From adding artistry to your action shots to zinging zip into your zebra portraits, this year’s annual how-to special is a veritable encyclopedia of photographic fun. Read on for an alphabet of inspiration.
W is for Weight Loss
Portrait subjects can be sensitive about their bodies, so try these slimming strategies as needed. Use short light: Turn your subject away from the main light or turn the light away so that it illuminates just one-quarter to one-third of the face, letting the rest fall into shadow. Angle the subject to the camera: Never have subjects stand or sit with the body square to the camera. Use short tele lens: Set it for 75–100mm, but no longer—the flattened perspective of very long lenses can appear to add weight. Raise the camera slightly above subject’s eye level: This de-emphasizes drooping chins. Dark clothing, please: Light clothing adds apparent weight; white adds the most. Avoid light backgrounds, too, since they define body mass. Watch the arms: Have women keep their arms slightly away from their bodies to keep them from adding to torso mass—especially with sleeveless and strapless dresses.
X is for X-Sync
Photo by: Jan Kraus
X-sync is an old term for electronic flash synchronization. Your DSLR or ILC can sync flash at a wide range of shutter speeds—and the shutter speeds does not affect the flash exposure. “Drag” the shutter: In indoor portraits with flash, slow down the shutter so that ambient background light is seen. Boost backlight: When using flash fill in outdoor portraits, adjust the shutter so that the background illumination is a stop or two overexposed. Saturate sunsets: In a flash portrait on the beach at sunset, speed up the shutter so the sky is underexposed by at least a stop for a dramatic backdrop.
Y is for Yourself
For better self-portraits, use a tripod and a self-timer or remote release. Frame, light, and focus with a stand-in. Focus manually, or lock the AF after framing. Then set a small aperture to keep your features sharp. Mind your expression: Set up a mirror at the camera position, use a camera with an articulating LCD that can face forward, or shoot tethered and use your computer as a live-view monitor.
Z is for Zoo
Photo by: Eduardo Rivero/Fotolia
With a little planning, you can capture images of animals in your local zoo that have the mystery and majesty of portraits made in the wild. Plan your shooting day in advance: Visit the zoo’s website to discover feeding times, baby animals on exhibit, and any special rules or programs for photographers. Look at the website images to see which enclosures offer good backgrounds and light. Arrive early to beat the crowds: Do a quick run-through of displays and lighting. Leave your family at home to avoid distractions. Preset your camera: Use continuous shooting mode, high ISO, and aperture priority with a large aperture. Crop and defocus: Try to eliminate anything that says zoo—worn paths, concrete backgrounds, anything plastic or man-made. Include lots of natural color: Blues and greens suggest locations in the wild.