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Photography Advice

Photography Advice: Camera Settings

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Photography Advice: Camera Settings

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Think about it... What is photography? Photography is basicly just capturing light. The amount of light is determined by 3 settings in your camera:

  1. Shutter speed

  2. Aperture size

  3. ISO

Shutter speed

The amount of time the shutter stays open determines how much light comes in.

The result

Leaving the shutter open also captures all the movement within the frame during that period.

Usage

Setting the shutter speed fast freezes the movement of a fast car and setting it slow blurs the moving car.

Aperture size

The size of the opening in the lens controls how much light enters the camera.

The result

A wide open aperture focusses on one subject while blurring the background.

Usage

Macro and portrait photography uses this as creative effect to make a subject stand out from its surroundings. An easy way that I remember how Aperture numbers work is to think about what they do. A small number means little will be in focus. That's why a lens with an Aperture of f1.2 is more expensive, since it allows a wide open aperture that blurs the background.

ISO

You can also make the camera's sensor more sensitive to light.

The result

Raising the ISO means you can choose a faster shutter speed (or different aperture) that would otherwise have made a dark image.

Usage

Photographing a party at night with dim lighting can mean that you would need to raise the ISO to freeze the camera shake & movement of the guests while still keeping a perfectly exposed photo.

To get to know these 3 settings, play around with the Av and Tv functions in your camera. Take a few photos within each function and see the results for high & low shutter speeds and different apertures. When in these modes, you can choose the aperture or shutter speed and the camera will set the rest. After getting to know what each one does, moving on to learn Manual mode would be much easier.

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Medium Format Camera: Sea Point

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Medium Format Camera: Sea Point

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Film photography is one of the things that I always found to tedious and I generally prefer the control of digital. Regardless, last Saturday I got up early to take some photos at Sea Point as the sun rises. My focus was on the parks & architecture but I wanted to explore the area with my back to the ocean for a change.

I just love how the busiest places can be so peaceful at dawn's golden hour, the perfect time to shoot. Anyone wanting to explore uninterrupted would be amazed at the beauty once the clutter of the crowds have gone.

The animation below shows the camera I used, a Mamiya RB67 Medium Format Camera with a 90mm lens, which works with 120mm film.

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The film roll holds about 10 frames max, so you have to make each one be the perfect shot. This kind of professionalism is something we can all aspire to in our digital work. The B/W film was developed and the negatives were scanned to allow minor editing in Photoshop for scratches, or dark tones.

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The 35mm film camera I used last year was a pain to get used to, but after seeing how fun the experience was with the bigger camera, I was inspired to buy some film and will be taking it with me on various trips. The idea is to snap the kodak moments I find over a longer time.

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Photography Tutorial: Understanding the Histogram

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Photography Tutorial: Understanding the Histogram

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Reading the Histogram

Many times you take a photo and when you look at it on your computer it looks darker or brighter than you intended. This is because the LCD on the back of the camera cannot always display colors as they would appear when enlarged, and you might be looking at the LCD in bright sunlight.

Histogram

(image: histogram)

This is why digital cameras can display a graphic that shows the levels of light in your scene. This is called the histogram. To find it on your camera, you might need to press "display" while in preview mode. (depending on make or model)

Histogram of overexposed photo

(image: overexposed photo with detail lost in the bright parts)

The first thing to know when reading the histogram is that the left edge represents the shadows, the right is the highlights and the middle is the midtones. The shape of the histogram must go up from the left and right edges and not be cut off.

The area of the curve that is cut off, represents detail that is lost in the dark or light areas of the scene. This is especially important when taking photos of wedding dresses, where you want all the details of the dress to show and not just a white sheet of fabric.

Another example is when shooting outdoors with some parts in shadows and others in bright sunlight. An easy fix can be to move the subject into shade or alter the composition of your scene. This would save you a lot of time in editing later.

All this could be missed if you didn't notice your histogram reading.

Fixing in Photoshop

If however your scene is such that you couldn't move the subject, or you missed something on the shoot, you can still bring back some detail in those areas, but only to an extent. This is done by using the "Levels" Adjustment in Photoshop and simply adding a mask. You then make the mask black with the fill tool, and paint in white over the areas where you want the adjustment to happen.

A tip to use for all your images, is to check the histogram in the "Levels" adjustment and then dragging the right slider back to the point where the histogram starts to appear from the bottom. This fixes images that are slightly under exposed and will not result in any loss of detail.

If you are editing images in Black & White, the "Levels" Adjustment is very handy in adding some contrast by dragging the left slider slightly to the middle.

Why not just edit?

Photoshop has made our lives as photographers a whole lot easier, yet we have become reliant on it to do most the work  for us. In the end, a bad image can only go so far. So try getting it right in camera first, and see your photos improve to the next level.

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