"camera technique"

Food Photography – Lesson 11


With all the wonderful holidays coming up, who doesn't want to take great pictures to remember all the delicious foods they took so long to prepare! This lesson will help you capture how truly YUMMY all the food was - and make others envious they weren't there to share it with you!

Food photography is both fun and challenging. After all, if people don’t get hungry after seeing your photos, it’s back to the drawing board again. When I take pictures of food, I want it to seem so real that you can almost reach out and take a bite! Think about all the great advertisements for food. A larger-than-life hamburger, dripping with Ketchup, might be pictured. Make people want to eat what’s in your photos! …How is this done? In this lesson, I’ll share several tips with you. Try them and see if your food photography doesn’t look good enough to eat!


1. Put camera on tripod. I know, I know. It takes extra time and bother, but if you want great food pictures, this is one of the easiest ways to learn what looks best. By attaching the camera to a tripod, you will be able to run back and forth from the camera to the food without losing your “perfect angle”. This way, you can arrange food according to what you actually see through the camera lens.

2. If certain foods don’t stand out enough in the image, prop them up. Flat foods especially benefit from this.

3. We eat with our eyes first. Everyone has heard this at some time or other. If all the food on the plate is a shade of tan or brown, the likelihood is that it won’t look very appealing! So, use different colors and textures and make them complimentary. Try tying things together with a coordinating napkin and table cloth. A good eye for colors comes in handy here. Use other props too! Create scenes where food is the star.

4. Get the white balance right. Oreos with a dirty, yellowish filling don’t look appetizing! One tip here is, “Don’t use a lamp, the room lights, and a window to light your food unless you’re going for a special effect.” Doing this will lead to pictures with orange or blue color casts and unrealistic-looking, off-color food photos.



5. Don’t underexpose the food! Too-dark shots can’t compete with bright, well-lit scenes. Use exposure compensation to your advantage!

6. On-camera flash usually spoils the shot. The best lighting for food often comes from the sides and back.

7. Once you've “gotten the shot” don’t stop! Experiment with different angles…above, down low, up close, even underneath for some foods! Try getting some macro shots and then go for the full picture.

8. Add some action!


9. Some food benefits greatly from a “this is fresh” look. Spray water droplets onto this kind of food. If you need more time to take the picture and the water droplets won’t last long enough, try spraying food with olive oil cooking spray.

10. Experiment with different apertures to focus attention on a certain part of the image.


11. Don’t show ugly food. If there’s a little problem spot, try covering it with a complementary garnish such as cracked pepper, herbs, berries, green onions, sliced peppers, lemons, limes, mushrooms, and fruit. Don’t just stick it on. Be creative with the garnish cutting and arranging. Make it complementary. For dry meat, brush on a bit of dark Karo syrup. It’ll help add moisture and color. Don’t show fatty meat (Ugh!) or under-cooked or overcooked meat. If you wouldn't want to eat it, it won’t be a good subject!

12. In soups or stews, people want to see all the wonderful bits and pieces. The problem is, these chunks of food will sink down into the bottom of the dish and not show in the picture. The remedy: add a false bottom in the soup bowl to prop up the yummy chunks.

Have fun!




P.S. Remember to get a picture of the family around the table before everyone digs in, the table gets messy, the wonderful food creations are devoured, and everyone stuffs themselves to bursting.


"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein 
with thanksgiving."
Colossians 2:6-7




Controlling the Camera’s Shutter Speed: Lesson 5

The shutter speed you select controls how long the camera’s shutter is open letting in light and making the picture.

Why should you learn how to control the shutter speed?
  1. Be able to set a shutter speed high enough not to get blurry pictures at low light levels
  2. Be able to create all kinds of pictures that show movement.

Camera Mode to use: Tv (time value) – controls the shutter speed


In your camera, the shutter speeds looks something like this: 1/60 (the shutter is open for one sixtieth of a second), or this: 1/200 (the shutter is open for one two hundredth of a second), etc.

Regularly, the goal when taking pictures is to freeze a moment in time forever. If the room is dark or the lights are dim, the camera will often set a slow shutter speed, motion will not be frozen, and you will be left with a blurry picture and only a mental picture of how cute baby Anna Marie or little Timmy looked.

There are two types of motion that have to be compensated for: your shaking hands and the movement of your subjects.

For shaking hands – and everybody’s hands shake at least a little! – If your camera has something called IS (Canon), VR (Nikon), or OS (Sigma), use it!

Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR) or whatever you want to call it (!) is very helpful in compensating for small jiggles on your part, but does nothing to fix the blur of your dog dashing towards you or any other movement in the scene apart from your movement. Bracing your hands or camera against something solid or using a tripod also helps reduce or eliminate blurriness from your hand movements.  Remember that what is needed to fix the blur of a dog running past you is a high shutter speed.



I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of water – rushing through rocks, and in streams, rivers and waterfalls. When photographing water, you have a choice to make. Either pick a high shutter speed (1/2000 of a second) and capture each water droplet as it is sprayed into the air, freezing the moment, OR pick a slow shutter speed (1/2 to 2 seconds depending on how fast the water is flowing) and capture the silky smooth, painterly motion of the water.

For these fun shots, the girl or boy had to stand VERY still for several seconds and then duck out of the picture quickly at my signal for the rest of the exposure time (the camera was on a tripod). The effect turns out different every time! (If needed, the faces can be lit with a weak flash light from off to the side of the camera, but be careful not to hurt their eyes!) I took these pictures several years ago when I was first learning to control my shutter speed. :) 



In this photo, I wanted to take a picture of this tiny toy in a dramatic way. The problem: it was dark and it was evening. So, I picked up a flashlight and BAM! I had dramatic lighting. All I had to do was set the camera on a solid surface, set the 2 second delay timer, and keep the flashlight shining on the truck. The shutter speed was 1/8 second. One other important point: Remember to set the exposure compensation if you’re taking a picture of a dark scene and don’t want the blacks to end up as grays. Here, I set my exposure compensation to -1.

An Interesting Thought:

When taking a picture...
A small aperture number and a shorter shutter speed = A big aperture number and a longer shutter speed

Some general guidelines:

  1. Check your pictures for blur, especially indoors or at twilight. If they’re blurry, boost the shutter speed!
  2. If you have very steady hands, you’ll be able to handhold your camera at much slower shutter speeds than those whose hands aren't super steady. Experiment to find out how low you can go while still getting crystal clear pictures. Keep in mind that when you are excited or rushed, you may have to set the shutter speed higher.
  3. If you can, a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 of a second is a good shutter speed to start with for freezing action. Even 1/500 doesn’t stop all action! Sometimes I have to set a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second or even 1/4000 of a second!
  4. It’s always best to err on the safe side and choose a higher shutter speed than you think is needed (if the lighting is bright enough for you to have that option!). Better safe than sorry!


Assignment:


Go out and test your knowledge! Don’t be afraid to try anything! (We learn by making mistakes -  sometimes I wish that wasn’t so true!)

So many creative possibilities open up once you’ve learned how to control the shutter speed. I can’t even begin to cover them here. See ya later!

Have a marvelous day!

~ Laura

"And the angel answered and said unto the women, 
Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:5-6a

I hope you all had a meaningful Resurrection Sunday!

Understanding Apertures: Lesson 4

First, set your camera mode to Av (Aperture Value) so that you can take control of the aperture rather than letting the camera make your creative decisions.

A Definition: 

Your camera lens' aperture = an adjustable opening in the camera that limits the amount of light passing through a lens

A large aperture number such as f/16 or f/22 = a large part of the scene in focus (a large depth of field)
A large aperture number lets in less light.

A small aperture number like f/2.8 or f/4 = a small part or small slice of the scene in focus (a small depth of field)
A small aperture number lets in more light. Pick a smaller aperture number when you are inside or when it is dark. By picking a small number, you will let in more light and be able to take better pictures in dim lighting conditions.
A small aperture number is a way to simplify or isolate your subject.

“If you get confused with the f-stop numbers, try to remember that the bigger the number, the bigger the amount of focus, and the smaller the number, the smaller the amount of focus.”
 – Mike Moats

Do you want everything sharp and filled with detail - from the foreground to the background? 
Pick a big aperture number like I did in the picture below.


Is the background of your picture "busy" or cluttered, meaning that it has lots of distracting elements?
Choose a small aperture number for a small depth of field (a small amount of the picture sharp) 
to focus attention on the subject.
This photo was made using a small aperture number.

Choose where people's eyes will go in the picture by using a small aperture number. 
What is the focus of the image?
Here I chose to focus on the hot sauce bottle and let the boy go out of focus. 

How to choose which aperture to use:


  • What are you trying to convey?
  • Does the background add to the picture or does it detract from the subject?

Assignment:


Find 3 different scenes or subjects. For each one, take a picture at your camera's smallest aperture number, biggest aperture number, and middle aperture number. Study the differences between the pictures in each set.
Not seeing much difference? Set the camera's smallest aperture number and focus on an object very close to your camera lens. Take a picture. Now, set the camera to the highest aperture number. Keep the camera in the same place and keep the focus on the same object. Take a second picture.


"Repeat shooting the same images at different apertures each time you go out. Little by little, you will become comfortable at the different f-stops and be able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities that are better suited to one style or the other.” – Alan L. Detrick



"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Psalm 50:14-15



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


White Balance Settings and Color Correction - Lesson 2

How was the first lesson? (If you didn’t understand something, let me know!)


Lesson 2

This lesson is all about white balance and creative white balance.

Sometime, sooner or later, you will have a big problem on your hands. The pictures you take may end up with weird, ugly colors – not at all the way the scene looks to your eyes! The color cast in your problem pictures can be corrected by changing the white balance setting in your camera.

Look at this picture. The colors don't look realistic at all. Candlelight, firelight, and lantern light all look yellow/orange, but the camera often makes the light from these things dull and lifeless. 
Compare the picture above with this one:

The good news is, fixing the weird, ugly colors of the first image isn't hard! First, make sure your camera is set to Av (Aperture Value or Aperture Priority) or Tv (Time value, otherwise known as shutter speed priority) mode - something other than full auto. Then, figure out how to get to the white balance options. If you’re having trouble, go get the camera manual and look up how to set the white balance. (Yeah, yeah. I know – it’s probably the first thing you threw away after you figured out how to take a picture! Bad idea. The camera manual, boring as it is to slog through, is one of the most useful tools available!)

White Balance Settings – Set the camera's white balance to match the lighting conditions around you.

Here’s how the white balance setting work:

AWB (Auto White Balance) is easy to use, quick, and gives you absolutely no creative control. It gets good results in many cases, but miserably fails in the tougher situations. That is when you have to take control!

Daylight, often designated by a sun icon, is a great setting to use on sunny days when you’re outside taking pictures.

The Cloudy setting – usually shown by a cloud icon – is used for exactly what the name says – a cloudy or overcast day when the sun isn’t shining. It also comes in handy when taking beautiful portraits using window light. (Note: Use the Cloudy setting or the Daylight setting in the shade if your camera doesn’t have a Shade setting for use in the shade.) 
Light on a cloudy day is blue. A picture taken using AWB (Auto White Balance) on a cloudy day often ends up looking cool, not warm and cheerful.
A picture of a cute kitten chewing on a flower bud shouldn't look dull and lifeless. Changing your camera settings to Cloudy will fix this problem quickly.

The Fluorescent setting comes in handy when inside under fluorescent lights. (See! This is all very logical!) The fluorescent setting helps remove the green color cast that is produced by these lights. People are much more flattered when they don't look slightly green and a bit seasick in photos!

Try it and you’ll see that the Tungsten setting (usually designated by a light bulb) gives most pictures a very blue cast. This setting is useful for two things:
1. Under yellow or orange lights inside a building, Tungsten helps produce pictures with more realistic colors by cancelling out the yellow/orange color cast.
2. Tungsten is one of my favorite settings to use creatively as we’ll talk about later.

Flash white balance – (It looks like a lightning strike.) Use when taking flash pictures. J How hard is that?

Last is Custom White Balance. This one takes a little bit of time to learn and is well worth the extra effort. 
Basically, all you do is to fill the whole picture with plain white – either a piece of paper, a white wall, or ceiling, etc. and photograph that white object in the same room under the same lighting conditions where you will be taking the following pictures. Then use the picture of the white object to set the Custom White Balance. Once the white balance is set using your white picture, all the following pictures you take under the same lighting conditions will have perfectly balanced colors. This setting is wonderful for the trickiest lighting situations. (Just remember to change the white balance back to one of the regular settings when you leave the room! If you don't, all the pictures you take under different lighting conditions will have skewed colors.)  Another use for custom white balance is when white balance is used creatively.


Using White Balance Settings Creatively

What can you do to increase the vividness and color of a sunset or sunrise? Why don't you try setting your White Balance to Cloudy or Shade? This brings out the fiery reds, oranges, and yellows even more.


Want to make it seem more like night or just get a cool, mysterious effect? Try the Tungsten setting and see what happens! You might love the results.  Another use for the Tungsten setting would be if a sunset or sunrise has a lot of blue or purple in it.


Want to explore even more? Really get creative using Custom White Balance. Instead of being confined to taking pictures of a flat white object and using those pictures to set your custom white balance, try photographing a blue or an orange sheet of paper (Fill the frame completely with the sheet of paper.) or another flat, one-colored object. Use this photo to set the custom white balance. Using your new setting, the world’s colors will be transformed! With some practice and a spirit of adventure, you will learn what subjects and scenes benefit from this treatment. Play around. The possibilities are endless!


Assignment:

  • Go over the lesson again, this time with your camera.
  • Try each setting and see the effect it produces!
  • When taking pictures this week, remember to experiment with the many white balance settings.
  • Use white balance to help fix weird colors in your problem pictures.
  • Go outside for at least one sunrise or sunset this week and try out your new creative white balance techniques.


See you next time!

A helpful quote:

 “Shoot a lot and take a lot of notes!  The more you know 
about what you did and how to either repeat 
what is successful or eliminate your errors, the faster you’ll see major advancements in your photography.”…”Owning the most gadgets and fanciest equipment doesn’t guarantee the best images, you must know how to control all the variables.” – Ross Burden