Tag Archives: Lens

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings

Bubble Wrap

Green bubble wrap shot with Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens reversed.
Hand-held to the camera body.
• Bubble Wrap •
By Archaeofrog

Anyone can use reverse rings.

Close-up or macro photography is something every photographer should try. However, a macro lens can be an expensive investment. This series covers inexpensive ways to get great close-up results. The first article “Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings” discussed using close-up lenses that attach to your existing photographic lens. A second way to achieve close-up results, surprising as it may sound, is to reverse your DSLR camera’s lens by mounting it on backward.

It is possible (but awkward) to simply handhold your lens backwards against your camera body, as in the top photograph. I don’t recommend it, as it can allow dust or other debris into your camera that may affect the sensor. The inexpensive alternative is to purchase a reverse ring camera mount adapter that fits your lens (based on its diameter) and the make and model of your camera body.

Canon Reversed Lens

Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens attached backwards to a Canon T1i body using a reverse ring. The depth of field preview button is visible underneath the lens release button.
Click image to view large

How to use the reverse ring

First, remove any filters you have on your lens. To use a reverse ring, screw the ring securely on to the front of your camera lens filter thread. Hint, it is easiest to screw the ring on while the lens is in the camera body. After attaching the reverse ring to the lens, remove the lens from the camera body. Now reverse it and fit the lens-mount side of the ring into the camera body and lock it in place. You will no longer be able to use the autofocus function of your camera or adjust the aperture of the lens once it is reversed, but you will be able to adjust the shutter speed and ISO. Your camera may display an aperture value of F00 or other default. I recommend that you change the shooting mode on your camera to aperture priority or manual. In aperture priority mode, the camera will calculate and set the shutter speed for you, while in manual, you will set it yourself. Now you are ready to use the lens.

Origami Crane

• Origami Crane •
Click image to view large
Origami paper crane folded from a bite-sized Hershey wrapper.
Captured with a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens

A reverse ring gives better results when used with a prime lens rather than a zoom lens. Prime lens are often faster, which means that they have a wider maximum aperture and can use a faster shutter speed, even in lower light.

You can use any type of lens, although light lenses are recommended. Very heavy lenses may damage the reverse ring mount adaptor or the lens filter thread.

Using a zoom lens, particularly when fully zoomed out, can be awkward to support. Because the lens is reversed, zooming the lens requires you to be further from the object you are photographing and does not give such a close-up view of the subject. The working distance (distance from the lens to the object in focus) is about five inches with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens reversed. Using my Tamron 18-270 mm zoom lens at 18 mm, I have to be within about two inches to get an object in focus, while it is greater than six inches at 270 mm.

Adjusting the aperture

When your camera lens is not attached to a camera, its default position is to be open to its widest aperture. So, for the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 that would be f/1.8, which results in a very shallow depth of focus. In the crane picture above, the neck of the crane is in focus, while the beak and tail are not. When I reverse this lens on my camera, the aperture will still be f/1.8, and I will be unable to adjust the aperture value after the lens is reversed on the camera. But there is a work-around.

Most DSLR cameras have a ‘depth of field preview’ button. The purpose of this button is to allow you to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what your camera will see at the aperture that is set. When you press that button, the blades inside the camera lens close down to the selected aperture. This will allow you to set the aperture for your lens. (Please note: not all DSLRs have a depth of field preview button).

Carnation at F22

• Carnation at F22 •
By Archaeofrog

Here is the procedure. Using aperture priority or manual mode on your camera, dial in the aperture that you want to use for the shot. Next, depress and hold the depth of field preview button. While still holding down the button, press the lens release button and remove the camera lens. Then you can mount it on your camera body using the reverse ring. The camera lens will maintain whatever aperture you had selected. If you want to return to the default position or change the aperture again, simply put the lens back on the camera the regular way and repeat the process. Tip: if working outside, you may want to set your aperture first and reverse the lens indoors, to avoid dust getting into the camera body and on the sensor.

Advantages and limitations of reverse rings

The reverse ring is a fun and easy way to experiment with close-up photography. The ring itself is very inexpensive, usually less than $10 USD (around £7-£8 UK), and is small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. Depending on the lens that you reverse, you can get very close to macro-level results.

Ruler

• Ruler •
Click image to view large
This photograph of a ruler demonstrates the scale of a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens, which gets down to an image of about an inch and a quarter wide and has a working distance of about five inches.

Like other close-up techniques, using a reverse ring does require you to be physically close to the objects you are photographing. Depending on your lens and your comfort level, however, you may still be able to capture detailed shots of slower moving insects, such as the bee below. A reverse ring is also ideal for indoor shots or other stationary details.

Bee

• Bee •
Click image to view large
Bee photographed using a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens.

You will lose some of the automatic functions of your camera, including autofocus, with a reverse ring. The electrical contacts that normally carry signals to the lens are not in contact with a reversed lens. This is not that much of a disadvantage. Generally, with close-up shots, you get better results when using manual focusing.

While you can adjust the aperture (on some cameras), there is an additional step of setting the aperture using the ‘depth of field preview button’ before reversing the lens.

As with any close-up or macro technique, the depth of field (area in focus) will be very shallow. You can maximize sharpness by keeping the camera lens parallel to the object being photographed. In the photograph of the bee, above, the body of the bee is parallel to the camera lens and stays in focus. The flower is perpendicular to the lens and falls out of focus quickly.

Another technique to maximize sharpness is to use a smaller aperture like f/22, but this may require a longer shutter speed than you can easily hand-hold. You can solve this problem by using a tripod for stationary objects, which allows you to use a longer shutter speed to achieve the desired sharpness.

All close-up techniques benefit from the additional stability of a tripod. Although, as you can see from the shots above, you can get effective results from hand-held techniques.

A flexible option

Overall, a reverse ring is an inexpensive and portable way to use your existing lens for close-up photography. Depending on the lens you reverse, there is enough working distance to photograph insects, flowers, or any other small subjects that interest you. There is flexibility to adjust the aperture value before reversing the lens, which gives you a little control over the depth of focus. It is an inexpensive option to get you started in the tiny world of close-up photography.

Buyers guide

The inexpensive nature of these rings makes a quick purchase worthwhile. Remember that you will need to buy the ring that suits your specific camera mount (eg. Canon, Nikon etc). The size of the filter thread on your lens is important too. On the following link you can find a range camera mount types as well as thread sizes…
Reverse ring camera mount adapter products  External link - opens new tab/page

A great lens for doing close-up work is a 50mm prime lens. More information on buying 50mm prime lenses including product links can be found in…
Are your pictures distorted? Considered a 50mm?

For general reference: 50mm Prime lens product listing  External link - opens new tab/page

Lego

• Lego •
Click image to view large
Lego explorer mini-figure.
Using a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8.
• Lego • By Archaeofrog

Articles on Close-Up and Macro Photography
by Katie McEnaney

Part 1 of this series focused on using close-up lenses. Part 3 will cover extension tubes, and Part 4 will bring all these techniques together with a range of close-up ideas and tips.

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings (this article)
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Extension Tubes
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks

By Katie McEnaney (contributing author)

Katie is an elementary school teacher in Wisconsin, USA. She is an avid photographer with wide interests. She is always interested in learning more and growing in her photography.
By Katie McEnaney (Archaeofrog)

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Why pro-photographers insist on using lens hoods

Lenses

Lenses

Lens hoods are all about control.

The control of your lens, control of difficult light and control over lens damage. Yes, believe it or not even pros make mistakes with flare and break or damage lenses. Lens hoods provide cover for you and perform a specific and important control function over the light that can create ugly flare or the sheen of overexposure.

In the video Phil Steele looks at the way that lens hoods help your shots get properly exposed. Remember, the best shots are taken by the photographer finalising every last detail in the chain of events that lead to releasing the shutter. Knowing about lens hoods is one of those shot makers-or-breakers. Get it right and the blacks in your picture will show just that little extra saturation and contrast that intensifies the shot bringing out depth and realism.

Lens Hoods – Why, When, and How to Use Them

SteeleTraining

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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Finding lenses and buying to suit your needs

Finding lenses | A wide range of lenses makes choice difficult

The choice is wide. Finding lenses requires careful thought.

Finding lenses that are right for you can be hard

Knowing what lens to buy is a challenge. It can be made simple if you have a few ideas. It is all about understanding your needs and making sure you fit the lens to a budget. First, some general advice about buying lenses.

Are you happy with the camera brand you own?

After a line of different cameras SLRs and different brands, my first digital camera was a Canon. It was my first Canon too. I was impressed. Well, they told me that Canon lenses were the best in the world! So I stayed with Canon.

I know, I know… you don’t agree with me on the best lenses. Whatever the outcome of that argument, I am not going there. That’s the whole point. Buying lenses is a personal decision. It relates to a range of needs and understandings you have about your photography.

You need to be completely happy with your camera brand before you buy lenses. Otherwise you will be stuck with a camera brand you don’t like and lots of money invested in lenses. Love the brand first. Then look for the ‘glass’.

Finding lenses… Things to consider

Usually the budget is fairly clear. However, I have one word of advice. Make sure you look at the upper range of your budget where the quality will be better. Don’t cut corners. Quality lenses don’t come cheap. There are lots of cheap lenses around, but you get what you pay for with lenses. They are expensive, but they are also high precision instruments. If the lens is cheap it probably will not be very robust and the quality of the optics will tend to be low.

After budget the next most important thing is to define your needs. It may be lovely to have a 500mm behemoth of a lens weighing two kilos and costing thousands. But if you are only in a position to use it once a year then it will not be worth investing. Far better to buy a more general purpose lens of higher quality to benefit your general photography and will use often. Focus on your regular photography action and expand your lenses around those activities. If you need that behemoth one weekend, hire or borrow one.

Defining your ‘needs’ is often confused with defining your ‘wishes’. Try to be realistic. Finding lenses is about knowing what you need. Only go for a lens that will be of regular, practical use. Do not define your needs based on your wish to pursue a dream. Most types of photography can be performed with a non-specialist set of lenses. Get good with those. Only buy good quality lenses to replace them. Only buy lenses when you can afford it. And, when you have the mega-once-in-a-lifetime trip actually planned, then factor in the specialist lens (if you really need it for most of the trip). Finding lenses suited to your needs is about being realistic about what you can achieve and how you will use them.

Of course the focal length and how ‘fast’ the lens is are both important. Also important is the type of lens – zoom, telephoto, prime, normal, wide angle and so on… However, most of these will come out in your decision around why you need the lens.

There are other things that are a little less obvious when finding lenses…

  • Weight – Some people simply cannot hold up a big camera and a big lens. Be realistic about what you can handle.
  • Size – especially for travel purposes, big lenses are a complication and a problem.
  • Image stabilisation – Modern lenses usually have stabilisation – consider its weight, availability, cost and if you need it or not (large lenses are normally where there is an option).
  • Glass quality – with professional grade lenses the glass is usually of very high optical quality. However, it is also expensive. So consider the importance of glass quality and overall lens quality for your budget and use.
  • Brand name – Are you paying for a manufacturers reputation, or is the lens equalled by a third party manufacture – check the review websites. Ask around to see what other photographers think.
  • Suitability for purpose – does the lens you want to buy actually suit your intended use. Check on the manufactures website, review sites or on discussion forums to get more information about the best type of lens for your use.
  • Consider the insurance implications and cost. Covering several thousand pounds of lens for a foreign holiday is a significant extra cost.
Buying your lens

The sheer number of lenses available is bewildering. Finding lenses is best done with a finder tool. This tool for finding lenses on Amazon has made lens searches much easier.


The tool for finding lenses allows you to enter the factors that you consider important. It will return you a list of the available lenses to suit that purpose. After years of buying lenses I find this tool invaluable for helping to me to find a range of lenses from which to choose my ideal purchase.

If you want advice on what to do once your new lens arrives, check out this post: Getting started with a new lens.

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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+.

Easy bird pictures in your own back yard

• Bird Compilation •

• Bird Compilation •
You can have a great time with these simple tips – a world of birds in your own back yard.

Birds offer endless photographic opportunities.

I’ve been fascinated by birds since boyhood, particularly birds of prey. Recently I’ve followed some keen bird photographers. I find that the small birds in my back yard are facinating too. Lets get started on some backyard photography. This will be a fun project for starting over the weekend.

This video gives down to earth, simple advice about working with birds close to home. Getting started in Feeding and attracting the birds mid-Winter gives a lead for the birds nesting in the spring. I am going to get started now. It’s Winter here and I am looking forward to spring.

How to Photograph Garden Birds


How to Photograph Garden Birds – RandoMnBest  External link - opens new tab/page – Uploaded on 28 Jan 2011

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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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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Twelve Simple tips for atmospheric candlelight shots

Candles put out a wonderful light…

Everyone feels the atmospheric impact of candlelight. The colour and the low light seems to draw you in. Capturing that light is easy with a few simple hints. Lets look at what is needed…

Tripod…

There is nearly always low light associated with candle photography. That means working with longer exposures. A tripod is excellent for that. Indoors, beware of a wooden floor, any move you make can be transferred to the tripod. Floor vibrations can ruin a shot or make it soft. For sharpness remember to use the camera timer for the shot or a remote shutter release.

Lighting…

The best way to view candles is by their own light. Because they don’t use a tripod many people are tempted to use flash. Unfortunately flash will over-power the candlelight. It will take out the colour from the light and tend to create hard, sharp shadows. It will ruin the atmosphere of the candlelight. Make sure you switch off your flash. If you need more light the you can use as many candles as you need to raise light levels. They don’t need to be in the shot, but they will keep the light the same throughout the shot.

Composition…

First decide if your candle or candles are the subject or are props. This decision will affect your focus and how you lay out your scene. Candles can create a strong bright spot in the scene. If it is too bright the flame will form a burnt out white spot. Once you have arranged your scene, ensure that the candle will only draw the eye a small amount unless it is the subject. You should consider the placement of the candle in a way that might minimise the impact of the bright flame spot.

Positioning…

If all your candles are close together the light will tend to act as one light source. This will tend to act as a hard light creating more defined shadows. If you want the light to be softer and the shadows with less well defined edges set your candles further apart. If the light is to be cast on a face then soft light will be more flattering.

Movement…

One of the peculiarities of working with candles is that the flames are subject to the slightest air movement. Unfortunately candle flicker is attractive to the eye in real-time; but looks like a loss of sharpness in a still image. It is quite useful in close focus shots with a candle to use an air break of some kind nearby to stop air movement. In a table-top study use a large sheet of card to one side out of shot. That will help prevent air movements. If not, keep an eye on the flames when shooting. Try to capture the flame upright or, if using more than one flame, make sure they are all going the same way. They look more natural that way.

Since candle light is low intensity, make sure you also prevent other sources of movement in the shot. They will inevitably be blurred as the shot will be using a long exposure. This will look like a distraction against still flames.

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Light intensity…

The light from a candle can be made much more intense if you use something to catch the light from the candle. A face, hand or other objects bring alive the picture and complements the candle. The presence of the object acts to reflect the candlelight. Light flesh tones are particularly good in this respect since the flesh colour is tonally close to the candlelight hues and they act as a reflector to bring out the light.

From

From “Candle Series” by Spicedfish
From “Candle Series” by Spicedfish on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Using reflectors in a candle scene is a great way to raise the light intensity. You can find other types of surface than the one in this picture in most scenes. Walls, ceilings and even off-shot reflectors are all good. Be careful to use neutral colours. Colour reflectors will affect the colour of the scene. If you are using a big card out-of-shot make it white. This will reflect the same colour light back into the scene, filling in the light.

Shadows…

The other side of light intensity is the shadows. The darker tones and strong contrasts of candle shots create most of the atmosphere. Spend time studying the shadows created in your scene. Strong contrasts are great subjects. If you create shadows that fall badly across your scene it will impact on the overall effect. The best use of shadows is often to the edges of the shot. If the light fades out to edges this holds the scene into the shot – naturally focusing the eye. Work with shadows to ensure the mood is harmonious.

Additional lights…

If you want to use fill light in the scene try to match the quality of light from your candles. Use soft light sources and natural light with hues matching the candles. Natural light will fill the scene well but tend to neutralise the colour of the candle light. The warm glow of candles is a great mix with evening, low-intensity light.

Some people use light with gels to give a warm glow. Warming gels can also be used with a flash. However, beware the power of flash. The candles will lose their soothing effect if all the shadows are taken away around the base of the candle and harsh shadows are introduced from one side. Typically use a diffused flash on the lowest setting – it also helps to be a distance away from the candles as well.

Multiple candles…

When working with one candle as subject the main focus of the shot is clear. However, there is a lot of scope for creativity. Consider two main issues. How to layout your candles and how to use the overall light with the layout. Using candles for making patterns is great fun and can produce excellent shots.

Patterns with candles

Making patterns with candles
Click to view Google Images “Candle Light” search

Try to keep the scene simple. Overlapping candles or indistinct objects in the pattern are confusing. Work with the sharp contrasts and keep your pattern well defined.

Exposure…

How long should you make your exposure? This depends, like any scene, on your light levels. To get more light in the exposure a long shutter speed is suitable for most candle shots. A range of 1/15 second down to 2 seconds is a good starting range with an ISO of 100. Camera settings vary significantly with reflectors, multiple candles or fill lights. Experiment to get it right. Aim to make the shot moody or atmospheric while providing detail for the eye to look at around the candle flame(s).

The main exposure concern with dark or shadowy shots is digital noise. If ISO is too high you will get more noise. It is better to use a low ISO, say 100 and have longer shutter opening. This reduces noise and means more detail is visible.

Lenses…

A fast lens allows a wider aperture. Faster lenses will allow a quicker exposure than a smaller aperture. Nevertheless, when experimenting check the depth of field. With big candle patterns, or larger subjects, a very wide aperture will give a very shallow depth of field. Too shallow and you will lose a lot of detail. On the other hand, lots of candles in the background with a shallow depth of field will produce pleasing bokeh. For choosing your lens, more than other aspects of your set-up, you need to have a clear vision of what you want your final shot to look like. Then do some “Chimping” to check results.

Prime lenses, especially the 50mm, will give an approximation to the human eyes. To capture the mood of a scene a 50mm will help. A wide angle lens close-up can provide great exaggerations of candle tallness or broadness – depending on lens orientation. There is great scope for artistic interpretation. Also remember that zoom lenses tend to foreshorten, reducing the apparent depth of the shot. With a zoom lens place your candles to give an impression of depth.

White balance…

The warm glow of candles is attractive. If you change the white balance you will change the characteristics of the warm glow. Candlelight shots are about moodiness and atmosphere. It is worth playing with the white balance to influence the shot and increase moodiness, but be careful you don’t remove it. You only need to adjust white balance when shooting in *.jpg as it will be fixed once the shot is taken. If you are shooting in RAW you have more flexibility with settings in post processing to control colours and the final exposure. If you cannot shoot in RAW then, again, make sure you do some “chimping” to get the colours right.

Being safe…

Although fun, candles are naked flames. It is all too easy in low light to leave something close to the candle. Fires start quickly and spread fast too. Feel free to experiment but make sure you don’t accidentally knock over candles, touch wall paper with one or do something else to set off a fire. Never leave candles alight and unattended. Always blow them out and wait for the smoke stop raising before leaving.

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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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

A quick look at image stabilisation

Image Stabilisation

Image Stabilisation

Image stabilisation helps you get a sharper picture.

Good images rely on a steady hand or a tripod. You also get a help from the image stabilisation in your camera or lens. These systems help your lens stay steady. Here we are going to get a look at what is involved and how to use it.

What is image stabilisation?

The term “Image stabilisation” represents a number of technologies used to reduce blurring caused by camera movement during exposure. It compensates for movement in two planes. These are referred to as pan (lateral twisting or yawing movement) and tilt (vertical or pitching movement).

Camera movement is recorded as blur when the shutter is open long enough for the movement to be captured. The slower the shutter speed the more likely it is that the movement will be detected. The tiny, but continuous movements of our hands tend to make hand held shots a little soft. Longer exposures will be even softer since the tiny movements will continue blurring the shot throughout the exposure.

Using an image stabilisation technology allows a mechanism to off-set or compensate for the movement not prevent it. Extreme or large movements will still cause blur during the exposure. However, image stabilisation systems are designed to compensate for the movements created by the almost imperceptible movements of our hands while hand-holding a shot. Typically recent image stabilisation systems will compensate for exposures four to sixteen times longer than could be hand held without the compensation. This would mean that instead of using a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, you can use image stabilisation to get a shutter speed of around a 1/30th of a second and still get similar image quality. This could significantly improve the light levels in your exposure.

Types of image stabilisation

Optical image stabilisation: This type is mounted in the lens. It uses high speed motors to shift a lens element around changing its orientation to compensate for the movement of the camera. It is highly accurate, compact and fast. It does add quite a lot of weight (and expense) to the photographic lens unit overall. However, it performs really well under all types of movement even fairly extreme movement that might be found in panning for example. It will not prevent the gross movement blur, but will compensate for the tiny variations while panning for example.

In-camera stabilisation or sensor shift stabilisation
This technology uses motor technology to move the Digital Image Sensor to compensate for the movement of the camera. This method concentrates the stabilisation in the camera body and therefore it is only paid for once on the purchase of the camera body (unlike lens-based systems). Sensor shift technology tends to mean the lens is lighter too making handling easier for some people. This type of system does not cope as well as lens-based systems for more extreme movements. Long focal lengths and telephoto lenses will tend to exaggerate the degree of movement of a beam of light hitting the sensor. Consequently the sensor needs to be able to compensate for more extreme vibrations or movements to get the same image quality as a lens system. As the sensor shift system is limited by its range of movement it has limited tolerance at the more extreme end of the range.

Stay sharp!

Many learners find that the softness they get when using a DSLR is very frustrating. While image stabilisation helps, it does not cure the problem. Remember that these systems can only compensate, not prevent, movement blur and softness. So you need to take other steps to make your shots sharp. Here are some issues to consider regarding image stabilisation…

High ISO (in manual control modes): Raising your ISO can help reduce movement blur because you are making the sensor more sensitive to light. Your image sensor will be exposed more readily allowing you to still have a faster shutter speed to take your shot – then movements don’t have time to make the shot soft. Remember, high ISO may increase your digital noise, particularly with very high ISO levels (say 800 or more).

One way to overcome this softness created by hand movement is to raise the and set a faster shutter speed The point and shoot mode or auto mode of your camera will do this to ensure your get sharp shots in most daylight situations. Of course this means a short exposure which may not be suitable for your shot.

Wide aperture(in manual control modes): This too will allow more light into the shot and will allow you to have a faster shutter speed. However, the depth of field will be reduced and that will reduce your sharpness in some areas of the shot.

Use a tripod: Using a tripod is probably the best way to get a sharp shot. In most situations you should turn off your image stabilisation to use a tripod. The motors that do the stabilisation actually create vibration in the tripod and can cause softness. Some systems compensate automatically for being on a tripod so read your technical manual to get guidance for your camera.

Panning: This will definitely create movement blur. But some image stabilisation systems have mechanisms to reduce the vertical movement while panning. In this case make sure you know how to switch to this mode. The difference it can make to getting a moving object sharp is surprising.

Mirror lock-up: Vibration is caused when the reflex mirror in a DSLR flips up. You can lock up these mirrors while you take the shot. The procedure for that is different on every camera so check the manual for the correct method. The image stabilisation mechanisms will not compensate for movement caused by the mirror movement.

Careful use of the shutter button
Don’t stab the shutter button. Roll your finger onto the button gently depressing it. If you stab at it there will almost certainly be an erratic movement that the image stabilisation will not be able to compensate for.

Eagerness!
While enthusiasm is great, taking the camera away from your face too quickly can induce movement before the exposure is complete. Image stabilisation will not compensate for this type of action. Try to count to two before taking the camera away from your face.

Improving overall

Image stabilisation systems vary in their effectiveness according to model, camera, lens, use and how much movement there is. They can be very effective in helping you gain control over your sharpness but they are not the final answer. Sharpness involves a range of techniques and procedures which you will need to learn and practice to improve. Nevertheless, if you are hand-holding a shot you will get significant improvements in sharpness by using these systems. If you want to know a little bit more detail about image stabilisation you can see some more detail in Definition: Image stabiliser; Image stabilisation.

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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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

The Zen of sharpness – 12 easy ways to improve

Sharpness factsSharpness facts

Making sharp images takes knowledge and practice.

Photographers often wonder why they cannot reproduce publication sharpness. It’s not difficult, but there is more to it than clicking away. Here we look at all the factors that may affect sharpness.

Seven common problems

1. Poor focus:
• Frequently, focus problems occur because the focus has been taken from the wrong part of the scene. Choose one of the auto-focus (AF) points you can see in your lens (see how in your manual). Use that point to select the point of focus in your scene. The choice of where you focus is also critical. The eyes are often the most important point of focus. (See: The Eyes Have It… nine ways to emphasize eyes).

2. Camera blur:
• Movement of the camera during the shot will create a softness or complete blur. The solution is to improve your actual shooting technique. Holding the camera, your stance, your breathing and even the way you click the shutter button can all create camera movement. (See: Simple tips for a good stance). Camera blur can also be created because the shutter speed is too low. If you have a relatively long exposure the camera is more likely to move during the shot. If you have a higher shutter speed the chance of movement is reduced – sharpness is improved. Most people find they cannot hold the camera steady at 1/60th of a second or longer. With practice you can get better. A good starting shutter speed for hand-held shots is about 1/200ths of a second. It is possible to also change the ISO to enable higher shutter speeds and still maintain a good exposure.

3. Motion blur:
• If the subject moves and the camera is stationary the subject will be blurred. You may need to change your focusing mode to to compensate for movement. Use Continuous focus mode for constant movement [AI Servo AF (Canon)/AF-C (Nikon)]. Alternatively you can use autofocus mode [AI Focus AF (Canon)/AF-A (Nikon)] for slight movements or unpredictable/unexpected movement.

4. Poor quality lens:
• It is a common mistake to spend a lot of money on a camera then skimp on the lens. In fact it is best to spend as much as you can afford to buy quality lenses. They will pay you back with quality sharpness much more than the camera body will. Poor lenses can give you colour fringing, poor focus, distortions, softness and limited depth of field.

5. Depth of field too shallow:
• The depth of field (DoF) is the zone of sharpness in a picture. You can determine the DoF by changing the size of the aperture. (For more information see: One big change – one easy step forward).

6. Diopter set wrongly:
• If your eyesight is poor, or does not match the optical properties of the viewfinder, you will need to adjust the diopter. Most people can use it to adjust the viewfinder sharpness for their eyesight. If your sight through the lens is sharp it helps you fix a good focus to ensure sharpness.

7. No sharpening in RAW:
• When the picture is uploaded to your computer it’s file format effects sharpness. RAW, the native file formate for your camera, is created as a file without sharpening. The *.jpg file format is highly processed in the camera. It is sharpened as part of the processing. So *.jpg files may look sharper than RAW files on screen. The solution is to make sure you apply some sharpening to RAW files as the last action of any post-processing you do.

How to Take Sharper Pictures

By way of consolidating the above here is a video discussing the above points with examples…
(More after the video)

Beyond the basics

Sharpness is about continuous improvement. Here are some more ideas to extend your skills…

8. Stance and the anti-roll “bar”:
Many self-made photographers don’t recognise the importance of stance. Holding the camera steady is part of a “whole-body” effort. You should create a stable platform to comfortably hold your camera to ensure a steady camera position. The way you hold your arms, the way you breath and other factors affect your focusing and the amount of camera movement.

In addition to poor stance an additional unintentional movement causes softness. Some photographers click the shutter button then “roll” the camera away from their face prematurely. Doing the “roll” will induce movement in the camera – often before the shutter has closed. The solution is the “anti-roll bar” – you must “bar” yourself from doing the roll.

Learn more about stance and the “anti-roll bar” in this article: Simple tips for a good stance.

9. Test shots

Today we have the digital freedom to take as many shots as we wish without paying for film developing. To improve your sharpness spend time making sure your shot is going to be sharp. Do test shots to familiarise yourself with the scene and to practice for ‘the’ shot. You can find out more here: How to take a test shot.

10. Viewing the image at 100%

When you upload your image files they are not sized to 100% on screen. They are presented much smaller so you can see the whole picture. Photographers often don’t look at their pictures in full size. What is not obvious is that when pictures are resized on screen they are sharpened. If you are not aware of this you might be disappointed when you print the image. It will not be as sharp as it could be because you never looked at it in full size. If you are aware of how sharp you have made your image (at 100%) it will help you to develop your skills. You can find out more about viewing at 100% here: The benefits of 100% viewing.

11. Use a tripod

The vast majority of shots can be taken from a tripod. Using one is undoubtedly the single most effective sharpening technique. You can find out more about using a tripod here…
Three Tips for Pin Sharp Shots with a Tripod
Definition: Tripod
The Tripod
The Third Most Important Piece of Kit

12. Practice, practice, practice

Knowing all these things is different to actually being able to put them into practice. Making your pictures sharp is about doing all of the above. Then, reviewing your own achievement after each shot. You must practice all these regularly and consistently in order to succeed in producing the sharp images you want.

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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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.