Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips to Improve Your Photos

Choose an interesting subject to photograph

One of the easiest ways to improve your photography is by taking photos of interesting subjects. Of course, you can take great creative photos of uninteresting subjects, but if you choose an interesting subject to photograph in the first place, it makes taking a great photo much easier.

So where do you find these interesting subjects? They can be found everywhere, from a stormy landscape, to a simple street scene, to a flower in your garden or local park.

Just take a walk around your local neighbourhood with your camera, and you’re sure to find something interesting to photograph.

Pay attention to the light quality

Something that has a big effect on how your photograph looks is the quality of light that is hitting your subject. There are two aspects of lighting that you need to pay attention to – the colour of the light and how harsh / diffused the light is.

Colour temperature

As a general rule, we tend to prefer photos with a warm (golden) tone. The warmest light naturally occurs around sunrise and sunset, and this is why many landscape photographers prefer this time of day.

The colour temperature of a photo can also be modified by adjusting the white balance setting on your camera. And if you are taking photos using flash, you can use a warming gel on the flash to warm up the light.

Of course, in some instances you may want to go the opposite way, and use light with a cold (blue) colour temperature.

Diffuse vs. harsh light

Diffuse light is where the light creates soft shadows, which is preferred for most types of photography, but particularly portraits.

Diffused light can be created by reflecting light from a large surface (like a wall), or by using a large piece of semi-transparent material between the light and your subject. This works the same way as when there is a thin layer of cloud, which diffuses the sunlight and creates a nice soft light.

Harsh light creates strong shadows. Natural light is at its harshest around midday, while an undiffused flash will also create a harsh light. When shooting with harsh light, try and use the strong shadows it creates to your advantage, incorporating them as an element of your photograph.

Compose your photograph carefully

When taking a photograph, it’s all too easy to just point and shoot. However, try and take a bit more time to think about the photo and the composition.

Rule of thirds

Composition is how the elements in the photograph are arranged, and a good guideline for composition is the ‘rule of thirds’. The rule of thirds works by splitting an image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, so you end up with 9 sections.

In many good landscape photographs, you will see the photographer places the horizon in the top third of the photo, while the landscape takes up the bottom two thirds of the photo.

As well as placing elements along the thirds lines, you can also try and put your main point of focus so that it falls on the intersection of two of the thirds lines.

The Golden triangle

The golden triangle is a good compositional guideline to use when your photograph contains strong diagonal elements. It involves splitting the photo into three triangles that contain the same angles (are the same shape).

One right-angled triangle runs diagonally from corner to corner, while the other two triangles are created by drawing a line that goes from one of the other corners to meet the diagonal line at a right angle. Try and place the diagonal elements in the frame so that they follow this pattern for a pleasing composition.

Leading lines and converging lines

Use leading lines or converging lines to draw the viewer’s eye into the image. Good examples of this you can use in landscape photography are roads, paths, fences, hedges etc, really anything that creates a line that leads into the photo.

Try and avoid including lines that lead out of the photo as this has the opposite effect, and leads the viewer’s eye out of the photo.

Check the exposure

One of the main advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the photo on the camera’s rear LCD. When taking photos, you should check that the photo has been exposed properly, i.e. is not too dark or too bright. Although modern cameras have sophisticated auto exposure systems, they don’t always get it right.

As well as inspecting the image, most digital cameras also have a couple of tools that can help you judge the exposure of an image. The first one is Highlight Warning, colloquially known as ‘blinkies’. What this does is that any areas blown out white will flash when reviewing the photo on the camera’s LCD.

The second tool is the histogram. This is a graph that shows the range of tones in your photo. If there is a peak at the very left edge of the histogram, this means that some of your photo is solid black. And if there is a peak at the very right edge of the histogram, this means that some of your photo is solid white.

Either way, areas of the photo that are solid white or black contain no detail. Maybe this is what you want, but generally it is better to have detail available even if you don’t need it.

You can modify the exposure of the photo by adjusting the exposure compensation. Use negative exposure compensation to darken the photo, or positive exposure compensation to brighten. Take the photo again, check the exposure again, and repeat if any more exposure adjustment is necessary.

Generally the ideally exposed photo is one that is as bright as possible without any detail being blown out white. You can then adjust the photo on the computer to darken it if needed. It is an extra step, but maximises the image quality.

Tips to Improve Camera Phone Photography

Today, high-end phones come loaded with an awesome camera or sometimes, with two cameras. The cameras in these phones are so good that they can even substitute point and shoot cameras. Oh, yes sir! These camera phones come with a great resolution that deliver great picture quality. Also, being a part of high-end phones, they have so many features that allow you to take even better photos. But, I bet, half of you guys haven’t even explored these features. Thinking of how to improve camera phone photography? Well, worry not my ignorant friends..! Listed below are some useful tips and some secret tips that will allow you to shoot brilliant photos using your camera phones.

Check the Camera’s Features
Alright, the first thing you need to do is check what all the camera phone has to offer. This means, you need to go to the camera icon on your phone and check all the settings, modes, and other features it offers. Now, camera phones come with many features. However, the number of features in a camera phone depends on how good your phone is. If you have a basic phone, then it might have limited features, while high-end phones might offer better number of features. So, just check what are all the features in the camera phone. In case you don’t understand the technical terms or settings, refer to the phone’s user manual. Here are some features found in today’s camera phones that are explained in brief.

  • The ‘reduce noise’ feature decreases grains in the picture, improves clarity, so keep this always on.
  • Various ‘scene modes’ help to quickly adjust settings with one click, change the scene modes according to the subject and time.
  • ‘Face detection’ feature helps to detect the face while taking portraits, thus improving the focus on face, so keep this always on.
  • ‘Anti-shake or anti-blur’ feature helps to reduce blur caused by shaking of camera. So keep this feature active.
  • There is a feature which allows you to choose the ‘shutter sound’, simply turn this off or at least let the sound be least disturbing.
  • There is a ‘flash’ in-built in many camera phones, use it at discretion, more about this is mentioned in the light section below.
  • ‘ISO’, is an important feature which allows you to control the amount of light and clarity of images. Higher the
  • ISO, more exposed the subject is and lesser is the clarity, and vice versa.
  • In case you have an ‘aperture’ feature, use it too. Aperture is basically the size of the opening of lens. So, larger the aperture, more the light, and vice versa.
  • ‘Shutter speed’ is the amount of time the shutter in the camera is left open. So, higher the shutter speed, more is the amount of light entering and vice versa.
  • Another feature that phone cameras come with is – ‘white balance’. It helps to bring out the colors properly in a shot.

Take Loads of Shots
Now, don’t be shy! Go around playing with the various camera phone settings and modes. Take loads of pictures and notice the change in settings and modes reflected in your photos. Do the following exercises whenever you get time to get a hang of the technical settings:

  • You will notice that pictures shot on high-resolution have higher clarity, and vice versa.
  • You will notice that selecting modes like landscape bring in more green color in the landscape, similarly portrait mode helps to shoot softer pictures, also night mode quickly improves the amount of light in the picture. So, explore all the modes.
  • Also, explore the filters like sepia and black and white.
  • Another important feature you need to understand is white balance (WB). Choose an appropriate WB for different scenes. For instance: change the amount of WB when indoors, outdoors, during night, etc. A simple experiment is to place a plain white sheet on the table, and take various shots of it while adjusting the WB value.
  • If your phone has a feature that allows you to change aperture and shutter speed, then take pictures using different settings of these features. To check out the shutter speed, take a picture of tap water at various speeds.
  • Experiment with small and large apertures by shooting a branch, to see how the focus and amount of light changes.
  • Also, explore ISO outdoors to see the clarity and lighting of pictures.
  • Turn off the shutter sound in case it irritates you, however, that sound can come handy when you are taking self-shots with a back-facing camera phone.

Check the Settings
So, once you have done the above exercises honestly (yes, I mean honestly!), you would have already got the hang of all the features and settings. So, before composing a subject, check the necessary settings required. For instance: if you are shooting a dog running, try the sport mode, and go for medium value of ISO. In case, you have to capture something quickly and don’t have time to adjust any settings, then focus more on composing.

Check the Angle
Having the right angle can make a lot of difference. The subject of camera angles can be quite vast, so here are some pointers. Whenever you’re shooting people, shoot at eye level. When you’re trying to make something look big (like a building), shoot at a low angle. In case you want to shoot a document, shoot at the top angle, get really close in case you want to capture details on an object, e.g., texture of a tree bark.

Check the Light
This is a very important aspect of photography. So, don’t ever underestimate the importance of lighting. Here are certain things to remember when trying to get a good shot. First, always see that the subject is well-lit. Certain camera phones might display a warning if the shot is not well-lit. In case, your phone has it, turn it on and use it to shoot well-lit pictures. Also, use a flash in case there isn’t enough light. However, be warned because, using flash can increase the amount of shadows on the subject. Similarly to improve light, use the night mode, ISO, lower shutter speed and aperture. A very important thing to remember is to always get the light source behind you, this will give softer and well-lit pictures.

Compose the Picture Well
A well-composed frame can really help to take brilliant shots. Here are some pointers. Always, try to fill the frame. Try to focus on one subject rather than trying to capture many. In case you are trying to shoot a landscape, go for the wide zoom. However, if you have digital zoom only in your camera phone, then avoid taking landscapes. But, if you have a camera that allows to take high-resolution pictures, consider using the rule of thirds. To understand this rule, imagine two equally spaced horizontal and two equally spaced vertically lines. At the intersection of these lines, place your subject. This is because, the intersecting areas are where the eye first looks. Another important thing to remember while composing shots is to keep your fingers away from the lens.

Hold the Phone with a Steady Hand
This aspect is very important. Always, hold the camera phone with a steady hand. Here is one technique I use, compose the shot and before you are about to click the button, breathe in and then breathe out, then take a two-second pause and shoot. You might also want to balance yourself properly before taking a shot. To do this, simply stand at shoulder-length distance between your feet. Also, hold the phone properly so that it won’t shake while you press the button. Use the automatic timer in case your phone has one, to avoid blur.

Use Photo-editing Software
Photo-editing software is good but don’t make a habit of using it to always correct a bad photo. However, it can come quite handy in case of an important picture. To correct such pictures, use this software. Mostly, such software are used to correct lighting, reduce noise, crop, reduce blur and add filter effects.

Maintain the Lens
Keep your camera lens always clean. Use a lint-free soft cloth and wipe your camera lens regularly. Avoid using your fingertips to clean the lens, and in case you don’t have a soft cloth, use your t-shirt to wipe the lens. This is important because, a clean lens helps to give clear and better pictures. To increase the life of your camera lens, put a transparent plastic guard on it.

Exploit Your Camera Phone Completely
Sometimes, you might wonder that the camera phone is not good enough and a better camera could have helped you take better pictures. However, this problem arises mostly when one is not capable of exploiting the complete potential of the camera phone. So, before you come to the conclusion that your camera phone is not good enough, exploit the camera phone completely. To do this, use the above tips and keep experimenting with all the settings and features, and I am sure you will be rewarded with great pictures. For instance: a portrait in black and white filter can give a timeless picture. Similarly, taking the camera phone really close to your pet dog’s nose and shooting at a small aperture can give an unusual and interesting picture.

These were the important tips that will help you exploit your camera phone’s potential and take some really great shots. After a month’s practice of these tips, you will notice your camera phone photos have become better, which surely will make your friends ask, “did you take this pic?” Well, then with your smug smile when you reply “yes”, do thank me mentally.

How a Camera Work

Camera and the art of photography is probably one of the most revered inventions of today. Although the idea of capturing an image is hardly a novelty anymore, with the advent of film cameras and recently the digital camera, the truth is that cameras have changed the way we view the world. It allows us to preserve and retain the precious moments for years together. So how does a camera preserve and capture our beautiful memories? Here is a look at the basic functions and working of a camera.

How do Film Cameras Work?

The word camera is derived from the word “chamber” and that is what the earlier cameras were placed in. With the technological revolution, cameras have come a long way from the “camera obscura” or the “dark chamber” cameras in the 1900s. However, the basic functioning of the camera remains the same. So every camera essentially is a lightproof box encasing three elements, the mechanical, chemical (the film), and the optical element or the lens.

The working of a camera is based on the fundamentals of reflection. As we know, light travels through different media at different speeds. So the speed of light would vary when it travels in air than when it travels through a glass medium. When you focus your camera on an object, the light bounces of it, and strikes the glass or plastic lens. This slows down the speed of light and allows the rays to bend as they enter the lens. As the light rays diverge from the source, the lens allow the rays to converge on a single point where the image can be formed. Commonly known as the film surface of a camera, this light-sensitive material records the image. Later when processed with certain chemicals, the image is visible.

Along with this basic structure, a manual camera may also contain an aperture control, a diaphragm that regulates the amount of light that enters a lens, and shutter just before the light sensor. The function of the shutter is to expose the light sensor to a consistent amount of light. The amount of time the shutter is open determines the amount of light that reaches the film/light sensor surface. The shutter speed or rather the time that the shutters are left open, is how photographers control picture quality and certain effects such as the picture of a moving object with the blurring.

How does a Digital Camera Work?

Compact and slim with superior image quality (This is debatable. I love my manual Pentax), digital cameras have revolutionized the photography industry. Most of all, it has overcome the problems that photographers faced with a manual 35mm camera.

The working of a digital camera is the same as a manual one except that instead of using a film, digital cameras record the images on a digital sensor array, also known as a CCD or CMOS. This digital sensor converts the light rays into electric current. These pieces of computer chips consist of millions of tiny sensor points laid out in rows and columns called pixels or “picture elements.” A mathematical calculation of the pixel rows and columns determine the megapixel count of the camera. The more the “megapixels” of the camera, more dots of light are stored and higher is the image resolution. The digital camera also has a set of filters that correct the white balance, color, and aliasing. The images are stored initially in a buffer memory in the camera and then transferred to a memory card storage device.

The benefits of a digital camera over a manual 35mm camera include the ability to take a large number of pictures without having to continually change the 36 exposures film roll, and the ability to zoom in or out by moving the lens elements to change the focal length. Also, most of the digital cameras have a video monitor on the back of the camera that not only helps you during photography, but also helps you decide whether the picture is a keeper or not. From the simplest homemade pinhole box camera to the snazzy new digital cameras, the working of a camera remains essentially the same. All of them have a lens system to obtain the image, a light-sensitive sensor for recording the image, and a mechanical system to control the image exposure.