All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘photography’

Getting the Shot You Want

This is just a close-up, indoor shot of a stargazer lily in a vase, but it can be used as a miniature lesson. Getting the shot you want is what can separate you as a photographer from “people who have have DSLRs.” As a photographer, luck is a good thing to have, but it’s not a good thing to rely on. Getting this photo to turn out the way I wanted required a tripod, a remote trigger, and an 8.0s exposure.

I wanted a darker background, so I just set this up on the stove top because both the stove and the microwave are black (black appliances were still cool before the stainless steel trend came along) and and the microwave casts a large shadow on the wall behind the stove. I wanted every portion of it to be in focus from the front to the back. This was the part that required a very high f-number (f/22 in this case) and consequently a very long exposure time–that’s where the tripod and remote trigger comes in. Normally what happens when someone takes a picture like this is either a) the flower pedals themselves are in focus and the protruding parts (stigma, filament, anther) are out of focus or b) just the opposite, where the filament, stigma, and anther of the flower are in focus and the pedals of the flower are out of focus. Both of those can have an impact when used correctly, but that was not what I wanted this time.

November 04, 2011

By the way, these are the flowers I bought Jaime for our tenth anniversary of us dating. Ten years later, we have four years of marriage and two kids under our belt. Look at us go!

Shooting In Manual Mode: Conclusion (Exposure Triangle)

Note: This is part 5 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

All three of these factors (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture) work together to make your final product. Each one plays off the other in some way. This is why it is commonly referred to as the Exposure Triangle. Each is a piece of the triangle–they are separate but they can not stand on their own.

First try taking some photos in Manual Exposure Mode (turn the ‘wheel’ on your camera to M). You may have to consult your manual to find out how to affect each setting, but you can just try turning all the different wheels on your camera and seeing which setting they affect. On my camera, I can change the shutter speed with a wheel on the top of my camera (close to where my right index finger naturally sits) and I can change the aperture with a wheel on the back of the camera (close to where my right thumb naturally sits). I have to push the ISO button on the top of the camera and spin one of the wheels to change the ISO. (Tip: never use AUTO for ISO setting). So first try setting the shutter speed to 1/100s and the f-number as low as your lens will allow. Take some pictures and see if they are bright enough. If they are not bright enough, you will have to raise the ISO. If they are too bright, then you are in good shape; you can increase the aperture’s f-number or decrease the shutter speed. At first it can be deceiving that the shutter speed displays simply as “100” for 1/100s and “200” for 1/200s. Essentially, the higher the number, the shorter the exposure time, because the actual exposure time is the inverse of the number displayed on your camera’s display.

My suggestion is to force yourself to use the Manual Exposure Program for a while until you get used to it. It’s only three settings, so it becomes second nature pretty quickly. While I can make that suggestion for you, I also have to admit that I did a photography job yesterday, mostly candid photos of a family as they walked down a wooded path, and I did not use Manual Exposure mode one time. I set my ISO to 200 and used the Aperture Priority shooting mode. My reasoning for this was that I was trying to take candid pictures of a family that included both a dog and a two-and-a-half year old child, and I needed to be quick on my feet.

So, I’m not really saying that you have to use Manual Exposure Mode all the time; it does have its disadvantages. I will, however, go so far as to say that if you have a DSLR, you should never use the fully automatic setting. Become familiar with the priority shooting modes (Av, Tv) as well.

Shooting In Manual Mode: Aperture

Note: This is part 4 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

Aperture is the hardest concept for new photographers to understand, and for that reason I will skip the technical explanation (I’m not going to pretend I understand every bit of that explanation, heh). Just like every other setting on a camera, changing the aperture affects the brightness of your image (all other settings being equal). Aperture is measured in f-numbers.

Basically, the lower the f-number, the brighter the image. A lower f-number means there is a larger opening to let light in through your lens. Typically speaking, if your lens can go to a lower f-number than someone else’s lens, then your lens is more expensive. This is why your lens’ lowest f-number is listed right in the name of the lens–it’s that important. I have a lens that can go down to f/1.2, and it can practically take pictures in the dark (without a flash). A kit lens can normally go down to f/3.5 (or f/4.5 if it’s a zoom lens). The number that most people can rattle off is f/2.8; this is an industry standard of sorts for portrait photography.

As with everything else in photography, Aperture is not only about the lightness/darkness (exposure) of your image. Depth of field can be altered by changing your selected f-number. The best way to explain depth of field is with a photograph. This photo of some kind of vegetable cocktail illustrates the concept very well. The left image has a low f-number and only the front cocktail glass is in focus. The image on the right has a very high f-number and nearly every cocktail glass is perfectly in focus. The image on the left has a narrow depth of field and the image on the right has a wide depth of field. It should also be noted that the f/20 shot requires much more time and preparation to capture. Any photograph that uses a high f-number uses a very long exposure time and consequently requires a tripod.

Changing the aperture inevitably changes the look and emotion of your photograph (that is not necessarily true when changing the exposure time or ISO). When taking a portrait, a lower aperture is normally used so that the background is out of focus. If the background is in focus, it is competing for your attention. That is not desired for portrait photography. If you want to capture a landscape image, on the other hand, one typically wants everything to be in focus if possible; this requires a higher f-number. A higher f-number has a larger depth of field, but it requires a much longer exposure time. It is letting a much smaller amount of light into the camera, so a longer exposure is needed to compensate for this loss of light.

Shooting In Manual Mode: Shutter Speed / Exposure Time

Note: This is part 3 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

In my opinion, Shutter Speed is the easiest concept to understand in regard to capturing images. Normally, the sensor (“film”) is completely covered; it stands by in the dark, waiting to be called upon to capture the light when the shutter is opened.

If your exposure time is one second, it will literally open the shutter for one whole second and let the light in to the sensor during this time. While this long exposure time allows plenty of light to reach your sensor, your image will most likely suffer from a large amount of blur. This is because no human can keep their camera (or subjects, as the case may be) still for a whole second. I have my own personal rule of thumb regarding handheld shots. I can barely hold still for a 1/100s exposure time. I know people can hold their camera relatively still for 1/50th of a second, but I am not one of them. Maybe if I can brace myself on a tree or something, I can attempt a few 1/60s or 1/80s exposures.

Now, let’s say you are blessed with ideal shooting conditions. Nice, bright, partly cloudy day with the sun behind a cloud. In these conditions, you can easily push your exposure times to 1/500s or maybe even 1/1000s. These exposure times are used to “stop time”–those photos where you can see every drop of water that someone has splashed into the air. If people could use 1/500s for every picture they took, they probably would. Unfortunately, lighting conditions dictate everything about photography, and lighting conditions typically warrant longer exposure times.

If your camera is on a tripod and your subjects are stationary (landscape photography, inanimate objects like statues), then all bets are off. Any shutter time is acceptable in those conditions. Most professional landscape shots use very long exposure times (>20s) to achieve the desired effect for landscape photography.

Shooting In Manual Mode: ISO

Note: This is part 2 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

One thing that we humans do not fully understand is how severe of an adjustment our eyes and brains make when walking from outside to inside or vice versa. You don’t really have to think about it. When you walk outside, you say “Oooh, it’s bright out here,” and then your eyes adjust within ten seconds and everything’s fine. Even in a well-lit home with sunlight streaming through the windows in the middle of the day, the world outside your home is literally hundreds of times brighter than the world inside your home. We do not realize the full extent of this because our eyes and brains adjust to these differences very quickly and accurately. Your camera, on the other hand, requires you to guide it through these changes. Typically, a camera attempts to make up for these differences by using the inbuilt flash when indoors, because nearly every camera is not well-equipped for shooting indoors. If I’m shooting on Manual Mode outdoors and I walk inside without adjusting my camera at all, the resulting indoor images will be severely underexposed (read: every pixel will be black) and completely unusable.

ISO is one of the easiest concepts to understand in photography: the higher the ISO value, the more sensitive your camera is to light. All other things being equal, a higher ISO will produce a brighter image. In order to understand ISO, one must have a basic understanding of film speed. Higher speed film (higher number) is more sensitive to light, so it can be used in situations with lower levels of light, such as indoors with no flash. High speed film (or high ISO values) make it easier to shoot in most kinds of light, but as always, anything that makes it easier to shoot also comes burdened with a sacrifice. This is a steadfast rule in the world of photography; never forget it.

The sacrifice one makes when using higher ISO values is that the photograph/image is much lower quality all-around. One could use ISO 800 for outdoor photography, but that is extremely rare because photographs taken with higher speed film are more “grainy” and are lacking some of the detail. If your lighting situation can afford you using ISO 100, you should try to stick with that. Images captured with a high ISO rating (800 or greater is a good rule of thumb for most cameras) have much higher levels of image noise. Regarding images, noise has the typical definition: anything random and unwanted in your image. It is basically a bunch of dots/specks that interrupt your image and keep it from being as sharp as it could be.

Here are a couple rules of thumb:

  1. Use ISO values that are multiples of 100. Try to stay away from ISO 125, 160, 250, and so forth. ISO ratings that are divisible by 100 are a “full stop” apart. All other ISO values are digitally interpolated and are therefore believed to be inferior. This point has been debated quite a bit, and different people come to different conclusions based on the model of camera that is tested.
  2. ISO should be the last thing you modify in a low light situation. Again–this is debatable. But here is how I come to this conclusion: no matter what other factors are present (tripod, lighting), a higher ISO value will degrade your image quality. The shutter speed and aperture may change the look and emotion of your photograph, but a higher ISO will always degrade the quality. Always. Some people may argue this point and say that they “like” grain/noise. That is a matter of taste, but a noisy image is undoubtedly a lower quality image. Keep your ISO as low as the lighting situation will allow. I have a very low noise camera model, and I still try to never go above 400 ISO.
  3. Test your ISO values while viewing your images at 100%. Look, if you want to be sure that ISO 1000 is “too high” for you to use, capture a bunch of images at ISO 1000, and look at them on your PC at 100%. This means that every pixel in the image will take up one pixel on your monitor. In order to do this, you will most likely have to zoom in so far that you will not even be able to tell which part of the image you are viewing. That’s fine; ignore all that. Check the quality of the image file without any regard for it as a photograph (remember, this is just for testing purposes). Is there a lot of noise? Come to your own conclusions. Draw your own line in the sand about what values you will not use. I personally try to not go above ISO 400 (which is unfortunately the ‘default’ value for a lot of cameras on auto mode), and I definitely do not go above ISO 800 unless the circumstances are extremely dire.
  4. Buying a better lens will not help. The way your camera behaves at different ISO values will not change if you buy a $1000 lens. It is a function of your camera’s sensor and there is nothing you can do to change that. Buying an expensive lens may afford you the ability to sometimes use a lower ISO value (due to some other factors covered in different sections of this tutorial), but it will not change how your camera behaves at a given ISO.

Shooting In Manual Mode: Intro

Note: This is part 1 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

I had a longtime fear of mastering my own songs. What is commonly referred to as “audio mastering” usually involves only a few subtle changes to the final recorded version of a song. These are things like evening out the amounts of bass and treble with the rest of the frequencies, making sure the volumes are consistent throughout your songs, and lowering the levels of some problem frequencies like noise and hiss. If something is properly mastered, it will sound good in laptop speakers and expensive studio monitors alike. To a guy like me, this was always daunting and intimidating until I actually sat down and attempted to teach myself. Just like with most things in life, it was only intimidating because people who are “in the know” want it to be intimidating. If everyone realized that most mastering technicians are just following a few rules to make all songs sound alike, then those guys would no longer be able to charge a thousand bucks to master an album. Of course there are a lot of people who actually stand out from the rest… people who are very good at it and deserve to get paid for what they do.

Many things in life are like that–shrouded in mystery for no good reason. Photography is no exception; it is made out to be something that’s very difficult to do without the aid of your camera’s built-in shooting modes. People who know how to take photos without the “assistance” of their camera’s auto/priority modes are partly responsible for keeping it shrouded in mystery. I have no problem coming out and saying that taking photos in Full Manual mode is very easy and it can be reduced to three variables: aperture, ISO (film speed), and exposure time. Together, these are commonly referred to as the exposure triangle. And each of those variables all has to do with “brightness” of an image. Unless lighting conditions are absolutely ideal, then you have to make sacrifices to get your pictures looking the way you want. There are certainly other things that separate some photographers from the pack. Style, attention to detail, and lighting are all very important and have nothing to do with your camera or camera settings.

Too much emphasis is placed on the camera that a photographer owns. If you take good pictures, people say “you must have a very nice camera.” Photographers do not like this at all–the idea being that the camera is responsible for the pictures and not the person taking them. Imagine eating dinner at someone’s house and saying “That was a delicious meal. You must have a very nice oven.” Or telling a painter “What a nice painting; you must have very nice brushes.” At that point you are transferring the compliment away from the cook/artist and crediting the tools they used to make the meal/painting. A camera is just that: a tool. No camera automatically takes beautiful pictures. If you play the piano very well, people don’t say that you were just playing on a nice piano; they are inclined to give the instrumentalist 100% of the credit. People realize that it takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to play an instrument well or make a masterful painting. This emphasis on someone’s camera leads to an unnecessary mystique about people’s cameras and the way they go about shooting images. It’s just like anything else: it takes patience, knowledge, and experience to do it well.

Most people who know how to shoot in Manual mode keep their camera parked on the M. This isn’t because you can take better pictures with Manual mode; it’s just because it allows you more control and knowledge of the situation. If you don’t quite have enough light, then you will quickly find out in Manual mode, whereas using one of your camera’s shooting modes will oftentimes give you a false sense that your camera is taking good photos.

Big Kid Smile

I’m starting to love this technique. I take my regular shoe-mounted flash that is normally pointed straight towards the ceiling. This causes the light to scatter and bounce off the [white] ceiling before illuminating objects. In this picture, however, the whole camera is turned sideways, so the flash is pointed left. It’s bouncing off the carpet on the stairs and returning to Henry with the appearance of being a soft off-camera light.

September 03, 2011

Macro Extension Tubes, Initial Thoughts

I picked up some Macro Extension Tubes a couple weeks back and I’m now getting around to testing them out. The only problem I’ve had since switching over to a camera with interchangeable lenses is the lack of macro. Most mid-level point and shoot cameras have a decent macro mode, but when you make the switch to interchangeable lenses, you have to spring for an extra Macro lens if you want to do extreme close-ups.

…Or so I thought. There are several ways around that fact, and until recently I knew very little about them. One option is to buy extension tubes for your camera. This is literally just a tube that goes between your camera and your lens. It doesn’t have any glass/optics in the tube; it’s just a spacer. Adding some more space between your camera’s lens and the camera’s sensor changes the dynamic of your lens. It turns nearly any lens into a macro lens. For me, getting to use the lenses I already have is a fantastic arrangement because I have two very nice Canon prime lenses. The great thing about extension tubes is that they are literally just a plastic tube so they don’t cost much at all.

Here is the first picture I took when I finally got them out. It’s the edge of some soft toy that’s meant for babies to chew on. It’s indoors and without a tripod. Having a macro lens again is going to be fun.

August 21, 2011

Stephen Mid-Air

One of the main things people try to do when taking action shots is to “stop time.” They try to take a shot that displays no motion blur whatsoever. This is a commonplace technique used in sports photography (or when trying to take a picture of people playing/splashing in water, for example). I did the best I could with these shots, but I did not have enough light necessary to use the fast shutter speeds that are necessary.

This shot uses a flash that bounces off the ceiling and a 1/200s exposure time. Since Stephen is mid-air, these shots have a lot of motion but you can barely tell because of the 1/200s exposure time. Normally when you use the flash, your camera defaults to a 1/60s exposure time. I had to switch to shutter priority mode (labeled Tv on most Canon cameras) and adjust the shutter speed to 1/200s myself. I wasn’t getting enough light at ISO 100 so I kept bumping it up until I had an acceptable amount of light. In this case that was ISO 320.

The general rule of thumb is this: if the action is moving towards you, you can get away with 1/200s exposure time. If the action is moving side-to-side then you need to use either 1/500s or 1/1000s exposure times. That is it; no need to complicate things. If there is enough light for 1/1000s with your camera’s lowest ISO setting, then you are all set.

May 26, 2011

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Basement Studio (and Laundry Room)

This was made with free iOS apps.

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