Auto focus systems on most DSLRs work by sensing the difference in contrast between edges, even those that use Phase Detection Autofocus. But when there are no sharp edges or contrast, or when there is not enough light to detect the contrast, the lens's auto focus will keep searching for an edge and will not be able to focus, this known as 'hunting'. For example, if you try to focus on a cloudless sky or on a solid coloured wall with no contrasting edges, the camera won't be able to acquire automatic focus because of lack of contrasting edges. These sequence of photos were taken at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park in London, where on Sunday mornings anybody can literally get up on their 'Soup Boxes' and scream their opinions to the world! In the shot above, had I tried to focus on the plain area of the Muslim ladies' bhurka, the lens would not have been able to lock focus, so I intentionally set the focus square partly on her face, bhurka nd background and got an instant focus lock. Similarly in this shot I focused on the man's face, had I tried to focus on his jacket, I would have had a problem. Again, on his face [do action="tl-linktonatlightdoc"] [/do]
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As explained in a previous focusing tip, an alternative to the 'focus and re-compose' method is to use one of the other camera focus areas instead of the centre one. Different cameras have varying number of focus areas and many cameras allow you to change the number of focus areas to be used, via the menu settings. There are many variations, and you'll have to consult the dreaded manual to learn about your own camera. Here's some variations. The problem with using the outer focus areas Notice from the main image of the family that the outer focus areas are represented by a vertical line, rather than a cross hair. This is because, depending on the camera, some or even all of the outer squares are not as powerful as the centre square and may have trouble focusing in low light or when there is not a great deal of contrast (again, check your manual to see whether your outer focus areas have the cross hairs). So, bear in mind that if you're having trouble locking in the focus using an outer focus area, it's sometimes worth switching to using the centre focus area. [do action="tl-linktocurriculum1"] [/do] In the above main image, using the centre area, without using 'focus and re-composing', probably wouldn't work because the square is directly over the mum's blouse which has no edge contrast. So I could have moved the focus point to the top area or I could have used the centre one and 'focus and re-composed'. I can't remember which method I used, but it's in focus so I obviously got it right!!
The frame within a frame trick, sometimes known as foreground framing, is a great way to lead the viewers eye through to the main focal point of an image, and to keep it there. The general idea is that the main subject is inside a real or implied frame, and usually other parts of the image are blocked out. There can be several benefits in using this type of composition, for example it can provide a sense of context, that is, tell you something more about the subject, as in this wedding photo of a groom as the bride and her dad walk down the church aisle towards him:- It can also provide the image with a sense of depth and layers as in this image:- Even though your subject might only reflect a small proportion of the frame, using a window or doorway to provide a clean surround can really add impact. [do action="tl-linktonatlightdoc"] [/do] [do action="tl-linktocurriculum1"] [/do] You often see the frame within a frame trick being used in films and TV dramas to show that the subject is being spied on and completely unaware of being watched (they're usually murdered seconds later!) One terrific way of using this 'being spied on' technique is taking photos through a doorway of say children playing, showing them in a natural rather than a posed way .
I love the snow, I can hardly look at a snowy scene and not want to go out and play and take photos! But if you look around at many peoples' snow photos, even though the scenes may have looked great at the time, some of the photos look quite dull, boring and uninteresting. So what happened? Well here are the main reasons for those dull looking images:- Incorrect exposure Incorrect white balance Lack of colour No excitement or drama Incorrect Exposure If you've watched my film about Exposure Compensation, you'll know that your camera's metering system works by averaging out scenes to a mid gray tone. This usually works very well because many scenes have both light and dark area in them and so the average grey tone for the whole image is usually about right. But when there is a predominantly bright or predominantly dark are in the scene, the camera can be easily fooled. I think it's safe to say that snow is quite bright stuff, and so the camera sees all of that white snow and tries to tone it down a bit to average the scene out to a mid gray tone. Typical snow shot without changing exposure settings The easy way round this is to use some positive exposure compensation to brighten up the scene, usually about +1.0 or +1.5 works well. If you have a compact camera or you just prefer not to mess around with camera settings, just use the 'Beach' or 'Snow' scene mode, it may look something like this:- Incorrect White Balance Exposure The term Incorrect White Balance is perhaps a little strong, sometimes although an image [...]
When it comes to improving the quality of your photos, learning about light isn’t that sexy is it? Many people would much prefer to learn about their shiny new camera or lenses, rather than being shown some easy photography lighting tips. But it’s fair to say that a good understanding and use of light will improve your photos far more than a whole bag full of cameras and accessories. As an added bonus, light is with us all of the time (nearly!), and you don’t have to carry it around with you!! Sometimes, all it needs to create a much better photo is just a little thought and awareness of the light. So here’s a great natural light photography tip for certain bad weather days. The London Eye I was raised in London, and often go and re-visit my home town, one amazing attraction there is the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames, it moves around very slowly and offers fabulous views across the London and its skyline. When I paid a visit with my camera last year, the weather was awful, but despite that, I was still able to get a great shot of ‘The Eye’ with some beautiful light. As you can see from the photo above, the weather was stormy and cloudy and a few minutes before I took this shot, the light was very poor. I could see that although there was enough light to take a photo, it just wasn’t a good quality light, being very bland and grey, and I knew that if I just took a photo there and then (like many other people were doing!), that it would just [...]
What exactly is a maximum flash sync speed and how can it cause problems Maybe you're already aware that your camera's shutter speed is limited to (usually) around 1/250th of a second when using flash. But why is that, and what happens if you ignore it, (assuming your camera allows you to ignore it?) Have you ever noticed, when you pop up your flash or put an external one on top of the camera, the settings sometimes change without you actually doing anything. You may have a shutter speed of say 1000th of a second dialled in, but then you pop up the flash, and suddenly it changes to 1/250th of a second. All DSLR cameras and most mirrorless cameras have what’s called focal plane shutters. The reason for the change of shutter speed that I just mentioned, is that these cameras have an inherent maximum shutter speed limit when shooting with electronic flash, and that limit is called the maximum sync speed. It’s usually 250th of a second, sometimes a little slower than that, 180th or 200th of a second. If you have a flashgun attached, many cameras won’t even allow you to set the shutter speed faster than the max sync speed, although some may allow it in the manual exposure mode, my Nikons don’t allow it. So here's the problem, there are two main parts of the shutter mechanism (called 'curtains'), and with shutter speeds faster than 250th of a second, the first curtain starts its journey to cover the sensor even before the second curtain has time to complete its movement. Shutter full open Shutter closing when at 500th of a second This results in a large black bar [...]
Posing tips - some relaxed poses for men As I said in the previous post, unless they're given instruction or are well-practised, it's quite difficult for someone to just stand in an open space and look perfectly relaxed. So when you ask someone to stand a few feet away so that you can take a photo of them, quite often they'll stand as you see Ben in the above left-side photo, a bit tense and flat-footed. But most people like to lean on things, especially men, so one easy way around this is find a wall, a post, a pillar, a fence.. anything that your subject can lean against. As you can see from the above photo, Ben looks a lot more relaxed and natural looking when leaning against a post. Notice also his crossed legs and hands in pockets. [do action="tl-linktonatlightdoc"] [/do] Here's another one leaning against the post, turned sideways this time, and one leg up on the post. By the way, hands in the pockets look best with either the thumbs out or just the thumbs in. Putting the whole hand in could be misconstrued as erm.. playing with something ;-). Here's one of my wedding photos where I took the opportunity to get the men to lean on the pillars. And finally in these posing tips for men, one of my studio photos, notice how i've tried to stand people in different ways, and even in different directions, I prefer that to having them all stand in the same way. Most of the men are leaning on the wall, feet crossed so that they looked relaxed, and arms sometimes [...]
Posing tips - A more flattering pose for full length female photos Unless they're given instruction or are well-practised, it's quite difficult for someone to just stand in an open space and look perfectly relaxed. So when you ask anyone to stand a few feet away so that you can take a photo of them, quite often they'll stand as you see in the above left-side photo, a bit tense and flat-footed. In this posing tip, I'll show you a pose for women that you will have seen many times before, I call it the Model Pose, as you see it all the time when models stop to have their photos taken, for example, on the red carpet at awards ceremonies etc... Here's how it looks:- Standing in this way puts the body into a lovely shape, for example notice that one shoulder is higher than the other, so even if you're just taking a 3/4 length photo, it's still a good pose to use as the upper body will still look much nicer than when standing flat footed straight on to the camera. It's a perfect natural pose for most women as it doesn't look forced or un-natural. [do action="tl-linktocurriculum1"] [/do ] Here's how to do it, oh and by the way, this is strictly for women. Men, don't try standing like this unless you particularly want to look effeminate! Turn your subject to the side about 30-45 degrees, this will immediately slim her down as her hips will look narrower. By the way if there is better light in one direction or the other, turn her towards that light. Tell her to put [...]
External flashguns are great aren't they? As well as being far more powerful than the built in pop-flash on DSLR's, they usually come with a head that swivels, like in the above photo. This allows you to bounce the light off a nearby wall or ceiling. But why is it important to bounce the flash? The smaller the light source, the harder the light. Or to be more accurate, the smaller the light source in relation to the subject, the harder the light. Consider the light when he sun is shinning, you get strong shadows on the ground, and then when there is cloud cover, the light source spreads out and becomes larger, and consequently the shadows become much softer. When you bounce the flash, instead of the small flashgun being the source, the wall becomes your light source, consequently the light is much softer. What's the problem with hard light For portraits, hard light is not very flattering as shadows on the face and on the background will have a very hard edge, plus hard light creates highlight on noses, cheeks and foreheads. Not what you want! Compare these two photos of my wife Jane Guess which one used bounce flash! How to bounce the flash. For individuals or small groups, the best way to bounce the flash is to turn the flash head around 30-45 degree (depending on distance your subject) so that the light bounce off a nearby wall. It doesn't have to be a wall, could be a pillar, a building, or even someone wearing a white shirt standing close by. Just make sure that whatever you're bouncing from is white or has a neutral bright colour. If there are no [...]
Use ‘Leading Lines’ to create more dramatic images Any time there is a strong line in a photograph, the viewers eye will naturally follow along it towards the actual subject. This could be type of line, such as a telephone pole, the side of a building, a road or path, or even a dark shadow. Leading lines can add drama to images, giving the photos a more emotional and compositional power, plus they're powerful because they control the eye movement of the viewer. Quite often you can find one strong element by just making a small adjustment to your position, such as getting close to the pointing on this brickwork for a more creative portrait. by the way, the closer you get to the leading line, the more dramatic it becomes. Leading lines can be used in a subtler way, to emphasise perspective, for example. The converging lines of a road or track in a landscape shot can be used to emphasise distance and scale, or as in this case, the converging lines of a hotel corridor. Sometimes when taking say photographs of a famous location or building, you'll want to get the safe shot that you know will be fine to show the folks back home. But once that's done, take some time and think about the possibility of taking a more creative photo that you'll be happier with, look around for different angles to include leading lines. Watch out for these lines when watching dramas or films on TV or at the cinema, it’s used all the time to give more impact [...]