It’s summer (although perhaps not in the UK), and that means it’s time to practice your outdoor photography a little bit more. The trouble is though, it’s not as easy as you may think. There’s a few factors you need to be aware of, but I’m not talking about aperture, or shutter speed.
No, something altogether more sinister…
Avoid Midday Sun
This is really rule number one, and it’s not just midday, I find it lasts from anywhere between 11am and 3pm. You basically can’t shoot in midday sun, and I’ll tell you why. When the sun is directly above us, it’s at it’s strongest, without the shade that is provided in earlier and later hours. There’s very little diffusion for the light, so your camera is just hit with this really harsh light that you can’t control.
With this strong light, there’s typically a sharp shadow too. You’re left with your camera not being able to properly capture either the light, or the dark parts of the photo. This results in horrible exposure.
But there are some things you can do about this.
Don’t go inside, step into the shade. This will make a dramatic difference to your photos, as you’ve managed to completely diffuse the light, and you can overexpose the background if you like, because it’s not so important. Your photos look great, straight out of the camera, like below.
Use a Polarizing Filter
If you shoot outdoors much at all, and you don’t own a polarizing filter, then that should be at the top of your next shopping list. The way polarizing filters work is by only letting light in from certain angles, so if we rotate the filter to how we like it, we can remove unnecessary glare.
The remove reflections from the ground, windows, water, etc. and they darken the sky at the same time. There are plenty of reasons to want one, and if you want to learn more about polarizing filters, click here.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but what are the golden hours? Well, they’re the hour after the sun comes up, and the hour, right before it goes down. What’s so great about these hours? Well, this takes us back to not shooting in the midday sun.
Rather than dealing with this really harsh light that our camera (and our eyes) struggle to deal with, the light in the evening is much softer. Because it’s low in the sky, it’s a less dominant force in the photo, we get a lot more natural shadows, and that suits our cameras dynamic range.
Have a look at the shadows in the photo below to see what I mean.
For the love of all that is holy, get your white balance correct. You may not realise it, but during the day, there can be very minor changes which will make a big difference.
The trouble with white balance during the day is that the light is constantly changing, and you have to do whatever you can to adjust for different light. You’re likely going to be switching from AWB, to cloudy, to daylight, to shade, etc, but this often won’t cut it. Just too far the wrong way, and it can give your photo the completely wrong feeling. Shoot in RAW and correct it later if you need to.
If you’re shooting outside, then chances are there is going to be some sort of horizon present. This isn’t always so, but it often is. There are basically two things you need to consider.
Firstly, is the horizon straight, and if not, do you have a good reason for why it’s not? A wonky horizon is going to throw off the viewer, and distract their attention.
Secondly, where are you placing the horizon? I would strongly suggest you read this post to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about: Horizons. You can dramatically change the feeling of your photo by moving where your horizon is in your photo.
It comes down to basically three factors. What is the most important part of the frame? If you have a beautiful sky, don’t go including the foreground too much. Where do you want your viewers to look? Is there a small element of the frame you would like the attention to be drawn to. Placing the horizon very low will help with this. Lastly, how do you want your viewer to feel? A low horizon can feel quite precarious, and a high horizon can feel suffocating at times. Work with what you’ve got.Thanks, Josh
I know the frustration, I’ve heard it before, and I’ve said myself.
“How do I just capture what I see through the viewfinder, on the screen?”
When you buy your SLR, your first thought is quality, and control. That’s what the camera gives you. So it can be incredibly frustrating when you pick up your camera, and it’s just not doing what you want it to.
From what I remember, it comes from a range of problems. The pop-up flash keeps kicking in, the shutter speed isn’t letting enough light in, or there’s too much blur, perhaps the depth of field is all wrong. The list goes on.
This post is all about knowing what to do to counteract these problems.
Follow these in order.
First of all, what you’re currently seeing does not involve a flash. Not even one, off-camera, behind a large softbox. You want to capture the light you currently see, and that means saying goodbye to the flash. This may cause a number of other problems, but this is step one, and something we can deal with.
The aperture control the sharpness and the depth of field of your photo. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field, the narrower the aperture, the deeper the depth of field. We will get to sharpness in a moment.
Picture this. You’re taking a photos of a landscap, using your kit lens, and the aperture is set to f/3.5. The aperture of f/3.5 is about the widest a standard kit lens will go, and this produces a reasonably shallow depth of field. This is clearly no good for landscapes.
So depth of field is something you need to consider when taking a photo. Do you want to capture something in the distance, as well as the foreground? You’ll need to use a narrower aperture, I would suggest at least f/8 or narrower. If it’s a landscape, consider focusing about a third into your frame, to make the most of the DoF.
Sharpness won’t be so much of a problem, but if you want to take the sharpest photos possible with your lens, I would suggest an aperture of between f/8 and f/11. This is typically where lenses are at their sharpest.
The second factor of exposure is shutter speed. You need to do two things when choosing the right shutter speed. Firstly, the speed must be fast enough to freeze/capture any motion in the photo. If you want to capture a moving car, you’re going to have to crank up the speed a bit, perhaps to 1/500 or 1/1000.
The next thing you need to think about is whether or not you have enough light for the exposure. If your shutter speed is too fast, then your photo may be underexposed, unless of course you change your ISO or aperture.
When working with exposure, I prioritise either the shutter speed or aperture, depending on what I’m shooting, and find the correct seeing for that first. Say I know I need my aperture to be f/11 for a portrait, I would set this first. Then I would set the shutter speed. I may need a speed of 1/250 to freeze any movement, but this would likely mean an underexposed photo.
So what do I do?
I turn up the ISO. The ISO always comes last in exposure. I set my aperture and shutter speed exactly how I need them, and then make up any difference with the ISO.
When I talk about shooting modes, I’m talking about manual, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, full auto mode, program mode, etc. You basically want to only pay attention to the first three listed there.
If you use full auto mode, it will use the flash at some of the most pointless times, it’s really a rubbish mode. Program is a little better, but you’re still handing too much control to the camera, and not yourself. Stick to manual or a priority mode, and you’ll be able to capture what you see.
If you would like to know more about manual mode, click here.
Do you ever find that you’re taking a photo of someone and the focus is moving in and out, in and out, never quite stopping where you want it to? Chances are you’re on the wrong focus mode, and this can really hold you back. To fully understand how different focus modes work on your camera, click here.
This is actually really important, more so than you might think. It essentially determines how your camera looks at a frame before deciding on the exposure. You can change how much of the frame the camera is looking at, where it’s looking in the frame, even give priority to where you’re focused. I find that when I’m not seeing the results I want with my exposure, it’s usually down to the metering mode, so pay this the attention it deserves!
The wrong white balance will change the colour of your photo, usually to either too orange or too blue.
For example, if you’re shooting in a tungsten light, and you’re on auto white balance, then chances are your camera is going to get it wrong. Your photos will come out looking too orange. You need to change your white balance to the correct preset, or use one of the other methods listed in this post to fix it. The wrong colour cast is not capturing what you see.
This is something that beginners don’t pay too much attention to, mostly because they don’t seem to be too aware of it. My biggest pet peeve is a really simple one, and that’s dead space. On Facebook, I’m constantly seeing group photos of people, taken by people who don’t know hot to frame the photo.
Don’t spend so much time focused on your subject, that you actually forget to have a look at what’s around you, and how you can include (or exclude) this in (from) the frame too.
Post Production & Dynamic Range
So you might be surprised to see post production here, but it’s not the sort of PP that you may be used to. We’re not looking to radically change a photo, we just want to change it to make it look more like what we saw when we took the photo. To do this, we may need to change the dynamic range.
For those of you who don’t know, the dynamic range is between the maximum and minimum amount of light. White and black essentially. This range is very large with our eyes, but our cameras (digital, at least) don’t have such a large dynamic range. To counteract this, we need to use PP to make some minor adjustments. I like to use the burn and dodge tools to finish of the photo.
That’s it, if you would like to download my free ebook, click here.
I’ve written over 100 posts on this website now, and as I look back on it, I realise that a lot of it would probably be lost to many users, who have only started using the website recently. This is Expert Photography’s top 20 photography tutorials; they’re the most popular tutorials on my website, as decided by the visitors who viewed them. Hopefully you can find something new and learn something today.
If you look at my personal portfolio, you’ll notice that I’ve got a good amount of night photography in there, and that’s because night-time is one of my favourite times to shoot. Shooting at night for me, came about from the fact that I didn’t really have too much free time in the day, so I would go out and practice my photography with some friends at night. It’s a slightly harder skill to master because the shots take longer to expose, I liken it to shooting on film; you think a lot more about your settings and composition before you shoot, which helps you to hone in your skill much quicker.
ISO is one of three factors which determine the exposure of a photo, along with aperture and shutter speed. To really get the most out of your photos you need to know what all 3 do and how you can use them. Read this post to gain a more in depth knowledge of how to use your camera properly and start taking expert photos. ISO doesn’t just effect the exposure of the photo, there’s also grain/digital noise, and the more you understad about what it does, the better your photos will come out.
Photography is subjective, and people’s opinions on what’s cliché and what’s not is entirely up to them. Everything in moderation is the key to avoiding cliche photos, as you can get away with doing certain things a few times before it becomes boring and repetitive. If you’re new to photography, then avoiding the list of cliches below will help you to avoid taking photos that may well be dismissed as amateur.
A good photo will stand up to criticism, without the need for clichés or post processing.
Knowing what the focal length means, especially in relation to your camera, is very important when it comes to buying lenses. This post will leave you well informed with the correct information at to what the lenses do, which ones are right for you, how to use them creatively, and all the technical speak you’ll need. It’s not just a case of how much a lens zooms, you’ve also go to be aware of the changes in perspective and the crop factor. This tutorial has had a steady stream of visitors since I posted it.
Shutter speed is the most obvious of the 3 factors that create an exposure, and it has the biggest effect to your photos. With a poor knowledge of how the shutter speed will affect your photos, you’ll end up with blurred results. This post teaches you the right speed for the right situation, as well as how to use the shutter speed creatively. This was the first thing I learned when I started photography, so that’s probably why I play around so much with different speeds and night photography.
If you’re trying to improve your photography, then it helps to know where you’re going wrong. This article is all about pointing out where you’re going wrong and what you should be doing to fix it. It’s not easy taking consistently good photos, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it becomes incredibly rewarding. I wish someone had pointed out where I was going wrong back when I started, I’m positive that I would have improved at a much faster rate.
Spring and summer is a great time to be outside, utilising the light that sun provides us, and shooting into the sun is a really creative way of capturing this. Shooting into the sun produces lens flare, but instead of it damaging your photos, you can learn to use it creatively to get spectacular results. It used to be something that I feared when taking photos, but now I embrace it, and adjust my exposure to produce some awesome results.
When I first bought my camera, I read the manual straight away; I used to take it on photo walks and read it before bed. This wasn’t really like me, but I knew I wanted to become good at photography and to do so, I was going to have to learn. I’d encourage everybody to do the same, but there’s only so much you can read in there; websites with lots of photos like this are much better. Here’s a list of stupid mistakes I made. How many have you made? How many are you still making?
If you’ve ever taken photos indoors, without a flash, and wondered why everyone looks so orange, then this post will definitely help you. White balance can be hard to master at first, but once you understand it a little more, it can become quite intuitive, and understanding white balance is absolutely key to making your photos look good. Auto white balance just isn’t up to the job these days, and I’ve noticed this particularly with Canon cameras, so the faster you learn, the sooner you’ll start producing better results.
The Harris Shutter effect is a lot of fun to play around with when you’ve got some spare time and is an easy way to impress friends. This effect can be used in just about any situation where you can keep the camera steady and is a great way to show movement in a photo. It works by taking a sequence of photos and overlaying them in Photoshop or GIMP, and using different colour channels to overlap them.
Shooting with the aperture wide open is a really good way of taking soft, naturally lit photos, as the aperture produces a shallow depth of field, and allow the maximum amount of light in. It’s also a great way of drawing the viewers eye to a certain part of the photo, as the majority of the photo will be out of focus. The photos in this post were shot on 3 different lenses; a 24-70 f/2.8, a 35mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.8, and even though the maximum aperture varies, they were still shot at their maximum.
Quality photos come from a good knowledge of how to take them properly. Taking sharper images are isn’t actually nearly as hard as you may think, the techniques are simple, and easily achieved by most people. I get asked all the time how I manage to take such sharp photos, and that’s the reason that I wrote this tutorial. This list will help you improve your images, to get the sort of detail you’ve been looking for, in 10 easy steps.
Metering is the process that the camera goes through to look at a scene and work out what the exposure should be. There’s a variety of different modes that you can use to best suit the type of photo that you’re taking and in this post we’ll be looking at exactly what the modes do and when you should be using them. Simply switching from spot metering to evaluative metering can have a massive difference, like it’s had in the photo below. It ignores the sun from the sky, and meters for the majority of the scene.
Working with models is a great way to experiment with photos that you couldn’t take on your own, and it often leads to even better photos as you have someone to bounce ideas off. This post covers everything you need to know about working with a model and how to act professionally around them to get the best results. Depending on where you find your models, will change how you should behave with them, but common sense applies to most, and it usually ends up being a lot of fun.
Aperture is 1 of 3 factors that create an exposure, so understanding aperture is a good way of getting to grips with taking an evenly exposed photo. There are also negative and creative effects of different apertures and this post will teach you what they are and how to use them to your advantage. Aperture is probably one of the most difficult parts of exposure to get to grips with, but when you do, your understanding will yield much better results.
Simply put: a photo is an exposure, and the more you understand about exposure, the better your photos will be. Once you start to grasp exactly what aperture, shutter speed and ISO does to a photo, you’ll know how to use them correctly and creatively. This posts covers how to create the right exposure for a situation, as well as the negative consequences of each exposure factor. There are also links to read up in much more detail.
I used to think of myself as someone who didn’t use the flash on the camera, but that was because I was completely unaware of the difference an off camera flash can make. I almost always carry one with me whenever I’m out now, even in the day time, as there’s a ton of different uses for it. We’re gonna start by looking at possible uses of the flash and then look at when you wouldn’t want to use it.
Natural light is type of lighting that we’re all very familiar with, but have you ever actually stopped for a moment to think about the effect that it has on your photography and how you can use it to your advantage? The difference between studio lighting or flashes and natural light is that we have very little control over it and its unpredictable nature, meaning that we have work around it, and with it.
We’ve all been there in a moment of frustration when we’re first starting out, wondering just why an expensive digital SLR camera won’t capture what our eyes are seeing, especially when a pocket camera does it with ease. That’s because SLR’s aren’t as intelligent as our eyes and they hand back the control that the pocket cam takes away. This post will help you to get one step closer to the perfect exposure.
The buttons you press on a camera to produce the right exposure in low light, are all the same as when you shoot in the middle of the day; the same rules of exposure apply, it’s just a little harder to get there. When there’s less light in a scene, you have 2 choices; either you create more light yourself or you change the settings on your camera to react differently to the light available. This tutorial is all about how to do that.That’s all 20. If you have enjoyed them, then I would encourage you to click ‘Like’ below and become a part of my rapidly growing fan page. Thanks, Josh.
I’ve been writing on this site for a while now, and I’ve put together a lot of good content, but the trouble is that a lot of it can be hard to find, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This post will walk you though everything that a beginner in photography should learn, and in the order that they’re supposed to learn it. Welcome to my 100th post.
You should know that there is now a video version of this post, and it can be viewed here.
The most basic and essential part of photography is exposure. Learning how exposure works will help you to take control of your camera, and take better photos. As you start to learn what shutter speed, aperture and ISO does, you’ll learn about the other effects that each have on your photos, which can produce creative results. If you only have time to learn one aspect of photography, then this is it, as you’ll start to move away from full auto or program modes, and learn how to use your camera properly.
If we cover exposure in the order that the light enters the camera, then the aperture always comes first. The linked article will explain aperture in much more detail, but to put it into layman’s terms, the aperture is very simliar to the pupil of your eye – the wider it is, the more light it will let in. There are side effects to using certain apertures, namely depth of field, but we’ll get to that in a post further down the page. I found exposure much more complicated before I learnt the aperture scale, so try to make sure that you memorise it, and understand the f-stop scale, so that you can use the knowledge to take better photos in the future.
The scale is as follows: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22.
After aperture, comes shutter speed. It will effectively take the amount of light that the lens has let though, and then only use a fraction of a second’s worth (usually), depending on the lighting situation. Different speeds can have different uses. You would want to use a longer speed of around 30 seconds for night photography on a tripod, but you may want a speed of around 1/1000 of a second if you’re shooting a fast moving subject. It all depends on what you’re shooting and how much light you have available. Shutter speed was the first thing I learnt when I got my SLR because I wanted to be able to freeze motion and remove any potential blur. Looking back though, I wish I’d learnt aperture first.
Once you’ve decided how much light you’re going to let through to the sensor, it’s then time to decide how much more you need. This may sound confusing, because surely you let in as much light as you need in the first place, right? Wrong. The problem is that you have to be able to change your aperture and shutter speed to suit your shooting situation if you want to get good, and unblurred results, but unfortunately this doesn’t always provide you with enough light. This is when you can then decide to increase your ISO to make the camera more sensitive to the light. Watch out though, because the higher the ISO, the more grain the camera will produce. More about that in the full post though.
Rather awkwardly for beginners, exposure isn’t as simple as learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO, you also have to learn about how your camera looks at light. There are different metering modes, that can be used for different lighting situations, which will better instruct your camera how your want it to expose. This is especially important if you’re not shooting on manual because you leave part of the exposure up to the camera. By using various metering modes such as ‘spot metering’ you can completely change the amount of light going into the camera. Understanding this may just be the key to understanding why your photos are coming out underexposed.
When you’re shooting in low light, you invariably have to widen your aperture to allow enough light into the lens, but this has one rather major side effect – shallow depth of field. This can be used very creatively, often to excess, but it’s not all good. There are many situations, such as group photos, where you’ll want to have a narrower aperture so that you can get everyone in focus. This tutorial will walk you though everything you need to know about choosing the right aperture for the right situation.
White balance is something I wish I’d learnt more about much sooner than I did, because I look back on some photos now and wonder what I was thinking. The white balance changes the colour cast of the entire photo, and is responsible for the warmth of a photo. It is effectively shifting the colour from blue to orange, from cold to warm, and it does so depending on which balance you choose. Auto white balance doesn’t tend to do a particularly good job, particularly with tungsten light, so the sooner you learn how to control it yourself, the more accurate your photos will look.
This was actually the first tutorial that I wrote, because at the time, it wasn’t something I understood too well. Have you ever wondered what the millimeter on your lens actually means? Or why people use longer focal lengths for portraits? It’s all discussed in this tutorial, as the focal length affects more than just the zoom, it changes the perspective too. I also cover which focal length you would use in certain situations, as well as their possible side effects. It’s really a worthwhile read and one of my favourite tutorials to date.
A lot of you may not realise it, but unless you spend about $3000 on your camera, then you’re more than likely going to be shooting on a crop sensor. That basically means that your sensor is smaller than professional SLR cameras, and that basically crops the image. This has a range of effects on your photos, as it’ll crop the image to a narrower viewing angle, and will influence your choice of lens purchases in the future. This tutorial is a must for any beginner photographer who wants to understand their camera more.
What can I say about the nifty fifty? What’s not to love? For those of you that don’t know, when I talk about the nifty fifty, I’m talking about the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens that can be picked up very cheap for most digital SLRs. It’s a great introduction to buying better quality lenses, and an excellent way of getting to grips with aperture. The article linked is a review and a guide, and I wrote it because I recommend this lens as the first upgrade that every beginner photographer should make. It’s easy to use, and for the price, will yield some excellent results.
It’s important to understand exposure, but if you can’t get to grips with basic composition, then you’ll struggle to take really good photos. I’m not saying that good photos always include compositional rules, because that’s often far from true, but it helps to learn these rules so that you can forget them in the future. That may sound stupid, but these rules are really only guides, and the more you know about them, the better your understanding will be of how a photo works.
This is probably the first compositional rule that any photographer comes across, and that’s for a very good reason – it’s simple and it works. The basic premise is that you divide your camera’s frame up into thirds and plant key objects in these lines, and the composition will work better. This often works really well and if you’ve not learnt much about photography yet – it’s a great way of dramatically improving your photos and making them more interesting. The idea is that the viewer gets to see more than just the subject and is free to, and encouraged, to explore the photo themselves.
Visual weigh is different to size or weight as we know it, and it’s largely down to different elements, such as human eyes and writing. When you can understand visual weight a lot more, you’ll start to understand how people look at photos, and how you can position certain elements in a frame to direct the viewers attention. It’s no so much a tool, or a rule, as it is an understanding. Here is the full tutorial on Visual Weight.
Balance in a photo has a big affect on how we feel when we look at the photo, as an unbalanced photo can make us feel uneasy, where as a balanced photo, will make us feel more relaxed. It really doesn’t matter whether you choose to make the photo balanced or unbalanced, but you should understand why you’ve chosen one or the other, and have reasons to justify this choice. Again, it’s one of those situations where the more you know, the easier it will be to produce the desired effect.
This was my 100th tutorial today, so I hope you’ve gotten something out of it, I know I’ve gotten a lot out of writing them. If you have any questions, please come over to Facebook and I’ll be happy to help. Thanks, Josh.
I’ve stated before on multiple occasions that I don’t use photoshop to process my images, but I do use Apple’s Aperture to make some minor adjustments to them. It took me a while from when I first started out, to really understand how to fully utilise the software and to work out what all the major settings did. Hopefully, with the help of this tutorial, you should learn exactly what each step does and how to use them to your advantage.
First off, lets have a look at how Aperture looks when we open it up – notice the order in the image below. The order that they’re listed is not random, they’re put this way because certain adjustments will effect others, and that’s why you’ll find other software such as Adobe Lightroom will also use a similar order. If I were to change the brightness first, that would obviously make it harder for me to adjust the exposure, so it’s best to stick to the order that they’re listed in, and that’s the order in which we’ll be learning about them.
Before we look at what each of them do, have a look at my orignal photo below as a point of comparison for each adjustment. I undo each adjustment after each step so that you can clearly see what happens to the photo.
I’ve spoken in white balance before in great detail which can be found by clicking on that link, but this is first on the list because it changes the overall colour of the image. You’re given a temperature gauge to work with and you can make the photo hotter (yellow/orange) or colder (blue) depending on how you want the photo to look. In this situation, I might make the photo slightly warmer, but I did a pretty good job in the camera. Here’s what the photo looks like if you turn up the heat. You’re also given a tint tool which tints the colour from green to pink for smaller adjustments.
This will have the same effect as if you were to expose your photo for a longer or shorter time. It’s similar to changing the brightness, only it does it in a much more intelligent way. It treats the whole photo as if it was equal, and turning up the exposure, lightens the photo. I’ve actually turned down the exposure on this photo though, which is common when you’re shooting with an off camera flash, into the sun.
This is a useful tool if you’ve got some areas of the photo which you’ve overexposed and want to repair, like the sun in the sky. It’s pretty good at recognising which parts are blown out, but I don’t tend to need to use it too much, and it’s not made a huge difference to the photo below. You may notice that the sun behind the model’s head and the lighter areas of her have have had their highlights turned down.
When you raise the black point, you’re effectively making the dark parts of the photo even darker. You can turn this the other way, but I very rarely use that. If you pay attention to your histogram much, you’ll notice that the graph is moving towards the dark (left) side, but be careful not to let it go the whole way or you’ll start to lose definition. I use this function quite often because it’s a lot more subtle than the contrast tool.
This takes the brighter parts of the photo and makes them even brighter, much like what black point does for the darker parts of the photo. Again, you need to watch your histogram to make sure that you’re not losing details, but you should be able to do this without looking really. If you were to turn up the brightness and the black point, you would effectively be turning up the contrast.
I do use contrast, but in very small doses as it tends to be very obvious when it’s used, and I prefer my processing to be subtle. The photo should stand up on it’s own elements, not the post-processing. Contrast will make the darker parts of the photo darker and the brighter parts, lighter. This is very handy if you want your photos to be more punchy, but watch that you don’t overdo it as it can start to look unrealistic. Overall though, a very nice effect.
This does exactly what it says on the tin, only I’ve overdone it in the photo below to help show you what I’m talking about. It defines some of the details in a similar way to sharpening the photo does, only it tends to work best on underexposed parts of the photo and bring them out better. I don’t tend to use this tool to be honest, I prefer to brush on sharpness where I need it.
This is actually a very useful tool as it has the ability to make the colours much more punchy, and although I’ve purposely overdone it in the photo below, it can look really good. The photo that I’m using doesn’t really need too much done saturation because the colours were already pretty good, but on overcast days, this tool can prove to be invaluable as you turn drab and uninteresting photos into something much more visually appealing.
This is another form of saturation which helps to make the colours more interesting and punchy. I tend to use this when making minor adjustments as the effect is much more subtle than using the saturation slider and the photos ends up looking much more natural.
This is found in the Highlights and Shadows section, and it’s a good way of recovering overexposed parts of a photo and bringing them back into detail. The only problem with this tool is that when I use it, I tend to only want to use it on a certain part of a photo and not on the whole photo, such as over facial features, so I’m left trying to find a middle ground. Still though, it’s a very powerful tool to have at your disposal.
This is the same as highlights, only the complete opposite. It will take the shadows of the photo and make them brighter, providing more detail. A good tool, but to be used sparingly in my opinion. When you over use it like I’ve done in the photo below, it has a tendancy to look too much like an overdone HDR photo, with all the highlights lost. I use this very rarely when I need to fix a photo that I didn’t get right in the camera.
Here’s my processing of the photo that we’ve been using and you’ll see that I’ve used very small changes. I make the photo slightly warmer with the white balance, and slightly darker with the exposure, while bringing in the black point and a small bit of brightness. The contrast and saturation were turned up only a very small amount and these helped to make the photo pop out a little bit more. As you can hopefully see, small, subtle changes are key to excellent post-processing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, I encourage you to come and say hi over on Facebook. Thanks, Josh.
I hear a lot of people talk speak proudly about how they only ever shoot in manual, and it’s inspired me to write this post, because, quite frankly, I think it’s a load of rubbish. Here’s the way I like to shoot and the different modes that I use. It's important to remember that whatever works for you and your photography is fine, just so long as you're getting the results you want.
I should start out by saying that I use Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual modes an equal amount, but I use them all for different things, but more importantly, different times of day and lighting situations.
When I have plenty of available light, I use Aperture Priority as it allows me to set my aperture to where I know it will be sharpest and usually the best depth of field. That’s usually around f/8-f/11, a couple stops larger than the smallest aperture. Shooting in this mode means that the shutter speed will change accordingly, and at longer focal lengths where you need a faster shutter speed to prevent from motion blur this may be a problem, but if I have to, I can always widen the aperture.
When there's less light, I find it best to use Shutter Speed Priority, because you can fix an under exposed photo in post production, but there's nothing you can do about a blurry one. If I'm shooting on a 35mm lens, I like the shutter speed to be around, 1/50 of a second, but I can hold it still for 1/25 if I need to. Again, the aperture will sort itself out, even if the camera's flashing a warning because there's not enough light, it will still take the photo. If you were to shoot in low light in manual, your camera would tell you that the aperture isn't wide enough and you need to wide it or slow down your shutter speed, but if you were to change it, you would essentially be doing what Shutter Speed Priority was doing for you in the first place.
Manual mode comes out in my camera when I'm in unfamiliar conditions, and more often than not, when I'm using my flash in the dark or when I'm in controlled conditions. I'll give you an examples of that; last night I was shooting with a model and I had my shutter speed set to 1/10, aperture of f/2.8, ISO 640 and my flash compensation boosted by 2ev. I know that because of the speed at which my flash fires, it will freeze the motion of the model and any camera shake that my hand may produce becomes insignificant. All this being said, I would suggest that everyone learn on manual mode because it's like learning to drive a car in manual – the more you learn, the more knowledge you'll have to help you in the future.
I've had mixed feelings about ISO in the past, but we seem to be getting along well together now. When I first started out, I knew that high ISO's made you photos grainy and reduced the quality, and back then, that's all I needed to know to not want to go near it. Now though, I've come around to the idea of a higher ISO as I work to produce interesting backgrounds in my photography. I use a low ISO when I can, but when I'm shooting at night with a flash, I hate having a dark and dull background because I'm busy relying on my flash to illuminate my subject. When you raise your ISO, you fill in much more background detail and in the right conditions, it doesn't appear to be too grainy at all.
In low light conditions without a flash, you'll want to lower your shutter speed, raise your ISO and widen your aperture to produce the most amount of light you can. In my photo below, I shot at f/1.4, for 1/25 of a second at ISO800 without a flash.
This is part of the reason that shooting in a priority mode isn't a problem for me is because I pay strict attention to the metering mode that I'm using. I've written a whole tutorial on metering modes, but I can tell you now, I only ever use 2 modes; Evaluative and Spot. Before I go into detail as to why I use those modes, let's have a look at the two modes I don't use; Partial and Center – Weighted Average. Partial is basically a larger version of spot metering which seems a little pointless to me and Center – Weighted Average is like a less intelligent Evaluative metering mode.
Evaluative is the most complex and modern way of metering that your camera will have. It collects data from across the whole frame and even gives priority to the area that you’re focusing on. The camera will look at a scene and see a really bright area like the sun and take that into account when trying to work out the best exposure – this will reduce the amount of contrast and silhouettes. This has different names for different manufacturers and software, but they all do basically the same t
Spot metering is like Partial metering, only the dot in the center is smaller, roughly 5% of the frame. This is good for smaller subjects and I personally use it over partial because I know that any light surrounding the subject, won’t be a problem. It’s a more advanced way of working out the exposure for your camera because it’s metering for such a small area; the rest of the scene may not be correct and that leaves it up to you to work it out on your own. I use this when I only want to meter for a small portion of the frame, like when I'm shooting into the sun and don't want the camera to consider lens flare or sun.
It's certainly worth mentioning that I only ever shoot in RAW these days so I don't tend to worry about my white balance too much as I can fix it in post with very little work. I leave my camera on AWB which is auto white balance to capture the majority of situations and then I'll fix whatever needs fixing later. I will on occasion switch to Shade or Cloudy, but I find that often the presets aren't accurate enough or the weather changes too quickly.
The only other mode that I use on a regular basis is Tungsten as I spend a lot of time using my camera inside in the evening, such as down the pub. When you're in these sorts of conditions, you'll typically find that the only light source you're dealing with is a tungsten light so it's nice to deal with that then, so that you have less work to do in post. The WB that I use massively depends on the lighting I use so it may be different for you, I just very rarely find myself working with fluorescent light.
When I'm shooting in RAW and working with model, I carry a grey card around my neck and get my model to hold it up to the camera every time the lighting changes, because I can the go into my post production software and use the colour picker to choose it as my neutral grey, which is a lot easier and less time consuming than doing it manually. If you don't understand much of what I'm writing about here, I strongly suggest you go back and read the WB post which has been linked across this page.
First thing's first, I have not used a pop up flash in years. Don't touch it, just stay away from it and replace your flash with an external unit – the difference is clear. I go into this is much more detail here if you're interested. Looking past that though, I use my external unit is three main ways; fill light, off camera to produce depth, and to light up a room or subject. I almost always try to diffuse the light or bounce it off of something where possible as it makes the light look a lot more natural.
I speak in detail about fill flash in my post on shooting into the sun and my post on fill flash; it's basically a really good way of fighting with digital camera's relatively poor dynamic range. You get to fill in the light where it's needed, and it works even better when you take your flash off your camera.
Off camera flash is another topic I've written in depth about recently, and I use it when I can as it creates a much more realistic look and adds depth to the photo. It can get a little bit hard to balance the weight of my camera and lens in one hand while trying to position the flash with the other, but I make it work where possible. If I'm out on a shoot with a model, it's a lot easier and I bring two flashes with me set up on tripods to make my photos look better.
Lastly, I use the flash to illuminate my subject or bounce the light about a room so that the subject is well lit. If possible, I'll try to bounce the light, but it's not always that simple. The photo below was taken with the flash bounced on the ceiling and that provided enough light for my to set my aperture for f/4.5.
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