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What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why

21 Mar

Did you ever wonder how the photographers of the past did it? All they had were manual cameras and yet somehow they had a method that beats even the latest technology in autofocus! Wonder what it was? Let’s find out first what it was and discuss what most call the best street photography camera settings.

The best street photography settings

Now, before getting into this, let’s get something straight. If you are doing something in your street photography and it works for you, then by all means, you’ve found the settings that fit you best and you probably want to stick with them. What I am presenting here are the tried and true ways that not only past photographers used, but most street photographers prefer today. But it’s not magic by any means. With that being said, let’s start with focusing on street photography.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
What’s faster than autofocus?

I know you are probably wondering how something can be faster than the latest autofocus, especially when every new camera wants you to believe they have the fastest AF in the world. The answer is – pre-focusing. What photographers of the past did was to pre-focus their camera onto a certain zone and simply shot, paying attention so that their subjects were within that area.

If you look at the example below, the photographer could either pre-focus on the blue or red area. Then anything or anyone that came within the blue or red area (depending which they chose) would be in focus.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why

Pre-focus zones.

Autofocus also comes with certain issues, because even if you have the fastest autofocus in the world, it can only guess WHERE you want it to focus. When you have people coming at you, it will most likely focus on the person that is closest to you. You could change your focus points, put if you wanted to shoot outside of that point, you would have to focus and recompose. That is not a luxury you often have in the street. Zones eliminate that problem. They are like a forcefield that you have in front of your camera, whoever enters that force field will be in focus. Those fields usually require smaller apertures, hence street photographers usually rely on f/5.6 or f/8.

Setting up your forcefield

In order to set up your own forcefield, you will need to know what kind of shots you want. Do you want to make images of your subjects up close, or further away? That will determine where you need to focus. Let’s say you want to take a few shots with your subject at less than one meter. All you need to do is to put your lens like so:

dof

My aperture is at f/16, so I would put the marking on the left to 0.7, and look at the other marking on the right. That would tell me that everything between 0.7 to 1.2 meters will be in focus. The way aperture works, the further away you are, the larger the depth of field, so putting it at one meter would have had a lot of space in focus.

But, “my lens doesn’t have those marks”, you say! That’s where a tool like DOFmaster comes in:

Say you have a Canon 7D, for example. Select it from the camera dropdown menu and put in the lens focal length (say 35mm). If you focus at one meter, everything from 0.89m to 1.14m will be in focus. But the tool also tells you how to get the greatest zone of all, it tells you what your hyperfocal distance is. So if you focus at 8.09m, everything from 4m to infinity would be in focus at f/8.

Most street photographers I know set it to the hyperfocal distance. But when the light starts dropping, if they want some part of the image not in focus, or if they want their subjects really close, they use smaller zones (and larger apertures) and switch between them.

But what if your camera doesn’t even tell you where you are focused? Then you just need an app for that. You can download EasyMeasure (iOS) or Smartmeasure (Android). Then stand in front of a wall to get your distance to it, go back and forth until you get your desired distance, then focus on the wall and voila your zone is set!

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
The other settings

Once you have your focus and aperture set, what about your other settings? You’ve got a few choices. First of all, you can leave them all on manual (shooting in Manual mode) and adjust them on the fly. Or you can put the shutter speed on automatic (camera in Aperture priority mode) and deal with ISO manually.

A good choice is to keep the shutter speed above 1/125th because stuff usually happens fast on the streets and below that there is risk of camera shake. Of course the same applies for when you are shooting manually too, better to not go below 1/125th, but that might be different for you if you shoot slowly.

The other setting that is left is ISO. You could also put it on auto-ISO, but put a cap on it. I think most modern cameras that are adjustable should be okay with a cap of 1600. But you’ll have to watch out, some cameras don’t have great auto ISO and will go to ISO 1600 in broad daylight.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
The Semi-automatic Settings

The settings below will help you to focus on the image and only worry about if someone is in your focus zone or not:

  • Set your aperture to f/8
  • Focus at the hyperfocal distance
  • Auto shutter speed, do not go lower than 1/125th
  • Auto-ISO set to not go higher than 1600

One of the strengths of this system is that it accounts for transition time. Imagine you are walking out of a building, from which the inside was darker than outside, which is super sunny.

If you are in manual shooting mode for your ISO and shutter speed, you may have to adjust the exposure by three stops if an image suddenly appears in front of you. While you’re changing the shutter speed you might not have time to change the ISO and may mess up the exposure. However, if at least one of them was auto, this would have been done for you automatically.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why

Conclusion

There you have it, the street photography settings that the photographers of the past used (sans automatic modes of course) and that many street photographers still use today. But what’s most important is to find out what works best for you and your style of shooting. Try these out. They are tried and true, but nobody said you HAVE to use them. Do what works for you! Be yourself, stay focused, and keep on shooting.

The post What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why by Olivier Duong appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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10 Must-Use Bird Photography Camera Settings for Beginners

09 Mar

With an overwhelming number of settings on the new DSLRs, it becomes increasingly hectic to know which ones to use. Then it takes an incredibly steep learning curve to understand how these settings work. It is much worse for a bird photographer, isn’t it? Bird photography is extremely challenging and a wrong setting might mean ruined photographs. It took several years for me to identify, practice, and stick to some of the key settings for bird photography.

Let me assure you that these settings are not reached in a philosophical way. They are tried and tested methods of achieving extraordinary results. These settings are the ones I teach to my photography workshop students as the first step towards making better bird photographs.

Set it and forget it

The key to making successful bird photographs is to select the settings and forget about them. Yes! Forget about them. Have only one or two variables so that you can focus primarily on making great bird photographs. Which is the art of photography.

In this article, I will give you 10 must-use camera settings that will help you improve your bird photography. These tips will relieve you of the persisting tension of changing the settings when the action unfolds. Remember, there are no retakes in bird photography. You have to be ready before the action unfolds.

So, let’s jump right in to find out how you can improve your bird photography with these 10 settings.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that it’s not possible to give every step (for every camera) to configure a particular setting. I have given only just a few steps to show you the setting I have described. This is due to the constraint of space and the medium used.

bird photography camera settings

1. Shoot in RAW format

Always shoot in RAW format. If you have never used RAW, then make it a point to use it right now. Pick up your DSLR and set the Image Quality as RAW. Another option is to use RAW + Fine JPEG (or Basic JPEG) if you are unsure that you can handle a RAW file immediately. But, one day you may have to start working with RAW files. So, why not start shooting RAW from this day forward.

RAW Camera Settings for Canon DSLRs:

31 Canon 10 Must Use Bird Photography Camera Settings for Beginners

32 Canon 10 Must Use Bird Photography Camera Settings for Beginners

RAW Camera Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

01 Nikon 10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

A RAW file holds all the data that your Camera Sensor captures. This means you are utilizing the sensor’s complete capacity. JPEG format, on the other hand, is an image compression standard. It compresses the data to reduce the size of the file, by throwing some of the data away. You don’t want to lose what your sensor captured, right?

Some of the key advantages of using RAW files are:

  • You can modify your White Balance settings during the post-processing stage.
  • The highest dynamic range that the sensor is capable of is stored in a RAW file. More data means more detail in both the shadow and highlight regions of your images.
  • You can bring back phenomenal detail in the shadow regions in the post-processing stage.
  • You can work on getting the perfect contrast and color in your image.
  • And much more.

Have you switched to RAW format yet?

bird photography camera settings

2. Use the Auto White Balance (AWB) Setting

The Auto White Balance (AWB) setting is a boon to every digital photographer. This is especially true for bird photographers. Imagine setting the white balance every time the light changes. On top of that, birds are constantly moving which means it’s almost impossible to set the white balance on the fly.

Even if you say, you can set the White Balance, remember that the light is changing throughout the day. Choosing just one standard white balance might yield wrong colors. Instead, the AWB setting will keep adjusting as the light changes. With newer DSLRs, the AWB setting does a tremendous job of getting the right colors, almost every time. Most often, it’s not necessary to change the white balance settings that the camera chooses for you.

So, use RAW format, set your camera on AWB mode, and then forget about it.

Auto White Balance Settings for Canon DSLRs:

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Auto White Balance Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Important Tip: If you use RAW format, you have complete control over the white balance during the post-processing stage. You can set it to any value you want. Tweak it to get the right colors.

3. Use semi-automatic modes like Av/A or Tv/S

It’s a common tendency to shoot in Auto mode as a novice bird photographer. But, you’ll have no control over the resulting exposure. Instead, start using the semi-automatic modes.

They are extremely simple to use and will give you incredible results. Start with the Aperture Priority (Av/A) mode. Most of the pros use this mode, including me. It allows you to choose the aperture (which will define the resulting depth of field), while the camera chooses the shutter speed for you. Combined with the Auto ISO setting (discussed next), it’ll ease your tension of worrying about the right settings.

bird photography camera settings

If you are unable to get the required shutter speed, in the case of low light, choose Shutter Priority (Tv/S) mode. It allows you to select the shutter speed (which helps you to either freeze the action or blur it), while the camera chooses the aperture for you. Combined it with the Auto ISO setting (discussed next) for ease of use.

Semi-automatic Camera Settings for Canon DSLRs:

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Semi-automatic Camera Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

If anyone has told you that you should use Manual Mode to get the best bird photographs, forget about their advice. It’s not about which mode you use, it’s about how you use it. Forget about these petty talks. Instead, concentrate on making your life easier by using a semi-automatic setting. You’ll thank me, for sure.

4. Use the Auto ISO setting

The Auto ISO setting, if used properly, can solve a lot of problems in bird photography. Most often, you need higher shutter speeds to freeze the action in bird photography. This means you must use higher ISOs. Using higher ISOs, especially on the cropped sensors (like Canon 70D, 7DMarkII, Nikon D500, D7200, etc.), can result in a lot of noise, yielding an unusable photograph.

Most often you would have to work with ISO in the 400-800 range. Instead of setting the ISO to be at 400 or 800, it’s wise to set it to Auto ISO and select the Maximum Sensitivity to be 800. If you are using a full-frame camera (like Canon 1DX, 5DMark3, Nikon D4, D810, etc.), you can set the maximum sensitivity to ISO 1600 (or even 3200 depending on noise levels).

Auto ISO Settings for Canon DSLRs:

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

10 Must Use Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Auto ISO Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

When you use Auto ISO instead of using a static ISO, you are allowing the camera to decide the ISO based on the changing light. Cameras are designed to keep the ISO value as low as possible, at all times.

Say you are working during the early morning when the light level is lower. The camera may start with ISO 800. But, as the light gets brighter and brighter, the ISO values will be smaller and smaller to compensate for the excess light. This means, your photographs will be much cleaner.

5. Use Auto ISO Combined With Minimum Shutter Speed

Many DSLRs allow you to choose the Minimum Shutter Speed in Auto ISO mode. This will ensure that the camera chooses the lowest possible ISO to achieve the Minimum Shutter Speed value. This gives you the best of both worlds. For instance, if you set the Minimum Shutter Speed to be 1/1000th of a second, the camera will alway try to select the lowest possible ISO value to meet your requirement.

bird photography camera settings

NOTE: If there is not enough light in the scene to achieve the required shutter speed despite choosing the maximum ISO, then the shutter speed will drop. So, keep an eye on the resulting shutter speeds.

Auto ISO and Minimum Shutter Speed Settings for Canon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Auto ISO and Minimum Shutter Speed Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Whenever you are unable to meet the minimum shutter speed that you need, just switch to normal ISO mode and set it to a higher value. But, I don’t recommend higher than ISO 800 on cropped sensors as the results will be too noisy and unusable. There are a few exceptions like the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II DSLRs that seem to work fine at higher ISOs. My suggestion: Test it. See how far you can push the ISO on your camera before the result looks too noisy.

6. Use the Evaluative/Matrix Metering Mode

The Evaluative (for Canon) and Matrix (for Nikon) options are default metering modes. But there’s a common belief that Spot Metering works best for bird photography. Although it’s true to an extent, it has too many limitations. It’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss it here.

bird photography camera settings

While Spot Metering mode considers just 3-5% of your image frame, Evaluative/Matrix metering mode considers many aspects such as; the subject in focus, other objects in the frame, the background, and uses a weighting system to arrive at the right exposure value. It’s more intelligent than Spot and Center-weighted metering.

When you combine the Exposure Compensation technique (discussed next) with Evaluative/Matrix metering mode, you can get perfect exposures. With recent DSLRs, I have seen that the default metering modes give the best results in the majority of situations. They are sufficient if the dynamic range of your camera is high enough.

Metering Mode Settings for Canon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Metering Mode Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

7. The Histogram is your best friend, learn to use it.

Yes, the Histogram is your best friend. If you are not using the Histogram, then you are missing a lot of image potential. There is enough material written about the subject, go ahead and embrace yourself with the knowledge. (Read: Histograms for Beginners)

Every time you take a photograph, you must check the Histogram. Don’t rely on the LCD monitor, check the Histogram. Why? LCD brightness and the ambient light can fool you into believing that a photo is under or overexposed. But, the Histogram gives you a clear cut exposure reading.

bird photography camera settings

Simply put, the Histogram is a graphical representation of the exposure. By looking at the graph you’d be able to see if the photograph is properly exposed, underexposed, or overexposed. Typically, if the graph is skewed towards the right-hand side of the Histogram, your image is overexposed (washed out whites or pure white areas with absolutely no detail).

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners Histogram

And if it is skewed towards the left, your image is underexposed (crushed blacks or pure black areas with absolutely no detail).

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners Histogram

You want to the Histogram to have the distribution not touching either the left-most end (underexposure) or the right-most end (overexposure). Typically, you are okay as long as the distribution is mostly in the middle.

The Histogram for Canon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners Histogram

The Histogram for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners Histogram

However, don’t expect the Histogram to look like a Gaussian curve. It needn’t be. Imagine an egret flying against a blue sky. Your Histogram will likely have two pillars on either side of the Histogram. One pillar (towards the left) would indicate the blue sky as it’s close to mid-grey and the other pillar (towards right) would indicate the egret. It’s a perfect exposure.

8. Enable the Highlight Indicator (Blinkies)

This is another useful and practical bird photography tip. The Highlight Indicator, widely known as Blinkies, clubbed with the Histogram and Exposure Compensation (discussed next) can assure you the best exposure at all times. Make sure you start using it from today.

bird photography camera settings

Make sure you keep detail in white feathers by using the histogram and highlight indicator.

The Highlight Indicator indicates any overexposed areas in your image. It’s very hard to know if you have overexposed your image or not, just by looking at the LCD monitor. I would say, never depend on the LCD monitor to review your image for exposure. The LCD monitor should be used for the sole purpose of checking your composition.

Check the Histogram for the exposure. Sometimes, it’s hard to find out if there are any overexposed areas on the Histogram. This is especially true if there’s just a slight overexposed area. That’s where the Blinkies comes in handy. You will see blinkers in the overexposed areas when you Enable Highlight Indicator or Blinkies.

In Canons, blinkies show up in the first screen itself, whereas you have to check RGB Highlights screen in case of Nikon. In any case, make it a point to check the Blinkies every time.

Highlight Indicator Settings for Canon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

Highlight Indicator Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners blinkies

If you develop this habit of checking the Histogram and Blinkies after every exposure, you are sure to improve your bird photography. Combine it with the Exposure Compensation technique you’ll see the improvement in leaps and bounds. Why not decide to use them from today?

9. Use Exposure Compensation (+/- Ev) to Tweak the Exposure

Here’s the best bird photography tip that I can offer: If you want to achieve the perfect exposure, then start using the Exposure Compensation technique right now. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your bird photography once you start using it.

The metering modes can only give you the exposure values based on some algorithms. It’ll never know what the subject is and how it should be rendered. For instance, it might render an egret in gray rather than white, and render a cormorant extremely dark. Because all the metering modes work on a concept called 18% Gray. I recommend you to read about it.

bird photography camera settings

Tweak exposure compensation to keep black feathers looking black.

It’s almost always necessary to tweak the exposure to record all the details in the scene. It’s especially important to render the subject in as much detail as possible. Simply put, expose for the subject.

By using Exposure Compensation technique, you can tell the camera to either underexpose or overexpose the scene by a particular value. Say, you chose -1 Stop Exposure Compensation using +/- button (as shown) on your camera. Then, the camera will underexpose the scene by 1-stop. If you select +1 Stop, then it will overexpose the scene by 1-stop.

Exposure Compensation Settings for Canon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Exposure Compensation Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

So, start using Exposure Compensation to improve your bird photography. You’ll see phenomenal improvement with just an exposure tweak of +/- 1/3 stops. Try it and you’ll see.

10. Learn to use AE/AF Lock or the AF-ON Button

One of the biggest issues that a bird photographer faces is to switch between AF-S (or One-Shot AF) to AF-C (or AI-Servo) mode. Normally you would need AF-S (or One-Shot AF) for the birds which aren’t moving (or perched birds) and AF-C (or AI-Servo) mode all other times.

bird photography camera settings

It’s quite easy now-a-days to fix this issue. If you have AF-ON button at the back of your camera, it’ll solve the issue. AF-ON button is used for back-button focusing (also known as rear-button focusing). Instead of half-pressing the shutter button to start focusing, you can use the AF-ON button to trigger autofocus functionality.

When you are using the back-button focusing, make sure you have set the shutter button to only take photos and to not autofocus. This will leave the focus only for the AF-ON button. Now, all that you have to do is, always use AF-C (or AI-Servo) mode so that you are ready for the action.

Whenever you release the AF-ON button it’ll automatically lock the autofocus, which means, it’ll work as AF-S (or One-Shot AF). If you don’t have AF-ON button, you can likely configure any other button, say the AE-L/AF-L button to do the same thing.

Focus Settings for Canon DSLRs:

Focus Settings for Nikon DSLRs:

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Bird Photography camera Settings for Beginners

Here’s when you use back-button focus:

For example, say a bird is currently perched. You want to make few compositions while it is static, but at the same time, you would like to be ready for any action like flight. All that you do is, be ready in AF-C (AI-Servo) mode, press the AF-ON button to achieve focus, and release it to lock the focus. Then start taking photos as if you are in AF-S (One-Shot Focus) mode. If you see any slight movement, press the AF-ON button and you are already in the AF-C (or AI-Servo) mode. It’s the best of both worlds, isn’t it?

This is one of the advanced bird photography techniques I have described here. It might take a while to understand but try it. You’ll love it.

bird photography camera settings

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that it’s not possible to give every step to configure a particular setting. I have given only just a few steps to show you the settings I have described. This is due to the constraint of space and the medium used. Consult the user manual for your camera if you need more help.

Conclusion

If you can bring these 10 camera settings into practice in your daily bird photography, you’ll see a drastic improvement in your images. But remember, settings and equipment can only take you so far. They are just the means to an end, not the end itself.

I strongly recommend you to read my most popular article 10 Incredible Bird Photography Tips for Beginners.

Remember, your goal is to make your life easy with the right camera settings. The fewer settings you have to deal with, the better. Don’t get bogged down by settings as such, concentrate more on making better bird photographs. If you know what you want, you’ll find a way. I would recommend you to find an easy way.

Another suggestion is to take it easy. Don’t try to pressurize or overwhelm yourself with the information. Take one tip at a time and practice it. As always, practice makes perfect.

Everything can be mastered over time. With the right mentor and right practice, you’ll eventually become an excellent bird photographer. Just keep at it.

Think Photography. Think Simple.

The post 10 Must-Use Bird Photography Camera Settings for Beginners by Prathap DK appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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The Five Most Essential Camera Settings and How to Use Them

14 Dec

Modern cameras, from phones to high-end DSLRs, are designed to make decisions for us. And for the most part, they do a pretty darn good job of it. Slap your SLR into AUTO mode and more often than not you’ll get images that are sharp with decent exposure. If you are just looking to document your world, then go for it, snap away. The drawback is that images taken in AUTO tend to look similar to one another, with a uniform depth of field and exposure. If you want to move beyond the automatic camera settings, you need to understand your camera, how to use it, and most importantly, what impact changing those settings will have on your final image. Here are five of the most essential camera settings, what they mean, and how they impact the photograph.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings

ISO

Five Most Essential Camera Settings

This night image required I use a fast shutter speed to retain detail in the flame, so I had to use a high ISO (3200). In the next detail shot, you can see the noise, in the original RAW file. (By the way, this image shows what happens when you free methane from a bubble in the ice of a frozen pond in the boreal forest, and then set it alight.)

First, the acronym ISO is terrible, because it’s basically meaningless in terms of photography. It stands for “International Standards Organization” a European non-governmental organization that makes sure industries apply the same standards. In the case of photography, they want to make sure that an 800 ISO on a Canon is the same as on a Nikon, Sony or Fuji. If that standard didn’t exist, then settings wouldn’t be applicable across camera brands. So if I set my Canon to make an image at 1/100th sec at f/2.8 and ISO 400, and you set your Nikon to the same setting, we wouldn’t get the same exposure. Thankfully all the major manufacturers do subscribe to the ISO standards.

Yeah, yeah, but what is ISO? It is the measure of the sensitivity of your camera’s digital sensor to light. The lower the number the lower the sensitivity, the higher the number the more sensitive the sensor becomes. If you are shooting in a low light situation, say a poorly lit room or a dusky evening, an ISO setting of 100 will require that more light reaches the sensor than if you were to use a setting of 400, 800, or 1600.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings ISO

Note the noise in the detail of the person’s clothing and in other shadowed areas.

Drawbacks of high ISO

So why not shoot at high ISOs all the time? Two reasons: 1. High ISOs often create digital noise on the image, (though camera sensors are getting better and better) and 2. Sometimes you may want to force a slow shutter speed, in which case you want low sensitivity to light. This may be the case when you are trying to capture blurred motion such as water, wind or to create pleasing blurs in sports photography.

  1. High ISOs often create digital noise in the image, (though camera sensors are getting better and better)
  2. Sometimes you may want to force a slow shutter speed, in which case you want low sensitivity to light. This may be the case when you are trying to capture blurred motion such as water, wind, or to create pleasing blurs in sports photography.

In short, ISO is one of the three tools you have at your disposal to manipulate your exposure.

Shutter Speed

The length of time your camera’s sensor is exposed to light is the shutter speed. Many cameras have a mechanical shutter that snaps open and closed allowing light to reach the sensor, others use a digital shutter that simply turns on the sensor for the set period of time before switching it off again. Shutter speed has a huge impact on the final image. A long shutter speed will create blur in moving subjects. As a landscape photographer, I use long shutter speeds often to blur water, expose starlight, or capture wind motion.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings

For this image, I used a 0.5 sec shutter speed to blur the waves somewhat, but retain detail.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings shutter speed

A 30-second shutter speed blurred the Yukon River in this image, into a mirror-like surface.

Short or fast shutter speeds have the effect of stopping motion. Use a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second and the motion of a runner or a cyclist will be stopped dead.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings shutter speed

This image of a bike passing used a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. It was just enough to be sharp overall while retaining some sense of motion in the spinning tire.

Your use of the shutter has to be thoughtful to create a good image. Think about the final image you want to create. Does it have blurred components or is it all sharp? Do you want to stop, or convey the sense of motion? Consider, experiment, then decide on your shutter speed.

Aperture

Five Most Essential Camera Settings aperture

An f-stop of f/11 at 17mm was sufficient to make the entire image, from inches in front of the lens to the cliffs in the distance, sharp.

The aperture, or f-stop, may be the most confusing aspect of photography for many photographers because it affects images in unexpected ways. Essentially, the aperture is how big the hole in the lens is. The smaller the hole, the less light is allowed in, the larger it is, the more light gets through. What often confuses people is the numbering system: the smaller the number, the larger the hole. So f/2.8 is a larger opening than f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11 and so on. Lenses with a wide maximum aperture (a small number like f/2) are considered “fast” meaning they are capable of allowing in more light.

But it’s not just about light, and how wide a lens can open. The aperture also affects image sharpness. Most lenses (dare I say all?) are sharper, a few stops down (called the sweet spot). A lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 will create a sharper image at f/8, then at f/2.8. The higher quality the lens, the less this matters, but it is noticeable on most lenses.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings aperture

A very shallow depth of field in this image brings the grouse hiding in the brush into focus while the surrounding chaos of branches blurs into a haze.

Depth of Field and application

Next, the aperture also controls the Depth of Field. The DoF is the amount of the image from close to far that is in focus. A lens, when set wide open, say f/2.8, will have less DoF than when the same lens is set to f/11.

Like shutter speed, your use of aperture should be purposeful. Have a landscape image that you want in focus from front to back? You better select a high f-stop (like f/11). How about a portrait where you want a clean, soft background but a tack-sharp eye? Then use a small f-stop (like f/2.8 or f/4) and watch that focus point.

The aperture has a direct impact on shutter speed. A large f-stop will require you to use a longer shutter speed to attain proper exposure. Just as lower f-stop, will allow you to use a fast shutter speed. These two are completely interrelated, there is no escaping it, so you NEED a strong understanding of both.

White Balance

White balance, like ISO, relates to the sensor, but in this case, it has to do with the color of the light, rather than its brightness.

Different light sources have different color tones. Our eyes often don’t detect these differences, but you can bet your camera will. Have you ever seen a photo of a home interior lit by soft-white bulbs, but including a window? Usually, the interior of the room looks natural while the light outdoors looks artificially blue. That’s white balance. The camera (or photographer) decided to use the interior light (the warm-toned bulbs) as the natural color, but then the natural light

The camera (or photographer) decided to use the interior light (the warm-toned bulbs) as the neutral color, but then the natural light outdoors appears blue. When the white balance is set wrong, the colors are off. They look too yellow, blue, or orange. When it’s correct, everything looks natural, or as our eyes detect it.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings white balance

Here is the camera’s AUTO selection for the White Balance. The colors of the aurora borealis appear too purple and yellow.

Five Most Essential Camera Settings white balance

In this version, using the same post-processing for exposure, I adjusted the white balance further into the blue range, making the colors of the lights appear more natural and pleasing.

What about Auto White Balance?

I’ve got a confession to make here. I almost always use the AUTO white balance setting on my cameras. Cameras are pretty darn good at assessing color tones and deciding on the appropriate white balance. When it does get it wrong, I can check the image on the LCD and make the correction for the next shot. Second, I shoot exclusively in RAW format which means that I can make adjustments to the white balance in the computer. I trust the image on my computer screen more than I trust the tiny LCD on the back of my camera.

That said, there are times to adjust the camera’s white balance settings. The first is if you are shooting JPEGs. That image format will not allow you to effectively adjust white balance later, so it’s got to be right in the camera. The second is when stacking images either for high contrast scenes or for panoramas. When stacking images, slight changes in color tones will make combining them into HDR or panoramas much more difficult or impossible. You can also use White Balance if you purposefully want to make an image look cool or warm, or if you are using artificial lights. (Now THAT subject warrants an article of its own…)

Be mindful of your White Balance, know what it does and how it will impact your image, then decide how, or whether to use it.

Exposure Compensation

ak-homer-109266-sunset-139

Here I used Exposure Compensation to make sure that the image was bright enough to show details in the foreground while assuring that the bright sunset in the background was not blown out.

These two images show how useful Exposure compensation can be. The image below was made in bright sunlight, but a purposeful underexposure of three stops reduced the mountains to black but retained detail in the sky, making a surreal image.

Know your camera well

Exposure Compensation is a tool you should know how to adjust without even lowering the camera from your eye. Exposure compensation allows you to very quickly, add or subtract light from an image. Too dark? Use Exposure Compensation to add a stop of light. Too bright? Exposure Compensation can quickly reduce the exposure. How it is set depends on your camera settings.

I use Aperture Priority mode most often on my camera. That means I select the aperture, and the camera decides the shutter speed. If I adjust my Exposure Compensation, the camera will retain my chosen aperture and simply adjust shutter speed up or down to get the desired exposure. If I were to use Shutter Priority, as I sometimes do, the camera will adjust the aperture. In AUTO the camera will make that decision for me.

I use Exposure compensation constantly. It is my go-to method for fine-tuning my exposure in the field. On my Canon DSLR, I can adjust it with a simple twitch of my thumb on the rear wheel of the camera. Other cameras have their Exposure Compensation controls on the front, a wheel near the shutter button, or some other system of buttons on the back. Know how your camera works, and learn to adjust this quickly and efficiently. Understanding this important tool will mean you don’t miss your chance to get the shot right when you are working in the field or studio.

Conclusion

These five camera settings are the most important things to understand on your camera. Experiment with them so you know how they affect your final image, and know how to change each quickly and without fuss. Once you do, you’ll have taken charge of your photography, and be on your way to creating purposeful images.

If you have comments or questions please share post them below.

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12 City Slides Turning Urban Settings Into Playgrounds for Adults

13 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Destinations & Sights & Travel. ]

urban slide LA 2

Slides actually make a lot of practical sense in urban environments, potentially zooming over busy streets and transferring pedestrians from high ground to low ground faster than an escalator or set of stairs. That is, as long as people use them in an efficient manner and don’t clog them up. A mainstay on playgrounds around the world, slides can add a sense of fun to urban settings for adults, too. These examples of slides integrated into architecture, temporarily installed in city streets and doubling as public sculptures offer some exciting inspiration (take the hint, architects and city planners!)

Skyslide Los Angeles

skyslide

Zoom from the 70th floor of Los Angeles’ U.S. Bank Tower to the 69th in a fully transparent, 45-foot-long glass slide with thrilling (or terrifying, depending on your feelings about heights) views of the city below. The Skyslide opened this year on the West Coast’s tallest building, and though the glass is only 1 1/4 inches thick, the slide is said to be earthquake- and hurricane-proof.

Giant Water Slide in Bristol by Luke Jerram

city slides luke jerram 2

city slides luke jerram 3

city slides luke jerram 4

‘Park and Slide’ by UK-based artist Luke Jerram temporarily turned Bristol’s Park Street into a waterpark, drawing in 65,000 visitors to watch 360 lucky lottery winners ranging in age from 5 to 73 slide from one end of the street to the next. “This massive urban slide transforms the street and asked people to take a fresh look at the potential of their city and the possibilities for transformation,” says Jerram. “Imagine if there were permanent slides right across cities?”

Transfer Accelerator Slide for Commuters

city slides transfer accelerator

city slides transfera ccelerator 2

Designed as part of the Overvecht train station’s redevelopment, the Transfer Accelerator slide in Utrecht makes leaving the train station a little bit faster, and a lot more fun. The slide was integrated into the stairs outside the station as part of a push to encourage more commuters to take the train instead of driving.

Cliveden House Slide

city slides cliveden house

city slides cliveden house 2

This four-lane stainless steel slide at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire, former home to Waldorf and Nancy Astoria, distracts visitors from ongoing restoration work and offers an alternative way to get back to lawn level rather than the scaffolding-covered stairs. It’s not often that you see a theme-park-worthy slide attached to a regal old manor house – it’s too bad it’s not a permanent feature.

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12 City Slides Turning Urban Settings Into Playgrounds For Adults

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The #1 Reason Why New Photographers Struggle with Camera Settings

24 Aug

You have spent a lot of time studying photography and how to use your camera. You feel confident that you’re starting to figure things out. You understand camera settings like: shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation.

camera settings light on bushes in NYC

Brooklyn Weeds, New York

Can you relate to this?

Then you go on a trip or walk out the door with your camera, see an amazing moment, and you freeze. “What do I do? What settings will be best for this situation?” You return home to find too many of your shots are blurry, exposed incorrectly, you were often too slow to catch the moment, or the photographs don’t look like you saw the scene with your eye. It seems like you did everything wrong.

Does this sound familiar?

camera settings backlit black and white image

High Heels, SoHo, New York – backlighting can trick your camera meter.

The biggest newbie mistake is . . .

When working with photographers, I see this happen frequently. They understand everything they need to know about their camera, but yet they still freeze and do not know what to do when it counts. I believe this is due to one major issue. When they come across a beautiful scene, the first thing that they do is look at their camera to figure out what to do.

Do you see anything wrong with that last statement? It might seem logical to look at the camera, but it’s not, and it’s the reason that they (and possibly you too) are freezing up.

camera settings and light

Grand Central Terminal, New York – high contrast light can trick your meter, what will you expose for? 

Consider the light before thinking about your camera settings

Before you even think about your camera, you need to first look at the light, and understand it. How can you know how to set your camera settings, if you don’t first understand the light?

How strong is the light? Are you in bright sunlight, in light or dark shade, or is it dark out? Are you dealing with artificial light? Is there back lighting, front lighting, or side lighting?

Does the scene have both dark shadows and bright highlights? These are situations where most newer photographers screw up, because this can confuse the camera light meter. In these moments, you need to figure out whether you want the shadows or the highlights to be exposed correctly. Do you want to raise the exposure compensation so that the shadows are exposed correctly? Or would the scene look better if you exposed for the highlights and had really dark shadows?

camera settings shadows and light

SoHo Cobblestone, New York

Use your eyes not the camera

These are all the thoughts that should go through your head before you begin to tweak your settings. When you walk out the door, immediately look at the light. Pay attention to the times when you go from sunlight to shade and vice versa. Make sure to change your settings to work with that light. It can help to even stop taking photos for a while and just look around, especially as you are learning. Try to see the light, and to improve at noticing how it affects your photographs. Your eyes are the most important factor here, not the camera.

From this point, learning is trial and error. Many photographers use Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual mode to get to the same endpoint. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. So, while the different settings each have their advantages in specific situations, none is better than the others.

camera settings back lighting

Brooklyn Bridge Tower, New York

Follow this plan

Think about what aperture you are going to want. Do you want a large or shallow depth of field (or do you even have a choice due to the amount of light)? Are you photographing anything in motion, or using a long zoom such as 300mm (the shutter speed always needs to be at least 1 over the focal length to offset handheld camera shake)? If so, you will need a faster shutter speed. Based on this, and how strong the light is, you can then set your ISO accordingly, depending on how much light is available.

Playing with your settings is important at first. If you are shooting in Aperture or Shutter Priority, pick your setting (e.g. f/5.6), but always pay attention to the other number (e.g. shutter speed 1/60th) that the camera is choosing for you. This will help you understand the settings (and how they work together) more than anything else.

Manual mode is good for learning

This is also a reason why spending a few days shooting in manual mode can be very good for your development. I usually prefer Shutter or Aperture priority, unless I have a long time to set up the shot, or if I’m in very consistent or studio lighting. But, learning in manual mode and reviewing the images as you shoot, can help you learn the light and your camera settings very quickly. This will improve your ability to shoot in Shutter and Aperture priority as well.

camera settings sunset city back light

Manhattan Skyline, New York

Review during editing

The last step is to review how you did during the editing process. This is very important to do early on. Go through your images and see which were blurry, exposed wrong, or where the depth of field could have been better. Look at the settings you used. You don’t want to just rely on Lightroom to fix your images. Try hard to improve when you are shooting, so you won’t have to fix images later. Your photography will be better for it, and you will be more comfortable with your camera settings the next time you are out shooting.

So next time you walk out the door with your camera, take a step back from it all, and just look around at the light. Notice where the sun or artificial lights are in relation to you, look at the highlights and shadows, and even look at the color of the light. The more you do this, the better you will become at setting your camera, and the better photographer you will become.

camera settings light dark shadow

Chinatown Snowstorm, New York

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Why Asking What Camera Settings Were Used is Not as Helpful as You Think

10 Mar

When you view an image that you love, do you find yourself asking, “What camera settings did the photographer use?” This is a common question, that overlooks other important aspects which would have helped to create that image, such as the lighting conditions, and any post-processing techniques involved. As you become more experienced, and progress in your journey as a photographer, you may begin to realize that the things you originally obsessed over, may not be as important as you once thought.

Fig 4

For this image I used a shutter speed of 1/5th, as this would blur out the background quite nicely, as I panned with the rider to make him pop out more. This meant I had to increase my aperture to f/10, and could also decrease my ISO to ISO 320, too. © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

A topic that many photographers are caught up in, is knowing which camera settings were used; more specifically, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Any photographer will tell you that these three elements of exposure are very important in creating the desired image. If you use the wrong combination of these in any given environment, you could very well end up with undesired results. Keeping that in mind, it is completely understandable why new photographers obsess over knowing exactly which camera settings were used.

In theory, this should help you to recreate that particular image, right? Unfortunately this may not be the case. Images are created from much more than just the correct combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. These three fundamentals do more than just control the exposure; they also give us a creative language to use in our images.

Fig 2

In this image, I wanted to show some motion in the gymnast’s movements, rather than taking another frozen frame. To do this I lowered my shutter speed from 1/1000th to 1/15th. This reduction meant I could also lower my ISO from ISO 3200 to ISO 500 and increase my aperture to f/7.1.

But before diving into this further, let’s explore the two different perspectives of this question; firstly from the point of view of a beginner, who would hope to replicate this imagine. They may assume that by knowing the exact camera settings, and dialling them into the camera, that they will somehow magically achieve the same result. Looking at this from an experienced photographer’s perspective, they may ask this question but with a different scope in mind. It may be when they are perplexed as to the techniques behind a particular image, or in relation to a very specific genre in photography, such as astrophotography, where knowing the settings may help provide a breakthrough.

So why is the question unhelpful?

This question will not always equip you with the knowledge you need, to recreate that image, or with your endeavours of becoming a more successful photographer. There is a lot more to creating an image than just the camera settings. By focussing on camera settings alone, you are missing out on a lot more information as to why those settings were used.

Settings are only a small part of what makes up that image. Lighting conditions, post-processing and the outcome the photographer wants to achieve, are just some of the factors that will dictate what settings the photographer uses. It’s akin to having the correct ingredients for a cake, but not knowing the method behind making it, or the reasons behind that method. Relying on camera settings alone does not tell you anything about the environment the image was taken in, nor does it give you an indication of what the lighting conditions were like.

To freeze the action here I used a shutter speed of 1/1000sec. To keep my ISO as low as possible, but still have a little more depth of field than what /2.8 would offer, I used an aperture of f/3.5. I then set my ISO to ISO 3200 to give me the correct exposure. Being indoors, the ISO is a little higher. © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

To freeze the action here I used a shutter speed of 1/1000th. To keep my ISO as low as possible, but still have a little more depth of field than what f/2.8 would offer, I used an aperture of f/3.5. I then set my ISO to 3200 to give me the correct exposure. Being indoors, with low light conditions, the ISO is a little higher. © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

Deciding what camera settings to use is a result of knowing how you want the image to look. For the above image, if I told you that I used a shutter speed of 1/1000, aperture f/3.5 and ISO 3200, and you were to go out and dial in the same settings, it would be highly unlikely that you will get the same result. Why? Because the chances of the lighting in your environment, compared to where this image was taken, being the same is highly unlikely.

The reason I chose these particular settings was simple; I needed a fast shutter speed to freeze the action, so I used 1/1000th of a second. I also wanted to use a wider aperture that would allow me to isolate the subject more. A bi-product of this, is that it allows me to maintain a fast shutter speed, but also helps me use a lower ISO. I then use whatever ISO needed to create the correct exposure – in this case it was ISO 3200. The settings you that you require could be 1/2000th, f/4 and ISO 800. The exposure may come out the same, but the settings used are different, and tailored to the specific lighting conditions.

1/160, f/2.8 ISO 100 © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

1/160th, f/2.8 ISO 100 © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

Consider the image above. If you ask me what the camera settings for this image were, I will gladly tell you that this was shot at 1/160th, f/2.8 and ISO 100. But what this doesn’t tell you is that I had a speedlight on the ground, off to camera right, at full power. The majority of the light in this image is coming from the flash, with very little ambient (available light) influencing this image at all. Knowing just the settings will not help you to understand how this image was made. There is more to the image than just the camera settings.

The camera settings here are geared more toward the speedlight, as it is quite a distance from the rider. The slower shutter speed is just below sync-speed, which allows for more power of the flash to affect the image (high-speed sync decreases the flash output range) and it also adds a slight blur to the wheels, which gives a nice sense of speed to the image. I used f/2.8 again to aid in the power of the flash, because my ISO was low to reduce the amount of ambient light. The flash is also freezing the majority of the action here.

Knowing why those settings were used, is far more important than just knowing the settings by themselves. It’s knowing the why, that will help you in your journey as a photographer. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same principle is at work in photography. Even if I was with you, and told you the settings to use, what will you do when you are alone? You need to understand why those settings have been used.

Reading an image

When looking at an image, understanding what and why you like it, will be of great benefit to you. This is something that you will develop more and more, as you mature as a photographer. Just a hint, it’s not the camera settings that made an image great. It could be the location, the lighting (time of day is very important), composition, perspective, focal length, any editing techniques used, etc., that all worked together to make the final piece. Each one of these is no more or less important than the next, and they all need to be considered.

For me, moving from obsessing over camera settings, to these other factors that influence a photo, was somewhat of an epiphany for me, and made me realize that photography may not be as simple as I once thought it was!

With this image, I used 1/160sec, f/4 and ISO 400. I also have two flashes fired remotely; one camera-right just behind the model giving the rim light on her front side and arms etc. I also have my key light placed at camera left and at ~ 45-degree angle facing the model. Both lights are un-modified (bare-head, or bare-bulb).

With this image, I used 1/160th, f/4 and ISO 400. I also have two flashes fired remotely; one camera-right just behind the model, creatng the rim light on her front side and arms. I also have my key light placed at camera left and at approximately a 45-degree angle, facing the model. Both lights are un-modified (bare-head, or bare-bulb).

As you advance in photography, you will slowly develop a skill that is often referred to as reading an image. This is were you look at an image, and begin to work out how it was created.

For instance you will be able to have a rough idea of the position of the camera, any lighting setups that were used, etc. This is something that you will build upon as you become more experienced. Unfortunately, this is where the magic of photography seems to end. At first, you are in awe of what you captured, when you didn’t quite know how you got it; it all seemed to work like magic. But as you begin to read images, and dissect how they were crafted, that magic can seemingly disappear.

Here I used 1/1000sec to freeze the action, f/3.5 to give less depth of field and ISO 6400 to fill in the exposure gap. The ISO is quite high as this is at a night game. © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

Here I used 1/1000th to freeze the action, f/3.5 to give less depth of field, and ISO 6400 to fill in the exposure gap. The ISO is quite high as this was a night game. © Daniel Smith / Getty Images.

But before you being to to read photos, you must first be very comfortable with not only the three exposure elements (aperture, shutter speed and ISO), but also how they visually affect images. Once you fully understand each element, you will be able to look at an image and say, “They’ve used a fast shutter speed for this” or, “The aperture used was very wide”.

You may not be able to determine the exact camera settings, but you will be able to put yourself in a much better starting point than when you first begun, when you had no idea where to begin! This illustration gives a very quick visual representation of how shutter speed, aperture and ISO affect the look of an image.

This illustration gives a visual guide to how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect an image. *this is just an illustration and does not necessarily give exact representation for each.

This illustration gives a visual guide to how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect an image. *Note: this is just an illustration and does not necessarily give exact representation for each.

Conclusion

So you now know why asking, “What camera setting did you use?” is not the most helpful. But rather than leave you there, let’s look at some alternative questions you can ask, while you develop your image reading skills, and get some education under your belt:

  • How did you create this image?
  • What post-processing methods did you use?
  • How did you achieve (whatever part you are most intrigued about)?
  • What camera/lens combination did you use?
  • Why did you use that specific camera/lens combination?
  • Why did you use those particular settings?
  • What was the lighting like?

Now you are armed with some alternative questions to ask that will give you a better insight to how it was made, when you see an image you like.

With this in mind, what questions would you ask about this image? Would you still ask for the camera settings, or how this image was created?

Fig 9

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Beginner Tip: How to Use the Canon Quick Menu to Change Cacmera Settings

16 Feb

canon-quick-menu-3

When it comes to beginner photographers, one of the first major goals is often to get off Auto. Doing so really is an important step to using your camera to the best of its capabilities. However, the concern that I hear most often from beginners in terms of stepping away from auto mode, is that it takes so long to get their shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and focal points set, that sometimes they’ve missed the shot that they were hoping for completely. I understand how frustrating that dynamic can be, and I have one Canon tip to share that may make life a little simpler if you’re just starting out.

Canon EOS cameras have a feature called the EOS Quick Menu. For the vast majority of EOS cameras, you’ll access the Quick Menu or Control Screen by pressing the button on the back of the camera with the letter Q. For a few older EOS cameras, you’ll have to push the button in the center of the multi-controller (that’s the big wheel on the back of your camera to the right of the screen). Once you hit that button, a very handy screen pops up that looks something like this:

canon-quick-menu-1

Now, you’ve got many of the most commonly changed settings right at your fingertips. You can change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, metering mode, focal point, file type, and several other features, right from the Quick Menu, without having to scroll through several different menus or adjust settings located in several different places on your camera body. You just use the multi-controller to navigate to the setting that you’d like to change, and then press the SET button to access that setting.

It’s worth noting that your available options will change somewhat depending on which camera mode you’re in. In the above image, the camera is set to manual mode and thus there are high number of settings available to be changed.

canon-quick-menu-2

If you switch the camera to Program mode, the option to change shutter speed and aperture vanishes, as those are set automatically by the camera. You still have access to other controls like ISO, file type, metering, and exposure compensation through the Quick Menu in this mode.

canon-quick-menu-4

Of course, all of these features can also be accessible via the buttons/dials on the top and side of your camera, or in the standard menu screens. I do think it’s important to learn how to change your settings in those traditional ways, as the Quick Menu may not always be the most effective, or efficient, way to change a particular setting depending on the circumstances. The more you know about your camera, the better you’ll be able to utilize all of its features! That said, it’s never a bad thing to know how to accomplish the same task in more than one way, and the Canon Quick Menu can be a huge help when you’re trying to make changes to your settings in a short amount of time. In my opinion, both shorthand and longhand have their time and place!

If you’re a Canon EOS user, have you found the Quick Menu to be a helpful tool? Are there some settings you still prefer to access and change in other ways? Do you shoot Nikon or another brand of camera – and does it have something similar? Please share in the comments below.

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High Art Hits Streets: Classical Paintings in Modern Settings

08 Jun

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

art street train car

If context is critical to understanding art, then what happens to a work when you push a famous piece through time and space to a highly familiar and everyday place? Where fine artwork meets street scenes, strange and beautiful things begin to happen.

street art sidewalk scene

art coffee shop remix

In a series called Art History in Contemporary Life, Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov elaborately relocates key figures from their historical canvasses into jarringly mundane settings, putting classical art in modern contexts. The results are seamless and convincing – one could almost imagine rehanging the hybrid works back up in museums.

art classic harp player

art dive bar scene

art kissing train cars

Madonna, child and a chorus of angels are suddenly found sitting in a dirty subway car, cherubs flutter below a shanty overhang and a half-naked hand harp player spins tunes for pennies for commuting pedestrians. Famous figures share drinks at a modern dive while lovers kiss on a darkened subway car.

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‘Manual’ app brings manual camera settings to iOS8 devices

26 Sep

The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8, offers camera app developers access to previously locked manual controls such as focus, shutter speed and ISO. A new app called Manual not only makes use of the manual controls offered by iOS 8, but puts them at the center of the user experience. Read more at connect.dpreview.com

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10 Must-Have Camera Settings for Concert Photography

16 Sep
The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones: Nikon D800, 185mm at f4, 1/320, ISO 1600

The correct camera settings are key to getting awesome concert photos in low light situations. Maybe you were in this situation before. You used the full automatic mode in front of the stage and – BAM- the little flash monster sitting on top of your camera pops up and throws the ugliest light you can think of onto the singer’s face. At this point, a lot of frustrated concert photography beginners just take their cameras home and never shoot a concert again. But wait, in this article I’ll share the camera settings I use all the time during concert shoots and I promise they’ll help you to immediately boost your career as concert photographer. Let’s start.

1) Aperture Priority Versus Manual Exposure Mode

I started off using aperture priority mode; you tell your camera the aperture you want to use and the camera sets the shutter speed accordingly. This is a great option for a beginner to use, because you’ll be stressed enough with all the other things going on around you. However, I soon recognized that only manual mode would give me the flexibility I was looking for. I set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and then change them on the fly using the internal exposure bar in the viewfinder. I am constantly checking my LCD screen and have a look at the histogram to see if my exposure is correct.

Fink

Fink: Nikon D700, 14mm at f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 3200

2) Use the Lowest Aperture Number

When deciding which lenses will work best for concert photography, you’ll always come to the same conclusion: use fast lenses and shoot them wide open. Set your aperture to the smallest number on your lens e.g. f/1.8 (which reflects a big aperture). This allows the most possible light to enter your sensor and is a must-have setting in ultra low-light stage conditions. The best zoom lenses have an aperture of f/2.8, the best prime lenses f/1.4 or f/1.8. For Beginners on a budget I suggest to get a 50mm f/1.8, which is cheap and therefore a no-brainer for concert photography.

3) Use a Fast Shutter Speed

Have you ever been on a concert where the artist was hyperactive jumping from one side of the stage to the other? To freeze these movements you have to use a fast shutter speed. In general, I set my shutter speed at 1/200sec and faster. Otherwise you risk blurred photos.

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus: Nikon D800, 340mm at f/4.8, 1/320, ISO 1600

4) High ISO Values

ISO or film speed refers to the sensitivity of an analog film. Today the term is used for the sensitivity of your digital sensor. The higher the ISO setting the less light is needed for a proper exposure, but the more noise you will encounter in your pictures. Depending on the ability of your camera a good starting point for ISO is a setting of 1600. If my shutter speed is too low, I will crank up the ISO setting to 3200 or 6400.

5) Spot Metering

Set your camera’s internal light meter to spot metering. This takes a light reading limited to the center of your viewfinder (a very small percentage, and some cameras allow you to choose where to meter – check your manual). When shooting concerts, you will often find yourself in a situation where the artist is lit by a spotlight and the rest of the stage is almost dark. When using spot metering mode, place the artist’s face in the middle of your viewfinder and you’ll get the right exposure for it. When using the Matrix (or evaluative) metering setting, the camera will take a light reading at several points in the scene and you’ll probably get overexposed faces if the background is dark.

Atari Teenage Riot

Atari Teenage Riot: Nikon D700, 50mm at f/1.8, 1/2500, ISO 1600

6) Use the Middle Autofocus Point

On your camera, only use the central focus point in low light situations. This will be the most accurate one. If you don’t always want to have the artist in the middle of the frame, you have to recompose. Simply push your shutter button halfway down to focus on the artist’s face. By holding the shutter button halfway down you lock focus. Now move your viewfinder until you get the desired framing and push the shutter button fully down.

To use this technique, you have to set your camera to Autofocus single (AF-S for Nikon, One Shot for Canon) mode, otherwise the camera focuses continuously while you’re reframing your picture. You can also set the AF-ON button to focus, which I prefer.

7) Use Auto White Balance

I use the auto white balance setting on my camera. The reason being is that I shoot in RAW format and can therefore adjust the white balance setting in post-production anyway.

Skunk Anansie

Skunk Anansie: Nikon D700, 85mm at f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 1600

8) Multiple Shot (Burst) Mode

Set your camera to multi-shot mode (may be called High Speed shooting mode). It allows you to rapidly shoot three to four photos in a row (depending on the frames per second of your camera model. It’s more likely that at least one of the four photos is tack sharp whereas the others might not be in focus.

9) Never Use Flash

First, you are not allowed to use a flash in concert photography. Imagine ten photographers burst their flashes at the same time. This would be quite annoying for the artist. Second, straight flash pictures don’t look awesome.

Korn

Korn: Nikon D700, 130mm at f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 3200

10) Shoot in Raw Format

Always shoot concerts in RAW format. If you shoot in JPEG mode, the internal camera computer adds contrast, saturation and sharpness to your photos. These files look great when you open them on your computer, but don’t leave much freedom in post-production. If you shoot in RAW format, the camera does not process the photo at all. The advantage is that you can change parameters like exposure, white balance, saturation, contrast, clarity and so on afterwards.

Here is a summary of my ten must have camera settings:

  1. Use manual exposure mode
  2. Use your lowest aperture number
  3. Use fast shutter speeds
  4. Use high ISO values
  5. Use spot metering
  6. Use your middle autofocus point
  7. Use the auto white balance setting
  8. Use burst mode
  9. Never use flash
  10. Shoot in RAW format

With these camera settings you will be able to get great results when shooting in low light conditions such as concerts.

The Prodigy

The Prodigy: Nikon D800, 85mm at f/1.8, 1/320, ISO 1600

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus: Nikon D700, 50mm at f/1.8, 1/200, ISO 1600

Being a concert photographer can be tough. There are a lot of industry secrets that nobody is talking about and it took me almost six years to reveal them.

So I decided to write the Guide to Rockstar Concert Photography which is a step-by-step guide which will provide you with all the information necessary from shooting your first concert, learning which camera gear and settings you need, how to build an awesome portfolio, understanding the rules of the photo pit, getting signed by magazines, shooting exclusively for your favorite bands, and making money with your work.

This guide is available for the first and only time at SnapnDeals at a 50% off discount to help you getting started to become a Rockstar Photographer too.

The post 10 Must-Have Camera Settings for Concert Photography by Matthias Hombauer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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