Photography Shopping

Looking for photography equipment? What is your intended purpose with the photographs?

Understanding the equipment and what it will do for you is an important part of shopping. rebel_xTiBuying the best piece of equipment on the market will not do you any good if its capabilities do not exceed your expectations. Each manufacturer has technical and general specifics on each camera they make for your convenience in research.

Do you want sharpness in each photo?

Looking for large format ability?

Want to shoot great photos in low-lit surroundings?

It is important to know what you will do with your equipment. The key to sharp images is good “glass” (or lenses in other words). Good “glass” meaning the quality and design of the lens and its parts. Research is important, especially for lenses because the manufacturer will not put these lenses on the market for no cost. All of that time in material gathering and manufacturing a lens does not come cheap so your equipment cost is going to grow. There is no good way of compromising on price for a lens of this quality. So I suggest that you do not go cheap on your lens for sharp images.

The large format issue begins a new line of questions; “How large is your project?” The smaller SLR camera image sensors can handle image sizes up to 20 x 30 inches. If you want to screen print vehicle window clings or prints for the full side of vehicles, you are looking for camera with a very large image sensor. Now you will be looking at spending the same amount of money on a camera as the lens spoken of above.

Shooting in low-lit situations means you will be looking for camera that does not create a lot of “digital noise” when the ISO is raised above 100.

I hope these “bench marks” are helpful to you as you search for the right camera and lens for you. Enjoy and do not feel obligated to buy from a store. The customer service employees are paid to help you find the right product, so ask them for advice and take their “sales pitch” with a grain of salt. Enjoy!

Cameras & Light

Light is an incredible “force” in creation, and just in case you do not believe me, study the effects of light on plants (Photosynthesis), or the ability to permanently transfer the image of an object onto paper with light-sensitive photo paper. Even more so our fragile camera sensors demonstrate just how easy it is to get too much light in a shot, reminding us of the awesome power that we often take for granted.

I should have begun to realize just how powerful light is when most if not all of the camera settings and accessories work to shade the camera from full light or regulate the amount of light so as to properly expose the object in focus. The purpose of photography is not to fight light, but to work with it. Now I am not talking about anything zen or mysterious, I am talking about practical actions and changes to technique so that you will not feel as if you are swimming up-stream but letting the river carry you to your destination.

So how do I work with light? Slow down you exposure settings. Bring your ISO down from 1600 or 800 down to 100 or 200. Raise your aperture from f/1.8 to f/13 and breathe. Yes, it is true you will not be shooting very often at 1/250 of a second anymore. On the other hand, you will begin shooting higher quality photographs and have the opportunity to see possibilities for new shooting styles! When I started making this switch, I began getting more compliments on my pictures than ever before.

Quality is not something someone will always point out as a reason they like one photo over another, but when higher quality means the difference between eyes being out of focus or in, I am certain we all would choose higher quality and in focus!

Keep learning! It is the best way to grow.

Leaning Your Equipment

I have talked a lot about learning as much about my equipment as possible before investing in something new or additional for the studio. I almost did not take my own advise. Let me tell you a story.

I have become “lazy” in the digital part of photography by letting my camera suggest the proper exposure time for a photo. I usually shoot in manual mode with my Canon Rebel xTi, but I have only used half of the capabilities given to me in manual mode.

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Just yesterday as I was on an errand, I looked into the sky to see some of the most beautiful clouds back-lit by the sun. So I got my camera, made sure my settings were proper for shooting into the sun. Raising my camera to my eye and observing the metering, it showed that the photo would have been much to over-exposed for the style of shot I was seeking, so I forgot the meter and raised my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second. Then as the instinctive digital photographer I am, I looked at the LCD screen to see how the shot came out. *Fail Buzzer*

I have wanted to distance myself from these “fail-safe” practices by pursuing extensive education in film photography. I wanted to know what the conditions for a shot around me were as well as knowing how to manipulate the camera settings to get the best shot for style, exposure or journalism.

So I began asking myself, why I thought film would help me accomplish this goal. My answer came to this: “Film is 1 set quality of ISO per roll.” Thus the ISO cannot be easily changed without risking the exposed film.

Guess what? I can start this training by setting my digital camera ISO and refrain from changing it. This will give me only the options to change shutter speed and aperture to best suit my shooting preferences. While this will not keep me from watching the camera meter I can accomplish my goal in maintaining a certain ISO quality and working with more effective resources.

Back Lighting

Back Lighting in very broad terminology can be used to describe many different photography styles, however it speaks directly to the way that the light illuminates the subject. We will not have the space in this post that would be required to discuss all of these options, but I will provide a list of shot types for you to play with and perhaps we will be able to return to discuss them in more detail at a later date.

Back Lighting is exactly what it sounds like, putting the part or all of the lighting source behind the subject to highlight their outline in light. In using light this way it is possible to capture silhouettes; Wash-out or over expose the back ground (giving a different appearance to the location); Add an infinite amount of light around your subject without making a harsh contrast in shadow and Vignetting. All of these options have more to do with camera settings than lighting, although lighting is still required. So enjoy your time playing with these things; now we will work more on the theory and practical work of Back Lighting.

Necessary equipment:

  • Reflector
  • Flash
  • Studio lights
  • Soft box
  • Bright light source in the background (it is cheaper to work with multiple light sources)
  • Tripod
  • Remote Shutter Release

Setting up your camera for success.

  • High aperture
  • Low ISO
  • Moderate shutter speed (1/10th – 1 second)
  • Prime focal lens (50mm optimal for portraits)

A slow shutter speed is not required for any reason other than to make sure the subject is properly exposed rather than the background. Feel free to shorten the shutter speed if you have enough light to do so. Obviously I know a small amount about photography, but just because I know something does not guarantee that I know everything. So play with you camera settings and have a ball getting the best photos you can!

Canon Camera Production

This post will be a little shorter in words with an informational video on Canon’s production process of their camera lines. This video includes the consumer models as well as the professional Digital SLR cameras.

I find the specific science in making these camera parts amazing. These are the physical makings (or hardware) of the camera and the side we utilize most as photographers is the computer processing (or software) side as we change ISO, Aperture, White Balance, Single shot or Multiple Photo Burst shooting, Timed Shutter Release, Shutter Speed and Picture Style. Both are discussed in this embedded video. Thank you for reading and God bless!

*Disclaimer: I would have given a “Part 2” on Nikon manufacturing process of imaging products but as of today I have only been able to find lens assembly with no more detail or information than Canon in the video posted above. I will be more than happy to post a professional video of Nikon’s manufacturing process (after review), if publicly posted on vimeo, youtube or similar public forum.

Shooting In A Low-Light Situation

I do not often have the opportunity to shoot with other equipment other than my Canon SLR camera body and lenses. However this week, I was asked several times at a convention to use other people’s cameras for differing shots. Now that I have some experience with other cameras I have a few tips that will help you take better pictures in low-light situations.

First off, I would like to define what “low-light” means. Very often “low-light” is any situation indoors. “Low-light” is not having enough light for your camera to shoot a well exposed photo at the following settings:

  • ISO 200
  • 1/30 of a second or faster
  • At your preferred Aperture setting (I prefer to shoot at an average of 13)

(I understand that not all of you, my readers, have cameras which allow you to set each of these settings independently of the others or options such as Aperture. If your camera does not give you the option, disregard the information and work with shutter speed and/or ISO.)

Cameras as we have discussed see things differently than we do even though they are based off of our visual capability. If you wish to understand more about this, please refer to the blog posts “Camera Troubles through Camera Trouble – Part 6“.

Here are the tips that I have promised will help you capture better photos with less motion blur and camera shake.

Say you are in a hall with a person on stage who is lit with a spot light. You subject of the photo is the person on stage and you are currently in the darker corner of the hall.

  1. Get closer to you subject (physically).
  2. Zoom away from your subject (using a wider viewing angle).
  3. Step into the light of the spot light.

Hint #1 is a practical help by the principle of object relativity. For the rest of us non science majors, motion is more easily seen and anticipated when the viewer is more closely located to the viewed object or person. Yes the object will more quickly leave you viewing area, but movement is more fluid and easily tracked in closer proximity than further away.

Hint #2 is a light receiving issue. The more light that your camera receives the faster your shutter speed. The further your lens is extended means the less light is being received within the same shutter speed as if you were to shoot at widest angle. This works because if forces you to get closer to the light source.

Hint #3 allows more light into your camera lens and will adjust your shutter speed.

Enjoy!

A studio set-up

Creating a studio background sweep for that “all professional” look is not that difficult. Your attention should be drawn to the object or subject of interest and not the lighting or set-up of the shot. In other words be sure that you lights are pointed directly at your subject and not slightly off to any one side.

Setting up your own studio does not have to be complex or involved! The basics can get confusing if they are not properly explained. I will post some pictures of my studio set-up with unusual equipment so that you can get a visual understanding of how it can work and improvise with your own set-up.

Equipment list:

2 lengths of 12.5 feet of paracord, 1 pane of 8″ x 10″ glass, fabric background sweep, Prop for glass and jewelry (cleaning pen cap and a 2 inch ring box), over head structure (Be certain it is sturdy! I used 2 securely installed ceiling light fixtures), tripod, remote shutter release, 2 soft light diffusers, 2 lights, camera and a good macro lens (as well as the obvious batteries and memory card).

I began my studio construction with an over head structure that would hold my background sweep and a light.

I began by taking a length of paracord, tying an overhand knot in the end and inserting it between the wood of the light fixture (pictured on the left) and it’s diffuser. Thus with the pull of gravity and the light weight pull of hanging objects it will be caught in a “pinching” hold.

I used this same technique for each time I made a contact point with the light fixture. For knots that were not at the ends of the paracord I used the overhand knot on a bight.

Be creative while playing around with methods of friction because friction properly applied is your best help and not destructive!

Friction, as illustrated on the left, is holding the light in one place along the paracord. The paracord is looped around the open end of the stand making it easily adjustable along the support line and providing way to  adjust the placement of light on the object.

It rarely is a good idea to have hard light shining directly on the object or subject, so I removed the reflective outside of photo reflectors and used the white fabric of the reflector disk as a diffuser. Again I used the convenient open end of the stand from which to hang the reflector disk. The reflector disk must be pulled back so that it covers the “shooting area” where the object or subject is placed. I used a straight pin to gather the reflector disk fabric around the power cord, nicely covering the shooting area of the background sweep.

A note of caution: Be careful of hanging anything heavy on the line. The weakest part of the over head structure in this set-up is the diffuser.

We have discussed how one of our lights is set-up, but there is another light that needs to be set-up at a lower angle and portable to figure out the best position to illuminate the facets of the piece or person in focus.

Let me introduce the “chair mount”. If you are familiar with lashing techniques I used the square lash to secure the light to a chair back making sure that the power cord for the light was long enough to reach any place the light may need to be positioned.

Having extra paracord from lashing the light to the back of the chair, it conveniently became the securing point for the reflector disk.

Now that the studio is ready for some of the smaller details, an 8×10 inch piece of glass (clean from dust and dirt) is a nice addition to reflect an object. Bring in you camera, tripod and objects to photograph and begin to play with object position and camera perspectives. Take your time with the first piece being sure you have properly set your cameras white balance, ISO and shutter speed to properly show off the beauty of your photo’s focus.

Have fun and  be creative, because fun and creativity will make a better statement than perfect professional rigidity.

ISO

“My pictures are turning out too dark. What’s wrong with my camera?”

There are many ways to adjust your camera so that the pictures are not dark. The most important to understand is the “ISO” setting.

What is ISO? Dictionary.com says ISO is an abbreviation for International Standardization Organization.

Film was made to a standard to be able to capture objects traveling at different speeds. You do not have to think of your ISO setting as film speeds, but that is the background for it’s numbering. What you need to know is the basics of the film speed and the purpose of the speed.

ISO numbers can range from 100 to 800 with film, but almost everyone uses a digital camera now so I will speak of these numbers in digital terms, but the information is the same for film (the only difference being each film frame on one roll of film is one speed. Film frame to film frame the ISO speed never changes.) With our digital technology we are able to use higher ISO speeds, but do be aware that higher ISOs may cause you pictures to be “grainy”. Some cameras lose picture quality with higher ISOs and become very difficult to work with in lower lit areas.

How does the ISO affect the photo? The lower the ISO number the slower the object of your photograph should move. If you want to take photos of your child’s sporting event you will want to use a higher number ISO such as 800.

If your photo is too dark for you, then set a higher ISO and try bringing your shutter speed up so that you can capture faster motion.

And now you are Standardized for the International Organization. Enjoy!

Additional information can be found at: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/iso-settings