A ten point plan to “think photography” all day

• Unlock your potential - think photography all day •

• Unlock your potential – think photography all day •
Almost everything has texture, pattern, depth, contrast and interest for the eye. It is a question of lighting, composition and bringing out its potential. Find ways to think photography all day to help you develop the right techniques and skills.
(Click image to view large).

Improving and learning takes thinking and practice.

Each day we should focus on doing plenty of thinking to help improve our photography skills. It does not take long and it’s fun. You can fit it into things you are doing through the day. The idea is to keep you focussed. Here is what you do to help you “think photography” during your day.

1. Think photography :: Change your thinking

Try to think photography in a positive way. Photographers need to be positive. Always look at the light side. Don’t let your mind drag you down. Ignore the negatives and obstacles. Look at the good things, the easy ways and fruitful outcomes. Practice taking time to be positive about a situation where a negative thought popped into mind. When negativity looms, think of your favourite photographic situation and picture yourself there.

2. Think photography :: Problem solving

Photography is a problem solving skill. Pick up your camera. Now find some object to photograph. Find a way for the light to come at it from a low angle and from the side. It is this basic skill that gives you the shadows and contrasts you need to give an object texture. Do this daily. Do it even if you do not have your camera. Think photography by visualising what you would do if you could photograph it.

3. Think photography :: Appreciate a good thing

Make sure that every day you find a way to spend a few minutes appreciating the aesthetics in something. Lots of things have simple texture and pattern too. Look for them and find a way to bring them out. Do this even if you don’t have a camera to hand. Just thinking about it helps you get in the right frame of mind. The picture of a lock and bolt on a garden shed above is an example. Creative lighting and exploiting texture and shadow made a picture suitable for this article!

4. Think photography :: Watch television

Watch television. Yes, that’s right. Watch TV. I am sure you will find it illuminating – literally. Some of the best lighting and photographic tricks are on TV every day. Look for them – side lighting, top lighting, rim lighting, mood lighting, pattern lighting, catchlights. There is lots more to look for. You can use your leisure moments to improve your photography. (See also: A little known idea that will help your photography every day).

5. Think photography :: Do some reading

Each day, devote some time to reading a page or two of a photography book or an article online. Gradually things will begin to come together. It will help you keep thinking about improvement and new techniques. At the time of writing there are over a thousand articles and definitions on Photokonnexion. Try one of those!

6. Think photography :: Look at photographs

See if you can look at 50 photographs each day. Ask yourself questions about each one. Why you like or dislike it? What is the photographer trying to say? What is the theme? Why is this photo published? What composition tricks have they used to draw your eye into the shot? Which forms of perspective, shadow and light have they used to create depth? There are lots of other questions. Find as many ways as you can to analyse the shots. Really try to get into the photographers mind. You will really learn a lot about you, and how you “think photography”. (See also: 50 ways to improve your photography – every day! and also: 15 great links for you to see 50 photos a day).

7. Think photography :: Go back in time

Reprise one of your old photos. Why was it good, bad or indifferent? What could be done better? What were you thinking? Is there really something in the this picture worth shooting? Ask yourself the same questions as in 6 above. Really give it a harsh review. You will learn a lot about your own style and improvement.

8. Think photography :: Give yourself a treat

Make a photographic treat for yourself every day. Think of something you can make for your still life photography. Check out an article about a new camera. Look up an old friend. Among other things tell them about your photography. Buy a treat for your evening meal. Then think about how you could cook it and present it ready to be photographed. Find lots of ways to reward yourself in the context of photography. It will help your enthusiasm.

9. Think photography :: Keep a shot-list – add to it daily

Make a list. Every day try to add a shot you want to do. Try to imagine a simple plan for how to do that photo when you get a moment with your camera. Get ideas from Google images, magazines, television, books – everywhere.

10. Think photography :: Go to sleep

Photography is a great pursuit. It is also relaxing. Before you go to sleep at night close your eyes. Then think about how it felt to make your best image. Plan how you can have another success like that. You will sleep well and have some great ideas!

Keep your day relaxed and on focus – think photography

This post is really about finding ways to spend your day doing lots of things. But in the background keeping your passion fired up. Most of these things you can do while no one else knows you are doing it. But at the same time you are learning and having new insights. Its fun to spend time doing your hobby while your boss is sounding off or while you sit at your desk. Wow! Now that is the way to think photography!

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

What you can learn from candid photography

Groom • Candid photography :: getting the shot is a pressure.

• Groom •
Candid photography – getting the shot is a pressure. Weddings are times when you need to work particularly fast and accurately. •

Responding is a skill.

When starting on the path to disciplined photography we’re told to slow down. Take careful, measured and pre-visualised shots. We are told to stop trying to frantically pepper the scene with shots. Take time. Take stock. Think everything through. The aim is to get the shot under control.

A good photographer often needs to respond rapidly. The careful, measured approach still applies. They still have to get the picture. However, the pace of a situation demands swift shots. The practised photog can respond with speed and accuracy. Practice at candid photography is a great way to realise those skills for yourself.

Candid photography and practice

The aim is to make a clean, sharp, well composed image. The nature of a candid shot makes that difficult. While trying to make a success of your candid photography some conditions may apply. Some of those may contradict each other…

  • The subject may not know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject could know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject may be unpredictable.
  • You will need to be very quick.
  • You will need to be able to get a sharp image despite speedy working.
  • You may have to take several shots (eg. not dozens).
  • Your subject should be in an interesting position.
  • The subject needs to to be in an interesting context in the scene.
  • You should anticipate the shot (rather than getting lucky).
  • You will have your camera ready and settings correct for the shot.
  • You will have only a microsecond to compose the shot.

You just do not know what you are going to encounter until you have to deal with it.

Dealing with all that may seem a tall order. Especially if you are told not to machine-gun the scene with shots. Haste and frantic bursts rarely lead to good luck. Actually, it is not about doing all that at super speed. Like everything you do in photography, candid photography requires preparation, practice and control.

Equipment – knowing what you can do

NO! Do not go out and buy yourself a micro-weight, super-camera. Up-to-date bells and whistles are not the point. Instead, look for simplicity. Sometimes the best camera is an old and familiar one. What we want for this exercise is knowledge.

The best possible way to get fast with a camera is to know what it can do. The lens too. If you are familiar and well versed in using your equipment you will automatically respond to the scene. Here is an example.

In candid photography control of depth of field is essential

• Impish grin •
Keep the subject in focus but the background is frosted out.
In candid photography control of depth of field is essential
(Click to view large)

This shot was captured as this lovely man turned from a conversation. He was talking to someone on his right. I was ready for his turn toward me. His impish grin as he saw me really made the shot.

I wanted a depth of field that had his head and face sharp. I also wanted the background indistinct. Notice the sharpness is lost just on the far shoulder. My lens was set up to have a depth of field of about 400mm (about 15in to 16in). But there was no measurement involved. This was an estimate. It involved knowing the depth of field at my distance from the man, and using the right aperture. This capture is the result of knowing the lens and camera combo really well. It was a practised shot using very familiar equipment. The successful candid photography came out of the practice and familiarity.

Equally, it is easy to get the shot wrong. Depth of field, especially at close range, is fickle. It is easy to get the tip of the nose out of focus, the eyes and face in focus, and the hair out of focus. It is important to look at the variables involved. The aperture size and distance-from-subject control the depth of field. So, try the exercise below using manual settings.

Take a bright coloured builders tape measure. Place a small object beside a mid-point on the measure. Take a photo of the object down the measures’ length. Use a wide aperture. Check out the depth of field by looking at the measurements that are sharp. Now by varying your distance from the object see how much you change the depth of field. Do this for a wide range of apertures. With experience you will get a feel for controlling the depth of field. With twenty or thirty variations you should get a feel for the depth of field.


Aperture is one setting. ISO and shutter speed are important too. Getting a feel for your equipment means getting familiar with how these settings work.

Candid photography often involves working in darker lighting. Parties and indoor sessions, weddings in churches and in evening light all require wide apertures. You might use flash. But in a lot of situations that may not be practical or desirable. So using a high ISO setting (more sensitive sensor) will allow you to work effectively in lower light. So, lower the light where you are working with the tape measure. Raise the ISO and repeat the exercises. Get a feel for how you can vary the exposure by changing the ISO.

Needless to say you can vary the shutter speed in similar ways. Try the exercise again. This time keep the aperture and ISO fixed and change the shutter speed up and down through a range of shots. [More on varying shutter speed].

Learning to use your settings manually takes more than one session. That is important. You can gain a lot by training yourself to be sensitive to the settings. Working toward good quality candid photography can really help you gain that sensitivity. Poor photographs of faces and people are immediately obvious! You get great feedback from the experience of poor shots.

Composition – seizing the moment

Candid photography is about seizing the moment. You need to use good settings. You also need some understanding of composition. This means working to get your subject in the right environment. They will have an appropriate pose and possibly the right context or behaviour too. Without all these coming together the moment is lost. Setting it all up takes some thought.

Normally people do candid photography with some idea of what they want to achieve. Random wanderings are normally unproductive. Luck follows more often from preparation and forethought than stumbling upon a notable event.

So, have a good think about your scene composition….

  • Set yourself up in a viable position ahead of the shot.
  • Think about how the light is placed in the scene overall.
  • Place yourself for the right background on the far side of the shot.
  • Fix the camera settings for the composition ahead of the shot.

In other words be prepared. Then, when the right moment comes along, you will have the minimum to do. A little composition, framing the shot, is essential. A tweak of the focus possibly… But essentially – you should be ready.

Now you stand the best possible chance of getting the shot.

Candid photography is successful when it all comes together

All this preparation and practice is about getting you to the moment when you take the shot. Making a success of your candid photography is about three things…

  • Knowing your settings.
  • Practice with and knowing your equipment.
  • Forethought about the scene.

Having everything ready is the key. Then when all the elements of the scene come together all you do is frame it and capture. If you succeed in that, you will also make a swift shot. Because, in fact, you have little to do. Speed and accuracy is about being ready with everything and having the minimum to do when the right events pull the shot together.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

World Backup Day – save your files

The only safe files are ones in backup

World Backup Day  World Backup Day | External link - opens new tab/page
Make sure your files are safe. Back them up.

Backup, backup, backup!

March thirty-first 2014 was World Backup Day  World Backup Day | External link - opens new tab/page. “What’s that all about?” you might ask. Well, if you do ask that you probably have not experienced the anguish of losing all your files. For some people it can be devastating.

What if you don’t backup?

I spent fifteen years in managing IT services and image libraries. A job where backup is everything. Without it we might have lost thousands of precious files. Most could not be replaced.

In that time I’ve come across many people who lost files. The most common losses were simple delete mistakes. In most cases these lost files can simply be un-deleted.

However, if you lose your storage media or hard drive you lose everything stored on it. Theft, software failure, software infection, mechanical failure – all are equally devastating. Your files are gone.

I have often heard people say, “well, it could happen”. “But I have nothing precious to lose”. This indicates a state of mind. People often do not appreciate the value of the data they have on their computer. Photographers may appreciate our collection of files. They represent our cumulative photographic efforts. But most people have other valuable data too. Past emails from loved ones. Pictures sent to you. Medical information. Passwords. Personal banking and finance data. Personal correspondence and records. Insurance details; investment files… The list goes on.

Over the years I have so often seen people devastated by what they have lost. They just did not realise what they had on their computer. But when the data is gone it’s too late.

If you lose your data there are also many problems ahead. Finding information again after losing data takes months. Getting in contact with people to get new accounts set up takes time. In fact one or two people have told me that after losing a hard drive they spent years recovering from it. After you lose some information some Internet accounts may never be available again! Will you lose files that way?

The answer is simple – backup

Many photographers do not backup their photos. So what should you do to protect against loss?

Backup is easy. It requires a small investment and a mental commitment. First an important principle…

LOCKSS :: This stands for Lots of Copies Keep Systems Safe.

Of course you need to spread these copies across different storage media. If every file is on one hard drive this becomes a single point of failure.

So, the second thing you need is a second hard drive or storage medium. With a second drive you can back up your files onto it.

A USB drive is a bit unreliable for backup and and easily lost. An external hard drive is best. They have big capacities to hold all your files. Buy one which is the same size as your computer hard drive. They can be purchased at reasonable prices. You can check out a range of them easily – External USB hard drives for your computer  External USB hard drives for backup | External link - opens new tab/page.

A more secure backup system will involve two backup drives. Here is how it will work…

  • Working drive: this has your working files on it – it’s normally the hard drive on your computer.
  • Backup drive: Backup working files by copying them to this dedicated backup drive. Now if your computer hard drive fails you will have your files safe on a standby drive.
  • Third copy: On a regular basis, backup to a third drive.
  • Off-site storage: Take the third backup drive to a different location. Now if there is a fire or other loss (theft, virus etc). The other location represents a safe place for your files destroyed by the fire.

So you will have: two copies where you normally work and one off-site. This is a safe backup system. It will cover most file loss situations.

Backup time

It takes little time to copy files from one drive to another. However, it is easier when you use an automatic system. There are many file archive systems available. A good number of them are free.

One good example is the file backup system I use. Called Allway Sync Backup and archive software - AllwaySync | External link - opens new tab/page. I have found it a very flexible system to use and very easy to run.

There are other backup systems you can research…
Check this page on Google File backup software - Google search | External link - opens new tab/page.

As you can see from this search many of these systems are free software. You have chance with others to try “before-you-buy” too.

Another way to back up your data, photographs and files is to upload them to an online drive. Google has such a drive. Dropbox Dropbox - Online backup and file storage | External link - opens new tab/page is another… there are other versions too. All you do is have one drive to work on – and one drive on the Internet. That way you have a second drive that is off-site and safe.

This cloud-based backup system sounds good. But it can get expensive, and slow, once you start to accumulate lots of files. And, lets face it, photographers really do have lots of files. But it might suit you. So feel free to experiment or try out internet storage.

Backup commitment…

Earlier I said you need some commitment. Well that is needed to backup regularly. You really need to do it. Either have an automated system. Or, diary a date – say weekly. Then back up regularly. Do it daily if you need to do so. But make the commitment. If you don’t backup regularly you will pay for it later. Because, you will have a drive failure one day.

A state of mind

Doing regular backup work is a state of mind. You’ll need to spend a little money on drives or storage. You need to have some software or a regular date with your diary. And, you need to be aware of how much effort it takes to recover from a loss. Setting up a backup system for yourself now can save you a lot of time and pain recovering from losses later.

Make sure you commit. Make sure you backup regularly. I would hate you to be one of those people who spend years recovering from a major data loss.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Three creative jump start ideas

Post by Ann H. LeFevre

A creative jump start – get going again.

It happens to all of us at least once. Our creativity runs down and we feel uninspired. Those are the times when our cameras feel like they weigh a thousand pounds and our brains seem like they are stuffed with cotton. There are many ways to combat such a slump. What you need is a creative jump start. Here are three suggestions to help you the next time you come up against that photographic brick wall.

The 30 second game

Pick a room in your home at random to try the first creative jump start. With camera in hand, walk into the room. Select a subject (perhaps the first thing you see) and start shooting. Don’t “think” about it; just do it. Make it quick and no longer than 30 seconds. The idea here is to be loose.

The Strat • By Ann H. LeFevre • Three creative jump start ideas

• The Strat •
By Ann H. LeFevre (Click to view large)

Creativity can be blocked by over-thinking about the “next shot”. This little game helps to bring back some spontaneity into your picture taking.

Take Another Look

We get used to seeing things the way we always see things. In this exercise the object is to take something common, perhaps something you see all the time. Then, to look at it from a different perspective.

• Wooden Spoon • <br />By Ann H. LeFevre • Three creative jump start ideas

• Wooden Spoon •
By Ann H. LeFevre (Click to view large)

Look at your chosen object from all different angles. Take a shot from each one. Look up. Look down. Look close. Look all around, taking pictures as you go. Looking at a common object from a new vantage point can loosen up the creativity block. A creative jump start works best with a simple views of things.

Play with Processing

Take one of those “Why did I even take this picture?” photos. Make a copy of the original. Put it into your photo processing program and play around with some special effects. Go all out and experiment. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll actually keep the picture when you’ve finished. Simply spend time playing around on it for as long as you want. Let your processing ideas flow.

• Sunflowers •<br />By Ann H. LeFevre •  Three creative jump start ideas

• Sunflowers •
By Ann H. LeFevre (Click to view large)

Laugh at what you create. Laughter loosens up your creativity. And who knows? One of those crazy effects may trigger an idea! Processing can also transform an ordinary picture into something that is visually pleasing. Playing with the way a photo looks is a great way to charge up your creativity.

Beyond routine and distraction

Shooting slumps occur because we become anchored to routine or distracted by our busy lives. A creative jump start serves to break those habits and change our perspective. Try one out the next time you’re in a rut and see what happens!

Ann H. LeFevre – contributing author

Ann holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from Bethany College. She is a member of the Pocono Photo Club Pocono Photo Club | External link - opens new tab/page, and participates in the 365 Project Ann H. LeFevre - contributing author on 365Project.org | External link - opens new tab/page an on-line photographic community. She has enjoyed the artistic aspects of photography for many years and enjoys exploring a variety of photographic subjects in her work.

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Using polarising filters

The polarising filter helps reduce glare in the photograph| Photokonnexion.com

• Beach Huts •
Using polarising filters reduce glare, reflection and colour fade in your photograph. These filters are easy to use and produce great results.
[Image from the video]

Filter with a hidden impact

Photographic filters are light modifiers. They have a variety of different effects. Polarising filters are just one type of photographic filter. When you look at one it appears dark. It looks as if it would have no effect except to reduce the light in your image.

What does using polarising filters do for your photo? Light from the sun tends to be scattered by the atmosphere. The waves of light are out of alignment. When the light is very bright the glare causes a bright haze of light. This over-brightness can act to overwhelm a photograph. It especially tends to wash the colour out of the sky, whitening it. Using polarising filters helps reduce the glare. It filters out some of the light that is not aligned. Only the polarised light passes through the filter. This aligned light has reduced glare allowing the colours to come out. Skies are darkened. Reflections are reduced.

The results of using polarising filters

The result of darkened skies, reduced reflections and better colours can be dramatic. Here are a whole range of images on Google using polarising filters Images on Google using polarising filters | External link - opens new tab/page.

Worst and best case scenario for using polarising filters | Photokonnexion.com

• Worst and best case scenario for using polarised filters •
Careful positioning and using polarising filters dramatically affects the outcome.

Using polarising filters can have a dramatic effects on your image. The top picture shows the worst case scenario. Light is almost directly into the lens. It is bouncing off glass and polished surfaces into the lens too. The sky is very bright with scattered light from direct, harsh sunlight. There is a hazy glare from brightness. There is also flare and very bright spots from reflections. This photo was taken without using a polarising filter.

In the second (lower) photo the position is different. The direct sunlight is not directly entering the lens. Even so, without using a polarising filter there would be problems. Notice the bright blue sky. This would have been a very washed-out blue on this very sunny day. Notice the windscreen is almost transparent? The polarising filter has reduced the bright reflections and specular highlights. The reflections on the bonnet are also pleasant and not over-white. The car paintwork has a quality colour-depth. The whole quality of the lower photo seems better. All this despite the harsh direct light.

Actually using polarising filters

In the video Mike Browne shows how to use these useful filters. In particular you need to remember three things of particular interest…

  1. Using polarising filters is most effective when the light is coming at the lens from about 45° off the optical axis.
  2. While using polarising filters you will need to rotate the filter to find the most effective polarising position. You need to re-adjust it every shot. Each shot will have a different angle of light to the lens.
  3. Using polarising filters reduces the light able to enter the lens. Your light may be reduced by over two stops with a poor quality version.

Mike Browne


High quality Polarisers are more expensive. They are time consuming and expensive to make. They also use expensive materials. However, the better ones maintain photographic quality. So it is worth spending the extra money. Poor quality polorisers may increase the digital noise from light scatter in the filter. They may also create aberrations and distort the image.

All photographic filters reduce the light entering the lens. A quality polariser will also reduce the light. But, they will affect the light much less than a poor quality polariser. Using polarising filters of a low quality may reduce the incoming light by as much as three stops. A quality polariser will tend to reduce light by only two stops (or less). So think carefully about what you purchase.

Buy now…

When buying a circular polarising filter make sure you get one that is the right size. The filter size of your lens is normally written on the inside of the front of the lens.


Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page

When using polarising filters buy the size that fits your lens. Also remember that the quality of the filter can affect the photo. High quality polarisers reduce aberrations. A higher quality filter will not reduce the light as much as a poor quality one.

Review a range of different filters here…
Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page


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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Retail photography – what is its future?

Retail photography - the business is changing.

• Retail photography – the business is changing •
Retail photography chains in the USA and the UK have closed or restructured.

Retail photography – the Internet has changed the game

The big news this week is that another high profile retail photography chain has closed. Calumet, the retail photography business in the United States suddenly collapsed. Over night the entire business has closed.

Customers and staff woke up on Thursday morning (13/Mar/2014) to find the shops closed, the website down and staff jobless. The company Facebook page announced…

‘After 75 years of business it is with a heavy heart that we announce our immediate closing in the United States (our European stores will continue). It has been a joy to share our passion for photography with you all of these years. We’ll miss each other and we’ll miss all of our customers. Thank you for everything.’

Calumet Photographic operated 14 stores in America. They had branches in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Opened 75 years ago this was a foundation business in the U.S. photographic industry.

The retail photography business has been badly hit recently. In the United Kingdom in January 2013 a similar shock closure occurred. Jessops had 187 stores. The company went into administration closing them all within a few days. The Jessops website has since re-opened for business. Jessops shops have also re-opened under different management. These new openings have seemed to save many of the local retail photography outlets.

Overall, photography appears to be in rude health. So why is the retail side suffering so badly?

Internet growth stifled local photography shops

It seems trite to just say the Internet has taken over. Amazon and a few other strong online businesses have taken a big portion of the sales. Who has not gone online to compare prices or check on the “spec” on the latest equipment? Of course we have all done that. We have also spent lots of money on web sites buying photo-equipment. However, I profess to being less than satisfied with some of those purchases.

Have any of us gone online to converse with the retailer about a lens? Which of us has discussed the tripod best suited to our needs with a web site? Yes, these points question our commitment to a lot of Internet retail activity. Many of us simply feel uncomfortable buying expensive equipment on just a specification. What is missing?

Is there room for service in retail photography?

I think it is a good time to review the business model of retail photography companies.

The Internet has done a lot for pricing and retail consumerism. Many things have universal appeal and are inexpensive. They are suited to Internet purchase. We see them for sale a lot. We know the properties and prices of these items. Buying them online is easy. There is no challenge and we have often made a decision before going online.

When it comes to spending thousands of pounds on, say, a camera, the decision is more in the balance.

For me the shame about losing retail photography outlets is not about pricing. It is about the loss of personal guidance and expertise found in the “local-guy” shops. That is especially true for learners and young professionals. Losing local camera shops has taken expertise out of the business and local regions.

Businesses stripped

Looking honestly at the businesses that have closed I think there is one thing in common. They had stripped the business down to compete with the websites. They often had low paid workers, untrained, working for long hours. The business was aimed at pumping consumer cameras over the counter. In recent years camera shops have looked more and more like catalogue outlets.

I know that my local shop was like that. The shop was almost always bare and you could rarely get good advice. That is not going to cut it in a modern online economy. The competition is too sharp. The little local guy needs to fight on another front.

Service is king – especially in retail photography

Every two or three years I have to spend big sums on new equipment. In between I spend other amounts which often add up to big sums. It is important to ensure my equipment is viable for my business.

At the moment nearly all that money is spent online. For photography equipment I would like to go into a local shop. I want sound advice. That advice should be based on years of experience in the photographic realm and successful sales. I would expect a good stock. I want to have pleasant and expert help. I want to get insights into alternative pieces of equipment. I want to feel that I have been shown what is available and how it all compares.

I cannot get any of that on retail web sites. In fact I have found it difficult to get that on any Internet site. Reviews and pictures are no substitute for handling an item. It is more useful to pop it on the camera and try it out. Great advice and try-outs really help buyers.

For my penny-worth I would like to see a retail photography model built on service. Yes, that might cost slightly more. But I know that good service and knowledge will give me more confidence in the purchase. It will also give me a chance to try things out in the shop. Both are invaluable to someone spending a lot of money.

The re-opening of more than 70 Jessops shops last year give us hope. I for one would like to see those service based shops in the USA also re-open under enthusiastic and expert staff. Service is king. The retail photography industry can still work if it is based on service.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
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By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Panorama photography – an introduction

Panorama photography | Photokonnexion.com

• Panorama photography •
There are a few important essentials to think about.
(Image taken from the video)

Getting started is easy…

Panorama photography is a great way to extend your photography skills. To make a panorama you take a whole string of shots. Then later you match them up in software and “stitch” them together to make one long image. The photographic variables are all fixed. You take lots of photos. But, only have to set the camera up once. This means you can concentrate on the scene.

Examples of panorama photography on Google images xxxx | External link - opens new tab/page

The essentials of panorama photography

Like any aspect of photography you need to have some essentials. Your camera and a lens get you started. But a tripod will give you more consistent results. It provides you with a firm platform. One that you can use to line up all the shots. A tripod is recommended because hand holding the shots can leave you with a whole bunch of badly aligned frames. Panorama photography is all about getting the full range of a scene. If you miss bits or fail to get neat alignment the image will loose its continuity. The eye is drawn a way from the image to the imperfections of the stitching.

To use a tripod properly you should also use a good tripod head. Set the camera up to get the scene you want. In this composition phase you will need to sweep through the shot. Look through the viewfinder and pan around the full scene. Get the tilt of the camera right. Have a clear idea of your sweep. Then, fix your tripod head so the camera will sweep through an arc without moving up or down. It will only pan “left <---> right” as needed. In the video you will see him using a “pan and tilt” tripod head. Once the scene is selected the tilt aspect is fixed.

Using the tripod and head means you will get an aligned sweep through your scene. This makes it easy to line up (stitch) the pictures together later. The fixed camera angles helps make alignment easy. But fixing the other settings also helps get consistent results.

Settings for the shots

There are some things that make panoramic photography easy. To get the best effect make each shot simple. Each should have settings the same as its neighbour. Wide variations of settings between shots make colours, brightness, tone and even focus create bad matches. The joins between images will show where the settings change. This disturbs the flow of the eye through the image. Here is a list of steps you go through to set up the camera – and why.

Focal length: As with the other critical settings set focal length to a fixed position. You should switch your auto-focus to manual so the focus does not change in each shot. Then, manually focus into the scene at a place that will give you good sharpness and depth. Then this should be left unchanged throughout the panorama photography sequence.

The exposure dial: Auto exposure settings change as you pan across different light levels. To avoid each frame being a different exposure use the “M”, or manual setting. Set up the exposure for the first shot. Then, keep that exposure setting through the the entire string of images. This means you will need to fix the settings for the full range of shots.

Aperture: Panorama photography is mainly about wide sweeping scenes. Landscapes are ideal. To make the scene realistic it is best to have sharpness right through the scene. Picking F11 is a good option for that. Practice your panorama photography with that F-stop to start. Once you have the techniques you can get more creative later.

Shutter speed: Hold the shutter speed fixed too. Your shutter speed depends on how you set your ISO, and the aperture too. However, don’t just think about the first frame. Study the entire scene. Is there going to be any variations in light intensity across all the shots? You want all the shots to have a similar exposure level. So do some test readings or shots with your camera light meter. Work out how much the scene varies. Avoid big light variation. It will make consistent exposure levels difficult. Look for even light across the scene. Then, find a shutter speed that will work well for all the shots.

ISO: As with the other settings, you want to hold the ISO. Choose a setting which suits the scene and ambient light overall. Fix it for all the shots.

White balance: RAW or *.jpg this is one time you MUST set the white balance to a fixed setting. If you use auto-white balance you will NOT be able to match the frames later. While white balance is generally quite stable, a colour cast from one bright reflection can significantly change the colour. That would not matter too much on one image. But it will if you have to try to match ten images each with a different white balance. That will end up giving your panorama photography a patchwork effect. Choose a white balance setting and stick with it for all the shots.

Getting the shots

Panorama photography calls on more than just scene composition and settings. Also critical is “overlap”. You want to join the images so they match. That means overlapping them in a way that allows a good join.

The skill is in picking features in your landscape you can use in the matching process. I like to use patterns or textures where possible. In the software you are going to line up each image with its neighbour. Those patterns or textures allow you to make a join look seamless. So, as you go through the scene make a mental note of where you want the join to be. Rotate the camera on the tripod for each shot. Make enough overlap each side of the frame for those points to line up. This is clarified more in the video at the end.

Landscape or portrait shots can be used for panorama photography. All the pictures need to be taken in one or the other. If you use landscape format the panorama will be very long and thin. If you use portrait format the stitched image will not be so thin. But you will need to take more shots to get the whole scene. You might choose differently for each scene. It is your choice. These choices are a key skill in panorama photography. Think carefully about your composition.

Panorama photography video tutorial

Most of the above are explained in the context of the shot sequence in this video. Panorama photography is great fun, but it does require a little thinking ahead and planning your sequence. The video should help you to fix the method and settings in your head.
What Digital Camera

Stitching the image together

There are two basic methods of stitching the final image. Again this is one of the main skills in panorama photography. You can do the work manually in an image editor. This work can be a lengthy and detailed process. Each image needs to be lined up by the patterns or textures you chose on the image as the overlaps. Then you might need to clone the images together. Bit by bit and image by image you can build up your final sequence. If you enjoy detailed image editing it is very rewarding.

The second method of joining the images is to use stitching software. There are lots of different applications available. Which one you use is a matter of personal choice. Some image editors have panorama photography stitching built in. For more advanced users there is also specialist software. These applications are available with a range of functions and prices. You should do some experiments and research to pick your preferred software.

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