October 31, 2011

Bonus – How to deal with the scariest things in your snapshots.

I’m afraid of things that go bump in the night.

Specifically, I’m afraid of ME when I go bump in the night. I have a nasty habit of bumping one of the dials on my big SLR camera in the middle of shoots. That dial turns my shutter speed down and from time to time I notice that I’ve ratcheted down the speed so far that I get shaky, blurry photos.


I compensate by looking at my meter every half dozen shots (or pulling my face away from the viewscreen long enough to look at the back of the camera.

Talk to anyone with a camera and they’re afraid of something. Here’s a few quick fixes to the things Frame One snapshooters fear...

Photos are blurry.
There’s a good chance your shutter speed it too low. Try turning yourself into a human tripod and keeping your shutter speed at a minimum level (like 1/60 for average portraits).

Photos are crazy bright.
Turn off your flash – and play with ISO, aperture or shutter speed to get more light into the camera.

You’ll lose your photos.
Create a filing system – and backup, backup, backup. I’ve just started experimenting with an EyeFi card to wirelessly (and automatically) transfer my photos to my computer. I automatically backup every 20 minutes or so.

I don’t know how to do [THAT THING YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO].
Photography is all about solving problems one at a time. Diagnose what’s wrong with the photo, then look in your manual, on the web (might I suggest Frame One’s blog?) or ask on our Facebook Forumns.

See? Nothing to be scared of. Now get out there and take some spooky Hallowe’en pics!

Want more ideas on taking snapshots? Join us over at Frame One's Facebook page!

October 30, 2011

#42 – Hold your camera properly and reduce blurring.

Bad! Don't do this.

You are a human tripod.

At least you should be if you want to get the most out of your camera. See, with the advent of digital cameras with their giant screens, we don’t take photos the way we used to. Once upon a time, we’d mash our faces up against the little viewfinder on the camera and take a snap.

That was actually a good thing because in the mashing process, you steadied the camera against your head.

These days, we’re holding out our arms, taking the picture and asking  “why does everything look so blurry?” The answer is this – because you’re not steadying the camera, it’s wobbling around in your hands and when the shutter is open, it’s capturing that wobbling.

You can do better, and it’s not all that hard to do. You could do what National Geographic photographer Joe McNally does (which is way harder than it looks) or you can get pretty snapshots by doing this...

Use the viewfinder.

Better -- but not quite.
If your camera has a viewfinder in addition to the screen, use the viewfinder. You’re already more balanced.

Press your elbows into your body.

Good! Human tripod.

Steady your arms as best you can. Never (ever!) hold your camera out waaaay in front of you and expect to get a good photo.

Shorten up the zoom.
The longer your zoom, the better chance your shot is shaky. Get closer to your subject and zoom less.

Breathe – slowly.
This is an old sharpshooter trick – take a deep breath and let it out slowly as you take your photo.

Try a few extra tricks to steady the camera.

Another way.

Digital cameras and cell phones are teeny, tiny. Use your fingers to steady the camera, or jam it into your shoulder for extra leverage. On camera helpers like “image stabilization” can also help out.

Watch your shutter speed.
1/60th of a second is generally the floor for shutter. Experienced photographers can get lower (McNally has apparently made sharp photos with one-second long exposures). Try the tips above and see if you can get good shots at less than 1/60th

October 20, 2011

#41 – Switch to “M”anual mode and get total control of your photos.

You can do this and you’re going to thank me for it.

Turn your camera mode to “M” for manual. Just stop reading for a second, pick up your camera and give it a shot.

See? Nothing blew up. Nothing went wrong. There’s a (big) fear for anyone who is getting to know their camera that the non-auto settings “P,” “Tv,” ‘Av” and “M” are the scary domain of professional photographers who have had years of training.

Lies, all lies.

All those settings do is put you in control of your photos. You get to decide how bright or how dark. What you want in focus and out of focus. You get to think about how to make your photos look the way you want them, instead of depending on the camera to make all the decisions.

If you’ve been following along with Frame One this year, you already have all the skills you need to dial in “M” with confidence. It’s the mode I use most often. In fact, I find it frustrating to use anything but “M,” “Tv” and “Av.” Nothing ever looks the way that I want it to. So flip your camera over to M and remember these things:

Pick a white balance.

Think about what light is happening in the photo (daylight, tungsten light, fluorescents), then dial that in. 
·      If you take pictures using the RAW format, you can change this setting later.

Choose an ISO.

Look around. How dark is it? If you’re in a well-lit space, choose a low ISO (100, 200). If it’s darker – go higher.
·      A higher ISO lets more light into your camera.
·      The higher the ISO, the grainer your photos will be.

Choose a shutter speed and aperture.


Now think about what you want to do with your photo. Set the one thing that gives you the look for your picture. Blur the background: aperture first. Freeze motion: shutter speed first.
·      High apertures (e.g. 2.8) blur the background and give more light. Low apertures (e.g. 11) are better for landscapes – more stuff stays in focus, but they let in less light.
·      Shutter speeds vary depending on what’s happening. Freezing action for football needs a high shutter speed (e.g. 1/640) – but it lets in less light. Don’t go below 1/60 in most cases, unless you’re trying some nifty ideas that capture motion. (Go ahead – dial in 1/15 and see what happens).
·      Keep an eye on your meter to ensure that your exposure looks right. Keep a closer eye on the actual photo after you shoot it – it gives you a better sense that you got what you set out to get.

Take the picture.
That’s it. Three-and-a-half basic steps that take seconds to dial in and give you more control. “M”anual shooting is easy and powerful once you get in the habit – and your photos will look all the more excellent.

“Like” Frame One on Facebook. Ideas, resources, blog posts and extra tips – for the photographer in all of us.

October 14, 2011

Bonus: iPhone 4s review: time to ditch your point and shoot?

3:30am. Sitting in line for iPhone 4s (taken with iPhone 4)

We are the odd, the excitable and (hopefully) the lessons for all of you.

We are the early adopters, the fools who lined up in the rain at 3:30 this morning to buy a phone that looks a whole lot like the one that’s already in our pocket. Yep, I bought an iPhone 4s this morning – just like I did with the iPhones 4/3GS and 3G before it.

Was it worth dragging myself out of the bed when it was still virtually last night? Short answer: yep. Longer answer below.

Yes: It’s way faster
I had time to make a sandwich in the seconds it took the iPhone 4 to get its camera up and running. My nine-month-old even figured it out – her smile wilting while she waited  (and waited) for the shutter to click. The 4s shoots lickity split – even challenging the point-and-shoots around here for speed to photos.

Yes: It looks good in shabby light
There’s new lens elements and a few other pieces of Apple hardware that make this camera much better in low light. Take a look at the Stormtrooper there – the iPhone 4s picks up the detail of the background better than the 4 does.

iPhone 4s - The colour is actually correct in this shot and you can see more light over the toy's left shoulder. That's good.

A little more grain at the lower light. Also seems like the camera automatically changed settings to whiten up the toy.

Kinda: It has new settings
The software gets into the action on the new camera in a few ways – you can edit pictures right in the app (you could already do this in Camera+ and others that still do a great job). Better than that is that you can get to the camera button from the home screen. Just double click the home button and it appears right there on the bottom. Even better? You can fire your shutter with the “+” volume up button on the camera (and with the volume up button on the headphones). Best of all – you don’t need an iPhone 4s to get the features. If you’re running iOS5, you’ve got those features built in.

No: It has more megapixels

Shots are crisper and more detailed on iPhone 4s.
8 megapixels – meh. More megapixels doesn’t really mean much (unless you’re going to print giant pics). Better to check low light performance and how fast you can grab that photo (both big thumbs up). There’s also face detection, which don’t really feel about one way or the other. The flash is what you expect from an on board camera flash – it’s awful.

All in all, Apple has done an extraordinary job with the camera on this phone. I’m going to play around with it for a few weeks and see if it really does hold up as a point-and-shoot – then I’ll weigh in again.

In the meantime, I’m sure there’s a line I shouldn’t be standing in. 

More reviews, conversations and tips -- only at Frame One's Facebook page. Click here and "Like" us.

October 13, 2011

#40 – Have an idea what your photo should look like before you take the photo.

You dialed in the aperture. You picked a white balance. Your finger locked in the autofocus.

Do you know what’s going to happen when you click the shutter?

One of the mistakes we all make when we take snapshots is to flip our gear into “Auto” mode and hope for the best. After all, we’re just capturing moments, aren’t we? Well, of course we are, but we want to capture moments that look better than those ones with bright flash, red eyes and too much headroom.

That’s why you should take a moment to think before you grab your camera. What do you want the photo to look like? What mood are you trying to create? What would make an average snapshot at a birthday party look wicked awesome.

Here’s how:

Create a quick mental checklist
Because you’re not using “Auto,” you have more control over your pictures. Choose a few things to consider, then grab your camera. Here’s what I pick:

·      Any distractions in the shot (messy faces, telephone wires, my thumb)?
·      Does it “feel” right (colours, angles)?
·      How’s the light (ISO, aperture, shutter speed)?
·      Do I like the pose/should I crop the landscape?

I walked through that checklist when I took 

Ask “is there anything I can do better/smarter/differently”
After I take a “blah” photo, I instantly think about ways I can make it a whole lot better. Take this one that I grabbed on my phone last week at the Grand Opening of a local restaurant. The first shot was ok, but the sky was so blue and bright and I thought “this could be cool...” And so it was.

Know when this isn’t the best advice
Sometimes it’s fun to be (pleasantly) surprised by what happens when you wing it. That’s actually a nifty way to start shooting. Take a few snaps with your camera in the driver’s seat, or just go with how you feel at the moment. Harvey made a great test subject for this point -- you never know what puppies are going to do. The first shot shows what happens when you wing it. The second, what happens when you tell your camera to do something (notice the low light in both situations -- that's a post for another day).

Let’s see how you imagine great photos. Join us on Frame One Photo’s Facebook page for ideas and examples galore.