Digital Photography Tips to Help You Capture Life's Memories

All things tips, software reviews, camera reviews, etc.

Ad Astra Engraving...Your Photos Custom Laser Engraved

What is Tilt-Shift Photography?

There are two basic types of Tilt-shift photography. The first is a product of the digital photography age and can be done automatically by some digital cameras or created after the fact using digital editing software.

The second has been around for some time and involves using a special type of lens known as a “tilt-shift lens”.

Many people associate tilt-shift photography with the more commonly seen examples that create a “miniature" or "toy town” effect on a photo. However tilt-shift photography when done using a specialized tilt-shift lens has many more uses than simply creating this “miniature” effect.

Tilt Shift Photography

Read More

Understanding Depth of Field

Narrow Depth of FieldNarrow Depth of Field--50mm at f2.8Depth of Field is term used to describe how much of a photo is in focus. When a picture is taken the camera will focus on a specific point and the amount of area that is acceptable in focus both in front of and behind this main focal point is what is referred to as the depth of field.

There are several factors that influence the depth of field in any photograph. Photographs where a larger area of the photo are in focus are said to have a deep or large depth of field. This is often seen in landscape photos where both the foreground objects and the background are relatively in focus and sharp.

A shallow or small depth of field means that the area in focus is relatively small and that the distance of an object being either in focus or out of focus can be a matter of a few feet or even a few inches depending on the camera and lens. A shallow depth of field is often seen in portraits and macro photography. It helps isolate the subject from the background and results in a nice blurred background (bokeh) that enhances those types of photos.

Factors that determine depth of field

There are four basic factors that determine the depth of field of a photo.

  1. The aperture or f-stop of the lens
  2. The distance the subject is from the camera
  3. The focal length of the lens
  4. The size of the image sensor


Read More

The Beginners Photography Guide to Digital Camera Modes (continued)

Having covered the different Automatic Modes and Automatic Scene Modes we continue our explanation of digital camera modes by looking at the Semi Automatic and Manual Modes found on today's digital cameras.

While the majority of beginning photographers are likely to leave their camera in automatic mode it still helps to understand the many different digital camera modes available to you and the limitations and advantages of them.

Aperture Priority Mode

aperture modeAperture Priority Mode is one of the most popular modes for advanced and professional photographers because of the extra control it gives you not only over the exposure but also the depth of field. In this mode you manually set what F-Stop (aperture) using the control dial and the camera will select the correct shutter speed to properly exposure the image. As with other semi-automatic modes the setting changes you make, such as ISO speed, etc. are retained by the camera when you shut it off so it is easy to go right back to your preset settings.

This mode is great to use when you want to make sure you have the largest aperture (smallest depth of field) for blurring the background. It is also useful when you want to make sure you are using the fastest possible shutter speed, because by selecting the lowest F-Stop (largest aperture opening) the camera will automatically choose the fastest shutter speed possible for those lighting conditions.

Shutter Speed Priority Mode

shutter speed modeShutter Speed Priority Mode is another important semi-automatic digital camera modes. In this mode you select the shutter speed you want and the camera will automatically choose the aperture (lens opening) needed to properly expose the picture. This mode can be used when you want to be sure and keep a slow shutter speed in order to blur motion. An example would be when you take a picture of a river or waterfall and you want a slow shutter speed to smooth out the water giving it that soft, flowing look. Or it might be used when you need to keep your shutter speed at a higher speed to be able to stop motion. When you use this mode you control the shutter speed by using the control dial and the camera will select the F-stop.

One of the disadvantages of this mode is that if you set your shutter speed high or low enough you risk having an overexposed or underexposed image because the lens only has a certain range of F-stops available. This can result in over or under exposed images under certain lighting conditions. This reason as well as the fact you have little control over your depth of field using this mode are why I prefer aperture priority mode the majority of the time.

Manual Exposure Mode

manual modeManual Exposure mode is just as the name suggests...totally manual. You set both the shutter speed and F-stop regardless of what the camera's exposure meter says. This mode offers the greatest flexibility of all as far as letting the photographer control the exposure and is useful in tricky lighting situations or when the camera has a hard time determining the correct exposure. Today manual exposure mode is often overlooked and seldom used by many if not most photographers. While one of the other semi-automatic modes will generally allow enough flexibility for even the most difficult lighting conditions, learning to use the manual mode can come in very handy especially when taking long exposure photographs of fireworks or other nighttime scenes.

The Beginners Photography Guide to Digital Camera Modes (continued)

Having covered the different Automatic Modes we continue our explanation of the different digital camera modes by looking at the many types of AutomaticScene Modes found on today's digital cameras. Following this and completing this section of the beginners photography guide will be a quick look at the Semi Automatic Camera Modes.

While the majority of beginning photographers are likely to leave their camera in automatic mode it still helps to understand the many different digital camera modes available to you and the limitations and advantages of them.

Automatic Scene Modes

Another type of automatic digital camera modes are the Scene Selection Modes. These are another type of automatic mode where the camera settings are tweaked for common shooting scenarios or scenes. Here are some of the more common scene modes.

portrait modePortrait Mode: In this mode the camera automatically is going to select a larger aperture (smaller F-stop) to help blur the background because of the narrow depth of field. The camera will try to meter off of the subjects face and smile detection will be activated if the camera has it. Also usually the color settings are adjusted to provide a little "warmer" color. When using this digital camera mode it is usually recommended that you zoom in on your subject or use a telephoto lens of around 90mm to 135mm to help separate the background from the subject. Fill flash is also helpful or even necessary if the subject is back-lit.

landscape modeLandscape Mode: In this mode the camera will select the smallest aperture (largest F-stop) in order to get the maximum depth of field. Generally this mode will also boost the color saturation a little as well as a slight increase in contrast to give a more vibrant picture. Because the camera is going to select a smaller aperture the shutter speed will also tend to be slower so you need to watch for camera shake and use a tripod when needed.

macro modeMacro Mode: Macro mode is used when photographing close subjects such as flowers or insects. This mode will tend to use faster shutter speeds and larger apertures to provide a shallow depth of field resulting in a blurred background. Some fixed lens cameras have lenses that allow them to focus when they are very close to the subject but with a DSLR you need to have a true macro lens to get that advantage. Because the depth of field is so small in macro mode focusing can be difficult and a tripod might be needed or helpful to get really sharp pictures and keep the subject in focus. It is recommended you do not use a built in flash because it can over-exposure the subject or cause unwanted shadows. If flash is needed some type of flash diffuser will help avoid those problems.

sports modeSports Action Mode: Sports action mode is for shooting fast moving subjects in bright places. In this mode the camera will try and select the fastest shutter speed possible for the available light in order to freeze or stop the action. This will usually mean a larger aperture and less depth of field as well. If the camera has a burst or continuous mode that will also be activated allowing you to take multiple pictures while holding down the shutter button.

twilight modeTwilight or Night Mode: This digital camera mode is designed to shoot night scenes without losing the nighttime atmosphere. When activated the camera will use a longer shutter speed while firing the flash to capture both foreground and background details. This technique is known as "slow shutter speed sync" and if very effective in bringing out details in both foreground objects as well as the background. If normal flash settings were used in this type of lighting the subject would be lit by the flash but the background would be too dark to have much if any detail available. Some DSLRs will allow you to use this mode with or without flash so you can capture night scenes at a distance (without flash) or take a nighttime portrait (with flash). As with any low light situation using a tripod is recommended to avoid motion blur or camera shake caused by the slower shutter speed. When used to take night portraits it is also important that the subject holds still after the flash since the shutter can remain open to allow the back ground to be exposed more. Any movement by the subject during that delay will blur the subject.

panoramic modePanoramic Mode: Many newer digital cameras have a built in panoramic mode that automatically stitches images together to form a panoramic photo. In this mode you can sweep the camera in either a horizontal or vertical direction while holding down the shutter button. The result is panoramic image automatically being created.

Other Scene Modes

scene modeSunset Mode: This mode designed to take pictures at sunset allows the red and orange of the sunset to be captured more vividly.

Beach Mode: In beach mode the camera settings are tweaked to help capture the blueness of the water more vividly.

Snow Mode: This mode helps compensate for those really bright snow scenes.

Fireworks Mode: In this mode the cameras exposure is set to help you capture photos of nighttime fireworks.

Backlit Mode: This mode uses exposure compensation so that the subject is still properly exposed when there is a bright or strongly lit background. Without these adjustments foreground objects would be to dark.

Movie Mode: Another common mode on newer digital cameras allowing you to capture video, often even HD video. This allows you to use your camera to capture video and audio.

Continue to Semi Automatic Modes...