Photographers, how do I get my photos to look more like this?

I realize that professional photography is a true art form and I am not going to just pick it up overnight. However, I’d like to know what quality the photos here share that just gives them that special “pop” that seems to be lacking in most of my own photos. Is the contrast just dialed up really high? I feel like there’s something obvious here that I just can’t name.

Depth of field, and perfect exposure levels.

I’m not a professional photographer but one thing most of the photos in the link share are a shallow depth of field. Try playing with the focus and aperture.
Any good photo editor can enhance the colours and this will help too, but I think that the impact of those photos is heightened because there is nothing to distract from the motif.

IANA pro but it looks to me like they’ve been photoshopped or otherwise enhanced outside the camera. What strikes me is how pure the colors are. I’m not good at photoshop at ALL but I suppose contrast is maxed out with it somehow.

Look at #35 (I’m putting the mouse on the image and “elizabethkavi-035” pops up). The way her face is brightly lit looks like it was done in a studio.

#18 doesn’t look quite right. The box (cake?) looks plopped in.

I’m trying to puzzle out how the photographer is manipulating the focus/depth of field (zone of focus) like that. I wonder if she was using a lensbaby to control what was in focus because in some photos, it seems like two items are at the same distance from but not equally in focus, e.g. #24. The head of the horse and the woman in red are at about the same distance but the horse is sharp and she isn’t.

Can you not fake the depth of field using the blurring tools in Photoshop? I figured that’s why they were there.

I agree that depth of field is one of the most important aspects. If I take a photo with a compact, then the same with an SLR, the difference is striking.

I also think there’s been some post-take saturation level alteration, and maybe some cropping.

What a beautiful wedding!

I agree with the posters above pointing at depth of field. Most photos on that page use a large aperture giving a narrow depth of field. Of course that by itself won’t make a picture good or always better, but subject isolation often lends a photo a more professional look if done right.

The downside though is that large aperture lenses are generally very expensive (and often heavy :)). Compact cameras are also a problem in this situation as their small sensors result in a wider depth of field, in turn making the level of isolation shown in the example photos unreachable.

I don’t see any specific manipulation as lobotomyboy63 mentions, but of course they are post-processed and tuned with respect to colors, contrast, etc.

Could be. Like I said, I’m no good at photoshop. It would explain how you could be uber selective about what’s in focus. I think they go a step beyond selecting the right aperture to control depth of field.

Not easily done. Occasionally something can be achieved that can be nice to look at, but it’s almost impossible to blur behind a part of the photo without it looking clumsy.

e.g. if you take a picture of your sister in front of her house, you can’t just photoshop-blur the house and keep your sister sharp, because the edges where the two meet have to be isolated, and in just the right way to look convincing.

However, if you took a picture of a house, and a picture of your sister in front of a neutral or greenscreen backdrop, you could combine the two and use blur effects on each layer separately and independently.

In the end, it’s usually easier to just do it in-camera.

Moving this over to Cafe Society.

twickster, MPSIMS moderator

I think it’s a combination of lighting (which may include off-camera flash), expensive lenses which can get the shallow depth-of-field along with excellent sharpness in the in-focus areas, and post-processing for saturation, color balance, contrast, etc. A Lot of pro photographers use Adobe Lightroom for most of the processing. It’s relatively inexpensive and geared specifically to this kind of work. It’s also easier to learn.

My background is video camerawork, so I don’t have great still camera skills, but one thing that can be done with a zoom lens is to move further back from the subject and zoom in - this shrinks the depth of field so that you have a very thin area that is in focus, and anything in front of or behind will be out of focus. The same thing can be done with the right kind of fixed lens. The wider the lens, the larger the area that is in focus. The more light you have, the larger the area in focus - which brings up another point: the photog is probably using lens filters to manipulate the image.

Many Photoshop filters are designed to emulate actual physical lens filters, so its hard to tell which is being done. For instance, lots of thse pics are taken in daylight, which means lots of light; to cut down on the amount of light and get the correct depth of field, you could add a neutral density filter, which cuts down on the amount of light getting into the camera without affecting anything else (hence “neutral”). Some photogs use tricks like using bits of cheese cloth or stocking placed between the lens and the camera - its behind the focusing apparatus, so you don’t see the pattern of the cloth, but it does have an interesting effect on the pictures you take.

I lean towards saying most of these pics are done in camera with minimal post work.

I agree. The pic that lobotomyboy63 is talking about isn’t just a product of selective focus, but also selective lighting. I would guess that the photographer had an assistant holding an off camera light source. Even if there is no assistant, there’s clearly light coming from the photographer’s right which helps single out the subject. This photographer has a good enough eye to see it & use it.

Sometimes, a picture practically takes itself. Look at the shot of the keys on the wall (005 if you mouse over it.) That shot, while dynamic and interesting, is simply a look at a wall that is dynamic & interesting. A good photographer, which this guy is, learns to see it.

A lot of what is striking in those pictures is unusual composition or viewpoints. An example is the very first picture, looking down at two pairs of bare feet. It’s an unusual subject for a photo, plus an unusual viewpoint. If I thought of taking pictures of feet, my first instinct would be to try to take them from near ground level – taking from normal eye level makes that a double helping of unusualness. In other pictures, the photographer has deliberately avoided conventionality to make the pictures really startle you.

In my view, most people can do that, with almost any kind of camera, but it takes practice. That’s not just practice at getting the technicalities right, like exposure and focus (especially since cameras can do that automatically these days), but in seeing things differently.

One exercise you might try is taking a large number of pictures of a single subject in your house in as many different ways as possible – close up, far away, from above, from below, in front of things, behind things, sideways, upside down, black and white, over exposed, under exposed, out of focus – any way that you can think of, then some more ways after you’ve gone away to get fresh ideas. Then go through those pictures on your computer, and see what works, and what doesn’t work. Then go back to your camera and do some new variations on what works.

Then go through the same process with another subject, and another. Gradually you’ll learn both how your camera sees things, and what makes for interesting pictures.

I’d assume there’s been a fair bit of processing done in these photos using Lightroom and/or Photoshop to boost the saturation and contrast, and give them a Lomo-esque sort of feel. Of course, it’s entirely possible the photog was using a Lomo to get those results in-camera, but that’s fairly unlikely. :slight_smile:

There are tons of tutorials online on how to give your photos that Lomo look using Photoshop… find one you like and give it a whirl on some of your photos. I quite like this effect, but I find it’s definitely best if you keep it subtle and don’t overdo it.

The other thing that pros do is shoot in RAW format instead of JPG. The downside is that RAW results in humongous files when compared to JPG, so you need a good-sized memory card to compensate. That said, it’s worth the trouble just for the amount of latitude you get for correcting colour balance and exposure problems, which is a huge boon when you’re doing a special event and want as many useable shots as possible.

Other than that, a good sense of composition, and a whole lot of practice and patience go a long way. A great camera and lenses certainly help, but there’s no substitute for plain old skillz.

Can’t emphasize this enough.

He is obviously a skilled photographer. I would suggest that his style comes from a combination of things.
a) Narrow depth of field. The subject of the photo is in focus while the surroundings are still visible but out of focus.
b) Uses available light. Most of the shots aren’t using a flash, even the darker ones.
c) Unposed/candid. Some of the photos are ‘posed’ where the photographer has asked the subjects to do something and then catches them doing it. The people look far more natural than formal portraits. Compare this to the really posed shots that a lot of photographers use.

a) and b) will benefit greatly from good equipment, especially the lenses.
b) and c) is the eye of the photographer. I try to do this, but always miss the timing and catch goofy faces with poor angles and half-closed eyes.

There is also a lot of post-processing done, mostly for contrast and colour saturation.

From the photographer’s FAQs,

Before I saw their FAQ, I was looking at those pictures and thinking “They’re probably using Canon L-series lenses, probably an f/2.8 zoom or even the f/1.2 50mm.” and sure enough, they say they shoot Canon.

These are *very *expensive, but very high-quality hunks o’ glass that can impart a look of almost analytical tack-sharpness edge to edge or that almost creamy dreamy look in this collection. That dreamy quality is called bokeh, and the L-series lenses are highly prized for that particular look.

The 50mm f/1.2 L lens is just a gorgeous lens for portraits on a digital body - it can give you a depth of field so thin that if you focus on someone’s eyes, you need to hope their nose is not too long or the tip of their nose will be out of focus.

These are not heavily photoshopped, although the levels have been refined to bring out the shadow tones.