Our first photography tip is about information sources and among the very best sources are second hand books. Yes I Know second hand books do not, for the most part ,Cover Digital Photography. But about 90% of what they do cover does apply to Digital Photography. The basics of Exposure, Light, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Film speed or ISO have not changed and are the same values found in Digital photography today. Whether you use a Digital SLR a Digital Point & Shoot or an old Box Brownie, Framing and Composition are of paramount importance. The darkroom techniques used by the masters of old are still used today in the digital darkroom ; in fact some tools in Photoshop use the very same terminology [ Dodging, Burning, Masking for instance ] they may be out of date but the information in them is still relevant and you can’t beat the price!
One of the most Critical aspects of Photography is Exposure . Fortunately the Digital Cameras in use today offer some excellent tools allowing us to verify Exposure. Primarily the Histogram and Highlights screens in Playback mode . The Highlights screen will cause any Overexposed Pixels in your frame to flash on and off letting you know immediately that you should shoot again using less exposure [ Narrower Aperture or Faster Shutter Speed]. The Histogram is a Bar Graph with black at the left limit and white at the right limit any time you see the histogram slammed up against either limit you are losing either Highlight Detail or Shadow Detail. While there is no Perfect Histogram many digital Professionals advise exposing as far to the right as possible while avoiding blown highlights [ overexposed Pixels].There are 2 reasons for this; first fully half of the Tonal Range available to your frame is in the 1 stop near Maximum [2048 of the 4096 possible tonal levels in a 12 bit Raw file]. Second when you expose to the right you achieve greater signal to noise ratio and less perceived noise.
Exposed to the right the picture may not look the way you want it but it is easy to adjust by reducing Exposure Compensation in RAW tools or reducing Brightness in a jpeg this will also reduce noise making it less visible than a frame exposed for the scene the way you want to see it.
Controlling Exposure is only going to happen when you take your camera off Auto or Scene modes and use Program Mode, Aperture or Shutter priority, or Manual Exposure Mode.
Using Exposure Compensation functions in camera is a fast and Handy way to change exposure when using P,S, or A Exposure Modes. Great Shooting …….Mike.
Metering is how we or our cameras determine “Proper Exposure” it may involve an External hand held Light Meter, a Light Meter built into our Cameras [ often TTL or Through the Lens Meters these days], or the old standby of Sunny 16 where we assess the light and judge the appropriate Exposure settings for our shot; for the most part we use the Metering systems in our cameras so let’s concentrate on those.
TTL metering is available in Most modern Cameras and is a very Handy tool in that it only Meters the light that your sensor or film will see which is an advantage over a hand held meter. TTL metering is a reflected reading because it measures the light reflected from your subject.
It most often involves one of three Metering Modes, Spot Metering, Centre Weighted Metering , or Matrix Metering [ also called Pattern Metering or Multi Segment Metering] . Why three Metering Modes? Because no one mode works best in all situations and any of the 3 will yield best results in some situations .
Matrix Metering is often the default Metering Mode ; for example it is used for all Nikon Scene Modes like Portrait, Landscape, Sports etc. In Many situations it will yield very good results though I tend to avoid it for 2 reasons. First it does not meter the Entire frame and as a Photographer who is mostly into Landscapes that is important to me. As a result i find it takes 2 to 2 1/2 stops more Exposure Compensation to record the shot as i want it compared to Centre Weighted Average. Second Matrix Metering does not generate an Exposure solution directly from the light measured but compares the readings for all metered segments to a database worked up by the manufacturer, then selects the Recorded Exposure Settings for the situation that is the closest match to those readings. we have no real idea how close the compared results are or how close their scene was to ours so it sounds just too hit and miss to generate a lot of confidence though it does seem to work well.
The Number of Segments may be as few as 6 or over a thousand and the greater the number the better the results seem to be. Check your camera Manual.
Centre Weighted Metering Does measure light in the entire frame, important to some not to others. It involves a system where the centre area is weighted or given more importance in determining the final exposure . It was often a favoured Metering system for portraits. Some Advanced Cameras May allow you to select the size of the Centre Weighted Area or turn it off and go with an Average reading [ the mode i prefer for landscapes]. It seems to be a good choice in any situation where your subject fills the entire frame. The metered results directly determine your exposure settings rather than through comparison to a Database.
Spot Metering In Many shooting situations our preferred subject will not come close to filling the frame but we still want to base exposure on that subject not the whole Frame and this is where Spot metering works well. Good examples would be shooting Sports or Wildlife , particularly Birds. It can also be very helpful where you want to make an exposure based on a small area of a landscape like a bright cloud or a rock or some trees. It used to be Spot Metering only involved a spot at the centre of the frame. In modern cameras it is often tied to the active Focus area of your frame so it can be in a range of positions near the centre . Check Your Manuals to confirm details.
Both Centre Weighted and Spot Metering are colour blind in the sense that they work on Brightness or Luminosity regardless of colour. They will render an exposure placing the metered subject as a Medium Tone dead centre in your histogram. If you want it there great; if you want it somewhere else use Exposure Compensation[with Program Mode, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority Exposure modes] to place it accordingly. For the bright Cloud add a couple of stops more exposure , for a rock which should be closer to the shadow region use less exposure .
Finally learn what Metering systems your Camera has as well as any options and learn to use them to improve your capabilities. Understanding your tools is the key to becoming a better “Technical Photographer” . Being Comfortable with the Technicalities frees you to concentrate on the Artistic side Form and Composition.
Avoid Upgrading to the Latest and Greatest
- Don’t buy into the New Gear because of Media Hype or because you develop a Want for it but if you can Articulate reasons why a New or additional piece of equipment will cure problems you have encountered that different techniques will not fix then perhaps that purchase or upgrade is justified.
- Digital Photography is a Gear Oriented Hobby and as a Technical Individual i can be pretty bad for Acquiring New Gadgets. I do try to avoid this by getting the most I can from what we already have. There are situations though where Technique is not going to cut it.
- If your F4 Kit lens yields too much DOF in a head and shoulders portrait a Faster lens say an F 1.8 50 or 85 mm might be a worthwhile investment; if you like to shoot a lot of portraits. If you have only shot a half dozen portraits in the 3 years you have had the camera it probably won’t get enough use to justify the expense.
- If you can’t fill the frame with your subjects at the minimun focus distance your lenses are capable of, a Macro lens or a set of extension tubes might be in order.
- If you are not happy with the Harsh Flat Lighting your on Camera Flash yields and you use Flash a good deal; a shoe mounted flash capable of Tilt and Swivel might be a good idea for your next purchase.
- If you want to capture longer exposures than you are capable of now in bright light and waiting for dark is not an option you care to explore perhaps a Neutral Density Filter or 2 would be a good solution.
- But none of the above are going to make you a Great Photographer. Knowing your equipment well enough to use it to all it’s capabilities might.
- As in most aspects of Life, What you have got does not count as much as How Well you Use it.
one of the better Resouces for budding photographers is joining a Photography Club
you get to spend time with other like minded individuals and share experiences and techniques that will improve your photography.
There are many clubs in the Maritimes; here are some Links to clubs we are aware of. We are members of the Kings County Photography Club
and involved with the Flickr Group of the Greenwood Camera Club
One of the Best and often overlooked tools available to the Digital Photographer is included
in all Digital Photographs Exif Information
The Exif or Metadata is written into your Digital file when the Image is captured and will
include Exposure Settings,Metering Modes , Release Modes , Focus Modes, any Flash
information etc etc. a lot of it is information you will never use but much of it can be a vital
part to understanding why a given shot worked out well and another is a complete failure .
Studying the Exif on your good shots as well as your bad will reenforce the things you
have already learned.
If Shot A has insufficient Depth of Field and the Exif indicates F 5.6 was used you
know F 8 or 11 may have been more appropriate
If Shot B is blurred and Exif says you used 200mm focal length and 1/20 sec you
know your shutter speed was too slow
If shots C, D, and E are all overexposed in spite of a stop of -EC applied between
each shot and the next and Exif indicates Manual release mode was used you
know Exposure Compensation does not work with Manual Mode
On Line Photo Galleries Like Flickr do offer the ability to post EXIF along with photos
and so about half the time or better the secrets to getting good shots like those
you really Like on Flickr may be included .
Studying Exif is a great way to learn more about Digital Photography Faster and
Best of all it is Absolutely Free.
White Balance is a tool Digital Cameras use to get Colours correct in recorded Images
Like Many functions it is best to get White Balance correct in Camera before the
Shutter is released, If a shot shows an abnormal colour cast chances are your
White Balance was set incorrectly. Most of the Time Auto White Balance does a
Great Job, but on occassion it fails miserably, generally in Mixed Lighting.
Getting it right in Camera is critical if you shoot JPEGs or TIFFs as it
cannot be adjusted easily in those files. One reason to shoot RAW files
is the ability to adjust White Balance on your Computer with a couple of
Mouse Clicks, quickly and easily.
your Camera probably includes half a dozen or more WB Presets and the
Ability to adjust those or shoot a Custom White Balance.
White Balance can also be used creatively to yield a whole different set of
recorded colours in our Digital photographs. As with most functions
the more you explore the more you learn and the better a photographer
you will be.
Use a Tripod
Why go to the trouble of lugging around and setting up this three legged pain ?
First, Shooting from a Tripod is Stable in Comparison to shooting handheld which is not stable.
Our Bipedal stance in Life brought us many Advantages that helped with our overall Survival,
However like all changes in Life it involves Compromise;
and the Compromise in this case is Less Stability, which translates to Motion Blurr.
Shooting from a Tripod will always result in Sharper Images.
Modern VR Glass in many cases is almost as good, but when the light gets low, or you want
very slow shutter speeds, a Tripod is a lot better and yields Noticeably Sharper Images.
Second, Setting up and shooting from a Tripod takes more Time, and of course slows down the process.
Slowing Down we Observe more ,we compose better, we can present our Subject at it’s best.
We see the things that should not have been included because they Detract from our subject.
When using a Tripod Don’t set it up mount your Camera and shoot from there.
Open the legs and stand the tripod on the ground.
Now take your Camera and explore your subject with it to Find the best Composition.
When you find the spot you want to shoot from, set up your tripod to Place the Camera there.
You will be shooting from a stable Platform,with the best Perspective to Present your Subject,
from a position that uses Ambient light, height and direction, to the best
Advantage to display your subject. And if a slight breeze causes your subject to move a bit,
you can wait maintaining that stable position until the motion stops and it is time to
record the perfect shot.
Do you always need a big Heavy solid tripod?
it is up to you
Worth Noting, Our Tobeatic Shots were recorded using a Gorrillapod as we could not justify
transporting our bigger general use tripod.
Good Shooting Mike and Laurinda