So many of the photographer's hints and tips are not about specific types of photography such as portraits, travel or landscape photography, or even about your potographic equipment, but about the photographer's mindset. Here's a selection to get you thinking anew.
Once upon a time the picture you took was captured on the emulsion of a film and, apart from some minor tweaks during printing, was the one you lived with. But Digital changed all that. A digital picture is only the starting point for those with imagination.
You probably look at some pictures and say "I wish I could have taken that" to yourself. But that image may have started out as a relatively humble exposure and then been give post processing tratment to make the most of it.
Watch how Peter Eastway sets about taking a set of fine exposures of a tropical storm and really peps the image up. Lots of use made of Photoshop layers.
When using SLR or ILC cameras you have a choice to make about which lens to use for each picture you take.
But how well do you know your lenses?
It is clear that some are better than others at specific jobs, some have a wider capability than others. So the key question is - how well do you know yours?
Read this article by Australian phographer Peter Eastway as he tell you how to experiment and find out what your lenses really are doing to your pictures.
Cameras have a history of increasing the number of pixels with each new product release. We have seen digital cameras starting off around 1.5 to 2.5 million pixels (MPx) and now you can get up to 20 MPx readily and even more for big, and expensive, pro cameras.
Your Smartphone probably has something between 4 and 8 MPx even though the actual camera occupies a small corner of a hand sized technology packed package.
So what is a pixel and when does the number of MPx matter?
What is a pixel?
Digital pictures are made of small squares of photo information and each individual square is called a 'pixel'; it's a name derived from the concept of a 'picture cell'. These are the individual elements of the digital picture that are connected back to the separate parts of your camera's sensor that respond to the light falling on it.
Before we go on to the examples it is important to view this web page on a computer monitor as the size effects will not show on many smart phone screens, the size and resolution is too small.
Computer displays and resolution
This picture shows an image at a resolution of 200 x 150 px, that's 30,000px or 0.03 Mpx. You can clearly see the jaggedness imposed by the large blocks cause by the individual pixels that comprise the image.
This picture has bee recorded at a resolution of 1,000 x 750 pixels, 0.75 Mpx; it is shown here as only 300 pixels wide. Click on the picture to see it at full size (use our browser's Back button to return here). On any monitor or projector (other than the highest professional equipment) it is practically impossible to discern the blocks.
For on-screen display the largest resolution that can be displayed is that of the display itself. In recent years that has come to mean 1,600 x 1,280, i.e. a fraction over 2MPx. In practice, on a website, the picture only occupies a proportion of this space and our example of 1,000 x 750 will normally display well.
Photo Printing and resolution
However, the picture changes when we look at photo printing. Prining is inherently a higher resolution process as the final printed image is an analogue object and the resolution is not limited by pixel size. The limitation is now the acuity of your eyes.
Many experiments have been undertaken and it is established that the resolution necessary for a good quality printed image is 300 dpi (that's dots per inch, or pixel). Really top quality prints will go further, but you stray into Pro territory here.
Given the 300 dpi and the standard sizes of photo printing, what resolution do you need from your images to get good quality prints through the process?
|Width (ins)||Height (ins)||MPixel||Image PX width|
|6 ins||4 ins||2.2||1800|
|Width (mm)||Height (mm)||MPixel||Image PX width|
So, from this it is clear that if your camera has 10MPx then you can print up to 12 x 10 or A4 with good results.
Smartphone cameras are now 4 to 5 Mpx so should print up to 8 with excellent quality and be quite acceptable up to 10 x 8, quite remarkable for such a tiny device. But there's a lot more to know about Smartphone cameras; but that's for another time.
The effect of cropping on picture quality
Another factor to take into account is cropping. When you crop a picture you reduce the number of pixels that make up the image. To see the size of the effect, let’s do a simple calculation.
Let’s use some small numbers so the math is clear, say we start with an image that’s 400 by 300 and crop 10% from each edge. Our original image has 120,000 pixels.
Now let’s do that cropping. The width is reduced by two lots of 40 (10% each side) and, similarly the height is reduced by two lots of 30. Thus we have an image that has shrunk to 320 x 240 pixels, that’s 76,800 pixels.
The new image has only 64% of the pixels of the original image. Ouch!
So it really is important to fill your camera’s frame with your picture to get the best printed quality!
One of the bestt hings you can do to improve your portraits is practice. But it helps if you hacve some inspiration too. On this page you will find links to some expert portrait photographers, we hope you will enjoy them - and learn something valuable.
How to learn? Look at a protrait that you enjoy. Now look again carefully. Can you identify what it is about the photo that appeals?
Now look at the techniques used. Studio or on location? Can you tell?
Did teh photographer use natural light, flash, floodlights or maybe some of each?
Where is the light coming from?
How would you do it better? That's a tough question, but one that helps you to get to the heart of the shot.
Use your curiosity to 'reverse engineer' the image.
Striking and dark potraits from Malte Pietschmann
A selection of portraits from minsk, Belarus
A study of Nadar's portraits. Nadar was a Parisian photographer in the lastter half of the 1800s. His work was groundbreaking and still has many lessons for today's photograpner. Note the simple use of lighting and do take the time to view the video at the end of the post.
Into the mind of a master portrait photographer Arnold Newman. Iconinc potraits for you to study.
Most compact cameras, withor without zooms, have a range of pre-set scene modes. These include things like portrait, landscape, sunrise/ sunset, macro (close up) and fireworks modes. What these modes do is to set up the camera to a preset group of settings to maximise your chances of getting a great photo - without you having to learn the best combination of settings.
Some cameras go further and have an Intelligent Auto mode which attemptst o analyse the scene and then select the appropriate scene mode for you.
When do you first go beyond the simple Auto mode and go for a scene selection?
It's when the lighting conditions get out of the ordinary. If you are in a snowstorm the camera wil probably give you a dull grey picture - so select the Snow scene mode. If you are taking a picture close up of a flower, select Macro mode. Photos taken early in the day or towards evening also demand special care.
Here's a quick primer about scene modes.
And here's a detailed guide to many scene modes.
Most people love snapping the kids, who never sit still long enought for a "proper" portrait. But there' so much action that it doesn;t matter - they are still endearing.
So we then try out our photography skills on the teenagers and younger adults in the family. We can be wonderfully rewarded with some great shots, espeacially if you have been following the portrait hints and tips on this blog.
But what about the older family members? When people have gatheredd 50, 60 or 70 years of life experience this can become more of a challenge. Their skin doen't retain its youthful tension and plumpness; bags and wrinkles arise and the photographer faces a challenge. The subject can also become very self concious and may take some careful reassurance.
We all want pictures of our parents and grandpappy to treasure when they are not around. But making such a picture flattering without straying too far from capturing their character is quite a challenge.
So here's a series of excellent tips to help you on your way.
From studying may blogs and writings by professionals there's a common thread running through the process that they all take - and it boils down to three steps.
- Decide on the pose you want. Ultraclose head shot, head and shoulders, full length portait and so on.
- Decide on your equipment and location. What lens should you choose? Is he background integral to the scene?
- Determine your lighting. Natural/ daylight? Flood lights and/ or flash?
Now chat to your subject and help them to relax and enter into the spirit of the occasion.
Here's more of what the experts say...
Getting started tips for budding portrait photographers.
Taking portraits outdoors? Here are the five key things to think about to help you to shoot great outdoor portraits - even if you are in a rush.
Looking for inspiration? Read this wonderful article about Arnold Newman Figure in the Frame
Here's five great tips for improving your portrait photography, all with illustrations so you can see what the photographer means.
Moving on up, once you are getting the hang of portrait photography here are 14 great tips.
So let's look at just one effect - it's called Bokeh. That's when the background of a picture is out of focus compared to the main subject. Let's see it in action.
|Here we have two portraits taken in the same lighting conditions.|
The strong spring sunlight has been diffused by the overhanging trees.
On the left the picture is more or less in focus front to back.
On the right the background is out of focus and so seems diffuse.
This helps the viewer's eye to concentrate on the central image - the portrait.
How do you do it with your camera?
If you have an 'A' or 'M' control then set your aperture as wide open as conditions allow.
If you have 'scene' modes then select the Portrait setting.
If you have neither then get in close so that the background seems further away.
If all else fails then fake it with post processing.
Sometimes there isn't much time to grab a picture. Maybe the family is off for a birthday lunch and there's only a few minutes to get the shot of the birthday boy or girl.
So where to go for inspiration?
Check out these intersting takes on snapping the important picture that will capture the day's most important person.
Here's a tip from the Guardian photographers.
Today let’s look at the various different types of cameras. There are many different ways of categorizing cameras but let’s start by using some commonly used terms. For simplicity let’s look at them in order of general sophistication, and cost. So here they are...
- Smartphone cameras
- Compact cameras
- Compact zoom camera
- Bridge camera
- DSLR/ SLR
- ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera)
These cameras are by far the most used for taking pictures. They have grown in performance and capability to the point that the next category of cameras is dropping significantly in sales.
They have increased in pixel count to the point that normal snap size gives decent quality output. They are also improving in apparent low light performance, which has always been their weak point.
Their big advantage is that they are with you almost all the time and are readily connected to the Internet allowing instant sharing. On the other hand their apparent quality is flattered as the majority of photos taken are never used in a way where high quality is needed. Photos uploaded to websites generally do not need to be more than 1Mpixel in size, yet the latest smart phone cameras now exceed 10Mpixels.
These cameras offer a restricted range of settings and are small and very portable. The sensor is generally larger than that fitted to a smart-phone and, because they are designed as proper cameras are much easier to hold correctly.
However, despite these advantages and their low price, they are rapidly disappearing from most suppliers product lines as purchases fall.
These cameras, like the compact zooms that follow, offer a range of “scene” modes. These allow you to tell the camera about the type of subject so that it can choose the best settings without you needing to know about the technical aspects of photography.
With compact zoom cameras, alongside the settings you have just read about for compacts, the camera has a zoom lens allowing you to take photos that are just not possible with the simpler cameras and smartphones.
Here we see a significant departure from the features offered by the smart-phone as we now have a zoom facility.
The sensor size is still relatively small meaning that low light performance is still not great and there is little control over depth of field.
A few of these cameras allow direct control of aperture, shutter speed and ISO which is important for the serious photographer.
As you move up the scale so the size of the camera increases as well as the capability. Now we have reached the cameras that look like one of the big boys.
Yet, whilst the lens poking out of the front is a zoom it cannot be changed. The range of the zoom has steadily increased with each generation of this camera type and now often exceeds 20x.
These cameras also provide “scene” settings for people unsure about detailed camera control as well as providing access to the Aperture, Program and Shutter speed controls for those who do. This concept makes it easier for you to make the change as, if you are not sure about a particular scene, you can go back to the camera’s scene setting.
Sensor size is generally larger again, now getting up towards 15% to 25% of a full frame camera.
These cameras are characterized by the ability to change lenses, an optical viewfinder and sophisticated, professional type, camera controls. The sensors can be anything from a full frame 35mm sensor at the professional end down to around 30% of that for the consumer types.
The larger sized sensor brings with it a larger (and heavier) body and considerable expense at the top end with cameras and lenses both costing several thousand dollars.
ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera)
Recent developments have introduced a new breed of camera that is designed to provide the quality of the SLR without some of the size and cost.
These cameras do away with the optical viewfinder and so reduce the size, weight and complexity of that optical system. As a result the systems are considerably smaller and lighter.
DSLR Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net