I’m excited about this one as I have been working on it for awhile and it is finally done and ready for release. If you are not familiar with ecourses, they are lessons on a particular topic ( in this case digital photography) that you get periodically by email.
My new Digital Photography Ecourse consists of 12 lessons and takes you from the beginning to the end of basic digital photography. By the end of the course, you will know your way around your camera and how to take stunning photographs.
The learning platform I use is a little different in that I not only use text in the lesson, but also visuals aids such as charts, graphs and videos. This accommodates a wider group of people being we all learn in different ways and by using different means.
In each lesson there is also an assignment, so you have an opportunity to put into practice what you just learned in the lesson. And my ecourse also includes 30 minutes each month of personal one-on-one coaching and/or photo critiquing, depending on the lesson.
I can only take up to 200 subscribers, so if you are interested in taking this course, I would sign up now as I expect it to sell out quickly. The cost is $9.95 per month, but you can test-drive the first lesson for 50% off – $4.98. My gift to you for signing up for this course. If you find it is not for you , you can cancel at any time.
One question I get asked a lot is about lens hood. This seems to be one accessory that confuses many new photographers. So in this post, I’m going to reveal the truth behind lens hoods. In particular, we are going to talk about:
A lens hood has two main purposes:
If you can cut out prevent the light from coming into you lens at angles that create flare, you will also have deeper and more saturated colors as the stray light prevents deep color saturation. While you may already have a clear or UV filter screwed onto the front of you lens already, and that is good, a lens hood give you an extra measure of protections.
Basically, you do not want to use a lens hood if you are:
Sometimes, lens flares or ghosting in images is desirable in certain creative instances. In those situations, take your lens hood off and work at the correct angle to the light source to create the effect you desire.
If you are trying to shoot somewhat incognito, take off your lens hood. All they really do in that situation is draw attention to you by making your lens look longer than what it really is.
Many times when you are using your camera on-board flash, a lens hood can cast a shadow onto your subject, so generally speaking when shooting with a built-in flash, take off your lens hood. Your lens hood may or may not cast a shadow when using an external flash mounted on your hot shoe. You can do a couple of test shots to see if it interferes or not.
Lens hoods either extend over the front of your lens or they are turned around and extend over the barrel of your lens. Of course you will want to have the reversed for storage and travel, but it is a good idea to have them in place over the front of you lens when you have your camera out of the bag. Not only do you have the lens hood in the proper position for catching those quick shots, but it gives the front of your lens some added protection against bumps and banging into things. Also when you have your lens hood in the “shooting” position, leave your lens cap of as the lens hood will provides just as good of protection.
There are basically two types or styles of lens hood and each type is made for a particular type of lens. The petal style, which has the sides cut out of it is for use with wide angle zoom lens. The sides are cut-out to prevent vignetting due to the wide angle of view.
The second style is the tube style. It look like a long tube and is meant to be used on telephoto zoom lens where the angle of view is much less, so you don’t have a vignetting issue.
If you loose a lens hood or your lens never came with one, you have two choices – either buy a lens hood from the manufacturer of your lens, or by a third-party aftermarket.
For example, you could buy a Canon lens hood to fit their EF-S 17-85mm or 18-135mm lens for $23.95. Or you could buy a Vello lens hood to fit the same lenses for $16.95. Another example, the lens hood from Canon for their Ef-70-200 Lens costs $39.95, but you can get on that will do the same job from Vello for $11.95.
Lens hood are not complicated so for me a third-party one will do the same thing for less money than the one from the OEM.
There are times when it can be difficult to decide on what the ideal exposure would be to get the best image of a scene, especially in high contrast situations. Or, it may be that you don’t have the time to think about or set your exposure. Or, it may be that there are elements of extreme brightness and shadow within the picture that you want to capture, and you’re not sure whether exposing for the highlights or the shadows will give you the better final image. Well BRACKETING could be the solution.
Bracketing is the technical term for a sequence of 3 to 5 images of the same scene, shot in rapid succession and all at different exposures. Normally, the exposure of each image differs from the other in steps between 1/3rd up to a full stop. Each sequence consists of a central exposure the camera picked to be the ideal exposure for the overall scene, and then one image under exposed and one image over exposed. Hence the ‘correct’ exposure is bracketed (or sandwiched) between 2 exposures which are under and over exposed by the same amount.
While DSLR camera users have the option to manually bracket between exposure settings, by either changing the shutter speed or aperture while the camera is set to manual or by using the exposure compensation feature, many DSLRs have a built in control known as Automatic Exposure Bracketing or AEB. The AEB feature is adjustable in that it let’s you select much exposure variation you want between images and then fires off 3 frames in quick succession once the shutter is depressed.
The sequence is centered round the exposure the camera has determined will be the optimal exposure to produce the best image, so this is the first picture frame taken. It then takes the same picture but with less exposure, and finally the last frame is given more exposure than the first. This will give you a series of at least 3 images, all of the same subject but with different amounts of shadow and highlight detail in them.
For example, here are 2 bracketed series of images. The top set have been taken with the AEB set to one third of a stop of exposure, so the differences between frames are a lot more subtle than the bottom set of images. For the lower row, the AEB was set at a full stop of exposure. This has produced a much wider variation of exposure and the difference between frames is very noticeable.
Yet, if we examine all 6 frames, although there are areas within all of them that are perfectly exposed, no single frame is entirely perfectly exposed.
So when we expose any image, we are trading off losses in some of the shadows and highlights to gain the most acceptable exposure overall, regardless of whether we make the exposure decision ourselves or allow the camera to do it for us.
So what is the point of bracketing? Bracketing gives photographers leeway to take and combine these multiple images in photo-editing programs to produce the ultimate perfectly exposed final image. Photographers are able to replace areas of shadow and highlight detail that could not be recorded with the main tonal range of the subject because the extremes of exposure went beyond the sensor’s dynamic range.
Bracketing can also give you subtly differences of exposures and allow you to choose what exposure compromise you are happiest with. Some photographers prefer to lose a little detail out of the shadows to keep the highlights from blowing out and becoming featureless white areas. Others prefer to see detail more in the darker tones.
So the next time you’re at a loss about your exposure, try a little bracketing. You never know, you might like it!
No doubt you’ve heard it said “Bigger is Better!” Bigger cars, bigger house, bigger bank balance (ok, I’ll give you the last one!). But scaling down instead of up reveals a whole new world. Ordinary objects become amazing landscapes. That annoying fly buzzing around your head reveals a fascinating combination of intricate design, function and color. Beauty of shape, pattern, color and texture unveil themselves as you delve deeper and smaller into the world around you.
Traditionally, macro photography is defined as any photo in which the subject has a 1:1 ratio with the image. This means the image you record of the subject is exactly the same size (or larger) as the real life subject.
In the days when we used film instead of digital sensors, a true macro photograph recorded the image of a subject life size on the film negative. So if you took a picture of a fly, and that fly was 8mm in length, the image of the fly you had recorded when you looked at your film negative would measure 8mm or larger. (Obviously, this would mean the subject matter was very small, and not a 30m building or we would not be able to carry the camera!)
Today, thanks to great advances in digital sensor technologies, we no longer need a specialist camera and lens to dabble in extreme close up photography. On every compact camera you will see this icon.
This is your MACRO setting. When activated, you can put your camera closer than normal to something and still get a sharp, focused picture.
Each compact camera has its own minimum focusing distance, anywhere from 1cm to 28cm. This distance is the closest you can get to a subject and still produce a focused image. (You can find out in your manual what your camera’s macro distance is.)
As a photographer, you are always searching for a new way to look at things, a new angle on the world, a new viewpoint in life. Macro offers you all that.
It is true that DSLR cameras offer a photographer more scope to explore macro photography, but you shouldn’t be deterred by that. Compact cameras offer you the opportunity to taste what macro work is like, without having to invest heavily in specialist equipment. You can still produce stunning close-ups of your own, even with a compact camera, and will be amazed at what the world of small has to offer. Things that appear so ordinary and common place take on a whole new meaning.
Take the watch in the opening photo for example. See how the image demonstrates the precision and attention to detail of the watchmaker.
The tiny parts that make up the dial – the lettering, the pointers, make us marvel at the delicacy and skill of the watchmaker’s hands to create something so tiny but perfect. Notice the characters that make up the numbers. Their intricacies are not something very obvious when the watch is viewed normally.
Shiny things, when you get close up, aren’t as shiny as you think they are. You come to realise that there is no such thing as perfection. Because you are exaggerating the scale of the object, everything begins to become visible. This includes any flaws or defects.
But, you also reveal amazing textures, patterns and shapes. And a really good macro photograph can keep you looking at, and discovering more about the subject than any run-of-the-mill landscape ever could.
What makes a good macro image? Great macro shots show something really cool or special out of something that is mundane or ordinary. They take on a whole new scale and meaning – a pile of sugar crystals can become white sand dunes; textures appear that convey the natural world around us and mimic tree bark, lakes, mountains, etc. You are only limited by your imagination.
Macro shots bring their own technical challenges. Because everything is magnified, every tiny movement of your subject makes it look like it is swaying. So when taking pictures, especially outside, always use a tripod to avoid any small amounts of camera shake, as even a tiny movement will destroy any detail in your picture.
Focusing is critical as macro photography uses a tiny depth-of-field. Depth-of-field if you recall is the amount of your subject that is in focus both in front of and in back of your subject. With macro photography, many times you can’t even keep all of your subject in focus. Because depth-of-field is tied to how far your camera is from your subject, and with macro photography you are close, depth-of-field is going to be scaled down too. So precise focusing is needed, along with a high f-stop setting to make sure you get the right part of the subject in focus.
Texture brings a macro to life, and the best way to bring out texture is to light your subject across the surface by making sure the light source is at the side. This creates shadow and highlight detail which puts depth into what the viewer will see.
Once you have a selection of shots, don’t be tempted to review them on the camera and start deleting them. This can give a distorted impression. Wait until you can see them full size on a computer screen. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision as to what works and what doesn’t. By studying the images you can begin to develop your macro vision and method of working. Macro photography takes a lot of patience, especially if you want to take macro shots of the natural world.
Here are few handy hints to getting the best macro shots…..
Now it is time to get out there and take some close-up pictures of your own!
Most digital cameras offer both digital and optical zoom. These two features often confuse the average camera buyer, until you know how each of them works and how you can use them in your digital photography.
Optical zoom works much like the zoom lens on a 35 mm film camera. It changes the focal length of your camera’s lens and makes the subject seem bigger in your viewfinder or LCD backscreen. The optical zoom feature keeps the quality of the digital image picture by enlarging it before the image is captured on a media storage card.
On the other hand, digital zoom works entirely differently. It simply takes the picture, crops it and then enlarges the part that is left, which is usually from the center part and out as far as it can go, but still a significant part of the image is cropped out. Because the image is enlarged in the camera after it is taken the pixels end up farther apart which degrades the image somewhat.
What this means in terms of output if you are using digital zoom, you may have to have a larger amount of space around your subject and your subject placed closer to the center of the scene. Just know that with pure digital zoom, your images will not be in sharp focus as details are lost in the image processing process. If your camera has the option to turn off digital zoom, in most cases it is best to do so to preserve the clarity and sharpnessof your images.
There are a couple of things you can do if you want a closer view of a subject but want the quality of your picture to still be good. One is to try moving closer to your subject. Sometimes moving only a foot or two will do the trick. If your camera has optical zoom, you can zoom in as tight as you can. Another trick is to set your image resolution to the highest setting, so that even if you crop your digital image, the resulting image will still be clear.
Still digital zoom has its place. If the destiny of your images are posted on the Internet or sent as email atttachments and not printed, then your images can be of a lesser quality (72ppi) and still appear acceptable when viewed on a computer monitor. However, if your goal is printing the images, then your images must be at least 240ppi (and 300ppi is better). In this case, seek a camera that has a greater optical zoom – a larger range from the shortest to the longest lens focal length – and turn off the digital zoom. Your pictures will be better in the end, even if they are not as close up.
Knowing how to use both your built-in and external flash will improve your flash photography immensely. In this article, we will cover some of the common photography problems that can be overcome by using your flash, some problems caused by using your flash, and some solutions on how to minimize the effect of those problems.
First, let’s discuss using your built-in flash as your main light source. Doing this will create the following problems:
* Undiffused, it produces washed out highlights with sharp-edged shadows
* It can give your human or animal subjects the unnatural red-eye look.
* It over-lights the foreground and creates ghostly shadows on the background.
You can overcome or at least minimize these unwanted effects by:
* Diffusing the light coming off of your flash by taping a couple layers of tissue over the flash to diffuse its effect or buying one of the many manufactured diffusers that slide onto your flash head.
* With diffused light, move your subject eight to ten feet away from the background to minimize unwanted background shadows.
*Turn off the camera red-eye reduction feature. This will reduce your number of shots of people have closed eyes from the pre-flash associated with red-eye reduction
* Make sure there isn’t a prominent object closer to the camera than the subject. Otherwise, this object will show up on your photo as a white over-exposed blob.
An external flash provides much more versatility than a built-in flash. An external flash allows you to:
* Control the direction and angle of light
* Bounce the flash
* Eliminate red-eye
* Cover a much wider and deeper area.
* Use it as a key light and the built-in flash as a fill light
The first step to flash creativity is to purchase a synch cord for your camera. With the flash hooked to a synch cord, you can hold the external flash anywhere within reach of the cord.
Red-eye will no longer be a problem because you can get that flash twelve inches or more from the camera lens. A built-in flash is too close to the camera lens which is the cause of red-eye.
External flashes have more power therefore they can reach out further and as that light travels out further, it spreads out covering more width.
External Flash Tips –
If you want to “fool” your automatic flash to produce either twice as much or half as much light, change the ISO setting of the flash if your flash, is equipped to do so.
When shooting close-ups, portraits or details, create a lighting angle that is flattering by holding the external flash at arm length and at a 45-degree angle from the camera.
If you are shooting a subject with strong back-lighting, use a flash to light up the shadows. Otherwise, your subject will end up being a silhouette.
Meter through your camera’s TTL for the correct exposure. If you camera does not automatically set the shutter speed to the synch speed, make sure you manually set it.
If you currently do not have an external flash or you are shopping for another one, here are some things to look for:
* Swivel head – This allows you to have more control over the light direction and angle.
* Synch cord connection – Having this feature allows you to retain the automatic exposure feature of your camera.
* Auto or manual mode – Having both modes gives you more flexibility when using this flash.
* Built-in slave unit – This is a must. With this feature, you can position the light anywhere without having to be connected to the camera. All that is needed is your built-in or camera connected flash to fire your slave unit.
These are a few of the basic ways you can use your built-in and external flash. These tips and techniques will dramatically improve the look and feel of your next flash photography shots.