Silhouettes & Perspective

These are a few of my favourite photos that I took in Budapest and I have chosen them because I think they are the most interesting portrayals of silhouettes or different perspectives that I captured.

I’ve included the original shot along with the edited image to show the changes that I made to improve them afterwards.

 

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I put both the brightness and contrast up slightly for this one as well as increasing the vibrance and saturation. This helps in making the colours more vivid and warmer which has added a “happier” sort of feel to the photo. It’s also allowed the flower bud to stand out even more as the focal point in the photograph. My favourite thing about this photo, and my reason for including it in this post is the change in perspective as a seemingly insignificant object, the flower bud, is the main focus of the image, leaving the great city scape to blur into the distance and just serve as a background.

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When editing this image on Photoshop, I took the brightness down slightly and the contrast up a lot. I also considerably increased the vibrance along with some saturation. I included this image because of the silhouettes created in the image. The statues were dimly lit whilst the sky is bright due to the sun setting at the time and I have enhanced this with my editing. The blue and yellow hues in the sky contrast each other really well and are very eye catching when the only other shade in the image are the black silhouette figures. I like how the people in the image appear almost as smaller mirror images of the statue with their scattered stances.

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For this final image, I took the brightness down and contrast up. In addition to this, I increased the vibrance and also the saturation slightly. Again, this is an example of how I have utilised silhouettes, but in a very different way. In contrast to the previous example, this silhouette exists to frame the focus of the image, rather than to be the focus of the image. The rocks and trees work perfectly to map out an area in the middle of the photograph in which the landscape can appear bright and vibrant.

 

Travel Photography

I recently spent a month through March and April travelling Thailand and I wanted to share some of the photographs I took as well as what I learnt about

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Photographing my jungle trek

photography during backpacking travel; as it actually surprised me how little I used my DSLR camera. Of course I was constantly taking photos and my album from Thailand boats 1000+ images, yet more than half of them were shot on my iPhone.

I took my Canon EOS 1200D DSLR camera. Alongside this I took many photos using the camera on my iPhone 6.

This is what I learnt as I went, along with examples of the photos that I took…

  1. If you are immersed in an environment that greatly juxtaposes your own, this is a huge advantage. This is because you will see the beauty in simpler things. Scenes or objects that won’t necessarily catch the locals’ eyes will be very interesting and appealing to you; this can produce great photographs with little effort. I realised that just because I was on a big adventure, I still didn’t always have to take photographs of wild or amazing objects to produce an aesthetically pleasing image. This was true as long as I remembered to concentrate particularly on the composition and colours in the frame.
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Canon EOS 1200D camera with Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens.

2. You need to have a multi-purpose lens. With fast paced travel, particularly backpacking, which means you can’t carry a great deal of unnecessary items, you’re not going to want multiple lenses and lots of camera equipment both weighing you down and slowing you down. I only took one lens to Thailand with me and that was the Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens (it is the kit lens for this camera). It’s a zoom lens which is a definite necessity for many pictures on the go in varying situations. If I could have changed something at the time, to compensate for the fact I couldn’t carry more lenses, I would have used a polarising filter to improve the colouring and glare etc on some of my landscape photographs. Now that I have experienced some photography while backpacking and got a feel for it, in the future I would invest in a higher quality ‘general purpose’ lens for travelling. Although, I would definitely still stick to only taking one lens with me due to practicality.

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Canon EOS 1200D camera with Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens.
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Canon EOS 1200D camera with Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens.

 

3. Change your perspective. As a tourist it becomes very easy to just stand in front of a beautiful piece of architecture, for example, and just straight up take a very standard and pretty boring photo of it. I learnt that I needed to still think with a photographer’s eye and try to find interesting angles or different places to shoot from, in order to get an image that wasn’t just the same old picture that everyone else has taken of that temple or statue. This also links back to my first point, of not ignoring the seemingly simplistic things you may come across; very often they can give better photographic results than the very grand and extravagant objects. Aiming to combine these two ideas, of finding a simple yet effective and innovative method of photographing a grand object, or in contrast to that, a distinctive and interesting way to photograph a very simplistic object, is in my opinion, one of the main factors involved in taking successful travel photographs. Whilst exploring a new place, it is likely that you are going to want to take very striking and intriguing pictures, it just should be remembered that this can be done in various ways.

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Canon EOS 1200D camera with Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens.

4. Take some panorama shots. All of the panoramas that I did were on my phone; but these can make for breathtaking images. It’s difficult to fit a whole landscape or scene into one frame so utilise panorama functions. Having seen how successful these were, in the future I would definitely take the time to create some panorama images using my DSLR camera. They can give depth to a photograph that a single frame wouldn’t have, as it can bend parts of the image unintentionally. Sometimes this creates distortion but when only done subtly it can give a very pleasing depth to the photo.

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iPhone 6 camera
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iPhone 6 camera

 

5. The people that you’ll see and meet are a huge part of the culture that you’re capturing; don’t forget them or miss them out as they can really add to the story-telling aspect of a photo, as well as add some context to the image. In my first example, the couple balance out the composition by adding some visual weight to the top third of the photo. Taking the rule of thirds as a guide, I think that this is a pleasing composition, with the large vase occupying the bottom two thirds and the people at the top. Back to my point of people adding context to their environment, lotus flowers (as pictured here in the Grand Palace, Bangkok) are relevant to Buddhism which is the prevalent religion for Thai people, with the population being 93% Buddhist. These flowers are thought to represent enlightenment, faithfulness and purification, as they are beautiful flowers which grow in shallow and murky water. This is added to and further portrayed through the inquisitive looking couple who appear close and connected with each other. Additionally, pink lotus flowers in particular are actually representative of Buddha’s history, therefore they are especially significant for Buddhists.

The second image here is another panorama, this one was taken in the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It also emphasises how human presence can improve an image. Although it may at first seem annoying to be visiting on a busy day and have crowds of people interrupting your attempt to photograph the intricate buildings, in fact I think that they are adding to the photo. They give an energy to the image with a sense of movement and make it seem more current, as though you are almost there when you look at it. The area looks busy and bustling and more alive. This makes for a more exciting photograph, in my opinion. They are also adding more colour and vibrancy to the bright image which works well. Again, this means its not just any other picture of the same buildings.

These examples were both taken on my phone. The clear disadvantages to using your phone are the lower quality of the photographs and the lack of control compared to using a DSLR camera. However, the major advantage is speed and ease.

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iPhone 6 camera
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iPhone 6 camera

 

6. I love to experiment with my photographic work and travelling is such a good opportunity for this. I wish that I’d had a Go Pro camera to catch more of the very fast paced and action filled moments when we did activities such as bungee jumping, snorkelling and rafting. I think that in the future, on a trip like this one, I will definitely take a Go Pro. That being said, I definitely found many opportunities to take lots of photographs on my camera that I wouldn’t usually be able to get, (yes, I got a bit too excited and way over shot at the elephant sanctuary.) So, use whatever equipment you have, even if that’s solely a phone camera, but remember to keep experimenting with it and taking lots of images to find what works and you’ll have some successful ones.

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Canon 1200D
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Canon 1200D and edited on Adobe Lightroom to correct some slight over exposure.

 

7. Try to capture movement in any form. This is what I think is a huge factor in creating magic and beauty in travel photography. If you’re travelling, then you are on the go and active, and it adds life to your photography to capture this idea all around you in your work. This could be seen with the light trails of fast cars in cities, or in rural areas with animals such as flying bugs; this comes in countless forms. Not needing to sit and over think to compose a perfect frame in studio settings with lots of equipment and time is what makes travel photography so fun, because it’s all in the moment and good shots are down to chance. Factors such as blurring which are seen as traditionally photographically “wrong” can be what makes an image interesting, and this adds to the photo’s story-telling aspect.

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Canon 1200D
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Canon 1200D
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Canon 1200D

 

8. Be aware that different surroundings will require altering settings. This will vary depending on where you are; during my time in Thailand I spent time in the capital city, a small town and the jungle, as well as a bigger busier town and a more relaxed island. take into account photographic elements that may change such as the amount of light and the colours around you but also practical elements such as safety in certain situations. Here, I have just added some images taken from various places on the trip. Finding the right angle and perspective is crucial, with many of these images I took multiple images from different angles and at landscape and portrait aspects to get the desired photo.

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iPhone 6 camera
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Canon 1200D
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Canon 1200D

 

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Canon 1200D
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Canon 1200D

 

All in all, I have found that I’ll definitely regret it if i don’t take my camera travelling with me. Being away from home is such a good opportunity to spend time out taking photos just for fun and snaps you wouldn’t usually get. My advice is to always take your camera when travelling, you will regret it if you don’t. Even on a short trip to Ireland in September I was disappointed that I somehow managed to forget my camera, as the landscapes were beautiful, particularly the quiet beaches -and it was very sunny which is rare. I also didn’t take my camera on holiday to Prague and Amsterdam last year which was a shame as there was a lot of lovely quaint architecture. I will make sure to take my camera to Budapest when I go there in September and hopefully to Oregon, US later in the year! 🙂

Sigma Macro Lens Photographs

For today’s post I just wanted to share a few examples of the photographs that I have taken on my Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens. As you can see from the examples below due to the long focal length, only matter at that optimal distance will appear in focus. When producing close ups of 3D images this can produce very detailed results of certain aspects of the image; this can be seen very clearly on the photos of the white shell. However at longer distances, the whole object can be captured crisply and in focus with just the background and negative space left to blur; this is particularly obvious with the images of the dandelion puff.

 

Pet and Baby Pictures

Portraits of babies and children or pets can be difficult to execute well because they are generally unreliable models who can’t take a huge amount of direction and they move in unpredictable ways. That being said, I believe that is all part of what makes them such interesting subject matter. I have comprised a short list of tips that can make photographing children and animals a little easier; along with examples of my own work to illustrate such tasks…

  1. Have the subject in a situation where they feel comfortable.

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2. Ensure lighting is apt and check the aperture is appropriate (it’s likely an f/stop number on the lower end will be required) so that a shorter shutter speed can be used. This will mean that movement isn’t captured which will blur the photograph.

 

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3. Try to incorporate interesting dynamics in the shot by capturing emotion, just as you would with an adult/human portrait.

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4. Keep taking many pictures in the hope that you’ll catch a particularly interesting moment, as chances are, you will.

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Shot with Nikon D5300 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens.

 

5. Experiment with distances and angles as similar subject matter can produce very different images by just altering these simple factors. This will then give you a feel for how you like to take pictures of children and animals, which means you’ll be able narrow down and practice what you are good at.

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6. Use the appropriate lens. I used my prime lens to take this photo (Nikon 50mm f/1.8). Prime lenses which are fixed in focal length as opposed to zoom lenses are the most suited to portraiture as they produce very crisp images which focus on the subject and leave the background to blur so that it doesn’t distract the viewer’s attention.

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens

 

7. Try out unusual situations. Having children or pets in unusual situations can be very thought provoking or amusing, depending on the setting; this can be very interesting photographically.

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8. Concentrate on your subject. In everyday life, young children and cute pets are often the centre of attention, you can apply this in photography too. Make sure your model is the main focus of your image by concentrating on the composition and shallow depth of fields will always help here.

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens

 

9. Use a shallow depth of field so that the subject is clearly in focus and the background is blurred so that it doesn’t distract the eye. This can be achieved by using a narrower aperture (higher f/stop) as less light is allowed to reach the sensor meaning the matter which is further away will not be captured in focus. However, as I said earlier a wider aperture (lower f/stop) will usually be required; this is when prime lenses come into it. As they have a fixed focal length, the lens will focus on your subject at it’s optimal focal length, leaving the distance to blur.

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens

10. Capture the model’s personality. Animals and children are individuals just as human adults are and this can be captured in photographs. Just make sure to filter through your images and take time to select the best ones, but don’t purely base this on quality which can be easy to do, as with unreliable subjects, you probably will take many unusable images.

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Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens

Thanks for visiting!

 

Which Lens To Use When Photographing Flowers

I trialled three different lenses with photographing flowers in order to document the differences I experienced, and how this factor may affect the approach required to capture successful images of flowers.

Details of the settings for aperture, shutter speed, focal length, ISO and whether the flash fired can be seen in each photograph’s caption.

Nikon D5300 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit Lens)

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f/5.6, 1/60, 55.0 mm, ISO 100, with flash
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f/8.0, 1/60, 55.0 mm, ISO 100, with flash
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f/14.0, 1/200, 18.3 mm, ISO 100, with flash

Nikon D5300 with Nikkor 50mm f/8.0 (Prime Lens)

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f/1.8, 1/200, 50.4mm, ISO 125, with flash

Nikon D5300 with Sigma 105mm f/2.8 (Macro Lens)

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f/3.5, 1/200, 106.8mm, ISO 125, with flash

 

An obvious difference in the manner in which the images would be shot is due to the purposes of the three different lenses. This is how far away from the object you should be when photographing it. The kit lens is a very basic tool that has multiple purposes which it executes to a satisfactory standard but none of which that it completes to an exceptional level. This means that it is possible to be a fair distance from the flower and still gain an acceptable image in terms of sharpness and resolution. Also, the fact that this lens possesses a zoom feature helps with this. As can be seen in the three different images, it is possible to be various distances from the subject as I was fairly close in the first yet not very close in the third. With the prime lens it is necessary to be a certain, optimum distance from the flower when shooting. This lens is mostly intended for use in portraiture. In order to gain a crisp picture, when photographing a person, you’d want to roughly just be able to see their head and shoulders in the frame. So, when using this lens for other purposes, such as this, I tried to imagine that sort of sized framing in my head when judging the area between my camera and the flower. As for the macro lens, because its purpose is to create images of the subject which are very close up and detailed, it was required that I was very close to the flower when taking the picture.

 

Another distinct difference that I observed was in relation to the depth of field of each of the photographs and how to alter this. With the kit lens, as expected it was necessary to use a smaller aperture (higher f/stop) in order to gain a shallow depth of field. This can be seen on the first two images, however on the third a fairly wide depth of field can be seen despite having a narrow aperture. This is because of the vast amount of light available when I was shooting this and had I used a wider aperture, the image would be largely overexposed. When using the prime lens, it was more straight forward to get a shallower depth of field without having to adjust the aperture. As can be seen on this image a low f/stop was used (wider aperture) yet the focal point (being the daffodil) is very clear, with the surroundings out of focus. Prime lenses are very useful for bringing a subject to the eye’s attention and making the background seem less important which is why they make effective portraiture lenses. The macro lens is very focused on the detail of the central focal point and leaves the rest of the image to blur. Similarly to the prime lens, this happens independently of the aperture being adjusted.

Trapped Reflection Piece

This is only a short post as I wanted to share this image which is from some of my A-Level work that I did last year. I shot the image with my Nikon D5300, just using the kit lens. I used Photoshop to edit it by erasing the model’s body so that she appears to just be in the mirror (when in fact the mirror had no glass and she was behind it, reaching through). I also desaturated the photo and did some basic adjustments such as correcting the levels. This was my final piece which aimed to sum up some ideas that I had been exploring concerning trapped beings and souls of individuals stuck in limbo; which stemmed from my project on the loss of humanity of a person as a result of prolonged drug addictions.

This image is one example of an earlier piece I created in this project which was based on a similar idea with a consistent theme to the final piece above.

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I created this image in the basic Photography studio that my school had, I used a curtain in front of two studio lights which gave the soft, warm lighting that can be seen. I had the model stand behind the curtain and press herself against it; varying her poses with each shot. I then used Photoshop to create this montage of multiple images.

How to add colour smoke on Photoshop (Skull Edits)

These are my results having edited the images from my Skull Photo Shoot. I used Photoshop to create one photograph with the appearance that plain smoke is being exhaled and another with rainbow coloured smoke. I also altered a third image by adding blue smoke in addition to enhancing the eyes to make them look more striking.

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The steps which I completed to achieve these results were:

  1. Firstly, I downloaded a set of smoke brushes for photoshop. This was the link I used to get these from Brusheezy. I then installed them to Photoshop on my laptop by dragging the download document to the appropriate folder.
  2. Then use the brush in white on a new layer, selecting the desired version of the smoke brush from the drop down menu. Place the smoke on the image where you want it. Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 17.32.15
  3. Continue with this process until the desired amount of smoke is reached.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 17.38.26.png
  4.  Ensure that any edges are faded out and not straight unnatural looking lines by using more smoke brushes or the eraser. I found that using an eraser in the shape of a smoke brush worked really well for this.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 17.39.42.png

In general I am happy with this result and think that these brushes in particular are very authentic looking. The placement that I have chosen for the smoke from the mouth works really well however I think that from the nose it doesn’t necessarily look quite as real.

To further this, I then coloured this smoke. The process by which I did that is as follows:

  1. Create a new layer and use the gradient tool to spread the rainbow colour across the screen while holding shift. Then change that layer’s setting to “colour”.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 17.52.11.png
  2. Then, use the eraser on this layer to remove all the colour in the areas that have no smoke.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 18.03.39.png

 

This is obviously less genuine in appearance in regards to looking like actual smoke than the plain coloured version however I think it is interesting looking technique and I like the outcome. The process was fairly time consuming for what it is but I think the erasing has been done to a satisfactory standard yet it could have been more accurate.

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This is my final edited photograph. I used the same processes as above to create the smoke and add the colour, although I only used shades of blue this time. I aimed to improve on my previous attempts. I think the smoke here in shape looks better than my first try as it looks as though it is actually leaving the mouth in a streamline and billowing into a small cloud. I have also done a better job of cleaning up the edges so that they’re faded out and not straight. However, I did not spend as much time on erasing the unwanted colour here as I did on the other image so I don’t think this one is as neat as it could be. That being said, due to the size of the image it is not noticeable.

On this photo, I also enhanced the eyes somewhat, brightening them using the dodge tool. This makes them more striking and draws the eye to them. I chose blue smoke to stick with similar, harmonious tones with the eyes as I used a cool blue, so that the colours compliment each other.

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Skull Face Paint Shoot

Self Portraiture is an area which I like to explore. I feel that I can really put the ideas in my head into practice when I am taking the pictures of myself. Although there are obvious drawbacks presented, as it is necessary to use either the camera’s timer function, or as I did in this photo shoot, a remote to control the shutter. Due to the wired nature of the remote, this also meant there was a limit to the distance I could be from the camera. However this was not a major issue for this particular shoot as I was using a 50mm prime lens; therefore for a quality image to be produced I would need to be relatively close to the camera (head and shoulder image distance away) anyway.

For these photographs, I painted the half skull image onto my face using face paints, eyeliner and eyeshadows. I then shot the images with a Nikon D5300 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. I did this in a dark room using one light directly on the face or to the side, with just a black bed sheet as a backdrop. I sometimes like to only use the torch on my iPhone as a light as it is bright yet small so it gives a focused hard lighting. I did this for my Prime Lens Portraits post.

These are a few of my best shots prior to any editing. When I edit them, I am hoping to add some smoke to some of them to add to the dark, edgy feel. I am also considering enhancing the sharpness of the eyes in order to really grab the viewer’s attention.

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Crystal Ball Images

For these photographs, I used a clear crystal ball and had my models hold it so that I could shoot images of them through the object. I did this in order to see the ways in which the image of the person would be distorted in comparison to just taking a picture of their face by itself.

Before taking the photos I didn’t realise that the image would be reflected upside down onto the crystal ball. Although I really liked that this effect was gained; it adds some interest to the image overall.

After several attempts, in differing locations, with alternative models; this was my most successful image.

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f/2.2 1/20
I found that this worked best in natural daylight. This was because I could not use any studio lights or camera flashes due to the fact that this would cause a glare on the crystal ball. So I needed to shoot in broad daylight to get the required exposure for the shot.

I experimented with different focal points on the image but found focusing on the image within the crystal ball and leaving the model blurred to be the most pleasing aesthetics. I enhanced this afterwards on Photoshop by selecting the models hands with the crystal ball, and enhancing the contrast so that the eye’s attention will be more strongly drawn towards it.

I also found that an area with a bit of an interesting background helped to improve the photograph as some of it appears on the ball, also this was the best angle that I chose to shoot from. I liked the composition that this angle gave me, as the main interest of the photo is very concentrated on the crystal ball, with the large space of the image being out of focus.

For this shoot I used the Nikon D5300 with a 50.0 mm f/1.8 prime lens.

I think this image was largely successful. To improve I would try to gain a lot more different successful photographs as I think the others that I shot weren’t as good as this one.

Prime Lens Portraits

I gave my Prime Lens another go with these portrait shots. The shoot in general was a little difficult as I was working on such staged images yet was quite unprepared in the situation for this. So, I had to improvise by using two iPhone torches balanced on a chair just to the side of the subject to light them, along with a bed sheet hung on the wall for a plain background. Considering this, I feel the shoot was still successful as the back drop doesn’t distract the eye from the model and the light is sufficient to highlight the face. However, I do think the lighting could have been executed better.

Prime Lens Portraiture
Nikon D5300, Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens, f/1.8, 1/10, ISO 100.
Black and White Portrait
Desaturated using Photoshop
Nikon Primes Lens Photo
Photoshop used to correct levels and adjustments to contrast (+40) and brightness (-20).

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These are a few of my most successful shots before and after editing.