Author: Jasmine Reinhart

Flash Photography

Adjust The ISO Setting = Adjusting The Sensor’s Light Sensitivity

One of the things you can do to improve the light recording capability of your DSLR is to adjust the light sensitivity of the sensor. This is done by adjusting what is known as the ISO (pronounced “EYE-so”) setting – this is a numerical value and the higher the ISO number, the better your camera’s sensor will deal with low light conditions… to a point! You see, there is a trade-off for this wizardry – the higher you push the ISO setting, the grainier your photos will turn out. This graininess is referred to as “noise” and it lowers the overall quality of the image.

A general principle is to keep the ISO setting as low as possible, for the best possible quality in your images. Get to know your camera’s lowest “native” ISO setting. What I mean by this is, on some of the more sophisticated DSLRs, you get the option to select Extended ISO from the camera’s menu and this allows you to digitally take it below the manufacturer’s natural or “native” ISO setting, which is where the camera’s sensor performs at its natural best. For instance, on the Panasonic GH4, you can turn on the Extended ISO feature and this will allow you to take the ISO down to either 100 or 80. Turn off the Extended ISO and the lowest you can get to is ISO 200… this is the Panasonic GH4’s lowest “native” ISO setting.

Adjusting The Aperture Lets More Light In Through The Lens

Another thing you can try and adjust is the Aperture of the lens – this works like the iris of a human eye: the wider it opens, the more light can enter, so the scene looks lighter and brighter; with a narrower aperture, less light can enter the lens, so the image will be darker.

If your images are looking too dark when you review them on the LCD screen of your camera, you can try and open up the Aperture. This will require dialing down to a lower f-stop number. For instance, f2.8 is a wider aperture than, say, f8. If, on the other hand, your images are too bright and detail is being lost because of the brightness, you can try and dial a higher f-stop number, to close the aperture down and make the image darker.

However, notice that in both instances I said “you can try”? This is because adjusting the Aperture impacts on the overall image, by adjusting how much of the scene is in clear focus and how much will be blurred. Basically, lowering the f-stop number (widening the Aperture of the lens), increases how much of the background will be blurred (focus on a subject in the foreground and stuff in the background will become defocused – a.k.a. blurred), and you might not want this; you might want everything in the image in clear, sharp focus. The way to do this is to increase the f-stop number (narrowing the aperture of the lens). But, in doing so, you’re going to reduce the amount of light that can come through the lens, so you’ll once more encounter darker images.

Adjusting the aperture, to employ what’s called “selective focus” – where you deliberately blur out background subjects in order to make foreground subjects stand out more clearly, helping direct the eyes of those looking at your photos to precisely your chosen subject – is a key part of helping your photos tell a story, so you may not want to adjust your aperture in order to brighten up your image. It depends, if your image doesn’t suffer from the wider aperture, then do so to help aid the image sensor in grabbing as much of the available light as possible.

Adjusting The Shutter Speed Allows More Or Less Light To Be Recorded By The Sensor

If you’ve decided you’ve got the right aperture for your photo and don’t want to alter it any further, then adjusting the Shutter Speed is another way to increase or reduce the amount of light that can be recorded onto your digital image.

Basically, when you select a faster Shutter Speed, you’re reducing the time that the shutter stays open and, as a result, less light can reach the sensor, so this will make images darker. Conversely, when you select a slower Shutter Speed, you’re keeping that shutter window open for longer, exposing the image sensor to more and more light. For all the time the shutter is open, the sensor will record every scrap of light it detects. Keep it open for long enough and you will end up with an overexposed image, to the point where you just have a totally white photo, which has lost all of its detail because you allowed the shutter to stay open too long – light rays get recorded on top of light rays, and you end up with a washed-out image. So, you play about with the Shutter Speed, increasing and decreasing it until you have the shutter staying open just long enough to capture the perfect amount of light detail, resulting in a nicely exposed photograph.

However, there may be times when you don’t want to adjust your Shutter Speed any further. For instance, you may deliberately want a slower Shutter Speed, because you’re trying to capture movement of, say, a car as it passes with its lights on, and you want to add a sense of motion to your still image, by capturing the light trails as the vehicle whizzes by.

Taking Photos With Flash

When you’ve adjusted your ISO and don’t want to risk introducing any “noise” into your images; and when you’ve adjusted your Aperture to get the right amount of depth of field (e.g. everything in sharp focus or background blurred to make your foreground subject stand out more clearly; and when you’ve adjusted your Shutter Speed as fast or slow as you want it… and you’re STILL not getting enough light onto your sensor, to expose your photo(s) properly? Well, that’s when you need to add some flash into the mix, preferably from an external flash (as you can control direction, as well as the power of the light, to get that perfect balance of light hitting your subject when you take the shot). The “pop-up” flash on your camera is better when you’re able to turn down the power, so you’re just “kissing” subtle light onto your subject, to fill in what would otherwise be lost to shadows, but because it’s facing your subject directly, it tends not to give the most flattering look, especially when taking photos of people. If you can get hold of an external flash unit, you will improve the look by taking the flash off to the side (at an approximate 45-degree angle from your subject).

Depending on the external flash unit you get, you will be able to change certain settings on the flash, to add sufficient light when you don’t want to make any further changes to your camera settings.

Settings that top of the range flash units allow you to adjust, include:

  • Flash Power… this will be a feature of virtually all external flash units, allowing you to keep the ISO on your camera low, by increasing the power of the flash output.
  • Flash Zoom… if this is an option on your flash, you’ll be able to select a wide angle setting, to spread the light wider in the foreground; or you can zoom the flash to get it to spread deeper into the scene (but at the expense of how wide the light will spread – the further out you zoom the flash, the narrower the beam).

Take Awesome Shots Without an Expensive Camera

HOLD YOUR HORSES

How cool is it to learn “the secrets” of taking good photos? Which, is really not too difficult to get started… you do not need an expensive camera either. All you need is a good eye, and planning the shot before taking the photo.

Let me get started with something called “snapshot” and “composed shot”. Most people will causally whip out their camera, and just take a photo of what they see. Good photographers don’t just do that. They plan and design the photo before they take a shot – a “composed shot”.

You, my dear reader, if you want to take better photos, you have to learn to design your photo before going trigger happy. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. At the very basic, you have to learn to look out for 3 basic things – colors, lines and shapes.

COLORS

Since the dawn of time, we can all agree on one thing. We humans are attracted to colorful things, and we react differently to colors. I shall not go deep into the study of colors here, which will end up in a tearfully long and boring bible of colors.

I shall give a few tips on how to use colors instead:

  • Avoid overwhelming dull colors… like a grey sky and grey city, or murky waters with grey sky.
  • Some clashing colors can be beautiful, for example, an orange sunset with blue sea.
  • Add a drop of red in a sea of blue, or vice versa. Put a sunflower against a grey sky, a single red apple in a sea of green apples… you catch the drift.
  • A splash of colors can be messy, but also be sometimes interesting. For example, different colored balloons in the air.

LINES

Where are the lines in a photograph? Look carefully and you will notice.

  • A tree or tall building in the photo creates vertical lines.
  • A horizontal line in a photo of sunset on a beach.
  • Roads can cut across the photo frame, creating diagonal lines.

Photographers play with these lines in clever ways.

  • Vertical lines tend to cut the frame. Image a photo with a box full of red apples on the left, and a box full of green peppers on the right.
  • Horizontal lines are the easiest to use – look at all the good sunset photos all over the world… but note where they put the horizon. It’s mostly in the middle or 1/3 into the frame.
  • Diagonal lines tend to lead your eyes. For example, roads may lead to an interesting Ferris wheel.

SHAPES

Shapes are terribly similar to lines. Put them in the right places, and you get an awesome photo.

  • Squares and rectangles makes the photo look “stable” and “restful”. Well, you can think of a sunset horizon photo as two big rectangles… With the sun as a circle somewhere in the top rectangle.
  • Circles are attention grabbing in a photo, especially big ones. Yep, for example, the sunset.
  • Triangles almost have the same effect as an arrow. “The look here” effect, I call it. They can be tricky and fun though, you can try putting a few cucumbers together to point at a banana or something…

Trick Photography and Special Effects

Light Painting Techniques

By reducing the shutter speed on your camera and using it in a night setting along with a flashlight, you can create some really interesting and cool special effects.

Simply wave the flashlight around, aiming it at the subject of the photograph, as well as occasionally aiming it directly at the camera lens. What you will end up with will appear as if the light is painted throughout the photo.

Light Drawing Techniques

Light drawing is similar to light painting, but differs because the design is more specific.

Keep the camera about fifteen feet away from the subject and set the shutter speed to around 30 seconds. Using a flashlight, or other light source, begin making your pattern or design.

If you are drawing something simple such as a basic shape, you may wish to go over the pattern several times. If it is more complicated, stick to going over the pattern only one time fairly slowly to get the desired effect.

Using Flash Stencils in Photography

Using a flash stencil in your photos will give you a cool special effect. For this, you will need a box, a piece of sturdy white paper on which to make a stencil, or a pre-made stencil, and an external flash source for light.

Cut an area out of the box so that you can place your stencil in it. Tape the stencil into place. Then, on one side of the box, cut a hole just large enough for your external flash to fit into. This will cause the flash to illuminate the stenciled area.

Set your shutter speed to around 30 seconds, and then move about within the area you would like the stenciled image to appear. Remember not to stand too still or stay in any one spot too long, or partial images of your body may end up in the photo along with the stencil.

Motion Blur Effects

Motion blur images are one of the most popular of types of trick photography and special effects available. To capture the essence of motion, while at the same time having a subject in the photo appear focused, there are a few tricks you can use.

One option is to freeze the entire image by shooting with a shutter speed of about one thousandth of a second. Another way to achieve motion blur is to pan your subject, following them while everything else around you continues to move. Another option is to have the subject remain still as you focus on them and things blur past around them.

Double Exposure Special Effects

When attempting a double exposure effect, two slightly underexposed images must be taken. These images will then be combined to create one double exposure image.

The superimposed images will overlap in the finished product, so try to get them to match so that everything looks uniform and natural, aside from the subject matter that you desire to look slightly unnatural and stands out.

Take Before Your Headshot Shoot

  • Drink plenty of water. When you’re dehydrated, fine lines and pores are more noticeable, and your lips can look dry and wrinkled. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics and can cause dehydration. Make sure to drink lots of water on the days leading up to your shoot so that your skin has a healthy, dewy glow. Coconut water is also a good alternative to water and another delicious way to hydrate!
  • Moisturize. Gentlemen, this means you, too! Using a moisturizer diminishes fine lines and dry, flaky skin. My favorite night moisturizer is Honey Girl Organics Face & Eye Cream (available at Whole Foods) – it’s ultra-moisturizing and has a great texture. My second favorite moisturizer is straight up Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I know it sounds silly, but it’s a wonderful, convenient and inexpensive beauty aid! Just pour a few drops in the palm of your hands and rub it all over your face before bedtime (and don’t wash it off). The night before you shoot is the most important time to moisturize, as well as the morning of. I recommend using a daily moisturizer such as Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion with SPF 15 – not only will it give you an extra dose of moisture, it will protect against the sun when shooting outdoors!
  • Get a facial. Again… I’m talking to you, too, guys! Facials with extractions are a great way to get your pores cleaned out. Clogged pores and blackheads are going to show up in your photos! As a photo retoucher, I can tell you that it’s easy to remove a blackhead here and there, but it’s NOT easy to clean up an entire face of dirty pores. Get your facial done at least a week before your shoot, because facials can cause breakouts and redness. Make sure that the facial you’re getting includes extractions. And drink lots of water before your facial! The more hydrated you are, the more pliable your skin will be… And this will make it much easier for your aesthetician to really get your pores clean.
  • Use fresh mascara. Ladies, this is a great time to replace your mascara! Experts say you should replace your mascara every 3-6 months, but I know many of us (myself included) sometimes keep it much longer. When mascara gets old, it looks clumpy and makes eyelashes look like spider legs. It’s almost impossible to clean those lashes up in Photoshop! So get a new tube of mascara to keep your lashes looking smooth and natural, and comb your lashes if you see any clumps. My favorite mascara is Lancome Definicils… Try it with the Lancome Cils Booster for added impact!
  • Don’t overdo your foundation. Keep makeup light and natural so that your skin texture doesn’t look fake. Loreal True Match Liquid Foundation has a lovely finish that looks great on camera. Keep translucent powder on hand for shine, but go easy with it. For men, I would typically recommend that you don’t wear any sort of foundation. Just use a little moisturizer, and possibly a light dusting of translucent powder or oil blotting sheets to take care of shine. Don’t worry about a pimple or a shaving nick – those things can easily be retouched. But I can almost always tell when men are wearing makeup in a photo, and there’s not much I can do to make it look more natural in Photoshop. If you have uneven skin and do decide to wear a foundation, use a light touch… and try the aforementioned Loreal True Match in place of cakey stage makeup!
  • Get plenty of sleep. This is an obvious tip, but it’s important. Not only will you look better, but you’ll feel better!
  • Get a trim. Hair always looks so much nicer when it’s freshly trimmed, so why not do that the week of your shoot? Neat ends can’t easily be faked in Photoshop. Also, it’s a good idea to ask your photographer to keep an eye on your hair during the shoot. It can be rearranged easily in real life, but not so much in post.
  • Bring lip balm or gloss. To keep your lips looking moist in your photos, make sure you have lip balm on hand. Ask your photographer from time to time if your lips look dry or cracked, and reapply as needed.

Transforming a Camera Bag Into a Camera Kit

You weren’t prepared to capture the moment. We’re talking about experiencing a total camera bag fail. And we don’t ever want you to face that kind of thing. You’re probably already in the habit of packing a spare lens or two. Terrific… but all the lenses in the world won’t help if your battery is dead or you’ve run out of space on your memory card.

So here’s a list of essentials that can transform your camera bag into a well stocked kit.

  • Memory cards: Avoid the horror of having to delete photos and format your disk to make room for more. Equip your bag with (formatted) memory cards.
  • External flash: Flashes tend to create unwanted shadows. Here’s where an external flash can be your best friend.
  • Charged camera batteries plus charger: Don’t miss a shot because you weren’t prepared with backup power.
  • Mini tripod: So, what if your hand isn’t as steady as you’d like? A mini tripod makes it easy to reduce camera movement. Also, if you use a timer you can appear in your own shot without having to try and take a selfie!
  • Gorilla Pod: While technically this is a tripod, it’s not the ungainly, hard to carry around sort of tripod. If you bring your camera bag with you wherever you go, or if you have a large purse or other sort of bag that you carry around with you all the time, it’s worth investing in one of these cool little gadgets. A Gorilla Pod is a flexible tripod that you can wrap securely around many different surfaces. Tree branches, fencing, there are a ton of different possibilities. Having a Gorilla Pod on hand may save you in situations where you can’t brace your camera in other ways.
  • Rain cover: Keep yourself and your camera dry and protected. Bonus points: the rain cover can serve as a mat for your gear if the ground is wet or muddy.
  • Lens cleaner kit: This typically include items such as an air blower, cleaning liquid, and lens tissues. Regularly cleaning the lens can reduce scratches, as well as provide you with a clear field of view and keep little black flecks from showing up on your photos.
  • First-aid kit: Accidents happen… keep a small kit handy and don’t forget to include sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, extra tissues, and hand sanitizer.
  • Snacks: Seriously, have you ever been around someone who is hungry?… always bring snacks and water!
  • Small notebook: Put down your smartphone and get ready to go old school. Record the location of where you took that amazing shot, jot down the colours that you saw when you took the shot. This way you will know why you took the photo and if needed you can edit the shot at a later date. Jot down new ideas, favorite locations and times of day. Since you’re going old school don’t forget to take a pen or (sharpened) pencil! You can also keep your wallet (or a smaller version) and keys in your camera bag… no need to add bulk to your jacket or pants.

Now get ready to take some amazing photos knowing that no matter what, your pack always has your back!

Need a Video Camera Stabilizer

A video stabilizing mount is a device used to hold the camera while recording videos as this prevents unwanted movement of the camera. Using a video camera stabilizer will give you the shake-free videos Using this will avoid the wastage of shots. Using a video stabilizer will save your video editing time. You can find a stable video as an output for the video you shot.

Martin Stevens in 1991 invented a handheld video stabilizer for the cameras and it is known as the Glidecam. It uses springs as shock absorbers. Whereas there are also some stabilizers that use gyroscope for sensing the disruptive motion.

Now let us take a look at the various types of the stabilizers

  1. Handheld stabilizers: This is probably the most easy video camera stabilizer for using and assembling. The users can just attach this one to their camera and that is it, ready to use. These handheld stabilizers are great for shooting videos while walking, running and while climbing stairs.
  2. Vest Stabilizers: These are the type of stabilizers that you can connect to your vest or waist which in result you have two free hands to maneuver the camera.
  3. Light Stabilizers: These are very easy to use as they are made using a lightweight material to be light weight. It is very much perfect for those who use heavy cameras for very long times during weddings, funerals, functions. As it can only carry up to a certain weight, you should make sure that the camera is light.

The handheld stabilizing mounts provide far better stabilization to your videos, but they are considerably costly to buy and use. And when it comes to the vest and light stabilizers, they can be very much easy to carry for the camera persons.

Explaining How To Properly Use A Monopod

Unfortunately dragging around a massive tripod can often be a huge challenge, not to mention that a lot of the time we find ourselves in a position where it is impossible to use one. There simply is not sufficient space.

Therefore, most photographers (at least the ones that are concerned enough to want great pictures) end up getting themselves a monopod.

If you didn’t know – a monopod uses the same type of camera mount and so forth as a tripod, but has the benefit of only using one leg.

This feature is both good and bad…

Having only one leg makes it lighter and less tiresome to carry around – it can even be used like a walking stick if you’re trekking out in the wilds.

However, after a few uses, the majority of us shooters come to the realization that using a monopod is not any steadier than not using one. What’s more since it has only one leg, it wiggles around so much that it is usually WORSE than shooting without one. So we heave our monopod in a spare closet and never touch it again.

This is a huge mistake! Your monopod is entirely as solid as a tripod, it’s only that so few of us have learned how to properly use it.

Generally we use it like a stick with our cameras affixed to the top – rather, we need to be using it like a tripod!

Here’s how to use the monopod…

  • First… For stability we need three legs. Like a tripod. The monopod itself is ONE leg, our own two legs, separated a bit wider than shoulder width form the other two legs of the tripod.
  • Second… Place the monopod in front of you far enough out so that when you tilt it back and bring the camera to your eye, it creates a 45 degree angle to the front. You’ll have to increase the monopod’s leg by quite a bit to get the 45 degree lean yet have it positioned at eye level. There is your tripod, both your legs spread to the side and the monopods’ leg extended to the front…
  • Third… Your camera should be affixed to a swivel mounting head. Tilt the camera forward with the swivel mount so that when you tilt the Monopods’ leg back at a 45 degree angle to your eye, the camera is level even though the monopod is leaning at 45 degrees backwards.
  • Fourth… Then when you are shooting, position yourself into a stable stance and press your camera’s viewfinder tightly to your face. Finally you have a – virtual – tripod that’s every bit as solid as most – real – tripods. Along with the added bonus of being easier to use!

Posing for Family Group Shots

  • One of the easiest way to dramatically improve your composition is to stagger everyone’s head position (but keep them close). Arrange faces on different levels so that any pattern of height does not distract the viewer from seeing the group as being one cohesive unit.
  • Position each individual so they are visually connected to another individual. You can do this by having them stand very close to one another and better yet, have them touch another person. No matter the poses you go for, always try to incorporate direct contact through touch. Hands on shoulders, arms around waists, any way that you can get everyone in physical contact with each other. This will convey emotional closeness.
  • The other posing technique that I often use is to have the pose wider at the base and narrower at the top. Some photographers refer to this as the pyramid pose. This makes the group look like a single unit and the composition looks complete.
  • Pay attention to your subjects hands. It is usually a mistake to have everyone in your pose doing the same exact thing with their hands. Occasionally I will direct one or more of my clients to change their hand position to improve the pose as well.
  • It’s ideal to have everyone in the family looking in the same direction, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be in your direction. You can direct everyone to look behind you or at the youngest family member.

So it really doesn’t have to be stressful the next time you want to capture your family’s portraits. Be patient, be flexible and make it fun. You’ll end up with some awesome portraits, lots of real moments, happy parents and happy kids! Try it out! It will surely improve your photos.

About Lytro

Here are the main features of Lytro that photographers might find interesting.

  • The Light Field Sensor is a micro-lens with a digital image sensor. This is what helps produce good light direction, intensity and color. It helps define a photo.
  • Its 8x optical zoom with constant f/2 lens allows anyone to create photos with good details. With this feature, it is easy to take capture scenes as they happen without worrying about distance.
  • The Lytro has two modes of shooting,
  • Everyday Mode is ideal for those who want to stick with the basic point-and-shoot function of a camera. All that one needs to do is point the camera to the scene and then shoot. Refocusing can be done later.
  • Creative Mode is best for people who want to experiment and explore their imagination. In this mode, a user has more control, particularly in terms of the blur. For example, the camera can be refocused closer to the scene so that the photographer can aim it on the subject or area he or she wants to highlight. This can be done while one takes the shot so that lesser refocusing will be required later on.

This mode is perfect for those who want to create dramatic effects with their photos.

  • There are Manual Controls that allow users to adjust ISO and shutter speed. The Lytro’s minimum shutter speed is 1/25 while its ISO ranges from 80 to 32000.
  • The Perspective Shift is what one needs if he or she wants to change the point of view of a certain Lytro photo. This interactive feature allows a user to shift the view of a photo so that its perspective changes. The photo can be viewed upward or from the right, it all depends on which direction the user desires. A mobile app or a computer is needed for this tool to work. This feature is best for both stored Lytro photos and the newly taken ones.
  • For those who want to further add effects to their pictures, there are Living Filters. Users can choose from nine filters, all of them interactive. All you need to do is click on the filter you want to use and the photos will be enhanced.
  • Sharing is an important feature for majority of today’s devices and the Lytro is not far behind in this department. In fact, it has several advanced sharing tools. With the help of the camera’s Wi-Fi capabilities and its downloadable mobile app, any user can share photos on Facebook and Lytro.com. Resharing of photos on Twitter and Google+ is also easy. In addition, a user can convert his/her photo to GIF and then send it to anyone through email or SMS. Once the photo is shared, it can be refocused by simply tapping or clicking the screen.

Lytro is available in 8GB and 16GB (internal memory) versions. It can house 350 to 750 living pictures.

 

Starting Out in Photography

The question is no less important when you start thinking of working for yourself as a photographer, but unfortunately there is no easy formula available to calculate your fees. There are however a number of factors that you have to take into account.

You will need professional quality equipment, and you need to factor in the cost of initial purchase and the cost of eventual replacement or upgrading.

Your premises costs affect your charges: rent, utilities, cleaning are just some of the charges you’ll need to meet. Even if you work from home, there are basic costs like phone and electricity bills that you need to cover.

There is then the real question, which is how much profit a photographer should be making. There are three key factors here: the rate currently being charged by photographers in your area (either geographical or professional specialty), your reputation and how much you want the work.

When you are starting out, you need to be mindful of the rates being charged by other photographers in your area. Unless these photographers are rank amateurs, producing low quality work, your charges need to be similar to theirs. The simple truth is that most customers will have a budget, and when they have a choice of two similar services, they will usually choose the cheaper. So you need to do some research to see who is working in your market, and what they charge.

Once your reputation is established, your prowess and skill widely recognised, word of mouth recommendations and the quality of your portfolio will mean that you have many requests for your work. At that stage you can review your charges, perhaps quoting on each project depending on how much you want the work.

Because this is the final factor to consider. I think we have all heard of builders or plumbers who submit very high quotes for the jobs they don’t really want to take on. A similar reasoning applies to working as a photographer: a high-status job which will give a wider audience to your work may be worth getting at any cost.