Photographing by Candlelight

Sunlight and studio lights are two of the most used light sources in photography. Yet, there are other sources that give off light as well, and not only can they illuminate your subject but they can also create atmosphere and mood. Candlelight is a versatile light source that you can creatively use to show off your subject. 

Use a tripod – since this is a low light situation, you will be using a slow shutter speed which will increase the chances of the appearance of camera shake. To avoid this, use a tripod or set your camera on a steady surface. Another advantage of using a tripod is you can tweak your setup if needed without you having to reposition your camera and adjusting focus all over again.

Use only one candle – having only one candle for your light source means it has to be sufficient to illuminate what you want to be seen. You might have to do several test shots to adjust your exposure settings, as well as position the candle in a strategic manner. Having the candle close to the subject will give stronger illumination. Try placing the candle near a white wall or sheet so that this wall will act as a reflector and add more light to the scene. One candle gives the impression of intimacy or secrecy.

Use many candles – a lot of candles can provide drama and give the impression of passion. You can create more even lighting by spread out the placement of the candles. If you intend to show dramatic shadows, place more of the candles at just a certain area. 

Use background for context – images that include candlelight are usually simple and uncluttered. If you want to place the subject in relation to its surroundings, you can set up the candles to light as much of the scene as possible. For example, a romantic table top setting would benefit with the use of candlelight.

Adjust  exposure settings – candlelight is not that intense or bright so in order to have adequate lighting, you have to adjust your exposure settings accordingly. A slow shutter speed will allow large amounts of light in the sensor but might also catch the motion of the candle flame. A big aperture means a big lens opening which will also allow more light to enter the lens. An ISO with a smaller number means less noise but it also means less captured light. On the other hand, a higher number will mean more light and a more grainy result. Understanding reciprocity and the exposure triangle will help you decide what settings to use.

White balance – if your camera’s white balance is set to ‘auto’ it will try to correct the warm color cast of the candlelight. Experiment with the different settings such as ‘tungsten’ or ‘indoor’ until you reach the desired result.

Use off-camera flash – an off-camera flash can brighten up other parts of the scene which can’t be reached by candlelight.  Covering it in a colored gel can also add an interesting color cast.

Composition – creative composition can really spice up your shot. Candle placement, deciding whether to include them or not in the frame, using candles in unusual ways, the shape and color of the candles, having the candle itself as the subject, any of these can be used. 

Create mood – the warm glow of candlelight can certainly add to the mood of the scene. It can be used to give a romantic atmosphere or you can go the other way and use it to create a sinister and spooky mood.

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5 Fabulous Tips on Depth of Field

In the previous article, ‘Understanding Depth of Field’, we talked about the meaning of depth of field and how it affects our images. Here are some helpful tips on how to make the most out of this feature:

Try to avoid using too much of depth of field – Bringing the whole scene of a photograph into focus and keeping it sharp would require a small aperture. Just be cautious when making it too small. If this happens, the lens sharpness will lose its effect on the smallest apertures. Make sure you use just enough to get the effect you want. Trial and error is needed to get the perfect shot in using different apertures, but the end result will be well worth it.

Set the focal point – The depth of field stretches from the rear and in front of the center of focus. At times it may go further from behind than from the front. When choosing a particular focal point, give an allowance of 1/3 from the actual point instead of only ½ from the point.

Use a tripod – when a larger depth of field is used, less light enters the camera. To counterbalance this, and for your shot to still have correct exposure, you have to use a higher ISO or longer shutter speeds. The ISO still has a limited capacity before the problem with noise in the image will start to affect your photograph. To avoid this, lengthen the shutter speed to a point. This will require you to use a tripod to stabilize the camera for a clearer shot.

Depth of field preview –A trained eye can easily distinguish point of focus and resulting compositions. However, more often than not, the depth of field can be tricky. DSLR cameras have the option for a depth of field preview that is most handy. You can use the aperture priority mode, which will allow you to stop the lens to the aperture that you have chosen. This will give you a more accurate view of the outcome of a particular shot in terms of depth of field. What is seen, however, has the tendency to be darker due to less light coming through the aperture, but everything else should look the same (unless your surroundings are dim and the aperture is really small).

Focal length – this is largely determined by the choice in the photographer’s composition. Every one gives a different effect on the depth of field. The longer the focal lengths, the less depth of field compared to using shorter focal lengths. Always remember, in achieving a desired depth of field, try adjusting the focal length aside from the aperture.

In getting the most from your depth of field, always set your camera to aperture priority mode, try to photograph the same model or subject several times while using different settings on aperture, point of focus, and focal length. Jot down the settings you’ve tried for each shot so you can notice and compare distinct differences in the images. This is the best way to find out how various depths of field settings can create different yet wonderful results.

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Holiday Email Marketing Solutions!

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6 Simple and Effective Thanksgiving Photo Tips

The autumn season brings about trees covered in yellow gold leaves, spooky Halloween tricks and also the special occasion of Thanksgiving. During this time, Americans and Canadians celebrate by having family dinners which usually end up being quite memorable. But memories fade and digital pictures don’t so if you want to record everything that has to do with Thanksgiving, whip out your digital camera and read this fabulous photo tips:

Take pictures of the food – Thanksgiving is well known for its dinners and people go out of their way to make sure the Thanksgiving meal is perfect in every aspect. There are staple dishes such as the roasted turkey, the pies and the mashed potatoes. Brush up on your food photography techniques and take photos of the meal that has been lovingly prepared. You can get close and shoot the textures and details of the golden turkey or step back and include the entire dinner table in your shot. These food shots can then be included in your stock portfolio if you are a member of a stock site. 

Be creative with group shots – families often make it a point to gather together to celebrate during this occasion. This is the perfect opportunity to take some pictures of family members interacting and enjoying each other’s company. Take fun and creative shots aside from the traditional poses where people are staring straight at the camera.

Use a wide-angle lens if you have one – this type of lens can capture a wide area at a shorter focal distance compared to other lens types. This allows you to get everyone in the family included in the shot without you having to step back too far. You can also have more of the table laden with food. Wide-angle lenses are great for indoor shots where there isn’t much room to position yourself to take pictures.

Don’t take pictures of people eating – your family and guests most likely won’t want their pictures taken while they are chewing or swallowing their food. They might feel conscious and end up not enjoying the delicious meal and have you to blame for it. Instead, why not take photos of them before they are about to eat. It will be less intrusive plus the feast will still look great while untouched.

Take candid shots – the characters of people come out when they aren’t asked to pose and smile at the camera. Thanksgiving provides numerous instances for interactions and special moments with the family. Parents and grown-up children might see each other again after many months of being apart, young children will be exuding excitement and the designated cook will be busy in the kitchen preparing for the evening feast. Go around the house and catch moments between people or people doing an activity such as setting the table while swapping stories, these little things that are a part of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Include yourself in some of the shots – during gatherings, the designated photographer often ends up having no pictures of themselves. Don’t forget to also take pictures of yourself having fun with relatives and friends by using the camera timer and setting the camera on a tripod or a steady surface like a table. Thanksgiving is for the whole family and the pictures should show that you were also in the celebration.

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Tips on How to Avoid Camera Sensor Dust

The sensor of a DSLR camera can quickly become dirty if untended since the lens is removable. This provides a lot of instances when dust can get in. Although you can easily remove specks of dirt and dust from your image in post processing, it’s just as easy and actually better for the camera to prevent these particles from landing on the sensor in the first place. I’ve gathered quite a few simple yet effective tips which professional photographers use to avoid sensor dust:

Keep your camera bag very clean, all the time. Regularly vacuum the interior if you can. 

Make sure your lenses are always squeaky clean. A lot of sensor dust comes from dirty lenses, especially when they’re being used to focus or to zoom.

Be very careful when changing lenses of a DSLR. It is during this time that the chances of dust entering the camera are at its highest. The trick is to do the lens change as quickly as possible (but be careful you don’t drop the lens!) 

Stay away from your pets while you’re changing the lens. One tiny strand of dog fur can be very harmful to the sensor. 

Do the lens change in a place that’s not windy or drafty, preferably indoors. If you’re at the beach or on a windy parking lot, go in a building or a car to swap lenses.

Turn off your camera and point it straight down as you change the lens. 

Use a big blower bulb to blow off dust found on the camera mirror or shutter area.

If you have no choice but to change lenses outdoors and there’s a breeze, you can try turning your back to the wind so your body is blocking it and shielding the lens mount. 

If you can, stick to using just one lens during the shoot. A zoom lens can take good pictures of both near and far off subjects and you could be satisfied with this compromise since the possibility of acquiring sensor dust is minimal. 

Turn off your camera as you change your lens. 

If your surroundings are really dusty, store your camera body inside a sealable plastic bag before placing it in your camera bag. This will provide extra protection and in this scenario, you can’t be too careful. 

While your camera is resting, leave it upright and not on its back so there’s less chance dust could fall in to the sensor. 

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Understanding Depth of Field

How your image looks and feels depends a lot on one of the most important elements of photography, and this is depth of field (DoF). Many of today’s photographers that alternate from using a digital SLR camera to a simple point-and-shoot tend to overlook this very important aspect in photography. The more recent models and range of cameras out in the market and almost all of the ultra zooms have remarkable control on depth of field, but not all photographers utilize the full extent of this feature.

Depth of field is simply defined as the distance or depth from a certain point that a photograph will be sharp to where the rest of the background in the shot is blurry. A broad or extensive depth of field will have a larger portion of your image clearer or in focus. A narrower or lesser depth of field will make more of the area look out of focus. This is not a sudden transition from sharp to blurry, but rather it is a gradual change: 

Notice in this pebble image that the foreground and the background are gradually getting more blurred the further away they are from the middle ground which is the focal point, which is the area that is the sharpest and most clear. 

Both techniques can create polar effects that can add to the impact of your shot depending on what effect you want to create. The use of narrow or broad depth of field is a type of approach the photographer can use to keep attention on the focal point or to create artistic impressions. 

Four main factors contribute in controlling depth of field; 

1.) Aperture Control – the lens aperture directly affects depth of field. Big apertures (small f/numbers) result in a narrow or shallow depth of field while smaller apertures (large f/numbers) result in a broader depth of field. To draw a viewer’s attention more to the subject, create an effect that blurs the background (more commonly known as selective focus) by using f/numbers such as f/2.8 or f/4. To have a clear and focused shot without the blurring effect, use f/numbers such as f/16 or f/22. 

2.) Focal Length – When parallel light rays enter a lens that is focused at infinity, they converge to a point called the focal point. Focal length would be the distance from the middle of the lens to the focal point. The three main types of lenses, namely wide-angle, telephoto, and normal lens, can be described by their focal lengths. More info can be found in the article Explaining the Various Camera Lens Types.

3.) Subject Distance – the closer the camera is to the focal point or the subject, the less available depth of field. 

4.) Sensor Size – the smaller the sensor size, the greater the depth of field. They are organized by their crop factor, which uses the frame of a 35mm film as a comparison. 

The sensor is already set to a standard function, so it can’t be altered. The focal length and distance from your subject is largely reliant on what type of composition will be used in the photograph. The lens aperture then primarily controls the depth of field.

For more information on the relationship between aperture and DoF, check out our article, Aperture and Its Impact on Depth of Field.

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What Buyers Are Looking For in Stock Photos

When you upload your images in stock photo sites, you will soon notice that you will have to place each image in a specific category so it is more convenient for the buyers to find the shots they are looking for. A little bit of browsing through these categories will give you a fair idea of your competition and also what buyers are looking for. Here is a list of popular categories and how your images can hook the interest of the buyer:

People – what better way to reach an audience than by depicting ethnic diversity. There is a high demand in photographs of different cultures, races, genders and creed, young or old, happy or sad. There is a consolidated universal need for such images. Clients prefer candid images to show the more authentic side of everyday life all over the world. Remember that candid does not mean ‘snapshot-ish’ but rather an unposed and more natural feel. When photographing people with recognizable faces, make sure you get model releases to be able to use the images commercially. Being in a natural setting would be ideal, but if you will be working in a studio with models, pay particular attention to details. Make sure that clothing, make-up and hairstyle complement each other and drive home the message you want to convey.

Abstract ideas – it is important that you know the types of abstract concepts that are being used in the market. You can use these as a basis for your creative ideas and add twists of your own. Images depicting concepts that are valued in the market are joy, fear, health, success, and tranquility. It is not easy to present an abstract idea in a visual and clear manner, which is why there is a big market for it. Abstract ideas can also cover a wide range of possible usage, which would mean a big client potential. 

Food and drink – simplicity in food and drink photography is important. Keeping things as simple as possible and avoiding clutter in the shot will allow the viewer to focus on the actual subject. The other props in the photograph should merely support and enhance the dish rather than overwhelm it. Freshness is also a key element. Make sure that if you’re photographing fruits, vegetables or meat that they are absolutely fresh. Images of food that are usually served hot often look better with the inclusion of steam. It is difficult to capture real steam wafting from a hot dish since the dish itself might not be hot after hours of food styling. Fake food steam from a steamer works well as a substitute. 

Abstract – these images are often used as backgrounds for magazine covers, or as pc wallpapers. Texture, shapes, patterns and colors play a big part in abstract images so utilize your composition techniques to show them off in an attractive way. 

Technology and industry – with the steady growth of e-commerce and the internet being more popular than ever, images related to computers and online connections are a constant need in stock photography. Industrial shots are also popular, especially since the world is now very attuned to the effects of technology and industry to the environment. Avoid cliché shots such as computer sockets and wires since these have been done to death. Unless your image is presented in a more creative way, in which case cliché subject or not, it can still entice a buyer. 

Business and commerce – with today’s society focused on work and making money, images of professionals talking on cellular phones and wearing Bluetooth earpieces, images of bills and coins, briefcases, office equipment, board meetings, and the like are very much in demand. Again, it is easy to fall into the trap of cliché shots here such as the businessman carrying a briefcase or a close up of a handshake. These images could be technically perfect but if the visual is too common, it can border on being boring. Try composing the shot in more unique way, maybe change your camera angle or add a prop to make it your own. 

Travel – many travel photographs are used to illustrate many of the travel destinations and leisure spots and there is a never ending demand for new and unique images. You do not have to travel to far-off places to upload great shots. Your own environment will do since what is ordinary and a part of your own geography can be exotic to buyers who live in the other parts of the world. Images of your historical landmarks, of local culture and customs can be a hit so be sure to take photos for stock next time you go around your city or countryside.

Sports and action – sports are a big part of a people’s culture. Images of an athlete’s triumph and defeat bring out a sense of empathy in the viewer. Photographs depicting sports activities fill a need in the niche based market. If you have sports that are popular only in your country, take advantage of this fact by taking a lot of stock photos. There will not be much supply for it and you can be the photographer who can dominate that particular segment. 

Holidays and celebrations – Every year there is a greater demand in images for the holidays such as Valentine’s, Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Clients have a never-ending need for a fresh source to illustrate every event for different purposes. The great thing about these events is that it is very visual, with all the décor and cheerful atmosphere that seems to envelop everyone. It wouldn’t be hard for you to take photos that are visually appealing and vibrant during holiday season. 

Older adults and kids – Not many photographers like working with young children or seniors. As a result, there is an increase in the demand for clients to use stock photos for images of this kind. When taking stock photos of children and the elderly, make sure they are relaxed and comfortable with having their picture taken. 

Health care – Any image in relation to the field of health care such as doctors, nurses, medicine, and the like are saleable since the market is still wide open for these kinds of images. 

Nature – although extremely popular and with this category near to bursting with images, buyers cannot seem to get enough of nature shots. From insect shots to sunset shots over the ocean, this category is rife with images that appear very similar to each other. Creative composition and lighting are essential in this category if you want to be noticed.

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Using Strobes in Underwater Photography

In a previous article, we discussed how ambient light can be used in underwater photography. This time we will find out how submersible flash units or strobes are used to illuminate a subject or an entire scene. 

Since water is much denser than air, light underwater is absorbed faster and at a shorter distance compared to light above the water surface. In cases when ambient light is simply not enough to adequately light up a scene, strobes come to the rescue by providing bright light even at deeper ocean levels. Another asset of using strobes is that they can show off the subject’s real colors.  One of the properties of water is it lets the blue end of the spectrum pass through deeper than all the other color wavelengths, which makes underwater scenes acquire a blue cast. Strobe lights, with their complete light spectrum, can illuminate the subject or scene and present all the colors as they really are, without the predominant bluish color cast. Strobes can also act as fill light by lighting up the foreground or the dark areas of a subject while ambient light illuminates the rest of the scene.

Aside from presenting the subject’s color in full, there are other key differences between the results of strobe light and ambient light. Strobes can effectively freeze action since it can rapidly blast bright light. This allows for a fast shutter speed and there is no worry that camera or subject movement might cause the shot to come out blurry. Strobes will also provide strong light at short distances, and subjects taken at close up can be better illuminated. The added advantage to this is you can use a smaller aperture which means your camera covers a greater depth of field allowing more of the scene to be in focus. Strobes are not as useful in long distances, however, since the strobe light is absorbed by water. Distances of five feet or more no longer get illuminated and this is where ambient light can come in handy since it can encompass a larger area. 

If you’re using only one strobe, try positioning it above and to the side of the camera, at a 45 degree angle to the subject. This lessens the appearance of visible particles (a.k.a. backscatter) in the water which can cloud up the image. Two strobes are ideal to lessen hard shadows that can appear if only one strobe were used. Using a pair of strobes on either side of the subject will provide more even lighting. Have one of the strobes provide lesser output to show a light shadow that will give the impression of depth. If the two strobes were giving off equal light output, the subject can come out looking flat and bland.  

Keep in mind that strobe lights can be rather bulky and effort is required to set them up and maintained in proper position. Assistance from a dive buddy would be nice but if you don’t have one, you can use strobe arms with success. These arms are articulated for better positioning control of the direction of the strobe lights. 

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Create a Photo Blog For Self-Promotion

Blogging is a great way to advertise your skills as a photographer. Why make a photo blog? For starters, it is an avenue for you to share your photos and your experiences. It can also be greatly advantageous if you are looking to get hired for photo projects. Acting like a portfolio, it can show potential clients not just your best photographs but also your vision behind creating them. Having a photo blog can be a great boost in confidence if people leave comments about your posts and you can interact with online visitors and share opinions and lessons learned.

Have a focus – before creating a blog, it would be best to have an objective to keep yourself focused and to make it easier for the readers to know what your blog is all about. Random writing is good to a certain extent since you have the freedom to write and show photos about anything you like with no thought of how your posts all will relate to each other. The downside is that readers may find your blog too vague and you might not have regular readers unless your photos are spectacular. Photography is such a broad topic and there are lots of areas in which to specialize.

Blog hosts, Free or Paid? – There are a lot of blog hosts which offer free accounts such as WordPress, Blogger, and Aminus3. If you are not too particular with site customization, these are usually enough to provide you a platform with which to show your photos and share your insights. However, if you want to have more control over the look and features of your blog site, you might need to pay a minimal fee.

Keep it clean – to make your photos stand out, a clean and uncluttered layout and design is best. The page background is like a frame or a border for your photos to be placed against. Some like the page backgrounds to be light colored or white, while others prefer it dark or black. It is really a matter of preference; one is not better than the other, as long as the background for the shots show them off to their best advantage and not detracts from them.

Photo blog vs. blog with photos – a photo blog is simply a website that focuses on photographs. If you are making a photo blog, text should be kept at a minimum. After all, the pictures should not need extensive explanation. A short description or caption would do. However, your posts may be photo reviews, How To articles, or how your day went and although these all can show your photos, they are not primarily considered a photo blog but rather, a blog with photos.

Posting Frequency – the popularity of your photo blog also depends hugely on how often you update it. If you post irregularly and few and far between, even the most loyal follower will get bored and stop visiting your blog. If you post too often, such a ten times a day, your blog might suffer from information overload and that can also be a turn-off. Create a steady stream of posts spaced just right to keep your followers hooked and yet wanting for more. Needless to say, it is good practice to show a few of your best photos at a time, rather than a lot of mediocre ones.

Create awareness – now that you have your blog all set up with a steady stream of photos, spread the word around to make people aware of its existence. Some visitors may stumble upon your site by accident while others may visit because they heard about it from other related blogs. Others will be people you know such as family and friends who are just curious to see what you are up to. If you are in the photography business, or at least are looking for short term photo jobs, tap into everyone you know by way of social networking sites. This is a convenient way to promote your capabilities as a photographer, as well as show them your blog with the use of a link.  Another method is to visit other photo blogs and leave comments. Not only will you get to appreciate other photographers’ expertise and creativity, but you can make them curious and they, in turn, will most probably check out your own blog. 

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Using Ambient Light in Underwater Photography

In underwater photography, ambient light can be used to create stunning atmospheric shots. Ambient light is available light that is present in the scene and in this case sunlight is the main light source to illuminate underwater subjects. There will be times when you will not have a choice but to use only ambient light. For instance, if you’re trying to capture images of large sea creatures such as whales, they might not be near enough for you to illuminate them with strobe lights. There are also times when ambient light will light up a bigger area than your strobes can cover. If you have strobes, you can use these as fill light in key areas such as the foreground. 

When photographing subjects and scenes underwater, you will find that the properties of water is not the same as that of air, and light is very much affected. Water is 800 times denser compared to air and when sunlight hits the water, it diffuses and scatters. The blue light is evenly bounced off at all sides while the rest of the spectrum passes through as normal. This is the reason why water appears blue. The deeper down the waters, the darker and bluer it becomes. Contrast also becomes reduced since water acts like a light sponge. 

Staying close to the surface will allow you to take advantage of the intensity of ambient light. However, be prepared for backscatter, which are tiny but visible particles such dust or organisms like plankton that reflect light. They produce a snow-like effect, which appear more prominently nearer to the water’s surface.  There are many ways you can avoid ambient scatter. One is to go down deeper but you will have less ambient light. Another is to move with care to avoid dust from clouding up and to also move against the current so that dust will float away from you. Also stay away from swells that stir up dust and sand.

When using ambient light, consider the sun’s position since it is your main light source. The sunlight is at its strongest between 11a.m. and 2 p.m., when it is at its highest point in the sky. This is the time when the waters least reflect it away and more of it penetrates through the surface. You may even chance upon getting a cathedral light effect. This occurs when the water’s surface is calm and flat, and the sun is high in the sky. Shafts of light become visible and the effect can be quite dramatic. When shooting cathedral light, move out of the path of the light and face it instead so you can capture its full impact.

One of the effects of using only ambient light is color loss and contrast. Since the underwater environment can end up appearing mostly blue with ambient light, you can offset this by using filters. Color compensating filters will give your scene a certain hue depending on the filter color while color conversion filter will change the appearance of color temperature. In this case the warming filter option is most often used to offset the cool blue color cast provided by ambient light. 

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