Monthly Archives: August 2011

ISO and the Right Light!

How to use ISO

We talked about ISO and the role it plays in your exposure as well as the message you want to convey with your image.

ISO grain

ISO can help you, in conjunction with aperture and shutter speed, to get a perfect exposure. Firstly aim to choose an ISO suitable to the situation you will generally be shooting in. 200 – 400 is a good safe and flexible ISO setting for most general photography. You will still have great flexibility with your aperture and shutter speed you will also have an unnoticeable/acceptable amount of grain or a decent quality image.

ISO can help you at the parameters of exposure. Most images will be able to be well exposed without adjusting your ISO. There are times that after using shutter speed and aperture to expose your image properly you can’t quite achieve a correct exposure. Adjusting your ISO may give you that extra point of difference to get that perfect exposure at the aperture or shutter speed you desire.

This is most apparent when shooting in a dark situation. After adjusting your shutter speed as low as you might be able to hand hold then opening your aperture to the smallest Fstop your equipment will allow you, you still cant get a good exposure. Changing your ISO to a higher rating, 3200, 6400 or as high as your gear will let you go may just give you enough extra light at that setting to expose the image well. You will sacrifice quality and find the grain in your image greatly increased but you will also find that you get that shot!

John Coltrane shot with a high ISO producing a grainy image.

The grain obtained by using a high ISO can help tell a story about your subject or give it a certain feel.

However if you are shooting in a well lit situation and you want a particularly clear and flawless photo the lower your ISO the better your chance of achieving this. Also if your situation is particularly bright and your ISO is at 400 and you are struggling to have an open aperture or the slow shutter speed you desire. Changing your ISO to a lower rating will not only improve the quality of your image but allow less light in your exposure possibly letting you have the desired effect you are going for.

Let me stress that for general photography you want to choose ISO as a secondary consideration. Ultimately try to expose your image using shutter speed and aperture with an ISO setting between 200 and 400. ISO affects the amount of grain you see in an image. The lower your ISO the less grain/better quality your image, the higher the ISO the more grain/poorer quality your image.

What light is right?

One of the most important things you can learn is how to read light. To take a good photo you need good quality light. The quality of your light refers to the strength and direction of your light. To achieve a flattering photograph you need to firstly assess how strong your light is. If it is very strong and contrasty think about how you can make it more flattering. If it is soft think about how you can make the most of your light to expose your image properly. Decide where your light is coming from. Even in the shade the light will be coming most strongly from a particular direction.

Quality of light is so important professionals will go to extraordinary lengths to get the quality of light right.

Part of taking a good photo is choosing the right light. There are all kinds of flattering natural light. Some of those include:

Window Light

Being near a bright open window is a great place to take a photo indoors, the light comes from the side and not from above. You can control how strong the light is by moving your subject closer to or further away from the window.

Soft Window Light

Shade/ Open Shade

Shade is your best friend. I’ve ‘mentioned’ this a ‘few’ times over the past couple of weeks but we really talked about it this week. If you have a choice shoot in the shade. Find a large tree, a verandah, a big building with shade. Even small amounts of shade can be your friend. Get down low next to a car casting  shadow, think creatively how you can use the shade available to you. Once you’re in the shade turn your subjects toward the main light source, it will be more flattering and even you wont struggle to expose with a ‘blown out background’.

Even in shade turn your subject towards the light source.

Open Shade is shade cast from an object and not generally overhead. You can even create artificial open shade. Open shade usually means you are shooting a subject in the shade but the background usually isn’t, metering and exposure will be most successful when your light is not particularly strong. You’ll also find the quality of the shade to be softer as there is less glare in the brighter areas surrounding you.

Open Shade


Back-light is a creative way to play with soft directional light. Expose for the shadow and let some light rays catch the glass on your lens. Alternatively bracket your metering until you get that perfect amount of detail in the shade of your image yet still create a pleasing silhouette.

Diffusing and Reflecting Light

What happens when you have no choice but to shoot in the sun or a difficult situation? If you have a handy and willing helper find a way to reflect light into those shadows. Or get them to hold up an object to block the sun, effectively creating artificial open shade. Or find a natural reflector, a big white wall or body of water can help fill in those shadows. Remember to do this think about the direction of your light. Where is it coming from? If it reflects off something, figure out where its bouncing to.

Diffusing the Light

alternatively, you could ‘go with it’ shoot a high contrast image but think about your subject. If you are shooting a portrait consider turning the subject away from the lens or find a way to make the high contrast and interesting part of your image.

Its all about the Timing

Choose the right time of day to take your photos. When it’s bright and sunny go inside but choose a well lit room. One where the light isn’t streaming in the window but is just illuminating the room by being open. Head outside early and late in the day. Early in the morning as the sun is poking its head up (and you probably wish you weren’t) if you make the effort to roll out of bed early enough you will be justly rewarded. Fortunately for those of us who just aren’t early risers, the late afternoon with its long shadows and warm soft sun shine is just as complimentary. You’ll find an abundance of open shadow and shade and you can take advantage of the soft but directional light to try out your back-lighting and lens flare tricks.

Don’t be afraid to move yourself or your subject to get the best light, turn them around until the light looks nice. Trust your eye and your instinct.

This week’s homework is to shoot a flattering photograph inside using window light, a flattering photograph in the shade or open shade and one image where you play with light, be creative and have fun! I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.


Creating the perfect exposure and using shutter speed creatively

The aim this week is to work on maintaining perfect exposure. To tell if your image will be properly exposed you will need to use your exposure meter and adjust your aperture and shutter speed together to get that ‘little line’ to sit perfectly in the middle

Inside your viewfinder you should see something like this:

Exposure Meter in view finder

inside your viewfinder - exposure meter

Last week you focused on what aperture your camera is set to:

finding aperture inside your viewfinder

seeing the aperture setting inside your viewfinder

These other circled numbers indicate what shutter speed you have your camera set to:

finding shutter speed setting inside your viewfinder

seeing shutter speed setting inside your viewfinder

To find the perfect exposure you need to adjust your shutter speed and aperture together:

finding the perfect exposure

creating the perfect exposure

As you adjust make sure you pay attention to how low your shutter speed is going and avoid going below 1/60th of a second to hand hold an image you want to be sharp. Make sure you are thinking about what your depth of field will be as you adjust your aperture. Be wise about your image. Take your time to get the correct exposure for your situation before you start shooting! Use your LCD screen to see how well you are exposing your image. Adjust your settings if you are not happy.

How can shutter speed effect your image?

Shutter speed is the speed at which your shutter opens and closes and captures light. A fast shutter speed opens and closes your shutter very quickly, capturing the light and your image immediately. A slow shutter speed opens and closes more slowly and allows more time for the light to enter your camera.

Fast Shutterspeed / Slow Shutterspeed

A fast shutter speed will capture movement very sharply as it only gives the shutter a short period of time to read the image. The faster your image is moving the faster you need to set your shutter speed to capture it sharply. Using a fast shutter speed is also a great way to balance out your exposure on a bright sunny day when you want a shallow depth of field. (ie. you have your aperture wide open).

fast shutterspeed captures this water splash

A slow shutter speed, together with a tripod or a propping your camera somewhere steady, will capture movement with a blurring effect. This is because the image will often move more quickly than the shutter opening and closing.

Christan Fletcher uses slow shutter to get these ethereal effects

This can be helpful to give a sense of speed or a sense of movement. This can be helpful in low light situations as it allows the maximum amount of light to get into your camera. Giving you the best opportunity for a perfect exposure. It also helps isolate a moving image when used in conjunction with panning.

You should use Aperture and Shutter speed together to give you a correct exposure as well as the appropriate effect you want for your image.

This week in your photos you bring to class I’d like to firstly see you using shutter speed and aperture together to get a perfect exposure. It would also be great to see you use shutter speed to give you creative control. One purposeful fast shutter speed photo and one slow. If you choose to use a shutter speed below 60 blurring the subject to create a sense of movement make sure you use a stablizer or tripod of some sort. Be wise about what you shoot, does the shutterspeed you’ve chosen enhance the photo or detract from it. If you want take a photo that ‘shows’ movement but dont have a tripod, how about experimenting with panning, you can use a low but not overly slow shutterspeed 30/60 as long as your subject is moving quickly enough.

Getting to know your camera and aperture

To kick start the first week of shutterbugs we explored your camera and some of the things it might be helpful to know.

We looked quickly at what you will find inside your view finder. We located the aperture setting as this is what you’ll be focusing on this week.

Where to find the Aperture Setting

This week you have your camera set to Aperture Priority or AV and you may not see the exposure meter appear or change as this is a semi automatic setting and your camera is doing all the work in picking the perfect exposure for you. Your aim this week is to focus your attention on aperture and understanding how it can effect your image.

We also quickly located the shutterspeed setting

Shutterspeed Setting

just remember to keep an eye on the shutterspeed this week and make sure it doesn’t drop below 60 when you choose your aperture. You will find your images could start getting blurry. If this happens find a better lit situation to take your photo.

We also talked about being in control of the focusing point in your camera. We turned off the dynamic focusing and turned on spot focusing. Where you can toggle between each focus point to make sure your camera picks focus from the most important part of your image. Feel free to turn dynamic focusing back on when shooting quick moving subjects if you don’t feel you are quite fast enough to focus this way on your own yet. Although the more you use your camera with dynamic focus off the quicker you will get at it. Don’t forget to half press your shutter button (the button you use to take photos) for your camera to grab focus.

Focus Points points inside your view finder


Then we talked in depth about aperture and how this can enhance and affect your images. Aperture refers to a setting on your lens and is how much light is allowed to enter your camera. In essence this is controlled by a hole that changes size. It is measured in fractions, this is indicated by the F you see next to the numerical value. If you look at the table below you will see what size hole each number represents.

Aperture Settings

Aperture can do a couple of things, firstly it helps you control your exposure. It also gives you control over depth of field, which means the depth of your photo that is in focus. To achieve a small depth of field (small amount of the image in focus) use a small aperture number, to get a large depth of field (large amount of the image in focus) use a large aperture number. As you experiment you will find if you have a low light situation it is easier to shoot with a shallow depth of field. This is because a shallow depth of field is achieved by letting more light enter your camera.

Depth of Field related Aperture

As a general rule of thumb remember SMALL aperture number, SMALL depth of field, LARGE Aperture number, LARGE depth of field.

A small aperture setting will give you a small depth of field.

Shallow Depth of Field - F1.8

Foreground Shallow Depth of Field

A large aperture setting will give you a larger depth of field.

Large Depth of Field in a Christain Fletcher Landscape

Large Depth of Field is important when Shooting Large Groups

Using aperture to control Depth of Field is a way to have creative control over your image. There isn’t really any right or wrong its open to your creative interpretation. Here you can see one scene (a rockin’ Amy Atlas Party) shot with various apertures/depths of field, each image is successful in it’s own right.

One Scene shot with Varying DOF

This week to help you grasp the concept of Aperture and Depth of Field and how they relate I want you to focus on photographing

1. an image with shallow depth of field

2. an image with a large depth of field

3. and finally take an photograph you like consciously using depth of field to enhance your image or the message you want to send with your photograph.

Make sure you try to maintain a shutterspeed of above 60. To do this you will need to shoot your subject in a well lit area, near a window or outside in the shade.

Don’t forget to bring them next week (good and bad) to discuss, either bring your laptop (or similar) or put your files on a thumb drive and we can look at them on my laptop.

Post Processing in Photoshop

To quote Lee from Tuesday night…. ‘you’re all cheaters’ – so everyone, here’s how you cheat!

Ok, jokes aside, ideally you don’t want to have to employ these techniques on every photo you ever take it’s a lot more time efficient to get it it as right as possible in camera. However, if you’ve somehow messed up or the situation changed quicker than you could change your exposure or you just want your image to pack an extra bit of punch, there are a few things you can try to enhance or recover your image.

Firstly set up a ‘filing’ system on your computer that suits you and is easy to save your photos in. Then use Bridge to review your images, don’t waste your time editing those that aren’t any good. Part of being a good photographer is being a good editor and that includes culling those not so great photos. If you can successfully cull the bad photos it lets the good ones really shine.

Once you’ve chosen the photos you want to process open the RAW file in Photoshop, doing this brings up this window:

Open your RAW/NEF image in Photoshop

Check out my handy notes on what each slider does:

What each slider does

don’t forget you can ‘reuse’ a previous set of adjustments or revert to your original by using this drop down menu.

Drop Down Menu

And you can make a great image even better!

post processing can enhance an image

Now you have your ‘processed’ image you may want to share it use the file menu under > Image to bring up this window:

Image Resize

Remember that you want a resolution of

75  for screen images

150 for screen images with flexibility or zoom options

240-300 for printing

Then use the width and height to change the physical size of your image.

Keep the 3 boxes at the bottom ticked so that you don’t warp your image.

I showed you how to use the Clone/Stamp Tool

Clone Tool


Before and After Clone Retouch Tool

Using the Clone Tool to Retouch an Image


Finally we talked about using actions and batch processing to speed up your processing.

Your Actions menu is found under your file menu > Window > Actions,

Open and image and record your actions, press stop and then apply to any other images you desire.

Alternatively you can find your batch processing window under file menu> File>Automate>Batch

Have fun processing and saving your images! I’m looking forward to our on location shoot next weekend!