Terms – Exposure

I have written several posts that mention photos should be properly “exposed”. What does it mean to properly expose a photo? Good question. That is exactly the issue I intend to demystify.

“Back in the day” when every photographer used film to capture a scene for posterity the process included light rays piercing the film and chemical coating. When I refer to exposure, it is based on this process and how long the film is “exposed” to the light. If the film was left available to light it will be unintelligibly “bleached”.

So what this means in our digital world is we look at our digital exposures for areas that does not accurately represent the colors of our scene.

Proper exposure is not dependent on your field of photography. For example, a photo-journalist does not use a different measure for proper exposure than a commercial portrait photographer would. Each vocation specialty may prefer different exposures for their purposes, but there is one common key; they all want their subject in this range of proper “exposure”. We will discuss this more in-depth in our next post “Terms – Exposure 2”.

Exposure is effected by length of shutter speed, amount of added light (flash, strobe or constant) and lens aperture. All of these we have covered in earlier posts. For now, what are the keys that will help us discern a proper exposure?

Detail – How much detail is visible in the photograph? Detail represents the photographic subject and the surrounding scene.

Depth of Shadow – How dark are the shadows in the photograph? This will cause detail to be obscured.

Bright areas without detail – What areas in the photograph are saturated with more light than necessary? This will cause detail to not be visible.

As you look through pictures take some time to look at shadows and bright areas. Look for detail and consider other places the photographer could have stood for more or less light to expose the shot.

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!

Portraits – Lighting

Light is what I call one of the “basic three”. Without light, either natural or artificial, it would be impossible to see or photograph anything. Now we have an understanding that light is important, but what are the other two parts of the “basic three”? They really are so practical we think too hard when trying to answer this question; A quality camera and a well designed lens.

Onto our topic for today, light is so common and we have so much of it in so regular a time that we take if for granted. Lighting is essential for contrast and definition but before we scatter into all the areas to which light pertains, let us take a moment to remember some things which we have previously discussed.

Lighting angles are vital:

  • Portraits are best lit when the light source is within a 45 degree angle to the subject on a horizontal plane and not to high above the subject to avoid deep shadows around the eyes.
  • Silhouettes can be made when the light source is behind the subject and the camera is appropriately set.
  • Back-lighting is meant to remove shadows and highlight the edges of the object.

We have also talked about a few things which will add light to a shot by reflecting the natural light which already exists in a setting and how to soften this light. This is all well and good, but I would not serve you well if I did not address equipment which can add light in your photos.

Flashes and studio strobes are wonderful tools for adding light, however I must say they are not the cheapest tool. I am grateful to have some experience with studio lighting but it is this experience I want to share with you.

Studio strobe are adjustable in intensity and power as well as offering tethering ability, which enables the photographer to use more than one at the same time. In our next post we will look into strobes and how they use other methods of lighting with one source.

Portraits – B&W

Black and White portraits are often the most intriguing. This however will make greater demands on composition.

Black and White photos have greater potential for contrast and with this potential, the composition can in monochrome print allow the viewer to see the colors and hues which they fancy. Several photographers I know have black and white photos I have seen and when some time later we talked about them, I described them in color. They looked at me confused and verified that we were talking about the same photo by discussing the features of the photo’s subject and elements. Seeing a black and white photo in color is not a gauge on whether the photo is properly composed, but something which viewers may experience where exposure and composition are well done.

One of my favorite fall shots is from above the subject as they are seated on a thick grassy lawn, looking up toward the camera which uses the grass and fall colored leaves as a background!

However, since we are on the topic of black and white photos, how can we capture this same stunning color composition in black and white?

First, it is important to have the best clarity possible and this is achieved with a high-end lens. If you are using a consumer level camera which cannot alternate lenses, do not worry, it should do well for you.

Second, work diligently to make sure the focus is absolutely set on the eyes. If there is one thing that must be in total focus it must be the eyes.

Third, some editing may be done to a black and white photo to add color. \"Bird-Owl This photo illustration is a perfect example; digitally signed by Chris D. Jones, this photo draws from the contrast of the black and white giving definition to the feathers, the clarity is displayed in the eye and draws your attention with the iris color.

Enjoy!

Portraits – Color

It is not every time that a portrait will look best in color. There can be many reasons for this, however let us begin with the fun we can have with color portraits.

Q. How can I use the fall colors in my portraits?

A. Fall color is brought to the fore with fall fruit, vegetables, leaves and more subtly flowers that bloom in fall. City maintained gardens may decorate with large gourds, pumpkins and fall blooming flowers which surely bring the visual cue of fall to viewer.

Q. Shooting up at my subject is not an option. How can I use the fall colored leaves in the portraits?

A. If the colored leaves or nuts as acorns have not fallen to the ground there are always optical “tricks” to play. One of the quickest and easiest ways to bring in that fall color still on the trees is to bring your lens to a wide-angle view and get very close to your subject. This will give a high angle view into the trees for the color and your opportunity of shooting a level portrait of your subject’s face. Possibilities are endless!

Q. How can I simulate the look of fall and fall color?

A. Bringing in elements which pictorially describe fall will help a lot. Jackets, a wrap if your subject is a woman or even little things like having her hair styled so that she can wear it down to gently flow in the wind. One of my personal favorites is a lite scattering of colored leaves on a thick carpet of grass and the subject looking up from the center of the scene.

For what it is worth, I have found a cooling statement which helps draw the visual effect of fall with prominent shadows behind the subject and sun light illuminating their face. Enjoy!

Back Lighting – Part 5

Since this Back Lighting series started from Jewelry, I figure it only fitting to finish this series with some details of jewelry photography.

These are a few things I have picked up in experience, some of which would have been ever so valuable when I started out! Listed below are a few items and some information about them as to why they are helpful.

Light Stands: They say you never know what you are missing until you do not have it. Well, that is one way of looking at all situations. Me? I prefer to think of what I have as tools which will afford me new learning opportunities. Without throwing a pity-party, I understand that my learning opportunities could expand with more and new equipment, but one of things I do to keep myself financially responsible is checking myself to see that I am “unconsciously competent” with my current line of equipment. Light Stands are very helpful when you want to move lighting versus your subject.

Seamless Background: When shooting in-studio, Seamless Backgrounds are one of the accessories that give the viewer the visual relief that white space without giving the hints of spacial limitation. For some reason wall seams or the corner of the wall and floor took away my pleasure of imagining this one little ring on a table top in the expanses of a large room.

Macro Lens: Macro Lenses are designed with a closer focal range giving the photographer the ability to get closer-in without losing the sharp focus they live on. I cannot say that I have met anyone who did not like to look as closely as they could at the gems in a piece of jewelry they were looking to purchase. Since retail stores know that purchases will rise if the customer can see the product, the store managers will pay photographers very well for being able to capture the sharpest most accurate picture of the product they sell.

Jewelry Wax: For those pieces of jewelry that simply will not stand on their own without some help. I have read many photographers who insist on not paying more than absolutely necessary for wax used in jewelry shots, so they substitute dental wax. Personally, I am careful what I substitute for a product designed for a purpose. Waxes take many forms. Jewelry Wax is designed to be “sticky” without leaving residue or wax on the jewelry. I have not yet been able to test any other wax on my jewelry sets to determine if residue truly will be a problem. I am sure I will post about it at some point, after the testing is complete. *Grin*

God bless!

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!

Camera Troubles – Part 3

The Correlation Of Physical Human Vision And Photography Camera truly makes a lot of sense when the purpose of each part is clearly explained!

As we have studied in the last two blog posts (Camera Troubles & Camera Troubles – Part 2) the camera Lens is comparable to our Cornea, Iris and Pupil. The Lens glass is designed to focus and adjust for telephoto. The camera Lens is comprised of at-least two pieces of glass (I say “at-least” because there are “Prime Focal Lenses” and “Variable Distance Lenses” which we call “Zoom lenses”.), the first being the lens we can see and should refrain from touching; the second being capable of moving microscopic distances for the purpose of focusing.

Perhaps this is a bit more theory than anyone would choose to know. Although I would not be writing this series of posts if I did not believe this information would benefit you as you daily take joy in photographing your life and the wonderful moments with your loved ones.

In side the camera Lens is the Diaphragm adjusted in stops which we photographers call “f/stop” or “Aperture”. The solid and flat construction of the Diaphragm is a little hard to explain, but let me tell you about its purpose; it is designed to adjust the opening in small amounts to regulate the saturation of light to reach the Sensor. This is the same purpose that our Iris serves by regulating the size of our Pupil and allowing just the right amount of light to pass onto our Retina.

The camera’s Sensor is a sensitive piece of equipment because it is made to be able to see things in relatively low lit situations. In fact I would say that the Sensor is the most delicate pieces of a camera when subjected to light. If anyone remembers the days of film photography, the Sensor in our digital cameras are the modern replacement of film. Do you remember looking for the right “film speed” and handling one film set after another? Oh the questions I had; and the answers I received were such an education! The camera Sensor and its inspiration our Retina (even the original film) are designed to be sensitive to light, leaving temporary impressions to be received into our memory.

There is a notable difference between our Eye and a camera’s Sensor system. The difference is this, Our Eye sees things in continuous motion and high rates of speed (something along the lines of video), whereas the camera is designed to see things as individual momentary pieces of halted time.

This is a lot of fun to discover new things about our camera! There is more to discover about the camera and some specifics as to how we can get the best out of them. Stay focused; we will capture some more details later this week!

Camera Troubles – Part 2

I can be quickly angered with myself because I lack the understanding of how my own camera sees the same scene I do. Not only that, but if I did have the understanding of how my camera see the scene, I do not anticipate that I have the dexterity to change the camera settings in the time it takes to raise the camera to my Eye once I see a shot. Although, because I know why I am angered, I can learn what I do not know. So, let us get to it!

In Tuesday’s post “Camera Troubles” we talked about how our Eye receives light and the path it takes through our Eye to the Brain. Now I should tell you that your visionary organisms are so magnificently fashioned no camera can compare to its spectrum of strength, complexity and ability.

Cameras are doing some amazing and spectacular things today, but the camera which outputs the most fantastic images is only at a basic level able to capture 1 out of the 100 things the Human Eye sees. Amazingly, even giving it a 1 out of 100, is being generous.

The camera is fashioned after the organisms that give us the capabilities to see. By displaying the inspiration for the first camera prototype I will list and correlate the major devices of the digital camera to the human capability of vision.

Major camera devices:

  • Lens – The lens containing glass for focusing and diaphragm for measured light control.
  • Shutter – The shutter is a part of an SLR camera which covers the sensor and only opens for the purpose of taking a picture.
  • Sensor – The sensor receives the light which surrounds the scene.
  • Processor – The processor receives the information from the sensor and sets it in order for storage.
  • Storage – The storage is a memory card that can produce any or all of the images you have taken.

Cameras, film and digital, are wonderful devices we can use to remind us of those specials times and events. There are some limitations of camera technology as compared to our visual capabilities.

“So how do I learn the difference between what my camera sees and what I see?”

“What settings ought to be change, and what is the proper setting level?”

These and other questions will be answered in our first two posts of April. Please join us as we explore how to get the most out of your camera!

“Insider tips”

Sorry to disappoint you. This is not a blog for insider trading tips on Wall Street or international markets. However, if you are a hobbyist or professional photographer, you may be interested in these ideas for “unconventional uses of non-standard equipment.”

Have you ever wanted to use a welding mask as a lens filter to catch that solar flare? Maybe your object is silhouetted against the sun, or you just need another filter to get this picture while a new filter is in shipment. Have no fear, the “jack of all unconventionally used equipment” has some suggestions. [No, the super hero bit does not work for the author. -Editor]

A welder’s mask is an option though usually bulky and not practical to carry with your bag of equipment.

On the left is a lens from wrap around sunglasses and a picture to it’s right that illustrates the effects it gives to a photograph shooting into the sun.

For less bulk and still providing some amount of light filtering, try using a lens from an old pair of sunglasses (picture on the right). Holding the sunglasses lens up to your camera lens as if it were your eye works very well.

Pictured below is a flash-light I carry in my camera bag which is not sold as a piece of photography equipment. The picture next to it illustrates what it adds to a shot.

The light which makes the walls to glow are from the lights in the Christmas tree, but without the flash-light pictured above, the presents and the bow would have been silhouetted. The use of the flash-light in this picture is in the style of photography called "light painting". It is a very interesting technique.

This is the family Christmas tree with some slight and true edits.

Have you ever needed a flash and the built-in flash never properly illuminated or over illuminated your subject? Try mounting your camera on a tripod and lighting your subject with a flash-light, by hand, instead of a flash. This can be tricky, but with planned coordination a lot of fun! There are several things that will need to be prepared before hand in order for this solution to be effective.

  1. A sturdy tripod adjusted to the appropriate height.
  2. Camera shutter speed set so that you have time to illuminate the subject.
  3. Test the proper White Balance setting for the flash-light so as to prevent odd coloring in the photo.
  4. Test the amount of time you will need to illuminate the subject for proper exposure.

This is not meant to tell you how to do anything, although we do hope it gives you the help and creative suggestions that you need to try new things. Enjoy and keep learning!