Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Diopter

Have you ever looked through the eyepiece of your DSLR camera and thought things just weren’t quite in focus?  Perhaps you wear glasses and find they get in the way, but you need them to frame your shot properly?
Most brands of DLSRs (and some point and shoot cameras) have a dial or slide of some type to the right of the eyepiece.  Nikon’s can be big or small and obvious; Canon’s is more discrete (especially with the eyepiece cup mounted).  They work the same on both systems.  The diopter adjustment knob works as a lens switching from near to far focus.  It does not affect the focus circuitry of the camera as it is after the auto-focus mechanism.  It only affects how your eye picks up the image.
It works just like the device an optometrist puts in front of you when checking your vision.  That device has lenses of various concave and convex curves to adjust for near sightedness and far sightedness.  They adjust for an eye that can’t focus at a reasonable distance, such as for close objects like reading this text.  That little dial on your camera typically has an adjustment range of -3 to +3, with 0 being nominal 20/20 vision, more or less.
If your eyesight is anything less than average (essentially what 20/20 is telling you), this knob will be your best friend to help shoot better photos, especially if you attempt to use manual focus.  To set the diopter correctly, you will need to set your camera on something solid, like a tripod, and point it at something flat with enough texture to be easily seen.  Press your shutter release halfway down to focus your camera with auto-focus.
All things being equal this test relies on the idea that your camera focuses properly, obviously.  Without moving the camera, turn the diopter control until (with or without glasses) the image is in focus to your eye.  Really that is all there is to it!
I know it sounds simple, but sometimes even a small adjustment for those who think they have average eye sight can be helpful.  Happy shooting!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Blurred Background, Sharp Subject...
Panning is a technique that I am sure many of you already know or use. For any moving subject it is important to "stay with" the subject whilst you are framing the shot before, during and after you shoot.
Using slower shutter speeds, this technique can ensure that the subject stays sharp even if the background is blurred, an effect that is quite striking particularly in sport.
A simple way to try this is to stand by the side of a road and pick out a car coming towards you; 
Set your cameras shutter speed (TV for Canon, S for Nikon) to either 30th/sec or 60th/sec, this will be slow enough to cause movement as you swing or pan the camera. The aperture and depth of field are somewhat irrelevant as the background will be blurred anyway.
Make sure that you aren't too close to the road. Basically for your own safety and secondly if you are too close, the car will become distorted, especially with wide angle lenses. A small telephoto like 85 or 100mm is perfect for this technique. 
Either pre-select and manually focus on the point directly in front of you where you want to take the shot, (this will "fix" the focus on that point), or set the autofocus to AI servo( for Canon users), (AF-C for Nikon) in order to "track" the moving car.
Aim your camera at the car and stay with it with your finger lightly pressing the shutter button halfway to either track the focus (in AI servo mode) or/and to get a constant exposure reading.
At the point where it passes your pre-designated shooting area, fire away, whilst "panning" with the car all the time, and even use continuous mode if you have it to ensure one shot comes out well.
Obviously you can try this technique with any moving subject but you will have to factor in the speed of the subject when choosing your shutter speed. For example, you can pan when shooting someone walking or running to create the effect of movement on their arms and legs whilst keeping their body sharp, experiment with different speeds until you feel confident and happy with your results

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Motion Blur


Capturing movement in images is something that many of us photographers only think to do when we are photographing sports or other fast moving subjects.
While there are many opportunities in sports photography that emphasize the movement of the participants – almost every type of photography can benefit from the emphasis of movement in a shot – even when the movement is small, or very  slow .
Here are some tips for capturing movement:
1. Slow Down Your Shutter Speed
The reason for movement blur is the amount of time that the shutter of a camera is open long enough to allow your camera’s image sensor to ‘see’ the movement of your subject.
So the number one tip in capturing movement in an image is to select a longer shutter speed.
If your shutter speed is fast (1/2000th of a second or faster) you’re not going to see much movement (unless the subject is moving very fast) while if you select a longer shutter speed (5 seconds or so) you don’t need your subject to move very much at all before you start to see blur.
How long should your shutter speed be? – Of course the speed of your subject comes into play. A moving snail and a fast moving car will give you very different results at the same shutter speed.
The other factor that comes into play in determining shutter speed is how much light there is in the scene you are photographing. A longer shutter speed lets more light into your camera and runs the risk of blowing out or overexposing your shot.
 We’ll cover some ways to let less light in and give you the option to have longer shutter speeds below.
So how long should your shutter speed be to get movement blur in your shot? There is no ‘answer’ for this question as it will obviously vary a lot depending upon the speed of your subject, how much blur you want to capture and how well lit the subject is. The key is to experiment, using you’re digital camera is ideal as you can take as many shots as you like without it costing you anything.

2. Secure Your Camera
There are two ways to get a feeling of movement in your images – have your subject move or have your camera move (or both).
In this type of shot you need to do everything that you can to keep your camera perfectly still or in addition to the blur from the subject you’ll find that the whole frame looks like it’s moving as a result of using a longer shutter speed. Whether it is by using a tripod or have your camera sitting on some other still object (consider a shutter release cable or using the self-timer) you’ll want to ensure that camera is perfectly still.

3. Shutter Priority Mode
One of the most important settings in photographing an image which emphasizes movement is the shutter speed (as outlined above). Even small changes in shutter speed will have a big impact upon your shot – so you want to shoot in a mode that gives you full control over it.

This means either switching your camera into full Manual Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. Shutter Priority Mode is a mode that allows you to set your shutter speed and where the camera chooses other settings (like Aperture) to ensure the shot is well exposed. It’s a very handy mode to play with as it ensures you get the movement effect that you’re after but also generally well exposed shots.
The other option is to go with Manual mode if you feel more confident in getting the aperture/shutter speed balance right.
How to Compensate for Long Shutter Speeds When there is too much light
As mentioned above one of the effects of using longer exposure times (slow shutter speeds) is that more light will get into your camera. Unless you compensate for this in some way, this will lead to over exposed shots.
Below I have suggested the three main methods for making this compensation (note – a fourth method is simply to wait for the light to change (wait for it to get darker). This is why many shots that incorporate blur are taken at night or at dawn/dusk):
1. Small Apertures
How do you cut down the amount of light that gets into your camera to help compensate for a longer shutter speed? What about changing the size of the hole that the light comes in through. This is called adjusting your camera’s Aperture.
If you shoot in shutter priority mode the camera will do this automatically for you – but if you’re in manual mode you’ll need to decrease your Aperture in a proportional amount to the amount that you lengthen the shutter speed.
This isn’t as hard as you might think because shutter speed and aperture settings are organized in ‘stops’. As you decrease shutter speed by a ‘stop’ you double the amount of time the shutter is open (e.g. – from 1/250 to 1/125). The same is true with Aperture settings – as you decrease the Aperture by one stop you decrease the size of the shutter opening by 50%. This is great because an adjustment of 1 stop in one means that you just need to adjust the other by 1 stop too and you’ll still get good exposure.
2. Lower Your ISO
Another way to compensate for the extra light that a longer shutter speed lets into your camera is to adjust the ISO setting of your camera. ISO impacts the sensitivity of your digital camera’s image sensor. A higher number will make it more sensitive to light and a lower number will make the sensor less sensitive. Choose a low number and you’ll find yourself able to choose longer shutter speeds.
3. Try a Neutral Density Filter
These filters cut down the light passing through your lens and into your camera which in turn allows you to use a slower shutter speed.
It is sort of like putting sunglasses on your camera (in fact some people actually have been known to use sunglasses when they didn’t have an ND filter handy).
For instance, if you’re shooting a landscape in a brightly lit situation but want a shutter speed of a second or more you could well end up with a very over exposed image. A ND filter can be very helpful in slowing the shutter speed down enough to still get a well-balanced shot.
It is the use of ND filters that enabled some of the shots in our previous post to get a lot of motion blur while being taken in daylight.
Another type of filter that can have a similar impact is a polarizing filter. Keep in mind however that polarizers not only cut out some light but they can impact the look of your image in other ways (e.g. cut out reflection and even change the colour of the sky – this may or may not be the look you’re after).
Two techniques to try – one technique to experiment with if you’re wanting to capture images with motion blur is to experiment with Slow Sync Flash. This combines longer shutter speeds with the use of a flash so that elements in the shot are frozen still while others are blurry. Read more about Slow Sync Flash. Another technique worth trying out is panning – moving your camera along with a moving subject so that they come out nicely in focus but the background blurs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wedding Photography

Here are the 5 things I take into consideration when photographing a Wedding
There are few things I enjoy more than capturing gorgeous detail shots on a wedding day. No matter how chaotic or behind the day is running, I will make or find the time to capture the little details which the Bride and Groom laboured to choose, but most likely will never remember.
“It’s all in the details” is as true in life as much as it is to the success of a wedding photographer. I’ve often been asked, “Why would you want pictures of the shoes?” To be honest, it’s very simple, the details fade. The jewellery will break or get lost. The cake will get eaten until the very last bite leftover from the freezer at that one year anniversary. The dress will get packed away or sold. It’s just fact.
The details make each wedding different. Unique to each couple. This is really important to capture and preserve. And surprisingly enough, it’s not as difficult as you may think to create beautiful pictures of beautiful details. Think through the following tips and you’ll be on the right track.
 1. Clarity
 This the most important element to a ring or jewellery shot. Blur or a soft focus typically does not work well at all. The best ring shots are those that are sharp and clear and piercingly detailed.
2. Shallow Depth of Field
 I am convinced that a small depth of file is the second most important quality of jewellery shots. It’s not so much to eliminate distraction (though it most certainly does); it’s more to create an interesting and textured background for your isolated subject.
 3. The Environment / Background
 Jewellery can technically become macro shots, but I prefer those images that also are strong in composition. Of course you can take a pretty picture of a gorgeous ring, but work to make it memorable and unique. Incorporate special little elements of the wedding of that couple to create a truly captivating image worthy of a gallery.
4. Light
 Lighting in a ring or jewellery shot shouldn’t be overlooked. Basic fact: Lighting will make or break your detail shots. Use sidelight. Use soft light. Use direct light. Use it with intentionality and you will capture breathtaking photos.
5. Composition
 It’s easy to create ring or jewellery shots bull’s eyed in the middle of the frame. Don’t constantly revert to this. Keep variety and interest in your shots by placing them in the frame using your rule of thirds. Use other elements in your environment to do this successfully. This is quite a bit easier in jewellery shots with necklaces or bracelets, but you can absolutely do so with ring shots as well.
Typically ring shots are among the most important, but don’t forget the other jewelry as well. Little pieces on that special day can’t be replaced. Your clients will not only love and appreciate what you create, but you will too.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here are 8 things you should learn about your camera.

1. Where does unacceptable noise begin on your ISO range?

Your manufacturer says your camera can shoot a wide ISO range, but you won’t always want to do that. As you select a higher ISO setting, your images show more noise – bigger pixels. At what point in your camera does the noise become unacceptable? Take a series of pictures progressing to a higher ISO setting and compare. Find out before it really matters.

2. Where’s the sweet spot on your lens?

Just because the camera says 70 mm – 300 mm doesn’t mean it is sharp for that entire range. That inner limit where your lens performs best is generally referred to as your sweet spot. Do you know what that range is on your favourite lens? The only way to find out is to experiment.

3. What’s the fastest way to change your settings?

In many cameras, there is more than one way to change your metering, focus type, or white balance. If you are shooting and need to make quick adjustments, what’s the fastest way to do it? You never know when you might need to react without thinking, check your user manual.

4. Should you calibrate exposure?

Is your camera consistently shooting over or under exposed? Do you always have to dial in exposure compensation? This might be a good time to grab a grey card, (available from most camera shops) and practice getting your exposure correctly. Your default might be 1/3 stop under or over exposed.

5. How do you adjust your flash?

Yes, sometimes you will actually have to use your flash. With most DSLRs, you can adjust how the flash fires – normal, red eye, or rear curtain – or with what intensity. Do you know where to make those adjustments? It’s possible when you need them, you could be in the dark. Always good to know where to begin fumbling.

6. Do you have a reset routine?

When you finish shooting for the day, do you return the camera to any default settings? Do you check those settings when you pick up your camera for the day? You might come up with your own “start” settings that will work if you ever need to grab and go.

For instance, at the end of a shoot, you might return your camera to ISO 400, Aperture Priority f/9, Evaluative Metering, Exposure Compensation set to 0, and Auto White Balance. If you pick up the camera and run out in a hurry, you’ll be set to get most basic shots. The last thing you want to do is start shooting and find that your camera is still in last night’s extreme set up. Establish your own routine. Is it before the shoot, after, or both? When will you reset and what?

7. What’s your accessories routine?

When do you recharge your batteries? How frequently? What’s the routine for the tripod plate? When do you empty your memory cards? Simple organization routines can help you from ending up on a shoot with a dead battery or full memory card…or worse yet, a tripod with no plate.

8. What’s your workflow system?

What’s your organization system for your pictures?
 As you collect more and more pictures, a good tagging and filing system will save hours of searching later. That’s a good mindless exercise for a slow day.
 Knowing your tools is often a skill that makes the difference in your photos
Take the time to learn your camera when there is low pressure or expectations, like a weekend or over the holiday break. When you’re shooting high impact events, everything should flow naturally.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shooting Through A Wire Fence

When standing behind a wire fence, trying to shoot an interesting subject can be a problem. It’s a challenge often faced when you’re at the zoo but you can also come across it when shooting at some sporting events car racing for example, or in some other random situations.
So how do you minimise the impact of the fence in your shots? Here are a few tips:
1. Switch to Manual Focusing, one challenge you may face shooting through any kind of fence is that your camera may not know what to focus on, the fence or the object behind it. Switch to manual focus mode and you’ll be in complete control of what is in and out of focus.
2. Get close to the Fence, ideally the best bet is to try to make the fence so out of focus that it can be barely seen in your shot. To do this, one strategy is to get up very close to the fence, so close your lens has no chance of focusing on it. It may not be possible to be right up against a fence an example could be photographing a lion at the zoo may mean you have other barriers in place for your own safety, but the closer the better.
3. Use a Large Aperture, choose a large aperture (making the number of your aperture as small as possible) will help to narrow the depth of focus and will hopefully through the lens even further out of focus.
4. Wait until your Subject is away from the fence, if for example your subject is moving around behind the fence; wait until they are a little further back from the fence to take the shot. The closer they are to the fence the more the fence will be in focus.
5. Position Your Lens to shoot “Through Larger Gaps” if the fence has largish openings you’ll do better to position these gaps in the middle of your frame.
6. Avoid Reflections, if shooting through a part of a fence where there are reflections from the sun or other lights coming off the fence you’ll find the fence will become even more noticeable. As a result try to find a part of the fence that is shaded, or get someone to stand in such a way that they cast a shadow on the fence.
7. Incorporate the fence into your composition; it may be that the fence can become an important part of your composition, so consider breaking all the above rules to also try that out!

Friday, February 24, 2012

These five ingredients make up the basis of all photographs,


Colour: The arrangement of colours in a photograph will help you create the illusion of depth or a three dimensional composition.
Warm colours (Red, Yellows) will ascend from a photograph while cool colours (Greens, Blue) will resend in a photograph.
Colours and their relationships to one another is a very powerful tool when it comes to organizing your photograph.

Horizontal Lines:
imply, restfulness, tranquillity, peacefulness.
Low horizon lines emphasize the sky, spaces, and distance.
High horizons emphasize close proximity, and objects in the foreground.

are made up of Lines and Shapes.
In colour photography, lines and shapes are often
formed entirely by colour.
Patterns exist almost everywhere. You only have
to open your heart and mind to discover them.

: An implied texture,  dried mud, weathered wood, soft grasses, sandstone etc., all have textures that can be photographed. Texture is most commonly brought out with an oblique angle of light, (sidelight) which, in skimming the surface of the object, records the pockets of contrast, and picks up the hairs, cracks, curls, and ridges to create the textured effect.
Soft, diffuse light also works well, if there is enough contrast to define the texture. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Understanding White Balance

White Balance is a part of photography that many digital camera owners don’t understand or use, but it’s something worth learning about as it can have a real impact on the shots you take.
So for those of you who have been avoiding White Balance? Let me introduce you to it, I will keep it as simple as possible.
At its simplest – the reason we adjust the white balance is to get the colours in our images as accurate as possible.
Why would you need to get the colour right in your shots?
You might have noticed when looking through your shots after taking them that at times images can come out with an orange, blue, yellow, etc. look to them – despite the fact that when viewing them through your viewfinder to your naked eye the scene looked quite normal. The reason for this is that the images different sources of light have a different colour (or temperature) to them. Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add yellowish tinges to photos.
The range in different temperatures ranges from the very cool light of blue sky through to the very warm light of a candle.
You won’t generally notice this difference in temperature because our eyes adjust automatically for it. So unless the temperature of the light is very extreme a white sheet of paper will generally look white to us. However a digital camera doesn’t have the smarts to make these adjustments automatically and sometimes will need us to tell it how to treat different light.
So for cooler (blue or green) light you will tell the camera to warm things up and in warm light you will tell it to cool down.
Adjusting White Balance
Different digital cameras have different ways of adjusting white balance so you will need to get out your cameras manual out to work out the specifics of how to make changes. That said – many digital cameras have automatic and semi-automatic modes to help you make the adjustments.
Pre-set White Balance Settings
Here are some of the basic White Balance settings you’ll find on cameras:
    Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. Will work in many situations but it’s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting.
    Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colours in photos.
    Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
    Daylight/Sunny – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
    Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode.
    Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
    Shade the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.

Manual White Balance Adjustments
In most cases you can get a pretty accurate result using the above pre-set white balance modes – but some digital cameras (most DSLRs and higher end point and shoots) allow for manual white balance adjustments also.
The way this is used varies a little between models but in essence what you do is to tell your camera what white looks like in a shot so that it has something as a reference point for deciding how other colours should look. You can do this by buying yourself a white (or grey) card which is specifically designed for this task – or you can find some other appropriately coloured object around you to do the job.
This manual adjustment is not difficult to do once you find where to do it in the menu on your camera and it’s well worth learning how to do it.
Like everything with photography it is up to you to experiment with the different settings on your camera, and above all have fun and enjoy yourself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Digital Camera Maintenance Tips

Whether you are a beginning hobbyist with a digital point and shoot type camera or someone who has taken years to build their knowledge and equipment, taking care of your camera gear will help you take better pictures longer. Many photographers tend to buy extras for their photography, but rarely do they take the time to care for all of the gadgets they acquire. Maintenance not only gives your gear longer life, but it enables your gadgets to work at their optimum. Our biggest and most expensive piece of gear is our camera. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out it for years to come.
Grit, Grime, & your Camera

Today’s digital cameras are full of moving parts that will not operate properly if they are filled with grit and grime. The best thing you can do is be very careful when shooting in areas that are sandy or dusty. Take special care when you are changing lenses. You have to consider your camera sensor and internal components and the lens. The quicker you can make the swap the better. Always have the lens you are planning to switch to handy and ready to go before you take the lens you are using off the camera body. Keep the opening to the camera body out of the wind while making sure to keep the opening pointed downward. This will help keep falling and blowing bits of debris out of your camera body. Put the new lens on as quickly as you can without damaging anything.

No matter how hard you try to keep dirt out of the camera and off the sensor, it is going to happen. If you are making your shots happen, instead of letting them happen, you will want to change lenses in the field. This means you are going to expose the interior of your camera body to the elements and it will need cleaned. Some attempt to clean their DSLR sensor themselves. I do not recommend this at all. Unless you are a trained professional, you really do not know what you are doing. One of the best maintenance tips I can give you is this: Leave the techno stuff to the pros! You can damage your camera badly enough that you would end up needing to replace a very expensive piece of equipment. Do your best to keep it clean, and when it gets dirty, take it to a professional and get it cleaned. If you are not sure if it is dirty or not, then it might be a good idea to find a good local pro camera shop, take it in, and see what they will charge for an inspection and cleaning.
Proper Care and Cleaning of Lenses

First, most of you are using filters right? If you are not, then you should be. At the very least, every lens you use should have a UV filter on it? The UV filter not only helps with glare, but it also protects your actual lens surface. When you get a new lens, the very first thing you should do is ensure it is clean and scratch free and the second is apply the proper UV lens. Keeping this filter on at all times reduced the chances of dirt and other foreign matter obstructing or damaging the coating on your lens. When the filter gets dirty, you can clean it with a normal cleaning kit much easier than you can clean a lens. If something happens that causes damage to your filter, it is much easier and less expensive to replace than getting a new lens. If your lens is not protected by a filter, go buy one and use it. If your lens in dirty, make sure you follow the recommendations outlined in your user manual for cleaning your lens.
Damage and Abuse

A good photographer goes where the shots are. This means (sometimes) exposing ourselves and our gear to harsh conditions. Make sure you use all of the straps possible in order to keep your gear safe. It is not uncommon for people to drop expensive gear while trying to get a shot. Make sure you are aware of obstacles and other hazards if you are moving during shooting. You don’t want to end up like the guy in the video and possibly ruin thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment because you didn’t look behind you.
Corrosion is BAD

We rely upon batteries to power our gear. Make sure you regularly check your batteries and you charging unit for signs of corrosion. If you begin to see the signs of corrosion, you can clean the corrosion away with some rubbing alcohol and ear swabs. If the condition persists, you may have a bigger problem with your battery. Check for cracks or other signs of wear. It might be time to replace the battery.

Basic common sense is your best tool in keeping your gear up to par. You probably already know that you should not point your camera directly into the sun. You probably already know that temperature extremes are hard on your camera. If you use your brain and take your time, you will find that the best maintenance for your digital camera is prevention and common sense. Keep these things in mind while you are out shooting, and you will be sure to continue to practice the art of photography for years to come.