How To’s

Photography Marketing 101: 4 Tips for Developing Your Unique Selling Proposition

In a time when just about everyone has a smart device with a camera, more people than ever are giving photography career options a shot. With an influx of individual photographers out there, those who really want to make money off their work must have a unique selling proposition that draws attention and makes them stand out.

To set yourself apart from the crowd and find success as a photographer, consider the following nuggets of marketing advice.

Make It All About Your Strengths

A unique selling proposition should always revolve around what makes you “better” than the competition, no matter how big or small the advantage is. If the average photographer takes X amount of time to complete a certain task and your strength is doing that same task efficiently in half the time, there’s the foundation for your unique selling proposition.

If you need an idea, consider how Domino’s Pizza got its explosive start. Instead of a crazy topping or special ingredient, their original selling proposition was promising that your pizza would arrive in 30 minutes or else it was free.

Do you have a knack for photographing pets or have time for free pre-event photo shoots? Figure out what you’re good or can offer and go with it.

Find Your Target Audience

No matter how versatile you are as a photographer, you’re more likely to find financial success if you focus on a particular area. For example, there are photographers out there who have mastered the art of capturing food and know there are plenty of websites and magazines willing to pay good money for their work. Because of their specialty, their unique selling proposition will tend to be different than someone who photographs, say, boats or lawn gnomes.

Once you narrow down who would be most likely to like your work, build a unique selling proposition around what they want and why you’re the one they need. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask what they’d love to hear to be convinced that you cater specifically to them and have something different when compared to the competition.

Develop An Elevator Pitch

You may be in trouble if you can’t express why your photography is worth checking out without reading off a paper or going into a lengthy, robotic monologue. You can’t have a strong selling proposition without an elevator pitch— a concise explanation of why your talent and work will make their life better and/or solve their problems. While there’s no exact length it needs to be, shoot for trying to capture a consumer’s attention in as much time as the average length of a TV commercial.

In other words, less than a minute. If this sounds like a daunting task, even if you’re confident in your work, then perhaps you need to either do more research on who your target demographic is or go back to analyzing your strengths. Having an idea of who your ideal customer is, along with a lively, condensed pitch you developed just for them, is a key part of any unique selling proposition.

Inject Your Personality

The challenge big companies have is coming up with an image that encapsulates the entire strategy. One advantage you have as an individual photographer is being able to wield your personality in order to sell your work. There’s no better way to flaunt your skills, experience, and character traits than by adding a touch of yourself.

If you’re confident in your abilities or always know how to make a good impression with humor, stamp that bit of yourself into your unique selling proposition. It’s hard for competitors to go up against a personality that resonates with people, especially when talking about fashion photography and other areas where you’rehttps://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/5-tips-for-landing-paid-fashion-photography-work/ expected to interact with models.

How to Make Money Selling Stock Photography

It’s been almost 100 years since the stock photo industry began to take off. Since then, countless agencies and solo photographers have made a living selling their work to companies and people across a myriad of industries. Although the internet has helped boost stock photography like never before, the question on many photographer’s minds is the same: is there money to be made?

The answer is yes! People looking to tell their stories and ideas on websites and social media often browse through hundreds of online images in hopes of finding the perfect one. Whether you want to make big bucks as a stock photographer or just some pocket change on the side, here are seven tips that will help you stand out from the competition and find success.

  1. Get yourself a good digital camera.

If you were looking for a stock photo for your article or website home page, wouldn’t you only consider high-quality options? The average stock photo buyer wants pics that are sharp and a pleasure to look at, which means you should invest in a good digital camera if you hope to impress.

A digital SLR that lets you control the settings is recommended, as are these pieces of gear if you like to travel and shoot.

You don’t need the most powerful camera available to stand a chance in today’s competitive stock photo industry, but you’ll do far better if you’re not relying on a smartphone or severely outdated camera.

  1. Know the basics of photography.

Just like in any type of photography, creating stock photos worth buying means being at least familiar with the fundamentals.

The fact is, the average commercial photographer is good at what he or she does because they took classes, earned a photography degree, or simply have put a lot of time into studying important elements like exposure, lighting, etc.

While it’s no secret why a photography degree is so valuable in this day and age, there are other options available for career-changers, continuing ed students, and curious visual artists. You can learn in a conservatory program, short-term workshop, and even though hands-on practice.

  1. Study your own photos carefully.

It’s important to understand the technical editing elements of today’s industry-standard photography software.

Always inspect your images in at 100 percent so you notice imperfections before reviewers do. While you’re at it, make use of things like tripods, low ISO settings, and proper shutter speeds to avoid unwanted blurriness and other unattractive effects.

  1. Develop an impressive portfolio.

It’s nearly impossible to count the number of stock photos that get submitted to the many online microstock photo providers out there. Stock photography is a numbers business — the more photos you put out there for potential buyers to look at, the more likely you are to make some sales.

It’s common for up-and-coming stock photographer to drop at least between 100 to 200 photos a month, whereas established photographers can provide less since they may have consistent buyers.

To keep your photos fresh, consider ideas and projects like these to tap into your creativity.

  1. Use smart keywords on big networks.

Some might argue that you’re better off focusing on sites with less competition. While there’s truth to that, wouldn’t you rather spend hours uploading images and writing keywords for popular sites where more buyers browse each day?

Of course, there’s more to becoming a successful stock photographer than simply dropping tons of pics into a stock site. It’s important to create keywords and descriptions wisely so when your photo is exactly what someone needs, they’ll actually find it in a sea of images.

  1. Do your research and find a niche.

While we’re not saying you can’t have fun while taking stock photos, it’s a good idea to do more than just snap a pic of whatever you feel like capturing. Doing some research will help you learn what customers are looking for, which means paying attention to the types of images that get the most downloads.

That being said, don’t just copy what everyone else is doing unless you can do it significantly better. Find an niche where stock photos are in demand but there’s currently a low amount of content for people to choose from.

  1. Don’t give up!

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This is perhaps the most predictable tip, but one that’s especially important if you see yourself making money selling stock photography. Don’t feel discouraged when only one out of many of your photos actually sell while the rest get passed up time and time again. This is common!

As long as both your photography skills and portfolio continue growing and you pursue your work with determination, you’ll soon find yourself finding a path as a stock photographer.

Top 5 Pieces of Gear You Need for Travel Video and Photography

As a photographer or a videographer, traveling to locations outside of where you live is sometimes inevitable, so don’t leave yourself unprepared for the road! A lack of planning can lead to damaged, lost, or dirty equipment.

We’ve outlined the top five pieces of gear to use when traveling with photography and video equipment. With these essential pieces in place, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your equipment safe, and ensuring you get the best shots that you can get — no matter where you travel.

Travel Bag or Backpack

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A bag or backpack to carry your camera body, lenses, and other photography accessories is a must when you are traveling for work. It’s worth it to invest in a backpack that is specifically made to handle photography equipment, with specifically design compartments and special materials built to protect and encase your equipment. Don’t make the mistake in throwing your equipment in whatever bag you have available, because the chances of your gear getting damaged will be pretty high.

When selecting a backpack, there are a few components you will want to have to help keep your equipment organized. A standard photography backpack will have padded, internal dividers to hold multiple lenses, as well as the camera body. External pockets are great to hold accessories like USB cords, batteries and chargers, memory cards, and cleaning kits. Depending on your budget and needs, some backpacks can also carry mono- or tripods, tablets or laptops, and may include a rain cover.

If you need help selecting a backpack that fits your needs, read Carryology’s article, “The Best Camera Backpacks Buyer’s Guide 2017.”

Memory Cards and Memory Card Readers

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It’s a good idea to always keep extra memory cards on hand. Every photographer has their own preference when it comes to brand and size, but keep two or three extra handy. Nothing is more disappointing than damaging or losing the only memory card that’s with you.

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A standard USB memory card reader is also a great tool for you to have while you are traveling. USB is a lot more common, and gives you the flexibility to use it on more devices. You can connect to any laptop or tablet no matter where you are located.

Mono and Tripods

 

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Mono and tripods are essential to capturing a great photograph in all different types of situations. Why should you use one?

If you are photographing nature or animals, you could be there for hours waiting for the right shot. If you are using a telephoto lens, they tend to get heavy. They are also difficult to steady and could lead to blurry photos. Tripods help reduce unwanted movement when you are trying to get creative with close-up shots. The list of reasons to use a tripod when photographing and traveling is endless.

If you don’t have the room to carry a tripod, you can also use a monopod, or a tabletop tripod or clamp.

Cleaning Gear  

Cleaning gear is sometimes an afterthought, but you should always keep a kit in your bag. No one wants to be on location for a shoot only to find a grease spot or a large piece of dust on the lens.

Rocket blowers and brushes are great to have because you can dislodge dust from the camera lens or from inside the camera body. There are more extensive cleaning kits that include lens pen, cleaning tissues, and microfiber wipe clothes.

Power Strips

When you are traveling, access to multiple outlets may be out of the question. If you have camera batteries or other items to charge, it can be difficult to charge everything at once. A collapsible power strip is a great solution: it is easy to carry, can fit in any camera bag, and you can plug in multiple items.

Monster Outlets to Go 4 plugs into one outlet, but allows you to charge up to four items at one time. The design allows you to wrap the cord securely around the flat power strip for easy traveling.

Whether you are staying stateside or traveling internationally, you should always be prepared. The photography gear outlined above will help you protect your equipment, keep it clean, and get the best photographs possible.

What photography or video gear do you have to have when you are traveling? Let us know below! And learn more about photography at the New York Film Academy.

Photography Backdrops You Can Find Anywhere

Photography Backdrops You Can Find Anywhere

A good photographer can find a great backdrop, no matter where they are in real time. They look at their surroundings, the type of lighting that is available, and their subject. To ensure the best photographs possible, no matter the location, we’ve highlighted some backdrops that you can find anywhere.

The best part is that some of these backdrops won’t cost you anything! Now you can have some great results without breaking the bank.

Neutral Backdrops

Nothing says simplicity like a neutral backdrop — whether it’s stark white, grey, or black. Photographers who are just starting out may be able to work on a project like professional headshots, but may not have the backdrop and mounting equipment they need. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your surroundings. A clean wall can be sufficient.

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Neutral backdrops, like the one featured above, allow the audience to really focus on the subject. Let the subject and the details speak for itself in the photograph, don’t rely on a backdrop to add to it.

If you have the time to prepare before a shoot and you’re working on limited funds, here are some other neutral backgrounds that you can use:

  • Painters’ drop clothes
  • White paper rolls
  • Brown packing paper
  • Drawer lining paper

Textured Backdrops

Textured backdrops, like a brick wall, are a great alternative to neutral, plain backgrounds. Brick walls can be found just about anywhere you go, and are perfect for impromptu photo shoots. Red or whitewashed brick walls will add an artsy, weathered look to photos and serve as a textural counterpoint your photography subject.

If you are feeling adventurous, try out other textured backgrounds including:

  • Garage doors
  • Barn doors and walls
  • Shiplap walls
  • Metal or wood fences
  • Corrugated metal walls

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Graffiti

Graffiti is one of those things that you can find no matter where you are in the world. It might come as a surprise, but graffiti can make a great photography backdrop when it’s used correctly. Place your subject in front the graffiti, focus on the subject, and blur the graffiti in the background. Or you can blur your subject in the foreground to focus on the graffiti.

For more ideas on photographing graffiti, Widewalls’ “Top 10 Street Art Photographers” examines photographers who capture street artists and their graffiti artwork.

Nature

Nature is a beautiful backdrop for photography, especially when the sun is setting and the light is just right. Just like using graffiti as a backdrop, there is so much a photographer can do with nature. It doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or professional photographer — take a chance and experiment with your subject, the lightning, and different angles. Need some inspiration for nature shots? You can use the following as a backdrop for your photography:

  • Fields
  • Parks
  • Mountains
  • Beaches
  • Lakes, rivers, or streams
  • Forests

What are you waiting for? It’s time to hop in your car or on your bike to find a backdrop that will make your photographs really stand out.

Do you have any special backdrops for photography that you can find just about anywhere you go? We would love to know below! Learn more about photography at the New York Film Academy.

Say Cheese! Tips for Photographing Children

When it comes to photographing children, traditional photography rules are put on hold. In order to successfully photograph children, you have to approach the photography session differently.

For National Photography Month, we’ve got some useful tips on how to photograph children, below.

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Exercise Patience

You know that saying, “kids can be kids”? One moment, a child could be playing with you and striking a pose, and the next moment, they shy away when you point a camera at them. If you get any type of shy behavior during a photoshoot, don’t rush anything or punish the child for their behavior. Instead, be patient and let the child warm up to you.

Photographing at Their Level

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Don’t make the mistake of photographing children from your level — it will make them appear smaller in your images. Instead, get on their level so you have more equal ground. Be prepared to get on the ground and crawl around with them if you want some good pictures.

Be Ready for Anything

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With children, anything can happen in the blink of an eye — and that’s why it’s important to be ready for anything. You need to be ready to capture the unexpected on camera. Stop reviewing your photos and keep your lens at ready. Capturing the right moment means being at the right place and the right time. You can always review your images at a later time.

Relax and Have Fun

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Don’t worry about looking “professional” when you work with children. It’s OK to relax, let loose, and have fun. Make those silly faces and weird noises: Throw everything you know out the window and enjoy the session. If you make it fun for you and the children, they’re more likely to have fun and you’ll get some really great images.

Create an Action Plan

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Sometimes, the best-laid plan doesn’t work out and you have to be flexible. But it also helps to have a plan, a backup plan, and a contingency plan. If a child is having a hard time cooperating, just remember to stay patient, and don’t yell or get upset with them: try plan B. If that doesn’t work, have another strategy or idea ready. Just go with the flow and remember it’s about having fun, and getting the best photos.

Do you have any tips on how to photograph children? Let us know below. If you have a photograph that you are proud of, share them with us! Ready to learn more about photography? Check out our many photography programs at the New York Film Academy.

National Photography Month: Outdoor Fashion Photography

 

Every great photographer knows that there are multiple components to a successful outdoor fashion shoot. Whether you are doing a shoot in the alleys of New York or in a field of wheat in North Dakota, nailing down your subject’s outfits will help you with your outdoor fashion photography.

Students passionate about learning the ins and outs of a fashion shoot can get hands-on training and experience at the New York Film Academy’s 4-Week Fashion Photography Workshop. We also offer two fine arts degrees in photography — bachelor’s and master’s — as well as intensive conservatory-style programs. Our students will learn practical elements, and master technical and business practices to help them achieve their professional goals.       

If you’re already in the field and need some quick tips, here are some things to consider while you are preparing for your outdoor fashion photography shoot.

Research the Location

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Don’t wait until the day of your shoot to pick out your location. If you have an idea of where you would like to shoot, scout out some spots days prior to the shoot. Make notes and plan out the frames that you want to take during the shoot.

Keep Your Model Comfortable

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Make sure you get to know your model before the shoot to ensure that they will be a good fit for your project. It helps to establish a rapport, as you will be working closely together and will likely be offering your model directions during the shoot. You can help keep your model comfortable by establishing a connection beforehand and maintaining a professional, friendly environment that will keep their poses and expressions relaxed.

Use Natural Light

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You should try to use natural light during your photo shoot, even though you can’t control the intensity of the sun and the direction of the natural light source. However, you can overcome this by placing the model correctly, which will help you achieve the amount and direction of light in a frame that you desire. If you can, avoid placing the model directly facing the sun because it will wash out the natural skin tone of your model and create deep or harsh shadows.

 

If you want to use artificial lighting, you can use a flashlight or studio lightning to underexpose the background. Using a light source directed toward the model allows you to control the direction of the light without causing spilling.

Use the Correct Lens

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You should know what type of lens you will need for fashion photography — whether it’s a wide-angle or telephoto lens. If you choose to use a telephoto lens, your depth of field will be shallower and will be more flattering to your model. Wide-angle lens will allow you to capture everything in focus.  

Experiment With Camera Angles

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Don’t be afraid to experiment with camera angles — you should never take photos at eye level for outdoor fashion photography. Try and position your camera so that the angle is high or low. This will allow you to get some out-of-the box frames with perspective while keeping focus on the model’s eyes.

For example, if you want to get a low-angle shot, have your model stand or climb up on a ladder or you can stand on the ladder to achieve a different perspective.

Do you have any tips for having a successful outdoor photographer shoot? Let us know below! And learn more about photography at the New York Film Academy!

How to Direct a Shoot for the Best Model Poses

Fashion shoots can be a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing. From different costumes and makeup to cool poses, there is plenty to work with. Regardless of your own experience, it is always good to remember a few tips to make every photo shoot you do fabulous every time! Whether you are directing professional models or first-timers, here are some tips to help you direct your photoshoots as successfully as possible:

Capture as many different expressions and poses as possible.

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There is nothing wrong with having your model(s) smile or use their go-to pose, but you do not want over a hundred photos with the same expression and position. It is important to mix it up for the best possible results. An experienced model may be able to give you many poses and moods without much direction, but if you are working with an amatuer model, you may need to give some guidance.

Do some research.

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This might seem like a beginner’s tip, but it never hurts to have a refresher. What have some of your favorite and most successful fashion photographers done? For example, hair alone could make or break a fabulous shot. Learning how to position hair on longer-haired models or styling shorter hair can add a new edge to your shots. The same goes for knowing how to pose different body parts to make the models look their best without digital manipulation.

Be a conversationalist.

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No, you don’t have to be a socialite, but talking with your models will help alleviate any awkwardness either of you may be experiencing. It will also make models much more comfortable with you. Additionally, don’t forget to give positive feedback. How will your models know if they are doing a good job? Tell them! It will make for a better experience for the both of you.

Keep taking pictures.

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Some photographers have hundreds of pictures from the same shoot. This is because photographers know the more photos they have after a shoot, the more options they have. Taking a ton of photos is worth it if you find “the one” that could define your (and your models’) portfolio(s).

What are your tips for successfully working with your models on a fashion photoshoot? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about fashion photography at the New York Film Academy.

National Photography Month: Your Guide to Nailing a Photography Internship

Internships are a necessity, no matter what you are studying. At the New York Film Academy, we encourage our photography students, whether they are in the one-year or two-year conservatory programs or earning their degree, to seek out internships to gain real world experience and skills. If you aren’t sure about how to secure an internship or you don’t know where to start, read our guide to nailing a photography internship.  

Finding an Internship for You

The best place to start looking for an internship is at NYFA. Ask one of your photography professors if they can recommend internships or offer any insights about where or how to apply. You can also look at NYFA’s career center at our Los Angeles campus to view any available internships.

If you still haven’t secured an internship after speaking with your professor(s) or checking out the career center, check online. Websites like journalismjobs.com, internmatch.com, indeed.com, and internships.com are great resources for students.

Another great resource to find internships is on the National Press Photographers Association’s website. NPPA, “the voice of visual journalists,” is a 501©3 non-profit organization that advances photojournalism through education, and awarding scholarships or fellowships to hardworking, deserving individuals.

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Why Should You do an Internship?

Most internships, especially a student’s first, are unpaid. So why should you do an unpaid photography internship? If you don’t have the skill set or portfolio to secure a paid internship, you may have to take on an unpaid internship. If finances are a concern and may prevent you from taking on an unpaid internship, look at something that is closer to home. You can contact local publications to see if they have any internship programs, which will allow you to still work in an educational environment.

Some internships you find through school may be paid or offer college credit — but usually not for both, and you will have to check with your program first to make sure they will accept credits from your internship. If you are interested in receiving school credit, talk with your advisor to make sure the internship fits the program’s requirements.

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What are Your Responsibilities as an Intern?

Being an intern doesn’t mean it’s a glamorous job — you won’t be working with the best equipment or out in the field rocking the camera on your first day. You may not even be working directly with cameras. Whether you intern for a publication or individual photography, you may be doing real grunt work, from greeting clients to getting coffee. But your responsibilities likely won’t stop there. Your boss may want you to caption and transmit photos, archive photos, fact check, and write stories to accompany photo libraries. You may also have to create an online slideshow if your publication has a digital component.  Whatever tasks you find yourself with, be aware that it’s all part of the process.

Expectations for interns are set high — which means you should be hitting the ground running on day one.

What Will You Learn During Your Internship?

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Internships, whether paid or unpaid, will give you real work experience and skills. You will be able to learn things that you wouldn’t learn in a classroom. You will learn how to work with a variety of different individuals every day and connect with strangers. Photography internships will teach you how to meet high-pressure deadlines on a daily basis.

This most important thing to remember is that you will be able to create some items under the direction of photography professionals and you will be able to build up a solid portfolio. Most employers will consider an applicant if they have completed one or two internships during college. Stay positive and continue working toward your unpaid internship.

Ready to learn more about photography? Check out NYFA’s photography programs!

Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up a Fashion Photoshoot

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Organization and a professional attitude are important to a successful fashion photoshoot.

First, you need to have a plan — If you are shooting for a publication, the art director may tell you what kind of feel they want. If you are shooting for your own lookbook or a personal website, the theme planning falls on your shoulders. Find a theme for the project and keep that in mind as you select locations and backdrops and communicate with the stylists and models.

Team — in addition to yourself and the model(s), your team should have: a stylist who understands tailoring and can make adjustments to the clothes so they fit the model properly; a hair stylist and makeup artist who can help you bring your vision to life; and an all-around support person who can fill in or run errands as needed.

Location — if you are shooting on location rather than in a studio, make sure you consider safety and legal issues. For example, railroad tracks are usually considered private property and it is illegal (and dangerous) to photograph on them. For other locations, you may need a permit or authorization from the owner. Do yourself a favor and check before you go.

Next, you need to set up your equipment — You may have a very simple setup or all of the latest gadgets, but along with your camera, lenses and a source of light are the bare minimum you can get away with. It goes without saying that you should know exactly how your camera works, but it’s a good idea to know other tricks and tips in case your equipment fails or some other plan goes awry. On the “nice to have” list is a way to backup the shots before you even leave the location, a system for keeping track of the shot details, water and food for the team, and a first aid kit.

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Lenses — Use the right lens for the job. While Erik Madigan Heck is able to do much of his work with a hand-me-down lens from his mother, most photographers build up a core set of lenses that they use for specific purposes. How To Geek has a good, simple overview of how lenses work and what the different types of lenses are used for.

 

Lights — You will need to decide between natural and studio light and understand how to work in either situation. Lighting your shoot properly is crucial for showing off the clothes and the model. Zhang Jina’s article on lighting tools provides a great overview of her approach to lighting and she includes example photos to show the effects of each tool.

When you get there — Once your team is assembled and the shoot is underway, stick to your schedule and set a professional tone.

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Be ready before the model arrives — If you’re in the studio, set up your lights, backdrop and props before the model arrives. If you’re going to be shooting on location, get there before the model does so you can set up your equipment.

Part of preparing is being inspired — Get to know the work of other photographers as well as the history of fashion photography. Spend time looking at magazines, websites, and photographer’s books for a better understanding of composition, color, and lighting.

Establish a rapport with the subject — When your model arrives, spend a little time talking to the person and putting them at ease. When they are relaxed, they will be much more natural in front of the camera, which will show in your final images.

Give credit to the team — Acknowledge everyone’s contribution to the success of the shoot and thank them all for their time and hard work. Your name might be on the final image, but everyone on the set contributed to the final results.

After the session — Most photographers do some touching up with software such as Adobe Photoshop, but software can’t fix poorly lit or out-of-focus images. As you adjust color balance and make adjustments, be aware that there is lively debate about where to draw the line when it comes to digital manipulation of images. Stay current on the conversations surrounding photography and the fashion world.

Meet your deadline — It is sometimes hard to stop adjusting and tweaking images; it is equally hard to pick only a limited number of shots from a day’s worth of work. Still, if someone else is waiting on those images, deliver them on time and with a professional attitude. That will help open the door for other opportunities.

Be ready to do it all over again — If your editor says none of the shots work, none of the shots work. Accept that assessment, ask for clarification on what they are looking for and go out shoot again.

Take care of business — Submit your invoices, track your receipts, and update your portfolio, website, and resume.

You can always go behind the scenes of fashion photography with one of New York Film Academy’s 4-week Fashion Photography Workshops.

 

3 Daily Tips to Help You Become A Better Photographer

If you’re a photography student, chances are you know how tough the competition is in your chosen field. These days, the term “photographer” can encompass anyone who knows how to take decent enough snaps on an iphone and amass thousands of followers on Instagram. But photography is more than that. And when you work with DSLRs, you know that understanding the rules, theories, and techniques also isn’t enough to guarantee successful photographs. To be a better artist, you need that extra thing — that’s your own unique style. Which is why NYFA’s photography programs encourage hands-on experience, offering our students the opportunity to practice and develop their own visual style.

But your style is not something that can be taught easily. You have to experiment, discover, and then cultivate it your voice as a visual artist. Here are some daily tips that might make the process easier.

1. Photograph WISELY Every Day

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Yes, wisely is the operative word here. Plenty of books, workshops and seminars will tell you that to be successful in any field, you need to practice every day. And to a certain extent, that’s true. But if we tell you that to improve as a photographer you simply need to photograph something every day, we’re only doing half our job. You could set a goal of taking at least three decent pictures every day, and a year later, find yourself still complaining that your style hasn’t evolved much.

Here’s the crux of the matter: For your style to evolve, you need to challenge yourself. One simple exercise to help you do this is to choose a particular word or theme and take a few pictures interpreting it every day. For instance, if the word is black, you could photograph objects that are black, and then move onto abstract stuff, like a play of shadows, the dark and somber expressions on someone’s face, and so on. By pushing yourself to intentionally investigate a subject past your first and obvious interpretation, you may discover new perspectives that can offer you inspiration and lead you to something you wish to say with your images.

2. Set Yourself Limits When Taking Photographs

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To force your style to develop, it can help to set limits and conditions on the way you photograph. As necessity is the mother of invention, constraints can force your mind to think out of the box. You can do this in a number of ways. For example, for a particular subject or topic you can set yourself a limit of not taking more than seven photos, or working only in black and white, or restricting yourself to a particular area while working, and so on. The fewer options you have, the more your brain has to work to make the best of the circumstances. In other words, it’s not all about the expensive equipment and endless options: it’s about the choices you make as a photography, and how you make do with what you have.

3. Expose Yourself to More of the Stuff You Like

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You must realize that all creative works are a two-way process: There’s always a creator and an audience, and it’s important to play both the roles. When you’re photographing very diligently for an assignment, realize that you must take time out to see other great and not-so-great photographs as well, and learn from them. You know your interests and passions, so make sure you get a decent exposure to media that reflects, feeds, or challenges your tastes.

For instance, if you’ve always had a childhood interest in fairy tales, then you can definitely spend time studying Tim Walker’s fashion photographs, or checking out some surreal paintings or even watching art house cinema that uses fantasy tropes. Not only will that make you closer to figuring out your personal style, but it will also prove to be an entertaining and enriching experience.

At the end of the day, remember that you are a unique individual, with a unique history and personality. So no matter what you do, be authentic. Yes, it’s okay to imitate when you’re practicing, but nothing beats originality. Put your heart and soul into whatever you do, and make sure you actively enjoy the process of creating and making mistakes, and not just the end results.

Ready to learn more about photography? Check out NYFA’s Photography School.

Your Photo Mojo: Photography Project Ideas to Tap Your Creativity

If you’re a NYFA photography student, you may be scrambling in your busy schedule to find inspiration and ideas to help you infuse new life and variety into your projects. You know that art directors and even gallerists are not looking for photography generalists; they are looking to hire or represent that person that has something no one else does, this is seen through a solid, concise body of work. In your quest to create a strong body of work, you may be feeling low on creative juice. So if you’re looking for new ideas on how to express yourself within your body of work, these project ideas may give you that extra spark.

To help you find additional ways to synthesize what you’re learning in class with hands-on application, we’ve come up with some fun suggestions for extra-curricular projects that can help you try new things, evolve and improve. These projects can inspire new ideas no matter what genre you enjoy shooting:

1. Sign Up For A 52 Week Challenge

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There are many ways of doing this. You can easily search for “52 week photography prompts” online, make one yourself, or mix and match to suit your needs.

Once you’ve started a challenge, you can interpret the weekly “word” or theme both literally and metaphorically. Having a particular theme to work with each week not only allows you to explore the subject from a variety of perspectives, but also proves to be an entertaining and informative experience. For instance, if the word is “vanilla,” instead of food photography you may want to photograph the “vanilla” sky or different “vanilla” moods you can think of.

2. Experiment With Light

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If you’re into abstract art photography, experimenting with light is a fun way to build a portfolio. Using different materials and lenses, try photographing refracting surfaces, light trails, light spirals, bubbles, oily refractions, disco lights, fireworks and firecrackers and even smoke. Alternatively, you can make “light” a theme for the day and try photographing the city at sunrise, at dusk, and at night. If you’re photographing the city at night, try doing a photo series on urban night life and so on.

3. Do a Self-Portrait Series

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If you’re an introvert but want to build your skill at taking amazing portrait shots, do a series of self-portraits. Think about the words and ideas that best describe who you are and try to express that in a photograph. Or think about your relationship with society, factoring in issues of race, gender, class, religious affiliations, and interests, to paint a series of pictures about your life that can also work as a social commentary.

4. Try The 100 Strangers Project

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Do you want to get over the fear of talking to random strangers and take some amazing candid shots as well? Then try the 100 Strangers Project! All you have to do is approach a random person, talk to them to discover their story, and then take a picture best representing them. Then, repeat it with 99 other people. Just remember: be safe!

5. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

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You can do this on your own, collaborate with other photographers, or do it on a road trip with friends. All you have to do is make a list of things both physical and abstract, then look for them in real life to photograph them.

For instance, your list may be: gasoline rainbow, sunlight through broken glass, and desperate love. Giving yourself a specific focus and as you search for images representing these ideas will help you discover new possibilities and juxtapositions. Not only will this hone your photography skills, but also teach you to think unconventionally and pay closer attention to your surroundings.

We know you’re working intensively to build your body of original work while studying at NYFA’s Photography School, so we hope these additional project ideas can offer you a fun and engaging way to practice what you learn on your own time. Don’t be afraid to customize a project to suit your preferences, and make sure you have lots of fun.

Do you have some project ideas that you want to share? Interested in learning more about photography at New York Film Academy? Let us know in the comments below!

Beyond Rule of Thirds: How to Master Photo Composition

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The rule of thirds is one of the first rules taught in photography classes, a principle that helps photographers create well-balanced and interesting shots. We’re here to talk about the rule of thirds, when to use it, and when you can break it (yes, there are some instances when you can get away breaking the rule of thirds!). But before you can break the rules, you have to understand them. And remember: Following photography guidelines will help you master photo composition.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

One of important rule of composition in photography is 'Third Rule'.

While you are looking at your viewfinder or LCD display on your screen, create a grid in your mind that has nine parts, made by three horizontal lines and three vertical lines. This grid will have four points in the center where the lines intersect. Those four intersections are your points of interest. These points correspond with people’s natural line of sight when they first look at an image, and utilizing these points in your work will help you capture the interest and attention of your viewers naturally and dynamically. These are your points of interest to use when framing your image.   

Why Use the Rule of Thirds?

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Your photo will be more balanced and interact with your audience most naturally when the points of interest are placed at the intersections of your grid or along the lines. When a subject is placed in either the left or right frame, or even in two thirds of the photo, it creates a movement. But when a photo is placed dead center of the photo, the audience does not experience any movement at all.

In the photo below, you can see red, intersecting lines that act as the guides. The picture is divided into three one-third panels, both horizontal and vertical. The eye naturally follows the flow of the road — starting at the bottom of the middle frame and then moving over to the right frame of the picture. Because the road spans across two thirds of the photo, it creates a natural movement for the eye.

When can you break the Rule of Thirds?

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If you have good reason to break the rule of thirds, then do it. A prime example of breaking the rule of thirds is when your subject has perfect symmetry. While the audience tends to look for movement, it is well known that human beings are attracted to others with symmetrical faces and bodies. The same idea can be applied to symmetry found in nature, like a butterfly, snowflake, or a flower.

Another time you can break the rule of thirds is when you feature a shallow depth of field in your image. Why? A shallow depth of field helps create dimension in photos and your eyes will automatically move through a scene that appears to have depth and dimension.

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Do you have any instances of when you break the rule of thirds? We would love to hear how you’ve mastered photo composition below! If you’re interested in learning more about photography, consider applying to NYFA’s Photography School today.

Fashion Photography Tips Every Budding Annie Leibovitz Needs

Fashion photography has generated some of the most inspiring, iconic, and wide-reaching images, yet it’s not without its challenges. One of the most challenging — and rewarding — experiences you can have as a photographer involves an editorial shoot. Of course, arranging a shoot that goes along smoothly and without any hiccups is a difficult feat.

Despite the challenge, photographers love these opportunities because they offer their own form of fun and creativity. No matter whether you’re completely new to the world of fashion photography or you’d simply like a refresher on the basics, we’ve rounded up some tips that can help you refocus and plan your fashion photography editorials. Especially if you’re new to fashion photography and want to prepare an editorial shoot of your own, keep this advice in mind:

Before You Start, Have An Idea

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Every good fashion shoot starts with an idea well before the scene is prepared and model is chosen. Going into the shoot there should already be an emotion or atmosphere that you’re trying to create in order to better promote the clothing, hair, etc.

The good news is you don’t have to be too specific, nor do you have to stick with the idea if inspiration arrives later. Whether you’re just going for an ‘80s vibe or want a goth look, having a general concept in mind is the best way to start.

Seek Inspiration If Necessary

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Having trouble with that last tip? Or perhaps you do have an idea but you’re not sure how to best convey it via your photo shoot? With the advent of the internet and social media platforms, finding inspiration from other people’s work is easier than ever.

Don’t worry: Finding inspiration from the great fashion photographers before you isn’t “cheating,” and even the top photographers in the world sometimes gain ideas from elsewhere. We recommend studying fashion editorials and scrolling through photo sharing platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to check out pictures that can help you hone in on your own idea.

Find The Right Model For You

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This step is arguably one of the more nerve-wrecking ones, since your model will be the face of your editorial. Fortunately, there are talented aspiring models everywhere who are looking for the opportunity you have to offer. If you’re new to the scene, you may have to pick from non-experienced models, which is a gamble. If you can, find yourself experienced models that have done this before and are serious about it.

The internet is ripe with places to find agency models that are pretty much guaranteed to show up and do a good job. It may cost you money but if you plan to submit your editorial to a respectable magazine, it’ll be worth it. They’ll also have a good selection of models for you to choose from so you find the perfect collaborator for your idea.

Assemble A Team You Can Trust

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By “a team you can trust” we mean people who have proven their talent and are responsible enough to commit to your project and follow through. While your good friend might say they’re amazing at makeup, we recommend connecting with someone who has professional-level experience. The same goes for the other two important people you’ll need to work alongside your makeup artist: a clothing wardrobe stylist and a hair stylist.

If you think you can also handle one of these tasks yourself, fantastic. In fact, this might be necessary for newcomers who don’t have enough time in the field or networking under their belt to know a lot of people in the industry.

Perhaps one of the most important qualifications when considering potential teammates is that they are excited about your project. They should be just as invested in the shoot as you are. That way, the work has a real chance to shine.

Find A Good Location

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You have your team, your idea, and your model. If you haven’t already, you’ll definitely want to start considering the best locations for your shoot. No matter how fantastic your model and clothing look, a good or bad location can make all the difference.

Outdoor shoots are usually a bit easier since most places have no restrictions — though, depending on where you are, you may still need a permit to hold a photo shoot in a public place. Most indoor places such as a church or mansion require permission, and you’ll need to shoot an email or file a permit to square away your location beforehand. You might even find a great local venue that lets you shoot there for free.

Take A Deep Breath And Shoot!

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Once the date you set for your shoot has arrived don’t worry if you’re suddenly a combination of nervous, stressed, and excited. Our advice is that you take a moment to relax yourself and remember that this is your shoot, so have some fun and remember what you know about portrait photography! Remember that many shoots don’t go exactly as planned, and that’s OK. Sometimes, the hiccups and challenges on the day can lead to new ideas and great images.

Instead of panicking, just work with what you have and try to enjoy the process. Whether everything goes as planned or you run into a bump or two, remember: It’s all about the clothes. Do what you can to keep your focus on the fashion.

Decide Where to Submit

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You probably already had a particular magazine or two in mind before you even started shooting. This is the best approach, since every magazine comes with its own style — which means they tend to select work whose aesthetic fits with theirs. Use the power of the internet to search for places that might be interested in picking up your work.

Lastly, be patient. Some photographers grow anxious when their first choice of magazines don’t agree to publish their work. The biggest mistake you can make is to give up and forget about your photos— or worse, show them off on social media. Magazines especially prefer their photos to be exclusive, put off tossing your work online and just keep sending them out until you find success. Fashion photography is full of challenges and rewards, so happy planning!

What are your favorite fashion photography tips? Let us know in the comments below!

HDR Photography Tips

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While the argument of HDR versus non-HDR remains heated, many photographers see that both technologies are useful tools for capturing precious moments, new perspectives, or the beauty of your location. The following are some tips to consider if you want your photos to share (as best you can) the feeling of being “there” in person.

Be Willing to try New Things

Ah, the joy of HDR: many times, the feeling is that nothing else compares anymore. But as you gain experience, you may be lucky enough to find new ways to experiment both with HDR, and without it. This includes scenes where lighting is even enough that one exposure is enough to capture the scene, along with highlights and shadows. It can also be worthwhile exploring alternatives to HDR when photographing moving people and objects.

Know When HDR is the Perfect Choice

On the other hand, it’s also important for aspiring photographers to learn when HDR is the ideal choice. HDR’s unmatched ability to capture detail makes it perfect for taking shots of man-made objects, architecture, and more. Pictures of gorgeous landscapes with many shapes, colors and textures also come out great with HDR, even when shot during sunrise, sunset, and any time in between.

Bring the Tripod

This may seem like an obvious tip but we feel it’s still worth mentioning. Without a tripod, it’s difficult keeping your f/stop consistent between shots. This is very important if your goal is to capture the full dynamic range of a scene.

Master the Art of Tone Mapping

This is Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square, which reminds me of Times Square in NY. I spent a couple of hours here and was lucky to get a colorful sunset. This is an HDR of 3 shots (-2, 0, +2), tonemapped in Photomatix. In PS: - Imagenomic Noiseware twice, one stronger on the sky. For the next commands I masked the sky. - Smart sharpen - Freaky details masking - Nik Tonal Contrast - Vibrance increase on the whole image - A bit os saturation boost on the sky - Curves - Burn the top of the sky and the edges - A bit of Nik Glamour Glow.

Or at least get familiar with a few of the many tone mapping software programs available today. Many consider tone mapping to be the heart and soul of HDR photography, but it’s also a slippery slope, as it’s easy to get carried away and create an unrealistic look to your photos — although, of course, that’s could be your goal. But if you’re aiming to capture the location as it would appear in real life, you’ll want to avoid strengthening colors too much. Although there are plenty of great free programs, the best come with a price tag.

Take More than One Exposure

A common mistake made by new HDR photographers is taking a single exposure and tone mapping it. Why doesn’t this work as well? The fewer images with different exposures you take, the less data you have to pull from in post-production. More levels of exposure data (easily boosted with multiple exposures) means superior high dynamic range for your photographs, especially with great landscape shots. This doesn’t mean you should always capture hundreds of photos with varying exposures for one image, but at least take enough so that you’ll have more to work with later.

Don’t Stick to Presets Alone

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Pretty much every post-processing program out there today has several presets for you to use. These can be great places to start, but also don’t forget to grow and experiment past the presets. You’ll want to get to a point where you know which settings to play with in order to make your photos look as desired. By experimenting with all the available settings, including reading up on tutorials, you’ll eventually know how to fine tune your program’s settings to get your shots as close to perfection as possible.

Any other great tips to offer your peers on HDR photography? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Incorporate Flash Photography Into Your Photography Style

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Flash photography doesn’t seem to get the love it deserves. Most photographers, nothing compares to the soft, beautiful glow of natural light — and they’re probably right. Then again, many photographers fail to make an impact with their work because they don’t learn when to determine if flash is necessary, even if it doesn’t suit their photography style.

A professional photographer knows how to deliver captivating shots even when faced with the unexpected. This can include anything from low light environments to places where your subject has too much backlight. When you’re prepared to work with any challenge that comes your way, you’ll have confidence no matter what you’re asked to shoot.

To have that peace of mind, below are several situations where flash can prove the difference between poor shots and something great. Once you understand the advantages of flash photography, perhaps you’ll be able to start incorporating flash photography into your own style.

Use Flash In Dimly Lit Places

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Today’s photographer has everything they need to deal with locations that have poor lighting. However, using a cutting-edge DSLR in a poorly lit environment comes with a few drawbacks. Very low light levels mean you’ll probably end up with blurry images, thanks to motion blur and camera shake. But increasing the ISO level (your camera’s sensitivity to light) also means you run the risk of poor dynamic range, bad colors, and more noise. Once again, flash photography may be your solution.

To avoid ending up with a small number of decent shots to work with in post-processing, why not use flash instead? Whether you use a simple mount on your camera or work with an off-camera setup to add more balance, flash can help you create a primary source of light when all you have is dim ambient light.

Remember that weddings are easily the most photographed events, and sometimes the most challenging. This is because you can guarantee that the church, reception area, and ballroom you’re shooting in has terrible light. Along with flash, you can also other artificial lighting such as strobes and light modifiers to create the perfect shots.

Use Flash Photography When Photographing Details

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The best photographers know the importance of capturing more than just people. This is why event photographers also take the time to capture details that completely preserve the special moment being shot. At weddings, this includes taking shots of the wedding cake, decorations, food, flower arrangements, and more.

But like we mentioned before, sometimes the subject you want to photograph isn’t in a well-lit area. The good news is that stationary items can usually be moved or rotated so that they’re facing a light source. But when this isn’t possible, flash photography can help you get the shot you need even when the location is only semi-lit.

In this case, we recommend using a tripod along with a camera set to a slower shutter speed. This will allow the camera to use enough light and produce photos that are balanced yet vibrant. Of course, this process requires more time, which is why we only recommend it if you’re unable to set up your own light.

When Shooting Outdoors

Guadeloupe winter carnival, Pointe-à-Pitre parade. A young woman, performer wearing traditional carnival head-dress(close up outdoor portrait).

The idea of using flash outside might sound blasphemous to most photographers. We all know how amazing natural light can be, especially when using a gorgeous backdrop and some shade. However, experienced photographers know that having too much sun can be just as big a problem as having too little light.

If you’re only utilizing natural light and your shot includes a lot of the sky or water, it’s easy to overexpose and lose detail in your subjects. The opposite can happen when your subjects are heavily backlit, which sometimes you want so your shots have more depth.

But without flash, the sides of your subject opposite from where you’re standing might get underexposed. Then there’s trying to shoot the perfect picture in the middle of the day when the sun is directly above you. This usually causes weird shadows to show up on people’s faces, including the ugly ones under the eyes. With a well-placed flash and umbrella, you can make sure your subjects are exposed can come out looking fantastic.

Have you had success using flash photography in surprising ways or in your photography class work with NYFA? Let us know your flash tips in the comments below!

Sports Photography: Lessons We Learned From the Rio Olympics (That Can Apply Anywhere)

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Sports photography is a skill and an art form that is never out of season. As we move into the awesome spectacle that is the NFL’s 97th annual season, it’s time to seize the good opportunity to assess and apply some fantastic sports photography lessons that were highlighted this year by the 2016 Rio Olympic games. These are universal sports photography tidbits that can be applied towards our wider photographic efforts — whether you plan on snapping some of your favorite NFL players, or simply want to learn to approach your craft with the heart of a champion.

Today’s tips and tricks apply mainly to sports photography, but many can be used across the board. Ready?

On your marks, get set…

… Go!

Prepare Like an Athlete

Rio de Janeiro - Simone Biles, ginasta dos Estados Unidos, durante final em que levou medalha de ouro na disputa por equipes feminina nos Jogos Olímpicos Rio 2016. (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Because you’re going to be doing your own fair share of running around!

Whether you’re shooting at a race track, high school athletics meet or the Olympics themselves, you’re going to want to shoot at a number of different locations, all with different lighting, angles and crowds to deal with. That’s sports photography 101.

Ergo, extensive pre-planning — as with any photoshoot — is key.

Make sure you can physically get between locations in the time allotted, as well as exactly where to be for the best shots. Many of these will require dramatically different gear, too, so factor this into your planning.

It’s also essential to make sure your equipment is within event regulations. For instance, the 2012 London Olympics prohibited lenses longer than 30cm or tripods — you don’t want to turn up and find half of your equipment is banned! 

Crowd In, or Out?

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The Olympics rarely suffers from a dull and unengaged crowd, but for smaller sports events (or music festivals), you probably don’t want a bunch of empty seats or people not watching the thing you’re shooting in the background.

As a sports photographer, you’ll want to find the angle that best captures the drama and suspense of your sport. If you want to exclude the crowd from the shot and focus solely on the action, you’ve got a few options open to you: get as high as possible and shoot downwards, get as close and tight to the athlete as possible with a telephoto lens, or lower the f-stop to to bring the focus forward and exclude the background.

If all else fails, move yourself to a different position and shoot from an angle that removes the problem altogether. After all, we do call it sports photography for a reason: don’t be afraid to focus on the sport!

Know Your Sport

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Obviously you’ll want to know who’s who in whatever event you’re shooting in your sports photography adventures, but getting to know the athletes themselves and their behavior can pay dividends.

The more research you do ahead of the game, the greater the chances of nabbing that perfect sports photography shot.

The sports photography guru David Black recalls the preparation he took to get a “wow” photo of Michael Phelps during the 2004 Athens games: “I had memorized Michael’s freestyle stroke pattern and knew that he would take a breath two strokes after the 50-meter mark. Knowing this, I picked an appropriate upper-level camera position so that I could shoot slightly above the splashing water and capture a single image of Michael’s face. It was his last breath before sprinting to win a gold medal.”

Convert to Black and White

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Black and white is common in a wide variety of photographic disciplines, but it’s criminally underused in sports.

Part of the reason for this is that most sports are a highly colorful affair, from the vivid greens of a pitch to the blues of a pool and the detailed uniforms of the athletes. Sometimes however this can be overwhelming, especially if there are a lot of other visual elements such as crowds and seating in the background.

If you’re about to discard a shot that suffers from this, try converting it to black and white first – you might just find that it transforms from something that’s way too busy to a sports photography photo worthy of framing.

Panning

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Working with high-speed movement? Panning with the subject is a superb technique that can really deliver the goods with a beautifully crisp subject against a blurred background (capturing that sense of motion), but it also requires a lot of practice and determination.

Your choice of shutter speed is crucial to a good pan shot, and largely depends on how fast your subject is moving, but a good starting point is around 1/20 second and adjusting from there. Move with your subject and keep them in the frame, and only then press the shutter once you’ve got a fluid and consistent motion (remembering to follow through after the shutter closes, as if you’re swinging a baseball bat).

A tripod will help massively with this, but only if the subject’s movement is going to be predictable — otherwise, handheld with a light lens is the way forward (and is good to practice regardless).

Distance from your subject is another consideration to watch out for in sports photography; it’ll be more difficult to center the shot when close up (since the subject will appear to move faster), so try to get back from the track or up in the grandstand to make life a little easier.

Lastly, unlike most other static shots, you don’t want a clean background for a pan. The entire purpose it to have a lot of things blurring in the background, and for that you’ll need a lot of things in the background!

Don’t be disheartened if everything turns out blurry nine times out of ten — it’s a technique even the pros don’t nail with any consistency. Which leads us onto our final sports photography tip (and one that works for any field of photography).

Need 10 Good Photos? Take 10,000.

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Okay, maybe the ratio isn’t quite that extreme, but more is definitely better than less.

After all, digital film is very cheap these days…

… get snapping!

7 Killer Tips for Gorgeous iPhone Photography

Gorgeous iPhone photography is attainable. In the past, we’ve demonstrated that it’s entirely possible to shoot an entire feature film using nothing more than an iPhone, so it’s of little surprise that straight photography with an iPhone can yield very impressive results — if you know how to use the device to its greatest advantage.

Artistic, high-quality photography can be achieved with an iPhone. It’s enough to make you wonder when we’ll stop calling the super computers in our pockets “phones” and think of something more appropriate. Everything machine? Infinity box?

While we work on our new iPhone nickname, read on to discover seven game-changing iPhone photography tips that’ll help you compete against the DSLR pros…

1. Always Use Two Hands

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Each iteration of the iPhone is lighter than the last — and while that’s great for general practicality, it’s somewhat detrimental to stability when trying to take a steady shot. Always use two hands to keep the phone as still as possible. This simple trick can really make or break a shot.

2. The Gorilla Grip Tripod is Worth Its Weight in Gold

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If using two hands isn’t enough to get the steadiness you need for a shot, an iPhone-specific tripod is the perfect solution. These tools are affordable, portable, and can help you achieve angles and framing that you might not otherwise have a chance to try.

3. Put the Headphones to Good Use

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Let’s face it: the iPhone’s headphones aren’t the most impressive audio devices on the market — but they do come with a little-known feature: the “volume up” button doubles as a camera remote! This is a very handy alternative to a selfie stick if you’re using a tripod or want to be in the shot.

4. Understand the Shutter Button

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It’s simple, right? You press the big button, and it takes a photo.

Not quite. It’s worth noting that the shutter only activates when you remove your finger from the button, not when you press it. If you’ve ever noticed slight motion blur on a shot even though you’re convinced you were perfectly still, it’s probably because you began moving just after pressing the button and assumed the shot was done.

5. Forget the iPhone’s Zoom Feature

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Because it’s a weak feature, on the whole — this is one of the areas in which a smartphone will never compete with a tooled-up DSLR.

If you must zoom in on a subject and can’t simply move closer to it, consider taking the shot as standard and applying zoom in post instead. It’ll look marginally better than the in-built zoom feature, which maximizes every tiny movement and loses a lot of sharpness. That said, there’s an even better solution…

6. Invest in a Lens Kit

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As smartphone photography has increased in popularity, so has the market for lens kits that can attach effortlessly over your phone’s camera. If you’re serious about getting the very best from your iPhone shots, a lens kit is vital.

In this day and age, you’re spoiled for choice and can easily blow $500-$1000 on iPhone lenses, but even a $30 three-in-one kit with a fisheye, wide angle, and macro lens will dramatically improve your results.

Just remember: if you’re going in for an iPhone lens kit, you’ll likely have to replace it every few years as the dimensions of the phone evolve.

7. Everything You Learn at Photography School Still Applies

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All the ”rules” and best practices you’ve spent so much time studying still work on an iPhone. You’re still taking photos with a camera, after all!

Everything you know about composition, finding unique angles and perspectives, identifying interesting subjects, working with lighting and exposure, and exercising great technique are all still ingredients to a good photo — no matter what you’re shooting with. Think of the iPhone as simply another industry-standard tool to master and add to your repertoire as a photographer.

So, get out there and put your photography skills to good use! Remember the golden rule of great photography: the more you shoot, the more likely you are to produce great photos. One of the key benefits of taking photos with your smartphone is that you generally always have it on you. So shoot often and have fun!

Any great iPhone photography tips we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments below!

10 Kit Bag Essentials for the Light-Traveling Photographer

It’s entirely possible to fill an entire car full of photography equipment and related gadgets. Sometimes, however, you just want to travel light and actually spend time taking photos rather than spend an hour packing, followed by further hours of incessant fiddling with an array of gizmos while on shoot.

So let’s get back to basics! Assuming you’ve got a good primary and secondary lens ready to go (alongside the camera and kit bag itself, of course), let’s look at the ten basic essentials you’ll need for to cover most—if not all—eventualities. And be sure to check out our guide to the seven essential camera hacks every photographer should know.

1. Filters

An example of a lens filter

As discussed when talking about how best to shoot moving water, filters are a hugely important part of your arsenal… but of course, you don’t always want to have a hundred different filters to fumble with while you’re out on a shoot.

Lighten the load by paring it down to two: An ND filter, and a polarizing filter. Not only will this see you through most situations, but it’ll also encourage you to become more familiar with your camera and shutter settings to achieve the same effect you would have done by otherwise digging through a big kit bag full of filters.

2. Bean Bags

Or a bag of rice. Basically, anything pliable that will allow you to sit a camera snugly on an otherwise uneven surface, and can be a makeshift replacement for a tripod if you’re really looking to travel light.

3. Foil

Man wearing foil mask

A role of aluminium foil is almost essential for interior photography, and particularly when live models are involved. Don’t lug around extra lighting; simply wrap some foil around a board or wire frame and make better use of the natural light you’ve got.

4. An Extra SD Card

Assuming you’re relying on memory cards to store your shoot, it’s always best practice to carry a spare. Not because you might run out of space—with increasingly larger and cheaper SD cards, that’s not much of an issue these days—but if your sole card throws up a glitch, you’ve lost your entire shoot.

5. Tape

Black and orange gaffer tape

The importance and usefulness of a humble roll of gaffer tape cannot be understated, especially since it has proved to be a lifesaver to more than a few photographers who have found themselves in a sticky situation.

You don’t need a gigantic, sixty-yard roll of the stuff taking up bag space—just a thin and small eight-yard roll of gaffer tape will suffice for those occasions when you need to secure something to something else (which, as you know, happens all the time.)

6. Miniature Color Checker

X-Rite produce a wide selection of color calibration charts that fit snugly inside a camera bag, ensuring that you get perfect color correction and white balancing every single time.

7. Camera Jacket

Roof tiles in the rain

It goes without saying that high-tech cameras aren’t best friends with water, so be sure to pack a waterproof camera jacket (especially if the weather can get a little unpredictable where you are.) Try to get one specifically designed for your camera model to ensure a snug fit.

8. Compact Cleaning Kit

Nothing fancy needed; simply a small bottle of cleaning fluid and some swabs that won’t get fibres all over the lens as you’re cleaning it. A compressed air blower is also a savvy addition to your kit bag too for the off chance you get dust on the sensor in between changing lenses.

9. Batteries

The top of a camera

For the love of all things holy, pack a spare battery. The necessity of this shouldn’t need stating, but it’s surprising how many photographers still get caught out when the battery they thought was fully charged turns out to be as flat as a pancake (or they misjudge the effects of the cold weather on the battery drain.)

10. A Plan

Want to shoot efficiently? Figure out exactly what you’re aiming to achieve and where you’ll be able to do that. Because a plan won’t take up any space whatsoever, but will save you a whole lot of time.

Got any other must-have photography essentials that you never leave the house without? Let us know down in the comments below!

Learn more about NYFA’s Photography School by clicking here.

Photography Tips on Working With Water

Working with water poses a lot of unique challenges when it comes to photography, but it also brings with it plenty of rewards.

Ansel Adams picture of water

Some of the most compelling images ever committed to film have used water as a central feature (see Ansel Adams, for instance), so today we’re going to cover how best to shoot that good ol’ H20. And be sure to check out our guides on shooting photos in extreme temperatures and photographing landscapes.

That Silky Look

Found yourself an awesome stream or even a waterfall that’s just brimming with motion, waiting to be captured? You might want to try an age-old technique that will get the best out of all that action.

silky smooth photography

That silky-smooth look to the water above is achieved by setting a very slow shutter speed; try it out with a shutter speed of between 2 and 8 seconds to replicate this effect on fast-moving water. Anything longer than this will probably result in a total blur (given that the water is moving rapidly), but either way you’ll need a tripod in order to stabilize the camera at this level of exposure (and drop the aperture down to around f/16 for a good depth of field which compensates for the slow shutter speed.)

You may need to tweak the numbers on a shot-by-shot basis (especially with balancing the ISO and aperture size depending on how bright it is), but once you get it right, it’s well worth the effort to achieve this really magical effect.

Don’t Forget Your Polarized Filters

An absolute essential when shooting water given that wet rocks (and the water itself) has the nasty habit of reflecting glare straight at your lens. It’ll also help get ‘behind’ the reflections and reveal the hidden textures and colors going on underneath the surface, whereas without a polarizing filter you’ll just get a rather flat surface to the water.

polarized filters

It’s also a very quick way of increasing color saturation and contrast, which is great for shooting bodies of water surrounded by a lot of lush greenery and colorful flora.

Get to Know Your ND Filter

Another highly useful type of filter that will serve you well is the neutral density filter.

In brief, an ND filter is a gray filter that reduces the intensity of color evenly across all wavelengths without changing the color hues themselves. The reason this is useful in water photography is that when working with slow shutter speeds in bright environments, you can expect to spend a lot of time trying to correct for overexposure.

ND filter in water photography

An ND filter takes a lot of the headache out of this, allowing you to shoot at longer exposures and with wider apertures without blowing out the sensor.

Get Wet… And Stay Safe

To get the very best shots, you’ll often need to get right in the middle of them.

In short, expect to get very, very wet.

It almost goes without saying that you probably don’t want to treat your $1,500 camera to a swim in a lake, except plenty of photographers fall foul of this by putting all their faith in the matra of “I’ll just be really careful.”

water-logged camera

It only takes a wrong foot on an algae-covered stone to send you and your kit deeper than you were hoping for. So, waterproof kitbags are a must (as are waders to keep yourself as bone dry as possible.)

Eager to go on your own photography adventure? Students enrolled in the degree and conservatory programs at NYFA’s Photography School get to go on a one-week photography expedition as part of their coursework. Learn more by clicking here.

Extreme Temperature Photography: The Do’s And (Definitely) Don’ts

Extreme Temperature Photography: The Do’s and (Definitely) Don’ts

A parched, mudcracked desert floor. An ice-kissed cobweb suspended between the barren twigs of a tree in winter. An Arctic sunrise. The photographic holy grail of the Aurora Borealis.

All amazing images, and all involve shooting in extreme temperatures in order to attain them.

You pursuits at photography school are likely to see you put yourself in strange situations in order to push your craft, and when it comes to testing the limits of what’s achievable, the temperature of the environment you’re shooting in can sometimes impose a very physical barrier.

You don’t want to put your (or the school’s) valuable equipment at risk of damage, but at the same time you’ll want to get the best out of your extreme temperature shots.

Here’s how. Firstly, we’ll start off with (and close on) a note regarding personal safety:

1. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going (and When You’ll Be Back)

car driving through desert

As with any outdoor activity that carries a degree of risk, don’t wander off into the snowy tundra or blazing desert without letting someone know what your plan is so they can raise a flag if you don’t return.

The last thing you want is to be stuck in a canyon with your arm crushed under a rock, trying to work out if it’s even possible to saw off a limb using a lens cap.

Let’s move on to the technical considerations, including:

blurry beach photo

2. Condensation

Condensation is your equipment’s #1 enemy when it comes to extreme temperature photography, and the damage it can cause to the inside of internal elements can be permanent (not to mention warranty-voiding, since the manufacturer will rightly argue that condensation damage is user-induced.)

Alongside all this, condensation on the inside of a lens—and the dry spots it can leave afterwards—can easily ruin a shoot, and again, may end up being a permanent feature of your lens.

So, let’s discuss how to avoid all this. Whether in extreme heat or cold, the actual temperature doesn’t matter; it’s the temperature differential that makes the difference.

Taking your camera out of an air-conditioned van and into a Phoenix Summer’s heat—or, conversely—entering your heated apartment after shooting in sub-zero temperatures will both have the same effect.

The only surefire way to counteract this is by making sure the camera’s temperature doesn’t change too quickly. Ergo, warm it up and cool it down gradually depending on what manner of extreme you’re entering/leaving.

Removing moisture from the air near the camera also helps, which is why many photographers working in extreme temperatures like to keep the camera in an airtight plastic bag with a few sachets of silica gel (in cold weather, condensation will also form on the bag rather than on the camera.)

Be sure to look up the camera’s humidity operating range, too. If the manufacturer warns against shooting in areas with more than 60% humidity, you might want to cancel that trip you had planned to the Amazon.

3. You’ll Want Spare Batteries in the Cold

sunset on the water

You’ve spent the best part of an evening making your way through ice and snow to the middle of nowhere in order to enjoy a couple of hours shooting a beautiful, starry Winter sky… only to have what were fully charged batteries die in 15 minutes.

Camera batteries loathe the cold, and show their protest by losing their charge incredibly quickly while in it. Take spares, or plan around a very short photo shoot!

4. UV Filter

uv filter used in tree photo

Which would you rather wreck: your $600 lens, or a $5 UV filter?

It goes without saying that extremely hot conditions are likely brought about by searing sunlight bearing down on you and your equipment, so a UV filter is a must… but the same applies on the other side of the thermometer, too.

When working in areas with snow, low winter sunlight is going to reflect off that stuff like nobody’s business and give your lenses and filters one heck of a UV bath. It’ll pay dividends to protect it all with a decent UV filter.

Lastly, and certainly not least…

5. Never Put Yourself at Risk

photography on the beach

Making sure your camera is up to the rigors of a sub-zero night of shooting is one thing, but if you lose your fingers to frostbite the camera’s not going to be of much use to you.

This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how blindsided we can get as photographers in the hunt of that perfect shot. No matter whether you’re shooting in hot or cold, be sure to take adequate precautions based on the environment (and doubly make sure it’s not going to get any more extreme than you planned for.)

There isn’t a single photo you could possibly get that’s worth getting heat stroke or dying of hypothermia…

… but there are a lot of excellent shots waiting to be taken safely and without risk when just a little bit of planning and common sense is applied.

Wrap up and get out there!