"camera manual"

Lesson 10 – Flattering Portraits


A while back, I was doing a one-on-one photography outing at my place with Nela, another photographer I had met. One of the topics for the evening was, "What camera lenses should be used to create beautiful, flattering portraits of my friends, family, and clients?" I thought I'd share a recap for ya'll to enjoy!

The difference between the right lens and the wrong one is dramatic. (I didn't do any photo editing on these other than to re-size and sharpen them for web use.) The boy didn't move at all. Doesn't the one on the left look like he has his neck stuck out?


The picture on the left was taken with a 17-55mm lens. (That's the type of lens that likely came with your camera if you have an SLR - your “kit” lens.) It’s a great lens for certain things, but NOT the right one to choose when you want to impress someone by taking a great picture of him or her. This lens will distort people’s faces terribly, especially if you don’t zoom in at all! Did you ever wonder why you are hardly ever happy with the way you look in photos? The camera lens’ focal length plays a big part in that. Nobody likes to look worse than they do in real life.

The photo on the right is taken with a 70-200mm lens, zoomed in to 200mm. This is the way the boy looks in real life. All I did was to change my lens, take several steps backward, and zoom in. The boy didn't move at all


What is "focal length"?

"The focal length of a lens determines how much magnification it provides. A lens with a shorter focal length will be able to 'see' a wider view of a subject than can a lens with a longer focal length, which would see a narrower view of the scene, but at a higher level of magnification.”
– Definition from mobileburn glossary
The smaller the number on the lens (e.g. 18-55mm), the wider the view seen in the camera. The larger the number printed on the lens (e.g. 70-200mm), the more things are magnified.

The good photo of the boy that I showed you earlier was taken with a 70-200mm lens. (It was one of those bigger, longer lenses.) You can easily see the difference between the good image and the distorted one.
Note: I mention the 17-55mm lens, the 18-55mm lens, and the 70-200mm lens, but you could substitute your 55-250mm lens or 70-300mm lens, etc. for the 70-200mm lens I have.

Q: Why did the wide angle lens – the 17-55mm lens – distort the boy’s face?
A: All wide-angle lenses distort straight lines: they make straight lines look curved. Look at these examples I took of a grid. See how the one on the left taken with the wide 17-55mm lens skews the lines? The photo on the right was taken with the 70-200mm and has much less distortion. Look at how much straighter the lines are.


If you have a small camera – a point-and-shoot – instead of an SLR, you can still benefit from this advice. When you’re taking a picture of a friend, step back and zoom in on your subject’s face instead of standing really close to her to take the photo. She will thank you when she sees the result and you will have a MUCH nicer picture to show for your trouble. Try it and see! It makes an AMAZING difference. 

Q: Are there times to use a wide-angle lens for portraits?
A: Yes, and we’ll talk about those times later – you can do some exciting stuff with wide-angle lenses! They aren't made for gorgeous close-up portrait photography though.

So.. there you have it! Step back and zoom in to get the best results!
Speaking of results, here are some of the photos I came away with after the photography outing.
Nela and I shared a wonderful evening together shooting photos to our heart’s content…well, not really. I only had about a million other places to show her and a hundred other techniques to talk about! It was fun. J All of these photos were shot with my 70-200mm lens.


We had a great time together.




Backlighting is fun and gorgeous...and so is long grass!






Lots of laughs.
Lots of photos.
Lots of fun.


"Surely I come quickly. 
Amen. 
Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Revelation 22:20b

What are ISO numbers? Lesson 6



A Definition:

The ISO number = how sensitive the camera is to light

“The lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film 
and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking.”  
- Darren Rowse

There are 3 basic variables that are part of the process of taking a picture. We talked about the first two variables in Lesson 4 and Lesson 5 – the camera’s aperture and shutter speed. The last variable we will talk about is the ISO.

Can you remember waaay back to the film days before basically everything went digital? (I wasn’t even taking pictures back then!) Anyway, when people bought their film, they had to choose what light sensitivity they wanted – what ISO number to choose. The higher the number, the more sensitive the film was to the light. People chose a higher speed film such as ISO 800 for use indoors and bought a lower speed film like ISO 200 to use outside.

Of course, nowadays most people have digital cameras and therefore don’t use film, but changing the ISO according to your circumstances is still important. There’s no reason not to! It’s so much easier than changing film!

Q: Why not just use ISO 800 (or another high ISO number) all the time? After all, it’s more sensitive to light!

A: The higher the ISO number, the grainier, “noisier” and lower the quality of the resulting image. The lower the ISO speed, the better the quality and the less grainy or noisy the picture is.

 



This is the view at 100% of part of a picture that was taken using a high ISO number. You can see the grain and noise, can't you?




Here is a view zoomed in at 100% of part of a picture taken at a low ISO number. The picture details are much cleaner and clearer in this shot.









Here is the total picture. The place where the 100% crop was taken from is circled in red.
The more you spend to buy a camera, the better it will perform at higher ISO numbers. (Point and shoot cameras are especially prone to noise and grain, even when the ISO number is only sort of high!)




The camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all word together. You can change any one of these and the exposure will change (the picture will turn out lighter or darker) if the camera is set to M (manual mode). For the other camera modes, the camera compensates for the changes you make to any of these settings.

Look at the three variables - aperture number, shutter speed, and ISO number - as if they are 3 crucial ingredients in a cake. If you change one of them the picture will turn out differently.


In the photo on the left, I used an aperture of f/3.5, and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. at ISO 200.

In the photo on the right, I used an aperture number of f/3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/1500 sec. at ISO 800. By having the ISO number at 800 instead of 200, I could raise the shutter speed. (not that I needed to in this instance!)
Even though the settings are different, the picture can still turn out basically the same. The only difference is the lower quality of the one that was taken at ISO 800 (When an 8x10 print is made of each image, the difference in quality is much more apparent.)

 





For this picture, I changed the aperture number to f/19. This meant that the shutter speed or ISO number had to change also. Since I didn't want to raise the ISO number any higher than 800, I used a longer shutter speed - 1/45 second - to let in more light and compensate for aperture number I chose.








Do you see in these pictures that in order to get the same exposure (same brightness of the image) if I change the aperture, the shutter speed changes. If I change the shutter speed, the aperture changes too. If I change the ISO, either the shutter speed or the aperture (or both) have to change also.

Q: How do I know what camera mode to use and what settings to adjust?

A: This depends on what you want the final picture to look like. Let me explain.
  • If the background in the image needs to be out of focus, set the camera to Av (aperture priority mode) and set the aperture to a small aperture number for a small amount of the picture to be sharp. The camera will adjust the shutter speed for you.


  • If you are after the dreamy, soft feel of a slow shutter speed, set the camera to Tv (time value) and select a slow shutter speed. The camera will then adjust the aperture to get the correct exposure – not too bright and not too dark.


  • If you are in a dim environment and need the camera be more sensitive to the light, know that the picture quality will suffer somewhat when you boost the ISO number, but boosting the ISO number will enable you to take a picture that otherwise might have been impossible to capture.


A Review:

  1. If you used to use a film camera, bumping up the ISO is the equivalent of putting in a higher speed of film
  2. Low light – in situations where the light levels are very dim and you can’t use a lower shutter speed or bigger aperture to let in more light, boost your ISO
  3. A higher ISO number makes the camera more sensitive to light
  4. A high ISO number does degrade the image quality –  it makes the picture more noisy or grainy
  5. Don’t pick a higher ISO number than is needed.
  6. The lower the ISO, the better, but make sure not to get a blurry picture!


“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: 
and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.”

Psalm 50:23

Exposure Compensation, Flash Compensation and the Camera Manual - Lesson 3

In the last two lessons and the next four, we are working to construct a solid base of camera knowledge to build on in the lessons following this group of six. Then we can concentrate on maximizing our creativity. As always, we must learn the basics first to have the most fun (and the easiest journey!) later.

Lesson 3

Today we’ll cover 3 things: Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Compensation, and the camera manual. If you don’t think these subjects sound fascinating, keep reading anyway. The information in this lesson is another important building block on the road to success!


Exposure Compensation:

I use this setting all the time except in Manual mode. It is one of the most useful settings on my camera. Exposure Compensation is used to make a picture brighter or darker than the camera “thinks” it should be. 

Why do we need this setting? After all, the camera is smart, isn’t it? 
Here’s why: 
The camera tries to make everything a medium tone. (It’s called 18% gray, for those who like specifics.J) The camera doesn’t like bright white – it tries to make bright white things (like snow) a dirty gray.  

 The snow looks much better when Exposure Compensation is used!

 The camera doesn't like deep, dark things (like black kittens) either – it tries to make black things too light.

 Here again, using Exposure Compensation for this image saves the day.
Without a brain, the camera doesn’t know that the kitten is black, not gray and that snow, white walls, and white paper are white and not gray. This is why you have to step in and help the camera.

Exposure Compensation is usually designated by a button or a function with a plus and minus (+/-) symbol. Press the button or select the function and you should see something like this:
-2 . . 1 . . 0 . . 1 . . +2
l
Move the little line marker under the diagram to the left to make your picture turn out darker. Move the line over to the right to make your whites whiter. (Check the camera manual if you’re having trouble figuring out how to do this.)


Flash Exposure Compensation:

Flash Exposure Compensation has the same idea behind it as Exposure Compensation with the only difference being that Flash  Exposure Compensation relates to the flash output but Exposure Compensation relates to the exposure, no matter if the flash is used or not. 

By using Flash Exposure Compensation when you use the camera’s flash, you can control how bright the flash is (how much light it puts out). If you move the Flash Compensation mark over to the left to somewhere around -1, the flash photo won’t have the ugly, un-natural flash highlights that plague photographers. 

Each situation is different. Through practice, you will figure out how to set the Flash Compensation to best create the needed fill light in the picture and not end up with glaring or blown-out highlights on the subject and harsh, black shadows in the background as in the picture below.

The secret to beautiful flash photography is to balance the flash with the ambient light in the room.


Flash is very useful outside also! In some of the future lessons, I'll explain how to make many kinds of exciting photos using your camera flash outside and inside.


A review:

  • Flash often looks ugly if it isn't used properly.
  • Use Flash Exposure Compensation so flash doesn't overpower natural light
  • Look for a plus and minus symbol with a lightning strike beside it – this is where to control the flash.
  • Try starting at -1 for the Flash Exposure Compensation, but don’t be afraid to experiment to find the best setting for each circumstance.


The Camera Manual

Guess what! It’s high time you read and understood your camera manual.

How to do it:
  • One chapter a day – take it slowly, but get all the way through it. Yes, it’s boring! But it is worth it.
  • Review the manual once a year.
  • Make sure you know how to use everything on your camera. If you don’t know what it’s for, look it up in the manual!
  • If you’re stuck, I’ll explain anything you don’t understand!
  • Practice what you learn until the technical side of photography is second nature. This way you can concentrate on capturing the moments and translate your feelings into pictures.
  • I encourage you to set a goal of spending time each week with your camera. You will become a better photographer.

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, 
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:9-10