tips for capturing the color, drama, and spectacle celebrating our nation’s independence.  To get the best photos that will stand apart from all the others you’ll see after July 5th, try some, or all, of these tips.

1. Do Some Recon

To make your fireworks images stand out you’ll need to know in advance where the launch site is located and then position your shooting location so that you can include some interesting foreground elements that will provide scale and setting.  I also like to include the western sky when possible since most shows start shortly after twilight. The long exposure required for the pyrotechnics allows some of the last remaining color in the sky to register on the sensor. Finally, arrive early and claim a spot then spread out a bit to avoid latecomers plopping down in front of you at the last second and ruining your shots.Fireworks 5

2. Use a Tripod

You’ll need to secure your camera to eliminate any movement since photographing fireworks at night requires long exposures. I usually start around 2 seconds and vary the shutter speed throughout the evening for different visual effects.

3. Use a Cable Release

Whenever you’re using a tripod for stability during long exposures, use a remote release cable. It makes no sense to set everything up and then jab the shutter to start the exposure. Additionally,  this enables you to time your exposure for the peak moment of the bursts and will be necessary later if you decide to shoot in “Bulb” mode.

4. Composition

Start shooting horizontal and with a wide-angle lens to capture landscape versions that include the foreground and the last remaining light in the west. Switch to vertical and capture the entire launch from ground to sky. In both cases remember to keep the horizon level. Finally, switch to telephoto and fill the frame with the aerial burst.

Fireworks 4

5. Pre-focus Your Lenses

After you arrive and set everything up, use the last remaining daylight to prefocus on the launch site or an object that is approximately the same distance as the fireworks display. Prefocus each lens you’ll be using during the show and then turn the Auto-Focus off. Tape down the focusing collar with gaffers tape or blue painters tape to prevent it the lens from slipping out of focus. Once the show starts, it will be very difficult to focus the lens and you may waste precious time trying to get sharp images.

Fireworks 1

6. Exposure

10 seconds @ f/11 ISO 100   Manual mode.
You’re welcome…
OK, that just a starting point, but you MUST shoot in Manual mode and set the exposure yourself. I like to use a longer shutter speed to record the light trails and then change the f/stop to adjust the brightness and maintain the color. Lock down the ISO and aperture and change the shutter speed to change the look of the fireworks bursts. Long exposures create trails, short exposures stop the movement and freeze the elements in mid air.

7. Shoot In “Bulb” Mode

Sometimes I shoot in “Bulb” mode to get very long light trails. Press the remote release button as soon as you hear or see the mortar shooting into the sky and leave it open until the burst dissipates. This will usually take several seconds and the resulting light trails are very dramatic. Since the aperture is actually controlling the exposure, you can still record vibrant colors of the burst.  To record multiple bursts during a single long exposure, I use a piece of black 6″x 6″ Foamcore to cover the lens opening between launches. It takes a bit of practice and a little luck, but the results can be spectacular.

8. Shoot Early

Be prepared to start shooting at the very first boom.  Most pyrotechnicians set off a “salute” mortar to gauge the wind direction and to signal the crowd that the show is about to begin. This will be your cue to drop the beer and brats and grab the remote release. With some luck, the wind will be blowing away from you. If not, start shooting early because the smoke from the first few mortars will render subsequent images quite hazy.

9. Shoot Often

Shoot as many photos as you can.  Don’t spend a lot of time “chimping” (Google it…) but periodically check your photos for exposure, composition, and sharpness. Just don’t overdo it and miss a great shot.

10. Experiment…Firworks 2

After you have photographed a few keepers, change it up a bit…

  • Change your shutter speed to shorten or lengthen the light trails.
  • Set your camera’s white balance to Tungsten and Fluorescent to change the color.
  • Use your zoom lens and zoom in during a long exposure on one of the burst patterns.
  • Change the focus during a “Bulb” exposure from blurry to sharp to get cone-like effects from every point of light.
  • Include water, trees, and other landmarks to create more compelling compositions.
  • Shoot with a wide angle lens and ask a friend to stand in the foreground to create a silhouette.

Fireworks 00Bonus tips:

  • Bring a flash light. Add a red filter to preserve your night vision.
  • Bring extra batteries and memory cards. It sucks to run out of power or memory just before the Grande Finale.
  • Turn off your flash. It won’t have any impact and only annoys your neighbors.
  • JPEGS are okay. RAW is better. Less noise and artifacts / More control in post-processing.
  • Turn off the Image Stabilization (IS) / Vibration Reduction (VR) function on your lens.
  • Put some reflective tape on your tripod to improve it’s visibility to others walking near your site.
  • Pack a cooler with water and snacks…

~

FenwayFlag

July Print Special
Bring in your best fireworks photos to be enlarged and printed
and we’ll take 20% off our regular print prices.
Good for all sizes printed in-house at Omega Photo through July 31st.

~

Omega Photo
210 105th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
(Located between NE 2nd & NE 4th behind Safeway)

(425) 455-2126

Omega Photo website

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7 Tips for Better Landscape Photos

By Jenn Gidman / Jeff Greene
Images by David Akoubian / bearwoodsphoto.com.

David Akoubian has had plenty of practice photographing the great outdoors. Whether he’s exploring the region around his Georgia home in the mountains or leading one of his photography workshops to the Grand Tetons or Apalachicola; David has a special love of nature that translates effortlessly to his photography.

lighthouseVFor this series of images, David used the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC lens, a full-frame F/2.8 standard zoom that’s compact and lightweight for a day shooting outdoors.

Read on for some of David’s tips to get the most out of your landscape photography experience.

Choose the right lens. 

When you’re selecting a nature and landscape lens, you want to pick a lens that’s incredibly sharp and has great compression/decompression abilities.

When trying to stretch a landscape, the wide-angle end of the 24-70 gives you the decompression needed, “stretching” the landscape out and providing the ability to use a compositional element to grab the viewer’s attention.

For example, in the lighthouse image above, Akoubian literally jammed his camera down into the rocks. The rocks look so much bigger than the lighthouse itself, mainly because of that decompression factor.

creek

The same thing happened in this

image of a river with little ferns in the foreground. It was a perfect compositional element-the ferns are maybe 3 inches tall, but they look huge in the foreground thanks to the decompression factor of that lens. The front of the lens is about 12 to 15 inches away from the ferns, so they look really huge.

Evaluate the Scene 

Decide what kind of mood you’re trying to set. If you’re photographing a river decide if you want a stop-action image with a faster shutter speed to show the power of the water, or if you want to slow the shutter speed down and create a more relaxing mood.

Look for S-curves and C-curves

Lead a viewer into a photo with an S or C curve giving viewers a way to travel through the image. The S-curve look, typically starts at the bottom left and moves through the image to the upper right. For example, that could be a river winding through a landscape. On the other hand, waves crashing against a shoreline with a lighthouse might appear more masculine-the land against the sea appears to make a backward “C” shape.

lighthouseH

Use the “Rule of Thirds”

If you were to take a tic-tac-toe board and place it over your image, the power points are where those lines on the board intersect. Studies show that our culture tends to read left to right, top to bottom, so your focus points are typically in the upper left and lower right of your frame. Ideally, you should try to place your center of interest on one of those intersections.

Evaluate the Composition

You might think you’ve got a great shot, with ferns in the foreground and a river in the background, but then when you go to look through the viewfinder, you might see a big, bright rock or other distracting element in the lower left of the frame. If that’s the case, change your angle of view, blur out the background, or do whatever it takes to eliminate those distractions.

cactusEvaluate the Exposure.

A camera’s dynamic range is fairly limited compared to what the
human eye can see. To remedy that, mount your camera on a tripod, take one picture exposing for the foreground, one for the background, then I blend them together in Photoshop.

Use can also capture a set of images, exposed in 1-stop increments, and use HDR (high dynamic range) enhancement for scenes with very high contrast. Keep in mind that you don’t want to over use HDR resulting in  fake looking image, you want it to be complementary.

 

Filters

Use a high-grade circular polarizer. The polarizer will reduce glare enhance the sky and clouds, and saturate the greens in your image to make them richer.  A neutral density filter is also handy to darken scenes enabling you to use a slow shutter speed to blur movement.

All this being said, just slow down and don’t sweat the technical stuff so much. Take the time to select a lens and focal length, select your photographic elements, and compose the scene..
 
Create an image, capture the mood, and enjoy the moment.

-JMG.

7 Tips for Photographing Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse

1) Determine the Time of the Eclipse
Eclipse Phase   Pacific Time  
Penumbral Eclipse begins   Apr 14 at   9:55 PM  
Partial Eclipse begins   Apr 14 at 10:59 PM  
Full Eclipse begins   Apr 15 at 12:08 AM  
Maximum Eclipse   Apr 15 at 12:46 AM  
Full Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   1:23 AM  
Partial Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   2:32 AM  
Penumbral Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   3:36 AM  

2) Use a Tripod & Shutter Release.
Nothing is steadier than a good quality tripod and although your exposures will be surprisingly short, if you’re using a long lens, you’ll need to keep it as steady as possible. Remember, if you forgot your remote release, use your DSLR’s 2-second timer.

3) Use a Long Lens
200mm is good.  300mm or 400mm is better… If you have a 2x converter, use it. For most shots you’ll want to fill the frame as much as possible.

4) Shoot in Manual Mode
Most photographers overexpose their moon photos when they rely on the camera’s auto modes. The moon is actually quite bright. Think about it, it’s being illuminated by the Sun so the Sunny 16 Rule is a very close estimation. Once the eclipse starts you may have to make some adjustments.
 
The photo above was taken during the lunar eclipse on December 10, 2011
Exposure: 1.6 seconds @f/5.6  ISO 1600

5) Shoot Wide Open
In a related note, select the widest aperture so you can use the fastest shutter speed possible. Remember, the earth is rotating and the long focal length will amplify movement.

6) Compose and Re-compose
Because of the aforementioned rotation of the earth, the moon’s position in your viewfinder will constantly shift. Make the necessary adjustment to keep the moon centered.

7) Create a Multiple Exposure of the Entire Eclipse
A very cool effect, especially if you have an extra camera, is to capture a multiple exposure of the entire eclipse sequence. Mount your camera with a wide angle lens, compose the scene with some interesting foreground, and capture an image every 30 minutes. Afterwards you can blend the different phases of the eclipse into a single image in Photoshop.

If you miss your chance tonight, no worries, the next total lunar eclipse visible in the US is on October 8th.
-JMG