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How to Photograph Fireworks

I usually have a lot of people ask me around this time of year how to take good photos of the Fourth of July fireworks. Here are some helpful tips so you can get some great images this weekend!

What gear to do you need?

You’ll need a tripod and a camera that has both manual focus and manual exposure. I love shooting with my iPhone but sadly this time it probably won’t cut it. An entry level DSLR or even a point and shoot camera with these criteria should work fine. Bring your phone or a flashlight to illuminate your camera so you can see all the buttons in the dark. Lastly remember to charge your batteries and bring plenty of memory cards.

Lens wise I usually bring my Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8. I like to switch between focal lengths to get a better variety of images. Also your location and proximity to the fireworks makes a big impact on what focal length you’ll be using as well. If you are farther away you’ll probably be using longer lenses. If you are closer you can get away with using wider lenses. Come prepared and bring a standard zoom and telephoto zoom lens.

What exposure should you use?

For fireworks you’ll need to use the Manual exposure mode on your camera. Finding the right exposure takes a bit of trial an error. I usually start with a 3 second exposure at f/11 at 100 ISO. Take a few tests shots and check your screen frequently to make sure your exposure is correct.

The longer exposure of 3 seconds makes it so the firework has time to explode so you get the trails. Shorter exposures will make the trails smaller. The opposite is also true that the longer exposure will make the trails longer.

The longer exposure makes your image more prone to increased noise so make sure to keep you ISO low. I usually shot at 100 ISO.

How do you focus?

Autofocus and fireworks don’t work well together. Just like auto exposure and fireworks don’t work well together. You’ll need to manually focus the image. The good thing is once you’re is in focus you won’t need to change it for the rest of the night if you stay in the same spot. Usually with fireworks you’re fairly far away so the correct focus is a little bit before infinity. Manually focus once the fireworks start.

How do you time the best firework shot?

To prevent blur I not only shoot on a tripod but also use a two second timer. This prevents the image from getting blurry because of me touching the camera. To time the perfect firework shot I press the shutter approximately 2 or 3 seconds before the firework explodes.

Best FREE iPhone Apps for Photographers

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Ever since upgrading to the iPhone 5s from my pay as you go phone back in December I’ve started to love iPhoneography more and more! These following apps are ones I’ve found very helpful for iPhoneography, business, and web presence.

VSCOcam

Sample image edited using VSCOcam

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VSCOcam is hands down my favorite photo editor for the iPhone! I’ve used this for all of my iPhoneography since mid June 2014. It has a wide variety of black and white and color presets to choose from and lets you adjust exposure, contrast, sharpness, highlights, shadows, tint, saturation, and a handful of other options individually. You also have the option of purchasing other presets from them as well.

Sample image editing using VSCOcam

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Golden Hour

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Golden Hour is an incredibly simple app which tells you when sunrise and sunset start. Great for planning out shoots. It is more convenient than flipping thru the weather app to find the sunrise or sunset time.

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Pocket Light Meter

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Pocket Light Meter is a spot meter for your phone. This is great if you don’t own a handheld meter. It lets you lock down the appropriate exposure for an area and then change the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to your desired setting while maintaining the correct exposure.

Instasize  

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Instasize being used to add frame to image

Instasize is great for getting your photos ready to be put on Instagram or other social media. It lets you create collages or create simple frames so you can put vertical or horizontal photos on Instagram. I use this all time when I upload my professional work to Instagram and want to keep the photo vertical or horizontal.

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Final image on Instagram after the white frame had been added in Instasize

Pass

Pass is a software program that lets you share photos with clients in eye-catching galleries. It is very popular amongst wedding photographers. The Pass app lets you edit your Pass galleries from your phone that is very convenient when you’re on the go.

Dropbox

The Dropbox app lets you view and update your Dropbox account from your phone. If you are not familiar with Dropbox it is a free service that lets you send large files over the Internet. I use Dropbox all the time for my retouching jobs and to send digital proofs so being able to access and edit my account from my phone is very convenient.

If This Then That

If This Then That is a great app to use to back up your iPhone photos to other accounts like Dropbox or Flicker. IFTTT lets you create Recipes so when you do one action it automatically does another. For example every picture your upload to Instagram could be saved to Dropbox.

Skitch

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Skitch is a simple app that lets you draw on photos similar to how you would in Snapchat.

Aviary

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Aviary is another photo editor for the iPhone. It has a variety of frames and a meme creator that VSCOcam doesn’t. I only use Aviary when I want a specific frame or want to create a meme which is infrequent.

Shutter by Stream Nation

Shutter is a fairly new app that gives you unlimited cloud storage for your photos. It also offers editing similar to VSCOcam and Instagram. A great way to backup your photos without using up all of your Dropbox space!

Instagram

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The most obvious photo app. I love Instagram and use it all the time (@ryanwatkinsphotography). For those who don’t know Instagram is a social network for specifically sharing photos and also has a photo editor. Instagram recently updated the editor portion of the app so you can do more precise editing similar to VSCOcam. Instagram has a tilt shift blur feature and more filters compared to VSCOcan which lacks the tilt shirt blur and has less free presets. VSCOcam also has a Fade and Grain adjustment which Instagram doesn’t. Both are great for editing iPhone photos. I personally use VSCOcam for editing because I prefer their presets over Instagram’s filters.

Free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi shows you places nearby that have free Wi-Fi. This can be very helpful when traveling to new cities for shoots.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy shows you all of gas prices at stations near you. I have saved quite a bit since using it. Really nice when traveling.

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What to Wear to Senior Portrait Sessions

What to Wear to Senior Portrait Sessions

A big part of having a successful senior portrait session is being prepared and bringing the right clothes. Here are some suggestions for what to bring to your portrait session!

Things to Bring

 

What You Would Usually Wear Everyday

Most importantly you should look like you! Bring some items you wear everyday because you’ll look the most natural.

Something Light

Also bring some lighter clothing for brighter, high key images.

Something Dark

Conversely bring some darker clothing for darker low key images.

Something Casual

Casual everyday clothing is great for sessions in parks like Dow Gardens or in rural areas like near my home.  

Something Formal

Mom’s always want a photo of their son or daughter dressed up so also bring some formal clothing as well.

Something Really Loud

For environmental shots wearing something really loud is ideal! This makes you stand out amongst the surroundings.

Casual and Dress Shoes

If you want full body images wearing the appropriate shoe looks much better than wearing sneakers with dress clothes.

Something Appropriate for the Location

Where something fitting for where we’ll be shooting. Casual is great for in the country and parks. Formal is good in parks or in urban settings.

School Spirit, Athletic Wear, or Something Related to Your Interests

This is a time when you can get away with wearing big text. Show some school spirit or something related to your interests. Feel free to bring items which could be used as props as well. These could be from hobbies, sports, or other interests.

Something You Don’t Mind Getting Dirty

Some poses look great on the ground or in water. Bring some casual clothing you don’t mind getting dirty so we can add even more variety to your session!  

Dress Appropriately for the Weather

I’m a polar bear and would be confortable wearing short sleeve casual shirts into December, but I won’t recommend this. Bring some warmer clothing for if the shoot goes into sunset or the evening hours especially during fall and winter sessions.

Bring Items that are Easy to Layer so Changing Outfits is Easier

It is not always convenient to change depending on where the session is. Bringing clothing that can be layered makes this a lot easier!

Things to Avoid

This isn’t a fashion shoot so the main point is bringing clothing, which makes you look good, and draws attention to you and not your cloth. Here are few things to avoid wearing.

Clothing Which Doesn’t Fit

Most importantly wear clothing that fits. To tight or to big will look unflattering.

Sweat Pants, Sweat Shirts, Loungewear

These are unflattering; leave your pajamas at home.

Strong Patterns

If you wear a plaid shirt almost everyday feel free to bring it, but also bring some solids as well. Strong patterns and plaids can be distracting and draw attention to you and not your shirt. Subtle patterns like small checks, herringbone patterns, and gingham shirts are all acceptable. Don’t bring all shirts with strong patterns.

Big Distracting Text or Logos

Again if you wear shirts with big Holister or American Eagle logos everyday feel free to bring it, but also bring some solids. Just like with strong patters texts distracts from you and bring attention to your shirt. Subtle logos like the Polo or Lacoste logos are fine. Don’t bring all shirts with big logos.

Dirty Clothes

For the most part you ideally want your clothing to be clean with the exception of if we’re doing and country or athletic shoot which you’d intentionally look dirty.

Don’t Only Bring One Outfit

Bring a variety! I’m sure we can find ways to use a lot of your outfits. Hopefully this will help you with planning your wardrobe from you senior portrait session!



New Personal Work with Amazing Model Raven Price

I love shooting personal work especially when I get to work with amazing models like Raven Price. Featured below are a handful of my favorite images from the shoot.

 



515 Gallery and I featured on Hallmark Institute of Photography Blog

My alma matter the Hallmark Institute of Photography just posted a great article about the 515 Gallery’s latest show which I helped organize. Check it out!



Clare, Michigan’s 515 Gallery Featuring 11 Hallmark Institute of Photography Alumni in Upcoming Show on May 31st from 6-8pm

I’m very excited about the 515 Gallery’s upcoming show! All of the featured artists are graduates of the prestigious Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and are close friends of mine. The styles of photography and photographers represented are incredibly diverse! We’ll be featuring a combination of photojournalistic, commercial, conceptual, nature, editorial, fashion, and portrait photography. Featured will be artists from Seattle, Los Angles, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, India, and Japan. Also three Michigan based photographers, including myself, will be represented and present at the opening.

 

Photographers Being Featured

 

Marco Colucci 

Aniruddh Kothari 

Katilyn Schwinderson 

Emily Darrow 

Ryan Watkins 

Hiro Ochi 

Jon Cospito 

Kelly Horn 

Sienna Clough 

Colton Running 

Katie Brill 

 

The show will be held on May 31st from 6-8pm. The 515 Gallery is open from 11am-4pm on Saturdays. This show will be up until July 12th. The 515 Galley is located in downtown Clare next to Cops and Doughnuts.

 

515gallery.org



Ryan Watkins Photography is Now Looking for 2015 Senior Reps!

I will be accepting applications to become a Ryan Watkins Photography 2015 Senior Rep until June 1st!

What is a Senior Rep?

 

Senior Reps get a discounted senior portrait session, free prints, and the opportunity to win prizes by referring friends to Ryan Watkins Photography in exchange for sharing their images on social media, handing out senior rep cards, and referring their friends to Ryan Watkins Photography!

 

What are the Benefits of becoming a 2015 Senior Rep?

 

You get a discounted Creation Fee of only $45 instead of the usual $149!

 

You get a Free Economy Collection including 5 Gift Sized Prints (anything 8×10 and smaller), Yearbook photo, 16 Wallets, and Facebook Collection or a $149 credit towards any other collections or prints.

 

You also get the chance to win Visa Gift Cards by referring friends to Ryan Watkins Photography

Requirements to Become a Senior Rep

 

You must be a 2015 Senior attending a school within 60 miles of Clare, Michigan.

 

Only one senior rep will be chosen from each school.

 

You must have a presence on these social media networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. After the session you’ll be required to tag yourself, share, regram, and retweet your finished images from your session.

 

You are also required to hand out senior rep cards, essentially business cards with your image on them, to your friends after the session.

The Referral Process

 

A referral is someone who books a session a senior portrait session at Ryan Watkins Photography after being recommended by you!

 

Each person your refer gets 16 free wallets!

 

You can also get prizes for the number people you refer!

 

1 Referral – One referral gets you a $15 Visa Gift Card!

 

3 Referrals – Three referrals gets you a $30 Visa Gift Card

 

5 Referrals – Five referrals gets you a $50 Visa Gift Card!

 

The Application

 

Lastly you must fill our this application to become eligible to become a Ryan Watkins Photography 2015 Senior Rep

 

Follow this link to the Ryan Watkins Photography 2015 Senior Rep Application

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2qf42mfib86p09v/Ryan%20Watkins%20Photography%202015%20Senior%20Rep%20Application.rtf

Send applications to ryanwatkinsphotography@hughes.net.

 

The chosen senior reps will be contacted on June 2nd and the sessions will take place during June.



Bean and Rocio Couples Portrait Session – Mount Pleasant, Mi

I had an amazing couples portrait session with Bean and Rocio in Mount Pleasant and Clare, Mi a few weeks ago. We shot a variety of natural light portraits in Island and Nelson Park in Mount Pleasant and also shot a few conceptual photos.

Bean wrote a letter to Rocio everyday that she was a away in Spain. These are the letters they wrote to each other and the bench they sat on for their first date after they were reunited in Michigan.

Bean and Rocio work at restaurants across from one another in Clare, Mi. They admitted to staring out the windows at each other during there breaks hence this shot of Bean going though the drive thru to get a glimpse of Rocio.

The complete gallery featured below.

 



Jake and Shaneice Couples Portrait Session – Grand Rapids, Michigan

I had great session with Jake and Shaneice a few weeks ago in Grand Rapids! They were the winners of my Valentine’s Day Couples Portrait Session give away and received a free session, Facebook collection, and free 16×20 print!

 

We got to shoot in Coit Park and downtown Grand Rapids during sunset and early evening.

 

Check out the full gallery below!

 

 



What Is New at RWP? – Early Spring Recap

Spring 2014 started off with some basic headshots and one light studio portraits with an old friend Jordan who is looking to start a modeling portfolio and already has a massive Instagram following @talesofsolace.

 

I also got a quick headshot of dad as well.

 

 

The next week I made a trip down to Mason, Ohio to visit with my friends Sean and Jess who I’d graduated with from Hallmark Institute of Photography back in June 2013. We had a great time catching up and they showed me around Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky where I grabbed these shots of them. They also took to me to a great restaurant Tom Chee’s, a restaurant chain specializing in grilled cheese and tomato soup, which I really hope expands to mid-Michigan eventually.

 

 

The next day I headed to Indianapolis to scout out some locations to shoot for my architecture portfolio. I spent two days exploring Indianapolis and visiting its multiple museums and war memorials. I happened upon a stunning Ansel Adams exhibit at Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I shot several buildings which will eventually be added to my professional architecture portfolio.

 

April is the final month of my off-season so I made a point of doing a few fun non career related things before I get busy photographing seniors, families, and weddings.About a week later I went to Ann Arbor and got to meet up with another amazing photographer and recent recipient of the Highest Portfolio Award for the class of February 2014 from Hallmark Institute of Photography Emily Darrow. Check out her portraiture that has a beautiful vintage feel.

I’m currently planning out more personal work and can’t wait for portrait season to officially start in May!