Astrophotography Weekend Workshop

Not many people wake up at 2:30 in the morning and are excited to get up. Add to that, 38º weather, and most people would shudder at the idea of crawling out of bed and stepping foot outside. Well, last month that's exactly what some of our brave students did when they participated in our first ever Astrophotography Weekend Workshop at Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine. The video below will give you a good introduction to how the weekend unfolded.


Over the course of two nights with the guidance of our two instructors, students had the chance to learn, explore, and create. With no past experience in astrophotography, our students ended up capturing these incredible images with their own digital cameras - the Boston Photography Workshops is blown away at the breathtaking images our students created and could not be prouder. This past March's "Weekend Workshop" is the first of many and we look forward to the next one taking place in July 2017. Sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when enrollment is open!  


Student Gallery

A sampling of the amazing work our students created, during the two-night astrophotography workshop. 

 
 

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Have a question or need more information? Drop us a line and we'll be happy to help.

Holiday gifts for the photographer who seems to have everything

If you have a friend who loves taking photos, then this article may be for you! 

1. A goodie bag of essentials

These are the wool socks of gift giving in the camera world--they'll thank you later. You can never go wrong gifting the following items:

  1. Batteries: you can buy the brand name, sure. But you can also get two Wasabi batteries for the price of one brand name. They're just as reliable as any other company. Bonus: Wasabi includes a European adapter (two prong)! [LINK] 

  2. Memory cards and a case: we can never recommend enough Class 10 memory cards. Get a colorful case for your shutterbug as well! [Memory Cards] / [Case]

  3. Filters: these cheap life savers help prevent scratching the surface of a lens. They can really take a hit too. Just a heads up: you need to know what kind of lenses you're dealing with. A safe start is purchasing filters for kit lenses. Here is a youtube video showing you where to find the lens diameter for a filter.

  4. Rocket Air Blasters: this is an oversight to many photographers. This can get any dust specks or stray cat hairs (speaking from experience) out of your sensor as safely as possible. [Link]

 

2. Flash Modifiers / Diffusers

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Maybe the photographer you know has some snazzy gear– like a shoe mounted external flash. You can contribute to their photography game by gifting them a flash modifier. These accessories diffuse direct, harsh light to create a softly lit photo. Our favorites? 

  1. Expoimage Rogue Flashbender (39.95) [Link] 

  2. Gary Fong Major Dome Cloud (49.95) [Link]

 

3. Manfrotto Travel Tripod

This Italian engineered tripod was built to withstand elements with it's carbon-fiber frame. It's intuitively designed with how a photography might use it in mind! It's built to last and relatively light (for a tripod) – It's not wonder why the Manfrotto is a favorite at the BPW. [Link] 

 

4. Peak Capture Camera Clip

Peak Designs are a great company to all types of explorers. Give the gift of convenience with this clip-on camera accessory! [Link] 

 

 

5. A Nifty Fifty a la Burrito 

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Ok– this may be a personal Christmas hint, but what better way would there be to present an essential buy such as the 50mm 1.8 lens with a Photojojo Burrito Lens Wrap?

For more lens recommendations, check out our other article Holiday Buying Guide

 

 

All of the items we recommended can be taught and used in our classes. If you’re still lost on what to give your photographer-friend, then we can safely bet a BPW Gift Certificate will be a memorable gift received. They don’t expire and can be used towards customized private lessons! 

The BPW wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! 

Five Pro-Tips to Capturing the Holidays

1. Map it, draft it, and roll with it

Give yourself “photo assignments” for each event of the holiday season. Otherwise, you might overwhelm yourself with a daunting photo project! Avoid the feeling you’re missing moments by considering these questions: 

  • How can I take photos of loved ones that bring out their personalities? 

  • Can I tell a story with the images I want to make today? What is that story? 

  • What is my lighting situation like? Should I use natural or artificial light, which will look better? (maybe try both!)

Notice how “story” is mentioned a lot. The point of photography isn’t to take an perfectly bright photo, but rather to show the right mood or tone of that moment. Practice making bright and dark photos and see what you like better.  

Photo Assignment examples: 
– A day of portraits of my friends/family.
– A day of candids and/or play.
– A day of documenting how my loved ones prepare food.
– A unique tradition done only this time of year. 

2. Shoot A-plenty

Continuous shooting (or burst) is a setting in your camera that allows a quick succession of photos to be captured in less than a few seconds. This feature isn’t only reserved for wedding or sports photographers!

Take advantage of this life saving feature when shooting family photos (there might be one good photo where everyone’s eyes are open) or capturing the moment a child opens their present. You might need a Class 10 memory card with at least 32 gb of storage for this feature to perform consistently well (Amazon Link). Otherwise, you might find yourself waiting for the images to write onto the memory card. 

Before you shoot in Continuous or Burst: 
– Find consistent lighting so you can have a medium to fast shutter speed. 
– If you can’t find consistent lighting, crank up your ISO. But remember, the higher the ISO; the higher the grain. 
– For group portraits; use a tripod or a stable foundation. You might be at risk of moving and not having consistent framing / composition hand-holding your camera. 

3. Get close and shoot off-center

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Challenge yourself to find something exciting about the mundane. If everyone is laying on the couch and watching football, you can isolate your subject, frame them left or right heavy, and capture their facial expressions. You have the potential of capturing their personality— all while they’re watching television! 

When people are looking at photos— they’re not looking for an impressive or unique subject; they’re looking for a dynamic read. If a subject is dead-center, or they’re far away, it might be difficult to find a photo interesting. So remember: you’re not taking good photos; you’re taking dynamic photos.

Here's an example of a relatively mundane subject made interesting: 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Compositional rules that can make a photo dynamic: 
– Rule of Thirds
– Frame within a frame
– Leading lines 

4. Think "relationship" instead of "subject"

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Sometimes, taking a photo of Grandma standing next to the holiday tree can be a little boring. Consider using one subject to convey the other. Take a photo of Grandma in front of the tree, get close, and have the tree become a backdrop made with an interesting texture and color that only complements her face. 

You can also switch this dynamic. A photo of Grandma’s hand placing an ornament makes the tree the main subject, and her hand a way to convey it. Thinking of subjects in relation to their environment really helps with telling the story you want to make.

What kind of photographs can you make with these everyday situations? 
– A pile of ripped wrapping paper.
– A child playing with their new toy.
– Cleaning up at the end of the day.

5. Don't be afraid to break the rules

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Sometimes, a photo is just a photo. If something catches your eye as a photographer, don't overthink if t it fits with your "style" or the story you're trying to tell. Just take the photo. Who knows! Maybe it does tell a story once you piece everything together in an album.

Five Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Summer Photographs

1. Pay Attention to Light

 
 

In photography, paying attention to light can make all the difference. There are three times a day that can make a moment or subject go from "Okay" to “whoa." 

  • Sunrise: We know, you don’t want to get up that early on your break, but it’s always worth it. If you’re on vacation, this is an ideal time to visit popular spots. 
  • The Golden Hour. This occurs twice a day - right before sunset and right after sunrise. The effect of this kind of lighting gives everything a gold cast and the shadows are drawn out longer. It's called golden hour for a reason! 
  • After Sunset: When people are going to dinner, spend an extra half hour outside to capture the most vibrant, complex colors. 

2. When in doubt, go to "Camera Neutral." 

 
 

We hope that everyone sets up their camera to prepare for their shots, but sometimes a moment happens and then it’s gone! When this happens, it might be worthy to ask to recreate a picture when appropriate.

Previous students know what our method of camera neutral is, but to refresh some of you it’s 1/200, f3.5, ISO 800. This is not a magical solution to photography woes, but it is a good start. After taking a few photos with these settings, you can see what kind of adjustments you need to make. 

3. Get Tripod Friendly

 
 

Even if you plan to shoot without a tripod throughout the day, having one handy might make your summer night. Long exposures (or slow shutter speeds) are needed in a lot of low-light situations, so a stable foundation for your camera to rest on will be required. Once the sun starts setting, you might notice the motion of sparklers or lightbulbs becoming more streaky; you can stop this by attaching your camera to a tripod and setting up wherever needed. 

4. Tell your story

Taking good photographs often doesn’t happen by accident. Some forethought on location, what that location means to you, and what kind of emotion you’d like to bring out in your photo should be your challenge! Contemplate each shot but don’t ignore potential photos because the subject isn’t “interesting” enough. You might have a few keepers. 

5. Get off the beaten path

 
 

Whether you’re revisiting your hometown or exploring a new city or trail, you can still find some hidden gems in those hard-to-reach places. Summer weather creates safer and more predictable conditions that most times of the year cannot guarantee. Take advantage of that and go on some serious photo walks! 

A Beginners Guide to Editing Photos

Why editing is important

 

Editing photos is an amazing thing and it’s arguably my favorite part of photography. In this post I’d like to dispel some myths about editing photos and help students reveal the incredible potential of their photos.

People often compliment my photos and say: “wow, I wish I could make photos like yours, or… (my favorite) You must have an amazing camera!” No! After a great meal, you don’t walk up to a chef and say: “That meal was amazing! You must have an amazing oven!” Cameras don’t just make amazing photos, cameras capture moments, and then photographers help make them amazing by processing them, often referred to as “editing” Think of it as such:

When building a wooden table, you start off with ordinary wood. You measure it, cut it, construct it, put all the pieces together and then it’s done right? Not quite. The table still needs the final touches like sanding and staining. This is where you add your style and finishing touches which gives the table its personality and distinct look. 

Editing photos is part of making photographs. We’re not talking about 3 hours of editing for each picture, we’re not even talking about 10 min per photo. Editing photos can take as little as 30 seconds per photo, and for those who really want to make better photos editing is an essential part of photography.

 
 

What is Editing?

 

So what is editing? Editing or “processing” your photo is simply one of the final steps to making a finished photograph. It’s important to think of it as an actual part of your process, like adding icing to a cupcake. (Seriously, who wants a cupcake without frosting?)

The Boston Photography Workshops wants to help new and experienced photographers make incredible photos. Using editing is a crucial step in that and we want to help make it less confusing. In this post the BPW will introduce students to some basic but fundamental editing terms and tools. These tools will be found in all editing programs, it’s likely that you’ve used them before and just weren’t aware. We’ve selected 5 programs to include in our post but please note there are many programs available which do very similar things and are very helpful.

 

Some popular editing programs

  Left to right: Google Photos, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Pixlr, and Apple's iPhoto

 

Left to right: Google Photos, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Pixlr, and Apple's iPhoto

Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular choices for photo-editing software and is an excellent choice for new photographers. With a simple to use interface and powerful editing tools, Lightroom also helps users start to better organize their photos. Unlike some of the other programs mentioned, LR is not free and must be purchased for $10/month. (We think it's well worth it)

Linked to your Gmail account, Google Photos is a free, browser-based, photo editor which also helps users organize your photos in the cloud. However, it is limited in editing capabilities and feels like a more advanced Instagram. A simple, fun, free program which is useful to learn with, you'll quickly outgrow Google Photos after a few months of photos.

Photoshop is the most powerful editing program available and is solely designed for editing (meaning it is not intended to help organize your photos). A very specialized and surgical-like program, Photoshop has hundreds of editing tools and components which can, (at times) be overwhelming to new photographers. A powerful program, we recommend students start with other editing programs before jumping to Photoshop. (However, Photoshop comes free with your $10/month Lightroom subscription...)

Pixlr is a free online editing program which has two browser-based options which are helpful for new and intermediate photographers. The 'Express' option is for quick fixes and filters while the 'Editor' option lets you work in layers and do more complex edits (similar to Photoshop). However, unlike other programs it cannot handle or process RAW photos. Pixlr is an inexpensive alternative to Photoshop with less features, but more flexibility. 

Apple's 'Photos' is a free, Mac only, desktop based, editing & organizing program. Similar to Adobe Lightroom, "Photos" has an easy to understand user interface which allows you to edit photos quickly. However, 'Photos' does not allow you to chose the way you organize your pictures, but rather you are dependent on its own system of organizing and cataloging. A great way to start editing your pictures, (if you have a Mac) this will serve you well for 1-2 years before you'll need to upgrade.

Editing Terms

 

Cropping / Straightening

Cropping is a very common edit which most people will be familiar with. Here you can trim the photo and decrease how much is seen. This is used when you want to emphasize a part of you photo and remove unnecessary elements from the picture.  In a few of the editing programs this is where you also straighten the image by rotating the image.

When to use: When you want to emphasize an important part of you photo, like a portrait or landscape.

 

 

Exposure / Brightness

 

Brightness and Exposure often refer to the same tool. These tools take the overall tones and values of the photo and brighten or darken them evenly across the image. All values are lifted or lowered in a linear way. 

When to use: When you have dramatically missed the proper exposure in camera (too bright or too dark).

Tip: It's always smart to slightly underexpose when making pictures. When editing those photos utilize this tool by taking your underexposed photo and increasing the exposure to the correct level.

 

                                          Contrast

Contrast is a very powerful tool and a helpful one to enhance the dramatic feel of a photo. Contrast is the separation between light and dark values. So, if you have a lot of contrast you have a lot of light tones and a lot of dark tones, but not many tones in between (like grey). Low contrast is when there are many tones in between light and dark.

When to use: Increase contrast with pictures taken on grey overcast days, or taken in the shade. In very sunny conditions shadows can be harsh, in these situations lower your photos contrast to show more details and lessen shadows. 

Tip: By lowering contrast you can sometimes show more detail in shadow areas.

 

Saturation / Vibrance

The tools: Saturation, Vibrance, and at times, Color, gives the user the ability to increase the intensity of the colors already in the image. This is related to (but not directly the same as) color filters like Instagram, which depending on your program, alter and replace colors in your image instead of using the colors already present.

When to use: when the camera failed to capture the intensity of moment, or if you want to give your photo a color-bump. 

Tip: Decrease saturation 100% to make your photo black and white, then increase contrast to make it pop.

 

Filters / Effects / Color

Color is a powerful thing. Depending on the program you choose, colors can be altered individually or in a ready-made color filter with just a single click (think Instagram). Essentially ready-made filters are two or three editing tools grouped into one, such as: adding contrast, de-saturating color, and adding red to the photo. Some programs like Lightroom and Photoshop do not have these readily available since their programs are aimed at photographers who want to make their own "filtered" look, using individual tools.

When to use: When you want to stylize a photo quickly. Or When you want to give a photo a "mood".

Tip: Decrease the percentage applied to a filter to lessen the "gimmicky" look that these can create. Experiment with several filters and save multiple versions. Review and carefully look at whats happening in each photo. 

 
 

Clarity / Sharpen

 

Clarity and sharpening do exactly as they imply. Enhancing edges and textures of your subject matter, the outcome of this tool is an image that is more pronounced-- so it feels like you just put glasses on. 

When to use: Almost all photos can be improved by modest sharpening. When an image has a lot of details or textures, using this tool can bring out or emphasize those details.

Tip: Along with any other editing processes, using too much of the sharpening / clarity tool can make an image look too grainy or intense.

 

Your Next Step

 

To some, editing can feel like a daunting or scary task to start. Truth is, it’s not. Photography is a multi-layered process which includes editing. Beginners and advanced students alike, we think all levels of photographers should give editing a try. Even if you’re a parent simply taking photos of your family or photos from vacation, editing photos will reveal the amazing potential of your photos. Our studio offers easy and fun classes for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, or we can help learn the editing program of your choice through a private lesson. Even without taking a class we encourage students to try some of the above programs (many have free trials) and experiment with your own photos. 

Thanks so much and please leave comments or questions below!

- BPW Team

 

 

 

 

Snowed in? Not for BPW students.

Ok, we don't mean to brag... but our students are amazing. On Saturday evening in the shadow of storm Jonas, all of the students who signed up for Night Photography for Beginners didn't want to cancel and decided to brave the blizzard. Everyone who took the class agrees that braving the snow storm for beautiful shots was worth it. Our class explored the Faneuil Hall area and took beautiful night time shots of Blizzardy-Boston. Below you'll see our photos of the team in action + photos from the night before. (sans snow) Much thanks to Jacqueline, Jim, and Heather for being the toughest New England students the BPW could ask for! We'll be sharing their photos soon.