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Monday, December 10, 2012

Photography 101: First steps into the LIGHT

Have you ever been on vacation and taken a picture of something amazing? Have you ever felt guilty because right after, you turned around to see a big sign with a big X through it saying "no flash photography"? Pretty sure we have all been in that boat. Whenever that happened to me I would look both ways and high tail it out of that room for fear a security guard would be on to my ruining of an ancient masterpiece.

Well I am here to help you take images of the masterpieces in these great places, like the Louvre, sin flash. Flash of course has its place but in most situations the natural light is so beautiful that that flash is not necessary. Although your camera will always tell you otherwise. Here are some tips to help you take control and avoid the guilt.

The first way of taking control of your camera is by understanding how to control the light. To do this we need to have an understanding of ISO. ISO is what, when you used to buy film, was the film speed. When you bought  film for your camera it would have an ISO number. That ISO number in digital photography  is telling you how sensitive to  light the sensor is. A simple way to put controlling ISO is the brighter the environment the lower the number you want to select. The darker the environment the higher the number you want to select. The higher your ISO the more light your allowing into your camera through the sensor allowing you to use a faster shutter speed. Pretty great right? ISO is essential in low light situations. The important thing you need to remember though is that the higher you go the more noise you introduce into the image. Noise is the grain in the background of an image. I personally don't mind a little of that natural noise. I feel it can be an interesting artistic effect. That being said there are different levels of that noise you really don't want to go past. On a lower end DSLR such as my Canon Rebel XSI I find anything higher then 800 on the ISO introduces way to much noise to my image. On a 5D mark ii or a 7D I would not push my camera past 2500 on the ISO. A high performance camera such as the  5D mark iii has ISO capabilities that are incredible allowing you to push your camera to the ISO 6000 range and still attaining good results. 

So how can you do this? Take your camera and identify where the ISO button is ( this will then bring up ISO numbers on your LCD screen or on an SLR within your view finder that you can scroll through and select)

Look at the situation you are in. For example are you on a bright sunny beach at 12:00 pm? In that situation what kind of ISO would you choose? ….If I was in that situation I would probably choose an ISO of around 100 because a lot of light is already coming into my camera. Now what choice would you make in  a dimly lit restaurant or coffee shop. You may then choose to raise that ISO to try and capture as much of the ambient light in the room to make your exposure. Depending on how dark the room is, and if there is any window light, you would probably choose to be in the 800 or higher range. Always be looking for available light to illuminate your subject though. ( Natural light for me is always best)

Now take your knowledge of ISO and practice it this way. On a Canon Camera the dial ( as we talked about here) is marked P, TV, AV, M, B. Turn the Dial so that it is set on P for Program. This is your first step towards taking control of your cameras brain. When you are on this mode you are fully in control of all decisions regarding the ISO ( your flash will never pop up automatically). Your camera is still in control of all other things regarding exposure but it is starting to listen to your advice. So give yourself an assignment. Go into different environments with different lighting situations and challenge yourself to decide what the best ISO for the situation would be.Choose that setting and snap away. you may be surprised with how much better your results will already be, then when you were on FULL AUTO. In most low light situations, such as receptions, restaurants, etc.., you will have to take advantage of off camera lighting. For now though work on mastering your skills with ISO.

In this example we only had one tungsten light on the cup's right on the ceiling to illuminate it. I wanted to imitate being stuck taking an image at a table in a restaurant. The result is okay but I find it too grainy and I don't have the ability to get more of the writing on the cup sharp because there is such a lack of light. In this situation moving the subject closer to the light or using off camera lighting ( a more advanced technique)  would have worked the best.

 Here are some images from the Louvre in Paris. I had to fight Ms. Mona Lisas Flashing Paparazzi for 10 minutes to the front of the pack to take this image. Thanks to the beautiful light no flash was required.

 NEWS FLASH: Due to a number of requests we are excited to announce that we are creating an online workshop in the new year. We have found that so many people love photography and have either invested in a gorgeous camera for themselves or were gifted one. The problem is you have this beautiful toy with so much potential but the manual puts you to sleep. That's where we come in. We are hoping to create a curriculum that involves understanding your camera, understanding light, posing techniques, and basics of editing your images. Our goal is to help you become a photographer in whatever capcacity that might beWe will be limiting the class size so that we are able to have time to answer, and help, all who are involved so please let me know if this would be something you would be interested in by leaving a comment below or e-mail us: whitney@whitneylanephotography.com

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