Saturday, October 19, 2013

Using fill flash

The flash built into your camera can add extra light to the foreground of a subject even when the subject and scene overall are well lit.

If you can't decide whether the front of your subject is well lighted, stand off a few feet and use the flash to fill in extra light. Don't stand too far away because a flash may only cover out to 6 or 8 feet from the camera.

If you are shooting in a location where the burst of light from your flash would be rude, or prohibited as in a theater, gallery, museum or church, use Program mode to increase the camera's shutter speed. Don't change the aperture.

Raising the ISO

To increase the shutter speed in Program mode, raise the ISO starting at 800. Keep increasing the number until you get a fast enough shutter speed that permits you to handhold the camera. That's probably going to be 1/30 second or faster.  If you must use a slower shutter speed, make sure image stabilization is turned on if your camera has that feature.

If you are shooting indoors, where lighting typically is poor, hold the camera steady with a tripod or by propping it against a wall, chair, stack of books, pillows, or bench. Breathe slowly with a natural rhythm as you gently press the shutter release.

Inside, where the color of ambient light varies, turn on Auto White Balance (AWB).

A camera may have various white balance modes, but Auto and Daylight are the most important.

Auto White Balance

AWB controls how colors look in your camera.

It corrects the color of light indoors, outdoors under streetlights and event lighting. It removes the color cast from artificial lights to make a scene look more natural.

Daylight White Balance

Daylight White Balance helps you hold onto the colors you see in natural light, like a golden sunset, blue dusk, or a foggy morning.  It doesn't work well with fluorescent or tungsten lights.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Still photography vs. video

photojournalist with smartphone
The Chicago Sun-Times has fired its photography staff, and will use reporters with smartphones to shoot photos and videos for stories.

The newspaper said the radical change reflects the increasing importance of video in news reporting.

The Sun-Times had been a reservoir of talent – 28 people with decades of experience and skill. All gone all at once.

The paper's professional photographers had broad and deep knowledge of America's third largest city, and the hard-earned ability to tell prize-winning stories with pictures.

As the New York Times said, "Now it has some freelancers and reporters toting cheap cameras with their notebooks and pens."

Of course, this decision by the Sun-Times overlooks the news judgment and story-telling capability of the experienced photojournalists, as well as other considerations like composition, impact, beauty and focus.

Today, the prizes are awarded for website page views, length of stay at a website, and which stories are e-mailed the most. From that point of view, grainy security camera views and poorly-composed amateur images are as good as high-quality work from trained and experienced photojournalists.

Chicago Sun-Times Fires Photo Staff, Will Train Reporters to Use iPhones For Photos
MacRumors, May 31, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times lays off its photo staff
Chicago Tribune, May 30, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times drops photographers
CNN video Reliable Sources, June 2, 2013
Howard Kurtz talks to Pulitzer prize-winning photographer John H. White about what the layoffs mean for the news industry  (4:48)

Do Newspapers Need Photographers?
New York Times, May 31, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times fires entire photo staff, plans to train reporters to take pictures with smartphones
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, May 31, 2013

Photo credit: Photojournalist shoots a crash scene with a smartphone, even though she has two SLR cameras and three telephoto lenses, in this meme found via Reddit. This was shot in Virginia and is not a Chicago Sun-Times photographer.

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Black-and-white images are composed of shades of gray, varying from the weakest intensity, black, to the strongest intensity, white.

When we look at a black-and-white photograph, we see its tones in grayscale.

These are not two-color images of only black and white. Rather, grayscale images have many shades of gray between black and white.

Obviously, the world we see with our eyes is filled with colors of all hues and shades. However, we often find a black and white photo to be more emotional, evoking feelings and provoking memories.

Sometimes a black and white photo seems to reveal more detail and texture of a subject or scene, as if seeing the complete range of colors would distract us.

From white white to black black

Grayscale tones range from bright white to deep black. A better photograph encompasses as many of these brightness values as possible.

A digital camera allows a photographer to select the monochrome mode to capture a scene translated into black and white.

Of course, every shot is a color (RGB) image. The black and white image generated by the camera is a simulation of how black and white would appear.

RGB color is a model in which red, green, and blue light are added together to reproduce a full spectrum of colors. The image processor in a camera has been programmed arbitrarily to see colors as the product engineers see them. To record a monochrome image, the RGB colors are converted to grayscale.

Framing visual elements

Composing a photo means arranging the visual elements in the viewfinder or on an LCD monitor screen.

Whether you stand far away or move in close, you are framing your subject within that window. You can:
  • Frame the shot to focus attention on your subject.
  • Crop the shot to make the strongest visual statement about the subject.


Framing allows you to focus attention on your subject – isolating the subject from the larger world.

As you frame a scene in the viewfinder, you crop out extraneous pieces of visual information – getting rid of peripheral visual elements that do not say something about the visual statement you intend to make.

Looking at a scene, you may find something that can be used to frame the subject. It does not need to be a four-sided frame.

Examples of framing elements you might find in a picture could be a doorway or arch, or trees with overhanging branches.


Images may require cropping after they are shot.

Cropping removes the outer parts of an image to improve framing and accentuate the subject.

When you view an image later, you may see fat you would like to trim away from the sides, top or bottom.
You will want to keep anything that strengthens your visual statement while removing elements of the photo that have less relevance and weaken the image.

Those could be anyone or anything extraneous, irrelevant or unrelated to the subject, providing background clutter, blaring a distracting hotspot, or showing too much empty space that contributes nothing to the statement you want to make.

Shape after cropping

  • You can crop a horizontal photo so it appears to be a vertical picture. You might do that to give the image a feeling of strength or make it more imposing.
  • On the other hand, you can crop a vertical picture to make it horizontal. That could give the image a more relaxed feel.
  • Or you can crop a photo to a square picture to give the subject a sense of symmetry and quiet strength.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Colorful Waters

Here's how to create some colorfully soft abstractions:
  1. Smear some bright acrylic paint colors on a large sheet of white paper.
  2. Set a flat-bottom clear-glass bowl filled with water on some sort of supports so it is a foot or two above the paper.
  3. Pour an ounce or two of vegetable oil into the water. Remember oil and water won't mix.
  4. Use your finger to stir the liquids into patterns.
  5. Wait for the oil and water to stop moving and then look for pleasing shapes in the water.
  6. Move in close with your camera. You may need to go to the camera's macro setting for a really close in shot.
  7. Shoot across the skim on the surface. Make sure the back of your camera is parallel with the surface of the water.
  8. More than likely any bright light source will work.
The colors you smeared on the paper should show through the water in the bowl, softly blend together in an abstract blur.
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An alternative approach would be to squirt drops of food coloring into water. The way the colors constantly change as they flow into and mix with the water is eye-catching.
  1. For this, a square glass container such as a cheap plastic or glass aquarium would work better than a round bowl.
  2. Place an unpainted large sheet of white paper behind the container.  The background paper should be well lighted as you shoot through the container.
  3. Buy inexpensive squeezable bottles of blue, yellow, green and red food coloring.
  4. To shoot monochromatic images drop in one color and shoot.
  5. To shoot multicolor images, drop in several colors. The water will become streaked with colors.
  6. If it becomes  too muddy, simply pour out the water and refill the container.
Your photos will reveal a vibrant rainbow of floating abstractions.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Half a dozen tips for new photographers

1. You should have a camera with you at all times. Photo opportunities often appear when least expected. A cellphone camera may be okay in some instances, but you will find the current versions up to and through this year insufficiently versatile and less than satisfying for serious photography.

2. Start with a reasonably good camera. Don't sink a lot of money into it, but a quality camera will be important to you. Get the kind of digital camera known as point and shoot in the $100-$250 price range. The best brand names include Nikon, Canon and Sony.

3. We all shake a little bit, even if it is imperceptible. An inexpensive tripod to steady the camera always is worth its weight. A perfectly good tripod can be found between $20-$40.

4. Pictures are everywhere. They are where you find them. Don't expect a great object for photographic art to just pop up in front of you. Instead, scout out locations at different times of day. Look everywhere.

5. Be patient as you wait for a shot to materialize. Don't be frustrated if it doesn't work out at first. Keep after it. Shoot many images and later select the best.

6. Things always turn out for the best when they are fun. Shoot frequently and enjoy yourself while on a photo shoot. If you have fun and an exciting adventure capturing an image, the photos will capture those memories for you and be more appealing to their eventual viewers.

7. Don't overlook mundane subjects. Try to have fresh eyes to see new and different photos in things you encounter every day. Inspiration is all around. Look and you will see things you hadn't noticed before.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Digital image quality

When we talk about the quality of a digital image we usually are thinking of two things:
• the total number of pixels that compose the image
• the number and accuracy of the colors in the image

The number of pixels is expressed in two ways:
• the dimensions. For example, an image might be said to be 1024 x 768 pixels
• the total number pixels in the image. For example, an image might be said to be a 1.5 megapixel image.

An image file with more pixels will produce a higher quality image and will make larger prints better than an image with fewer pixels.

The second quality measure is the total number of colors recorded in the image file. We call this the bit depth of the image. It's the number of colors possible in a digital file.

Sometimes the number of colors is referred to as bits per color channel. Most image files have three channels - red, green and blue. This results in three times the bits per channel.

• 8 bits per color channel or 24-bit total color = 16.7 million colors
• 8-bit color = 256 colors
• 4-bit color = 16 colors
• 1-bit color = 2 colors

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Digital cameras

Our digital cameras allow us to concentrate on the content of the photo while the camera does most of the technical work. We can see and edit our photos instantly.

Once there was only print media and then, not long ago, we could display our digital photos on traditional websites. Today we add to that 21st century media technologies such as blogs, wikis, Twitter streams, Flickr images, podcasts, YouTube videos, social networks, virtual worlds and machinima.

Here's a web page where you can learn more about New Media technologies:

And a collection of New Media buzzwords in a glossary:

Flickr is all about digital still photography. Here's the Flickr photostream for the Photojournalism & Photojournalists group, which has thousands of members:

The Flickr blog:

Photobucket is another image-sharing website:

Photobucket's photojournalism collection:

An example of a photography blog known as The Digital Journalist:

And an example of a wiki. This one is called Photography Wiki:

Here's a list of Twitter photographers:

And a directory of photography news on Twitter:

The official Facebook page of photojournalism:

The New York Times "Lens Blog" is a photo viewer of images, which some might say represent the best photojournalism in the world. It's a visual journalism archive:

A collection of digital still portrait photography and photojournalism on YouTube:

See also the Photography, Photojournalism, Video and Machinima headings on my Resources for Courses page:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The thing about depth Of field

Depth of field is a big deal because it directly affects the composition, acceptability, desirability, and general artistry of your images.

Depth of field refers to the parts of the scene in focus in front of and behind the subject.

Sometimes you want the depth of field to be so shallow that the background is entirely blurred with no definition at all.

That directs a viewer’s attention where you want it.

Background vs. foreground

Out-of-focus backgrounds are not only acceptable, but often desirable.

However, out-of-focus foregrounds can be unattractive and even distracting.

For an out-of-focus foreground to look right, it should be just a blur of color.

Four factors when you shoot:

1. Lens focal length. The longer the focal length, the less depth of field in the image. On the other hand, as the focal length shortens, depth of field increases. Long telephotos have very shallow depth of field.

2. Lens aperture. As the lens closes down to a small opening, depth of field increases toward the maximum the lens can provide. When you choose to use large lens apertures, you lose depth of field.

3. Distance to the subject. When you move in close to a subject, such as when doing close-up or macro photography, or when you want to fill the frame with a small object, depth of field decreases. On the other hand, as you back away from the subject, depth of field increases.

4. In close-up or macro photography, placing the camera so its back is parallel to the subject, increases depth of field. When the camera back is slanted to the plane of the subject, depth of field is reduced.

There is a shot where you don't have to worry about depth of field. Everything will be in focus at any lens aperture when the elements in the scene are far away. Large lens apertures give you shallow depth of field. However, a wide-angle lens has tremendous depth of field so more of the picture comes into focus.

As usual, a tripod helps

When you close the lens down to use a small aperture, less light enters the camera. The lightmeter must compensate for the light loss to maintain a correct exposure. The shutter speed becomes longer. A tripod steadies the camera, reducing the possibility of blurring images of stationary objects.

When you move in very close to small objects in macro photography, depth of field becomes limited by the shooting distance between the subject and lens. Small apertures often are used in close-up photography to recover that loss in depth of field. That forces the use slow shutter speeds. Use a tripod when doing macro photography. Otherwise, the photos will be blurred or else have very shallow depth of field.

The same is true when using a long telephoto lens. Any movement will be magnified in the lens and a tripod would stabilize the camera and lens for a sharp image.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Water droplet reflections

Adding water can make your flower images seem mysterious and more attractive. Here's how to grab the reflections in water droplets.

Shooting after a rain shower provides natural raindrops. On the other hand, you can create your own raindrops with a spray bottle of water.

Spraying water

After a rain, go out and look for raindrops or, if no rain, use the spray bottle of water.

If you continually spray a flower, water will accumulate in certain places to form large drops. This may give you more control because you can spray from different angles if you want a raindrop in a certain area.

Some photographers use glycerin in an eyedropper to place their droplets where they want. Glycerin is sticky, so your droplet will hold on better, but it's also more difficult to move. Don't get your camera sticky!

Shoot outside on a day with no wind.

Steady tripod

Place a tripod low to the ground.

Shoot in macro with a narrow depth-of-field. Use a macro lens or macro setup with a telephoto lens with extenders.

Put the camera on the tripod with the macro lens focused on your raindrop or water droplet.

Use something you devise to hold the flower or flowers firmly in place.

Move in close

Move your view in so close that you see the flower reflected in the raindrop or water droplet.

Focus on the reflection inside the raindrop, not the contours of the raindrop.

If you accidentally bump the flower and knock the raindrop off, spray on some new droplets.

See the reflection

Make sure you are able to see through the droplet so a reflection appears. You won't want to merely photograph the surface of the raindrop. Instead, shoot through it.

Pick a raindrop or water droplet with minimum glare. Avoid highlights which will reduce the vividness of the reflection.

With the camera mounted firmly on the tripod, compose a picture with S or C curves so the image seems to flow.

Focus the macro lens on the center of the water droplet, where the flower reflection appears.

A blurry background will provide a pleasant image of the in-focus droplet and reflection.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CNN's offbeat images

The Cable News Network publishes on its website photos that CNN's editors find fun or amazing.

There's a set of half a dozen to a dozen new pix each week under the label Offbeat Images.

Here is a page of links to various week's "fun photos from around the world."
CNN Offbeat Images

You'll notice these usually don't represent the best technical photogaphy or the finest artistic photography. Rather, they are photojournalism.

[What is photojournalism?]

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dump the date

I'll bet you've seen a wonderful photo ruined by a date and time stamp. There may be some professionals in different fields who need time and date embedded in a picture, but not a photojournalist striving for the very best shot.

Here's an under-appreciated fact: there's no need to mar your photo because the digital image file contains metadata with the date and time of the shot, along with a wealth of other information such as exposure data, the lens you used, and more. You can read the metadata on your computer.

So, turn off the date-time stamp.

However, what if later you discover you've created a photo with the camera's date stamp feature turned on? Here are some ways to get rid of it from a photo.

Crop the photo

The easiest way to eliminate the date stamp is to use your photo editor's crop tool. The date stamp is almost always positioned in the lower right corner of the image, where a little surgery with Adobe Photoshop Elements or any other photo editing software might not affect the rest of the photo very much.

Click the Crop tool and make sure the Aspect Ratio is set to No Restriction in the Options palette. Next, click and drag a crop box in the photo until the date stamp is gone.

Keep track of the date and time data. You can add the date the photo was taken to your image file's metadata. Windows Live Photo Gallery is one of a number of programs that can do that for you.

Find your newly cropped photo in Photo Gallery. Right-click the file and choose Change Time Taken. Now adjust the date to match the original date stamp, and click OK.

Rubber stamp over it

You might not always want to crop your photo to eliminate the date stamp. Instead, you could use your photo editor's Rubber Stamp or Clone tool to paint it out.

If there is a regular, non-patterned background behind the date this kind of surgery will be easy. If the background has a pattern, you will have to be very careful.

Open the image file in a photo editor, such as Photoshop Elements. Choose the Rubber Stamp or Clone tool. Set the size of the clone brush to about 30 pixels, or increase the brush size for larger photos. Alt-Click an area very close to the date stamp. Then just paint the date away until all you can see is the background.

Freeze the action

No matter how cute the baby, furry animal or wind-blown scene is you're photographing, be sure to freeze the action, or the only thing people will notice is that it's blurry.

Practice techniques for taking steady photos, such as using a tripod or stable support as often as you can.

It even will help to earn how to use the aperture priority or shutter priority control on your camera to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed.

In low light conditions, you can increase the ISO setting of the camera to force faster shutter speeds.

Also see these posts below:
Sharp night shots without a tripod
Panning for that speedy look

Keep it level

Sometimes we're so busy framing and exposing the perfect image, we forget to hold the camera straight.

Our brains filter and correct the data our eyes see and may not warn us that a scene in the viewfinder isn't level.

What to do? Pay attention to keeping a photo level.

However, if you do take a crooked photo, don't fret. You can straighten it easily with a leveling tool found in almost any photo editing program, such as Photoshop Elements.

Watch the light

The beauty of the automatic digital camera is you don't have to think about exposure settings -- the quantity and quality of light around your subject. The camera does that for you.

Getting the proper exposure is important, of course, so keep in mind that sometimes you can't rely entirely on your camera to get it right.

Here's a trick to avoid shooting in very contrasty lighting.

If you can see both direct sunlight and shadow in your viewfinder, you'll are likely to obtain a lower-quality exposure. The way around the problem is to try reframing the shot to get more-even lighting in the scene. Not necessarily more light, but more-even lighting.

The hours in the middle of the day are not as good for outdoor photography because of the overhead light is strong and harsh. Try to shoot earlier or later.

If there's strong sunlight in the background of your image, the camera will probably overcompensate and underexpose the subject.

Also see the post below:
Love those overcast days

Focus on your subject

Consider your subject. There should be some specific element in a photo that you want to emphasize to show off, to call attention to. For instance, a person, an animal, a flower, a building.

Rule of Thirds
Imagine dividing your photo into a grid, like a tic-tac-toe board, with two vertical and two horizontal lines.

Position your subject in the camera's viewfinder frame where two of those lines intersect.

Arrange the scene you see in the camera's viewfinder so that your subject is at the intersection of two of those "third lines" in your photo. That means not dead center or at an edge of the frame.

Using this Rule of Thirds, you will get the most visual impact.

Of course, you'll also want the subject in sharp focus. If the subject is sharply defined, it would be okay -- and sometimes even a good idea -- for the rest of the photo to be out of focus so the eyes of people who see your photo will be drawn to the subject.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Battery charge

Be sure to check the charge on your camera battery.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Panning for that speedy look

Panning is a technique you can use to create a blurred background – depicting movement – while keeping your subject sharp. This works for a moving car, person, animal or other object. Here’s how to go about it:
  • Pre-focus on a spot directly in front of you where your subject will be when you start the exposure. You could have someone stand there, or place an object there, so your camera can focus on that spot.
  • Stand firmly with the camera to your eye and twist the upper part of your body slightly in the direction from which the subject will come.
  • Begin following the subject as soon as it appears in your camera’s viewfinder.
  • When the subject reaches the spot you focused on, trip the shutter and continue following the subject in one smooth movement.
  • The background should be of uneven tones and the path of motion should be as parallel as possible.
  • Use the slowest possible shutter speed at the highest possible f-stop. A shutter speed around 1/15 to 1/30 of a second may work best.
Try some shots of a jogger, a cyclist and a car. Which turned out best?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sharp night shots without a tripod

You just can't get a sharp photo at night without something to support the camera. Photos become blurry or streaked when the shutter stays open long enough to ensure sufficient light enters the camera to make a picture. While the shutter is open, your hands move a little. You may tremble or the wind may blow the camera. Pictures made under such unsteady conditions turn out jittery or blurry. The hand movement causes streaks of light and fuzzy images.

Your long-exposure pictures will turn out better if you take the camera out of your hands and use some kind of support to steady it. A tripod is ideal, but what if you don't have one? Here are some substitutes:
  • a ledge
  • a step
  • a windowsill
  • a car roof
  • a car fender
  • a car window frame
  • a curb
  • a chair back
  • a wall
  • a sandbag
  • an extra firm pillow
  • a book bag
  • a camera bag
Once the camera is supported firmly, you need to find a a way to trigger the shutter without pushing down on the release button. Your pressing finger could cause the camera to wiggle.

An easy answer is to use the camera's self-timer. Fire it and the camera will stop jiggling during the ten seconds it waits to shoot.

Some cameras also will accept a remote shutter release cable or a radio-controlled shutter release.

If all else fails, import your undesirably jittery or blurry photos into Photoshop or Photoshop Elements or similar software and slightly increase clarity by applying an unsharp mask or sharpen filter.