Tag Archive: Basics

Understanding Aperture | A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

Do you know what is the world’s best camera ever? No not Canon, not Nikon, not the Sony A9…..its your eyes. Since you are a beginner now maybe you wouldn’t realize the full meaning of this sentence but I assure you, the more you learn about photography the more you would marvel at the simple, pure amazingness of your humble eyes.

So understanding aperture right? Let’s get on with it.

Definition:

Very simply aperture means an opening, hole or gap. In our world of photography it is the small little opening at the back of the lens through which the light comes into the camera.

Where is it actually?

The aperture is located at the back of every lens. Ideally the aperture lies in the region where the lens meets the camera.

camera cutmodel cross section

Why do we care?

We care so much because the aperture governs two EXTREMELY important aspects of photography:

  1. The amount of light entering the camera.
  2. The depth of field (don’t worry I will explain).

How does the aperture control the amount of light or the depth of field?

It is very simple actually. The aperture changes in size to regulate the amount of light that enters the camera and the depth of field.

When we have a larger aperture (larger hole), a lot of light enters the camera and similarly when the aperture is small, little amount of light enters the camera. Try and keep this in mind. I will explain the depth of field later in this article but it is important that you understand this basic concept of larger and smaller aperture.

How is the size of the aperture controlled?

Every lens has some blades at the back which expand or contract to make the aperture smaller or larger respectively. It look something like this.

 

How do we control it on our camera?

We control the size of the aperture by selecting the specific aperture value on our camera. Like dress and shoe sizes the aperture also has various sizes which are used for various purposes. The sizes of aperture looks something like this:

aperture value pattern

Now this might seem confusing and odd but this is how aperture values are written. (Why…. do you ask? Since aperture value is actually a ratio of the focal length of the lens and the diameter of the entrance pupil. Do not worry you do not need to understand anything of this now. You time will come.)

Unfortunately though you have to remember these numbers to understand exposure values and the exposure triangle later on. Do not panic so much I have an easy way out of this. Look at the numbers above. There is a very easy pattern there, do you see it?….No? Let me show you.

Except for the first two numbers (1.4 and 2) all the other numbers are exactly double of the number two places before it. Here it is:

aperture value pattern

Just remember 1.4 and 2 and then keep on doubling the numbers to get your next aperture value. Easy right?

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What do these numbers mean?

These numbers are what in photography called ‘f-stops’. F-stops are very important in understanding aperture and photography in general. Remember when I said earlier that we care about the aperture because it governs two very important aspects of photography:

  1. Amount of light entering the camera.
  2. Depth of field.

Well, this is how it does it. Let me break up the consequence of changing the aperture from say 2 to 2.8.

Change in amount of light: When you increase the aperture value from 2 to 2.8 what happens is the blades of the lens expands out and the opening/hole becomes smaller. As the opening becomes smaller it lets in less light. If you increase the aperture value even more say f/11, the opening becomes even smaller and lets in even less amount of light.

Change in depth of field: Depth of field is defined as the amount of the picture that is sharp. For example:

This is an image with a deep depth of field (notice how so much of the image is sharp, from the wooden railings in the foreground to the mountains at the back).

landscape of a mountain

 

This is an image with a shallow depth of field (notice how only the van is sharp, while the background is blurry. Very small part of the image is actually sharp).

shallow depth of field

The depth of field of the image is directly related to the aperture value you use, i.e, higher the aperture value you use, more depth of field you will have and vice versa. So, when you use an aperture value of say f/1.4 (small aperture value) you have very little depth of field to play with; but when you use an aperture value of say f/22 (large aperture value) you have a huge depth of field and nearly everything in that image would be sharp and in focus.

Depending on the subject and the type of image that you want to create you can select any aperture value. It is one of the most interesting creative freedom you have as a photographer.

So when should you use which aperture?

There are no such thing as “rules” in photography. Anyone who says follow this “rule” to get best results is simply misguided. There are NO rules, do not let anyone else tell you any different. You can use ANY aperture for ANY type of photograph that you take. However there are a few preferred aperture values that are used more by some photographers for some specific results.

Landscape: Landscape photographers generally use higher aperture values. You already know by now that a higher aperture values gives us higher depth of field. This means that the photographer can keep everything from the foreground to the background in focus and sharp.

Think about it for a second this does make sense, doesn’t it? Landscape photographers want to make us feel as if we are standing there on that ledge of that mountain and looking at the vast expanse with our own eyes. In order for him to create the same experience for us it is important to use a high aperture value such as f/16 or f/22 to keep everything in the image sharp.

This does NOT mean that you “should” always use a higher aperture value for all your landscapes. There may be a scenario where you want the focus to be on just a single subject in the foreground and do not want all of the image to be sharp. Selecting a smaller aperture value of f/1.4 or f/2.8 is a good idea then to keep the depth of field shallow and hence keep only a certain part of the image in focus.

shallow depth of field

Here in the image as you can see, only the young boys and the grass near them are in focus while the trees in the background are blurry and not sharp. The photographer here used a lower aperture value to create this (lower aperture results in shallow depth of field). The image is even then beautiful wouldn’t you agree?

Portraits: Photographers who shoot portraits generally tend to shoot at comparatively lower aperture values. This gives them a shallower depth of field and hence makes it easy to keep their subjects distinct from the background. Many times the background may be busy, distracting and cannot be changed while shooting a portrait at all. The photographer then may use the shallower depth to make the background completely blurry so that subject remains the main element of the photograph and the eyes of the viewer is drawn towards it and not the background.

Portrait shallow depth of field

Notice how the photographer by using an lower aperture value made sure that he had a shallow depth of field. He then used that little depth of field to keep just the woman in focus and let the background be soft and blurry. This not only draws in the eyes of the viewer towards the subject of the image which is the woman but also makes the image so much better. The background which was originally so busy, is not distracting anymore.

Other genre of photography: This same principal can be applied to ANY genre of photography that you take up. Product, food, close up, photojournalism, glamour, macro, fashion, fine art or aerial  photography they all use the same principle. The bottom line is this; you use aperture to determine the amount of the background you want to include in the final image, as far as depth of field is considered.

  • For including less of the background    -> Lower aperture value, say f/1.4 (which gives you a shallow depth of field).
  • For including more of the background -> Higher aperture value, say f/22 (which gives you a deep depth of field).

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A word of caution though:

Before I start discussing this part let me just say that this is a little confusing and may seem a bit difficult at first but I am here with you and I will walk you through it. So, don’t worry, just keep reading and repeat if necessary.

Remember earlier I said that the aperture values are actually ratios of the focal length of the lens and the entrance pupil of the lens? No, you were not supposed to understand it at all. I have kept it for a future discussing when you have already mastered everything we discussed today.

Let me however just tell you this much.

So, because the aperture values are actually ratios the actual size of the aperture has an inverse relationship with the aperture values. It is just this, a higher aperture value represents a smaller aperture and vice-versa. Read the last sentence three time. I am waiting here.

Done?

It is just this and nothing else. A smaller aperture value represents a larger actual aperture and vice-versa. So a f/1.4 aperture value actually means a large opening

Large aperture

Similarly a larger aperture value represents a smaller actual aperture. So a f/22 aperture value is actually a very small opening.

larger aperture value smaller aperture

You do not need to know why this is so at this point of time, I will explain why this happens in a later article. Just remember the simple logic.

  • Smaller aperture value -> Larger actual aperture.
  • Larger aperture value   -> Smaller actual aperture.

Diagrammatically it looks something like this (NOT to scale).

aperture value and size

Lastly:

Have you noticed how sometimes photographers use the term “fast lens”? What they mean is that you can use a faster shutter speed with it. Generally photographer use the term “fast lens” while discussing low light scenarios. Since lenses which have a large aperture (hence smaller aperture value) allow more light to come in, most if the time a higher shutter speed could be used with them. In low light scenarios like in music concert or a dark drama theater this can be invaluable, since a larger aperture allows higher shutter speed and that it turn allows you to have shake free, sharp, crisp images.  In case you are wondering a shutter speed of about 1/100 sec or faster is considered fast enough to be used for handheld shooting.

Interesting trivia:

Do you know that you posses actually not one but TWO apertures yourself? You guessed it right they are in your eyes. Look closely at the image below.

Human eye pupil

The pupil acts as the aperture of our eyes. It contracts and expands just like the aperture on our camera lenses to regulate the amount of light that gets in. Have you every felt that the light is too bright when coming out of a dark movie hall? Or when entering a dark room felt that you could see nothing, but then after spending some time you begin to perceive everything in black and white? Well it is just the pupil adjusting itself to give you the “perfect” exposure. To see the phenomenon yourself stand in front of a mirror and try to locate your pupil. Now shine a light (NOT too bright) on your eyes, you will see that the your pupils start to shrink. If you keep looking you will find that once the light is removed, the pupils adjust to the low light again and dilate back to a larger size.

That was all you need to know about aperture and its uses. Understanding aperture is one of the most powerful way to shape your images. Mastering it would help you understand photography in a whole new light and also allow you to make great images. You will soon see for yourself that aperture plays a huge role in the exposure triangle too.

So, go out there and keep shooting amazing.

Best of luck.

Dual Pixel Autofocus Explained

Dual pixel autofocus is a sensor based, phase detection autofocus technology which provides fast autofocussing and smooth, languid, gradually transient focus tracking when shooting videos and movies. Dual pixel autofocussing technology literally places in the hands of regular day-to-day users of consumer grade cameras the capabilities to shoot brilliant videos which look aesthetically pleasing and professional.

Okay enough with the definitions! Now let’s break this down….

Let’s start off with the name, “Dual Pixel”

Okay, let me start by saying dual pixel autofocus is just a fancy name for a technology that we have been using for long. Yes, this technology like all other technologies in the world has become better, but is not something that did not exist previously and is now made from stratch.

Remember Phase Detect Autofocus?

Dual Pixel Autofocus system uses the same phase detect autofocus technology, only in a grander scale and in a more sophisticated way such that the results are even better. Earlier cameras used sensors that had either of two functions, autofocus or imaging. The pixels on the sensor which were used for achieving autofocus and the ones used for imaging were mutually exclusive. In other words, each pixel was used for either autofocus or for imaging. NO pixel was used for both.

The number of pixels used for autofocus was considerably less than imaging pixels since no one wanted to compromise on image quality. Autofocus suffered a bit due to this.

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How does it work?

Dual pixel autofocus eliminates the image quality versus autofocus conundrum problem from its roots. What this technology does is use each and every pixel on the camera’s sensor for both autofocusing and imaging. Each pixel has two photo-diodes (think of them as two separate sensors). When the photographer tries to autofocus on a subject, the camera reads the left and right photo-diodes independently and then calculates the phase difference of the two parallax images. Now the camera has enough information to instruct the lens to either focus further ahead or back and hence, achieve the perfect focus, fast….really fast. All this happens within a split second.

Dual Pixel Autofocus

As I said earlier, dual pixel autofocus is not new. It is just a new innovation based on the already widely used phase detect autofocus. The only difference now is nearly all the pixels are simultaneously used as both imaging and autofocus pixels; thereby improving autofocussing capabilities of the camera greatly, especially in low-light scenarios. Hybrid autofocus systems that allotted different pixels different jobs usually performed great when there was an ample amount of light. It really did struggle in low-light conditions where the phase detect autofocus couldn’t gather enough light to acquire focus properly.

Dual pixel autofocus makes transition of focus really really smooth and that looks absolutely beautiful and much better than conventional focusing. Pull focus (as on the Canon 70D and the newly launched Canon 80D) looks absolutely beautiful and professional. Not only does the transition look smooth and easy going; you can even select the autofocusing speed depending on your project and its needs.

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Early users of Dual Pixel Autofocus:

One of the earliest DLSR cameras to use this technology was the Canon 70D. In the smartphone world, it was   Samsung S7 that had this feature built in, in March 2016.

Dual Pixel autofocus helps movie makers and cinematographers greatly. The ability to focus so precisely on a subject; then to track that subject as both the camera and the subject move with such precision is truly a game changer.

Resolution Chart Comparison

In a world which is fast moving towards 4K and 8K resolutions, camera autofocus assumes prime importance;  even more so because now it would simply be impossible to hide slipped focus anytime during shooting should it happen at all. The resolutions are so high and the details so pristine that even the minute differences and inconsistencies show through.

I sincerely hope this technology does really well and we photographers are gifted with even better, reliable and accurate focusing cameras in the near future.

The Art Of Exposure Compensation | Internal Mechanics Of Camera Exposure.

Exposure compensation is a process by which we photographers are able to tell the camera what it should consider as the “correct exposure” and make adjustments accordingly. Our modern digital cameras are quite smart and they do get things right most of the time. However, there are certain problems still to be resolved. One of the most important problems is that our cameras cannot perceive what it is looking at. Yes, there are face- and eye-detection technologies available but their applicatios are very limited. Cameras generally tends to follow PRE-programmed algorithms for certain scenarios which can be problematic sometimes.

slave

We will discuss the problem of exposure in this article. It is very important that you have a good understanding of light metering modes and its uses before you read this. All you need to know is right here:

Basic Understanding Of Light & Need For Light Metering.

Light Metering Modes | When To Use What & Why?

Give them a quick read, they will help you a lot in understanding what we are about to discuss.

Let’s begin then:

The basic problem with our cameras is that it cannot differentiate between different subjects it views and tries to attain the same exposure for EVERYTHING. The camera just looks at the frame and depending on the intensities of the subjects, determines an exposure setting so that the ENTIRE FRAME is exposed for 18% grey. Think of 18% grey this way; if white is considered 100% light and black is considered 0% light, 18% grey is somewhat in the middle. This is what the camera ALWAYS aims for “correct exposure”.

target

I believe you would agree that absolute white snow and a dark black bear are not to be exposed the same way.  The snow is supposed to look bright and white, while the black bear should look dark. Our cameras, however, do not understand this and hence the exposure problem.

When does this problem occur?

You may now wonder if the 18% grey formula is so outdated and archaic, why do camera manufacturers still use it? The reason is quite simple actually. The 18% grey rule DOES work most of the time. If you are a photographer who shoots average day-to-day life and not too much studio work, the rule does a wonderful job at exposing most of the pictures quite nicely.

Exposure compensation

The real problem however comes up while shooting extremely dark or extremely bright objects. For example, a snow-covered landscape or a black cat on a dark night. The basic problem that arises is the camera still tries to expose for the same 18% grey (no matter what it is shooting) and rounds up either underexposing the snow scene or overexposing the black cat.

Exposure compensation

Let me explain why….

As I discussed earlier, the camera cannot perceive what it is looking at. All it can “see” are various colors and their intensities. So when shooting the snow-covered landscape, the camera looks at the scene and finds it too bright, it tries to bring DOWN the brightness (since it is trying to expose EVERYTHING in the scene for 18% grey) by underexposing the image. Now the snow wouldn’t look white but a little grey.

It is the same deal with the cat. In the cat image, the exact opposite happens and the camera finds the black cat too dark and tries to bring it up to a grey undertone thereby OVEREXPOSING it. The cat too in this case would look a bit grey and not black as it should.

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Here is the solution:

Luckily for us, there is something that we can do. We can not only communicate to the camera that the desirable exposure is not what the camera is selecting for a particular scene, but also choose our own in the process. This method is called exposure compensation.

Now that you know exactly when these situations may occur when your camera light meter reading may be fooled and that may in-turn give you some wrong suggestions for exposure, let us jump in and learn exactly how you can fix it.

Fixing the exposure:

Before we learn more about the procedure to adjust exposure compensation, you must remember the following:

Exposure compensation can ONLY be adjusted while using Semi-Automatic Modes, i.e.

  • Aperture Priority Or AV
  • Shutter Priority Or TV
  • Program Mode

The exposure compensation cannot be adjusted while using FULLY AUTOMATIC (God almighty, PLEASE for heaven’s sake get off that damn mode) or the FULLY Manual or ‘M’ mode. The reason is pretty obvious. While using the damn automatic mode you are letting the camera take all the decisions for you; so you are NOT allowed to make any changes. The opposite applies when you use the Manual mode, since now YOU are making all the decision and the camera is NOT allowed to override your settings, you have to decide how you want to adjust the exposure compensation. Changing the exposure compensation in manual mode has no effect.

splash

How does exposure compensation work?

Let me explain what happens when you adjust the exposure compensation. Suppose you are shooting the snow -covered landscape in Aperture Priority Mode and the snow just comes out UNDEREXPOSED and grey. What you have to do now is dial down a few stops of exposure compensation (don’t worry I will explain later when to dial down and when to dial up).

mode dial

Aperture Priority Mode lets you, as a photographer, set the aperture and in most cases the ISO. The camera in turn selects a suitable shutter speed that it thinks would expose the subject best. Now when you decide that the snow is getting UNDEREXPOSED and dial down the exposure compensation, the built-in light meter of the camera readjusts its scale for you. If you dial down the exposure by say 2 stops; what the camera does is determine the exposure that it thinks is correct for the image and then OVEREXPOSE it by two stops. I know this sounds very confusing but trust me you will get the hang of it very soon after you use it a few times. Read this paragraph one more time, you will need it. Try and remember the sequence.

snow landscape

Since you are using Aperture Priority Mode here, the camera can independently set its own shutter speed. The camera uses the shutter speed in this case to OVEREXPOSE the picture when you dial down the exposure compensation. Had you used say Shutter Priority, the camera would have then used the aperture to control and adjust the exposure. Now, if you think about it, it also makes sense why you cannot use the exposure compensation in FULLY automatic or full manual mode. It works only when the photographer shoots in conjunction with the camera and not independently on his own. Fascinating, isn’t it?

The tip-off though:

The images that you are trying to take may not always be a snowy landscape or a black cat, so how would you know if you need to adjust the exposure compensation on your camera?

Well here’s how…

The easiest and the most reliable way to check exposure and see if it is okay is to look at the histogram. NO, just looking at the LCD with your naked eyes is NOT good enough. The primary reason being that the LCD may look different in different scenarios like say under the sun, at night, if the LCD is not clean enough, variable brightness of the LCD and don’t even try to ascertain exposure if you are working with many cameras at the same time by just looking at the screen. The histogram is a MATHEMATICAL way of QUANTIFYING the data (about intensities of light) the camera just collected. In case you have not learnt anything in school, learn this…maths is hard but it is precise and accurate; so is the histogram.

Histogram

Just ask yourself the following questions and you will be able to figure out if you need to use exposure compensation:

  • Are there any subjects in your frame which are quite bright or quite dark?
  • Take a shot and now look at the histogram. Does the histogram tend to gather up at the center

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If the answers to the questions above is yes, you need to adjust the exposure compensation. If you are shooting really bright or near white subjects; say a person with a fair complexion at the beach on a sunny day; the histogram should have a fair part of it accumulated at the right side of it since there is so many bright elements in the image. If, however, the histogram seems to have all in the middle and a very little at the far right side; it means that the camera has considered the bright elements as too much light and cut down the exposure to bring all down to match 18% grey exposure settings.

weave

Rule of thumb:

A good rule of thumb to remember is to look for the details. Nowadays if you are shooting RAW and are off by a stop or two you can fix it in post-production but anything more than that maybe irrecoverable. What you should always be looking for when you are shooting are the details. Just after you take a shot, zoom in and check if the details are visible; especially if the subjects are too bright or dark. See if the weave patterns of a black cotton shirt is visible or if you could make out the feather textures of a white swan. If however the shirt appears to be a giant black blob, double check the histogram like I asked you to; you may have an exposure compensation issue here.

I did NOT discuss how to adjust your exposure compensation intentionally since it varies widely from camera to camera. In some cameras you have to change it through menus and in others, there are dedicated buttons which you can press and then use a dial to adjust it. Please consult your camera manual for this.

Lastly:

Always remember there is NO such thing as “CORRECT EXPOSURE”. It all comes down to what YOU, the photographer wants. You may want a high key photograph that is nearly all white or vice versa.

Bride Low key

The camera may wildly disagree with you on that but that doesn’t matter. You are the decider, the decision maker. The camera is just a tool which you use to bring your visualizations to life. So if you think that the camera is not exposing how you would like to have, tell it what to do. Because now you know how.

A little algorithm to remember easy:

Bright Subject -> Camera Underexposing -> Dial DOWN exposure compensation.

Dark Subject -> Camera Overexposing -> Dial UP exposure compensation.

Hope you found this topic helpful. I know it is a little hard to grasp all of it in one go. I suggest now that you have read the article; find scenarios where you may need to adjust the exposure compensation and then use it. After you use it a few times, re-read this article one more time and you will be all set.

So, go out there and shoot….now, now, now!

 

Light Metering Modes | When To Use What & Why?

If you have not already read the previous article about why we actually need light metering and the challenges we face, I strongly suggest you do to have a firm and concrete understanding of the basic light metering problems and their solutions.

Here it is: Basic Understanding Of Light & Need For Light Metering.

Now, I assume you have understood the difference between incident and reflective light metering. We will be discussing TTL (Through The Lens) light metering (i.e. reflective light metering) in this article.

So, let’s get started!

The principle of TTL light metering is pretty simple. It is exactly what it sounds like. In this light metering technique, we measure ONLY the amount of light that gets reflected off the subject and comes in through our lens. TTL light meters come built-in, in almost all modern cameras and DSLRs. It is through this tiny device that the camera can actually “see” and “perceive” the amount of light that is available and makes changes accordingly to get a well-exposed image.

Incident Reflected Light

Needs for many modes:

Now that you know about types of light and various form of light metering, you might be thinking why you need more than one light metering mode? The answer is pretty simple. You see, light metering is most required and necessary when the scene you are shooting is challenging and the entire scene is NOT evenly lit.

Uneven Lighting

As a matter of fact, the human eye can see about sixteen (16) stops of light. That means our eyes are extremely good at picking up details from a scene which has both bright and dark areas. In other words, our eyes have a huge dynamic range. Our cameras, on the other hand, are not so lucky. They cannot “see” so much dynamic range at the same time. Most modern cameras can only pick up and record up to eight (8) stops of light. So, it can be easily inferred that even if you can actually see details in dark and bright areas of a scene you are trying to photograph, your camera may not be able to see all of that at all.

The solution?….Light metering!

Light Metering:

As our cameras can record only about half the dynamic range our naked eyes can perceive; it is imperative that we make the most of the eight stops of dynamic range the camera has to offer and put it to its BEST use. We can do this by instructing and guiding our camera to prioritize what is really important in the scene and care about that part the most/only.

Confused?

Let’s take an example: Take a good look at the image below.

Man by the window

In the image above, most of the part of the frame is dark. The image is of a man looking through a window. Now the question you have to ask yourself is, what is the prime focus of the image? The answer in this case is of course the man, more precisely the man’s face. Now, to have a look like this; the frame actually has to be dark in most of the regions while the man’s face is perfectly exposed; the perfect situation for the light metering to kick in and help you out.

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What you can do in this scenario is just set the camera to meter the light on the man’s face ONLY, and let other parts of the image be dark. The camera will then care for only the man’s face’s exposure and ignore the rest of the scene. Had you not done this, the camera would have tried to expose the entire frame properly and that would have given rise to two huge problems:

  • Firstly, in trying to expose the parts of the scene which are far from the window and get really less light, the camera would have most likely overexposed the man. Moreover, in this case, the man is wearing white from head to toe; that would only accentuate the problem.
  •  Secondly, properly exposing the entire frame in this particular picture would kill the mood and feel of it. It would defeat the purpose of the image totally.

Light Metering Modes:

While cycling through the various light metering modes available on our camera, what we do in essence is tell the camera the amount of area and the part of the frame that it should prioritize the most. The camera literally collects data from the instructed parts and based on that calculates its exposure settings. Now there is a small problem here that camera manufacturers have kindly gifted to us. The light metering modes are not only named differently by different manufacturers but sometimes it varies from model to model of the same manufacturer. A mind blowing tactic to confuse us. So, kindly consult your manual on this.

The different light metering modes described below are same in principle; they may just be named differently on your camera. In this case, I am using Nikon’s terminology (just because I have a Nikon):

Spot Metering:

Spot light metering is used when we want to use just a little spot (3% to 5%) of the frame (usually in the center) and expose that part properly. Although this light metering mode is the fastest among all (since all it needs to do is meter just a spot), it is very unforgiving. The camera would only look at that spot and that spot alone and based on that, it would calculate the exposure setting. So if that spot is not properly placed on the desired subject or it moves around during the shoot; there is a high chance that the exposure may be off.

Example: If you are shooting portraits of a person, you always want the skin to be exposed correctly; so that the color representation in the final image is good. However, if you use spot metering in this scenario and while shooting if the chosen spot happens to fall where the person’s hair is, the camera is going to think “…dark black subject, reflecting little light back….I need more light to expose properly”, the entire image hence maybe overexposed. If you use it correctly though and place the spot right on the skin, it should turn out just fine. What I am trying to explain is that the margin of error using spot light metering is very low.

Spot Light Metering

Spot Light metering is widely used in bird photography; since birds are nearly always against a bright sky and what we want to expose properly is the bird and ignore the bright sky as the background.

Partial Metering:

Partial light metering is almost the same as spot metering. The only difference is, in partial metering, the camera meters light from not just a single spot but an area little larger than a spot; about 8% to 10% of the frame. The area from where the light is metered generally is located at the center.

Partial Light Metering

This type of light metering is optimal for portraits where the face of a person is of utmost importance. The partial metering in most cameras does a pretty good job at covering and exposing the face well. In the above example of the man by the window, I would have used partial light metering.

Partial light metering is a little forgiving than spot metering as the exposure is not dependent on only a single spot but on an area (you can think of it as a bunch of spots grouped together). So, even if the light metering is not perfectly used; the exposure most of the time turns out pretty much alright.

Center Weighted Average Metering:

Camera manufacturers came up with the Center Weighted Average Light Metering when the previous light metering technique called the Average Light Metering failed to expose important subjects in the frame properly. An everyday user of a camera tends to shoot subjects like friends, family and structures by placing them right in the middle of the frame. Center Weighted Metering takes advantage of this exact behavior of humans. It places more importance on the meter reading of the subjects in the middle of the frame. In other words, the camera takes a light meter reading of the entire frame but the meter reading from the center of the frames is given much more importance than the reading from edge of the frame.

So, if the photographer is trying to take an image of a group of people and the sun is behind them at the corner of the frame. The camera will place more importance on the light from center-frame (where the group is) and ignore the offsetting effects of the sun in the corner; thereby exposing the group image perfectly.

Matrix Metering:

Matrix Light Metering is one of the most advanced and accurate light metering we have at our disposal. Our cameras are all digital now and all of them have substantial computing power. Matrix Light Metering harnesses the computing power of our camera’s processors and uses it to configure the exact light metering for a particular scene.

Matrix Light Metering

The basic working of Matrix Light Metering is as follows:

The camera divides the entire scene into a few zones. Each zone is then carefully metered and the readings are then used as inputs for the camera’s internal algorithm. Although each camera manufacturer has different algorithms to follow, overall these algorithms are extremely intelligent. They can identify key subjects in the frame no matter where they are placed in the scene and then suggest a specific setting of the camera to attain that perfect exposure.

Matrix Light Metering

The algorithm uses a host of other data like color, autofocus points, distance of the subject from the camera, light type and intensity, etc so that the camera is as accurate as possible. Many of the Nikon cameras even use an on-camera image database; the stored images are used as references and for comparison with the present scene. This makes the process of Matrix Light Metering quick and extremely accurate.

If you are just starting out, I would highly recommend you to use Matrix Light Metering as it is the easiest and most accurate of all. If you are shooting regular subjects, Matrix Metering will give you fantastic results nearly always. Canon calls the same metering mode as ‘Evaluative Metering’.

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Important note:

Believe it or not you are more intelligent than your camera (in the field of exposure) if you understand how your camera determines its own exposure settings and what could potentially mislead it. The Matrix Metering Mode for all its advanced algorithms still seeks the holy grail of exposure that is 18% grey. There are many scenes (possible both indoors or outdoors) that may completely fool the camera’s internal light metering and ruin potentially good shots.

It is important that you as a photographer know about these possible situations and take care so that you have perfectly exposed, nice images ALL THE TIME.

This is exactly what we discuss in the next article.

The Art Of Exposure Compensation | Internal Mechanics Of Camera Exposure.

Join me there now. Come on!

 

Basic Understanding Of Light & Need For Light Metering.

Photography is nothing but recording light (in an aesthetic manner). Hence, it is imperative that we, as photographers, are required to measure and quantify the amount of light available so that we can use the corresponding settings on our camera to get a well-exposed and an appropriate image.

Buddhist Monns

Light meter is just that device that helps us measure the available light in our scene. Earlier, when people used film cameras and SLRs, most cameras did not have a built-in light meter. The photographers generally carried a separate incident light meter with them. Back then, photographers couldn’t even see if the shot they just took was well exposed as they were shooting in film. Hence, they heavily relied on the external light meter for exposure. With the advent of digital photography, we are blessed in more ways than I can count .

light meter

Types of light metering:

Light metering can be classified into two major categories:

  • Incident Light Metering
  • Reflected Light Metering

Don’t worry so much, I will explain it ALL. Just keep reading.

Fundamentals of light:

When you are photographing any subject, in essence you have two types of light:

  • Incident Light (Light that falls on the subject from a source of light)
  • Reflected Light (Light that is reflected from that subject towards the camera)

Incident Reflected Light

Understanding this fundamental difference between incident and reflected light is important because of the very fundamental nature of light. As you already know, visible light is only a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Colors, as we experience in our day-to-day life, DO NOT exist physically; they are a manifestation of our brain. Colors are an illusion.

electromagnetic spectrum

Let me break this down for you.

White light is the combination of different wavelengths of light. Every color has a different wavelength. A very common example of white light is sunlight. When white light falls on any subject which is say blue in color, the reason that object looks blue to us is because that object absorbs all the other wavelengths of light and reflects back ONLY blue light. White-colored objects reflect all colors of light, while black-colored objects reflect NO light at all.

Application in photography:

The way we measure incident light in photography is by holding a light meter in front of the subject and taking a reading. It is the measure of the amount of light falling on the subject.

Incident Light Meter

Photo Credit : Udemy.com

Reflective light metering is a little different. We generally use reflective light metering while using our camera’s TTL (Through The Lens) metering. That literally means the amount of light that gets reflected off the subject and comes in through the lens. We measure just that incoming light, NOT the actual amount of light falling on the subject.

Light meter

Photo Credit: photography.tutsplus.com

Our camera’s plight:

Our cameras are in a constant quest to understand the type of subject we are shooting and more importantly exposing EVERYTHING in the scene properly. This quest of exposing EVERYTHING properly sometimes leads to many problems.

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For the camera, the definition of a proper exposure is 18% grey. So when you point your camera at a particular subject, the camera analyses all the light that is coming in (TTL metering) and then adjusts its settings so that it can achieve that 18% grey exposure. This system of monitoring, analyzing and settings selection works pretty well until there are some challenging scenes to shoot; like scenes which do not have uniform lighting throughout the frame.

Dynamic Range

Example: Shooting a person indoors or in a shade while the background is very bright as compared to the person.

The problem that arises here is that the different intensities of light present in the same scene is too much for the camera to handle. What the camera tries to do again is shoot for 18% grey and hence depending on the amount of sky or the person you include in the frame, you are going to either overexpose the sky or underexpose the person who would then most likely turn out very dark or just a silhouette.

Light Meter Sun

The camera then records very little or no data from the parts of the frame that are either absolutely black or absolutely white. The results are hence pretty terrible too, the sky when overexposed looks like a white featureless backdrop with no texture or details. On the other hand, if the sky is properly exposed but the person is not, he would look dark and probably only the outline of that person would be visible. Not a great portrait shot. Moreover extremely underexposed or overexposed areas cannot even be revived in post production. Not everything can be fixed on the computer darling!

An Easy Experiment:

It is very easy to demonstrate how our camera’s in-built TTL (Through The Lens) light metering works through an experiment. You can do it right NOW with me. Follow the steps below and you will understand the basic principle of your camera light meter in NO time:

  • Turn your mode dial and select the manual mode on your camera.
  • You are trying to be a good photographer and not a wannabe photographer so stop using the Live View for everything and look through the viewfinder. You should be able to find a scale at the bottom with ‘0’ (zero) in the middle. This is your light meter scale.

Viewfinder

  •  Now while looking through the viewfinder, point your camera to a bright object like a light bulb. The scale should begin to slide towards the positive side.
  • Now without changing any settings on the camera, point it towards a dark part of the room where there is not much light. You will see that the scale now slides towards the negative side.

Note: The camera may turn off the light meter after a time period automatically. If you do not see the light meter scale, press the shutter button halfway and the meter should come back right on.

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So what we are essentially doing in this experiment is analyzing the amount of available light in the frame. When you point your camera at a bright object like a glowing bulb, the camera looks at it and thinks “…so bright and so much light! I do not need so much light for a photograph. I must do something so that I can reduce the amount of light that I record, in order for me to properly expose the bulb”.

light bulb

It is because you are in manual mode the camera cannot do anything to change a setting required for a proper exposure. It is gives you a light meter reading on the positive side which means if you take a picture with this exact setting you are going to OVEREXPOSE the picture. On the flip side if the scale shows any value in the negative, like when you point the camera towards a dimly lit part of your room; the camera is telling you that the picture will be UNDEREXPOSED it you take it with this particular setting. Zero ‘0’ on the scale represents proper exposure.

Importance of learning:

I cannot emphasize enough, how important it is for ANY photographer to understand his light meter. Light is what ALL we as photographers play around with and it is not that hard to understand it. A little patience and practice will work wonders for you, I promise.

So play around with your camera light meter and try to understand it better. This is your first practice round. When you have understood the light meter BASICS well enough read up the next part:

Light Metering Modes | When To Use What & Why?

I will meet you in the next one.

 

Camera Diopter | For Every Photographer With Glasses

Do you know where your camera diopter is?

If not, it’s perfectly okay. It’s pretty simple actually and it will take only a few moments for you to understand and use it properly. Keep reading and I will tell you all you need to know.

The dictionary definition of a diopter is pretty scary, it says:

Diopter: (noun) /dīˈäptər//daɪˈɑptər/, A unit of refractive power that is equal to the reciprocal of the focal length (in meters) of a given lens.

You absolutely need not understand that. We are photographers not physicists alright.

Now, work with me here. Pick up your camera and look at the right side of the viewfinder. You should find a small round dial with a ‘+’ and ‘-‘sign on it (in many cameras, it may also look like a slide). This is your humble diopter.

Camera Diopter

The diopter is nothing but a simple tool that allows people, who do not have perfect eyesight and use eye glasses or contact lenses,to use the camera without their eye aids. It adjusts the camera’s viewfinder so that the photographer, without his glasses to fix his vision, can see crystal clear through the viewfinder. The diopter fills in for the photographer’s glasses (if he uses any).

However, if you have a perfectly normal  20/20 vision, you need not adjust it at all, it should be just fine for you.

Happy

The big question:

How do you know if your diopter needs adjustment?

Your diopter most likely needs adjustments if you use glasses or contact lenses and while taking photographs, the symbology through your viewfinder appears blurry. The symbology is basically the set of various number data like the aperture value, shutter speed, ISO, gridlines, autofocus squares etc., that are displayed inside your viewfinder when you take a picture.

Blurry viewfinder

The image you are taking may also “look” blurry to you even after the reassuring beep of the autofocus locking in; but that is not a very reliable way to check if your diopter needs adjustments.

How to adjust the diopter?

Adjusting the diopter is pretty easy. Place your camera on a sturdy tripod, so that both your hands are free. Now follow the steps below:

  1. Point you camera at any subject that has many contrast points such as a sign with big bold letters;
    Sign board
  2. Press the shutter button halfway and let your camera autofocus on the letters;
  3. Look though the viewfinder and gently rotate the diopter wheel;
  4. Just like you manually focus on a subject, keep rotating the diopter wheel till the symbology (the number data) looks absolutely sharp and clear.

Viewfinder

Double check your adjustments by pressing the shutter button down halfway one more time. In addition, check if the little squares that appear red when the autofocus locks in, are also sharp. (The image should also be tact sharp now if it was not already when you started)

Adjusting your diopter…DONE!

Note:

  • The diopter in most modern cameras is directly next to the viewfinder. Hence, sometimes unknowingly it may get bumped and that may change your settings. If the symbology doesn’t look sharp to you maybe you need to readjust.
  • May this never happen to you but if you develop any eye problem (nearsightedness or farsightedness), you may also need to change your diopter settings accordingly.

Big tip: If you ever lend your camera to a friend, let them know about the diopter settings so that they can adjust it to their own liking. I forgot to mention once when my friend returned my camera, he suggested that I should sell it off and buy a second hand VGA camera phone because that would take better images than my blurry Nikon D7000. It was nothing but the diopter. We had a good laugh though after I figured out the actual problem.

Hope you have learnt one more thing about your camera today.

Set you diopter perfectly and keep taking beautiful images like you always do.

 

The Great Confusion | Drive Modes vs Autofocus Modes

There seems to be a lot of confusion between various Camera Drive Modes and Autofocus Modes. I can understand the confusion as it is easy to mix them up if you are a beginner. However, I sincerely expect that after having read this article, you WON’T do this EVER again.

confusion

Before starting off, I would like to mention that I am just going to point out the fundamental principles and their uses in this blog. All cameras and the procedure in which you change settings are different; but the principle holds true for all. Look up your user manual to find out exactly how you can change your own camera settings and employ what you learn today.

No more mix ups alright… Here we go then!

Camera drive modes:

Camera Drive Modes basically determine the number of images the camera takes when the shutter button is pressed once. Generally all cameras come out of the box with ‘Single Shot’ as the default drive mode. The ‘Single Shot’ mode as the name suggests, allows you up to take ONE image when you press the shutter button. This shooting mode is perfect when you are shooting stationary objects like a building or a landscape; but it would be highly inefficient when shooting fast-moving objects like a race car or a football player. What you need then is to take multiple images in quick succession; so that you don’t miss the split second action. There is no time to press the shutter button multiple times. Bummer!

Landscape

So, what we use in these scenarios is called the ‘Continuous Drive Mode’ (also called the Burst Mode). What this mode does is, it essentially lets you take multiple images with a single press of the shutter button. The shutter keeps on firing as long as you depress the shutter button (well technically till your camera’s buffer runs out or you card fills up). Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? This mode is widely used by sports photographers, wildlife photographers and many photojournalists too.

Continuous Drive

Credit: iphonehacks.com

There are many other camera drives, you can read all about them in this article here. The principles are same for ALL cameras,  ALL brands.

The Single Shot and Continuous (High/Low) modes are by far the most used modes for obvious reasons. The others are more of special modes required only on specific occasions.

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Focus Types:

Our advanced digital cameras are capable of so much these days that it is hard to imagine a situation where our cameras would not be able to capture the image we want, if we use it correctly. Learning the various autofocus modes available on our cameras and how to use them properly is of paramount importance. Determining where the focus on a particular image should be and then being able to focus right there for a given period of time (which nearly always is a split second) while shooting is one of the most important lessons to learn in photography or for that matter in any visual art form.

bird

Coming back now…

There are mainly three autofocus modes that are available on our cameras:

  • Single Autofocus.
  • Continuous Autofocus.
  • Automatic Autofocus.

Let’s break them down now…

Single Autofocus:

Like the ‘Single Shot’ drive mode, single autofocus focuses only ONCE on the subject when you press the shutter button halfway and then locks the focus in till you take the photograph. This autofocus mode is again useful while photographing stationary subjects.

c3po

Continuous Autofocus:

Continuous autofocus is used in situations where the subject is moving and is NOT stationary. The difference between continuous and single autofocus is that; while using the continuous autofocus the camera continuously adjusts the focus for the moving subject and tries to keep the subject tact sharp. So, in other words, the cameras keeps on focusing and readjusting the focus for as long as you press the shutter button down.

Continuous autofocus

Credits : tokocamzone.com

Bonus Tips:

  • Lenses with large apertures (f/1.2, f/1.4 etc) tend to focus faster.
  • The center autofocus point in most cameras generally have cross point autofocus, which has the capability to identify horizontal and vertical contrast points resulting in faster autofocus.

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Automatic Autofocus:

When in this autofocus mode, the camera decides automatically whether the subject that you are trying to shoot is moving or is stationary and depending on that the camera behaves likewise: switches to either single or continuous autofocus mode. This may sound wonderful and you might probably be thinking now “.. why on earth do I need the other autofocus modes then? Can I just not always choose the Automatic Autofocus?” Sadly the answer is NO. Although our cameras are quite advanced these days, the Automatic Autofocus doesn’t really always perform as well as we might want it to. Especially in scenarios where the subject is initially stationary but then starts moving.

Runner Race

Example: Say suppose you are shooting a 100 meters dash race and you are standing next to the tracks. Initially all the runners will be stationary when they are at the start line and taking their positions, so when you point your camera at them, your camera thinks “Stationary subjects -> Single Autofocus”.  Now when the runners start running, you are still locked onto Single Autofocus and all your shots will be nothing but out of focus and a haze.

I would insist you stick to either Single or Continuous Autofocus and not use the Automatic Autofocus so much. Most of the time you WILL know beforehand whether or not you are about to shoot a moving or a stationary subject. Choosing an autofocus mode manually and not letting the camera decide what you need is a far better and surer way to nail your focus every time.

One last thing to note. To be able to select from all the drive modes, you need to be in any of the semi-automatic or manual mode. Some camera modes may be barred from choosing in your camera model if you are shooting in COMPLETE AUTO mode. For heaven’s sake: GET OUT OF AUTO!! That hell of a green box.

For a complete understanding of the mode dial and its functions, read up Mode Dial | Features Explained | Beginner’s Guide.

Remember remember:

I have seen enough people now mixing up these two completely different things and turn up utterly confused. I hope you have grasped the difference between Camera Drive Modes and Autofocus Modes now. Understanding these two fundamental pillars of photography is very important for your one-eyed life.

Go ahead, keep shooting and keep making beautiful pictures.

All the best!

 

Star Trails Photography | How To Make Beautiful Star Trail Images.

The magic of star trails:

Star trails photographs are beautiful and absolutely magical when they are taken correctly. They reflect the beauty and the majesty of this amazing planet that we live in. Just think for a second; every star trails photograph you have ever seen and the dream-like sequence that you have witnessed in those photographs. Guess what! They happen EVERYDAY above your own house, you just never saw it or thought of it. I know I never had, until recently.

star trails

Let me be honest about this. Star trails photography is hard and I just don’t mean as an art form to learn but as a physical challenge to the human body and mind. You have to be in a location that is dry and VERY cold so that the air is as clear as possible and it also needs to be pitch black (so dark that you can’t even see your own hand). Any amount of stray ambient light is going to ruin your shots and you are going to round up with nothing but haze.

But that shouldn’t stop you from doing great things…right?

It’s hard alright but the results are equally rewarding. So, let me just tell you my way of shooting star trails.

Starting off:

A little knowledge and planning goes a long way in star trails photography. Knowing when the sun is going to rise or when the sunset is helps you plan your trip better. You should also take into account the phase of the moon on that day, this is important. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a good website that I use all the time. Punch in the date and place; and the website will let you know all the details that you require.

Photographer's Ephemeris

The fundamental idea of star trails photography is to shoot stars from earth as they follow a circular path in the night sky but since there are many things in between us and the stars; we want to eliminate these unwanted influences as much as possible so that we get a clearer and better looking shot.

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The Preparation:

Here are some prerequisites to remember. Follow them along and you will have great-looking shots to share with your family and friends.

Star Trails

  1. Find a location which is REALLY REALLY DARK…I mean absolutely pitch black . There should be NO ambient light at all. Street lights, light from the nearby highway, even overuse of the flash light that I would suggest you to carry is a big NO NO. You may use the dark site finder to find out a spot near you that has the least amount of light pollution.
  2. Cold and dry nights are the best for capturing star trails. Less diffraction of light leads to better focusing and clearer pictures.
  3. Locations on higher altitudes are better, the air is much cleaner here.
  4. You need to know the sunrise and sunset timings or your location. Also something that is very important is the moon. The moon would act like the largest source of ambient light if it is there. So plan your trip so that the night is well… moon-less (this is not your romantic trip!).

Star Trails

Camera gear:

  • You need a sturdy tripod for this. Since the entire length of the shoot is going to be on a tripod; a good tripod is a must. You may even weigh down your tripod using a few pieces of rocks for added stability.

tripod

  • A camera which allows manual settings. If you are taking such painstaking measures to get a photograph, it is probably reasonable to think that you already have a good camera.
  • A wide angle lens. You want to capture as much of the sky as possible and give your photographs that wide and expansive look. Wider the lens, the better the star trails but personally I do not prefer fish-eye lenses much. A 24mm lens with a large aperture would be just fine.

wide landscape

Here are two amazing lenses from Nikon and Canon that you can use.

Nikon : AF-S ED Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 G Zoom Lens For Nikon.

Canon : Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Wide Angle Lens for Canon. (This is a prime lens)AF-S ED Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 G Zoom Lens For Nikon

A shutter release remote. The entire star trails shoot is going to be a series consisting of a few hundred shots; where each shot is on a 30sec long exposure.  Keeping the shutter button pressed for that long is not possible for anyone, so a remote shutter release may be your best bet. Just get a cheap one from amazon. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just check that the intervalometer is compatible with your camera model, that’s all you need.

However, if you have a built in intervalometer in your camera, you do not need an external one. Consult your camera manual on this one.

The actual shooting:

You want to reach your destination early when the sun is still up. Considering the fact that I am asking you to go to a place that is dark, desolate, devoid of light and brilliantly cold; I would advise you to reach early and take all preparation while there is still light. Check your camera, put on the lens, choose a good flat spot with a good looking foreground. You can even dial in the camera settings then. Cold fingers are not very good at work…just saying.  Once the sun goes down, the temperature is going to plummet real fast and it is going to be even tougher. Use the light well while it is still there.

cold snow

Okay now it’s night time and we are finally ready to shoot star trails .

Mount your camera on the tripod and frame your shot. Keeping the North Star at the center is a good idea. Since that is the only star that is not going to trail; it appears that all the stars are revolving round it. It is a nice effect to have in your photographs. But then you are the photographer, make your best shot,your way.

Check the camera levels now; you do not want a crooked shot. If you have not already dialed in your camera settings do it now. Set your lens to manual focus and then turn the focus ring until the infinity line on the focus ring aligns with the mark on the lens barrel.

For your camera use the following settings:

Aperture: f/4

Shutter Speed: 30 sec

ISO: 1600

Shoot only RAW.

Test out your settings:

Take a test shot with these settings and look if everything looks good. Zoom into your image and see if the stars appear to be sharp and in focus. Refocus manually if they seem even a little out of focus. If everything appears okay…great! If not tweak the settings a bit depending on what the problem might be and then take a test shot again.

camera settings

After taking your first successful test shot, take a dark frame shot. Don’t freak out, it is just a fancy term for shooting with your lens cap on (how beautiful life is, isn’t it? You get points for even that…). The dark frame shot will help you reduce noise later on in your photographs that may creep in due to the use of high ISO.

Now, set your camera to continuous drive/burst mode. This is important for the star trails to appear well.  Attach the remote shutter release and set the shutter speed to 30 sec and start shooting.

You have got all the free time in the world now. Just don’t do anything that would destabilize the camera or cause the camera to move. Whatever you do, DO NOT use your flash light after you have started shooting. Even if the light falls on the lens for a micro second it is going to be logged in since we are shooting really long exposures. Just don’t.

starry night

Cold night usually have their fair share of condensation as well. (A real clever trick is to leave your camera outside before you start shooting.This prevents massive temperature difference and causes less condensation later on). Monitor your camera every 15 minutes or so. If you find any condensation, clean it immediately with a lens cloth.

Keep your eyes peeled for clouds as well. You want a clear cloudless night. A cloud, even when it comes and goes away in a couple of minutes is going to introduce a long white streak in your photographs. ( I did mention this is NOT going to be easy). The same thing goes for airplanes as well. However this is easier, generally airplanes follow a definite route through the sky so if you keep a watch for some time before you start shooting; this is easily avoidable.

The last thing to monitor is the battery. Of course you should put in fresh new ones when you start but then the cold and the long shutter may chew them up really fast. Monitor your battery level closely and put in new ones as soon as the old ones get a little low.

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The duration of the shoot is totally dependent on you and how much time you have; but anything less than a couple of hours is not recommended. Longer is better, in this case.

Post Production:

Download all your star trails images in one folder and open them up in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Edit the first photograph to your liking. Make the sky look nice and dark while keeping the stars stay bright. You can use the white balance or the levels curve to really make the stars pop. Then apply these settings to all your photographs and export them as jpegs to a folder on your desktop.

photoshop

You can use Photoshop or Lightroom to stack the photos also but I personally like Starstax a lot. It does a pretty good job at this, maybe because it is specially made for stacking star trails photos.

Open up Starstax and use the first button on the top left corner to import the images from your desktop. Now, import your dark frame as well, this will help with the noise reduction. Go to preferences now and change the blending mode to “Gap Filling” (this help fill up the gaps that you might have had during shooting (stopping when clouds passed or changing batteries and stuff) also choose “Subtract Dark Image”.

You are all set now to process your images. Hit the process button and let the software work its magic. It would take a while to complete.

Once its done adjust the threshold and amount for “Gap Filling” so that just the stars look green and not the foreground.

Finally save your image on your computer and you are done! Personally though, I like to take it to Photoshop one last time and give it some last finishing touches.

Star Trails….DONE!

Don’t forget to share your star trails images with me….I would love to see them.

 

Lens Hood | All You Need To Know About The Weird Black Piece Of Plastic.

In my early days:

When I started to shoot for the first time, I had many questions in my mind about this weird piece of plastic that was stuck on the front of lens. Initially, I thought it was only used to make us look cool as photographers, to let all the other people around us know that we mean serious business. (Surprisingly the lens hood did all the above things brilliantly!). However, on digging a little deeper, I found out there were many practical and important reasons for using the lens hood and it was NOT a fashion statement at all.

lens hood

Here is all I came to know…

There are many types and shapes of lens hoods and all of them serve different purposes. However, you do not have to scratch your brains out to decide which one should you buy, as mostly every lens has a single lens hood that is shaped and optimized for it. In other words, there is only one unique lens hood for each lens.

Now let’s discuss the whys, whens and hows of the lens hood:

The primary function of the lens hood is to shade the lens from unwanted light that would otherwise fall on the lens and cause various problems such as lens flares and lower dynamic range. Have you ever noticed when you are trying to look a little away on a sunny day, you tend to squint your eyes a little and shade them with your hands so that you can see better? Lens hood performs the exact function as your hands and shades the front of the lens from unwanted light and glares. It helps your camera to ‘see’ better, specially in challenging light.

sunny day

Blocking stray rays of light also helps you get better dynamic range in your photographs. As you know, the camera meters all the light that fall on the lens and depending on that decides what the “correct” exposure would be.

This happens specially while using semi-automatic or full automatic mode on your camera.

So, if these stray rays of light fall on your lens, they may mess up the exposure completely. Due to this, the photographs may appear washed out and unsaturated. They generally have visibly less dynamic range too.

lens flares

Now you might be thinking, “Oh, so only during the day and under the sun, I should use the lens hood…”. The short answer is NOT EXACTLY.  As the sun may not always be the only source of light when you are shooting, it is ideal and recommended that you use your lens hood as often as possible. A bright light bulb, a florescent tube, car headlights – all may cause problems for your photographs if you do not take proper care while shooting.

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The humble lens hood performs few very good practical functions as well.

  1. It acts like a barrier for a host of things that may cause your lens to get dirty (e.g. grease fingerprints).
  2. It also protects it from physical bumps and scratches as the lens is now harder to get to, through the lens hood.

Other practical uses:

May God always protect you and all your camera gear but just think of a scenario when your camera accidentally slips out of your hands and lands on the floor, if by heaven’s grace the camera lands on the hood you may have just saved yourself from a very costly catastrophe. While shooting in close quarters like a concert or a large gathering of people, the lens hood offers substantial protection for the lens from accidental direct physical bumps and scratches.

broken camera

I have noticed many sports photographers and photojournalists use just the lens hood by itself (and not the lens cap) when they keep their cameras in the bags. This actually saves a lot of time, especially when you may miss a crucial shot if you are a micro second late. They can just take the camera out and shoot, right away. The lens hood protects the front element of the lens inside the bag and therefore the lens cap can be done away with.

These are very helpful when shooting on a regular basis; especially when you think that all this is achieved by a single piece of plastic that is free and probably came with your lens and all you have to do is just put it on and forget about it.

When NOT to use a lens hood:

Okay now that I have advocated for the use of lens hood nearly all the time; there are a few exceptions when you may not want to use your lens hood.

  • When shooting with a on-camera (specially pop-up) flash :

Pop-up flashes are located barely an inch above the head of the camera. So they may not always be able to disperse light properly with the lens hood on; even more so when the lens is particularly long. You may find a shadow on the lower part of the frame most of the time; (if shooting in landscape orientation) in case you do this. That is actually the shadow cast by the lens and the lens hood. An easy work around would be to take off the lens hood and use a smaller lens; or to find another light source for your subject so that you no longer have to use the on-camera flash or use off-camera flash with a trigger.

  • When you want to shoot inconspicuously and be as invisible as possible:

Lens hoods are large and easily visible from a distance. People are going to notice you if you use them while shooting say street photographs or candid weeding shots. Not using the lens hood in these circumstances may be a better idea.

street photography

Shape and Sizes:

Lens hoods come is various shapes and sizes. The shape is largely dependent on the focal length of the lens. Generally as wider lenses cover a larger field of view; the lens hood has to be such that it doesn’t show up on the frame but can still protect the lens from any stray ray of light. The most widely used shape for wider lenses are petal shaped. This shape is the most optimum compromise; so that the hood can perform all the above-mentioned functions and can still keep out of the frame. If you experience vignettes on your wider lenses even when you use the proper lens hood; you have probably attached it wrong. Reattach the hood again rotating it 90 degrees and you should be fine.

petal shaped lens hood

Longer lenses tend to have lens hoods that are shaped like a tube. As longer lenses have a narrower field of view; the lens hood can be a little more covering than wider lenses.

Tube type lens hood

That is all there is for lens hood shapes. It is NOT a fashion statement and the hoods ARE shaped in a particular way for a given purpose and not just to make your camera look beautiful.

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Storage:

When not in use, you may store your lens hoods by just reversing them on the lens itself. However please do not shoot with the lens hood reverse; it would do nothing but cause problems by blocking the focusing ring or making it difficult to hold on to the lens itself. Plus it looks really retarded! Please DON’T.

reverse attached lens hood

An easy way to store lens hoods would be to gather all the lens hoods that you have and pile them together. Take the largest one you have and place the second largest one inside it; repeat this process and in the end, just tie them together with a thread and store them safely in your camera bag. The hoods will now take up considerably less space and life would be so much easier for you.

Lens hoods are just a piece of plastic but they perform a heck lot of functions. (Wouldn’t you agree now?). You do not even have to buy the authentic lens hood from the original manufacturer. A third party Chinese hood also would work just fine as long as you buy the right size.

Okay time to go out and shoot. Let me know how you used your lens hood this time.

How To Get Beautiful Background Blur With Any Camera

The Raging Question:

Today I want to answer the question that I probably get asked the most.

How to get the perfect background blur?

background blur

There are many scenarios where you can use background blur for interesting results. You can use it while taking portraits, so that the subject is well isolated from the background and any unwanted element like a tree or a pillar can be easily avoided. Background blur also sometimes give rise to bokeh!! Use it well in images or videos any you can get stunning results.

background blur

But the big question still remain….how do we get that beautiful blurring? Lets answer it now…

Well there are many ways to get the perfect background blur in your photographs. Photos with blurred out backgrounds looks very artistic and professional. Many people think that it can only be achieved by plonking down huge amounts of money on camera gear and accessories; but that is NOT the truth, it is very very simple to create.

Here is how…

Dial down to your lowest aperture number:

If you have a point and shoot, look in the menu where it would allow you to dial down the aperture number to the lowest value (remember, lower aperture number represents a larger aperture and vice- versa).

Nowadays there are many third party apps too that would work with your android and IOS devices to help you input the camera aperture number manually. Try and keep it to f/1.8 or f/2.

mode dial

If you have a DSLR use the mode dial to select the aperture priority mode (‘A’ in Nikon and ‘AV’ in Canon) and dial down the aperture number as low as possible. Generally on a kit lens the minimum aperture number would be f/3.5. Again to drive home the point; as you are using the lowest aperture number on your lens you are choosing the largest aperture the lens has.

Increase the distance between the subject and the background:

Many times what we tend to do in our day to day photography is place our subjects right in front of a wall or a sign post and click away. This would not help at all if you are trying to get a good background blur.

background blur

Try and increase the distance between the subject and the background. If you are shooting in a room try to move the subject towards the camera as much as possible; so that the distance between the subject and the back wall is maximized. If you are out in the open; position your subjects such that the background is not an immediate wall or structure.

background blur

Blur gets stronger and stronger as it gets away from the focus point. So, even when you are using a low f-number, say f/1.2, a wall right behind the subject will not appear blurred out at all whereas a distant horizon will appear blurred out even when you are using a larger aperture number say f/5.6. Keep this in mind.

Take some time to place your subjects well. Move around and hunt for the right angles so that you achieve this  before your start to shoot.

Decrease the distance between the camera and the subjects:

Now decrease the distance between the subject and the camera. Fill up the frame only with the amount of the subject that is absolutely needed to tell the story. If you try and include everything you would invariably have to increase the distance between the camera and the subject this would affect the background blur you are after in a bad way. Typically while shooting portraits, head-shots have way more background blur than a full body shot because of the reason I just discussed; increased camera to subject distance.

Busting some myths now:

Now to help out people who think that it is impossible to get good background blur with kit lenses like the 18-55mm or 18-105mm. Have no fear, I am here to help you out with just that. There is  just a little trick to it, follow it now and you will amaze yourself.

The trick is pretty simple, the first two “rules” above still applies, i.e. try and move the subject away from the background as much as possible and move in close to the subject with your camera. Now comes the tricky part, move away from the subject a little and then zoom back in all the way. You will now be on f/5.6 (generally most kit lens have f/5.6 as the maximum aperture value), not too bad for a good background blur, if you know how to use it to your advantage.

Take a picture like this and have a look, it should have a lovely background blur to it.

Try Out a New Lens:

You may want to try out a new lens as well for better background blur. Prime lenses are very cheap these days and they usually have low f-numbers like 1.8 and 1.4. Some very popular choices are:

Nikon:   Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G & Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.

Canon:  Canon EF 35mm f/2 & Canon EF 50MM F/1.8 STM Lens.

Canon_EF_50mm_18_II

These prime lenses are absolute legends. They are not only great for background blur

  1. They are exceptionally fast in auto focusing.
  2. The images they produce are very sharp and crisp.
  3. They are extremely light and easy to carry and as they have such a large aperture (low aperture numbers of 1.8, 1.4, 1.2) that makes them brilliant in low light conditions.
  4. They allow so much light in through the lens that now you can shoot in much lower ISO, reducing noise and also with much faster shutter which would in turn help with the accidental camera shake, if at all.

All the same reasons are valid for videos too!

Nikkor 50mm 1.8G

I got my first Nikon 50mm f/1.8G many years ago and it is still my go to lens. Well one important reason is that I am a street photographer and using a big zoom lens is a cardinal sin here. But even then I have used my Nikon nifty fifty for many project that were not even near street photography and I was glad with the images that came at the end of it.

And when you have mastered the art of photography, you can always try these f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses for some serious background blur and bokeh. They are a little pricey but they are worth every rupee you spend on them. Here are a few of my favorites.

Nikon:

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Prime Lens for Nikon DSLR Camera

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

 

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG

Canon:

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Prime Lens for Canon DSLR Camera

Canon_7D_with_50mm_f1.2

Lastly a thing to remember is even when you are trying to get the background blur as much as possible; DO NOT think that you can put anything in there and get away with it. Many things like a graphic, a brightly colored or oddly shaped object may still look bad in your photographs; even when they are blurred. If it is possible to remove them from your shot when you are shooting by simply changing the angle, just do so. Always try to opt for a background which is plain (like a bush) or repetitive in pattern, this will look so much better than ugly sign boards and light poles.

Let me know how you used these quick tips and how your photographs came out. Don’t forget to share with me your experiences.

Happy ClickinG!

Rule Of Thirds | What Is It ? | Why Should You Use It?

Before discussing the Rule of Thirds,

I should probably let you know that there is no such thing as a “rule” in photography. Photography is an art form and, like in all art forms, there are some guidelines that may help people create better art most of the time. But I can tell you this; following the Rule of Thirds or any other “rule” in photography is no guarantee that your photos will be good. Instead breaking the rules sometimes may create images that are more powerful than the images that were created by following all the recommended rules.

Rule of thirds

You are the sole person who decides what is good and what is not. If you like it, it doesn’t matter if someone else agrees with you or not.

Rule Of Thirds Not Follow

Okay then having cleared that out, let’s jump in and learn what the Rule of Thirds is all about and why we follow it.

Why Use It?

Rule of Thirds is basically a concept that is developed on the premise that human eyes when looking at a photograph generally go to a few specific points on the photograph than the others. So, placing the most interesting or the more important part of the photo in those particular points helps the eyes of the onlooker in better navigating the photograph and connecting with the significant parts.

Rule Of thirds

Let’s break down the concept a little more.

The Actual Rule.

Imagine a white canvas/frame. Now, imagine the canvas being divided in three equal parts; horizontally and vertically (‘thirds’ remember). You will now have divided the frame into nine equal parts.

Rule of thirds

 The Rule of Thirds is simply to frame your shot in such a way so that the most important part of the photograph is placed on (along) one of the intersections (lines), of the above specified imaginary lines.  The “most important part” can be anything. It can be the flower that you are trying to photograph. Maybe be a person that is the primary focus of the image. It may also be a part of the subject like his eyes. Basically the part of the image that you think should be most prominent.

The Rule of Thirds is equally effective when you are shooting in portrait orientation. The imaginary line would stay the same, however in this case you may have to place your subjects along the lines more often, but that is fine.

Rule of thirds

This Rule Of Thirds is designed so that we work with the natural flow of the human eye and not against it. Our eyes tend to be naturally drawn to these intersecting points; more than the center of the image or the absolute edges of it. It has been proven by many studies to be actually true. Hence placing your primary subjects on those intersecting points is a good idea to start with.

My Take On It:

In my opinion, the “rule” is like a good paved track to run on when you are relatively new or just starting up. A good ‘rule of thumb’. It would help you from making absolutely bad shots and save you a lot of thinking on how to exactly frame your shots. However, in due course of time this “rule” should just be at the back of your mind; used only if you think it helps in making the image more striking or powerful.

Rule of thirds

A few things to remember before you head out and start shooting. Do not follow the Rule of thirds blindly. There are many things to consider when you are framing your shot, like;

Headroom: Headroom is the distance between the subjects head and the top of the frame. Leave a little head room for your subject for this will make your photographs look natural and your subject not look like amputees.

Head Room

Lead Room: My definition would be this is the space your subject has to move into a moment later; i.e. if your subject were to continue to move in the direction they are facing now; how much space do you have in the frame to accommodate that. The photo may not look very natural if there is no lead room, or if the subject’s natural movement is abruptly disrupted.

Lead Room

Conclusion:

If this is the first time you are learning about the ‘famous’ Rule of Thirds, having already taken many images in the past without knowing about this guideline, have no fear. Today’s post-production software such as Photoshop and Lightroom are very good. If your previous shots were taken with a half decent camera; you may be able to crop them to suit the rule. See if at all it makes an impact. Doing this will help you understand the dynamics of composition and make your next shot even better.

Enough of theory now. It’s time to go out and start putting your new-found knowledge to use. Class dismissed!

 

What Is Magic Lantern? | How To Install It Properly.

All about Magic Lantern that you need to know.

Magic Lantern is a FREE firmware add-on for Canon manufactured cameras written by Trammell Hudson primarily for Canon EOS 5D Mk II in 2009. Originally the software was created for the average film makers who used DSLRs to film their projects. The features base however has fortunately expanded since then and now a large array of options are available for all kinds of stuff for still photographers too.

Canon Logo

 Magic Lantern is a very safe and secure piece of software that DOES NOT interfere with Canon’s stock settings or software at all it just runs alongside it. Have no fear installing this amazing software does not affect your warranty in any way. The software does not interfere with Canon’s stock firmware but just makes tiny little changes that are completely reversible at any given time it is indeed very safe.

Currently Magic Lantern supports all the cameras in this list below:

5D2, 5D3, 6D, 7D, 50D, 60D, 500D/T1i, 550D/T2i, 600D/T3i, 650D/T4i, 700D/T5i, 1100D/T3, EOS M.

 If you are one of the lucky ones on the list you are good to go. Keep reading and I will get you started in not time.

Fast Cyclist

Follow the steps below for a new install:

  • Before loading the software it is advisable that you update your camera to the latest Canon firmware available for your camera. You can look up this Canon USA page for more details.
  • After updating your camera make sure is the camera is cleared of all camera setting on a low level format.
  • Now head over to the Magic Lantern website and then go to downloads.
  • Next from the drop down menu select your camera model. It is very important that you select the exact same firmware that you have on your camera.
  • Perform a quick format on a SD card and copy the contents form the download earlier.

We are almost done now.

 

  • Select the ‘Manual’ mode on you camera mode dial and put in a fully recharged battery.
  • Insert the SD card now that has the contents of the Magic Lantern software you just downloaded.
  • Then turn on your camera and navigate to the update firmware option and perform the update that the camera is prompting. This is called the “boot flag”.
  • Wait for the camera to take in all the updates. DO NOT touch the camera or press any buttons at this point of time. The camera will then prompt you to restart the camera, do it.
  • Restart the camera and move over to the video mode. You are now running Magic Lantern…yippee!

 

 

Magic Lantern

You may want to have a look at the user guide for starters.

Now a few things to remember here.

Magic Lantern is a great piece of software that does bring out the best in your Canon camera but there are a few things to remember here just to be on the safe side and not damage your camera in any way.

  • Always turn OFF the camera before you take the battery or the card out. Remember the firmware is still on the card and taking it out abruptly may damage your camera.
  • Even after you have opened the battery or the card door never take the battery or the card out until the led stops flashing. This is very important since the camera writes on the card as soon as it detects opening the card or battery door. Let the LED stop blinking before you proceed to take them out.

That is all that there’s to it. Play around will all the setting and see for yourself what works best for you. You are the only person whose opinion matters here.

Best of luck then.

Top Five Things To Do Once Your Get Your New Camera

Congratulation!

You have just taken the first step in becoming a photographer, you just got yourself a new camera. No, it doesn’t have to be a fancy DSLR, absolutely any camera will do.

I remember my first camera and the feeling that came with it. It is one of the special feeling that you get to feel only once in your life, so savor it well. Okay now let’s get cracking and do a few things that would right off the bat make your one-eyed life peaceful and beautiful.

 Attach your Hand Strap.

New camera strap

Your new camera is an electronic device and like all electronic devices it doesn’t like shocks and bumps. Point and shoot these days are really small and especially slippery and slick. You slip it out of your hand once and that camera would not look good when you pick it up from the floor.

Attach the string/strap that came with your new camera at once. This would prevent accidental mishaps and let your camera be on your hand and not on the floor. This step is very essential even later on in your journey as a photographer; since you will always have to let your friends or other people carry your camera to look at images. These people may not be very accustomed to holding a camera in the right way and that can lead to disaster. I have been to many places where after taking a group photograph people have literally pounced on me to have a look at the photo and ensure that they look good. In case they don’t they would make me take another photo. Its easy for things to go wrong then.

Group

Wear the strap whenever you are taking photographs or are carrying your camera. If possible also make other people wear the strap before you hand over your camera. Your camera will bless you for it.

Buy a Screen Protector:

If you have a point and shoot, you may buy those large screen protectors made for notepads or larger smartphones. Failing which you can always buy laptop screen protectors which will be of ample size for you to cut to size of your LCD screen. A word of caution though always buy a good quality screen protector, which would not leave any sticky residue on your screen in case you have to change it down the line.Hard Plastic Cover

I don’t know what happened to Nikon but when I bought my first DSLR which was a Nikon D7000; it came with a hard plastic screen protector. These days however I have never seen a new camera come with one. Nevertheless invest in a good quality hard plastic screen protector if you have a DSLR. This will save the screen form innumerable scratches and hence your camera LCD will always give you a good representation of the photo you just took. A good plastic protector will last you the entire life of the camera itself. This is probably the best 500 bucks you will ever spend on your camera.

A Lens UV Filter:

Yes I know UV filters are a joke as modern digital cameras do not get influenced by ultraviolet rays like old film cameras did. I am not asking you to get a UV filter to save your camera from UV rays. I am simply asking you to get a neutral density UV filter that would just act like a piece of extra glass in front of the costly lens that you have.

UV Filter

If you are not very careful with the camera lens cap; taking it off or putting it on, not having a filter will only invite the damage. Since the front lens element would be exposed and might get scratched while you are busy tucking your new camera in your bag or something.

Lens cap

You can always find the thread size of your specific lens written on the front element of the lens itself or on the inside of the lens cap. It should be in millimeter (mm).

Camera Cleaning Kit:

If you take out your new camera outside to shoot; it is BOUND to get dirty. A dirty camera means dust spots, reduced performance and dull-looking photographs. To avoid all that; it is very important to clean your camera on a regular basis. Camera cleaning kit are pretty cheap these days and they can be bought from any camera store.

camera cleaning kit

However take good notice of what you are actually buying. Specially keep an eye on the cleaning liquid that comes with the pack. That solution needs to be specifically designed to clean lenses and the camera; if that isn’t right you might as well clean your camera with a microfiber cloth and Colin.

While cleaning your camera do not forget your viewfinder and the back of the lens since those are the spots that most people miss.

A Sturdy New Camera Bag:

If you are planning to go on a photography trip or on a vacation; a good camera bag is absolutely essential. A good bag is like shoes that you wear. You wouldn’t notice them if they are good but you would DEFINITELY them notice if they are bad.Camera Bag

Camera gear, lenses, tripod stands, filters will add up to quite a substantial weight. A good camera bag will help you carry these essential equipments wherever you want with ease. You don not want to end up with a sore shoulder at the end of the day…do you?

A good camera bag is also necessary for protecting your costly camera gear from accidents. It should be able to withstand accidental falls from a good height, should be water resistant and also should have a lock for some extra security. Invest in a good bag and that will pay for itself in the first year. There are a variety of good bags these days, choose one that matches your style.

Prevention is better than cure, remember this always. I don’t care if you have a camera that says that it could be submerged in icy cold water and it would still come out unscathed, PLEASE DO NOT try that. It really is not worth the time should something go wrong. If the situation is absolutely unforgiving and getting the camera wet cannot be avoided at any cost; maybe then and ONLY then is it okay. I cannot myself think of any such situation where the conditions would be so bad; unless you are dumped offshore naked into the ocean, probably this will never happen to you. Carry a plastic bag in your camera bag always and that should more than enough.

Try and follow the five steps above and you will be good for a long time.

 

Nikon Release Mode Dial

How To Operate The Release Mode Dial?

Release mode dial is generally found in Nikon manufactured DSLR cameras. The release dial is located just under the camera mode dial and looks something like this.

Release Mode Dial

 As the name suggests, this release mode dial controls what happens when the shutter button is pressed. You will find there are many letters and symbols on the dial. Aligning them to the white line selects a different function for your camera.

Let’s understand now what these strange looking letters and symbols mean and how or when can you use them to take great photographs.

Do one thing, keep up with me and turn the release mode dial of your camera right now and you will instantly understand what I am talking about and this will save you a ton of time later on. Ready to try this out?

S:

‘S’ stands for single frame, i.e. the camera takes just one photograph when on this mode, and then it stops until you repeat the process of autofocusing and light metering,ie, you release the shutter button again completely and then press it again.

You can use this mode when you are shooting relatively static subjects, that do not move very much like a landscape or a building.

Landscape

CL:

‘CL’ stands for Continuous Low. This means the camera is on a continuous drive but on the ‘low’ setting. Let me explain. Continuous mode is mode where the camera keeps on taking photographs for as long as the shutter button is pressed (this is true for all cameras); many manufacturers call it the burst mode too. The Low denotes here the number of frames the camera is going to capture in one second.

Continuous Drive

Credit: iphonehacks.com

 For example, my Nikon D7000 has a maximum of six frames per second (fps); but when on the low mode, the camera would only take around four or five. Theoretically, a little lower frame rate than the absolute maximum should get you a better result; but I personally have never seen much difference in a CL and a CH shot.

CH:

‘CH’ stands for Continuous High. This is the same as above only the camera would take the maximum number of images it can take in one second. In my case that would be six.

Q:

‘Q’ stands for quiet shutter mode. What essentially happens is the camera now gets as silent as it can be. When you take a photograph, the mirror inside the camera will flip up really quietly and stay there as long as you do not release the shutter button to come back to the halfway position.

The quiet mode can be used in places where a loud shutter click can be a problem like in a hospital or in a library.

Silent

Self-Timer:

You probably already know what this mode does. This mode delays the time between when the shutter button is fully pressed and when the photograph is actually taken. In Nikon cameras, the default delay is ten seconds but you can select the delay in the Timer/AE Lock section of the Customs Setting menu. Also you may select the number of images you want the camera to take in newer Nikon models; consult your camera manual for this.

 Self timer

You can use self-timer to click your ‘self-images’ when no one else is available to press the shutter button for you. Just to be a little clear about the entire process; as you select the delay and press the shutter, the autofocus lamp at the front of the camera would start to blink and the beep sound will go off. Consequently, the autofocus lamp will flash increasingly quickly as it finally takes the photograph.

Remote:

The remote mode can be used to fire the shutter NOT by pressing the shutter button but using a wireless remote instead. Nearly all Nikon models use the ML-L3 wireless remote.

ML L3 Remote

You can use the remote to fire the shutter if you are taking a self-image (again) or you may also get really creative and use the wireless remote to fire the shutter when you are taking long shutter speed shots, so that you can eliminate camera jerk or movement.

MuP:

This is the initial for Mirror Up mode. As you probably already know your DSLR camera has a mirror inside it that reflects the incoming light from the lens and lets you see the subject through the view finder. However, the process introduces a little vibration or jerk when the mirror suddenly flips up. This is not a problem in regular scenarios but it can be a problem when you are taking a very long shutter speed shot.

To eliminate this problem, the Mirror up mode is used. What happens is as you select this mode and press the shutter button; the mirror flips up but the camera doesn’t take a photo. It is only when you let the shutter button up again and press it fully is the photograph taken.

Light Trail

  • Note: When the mirror flips up the first time when you press the shutter button; you will not be able to see anything through the view finder, do not worry this is normal.

Another thing to note here is that this mode is best used when the camera is on a tripod; as the process of pressing the shutter button twice without shaking the camera is quite a task. You may also use a ML-L3 remote as well, just in case you want to be extra careful.

That is all you need to know about your camera’s release mode dial. Put it to work now and let us know your experience with it.

Speaking Of Working For Free.

Should You Ever Work For Free?

Let me preface whatever I want to say in this blog by saying that photography like any other business is a BUSINESS. There are investments vis-à-vis your camera, lights, strobes, lenses and the most important of all your TIME. The time that could have been spent on something else other than perfecting the art of photography. Our time isn’t free.

worker

Like every business there are profits and losses and a host of infrastructure needed to be laid out just so that we are able to take the camera out and shoot. We have to know a lot about our craft, prepare for it a lot just to deliver what you wish for. If just owning a camera is enough to call someone a photographer then practically everyone is a photographer….isn’t it?

free photographers

Let Me Be Perfectly Clear Now:

Photography is a service. Let me speak my mind now and list a few other services that I can mention just over the top of my head.  Okay so we have Doctors, Electricians, Makeup Artists, Content writers, Singers, Stage Performers, etc. Let us just for the sake of it pick up the doctor now. The person, whom the state has given permission to practice medicine, calls himself a “doctor”.

He had to go through tremendous amount of training before he could be called a ‘Doctor’. He had to study a lot, dedicate many years to it and pass many an exam to be proficient enough to heal you when he looks at the symptoms. Guess what it…it is the same with photography.

photographer chopper

A photographer is not someone who came out of the mother’s womb holding a camera. A photographer like a doctor had to study his art for long; then he had to master it and finally, he matters now. He had to undergo a lot to win you as a paying client and offer his services. It takes a lot of knowledge gathering, know-how and dedication to do what you might think is nothing but just pointing an expensive camera and pressing the shutter.

The Famous Trick:

I have encountered many people who tried very hard to trick me to do a photo shoot for them or offer them my photographs for free. “Please come to my wedding, it has been a long time since we met…and by the way if you could bring your camera and a light”. I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t even have a reply to these kind of requests, seriously now…are you asking me to come to your wedding as a friend or am I considered a free mode of getting photographs. And in any case I am a street photographer remember. So, unless your wedding is on the street, stop calling me.

Angry Lion

These people; they are not bad people, they just have a different set of philosophy that leads them to believe that a photographer is just a nut with an expensive camera. Can you name any other service that you can just call and ask them to do it for free or worse for some credit that nobody would even see? Guess not..!!!

What The Hell Is Your Philosophy?

I simply cannot understand what makes people think that this is not a real business that is focused on making a living out of. I have even heard people say “…Oh! That took you only so much money to print and you are charging so much more…” Drawing a reference from still another example; would you ask a painter or an artist to charge you whatever the canvas and paints cost?Would you ask a singer to charge you only the amount that they paid for the CD? Why the hell are you asking us to do that?

The photographer is an artist remember. It is he who decides what goes where in his “canvas” and makes your photographs look so much better. And if you see absolutely no value in the images and expect to get those photographs at the rate that the lab charged the photographer, maybe you can fill in for the photographer too. You do his job and voila…..you don’t have to pay him a rupee.

photographer wild

Photography may look like a gold mine from a distance but trust me when I say this, it is NOT! It may look from the outside that all we have to do is show up with a camera and then dump whatever we gather in a lab which then develops the prints. BUT It is so much more than that. The preparation list is endless. We really work hard to give you the results that you want. So that your big days remains forever etched in your heart and the photographs we take forever remind you how beautiful you are. Beautiful not pretty!

I just had to vent out this to get it out of my system. I am sorry if this seems like a random rambling, but it was important to me. So, if you cannot respect a photographer for what he does and consider him a replaceable part of the system; maybe you should stay at an arm’s distance from them. For the rest of you if you find any sense in this at all, please do not ask anyone to work for you for FREE! It simply is insulting and it hurts.

Top Seven Ways To Keep Your Prints Awesome Forever.

Do You Have a Lot Of Prints? Here Are A Few Ways That You Can Use To Preserve Them Forever.

Photographs are more than just images printed on paper, they are a reminder of a special moment that silently exists even today. Taking care of these photographs are taking care of those moments that you cared about.

I think of photographs as a piece of our lived life that we managed to freeze in time, forever. These moments are priceless and so the reason to safeguard these printed images is paramount. Because ‘the images do not change, even if people in them change’. Here are a few ways you can take care of all those amazing images that you have.

printed photo

Back them up:

Most of the photographs that are taken today are through a digital mediums; digital cameras, cell phones, etc. Hence backing these up is a good start. Preserving them in at least in two places is a good idea. You may write them up on a good quality DVD and keep another copy on your computer’s hard disk or an external hard disk.

photographs backup

If you have any old images already printed on paper then keep them in a safe place away from direct sunlight or moisture. Scan and keep a digital copy of the photographs as I said before. Digital images are a lot easier to preserve than printed images. Make multiple copies of the printed images and give them out to friends and relatives to keep; so that the photographs get stored at different location, just in case.

photographs negative

Preserve old negative too like the photographs, they may come in handy if the original image is damaged later on for any reason.

Opt for good quality paper while printing images:

Most people while taking deliveries of their photos do not look carefully at the back to figure out the type of paper on which the images have been printed. There are various kinds of paper that studios generally use to print photos. Make sure you ask about it before you place an order for your photographs. Ask for archival-quality paper. This will ensure long life of your photographs as they are very durable and long lasting.

photographs paper

Keep Them In A Photo Friendly Place:

Direct Sunlight (yes, sunlight falling directly on the image you have on the wall, that too!), high humidity or moisture, insects, dust, substantial fluctuations in temperature may all prematurely damage your printed images and cause them to fade away.

photographs wall

If possible keep your photos in a wooden box (since wood is a good insulator) or even an old shoe box and place a few silica gel packets inside. This will contain the humidity well. You may find silica gel in new shoe boxes or you may buy some from a drugstore. You can also create a larger storage space, if you have many photographs, made of wood and place a low-powered light bulb inside to contain the humidity.

wood box photographs

Handle with care:

Prints are very susceptible to oils and other dirt on our hands. Try not to touch the surface of the print. Hold them along the edges and never with dirty hands. These are photographs remember, you just cannot go out and buy another set, so treat them with respect.

photographs edge

Maintain Them:

Find time and revisit your photographs once in a while. Look for any sign of wear and tear and treat them as soon as you can. If you do not nip the problems in the bud, they will only grow overtime. Protect your photos against fungus by cleaning them occasionally with some cotton and alcohol. Never glue your photos into the albums. The glue will only damage the photographs if kept in contact for long periods of time.

Be Organized:

Catalog your prints in such a manner so that it is easy for you to remember and find out where is what. Use labels if needed. Do not keep a bunch of loose photos together. In due course of time, they will either get lost or get stuck together, something that you really don’t want. If you use an album, always use acid-free version of it.

organize

Framed and Laminated Photographs:

Framed and laminated images also need some love and care. Please do not think that just because you have got them laminated you can leave them to take abuse from the environment. Make sure that the wall on which these photos are on are not subjected to direct sunlight. Clean them regularly with water or mild chemical cleaners so that they remain in pristine condition.

clean

Your photographs are like little windows into your past. Only they have the capability to take you right to the moment when something amazing happened. They offer you something invaluable and priceless. So love them a little, they will always remind you of something beautiful.