Getting the Effect In-camera

I love the software that is available to photographers in these digital times – and I’m quite happy to make use of it. Indeed, I make use of plenty of software programs including Lightroom 6, Photoshop Elements 14, Affinity Photo, The Nik Collection (largely because it’s free) and Topaz Studio with various ‘pro’ adjustments which is my go-to package for floral work. That makes it sound as though I love editing – which would be a little untrue. I like creating but I don’t like sitting in front of a computer for too long. I like being out and about with a camera.

In this day and age I think some editing is a necessary evil since I shoot exclusively in raw format so some ‘developing’ tweaks are needed. Maybe that is to make the colours more or less punchy, or to convert to mono. That said, I’m always on the lookout for ways to get the effect I want in-camera so the editing time is vastly reduced, or even redundant.

I like to shoot florals – as you may have noticed – and I’m usually looking for the romance of the bloom and so hazy, dreamy and soft are all applicable here. So what can I do to soften off that sharpness that the newer digital cameras offer? Well, one technique I make use of is ‘shooting through’ – a technique recommended by Kathleen Clemons amongst others. It is simply a case of lurking in the undergrowth with a longer lens. In the case of the bird of paradise bloom below, I used a 105mm lens and a shallow DOF and peered through some nearby foliage. You are looking or something that offers a peep hole through to the subject and is very close to the front of your lens. That closeness renders the nearby foliage as a soft blur but allows you to focus sharply on your subject. The result, if it works, is a hazy colour wash in front of the plant giving a far more painterly, dreamy look. The example below shows one shot taken through nearby foliage, and one taken with a clear path between my camera and the bloom.

sheffild botanical gardens-0002May 16, 2018-161
Standing roughly 5 feet away with foliage straight in front of my lens
sheffild botanical gardens-0002May 16, 2018-162
Same distance but with a clear view


I should also note that both pictures below are as they came out of the camera and in the case of the hazy version, I won’t do anything further with it. I managed to get it just how I wanted in-camera without any real effort. Anything that gives results in return for minimal effort will always get my vote. It leaves more time to go out and make more pictures.

By the way, if you’re feeing creative, Kathleen Clemons also recommends using synthetic materials such as tulle. Just tie a strip of the stuff around your lens, tease a little of the fabric over the edges of your lens hood and position the subject in a clear hole that you’ve left. You can carry strips of all colours with you and have any colour of wash you like.

Of course, my partner will still take one look at say, ‘it’s all blurred’ – but I’m a tolerant woman!

Author: Sue Woollard – Capers with a Camera

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