I hear a lot of photographers who have been shooting for many years give flack to the kit lens. And I can understand why – with an arsenal of high end, thousand dollar lenses, why would you shoot with the kit lens? I haven’t touched mine in months, personally – but I remember a time when it was all I had, and for the people who are going to be getting their first camera this season, it may be all they have to start with, too. So let me help you create beautiful portrait images with the kit lens, regardless of how new you are to photography.
Here are some useful tutorials for beginner photographers:
And if you plan to open your own business, these tips may help you along the way:
Creating the illusion of depth of field
Sometimes you want to have that creamy bokeh, but with a kit lens, it is hard to get most of the time. Adding a lot of activity to your immediate foreground and background can assist with that. This image was shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/1250. The wildflowers and grass in my immediate view are blurred so well with their distance to my camera, creating the illusion that I am shooting a little wider open than I am. It allows for this image to have a nice depth of field, despite being shot at 5.6.
This image, shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/500, brings together an even better perspective of a wide aperture with the large amount of flowers in the foreground.
Enhance a golden hour shot with sun flare
Another way to enhance an image without doing a whole lot to it is using sun flare. You may not have a super blurred background, but you can take the focus off of it with a little bit of creativity and back lighting. This image, taken at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/125, is almost over flooded with the sun flare, but it lights it up with a beautiful golden look and enhances the depth of the image.
This is another image shot at f~4.2, ISO 200 and 1/30, that is enhanced by a subtle, but still beautiful, sun flare coming out of the woodwork in the gazebo.
Use an interesting texture or story in the background
It goes without saying that you want your subject to be the focal point in your image, but if you fill the background with an interesting texture, you can enhance it without needing a huge depth of field. The leaves in this image below, shot at f~16, ISO 400 and 1/10, add an interesting feel to the image without overwhelming it. The focal point is still on the beautiful subject, who, in her light grey jacket and bright scarf, stand out really well.
Adding a storyline to the background is another way to enhance an image. Capture who the person is in the photo, and it won’t matter as much that your depth of field isn’t shallow. This photo, showing a girl who is a country girl that lives on a farm, explains who she is with the handmade fence and tractor in the background of the large field.
Go artistic with your shot
Create something on the artful side. Don’t just make the photo about your subject, make it about what’s around them. Tell an interesting story with your image. This image, shot at f~11, ISO 200 and 1/15, has a vintage feel, with the old building behind him, but for those who know the senior, it shows off who he is and really brings out the raw nature of his personality.
This is another image of the same senior that also tells a story about his personality. F~6.3, ISO 200, 1/100.
There are a lot of ways to utilize the kit lens to the best of nearly any situation. Learning how to work with aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the first steps, and learning how to manipulate the foreground and background to work with your subject are the next steps. It’s also important to remember that it isn’t the camera that takes the shot – it is the photographer, and you can learn how to create beautiful images no matter what kind of equipment you have.
Jenna Schwartz is a baby and family photographer in the Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada areas. She also travels to shoot high school seniors in the summer and fall each year in Ohio. You can find her on Facebook or her website.
You may have seen this image on our controversial post about exposure or on our product pages for InFusion and Illuminate Presets. Now we are going to answer “how I created such a bright image and such a dark image from the same photo?”
How to take an underexposed image and pull out detail it in Lightroom: This works best with a raw file!
- Started by brightening with one stop of exposure via the Fix Underexposure 3 Preset (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked One Click Color Base with Highlight Protection – 100% (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Lighten Up Shadow Brightener 3 (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked Nostalgia Preset – removed the “film” grain that the preset added in the “Effects” area of Lightroom (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Different Directions 1 (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Darken Whites 3 (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Golden Sunrays + Haze Top Right (Illuminate Lightroom Presets)
- When you lighten and alter a photo this much, you will get some digital noise. It’s a trade off. Lightroom has powerful noise reduction. In my original example, since we don’t have noise removal in InFusion, I skipped it. But for this tutorial, I clicked on Noise Reduction Medium (Enlighten Lightroom Presets)
- Lastly I used the Exact-o-Sharp brush over the faces to bring out some detail. (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
But what if you prefer go with the underexposure? You can take the photo from nearly silhouette to full silhouette too.
How to take an overexposed silhouette and make it pop in Lightroom (shown directly above):
- Clicked One Click Color Base with Highlight Protection – 100% (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Enchanting 3 to add toning (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Overexposure 3 to darken (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Clicked on Different Directions 2 to add contrast (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Painted on silhouettes with the Shade brush to darken them (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- Painted the balloon with the Dodge Ball brush to lighten it and bring back color and with a low flow to the clouds (InFusion Lightroom Presets)
- To add directional streams of light, I used Golden Light Band 2 (Illuminate Lightroom Presets – this is one of the bonus presets for LR5)
And lastly, here’s a slightly different take on this image – also with a silhouette.
The only differences in this edit below is that I used Peach Parfait 3 (instead of Enchanting 3) and Golden Burst of Sunshine (instead of Golden Light Band 2).
We hope you enjoyed these step by step edits!
When the word “controversial” pops into your head, is this image what you’d be picturing? Probably not!
I had posted this image on the MCP Facebook Page in February showcasing our newest Lightroom presets (InFusion and Illuminate). I never expected to hear anything except, “cute kids” or “how did you do that?” or “great save.” No laws were being broken. No kids were harmed. It was an image that was not exposed properly. That’s it!
Instead, I had angry photographers blame me for all kinds of “crimes,” such as:
- Ruining the photography industry
- Teaching people to fix images in Lightroom or Photoshop so they do not need to learn their cameras
- Helping new photographers undercut experienced pros
- Showing images from people who have no business being photographers
And well, the list was longer than that but you get the idea…
The back story….
This image is by a wonderful photographer, Dayna More. She is active on our Facebook Group and had shared the image there first. She had explained that she was practicing flash photography when her daughter reached down, picked up some sand and started eating it. Oops! So she turned off her flash and focused on being a mom. When her son began consoling her daughter, she was touched and started snapping pictures again. Guess what she forgot to change in the heat of the moment? Her camera settings! It’s not that she did not know how to expose. It’s not that she is a bad photographer – in fact she is great! She just had a lapse. And that lapse was what allowed her to capture the moment.
If she paused and changed settings and took some test shots, and adjusted…. she would have likely missed this precious image. You cannot recreate raw emotion. She captured it, and sure the exposure was not perfect. She and I never said it was. But why would you trash the image when you can “save” it as shown above or create art from it as shown below?
This edit was from the same raw file as the one earlier. Trash? Nope – not to me. Amazing image? Definitely!
MCP Thoughts – Tolerance and understanding…
When it comes to photographers, some are looking to become professionals in the future and others just want nice images of their kids, grand kids, pets, or the nature around them. Not every photographer that reads MCP tutorials or uses our products wants to compete with the pros. Some just want better images.
While new photographers are learning to use their cameras, lighting, etc, should they trash every image? No. Why not learn software like Photoshop and Lightroom so that they can keep images as they learn and grow their camera skills? Sure, the goal is quality images straight out of camera, it just is not the reality. Particularly when someone is new to photography.
Broken legs and crutches… what do they have to do with photography and editing?
Imagine breaking your leg at your own wedding… I did. It sucked. Afterwards, for three months (THREE!), I had a cast up to the top of my thigh. I had trouble walking and needed crutches to get around and even after my cast came off, I needed the extra help of crutches as I worked on my walking skills. Eventually I needed the crutches less and less. And eventually I walked on my own.
Photography is a lot like this. When most start out, they rely on auto mode, and then the infamous portrait face or running man. Eventually as a photographer learns more, they branch out to aperture or speed priority and onto manual. This carries over into editing too. When you are new to photography, the “crutches” or tools can help you edit. Sure, our actions and presets can save images that you may otherwise trash. But they can also make it easier and faster to edit — and many tell us that the way we build our products and teach people how to use them, it has actually taught them the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom.
Your call… take them or leave them.
I truly feel that I am allowing people the opportunity to enhance photos, occasionally “save” an image, and create an artistic interpretation of their imagery. There are times where even the most experienced photographers need a boost in Lightroom or Photoshop, just as the darkroom was utilized from the past. Many experienced photographers use editing software to create works of art. And to me, I think it is wonderful.
Hopefully, no matter where you are at with your photography skills, we can all support and respect the work of others and embrace our differences instead of exploit them.
When you get in a rut, it’s fun to try new photo activities. If you aren’t doing our Photo A Day Challenges, we’d love you to join in. It isn’t too late.
Beyond photo challenges, picking up a new technique can spark creativity. In that light, here’s a great photography project to try:
Crystal Ball Photography
To start, you need to start with a crystal ball. It needs to be solid, clear, and colorless. We recommend one 3″ (80mm) in size. You can try larger or small if you wish.
You can BUY ONE HERE.
Next you need to find a scene that you’d like in the ball. You can experiment with images that are far away for a wide angle view or closeup for a fisheye look.
Lay the ball down on a steady object, in a stand or even hold it. You decide. Then back up until you see what you want to inside the globe shaped crystal. Set your exposure, focus, and start shooting.
The principal is the same as shooting dew drops on a flower with a macro lens. But this you can do anytime. It is not dependent on nature. The photo above was edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop actions.
Here are some tips from Sue on getting the best results with your crystal ball:
- Make sure it is a solid crystal ball.
- Try to shoot in the shade. If the sun is shining on the ball you will pick up that sun shine all around in the ball. The main thing to watch for it is the light reflections on the ball. Remember, if you see it so will your camera.
- Don’t hold the crystal ball in the sun as it becomes very hot and could burn you!
- Focus only on the ball, but pay attention to your background. The wider open you shoot, and the further way your background, the more bokeh or blur you will have surrounding your ball.
- Position your ball with knowing you will have to turn your photo upside down.
- The distance between the ball, subject and camera does matter. Move the ball around until you find the picture you are looking for.
- If you have a macro lens, use it. But other lenses will work too. I often use a 85mm for these images. Any lens will work, but shooting shooting fairly wide open helps.
- Since you are shooting through the ball, you do not have to worry about your own reflection on the ball. You will be far enough away that it should not be an issue.
Here are some more shots from Sue Zellers. Thanks Sue for your help on this activity.