Posts Tagged ‘ISO’

Mastering Night Photography – Focusing

February 15th, 2015

A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.

double-arch-joshua-tree-140628Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.

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Photo Tips – Getting Great Exposures the Easy Way

December 13th, 2014

If you’re a person who’s interested in just taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered with all the technical details, you are probably photographing with your camera set to automatic mode. Often times automatic mode is indicated by a green box. Probably the handiest feature of automatic mode is that the camera makes all the decisions for you. All you have to think about is getting the people you’re photographing in the frame and pressing the shutter. The camera does everything else.

But the problem is that the camera doesn’t always get it right. Often times it will overexpose parts of the image making them look washed out. But there’s a simple way to avoid this without mastering all the complicated technical details of shooting in manual mode. And that is P mode.

Using P Mode

The P and P mode stands for Programmed Automatic. In P mode the camera allows you to make some of the decisions while it makes the rest. You get to choose whether or not to use flash, and set the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. The camera sets the f-stop and shutter speed.

Let’s take these controls one by one. Let’s start with flash. You can decide whether you want to use flash or not. If you’re shooting in bright daylight or even on a cloudy day you probably don’t need flash. But if it’s a little darker you can always choose to turn the flash on. If you don’t know how to turn your flash on or off you’ll need to consult your camera’s manual.

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12 Tips on Nighttime Photography

January 22nd, 2014

Here are some tips on nighttime photography from an informative article by Dan Richards in a recent issue Popular Photography.  Credit for these tips goes to three great photographers – Matt Walker, Darren White and Mashahiro Miyasaka.  Here is the heart of what they shared…

  • Use a fast, wide lens.  Wide lenses slow the apparent motion of the stars.  Fast lenses gather more of the faint light.
  • Use a tripod.  The shortest practical exposure is 30 seconds.  Star trails require anything from tens of minutes to an hour or more.
  • Use an intervalometer.  This is essential for exposures greater than 30 seconds or if you plan to take a sequence of 30 second exposures.
  • Be aware of the weather.  An overcast sky will foil nighttime photography plans and a wind will wreak havoc with long exposures.
  • Be careful.  Scout the location ahead of time.  Use a headlamp, especially  one that has a red light so as not to destroy your night vision.
  • Include interesting foregrounds.  They can be silhouettes or you can light paint them.  You also have the option of creating a composite image by capturing a well exposed image of the foreground at low ISO and a high ISO image of the sky and then blending the two.
  • Focusing is really difficult.  Autofocus doesn’t work so you must use manual focus.  Pick the brightest star in the sky and use live view to focus on it (don’t change your focal length to focus; use the focal length you’ll be using for your image).  Another alternative is to focus on an object at infinity during the day and then marking the focus point with fluorescent tape so you can reset the same focus at night.  Again, use the focal length you will be shooting with as the infinity focus point changes as you zoom in and out.
  • Exposure is critical.  If you’re going to shoot starry  night photographs your exposure length will be 30 seconds (with a 24 mm lens or wider).  Shoot wide open and run tests with different ISO settings.  If  you’re going to use a long exposure to get star trails determine the ISO setting your 30 second exposure and then adjust ISO and f/stop to compensate for the length of exposure.  If your ISO is 6400 at f/2.8 and 30 seconds, if you want a 60 second exposure reduce your ISO to 3200.  A two-minute exposure requires an ISO of 1600.
  • Take a workshop.  That’s always good advice, no matter how experienced you are.  There’s always more to learn.
  • Don’t get disheartened.  This is not easy stuff but practice pays off.
  • Get in shape.  Good locations for night photography are going to be where there’s minimal light pollution and that’s a long ways away from city lights.
  • When the temperature is cold wrap a hand warmer around your lens to keep it from fogging over on those long half hour to hour exposures.

Well, that’s it.  Yea, and I confess; I threw in a couple of my tips too.

Hey, here are a couple of blog posts I’ve done on nighttime photography a while back there.

Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy steps

Nighttime Photography

So, go on out there and give it a try.  Have fun and be careful.


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Mastering Exposure–Everyday Photography

April 4th, 2011

I talked to a lot of people at the Joshua Tree Art Festival this past weekend, sharing with them a little tip about getting better photographs from their point and shoot cameras.

In fact, this tip can apply to any digital camera for those times when you don’t want to have to pay close attention to the camera settings.  You may just want to shoot and have the confidence you’ll get decent photographs.

So this tip is very handy in that it will result in pictures with better colors and greater, more interesting contrast.  And it can be achieved in three simple steps.

Camera Mode

program_mode_settingOur cameras all have different shooting modes.  Many people I talk to use Auto pretty much all the time.  This is the mode where the camera takes care of everything.  In other words, it makes all the decisions. 

The first simple change is to switch from whatever mode you’re using to P (for Program mode) as illustrated here.  This returns control of some key functions back to you, the photographer.    The camera will still set the aperture and shutter speed based on the light conditions.  But you gain access to some key corrections that will result in better pictures.

Exposure Compensation

The second change is exposure compensation.  This is the technique of either increasing or decreasing the exposure that the camera determined without resorting to setting the exposure manually.  In other words, you can still let the camera determine the exposure (as it does in P mode) but then tell it to decrease the exposure a certain amount.

expcompiconNot all cameras have this capability but if your camera is one that does there will be a button or dial with this symbol somewhere on the camera.  Or there will be an exposure compensation menu option.  It indicates that you can refine the exposure by increasing or decreasing it.  In other words, it allows you to slightly over expose (or lighten) the image or underexpose (or darken) the image.  Here’s how it works.

The camera determines the exposure using its built in light meter.  It generally does a pretty good job but it has certain limitations.  The exposures it determines may overexpose the image ever so slightly, resulting in pale colors.  So if we slightly underexpose our  photographs they will gain a richness of color that is very pleasing.

expscaleI recommend we use –1/2 to –2/3 stop exposure compensation.  That is to say, we tell the camera to decrease the exposure by 1/2 or 2/3’s of a stop.  Your camera will display a scale similar to this one that will show the amount of exposure compensation.  On the minus side, 1 means decreasing the exposure or darkening the image by one stop.  Two means the exposure is decreased and the image is darkened by two stops.  The positive side increases or brightens the image by one and two stops respectively.

If your camera is set up to adjust exposure by half stop increments there will be one dot between the numbers as in this illustration.  If it is set up to adjust exposure by one third stop increments there will be two dots.  I prefer to set my camera to adjust exposure by 1/3 stop increments.  And then I set my exposure compensation to –2/3 stops.

You may need to check your camera’s manual to determine exactly how to set your camera’s exposure increments and how to do exposure compensation.

Auto ISO

The third change is to set your ISO setting on Automatic.  ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor which in turn affects the amount of light required to produce a correct exposure.  The greater the sensitivity, the less light is required.  Increasing the ISO increases the sensor’s sensitivity.  So an ISO of 100 has low sensitivity and requires more light for a correct exposure.  An ISO of 400 has much higher sensitivity and therefore requires much less light for a correct exposure.

Cameras produce the highest quality images at low ISOs.  And when the ISO is set on Auto the camera will automatically select the lowest possible setting to give you the highest quality image in the prevailing light conditions.

As with exposure compensation, you may need to consult your camera’s manual to determine exactly how to do this.

I use these settings myself on my Canon point and shoot (G11), the camera I take with me everywhere I go.  When I’m doing casual shooting or even scouting for ‘serious’ photograph locations I’ll use the G11 configured in this way.  In times like these I don’t want to be focusing on exposure settings, ISO and all the other things I think about when shooting my big Canon.  I want to focus on the image and the compositional possibilities.  And these settings allow me to do that and still capture high quality images.

So, try them for yourself and see if you like them.  Set up your camera in this way and shoot some photographs.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results. 

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