Tag Archives: photography tips

Fireworks Photo Tips

Summer is here and the Fourth of July is right around the corner.   That means its time for some fireworks photography.  Fireworks displays are an exciting subject because of their visual qualities and the technical challenges they present to a photographer.  They are a great subject for creative photography and definitely something to include in your summer photo agenda. I have includes several fireworks photo tips in this article to get you started.  Fireworks are fun and beautiful photography subject for and the sky is literally the limit on how creative you can get shooting them.

FIREWORKS PHOTO TIPS 

TIP #1 – Keep it Steady!Fireworks photography  used to illustrate the Fireworks Photo Tips article  written by pro photographer Dan Splaine  ©2014 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights Reserved

Keeping your camera steady during a long exposure is an important skill to master.  It is especially critical when you are photographing fireworks to secure your camera and to avoid camera shake!  We use long duration exposures (shutter speeds) to capture the action of the cascading embers and for working in low light conditions.  A tripod is an essential tool for this type of shooting. The heavier your tripod the more stability it will give.  Camera shake and movement will blur your image and the tripod provides the camera a solid foundation for those long exposures. Although a tripod is your best option you can use other support devices to stabilize your camera (sand bag, mini-pod etc…).

TIP#2 – Trigger Carefully

One of the most likely problems with camera movement comes when you depress your shutter button to make your exposure. The pressure exerted by your finger is enough to introduce camera shake and blur your image capture.  Having a light touch when triggering the shutter. Camera shake is more likely to occur with point and shoot digital cameras because  force is greater on a smaller object.   Some cameras and lenses incorporate image stabilization technology which can help reduce this issue.

The best method is to use a remote shutter release device.  Many cameras have model specific triggers as well as generic devices that are used to trip the shutter. Triggers can physically connect to the camera or work wirelessly (infrared). An alternative to a remote trigger is to use the self-timer controls on your camera.  The two or ten second delay from the time you depress the trigger till when the shutter opens allows the vibration to stop and you camera to become still.  The trick with this method is to anticipate when the fireworks launch and time your release in advance.

TIP#3 – Lens Selection

Determining which focal length lens to use for fireworks photography is relative to your proximity to the launch and display area.  In general  would select a longer focal length to help keep your frame full of the firework burst.  A mid-range telephoto zoom lens like a 70 to 200 mm is a good choice if you have that option.  Please note that telephoto lenses a prone to vibration which makes using a tripod even more critical. Lens choice is also relative to the scope of the scene you want to include in your images.  If you want to have the fireworks be the dominant element, use a longer lens.  A telephoto lens compresses the distance relationship of objects in your scene.  A wide angle lens will allow for more skyline and the general scene in the shot.

TIP #4 – Be Prepared

Try to get to the fireworks event early so you have a good chance to scope out your camera position.  Pay attention to ambient light sources and background elements you want to avoid (street lights, power lines, cell towers, etc…).  Once the crowd shows up moving around with a tripod is a challenge so scout carefully.  Note wind direction so you can anticipate how the clouds of smoke will pass through your scene.  Smoke blowing in your face will block light and diffuse your image. Make sure you have plenty memory cards and charged batteries in your camera bag. Also bring along a penlight or small flashlight.  Operating your camera in the dark is difficult… a little light will come in handy.

TIP# 5- Frame Carefully

When you photograph fireworks your camera needs to be in position and ready to fire before the fuse is lit. Aiming your camera and establishing your point of view without the subject being present is a real challenge.  You have to anticipate and observe the path of the fireworks and plan when they will cross your image area. When you are setting up your shot consider how much sky you want to include in the image.   Be careful to keep your horizons level and vertical elements squared up.  When you are shooting consider moving from horizontal to vertical format.  Fireworks can have a trajectory that works well vertically while some of the large burst makes more visual sense in a horizontal frame.

Fireworks photography  used to illustrate the Fireworks Photo Tips article  written by pro photographer Dan Splaine  ©2014 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights ReservedTIP#6 – Use Manual Exposure Mode

Manual exposure mode is the best way to control your results when shooting in the lighting conditions presented during fireworks.  Your camera in automatic exposure cannot anticipate or compensate for the dramatic swings from light to dark during fireworks (the bright burst compared to the night sky).  Setting your camera in manual allows you to choose the shutter speed, aperture and ISO combination that will yield the best results.Some cameras offer a SCENE MODE for fireworks which may give you a good starting point for your exposure but manual is your best option (Don’t forget to turn off your flash).  Fireworks are a great available light subject and the burst of flash will only annoy the people around you.

In general you should start with a mid range aperture, (usually f8 or f11 on a typical Dslr lens) which will provide enough depth of field.  Stopping down to smaller apertures will probably underexpose and opening up to maximum aperture will cause overexposure.   Select the lowest ISO possible to give the best results.  The higher the ISO the greater the chance you will get noise and digital artifacts, especially in your shadows.

Shutter speed is the most important exposure element to control when shooting fireworks.  Capturing the movement of the streaking lights of fireworks require relatively long exposure durations.  I would start with an exposure of about 4 seconds at f 11 (ISO 100).  Bracket your exposures by increasing and decreasing your shutter speed to see what duration is best (from 2 seconds to 8 seconds). The brightness of each burst is different so bracketing is a good strategy to get correct exposure.

TIP #7 – Use Manual Focus

Autofocus control is inherently difficult in low light conditions.  Switch your lens to manual focus and pre-focus before the show begins.  If you increase your distance away from the fireworks and use a longer lens you can set the focus on infinity in manual (infinity symbol on your lens focus scale is ∞).   With an aperture (f stop) of ʄ 8 or ʄ 11 you will maintain relatively good depth of field and the images will be sharp.

TIP# 8 – Timing is Everything

The timing of your shots is the trickiest part of making great fireworks photography.  Having the  shutter open when the fireworks shells burst is the goal.  Trip your shutter when the round is launched so you can capture the full explosion when the shell bursts and the sparks fall.   Pay attention at the beginning of the event to anticipate wind direction and avoid the changes accumulated smoke make to sharpness and color.

TIP# 9 – Experiment

Fireworks are a fun subject and they certainly lend themselves to experimentation and innovation.   As you shoot check your results and histograms on your camera display and note the changes you make.  Observe the relationship of time and motion and get creative with those photographic elements.  One idea is to bring a piece of black cardboard that you can use to block your lens with.  Using the BULB – “B” setting, you can make a composite exposure of several bursts by holding the black card in front of the lens in between launches. In “bulb” the shutter remains open as long as the shutter button is depressed. You can use your lens cap to block the lens in the same way but taking it on and off the lens may cause vibrations.  Blocking the lens between bursts while leaving the shutter open will not increase your exposure of the night sky and it will remain a solid dark background for the overlapping fireworks. Don’t forget to include other elements in your image.  Use a wider perspective to include cityscapes, silhouettes and the crowd to add a narrative element to your photographs.

TIP # 11 –Shoot RAW not JPEG

If your camera has the option, use the  RAW file format (some point and shoots do not have this option.)  Make sure you shoot your fireworks with that quality setting.  RAW is your best image capture file format.  JPEGs are your best image distribution file format.  You will have more options for fine tuning your RAW files on the computer and for dealing with the lighting challenges present in fireworks photography.

 

TIP# 12 – Analyze your First Shots Quickly

 Fireworks shows move quickly and in general the most action is at the end of the show.  As soon as the fireworks display begins fire off a few frames quickly and quickly check your results.  Examine your framing and focus.  Look at your histogram to see the exposure qualities.  You may start with a bracketed exposure sequence (2, 4, 8, 16, 30 seconds) and compare the results.  Once you figure your settings you can then concentrate on shooting the rest of the show.  Periodically you can spot check your results to check any changes.

Fireworks photography  used to illustrate the Fireworks Photo Tips article  written by pro photographer Dan Splaine  ©2014 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HDR Photography: A Creative and Practical Photography Technique

HDR photography is a very popular topic and style trend in contemporary photography.  For an old school photographer like myself, with my quarter century of darkroom experience this is a familiar technique, albeit with a new name and some upgraded tools.  The idea of using multiple exposures to capture a wide range of luminance goes back to the origins of photography.  In the 1850’s Gustave Le Gray (French Photographer 1820-1884) combined two negatives – one exposed for the sky, the other for the sea to create a single seascape photo.

In the black and white darkroom the HDR photography tone mapping process was a manual operation. A standard print made with a uniform exposure had a limited dynamic range.  With burning and dodging we could select particular areas of our negative to change the exposure of.  Making a print could be a ballet of blocking wands and shadow puppets (I told you I was old school).

Today with digital cameras and software the HDR photography process is lot more efficient. The question for photographers is why deploy this technique? In my commercial photography work I use it for primarily practical purposes along with creative considerations.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a solution as well as a springboard to far more expressive image making.  It solves the problem of photographing scenes with a wide range of luminosity. The process involves capturing a series of photographs with exposure bracketing and combining them into a single image that holds detail from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows.

 HDR photography example ©2014 Daniel J. Splaine -All Rights Reserved

It is a work around for the confines of digital camera sensors. The human eye can perceive an extensive range of contrast in a scene while our digital camera sensors have a limited dynamic range that it can record.  In photography, the dynamic range is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of your scene, measured in units of EV (aka stops of exposure).

The camera records most scenes well but it hits its limits with contratsy scenes, with bright highlights and deep shadows. When we make a standard exposure we end up losing detail in the far ends of the dynamic range. For example if you are shooting a dark interior of a room with bright windows and exterior views.  If you expose the shadows correctly your highlights will get “blown out” (overexposed).  If you record for your highlights accurately, the brightest parts of your shot, your shadows loose all detail.  A standard exposure is a compromise. When you shoot a HDR image you can achieve detail in the highlights of the window to the shadows of the room interior by combining your bracketed exposures.

Achieving detail in the highlights and shadows of your scene is the practical use of HDR.  You can render a very realistic version of your scene that mimics the contrast range we can perceive with our eyes.  Making a shot that presents the scene as you saw it is just one option.  With the HDR processing software now available you can get a lot more creative and experimental with your results. You can manipulate the tone map of your image rendering highlight, shadow and colors in wide range of interpretations, from hyper-colorized to subtlety de-saturated and everything in between.

How far you go with these manipulations is a matter of taste.  I pride myself in deploying this technique so that my viewer detects no distinction from reality. For me it is an updated version of an old familiar tool in my bag of photo tricks. Others have taken HDR photography in a whole new direction of creative expression- stretching the boundaries of visual interpretation.

IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HDR PHOTOGRAPHY

I will be presenting an HDR Photography Workshop on April 12, 2014 in York Maine from 3 to 6 pm.  This is a hands-on field photography class and we will be covering the camera techniques for creating HDR images.  Grab your tripod and join us.  For complete details and registration got  CLICK HERE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. Based in Nashua, NH  he provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. Dan is a photo educator and  presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Digital Camera Know How: Introduction to Scene Modes

One of the great things about digital cameras is all the creative controls they include. Unfortunately one of the downsides is learning all of those controls.  For new photographers the multiple options seem confusing and hard to get a handle on. A good and easy place to begin is to learn about camera scene modes.

Scene modes are pre-set exposure settings that are useful for getting creative with your digital camera. Scene Modes automatically generate camera settings which are ideal for specific photo situations.  They are great tool for novice and advanced photographers. Invest the time to get familiar with them.

Advice for photographers, regardless of type of digital camera.  Scene modes can be found on Dslr’s, point and shoot, tablet and smartphone digital cameras. Example photo of point and shoot camera by photographer Dan Splaine used to illustrate his photo how-to articles, photo workshops and photo education program.  ©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Right ReservedEvery type  of digital camera ( point and shoots, digital SLR, and smartphones) have many scene modes built into their menus. Take a look at your camera manual to find the variety your camera has available. Most cameras have ten or more scene mode to work with.  Each pre-set of the exposure setting combinations are designed to produce visual effect that is ideal for the type of subject you are working with.

Listed below are some of the most commonly used scene modes with a short explanation for using them and  how they make photos look.

Macro mode – The best setting for getting great close-up photos. It is excellent for flowers, small objects and capturing the little details we normally miss .  How close you can get to your subject depends on your camera’s particular limits.  Most digital cameras let you get as close as an inch or two from a subject in Macro mode.  This scene mode gives you a truly unique view to photograph with and is one of the most fun modes to experiment with.

Portrait mode – The camera selects a large lens opening (aperture) which has the effect of causing your background to be out of focus.  A portrait subject in sharp focus against an out of focus background keeps them as the center of attention in your photo.  Frame your shot so you are relatively close to your subject with them standing away from the background. To get the best result with the portrait scene mode increase the subject distance from the background.  This is ideal for head and shoulder shots and for full frame faces. Works equally well with people and pet photos!

Landscape mode – A scene mode that gives you the opposite effect that portrait mode does.  Your camera automatically selects a small lens opening  (aperture) which helps keep most or all of your scene in focus.  This is ideal for large vistas and big outdoor scenes. In this mode your foreground right through to your background will be in sharp focus.  Using your wide-angle lens with this mode maximizes this effect  and is an ideal combination for landscape photography.

Sports and action mode -Your best choice for shooting moving objects. In this mode your camera selects a fast exposure time (shutter speed) that has the effect of stopping motion. Photograph people playing sports, running pets or speeding cars in this mode. This is also your best choice when taking photographs when you are in motion, like riding on a boat or from a moving train.

Night portrait mode – Ideal for taking people photos in low light and dark conditions. Your camera automatically select s a long exposure time (shutter speed) in combination with firing your flash when you take the shot.  The slow shutter speed  helps gather details in the dark background and the flash lights your subject near the camera.  It is best to use a tripod or some other support to keep your camera steady when making this type of shot.  This mode is another fun setting to experiment with and a great way to make some very original photographs.

Movie mode -Adds a whole new level  of creativity to your image making.  Most digital cameras have the ability to capture still and motion pictures.  Having the ability to shoot movies and combine them with all the still photos (you shoot in the other scene modes)  really expands your storytelling  and creative photography options.

This is review of some of the most common digital camera scene modes. Your camera will likely have ten or more of these settings to choose from. If you are in a unique setting and you do not  know what settings to you use, simply select the automated scene mode that  matches your scene and shoot away.  But  knowing how to use this feature of your camera you will be ready to make some great shots no matter what subject you are photographing.

Use scene modes as insurance and for a starting point for getting creative with your digital camera. If you come upon a difficult scene , like a snowy landscape for example, make few shots in the Snow Scene Mode for reference. Review the shots on your camera display and note the exposure combination the camera selected for this type of scene. Move to a less automated exposure mode and compare your results with reference shots. Modify your exposure settings to the baseline.

Close-up photo of a bee on a flower made with appoint and shoot digital camera using the macro scene mode.   Example photo by photographer Dan Splaine used to illustrate his photo how-to articles, photo workshops and photo education program.  ©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Right Reserved

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients  Based in Nashua, NH he provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. Dan mentors and teaches aspiring photographers, and he presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Street Photography: Street Photo Tips for Nervous Beginner Photographers

Are you a reluctant street photographer, the other kind of camera shyness? Here are street photo tips  to help.

You love documentary style photos.  You really dig the work of the great photographers that preceded you.  You want to go out and make your own street photography but your nerves are getting the better of you.  Photographing in public, especially of people is intimidating.  So how do you get over your nervous gitters and get out on the streets with your camera? Here are some street photo tips that may help you get over your fears.

I have over thirty years experience wandering the planet and capturing candid moments and making street photos in dozens of countries and cultures.  From that experience I have learned a few tricks for better street photography that are useful for the reluctant and inexperienced.  
 

What is street photography?


Example of street photography created by commercial photographer Dan Splaine from one of his international photography assignments.  This scene was made on the streets of Mysore India. This article includes street photo tips for beginner photographers.  ©2013 Daniel J. Splaine  - All Rights Reserved

There is some argument in photography circles about  the definition of street photography.  We’ll go with a broad, open interpretation. Street photography is a form of documentary photography that is typically shot in public places. The images made are candid observations that capture “slice of life” moments.  The genre takes many forms.  Portraits, photography of crowds or found objects all fall into this category.
 
Some street photo tips for novice photographers
 
First step simplify.  Cut down on the amount of photo gear you use.  Select a single lens to work with and leave the camera bag at home or camouflage it in your purse or knapsack.  The less gear, the less likely potential subjects will notice you.  Use a smaller, point and shoot camera to really cut down on drawing attention with your gear.
Think like a hunter.  The most successful hunters  are those that are not observed by their prey.  The more incognito you are, the more fluid you are with your camera operation, the more success you will have with street photography.  Noisy hunters go hungry. Stealthy photographers get the best shots when unnoticed.
Start with inanimate objects.  Photography of strangers on the street is fraught with challenges.  Document the details of the place you are exploring and avoid people at first.  Get the hang of shooting on the fly, of finding interesting subject arrangements and making strong images.  Avoid shooting people  until your skills and confidence are ready.
 
Look for dynamic moments.  Rather than shooting a lot frames and hoping to get lucky.  Wait for the apex of action as it occurs in your frame and then take the shot. Street photography relies on good timing for creating the most  compelling images . Pay homage to one of the greatest street photographers of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson and find the “decisive moment”.
 
Work with your light.  As you explore your streets and urban environs pay attention to the direction of your light resources.  Pick a direction of travel  and observation that goes with the direction of your light (sunshine coming over your shoulder).
 
Begin in a familiar place.  Work a location that is well-known to you and that you are comfortable in.   Don’t wait until you are in some far away , foreign location to begin your street photography pursuit.  Practice in you own town or nearby cities. It is easier to develop  your skill, observation powers and timing  without dealing with the stresses of an unknown setting.
 
Work at a distance. Use  telephoto lens to put some distance between you and your scene.  Observe  your subjects from a little further away at first.  Get closer as your confidence grows.
 
Work at being a street photographer and you may one day you will be able to walk up to perfect stranger, in a foreign land , that does not speak your language, and get them to happily be a subject for your photography.   
Want to learn more about photography?  Attend one of my photo workshops or photo tours.  Sign – up for to receive our photo tips and workshop information by email.
Example of street photography created by commercial photographer Dan Splaine from one of his international photography assignments.  This scene was made on the streets of Mysore India. This article includes street photo tips for beginner photographers.  ©2013 Daniel J. Splaine  - All Rights Reserved
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. Dan is a photo educator and he presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos (Part Two of Two)

TIPS FROM A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER FOR MAKING BETTER FALL FOLIAGE PHOTOS 

Here is the second part of my article  Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos. If you missed the first part of this article you can read it here.   This is a collection , in no particular order, of some of the techniques I use when capturing fall foliage with my digital camera. These are tips  and photo wisdom I have accumulated in my professional photography career. These suggestion work well for foliage photos and general landscape photography.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedUSE your TRIPOD – Tripods help you keep your camera steady during long exposures which are useful for landscape shots. More importantly, I think, is they slow down your photographic process. Rather than shooting on the fly, you tend to carefully select your camera position and take the time to really scrutinize your scene. Tripods help you make much more deliberate photographic choices.

BE PATIENT– Sometimes you just have to wait for it. Pick you scene and wait for the light. Having the patience to set up a single well composed shot for the moment the light is best is far more rewarding then taking a lot of near misses.  Natural light and weather conditions are constantly in flux often making foliage photography a waiting game.

MANAGE your EXPOSURE – The exposure settings you use will determine how well color presents in your images.  Deploy all the exposure tools in your digital camera to get the best exposure possible.  Carefully use your metering, exposure compensation and histograms to refine your results. Gets exposure right with your camera work, rather than relying on photo editing software to repair poorly made exposures, for the best foliage photo results.

VISUAL ANCHOR – When you are composing a landscape, or a scene with an extended foreground area include a visual anchor.  Place an object of a known size in the foreground of your shot like a boulder for a pond scene. This provides the viewer a starting point that leads them into your photo and reference to the scale of your scene.

LOOK for REFLECTIONS – Be on the lookout for the colors of fall that reflect in streams and on rainy streets.  Reflections found on moving water can offer interesting visual effects.  I find that in the early morning lakes and ponds tend to be more still, providing mirror like conditions.

ARRANGE the SHOT – It is OK to re-arrange the furniture.  Just because Mother Nature dropped a leaf in a particular spot does not mean it must stay there.   Move that gem of a leave you discovered into better lighting for your close-up shot. If you have a bare spot in your scene it is alright to sprinkle in some leaves to cover it up.  Nature’s designs are incredible but sometime they can use a little help.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedCOLOR COMBINATIONS – Find a scene with complementary color combinations.  A solitary golden leafed tree against a background of evergreens or a solitary yellow leaf on a bough full of orange for example.  Fall foliage provides excellent colors to work with, find the combinations that work best together.

ISOLATE DETAILS – It is easy to get overwhelmed with the grand vistas of fall color.  Seek out the details, the small slices of visual interest in your scene. The droplet of water hanging on the edge of a leave can be a dramatic photo.  The textures and details of leave structure offer infinite photographic potential.

GO ABSTRACT – Not every shot has to be literal in meaning or in sharp focus.  Play with the motion of the wind and long exposures for unique views.  Use the optical and exposure settings in combinations that alter depth of field and how the passage of time displays.  With such an exceptional palette to play with the only limitation is your imagination.

The fall foliage show is a favorite for photographers of all skill levels.  My suggestion is to get out there while the getting is good.  Every day of autumn presents a new photo opportunity in your own backyard or at your favorite National Park.

The photographer tips I included here are the ones I use in my pursuit of the ideal fall foliage image.  Try a few or try them all, just get out with your camera before the season passes.

Please let me know if you found this article helpful and please share the information with all of your photography friends,

 

              This part two of a two-part article – READ PART 1

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Pro Photographer Tips for Fall Foliage Photos (Part One of Two)

TIPS FROM A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER FOR MAKING BETTER FALL FOLIAGE PHOTOS

One of the real pleasures of living in New England is the variety of seasons. For photographers, the fall is one of the richest visual feasts we have the pleasure to experience. As the autumn chills wipe away the summer heat we get a fantastic display of color. My New Hampshire home provides a front row seat to this show and I eagerly explore the region for foliage photo opportunities.

In this article I would like to share some tips based on my professional photography experience that will help you make better fall foliage photos. These are some of the techniques and habits I use when I am out chasing fall foliage color.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights ReservedTIMING is EVERYTHING – Especially when it comes to fall foliage. Have your camera with you and shoot it when you see it. The color transformations are dynamic and changing rapidly, from moment-to-moment and day-to-day.  Keep your camera handy and always be ready to make the shot.

RESEARCH – Plan your fall foliage trips carefully.  Scout out locations at other times of year and make notes about sun direction and time of day. Keep in mind that elevation effect foliage.  Use on-line foliage tracking sites.  All of the New England states tourism offices provide tracking information. Plan a route that offers the best views timed for the best light. You don’t always have to travel far to find foliage.  One of my favorite spots  is a local cemetery with a grove of mature maples that is just around the corner.

TIME of DAY – The best times of day for capturing fall foliage colors is either early in the morning or late afternoon.  The “Golden Hours” after sunrise and before sunset are ideal for nature photography. The light tends to be warmer, providing more intense color. It is also more diffuse, due to extended travel thorough the atmosphere, resulting in softer shadows and a decrease in dynamic range.

DAYLIGHT WHITE BALANCE– Although the default “AUTO” white balance setting is useful for general photography, I find the daylight setting works better for fall foliage.  This White Balance preset will match your sensor to the prevailing light conditions.  The results are reminiscent of my old favorites Kodachrome and Velvia slide film. Shooting in the RAW file format (instead of JPEG) will give you the most options for refining your white balance with more precision in post production.

POLARIZER FILTER– A circular polarizer filter is exceptionally useful for foliage photography.  It will darken your skies and will increase the saturation of color. Polarizer filters are useful for managing reflections and will help to knock down the shine of leaves on a sunny day. Because they have light blocking properties they act much like ND (neutral density) filters which can help to extend exposure times.

Example of fall foliage landscape photography from the “Tips from a Pro Photographer for Making Better Fall Foliage Photos” by photographer Dan Splaine.  Dan Splaine is a professional photographer that teaches photo workshops and leads photographer tours. For more information contact him at info@dansplainephoto.com   Copyright©2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights Reserved

WEATHER HELPS – Inclement weather is ideal for fall foliage photography.  Get out in the rain and see how it changes the quality of color.  Overcast skies are useful for photographing water features like ponds and waterfalls.  Mist and fog add an element of mystery and rain and drizzle will increase the saturation of color in your photos.

GO LONG – Wide angle lenses are good for capturing large scenes but I prefer to use longer lenses when shooting foliage. The compression effects of longer focal lengths work well with dense forest scenes.  A telephoto lens will also be helpful for isolating dominant visual elements that make shots more interesting.

COMPOSE SIMPLY – When it comes to fall foliage, simple composition works best.  A solitary visual element thoughtfully arranged against a simple background has more impact than a cluttered scene. Color is the most powerful composition element we have to work with in foliage photography. Feature it prominently in well designed photos.

 

       This part one of a two-part articleREAD PART 2

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.  For more information about his photo education program go to the photo workshop and tour schedule page.

Four Features of Good Photos; What makes your photos look good?

So you spent the time to get out and shoot some photos.  You found subjects that seemed interesting and tried some different techniques  The photo files are uploaded to your computer and you are looking them over.  Now what?   How do you know if the photos  are good or not?

The ability to judge the quality of your own photography is an important skill for all photographers.

How do you know you made a good photo?

What are the features of good-looking photos? What do you look for when you are critiquing your camera work?

What are the features of good photos? In this article professional photographer Dan Splaine shares four features you want to analyze when reviewing your photography.  View of the old Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH on a foggy morning, from the bow of the Isle of Shoals ferry boat. Copyright © 2013 Daniel J. Splaine – All Rights Reserved

 

These questions are just as important to for beginner photographers as they are for seasoned professional shooters.  What are the features of great looking photos that you want to identify in your shots?  An important skill to learn is the ability to find the elements that work, the visual features that distinguish great photos from mediocre.  Here are some of the details to look for and evaluate  when you review your photography.

COMPOSITION –  Is the image arranged so the viewer immediately sees the idea of your photo?   If the composition is well done the viewer’s eye naturally finds your intended center of attention.  Poor composition pulls the viewer away from that intent.  Do the details and visual elements  take away from your meaning, or make a positive impression with the viewer?

Not everyone can identify a well composed photo but they all sure know what a bad one looks like.  Humans process visual information rapidly, on a sub-conscious basis making visual details important.  Composition can make or break your viewer attention and is fundamental to good photography.

IMPACT  – Does your photo grab attention?  Photos with impact create a response in the viewer as soon as they look at it.  Images with the greatest impact evoke an emotion, inspire profound thought or even give motivation to act.  We feel horrified by news photos of natural disasters.  Great advertising photography motivates us to go out and buy something.  When you present a Mother a beautiful  portrait of their child and they squeal with delight, the photo has impact.  Impact is intangible  but is usually found in the photos people can’t take their eyes off.

CENTER OF INTEREST – Make sure you give the viewer something to look at, a subject or feature that you want to highlight in your shot.  The use of focus, framing, lines, camera position all  can lead the viewer to your intended point of attention.   Photos with a single dominant element are more pleasing than cluttered scenes with ambiguous features.  Any of the choices you make that take away from your point of interest produce a weaker image.

LIGHTING – Light is the basic building block of photography. Your use of light, the range and placement of highlights and shadows,  is critical to the success of your photographs.  Mastering exposure means you display colors and tones accurately, in a way that enhances the viewer experience.  Light and shadow provide depth and interest in your photos.  Evaluating and using the direction, intensity and qualities of light in your image will help you determine the quality of your photography.

Take the time to check your results, to scrutinize the details of your photography on your computer monitor.  Identifying the features of your shots that are successful and the  parts that don’t quite hit the mark,  is part of the photographer learning process.  These are the same items I consider in my professional photography work.  They will help you understand why your photos appeal to your viewers. Look at photography that you find appealing. Identify these four features of good photos to understand why they look good to you.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Commercial Photographer and Photo Educator Dan Splaine has over  thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.

Interested in learning more about photography or would like to know about my photography education program?  Please sign-up for our email list. For the latest schedule of photography workshops and photo tour s go to our SCHEDULE PAGE

 

Photography ISO; How to use ISO in your photography.

Some Tips And Info For Selecting the “correct” photography ISO

For photographers, knowing what ISO is and how to use it is an important skill.  Photography ISO selection allows the photographer to adapt to the lighting conditions found in their scene. The ISO value you select is one leg of the exposure triangle, along with aperture and shutter speed, which allows for precise exposure and creative control.  Understanding ISO and how to use it is a fundamental to making great photography.

"What is ISO and how do use it in my photography?". A blog post by commercial photographer Dan Splaine. © 2013 Daniel J. Splaine - All Rights Reserved

With digital cameras the ISO is a numerical value given for the level of sensitivity your camera sensor has to light.  We saw the same rating system with film.  Perhaps you remember (if you are old school like me) shooting ISO 100, 400, 800 etc… rated rolls of film?  Do any of you old timers remember ASA ratings on film (pre-ISO)?   With digital cameras we have the option to select a particular photography ISO for each shot we take, which is big advantage of digital cameras.

 

In general the lower the ISO setting the less sensitive your sensor will be to light, the higher the ISO setting the more sensitive your sensor will be to light.  This means that when you are shooting in bright conditions you can use a low ISO value and when shooting in low light conditions you select a high ISO value.ion to select a particular ISO value for every shot, which is a big advantage of digital cameras.

Most digital cameras offer a range of ISO values to choose from; 100 to 3200 is a common range of choices, although many models of camera go higher and lower.  In general, the lower the ISO the better quality your results will be.  Using a higher ISO will increase noise (digital artifacts), reduce sharpness and decrease the contrast ratio of your results.  Digital cameras with larger sensors produce less of these negative effects than cameras with smaller sensors. Low ISO setting will then have less noise, more sharpness and a larger contrast ratio which will produce the higher quality images relative to high ISO settings.

In my opinion these disadvantage, the reductions in image quality balance against the benefits of having the option to shoot at a higher ISO rating.  Most issues with noise, sharpness and contrast, yo can  restore with software and I would urge you to shoot high values when conditions dictate.  Being able to shoot action photos at high shutter speeds, with a telephoto lens in an indoor scene is only possible with high ISO values  (1600, 3200, 6400) making the trade-off in quality  acceptable .

A variable ISO allows you to adapt your exposure settings to the scene and the creative options you want to use in your photography.

My general recommendation is to select the lowest ISO value that will allow for a proper exposure with the least noise. 

ISO TIPS FOR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

Here are some of my recommendations for using  different ISO values in your digital photography.  This is an important exposure tool and I urge you to explore this option for creative control of your photography.  Good images always start with good camera work and ISO is a fundamental tool for photography.

 

  • TURN OFF your AUTO ISO – By using auto ISO you are letting the camera make a ISO value choice. The photographer should decide which ISO suits their photographic intent best. This is one habit you want to change if your goal is to take control of your creative results.Turn AUTO ISO off, and leave it off!
  • SELECT the ISO FOR THE SCENE:  When you are beginning to decide your exposure settings, one of the first steps is to select an ISO value that is right for the scene and your photographic intentions.  If you are in the woods with an overhead canopy of foliage blocking your light you would select a higher value.  If you are shooting portraits with plenty of window light and you want to use large apertures for shallow depth of field then a low value would be your best choice.  Evaluate the lighting resources and exposure options for the image you want to create and choose the ISO according to those goals.
  • CHANGES in ISO ARE EQUAL TO “STOPS” –  When we change our exposure settings (in whole stop increments) we are halving or doubling the amount of exposure.  For example if you move from F 11 to F 8 you are doubling the aperture size or if you move from 1/250th of second to 1/125th of a second you are cutting the duration of your exposure in half.  The same ratio holds true with ISO  When you move from 400 to 800 you are doubling the sensitivity setting or as we would say increasing it by a “stop”.  Digital cameras allow for incremental changes in EV (Exposure Value = Stops) usually in half and third stop amounts.  You can refine exposure equally with aperture, shutter speed or ISO in those partial stop increments.
  • SHOOT RAW –  RAW is the best format for image capture and will yield the best results because you are collecting the greatest amount of data when you make your photo. JPEG is great file format to distribute photos but it produces less quality for capture.  Process RAW files  with photo editing software post capture, to yield the highest quality images.  The negative effects of shooting with high ISO (noise, sharpness, and contrast effects) increase when shooting JPEG compared to RAW
  • PLAY with EXPOSURE COMBINATIONS – There is no exact recipe for exposure combinations.  Play with a variety of exposure combinations and ISO settings and compare your results on your computer. Each variable in the exposure triangle makes a difference in how your images will ultimately look. Experimenting with combinations will produce a variety of visual results.
  • USE A TRIPOD – If you are seeking low noise, high sharpness and a wide contrast ratio that low ISO settings provide use a tripod.  Long lenses and long exposure times make hand-held photography difficult, especially in dim light at a low ISO.  Securing you camera on a tripod is the solution for this type of shooting situation.
  • SHOOTING HAND-HELD with TELEPHOTO LENS –  Long lenses are difficult to use when shooting  hand-held.  By increasing your ISO setting you can then shoot at faster shutter speeds which will eliminate the blur caused by camera movement.  For example an ISO of 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second shooting with a 500 mm lens.
  • HIGH SHUTTER SPEEDS = HIGH ISO –  If you want to stop subject action you need to shoot at high shutter speeds.  Increasing your ISO will allow you to increase your shutter speed.  This is especially useful for shooting indoor sports or performances with limited stage lighting.
  • USE ARTIFICIAL LIGHT – Sometimes we run into the limits of ISO choices in particular photographic conditions.  For example you are shooting a portrait in a low available  light setting.  Facial details and skin looks best at low ISO values (100-200) and raising the ISO to a high value will produce less than flattering results.  The solution to this situation it to use flash or other artificial light sources to keep the quality you want.  More light is often a better solution than a higher ISO.
Digital cameras have very precise exposure refinement tools and a variable ISO option is one of the most important.  Understanding this feature and how to deploy it,  how to select ISO for your scene to make the desired photographic result is essential for good image making.
Interested in learning more about photography or would like to know about my photography education program?  Please sign-up for our email list. For the latest schedule of photography workshops and photo tour s go to our SCHEDULE PAGE