Ray's Tip of the Month

October 2010
Outdoor Portrait photography

When photographing subjects outdoors, place your subject in open shade and use a reflector to bounce light back on to your subject.

When placing your subject in open shade make sure that there is no dappled light making its way to your subjects face. If there is dappled light try to place the dappled light to your subjects back or use a scrim or gobo to block the light.

Once you have your subject in a good spot have your assistant take a reflector and hold it over their head so that the reflector is at a 45 degree angle down and at a 45 degree angle to the Left or right of your cameras position.

The reason for holding the reflector up is to simulate the suns position. Many first time photographers place it low so the light bounces up on to the subject. Where this will fill in under the chin and eye sockets it will produce an un-natural light.

If you do need to get some extra light under the chin place a white reflector so that the shaded parts of the face will be filled in. Remember; when using this technique to not overdo it. You only need a little bit of light to fill in the shadow not completely remove it.

September 2010
Shutter speed and Aperture relationship

The relationship between shutter speed and Aperture are polar opposites. When you change one in one direction you change the other in the opposite direction to maintain the proper exposure.

What is a shutter?

A shutter is a series of overlapping leaves that sits just in front of the cameras sensor and control the length of time the sensors is exposed to light. The faster the shutter speed the smaller the amount of time the sensor is exposed to light. These values can range from seconds to fractions of a second.

What is aperture?

Aperture is the opening in the lens that controls the amount of light that is allowed into the camera. F-stops as they pertain to the aperture can be confusing at first, but if you remember that the smaller the number the bigger the opening/aperture. Also remember that the smaller the number the shallower the depth of field.

Let's say you have metered a scene and the proper exposure settings are going to be 1/250th second at f/5.6. Knowing this starting point allows us to build the below chart (at first on paper, latter with practice in your head).

If we stop down or close the lens opening from f/5.6 to the next highest number f/8, we cut the amount of light by half and therefore we need to slow the shutter speed down to lengthen the time that light has to hit the sensor. To do this we will need to change the shutter speed down from 1/125th to its next smaller number 1/60th.

If we stop up or open the lens opening from f/5.6 to the next smaller number f/4, we double the amount of light and therefore we will need to speed up the shutter to shorten the length of time light has to hit the sensor. To do this we will need to change the shutter speed up from 1/125th to its next larger number 1/250th.

Each of the above combinations will produce the same exposure; however they produce different depth of fields and motion.

Knowing this relationship will help you in extreme situations such as, night, snow, beach, open water, fog, rain, backlighting, high contrast ad dim light to name a few. In these extreme cases you will be able to change your settings up or down to maintain a proper exposure while allowing you to tell your story.

By practicing this technique you will begin to see the relationship and start making these changes intuitively while expanding your creative freedom.

August 2010
Low-Key Photography

The term "low-key" refer to any scene with a high lighting ratio, e.g. 8:1, especially if there are high proportions of shadowed areas.

In Low-Key images the tone is darker with a great deal of contrast, usually creating large black fields in the photo. It is very common for Low-Key images to give special attention to contour lines, emphasizing them with highlights. Most notable is a light surrounding the subject illuminating only the outline of a subject known as rim light.

Low-key lighting requires only one key light, with an optional fill light or a simple reflector.

Low-Key images are darker and present drama or tension.

July 2010
High-Key Photography

High-Key means that the overall key tone of the photo is high.

The key to successful high-key photography is working with flat and ample lighting and at the same time avoiding the use of dark subject matter. White-on-white makes for the best high-key photos.

There are three characteristics of high-key photography:

1. First is that the photo’s tone is very bright (not overexposed). Beginning photographer assumes that they can just overexpose the scene to get a high-key image.

2. The second is a lack of contrast that is even across the entire photo.

3. Thirdly shadow detail is at a minimum. Meaning that there should be little to no shadows cast by the main subject or they are suppressed by lighting in the scene

High-Key photography gives the impression of happy and joyful moods and positive emotions.

June 2010
Lines: Building Blocks Of Shapes, Patterns and Textures

If you want to attract a viewer to your images the best way is to emphasize line, shape, patterns, and textures.

Composition and line play a key role in all photos. A line is a shape that is longer than it is wide. Lines can be actual or implied (dashes, dotted or a series of patters). Line gives the eye direction within the photo.

Let's start with line. Because without line you cannot have shape and without shape you cannot have pattern, and without line, shape or pattern there can be no texture.

Use lines strategically to create a more dynamic photograph. Incorporating them into your photos will lead the viewer's eye to the main subject.

What are the different types of line?

Vertical lines filled with potential energy and evoke strength, power, excitement, rigidity and stability (especially when thicker). Also, if the main subject matter contains vertical line I recommend shooting vertical as this will further accentuate the subject.

Horizontal lines Horizontal lines convey a message of calm, stability or even rest and symbolize peace, restfulness and tranquility.

Curved lines express fluid movement and imply serenity and dynamic movement depending on how much they curve. The less active the curve the calmer the feeling. Curved lines also slow the eye down due to its curvilinear nature.

Zigzag lines are a combination of diagonal line. They take on the dynamic and high energy characteristics of diagonal lines. They create excitement and intense or rapid movement. They convey confusion and nervousness as they change direction quickly and frequently.

Diagonal lines are unbalanced and imply action, energy, activity and rapid movement. Filled with restless and uncontrollable energy they create tension and excitement Diagonal lines are more dramatic than either vertical or horizontal lines.

May 2010
Aperture and Depth of field

As a photographer I cannot emphasize the importance of having a good sense of knowledge of how Aperture and depth of field are related.

In March's article (F-Stop is NOT an F-word) I explained the nomenclature commonly used for aperture is f-stop. Aperture and f-stop relate to the size of the lens opening.

As one of the three components of an exposure (shutter speed, lens aperture, ISO) aperture plays a vital role.

The primary use of aperture is to control the depth of field (the distance in front and behind the subject that is in apparent focus) of a photograph as well as in part control the amount of light that is allowed to enter the camera through the lens.

Also from March's article (F-Stop is NOT an F-word) we discussed that the bigger the aperture/f-number is the smaller the opening which in turn results in a larger depth of field. If you were to set your lens to its biggest number the lens would be “fully stopped down”. Conversely, if you were to set your lens to its smallest number the lens would be “wide open”.

Now, having said all that let me also say the depth of field is not sharpness. What I mean by this is that just because you have a large depth of field it doesn’t mean that the subject will be sharp.

Apparent sharpness can be influenced by factors that have nothing or little to do with depth of field, such as lens quality, dirty sensor or lens element, fog or haze in the environment, even down to camera shake during long exposures.

So if you want good separation of your subject from the back ground set your aperture to a smaller number. Then, continue to adjust your aperture up or down until you get the desired results.

Below is a diagram showing the comparative size of full f-stop apertures.

As you can see from the below image series aperture is a powerful tool in your photographic arsenal. This photo shot with Canons EF 70 - 200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens.

April 2010
April Showers

This time of the year with its crisp and clear air is magical for getting those beautiful wet pavement shots.

At night after (and sometime during) a good rain the wet and shiny streets of your local (or not so local) downtown city reflects the brilliant lights to create colorful and vivid imagery.

Shoot from under an umbrella or an awning. If you can’t find some shelter to shoot from get yourself a large zip type bag and cut a hole in it for you lens. Stick the lens with an appropriate hood through the hole just enough so that the plastic will not obscure your field of view. This should protect tour camera enough to get the shot. Uses this technique at your own risk as this is only a suggestion.

After shooting in the rain dry you camera off immediately.

If you want to capture the rain dead in its track you are going to need to crank up your shutter speed to 200 or better especially if you want to capture the droplets creating crowns as they hit a shallow pool of water. Then again a slower shutter speed can yield a beautiful soft focus.

The other thing you will need to do when shooting reflection is to increase your f/stop so that more of your image is in sharp focus unless you are trying to draw attention to a very specific section of the image.

When photographing light reflection of wet streets or any type of standing water try to orient yourself in such a way that the reflected light bounces off the water and directly into your lens. This will give you the brightest and clearest photo.

March 2010
F-Stop is NOT an f-word

What exactly is an f-stop anyway?

The term f-stop is sometimes confusing due to its multiple meanings. In photographic terms it can mean the size of a lens aperture or an EV (Exposure value) of light.

Lens aperture –corresponds to the aperture opening of the lens. The smaller the number the
bigger the aperture opening. An f/2.8 has a bigger opening then f/8. When you open up a lens by one stop you allows twice as much light into the camera.

The list below shows a typical progression of f-stops. For thoes techies out there it corresponds to the sequence of the powers of the square root of 2.

f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32

EV (Exposure value) - represents a doubling or a halving of the light exposure either by stoping up or down of the lens aperture or by changing the shutterspeed.

By speeding up or slowing down the shutter speed you effectivly increese or decreese the amount of light that will enter the camera.

The shutter speed times are actually a fraction of a second. A speed of 1/125 (or simply 125th) really means 125th of a second.

February 2010

As humans we perceive three dimensions because we have binocular vision. Our camera sees only in monocular therefore we need to (as photographers) use perspective to show depth.

To portray size or scale of an object be it large or small, introduce something into the composition that is of familiar size (telephone pole, sign, a person or an animal).

To suggest depth also place within the composition something of familiar size (vehicle, chair, a person or an animal) at different distances. A good example of this is rail road tracks, the merging of the tracks suggest that there is depth and dimension to the photo.

©R. Mabry Photography 2010

January 2010
Copyrights for Photographers

We get Copyrights questions often, so I thought that I would post it here for everyone to reference. I put it into a Question and Answer format.

This month’s tip was a bit long so I placed it on my blog to save room on this page. Take a look @ Copyrights for Photographers

December 2009

Candid photos are not difficult but they do require some practice, patience and preparation. Timing is critical to candid photography. With modern day DSLR cameras pre-setting the focus point is not as necessary as it once was. Having said that, getting it close should be part of your practice, especially if you are indoors or in low light conditions. If you are outdoors I recommend using both a high shutter speed of 1/250th or faster f-stop (f/8 or smaller). By setting your camera to these settings you increase the chance of getting that perfect candid shot. Using a small f-stop gives you a large plane of focus. Using a high ISO gives you greater latitude for different lightings conditions.

Good Etiquette Tip: If you are in unfamiliar territory and your subject notices you taking their photo, stop and ask their permission before shooting. If they don’t want their photo taken, thank them and move on.

Another key factor in candid photography is patience. Be patient and wait for your subject to relax and start acting natural.

A fun way to shoot candid is to try to look like you are not taking photos. Wear your camera in with the neck strap around your neck, hold the camera so that it is facing forward and press the shutter release without raising it to your eye. One of my favorite ways to capture candid photos is to hold the camera on my shoulder, pointing the camera lens forward and use my body as a pivot point. Just walk around snapping away. Looking in a different direction from where the camera is pointed can help with the ruse.

November 2009

Panning takes some practice to nail down. But with practice and good timing this effect will convey movement like no other technique. Panning allows us to keep the subject in focus while allowing the background to blur.

The basic idea behind panning is a technique where you follow your subject with a smooth motion while matching the speed of the subject.

Here is how I recommend doing it.

  • Let’s start with the camera. The range that I use for panning is somewhere between 1/60th and 1/8th second. The reason there is such a large range of shutter speeds is that the lighting, speed of the subject and environmental conditions can be very dramatically. If you are going to drop below 1/8th second I have found that a mono pod will help with camera shake.
  • Set up so that the entire path of the subject will not be obstructed by other things in the scene. Also, if possible try to keep the path of the subject parallel to you for optimum sharpness.
  • As the subject approaches start panning with the camera in a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Some of the newer cameras have what is called automatic tracking for focusing. Automatic tracking allows the camera to keep in focus a moving object right up to the time of exposure. If your camera has this feature now is the time to use it. If not or the camera cannot track fast enough you will have to manually set the focus at the point where you are going to press the shutter release.
  • Press the shutter released as gently as possible to reduce camera shake. Continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shutter release close. This follow through is where most armatures fall short. If you stop panning during the exposure you risk the change of blurring the subject along with the background. A smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish.

©R. Mabry Photography ©R. Mabry Photography

October 2009
Landscape and the horizon

Keep a watchful eye on the horizon.
For a feeling of wide open space in your landscape photos, place the horizon low in the composition to show the expanse of the sky. Put the horizon high in most other cases, when you want to throw attention on the land itself. Try to avoid the tendency to let the horizon fall in the middle of the frame. Only with reflections in still water is that placement effective.

August 2009
Vertical vs. Horizontal

I have been asked on numerous occasions if I prefer to shoot vertical or horizontal.

There is more to this question then what orientation I like to hold my camera.

The rule of thumb on this is somewhat simple. If you subject is taller than it is wide shoot vertical. A vertical image will compliment a vertical subject. The same goes for if your subject is wider then it is tall shoot horizontal. This can also be said for motion. If your subject is in a vertical motion shoot it vertical such as a rocket taking off. If your subject is moving horizontal such as a race car on a track going 200 miles an hour shoot horizontal.

There are of course exceptions to all rules. If you are telling a story and you need the surrounding to complete the story. You may need to shoot the rocket taking off horizontal in order to include the exhaust exiting the launch pad. Personally in this case I would shoot both and later decide which photo told the complete story.

September 2009
How To Take Better Sunset & Sunrise Photos

This month’s tip was a bit long so I placed it on my blog to save room on this page. Take a look @ How To Take Better Sunset & Sunrise Photos.

July 2009
Polarizing Filters

If there were one tool I deem necessary for travel photography and outdoor shooting in general it would have to be a Polarizing filter. Polarizing filters work their magic by eliminating stray light and glare from reflective surfaces, which in turn greatly amplifies color saturation and allows for unobstructed views of whatever's lying beneath the ocean's waves.

Polarizers come in 2 flavors – linear and circular. They look identical, but if you're shooting with autofocus lenses make sure you buy a circular Polarizing filter. Linear Polarizers are designed for manual focus lenses, and while they usually work with autofocus lenses they have a habit of confusing AF mechanisms, which can ruin an otherwise perfect photo-op. Conversely, linear Polarizers can be used on manual or AF optics with equal results. (They otherwise look and work the same).

June 2009
Horizon line

The rule here is to keep this bad boy out of the center of the frame unless you handle it skillfully. One of the reasons that we try to avoid centering the horizon is that is splits the frame in to two equal parts that can compete for the attention of your eye. By placing the horizon in the upper or lower third of the frame, it allows the eye to travel around the image. You can also go to the extreme and place the horizon near the top or bottom of the frame.

When can you break this rule? With reflections, like in a lake, pool or other bodies of water. See below:
All rights reserved - Remy Gervais

May 2009
Rule of thirds
To quote one of my all time favorite photographers Rick Sammons “Dead center is deadly”. You may be asking what does “dead center is deadly” mean. Well I am glad you asked. If you were to divide your viewfinder up into a grid just like a tic-tac-toe board. The center square is where you don’t want the subject (there are exceptions to this rule, and I will get to that in another post.) You want to offset the important compositional elements along these lines or their intersections (as shown below). It is believed that by aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering subject. The proper photography term Rule of thirds and is rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Tamron SP AF 70 to 300mm f4 Di VC USD for Canon August 22, 2014 7:23 PM John C.
ignacio July 21, 2014 9:39 PM ignacio marcelino m
Tamron AF 18 to 270mm f 3 5 6 3 VC PZD Zoom March 18, 2014 8:52 AM paula p.
FOR SALE BY OWNER March 17, 2014 11:23 AM Larry - GoldDoor S.
Ray's Tip of the Month - 2011 August 3, 2011 10:13 PM Ray M.
Ray's November 2010 Tip of the Month November 17, 2010 9:57 PM Ray M.
List your favorite books, workshops, events here October 1, 2009 6:03 PM Ray M.
Ray's Tip of the Month October 6, 2010 10:48 AM Ray M.
Guidelines for participation August 20, 2009 7:53 AM Remy G.
About Sonoma County Photography Group May 13, 2009 1:38 PM Ray M.

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