Category Archives: Free Tips

Understanding Panoramic Photos

What is it?

A common definition of panoramic photos is based on its field of view and the physical dimensions of the print. Generally its more than the eye can see – so greater than 170°, and usually the rectangular photo is 2 times its height or greater.

What do I need to think about when taking one?

First, you need a wide scene to photograph, for example a landscape, cityscape or aerial view. Then you need to be mindful that you will be photographing usually more than 200°, which could mean that you are going to be shooting into different light situations. Also as you are photographing, moving objects (such as clouds, people or boats etc) may confuse the software – just be aware of what’s in the entire scene you intend to shoot.

You really want the software to do as little as possible for you, so its best to make the exposure the same, even the white balance. As a rule, when I’m shooting panoramas, I set the camera to manual and get a light reading across my image. I expose for the shadows, ie the darkest parts of the WHOLE panorama, and set my white balance to one setting.

Most of the software on the market works LEFT to RIGHT and TOP to BOTTOM, just like we read a book – so when shooting, follow this same sequence. Yes, you can shoot more than one row of pictures!

When taking your pictures swing the camera 90° so it’s taking a portrait, this will make your finished product taller, and give it a larger resolution.

Lastly OVERLAP your shots. I generally overlap my panoramic shots by 1/3, which means when I take my second shot, there is 2/3 of the old shot in my shot and 1/3 of the new shot. This will generally increase the number of images, but gives me the depth to be able to drop a shot out of the sequence if there is a moving object in it.

You can buy hardware like a Pano Head, which is motorised, and will move the camera and take the pictures for you. When you load the images into this products’ corresponding software it makes it even easier to stitch together.

I have taken all of my panoramic photos hand held, and used AutoPanoPro to do the stitching. It is very straight forward to use and has adjustments so you can straighten horizons and much more. But if you want to have a go and don’t want to spend any money, I have found some free software called Hugin. It is slower than AutoPanoPro and a little harder to get around, but has the same functionality to correct horizons and more. It’s still quite powerful and it’s FREE.  There are many other programs you can use – these are my experiences with the above two.

What does it do to my pictures?

Panoramic photos allow you to show a wider perspective than standard, and will allow you to get a picture of something that is wider than you can currently take in one shot. It allows you to make images of cityscapes and landscapes with lots more detail.

Examples

panoramic photosShibuya Crossing, Japan; 9 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D at 10mm. If you look carefully, the taxi and white car appear twice as they were moving through the scene as I was taking the images.

panoramic photosThe Milky Way, 11 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and at 18mm the left and right of the photo are opposite horizons.

panoramic photosMoffat Beach, Australia; 41 shots.  The exposure was set for the middle and right of the image and the sun has slightly blown out (created the very bright white areas) on the left.

panoramic photosBrighton Jetty Classic 2010, Australia; 9 shots taken from a helicopter as it flew left to right.

panoramic photosTokyo, Japan; 83 shots 3 rows high and 27 shots wide. Taken from the Tokyo Tower, the section in the large red rectangle is a crop of the small section in red on the main picture. This image could be printed 3m tall and would be about 27m long.

panoramic photosCrazy Coaster, Brisbane Ekka 2012; These images were never shot to be a panorama, but I saw the opportunity to see if they would work, and it did. If you look carefully, the riders are the same in each car. So dont be scared to give something a go!

Try This

Take a 4 or 5 shot Panorama and have some fun editing it with Hugin. See if you like the outcome, and don’t forget the tips:

  • Set Exposure manually for the darkest spots
  • Set the white balance
  • Shoot portrait and overlap




File Organisation

Subject

Tips for file organisation and backing up your photos

What is it?

Basically it’s a system that you develop that works for you. As I started organising and filing images before programs like Adobe Lightroom (which extracts images off your memory card and catalogues the files for you), I had to develop my own system that would let me catalogue my images so I could easily order and find them.

When I photograph an event I usually use two cameras. This introduces the risk that the two cameras may be shooting and recording the same number file. When I download those photos to the computer, I have to be sure that one set does not overwrite the other. You can now set up your camera to change the file number so that this won’t happen, but 10 years ago when it first happened to me, this function was not available on my cameras.

My step-by-step file organisation process

My first step is to upload the files to my computer and put them into a folder that has the following structure.

YYMMDD <<Descriptive Words>>, where “Descriptive Words” is two words about the shoot. If I was shooting a wedding it would be the Bride and the Groom’s names. I do this using the Windows import. So for example, if I photographed Greg and Mary’s wedding today the folder name would be:

140511 Greg Mary

Each photo would have its own unique number – I do not keep the original camera file names. So each photo would have a unique file name like: 140511 Greg Mary 001.jpg

Once I have retouched and edited the images, I do a backup of those images – one backup to an internal drive on my computer and another backup to an external drive.

The day I do the backup, I create a folder with the following structure:

2014 05 11 Photos

This is the folder I copy to the two drives for storage. This folder is stored in a top level folder named 2014.

This is MY procedure and it’s what works for me. I am not suggesting abandoning your procedure; just make sure that you have one, and that it makes sense to you, as the folder structure really needs to suit you.

Examples

File Organisation 01This is my external drive structure. Each folder contains backups. My backups are manual and I usually backup after a major event or shoot.

File Organisation 02This is what the 2011 folder looks like. Each folder is named as per the day I did the backup.

File Organisation 03As you can see this folder has five shoots in it.

File Organisation 04If I open the 110528 Ripley Lake folder I will find the following jpgs each with the same file naming convention. And the RAW files are in the CR2 folder.

Try This

Have a good look at your folders and files and if you don’t have a system of your own, I recommend you start one. If you overwrite a file or lose it, there is no way of getting the files back.





Perfecting your long exposures

What is it?

There is no real definition for a long exposure. My interpretation is that it is when you take a picture that lasts longer than a few seconds, and will almost always be mounted on a tripod.

How do I use it on my camera?

Most DSLR cameras will allow you to take a picture for 30”, which is 30 seconds. 30” can be found by using the Shutter Priority mode on your camera.  You may also want to use the camera’s self-timer to release the shutter – that’s the mode that lets you get into the picture and waits 10 seconds before taking the picture, so that you don’t move the camera when taking the photo. If you want to take a photo longer than 30” you will need a shutter release cable and use the “Bulb” mode on your camera. These cables are relatively cheap (under $20 for entry level cameras) and are quite handy.

What does it do to my pictures?

The reason for using a long exposure is to usually capture scenes that are poorly lit, such as a night cityscape or the trails of car taillights driving down a road. They can also be used to remove moving things in your picture, such as people in a busy scene or fast moving water. Long exposure pictures of cities at night will only show parts of the image that stay still for the entire picture. During a long exposure of the Brisbane River, for example, a City Cat may move through your picture, but in the final image you will only see the lights on the boat as it moves through the picture.

The longer the exposure, the more that moving things will blur. With a fountain for example, if you use a fast shutter speed you will see the droplets mid flight, but if you take a long enough picture of the fountain, you will only see the water gushing upwards, not the water falling back down.

Examples

Long Exposures 1The picture on the right was a 10 second exposure; we used a filter, like a pair of sunglasses, to reduce the light. The fountain now only shows the water rising but not the water falling back. Note the water on the lake is also very flat – the ripples are almost gone.

Long Exposures 5This 30 second photo shows the taillight and headlight trails of the cars that were driving on the racetrack, but not the cars that were making the trails. You can see some parked cars in the pits in the top right of the picture.

Long Exposures 2This is a busy mall in Brisbane, but it could be any city scene. The constant flow of people will never stop. If you wanted a picture, without people a long exposure will help.

Long Exposures 3You can see the white “fog” through the middle of the picture; this is the “flow” of the people that have been blurred by the long exposure. Note that the white ”fog” was used to show the people moving, in a different composition without a bright centre spot there would have been no fog. Again a filter was used to reduce the amount of light coming in to the camera.

Long Exposures 4In this six minute photo, a few City Cats and river boats moved through the shot. You can see the light trails on the river, and you can also see the stars and the clouds moving through the sky.

Try This

Using the self-timer and a tripod, set your camera to shutter priority mode and take some shots longer than 10 seconds. Note that without a filter to reduce the light, you will need to find a very poorly lit subject. What aperture values do you need to get the longer exposures?

What is White Balance?

What is it?

It’s a technical term that measures the colour of the light we are seeing. As always, our eyes and brain change to our surroundings and make adjustments to what we see without our knowledge. As a result of this, we don’t see the difference between light from a candle and light from the sun. The light from a candle is very yellow (warm) and the light from the direct sun is quite blue (cool). These are two very opposite ends of the scale in colour balance. This is the reason why, when you take a photo indoors without the flash, the pictures can look very yellow.

How do I use it on my camera?

There is a button or menu for the white balance. Generally the camera defaults to AWB (Auto White Balance), which in truth, gets it right most of the time. If you are shooting jpg only, and the white balance is incorrect, there is little you can do to correct it. So it needs to be right 100% of the time. To achieve this, you need to set it yourself.

Below are the icons. Its best to pick the light that you are taking pictures in, with the exception of “Custom” as this is used when taking pictures with studio flash lighting. There is also “K” that is where you select a number, that and “Custom” will be another blog post.

White Balance 01

What does it do to my pictures?

If you pick the wrong white balance your pictures with either look too yellow or too blue. Generally, skin tones will not look right, making people look like they have a fake tan. It can make sunsets look more vibrant or yellow, which could be what you’re looking for too.  So picking the right white balance is best done before you take the picture.

The screen on the back of the camera is a great guide to see what you have taken looks like what you are seeing. The RBG histogram is another way, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Examples

The images below were taken in a RAW format and were processed to show how the white balance changes will affect the result. The icon in the bottom corner of each photo shows what white balance it was processed with.

White Balance 02Sunset clouds; taken at about 5.30pm, the light is coming from the sun and there are clouds so “Cloudy” was used.

White Balance 03Joey in the diner; this image was an ambient light shot with a very little amount of flash. The accurate white balance is closer to “Fluorescent” than it is to “Flash”. You can see though that “Sunny” white balance gives the skin a just tanned look.

White Balance 04Olympic lifting outdoors; This shot was lit by the street lights. As you can see with using “Sunny”, the skin tone is wrong. The correct white balance is “Incandescent”

White Balance 05Christmas lights; As there are so many light sources in this photo, which includes the moon, the white balance was hard to get right. It is somewhere between “Fluorescent” and “Incandescent”. The grass in the “Sunny” setting looks too yellow and the sky has a brown yellow cast.

Try This

Take the same picture with each of the white balance settings, and see which one you think is the closest to the light you are taking pictures in. If you have any interesting findings, feel free to post your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Travel Tips

Here’s our Top Travel Tips for Photographers:

1 Take your charger, even if it’s only a weekend away! Charge the battery every night to ensure your camera is ready when you need it. And remember, cold weather shortens the life of batteries.

2 Take lots of memory cards. They’re cheap, and why risk missing out on that once-in-lifetime shot because your memory card is full? Make sure you format them in the camera before you leave. If you are planning to take lots of pictures and are wondering whether to buy one big card or several smaller ones, we recommend buying many smaller ones. If you lose the one big card, or gets damaged/corrupted in some way, you will lose all your photos.

3 With this in mind, don’t be scared to take one extra photo. You may never come back! Also, don’t delete a picture off the back of your camera without first looking at it in on your computer. The camera’s screen is too small to have a thorough look at the image and you might miss something interesting in the background.

4 Backup the pictures! Keep the used cards separate from your camera (and secure) in case it gets lost or stolen.

5 Be aware of visiting places where taking pictures may not be condoned or may be against the law. As a rule of thumb, avoid photographing inside airports, at border crossings, where there are police or military officials etc. Respect signs that say “no photography”. Also, different countries have different laws about what is acceptable as far as photographing people – research this before you go!

6 If you don’t have a tripod, a bin/chair/or the ground can be a great makeshift tripod.  

7 If you are taking pictures at night, and the camera suggests using a tripod or you cannot get sharp photos because the shutter speed is too low, you can use your camera’s self-timer for a hands-free shot that minimises camera shake.

8 Use your shadow as a guide. It’s best to keep your back to the sun when taking pictures so if you look down and see your shadow you’re looking the right way. Of course this is not always possible.

9 Be creative and don’t forget to change your point of view. Don’t just arrive at a scene and take the first shot you see. Remember to think about WHAT you would like to highlight in the scene.

10 Keeping a shopping bag in your pocket or camera bag is a great way of protecting your camera if it rains.

11 Test your camera before you go away. Learn how to use it, and try not to buy it the week before you go away. If you’re flustered and have not read the new manual or are not familiar with the camera, you may not be getting the best out of it.

These tips will ensure that you capture some awesome memories of your trip. And on a final note, make sure you have the camera ready at all times – you never know what’s around the next corner.

Examples

Here are some photos from our travels. Head on over to our No Green Square Facebook page and post your best travel photos.

top travel tipsSunset over Mount Fuji from the Shinjuku Government Tower, Japan

top travel tipsSunrise over Ankgor Wat, Cambodia

top travel tipsJunks in Ha-Long Bay, Vietnam

top travel tipsLake Manchester on Fraser Island, Australia

Try This

While traveling, keep your camera handy and ready to take photos.  Try to get some shots that are a little different from the norm, using a different angle or perspective.

Do a Photography Challenge

What is it?

Doing a photography challenge lets you explore new things, try doing the same thing many ways, or just explore your creativity. Some examples could be, Photo-A-Day for a week, a month or longer, portraits of strangers, macro, or there are some creative subject lists for 30 days, that make you become more creative.

Photography ChallengeHow do I use it on my camera?

How you use your camera in this challenge is up to you. You could limit yourself to only shooting with Aperture Priority, or just using one lens, or only using ISO100. Whatever you choose, make sure that it makes you think about what you have to do to take those pictures.

What does it do to my pictures?

These sorts of challenges will make you become more creative. They will change the way you think about how you’re shooting, and how it make you see things in a different way. If you choose to only use F3.5 or all your pictures are going to be taken at 1/100th of a second, these challenges will keep you on your toes.

Examples

Here is my 365 Photography Challenge, as I love photographing wide angle pictures; I decided to challenge myself to use a telephoto lens, and to only take pictures with it at F2.

One Hundred Strangers is a Flickr group with people and portraits in mind. It makes some people come out of their shell, in order to ask someone if they can take their picture, and then post the images with some background on Flickr.

Facebook has a 30 Day Photo Challenge that involves each day having a different photo to submit. This would challenge you to think outside the box, and be a little more creative. 

Try This

Do a one week challenge, try to push your boundaries and extend yourself. If you’re stuck for ideas, our challenge is to photograph something green for seven days. You can’t take a picture of the same thing seven times, each photo has to very different, and needs to be a completely different subject matter. Seven photos of leaves won’t cut it!

Here are three pictures to start you off,

Photography Challenge

Photography Challenge

Photography Challenge

look forward to seeing what you take

 

 

RAW

What is it?

RAW is the digital equivalent of slide or negative film. It’s a format that allows you to process the image after you have taken it to suit your liking, or to process it a very different way altogether. In short, it’s like the roll of film you used to take to be developed, and then go back to get your prints. With RAW, you do the developing.

How do I use it on my camera?

Usually your camera is set to take photos in .jpg format. This format gives you a processed picture that is ready to share or print. Depending on the make and model of your camera, you may have a dedicated button for selecting the RAW option or you may have to change it through the menu system. Your camera may be able to take both a .jpg and RAW image at the same time, or just one format. This function may allow you to choose different .jpg and RAW sizes as well. Please note: shooting RAW will produce large file sizes and will slow down your camera’s burst mode (ie, how many pictures you can take quickly in a row.)

What does it do to my pictures?

Shooting RAW gives you much flexibility when processing your images. It allows you to adjust every facet of your image, from brightness, colour, contrast, sharpness and lots more. Newer versions of Photoshop Camera Raw Editor even allow you to apply a graduated filter effect, remove dust spots and other unwanted elements in the image. Basically, you can manipulate your picture to your hearts content.

You may be thinking, “we can already do that with editing software for our .jpg files”. Yes you can! BUT, like slide film, any change made to a RAW file is just a tweak to the file. It is not destructive, which means that any change can be reversed, or improved with more changes. You can always revert to the original RAW file. Even cropping the image does not destroy the remainder of the picture, not to mention that in the future, there may be better software or you may have a better understanding of processing that could give you a better result.

Once you have made your adjustments to the RAW file, simply save as a .jpg for printing / sharing.

While you may not be able to process a RAW file now, it is worth shooting in RAW, because at some point you may be able to, or you may want to change the feel of a shot. Processing software will improve over time and will allow you to produce a better result!

The following examples show images that I took years ago, and have been able to re-process because I kept the RAW files.

Example 1

RAW Pics 1.jpgI took the picture above in 2004 on a then new Canon 300D (using a 18-55 kit lens). The picture settings were F16 (aperture), 60 seconds (shutter speed), and ISO 100. I processed the image with the Canon Raw editing software supplied with the camera.

RAW Pics 2.jpgI can now process that file with the latest Adobe Camera Raw Editor. You can see the many sliders and variables that can be used to adjust the look of the image. Please note that when you open the file, all the sliders are set to 0.

RAW Pics 3.jpgIn this image, I have moved the sliders, and the image has changed:

  • Moved white balance – toned down the yellow cast

  • Increased exposure – increased the overall brightness

  • Increased contrast – blacks are blacker and whites are whiter

  • Decreased the highlights – which remove some of the extreme white light around the street lights

  • Increased clarity – which sharpens the image

 

RAW Pics 4.jpgHere is newly reprocessed image. If I had not taken this picture in RAW in 2004, these edits would not have been possible.

Example 2

The photo on the left was taken on a Canon 1000D. The settings were F2.8, 1/750th shutter speed and ISO 100. The photo on the left was as shot, you can see that it is quite overexposed, as this image was taken in RAW i am able to repair the image and bring it back.

  • Decreased the exposure –  to darken the overall image

  • Increased contrast – blacks are blacker and whites are whiter

  • Increased the highlights – as they needed a little

  • Increased the shadows  – to highlight the flower

  • Reduced the whites – to remove the harshness on the lake

  • Increased the clarity – to sharpen the image

If this was a jpg image out of the camera, these adjustments would not have been possible.

Try This

Take a picture in RAW and have a go at processing it yourself with the sliders, moving each one at a time and seeing the results. Watch how the histogram moves left to right and how the peaks rise and fall.

Aperture

What is it?

Aperture is a way of controlling how much light comes into your camera. It’s based on the size of the hole in your lens. By changing lenses you can improve the maximum aperture.Aperture Priority

How do I use it on my camera?

Depending on the camera make and model you have, by using the A or Av (Aperture Priority) mode on your camera dial or menu, you can select the F number that you want the photo to be taken at, the camera will set the shutter speed to maintain the correct exposure. You would use the main scroll or menu to change the F number.

Aperture Priority

What does it do to my pictures?

Simply, the smaller the F number you use the less will be in focus in  your pictures. This will make the object in focus stand out more.  However, there are times that you want lots of the picture in focus, like a landscape or a group of people. To get all of the picture in focus use a larger number.

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the flower is only thing in focus

Aperture PriorityLarge F number: the flower in the foreground and the flowers in the background are not separated. The flowers in the background are distracting.

Examples

Aperture PriorityF number 11: gives a lot of depth in this picture

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the water closest is in focus.

Aperture PrioritySmall F number: the back ground is separated from the subject

Aperture PriorityLarger F number: more in focus, the foreground and background are both parts of the picture

Aperture PriorityUsing a larger F number: the subject and his surroundings are both part of the picture

Aperture PriorityF number 22: all of the above image is in focus

Try This

Get your camera, set it to Aperture Priority mode, start at the smallest number you can and then take a series of pictures of the same thing changing the  F number. Note how your pictures are changing. What else is changing when taking these pictures?

Have a read about Shutter Speed and ISO.

Shutter Speed

What is it?

Your camera has a door that opens to let in light; by controlling how long the door is open it can control how much light comes into your camera, and therefore how light or dark or your photo is.

Shutter Speed is how long the door is open.
How do I use it on my camera?

Shutter Speed Pics 1

Depending on the make and model of camera you have, by using the S or Tv mode on your camera dial or menu, you can select the Shutter Speed that you want the photo to be taken at. The camera will then set the Aperture to maintain the correct exposure. You can use the main scroll or menu to change the Shutter Speed. Your camera is likely to have a range of 30” to 4000 or (1/4000th), this is 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second. It may also have “Bulb” or faster than 1/4000th. I will leave “Bulb” and Long Exposures to another Blog post.

What does it do to my pictures?

The longer the shutter is open, the more that the objects that are moving  in your pictures will blur. So to freeze your subject in time you will need to use a quick shutter speed. To blur your subject you will need to use a longer shutter speed. Tip: if you are trying to capture your kids on a swing, you will need to use a faster shutter speed than 1/250th.

Shutter Speed Pics 2Fast Shutter: has frozen the seagull in flight.

Shutter Speed Pics 3Slow Shutter: the waves in this picture have a ghostly appearance.

Examples

Shutter Speed Pics 4Fast Shutter: has frozen the subjects mid jump.

Shutter Speed Pics 5Fast Shutter: the movement of the water is frozen.

Shutter Speed Pics 6Slow Shutter: the water on the waterfall has blurred.

Shutter Speed Pics 7Slow Shutter: the cars are so blurred they are not visible. All you can see is their headlights / tail lights.

Try This

Set your camera to Shutter Priority mode. Using a garden hose or sprinkler, take a picture at 1/1000th and see what happens to the water.

Next, take a series of pictures of the same object, changing the shutter speed after each photo. Note how your pictures are changing. What else is changing when taking these pictures? Feel free to leave your comments on this post.

Have a read about ISO and Aperture.

The making of “30 Minutes of Lightning over Bulimba”

I recently posted a picture which was taken of a large storm with lots of lightning over Bulimba. It was on the 29th of Dec last year. Usually I would post a picture like the one below of ONE big strike captured in one shot.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

To capture this sort of picture, I have set-up my camera on a tripod, I have set the camera to manual focus, and pre-focused on the tree in the distance, then set the camera to a manual setting that suited the night, on this occasion it was aperture F9.5 ISO 400 and shutter speed of 30 seconds (this is a long exposure). Then I wait for the lightning to do its job.

But while the storm was passing over, I noticed that the lightning was quite regular. The storm was so large that there  would be lots of strikes. So I had an idea, if I took lots of images of the strikes and then put them all into one shot, what would it look like?

This style of processing is called “stacking”, to do this I have used some free software called Startrails, its usually used to stack images of stars tracing across the sky into a star trail, like the picture below. You can download their software here.

110514 Startrails1

So I reset the camera with this in mind, all I wanted was the shots with lightning in them, so I set the camera to F9.5 ISO 400 and 4 seconds. Using a remote shutter trigger, I locked the camera on so it took continuous shots of the storm as it passed over.

The result was about 450 shots taken over 30 minutes. Of those there were 75 images with lightning bolts in them, here are a few of the images.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

Please note that the buildings in the foreground and the clouds are not lit up by these four pictures above, but a couple of the closer stronger bolts of lightning actually lit up the houses and clouds like this one.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

Those 75 were then processed by Startrails and the result is below.

ligthning over bulimba
ligthning over bulimba

The difference in the lightning bolts colour and size were the first things that amazed me. Not to mention the amount of bolts that hit very similar spots!

If you note the camera settings above, this could have been taken on a 100D Canon or a D3200 Nikon with a standard kit lens.

The extras that you would need are a remote shutter cable release depending on your camera brand and model they range from $20 to $100, and a tripod.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Michael