Category Archives: Masterclass

Beginner Wedding Photography Mistakes

Credit tonypowell

If your family and friends know that you own a DSLR or advanced compact system camera, the chances are pretty high that at some point you will be asked to be a photographer for weddings. It’s important to be realistic about your capabilities and experience before you commit to shooting a wedding – especially if you are to be paid to do so.

1. Inexperience
Be honest with the couple about your experience and don’t allow anyone to bully you into taking on the job to save money if you are not confident.It’s also important to have the right kit. Ideally you’ll need two decent cameras and a selection of lenses along with a couple of flashguns.What’s more, it’s absolutely crucial that you know your equipment inside out and are confident in using it. A wedding is not the time to be trying a setting for the first time.
If you decide that being the main photographer at the wedding is too big a step, you could always offer to take on the second photographer duties, shooting from alternative angles, getting background shots and duplicating some of the pro’s shots, it’s all good experience.

2. Poor exposure
The bride’s white dress is one of the most important aspects of many weddings and it can be a real headache to photograph correctly; either a mass of bright white with no detail or grubby and grey.  A little underexposure can be corrected post-production but you don’t want to lose detail in dark suits.
An ideal exposure will have detail throughout the tonal range which with the advent of digitl camersa can be quickly checked as well as allowing you to use the camera’s auto exposure bracketing facility to take a sequence of images with different exposures in quick succession without incurring any extra cost.
Another tip is to use your camera’s histogram view and highlights warning and avoid a peak at the end of the scale and burned out areas so you can check and shoot again immediately.

3. Messy background
Check out the venue in advance and identify the perfect location for the essential shots of the couple and their families. A nice, clean background can make a huge difference to a shot, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it needs to be plain or uninteresting.  A doorway or gateway will frame a picture and provide more interest than standing in front of a hedge.

4. Squinting in the sun
If you are able to visit the venue before the wedding it’s well worth doing so at the same time of day as the service as you’ll be able to assess the position of the sun to avoid squinting. As well as a nice background, you are looking for some shade, or rope in someone to hold a large diffuser which will also help avoid harsh shadows.

5. No eye contact
Some candid shots can be “near-miss”; nicely composed but without the essential eye-contact.  You need to make sure you get the couples attention at key points.  If you are shadowing the pro photographer wait your turn.
If you fit a longish lens you can also snap some intimate moments between the bride and groom when they look at each other rather than the camera.

6. Forgetting a shot
If you’re not the official (or semi-official) photographer this isn’t a major issue, but if the couple is banking on you to shoot their wedding for them then you need to make sure you photograph everyone and everything that they are expecting you to.Speak to the bride and groom beforehand and draw up a list of guests and groups that they want to be photographed.
It’s also a good idea to get the name of someone who is responsible for rounding up the various relatives for you; an usher or the best man are your best bets.

7. Equipment failure
It’s essential to double up on all your kit so that if something breaks or fails you have a back-up.  Having two cameras has the added advantage of allowing you to swap quickly between focal lengths without having to change lens.  You can mount a lens on each body and switch quickly.
If you don’t own two cameras or have sufficient overlap of lens focal length, consider hiring (or borrowing) what you need for the day.

8. Messy group shots
Large group shots aren’t especially easy to arrange, first of all you’ve got to herd all the people you need together (and get rid of any unwanted hangers-on), then you’ve got to make sure that everyone is visible, smiling, looking at the camera and not blinking.
Put the most important people towards the centre of the group around the bride and groom and have the taller one’s towards the back of large groups.
Bring a stepladder and tall tripod, or find a high vantage point for shooting very large groups.  Something noisy to attract attention is also useful!  Take a few shots of each group in the hope of getting everyone looking as you want in at least one, but be prepared to do a little post-production compositing.

9. Forgetting the details
Don’t forget the shots that tell the full story of the day.
Photograph the incidentals that the bride will have spent a long time choosing; the table decorations, menus, place-names and flowers for example, as well as the wedding cake and the odd glass of champagne.
Try to compose the shots as you would a normal still life or macro shot to create images that the bride and groom will want in their album rather than take straight record shots.

10. Shooting JPEG files
Give yourself the best chance of great shots with the maximum amount of data available when editing images to correct any issues with exposure, colour and white balance.  Shoot RAW. Paul Craig – “Sure you can shoot JPEG files at the same time, but shoot raw files to get you out of trouble.”

Composition – how to take professional looking pictures

Taking beautiful photographs is something that a lot of people wish they could do. Funny thing is that you don’t have to be a professional photographer in order to make that happen.  Just  follow a few simple tips and soon you too can have better looking pictures that your friends and family will admire.

Firstly, be sure your photo has a solid focal point.  Without a good focal point your photographs will end up looking empty, leaving the eye with nowhere to rest.  Your viewers will be more appreciative of a photo that has a clear focus.  With portraits the focal point is most likely to be your subject, but with landscapes or wider shots, it can be less obvious.  Maybe a tree or a small building within your landscape will draw the eye. framing your photo, remember that you don’t always need to place your subjects directly in the centre of the photograph.  This is known as the “Rule of Thirds”.  In reality this is actually the rule of ninths, because you are envisioning your photo space divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Try to place your subject to the left or right, top or bottom, instead of dead centre in the picture. This will make the viewer’s eyes move around the image instead of staring straight into it and provide a more artistic finish.  In this image of White Wells Ilkley the photographer has placed the focal point of the building top left, drawing the eye across from the rising sun. However remember that many cameras will automatically focus on what ever is in the middle, so you will need to adjust this accordingly.

In some instances you will find that placing your subject dead centre and thereby breaking the rule of thirds provides the most dramatic impact.

While we are considering the rule of thirds, it is worth mentioning symmetry.  Pay attention to the symmetry in your pictures. A picture that is supposed to be symmetrical but isn’t, will immediately look wrong so make sure you’re standing in the dead centre of a symmetrical object if you are trying to create a symmetrical composition.

Don’t forget to change the orientation of your shots, some portrait and some landscape.  It may give you a completely different result than you expect and make your pictures stand out from the crowd.

Develop your creative vision. You can make an object from your everyday life look interesting if you know how to adopt a point of view that differs from what everyone sees. You can use your imagination to show usual objects in original settings or outside of their everyday use. Look at the world with a different point of view. So, remember to look for unusual things. It can either be a small detail or a strange situation. Learn how to represent what strikes you as unusual or original in the world you see.

As you practice and develop your skills, you will develop a feel for what makes a good subject for your pictures.  Get views from different angles of the subject or scene that you are shooting. Many amateurs will not take the time to move around the subject to find the best angle, if you do, you’ll find there are many different photos to be taken of one subject.

Try being selective when taking your photos. Find exactly what you want in that photo, and remove anything else from the shot. If you’re trying to take a picture of a flower, you don’t want a bunch of other flowers or trees in the shot. Get as close and focused on the subject as possible to get the best possible photo.  Move in closer to your subject, then move in closer and take a better shot. If you have your subject fill the frame, it will help the viewer appreciate and understand your photo. When taking the picture, continue to move closer until you are sure your picture will represent the subject.

Also don’t forget to pay careful attention to backgrounds when composing your photographs. Jumbled, messy rooms can ruin an image and prevent your subject from standing out. Also, even the smallest item within range of the snapshot can be a distraction, taking away from the central focus. Always make a quick scan of the room or landscape, then remove items that will detract from an otherwise perfect shot.

One final thought – theres no such thing as too many photos!.  In this digital age, don’t worry about taking too many pictures as this can often help you to capture surprising and unexpected images. You can always delete any of the pictures that you do not like,  but make sure you’re memory card is big enough.

So just a few basic tips to improve the composition of your pictures and help you take professional looking pictures every time.

Masterclass: Creating memorable Holiday Videos

credit manoel neto

credit manoel neto

Everyone wants to be a great director when they get behind the camera. There is a strong urge to tell people what to do, where to stand, and how to act. Try to avoid that tendency as you film your family’s holiday events. Instead, take a back seat to the action. That is not to say that you can’t manipulate some of the events, but let the actions of your guests and family tell your story rather than giving them direction or even a script to tell your story.

Start simple and keep it that way

Set up the story with the arrival of friends and family. Ask them to introduce themselves and how they are related or close to the family. This makes it easier for those older family who may have difficulty remembering faces and names. It will also help years down the road when you may not remember yourself who everyone is in your story.

If you want it to be more interactive, ask questions of your subjects or ask them to share a memory of their favourite holiday. If you have a small camera, video activities on the sly and piece it together later to get more candid video. Some people are camera shy or freeze up when a camera is pointed their way. Of course, you can check out how the pro’s do it – go to

Family Traditions are precious

Each family has its own traditions. When families blend through marriages traditions change or new ones are made. Keep a video record of those traditions. If your family enjoys a game on the field nearby, take your camera to record the game. If the youngest child is the one designated to put on the final decoration, show that child’s honoured role in the family. Everyone wants to be a star, but no one will appreciate it as much as a child in their special moment.

Respect everyone as you create your video

As mentioned before, some people are camera shy. If a family member or guest would prefer you not include them on the video, you should respect their wishes. You should also respect the special times when family gathers at the dinner table or attends church ceremonies. It may be best to put down the camera and simply participate in the event yourself.

As a burgeoning filmmaker you may want to play with your camera by getting close ups, or playing with the lens to create interesting cinema effects. Sadly, the only effect you will get is close ups of people’s noses and eyes, or your viewers may become ill with the lens changes and “wacky” effects you attempt. Instead, save special effects for the editing stage. You will find plenty of editing ability with various computer programs so that you can get those fun effects to make the film visually interesting.

Most importantly, have fun!

If you find that you are not getting into mix and enjoying the fun you see through the viewfinder, it’s perfectly alright to put down the camera and join in. You can also hand over the camera to get into the scenes that look like fun. Some of the greatest producers and directors also starred in their own films. You can be a star in your film, too.

Masterclass: Editing Family Videos

You and your family have returned from an exciting vacation and now you are ready to check out the videos you made of beautiful scenes at the beach at sunset, a fun day at an amusement park, or a weekend caravan trip. The image on the screen is seldom as lovely as you remember it through your viewfinder, is it? The images jump about, the lighting is too dim, and for heaven’s sake, someone forgot to take off the lens cap! You may lower your head and resolve to do a better job next time. You may even think you are now stuck with the results of this family trip. But, hold on now, you can fix these errors with a lot of patience and a little bit of know-how.

How to get started editing your family video.

You will need to download a VHS to DVD converter software program into your computer. There are free ones available online. In many cases the free version is rather basic and is intended as an introduction to encourage users to purchase a higher level program with more “bells and whistles.” Once you have a program installed, you will need to use the cords provided with your camcorder to attach it to your computer to transfer your VHS to DVD. Granted, most people do not use VHS anymore, electing to use a digital recorder, there are older VHS tapes out there that one may wish to improve through editing with computer software.

After you import or capture your video to your program, you will need to save it. Use the highest quality option available. If this will take up a great deal of your hard drive’s memory, elect to save a portion at a time. Make the conversion of that part to DVD (use DVD-R or DVD+R, not rewriteable DVDs) and then delete from the hard drive before saving another part of your video and work that way until the task is completed. Caution: Always check your converted material before deleting from your hard drive to assure everything transferred properly.

Now that your video is in DVD form, here is the fun part.

Most software programs separate into scenes so that you can manipulate them anyway you choose. For example, you may want to show the kid’s events first, and then show the adult’s activities separately. Or perhaps you want to start with the last beach sunrise and work backwards to the start as the family is packing for its adventure.

The best part of being able to edit your video is being able to delete the scenes where the feet are mistakenly being filmed or a wasted period of time is filmed with the lens cap on. Perhaps a child got a hold of the camera and filmed a shaky scene you would rather not see. It is not unheard of for a camera to have had poor lighting as it is moved from indoors to outdoors. The result is a bright indoor scene, and then when the scene moves outdoors the picture is too dark to see anything. Software will enable you to improve the quality of the lighting. Evening scenes can be rather creepy if the people in the scenes appear to have bright eyes or red eyes. You can use the program to fix those creepy eyes.

Adding Special Effects to your family video.

One of the fun things you can do as you edit your family video is add effects to it. You can add titles between scenes, use a fade to black to transition between activities, or add colour borders and trimmings. You can add a spark of humour with “thought bubbles” or add dialogue in script much like the silent films of the olden days.

No longer do you have to endure family videos that don’t tell the story as you remembered it. You can create a video that will be a match to the memory and share that joy with those you love. It just takes a lot of patience and a little bit of know-how.

Video Editing Software

Credit: Andrzej Pobiedziński

Credit: Andrzej Pobiedziński

In this day and age family videos seem like major productions. In the old days a camera shot of the happy couple cutting a cake or running out of the church under a spray of rice at a wedding was more than enough to commemorate the big day. In our current times, for most cases, the brides want a video to show every event leading up to the wedding: selecting the dress, choosing the décor, menu and cake for the receptions, and so on. Every event must be recorded for posterity.

A well-off bride may be able to hire a professional to do all the work. However, due to the quality of video/digital camcorders and the ease with which people can use video editing software, even the well-off bride can simply have a family member film the events and later edit the events herself.

As software creators become savvier about consumer use of their programs they have realised that making the process more interactive is a good way to get more people to use their products. This is particularly true regarding video editing software with the advent of social media and video sharing websites. As more people wish to share their videos, software designers are eager to provide programs everyone can use.

Beginner’s luck with free software.

If you want to try using video editing software on a budget, you will be delighted to find that you can easily find such software available for free online. Lightworks provides an easy, interactive program for beginners to test their mettle. The user interface helps the beginner understand how to use the software to edit their video. The tools are easy to use and you can create real-time video effects.

WeVideo is a cloud-based editing software.  The designers provided an easy to use drag and drop method for editing so that you don’t have to understand how it works. Instead, you simply apply the effects you want with a click of the mouse. Afterward, you can share your effort on various social networks. The basic program is free. If you like the simple structure, you can get the advanced version by upgrading to different paid plans.

Intermediate skills to make you look like a pro.

You can search online for higher level video editing software. We looked for the ones that a beginner can advance to after they have gained some better understanding of the technology and the language of editing.  Now that you know more, you will find that simple methods and simple features just don’t do the job you wish to accomplish.

Adobe Premiers Elements is a great professional grade software that an intermediate user can enjoy. This editing software will enable you to:

·       Add animation to your work

·       Include video and visual transitions beyond “fade” and “turning the page.”

·       Correct colours that did not film correctly due to lighting or other issues.

·       Drag and Drop effects that are a step up from the basics.

·       Direct capture from camcorder and DVD burning.

Pinnacle Studio 16 is another great professional grade software that is available online. This software includes:

·       3D editing technology

·       Animation effects

·       Better video and audio transitions

·       Green Screen

Cyberlink is yet another more advanced video editing software a savvier filmmaker can enjoy using. It does much the same things as the above programs. The one feature that is interesting is the ability to add subtitles, which would be a boon for foreign language when visiting another country, or to provide dialogue for deaf viewers, or to provide a fun silent film experience.

There are other beginner and intermediate video editing software available both on and offline. These are mentioned to show you what you can do with your home video that you may not have thought of before. All of them offer either a free, basic version or a free trial download so that one can test them before making a purchase.