Living a dream as a photographer & filmmaker

Photography Basics - Maximum Sharpness

This is a guest post by Chip Clark. Chip is a San Diego based professional photographer, with over 20 years experience in landscape, wildlife, sports, & portraiture photography.

Photography Basics - Maximum sharpness - photo by Serge BatyrshinAll photographers at some point were completely ignorant when it came to photography. Think about that. At one time even Ansel Adams could not tell you the difference between an F-stop and a dark slide.

At some stage of a photographer's life something happens to spark the passion and drive to improve. Quite often beginning photographers focus their education on exposure, depth of field, film types, etc., and overlook the most basics of photography; one of which being creating sharp images.

I cannot tell you how many times a photographer has emailed a digital image, or shown me a print, of an image they have produced - of which they want feedback. Many of them have been creatively composed, perfectly exposed, matched with the right depth of field, but looked like there was an earthquake going on while they took the shot!

Let these words sink in: Nothing will place the stamp of 'amateur' on a photograph more than an image that is anything less than tack sharp.

For those of you with aspirations to shoot professionally, and receive compensation for your work, this aspect of image reproduction is crucial. Show an image to a potential client that is even just a miniscule out of focus, it is very unlikely they will become a client. They do notice!

So, with the point now being driven home, how can you produce tack sharp images - alive with dazzling detail? Unless you are running around with a camera that doesn't even have a brand name on it, and is estimated to be a leftover from the dark ages - you can dismiss the notion that spending a big chunk of change on a new lens will solve your problem. While no experienced photographer will argue that all lenses are created equal - most all major manufacturers of lenses produce high quality results when used properly. Of course there are exceptions, but this article is not about product promotion.

About Lenses: Keep your lenses clean, and keep them protected!
Nothing will make me cringe more than seeing someone hiking around with their camera dangling without a lens cap! It takes very little to scratch them and once you do you can kiss a paycheck or two goodbye. Clean them with a high-quality lens tissue only...not the sleeve of your flannel hiking shirt.

The less glass between your lens and the subject the better!

Many photographers keep UV filters on their lens just to protect it. Take it off and protect that lens like it's your baby! Adding anything to the lens will degrade the quality of the image. It may be miniscule, but do not settle for 'close enough' - ever. Besides, there will be times when you will want to use filters. Eliminate or minimize the extra glass!

About Tripods: Well you knew I was going to bring up the use of tripods, right? Don't like to use them? Too bad! When you start shooting landscapes at the right aperture, with the right film or ISO setting - you will be working with very slow shutter speeds. In my earlier years I despised the idea of hauling a tripod around. Unfortunately I have a lot of very nice photographs from those days that I would not show except to prove my point!

Remember, there is no such thing as a lazy successful photographer. So if you are not using a tripod because they are a pain - get over it, and get on with improving your photographs.
Simply put, a quality tripod is one that is solid and will not allow your camera to move one bit. An elephant could sneeze on it and it won't budge! Good tripod. Unfortunately good quality tripods like this are not featherlight. So you will burn a few more calories when you are hiking. The other benefit with using a tripod is that it will slow you down. By slowing down you will think more about your shot, get your visualization process going, and make less exposure mistakes. Therefore - less wasted film, and no more getting back to your PC and uploading images that make you want to cry.

Mirror Lock-Up: If your camera has a Mirror Lock-up feature - use it for these types of shots. When you typically take a picture the mirror slaps up so the shutter curtains can open to expose the image. Even with the best cameras this movement can cause your image to blur slightly when using very slow shutter speeds. Once you lock up the mirror you will not see anything through your viewfinder, so you do this after you have composed, focused, and set the exposure for your shot.

Shutter Release Timer: All SLR cameras have a timer - usually a choice between 2 or 10 seconds. I use the 10 second setting so that if I am shooting with shutter speeds at 1/4 of a second or slower it gives me time to lean my weight into the tripod to hold it extra still.
Even using a timer at 'normal' shutter speeds will get my hands off the camera, so that even the slightest movement from pushing the shutter button will not affect the image.

Auto Focus: Automatic focusing is wonderful for photojournalism, wildlife, and sports photography - but has no place in producing fine art landscape photographs. I once watched a young man take about fifteen minutes to set up for what was probably a very nice shot. He composed, recomposed, measured the light, adjusted the tripod some more - then pushed the button which resulted in a 'beep' as the lens automatically focused - and shot. That's kind of like polishing up your new car and then choosing to drive it down the dirt roads. Why?  While the best cameras have incredible auto-focus capabilities, they can be off just slightly when you are shooting landscapes (even with long depths of field) and being off even just slightly can mean the difference between ultra sharp details and a so-so image.

So unless you are dealing with uncorrectable nearsightedness, switch the lens to manual and focus yourself. You'll enjoy the results!

In summary:
1- Keep your lens protected, clean, and with only the necessary filter attachments.
2- Use a tripod! If you are serious about producing professional quality landscape photographs, you cannot get around this.
3- Mirror Lock-Up: The first step at reducing camera shake at the time of exposure.
4- Shutter Timer: The second step at reducing camera shake at the time of exposure.
5- Manual Focus: for more accurate focusing!
Utilizing these techniques will enable you to take one more step towards producing rewarding, high quality fine art photographs!

Chip Clark is a San Diego based professional photographer, with over 20 years experience in landscape photography, wildlife photography, sports photography, and portraiture.  Chip Clark's photography tutorials are available at:  Publishing and reprint rights are granted solely according to the guidelines set forth by  Article Source:

Lightweight Portable Tripods - Shoppers Guide

tripodThe tripod is an absolute must because after hiking into an area you become winded and tired and are much less likely to hold your camera still. Also, if you are using a telephoto lens, setting up a panoramic shot or using long shutter speeds you will need a tripod to eliminate shake and create sharper photos. You'll want a tripod that is lightweight, compact but still has the features you need. 1. Important Elements in Chosing a Tripod No one tripod will meet all your requirements, so you must determine the elements most important to you and chose the ones which meet your main needs. When you are purchasing a tripod you want to pay attention to these five things.

1. Weight 2. Height [with and without the center column raised] 3. Stability 4. Durability 5. Ease of adjustment

The lighter tripod is easier to carry around. There are trade-offs, of course. The lighter tripod is not as stable particularly when raised to its maximum height. There are materials on the market now such as carbon fiber, which help cut the weight of larger tripods. The down side of these tripods is the price. They are quite a bit more expensive than those made of aluminum.

Height is crucial, because standing hunched over your camera all day will really put a crimp in you enjoyment. Also, you want to think about the portability of the tripod. The smaller it compacts down, the more portable it is.

Stability is very important because this is basically the point of using a tripod. Some tripods come with a hook in the bottom of the center post so you can hang a weight on it to keep it steady, particularly if it is windy. Camera shake, even just a little will decrease the quality of your photographs. A tripod is just about mandatory if you are going to take long exposures, use a telephoto lens or take panoramic shots.

When you use your tripod for out door photography and/or nature photography, you want to make sure it will stand up to the elements. A tripod should be able to withstand hard use over a long period of time without breaking. It makes no sense to invest in a product if it is just going to break in a few weeks or lock up because it got wet.

Last but not least you don't want to fumble around with ungainly controls. You want a tripod that will adjust rapidly and easily so you avoid missing important shots. Flick lock legs that adjust individually are great. A ball-head and a quick lift enter post makes for fast adjustments once you get the tripod set to the right height. 2. Lightweight Portable Tripods After a lot of research, the best portable tripod I found is the Velbon Maxi 343E Mini Tripod. I take it with me everywhere. It compacts down to less than 17 inches and weighs just 2 pounds. You'll never be tempted to leave it behind because it fits easily into your backpack or suitcase. It is constructed of all die cast metal, which means it can put up with a lot of abuse. It is quick and easy to adjust. Each leg has 3 quick lever leg locks and the feet have rubber tips with retractable spikes so you can use it on any surface. The center column lifts easily into position and the ball socket head can be adjusted without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Maximum height is 62.4 inches with the center column fully extended and 52.7 inches with the column closed. Maximum load capacity is 8 pounds. Best of all, you can purchase this tripod for under $100 and it comes with a 5-year manufacturer warranty. Did I mention it comes with a case?

You can read users reviews of this tripod at They are getting harder to find and I hope that doesn't mean they will no longer be manufactured.

5/9/06 - I received information from ToCad America who are the distributers for Velbon in the U.S. and this model has been discontinued. If you find one on eBay or another site, grab it now.

Here are some other brands of light weight portable tripods that compare favorably with the Velbon Maxi 343E:

Bogen - Manfrotto Compact Black Digi-Tripod with Integral Tension Ball Head & Carry Case An ultra-compact tripod - folded length of just under 14", compact ballhead, quick-action leg locks, a rucksack-style bag is included. Weighs 2.2 lbs. with a load capacity of 5.5 lbs. Costs about $85.

Slik Sprint Mini Tripod with a Ball Head & Tripod Case Weighs just 26 ounces (1.6 lbs/740 grams) and folds to 14.1 inches, it has a maximum height of 43.3 inches, speed release leg locks, gearless center column, can easily handle a camera up to 3.5 pounds and has a 3-year warranty. Priced about $60.

Slik Sprint Tripod - Silver Finish - with Ball Head & Case The SLIK SPRINT is a compact model with features that compact digital photographers are looking for. A maximum height of 63.1 inches reaches eye level yet the SPRINT folds to an impressively compact 17.9 inches, weighs 1.9 lbs for easy travel, speed release leg locks, gearless center column and can hold a camera up to 3 lbs. Price is about $70.

Slik Sprint Pro Tripod - Silver Finish - with Ball Head & Case a maximum height of 64 inches reaches eye level yet the SPRINT PRO folds to a compact 18.9 inches and weighs in at 1.95 lbs for easy travel, has speed release leg locks, gearless center column and can hold a camera up to 3.5 lbs. It has 3 position adjustable angle legs for easy set up on uneven ground or steps. The adjustable legs angles can also be used to lower the tripod. When used with the built-in short center column, (the included center column unscrews into two pieces) the camera is just 6.4 inches off the ground for extremely low angle or macro photography out in the field. Another way to get the camera low is to reverse the center column which could be used for macro photography or copy work. It sells about about $80.

Sunpak DigiPro 4B Tripod with Ball Head Features: Versatile Quick Lock Ball Head, Flip Lever Leg Locks, Grounder with Split Center Column, Free Nylon Carry Bag w/Shoulder Strap, Load Capacity up to 3.3 lbs., Extends to 55.9 inches, Ultra Light Weight at 1.8 lbs. Sells for about $60.

Sunpak 3300 PRO Tripod Manufactured from Tritanium, an alloy of Titanium, Magnesium and Aluminum substantially increases the overall strength-to-weight performance of the 3300 PRO. Able to support equipment weighing up to 11 lbs., the 3300 PRO is incredibly lightweight, at a mere 2.7 lbs., while its dual groove leg design adds additional strength without adding any extra weight. With an operating height of 62.9", the Sunpak 3300 PRO tripod has three leg sections, with integral quick release lock levers, and features multi-angle leg adjust-ments for use on uneven terrain or for extreme low angle photography. With "grounder" capability, the Sunpak 3300 PRO can operate at a minimum height less than 11", without need for a short center column, and folds to a compact 23.2". Price is about $70. 3. Alternatives to Tripods There are some alternative solutions for steadying your camera if you don't have a tripod or don't want to carry one. I have an old (clean) sock filled with rice that acts like a beanbag to steady my camera. You can use it just about anywhere, on a rock, a ledge, car window etc. You could also take an empty sock and fill it with gravel or dirt when you get where you are going if you don't want to haul rice around. You can also use your pack or a bag of your clothes to steady your camera. If you must take a handheld photo, try to use a shutter speed of at 1/60 second or higher. The longer your lens the faster your shutter speed should be.

Here is a nifty alternative to a tripod that beats rice in a sock all together! The POD Camera Platform ( Bean Bag ) with YELLOW Base, 3.75" Diameter, 2" Thick, has A 1/4 x 20 Screw Thread for Securing Your Camera. You can plop this on a rock, post, stump or even the ground for low shots. I will post my review after I get it and try it out.

I've never tried one of these but the idea is sound. Here's the write up: Novoflex's Chestpod is a great way to lend support when shooting with long lenses in scenarios where monopods and tripods would be impractical or prohibited. It begins as a comfortable neckstrap, which articulates to a wide rubberized base that rests on your chest. Attached to this base is an arm that ends with a swiveling plate that has a 1/4"-20 screw for attaching the tripod collar of the lens.

Bogen-Manfrotto Self-Standing Pro Monopod, Black Anodized A monopod is another alternative to the tripod. It can serve double duty as a hiking pole. All the features of the 681B Professional Monopod with the handy addition of three retractable legs. The 682 is a black anodized aluminum three-section monopod featuring sure rubber grip, wrist carrying strap, quick action lever leg lock system with 45° flip, large 2.3" camera/head platform with plastic cover and dual 1/4-20" - 3/8" camera screw. Weight is 2.4 pounds.

Last but not least, there is the the car window pod. Perfect for unexpected opportunities where getting out of the car could ruin your shot. A car can work well as a blind for wildlife shots. Don't forget to turn the car off to eliminate shake. There are many brands but for maximum versatility, a ball head works best. If you follow the advice in this article you will be more likely to bring your tripod and ensure sharp photos without breaking your back or your bank account. Roberta Hochreiter is an avid photographer, hiker and backpacker with 5 years experience in nature photography. This article gives new photographers advice on how to chose photographic equipment that is lightweight and portable. For more information please to to for information on: tripods

Roberta Hochreiter is an avid photographer, hiker and backpacker with 5 years experience in nature photography. This article gives new photographers advice on how to chose photographic equipment that is lightweight and portable. For more information please to to

Top 11 Tips For Photographing People

There are very few rules to portrait photography. The few rules there are can be broken and still result in good images. What I have attempted to give you here is some quick tips to hopefully help you to improve your image taking.

1. Make it Personal. When photographing people involve sopmething that makes it more personal and about that individual. One of my favourite images shows a little girl in what is to her a very natural environment. Her grandfather breeds and races pigeons and since she could walk she has helped him in the daily tasks of cleaning and feeding them. The photograph shows her with the pigeopn on her lap as she feeds it peanuts. I always look to try and capture images that tell stories and capture a little bit of the true spirit of the person being photographed making it so much more personal.

2. Have Fun. False smiles are hideous and should be banned. Asking someone to smile or say cheese is a last resort. If you want natural smiles and laughs you need to create things for people to smile or laugh about. Personally I much prefer images with people laughing out loud to a posed straightforward Victorian styled portrait.

3. Always be Ready. I always remember a certain portrait session. I had been photographing a family on the beach. The little girl decided she wanted to climb onto a small pier that led out to sea. Luckily I had my camera out and managed to capture a few frames as she crawled along. Had I attempted to set this image up there are a million things that would have got in the way. As luck had it everything went right and a fantastic image was captured.

4. Get in close. Don't be afraid to get in close and clip the tip of peoples heads out of the frame. Very often it helps the image, giving it a more dramatic approach.

If your camera doesn't have a zoom facility then move closer physically.

5. Take Photographs Outside. You will get far far better images of young children if you allow them to play. As long as you pick a safe area you can let them run loose and do as they wish leaving you free to concentrate on capturing some magical moments. In my portrait business I take 98% of my images outside. I know this works as I continually receive more and more referral business from happy clients who recognise the joy and happiness in their childs expressions.

6. Catch people unawares. Very often the best images are when people don't realise they are having their photograph taken. I recently shot a portrait session in London of a young couple. The girl had large ties to a market and wanted some atmospheric images. However her partner wasn't keen to be photographed in public. I solved the problem by using a long lens and concentrated on capturing some totally natural images as they were walking around the market.

7. Change the angle you are shooting from. I always have a change of clothes with me when I am on a shoot because I tend to end up covered in mud. Don't be afraid to lay on the ground. You will be rewarded by the images you take.

8. Capture natural reactions. Encourage people to react normally as they would every day. One of the joys of my job is taking images of new mums and their babies. I know if I ask mum to get in close to the baby nine times out of ten I will get a totally natural reaction as the baby and mother react to each other. All that is needed is for me to them judge the right time and capture the image.

I find if you ask people to get closer than they would normally do it will cause them to laugh. However this is not the case with teenagers as they see it as uncool to like brothers / sisters so with this age group differant approaches are needed.

9. Consider your background very carefully. The background is as important as the subject you are photographing. Ensure it is pleasing to the eye without distracting away from the image. Some colours are worth avoiding. Red for example will trigger the eye to look at it immediately and drag attention away from the main subject. People far cleverer than me have attempted to explain why (something to do with it being nature's danger colour). The best thing to do when lining up your photograph is to avoid red altogether.

10. Practise. You can read a million books and visit every website on the planet but I believe there is no substitute to actually doing something and learning by experience. I personally run training days for people who like yourself just want to have a go at a new style of image making. The people who attend have various skill levels but as I place the emphasis on being as low tech as possible they are of use for everybody from the amateur through to the seasoned professional.

11. Be different. Try and do something out of the ordinary. Use your imagination to create images that stand out. If everyone else does a top ten do a top eleven, it will bring more interest guaranteed because it is out of the ordinary.

I wish you luck on your future image making and hope we can talk at some stage in the future.

Have Fun

Martin W.

All images and words are subject to copyright and cannot be reproduced in any way without written permission from Martin Wilmott Photography.

Martin Wilmott is a highly successful lifestyle photographer based in the UK who undertakes work all over the world. People with an interest in portrait photography can sign up for his free online course at Martin also runs regular portrait classes for people with an interest in his style of work.

Photographic Style - Fresh Perspective

photographic styleSo, you like photography and want to improve your skills. Yes, you can learn how to manipulate shutter speeds, ISO's, or even photoshop, but what makes you different than every other photographer out there. Style. Without his personal style, Ansel Adams would of been just another Joe in the world. Without style in photography or any art, all photos/paintings/sculptures would look alike. Now, you may be asking yourself how you develop your style, and in truth I don't know. For in all actuality, as everyone's style is different, so is the development of their style. What I can tell you is a few tips that might come in handy.

Tip #1-Your never finished developing your style. Let's first take a look at Pablo Picasso, though most known for cubism, he switched through four different styles in his career. In other words your style is never really your style. You can equate the last sentence to Plato's idea of forms, or for every object there is a perfect form of that object which is unattainable. However, don't take this the wrong way. I am not saying that any style you create is futile, but that any style you create can be changed if your natural evolution of photography points you that way.

Tip #2-What feels right generally is right. When you take a photo, does it feel like a photo or an energy. Well, you know you took a good photo when it feels right inside. Unfortunately this is hard to explain, but keep on taking "right photos" and your style will slowly develop.

Tip #3-Don't give up. It may take a very long time to develop a sttle that fits you, but keep on trying. And even when you create your style, you may feel the need to change it. And that's okay, because like Tip #1 says your style is never your style. Also don't change your style because your friends disagree with it, follow what feels right.

Well those are my tips, and good luck developing your style.

Author of Currently am aphotographer who is enrolled in high school as a freshmen student.

Flash Photography Tips and Techniques

Flash photography is the use of a camera flash bulb in a variety of possible situations where there doesn’t seem to be enough light. The most common use of flash photography is group portraits at gatherings where there is not enough light to take a satisfactory exposure.

But there are many other situations where the flash could be used such as: fill-flash situations when the background is brighter than the subject, using the flash to light up a room and creating better coloring, or using the flash to freeze a moving object in a dark situation.

Indoor Flash Photography. In typical indoor situations there will probably not be enough light to take a normal hand-held well-exposed photo. There are many indoor flash photo opportunities you may be faced with. You may want to cast light on a group of people for a portrait photo. You may want to throw light into a room for an architectural photo. Or you may just want to cast light on certain objects in a lighted room that appears too dark for an exposure.

If your camera’s auto-exposure settings say that the photo would require a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second then you probably shouldn’t hand-hold the camera or the photo would come out blurry. The reason it would come out blurry is because the shutter would be open long enough for any minor hand shake to distort the composition. The use of a tripod or faster film will probably be needed but many of us do not regularly carry a tripod. Most photographers simply use their flash bulb when they are inside.

In order to take effective indoor flash photos there are some techniques you should keep in mind. When using the flash do not point it directly at a mirror or glass that will create a lens flare or just ruin the photo. Stand close enough to your subjects so the flash is actually effective (four to ten feet). Try to make sure your main subjects are about the same distance away from the flash as each other or some that are closer to the flash will appear brighter than ones that are farther away.

Fill Flash Situations. Fill flash fills in the areas of a photo that would normally appear too dark. Fill flash can be used for sunny day portraits for shadows on a subject’s face or to fill any shaded area that is out of the sunlight. Fill flash can also be used to cast light into a room where there are no windows. Fill in flash is ideal for back-lit and side-lit situations. In a backlit situation there will be a lot of light in the background but no or little light cast on the front of the subject. This would normally create somewhat of a silhouette effect, but with a fill flash it would balance the photo nicely. But in order for this technique to work, you must be careful to stay in flash range which is usually around four to ten feet. With common cameras in order to add fill flash to a photo just toggle the flash to go off when it normally would not be needed.

Other Types of Flash. Many newer cameras now have a red-eye reduction mode where the flash may fire before the picture is taken in order to cause the subjects’ pupils to contract. The red-eye reduction modes in newer cameras are surprisingly effective and many work in different ways to contract pupils.

A slow sync flash is for more complicated exposures and is used commonly to create blurry long exposures. The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, but the shutter still stays open for a moment after the flash has fired. This can freeze a car at dusk and create a blurry streak in the cars path. Or the slow sync flash could capture a sunset and freeze a closer subject that is moving through the frame. There are countless situations where a slow sync flash could possibly be used to enhance an exposure. There are also other versions of the sync flash such as the rear sync flash (where the flash fires at the end of an exposure) or the stroboscopic flash (where the flash fires multiple times throughout an exposure).

Many photographers also choose to bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling to get a softer diffused kind of light commonly sought after for portraits. This kind of flash technique requires a flash that can be aimed in a direction that the camera is not pointed. It takes practice to refine this technique and only a small percentage of photographers actually use it.

Conclusion. Practice using flash in your photos even when it is not necessarily needed and pay attention to your results. The best way to become better at flash photography is to analyze your photos and try to figure out what you could have done differently in order to create a better flash-filled exposure.

Richard Schneider is a digital photography enthusiast and founder of which offers tips and news about digital photography, digital camera reviews, and photoshop tutorials. Please also visit where there is free high resolution desktop wallpaper available.

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Photography Tips While Traveling

afghanistan 2005Whether you’re embarking on a family vacation or your family reunion, it’s going to be a special time. When we think of trips we’ve taken, we tend to remember them best with photographs. Here’s some ideas to enhance your vacation as well as your memories of them.

Location Preparation

1) Since you know where you’re going (that's a minimum requirement), doesn’t it make sense to check out the location before you get there? Create a list of attractions, accommodations, special points of interest, amusement areas, shopping, etc. A good source to help you do this is: the Places and Travel section of (

2) Figure out the photo opportunities for each appropriate venue. Anyone can take a “that’s nice” picture of the kids at an amusement park. Wouldn’t you rather capture a “WOW” photo that could be hung over the mantle?

3) Depending on the location you’re traveling to, you can see what books are written about them that highlight the best photo opportunities for the entire area

4) If you’re cyber-savvy, start at and search using different combinations of: your destination, best photography locations, for images of the location, scenic spots, etc. The options are endless.

afghanistan 20055) If you’re off to a non-big city area, scout out the national parks in the area. The great thing about national parks is that the scenery is usually so breathtaking, that a so-so shot looks
outstanding, just because of the subject. Once in, do a search on photos and you will be presented with terrific shots of all the parks

Photography Preparation

OK, you’re either traveling through or you’re at a wonderful location full of photo opportunities. You began this leg of your trip at the crack of dawn and as you’re pulling into the most scenic overlook for 400 miles, the sun is just starting to crack the horizon.

You instinctively pull the car over, grab your camera and your tripod, and look for the best spot to set up. Just one tiny little problem… YOU FORGOT YOUR TRIPOD! Rather than smack yourself on the forehead then, why not plan these things now, before you leave?

Your list should include AT LEAST the following consideration…

1) Do I need to repeat – BRING YOUR TRIPOD? It doesn’t take up much room, and as explained at, tripods allow you to capture entirely new categories of photographs that won’t be possible without one

2) Memory. Of course, bring all the memory you have, but also pack your portable storage device (explained at

afghanistan 20053) If your camera has a hot shoe, bring your external flash, and any additional equipment that can be used to help with bounce flash

4) Remember your external shutter release cable for those long exposures. How else are you going to get that “angel-hair” look of the waterfalls?

5) Don’t forget the basics like: batteries, battery charger, camera bag, and additional lenses and filters (if applicable on your camera)

6) And just in case you need it, bring the manuals for your equipment.

Finally, don’t get so wrapped up in taking perfect shots that you don’t enjoy the trip. Remember to use the tripod so that you'll be in at least some of the photos.

Article courtesy of Best Family Photography, where you can see some sample pictures including more photography tips.

Copyright 2005 Robert Bezman. All rights reserved.

Robert Bezman is a professional photographer and owner of Custom Photographic Expressions. Robert has created to help the digital photography users create better photographs. Robert has a blog at

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What is Depth of Field - Photography Basics

depth of field, photography 101At some point all beginning photographers are confronted with certain technical aspects of photography that have them either burning up rolls of film, or loading up memory cards! Two in particular: Exposure (which will be addressed in a different article) and Depth of Field (or DOF) leave the newly shutterbug bitten novice shaking their head, wondering what they are doing wrong.

When I first started taking on an informal teaching role with beginning photographers it was interesting that the single most common question asked by them was: "How do I make the background blurry and my subject sharp?" and of course, "what do I need to do when I want everything in focus?"

It's inevitable. If you desire to take your photography to a higher level of quality, you will need to understand what causes short and long depths of field, and especially how to manipulate it to express your vision. Let's get started...

First - what is a photograph with a short Depth of Field, and what is one with a long DOF? Quite simply, a photograph with only the subject in focus, and everything before and behind it blurry, is a photograph with a short DOF. An image with everything in the foreground to the background sharp and in focus has a long DOF. With this highly sophisticated formula I'm sure you can figure out what a medium DOF is!

Why use a short DOF? When you reach this level of being able to control exactly what you want in focus (typically referred to as Selective Focus) in your photograph you will have developed a dynamic tool that will create powerful photographs! You will see this used extensively in photojournalism - such as the photographer focusing on one particular individual in a crowd of people. Creative use of this tool certainly gives sustenance to the term: A picture paints a thousand words!

Quite often you will see the use of a short DOF in glamour portraiture. A classic example is when you see the model's eye closest to the lens sharply focused, and the one furthest is blurred. It's one of the most unique techniques a photographer can utilize to convey her or his message.

What about a long DOF? Landscape photography is the best example of the long Depth of Field in use. Shooting images of seemingly endless vistas would render a photograph worthless if only a small portion of the 'field' was in focus. Since you want virtually everything from closest to farthest tack sharp - you will want to shoot with a long DOF. You can see this utilized with incredible results in the works of the greatest fine art photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. But even when making photographs of spectacular scenes, there will be times when your creative vision will want to focus attention on a tiny, fragile flower amidst nature's grandest formations. Developing these techniques will arm you with that kind of photographic versatility.

So now that you understand what DOF is, how do you make it work? This is where we begin to get a bit technical, but it's important you understand it. Since DOF will vary depending on the focal length lens you are using, my examples will be in regards to using a normal SLR lens in the 45mm - 70mm range. To be able to manipulate DOF you must be able to adjust the aperture (or F-stops) on your camera. Most all SLR cameras that are even remotely modern can do this by switching your mode to Aperture Priority mode - or AV mode.

While I will not give a detailed explanation about aperture in this article - the simplest way to understand is this: An F-stop is the adjustable opening that controls how much light coming through your lens hits the film or digital sensor. The shutter speed is involved with this as well, but for now let's stick with aperture. The F-stop also controls the DOF of an image.

Older SLR camera lenses typically have the F-stop numbers on the lens barrel. An older very basic lens may have numbers around the aperture ring like: 2.8 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16 - 22. These are the F-stops, or the aperture opening settings.

More modern cameras are electronic and the F-stops are usually seen at the bottom of the viewfinder. Contemporary lenses usually have more F-stop settings available, such as: 2.8 - 3.5 - 5.6 - 6.3 - 7.1 - 8 - and so forth, possibly all the way up to 32.

To choose the DOF you wish to use for a particular shot you need to understand this very basic concept: The lower the F-stop number - such as 2.8, the shorter your DOF will be. The higher the F-stop number - 22, the longer the depth of field. To simplify it further - making a photograph with F22 or higher is going to have everything in the final image in focus. Shooting with the aperture set at 2.8 is going to mean that only what you specifically focused on is going to sharp.

depth of field, photo tipsTake a moment to absorb this because this basic concept is the nuts and bolts of creating a quality photograph, rather than just taking a picture. The very best exercise you can do to practice this technique is to line up 3 objects - such as apples. Place them on a table about 2' apart lined up going away from you at just enough of an angle so the first one isn't blocking the other two. Place your camera about 3' from the first one, and focus on the apple in the middle. Shoot several shots - each one at a different f-stop, starting with the lowest number (short DOF) and changing to the next higher f-stop after each shot...all the way to the highest F-stop.

If your lens has an F-stop number as low as 2.8 you will see that maybe only the forward surface of the apple is in focus - everything from closest to furthest is gradually very blurry. With each shot changed to a higher F-stop number you will see more of the field in focus. By the time you get to the highest F-stop setting, virtually everything in the photo will be sharp and focused.

Most SLR cameras have a DOF Preview Button. If you use it while looking through the lens at your scene - you will see what the final image will look like. Only problem is - the higher the F-stop number is, the smaller the amount of light is let in. So it can be very difficult to see because it will be very dark. After practicing with these techniques you will not bother with the DOF preview button. You will know how the image will be reproduced.

That is the mystery of Depth of Field in a nutshell! Yes, there is more in-depth aspects of DOF - such as understanding Hyper Focal Distance, and of course knowing that you will get different DOF results with longer and shorter focal length lenses. But understanding these basic DOF concepts will revolutionize your photography, and give you one more step up in photographic quality.

Chip Clark is a San Diego based professional photographer, with over 20 years experience in landscape photography, wildlife photography, sports photography, and portraiture.

Chip Clark's online galleries can be seen at

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Night Photography: Low Light Tips and Techniques

night photography

Photography at night can be used to create mysterious and amazing photos. When I say photography at night I mean the hours from around sunset until when the stars are clearly visible. The long exposures associated with low light can create unique effects and unusually sharp photos. And when I say long exposures I mean exposures lasting from half a second up to even 30 seconds. An exposure that long would seem impossible to prevent shaking, so my technique that I use very often is to compose the photo like I would normally and then to set the self-timer so the camera takes the picture on its own and I don’t even have to touch it.

Equipment Options

For low light photos, a tripod (or some kind of substitute) is very necessary. I almost always keep a tripod in the trunk of my car or carry a miniature tripod around on trips. A miniature tripod can be very handy because it is typically small enough to fit in a pants pocket so it can be taken anywhere. Some photographers carry around a bean bag or something like it so that can set their camera down and tilt it in any way they like. Some of my best pictures I have taken simply by setting my camera down on a newspaper stand and setting the self-timer.

Many photographers are convinced that they need a cable release to take long exposures but the self-timer release option on just about all cameras works just as well. All you have to do is set the camera up, configure the self-timer, press the shutter button, and wait the specified amount of time (usually 10 seconds) and the camera will take the photo automatically. And you don’t have to touch the camera so the photo won’t be blurred from hand shaking.

Night Photo Opportunities

Landscape Photos - My favorite kind of night photo usually includes a landscape with some kind of foreground element, some sort of framing element, and lots of lights throughout the scene. Adding some kind of foreground item to the frame helps to create a greater depth of field, this technique works for any kind of photo but I have found that it makes night landscape photos much better. Another tip you should keep in mind is that the main subject of a night photo should probably be the most well lit. Lots of light is good for a night exposure but there should still be some focus applied to the major objects in a scene.

Capturing Motion – A very popular kind of night photography includes a steady camera with some sort of fast moving object streaming through the frame. When cars are photographed at night with a long shutter speed, the headlights make a bright pathway of light and in most cases the car can’t even be seen. Another option would be to set up your camera next to a lighted area with lots of people moving like a night club or an illuminated street. Just about any kind of motion captured with the camera steady produces a very interesting photo.

Balancing Aperture and Shutter Speed

When taking photos at night you should keep aperture in mind as well as shutter speed. It is without question that you will need a long shutter speed, but the aperture that you choose will provide the depth of field. When I take night photos I usually have a very long shutter speed (5-15 seconds) and a very narrow aperture (high f-stop). This combination creates a huge depth of field and makes everything very crisp and in focus. Of course sometimes you will not desire a great depth of field and in those situations you should widen the aperture (small f-stop).

Calculating the Exposure

Figuring out what exact shutter speed and aperture you should use can be very challenging in Manual Mode. I would recommend that you just try many different combinations for each scene and eventually you will refine the settings that you prefer. Another technique I use is Bracketing, if you bracket all your photos so the camera takes multiple exposures at different settings, you are more likely to end up with a photo that has a satisfactory brightness.


There is no exact science to night photography; I hope some of these tips will guide you in the right direction. But the best night photographers are usually the people who experiment a lot when they are taking low light exposures and eventually they figure out the best scenes and best exposure settings to match. Just remember that you need a very long shutter speed setting, and that you need to keep the camera very steady.

Richard Schneider is a digital photography enthusiast and founder of which offers tips and news about digital photography, digital camera reviews, and photoshop tutorials. Please also visit where you can find many examples of the techniques described in this article to use as your desktop wallpaper.

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Why Canon Digital Cameras Are Better

Canon 5D digital cameraHave you held a Canon digital camera in your hand? If you have not had the ability to take a few photos with these high quality and often superior cameras in the digital line, you should get the chance. There are plenty of opportunities out there for you to get the best possible product for your needs. Here are some of the things that a Canon digital camera can provide for your specific needs.

• Quality versus Price: There are many digital cameras on the market today. Some of those that offer the best pictures are those that are high priced though. Yet, with many of the Canon line, you will find a more affordable choice that matches up to other brands more costly choices. In short, you get more for your money in quality here for a much lower price.

• Features: While there are several Canon digital cameras for you to choose from, you will find that most are packed with not only the latest and the greatest features but also with the things that really make a difference in your viewing. The point and shoot capabilities are just one of these features. Consider the LCD screen, the various options in lenses and various other features.

• Easy To Use: Another aspect of the Canon digital camera is the fact that it is more affordable to use than virtually any other type of camera out here. That is not to say that it is just so simplistic, but it seems as if canon has built in the features that are easy to use to provide you with the highest level of quality photo possible.

There are plenty of other reasons that you should considering a Canon digital camera. If you like a high quality, affordable and well designed camera, it is possible that this may be the right line for you to consider.

Mike Barus specializes in Cameras and Photography

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Digital SLR Camera Reviews - Best Picks

A digital single lens reflex camera is an incredibly versatile and flexible piece of photographic equipment that can help you take the best photos of your life. There are several brands to choose from today that all have interchangeable lenses, allowing you to choose from a wide variety of shots from wide angle and closeups to telephoto images.

But before you decide that a digital single lens reflex camera is just what you need, first consider how you plan on using it. If you mainly like to take snapshots of your family and friends and maybe some special events like weddings and anniversaries, you probably don't really need a camera as sophisticated and complicated as a digital SLR. In fact, a compact digital camera with a fixed lens will probably do the job just fine. So you can save yourself the added expense and steeper learning curve associated with dSLRs.

But on the other hand, if you are a photography hobbyist or perhaps you plan on increasing your photography skills in the near future, then a digital SLR camera will probably fit your needs well. Or perhaps you need a camera that can do double duty as both a simple fully automated point and shoot camera and a more sophisticated manual camera too, as more than one person with different skill levels will be using it. Happily, a digital SLR can fit the bill here too as most of them also have completely automated settings that can be used by almost anyone.

But if you decide that a digital SLR will work for you, which camera is best for you? Most likely you will need to do some research to find out what models are available in your price range and then read some digital SLR camera reviews online to learn more about which models are the best in that price range.

But from reading many of the online digital slr camera reviews by both independent reviewers and consumers, we have found two cameras that we can highly recommend based on their popularity in these unbiased reviews. For beginners, the Pentax ist DX is often mentioned as an extremely easy camera to learn and use and with a 18-55mm zoom lens and costs just under $1,000. For more advanced users that require even more features and capabilities, the Nikon D70s is well reported on by almost all reviewers that we saw, and with a 18-70mm lens, it costs around $1200. Of course, both of these cameras can be bought for less if you really make a good search for them online.

Regardless of which digital single lens reflex camera that you choose, they will all bring a higher level of photographic capability and sophistication to any photo that you take. If you follow the guidelines and tips provided above it can help you decide whether or not a digital SLR will fit your needs and help you decide also on which one will work best for you.

Thad Pickering writes on many consumer related topics including digital photography. You can find digital slr camera reviews and a digital cameras comparison by visiting our Digital Photography website.

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Photoshop CS2 Killer Tips by Scott Kelby

Wouldn't it be cool if there were an Adobe Photoshop CS2® book that was nothing but tips cover-to-cover? Seriously, imagine how fast you'd be in Photoshop if you learned all those little "insider tips," those timesaving shortcuts, workarounds, and undocumented tricks. Well, you're holding that book. The book where every page is packed full of nothing but cool tips, tips, and more tips.There are no special effects, no flaming type, no glows, no buttons, no bevels, etc. - it's just packed cover-to-cover with nothing but tips. It's designed to teach you those hidden productivity tips and little-known shortcuts that the pros use to get twice the work done in half the time, and help you "smoke the competition."

FREE Photo Editing Software

Free photo editing softwareToday, I'd like to talk about some FREE software that you can use to keep track of your digital photos. You can also do some image editing and other fun stuff with this software. I'm talking about Picasa, available from Google. You can get a free download here...

Digital Photography Tips - The Big Five Of Digital Photography

Digital Photography Tip One - Busting The Dust:

Digital SLRs with removable lenses are prone to dust landing on the sensor. Static electricity around the sensor can possibly contribute to attracting dust particles, or other elements to this sensitive area of your camera.

To get rid of the dust you can use a camera blower brush, and tilt the camera down while blowing. Take care not to get any of the hairs snagged inside!

Digital Photography Tip Two - Shedding Light On The Night:

For night photography using only a flash can leave you with a well exposed - but isolated - subject against a dark background. Most digital cameras nowadays have a slow-sync flash feature, which combines the short flash exposure with a proper exposure for the rest of the background. On a camera such as the Olympus SP500, this feature is a preset mode called "Night Portrait".

To ensure expert nighttime shooting, a good digital photography tip is to look for a digital camera with the following features: shutter speed of up to 30 seconds; shutter priority mode; manual ISO settings at least to 400; slow-sync shutter mode.

Digital Photography Tip Three - Nit-Picking About Pixels:

When buying a digital camera you will be confronted with a vast choice of various megapixel specifications. It is worth knowing that not all pixels are created equal!

Some cameras have more pixels crammed onto the same sensor size as another model. More pixels in this case means smaller, and therefore less effective pixels. In this situation the camera with fewer pixels on a similar-sized sensor, might actually produce better images all round.

Digital Photography Tip Four - Spice Up Your Space:

With digital photography you will find yourself taking more pictures - and chances - than ever before, without the worry of the cost of failure. However, that means you will need a lot of digital storage space, especially if you are diligent about making backup copies of your best work.

If you're doing out-of-town nature photography, a digital photography tip to keep in mind is to make sure you take along enough storage devices, such as a laptop, DVD's, and external hard drives. RAW images can quickly get you into storage problems!

Digital Photography Tip Five - Remember To Flash:

For great outdoor portraits, make sure you use your digital camera's fill flash, or flash on mode. Don't wait for the camera to decide whether or not the flash is necessary. It might decide that there is generally enough outdoor light.

The fill flash mode will ensure proper exposure for the background and enough flash to expose the subject in the foreground, leaving you with a professional looking portrait.

Lastly, remember that, if someone offers expert advice, they may expect a generous digital photography tip!

For more information visit

Rika Susan of researches, writes, and publishes full-time on the Web. Copyright of this article: 2006 Rika Susan. This article may be reprinted if the resource box and hyperlinks are left intact.

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How to Use Wide Angle Lens

This lens is my favorite. (wide-angle lens that is - S.L.) I cannot say exactly why, but I can give you a few points that I like most in the lens. And those points are: stretching the perspective, making the object that closer to the lens look much bigger (in relation to all other objects), the lens allow you to fit a lot of things into the image and there is certain dynamics added by the lens to the image (it could be because of the distortions, which such lens inevitably bring to the photograph). There is one more thing, when you photograph a certain subject, the lens require to get close, real close, to the subject and it makes the subject kind of very personal for you, you feel it better, if you see what I mean.


One of the most interesting features of wide-angle lens is the capability to stretch perspective. What do I mean by that? I mean that when you look through a wide-angle lens, it seems that the distance between objects has extended. The objects that were not so distant could appear too far away. And the proportion of objects dramatically increases, so the one that close to the camera look enormous, but those, which are father away almost disappear in the distance.

The wider the angle the shorter and stronger the difference in the sizes of the elements in the photograph. If we think of two parallel lines that stretch out away from the camera, these two lines will visibly merge at some point. This is a point, which I would call perceptive vanish point for wide angle lens. What do I mean by that? Well, theoretically at this point and beyond (at this distance from the focal plane) all elements would be represented as a dot or not visible at all. For normal lens (of in reality) this vanishing point is somewhat farther from the focal plane then for wide angle lens.

What do those two vanishing points mean (for normal and wide angle lens)? They mean that the wide angle lens reduce the actual (visible) distance to the vanishing point. Which results that our brain, when judging the distance and sizes of the objects in the photograph, assumes that the distance to the vanishing point is the same as with normal lens (i.e. reality). But this assumption makes it to stretch the perspective recorded in the image to the normal one.

Making it big

Let's take for example a simple situation, where we have two kids, which should be of similar size. The girl is playing closer to the camera while the boy is watching several feet farther. We make a shot with a wide angle lens. What effect the lens would bring here? First of all compare the size of the girl and the boy. The boy probably would be two-three times smaller than the girl, while in reality their somewhat of the same height. OK, the perspective added its effect and make the boy seem smaller. But in the reality the boy is not that far away. On the photograph I it could seem as 15-20 feet (5-7 meters) between the boy and the girl, actually only a few feet separated them at that moment. So here you see the first effect of the wide angle lens - stretching perspective.

And I should say that there is additional benefit for a photographer in this. Because the girl appear to be bigger than the boy she becomes the main subject without any doubts or additional thinking, we just assume it by judging the relative sizes of subjects/objects in the frame. It means that with wide angle lens its much easier to focus viewer's attention on the primary subject - the size matters. If we consider the relative sizes and how it reduces the significance of the objects/subjects that farther away from the camera, we can say that the other elements of the photograph (not the primary one) easily become the background for our primary subject. And this trail of thought leads me to a conclusion that by using wide angle lens we can separate the subject from the rest of stuff in the image by making all other elements to become the background. It looks like we push all other elements farther away from the camera and pull the subject much closer to the camera.

Though there is one side thought, it may not always be possible to get close to the subject and enforce that distance between elements in the photograph. It only works when you are very close to the subject, otherwise the use of wide angle lens will have the opposite effect - it will blend your subject in with the rest of the elements of the photograph. And sometimes it may even worsen things, such that some insignificant object on front plane becomes almost huge and draws a lot of unwanted attention. That's why there are limits to this techniqe, as always.

Seeing a lot

So, by pushing the subject farther from the camera we blend it with background. But what if we need to include a lot of the scene? What if there is no single subject? Let's say there is a vista or a big room full of people (some kind of event) and we want to get everything into the frame. Well, again the wide angle lens could be your choice, because the name of that range says it all. Wide angle means that you can fit a lot of stuff into the image.

Though when you put a lot of stuff into the image everything becomes small and less significant. And then the emphasis shifts to the overall "wow effect". When the quantity of elements and their relation to each other play more importance, than qualities of a single element, this mix of many elements becomes the primary subject.

Wide angle lens help when there is a limited space and you need to jam a big subject into the picture. One of the examples is the interior design photography. Let's say we have an assignment to take photographs of a kitchen, which I had some time ago. In my case I had plenty of room to move around, the kitchen was for a show, not for real purposes. But there are times when the space is a great issue, then the only choice is to use a wide angle lens, if you are not focusing on the details and need the overall view of the room.

Dynamics and distortion

Sometime ago I've taken a shot of a man sitting on a car. It was taken with "a hidden camera", I just pointed the camera at the man from the waist level at pressed the shutter. The lens, of course, was the wide angle one - at its widest angle. The legs of the man were closest to the camera, and the head is most distant. How was it represented in the photographs? My first answer would be the disproportion of the man, his legs seem much bigger in relation to his whole body than a person usually would have. That is one of the the distortion effects which I wanted to point out. It relates to the "Making it big" issue covered earlier in this article. The body parts of the man, which are closer to the camera (in our case those are the legs) appear to be bigger than his other limbs, which are farther away. Such a distortion sometime may add a funny look to a portrait or highlight specific features of the subject. You probably have seen many images taken with a fish eye lens - the lens that cover 180 degrees and with most distortions. The first example that comes to my mind is a picture of a dog, which is sniffing the camera. The nose of the dog has the size of the dog's head, which makes it so funny.

The other effect of distortion is that straight lines that cross the frame may appear not that straight. The farther from the image center the line crosses the frame the more it will be bent by the optics. Sometimes with fish eye lens it seems like a couple of lines create a circle around the lens. That's how strongly a distortion can affect the scene in the photograph.

But we have not talked about the dynamics. Where are the dynamics in the photograph created with a wide angle lens? In my mind the dynamics in all aspects described above: the stretch of perspective, the differences of the subjects, which are on different distances from the camera, the unreal proportions of known shapes and forms and the distortion of the straight lines (or any other usual and known graphic elements).

Getting personal

Among those technical aspects of the wide angle lens, there is one, which adds its own appeal to me. Considering that you are using the lens to take photographs of a person, you are bound to come closer to the subject. Coming closer, huh? It means that most probably the person would notice you and your camera, which will almost touch him or her. And if your are noticed by the subject, then the attention will be turned at you and all the activities or interests that kept that person busy and made him/her interesting for you will be forgotten for a little while. And the scene, which you were hunting for, is gone. It seems like you are loosing the advantage of a candid shot and are left with a posed one.

Not at all, if you stick just for a few more minutes and spend some time around the subject, the person would be bored with you and shift his attention to some other, more interesting activities or objects. That's the moment we have been waiting for - we are close and unnoticed. And the time which we spent waiting for that we made an invisible connection with the subject. We learned about some personal side and probably made some impressions and conclusions. All those small things count, they will appear in the photograph, it will create that personal touch and add the mood to the photograph, which is based on the photographer's understanding and impression of the subject. I consider this side-effect of the wide angle lens one of the important aspects. And even if the subject is a simple rock laying in the grass, we will have to pay more attention to the rock and by doing so we cannot escape a deeper impression. This personal connection makes as think more about what subject we select to include into the frame and what we know about it, what we want to express, which is the core of photography.

Technical stuff

There are a few technical things that you may need to know when using the wide-angle lens. Here is the short description of those (I am not that much into technicalities):

  • Lens Hood and Flare - because the lens covers a very wide area there is a great chance that the sun could mess with your image. To overcome this small problem most of the lens are supplied with a lens hood. The hood creates a protection from the sun, but there are two things that collide: the lens is created to allow view as much as possible and the hood tries to provide a protection from the sun. These two concept are somewhat contradictory, so one of them should give in, and that's why the hood for wide angle lens is not such a good protection after all. So, it's your job to watch for the flare and it may be useful to use some other objects (such as a sheet of black card) to protect the lens from the sun rays.

  • Polarizer - with polarizer you have two concerns. One of them is that the simple thickness of the metallic rim around the glass may cause vignetting. The other one is the unevenness of the effect, which is partially depends on the all those various reflection angles that these lens will let through. If we take for example the sky, the best effect will be when the sun and the camera are at 90 degrees to each other. Though the lens cover a lot more of other angles, where the angles will vary from 45 to 135 degrees. As well I noticed that even without the polarizer the lens saturates the sky more than any other type of lens.

  • Depth of Field - the design of the wide angle lens and its optical constraints make the DOF wider than with any other lens. It's very hard (almost impossible) to have a shallow DOF with such lens, so look for other ways to simplify background (such as framing).

  • Sharpness - if you have a wide angle zoom lens than you may notice slighter less sharpness at the very wide angle, especially with the widest aperture. That's another design constraint, which very hard to avoid as I understand (almost any wide angle zoom lens has this drawback, even the best lens).

  • Vignetting - some lens (especially of cheaper price range) may have dimness in corners at the widest angles and apertures. You may want to check this issue before buying the lens.

Roman Zolin
Friendly photography with a smile

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Scene Modes and Your Digital Camera

Most people don't want to mess with their digital camera's settings. The rest of us may not understand what they are for and what they can do. Camera manufacturers realize this and are making it easier to take great photos. It is done through a feature called scene modes. Scene modes are mini-programs designed to automatically adjust your camera's settings that are best suited for the situation. By merely twisting a knob or pushing a button a few times, you are able to quickly and easily adjust your camera to get a great shot nearly every time.

Here are some of the more common scene modes and what they do:

Backlight - eliminates dark shadows when light is coming from behind the subject or when the subject is in the shade.

Beach/Snow - this mode is used when photographing beach, snow and sunlight water scenes. Exposure times and white balance are set to help prevent the scene from becoming washed out looking.

Fireworks - shutter speed and exposure are set for shooting fireworks: pre-focusing and the use of a tripod is highly recommended.

Landscape - this mode is used to take photos of wide scenes. The camera automatically focuses on a distant object.

Macro - is used to take close-up shots of small objects, such as coin, flowers or insects. The lens can be moved closer to the object than in other modes. The use of a tripod is highly recommended.

Night Scene - is used when photographing night scenes - what else? Slow shutter speeds are used. You'll need that tripod again.

Panning or Action - this mode will "freeze" the action of the subject while blurring the background to give the feel of motion or speed.

Panorama - is used to take a series of shots from one point and "stitch" them together with software to make a wide angle scene.

Party Mode - is used to take photos in a dim lit room. Exposure and shutter speeds are adjusted for room brightness. The camera must be held very steady in this mode.

Portrait - this mode automatically focuses on the subject and puts the background slightly out of focus.

Sports - is similar to action modes. Fast shutter speeds "freeze" the action. Best shots will result when taken in bright lighting conditions and when you are pre-focused on an area.

Sunset - is used to take photos of sunsets and sunrises. This mode helps keep the deep hues in the scene.

Some cameras have as many as 20 different scene modes. Some modes will automatically adjust the size of your photo for on-line auction. Some are supposed to take 10 pounds off the subject. Regardless of how many scense your camera has, always read the instruction manual. Each manufacturer has their own terminology. By understanding and using scene modes, you will get a great shot every time.

Mike Browns

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8 Simple Tips for Taking Great Baby Photos

Taking pictures of your new baby is a great way to preserve life long memories. Baby pictures can also make great postcards, keepsakes, or baby shower gifts. Here are some simple tips to get great baby pictures:

1) Avoid bright light - Babies are especially sensitive to bright light including harsh sunlight and flash photography. If possible, try to take photos during the day when flash photography is not necessary. You can also use lamps to create lighting.

2) Take pictures from different distances - Try to take pictures from different distances. Most people like to take closeup pictures, but pictures that are too close can be blurry and out of focus. By taking several pictures from different distances, you can keep the ones that are the best.

3) Be aware of your baby's mood - Try not to start a photo session when your baby is cranky or crying. If your baby is in a bad mood, then wait awhile until he or she is better rested or calmed. You will get better pictures when your baby is in good spirits.

4) Use a high quality camera and film - This tip may seem simple, but is worth saying. Using high quality cameras and film can make a big difference in the quality of the photo, especially if you are creating photo gifts or favors.

5) Get rid of any distractions - Make sure there are not too many distractions when taking pictures. Anything that moves or makes noise, like the TV, should be turned off is possible. Having too many people around can also be distracting for the baby.

6) Take multiple shots - Taking different shots is a good idea for any type of photography, particularly if you are making photo gifts. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a shot will turn out good until it is actually produced, so get those extra shots just in case.

7) Background - Make sure that there is not too much distracting stuff in the background. The focus should be on the baby, so plain backgrounds usually work best.

8) Other people - Try taking pictures of the baby with other people as well, including yourself. A baby will interact with other people and these interactions captured on film can make great keepsakes.

About the Author - Criss White is a professional web writer on baby and new mother topics for baby and pregnancy websites. For baby shower picture frames, go to Baby Picture Frames - Favors and Unique Baby Shower Favors.

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Photography - Top 10 Tips

If you ask the experts, they'll tell you that there are ten things you can do to make sure that your photos are as good a they can be. These are by no means the only things that will give you better photos but most of the pros agree that these are at the top of the list.

Surprisingly, the first thing they tell you to do, when photographing another person, is to look your subject in the eye. This technique engages the subject and gets the best possible expression out of the subject. Take the photo at eye level. If the subject is a child then stoop down to their level. This is called getting a bird's eye view and is very effective.

The next tip is to use a plain background. You don't want to take attention away from the subject. By using a plain background the attention is squarely on the subject. Make sure there are no objects of any kind sticking out from the sides of the photo area. Your subject is going to look pretty silly having a car sticking out of her right ear.

Third on the list is to use flash outdoors. While this is actually not necessary, the pros say that this will actually improve the quality of the photo. By using a flash this lightens the facial area and eliminates shadows that can be caused by the sun. It's a subtle difference, but a difference just the same.

Number four is to move in close to your subject. This will make the photo as sharp as possible. Plus, you want to fill the photo area with the subject itself and not the things around the subject. Don't get too close or the photo can turn out blurry.

The fifth tip is to move the subject from the middle. This may sound wrong by instinct but what this does is bring your subject to life by moving him from the middle. Try playing tic tac toe with the subject to get the most interesting effect.

Sixth on the list is to lock the focus. Many cameras have auto focus options. Use them. Unless you are a seasoned pro, the camera will do a better job of focusing in on the subject than you can.

The seventh thing to do is to know the range of your flash. Not every flash travels at the same distance. If you are too far away from your subject for your flash to reach you are going to end up with a very dark photo.

Coming in at number eight is to watch light coming from other sources. A bright flash of sun on your grandmother's face can bring wrinkles more to view. This is not something you want. You want the light to be even throughout the photo. This may involve moving your subject a number of times.

At number nine, the pros suggest to take some vertical photos. In other words, turn your camera on it's side. For whatever reason, vertical photos just look good and can make a new photographer's photos look that much better.

At the bottom of the list at number ten is to be a photo director. Don't just passively take your photos. Move your subjects around. Try to create a composition with your photos. Let them tell a story.

The above tips should get you on your way to being a much better photographer.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Photography

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Travel Photography Tips - Prague

While living in Europe, I had a lot of opportunities to travel, explore and photograph. Not every time I've taken advantage of them, but last weekend I had a chance to visit Prague (Czech Republic). The following are some of my experiences and lessons learned.

For those who's interested in Prague's history, check out For the purpose of this article I am gonna concentrate on the photo aspect of my trip.

After reading the quick info card about the tour, I checked out my photo bag to make sure I got all my gear and everything works. This quick inspection is very important; not only to make sure that your gear works, but also to make a decision what to bring and what to leave home. I usually bring everything I got. Here's my list:

  • Nikon F5
  • AF Nikkor 50mm f1.4, AF Nikkor 24-80mm, AF Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 D
  • Nikon SB-600 flash unit
  • Various filters
  • FUJI Superia Press Pro 35mm color negative film
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • LowelPro AW Commercial Bag

Since I figured the pace of this trip will be pretty fast, I decided not to take the tripod with me; carrying the bag is bad enough. Everything else on the list was packed into LowelPro bag.

After an uncomfortable 7 hour bus ride, we finally arrived. The weather was ok, a few clouds, a bit overcast - nice for photography. The plan was to take a quick tour with the group, then lunch, and then explore the city on my own.

Photo 1 - Billboard in Prague

Photo 2 - The View from Charles Bridge

The tour was short and sweet - just how I like it. There was a lot of tourists around, so I snapped a few shots and moved on. After lunch, I decided to check out Charles Bridge located in the Old Town. While strolling through narrow streets of the Old Town, I noticed a homeless man sitting on the street. I didnt want to be obvious, so I pre focused the lens and snapped 2 shots. Both came out a bit blurry, cause my focus was not dead on, and also I got the feeling that I shook the camera a bit...

To be continued...

For more travel photography tips, check out this blog