Timothy Bury Photography: Blog http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C)2018 Timothy Bury myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Sat, 28 Apr 2018 02:27:00 GMT Sat, 28 Apr 2018 02:27:00 GMT http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-5/u753311193-o409790466-50.jpg Timothy Bury Photography: Blog http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog 80 120 How to Take Great Birthday Party Pictures http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/9/how-to-take-great-birthday-party
Birthday parties are near the top of the list of events where taking pictures are as important as the event itself. Cameras were made for moments like this! They’re full of activity, emotion, and many wonderful memories.
To help you get great shots of those memories I’ve put together a few tips. While this article is mainly written for a child’s birthday party, many of the tips and techniques here can be applied to many types of parties and events. Read on to learn more.
Prepare and Plan
If your planning the party, you’ve probably chosen a theme, venue, the food, cake and made many other decisions to create an exciting day. Take a moment to also prepare for the pictures:
  • Charge your batteries (and back up batteries if you have them).
  • Check your memory card. Download images to make space, or get an extra memory card.
  • Start thinking about the key events that will take place that you want to get pictures of.

Warm Up the Crowd
Help the guests relax around you and your camera by chatting with them a bit. Joke with them and have fun. Introduce yourself if you don’t know them. Ask a few questions, like "what have you been up to today". If the kids feel they know you a little bit, they’ll loosen up and that will help you get better pictures.

Shooting Tips

Child's Perspective
Get down to the child’s level. Pictures look much better when shot from their level instead of looking down at them. This is one of the most important things that will help you get great shots (that and moving in closer to the subject). There are times to deviate though, so experiment. For example, when there are many children gathered around the birthday child opening presents, getting a shot from high above the group can look pretty cool.

Wide angle vs. Zoomed In
Generally, zooming in and filling the frame is much better. You may want a couple wide angle shots that show the whole scene. However, shots like that often lack a definitive subject or point of interest. So, my recommendation is to focus your shots on individuals or small groups. If something is in the frame that doesn’t need to be to convey what you are telling in the shot, remove it! You can do that by zooming in, changing your angle, or moving the object.
Get a shot of the cake, if it has candles, shoot it with them lit. If you have a tripod, or other way to support the camera you may want to turn the flash off for a nicer picture lit with ambient light.

If you’re shooting from above the cake, get directly above the cake (on a chair if you have to). If you are over, but not directly above, the cake will look distorted in the final image. So square up as best you can.

Better yet, angle the cake by resting the bottom of the back half on something so that it sits at a downward angle toward you. Then try a couple different compositions and angles to see what looks best. Watch the background for clutter. Maybe zoom in on some detail, you don't have to include the whole cake in the shot.
Blowing Candles Out
If you want to get the candle light in the shot, use slow-rear sync or night portrait settings to help balance the light. The flash will help freeze the subject. Pre-focus by using a half-press of the shutter, when the perfect moment arrives press the button down the rest of the way. This is where knowing your equipment helps, if there is any shutter lag (delay from pressing the button to the time the picture is taken) it’s good to account for that. This is also a good time to do some anticipating or directing. If you sing “happy birthday” have focused locked and ready to shoot after the song ends. If not, then do some directing by asking the child to blow out the candles when you say “go!”

Dealing with Clutter
Birthday parties can have lots of clutter. Watch your backgrounds and see if you can plan on placing the birthday child strategically for the candle blowing, cake eating, gift opening, etc. to minimize background clutter and distraction from being in the frame.

Lighting In addition to considering what places are best for minimizing clutter, also take the lighting into consideration. If the child is partially engulfed in strong sunlight streaming in the window, and part of them are in shadow, it will be very difficult to get a nice picture. Consider closing blinds temporarily or placing the child where there is not a mix of strong light sources.

Shutter Speed
Keep an eye on your shutter speed. Birthday parties can have a lot of activity; your shutter speed may need to be higher than you think. If you are using a point and shoot, consider a sports mode with the flash on. Also, consider using burst mode for key shots such as blowing out the candles or opening presents.
Opening Presents
In addition to the “above” shot mentioned earlier, try and get a coupe of all the children gathered around from a good angle where you can still see the birthday child’s face.
Politely ask children to move aside so you can take a picture. Get in close and capture expressions as the presents are opened.
Time the opening of the gift. I like to snap the picture when the paper is partly ripped off or the present partly pulled out of the bag, revealing what it is. Often I take the shot when the child’s arm is extended at the end of the ripping action. This helps to capture the feeling of the action in a still image.
Watch for special moments when children look on together, or a child handing a gift to their friend.
Getting some shots of the decorations, cake, party favors, or crafts the kids worked on adds interest to your collection from the day. Stage them so you have a pleasing background and try a couple of different angles to see what works best. Often, it works best to get these shots in before the guests arrive. You may want to also get some detailed shots from AFTER the party, when the entire scene will look quite different.
Don’t forget to get shots of the kids having fun and laughing. Read the “The Decisive Moment” to prepare you for capturing the best moments of all the fun. Focus on the birthday child, but don’t forget to get shots of their friends too.
Candid Shots
You could stage one or two images, but look for the best candid moments and your pictures will look much better. Again, focus on the birthday child, but don’t forget to get pictures of their friends too. Keep an eye open for moments when the birthday child is surrounded by or interacting with one or more of their friends..
Planned Shots
Some shots you may want to stage, if they didn’t occur naturally. For example, one of the whole group of friends. Also, don’t forget to get one of the child’s parent(s) with their birthday boy or girl. Other staged shots would be details like the cake, decorations, signs, game or craft pieces. Small details that will help tell the story. Picture the scrap book page if that helps, and try different things.
Don’t focus only on the kids. Adults looking on in amazement, or their reactions to the events taking place makes for some fascinating shots. Try different focal lengths isolating them, or including what they are watching. Particularly make an effort to include family members of the child having the party.

Shot List
If it helps you, make a shot list. Writing down your ideas and reviewing them, even if you don’t pull the list out at the party, is still better than winging it.
Share Your Pictures
You worked hard to get all the shots. It might be fun to share the pictures with the parents of the children who came to the party.

What tips do you have for capturing a birthday party?
What special shots do you try to get?
Share your comments below!

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) technique-n-tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/9/how-to-take-great-birthday-party Sat, 20 Sep 2014 18:35:28 GMT
Taking Pictures in the Snow http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/2/taking-pictures-in-snow Often times when you take pictures in the snow with your camera on “auto”, the result is an underexposed photo (too dark). All the white in the snow fools your camera, the meter guesses wrong, and your shots appear muddy and gray. NOTE: Some cameras do better than others. My advice would be if your pictures aren’t turning out dull and gray, then don’t worry about it. Also, auto white balance is sometimes fooled which can also trick the camera and the colors don't come out right. So how do you fix it? Read on…

To avoid dull, drab photos taken in the snow there are a couple simple things you can do to get bright well exposed photos.

  • If your camera has a scene setting, set it to “snow” or “beach”. Your camera meter will account for the conditions and your images will be brighter.
  • If your camera doesn’t have a “scene” setting, or if it isn’t enough, use positive exposure compensation to over-ride the camera meter. Typically falls between +1/3 and +2.0
  • You may also want to try setting your white balance for the conditions (try sunny or cloudy). Sometimes choosing cloudy even when it's sunny out can have a nice effect. It will give your photos a warmer cast, which is often more appealing than a blue cast that is common in snow photos.

Reference your camera manual to learn how to set the scene mode or adjust the compensation (be sure and reset back to “0” when you’re done). If you've misplaced your manual, check the manufacturer website, they often have free down-loadable versions. If you have an older model, pick something close, the menu system may be similar which may help you figure it out. For your convenience I posted links to popular camera manufacturers below to get you started.

Scene modes and exposure compensation are often accessed by dedicated buttons, while others have these settings in the on-screen menu. Check your manual.

In the following photos (boring scene, I know, I took them for this article just for illustration) shot with a Canon PowerShot A590IS you can see a significant difference. The first image was shot in “Auto” and the second using the “Snow” scene mode.

This snowman was shot with positive exposure compensation (+0.7). The amount of compensation will vary from scene to scene depending on how much snow is in the picture and where the camera meter is metering based on your point of focus.

The image of the sledders was +1.0 and the image of the girl in pink +0.7. Sometimes, the main subject will impact how much compensation you need to use. This will also mean that on occassion some of the detail in the snow gets lost from the image being too bright. For snapshots of people a little bit of detail lost in the snow is not that big of deal, and there are things you can do in editing to help bring that detail back if you want.

 The time of day can also have an impact on your images. Some final thoughts to keep in mind.
  • Early morning the sun is less harsh and generally the colors more pleasing. The colors are more true. If it snowed the night before, the snow will have a “fresher” look to it.
  • Mid day, the colors turn out cooler and take on a blue tint.
  • Late in the day the snow can take on a reddish hue.

What kind of results are you getting?

Manufacturer links
The links below take you directly to the support area of the manufacturer, or navigate to the home page of your manufacturer and look for consumer products, support, downloads or something similar. Then choose your model and look for a link to download your owners manual.
myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/2/taking-pictures-in-snow Sun, 03 Feb 2013 02:23:52 GMT
How to Take Night Cityscape Pictures http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/9/cityscape
There’s something special about a contrasty night scene that really pleases my eye, or maybe it’s all the sparkling lights!
Taking great shots at night can be a little tricky. Photos sometimes turn out blurry, lack critical detail, or are improperly exposed.
Learning a few tricks will help you capture some great shots. This article will teach you a few of them. There are many approaches to nighttime photography, so once you read this, I encourage you to get out and practice. Don't give up after your first time out, keep trying and pay close attention to your camera settings and composition. While reviewing your images try and identify what might make the image even better.

Photo above by Aleksandar Djordjevic License

If you want to get great shots at night, you will want to bring some extra gear along.

  • Tripod - You’ll need to keep your camera still and steady. A solid tripod and head are a must. If you go too cheap, you’ll regret it. Buy something solid and stable. For DSLR users, buy a setup that holds more than the weight of your gear. I’ve heard varying suggestions on how much more, but a common rule of thumb is 1.5 to 2 times.
  • Remote Release - Touching your camera’s shutter button can introduce unwanted vibrations, even on a solid tripod. Using a remote release you won’t even have to touch the camera. If you don't have one or your camera doesn’t have this option, you may also use the timer mode on your camera.
  • Flashlight - Whether on the shores of a river, or the edge of town, a flashlight is definitely handy. Not just to see where you are going, but to search your bag and see what you are doing while on location.
  • Neutral Density Filter - If you’re heading out to capture light trails of flowing traffic, you may need an ND (Neutral Density Filter). Though not always required, depending on how much light is present, this will help you use a longer exposure when needed.

Look at a map and plan ahead, find some places you want to shoot from. You might also search for images online of the city, bridge, etc. you want to capture to see what others have done and think about how you might want to shoot it differently.

Nighttime shots don’t all have to be shot when the sky has turned black. Start shooting before the sun goes down. You can get some really nice sky and interesting colors before it gets really dark. Plan on arriving on location early so you can start framing your shots and trying various compositions. If you want a little bit of light left in the sky for a more dramatic effect, the light can fade fast. If you have taken a few shots already to check composition you will be a step ahead. Although, keep in mind, street lights, signs, and additional lights will be coming on which may change what you want as far as composition. However, having arrived early you will still be at an advantage.

As it gets dark, survey the scene. Are there any signs that are only on for a brief time, then shut off? A scene I was shooting had a large neon sign on a building that would come on for a few seconds, then shut off. You may want to time your shots accordingly.

Know your gear! For best results find out what options your camera has, and familiarize yourself with it’s modes. For point and shoot cameras this might mean knowing what scene modes are available for night time shooting. Other modes and functions that might come in handy are: timer mode, bracketing, exposure compensation, and mirror lock-up.


Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth, MN :: 1/5 at f/5.6

Getting the settings right are the key to pleasing photos.

Point and Shoot
With your camera on a tripod, use the timer mode to ensure your camera is as steady as possible for the picture. Check your camera for a night time landscape mode, or use auto. Since the camera sensor is going to likely see a lot of darkness, it may try and overcompensate by capturing the scene too bright. To deal with this, use negative exposure compensation to dial down the brightness.

Advanced Point and Shoot or DSLR

  • Metering - Try different metering modes to see what gives the best results. If there is a particular part of the scene you want to protect from overexposing, you may want to spot meter on that point. On my Nikon I also use matrix metering (some cameras call this mode evaluative).
  • Focus - Focus on the area of the scene you want to be sharpest. If your shooting a bridge or other object in the foreground, focus on that object verses the object in the distance. If shooting a skyline focus on one of the buildings. 
  • Aperture - To get larger parts of the scene in sharp focus, use apertures of F/11 to f/16.
  • ISO - Use a lower ISO to reduce noise.
  • Shutter speed - I shoot night scenes in aperture priority and let the camera choose, If your shooting car light trails you may want to use shutter priority, or better yet use manual.
  • Bracketing - You may want to bracket your shots to see which lighting looks best. At sunset, minor differences in exposure can dramatically change the look of the scene. Bracket your shots, especially your first couple times out so you can start to see the difference minor setting changes make.
  • Exposure Compensation - Similar to bracketing, only you are controlling the settings.
  • Mirror Lock-Up - If your camera has mirror lock-up, use it. This will help get even sharper images. When the mirror is locked up after focusing, there is no mirror movement to cause vibration.
  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction - Some use it some don’t. I personally think it works well on my D300. When taking longer exposures extra noise can be introduced into the picture. This setting reduces the noise. Typically, it takes a while to process after the shot. A rule of thumb is however long your shutter was open, it will take that long for Long Exposure NR to do it’s thing.

As with any scene, you may want to avoid setting up your tripod at standing eye level. If your tripod allows, try spreading the legs out and shooting from a low angle. Or you may look for some stairs to setup on, or some other higher vantage point. Look for interesting lines or patterns, objects that frame the shot, etc.

Watch for intruding elements into the frame that you might overlook. Take a good look through the viewfinder and see if anything will be distracting in the final image. Some things you may decide ahead of time to clone out later. For example, power lines.

Stone Arch Bridge
The Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. This bridge is the only stone arch bridge, and second oldest bridge on the Mississippi river. My friend and I arrived early and settled in to the area.

This image was shot 30 minutes before sunset. It was getting dark, but there was still color left in the sky when using a long exposure. This is what I was mentioning earlier. If you get out before the sun totally disappears you get the benefit of dramatic skies, while still capturing the office buildings with their lights on.

I shot on a tripod (of course!), down low, using mirror-up function and remote release cable for minimum vibration and maximum sharpness.

For metering I spot metered off the 2nd or 3rd arch so that I wouldn't overexpose that part of the scene. Somewhere around the 3rd or 4th arch is where I focused using auto focus. The camera was set to f/11 in aperture priority at ISO 200 which yielded a 6 second exposure.

To darken the scene a hint (and enrich the colors) I used -2/3 EV negative exposure compensation. I had the in-camera Long Exposure NR set to ON to reduce the noise.

In post processing I did minor tweaking to levels and vibrancy (ACDSee Pro) and cloned out distracting power lines.













Some other shots from the same area

(complete gallery at http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/steonearchbridge, click on the photo info tab to view camera settings)


myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/9/cityscape Sun, 02 Sep 2012 22:30:30 GMT
Use Fill Flash for Better Outdoor Photos http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/fillflash

When you think of using your flash, what “conditions” come to mind? Is it dark rooms and nighttime shots of people? Do you use your flash outside during the daytime? One of the best techniques you can learn to improve your shots is using fill flash.
For some outdoor photos, the subject is facing the light source (usually the sun) behind the photographer. In that situation, the subject is often lit well and fill-flash is not necessary. Earlier or later in the day usually works out well for this.
However, in the middle parts of the day, when the sun is directly overhead eyes will be partially in shadow and areas below the nose will be in shadow (or an entire side of the face). If your subject is wearing a hat, then the whole face might be in shadow.
Sometimes, even in earlier parts of the day, depending on subject placement you will still get unwanted shadows. Moving the subject for optimal light is not always an option. Considerations such as non-distracting backgrounds or a specific background you want to include for setting the surroundings will dictate the positioning of your subject. For stationary subjects you obviously will often not have a choice to place the subject elsewhere.
Fill flash is a technique used to lighten shadow areas outdoors. It can produce fantastic results by filling in shadows on faces, and balancing the light in the scene. It’s also used when the background is significantly brighter than the subject.

How to Set Your Camera
To use fill flash, the aperture and shutter speed are adjusted to correctly expose the background, and the flash is fired to lighten the foreground. You can use a speedlight in the hot shoe of your DSLR or the on-board flash.

Some speedlights have a balanced flash mode. For example, Nikon's i-TTL (intelligent through-the-lens) Balanced Fill-Flash automatically balances the output of the Nikon Speedlight and the scene's ambient light.

Most point and shoot cameras include a mode that forces the flash to fire, even in bright light.

Depending on how far your subject is, the flash will sometimes overexpose the subject, especially at close range. To overcome this, simply use the flash exposure compensation available on your DSLR. If you have a point and shoot, your camera may also have this mode, if not, use standard exposure compensation.

The opposite is also true, you may experience underexposure (particularly with a very bright background) so you may need to dial in some positive compensation.

There are a few different approaches for DSLR users; I generally use one of the following.
  • Semi-Auto Mode I set my camera to a semi-auto mode such as aperture priority and my speedlight to TTL-BL. I take a test shot then adjust the flash exposure compensation on the speedlight as needed. Note: If I’m using the on-board flash I’ll simply use the camera flash exposure compensation. Keep in mind, if you do have your speedlight in your hot shoe, for many cameras using flash comp on the camera and on the speedlight is additive. If you have +1.0 set on the camera, and +0.7 on the external flash, you will get +1.7 total compensation. I always use the compensation on the speedlight when it’s mounted so I only have one place to control the setting from. TIP: When using your on-board flash on your DSLR, depending on the lens and focal length you are using, your lens hood may cast a shadow on the lower part of your image. If that happens, you may need to remove it temporarily.
  • Expose for Background, Add Light Another method is to meter for the background and lock the exposure. Then recompose your shot and focus on your subject and add or subtract exposure compensation as needed. In some lighting situations where the background is very bright, it is helpful to under expose the background by one stop (-1.0) using exposure compensation or manual settings, then use flash compensation to achieve a properly exposed subject.
  • Slow-Rear Sync Sometimes I’ll combine the methods above and use slow-rear sync flash (camera in manual mode to control the background exposure) and I’ll manually adjust everything else, including flash compensation. This can be particularly useful for panning shots when the subject is at close range.

The key really is in using the flash exposure compensation and a good metering on the scene. With practice you’ll learn to use shutter speed, aperture, ISO and flash to gain maximum control.

Keep in Mind
Here are some things to keep in mind when using fill flash.
  • The closer your subject is, the easier it will be to overexpose them. This is why learning to adjust flash or exposure compensation on your camera is so important.
  • Know the range of your camera’s flash. Fill-flash won’t have any effect if the flash cannot reach them.
  • Know the sync-speed of your camera and speedlight. This is the maximum shutter speed your camera and speedlight can stay in sync, Some cameras have high-speed sync modes that can be used over the max sync speed (with compatible flashes). A topic for another time.
  • Even on overcast days when the sunlight is diffused, flash can be helpful to give your subject some “pop”.
  • Don’t overdo it! The idea is to subtly add enough flash to help eliminate shadows and balance the light in the scene. If you try to completely get rid of all the shadows your image may end up looking flat and have a “flash” look.
  • Try setting your white balance to auto or flash. I often set mine to flash, but do use auto sometimes.
  • Another advantage of fill-flash is it helps to highlight the eyes of your subject and provides a catch light adding life to otherwise dull eyes.
  • Where you meter the scene will have an impact on your settings. Especially for subjects that are constantly moving (toddlers, active kids, etc.) I often use matrix metering (some cameras call this evaluative or segment).However, I do use center-weighted or spot from time to time.
  • Practice! Anticipate ahead of time what you want to do and plan to take a few extra shots to try out different settings. Use the image display (and histogram and “blinkies” if your camera has them) to help you make adjustments as you go.
  • Through experience you will also learn when to use editing after the fact to make further adjustments. You might be asking why not just use the shadows and highlight tools all the time and not bother with flash? In my experience, you can sometimes do that, but often the results are not nearly as good as learning to properly adjust the flash on the front end, and use editing to make minor adjustments (verses major recoveries).
Flash Sync Speed
When using flash outside you may find yourself eventually bumping up against the camera’s flash sync speed. Essentially, over a certain shutter speed the camera is unable to properly sync the shutter and the flash. The results vary, and you can end up with odd results.

What to do

  • Look up your camera’s flash sync speed in your owner’s manual so you know what that speed is for your particular model of camera. 1/200 is common for on-board flashes. For point and shoot camera’s the mode you are in may limit the shutter speed automatically.
  • Keep an eye on your shutter speed so you know if the flash will sync properly or not.
  • If the scene is very bright (or background), you may get an overexposed image. You may have to increase your aperture to compensate. Some photographers choose to shoot in shutter priority and select the camera’s maximum sync speed and let the camera adjust the aperture as needed. Then, as mentioned before, adjust the flash compensation as needed to properly expose your subject.
  • Once you are starting to master using flash, you may feel more comfortable setting your camera to manual or using the exposure compensation (not to be confused with the flash compensation) to greater control the outcome.
  • If your camera is trying to use shutter speeds in the 1/1000 range, you will need to increase the aperture to get that speed down to sync with the flash, or decrease your ISO (if you haven’t already). You can use any mode you wish to change the controls to accomplish getting the shutter speed within the desired range (aperture or shutter priority, or manual mode). If you have a speed light (external flash unit), read on…

If you have a speedlight
Some models of cameras and compatible speedlights will allow you to shoot effectively with flash at much faster shutter speeds. This is accomplished by the flash unit delivering several smaller bursts of light instead of one large burst. The downside is that the flash is of less effective intensity since the individual bursts are lower powered than the normal capability of the flash unit.

Cameras and speedlights that allow high speed sync will have a section in their manual instructing you how to set your equipment up to take advantage of the feature.

Example Scene
Preparing for this article my daughter posed on our deck for me. Notice the harsh shadows without the flash. These pictures were taken at 7:15am. with my camera in aperture priority. The images are marked where I used a speedlight (in balanced, TTL-BL mode), or on-board flash (lens hood removed) and what flash compensation I used (if any).

This was not a perfectly controlled test, but it should give you an idea of the possibilities of fill-flash.

No Flash
On-Board Flash

What fill flash tips do you have?
How has fill flash improved your results?


myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/fillflash Mon, 30 Jul 2012 01:35:08 GMT
Where Did I Put That Picture? A Guide for Managing Your Image Files http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/filemanagement

The other day I was looking for an image of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. To find it I simply went into my photo organizer and searched for “Stone Arch Bridge”. Instantly images related to that search term filled my screen. How does that work you ask? I’ll explain…

I've been taking and storing digital images since 1999. Early on I didn’t really have a good way to organize my images. I pretty much dumped all my shots in one folder and when I had a few from one particular occasion I created a special folder for them.

My photo collection started to grow… I created categories of folders. One for family, one for friends, one for church ministry, one for animals, and so on. That worked okay, but I ended up with a lot of folders within folders and no real structure. Sometimes I was conflicted about where to keep a particular image that really fit in two categories. Without going into long explanations, let me just say that system didn’t work. I ended up with copies of images all over the place, and it was hard to find an image I was looking for.

My photo collection kept growing… I needed a better way. When I was working as a Project Manager for a software development company. A co-worker of mine was also into photography. One day we were talking about Photoshop and he quickly found a couple examples to show me of some work he had done. I was impressed by how fast he found them. His role in our company was a database design analyst, so it was no surprise when he suggested dedicated photo database software. Within a week I had my own copy of the software.

My photo collection kept growing… It took me a while to settle into a system. But I have been using one for several years now that really works well for me. I have upwards of 100,000 images in my collection. That has given me a chance to make some mistakes and learn a few ways to best organize my photos.

Get Organized

There are many programs today that will help you organize your photos. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy something.
Many computers come with features to help you organize your images. Most cameras come with basic organizing and editing software and there are also dedicated programs, some of which are free. I use ACDSee software (they have basic and pro versions.). Photoshop Elements also comes with an organizer. If you have found one you like, share it in the comments section below.
The first thing to consider is your folder structure. I already mentioned through trial and error I've ended up with one that has been working for several years now. See the screen shot at left. It’s a simple hierarchy based on year and month. All the images from a given month go together in the same folder. However, I do create sub-folders within a month if I have a lot of photos that belong together. Photos from a big event or particular occasion where I took many pictures. I also create a separate folder within a month to contain the shots I take for church ministries. You may find a structure that works better for you, there are numerous ways to approach this.
You will haave to decide what works best for you. The best thing to do though is to get some kind of structure going and stick to it!
The structure created the buckets, but you still need a way to find your photos easily. You do this by assigning keywords (tagging) your images. Every program is different, but the concept is the same. For a given image you assign words that describe it. Those are the keywords you can later use in a search function to find what you’re looking for.

I also use caption fields and note fields from time to time. I use captions for describing the image to others. Notes for my own personal reference, or greater detail on what went on in the image. Not every image gets a caption, far fewer get notes, but all of them get a tag (keyword).

It may seem like a lot of work to tag all your photos, but it really isn’t. Many programs allow you to select many photos at once and assign a common tag to all of them at the same time.


Did you know?
Your image files have a data storage area that records all your image info. Details the camera writes to these data fields when you take the picture. There are also fields to store your own information, such as keywords. These fields are called "Exif" and “IPTC”, and are referred to collectively as "Metadata". It's in these fields that your tags and captions can be stored.


One thing I learned is not to put photos in their "month bucket" until I tagged them. So what I do is import my images into a folder titled “A – Yet To Process” (the ‘A’ keeps it sorted to the top of all the folders). When I import my photos, my program automatically creates sub-folders for the date I imported the photos. When I have time I go into the folders, tag the images, perform any post processing (edits to the images), then I sort them to their permanent buckets once that is done, or when I have time).
After I move the images, I then delete the empty folders under my “A – Yet To Process” folder. This has worked great for years, and I can easily find my images with the tags.

Part of my tagging routine which I won’t go into great detail on right now, is to populate IPTC fields in the image data. Many online sites read these fields, so I actually include a process to populate my captions and keywords to those fields automatically. Then when I upload my images those fields are automatically read and displayed by the online site for others to see. Some photo organizers actually populate those fields directly, while others use their own database structure, in which case you can run a quick batch process to fill the data fields in IPTC.

Find Your Images
With my images tagged, I can easily search using common search strings. I can even search for multiple tags at once. For example, if I wanted to find that cute picture of my daughter with a messy face, I would use ‘Grace + Messy’ in the search field and all the pictures of my daughter where I tagged her as messy would show up in the search results.

Some programs also let you search by a date, even by clicking on a calendar. Some photographers use data already in the image to find photos by f-number, shutter speed, or even focal length.

What tags should I use?
Whatever works for you and makes the most sense. Any word that describes the image is a good idea. Early on my mistake was to use too few words. I have since gotten better at using tags that will make the image easy to find again.

The first thing I usually do is select several images and tag with an event or place description, then with names if appropriate. Then I start getting specific.
  • For immediate family I use first and last name. IE: ‘John Stevens’. For someone that was married I would represent it like this ‘Mary (Stevens) Parker’ putting the maiden name in parenthesis. That way if my images are passed on and future generations want to search them, folks can be searched for using their maiden name or married name. This is where dedicated software is handy. You can change the tag easily when someone’s name changes and make it effective for all the images at once.
  • For friends I also use first name-last name as the tag. Unless their married…
  • If the photos of a family then I usually just use their last name as the tag. It’s quicker and easier to tag the photos that way. It’s also easier to search for burning a disc to share the images later. At one time I used first name-last name for everyone, but that got to be too time consuming tagging every member of the family individually, so now I just use last names for families.
  • Events I use generic tags AND specific tags. If I have shots from the Minnesota Zoo the tags would be ‘Zoo’ and ‘MN Zoo’. I might also include ‘Discovery bay’ or “Grizzly Coast’. Then of course an animal name such as ‘Wolf” or ‘Bear” maybe even “Brown Bear’ or “Polar Bear’ in addition to just ‘Bear’.


Anything you can think of to help you find the image again. Some examples (not including names) are:

  • Zoo (also Como Zoo, MN Zoo, etc.)
  • Vacation (in addition I might add where too, such as ‘Disney World’ and even add ‘Epcot’ or ‘Hoop De Doo’ for the dinner show we saw).
  • Messy
  • Funny Face
  • Hat, Dress, Pajamas, PJs, Etc. (I use clothing descriptions sometimes so I can find shots of people in memorable outfits)
  • Costume
  • Easter, Christmas, Etc. (holiday name tags)
  • Bat, Ball, Park, Slide, Swing, Cabin, Lake, Water, Pool, Dive, Boat…. You get the idea!

This should get you started. There certainly is a lot more that can be said about it. Enter ‘Digital Asset Management’ (DAM) in your search engine to learn more.

File Naming
On import with ACDSee (other programs do this as well) I have the date-time field from exif added to the filename. So I keep the original out of camera file name and add the date stamp. No need to name files, that's what the organizer/database is for with the keywords. Also, the folder structure for important events identifies where the photo is from, and I sometimes use the notes/description field for this also. Nothing wrong with using an event name in the filename though, it's just personal preference. I just don't have a need for using the file name to ID the photo, though I'm sure it would be handy for sharing with others that way from time to time.

Here’s my workflow in short form:

  • Capture images
  • Import into my computer (into “A- Yet to Process” folder) using a rename file function to add date stamp to end of original file name.
  • Edit photos, delete ones I know I will never want. Create copies if I intend to do a couple versions (black and white or something custom).
  • Tag photos with keywords. Write captions for some of them. Write notes if I feel the need.
  • Move the files to their permanent location.
  • Search using search function when needed. I sometimes simply navigate the Year – Month – Event structure if I have an idea where the images should be.

It seems daunting at first, but it really is worth it to know where your pictures are. Especially as your collection grows and grows! In a future article I'll write about how to protect and back-up your photos.

What about Catalogs and Categories?

Some of you may have noticed I didn't discuss catalogs, categories, color labels, rating, etc. The goal of this article was to introduce some basic ways to get started organizing. Many image organizing programs allow you to assign and organize in many additional and powerful ways. I do use some of them, I just didn't go into detail here.


How do you organize your files?
What dedicated software do you use?
What’s your experience with storing your photos?


myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Post Processing http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/filemanagement Sat, 21 Jul 2012 04:53:20 GMT
The Decisive Moment (When to Click) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/decisive-moment-when-to-click

A while ago a friend made some very encouraging comments about my photos. She basically said she saw big improvements in my work. It caused me to stop and think. What has changed? What is it that caused her to notice?

Photography is one of those things that you continue to learn and improve over time. It's pretty simple really. If you continue to do things the way you've always done them, you'll continue to get the same results. You've probably heard that in one form or another before, and it's true. It's just the way it works.

My advice to you is to open yourself up to some new ideas, and try some new things. In this digital age it's easy to take an extra picture or two and experiment. You just need to take the first step, and that's how you can improve, one step at a time.

What Changed?
For me, a big change came after reading a book by Michael Freeman titled “The Photographer's Eye”. It's a great read. I'm actually planning to go through it again to give myself assignments based on the techniques and thoughts presented in the book.

While it's full of great information, there's one particular thing I'm thinking of that helped me out a lot. In general, my eye for composition was improving, but there is still one thing I believe has made a big difference in the way I capture images. What is it?!

“The Decisive Moment”

In The Photographer's Eye Michael Freeman discusses one of photography's most famous expressions “the decisive moment”. It originates from Henri Cartier-Bresson, a famous French photojournalist, who took it from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz, who wrote, “Il n'y a rien dans ce monde qui n'ait un moment decisif,” (“There is nothing in this world without a decisive moment”). Henri Cartier-Bresson defined it for photography as follows:
“Inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.”

Michael Freeman explains “Whatever the action, whether it is a person walking through the scene or clouds gathering over a mountain, it will certainly have to move across the frame. The action therefore inevitably affects the design of the picture, because it alters the balance.”

It's about When you take the picture, Not, if you take the picture.

Another aspect is expressions on faces. Timing the shot to get an expression that tells a story. Earlier in my photography pursuit I usually approached an event without any thought other than “I need some pictures of this”. That thought has changed to “I need to tell a story about this”. You tell a story with pictures by capturing the decisive moment. This doesn't mean that other design and composition considerations aren't important, they definitely are and they will be discussed in other articles.

What Does it Look Like?
Maybe an example will help you to visualize this. Children are sitting at a computer watching a video that is making them smile and laugh. So you grab your camera and take a couple shots to capture the moment. Upon reviewing the shots you see a smile on their face, but it's not as powerful as you thought it would be. What happened? You captured the moment, but not THE decisive moment. There is not always only one decisive moment, sometimes there are several. Identifying them is the key. So how do you do that?


By observing and through trial and review you can learn when those moments are going to come. In our children watching the video example (which is a moment I was experiencing recently) I noticed that one particular part of the video really made them laugh. So I waited for that decisive moment to repeat itself then I clicked the shutter.

Remember my friend? I think one of the things she was noticing was my growing ability to capture the right moment. Here's some things you can do to help you discover those decisive moments:

  • Observation – Observe the scene unfolding around you. Make mental notes of what is occurring, what might repeat itself and consider anything you might know about the event already. Maybe it's something you have experienced before, so you may already have some observations in your head about what might happen.
  • Anticipate – Anticipate what's going to happen next and be ready for it. This may include the harmonization of several elements falling into place.
  • Wait – Sometimes you just have to wait. Ready and waiting for the moment to unfold. Time and time again I see folks take a quick picture of a scene before anything exciting has happened. Then, a few seconds later a perfect opportunity presents itself. I wouldn't sacrifice not getting any memories waiting for the exact moment though. Take a picture, but then wait for that special moment you believe is coming.
  • Confidence – Sometimes being nervous about raising the camera and taking a picture prevents you from taking a picture at the right time. You want to get in, get out, get it over with. Being confident that you know what you're doing allows you to slow down and plan your shot a bit. This confidence will come through experience and will grow after you start seeing your results getting better and better.
  • Review – Look over your past shots and analyze them a bit. Ask yourself what you could have done better. Look at photos of others whose work you admire, and identify what it is about the image that you like.
  • Plan – When you are heading into a situation, have a plan, or at least an idea of the objects, views, or emotions you want to capture.

"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

In this image at sunrise I noticed the kayak moving toward the area I was framing my shot. So I waited until the paddler entered the reflection. I felt it would add more interest and become a more powerful photo.

After a long night of shooting at the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, I was headed back to my vehicle. I hadn't put all my gear away just yet (don't pack up until you've completely left the area). Behind me in the distance I saw a patrol car making its way onto the bridge. Knowing that a slow shutter speed to capture the city would also create a nice blur of the cars taillights, I setup my tripod and waited for the car to pass, then tripped the shutter. I made a few more shots on my way back across the bridge, but thought this was one of the better ones.

More examples, and why I chose the moment I did are available in
 The Decisive Moment Gallery
(opens in new window)

More About Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the "street photography" or "real life reportage" style that has influenced generations of photographers that followed.

"Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."

Famous quotes
“It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.”

"The simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression... . In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little human detail can become a leitmotif."

“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.”

“To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”

“To take a photograph means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second– both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.”

"There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment."

The Photographer The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
*Shows how to explore situations and locations in order to find the best possible photographic possibilities

*Uses clear examples from real photographic assignments, with schematic illustrations of how and why the pictures work

Design is the single most important factor in creating a successful photograph. The ability to see the potential for a strong picture and then organize the graphic elements into an effective, compelling composition has always been one of the key skills in making photographs...
myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Composition Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/7/decisive-moment-when-to-click Sat, 14 Jul 2012 04:04:56 GMT
How To Photograph Fireworks http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/how-to-photograph-fireworks
Is your city putting on a massive display of fireworks this weekend? Or maybe just your neighbor Chip? Wherever the show is, here’s a few tips to capture those loud sparklies in all their glory.

Use a Tripod
Since you’ll be using longer shutter speeds it’s important to keep the camera steady.

If you find yourself out without a tripod, here are some other ways, some of which I have done myself, to help you steady your shot. Set the camera on a solid surface, and use an object or your hand under it to point the lens toward the fireworks. A garbage can, stroller handle, fence, or on a sweatshirt on the roof of a car.

With good holding technique, and the anti-shake features built into some camera’s and lenses you might get by okay without one. However, best results will always be achieved using a tripod or other solid support.

There are many effective ways to frame fireworks images.
  • Try a variety: Fill the frame, horizontal, vertical, include interesting scenery in the frame, etc.
  • Try not to get stuck at one focal length, if you can, try a variety of focal lengths. Zoom in on the display, and shoot wide.
  • Depending on your point of view, don’t forget to get a couple that include the spectators watching the show!
  • Keep an eye on your horizon. It’s real easy to forget to keep your camera level while you take your shots.
Camera Settings
If you have a point and shoot, check your manual to see if you can set controls manually. Alternatively you could check and see if your camera has a “fireworks” scene mode. It’s not magic and has no guarantees but it might be worth a try.
  • Remote or Timer - If you have a remote release this will further reduce camera shake. When you press the shutter release, even on a solid surface, some shake is introduced. A remote will help. If you don’t have a remote you can use the timer feature on your camera. If you can set the time, usually 2 seconds is sufficient.
  • Mode - Manual mode, definitely manual. You can sometimes get away with shutter or aperture, but manual gives you the control you will likely need.
  • Aperture Fireworks are fairly bright, so you should be able to get by with a smaller aperture. f/8 – f/16 to get more in focus.
  • Shutter Speed - I’ve done this a couple different ways. One is to experiment with the shutter speed setting and see what is turning out well. The other way is to use bulb and start the exposure at the beginning of the burst (or just after you hear the launch and anticipate the burst starting). You then wait until the burst is done to end the exposure. You’ll discover in your first couple of tests that it really doesn’t take that long to expose the fireworks since they are so bright. You may find yourself adjusting as you go too, but shouldn't have to change the settings too much.
  • ISO - Use the lowest ISO setting to help ensure the cleanest results possible.
  • Focus - If you are back a ways, focus your lens to infinity. Some prefer to find the focus point with auto, then switch to manual and leave it. Often, the fireworks create enough contrast to focus, as long as you're not trying to focus at the brightest point of the burst. After you nail focus you may want to switch to manual focus and leave it.
  • Flash – Don’t forget to turn it off!


Be flexible and make adjustments as you go.

  • Tripod and remote release or timer
  • Manual mode
  • Low ISO
  • Start with aperture around F/11 and experiment with shutter speed. If you are not getting the length of time you want, adjust the aperture as needed, and ISO if absolutely necessary. If you need to brush up on how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together, read the Exposure Triangle Series.
  • You don't need a DSLR, the opening image in this article was taken with my old 4.3MP point and shoot.

Other Advice

Other random advice from my experience or that I have read...
The sky will start getting smoke filled. So be ready to start shooting when the fireworks start. Arrive early and get setup. If you want cleaner images you’ll get more of them at the start.
If you know where the wind is going, shoot upwind from it. That way smoke goes away from you and doesn’t get between you and the fireworks display.

If you have a variety of options for lens focal length, then further back is usually better than being right on top of the fireworks. This will give you many more framing options and make it easier to track the bursts. Another advantage of being back further is setting your lens to infinity for focus and leaving it there.

What fireworks tips do you have? (feel free to share a link to your photos)
Do you have a memory to share of watching fireworks in your town?

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/6/how-to-photograph-fireworks Fri, 29 Jun 2012 03:42:34 GMT
8 Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Your Photos AFTER the Shot - A Beginner’s Guide to Editing http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/3/8-quick-and-easy-ways-to-improve-your


Most of us take photos that could use a little tweaking afterward. Whether it’s to fix a mistake, or give your picture a little extra sizzle and shine. Sometimes the difference between a good photo and a great photo is a little editing. This article introduces the top 8 adjustments for everyday photo editing.

The adjustments covered here are available in most editing software. Many cameras come with basic editing and organizing software, and there are free ones available too. At the end of this article I’ll provide some links to popular software. For the examples here I used my favorite, ACDSee Pro. For your software, look for similar titles in the menus to make similar adjustments.

Tool Definitions

  • Exposure (Brightness) – Used to globally adjust the brightness of the entire image.

  • Levels (Tone Curves) – Allows you to adjust the black, midtone and white values in an image. In some ways it works similar to Exposure and Brightness, but instead of the whole image it allows you to focus on specific tone values.

  • White Balance (Color Cast) - Different colors of light are emitted by different light sources. Sometimes it's off, this tool removes color cast to create a photo that is correctly color balanced.

  • Contrast – Adjusts the difference between the darkest and lightest areas in a photo. The greater the difference, the higher the contrast.

  • Red Eye - Red eye occurs when the light from your digital camera's flash reflects off the retinas in the subject's eyes. The subject's eyes look red instead of their normal color. The effect is most common when light levels are low, outdoor at night, or indoor in a dimly-lit room. This tool removes the red eye.

  • Sharpen (Unsharp Mask) – Adds sharpness and crispness. Fix slightly out of focus photos.

  • Crop (Trim) - Removing unwanted image areas.

  • Black and White - Convert a color image to black and white.

Exposure (Brightness)
If an image is underexposed, this tool is used to increase the overall brightness of the image. This tool brightens all parts equally. For more control and if you software has it, you may find the Levels tool better for the image you're working on. To brighten the image, simply move the slider to a positive number. To darken the image, move the slider to a negative number.

The levels tool works similar to Exposure (Brightness). The difference with this tool, is you don’t affect the whole image at once. You adjust the blacks, midtones, and whites separately. I often use levels instead of the exposure tool, but sometimes I will use both.

The levels tool has a histogram display which illustrates the mapping of the tones in your image. The rule of thumb for a well exposed, evenly lit scene is to have a histogram resembling a mountain. But that's just a rule of thumb. If your image has a lot of dark colors, or a lot of light colors, then the histogram will look different.

In the first histogram below, there is space between the tone mapping and the edge. A typical correction with a histogram like this would be to moved the sliders in just to the edge of the tone mapping.

This is one of my favorite tools. It can take flat images, and really make them pop! Like all tools, sometimes the change is subtle, but it still makes a difference. Other times, the change is extreme and saves your picture.
Here's an example of on an extremely underexposed image. I used levels instead of the "exposure/brightness" tool because I didn't want the brightness increased in the whole image. I only wanted to increase the lighter values and not brighten the wood post holding the sign. The best way to see the difference between the two tools is to try them both on an image.
This histogram indicates a severely underexposed image. Notice how the entire histogram falls to the left of center.


By simply sliding the white slider left the image brightens up quite nice.

If your image is flat and dull, the contrast tool will help perk it up. I usually make levels and white balance adjustments before tweaking the contrast.























White Balance (Color Cast)
The image looked a little on the “cool”(blue) side to me. Using the white balance color picker I picked a neutral color (white or light gray often work well). The software then adjusted the white balance. Some software has advanced sliders to further help you fine tune the adjustment.


Crop (Trim)

When cropping, for most uses keep the same ratio the image was in originally, or use the print size if you intend to print the image. Keep in mind if you crop too tight, the image might not have enough resolution and may look bad. When you crop, make sure you don’t make things look worse!


Unsharp Mask (Sharpen)
Some software has one sharpen or clarity slider, while others have three. Whichever one your software has, use it carefully. This is another tool that’s easy to go overboard with. For software with 3 settings, this is what each does:
Amount - Specifies the amount of light added to or removed from each edge. Higher values produce darker edges. This is the main part of the sharpening effect. Use anywhere from 20-150 depending on your software and image requirements.
Radius - Specifies the number of pixels to adjust around each edge. Higher values increase the number of sharpened pixels. Usually keep this around 2-5, depending again on your particular software. Watch your image and make sure it doesn't get too funky.
Threshold - Specifies how different the lightness values of two adjacent pixels must be before they are sharpened. Higher values increase the required difference. It is recommended that you set the threshold so that it enhances edges while keeping background noise to a minimum. 1-10 are common settings.
A common setting I use in ACDSee is 50-2-6. In Photoshop Elements 85-1-4 is a good place to start.

Red Eye Removal

One of the simplest tools to use is red eye removal. Some software you drag a box around the effected eye, while others you simply click the red eye.



Black and White
There are many different ways to convert an image to black and white. Check your software for how to do it. If I'm doing a basic change to black and white, I'll usually add some contrast to it afterward, to give it a deeper richer feel. Also, there are many dedicated tools available for helping you convert. In a future article we'll cover some of those.

Black and white tends to add a certain timeless appeal to an image. I also use it on images that through basic tweaking, just don't look right any other way. I've also had images where the face was so overexposed there was nothing I could do. Converting an image to black and white can mask otherwise unfix-able flaws and salvage your image.

I like this one in black and white. The pose just seemed to call for it. I like the color version too (the subject anyway) but I was bothered by the background with the different light temperature. It seemed a bit too distracting for this image. There are things I could do about that, but black and white was the first thing I tried and I like the result.

The next one was a situation where the face was overexposed in some areas. Not as bad as some I've saved using black and white conversion, but this should give you an idea. So before you delete a shot you thought hopeless, try a black and white version.

Some scenes were made for black and white.


Keep in Mind

  • This was a “crash” course. Many of the tools were explained as briefly as possible. I recommend experimenting with what you have and using your particular software.

  • Some images may only need subtle changes, often that's the difference between good and great. While others will need a bit more work

  • Whole articles could be devoted to each tool and many others, but I hope this helps you get started.

  • You may want make edits and choose “Save As” to your edited version. At least until you gain more confidence in your editing skills. When I first started I didn’t do that and I really messed up some photos. If you save a copy you can always go back and start over. Trust me on this. I have many images I hopelessly messed up. As my skill grew I laughed at some of my early work. But those inexperienced edits were locked in the image forever! Of course, I didn't have an article like this to guide me ;) so I jumped in head first and really had no idea what I was doing.

  • Take your time and enjoy learning these basic editing skills. Your images will begin to stand our from everyone else’s, unless they read this too ;) ... Then I guess everyone's images should be looking better, right? 


Photo Editing Software
Free Photo Editing Software

Popular Photo Editing Software
Do you have editing tips to share?
Has this article helped you?
myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Fundamentals Post Processing http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/3/8-quick-and-easy-ways-to-improve-your Tue, 02 Mar 2010 04:33:00 GMT
How to Take Sharp Pictures http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/how-to-take-sharp-pictures
How do I get sharp pictures? This is a question I'm asked often. The sharpness of an image is one of the first things people notice about your photos. While there can be some challenges involved, getting sharp photos is not just for professionals. Whether you are shooting with a point and shoot, or a DSLR, there are some simple steps you can take.
The Cause

There are a few things that can contribute to blurry, out of focus photos. The most common are:
Missed Focus – Your focus point was not where it should have been.
Motion Blur – The subject moved too quickly.
Shutter Lag – There was a delay and the camera didn’t focus in time.
Camera Shake – Your camera moved too much while taking the picture.
Equipment – a filthy lens or poor quality equipment.

How to Overcome Common Problems

Missed Focus
Most cameras today do their best to guess where they are supposed to focus. However, they don’t always get it right. Even with new “face detection” and “smile detection” technologies, the camera can still miss. Also, in lower light your camera will struggle to lock focus correctly. Our eyes adjust better than a camera, what looks sufficient to you, may not be for the camera.

Before proceeding it’s time for a real quick (nowhere near exhaustive) lesson how the average focus system works. Focus systems can get pretty complicated, but here’s the general idea: A half press of the shutter button activates the focus mechanism. The camera then establishes focus and locks the focus. Some cameras beep when the focus is locked. Once focus is locked in, you can then gently press down the button the remainder of the way. In theory, you then get a nice sharp picture. However, If you’ve done that and your subject moves, the focus will be off. Other times when you do that, the camera may have focused in the wrong place. Read on and learn how to overcome some of the pitfalls.
What to do:

  • Slow down a little bit. Frame your shot, half press the shutter button to acquire focus, then gently push the button down the remainder of the way.
  • Watch your focus points to see if they are focusing in the wrong place. If they are, release the shutter button from it’s half press position and move the camera slightly and try again (half press) and see if the camera get’s it right the second time. If it does, you guessed it- “gently push the button down the remainder of the way”.
  • Use the focus and re-compose technique. If you half press the shutter button and get the focus points locked in where you want them, but don’t like the composition then do the following. With the button still half pressed, reposition your camera to get the desired composition. While the button is half pressed, the focus is locked, once in position gently push the button down the rest of the way.
  • Take charge! Take your camera out of auto focus and choose the focus point yourself. Check your camera manual to see if this is possible on your camera.

Don’t get discouraged. It may take you a few tries until the above techniques become second nature to you. With practice getting the focus point right becomes quick and easy and you will see the difference in you results.

Motion Blur
Motion blur usually occurs when your shutter speed is too slow, often caused by the wrong camera settings.
What to do:

  • One of the most common culprits I see is folks taking pictures without flash when they should be. Sometimes the auto flash setting on the camera is fooled by lighting beyond the subjects. Learn to override the auto flash and turn your flash on. The flash helps to freeze the subject. Keep in mind the distance your flash will even be effective. Check your manual, most point and shoot cameras have a flash range of 6 to 10 feet.
  • Sometimes the light may be sufficient but in auto mode the camera has chosen the wrong shutter speed (if you don’t tell it, the camera doesn’t know how much your subject is moving). Learn to move your camera out of auto and make use of the available scene modes that your camera has. Most cameras have a sports setting (It’s not just for sports, it works well for toddlers running around too). In addition you may also need to override the auto flash setting and use the flash to help you stop the action too.
  • Turn the flash off. What? You just said turn it on! If the subject is beyond your flash range, then the flash is not doing any good. Turn it off and check your focus points so the camera can meter appropriatley. For subjects out of flash range, either move in, or try without flash (or wait until the subject is closer). You may just be able to turn it off and the camera will adjust settings as needed to get the shot.
  • Learn panning techniques. A whole article will be dedicated to panning. Basically, follow your subject, lock focus and continue following through while gently pushing in the shutter button. Your follow through should continue even after the button is pressed (like a golf swing). Panning takes practice. If you don’t get it right, keep on, keep on, keep on trying.
  • Take control and manually adjust your shutter speed. Then adjust your aperture or ISO settings to compensate. See the exposure series for more information about exposure.

Shutter Lag
With some cameras a shutter delay will occur when you press the shutter button. Sometimes shutter lag is blamed, when it’s really just a misunderstanding of how the focus works (as briefly explained above). Half press – focus lock – gently push the button down the rest of the way. But shutter lag does exist, and there are things you can do to overcome it.
What to do:

  • Frame your shot, and lock the focus. Keep the button half pressed and then “gently…”. This will take some planning, and sometimes guessing. Lock focus, then when the expression comes you were waiting for, or the batter is in full swing, or.. when THE moment comes finish pressing the button down. You don’t need to raise your camera and shoot in one movement. Again frame, half press to lock focus and wait for the moment. With practice and a little observation you will recognize when those moments are coming. If you lock focus for a longer amount of time, keep an eye on the subject. If they move too much you will need to re-aquire focus so that it's accurate.
  • Another option is to upgrade to a camera with less shutter lag. This is not always practical, and may not be an option, but might be necessary if your needs warrant.

Camera Shake
If the camera moves, and the shutter speed is not sufficient, you will get burry photos.
What to do:

  • Secure the camera on something stable. Tripod, counter, railing, rest it on a tree stump, trunk of your car, a mini table-top tripod.
  • Hold your camera steady. A common mistake is holding the camera out at arms length in front of you. Hold the camera closer to your body with your elbows tucked at your side. There are times when you can get away with holding your camera out in front of you. But if your shots are blurry, try this instead.
  • If your camera has a viewfinder, looking through it, with elbows at your side adds extra stability.
  • If your camera or lenses have stabilization or anti-shake, you may need to turn them on.
  • The further out you zoom, the more steadiness is required to take a picture without camera shake. Imagine a short stick with a small weight on it held in front of you and what it takes to hold it steady. Most people will be able to hold it fairly steady. Now lengthen the stick be several feet, it’s much harder to hold it steady. When you zoom your lens it works similarly. A rule of thumb from 35mm film days was to have a shutter speed of 1/focal length. So if you had a zoom of 125mm, the shutter speed required by the average photographer (hand held without a tripod) would be 1/125. The formula gets complicated with digital cameras due to the size of the image sensor, and the effective focal length. I won’t get into that here. For each camera the amount of shutter speed to compensate will be different. Just be aware of it. To counter it, use support, or increase your shutter speed by going into sports mode, or if your camera allows, learn to set the shutter speed.


What we use as well as the condition of what we have play a roll in how sharp our pictures are as well.

  • Tripod – I mentioned this briefly earlier. Tripods play an important part in getting sharp pictures. Though not always practical to carry one along, it’s worth it for times when it is practical to use them. You don’t always need to bring a full size tripod with you either. I often take pictures in low light at my church. Sometimes I’ll bring along my Giottos Table Top Tripod  and my Markins Ball Head that I place on the counter of the sound booth. Other versatile and portable tripods are also available such as the Joby Gorillapod that allows you to secure your camera to many things. They come in sizes for portable point and shoots and DSLR’s.
  • Clean Your Lens - A dirty lens can reduce the amount of light getting to the focus system. Use a soft cloth, lens pen, or cleaner and tissues designed for cleaning camera equipment. Be sure to follow the directions that come with the product.
  • Know Your Lenses – For DSLR owners, whose budgets allow, consider upgrading your lens. Also, learn where the sharpest spot (known as the “sweet spot”) is on your lenses. When I got my first DSLR and was feeling the need for more reach, I purchased a 70-300G. What I learned after some trial and error and some help from photographer friends is that lens had a sweet spot of f/8, I was using it at f/5.6 and found out that f/8 gave me a bit more sharpness. Later I switched to a 70-300 VR which had a better optical formula and the added benefit of Vibration Reduction. Eventually I ended up with a used (but excellent) earlier model of a 70-200 2.8 VR which is more of a professional lens. That allowed me to get sharper pictures with larger apertures (smaller f-numbers) which I needed for shots in my church sanctuary. For most lenses the sweet spot is 2 stops up from the lenses maximum aperture setting.

With a little bit of practice you’ll start capturing sharper pictures. If you would like, share your experiences in the comments section.

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Technique-n-Tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/how-to-take-sharp-pictures Thu, 25 Feb 2010 05:20:00 GMT
ISO (Exposure Series Part 5 of 5) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/iso-exposure-series-part-5-of-5 Myfotoguy series on exposure part 5 of 5
ISO Review
The higher the number the more sensitive the image sensor is and the less light it needs to create an image. The lower the number the less sensitive it is and more light will be required. ISO setting follow a standard sequence, a typical range:

100; 200; 400; 800; 1600; 3200
Each one is twice as sensitive as the next. If you change your ISO setting from 200 to 400 you will gain one stop more exposure.

Effects of ISO
Normally, you might increase or decrease your ISO when the other parts of the exposure triangle don’t allow you to achieve proper exposure for the desired effect you are after.

Most photographers shoot with the lowest ISO possible (many DSLR cameras start at ISO 100 or 200). This is because the higher the ISO becomes, the more grain and digital noise get added to your image (see example below).

The image series below illustrates the difference in ISO settings. Click here or on the image to see the difference in settings. Depending on your browser, once the image is loaded you may need to click the image to see it full size. The ISO 3200 version on the right is much grainier (especially on the right side of the image).

When I increase my ISO it’s usually because I need a faster shutter speed or more depth of field and there’s not enough light to capture the scene without increasing the ISO.

Situations where you might need to increase your ISO to capture the scene.

  • Churches – Often the lighting is poor.
  • Gymnasiums – Lighting is usually better than a church, but higher shutter speeds are typically needed to stop the action, which requires higher ISO.
  • Museums – Often the lighting is poor, flash is prohibited, and flash can make it challenging to capture images behind glass.
  • Around your home – There are many times you might want to capture an event at home without flash and higher ISO is the only way
  • to capture the image.

Note: These are situations where flash is an undesired option because you don’t want to disturb the mood, or the subject is too far away for the flash to be effective, or for creative decisions.

What about the grain/noise?
 Through experience you will learn to make decisions regarding ISO settings. Some questions to ask yourself:
  • Will noise ruin the image?
  • Is some noise better than no image at all?
  • Is the noise acceptable?

Increasingly as technology advances cameras are getting better and better at handling noise, even at higher ISO settings. Proper exposure also plays an important role in keeping unwanted image noise at bay. An underexposed image will usually have more grain and digital noise than a properly exposed image. Other factors such as extreme heat can effect the noise. In post-processing, recovering shadow areas by extreme changes to bring out detail will sometimes bring out noise too.

There is software available that will help reduce the noise. I use Noise Ninja for most of my work, or the built in Noise reduction in ACDSee Pro. I didn't post it here, but as a test I ran Noise Ninja on the ISO 3200 image above, the results was an image that looked more like the ISO 800 version. Noise reduction software works! Some other programs that reduce noise:
Nik Dfine
Neat Image

So, what do you do to reduce noise?
If your camera has it, do you use Auto ISO?
How do you decide your ISO setting?


Articles in this series:
Part 1 - The Exposure Triangle
Part 2 - Stops, Values, and Sensitivity
Part 3 - Aperture
Part 4 - Shutter Speed
Part 5 - ISO

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Exposure Fundamentals http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/iso-exposure-series-part-5-of-5 Tue, 23 Feb 2010 10:00:00 GMT
Shutter Speed (Exposure Series Part 4 of 5) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/shutter-speed-exposure-series-part-4-of Myfotoguy series on exposure part 4 of 5
Resources Wikipedia

Image by William Warby licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic licenseLondon Eye London Eye in London, lit up at night. 60 second exposure. Image by William Warby licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

Review of Shutter Speeds
The amount of time the shutter is open controlling how long the image sensor is exposed to light. The shutter prevents light from reaching the film until the moment of exposure, when it opens

Shutter speeds follow a standard sequence with each number being half that of the next, allowing half as much light to pass through. A typical shutter speed range:

1sec; 1/2sec; 1/4sec; 1/8th; 1/15th; 1/30th; 1/60th; 1/125th; 1/250th; 1/500th; 1/1000th; 1/2000th

Shutter speeds are expressed in seconds or fractions of a second. If you change your shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/60th you will gain one stop more exposure.

Effect of Shutter Speed

Besides the requirement of shutter speed for proper exposure, shutter speed can be used creatively.

In photography, shutter speed is a common term used to discuss exposure time, the effective length of time a shutter is open; the total exposure is proportional to this exposure time, or duration of light reaching the film or image sensor.

When a camera creates an image, that image does not represent a single instant of time. Because of technological constraints or artistic requirements, the image represents the scene over a period of time. As objects in a scene move, an image of that scene must represent an integration of all positions of those objects, as well as the camera's viewpoint, over the period of exposure determined by the shutter speed. In such an image, any object moving with respect to the camera will look blurred or smeared along the direction of relative motion. This smearing may occur on an object that is moving or on a static background if the camera is moving. In a film or television image, this looks natural because the human eye behaves in much the same way.

Because the effect is caused by the relative motion between the camera, and the objects and scene, motion blur may be avoided by panning the camera to track those moving objects. In this case, even with long exposure times, the objects will appear sharper, and the background more blurred.

Excessively fast shutter speeds can cause a moving subject to appear unnaturally frozen. For instance, a running person may be caught with both feet in the air with all indication of movement lost in the frozen moment.

When a slower shutter speed is selected, a longer time passes from the moment the shutter opens till the moment it closes. More time is available for movement in the subject to be recorded by the camera.

A slightly slower shutter speed will allow the photographer to introduce an element of blur, either in the subject, where, in our example, the feet, which are the fastest moving element in the frame, might be blurred while the rest remains sharp; or if the camera is panned to follow a moving subject, the background is blurred while the subject remains sharp.
The following list provides an overview of common photographic uses for standard shutter speeds.
  • 1/8000 s: The fastest speed available in production SLR cameras as of 2009. Used to take sharp photographs of very fast subjects, such as birds or planes.
  • 1/4000 s: The fastest speed available in consumer SLR cameras as of 2009. Used to take sharp photographs of fast subjects, such as or vehicles.
  • 1/2000 s and 1/1000 s: Used to take sharp photographs of moderately fast subjects under normal lighting conditions.
  • 1/500 s and 1/250 s: Used to take sharp photographs of people in motion in everyday situations. For sports, 1/500 is a good starting point.
  • 1/60 s: Used for panning shots, for images taken under dim lighting conditions. This is also the speed that many cameras default to when using flash.
  • 1/30 s: Used for panning subjects moving slower than 30 miles per hour and for available light photography. Images taken at this and slower speeds normally require a tripod or other camera support to be sharp. Image stabilization which many cameras and lenses now have is useful here when a tripos or other support is not available.
  • 1/15 s and 1/8 s: This and slower speeds are useful for photographs other than panning shots where motion blur is employed for deliberate effect, or for taking sharp photographs of immobile subjects under bad lighting conditions with a tripod-supported camera.
  • 1/4 s, 1/2 s and 1 s: Also mainly used for motion blur effects and/or low-light photography, but only practical with a tripod-supported camera.
  • 1 minute to several hours: Used for certain special effects.
Stone Arch Bridge at night in Minneapolis On top of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. A shutter speed of 5 seconds was used to capture this night time scene of a patrol car passing.

Shutter Priority
Shutter Priority is a semi-automatic mode. It allows a photographer to choose the shutter speed, and the camera will decide which aperture to use (sometimes ISO for cameras with an Auto ISO function).

Understanding Shutter Speed

Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second
In an earlier post I recommended "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson which has helped thousands of photography students across the globe gain a better understanding of exposure.

Bryan has also wrtten a book titled "Understanding Shutter Speed" if you wish to explore creative uses of shutter speed.
How are you using shutter speed creatively, or in your style of shooting?

Articles in this series:
Part 1 - The Exposure Triangle
Part 2 - Stops, Values, and Sensitivity
Part 3 - Aperture
Part 4 - Shutter Speed
Part 5 - ISO
myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Exposure Fundamentals http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/shutter-speed-exposure-series-part-4-of Tue, 23 Feb 2010 08:00:00 GMT
Aperture (Exposure Series Part 3 of 5) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/aperture-exposure-series-part-3-of-5  Myfotoguy series on exposure part 3 of 5
Parts 1 and 2 discussed aperture and how the opening controls how much light is passing through. This article will cover the effects the aperture setting has on your image.
Review of Aperture and f-numbers
The size of the opening light travels through. A larger aperture means a larger opening; a small aperture means a small opening. The aperture is set using and f-number, sometimes called an “f-stop”. The numbering is counter intuitive because the larger the number, the smaller the opening. For example, f/22 has a much smaller opening than f/8.

The range of f-numbers follows a standard sequence with each number being half as bright (allowing half as much light to pass) as the previous one. A typical aperture range:

f 1.4; f 2; f 2.8; f 4; f5.6; f 8; f 11; f 16; f 22; f 32

If you change aperture from f-8 to f-5.6 you will gain one stop more exposure.


Effect of Aperture Size
Tree on a hill at f/16 Using a small aperture of f/16 allowed me to have everything in focus. From the frost covered grass in the foreground to the tree at top of the hill.
Aperture not only controls the light as an element of the exposure triangle, it also affects depth of field. Larger f-numbers produce a longer depth of field, allowing objects at a wide range of distances to all be in focus at the same time. Smaller f-numbers producer a shorter depth of field and less objects are in focus at the same time.

Depth of Field (DOF): How much of the scene is acceptably sharp in the image. It is how much of the scene is in focus. Large DOF means more is in focus, and small DOF means less is in focus. Sometimes you will hear photographers say “increase your depth of field”. What they are saying is that more of the scene should be in focus. You may also hear something opposite, such as “limit your depth of field to isolate the subject”.

DOF is most often said to be controlled by the Aperture.
  • Small f-numbers mean small (shallow) depth of field. Less of the image is in focus.
  • Large f-numbers mean large (deep) depth of field. Most of the image is in focus.

However, there are other factors that determine it besides aperture, such as:
  • The focal length of the lens (mm setting)
  • The distance between the subject and lens
  • The distance between the sibject and the background. 
For more information, see Online DOF calculator.

Which aperture setting should I choose?

Creative decisions will drive you to make an aperture choice.

If you’re taking a portrait in the park, or a flower in a field you may want the background to be blurred out to isolate your subject. In this case you would use a larger aperture (smaller f-number). Don’t simply dial in the smallest you can, you will want to experiment so that the intended parts of the image are sharp, while the background is soft. Distance to the subject and the focal length (mm setting) of your lens will also play a roll.

Purple flower at f/4 Purple flower at f/4.

If you’re taking a picture of a broad sweeping landscape, you may want as much of the image to be in focus as possible. In this situation you would use a smaller aperture (larger f-number)

Remember, aperture is one of the points in our exposure triangle. When you change the aperture, something else will need to change as well.
Aperture Priority
Aperture Priority is a semi-automatic mode. It allows a photographer to choose the aperture, and the camera will decide which shutter speed to use (sometimes ISO for cameras with an Auto ISO function).
Aperture Gallery

I've uploaded several examples to my gallery with notes explaining why I chose the aperture that I did.  Some of the images I simply posted the aperture setting.
You can visit the gallery HERE.
Please leave comments you may have. Also, if you would have chosen a different aperture I would be interested in hearing what you would have done, and reasons for it.

Conduct some experiments with your aperture and try some new things today. Then come back here and share your experiences in the comments below.
Articles in this series:
Part 1 - The Exposure Triangle
Part 2 - Stops, Values, and Sensitivity
Part 3 - Aperture
Part 4 - Shutter Speed
Part 5 - ISO

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Exposure Fundamentals http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/aperture-exposure-series-part-3-of-5 Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:00:00 GMT
Stops, Values, and Sensitivity (Exposure Series Part 2 of 5) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/stops-values-and-sensitivity-exposure Myfotoguy series on exposure part 2 of 5

What’s a stop? What does “stop down” mean? What do all these numbers mean? If you’re confused, no worries, you’re definitely not alone. In this post you’ll learn what it all means.

A quick review from Part 1
Aperture controls the size of the opening that light travels through.
Shutter speed controls how long the image sensor is exposed to the light.
ISO is how sensitive the image sensor is to light.

What’s a stop?
The difference in value between one setting to the next (aperture, shutter speed, or ISO) is known as a 'stop'. Changing a setting by one full stop allows you to increase or decrease exposure by one stop.

Aperture and f-numbers
The size of the opening light travels through. A larger aperture means a larger opening; a small aperture means a small opening. The aperture is set using and f-number, sometimes called an “f-stop”. The numbering is counter intuitive because the larger the number, the smaller the opening. For example, f/22 has a much smaller opening than f/8.

The range of f-numbers follows a standard sequence with each number being half as bright (allowing half as much light to pass) as the previous one. A typical aperture range:

f 1.4; f 2; f 2.8; f 4; f5.6; f 8; f 11; f 16; f 22; f 32

If you change aperture from f-8 to f-5.6 you will gain one stop more exposure.

Shutter Speeds

The amount of time the shutter is open controlling how long the image sensor is exposed to light. The shutter prevents light from reaching the film until the moment of exposure, when it opens

Shutter speeds follow a standard sequence with each number being half that of the next, allowing half as much light to pass through. A typical shutter speed range:

1sec; 1/2sec; 1/4sec; 1/8th; 1/15th; 1/30th; 1/60th; 1/125th; 1/250th; 1/500th; 1/1000th; 1/2000th

Shutter speeds are expressed in seconds or fractions of a second. If you change your shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/60th you will gain one stop more exposure.


The higher the number the more sensitive the image sensor is and the less light it needs to create an image. The lower the number the less sensitive it is and more light will be required. ISO setting follow a standard sequence, a typical range:

100; 200; 400; 800; 1600; 3200

Each one is twice as sensitive as the next. If you change your ISO setting from 200 to 400 you will gain one stop more exposure.


Full, 1/2 and 1/3 Stops
Many digital cameras today allow you much more control over exposure than the original film days. Your camera may not move directly from f/5.6 to f/8. It may look like this: f/5,6 – f/6.3 – f/7.1 – f/8. Check your camera manual, often you can choose to allow the camera to change settings by steps instead of full stops. Full, 1/2 or 1/3 steps are options that can often be set in your camera menu.

What does stop down mean?
You might here another photographer say “you need to stop down”. They could be referring to a couple things:
- The image might be too bright, so they are suggesting you decrease the exposure.
- They may also mean they want to see more of the image in focus, and that you should make the aperture smaller (stop it down). This will be discussed in greater detail in the next article in this series on aperture.

What tips do you have for keeping it all straight?

Articles in this series:
Part 1 - The Exposure Triangle
Part 2 - Stops, Values, and Sensitivity
Part 3 - Aperture
Part 4 - Shutter Speed
Part 5 - ISO


myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Exposure Fundamentals http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/stops-values-and-sensitivity-exposure Mon, 22 Feb 2010 08:00:00 GMT
The Exposure Triangle (Myfotoguy Series on Exposure Part 1 of 5) http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/exposure-traingle-exposure-series-part  Myfotoguy series on exposure part 1 of 5

In photography, exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on the film or image sensor during the process of taking a photograph. (Wikipedia)

Controlling exposure is one of the basic elements of photography. The word "Photography" itself comes from two latin words:

  • foto- which means "light",
  • and grafis - which means "control"
So, you could say that photography is about "the control of light". That's what photographers learn to do, control the light that enters a camera so the image is produced properly (or as desired if going after a certain look or effect).

The “Exposure Triangle” is a common tool to help explain what factors contribute to exposure.
This article is just a primer. In parts 2-5 we’ll go into greater detail on each element of the triangle.
It’s represented as a triangle, because if you change one of the elements, the others are impacted. The three elements are:
ISO – This is the sensitivity of the medium recording light (in a digital camera this is how sensitive you have set the image sensor to be). A lower number means the sensor is less sensitive to light, a larger number means it’s more sensitive.
Shutter Speed – This controls the length of time the shutter is open. (The length of time you allow light to be recorded by the image sensor).
Aperture – This is the volume of light, or how much light you are letting through to the image sensor. How big the hole is that the light can pass through on the way to the image sensor.


Working Together
Since these three things work together to contribute to the exposure, you can’t change one without changing the other. For example:
Let’s say your exposure is all set, and you decide you want to use a faster shutter speed to stop the action, so you increase the shutter speed.
This means the image is recorded for less amount of time to stop the action…
That means light comes to the sensor for less time, so you need to either:

  1. Allow more light to get to the sensor in this shorter amount of time. By that I mean more volume of light, so make your Aperture a bigger hole to get the light through faster. Or….
  2. Make your image sensor more sensitive so that it gathers the light info more quickly. To increase the sensitivity you would make the ISO a larger number.
Okay, are you confused? A couple metaphors may help. At some point metaphors usually tend to break down, but I think these will help.


Filling a Glass of Water

Think of filling a glass of water at your kitchen sink.
Water Valve (Aperture) - You turn the water on to the desired flow. If you open the water valve so that more water is getting through, you have increased how much water is flowing. If you close the valve down a bit, then less water is coming through (a smaller hole).
Time (Shutter Speed) – How long you leave the water on determines how much water goes into the glass.

Glass (ISO) – For this part of the analogy a small glass is more sensitive (because it takes less time to fill) and a large glass less sensitive (it takes longer to fill).

If you open the valve (aperture) wider, it takes less time (shutter speed) to gather the desired amount of water you want.

If you close the valve (aperture) so it’s smaller, the flow slows and it takes more time (shutter speed) to gather the amount of water you want.

If you are after a full glass of water, the size of the glass (ISO) will determine the requirements to “fill” the glass. You can open the valve wider if you want to fill it quicker. Or you can leave the glass under the tap longer and wait for the water to fill it at the rate the valve is allowing it to flow. If you switch to a larger glass (lower ISO number, less sensitive) it will take more time to fill unless you open the valve more. If the valve were opened more (aperture) then you get water coming faster (shutter speed) and you could fill it the same amount of time it took to fill the smaller glass.

Window Blinds on your Bedroom Window

Another metaphor is window blinds.
Blinds (Aperture) – How far the blinds are open determines how much light fills the room.
Time (Shutter Speed) – How long the blinds are open determines how quickly the room fills with light.
Eyes (ISO) – Your eyes represent ISO. If you just woke up, your eyes are more sensitive to light (high ISO number). If you walked into this room after being in another bright room, your eyes would not be as sensitive (lower ISO number).

Understanding Exposure

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition)
Bryan Peterson has written an excellent book titled "Understanding Exposure" which has helped thousands of photography students across the globe gain a better understanding of exposure. In it he explains the Exposure Triangle in greater detail.
This is the first photography book I purchased at the recommendation of many others on photography forums. I highly recommend this book.

Now What?
Practice! Change your settings and see what happens. Keep in mind:
  • Changing one of the three elements impacts the exposure.
  • Changing one of the elements also requires changing one or both of the other elements.


Semi-Auto Modes

Most cameras allow you to automate the process a bit. If you set the camera to modes such as Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority, you decide on one or two of the elements and the camera will decide the other.

Note: This is exposure in its simplest form, you could add other variables to the equation, such as flash, but that will be for a future lesson.

What do you think?
What metaphors have you heard for the exposure triangle?


Articles in this series:
Part 1 - The Exposure Triangle
Part 2 - Stops, Values, and Sensitivity
Part 3 - Aperture
Part 4 - Shutter Speed
Part 5 - ISO

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) Exposure Fundamentals http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/exposure-traingle-exposure-series-part Sun, 21 Feb 2010 19:56:00 GMT
7 Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Your Shots Immediately http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/7-quick-and-easy-ways-to-improve-your Learning to use your digital camera can be fun. It gets more fun (and rewarding) when you see improvements in your results. These seven things have become second nature to me when I shoot. Whenever I’m getting ready to take a picture, these are the things that most often come to mind. There certainly are plenty more things to consider, but these 7 quick and easy ways will improve your shots immediately.

Please leave comments at the end and let me know how these tips have helped you (or if you have questions). Note: There is a gallery of images with notes relating to this post.

In no certain order:
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Lead Room
  • Simplicity (Background Choices)
  • Move In
  • Action Shots
  • Blurry shots
  • Fill-Flash

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb used in painting, design, photography and other visual arts. It's use dates back as early as 1797.

The rule states that images should be divided into nine equal parts. The important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Placing a subject along these points creates more energy and interest in the composition than putting the subject in the center would.

The photograph to the right demonstrates the application of the rule of thirds. The horizon sits at the horizontal line dividing the lower third of the photo from the upper two-thirds. The tree sits at the intersection of two lines, sometimes called a power point. Points of interest in the photo don't have to actually touch one of these lines to take advantage of the rule of thirds. For example, the brightest part of the sky near the horizon where the sun recently set does not fall directly on one of the lines, but does fall near the intersection of two of the lines, close enough to take advantage of the rule.


The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. The main reason for observing the rule of thirds is to discourage placement of the subject at the center, or prevent a horizon from appearing to divide the picture in half.

When photographing or filming people, it is common to line the body up with a vertical line, and having the person's eyes in line with a horizontal one. If filming a moving subject, the same pattern is often followed, with the majority of the extra room being in front of the person (the way they are moving).


This rule is a only a guide, and there will be times to deviate from it. Through experience you will learn when to use it, and when it is best not to.

Lead Room
In photography, lead room is the space in front, and in the direction, of moving or stationary subjects.
Well-composed shots leave space in the direction the subject is moving (or looking). When the human eye scans a photograph for the first time it will expect to see a bit of space in front of the subject. Photos often look odd if your subject is racing out of the frame, or looking out of the frame.
For example, moving objects such as cars require lead room. If extra space is allowed in front of a moving car, the viewer can see that it has someplace to go; without this visual padding, the car's forward progress will seem impeded.
As with all rules, there will be exceptions. For example, if you are taking picture of tracks being left in fresh snow, you may not want any lead room in front of the subject.

Simplicity (Background Choices)
The technique of simplicity is used to achieve the effect of singling out an item or items from their surrounding.
Simplicity is one of the underlying photographic techniques; a cluttered picture distracts the eye and takes away from the subject. A simple picture can be achieved by getting closer to the subject, which is also one of the main rules of photography.
Simplicity is one of the main components of most good photographs. The simpler the picture, the easier it is for the viewer to comprehend the subject and appreciate it. Cluttered images and backgrounds are less visually pleasing and more likely to cause the subject and lesser objects to confuse each other visually.
Achieving Simplicity
There are several ways to achieve simplicity in a photograph. The most obvious (and easiest) form is to place the subject against a neutral background like a backdrop or the sky. Backgrounds can be entirely neutral, like a solid backdrop or a cloudless sky; or they can compliment the image, like a starfish on the sand.


Move In


Even images that possesses many qualities of a great photo (sharp focus, accurate colors, correct lighting) can be compromised by lacking an obvious focal point or main subject.

When you shoot your subject against a busy or competing background or foreground and try to fit everything in, or take a photo from far away, making your subject tiny, then the image can lack a central point of interest, or other items in the picture can detract from your main subject.
To prevent this, simply move closer to your subject, or use the zoom feature on your camera. Then ask yourself these questions before you snap the shutter:
  • “What or who is the main subject of this photo?”
  • “Are there elements in the shot frame that don't add to the image?”
  • “Does my subject fill the frame?”



Action shots are fun and engaging, but they can be a challenge to take without the main subject being blurry. However, with proper camera settings and technique you can take great action shots.
Some things you can do: 
  • If you camera has a sport or action setting, use that. Not just for sports! It works great for toddlers on the move.

  • Avoid shutter lag by focusing on your subject and pressing the shutter button half way down, wait and anticipate the movement, then when the subject makes their move press the button the rest of the way. NOTE: You won't want to follow the subject for very long, if their distance from the camera changes the focus will be off (half press on most cameras locks the focus). Also note, this is a tip for point and shoot cameras. DSLR's reuire different procedures.

  • Turn the flash on. In automatic modes the camera may not turn the flash on. By forcing it on, the flash will help to freeze the subject.

Blurry images can ruin a great photo. Although, some might argue it's better to have a blurry image than none at all. There are many simple things you can do to combat blurry photos:
  • Slow down! Snapping quickly with your camera pointing it at everything around you will guarantee some blurry shots. Stop, hold the camera steady, and gently press the shutter button down. Don't jab, push, strike or hit it, gently press it down.
  • Hold the camera closer to your body with your elbows at your side. There are times when you can get away with holding your camera at arms length in front of you. But if your shots are blurry, try this instead.
  • Observe and anticipate what is going to happen around you. This will give you time to get the camera up and ready so you are gently pressing the shutter button and not shooting in a panic (we've all shot in a panic and gotten blurry shots before).
Update: To learn more about this, read "How to take Sharp Pictures"


Fill Flash

Fill flash is a photographic technique used to brighten deep shadow areas, typically outdoors on sunny days, though the technique is useful any time the background is significantly brighter than the subject of the photograph.
To use fill flash, the aperture and shutter speed are adjusted to correctly expose the background, and the flash is fired to lighten the foreground.
Most point and shoot cameras include a fill flash mode that forces the flash to fire, even in bright light.
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Portions of this article were created from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Photographic_techniques and their use is approved under the creative commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/. Therefore, all text of this article is under the creative commons, for use of it, please refer to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/. Rule of thirds tree image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. All other images are under copyright of their owner, and may not be used without written permission of the author.

myfotoguy@hotmail.com (Timothy Bury Photography) fundamentals technique-n-tips http://myfotoguy.zenfolio.com/blog/2010/2/7-quick-and-easy-ways-to-improve-your Sat, 13 Feb 2010 19:41:00 GMT