Better Photo Tips – Photo Filters and More

One of my first award winning photographs was a photo with a waterfall in the background and a stream leading from its base right into the foreground. I was standing in the middle of the stream at a fairly low angle, but what made this photo unique was that I had also managed to capture several stars reflecting off the water. I admit it; it was pure luck, but with so many people impressed by those little stars . . . I started looking for ways to be able to do that whenever I wanted. That was when I first started exploring the world of photo filters.

Photo filters are NOT going to change a bad photo to a good one, BUT . . . they may change a good photo into a great one. In other words; filters are like the frosting on the cake, if the cake itself tastes bad, it doesn’t matter how sweet the frosting is. For the sake of this photo article we are going to assume you know how to make a good cake (take a good photo), and now you are ready to go to the next level.

Star Filters – these are available in 4 point, 6 point, or 8 point variety. These photo filters add glamour to nature or highly reflective surfaces (like someone playing a trumpet).

Polarizer – this type of photo filter is often thought of for enhancing clouds in the sky, but they also give you more control with reflections on water or glass. They also help with extreme photo lighting situations like snow or sand.

Close-Up Filter Set – not everybody can afford an extra $300 to $400 for a macro lens, this set of photo filters is well worth the investment. This gives you the edge to be able to take advantage of, and photograph the unexpected; whether it is a butterfly on a flower or dew on the morning grass.

Split Field Filter – A Split Field Filter allows you to go beyond the limits of traditional depth of field in photography. Half of the lens is basically a close up filter, half is regular glass. Now you can take an extreme close up photo of a flower at the edge of a vast canyon and still have BOTH sections of your photo look crystal clear.

Split Color Filter – This filter comes in several combinations. Similar to the split field filter, part of the filter is just regular glass, BUT the other half is colored. If half the filter is deep orange for example, you can take a photo of any mountain range and make it look like it was taken at sunset.

Spot Filter – The idea behind a spot filter is that a small portion of your photo will appear sharp (usually a spot in the middle) and the rest of the photo looks soft and dreamy. Often used in Wedding pictures or individual portraits.

Soft Focus Filter – As the name implies this photo filter gives the entire image a soft focus or dreamy effect. Use this VERY sparingly or people will think you can’t focus.

Besides photo filters there are some other small items that you should tuck into your camera bag to help you improve photographic opportunities. The cost of these photo gadgets are relatively small but can give you big time (professional looking) results.

Double Sided Poster Board – For many years I carried a 10 inch x 12 inch poster board that was black on one side and white on the other. This can be used to make a small subject stand out from

the back ground. A small tree frog on grass is much harder to see than one against a black background. This can also be used for controlling light like a small photo reflector.

Spray Bottle – having a small spray bottle of water means now you can take a “flowers with morning dew” photo, even if it’s the middle of the afternoon. You can make athletes sweat when you want them to; or wet down wild hair that is blowing in the wind for better outdoor portraits.

The last fairly cheap item for big results is a Tripod or a Monopod. Tripods don’t have to be built so a man can sit on it to be of good quality. And if you are worried about space as you are taking your wonderful photo trek into the wilderness consider a monopod. It offers stability as well as making a good walking stick.

All of these items are considered photo add-ons. None of them are required to make a great photo, but when the opportunity arises it’s good to know you have the right tools at your disposal. Of course there are hundred of other photo gadgets and gizmos that you can get, but I advise sticking with the basics. Far more important than anything you can add to the outside, is the vision you have on the inside. Learn the elements of design. Practice leading lines, balance, repetition, framing and the rule of thirds . . . these are the ingredients of a great photo. All the rest is just frosting on the cake.

Photo Tip – Understanding Portrait Photography Lighting Ratios!

Today’s portrait photography photo tip involves lighting ratios. Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news. There’s going to be (gulp!) some math involved!

But don’t worry, it’s pretty easy.

We’ve been talking about lighting patterns and how important the shadows they create are to our portrait photography.

On one end of the spectrum, if there isn’t any shadow – it is very flat light and we lose most or all of our sense of depth and shape. Remember, it’s the shadows that define form. No shadows would be a lighting ratio of 1:1.

At the other extreme, if there is a shadow that is totally black, we lose all visible detail in the shadowed area. It is just one massive black area. This is a lighting ratio at or exceeding about 8:1.

And everything in between.

There really isn’t anything wrong with any particular light to shadow ratio. They all have their uses. A small ratio can help disguise wrinkles and acne – or just take the viewer’s attention off the model’s face and push it to the clothing. A large ratio can add drama and mystery to a photo.

The important thing is to recognize that lighting ratios are important to the viewer’s experience and to consciously make the decision of what ratio to use. PLEASE! Make the decision! Don’t let your camera or the conditions decide for you!

Here is how to calculate the ratio…

As we’ve been discussing, in our lighting set up the main light establishes the lighting pattern we want – short, broad, flat, split, loop, Rembrandt or butterfly. The lighting pattern also determines the shape of the shadow.

Our second light, the fill light – determines the depth of the shadow otherwise known as the lighting ratio.

By the way, keep in mind that when I say “light”, the source could be anything. It could be an on camera flash, off camera flash, studio light, reflector, window, candle… anything!

To determine the lighting ratio, all you have to do is first turn off or block the fill light and do a meter reading of the main light – all by itself. This can be an in camera meter or a handheld one. The key point is that you only measure the light from the main light.

Next, turn off or block the main light and meter the fill light.

Clearly, if the fill light is a reflector of some sort, you cannot turn off the main light or you will have nothing!

When I say to block a light, I mean to block it from the meter. You want to be sure that whatever light you are measuring is the only one affecting the reading.

The difference between the two is the lighting ratio!

If you have a 1:1 ratio it means that the key light and the fill light are of the same light intensity. An 8:1 ratio means that the key light is 8 times brighter.

Now for the – easy – math. Calculating the various exposure differences involves a factor of two. This goes back to the days of film.

A film (or ISO) speed of 200 is twice as fast as a film speed of 100. In other words 100 film requires one “stop” more light for exposure. It doubled in exposure value.

An ISO of 400 (200 doubled) is twice as fast as 200… and so on. 400 is two “stops” more than 100.

A lighting ratio of 1:1 is the same. 2:1 doubles the light and is one stop difference. 4:1 is double 2:1 and requires yet another stop. 8:1 is 4 stops difference from 1:1.

So to calculate the exposure differences, just multiply or divide by 2! A 5:1 ratio is 2 1/2 stops more than 1:1.

See? It’s easy as pie. (The kind you eat, not the mathematical pi which isn’t easy at all!)

Today’s portrait photography tip is designed to get you thinking about the differences between light and shadow (lighting ratios) and how they affect the viewer. While it seems to be a simple concept… it is really quite advanced.

With today’s photo tip – by choosing our lighting ratio – we’re starting to take control of our portrait photography by deciding on what sort of mood we want to impart. We are becoming artists, not snap shooters. This can’t happen with the camera on automatic!

Butterflies And Hiccups – A Guided Pregnancy Journal

Butterflies & Hiccups (New Beginnings Production Company, 2002)was conceived by Laurie J. Wing during her two pregnancies when she could not find a comprehensive journal for those who do not like to blank journal-keep.

Butterflies & Hiccups is a guided pregnancy journal that allows you to document everything you experience during your nine months of pregnancy. The questions are designed to elicit thought-provoking responses from the moment you find out you are pregnant up until you bring your baby home. This type of pregnancy journal is not just for the mom- and dad-to-be, but when your baby gets older, Butterflies & Hiccups makes for good story time reading. Kids love to hear stories about themselves, especially when they were hiccupping in their mommy’s belly and how much they would kick and make their moms crave crazy foods.

The connection between Mom and Baby begins before a child is even born. How many pregnant women ask their own moms if they felt this way or that way during their pregnancy and how many moms actually remember the details of their pregnancies?

Here are 10 of our favorite journaling prompts from Butterflies & Hiccups:

o If you heard the baby’s heartbeat, how did you react?

o Have people started treating you differently now that you’re pregnant? How so?

o How many times have strangers touched your belly?

o Have you felt Braxton-Hicks contractions yet? If so, describe the feeling?

o Have you had any daydreams about your baby?

o What’s the best piece of pregnany/birth advice you have received so far?

o Estimate how many times you have had to recite your due date so far.

o What are your thoughts about returning to work after the baby is born?

o Have you been nesting? If so, what have you done to prepare for the baby’s arrival?

o What’s the craziest question you wanted to ask your practitioner, but were too embarrassed to ask?

Butterflies & Hiccups provides a section each month for practitioner visits to document the first time you heard the baby’s heartbeat, your first ultrasound, questions or concerns for your practitioner, special tests and other important issues addressed at your practitioner visits. “I wish I could prescribe this book to every pregnant woman!” says Dr. Donnica Moore, a women’s health specialist who recently appeared on Oprah and The View.

Pregnant women know the many different symptoms that occur during pregnancy from morning sickness to breast changes and heartburn. Each month you can document how your symptoms changed throughout your pregnancy.

Your baby’s development progress also is exciting to follow. As you learn about pregnancy and your baby’s development, you can write about the different stages. There is room to include a photo each month of your growing belly. The weight measurement chart allows you to record your weight each month and, if applicable, you can document the dad-to-be’s weight gain.
Butterflies & Hiccups offers reminders including a hospital bag checklist for Mom and Baby, a birth plan checklist for you and your practitioner and questions such as “Did you strap an infant car seat in your car?”

Many women are on bed rest due to complications during pregnancy. There is a special section for the expectant mom on bed rest to record her experiences while also offering a section of things to do while on bed rest since lying in bed could get boring when it is for any length of time.
While the journal asks questions about registering for baby gifts, there is also a baby shower section that allows you to record the memories of your baby shower along with the theme, menu, games, guests who attended and a gift list, if desired.

Butterflies & Hiccups throws in a bit of humor to make journaling a little fun and frivolous. Here are some of our favorite humorous prompts:

o Is it difficult to polish your toenails or tie your shoes as your pregnancy progresses?

o Have there been any UMPs (Unidentified Moving Parts) across your belly?

o Have you ventured out in a maternity bathing suit yet, weather permitting?

o Have you received unsolicited advice or comments about pregnancy?

o Do your rings still fit?

o Has your shoe size increased?

o Are you feeling clumsy?

The “Fun Ideas to Pamper Yourself” section offers just that – ideas to pamper yourself during your pregnancy. After all, your body is going through some major changes while you are providing nourishment for another little life. You deserve a little special treatment!

There are blank pages within the journal for you to add your own special thoughts. If some questions or pages do not apply to your pregnancy or life situation, simply use one of the blank pages to journal. The same goes for the holiday section. Since families celebrate different holidays, this section can be tailored to reflect the holidays and beliefs of your own family and how you celebrated during your pregnancy.

Julie Tupler, R.N., B.S.N., certified personal trainer, certified childbirth educator and president of Maternal Fitness, works with pregnant women on a daily basis and says, “Butterflies & Hiccups is a beautiful, yet thorough journal to help you remember those wonderful moments in time – for many years! I recommend it to all my pregnant moms.”

Introverts – More of a Transparent Than Social Butterfly

Did you know there is such a thing as a transparent butterfly? Recently a friend emailed me some photos of this beautiful insect that comes from Central America. A quick internet search will find you many photos of this beautiful butterfly. The transparent butterfly is more of a metaphor for an introvert than you might first think. No, not a social butterfly but more like the transparent creature.

Butterflies are fragile to touch. If you ever tried to catch one, just like a dragon fly, you know that their wings are ultra thin to touch. An introvert may or may not be a highly sensitive person, research differs on that. But an introvert knows that their energy is fragile. It needs to be paid attention to, cared for and replenished. Fragile in an energetic way.

Specifically the transparent butterfly’s transparency serves as camouflage. Even though they appear fragile, their transparent design serves to protect them. While the most empowering and energizing thing for an introvert is to use their strengths in personal relationships and conversations, sometimes, we have to take on those extrovert tendencies. It is at those times we want to remember to where our camouflage, use those extrovert skills we’ve learned.

When bred in captivity the glasswing, another name for the transparent butterfly is quite resilient. At work and in our personal lives, situations of all magnitudes happen to us. It is at those times it is more healthy to respond instead of react. This allows for more resilience. The typical introvert thinks through such situation and inevitably, finds they too are resilient.

The butterfly’s transparent appearance is also a reminder about finding clarity. For an introvert, who enjoys thinking before speaking and planning before doing,

Forced to be a social butterfly, an introvert will lose their strength. But as has been said about the transparent butterfly, it can also be said about the introvert: “All things beautiful do not have to be full of color to be noticed: in life that which is unnoticed has the most power.” And isn’t this encouraging for introverts?

What do you think?