Tag Archives: Camera

How digital cameras work – With James May

How Digital Cameras Work?

• How Do Digital Cameras Work •
You don’t have to know how your digital camera works to enjoy it. But knowing a little helps you to enjoy it better.
[Image taken from the video].

Understanding your camera better…

You don’t need an in-depth know how. Just enough to make it easy to learn more. Knowing a bit about how digital cameras work is really useful. Here is a quick and easy intro…

A few words from me

Those who know the world famous TV show, Top Gear How do digital cameras work: link to Top gear on Wikipedia - External link - opens new tab/page know James May External link - opens new tab/page. He has a zany sense of humour. Recently he’s been doing simple science videos. In the video he shows how digital cameras work. Off-hand jokes and jibes at Richard Hammond How do digital cameras work: Richard Hammond - Jibes - External link - opens new tab/page make the fast-paced video fun. Watch and learn how your camera works.

How digital cameras work. With James May.

Head Squeeze  How digital cameras work - from Head Squeeze :: External link - opens new tab/page

Some things to think about…

The history in the video is a bit misleading. How digital cameras work was worked out in the 1970s. By the 1980s sensors were quite advanced. But, it was not until the 1990s that digital image sensors became consumer items. Then camera makers made them small and cheap. To find out more see: A History of Photography (pt.6). The Digital Age.

Mr. May gets the idea of a pixel wrong too. He talks about pixels being on the sensor. Many people have this idea. Pixels are in images on screen. Data for digital images is collected on a digital image sensor. Each point where the data for each pixel is collected is called a photosite. Just remember, photosites collect data on the sensor. Pixels display the data in the image on the screen.

For more information about pixels check these links…
Definition: Pixel; Pixels
Definition: Photosite; Photosites
Definition: Sensor; Image Sensor; Digital Image Sensor

For some more context on pixels in your images check this: Getting down to pixel level.

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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+.

Snowflakes – a source of mystery and wonder

Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful.

• Snowflake crystal •
Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful. They are a source of interest to scientist – but photographers can make amazing pictures with them.
Image taken from SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page

Snowflakes are amazing!

Close up pictures of snowflakes show how intricate and beautiful they can be. And there are an infinite variety of them too. Here are a few ideas…

Some history about snowflakes

The perfect six-sided snowflake exists, but is not the only sort. Early snowflake pictures were taken by farmers’ son, Wilson “snowflake” Bentley  External link - opens new tab/page (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) from Vermont. Aged 15 he was captivated by snowflakes. It started with looking down a microscope. But in 1885 he began experiments with a camera too. After struggling with the early camera technology he began to make some progress. During his life he made thousands of photos of snowflakes. His work still dominate our ideas today. In particular he was the first to claim snowflakes are unique and six sided. His pictures are also some of the best too.

Snowflake photographs by Wilson "snowflake" Bentley

• Snowflake Photographs by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley •
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was famous for his snowflake photographs. Nearly a century after his death we are still using the images.

Research has shown how diverse snowflakes can be. They are not all perfect, regular shapes either. In fact according to “New Scientist  External link - opens new tab/page” (a weekly publication, UK) there are many types. The various forms are created under different conditions…

  • -2°C = Simple hexagons and star shapes
  • -5°C to -10°C columns
  • -15°C Six sided crystals (dendrites) form again
  • -22°C onward… complex plates and columns form again

Here is detailed morphology diagram for snowflakes Morphology Diagram for snowflakes - External link - opens new tab/page. It shows the relationship between the snowflakes’ type and temperature/humidity.

Snowflakes go through a range of temperature, humidity and other changes while falling. They have a unique and sometimes violent history. They clash together. They may ball-up with other flakes. It’s common for them to have multiple crystals joined in one flake. They may circulate in the clouds for long periods. They may also melt and refreeze before descending to the ground. It is not a surprise they are all so different. There is a great infographic on SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page showing snow crystal growth and the no-two-alike idea.

Capturing snowflakes on camera

You can’t easily photograph snowflakes on the ground. The overall white in a snow mass makes it difficult to distinguish individual flakes. The small size makes them a challenge too. The best approach to snowflakes is two-fold.

  • Use a macro lens or macro extension tubes.
  • Use a clean (new) long hair artists paint brush. Sable hair is best. Use a small black velvet cloth (about 500mm x 500mm) to see the snowflakes.

The aim with these is simple. Tease out individual snowflakes onto a black background. Then get in close with the lens. If you are working with a macro lens help yourself out and use a tripod.

The snowflakes themselves are easily destroyed. The trick is to use the artists brush to lift snowflakes onto the velvet. The brush and velvet have hairs that support the snowflake without damage. Be as gentle as you can to preserve its delicate nature of the crystal.

Sadly tiny ice crystals tend to go grey when on a black background surface. When shot on a dark background they are best converted to monochrome. This helps to increase the contrast and definition of the crystal.

To show the beauty of the refracted light use a well-lit background. If you can, place the snowflake onto a glass slide delicately lifting it off the velvet. You can buy Blank Slides – Microscope accessories External link - opens new tab/pageBuy microscope slides for your snowflake photos. from various places. Make sure you have left the slides to cool down to the snow temperature or the snow will melt on it.

Be sure to keep your cloth, brush and slides cold and dry. Make sure your breath is not directed at the snowflake. Even slightly raised temperature or humidity will affect the snowflake while you are trying to photograph it. More than once I have had them dissolve in front of my eyes.

If you are using an actual microscope, or if you are using a glass slide try to get some backlighting. To get the best refractive results try light at different angles on the snowflake. The best results are not necessarily when the light is directly from below. The angled light tends to create contrasts on the snowflakes. This brings out light and dark as well as some aesthetic colourations from refraction through the crystal.

For your interest here is an amazing camera-microscope…

Celestron Dual Purpose Amoeba Digital Microscope – Blue External link - opens new tab/page
This an affordable and well reviewed digital microscope. It will do detailed images direct from your computer. It’s a photography tool which provides an opportunity to develop your macro skills. Hours of fun too!

Masterful shots

One of the acknowledged masters of the art of shooting snowflakes is Kenneth G. Libbrecht External link - opens new tab/page. He’s a professor of physics who researches crystal growth. He also runs the SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page website. There are wonderful resources on the site including a “how to guide” External link - opens new tab/page and many hints about photography and equipment. There are some wonderful galleries of images External link - opens new tab/page. There is also a section on how to grow your own snowflakes. Although, the latter was a bit more complex than I think I would go… but who knows. People in this field seem to get obsessive about it. Snowflakes are extraordinarily beautiful.

Two other sources of snowflake inspiration…

Official Snowflake Bentley Web Site. This site houses the Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley photographic collection.
For a huge range of inspiring snowflakes images check out this search page on Google: Snowflakes photography  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+.

Lag time – don’t miss the shot

Lag time - test one

• Lag time – test one •
There is a gap between pushing the button and the making the photo.
(image by Netkonnexion)

Every time you push the button…

There’s a period when not much happens. Lag time is the total time taken for the camera to complete the exposure process from the button push. In that process is a lot of detail. Here we look at lag time. With a simple test you can get a feel for the lag time in your camera.

Why is lag time important?

If you buy a camera for action shots you want minimal lag time. Otherwise you look and press, but the action has gone. Of course you can anticipate the action. This is how we all deal with lag time. But to know what time to anticipate you need a feel for the camera. A long lag time is likely to make your guess about when to press the shutter button less accurate. So it’s in your interest to know the lag time and practice with it. If you know the lag it makes it easer to guess the delay for shots.

Shutter lag – don’t misuse the term

Some people use the term shutter lag in a confusing way. They mean it to be the same as lag time. In the past this may have been the case. In early cameras most of the exposure process was completed by the shutter. Today we have a lot of other steps involved. The list of various time related things in the exposure process is quite long today…

  1. LCD activation of the picture (LCD display and electronic [mirrorless] viewfinders only).
  2. Thinking time between seeing a subject on the display and the finger push on the button.
  3. Time taken to get a focus.
  4. Aperture – time to calculate & set aperture size.
  5. Meter – time from light reading to exposure set up.
  6. Digital sensor start up to be ready.
  7. Shutter motor/mechanism actuation.
  8. Shutter opening.
  9. Digital capture of light data.
  10. Shutter closing.
  11. Data emptied from sensor ready for next exposure.

These items may overlap, run simultaneously or be in sequence. Some may not apply to some cameras. It depends on the camera model, design, efficiency and the components involved.

This list adds up to the total lag time. The first five items are not shutter related. They delay the firing of the shutter. They are shutter delay times. The other items are shutter lag items. They are responsible for the shutter and sensor capture of the exposure. They determine the shutter process from start to finish. These are the shutter lag items.

To be clear, lag time is the sum of all the lag items. Shutter lag is only those items related to the shutter-sensor system.

For a more detailed look at various components of lag times check out: Definition: Shutter lag; Shutter delay; Lag time; Processing lag;

Getting the shot – lag time explored

In order to know your camera better you can actually measure your lag time. So here is a method you can use at home. I have tested it using two different pieces of equipment and on two cameras with good results.

A word of warning. The on-board flash crosses all the other lag/delay times and may extend your total lag quite a lot. This is because it takes time to charge up ready for the flash. It will affect the results. Before testing turn off your flash. Check your manual if you are not sure how. Both these methods have back-lighting. You will get enough light without it.

Explanation/method: to measure the lag time we need to identify all the processes involved. I have done this for you above. This allows you to know what parts of the process are holding things up. You will see later that can help you save time.

Next we need to find a way to mark the start and end of the process. Fortunately the camera helps us. When the shutter button is pushed we know the exposure process is started. The clever part is that if we photograph a timer we know when the exposure process is finished because the clock will show the finish time.

To find out our lag time is easy. We activate a clock at the same time as we push the shutter button. We do this while photographing the clock. When the shot is taken the end of the the lag time is shown on the photograph.

Two methods to try out

In the photo “Test one” above I have used this method with my smart phone. I set up the stop-watch app on my phone. Then I pushed “start” with my left hand. I simultaneously held the camera and pushed the shutter button. The key is to make sure you set off both the timer and shutter button at once. If you do, the the photograph will show the lag time. In the photo above it shows 69/100ths of a second. This is my lag time for a photo taken on my little Canon G12. Use a tripod or stand if holding your camera and pushing the button at once is not steady enough.

If you do not have a smart phone (or a stop watch) to photograph, try this web page…
This page will allow you to test your Digital Camera’s shutter lag… External link - opens new tab/page.
(Note: this page is about your total lag time even though it refers to the shutter lag).

Shutter Lag Test two

• Shutter Lag Test two •
Test your Digital Camera’s lag time External link - opens new tab/page.

Follow the instructions on that page. You will see a very slight retard on the clock at the ‘zero’ point. That gives you time to notice the top point and press the shutter button. The resulting photo will tell you the lag time on your camera.

I have run tests on my camera using both the web page and the stop-watch app method. They give consistent results. I feel confident you will find either test will work for you.

Pre-focus to get the shot

Notice on the second test page there are two tests. The second one shows you how you can shorten your lag time. If you pre-focus the camera that saves some pre-shutter time. Focus takes quite a bit of time. So if it is already focused when you take the shot your lag is reduced.

To reduce the delay with pre-focus press the button half way down while looking at the clock. The camera will focus and take meter reading. Then you can hold the half way position – this is called focus-lock. Hold your half-down position until, at zero. Then push the shutter button the rest of the way down. You will normally find your camera lag time is greatly reduced. Possibly by as much as a half. Something to bear in mind for future shots.

Accuracy

Of course you might take a totally bad reading for your fist shot. After playing I found that for both methods you need to practice a little to get consistent readings.

To ensure you get a good overall result I suggest taking ten readings after some practice. Here are readings from my run of ten… 0.53 + 0.53 + 0.69 + 0.98 + 0.89 + 0.66 + 0.74 + 0.65 + 0.66 + 0.74 = 7.07
If we divide the total by ten we will get an average reading. It will iron out any anomalous readings.
Thus: 7.07÷10 = 0.71 (rounded to two places). The lag time on this camera is therefore 71/100ths of a second.

This ‘average’ method provides us with a consistent standard over our readings. This is a more accurate method of gauging the lag time.

What have we done?

The things a modern camera does to take a picture has created a long lag. The lag time is the sum of all the different things that impact the exposure process. From button-press to complete capture-of-data is the lag time.

We have looked at two ways of testing the lag time: a stop watch app; and a web page timer. I have also suggested using an average reading to iron out anomalies.

If you go through this process you will know your camera much better. But more to the point you will have a new confidence. You will know how long it takes to complete an exposure. And, you will know how much time to delay for a shot.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also 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+.

The Exposure Triangle – An aid to thinking about exposure

The Exposure Triangle

• The Exposure Triangle •
Click the image to download an A4 *.pdf version to print.

Going manual with your DSLR.

For many people exploring manual settings is a challenge. There is a lot to learn. Without guidance it is difficult to work it out for yourself. Here is my approach to the subject.

Why the exposure triangle

The “Exposure Triangle” is a memory aid to help us balance light for a good exposure.

One thing you should remember. The exposure triangle is NOT a calculator. The aim is to help you get used to using the settings. The ‘Triangle’ loses its importance once you understand the settings. Instead you will see your visualisation of the shot as more important.

Beyond auto-settings

“Auto settings” in modern cameras are average types of shot. They are pre-set in the camera programming. Sports mode freezes the action; landscape mode gives deep focus in the shot; portrait mode promotes close focus and so on. The pre-sets make credible pictures but take creative decisions away from you. Controlling exposure gives you artistic control over our photos.

It’s all about control

Photographs capture light reflected from objects in the scene. Too much light – the object is over-bright, or worse, blown out (completely white). Too little light and the light does not excite the sensor enough. Thnthe object is dark, sombre, or worse – black. At the extremes we have blown out or black. In between are a whole range of capture intensities.

The trick is to balance the incoming light so the sensor can make the picture as we wish it to come out. the idea is to control the light in-camera to create optimal light conditions for the sensor.

Three essential elements

There are three critical elements that control the incoming light…

  • ISO: controls the sensitivity of the sensor and how we capture the light brightness. A sensitive sensor allows a shot in lower light conditions (example: ISO100). High sensitivity to light is referred to as High ISO (example: very high ISO = 3000). The penalty is the picture becomes noisy (Definition: Digital Noise) as the ISO gets higher. Noise affects the quality of the picture. The lower you keep the ISO, the better quality the final image will be.
  • Aperture: controls the amount of light allowed through the lens. It also controls the depth of field. As the aperture increase the amount of light entering the lens also increases. However, as the aperture gets bigger the lens loses the ability to focus at infinity. As the focus shortens part of the picture is not so clearly defined. Taking a photo at F4 means you might be able to focus on a face beautifully and with sufficient light. But you may not be able to discern any detail behind the head. The depth of field has been shortened by the wide aperture.
  • Shutter value or Time value: How long the sensor is exposed to light affects the amount of light you collect. Leave the shutter open too long and the shot is too bright, blowing out parts of the picture. Close the shutter too quickly – the result is underexposed. Long exposures tend to exaggerate movement introducing blur. Fast shutter speeds tend to freeze an object in place.
What is exposure?

There is no right or wrong for achieving the outcome we desire. But there is only ONE point at which the exposure (all three elements combined) is right for your picture. That is the one to make your photo come out the way you want. You must find the correct exposure balance for your visualisation of the picture using all three elements.

Exposure is the right balance of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed which provides for your intended depth of field, movement blur, brightness and representation of the scene. It is a unique response to the sensor settings you think will make your shot come out right.

The Exposure Triangle is a concept to help you adjust the balance to get the exposure right. The key to using the exposure triangle is that the three elements of exposure: ISO, aperture and shutter speed, must always balance.

It teaches us to understand how the three exposure elements play off one-another. Shorten one arrow the others will need to accommodate by adjusting their length. You can increase one or both of the other elements to accommodate the change.

If you increase one element you will need to decrease one or both of the other elements to accommodate the change.

Full Manual Control

Our exposure settings aim to balance the three elements in the camera. This needs to be done on the ‘Manual’ setting or ‘M’ setting to get the desired result. To gain full creative control we must do two things…

  • First we must have a clear idea of what we are going to achieve for each shot. Do we want the water blurred in our stream or not? Do we want the final picture to look bright and breezy or dark and sombre? Do we want movement blur or sharp, frozen action… and so on. So look at the scene and determine what you want.
  • Secondly, on the basis of what we want we must adjust the camera settings to achieve the desired result.

How do we adjust the settings to get the optimal exposure? Simple. The camera light-meter indicates when exposure is optimal.

The DSLR light sensor is the key

Inside every DSLR is a digital sensor. It detects light intensity. If the light is correctly optimised it will be indicated on the exposure meter.

With the camera set to “M” look through the eye-viewer. At the bottom of the screen you will see a scale. There should be a needle above the scale. This is the indicator of the current exposure. The centre of the scale is the correct exposure level for most shots.

If the needle is off to the right the sensor is getting too much light. If it is off to the left there is insufficient light. The trick is to balance ISO, aperture and shutter speed so the needle is centred.

Your camera manual will show you how to change each of the three settings. There are normally three controls somewhere on the DSLR body to change each of them. Again, your camera manual should have a diagram of the readings in your viewer screen when you look through it. Check out that diagram. You will see the location of the settings on the screen that will change when you alter the controls.

A trick to get you started…

Put the camera on full automatic (the ‘green square’ setting). Take a shot like the one you want. Now look at the settings for that picture on your camera screen. Your camera manual will show you which setting you can look at on the screen. This gives you a guide to what your manual settings should be for this shot.

Now switch to ‘M’ or manual to vary the results. If you want movement blur then slow down the shutter speed (longer exposure, more light let in) and/or decrease the aperture (reduce incoming light) to keep the needle in place. One click of longer shutter speed needs one ‘f-stop’ less of aperture to keep the exposure optimal. But now you get the movement blur!

The aim here is to balance a change in one element by changing one or both of the other elements. In the process you try to keep the needle over the centre of the scale in your viewer. The centred needle tells you you have an optimal exposure that your sensor can use.

Experience…

If you practice regularly with your camera on ‘M’ you will get control of your shots. Try to relate the settings to the type of results you get. Relate shutter speed to the resulting blur/sharpness. Similarly, relate depth of field to aperture size. Relate ISO to balancing light sensitivity to achieve the correct sensitivity for your intended exposure. Gaining experience with these attributes will help you remember settings to use in particular situations.

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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+

Shutter speeds – An easy guide

Shutter Speeds Cheat Sheet

• Shutter Speeds Cheat Sheet •
Click on image to download full .pdf cheat-sheet.

Shutter speed is easier with a start point.

One of the difficulties with shutter speeds is knowing what sort of setting to use with various speeds of an event in the real world.

Here is a short guide to get you started :: A guide to shutter speeds.

There are no rules about shutter speed

The actual speeds of real world events vary a great deal. In a race one car may move at 90 miles per hour (mph) and another at only 70mph. You should vary the shutter speeds depending on the objects speed, light intensity and the aperture you are using. Remember, the download cheat sheet is a guide not a set of rules. It’ll get you started, then it’s down to good old experimentation.

There is no substitute for experience

I do a lot of panning with race vehicles. I have learned to assess the speed and light then make quick guesses to set my camera up for a few test shots.

Once I took an experienced bird watcher to a drag race event. He was used to panning fast moving birds in flight. It took him time to adjust his eye for working with cars at up to 250mph. The best way to get good at doing shutter speed settings is to practice with a wide variety of moving objects so that you can get a general feel for the shutter speeds at each speed of your object.

Experience is the best master. So practice different settings a lot to get the settings and speeds for your interest properly fixed in your mind. This gives you a head start when setting up for a new subject.

Test shots

If you are going on a shoot where shutter speed is important, practice at the likely shutter speed for a few days before going. Try out different light conditions too. This will get your eye into the subject and help you know what variations you can use to get the best shots on the day. This post might help too… How to overcome frozen movement in panning.

The difference between freeze and blur

If you freeze the action you show some amazing stuff the eye does not normally see. Facial expressions and body movements as well as other details can be stunning. It can also look a little artificial. It is strange to see, for example, water droplets fixed in mid-air or a fast car with its wheels not blurry.

You can lower the shutter speed off the peak-action speed for freezing until you get some very slight blur in critical areas. Wheels on moving vehicles or propellers on aircraft are typical examples. They look artificial as frozen features, but give life and movement to an otherwise sharp rendering of high speed action.

Work your blur in naturally and show it as you would see it. Be especially careful where you have a lot of blur. Ensure there are still sharp elements in the picture. If everything is blurred it looks like a bad case of hand-shake.

The key

The key to controlling blur or freezing and other shutter speed effects is… practice! Lots of it. So, just get out there and have a go. Gradually you’ll forget the cheat sheet, you will have it in your head from practice.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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+.

How many types of blur are there in photography?

Blur by Netkonnexion - types of blur

Blur by Netkonnexion
Click image to view large
Blur By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
There are many types of blur in photography.

Not all blur is equal.

There are various types of blur. It sounds odd. In fact there is a lot more to blur than most people realise. It is quite a varied subject. It is used in nearly all aspects of photography. From abstracts to zooming we will find some aspect of blur. Lets take a look…

Okay bokeh…

First up, and one of the best known types of blur, is Bokeh. This Japanese word means haze or blur. It originally referred to the quality of blur. Today we use it to describe the actual blur. A sharp static subject and a blurred background is a blur of little circles, That is bokeh. It is created by the lens and aperture.

When you use a wide aperture, say f4.0 you get a shallow depth of field. The depth of field is the sharp part of the picture. The rest, the out-of-focus part, is blurred. That blur is the bokeh.

Bokeh can add a whole range of composition effects. It is also has its own aesthetic quality. The quality of the little circles varies as does the trueness of the circles themselves. Photographic lenses with apertures that are more circular produce the best bokeh. Some apertures are more like regular polygons (say a hexagonal). Polygon bokeh is not as pleasing as circular bokeh. Less sides on the polygon forms a less circular bokeh circle. It may even form an obvious bokeh polygon. Manufacturers go to some lengths to make the bokeh pleasing. That can raise the cost of the lens.

Subject-movement types of blur

When a subject moves in front of your stationary camera the resulting image has a blurred subject. This is movement blur. The types of blur which include movement can be varied. In the picture above the motor bikes are moving at around 90 miles per hour. When taking this shot I was panning with the far bike resulting in that bike being sharp. The pan meant that my camera was not paced at the same speed as the nearest bike. As a result its movement was relatively out of synchronisation with my camera. The nearest bike was in relative movement and thus blurred.

In “The Barber”, below, I have set my camera to capture the blur of his working hands. As with any movement shot, you want some of the shot blurred and some sharp. If it is all blurred it just looks badly taken.

The Barber

• The Barber By Netkonnexion in 365Project •
Click image to view large
The Barber By Netkonnexion in 365Project External link - opens new tab/page
The movement of the hands is blurred to simulate his hair cutting work. Types of blur created in-camera are most effective.


Movement of the subject is controlled by shutter speed. To get it right you have to practice with the speed of that subject. Try the subject at slow speed first. Once you have an idea of the settings, speed the subject up. As you develop a feel for the speed-of-movement versus the shutter-speed you will be able to get a sharp background but a blurred subject.

More types of blur… Camera movement

When a subject is moving pan your camera with it. I did that in the bike picture at the top of the page and got a sharp bike placed against a blurred background. That is not bokeh in the background. As the camera panned with the bike it captured a stationary background. However, as the camera was moving it created a movement blur on the background.

Movement blur of the background normally occurs when panning. If you hold a stationary camera out of a car window and take a long exposure and the same type of blur will result. However, nothing will be sharp in that case (unless something next to you is travelling at your exact speed).

Done right background blur from camera movement has great impact. In the motorbikes above it gives a race feel. It looks really fast.

Some blur is not so good

Hand movement during a shot causes all sorts of blur. You get blurred shadows, blurred faces, possibly jerky tracks… not good at all. However, you can have some fun with this sort of movement. Some famous pictures have been created by deliberate hand movements. There are lots of shots, like tree shots  External link - opens new tab/page, where the movement of the camera creates a surreal or abstract view of the subject. Some people have tried throwing their camera and triggering it in mid-air – some bizarre results can be obtained (including a smashed camera).

Out of focus types of blur

Of course it is possible to completely blur a shot quite deliberately. Some pleasant aesthetic effects can be achieved. Wedding and romantic photographers love the “soft focus” shot. This is a deliberate very slight lack of sharpness. It emphasizes the romantic, soft nature of something… kittens, brides, the first kiss, baby and so on. Google images of soft focus shots provides quite a good range of possibilities for this type of blur.

The soft focus shot can be created different ways. Each give slightly different types of blur. You can literally set the lens to manual focus. Then when properly focussed pull the focus slightly back. so as to create a small amount of blur. Another way to do it is to use a soft focus filter. These are simply screwed to the end of the lens and give the same effect. When I was first starting out in photography many wedding photographers carried a flesh coloured or white nylon stocking. Pulled tight over the lens while the photograph is taken it creates a soft focus effect. Others like a skylight (ultraviolet) filter with a tiny amount of grease smeared on it. All these work, but give you a slightly different soft focus effect. Experiment… have fun!

Zoom blur

One of the less well known types of blur – zoom blur. You need a steady hand or better, a tripod. It makes the picture look like the world is rushing toward you very rapidly.

Adjusting the zoom during exposure creates zoom blur. Set your camera to have a long exposure – around one second is good. Balance the shutter speed with the ISO and aperture to get a proper exposure. You will need to use manual focus to adjust the zoom in the shot. Press the shutter button and rotate the zoom focus ring. A short turn or through its full arc – the amount of turn gives different effects. With a bit of practice you can reduce hand-shake blur. A smooth zoom throughout the exposure creates some great effects. Look through this page of zoom blur images on Google for some ideas…  External link - opens new tab/page.

Artificial blur

Most image editors have software filters to create types of blur. In fact there are a variety of different software filtersavailable. Gaussian blur is one common type. It softens or smooths the image, but also causes loss of detail. There is also rotational blur (self explanatory); linear blur or movement blur – you choose the direction of the blur. Other editng packages will have other blur types too.

Artificial types of blur do not have the same effect as blurs created in-camera. Artificial blur tends to lack depth. Whereas, blur using depth of field gives depth to a picture. The bokeh and movement blurs both have the impact of realism and depth as they vary throughout the depth of the image. Applying a uniform artificial blur can affect the realism. Applied with care and artful work you can make artificial blur look real. It is all about care and attention.

Are there more blurs?

There are probably other types of blur. They may fit into one or more of the categories above. Why not let us know about others. I would like to hear of new ideas and types of blur.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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+.

Visual toolbox for photographers

Sharpen up your creative photography…

It’s easy when starting photography to over emphasis the importance of gear. In fact it’s ‘photographers eye’ that really makes the difference. Your vision and insight into a scene are critical to producing a wonderful image.

Sage advice from a world master

The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin is all about the skills of composition. He goes into depth around the background ideas which help you look at a scene. The ultimate success in photography is to make your image a pleasure to view. Aesthetics rule – it’s as simple as that. This book is dedicated to teaching you the tools you need to develop the ‘eye’.

David duChemin says,

These are the lessons I wish I’d learned when I was starting out.
The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin

This is my kind of book. He writes superbly, in simple, readable form. His examples are excellent and the pictures are just amazing. But most of all the book is organised for learners to extend their knowledge in easy, well structured steps. This book is all about putting new tools in your photographic tool box and it achieves that with an ease that any beginner will find a joy.

Composition

The book is packed with examples of the sort of compositional ideas that really work – for anyone. Just look at some of the topics covered…

  • Manual
  • Optimize Your Exposures
  • Master the Triangle
  • Slower Shutter Speed
  • Learn to Pan
  • Use Intentional Camera Movement
  • Use Wide Lenses to Create a Sense of Inclusion
  • Learn to Isolate
  • Use Tighter Apertures to Deepen Focus
  • Use Bokeh to Abstract
  • Consider Your Colour Palette
  • Lines: Use Diagonals to Create Energy
  • Lines: Patterns, Lead my Eye, Horizons
  • See the Direction of Light
  • Light: Front Light, Side Light, and Back Light
  • Quality of Light: Further Consideration
  • White Balance for Mood
  • Light: Reflections, Shadow, Silhouettes, Lens Flare
  • People
  • Experiment with Balance and Tension
  • Use Your Negative Space
  • Juxtapositions: Find Conceptual Contrasts
  • Orientation of Frame
  • Choose Your Aspect Ratio
  • Use Scale
  • Simplify
  • Shoot from the Heart
  • Listen to Other Voices (Very Carefully)

And there is plenty more content to complement and extends these ideas. What’s not shown in a list is the excellent and sage advice throughout the book. I will let David duChemin have the last word…

Pace your-self. Anyone can master a camera; that just comes with time. It’s the other stuff — learning to think like a photographer — that takes so much work and allows this craft to become the means by which you create art.
The Visual Tool Box by David duChemin

And it is thinking like a photographer that you will quickly learn from reading this book.

How to buy this great book

This book was originally published as an ebook. However, it is no longer available in that form. The book has moved into the real world. It will be available on Amazon as a Paperback From 31 Mar 2015.
The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs (Voices That Matter)You can per-order the book from Amazon.

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+.