In the first blog on how to improve your photography I wrote most about (re)sources to seek out for improvement. In this second and last part I will focus on what to think about when taking the actual photo and some insight to how I edit them afterwards.
First of all – I use Paintshop Pro and not Photoshop like most people. There are several reasons why, but mostly it's because it's what I started out with. I've learned to use this program in so many ways, and I think it's wonderful. A lot of people get surprised when I tell them I don't use Photoshop, and a lot of them frown at me :)
Well, Paintshop gives me exactly what I need, and I love it! Also I must admit that I retouch my photos less and less for every year that goes by. And that should be a goal as your initial photography starts to improve!
But always remember to play around every now and than too :)
6. Back to basics
It all starts with the shutter release.. The more you know when you push this button, the less work you have ahead of you. Think about your framing for example – where do you want the horse to be positioned in the photo? If it's not right from where you're standing – move! It's a lot easier for you to move around than to reposition the horse. Next up, think about your angle. A nice rule is to get down on one knee. Sometimes even all the way down on your stomach. That depends a bit on how close the horse is, and how tall it is. Always remember to keep some “air” in front of the horse, so that the eye can wander the same way as the horse is looking. When you learn how framing works, bad framing will sometimes give you physical discomfort in your eyes :p I know I get that! That's something to think about when you create something for others to see.
Let the eyes wander to where they are going...
7. Manual or Auto?
For me there is only one answer: manual! This is the best investment you can do when you try to get better – learn how to manually work the settings. When you master this, the photos will always be better than with the auto setting. Start with looking at the light and how bright it is outside. Second you have to take your equipment limitations into concideration. Let's do two scenarios with my equipment:
Mid-day, sunny and very bright:
Aperture: f2.8 (gives a nice depth and blurriness to the photo)
Shutter: Somewhere between 1/1000sec and 1/4000sec depending on position
ISO: As low as your camera can go
Flash: No way, José! (Or maybe an external one if you know how to use it)
Here I have found a spot with a little shadow
Late afternoon, Norwegian winter time:
Aperture: f2.8 (Still want that soft background)
Shutter: 1/640+ if the horse is standing still
ISO: 1200+ – Depending on how much you can stretch the ISO on your camera
Flash: Same applies here :) A softbox would work nicely but needs an assistant.
This was an open space giving a little more light than
in the woods. ISO is 1250 and the shutter is 1/800
8. Understanding why
Learning what the settings do gives you a better understanding of why you do them.
The aperture decides how much light you let in through your lens, and it also determines the depth of field. A low value aperture like f2.8 will let in a lot of light, and give you very much depth. This can be difficult because you have a smaller field of sharpness and if you miss, your horses head will be blurry and it's chest sharp for example.
The shutter speed is important to remember when you photograph a horse moving. The faster the pace of the horse, the higher the shutter speed value should be. If it's not fast enough, your horse will get blurry. Last but not least – the ISO. If you have a great source of light (like the sun), keep it low. If you're inside an arena or it's simply just dark – increase it as much as you have to according to what you need your aperture and shutter speed to be.
Aperture f2.8, Shutter 1/200 sec and ISO 250
9 Sorting things out
After taking the photos, looking through them at home is just as fun! Filter out the ones you see are complete fiascos, but don't be too harsh on yourself. A photo might look like nothing one day, and turn out to be a creative greatness another! I always shoot in .RAW, so if you have a DSLR – do that :) This gives you the highest amount of detail in your photos. But be aware – it's important to use a good tool to convert them. Usually you get software with your camera when you buy it. This is sufficient to start with.
When you look through the photos you start learning immediately because you'll notice everything you did wrong. But this is a good thing :) The fence that you have to use half an hour to remove will be no problem next time, cause you'll just find a better angle next time. The barrel handle in the corner of your photo was kinda silly.. You'll reposition yourself next time. And when the rider is blurry on top of the horse you'll remember that the aperture was maybe a bit too low :)
10. Keep it simple
Don't add purple skies with stars and butterflies if you're not gonna keep it to yourself..
Keep it simple, and do the bare minimum to start with. Add a bit of sharpness, clone away the light post disturbing in the background. Lighten the horse a bit if it's a dark one. And maybe add some contrast if the light was soft that day. When you start mastering the basic stuff you can start playing around with colors, vignetting, selective lighting and maybe even swapping out the sky. It's mandatory to have fun and experiment with your photos! If you think it's good – share it :D
This was the last part of this blog I hope you liked it, and I hope it was helpful!
If you have any requests for what else I should blog about, or you have any questions regarding this blog – please ask me in the comment field below :)
Thank you for reading!