Posts Tagged ‘calgary photography classes’

Camera Tricks and Photo Tips

What do you do when you host a Christmas photo walk, register a bunch of students and then the day that once seemed so far into the future, comes around and you look outside and discover there is no snow?  Well, first you throw a bit of a tantrum but then you channel all of your creative energy, raid your craft cupboard and come  up with ways to capture awesome winter photos, without snow. Here are the awesome tricks that  Susan Temme pulled out for the photo walk in Edmonton on Friday.

Making Magic with An Acrylic Picture Frame

Even with the absence of snow, we were able to create a really cool reflection that gives the look of ice or a reflecting pool in front of the Alberta Legislature Building. You can make this happen by inserting a piece of black construction paper in a plastic dollar store picture frame and then hold it underneath your lens. Experiment and tilt it around a bit until you get the effect you want, and voila!


This photo would actually be quite ordinary without the addition of our acrylic frame trick. In reality, there are actually no lights to the left of the snowman. To add some extra color and make things more interesting, we again hold the acrylic picture frame up to the lens, this time on the left side, and it reflects the lights from the right of the snowman. This definitely added some drama to our snowman photo.


Fun with Filters

Have you ever tried using a shaped filter for your bokeh shots? First, grab some black construction paper and cut a circle larger then your lens. Next, cut a shape out of the middle of your circle (Susan sort of free handed a multi-edged star). Then, tape it around your lens, set your camera to manual focus and start experimenting!


Even without snow, our last photo walk was a success! If you weren’t able to come, give these techniques a try and show us your crafty camera work on instagram @thecplc or send them to us at [email protected]



Winter Photography Tips

Icy roads, freezing temperatures, dead batteries and unbearable wind chill are just some of the many joys we have living here, in Alberta. But once in awhile, you can’t help but look around and think how beautiful everything looks under fresh fallen snow… The way it accumulates on the branches and how it seems like you can stare off into the landscape and see white forever. Those are the days you need to grab your camera and get out and capture something that you could never capture in one of those lame tropical countries that are just boring sandy beaches all year round. (dare to dream!)


Now that I have you feeling all inspired to capture the beautiful scene around you, shooting in the winter is not without a few challenges- preparation is key.

  1. Grab extra batteries! Nothing sucks your battery power quite like the cold.
  2. Use the biggest memory card you can find so you can save your freezing fingers the challenge of changing it out later on.
  3. Be smart with your gear and don’t shock it with sudden temperature changes. Coming directly inside from a -25 afternoon feels like a warm hug to us but your camera might hold a grudge. You could wind up with condensation in your camera or lenses so, acclimate your gear slowly afterward to avoid costly problems.

camera-gear-in-winter- calgary-photography-classes

Get Creative

Ever stare at a beautiful winter scene, take a photo and realize that you just didn’t do the scene justice? It winds up looking flat and boring? A great way to add some dimension to your winter scene is to practice shooting with a shallow depth of field- if you’re unfamiliar with this, we cover it in our class Using Your DSLR Camera. Also, try adding something interesting to the foreground, maybe a splash of color or, instead of trying to capture the entire landscape around you, focus on something small.


If you’re every feeling starved for inspiration or you want to connect with other photographers, join us for a photo walk! This is a great way to practice and reinforce the principles learned in class. Have fun! Be sure to share your winter photos with us on instagram, @thecplc!


Mixing White Balances

In this post we’ll discuss the problems of mixing white balances in one shot.

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR Camera at the CPLC.

White Balance

In a perfect world, all light sources would only shine ‘pure white light’, without any colour cast or hue added. If this were true, than we would never need to white balance or colour correct any images or videos we took.

In the real world, we are faced with the reality that every single light source that can light our scene–be it natural sunlight, indoor light bulbs, or flashes or strobes, shine their white light with a certain colour hue or cast to it. In some cases, such as ‘yellow light bulbs’, the cast is so saturated that the light even appears to us to be yellow, and not just white with a yellow hue. In other cases, like fluorescents or flash bulbs, the light appears white (but isn’t) in ideal situations, but in reality has a blue cast to it.

When two light sources with different colour casts illuminate one scene, photographers are inevitably faced with the reality that the two different colour casts will not match, and the resulting photo will have, usually, an ugly colour cast in one part of its picture. (Sometimes, we get lucky and the two colours complement each other).

In the below images, you see in a dimly hit house how the halogen (yellow) bulbs were turned on. In truth, the house was too dark without them turned on for people to walk through. However, it was also too dark for photography, so the photographer had to supplement the ambient lighting with flash light in order to produce a bright enough image. The resulting image reveals what happens to the ‘yellow’ halogen lighting when the image is colour corrected to the dominant–blue–flash lighting.

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

In the top picture, the women are backlit by the halogen lighting, making the back room look like a sickly yellow light, and also backlighting their hair with that same glow. Their faces and the wall next to them, though, are lit by the more natural flash light. The bottom picture has one of the girls lit by the flash light, and the two girls in the background lit by the yellow halogen lighting. Here the two colours are separated on the subjects themselves, but the overall image still has this jarring distinction in two different light sources.

As such, for some of the shots the photographer asked for the yellow light bulbs to be turned off. While this was too dark for the girls to finish getting ready, it allowed the photographer brief moments of control over the quality of the photography. Simply by turning off a conflicting colour source, the images look better–even if in practical terms the photographer can’t ask the subjects to work in these dark circumstances for too long. While the images are bright, in person, the house is quite dark with the yellow lights off.

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Clearly, the color/lighting in the second set of shots are more pleasing to the eye. Even in situations where you can’t command complete control of the lighting at all times, it’s still nice to take control for brief moments to give yourself the opportunity to elevate the photography to the next level.


To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR Camera at the CPLC.

Using Levels in Posing

In this post we’ll discuss the use of levels in photographing portraits.

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take The Art and Design of Photography at the CPLC.


Levels in Portraiture

One of the simplest tricks to make your photos look more professional requires only a one-step stool or small ladder.  A common theme through most people’s photos of themselves and their families is that they’re all taken at your eye-height.  Occasionally we will crouch down to take photos of our kids, but even here most often people will take these shots from their adult-standing-height.


Hollywood movies (at least the mediocre majority) used to largely hold to this as well.  Steven Spielberg, in his film E.T., turned this concept on its head and brought his cameras down so that most every shot in the movie is shot from a 8-year-old’s eye-height, most famously pointed out in the opening shot which is just a set of car keys hanging out of an adult’s hip pocket.

This same concept has been used for years by photographers to add interest to their groups of shots.  Even if nothing else changed, simply having some of your shots at eye-height, some from a crouching or laying position, and some shooting down from a one or two-step ladder, immediately makes your session more engaging and interesting to look at.

The first shot in this series is taken from the photographer’s eye-height.  The next, directly below, is taken at a downward angle, on a step ladder and positioning the subject lower down the hill.


Next, we have a picture taken from ground-height, while the pose is also brought down to add a new dynamic to the shoot.


In addition to the photographer’s height-perspective shifting, a similar effect can be achieved by altering the height of your subjects in portraiture, as seen in the below photo.


Try to keep the level of your lens as well as the levels (sitting, standing, lying, crouching) of your subjects constantly shifting to make your session of photos more dynamic and interesting.


To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take The Art and Design of Photography at the CPLC.

Can you bokeh?

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.

Season’s greetings! A mini Holiday Bokeh tutorial

In this festive season of last minute gift buying, endless Christmas carols, and overindulging in delicious food, we at CPLC would like to remind you that this is also the perfect time of year to pull out your cameras and flex your photographic muscles as a way to combat that tryptophan induced turkey coma. Yes, you can take beautiful portraits of your friends and family, but don’t forget to take advantage of all the stunning Christmas lights/displays to create some unique and creative photos of Christmas Bokeh.

“Holiday Bokeh” – Say What?!

Without delving into sciencey jargon, “bokeh” can be described as the way your lens depicts out of focus areas/points of light, or even more simply, the background blur. Have you seen photos where lights in the background are out of focus, and instead of just being a point, they take on these creamy, soft, and defocused circular shapes? Those out of focus shapes are an example of light bokeh, that you can easily achieve in your photos.

Calgary photography classes

Calgary photography classes

In the above examples, the subjects in focus are the pepsi bottles and a branch in the foreground, while the lights peeking through the trees in the background are out focus, so they get rendered as bokeh. Points of light that are not in focus will take generally on the shape of your lens’ aperture (usually circular). The larger your aperture (or the smaller your f/ number) is set to while taking these photos, the larger the bokeh shapes will be.

Your turn to try!

A couple points to note – in order to make lights on the Christmas tree appear as bokeh circles, they should be

1) out of focus, and
2) photographed with a large aperture.

This is easily done by setting your lens’ aperture to it’s smallest f/number (ie: f/ 3.5, or lower if your lens is able). Then take a photo where you focus on something (the cat, a gift wrapped present, grandma, etc) in the foreground, while the christmas lights are further away in the background. The farther apart your subject is from the background, the more pronounced the bokeh will be.

Calgary photography classes

Even if you don’t have a willing foreground subject because they are all passed out from the Turkey induced coma, you can still take bokeh Christmas lights photos easily. Try setting your lens to manual focus, and intentionally focussing to where a foreground subject would be, while leaving the lights of the Christmas tree in the background out of focus.

Calgary photography classes

Calgary photography classes

In the above examples, neither the lights on the Christmas tree or the reindeer display are in focus, and because they were shot with a large aperture, they become large circular bokeh shapes. Try it out for yourself, it’s very simple to do, and takes little set up.

We hope this mini tutorial helps kickstart your Christmas creativity, and we would love to hear from you in the comments how your adventures with holiday bokeh turn out. From all of us at the CPLC, wishing you and yours a happy holiday season filled with fun, food, and photos!

To learn more about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.