Alan Hess is a professional photographer who specializes in concert and event photography. Alan has photographed Billy Idol, The Grateful Dead, Wille Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, Death Cab for Cutie, and many others. Alan is an instructor at Photoshop World where he discusses the pros and cons to shooting live shows. Alan's most recent book is the Exposure Digital Field Guide; he has also authored the Sony Digital Field Guides.
Books by Alan Hess
Alan Hess’s Digital Photography Tips
Blur the Foreground
This is one of my favorite tricks when shooting in zoos or through any type of barrier. Instead of using the aperture to blur the background, I use it to blur the items in the extreme foreground. This leopard was safely behind a chain link fence at the local zoo, but because the lion was towards the back of the enclosure I was able to use a shallow depth of field to make the fence disappear. I shot this at 1/2500 of a second using f/2.8 and ISO 320. Because I used a wide aperture, I also needed to use a high shutter speed to get the correct exposure. This worked out really well because the 1/2500 of a second shutter speed kept the big cat frozen while the wide f/2.8 aperture blurred the fence.
Blur the Background
This was shot during the late morning at a local park. I really wanted to make the little girl stand out from the surroundings so I used an aperture that would effectively blur the background and keep the subject in sharp focus. Since the photograph was taken in the morning but since it was a very cloudy day there was not plenty of light. To get the shallow depth of field I used an aperture of f/4, which lets in a lot of light, so I used a low ISO of 200 and a pretty low shutter speed, 1/250 of a second to make sure I got the correct exposure. Since I knew that I wanted to blur the background, I set the camera on Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture, letting the camera set the shutter speed.
This skateboarder was frozen in mid fall using a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second. Since there was not a huge amount of light present due to overcast skies, I needed to boost the ISO to 400 to get the shutter speed necessary. At times you want to make sure that that you capture the action, and with fast moving subjects you need to do the following: you need to use a high shutter speed and to get the correct exposure that means using the widest aperture possible and increasing the ISO if needed. Since I didn’t want a photo of the skateboarder, I used a shutter speed high enough to capture the action and used shutter speed priority mode so that the camera would meter the scene and pick the best aperture.