I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can hit a brick wall, creatively speaking. And that’s why I love this trick photography and special effects ebook. It allows me to open up my eyes and mind to new and exciting photo ideas, which I may have never thought of myself.
This ebook helps you to create some incredibly cool images, which will not only help you to be more creative, but will impress your friends too. You can view a selection of the photos here.
It’s one of the most popular photography ebooks on the market, and that’s for a pretty good reason…
Last week I conducted a survey of all my readers. I found that 40% of you said that one of the biggest problems you face is not being creative enough. A further 24% of you said that one of your favourite niches was special creative effects.
For anyone reading this, who feels that the same is true for themselves, I suggest you watch the video below, and read on.
This is more than just a 299 page trick photography and special effects ebook. There’s also 9 hours of how-to video tutorials, and over 300 creative photographs created by some of the most talented photographic artists around the world.
Pros and Cons of the eBook
The 60 day money back guarantee really helps, if you’re not sure about whether you should buy it or not.
You don’t need any fancy gear to take the photos, just basic cameras with a manual mode.
You don’t need an extensive knowledge of photography or exposure either, that’s all covered too.
It really starts to get your creative juices flowing.
You don’t feel like you need to copy the same ideas, because there’s plenty of inspiration to come up with your own.
The videos were very helpful, because I don’t really like reading from a screen.
Links for everything you may need, such as torches and accessories.
A ridiculous amount of photos – lots of examples.
Produces interesting photos, not flowers and sunsets.
Easy to browse.
It’s very lengthy, and if you wanted to carry it with you, it would be heavy to carry, and expensive to print.
It sometimes goes into more detail on some subjects, such as light painting, than it needs to.
Some tricks can appear to be easier than they actually are, although a little perseverance and experience goes a long way.
There are three main sections, and then inside these sections there are chapters (the bullet points below). Within these, there are further subchapters. You can jump in at any point which takes your fancy, and get started straight away.
Here’s a list of everything you can expect from the ebook and videos.
Long Exposure Effects and Light Painting (119 Pages)
It feels like it must have taken a very long time to complete this ebook and videos, as they’re very thorough. There are lots of tips and tricks, which I had never heard of, or thought of before. They range from using an elastic band and a wad of paper as a replacement for a shutter release cable, to using fire for light painting, and much, much more.
It really is a very extensive ebook.
If you’re looking to improve your photography, become more creative, impress your friends, and have more fun with photography, then I really don’t think you can go wrong with this trick photography and special effects ebook.
This is my brand new 30 day photography challenge, and I want YOU to take part too. For my next 30 posts, I’m going to be providing you with tips on how to take the photos that I’ve listed here, and sharing my own results (and I encourage you to share yours too).
As I complete the project, I will be posting links to the different photos and tips as I complete them, and the days below will turn from black to blue (links). Follow through the links for tips on how to take part yourself.
If you want to take part yourself, then just come over to my Facebook page, Twitter and/or Pinterest, and share your photos with me and the rest of the community. The best photos will be added to the posts, and shared with tens of thousands of people.
That’s all you need to know really, hope you enjoy these different ideas; they will certainly help you to improve your photography.
If you’ve read my article on bokeh, then you’ll be well aware of exactly what it is, but for those who haven’t, I’ll give you a little run down.
Simply put, it’s the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photograph. It relates to how nice the background blur looks when out-of-focus. Knowing that, you can start to see the uses for it.
Beautiful bokeh can be used as either the subject, or the background, but usually the latter. I like to use it as a way of making the backgrounds more interesting, and to do so, there are a few things you need to consider.
Firstly, the aperture decides the shape and some of the size of your bokeh. Smoother bokeh’s are much nicer to look at and there are two ways to achieve the smoothest possible bokeh. Firstly, if you open up your aperture to the widest it will go, ie. 1.8, then the aperture blades will not be obstructing any light, and the aperture will be smooth all the way around. The second option is to use good quality lens. I would recommend opting for a better quality lens rather than widening the aperture all the way, and you’ll see why further down the page.
The quality of your lens will always effect the quality of your aperture, purely because of the number of blades that are used to produce an aperture. Higher quality lens have more blades, so they can better reproduce a circle shape. For example, my Canon L lenses each have 8 blades, whereas my kit lens and 50mm f/1.8 only have 5. Here’s what these blades look like inside a lens. It’s worth noting that the narrow the aperture becomes, the less obvious this comparison becomes.
And here’s a comparison between the two lenses.
Distance from Subject
The further away you are from the light source, the wider the bokeh is going to be, especially at the widest apertures, which produce the largest bokeh. Have a look at this photo below, taken from my aperture tutorial; this photo was shot at f/2, just slightly narrower than my lens’ widest aperture. The bokeh effect that you may be used to has all but disappeared because the light source is so far away, and the aperture is so wide.
Distance Vs. Aperture
There is a way around fixing the photo above, and this is where it pays to have a better quality lens. By stopping down your lens to a narrow aperture, the bokeh effect becomes much more appealing, as you can work out more of the shape, without losing too much of the effect. This is the same photo as above, only adjusted to f/8 to narrow the aperture, to account for the distance involved.
As you can see, the detail is much finer. Finding a bokeh which suits your photo is all about finding a balance between aperture an distance.
Of course, one of the most important parts of producing beautiful bokeh, is how your photo is lit. If you’re in controlled conditions where you can adjust your light, and want to experiment, then you may find that opening your aperture up all the way works best. Remember, this is going to have the smoothest results, and produce the largest bokeh.
Or perhaps the light is breaking through some leaves of a tree in the background, and you want to capture this with a smooth blur. The light source doesn’t have to come from behind the subject like in the photo above, it can just be incidental light creeping through a well lit scene, like below. It’s your job to spot it, and use it to your advantage. Photo below was shot on a 50mm lens at f/1.8.
Lets have a look at a few more examples…
This is one of my favourite photos of my model Keira, with a local pier in the background. This is a really simple example of bokeh, as the lighting is minimal. I had a fill light coming from a beauty dish to the right in this photo, but set my exposure to f/1.4 for the bokeh and the shutter speed set to 1/6 to expose for the background too. The aperture was very wide, and the lights were very far away, but they were also very small, so that’s why they’re not overpowering the photos. The reflections on the left side of the photo contains multiple rings of light, which has turned this small use of bokeh much more interesting background.
Remember, there’s more to the photo than just the subject. This is why I hate to see photos being taken on a backdrop – stop being lazy and try harder.
The idea of this next photo was to have the background out of focus and very blurry, so to do so, I widened the aperture as wide as it would go, but I kept the M&M’s in the background quite close so your could still make some detail in the changes of colour. The round shape of the sweets lends itself quite nicely to the shape of the bokeh, with a small amount of overlap changing the colour in places. Notice how the blue and red have merged in places to turn purple.
This final photo is here for a completely different reason, and that’s because it was shot during the golden hour, which is the hour before the sun comes down, or the hour after it’s come up. It means that the sun is very low in the sky, so there’s much more shadows that you can work with. This constant change between light and dark produced some nice contrast for the lighter parts of the photo to shine through with the bokeh.
I often find that working with lights at night produces the coolest effects, so I would suggest going out in during the golden hour, and working into the evening to capture lights in the distance. This works really well in a city where there’s lots of cars and shop/street lights. Get out there and try it for yourself.
When it comes down to quality for price, bang for buck, a 50mm 1.8 is one of the best lenses on the market, and an upgrade that I recommend to every new SLR user. For a very small investment of $105 for the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 or slightly more for Nikon, you can have one of the best upgrades that you can make to your camera.
The Right lens for your Camera
If you’re a Canon user, you have only one real choice, and that’s the Canon 50mm f/1.8 which I linked to above, but if you’re a Nikon user, it’s a little bit more complicated. You actually have 3 choices, depending on which camera you have. If you’re not using a Nikon D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000, and D5100, then your camera body will have an autofocus motor and you can buy the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF for $125.
If you have one of the cameras mentioned, then your camera body doesn’t have an autofocus motor built in, which means that you have to buy a lens that does – marked with an ‘AF-S’. Unfortunately for you, this is more expensive at $219 – Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S. Now, regardless of whether you have an autofocus motor or not, you can both buy the 35mm f/1.8 for $199, which will provide a better viewing angle on a crop sensor, for which you’ll likely be shooting on – Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S.
There are advantage of buying more expensive lenses, such as the Nikon ones listed above, as they have a better build quality. I used to regularly use my 50mm before I upgraded, and all that use does take its toll on the plastic build (glass inside) and toy-like features. The lenses are very light, small and are ideal if you’re looking to upgrade from your kit lens, but don’t want to carry around a load of extra weight. It’s true that you get what you pay for, but for a couple hundred bucks, you can produce some astounding results from these lenses. When you use a prime lens, which doesn’t zoom, the optics are usually much better quality as they’re not making as many compromises and the price comes down at the same time, so that’s why I endorse them so much.
Having used both the Canon and the Nikon, I can tell you that the focus does tend to suck on the lenses, as they’re slow and inconsistant. The small focus ring on each lens doesn’t do much to help with manual focus either, and the focus can tend to be quite loud, so watch out for that if you shoot video regularly. That being said, I’m looking back on these lenses now, after using much more expensive lenses, so my judgement has changed somewhat; you may not notice the difference so much if you’re using cheaper lenses to begin with.
Because of the crop factor on these lenses, the Canon feels more like a 80mm lens, the Nikon 50mm, is more like a 75mm lens, and the Nikon 35 looks like a 52.50mm lens. If you do choose a 50mm lens and you’re shooting on a crop sensor, then expect it to be quite far zoomed, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They make ideal cheap portrait lenses in terms of focal length, but expect to have to walk backwards if someone asks for a group shot.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you should know all there is to know about how perspective changes at different focal lengths, but as I mentioned in my post on the crop factor, putting your full frame lens on a crop sensor body will not change the perspective – only crop it. This is a good thing because the way we see through our own eyes is generally considered to be similar to about 45mm, so by using a 50mm you’re quite accurately representing our natural view, and not compressing the perspective too much.
There are obvious downsides to cheaper lenses, but don’t be put off, because when you put a 50mm f/1.8 on your camera, you’re not going to want to take it off – I know I didn’t. It’s a tool for every photographers arsenal, and I personally don’t know anyone who has regretted the purchase. Enough of all this talk about why it’s so great, let me show you.
The Lens Guide
The very first thing you’ll notice about your new lens, is the ability to shoot in much lower light, without having to use the flash. This is because of the wider aperture, which allows more light in. If you don’t know your aperture scale, then I suggest you learn it, but for now, let me tell you that if your lens went as wide as f/3.5 before, it now lets in four times as much light, at f.1.8. When I say wide, I’m talking about the size of the hole in the lens that the light passes through. The photo below, was taken indoors in a dark room at f/1.8 for 1.200 of a second at ISO 100.
The next thing you’ll notice is that the depth of field (DoF), can go remarkably shallow, and that’s because of the way the light passes through the lens at a wider aperture. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. This can be used for great creative effect, and it works really well, but a common problem with a lot of people who get a 1.8, is that they think it looks so good, it’s all they ever use, so use it sparingly or it’ll lose its appeal. Notice from the photo below that the glasses on the face are in focus, but the end of the hat, and chin, are out of focus. This was also shot at f/1.8.
From the photo above, you may notice the circular shapes of colour in the background, and this is what’s referred to as Bokeh. Simply put, it’s the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photograph. It relates to how nice the background blur looks when out-of-focus. When you’re shooting at wider apertures, the effect of the bokeh is accentuated, so it will look at lot more prominant than anything you would have seen with your kit lens. Because this is a cheap lens, made to a price, it’s not the highest quality (which you may see from the photo above), but when you use it properly, with distant light, you can produce some really nice effect. Again, the photo below was shot at f/1.8.
Selective focus with a f/1.8 is something that you may not have done too much of in the past. Because the depth of field can be made to look so shallow, it’s even more effective with this lens, and you can focus the viewers attention onto a certain part of the photo, while making them want to explore the rest at the same time. It’s a powerful technique, but like everything, remember not to overdo it.
When you’re shooting wide open, you’re going to produce some very soft photos, so if you want them to be sharper, you need to narrow your aperture a fair bit. I find around f/8 to be the sharpest point on my Canon 50mm f/1.8. The photo below was shot at f/7.1, and manages to keep the whole of the subject in focus, while making sure plenty of detail remained in the background, so that you could make out the burnt down pier. Experiment with wide apertures at first, but you may find that narrower ones suit your style a lot better.
As I mentioned earlier, the crop factor does make this lens appear more zoomed than you may want it to be, but that can’t really be helped, unless you opt for the 35mm – it’s really a matter of personal preference and budget. It’s all about working with the gear that you’ve got at your disposal. When I took the photo below, I had no tripod on me, and just my 50mm lens. Because I knew what effect this would have on my photos, I chose to find a position that would work for me, rather than to simple give up, as I would have typically shot this photo with a wider angle. I found a position on a dock further away, and shot this photo at f/4.5 for 8 seconds and I was very happy with how it came out.
I’ve spoken a lot about f/1.8, but the lens aperture will go as narrow as f/22, which is fairly common. This will give you a much deeper DoF so that you can have your background and foreground in focus. The photo below was shot at f/22 for 4 seconds, and as you can see, the deep foreground is in good focus, and you can still work out all the minor details in the background on the pier. It’s important to remember that the lens does have more uses than just low light photography or shallow depth of field.
Finally, as you start to collect more gear, you can use that to make your photos look even better. A 50mm lens is great, but when you use it in conjunction with an external flash unit (and off camera transmitter for the photo below), you’ll get even better results. Like I said before, it’s about working with what you’ve got, and when you’ve got a little bit more, it can become a lot easier (when you know what you’re doing) to get better shots.
Why is it Important to have an Interesting Background?
You may have noticed by now that I've not put any photos of a model on a white background on this site, and there's a good reason for this – I find these photos boring and unimaginative and the shooting environment unconducive to interesting photography. You see, the way I see it, is that every pixel in a photo have an equal amount of importance and it's your job, as the photographer, to ensure that each part of the photo looks good.
When you start to make your backgrounds more interesting, you'll find that people spend more time looking at them, often without them realising the appeal of the photo. There are plenty of ways to do this, and we're gonna have a little look at some of them now.
This is a term that I've used a few times on this website and spoke in detail about in this post, but essentially, it’s the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photograph. If you have a close subject, a distant background and a wide aperture, then you magnify the bokeh effect. Check out the photo below, and you'll the soft circular blur in the background which is an example of good bokeh. In this photo, the background has as much appeal to the viewer as the subject – the BBQ. I really like using a strong bokeh as the softness of it all is very appealing and easy to look at.
When light shines directly into the camera's lens and the aperture isn't too wide then it produces some really cool 'star' effects on the light source. As well as lighting up the background and providing interesting detail, it also lights the subject in a way in which you don't typically see. Use the lighting to illuminate your background and provide a point of interest by arranging your lights so that they provide details to the most important parts of your background.
If you're shooting at night, you're going to need to raise your ISO if you want to reveal any detail in your background. Even in the photo above, I used an ISO of 1200 as it allowed me to see all the finer details that attracted the viewer to the photo. The photo below was shot with an on-camera, external flash unit at ISO 1600 and an aperture of f/2.8. As you can see, this has produced a very shallow DoF, but turned a photo of a man on a street into much more than that, by providing much more detail.
Rule of Thirds
As you can probably see from the photos I've use so far, I like to adhere roughly to the rule of thirds when trying to include an interesting background. The rule basically dictates that photos should be split into 9 equal parts; 2 equally-spaced horizontal lines and 2 equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important features within the frame should intersect with these lines at some point. This allows me to actually include a background that people can actually see.
There's no reason why your background can't also be another subject, like I've done in the photo below. This, believe it or not was a candid photo and the foreground subject was looking in the same direction as the background subject, and it was at the exact point that he looked towards my camera that I took the photo. This contrast in subject's interest makes you wonder where to look and stops becoming a simple photo of a person. Contrast in background and foreground is key here.
I'm written in depth about horizontal, vertical, diagonal and converging lines in photography and the power that they have to direct the viewers eyes in a certain direction and I recommend that you read about that in further detail. The great part about using lines in your background is that they're remarkable subtle – you may like the background in my photo, but without mentioning lines, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that interests you. Once again, there's contrast present in the photography, but this time it's also present in the background – the lines are sharp and soft.
The great thing about paths in photography is that if you include a subject as well, they can provide dynamic tension. By this I mean that your eyes don't know whether to go up and down the subject of down the path which causes a tension in your eyes. This is a superb trick to convince your viewer to look at the photo for longer without them even realising why. The added sense of wonder is what keeps the viewer entertained.
Sometime, I like to use a frame within a frame to focus the attention towards the background. In the photo below, I've used two parts of a banister to act as a sort of tunnel, directing the attention towards the subject. Frames do an excellent job of providing context to a photo while adding a soft border by providing an out-of-focus blur around the edge of the primary subject.
This is at the end of the list because it's probably one the easiest techniques to implement, especially if the colours you're using in the background contrast with the colours in the foreground like mine does below. The contrast is the most important point to make here because if your foreground and background are too similar, they merge into one, and cease to be two effective and different points of interest. I love using colour in my photography when possible as it really helps to make the photos stand out from the rest of an album.
Shooting with the aperture wide open is a really good way of taking soft, naturally lit photos, as the aperture produces a shallow depth of field, and allow the maximum amount of light in. It’s also a great way of drawing the viewers eye to a certain part of the photo, as the majority of the photo will be out of focus. The photos in this post were shot on 3 different lenses; a 24-70 f/2.8, a 35mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.8, and even though the maximum aperture varies, they were still shot at their maximum. The reason for this is because the bokeh of the photo is much better, and for those that don’t understand what that means, I sugest you read that article, but for the purpose of this post; it’s the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photograph. It relates to how nice the background blur looks when out-of-focus.
Even though the numbers 1.4 and 2.8 are really close together, 1.4 actually allows 4 times more light into the lens then 2.8. If you’ve read my post on aperture, you’ll understand what this means, but here’s a quick explanation of how it works. f/1.4 is 2 stops wider then f/2.8: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8… And for every f-stop, the lens allows half the amount of light in, so f/2 allows half the light of f/1.4 and f/2.8 allows half the light of that. Because these photos were shot with the aperture wide open, the allow a lot more light and create much softer photos.
Tips and Photos
The wider your aperture, the wider the bokeh will be, and anything other then wide open will cause the bokeh to be the shape of the aperture rings (usually pentagon or octagon
It’s a great way to produce soft backgrounds like this photo below shot at f/2.8.When you’re shooting indoors, there’s a lot less available light so bouncing flash off a wall and shooting with a wide aperture, creates just the right amount of light to create an good exposure.
When your aperture is wide open, your depth of field is really shallow and it’s hard to find a good focal point. You can either really worry about this or not worry at all. In the photo below, shot at f/1.8, the lack of focus actually makes it look better in my opinion. Shallow DoF helps to draw the attention to a certain part of the body, and leaves the rest blurred.When you have mutltiple subjects in a scene, a wide aperture will only focus on 1 person, making it a great tool for selective focus in photography.
The photo below was shot wide open, which kept the background blurred, even though the subject wasn’t far away from it, and that makes the photos look a little eerier in my opinion. To emphasise the DoF, place the subject in the scene moving away from you.
Shot in twilight, the wide aperture allowed me capture loads of natural light in the background that I wouldn’t have captured otherwise.
The foreground may be out of focus, but that doesn’t me it doesn’t matter. Consider what’s in your foreground and how you can use it to spark some interest in your photo.
Be very careful where you’re focusing. Rather then focusing on her nose, I focused on the light on her cheek, underneath her sunglasses because that produced the best overall focus. Natural light if your best friend when shooting with a wide aperture. You can be more adventurous with placement of key features in a photo when you’re using a shallow depth of field, as the eyes will be drawn to whatever’s focused.
A wide open aperture is important when you’re shooting into the sun as the lens flare will be the same shape of your aperture, and anything other then wide open will cause the bokeh to be the shape of the aperture rings (usually pentagon or octagon).Wide apertures are great if you want to viewer to only look at a single part of a photo.
Top Tip! If you focus on the eyes of a your subject, the rest of the face will appear in focus too, even at f/1.4.
Wide aperture allows you to capture loads of light, which means you can turn up your shutter speed and take photos while you’re walking, of other moving subjects.If there’s movement in your photo, focus on the most still part of the photo, like the lips in the photo below. Wide apertures are particularly effective if you’re shooting through objects in your foreground as it turns them to a soft blur.
If you’re going to be shooting with a wide aperture, consider what else you can put on that same focal plane and have multiplie points of interest in the photo. Not only was the camera focused on the model’s face, but the flowers she was reaching for too.