photography tips

How to Photograph Camera-Shy People

The advent of smartphones means more people are snapping photos every day. Whether it’s an endless supply of selfies or taking pics of friends and family, the average individual doesn’t mind stepping in front of the camera, but toss in a professional photographer and suddenly even the most photogenic of people can become uneasy. From bashful children to self-conscious adults, here are a few tips to have a successful shoot no matter how camera-shy your subject:

Do Your Part to Make Them Comfortable

It’s easy for a person to become shy if they’re not used to being photographed, or they don’t know the photographer. Since the entire shoot depends on the collaboration and relationship between you and your subject, it’s your job to make them feel relaxed enough to create the shot you are looking for. Form a connection with the person, just like you would with anyone else — by talking.

Get to know your subjects before you start shooting away in order to build a brief but important relationship, where you become more than just the guy or gal hitting the shutter button. That little bit of trust can make it much easier to direct poses, gain access, and help your subject feel at ease enough to look natural.

Pro tip: Break the ice by asking questions, finding a common interest to talk about, and communicating clearly throughout the shoot so that your subject feels relaxed, safe, and included in the process.

Keep Them Busy and Moving

For whatever reason, people being photographed are more likely to feel awkward when they’re standing still. Folks who love it in front of the camera have no trouble holding a pose for a while, but the same can’t be said for the rest of us. If your shy subject is looking stiff, keep them moving.

Since your camera shy subject is probably not a professional model, be prepared to offer suggestions, directions, and compliments throughout the shoot. You are the director as well as the photographer, and offering leadership in terms of movement and position can help an uneasy subject. Focusing on your orders will give them little time to worry about whether they look weird or not, especially if you’ve already built trust and established a rapport.

Pro tip: Though it might sound silly, asking your subject to do things like stretching and jumping can help them shake off nerves and get out of their heads.

Make Them Feel Awesome

Speaking of giving orders, make sure that’s not the only thing you’re doing — or else you’ll risk making the subject even more anxious. Offer positive feedback throughout the session so they get a boost of confidence. Even if you’re still searching for the shot, be sure to be vocal about what they’re doing that’s working.

Giving your subject complements outside of their poses and movement is also key. Again, you’re working on establishing a rapport, so finding positive ways to encourage your subject and pay them compliments — even if the compliments are not about photography.

Pro tip: Remind your camera shy subject that they are brave and bold and doing something unique and positive by stepping out of their comfort zone for your photo shoot!

Make it a Fun Experience

Even the most timid person can let loose when they’re having a genuinely good time. Having a sense of humor, staying relaxed, and keeping your sense of humor handy as the photographer works wonders when you want to create a pleasant photography environment.

Another idea that works great with both kids and adults is introducing props. Bring along some funny photo props so your subject can come out of their shell by being goofy and creative. Even camera shy people can ham it up for a photo with silly hats, masks, or costumes.

Also try playing music during the shoot, so your subjects don’t feel pressured to fill the silence. Music can also help set the mood for the shoot, so choose your playlist carefully — or invite your camera-shy subject to choose music that makes them feel comfortable!

Pro tip: If you’re not relaxed or having fun, your camera shy subject probably isn’t either. As the photographer, you can lead the way by having a good time, being considerate, and setting the mood for a professional and fun shoot.

Learn more about Photography at the New York Film Academy.

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

Sony Bag

Film Video Sony Bag Lens Camera Photography

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

Memory Cards
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.

Card Reader
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

 

Tripod

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

Textured

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.

NYFA Photography School Dishes on Favorite Vintage Photography

Most of us who fall in love with photography remember the moment we saw a specific image that changed the way we see the world. Whether the “Afghan girl” on the cover of National Geographic or the WWII sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square, many images have stamped their mark not only on our hearts, but on history.

In photography, the industry moves fast — but that doesn’t mean that powerful images can’t stand the test of time. In fact, vintage photographs (images more than 20 years old) are a vital part of shaping our understanding of photography as an artform, and learning to see the world a bit differently.

This week, we asked our NYFA Photography School to weigh in on their favorite classic photographers and their favorite vintage photographs. Check out what they had to say!

NYFA Photography Senior Program Coordinator John Tona:

Armed with nothing more than his 35mm camera, LIFE’s Robert Capa joined the 34,250 troops who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Although only a few images survived that day, his most iconic image of Private First Class Huston Riley gave the world a view of the dangers faced by soldiers during war:

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Image © Robert Capa Normandy France June 6th, 1944

What makes this image even more impactful for me is the perspective in which Capa made this photograph, turning his back to the Nazis to capture Riley making his way through the surf toward the enemy.

NYFA Instructor Jackie Neale:

Robert Frank would be my favorite photographer of yore.

Robert Frank’s photographs from his book, “The Americans” (1958), display 35mm vernacular photography at its best. Frank framed and captured time as if we, the viewer, happened into the remarkable split second just as the persons, the wall, the ceiling, the car, the baby, the cowboy, the bus all orchestrate themselves into lyrical narratives of space, geometry, timing, contrast, gestures, and humanly beauty.

Frank mastered timing and the abstraction of time all at once. Robert Frank is my favorite photographer and his work from over a half century is a glowing example of making the photograph into a relic and revealed object of art.

NYFA Instructor Paul Sunday:

My favorite “vintage” photography is that of Man Ray:

Copyright: © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

Copyright: © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

His enthusiastic experimentation early in the last century set the stage for the future of photography’s infinite possibilities. He was an interdisciplinary artist and, in his photography, a great adventurer — exploring every aspect of the form, from portraiture to abstraction.

NYFA Instructor Jaime Permute:

Growing up in Guatemala, we did not have access to photographic schools such as the New York Film Academy. We were all essentially self-taught. We pored over photographic books and magazines and tried to befriend more established photographers in our efforts to learn the tools of the trade. I was lucky that my father was an avid photographer himself and had a substantial library at home. This is how, even without ever meeting him personally, Manuel Alvarez Bravo became one of my great teachers. During my teenage years, his monograph “Instante y Revelación” was my constant companion.

Alvarez Bravo is Mexico’s most famous photographer. His life spans exactly 100 years and it begins and ends with the 20th century. Alvarez Bravo had a prolific and distinguished career. His circle of intimate friends include some of the most notable writers and artists of his times: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Octavio Paz, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Breton, Sergei Eisenstein and many others.

Alvarez Bravo is most commonly understood in the context of surrealism. However, one might also argue that his work is essentially documentary in nature and that the reality of Mexico itself lends his photographs their mysterious and dreamlike quality. My greatest debt to Alvarez Bravo is his understanding of the poetics of image-making and how artistic intention reveals the other side of reality, the one that lies hidden and out of sight, beyond the mere surface of things.

NYFA Instructor Joan Pamboukes:

One of my favorite artists and major influences is László Moholy-Nagy.

I’ve always loved to read and learn about Moholy-Nagy’s experimentations not only in the darkroom but also with other types of media (especially his Light Space Modulators, these kooky sculptures that made colorful light patterns).

He was something of a mad scientist, an innovative thinker, and an educator at the Bauhaus. He encouraged photographers and his students, as part of the New Vision, to witness and document the world in unexpected ways, utilizing strange vantage points and abstracting reality. He also embraced technology and sought to incorporate that into his artwork.

You can find more information about his life and work from the Moholy-Nagy Foundation.

NYFA Instructor Kristina S. Varaksina:

Photography by Lewis Carroll

Photograph by Lewis Carroll


Lewis Carroll
, the famous writer, was also an incredibly talented photographer. He made a big contribution to the development of children’s portrait and fashion photography. He often worked with sets, props, and wardrobes. To this day, similar ideas can be found in many photographers’ work. His ability to capture natural emotions and the mature side of children is fascinating.

His long career as a photographer (1856-1880) coincides with the “Golden Era” of 19th century photography, which centered on the wet collodion “wet plate” negative process and the corresponding positive albumen print process.

What are your favorite vintage photos? Who are your favorite master photographers from the past? Why? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about photography at the New York Film Academy.

A Q&A With New York Film Academy Photography Conservatory Student Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow


Known for decades as a cutting-edge leader in crafting fine light-shaping and flash tools for professional photographers, Profoto is a Swedish company that recently
featured New York Film Academy (NYFA) 2-Year Photography Conservatory student Tanne Willow and her images in their Local News section.

A true representative of NYFA’s diverse international community, Tanne original hails from Sweden and has lived in Denmark, France, and the United States. With a background in dance and an obsession for motion, her work has a truly unique energy and it’s easy to see why she was chosen by Profoto to spotlight as a “Rising Light.”

In the midst of her fourth semester at the New York Film Academy, Tanne took the time to answer some questions and to share part of her story with our student community. Read on to hear more about her pathway to NYFA, her favorite photography equipment, and how surviving a busy semester is helping her create her own professional identity as a photographer.

NYFA: You worked for many years as a dancer before deciding to go back to school for photography. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience studying in NYFA’s Photography Conservatory, as an adult continuing education student?

TW: Before I came to NYFA I had quite a few years of experience but it had been a very long time since I had last studied, and I felt there were a lot of holes in my knowledge. To be able to come here and build it up from the base even though I had preexisting knowledge was completely a revolt. It changed everything.

Today I can say with confidence that I am a photographer and know that there is a certain professionalism that comes with that word that I possess, and I can now deliver on a professional level consistent work. I know my own limits in a completely different way, and I also know my capabilities after these two years. It has really meant everything in that sense.

 

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

 

NYFA: Can you tell us how your featured story on Profoto came about?

TW: I sent in my images for submission, and I was chosen. There was a call from my [NYFA Los Angeles] teacher Amanda Rowan, she was the one who put me in touch with the Profoto agency.

NYFA: What is your absolute essential toolkit for a shoot? Any equipment you can’t leave the house without?

TW: It depends on what I am shooting, and for every shoot there is a different toolkit. I shoot in very many ways. I shoot digitally but also analogically on large format — 4×5, and medium format also. The only thing I can say I can’t leave my house without is my camera! That’s the essential part photography can’t happen without — and me and my eye! As long as I have my camera, I can do something.

NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on?

TW: I’m currently in my fourth semester at NYFA and working on my thesis project, “Matriarch.” It’s a study about the definition of femininity — something I am quite unclear about. Growing up as a female in this world, I have experienced different countries. Being born in Sweden, living in Holland, France and the U.S., I have seen many variations of how femininity is defined and how females and non-females are defined by femininity. I have heard myself being described as feminine and I have used the word myself, but I have a very ambivalent relationship with it — because of that fact that it is so so attached to my being somehow, yet I see the difficulties that I have myself, in the world around me, in knowing what we mean when we use this term.

What I do is I work with performance artists. I search for the physical interpretation of their ideas of what femininity is. I discuss with them what they think it is and how they define femininity, then they improvise under my direction. And I photograph them. I document them both digitally, all environmental portraits. The cameras I use in my thesis are a Canon 5D Mark III, with a 24-70mm lens, and a Toyo 4x5in View-camera, with a 90mm lens. 

NYFA: What are your goals as a photographer?

TW: My main dream is fine arts exhibitions, also shooting fitness (dance background) and have lots of experience in shooting motion-filled images. My preferred way to work is with people in motion, whether it’s fine arts or commercial photography. This is my main interest. I thoroughly enjoy the analogue part of photography and I wish I could incorporate that in my career with lab and print work.

 

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tanne Willow for taking the time to share a part of her story with our student community.

Ready to go back to school as a continuing education student? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Photography 2-Conservatory programs!

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.

Gorgeous Fashion Photos and What They Teach Us

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In an ad culture dominated by beautiful images — visual representations of products meant to appeal to our desires and imaginations — it’s easy to stop paying attention to individual photos, even if they are sitting on the cover of a magazine, or displayed boldly on a billboard, or hidden in the corner of a Facebook feed. At NYFA, we are training students to create work that breaks through the noise, calms the overstimulated eyeball, and captivates the attentions of onlookers. Our new Fashion Photography workshop will teach students how to create the best images through, in part, the examination of the greatest existing fashion photographs. Here are some of the most elementary steps to creating your own gorgeous image.

Subject: Give your subject icon status.

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What would a discussion of fashion photography be if it did not acknowledge the quintessential image of Audrey Hepburn in her “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” getup? Though Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly in the film is what ultimately garnered her the most adoration and respect, the succession of promotional images of her in her black gown and pearls, holding a cigarette, gave her some serious star power. She is also known for her uncommon beauty and her expressive, bushy eyebrows.

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In choosing a subject for your image, it is not necessary that the model fit certain requirements, like having poignant features or unique looks, or adhering to traditional American beauty norms. Rather, the perspective of the photograph, and how it portrays the model, should be special. Give your model a cool hairstyle or a striking costume or a relentlessly emotive facial expression. This can be done in many ways and it is truly up to the photographer’s preferences, in combination with stylists, designers, and other artists.

Staging: Be dynamic.

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Whether the image shows many models, a focal point model with supporting models in the background, or a single model alone, the models should be positioned in a way that interacts with the rest of the image and/or the camera. They can fill the frame or they can appear to be far away. Regardless of how the image is composed, it should draw onlookers in. A person passing by the image can be surprised by its unique staging, or confused about the actual narrative of the image, or just visually delighted by the way the image has been put together.

Lighting: Play with contrast and shadow.

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In a fashion photograph, strategic uses of darkness and light are incredibly effective. By its nature, lighting draws attention to what it hits: highlighting it. Beautiful images are taken with a consciousness for the parts that are necessary, or most appealing, to highlight. Lighting can bring emotion to an image. For instance, the use of extreme shadow in Pablo Roversi’s fashion images gives them a certain ethereal quality, one for which the photographer has been recognized time and time again. Also, consider using deep contrast.

Editing: Honesty is beautiful.

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Keep in mind the real issues with fashion photography and image editing. Airbrushing and PhotoShop are criticized for making photographs fake, for positing an unattainable beauty standard that is damaging to the general public. Pose this question to yourself: How can I treat these issues without compromising the artistry of my photo? A beautiful image is often created by a great photographer, not a great editor. Our fashion photography program will teach students to build these skills, to discern what must be concealed and what must be exemplified in the composition of an image. We have already considered how a photo can do this in terms of subject, staging, lighting, and editing.

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What are the fashion images or icons that inspire your photography? 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!

5 of the Best iPhone Lens Kits (2016 Edition)

iPhone lens kits may seem like an usual topic, but there are some great reasons to pay attention to these accessories.

At the New York Film Academy, our photography programs offer an in-depth investigation and exploration of the artistic and technical skills required to take your photography work to a professional level. Our programs focus on the practical elements of photography and train our students in the proficient use of the most state-of-the-art cameras and techniques in their field.

Yet, it’s very practical to acknowledge that many amateur and professional photographers these days are also using their personal mobile devices to snap pics, whether for personal or experimental use. So why not find creative ways to apply what you’re learning in photography school to every picture you take with the same passionate level of thought and care, even if you’re simply using your iPhone?

While an iPhone camera is no match for a Canon, Nikon HDSLR, or SONY mirrorless camera, we realize that personal iPhone photography is a large part of many of our lives. After all your hard work in photography school, you’re probably longing for ways to bring some of what you’ve learned into every aspect of your life. So we’ve compiled a list of some lens kit ideas to help you bring your photography school mindset to your iPhone photography.

The results of this low-fi solution are consistently surprising, so if you want to experiment with your iPhone photos, scroll on to discover seven iPhone lens kits that represent the best value for money.

1. Camera Lens Kits for iPhone 6 – The Best of the Best

All iPhone lens kits featured below are compatible with the iPhone 6/6s and Plus models, and usually fit on any model of phone. We listed Amazon prices for guide only – NYFA is neither compensated or endorsed by Amazon or any manufacturer featured.

Photojojo Iris Three Lens Set

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RRP: $69.99

Contains: Mount plus wide, fisheye and macro

A sturdy piece of kit with billeted aluminium casing, the Photojojo 3-in-1 lens package is very well thought-out. Simply affix the mount onto the phone (it’ll work with any phone, even with a case) and switch out the lenses as needed – the mount itself converts into a small carry case.

Mpow 3 in 1 Clip-On Kit

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RRP: $13.99
Contains: 180 degree fisheye, 0.67X wide angle, 10x macro

A 3-in-1 lens kit for under $15? You read that right. And not only is it easy on the wallet, it’s also ridiculously good in the quality department too, fitting beautifully close to the iPhone’s camera (and presumably Android models also, though we’ve not tested that).

The image quality is superb thanks to the high-clarity glass and that perfect fit, though the clamp system — while efficient in terms of easy removal — can get in the way a little bit.

If you’re looking for a more discrete solution, it’s time to check out:

Photojojo Magnetic Lens Kit

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RRP: $49
Contains: Fisheye, telephoto, wide/macro

Another excellent product from Photojojo, and it’s a shade cheaper than the Iris set listed above. The difference between the two is that this Cell Lens pack attaches to your phone magnetically (with or without case), and are cleverly designed to not cover your phone’s in-built flash. We’ve not seen a difference in image quality between the two sets during testing — all three lenses offer a remarkable level of fidelity and sharpness.

Downside: while the magnets are strong and won’t damage casing, they will slip or fall off completely if knocked and therefore may not be suitable for rigorous shoots. We also cannot guarantee that the magnets won’t damage other models of phones outside of iPhone/Android (some phones have their own magnets around the camera lens for image stabilization).

Olloclip 4-in-1

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RRP: $79.99
Contains: Clip plus fisheye, wide-angle, 10x and 15x macro

It’s one of the more expensive iPhone lens kits on this page, but it’s also the only one that has won awards. And rightly so.

With each lens weighing in less than an ounce, this is unparalleled image quality combined with a quick on-off action thanks to the clip (and it also covers the front lens, too). Additionally, it comes with three wearable pendants to keep the whole kit easily accessible.

A very elegant, secure design that features some really impressive optics. The only con is that this one is iPhone 6 only.

CamKix Ultimate Kit

RRP: $42.99
Contains: 8x telephoto, fisheye, macro/wide angle, tripod, phone holder, hard case, velvet soft case, cleaning cloth

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more all-encompassing lens kit at a cheaper price. Given the amount of equipment that’s thrown in, the CamKix package offers outrageous value for money (we love that telephoto lens!) but it’s not quickly deployable – you need to affix the hard case before you can add a lens, and you’ll probably want to use the tripod for telephoto stabilization. On the plus side, that does mean it’s compatible with all phone models.

There is no replacing the quality and artistry of images you can create with your Canons, Nikons, or SONYs, but we hope this has given you some ideas for your mobile pics.

Have you found creative ways to apply what you’ve learned in photography school to mobile devices or your personal image making? 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!

The Power of Nostalgia: Why Shooting with Analog Cameras is Awesome

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There’s no denying the many benefits that come from digital photography. You don’t have to worry about film. You save cash on printing costs. You can immediately see your picture to decide if you like it or if you want to reshoot. Not only that, but digital images are also easier to share with friends and on social media pages — and digital photography is more environmentally friendly!

But just like many music lovers prefer the sound of vinyl over CD, so too do many photographers still find value in using analog cameras. In fact, it is widely recommended that all aspiring professional photographers work with an analog camera at least once in their lifetime.

Below are a few of the numerous reasons why we still love our analog cameras:

Great Colors and Dynamic Range

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Experienced photographers will admit that most digital shooters are merely trying to imitate the vibrant look that only an analog camera can produce. This is because film has an amazing color palette coupled with a dynamic range of detail in both shadows and highlights. Digital cameras also boast a strong dynamic range, but only black-and-white film theoretically has an infinite number of shades of grey.

This means that it’s very difficult to mess up your highlights; even when you over-expose you won’t get that bleach-white effect, and instead still have some shade of grey. If you do get your hands on an analog camera, take a picture with it and then do the same with a digital camera. After comparing the two you’ll see how much smoother and more natural the film image looks compared to the digital image.

With film, your images look amazing right out of the camera and rarely need photo editing tools like Photoshop. But if you do want to spice up your shot, all it takes is a trip to the darkroom. The most common practices are dodging, which decreases the exposure for areas you want to be lighter, and burning, which instead involves increasing the exposure by darkening the image.

They Can Make You a Better Photographer

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When shooting with a digital camera, there’s no consequence for snapping a ton of photos. All you have to do with the bad photos is tap the delete button to never see them again. There aren’t any costs or limits you have to worry about besides digital storage space, which means you can take several shots and hope someone in the family doesn’t have their eyes closed in one of them.

But when you using an analog camera you only have so much film to use, which means you’re forced to be much more selective when taking a shot. Every time you hit the shutter button, you’ve made sure the picture is framed to your liking and that objects and people are in place. You also do your best to get exposure just right to avoid a loss of highlight detail or muddy look.

After using an analog camera or even your average Polaroid camera, you may find yourself taking your digital pictures more carefully. This will also save you time during the editing process since you’ll have far less images to work with. And since your pictures were more planned and carefully taken, all the images you have to work with will be of higher quality.

Film Cameras are Inexpensive and Last Forever

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One of the biggest drawbacks of digital photography is the fact that your camera essentially becomes outdated every year or two. This is because a newer, better camera with more megapixels is always around the corner, ready to produce images with more detail. While it’s great that technology allows us to shoot better digital images, even with our smartphones, it’s not fun having to worry about finding the best deals just to keep up.

Analog cameras are different. Images taken on film are always full-frame and have the same image quality as other cameras, eliminating the need to upgrade. Knowing this, one would expect an analog camera to be very expensive. While this was true 20 or 30 years ago, now it’s pretty easy to find a decent 35mm camera affordably, just to get a taste of the film camera experience.

That being said, using an analog camera does require you to buy and develop film, which costs money. But when you do the math, spending cash on film ends up being less costly than upgrading a digital camera every few years.

Which analog cameras do you absolutely love to use? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

5 Tips For Taking Amazing Underwater Photography

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Take your photography skills to the next level with underwater photography. You can capture beautiful landscapes and everyday living but how often can you capture the essence of a world so overlooked? There is also the opportunity for an experience of a lifetime diving into these waters to discover an entirely different way of life. John and Dan Cesere are brothers who offer all-inclusive underwater photography classes at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

This dynamic duo teach photographers how to take stunning photos of underwater sea life while dealing with erratic currents and light balance. They also offer some tips to the novice to master before diving in deeply into this deep sea adventure.

1) Go Zoom-less

Although zooming may lead you to believe that you will get the best photo, it will not on this dive. For a high quality and detailed image, use your body to get closer to the subject. Remember shooting through the water means you have a whole other array of challenges including color, clarity and light distortion.

2) Engage the Subject

As a photographer, you evoke emotion and personality from your subjects. The same is true of sea life you encounter. You want to be safe in your approach so even having a basic understanding of how the sea life you will be capturing interacts is a great start. Let your image connect with its audience by drawing out these sea creature’s innermost character.

3) Be Familiar with the Sea Life

Each sea life reacts differently to foreign visitors. For the best shots its imperative that you learn about the subjects you will encounter. Smaller fish like a clown fish frequent the same places, so it’s your job to keep coming back so they know that you will not do them any harm and you are only a friendly admirer. With the larger creatures of the sea, it can be our own fear that inhibits us from getting the shot of a lifetime. It may take a few encounters for you to become comfortable with sharks or humpback whales. Once you conquer your fear, one breath at a time, you will sea how drastically your photos improve by trusting and understanding your subjects.

4) Preparation is Key

Plan the areas you will travel, the sea life you may encounter and have your camera around at all times.

5) Enjoy the Experience

Even if you don’t land the shots you were hoping to, diving into the ocean to discover another kingdom can be the experience of a lifetime. You will also see that once you set your mental frame to relax and enjoy the experience, this outlook will certainly translate into your images. Being happy and relaxed will go a long way when it comes to engaging the sea life around you and capturing the best underwater shots.

Making Images That Endure The Test Of Time

Author: Brian Dilg, Chair, Photography Department, New York Film Academy

How can we make great images, photos that will still be looked at generations after they were made? A search for “greatest photographs” produces mostly historically significant images: war, disasters, records being broken.

While a definitive, generic definition of what makes an image iconic may be elusive, I’d like to list a few qualities that make images effective without losing sight of the “gestalt” – the mysterious sum of its parts – that makes an image transcendent.

1) An element of imagination. The most powerful tool you will ever have is the imagination of the viewer. Not a better lens. Not more megapixels. This begins by how you frame – and thus by what you omit. Anything that is left out, obscured, or merely hinted at activates the imagination, which is personal and unlimited.

A great example is Jorge Guerrero’s memorable image of men steering clear (sorry!) of a disgruntled participant in the Spanish running of the bulls. It is not just a great moment; we laugh as we imagine what happened just before the photo was taken, and what might happen next.

Yukie SatoA more sophisticated example is this image by one of our students, Yukie Sato. Has the cat just been chasing a feather, or is this all that’s left of an unfortunate bird? We can only see the cat’s expression in our mind’s eye. By omitting so much, multiple interpretations are possible, and a fantastic thing happens: the audience becomes an active participant. The imagination of the viewer completes the picture.

2) An element of surprise. See Chris Johns’s image of camels crossing the Sahara. Graphically, this is very simple. What makes it a great viewing experience is the moment when we realize that we’ve been fooled by shadows seen from an unfamiliar angle.

Often changing your vantage point can lead you to forms that look familiar, but which turn out to be something else. Our brains love to solve puzzles. If you exploit this, you’ll satisfy your audience with an “aha!” experience that rewards repeated viewing.

3) Puts you vividly there. This need not be any place exotic; it can also use visceral elements to trigger our other senses. Like Michael Nichols’ famous image of a tiger drinking. From incredibly close, the powerful animal has been caught in an almost awkward moment, delicately balancing itself as it drinks. Unlike the usual king of the jungle shot, it feels like an authentic behind-the-scenes moment.

4) Graphical quality. Galen Rowell’s Split rock and cloud is a great example. The use of silhouette, simple but contrasting forms, and a two-color palette makes this a stunning composition. Contrast this with what plagues much of modern digital photography: high contrast, myriad colors, intense saturation, overcooked HDR, everything sharp. When everything in an image vies equally loudly for attention, the result is exhaustion. Simplify.

5) Magical light. Example: Michael Crouser – Bullfight in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Ansel Adams understood very well that it is selective light that annunciates and elevates a subject, and he was a master not just of finding it, but also of orchestrating tones in the darkroom.

Morro Bay6) Heightened by context. Everything is relative. If you want to heighten any quality, contextualize it with its opposite. In my image of the surfer, the human figure gives the rock (in Morro Bay, California) a sense of scale. See also Steve McCurry’s image of an oil-soaked bird for a stark color juxtaposition.

These are not “rules.” If what makes an image truly great is highly subjective, then I would argue that your only hope of satisfying yourself is through a personal approach. Don’t show us a picture that any number of people might have made. Make an image that only you could have made. Integrity to your own vision is the greatest satisfaction.