Many of today’s DSLR cameras contain a little-used feature called a histogram. It sounds somewhat forbidding, but it is a great tool to check the exposure of your images.
The histogram is a graph showing you how color is distributed in your image. On the left side of the graph are the dark areas of your image – on the right side are the light areas.
In a properly exposed image, the slopes coming down from the peaks both on the left and right side of the graph drop off and hit the horizontal line in the lower left and right corners of the graph.
In an improperly exposed image, you will see one of two graphs. Either:
The slopes cut off on the sides.
The slopes hitting the horizontal line before reaching the sides.
Through trial-and-error, I found if I under-expose my images by 1/3 to 1/2 stop, I get a better exposure (as shown on the histogram) the first time. Once you learn how to use it, you can tell at a glance if your image’s exposure is correct or over/under exposed.
Find an extremely white scene a white-washed wall works great.
Meter and shoot an image.
Turn on your DSLR histogram feature and view the image.
Now adjust the graph by using your exposure compensation feature.
With summer here, now is the time to brush up on your baseball photography skills. As you prepare to capture baseball images, keep these five bullets in mind:
Get close to the action.
If you consistently see action happening in one spot, focus on that spot and wait for the action to happen again and then capture it.
Shoot action sequences as it increases your chances of getting good pictures and tells a story.
Shoot faces as they will make your sports photos.
Shoot at a high ISO such as 400, 800 or even ISO 1000.
Concentrate on Little League, high school or sandlot games as it is easier to get close to the action.
Position yourself close to either first or third base. Focus on the batter and anticipate the action. While photographing the batter, zoom in on some head shots and focus on the eyes. Some of your best facial expression shots will be just as the batter hits the ball.
Another great shot is the runner sliding into home plate. Since we know what is happening during this action, it is not necessary to show the ball.
For this assignment, find a local baseball game. Position yourself behind and close to either first or third base, depending on from which side the batters hit. With your DSLR set at the settings above, capture images of batters hitting the ball. Try to capture a batter just as the bat connects with the ball. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Many photographers don’t think about using their flash for daylight pictures. When photographing someone:
• Wearing a cap • In the shade
Make sure your flash is turned to the "on" position – the position where the flash will fire each time you press the shutter button. This will "pop" some light onto your subject’s face and eliminate the dark shadows.
1) Position someone wearing a cap in full overhead sunlight. 2) Take two pictures – one without using your flash and one with the flash on.
Sometimes you just can’t get your subject away from being in front of a distracting background. When this happens, here are some tips:
Moving yourself left or right
Getting yourself to a higher or lower position
Using a large aperture (small number) to blur out the background.
Other things to remember are:
The viewer’s eyes goes to the object in focus.
With a large aperture and focusing on your subject, your subject will be in focus and the background blurred.
Find a subject with a distracting background. Using a small aperture (large number), capture the image. Now, search out a perspective that minimizes the distraction. Once you find a good perspective, select a large aperture (small number) and capture the image. Compare the two images and note the differences in the background. In the first photo, you are distracted from the subject because of the background. In the second photo, with the background blurred and the subject in focus, the background is less distracting as the human eye goes to the object in focus (the subject).
With many photographers, there seems to be a certain mystique surrounding white balance. In reality, it is very simple – match the color of the ambient light to your camera. Most photographers leave their white balance setting set to Auto or AWB and let their camera do the work.
While in most cases this works well, you will run into situations where it gives you an off-color to your pictures. When this happens, select one of the white balance presets to match the light color. When shooting outside, use:
Daylight when shooting on a bright sunny day in the direct sun.
Cloudy when shooting with solid cloud cover or intermittent clouds
Shady when shooting a subject positioned in the shade.
If you notice a bluish cast to your pictures, select either cloudy or shady white balance setting to “warm” up the colors.
To see how white balance changes the color in your pictures, select a subject in the shade.
Now shoot three pictures – one using each of the three outdoor white balance settings.
Note the color differences in the color. The one shot using the Daylight setting will have more blue in it. The two photos shot using the Shade and Cloudy setting will have less blue and the colors will be warmer and more natural.
It wasn’t that long ago that a light meter was an indispensible part of any photographers equipment collection. That was back when people used film and if a camera had a built-in light meter at all it was pretty mediocre. Today digital cameras have more capable meters that do a pretty great job of guessing the correct exposure. Between that and taking a few test shots or bracketing, a separate light meter may seem redundant. There are however still some reasons owning a light meter can benefit your photography that we’ll cover below.
They Save Time I’ve seen people say things like, "it takes as much time to take a test shot as it does to meter." Which is true, but how often do you only take one test shot in a tricky lighting situation? I tend to average between 3-5 test shots. With a light meter you can take one reading and then recompute settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO until you’ve got the settings you want without taking another reading.
They Are More Accurate In general anything that’s dedicated to perform one specific task does that task better than something made to do many tasks. In my experience that is certainly the case using my light meter (Sekonic L-358) which gives me more accurate readings than even spot metering with my Nikon D300s. Aside from that anecdotal evidence, handheld meters can do measurements that most if not all DSLR’s can not do:
Incidental Metering: Where you you measure the actual light falling on a subject vs. measuring the reflected light like a DSLR does.
Flash Metering: If you’re using studio strobes the only to measure the light coming from them is with a handheld meter. If you do not have one you must take multiple test shots to determine your correct exposure.
Advanced Measurements: A common situation I use my light meter for is for balancing the light from a studio strobe to prevent shadows. Say I’ve got the light perfect on one side of a persons face but am getting harsh shadows on the other. I can take two measurements from each side of the face and know exactly how much more light I need to fix the shadows on the darker side.
They Are Separate From Your Camera Because a light meter is a separate piece of equipment they’re easy to carry around or give to someone else. A good example of when this could be helpful is if you’re assisting or have someone assisting you at a wedding. One person can stand behind the camera and one can call back light readings.
This is a complicated subject so if you’re confused don’t worry. There are a couple of great web videos produced by Adorama that cover these benefits in more depth:
Ever since I started calling myself a “professional photographer” I’ve found it very difficult to enjoy taking casual snapshots – my serious amateur friends have the same problem. I cringe every time a friend or family member hands me their point-and-shoot camera and then tags me as the photographer on Facebook. The pressure to always maintain a certain level of quality never goes away. When I got an iPhone a couple of months ago I discovered the app Instagram (now also available for Android phones).
Instagram is an app for sharing cell phone pictures that has “filters” you can use to spice up your pictures. Most of which to be honest, are pretty corny looking, but it does have one of the better black & white filters I’ve ever seen on a phone and that’s what got me using it (grainy black & white from a cell phone camera is okay, grainy color not so much).
After a few weeks I noticed that what began as a simple way to give my ego permission to take casual snapshots was actually becoming a useful learning tool. Because everybody knows the photos that show up on Instagram come from cell phones (except a handful of cheaters) I had no concern for technical quality. Because there are virtually no manual controls on a cell phone camera I didn’t even have the option to worry about aperture and shutter speeds. The only thing I really can influence is the composition – something that I think about when using other cameras, but something I’ve always considered to be one of my weaker spots in photography. Seeing how I compose pictures on my phone when there are no other distractions I’ve seen a lot of positive differences in my composition and I’m taking those lessons back to my conventional cameras. Am I ditching my other cameras for a cell phone? Absolutely not. No matter how sophisticated software becomes there’s no substitute for the optics and controls of DSLR’s. I do think it’s good to shoot with more than one camera though because of the challenges and techniques they may force you to learn without you even knowing it!
If you’d like to learn more about composition sign-up for one of our Fundamentals of Photography classes!
The video modern DSLR’s are capable of putting out these days is nothing short of remarkable. It’s also one of the camera manufacturers favorite new marketing gimmicks. Thepotential for people to make professional looking videos with an average DSLR really is amazing. There are some major differences between shooting DSLR video compared to shooting stills and even when compared to using a traditional video camera. Below are some tips for getting better better DSLR video.
Use a Tripod Consumer video cameras over the years got extremely good at coping with camera shake but DSLR’s for the most part do not have any built-in mechanism for compensating for camera shake (except perhaps Sony). While using a lens with "Image Stabilization" or "Vibration Reduction" may help, using a tripod will give you the best shake-free results as you can see in the video below.
Use an External Microphone My experience with making videos with DSLR’s is that the built-in microphones in them tend to be pretty poor. Especially on my Nikon D300s, the built-in mic picks up my hands making adjustments on the camera. It, like many other cameras, does have a microphone input and the addition of a shotgun mic like the one pictured to the right is very helpful.
Have a Plan Unlike taking photographs where you can pick and choose the few that turned out, video requires a much higher level of consistency. If for example you’re recording a wedding ceremony you need to find a place in the chapel where you can set up your tripod and also be sure no one will be able to block your view for the entire ceremony (either guests or part of the bridal party).
Hopefully these tips will help improve your DSLR videos. If you’d like to learn more ways to record video with your DSLR sign up for our DSLR Video class!
Night photography is one of those things that can be a lot of fun to experiment with, especially if you’re want to do long exposures to capture motion blur. At night you can do exposures that capture several seconds of activity before enough light has reached the lens to make a proper exposure. Below are some tips for capturing motion at night:
Use a tripod when taking your picture. This way everything not in motion will look sharp (e.g. buildings, streets, etc…)
Set your Shutter speed manually. You can’t trust Auto (A) mode in these situations.
Use a remote trigger or set your cameras timer to take the shot without touching the camera to prevent blur from "camera shake."
If you’d like to learn more about the effects you can achieve in Manual (M) mode sign up for one of our Fundamentals of Photography classes!