Monday, 22 August 2011

Photo Glossary - 13 - Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is a tool provided by most cameras which allows the photographer to manipulate the exposure of a photo in automatic or semi-automatic shooting modes. It is a relative scale, centred around the exposure selected by the camera and can be used to increase or decrease the exposure of the photo.

Exposure compensation is useful in situations where the camera’s reflected light meter does not read correctly (e.g. a beach or snow field) or when you have a complex lighting situation such as a sunset with objects in the foreground or light shining through leaves.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Photo Glossary - 12 - Light Metering

Light metering is the process of measuring the amount of available light and is used to calculate the required camera settings for the correct exposure of a photo. There are two types of light metering in photography, incident light metering and reflected light metering.

In incident light metering the measuring device is held next to the subject and measures the actual light falling on the subject. It gives a very accurate measurement but is cumbersome and time consuming to use. It is usually used in studio situations rather than field work.

In reflected light metering the light meter is located in the same location as the photographer, usually within the camera itself. This is the technique used in all automatic and semi-automatic cameras. Because it measures the amount of light reflected off the subject it is affected by the colour and reflectivity of the subject. For instance, in any given lighting situation, a black road will reflect less light than a white wall. Cameras are calibrated to expect neutral brightness subjects, so scenes with lots of light colours often end up underexposed and those with dark colours overexposed. To compensate for this, photographers sometime use a grey card or neutral brightness object in the area around them (such as grass) to set their exposure and then use those settings for the entire shoot.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Photo Glossary - 11 - Histogram

In photography a histogram is a graphical indication of the brightness content of a photograph. In Excel terms it is a column graph with brightness on the X-axis (running from black on the left to white on the right) and number of pixels on the Y-axis. The curve shows the number of pixels of each brightness in the image so a dark image will be clustered towards the left and a bright image will be clustered towards the right.

Many cameras can display a photo’s histogram, either with the review function or live while shooting. It can be a very useful tool to check your exposure, especially when shooting in difficult lighting conditions, such as a combination of bright and dark in the same frame.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Photo Glossary - 10 - Macro Photography

Put simply macro is taking photos of very small things. True macro photography requires a magnification of 1x (or a ratio of 1:1), in other words you must be able to fill your entire photograph with something the same size as your camera’s sensor. In order to achieve this you need specialised equipment such as a dedicated macro lens for an SLR camera or a magnifying attachment for a compact.

This does not mean however that you need expensive kit if you want to take photographs of small things. Almost every compact camera will have a macro mode (normally represented by a flower) which allows your lens to focus closer than normal. It may not give you true 1:1 but it will definitely get you close enough to take some interesting shots. Just remember to turn the mode off before trying to take normal photographs again!

Macro photography has its own challenges. Because your subject is so close to the camera you will find that the photographs will have very shallow depth of field. The depth of field and proximity also mean that it is very susceptible to movement. Ideally you want to shoot with a small aperture and fast shutter speed, which means that you need a lot of light if you want the shot to be sharp and in focus. Alternatively you can use a tripod, which is cumbersome to move around (particularly when chasing bugs) but gives you a lot more control.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Photo Tip 1 - It's Not About the Camera

Hi everyone, welcome to my first photo tip.

One of the wonderful things about photography is that there are so many different ways to make an image stand out. There are more opportunities and techniques than you can count and your imagination is your only true limitation.

There may be some who’ll disagree with me, but from my point of view there are no “rules” in photography. At the end of the day if an image looks good or has impact, it is a success. That said, there are many valuable guidelines, things that have been found to work over the years. Some of these have been around far longer than photography and were inherited from older art styles such as painting.

Over the next few tips I will be exploring some of these guidelines. You may find them obvious but don’t discount them. They are all potent and can improve your photography without much effort.


It’s not about the camera 

I’d be lying if I said that expensive cameras don’t contribute to the quality of a photograph (clearly they do or professionals wouldn’t use them) but fancy equipment on its own does not take good pictures.

What a high-end camera really does is give the photographer more options and more control. It allows experienced users to set up their camera exactly the way they want it. Fortunately though, you don’t need to shoot in full manual to capture beautiful, powerful images.

Whatever the subject or style, YOU contribute more to your photography than your camera ever does. A well composed, nicely lit picture from a camera phone is always going to be more effective than a blown out, ill conceived shot captured on a Hasselblad (which can cost as much as a small truck).

The trick is to do the best with what you have. Learn the limitations of your equipment and squeeze everything you can from it. It’s easy to dismiss a photo taken by a master as being a product of their expensive gear, but I guarantee that the same master could produce something spectacular with the camera in your pocket. To illustrate this point photographer Chase Jarvis wrote a book entitled “The Best Camera is the One that’s With You”. It’s a photo book filled with images that he took on his iPhone and the results are amazing.

So whatever you do, don’t stand back and blame your tools. Rather use what you have and start working towards your first master piece.

My first digital camera was a Canon IXUS 300, a 2.2Mp point and shoot with a 3x zoom and no manual settings. That camera lived in my pocket for years and took some photos that I am still proud of. More importantly it was a fantastic teacher. It taught me about light, colour and composition. It taught me to look for the photos around me all the time. Best of all, it taught me that I love photography and convinced me to save for my first SLR.

The photo below was taken on that very camera. In fact all of the photos in the next few tips were taken on that camera or ones like it.
Desert Sunrise - Canon IXUS 300 (2.2Mp)
So, whatever your equipment, however experienced you are, grab your camera and get out there.  Look for the shots, keep shooting, keep learning and work towards your next masterpiece.  Remember, photography is not about the camera… it’s about you.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Photo Glossary - 09 - Exposure Locking

Just like focus lock, most cameras have an exposure lock feature.  When using an automatic or semi-automatic mode the camera uses light information from the entire frame to decide how to expose the photo (there are actually several different exposure modes that a camera can use, which will be covered later, and exposure lock works with all of them).  If you wanted to take a photo of someone sitting in shade with a bright blue sky behind them the camera will see all of the brightness and set the exposure for that, leaving your actual subject under exposed.   If you use exposure lock however you can set the exposure for the subject directly, ensuring that the important part of the photo is well exposed.

Like the focus lock this is usually done by pointing the camera at the area that you want well exposed, half depressing the shutter button, then composing the photograph and pressing the button in completely.  Most cameras will lock the focus and the exposure at the same time.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

David and Miné's Wedding - 2011-06-18

Hi everyone,

On Saturday 18 June I attended the wedding of my good friends David and Miné in Cape Town. The ceremony was at St. Georges Cathedral, which is spectacular, and the reception was held at Kelvin Grove. The professional photo shoot was in the city around the cathedral, which made for some fantastic images.

It was a beautiful wedding, full of happiness and a lot of memorable moments.
The Happy Couple
I wasn’t the official photographer for the day so I tried to stay out of his way as much as possible (I did have some serious lens envy though, he was shooting with a 5D MKII, 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8, plus soft box and matching beautiful assistant). I was a groomsman, which meant that I was present for the groom’s preparation and got a few photos that he didn’t.

I spent most of the day shooting with my 50mm f1.8 once again. The reason this time being that I was doing a lot of indoor shooting and didn’t want to distract people with a flash. My 50mm is a very hard working little lens that has served me well over the years. Unfortunately the focus mechanism is getting a little warn and I’m starting to miss shots because of it… hmmm, might be time to upgrade to the 50mm f1.4…

Congratulations to David and Miné. I wish you all that is good in your life together.

The complete gallery can be found here.

The Groom Preparing
Last Minute Speech Writing
Austin 16/6 - The Getaway Car
Detail of Miné's Dress 
Epic Android Wedding Cake
The Dixie Swingers playing after the ceremony

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 08 - Focus Locking

Most cameras give us the option of locking the focus before composing a photo.  This is usually done by pressing the shutter button in half way, holding it in place while you compose and then pushing it in fully to take the photo. 
Suppose that you wanted maximum control of your photograph and had set your camera to focus on the object in the centre of the frame, rather than focussing intelligently.  If you were taking a photo of two people with a small gap between them the camera would focus through the gap on what ever was behind them.  They would be out of focus and the background in focus.  With focus lock you can point the camera at one of the people, push the button in half way as you compose the  photo to include both of them and then push the button all the way in to take the photo.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 07 - Depth of Field

Objects that are not on the focal plane (i.e. closer to or further away from the camera than the focal point is) will always be out of focus.  The further away from the focal plane an object is, the more out of focus it will be.  Objects close to the focal plane will appear to be in focus for the purposes of the photograph.  The distance from the closest object that appears to be in focus to the furthest object that appears to be in focus is called the depth of field.
There are three factors that affect the depth of field of a photograph:
 1.       Aperture of the lens – a large aperture will produce a shallow depth of field and a small aperture will produce a deep depth of field.
 2.       Focal Length of the lens – a long lens (zoomed in) will produce a shallow depth of field while a wide lens (zoomed out) will produce a deep depth of field.
 3.       Distance to the Focal Plane – Focussing close to the camera will produce a shallow depth of field, while focussing far from the camera will produce a deep depth of field.

A deep depth of field is useful when you want to capture an entire scene, for example in landscape photography.  A shallow depth of field is useful when you want to draw attention to your subject only, for example in portrait or wildlife photography.

Additional Info
Although the following doesn’t strictly change the depth of field, it allows you to get the most out of the depth of field that you do have.  Strictly speaking, depth of field is a measure of what distance an object can be from the focal point while remaining in focus.  What we really see when we look at a photo however is the apparent depth of field, which is influenced more by the difference between the sharpest and softest areas of the photo, than the actual, technical depth of field.
The secret to manipulating the apparent depth of field is in controlling the distances from your camera to your subject and from your camera to the background.  In fact it’s the ratio between the two distances that matters.
In order to get an apparently shallow depth of field put your subject close to the camera with the background far behind it.  The bigger the ratio between the distances, the more out of focus the background will be and the shallower the apparent depth of field.  The narrowest depth of field can be obtained by focussing on either the closest or furthest object in the photo.

In order to get an apparently deep depth of field put your subject far from your camera and close to the background.  The smaller the ratio between the distances the less out of focus the background will be and the deeper the apparent depth of field.

The widest depth of field can generally be obtained by focussing at about 2/3 of the distance between your camera and the furthest object in the photo. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 06 - Focal Point/Focal Plane

Focal Point
Focal point has two meanings in photography.
Optical Focal Point is the point of the photo that is in sharpest focus.
Artistic Focal Point is a point of concentration in the photograph that draws the attention of the viewer.
It is quite common for the two focal points to be on the same point in the photograph, for instance the eye or a bird, the centre of a flower or the face of a person in a portrait.

Focal Plane
The focal plane is an imaginary plane that passes through the optical focal point of a lens.  What that means is that everything that is the same distance away from the camera as the optical focal point will also be in focus.  Everything closer to the camera and everything further from the camera will be out of focus.  The degree to which they are out of focus is called the depth of field.
Note:The camera’s sensor is placed on a second focal plane inside the camera, sometimes called the sensor plane.  

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 05 - White Balance

White balance is a setting on most digital cameras that allows the photographer to compensate for colour casts caused by different lighting conditions. All light has a dominant colour. That is not to say that it contains only that colour (such as the light from a red traffic light) but rather that it contains more of that colour than other colours. In general natural light is cool and results in photos with a blue tint, while artificial light is warm and results in photos with a yellow tint. These tints are most noticeable on white objects.
In automatic mode white balance is controlled by the camera.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Natal Midlands - Easter 2011

Over the 2011 Easter weekend I went down to the Natal Midlands with my wife's family and a few friends. It is a very beautiful part of the country and we all enjoyed some time to relax and unwind.

I used my walk about lens, the Sigma 18-200, for most of the shots. It doesn't have the quality of my other lenses but it make up for that with its extreme versatility. I also used my 100mm macro for some of the portraits and detail work.

For the most part post processing was simple levels/colour balance, sharpening and cropping. A few of the portraits proved quite difficult since the back ground was considerably lighter than the subject. The full gallery can be found here.
Glengarry Mountain at Sunrise
Sterling Wrought Iron
Goat at the Cheese Factory
Sibling Love
Giant Wind Chimes
Chandelier Detail

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 04 - ISO Setting

The ISO setting on a camera changes the sensitivity of the sensor. It is equivalent to film speed in analogue cameras. A low ISO setting requires a lot of light to get the correct exposure and is useful for shooting in bright conditions like a beach on a sunny day. A high ISO setting requires very little light to get the correct exposure and is useful for low light situations where you can’t use a flash, like inside a church. A high ISO setting comes at a price though, as it degrades the image quality. Firstly it creates a lot of noise, giving the photo a grainy feel. Secondly it looses colour information, resulting in a low contrast image.
In automatic mode the ISO setting is controlled by the camera.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Photo Glossary - 03 - Aperture

The aperture is a variable opening in the lens that controls the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor in a given time. .  It, in conjunction with the shutter speed and ISO setting, determines the exposure of the photo.  Given a consistent shutter speed and ISO setting a narrow aperture will let in less light and a wide aperture more light.

In addition the aperture affects the amount of the photo that is in focus, called the depth of field.  With a wide aperture only objects close to the focal point will be in focus (shallow depth of field) while with a narrow aperture objects further away from the focal point will be in focus (deep depth of field).

In automatic mode the aperture is controlled by the camera.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Irene Singers Recording 2011

I am part of a small community choir based at the Irene Homes.  Last year we put out a Christmas CD and enjoyed it so much that we decided to record another.  This year the theme is Africa.  We recorded the soloists in ManleyStudios on Saturday 28 May 2011.
Thanks to Sean for donating his studio and time to the choir.

For most of this shoot I used my 50mm f1.8.  It is a fantastic little lens with great image quality and DOF, especially at the price.  The lighting conditions inside the studio itself were very tricky, mainly due to the intense back lighting.

The complete gallery can be found here.

Barend preparing for Toto's Africa verse 1
Junior giving it all in Toto's Africa verse 2
Hugo getting into his part for Weeping
Junior looking pensive
Alet warming up
Barend and Annika enjoying the sun

Monday, 30 May 2011

Photo Glossary - 02 - Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time that light is allowed to fall on your camera’s sensor when taking a photo.  It, in conjunction with the aperture and ISO setting, determines the exposure of the photo.  Given a consistent aperture and ISO setting a fast shutter speed will let in less light and a slow shutter speed more light.

In addition a fast shutter speed will freeze motion, capturing a particular moment, while a slow shutter speed will result in a blur, capturing the motion.  Slow shutter speeds can lead to blurred photos due to camera shake when hand held.
 In automatic mode shutter speed is controlled by the camera.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Photo Glossary - 01 - Exposure

I run a photographic club in my office and part of that is a contribution to the internal weekly bulletin.  At the moment I am using it to put together a photo glossary, which I will mirror here.
This is the first entry, originally posted in February 2011.
Exposure is the amount of light that falls on your camera’s sensor.  It affects how bright or dark your image is.  In a well exposed photo you can make out all the colour and brightness details across the entire picture.  In an over-exposed photo lighter areas will be ‘blown out’ to white and in an under-exposed photo darker areas will be “crushed” to black.

Your camera has 3 methods of controlling the exposure of a photo: shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Swartkops Air Show 2011

Hi everyone, welcome to my very first post.

I'm going to start off with a collection of photos from the Swatkops Air Show on Saturday 21 May 2011.  It was the first air show that I have shot and it was tremendous fun.  I should probably have researched plane photography a little more thoroughly before I went but over all I'm pretty pleased with the results.  Next time (probably at the Wonderboom Air Show in October) I'll try to get a little more prop blur.

For this shoot I used my 350D and 100-400L, hand held and pointed at the sky.  I used aperture priority mode, set to f/8 where my lens is sharpest, shutter speeds were between 1/640 and 1/1250 for the most part.  I was quite impressed with how well the camera tracked the planes and kept them in focus, even when I didn't hold them in the center of the frame.

I kept the post production relatively simple for the most part, just tweaking exposure, contrast and colour, but the two scatter photos have been quite heavily modified to give an old fashioned look, which I think is quite effective.

The complete album can be found here.

Gabriel Wings Soloist
 SAA Harvards
Silver Falcons - Scatter 1
 Silver Falcons - Scatter 2
 Vampire in the Sunset
I hope that you enjoy my blog, please drop me a comment and let me know what you think.