Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

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Photography Tips: Shoot Through Something

Skill Level: Beginner

My forte is landscape photography. It's what I live for. But I do enjoy myself some close-up/macro photography on occasion.

One thing I like to do in some of my macro shots, especially with flowers, is to position myself so something is between my lens and my subject (like some flowers, leaves, grass, etc). Then I shoot "through" this foreground element to my main subject. With the inherently small depth of field you get with macro work and a wide aperture, that foreground element will blur out nicely. If the aperture is wide enough and if the foreground element is close enough to you, this foreground element will blur beyond recognition - it will just become a blurry mass of color and shape.

The result is an image that's a little more artistic than your straight-forward macro shot. With that foreground element completely blurry, the image softens up while still maintaining sharpness in your main subject. Everything around your subject will become silky smooth abstract shapes and colors, but your main subject will be sharp. It's great for pulling more attention to your subject.

I shot through the blurry flowers in the foreground but focused my lens on the three flowers in the background. This made a more creative and artistic picture than your typical close-up.

If you leave your camera's AF focusing points on auto-selection, the camera will try to focus on the foreground element that's closest to you. In order for this technique to work so that the subject you really want in focus is in focus, you'll either need to select the focusing point yourself or use manual focus (I'd recommend manual focus).

Give it a try. Just put something between you and your subject, then focus on your subject. The small DOF will do the rest.

Photography Tips: What is a Polarizer?

This is the first in a series of photographic quick tips and how-to's I will be posting periodically. They will be categorized by difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate & Pro) and can be found by using the "Tips & How-To" drop down menu at the top of this blog. You can also perform a search in the search box above to see if there are any posts on what you're looking for. Enjoy!

Skill Level: Beginner

Circular polarizing filters are pretty amazing, but I often find new photographers have purchased a polarizer not really knowing why they would need it or how to use it. Camera store salesmen seem to tack these things on to a sale without fully letting the customer (you) know why you need it. Well, that's where this post comes in.


Here I used a circular polarizer to darken the blue sky & make the clouds "pop"

The first thing to know about polarizers is that there are 2 types: linear and circular polarizers. I won't go into the details of how they are structurally different or how these filters work (for that, check out this great post over at BobAtkin.com), but understand that all modern-day DSLRs require a circular polarizer, not a linear one. Linear polarizers will cause the metering and autofocus to work incorrectly on today's cameras. Also, keep in mind that there is no easy way to tell a linear polarizer from a circular polarizer short of the manufacturer's label - linear polarizers are round just like circular polarizers.

The second thing to know about polarizing filters is their purpose in photography, and that's to reduce/cut out reflections and to darken blue skies. Polarizers seem almost magical when you view this effect through your viewfinder. That blue sky will darken to a beautiful indigo without touching the clouds or the foreground, and that reflection off the water's surface will vanish into thin air. Check out these side-by-side comparisons to see the effect:

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Without Polarizer _________ With Polarizer

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Without Polarizer ____                                _____ With Polarizer

The last thing you need to know about polarizing filters is how to use them. You'll notice the polarizer has a tint to it (it's impossible to make a crystal clear polarizer). This will cut the light coming through your lens a bit, but don't worry, your camera will take it into account and compensate for it automatically (if you're in any auto-exposure mode). The effectiveness of a polarizer is dictated by its rotation, which is why they typically have a double collar that allows you to rotate the filter without unscrewing it, so just look through your viewfinder and rotate the filter until you get the desired effect. There's no hard rule to this, just rotate it until you get the effect you want.

And there you have it! It's that simple! Now head out and give it a try!