Category Archives: Starters School

Articles essential for starters

Picture titles prompt your viewer

Picture titles - Quiet contemplation

• Quiet contemplation •

It’s all about communication.

It’s a great feeling when your point is understood. This is true with pictures too. When we show people our picture we want them to understand what it is about.

Sadly, pictures are often shown out of context. Then the meaning can be misinterpreted. For example, social networks and art sites show pictures. When posted with lots of other pictures the viewer sometimes needs some idea of the picture’s meaning. That is where picture titles come into their own.

Picture titles give context

A pro-photog tries to make sure their images have a point. They work to make their point from the moment they approach a scene. The final image is the result of a composition that pulls the essential elements together. It crystallises the point for the viewer.

In completing the composition the photog has a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. It is that ‘idea’ that can be used to make picture titles. For the viewer it is the idea they need to explain the point of a picture when it is out of context on a gallery wall or where-ever.

How do you use picture titles?

The most important thing about a picture tile is brevity. To be effective you need to say it all in a few words. If the viewer has to read a long text about the point of a picture the meaning will be lost. A picture is worth a thousand words. It should express the point. The title is a sign post, a clue.

Your title will achieve two things. It will express the point of the picture. It will also give the viewer an insight into how your thinking went while making the image.

Think carefully. Leave out your brief clue to the meaning of the picture and you may leave the viewer clueless. I am sure you would not want them to miss the point of your lovely picture. Would you?

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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+.

Camera grip – hold your camera correctly

Improving your camera grip.

Improving your camera grip is an important part of developing your skills.
[Image taken from the Joe McNally video below].

Your camera grip is a critical skill.

Do it wrong and you’ll have problems getting a sharp image in many situations. You may even give yourself bad posture and back pain. Learning to have a good camera grip will help develop your skills in many ways.

Camera grip and overall stance

The way you grip your camera works as part of your overall stance. You can get the grip perfect, but with a poor stance it will ruin the impact of a good camera grip. In Simple tips for a good photography stance I set out a detailed plan for a good stance. It will be worth reading that before you see the videos below.

Joe McNally – Da Grip

In this video Joe shows us how to properly hold the camera. He apologises for how this best suits a left-eyed shooter. However, the technique can apply to both left and right eye shots. So don’t be put off. Watch to the end. Joe makes many of the points I do in Simple tips for a good photography stance and this article. He shows you how to properly grip your camera. He also demonstrates how to control it from this grip too.

JoeMcNallyPhoto External link - opens new tab/page.

Sharpness and camera grip are close friends

When teaching I have often found that poor stance and grip go together. They result in soft shots and poor quality images. I try to help people to be more deliberate and use relaxed but firm control. Then, if they hold a good stance and a good grip the sharpness and image framing seem to come together.

In the next short video Gavin Hoey goes through his method for a camera grip. It is very similar to Joes grip and my camera grip too. Everyone has quirks and slightly different ways to do it. The important thing is to follow the basic plan and practice until your shots are sharp and controlled. Then you will see the benefit of good stance and camera grip.

Gavin spends time on some other aspects of sharpness too. This nicely shows how all these methods come together. Great stance, camera grip and control of your camera will develop your skills in leaps and bounds. For more on improving your sharpness check out this article :: The Zen of sharpness – 12 easy ways to improve.

No more blurred photo’s… Ever!

Gavin Hoey 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+.

Getting down to pixel level

Getting down to the pixel level in your pictures.

Getting your image sharp is more about your photography technique than where the pixel level is in the image.
Click image to view large.

Viewable images need sharpness.

Viewing an image on your computer is easy. Just open it up. Actually, that is not the full image in most cases. It’s a tiny version of it. A control on your image viewer will allow you to view it at 100%. It is at that resolution that you will know what the sharpness is really like.

What you see normally

When viewing a full image on a screen you normally see the picture reduced. Most people have the image viewer set to show the full picture. To fit it on the screen the computer does a throw-away exercise. It looks at the image file data. It finds as much detail as it can to discard but still leave a picture you would recognise. To do that it will lose some of the picture detail. But to compensate the image is sharpened up. That means the computer will emphasis any lines and edges it finds. This helps you to see detail and make up the rest.

We are very good at that – making up the rest. After all, every image we see is in two dimensions. But we still perceive it in three dimensions – because we make it up. So it is with the lost detail. We still see the image as pretty complete and can imagine it. The picture above was taken on a 21 mega pixel camera. The original picture is 5616 x 3744 pixels = 21,026304. So as you see it, at 800 × 488 pixels (scaled to 473px × 288px) it is pretty sharp. You can see it at 1000px wide if you click the image to get a larger version.

Most cameras take at least 8 mega-pixel images

What eight mega pixels means is that the sensor has approximately eight million photosites (sometimes pixelsites) on the digital image sensor. A pixel site is one individual sensor point. It senses the light. Each pixel site translates into an individual pixel in your image. You can see how to calculate the different mega-pixels on this page  Camera mega-pixel calculator - External link - opens new tab/page.

See the pixels as they are – get sharpness

A picture at one hundred percent of its size is at its proper resolution. It is the picture that the digital sensor was able to capture. If you view the picture at this resolution your image should be sharp. If it is not then your photography technique needs some work. Sharpness at the 100% size of an image is the tale-tell. It tells you if you are really getting a sharp result. Any smaller resolution and the sharpness is created by the computer, not your technique.

Seen at 100% resolution each pixel will fall into the visual position that you expect and the image will appear sharp. If on the other hand you are viewing the image at 100% and it is not sharp you will see lines and edges that are blurred. They will appear ‘soft’ – as if the lines and edges are not really as thin as they are when you see them in real life. The image below is a section of the image from the top of the page. It is shown at its 100% resolution. Of course it is cropped to fit the space. So you are not seeing the full picture. However, you should be able to see the detail.

The image from above at 100% resolution. (Pixels are not visible as individual points)

A section of the Christmas tree from above showing the sharpness when viewing at 100% resolution. The detail is clear and recognisable.

When you blow them up pixels are messy

If you open an image up at more than one hundred percent you are asking the computer to lie to you. An image file can only reproduce an image at the resolution it was taken at. If you ask it to blow up the image further it will try to do it. What you actually see will be a best guess. Your computer will try to show the current pixels replicated outwards. Each pixel will be surrounded by replicas of itself. This will make your picture look blurry. If you continue to blow it up you will get a pixelated version of the picture. Squarish artefacts and lines appear. The picture will look increasingly blocky as it gets more blown up.

A blown up section (500% resolution). Look carefully you can see individual pixel points. The quality is poor.

This image is blown up to 500% of the proper resolution. It is still taken from the image at the top of the page. You can see individual pixel points and the quality is lost

What is the point?

The point, that is what a pixel is. When blown up large enough it shows as a single point on the picture. It comes from one point on the image sensor – a pixel site. At normal resolution a pixel is too small for the eye to see individually. Mixed with all the other points it helps create a picture. The eye views all the different pixel positions as a mass. Not individually. Together they form an image. But that image is the result of your minds eye assembling them to resemble reality. That is what you see. It is an imagined facsimile of reality run together from a mass of dots.

When you next see an image you have made, stop. Change it to 100 percent view size. See if it is sharp. If it is not, work on your photography technique (see: The Zen of sharpness). If it is sharp, then bless your imagination because you have created a wonderful thing in your head. You have created a real image.

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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+.

Light intensity – estimating the light you need

Light intensity is about finding the natural look

• Computer user •
Get familiar with light intensity. Look for the right light intensity in every shot. It is not always easy – here’s how.

Aim for a light intensity that suites the subject.

When using artificial lights think about how light best suits the subject. Learners often use lights set too bright. We will explore the use of distance to reduce the light intensity.

What is light intensity

You might describe light intensity as the power that light has at a given place. A light is most powerful at its source. As it radiates away from the source it becomes less intense. Actually the light radiated still has the same total energy. As it gets further from the light source it is just spread out more.

At each point where you measure light travelling away from the source there will be less and less light. This is because the total light is more and more spread out. This relationship is called the Inverse Square Law. It is a bit of math which describes how light behaves. For our purposes we just need to know that as the distance from a light increases, the illuminated area also gets larger. The same amount of energy is spread out over a larger area. We can say this in a simple way…

As you move away from a light, the light intensity reduces by “distance squared”.

A camera only samples a small area of light. If the light is spreading out the amount of light it can gather is getting less. The light intensity it can capture reduces with distance. Less light is going to get into the camera.

So the light intensity gets less with distance?

At one meter from the light you can say light intensity is one unit. At two meters the light is spread out over four square meters (1 divided by four). If you take a photo you will get one quarter of the light entering your camera. Here is a table that shows how this goes…

1 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1
2 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/4
3 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/9
4 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/16
and so on…
[M = Meter]

Here is a diagram showing how light intensity falls off according to the inverse square law.

How does this help?

When using artificial light of any kind you should remember light intensity. Good light should match the scene for a good image. It should look natural and the right sort of light (colour, intensity, etc). You also need to have enough illumination for the shot. Too little and the picture will be under exposed. Too much? The picture will be washed out, over exposed. All simple enough.

You need to know that light intensity falls off with the square of the distance for one reason. If you take a picture close to a light (1m) that may be bright enough to achieve what you need. If you move to three meters the light intensity will be reduced to one ninth of its previous amount. That is very different light to use. It changes your light levels in the scene. It will also affect your cameras ability to make an exposure. It may affect the colour of the light or other properties.

For someone using a flash on a camera it works the other way around. If you move to three meters from your subject the flash will light them at one ninth of the light intensity of a shot taken from one meter. They will appear much less bright.

Moving close to or away from a light source

The point is simple. Light intensity determines both the illumination and the brightness of a subject. You don’t need to move a lamp or flash very far for a significant loss (or gain) of light intensity. So guessing where to take your next shot is made easier. You can predict that fall-off now you know how the lighting behaves.

Now you can control your flash two ways. You can turn it down using the menus on your camera (check your manual). Alternatively you can move back. Even a short distance back will reduce the brightness of the shot by a lot.

Next time you are using a flash…

Why not test the theory. Put your camera in manual mode. Take a picture at one meter. Without changing the settings, move back. Try two meters, then three, and so on. Each picture will get dimmer. Quicker than you expect you will not be able to make an exposure. This is probably one of the most important lessons about the behaviour of light.

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Heads together – the more intimate pose

Coffee Girls on 365 Project

• Heads together pose – an intimate feeling in your pictures •
This pose really increases the intimacy of your shot.
Image by Netkonnexion  External link - opens new tab/page

Emotion is powerful in a photo.

Every photograph has hidden messages. Everything you look at tells you about the picture. The more you are able to express emotion the better. When that emotion shows itself to the viewer you have a powerful impact.

The heads together pose

It is a pose with a long history. Putting heads together has shown trust, love and intimacy for centuries. Today the trust that goes with the pose is still felt. We all inwardly recognise it even if we could not point it out.

That is the point. Many emotional and trust elements in relations with others are not spoken. We only see them as visual clues. But, they carry a strong message.

Another message we often miss is a true smile. When someone fakes a smile they don’t smile with their eyes. We only wrinkle our eyes at the corner when we do a true smile.

The girls above worked together for a long time. They had become good friends. I asked them to put their heads together. They recognised the trust and both did true smiles. What a happy picture.

We are family – heads together show intimacy

The depth of intimacy goes beyond smiles. At weddings and funerals people often have a very formal pose. Ask them to bring their heads together and you make it less formal. It brings their character out too. In the next picture we see quite a formal father-daughter portrait. The formal feel is broken by the heads together pose. It makes the ‘family feel’ obvious. Wedding parties and groups of friends can all have that feeling with even a slight inclination of their heads.

We are family • The heads together pose even works in formal shots

• We are family •
Family closeness is shown by the heads together pose even in formal shots.

There are other hidden messages in poses

There are many poses that show our emotional and relationship status. These can be positive and negative. Have you noticed people who tend to cross their hands over their waist? This is a classic “I look over weight” pose. Another is when someone crosses their arms in front of them. This is a defense pose. They may not feel comfortable in front of the camera. People who look away from each other are often showing they are not close or intimate. I could go on.

The heads together pose is a code for having fun.

• Having fun •
The heads together pose is a code for people having shared fun!.

Looking for how people stand and pose

Sometimes the hidden clues are not easy to work out. They are always there though. How people stand, sit, look and express themselves is a code. Look out for the little things. The heads together pose, and others, show you how people really feel. Pick up the positive signs. Then you can get people to pose in positive ways. It will improve your images every time.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced web master and a trained teacher. Damon also trains digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.

Autumn photography – 50 things to think about

Autumn Cherry Leaves

• Autumn Cherry Leaves •
As Fall is upon us. Think of new ways to pull in the eye of the viewer.
Autumn Cherry Leaves by Netkonnexion on Flickr

Autumn is a great time of year.

There is so much to see and photograph. Being out in the open air and lovely locations is part of the attraction. Here are some other important and photographic things to consider.

Locations
  • Don’t always go to the same spot. Find somewhere new every Autumn.
  • Fall colours depend on the species, which may not be shown on maps.
  • Check with park information centres to see if the colours are right.
  • Information centres are great at giving directions to the best locations.
  • Watch weather forecasts to see when the best light is likely to show up.
  • Check websites for the area near the location for useful information.
Colours

What makes Autumn particularly exciting is the lovely russet and golden colours. Making those come out is not always easy. Think about these points…

  • Even slight greyness in the sky can dampen the colours.
  • Bright colour can be lost against a bright sky, exaggerate colour contrast.
  • Shoot yellows against a darker background so they don’t get lost.
  • Golden colours are best with a red dusk. Aim for times in the Golden Hour.
  • Don’t use a pop-up flash. It will flatten the colour and depth.
  • Use off-camera flash from the side to make leaves translucent and bright.
  • Use side light as much as possible to emphasis shadows and define shapes.
  • Use any greens you can as a back-drop for golden colours.
  • Low sunlight peeping under clouds often brings out yellows.
  • Take pictures after rain – the wetness often revitalises colours.
  • Consider a filter on your camera to exaggerate natural colours.
  • Try shots with as many mixed colours as possible.
  • Try shots with lots of similar colours across the picture.
Equipment

Every shoot demands its own approach. But here are some ideas to help the Autumn shots work for you…

  • A tripod is essential. A fuzzy shot of a great scene is horrible!
  • Most people forget the wide angle shots.
  • Remember that zoom lenses flatten perspective – consider prime lenses.
  • Consider using white boards and gold reflectors to help bring up colours.
  • You can’t make great images if you are cold/wet. Wear proper clothing.
  • Beware of changing lenses in damp air!
The shots

Found a great place to rejoice in colour and texture? Now you need to think about composition and ideas for your shots…

  • Check out our resources on composition.
  • Before going spend two hours looking at images by others (Google)  External link - opens new tab/page.
  • Work out a list of, say, 25 shots you would like to try out.
  • Concentrate your efforts on a few ideas.
  • Use your trip to try at least one type of shot new to you.
  • Practice your chosen shots before you go.
  • Remember to work the scene at the location.
  • Remember The fifteen second landscape appraisal.
  • Have a go at this old sailors trick to improve landscapes.
  • People often look up when in trees. Look down, there is plenty there.
  • Get really low.
  • Get really close.
  • Experiment with Depth of Field:.
  • Light leaves from behind. Translucent leaves are wonderful.
  • Consider backlighting to bring out shapes.
  • Hold up something interesting and photograph it with your hand.
  • Dogs look great in leaves! Capture your pet having fun!
  • Take a macro lens or macro tubes. Get really close.
  • Look for golden, yellows and reds in reflections… they look great!
Try going to manual (M) settings…

There is nothing more exciting. Get great images knowing they came out the way you intended. Avoid ‘auto’ shots programmed by a boffin at the camera factory.

Autumn and you…

Don’t be so intense that its not fun! Love your trip, enjoy the moment and if possible share it with a friend. Make some great images along the way.

Have a great Autumn.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Tripod myths – why are amateurs tripod shy?

Me and my tripod - reflected in paintwork - tripod myths

• Me and my tripod – reflected in paintwork – tripod myths •
I use a tripod most days in some pretty tight situations. They are
quick, effective and give great results!
[Image by Damon Guy • Click to view large]

Tripods improve your results – fact!

Tripod myths can be heard regularly. Actually they make life a lot easier and faster. So, why are amateurs tripod shy? Why buy cheap? Why is simplicity apparently so difficult for tripod starters? Read on…

What are the tripod myths?

Over the years I have heard all the excuses. Here are some things I have heard…

  • I’ll miss the moment!
  • Tripods are too much bother.
  • I can shoot great shots hand-held.
  • It slows me up.
  • I like to walk the scene…
  • They are cumbersome, get in the way and heavy.
  • It’s not possible or easy to use it all the time.

I am sure there are other issues. But let’s look at these in detail.

Tripod myths: Missing the moment?

Every photographer gets lucky sometimes. They happen to point the camera pointing right and, snap, they got it.

Let’s be honest. How many times does that lucky capture happen? “Journalists?”, I hear you say? Actually, they rarely get lucky either. Photo-journalists train in preparation, planning and investigation. Being there and aware when the event happens is not an accident. They get the story time and time again.

If you plan for your tripod you will get the shot too. You won’t miss the shot getting your DSLR out either.

Forethought and planning are good photographic habits. Cultivate and develop these skills. You get the shot, and it’ll be sharper. If you are going to shoot, do it properly. Have both camera and tripod ready. Don’t be a victim of tripod myths, be in control of your photography.

Too much bother? One of the tripod myths that is just silly

What can be too much bother about getting a sharp, properly framed image? Loading a tripod is no more trouble than putting your camera in the car. It takes only 15 seconds to set up. The tripod will also give you time and scope to take a great shot. It holds your camera for lens changes and while scouting the next shot. Bother? Not really.

Bothered people think tripods are hard work. Do they realise how much the picture is improved? Attention to detail over your shots is what makes excellent images. Taking a quick snap may be no bother. Its unlikely to yield a great image either. This is one of the tripod myths that does not stand up!

Tripod myths: Great hand held shots

There are lots of situations where great light and a steady hand can get a sharp result. Congratulations. The time and effort you put into your photography is paying off. However, of all the situations I take pictures in, only about a third can be hand held. High ISO might help. More likely digital Noise would spoil the image. Better to take a longer exposure and use, say, ISO100. Quality is important.

Tripod myths will limit you to one third of your potential as a photog. It makes you a limited photographer. Tripods extend your shooting time, flexibility and quality of image.

Tripod myths: It slows me up

Yes, finally, a fact! Tripods make you think about your photograph. Perhaps not one of the tripod myths, more of a tripod mistake.

Since digital cameras became common I see a lot of machine-gun photography. A keen photog arrives, sprays off a hundred shots… Then, off they go. Wow.

Spend the first few minutes considering options. Proceed with a plan and with care. Cover all the shots you need. Sometimes you will get new ideas. Great, get more shots.

Once, at an aircraft museum with a keen photographer I was alone in minutes. My friend shot out of sight. We met up later. He had over 1000 pictures. He was elated. I had less than seventy shots. “Ah!”, he said. “You should’ve left the tripod at home!”

Later that week things turned around. He had eleven fair shots and one really good one. He had spent hours and hours in post-processing and missed lots of sleep. My more careful approach paid off. I had more than 40 quality images. As he looked at them he kept saying, “I took a picture of that too, but it didn’t come out”. And, “How did you get that one to look so good?”. My care, quality and composition paid off. The tripod helped me think about my photography and take care. I only spent about two hours in post-processing too. Most on simple tweaks. I had plenty of time for other shoots that week.

One question… Who was really slowed up here?

Tripod myths: Working the scene

One of my regular jobs involves 15 – 20 finished pictures of a scene. Picture order and camera height is important. We often work in low light. Space is restricted at many sites. We are not allowed to do any post-processing.

This is fast work. In 15 minutes I make up to 35 shots at a high enough standard to meet the needs of a court case.

Does a tripod hold me up or prevent me working the scene? Does it prevent my shots? On the contrary. I could not do the job without it. I would have to take many more shots. My shots would be less flexible. I would not achieve court-ready sharpness and detail. Without a tripod I could not work the scene properly.

Tripod myths: Cumbersome, heavy, intrusive?

Sometimes. A tripod can be badly adapted for what you are doing. So, if you are going to do something a lot, buy the right tripod. Travel a lot? Get a light one. Work on beaches a lot? Choose sealed feet to keep the sand out. Working special scenes? Get a special tripod. General photography? Buy general.

If you have the wrong equipment you can rightly claim it’s no good! So, buy the right equipment for the job. Make sure you get a quality piece of equipment. You spend thousands on your camera and lenses, so there is little point in spending only ten on your tripod. Quality workmanship and materials are important to producing quality images. You would not accept less with your camera so why with your tripod? This is one of the tripod myths that does stand up – if you have the wrong equipment. Get it right and you have a friend for life.

Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow…

I am not saying tripods are everything. In fact there are many situations where they are not suitable or you can’t use them. Also, we all enjoy the freedom and creativity of hand-held shots sometimes. If we fall prey to tripod myths we will never get past auto settings and bright daylight shots.

All I am saying is, don’t limit yourself. Get past the tripod myths. Buy a tripod and make sure you know how to use it. Your photography will improve if you use it a lot. Use it only a little and you’ll pay a penalty.

Why not look at some of the options now…

General tripods for DSLRs  External link - opens new tab/page
Manfrotto – Quality tripods for committed photographers  External link - opens new tab/page.

Also check out this post and recommendation…
Buy a good tripod – nothing beats it
Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Legs Only – Black External link - opens new tab/page

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+