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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Stretches of Light:

One of the many beauties of summer includes the promise of longer days, and these time changes in sunrise and sunset can impact your photography. If shooting sunrises tops your list, be prepared to get up earlier! Also, certain areas with extremely hot weather will mean an increased intensity of sunlight fairly early in the morning.

If possible, skip the midday sun as it can often be harsh and may wash out vivid colors. Because the evenings arrive later in the summer, you have more time to prepare your dusk shots. Feel free to start shooting a bit earlier than usual and see how the changing shadows and colors affect your photography.

Experimenting with sunrise and sunset shooting can be one of the most satisfying and interesting aspects of vacation photography. Taking into account the local landscape, unique architecture and weather patterns can combine into creating a series of images that move friends and family and possibly even inspire them to visit the locale themselves!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Take a Tripod Along

Professional photographers understand the value of a quality tripod, and this accessory help improve your photography by stabilizing your camera and minimizing the camera shake so commonly found in contributing to those blurry photographs. A tripod is particularly helpful if you have to shoot at low shutter speeds.

Here are a few to consider:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How-To Read a Digital Histogram
Your digital camera has a simple but powerful tool that can help you evaluate the exposure of your images. It’s called a histogram, and it’s essentially a representation of the contrast and dynamic range in each image. A histogram shows the content of each exposure typically using a range from 0 (true black) to 255 (true white). You’ll find the ‘true white’ illustrated at the far right of the graph and the ‘true black’ on the far left. A well-exposed image will show points close to both ends. If a histogram is abruptly cropped on one end, this usually indicates that your image is under or over-exposed.
Each histogram image tells a story about the exposure of the image and can help guide you in making adjustments so that future images are properly exposed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weekend Warrior: Take a Quick Photo Road Trip

Have you ever thought about taking a Saturday (or Sunday) off from chores, errands and other weekend commitments to spend a day following your photographic passion? With spring knocking on the door, it’s time to seize the opportunity to get out and explore your locales. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or a far-flung destination; even the neighboring town can be a grand adventure.

Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your weekend getaway.

The Photo Day Tripper’s Checklist:
  • Write down the names of a few towns that are only 30 minutes to a couple hours away from where you live. Decide which one holds the most interest.
  • After choosing a town, do an online search for interesting facts about the town-- a city park, an iconic building, an upcoming festival or unique wildlife.
  • Choose a date for the safari--it can even be this weekend! Just make sure to clear your calendar--and don’t accept new appointments. You can, however, invite another shutterbug to travel with you!
  • Prepare all your gear including charging your camera batteries, format memory cards (and pack extras), include a lens cleaning kit (here are a few items to consider: and tripod in your camera bag. Also bring your external flash and extra lenses if you have them. And don’t forget your charging cable (or dock) and your camera’s manual!
  • Pack extra water bottles and snacks in your car in case you end up staying in one location longer than you expected. You don’t want low-blood sugar to distract you or pull you away from your location too soon.
We often talk about wanting to spend time experimenting with our craft but we also realize that everyday life can get in the way of even the best intentions. An impromptu photo getaway can give you the mental space and some uninterrupted time to explore a new location and experiment with your unique viewpoint.

Pick a place, pick a date, grab your gear and hit the road!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sport Shooting Technique: Zone Focusing
The concept of zone focusing is commonly used in street photography whereby the photographer sets his DOF (depth of field) for a specific area and waits for the subject to enter the frame. This technique is also used in sports photography and can help you position yourself to capture the action when it hits.

You will need to shoot in manual or AP (aperture priority) mode. Estimate the number of feet from the camera that you expect the subject to be and then use the smallest aperture available for that distance. You may need to experiment to find the correct setting, but keep in mind that this technique is designed to position the photographer to be ready to capture the action when it happens; the images may not be tack-sharp but will be reasonably sharp because the goal here is to be ready for the event when it happens.