5 Beginner Photography Mistakes You Should Avoid

If you’re relatively new to photography, then Jessica Kobeissi has shared her past experiences to help you avoid making some simple mistakes.

Kobeissi’s photography tips have garnered her over 1,000,000 subscribers and 60,000,000 views. Over this time, she has definitely had her fair share of mistakes, no doubt about it!

Any good photographer will have made more errors than they can count during their careers, and learning from these mistakes can help you to fast-track your own pictures. It’s the perfect way to cut corners!

The photography mistakes you don’t want to make

Here are some of the mistakes that Kobeissi thinks you should avoid:

  1. Don’t rely on filters and presets that you can apply to your photos in post-production.
  2. Spend time gaining the necessary experience yourself.
  3. Stop shooting the same thing over and over again.
  4. Don’t get caught up in what other people say about your photos.
  5. Plan shoots based on the time of day.

Check out the full video above to see Kobeissi’s explanations of each mistake and, crucially, how you can go about avoiding them in the first place!

The post 5 Beginner Photography Mistakes You Should Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Beginner Photography Mistakes You Should Avoid

If you’re relatively new to photography, then Jessica Kobeissi has shared her past experiences to help you avoid making some simple mistakes.

Kobeissi’s photography tips have garnered her over 1,000,000 subscribers and 60,000,000 views. Over this time, she has definitely had her fair share of mistakes, no doubt about it!

Any good photographer will have made more errors than they can count during their careers, and learning from these mistakes can help you to fast-track your own pictures. It’s the perfect way to cut corners!

The photography mistakes you don’t want to make

Here are some of the mistakes that Kobeissi thinks you should avoid:

  1. Don’t rely on filters and presets that you can apply to your photos in post-production.
  2. Spend time gaining the necessary experience yourself.
  3. Stop shooting the same thing over and over again.
  4. Don’t get caught up in what other people say about your photos.
  5. Plan shoots based on the time of day.

Check out the full video above to see Kobeissi’s explanations of each mistake and, crucially, how you can go about avoiding them in the first place!

The post 5 Beginner Photography Mistakes You Should Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School.

A Beginner’s Guide to Abstract Flower Photography

Abstract flower photography can stop you in your tracks. But unfortunately, when it comes to abstract flower photography, you probably don’t know where to start. What equipment do you need? What techniques do you use?

The world of abstract flower photography can seem distant and difficult.

abstract flower photography aster

Actually, it is no harder than any other genre of photography. It can be a lot more rewarding, though. You just need to know how to get started.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn the fundamentals of abstract flower photography. You’ll learn about the required equipment, as well as several key techniques for getting powerful abstract images. When you finish, you’ll be ready to go out and start applying these tips immediately.

Sound good? Read on.

What is abstract flower photography?

I’m going to define abstract flower photography simply as this – photographing flowers in a way that the viewer doesn’t immediately see the flower.

abstract flower photography swirls

That is, an abstract floral focuses not so much on the flower itself, but on parts of the flower: the curve of the petals, the color of the flower center, the play of light on the stamens.

To do powerful abstract flower photography, you have to stop thinking in terms of flowers, and start thinking in terms of shape, color, and light. This isn’t complicated. It’s easy to do, once you get the hang of it. The tips I share below will help you to do just that, so keep reading.

Equipment

To get beautiful abstract flower images, you need two things: a camera and a macro lens.

The type of camera doesn’t matter. These days, essentially all cameras are capable of capturing stunning images. In abstract flower photography, it’s the lens that counts.

So what lens do you need?

Any sort of macro lens will do. I’ve taken excellent abstract flower images with cheap, sub-300 dollar lenses. I’ve also used my much more expensive Canon 100mm f/2.8L lens.

The thing is, abstract flower photography isn’t really about sharpness and perfectly rendered detail. It’s about composition, light and color.

abstract flower photography daisy

A tip worth mentioning is that the shorter the focal length of a macro lens, the closer you need to be to your subject to get life-size images. So, for instance, 60mm macro lenses can be a problem when you’re trying to get a close-up of a rose and you keep casting your shadow on the petals by accident.

You may have also heard that for abstract flower photography you need a tripod.

abstract flower photography silhouette

I would disagree. I don’t use a tripod for abstract flower photography, myself because I find that it’s too limiting. I need to explore the flower through the lens, change my composition, take a few photographs, and change my composition again. You can’t do that with a tripod.

Have you got your camera and a macro lens? If so, you’re ready for the bulk of this tutorial on quick and easy tips for stunning abstract flower photography.

Tip 1: Shoot on cloudy days

If you’ve done natural light macro photography before, you’ll know that you can get beautiful macro photographs at a few different times of the day. First, when it’s cloudy. Second, during the golden hours: just after sunrise and just before sunset.

abstract flower photography tulip

I photographed this tulip on a cloudy spring day.

For abstract photography, I recommend that you only shoot on cloudy days.

On cloudy days, the light is even, resulting in colorful, deeply saturated images. And in abstract photography, color is key. In fact, out of all the images featured in this article, all but one were taken on a cloudy day.

abstract flower photography tulip

Once you become a more experienced abstract flower photographer, you can start to experiment with other types of light. But until then, stick to cloudy days. Your results will speak for themselves.

Tip 2: Get close. Really, really close!

In abstract flower photography, you cannot just take a snapshot of your subject. Your goal must be to show the viewer something new, something unexpected.

The way to do this is to get close. Really, really close.

abstract flower photography pink

As I said above, you must think in terms of shapes, color, and light. The way to start is to magnify your subject.

Take that macro lens and crank it up to its highest magnification setting (which should be 1:1, if you have a true macro lens). Then get close to a flower. Look through the viewfinder of your camera, and just move the lens around.

abstract flower photography tulip center

What do you see?

You probably won’t immediately notice a stunning composition. I spend a lot of time looking through my lens without taking any pictures. There’s a lot of experimentation involved, and that’s okay. Which brings us to Tip 3…

Tip 3: Use a shallow depth of field

The depth of field is the amount of an image that is actually in focus.

Images with only a small amount of the subject in focus have a shallow depth of field. Images with a large amount of the subject in focus have a deep depth of field.

Depth of field is controlled by your camera’s aperture setting, also known as an f-stop. A low f-stop (f/1.4 to f/5.6) gives you a nice, shallow depth of field.

On most cameras, you will be able to choose your f-stop. For abstract flower photography, I usually keep it in the f/2.8-3.5 range but feel free to experiment a bit depending on your creative vision. Just keep that depth of field nice and shallow.

abstract flower photography black-eyed susan

Why do I recommend having so little of the image in focus?

In abstract photography, you must photograph flowers so that the viewer doesn’t immediately see the flower. You must work in terms of light, color, and shapes.

By using a shallow depth of field, you emphasize those elements and take the focus off the flower itself. You shift the focus to the shape of the flower, the color of it, and the light falling on the flower.

abstract flower photography aster

This is what I focus on in my final tip.

Tip 4: Look at the shape of the flower

As I mentioned above, it’s essential that you think about light, color, and shape.

Out of these three elements, I think that shape is most important in abstract flower photography. This is because flowers have naturally interesting shapes: sinuous curves, perfect circles, radiating lines.

The photographs are there. You just have to find them.

abstract flower photography coneflower

For instance, flowers tend to have such beautiful, soft petals. You can use these to your advantage in your photography. Think about the petals, not as parts of a flower, but as twisting lines. Try to see these shapes moving about through the flower.

Carefully set up a composition that uses these lines. Keep it simple—one or two lines is all you need.

Only once you’ve composed deliberately, keeping the shape of the flower at the forefront of your mind, should you take the image.

abstract flower photography black-eyed susan

Conclusion

Capturing beautiful abstract photographs can be an intensely rewarding experience.

Make sure you have the right equipment. Then, if you shoot on cloudy days, get super close, use a shallow depth of field and, above all, think in terms of the flower’s shape, you’ll be well on your way to taking stunning abstract flower photographs.

Have any more tips for abstract flower photography? Share them in the comments!

abstract flower photography orange

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Abstract Flower Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Getting Started in Street Photography

This article will help you with those all important decisions for getting started in street photography. Including the best gear to use, settings to apply, and what to do about the tricky topic of photographing people in public.

Any image of a street that can be used to tell a story about the location it shot could be defined as a street photograph. It could be a large city or a small village.

Getting Started in Street Photography - artists in a street market

Gear

As a street photographer, you want to be able to blend into your surroundings. By blending in, you stand a better chance of going unnoticed and capturing candid moments. This means you will want to keep your gear small and light.

Camera

The big question these days is around the DSLR or mirrorless choice. My advice for street photography is the latter.

There is nothing wrong with using a DSLR if that is what you prefer or have already. However, mirrorless cameras will simply save you space and weight. Your street photography adventures will be much more enjoyable if you’re not arriving home to find one arm longer than the other after carrying around a DSLR all day.

Another benefit to mirrorless is that the electronic viewfinder (EVF) will provide you with an accurate representation of the exposure for your image before you even press the shutter.

If you find yourself without your camera and get the urge for street photography, there’s nothing wrong with using the camera on your phone.

Shot and edited on an iPhone - street photography

Shot and edited on an iPhone.

Lenses

If you’re getting started in street photography, you will want to use a zoom lens, rather than a prime. An 18-55mm kit lens (or similar) will be fine to start. I recommend planning to move to a prime lens once you have more experience.

The reason for this is that they are (usually) sharper than zoom lenses and shooting consistently at one focal length will help you to develop your own style.

When you’re ready to invest in a prime lens, you can look back at the metadata of all the street photos taken with your zoom lens and observe what focal length you used most often. This will help inform your decision making for which focal length to choose when buying a prime lens.

Settings

When shooting street photography, your camera should be ready to take the next shot at a moment’s notice. This means you’ll need to have your settings dialed in as much as possible.

I recommend starting in full Auto. This will allow you to concentrate on your surroundings and nail the composition. When you are more confident, you could move on to aperture priority.

Here’s some advice for when you start looking at those manual settings.

Aperture

The best street photos make use of the entire frame. This means you’ll want a good depth of field, which means that the image is in focus from the nearest point in the photograph to the furthest point. I recommend shooting between f/5.6-11.

Good depth of field street photography - people on a bridge

Shutter speed

For any kind of handheld photography, a good rule of thumb is to use a minimum shutter speed that is equal to or greater than one over your focal length. This is to avoid blurry photos caused by camera shake. For example, if you are shooting at 50mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/50th of a second.

If you are including people in your photos, you have two options.

First, use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze their motion. Anything faster than 1/100th should do it, for walking pace. A faster shutter speed will be needed for joggers and cyclists and will vary depending on how fast they’re moving.

Freeze motion man riding a bike - street photography

Secondly, if you want to get creative and blur their motion slightly to project a sense of movement in your image, you can use a slightly slower shutter speed. But make sure you still use one that’s fast enough to avoid camera shake.

Sense of movement

ISO

Keep ISO as low as possible while still achieving the points mentioned above for aperture and shutter speed. This will reduce the amount of noise (grain) in your photos.

Focus

If your lens has a focus ring that stops at infinity, use it and switch your camera to manual focus. If not, you’ll need an autofocus setting that allows you to track your subject, as it’s likely to be moving if it’s a person.

Focus tracking man walking - street photography

Metering

When you’re first getting started with street photography, you’ll want to use a metering mode that measures the whole frame. This will help you to prevent under or overexposure. Different camera manufacturers have different names for this metering mode. For example, Nikon refers to it as “Matrix Metering” and Canon refer to it as “Evaluative Metering”.

Composition

The rules of composition are an article in themselves. You can read more about it in this article.

Good composition is one of the most important elements of any photograph, but try not to get too hung up on it. As mentioned a few times in this article, you don’t have long to see and capture an image when practicing street photography.

While I agree that you should always try to get things right in-camera, sometimes this just isn’t practical. It’s better to get the shot and crop it later if you need to, rather than not get the shot at all.

When looking around you, don’t forget to look up or down. You never know what opportunities you might be missing.

Looking up

Looking down

Blending In

At the beginning of this article, I talked about how important it is to blend into your surroundings. There are a couple of ways you can do this.

Environment

If you go to tourist hot spots for your street photography, you’ll just look like another tourist. This means that when you hold your camera up to look through the viewfinder, you’ll just be another person with a camera. It’ll be white noise to everyone around you so it’s a great place to start off with and build your confidence.

Tourists street photography

Camera Position

By holding your camera down by your side, or in front of your torso, you can make it look like you’re not even taking a photograph. It can be particularly helpful in this scenario if your camera has a tilting screen.

For this technique (called shooting from the hip), you’ll want to use a wide-angle lens to maximize your chances of capturing the shot. I took the shot below while continuing to walk and holding my camera by my side.

Camera by my side street photography

Clothing

Wearing bright clothes will instantly make you more noticeable so be sure to wear dark or neutral colored clothes.

Confrontation

One of the hot topics of street photography is how to avoid confrontation when photographing people in public. Or what to do if someone takes offense when you have just taken their photograph without permission.

This section is not intended to put you off, but prepare you in the event that you are confronted. It’s only ever happened to me once. A security guard asked me to move on, so I did.

Here’s a quick summary of the different kinds of confrontational situations you may find yourself in and what to do if they arise.

Authorities

A common experience for street photographers is being approached by security guards or the police, in particular when taking photographs of buildings in big cities. The bottom line in this situation is that you are in a public space and therefore are allowed to be there.

However, you’re not likely the first street photographer that security guard or police officer has encountered, and you’re even less likely to be the last. Don’t give street photographers a bad reputation by being difficult. No photograph is ever worth the aggravation. Just move on.

Members of the public

With the ubiquity of social media and people growing ever more aware of their privacy, you can understand if someone doesn’t like it when their photo is taken without permission. Particularly if they have no idea where that photo might end up.

I liked this pop of red in the shirt against the subdued tones of the building. Unidentifiable subject. 

The same rules apply here as in the previous section. If you and your subject are in a public place, you are within your rights to take their photograph. If a person confronts you and wants you to delete the photo you took of them, there’s a couple of ways you can approach it.

If they’re not a major part of the photograph, politely remind them of your rights. Inform them that they’re barely noticeable and you intend to keep the photograph. However, if you sense that they might turn aggressive, it’s always best to do as they ask. Again, it’s not worth the aggravation.

If the person that has approached you is a major part of the frame, it is best to respect their wishes and delete the photo.

Clearly identifiable subject.

Summary

Street photography is meant to be fun. Try not to get too hung up on gear and settings in the beginning and just enjoy yourself. Keep practicing and the ability to spot a photo opportunity developing in front of you will become instinctive.

Over to you. Let me know in the comments if you think there’s anything I missed or would like to know more about.

The post Tips for Getting Started in Street Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Ensuring You Get Sharp Photos Every Time

How many times have you captured an image that looks great as a thumbnail only to lose that sharpness when it is enlarged? If you’re like me, TOO MANY times. It happens to all of us all too often, but it doesn’t have to. You probably know the reasons why and how to avoid the problem, but let’s review them all in one setting to you can get sharp photos every time.

Tack Sharp photos - Leaves

There are several known contributors to soft photos and specific ways to prevent them.

First and foremost – clean the lens

Clean Lens - Tips for Ensuring You Get Sharp Photos Every Time

Fingerprints and dust on the lens are the most obvious hinderances to sharp pictures and are one of the most commonly overlooked causes. Carry a small clean microfiber cloth (or packets of lens cleaning wipes) in your camera bag at all times, and keep the lens cap on the lens when it’s not in use.

Become a clean freak with your lenses.

Aperture Settings

While shooting with the aperture wide open does allow you to use higher shutter speeds, it can also have an adverse effect on image sharpness because of an issue called a spherical aberration.

Simply put, light rays travel in straight lines. When they pass through a lens, the curve of the lens actually bends the light rays and diffuses their focus. The more the rays are curved, the softer the focus. When the entire rounded surface of the lens is utilized (as in when using a wide open aperture), the light-bending is increased and the sharpness on the outer edges of the picture is somewhat softened.

This aberration issue is most evident in less expensive lenses.

Tack Sharp photos - Aperture

It is widely known that an aperture 2-3 stops down from wide open produces the sharpest results. If your shot doesn’t require an extremely shallow depth of field to blur the background, close the lens down a stop or two and compensate the exposure with a slower shutter speed or higher ISO.

But be aware that extremely small aperture openings (f/22 and higher) present their own problem called diffraction. When light is forced through a very small opening, the outer rays bend to get past the small opening, which can soften the image and require a longer exposure time.

Lessons learned: Either aperture extreme will cause a slight softening of the image. Except for special applications, so stay in the middle of the road!

Lens Quality

It’s always good advice to buy the best glass you can afford. It is a known factor that THE most critical equipment in your camera bag is not your fancy camera body, but the quality of the glass in front of your camera.

Tack Sharp photos - Lens

Save your money and invest in quality lenses (f/2.8 or faster). Most of us carry at least one zoom lens, but these lenses, because of the complex grouping of internal glass, are seldom faster than f/2.8, and many are as slow as f/4.5 – f/5.6. The lower the number, the more light that passes through the lens. An f/1.4 prime (fixed length) lens always produces sharper images, though it costs more money.

Weather

Believe it or not, the cleanliness or dirtiness of the air can have a significant impact on your photography, especially long-range shots like landscapes. Both heatwaves rising from the hot ground and floating particles of dust and pollutants (what we lovingly call atmosphere) bend the lightwaves, dull the saturation, and blur the focus of your pictures.

Tack Sharp photos - Rust

Living on the “beach coast” of Florida, steady breezes come in off the ocean that are refreshing on a hot summer day but they contain serious amounts of salt. This air salt can be seen for miles in the distance while driving down the coastline. The saltwater mist hangs in the air and has an adverse effect on both metallic surfaces and photographic subjects.

The most ideal weather for shooting razor-sharp pictures is those delightful hours right after it rains. That happens in Florida like clockwork almost every afternoon and at least once every day, Florida gets a nature-shower that lasts for less than an hour and leaves the air sparkling clear for all kinds of outdoor activities. Thankfully, these daily showers scour the air and rinse the salt from both nature and automobiles.

Depth of Field

Choose an f-stop that will keep your entire subject in sharp focus. If you want to keep your subject in full focus while blurring the background, do the math to figure out the depth of field that will remain in full focus at a particular distance.

Each focal length lens has its own “pocket of precision” or focal zone for each subject-lens distance. Take the time to explore your lens’s capabilities so that you will be prepared.

Tack Sharp photos DOF

The depth of field is particularly critical in macro photography. The very nature of the process limits the actual focus on subjects to a very shallow distance. Sometimes this works out well and sometimes it just doesn’t.

Learn the limits of each macro lens’s “pocket” before you make your shot. If your camera allows you to preview the depth of field, use it religiously. Very small changes in the lens-to-subject distance have a very big effect on the focal distance.

Use the One-Third, Two-Thirds Rule

All photographers know that higher number f-stops mean greater depth of field, but maybe some don’t realize that there is an important ratio involved in the field of focus. This ratio must be considered when choosing the f-stop for a particular shot.

While the length of the lens affects how much of the subject will be in total focus, where you set your focus point is also critically important.

This is true whether you are using Automatic, Spot or Manual focusing. Learn to divide the desired focus area into thirds and set the focus one-third into that distance. When you focus on a particular spot, two-thirds of the focal range behind that spot will remain in focus while only one-third of the area in front of that spot will remain sharp.

This is why portrait photographers set their focus on the subject’s eyes. This way the distance from the nose to the ears remain in focus.

Autofocus Versus Manual Focus

Tack Sharp photos - Lumix Manual Focus

Unless your subject has a high level of contrasting edges and is located in the middle of your field of view, you might want to consider using manual focus. Autofocus is a life-saver most of the time, but any higher contrast item in the scene could very well steal the camera’s attention.

Camera autofocus is designed to zero-in on high contrast and those areas in the scene will always set the camera focus. If your subject is located in subdued lighting, try switching to manual focus instead.

Shutter Speed

Slow shutter speeds in hand-held conditions always present problems. No matter how still you hold, your body is always in motion.

The simple fact that your breathe and have a heartbeat means that slight motion will most likely become an issue with slow shutter speeds. Even the slight motion of pushing the shutter button is a contributing factor in this process. I personally make it a point to not go below 125/th of a second when shooting hand-held. Bracing yourself against a stable surface or using a tripod is always advisable.

Tack Sharp photos - Remote Trigger

Use a tripod and a remote trigger. The ultimate preparation for capturing detailed and sharp photos is to take human motion out of the equation altogether.

Once you mount your camera on a tripod, frame the scene, set the focus, set the appropriate f-stop for the depth of field, switch to the electronic shutter (if available on your camera). Set up a remote trigger using either a cable release or a smartphone app. Then sit back and be ready to pull the trigger when the scene is right.

Compensate ISO for Shutter Speed

If your shot requires a shallow depth of field or lower f-stops, try dialing up more light sensitivity (increased ISO). Most ideal lighting situations accommodate 200-400 ISO, but low lighting scenarios may require you to set the camera to significantly higher ISO.

But keep in mind that ISO determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light and darkness. Very high ISO will yield higher levels of electronic noise in your picture. Noise is the polar opposite of “signal.” Make your choice of ISO carefully if the image is to be enlarged at all.

About Image Sharpening

Tack Sharp photos - Smart Sharpen

Nominal sharpening takes place (usually) at the time the photo is taken. However, sometimes additional sharpening may be necessary. Beware, image sharpening should always be the last step in image preparation.

Most photos are intended to be sharp and detailed. But refrain from sharpening your images in the editing process in a ditch effort to bring out more detail. Image sharpening artificially simulates image sharpness and can actually degrade the digital image. Unless you use a sharpen brush, every time you sharpen an image in post-production you also enhance the non-subject elements in the scene.

So make sharpening for detail a last resort.

Conclusion

Make it a habit to capture the highest level of detail in the original shot. Take the time to learn each of these precautions and then consider them briefly before you take your shot. If you discipline yourself to go through this checklist the next half-dozen times you shoot, this will become a mental-muscle memory that you check subconsciously.

Exercise your good habits and you’ll come home with more sharp photos and become a sharpshooter.

The post Tips for Ensuring You Get Sharp Photos Every Time appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images

Capturing sharp images is something most photographers aim to do, regardless of what genre you do. While it sounds easy on paper, it’s not quite as easy to come home with sharp images; especially when you are photographing in challenging conditions.

There are several reasons why you’re images aren’t as sharp as you’d like them to be but the good news is that most of them are both quick and easy to fix. In this article, we’ll look at the most common reasons and what you can do to avoid making these mistakes again.

#1 The Shutter Speed is Too Slow

The shutter speed is to blame for a lack of sharp images in 99% of the cases. A shutter speed that is too slow results in the image becoming blurry.

moody mountain scene - 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images

A shutter speed of 1/320th of a second captured with a 24mm lens was quick enough to get this image sharp.

This is a common mistake and it’s easy to forget to change the shutter speed when you’re in the field. There’s so much to remember, right? The ISO, the aperture, composition, light… and then the shutter speed. Don’t worry though; spending time using and learning the camera will make this much easier within no time at all.

The exact shutter speed you need depends on the situation. However, a rule of thumb is to never use a shutter speed slower than 1 over the focal length for handheld photography. That means that you shouldn’t use a shutter speed slower than 1/70th of a second with a 70mm lens, or slower than 1/16th of a second for a 16mm lens.

This isn’t an exact science though and while the tip above can serve as a guideline, you still should make it a habit to zoom in on the image preview to double check if the image is sharp.

natural scene at sunset - 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images

I used a tripod to capture this 91-second exposure

If you need to use a slower shutter speed to achieve a certain look or due to the dim conditions, it’s essential that you use a tripod. This makes it possible to increase the exposure time without worrying about the image being blurry.

#2 Your Lens is Not Good Enough

Unfortunately, an unsharp image can’t always be blamed on human error. Sometimes the camera equipment is to blame. While I often preach that camera gear won’t make you a better photographer, it is true that it does make a difference to the image quality.

A budget lens isn’t as sharp as a professional lens and sometimes this becomes quite visible. For this reason, it’s advisable to do some research about the lens before purchasing it and make sure to read what people are saying about the image sharpness.

#3 The Camera is Vibrating

So what about the times when you’re using a slow shutter with the camera placed on a tripod, and you know for a fact that the lens is good enough? The cause might be camera vibration.

road with big trees arching over - 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images

When capturing the image above I could not for the life of me figure out why almost every image was slightly blurry when I zoomed in on the LCD screen. I used a 70-200mm with a semi-slow shutter speed, the camera was mounted on a solid carbon fiber tripod and I used a remote shutter release.

After several attempts and trying to understand what was happening I realized it was due to me not standing still when taking the image. This caused small vibrations in the unstable ground I was standing on and resulted in the camera vibrating slightly.

Camera vibration becomes more visible and is easier to cause the longer the focal length you are using. Had I used a 14mm I would most likely not have noticed it at all.

There are many reasons why you might be having some camera vibration. The example above is perhaps not the most common. It could be caused by wind, waves, the tripod is placed in a river or on a bridge, or perhaps it is from you pressing the shutter button (so get a remote trigger).

#4 The Weather is to Blame

Other times you can’t blame either yourself or the camera gear. Sometimes the weather is to blame and it makes it impossible to capture a sharp image.

The most common reason is lots of particles in the air and high temperatures. Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m smart enough to explain how this works (I’m sure someone wants to take on this task in the comments) but it’s a common issue when photographing distant subjects.

mountains in the mist - 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images

Make sure to zoom in 100% when using a telephoto zoom to see if you’re getting sharp images.

A good practice is to use Live View and zoom into 100% magnification to check for sharpness. This should give you a good idea of whether or whether not it’s possible to capture a sharp image.

Conclusion

So I hope these tips have you to get sharp images next time you’re out shooting. Use this as a checklist of things to look out for and go over them one by one to ensure you have everything sharp.

If you have any other tips of reasons why others might be experiencing unsharp images, please share them in the comment area below.


Be sure to read my eBook The Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography if you’re curious about working with slower shutter speeds. 

The post 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Sharp Images appeared first on Digital Photography School.

What to Do When Your Camera Won’t Work and You Wanna Scream

You love your camera and care for it with due diligence. You (hopefully) clean the sensor and wipe down your lenses, being careful to keep them dry and avoiding high humidity. But what happens when no matter how careful you’ve been, your camera won’t work and starts to act funny? What if that dear, dear equipment of yours stops working the way you try and expect? Then what?

Easy Fixes

There are some fairly common problems that you can fix yourself. They involve a little bit of fiddling with your camera, but you don’t always need to run to your local camera store for repairs. So before you go running to the experts consider these options if your experience the following issues with your camera.

1) The lens won’t focus

  • Check that the autofocus is turned on – This is a fairly easy fix most of the time. The first thing you should always do is check to make sure you have the lens’s autofocus turned on. There have been a few times when I didn’t realize that I had pushed the switch to manual focus and I can’t understand why the lens won’t work. Always, always check this button first.
  • Try removing the lens and reattaching it. Sometimes when changing lenses you may not quite connect the camera and lens properly. In this case, the camera and lens can’t communicate and the camera can’t send a message to the lens to start the autofocus adjustments. Make sure you hear a click and the lens is attached tightly to the camera body (if not it can also fall off!).
  • Try using compressed air or a blower. It may be that there is some dust that is interrupting the proper workings of your camera use a blower to clean out the attachment area for both lens (metal contacts) and the area on the camera.
What to Do When Your Camera Won't Work and You Wanna Scream

Try using a blower to clean the attachment area for your lens. Just remember don’t ever touch the little gold squares with your fingers. They can corrode and then your camera cannot communicate with the lens. I will apologize for the camera shake on this image. It’s not easy holding a camera while shooting using a blower tool.

  • Take out your trusty user manual and see if the there’s a troubleshooting section. Most camera user manuals will have a section where you can find solutions to common problems.
  • You’re too close – Every lens has a minimum focusing distance. If you get too close to your subject, the lens will not be able to focus. For example, if the minimum focusing distance for your lens is 18″ and you try to do a macro shot of a flower and get right into about 8″ away from it – you lens physically cannot do that job. Try adding a close-up filter or using extension tubes to solve this issue.

2) Memory Card Errors

  • Check it’s not locked – If your camera won’t allow you to take or to delete photos it may be because you’ve not removed the write protect on your card or you’ve locked it. If the memory card is locked you can move the switch to unlock it. Sometimes the switch will break off. This is an easy repair. Place a piece of tape over the space where the switch should be and the card will once again be unlocked.
  • Format – If nothing is working, it may be time to consider formatting the card. You will lose all pictures currently on the card (download them first) but this may be the only way to get the card working again.
What to Do When Your Camera Won't Work and You Wanna Scream

Here you can see the little switch on the SD card. If you can’t write to the card check here.

3) Weird Exposures

It can happen sometimes, you read the exposure correctly, and somehow everything comes out way too bright or too dark. The first thing to check is your exposure settings.

  • Perhaps you’ve got exposure compensation turned on. This means that the camera will alter the value selected when the camera is set in various automatic modes (with some models it even applies in Manual Mode, like most Nikons). Check to make sure you haven’t accidentally turned on exposure compensation.
What to Do When Your Camera Won't Work and You Wanna Scream

Oops, yep definitely did not look at camera settings when I shot this. Always check those when you consistently get a weird exposure.

  • Also, check what metering mode the camera is set to use. Often, issues can be caused by using Spot Metering mode if you are not careful and understand how to use it. If in doubt, use Average or Evaluative Metering Mode as a safe fall-back.
  • Check you haven’t activated Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) by mistake. This is a common accident and you may not even realize it’s happened, but auto bracketing will take a series of images both under and overexposed that could be throwing off your exposures. If one shot is dark and the next is too bright this could be the culprit, check your bracketing settings.

Know when it’s time to put your camera to rest

There are times when there’s nothing you can do. Your camera is just like other tools and eventually, it will wear out. So let’s talk about the signs that you may have a camera on its last legs.

  • The ISO grain on your camera has become way more sensitive. In this case, it’s time to consider a new camera. If your camera’s ISO 400 is starting to look grainy in good lighting then you may need to go shopping.
  • The shutter is very slow. A camera usually has a lifespan of maximum shutter actuations. Once your camera reaches its limits, there’s nothing you can do. You will know if you’re reaching the end when the shutter on your camera starts to become very slow and there is often a delay after you press the shutter button before it takes the photo.

The dark band at the top is a sign that your camera shutter isn’t functioning properly.

  • You’ve surpassed your camera’s limits – There’s another factor that has nothing to do with the proper workings of the camera. Sometimes you may outgrow the capabilities of your equipment. I used a Canon 50D for years. But then when I became much more serious about my photography, and I needed something with a higher megapixel count I knew it was time to put my lovely camera to rest. Sometimes we need better equipment. It’s okay to accept this fact and move on. I know this sounds like you’re breaking up a relationship of sorts. Well, the truth is you are. Do what’s best for you and the goals you have for your photography.

Conclusion

So go ahead and tell us more about your camera. Give us some nice anecdotes about your frustrations with your gear. Tell us about the quick fixes you’ve found and tell us about your love-hate relationships with your older gear and why you moved on.

The post What to Do When Your Camera Won’t Work and You Wanna Scream appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Are You Using Your Camera Wrong? 7 Errors You Need to Avoid

Are you making these 7 mistakes with your camera? Let’s find out.

7 Ways You’re Using Your Camera Wrong

Here’s a recap and links to some dPS articles to help you avoid making these mistakes with your camera.

  1. Holding your camera the wrong way – Cheat Sheet: How to Hold a Camera
  2. Not cleaning your lens – Step by Step How to Clean Camera Gear so it Stays in Good Shape
  3. Not having enough batteries or memory cards – Packing your Bags for a Photo Shoot and How to Select the Right Camera Memory Card
  4.  Not adjusting your focus point – Understanding the Focus and Recompose Technique and Getting Sharper Images – an Understanding of Focus Modes
  5. Shooting in full Automatic or the wrong mode – Getting off Auto – Manual, Aperture, and Shutter Priority modes explained
  6. Don’t use Auto White Balance – How Auto White Balance Can Hinder Your Photography
  7. Not shooting in RAW – Tips for Choosing Between RAW Versus JPEG File Format and Is Shooting RAW+JPEG the Best of Both Worlds? and finally, RAW Versus JPG – Why You Might Want to Shoot in RAW Format

Are you guilty of making any of those camera errors?

Can you think of any other common camera mistakes that beginners need to avoid? If so, please join in the discussion and post them in the comments area below.

The post Are You Using Your Camera Wrong? 7 Errors You Need to Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School.

The Best Way to Improve Your Photography is to Forget About Your Camera

Are you confident using your camera to take photographs in every situation in which you want to shoot? Do you experience anxiety when you think about reaching for your camera? Would you like to feel sure that when you do head out for a photography session you will return more than satisfied with your results? So what is the best way to improve your photography?

portrait of a Kayan girl - improve your photography

If you are anxious or lacking confidence in using your camera you will most likely not be so happy with your photographs. As photographers, most of us like to be improving our pictures each time we use our cameras. I don’t know of a photographer who is not interested in continuing to create better photos than they have previously.

Photography is so much more than having the most up to date equipment and knowing which dials to turn and buttons to push to make it work. The best way to improve your photography is to forget about your camera.

Photography is More Popular Than Ever

Photography is currently more popular than it has ever been. People are taking more photos every day than ever before in history. Why? Because they can and because it is easy. And because everyone always has a camera with them.

Northern Thailand landscape near Suan Sook Homestay, Doi Inthanon - improve your photography

Mobile phone cameras have made photography more popular than ever. This photo was taken with my phone camera.

It is easier and more convenient than ever to be able to take and share your photographs. Most people can take a photo with their phone very easily and without much knowledge of photography technique. Most phone camera users are not concerned with their shutter speed or their ISO setting. But you don’t have to search much to find some outstanding photographs made with phone cameras.

When people take photos with their phone they are most often concentrating on the moment, not the mechanics of how to work the camera. The more you can learn to do this when you are using your DSLR, mirrorless or any other camera the more you will improve your photography.

Make Time to Learn

Make time to study how your camera works. If you are just starting out, begin with the essentials. Become familiar with the settings for obtaining a good exposure and well-focused photos.

Night photo of a buddhist monk at a ceremony at Wat Pan Tao - improve your photography

In any situation you find yourself wanting to photograph, you need to be confident in adjusting your settings well without losing concentration on your subject.

For more advanced photographers, don’t neglect to keep learning more about your camera. Learn to use more of the functions and become proficient at them. If you can do this you will be well prepared whenever you want to head out for a photography session.

If you are constantly trying to figure out how to use your camera at the times when you want to make great photos, you will not be as successful.

Know your camera functions and settings well, so you can use it as quickly and easily as your phone camera. You’ll be able to pay more attention to the moment if you do so.

:aughing Karen woman in a rice field - improve your photography

Be Prepared

When you are in a situation where you want to take photographs, be prepared. Have everything with you that you need. Do you need another lens? Will you need flash? How about your tripod? As well, be mindful of whether or not you will need anything other than your camera and one or two lenses. If not, don’t carry it with you. It will only hinder you.

Always try to anticipate the situation ahead of time. Be well set up with the right lens and any other accessories you need. If you can do this in advance you will be able to concentrate more on making great photos.

Thai woman in traditional costume - improve your photography

Being prepared means you will not miss any opportunities to make great photos.

Review and Critique

Always take a good look at your photos, including the ones you are not satisfied with. Hopefully, you are not deleting any of your photos from your cards before reviewing them on your computer. Aside from this being poor technical practice, you can learn a lot from your dud photos.

lady and giant soap bubbles - improve your photography

Studying your photos for composition, exposure, timing, subject choice, etc., will help you improve. If you are reviewing photos you are not so happy with, this will help you avoid making the same mistakes in future.

Having someone else look at your photos and offer critique can be very valuable. Even if it’s a friend or family member who has little or no photography experience it can help keep you on track, (so long as they are honest and positive.)

Sharing your photos for critique with an experienced photographer can help your growth. They will be able to point out things you may not have noticed. By seeking feedback you will learn directly from your own images.

Reflection of a monk in a puddle of water - improve your photography

Art and Science

Photography is very much a whole brain experience. The left hemisphere of your brain engages to manage the technical aspects. Your right hemisphere is more attentive to the creative aspects. There must be a cohesion and a balance.

If you are too focused on the technical aspects of photography you will not produce such creative pictures. If your right brain takes over you may not get well-exposed or focused images because of not paying attention to your camera.

Pink dahlia photo - improve your photography

Knowing your equipment, whatever camera you are using, will help you improve your photography. A photo that was taken with my camera phone.

Being confident to use your camera, whichever one you choose to use, will help you be more successful. Understand how to use it and to adjust the settings to get the photos you want easily. This takes some study, commitment, and practice, but it’s well worth it to be able to achieve consistently better results.

The post The Best Way to Improve Your Photography is to Forget About Your Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

Photography is a process of constant learning, so it’s only natural to make mistakes along the way. But with a little bit of advice from those who have been there already, fledgling photographers can avoid a few common camera setting mistakes and focus on bigger and better things. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned early on that will help you get stuck into quality image making.

1 – Leaving image stabilization on when using a tripod

Image stabilization is a handy device that can reduce camera shake and improve image quality when it’s used properly. When activated, image stabilization counteracts slight movements of the camera to help reduce blur in your photos. It can be so effective that cameras and lenses equipped with the system allow you to use a shutter speed of between three and five stops slower than cameras without the feature.

This makes for sharper images in lower light conditions. Sounds great right? Well yes, but not all the time. In fact, when image stabilization is used with a tripod, it can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.

If your camera is already set up on a tripod, it should be steady enough by itself. In this case, with the image stabilization left on, the system may try to compensate for minuscule vibrations that wouldn’t otherwise have an effect on the image, increasing blur rather than reducing it.

Check your camera or lens user manual to learn how to switch the system off while shooting with a tripod and you’ll get much sharper images. Just don’t forget to turn it on again when you are going to hand-hold the camera.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

In this example, you can see the difference in sharpness between the photograph taken with Image Stabilization on and the photograph taken with IS off. Notice that the photograph with IS off is sharper, with greater contrast.

2 – Using the wrong autofocus mode

When I started out in photography, I remember struggling to properly focus on a subject in my frame, often leaving the camera to select a point at random and hoping for the best. At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of different autofocus modes.

Autofocus offers several different modes which you can select. These are One-Shot AF (Canon)/AF-S (Nikon), AI Servo AF (Canon)/AF-C (Nikon), and final AI Focus (Canon) and AF-A (Nikon).

Probably the most commonly used focus mode is the One-Shot/Single-Servo option. It is the best choice for stationary subjects and serves as the standard setting on your camera. For this setting, the autofocus system achieves focus and then locks that setting in until the shutter is actuated. Once locked, you are assured that your subject will be sharply focused.

AI Servo/AF-C, on the other hand, focuses the lens continuously, which makes it ideal for tracking a moving subject. In this focus mode, the camera will let you take a picture at any time, even if the subject isn’t in focus. This mode is the best choice when you have a moving subject like children, animals, shooting sports, birds, etc.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

You can change your focus mode in the quick control panel (this shows the Canon options).

Many cameras also offer a third autofocus mode: AI Focus (Canon) or AF-A (Nikon). This mode attempts to automatically detect whether the subject is stationary or moving and sets the focus mode depending on the situation. However, AI Focus isn’t as reliable as the other two dedicated settings, so it’s best to deliberately select between One-Shot/AF-S or AI Servo/AF-C where possible.

 

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

AI Servo/AF-C focus mode is ideal for photographing moving subjects.

3 – Not shooting in RAW format

For much of my early photography, I shot in jpeg. It was a familiar file format, so I just went with it. Only later did I discovered what I was missing out on. JPEG files are processed by the camera. That means that while settings like color temperature and exposure are set based on your camera settings, the camera will process the image to adjust blacks, contrast, brightness, noise reduction and sharpening. The file will then be compressed into a JPEG.

But because the image has been edited, compressed and then saved as a JPEG, information in the original photograph gets discarded and cannot be recovered. This limits how much editing you can do with the image in post-production.

Advantages of RAW format

RAW files, on the other hand, are uncompressed and unprocessed. Although they come out looking flatter and darker than JPEG images, they retain all the information recorded in the original image. This allows for a lot more flexibility in post-production, allowing you to take full control over adjustments that you want to apply to a photograph.

Shooting in JPEG can be useful for happy-snaps or circumstances where output doesn’t need to be as higher quality. Otherwise, for professional-grade imagery, you want to shoot in camera RAW. And if you aren’t sure, it is possible to shoot both at the same time – just make sure you have an extra CF card or two on hand.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

You can see that the unedited, uncompressed RAW image is a lot flatter than the JPEG because it retains all the information of the original shot. Only after processing will the RAW image match or surpass the look of the JPG.

4 – Always shooting in automatic mode

Automatic exposure mode means that the shutter speed, aperture and ISO are set automatically by the camera for a given situation, leaving you to depress the shutter button and move onto the next shot. But what if you want to take more control over your images?

The biggest advantage of shooting in manual mode (or shutter/aperture priority mode) over automatic is creative control. Plus, the camera doesn’t always get the algorithm for exposure right, so you can end up with underexposed or overexposed images.

Choose a semi-automatic mode instead

You don’t have to shoot fully manual to take better control of your images either. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes allow you to select and adjust either your aperture or shutter speed while the camera compensates to give you the right exposure.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

Auto shooting mode.

By using Aperture Priority, you have much more control over the depth of field in your image, dictating how much of the image is in sharp focus. This is helpful for many genres from portraiture to landscape photography, changing the dynamic of your images depending on the situation and how deep you want your photographs to look.

As for using Shutter Priority, being able to take control of the motion in an image allows for a lot more creative leeway. Motion blur has long been used to make images more dynamic. Think waterfalls with smooth flowing water and time-lapse cityscapes, as well as intentional camera movement.

While Automatic exposure mode is useful and often effective, relying only on Auto is allowing your creative photographic potential go to waste. Experimenting with shooting in full Manual or Shutter or Aperture Priority Mode means that you can truly get to know your camera and exploit its artistic possibilities.

5 – Not backing up files

We have a saying in Australia; “She’ll be right”. The term asserts that whatever is wrong will right itself with time. It’s both an optimistic and an apathetic outlook, and when it comes to photography, it can be the start of a spiral into digital file oblivion. I’m talking about backing up files.

Okay, so it isn’t technically an in-camera setting mistake, but photography has an enormous output of content that needs to be maintained so that it is as fresh as the day it was created.

From day one, “she’ll be right” just doesn’t cut it. If you only have one copy of your images stored on a hard drive, and that hard drive fails, (as they often do) then you’ll completely lose all your work. Forever! The easy solution is to have a second or even third copy of your images stored somewhere else, either on an external hard drive or cloud storage service.

Make the investment now and you’ll thank yourself later.

5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers

An old favorite, this image is backed up on two separate hard drives!

Conclusion

Starting out in photography can sometimes seem like a daunting task – there’s so much to learn! But photographers, for the most part, are a friendly bunch. We’re happy to pass on the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

By doing your research, there are plenty of ways to dig into photography, avoiding common mistakes, and delve into the world of photography with confidence!

The post 5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made by Newbie Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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