TUTORIAL: HOW TO TAKE EYE PHOTOS

Hi everyone! Welcome to a new segment on the blog where I try to help you guys learn something new! This week I'll be doing a comprehensive tutorial on how to take macro eye photos. Some of you might already know this, but my eye photos really got me started on Instagram and I can credit a lot of my success to these photos. Hopefully by the end of this blog post you'll be ready to take some macro eye photos of your own!

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Gear

In order to take great macro photos, you'll want to have some of the right tools. All the macro eye photos on my Instagram (instagram.com/elliotchoy) are taken with my iPhone and an Olloclip Macro Pro lens. You can use some of the more expensive macro lenses available for DSLR cameras, but I think the iPhone and Olloclip setup works just as good as any professional setup, if not better! 

Location

One of the most important factors for an amazing macro eye photo is lighting. I like to use a bright window with lots of subtle light, which helps illuminate the subject. You don't want to use direct sunlight because it's often too bright and uncomfortable for models to look right at the sun. Another factor I pay attention to is the reflection that's seen off the eye when I position my model. You can get some really amazing photos if you try to catch a reflection of a cool landscape or interesting architecture in the eye of your photo. 

Shooting

Now that you have everything set up, it's time to shoot! Try your very best to keep your arm still when taking macro eye photos, because even the slightest movement in the camera can cause the picture to turn out blurry or out of focus. I like to rest my hand on stable surfaces like window sills, tabletops, and chairs. Your model's head may also sway, so I personally have my models rest their head on a window or on the floor. I also hold my breath when I'm taking macro photos in order to reduce the shake in my photo. Take multiple shots and remember to try out different angles so that you can pick out your favorite after shooting! 

Editing

Once you've selected your best shot, it's time to add some finishing touches to your image with editing! I use Adobe Lightroom for all of my edits, but you can still pull off a great look with mobile editing apps and other editing software. Once I put an eye photo in Lightroom, I always start off by adjusting the brightness of the photo. I also like to make the shadows of my photo brighter to bring out some hidden detail. This next part is where the magic happens - bring up the clarity and sharpness of your photo. This will bring out lots of detail and it will completely change the look of your photo. If this changes the brightness of your photo, simply adjust the brightness levels again! Even if I barely edit an eye photo, I always try to add some clarity and sharpness during editing. 

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Hopefully this tutorial will help you take your first macro eye photo. You may not get the perfect shot the first time around, but if you shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, you WILL get the photo that you want. Macro photography is another world in itself and it's helped to notice and appreciate the small details in life. Feel free to DM me on Instagram @elliotchoy if you have any questions!

// ELLIOT CHOY

STYLE AND INDIVIDUALITY

Hi everyone and welcome to blog #3! Today I'll be talking about how to develop a unique photography style and using social media to share your progress as a photographer. Hopefully you can relate to today's blog segment and if you want, you can leave a comment down below at the end of the post!

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For me, a big part of figuring out what my photography 'style' has come from visualizing my photos. Before I really focused on taking photos deliberately, I just took photos at random and hoped that there would be something in the batch that I liked. However, now I tend to stop and think about the scene I'm visualizing and then I direct my subjects to position themselves in accordance with the image I have played out in my head (but that's only half the battle and you need make sure to visualize the photo you're trying to convey during the editing process too). To expand on this idea of visualization, you may have heard someone tell you to "tell a story with your photos". I never really understood this concept - and even though I've learned the value of visualizing photos, honestly, I still don't understand how every photo you take could tell a story. Sometimes I think photos are successful simply because they're visually appealing, not because there's a story behind it. Either way, I can't stress enough the importance of visualizing your shots while shooting and editing. 

For many photographers, the next step after taking a great photo is sharing it on Instagram. There are are thousands of photographers on Instagram (after all, it is a photo-sharing network) and in my last blog post you may remember me talking about how Instagram can be used for inspiration and motivation. But this discussion isn't about that; it's about maintaining your own personal style without being influenced by photography that's trending.

It's just like my friend @zech.lee described it to me. No matter where you go, there will always be something called 'mainstream' content. So it's expected that there's also mainstream photos on Instagram. Right now, the trend happens to be string lights, a fad that started by the talented photographer @brandonwoelfel. And while the string light photos are really aesthetic, I've found that some photographers only post this type of photo because they know it'll be popular with their audiences. 

Don't mistake mainstream photography as a bad thing. Most likely, people like the aesthetic of the photos and that's why the photographic style is mainstream in the first place. Just be sure not to change your style to fit in with whatever's trending, because the moment you start taking certain photos only because you know it'll get lots of attention on Instagram... that's when you're doing something wrong. You might know of that one childhood cliche that tells you to 'be different' and maybe you've never thought about it, but it actually is very important to value your individuality and not conform to the mainstream just for the sake of acceptance and Instagram likes. 

Per usual, I'll end this blog with some words of wisdom... even though I'm far from wise :)

Shape your own 'mainstream' and always shoot for yourself to create content that makes you proud. In other words, don't let the number of likes, comments, or followers on Instagram define the quality of your work. I've seen talented photographers put themselves down and leave Instagram altogether because they've let number define their photography. Follow these three steps: create, learn, create more - and I promise you that the numbers will follow.

// ELLIOT CHOY //

INSTAGRAM AS A SOURCE FOR INSPIRATION

Hey guys! With school starting for many people, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I stay inspired during the busiest of times. I hope it helps you figure out what motivates you!

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As someone still in high school, I usually have loads of homework and things to do after school. My routine tends to be pretty repetitive at times and the reality is that during the school year I don't get out and shoot as much. Most of the time my camera just gathers dust on the corner of my desk.

However, when my life gets hectic, what never fails to inspires me is... well, not exactly what the title says. Instagram is where I find my inspiration for photography but really, it's the creative photographers on Instagram that inspire me. It's motivational to see people share their work from all around the world, and it's especially inspiring to see people my age produce awesome content. I'm certain that student photographers on Instagram struggle to balance photography and school work, but seeing them produce amazing photos is a huge inspiration. 

If you are lacking motivation and want to find more talented individuals on Instagram, check out some feature accounts! These accounts are always featuring photos from people in the photography community on Instagram, and I always love seeing a variety of different styles when looking through my feed. Also, be sure to reach out to fellow creators; most often, they'll be happy to talk and share some valuable insights. I'm lucky enough to have met some amazing people through Instagram and even luckier to call those same people my friends. 

If you find yourself wanting to create new content in amidst of a busy schedule, my advice to you is this - surround yourself with inspirational people who will keep you motivated to create. Whether this means going on shoots with friends or talking with creators on Instagram, spending time with these people will keep you focused on your goals. 

Here's a random fun fact: back when I was young and naive, I told myself I would never get an Instagram because I thought it was useless. Looking back on really old Facebook status updates, I told my friends that Instagram was for people who couldn't read. Now I use Instagram nearly every day to connect with fellow photographers, gain inspiration, and share my work. Funny how things change ><

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to leave a comment down below if you enjoyed the read! I love hearing your thoughts on the blog!

// ELLIOT CHOY //

MY THOUGHTS ON GEAR

Hey guys - Elliot here! Welcome to my blog, where I talk about tutorials, life updates, and random things on my mind. Hope you enjoy this first post on my thoughts about camera gear and if you want to see more content like this, you can let me know in the comments below! That's enough talking though - enjoy blog numero uno :)

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So I follow a lot of talented photographers on Instagram and often times I try and figure out how a particular photo was taken. Even before considering things like angle, composition, lighting - I always find myself asking what gear was used to shoot the photo. I leave a comment on their posts and the reply I usually get is a camera or lens that I don't have. This seems to leave me feeling like I can't take good photos without specific cameras or lenses.  

A prime (pun intended) example of this is when the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens became a popular lens that a lot of my favorite photographers were using. So in my head, I put together the idea that I couldn't take great photos like my favorite photographers unless I had this fantastic Sigma lens. I knew I wanted to buy the lens but buying it meant I would be making the most expensive purchase of my life. To pay for the lens, I got my first real job at a pizza place and shot senior photo sessions whenever I could. After a few months of hard work, I finally had enough to buy the lens (which would instantly make me better at taking photos). I pressed 'add to cart' on my laptop and made the purchase. After what seemed like the longest week of my life, I got my lens in the mail and I was ready to take amazing pictures.

I'm sure you know where this is headed but the Sigma lens didn't really make my photos better.  

Some people will disagree, but for me, my new lens was only something that motivated me to shoot more and improve my photos through different editing styles. Sure, there were benefits like wider apertures and shorter focal lengths - but really, those factors aren't going to make your photos much better. What will improve your photography are skills like seeing light in creative ways and learning advanced editing techniques so that you can have complete control over your final image. I went on a lot more shoots after I got my Sigma lens - shooting with new perspectives and creative angles. I spent countless hours in Lightroom learning curves, color theory, and hidden tricks within my editing software. 

And I will say, my photos looked a lot better - but not because of my gear. My photos looked better because of what I learned from all the shooting I did during those weeks after I got my lens; it wouldn't have been any different if I used a kit lens during those few weeks either, because it wasn't the lens but the fact that I was constantly shooting that made me a better photographer. 

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Don't buy new gear until you think you've used that piece of equipment to the fullest and you've tried absolutely everything with it - you can save money and spend it on more important things like food... only half kidding :P I'm not denying that gear is important, because it is - up to a certain point. But if you're at that point, you'll know for sure and you won't have any doubts that it's time to upgrade. 

If there's one thing you should take away from this post, it's this: the fastest and most effective way you can get better at photography is to take photos. And I don't mean just setting up a few photo shoots with friends here and there. Keep your camera on you at all times possible and shoot photos of whatever captures your eye. This way you can be exposed to all sorts of different situations and each time you take photos in a new condition, you add one more tool to your mental toolbox and eventually you'll be well equipped to tackle challenging situations during planned photo shoots.

~ Here's to ending excuses and just shooting... photos :)

// ELLIOT CHOY //