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STAYING AT HOME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography can be your best company wherever you are, even when you can’t go out.

In these series, the London School of Photography will share Tips & Assignments you can do at home.

Written by Luciana Franzolin

1 – PAINTING WITH LIGHT

Always loved seeing this kind of images but never had the chance to try? Now it’s the time! Light painting is fun, and you can do it by yourself or with a group.

As a light source you can use household or mobile phone torches, colour LEDs, kids toys or fairy lights. It is better done at night in a completely dark room.

To create light paintings you will need long exposures. The exposure time you aim to get will be long enough to capture the whole light painting you’ve planned.

Most digital cameras with manual exposure mode will have shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds (or BULB).

A combination of low ISO and small aperture (large f/number) will help to cut the amount of light getting into the camera and allow longer exposure times.

Depending on the first shot, you can change the settings to improve the next, for example, if your image comes out too dark, you can open the aperture a bit or increase ISO, or even leave the shutter open for a longer time, in order to get more light into the camera.

For up to 30 seconds exposures, you can use the self timer. A tripod is essential, or any surface you can leave your camera still for a long time.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

STAYING AT HOME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY #2

2 – FLOWERS

Many years ago, I moved to a flat in London during the winter. It had a little garden and, of course I loved it, but I had no idea of what awaited me when Spring came.

The tiny garden became an explosion of flowers and wildlife. Bees, caterpillars, snails, a wall full of camellias. It was such an inspiration that I made a point to spend some time there every day, to photograph and document the cycle of nature and life.

Now I don’t have a garden, and I’m staying at home so cannot go to parks and fields, but my flower pots have bloomed and if you don’t have any around you, think about adding one to your next delivery list.

Flowers are probably one of the most photographed subjects in the world, they vary in shapes, colours, and sizes. You can use any camera. I used an iPhone for the 3 images below.

Think about an interesting composition. Look for leading lines, choose a foreground interest and make sure you set the correct aperture for more or less depth of field.

To make a flower stand out from the rest of the scene, use shallow depth of field. This can be achieved by setting a small f/number (f/1.8) with a standard or telephoto lens (50mm or more) and getting close to the subject.

MACRO lenses can be essential piece of equipment for those who enjoy flower photography. A MACRO lens allows the photographer to get very close to a subject.

Compact cameras have amazing MACRO photography options. The MACRO symbol on a compact camera is a little “flower”. On your phone: zoom-in and get as close as you can while observing not to loose the focus.

Observe de quality and direction of light.
Quality: Overcast days give soft and diffused light. Bright days give a hard light, which can add a bit (or a lot) of drama to any image.

Direction: the time of the day and the position of the sun in relation to the subject can give infinite possibilities. Front light flattens the subject, side light emphasises textures and details and back light produces a halo, or aura, around the subject.

Try all possibilities and a little flower will be a big company to a tedious day.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

3 – KIDS

Having two photographers as parents, my five-year-old kid did not have a choice but to be immersed in this world from birth.

Experimenting with photography is not just a way of having fun with a camera, but also a way to teach children the art of observation and give them a tool to explore the world around them.

Check out these ideas to keep your kids busy and unlock creativity using Photography while staying at home.

Forced Perspective

Use optical illusions to make objects appear larger or smaller than they actually are. Get a miniature toy really close to the lens to make it look huge to the viewer and people or other objects in the background looking much smaller. Set for deep depth of field (large f/number) to have both, foreground and background in focus, contributing to the illusion effect. Wide angles stretch distances while telephotos flatten them.

Toy Story

Get inspired by Mitchel Wu, a professional toy photographer, and create stories with toys interacting with themselves and other objects. Make a script and try several “takes” of the same action scene. Practice your Shutter Speed skills by trying to freeze (fast shutter speed) or blur (slow shutter speed) motion.

Alphabet Photography

Ask kids to look around and photograph things that resemble the letters of the Alphabet. Combine these images to create words later. Another idea is to ask them to photograph things starting with each letter at a time for example: A for apple, B for ball, C for cat, and so on.

Colour

First collect as many objects as possible of the same colour to combine them and create gradient images. Think also in contrast between warm and cold colours, a soothing combination of colours, rainbows, black/white/grey, etc…

Mobile Camera Filters

There are dozens of apps out here with filters to make self-portraits and it can guarantee a couple of hours of fun and laughs. Some of the filters available distort the face features, others add superhero costumes or crazy accessories in the frame. There are even face-swapping applications and image morphing ones.

Abstract

Focus on close-up photography using patterns, textures, liquids (water/oil), paint, fabrics and other objects as inspiration to produce abstract images. You can turn it into a game of “Guess what that is?”. When the photographer shows an abstract image taken at home, the others need to find out what that is.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

4 – FREEZING MOTION – LIQUIDS

This type of photography is fascinating. When we show fast shutter speed images of splashes during our Level 1 classes, everyone goes: Wow!
That is because cameras can freeze action in a fraction of a second, much faster than our brains can perceive it, capturing moments that are practically “invisible” to the human eye.

Fast shutter speeds are used for sports, wildlife and with the aid of flashes, also used in the studio for dynamic fashion shoots and product photography.

At home, one of the easiest ways to practice this technique is by photographing water or any other liquid. A tap, a shower, a glass of milk, a garden hose or watering can, rain, wine, any of these can be your subject (be careful not to spill it in your camera, though).

To get fast shutter speeds you will need a lot of light, so we recommend that you do this during the day, in your garden or balcony, or next to a window.

On Manual Mode of exposure, you can set the widest aperture (small f/number) to start by allowing as much light as possible through the lens. You can also set a high ISO (400 +), especially if you are shooting indoors (tips for mobile phone users below).

To be able to freeze a droplet, you will aim to get around 1/1000 second. If your images come out doo dark, increase the ISO. If they come out too bright, lower the ISO or close the aperture (larger f/number), all gradually.

Getting family, kids and friends involved can be a lot of fun, warm days are around the corner, but if you are alone, a tripod (or anywhere you can keep the camera still) and remote control can be useful if you are doing all the action yourself. You can also use the self-timer option.

For the drive mode, set continuous shooting (high speed) and make several shots in a sequence, to choose the best moment later. We recommend using manual focus and presenting it to the correct focusing distance, but you can also use autofocus on continuous (AF-C, AI-SERVO).

If you are using a smartphone, download a camera app that allows you to control the shutter speed and ISO, there are several options for apple and Android, free and paid. It is incredible what you can do.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

5 – BLURRING MOTION – Panning, Zooming & Twisting

Now, this can be fun! You can use almost anything as a subject to practice with slow shutter speeds at home.

We talked about painting with light in our first article of these series but for the techniques above, you will not be looking to get a very long exposure, we will be using something like 1/15 to 1/30 seconds.

So you can use shutter priority or on Manual, set the shutter speed first and adjust the light meter by changing the aperture. The aperture value doesn’t really matter here, so anyone that gives you a correct exposure. You can start at 400 ISO indoors but will maybe need to increase or decrease it depending on the amount of available light.

For Panning, Zooming and Twisting you will be using slow shutter speeds but will not need a tripod. In fact, you will need to move your camera at the same time as you press the shutter release button.

For Panning, you will need to find a moving subject. This can be: a toy train set, wind-up toys, anyone walking or running, (including pets), flying birds, passing cars and bicycles (from your window). Using a shutter speed around 1/20 seconds, you will need to follow the subject, moving your camera at the same speed, and press the shutter release at the same time. Continuous focus and shooting are a must for Panning.

For Zooming and Twisting, you can choose any busy “scene” as is a flower garden, trees, a bookshelf full of books, with lots of colours, contrast, and points of interest. Then at the same time that you press the shutter, for Zooming, you will move the zoom ring (in our out, try both) and for Twisting, you will simply twist to tilt your camera.

It may take a couple of shots until you get this right. If your images are too blurry, try a faster shutter speed. If your images are not blurred at all, try a slower shutter speed. All gradually while adjusting the exposure accordingly. I would recommend single focus mode and single drive mode here.

If you use a smartphone you can find slow shutter apps and the controls are almost the same as a regular camera.

The fun of this assignment is that no image will come out the same. For the Zooming and Twisting, you can include light sources as well, like candles and fairy lights.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

STAYING AT HOME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY #6

Photography can be your best company wherever you are, even when you can’t go out. In these series, we will share Tips & Assignments you can do at home.

6 – MOON

Have you noticed the Full Moon from your window last night? We had a beautiful super moon making us company in the sky. It was fascinating!

Our social channels have been flooded with images and we have also received some questions from students wanting to know how they can improve.

If you never managed to take a decent picture of the Moon before, here are valuable tips to photograph the only celestial body (apart from the Earth), mankind has set foot on.

Being the brightest object in the night sky, the moon, when we see it, is lit by sunlight. As a very bright object, the advantage is that you will be able to use reasonably fast shutter speeds (as you would photographing any sun-lit object during the day).

I don’t usually give “formulas”, because in photography, it doesn’t really work like that, but for moon photographs, it is possible to give you a combination of settings that will get you started, needing little adjustments from then on.

Think you need tonnes of equipment? No. You can even use your phone. The most important thing is that you shoot on Manual Mode of exposure. On Auto Mode, cameras don’t give you a correct light reading, as the dominant dark sky fools the camera into overexposing it, in such a way that you would get the moon as a flat white circle.

Start with a low ISO, this is because you must capture as much detail as possible and a high ISO will give you noise. Don’t panic, it’s very dark at night, but again, the moon is directly lit by the sun.

You will need a long telephoto lens (or powerful zoom). Keep steady as the longer the lens, the more likely you are to get camera shake. If you have a tripod, it can be handy.

Next thing, set an aperture around f/8 to be able to get some depth and detail, although the moon is so far away that depth of field in not a big issue, It will still appear in focus even with F/5.6. For the Shutter Speed, try anything between 1/100 and 1/250, maybe even 1/500. They sound quite fast for night photography, but it’s possible as the moon is very bright. Try a couple of different combinations.

Wherever you are, give it a go! If it works, you’ll be fascinated to see, on your own screen, the reason why the Moon has captivated people, given direction and provided enjoyment and wonderment for millenniums. And it will continue to do so forever, well, whenever there aren’t clouds in your sky…

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

7 – PETS / ANIMALS

If you own a pet and a camera, you can prepare to have hours of fun. If you don’t own a pet, you might have noticed that, during the quarantine, wildlife is invading and reclaiming towns. People are getting many unexpected visits from animals in their gardens, balconies, and neighbourhoods.

The advantages of photographing pets in comparison to humans are many: you don’t need a model release, pets will probably endure your experimentation process longer than a model, and you can pay them with treats!

Pets make amazing models. Pet Portraiture has also become an established and profitable field in photography, there are studios specially designed for our loyal friends. Dogs and cats are the most popular pets and are frequently seen as a member of the family.

If your pet is in an active mood, you will need continuous focus (or AI SERVO) to keep your images sharp. Continuous shooting (Drive) mode is essential too, not miss a single moment. Freezing action will be possible with fast shutter speed. To achieve that, open the aperture (small f/number) and set a fast ISO (400 or above, but watch for noise), then adjust the shutter speed keeping an eye on the light meter.

After some good static shots experiment capturing motion blur by slowing the shutter speed (consequently closing the aperture and if needed, setting a lower ISO). Experiment within the 1/15 and 1/60 seconds range. Panning, zooming or twisting should be fun.

If you are after a good portrait, wait until your pet is in a calm mood. Change the focus mode back to single (ONE SHOT) and using shallow depth of field (small f/number), get as close as possible to fill the frame, trying to keep eye level with the pet. Lock the focus on one of the eyes (unless you wish to show another detail) and try vertical and horizontal shots. head only, full-body, paws, snouts…Look for varied lighting conditions: shade, direct sunlight, side light, backlight…

Different pets and breeds have different personalities. Try to capture these singularities. Get inspired by the work of Andrius Burba, who photographs animals from under, placing them on a glass table. Or Seth Casteel with his series of underwater pet portraits.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

8 – SELECTIVE FOCUS

Do you want images that effortlessly draw the eyes of your viewer to a specific detail?

There is a technique that can help us to emphasise part of our image over another. It is called: Selective Focus.

To achieve this, we need to use a shallow depth of field and lock the focus in the right place. It can take a while to get this right and combine all the elements, but if you are at home with some time in your hands now, give it a go!

Apertures (f/stops) control the amount of light that gets through the lens and how much of the picture will be in focus and this is referred to as “depth of field”.

To control the depth of field we can work with three factors: aperture, focal length, and distance from the subject. They work alone, but when combined, the effect is much more visible.

To get shallow depth of field, open the aperture (low f/number), zoom in (50mm +) and get as close as possible to your subject, observing the minimum focusing distance of your lens.

For the right Focus, you have several “focusing points” in your viewfinder to choose from in the “Focus Area” function. Select only the centre focus point and using One-Shot/Single Focus Mode, lock the focus pressing the shutter button halfway and holding it, then frame your image before pressing the button all the way down to take the picture.

You can also choose any other point in the Focus Area (not the centre) or even use Manual Focus for this. Many photographers prefer that. In that case, move the switch on your lenses to MF and manually move the focus ring until the part of the image you want appears sharp.

Using the same settings, move the focus to different areas (foreground/background) and compare.

If you are using a phone, zoom in, get close (and you can get really close with a phone), and tap the screen on the area of the image that you want sharp before taking the shot.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

9 – SKY / ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS

Stuck at home with a camera and clear skies? We’re all in a similar situation, as most of the photography community is now observing the world through the viewfinder… from their backyard…

But look up! Tonight is the ideal night to see and photograph the Lyrids meteor shower. These springtime meteors get their name from the constellation Lyra, which also hosts the bright star Vega. The peak arrives tonight, or on the morning of Wednesday, 22 April at just past midnight (GMT, on the night of April 21/22), favouring Europe and the Middle East near dawn.

Photographing meteors is a straightforward process: set the camera on a tripod and use long exposures (30”) or BULB combined with medium to small apertures (high f/number) and low ISO.

If you miss the astronomical event tonight, there will be other opportunities to get inspired by the sky. There is so much to see up there: stars, clouds, sun, moon, rainbows. Make the most of the ever changing colours that paint the sky during dusk and dawn. Try different white balance settings to better capture the “feel” of the moment.

If you are after a little (or a lot of) drama, set up the kit when clouds start to form. Storms, lightning and rain make remarkable photographs that often leave us breathless and contemplating the greatness of Nature.
Here are a few tips for different subjects, all found in the immensity of the sky.

Rainbows: Underexpose one or two stops to deepen the colour tones. Set focus to Manual and focus manually on infinite. On default focus settings, your camera will try to focus elements in the foreground.

Sun: avoid looking directly at the sun through the viewfinder, experiment with silhouettes and bracket exposures (over and underexpose). Try HDR if your camera has this setting.

Clouds: try to use a polarising filter in front of the lens to increase the contrast between clouds and sky and saturate the colours, especially blue.

Lightning: The same process for Meteor Showers (above): Using BULB, open the shutter and wait for a few bolts of lightning to happen before closing it and repeating with another frame, many times. Increase or decrease the exposure time depending on how you see the results.

Star Trail: very much the same as lightning but with MUCH LONGER exposures of at least 30 minutes to many hours. Only possible with BULB setting using a cable release, tripod (or a place you can leave the camera steady) and a bit of luck.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

10 – ABSTRACT

My first contact with abstract photography was at a friend’s dad’s exhibition. I remember to be very surprised when he mentioned that all those images were taken around the block during his morning walk while he was recovering from an illness and unable to work as a press photographer.

The variety and beauty of those images opened a door that has never closed to me ever since. How did he find all those little details around his block? The richness of textures and colours and the invisible world it revealed has taught me my biggest lesson: “what really matters in photography is not the camera, but the eye.”

I often think about his images these days, while going to my lockdown walk around the neighbourhood. All we need to do to see abstract images is to stop and look. Even indoors and at home, you can look at things you are used to in a different way. As challenging as it may sound, in abstract art, there is a lot of freedom from rules, techniques and standards. It’s a field where almost “anything goes”.

In abstract photography, a variety of approaches can be used: unusual exposure settings, macro or close-up, out-of-focus, intentional motion blur, long exposures, among many others. As subjects, look at textures, fabrics, paint, rust, food, water, oil…

Be inspired by dreams, sensations, smells and sounds. Mix up the senses in your photographs. You must look for colours, patterns and details to compose an image that does not depict any real subject or try to make real subjects become so fragmented that it is impossible to recognise them at first sight.

Abstract images require thought and personal interpretation plays an important part. We need to be curious about the world in a child-like way. We need to get close, touch, look at things like discovering them for the first time.

“Unlock your creativity looking at familiar things through a different perspective,” says Antonio Leanza, LSP founder and author of all images published here.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

11 – RAIN

“April showers bring May flowers”.

I thought about this proverb the other day while looking at the rain from my window. It means that a period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness.

April is almost ending but right now many of us don’t really know what month or weekday it actually is. The changes in our routines affected our perception of time, but what we all need to focus on is that there will be “calm after the storm”.

When it rains, many photographers forget the camera as it is not very easy to juggle it and an umbrella together. But rain can be a very inspiring subject and photographing from a window, balcony or veranda can be a solution to that. Not that we have many other choices right now.

Dark clouds in the sky seconds before a heavy downpour can be an explosion of colours and tones. Not on gray, overcast days, but on days very much like the ones experienced during spring, when the rain is fast and strong, happening between sunny spells.

Be quick, the magic lasts very little time. To get the depth of the stunning colours, expose for the brightest part of the scene (spot metering). This will darken the overall image, bringing the colour saturation up. Another option is to underexpose (light meter on minus), either on Manual or Priority modes.

Just after it rains, when the sun shines again, a parallel universe emerges. Wet asphalt and puddles become mirrors. Rainbows appear in the sky. Gardens and fields are covered in tiny drops and if you look at it carefully with a macro lens, almost surreal images can be created.

Protect your camera and lenses from moisture and in case it does get a bit wet, dry it as soon as possible and leave it on an airy shelf for a while. Try to find silica gel sachets to keep inside the camera bag.

Get inspired by these images. We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

Share your photos with us in the comments!

Best wishes from LSP

STAYING AT HOME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY #12

Photography can be your best company wherever you are, even when you can’t go out. In these series, we will share Tips & Assignments you can do at home.

12 – VIEW FROM YOUR WINDOW

Sometimes, we think we need to travel the world to take great photos, but that is completely untrue. Like I wrote in the Abstract theme last week, the photo of your life can be around the corner, or even… taken from a view out of your window.

A Facebook group called “View From my Window (https://www.facebook.com/groups/viewfrommywindow) has been created to connect people from all around the World during these tough times. What they didn’t expect was the huge response and the incredible images people are posting.

More than 2 million members have joined since 22nd March and they are still filtering through all the photos received. You can literally travel the world through the window views of people that have been affected by social distancing measures and there is everything: wildlife, rainbows, buildings, monuments, rivers, seascapes and beautiful gardens too.

Photographer Jemima Yong was featured by the BBC with her series entitled “Field 2020”. She says about her work “From here, I can see a green where some people spend their precious outdoor hour – exercising, walking their dogs, or simply playing – except on their own or in small groups because of social distancing. It is within this new distance that a story of solidarity can be read.” Check out the photos (https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-5229890)

My greatest inspiration comes from a Magnum photographer: “Chance events saw Herbert List restricted to the home of fellow photographer Max Scheler, alone, with a Leica, a telephoto lens, and access to 35mm film and a window. The work that he made over a few days in unlikely circumstances reignited his interest in street photography.”

“In the fall of 1953 List badly strained his ankle slipping on one of the many steps in Rome. It was during an extensive journey on which he shot the sights of the eternal city for a book to be published in the following year. He was staying in the working-class quarter Trastevere, close to the River Tiber.”

See the amazing images here: (https://www.magnumphotos.com/theory-and-practice/photography-in-times-of-restricted-movement)

Now it’s your turn, send us a view from your window, and keep your hopes up.

13 – SELF PORTRAITS

In the previous Tip, we asked you to look out of your window, this time, we will ask you to look inside yourself.

The self-portrait is a very important aspect of photography and a tool for photographers to deepen their knowledge of the art and of themselves. The self-portrait can be very open to interpretation and it doesn’t necessarily need to portray a person’s face. It can be any part of the body, a reflection, or even an object.

Self Portraits became extremely popular thanks to smartphones and social networking. The so-called selfies are everywhere, every day, by thousands. In our view, selfies can be understood as a smaller branch of self-portraiture. It is quick and less considered, often featuring “duck faces” and “sausage legs”.

But what distinguishes a selfie from a real self-portrait?

A self-portrait considers the interior of the artist. It’s an occasion to construct your representation, a moment of self-reflection, to pause and to look at yourself through your own medium, be it a camera or a paintbrush or whatever you have. It is an opportunity to declare who you are visually or even who you aspire to be.

It has always been a favourite assignment during Portrait and Studio Lighting Workshops at LSP It is incredible to see the variety of the images. Some of our students really took self-portraits to the next level, check out the video inspired by paintings and photographs seen at the National Portrait Gallery.

There are a few things to consider before taking your self-portrait:

  • Ask yourself what personal aspect(s) are you going to reveal. A self-portrait does not necessarily need to be a face. It can be a detail of your body or even a representative object. It can be your shadow or a silhouette.
  • Mirrors and reflective surfaces are great ways to start looking at yourself through the lens. Practice framing and lighting.
  • Use a tripod if not holding the camera, frame, and pre-set focus placing an object where you are going to be. Focus on this object and switch to Manual focus (on the side of the lens) so the camera will not refocus automatically.
  • Use a self-timer or a remote control. Some cameras have the option to take more than one image, Try these features, double exposures, etc…
  • Take inspiration from paintings (not necessarily self-portraits) or choose a theme to create a series.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

14 – PHOTOBOOKS / COLLAGES

We all know how challenging it is to keep our digital files organised. In the past, a box with negatives and photo albums would solve this problem, but nowadays, with multiple ways to capture images and keep them, it can be a big task. We usually don’t think a lot about it until we need to find that particular image we are looking for.

We also tend to photograph a lot more with digital cameras and phones, considering we are not limited by the 36 exposures of a roll of film, and suddenly we realise that we have a hundred images that look exactly the same and thousands of images to keep, which takes a lot of space on disks and drives.

A great solution for storage is using cloud-based services, and organising folders by subject or dates can be a good start. Delete repeated images or images you will never use. Make a folder for special pictures and special occasions, you can add tags, captions and add information that can help you to search for these images later on.

Printing, either at home or using online services, can be extremely rewarding. The options are many: you can choose the texture, thickness, and coating of the medium, from the most simple to museum-grade professional photo paper. The results can be stunning. There are also options to print in fabric, stretched as canvasses, and with a few clicks, you can fill your white walls with beautiful memories.

You can also try to make collages and photo books. Imagine, if instead of flicking through the photos on your phone, you had a couple of beautiful hardcover coffee table books to show your images. Think of building a portfolio of your best photos or simply organising memories. The possibilities are endless and it can also be a lot of fun.

Here are some names you can search for printing, collages, and photo books: theprintspace, Klikkie, Photobox, Cheerz, Mixtiles, Bob Books, Mixbook

We love making photo books and strongly recommend it. Check out the one we made when LSP photographed over a thousand people in three days during Britain’s Next Top Model event in London.

We hope this can help you to keep safe and in high spirits.

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