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What I learned about photography today ...


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Mostly, I have a LOT to learn!

 

Whether you are a professional or a beginner, sometimes we realize something specific when we look at pictures we take over a day.

 

For me, today it was about backgrounds. I went to a horse show to learn more about my camera and 24-240 lens.

 

What stood out to me as I reviewed the pictures is how much difference an uncluttered background can make. A couple weeks ago I took pictures at a rodeo, empty stands were in the background and didn't distract from the photo. Even this one, which has a lot going on, still tells the rodeo story.

 

DSC03061_zpsm6vdmkfy.jpg

 

 

As opposed to this one, at the horse show. The stuff in the background does nothing but distract from the shot. So even though the horse looks pretty good, the shot looks pretty bad to me.

 

DSC03889_zpslyzrwwcm.jpg

 

I learned a lot about the camera and lens as I expected. But I think I learned an even more valuable lesson for the future about unwanted distractions and basic composition.

 

Please, if you have an unexpected lesson learned, let us know.

 

Vic

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I'm sure access can be rather restricted at some of these events, but if you can, GET DOWN. Get down low. Yes, lower. All the way down. Take a beach towel to lay on. Try to pick up a "right-angle finder" (an attachment for your camera that allows you to look down while the camera is pointed forward) so you can kneel and shoot. Getting down low means your backgrounds are more often sky, or at least much less cluttered. It can also mean that other subjects in the background appear shorter than your chosen subject, making your chosen subject stand out by "standing up".

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What you can do is adjust your f stop. If you shoot at a high aperture, you aren't directing the viewers eye to anything except the entire shot. If you narrow your depth of field by using a lower f-stop value to isolate your subject, you will have better results telling your story. That's one of the reasons why 9 times out of 10 I have either my 24-70 f2.8 or 70-200 f2.8 lens equipped. Plus the beautiful creamy bokeh in the background.

Edited by Aegis1984
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You definitely learned about the importance of considering the background, but did you also learn other things you could have done?

A photographer doesn't always have control over the background, but there are other things that could have been done at the time of taking the photo and/or in post.

 

A tighter crop makes the background less distracting, as it really helps your eyes find the subject. Additionally, if you are tighter with a longer telephoto lens, especially if you use a wider aperture, you will get a narrow depth of field --- blurring the background and thereby making it less distracting.

 

You shot that image at 130mm... At 240mm, you may have blurred the background a bit.

 

Here is a crop done in post-processing.... In the original shot, the trailer just blends in with the horse and almost looks like it is part of the foreground. By cropping tightly, it's clearly the background. A longer lens would have also blurred that background.

 

27707513044_40764a9d1d_o.jpgDSC03889_zpslyzrwwcm by Adam Brown, on Flickr

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What you can do is adjust your f stop. If you shoot at a high aperture, you aren't directing the viewers eye to anything except the entire shot. If you narrow your depth of field by using a lower f-stop value to isolate your subject, you will have better results telling your story. That's one of the reasons why 9 times out of 10 I have either my 24-70 f2.8 or 70-200 f2.8 lens equipped. Plus the beautiful creamy bokeh in the background.

 

I was playing with the sport scene on the camera. You can't adjust the f-stop in this mode, the auto-HDR resulted in ghosting.

 

Vic

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You definitely learned about the importance of considering the background, but did you also learn other things you could have done?

A photographer doesn't always have control over the background, but there are other things that could have been done at the time of taking the photo and/or in post.

 

A tighter crop makes the background less distracting, as it really helps your eyes find the subject. Additionally, if you are tighter with a longer telephoto lens, especially if you use a wider aperture, you will get a narrow depth of field --- blurring the background and thereby making it less distracting.

 

You shot that image at 130mm... At 240mm, you may have blurred the background a bit.

 

Here is a crop done in post-processing.... In the original shot, the trailer just blends in with the horse and almost looks like it is part of the foreground. By cropping tightly, it's clearly the background. A longer lens would have also blurred that background.

 

27707513044_40764a9d1d_o.jpgDSC03889_zpslyzrwwcm by Adam Brown, on Flickr

 

 

I went to this show for something different to practice on. Since I don't know any of the riders or horses I only wanted to see the results of different settings, modes, and other variables. So I do understand that cropping the shots will help but I just don't care that much. :) It has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

 

I didn't get the results I wanted on Wednesday so I went back on Thursday. The results were better but the sun wasn't in a great position relative to the stands. That can be somewhat overcome by fill flash in post processing.

 

DSC04196ad_zpse5dpmr0g.jpg

Fill flash in post processing. This was Aperture Priority.

 

 

DSC04327ad_zpsvtqiwmuo.jpg

 

I like this one because the rider's face is so clear with a great expression. This is in sports mode and I think it is a little soft, but it was also a full extension of the lens.

 

Most of my favorites are still taken on auto settings, but I'm working at it! Maybe I will go back this afternoon and force myself to use shutter priority or try to figure out some starting manual settings.

 

Vic

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I went to this show for something different to practice on. Since I don't know any of the riders or horses I only wanted to see the results of different settings, modes, and other variables. So I do understand that cropping the shots will help but I just don't care that much. :) It has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

 

I didn't get the results I wanted on Wednesday so I went back on Thursday. The results were better but the sun wasn't in a great position relative to the stands. That can be somewhat overcome by fill flash in post processing.

 

DSC04196ad_zpse5dpmr0g.jpg

Fill flash in post processing. This was Aperture Priority.

 

 

DSC04327ad_zpsvtqiwmuo.jpg

 

I like this one because the rider's face is so clear with a great expression. This is in sports mode and I think it is a little soft, but it was also a full extension of the lens.

 

Most of my favorites are still taken on auto settings, but I'm working at it! Maybe I will go back this afternoon and force myself to use shutter priority or try to figure out some starting manual settings.

 

Vic

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That second shot is really nice.

When using Aperture or shutter priority --- simply changing it to A or S is meaningless. The point of changing it to A or S, is to be able to take control over the aperture or the shutter speed.

So it's a matter of switching the camera to A -- and then manually selecting your aperture. And different aperture will have different effects. (a large aperture (small number) will open up the lens, blurring the background more, allowing faster shutter speed and lower ISO. A smaller aperture (large number) will close the lens, causing less background blur, slowing down the shutter speed and/or raising the ISO)

 

A mode like "sports" simply opts to use certain pre-sets that may be best for sports -- It will automatically opt for certain focus modes, for continuous auto focus, and for a boosted shutter speed. But if you really want to make sure shutter speed is fast enough, you need to use S-mode and manually select a fast enough shutter speed.

 

So I really like that second photo you took. Yes, it is slightly soft -- But that's because of how fast the motion was, and your shutter speed was 1/400. 1/400 is fairly fast, but not fast enough to freeze really fast action. Your focus point may have also missed by a little.

 

So the shot is really quite good, but would have been improved by a faster shutter speed and more precise AF. (AF-C, expanded flexible spot AF, camera in S-mode, with a shutter speed of 1/1000... or in manual mode with aperture of F8 and shutter speed of 1/1000).

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That second shot is really nice.

When using Aperture or shutter priority --- simply changing it to A or S is meaningless. The point of changing it to A or S, is to be able to take control over the aperture or the shutter speed.

So it's a matter of switching the camera to A -- and then manually selecting your aperture. And different aperture will have different effects. (a large aperture (small number) will open up the lens, blurring the background more, allowing faster shutter speed and lower ISO. A smaller aperture (large number) will close the lens, causing less background blur, slowing down the shutter speed and/or raising the ISO)

 

A mode like "sports" simply opts to use certain pre-sets that may be best for sports -- It will automatically opt for certain focus modes, for continuous auto focus, and for a boosted shutter speed. But if you really want to make sure shutter speed is fast enough, you need to use S-mode and manually select a fast enough shutter speed.

 

So I really like that second photo you took. Yes, it is slightly soft -- But that's because of how fast the motion was, and your shutter speed was 1/400. 1/400 is fairly fast, but not fast enough to freeze really fast action. Your focus point may have also missed by a little.

 

So the shot is really quite good, but would have been improved by a faster shutter speed and more precise AF. (AF-C, expanded flexible spot AF, camera in S-mode, with a shutter speed of 1/1000... or in manual mode with aperture of F8 and shutter speed of 1/1000).

 

And that is why I keep practicing! The first shot was f 5.6 which is about the lowest setting with that lens, I was hoping for more blur - now I see it. I have been practicing a lot with aperture settings around home, not so much at the horse show because of the distances.

 

Thanks for the tip on the AF - there are so many choices, and I did play around with it a bit.

 

If I use shutter priority with auto ISO I can't change the f-stop. So much to learn, but I'm having fun with it. Is there a mathematician out there that has calculated the different combinations?!

 

I need a coach like you sitting next to me telling me what to try - this is a pretty good way to get feedback though. Thanks!

 

Vic

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If I use shutter priority with auto ISO I can't change the f-stop. So much to learn, but I'm having fun with it. Is there a mathematician out there that has calculated the different combinations?!

 

I need a coach like you sitting next to me telling me what to try - this is a pretty good way to get feedback though. Thanks!

 

Vic

 

Correct, you can't change the aperture while in shutter priority -- Which is why you might opt for M. Then you can adjust both.

 

As to calculating the combinations:

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

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Putting together everything I learned this week. This was taken on shutter priority.

 

DSC04504_zpsvm8np7ma.jpg

 

It was a cloudy day so the light was nice and even. The way the light is hitting the horse's eye it looks like it is looking at me.

 

Vic

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Putting together everything I learned this week. This was taken on shutter priority.

 

DSC04504_zpsvm8np7ma.jpg

 

It was a cloudy day so the light was nice and even. The way the light is hitting the horse's eye it looks like it is looking at me.

 

Vic

 

there you go. great shot.

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A mode like "sports" simply opts to use certain pre-sets that may be best for sports -- It will automatically opt for certain focus modes, for continuous auto focus, and for a boosted shutter speed. But if you really want to make sure shutter speed is fast enough, you need to use S-mode and manually select a fast enough shutter speed.

Sports mode typically represents aperture priority, wide-open aperture, continuous/high-speed drive, continuous focus, perhaps continuous focus point tracking, and perhaps ISO 400 or Auto-ISO. That's not a "boosted" shutter speed (exposure is still average), but a prioritization of other variables to end up with the fastest shutter speed for the other variables as given.

 

Everyone's got their opinion, and my opinion is that shutter-priority exists for times where consistency of shutter speed trumps other factors, such as motion blurs where 1/60th or 1/30th gives good results, or propellers/rotors where 1/125th gives the right sensation of movement. For sports, sure, you can dial up 1/2000th shutter speed, but if your other settings (exposure compensation, ISO, aperture) don't create a combination where 1/2000th will work, you end up with an under-exposed shot, possibly quite under-exposed. Instead, I vote for aperture priority, wide open aperture, and raise the ISO until shutter speed is in the zone you want it to be. From that point forward, you'll have consistent noise/grain, consistent depth of field, consistent exposure, and shutter speed will vary but will stay as fast as it can. IMHO, keeping those other variables consistent results in a higher percentage of keepers as well as more pleasing results (consistency in DoF beats variations in exactly how well action was stopped, IMHO).

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And that is why I keep practicing! The first shot was f 5.6 which is about the lowest setting with that lens, I was hoping for more blur - now I see it. I have been practicing a lot with aperture settings around home, not so much at the horse show because of the distances.

 

If I use shutter priority with auto ISO I can't change the f-stop. So much to learn, but I'm having fun with it. Is there a mathematician out there that has calculated the different combinations?!

To get more blur, you need a bigger aperture opening (costs more), or you need to change the ratio of camera-subject:camera-background distances. If you can bring the subject closer to you, that's the most ideal (lowers the left side while it raises the right side of the ratio). Next-best is to move closer to the subject; the left side of the ratio goes down faster than the right side. Next-best is to get down and shoot with the sky as background. :)

 

Shutter priority classically meant "shutter and ISO priority", since you were setting the shutter speed and ISO. Aperture classically meant "aperture and ISO priority", since you were setting the aperture and ISO. So yes, you can't control both unless you go to manual mode. Auto-ISO changes that up a bit, but shutter priority still definitely means that the camera is going to handle aperture values for you, and vice versa.

 

As far as a mathematician, on the surface, it's plain as day: if you set a shutter speed and an ISO, the aperture is the third element in the triangle, and every time you double the brightness of the light on subject, aperture will stop down one stop. These are powers of the square root of 2, or 1.4 to be exact. You'll see a pattern: 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 13, 16, 22, 32. If you enable Auto-ISO, the camera may do some wild stuff, but essentially every time you double the brightness of the light on subject, aperture and/or ISO will go down by one stop (ISO stops go in powers of two: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, etc.) - it just might be 1/3 stop by aperture and 2/3 stop by ISO, all depending on the algorithm in camera.

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Sports mode typically represents aperture priority, wide-open aperture, continuous/high-speed drive, continuous focus, perhaps continuous focus point tracking, and perhaps ISO 400 or Auto-ISO. That's not a "boosted" shutter speed (exposure is still average), but a prioritization of other variables to end up with the fastest shutter speed for the other variables as given.

 

Everyone's got their opinion, and my opinion is that shutter-priority exists for times where consistency of shutter speed trumps other factors, such as motion blurs where 1/60th or 1/30th gives good results, or propellers/rotors where 1/125th gives the right sensation of movement. For sports, sure, you can dial up 1/2000th shutter speed, but if your other settings (exposure compensation, ISO, aperture) don't create a combination where 1/2000th will work, you end up with an under-exposed shot, possibly quite under-exposed. Instead, I vote for aperture priority, wide open aperture, and raise the ISO until shutter speed is in the zone you want it to be. From that point forward, you'll have consistent noise/grain, consistent depth of field, consistent exposure, and shutter speed will vary but will stay as fast as it can. IMHO, keeping those other variables consistent results in a higher percentage of keepers as well as more pleasing results (consistency in DoF beats variations in exactly how well action was stopped, IMHO).

 

Due to the greatly improved high ISO performance, plus the ability to use auto-ISO in all modes, I personally prefer to control the shutter speed when shooting action. Thus, when shooting my son playing baseball, for example... I can quickly adjust to the different needs --- Very fast shutter speed to catch a picture in action. Slower shutter speed, to get the batter staring in, in the batter box. Knowing that the slower shutter speed will result in lower ISO and better IQ.

 

But really, I go back and forth between 3 different ways of doing it:

1 -- Shutter priority with auto-ISO. I'm never really going to get an underexposed shot, because there is plenty of ISO latitude on my cameras, and I can always make a quick adjustment if I notice the ISO is indeed getting pushed too high.

 

2 -- Manual, with auto-ISO. Probably do this the most often, so I can balance the aperture/DoF with the shutter speed. Just keeping my eye on the ISO, to make sure it doesn't stray too high.

 

3-- Aperture priority, with minimum shutter speed set. This wasn't an option on my older cameras, but on both the A6300 and D750, I will use this pretty often. Setting the minimum shutter speed I want for the action (Usually around 1/800), but controlling the DoF in each shot with the aperture. While I use this mode often, I sometimes avoid it, because I may very quickly want to transition from a "sports" shot, to something slower.

 

But overall, I find all three work well for me, when shooting action.

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Yesterday I learned that I should always download my cards as soon as they come out of the camera so you don't have to spend hours looking for that last three days of your Alaska vacation pictures.

The good part: cards come out of the camera and get downloaded (even if it's just to a staging folder), new cards go in and formatted, and batteries get swapped before cameras go back into their bags. If we're temporarily low on cards/batteries, it sits on the bag with the memory card door open (regardless of what it needs).

 

The bad part: because of this habit, I struggle to just take random miscellaneous pictures, as I feel it has to fit into some sort of "job" (staging folder needs a name, Lightroom catalog needs a name or CaptureOne needs a session name).

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The good part: cards come out of the camera and get downloaded (even if it's just to a staging folder), new cards go in and formatted, and batteries get swapped before cameras go back into their bags. If we're temporarily low on cards/batteries, it sits on the bag with the memory card door open (regardless of what it needs).

 

The bad part: because of this habit, I struggle to just take random miscellaneous pictures, as I feel it has to fit into some sort of "job" (staging folder needs a name, Lightroom catalog needs a name or CaptureOne needs a session name).

 

Day-to-day shots are imported into a generic "Imports" (staging) folder and grouped or event shots into sub-folders of "Imports" created for the group. I use identified events or distinct subjects as needed to categorize and move the imported sub-folder to the appropriate folder under the main directory (family, travel, , etc.) when processing is done. The lone and small volume shots with scattered subjects in the import folder get moved to a Misc folder under a generic sub-folder (Beverage, Food, Garden, Etc.) or into the main Misc folder as a catch-all.

 

Misc., exists for a reason! :)

 

 

Dave

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Mostly, I have a LOT to learn!

 

Whether you are a professional or a beginner, sometimes we realize something specific when we look at pictures we take over a day.

 

For me, today it was about backgrounds. I went to a horse show to learn more about my camera and 24-240 lens.

 

What stood out to me as I reviewed the pictures is how much difference an uncluttered background can make. A couple weeks ago I took pictures at a rodeo, empty stands were in the background and didn't distract from the photo. Even this one, which has a lot going on, still tells the rodeo story.

 

DSC03061_zpsm6vdmkfy.jpg

 

 

 

Vic

 

Actually I think the background is very distracting on this one. The header and heeler don't stand out from the rest of the guys at all in my opinion. The eye isn't drawn to the intended action right away. The calf and header/heeler just sort of blend into the background (in my opinion ;) )

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Actually I think the background is very distracting on this one. The header and heeler don't stand out from the rest of the guys at all in my opinion. The eye isn't drawn to the intended action right away. The calf and header/heeler just sort of blend into the background (in my opinion ;) )

 

That must be because you know what you are seeing! As a novice, it is all interesting to me. (But I get your point!). :)

 

Vic

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I learned that renting lenses is great. I rented a 10-18 mm wide angle lens for the trip to Crater Lake. Now I have to figure out if it is sharp enough to keep. I got some beautiful pics, but some really soft ones too. It is a good price if I want to keep it.

 

Vic

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I learned that renting lenses is great. I rented a 10-18 mm wide angle lens for the trip to Crater Lake. Now I have to figure out if it is sharp enough to keep. I got some beautiful pics, but some really soft ones too. It is a good price if I want to keep it.

 

Vic

 

The 10-18 is a very good lens. One of the better Sony zooms, and the price is ok. Obviously, if you are getting some sharp images and some soft images, the inconsistency is the user. I'll routinely use this lens with a tripod, at F8. I have to remember to turn off the steadyshot, because I do get soft images (motion blur) if I keep steadyshot on when using a tripod.

 

But the lens does certainly have acceptable sharpness:

28025170101_1d37b3a2e4_b.jpgGringotts Banks by Adam Brown, on Flickr

 

And yes, renting gear is fantastic if you only need a specific item for a limited amount of time.

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