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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

P (Program Mode)

What is the P (Program) Mode in Digital Cameras?

Most amateur and novice digital camera users don’t know the difference between Auto (usually represented by a green camera symbol) and P mode on their camera, or simply don’t use the P setting because they don’t know what it does or means.
 Placing your camera in Auto, is the equivalent to the Point & Shoot mode, this is fine for many situations, but this blog is for those who are interested in finding out what the Program (represented by the letter P), setting is for and what is does – or doesn’t do!
If you want to take more control over, or experiment with your ISO settings, the White Balance settings, the pop-up flash, and to some extent the aperture or shutter speeds, etc. then the P setting may be what you should look at.
The P mode will switch off the automatic flash, automatic ISO settings, will usually keep your auto white balance, but mostly what the P mode does is it tries to find the optimal combination of shutter and aperture to reach the optional exposure (plus the automatic ISO value in some digital cameras). This is usually done by taking matrix measurements and deciding “intelligently” what total exposure will deliver the optimum results, and then sets the Aperture and Shutter Speed accordingly.
Some cameras offer a flexible program mode where once it has determined the optimum shutter and aperture setting you have the choice to dial the shutter speed or aperture up or down a few notches without becoming over or under exposed, given the lighting conditions and the selected ISO.
I would like to encourage you to test your digital camera by selecting the P setting and experimenting with changing the ISO settings then taking and reviewing pictures (on your computer screen for best results) at the various ISO settings to see the difference.
Try experimenting with your flash settings too, especially fill in flash, by altering the + or – stops to see what gives a better fill in result. You may find that reducing the power of your flash fill in, could give a more subtle, flattering result.
If it all gets too confusing, you can always revert back to Full Auto. Full Auto sets everything, including the ISO and flash settings.