Saturday, July 17, 2010

Here are some general tips. Our class is done for now, but don't tune out!

We have completed our class; I'd like to thank Harold and Jan for helping out and all of you for hanging in there with us while we try to teach something that we love. 

Remember to take your camera off of the green setting and try new things, different apertures, different shutter speeds.  Take pictures laying on the floor, bending over, on top of your car or roof (be safe!).  It's the little things that make a picture go from average to spectacular. 

Harold mentioned something that I think is also important.  Practice with your camera.  Set up a subject, set your camera on aperture priority and take pictures at every aperture  you can.  Study the differences in the pictures so you know what differences are from aperture to aperture.  Take pictures at different focal lengths.  Remember shorter (wide angle) focal lengths give a sense of depth to a picture, while longer (telephoto) focal lengths flatten out or "compress" the subject and background.  Each effect has it's place, you just have to get accustomed to using them. 

Practice some more with your camera. . .be able to change the shutter speed, ISO, autofocus point and aperture without needing to search for the buttons.  Do you think about hitting the brake or using the turn signal in your car?  Changing these settings on your camera should be just as automatic.  (I'm not there yet, either)

Have a routine for setting up your camera before you start shooting.  For example:
1.  make sure you have plenty of room on your memory card
2.  check your ISO, make sure it's appropriate to what and where you are shooting.  (Recently, I shot several kids at an event, using flash.  I forgot to check my ISO.  I did the whole shoot at ISO 1000, which made the images unfortunately noisy, and took a lot of post processing to fix.)
3.  check your camera mode (program, aperture priority, shutter priority)
4.  check your lens, make sure your kids or your dog didn't leave a big paw print on the front of it.

If you have any comments, post them here.  If you need to contact me, email me at


Sunday, July 11, 2010

A few new links to good stuff

If you are interested in the downloads for tethering your camera to a computer, you'll need to download EOS Utility here.

I found some interesting information about improving your creativity in photography (without buying more "stuff").  Look at David DuChemin's blog and eBooks.  The eBooks are books you can purchase for $5 and download to your computer to read.  He has several, many of them have exercises and homework. For his eBooks, look here.  For his blog, look here.

Our last class will be one of a few new tips, review and question and answers.  If you have a chance upload your pictures to flickr so we can take a look this week.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Flash Photography Basics, in preparation for next week. . .

We'll have the opportunity to take flash pictures in the studio this coming week.  Flash photography is a bit different than "available light" photography.  Before we start though, the one thing to remember about flash photography is that about 80% of the time (or more) you are photographing people.  The key to interesting images of people is lighting.  It is preferable to use lighting from the side of a person when shooting portraits.  Light from the side will add more contrast to the face, it will define the facial features better.  Highlights from the flash combined with shadows created on the face by side lighting will make faces more interesting, less flat and more life like.  "Light illuminates, shadows define."

Light from the side means that the little pop up flash on your camera is not a good option.  For best results, an accessory flash is a great option.  Most of these have a flash head that tilts, allowing you to point the light in different direction to "bounce" it off a wall or whatever is available to reflect back on the subject.

If you have an accessory flash, you can get it off the camera and change the direction of the flash using an accessory cord. 

Flash units that are specifically made for a certain camera brand are called "dedicated."  The camera has the ability to see how much output the flash has and can send a message to the flash to put out more or less light.  This technology is known as ETTL or A-TTL.  These allow us to take the guesswork out of flash settings, automatically adjusting for the exposure you have set for your camera. 

Flash exposures are usually done with the shutter speed set between 1/60 and 1/250.  The highest shutter speed that your camera will sync the flash with is called "flash sync speed."  If you exceed your sync speed you'll get a shadow or vignette:

The key to good flash photography is to make the photo look like you didn't use flash.  To do this, you get the flash off of the camera.  Occasionally, you may need to change the flash setting of the camera to make the output a little less intense than what the camera automatically suggests.  This is done by adjusting the "flash exposure compensation" setting in your camera.  It's usually pretty obvious to find, just look for the lightening bolt with the +/- beside it.

You don't always have to have flash to create a good portrait.  If you have a nice large window that is providing light for a room, having a subject facing perpendicular to the window, so light is falling on the side of their face.

A great posing information website is here, you'll need to sign in to see the examples.   To be continued. . .

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Landscape Photography & Light

On Tuesday the 29th of June in the photography class I covered my thoughts on landscape photography and how natural light effects your images and what to watch for. I put together a hand out sheet with what I felt to be some key points in reference to these issues which you will find the highlights of below. We also went through a slide show of some of my images and talked about the good and bad points of the slides. We discussed HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography and how to shoot to give yourself files to convert to HDR image.

What makes a good photo?

1) Is the image in focus? - We all know that the image needs to be in focus, and if it is not, then forget that image no matter how much you like it. There are occasions when part of the image is not to be in focus to create a special effect and that is an exception to the focus rule.

2) Was the exposure correct? - Check the histogram and if the subject pushed the capabilities of the camera too far you might be able to make some adjustments while post-processing to improve the file.

3) Is it clear what the subject is? In a landscape photo the entire image could be the subject.

4) Should the image be cropped? - I would encourage you to leave some image outside of the main subject area to allow for several cropping options. As you become more confident in your abilities to see exactly what you want to capture thru the viewfinder, you can tighten up around the subject.

5) Were the leading lines, shapes or textures that existed taken advantage of? I think if the entire image is the subject try to be even more conscious of taking advantage of the leading lines, shapes and textures.

Light - Four things to consider about light....

Quality, Color, Direction & Quantity.

1) With all the details we have to consider when making a photograph we may forget the light. Light is the primary component of a good photo. Learn to recognize whether the available light is magical or ordinary, and as a landscape photographer you want magical light!

2)The color of the light is constantly changing. The sun's changing angle, air impurities, cloud cover. All of these things change the color of the light. As the color of light changes the mood of the photo will change.

3) Light direction.

a) Front lighting on the subject (sun at your back) is safe and easy to use. This probably won't make you go WOW.... too often when you look at the final photo.

b)Side lighting and back lighting creates texture and increases the WOW ... factor.

4) Very low quantities of light creates a mood in a photo. If you get up early to go shoot and there is a heavy fog, consider a cemetery, pond/lake or the riverwalk in Council Grove for a location to shoot. This might be a good time to maybe shoot a water reflective photo.

I don't believe that you as a photographer need to follow all the rules that you have maybe read about what it takes to makes a good photo. Be an artist and use the camera as your brush.... be creative and do what you like, make the photo reflect you and your thoughts and visions. If you like a new twist to photography or you have strong beliefs about how a photo should look go for it. I know there will be others who will appreciate what you have done!

Harold Gaston

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cardinal rules of action photography (and a few correlates)

If you talk to an editor who is reviewing photography for his/her publication, invariably you will come down to these few rules for acceptable images.  These rules should always be in the back of your mind when your eye is in the viewfinder:
1.  "Fill the frame".  This refers to having the subject take up the majority of the space in the image. You leave no doubt what the subject is. 
2.  "Clean up the background"  Your subject should be easily separated from the background behind it.  The background should not be distracting when looking at the subject.  Cleaning up the background can be done in several ways:  decreasing the depth of field to blur whatever is behind the subject, changing your point of view on the subject to get a uniform background, such as sky, field, floor, an empty wall.
3.  Tell a story, convey emotion, make a point. . .the most effective pictures create interest by creating some type of emotion in the viewer, whether it be sadness, joy, wonder, anger or frustration.