One simple way I’ve enjoyed learning from other photographers is by studying the settings they used to make pictures. I used to enjoy reading the jargon in photography magazines even before I shot in manual or had any clue what it meant. :) Now I do understand, and I’ve learned a lot simply from hearing how other photographers decide how to set their cameras and the thought process behind their photos. I haven’t ever posted my settings here on the blog before, but only because it seems too time involving to look back for each shot. I mean, I’m lucky if I get a post up, right?
I love helping other photographers, though; so I’d like to start adding some helpful posts from time to time. For today I chose one photo from the last blog post on Atlanta’s winter storm to tell you what settings I used and what I like about it.
This is my favorite snow 2014 picture. When I clicked the shutter I had that feeling you get when you know you nailed the shot. Only, I was also chanting, “Please, tell me his eyes are sharp. Please, tell me his eyes are sharp…..” :) It’s such a bummer when you think you got the perfect shot, but you accidentally focused on the subject’s eyebrows instead of his eyes!! It can happen easily when the subject is a moving child (when aren’t they moving?) and you’re shooting with a narrow depth of field.
I often shoot at f/2.8, but because the boys were crazy with excitement about the snow–running and jumping even more than usual–I set my aperture at f/4.0. I knew it would give me a better chance at getting a face in focus.
The camera settings for the photo were: ISO 320, f/4.0, and the shutter speed at 400
I already explained how I chose the aperture. I also kept the shutter speed plenty fast enough to freeze the action. 200 would have been fine, really. This day I hadn’t actually spent a lot of time thinking through settings–just came up with a quick formula that worked for the situation.
The picture was a tiny bit under-exposed, but I brought the light back in Lightroom. I think I also added a little contrast and some sharpening, but otherwise this photo received very little post processing. His cheeks and nose are a little red from the cold. I prefer a natural look, so I choose to keep the redness rather than photoshopping them.
Now let’s talk about what works in this photo:
I used the rule of thirds (loosely), so his eyes are at or close to an intersecting line. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read how the rule of thirds adds blance to your photos and allows the eye to naturally rest on the point of interest.
Because I used the 70-200 lens at 200 mm, the background is nicely blurred. That alone brings the focus directly to the baby’s face. Secondly, the whiteness of the snow contrasts with his darker jacket while the darker tree background contrasts with his face. Because they are out of focus they do this contrasting subtly–allowing us the benefit of the contrast without being distracting in the least.
What else do we like about this picture?
(Besides for the baby. He is just so darling.) :)
I haven’t often had the chance to photograph the boys in snow while the snow is falling. I think it adds a nice bit of movement to the photo. Also, this snow was powdery, so it provided a perfect dusting on his coat to really give it the perfect wintry feel. If I would have staged this photo I would have probably tried to sprinkle a handful of snow over his coat, but this time it all happened naturally. The classic style of the coat gives this picture a timeless look. The fur frames the baby’s face also drawing attention to the focal point.
His expression–I would have been happy with an excited expression or smile, but his face without a smile is still so sweet. I would always, always, always rather have a natural expression than a cheesy smile. Notice that, though he isn’t smiling, his expression is still compelling.
I’d love to hear if this information is helpful to you. Let me know in the comments or leave a question for me to address in a future blog post.
I hope you have a GREAT weekend!