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Tutorial: Photographing Fireworks

Mon July 1, 2013

Since fireworks were invented by the Chinese in the 7th century, they have accompanied many festivities. They announce the start and end of the Summer Olympics and you will undoubtedly see them exploding in our night skies during July 1 (Canada) and July 4 (US).

This One-Pager™ tutorial explains how to take great fireworks pictures. You do not need an expensive camera to do so, and I used a point-and-shoot on a tripod to do the pictures in this tutorial.

As usual with our tutorials, we give you the all-important theory, but then quickly switch to the here’s-how-I-did-it down-to-earth practical advice. The practical advice allows you to reproduce the pictures in the tutorial; the theory allows you to tweak the advice so you can take the pictures the way you like.

Read our tutorial: HOW TO… Photograph Fireworks.

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Tutorial: Photographing the Moon

Mon April 29, 2013

Have you ever tried to photograph the moon only to be disappointed with the result? Perhaps the moon was too small in your picture? Or, the picture was not sharp? Or, the moon was overexposed so that you lost the detail of the craters on the surface?

This One-Pager™ tutorial lists the minimum equipment you’ll need, the settings to set on your camera, and the all-important post-processing that will allow you to take great pictures of the moon.

Read our tutorial: HOW TO… Photograph the Moon.

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Tutorial: What Is… Aperture?

Mon February 25, 2013

What’s the big deal about aperture? Should you know anything about it when comparing cameras (or lenses)? Does the terms f/stop, f/value, aperture value confuse you?

Consider that for light to expose the image sensor, it must be let inside the camera. The aperture is that hole that is opened to allow light to enter your camera. It can also work in combination as a shutter so that it opens to let light in and closes to stop light from getting in. The amount of time it stays open is called the shutter speed. For cameras that have a separate shutter, the aperture will stay opened at the value you dial in (or the camera automatically dials in) while the shutter will open and close to limit the time light exposes the image sensor.

The aperture is the size of the lens opening. You adjust its size depending on the light intensity. The less light there is, the wider you may have to open the aperture. A large aperture is denoted by a small number, e.g. F1.8 or f/1.8, while a small aperture is denoted by a large number, e.g. F16 or f/16. A “fast” lens is one with a large maximum aperture.

Learn all about aperture in our tutorial: What Is… Aperture?

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Tutorial: Understanding the Histogram

Mon February 18, 2013

The histogram display in your camera may seem like a confusing graph and you may have wondered what it has to do with getting a well-exposed picture. Though you may never need to use it on our modern cameras that make smart decisions, there are still lighting situations when a histogram sheds light on what you will be recording on your image sensor. Reading the histogram is not difficult when you know how to do it, and Goldilocks gives us a hand in this tutorial to help us get the exposure “just right.”

Read our tutorial: Goldilocks and the Three Histograms.

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Tutorial: Optical vs. Digital Zoom — Which Is Better?

Sun January 6, 2013

Implying Motion While Zooming

Whereas an optical zoom uses the optics (lens) of the digital camera to move you closer to your subject, a digital zoom simply uses a portion of the existing image and enlarges it digitally.

Enlarging the image digitally reduces picture quality, and should therefore usually be avoided. However, a judicious use of digital zoom may sometimes yield images that are of quite acceptable quality, especially in small prints. So, use with caution.

Some manufacturers label their lenses with the “total zoom” by multiplying the optical with the digital. Ignore total zoom claims because you can use any multiplier digital zoom you want in an image editing software.

What is important when comparing digital cameras is the optical zoom. Digital zoom can always be achieved later in an image editing software, such as Photoshop, so should not really be a determining factor when choosing a digital camera.

In the picture above, we used optical zoom to imply motion while zooming. This technique is only possible if your camera has a manual zoom ring. You need to set a slow shutter speed (so that your camera will record the zooming process), focus on the subject in the middle at wide-angle, then as you trip the shutter, zoom in at the same time. It’s best if your camera is on a tripod so that the only blurriness recorded is the result of the zoom and not of camera shake. The central part of the image should remain sharp. This technique is very effectively used in sports to accentuate and dramatize the action.

Read our Optical vs. Digital Zoom tutorial.

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Tutorial: What Is… ISO?

Tue January 1, 2013

ISO 100 (left) vs. ISO 6400 (right)

In photography, an ISO number is an indication of the sensitivity of the image sensor, where a higher number indicates higher sensitivity.

This is usually expressed as a range, e.g. ISO 100 – 1600.

A higher sensitivity allows us to take pictures in low light without using flash. However, this gain usually comes at a price: as we amplify the light signal, we also amplify the noise signal, and high ISO images are usally more “noisy” than low ISO images.

Noise reduction software can smooth out the noise but it comes at the expense of losing fine detail.

Larger image sensors have larger pixels with better light signal to noise (S/N) ratio, and produce “cleaner” high ISO images.

In the collage above, the picture on the left is taken at ISO 100 and the one on the right at ISO 6400. We say that the picture on the left (ISO 100) is cleaner than the picture on the right (ISO 6400), and conversely that the picture on the right (ISO 6400) is noisier than the picture on the left (ISO 100). In fact, we can barely see any noise in the picture taken at ISO 100 while the picture taken at ISO 6400 is not only noisy, but fine detail has been obliterated.

Derived from the Greek isos, meaning “equal“.

International Organization for Standardization chose this short all-purpose name instead of using its acronym “IOS” so that whatever the country and language, the short form of the organization’s name is always “ISO” (pronounced “eye-so”, though I and many others happily mispronounce it as “eye-s-oh”).

Read our What Is… ISO tutorial.

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Tutorial: B&W, Kinda

Thu June 14, 2012

View the tutorial.

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Tutorial: Still Life Photography Depth of Field @ DigitalCameraWorld

Mon March 5, 2012

jmeyer over at DigitalCameraWorld has a nice Depth of Field tutorial, especially pertaining to Still Life Photography, where you want to maximize the depth of field in close up work. It’s well explained, illustrated and practical.

Read the Still Life Photography Depth of Field Tutorial @ DigitalCameraWorld.

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Tutorial: Convert Color Portraits to B&W For A Timeless Classic Look

Wed February 22, 2012

jmeyer over at DigitalCameraWorld has a tutorial titled “5 unbeatable ways to convert black and white portraits.” He uses Adobe Camera RAW but you could use Photoshop or another photo editing software. Why would you want to convert a perfectly good color portrait to B&W? A B&W portrait allows the viewer to focus on the expression on the face and a successful portrait always elicit an “that’s so him/her” from the viewer.

Black and white portraits have an inherent classic quality about them that stands the test of time, and if you want to give your portraits this sort of impact, you’ll want to give them a really punchy black and white conversion.

Read the tutorial at: DigitalCameraWorld.

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