Entries in how to (13)


10 places you must bring your camera

You might think this list makes no sense, but hopefully the below photos will convince you. The camera is an amazing device and you can not go wrong if you take it pretty much everywhere. Here is a list of ten places that you might have been neglecting. They deserve to be captured and I'm adding some photos to illustrate why.

1. Shower

It is not a good idea to take a shower while holding a camera (though it might be intestesting), but you can shoot things and people in the shower from a safe distance. Think about water drops suspended in the air, rubber duckies, wet hair... 


2. Toilet

Yes, I said that. But no, I'm not asking you to take the camera to the stall or to use it while you're doing your business. That's just creepy. But after you wash your hands and nobody is around, it's a fair game. 

You can also find some funny reflections in bathrooms.


3. Subway

This is no brainer. Subways are urban and gritty. With your aperture wide open, and shutter speed at 1/40s, you can do miracles. When traveling to other countries, one of my favorite things to do is to shoot subways. Here are two photos from Prague metro:

If you don't feel comfortable aiming your "gun" at people, shoot at the trains. The driver in front doesn't count. Not that the driver isn't human.  He (or she) just won't jump out and chase you if you take a photo of a train.


4. Airport

What a perfect place for people-watching! If you are at the airport, your camera is probably on you anyways. Many things are going on. People meet their loved ones or say goodbye. People run, sleep, worry, people zone out... and you shoot it all!

If you are not comfortable shooting other people, you can always shoot what's happening outside of the terminal windows.


5. Airplane

After your laptop battery dies, and you are done reading the entire in-flight magazine, then.... may I suggest... play with your camera.

If you sit by the window, you might get lucky and fly over something interesting. Like this Hoover Dam on my way to Las Vegas. 


6. Train

This is one of the best ways to get unexpected photos. The scene changes in front of your eyes and all you need to do is to sit in your comfy seat and wait for the moment worth capturing. One thing to worry about is the dirt on the windows. I took the below shot at the train station in Alexandria, Egypt. It was one day after the terrorist attack on a Christian church in the city. Everyone was talking about it. Perhaps also the ladies in this photo.


7. Boat!

And then you can tell everyone that you are on the boat!

Can you guess what this is?


8. Kitchen

When you have that victorious moment of cooking something edible, capture it! Like in this photo, I lucked out and one of my popovers turned out to be shaped like a heart!


9. Work

When you think how much time you spend at work, it only makes sense to bring your camera there with you. People learn that you are the camera gal, and everytime something interesting happens, they call you to capture it. These are three Googlers jumping in front of our office.


10. Coffeshop or bar

The "coffeeshop" is not a typo. This photo was taken at a coffeeshop in Amsterdam, though the green thing are mint leaves. A wide aperture is your friend here. You do not need any tripod because you can just lay your camera flat on a table.

If you have a company, you can get really creative. This is a single long-exposure photo taken over 15 seconds, during which me and my friend changed positions.


I hope you now feel inspired to haul your camera to all these places. Did I miss any important ones? Where do you take your camera?


Why you should care about light

Which of the below photos is the most flattering? Why? Is there a right and wrong angle when it gets to photographing faces? Ooooh yeaaaah.

All that camera does is capturing light waves. It is up to the photographer to ensure they are coming from the right places and in the right amounts. In the below image, the right places are the various surfaces on my face. The position of the light source helps me control the amounts.

If you want to see how giant my nose is, check out the top-left image. If you want to see how pretty my eyes are, check out the bottom-center. If you want to see my smile wrinkles, they are in the bottom-right. I think you got the idea.

If you are in a close proximity of a fashion magazine, go ahead and grab it. Open it. Look for some ads for a lipstick, or a mascara (you know, those where the model stares at you like she just had a lobotomy). You will most likely see a photo taken with two sources of light from two sides of a face. (you need to look for two bright dots in the model's eyes, those are the reflections of the light sources that reveal the lighting setup). Such setup fills most wrinkles and leaves nothing but smooth character-less face. Perfect for lipstick ad, isn't it?

What? You don't do lipstick ads? Well, perhaps you get some kind photo taken every now and then. If you ever have to pose in a place with a sharp top light source (a Sun or a ceiling light for instance), your best bet is to lift your chin and try to get the light hit your face like you see in the bottom-center photo.

Was this helpful? Or do you prefer the scary flashlight face instead?


How to shoot without a flash?

Ok, so you got your first SLR camera. It's an evening, and you feel like taking some photos. You do not have a flash (except for the built in one which is a big no no). What are your options?

  • use indoor artificial light (ceiling lamp, desk lamp)
  • use outdoor artificial light (street lamps, moving cars, lit windows)


Shoot things that do not move, unless you want to capture movement. Forget about shooting children (unless they are sleeping) or animals. If you are at home, set up a mini studio on top of a coffee table or a desk. Pick your favorite toy, or any small item, and arrange it the way you want. (For this shot, I picked my super yellow super happy mini Eames chair.)

yellow eames chair not using flash

Then point the strongest source of light at it, or bring it closer to the strongest lamp in your room. (In the above shot, I used a reading lamp.) Set your ISO to 800 or higher and open up your aperture wide open. If you have a tripod, use it. Otherwise set your shutter release to "continuous", lean against a floor or something sturdy (to stabilize your arms) and shoot over and over and over. Keep the shutter button pressed to get at least 10 photos in a row. Hopefully at least one of them will not be fuzzy. If they are all too fuzzy, increase your ISO even more. Your aperture should be wide open as well.

three headed person long exposure photography

You can also try taking some long exposure photos indoors, and possibly entering the exposure for few seconds. What I mean is basically you physically entering the scene for few seconds while your shutter is open. Yes! It's very unorthodox and awesome and you will have a lot of fun in the process. You can try changing your position a couple of times during the exposure like in the above photo. Or you can simply stay in one place for the "ghost" effect.

Tripod is your friend in this case. If you do not have one, find a bench, railing, window sill, anything you can put your camera on to keep it still. Dial your camera to manual (M) and set the aperture to something high (F18 or so) and shutter speed to something very very long (25 seconds or so). Don't forget to keep the ISO small (at 200). You want to get very little light in, but for a long time. To avoid shaking the camera, set it on 10 second self timer and wait 10 + 25 seconds to see the result. I find night photography addictive. Every picture comes out different, cars come and go, people move (leaving dark shadows). The photos of lonely street corner, or a busy downtown intersection result in equally big "wow" effect.

waikiki night bicycles long exposure photography

The night photography is a great excuse to take a walk alone or with someone special. You end up discovering different parts of the city you live in. I love taking my camera on tropical vacations, where you can stay out at night without feeling cold. This above shot was taken in Waikiki, Honolulu.

If you live in a cold place, prepare for your night shoot and bring some fingerless gloves, scarf, hat, and extra blanket for sitting. The below shot of the Golden Gate bridge was taken on one of the coldest summer nights ever. You know, the coldest summers are always in San Francisco. But they are totally worth it. :)

golden gate long exposure photography

Have you ever shot at night without a flash? I'm eager to hear what's your favorite technique.

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