Please feel free to e-mail me or call me any time if you need further clarification.
How many times have we all taken a photo that is either underexposed or overexposed? How can we take more of this properly exposed photo in the middle, and decrease under and over exposed photos?
These photos were taken from my balcony at the house across the street. I purposely changed the setting to this extreme for illustrative purposes.
Lets look at what goes into exposure.
All photography is reflected light. How this light is measured by the metering system on your camera determines how we will set up the exposure. In the older days of photography you needed to use a hand held meter, walk up to your subject, and measure how much light was being reflected off your subject. This amount of reflection was represented by numbers on the light meter. You would then walk back to your camera and set the shutter speed and aperture based on your trial and error past experience with your camera.
In today’s world the meter is inside the camera, so you no longer have to walk up to your subject. For obvious reasons this can be an advantage when it is difficult or dangerous to walk up to your subject. This metering system in your camera is called “through the lens” (TTL). How you set it up can have an effect on your picture.
The two metering methods I use are Evaluative and Spot. In evaluative the meter is averaging all of the reflected light that is coming into the camera. In spot, it is using only the reflected light from a small segment of the subject. From this information your camera determines how much reflected light it has to work with, and it will set the shutter speed or aperture accordingly.
Keep in mind the camera is always “compromising” what it thinks is best. The more professional cameras allow you to override this “compromise” to get the exact exposure you want. You will need to practice with your camera and your lens to see the effects on your photos.
Once the light reflecting off your subject is metered, you control the exposure with the Aperture, Shutter speed, and Sensor Sensitivity (called ISO also). All three work in combination, and all three affect each other simultaneously.
Lets start at the right side of the photo in this slide and look at the Sensor Sensitivity first.
Sensor Sensitivity is equivalent to film speed in the film world. The higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor is to the light that is coming through the camera lens. Noise is equivalent to grain in the film world. The lower the Sensor Sensitivity the better quality the photo overall. For most cameras you are safe in the 100-400 range. The high quality SLR cameras take good photos up to the 1000 range.
There are reasons to increase or decrease sensor sensitivity. The more sensitive the sensor, the faster your shutter speed for a given aperture. This is critical for sports photography where you sometimes need shutter speeds of 1/1000 of a second or faster to freeze the action and prevent a blurry picture.
Sometimes the scene is so bright that your shutter speed cannot be fast enough, even if it has a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second that is found on professional camera’s. If you exceed your camera’s maximum shutter speed it will overexpose the picture and all you end up with is a overly white photo. By decreasing the sensitivity you might be able to get a properly exposed photo at a shutter speed your camera can handle.
Next lets look at aperture.
Aperture ( f-stop) is the size of the opening in the lens through which the reflected light is hitting the sensor. This opening can be varied by the photographer. Apertures are like needle gauges. The higher the number, the smaller the diameter. Every unit change (called an f-stop) smaller decreases the amount of light coming into the sensor by 50%. In the chart above, going from f/8 to f/11, which is one f-stop, makes this aperture opening smaller, and decreases the light coming into the sensor by 50%. Going the other direction, from f/11 to f/8, increases the amount of light hitting the sensor by twofold.
F-stops are a function of the lens and not the camera. It’s the lower number that is most important since almost all lenses allow you to go to the higher number. This is because it is far easier to manufacture a lens with a small aperture (larger numbers in the chart above) than a large aperture. To get apertures below an f-stop of 4 substantially increases the cost and weight of a lens.
A larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) decreases your depth of field that is in focus when taking the photo. Notice in the top left flower above the background is blurred (decreased depth of field) at f/2.8, but much more in focus at f/22 because the depth of field has increased.
If you are shooting a kids soccer match you want less depth of field, so you want a lens that has an maximum f-stop of f/2.8 or f/4. This will keep your shutter speeds fast to freeze the moving action, and will also blur the background so ugly distractions like parents sitting in lawn chairs in the background will be blurry and not ruin a nice photo of your child making a goal.
If you are taking a photo of a friend in front of a mountain you want more depth of field so your friend’s face and the mountain in the background are both in focus. Of course this means your shutter speed will slow down, but since your friend is not moving you might be OK. If the shutter speed becomes too slow, increase your ISO (sensor sensitivity) or use a tripod. Lets look at this relationship next.
The wildflowers in this slide were taken at the top of a ski hill in Harbor Springs, MI.
In this slide we have a graph of aperture sizes over a graph of shutter speeds. For a given sensor sensitivity, every time you make your aperture smaller by 1 f-stop you decrease the amount of light that comes into the camera by 50%. So, to get the same exposure, your shutter speed has to be slower.
In the charts above the f-stop has gone from f/8 to f/11, decreasing the light the reaches the sensor by 50%. At a given sensor sensitivity the shutter has to stay open twice as long now to get the same exposure. This can be seen in the shutter speed chart above, as the shutter speed has decreased from 1/30th of a second to 1/15th of a second (twice as slow) as the aperture changed from f/8 to f/11. This is a slow shutter speed and will probably cause your picture to be blurry from camera motion unless you use a tripod. This shutter speed change becomes important as you will learn soon.
Lets look at a real world situation. I took some pictures of a blue awning up against an off white building. They were both taken with the same lens (a zoom set at 35mm focal lenght) and the same camera. The only difference in the two photos is the aperture and shutter speed. The exposure on each one is the same, and it is hard to tell them apart based on their color alone, which theoretically was supposed to happen.
Once you set your metering (evaluative vs spot) and your sensor sensitivity (ISO of 100-1000) before you take the photo, you then decide whether you will personally vary the aperture or shutter speed. Whether you like to change the aperture (called aperture priority) and let the camera decide the shutter speed, or whether you like to set the shutter speed (called shutter priority) and let the camera decide the aperture, is nothing more than personal preference.
In the top photo the aperture was set by the person taking the picture at an F-stop of f/4. Based on the metering system and sensor sensitivity of 200 previously selected by this photographer before the picture was taken, the camera software decided that a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second would yield a properly exposed photo. Look at the EXIF data to the right of this top right photo.
In the photo below, the F-stop was changed to f/5.6 by the photographer, everything else regarding metering, and film sensitivity stayed the same. To get an equivalent exposure the shutter speed had to be slower by 50% to get a properly exposed photo. This is because when the photographer changed the F-stop from f/4 to f/5.6, the amount of light hitting the sensor decreased by 50%. Hence, the shutter had to stay open twice as long as the photo on the bottom to give the same exposure as the photo above it. You can see from the EXIF data next to this photo that is exactly what happened. The shutter speed is now 1/1000th of a second, 50% slower than the photo above. Hence both photos have the same exposure, even though the photographer changed the aperture size.
Why would the photographer want to change the F-stop in the first place? Maybe it was to increase the depth of field of his photo. Even though his shutter speed decreased by 50% when he did this, it was still quite fast at 1/1000th of a second, and he was able to easily hand hold the camera for this shot.
To add more to your confusion we need to talk about exposure compensation. These pictures are from Canon’s web site, and are illustrative of how you can change the exposure, and even overexpose, using the exposure compensation dial.
The camera’s metering system and software algorithms are no competition compared to the human brain and eye. They have a problem with high contrast scenes, especially a scene that contains something very dark and something white. What looks like a normal exposure to our eyes does not necessarily translate to what the camera sees. Look at the photo on the left.
The left photo is underexposed (too dark) because the evaluative metering system made a compromise on all the reflected light in the scene, and saw a very bright scene because it measured a large amount of the very bright snow as part of its compromise. It did not know this was snow, it did not know you really wanted to emphasize the geese, it just made a compromise on the whole scene, and the bright snow was the overwhelming aspect of the photo. This system was fooled and underexposed the geese because of this. In other words, at the sensor sensitivity and aperture that were set by the photographer, the camera picked too fast of a shutter speed, and not enough light was reflected into the camera sensor to take a properly exposed photo of the geese. As part of the compromise, the snow is a little too bluish and the the geese are too dark. In the photographic world this is called “lost details in the shadows”. If this is the effect you wanted for some reason than by all means keep this photo the way it is.
You can adjust this discrepancy by using the exposure compensation dial found in most digital cameras and all SLR cameras. In both of the photos of the geese the exposure compensation meter is at top right of the photo. On the left side you see a graph that goes from -2 on the left to +2 on the right. The small vertical bar at the center is at the midpoint, which means that no exposure compensation has been set. This is the default factory setting on all cameras.
Look at the right goose photo. You can see that the exposure compensation bar is all the way to the right at a +2. Look at the shutter speed bar in the photo above as an aid. It shows a 1 stop change in shutter speed from 1/30 to 1/15th of a second. By moving the exposure compensation bar over to +2 we have moved the shutter speed 2 stops, and have taken the shutter speed from 1/30 of a second to 1/8th of a second. This means the shutter speed is 4 times as slow and a lot of light came into the sensor. The final result is a scene that is overexposed as compared to the photo on the left. The shutter was slowed down too much (it was only for illustrative purposes to prove this concept). In reality, the photographer would have initially taken the photo on the left with the normal metering system. After looking at the picture on his camera screen he would have seen that the geese are too dark and moved his exposure compensation only by one stop, making the shutter stay open twice as long as the photo on the left, and probably would have gotten close to a properly exposed photo.
Lets look at exposure from a different angle. This is also from Canon’s web site. This person’s face on the left is too bright, so this time we start with an overexposed photo taken by this photographer based on the sensor sensitivity, aperture, and the camera’s metering system. Based on these 3 parameters the camera kept the shutter open too long for this persons face and it became overexposed. Of course it is possible that you were taking a picture of the black couch, which is properly exposed, and the person did not matter. I find that highly unlikely though.
Look a the picture on the right. By moving the exposure compensation dial to the left by 1 stop, the shutter is now twice as fast, and 50% less light is let in to the sensor, so her face is not so bright. Of course the couch is darker now because it reflected less light due to the faster shutter speed. But it is not too dark, so we have found the proper exposure balance between a person’s skin tone and a black couch. This can be adjusted further in Photoshop using the Shadow/Highlights command we talked about in the first lecture. Being consistent with our first axiom of photography, which is “the best photo in the world is the one that you take and you like”, you decide in Photoshop just how much you want to adjust this.
Hopefully all of this makes sense to you. Its OK to go back and read it all again. The only way to become natural at this when actually taking photos is to practice with your camera.
By looking at the picture that appears on your camera screen you can get an idea if you under or over exposed your photo, and can use exposure compensation to adjust accordingly while taking the photo, or the shadow/highlights command in Photoshop at a later time. You camera (and Photoshop) will show you an even more accurate way to determine this exposure, since looking at the picture you just took on your camera screen often is not accurate. Your monitor is probably not color corrected, the ambient light in your room is probably not conducive to accurate observation with your eyes, and the background screen of your computer is not ideal. All of these concepts are discussed in the Scott Kelby books referenced in the beginning digital photography lecture.
So what can you do to be more objective? Its called a histogram.
The histogram is an objective way to determine if you underexposed or overexposed your picture. Look at the bigger graph to the right of the orange horizontal arrow above. It is a 255 gradation level of pure black (on the left) and pure white (on the right). The height of each peak tells you how many pixels are at each of these gradations.
When you underexpose the picture is too dark, and the term that is used is “loss of detail in the shadows”. This means the dark areas of the photo are too dark to show any detail. As an example, if you take a picture of a tree trunk, and you underexpose the trunk, you will not see the individual sections of bark.
If you overexpose, the picture is too light, and you have “blown out the highlights”. As an example, if you take a picture of a person with a white button down shirt, and you overexpose the white shirt, you might not be able to see the buttons on the collar.
Study the 3 examples above from Canon’s web site. Look at how the histogram is shifted to the left on the “Too Dark” example, and how it is shifted to the right on the “Too Bright” example. In the “Too Dark” example the flower is not as white as it should be. In the “Too Light” example the flower is so bright you lose some of its texture.
I just want to expose you to this concept because it is used often by professional photographers. There is no one perfect histogram. The luminous-landscape.com web site explains this in more detail.
Lets give our minds a break after all the theoretical jargon I just threw at you and lets look at SLR lenses. If you purchase a high quality SLR camera you will defeat the purpose of this camera if you don’t also purchase high quality lenses.
Canon has a web page explaining their lenses called EF lenses 101.
Lets explain the “Reading the Lens Name” box on the bottom of this slide.
EF– electronic focus (EF can focus manually also). This means it is an autofocus lens.
28-300mm is the focal length. In this case it is a zoom lens that goes from wide angle (28mm) to telephoto (300mm).
F3.5-5.6 is the aperture range. At 28mm the maximum aperture is 3.5. When you zoom up to 300mm the aperture cannot stay at 3.5, it goes to 5.6 (which you now know is smaller, so less light is coming into the sensor). This is not necessarily a good thing. A higher quality (meaning heavier and more expensive) zoom lens will have an f-stop of 3.5 or 4 at 28 mm and at 300mm.
Now is a good time to explain an important point when you use a zoom lens on your point and shoot camera, or even a consumer grade lens on your SLR. As you zoom the lens in each of these types of cameras the lens loses some of its optical qualities. This is why the pictures you take with these zooms does not always look as well as you envisioned. Just because the manufacturer advertises your point and shoot camera has a 10x optical zoom does not mean you will necessarily get a quality photo at that zoom level.
IS– Image stabilization. Advantageous when shutter speeds start slowing down and you are worried about camera shake interfering with the picture. More on this in a minute.
USM– Ultrasonic Motor. This is the mechanism by which the lens performs its autofocus magic.
Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses. For example, 200mm is a prime lens. A zoom lens can change the focal length, for example, from 70mm-200mm. Prime lenses almost always take better quality photos than zooms. For the average photographer the current crop of zoom lenses takes excellent photos, and more than fits their needs.
Taking prime lenses on and off your camera might not be something you want to do. To put it mildly, it can be a pain. Especially, for example, if you are in a dusty or dirty or rainy environment. And, you can miss a photo (remember our axioms of “get the photo”) easily while you are changing lenses.
The pictures on this slide show you the back of an SLR lens and where it attaches to the camera. These lens are EOS (Electrical Optical System), so this is a vulnerable area if you are not careful.
Because of all of this overall I recommend using zoom lenses.
Almost all lenses you would purchase for your SLR camera were designed for 35mm cameras and not digital cameras. This means the lens was designed to fully cover the rectangle that a 35mm film camera takes (the larger blue rectangle in the photo above).
Compared to 35 mm cameras, using the same lens, a digital camera, depending on the sensor size in relation to the 35mm camera, uses the field of view obtained by the smaller blue triangle in the photo above. When this picture is brought up to full size in Photoshop it gives an apparent magnification of the photo. The Canon 20D, 30D, and Rebel XT have this smaller sensor size (much less expensive to manufacture) than 35mm, so it multiplies the picture by 60% (called a 1.6x FOV multiplier). The Canon 1Ds Mark II has a full frame sensor (very expensive to manufacture), the same size as the film in a 35mm camera, so it does not magnify the photo at all.
The Nikon camera’s have a 1.5x FOV multiplier. As of this writing Nikon does not produce a full frame sensor camera.
What’s the bottom line with all this technical mumbo jumbo? The lighter and much less expensive Canon 20D, 30D, or Rebel XT will turn a 300mm lens into a 480mm lens equivalent. You get apparent free focal length on your 300mm, and it didn’t cost you anything in weight of the lens or cost. If you are a wildlife photographer you can now get closer photos of your distant subjects. If you want to use this same camera with a wide angle 20mm lens in a crowded room of people, it actually shoots like a 32mm lens, so you will cut out subjects at the edge of your photo.
The heavier and dramatically more expensive ($8,000 new) Canon 1Ds Mark II maintains the wide angle at the expense of the telephoto. The $3000 Canon 5D is also a full frame sensor and maintains the wide angle also. These cameras are routinely used for studio photography and photojournalism when the telephoto is not needed or wanted.
There are other factors here, the main one being the number of megapixels the camera is capable of utilizing. The Canon 1Ds Mark II is a 16.7 megapixel camera, the 5D is a 12.7 megapixel camera, all the others I have mentioned are 8 megapixel cameras. So what these two lose in the “telephoto” aspect they partially make up in the megapixel aspect, with the final result being almost the same when you enlarge the picture to full size in Photoshop. Of course you pay a premium in price for these cameras, and in the case of the 1Ds Mark II, a dramatically heavier camera.
See, it was simple afterall!
Canon, as do most manufacturers, makes consumer grade and professional grade lenses. The professional grade Canon lenses are called “L” lenses, and are denoted by a red ring around the end of the lens. Some of them can be used in a continual downpour, maintain a large aperture (for example f/2.8) as you zoom them, and they have bigger apertures. Some of them have Image Stabilization (IS) to help with low light photography. They start moving up rapdily in weight and price if you want all of these features. Lets make a comparison……
Both of these Canon lenses are “L” series 70mm-200mm zoom lenses. These are some of the most popular lenses Canon sells, and I highly recommend the lens on the left to everyone in this room.
The one on the left can maintain an aperture of f/4 all the time, whether you are at 70mm or 200mm. The lens on the right can maintain an aperture of f/2.8 along this same zoom range (remember the 28-300mm lens earlier where the aperture got smaller as you zoom to 300mm?). The lens on the right is Image Stabilized and also weatherproofed, and has extra optical features.
To gain this 1 f-stop of aperture (going from f/4 to f/2.8), and Image Stabilization (IS), the lens on the right is substantially heavier and more expensive. The bottom line for me is to use the lens on the left when I travel and weight might be critical, and the lens on the right when I do my sports photography locally. I purchase almost all my lenses used, so I paid $1300 for the lens on the right.
Another popular type of lens is a macro, or close up lens. To get the best quality macro picture you need to use this type of lens. Canon has made a new 65mm macro that is popular, although the 100mm is the one I use. The depth of field for macro lenses is very small, so there is a learning curve in using them, and you will need some type of external support because hand holding them can make it difficult to focus on your subject. Actually, you don’t usually focus with these lenses, you just move the camera close or further until everything is in focus. This is because these lenses focus very close, and you will literally be only inches from the subject you are photographing.
Look at the beautiful close up of the eye that is possible with a dedicated macro lens. Notice the circular flash on the pupil. This is caused by a ring flash which we will talk about next.
You need a high quality flash for macro photography or you will not be utilizing your macro lens to its full potential. These flashes are expensive and sophisticated. The ring flash that took the photo above costs $350 new, while the other flash, called a Twin Light, costs $650 new. I personally do not like the reflection caused by a ring flash, and would try to find a used Twin Light flash on fredmiranda.com or KEH.com
I sometimes use a regular external flash with a diffuser to soften and scatter the light. Even though it is not as good as dedicated macro flashes, you can get surprisingly good and even lighting.
Lenses come in many focal lengths, for the wide angle to telephoto. As you increase your focal length the lens yields less field of view and your image becomes magnified. Lets look at some other properties of these lenses.
These photos were taken in the summer from the top of a ski slope in Harbor Springs, MI.
Wide angle lenses used too close to the subject (photo on left) will distort facial features. The photo on the left was taken at 28mm with the camera about 1 foot from the subject. The photo on the right was taken at 50mm with the camera about 2 feet from the subject. It is obviously more natural in appearance. When you are taking people photos find the optimum distance for your lens.
This is Marcus my photography guinea pig. He graciously goes along with every picture taking idea I think of at work! He looks a little like Will Smith on the right picture.
Telephoto lenses will compress the subjects in your photo. The 400mm lens used to photograph these ducks from 20 yards away made them look closer to each other than they actually were. In reality they were several feet apart, but in the photo they look like they are almost touching.
These ducks were at a man-made lagoon in my condo complex.
Lets move on to digital SLR (single lens reflex cameras). Before we do lets look at a comparison of them to point and shoot cameras.
Don’t underestimate the cool factor. People will actually think you are a good photographer when you have one of these lenses around your neck, so you can fool lots of people!
Lets start with looking at a Canon 20D, a highly recommended prosumer camera. A 30D was introduced recently with slightly different features, the main one being a bigger screen in back.
The “pro” of prosumer means it has professional feature. The “sumer” of prosumer means it has features to a consumer camera. The pro features are the “P, Tv, Av, and M” modes above.
Av= Aperture priority mode. In this mode you set the aperture you want, and the camera will set the shutter speed based on the sensor sensitivity you set and the metering system. This is my preferred setting because I can determine the depth of field. By increasing or decreasing my aperture not only do I control the depth of field but I can change the shutter speed at the same time. I find this more intuitive than the other modes, although it is a personal choice and you should pick the mode that is most intuitive to you.
M= Manual mode. In Manual mode you are on your own. You have to pick the shutter speed and aperture without any help from the camera’s software. People that use this mode tend to use handheld light meters and not the TTL meter in their camera.
The consumer modes are the other ones. The green rectangle is totally automatic, similar to a point and shoot camera. The face icon is for portraits, the mountain icon is for landscapes, the flower is for macro, and the running icon is for sports. These modes tend to do a better job than full automatic or “P” mode, although they are no substitute for Av, Tv, or Manual.
On the right picture you can see the camera has a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second, and aperture of 5.6, and there are 275 photos left on this compact flash card.
The other camera I own is this monster. This is a professional camera made to withstand abuse ( I haven’t drpped it yet!) and take 100,000’s of photos. It is Canon’s flagship camera, and is the best camera this company knows how to make. It is heavier, more expensive, and more complicated to use than the 20D, but once you get used to these factors it is hard to use any other camera. Its shutter speed, autofocus, and file size are the best that is currently available for a digital SLR camera.
It does not have the Mode dial on top like the 20D, and it does not come with a flash. It is customizable to any shooting situation or shooting style. It is a 16.7 megapixel camera, so the file size is huge, and you need correspondingly bigger compact flash cards and a more powerful computer with additional RAM to handle all this.
The battery lasts for over 1200 photos per charge, and the body is made of magnesium alloy, and all openings and connections are rubber sealed (the pink lines in the photo) for weatherproofing. When coupled with one of Canons professional grade lenses you can shoot all day in a downpour and not affect either.
Obviously you would only think about purchasing this $8000 camera if you are serious about photography. I found mine used, in mint condition, on Fredmiranda.com, for half this price. Also, if you don’t purchase Canon’s highest quality lenses you are not using this camera to a fraction of its potential.
Stick with the 20D or 30D, or similar camera by other manufacturers.
These are examples of the photos this type of camera is capable of taking when mated with an “L’ series Canon lens. These photos have been downsized for easier downloading on a web page. When expanded to their normal size you can easily read the letters on the ball in the first photo, see the details in the frozen sand as he jumps, and read the letters of the jersies of the soccer players.
This picture was taken at the Huntington Beach pier.
These major league soccer player’s photos were taken at the Sports Shooting Workshop with Peter Miller in Denver, CO.
Lets face it, for most of us a lot of photos don’t come out well. Lets look at some of the more common problems and suggestions on how to minimize them.
The photographer saw the snow shovelers face easily because his eyes and brain are very sophisticated and “exposed” the picture properly in his mind. When he took the photo the face and body are too dark. This is because a digital camera has a limited dynamic range, and limited ability to discern complete black from complete white when compared to the human brain and eye. We talked all about this earlier when we discussed “exposure compensation” with the geese earlier. How can we overcome this exposure problem?
The first thing you need is to recognize when a photo has the potential for difficult exposure before it is taken, for example, snow and a sunny day with a dark person like above. If you think it is a high contrast scene like above take one photo with and one photo without the flash and see what happens.
Once the photo is taken look at the picture in your viewfinder after you take it. And of course, look at the histogram (its on your camera and in Photoshop) to get an objective take on your picture. Now is your chance to use exposure compensation to correct for under/over exposure of the person, use flash, or change the metering. In the above picture a fill flash would have solved the problem because the subject is not far away. If no flash was available setting the camera to spot metering and metering only off the person by autofocusing on him would help. If it still is not to your liking use exposure compensation by changing the shutter speed one stop at a time.
In the earlier geese photo, if the geese were close enough for the flash they might have been exposed properly. Also, if the photographer, after looking at the picture in his camera’s viewfinder finding it underexposed, had changed from evaluative to spot metering, and metered directly off the goose by autofocusing on the goose, the picture might have been exposed properly also. He may have had to use one of these methods if the geese were too far away for flash. So there are many ways to correct this. The one you choose depends on your equipment and your level of expertise. Probably the easiest method is to use the flash when feasible, and if that is a no go then spot meter and use exposure compensation.
If you don’t do any of these things the Photoshop shadows/highlights command (which is how the above photo was corrected) might save the photo, like it did in this case. We demonstrated how to do this correction in the Beginning slide show.
The movie star in this photo shoveling the snow was taken in Michigan at Christmas.
In this photo the photographer focused on the birdcage and not on the young lady. This is a common problem and is easily corrected. Point and shoot camera’s can be slow to focus, a common complaint when that once in a lifetime photo appears and you don’t get it.
Ydira’s photo was taken at the Long Beach Animal Hospital.
Autofocus looks for the first thing of contrast. It has no idea what you are trying to focus upon, it just looks for contrast. In this case it focused on the white snowflakes because they had contrast and not the person, which is what the photographer intended. This is corrected by using manual focus and turning the focus dial yourself until the person is sharp.
By keeping your aperture smaller in size you increase the depth of field and the subjet in front and behind stays in focus. This gives you more leeway when using autofocurs. We talked about this earlier when I showed you the wild flowers. But the smaller the aperture the slower the shutter speed, so you might get a blurry photo from too slow of a shutter speed. Lots to keep in mind isn’t their?
The photo is from the Sports Shooting Workshop with Peter Miller in Denver, CO.
Internal movement within the camera’s mechanisms, along with external factors, cause a slight camera movement when taking a picture, leading to a lack of sharpness. You can minimize internal movements in your camera by using mirror lockup to stop internal vibrations. A timer or remote release for the shutter button instead of pushing it with your finger and causing movement will help.
A shutter speed that is too slow is the most common mistake amateur photographers make. The general rule of thumb is your shutter speed should be at least 1/60th of a second when you hand hold your camera. An IS lens will let you shoot down to 1/30th to give you breathing room if light is decreasing and you don’t have flash available. These are marginal shultter speeds and don’t always work in all situations.
Digital camera’s like fast shutter speeds. In general, try to keep them around 1/250th to 1/500th of a second and you will do fine in most photos except fast sports. Keep your ISO’s in the roughly 400 area and you will have fast shutter speeds in daylight. Remember, when in aperture priority mode you can change this shutter speed by increasing the aperture size.
Another rule of thumb has to do with the focal length of your lens. This applies mostly when you use telephoto lenses. If you are using a 200mm lens the slowest shutter speed should be 1/200th of a second. A 300mm lens needs 1/300th of a second or faster.
If your shutter speed is getting too slow, and you don’t have the above options to correct for it, lean against something solid, or put your camera on a solid surface and use the timer to shoot the photo. One of the best options is to use a solid tripod (or monopod if you are a sports shooter). Don’t forget that flash also if the subject is in range.
Out of focus pictures can be sharpened in PS. The technique is called attenuation, and luminous landscape has a good write up.
Red eye can be removed with software, but my goal is to spend limited time in post processing. Red eye occurs in a dilated eye when the flash is near the lens, allowed the retina to reflect directly back to the camera. This is one reason professional cameras do not routinely come with a flash
This boy has a “catchlight” on his eyes, which is the flash reflection we want to see. Obviously the man below the boy has the dreaded red eye. It is prevented in several ways. Lets look at the focal plane concept.
The closer the flash is to the camera’s lens the greater the chance of red eye. On point and shoot cameras there is nothing you can do about this. The pop flash on the 20D has been designed to go higher above the lens for this reason. The professional camera on the right has an external flash that is even higher. This flash can be removed from the camera and set off remotely to even further move the flash away from the lens, and to also add an artistic touch with shadows and softness. Multiple flashes are commonly used in studio situations.
The external flash on the right might have been powerful enough to properly expose the geese we talked about earlier, especially if you used a professional lens with good optics and a large aperture (f/2.8 or better)
You can be quite creative with external flash, and decide how much of the background you want to light up. In the picture on the right more of the background is lit up.
This is my niece and her husband (another of my photography guinea pigs) on their recent visit. This is the man-made lagoon where the ducks in the above photo hang out.
The use of fill flash, even in daytime, can be highly beneficial.
This excellent article from Sportsshooter.com talks about the importance of flash in sports photography. It also talks about ISO (sensor sensitivity) and exposure. You might want to reference it. It goes into more detail than might be needed, so just study the parts that apply to your style. Here is the link:
Flash can be a complicated topic. This web page has exhaustive information on flash.
Its time to forget about all of this technical jargon and focus on the art of photography.
Luminous-landscape.com has information that is beneficial. The photo on the right was taken in Zimbabwe as the light was fading and all the baboons got situated in this tree. After minutes of squabbling and moving they settled down for the night in silence and I got one last photo of them before it was took dark to shoot any longer.
This is a basic rule of photography. Don’t always put the subject in the center of your photo, put it off center at the intersections of these lines.
That is the Huntington Beach pier with Ruby’s restaurant on the end.
Not only is cropping the first thing you should do to make your file size smaller for uploading to the web, and it can be used to change the composition of your photo.
This photo was taken at my nephew’s high school graduation party.
The picture on the left is an example of the golden hours of light, encountered in the morning and late afternoon. It imparts a nice warm tone to skin and gives less shadows. You can visualize the harsher mid day sun and the shadow it causes on my nephew after his bike ride. How do you correct the shadow on the boy’s face in the right picture? A good way is to use fill flash. Don’t forget the low tech way of minimizing the shadow on his face- have him remove his cap!
The man on the left was my guide in Zimbabwe. You already know who the boy is.
Instead of standing face to face with your subject change the angle up and down, left and right.
These photos were taken at Sports Shooting Workshop with Peter Miller in Boulder, CO.
Background quality is critical. You might encounter the term BOKEH when you visit some photography web sites. It is a Japanese term that refers to the quality of the background.
The track ladies have great facial expressions. Too bad the background is terrible.
The lady on the lower left has not one, but two vertical poles coming out of her head.
The two pictures on the right are much more pleasing in appearance. Again, these were taken with professional lenses with large apertures (f/2.8) so we could blur the background. Good sports photos need good equipment.
The lady with the “pole head” was taken in Huntington Beach, CA. The other 3 were taken at the Sports Shooting Workshop with Peter Miller in Denver, CO.
There is something wrong with this picture from the aesthetic point of view, not the technical. Can you tell what it is? Hint: look a that the woman in the right of the photo.
This photo was taken at the Long Beach aquarium while my partner was performing surgery on a sea turtle.
Black and white photography can be stunning. So convert some of your color photos to B & W in Photoshop and see how they look.
This photo was taken in Harbor Springs, Michigan while hiking in the forests.
Panning gives a nice effect of movement. Slow the shutter speed and literally follow your subject as he moves past by moving the camera with him. He will be in focus (assuming you lock focus on him and move as fast as he does when he goes by), and the background will give a nice motion blur.
This photo was taken in Denver, Colorado at the Sports Shooting Workshop with Peter Miller.
Shooting at 3 fps or more gives you those subtle facial expressions and prevents pictures that only have closed eyes. Be careful of the distortion effect of wide angle lens that are too close to the subject. I tend to use 70mm-135mm for my outdoor focal length for portraits.
This photo was taken in Huntington Beach, California. He is the opponent of the man in the volleyball photo previously.
Landscapes are a good chance to practice your rule of thirds. You want near and far objects in focus, so make your aperture on the smaller size ( f/10 or smaller) and focus on the near object or 1/3 into the photo. These photos are often blown up to large size, so try to use a sensor sensitivity of 100-200 so there is minimal noise in the final photo. This small aperture and low sensor sensitivity will significantly decrease your shutter speed, so a tripod might be needed. Flash is rarely useful due to the distance of the background objects, although it might light up the near objects for a nice effect often.
Use mirror lockup to prevent internal camera vibrations at this slow shutter speed. Putting a person or object in the photo gives it an element of scale. And finally, study that reflected light to see the best angles, and do it at different times of the day.
This photo was taken in Harbor Springs, Michigan as I drove my motorcycle around enjoying the countryside.
Reflected light can be quite artistic. This is the pool at my condo complex on a very still night. I used a tripod to keep the camera completely still.
Reversing the light gives a nice effect also. This is dog beach in Huntington Beach. Shooting into the sun and the reflective ocean water caused this effect. It is actually a color photo.
Get creative and have fun with your photography. This is my travel partner (and her sunglasses) on my recent trip to Africa.
The file format you should use all the time is JPEG. It does result in a loss of pixels as it compresses a photo to manageable size, but it does this in a way that you will rarely notice. I have printed 8 megapixel JPEG photos at 20″ x 30″ and they look great.
Your cameras software and hardware are doing the compressing based on the factory settings of compression and picture tonality. You can change these settings. You can also change the amount of compression to decrease file size. This decreases the quality of the photo, so I recommend setting your camera to the largest files size it is capable of, and setting the JPEG compression as little as possible. This gives you the best balance of the two. In the example on the left that would mean a JPEG compression of 5%.
This is from Canon’s web site, and gives a summary of JPEG and Raw.
To begin the learning process that is sometimes needed to make all this confusing information seem natural it helps to go to a photography workshop. This is the sports photography workshop I went to. It is available for reading at Sportsshooter.com. Here is the link:
Peter gave me an opportunity to assist the Sports Illustrated team shoot the 2006 Rose Bowl. When I was not directly assisting them I had a chance to shoot my own photos.
These two touchdowns were right in front of us, so they came out well. These players obviously move quite fast, so you need good equipment and lenses. The camer was a Canon Mark II 1D N, and I was shooting at an ISO of 1000, an aperture of f/2.8, with a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second most of the time. The professional lighting at the Rose Bowl was a big help.
Don’t feel bad if your sport photos do not come out like this jube (short for jubilation ) shot of the 2004 Superbowl. It takes an enormous amount of effort and people to get this photo as you will soon learn…..
These photographers are so busy shooting they routinely only see their photos if they make it in the magazine. If the photos are not coming out well during the game the editors will let them know this and they will adjust their exposure accordingly. So it turns out to be the editors that decide on exposure. This is good because they are experts at it. Most photographers don’t have this luxury to say the least.
Look at the size of the lenses the two kneeling men are using. They are 400mm f/2.8 IS lenses that cost a bundle and weigh a ton. They us a monopod and kneel for more stability.
How many photos do you think they took during this game to get the few that made it into the magazine?
They took over 16,000 photos. The editors in New York narrowed the 86 potentials down to the actual pictures that made the magazine.
Lighting is critical at sports events. Places like the Rose Bowl and Superbowl, along with professional indoor arena’s, have professional lighting. You won’t find this type of lighting at your kids’ soccer match, so get a good external flash, and a good lens with a relatively large aperture (f/4 or better) and practice with your camera.
In addition to sports photography another of my favorites is wildlife. I like it because it is totally unpredictable and unstaged. Of course this aspect also leads to significant frustration at trying to get the shot you want, especially when you miss that once in a lifetime shot because you weren’t ready or it happened just too fast to shoot. Practice in your backyard to hone your skills for when you go to some exotic locale and shoot some endangered species.
On my recent trip to Africa there was a wildlife book in the library that had the most exquisite photos. To get these photos the BBC sent a film crew of 6 photographers, in individual vehicles, all in radio contact in case something big happened, shooting from before sunup until after sundown, for 30 days of shooting. You need to spend a lot of time in the wild to get these kind of photos.
Don’t even think of shooting elusive wildlife unless you have a telephoto lens of at least 300mm. The 500mm Canon lens in this photo is probably the best wildlife lens in the world when you consider its cost, weight, focal length, features, and superior optics. It is available for a mere $5500. As an alternative Canon makes a lightweight 400 mm f/5.6 lens for $1000. It takes awesome photos, but is not as good in low light (lots of wildlife photography is in low light) due to the f/5.6 aperture and lack of Image Stabilization. I take this lens with me when weight is a factor. Lenses beyond 300mm in focal length usually need a tripod to make them steady enough to shoot.
Personally, I don’t like carrying tripods and heavy equipment, so I go out with professional guides who know how to get you close to the action.
All of these photos were taken with the use of guides. They know where the animals are and how close to them you can get.
The bear photos were taken in Katmai National Park. I used a 200mm lens for the top bear and a 300mm lens for the bottom bear on a Canon 20D. In both photos we were walking amongst the bears, usually 50-80 yards away. In some cases we were 10 feet away when the bears approached us (it goes without saying that you never do this without experienced guides).
The elephant photo was taken in the Masai Mara as the sun was setting. We drove up in a vehicle and I used a 35mm lens for the shot as the sun was warming up the elephant and the grass.
The lion photo was taken in Tsavo National Park in Kenya. We stopped within 40 yards and I used a 135mm f/2 lens with a flash.
If you are on a once in a lifetime photographic trip you need to backup your memory cards at the end of each day’s shoot. You can bring a notebook computer, or a dedicated CD burner. I use the the Epson P2000 for my backups. It is light and you can look at the photos on its 4 inch screen to see how they came out or share them with others. It comes in 40 and 80 Gb sizes. The 40 Gb is sufficient for me.