The Don’ts of Photography

There are a lot of do’s and don’ts in the art and craft of photography. In other articles, we had given lots of tips on the ‘do’s’, or what you can do to further improve your skills. In this particular article, we will focus on what NOT to do when practicing the craft:

Do not get stuck with shooting the same kind of images – part of polishing your photographic skills is to shoot images that take you out of your comfort zone. This allows you to discover new ways to shoot your subject, dont1 The Don’ts of Photographyfrom the lighting to how to compose it. It also gives you the chance to see your subject differently and with a creative eye. If you always take landscape shots but rarely use your camera for macro or close up shots, why not try switching styles for a change and see what lessons you can teach yourself. 

Do not ignore the manual mode – if you always use the auto mode, you would know that it can be quite convenient and easy to use since the camera decides the ‘appropriate’ settings needed. However, it can also be limited and the result may not be exactly what you would have wanted the picture to turn out. Using the manual mode would give you much more control over the camera settings and thus, the outcome of the shot. 

dont3 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not wipe the dust off the lens with the edge of your shirt or a paper napkin – please resist the temptation to use your shirt, a piece of tissue, a table napkin or anything else that is not meant for cleaning lenses. They may look clean and spotless but their very fibers could be rough enough to leave scratches on your sensitive glass. 

Do not cover the flash with a finger – this is a common error with compact cameras where the flash is located at the corner of the camera and very close to where you would normally grip the camera when taking a shot. Always be aware of anything that might block the flash as you are taking your photo. 

Do not place a person right in front of a pole, a light post or a thin tree – doing this would give the illusion that the person in the picture has some unattractive appendage growing out of his or her head. Always be aware of your background and how you are positioning your subject in relation to it. 

dont2 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not forget to charge your camera’s batteries – have you ever experienced a situation where you are about to shoot a once in a lifetime moment when your camera’s battery suddenly dies? Or a time when you go to an event and turn on your camera to take pictures and your camera will not even start? It can be frustrating to say the least and unless you have a spare battery on hand. 

Don’t leave home without a camera – a lot of great photo opportunities could be missed for the simple reason that you did not have your camera with you at the time. Try to have a camera with you when you go out, you never know what rare photographic moments you may encounter and want to take a picture of. A phone camera or a simple point and shoot is sufficient for the job. 


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The 365 Photo Days Project

We’re always telling other people as well as ourselves that the best way to get better at photography is to take pictures all the time. All the photo books and tips on technique and inspiration that you read (like this one) will not mean much if you don’t literally pick up your camera and shoot. Here’s a challenge, a major one, which will push you to the limit at times but will surely hone your technique and creativity by the time it is all over.

tissue365 The 365 Photo Days ProjectThe objective is to take a picture a day for an entire year. That’s 365 days, give or take a leap year. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? After all, it doesn’t take much to point the camera at something, click the shutter, and be done with it. Anyone can do it in the space of one second. However, since we are trying to improve our photography skills, we would want to put a little more effort into it. This is where the challenge comes in.

There are two common ways to go about this endeavor:

Random shots – You can take shots of anything that strikes your fancy. There is no pattern or rules to follow; you will just be going with the flow of your mood. The advantage of this is that you will not feel boxed into doing something specific but the downside is there is no guideline to trigger ideas for what to shoot next. Some people prefer the freedom of randomness but others might want to go by a theme instead.

plastic365 The 365 Photo Days ProjectThemed images- You can divide the days into themes so that you will have more focus as to what to shoot. By following a theme or some themes, you can also improve on a specific area in your skills. For instance, if your theme is to take macro shots only, surely by the end of the year you’ll be an expert at this particular approach. Having only one theme can be very difficult, especially in the latter half of the year. To avoid feeling stifled by your theme, pick one that is specific but not limiting. For example, a theme such as ‘macro’ will leave you more room to play with compared to ‘nature macro’. You may also do several themes in the year for more variety. You can do a different theme every month or every week. It’s really up to you as long as you know you can sustain it for a long period of time. If, in the middle of the year, you change your mind and would rather do random shots, that’s perfectly fine, too.

There will be some days when you will feel like giving up, when you won’t even want to go near the camera anymore. To keep yourself motivated, why not show your photos online for others to comment and appreciate? Reading praises or tips on how you can improve your shots can keep your will strong enough to continue with the challenge. You can create a blog or upload in photo sharing sites. Even better, why not sell your daily photos as stock in PhotoStockPlus. This way, you can shoot pictures and earn at the same time.

Many have succeeded in taking a photo a day for a year without any break or lapse in the days. Others have missed a day or two, or even weeks at a time. If you do miss shooting on some days, don’t get discouraged and stop entirely. The point of the exercise is to practice shooting pictures more often than not, and this project is to help you do just that. 


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Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

One of the simplest yet most useful adjustment tools in photo editing is levels. Using levels to adjust the tonal range of an image will give you much more control compared to using the brightness/contrast adjustment. To be honest, I used brightness/contrast for years, totally ignorant of the existence of levels. When I discovered the dramatic impact of levels adjustment, I wanted to re-edit every single picture I had post-processed. What really gets to me is that it only takes a few seconds to change a dull and drab photo into a more attractive image. 

boat levels2 Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

We have discussed the histogram in a previous article and here we will apply what we’ve learned.

 Open the image.

  1. Open the levels screen. The location varies depending on what photo editing program you use. For Adobe Photoshop, it can be found under Image, then Adjustments.
  2. The levels screen will show the histogram, which is a graph that shows the brightness of an image.
  3. Using the histogram as a guide, you can gauge whether the image is evenly lighted or over or underexposed.
  4. To adjust the levels, slide the triangles toward the center, the distance depending on how dark or light you want the image to become. The left black slider will darken the overall image while the right white slider will brighten it. Usually the sliders are moved to the edges of the histogram. The closer the sliders are moved to the center, the more severe the contrast.  
  5. The middle gray slider adjusts the level of brightness or darkness of the midtones of the image.

 boat comparison Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

The photo comparison above shows the difference in tonal contrast between the original image and the edited copy using the levels adjustment tool. The reds have become more vivid and bright and the reflection of the trees in the water appears darker.

The levels adjustment can also be used to lessen contrast in case your image appears to have too much. This is done by tweaking the output levels (that bar below the histogram). 


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5 Useful Tips on Shooting Nature Macro

One favorite photo theme is nature macro. Nature is a willing and attractive subject and it does not take very much effort for us to get good shots. By using the macro technique, we can present nature in ways that others wouldn’t normally see, perhaps the furry edges of a moth wing or the cracked vein patterns of a leaf. Listed below are a few suggestions for getting great nature macro shots:

butterfly 5 Useful Tips on Shooting Nature Macro

Be observant – nature abounds with millions of fascinating details and chances of hidden beauty and all we have to do is look. It’s astounding just how varied natural patterns, colors, or textures are. The trick is to notice them. By capturing them in an image, you will have the opportunity to share with others a world that is seldom noticed and appreciated. When Mother Nature is your subject, there is no lack of something appealing to shoot.

Be patient – when taking macro shots of creatures such as insects, patience is a must since it can be difficult to make them pose the way you want them to. They fly, they crawl, they jump, they do anything it seems but stay still long enough for you to get a good focus on them for a shot. If you want to take a picture of a butterfly fluttering from flower to flower, you might have to follow it around and shoot as soon as it lands on a blossom. You will probably end up with a lot of blurry shots but with enough patience, you might find one or two gems in the bunch. 

Camera capabilities – most point and shoots have a macro mode which can take fantastic images. Some even have a super macro mode for extreme close up shots. DSLRs can be fitted with macro lenses that can take fine and crisp shots. Optical zooms can also make the subject appear much closer than normal. Whatever camera you have, find out if it is capable of taking decent close up shots. If you can’t get any closer to the subject without it becoming blurry, you can make a shot appear macro by cropping the image in post processing.

Get down and dirty – when photographing nature macro, there are two common ways to go about setting up the shot. One is in a studio with all the lights and umbrella stands and maybe a few special macro lenses. The other is down on your knees, hunting for creepy crawlies, flowers or leaf patterns. Although the second option will get you dirty, it might also be more fun. Shooting the subject in its natural habitat has its pros and cons. Although you will not have as much control as in a stanthurium 5 Useful Tips on Shooting Nature Macro udio, the subject (if a creature) will appear more at ease if shot in its surroundings. Flowers and leaves can also be photographed without you having to pluck and discard them after the shoot. Indirect sunlight is also one of the best light sources around and can beautifully illuminate the subject.

Capture color – one reason why nature is so visually appealing is that color plays a big part in it. Colors are used to entice prey or to ward off predators, and flowers are breathtaking in their display of colors, from the deep dark crimson of roses to the most delicate of lavender hues of, well, lavender. Solid colors, color blends, pastel shades, vivid hues, just look around and you’ll be amazed at the splashes of color that only nature can provide in abundance. Try to capture color in your macro shots, whether it is a flower petal or the iridescent wing of an insect.

 

 


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Shooting in Direct Sunlight

 

 

Sunlight can be a photographer’s best friend since it is a natural light source that can illuminate your subject in several different ways, free of cost. Knowing how to use sunlight to get an intended effect is part of the tricks of the trade. Many people prefer to shoot on a bright but cloudy day when the scene is adequately lit but the intensity of the light is just enough not to cause any harsh and strong shadows. There are other times, however, when you just can’t wait for the clouds to come and you have to shoot in direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight can negatively impact the shot. It can cause blown out highlights, hard shadows, chromatic aberration, lens flare and oversaturated colors. These are quite a lot of issues that we have to consider but there are simple ways to counter the problems we might face when shooting in the bright light of day.

Shoot in the shade – If you’re shooting a person or a portable object, transfer to the shade.  Be prepared and bring an umbrella or a sheet of cloth in case there is no shade nearby. This also drastically lessens the chances of the subject to squint from the sun’s glare. A photo of a person squinting will not look so good.

Use fill flash – direct sunlight behind a subject will darken the foreground. By using a flash to illuminate it, you can make sure that the subject’s features will be more visible. Adjust the intensity of the flash to a setting less than its regular output so that the lighting will appear more natural rather than as if the subject was caught by a car’s headlights.

Change the perspective – just moving your camera at a different angle can cut down on glare caused by the sun. Move around your subject; play around with different camera viewpoints until you are satisfied with the composition as well as the lighting.

 

polarized 1024x768 Shooting in Direct SunlightUse a filter – a polarized filter can mean a world of difference when shooting in bright sunlight. It cuts atmospheric haze and darkens scenes that looked washed out by the glare. Colors come out more vibrant with less blown out areas. If you don’t have a polarizer, you can improvise by using a pair of polarized sunglasses instead. This photo shows the outcome of using the sun shades with polarized lens. The upper left portion that hasn’t been included in the glasses’ frame looks very different from the area which the lens covers.

Use a lens hood – lens hoods are pretty basic accessories but they do help a lot in shielding the lens from the sun’s harsh glare. A lens hood lessens the possibility of lens flare and chromatic aberration.

Use a diffuser – a simple diffuser such as a white sheet or foam board can soften the intensity of the harsh light. This creates a more even lighting for your subject and reduces areas that might become over or underexposed without the diffuser.

Turn your subject into a silhouette – If your subject appears too dark because of the sun hitting it directly from behind, and you choose not to or are not able to use a fill flash, then turn your subject into a silhouette instead. Lines, shapes and textures become prominent as well as the mood of a scene can become more dramatic. Ships sailing on bright empty seas, trees swaying in the heat of the sun, people frolicking on the shore, these and many more would make fantastic silhouette shots.

 


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Understanding the Histogram

One of the most useful yet most ignored camera features is the histogram. The histogram is available in most, if not all, digital cameras. It can be viewed in the LCD while you are also composing your shot, or separately after the image is taken.

histogram Understanding the Histogram

What does a histogram do, exactly? Simply put, it measures the brightness of a scene.  You will see a graph with a strip below it showing black at the left and white at the right, with all the gradients of gray in between. This includes all the pixels in your image.  Now the graph counts the number or pixels at each level between the black and white areas in an image. The deepest darkest shadows are to the left of the graph and the bright highlights are found at the right. The heights of points in the graph shows how many pixels are found at a certain brightness level.

If your image is underexposed and is very dark, most of the pixels will be situated at the left side of the histogram, probably even hitting the left edge. If the scene is too bright, majority of the pixels will be at the right side. This histogram shows most of the pixels in the middle area, which means the scene or image is more or less evenly exposed. An evenly spread pixel area doesn’t mean your image is now perfect, just that the exposure is balanced. The histogram of a dark key image might show most of the pixels at the left of the graph but that’s okay because you intentionally are making the image dark.

Although the best judge of the exposure of a scene is still our eyes, the histogram can greatly aid us when it is hard to see the image in the LCD such as when we are out in the sunlight. With this graph, we can also foresee whether the scene will come out too dark or too bright and we can adjust our camera settings accordingly. 


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Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

There was a time when digital photography did not exist and film was the standard medium of photography. All pictures were developed and printed in darkrooms, under red lights and surrounded by the smell of chemicals. With the advent of digital photography, films and darkrooms are becoming obsolete but the techniques used to improve images still live on in post processing computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, Gimp and Paintshop Pro.

I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS2 as my photo editing program although other programs will have similar tools. Let us look more closely at three post processing tools that can drastically improve your images, namely the measure tool, the spot healing tool and the clone stamp tool.

1.  The Measure Tool

Have you ever taken shots where the image is askew? The horizon looks tilted and the subject in your shot looks like it’s about to slide to one side of the frame. The measure tool is a very simple way to straighten your shots. It can be located at the tools banner at the left side of the screen. You might see the eyedropper tool first but right click on it and the measure tool should appear. 

fireworkscrooked Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

Using your cursor, draw a line from one end of the horizon to the other. When you’re done, click on Image>Rotate Canvas>Arbitrary… A little window will appear showing the angle of the ruler, the acronyms CW (clockwise) and CCW (counterclockwise). The software will automatically choose on which side the picture should be rotated to straighten the shot by bringing the angle down to 0. You don’t have to change anything in this window, just press the OK button and voila! Your horizon is now straight.

fireworksstraight Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To KnowYou can also use the measure tool to align your subject vertically, such as straightening crooked buildings or lampposts. Once you get the hang of this tool, straightening your image will take only a few seconds.

 2.  Spot Healing Brush Tool

 Spot healing, as the name suggests, is great for cleaning up little areas in the image such as sensor dust, grains of dirt, and it is the perfect solution to removing facial blemishes. It makes these small imperfections vanish by matching information from the surrounding pixels such as texture, lighting, and shading, and then blending them to seamlessly cover the specific area where you click the spot healing brush. You do not need to specify a sample spot for an area to be healed, unlike with the Healing Brush tool.

In this screenshot, you can see the problem spots on the leaf image. There are several small dots on the leaf (by the red arrows) that are lighter in shade which seem to make the image look unclean. The Spot Healing Brush tool is perfect in quickly removing these blemishes. 

ps healing1 Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

When you click on this particular tool, the toolbar at the top will change to the brush preferences. Click on the arrow button beside the word ‘Brush’ for a dropdown window to appear. Choose a brush diameter that is slightly bigger than the spot you want to heal. Using the hardness scale, you can choose how strong and solid you want your brush tip to be.  

For simple retouching, set your Brush mode to ‘Normal’ and choose between two types of healing options, the Proximity Match and the Create Texture. Proximity Match is used in most cases. It samples the nearby pixels at the selection’s edge to correct the blemish while Create Texture makes use of all the pixels inside the selection to create a texture to cover the flaw.

You can also click on the ‘Sample All Layers’ option which creates a new layer for which to use your spot healing brush. This gives you the results at the top layer while the image in the original layer remains untouched. The great advantage of this is that if you made a mistake and want to redo your spot editing, then you can just delete the top layer while the rest of the work you did at the lower layers or the original image will not be affected.

This is a ‘before and after’ example of what the Spot Healing Brush tool can do. Without the distracting little dots sprinkled around the leaf image, it now looks smooth and clean.

leaf heal Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

3.  The Clone Stamp Tool

There are two main reasons the Clone Stamp tool is most often used. One is for copying a detail to another location in the image and the other is to remove objects. After selecting the Clone Stamp tool found on the left toolbar, press on the Alt button on the keyboard then click on the image area which you want to copy. After that, click on the spot where you want the selected area to emerge and, while holding down the left mouse button, drag your cursor back and forth until the sample area appears.

To give you an exaggerated example as to how the Clone Stamp tool works, here is an image of the moon. It’s a pretty moon but what if I wanted two moons in one sky? By using this tool, I can copy the moon to add another in the same shot. 

moon Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

What if, instead of adding, you want to remove something? In this macro shot of a paper tear, I used the clone stamp tool to remove the diagonal line at the center of the frame. I cloned over the line by selecting the nearby empty parts of the paper as my sample area.

paper Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

Play around with your brush size since if it’s too big, it will clone a bigger area that you might not want to include. Also, don’t forget to first make a copy layer of your original image. This way, you can protect it while you are doing your retouching. In case you make a mistake, you can just delete the clone stamp layer without harming the original image.

These three photo editing tools are quick to use, can easily improve your shots in a few minutes and are necessary components of your photo editing skills. As you practice your digital darkroom techniques you will soon find these tools invaluable. 


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Take Sharp Pictures Even Without A Tripod

Camera shake is the one of the main reasons why most photographs are ruined. There are often times when, in order to get a good exposure, the shutter has to stay open long enough to let in sufficient amount of light. While it is still open, the camera has to remain steady otherwise the picture will come out blurred due to the involuntary movements caused by your body. One of the worst things a photographer can feel is taking hundreds of pictures of a once in a lifetime occasion only to discover most of them are blurred because he did not take any steps to prevent camera shake.

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Chromatic Aberration and How to Fix It

There were times when I would take pictures and notice some purple or blue edges around my subjects. I didn’t have a clue what these were, much more how to get rid of them. When a friend pointed out that they were called ‘chromatic aberrations’, I got worried because it sounded serious like some sort of camera disease.

Chromatic aberration (commonly known as ‘purple fringing’ or ‘color fringing’) occurs when the lens fails to focus all the different wavelengths of light in a certain focal point.

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The Magic of Night Photography

Have you ever looked at your surroundings at night and thought to yourself that it is very beautiful? The city lights look like stars, the car lights on the road zoom by like ribbons of red and white and shop signs are all lit up in neon colors. The night scene exudes moods that vanish with the light of day. It can be magical, mystical, vibrant, or ominous, among many other things and you want to capture it forever in a photograph. You are certainly capable of taking great night shots, especially after learning some quick techniques. But check your digital camera first and find out if its settings can adequately capturing night scenes.

IMG 7416 300x200 The Magic of Night Photography Copy of Sep sunset 25 300x200 The Magic of Night Photography

 

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