by Harry Flashman
11 Digital Tips for SLR’s
the compact point and shooter is a great way to get into photography,
there are limitations with the basic camera, especially if you wish to
improve above the “Auto” mode type of photography.
The 11 tips this week are for the photographer who has graduated from a
point and shoot to an SLR.
1. Begin with the Rule of Thirds. In this, you position the main subject
one third in from either side of the frame and one third up from the
bottom, or down from the top. Putting the main subject slap-bang in the
middle produces a very boring photograph.
2. Digital cameras have become very smart at counteracting camera shake,
but there is a limit. Holding the camera in one hand while waving one,
two, three fingers at the subject is a recipe for “soft” fuzzy photos.
Hold the camera in two hands. One hand around the body and one around
the lens and hold the camera close to your body for support, not at
arm’s length. Look through the viewfinder, rather than at the LED
screen. If you are shooting with a slow shutter speed, use a tripod or
monopod whenever possible, or use a tree or a wall to stabilize the
3. Most digitals have an in-built light meter, but if not, the Sunny 16
rule will help you. In bright sunshine, choose an aperture of f/16 and
1/100th of a second at ISO 100. You will end up with a sharp image that
is neither under or over exposed.
4. Use a Polarizing filter. This filter helps reduce reflections from
water as well as metal and glass; it improves the colors of the sky and
foliage, and it will protect your lens too. Get a circular polarizer
because these do not confuse the automatic metering.
5. Learn to control ‘depth’. When photographing landscapes it really
helps to create a sense of depth. Use a wide-angle lens for a panoramic
view and a small aperture of f/16 or smaller to keep the foreground and
background sharp. Placing an object or person in the foreground helps
give a sense of scale and emphasizes the depth of field to infinity. You
may need a tripod as a small aperture usually requires a slower shutter
6. Note the background and keep it simple. If possible, choose a plain
background - neutral colors and simple patterns. This is vital in a shot
where the subject is placed off center.
7. Avoid flash indoors. Flash can look harsh and unnatural like a rabbit
in the headlights. To avoid using flash, push the ISO up - usually ISO
800 to 1600 will make a big difference for the shutter speed you can
choose. Use the widest aperture possible - this way more light will
reach the sensor and you will have a nice blurred background.
8. Become familiar with ISO ratings. The ISO setting determines how
sensitive your camera is to light and also how fine the details of your
image. When it is dark push the ISO up to a higher number, say anything
from 400 - 3200 as this will make the camera more sensitive to light and
then you can avoid blurring. On sunny days choose ISO 100 as there is
more light to work with.
9. Pan to show motion. Choose a shutter speed around two steps slower
than usual, so 1/30th is a good average. Lock the focus and follow the
action and shoot. This gives a sharp subject and a blurred background.
You will need to practice this many times.
10. Experiment with shutter speed. Don’t be afraid to play with the
shutter speed to create some interesting effects. When taking a night
time shot, use a tripod and try shooting with the shutter speed set at 4
seconds. You will see that the movement of the object is captured along
with some light trails. If you choose a faster shutter speed of say
1/250th of a second, the trails will not be as long or bright; instead
you will freeze the action.
11. Spend as much time as you can just critically looking at your shots
and learn to adapt by giving yourself photo projects.
The Travel Bug
In around three months, many of you will be gearing up for the overseas
trip to see relatives “back home”. In around four months many of you
will then be showing your travel shots from ‘over there’ to friends
‘over here’, and will be very disappointed with the results.
by Ernie Kuehnelt)
Let’s see if we can get you over some common hurdles and improve this
situation. The first thing to remember is that travel shots are not all
portraits. Sure, everyone wants to see how granddad looks these days, so
be prepared to take some dedicated portrait shots of him. Do not try and
incorporate granddad, grandma and the three cousins standing outside the
village fountain while eating ice creams. It won’t make a good travel
shot and neither will it make for good portraits.
With digital cameras, now you can see if you’ve got it in one second.
All you have to do is look critically at your images! If you haven’t got
the shot you wanted, you are still there and can take it again. For that
reason alone, you should take a digital camera with you on holidays.
However, there are many other good reasons, including the fact that the
memory chip is not affected by the airport security scanners. You can
take two or three memory cards with you without using up space in
handbags. And photoshops all over the world can read the cards very
easily and burn you a CD instantly.
However, to come back with some cracker holiday shots is not all that
difficult, it just needs some thought and time. Not taking the correct
amount of time in shooting is probably the number one reason for getting
disappointing results. The corollary is that by taking time, you will
get better results!
Take a look at the shot this week of the Cambodian girl on the bicycle.
This was taken by a keen amateur, the late Ernie Kuehnelt, and took one
hour. No, he did not get the girl to cycle back and forth for 60
minutes, but he stayed in position (in the shade) close to a bridge in
Siem Reap for one hour. During that time he snapped interesting looking
subjects and this shot was one of the best. It is a wonderfully
evocative shot that shows the lifestyle of a Cambodian peasant girl. By
the way, the shot was taken using the follow focus facility, and it
certainly worked well.
What is worth noting from Ernie Kuehnelt’s photograph is that he came
back with images of Cambodia, not photographs of “me beside a temple” or
“me taken with our guide”. Your camera should be used to record the
places you visited, not just you on your holidays. The former kinds of
photographs are interesting. The latter are not, other than to your
Before your trip, you should also have some ideas on the subject matter.
This you can get from the internet or your friendly travel agent, but if
you are going to Koln, for example, you have to put some time aside for
the cathedral and the river transport there. Or if you are going to
Canada, try to make sure you get a moose. Or if going to the US, look
for Mickey Mouse.
What camera should you take? Well, unless you are hoping to send the
photographs to National Geographic, I would probably suggest you leave
the expensive digital SLR at home. Why? Because lugging an expensive
camera around tourist spots can be a chore, as well as worrying about
its welfare. Ever tried to fit one camera and lenses, into a hotel
security box? A point and shoot compact with a mini-zoom would be my
choice, and a large capacity memory card. With the price of these going
down all the time, look at seeing if you can take a couple of 2GB cards
Finally, think about how you are going to present the results. It is
always a huge temptation to rush in as you get back. Wait! Sort them,
keep the good ones, delete the bad. Put your best shots on CD and think
about an on-line site that will host your shots for the world to access.
you know that some of the highest paid professional photographers are those
who photograph food?
Ask food and wine critics about menus. What is the best style and layout of
a menu? Menus that have photographs in them. It is all very well having ‘vol
au vent’ on the menu, but if the diner doesn’t know what it is, he is not
going to order it. With international clientele in Thailand, where English
may not be their language, only a photograph can tell them what is on your
OK, so there needs to be a photograph, but if that final photograph does not
make the food look appetizing, the diner isn’t going to order it anyway -
and will probably go somewhere else to eat next time.
Photography is one of the least truthful pastimes you can take up. For the
pro photographer much of the time is used in working out how to either show
the product in a favorable way, or to disguise some defect or other. There
is a veritable army of people out there who love to go through advertising
brochures and look for minute imperfections and write to the manufacturer
saying “Do all of your watches have scratches on them?” And who gets the
blame? Not the manufacturer who sent over the product, but the poor old
photographer, that’s who. This can really be an enormous problem when you
may be photographing a pre-production item and this is the only one in
And so to the food. This is one area where there are more fraudulent
practices than any other. Cold food can be made to look hot by sprinkling
chips of dry ice to give “steam” coming off the dish. Not palatable, but it
looks OK. Cooking oil gets brushed on slices of the cold meat so that they
look moist and succulent.
That is just for starters. In the commercial photography studio, the
dedicated food photographer would erect a “light tent” of white polystyrene
and bounce electronic flash inside. Brightness is necessary to stop the food
looking grey and dull. If you want a “warm” look to the food, then you can
use internal reflector tungsten bulbs as well, but be warned, that if you
use the tungsten light as the sole source the food will turn out very
orange. Lighting is just so important. If you do not have bright sparkly
light then potatoes will look grey, and even the china plates look drab and
But let’s get back to a few examples where the food photographer has to
stretch the truth somewhat. Ever tried photographing champagne? There’s
never enough bubbles to keep Art Directors happy, so the photographer drops
some sugar into the glass. Only a few grains are enough to give the almost
still glass of champers that “just opened” fizz look to it. You also have to
bring the light in from the back of the glass, as well as from the front.
This takes two flash heads, or at least one head and a reflector.
While still on wines, if you try and shoot a bottle of red wine, it comes
out thick dark maroon or even black. Professional restaurateurs but amateur
photographers who have tried photographing their own wines will agree. So
what does the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of courses of action.
First is to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and secondly place a
silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. So what happens to the half
bottle of red that was removed to dilute the wine? The photographer has it
In places such as the USA, there are very firm rules about photographing
food. Mainly the fact that you are not allowed to use substitute materials
which “look” like food, but are actually not. This covers the old trick of
using shaving cream as the “cream” on top of cappuccino coffee for example,
or polystyrene foam as “ice cream”. Personally I think this is a load of
ballyhoo, because the photograph is just to represent what the food will
look like - you don’t eat a photograph, now do you!
Never believe everything you see!