Learning about camera settings

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In this day and age of automatic controls there’s no need to understand how a camera works to get very acceptable results but to get exceptional results and to really enjoy the concept of taking photographs an understanding of the controls and ways of setting the camera up are a huge advantage so I’m going to attempt to help explain some of the more common settings which you should understand.

I’m going to assume you know nothing so forgive me if some of what I say is not new but there’s nothing worse than assuming students have knowledge which is missing.

So lets start with that little round knob on the top of the camera with a load of letters on it – you know the one, the one that is set to “A” – Automatic.

Actually, no, I wont start there, lets start by describing what you can control and why you would want to and then we can move back to those settings which control them.

Any photograph you take needs a certain amount of light – the correct amount of light – to hit the sensor to record the scene. (Hang on – sensor? whats that? That’s the surface inside the camera that reacts to the light falling on it and records the picture.)

We have three ways of controlling the amount of light hitting the sensor, the size of the hole through which the light passes in the lens – that’s called the aperture – the length of time that the aperture is allowing light to pass through, that’s called the shutter speed and the sensitivity of the sensor to light – that’s termed the ISO rating. ISO stands for International Organisation for Standardisation (originally in French so letters are in the wrong order!)absolutely nothing to do specifically with photography but its the initials which every photographer understands as meaning the speed of the sensor reacting to light.

So by controlling any one or all three of those elements, aperture, shutter speed and ISO we can control how much light falls on the sensor. Why do we need 3 ways of doing this? Well, each element controls the total in a different way and will have an effect on the final image, I’ll come back to this in more detail over the coming posts but basically you use the shutter speed to control the amount of movement you are showing, aperture to control the amount of the picture that is in focus and ISO to give you more options of being able to use the other two as you wish.

If this helps you to start to understand what your camera is doing, and how, then please  leave a comment or a like and I’ll continue with these posts. In the next post I’ll start to explain in more detail and show you the effects these three settings can have on the final result (if anyones interested!)

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My Waveney

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Just a quick note here to let everyone know that I have joined “My Waveney”

My Waveney is an initiative funded by Waveney District Council, which aims to promote local businesses in our towns. Their Facebook, Twitter and website will be promoting fantastic local businesses and they will be encouraging the general public to spend their money locally. They also send out a monthly newsletter promoting the businesses and offers.

They also have a membership card scheme, cards are available from selected stores in the towns. Anyone with a My Waveney membership card can take advantage of exclusive My Waveney offers. (I’m offering a 20% discount on all portrait sessions during February)

If you would like further information here’s their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MyWaveney/?fref=photo

 

Valentines Day

14th February is only a couple of weeks away so if you fancied having a portrait done to surprise your other half with you don’t have long to organise it! I can still fit a couple of shoots in and as an added incentive I’m offering a discount of 20% off my normal shoot fee if you book by 1st February so contact me NOW.

 

Makeover shoot

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I was digging around in my archives and came across the results of a makeover shoot I did a few years ago. It was a collaboration between myself,a make up artist and a retro clothing store and was great fun but from my point of view highly challenging.

It was shot at the shop premises of the clothing store and she managed to clear out an area in her stock room which could have been no bigger than 8ft x 5ft. Into that I had to drape a backcloth over stock piled against the wall and somehow get the lighting to suit a variety of styles. I ended up with two off camera flashes one firing into a small reflective umbrella and the other through a snoot which gave me a variety of options.

See for yourself if you think I succeeded. At least the customers were happy.

Taking Senior portraits

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I’m talking about real seniors – senior citizens – old age pensioners – third age people – the grey generation whatever you like to call them – (us, I’m one too), they seem to be ignored by so many photographers, unless perhaps they are 115 years old and live in the deepest rain forests of the Amazon jungle.

Youth and beauty. Is that all thats worth photographing? Look at most photographers portfolios and you will have a vast majority of images of the young, new borns, children, teenagers, senior high school girls, engaged couples, newly weds, young parents and children, so the cycle starts again.

Look at anyone giving demonstrations or lectures on how to take portraits and you will have a stunningly beautiful young lady in front of the lens. Job more than half done before the shutter is released.

I’ve decided to try to reverse this trend. I think that the 60+ generations are our greatest assets. (Well, I would say that wouldn’t I, being in that generation myself!)

Our generation have seen change, have lived through ups and downs many times, have countless memories to pass on. How many times have my photographic subjects said to me that they wish they had more memories of their parents/grandparents. Parents readily take multitudinous pictures of their children but not of their parents yet they are the ones that will go first and their faces will gradually fade from the memory. I remember my own Mother after my Fathers death treasuring more than anything else a photograph of him which she had put inside a locket.

I love photographing my own generation. I can talk to them in their own language – (complete sentences not text speak) talk to them about things they understand not the latest pop idol sensation and get that personality through into a final picture which their children and grandchildren can treasure for evermore.

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Unusual photo shoot

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Most of my portrait photoshoots are of children or couples or pets and those pets are overwhelmingly dogs but I ran a perfect pet photo competition a while back and had a smattering of other animals including cats, rabbits and guinea pigs but the most unusual had to be the Giant African Land Snail.

It had me thinking for a while as to how to photograph it to make an interesting portrait. The owner brought along a can of John Smiths beer as apparently he would travel yards(!!) for a slurp whic at teast ensured he came out of his shell. One surprise was that I hadn’t excepted the kids to come too!

Here’s a few pics of the results.

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How to take a competition winning photograph

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Its easy – make sure you are the only entry or bribe the judges!

Seriously though, how do you take a prize winning shot? Seriously? I have no idea and I’ll tell and show you why.

Some 15 years ago I belonged to a local camera club which had monthly competitions for members and in one of those I entered a photograph that I quite liked and was pleased to find that I came joint first with a score of 19 out of 20. The following week the club was having an interclub competition and they selected my photograph as one of the entries and under the same scoring criteria it scored a miserable 8 out of 20. Exactly the same photograph but a different judge. So whether a shot is great or not is obviously highly subjective.

Lets look at national competitions. There one would expect the winners to be mind blowing works of art. Well here’s one that won the first Schweppes Photographic portrait prize in 2003

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This is not a joke. It isn’t April 1st. This photo really did win first prize look here if you dont believe me: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/2003/schweppes-photographic-portrait-prize-2003.php

Now if I were a judge and that was an entry even in a local club I would find it hard to commend it for anything. If it were advertising radiators or even double electrical sockets perhaps it would be good but even in a family album it would not rate high for me. But the esteemed judges in that competition obviously saw something that eludes me.

Then there’s that famous 2nd most expensive photograph in history. You know the one I mean? This one:

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OK so it was large -cant find the exact measurements now but it was large – but is it worth over $4,000,000 Well, obviously it is to whoever bought it. Would you be proud of having taken it? Possibly. Could you do better? Most likely. Its subjective. I’m sure a lot of you reading this will disagree with me. Thats fine as I say its all subjective and thats why I cant tell you how to take a prize winning shot. You need to know the judges and what they want.

Comments very welcome!

New Year offers

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I’m really relaunching my photographic business this year with a selection of offers to get the ball rolling.

The first is for a FREE portrait session for individuals aged 14 – 100 (If you are over 100 then still apply – I’ll make an exception!). The session will be FREE, the post production work will be FREE and the digital images (around 20 per session) will be FREE. The only provisos are firstly that I shoot the session at your premises and use my portable studio equipment to do it. Its really a trial run of this set up but I’m confident that the results will be indistinguishable from those shot in my full studio and secondly that its within 15 mile radius of my home. I’ll do them further afield but would ask for travel costs.

Offer runs to 31st January 2016 and applies to one person per family.

Have a look at my portfolio here for some ideas of my styles and here’s few more examples.

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So if you are interested drop me a line and we can sort out a session. It can be any theme suitable for a studio, everything from a passport photograph to a boudoir set but it will be limited to the first 5 requests.

 

New Years Day by the sea

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Happy new year to everyone. It was a gorgeous morning today with almost the first touch of frost of the winter so we decided to go for a walk on the coast at Walberswick.

For those of you who don’t know it Walberwick is just across the estuary from Southwold here in Suffolk UK and is perhaps most famous for its annual crabbing competition. Its an extremely popular location and holiday venue and today was heaving with people as was the pub which we just had to visit after our walk.

Anyway on to the photos. I’m really getting so keen on the camera on my iphone and took that with me today to see how it would cope with the contrasty conditions of  a clear blue sky on the coast. The following photos I think show that it coped extremely well. There’s hardly any post editing work on them and even including the sun in the frame has hardly produced any flare.

I shot using the native camera app rather than the VSCO that I also have. I’m still not comfortable with it and the main benefits it has of being able to control the shutter speed and ISO rating weren’t really relevant for todays shoot.

What editing there is on these images I did on my Mac rather than on the phone using lightroom, no real reason for that other than the fact that its easier seeing the image on the larger screen.

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If you look at the full size image you can just see Sizewell nuclear power station on the horizon

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Detail of one of the many interesting beach huts

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