Friday, April 6, 2012

Easy Easter Images

Easter is a special time for many families--one that includes elaborate egg hunts, community gatherings and fellowship. It’s also a wonderful photo opportunity. We’d like to help you make the most of this special holiday with a few tips for creating eye-catching images.

Play with Patterns
Easter baskets, lovely spring dresses and painted eggs can all combine to provide popping patterns to photograph. For example, a close-up of a child holding a brightly colored egg against her dress can create a playful and visually appealing image. Consider pairing bright patterns with a soft background or texture to see the end result.

Celebrate Color
This holiday is filled with colorful clothing, decorations, and, with a bit of rain, some beautiful green grass to use as a background. Consider marrying bright colors with the natural background of grass, trees or flowers. Experiment with perspective and shoot a bit tighter on the subject than normal as this helps the colors take center stage and command the eye’s attention.

Capture Connections
This is a wonderful opportunity not only for posed family photos and Easter egg hunt snapshots but also for capturing those candid moments between loved ones. Become an observer of the festivities, pull out your best zoom lens and blend into the scenery for a bit. Photograph conversations between siblings, children checking their egg hunt treasures or a good laugh shared between spouses. These connections touch us during the moment, but photographing them will allow them to live on long after the day ends. You can also choose some of your favorites, print and frame them and present them as gifts for future birthday or holiday events.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Understanding F/Stop Calculations

If you’re someone who wouldn’t know the difference between an f/stop and a bus stop, worry not, because it is a concept that stumps many starting shutterbugs. The reality of photography is that it includes a fair amount of mathematics, an aspect that can be both interesting and confusing. Let us help clarify the concept so you can better enjoy playing with your DSLR by getting out of auto mode.

The f/stop is known by several other names including the relative aperture, the f/number and the focal ratio (f/ratio). Essentially, the number is calculated by dividing the focal length of the lens by the aperture diameter. Adjusting by one full stop will either allow in half or double the amount of light.

The standard scale of full f/stop range is as follows:

1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22

The f/1.4 setting lets in the most amount of light and f/22 lets in the least amount of light.

The focal length of a lens is defined in millimeters. For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens, f/2 is designating that the diameter of the aperture is 25mm, (50 divided by 25 equals 2.)

Understanding the basic numeric structure of f-stops will further strengthen your ability to make adjustments based upon available light. Take your camera outside and start playing with this concept and you’ll quickly see the relationship between the numbers and the results you record.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Indoor Portrait Tip

Indoor Portrait Tip Shooting indoors often means the addition of flash as many homes don’t have enough available light to properly brighten the subject, especially when darkness falls. If you need to brighten your subject but worry about the harshness a direct flash can create, consider tilting the flash so that it ‘bounces’ off the upper portion of a wall or the ceiling. It will create a more diffused effect and provide softer lighting as a result. This particular technique is often used by professional photographers in a variety of situations such as wedding receptions with low-light challenges, and the end result is often far more attractive than using straight-on flash. Try it this holiday season and let us know how it worked for you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sports Shot Tip

When we think of shooting sports, one of the most important skills is the ability to capture the action in a variety of situations and conditions. A tripod is a great partner in helping keep your gear steady so that sharp images are the end result. However, there isn’t always room for a tripod, especially when the prime picture-taking territory is crammed with other shutterbugs vying for the same space. However, a monopod is a great alternative for providing stability in tight situations.

Also, try bumping up your ISO to freeze sports action. This technique often works in low-light conditions but some pros also shoot at a high ISO even when they have favorable light available. Today’s digital cameras are far more powerful than previous generations, so experiment with ratcheting up your ISO higher than normal and evaluate the results. You may end up with the best action shots of the season!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Understanding ISO
The digital photography terrain is paved with acronyms, and one of the most important ones to understand is known as ISO. What’s interesting is that ISO isn’t an acronym, really--it was created by the International Organization for Standardization to refer to sensitivity of film to light. The term (or acronym) ISO replaced the film equivalent term ASA (American Standards Association). In the days of shooting film, you would purchase film according to its ASA, and this would indicate how sensitive the film would be to light. “Faster film” meant it was more sensitive to light; “slow film” meant less sensitivity to light.

So, how does this translate today? If we aren’t shooting film, why do we need to worry about ISO?
Well, ISO is one of the key components in creating a properly exposed image. ISO in today’s technology refers to the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Photographers will often bump up the ISO in situations such as low light conditions or in circumstances where shutter speed has already been decreased as much as possible. By increasing our ISO setting, we are increasing our camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. As you increase the ISO, less light is needed for the shot. Each time you double the ISO, it equates to needing only half the amount of light to create the same exposure.

One challenge of shooting at higher ISO settings is that of ‘noise.’ The term ‘noise’ refers to the stray speckles than can be created in an image. In the film equivalent, noise was referred to as film grain. You may not always notice image noise and it may not become apparent until you enlarge an image considerably, but image noise can detract from a quality image in that the photo will look more grainy and speckled. Smaller compact cameras are often more prone to image noise; some cameras can start showing evidence of noise at an ISO of 400 and above. This is due to the fact that a compact model camera’s sensor is much smaller than one used in a DSLR, and a smaller sensor means increased sensitivity at lower ISO numbers.

Some of today’s high end DSLR cameras offer ISO ranges from 100-6,400, which can then be further expanded higher due to mathematical algorithms. And some of these cameras can shoot at these high ISOs with minimal noise. If such a camera isn’t in your budget, simply practicing varying the ISO settings in different conditions is the best method for helping you understand the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

Learning to adjust ISO in various lighting conditions is an important cornerstone in advancing your shooting skills. It’s also a great opportunity to get more comfortable with your camera’s more advanced settings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Capturing the Essence of Action

When it comes to photography techniques, capturing the essence of action through blurred motion is one of the most popular--and sometimes difficult--skills to master. Many professional shooters will tell you that an element of luck often plays a role, but there are a few techniques you can keep tucked in your toolbox when the opportunity arises:

Take a Tripod: A tripod is one of the most useful accessories a photographer (of any skill level) can own. When it comes to providing stability for shots, a tripod will quickly become your best friend. A tripod can be particularly useful when trying to shoot action and when you’re using a longer lens.

Focus on the Face: A more advanced technique you can try is to focus on your subject’s face while in motion. The idea is to have the facial features remain sharp while allowing the rest of the body (and vehicle, if applicable) to appear more blurred. Just keep in mind that you may have to experiment with shutter speed and that the proper setting depends on what you’re shooting and the speed at which it’s moving.

Figure in the Flash: Using a flash is used more often to freeze motion as opposed to creating a blurred effect, but you can still compose an image of movement using this method. Using a flash will allow you to shoot at a higher shutter speed than you would otherwise use, but again, the overall effect you will create will likely be different than blurred motion. A quality flash can help you take your shooting to the next level.

Shooting blurred motion shots may require some experimentation on your part. Use your children running, cars driving by and other objects moving as opportunities to experiment with your settings. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with what works and what doesn’t and will be able to shoot more intuitively. Yes, this technique takes practice but the results can be immensely rewarding.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Experiment with the Rule of Thirds

It’s one of the most basic rules of photography composition--the Rule of Thirds--and its merits can be seen in countless professional photographs and paintings. To understand the Rule of Thirds, visualize two vertical lines and two horizontal lines dividing your image into nine equal squares. You then place your key subjects and points of interest along these lines. They will ‘rest’ where the lines intersect--in the crosshairs.

To better understand this concept, take a few of your photos and imagine the nine squares atop the image. Where are your primary items of interest? Choose a few of your favorite photos, the ones that really speak to you, and try the same thing. You may be surprised at how often the Rule of Thirds is at play in your favorite images.

Most camera manufacturers offer a virtual screen overlay that can divide your viewfinder into the Rule of Thirds format and this may help you get used to seeing your images in this way. You may prefer not to use this guide, but if it is available on your camera and you are new to the concept, try it and see just how different your images appear after experimenting. Think about where you want the eye to be drawn and use this guide to help you create that dramatic event.