Secret Life Of The Flashgun

Auto

This is very likely to be your camera’s default setting and therefore the flash mode that your camera will be in when you first switch it on. In this mode, the camera decides whether there is enough light to take a picture without flash. If there isn’t, it will fire the flash and if there is, it won’t. It’s a set and forget option and the one most people will probably use most of the time.

Anti-red eye

Red eye is the effect you sometimes see in flash photographs where the pupil of someone’s eyes seems to glow bright red. It is caused by the fact that the built in flashgun is very close to the lens. That is why many cameras have a pop-up flash, to put more distance between the light and the lens.

Some cameras also have an anti-red eye flash mode. This switches on a steady light or fires successive flashes for a couple of seconds before taking the photograph. The idea is that all this light will make the pupil of the eye smaller and so minimise the effect. It sometimes works, but not always.

For example, if your subject is some distance away, it may not have a lot of effect. Even when it does work, it only makes the red eye smaller and you might still find it annoying. There are other downsides too. The actual photograph is not taken until the very last flash and that can be some considerable time after you press the shutter. Another thing is that it uses a lot of power and your batteries will drain much quicker.

Probably the easiest way to deal with red eye is to remove it from the photograph afterwards in a photo editing program because there is very little you can do about it when taking a picture using a built in flash. Probably the most effective technique is to ask your subject not to look straight at the camera but even that isn’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time.

Forced Off

This is where you start getting creative with your camera. If you have ever tried to take an indoor scene only to discover that the flash light totally ruined the atmosphere, then this is the setting you need. You also need to find something solid and stable to rest your camera on (unless you happen to have a tripod with you).

Most digital cameras are capable of taking exposures of several seconds (some up to around 30 seconds) so they don’t need to use the flash if nothing in the scene is moving. However, they do need to be absolutely still during the exposure, any movement at all will ruin the shot.

Even the movement of pressing the shutter button can be enough to spoil the picture but there is a way round this. Use the self timer. This is another function that exists on most cameras and, used in this situation, will eliminate any movement in even the longest exposure.

Forced on

If you have ever seen press photographers or other professionals taking pictures of people outside you may have noticed that most of them are using flash, even outdoors in bright sunlight – why?

The technique is called fill-in flash and it has two effects. First of all it “lifts” the darker shadows on the face, which helps especially on very sunny days. Secondly, it creates a very flattering “catch light”, which is a tiny bright highlight in people’s eyes.

You can use this professional technique yourself by forcing your flash to fire even when there is enough light to take a picture without it. This is the “forced on” mode. It is especially useful when taking pictures of people against a very bright background, like the sky, for example.

In this situation, without the flash, people’s faces usually come out far too dark. If you increase the exposure to compensate, you often find that the sky simply “burns out” to a flat white with no detail. This does not make for a flattering image. Using fill-in flash will make the faces brighter without affecting the exposure of the sky and result in a much better photograph.

Flash exposure compensation

Some cameras will also allow you to adjust the brightness of the flash when in forced on mode. Ideally, you don’t want the flash to be bright enough to overcome the natural light, just bright enough to reduce the heavy shadows. If you have the option to adjust the flash, it is worth experimenting with different settings, especially when you first try this out.

Take the same shot over and over again changing only this flash exposure setting between each shot. Don’t make a judgement about which is best until you have compared the pictures on a good monitor or print. Most people find that the effect looks best when it is very subtle. That is, with the flash exposure compensation in the minus range.

If the flash setting is too bright then the shot can look very unnatural, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it, everyone’s tastes are different. Once you have discovered the setting you like best, use this every time you switch to “forced on” mode.

Slow/second curtain flash

This setting is only likely to appear on more sophisticated digital cameras because it is a highly specialised way of using flash: but if your camera has it, this is what it’s for.

In this mode you will be taking a long exposure (possibly several seconds) and firing the flash during the exposure. When and why would you ever want to do this?

One situation might be if you were taking an indoor scene with something in the foreground that was in complete darkness. The flash would illuminate the foreground object whilst the long exposure would take care of the background. In this case you would control the lighting balance between foreground and background by adjusting the flash exposure compensation.

Another type of shot you can do is where a static object looks like it’s moving at high speed because there are “motion trails” coming out from behind it. This will only work if your camera can use “second curtain synchronisation”. If you try the technique described below, it will be easy to tell whether your camera has this or not.

You need to set up a shot with a long exposure and something moving in the frame during the shot. Without any flash, the moving object would just be a blur. By firing the flash, you also get a frozen image of the moving subject at the point when it fired. That’s where the second curtain sync comes into play.

If the flash fired at the beginning of the exposure (first curtain sync) then all the motion trails would be in front of the object and it would look like it was rapidly moving backwards. Using second curtain sync means the flash fires right at the end of the exposure and the motion trails will all be going in the right direction. It takes a bit of time to set up a shot like this, but if you get it right, the results can be spectacular.

Important Camcorder Features

When you’re searching for a camcorder don’t forget to look for image stabilization – a must when it comes to important camcorder features. A digital camcorder will offer either optical or electronic image stabilization. Optical stabilization is where the lens on the digital camcorder moves in accordance with the camera’s movements. Electronic stabilization is where images on the lens are captured onto the charge couple device (CCD), and internal circuits are used to interpret video images after recording is finished.

Important camcorder features should include a lens with optical zoom level of at least 10x. Some digital camcorders have higher zoom levels, but the higher levels may not be necessary in many cases. In fact, when a camera is recording at a higher zoom level the video quality can be poor as it is harder to keep still on something that is being recorded.

One of the most important camcorder features is a good-quality liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. This screen is what is used to display images that are going to be recorded onto the video disc in the digital camcorder. With a larger screen it can be easier to see what is being recorded, and it also helps to make playback previews editable. Larger LCD screens also have menus that can help to make customization of options on the camcorder easier, thus allowing for a greater level of control.

A digital camcorder’s built-in microphone records sound. Various digital camcorders feature zoom microphones that can enhance sounds in certain areas where recording is taking place. Some digital camcorders will also have a socket that allows for an external microphone to be plugged-in.

Other important camcorder features include a full auto switch (which lets you point and shoot), autofocus, zoom, quick review, auto-exposure, backlight compensation, audio/video inputs (that let you record material from another camcorder or VCR), digital still capability (that lets you take snapshots), built-in title generator, time-and-date stamp, time code (which is a frame reference of exactly where you are on the recording media — the hour, minute, second, and frame), remote control (which helps when you’re using the camcorder as a playback device or when you’re using a tripod), and programmed recording (self-timer).

The last of the most important camcorder features to consider but by no means least, is night mode. Some cameras have the ability to record images in darker settings with ease, and a camera with a night mode can help. Some camcorders will have an infrared or slow-shutter night mode to help with using ambient lighting in scenes to help improve the lighting levels for the camera. Usually a digital camcorder will have one of these settings, but some have both.

So there you have it, a summary of the most important camcorder features to look for in a digital camcorder. This type of camcorder can be great for recording memories and events, but be sure to consider these important camcorder features in one so that it can be used for everything you need out of it.

Take The Best Baby Photos Possible

We might not be expert photographers, however if we follow a few simple tips we should be able to produce some very good quality baby photos without too much effort. So that when we look back into our photo albums or we show them off to our neighbors and friends we will be proud of our efforts.

When I first began taking photos over twenty five years ago digital cameras were not an option. Film was quite expensive and so you took your baby photos or any other photo for that matter sparingly.

Today it is my recommendation that you go out and buy a mid priced digital camera. You can click away as much as you like without having to worry about the cost. What you do is transfer them all to your computer and then you can sort them at your leisure.

Just delete the ones you don’t want and keep the ones you do. You can buy a reasonably priced Color Printer and even print your pictures yourself or you can send them to a Commercial Printer over the internet. Or just take your memory card to your local printer.

Just remember when you are choosing your camera try to get a decent sized additional memory card to go with it. Standard memory cards won’t take too many baby photos at a large pixel count.

Buy a couple of extra batteries so you don’t get caught out when your batteries fail. Better still I would actually suggest you buy a camera with a rechargeable battery. Normally they last a day or two at constant use then need to be recharged. Or you can even buy a spare re-chargeable battery to use while you are charging the other one.

I always take my camera with me when I go out. So I am always at the ready to take the unexpected baby photos at a moments notice.

Try to take shots from as many different angles as possible. I am of the opinion that you don’t really know how good a shot is going to look until you have taken it and can see it either printed or on the computer. Remember it’s a digital camera so take lots and lots of shots because you are not going to keep them all only the ones that you like.

Image Stabilization

There is a third method that some digital cameras utilize and advertise as image stabilization. This method to counteract movement involves increasing the ISO setting to allow a faster shutter speed setting. This is not real stabilization. Also, be aware that image quality will go down as ISO goes up. I would avoid this type of stabilization.

Lens stabilization is obtained by moving the lens elements inside the lens that is attached to the camera.

Sensor stabilization is obtained by moving the sensor that is in the camera body.

Canon and Nikon currently utilize lens stabilization. Canon is more or less getting raked over the coals for not offering sensor stabilization. Nikon not so much. Not sure why Canon and not Nikon.

In any case if the demand is sufficient, then Canon and Nikon will both someday offer sensor stabilization.

So, what’s the big deal? With lens stabilization you have to buy each lens with the stabilization capability built into the lens. This can be expensive.

However, for those that want it and have a digital single lens reflex (D-SLR) camera, you can see the affect of stabilization through the lens. For some that is a big advantage.

With sensor stabilization you have stabilization for all lenses. That’s a potential cost savings. However, you can’t see the affect through the lens. Is that a disadvantage for you? After all we call these things D-SLR cameras because you can see the result of all your photographic techniques through the lens.

This controversy will be worked out over time.

In any case, if you do not have interchangeable lenses, you want have to be concerned about this. Even if your stabilization is in the lens, it is still build into the camera, since the lens is built in also.

Another potential disadvantage of the sensor method is that currently it performs better with shorter focal length lenses and not as well with longer telephoto lenses. Maybe the break point is around 200mm?

But like the controversy talked about above this will be improved over time.

Let’s talk about what stabilization, either type, does for you.

Basically, it allows you to handhold the camera in many situations in which you could not without stabilization. This allows you to get fewer blurry photographs.

By moving the lens elements or the sensor, the light path or optical plane is changed so that the effect of camera movement or vibration is lessened.

So, if you’ve got shaky hands, you get a break that results in better photographs because they are sharper.

This technology is becoming available for nearly all digital cameras – not just the high end cameras and not just digital single lens reflex cameras.

Stabilization is a great benefit in many situations. It allows you to handhold the camera at lower shutter speeds – 2 to 4 stops slower depending on the stabilization technology built into your camera.

However, if you need to use a really slow shutter speed it will not help you to hold the camera steady enough to obtain sharp pictures. How slow? That is really somewhat photographer dependent. Your abilities to handhold a camera may be very good. Mine may not. Most photographers experience problems handholding a camera at lower shutter speeds and when using the longer focal lengths.

In general, however, if you need a shutter setting of somewhere around 1/3 of a second or slower, you will need to get your tripod out or maybe select a shorter focal length lens or zoom.

The other situation where stabilization will help is when using a telephoto lens. The longer lenses tend to magnify movement and make blurry photographs.

So, if you have shaky hands, or a need to use lower shutter speeds, then stabilization just might be the counteraction that you need to extend you photographic experience and the quality of your digital photographs.

About Night Club Photography

Shutter Priority

Tv Mode on Canon cameras, Shutter priority allows you to manually select your camera’s shutter speed. It is best to use this mode in night club photos because a trained photographer will know that Aperture priority (Av mode on Canon cameras) will hold the shutter open for too long and your photos will result in lens shake.

Hand shake will be an issue with night club photography as you are unable to use a tripod. However the traditional rule (on non-IS lenses) is that your shutter speed should be close to that of your focal length. For example if i was taking a picture at 18mm then my shutter speed should be about 1/20s. I beg to differ. I feel that the minimum shutter speed for a camera is 1/8s , yes… that slow. I tend to range my shutter speeds between 1/4 and 1/8, very rarely venturing as fast as 1/30s or even 1/60s for dancers, etc.

ISO

Dependant on your camera, and I am lucky enough to have a Digital lens without too much problems, the ISO rating you use should be set as high as possible. Trial and error is important because if you set the ISO too high, not only do you get a large amount of noise, but undesired lighting seems to ‘leak’ onto your subjects. I personally stay around the ISO 400 mark however ISO 800 is generally feasible, although skin tones degrade, I reserve ISO 1600 for pictures of the general crowd to make the scene more vibrant. I believe the ISO is heavily dependent on the camera and lens though as my good friend has a Canon 5D accompanied with an L glass lens, he prefers to shoot at ISO 100 (which would be near-impossible for me in low light conditions).

Unsharp Mask

Using the unsharp mask makes it possible for your digitally corrected or resized images to maintain a high quality appearance. If you regularly downsize your pictures (for faster loading on web pages for example) then you may notice that the usual Sharpness function creates a more unnatural
look in smaller sizes images. The unsharp mask, however, because of its adjustability, can produce much better results. It can even increase the sharpness of photos taken directly from your digital camera.

From personal experience, I make sure that I make all other adjustments to a picture before resizing. For example contrast adjustment, saturation adjustment and any noise reduction. I then resize in steps (VERY important), not all in one go, as I feel this retains more of the original picture quality. Only at the very end of the process, when I’m ready to print for example, do I adjust sharpness, and
ONLY with the unsharp mask tool, not the normal sharpness adjustment.

In PaintshopPro 10, use the unsharp mask as follows:

To apply low- and high-frequency sharpening

  • Choose Adjust > Sharpness > Unsharp > Mask.

The Unsharp Mask dialog box appears.

  • Set a value from 0.01 to 100.00 in the Radius control to specify the distance (radius) within which the command looks for dissimilar pixels to sharpen.

Higher Radius settings tend to be more suited for softer images, or those with a large subject; photos with lots of fine detail usually require lower Radius settings.

  • Type or set a value from 1 to 100 in the Strength control to specify the overall strength of the command.
  • Type or set a values from 1 to 100 in the Clipping control to specify lightness values that adjacent pixels must have before they are sharpened.
  • Click OK.

Some people have reported that using the unsharp mask before each resizing step can give superior results. Its not something that I have noticed in my own work, but feel free to try it out. But whatever you prefer, make sure its the LAST thing you do to your picture before you call in ‘finished.’

Avoiding Blurry Images

There may be a digital photography technique that will have you shooting clearer photos in no time.

  • Taking Pictures too Quickly. Because digital camera remove the worry of wasting film most photographers end up snapping photos left and right without taking the time to stop and think about the shot. Snapping pictures “as you go” often results in blurry pictures so stop, line up your shot, and shoot while perfectly still.
  • Rushing the Auto Focus. Many times when taking a picture a person will simply point the camera and push the button down fully to snap the picture. Instead, try this digital photography technique–once you are ready to take the picture, you should push the button down only half way and allow the auto focus to do its job. Once the camera has properly focused on the subject you are photographing you may then push the button down the rest of the way. This should help fix blurry pictures.
  • Not Allowing for Shutter Lag. Many digital cameras, and especially the less expensive ones, may take up to a full half second to finish taking the photo after you have shot the picture. This time can increase if you have chosen to push the button down fully the first time and not allowed the auto focus a chance to engage. Avoid this mistake by holding still and waiting a full one to two seconds after shooting the picture before moving. This will account for any shutter lag and allow the picture to be fully taken before the camera is moved.
  • Too Much Zoon or the Wrong Mode. Using the zoom feature of your camera will enhance the effects of the “shaking hand” syndrome. It’s best to only use zoom when you cannot physically get closer to the subject yourself. Another digital photography technique to avoiding blurry images is using the correct camera mode when shooting. Action shots require a faster shutter speed than stationary shots. Be sure to read your camera’s manual on choosing different shooting modes and don’t be afraid to experiment shooting in different modes for the same picture. Practice will have you choosing the correct modes more and more and avoid blurry pictures.

Zooming with Video Camcorder

Trying to get a good close-up by using the zoom lens is difficult because a long lens inherently has a shallow depth-of-field. This makes it hard to keep anything in focus. Plus, if the camera can not easily distinguish what to focus on, it’ll go bonkers and drift in and out, which can totally ruin your video.

Another things that makes zooming in for close-ups a bad idea is that on a zoomed-in telephoto setting, camera shake appears magnified, giving what we snobby pros sarcastically call earthquake video, spastic-cam and puke-inducing effects. A zoomed in shot can look so shaky you have to judge it on the Richter scale!

So…sorry to be the one to break it to you, but your zoom lens is of minimal use. That’s not to say that a good, locked-down-on-the-tripod-zoomed-in shot CAN’T look great, it’s just not as easy as it looks.

To make your zoomed-in shots look professional, you HAVE to use a tripod, (or something as a substitute). Even on a tripod, camera shake often ruins a fully zoomed-in shot, so lock your tripod down tightly and pray the wind doesn’t blow. The longer your zoom, the shakier it’ll look and the harder it will be to focus.

An auto-focus lens on full zoom can have an impossible time trying to figure out what to focus on if there are multiple possibilities in your shot. To avoid that problem, make sure nothing in the foreground or background is close enough to the middle of the frame so as to confuse your camera.

A professional-looking zoom will be slow, steady and smooth. Novices tend to move the camera a lot and zoom in on everything just as fast as the lens will go. Doing so will mark you as an amateur quicker than anything else. Slow down and let the auto zoom glide smoothly to a logical resting place. In other words, when your zoom is finished, the shot should be nicely framed up and not just be the middle of whatever it is you’re zooming in on.

Constantly zooming in and out is BAD TECHNIQUE. There’s really no argument about it, but novices tend to argue anyway. Generally speaking, it’s much better to cut from a wide shot to a close-up than to zoom in. Watch TV if you don’t believe me. You will NEVER see a ton of zooms in a professional done TV show.

Share Photos Online

Bringing family and friends right into the action is almost instantaneous. Your online photo albums can be viewed by family and friends form anywhere in the world as long as they have a PC and internet access they can browse your own family albums and share all the experiences. Photo albums are a great way to express your family history, document a new birth in the family, share the joyous occasion of a family wedding and in general, document those fleeting moments that might very well just fade away with time.

If you happen to have a whole bunch of family photos that are not in digital format but would like to place them in your online photo album then a little more work is needed to place them online. Firstly you will have to have access to a scanner. Scan in the image and then you will be able to upload them to you photo album script. This probably may seem like a daunting task but it is actually quite an easy process. If you are not technically inclined or cannot afford the time to follow this route, then any photo developing business will gladly transfer your Kodak moments to digital format for you, for a small fee of course, but well worth it.

Creating an online photo album is not just restricted to documenting your family life. It can also be used to for business purposes, for example, if you are a professional photographer use this awesome facility to bring all your pictures to the world, document a road trip or even create a gallery of properties for sale if you happen to be an estate agent. Most online photo album scripts will have a shopping cart facility whereby you can sell your prints to the general public turning your gallery into a cash generating entity.

Whether you wish to share your photo album with the world or just use it for friends and family viewing it is a great way to share those prized snapshots. Anyone can start their own online photo album, in most cases no special software is needed, making it easy for even the person with the most basic of computing knowledge to start and maintain their gallery. The gallery is mobile – in other words, if you are holiday or on that special excursion it can be updated immediately for instant near real time viewing enjoyment. Share the moments – share the magic of your very own online photo album.

Controlling Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the distance (depth) from the focus point that a photo will be sharp, while the rest becomes blurry. A large, or wide, depth of field will result in much of the photo in focus. A small, or narrow, depth of field will result in much more of the photo out of focus. Neither approach is better or right, and which depth of field to use is up to you, the photographer. You may have different reasons for choosing a certain depth of field including artistic effects, bringing attention to a subject, or crisp representation of a scene.

There are four main factors that control depth of field: 1) lens aperture, 2) lens focal length, 3) subject distance, and 4) film or sensor size. Your film or sensor is pretty well set, so you won’t have much luck changing that. Your focal length and distance to the subject are usually determined by your choice of composition. So the lens aperture is your primary control over depth of field.

Before I get to the tips, let’s get a few things straight:

  • BIG APERTURE = SMALL F/NUMBER = SMALL DEPTH OF FIELD
  • SMALL APERTURE = BIG F/NUMBER = BIG DEPTH OF FIELD
  1. Aperture Control – Large apertures (small f/numbers) cause a narrow DOF, while small apertures (large f/numbers) cause a wide DOF. To bring attention to a subject by blurring a background, shoot with f/numbers like f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6 – this is called “selective focus”. To bring the whole scene into focus, shoot with f/numbers like f/16 or f/22.
  2. Avoid Excess DOF – If you want to bring an entire scene into focus and keep it sharp, you’ll use a small aperture. But be careful not to go too small. Lens sharpness will start to deteriorate at the smallest apertures. Use enough to get what you want, and no more. You may have to experiment a bit to get a feel for how your camera and lenses work at different apertures.
  3. Focus Point – The DOF extends behind and in front of the point of focus. It usually extends further behind than in front, though. So keep this in mind when choosing your focus point; you’ll want to focus about 1/3 of the way into the scene rather than 1/2 way.
  4. Use a Tripod – As you stop down the lens for greater depth of field, you’re also letting less light into the camera. To compensate for this and maintain correct exposure, you’ll need to either use longer shutter speeds or a higher ISO. The ISO can only be increased so much before noise artifacts will become an issue, so you’ll most likely want to lengthen your shutter speed. If you’re shutter speed is too long, you’ll need a tripod (or some type of stabilization) to deal with this.
  5. DOF Preview – When looking through the viewfinder of an SLR camera, you’re seeing the world through the lens. You can easily see your resulting composition and point of focus, but the depth of field you’re witnessing is a little false. You’re seeing the resulting depth of field for the largest aperture of the lens, no matter what f/number you’ve chosen. Most newer dSLR cameras have a feature called DOF preview that allows you to stop the lens down to the chosen aperture so you can see the true depth of field. What you’re seeing usually gets darker because you’re letting less light through, but you should still be able to see the scene (unless the aperture is very small and it’s dim out).
  6. Focal Length – As I mentioned, your focal length is usually determined by your choice of composition, but you should know how it affects your depth of field. Longer focal lengths (200mm) have less depth of field than shorter focal lengths (35mm). Just keep this in mind when you’re trying to achieve a certain depth of field — you may need to alter your focal length in addition to your aperture.