Blurry Photos – How to avoid them
Blurry photos with blurry subjects are usually never a good look.
Find out how you can avoid blurry images in the following quick video I recorded on the subject. Share in the comments section below if you have any tips for avoiding blurry images.
3 Tips on Focusing on Difficult Subjects
This post was inspired by reader Cassandra who wrote
“I just bought the P510… love love love it. Shot the moon- can’t believe the clarity. Shot a deer in the woods… couldn’t get it to focus past the tree branches- how can I focus on the subject during superzoom when there are objects nearby that the camera prefers to focus upon? help! ”
This is a really common problem for DSLR users, Bridge Camera users and Point and Shoot camera users alike. The main difference between them being the choice of focus modes available to each. The Focus Mode allows you to change how the Auto Focus system determines where the focus should be in the frame. In DSLR cameras you also have the option to focus manually. Let’s look at 3 tips which will help you with focusing on difficult subjects.
1. Check your user’s manual to see how many focus points you camera users. The focus points are the little red or green blinking lights you’ll see inside the viewfinder or on your LCD screen when you half press your finger on the shutter button right before you actually take the picture. DSLRS and some Bridge cameras will actually let you select which one of these focus points you would like to use. The default setting is Auto Focus Point selection where the camera choses what IT thinks you want to be in focus. 90% of the time it gets it rght as it usually focuses on the closest thing or the largest thing in the frame.
But if you are trying to be a little creative, this may not be what you want to focus on . This is especially true if you are using a large superzoom where you might be focusing on something really far away , through trees or slightly obscured by something in the foreground. In this case you might find it best to select the Center Auto Focus Point. That way you know that only whatever is in the centre of the frame will be in focus. Again check your user manual to see how to do this for your particular camera model.
2. But what happens when you don’t want your subject to be dead center of the frame. Afterall don’t we all hear about the Rule of Thirds for a pleasing composition? That means your main subject needs to be off center a little. In order to focus on off center subjects you have a couple of choices. If your DSLR allows it you can select a focus point that is over the subject that you want to focus on. You will have to consult your specific user manual to find out how to do this . Alternatively you can use the Focus Lock Method.
The Focus Lock Method is where you -
- focus on your subject with the focus point set to the center.
- Then hold your finger on half way on the shutter button. (If you haven’t noticed before, the shutter button of your camera has a point half way where focus is obtained and then you fully depress the shutter button to take a picture. )
- When you keep your finger held on the shutter button half way down the focus is locked on your subject. You can then recompose your shot to the left ror the right, up or down to reframe your subject the way you wish.
- Then fully depress your finger on the shutter button to take the picture.
3. The first 2 tips work very well for stationery subjects or at least those that aren’t moving too fast. If you find yourself shooting at your kids’ T-ball game, it may be a little harder to focus on a moving traget using the methods outlined above.
This is where you need to change Focus Modes. Again, you will need to consult your manual on how to do this for your particular camera model.
In Canon you’ll be changing from One Shot to AI Servo mode and for Nikon it’ll be AF-S to AF-C.
You can now lock your focus on your subject and keep shooting while the camera will constantly readjust the focus on your subject as you press the shutter button. Makes catching toddlers on the move so much easier!
P.S. For lots more in depth information about how to use your DSLR to the max check out my newly revised online “Master your DSLR” course.
Learning Photography – 3 mistakes beginners make using a new DSLR camera
Shooting only Auto Mode
If you switch your DSLR camera to Auto Mode do you know that you are only using about 80% of its functionality? That’s like having a zippy sports car and keeping it parked in your driveway (as one of my students rightfully stated!) Why spend all that money on a wonderful piece of photography equipment to do that? When you shoot in auto mode the camera takes over all of the control of your camera settings. It decides on exposure, ISO, WB and whether or not you need flash amongst other things. While you think this might be a good thing when you are just starting out, when you are learning photography you must challenge yourself a wee bit more. If you want to improve and have control over your camera you need to move out of auto mode learn to shoot in the Creative Zone.
Using the P, Tv (S), Av(A) and M modes correctly will bring your photography to the next level and although every shot may not necessarily be a winner you’ll be a step closer to improving your photography. Remember; we all learn by our mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make ‘em.
Using Flash Inside
Using Flash inside is something that most people think is a necessity. In many cases this is true as the light is just too poor or your subject is a wiggly 2 year old. There are many times however that it is possible to shoot without flash indoors – If you have lots of natural light, very strong artificial lights or when you want to capture the lights in your picture. These lighting conditions work well without flash especially if your subject is not moving, for example if you are shooting ingredients for a recipe. So to shoot with out flash inside you simply need to turn it off. However, if you are shooting in Auto Mode you will have no control over when your flash turns on and pops up. This is always the great giveaway as to when a photographer is using Auto. I’ve seen countless students who initially think the only way to keep that flash off is to press down against the pop up action of the flash unit … eh way to break your camera by the way.
Go ahead and turn the camera to P and simply don’t turn on your flash. In P Mode the flash will only pop up if you tell it to do so. The camera will make adjustments so that it will compensate for the lack of flash and you should get a correctly exposed shot. Shooting in low light can of course be improved by using better lenses and changing some other settings such as ISO but by just doing turning off the flash in P Mode you will have a good jumping off point to see which settings you can further tweak to improve shooting indoors with no flash.
Failure to have a specific Focus Point
When your photograph lacks a focal point the viewer of your image doesn’t know where to look in the picture and ultimately their eye leaves the image. Having a definitive focal point ensures that your photo is engaging and the viewer of the image gets what it is that they are supposed to be looking at. Usually the Focal Point of the Image is where your FOCUS POINT is.
Your FOCUS Points of your camera are highlighted to you within the viewfinder as red spots when your press your finger on the shutter button. Always make sure that your focus points are over the area of the image that you want to be in focus. If they are not, then you can reframe your image so that this is the case or you can manually set the focus point by accessing the focus point selection function of your camera. Personally I always like to have my focus point set to the middle point. I can then use Focus Lock method to reframe my image exactly how I like it.
If you’d like to find out more about learning photography and how to use your DSLR camera check out my new revamped Master your DSLR course.
Taking Better Food Photos
It’s hot in Georgia during August. Too hot to be slaving over a hot stove and that’s for sure. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been firing up the grill so much over the last few weeks. My hubby is a real “Grill Meister” and loves to cook out. Suits me too as all I have to worry about are the veggies which lately have been mostly salad straight from the garden – I know, I know, I’m turning granola.
Anyways, as usual I have to incorporate photography into everyday actives and last night’s dinner provided me with a great opportunity to shoot for my new upcoming course “Better Blog Photos.“ So while Sam was slaving away over a hot grill I was setting up some great food shots.
We also seized the opportunity to try out some awesome chicken from Zaycon foods. You can see from the pics this really was some of the freshest and tastiest chicken I’ve ever eaten. And Yes… of course Sam’s grilling technique played a part of it too
Like I’ve said many times before photography is all about good lighting and food photography is no different. One of the biggest mistakes for shooting food photography I see most people make is shooting with the flash on. This results in flat images such as this:
Food is a still object and therefore it’s easier to capture without the use of flash so I suggest turning your flash off and just using whatever light you have available to you. Remember that in order to be successful doing this you also need to hold your camera super steady or ideally use a tripod.
Already the picture is looking more appetizing and it’s only veggies
Now we see that the next issue that we have is that the color isn’t exactly right.
The lights that most people have in their kitchen, although bright may give your photo an artificial color cast. This can be corrected in your camera by adjusting the White Balance setting.
Look for the WB icon in your camera menu and consult your manual to see what the different icons mean. Change it until you get a more natural light effect.
Now that the settings are a little better I can think about composition a little more.
Rather than hovering above the food, lower your camera and take a closer shot from a lower angle.
Now I’m getting hungry!
Just by doing those 3 simple things -
1. turning off my flash
2. adjusting the White Balance setting
3. lowering my angle of view
I’ve improved my shot dramatically. Give it a try for your next foodie pics.
If you’d like to try out Zaycon food’s convenient food service, save some bucks as well as experience great food like the chicken above, you can check out their site here to find out more information. They have a pretty unique concept going on and it’s a great money saver.
If you’d like more detailed information on how to take better photos like this then watch out for my new course “Better Blog Photos” coming this Fall.
How Changing Aperture affects Depth of Field
Although I have many titles I am of course, a mommy first and foremost. The addition of my baby daughter in late April has mean’t that I have to be very creative in trying to make time to work, blog not to mention spending some fun time with my other little girl Sophie. So last Saturday I decided to roll these three things into one. We made these delish cupcakes and Sophie decorated them. She was very proud of her work as you can see spending 15 minutes decorating and 2 minutes devouring them!
Meanwhile I seized the opportunity to put together this mini tutorial for you on How Changing Aperture affects Depth of Field.
A lot of my students bemoan the fact that there is too much math involved in photography. And they are right – there is a lot of math! If you got down to it, it’s all about math and physics but where would the fun be in learning about that? What about the creativity of manipulating light and dark? Evoking emotion in your viewer. Perfecting your art?
So let’s get visual and forget about the math for a minute. What I wanted to demonstrate here is how I can alter the Depth of Field by Changing Aperture settings on my camera.
Depth of field refers to the zone of acceptable sharpness in a photo.
I took the following pictures of Sophie’s cute cupcakes in succession, everything else been held constant, just changing the aperture of each shot.
You can see how increasing your f number (aperture) REDUCES the size of the opening in the lens and hence increases the depth of field – the amount of the “in focus portion” of the picture.
Try this at home by lining up several similar objects – wine bottles, tomatoes, flowers, crayons – whatever you have easy access to.
- In order to make this as easy as possible for you make sure your in a well lit place
- Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode- Usually either A or Av on your Mode Dial.
- Keep your focus point set to the same point each time. In the above pictures I kept focused on the orange cupcake.
- Turn the mode dial wheel of your camera to adjust the aperture values.
- Take a shot at every aperture value or f/stop that your lens will allow.
- Pay attention to what happens to the shutter speed values as you change your aperture.
- Upload to your computer and view the images side by side. This will be much easier than trying to use your camera LCD screen to view the images.
Can you see the difference between shooting wide open with a low f/stop and shooting with a narrow aperture and a high f stop?
There is a lot more to depth of field and aperture than just this including concepts such as “The circle of confusion” – Ha! but I think we’ll stop there for now. If you get the above you’re doing good!
I’d love to see some of your shots so feel free to post them on the CameraShy Facebook Fan Page.
Growing As An Artist
This is a guest post by Larry Lourcey. Hope you enjoy!
Photography used to work kind of like this…. there were the pros, who had the high-end, mega cameras and the amateurs who had point and shoots. The line between great artists and everyday shooters was pretty easy to spot. Things have changed now with digital. Technology has allowed even a part-time amateur to have a camera that isn’t much different than what the pros use.
So how do you set yourself apart from the pack? Quite simply, you do it by growing as an artist.
Now there are two components to this process – input and output. I wrote a blog article a while back about the first part. Basically, you have to feed your brain with creative nutrition if you want it to work for you.
The second part is practice. You won’t get better at photography by thinking up great concepts, you have to actually try to create them. Are you going to fail on some of this projects? Absolutely. Is your vision always going to translate to the printed image? Nope. Will it help you to grow as an artist? You bet! So where do you start?
I’m a big fan of self-assignments. What this means is that you come up with an idea and give yourself a deadline to get it done… then actually DO it. I’ll even give you a few ideas to get you started:
Do a series of self portraits. I’ve done this one and it is much tougher than it sounds. The good news is, you always have access to the model!
Grab your favorite CD and create an image to illustrate each song on the album. It can illustrate the meaning of the song or maybe just a literal portrayal of the title. Lots of wiggle room here!
Do a series of 12 portraits, each representing a month of the year.
Photograph landmarks of your hometown – just do it in a creative way.
There are literally thousands of ideas you can come up with. The concept isn’t nearly as important as the execution. Pick one and go for it. You’ll be surprised what you come up with!
Larry Lourcey is a professional portrait artist, located in Plano, Texas. In addition to his Photography Blog, he also has a website dedicated to photography education . You can follow him on Twitter at @larryphoto
Optical Zoom vs Digital Zoom – What’s the difference?
This week on the blog I did a review of the Nikon P100. I was inspired to do so because of a video my dad , Joe made about it at Diamond Imaging. You can check out the video here and see him do a hands on review of some of the best features of this camera.
One of the most powerful features that struck me is the size of it’s Optical zoom lens. You can see the pictures we took with the camera, standing from the same spot and you’ll notice how much you can see with that optical zoom lens without loosing any quality – it’s pretty cool!
Nearly every digital camera has some form of an optical zoom lens these days and it’s almost something that we have come to expect. It’s rare to see a compact camera with a fixed focus lens – usually this is left up to the camera phones although these are even beginning to have zoom lenses too.
Most camera have both an Optical Zoom lens and a Digital Zoom lens – so what’s the difference?
Optical Zoom Vs Digital Zoom
An Optical Zoom lens will allow you to take subjects that are much further away without loosing any quality. The camera uses the true optical capacity of the cameras lenses to magnify you subject hence rendering a clear crisp image. You’ll see the size of the optical zoom of your compact camera denoted somewhere on your camera body or perhaps on the side of the lens e.g. 3X Zoom, 5X zoom, or in the P100′s case 26X Zoom.
A Digital Zoom is quite different Instead of using the optics in the camera lens to bring you closer to your subject, the digital zoom simply digitally magnifies the image that you already can see through your viewfinder. This has the same effect as what happens if you zoom in on a picture on you computer, in effect magnifying the pixels. You loose resolution or picture quality. Lot’s of compact cameras will boast a large digital zoom but in reality this means little to what your camera can do.
Most compacts have a combination of an optical and digital zoom. When buying a new compact camera always be clear if the zoom size advertised on the box is the true optical zoom or if iti is in fact the combined size of the digital and optical zoom. Some manufacturers have been known to use this misleading marketing ploy.
How do I know which zoom is working?
You can see which zoom is in operation on your camera by one of the following methods:
1. Listening – You can usually hear the mechanics of an optical zoom in action. A digital zoom is silent.
2. Look at your lens in the front of the camera – is it moving in and out? -If yes then it’s the optical zoom lens in operation. No movement while you zoom usually means you are now using your digital zoom.
3. Look for the icon on the back of your camera that indicates that your zoom is in operation. This is usually a scale with a bar illustration from W – T. (W meaning wide angle and T meaning Telephoto.) Sometimes when you begin to use your digital zoom the color of this bar will change to red. And sometimes there’s an indicator on your camera LCD screen like a dividing line showing you that you are now in your digital zoom area. Check out your own camera manual to see which one applies to you.
I always suggest to my students, to turn off the digital zoom capabilities of their camera so that they will not be tempted to use it and hence loose quality. You can do this simply by going into your cameras set up menu and turning off the option for Digital zoom.
All in all a digital zoom really doesn’t add any value to your pictures with the exception of that one time where you really just want to see what’s going on really far away from you. You might be able to make out the scene but the resulting picture will not be too hot.
My advice – if you really need to get closer then firstly – Move Your Feet!
Learn a Mode Monday – Digital Macro Photography
Welcome to the first ever Learn a Mode Monday – my new mini-series on learning all about one of those little icons on your camera! Today we are all about that little flower on your mode dial i.e. Digital Macro Mode. This is absolutely one of my favorite modes for really making Wow Pictures and one of the easiest skills to acquire in beginners photography. Want to capture that ickle bumblebee sitting on the azalea bloom? How about getting that close-up of the detail on your wedding dress? Digital macro photography is what you need to master!
1. First find your subject – something small like a bee, a bloom, a coin – anything tiny.
2. If you are indoors switch off your flash as it will only bounce back off your subject and the picture will appear blown out. If you do this you will most likely need to use a tripod or have a very steady hand! Best option – head outdoors into natural daylight.
3. Next, find the Macro Mode on your camera – it’s usually an icon of a little flower something like this :
4. Position your subject so it is well lit and that you are not casting your own shadow over it. Opt for a plain background if you have the choice, something with little or no distractions in it.
5. Rather than using your zoom to get closer to your subject, leave your lens at it’s widest setting and physically move yourself closer to your subject until you have filled the frame with your subject.
6. Slightly depress your shutter button so that your camera finds it’s focus. If you can’t focus, move slightly back and retry. Repeat this process until your camera allows you to take a sharp, in-focus shot.
7. Bingo! You’ve managed to capture the full beauty of that tiny, little flower Well done!
It may take you a while to get the hang of this process but once you do you will be hooked. Ask my mother in law – She turned from a photography novice to a real pro at taking macro shots all over the Costa Rica rain forest!
Please post your best Macro shots below with any questions or just to show off!
Bonus Tip: Compact cameras are usually way better at getting close up macro shots than DSLRs. If you have a DSLR, and you want to do lots of specific Digital Macro Photography you’ll need to invest in a good macro lens such the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens for Canon users or the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR for Nikon users.
If you’re just trying to get the best digital macro shot check out the new Powershot G12 from Canon. It will allow you to get super close ups with a closest focusing distance of you a mere 1cm.
For more Learn a Mode Tutorials from Ingrid click here
Your Camera Mode Dial Explained
It’s been a while, I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you guys! I’ve no excuses other than I’ve been super busy with my new online course “Getting to Grips with your DSLR” So I’ve decided that I’m going to make a better effort to post here at the blog and in particular, make some more videos. I recently got an email from Katie, in Dublin who chastised me for not making more videos and I really feel like I’ve let you guys down. So lots more to come – I promise…
In the meantime, check out the video below and leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts.
What’s that spot? – DSLR Cleaning
I just had an email from a student of mine who has started to notice some blurs and spots on her images. She’s cleaned her camera lens and her filters – where can this dirt be?
Well the fact of the matter is that there are tiny specs of dust inside her camera on the actual camera sensor. A DSLR’s sensor or CCD is an electromagnetic device and because of this, dust particulars are easily attracted to it. It’s a bit like the way dust attracts itself to your TV screen like a magnet – same concept.
Does my DSLR need Cleaning?
If you want to see if your camera has sensor dust try the following:
Set your camera’s aperture to f22 in the Aperture Priority mode.
Then take a few shots of a plain white piece of paper or if you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements take a picture of a blank white canvas on your computer screen.
The result will look something like this:
Ugh! Black spots! that’s one dirty sensor!
The can be removed in Photoshop but it really is a pain to do lots of shots like this.
What you need is a little sensor cleaning!
DSLR Cleaning Tips
The problem is that cleaning this sensor can be a tricky job one and having been in the business, I never recommend doing it yourself. In my opinion, unless you are very confident and know precisely what it is you are attempting, leave this job to the professionals. Find your local camera service centre and ask for a service quotation which should include sensor cleaning. Then shop around till you find the best deal.
The best thing you can do is try to avoid this problem in the first place.
- Keep your camera body attached to a lens at all time. There is no need to separate the lens from the body unless your are changing lenses.
- When you are changing lenses do it as swiftly as possible and try not to do it in very dusty/sandy windy environments
- Store your camera in a specific camera kit bag link
- Vacuum out the inside of the bag on a regular basis
- If you do have to get your camera senor cleaned try and go to a local service centre where possible so that you can have a faster turn around time than mailing off your camera body back to the manufacturer.
If you are interested in cleaning your sensor yourself this is a really great website which goes through the procedure step by step.
Be warned though this is not my recommendation and if you mess up your sensor – bye bye warranty and sometimes byebye camera….
Best idea – keep it clean people!
Image thanks to petar_c http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceklic_petar/1208075186/