Category Archives: How to…

How-To articles… how to do specific things, preparation for, planning, shooting, etc.

Buying Lenses – a quick guide…

Buying lenses

Buying lenses is not as straight forward as it seems. There is a lot to consider.

Critical features to consider when buying lenses

The key to buying lenses is knowing what you want to achieve with your purchase. It is also important to have a clear idea of your budget. However, there are a whole range of other things that have an impact too.

There are a wide range of photographic lenses to buy for most cameras. Each has their own characteristics. A lens can easily cost more than your camera. Take care with your choice. The wrong decision can leave you with a lens that is not suitable to your interest.

Getting started on buying lenses

First of all sit down and write down all the reasons you want a lens. Also, write down all the possible things against buying lenses (of any sort) at this time. Try to convince yourself you really don’t need to buy. In most cases of purchase-fever the buyer gets things they don’t want. So, when spending lots of money you should be careful. Buying lenses is a big investment. If you make the right choice then your purchase may last you through a number of camera bodies. So think carefully and make the right decision up front. That way your money will not be wasted.

I have purchased about thirty lenses over the years. Of those, five were bad purchases. Four were impulse buys – not suited to my needs. In another case, a hasty decision meant I bought a poor quality lens. From this experience I have compiled the list below to help you when buying lenses in future.

Some of the basics for buying lenses

1. Focal Length:

  • a. Measured in millimeters.
  • b. Smaller Focal lengths provide wider angles of view.
  • c. Longer focal lengths show less of the scene and tend to magnify the view.
  • d. Distortion may be found at the extremes of focal length.

2. Aperture:

  • a. Measured in f stops (eg.f2.8 [wide open] f5.6 , f16 [small aperture]).
  • b. Wide aperture lets in most light – faster shutter speeds possible (eg. F2.8).
  • c. Small aperture lets in less light – requires longer shutter opening (eg. F22).
  • d. Wide aperture provides short depth of field.
  • e. Smaller apertures gives sharpness throughout the depth of the picture.
  • f. Zooms – Aperture size gets smaller with increase in focal length.

3. Stabilisation:

  • a. Slow shutter speeds mean more chance of camera movement, which makes blur.
  • b. Stabilised lenses typically give one or two f stops smaller aperture without more blur; the stabilisation compensates for movement.
  • c. Cost is higher if the lens is stabilised.
  • d. Canon = IS (image stabilisation); Nikon = VR (vibration reduction); Sigma = OS (optical
    stabilisation); etc…
  • e. Stabilisation may be in the camera rather than the lens.
General considerations when buying lenses

1. Optical characteristics

  • a. Glass optical quality varies with the production process and ingredients.
  • b. More lens elements/groups reduces light able to pass through the lens.
  • c. High quality optical glass does not reduce light as much as cheap glass.
  • d. Each manufacturer has a specific type of glass for higher quality lenses.
  • e. Optical aberrations come from low quality optical glass.
  • f. Lens optical coatings reduce aberrations and flare.
  • g. Distortions are caused by specific groupings of lenses.

2. Motors/drives:

  • a. Used to drive the aperture control; stabilisation and auto-focus.
  • b. Sometimes noisy – not desirable for wildlife shots.
  • c. Adds a lot of weight to the lens.
  • d. Not necessary on manual-focus prime lenses.
  • e. Some cameras have them only for auto-focus.
  • f. Older lens models have slower, sometimes heavier, often noisier motors.

3. Weight:

  • a. Often forgotten attribute. If you can’t carry it, then it’s no good for you!
  • b. Weight often increases with wider apertures – fast lenses may be too heavy for you.
  • c. Weight will tend to increase the amount of hand-shake movement.
  • d. Stabilisation motors put a lot of weight on the lens too.

4. Sensor optimisation

  • a. Lens focal lengths are usually stated for full-frame cameras (quoted for 35mm sensors).
    But…
  • b. A cropped sensor will still have the same focal length lenses as a full-frame, but image size will multiply it by the crop factor. (See: crop factor).
    So,
  • c. Cropped sensors increase the lenses’ magnification. Eg. Canon APS-C lenses are optimised for the Canon cropped sensor. The crop factor is 1.6. So a 100mm lens on a Canon 450D is actually equivalent to a 160mm focal length on a canon full frame camera like the 5D.
  • d. Different crop factors apply to different manufacturers and cameras.
  • e. Some optimised lenses will not fit different sensor sized cameras – APS-C – check the fit and crop size in the specification for the lens.
More specific issues affecting you when buying lenses

1. Zoom vs. Prime

  • a. Zoom lenses give you a variable focal length; you control magnification.
  • b. Prime lenses have fixed focal length. Move nearer/further to change the angle of view.
  • c. Zooms give you focal control over the framed view.
  • d. Primes tend to be higher quality lenses, sharper, faster (wider apertures).
  • e. Primes more compositionally challenging.
  • f. Primes – colours and exposure control more realistic.

2. Why you want this lens…
Make sure you know why you are buying lenses. Consider these points below:

Fisheye lenses (8 – 18mm on cropped sensor; 14 – 18 mm on full frame)

  • Introduces central focus with peripheral distortion.
  • Highly creative focus provides extreme visual views drawing the eye to the centre.
  • Used primarily for highlighting specific subjects or attributes of the scene.
  • Ideal (according to some) for full-frame sensor work for portraits.

Zoom lenses (long focal lengths 50 to 600mm)

  • Sometimes dubious quality in some parts of the zoom.
  • Flexible for many purposes, but especially wildlife photography at longer focal lengths.
  • Ideal for getting ‘into’ the shot.
  • Creativity related to the placement of the subject in the frame; angle of view variable.
  • Extreme zooms (350 – 800mm zoom ranges)(Very long range lenses greater than 800mm available).
  • Extreme expense – (expect cost around £5,000 for the 800mm sort of focal length).
  • Excellent for specialist wildlife and long range work.
  • Angle of view very limited at extreme end.
  • Very heavy – absolutely requires tripod for longest ranges.
  • Really only supportable for specialist work (professional wildlife photographer).
  • Cheaper to hire for the odd trip.
  • Macro (from around 35mm to 200 mm) (sometimes achieved using extension tubes).
  • Used to get close-up shots of very small subjects.
  • Focal length is artificially extended to magnify for close-up work – aim to get 1:1 or larger result.
  • Can be used for longer views; tends to be at restricted apertures for non-macro work.
  • Great for magnification shots.
  • Great creativity scope.
  • Tilt and Shift.
  • Specialist – for control of where to place sharpness in the depth of field OR how to deal with
    converging parallels (lines in the road or converging verticals in buildings).

Wide angle lenses (16 – 24 mm on cropped sensor) (24 – 35 mm on full frame sensor)

  • Used for getting wide views of the subject; sweeping view across a scene.
  • Some optical distortion at the very wide end accentuates central subjects.
  • Tend to be used by landscapers; often capable of very small apertures (f22 – f36).
  • Standard zoom lenses (35mm to 200mm of varying focal lengths).
  • Provide great flexibility because can change from wide angle to magnification.
  • Quality often highly price dependent.
  • Optical quality variable with change in focal length.
  • Very long focal lengths often have high f-stops (eg. F5.6).

Standard prime lens (50mm)

  • Sees approximately what the human eye sees (full-frame sensor cameras).
  • Slightly wide angle for cropped sensors.
  • Usually good low light performance because of aperture size is usually wide.
  • Approx.. 80mm for cropped sensors – good for portraits.
  • Creativity allows for the same flexibility that the eye sees.
  • Controlled angle of view is determined by photographers position (no zoom control).
  • Standard prime lens (80mm).
Ultimately it is about image quality

When you are buying lenses consider what you are going to get. If you buy a cheap lens you will get a poor picture.

Most modern camera bodies are going to produce pretty good pictures. But if you stick a poor quality, budget lens on a camera it will give you a poor result. A top quality lens will serve you for many years. It will swap between bodies of the same manufacturer. It will produce quality pictures from your body.

On the other hand a poor quality cheap lens will degrade the ability of the camera body. Which will devalue your overall investment. It is pointless upgrading a body to a higher specifications if your lenses are not up to the same performance standard. Buying lenses is about setting your aspirations. Buying lenses of poor quality is about limiting your potential, for now and for years to come.

Buying lenses – checking the various options

The sheer number of lenses available is daunting. Try starting with a lens finder. This great Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk makes buying easier.
Note:
USA users may not be able to get the above “Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk” link. See below…
Link version for USA users: Amazon.com Lens Finder
Please report problems with these links.


If you are buying lenses enter the important factors for your lens choice. It returns a list of the lenses to suit that purpose. I find this an invaluable tool for helping to me to find a range of lenses from which to make my ideal purchase.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article about Buying Lenses? Don’t miss the next article — sign up for tips by email.

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion) - Author of Buying Lenses

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+.

Photography hacks – adapting your equipment

Seven photography hacks :: adapting your equipment

Seven photography hacks

Photography hacks- making something work differently

In most shots our standard equipment does what is required. Yet, the standard shot is not always what we want. Sometimes we want to make some special effort to provide a different effect, a new view. There are many thousands of photography hacks. Each one can give us something different. Some are more radical than others. But what it really comes down to is making our equipment fit our need to get a specific type of outcome.

Regular readers will know that creative work often involves visualisation. Seeing a hoped-for image outcome in your head helps you to have ideas. Such pre-thinking can help you plan how to use or adapt your equipment. To get the desired result you may have to do all sorts of small adaptions. Walk into any working studio and you will see, card, boards, gaffer tape, clamps, flags. They are all there to help jury-rig things into a new way of creating an effect for the shoot.

These photography hacks are the mainstay of studio work and important on location too. You can do lots of simple things to change the light, the colours, the shadows, the effects of light on your lens, and so on. All that is required is to try and think ahead about what you want to achieve. Then, find ways to change your equipment to get the effect. Familiarity with your equipment helps. As you get creative, then other ideas will come to mind. Look around for ways to change things, or to get new effects.

Photography hacks video

In the video, “7 Simple Photography Hacks” you can get an insight into some of the basic ideas. These are a good start for some examples you can develop yourself. Spend a little time thinking about things you have around you. See if some of them could be used in your own photography hacks.
Provided by COOPH Photography hacks video | External link - opens new tab/page

Messy

The “Vaseline” photography hack in the video can be a bit messy. Only do it on a filter, not the lens. And, try to keep any of the “Vaseline” off the rest of the camera. It is difficult to clean up too. So use an old filter.

Another photography hack for you to try

Here is another idea you can use. It is less messy and gives some satisfying results too…

  • Cut a section out of a fine quality pair of ladies tights (psst… make sure they are surplus first!).
  • Pull the piece tight across the end of your lens.
  • Fix it in place by securing it with elastic bands tight enough over the end of the lens to hold it taught.
  • Take your photo through the material of the tights.
  • To vary the effect, you can make a central hole in the material.
  • Try different colours, try different types of tights knit.

This one is a very old photography hack. It used to be used a lot in wedding shoots years ago. It is just as effective today. Have a go. It is fun.

Let us have some of your shots. We would love to put up a few for others to see.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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+.

Settings for overcoming hand-shake blur

Balance your settings to avoid hand-shake blur in low light.

First dance
Low light photography needs a careful balance of settings to ensure a sharp shot and avoid hand-shake blur.

Hand-shake blur and sharp results.

Hand held shots often return blurred results. While using auto-settings the problem does not seem to arise. What is going on and how do you overcome hand-shake blur?

Manual settings and auto

Your digital camera is a sophisticated computer. It has access to a range of powerful programs that make decisions about each shot. When you use auto settings you are handing the camera over to the control of its programming. The auto setting is selected with the green square on the program dial. It makes all the decisions and you just point and shoot. This ‘auto’ strategy is limited. It leaves you unable to make creative decisions about your shot. Depth of field, movement blur and the light or dark emphasis in a scene is beyond your control.

With any of the manual settings on the program dial things are different. Shutter speed (S or Tv), Aperture (A or Av) and ISO settings allow you to get control of the exposure. Once you control these settings you are able to make creative decisions about your shot. But if you get it wrong you might allow hand-shake blur to creep in. Equally, with the right strategy, you can also set up to prevent the effects of hand-shake blur.

What causes hand-shake blur

Low light, long shutter opening or low ISO can all contribute. Hand shake-blur is caused by hand movement while the shutter is open. To prevent it you shorten the time the shutter is open. With a shorter shutter opening any hand movement is not given time to impact on the shot. Very fast shutter opening, say 1000th of a second, freezes the shot. The hand has almost no time to move in that short period. So, no hand-shake blur.

However, short shutter opening time means less light reaches the sensor. A good exposure requires sufficient light. A shutter speed of 1000th of a second would leave the picture under exposed in low light conditions. On the other hand, if you select a 15th of a second, the shutter is open for a long time. Hey presto! Enough light. But, (boo!) hand-shake blur. The shutter is open too long. Your hands have plenty of time to move.

Over coming hand-shake blur is about balance

If you raise the ISO setting, the sensor becomes more sensitive to light. So, raise the ISO until you can set the shutter to around 200th of a second. At that speed it is easier to hold the camera steady.

Of course, if you have to raise the ISO a lot to allow 200ths sec. you will get a grainy picture. Raising the ISO reduces the quality of the shot. Ideally an ISO setting of 100 will give you the best quality photographic result. On an average day you may have to set your ISO at around 200 or 400 to get a 200ths of a second shutter speed. Up to about ISO 800 the quality from most good DSLRs will be fine. After that, the quality of the image will be affected more and more by grain or “Digital Noise”.

Pictures taken in a dark church, or at an evening dance will have very low light. So, as an example, an ISO of 1600 would possibly give you enough sensitivity to work with a shutter speed of, say, 160th of a second. That would allow you to get a hand-held shot without hand-shake blur, if you have a steady hand. But you might also get a little digital noise in the final image.

Getting the right settings between the ISO and shutter speed is a fine balance. You need to raise the ISO the right amount to give you the shutter speed you need. Too much ISO and you get bad quality in the picture. Too little ISO and you will be forced to use a shutter speed that’s too low. Hand holding under these low light conditions may cause hand-shake blur.

Hand-shake blur and aperture

With ‘auto’ shots the camera program takes account of the light conditions. The program sets the ISO, aperture and shutter speed to values that allow shorter shutter opening. So far we have only discussed shutter speed and ISO. But aperture has a part to play too.

If you open the aperture wider it lets in more light. So, you don’t need to raise your ISO so high if you also open your aperture. In our church example above, an ISO of 800 (not 1600), shutter speed of 200th sec. and an aperture of f4 (wide) could create a good exposure.

If your aperture is set at say f11 (small) less light will get through. So, again you are going to need to have higher ISO or long shutter opening (or both), depending on your light conditions. A small aperture, like f11, will give you a sharp picture to infinity. But, you may have to sacrifice picture quality (high ISO) or suffer hand-shake blur (from longer shutter opening).

The wide aperture does have a penalty too. As the aperture gets wider the depth of field gets shallower. So once again we are back to a balance. To hand-hold a camera we must make decisions about all three basic settings – Shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Other strategies for avoiding hand-shake blur

Camera movement or hand-shake blur can be avoided in a lot of different ways. Sometimes you must work in situations where hand-shake blur is inevitable without more radical solutions. Then there are other things you can do to reduce hand-shake blur. Here are some of them…

  • Lens anti-vibration: Many quality lenses have anti-vibration systems. These sophisticated systems detect hand-shake blur as it happens and counteract it. This might extend your safe shutter speed down to quite slow shutter speeds (say a 60th of a second). While this many not solve all your problems it can help in less extreme light conditions.
  • Tripod: A steady platform will prevent camera movement. If you need a long shutter opening then work from a tripod to eliminate hand-shake blur.
  • Flash: If you are working in a low light situation you may need to raise light levels. A flash unit, on or off the camera, is one answer. An intense flash of light can raise the light high enough for you to work with settings that prevent hand-shake blur.
  • Studio lights: More controllable, but more expensive, these lights can accurately raise light levels to enable you to reliably avoid hand-shake blur and get a good exposure.
  • Reflectors: You can use these to bring more light to where you are working by, say, reflecting from another artificial light or natural light source. Reflectors are particularly useful in reducing the darker areas of a shot. You can reflect the light to just raise light levels in some areas bringing the over all light level up. As the light level across the shot is raised the hand-shake blur can be reduced since shutter speed can be faster.
  • Improve your stance: A better stance is a great way to improve your steadiness.
  • Go to the gym: “What? This is about photography not fitness”, I hear you say. Well, here is a revelation. If your arms are stronger you can hold the camera steadier. A DSLR is a heavy object. Especially after a long session your arms will not hold the camera steady. If your camera is too heavy for you – well, strengthen up. Actually, more strength gives you much better motor control of your hands in any case. You will be able to hold even a point and shoot camera or phone with a steadier hand after regular exercise. Photography, like all other pursuits benefits from a fit body. Improved fitness will reduce hand-shake blur.
The answer to avoiding hand-shake blur

The auto program in your camera may give good results and reduce hand-shake blur. However, it will only do so in average conditions. In more extreme conditions, or where you want to exert some creative control over your shot you need to go manual.

The use of manual settings gives you control. You can control depth of field, subject movement-blur and light vs. dark emphasis in your shots. But, to get the best out of your camera you will need to set it up to avoid hand-shake blur. In this article I have tried to help you understand that the settings you pick can help you control hand-shake blur. Overall, the answer lies in creating a balance between the basic settings of aperture, shutter speed and ISO so that your hand held shutter speed is around 200ths of a second or higher. Lower than 200ths of a second and hand-shake blur is liable to creep into your shots.

Of course there are other things you can do to help raise your shutter speed. I have mentioned some of them. But they all have the same effect. They either stabilise the camera (tripod) or allow you to get the shutter speed high enough so you can steady the camera. So, now you know. Get out there and try to get your settings so you have around a 200th of a second when you take the shot.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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+.

Headshot poses – make your portrait right

Headshot poses :: Keep it simple.

• Headshot poses •
Keep the shots simple and try to reduce any distracting elements in the shot.
(Image from the video)

Your portraits need to be suitable for your subject…

When you want to do a portrait your subject will often not know what to do. Headshot poses are usually pretty simple. But the subject will look to you for direction. You will need to help them pick the right pose.

What inexperienced photogs forget is that male and female poses are different. So they tell their subject to pose how they do when feeling good. That may not be right for someone of the opposite sex to you.

Think about the gender of the subject in headshot poses

If you are a female, think carefully about your headshot poses for a male. Maleness tends to be angular, more aggressive in stance. Males are often better seen head on where their size seems a little more imposing. A hard, upright position indicates maleness. So does harder shadow lines on the face and angular light direction.

If you are a male photographer, you may think in male terms. Female headshot poses are better as more rounded poses than male shots. Inclined heads and slightly turned bodies are best – not looking directly at the camera. Find ways to pose your women subjects in a smaller more understated pose. Remember, shadows on a female face are more flattering when they are soft and give a more rounded appearance.

Circumstances may effect the headshot poses too

There are a lot of different reasons to take a headshot portrait. They may have particular poses attached to those circumstances. For example business poses still have a masculine and feminine aspect. However, they would tend to be more understated than a free posing session. The same might be said of guests at a wedding – and so on. So you need to consider why the headshot poses are being taken.

Clothing is important too. Headshot poses tend to include only the upper body. So if the clothing is distracting it can draw the eye away from your subjects face. Don’t try to get your subject to do a heavy make-up or high-quality hair do if you are trying for a natural shot. Let the inner person come out. Headshot poses are best done in as simple way as possible. There is going to be a high proportion of face in the shot. Overdoing other things will detract from that.

Setting the mood for your headshot poses

Here are a few extras for you…

  • Relax. Sometimes you can get very uptight when shooting portraits. This will get your subject uptight too. So before you start shooting, take a deep breath, breath out slowly. Then spend a few moments talking to your subject to put them at ease.
  • Jokes help to relax an uptight subject. If you tell a light-weight joke it will help set a light mood.
  • Subjects often have a very uptight face to start with. Sometimes all the expression goes of their face. It is fun and will lighten things up if you tell them to pull a few faces – do it with them. That will help get a few giggles and they will have more expression after doing it.
  • When doing the poses make sure you complement your subject. Headshot poses are best done with natural facial expressions. Reward those with a complement. “Lovely smile”, “Nice eyes”, “love that expression”, and so on. This builds a rapport with your subject. It helps them feel comfortable as they pose too.
How to Pose someone for Headshots

In this five minute “headshot poses” tutorial you are lead through a range of things to consider…
Tony Northrup

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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+.

Get down to eye level with animals

Work at the eye level of the animal - get into their world

Work at the eye level of the animal – get into their world.

The world at eye level…

Photography can be wonderful because of the alternative views we can get. Often the best photographs are the ones that show us new views, or ones we don’t see from our normal standing position. The world of animals is a particular case in point. Use the eyes as a guide. Work at eye level.

Photographing animals

There is a whole range of animals involved in our lives. Domestic animals and others make great photo-subjects and there is a huge number of different ways to photograph them. Inexperienced photogs often make the mistake of taking the shot from the normal upright standing position. This does two things. It renders the subject “normal” in the eyes of the viewer – because this is the angle they see it normally. This upright position also tends to make the animal seem small and subservient. Both these viewpoints can make your shot look mundane or worse, flat. It will probably be uninteresting to the viewer.

Get down to the eye level of the animal. All of a sudden you are in the animals own world. By engaging directly with the animal at its eye level you create a correspondence with it. Eye-to-eye communication is an excellent way to get to the story of the animal. You see it at its own height. You can also see its world the way the animal does.

The point about this is that you are telling the viewer a new story. It is one they normally stand above. The viewer will have a much better insight from the animal you have pictured. More to the point you will be developing the eye level contact between the pictured animal and the viewer themselves. That contact brings the viewer into the picture. Eye to eye pictures are very powerful.

Eye level contact

Getting eye level contact with an animal is very powerful. The line of sight view the animal has, and the impact of the stare, can all be used to good advantage. If your animal has particularly amazing eyes you are also going to gain from the directness of the shot.

Eye level contact with animals and birds is a very powerful way to draw viewers into your picture.

Eye level contact with animals and birds is a very powerful way to draw viewers into your picture.
(Click image to view large)


Of course you can do the same for animals, in many situations. I enjoy doing photography in zoos. When you try to picture animals there, try to get them at eye level too. To do that you may need to get up a little higher. For example monkeys may be above your head height. I have often found a light ladder or folding step useful when photographing this way. It gets you up to their level.

Getting down low is important too. So be ready to lie down or at least bend for some shots. Try to get your shot right into the eyes of the animal subject you are imaging.

Bring the eyes alive

Eyes tend to look dead if they don’t reflect light. So when possible arrange the light or take the shot to see these reflections. They are called catchlights. If the eyes look alive the dynamic feel of the catchlights will add to the drama of the shot. Catchlights are more easily captured at eye level. So taking a picture on a direct line of sight will help to capture the feel of a penetrating eye.

Eye to eye level

All living subjects have eyes. You will always find that they are most important in the power of your shot. If you get your shot with an eye to eye level correspondence you will connect with that power. Animal or human subject, that power will be there. Your photography will benefit from emphasising it when ever you can.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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+.

Beach views – ideas for a seaside photoshoot

Beach views are really worth planning out.

• Cornish Afternoon •
The great British beach experience is based on our long history of holidays by the sea. The beach views that come with it are worth pursuing too.
(Click image to view large).

Work up a great coastal vista shot.

Beach views can be magnificent and there is always something worth photographing. Sea makes a magical subject in almost any weather. In the right place the views can be magnificent. Here are a few ideas for you to help you get a great photo from your visit to the seaside.

Beach views :: great vista shots

Photographers should be aware of the opportunities for great vista shots. Here are three tips to help you get the shot and the right light…
1. Spotting a rugged coast: Scout out the maps near your destination. Most good maps will show contours and the coastal shape. If you are looking for interesting coastline check out the height of the land beside the sea. Cliffs and hills indicate harder, more resistant rocks. This helps build up a range of rugged landscapes. Also, the more jagged edges the map shows along the sea/beach line the more likely the coast will have an interesting viewpoint.

If you are looking for a place to try out, Google Maps is useful. The Google maps are not very good at showing contours or heights. But the jaggedness of a coast line is shown. If you convert the map to the Google “Earth” view you can get a satellite view of the coast. From that you can get quite a good idea of the terrain.

Google Earth - the satellite view provides a good idea of the type of coast.

• Whitsand Bay Cornwall •
The photo at the top of the page was taken from the position of the red dot. The view was taken along the rugged coast there. You can see from the Google Satellite view how rugged the coast is along there. It’s ideal for lots of different Beach views.


2. Beach views :: Checking out the light:
There are two times a day when the light is best for landscapes and vista shots. These are the Golden Hour just before sundown and the hour around sunrise. There is great light and low sun position at these times of the day. Why is low-sun position good? Because that causes long shadows to be cast off the rocks. Strong contrasts between the dark and light help define edges, shapes and form of the rocks and features. Shadows provide the defining depth in a picture too. Well defined shadows help the eye to see objects as more three dimensional.
• The Okta • The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps.

• The Okta •
The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps. A useful symbol to tell you the light conditions when checking for good beach views.
(Attribution: Wikipedia.org Beach views :: Oktas - cloud cover symbols | External link - opens new tab/page)


Of course we are not always able to take our photos at the best times of the day. So how do you check to see what the light will be like when you are there? Of course the starting point is the weather. Most good weather forecast web sites will tell you the amount of cloud cover. You can usually tell how much cloud cover is expected by the number of Oktas (or Octas) shown. The more cloud cover the more diffused the light will be. The actual types of clouds make a difference too – if they are dark and ominous they will make a great backdrop to your beach views. Seascapes really look great with heavy storm clouds. Make sure you have a tripod to hand. Dark clouds mean longer exposures.

3. Sun position: If it is a sunny day you might find the sun position is important. If the sun is up high, cliffs can still be in shadow. It depends exactly where in the sky the sun is at the time you want to take photos. There are websites to help with that too. Check out The Photographers Ephemeris Beach views :: Get the light right with . This really useful website “is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth”. There is a web-based version. But usefully, there are versions for your mobile phone too. You will be able to work out where the sun will be at any time of the day. This will help you work out how to fit your beach view shot into your day.

Putting depth into your beach views shot

The shadows you are able to capture will help your beach views appear to have depth. But a longer distance view, especially in mid-day daylight, will need to have other perspectives. Here are a few ideas for you to introduce a feeling of depth into your shots…

  • Overlaps: When you are looking down a long beach you often find features of the beach itself will overlap in your sight. Mounds of beach stones; sand dunes; different rock layers at beach level; cliff top undulations; variations in the cliff face itself and even local vegetation all help. The ways that these features relate to one-another in the scene give you clues to depth in the photo.
  • Contrasts in colour: The colour of the beach stones, rock, sand and even vegetation can often be used to show variation. As you shoot down the length of the beach these can help to show depth to the eye.
  • Texture variation: The cliffs, dunes, rocks and any seaweed revealed by a low tide provide great variations in texture. Look for ways to bring all these into the shot. Textures often come out by slightly underexposing the shot. That may make the scene look darker than it actually is, but it will bring out the light and dark aspects effectively.
  • Lines of perspective: Strong lines are not often associated with beach views. However there are some strong ones that people often miss. The sea line itself is a strong line. You can look down the length of the beach and use the surf or water line where it meets the beach. Looking down on the beach from cliffs you can use wave lines (see below). If you are on the beach itself you beach views are often enhanced by cliff top lines. Although they often undulate they perspective is still distinct against the sky. On the beach itself, fences and other man-made features (groynes, buildings, paths, roads, beach walls etc.) provide lots of points of perspective you can use.
  • Distant points: If you have something in the distance that your viewer knows to be large they have a distance perspective. In the picture at the top of the page you can see a cloud line. These tiny clouds in the distance give a perspective for the viewer. Other things can be large shops towns on the coast, and even buildings.
• Cornish beach view •

• Cornish beach view •
This view of the beach shown at the top of the page loses some perspective because the distances are reduced. The wave lines in the sea and the rock protruding from the cliffs gives back some of the perspective. The nearness of the grass close-up and smallness of the person and buildings also give depth to the shot.
(Click image to view large).

Check out other pictures of the location for your beach view

The most effective way to plan for your picture is to look up your destination and look for pictures done by other photographers. Try putting your intended location into Google Images. You will be able to pick out features in advance to help you give depth and perspective. You will also be able to see some good places to take shots. Here is the page for the bay where my pictures above were taken. You can see my shots are quite different from the others shown there. There is lots of scope to help you pick out some ideas.
Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall | External link - opens new tab/page.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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.

Settings

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.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

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+.