Photography and Camera Tips

If you are not familiar with photography or camera terms, see the Glossary. Also, there are many good reference books at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com, such as the ones described below.  "Photographing Absolutely Everything" For Digital Point and Shoot Camera Photographers" written by Tom Ang, and "Digital Photography Master Class" For Digital SLR Camera Photographers" Written by Tom Ang.  You can find links to these reference works as well as other photography-oriented web sites. on our main Photography web page.
Creative Zone Modes:
Program Mode (P): For most point and shoot pictures, uses Auto-Shutter Speed and Auto-Aperature, but in Shiftable-Pairs for best effect and still maintains correct exposure. You can use D.O.F. Preview and Exposure Compensation in this mode.
Shutter Priority (TV): For most action shots or subject movement. Use a fast shutter-speed to freeze fast motion. Use a Medium speed for most normal subjects. If you want to blur your subject, use a slow shutter-speed. You select the shutter speed and the camera selects the correct Aperature for the correct exposure. Shutter speed must be as fast as the maximum1/ focal length of your lens to stop hand shake blur. Exp: lens Focal Length = 300mm, then shutter speed should be at least 1/300 th. of a second.
Aperature Priority (AV): Allows you to control the Depth Of Field and Backround Blur. You can use D.O.F. Preview and Exposure Compensation in this mode. You select the Aperature and the camera selects the Shutter-Speed for the correct exposure.
For Portraits, use a large aperature, such as, f4 or f5.6
For Landscape/Scenics, use a small aperature, such as f16, f11, or f8
For Copy Work, use f16, f11
For Macro Work, use f32, f22
Manual Mode: You control the Shutter and the Aperature. Good for complete control of Exposures and Time Lapse or(Bulb) mode exposures. Camera doesn't change the settings.
Bracketing your Exposures (AEB): When in doubt about the lighting, or on pictures that you won't get a second chance, bracket your picture exposures with the AEB Mode. It takes one normal exposure, one over exposure, and one under exposure. You set the exposure stop amounts.
For example:
  • Press the camera function button to select the AEB Mode
  • Turn the Main Dial to set the desired bracketing, such as +/- 1/3 stops to +/- 1/2 stops or +/- 1 or 2 stops.
  • Press the shutter release button 1/2 way down to auto-focus and set exposure, then all the way down to take the first picture. Take the next two pictures, or use Continuous mode to automate the procedure.
  • To cancel, use the main dial to set AEB back to zero "0" and press the shutter 1/2 way down.
Exposure Compensation: To compensate exposure in conditions where the camera meter can be fooled by too much or too little light. To retain White over-expose (+) 1 stop. To retain black under-expose (-) one stop for print film. Use +/- 1/2 stop for slide film. For Digital you you can use anywhere from +/- 1/3 to =/- 2 stops of exposure(EV).
  • Set Big Rear Dial to (1) the ON position
  • Focus subject and through the viewfinder, check the exposure level on the exposure level meter.
  • Turn the rear Big Dial for the desired exposure compensation, left for (-) under-exposure, or right for (+) over-exposure.
  • Press the Shutter-Release button 1/2 way down to lock in the exposure, and all the way down to take the picture.
  • To Cancel, set the exposure compensation on the meter back to (0), and turn the Big Dial on/off switch to off (0) position.
Note: Exposure Compensation can be used with Bracketing to offset all three bracketed shots on the plus side, or on the minus side, if needed.
If needed, in any of the modes above, use the Exposure Lock Button to lock in the correct exposure level of your subject in tricky lighting situations. The spot meter works best for this. After locking in the correct exposure, you can recompose the shot of the whole scene. Good for contrasty light and back-lit subjects.
Setting Exposure, Shutter-Speed and Aperature manually in your camera you can switch auto or manual focusing on the lens. The green dot in the viewfinder turns on when you have achieved focus.
Turn the Creative Mode Dial to Manual
Rotate the Top Main Dial of the camera to select the Shutter-Speed
Rotate the Rear Quick Dial to select the Aperature
Press the Shutter Release Button half way down to achieve focus, and in the viewfinder, look to see that the Exposure Meter Indicator is Centered for correct exposure
If the meter shows + 1 or +2 over-exposure, then adjust for a faster shutter-speed or a smaller Aperature Opening until the meter indicator is centered.
If the meter shows -1 or -2 under-exposure, then adjust for a slower shutter-speed or a larger Aperature Opening, until the meter indicator is centered.
ISO adjusts the sensitivity to light of the digital camera photo sensor. Similair to the old film ASO/ISO film speed ratings. The higher the ISO number goes, the more noise or grain is introduced as the sensor heats up.
Use a low ISO and a tripod for sharp pictures. The lower the ISO, the better any enlargements will be.
For Good bright light, use and ISO of 100 to 200, or lower
For Medium Light or Flash-Fill, use ISO 200-400, but photo gets grainer, (more digital noise).
For Low Light, Indoor Flash, Action or using a Tele-Photo Zoom Lens use ISO 400 to 800.
For Landscapes/Scenics, you use a low ISO, and use a tripod.
Be careful of bright sky in your scenes that can fool your meter. Overcast, diffused light is best and a higher ISO allows smaller aperatures for better Depth of Field, or a faster shutter speeds to reduce blur.
Side-Lighting is best to show shadows and details.
For best DOF, a rule of thumb is to focus 1/3 into the scene so foreground and backround are in focus, but calculating the hyperfocal length of the lens is best. For a 50mm lens, set at f22, and manually focused, focus at 14ft, hyperfocal point then everything from 7ft to Infinity will be in focus.
Keep it simple. Avoid distracting elements in the scene. Use a Zoom Lens to Crop.
Watch your backgrounds and borders for unwanted elements. Think Border Patrol.
Move in tight and fill the frame with your subject.
If needed, Move for the best camera angle and composition.
Keep your horizons high.
Include strong Graphic Elements, such as vertical, curved, diagonal, wavy, and horizon Lines, and find Geometric Shapes in Nature.
Compose your scenes, using the rule of thirds, explained in most photo books.
Check your Depth of Field. Focus 1/3 into the scene. Use D.O.F. Preview, which is enabled on your camera in the (P) Program Mode, (AV) Aperature Modes.
Use the (AV) Mode to control D.O.F. and Backround Blur.
Use the (TV) Mode to control Action/Motion Blur.
Exposure Tips:
In Bright Sunny, Noon skies, where the meter can be fooled, use the "Sunny 16 Rule".
Manually, set the exposure, so the aperature is at f16 and that the shutter-speed is the same or close to the ISO Rating or the film speed. Ex: ISO100 film, use1/125 sec at f16, or 1/60@f/22, or 1/250@f8, or 1/500@f4, etc. These are for mid-tone or medium grey subjects.
When in doubt in High Contrast/Bright/Dark Lighting, Use a Grey Card to set a custom WB exposure, and then Bracket your shots. +/- 1 for prints, and +/- 1/2 stop for slides, and anywhere from +/- 1/3 to +/- 2 stops for digital.
For Back-Lit Subjects, Use the Spot-Meter and meter off the subject, such as a person or a flower, and lock in the exposure reading, then step back, recompose and take the picture.
On Reflective surfaces, use a Circular Polarizer Filter, or meter off the blue sky.
When hand-holding the camera, remember to use the 1 over the focal length rule:
1/Focal-Length equal shutter speed to prevent camera shake/blur for a given lens.
Lens: Shutter Speed
-------- ---------------
28mm 1/30 or faster.
50mm 1/60          "
80-100mm 1/125 "
200mm 1/250      "
300mm 1/500      "
Depth Of Field Rules:
The Closer to the subject, the shorter the DOF, area of acceptable focus.
The greater the Focal Length of a lens, the shorter is the DOF. ex. 28mm, wide-angle lens has very good DOF, but a 300mm telephoto has a short DOF.
The wider, bigger Aperature Opening, the shorter the DOF.
ex. f22 has very good DOF. and f2.8 has a short DOF.
ex: For long DOF use f/16 to f/32 and for short DOF use f/4 to f/2.8
In general, DOF, area of acceptable focus, extends 1/3 in front of focus point and 2/3 in back of focus point, except for close-up Macro work where it is 1/2 the distance from the focus point or equal on both sides.
To Blur Backround, use f/5.6 to f/2.8 aperture and a low ISO.
To Stop Action, use 1/250 to 1/8000 shutter speed and a high ISO.
In ideal conditions, medium light, mid-tone subjects, medium DOF, medium focal length lens,
use f/8 @ 1/125 sec. or f/11 @ 1/60 sec, using ISO 100 to 200 to get best exposed and sharp pictures.
More Tips:
For Water motion, rain, spray try 1/15 sec @ f/22.
Blurring moving water, waves, water-falls, try 1/8 sec (TV) mode.
Shoot in late afternoon sun, to get rich color. Use C.Polarizer. Try 1/16 @f8.
To bring out more saturated color, under-expose 1/2 to 1 EV Stop.
To get sharp/crisp Landscapes, use f16 (AV) and ISO 100.
Use f/8 for flat objects/subjects, to get sharp in focus image, due to no depth of field.
Flower Close-Up/Macro Tips and Tricks:
For 1/4 to full-size 1:1 Macros, Use Manual Focus.
Fill your frame with the flower, watch your backrounds.
For unwanted elements and hot spots use a black or random green & colored blobs poster board for a backround.
Carry little sticks and ties to hold back unwanted branches and imobilize your subject.
Carry a small bottle of spray water to create a dew effect on your flower or spider webs.
Photograph only fresh, good looking flowers. Best to shoot early in the morning for better light and less wind.
Use smallest lens opening for greater depth of field, and focus halfway into the main subject.
In macro photography Depth Of Field is measured in millimeters. For sharper flower pictures, try f32 at 1/4 sec.
Use a tripod and shutter release cable, and mirror lock-up on your camera for long exposures to prevent camera shake.
If needed, use a Circular Polarizing Filter to cut down on glare, or use Diffusors and Reflectors to control the light.
On a cloudy day, use a warming filter, such as a 81A,B,C or 812 Filter, or use Cloudy WB setting.
A white reflector is good for filling in shadows and brightening up the subject.
A gold reflector has a sunset, warm glow effect on the subject.
A silver reflector is good on white flowers. A silver auto-sun screen shade is cheap and work well.
A clear plastic layer or two over a sewing hoop can be used to diffuse harsh sunlight for an overcast effect.
If you use a flash, underexpose it by 1 EV Stop to prevent washed out looking flowers.
In overcast lighting use a warming filter and and settings for vivid color.
Opening the lens to the largest Aperature of f2.8 will get rid of any hot spots, which will allow a fast shutter-speed to stop motion, but will decrease the Depth of Field substantially.
Note: With Digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop or Elements, most of these filters are no longer needed, except for the Circular Polarizing Filter.Circular Polarizing Filters are used for bluer skies, better contrast,and richer saturated colors with more detail.
They also are used to reduce glare and reflections off water and windows. To work correctly, the sun must be 90 degrees to your right or left shoulder.
Tiffen 812 Warming Filters, and Enhancing Filters are used to add a bit of warmth and saturated colors to a scene. Good for Autum leaves and to warm a cool blue sky. Be aware of wierd effects on white or light colored objects.
Graduated Neutral Density and Full Neutral Density Filters are used to tone down the light in bright contrasty conditions, or even the light when half the scene is bright sky, and half the scene is dark shadows or shade on your subject.
FL Filter to take the green out of flourescent lighting, indoors, when using daylight film or settings.
An 80A Filter to take the yellow out of tungsten light, indoors, when using daylight film.
Best to use a Remote Shutter Release Cable and a Tripod, Camera Mirror Lock Up, if possible.
If you don't have a remote shutter release cable, use the 2 second self timer on the camera.
In Macro close up work, autofocus does not work too well, so use Manual Focusing.
To be able to crop into your photo in post editing, use the highest, best quality resolution .jpg or raw mode.
Set metering for available lighting, such as, daylight, cloudy, shade, or set a custom white balance with a gray or white card.
Use Evaluative Meter Mode for most work, but if object is back lit then use the Spot Meter Mode.
Start with a low ISO setting of 100 if enough light. For low light try ISO 200 to ISO400, or use a Flash fill light or a Reflector to put more light on the subject. If too bright, use a diffuser shade subject.
In Basic Mode select the Macro Flower symbol mode for a quick grab shot.
In Creative Mode select Av (aperture priority) to control Depth of Field:
f2.8 to f5.6 for blurred background, and f8 to f22 for more sharpness and more of the area in front and back of the main object to be in focus.
If you can't get a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blur increase ISO or use a flash.
If it is windy, us the Tv (shutter speed mode) and select at least 1/250 of a second or higher.
The camera should be in a parallel plane facing the object and point of focus to maximize sharpness.
Focus on the middle area of your subject to maximize the front to rear depth of field, (in focus area).
In low or bright light, use Exposure Compensation, rotate in the plus (+) direction to make it brighter, minus (-) direction to make it darker. In addition, you can use Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) to take three photographs of the subject, one exposed normally, one underexposed (darker) and one overexposed (brighter).
Use plus or minus 1/2 to 1 stop, as needed. To reduce blown out highlights, set camera to Highlight Tone Priority. Highlight Tone Priority tries to keep the details in the highlights without losing the details in the shadows.
To get more area in focus, use the wide angle focal length of your lens (28mm) or less, and move back from your subject.
In shade or when using diffused lighting, set the camera for a little more saturation, such as landscape mode or vivid mode.
If Flash is needed, put a diffuser on the flash head, and use a smaller lens aperture, ( 1 to 2 stops) or reduce the flash exposure compensation by the same amount. The ideal flash angle is 30 degrees from the lens, at 12" away raise the flash to 4" above the front of the lens and off to the side.
Canon Digital Camera Landscape Settings and Photography Shooting Tips
There is more than one way to set-up the camera to take into account various lighting conditions. The pros suggest shooting early morning or late afternoon/evening for the best light. This means low light, which means a tripod, and a remote shutter release cable or camera self timer is needed to avoid blur at slow shutter speeds. You could raise the ISO on your camera to achieve a higher Shutter speed, but at the risk of introducing digital noise/grainy look. So what can you do? Normally ISO 100 is best, but in bad low light you have no choice and may have to use IS0 200, IS0 400, or worst case IS0 800. In post editing processing you can minimize the digital noise with noise reduction software applications on your computer.
First get familiar with your camera manual. Start shooting in the Basic Modes, If you get less than the desired results, such as blown out highlights or loss of detail in the shadows. Use the histogram and blinkies settings to see where the problems are.
You can use Exposure Compensation and Exposure Bracketing to try to achieve better results. Remember, plus + direction make the scene brighter, and minus - direction makes it darker. Take several test shots at different +/- Exposure Compensation settings until the blinkies go away and the histogram graph does not have any bars up against the left or right edges of the graph.
For situations when the Basic modes don't work good, then you should try shooting using the Creative Modes.
The most used settings for Landscape Photography is the (P) Program mode and the (Av) Aperture mode.
In these modes you can control the depth of field that you want and the camera takes care of the shutter speed.
Depth of Field is the area that is in reasonable focus, based on focusing 1/3 into the scene.
Sample Settings:
For selective focus, blurred foreground and blurred background with main subject in sharp focus, use
Aperture, lens openings, of F2.8, F3.5, F4.0, F5.6. These allow for a faster shutter speed. Check the photos until you achieve the results that you want at the different Aperture Settings.
For greater Depth of Field, everything in reasonable focus from front to rear, use an Aperture lens opening of F8.0, F11, F16, or F22. These require a slower shutter speed, so a tripod is needed. Take several shoots at different settings to check for correct exposure and sharpness. Check for blinkies and look at histogram to get the correct exposure. You can change Aperture, or Shutter Speed, or Both to obtain correct exposure, or you can use +/- Exposure Compensation to do it. To Play safe, you can bracket your shots with Exposure Bracketing. Try +/- 1/3 stop to start, then if still needed +/- 2/3, then if still needed +/- 1 EV stop, etc. until the blinkies go away and your histogram tone cure looks like a bell curve without hitting or climbing up the edges.
If your subject is moving or you want to stop action for sharp photos, or blur movement for a special effect, then you have to change your (Tv) Shutter Speeds. Slow Shutter speeds blur action, such as 1/4s, 1/10s, 1/25s. 1/50s. Fast Shutter speeds stop action and create in focus sharper images, such as, 1/100s, 1/200s, 1/500s, 1/1000s. Once again, check for blinkies and your histogram for the correct exposure.Metering: Evaluative, multiple exposure meter points in scene exposes for light in the whole scene.
Central metering mode exposes for the light in the central part of the scene. Evaluative is better.
Spot and Partial metering mode expose on just a small percentage of the area of the scene where your focusing point is located in the scene. It is best for backlit subjects such as flowers or hair. You have to decide where you want to see the detail in the scene, in the bright areas or in the dark areas. You cannot have it both ways with Spot or Partial metering, except in HDR photographs where you have at least three photos exposed for normal, bright, and dark areas to maintain the details in those areas. You can do this with Exposure Bracketing set to +/- one or two EV stops. and put the layers together later in Photoshop. Also, by pressing the (*) button on the camera you can lock in the exposure in the area that your focusing point is pointing at, or with the big Quick Control Dial on the rear change the +/- Exposure Compensation. On a bright day, you might want to set a - 1/3 or -1/2 Exposure Compensation to reduce reflections and blown out highlights.Metering modes
Automatic exposure is a standard feature on all digital cameras. The metering system measures the amount of light in a frame and determines the best exposure. Many cameras have more than one metering mode and each evaluates a scene in a different way.
Center-weighted metering:
Center-weighted is the metering system of choice on digicams that do not offer other metering modes.
Exposure metering is averaged over the entire frame with emphasis placed on the central area. Used for general and portrait photography.
Matrix (evaluative) metering:
A complex metering system whereby a scene is split up into a series of zones. Overall exposure is based on evaluating each zone individually and taking an average of the total light readings.
Spot metering:
Spot metering covers just under four percent of the viewfinder area. It takes a precise exposure reading only at the very center of the frame and disregards the rest. A spot meter is used when a subject is backlit or has bright light upon it and the background is dark -- for example, when there are extremes in brightness in a scene. Spot metering can also be useful for macro photography.
Partial meteringPartial metering:
Partial metering is similar to spot metering but covers a larger area of the viewfinder, about 13.5 percent. It is useful for taking portrait photos when the subject is backlit. Underexposure is minimized by metering on the face.
Both spot and partial metering are considered advanced settings. They give the skilled photographer more control over exposure than do matrix and center-weighted metering.
Master Exposure Metering Modes:
How well do you know your digital camera? You're probably pretty familiar with some of the features. No doubt, you've got the stuff like programmed exposure modes, image playback, and flash operation down cold. But how well do you know your camera's metering modes? Do you even know what they do? This week, let's dive into what is probably the most underused feature in digital cameras.
The camera's exposure sensor meter does the majority of the work when figuring out how to shoot a picture: It decides how much light is needed. That data is used to calculate how long the shutter remains open and how large the aperture will be. Not surprisingly, all exposure meters aren't the same--and some are better than others at metering a scene and applying the right exposure. Thankfully, most camera makers put several exposure meters into their cameras, and you can choose the right mode for any given situation.Center-Weighted Meters
In the old days, most cameras came with a simple center-weighted light meter. This meter measures the light throughout the image, but applies more weight, or importance, to the central part of the scene in the viewfinder. The assumption--often a good one--is that you are most interested in the stuff centered in the picture, so the camera tries to get that part of the scene exposed properly.
Many digital cameras rely on this kind of meter for ordinary picture taking. However, it's the oldest and most inaccurate kind of meter around, so if you have a choice, I suggest that you avoid it in favor of the next kind of meter.
Matrix Meters:
Often called matrix or multisegment metering, this kind of meter breaks the scene into multiple discrete parts and measures the exposure in each one independently. The sensor then collects all that exposure information and weights the relative value of each one based upon where it is in the photo.
The bottom line? Matrix metering is dramatically better than center-weighted metering modes at properly exposing a scene, especially one with high contrast or extremely variable lighting.
Even this approach can't provide perfect results in all cases: The contrast may be too great to achieve the ideal exposure in all parts of a photo. But if your camera has a matrix meter mode, you should use it most of the time, since it generally delivers outstanding results under a broad range of conditions.
Spot Meters:
The last major kind of light meter is called a spot. You won't use this all the time; it's designed for special situations in which the matrix or center-weighted meter would lead you astray.
The spot meter is designed to measure light exclusively in the center of the image--traditionally, the center 1 percent of the screen. However, most digital cameras have less precise spot meters that read anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of the scene.
This meter can come in handy on occasion, but don't set it and forget it. A meter that only measures the light in the central 1 percent of the frame would typically take very poor pictures, either highly under- or overexposed depending upon the situation.
So when should you use the spot meter? Any time you're trying to photograph a scene in which a small subject must be exposed properly for the picture to work--and its lighting is different enough from the rest of the scene that you're worried it won't come out right otherwise.
Imagine, for instance, that you're trying to photograph someone who is standing in front of a brightly lit window. If you let the camera decide the exposure, the bright light from the window will radically underexpose your subject. So switch on the spot meter and expose the picture based on the subject. Yes, the window light will be overexposed, but that's okay--the important part of the picture is the person.
Switching to anything other than the standard matrix meter mode--especially the spot meter--usually works best when you also switch on your digital camera's exposure lock. This came in handy when I faced one of the trickiest photographic situations I've ever seen: a pair of white wolves playing near some trees, with highly contrasting light streaming into the scene. I tried a shot with the camera in its usual matrix metering mode, but I could immediately see that the image was badly exposed. So I switched to the spot meter, pressed the camera's exposure lock while I was focused directly on one of the wolves, and then recomposed to take the final picture.
White Balance:
Normally the AWB, Automatic White Balance does a decent job of capturing the correct light and colors in a scene. If you want to change it to match the light, colors, and tones of a scene, your have the option of selecting Daylight, Shade, or Cloudy. Each one can make to scene warmer or cooler in tone depending on which one you pick. Try them out to see the effect. You can try various effects with Picture Styles, such as Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Neutral, Black and White, Sepia, etc. You can access them with the Picture Style Button on the back of the camera, if it has one, or from the cameras Menu Functions.
Take the time to pick up your camera and go out in your backyard and try shooting in the Creative Modes, check your results, and write down some notes on what works best for you in different kinds of lighting situations. Your notes should then help you make your settings in the Creative Scene Modes much easier. You learn by observation, about what works and what doesn't work, and pretty soon you will be able to make the decisions without thinking too much about it. The Pros take lot's of photos at different settings and only keep the good ones. They don't show you the bad ones.
Well, I hope this all helps. Also you can find a lot of information on the internet, Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Magazines such as Popular Photography, Outdoor Photography, ShutterBug, PC Photo, Adobe all have free web sites to access photography information and lessons. Amazon.com and your local book store all have many photography books available, and don't forget your local library for photography books.
NOTE: See the photography web site links in left margin of this web site home page to get to a variety of photo sites.