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Posts Tagged ‘Them’

This ‘metalens’ breakthrough may revolutionize lenses as we know them

05 Jan
Image credit: Jared Sisler/Harvard SEAS

Until recently, metalenses—flat ‘lenses’ that can focus light using nanopillars on their surface—were a cool-but-limited area of study when it came to photography. Sure, these flat lenses are 100,000x thinner than glass, but they could only work with a limited range of colors, making it unlikely they’d appear in a cameras module any time soon.

That all changed this week, however, when a team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) announced that they had succeeded in developing the first metalens that can focus the entire spectrum of visible light, including white light, onto a single point in high resolution.

This is a huge breakthrough, and a big leap forward from the same teams’ announcement last February that they had managed to focus all the colors from blue to green.

Image credit: Jared Sisler/Harvard SEAS

The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, where the team describes a metalens that uses “an arrays of titanium dioxide nanofins to equally focus wavelengths of light and eliminate chromatic aberration.” In other words: where a traditional lens needs multiple curved glass elements of varying thicknesses to focus the entire spectrum of visible light onto a single point, this flat metalens does the exact same thing using nano structures.

The details of how this is achieved can get a bit complicated—involving how they pair and space the ‘nanofins’ on the metalens itself—but the result is easy enough to understand: an achromatic flat lens that comes with three very big advantages over traditional glass lenses, as the paper’s lead author Federico Capasso explains:

Metalenses are thin, easy to fabricate and cost effective. This breakthrough extends those advantages across the whole visible range of light. This is the next big step.

The next step for the SEAS team is to make the lens bigger; they’re aiming for 1cm in diameter. In the meantime, Harvard has already licensed the tech to a startup for commercial development, so a real-world product that uses these metalenses might not be as far off as you might imagine.

To learn more, or dive into the research paper itself, head over to the SEAS website or read the full paper in Nature Nanotechnology.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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6 Types of Bracketing Your Camera Can Do and How to Use Them

06 Dec

Bracketing is a method of taking multiple images of the same scene at different settings in order to capture more detail in your shot.

You might not be aware that there are actually a number of bracketing techniques besides the most common method which is exposure bracketing.

Exposure bracketing allows you to retain more dynamic range in your final image. However, other bracketing techniques which we’ll discuss in this article can help you capture more detail in different focus planes, different color temperatures, or even detail in the amount of noise or grain that is captured.

Let’s go ahead and begin with the bracketing technique that you’re most likely already familiar with – exposure bracketing.

#1 – Exposure Bracketing

In exposure bracketing, we take the same image several times at different exposure values or (EVs) in order to accommodate for the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows in the shot. The resulting images can be merged together either in camera or by using editing software. This produces an image with superior tonal range than what you’d have gotten if you had taken only a single shot.






Most cameras can do this automatically in HDR mode, however, the majority of them are only able to save the resulting image in a JPEG format. That is a huge limitation if you want to change some parameters in post-production like White Balance, Exposure, Saturation, etc.

Your camera will usually have a number of options for you to choose from, like the total number of shots to be taken, drive mode (continuous or single), and the exposure difference between each image (1EV or 2EV). ). The exposure bracketing settings can be found under the drive mode menu on most cameras.

#2 – Focus Bracketing (Stacking)

This bracketing technique is most useful when you have a limited depth of field giving you a narrow sliver of focus in your image. Several images are taken at different focal planes, from the nearest focus distance or plane to the furthest focus distance.

All the other in-camera settings must be constant, your exposure should remain untouched because none of the three pillars of exposure (shutter, aperture, ISO) are changed. Really all that’s changing is the focus point.






In macro photography, this can be very useful because the images can be stacked in order to produce one where the subject is fully in focus as opposed to just a certain part. You can think of this method as slightly widening the depth of field on your subject without losing any silky smooth bokeh you get at wider apertures.

After merging or focus stacking the three focus bracketed images. It’s not perfect but it has more of the bear in focus than any of the other three images.

Not many cameras will have a focus bracketing function or feature, however, if your camera does, I encourage you to read the manual to learn how it works. For those with cameras that don’t have this feature then it’s really simple to do it manually. You want to have your camera on a tripod and you also want to make sure you’re shooting a static subject.

All you have to do is take multiple images at the same settings (I advise the use of manual mode or aperture priority), between each image you want to adjust your focus plane manually from the closest to furthest. You can experiment with different distances between focus planes to get the results you want. In post-production, you the have the freedom to make the entire image sharp, or just all the parts of your subject, or even just select areas.

#3 – Flash Bracketing

In flash bracketing, multiple images are taken of the same scene with varying light intensities from your camera flash or speedlight especially a fill flash. The light intensity from the flash is varied in steps from low to high intensity as images are captured.

You then have a number of images all with different flash exposures from which you can pick the best one.

Neutral or normal intensity




This can be very handy in low light situations or in general where you are unsure what flash intensity is going to correctly expose your image.

Flash exposure bracketing (FEB) can be found as a feature on many speedlights, you might want to read through the manual first to figure out how to find and activate it. For some cameras, it is in the camera menu. Once found it’s as simple as picking the number of photos to take, as well as the flash exposure compensation between them.

The final step is taking the images, it’s important to note that FEB can be very slow due to the limitation of the speedlight recycle rate (the time it takes your speed light to be ready to fire again after an actuation). So always keep that in mind when shooting.

Here’s another example which was done outdoors. Notice how the exposure changes on the girl (due to the amount of flash) but the background remained the same.



#4 – White Balance Bracketing

This is one of the more unusual bracketing techniques available in digital photography. As the name suggests, White Balance bracketing allows you to take several images of the same scene at different color temperatures.

This method mostly applies to photographers that only shoot JPEG since the White Balance of an image can always be changed in post-production if it’s recorded in RAW format. Images are taken at blueish color temperatures in stages all the way to reddish temperatures.




This bracketing technique is particularly useful in scenes where there is mixed lighting and it may be difficult for the Auto White Balance mode to correctly pick a color temperature.

You can then pick the image with the most accurate (or pleasing) color temperature afterward. You can manually set the color temperature range within your camera settings in degrees Kelvin.

White balance bracketing can be found in the camera settings, and you should be able to pick the number of photos to take as well as the white balance difference between them in degrees Kelvin. If your camera does not have the feature then you can individually take the photos manually, changing the white balance between them. Just make sure you shoot in RAW + JPEG so you have more creative freedom in post-production. Use the JPEGs for previewing so you can pick the image with the right color temperature, then match that to your RAW file and you can make all your other edits.

#5 – Depth of Field Bracketing

This is a bracketing technique that is very similar to the focus bracketing (stacking) method mentioned earlier. Multiple images are taken of the same scene at different apertures, your exposure must remain constant meaning that your shutter speed and ISO can change (Aperture Priority is recommended).




Just like in focus bracketing, you are able to get a varying depth of field in your shot when you stack the resulting images in post-production, effectively allowing you to get more in focus while not sacrificing any smooth bokeh you got at your widest aperture.

Depth of field bracketing is a technique that won’t be found on many cameras as a function or feature. You will have to do it manually, the good news is that it’s very easy to do. You want to make sure your camera is in Aperture Priority then take images of the same scene while changing your aperture between each image, it might be handy to use a tripod so that the frame is identical. In post-production, you have the freedom to stack your images and get everything in focus or just the subject in its entirety while keeping some satisfying bokeh.

#6 – ISO Bracketing

The final bracketing technique in digital photography is ISO bracketing. As the name suggests, this method involves taking several images of the same scene at different ISO or sensor gain values.

What might come as a surprise to you is that your aperture and shutter speed must stay constant which results in a number of images all with different signal to noise ratios and also different exposures.

ISO bracketing is useful because you get images with different amounts of noise. So you can pick the aesthetic that’s most pleasing to your eyes in that respect.





ISO bracketing can also be used for HDR in situations where your aperture is closed all the way down but you don’t want a shutter speed that’s too slow (in order to correctly expose) such that things in the scene change between images; like water, people or even marine traffic.

ISO bracketing is one of the less common bracketing methods that can be found as a function in your camera. I advise that you check your camera manual to make sure your camera has this feature. If it doesn’t, then you can put your camera in Manual Mode, then select Auto ISO and activate your exposure bracketing, you can also pick your exposure range as well as the number of pictures to take (note: this only works on some camera models).

If your camera isn’t able to do ISO bracketing via the method mentioned above then you can do it the old school way; manually! Put your camera in Manual Mode, make sure you select an aperture, shutter speed, and an ISO between 800 to 1000 that correctly exposes your image. Take your first image as your base at 0EV, the next step involves lowering and raising your ISO while taking images to get your shots at different exposures.

Conclusion

Most of the bracketing techniques mentioned here in this article are not actually available as built-in features or modes in a lot of the cameras that you and I can buy. However, with the power of full manual controls, you can always try them for yourself and see what kind of results you’re getting.

The post 6 Types of Bracketing Your Camera Can Do and How to Use Them by Fadzai Saungweme appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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iOS apps can secretly record and take pictures once you’ve given them camera permission

31 Oct

If you want to be sure nobody is spying on you through your laptop’s webcam, the best thing you can do is cover the lens—but the same might actually be true for the camera on your Apple smartphone.

Felix Krause, a developer at Google, has found that any iOS app could secretly use the iPhone’s camera to record images and video of the user, once given permission to access the camera at all. Krause developed an app for demonstration purposes that shows how an app could use either front or rear cameras to capture images and video in the background. The resulting footage or images could be directly transferred to cloud servers without the user being aware or receiving any notifications.

The camera could also be used to run real-time face recognition, possibly even identifying the user.

The good news is that Krause’s app is not approved for distribution through the iTunes App Store; hopefully such malicious behavior would be picked up during Apple’s pretty strict review process. However, if you want to be entirely certain you’re not being spied on, the best options seem to be covering the lens or not granting camera access to any app you don’t 100 percent trust.

For a better idea of the issue, watch the video below that shows Krause’s proof-of-concept app in action, or read the full report on his website.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Why There are 6 Types of Lightroom Previews and How to Use Them

13 May

Previews are an essential part of the Lightroom workflow. But with so many different types of Lightroom previews, it’s easy to get confused. For example, do you know the difference between minimal, standard and 1:1 previews? Or what a Smart Preview does? Or why 1:1 previews are useless in the Develop module?

The differences are more than academic. The way you use previews makes a big difference to Lightroom’s speed and efficiency. If you want Lightroom to run at optimal speed, you need to build the right previews. Let’s take a look at how to do that.

Lightroom Previews

Why does Lightroom build previews?

If you open a photo in Photoshop, there is no preview. You are looking at the photo itself. So why does Lightroom need previews? The answer lies in the fact that Photoshop and Lightroom edit photos in different ways.

Photoshop is a pixel editor. It changes the pixels of your photo and saves those changes in the file. Lightroom is a parametric editor. It doesn’t change the original photo file in any way. Instead, it keeps a record of any changes made to the photo in the Catalog. As the original photo is unchanged, Lightroom needs to use previews to show you how your photos look after you have edited them.

Let’s take a look at each of the different types of Lightroom previews.

Library module previews

There are several types of preview you can build in the Library module. Previews are used by Lightroom to display your photos in the Library module. They help you view, zoom, rate, and flag photos – all the organizational stuff you want to do in this section.

Whenever you import photos into Lightroom it gives you the option of selecting the type of preview to build. There are four choices. The first two (Minimal and Embedded & Sidecar) are relevant if you want to import photos quickly and are happy with a low-resolution preview.

Lightroom previews

Minimal previews:

These are the smallest previews possible. Minimal previews save space and time but don’t give you a high-quality Library module preview.

Embedded & Sidecar previews:

This option uses the preview built into the Raw file if there is one.

Minimal and Embedded & Sidecar previews are temporary. If you choose either of these options Lightroom builds its own better quality previews as soon as it can. This slows down the browsing process in the Library module. For this reason, I only recommend selecting Minimal or Embedded & Sidecar previews when you need to import photos rapidly.

The next two options are ones you are most likely to use. They give you good quality previews that you can use to view photos.

Standard previews

Builds a preview for viewing images in Loupe View, but without zooming in. You can set the size of standard previews in the Catalog Settings. The best option to pick is Auto. With Auto, Lightroom builds previews that match your monitor resolution.

Lightroom takes longer to build Standard previews than it does to create Minimal or Embedded & Sidecar previews. But the benefit is that the Library module runs much faster.

Lightroom previews

The only problem with Standard previews is that they are not designed for zooming into your photos. When you zoom in, Lightroom has to build a 1:1 preview. So there’s a delay that slows the Library module down in displaying your image full size.

1:1 previews

The best quality previews of all are 1:1, but it’s the one that takes longest to build. This is a full-size preview that lets you zoom into your photos at 100% when looking at them in Loupe view. With 1:1 previews there is no delay when you zoom into a photo.

The only drawback of 1:1 previews is that they take up a lot of hard drive space. Lightroom handles that by discarding 1:1 previews after a set amount of time. The default is 30 days, but you can change that in the Catalog settings if you need to.

Lightroom previews

Smart Previews

Adobe introduced Smart Previews in Lightroom 5. A Smart Preview is a high-quality, highly compressed preview that measures 2540 pixels along the longest edge. Smart Previews are used by Lightroom CC to synchronize with Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web.

The option to create Smart Previews is available in the Import window.

Lightroom previews

Smart Previews are different from the other Library module previews because they can also be used in the Develop module. The advantage of this is that you can develop photos using Smart Previews when the hard drive containing your original photo files isn’t connected to your hard drive.

This feature lets you use Smart Previews to develop photos while you are traveling. All you need is a laptop, a copy of your Lightroom Catalog and the preview files containing Library module previews (1:1, standard, etc.) and Smart Previews. So you don’t have to take the hard drive containing the original photos and worry about losing it while on the road.

If you’re a Lightroom CC subscriber Smart Previews also let you use Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web.

Lightroom previews

The Lightroom folder contains the Lightroom Catalog and the preview folders you need to run Lightroom on any computer.

Smart previews save space and can be built later as well

Earlier I said that Smart Previews are both highly compressed and high-quality. This sounds like a contradiction but it’s true. I don’t know how Adobe have done it but the result is that you can’t tell a Smart Preview apart from a full-size preview in terms of image quality. The only difference is that a Smart Preview is smaller.

You can build Standard, 1:1, or Smart Previews at any time in the Library module by selecting the images and going to Library > Previews and selecting the preview type required. The option to build Minimal or Embedded & Sidecar previews only appears in the Import window.

Lightroom previews

Develop module previews

When you switch from the Library module to the Develop module the preview Lightroom uses to display your photos changes. Lightroom renders high-quality previews that let you see the result of actions like adding sharpening, applying noise reduction, and retouching images.

These previews are cached rather than saved in a preview file, otherwise, they would rapidly eat up most of your hard drive space.

Creating 1:1 previews in the Library module makes no difference to the speed at which Lightroom renders previews in the Develop module. But if a Smart Preview exists for the photo Lightroom uses the Smart Preview instead of rendering a Develop module preview under one of two conditions.

a. The hard drive containing the original photo file is disconnected from the computer.

b. You have Lightroom CC 2015.7 or Lightroom 6.7 or later, the hard drive containing the original photo file is connected to the computer, and you have the Use Smart Previews instead of Original for image editing preference enabled in Preferences (see below). Note that if you zoom into 1:1 Lightroom stops using the Smart Preview and renders a full-size preview instead.

Lightroom previews

Smart Previews are smaller than full-size previews. That enables Lightroom to run faster when Smart Previews are used in the Develop module. The speed increase can be quite significant. If you don’t need to zoom into your photos at 100% magnification then the benefits are considerable.

Conclusion

Lightroom previews are somewhat confusing, especially for newcomers to the software. This is hardly surprising considering there are six types of them! So let’s keep things simple. These are my recommended previews to use.

When you import images into Lightroom, choose either Standard or 1:1 previews. If you intend to zoom into your images while viewing them in Loupe view, you definitely want to pick 1:1 previews. Otherwise, pick Standard.

If you’re a Lightroom CC subscriber and you want to view the images in Lightroom mobile or Lightroom web then tick the Build Smart Previews box. Do the same if you intend to use Smart Previews in the Develop module.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments section below.


If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom, then please check out my popular Mastering Lightroom ebooks.

The post Why There are 6 Types of Lightroom Previews and How to Use Them by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

06 Apr

Are you ready to get off Auto? When most people get started in digital photography, the first thing they do is set the shooting mode dial on the top of the camera to Auto. It makes sense to let the camera make decisions about things while you’re just getting used to using it.

In Auto mode, the camera makes decisions not only on the Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO but also on many other factors such as White Balance, Focus Mode, Focus Points and Metering Mode.

After awhile, you might start to choose one of the automatic scene modes such as portrait, sports, landscape or night, if your camera has those options. This gives the camera a bit more information about what you’re shooting so it can make better decisions for you.

But at some point, you are going to want to take control and make those decisions for yourself. Your camera is smart, but it’s not an artist! This is where the advanced shooting modes come in.

The Exposure Triangle

Before we get into discussing advanced shooting modes, you need to understand the concept of how the exposure triangle works.

First, there is shutter speed – the length of time that the shutter is open. This is the easiest part of the triangle to understand; the longer the shutter is open, the more light comes in and hits your camera’s sensor.

The San Diego skyline by Anne McKinnell - Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

ISO 100, 24mm, f/22, 80 seconds

Second, there is the aperture – the variable opening in your lens through which the light passes. The opening is round and works just like the pupils in our eyes. On a bright day, you squint, making the pupil smaller to let in less light. When the light is dim, your pupil is larger to let in more light.

Generally speaking, a small aperture opening and a long shutter speed may allow the exact same amount of light in as a large aperture opening and a short shutter speed. Choosing this balance between aperture and shutter speed is the key, and your choice will depend on what you are trying to achieve with your photograph.

The third and final factor in determining exposure is ISO – the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. For those of you who remember the film days, ISO is similar to ASA, the speed of the film. Essentially, it’s best to leave ISO at a low setting such as 100 (other photographers will recommend using high ISO as needed – do your own research and experiment with your camera). But if you’re in a low-light situation, you might need to increase it so that less light is required to make a good exposure.

Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. ISO 200, 10mm, f/18, 1/10th of a second.

Advanced Shooting Modes

There are five main advanced shooting modes available on most digital cameras:

  1. P for Program Mode
  2. A or Av for Aperture Priority Mode
  3. S or Tv for Shutter Priority Mode
  4. M for Manual Mode
  5. B for Bulb Mode

Many professional photographers frown upon using anything other than Manual Mode. But I respectfully disagree. A camera is just a tool and a smart one at that! There’s nothing wrong with letting your camera do what it’s good at as long as you are controlling the factors that are important to you.

Program Mode

In Program Mode, your camera chooses the shutter speed and aperture. You can control other factors like white balance, focus mode, focus points and metering mode. Program mode is a good place to start when you’re just coming off of auto mode and learning how to use your camera settings. But it isn’t where you want to stay because aperture and shutter speed are the key to taking control of your images.

Aperture Priority Mode

When you use Aperture Priority Mode, you tell the camera what aperture you want to use, and it will calculate the appropriate shutter speed to make a good exposure. The size of the aperture affects depth of field, which is a critical concept when you want to take creative control of your images.

When you have a very large aperture opening, such as f/2.8, you are going to have a shallow depth of field. That means that whatever you focus on will be sharp, but everything in front and behind it will be out of focus.

On the other hand, when the aperture opening is small, such as f/22, you have a large depth of field, so more things that are in front and behind your focus point will also be sharp.

The difference between large and small apertures - Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

Try them all

The best way to understand this is to try it out for yourself. Put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode and take the exact same photograph using each aperture setting. Then look at the photos on your computer and you’ll see the effect that aperture has on the depth of field.

What you’ll find is that photos with a large aperture have a soft background and photos with a small aperture have a background that is in focus. For me, depth of field is the most important factor in my photography, so I almost always use Aperture Priority Mode.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona - Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

ISO 100, 33mm, f/18, 1/25th of a second. For this image, it was important to keep everything sharp from the closest cactus in the foreground to the mountains in the background. So I chose a small aperture to ensure I had good depth of field.

F-Numbers are Tricky

Before we leave this topic, there’s one thing that many people find confusing and that is the f-stop numbers. A large aperture opening is represented by a small number and a small aperture is represented by a large number. I don’t want to get into too much math here, but my trick for remembering how this works is to think of it like a fraction. 1/2 is larger than 1/8, so f/2 is a larger opening than f/8.

Shutter Priority Mode

When you use Shutter Priority Mode, you tell the camera what shutter speed you want to use, and it will calculate the appropriate aperture to make a good exposure. This mode is most useful when you have moving objects in your frame and you want to either freeze the motion or blur the motion.

For example, if you are photographing a bicycle race, you probably won’t be happy with just any old shutter speed. You’ll likely want to use a relatively long exposure, such as half a second or one second, to blur the motion of the bicycles going by. Or you’ll want a fast shutter speed such as 1/500th of a second to freeze the motion. Anything in between would look out of focus.

Shooting waterfalls is another good example of when to control the shutter speed for the silky water effect.

Englishman River Falls, Vancouver Island, British Columbia - Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

ISO 100, 180mm, f/22, 1/10th of a second.

Manual Mode

When you are in Manual Mode, you must tell your camera both the aperture and the shutter speed you want to shoot at. You will use your camera’s light meter to determine whether the settings you have entered will create a good exposure, then adjust the settings based on whether you have too much or not enough light.

In Manual Mode you are in complete control and practicing with it will give you a good grasp on how aperture and shutter speed work together. Once you understand this, it may be more convenient to use either Aperture Priority Mode or Shutter Priority Mode to accomplish your goals.

Bulb Mode

Bulb Mode allows you to extend the shutter speed beyond the camera’s built-in limit, which is usually 30 seconds. You can use this mode to photograph the streaks of clouds moving across the sky, or at night to photograph star trails.

To use Bulb Mode, press the shutter button and hold it down. The shutter will open and stay opened until you release the shutter button. But of course, this method isn’t practical because you can’t just stand there holding the shutter button down for 10 minutes! Plus, having your finger touching the camera during a long exposure will cause camera shake and your photo would be blurry.

Star trails at Joshua Tree National Park, California - Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them

This photo was made using an intervalometer programmed to make a 7-second exposure every 15 seconds for two hours. Then all the images were stacked to create the star trails.

The best way to use Bulb Mode is to use a shutter release cable (or a remote trigger). This allows you to press the button on the cable to open the shutter and then lock it opened so you can walk away and come back later to release it. Another option, instead of using a cable release, is to use an intervalometer which will allow you to program how long you want the shutter to be opened and even program multiple shots. For example, you can set it to take a 2-second exposure every 5 minutes for an hour.

Conclusion

Remember, the camera is your tool to use any way you like to make your art. The shooting modes are just some options that are available to you so you can accomplish your creative goals. Have fun and experiment!


Shooting modes are just one of the camera settings you’ll want to master to take control of your camera and your photography. My new eBook Taking Control: Essential Camera Skills for Beginners will help you understand what all the knobs and dials on your camera do and how to use them for creative control over your images.

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Ask the staff: Pick one focal length or lens to rule them all

27 Mar
Can you guess the focal length? Photo by Wenmei Hill

We handle a lot of glass in the DPReview office, but there always seems to be a handful of lenses or fixed lens cameras that everyone is extra eager to lay some paws on. Which got us thinking of a fun hypothetical: If we could only choose one lens to use for the rest of time, what would it be?

To keep things interesting, and to vary the answers, we opened the question up to include one lens in particular or one focal length. The photograph that accompanies each answer was shot with that staff member’s chosen lens or focal length. We purposely didn’t list the gear used. See if you can guess!

Carey Rose

Any guesses what focal length Carey gravitates toward?

Before I worked at DPReview, I would have immediately chosen the 35mm focal length. Now that I’ve worked at DPReview for some time, I have to say… I haven’t really changed my mind.

Splurging on a battered old D700 after college left me without enough money to pick up anything approaching a fast zoom, so I started building up a collection of affordable Nikon AF-D primes: a 50mm F1.8, a 35mm F2, an 85mm F1.8. I quickly realized that I just wasn’t a zoom guy, and the 35mm F2 was glued to my camera most of the time. A used X100 was a natural next step for a more portable setup when I scored a good deal on one.

Even today, after using lens after lens and camera after camera for review after review, the 35mm focal length remains my go-to. It doesn’t matter whether I’m headed to shoot an event, a wedding, an environmental portrait, or just strolling around when some nice light hits, it’s more likely I’ll have a 35mm lens with me than any other.

Wenmei Hill

Wenmei likes versatility. Did she choose a zoom or a prime?

I’m going to take the easy way out and pick a zoom lens rather than a single focal length. My choice is the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm F4G ED VR, and my excuse is that the majority of shooting I do (documentary lifestyle and candid portraiture) requires a flexibility that is difficult to get with a single focal length.

I’m choosing the 24-120mm even though it’s not one of my ‘favorite’ lenses because it is relatively small, lightweight and versatile enough to get the variety of shots I look for when photographing. I am able to immerse myself in a scene at 24mm but also step back for a portrait at 120mm, using the longer focal length to get pleasing bokeh and separation from the background.

Shooting it on a DX-format body gives me even more reach at the long end (180mm equivalent) for portraits. I already use this lens as my everyday lens when I don’t have a particular creative plan and want to be prepared for anything, so it’s the one I’d choose if I had to pick just one.

Dale Baskin

Dale chose a specific focal length that he didn’t always love. Can you guess what it is?

This will probably seem like I’m going for the low hanging fruit, but I would choose 35mm. I used to be a solid 50mm guy, and if I wanted to go a bit wider I switched to 28mm, skipping 35mm entirely. My shift to 35mm began in earnest when I started shooting Fujifilm’s X100 series of cameras, which have a 35mm equivalent lens.

Now, one could argue that I’m choosing 35mm because I really enjoy the camera to which it’s attached, but that’s not the case. In fact, when I first started shooting the X100 I enjoyed it despite the focal length. It was actually the one thing I didn’t care for about the camera. However, as I continued to use it, I learned to adjust my style to take advantage of the 35mm field of view. After a few months, I found myself really enjoying it, so I decided to do a little experiment: I was about to embark on a trip to Brazil and decided to shoot my entire adventure at 35mm. The idea was both exciting and scary; I knew from experience that I would be giving up some shots by not having the right lens. However, I like to travel light, and I hate carrying camera gear, so I threw down the gauntlet and accepted my own challenge.

The upshot? I had a great trip and captured a lot of memorable images. Did I miss a few shots along the way? Sure, I did. But on the flip side, I got some great photos I would have otherwise missed because I forced myself to visualize every scene at 35mm instead of mentally switching to a different focal length. Now, no matter what camera I happen to be testing, one of the first lenses I always put on the front is a 35mm (or equivalent).

Sam Spencer

Sam chose a specialty lens. This image was shot using a similar lens, albeit with a different focal length. Do you know what it is?

Forever? Forever ever? I’m sure I could do the practical thing and say ’24-70’, or be a motorsports spectator the rest of my life and say ’70-200’, but I’m weirder than that. If it was a lens for me to shoot what makes me happy for the rest of my days, it’d be the Nikon PC-E 85mm F2.8 for product, portrait, and automotive photography. The maximum magnification of 1:2 means I can get close for product, and use the tilt to either get more of the product in focus, or isolate the focal point. I like medium telephoto lenses for the narrower field of view that makes selecting a background out of a busy environment much easier, and even F2.8 can be bright enough to blur the background at 85mm. I’m a control freak, not a speed demon, so I’ll be watching eBay for a copy…

Dan Bracaglia

Dan’s image was shot with the equivalent of his favorite focal length. The image was cropped in slightly, still any ideas what he chose?

The first and only lens I’d owned for many years was a 50mm. But as my interest in photography (and other activities) grew I found myself yearning for other lenses. If you’d asked me this question when I was 16 years old and shooting a lot of skateboarding, I probably would have said a fisheye is my favorite lens. If you’d asked me again when I was 18 or 19 years old and starting to get into photojournalism, I’d probably have said 24mm. If you’d ask me when I was 24-28 years-old, and reviewing cameras for a living, all why exploring the streets of NYC/Seattle, I most likely would have said 35mm. But these days, I’ve come full circle and 50mm is my focal length of choice if I could only shoot one lens for the rest of my life.

Sometimes overlooked or seen as pedestrian, there are plenty of reasons why a normal 50mm lens is number one in my heart and bag: For starters the nifty fifty is as practical as they come. Most manufacturers make a reasonably fast, yet inexpensive 50mm equiv. Moreover, I’d argue its the most versatile focal length of them all: in a pinch it can be used for portraiture or detail shots, in the same way a tele can. And it can also be used in some capacity as a wide-angle, if you have the room to move (I’ve shot many concerts with just a 50mm, without feeling a need for something wider). And if you get a reversal ring, you can mount a nifty fifty backward and use it for macro shooting!

For years I’ve carried a Nikon 50mm F1.8 in my bag as the ultimate backup for just about anything I’m shooting: weddings, concerts, portrait sessions, travel. It’s light cheap and versatile. But these days, the lens spends as much time mounted on my camera as glass I own costing 6x as much.

Jeff Keller

Jeff chose a workhorse zoom. Can you guess which one?

Since I’m always shooting with something work-related, I don’t get to use my EOS 5D III very often. But when I do, my daily driver is the Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS USM. Not the most exciting choice of lens, I admit, but for land- and cityscapes that I enjoy taking, it definitely fits the bill. The image stabilization works well, it focuses silently and the weatherproofing is helpful when you’re out at Snoqualmie Falls and it’s throwing mist. Naturally, not long after I bought the 24-105, the Mark II arrived, with new optics, better autofocus and new coatings to reduce lens flare and ghosting. The lens is larger and heavier than my Mark I model, which I consider a good size for its focal length and aperture.

It’s nice to see that Canon isn’t the only one offering a lens with this focal range. Sigma’s 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art lens is even bigger and heavier than Canon’s Mark II version, but the build quality is excellent. And, according to DxO, it’s also a sharper lens. And did I mention that it’s a bit cheaper?

Thus, if I was stranded in a world with wonderful landscapes and cool architecture, the Sigma 24-105mm F4 Art would be permanently mounted on my 5D III.

Vladimir Bobov

Vladimir is our newest DPR team member. He makes sure the site works properly. Any guesses what focal length he chose?

I wasn’t sure whether to bother praising the 50mm focal length. I figured that it’s so common, that talking about it would be either redundant at best or boring at worst. However, sorting my photo collection by focal length showed that I took more photos with a 50mm (on a 35mm full frame camera) than with any other lens, including the more versatile zooms.

So why pick the “normal” prime for the rest of my life? Versatility and portability. It’s the perfect lens for candid portraits in a casual setting – fast enough to use in low light, and small enough to not intimidate the subject. Wide enough for full-body and group portraits, and good enough for head-and-shoulders (especially when paired with an APS-C camera). I’ve also been able to use it effectively for landscapes, close-ups, product, and food photography. So although I’d certainly miss the other focal lengths, with enough creativity and trickery, the 50 and I could live happily ever after.

Richard Butler

Richard chose a favorite lens that doesn’t yet exist. This image falls toward the tele-end of his made-up range. Can you guess what it is?

If I have to live within the constraints of reality, then I’d be tempted to say a 35mm just for its Goldilocks-like flexibility. But, it seems only fair that if I agree to be bound by an arbitrary restriction, I’m should get to relax the need to limit myself to lenses that actually exist. The problem is that I really like 35-40mm equivalent lenses but also love something around 90mm equiv. for portraiture and a lifetime seems like a long time to have to go without.

Equally, if I have a 24 or 28mm equivalent lens, I get back into the habit of ‘seeing’ wide-angle scenes and I’m sure there’s some aphorism about making one’s life spicy. This is why I’m pushing back against reality: the need for a 90mm equiv, rules out the use of a 24-70mm equiv and, over time, the limiting equivalent aperture of an 18-55mm F2.8 on APS-C would leave me frustrated. Sigma’s 18-35mm F1.8 is a work of genius that I wish were available on mirrorless systems, so I’m going to put my faith in the men and women of Aizu and trust that they’ll make me a 16-60mm F2 for APS-C mirrorless. I mean, how hard could it be?

Allison Johnson

Allison chose a specific zoom lens, can you guess which one?

Maybe a truly bold person picks a prime to shoot with for the rest of their life, but I’m going to play it safe and pick a zoom, whatever that says about me. The Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 is not the very best lens I’ve ever shot with, but it’s fairly versatile, sturdy and relatively small. It’s the right size (along with the OM-D cameras I’ve used it with) so that it’s doable to carry around all day in my purse, and I like having a fairly wide 24mm equiv. out to 80mm for a little more reach when I want it.

Really, it’s not special in any way except that it’s a solid standard zoom for a system I like. I’ve had many happy days shooting with it, including one wonderful afternoon at a defunct nuclear power plant (seriously, it was awesome). If picking a zoom makes me basic, then so be it.

Barney Britton

Any guesses what lens Barney chose?

If I was trying to impress you, and if I wasn’t such a died-in-the-wool contrarian, my choice for ‘go-to’ camera and lens would be a Nikon D810 and a 35mm lens – something good, like the Nikon 35mm F1.4 or Sigma Art 35mm F1.4, or perhaps an old ’sleeper’ favorite, like the Nikon AF-D 35mm F2, for the hipsters. If you were to ask me what focal length I use most, I’d say that probably around 90% of my photography could be achieved with a 35mm lens. If you were to ask some of my comment-thread critics on the other hand, they’d tell you that 90% of my photography could be achieved with an iPhone, or their 5-year old daughter, or their blind grandmother, or their blind grandmother’s 5 year-old iPhone, but that’s beside the point.

But I’m not trying to impress you. Which is why I’m going to cheat a little, and make a case for a zoom lens, and one that doesn’t get a lot of love in these parts – the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm F4. The current version of Nikon’s ‘street-sweeper’ do-everything zoom, it’s true that the 24-120mm isn’t the sharpest lens in Nikon’s stable, or the best-controlled when it comes to distortion, or the toughest, and all the rest. It’s a kit zoom. A pretty good kit zoom, in my opinion, but still. So why – if I had to choose only one lens – would I pick the 24-120mm? Because it just works. I know that if I go out shooting with the D810 and 24-120mm, come rain or shine (or snow, or hail, or desert dust, or any of the other nasties I’ve thrown at it) I can capture pretty much anything I might want or need to. It’s almost boring. I wish I had more of an excuse to attach other lenses, but to be honest, most of the time I just don’t. I actually sold a bunch of my Nikon glass recently, because it wasn’t getting used.

The image above was taken just after a torrential downpour last December which turned into a hail storm. The camera and lens were – like me – soaked. Could I have taken it on something better? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have wanted to risk damaging a more expensive lens in those conditions. And would it be a better picture had I done so? Or a happier memory? No.

What would you choose?

If you could only shoot with one lens, or one focal length for the rest of your life, what would you choose? Feel free to share your answer in the comments! 

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Catch them all: high resolution poster shows every Pentax SLR ever produced

23 Feb

Ricoh has released two posters charting the history of Pentax cameras, both in downloadable high-resolution PDF formats. These posters join the company’s existing online Pentax History website, serving as large visual aids to complement the site’s extensive product-by-product details.

The first of the two posters is dubbed the ‘Pentax Archives,’ and it shows camera models over the years starting with the Asahiflex I from 1952. Many of the cameras are accompanied by descriptions detailing the notable aspects of the model. The other poster shows every Pentax SLR from 1952 to 2017.

You can download them here:

  • Pentax Archives
  • Every Pentax SLR from 1952 to 2017

Those interested in additional information can view the brand’s history archives sorted by year, film and digital categories here.

Via: PentaxRumors

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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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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3 Tough Photography Client Questions and How to Answer Them

29 Aug

Ah yes, the priceless questions photographers get from their clients. If your work involves human subjects, you may occasionally feel that you’re locked in the eternal struggle of staying true to your vision, while still making your clients happy. Any of these photography client questions sound familiar:

  • Can we have all the RAW files?
  • Wouldn’t a jumping shot near this cliché tourist destination be awesome?
  • Can’t you just fix this in Photoshop?

DPS 3

While it may feel like you can only have either one or the other, I’m convinced you can have it both ways: happy, well-served clients, and a strong standard for how you shoot and share your own work. Here’s how we tackle the three tough client questions we get most often:

1 – Can you to deliver all the RAW files in the final package?

I KNOW, I KNOW, when you get this question your first instinct may be to delete their email and never respond again (or am I the only dramatic one?). But this one is an easy one to tease apart. The goal here is to get to the bottom of what the client really wants. So, before you launch into your response, ask them leading questions to find out real the root of the issue.

DPS 1

The first possibility is one of sheer numbers: Do they fear that they won’t get enough images? Are they hoping to go through them to make sure that you really did select the best ones for them? This is the time to gently explain your process to them. Explain ow you carefully cull, deliver only the best image, and spare them the misery of pawing through all the shots of their double chin or half-closed eyes.

Client education is key

Conversely, they might not even know what a RAW file actually is. Some clients think that RAW is a synonym for unedited, and want to try out their own iPhoto tricks on their images later. Now’s the time to lay down some education about the advanced programs that can open RAW files, including the fact that they require quite a bit of training to use them correctly. Normally that’s more information than the average client has ever gotten about photo editing, and they are able to reframe their question to express their needs more specifically.

DPS 5

This is also a good time to throw out the old “It’s industry standard to not provide RAW files, so that we photographers can provide you with the exact final product that is worthy of your time.” They wouldn’t walk into a chef’s kitchen and judge their work based on the raw meat in the fridge, the same holds true for their photographer.

Once you hear their concerns, and educate them through your process in a professional and kind way, most sane clients realize that asking for the RAW files just isn’t realistic.

2 – Wouldn’t this jumping shot in front of the Space Needle be awesome?

DPS 6

Okay, the late 90s jumping shots aren’t our bag either (if it is yours though, I hope the clients who ask for this are finding you!). However, we make it a firm policy to never say no to a client’s idea. Not only does it throw off the energy of the shoot, it makes the client feel that they are separated from the process of creating images; that their ideas aren’t as good as the professionals. In short, it makes them feel bad, and a subject who feels bad will never create the bomb images you want.

Always say yes client ideas

We always say yes if a client has an idea for an image that we aren’t particularly into. It lets them know they’re an integral part of the process, and encourages everyone to get creative with the shoot. Not only that, but sometimes we think a particular pose or scene isn’t going to look good, and it ends up being an awesome idea that we never would have come up with ourselves. That kind of discovery is golden. Never think that your style is so entrenched that you can’t hear new ideas, and always be ready to learn and experiment when you have clients who are in it with you.

DPS 7

All that being said, sometimes you do end up with shots that are just not you, not your look, and not something you necessarily want to represent you. Guess what? You get to choose what you share, how you blog, what your social media will show off, and how you want your portfolio to look. Deliver the client’s images with a smile, make the client happy, and share the ones you love on your own pages. There’s no rule that you have to share every image from a shoot. Select your favorites and move along.

3 – Can’t you just fix this in Photoshop?

I will be the first to admit that I’m abnormally flattered when people assume that I’m a Photoshop wizard, just because I’m the photographer. Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys.

DPS 4

However, the reality is that I am fairly abysmal at it. I would rather spend my time out shooting, than inside glued to my computer, making people look ten pounds thinner, or removing the billboard from behind the venue. Just no thank you.

So when the Photoshop question comes up, I try to manage of expectations ahead of time, as much as possible. When the parent at a wedding asks very seriously if you’ll make them look thinner, I respond with something like, “There’s absolutely no need for Photoshop on a perfect day like today. Everyone here loves you and wants to keep you just as you are. Also, no.”

If there’s an object that could easily be moved from a scene (garbage cans, a sign, trash) then I make a point to move them before shooting, so the client is aware that not everything is post-production magic.

Follow this general rule of thumb

DPS 2

Our general policy for retouching in Lightroom is that if something will not be there in two weeks (e.g. a bruise, zit, etc.) we’ll do a light erase, no problem. If there are larger things that the client requests be handled in Photshop, like the mother of the groom who insisted that I edit all the photos of her scowling in the background (you can’t make this stuff up) we let them know individually that we do have a per-image rate for Photoshopping. If they want to go ahead with it, fine by me, but it’s a friendly reminder to clients that Photoshop isn’t a magic button that photographers press behind the scenes to turn every Furbie into a Victoria’s Secret model.

Plan moving forward

The moral of the story is to be kind, ask questions, and get to the bottom of what your clients really want when they ask you these dreaded things.

Then let me know in the comments below. What questions do you dread? How do you respond to them? I’d love to hear how you tackle the tough ones.

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6 Still Life Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

28 Aug

As a beginner photographer, I still remember experimenting with random photo-shoots of colorful fruits, leave,s and flowers. Believe it or not, capturing the inanimate has always been one of our favorite pass time activities as photographers. But, not anymore! With so much demand for lively product shoots in magazines and websites, still life photography is a million dollar business today.

Capturing the still life is a very unique photographic experience. With your subject being inanimate, you get enough time to play with all the creative controls on your camera, and keep snapping until you end up with a shot to which you say – Woah! That is the perfect one.

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Capturing still life photographs seems easy, but breathing life into those inanimate objects requires a great deal of creativity and obviously, a lot of practice. Should you mess up with the lighting and framing, it’s fairly easy to end up with an austere shot of that already dull bunch of keys. Here are the six most common mistakes that photographers make while doing still life photography.

Still Life Mistake #1 – Improper Lighting

Rule one, your subject needs to be well lit up. After-all, it is the central theme of your photo-shoot. Using natural light generally gives superb results.

In case you are shooting inside a room, you need to be a little creative with the way light falls on your subject. One of the most common mistakes is to photograph your subject under full blown artificial light sources like LEDs and fluorescent tube-lights. Why? Because such light sources add a color temperature to your subject that makes it look less natural. Moreover, they make your inanimate object look just what they are – lifeless and boring.

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Solution

Place your subject near a natural light source, such as an open window. Get creative with the light falling on the subject. Does it look amazing when light falls on it from the side? Or does it look more attractive with light falling on it from behind? I personally find natural light from the side to look more attractive. The subtle shadows and visible details under the natural light, sparks interest in the otherwise dull object.

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Another important thing to take care of is the intensity of the natural light falling on your subject. Avoid shooting it under direct sunlight. The bright sunlight may washout the otherwise delicate details and colors of your subject. As a remedy, in case you really need to shoot under broad sunlight, use a light modifier such as a soft-box (or translucent reflector) that will help produce an overcast effect, and will direct the light to softly diffuse over your subject.

Still Life Mistake #2 – A Distracting Background

Placing your subject on a backdrop full of distractions is another potential mistake in still life photographs. Your product being the central theme, deserves all the attention. Therefore, you need to ensure that the background is free from all such distractions. By this, I mean anything that shifts your attention from the main product to the backdrop behind it. For example: capturing a vase of flowers in a background of a home furniture shot.

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Solution

Choose a wall that’s simple, and painted with a plain color. If your wall is not plain, use a piece of white chart paper to cover the wall, so that it doesn’t interfere with your main subject. One more tip, if you’re shooting your product over a table top, again make sure that the table is neatly covered with a white piece of cloth or paper. The main idea is to focus as much attention on your product as possible.

Still Life Mistake #3 – Not Using a Tripod

In case you need to shoot your subject with longer shutter speed, you need to make sure that you do not end up with a blurry shot. An example under this kind of setup can be a decorative indoor water fountain. You may want to use longer shutter speed to capturing the motion of the falling water. So in this case, it makes any sense to use a tripod because even a slight camera shake can result in a blurry shot.

With a tripod, you may also wish to use a wireless remote control for shutter release. This makes sure that not even the slightest of the shakes can blur your photo. Alternatively, in case you do not have a remote control shutter release, you can capture the shot by setting your camera on the 2-second timer mode.

Still Life Mistake #4 – Improper Framing

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Framing your shot helps focus and arrest the attention of the viewers on your main subject. While framing the shot, determine whether the subject fills the frame in a way that draws the required attention. Utilize the rule of thirds, move around and experiment with different possible angles. You’ll definitely come up with that perfect shot.

Still Life Mistake #5 – Not Experimenting

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Being fastidious really pays off when it comes to taking still life photographs for professional and commercial purpose. When you’ve finished setting everything up for the shoot, take a few good clicks and randomize the entire setup – shift your subject to a little different location, add something to the scene that complements the subject, use different angles and lights, try framing the shots all over again. You’ll end up with a unique piece of art each time.

Still Life Mistake #6 – Wrong Choice of Lens

Still life photography is all about creating depth, and bringing out the subject in a way that directly interacts with the viewer. How will you achieve this level of focus? By utilizing the shallow depth of field.

This works great with subjects with high levels of detail such as: flowers, leaves, and fruits. Under this kind of a setup, you will want to come closer to your subject, set the camera to AV mode (Aperture Priority), and keep the focal length as long as possible. A telephoto lens is your best bet for this kind of a setup, because the longer focal length compresses perspective, helping your subject stand out more.

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This doesn’t mean that only telephoto lenses work for still life photography. If you wish to bring out, and focus on the delicate details of your subject, go ahead and shoot with a telephoto lens. On the flip side, if you wish to capture everything on your table top setup, you would be fine with a either a standard 50mm lens or a wide angle.

How do you capture the still life?

What has been your experience with still life photography? Do you have any other useful tip to share? We look forward to your thoughts and suggestions on this article.

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