Resources

I put together a list of websites that you can visit and learn from without being worried about what you will come across. (Sad, but true about many places) As of January 6, 2012, these websites all have clean photography, and are helpful, and fun. Enjoy!

Looking at great photography of God’s amazing creation is inspiring. Why don’t you try to create some of your own masterpieces after getting a few ideas?

Let me know if you find any good sites or other resources and I’ll consider them!

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Psalm 118:24

I will be adding to these lists in the future. This is just a start.

Just think! This is what

you

will be able to do.

 

Nature, Outdoor, and Wildlife Photographers:

http://www.adamgibbs.com/

http://www.raybulson.com/

http://www.naturephotosonline.com/

http://www.carlheilman.com/

http://ingejohnsson.photoshelter.com/

http://www.naturephotocentral.com/

http://www.coloradophotos.com/

http://www.brendatharp.com

http://gerlachnaturephoto.com/

Garden, Plants, Architecture, and Nature Photography:

http://www.ianadamsphotography.com/

Food Photography Websites:

http://www.foodportfolio.com

Websites for Camera and Lens Reviews:

http://www.photozone.de/Reviews

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/digital_camera_and_lens_reviews.shtml

 Remember, be sure to let me know if you come across any other great ones! 

They will be considered for this list.

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




Lesson 10 – Flattering Portraits


A while back, I was doing a one-on-one photography outing at my place with Nela, another photographer I had met. One of the topics for the evening was, "What camera lenses should be used to create beautiful, flattering portraits of my friends, family, and clients?" I thought I'd share a recap for ya'll to enjoy!

The difference between the right lens and the wrong one is dramatic. (I didn't do any photo editing on these other than to re-size and sharpen them for web use.) The boy didn't move at all. Doesn't the one on the left look like he has his neck stuck out?


The picture on the left was taken with a 17-55mm lens. (That's the type of lens that likely came with your camera if you have an SLR - your “kit” lens.) It’s a great lens for certain things, but NOT the right one to choose when you want to impress someone by taking a great picture of him or her. This lens will distort people’s faces terribly, especially if you don’t zoom in at all! Did you ever wonder why you are hardly ever happy with the way you look in photos? The camera lens’ focal length plays a big part in that. Nobody likes to look worse than they do in real life.

The photo on the right is taken with a 70-200mm lens, zoomed in to 200mm. This is the way the boy looks in real life. All I did was to change my lens, take several steps backward, and zoom in. The boy didn't move at all


What is "focal length"?

"The focal length of a lens determines how much magnification it provides. A lens with a shorter focal length will be able to 'see' a wider view of a subject than can a lens with a longer focal length, which would see a narrower view of the scene, but at a higher level of magnification.”
– Definition from mobileburn glossary
The smaller the number on the lens (e.g. 18-55mm), the wider the view seen in the camera. The larger the number printed on the lens (e.g. 70-200mm), the more things are magnified.

The good photo of the boy that I showed you earlier was taken with a 70-200mm lens. (It was one of those bigger, longer lenses.) You can easily see the difference between the good image and the distorted one.
Note: I mention the 17-55mm lens, the 18-55mm lens, and the 70-200mm lens, but you could substitute your 55-250mm lens or 70-300mm lens, etc. for the 70-200mm lens I have.

Q: Why did the wide angle lens – the 17-55mm lens – distort the boy’s face?
A: All wide-angle lenses distort straight lines: they make straight lines look curved. Look at these examples I took of a grid. See how the one on the left taken with the wide 17-55mm lens skews the lines? The photo on the right was taken with the 70-200mm and has much less distortion. Look at how much straighter the lines are.


If you have a small camera – a point-and-shoot – instead of an SLR, you can still benefit from this advice. When you’re taking a picture of a friend, step back and zoom in on your subject’s face instead of standing really close to her to take the photo. She will thank you when she sees the result and you will have a MUCH nicer picture to show for your trouble. Try it and see! It makes an AMAZING difference. 

Q: Are there times to use a wide-angle lens for portraits?
A: Yes, and we’ll talk about those times later – you can do some exciting stuff with wide-angle lenses! They aren't made for gorgeous close-up portrait photography though.

So.. there you have it! Step back and zoom in to get the best results!
Speaking of results, here are some of the photos I came away with after the photography outing.
Nela and I shared a wonderful evening together shooting photos to our heart’s content…well, not really. I only had about a million other places to show her and a hundred other techniques to talk about! It was fun. J All of these photos were shot with my 70-200mm lens.


We had a great time together.




Backlighting is fun and gorgeous...and so is long grass!






Lots of laughs.
Lots of photos.
Lots of fun.


"Surely I come quickly. 
Amen. 
Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Revelation 22:20b

Lesson 9: Learning to See Creatively



Now that we've gone through some of the most important nuts and bolts in photography, this lesson is the first in a series of lessons on how to develop your creative vision.


Did you know that seeing creatively is a talent you can learn? It's totally possible for everyone! God made each person a special, unique individual - that means that no one sees the world exactly like you do! By following the principles outlined in this lesson and the lessons to come, you will learn the tools to translate the beauty you see in the world into beautiful pictures for others to see and enjoy.

If you use your camera well, others will be able to truly see the world through your eyes.

That is communicating with your audience.

What is your goal?


Do you want your viewers to get excited about the outdoors or eager to get a print of that photo for their house? Are you trying to get people to see the beauty in the little moments throughout our daily lives? I'll ask you again, what is your goal?
Do your photos look like snapshots? Like they were shot on the edge of a crowd? No excitement? Do you apologize - do you say it looked so much more amazing in person? Often our photos don’t show what we experienced. This is why we have to learn to communicate with other people through our pictures.
The question is, “What are you trying to say with this picture? What are you trying to communicate?"
Keep the image simple.
That means, don’t include too many unrelated elements in the image.

Simplicity is the Key – See how little you can include while still creating masterpieces.
Know what you're trying to show and then show it well!

Enough about that... 

Let's talk about Perspectives


Try all different angles. If you regularly take pictures of flowers by looking down at them from above, try lying down and actually looking up at them. The least used angle is shooting up at something. Try shooting up at your two-year-old boy or at least see how the world looks from down on their level. Follow him around when he's outside exploring. Get down on your knees or stomach. Change your perspective. 


I had this idea for a cute photo, but shooting from above made for a boring shot.


So, I changed my perspective and got a much more interesting photo as the result.




Experiment! Don't just stop after your first try.


What if ants are crawling across your picnic blanket to devour your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Now is a good time to practice humility. Lie down on the ground. Get down and see what they do.

Feet are a great subject. Have you considered taking pictures of a building being newly constructed in the spring? Why not make your picture more interesting by changing your perspective and looking at the same scene with construction worker's muddy boots and lower legs framing your shot?






As adults, we often see each other on the same level, so, while this is a nice, solid photo, it isn't as unique as the following one. It's good to get both! You'll need different ones for different occasions. Which photo would you choose?






When you spot a fun picture idea, play around with the possibilities. 

Your perspective matters!

Keep snapping!
Laura

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."

~ 1 John 3:1



Lesson 8 - Light, Part 2


Dawn (sunrise) and dusk (sunset) often have the best light for outdoor photography. Know ahead of time when and where the sun will rise and set. If you know this, you will be able to plan when and where to be to get the best shots.

“Whether you’re photographing a landscape, a flower, or a castle, there is an appropriate light that will bring out the best attributes of your subject.” – Unknown  


The cool colors of early morning bring out the coldness of the frost in this picture.

  • Think about what kind of light would be best for your subject and why.


Backlighting this soybean pod at sunset highlights its beautiful feathery-ness.

Bad weather is often great for exciting pictures. If you include the sky, it needs to look interesting.
Plan ahead for great light. Keep a list of places or things and what kind of lighting you think would suit them best. To refresh your memory, review Lesson 7 on the kinds of light.

We can learn a lot from the masters in photography. 
Here is what some of them say about light.

Read the following eye-opening statements and then think about how to take this knowledge and apply it to your photography. Your photography will improve drastically!


“When the magic hour arrives, my thoughts center on the light rather than on the landscape. I search for when the perfect light is right and everything is working earthbound to match with it.”…”When the light is right and everything is working for me, I feel as tense as when making a difficult maneuver high on a mountain. A minute – and sometimes mere seconds- can make the difference between a superb image and a mundane one.” – Galen Rowel

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

“Of course, your camera also has certain limitations. While you have two eyes to take in a scene, the camera is limited to one. While your eye and mind can balance the details in highlight and shadow, you may find your camera and film unable to record these details as you perceive them with your eye. Understanding the limitations and strengths of your camera equipment and film are the first steps toward taking consistently better photographs.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski

 “I look for what I have seen before, and I follow the hints of magical light the way I would follow clues on a treasure map. As Luis Pasteur once said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’, and I almost never arrive at the right place at the right time to make a photograph by chance. I am there because my photography has led me there through an understanding of the nuances of mountain light.”     “I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a ‘record’ shot. My first thought is always of light”                   “It is easy to forget that light to photographers, like language to writers, is their only means of artistic expression. Without an understanding of language, combined with imagination and intuition, occasional strings of lyrical words are little more than intermittent accidents. So are photographs made without understanding the language of light.” “three components that need to merge at the instant the shutter is released in order to make a truly fine photograph of the natural world: technical proficiency, personal vision, and light.” – Galen Rowel

“Working the edge of a storm in hopes of finding dramatic light can be (both) frustrating and tremendously rewarding.” -Jim & Kate Rowinski



…”magic hour, soft light, backlight, light against light. Beyond those is a selective emphasis that sets them apart. Natural forms lose much of their significance when taken out of context, yet many photographers isolate single subjects in what I believe is a misguided quest for simplicity. Of far more importance is harmony, that is, combining the parts into a whole to create a clear message.” – Galen Rowel



I was reading some facts about light at Porter’s Camera, and thought I’d recreate some of them here for you to benefit from!


Light Facts:


Soft Light = broad light – A cloudy day will produce soft light because whole sky is transformed into one huge, diffused light source.

Narrow Light = harsh light – it’s coming from a small light source

Front light = flat light – In portrait photography, front lighting certainly helps when trying to make wrinkles disappear! Front lighting isn’t as interesting as side lighting though. It’s a trade-off. J

Side light brings out texture – and blemishes too! Good portraits often use something in between front lighting and side lighting. Highlights and shadows add depth and interest – just make sure there is detail in both!

All Light = colored light – Light has all the colors of the rainbow, even though it looks white, so remember to set your white balance to get the effect you want!


That’s all for today!
Talk to you next time,
Laura

“Find out what kind of light inspires you, then determine what subjects most often draw your attention and concentrate on them.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski


"Thy work is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119:105

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

Lesson 7 - Light, Part 1


Three things that are needed to make a great photograph:

  1. Superb light
  2. An interesting subject
  3. Dynamic composition            


We will be talking about the first component, light, in the next two lessons.

Light is very important to photography, but so often is taken for granted. Without light, we wouldn’t be able to use our cameras. If we can learn how to use light to our advantage, we will have come a long way.
Understanding light is critical when creating amazing photography.

We will be talking about five kinds of light in this lesson:

1. Hard light. This light is the harsh sunlight we get during most of the day when the sun is overhead. It is hard to learn how to use this light well.

This light is boring!
The hard, harsh light of midday is the least flattering kind of light.




2. Side lighting. When the sun is low in the sky, we can use side lighting 
in our pictures if we place the sun at our left or right hand.

Side lighting showcases the many textures in the world around us.



Side lighting is MUCH more interesting than the harsh light at noon or the flat light we get if we shoot with the sun coming from behind us


3. Backlighting your subject is a wonderful way to use light.
Try including the sun in the photo or, try using a tree, cloud, person, or flower to cover the sun.


Since the camera is often fooled into making the picture too light and overexposed when bright sky or the sun is in the picture, remember to use exposure compensation!


Here's another example of backlighting.


4. An example of Diffused light would be the kind of light we get on a cloudy day. It’s a soft light that wraps around the subjects in our pictures. With this kind of light it’s much easier not to have harsh shadows and blown out highlights.
Diffused light is great for close-ups and pictures with no sky in them. The super saturated colors you are able to get in this light make flowers and fall leaves look great.



This is an example of the soft, diffused light on a cloudy day. It can be great for portraits. Make sure to set your white balance to Cloudy so people's skin tones look right!

5. Reflected light is a fun kind of light to search for.
Look for it in water, canyons, puddles, ice, and many other places. You’ll certainly be rewarded and get some cool photographs along the way!


So, there you have it - the 5 types of light! Why not look for each of these kinds of light during this next week? It'll be good practice and you'll gain a new appreciation for the beauty and variety of the ever-changing light around us. Just think! God designed it all! (and out of nothing at that!) Wasn't He creative? Random chance would never have a chance to create something so absolutely amazing as our world!

Enjoy the day!
Laura

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
Psalm 8:3-4


What are ISO numbers? Lesson 6



A Definition:

The ISO number = how sensitive the camera is to light

“The lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film 
and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking.”  
- Darren Rowse

There are 3 basic variables that are part of the process of taking a picture. We talked about the first two variables in Lesson 4 and Lesson 5 – the camera’s aperture and shutter speed. The last variable we will talk about is the ISO.

Can you remember waaay back to the film days before basically everything went digital? (I wasn’t even taking pictures back then!) Anyway, when people bought their film, they had to choose what light sensitivity they wanted – what ISO number to choose. The higher the number, the more sensitive the film was to the light. People chose a higher speed film such as ISO 800 for use indoors and bought a lower speed film like ISO 200 to use outside.

Of course, nowadays most people have digital cameras and therefore don’t use film, but changing the ISO according to your circumstances is still important. There’s no reason not to! It’s so much easier than changing film!

Q: Why not just use ISO 800 (or another high ISO number) all the time? After all, it’s more sensitive to light!

A: The higher the ISO number, the grainier, “noisier” and lower the quality of the resulting image. The lower the ISO speed, the better the quality and the less grainy or noisy the picture is.

 



This is the view at 100% of part of a picture that was taken using a high ISO number. You can see the grain and noise, can't you?




Here is a view zoomed in at 100% of part of a picture taken at a low ISO number. The picture details are much cleaner and clearer in this shot.









Here is the total picture. The place where the 100% crop was taken from is circled in red.
The more you spend to buy a camera, the better it will perform at higher ISO numbers. (Point and shoot cameras are especially prone to noise and grain, even when the ISO number is only sort of high!)




The camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all word together. You can change any one of these and the exposure will change (the picture will turn out lighter or darker) if the camera is set to M (manual mode). For the other camera modes, the camera compensates for the changes you make to any of these settings.

Look at the three variables - aperture number, shutter speed, and ISO number - as if they are 3 crucial ingredients in a cake. If you change one of them the picture will turn out differently.


In the photo on the left, I used an aperture of f/3.5, and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. at ISO 200.

In the photo on the right, I used an aperture number of f/3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/1500 sec. at ISO 800. By having the ISO number at 800 instead of 200, I could raise the shutter speed. (not that I needed to in this instance!)
Even though the settings are different, the picture can still turn out basically the same. The only difference is the lower quality of the one that was taken at ISO 800 (When an 8x10 print is made of each image, the difference in quality is much more apparent.)

 





For this picture, I changed the aperture number to f/19. This meant that the shutter speed or ISO number had to change also. Since I didn't want to raise the ISO number any higher than 800, I used a longer shutter speed - 1/45 second - to let in more light and compensate for aperture number I chose.








Do you see in these pictures that in order to get the same exposure (same brightness of the image) if I change the aperture, the shutter speed changes. If I change the shutter speed, the aperture changes too. If I change the ISO, either the shutter speed or the aperture (or both) have to change also.

Q: How do I know what camera mode to use and what settings to adjust?

A: This depends on what you want the final picture to look like. Let me explain.
  • If the background in the image needs to be out of focus, set the camera to Av (aperture priority mode) and set the aperture to a small aperture number for a small amount of the picture to be sharp. The camera will adjust the shutter speed for you.


  • If you are after the dreamy, soft feel of a slow shutter speed, set the camera to Tv (time value) and select a slow shutter speed. The camera will then adjust the aperture to get the correct exposure – not too bright and not too dark.


  • If you are in a dim environment and need the camera be more sensitive to the light, know that the picture quality will suffer somewhat when you boost the ISO number, but boosting the ISO number will enable you to take a picture that otherwise might have been impossible to capture.


A Review:

  1. If you used to use a film camera, bumping up the ISO is the equivalent of putting in a higher speed of film
  2. Low light – in situations where the light levels are very dim and you can’t use a lower shutter speed or bigger aperture to let in more light, boost your ISO
  3. A higher ISO number makes the camera more sensitive to light
  4. A high ISO number does degrade the image quality –  it makes the picture more noisy or grainy
  5. Don’t pick a higher ISO number than is needed.
  6. The lower the ISO, the better, but make sure not to get a blurry picture!


“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: 
and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.”

Psalm 50:23

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 

The Rule of Thirds - Lesson 1

Why do you want to take pictures? What motivates you to learn photography?

There are many good reasons and I’m sure you could think of a whole list, but the point is that you want to learn, so let’s get started!

Guideline #1:

Several of you have probably heard of the Rule of Thirds. If you haven’t, it’s simple. Let me explain.


Look at the horizon in this picture. Do you see how it splits the photo in half? Unless the scene is a peaceful one and the subject is a mirror image such as a mountain and a lake with a reflection of the mountain in the water, it is unlikely that cutting your image in two with the horizon is a good idea.

Instead, place the horizon in either the top or the bottom third of the picture, like this:
See how much more impact the photo has? Focusing attention on either the sky or the foreground makes the scene much more exciting! (which, of course, is the goal!)

Don’t know where to put the horizon? (Ground or sky – how can you tell?) 
Answer: Which is more interesting? That is what you should emphasize and include more of in your picture.

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board placed over the screen or viewfinder of your camera. The places where the grid lines intersect are great spots to position your subjects. Here, the horizon falls along the first horizontal grid line and the rainbows are both at least slightly off center.

When doing a portrait, don’t place the eyes of the person smack dab in the center of the frame. 
How boring! 
Try something like this instead:
(Note: Look at how the violin bow cuts the picture in half. If I was to take this picture again, I would remove the violin bow or position it somewhere else.)

So, how does the rule of thirds work with your camera? 
This depends on what method the camera is set to use to decide where to focus in the scene. For most point-and-shoot cameras, it works best if you point the camera at the subject, press the shutter button down halfway to focus, keep holding it halfway down while you recompose the shot (recompose = move the camera) to follow the rule of thirds, and then press the shutter button down all the way to take the picture. Whew!!! (Don’t worry! With a bit of practice, this will become soooo easy and soon be second nature.)

SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras (ones that can change lenses) can use the method above, or they can change where the camera’s focus point is. (This is the way I do it.) Look up how to do this in your camera manual. Some point-and-shoot owners can also do this – they can put the place where the camera focuses somewhere else in the picture.

Assignment:
      This week, take at least 10 pictures using these techniques. Getting used to the "how" in the technical part of taking pictures using the Rule of Thirds is important so you can concentrate on capturing the emotion and excitement of the moment.

If you would like, send the best picture you've taken following the Rule of Thirds to me. I'd love to see your progress! (Send a low resolution picture - 200KB or smaller.)

By following this guideline, you are on your way to becoming an amazing photographer!

Congratulations!

Come back soon for Lesson 2 in your astonishing journey toward success!


"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: 
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
Jeremiah 31:3b


About this Course...

Hi! It's GREAT to have you here. I'm so excited that you can join me and learn more about photography.

I will be posting weekly photography lessons. If you have any questions, or do not understand the lesson, don't hesitate to ask! We will cover many aspects and types of photography. In any given lesson, I might demonstrate techniques, give tips, let you know about handy websites or resources, and/or critique photo examples.

In between lessons, check out the other pages on this site, explore the links, and take pictures!

In the following months, I will keep adding to the other pages to make them as helpful and useful as possible.

Pass the word along!


"The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, 
and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him."
Exodus 15:2

Books to Read


Laura’s List
Photography Books for anyone – Christians, conservatives, homeschoolers, and others to enjoy safely.


  • Book 1: Digital Nature Photography: The Art and the Science by John and Barbara Gerlach

This book is my latest favorite. It is amazingly well written and everyone from beginners to advanced intermediate can benefit from it. The book covers a huge array of subjects. I missed a few areas in my self-taught photography course. Mr. Gerlach filled in a couple gaps I had and helped me brush up on what I had already learned in the past. Several of the photos in the book are quite striking and beneficial too. Another attractive thing is that the book is relatively new – copyright 2007, so the information is reasonably up-to-date. All in all, this could easily be the first book I buy specifically for my photography library.
Note: You will benefit most from this book if you have an SLR, or at least a camera that you can change the shutter speed and aperture. If you don’t have either of these, read John’s book anyway. J

  • Book 2: America Wide: In God We Trust Panographs by Ken Duncan

I have never seen a book like this one before. Ken uses a panoramic camera to take sweeping views of the outdoors. Most of the photography is gorgeous! All of it is beautiful. Looking through this book and studying the pictures inspired me to try another way of thinking when taking pictures. How would the world around you look when you see it the way Mr. Duncan does? If you are stuck in a rut, his book is a great way to revive your passion for photography.

  • Book 3: Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography by Brenda Tharp

I read the old version. I have seen parts of the new, updated version, and it also looks like a worthwhile read. An interesting point to note is that Brenda’s book focuses mostly on improving your photo composition and seeing creatively rather than on learning how your camera works and how to use it. Some of the main topics covered in this book are Learning to See, Visual Design, Creating Effective Compositions, and Working with Color.

  • Book 4: Chased by the Light: A 90-Day Journey by Jim Brandenburg

Uses: idea book, self assignment – the “Take One Picture a Day Challenge”
I, along with a friend, copied the experiment he did in the book on a smaller scale (30 days instead of 90) and exchanged pictures at the end of the 30 days. By taking one and only one nature/outdoors picture a day, I was forced to consider very carefully what I wanted to convey. You too can profit greatly from this exercise.
Jim Brandenburg is certainly not a Christian and it shows in his books. He makes several references to “Mother Nature” nature as our god, evolution, our so-called ancestors, other false religions in this world, and how we should be working to save the planet. Nevertheless, he has some interesting pictures we can study, image compositions we can learn from, and techniques we can try to duplicate. How would you choose to spend your one picture a day?

  • Book 5: Looking for the Summer by Jim Brandenburg

Uses: idea book, challenge to take pictures every day
This book has about the same pros and cons as Chased by the Light.

  • Book 6: The Wonder of it All: The Creation Account According to the Book of Job

Here is a book that combines Scripture, pictures, and quotes into one cohesive book. It is an interesting read and some of the photos are quite good.

  • Book 7: Ansel Adams In Color
  • Book 8: The Portfolios of Ansel Adams

Here are two more books I have used to study the photos they contain. It is exciting to examine various professionals’ portfolios and styles. With such a multitude of options available to photographers capturing the same scene or object, it is fascinating to see what they come up with. Anyone who is into photography should be familiar with Ansel Adam’s work!

Something to consider: I am recommending several of these books because of their teaching on and about the various essentials of photography, not for their un-Biblical, skewed world view. When you are gleaning facts and helpful knowledge about photography, be discerning when you read (or don’t read) what they believe or think they know aside from photography. Always check with the Bible before you assume something they say is true. Other than that, enjoy your wonderful photographic journey!

Help with this list is greatly appreciated! If you know of one or several helpful or awe-inspiring photography books, I would be happy to hear about them. Hearing what you think about these books and how they helped or didn’t help you is also of interest.
Laura