Recently I had the pleasure of spending a full day concentrating on improving my camera skills at a Makelight Workshop run by the talented Emily Quinton who writes the Start Up Wife. I have already posted my flower shots from the day and you can see them here.
The beauty of this workshop was that whilst its main purpose was to help the participants take better photos, it was also a day designed specifically for bloggers. Emily covered three main areas relevant to blogging:
- Using social media and taking better photos with an iPhone (or similar),
- Using natural light and camera settings to take better photos with a DSLR,
- Using props to style an image.
As well as lots of teaching and discussion time, Emily built in plenty of opportunities to practice taking our own photos using her personal selection of props.
In these photos you can see some of the ladies working with their cameras and Emily’s props. The whole studio was full of vignettes like these.
Whilst not taken from the best angle, the two pictures above show how you can use props to create different backgrounds even if you are always shooting in the same spot. Emily explained how she uses wrapping paper, white art boards, painted boards and pieces of wood to create different backdrops for her daily flower photos. Although they are all shot in the same place using the best light available in her home, it appears that she is shooting in lots of different locations.
Emily uses a variety of styled props to create her pictures – all within a very distinct pastel colour range. On Saturday she provided us with a selection of wrapping papers, materials, china cups, buttons, chocolate eggs, cards, paper pom poms and, of course, fresh flowers.
It is surprising how much you can make of a few small flowers with the addition of some appealing props.
After lunch we moved on to the mechanics of taking photographs on a DSLR. Although I am getting much better I have only been using my camera (a Canon EOS 500D) since May last year, so I still have a long way to go before I will feel completely confident with the settings. I was relieved to find that Emily tends to use Aperture Priority (Av) as her favoured camera setting. I can use manual, but find I get better shots in Av. Emily also spoke about the advantages of shooting in good natural light.
What I realised I had not been doing was really manipulating my f-stops. I found that by keeping my f-stops right down (2.6 in the photo above) I could get a much more focused shot with a nice blurred background. The photo above was just a practice shot I took of a bottle on the table whilst Emily was talking about camera settings. I was pleased with clarity of the bottle and the very blurred background.
Many of you will have heard of the expression depth of field in photography. A photo with a blurry background such as my photo of the bottle is said to have a shallow depth of field as you cannot see the details beyond the object that is in focus.
As all cameras are different Emily had to work hard to get everyone practicing on the same settings.
Emily also discussed focus and how important it is to consider your point of focus every time you take a picture. In the photo above you can see that I have chosen the focus point to be the cups and straws – everything else is slightly and intentionally blurred.
In this photo I have focused on the foreground, so some of the hydrangea petals and the cards are sharp with the background details blurred.
If you want to take a photo with all the shot in focus you need to capture a deeper depth of field using different settings.
Finally Beth, another blogger who writes Beth At The Summer House, had baked this beautiful cake for us all to enjoy at the end of the day. This is a shot full of props – wrapping paper, a wooden crate and a vintage cake stand. I was particularly pleased with the focus on the individual berries and this is probably my favourite shot of the day.
At the end of the day I came away with greater confidence in my ability to manipulate my camera settings, inspiration to use Instagram and Pinterest more and lots of ideas of things I could use to add interest to my photographs. I was also inspired to start to make better use of my iPhone camera.
So thank you to Emily and all the other lovely blogging ladies who helped to make it such a fun and interesting day. I am hoping to attend a Makelight higher level workshop in the autumn.