Freeze the action photography challenge

5 minute photography challenge – freeze the action

No matter where you are on your photography journey, taking 5 minutes now and then to focus on one particular element can help you either really start to understand that particular aspect, or help get your creativity flowing again.

This particular challenge focuses on shutter speeds, and will hopefully help beginners understand how different shutter speeds can either freeze or blur movement.

And if you’re familiar with all the technicalities of shutter speeds, then this little challenge will hopefully spark your creativity as you look around for different moments in your life to capture.

So, here’s the challenge. 

Grab your camera and freeze the action.

 

If you’re new to photography and aren’t entirely sure what shutter speed is and how you can change it to create different types of photos, then take 10 minutes to read my ‘all about shutter speed‘ blog post and then come back here to try this challenge.

It’s a really simple challenge, but it’ll help with understanding shutter speed if you’re just starting to get your camera off auto, and it’s also a fun creative challenge if you’ve been taking photos for years and are feeling stuck in a bit of a rut.

 

The challenge is to freeze the action of your children playing.

It’s up to you what activity you want to photograph, but make it something that involves a decent level of movement.  This is a great challenge to try at the park where you can have a go at freezing the action as your child explores all the different play areas.

 

All you have to do is put your camera on shutter priority mode and set it to a nice, fast shutter speed.

The exact shutter speed you use will depend on the light conditions you’re taking photos in, but somewhere around 1/250 to 1/500 will  be good.  When you use shutter priority mode the camera will select the other settings for you, so your photos should be nicely exposed without you needing to do anything else.

 

Then let your child run and play as you snap away.

You’ll need to be careful with your focus as your child moves around, and it’s up to you if you want to set your camera to auto focus or if you prefer to select a focus point yourself.  Don’t worry if a fair few of your photos aren’t in focus, that’s the beauty of digital photography, you can take a whole series of pictures and choose the best ones to keep at the end.

If you do head to the park for this challenge, here are some ideas for moments you can try and capture:

  • Climbing up the steps or rope ladder up to a slide
  • Coming back down the slide
  • Laughing as they go back and forth on the swings
  • Simply running from one end of the play park to the other
  • Swinging on the monkey bars
  • Sliding down the fireman’s pole

 

You can, of course, try out this challenge anywhere you want. 

If you’re out for a walk you can try photographing them running towards you, or jumping in autumn puddles.

And if you live somewhere near the water you can get some great action shots of them throwing pebbles into the water, like this one I took of Nerys in our local woods a few years ago.

 

Have a think about the things your child likes to do that involves movement and action, and then give this challenge a go and see if you can freeze the moment with a fast shutter speed.

Don’t worry about the photos being perfect, just have fun getting to grips with adjusting your shutter speed and understanding how a fast shutter speed lets you capture so much detail of that one moment in time.

Just like with the 5 minute aperture challenge, there are no right or wrong ways to do this.

If you try a shutter speed of 1/250 and you’re still getting motion blur in your photos, then gradually increase the shutter speed until you find you’re getting the nice, crisp, frozen-in-time moments you’re after.

Above all though, have fun with it!

How to photograph your family and life - All about shutter speed

How to photograph your family and your life – All about shutter speed

If you’re looking to learn a bit about photography, to be able to take photos of your family that you’re proud of, and finally get your camera off auto mode, then you’re in the right place.

This post is part of a series that will give you the basics you need to feel more comfortable with your camera.  The series will give you the information in a way that’s (hopefully!) easy to understand, as well as suggesting ideas to try out to put your new skills into practice as you go.

Each post in the series will focus on a different aspect of photography, so you can get to grips with one thing before moving on to the next.

This time the focus is on shutter speed.

 

In a previous post in this series I explained about aperture, and how we can use it to control how much light enters the camera.

The other setting we can use to control this is shutter speed.

Shutter speed is, basically, the speed at which the camera’s shutter opens and closes again.

In photography shutter speeds are measured in seconds/fractions of seconds.  Each camera is different, but shutter speeds often range from a slowest possible speed of 30 seconds to a fastest possible speed of 1/4000.

 

A faster shutter speed means the shutter opens and closes really quickly, and this means less light gets into the camera.

On a bright, sunny day you’ll most likely want to use a fast shutter speed to stop your photos being overexposed.

A fast shutter speed also lets you freeze movement, which is so useful when you’re trying to photograph life with children who never sit still.

This photo of Nerys on the beach was taken with a fast shutter speed.  This meant the photo was nicely exposed and not blown out, even though it was a really bright, sunny day at the beach.

Using a fast shutter speed also froze the action of the water pouring out of the spade.  You can see lots of individual drops of water, rather than them all blurring together.

 

On the flip side of this, a slow shutter speed means the shutter opens and then closes again slowly, so much more light is let in to the camera.

This can be useful if you’re taking photos in low light conditions and don’t want your pictures to be really underexposed.

The main issue with using a slow shutter speed is that it’s really hard to hold a camera steady for anything more than a fraction of a second.  So the slower the shutter speed you use, the more likely you are to need to use a tripod to keep the camera still to avoid shaky images.

Where a fast shutter speed lets you freeze movement in your photos, a slower shutter speed lets you capture really lovely motion blur.

This can create some really beautiful, creative images of things like waves coming in at the beach, or water flowing down a river.

This photo used a slow shutter speed and you can see how the water moving over the rocks is really soft, and almost misty.

 

How to adjust shutter speed

So now you know a bit about what shutter speed is, you need to know how to adjust it on your camera.

The controls can look slightly different depending on what camera you have, so it’s worth digging out your manual for this.

You might need to go into a digital menu setting, or there might be a dial on the top of your camera that lets you select different settings.

On my Nikon there’s a dial that looks like this:

 

If I want to be able to adjust the shutter speed then I would select either manual mode or shutter priority mode.

When you’re just getting started it’s best to go for shutter priority mode.

With this setting you can just adjust the shutter speed and the camera will automatically select the other settings for you to create the right exposure for the light conditions.

Once you’ve put the camera into shutter priority mode you can change the shutter speed by moving the dial on your camera.  This dial will normally be on the top or the back of your camera, but again if you’re not sure which dial to use take a look in your manual to find out.

When you’re ready to take a picture, decide what you want the image to look like.

If you want to freeze the action of your toddler running around, then set the camera to a fast shutter speed like 1/250.  Or if you want to take a creative photo of the water rushing into the moat around a sandcastle they’ve built at the beach, then choose a slower shutter speed like 1/30.

 

So, now it’s time to start putting things into practice.

Here are some ideas for things to try with your camera on shutter priority mode to help get to grips with how it works and the different effects you can achieve by adjusting your shutter speed.

 

Take your camera to the park

If your children are under the age of about 11, you probably spend a fair bit of time at the park with them.  And this is a great place to practice taking photos with fast shutter speeds, because there’s so much movement and action to have fun freezing in time.

With your camera on shutter priority mode set a nice, fast shutter speed of around 1/250 and then follow your child around as they play.

It can take a fair bit of practice to get the focus right, but keep at it and you can get some beautiful shots of them on the slides, see-saws and swings.

Get out the bubbles

If you don’t want to venture beyond your front door to practice, then let your child loose with some bubbles in the garden and have a play around photographing the action.

You can get so many different images just in the space of a few minutes with a bottle of bubbles, and it’s such a classic childhood activity to capture.

If you select a fast shutter speed you’ll be able to freeze the movement of the bubbles as they float through the air.

Depending on where you focus your camera the bubbles can be the main feature of the photo or a layer of interest around your child.

You could then also have a play around with slower shutter speeds, and see what creative effects you can produce with the bubbles.

 

Hopefully this post has given you a great start in understanding shutter speed and how you can play with it to freeze the action of your busy family life or to show movement by including some motion blur in your photos.

 

If you have any questions please do leave me a comment and I’ll try my best to help!

wide aperture challenge

5 minute photography challenge – shoot wide open

Whether you’re just starting to learn about photography or have been snapping away for years and want something to get your creativity flowing again, this fun 5 minute photography challenge is for you.

If you’re just beginning and want to put what you’re learning about aperture into practice, then this quick challenge will help you really understand the effect shooting with a wide aperture can have on your photos.

And if you’re familiar with all the technicalities then this little challenge will hopefully get you looking around you with fresh eyes and feeling inspired again.

So, here’s the challenge. 

Grab your camera and shoot wide open.

 

If you’re new to photography and aren’t sure what that means, it’s basically opening up your lens’ aperture as wide as it’ll go.

So if you have a kit lens on your camera it might be f/3.5, and if you have a prime lens it might be closer to f/1.8.

If you’re serious about improving your photography you might want to think about getting a prime lens if you don’t already have one.  The ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm lens is a great place to start, it was the first prime lens I bought and I still love it now.

Whatever lens you have, set the aperture to its widest setting, which will be the smallest f number available.  Remember, the smaller the f number, the wider the aperture.

And a wider aperture means more light gets into the camera, and the depth of field in the image will be smaller.  So only the main subject of the image will be in focus and the rest of image is soft and blurred.

 

Now here’s the challenge.

Set your camera to the widest aperture possible, either using aperture priority mode or manual mode if you’re comfortable with adjusting all the different settings.

Then find something or someone to photograph and see if you can take 5 different photos of them in 5 minutes.

When you’re keeping the aperture wide open you’ll need to pay close attention to where your focus point is, and changing that each time, along with changing your position and distance from your subject, will help you create the different images.

So lets say you choose to photograph your baby.

Here are some photos you could take in the 5 minutes:

  • Front-on close up of their face, focused on their eyes
  • Close up detail shot of their little fingers holding on to something
  • The same shot of fingers holding on to something, but from further away and at a slightly different angle
  • Shot from above as they sit, focused on their eyelashes or the swirl of hair on the top of their head
  • Slightly off-centre head and shoulders image, focused on the eye closest to the camera
  • Detail shot of a part of their clothing, like a fun bit of embroidery

 

The challenge is all about finding ways to create different images of the same subject, using the same wide aperture.

You’ll need to get creative and think about finding different features to focus on, changing your distance from the subject and moving around and shooting from different angles and perspectives.

There are no right or wrong ways to do this.  If something doesn’t work, then move on and try a slightly different angle or focal point.

Above all though, have fun with it!

All about aperture

How to photograph your family and your life – All about aperture

If you want to learn a bit about photography, get your camera off manual mode and take photos of your family and your life that you can be proud of, then you’re in the right place.

This series of posts will give you the basics you need to feel more confident with your camera, in a way that’s (hopefully) easy to understand, with ideas for putting new skills into practice as you go.

Each post will focus on a different aspect of photography, so you can get to grips with one thing before moving on to the next.

This time the focus is on aperture.

 

There are 2 main reasons you would need to adjust the aperture when you’re taking photos.

The first is to adjust the amount of light coming into the camera.

A lens’s aperture is a set of blades that open and close to let more or less light in to the camera.

Think of it like an eye.

The pupil dilates (opens up) to let more light in when it’s dark, and gets smaller to reduce the amount of light coming in to the eye when it’s bright.  The aperture in your camera’s lens does the same thing.

When it’s dark you want to use a wide open aperture to let more light in.  And when it’s nice and bright you can use a smaller aperture to reduce the amount of light coming in, so your photos don’t end up overexposed.

The only thing that gets a bit confusing is the fact that aperture is also referred to as ‘f stops’ which are numbered, but the numbers are back to front.

So a high f number, like f/14, is for a small aperture.  And a low f number, like f/2.8, is for a large aperture.

Don’t worry too much about it for now though.  Just remember that the higher the number, the smaller the hole, and the less light there is getting into the camera.  And vice versa, the lower the number, the bigger the hole, and the more light there is getting into the camera.

 

 

The other reason you would need to adjust your aperture is to change the depth of field in your photos.

Depth of field is basically the amount of an image that is in focus.

A shallow depth of field is where only a small amount of a photo is in focus, while the rest is blurry.  While a photo with a deep depth of field will have pretty much everything in focus.

You can control the depth of field by changing the lens’s aperture.

A wide open aperture (low f number) will give you a shallow depth of field.

The photo below was taken at f/1.8, which is as wide open as the lens on my camera will go.

I set my camera to focus on the child in the yellow and green top.  See how that figure is in focus, but all the elements that are in front of it and behind it are soft and blurry.

That’s the effect you get with a shallow depth of field.

 

This next photo, on the other hand, was taken at f/9 which is a much smaller aperture.

I focused on the same child again, but you can see that more of the photo is in focus, and the things that aren’t are still clearer to make out than in the first picture.

 

So now you have an idea of what aperture is, you need to know how to adjust it on your camera.

The controls can look different on each camera, so you might need to dig out your manual for this.

You might need to go into a menu setting, or there might be a dial on the top of your camera that lets you select different settings.

On my Nikon there’s a dial that looks like this:

 

You can adjust the aperture by selecting either manual mode or aperture priority mode.

When you’re just getting started with learning about aperture, it’s best to go for aperture priority mode.

With the camera in this setting you can adjust the aperture and the camera will then automatically select the other settings for you to create the right exposure for the light conditions.

You normally change the aperture by moving the dial on your camera, on mine the dial is at the back of the camera, at the top, so I can adjust it with my thumb.  Again, if you’re not sure how to adjust the aperture on your camera, dig out your manual and have a go at changing it a few times to get used to how it works.

 

Right, now it’s time to start putting things into practice.

Here are some ideas for things to try with your camera on aperture priority mode to get to grips with how it works and the effects you can achieve by adjusting your aperture.

 

Start with something stationary

The ultimate goal might be to take great photos of your family, but when you’re learning a new skill it’s quite often best to start with something that doesn’t move.

And doing this exercise might also get you thinking of ways you can photograph your family’s life without actually photographing your family.

Think about something that your child has a little collection of.  It might be the toy cars that they love pushing around the floor, or the set of Peppa pig books they ‘read’ over and over again.  Think about the things that make up the fabric of your life right now.

The bottles lined up on the kitchen counter.  The playmobil people dotted around the house like borrowers.  The make up brushes and products left in the bathroom by your teenager.

Whatever it is, grab a selection of them and line them up somewhere in your house that has a nice amount of natural light.

Then start by setting your aperture so it’s as open as it can be (so the f number is as small as possible with the lens you have).  Chose your focal point and take a few photos of your collection.

Then adjust the aperture so it’s much narrower (a higher f number), and see how different the photos look.

In this photo of reels of thread I used a wide aperture, so only the red and orange threads are in focus and the rest get more and more blurry across the image.

Being able to adjust the aperture like this lets you have so much creative control over the photos you take.

If you want a photo that clearly shows all 5 of the coloured cars that your child plays with, then you want to set a smaller aperture to get them all nicely in focus.

But if they have a favourite car that you want to highlight in the photo, then you can select a wider aperture and set the focus point on that particular car so it’s nice and sharp and the others are softer.

 

Hide the mess (or embrace it)

Another time you might want to have things in the background a bit blurry is when that background is your messy, cluttered house.

If you want the focus of your photo to be on your child, and not all the ‘stuff’ behind them, then try using a wide aperture and setting the focus point on them.

In this photo I wanted the focus to be on Nerys’ little fingers playing with the play dough, and her facial expression.  You can still make out the rest of the room behind her, but because it’s soft and blurry you’re not distracted by it.

 

Sometimes though, you want to include all that ‘stuff’ in your photos.

So often I think we edit the life out of our photos by cutting out all the clutter, when really all the bits and pieces in the background are what will bring back so many memories when we look at the photos in the future.

Try taking some photos at home with a smaller aperture, so the whole room is in focus, no matter how messy it feels to you right now.  In a few years time you’ll love looking at the pictures and spotting all the things that have changed.

One little trick though, these kinds of photos can look a lot better in black and white!

This photo of me and Nerys in our kitchen is a brilliant snapshot of our life at that time.  Her height in comparison to the kitchen counter.  The bottles waiting on the work surface.  The slow cooker sitting in the spot that’s now being filled by our toaster.

None of it’s pretty, but I love how the photo takes me back to those toddler days at home.

 

Use a wide aperture to focus on the details

Our children change so much over the years, taking photos of the little details and changing features is so important (in my opinion!).

Things like their big eyes and long eyelashes.  Their tiny fingers and toes.  Even the pictures and details on your favourite items of clothing that you dress them in.

Using a wide aperture to focus on these details and let the rest of the image be soft and blurry is a brilliant way to capture the things you really want to remember.

In my case, I always loved seeing Nerys’ double crown as her hair first grew in.  The way her hair swirled from the two distinct points always made me smile.

So I took a few photos from above her, with the focus on the top of her head.  Using a large aperture brings the focus to her double crown while the rest of her body is soft and blurry.

So think of the details and features you want to capture and try photographing them with a wide aperture to really get the photo focused on them.

For you it might be the first few teeth peeping through your baby’s gums, or your child’s gappy smile when those same teeth first fall out.

Whatever they are, have fun playing around with aperture to create photographs of those details that you’ll love in years to come.

 

Hopefully this post has given you a great start in understanding aperture, and the ideas of how to use it to capture your family life have got you excited to pick up your camera and get creative.

If you have any questions please do leave me a comment and I’ll try my best to help!

 

Tips for an amazing autumn photo walk

Top tips for an amazing autumn photo walk

One of the things I’ve noticed this year is how being forced to slow down and take time out from our normal routines has meant I’ve really noticed the different seasons coming and going.

It was amazing heading out for family walks back in the spring and seeing the cherry blossom appearing on the trees at the bottom of our hill.  Each time we walked past them there seemed to be more and more, until finally the trees were bursting with beautiful pink blossom.

Now we’re into autumn and there is so much change happening in nature again.

Which makes it a great time of year to head out with a camera on a photo walk.

 

If you’ve not heard of a photo walk before, it’s basically just what it sounds like.  It’s where you go on a walk and photograph things that catch your eye.

You can stick to a theme during your walk or let yourself be inspired by the things you see along the way.

I really love having a theme to work to, to keep me focused on looking out for certain things and to push my creativity a bit to find different ways to photograph things to fit the theme.

An autumn theme to a photo walk is brilliant because there are so many things you can take pictures of that fit the theme.

 

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas for things to look out for and to photograph:

  • Acorns
  • A red leaf
  • An orange leaf
  • A yellow leaf
  • Different coloured leaves on the trees
  • Water
  • Reflections of autumn colours
  • Conkers
  • Spider webs covered in dew
  • Frosty grass
  • Boots surrounded by fallen leaves
  • Sun shining through the trees
  • Flowers
  • Berries on the trees
  • Little hands in mittens
  • Bobble hats

 

You don’t need any special kit to go on a photo walk.

Don’t be put off if you don’t have a big fancy camera, you can do this with your phone if that’s all you have.

There are some things to think about though, to really get the most out of your walk.

 

Check the weather

Have a think about the types of photos you want to take and make sure the weather conditions are right before you head out.

If you want to get photos of gorgeous autumn leaves against a bright blue sky, then obviously you can’t do that on a day that’s overcast.  So either plan your photo walk for a day when the conditions are right, or have a few ideas for photos you can take in different types of weather and adapt your plan to the conditions on the day you head out.

On a grey day you might not get those bright blue sky photos, but you could get some gorgeous misty shots instead.

 

 

Look up and look down

As you’re walking make a point of looking around in all directions.

Look up at the beautiful colours of the leaves on the trees, and look down at the pieces of nature that have fallen to the ground.

 

Include some people in your photos

If you’re out with your family for the photo walk then try and include them in some of your photos.

You could photograph the top of your toddler’s head if they’re wearing a cute little bobble hat.

Or lean back and take a photo of you and your child holding hands while wearing your warm gloves.

Another classic autumn photo is of feet standing in a pile of leaves.  This is a great way to get yourself in photos too, as you can just look down and photograph your own feet.

 

Look for reflections

If you want to add some more interest to your compositions then look for reflections on your walk.

At this time of year there’s a good chance there’ll be puddles on the ground, so get down low and see if you can photograph autumn leaves reflected in the water.

You can also try photographing autumn colours reflected in windows, and even in sunglasses if it’s a bright sunny day.

 

Hopefully these tips and ideas have inspired you to grab your camera, wrap up warm and head out for a photo walk to capture all the beautiful things autumn has to offer.

Have you ever been on a photo walk before?

What do you most enjoy looking out for on walks at this time of year?

Photograph your family and your life - getting started

How to photograph your family and your life – getting started

I’ve always loved photography.

I think a lot of it comes from being a sentimental person.  I just love how powerful photographs are, how they can take you right back in time to the moment they were taken.  How they can bring memories flooding back that would otherwise be lost forever.

I remember having point and shoot cameras when I was younger, and waiting weeks for the films to be developed and for the prints to arrive in the post.  I remember wanting to learn more about photography, to understand the technical side of how it all worked, to be able to take better and better pictures.

It took me years to get up the courage to do it though.

Something about all the terms I didn’t understand, and the numbers that meant nothing to me, put me off.  Maybe I thought learning the technical side of things would take the fun and creativity out of the whole thing.

If you feel the same way, and want to finally learn a bit more about photography so you can start to take photos of your family and your life that you’re really proud of, then I’m hoping this series of posts I have planned will help.

 

I’ve got a whole load of posts planned, covering all the basics you need to know to get your camera off auto and to start understanding all the different elements of taking a good photo.

The format might change a bit from post to post, but basically there’ll be the technical bit where I’ll explain what aperture, for example, is.  I’ll make it as simple to understand as possible, so it’s not at all scary for complete beginners.

Once the theory is out of the way I’ll give you some ideas for photos you can take to put it into practice.

I know I learn best when I actually DO something, so I hope you’ll stick around, pick up your camera and give some of the ideas a go.

This series of posts is mainly aimed at parents who want to learn more about photography so they can capture more of their family life, so hopefully the ideas and prompts will get your creativity flowing too and have you taking photos to add to your family albums straight away.

 

You’ll need a camera that lets you shoot in manual mode to get the most out of these posts, but that can be a compact camera or a digital SLR.

The first proper post in the series will be on the blog next week and will be all about aperture.

For now though, go and grab your camera.  And if you have it, get the instruction manual for it too.

Then spend a bit of time getting to know how the controls work.

Find out how to put the camera in ‘aperture priority’ and ‘shutter priority’ modes, as well as full manual mode.  Don’t worry about what these modes do at the moment, just work out which dials to turn to set them.

And that’s it.

The fun really starts soon, I hope you’ll come back and stick with me and enjoy learning how to photograph your family and your life.

#ShowYouWereThere round up

Show You Were There – August round up

It’s Sunday, it’s very nearly the end of the month, and it is time for another #ShowYouWereThere round up!

If you’ve not heard of it before it’s my little Instagram community for people to share photos that feature them (or their partners) in some way.  It’s all about getting more parents in more photos, for both them and their children.

At the end of each month I pick 4 photos that have been shared with #ShowYouWereThere to include in these round ups.

 

My first pick for this month is this wonderfully summery photo from Stacey in the sticks.

It’s just the kind of picture I need to see to help me hold on to these last few days of the summer holidays!

 

My next pick is from the lovely Lucy at Mrs H’s favourite things.

It’s just such a happy photo, and I’m a little bit in love with Lucy’s dress!

 

Next up is another perfectly summery photo, this time from Emma at Ready, Freddie, Go.

How gorgeous is this?!

 

My last choice for this month is from Laura at Inside Laura’s life.

This is such a lovely father/daughter picture – just look at those smiles!

 

Thank you so much to everyone who tags their photos #ShowYouWereThere over on Instagram, it makes me so happy seeing people getting in front of the camera more.

 

Now my turn.

Me and my girl, accidentally twinning in our stripy outfits.  That’s all!

 

If you’d like to join in with my little community then all you need to do is share a photo over on Instagram that features you in some way and use #ShowYouWereThere with it.

Hope to see you over there soon!