Category Archives: Tutorials

Wildlife Photography tips for beginners – I

For perfect photography of wildlife along with the skills we need to have the perfect equipment and the camera set. In this page you will get to know the best tools required for wildlife photography.

1. Best focal length for wildlife photography:

There is not a perfect answer to this question. Although the photographers across the globe prefers the 400 mm for many reasons.

NIKON D4 + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/8.0
NIKON D4 + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/8.0

The key component of the 400mm is its MFD. Minimum Focusing Distance often plays a huge role in Wildlife photography. You can do it with any focal length but for wildlife and especially in the beginning, the 400mm just takes away all the credit.

NIKON D3X + 200-400mm f/4 @ 340mm, ISO 100, 1/30, f/6.7
NIKON D3X + 200-400mm f/4 @ 340mm, ISO 100, 1/30, f/6.7

2. DX or FX for wildlife photography:

The debate of DX vs. FX for wildlife photography is a never ending one. DX shooters argue that they get more reach; setups are lighter due to smaller lenses and less expensive and have reduced optical issues.

On the other side the FX shooters argue that they get better image quality at pixel level, better viewfinder, less diffraction issues, better AF performance in low-light, etc.

The following points will draw a comparison between DX and FX-

  • Pixel size and resolution: Both Nikon D300 (DX) and D700 (FX) despite having sensors of completely different sizes, the two cameras produce images of similar size / resolution. However, the D300 has a lot more noise than the D700 due to smaller pixel size.

So despite having this magnification advantage, photographers had to constantly deal with cleaning up apparent noise even at relatively low ISO levels.

  • The impact of Diffraction: Smaller pixels magnify a lot of things and one of them is diffraction. DX sensors are typically impacted by diffraction at f/11 and smaller.

Take a look at the following chart:

Nikon DSLR D300S D7000 D7100 D600/D610 D800 D4
Effective Resolution 12.3 MP 16.2 MP 24.1 MP 24.3 MP 36.3 MP 16.2 MP
Image Resolution 4,288×2,848 4,928×3,264 6,000×4,000 6,016×4,016 7,360×4,912 4,928×3,280
Sensor Size 23.6×15.8mm 23.6×15.6mm 23.5×15.6mm 35.9×24.0mm 35.9×24.0mm 36.0×23.9mm
Diffraction Limit f/17.6 f/15.3 f/12.5 f/19.0 f/15.6 f/23.4
  • DX have lighter lenses: The DX lenses are lighter and cheaper. While that statement certainly holds true for wide and standard lenses, it is absolutely not true for telephoto and super telephoto lenses. DX shooters have no super telephoto DX lenses to choose from.
  • DX cost advantage: The only real advantage of DX over FX today, is cost. But with such offers as the D600 and the price of FX sensors continuously coming down, that huge cost difference is not there anymore. If in the past you had to spend 2-3x+ to move up to FX, today that difference is much smaller.

Summary:

In summary, FX is better than DX for wildlife photography.  The only reason why anyone should be shooting with DX is lower cost. If you can afford high-end FX, there is very little reason to stick with DX.

Photography tricks and guidelines for beginners

The very basics of photography lie on the camera setting but the real art of photography lies in the composition. Simply we can say, composition is the way in which elements are arranged in an image. Composition includes all the elements in a photo and not just the primary subject.

For all the good that rules do in photography, they have the ugly side-effect of stifling freedom and individual creativity.  And what is photography? A way to express creativity and artistic freedom. So, there shouldn’t be any “rules”!

In order to develop a good understanding of how photographic composition works, let’s take a look at some of the basic rules or rather we can say guidelines of composition for learning photography.

1. The One-third rule:

Avoid placing your subject at the center of your frame.Iin these kind of situation if you  use center focusing point, then you may end up placing our subject at the horizontal center of the frame.

That will include a lot of black foreground and will spoil the picture.

Basic tricks for beginners for photography
Courtesy: Sudhir Shivaram

2. Viewpoint:

Viewpoint can dramatically change the mood of a photograph or can also change the viewer’s perception of an object’s size.

To emphasize the height of a tree, for example, shoot it from below, looking up. To make something seem smaller, shoot it from above, looking down

Viewpoint isn’t just limited to high, low and eye-level of course – you can also radically change the perception of an object by shooting it from a distance or from close up.Basic tricks for beginners for photography

3. Color:

 Use of color can dramatically change a viewer’s perception of an image. Cool colors (blues and greens) can make your viewer feel calm, tranquil or at peace.Reds and yellows can invoke feelings of happiness, excitement and optimism. A sudden spot of bright color on an otherwise monochromatic background can provide a strong focal point.

Basic tricks for beginners for photography2

4. Background:

 Background is one of the important aspects of photography. If the background is busy and doesn’t add anything to your composition, try using a wider aperture so those distracting elements will become a non-descript blur.

Basic tricks for beginners for photography3

5. Texture:

 Texture is another way of creating dimension in a photograph. By zooming in on a textured surface – even a flat one – you can make it seem as if your photograph lives in three dimensions.

Basic tricks for beginners for photography4

6. Leaving Space:

 This rule of photography incorporates two very similar ideas: breathing room and implied movement. To make your subject comfortable, you need to give him a bigger box that allows him some visual freedom and/or freedom of movement.

If your subject is looking at something (even something off-camera), make sure there is some space for him to look into.

Basic tricks for beginners for photography5

Conclusion:

 Actually, there really is no conclusion to any discussion of photographic rules. Because unlike that “keep out” sign posted in front of the most beautiful part of the forest, the rules of photography aren’t meant to stifle your creativity. They are meant to provide you with guidelines for enhancing it.

Professional tips to take great travel photos

Getting perfectly balanced travel photos is always a challenge. Below are some of the tips and tricks that will surely help you to get great pictures in your next trip.

To get Better Balance, brighten the shadows and tone down the highlights

Most photo editing application includes tools to adjust highlights and shadows. By using this tool we can balance the exposure by brightening the shadows and darkening the highlights. We can include some warm hues to outdoor photos to make the result brighter and more even toned.

Better Balance photography

Add vignette and amp up shadows to increase brightness.

Add a hint of vignette and a subtle dark border around the photo, brightening the middle of the image. This slowly guides your audience’s gaze towards the center of your picture. It will create stunning images, grab the attention of your audience and help them rediscover the beauty of photography!

vignette-and-amp-up-shadows
BeForeAfter

Edit the photo, then go back and reduce your adjustments by 50%

The trick to maintaining the integrity of your photo is to not filter and edit them too heavily. Edit your image as normal then dial back everything to 50%.

Another advice: “Stay away from clarity! Also known as Lux in Instagram.” Clarity and Lux are intended to “fix” underexposure and lack of contrast. But the use of these tools often make images look Editted and Photoshopped.

Put human whenever possible in landscape photography. Landscapes are better with people in them.

“It’s like your living vicariously through the subject … People create a feeling,” Rise said.

Put human whenever possible in landscape photography

Setting your camera on the roof of your car can give some visual interest.

If there are cool cloud formations above, the reflections from your car’s roof can add a lot to your photography.

Cole Rise
Cole Rise

Putting your DSLR camera right to the water’s edge can also create cool reflective effects.

Getting low on the ground can give you more interesting foreground

low-ground-shot-photography
Grayling High School Art

Bad weather can be used as a great photo weather

Rain and hail are actually great conditions for a good photo! If it’s raining or snowing at night, you can leave your flash on and use Slow Shutter Cam to create streaks.

Overcast days can also mean interesting cloud patterns in the sky, so don’t stay indoors if the weather isn’t stellar.

Bad Weather photography
Danny Santos

The most important thing to do is to “travel further and travel more.”

“Keep hiking. Be the crazy one.” The only way to find beautiful, epic places is to, simply, explore. If you’re visiting a monument, drive away from the tourists. Push yourself to go even further.

funny-crazy-photographers-behind-the-scenes
Phil Brick

Happy Photography!

7 photography tricks to take expert photos using smartphone

Capturing moments in your smartphone or DSLR is a rising trend. With improving smart phone capabilities, apps, free photography sites and e-books, it is becoming easier day by day. Whether you are striving for more impressive Instagram-worthy shots on your smart phone, or you are a DSLR photographer in the making, these tricks will help lead you down the road of picture taking mastery.

1. Be in multiple places at once with an easy panoramic trick

Be in two places at once with an easy panoramic trick

With the help from a friend and a little loping, you can pose in the single frame multiple times. Open your phone’s camera app and select the panoramic mode. Ask your friend start on the far left of the frame and slowly pan to the right. As soon as you are out of the frame run around behind your friend and pose again somewhere to the right. Play around with it to see how many times you can appear into the frame.

2. Use panoramic shots to click vertical photograph, change the direction and angle

 panoramic shots to click vertical photograph

These aren’t complicated, but they might be something you haven’t realized yet. Change the panning direction by simply tapping the arrow and it will switch direction. Take vertical panoramic photos by rotating your smart phone so that you are holding it in landscape orientation. Instead of panning horizontally, pan vertically from low to high, or high to low.

3. Capture Both Sides of the Moment with the Frontback App

Capture Both Sides of the Moment with the Frontback App

The app (on Google Play and in iTunes) uses the front and back of your camera to capture what you see and how you feel at any moment. Some have described it as having your face being the emotion, or caption, for what you are seeing and experiencing. If about to bungee jump off a bridge your frontback image might show the view of the drop and perhaps your anxious selfie before the jump. Once you’ve taken a photo, you can share it in a single image to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the app’s news feed.

4. Create Your Own Macro Lens Using Drop of Water on Your Smart Phone

Create Your Own Macro Lens Using Drop of Water on Your Smart Phone

Another Macro Lens trick is to use a straw to drop a small droplet of water on your smartphone lens to magnify your image immensely. A small drop won’t run off when you pick up your phone to take a picture.

5. Perfect the simple silhouette by taking an exposure reading from the sky

Put your subject in front of a light source (often the sun) and turn off your flash. Set your camera to spot metering and point the camera towards a brighter part of the sky (but not the sun). You can take an exposure reading by pressing your shutter button half way down.

Put your subject in front of a light source (often the sun) and turn off your flash. Set your camera to spot metering and point the camera towards a brighter part of the sky (but not the sun). You can take an exposure reading by pressing your shutter button half way down.

6. Take backlight photos at golden hour for desirable portraits with a warm glow

backlight photos at golden hour

The golden hour in photography is the first and last hour of sunlight of the day, where you get the desired soft light for halo like portraits. And if you really want to be precise, there is an app for that. The Golden Hour App shows you the path of the sun in the sky for the location and date selected.

7. Use Mobile Apps, to enhance your smart phone pictures

Mobile Apps, to enhance your smart phone pictures

Photography apps on smart phones have come a long way. While smartphones don’t offer the professional capabilities of DSLR camera, you can still use these apps to help adjust and enhance your photos to take them to a new level.

Two favorites are Camera Awesome (iphone and Android) and Camera + (iphone and ipad). Camera Awesome has an easy-to-set timer and burst feature. It also allows you to set ISO, white balance and exposure separately.


 

 

10 Basic Techniques for Optimizing Your Photos with Adobe Lightroom

If you’re just starting out in Adobe Lightroom and would like some guidance on how you can use the software to improve your photographs, here’s a free lesson that may be of interest to you. Photography instructor Tim Grey shares his top 10 tips for optimizing photographs in Lightroom.

The talk runs for nearly 2 hours, so you’ll need to carve a chunk out of your day to watch it, but it could be helpful for anyone in need of a primer on some basic tools.

Grey offers a number of techniques that you can include in your image-optimization workflow beyond the basic Develop module, using adjustments to correct the noise, chromatic aberration, and perspective distortions seen in your photos.

In case you’d like to jump around in the video, here’s a “table of contents” with topics and the time at which they appear:

  • Start with the Basics (1:00)
  • Embrace “Presence” (20:00)
  • Isolate Colors (25:25)
  • Don’t Ignore Noise (33:20)
  • Check for Chromatic Aberrations (41:50)
  • Correct for the Lens (50:30)
  • Crop (Almost Always) (1:05:30)
  • Go (Virtually) Black and White (1:17:30)
  • Cleanup (and More) in Photoshop (1:27:00)
  • Get Targeted (1:42:45)

6 Techniques to avoid blurry photographs with your camera

Getting a steady image without using Tripod or lenses with VR (Vibration Reduction) or IS (Image Stabilization) is always a challenge. Even though for a beginner having this accessories came at a reasonable expense. So below are some techniques that surely helps to reduce camera shake.

6 Techniques to Reduce Camera Shake

Here are 6 options for avoiding camera shake and achieving crisp, delicious images no matter the length of the lens, no matter the shutter speed.

1. Elbows In

As often as possible pull your elbows in to your body and exhale completely before depressing the shutter. When you’re working with a wide aperture or low shutter speed (or both), even a breath can introduce shake. Pulling your elbows tight to your body can really help keep you steady. I also press my elbows firmly into my chest for even greater stability.

Tips to avoid camera shake at http://dslr.rocks

2. Raise Your Left Shoulder

I am definitely a right eyed photographer, but this tip that I learned from “The Moment It Clicks” by Joe McNally, requires that I shift for a moment to my left eye. What I’m doing here is raising my left shoulder, and bracing my left elbow into my rib-cage (no arrow for this one). For further stability, you can pull your right elbow in to your chest. As always, exhale completely before depressing the shutter to avoid introducing shake.

Techniques to avoid blurry images at http://dslr.rocks

3. Create a Tripod With Your Knee

You can create your own tripod by resting your elbow on your knee while in a seated position. Again, bring that other elbow in for greater support.

best photography tips at http://dslr.rocks

4. Lay Down

These two images illustrate perhaps the most obvious way to avoid shake without a tripod. Lie flat and let the lens sit directly on the ground. The problem with this is that you’re likely to have quite a downward tilt to the lens and unless you’re aiming to photograph the pavement, you probably won’t end up with the shot you’re hoping for. In the first image you’ll notice that I placed my hand flat against the cement and balanced the lens on top of it to give myself some height. In the second image you’ll see that I created a fist with my hand to give myself even greater height.

avoid camera shake article at http://dslr.rocks

5. The Machine Gun Hold

This next technique is sometimes referred to as the machine gun hold. I rarely use this technique as I find it awkward and difficult to maintain for more than a second or two. Just because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t for you. . . give it a try.

Machine Gun Hold position avoiding camera shake at http://dslr.rocks

6. Cradle It

In this next image you’ll see that I created a sort of cradle for the lens between my shoulder and my wrist. I also stabilized the hold by balancing my elbow on my knee.

avoiding-camera-shake

Please feel free to share for tips and tricks to avoid camera shake in the comment section below.

This article is originally posted by Natalie Norton in Digital Photography School

A complete guide for a beginner to start DSLR photography

If you are a beginner and unsure of how to make the most of your DSLR camera [Canon EOS Rebel T5 Digital SLR Camera is a good choice for beginner] then this article is designed for you. This article will cover enough of the basics to get you in control of your camera from auto to manual mode, and give you the key topics to go back to your manual to read.

Let’s start with the tropics below:

1. Shooting modes

The shooting modes will most likely be found on a dial labelled with ‘auto, Av, Tv, P, M’ and maybe more.  Selecting a shooting mode will determine how your camera behaves when you press the shutter, for example, when ‘auto’ is selected, the camera will determine everything to do with the exposure, including the aperture and shutter speed.  The other modes, ‘Av, Tv, P, M’, are there to give you control. Different manufacturers use different abbreviations for the shooting modes.  Your mode dial may have the letters ‘A, S, P, M’ (instead of Av, Tv, P, M), yet they all function in the same way.  Below, I have given each abbreviation for the given mode.

Aperture Priority (Av or A)

Aperture priority can be thought of as a ‘semi-automatic’ shooting mode.  When this is selected, you as the photographer set the aperture and the camera will automatically select the shutter speed.

The aperture is the size of the opening in the lens through which light is allowed to pass whenever the shutter is opened – the larger the aperture, the more light passes through.

The aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’ and is usually displayed using an ‘f-number’, e.g. f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0 etc, which is a ratio of focal length over diameter of the opening.  Therefore, a larger aperture (a wider opening) has a smaller f-number (e.g. f/2.0) and smaller aperture (a narrower opening) has a larger f-number (e.g. f/22).  Reducing the aperture by one whole f-stop, e.g. f/2.0 to f2/8 or f/5.6 to f/8.0, halves the amount of light entering the camera.

Tutorial for aperature control for DSLR camera at http://dslr.rocksAperture is one of the most important aspects of photography as it directly influences the depth of field – that is, the amount of an image that is in focus.  A large depth of field (achieved by using a small aperture (large f-number)) would mean that a large distance within the scene is in focus.

Whereas a shallow depth of field (achieved by using a large aperture (small f-number)) would produce an image where only the subject is in sharp focus, but the background is soft and out of focus.  This is often used when shooting portraiture or wildlife.

So when using aperture priority, you can get complete control over your depth of field, whilst the camera takes care of the rest.

Shutter Priority (Tv or S)

Similarly to aperture priority, this is another ‘semi-automatic’ shooting mode, here you will control the shutter speed and the camera will take care of the aperture. The shutter speed, measured in seconds (or more often fractions of a second), is the amount of time the shutter stays open when taking a photograph. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light passes through to the sensor to be captured.

You would select a short shutter speed if you wanted to freeze a fast moving subject, such as shooting sports, action or wildlife, for example:

A very fast shutter speed example at http://dslr.rocks
A very fast shutter speed example

You would use a long shutter speed if you wanted to blur a moving subject, for example water rushing over a waterfall. It is always best to keep the camera on a good tripod to ensure the camera is held steady whilst the shutter is open.

To capture the motion of the waves, and render the water with a soft, milky texture, a shutter speed of 6 seconds was used here at http://dslr.rocks
To capture the motion of the waves, and render the water with a soft, milky texture, a shutter speed of 6 seconds was used here

So whilst you worry about what shutter speed you need for a given photograph, the camera will determine the appropriate aperture required to give the correct exposure.

Program (P)

Program mode is almost a halfway house between the semi-automatic modes of aperture/shutter priority and full manual control.  In program mode, you are able to set either the aperture or shutter speed, and the camera will maintain the correct exposure by adjusting the other one accordingly, i.e. as you change the aperture, the shutter speed will automatically change, and vice versa.  This gives you additional freedom that using either aperture priority or shutter priority cannot give without switching between shooting modes.

2. ISO

ISO is a measure of how sensitive the sensor of your camera is to light. The ISO sensitivity is represented numerically from ISO 100 (low sensitivity) up to ISO 6400 (high sensitivity) and beyond, and controls the amount of light required by the sensor to achieve a given exposure.

What is ISO in photography. DSLR ROCKS at http://dslr.rocksAt ‘low’ sensitivities, more light is required to achieve a given exposure compared to high sensitivities where less light is required to achieve the same exposure.

Low ISO numbers

For outdoor photography, on a bright sunny day there is a lot of available light that will hit the sensor during an exposure, meaning that the sensor does not need to be very sensitive in order to achieve a correct exposure.  Therefore, you could use a low ISO number, such as ISO 100 or 200.  This will give you images of the highest quality, with very little grain (or noise).

High ISO numbers

If shooting in low light conditions, such as inside a dark room for example, there is not much light available for your camera sensor.  A high ISO number, such as ISO 3200, will increase the sensitivity of the sensor, effectively multiplying the small amount of available light to give you a correctly exposed image.  This multiplication effect comes with a side effect of increased noise on the image, which looks like a fine grain, reducing the overall image quality.  The noise will be most pronounced in the darker/shadow regions.

Quick Note: You want to keep the ISO as low as possible, as the lower the ISO, the less noise and the higher the quality of the resulting image. Outside on a sunny day, select ISO200 and see how it goes. If it clouds over, maybe select an ISO between 400-800. If you move indoors, consider an ISO of around 1600 or above

3. Completion of the Exposure Triangle

It’s important to note that aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all part of the ‘exposure triangle’.  They all control either the amount of light entering the camera (aperture, shutter speed) or the amount of light required by the camera (ISO) for a given exposure.

Therefore, they are all linked, and understanding the relationship between them is crucial to being able to take control of your camera.  A change in one of the settings will impact the other two.  For example, considering a theoretical exposure of ISO400, f/8.0, 1/10th second.  If you wanted to reduce the depth of field, and decided to use an aperture of f/4.0, you would be increasing the size of the aperture by two whole f/stops, therefore increasing the amount of light entering the camera by a factor of 4 (i.e. increasing by a factor of 2, twice).  Therefore, to balance the exposure, you could do the following:

  • Situation 1: Reduce the shutter speed by a factor of 4, i.e. to 1/40th second.
  • Situation 2: Reduce the ISO by a factor of 4, i.e. to ISO100
  • Situation 3: A combination of the above, shutter speed by a factor of 2 (to 1/20th second) AND reduce the ISO bv a factor of 2 (to ISO200).
shutter speed and ISO for dslr photography at http://dslr.rocks
Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all factors that influence your exposure, and are all linked. It’s just a case of balancing the books!

They all have the net effect of reducing the amount of light by a factor of 4, countering the change in aperture.  It’s just a case of understanding that they are all linked, and so changing one setting, will cause a change in another.

Using a combination of the semi-automatic shooting modes and auto-ISO would mean you won’t necessarily need to think about adjusting your exposure in such a way initially, however understanding the relationship that ISO or aperture has with shutter speed, and knowing the practical implications is a big step in mastering your DSLR.

4. Metering

When taking a photograph, using any form of automatic exposure calculation (e.g. aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, auto-ISO etc) the camera always tries to calculate an ‘average’ exposure.  It will assess the entire scene, both light and dark areas, and determine the exposure so that all of the tones within the entire image average to 18% grey – called the ‘middle’ grey. This is call metering.

Due to metering when you point the camera to bright white screen and take a photograph the resulting image appears darker. Similarly if you point the camera to much darker scene and take photograph the resulting Image is much brighter.

However, you can control what areas of the scene are being assessed by the camera in order to influence the way in which the exposure is metered.

Generally, there are three metering modes that you can choose from:

Average – The camera will assess the tones across the entire image form corner to corner, and expose the scene to 18% grey from that assessment.

Centre-weighted – The camera weights the exposure reading for the area in the center of the viewfinder that can total up to approximately 80% of the scene, ignoring the extreme corners of the image.

Spot metering – The camera will use a very small area of the scene, typically a small circle in the center of the viewfinder that totals approximately 5% of the viewfinder area.  It will make the assessment of dark/light tones in this area and expose the entire scene to 18% grey, from that assessment.

Exposure compensation

Exposure compensation button at http://dslr.rocks

Generally found on a small +/- button near the shutter, this is one of the most useful functions to learn how to use. It allows you to either increase or decrease the cameras default meter reading to account for the actual brightness of a scene.

If a scene contains primarily bright tones and is being rendered too dark, for example, a bright white snow scene (that will typically be reduced to 18% grey by the default metering system), you can apply positive exposure compensation to let the camera know that the scene should be lighter than middle grey.

Conversely, if a scene contains primarily dark tones and is being rendered too light, for example, a dark night scene (that will typically be increased to 18% grey by the default metering system), you can apply negative exposure compensation to let the camera know that the scene should be darker than middle grey.

dslr exposure compensation at http://dslr.rocks

5. Focusing

Regardless of what shooting mode you are using, or what ISO you define, the chances are there will be a subject of your image that you want to have in focus.  If that focus is not achieved, the image will not be what you wanted.

Autofocus modes
DSLRs come with a range of autofocus modes, however, for simplicity, the two that are most important to understand are AF-S and AF-C

AF-S – autofocus-single: This is best used when taking photos of stationary subjects such as portraits of people, landscapes, buildings etc.  When you half-press the shutter, the focus will be acquired and locked on that point for as long as you hold the button down. If you want to change to focus, you need to release the button, recompose and then re-half-press.

AF-C – autofocus-continuous: This is best used when taking photos of action or moving subjects such as sports and wildlife.  When you half-press the shutter, focus will be acquired and locked on to a given subject.  When that subject moves, the focus will adjust with it, refocusing all of the time until the photograph is taken.

(These modes are not to be confused with the AF/MF switches on the lens, where AF stands for autofocus and MF stands for manual focus.  That switch is an override for if you want to manually focus your lens.  If you want to make use of the autofocus modes discussed above, ensure the lens is set to AF).

Focus Points
Both of those focus modes rely on what are known as focus points.  When you look through the viewfinder, you should see a number of squares/dots overlaid across the screen.  When you half-press the shutter, you should see one of these squares be highlighted in red.  That is the active focus point, and it is that position within the frame that the camera is focusing on.  A viewfinder with 9 focus points is shown below:

Focus point for DSLR at http://dslr.rocksNew DSLRs can come with over 50 focus points and the temptation is to leave it on fully automatic focus point selection, with the thinking that the camera will be able to select the correct focus point.  However, only you know what you want to focus on, and there is no better way than ensuring the correct subject is in focus than by using one focus point, and placing that focus point over the subject.

6. File Size/Types

You will have the option to be able to change the size of the images that your camera records, and in which file type. You want to set the file size to the largest possible (whether it is ‘large’ or ‘fine’ or ‘super fine’) to ensure that you are making the most of the mega pixels that you have just invested in.

You will also have the option of choosing whether to record the images as ‘raw’ or ‘jpeg’ file type. A raw file is uncompressed, and so contains a lot of image data that allows for a lot of flexibility during post-processing (i.e. on your computer) but also comes with additional complications such as the need to ‘process’ every file using dedicated editing software and a larger file size. A jpeg is a compressed file type, which is automatically processed by the camera.

7. White Balance

If shooting in jpeg, as recommended above, you will need to make sure you set your white balance before taking a picture. The white balance can significantly impact color tone of your photographs. You may have noticed that sometimes your images have a blueish tone to them or, in others, everything looks very orange. This is to do with the white balance and, whilst you can make some adjustments to the image on your computer, it is much simpler if you get it right up-front.

Different light sources (such as the sun, light bulbs, fluorescent strips etc) emit light of different wavelengths, and therefore colors, which can be described by what is known as color temperature.  Light from a candle, or from the sun during sunrise/sunset, is very warm, and contains a lot of red/orange wavelengths; whereas light from a fluorescent strip is much cooler, containing a lot of blue wavelengths.  This colored light is reflected off of surfaces, but our brain in clever enough to recognize this and automatically counter the effect, meaning that we still see a white surface as a white surface.  However, your camera is not that intelligent, and unless told otherwise, will record the orange or blue tones giving the color cast to your images.

White Balance DSLR PhotographyAs the color temperature of different light sources is well known, there are a number of presets built into your camera that help to overcome the different colors of light in different situations – cooling the warm light, and warming the cool light – all in the cause of trying to capture the colors of the scene accurately.  The ‘auto’ feature (auto WB or AWB) will attempt to predict the color of the light by detecting the predominant color of the scene and then countering it, however it may not necessarily make a correct decision, leaving you with inaccurate colors.  Therefore it is best to set the color balance before you take your image and just to make sure (note: the above image was a raw file giving me a lot of latitude for white balance correction.  Jpeg files are not as susceptible to white balance adjustments, meaning the white balance correction needs to be made before the image is taken):

Daylight – To be used on clear sunny days.  Bright sunlight, on a clear day is as near to neutral light that we generally get

Cloudy – To be used when shooting on a cloudy day.  Adds warm tones to daylight images.

Shade – To be used if shooting in the shade, as shaded areas generally produce cooler, bluer images, so need warming up.

Tungsten – Used for shooting indoors, under incandescent light bulbs, or under street lights, to cool down the yellow tones.

Fluorescent – Compensates for the green/blue tones of fluorescent light strips when shooting indoors.

Flash – the flash will add a cool blue cast to the image, so used to add some warmth.

Quick Note: Avoid auto white balance and set the white balance manually. Generally, you will be able to look up at the sky and see what kind of day it is, and determine the color balance required pretty easily. If you move indoors, just check the lighting that you are shooting under, and again select the appropriate white balance. It will soon become second nature to set it as you take your camera out of the bag.

Quick advice on underwater photography for beginners

Before going for underwater photography, it really helps to use your camera indoors, in a dimly lit room. Take some photos with the camera inside the housing, macro mode, flash on. Take photos of some small objects, and see how your photos come out. Test out the range of the camera with macro mode on and off.

Some quick tips for underwater photography

  1. For most photos (within 3-4 feet), you will need the flash on. Make sure your flash is set to “forced flash”, not “auto-flash”. The flash will add color to your shots, otherwise they will look blue.
  2. For most photos, you’ll want to be in macro mode. Learn how to turn macro mode on and off. You need to know the range of your macro mode. For most cameras this range will be 1-2 inches to 2 feet (2.5-5cm to 60cm). Any closer and you can’t take a photo. Further away, you must turn macro mode off. Make sure you are zoomed out (see #4)
  3. Turn your internal flash on if you are within 2-3 feet of a subject. Further than 3 feet, turn the internal flash off. Unless the subject is really interesting and fast (shark, manta ray), I highly suggest getting within 3 feet of the subject and using the flash. Otherwise, your photo will look blue. Use auto-white balance when you are using your internal flash. Don’t use “cloudy” white balance or underwater mode with your flash/strobe, that will result in photos that are reddish-orange. Use auto, aperture priority, or full manual mode, depending on your comfort level with camera settings.
  4. For now, keep your camera zoomed out (the widest setting). The reason why this is so important is because it affects how closely you can focus, especially in macro mode.  If you zoom in, you can’t focus as closely to the subject, and that defeats the purpose of macro mode. The better strategy is to get closer to the subject.
  5. Try to get within a few inches of the subject. Try to get very low, at eye-level. Focus at the eyes. Try to get a photo of the subject facing you.
  6. If you are taking photos with the flash off (subjects more than 3 feet away), also known as using ambient light, and you want better color, you must do 1 of two things – either use the underwater mode, or even better, do a manual white balance (custom white balance).
  7.  If you leave the flash on, and take a photo of a subject more than 2-3 feet away, don’t be surprised if your photo has back-scatter in it, unless you are shooting in exceptionally clear water. The only way to solve this is to get closer to the subject, and/or purchase an external strobe.
  8.  Remember – the closer you are, the better your color, contrast and sharpness will be.
  9. Your housing should have come with a “flash diffuser”, although it might be built into the housing. This diffuser will be placed in front of your internal flash and will soften the light. Make sure you use it.
  10. If you are having problems with the lag time between focusing on a subject and taking a shot, you can try “locking focus” by pressing halfway down on the shutter button, and then fine-tweaking your composition and making sure you keep the camera very still. This works better for non-moving subjects.
  11. You can leave your camera on “auto” mode for now, but if your camera has full manual mode (which you can set the shutter speed and aperture/f-stop independently of each other) – that’s the mode you want to be using.
  12. Think about getting an external strobe, that’s the best way to improve your photos. To use the strobe, you need to be able to control your camera’s aperture, and control the power of the strobe.
  13. Set up your camera, housing, and strobe indoors – and then take some practice shots indoors. Test your settings. Everything will work similarly to how it will work underwater, although indoors focusing will be easier, and your strobe will appear to be more powerful. I’m surprised how many people wait until they get underwater to try out settings.
  14. Last, but not least – concentrate on the following two types of underwater photography shots.
  • Close-up shots in macro mode, forced flash, auto-white balance, spot-focus, with the subject no more than 5-6 inches away. Aperture priority (AV) mode if available, F8, otherwise program mode.
  • Scenic coral/reef shots several feet away, macro mode off, flash off, custom white balance, Evaluative (matrix) metering, only in shallow sunny water (25 feet or less). Aperture priority (AV) mode if available at F2.8, otherwise program mode.

Buy your best DSLR from the best few.

An Introduction to DSLR Filmmaking for Beginners | Basic Tutorial

This introduction video for DSLR filmmaking is divided into six parts.
Learn how to set up your camera, shoot in daylight and at night.
This tutorial shows you how to get the cinematic film look that
so many people are talking about.

In the fall of 2008 Vincent Laforet was the first one to use the Canon EOS 5D Mark II which was the first digital SLR capable of recording full HD video. The short film he shot mostly at night, called “Reverie”, become popular over night. Something that Canon never intended got more and more in focus of amateur filmmakers all over the world: Shooting films and commercials with a stills camera. It only took a few month and the first accessories were released. Since then a lot has happened and a lot of TV shows like “House MD” or “CSI Miami” used DSLRs on set. Philip Bloom, another pioneer in digital filmmaking, used cameras on the Lucas Film production “Red Tails”. The small body and the great image quality has fascinated international acclaimed cinematographers like Rodney Charters (“24”). In independent cinema those cameras became indispensable.

A tutorial by Moritz Janisch (Fenchel & Janisch)

10 best tips to learn about DSLR photography

10 best tips to learn about DSLR photography are listed below. Bear in mind that these are only suggestions and observations. Many photographers may disagree with them and DSLR photography is an art with many different photographers taking many different approaches.

1. ISO, the single most important technical thing to know for a DSLR photographer is ISO which technically stands for the International Organization for Standardization and in the old days of film it had to do with film speed. But without getting very technical here, if you are shooting in the dark or a poorly lit room or at night, you can dramatically improve your photos by bumping up your ISO setting. Most digital cameras these days go to 1600.

When you see those blurry shaky photos that people take at night without a flash what is going on here is that the camera lens is being opened on an automatic setting too long to avoid the movement of your hand which produces the blur. By increasing your ISO setting you will be able to shorten the amount of time the lens is open and thus get a less blurry photo due to the ever so slight movement that naturally takes place in your hand when you shoot. Experiment around with your ISO setting and make sure that you understand that it will make a world of difference to the photos you are shooting in low light situations by increasing it.

2. When dealing with low light situations that are still blurry at high ISO settings, find something to brace the camera on. You can set it on a table, chair, bar, etc. You can hold it tight against a light or telephone pole or wall. You can lay on the ground and set it there. Find something for stability. This will dramatically improve your ability to steady the camera in a low light situation.

3. Don’t cheap out on a tripod. Cheap tripods will inevitably break and further, they won’t work right, won’t get your camera at the right angle, will shake in the wind when it’s blowing, etc.  Spend some extra money and buy a good tripod or you will regret it. It should have a ball head and for everyday use be somewhat light and hopefully fit in your back pack. You may want a more sturdy industrious larger tripod for the car, but a basic smaller one for a backpack of good quality is money well spent. Manfrotto Compact Tripod (Black) is a good example to look for.

4. It’s all about the lens. The difference in shots using better lenses is dramatic. With Canon their L Series lenses are amazing – you will not go wrong with any Canon L Series lens. Whether zoom telephoto, macro, wide angle, prime (fixed focal length), all will make dramatically different photos come out of your camera. See our article. Experiment with lenses and make sure that a fair portion of your camera budget is dedicated to at least one if not two quality lenses.

5. Join Flickr. Flickr is almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world. Something happens when you start sharing your artistic photographs with the rest of the world. It’s hard to say why or how it happens but it gives you a tremendous amount of emotional support and genuine satisfaction to see like minded camera geeks sharing their work and appreciating yours.

6. Know your rights. Nowhere are rights more misunderstood than with photographers today. Can you take photos of strangers on the street. Yes. Can you take photos of buildings from the street even after security guards tell you not to? Yes. Can you shoot into an open door from the street into a bar? Yes. Know your rights and stick up for them. This not only helps you but it helps other photographers. For a great primer on your rights as a photographer check out Bert Krage’s excellent .pdf called “The Photographer’s Right

7. Shoot in RAW and then learn how to do the production necessary with your photo processing app to do the minor modifications necessary to make your photo the best that it can be. Raw files take up a lot of space on your hard drive. But being able to make modifications to the exposure, contrast and temperature before really processing the photo makes a huge difference.

8. Photoshop. Almost every digital photo can be improved by editing it. Simple things like bumping contrast, altering saturation, sharpness, selective color, etc. all can make a world of difference. Buy Photoshop or go for free software like Google’s Picasa, it does do a lot of the basics nicely.

9. Take lots and lots and lots of photos when you shoot. Feel free to throw out the vast majority of the shots you shoot. When you see something you like to shoot, shoot 6 shots of the exact same thing. Some will be bad and you can pick the very best one and throw out the rest.

10. Change your perspective. Whenever you think you have your shot framed and captured take your shot and consider different perspectives. Can you get down on the ground (or simply set your camera on the ground and shoot from there standing up) and get a better perspective. Look up. Is there someplace higher you can get. What about closer, further back. Turn around. What’s behind you? Are you missing something great? Look everywhere at once. Keep your eyes open for different ways to take the same shot. Tilt the camera, take a vertical, a horizontal, a diagonal. Crop out the sky. Crop out all of the land but a thin small strip at the bottom. Play with your perspective on a shot and take several different versions of the same thing.

And finally, have fun. Digital photography is a great hobby and can be loads of fun but make sure that you don’t get so serious about it that it stops being fun for you. DSLR photography can be a career option for you if you take much seriously.