Monday, June 14, 2010

Photography Tips-How an Image is Recorded

This post will go back to the very basic idea of photography. It will essentially answer the question of "what it means to take a photograph."

Since most of my posts deal with setting such as aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds, we're going to talk about Photography through the use of a Pinhole camera, so we can ignore the fancy terminology and technique of a traditional SLR camera.

What is a pinhole camera? Well it's essentially a light tight container of some sort which has a pinhole on the opposite side of your film or photographic paper. Here is an example of a pinhole camera you can make yourself:

So essentially you poke a tiny hole in some sort of container (give the hole a cover, like a piece of tape to keep light from getting in), and you make sure the container is light tight, and you have the camera.

What about film? For a camera like the one to the left, you wouldn't buy normal 35mm film. Instead, you would go out and buy photographic paper (Ilford, Kodak) and you would cut a piece big enough to cover the opposite end of your camera.

CAREFUL! though, because this paper can NOT be opened in the light. So essentially you would go into a dark room, block all the light, and place a sheet of paper in the container on the opposite end from the pinhole, so that when you remove the piece of tape, or cover, the light is being let in towards the back of the camera, where your paper is.

What is photographic paper? Photographic paper, or film, is paper that has been coated with light sensitive chemicals. In traditional black and white photography, these chemicals are silver-halide crystals. They are light sensitive, meaning when light touches these crystals, they begin turning black. An image is created by really bright, white things reflecting more light than dark or black objects, so you get a negative image. So if you have a white cabinet with a black vase on it, the white cabinet will reflect more light into your camera, turning the halide-crystals black, creating a black cabinet, and the black vase will reflect hardly any light, and your image will have a sort of vase-outline that wasn't affected by light, leaving it white.

So we place this paper into our camera, and then we are ready to use it. Because light is what makes the image appear, the more light you have, the darker your negative (meaning when the negative is processed the BRIGHTER your positive image), the less light, the whiter the negative (or the darker the image). Some pinholes take a looong time (at least 30 seconds) to create even a faint image, so it's all about trial and error. So you'll take your camera out and remove the cover to your pinhole, and let the light start pouring into the hole, slowly creating an image on the back of your camera where your paper is.

This is essentially how a photograph is ALWAYS taken, but with an SLR you have a lens, so you have different options as to how you let the light come in, and how that makes your image look.

After you take the photo you will have to develop the paper or film in a darkroom (walgreens won't be able to do anything with photographic paper), so this is only feasible if you build a pinhole that can use 35mm film, or if you have a way of processing your own paper/film. But a pinhole camera is really just a good introduction for how an image is captured on camera.

Let's Recap:
-a pinhole camera is a light tight container that has a tiny hole on the opposite side of your photographic paper/film.
-photographic paper is light sensitive, meaning it's coated with chemicals which change shades/colors when light hits it, creating your image.
-White objects reflect the most light, altering the chemicals the most, and dark objects reflect the least light, hardly affecting the chemicals at all, creating a negative image.
-The amount of light let in to affect your image, is directly related to the amount of time you leave the "shutter open" or the cover off.
-you must place the paper in the camera in a dark room, and remove it in a dark room, and process it in a dark room, or your image will turn completely black from overstimulation to light.
-The pinhole, and the lens are similar, and time is the main factor in creating any image through any camera.

-learn how to make a 35mm film pinhole camera:
(scroll down toward the text)
-People have made their rooms pinhole cameras, lots of times!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photography Tips-Nikon D300

So I just want to say that the Nikon D300 is my baby. This is mainly because I can't afford a Nikon D3 at the moment, or else I'd have that. However, if you're on a lower budget and you are interested in stop motion, or action photography, the Nikon D300 has a great ability to take a lot of shots in a short amount of time. It also gives AMAZING image quality, if set on RAW. I will add a blog in the future about why RAW files are important, but it's mainly about high quality editing.

The D300 is HEAVY, but not the heaviest I've lifted. It's definitely a good deal for the money. I haven't used a D700 but in my opinion, I'd like to skip from the D300 to the D3, as I've read that the D700 is like an in between, and if I'm going to spend that kind of money, I may as well go all the way.

A reason you would go for the D700 is if you really really really can't afford the D3, but can the D700, AND you want a Full Frame Sensor. The Nikon D300 is still considered consumer-professional, because it's sensor is of normal proportions.

Great camera though, all the images that were taken by me on this site and on were taken with the Nikon D300, but I use photoshop extensively on some of my images as well, though Photoshop can't help a bad root image, unless you're hiding its bad qualities with a bunch of filters, which I don't recommend.

But the D300 is quite affordable, and a terrific little piece of equipment. But BUY a GOOD lens!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photography Tips- Amanda Peppers Photography

I’m not here to promote myself as an artist, however I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what kind of work I make as an artist.

Here is my portfolio site and an example photo:

Photography Tips- Photoshop Actions

Ok so I’m taking a little detour, but I really enjoy this tool in Photoshop. The Actions tool in photoshop can be found at the top by going to Window-> Actions. An Action is a set of processes you want applied to a photograph. So let’s say you opened up a photo in photoshop you went through nearly 100 steps to edit it, and you want to apply all those steps to your next 50 photographs.

A great place to learn about creating your own actions is:

There are millions of saved actions available for download on the internet. A lot of popular ones give your photos that vintage, edgy feel. If you’re curious about browsing a few of these, and are a good places to start.

Photography Tips- Natural Light

Let’s first talk about why lighting is important. As you’re beginning to learn here, photography is all about light. Photography is the act of picking an aperture setting, opening a shutter for a length of time, and letting the light that reflects off the subject, bounce through the camera and towards the sensor or film in the back. So what gives an image a harsh contrast or that soft romantic feel? It’s not just photoshop or post-process editing. Most of the quality of a photograph comes from what kind of light was being bounced toward the sensor. The photos in this post I took around 7 30 pm near the end of Spring, I think the sun was setting around 8 or 8:15. At this point the sun in the sky was behind the trees, and I find this is the best time for photos. When the sun is just hiding, it still illuminates the sky enough to illuminate the ground, and if you’re using your shutter speeds properly, and perhaps a tripod (though the images above were handheld), you can pick up some really good detail from this. When sunlight is hitting an object directly it causes harsh shadows and bright highlights, and though to the human eye this can look fantastic, the camera will over-record those highlights, and under-record the shadows, meaning you see no detail in either area.

Sometimes you may want this strong contrast, but to the traditional classic photographers (and to your professors when you’re receiving an education), the goal of a good exposure is to capture details in the highlights as well as the shadows.

When people refer to the “quality” of light, they usually mean its degree of diffusion, which can range from contrasty and hard-edged to soft and diffused. Direct light creates hard-edged, dark shadows. The smaller the light (relative to the size of the subject) or the further away, the shaper and darker the shadows will be. An example of direct light is a spotlight, or the sun on a clear day. Diffused light scatters onto the subject from many directions. Shadows, if present, are very light. An overcast day, dusk, or the shade will diffuse and soften light. This can be really nice lighting for portraits, gently modeling the planes of the face.

If you plan on shooting outdoors a lot, here is a very useful tip: Light changes as the time of day changes.

Daylight has a natural blue cast to it, so the more sun that’s available, the cooler your photograph will feel. So for that warmer tone, sunrise and sunset is best, or a bit of photoshop!

Photography Tips- Lensbaby Composer

Lensbaby The Composer for Canon EF mount Digital SLR Cameras
I love the Lensbaby. Lensbaby is a lens that creates a tilt/shift effect (something similar to what you would get with a view camera), so it essentially has a sweet spot of sharp focus and it blurs the edges. You can move the Lensbaby’s sharp area around, and it creates a very romantic feel. It also comes with Lensbaby accessories that mimic a pinhole camera and a zoneplate. It’s just all around fun!

Here’s one Lensbaby photo I took:

Photography Tips- Top 10 SLRs

I know I always found Top 10 Digital Cameras lists useful when I wasn’t sure about camera quality. I recently added an amazon store via the “Photography Genius Recommends:” link at the top of this page, and now you can search for (and purchase) any of these Top 10 Digital Cameras or other camera accessories, without having to leave the page. You can also click here.

Top 10 Digital Cameras:

1.) Nikon D3

  • 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor
  • 3.0-inch, super density 920,000-dot VGA color monitor; 170-degree wide-angle viewing and tempered-glass protection
  • Continuous shooting at up to 9 frames-per-second at full FX resolution
  • Fast, accurate 51-point AF with 3D Focus Tracking
  • Capture images to CF I/II cards

    Amazon Price: $7,400

    2.) Canon EOS 1D MarkIII

  • 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor captures enough detail for photo-quality 18 x 24-inch prints
  • Shoot up to 10fps; burst rate up to 110 full-resolution JPEG images
  • High-precision AF system with 19 user-selectable AF points
  • New DIGIC III Image Processor provides fast, accurate image processing
  • Large 3.0-inch LCD display

    Amazon price: $3,500

    3.) Canon EOS 5D MarkII

  • 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, 14-bit A/D conversion, wide range ISO setting 100-6400
  • Body only; lenses sold separately
  • DIGIC 4 Image Processor; high-performance 3.9 fps continuous shooting; Live View Function for stills
  • Full HD video capture at 1920×1080 resolution for up to 4GB per clip ; HDMI output
  • Updated EOS Integrated Cleaning System specifically designed to work with a full-frame sensor

    Amazon price: $3,300

    4.) Nikon D700

  • 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor; body only
  • 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot VGA color monitor; 170-degree wide-angle viewing and tempered-glass protection
  • Fast, accurate 51-point AF system; 3D Focus Tracking and two Live View shooting modes
  • Base ISO range from 200-6400 can be expanded to range from ISO 100 (Lo-1) to 25,600 (Hi-2); 0.12-second start-up speed
  • Capture images to CF I/II cards; compliant high-speed UDMA CF cards that will enable recording speeds up to 35 megabytes/second

    Amazon price: $2,400

    5.) Canon EOS 1D MarkIV (only number 5 because it’s so expensive)

  • 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Large 3.0-inch LCD display with Live View and seven brightness settings
  • 5 fps at shutter speeds 1/500 second or faster (for bursts of up to 45 Large/Fine JPEGs or 15 RAW images)
  • sRAW mode; 35-zone metering system; 45-point AF; integrated Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit
  • Powered by LP-E4 lithium-ion battery pack; stores images on CF, SD, or some SDHC memory cardsAmazon price: $6,200

    6.) Nikon D300 DX (my top camera!)

  • 12.3-megapixel captures enough detail for poster-size photo-quality prints
  • 3.0-inch LiveView LCD display; new 51-point AF system
  • In burst mode, shoots up to 100 shots at full 12.3-megapixel resolution
  • EXPEED Image Processing System and similar Scene Recognition System to that found in the D3
  • Self-cleaning sensor unit; magnesium alloy construction with rubber gaskets and sealsAmazon Price: $1,450

    7.) Canon EOS 5D

  • 12.8-megapixel CCD captures images up to 4,368 x 2,912 pixels
  • World’s smallest and lightest full-frame digital SLR as of August 2005–the sensor operates without a conversion factor
  • New larger 2.5-inch LCD screen can be viewed even at extreme angles of up to 170 degrees
  • Consecutive shooting allows the capture of 3.0 frames per second for up to 60 consecutive JPEG or 17 RAW frames in a burst
  • Captures images on CompactFlash Type I and Type II cards, compatible with cards of 2 GB capacity and largerAmazon price: $2,800

    8.) Olympus E-volt E-3

  • 10-megapixel Live MOS image sensor captures enough detail for photo-quality 18 x 24-inch prints
  • 2.5-inch Live View LCD display; magnify directly on the LCD by 5, 7, or 10x
  • Mechanical Image Stabilization with Supersonic Wave Drive
  • Exclusive dust-free technology for spot-free photos
  • Capture images to CompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card (Dual-Slot)

    Amazon price: not sold by Amazon

    9.) Sony Alpha A-900

  • 35mm full-frame 24.6-megapixel Exmor CMOS image sensor
  • Body only; lenses sold separately
  • SteadyShot INSIDE in-camera image stabilization; Dual BIONZ processors for up to fast 5 fps performance
  • 3.0-inch Xtra Fine LCD photo-quality display; Intelligent Preview Function reduces trial-and-error
  • Accepts CompactFlash and Memory Stick Duo Media memory cards

    Amazon price: $2,600

    10.) Nikon D90

  • 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor
  • Body only; lenses sold separately
  • D-Movie Mode; Cinematic 24fps HD with sound
  • 3-inch super-density 920,000-dot color LCD monitor
  • Capture images to SD/SDHC memory cards (not included)

    (also MY camera!)

    Amazon price: $780