Photo Tips

Wow!  Thanks to all the folks who have offered help, photo tips, and book titles.  I appreciate it!

I think I may understand a bit more than I have led you to believe, however.  Check me on this…  First, the photo:

And Now for Dave's ID

I like to take photos in the woods where the light is low.  I don’t like the way most look with flash, so I avoid flash almost always.  Oh, and I hate carrying a tripod!  So…  For this plant, I actually tried a variety of things:

1 – Set the camera on “P”.  This setting selects both aperture and shutter speed for me, given the light conditions.  Result:  The shutter was way too slow for hand-holding.

2 – Set the camera on “Av” – Aperture priority.  This setting allows me to select the Aperture, then selects the best shutter speed for the light conditions.  I opened it up as far as the lens would allow:  2.8.  Result:  The shutter was way too slow for hand-holding.  (Probably the exact same results as option #1, actually.)

3 – Set the camera on “Tv” – Shutter priority.  This setting allows me to select a shutter speed, then will adjust the aperture for the light conditions.  I selected 1/60 of a second, figuring that was fast enough for me to hand hold.  Result:  The widest this lens can open is 2.8.  The camera displays this setting in my view finder – but it is blinking, indicating there is not enough light for the shot.  I take the shot anyway.  When I get home, I use software to brighten it a little.  And I like the results…  It still has the mood of the ambient light…

So, did I say all that stuff right?  Does it make sense.  Does it show I understand?  Or am I still talking camera trash?  (Be honest!  This is how I learn.)

By the way, I did the same thing on this photo:

Zig Zag Goldenrod Patch

9 thoughts on “Photo Tips

  1. Hi Jennifer. Excellent photos. Those are great results given the range of the lens. I have a hard time getting good, close-in photos with my 18-55mm lens (Nikon). Mostly I use a 55-200mm lens for my nature shots, but the 17-55 would definitely be the way to go for a play.

    In answer to your questions: What you said makes sense to me. I’m still trying to get all this aperture/shutter/ISO stuff down myself, and figuring how adjustments in one area affects adjustments in another area. This summer I took off the training wheels, so to speak, with my digital SLR, and went completely manual on the controls, adjusting both aperture and priority. I was almost always pleased w/the photos I took in “P” mode, but became more satisfied when I started taking more control. And I’m still learning. For me, and for you too, I’m guessing, the best thing to do is just keeping trying stuff. Like all the different things you tried with the photos in today’s post. Do that again and again and again. I still have to think about it a lot when I’m taking photos in less-than-ideal lighting conditions – hopefully some day it will all make sense. In the mean time, I’ll just pretend to the outside world that it DOES make sense. They don’t need to know I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out if the aperture is x, then the shutter speed needs to be y for a good shot; or that I took 50 shots to end up getting 1 that looks as good as I want it to!

    Oh, and by the way, thanks for the mention of I had no idea such a thing existed! I would love to add a macro and telephoto lens to my arsenal (in that order), and it would be great to “test drive” a few to get a feel for them. I really enjoy reading your observations of the natural world. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi !!!
    You got it right. Basically the camera attempts correct exposure no matter what mode is selected. Av and Tv are just tools to help control DOF and Motion. My concerns the other day were that you didn’t understand that.

  3. I fight with my camera all the time….but like you, I am learning. Your explanations made perfect sense to me. Usually I like to use the Av setting and let the camera choose the shutter speed. Often, like you, I find the speed is too slow and I get blur unless I steady the camera on a hard surface or use a tripod (and hope the wind is not blowing). I will try what you have done here, set it on Tv and set the speed, ignore the blinking warning and see if the results are workable. I could do everything manually, but I don’t feel completely confident about my settings choices just yet. Great post and thanks for sharing your experiences!

  4. Yes, you have said the right stuff (perfect) . It makes sense because it shows you understand the nature of each mode(each one allows for changes to accommodate different situations of light,motion, etc.) — and now you are talking like a photographer (congratulations).

    My initial reaction to the pictures was, WOW –yet the color seemed a bit rich ,as if enhanced , and a touch unnatural. In YOUR OPINION , how does the color of your pictures compare with the real world color of the plants you photographed ? Color fidelity is important — all the world is not in technicolor.

  5. It sounds like you’ve got the camera doing what you need it to for your purposes. Probably in the situation with the photo above I would do something similar – I just need the shutter to be fast enough to hand-hold, so I’d set it to M (or Tv) and shorten the shutter speed while opening the aperture. I might also leave the shutter too long to hand-hold, which increases light but also tendency to blur and counter that by bracing on a tree or something, if available, to steady the camera.

    I’ve also learned how to pull ISO into the mix. If your photo is still too dark at max aperture and usable shutter speed, you can up the ISO. A lot of the sunset photos I took had to be done this way to make sure there was enough light reaching the sensor for a decent image, but without blurring the shot. When you get up to ISO 800 or 1600 you’ll start seeing some grain in the image, but that will happen if you have to lighten a photo on the computer that dramatically, too.

    So for a landscape or wide-angle photo like this, you can use the widest aperture and adjust the other settings accordingly. The problem comes when you want to focus on a flower or something, and adjust the depth of field. The wider the aperture (smaller the f-number), the shallower your depth of field. A shallow depth of field is great for blurring out backgrounds, but it can be a nuisance if you’re trying to get the entire flower, or bug, or whatever, in focus. You have to increase the f-number (decrease the aperture) in order to increase your depth of field. You notice it more in close-ups or macros; the most versatile for getting the whole bug/flower in the picture is between f/8 and f/13 (what I use when taking macros), depending on how deep the object is. Of course, in low-light situations, that’s not helpful for hand-holding! If you can’t brace the camera against a tree, your knee, or something else, set the shutter to the max you can hand-hold it, set the aperture to the lowest f-number you can get away with while still getting everything in focus, and then up the ISO till the image is bright enough (you may still have to lighten it a bit on the computer, but the more you can do on the camera, the better).

    Incidentally, I’ve found when lightening on the computer that increasing the brightness has a tendency to wash out a photo, and I get better results if I increase the gamma (you may already be aware of this, or have tried it and feel differently). In both cases, increasing the setting too much will create a haze over the image that you need to take out by increasing the contrast a tad. I’m not exactly sure in just what manner gamma differs from brightness (I tried looking it up once, but it was way beyond my understanding), but it provides the results I’m looking for, anyway.

  6. I should add, with respect to ISO, if you find yourself trying to take photos of something frustratingly active in low-light conditions (such as birds on a cloudy day, something I was never able to photograph satisfactorily before getting the Scott Kelby book so I stopped even bothering to try), increasing the ISO increases the light capture and can result in a reasonably crisp photo. Often I find even at the max aperture, faster shutter speeds that freeze the bird’s movement are fairly dark, so increasing the ISO helps in increasing the light captured (though again, what you gain in freeze-motion you’ll sacrifice a bit in graininess – not ideal for making prints, perhaps, but probably perfectly acceptable for blog purposes).

  7. I’ve just gotten the Canon 17-85mm and like it a lot.
    It gives a wider range than the 17-55, but not quite the 200, obviously. And it’s not too heavy to wear all day as I walk about–which is a biggie for me!

    I shoot all in av mode, and watch the shutter speed as I set f stops–I know I can go so low as 1/30th with IS, so that’s my target for the shot.
    Plus, I always take 4-6 shots of the same object–I wish someday I would be good enough to get it perfect with just one!

  8. Wow. You folks are giving me lots of great info, here!

    cestoady – I went back and checked my editing on these two photos. I kicked the saturation up two notches on the zigzag goldenrod, but didn’t touch it on the other. As far as my memory of the color goes, I do find that colors seem so much richer to my eye on misty or overcast days than they do on bright sunny days, don’t you?

  9. Jennifer-

    I’ve been reading this series of posts over my lunch break at work and have been dying to post. Our power has been out at home for five days after hurricane Ike swept through Ohio.

    To me, I think the most important thing that you are leaving OUT about this lens is its incredible image stabilization capabilities. I also rented the same lens from for my trip to Maine about a month ago.

    The IS allows you to use much lower shutter speeds than normal. Were you shooting with the IS on? For example, hand held, I was able to get crisp shots at the wide angle end of the spectrum handholding at 1/5 of a second, (see my photo HERE and sharp shots at the other end at 1/20th a second and even lower if I balanced my elbows on my knees. What shutter speeds do you mean when you say “Way to low for handholding?

    What ISO were you using? I try to shoot at 100 all the time, 200 if needed, and only in a pinch at 400 and above with my XTI. This makes a big difference in final image quality.

    Secondly, didn’t you notice a HUGE difference in image quality over your kit lens? I sure did. My pics were so much sharper from edge to edge. The color saturation and contrast in the images gorgeous. Notice how saturated the colors are in your shot. I absolutely loved this lens and was crying all the way to Fed Ex (ok, not really) when I had to ship it back to Roger in Tennessee. Now, if my shutterstock and Istock ventures would just bring in a bit more money, I’ll be set to purchase this fine piece of glass!


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