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.

Best Poses Tips for Female Portraits and more

  • Joe Sinnott gives his advice on portrait photography. He explains what poses are best for women. First of all your model should dress nice. It does not have to be really fancy but a t-shirt with a logo may not be appropriate even for a casual shoot.
  • Putting a hand under your chin won't work well for your portrait. You are hiding half of your face and most of your body by doing this.
  • Try not to photograph your model below the eye line. Sticking above the eye line works better.
  • Smiling is always preferred in portrait photography. But pressing the tongue to your teeth so that it becomes visible is not such a good idea.
  • Keep talking to your subject, praising how she looks and giving her gentle directions. When you refer to left or right, make sure it is your model's left and right.
  • The model needs to look into your lens, it means she looks to the viewer.
  • Shoot people a bit across their shoulders, it makes them look thinner.
  • In a shade use a reflector to add light to your subject's face.
  • Your model should be relaxed and ready to accept your directions.

Four tips for macro photography

Macro photographer Rick Lieder shares his tips on how to shoot macro.

  • First of all you need to have good tools, a good macro lens. The closer you are to your subject, the less depth of field you will get, sometimes it may go down to one millimeter. By all means you need a tripod to keep your lens and camera steady. In cases when you cannot use a tripod, a lens with vibration control really helps.
  • Try to get to a lower angle and shoot up. You need to be at the same level as your subject.
  • Find a dramatic contrast so that your subject pops up from your background.
  • Use manual focus only because no auto focus can know where you want your focus to be.

How to light a portrait

In this video you will see five lighting schemes for portrait photography. Photographer Jay P. Morgan demonstrates in his studio room what you can achieve with different light techniques. By the way, don't place your model in front of your camera straight, your photos will be much more interesting if your talent sits at a slight angle to your camera.

  • Rembrant light is the first to be demonstrated. Just put your light source (a softbox in this case) above your model at 45 degrees and 45 degrees off the center line. That way you get a small triangle on the model's face (opposite side) and this is a classic lighting scheme that you can find looking at many paintings from 17-19 centuries. There is no shadow fill, just one single light used for this style.
  • Split light can be achieved if you move your light source from the Rembrant position further, to make a 90 degree angle with model's center line. That way the light highlights the face stronger from one side and it is noticeable on the nose core. It is more dramatic lighting if you really want to make a statement. If you fill the shadow in some way, you may be more comfortable using Split light.
  • Broad light is when your light source is in the same position as with Rembrant light, but your talent moves away from the light so that we can see the lit side of her face rather that a shadow side with Rembrant.
  • Butterfly light - move your softbox forward and higher at a steep angle to your model. It is a beauty light used for women portraits, especially if you apply some reflector underneath to fill the shadows. Make sure that the shadow from her nose does not touch her lip.
  • Loop light - move your light source from the butterfly position slightly off center and then one side of your model's face will become brighter but not as dramatic as with Rembrant because now your light is much higher. It is a variation of Butterfly light.
Choosing what scheme to use should be based on your subject because if you have an older person to make a portrait of, some lighting may be better that the others.

Different Light Sources Explained

Jerry Ghionis is a famous wedding photographer from Australia. He created this lighting tutorial in cooperation with B&H. Jerry covers different lighting situations (direct sun light, candles, on and off camera flash, window lighting, video light, LED light) by showing examples of his photo shooting. He shows that if you are creative with already available light sources, you may get great shots no matter what your location is. The masterclass is more for advanced photographers who know their photo gear. One of the tips he shares is how to use on camera flash. He does not mean the built-in flash in your camera, but rather a flash unit that you attach to your camera. The main rule is to bounce the light that comes from the flash off a wall or a ceiling. In order to do that you need to turn the flash head to the right angle at every shoot and change this position if you move around or go from horizontal to vertical framing. Even in a room with black walls you can still use this technique if you have something white, like a table or a reflector or your assistant's white shirt. This tutorial is highly recommended for those who want to learn profy's tricks and Jerry is generously sharing his experience with us.

How to shoot waterfalls

Juan Pons demonstrates how you can take pictures of a waterfall so that the water looks like smoothly flowing. The only technique to use in this case is slow shutter speed because if you set a fast shutter speed, the water will be frozen in its movement. You will need a tripod to stabilize your camera.  The shutter speed needs to be from 1,5 sec to 4 sec, it highly depends on how much water is falling down. If it is much water, you may get by with 1,5 sec but if there is a tiny waterfall, you had better choose a longer speed of 3-4 seconds. Set the lowest ISO that your camera can handle, usually 100 or 50 ISO. Also you can use small aperture (f8 to f16) to reduce the amount of light coming through your lens. If you are shooting in a daylight, you may need a neutral density filter (ND), they can reduce your exposure to 3 - 6 stops. A  poralizer filter is also a must when shooting water to avoid its reflections.

Read this in-depth tutorial:

How to Measure Flash Exposure

If you have no light meter, Mark Warren can help you by giving advice on how to measure your flash exposure. Since e-TTL is not very consistent, while the manual mode ensures a very stable exposure. This is especially useful in a studio environment. First set your external flash to a wireless mode. It will be triggered by your on-camera flash unit. You need to configure your camera's settings for the wireless flash control. Set your on-camera flash to behave as a trigger only which means that it does not contribute to the overall exposure. Change the flash mode from E-TTL to manual and start off with full power (1/1). Then you are ready to begin your exposure measuring. Have a white towel placed on a chair and make a shot at 100 ISO, 1/200 shutter speed and 2.8 exposure to begin with. If your towel is blown out, you need to adjust your flash power. You may need several iterations to achieve the right flash power of your external flash unit. By the way, you are controlling your external flash power from your camera and in order to do that you have to use a camera that supports that mode as well as the brand external flash. Always consult your histogram and make sure you have no lights clipping.

This method allows you to get very consistent results but just make sure you place the white towel at the same distance where your subject will later be located, otherwise the exposure will not be right.