Tag Archives: Shutter

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+.

Getting the right shutter speed

New Canon Powershot G1X Digital Point-and-Shoot With SLR control

The Canon Powershot G1X Digital Point-and-Shoot With SLR control. Billed by Canon as the “Highest Image Quality Powershot Digital Camera”

Getting sharpness right…

It’s not just about the right camera. It is also about technique and knowing the best way to set up your shot. Getting the right shutter speed takes a little knowledge when you are starting from scratch. Here are some pointers to help you make choices about shutter speed.

Why set your own shutter speed?

Getting full control of your camera is an important aspect of gaining creative control over the outcome of your photographs. Despite what the manufacturers say, you can only achieve so much by messing around with their ‘modes’. Capturing pictures using camera modes other than the basic photographic modes (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) is going to give you a programmed result. In other words ‘modes’ are what some boffin back at the lab has formulated as ‘about right’ for the average photos people take. But, you are not average are you? You want to produce the shot your way. So gaining control over your shutter speed is important.

The long and short of it

Shutter speed gives us creative control in a number of ways. A very shallow depth of field will give great bokeh in the background. But it is difficult to create on a bright day unless you have a fast shutter speed (to reduce the incoming light). Bokeh is created by a wide aperture. A wide aperture lets a lot of light in. If the shutter is open too long the photograph will be overexposed. So a shorter shutter speed is required.

Shutter speed also controls movement blur. If you are taking a photo of a moving object a relatively long shutter speed will create greater blur (example 1/15th sec). A very short shutter speed will tend to freeze the action preventing blur (example 1/500th second).

Sharpness counts

Starting to control your shutter speed is often about finding the best shutter speed that you can handle for a sharp result. So what is the lowest hand held shutter speed you can apply?

Actually, in practical terms, the slowest hand-held shutter speed is reliant on a number of factors…

  • Physical fitness: If you are not strong enough for using your camera weight it is more difficult to hold it steady. Regular practice with your camera will help you build muscles to steady your hand and therefore shoot at lower shutter speeds.
  • Focal length: Longer focal lengths tend to need higher shutter speeds. As you shoot further into the distance the angle of movement seen at the point of focus is more exaggerated.
  • Optical stabilisation: If your lens is optically stabilised this means it will compensate for the tiny movements of your hands. This compensation will help you to reduce hand shake and therefore give you potentially longer shutter speeds.
  • The picture you want to create: Obviously, the picture you want to produce is dependent on how much blur you want in it. So if you want no blur (for the sharpest result) you want a fast shutter speed.
  • The amount of light: Brighter light allows you to have a shorter shutter speed. Knowing when to use a tripod instead of hand-held is the crucial issue here. Most people simply give up if a low shutter speed demands a tripod… For the accomplished photographer many of the best shots are found in low light situations. So shutter speed control is of crucial importance – as important as using a tripod at the right time.
Rule of thumb

Those factors aside here is a rule of thumb. In practice most people do not shoot with a steady enough hand to produce sharp hand-held shots below 1/60th second. Of course, optical stabilisation on the lens will help you get longer shutter speeds. But even then a practical limit of 1/30th of a second is about as low as you can go and be sharp. That is not a shutter speed I would suggest you work with regularly when hand-held.

Best guide to shutter speed

The shutter speed you need to work to is often related to the focal length you are working with. There is a reasonable rule that can help you get a good guide to picking the best shutter speed for your focal length. It is said that the longest shutter speed you can use hand-held for a lens or zoom setting is:

1 divided by the Focal length times 1.5

So, if your lens is a normal lens at 50mm it will have an effective lowest hand-held shutter speed of 1/(50 x 1.5) or 1/75. The nearest (rounded up) setting on your camera is likely to be 1/80th second.

If you are working at 200mm then, 1/(200 x 1.5) or 1/300th of a second will be your lowest working shutter speed. The nearest setting on most cameras will be 1/320th second.

These apply if you are not using optical stabilisation. You can of course work one or maybe two stops faster if you are using stabilisation. You will need to check that figure against your lens specification. Most optical stabilisation systems will give you between one and two stops extra control.

Shutter speed standard

shutter speed is standardized on a 2:1 scale. When you open the aperture on single aperture stop and at the same time reduce shutter speed by a single step the result will be an identical exposure. This table shows the shutter stop standard steps…

  • 1/2000 sec
  • 1/1000 sec
  • 1/500 sec
  • 1/250 sec
  • 1/125 sec
  • 1/60 sec
  • 1/30 sec
  • 1/15 sec
  • 1/8 sec
  • 1/4 sec
  • 1/2 sec
  • 1 sec

The scale extends up above these figures to very high shutter speeds. Up to date DSLRs may allow have shutter speeds of less than 1/5000ths of a second. Very fast indeed. While at the other end cameras will allow long shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds in manual modes (M mode; or Manual) and longer in “bulb mode”.

Each of the steps in the table above will be equal to a change of one stop of light up or down. A change of one stop of light will double the amount of light entering the camera.

As one stop of light is quite a large amount, cameras have become more sophisticated. Most are now marked off with thirds of a stop for ISO, aperture and shutter speed. So your calculations can be quite precise and lie between these values in the table above.

You can read more about stops of light here: Definition: f number; f stop; Stop

Doing it right

Gaining control over your camera is of importance if you want to become a creative master of its full potential. Learning about shutter speed and other aspects of exposure are critical to learning that control. You can have great fun creating bokeh and controlling movement blur. At the same time you can remove that other type of blur – ugly hand-held shake-blur.

Please leave questions and issues for us to discuss if you want to take this further…

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+.

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 on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

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
Canon lens attached in a reversed position by Archaeofrog (Flickr) External link - opens new tab/page

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
Origami Crane • By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

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 •
Click image to view large
Carnation at F22 By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

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.
Ruler • By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

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.
Bee • By Archaeofrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

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 on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

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. Katie is in the third year of her 365 project as ArchaeoFrog (profile)  External link - opens new tab/page. Her 365 project can be found at 365Pproject.org  External link - opens new tab/page and she has a growing body of work on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page.
By Katie McEnaney :: Profile on Google+

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Simple videos showing how camera settings work

Understanding the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed…

These are the three critical factors in the exposure relationship. Getting a feel for how they work together is the essence of controlling your camera. Several people asked me to find a simple explanation for the way this relationship works after seeing this post yesterday: How to work with your camera settings – a simple, fun lesson.

The key point

The three settings, ISO, Aperture or Shutter Speed are set up on your camera in stops, or fractions of stops. The stop is a photographers way of measuring light in the camera.

The most important thing to remember is that a stop of aperture is the same as a stop of ISO, and in turn a stop of shutter speed. As they equal each other, you can keep them in balance. If you put one setting up a stop (or fraction of a stop) you can put one of the others down a stop (or fraction) and you will get the same exposure. This allows you to change your settings to get a different result (more bokeh, less movement blur etc) but retain the same exposure levels.

The two videos below will help you to understand the way the settings work. I have given you two versions of the same information. They both present differently, and they both have snippets of information that are different from the other. However, they both cover the same material. I hope that one or both of them will help you to see how the settings work. Enjoy!

Aperture Shutter Speed and ISO, Photography 101

The second video covers almost identical material but shows some of the points through the camera viewer. This helps you to see the context of the settings easier.

Exposure (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO)

Now try out your new knowledge…

Now you can try out CameraSim in yesterdays post. Try varying the settings for yourself like they did in the videos and see how they work together to get an exposure balance.

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+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.

The advantages and disadvantages of live view

• DSLR Camera •

• DSLR camera diagram (side veiw) showing mirror down position •
Click image to view large
• DSLR Camera • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Live view is here to stay.

What are the good and bad aspects of this technology? Should we be using it? What does it offer the DSLR user over the time honoured viewfinder system? In this post we look at the pros and cons.

The DSLR mirror system

If you are not familiar with the inner workings of the DSLR you can read more about it in this post: DSLR; Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera.

The essence of the mirror system is simple. The photographer peers through the viewfinder (see the diagram above) and the eye receives light directly from the main lens. Light reaching the eye has been redirected by the mirror up through the camera to the viewfinder eyepiece. When the photograph is taken the mirror flips up. Then the shutter opens allowing the digital image sensor to be exposed to light entering through the lens. While the mirror is up the photographer is unable to see through.

Live view…

When using live view the mirror is flipped up. You cannot see through the viewfinder. The view detected by the image sensor is instead created electronically on the camera screen on the back of the camera. In the most up to date mirrorless cameras the view is projected electronically into the viewfinder so you can use that instead of the screen-view on the camera.

The screens on the back of the DSLR, bridge cameras and point-and-shoot cameras provide a good, clear image on the screen. The displays offer a pretty good representation of the image seen through the lens. Reviews of the new mirrorless cameras suggest that electronic viewfinders are apparently not as good as those using mirrors. However, the technology is young and significant advances have been made recently. I think eventually electronic viewfinders will provide as good a view as the back screen.

Why do we need a viewfinder?

One of the problems of a back-screen is holding the camera steady. When you have a big lens on a camera the sheer unbalanced weight-in-hand makes it difficult to steady the camera with two hands held out in front of you. For a professional, or the keen amateur, the extra softness this induces is intolerable.

This is less important with light point-and-shoot cameras which can be held steady with one hand. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLR counterparts. Bigger lenses still make them relatively heavy. Pressing a camera-lens combo to your eye while also held in both hands gives a third point of stabilisation to your camera – a steady position. So, a practical consideration for more substantial combinations of large camera and lens.

Retaining a viewfinder also ensures the “eye-view” is actually available to the photographer. By this I mean that the camera can be placed where the eye actually is on the body. Then the photographer sees through the camera in the same plane and level as the eye. I find this leads to better composition. We are more used to using eye-level views in our everyday vision. I acknowledge that the free-roaming screen composition may provide a more unusual point of view. However, artistic considerations aside, when composing an image I find close scrutiny of the scene leads to cleaner images and a rigorous composition. OK, this is not for everyone. It is a point to bear in mind for the more discerning photographer.

In my experience doing a back-screen composition is difficult because the eye is distracted from the screen. This leads to limited, incomplete composition, or missed details. I have been guilty of this sort of sloppy composition and have seen it in the images of others. Personally, I think the viewfinder helps me to compose accurately and cleanly allowing proper examination of detail.

What live view can offer…

Despite the shortcomings of back-screen composition and lack of steadiness there are good reasons to use live view.

On a tripod… While using a tripod to compose for landscapes, macros, wide angle and fish-eye shots do a quick check in live view before the shot. I suggest you do your initial composition using a viewfinder on the tripod. Once composed quickly check the live view simultaneously scanning your scene by eye. This enables comparison of the lens-distorted view against the scene as the eye sees it. This cross-checks your composition against your vision for the final outcome of the shot.

Mirror lock-up… When using a tripod use mirror lock-up to help sharpness. This mode sets the camera to flip-up the mirror ahead of the shot. The vibration from the ‘mirror-flip-up’ then passes before the exposure takes place. This reduces vibration enabling a sharper shot. Most DSLRs offer the mode which is found in the menu screens. Live view also performs a mirror lock-up action on many cameras. If you have a “live-view” button, do your composition, perform a live view check and take a mirror lock-up shot in the same sequence.

Access to the viewfinder is restricted… Yes, sometimes I simply cannot get to the viewfinder. When doing macro work, complex close-ups suspended under a tripod and when holding the camera high all create situations when the eye cannot easily get to the viewfinder. In this case the live view mode is a definite advantage and enable otherwise impossible shots.

Depth of field… The viewfinder has its own optical characteristics additional to the main photographic lens. Normally viewfinder lenses are pretty faithful and do not affect the view through the main lens. When using a fast lens, say f1.2 wide open aperture, the depth of field may be distorted by the viewfinder. It’s said live view helps you better see the areas of bokeh. I am sceptical. I have not seen this effect accurately on my Canon 5D MkII to make any difference. I am prepared to accept it works on other cameras. Try it and see.

Horizons, converging verticals and straight lines… Live view offers a set of lines dividing the screen up into thirds (nine segments). This “rule of thirds” grid is helpful in composition. I find it most useful when checking converging verticals when lining the camera up. However, a good electronic display of focus points laid out in your viewfinder is excellent for most compositions. The focus points usually allow for rule of thirds composition and more. So, live view offers an option, but no better than the viewfinder. Other cameras may differ on this, make your own choice.

Live view histogram… Some cameras allow the display of a live view histogram. This enables you to check your colour and light intensity prior to the shot. This saves later examination of lots of frames online. However, I prefer “Chimping”. The post-shot histogram review is the best way to tell if you have a good shot or not. If you do use the live view histogram beware of poor composition. The histogram takes up screen space I prefer to use for composition. So, not to my taste, but the opportunity is there on some cameras.

Live view can be useful

More cameras are providing good live view mode and offering more facilities with it. I think there are some good reasons to use this mode especially with a tripod. It certainly provides some useful functions. There are some severe shortcomings with live view composition and personal stance when using it. The good old viewfinder still wins the day for me. However, a lot depends on your camera. I hope these points have opened your eyes. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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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+.

Ten great tips for photographing landscapes

Landscapes appear inherently attractive to the eye.

We all love taking landscape shots at some time or another. However, they are also quite a challenge. There are a few simple things that you can do to get a great landscape shot.

Use a tripod!

The most important landscape photography technique is to use a tripod. For your shot to be successful you need to get the sharpest and most carefully framed shot.

  • Framing: When you put up your tripod you give yourself the best opportunity to get the framing right because you can take your time. Look around the shot. check the edge of your frame. Make sure you have all the right composition elements and have a meaningful subject in your viewfinder.
    See more on framing here.
  • Stability: The tripod will give you the most stable platform for your shot. Most photographers miss this essential when starting out. Sharpness makes or breaks a landscape shot. Starter landscapers often think a hand held stance is good enough. It may be possible – sometimes. The chances are reduced. If you want to get right into the shot you must get pin sharpness.
    See more on why you should use a tripod here.
Vibration elimination

Beating the movement blur of the hand-held shot needs more than just a tripod. Your tripod technique is critical too. The most important part of using a tripod is to reduce the vibrations through it. Here are my ten tips for making your tripod-based landscape shot pin sharp.

  • Tip 1: Keep the legs as short as possible and don’t use the middle elevating column. The short legs and no-column policy keeps the tripod tight and that reduces any integral vibration in the tripod itself. The vibration is reduced because the tripod is stiffer overall if the legs are retracted. If you must elevate it, make sure you extend the thinner, vibration prone, bottom of the tripod legs last.
  • Tip 2: Use a cable release: Pushing the release button (shutter button) moves the camera and creates vibration in the tripod. A cable release of some type will set the camera off without your heavy finger involved.
  • Tip 3: Use mirror lock-up: Most DSLRs will have a menu setting that will lift the reflex mirror before the shot is fired. The number one source of vibration in a camera is that mirror twanging up and down! The mirror lock-up function will remove this vibration. Check the manual to see how it is done on your camera.
  • Tip 4: Turn off auto-focus: The engine and the act of the camera tuning its focus causes vibrations in the tripod. These set up a resonance up and down the legs – the vibration affects your shot. You will produce a much more accurate focus by hand anyway.
  • Tip 5: Turn off image-stabilisation: If you are on a tripod you don’t need it. However, the slightest breeze or vibration through the ground will set it off. The motor attempting to compensate for tiny vibrations in the tripod will in fact create more vibrations. All image stabilisation systems are designed to iron out natural hand movement. Vibration in a tripod creates its own peculiar vibration which just aggravates the stabilisation system.
  • Tip 6: Hang a weight on the tripod hook under the centre column: This weight adds tension to the legs and forces greater stability to the tripod. One more way to reduce movement.
  • Tip 7: Stay away from vibration sources: Its not always possible, but roads, railways, fairgrounds, airports, ferry terminals and ports as well as the obvious wind all create ground vibrations. Less obvious are underground trains and tunnels under your feet, tall buildings swaying in high wind, bridges vibrating from feet and vehicles… well it’s a long list. Think carefully. You may find you have put your tripod right in the centre of a major vibration source.
  • Tip 8:Remove your camera strap: or as a secondary measure peg the strap tightly to the tripod. If you let it hang loose it will catch the wind. That will move or vibrate the camera.
  • Tip 9: Longer exposures: The camera shutter is also a significant source of vibration. Nevertheless, it has to open. Using a longer exposure is better because the shutter is open completely with no movement for at least part of the shot. This reduces the impact of shutter shake. The shutter release and movement still creates a vibration profile. By design, it has been carefully calculated to reduce the impact of the shutter movement – but it does not reduce shutter vibration completely. So, longer exposures help reduce the vibration just a little more.
  • Tip 10: Use a wind-shield: Even a light wind will induce vibration in a tripod. So, shelter it from the wind. Hold your coat in front of the tripod (not touching it) to shield the wind. Better still, if you are going to be there for a while, put up a staked-out wind-shield to divert the wind properly. Alternatively, take the shot from cover of some sort.

Remember, these measures all add up. Sharpness in your shot is the result of working at all of these. Put all of the above in place and you will get a really sharp shot.

More you can do…

Here is a list of some more top tips to work on for your landscapes…

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+.

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Shooting very long night exposures

Lights from any building generate a surprising amount of light at night.

“The Compleat Angler” – This hotel, pictured from Marlow Bridge, Buckinghamshire UK generates a surprising amount of light. Click image to view large.

Shooting by moonlight or other dim lights

It’s true. You can shoot in almost total dark with a digital camera. You make exposures of many minutes and use really dim lights – the moon, stars and low-level hand-held lights are enough for the camera to pick up.

Previously…

In other articles about night photography we looked at Planning and Preparing for a Night Shoot and Out on a Night Shoot – Night Composition. We also looked at Six things you must know for night shoots including the basics of controlling the camera and the sort of settings used. It is worth following up on these articles before proceeding.

Night light

Out of town, away from the urban lights, dark is really dark! Many urban dwellers don’t realise that unless the moon and stars are out our eyes are pretty poor in complete dark. Yet, when the moon is out, and the stars, we can see pretty well. In fact our eyes are not well adapted to this darkness. However, the digital camera can pick up amazingly small amounts of light. In the photograph above the EXIF data is…

Model – Canon EOS 5D Mark II
ExposureTime – 10 seconds
FNumber – 11
ExposureProgram – Manual control
ISOSpeedRatings – 100
Flash – Flash not fired
FocalLength – 25 mm
ExposureMode – Manual
White Balance – Manual – Cloudy
SceneCaptureType – Standard

Ten seconds is a reasonable time with all that light knocking around. Remember that an exposure is like filling a bucket with water. As light enters the camera it fills the exposure, making it brighter and brighter as the shutter is open longer. So, in very low light situations you can take photos with very long exposures.

One thing to consider is how to set the length of exposure. Most cameras cannot time your exposure if it is going to be longer than thirty seconds. You can buy automatic ‘intervalometers’ – devices which count intervals of time. They will be able to set your camera off for longer exposures than thirty seconds. However, on the camera there is normally a setting called ‘bulb‘. This will allow you to time a period yourself and close the camera shutter when you are ready. You can find out more about the bulb setting (B setting) in: What is the ‘Bulb’ Setting?

The video

In the following video, Mark Wallace takes us through the process of taking a photograph by moonlight. He is using a two minute exposure. Besides nearly getting eaten by coyotes (OK I exaggerate) he gets some well lit shots. Remember he is out in the country where there are no lights and is just using the ambient moon/star light.


Uploaded by snapfactory External link - opens new tab/page on May 1, 2011

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+.