Camera holding tips and tricks

Karl Taylor demonstrates in this video his methods of holding a camera with a bigger lens in order to avoid blurry images. The main goal is to remove camera shake as this will result in better quality photographs that you make. This becomes extremely important when you have to shoot in low light situations, which often demands not only higher ISO but also longer shutter speed.

  • Try to give your camera three points of contact: your right hand, your left hand under the lens and your eyebrow.
  • Never stand with your legs close to each other, place one leg behind the other - making your pose more stable.
  • Use any objects that you can lean to (a tree, a bench, etc.)
  • Press a shutter release button when exhaling.
  • Usually use your shutter speed related to your lens length: if you shoot with a 200 mm lens, do not use a longer shutter speed than 1/200 sec.

Photography common myths

John Greengo explains the common myths as he sees them.

  • If I see something that I like and I take a photo of it, I will get a good photo. Obviously this is not true. If you are excited about some subject and want to photograph it, it does not automatically mean the output will be excellent by its photo quality. It may mean a lot to you because of a personal moment on the photo though. 
  • If you have better photo gear, it will make you a better photographer. 
  • Taking pictires is easy. It is no more than an illusion. Taking a good photo takes lots of preparation, knowledge and skills.
  • Being proud of having no education in photography, not knowing ISO, aperture or depth of field things as you still consider yourself a great photographer. Unfortunately it does not work that way, you really need to know the basics before you can produce stable quality.
  • Photography is about capturing what I see. Your brain may be confused by what your eyes see. You cannot photograph everything that you see, for example motion or extreme contrast. Often you can achieve more in your photos than you could see with your eyes, either with special equipment like telescopes or special post processing.

How to remember good poses for portraits

Oliver Pohlmann gives an easy tip on how you can remember good poses for your subject on a shoot. Often beginner photographers experience difficulties posing people and it may really ruin your image even if your settings were chosen right and you had an excellent composition. Just bringing an album of poses will look unprofessional and you do not want to do that. However there is a simple solution. Before you go on a shoot search on Google Images or Pinterest photographs of people in a similar shooting conditions, select 10 to 20 images and make photos of them from your computer screen. Your memory card in the camera should be formatted before you do that. So when you are on location, just view some of the images from Google Images or Pinterest on your camera screen as if you are adjusting its settings or reviewing previously done photos. The reason why you need to format your card first is that you can then move forward from the last taken photo to view those poses. It is really handy. Over the time the number of images with poses that you need will decrease and you may only need 3 or 5 poses to refer to, until you feel confidence and need to such help at all.

How to shoot corporate portraits

First you need to understand what the background will be on location. Ask your client and you may suggest some options and show some examples.

In this shoot, it was agreed to use gray background in a conference room.

Then you need a schedule of the shoot: plan every aspect of it including time for preparation and also lunch.

Mark the spot where your subject will be standing with a tape on the floor.

The main key light will come from a softbox with a grid, since the room is quite small, all the light must come to the subject and not to be wasted on walls.

Another softbox (octo shaped) will be used as a rim light. It will light the subject from behind and left. The background will be lit with a a grid light, you need to separate your subject from the background.

Since shadows are still a bit harsh on subjects' faces, it is a good idea to place an umbrella behind the camera so that it acts as a fill light.

This setup works well with people wearing dark suits. For subjects who have bright shirts, use a back flag to block the light from your main light source coming to the white shirt.

The background light is also adjusted depending on the person's hair color. Dial it down if the hair color is bright.

Ask your subjects to bring 2-3 outfits so that there are some options. Bring a hand held mirror that you can give to people and thus avoid having them leaving the room if they think they need to check their hair.

Sometimes a person has no tie but feels he should be photographed with it, so bring a nice blue tie to lend in such cases.

Tutorial on creative long exposure photography

To make good photos using long exposure you actually don't need expensive equipment. The long exposure time is usually longer than half a second. Because of this you need to have a tripod. What you have on your shot depends on the time the shutter was open. The longer it was open, some subjects in your frame may be more blurry or even disappear.
You need to consider three things when you play with long exposure photography:

  • First of all it is the amount of daylight or ambient light because too much light may come to your sensor if you leave the shutter open for a long time. So you need to adjust your aperture and ISO settings to control the amount of light, in some cases you will need a neutral density filter on your lens to block some of the light.
  • How much blur do you want to have on your picture.
  • How fast your subject is moving. If shooting a Formula 1 race, even 1/100 shutter speed will produce blurry images of the car but if you are shooting a walking person, you may need to go down to 1/15 to achieve the same effect. It is true with any moving subjects like clouds or water. If it is moving slow, your shutter speed need to be longer.
When photographing moving cars at night, you can get nice looking lines of light. If you want people to disappear from your image, for example tourists, just set a long exposure, up to 30 sec and there will be a lot less disturbing people around a sight. It works great for smoothing water (exposure time 20-30 seconds). The water becomes transparent at these settings and you can see through it.Set your camera to Shutter priority and choose different speeds.

Tips for low light photography

If you are frustrated by the quality of the pictures you take with your new dSLR in low light conditions, here is a video tutorial that will help you shoot better photos.

There are three main settings that affect your exposure:
  • shutter speed - it controls how long light reaches your camera's sensor and usually you should not use longer speed than [1/your focal length*crop factor]. If you choose a slower shutter speed, your image may get blurry as the shutter speed helps freezing action.
  • aperture - it controls the amount of light coming in through your lens. A fast lens is 1.4 or 2.8.
  • ISO - it compensates for light deficiency. The higher the number, the brighter your image will be but at a cost of extra noise on your photograph. Values may be 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600...
So basically you need to choose the right equipment for low light photography in the first instance: a camera that can increase ISO without too much noise and a lens with wide aperture like 1.4 or 2.8.
Set your camera to Av (aperture priority) mode, manual ISO. Try to opt for wider aperture than to higher ISO. Let your camera adjust between the shots. It works well in constant lighting situations while where light varies, you can try using Manual mode and manual ISO. In this case you need to adjust your aperture and shutter speed manually. Set your White Balance to manual as well.
Not all lenses can produce a sharp image being widest open, so try to use one or two stops further.

How to increase contrast with a flash

Bryan Peterson gives his professional advice on how to shoot flowers and make them pop up avoiding sometimes clumsy background. All you need is an external speedlight that can help you make the background almost black. Position your flash outside of the camera, you can use a Pocket Wizard unit or a simple cable to fire the flash. He had his settings as f22, and with his flash he had to dial 1/8 power because of the short distance to the flower. Bryan wants to underexpose the ambient light in background. So he makes the shutter speed faster than in the first image shot without a flash. But he leaves the aperture the same f22. One of mistakes that people do is shooting in Aperture priority mode with a flash which means they add the speedlight light to the ambient light. You need to switch to Manual mode and set a faster shutter speed if you want to make your background darker.