Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fun at the PPSNYS Photography Workshop

Each year, the Professional Photographers Society of New York State sponsors a week long "summer camp" for photographers. It is held at Hobart College, Geneva, NY in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region. This Workshop is open to all with an interest in photography and is the best value in education that I know. You can check out some of the fun here -

There is always a choice of Instructors who are highly regarded professional photographers and come from all over the country.  They take time from their busy schedules to share their knowledge with all who attend. It is an amazing experience to immerse yourself in your craft for a whole week!

This year I had the privilege of taking a class with Tammy Wolfe and Tamar London, owners of London Wolfe Photography in Pennsylvania. They are wonderful teachers and had great ideas and advice for us throughout the week. There were eleven photographers in the class and we had a blast! Not only did I learn from my instructors but from all my colleagues as well.

After hours we gathered in the barn for ping pong, poker and conversation. Even later, some would stay up and share quiet conversations in the Gazebo. The condo I was assigned was occupied by me, alone, and gave me an opportunity to catch up on some music I've been wanting to perfect. The acoustics in the living area were amazing and that made practice very enjoyable. It's always nice when you like the way you sound! It was a relaxing way to wind down before trying to sleep.

We had an opportunity to create some portraits with the models who came to pose for us. Getting outside also made it possible to catch some of my colleagues having fun at "work".

It's difficult to explain the value of attending an event that is so special. I do know that each time I've been able to participate, I come away with amazing ideas, new skills, great photoshop tips, renewed enthusiasm for my craft and wonderful new friends.

Thank you PPSNYS for sponsoring such a great school and thank you TamTam for an absolutely fantastic week of learning!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tips for Your Vacation Photos

It's time to hit the road and for me, the most important thing to bring along on vacation is my camera. Even before photography was my profession it was a favorite pastime. Over the years I've learned how to take better photographs from some of the country's greatest photographers.  I'll pass along some of the tips that have been shared with me.


I use my camera equipment every day but you may not have picked up your camera since the last birthday party or holiday. Make sure your camera is in working order before you pack. Turn it on and take a picture - it doesn't cost a thing if you're using a digital camera as most are these days. Make sure you have extra batteries. There is nothing worse than getting to the top of the mountain after a long hike and running out of battery power. Bring a memory card that is large enough. Media is very inexpensive, so you might even think about purchasing an extra card when you see them on sale. Not only will this allow you to take more photos, it's also a good idea to use more than one card when you are taking a trip. That way if one card fails, you'll still have images on the other.


Don't save the picture taking only for your destination. Unless you're a travel and landscape photographer, your goal isn't to take the ultimate scenic of Mount Everest or wherever you are planning to go. Leave that to the National Geographic guys and buy a postcard if you want the perfect photo. Your mission is to tell the story of your family's trip. That means photos of all the fun including packing the car, playing games while travelling, stops along the way for breaks - you get the idea. Some of the nicest light  for portraits is inside the car ( during the day of course), so snap a couple of fun photos of the kids fighting in the back seat. You want to think of your trip as a documentary and show the emotions, reactions and laughter along the way.


When I travel with my family, I take the same silly pictures everyone else does. We always like to show the outside of our hotel with the family waving at the camera, the inside of the room, the view from the room, etc. I try to make them more interesting by using different angles and composition. Most casual photographers put their subject in the center of the image. Try using what is called "the rule of thirds", where you place the subject to one side of the frame. You can also move your horizon line out of the center and place it either one third from the top or bottom of the image. While your at it, make sure the horizon is straight.

Your photos will always be better if you check what's behind your subject. Be careful to keep the horizon line from going through someone's head. You can accomplish this with the camera angle you use so either squat down lower or get up higher to move it.  Don't let things "grow" out of people's heads. The objects behind your subject may be quite far away and not be noticed by the eye, but the camera sees things differently. Placing people in your landscape or scenic photos will allow you to show size in relation to humans. It's difficult to grasp the concept of size without seeing something we know in the photo.

On sunny days, you should place people so the sun is behind YOU, the picture taker, and have the sun come in over your shoulder from the right or left a little. That way it doesn't go directly in the subjects' eyes yet lights the faces nicely. There's nothing worse than telling people to look at the camera and make them look directly in to the sun. No one likes squinty eyes.

If you must have your subjects in a place where the sun is behind THEM in order to get the scene you want, make sure your flash is on to try to fill in the light on the faces. If there is too much sun behind them, you'll get silhouettes of the faces and even the small flash on your camera may not be enough. Since the camera has a difficult time adjusting to contrasty situations, it is best that the background in the picture not be too bright or too dark, but similar to the light on the subject.

When placing people in the shade, make sure you don't have them too far under the trees. Try this experiment. Walk all the way under a tree to the trunk, then turn around and slowly walk back toward the edge of the shade. You will feel when the light starts to hit your face, just before the edge. That's the perfect place for photographs of people. You will be out in the sun facing the trees and they will stand facing you at that "perfect" spot. I know you'll like the results.

Try telling your story with some unposed photos. Today's cameras have great ability to focus fast and get good exposure. Let your family have fun with the activities you've  planned while you take some action shots. That's the perfect way to get real expressions and reactions to what they see along the way.

When you come home, don't put the camera away with your photographs inside. Upload them to your computer and burn a backup CD so you don't lose those wonderful memories. There are great ways to show your vacation photos including slide shows and press printed books. You can also share them with friends and relatives by making a family blog at one of the free sites on the internet. Make sure you have a few of your favorite images printed at a lab to add to your family album.

By taking photographs, you are recording your family's place in history. These tips may help you create better images so you will be proud to pass those memories on to the next generation. 

DeLapa Photography Newsletter