Tips to Get the Perfect Shot

3b3048ee63f701cbb965edb7ca3d7833One of the greatest joys of photography lies in the way it can be used for different purposes by different people. While some use it as an artistic medium, by producing abstract images while others use photography to create detailed and accurate representations of real life. I am always amazed at the superbly shot wildlife photos or close up photos that appear in National Geographic or Nature magazine. These photographs never fail to fascinated me and leave me wondering how much effort and skill is needed for that one elusive shot. Recently, I happened to meet a good friend of mine who gave me the low-down about such photographs. These shots are taken by a technique known as macro photography.

What is Macro Photography?
The word macro means ‘large’, or ‘of great size’. In photographic terms, it can be called a type of close-up photography that normally tries to produce images on a 1:1 ratio. In other words it tries to create images that are of the same size as the objects or subjects they represent. These techniques are popularly used in nature photography, wherein it is often required to produce images that exhibit the true detail of a plant or animal that is being photographed. Nowadays ‘point-and-shoot’ digital cameras come equipped with in-built macro functions making it easier to photograph close-ups. However, a single lens reflex (or SLR) camera is generally considered superior for such type of photography. This photography is especially useful in forensic science, where small details at accident or crime scenes may often be substantial. Fingerprints, skid marks, or trace evidence which are vital to any crime case are easily recorded using macro photography.

Macro Photography Equipment
The following equipment is generally considered essential for macro photography techniques.

Camera
As said earlier, many point and shoot digital cameras nowadays have remarkable macro capabilities making them an obvious choice for beginners. But for best results you should opt for a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) or if your budget permits a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR). The latter allow you to attach special-purpose macro lenses and show you in a bright optical viewfinder that are very useful for close-up photography.

Macro Lenses
These lenses are also, confusingly, sometimes called ‘micro’ lenses by manufacturers. These are one of the most vital macro photography equipment. Macro lenses are generally fixed focal length lenses that are particularly designed to produce sharp images at a magnification of 1:1 or higher. Latest available macro lenses can even produce magnification ratios far higher than this. Generally most macro lenses are fixed, you will be required to choose the focal length that best suits your purposes. for example, a focal length in the region of 50-60 mm would be sufficient for fairly small objects, whereas 100 mm focal length would suffice for things such as insects and details of flowers.

Flash and Diffuser
Lighting is very important in any type of photography, a hand-held flash comes in handy for lighting your subjects and is powerful when used just a few inches from your subject. While sometimes a flash might give you a sharp and noticeable shadow, giving your picture a harsh, stark effect. For softer light, try to diffuse the light from the flash, by using transparent white cloth or paper for example, colored gels. If you are keen on capturing close-ups of small things then you may experiment with different lighting techniques and get amazing results.

Tripod and Other Equipment
A tripod or monopod will decrease the risk of camera shake. The movement by the subject is also an important element, as this type of photography enlarges the subject, thereby leaving a possibility for blurred photos. Tripods or monopods could prove to be useful, especially while taking photos of flowers. Though flowers, unlike animals, are usually very patient and if there is no wind they stay still. People use different techniques and ideas like, using paper clips to keep a grass leaf still while taking a photo of some insect on it. Or the use of dead flies to feed spiders or other “deadly” insects which might make a great shot. A bottle of honey to feed butterflies or some other hungry beasts out there. Be creative and think about what you may need before you go on a hunt.

Macro Photography Ideas and Tips
Here are some DSLR macro photography tips that can spell the difference between ordinary and excellent close-up photographs. Also some lighting tips are provided.

Check Focus
One of the basic necessity of any photography, let alone macro or close-up photography, is focus. While shooting at 1:1 or higher magnifications the distance in front and behind the subject of focus is extremely narrow. So, one needs to double-check if the subject is in exact focus or not. Check the image in your LCD screen, if you’re using a digital camera. Zoom into it as far as your camera can zoom, this will let you to confirm that your subject is in exact focus.

Eliminate Background and Foreground Clutter
A thumb rule in photography is that the viewer’s eye, naturally, gravitates towards the brightest spot in a photo. So, while shooting in mixed light, bear in mind about what’s in the background, change your point of view or move closer and fill the frame with your subject in order to negate the background. Another idea is to hold a sheet of plain white paper or any branch or leaf foliage behind your subject. One smart tip to control background clutter is by shooting at wider apertures. This reduces background focus, using a ring light is a nice way to eliminate the background since a ring light throws most backgrounds into darkness. While shooting through dense foliage trim away blocking branches or leaves if they are hindering you view of the subject or try to find another angle. The essence is to keep on trying till you get the perfect frame for the perfect shot.

Get the Correct Exposure
The correct exposure can make or break a near to perfect setup. One has to be especially careful about exposure, greater the distance between the film or sensor and the subject, the longer the exposure or wider the aperture. If your camera has exposure metering through the lens, then your task is much easier, somewhat. A tip for correct exposure will be to check your histogram repeatedly.

Right Lighting
One of the toughest task in photography is sufficiently and evenly lighting the subject. In extreme close-up photography it is impossible to place a light between the camera and a subject that close. Nowadays some cameras can focus on subjects so close, that they almost touch the front of the lens. Using off camera flash is the next lighting tip, as the subject will be so close that the light on your camera will fall beyond the subject, hence this flash needs to be off camera. Besides, extreme close-up work means that there is almost no natural light falling on the subject. Using a ring flash or a two-flash, lens-mounted setup can help to achieve greater depth of field and sharper focus. Sometimes overhead sun causes harsh shadows, diffuse it with a translucent white umbrella. Right lighting will enable you to exhibit greater details in your subject thereby enhancing your shot quality.

Get Real Close
Close-up shots require you to get down to the subject’s level which might mean getting dirty, but it’s worth the effort. Not only does it produce a more dramatic point of view but also adds to the area of focus. Getting your lens parallel to the subject enables more of the subject to be part of the frame reducing background and foreground clutter. Moreover, while being parallel, the subject is more in focus than if the lens were angled with you looking down. One of the best option is to use the right tripod, the one whose legs can spread out almost flat enabling you to get right down low. Another tip is to get the heaviest tripod, though it might not be fun to carry around but you’ll be rewarded with better quality photographs.

Shutter Speed and Self-timer
If you cannot shoot faster than the length of your lens then use a tripod. A general rule of thumb for hand-held macro shots, is that if your lens is 100 mm focal length, then the shutter speed should be 1/100th of a second, or faster, to achieve a sharp image or photograph. If you are shooting in a spot which has shade or indirect sunlight, use a tripod to achieve great results. An important tip is regarding the use of the camera’s self-timer. This feature is vital in limiting vibration and camera shake while pressing the shutter button. A self-timer is basically a delayed shutter release that allows jerks and vibrations to subside before the actual photo is taken. Refer to the manufacturer’s manual to see how it works on your particular brand of camera.

Be Patient
One of the most vital yet oft-ignored asset is learning to be patient. In my experience, there is no point in chasing an insect, like a mad photographer, that won’t sit still. It simply doesn’t work! You’ll be surprised to know that many insects are just as curious of you, as you are about them. Try to make good use of morning sunlight to capture details or bring out certain aspects of the subject that may not be seen otherwise. While many photographers don’t like shooting into the sun, when it comes to macro or close-up photography, I find it can often help highlight a feature or characteristic of the subject. For instance, early morning light can be used brilliantly to capture dew drops or an insect’s tiny hair. You do need to be careful not to capture lens flare though. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it does. Trying numerous angles and distances to help you find the best position and capture the best shot.

These were some of the close-up photography tips and techniques which I found extremely helpful in improving my photography skills. Enough of the theory, it’s time to have fun. Get out and keep shooting, don’t be afraid to experiment, Shoot closer, still closer and then some more. The closer you shoot, the more you will be rewarded for your patience and toil. Get clicking and enjoy exploring and photographing the tiny world that awaits you.

Group Photography Tips

Not everyone is familiar with the latest photography techniques, and when you add high-end digital cameras in the mix, you can expect issues to arise. And who says that you need to be an expert like Martin Klimas, Nigel Barker, Jill Greenberg, or any other famous photographer to take beautiful pictures. You can just as well be an amateur and still get the best pictures possible. How, you ask? The first step to taking workable pictures is by understanding your camera. Whether your camera is the latest model with innumerable features or is an older model from few years, you have to familiarize yourself with it.

Taking group photographs isn’t different than taking portrait, still, or landscape photographs. Regardless of the number of people, you can capture images that are natural, pleasant, and elegant. In this article, we are going to give you some tips for indoor and outdoor photography that will enhance the images tenfold.

Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Photography

Imagine that you and your family (or friends) are gathered for a special occasion and you wish to capture this moment forever. You grab the camera and start clicking pictures. But somewhere down the line, the light is too bright or dull, you can’t capture the angles correctly, and/or you are confused with all the different features on the camera.

The point to remember is that everything lies in the facial expressions. Whether you click pictures inside the house or somewhere outside, the secret to liven up the images is in everyone’s faces. When you focus on them, rather than the background, you end up clicking the best pictures. Now, I don’t mean that a background doesn’t count. But the point is, you don’t always have to focus on the background. For an amateur photographer, concentrating on the subjects’ faces is very crucial. Once you have mastered this art, you can move on to other details of pictures and features your camera has to offer.

Indoor Photography

  • First of all, using natural light is the best way to capture vibrant images. Yes, it does sound ironic but it’s the truth. Using the flash has its own benefits and it is quite tempting to use them indoors as well. Which is why, try taking pictures with the light coming from the windows and doors. Have everyone stand in such a way so that the light falls directly on their faces.
  • Second of all, pick backgrounds that are easy to work with. A plain wall, a couch, a table, or even a computer desk with as little clutter as possible will work in your favor. When there are less things to get distracted by, the focus stays on the people in the images. You want to accentuate the people in the images and not the background.
  • With large groups, using a tripod is the best way to avoid shaky images. This is one of the most important tips for beginners; whether the images are being taken indoors or outdoors. With a tripod, you will spend less time deleting shaky images and more time clicking pictures.
  • Always take 2 to 3 shots of the same poses so while editing, you can select the best one. With large groups, you are bound to get certain shots with someone’s eyes closed, a person looking away from the camera, people yawning, making weird faces, etc. So instead of wasting the images, you can delete the ones that aren’t perfect and select the ones that are.
  • Always read the instructions that come with the camera. The different features like ISO, shutter speed, white balance, light sensitivity, and camera modes are provided for a reason. Experiment with the features and see what results you get.

Outdoor Photography

  • The light is your best friend here. While clicking outdoor pictures, you have enough light to capture the images without having to use the flash. However, you need to be aware of the direction of the light, where the group is standing, and is there any light falling directly over the camera lens. Of course, with practice, you will understand the difference and how you (the photographer) need to position yourself to get perfect images possible.
  • Many times, you will notice that the faces in the images are coming a bit dark, even after you’ve used the natural light effect. Here, what you can do is use the reflecting light technique. Using sunlight or the reflection from a white wall works wonders. This way, even with an open sky and the possibility of darker faces, the reflecting lights will brighten everyone’s faces in those images.
  • You can either use a point and shoot camera or try your hand at using a DSLR camera. Of course, the results will be poles apart because of the advanced features provided in DSLR cameras. However, the images will be remarkable nonetheless.
  • Don’t use sideways or downward angles while taking group photographs. Here, you can use a tripod or hold the camera in such a way that your hands are not moving involuntarily. The images need to be centered so that the group’s photographs come clean. Also, it’s alright if you can’t include the sky along with the people. Outdoor photographs don’t necessarily require the sky background in them.

While you’re taking group photographs or any other photographs for that matter, practice, practice, and more practice. Keep experimenting with your camera, try different backgrounds, and see what results you get. The more you get familiar with your camera, the better chances you have to get amazing images.

Explore Your Passion for Night Photography With Simple Techniques

Night photography can be a bit challenging because of the less amount of light that is available to us; therefore, one often faces the problem of the picture containing a lot of noise. With some effective settings and the right equipment, one can get to do some amazing photography at night.

Here is a beginner’s guide to photography with techniques for shooting night subjects such as the moon, fireworks, traffic lines, and night landscapes.

How to Shoot the Moon
For this technique, you will need at least 300 mm zoom lens.

  • Secure the SLR on a tripod, on a wide base.
  • Use these manual settings on the SLR: ISO 100, aperture at f/9, exposure at -5 or less and vivid picture quality.
  • Keep the sharpness at a max and the white balance on automatic.
  • Switch on the self-timer for 10 seconds.
  • Never shoot without a tripod as you might end up blurring the picture.
  • Zoom out the lens to its full capacity.
  • Start shooting using auto focus initially, and later experiment with manual focusing. You can also experiment with the setting at maximum focal length.
  • Take some shots and check how they have turned out.

How to Shoot Fireworks
Techniques for night photography of capturing fireworks is easier than you think, but it is important that you get a place from where you can frame your shot nicely. With different shutter speeds, one can always make the fireworks look sharp or achieve different blur effects.

  • Arrive early before the fireworks show, and select a place from where you can compose your shot properly.
  • Mount your camera on a tripod.
  • Set your camera for 4 – 5 seconds of exposure, and aperture at f/8.
  • Switch off the camera’s flash, and set the ISO on 50 or 100.
  • Zoom out and compose your frame.
  • Set the timer and start shooting.
  • Check how the shots look, and later experiment with different shutter speeds.

How to Shoot a Night Landscape
Some of the best subjects for night landscapes are city landscapes (it looks even better if the city landscape is reflected in a water body), a farmhouse, a stream or river, trees and cottages, etc.

  • The first thing is to compose your subject; for example, try to go for a low dynamic angle of a lit-up building with a road, or buildings reflected in the water.
  • Mount your camera on the tripod well and switch off the flash.
  • Use manual settings of ISO at around 100, exposure of 4 seconds and aperture at f/9 .
  • Set the self-timer or use the remote control.
  • Start shooting. One can always take multiple shots if the camera is digital.
  • Take a look at your cityscape pictures and experiment with different shutter speeds and composition. You can also try out the cityscapes in black and white photography setting.

How to Shoot Traffic Lines
This is one of the long exposure techniques. Climb up a bridge to get a top angle of a road or highway.

  • Fix your camera on the tripod, and compose your shot well.
  • Switch off the flash, and manually set the camera aperture at f/9, exposure at around 20 seconds, and ISO 100.
  • Keep the white balance on auto and with a self-timer or remote, start shooting the subject.
  • Check your images for the results, and experiment with different exposure times.

How to Shoot a Night HDR
This is similar to day HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique, but capturing HDR is very interesting, as the final result gives a picture a very dramatic-surreal look. Some subjects for clicking night HDR are landscapes. Make sure you have the sky in your frame or a landscape with river, water bodies, etc.

  • You absolutely need a tripod for capturing a day or night HDR.
  • After setting the camera, select AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) setting of -2, 0 and 2.
  • Compose the scene, and start shooting.
  • If you don’t have the AEB setting, then mount the camera on a tripod. Very carefully without moving the camera or tripod click, three pictures on exposure setting of -2, 0 and 2.
  • Open these pictures with a software like Photoshop CS-2 or CS-3, or a HDR rendering software and merge the three pictures together.
  • Experiment with the different brightness, contrasts, hue and saturation settings, to make the sky look purple or orange.

Tips for Nocturnal Photography

Here are some tips to make your shots using the above techniques for photography at night look better.

  • A tripod is essential, so always use one for night photography. If you don’t have one, then invest in a decent one if you want to take some good night pictures.
  • Keep the ISO at around 100 to reduce the noise.
  • Try to shoot on a full moon night, so that there will be more light.
  • Check the weather forecast, so that you don’t get caught in a rainy situation with your expensive photography equipment.
  • Do not be sad, if you don’t own a SLR. Try to experiment with the different exposure triangle settings in your camera, of ISO, shutter speed and aperture, and take pictures with the above digital photography techniques.
  • When you think you need a better camera for digital photography, borrow from your friends and use different models and then buy a good DSLR for yourself. The rates have recently dropped, and one can always buy a DSLR on EMI, if that is a practical and viable option.

These were some of the interesting photography tips and techniques of low light or night photography. To learn some more such techniques, visit popular photo sharing sites and look for the pictures you like and would like to shoot. After selecting the picture, click on more properties of the picture and you will get all the settings on which the person has captured the picture. Some more interesting subjects for nocturnal photography are city skylines, a street with or without cars, abandoned old buildings, nightlife or concerts, amusement rides, silhouettes of birds or trees, etc. So good luck and keep shooting!