Bracket Your Shots to Capture the Correct Exposure

A lot of the DSLR cameras out in the market today have the capacity to take consecutive shots at a time, set at having different exposures. This is known as bracketing. Usually, the first shot will have the correct exposure preceded by an underexposed shot and lastly, an overexposed shot. Autobracketing is always by default and you will have to cancel it if you want a specific type of exposure setting. If you set your camera to capture single shots, keep in mind to manually adjust the exposure settings. If your camera is set to continuous shooting mode, it will just take three consecutive shots at the different exposures. Setting your camera to continuously shoot images can be a lot easier particularly when you are using high speed drive setting on your camera where you can capture images having three exposures shot in quick series to ensure your photographs will look nearly the same without you having to remind yourself as to how many you actually took. 

Using bracketing as a safeguard when your lighting is hard or a challenge to set up such as when your background paraphernalia has to be changed frequently or when your image has quite a lot of contrasting elements. Since this allows you to have a lot of options to choose from, you can pick the ideal image with the most attractive exposure from the bunch. You can even combine these images with the use of a photo editing program to show the best parts of each image.

When photographing different types of niches in photography, bracketing can offer certain advantages. For example, for landscape photography you will have more time to analyze your images in the histogram and you even have the opportunity to take another photograph if need be. Bracketing may tend to be a disadvantage in sports and action photography because your point of interest could be moving fast. 

When photographers still used film, it is common knowledge when using negatives that a full f/stop between images is a given. But in slide film, ½ stop or 1/3 stop at a time is ideal. For digital images, when shooting in RAW, one stop is acceptable. When shooting using JPEG, the increments in between images have to be closer together because you have less chances to make post processing adjustments if you encounter any issues.

When dealing with bracketing and exposure compensation, always remember that you need not place the bracket in the middle of the exposure dial. You can add the bracketing and place the exposure compensation together. This would allow you to have overexposure towards the center of the scale allowing you to have correct exposure one stop and two stops under. Another way is to have the underexposure at the center of the scale which means you can have correct exposure at one stop and two stops over.

For all instances wherein there is bright light in the background, all your shots should be overexposed by at least one stop to get the ideal exposure. The reason behind this is that the bright sun is behind the subject and the meter could be fooled into underexposing the shot. 

Automatic metering is ideal for ordinary circumstances with even lighting but if there is more light contrast involved, it can exaggerate the exposure setting. This is where bracketing comes in handy since having various exposures of the same scene will give you better chances of getting the correct exposure.



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Facts about Filters and How to Choose a Filter Size

 

There are two points to consider when choosing a filter. Do you want to capture images that are as close to the essence of the real thing or do you want to be creative and experiment with the different effects of different kinds of filters?

There are several types of filters to choose from. There are glass filters that you can clamp or screw onto your lens. These are considered to be the toughest but can also be very expensive. There are also fragile, polyester and gelatin filters which are highly recommended for lenses with unconventional widths and when you don’t often require a filter.

You might encounter some problems using lens filters. An underlying effect of filters is that they can adversely affect the quality of an image by introducing an additional piece of glass in between the camera’s sensor and the subject. This is more noticeable in the form of slight color tint, a decrease of contrast in some, or most of the image area, or increased lens flare and ghosting caused mainly by light reflecting off the inside of the filter. 

Filters may also cause vignetting, which is the light fall-off or blackening of the image’s edges if the opaque edges of the filter obstruct the passage of light entering the lens. A polarizer from a wide angle lens, a couple of filters on a lens or a filter with a lens hood can also cause vignetting. A solution to these issues is to use filters bigger than the lens’ screw in thread. For example, use a 62mm filter for a 58mm lens and attach it with a step-up ring. 

When choosing a filter size, there are two types of lens filters: the screw-on and front filter. Screw-on filters provide an airtight seal and can’t be accidentally moved during composition but works only for specific lens sizes. A front filter, on the other hand, is more flexible and can be used on almost any lens diameter. However, they have to be held in front of the lens, which can be a bit inconvenient. 

The size of a camera lens is listed in diameter in front of the camera in millimeters and can range from 46-82mm for DSLR cameras. The diameter of a screw-on filter corresponds to the diameter of the camera lens. There are also step-up or step-down adapters that can be used for different filter sizes. Remember that step-down adapters can cause vignetting since the filter can block light at the edges of the lens while step-up adapters can be a hindrance for a camera that requires a smaller filter. 

The height of the filter edges is also important. Extra thin filters as well as other specially designed filters can be utilized for wide angle lenses that will not cause vignetting but can be quite expensive and may not have threads on the exterior to allow for other filters and maybe even for the lens cap.


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Uses of Graduated Neutral Density Filters

 

GND filters, also known as split filters, limit just how much light comes through to an image. These are most needed when taking shots using natural lighting commonly encountered when taking landscape photos. 

Before the use of digital cameras, these filters were necessary to create dramatic lighting in landscape images. When using digital cameras, one could use two separate exposures and combine the two images using a linear gradient in Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing software. This technique however cannot be used with fast moving subjects or changes in light unless in single exposure shots that are twice developed from RAW file format. This method inadvertently will increase noise in an image unlike if you were to use a GND filter. This also allows you to immediately view what a photo will look like using the camera’s viewfinder or LCD. 

There are two types of settings in GND filters; one has a soft edge for a more gradual blend and the other has a hard edge to get a more abrupt blend. Choosing which to use depends on how fast the light transitions in the scene. For example, a distinct change of lighting in a scene between the ground and the sky would require a GND filter with a hard edge. An example would be a landscape which includes dark trees and fields while the sky is too bright. With the use of a hard edged GND, the available light would be let in the lower half of the frame where the trees are while less light is allowed in the section of the sky. The result is a more even lighting. 

The blend can also be radial to add or eradicate light fall-off at the edge of the lens’ edges, or more commonly known as vignette. 

Blending requires careful precision with the aid of a tripod. Soft edges have a tendency to be more accommodating with errors in misplacement. Hard edges can create excessive darkening or brightening in the area where the blend occurs if light transitions faster than the filter. Remember that vertical objects stretching across the blend will appear unnaturally dark.

The soft and hard edge blending technique varies depending on what type of GND filter you use. One company’s soft edge can sometime be as abrupt as another company’s hard edge. It’s a trial and error when using the filter to determine the precise outcome.

Keep in mind the differential in the amount of light allowed in one side of the blend compared to the other end.  In a previous article, we included a chart that lists how various companies designate the filters’ light reduction. A ‘0.6 grad’ is a graduated density filter resulting in 2 f-stops less light which is ¼ of light at one side of the blend compared to other. The same goes for a 0.9 ND grad, which allows 3 f-stops less light which is 1/8 on one side. Almost all of landscape images require a 1-3 f-stop blend or less.


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8 More Essential Tips to Follow When Photographing Wedding Ceremonies

 

There are so many things to consider when photographing wedding events, especially the ceremony itself. We gave you 10 essential tips in a previous article and here are 8 more to help you prepare for the big event: 

1. The presence of ambient light will provide extra illumination to your images and they can also certainly add to the mood to the image.  Candles or sunlight streaming from the church windows can boost visual appeal. 

2. Keep a shot list of the peoplthat you have to shoot during the ceremony aside from the bride and groom such as the parents, close friends, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. This will keep you focused especially when there is a large number of people who have attended. Familiarize yourself with their faces so they can be easy to spot in the crowd.  

3. Make sure that you are ready outside the church when the bride arrives since it is an important moment that you cannot miss. Take shots of her getting out of the car with her father, and some poses of her and the bridal entourage by the church doorway. Try to be quick, though, usually two to three minutes is sufficient. 

4. Photograph the bride as she walks up the aisle with her father. Also remember to take pictures of the guests’ reaction and the groom’s expression as he looks at his bride. Your job is not simply to record the sequence of events but also to capture the strong emotions and vibrant atmosphere permeating the room. 

5. Also keep a shot list of the essential key moments in the ceremony such as when the bride and groom meet at the altar, when they light the wedding candles, the exchange of vows, the exchange of wedding rings and the kiss after the priest pronounces them as man and wife. 

6. Be discreet. A wedding ceremony is a solemn occasion and no one would like it if you were walking back and forth in front of everyone just to get shots of the bride and groom. Find a position where you have a good view of the couple and the guests without them noticing you too much. For example, during the exchange of wedding rings, zoom in on the rings and the hands from a spot by the aisle. Do not go up to them by the altar just so you can get a good close up shot. 

7. During the signing of the register, take shots of the priest with the newlyweds, as well as the entourage. The bride and groom might be the center of attention in the ceremony but remember to take as much shots of everyone else, especially the special people that the bride and groom would want to have lots of photos of as well. 

8. As the bride and groom walk down the aisle and outside of the church, this is a moment full of photo opportunities. Make sure you have shots of the couple’s faces in close up, full body shots of them walking out the church door, and the expressions of the guests as they throw rice and congratulate the couple. Remember to adjust camera settings for outdoor exposures.

 

 


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4 Things to Remember When Shooting Car Light Trails

Light trails are a popular subject matter among photographers and not only can they appear dramatic in an image, but it also gives you good practice on how to shoot at low light with long exposures. 

When shooting light trails, you will be looking for a location where cars pass by. Set up your camera and compose the shot to make sure the framing covers the area where the light trails will appear due to the long exposure. The road will give you a good idea of how the light trails will curve and travel through the image. It’s normal not to get the shots you want during the first few tries. When photographing light trails, you might end up experimenting heavily with your exposure settings, the position of the camera, and so on.  Here are great tips on how to capture great looking light trails in your image:

Consider the time of day – you can shoot in the middle of the night since this is the time when the sky is at its darkest (unless there is a bright moon) but it could also mean fewer cars. Shooting just after the sun goes down is another option; there is still just enough ambient light in the sky to show the scene without taking away the brilliance of the light trails. A lot of cars may also be on the road at this time, giving you many chances of shooting the trails. 

Equipment – there is no special gear you need to have to capture light trails but you do need a camera that allows you to adjust exposure settings, especially shutter speed. This should not be a problem since nowadays, all DSLRs and most point-and-shoots have a manual mode or a shutter priority mode. Shooting handheld will most certainly cause camera shake with during the long exposure, therefore a tripod is needed. If you don’t have one, you can place the camera on a secure and stable surface instead. Other accessories that you might find useful are remote shutter cables and a lens hood to block out ambient light flares.

Location – there are a lot more things to consider aside from knowing you will be setting up your camera near a road. Try to include something that would add interest to the shot, such as building or structure that is also lighted at night. You can choose an intersection or a curving road so that the trails created will have a different shape compared to a straight line. Make sure the spot where you are shooting from is safe and there is no chance you will be hit by a car or be robbed while you are engrossed with taking shots. 

Histogram – in a shoot like this, it is easy for shots have blown out highlights or washed out areas because of too bright lights such that coming from a nearby street light or a car headlight. These lights could ruin your shot because of overexposure and would also lead your viewer’s eye from the point of interest. Use the histogram to have a quick check whether your lens is capturing strong light. 

 


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7 More Digital Photography Lessons to Teach Your Child

Enjoying photography can mean sharing the joy and experience with loved ones, and passing on the passion to your child. In a previous article, we wrote several photography lessons for your child. Here are 7 more:

1. Find a point of interest – teach your child to focus on the most important element in the image by knowing how to identify the point of interest. Once your child understands this, he will know how to position himself and angle his photographs as well as use other photography techniques to place emphasis on a subject.

 2. Teach your child the basic composition techniques – explain the techniques in simple terms and avoid any jargon that may just add to the confusion. It’s not easy to teach a child that by placing a subject 1/3 or 2/3 of the frame for composition makes the photograph more visually appealing, but teaching him to place a subject slightly off center can be a start.

 3. Take interest in your children’s images – one of the most important parts in teaching your child how to photograph is actually sitting with them and reviewing the images he’s taken. By going through the shots, you can praise the shots that have been taken well as well as give suggestions on shots that can be improved. Give extra attention and pay generous compliments to the images that have been taken well because these will feed enthusiasm and inspiration to develop their skills more.

 4.  Teach your child the relevance of a photograph – impart to your child that a camera can capture memories, not just record images. Ask him to remember to include himself in some of the photographs by asking a friend to take a picture of him.

5. Practice how to use focal lock – teach your child to use focal lock by pressing the shutter halfway down to focus and to frame a shot while still holding the shutter down. This is a technique that he can use forever. Even if most, if not all, of the digital cameras out in the market are equipped with auto focus, it still cannot determine the main point of focus or the actual subject.

6. Different modes for different situations – teach your child to use the different modes of a camera such as ‘sports’, ‘macro’, ‘landscape’, etc. Explain the meaning of each mode and if possible, demonstrate the differences. It is also important that your child knows when the appropriate time is to use each mode and how to switch to manual mode. This makes children more aware of their subject as well as learning how lighting, focal distance and movement can affect a shot.

 7. Exposure settings – when you child has a full understanding of the basic techniques, you can move on to explaining the importance of exposure. This may be a lesson for older kids with advanced compact cameras, but depending on how you explain the three exposure settings, the concept of ISO, aperture and shutter speed is a start. Explain the functions of each setting and what it can do to an image.  Showing them how to use aperture and shutter priority modes will help them on their way to fully understanding these functions.

 Depending on your child’s age and experience with a camera, you can pinpoint how to proceed with their photography lessons. A simple point and shoot will be sufficient in getting your child to learn and explore the world of photography and capture amazing photos at the same time. At best, be patient and give quality time when getting them started. Most of all, make it a fun and exciting experience for the both of you.

 


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7 Digital Photography Lessons to Teach Your Child

One of the many advantages of technology nowadays is having the opportunity to use a digital camera where the cost of film and developing is not something to consider when first teaching a child on how to use a camera and take photographs.

We all would like to preserve memories of our children growing up, but we can’t always be there to record every moment of their life. Moreover, it would be a completely different experience if a child recorded their own memories through their own experiences and their own eyes. Besides, it is not all the time that they let us in on all their secrets. This is a way for them to express themselves as well as discover who they are and perhaps open doors to what they would want to be in the future.

Here are a few lessons you can give your child on getting started in using a camera and taking photographs of their own.

1. Experiment – show your child different techniques to try when shooting one subject. Let your child try shooting from different perspectives such as up high or down low. Explain the difference between a close up shot and moving further away from a subject to include more of the scene. Show your child how to shoot with different angles by moving around a subject. Also, how to use the different settings on a camera by experimenting on different exposure modes and what outcomes each may produce.

2. Pay attention to the background and foreground – teach your child to be aware of the background and foreground of a subject and to be conscious of possible clutter that may be a distraction. Give emphasis on the importance of framing to eliminate some of the distractions, as well as to give more focus and attention to the subject.

3. Keep the camera straight – although off-kilter shots can have a playful feel to the images and have a candid effect, it’s important to teach your child to frame an image. This would give your child the very basic principle of leveling all of the shots and once that is imparted and practiced, even candid shots will look great and won’t have that dizzying effect.

4. Hold the camera properly- don’t assume that anyone can hold a camera, especially a child who is unfamiliar with it. Your child may need a few tips in holding a camera correctly to help avoid the usual problems encountered such as camera shake. Advice your child to use the camera strap to lessen chances of the camera falling on the floor.

5. Get in close – teach your child that getting close to the subject can capture so much of the details that are often missed. It will also make your child more observant and appreciative of ‘ordinary’ objects.

6. Take lots of photos – it’s great how taking photographs aren’t as costly with digital cameras today. You and your child can preview the images right after they are taken and edit out the ones you don’t want to keep. By letting your child freely take pictures without having to stop at a certain number of shots, they get to play and have fun and explore what they can do with the camera.

 



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How to Use the Tilt Shift Technique

Tilting the lens is a technique that is not widely used but can certainly improve your shots and could be the answer to some focusing issues. 

Tilting – this can create soft focus and can also bring more of the subject into focus without sacrificing the aperture size.  This effect is called the Scheimpflug Rule, the camera lens is tilted along its axis and facing the subject plane.

The standard prime or zoom lens have glass parts which stay parallel to each other, with the distance between them increasing or decreasing in order to focus the image in the sensor. The lens always stays parallel with the image plane and sensor to keep the image sharpness even and consistent.

If you tilt the lens at another angle to the sensor plane, you can create interesting visual results.  One of these is selective focus, which is allowing only an area in the image to be sharp and then captured by the sensor. This area in focus is positioned within the focal plane by changing the focal length.

Selective focus can be used to emphasize certain details and disregard others, which can be used to guide the viewer to a certain emotional response. If you tilt the image away from the subject plane, the upper and lower areas of the image become selectively unfocused regardless of where the lens is facing. The effect becomes more obvious with the more tilt you give the lens.

When set to infinity, this tilting technique can make an image appear as if the scene is in miniature, especially with those showing top view or from afar. With this effect, the image projects the illusion of being in macro. People appear tiny, buildings look like models and cars and trains look like toys.

Another effect resulting from tilting is that it allows a wider focused area without adjusting the aperture. When the lens is tilted toward a slanting subject, the subject can appear to be entirely in focus. By using an aperture such as f/4, you can push the depth of field further with the tilting technique while allowing for a faster shutter speed. The added advantage to this is you have the option to handhold the camera instead of relying on a tripod.

The tilt shift technique is beneficial in close-up photography, such as when photographing small items such as jewelry. The sharp area can be strategically placed exactly where you want the viewer to look, and if the images are for commercial purposes, this can be a great asset. This is also useful in landscape photography where one can increase the depth of field without decreasing aperture stop.  A scenario would be a low-light situation where overall image sharpness is needed. Using the tilt shift approach, one can use an aperture of f/8 to cover a wide focused area as one would with an f/16, with the advantage of letting more light into the sensor.  These varied options for depth of field and shutter speeds make the tilt lens popular among landscape photographers.

 


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When to Choose Between Horizontal, Vertical and the Square Crop

In photography, the simplest decision can sometimes help or weaken the impression of an image. How we choose to frame or crop our subject affects the overall composition and the effect it has on the viewer.  Horizontal and vertical formats are the two most common ways to frame an image although interest in the square crop seems to be on the rise.

 Horizontal framing (landscape format) is ideal when:

          the subject is wider than it is taller, such as boats, bridges, or rows of houses.

          there is implied movement from side to side, such as a motion blur shot of a ball rolling from the left to the right of the frame.

          landscape (or seascape) panoramas, especially those that show horizon lines.

 Vertical framing (portrait format) is ideal when:

          the subject is taller rather than it is wider.

          the subject is not just tall but also singular or few, such as a solitary lamppost, a skyscraper or a person standing. A line of people or a row of skyscrapers could benefit from a horizontal framing instead.

          implied movement is going upwards or downwards.

          you want focus to just be on the subject since this orientation removes peripheral vision

For budding photographers, horizontal framing (a.k.a landscape format) is more often used than vertical (probably because it’s just more convenient to hold the camera in its horizontal position rather than having to tilt it sideways.)  However, using vertical framing can alter the impression of the same scene. Although the final framing can be decided in post processing by cropping or rotating the image, try to make your decision before you press that shutter button so you will not end up having to cut off large unnecessary areas in the image.

The Square Crop

The most common aspect ratio is a rectangle but there is also the square, and square crops are fast becoming popular again (it was a common format in the 50’s during the era of the medium format cameras which used film with a square aspect ratio). Square crops are often used for online avatars (the image that represents you in the internet) and image thumbnails, and they look great when you want to make a photo collage in your portfolio since they provide consistency.

There are some compositional elements that seem to work especially well with a square crop:

Symmetry – symmetrical subjects are commonly cropped square with its central point at the center as well of the frame. But asymmetry can be just as attractive when shown in a square crop as long as you pay close attention to the composition. Common principles such as the rule of thirds and perspective are often applied and can be very effective.

Diagonals – since the square crop is neutral and does not really lead your line of vision from side to side or up to down, showing a diagonal allows the eye to be lead to where you want them to linger.

Abstract and minimal style – there is something to be said for a minimal image in a simple square crop.  The clean and spare lines and shapes that form a minimal composition work very well with the square aspect ratio. So too with abstract images which may emphasize purely colors and indefinable shapes.

There is no hard and fast rule when to use a square crop over the more conventional rectangle. One way to find out if the image would look better that way is to crop a copy of it in post processing. If you’re using Photoshop, simply keep the Shift key pressed as you drag your crop tool over the selected image area and the crop will be a perfect square. You can always undo the crop action if you do not like how the composition flows in this format. 


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Capturing Extremes in Tone: High Key and Low Key

The overall tone of an image, can have three keys, namely: low key, middle key and high key.   Usually we try to have adequate lighting in our images, with a balanced tone and this would be called ‘middle key’. However, there are two lighting styles which deviate from the norm because they use the extremes of the tonal range to present the image. In this two part article, I will be expounding on high key and low key, two techniques which can make quite an impact in your shots.

Although there should be hardly any contrast or shadows,  good high key images are those where the white areas still show detail instead of being blown out. The background and the subject itself are usually light colored or white. Since the exposure values are high, you have to be careful not to overexpose the shot. High key shots do not necessarily mean overexposed shots. In fact, careful consideration is taken when adjusting the exposure settings and the subject should be evenly lit.

A bright white background is ideal so for studio lighting, prop up a seamless white sheet of cloth or paper against the wall (unless your wall is already white). To make the background appear bright and remove shadows as well, you would need to light it up. Usually, two light sources aimed at the background, one on each side but behind the subject, will be enough to keep the background white, bright and shadow free. To light up the subject itself, you would need a key light (the main light source) placed off to one side (not straight on) and around 5 feet away. A fill light or a reflector would be found on the other side to keep the dark spots to a minimum.

High key shots do not have to be taken purely indoors. This shot of the flower was taken out in the garden, held up near a whitewashed wall and I just used sunlight as my light source. Just remember when taking shots in bright sunlight to use your camera’s histogram to check on the exposure since your eyes might be affected by the sun’s glare.

Aside from the bright, light colored tones, a high key image is known for the cheerful and joyous mood it can evoke. A bright, light colored image has the effect of making one feel happy and this is one great reason why we should all take high key images from time to time. 

Now we’ll focus on the other end of the spectrum which is low key. One can say low key lighting is the opposite of high key. Here the image is mostly in shadow, usually a dark colored subject set against a dark or black background. The mood is also very different. It is much more somber, mysterious, and dramatic.

A low key image may be easier to create than high key since usually only one light source is needed. The subject is easier to light and underexposure or too much contrast can easily be fixed with reflectors or just by adjusting the camera settings.

Sidelighting is one of the best ways to light up the subject in a low key shot. This position of the light allows one to capture the textures and fine details of the subject without blowing them out. It also prevents the subject from casting a shadow in the background, which is what would most likely happen if the light was directly in front. Another great way to light up the subject is by backlighting. By placing the light source directly behind your subject, the light can bleed and shine on the subject’s edges, causing a rim light. This can appear very dramatic, especially when the edges are highly detailed or have an interesting shape.

As with high key images, low key lighting needs to have proper exposure. It is easy for a shot to become underexposed since both the subject and background are dark. Move your light source around, place it closer or further away from the subject, experiment with various light intensities and reflectors. A tripod would come in handy since this is a low light situation and there is a good risk of blurriness.

One thing to have in a low key shot is a dark or black background. In studio shots, such as for still life or portraiture, a black cloth will do. Now some cloths are reflective and shiny. If you can, invest in a few yards of black velvet since it seems to suck in the light instead of bouncing it back. There are times when you don’t need a physical backdrop, just the convenient darkness of night. You can get a black background by lighting just the subject and making sure all other objects in the room are too far away to be illuminated. 

Your low key image does not necessarily have to be indoors in a studio setting. An image of an empty bench at night time under a lone street lamp can be considered low key. To add to the dramatic atmosphere of the image, find a good choice of subject that matches the mood. Perhaps a dramatic pose from a human model, or an ominous scene, or an object with a strange and fascinating shape.  There are lots of ways to be creative with low key lighting. 


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