Tag Archives: Insight

Small apertures can mean soft images – why?


Photography Phactoid number 005.

A small aperture, lets say f16, normally gives us sharpness all the way through the picture. Actually, there are some circumstances where that is not true. At very narrow apertures the image becomes soft… explanation below!

Normally the widest aperture size is marked on a lens. People want to know if it is a fast lens – one that works well in low light. Fast lenses, with wide apertures, may be in the range of f2.8 to really fast at f1.2. Find out more about aperture sizes in: “What is the aperture range of a lens?”.

The narrowest size of the aperture is not quoted on lenses. Why not? At extremely narrow apertures the lens partially loses it ability to create a sharp image. This is due to a phenomenon called diffraction. As the light wave enters the aperture the edges of the light wave are bent very slightly as they touch the edge. In the case of wider apertures this does not have a very significant effect on the overall image. However, t very narrow apertures, say f22 or smaller, the light bends significantly and the resolution of the image is damaged.

See the diagram below..

Explanation of the diagram:

  • Top image (cross) the wide aperture blurs the image (bokeh)
  • Second image (cross) the image is quite well resolved
  • Third image the narrow aperture has softened the image to an interference pattern of concentric circles
  • In the bottom image the blur is almost complete – the image is blurred out

A whole range of aperture sizes resolve the image normally – our image is sharp. However, as the aperture gets very small the image will get softer as the diffraction effect becomes more pronounced. This happens despite correct focussing. At the narrowest aperture of the lens the image may be unrecognisable. In other words there is an optimum size of minimum aperture.

When your lens is stopped right down it may create a softness in the picture. There is a simple way to correct it. Open the aperture one half to a full stop wider to enable the lens/aperture focusing to restore the resolution.

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’.

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Photographs have a life…

The Life of a Photograph is linked to the life of a photographer.

Nothing is more apparent than this fact in this video. The video is a great insight into the life of the National Geographic Photographer Sam Abell. He is a very intense and charismatic man. He is a person who feels everything about his photography. By that I mean he is intimately in contact with every scene as the observer, but also that he is tied to it by the impact it has on him.

Sam Abell has a wonderful eye. The video is a testimony to the depth of his vision, the way he composes his images. Despite that vision, the stunning compositional insights are surpassed by his anticipation. He has an incredible view of the photo he is about to make. Abell describes how he composes and waits. That is an invaluable insight for us as learning photographers.

I can think of no better way to sum up this video than was said by one of the comments made by a previous viewer. He said, “This is incredibly inspiring! This means so much more to my photography than any gear video I could watch”. Abell also has a wonderfully dry wit and that too is a hallmark of this man’s style.

National Geographic Live! : The Life of a Photograph

Uploaded by National Geographic Channel  External link - opens new tab/page to YouTube


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’.


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Beginners mistakes and how to overcome them

Beginners mistakes :: We all make them.

Beginners mistakes :: We all make them.

Everyone has to start somewhere

Most aspiring photographers make simple, easily avoidable, mistakes. What’s surprising is how many photographers go on making the same mistakes despite information being freely available. To save you frustration here are the top mistakes I have come across and how to overcome them.

Beginners mistakes :: 1. Buying the first serious camera

Most beginners lack guidance. They look in camera magazines and buy a camera according to a budget. The mistake is to assume a big spend is a better spend. In photography a bigger spend buys more control. Beginners don’t yet know how to control a camera. So more control is just more bewildering and more expensive.

Learning camera control takes a lot of practice. It is like any complex skill. Most modern DSLRs are complex machines. This is true even of the entry level ones. They are complex enough to last the average beginner quite a few years. Even then they will still be learning skills within the capability of the camera. An expensive camera is wasted. It will probably be way beyond the skill level of a beginner. Normally beginners will not even get off ‘auto mode’ for a while. This means that the expensive camera is essentially doing what a point-and-shoot camera will do.

The beginner rarely goes beyond the-point-and shoot skill level without help from more experienced photogs. The background skills needed at the start is a lot to cope with. Here’s what beginners should do to learn quickly and without frustration…
1. Join a club. Learn a little about composition, editing, camera control, light and lenses. Try out things.
2. Produce some fun and interesting pictures.
3. Try out a few cameras from friends.
5. Make friends who know a lot about photography.
6. Ask someone to help them consider a new camera.
With help, the beginner can buy an entry level camera to move to the next stage. They will be more informed. Most important, it will be less bewildering.

Beginners mistakes :: 2. Shooting without understanding the camera

The beginner is often forced to put a complex camera into auto-mode. Lack of experience and knowledge keeps them there. To get off the starting blocks find out what the camera can do. Read the manual. They are pretty dry to read and have few examples. So, dip in and follow up with Internet reading to help you learn.

Beginners mistakes :: 3. Working on your own

Working on your own is disheartening and isolating. At a club you can get and meet kindred spirits. Working with experienced people and other beginners you realise that questions you want to ask, are the same questions everyone needs to know. It boosts confidence and you learn more. Go meet people, share, have fun and learn.

Beginners mistakes :: 4. New gear will solve the problem

People think a new piece of gear will help them improve. A famous modern photographer said,

Gear is good, vision is better.
David DuChemin

And he was right! There is little new in conceptual terms in photography. Most shots can be done with a pretty simple set-up. Piles of expensive equipment do little to improve beginners. New equipment will definitely not sort out your beginners mistakes. You would be better concentrating on the next point…

Beginners mistakes :: 5. Eyes open but not seeing

Photographers realise most people have their eyes open but do not see. Most of what a photographer learns is vision. Colour, light, dark and shadow all define the world. Most people miss this. I did too. I think there are three dimensions of photography. The length of photography is seeing light; the width is distilling simplicity and the height is capturing meaning. To understand image-making one needs to learn vision. You need to know how to think an image out of a scene, create it in the camera. Great images are produced before the shutter button is pushed. A gifted few know these things and can see. For the rest of us we have to learn it by patient study, practice and interaction with those who can do it.

Beginners mistakes :: 6. Shooting *.jpg not RAW

It is an irony, most beginners think that shooting in *.jpg format is easiest. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. The *.jpg format is severely disabled.

When the camera creates a *.jpg file it does a lot of editing according to the manufacturers ideas. Then the camera dumps the data that the image does not need. As a result there is very little editing potential in the file. If you work with the RAW file, the full and original data from the capture, you have a huge editing potential to work with. RAW is also much more true to the original image. Don’t let the camera manufacturer make decisions for you. If your camera can produce RAW files, work with RAW. You will then be able to create images according to your vision. If you can’t make RAW, put that on a list to ensure in your next camera.

Beginners mistakes :: 7. Shooting the wrong resolution

Beginners frequently work with the wrong file resolution. Always shoot with the biggest size and highest file resolution – even if you must work in *.jpg. You will get bigger images and can do more with it. Read your manual and set to the largest, highest resolution image.

Beginners mistakes :: 8. Insufficient memory card space

The largest, highest resolution image will need more memory. However, memory is cheap today. There is little excuse for running out of space. Buy larger memory modules than you think you need. Always have at least one spare. Better still, have more than one spare. Also, memory does develop faults, so keep spares to cover a problem. Check out memory card issues with these articles…
20 Ways to Protect Files on Memory Cards (Part 1) (and then link to part 2).
Memory Card Rotation – play it safe.

Beginners mistakes :: 9. Relying on the LCD screen

The lowest resolution picture your camera makes is on the LCD screen. Making decisions about an image on the basis of such a low resolution image is difficult. Use the screen to see if you captured what you wanted. Don’t delete or edit an image in-camera. You simply cannot tell what you are deleting. And, you cannot even see what you have done wrong. Get all the images home. Then, in comfort and full size you can analyse exactly, and in detail, what you did right or wrong. That is a great learning point. You can also see in proper detail if the image is what you wanted and what editing is needed.

Beginners mistakes :: 10. Deleting Pictures

Most beginners ruthlessly delete images they think are no good. In hindsight most photographers realise that as a beginner you are in no position to make that judgement. Beginners often make bad decisions about images. Decisions which later they would not make. You could easily be deleting your best and not realise it. Keep everything but the worst case no-hopers. Memory is cheap. If they are bad images they are great learning points in the future.

Beginners mistakes :: 11. Not interested in exposure

Most beginners do not understand ‘exposure’. They think the camera does all that stuff! Well, it can do it – that is auto-mode. But, “auto” is the manufacturers attempt at an average job for the light conditions. Learn about exposure. Work toward controlling your own exposures. There is no perfect exposure. There is only the image you want. So create the exposure you intend, instead of the one you wanted. This will allow you to change your pictures into images and your seeing into vision.

Beginners mistakes :: 12. No back up, no safety net

Back up, back up, back up. If your hard-drive fails you will lose everything. Buy two external hard drives. Back up to one every time you download pictures from your camera. Back up to the other as soon as you can. Keep the second one at a different location. This will protect your images against fire and theft at your home. Remember this procedure…

  1. Download your photos from the camera to your hard drive.
  2. Back them up to a second drive.
  3. Now format your memory card in the camera.

I have seen a grown man cry when he downloaded wedding photos, then formatted his memory card. Only then did he find the download did not happen. All the images were destroyed.

Beginners mistakes :: 13. Only one battery

Buy at least one extra battery. They run down, get left uncharged, get dropped and break, or get lost. In cold weather they last for a shorter time. No battery will mean your shoot is ruined. Spend a little extra and cover yourself.

Beginners mistakes :: 14. Not doing editing

If you think your image does not need to be opened in an editor and digitally developed, you are probably shooting *.jpg. In which case the manufacturer has done the developing for you in-camera according to their ideas. Get over it. Photographers always had to develop. What comes out of the camera is an unfinished piece of work. To turn a picture into an image takes your input and finishing.

Beginners mistakes :: 15. Software and hardware is inadequate for the job

Beginners underestimate the power needed to do image processing. They wonder why their computer is so slow. Buy the most powerful hardware and most flexible software you can afford. It will pay you back in speed and quality.

Beginners mistakes :: 16. Use a tripod

A properly used tripod gives you sharp images. Use one every opportunity. If you are serious about photography you will use tripods a lot in the future. Start now and give yourself a head start. Most photographers don’t buy them for years. Then they find they have got really bad habits. Then it takes a lot of time and effort to get past the problem. Buy a proper tripod. They are not cheap. However, they are definitely worth it.

Take your time to understand…

These simple points are those that most beginners will benefit from at the start. A lot to take in. Read this article several times over the next six months and your photography will improve enormously. Enjoy your learning!

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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+.

World class motivational quotes for photographers

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta.

Sir Steve Redgrave is an inspirational athlete.

Five times an Olympic Gold Medallist, he has plenty of experience to pass on to people who aspire to great things. He went on to get his fifth medal despite saying he was going to retire. In an article about another great sportsman Redgrave said…

Self-belief is probably the most crucial factor in sporting success. The bodies are roughly equal, the training is similar, the techniques can be copied, what separates the achievers is nothing as tangible as split times or kilograms. It is the iron in the mind, not the supplements, that wins medals.
Sir Steve Redgrave: Winning is all in the mind,
Daily Telegraph: 7:00AM BST 10 Oct 2009

World-class quotes to motivate photographers

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

    Henry Ford
• Stop talking about it – go take a photograph!

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

    Albert Einstein
• Imagine greater images! Technique will follow.

My secret is practice.

    David Beckham
• Practice, practice, practice, then do more! Your photography will improve!

Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.

    Oprah Winfrey
• Negative people will hold you back. Supporters will maximise your potential.

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

    Wayne Gretzky
• Always carry a camera! ‘Nuff said!

Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.

    Lauren Bacall
• Using your imagination to pursue great images will yield the greatest satisfaction and deepest meaning.

I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.

    Marie Curie
• Learning photography, like anything else, requires time and effort.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

• Do it well and repeat it… you’ll soon become a quality photographer.

The reason why so little is done, is generally because so little is attempted.

    Samuel Smiles
• If you don’t try it, you won’t learn it.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

    Father James Keller
• Teach kids, friends, mother, aunt, enemy… everyone, about photography.

If you don’t have any critics, you probably don’t have any success either.

    Johan Bruynell
• Self assurance will get you past criticism – then move on to success.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

• Dust off and get going again!

Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.

• You have to start somewhere. Work on it and you’ll get there.

Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.

• That says it all!

A year from now you may wish you had started today.

    Karen Lamb
• Get your camera out. Do it now!

A simple lesson in street photography

"Gritty Street" - Getting out there comes first. The shots come next.

“Gritty Street” – Getting out there comes first. The shots come next. Actually, the whole thing is about communication.
“Gritty Street” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Some of the simple things are the most difficult when starting.

I have been asked many times why some people find street photography so difficult. Many photographers never get past the first step. Here is some advice to help you.


Getting out there is difficult if you think it is. Actually the most difficult thing is letting people know you are doing it. Most people just ignore you. My advice to beginners is, “just do it!” If you don’t start you will never do street photography. Once you are out there the next thing is taking shots of people. My best advice here is, “be a conspicuous communicator”. Walk up to people and talk to them. They will let you know if they are not interested. No harm done, say thanks, and just walk away. If they are interested then talk. Next, invite them to be photographed. Offer them copies. In fact, communicate. Most people love communicators. Do it the way you know best. Do it with enthusiasm. Then do some photography. That’s how to get started. Once you have done one or two shots you will wonder what the problem was to start.

Some things to do…
  • Find a busy place, stick with it for a while. People will be easier to approach from one spot.
  • Look for your shots. Don’t just photograph anything and everyone.
  • Make your shots important and meaningful. Have a very good reason to push the button.
  • Have your camera pre-set so you don’t spend ages fiddling around with it.
  • A good lens is a 50mm prime. You can use a zoom around the same focal length.
  • A setting of F8 gives you good depth of field and flexibility for street shots.
  • Try getting some candid shots of people (just capture them as they are).
  • Ask some people to pose or be themselves – talk to them before shooting.
  • Get in close when you can.
  • Be a part of the street scene, not a voyeur. People hate to be watched, love to be included.
  • Respect the people you photograph.
  • If you are asked to delete a shot – comply.
  • Remember you are an artist not a spy.
  • Search out peoples expressions and natural poses. Show what they feel.
  • Be chatty and grateful, apologetic and gentle.
  • Practice patience.
Some things not to do…
  • Don’t approach people in quiet places or where they may feel threatened.
  • Don’t be a predator, be a facilitator.
  • Wear simple, non-threatening clothes and appropriate for the weather.
  • Remember, make your intentions clear and friendly.
  • If you are uncomfortable/threatened don’t stay. Get out of there!

There, that’s it. Take it easy, have fun. Talk to lots of people. Take lots of photographs.

Simple philosophy, simple photography

The moment you look down a lens you see life differently.

It is almost as if what you see is disconnected from the ‘you’ standing there. Actually, as your photography develops, seeing through the lens becomes an extension of yourself. Photography is a continuous process of becoming connected to what you photograph. You want more detail and more insight as you see more through your glass.

It’s a part of the human condition to enjoy life, through which we gain insights. Such insights come also from the painful things we see. Pain and pleasure are two ends of the same scale. It is little wonder that photographers, and artists, through the ages have been both seers and the afflicted.

Our view of the world reflects the perceptive filter we use. If we see life as difficult – it is. If we see life as wonderful – it is. We turn on our own filter and see our own world. We create our own type of reality.

When we photograph we speak to the viewer. We tell them what we see. We transmit an image of our seeing. Our photographic insight is our communication.

As you grow in your photography try to say something important about your pain or pleasure. Perhaps not with every picture. Perhaps not every time you pick up your camera. But, do think about it. Do try to say something. Make it simple and meaningful. If possible, make it beautiful and insightful.

Succeed a few times in passing simple, beautiful messages, and before long your photography becomes your philosophy.

Photokonnexion is a regular Twitterer. We try to pass simple messages to make people think more about photography. If you would like to follow us we are @photokonnexion on Twitter.

The simple secrets of the single subject shot

Cabbage - the single subject photo allows an in-depth study of the subject

Cabbage – the single subject photo allows an in-depth study of the subject. Getting the shot to work is a matter of how you present it.

Working with one item in a picture helps you get deep into the concept.

Using almost any perspective, you should be looking to bring out the character of your subject and explore its nature. To portray your subject well you should think of these simple ideas.

A while ago I asked members of the 365Project what I should consider when doing a single subject photograph. The ideas below are developed from that discussion.


Many simple subject shots have no background. Put the subject into the centre of the viewers vision and fill the frame. My cabbage (above) is an example. However, if you have got a background make it simple. This is a great way to use a high-key shot. A bright featureless background throws the subject right into the foreground. The bright background highlights the subject and focuses the viewers attention. Alternatively, dark backgrounds can be good too. Remember that they also need a bright subject to carry them off if you are exploring the nature of your subject, and not just portraying its moodiness.

Focus, Lighting, colour and Texture

In a single subject photograph you explore your subject. The character of something is shown by its shape and form. Lighting and colour bring out the shape and form by exploring the shadows and textures. Lighting is key to the success of the shot particularly by creating texture. Remember, as you take a low angle of light across the surface of something you create more texture. The light and shadows are longer and darker with a small angle. Pay attention to the lighting and colours that make that texture stand out. Really accentuate the contrast of light and dark as well as colour variation.

Perspective or the angle of viewing

Perspective is particularly important in single subject shots. It is easy to make a single item look flat – especially if it has little surface texture. Consider what angle you photograph your subject. Try to show its perspective – the diminishing size with distance from the eye. If that is not possible show the form by exaggerating curves or by capturing angles.

Normally many of the objects we look at are seen from above. It’s natural really since we hold things in our hands and look down. To bring out the character of your piece viewing it from a different perspective helps to highlight its character. You are forcing the viewer to look at it in a new way. Show it from below. Or take a shot from the side – any angle showing shape and form which is different to a normal view. Try to show how the subject varies its shape with distance from your eye. Exaggerate it if necessary. I find using a wide-angle lens in close up often brings out the shape and perspective fully. You will need to experiment.


Filling the frame is not essential. The rule of thirds is a great way to display simple shots with one subject…

Composition is important to draw the viewer into the image.

'Rule of Thirds'
A powerful compositional tool.

Other placements work too. Normally central placement in a scene is boring. In single item shot a central placement with a square crop is quite fashionable at the moment. Try anything to increase the interest value and draw the eye.

Don’t show it all

A feeling of mystery is a great way to pull the eye to a subject. Consider cropping your subject hard so that some of the shape, form and texture of the subject is left to the viewers imagination. You don’t need to show the whole subject for it to become alive in the viewers mind. Unless you intend it, be careful not to create an abstract when cropping hard. A single subject photo is about your subject. An abstract is about the attributes of the subject. Often the eye cannot see the whole subject in an abstract and people may not know what they are viewing. This would not be showing the character of the object. It is a fine line. What you are intending to show should be clear. That is the key to success.

My thanks to the members of 365Project who contributed to this discussion and to my thinking on this subject. The discussion on this, including some excellent example pictures is still available. Please do visit: Single subject photographs External link - opens new tab/page.