Even in the summer we may end up with several cloudy days that are otherwise great days to grab the camera and get outside. Clouds are natures diffuser. They balance and soften direct sunlight which can make getting a good exposure difficult without getting “blown-out highlights” (where instead of detail you see solid white) and harsh shadows. Below are some subjects you can photograph where a cloudy day can be a great advantage.
Many flowers have reflective quality and/or semi-transparent quality to them. In direct sunlight it can be very difficult to get a good exposure and capture all of intricate detail, but the soft light on a cloudy day makes getting a balanced exposure much easier. [Photo by: Stephanie Stewart]
Like flowers, animal fur and feathers also have a tendency to get “blown-out” in direct sunlight. Branches also cause harsh shadows when photographing birds. [Photo by: Connie E.]
Water is another subject that benefits from a cloudy day. You will have less trouble with glare and can also use slower shutter speeds to achieve that “silky” smooth effect you often see in pictures of streams and waterfalls. [Photo by: Doug Waggoner]
Hopefully these tips will help give you a reason to take the camera and get outside on a cloudy day!
Now that the sun is out most of us are grabbing our cameras to take advantage of this time of year. One of the most useful accessories you could put in your camera bag would be a Circular Polarizer Filter.
Filters are screwed onto the end of a lens and come in different different sizes to match the diameter of a particular lens (e.g. 52mm, 72mm, etc…). There are many types, but only a few have remained popular with the advent of digital photography and the Circular Polarizer is one of those.
Circular Polarizers manipulate the light coming into a lens to several useful ends, particularly on bright sunny days:
Contrast & Saturation Example:
Glare Reduction Example:
The filter has two pieces and once attached you rotate the front element until the desired result is achieved. Generally you can find which size you need by looking under your lens cap or on the lens itself. If you’re having problems with glare or images that look “washed out,” a Circular Polarizer is a “must have” summer accessory.
I recently acqured a Rollei 35 with a bad light meter. The tiny 35mm camera is a marvel of engineering and made to convieniently carry something capable of capturing high quality "full frame" images. Carrying around a seperate light meter everywhere I go however kind of defeated the point so I had to go back and review something called the "Sunny 16 Rule," a basic guideline for getting proper exposures without the aid of modern electronics. After reviewing this I was reminded of how helpful this can be even in the digital age as you attempt to get the most out of your camera in manual mode.
The basic rule is, "On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight." For example:
On a sunny day and with ISO 100 film / setting in the camera, one sets the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/125 second (on some cameras 1/125 second is the available setting nearest to 1/100 second).
On a sunny day with ISO 200 film / setting and aperture at f/16, set shutter speed to 1/200 or 1/250.
On a sunny day with ISO 400 film / setting and aperture at f/16, set shutter speed to 1/400 or 1/500.
An elaborated form of the Sunny 16 rule is to set shutter speed nearest to the reciprocal of the ISO film speed / setting and f-number according to this table:
How does the Sunny 16 Rule help a modern digital photographer?
This rule can help someone with a modern camera is by simply providing a reference for the average manual settings you might need in a given situation. Knowing that when you go from bright sunlight to shade your settings should be approximately f/4 @ 1/125 will save you time and prevent you from taking multiple test shots. The Sunny 16 Rule is also helpful in situations where getting an accurate meter reading is difficult like when sunlight and shadows are heavily intertwined in a composition.
Adobe Camera Raw is a component of Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom. Raw image formats are more flexible when post-processing an image with a program like Photoshop. In the video below we show you just how powerful this can be as we attempt to restore a badly overexposed image in Adobe Camera Raw.
Click the image below to see the Before & After results:
The “close portrait” can be a very powerful thing. It makes you feel like you’re standing face to face with a subject. Every bump, wrinkle or blemish tells the story of a persons life. Below are some tips for taking compelling close portraits.
Forget About the Rules Close portraits are already a break from conventional photography so don’t let yourself get bogged down with rules. The main objectives should be emotion and story telling, beyond that anything goes.
Shoot “Wide Open” Most of us remember the first time we saw our local newscasters in HD and recoiled at the added detail on the anchor’s face. Too much detail can be off putting and when you’re nearly filling the entire frame with someone’s face this can be a side effect. Using a lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 – f/1.4) and using its maximum aperture will help soften the image and add some pleasant bokeh.
Don’t Forget the Light Creative use of lighting can also help accentuate a particular feature or expression of the persons face. Playing with shadows can also add more drama to an image.