Category Archives: General Tips

General photography tips.

Tips & Ideas for Wedding Photography

About The Author: This article has been contributed by Nick Smith from Digital Wedding Secrets. Digital Wedding Secrets is a guide focused on the wedding photography. If you are passionate about wedding photography then Sign Up to its RSS or FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive more wedding photography tips.

пора к плите и кастрюлям!! 2/2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pelipe

[tweetmeme]Nobody strives to be boring and mundane, and yet countless weddings and wedding photographs achieve that goal with flying colors. To raise the stakes as a wedding photographer (and therefore your prices and reputation), you need to offer a dual personality as wedding photography — one side that will ensure/guarantee the Bride & Groom that they’ll get all the “standard” (read: blah) photographs for a wedding photo package. And the other side that will enthusiastically suggest box-breaking, creative and imaginative ideas that might raise an eyebrow, but will guarantee a smile and/or a laugh (or a gasp) when you submit your final photos to the Bride & Groom. Dynamic photography is all about finding those definitive moments and framing them with evocative lighting… that’s your mantra; I’ll give it to you for free!

Wedding imagery on a grass roots level is just formalized party photography, so that being said, what makes party photography even remotely interesting to look at? That’s right, the spontaneous, unexpected, intimate and candid photographs that details the B-Story Moments of an event. The sterile portraits that most people expect and therefore get won’t get you rave reviews or make the job compelling for you, so push the envelope.

Planning Makes Perfect

The Shoot in photo parlance is actually a production, and for any production to be successful a plan must made, rehearsed and carried out to perfection (or as near as perfection as possible). This is doubly important with wedding photography, because the “event” isn’t staged, it’s happening live… in real-time. Therefore the preproduction planning stages are crucial. During this stage, scouting the location for lighting issues, potential backgrounds and event staging can be determined and discussed with the Bride & Groom. You can take test photos during the preproduction stage, and determine what additional equipment (like a third camera; a second one is mandatory) you might want to acquire the best images on the day of the Big Event. You can also establish a photo coordinator from someone close to the wedding party to help you corral the various groups during the day of the shoot. Sure you’ll have some authority, but not enough to get all that you need make the most of the day.

During the planning stage, you can make your production checklist, so there’s memory slips on the day of; you’ll have it all mapped out and handled by the night before, so that all you have to do on the day of the Wedding is get up, get dressed and drive to the venue.

Here’s another free mantra for you; If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Inspired Images: The Photo Essay

A photo-journalistic style is top among the techniques and tricks that can enhance any wedding photo package, but in reality you want to create a photo essay of the wedding, not just document what happened with a journalist’s flair and/or a creative eye. A photo essay has a more impressionistic slant to it; the images need to feel as poetic as possible. This will enable you to take chances with lighting, composition and subject matter that stretches the limits of photo journalism.

Remember, the photo-essayist looks to find singular lyrical moments and combine those moments such that they deliver more emotional impact than typical compelling photo journalistic/reportage imagery. Of course this technique/skill requires a most creative eye, and the ability to find the moments that might not be the center of the “action” but are more poignant and potent for the final outcome.

Build Rapport

Successful photographers build a rapport with their subjects prior to doing any meaningful shooting, just ask any National Geographic photographer how they get those stand-out images. So you need to follow that lead when it comes to Wedding Photography and establish a rapport with the Bride & Groom. The ideal time for this is during the walk-thru when the full wedding party is all there, and any pre-wedding day photographs (like engagement photography session) that the Bride & Groom want (suggest this if they haven’t thought of it). Be sure to be as engaging as possible; cracking jokes might be a bit much, but be as jovial and open as possible. All these people need to trust you in intimate moments, when most of them are probably going to be a little drunk (or maybe a lot drunk) and be emotional in rare ways. You have to be an insider, not an interloper.

Brutal Editorial Review

While it’s most important to shoot (perhaps too) many photographs, the purpose of this is to have the broadest possible selection possible to present to the Bride & Groom; not to mention that memory storage cards is notorious cheap these days, so bring enough cards and fill them up. And when doing this presentation, make sure that you are showing the absolute best “selects” of the 100s, if not 1000s, of photos that you took. Only your best work needs to be seen by the Bride & Groom. If you don’t have a great editorial eye, then find someone who does and whose opinion you trust. This most critical to having a happy Bride & Groom, because when they return from their honeymoon and want to see the photos they need to re-create the emotional highs of the wedding day. Even if the Bride & Groom aren’t expects at examining photos (and who expects them to be?), they will instinctively know when a photo is good or if a photo is great.

Takes these tips for what they’re worth, maybe you already do all these things. So this is just confirmation that you’re on the right track. Remember, you are a professional, and there is a specific pattern of behavior that is required of a professional; keep that in mind at all times and you’ll be successful. Professionals are prepared, open-minded and have boundless energy for the current project when it’s “go time.”

About The Author: This article has been contributed by Nick Smith from Digital Wedding Secrets. Digital Wedding Secrets is a guide focused on the wedding photography. If you are passionate about wedding photography then Sign Up to its RSS or FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive more wedding photography tips.

Must-Bring Cameras for Wedding Photography

[tweetmeme]Guest post from Nick Smith, author of Digital Wedding Secrets – a guide solely focused on the wedding photography and its business. If wedding photography is your passion too then Sign Up to its RSS or the FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive wedding photography tips in your email.

For many, Wedding Photography is the “pays the bills” aspect of photography, and therefore it might get short shrift on the respect meter because of the seemingly lack of “excitement”, but as my friend in the movie business says, “if you take the job, you do the job” and that means no griping. And honestly, there is a compelling aspect to wedding photography, let’s take a look, shall we?

The truly interesting thing about Wedding Photography is that it has an editorial aspect to it as well as a photo-journalistic aspect to it (or at least you should position yourself as a photographer who offers a blend of both). This dual nature enables you to provide a premium product… with a premium price.

While it goes without saying bringing two cameras to a wedding is the minimum ideal way to go. However, the true question is what two cameras to bring? I’m going to suggest a dSLR and a Rangefinder.

dSLR

A wedding
Creative Commons License photo credit: yaili

Canon and Nikon make some extraordinary dSLRs and the higher end Prosumer models can easily handle nearly every situation conceivable for wedding photography. Obviously Pentax and Olympus make quality product, too, but Canon and Nikon are the two heavy weights. dSLRs provide you with so much versatility in lens choice and other accessories. But there are few specifications that you might want to consider (either when renting a second or third camera, or buying a second camera, and possibly trading in one of the cameras that you do have) to ensure that you don’t miss a shot. The camera’s recycle time and burst fps are important factors to weigh, as well as what type of flash units the camera can accommodate (i.e., a High Sync Flash unit). It’s important to use a full-frame dSLR, this is pure an aesthetic bias on my part, but you want to be able to use as many lenses as are available in your camera manufacturer of choice’s line. Sure you could miss out of the fully computer-controlled lenses, but you might have a favorite lens that was for a film camera.

Most people will do well with two dSLRs, one fitted with a wide angle zoom (perhaps a 17mm-35mm), and the other with a telephoto zoom (probably a 85mm-200mm). This combination will enable you to quickly jump back-n-forth for group shots and tighter more intimate shots… without having to swap lenses, and perhaps miss a crucial shot.

A Rangefinder

Leica addict
Creative Commons License photo credit: c-reel.com

Why a rangefinder?, you ask. Simple, these most innocuous of cameras allow you to get extraordinarily candid and intimate shots that you might not otherwise be able to get with a dSLR. The level of intrusion that an dSLR causes can ruin the spontaneity of precious moments; not to mention that some people act a fool when they see a camera in active position.

Now I wouldn’t say that these cameras really fallen out of favor, more like they have become the ultimate niche photographic item. And the granddaddy of them is the Leica M7 or its digital cousin the M9 (Leica’s newest, most state-of-the-art digital camera). The unparalleled image quality that these cameras provide are worth taking the time to learn the unorthodox focusing method.

Leica’s new M9 is an AWESOME digital camera with a full-frame (24mm x 36mm) image sensor and captures images in a high-density RAW format. And because of the full-frame image sensor,you can effectively use any of the Leica lenses from the past 30 years… and those are perhaps the lenses on the planet. Known for their sharpness, incredibly speed, and lack of chromatic aberration, you’ll be awe-struck at the quality of the photos.

Bride
Creative Commons License photo credit: zamario

I had mentioned earlier the photo-journalistic aspect of Wedding Photography, well with a Leica (or any rangefinder for that matter) you can take on the role of photo-essayist. Rangefinders, and the Leica in particular, have supremely quiet shutter releases, so hardly anyone will know that you’ve actually taken the photo. Plus you can focus and fire from the hip so easily that you’ll have an unprecedented ability to grab photos with practically no one noticing. This gives you a lot of creative power as a photography, because you can concentrate on getting the Wedding Party and the guests to behave as naturally as possible.

You might think the Leica is overkill (due to its price), but the images will be well-worth it (and if you rent it, the actual expense is minimal).

So the camera configuration of two dSLRs and a rangefinder can yield you a wider variety of more compelling photographs with different feelings and emotions captured. That’s what the clients ultimately want, images that define the moment, that will spark memories in the future and will stand-out from the standard wedding photography fare (not that you won’t offer those as well, but it’s always about offering more than the standard these days).

About The Author: Nick Smith is author of Digital Wedding Secrets – a guide solely focused on the wedding photography and its business. If wedding photography is your passion too then Sign Up to its RSS or the FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive wedding photography tips in your email.

Social Networking for Shooters: How to Stay Engaged With the Pro and Hobbyist Photo Communities

[tweetmeme]About the author: Stephanie Weber directs communications, among other responsibilities, at DigiLabs Pro and regularly engages with colleagues and customers on its blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It seems social networking is on the lips of the young and old, professional and student, casual observers and fast-track hipsters. By all accounts, social networks help all of us stay connected with current events and topics of conversation while also helping businesses market their wares.

Yet a surprising number of professional photographers still ask us at DigiLabs Pro “Is social networking really worth it?” Our answer is a resounding, “ABSOLUTELY.”

WHY DO IT

Here are some of the reasons why photographers should engage in social networking:

  • It’s social: You’re missing the party if you don’t interact with customers or peers online. Facebook in February 2010 announced its number of users had ballooned to 400 million, making it the second only to Google as the most visited site on the Web. A few months later, Twitter shared that it has more than 105 million registered users. It hasn’t reached its peak yet as both of those figures are growing daily.
  • It’s live: Business marketing consultant John Jantsch likens the ROI of social networking to that of attending live professional networking events. “You don’t measure participation based on direct sales, you measure success based on identifying one potential strategic partner, acquiring one actionable bit of advice, or striking up a conversation or two that may eventually lead to developing a new customer,” he says. Many marketers also consider it a form of word-of-mouth advertisement, with real customers referring or introducing friends and family to various businesses.
  • It’s a network: Social networking enables you to easily stay in touch with a broad friend or customer base at regular intervals. Staying involved in your contacts’ lives will not only increase the potential for future interactions or business dealings but can also become a great source for valuable referrals.
  • It’s cheap: Engaging in social networks, by virtue of being online, are some of the most cost-effective marketing programs you can do for your photo business. It only costs you your time. And, anyone, photo novice or veteran, can jump into the social media conversation within minutes.
  • It boosts your rankings in web searches: For organic searches (search engine optimization, or SEO), linking and relevancy is king. The more people talking about you in social networks, the more relevant you are to the search engines.

HOW TO DO IT

Convinced of social media’s value, but aren’t sure where to start looking for other visually-minded folks like yourself? Here are some ideas to bring social networking into focus:

  • Know that Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town. Check out these alternatives or search for a NING site by topic of interest. You’re likely familiar with Flickr for photo sharing and You Tube for video sharing, but you can also use these sites to share comments with others to start new conversations.
  • Comment or post on your friends’, acquaintances’ and clients’ Facebook pages or tweets. Don’t spam them; that is a sure way to turn them off as potential connections. Instead, make relevant comments or complement them on the activities going on in their lives. Make sure the content is relevant and timely.
  • Stay active in online community forums such as at Photo.net, DigitalWeddingForum.com or PopPhoto.com. This will increase your exposure and keep you up-to-date with what is going on in the industry while also gaining access to unfiltered feedback of everyday photographers.
  • It is a careful balance of personal and professional, but above all, be yourself. Creating a personal relationship is vital for a photographer whose interest and job is to capture someone’s most personal and intimate moments.
  • Keep your updates fresh and interesting by posting and updating them often. This will help with gaining loyal followers, friends and fans.
  • Check out social media guru Chris Brogan’s “Best Advice About Social Networking.” Among his pearls of wisdom are: be friendly and inclusive, seek to be helpful always and say thank you often. (Great advice for life in general, isn’t it?)

BEST BLOGGING PRACTICES

Blogging Research Wordle
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kristina B

Perhaps interacting on established social networks is not your thing. You can easily share your own thoughts on photography and images via your own blog. The Internet is filled with guides for getting started blogging, including helpful tips from Microsoft and Google. When you blog, think about how you can improve your organic search rankings by infusing your writings with relevant keywords you want your readers to associate with you (i.e., “photojournalism,” “nature photography,” etc.) and link those keywords back to your site.

Another element of interaction can arise if you comment on other shooters’ blogs. Most blogs have a form for you to share your own thoughts on their posts. Keep in mind, it won’t help with your organic search listings as many blogging systems have “no follow” tags, but your relevant comments could help drive word of mouth.

You can link to particularly thought-provoking pieces by sharing them on your Twitter, Facebook or other feeds. Some of our favorite photographer-bloggers, including Ben Chrisman, Erin Henssion and Jasmine Star among many others, really infuse their posts with their unique personalities while discussing the special subjects or conditions in which they’ve been taking pictures recently.

Connect The Dots
Creative Commons License photo credit: queefette

CONNECT THE SOCIAL DOTS

No matter which avenue you chose, make sure your networking activities are connected. When you post a new blog, make sure to tweet about it and post it on your Facebook. If you are a hobbyist, you’ll find you’ll naturally make more connections if folks have more avenues to connect with you. If you are a business, add your Facebook, Twitter and blog links, to your email marketing activities and to your website to help boost incremental sales and new referrals.

As a photographer, you can only benefit from the ideas and referrals sure to come your way from engaging with your peers and potential clients.

About the author: Stephanie Weber directs communications, among other responsibilities, at DigiLabs Pro and regularly engages with colleagues and customers on its blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

10 Must Have Online Tools for Professional Photographers

[tweetmeme]This guest post is from Melissa Tamura, who writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently ranked the best online colleges.

Technology advances rapidly, changing many aspects of the way we live and the way we work. Photography is a field where the people working in it feel the touch of evolving science every day. While increasing complexity can often be overwhelming, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles. Perhaps the greatest aid for many shutterbugs is that photography is simpler and less expensive than it has ever been. In order to highlight this point, here are 10 must have online tools for professional photographers, all of them free.

1. The Library of Congress

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room at the Library of Congress website is an amazing free resource for photographers. In addition to an extensive catalog of digital images, the resource boasts webcasts, articles, the Flickr project, and a photographer’s toolbox, which contains too many free photographers tools to itemize here.

2. Getty Images

Getty Images, Inc. is one of the largest suppliers of stock images for businesses and consumers. Their archive includes more than 70 million images and illustration and 30,000+ hours of stock film footage. While the archive is not free to use, it is free to use for inspiration, and Getty Images provides a suite of free tools for photographers and other artists.

3. Sports Shooter

Sports Shooter is a brilliant website that focuses on one of photography’s most challenging arenas. This website is chock full of articles, guides, and tools, and it boasts an impressive workshop and message board community. Even non-sports photographers can take advantage of the skills that they hone there.

4. Photography Blog

The Photography Blog, owned and operated by professional photographer Mark Goldstein, is one of the best free resources available to young photographers. In addition to being a helpful community, they cover everything from techniques to buying guides. Bookmark this one and read it every day.

5. Photojojo

Photojojo is an easily digested website that caters to photo tips and DIY projects. However, the tips aren’t useless one-liners. These are highly useful, focused techniques such as printing your photo to food items, or a simple way to turn a photo into a mural.

6. Digital Photography Review

Digital Photography Review is by far the best free review website for photographers. In addition to their well-respected camera reviews, they offer galleries, a glossary, a great blog, and sample challenges. Never buy a critical piece of photography equipment without checking it here first.

7. About.com

About.com has an immense selection of photography articles. There are options here for all interests and enough material to keep you reading for days. More importantly, unlike many free photography websites, there’s no need to worry about the sources.

8. SmugMug

SmugMug doesn’t share Flickr’s notoriety but it does offer all of the same benefits with a few extras. These extras include online editing, sharing, and a suite of HD tools. They also allow you an unlimited amount of photos without spam or ads all free. This is guaranteed to become one of the top free photography services you rely on.

9. Photo.net

Photo.net is the largest and most diverse community of photographers on the web. In addition to the forums, Photo.net has tons of tools, articles, reviews and galleries. The community is international so it is active around the clock. It’s also a great opportunity to have one’s work critiqued, and you get amazingly fast responses to legitimate problems.

10. Digital Photography Magazine

Digital Photography Magazine is the premier online magazine in addition to being the premier print magazine. Everything they publish online is free, and the quality is on par with everything they publish in the print. All professional photographers should make it a point to stop here every day.

Leverage these tools to capture and create amazing images, and share your newfound knowledge with the world. However, remember that these top choices are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to free online tools for the professional photographer. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know what might come into view.

Melissa Tamura writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently ranked the best online colleges.

[from Brian] What are some other useful online tools for professional photographers? I know we have a few pros out there, I’d love to hear from you guys.

7 More Tips for Extremely Wide Angles

[tweetmeme]Just under one year ago, I wrote an article titled “8 Tips for Shooting Extremely Wide Angles“. I wanted to follow up with some additional tips on the subject… and of course, more great photos for your viewing pleasure.

So here are 7 more tips for shooting with extremely wide angle lenses. Some are brand new, and some are an expansion from the previous post. Either way, enjoy!

1. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FRAMING

20
Creative Commons License photo credit: Maurizio Polese

Extremely wide angle lenses make everything look smaller. This poses a problem when looking through the viewfinder because objects inside the frame can be hard to notice. Chances are, you’ll be paying attention to the overall image and the composition, but these minor details (especially around the edges of the frame) can slip by. What you end up with is a good shot ruined by some small thing down in the corner of the frame. Sure, you can crop it or clone it out, but it’s better to pay attention when you press the shutter.

2. SHOOT A CUSHION SPACE

adelaide slipstream
Creative Commons License photo credit: mugley

Because of distortion, wide angle shots are difficult to get straight. You typically don’t have a perfectly straight line to set your tilt, so you might end up with a slightly crooked shot. This happens more often with this type of lens, so leave a small amount of space around the edge if you’re unsure of your leveling abilities. Even if you shoot straight, you might want to crop down the outer edges just a bit. Distortion increases toward the corners and it can really stretch things out.

3. GET CLOSER

Pout
Creative Commons License photo credit: orangeacid

When shooting extremely wide, you’ll need to get extremely close to your subjects if you want them to be more than a minor detail in the photo. These lenses can usually focus fairly close, so you can get within several feet and focus with no problem. Just be careful that you don’t get too close — appearances in the viewfinder can be deceiving, and you might bump your lens into your subject.

4. STEP BACK

Point The Way
Creative Commons License photo credit: kwerfeldein

Contrary to the last tip, you might want to step back from your subject. This is more well-suited for the landscape photos. Sometimes you have large foreground elements that you want to include in your composition. Just step back a few paces and the whole perspective changes — things up close get significantly smaller, while things way out there don’t change much.

5. ENSURE STRAIGHT LINES

Salton Sea Sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Some wide angle lenses are better than others when it comes to distortion (you can tell by the price tag). But all wide angle lenses share the characteristic of having minimal distortion at the center of the lens. This also works for the horizontal and vertical center-lines of the lens. If you place a horizon at the top or bottom of the frame, it will probably be distorted. But place the horizon at the center of the frame and it should be almost straight. This also works for vertical lines in things like architecture.

6. DISTORT REALITY

184/365 - enjoy coca-cola
Creative Commons License photo credit: B Rosen

Sometimes you want to be a deviant and break “the rules”, right? All you have to do is ignore the last tip. Shoot straight lines near the edge of the frame and you have a whole new reality. You can also get really close to small stuff and shoot against a distant background of big stuff. Or perhaps you could take some portraits at a minimum focus distance and go for the big-nose look.

7. GET CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN

When bovines attack :-)
Creative Commons License photo credit: tricky ™

Super-wide angle lenses are fun to shoot with, but they require a bit of creative thought sometimes. Try out different combinations of subject distance, frame location, perspective, and secondary subjects. You might be surprised at the results every once in a while.

How about some other examples of extremely wide angle photography — drop a photo in the comments below, and leave a tip or two!

115+ Wedding Photography Tips


Creative Commons License photo credit: X.u.k.i

[tweetmeme]After reviewing David Ziser’s wedding photography book, Captured by the Light, I decided to dig into my collection of bookmarked articles in search of even more wedding tips. I came up with quite a few, and supplemented the list with a quick search around the web.

I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list of all wedding photography tips out there, but it’s not a bad start. In these 13 articles, there are over 115 tips covering many aspects of wedding photography from lighting to composition to planning to the business end, and many more. So if you’re getting into wedding photography, check out these resources and take some notes!

(21 TIPS) FOR AMATEUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS

(11 TIPS) BUILDING YOUR WEDDING BUSINESS

(2 TIPS) ESSENTIAL LIGHTING TIPS FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

(10 TIPS) PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING

(32+ TIPS?) CHRISTOPHER MAXWELL: WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

(1 VIDEO) HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH A BRIDE

(8 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY SURVIVAL TIPS: THE PREPARATION

(A BUNCH OF TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY – LESSONS LEARNED

(6 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY 101

(5 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION

(9 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTO TIPS FOR AMATEURS

(10 TIPS) PHOTOGRAPHING MY FIRST WEDDING

(HUMOR) HOW WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE LIKE GANG MEMBERS

YOUR TURN

If you know of any other good wedding photography tips, tutorials, and/or resources, feel free to leave the links in the comments below. And if you have any good wedding shots of your own, show them off!

Learn Your Camera With the Flip of a Dial

Get off the Green Box (aka AUTO): These are where you should be.
Creative Commons License photo credit: MoHotta18

This quick little tip is aimed mostly at the dSLR users out there who are still learning the ropes. I know how easy it can be to leave the camera in an “auto mode” so you don’t have to worry about all that technical crap. But the non-auto stuff really isn’t that bad, and it opens up a world of possibilities for you.

[tweetmeme]So this little exercise might be somewhat disappointing on your first go, but it should get you rolling in the right direction. You can do this in a single outing or split it up over multiple days — whatever works for you. And if you don’t feel enlightened after your first try, do it again. Alright, here’s the technique:

  1. SHOOT IN AUTO MODE
    If this is what you’re used to doing, just go ahead and get warmed up. Don’t think about that comfort zone you’re about to step out of, just shoot some photos.
  2. SWITCH TO APERTURE PRIORITY
    When you move to aperture priority mode, you control the f-number and everything else is automated. So now you need to start thinking about depth of field. Look for photo opportunities where you might want to blur the background or have everything in focus. Lower f-numbers equate to lower depth of field and higher f-numbers equate to greater depth of field. Pay attention to your foreground and background subjects, and experiment with different f-numbers on the same shot to see the results. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto shutter speed chosen by the camera — low f-numbers on a sunny day might max out your shutter speed, and high f-numbers on a cloudy day might result in long exposures.
  3. SWITCH TO SHUTTER PRIORITY
    When you move to shutter priority mode, you control the shutter speed and everything else is automated. Now you need to think about motion blur. Look for opportunities where you might want to blur a fast moving object or freeze everything in the frame. Lower shutter speeds equate to more motion blur and higher shutter speeds equate to freezing action. Pay attention to moving objects, and experiment with panning your camera as you take a shot. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto aperture chosen by the camera — slow shutter speeds on a sunny day might max out your aperture, while fast shutter speeds on a cloudy day might pin your aperture wide open.
  4. SWITCH TO MANUAL
    If you have a handle on the aperture and shutter priority modes, try switching over to full manual controls. The only difference is that you determine both aperture and shutter speed at the same time (and it’s not as hard as it first seems). Modern dSLR cameras have built-in light meters that tell you if your exposure is correct when shooting manual. That little scale in the viewfinder… that’s your light meter. Move the shutter speed and f-number around and you should see an indicator move across that scale at some point. If your exposure is correct, you should be somewhere around the center of that scale. As you experiment with the manual controls, you’ll probably notice that you prefer to leave the aperture or shutter in a steady place while modifying the other. This will tell you which priority mode you lean toward.
  5. Again, if you’ve never shot the priority modes or the manual mode before, this might be brutal on the first round. You’ll mess up a bunch of shots, you’ll miss shots entirely, and you’ll probably be pissed off. Stick with it though!

    The best way to learn the semi-manual and fully-manual controls is via practice. You can read about this stuff all day long, but that will only take you so far. So get out there and learn your camera!

    Any of you experienced folks have tips for those experimenting with the mode dial? Things to watch out for? Things to try?

Digital is Better than Film: 5 Situations

[tweetmeme]I hate love film… I really do. But there are occasions when I opt for my digital camera over my film cameras (shh… don’t tell them I said that).

I know, most of you might be thinking “digital is always better than film”. And certainly, the word “better” is open to interpretation. But my point here is that digital photography has certain advantages over film photography for specific situations. I plan to post a follow-up article that explores the situations when film is better than digital (and I might post it on my film photography blog, naturally).

[UPDATE 4-12-2010] I posted a Film is Better than Digital article on my film blog.

So here are 5 situations when digital is usually better than film.

WHEN YOU NEED TO SHOOT A LOT OF PHOTOS

And when I say “need”, I don’t mean shooting a thousand photos on your stroll down the road. I’m talking about situations that require you to photograph hundreds or thousands of photos for some type of event or job.

2010 Parker 425 Car #1532

I can think of several such events that I recently shot with my digital: The Parker 425 race, the Green Man T-Shirt event, the Long Beach Grand Prix, and I’m sure there are others I’ve done. The point is: these types of events (whether you’re shooting as a professional or as a hobbyist) will require that you take many hundreds of photos. Others that come to mind are weddings, concerts, sporting events, product shoots, fashion shows, races, and many more.

It’s not to say that these situations can’t be shot with film, but it becomes very tedious and expensive with ultimately fewer results (unless you’re downright awesome).

WHEN LIGHTING CONDITIONS CHANGE RAPIDLY

One of the major inconveniences of film is the fact that you can’t change your film sensitivity on the fly — you either have to finish the roll or wind it back up and write down where you left off. Digital cameras overcome this inconvenience by allowing you to change the ISO setting at any given time.

We Have Liftoff Moray Eels

One such situation that comes to mind is at a theme park or zoo. One minute you’re outside in the sun, then you’re inside a dark aquarium, then you’re back outside, then you’re back inside, etc. Pain in the butt if you’re shooting film. And again, things like weddings and concerts might have rapidly changing lighting conditions that will require a quick ISO change.

WHEN TRAVELING FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME

At just a “few” shots per roll of film, you could really accumulate a collection of spent film on a long trip. This poses two problems: the cost of the film and developing, and the space needed to lug it around. Digital photos, on the other hand, don’t take up much space — especially if you’re packing a laptop or other mass storage device.

My baby stash. 1,629 shots.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hillary Stein

Again, not saying that you can’t (or shouldn’t) shoot film on a lengthy vacation, but I wouldn’t leave the digital behind. When traveling, I bring both film and digital cameras, but I always pack way too much film. That’s the other downside to film — you bring more than you need, “just in case”.

WHEN YOU NEED A QUICK TURNAROUND

Not all paid shoots will require a ton of photos, but some will require a quick delivery of images. In this case, dealing with the film might be more work than it’s worth.

Even for personal stuff, sometimes you just need a quick shot of something that you can toss on the web. This is true for things such as blogs, eBay or Craigslist postings, quick family/friend emails, and other such situations. Obviously, digital rules in this area.

If you want to send a film photo through the interwebs, you have to shoot the entire roll, develop it, let it dry, chop it up, scan it, process it, and finally output it for the web. Digital… shoot, download, process, downsize, done. Hell, you could even shoot it on your cell phone and upload it straight to Flickr or Facebook. At any rate, film just takes a bit longer (and more money) to process and digitize.

WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY

There is certainly an ongoing cost associated with shooting film, and that’s not always a bad thing when you can pick up a camera for less than $50. But not every situation you encounter will justify that film & developing cost.

I shoot a lot of film, even for personal stuff and family get-togethers. But sometimes I just don’t see the benefit of going analog. If you know you’re going to be taking a lot of personal shots that you’ll never have time or money to develop and/or print, just take the digital camera. Or maybe you’ve been shooting a lot of film and falling behind on developing and scanning — shooting digital for a while can be a nice break and allow you to catch up.

WHAT DID I MISS?

Besides the default “digital is always better than film” answer — that doesn’t count (and I’ll prove it wrong with a follow-up post).

Three Ways to Control Depth of Field

My Sunshine

Depth of field (DOF) refers to the amount of a scene in the “sharp” range. Shallow DOF is typically characterized by heavily blurred backgrounds that you might see in outdoor portraits. Deep focus (opposite of shallow DOF) is typically characterized by tack sharp landscapes with no visible blur.

The most widely accepted method for controlling DOF is aperture, or f-number. This is certainly a feasible and convenient way to control DOF, but there are other factors at play. Just like exposure is controlled by three factors (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture), DOF is controlled by three main factors. Let’s take a look at these three factors and how you can use them to your advantage.

[tweetmeme]The examples shown below were taken on a 1.5x crop factor dSLR and the stated focal lengths are actual focal lengths of the lens rather than a full-frame equivalent.

F-NUMBER

The f-number is probably the most widely known and used method of controlling DOF. Most intermediate/advanced cameras have “aperture priority” which allows you you set the f-number. If you’ve toyed with this mode on your camera, you probably found that lower numbers result in a narrow depth of field (blurry background), while higher numbers result in a wide depth of field (everything in focus).

F-NUMBER ⇓ == DOF ⇓

F-NUMBER ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), find a subject about 5-10 feet away from you and make sure there’s some background object(s) in view behind it. Use your aperture priority and set the lowest f-number you can, and take a shot focused on the main subject. Now stay in the same spot and use the same focal length, but set the highest f-number you can (without bringing your shutter speed too low), and take another shot focused on the main subject. When you compare the two, the main subject should be in focus for both, but you’ll see a difference in the background blur or the amount of focus on objects in the near distance.

SUBJECT DISTANCE

Another way to control depth of field is to change your distance from the subject in focus. If you’ve ever shot macro, you know that the DOF is extremely narrow for 1:1 magnification. This is because you’re so close the subject. On the other hand, if you’ve shot landscapes you’ll know that it doesn’t take much stopping down of the aperture to get everything in the distance nice and sharp. This is because you’re so far from the subject.

DISTANCE ⇓ == DOF ⇓

DISTANCE ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), set your aperture to a value around f/4 or f/8. Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Now get as close as your autofocus will allow you and take a shot. Keep the same focal length and the same f-number, but back up about 5-10 feet. Focus on the subject again and take a second shot. When you compare the two, you should see a difference in the depth of field by the amount of background blur.

FOCAL LENGTH

The last factor in your control for DOF is the focal length of the lens you decide to use. Telephoto lenses have a shallow depth of field as compared to their wide angle counterparts. Anybody out there have a sub-20mm lens? It’s pretty hard to get background blur, right? Any super-telephoto shooters out there? Just the opposite.

FOCAL LENGTH ⇓ == DOF ⇑

FOCAL LENGTH ⇑ == DOF ⇓

cropped version:

TRY THIS: Use a zoom lens that reaches from wide angle to telephoto (something like an 18-200, 28-135, etc.) or use two lenses (wide angle and telephoto). Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Position yourself approximately 5-10 feet from the subject and set your aperture in the low-mid range (f/4-8, but make sure to find something that can be used for both lenses). Take the first shot with the wide angle lens or at the shorter focal length of the zoom lens. Now, hold your position and your f-number, and switch to the telephoto or use the longer focal length of the zoom lens and take the same shot with focus on the same subject. You should see a wider depth of field with the shorter focal length.

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

All this technical stuff is fine and dandy, but how does it translate to real world photography? The answer depends on what you’re shooting with and what you’re shooting at.

If you have a compact camera with no manual controls and you want a shallow DOF (say, for portraits)… zoom in all the way, get as close to your subject as possible (still preserving a decent composition), and take the shot. Also, less light will force the camera to use a smaller f-number and decrease the DOF. If you want a wide DOF (say, for landscapes)… zoom out all the way, get far away from your subject, and take the shot. Also, more light will force the camera to use a higher f-number and increase the DOF.

On the other hand, if you have a dSLR with manual controls and you want a shallow DOF… use aperture priority, set your f-number low (f/2.8-), get close to your subject, and/or use longer lenses. If you want a wide DOF… set your f-number high (f/16+), step back from your subject, and/or use wide lenses.

If you want to do some theoretical calculations on this topic, check out this handy Depth of Field Calculator. You just choose your camera, focal length, f-number, and subject distance. The calculator outputs your DOF, hyperfocal distance, and circle of confusion.

Links from around the web:

Back to Basics – Depth Of Field
Aperture: How It Affects Your Photography & Why You Should Care
Photography 101.5 – Aperture
HowTo: Use The Depth-Of-Field Preview On Your Camera

ANY OTHER TIPS?

How do you prefer to control your DOF? Any SLR shooters out there have a set of numbers that work well for narrow and wide DOF? How about some good examples of DOF in either extreme? We’d love to see ‘em!

Also — any questions on this stuff? I might be jumping over a few concepts, so let me know if anything doesn’t make sense.

Some Photography Q&A

I get a fair amount of questions on the post comments and direct contact. I should try to make a habit of highlighting some of those questions and responding to them because I’m sure others could benefit from that.

I dug back into the archives and pulled a few of the more general questions and answers. Hopefully these will help out some of you that may have the same questions. And if you have other questions, definitely ask in the post comments if it is specific to the article, or contact me directly if it’s something we haven’t covered yet. I’ll try to hang on to those from now on so I can share the answers with everybody.

So here we go, 10 Q&A bits from the archive.

Bill on “Quick Tip: Format Your Memory Card

I have a memory card that we have already used. Now the computer is asking us to format the card. Is there a way to format the card without losing the photos on the card?

No, formatting clears all the data from the card. Try downloading the photos from the camera to the computer with a usb cable (most cameras have this). If that doesn’t work, try a card reader (if you have access to one). You might even bring the card to a local computer or camera shop to see if they can access the images with a different card reader/computer.

Julia on “How To Create Photoshop Actions

I’ve done a couple actions, but how on earth do I share them with friends? Can’t find the files on my computer… Do I have to save in some special way?

You have to save them out — you should see an options for loading and saving selected actions in the pull-down menu of the actions panel. This will allow you to save out a .atn file. Just make sure you have the action or group of actions highlighted before you save.

Jim on “Flickr Etiquette Basic Guidelines

One thing I have noticed is that there seem to be many people who have no photos of their own, in fact they do not even have a buddy icon, and of course no real name given. These people tend to have amassed hundreds or thousands of favourites of women, some scantily dressed, some not. Many seem to be cross-dressers, perhaps looking for fashions to favourite. Most of these people never leave comments. Should I be concerned if photos of my wife are made favourites by these people? [...]

I know the type you speak of. I’ll usually block them just because they’re not trying to be part of the community and it’s really creepy when you look at their faves. Obviously, you can do whatever you wish with these followers, but I’m typically not a fan of the “super-creeper” gathering photos of my Wife.

Sangeeta Das on “13 Alternative Flower Photography Tips

[...] I want to know how is the dew drop trick done… is it just a macro shot or some post processing?

The only way I know to do those dew drops is to use a macro or super-macro setup (with reversal rings and whatnot). Otherwise, you just can’t get close enough to get high quality images. http://www.wonderfulphotos.com/articles/macro/dewdrops/

Jim on “7 Reasons To Love Prime Lenses

Are prime lenses really that much cheaper than zoom lenses? when I looked at canon 50mm f/1.8, which was probably the cheapest lens ever, it cost about $99. And the next one 50mm f/1.4 would cost as much as my Rebel XSi body. And neither one is the L series.

For the same quality, they are far cheaper. But they can be expensive too, especially when you want larger maximum apertures. With 50mm lenses, once you go larger than f/1.8, the price goes up exponentially. While the f/1.8 costs $99, the f/1.4 costs $400, and the f/1.2L costs $1600.

But now look at zooms in the 50mm range and you’ll see that you can’t get anything below f/2.8 or f/3.5. That’s a full 2 stops slower than what you can get with a prime, and the price is way higher than $99.

Adam on “60 Second Post-Processing Technique

[...] if this is the first round of processing, wouldn’t further detailed processing potentially be done in something like photoshop? [...]

Photoshop would be one option to finish it off. I typically go back into Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) to finish images with additional tweaks and adjustments. I’ll go into Photoshop if I need to do something extreme, utilize the LAB color mode, clone something more difficult than dust spots, etc.

Jeff W on “Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

[...] If it’s “acceptable” to sign in ink or paint right on the image I would much rather do that in the future. I did try that with a white paint pen I got at Michael’s but even after drying overnight it smudged. Some of these just don’t adhere to photographic paper. Does anyone have a specific brand or type of pen they can recommend?

I’ve used two different pens, they both work great and dry fast.
http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/Marker-metallic-paint
http://www.marvy.com/product_details.aspx?ProductID=39

kevin on “7 Reasons To Love Prime Lenses

Nice article, but what is the focal length we usually need? And what do you suggest for canon when price is not a problem? Is 50mm f/1.8 sharp enough? Or we need 1.2?

The focal length you need will of course depend on what you plan to photograph. Landscape photographers may opt for wide angle, portrait photographers for mid-range, sports photographers for telephoto, etc. If you use a zoom, take a look at your photos and see what focal length you typically shoot at — this should give you a good starting point. I can’t really comment on what to buy for Canon if price is not a problem, but I think the “L Series” lenses are the top quality pieces. As for the 50mm, f/1.8 will be fine for most people, and plenty sharp if you stop down one or two stops (as is the case with most lenses). The f/1.2 will give you more light, but I can’t comment on the sharpness gains over a f/1.8 or f/1.4.

C B on “Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

[...] I have some Ektachrome that I plan to cross process. I was wondering if shooting it through a red filter would make it so the green wasn’t so extreme? [...]

I’m not sure what would happen if you shot with a color filter… it might work, but it might also take some experimentation to get the filter strength and color correct.

C B on “Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

[...] Will E-1 or E-2 film cross-process with C-41 chemistry? Or should I just sell it to someone who’s a collector and buy E-6? I don’t want to pay the big bucks to have it processed E-2.

I really don’t know about E-2 stuff. I did find a discussion about it at photo.net: http://photo.net/film-and-processing-forum/00DzKU

So next time you have a question on a given topic, feel free to ask in the comments. I usually try to answer right there within a day or two, but I might also bring it back up in another post like this in the future. And if anybody else out there has something to add to the questions above, chime in right here or on the original posts!