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Category Archives: Photography

Characteristics of Zoom Lens

Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR)
Characteristics: Most types of lenses above come in two flavours: either with image stabilization, or without. Built-in stabilization allows you to get sharp hand-held images when lighting conditions are poor, or you’re shooting from a moving vehicle. On the lenses that offer this capability, there is usually a switch that lets you turn the feature off, thus saving batteries when using a tripod. Beware the cost of these lenses, though: you can expect to pay 2-4 times as much for a lens with image stabilization than the same lens without.

Internal Focusing (IF)
Characteristics: The movement of the lens for focusing purposes is internal to the lens body, so no lens ring will cause the lens to twist out and interfere with the orientation of any filters. (Some filters, such as linear polarizers or graduated neutral-density filters require stationary positioning in order to deliver predictable results.) This internal movement also allows the lens weight to stay balanced, which helps the balancing of heavier lenses on a tripod. Image quality of newer IF lenses is slightly better than non-IF lenses due to technological advances made that correct some aberrations.

Constant vs Variable Aperture
Characteristics: Variable aperture accounts for the majority of zoom lenses, and causes the maximum aperture to decrease as you zoom from wider focal lengths to telephoto focal lengths. The advantage of variable aperture zoom lenses is that they’re cheaper to maufacture and are typically lighter and more compact than contact aperture lenses.

Constant aperture lenses provide a static maximum aperture regardless of the focal length you’re zoomed to. This better enables you to achieve narrow depth of field so as to isolate your subject from your background. These lenses typically let more light in, which lets you shoot sharp photos in dimmer lighting conditions.

Macro Focusing
Characteristics: Macro lenses allow the camera to be very close to its subject and still focus sharply. Macro lenses are ideal for close-up shots of flowers, leaves or insects, and sometimes double as portrait lenses. They typically have a reproduction ratio of 1:4 or better, which means the image sensor will capture the subject at 1/4 its original size or larger.

Low-Dispersion Glass
Characteristics: Some lenses are made with high-quality glass specially manufactured to more accurately transmit the full visible colour spectrum, called low-dispersion glass. You may also hear of ED (extra-low dispersion), SLD (super-low dispersion) or UD (ultra-low dispersion), which really just means truer colours.

Apochromatic Lenses (APO)
Characteristics: Apochromatic lenses have high colour fidelity and sharpness and should be used by anyone obsessed with getting to the most accurate colours possible.

Aspherical Elements (ASP)
Characteristics: Aspherical lenses are made with a different curvature than traditional spherical lenses to correct for distortions at the edge of the image. They are particularly useful in wide-angle lenses where vignetting or distortion can be seen in the corners of the image.

Tripod Mounts for Long Lenses
Characteristics: Lenses that are bigger and heavier than your camera body should have a tripod mount built-in. By attaching the lens to the tripod instead of the camera, you will remove tension on the camera-to-lens mount joint, and you will improve tripod balancing in the field. In fact, without a tripod mount, some larger lenses will cause the tripod to topple, thus making tripod use impossible without a lens mount. It is possible to purchase a separate adapter bracket from some manufacturers if the lens itself does not have one.

Plastic Material vs Alloys
Characteristics: Plastic lenses built recently typically use high-tech materials that are very durable and much lighter than metal alloy lenses. So although it used to be said that plastic lenses are cheap and unreliable, that is no longer true today.

Characteristics: Zoom and telephoto lenses are getting smaller and lighter each year. In general, the larger the focal length of the lens, the larger the lens will be physically.

Characteristics: The heaviness of a lens may be prohibitive to you, depending on your physical fitness level and how long you’ll be away from home. Plastic lenses are quite durable and are definitely lighter than equivalent metal lenses, although ultra-lightweight metal alloys are reasonable as well.

Characteristics: In general, no matter which lens you’re looking at, prices vary dramatically based on lens quality. Professional lenses will cost you thousands of dollars, while a compact modest starter zoom lens will be only a hundred dollars. You’ll pay extra for some of the characteristics discussed in this article, such as fast constant apertures, high quality glass, image stabilization, and quick auto-focus. Remember, though, that lens price is a large investment: lenses will long outlast your camera body, and is largely responsible for the quality of your images (much more so than the camera body itself)!


Underwater Photography

If you simply want an underwater camera for a day, you might want to consider either a Kodak or a Fuji single-use disposable camera. For those beginning in the field of underwater photography, an inexpensive waterproof disposable camera can be a good way to get started. Some of the disposable underwater cameras are equipped with an integrated flash unit.

One of the difficulties casual snorkelers and divers who are attempting underwater photography struggle with is the lack of visibility in the view finder on underwater cameras. Too many commercially built underwater cameras cases merely depend on lining up dots, which isn’t sufficient for proper composition of underwater pictures. Very few underwater cameras have a finder large enough to be used accurately underwater.

Serious enthusiasts who want the advantages of a single-lens reflex auto-focus camera may prefer a land camera in an underwater housing. Some of the more advanced and specialized cameras have an underwater mode that change the features, operation, or interface of the camera for underwater use. Imagine having an underwater camera that takes 220 shots at 12 million pixels that you can see and delete underwater. When most people think about shooting digital pictures underwater, they think of large underwater camera housings, intricate flash strobes and a very large budget. But that is not always the case Canon is making an entire line of underwater housings for many of its digital point-and-shoot cameras in the PowerShot line. While serious underwater photography still requires higher-end equipment, these cameras and housings can produce some very good results. Digital cameras can also afford more shooting time underwater with a larger 1-gig compact flash card.

Another important item to consider before taking any underwater shots is the proper camera lens. The basic camera systems available for underwater photography have a thirty-five millimeter lens.

There are some real disadvantages to underwater photography. One particular challenge in underwater photography is the use of a flash. Flash photography underwater is limited in range to about 8 ft at the extreme, 4-6 ft commonly.

Browse through any collection of (good) underwater photography, and you will see that every image is either macro or wide-angle, without exception. For this reason alone, many divers new to underwater photography start by concentrating on macro subjects. Doing macro underwater shares many of the same concepts as shooting on dry land. The trick is to shoot close with a wide angle with an auto-focus camera because depth of field underwater is very unforgiving. If you’re a new to underwater photography, four feet should be the maximum distance from which to photograph your subject. When you are estimating the camera-to-subject distance underwater you are estimating the apparent distance, the actual distance is 25 percent further away.

Remember Underwater Photography starts as skill development, then composition followed by technique and finely artistic realization. Many of the rules of land photography still apply underwater but they must be used with some thought. The irony of underwater photography is that for all its beauty, the biggest enemy is the water itself. Unlike taking photos topside, when reloading is a simple process, cameras cannot be reloaded underwater.

Even if you are not using it for underwater use, sand and sea air can damage the delicate mechanisms within the camera. To take effective pictures underwater you need to be able to concentrate on your subject and the operation of your camera equipment. Underwater photography is great fun, but getting good results is extremely tricky and the equipment is very expensive.


Pick Camera With The Proper Number Of Mega Pixels

As with many other things when it comes to mega pixels more is not necessarily better. There are many considerations when buying a camera and the number of mega pixels is just one of them.
One of the most important things to consider is usage. More mega pixels are good for people who plan to print photos (especially enlargements) or for people who need to zoom in and grab fine details from a big photo. If the main usage of the photos is watching them on your computer screen and maybe printing a few 4X6 prints than 2 mega pixels is more than enough (yes… just 2). Most screen resolutions are 1024X768 so even when viewing the photo in full screen mode you can only view 1024X768 < 1 mega pixels. A 2 mega pixels 4X6 photo print will have a DPI higher than 300 which is more than enough for a good quality print.

If you plan to use your photos for enlargements than a rule of thumb is to be able to print at least 300DPI resolution. The following is a table for different print sizes and the needed mega pixels for such print quality:

page 4X6 2MP
page 5X7 3MP
page 8X10 7MP
page 11X14 14MP
page 16X20 28MP
page 20X30 54MP

Another practical consideration is price and budget: Usually the more mega pixels the more expensive the camera is. Unless your budget is infinite when buying a camera you make a compromise between mega pixels and other features. For example is it better to spend money on more mega pixels or on better lenses? Or maybe instead of getting the latest number of mega pixels get an external flash for low light photography? When buying a camera try to predict what and how you will use it. In many cases a lower mega pixels sensor with better a lens will result in a much better photo than a high mega pixels with an inferior lens. Shop around and make sure that you get the best package in terms of mega pixels and other features.

To conclude when shopping for a camera it is best not to be a victim of the mega pixels race. Although it is generally a good thing to have a high number of pixels there are many other factors that influence the quality of the photos taken and the choice of the right camera for you. Lenses, battery life, light sensitivity, sensor technology used, external flash and many other features are not less important as the number of mega pixels. When shopping for a camera make sure that you consider the whole package and not use the number of mega pixels as a “quality” indicator for your buy.


Know the Reasons Why Camera Auto Focus Works and Sometimes Fail

Automatic focus though has its limitations. For example sometimes one might want to produce photos which are a bit fuzzy as an artistic expression. Also the auto focus implementation has its limitations and in some scenarios it might fail. One example is using a high end SLR camera with a passive auto focus system to take a picture of blue skies. In most cases the camera will move its motor back and forth and will eventually give up and fail to focus.

To better use the auto focus system it would help to understand high it actually works. Although implementations can vary we can divide them all into two categories: passive and active. Most pocket cameras use the cheaper passive method while high end professional cameras use either the active or a combination of both.

Passive auto focus:

Passive auto focus can be perceived as imitating how we set the focus manually. The camera defines one or more regions in the picture (usually they are marked as rectangles on the viewfinder or the LCD). The camera then analyzes the picture seen through those regions and calculates a Focus Level number. The camera then tries to move its lenses back and forth as it recalculates the Focus Level. The camera looks for a position where the Focus Level is the highest. For that point if the Focus Level is above a predefined threshold the camera would define this region of the photo as being in focus.

The Focus Level can be calculated in many ways. The common attribute of all calculations is figuring out how much Contrast is there in the photo. Although not in the scope of this article one way to calculate such a number is by running the photo through a high frequency filter – this is based on the fact that high contrast is associated with high frequencies.

Active auto focus:

Active auto focus works by measuring the distance between the camera and the object in the picture. Technically if you knew the exact distance to the object you are taking a picture of you could set the lens to the exact focus position. The active focus system shoots a beam of invisible light, usually infrared, at the object at the center of the picture and measures the distance to that object. Based on that distance the focus is set.

Combined auto focus:

Some high end cameras combine both systems. The camera will pick the right system for the specific scenario or will cross check and use both at the same time. The photographer can also decide manually to use one of the two options. For example when shooting blue skies the camera can try to use the active system and measure the distance. Since the distance is infinite the camera can set the focus and skip the passive focus. In other cases when the distance is not infinite the camera can use the active system to put the lens in approximately the right position and then use the passive system for fine tuning. In dark scenarios the camera can opt to use the active system since the passive one will not work.

So why doesn’t the auto focus work all the time?

Even with all the electronics and computing power in the camera there will always be scenarios where the camera auto focus fails. Failure can be when the camera can not focus and the picture is fuzzy or sometimes when the picture is actually in focus but the camera “thinks” that it is not.

What causes such cases? The list is long but here are just a few examples:

– Taking low light pictures: The passive auto focus system needs to “see” the picture in order to work and in low light scenarios this is not possible. Some systems use a series of flashes to overcome this limitation but this solution fails many times. An active system can measure the distance to the object in such scenarios but will fail if the object is not in the center of the picture or if there are a few objects at different distances.

– Active systems can fail with objects that tend to absorb the infrared beam they are using. Some materials absorb infrared beams and will cause the active system to measure the wrong distance. In some scenarios other infrared sources such as candles and open flame fires can render the active system useless.

– Low contrast objects such as white walls or blue skies. The passive auto focus relies on the fact that the Focus Level changes significantly when moving the lens back and forth. This allows the camera to settle on the right focus position. The Focus Level of low contrast objects does not change much and fails the passive system.

Knowing how the auto focus system works helps a photographer understand why sometimes the camera can not focus. In such scenarios the photographer can look for other solutions. Sometimes the photographer will have to use the manual focus. In other cases focusing on another object in the picture that is in the same distance but easier to focus on and locking the focus on that object will solve the problem.


About Pixels

To understand pixels, one must first remember the good old days when you took pictures on film and let the development labs worry about pixels. But, they didn’t really have to, because the exposed negative just captured the image that was reflected through the lens. It was all there and the only thing that affected quality was the size of the negative. The bigger the negative was, the larger the picture that could be produced. When the world went digital, the pixel was invented. So what is a pixel? If you divided a picture in hundreds of horizontal and vertical lines, you would actually have a large number of little squares that when put together, created the picture. Each square is a pixel. So, when a digital camera says it has 1-megapixel capabilities, it means that the total number of horizontal and vertical squares produced when a picture is taken equals 1 megapixel (1,000,000 pixels).

A 3 megapixel camera produces a picture that has 3 million pixels in its makeup. If all the pictures were the same size in each camera, it would be easy to understand why a camera that produces more pixels would be a better quality camera. Here is where the camera makers are not forthcoming with information. What they don’t tell you is that as far as I can tell, every digital camera produces pictures that have 72 pixels per inch per picture both horizontal and vertical. The only difference is that a 3 megapixel camera produces a larger picture than a 1 megapixel camera and a 5 megapixel camera produces an even larger picture yet. The reason I say “as far as I can tell” is that I have not tried all cameras or studied the information on all cameras. There may be some out there different, but they probably are not in the amateur photographer’s price range.

Conclusion: For video uses only, your camera purchase decision should be based on features other than the number of pixels.


Get Better Digital Photos with These Tips

Be Prepared

Keep all your photography equipment ready for use. Collect everything you’ll need into one place. A camera bag is ideal, because it keeps all your stuff together and lets you carry it all with you. Everything in its place. A good camera bag will let you organize a miniature tripod, extra battereis, memory cards, etc. – even a plastic bag or waterproof housing to protect your camera in wet weather.

Hold your Camera Steady

Blurry photos are almost always the result of camera movement. Just your own unsteadiness, causes your camera to shake enough to blur your pictures.

So steady yourself and your camera before you take the shot.

Plant your feet firmly on the ground and tuck your elbows in close to your sides. Instead of using the LCD viewer, steady your camera against your forehead and frame the shot using your camera’s viewfinder. You can also steady your upper body by leaning against a wall or a tree. Or totally eliminate any camera movement by using a tripod.

Once you’re all set, gently press the shutter release in one motion. Pressing the shutter release too hard could jerk the camera downward.

Get Closer

One difference in “snapshots” and really great photos is the composition of the shot. Unless you’re shooting an outdoor landscape, you can improve most photos just by getting closer to your subject. Depending on the situation, you can physically move closer to your subject, or use the zoom feature on your camera for the same effect. Try to get within a few feet of your subject so you eliminate most of the background. You’ll like the results.

Take more Pictures

Even professionals take loads of shots of the same subject – to get just a few that they will use. With a digital camera, you can delete the images you don’t like, and only print the winners – so don’t hesitate to take several shots of the same subject. Change the angle of the shot. Get a little closer. Adjust the lighting.

Why not fill the entire memory card with pictures of your kid at the pool, or your daughter in her cap and gown? The more pictures you take, the better the odds that you’ll get a few shots that will really thrill you.

Vary the Lighting

Using natural light will give better skin tones when photographing people, so try not to use the flash if you don’t have to. Outdoor daylight shots are easy, but you’ll have to be a little more creative when shooting indoors. Try using the light coming in from a window for warmer tones than you would get using the flash.

Experiment with natural lighting. You can get stronger shadows by moving your subject closer to a window, and turning your subject can create more dramatic shadows.

Eliminate Red-Eye

Red-eye is the result of light passing through your subject’s eye and reflecting back. You’ll get it more often when using your flash, just because the light from the flash isn’t as diffused as natural light. So the first tip for eliminating red-eye is simply to avoid using your flash when you don’t absolutely have to.

Another way to reduce red-eye is to have your subject look anywhere but at the camera. This reduces red-eye because any reflection isn’t directed back at your camera lens.

If you have to use the flash, some digital cameras have a built-in feature to automatically remove red-eye. Use it.

Go for Candid

Instead of posing two (or more) people looking directly at the camera, get a shot of them interacting with one another. Even two people having a conversation is more interesting than having them stand next to each other facing the camera. Some of the best professional portraits have the subject captured deep in thought, with their attention focused inward, rather than on the camera lens.

It makes a more interesting shot. Your portrait will look more natural – less posed.

Create a Scene

Putting your subject in the center of a photo is just boring. You’ll get a much more pleasing result if you place your subject off center when you frame the shot.

This is a truly professional technique. Place your subject so that they occupy 1/3 to 1/2 of the total composition, but NOT at the exact center of the frame. Capture an interesting background object in the rest of the frame.


Action Photogprahy

Shutter speed is the main ingredient in successful action photography. Exposures can be adjusted so that the shutter speed is fast enough to capture any rapidly moving object. Even in places with low light conditions the sensible combination of film speed and shutter speed and a suitable lens can produce professional photographs. Action photography depends upon more than your equipment. The acceleration of events dictates that the photographer must develop his own skills in selecting exposure, focus on the subject, framing the image and timing of the picture in advance. Other steps to consider would be to select a spot where the action will eventually take place and pre-focus on that spot.

Action photography is best carried out with a top shutter speed of 1/1000, suitable to freeze the action in mid flight. To operate at a slower speed and pan the camera as the action goes past is an alternative method . These fast shutter speeds also reduce the amount of light allowed into the camera body and onto the film. Often the best solution is to use faster film, however in circumstances of dim lighting, even a fast film may not be sufficiently sensitive. In this case increasing the development time of the film, known as pushing the film, should be carried out.

A fast lens, one with a large maximum aperture, is a necessity for action photography. The fast lens gathers more light and hence produces a brighter viewfinder and is easier to focus. Due to the extra light a fast lens can allow you to set a faster shutter speed even in low light. Hence it is easier to freeze action in conditions that would normally require you to blur the image with a longer exposure.

The disadvantages to a faster lens are that they generally have a more complex construction and are generally more costly, heavier and bulkier than the standard lenses. When capturing action pictures, your sense of timing is crucial to a good photograph. The capturing of an image of an athlete at a particular moment can define that motion whether in the midst of a stride with a look of strain upon his face, or the high-jumper, a fraction of an inch away from failure as they soar backwards through the air towards the crossbar. The photographer must study the action beforehand to be able to anticipate when to trigger the shutter release at a predetermined fixed point. Thus choosing the peak often gives the image that sense of drama and is usually well framed.

Some peaks are fairly obvious to determine, such as in ball sports, where the ball should be included in the photographs and the actual impact with the ball is often the best moment. A carefully selected camera position can make the difference between a dull, uninteresting picture and a picture where the viewer feels as though they are in the middle of the action. Often this can be determined by studying the pattern of play in the game and to get it right means to capture plenty of action in a tightly framed shot. Consideration should also be given to the background to make sure it will not blend in or blur the image.


Great Digital Camera And Photography Tips

1. Look your subject in the eye, don’t spray your attention all over. Sometimes, you get a fraction of a second to click an important event. There are occasions, you have to vie with hundreds of other photographers. You need to develop the meditative concentration, to ‘hunt’ your object.

2. Use a plain background. If the background is a hotchpotch, it will have a direct bearing on the main photograph.

3. Use flash outdoors.

4. Move in close. Adjustments from the close range can be done easily. They will be more effective.

5. Move it from the middle. That is always the safest way. If you move from one side, there is every chance of missing the activity on the other side.

6. Lock the focus. That is very important as it is your main job.

7. Know your flash’s range. This is a very important technical aspect, that is mastered by experience. A bad flash can spoil, beyond repair an important shot.

8. Watch the light. It constantly change.

9. Take some vertical pictures. This adds variety to the total number of pictures that you have shot.

10. Be a picture director. A sense of involvement is necessary. You need to be in a position to anticipate the results, just as a movie director directs his actors for getting a perfect shot.

Don’t credit those magnetic eyes and bewitching smiles to the account of digital camera alone. It is the skill and the sense of timing of the photographer that matters most. You need to know when to tell your photo-audience to “say cheese”, and those fraction of seconds before their response to the cheese. Have an eye contact of a sharp shooter, with his shooting object.


Portrait Photography Guide

A successful portrait has always the quality of making an impression on the viewer. The impression left may be because of some physical aspect of the photograph’s subject, or it may be of some subtle characteristic getting underscored. The portrait makes a dramatic statement about the subject. It is very individual. A simple photograph of a person that does not leave any imprint on our mind cannot be called a portrait. The portrait always reveals something about the person. It may be some mood, some attitude or some mannerism which constitutes the personality of the person.

A photographer who is able to bring out these features in his portraits is a successful photographer. Now, how does one do that? It depends mostly on the personality of the photographer, but it can also be learned.

The photographer should always be in command of the situation. He is the ‘boss’ of the moment. He should be able to strike a rapport with his subjects. This can be achieved by starting a small conversation with the person. It can be small talk about the currently popular topics, or the photographer can try and find a subject which strikes a chord in the person being photographed. This will put the subject at ease; make him animated and more alive, bringing out some interesting aspects of the personality of the person.

But this is not a rule. Many great photographers used to remain very serious and focused on their work, but still took great portraits. It is all in the personality of the photographer. Something in the photographer must evoke respect in the subject, so that he or she cooperates and does what the photographer wants. A good portrait photographer should have a real interest in people. He should be a keen observer of the human nature. He should be quickly able to make out the outstanding traits or habits of the person and make them appear in the portraits.

The photographer can take his photograph in the natural surroundings of the subject. This definitely is advantageous, since it puts the other person at ease. However, this is not always possible, in which case the photographer can make use of his studio. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. In natural surroundings of the subject the lighting may not be proper and even, or surroundings not so appealing for a good photograph. In studio, everything can be controlled, while the natural ease of the other setting will be missing.

The natural light is always better but in many cases this light is uneven and is not good for photography. In that case, one has to think of taking pictures indoors. The surroundings can be used to emphasize certain aspects of the personality of the subject. The background can be made to reflect or enhance certain attitude or mannerism of the person. For this, certain props can be used. It can be a hat, a cigar, a fan or a toy in the case of toddlers. Sometimes, photographer also uses a completely black or white background. In these cases, the focus is entirely on the subject of the photograph. Some very beautiful portraits can be seen with such stark backgrounds.

In the end, it is mainly the personality and maturity of the photographer that plays a major role in bringing out a good portrait. No rules can be defined for taking a great shot. One has to experiment and use one’s own imagination and sensitivity to find one’s unique individual style.


Photo Mosaics

A Photo Mosaic is a photo made up of many smaller photos. To say it another way: A photo mosaic is a photo that has been divided up into small squares or rectangles. Each rectangle is the replaced by a separate photo that closely approximates the color the rectangle was.

A picture is worth a thousand words in explaining what a photo mosaic is like, though. Go to Google Image Search or Yahoo Image Search and search for “photomosaics”.

One of the first creators of photo mosaics, Robert Silvers, patented the production of and name photomosaic. However, Mr Silvers patent does not give him the exclusive rights to make photo mosaics. There are many companies around the world using various methods and technologies to legally create photo mosaics.

There are several ways to create or obtain photo mosaics.

The first method is tedious, to say the least. Using photoshop, or any other editor, you can manually cut and paste images together to create the larger image. This technique is very time consuming, though, and there is really no need to employ this method.

The second method is to use photographic mosaic software. There are many versions of free software that can help you much more easily create photo mosaics. Of course, there will be at least a short learning curve, but most are not too difficult to use.

The third and final method to obtain a custom photo mosaic is to pay a professional photo mosaic designer to create on for you. This is obviously the most expensive option, but it will probably also give you the highest quality finished product.