I really love how basic she keeps this tutorial. So many tutorials are so complicated that a beginner can’t really understand them. I have been using Photoshop for decades now and some of them are too hard for me to understand. I really like how simple she keeps it!
January 28, 2015
January 18, 2015
I mostly use it to add a little pizzaz to a normal photo, rather than making a tilt shift photo. For example, I recently earned my one year chip at Overeaters Anonymous and talked about it on Starling Fitness. Here is the photo for that entry in its original form.
And here it is with the tweaks from Tilt Shift Generator.
I really liked how the selective focus on the one year chip really made it stand out. That little extra makes a photo even better at times.
I have been using this app for well over five years and I absolutely adore it. If you are looking for a quick way to make your photos look just a tad bit better, this is a great app for you, and at only 99 cents, it’s a great deal!
September 14, 2012
I absolutely adore this video of a seagull stealing a camera.
The camera in question was a GoPro Camera, which is a rugged and waterproof camera that can take almost any abuse you can give it.
Had the seagull dropped the camera in the water, it would have survived, but the owners probably would have never been able to retrieve it from the cold depths of the San Francisco Bay. Fortunately, the seagull merely got sick of it and left it on the boardwalk near the shore.
The next time you need a camera that you can take swimming, mountain biking and on a clandestine flight over the San Francisco Bay, think of the Go Pro. It can handle it!
August 26, 2012
This week on PostSecret, there were several postcards about photography.
I will judge you if you always shoot your fancy DSLR on auto.
My problem with people with fancy DSLRs goes even deeper than that secret. I’ll never forget the day when Matt Strebe pointed at one of my photos and said, “You can’t take a photo like that with a snappy cam.” I laughed at him and said, “Dude! I took that picture with my IPHONE!”
The next secret is EXACTLY how I feel:
Photography taught me to see beauty.
This last postcard broke my heart:
When you tried to teach me the technicalities, you killed my love for photography.
Don’t let someone ruin your love of photography. You can take gorgeous photos with ANY camera. I’ve talked about this before.
June 6, 2012
Every time you shoot a video with your phone (heck, I’ve even accidentally done it with a camera), there is the temptation to accidentally shoot a Vertical Video. Not know what I’m talking about? Watch this public service announcement.
The first video I ever posted on YouTube was an accidental Vertical Video.
Because it was shot on a camera, it was sideways and I had to use an app to rotate it. With the iPhone, it will be right side up, but look incredibly silly when showing it to family and friends, like this video.
You can’t escape the feeling that you’re missing something on either side of the frame and viewing the video is an exercise in frustration. Keeping the video sideways is even worse.
It’s not artistic. It’s just bad filmography that gives you a crick in your neck. LEARN how to use your device. Just Say No To Vertical Videos.
December 26, 2011
I’ve always hated flashes. I don’t like them flashing in my eyes, I don’t like the washed out look they give to photos, the unnatural light, or the sight of dozens of them flashing at events.
I came to photography as a hobby through Astronomy—Star gazing with telescopes. Astrophotography, the art of taking pictures of planets and nebula using telescopes as camera lenses, is the ultimate form of low-light photography. In this extreme form of low-light photography, cameras are modified to remove on-chip infrared filters, they’re cooled with exotic chillers to reduce thermal noise (heat inside the camera from its own electronics), and computerized mounts rotate the camera and telescope so the shutter can remain open for hours while the world turns underneath the sky.
That’s all much harder than taking low-light photographs. Having knowledge of astrophotography methods has made it really easy for me to avoid using a flash in photography, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to do it well.
Low light photography is more complicated than point-and-shoot. You have to learn and practice it to get decent results, and doing a good job requires a DSLR. I use (and love) the Canon Rebel T2i, but any modern DSLR will do the job.
Taking low light pictures means setting the camera up to absorb more light for a particular photograph than it would during the day. There are three low light parameters you will set on your camera to accomplishing this: Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. Each of them comes at a cost so finding the right balance for a particular setting is the skill you will learn over time. The information in this article will tell you exactly how to get close to good “point and shoot” settings that usually work to get you started in low light.
- Use a fast lens (f/2 or below) on its widest possible aperture setting.
- Use your highest acceptable ISO setting.
- Set your camera to Aperture priority.
- Stabilize your camera.
- Focus manually using Live Preview and a point source of light.
- Shoot in RAW format.
- Use Exposure Bracketing.
The practice is simple: Make your camera as sensitive as you can get good result, open your lens to its widest possible aperture, and then control the shutter speed to get the light level you want to use. You will almost always need a tripod to prevent camera movement while the shutter is open, and you will need to select subjects that are not moving relative to the camera. Shoot in RAW format, and use auto-exposure bracketing to take multiple shots with different exposures in rapid succession to be sure you get the right shot every time.
If you don’t already know how to accomplish these settings, get your manual out and refer to it as you read through these steps.
Use a fast lens on its widest possible aperture setting
Aperture is the size of the lens opening. Because it is measured as a ratio between the focal length and the size of the lens, lower numbers mean a wider opening. f/ratio of a lens is typically between 1.2 and 5.6. Wider openings let in more light “faster”, so “fast” lenses have low numbers. The fastest commercially available lenses have f/ratios of 1.2 and they are extremely expensive. Typical lenses start at f/ratios of 4.0, and a lens is officially “slow” beyond f/5.6.
For low light you need a fast lens—f/2.8 or below, preferably much lower. I use and recommend Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 lens that costs just $100. It has junky build quality, it’s noisy, and it lacks image stabilization, but the optics are fantastic and its 1/5th the price of any other lens this fast.
I’ve not found a zoom lens that performs well in low light. Even the best zooms don’t get below f/2.8. Look to a prime 50mm or 85mm for night portraiture, and a 28mm for night landscapes or large subjects like buildings.
Use your highest acceptable ISO setting
ISO refers to the imaging chip’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more-light sensitive the chip becomes, and the more noise you will see in your picture. My camera goes up to ISO 6400, but 1600 is the practical maximum for a good-looking photo. Likely yours will be similar. Set ISO to your practical maximum, which you can determine by eye after taking the same shot at each different ISO and blowing it up to the size you intend to look at it. If you can’t tell that there’s additional noise, keep going to a higher ISO until you can, then go back to the previous ISO level. This doesn’t really change much from session to session, so once you know your camera’s best acceptable ISO level, you can just set it and forget it going forward.
I don’t recommend using Auto ISO in low light situations. The camera usually prefers lower ISO levels and longer shutter times, which tends to result in blur for any motion. With a decent DSLR, you’re better off increasing the ISO to reduce shutter time in most cases. Canon cameras have the lowest inherent noise of all DSLRs and astrophotographers prefer them for this reason, but all modern DSLRs are reasonably good.
Set your camera to Aperture Priority
Aperture priority tells the camera to fix the aperture at the setting you indicate and then vary the shutter to achieve the correct exposure. Essentially, it “locks” the aperture and varies the time to achieve good exposure. Set your camera to Aperture priority and then open the aperture to its widest setting.
Stabilize your camera
If the camera moves while the shutter is open, the entire image will be blurry and appear to be out of focus. This never looks good. When you take low light photographs, the shutter remains open much longer in order to capture enough light to record an image. Any movement that occurs while the shutter is open will cause blur in the photograph. If your subject is moving, that’s unavoidable and you will get blur. This can be artistic, and in any case, there’s little you can do about it. But there’s no reason to allow your camera to move.
Many lenses include image stabilization, but the fast prime lenses that you will need for low light photography get expensive fast. Its far less expensive to use a non-stabilized lens on a tripod than to pay for image stabilization that won’t work well enough anyway. Hand-held photography rarely works well in low light conditions. You can solve this problem by mounting the camera on a tripod or monopod to eliminate shake.
Another trick I learned from astrophotography is to use a remote to fire the camera, even if you’re standing right next to it. Just the force of a person pushing the shutter button moves the camera. You can really improve your low-light photos by not touching the camera at all when you shoot. On my roof deck (where I shoot astrophotography) I can’t even walk around without causing camera shake that affects the image, so be aware of your floor surface as well.
Focus manually using Live Preview
It is very difficult for camera Auto Focus systems to perform well in low light—they hunt a lot and take a long time to confirm focus. It is also difficult for a human to focus manually through the viewfinder in low light, for the same reason: It’s hart to tell when you’re in focus with low light.
There are three simple tricks to focusing in low light: focus manually, shorten the depth-of-field, and use point sources of light to focus on.
Fast aperture settings shorten the depth of field and put most of the picture out of focus excepting the subject. Having a short depth-of-field makes focus more critical but also easier to spot because subjects will go in and out of focus quickly. If you’ve selected your lens’s fastest setting then you’ve also set the shortest depth-of-field.
The other way to make it easy is to use your camera’s Live View image on the LCD. This gives you a light-amplified image that is much larger to work from.
Try to pick point-sources of light such as lights or reflections on or next to your subject to focus on—when they are dots, you are in focus on that dot. When they are larger circles, you are out-of-focus. If your subject is a person, have them hold a tiny LED flashlight for you to focus on, which they can turn off before you shoot.
Shoot RAW format
If you are doing important low light work, use RAW mode. RAW creates very large, uncompressed images. The JPEG compression method used to condense the data that composes a photograph can create some very noticeable effects in low-light situations, such as halos around lights and dark “jaggies”. JPEG was optimized for broad color changes and can over-compress very similar areas as dark areas tend to be. Shooting in RAW format avoids this. If you can’t or don’t want to use RAW, use the largest and smoothest JPEG compression setting.
Use exposure bracketing
Exposure bracketing refers to taking multiple pictures of the same subject in rapid succession at exposures both above and below the standard exposure you’ve set. Essentially, the camera takes a darker, faster photo below your exposure setting, a photo with your exposure setting, and then a brighter, slower photo above it, all in a single button push or hold (depending on your camera). I recommend using 1 stop below and one stop above for your brackets—more than that seems to be well outside what I’d ever use.
Exposure bracketing does two things: Firstly, your eye sees light differently than the camera, and so you may not have a great idea which exposure setting is going to get you results similar to what you’re eye is seeing. Exposure bracketing takes the guess work out of it and gets a range of exposures, one of which is nearly certain to be what you’re looking for. Secondly, exposure bracketing creates the three exposures necessary to perform High Dynamic Range image manipulation with Adobe Photoshop, which is a complex topic beyond the realm of this article.
November 14, 2011
I hate camera straps. But I love my camera and frankly its got to be strapped to me if I’m going to use it, and so like everyone else I just lived with the fact that the strap constantly gets twisted, chaffs the back of my neck, and that the camera hangs from it at an awkward angle any time there’s a heavier zoom lens on it.
I had already given up on efforts to find “a better way” to deal with the camera strap when Custom SLR sent me one of their clever C-Loops.
The C-Loop is an ingenious little device—essentially it’s two camera strap loops on a standard mount screw that attaches to the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. Because the loops swivel round the thumbscrew easily, the strap doesn’t become twisted.
When using the C-Loop, the camera hangs now from the bottom of the camera, so lenses always point down—the way I think cameras should hang. You can easily take the strap off the camera by simply unscrewing it, which makes packing the camera away much easier and allows me to avoid having the strap hanging off the camera when its on a tripod or attached to my telescope.
But the best thing about the C-Loop is that it makes it possible to use an adjustable camera strap to carry the camera over the shoulder messenger bag style—pointing down as it should, conveniently out of the way, and not chaffing my neck. For this reason alone I think the C-Loop is a keeper.
The C-Loop is a little bit awkward with the portrait extended battery adapter because the center of gravity is higher, causing the camera to carry upside-down. This will likely be the case on professional full-frame cameras that have a built-in portrait mode as well, and is something you should consider before buying a C-Loop. It doesn’t bother me, but you might not like it.
If camera straps bug you, the C-Loop is a simple solution! More photos after the break: (Continue Reading…)
October 20, 2011
It used to be so difficult to set up cameras in your house. CCTV was difficult to install and difficult to monitor. Even more irritating, you had to make sure to change the VCR tapes regularly. Fast forward a few years and it suddenly is easy enough for anyone to set up a hidden camera.
When Dru Ackerman broke her hip several months ago, a neighbor offered to help her. Unfortunately, her “friend” was also helping herself to Dru’s pain medication. When the woman noticed that some of her pills were missing, she set up a hidden camera in her house to see what was happening. She caught her neighbor red-handed with enough video footage to get her arrested.
She used the Stem IZON Remote Room Monitor, but she could have used the webcam installed on the computer on her desk. There are software options that allow you to monitor your home with your webcam and they will even upload the video to a remote server so if your computer is stolen, you will be able to see who did it.
The next time you are feeling paranoid about leaving your house, whether it’s just for a grocery trip, like Dru, or on an extended vacation, look into home monitoring solutions. There are so many options available right now that you’re sure to find something to give you peace of mind.
January 22, 2010
Optical image stabilization (O.I.S.) has come a long way over the last few years and the best showcase of that is this exhibit at the Sony booth this year at CES. They had two cameras sitting on a moving platform, one with Optical SteadyShot and the other without.
Even though both cameras were on the same jiggling platform, the picture on the left is jumping all over the place, while the one on the right is smooth as silk.
This feature of their video cameras was of special interest to me because I film and sell Walking DVDs at Starling Fitness. I’m actually in the market for a new video camera and the Sony HDR-CX550V is looking really appealing to me.
Too bad it’s retailing at almost $1300. I’ll have to wait until the price drops a bit.
January 21, 2010
Polaroid did an excellent job of playing off its rich photographic past in its booth at CES this year.
They had a display honoring the great Dr. Edwin Land, inventor of polarization.
They showed some artwork made with Polaroids.
They even brought some favorite retro gadgets out of the Polaroid Museum for some nostalgic appeal.
You can see all the photos here:
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