2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 16: Simple, Clean Backgrounds

This week, we’ll focus on one of my favorite techniques: creating a Simple, Clean Background. I absolutely love this technique as it can help turn an otherwise boring subject into a more memorable, professional looking image. Let’s look at some examples:

dice_1a_smDice – Eric Minbiole

The image above was taken by placing a few dice on a piece of white plastic. Notice how beautifully the dice stand out against the minimal background. (The subtle reflection is a nice bonus, too.) In contrast, imagine that the same dice were placed on a wooden table– the photo wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. It’s not the dice that are interesting (they’re not!) but it’s the fact that the dice are shown against a beautiful, clean background that really makes for a memorable, professional looking image.

Choosing a Clean Background

In many cases (especially in still life or macro shots), you have complete control over your arrangement. In that case, you have lots of great choices for background: A piece of dark cloth, a sheet of bright white paper, a piece of acrylic plastic, a clear blue sky, etc. I’ve even had great luck using a bathtub. The main goal is to find something plain and simple that won’t distract from the actual subject.

Let’s start with an example:

HummelBackground

Both images above were taken with the same camera, the same settings, and similar processing. The image on the left was taken on a kitchen counter. The background is messy and distracting, making for a rather poor photograph– your eye spends more time looking at the crumbs on the counter then at the figurine. In contrast, the image on the right is much more pleasing, and allows you to focus on the subject. The setup is incredibly simple: A piece of white poster board, sitting on a chair, lit with sunlight:

setup_sm

Using a Narrow Depth of Field

The background doesn’t have to be perfectly white or black to be clean and simple. Another option is to use a narrow depth of field so that your subject is in crisp focus, while the background is blurred. This technique is especially useful in portraits or street photography, where you don’t necessarily have control over the background itself. As before, let’s look at an example:

HummelDoF

The two photographs above were taken with the exact same setup, just seconds apart. The only difference is that the top image uses a wide depth of field (small aperture), where most everything is in focus– including the background. Notice how distracting the trees and bushes are. In contrast, the bottom image uses a narrow depth of field (wider aperture) to help blur the background, and help the figurines stand out better.

To best blur the background, you want to keep the background as far away as possible– the farther away, the more blurred it will be. In addition, you should use a wide aperture, which helps to further blur the foreground and/or background. (Above, I used a rather basic, inexpensive lens that could only go to f/5.6; If you have a “faster” lens, perhaps f/4 or f/2.8, you can get even better results.)

dutch_3_smDutch Masters – Eric Minbiole

For this week’s challenge, I want everyone to try to capture an image with a clean, non-distracting background. You have lots of options: You can use a plain backdrop, such as a piece of paper, cloth, or plastic. Alternatively, if you want to use a more natural or real-world background, you can use a narrow depth of field to keep your subject in focus, but blur everything else. As always, be as creative as you like!

Optional Twist: For this week’s optional twist, try taking a second shot where you intentionally break the rules, and create a messy background. (Ideally, use the same subject as your main image.) Have fun with this– show people what not to do. This will allow everyone to compare your clean and messy images, and see why a clean background is so important. As always, the twist is completely optional. If you do choose to participate, your “good” image should be your main submission, and your “messy” image should be in the comments.

As with all my challenges, I’m happy to help offer any assistance or suggestions– feel free to ask. Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PhotoChallenge week 14 – Take a walk on the Wild Side – URBAN NATURE

Here’s our true (NOT APRIL FOOLS) Challenge for Week 14 of the 2017 PhotoChallenge.

Since we’re multiple contributors and many of the challenges focus on different techniques, I think it’s time we apply what we learned to bring out some urban nature photography. Being urban nature, they can include man-made objects as long as the main subject is nature related within an urban / semi-urban or rural area…OUTDOORS.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PhotoChallenge &emdash; Ice flowing on the St-Lawrence River

The above animated GIF (App 36 images) was taken handheld with an Android Phone. You don’t need to be equipped with the fanciest gear and software to complete a PhotoChallenge, you just need imagination and a little inspiration… Going back on all the techniques we’ve encountered this year, you can now apply them to this challenge.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Ice floating away on the St-Lawrence River

I wasn’t there to make an animated GIF, I was there to capture an Infrared Image with a Fisheye Lens to get a unique point of view on the early spring melting of the ice as it flows down the St-Lawrence River. We’ve covered infrared in past challenges and a quick search on our site will provide you with all the helpful tools to accomplish this Challenge in IR, if that is what you want…

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Une petite percée de soleil / Sun peeking through

Nature Parks in Metropolitan areas can offer a unique perspective on Urban Nature. Take advantage of the sun, clouds and other elements to add some drama to your images.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Ospreys in Nest / Balbuzards au nid

At times we create man-made objects to attract and nurture nature in an urban area. Platforms to invite Ospreys to nest are more and more common in Urban Nature settings. You’ll need some far-reaching lens as these platforms are often nestled out of reach to assure a successful nesting season.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Eastern Gray Squirrel Drinking a Fresh Cup of Tim Hortons Coffee!

Squirrels are probably one of the most common encounters of wildlife in our urban areas, they are also very opportunistic feeders making our litter a golden find.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Man Overboard!

Sometimes Nature can swallow up City Folks in one gulp, be ready for the action shot…

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Tiny Planet - Carved Living Room - Salle de séjour extérieure sculptée

We’ve even covered 360 PhotoSpheres and Tinyplanets. These are a great way to show off your findings in an urban nature area.

 

I’ve given you plenty of examples and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be accomplished. It’s important to think through and properly plan what you want to accomplish, or you’ll only be taking a snapshot. A local search on google maps can reveal interesting locations with pictures to document the environment you will find yourself in.

Anything but a VIDEO will be accepted.

Bring what you will need to stabilize your camera I.E. a tripod

Filters to enhance contrast, change light colors, IR, Polariser or ND to slow down your exposures.

If wildlife is what you are after, please be respectful. Successful wildlife photography is only part photography. Observing and understanding the animal you want to photograph is the key. You will need to be patient.

Understanding and educating yourself on both local fauna and flora will keep you and your subject safe. Touching plants as much as wild animals can be unsafe. Never feed wild animals for the purpose of taking a picture.

Your final image should document nature in a world affected by man. Our interactions with nature a much as its interactions with us, where humans live.

 

Our friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

 

 

 

2017 THROWBACK CHALLENGE, WEEK 12 : ARCHITECTURE – WINDOWS LOOKING OUT

Normally this would be a guest challenge but I have yet to organize them for the 2017 PhotoChallenge. I decided to try something new this week, sort of a time warp as we go back in the PhotoChallenge Archives. Not too far, the 2015 Challenge, Week 12 : ARCHITECTURE – WINDOWS LOOKING OUT.

For those of you who participated in the PhotoChallenge back in 2015, it’s a chance to improve and compare your work. For the rest of you, there’s plenty we’ve already covered that you can apply to push your limits and create the ultimate image. From HDR to Portraiture ,this is probably one of the most versatile challenges.

Here we go back in time for the Week 12 of the 2017 PhotoChallenge.

We sometimes think of architectural photography as looking at a building from the outside. A great deal of architectural engineering and design is often invested in giving a look from the inside to the outside. Windows and glass paneling connects us with the outside world, illuminating the indoors and often enhancing its appearance.

Coit Tower City View

Not all windows have glass panes. Many older structures in Europe and the Middle East have but openings carved out of the structure and protected by shutters when necessary. I find it connects us better with the world outside our four walls.

NYC Window View (a la Edward Hopper)

Not all windows give us the dream view we’re all contemplating. For some it’s but the hustle and bustle of urban life. This New York City Hotel Room view is the perfect example.

Pier Window

Even this abandoned building on the peer has a dream view through its industrial windows that are the envy of many Malibu homes.

I'm a young one stuck in the thoughts of an old one's head. (205)

You can add portraiture to your architectural image thus enhancing the sense of being and of welfare.

Breakfast with a View
At times Photo-Realistic HDR techniques of two or more images are needed to fully capture the ambiance of a room. The brightly lit outdoor scene needs to be balanced with the poorly lit view of the room.

Our friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 10: Frame Your Subject

For this week’s composition challenge, we’ll explore creative ways to Frame Your Subject. Framing uses foreground objects to surround the main subject in the background. Doing so draws your eye into the photo, right to the subject. This is a great technique to help create more interesting, memorable photos.

phillytunnel_sm

Philadelphia Tunnel – Eric Minbiole

The shot above uses the tunnel as a frame for the landscape. Not only does it help lead the eye towards the clouds and the landscape, it also gives the picture a much better sense of depth. If this had simply been a picture of the clouds, you might not give it a second look. However, by adding the framing, the photo becomes much more interesting and memorable.

cupcakes_sm

New Year’s Resolutions – Tonya Bender

The photo above is one of my favorite examples of framing. While the cupcakes themselves are beautifully arranged and photographed, it’s the combination of the cupcakes and the surrounding pan that really make this a fantastic photograph.

The framing can be virtually anything. It can be a bit more subtle, like the branches around this deer:

deer_sm

Peek-a-Boo – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

… Or the framing can be more “obvious”, like the literal frame, below:

frameframe_sm

frame – Mario Mancuso

For this week’s challenge, you should frame your subject in an interesting, unusual, or fun way. Your framing can be most anything that you want– Natural, man-made, subtle, or obvious. You are encouraged to get creative and have fun with it!

Optional Twist: As I noted last time, my challenges will include an optional twist. This week’s twist is “Splash of Color“. (Last week, we focused on images that were predominantly red; this week’s twist is the opposite– add a splash of color to an otherwise muted image.) As before, the twist is completely optional. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your photo should still use framing as part of your composition.

Get your camera, and have fun!

Banner Photo: Into the Woods – Eadie Minbiole

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 8: Long Exposures Animated GIF

This may sound a little strange, but it’s as much fun as you can have with a camera, a computer and a little time on your hands. If you let your imagination run wild, there is no limit to what you can create. The foremost objective of this challenge is to produce a unique visual experience to dazzle your 2017 PhotoChallenge Community Members.

4377021589_861f064e35_o-1

The above image by Pedro Belleza is the perfect example of what we’re looking for, an animated GIF with a mix of long exposures. There’s also an added little touch of Tilt-Shifting. Long Exposures have been covered several times in the past ( SEARCH LONG EXPOSURE CHALLENGES ) and animated GIFs as well. ( SEARCH ANIMATED GIF CHALLENGES )

16423617015_f3787d8ab0_o

Since we’re working with light, long exposures are by definition easier to create at night. With a few simple tools you can work your long exposures during daylight hours. We would usually use a Neutral Density filter or a Variable Neutral Density Filter to reduce the amount of light entering the camera through the lens. For those of you who want to avoid the cost of a pricey filter, you can always use a pair of dark sunglasses from the dollar store. Here are some DIY ideas on a GOOGLE SEARCH

deluz

Incorporating Light Painting and many other techniques we’ve covered in the past will help you create your very own unique touch for this PhotoChallenge.

What you will need to create your challenge image :

  • When working with long exposures, a stable tripod is a must. I would also suggest a wired or wireless trigger to make sure the camera doesn’t  move when pressing the trigger.
  • A way to reduce light. A store-bought filter or a DIY project. You will also want to reduce your ISO and close your aperture to increase your exposure times.
  • This will demand a bit of planning for each frame of your animated GIF. You may want to create a little story board to maintain your creative focus throughout your shoot.

When it comes to creating an Animated GIF there are plenty of resources online for which many are free. You can also use Photoshop and other purchased software.

Searching for LONG EXPOSURE ANIMATED GIF on Google will reveal plenty of inspirational images.

Our Friendly Community Guidelines are simple :

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 5: Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year everyone. This should have technically been a guest challenge, all fault of mine, I haven’t had a chance to organize it yet. I apologize to all those who have reached out to be a GUEST CONTRIBUTOR. Truth is I’ve been chasing down Wildlife Criminals (Poachers, Baiters, etc…). This year, Wildlife Agents have been doing a terrific job and we just have to give them the support they deserve.

The great news is, it’s officially the Chinese New Year and it’s my year with the Year of the Rooster 🙂

According to the news, it was the biggest celebration broadcast ever recorded in China with over a billion viewers. I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese culture. The flamboyant displays of colors and animated creatures just fascinate me.

One of my biggest challenges is how do we turn the celebrations into a PhotoChallenge, especially that not everyone will have a Chinese New Year Parade or celebration in their back yard.

Kushida Jinja

This will be a highly interpretive PhotoChallenge giving free liberty to your imagination. There are plenty of associated symbols around, we just need to keep our eyes open.

Hóng Bāo

Every child that has been exposed to a Chinese New Year Celebration is probably very familiar with the little red envelopes.

Rooster 02

Naturally being the year of the ROOSTER, our little feathered friends can take center stage.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: INFRARED - INFRAROUGE &emdash; Chinese Garden - Infrared / Jardin de Chine - Infrarouge

Another great source of inspiration may be your local Botanical Garden. Many Botanical Gardens feature a Chinese Garden that is most probably decorated for this very special occasion.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Chinese Lanterns - Montreal Botanical Garden

Keep an eye out and be on the lookout for displays of Chinese Lanterns. These intricately detailed lanterns are just incredible when photographed at dusk.

China Town Kites

When all else fails, a visit to your local China Town may just give you the inspiration you need.

 

Our Friendly Community Guidelines are Pretty Simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a still image or animated GIF and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

I’m very excited to join the PhotoChallenge team! My theme for this year is “Composition and Technique”, which will focus on some of the fundamentals of photography. I hope that the challenges will be enjoyable for beginners and advanced photographers alike. To that end, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback, I’m happy to listen!

This week’s topic is the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, the Rule of Thirds suggests that you should place your subject off-center (approximately 1/3 from any corner or edge), which results in a balanced, pleasing composition. Let’s dive in to some examples:

crop_coffeeSteaming Coffee – Eric Minbiole

The images above show the same subject, with two different compositions: The upper image has the coffee cup in the center of the image. Note that the composition seems a bit awkward– the steam is cut off on the top, and there’s too much empty space at the bottom. In contrast, the lower image follows the Rule of Thirds, and feels much more balanced: The steam has plenty of space to rise, and the overall image has a more pleasing composition.

Another benefit of the Rule of Thirds is that it can help clarify the subject, especially in case of a landscape shot:

crop_water

The upper image shows a centered horizon. While the water and the sky are both reasonably interesting, it’s hard to tell which is the intended subject of the photo, as both are given the same amount of space in the image. In contrast, the lower image better follows the Rule of Thirds, placing the horizon at the lower third of the image. This helps make it more clear that the sky and clouds are the main focus of the image, since they are given a larger portion (2/3) of the space.

crop_longwood

Longwood Home – Eric Minbiole

Certainly, the Rule of Thirds is not a hard and fast rule. Just like any rule of thumb, there are plenty of times that you can (and should) break it. However, it’s often a very good starting point when composing a subject, and is a technique that every photographer should at least be familiar with. As such, this week’s challenge is to create a photograph that follows the Rule of Thirds.

Optional Twist: Each week, I’ll add an optional twist to the challenge. As the name implies, these are completely optional, and are intended for those looking for a bit of extra difficulty. (Some twists may be harder than others.) This week’s twist is “Toys and Games” — feel free to interpret this in any creative way that you like. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your composition should follow the Rule of Thirds.

Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.