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Three tips for working with photography in low-light conditions

Whether you are a professional, advanced armature or just a photography enthusiast, chances are that we’ve all been there – working to make the best shot we can in low-light conditions. It’s no secret that this can be highly challenging and frequently frustrating.   And while there are many things that one might do to help to improve his or her photography in these less than perfect conditions, here are three basic suggestions that may help on their own or at least get you going in the right direction.

low light bridge above water

Use a low F-stop

In low-light conditions you should probably ALWAYS set your aperture to the lowest possible (or close) F number that you can. This will maximize the like that comes in. This has very few drawbacks except for the fact that it can possibly hurt the crispness and detail in the background. In fact, this is one of the simplest things to do to create an intentionally blurred background effect.

Set you camera to a high ISO

Depending upon the type and model camera you use, you may have more or less flexibility here. The lowest ISO options are typical 100 or 200 which can be used in well-lit locations. However, when you increase that number in your settings to say, 400, 800,l 1600, 3200 or more, you increase the camera’s sensitivity to the light that is available to you. The danger here is that the more you move up the scale, the more likely your image will be to have undesirable noise. So, you should be sure to see how your own camera handles increases in ISO as well as take the time to look into getting some form of noise reduction tool.

Try a slower shutter speed

The longer your shutter remains open, the more light that reaches your camera’s sensor. So, opening your shutter for a longer period or time can offset some of the problems with poor lighting. The challenge here is that the slower the shutter speed, the more chance for blur from any moving (even slightly) objects. This can also result form your own minor movements while holding the camera. That being the case, it is recommended that when you slow down the shutter, you should probably use a tripod to stabilize your camera and keep it from moving.

One last bonus tip…

In the event that you don’t already know this, it is a good idea to avoid using the on-camera flash whenever possible. This is because it only has a range of about 6 feet or so and thus is irrelevant for anything in the distance and it also tends to generate harsh light and shadows.

Good luck!

How’d the photographer do that?

Have you ever had a photo capture your eye

and then wonder how the photographer accomplished the effect within that piece of art? For a lot of us, this happens fairly frequently. And if you’re really interested in finding out how that particular image came together, what do you do?

In this digital age, it’s quite possible that your first instinct is to turn to Google or whatever else may be your preferred search engine. However, in many cases, you may not be able to find what you need with a simple “how to” style search. Even if you do get results, there’s a good chance you’ll end up finding some conflicting information. No need to worry though, there is a much easier way to figure out what a you’ll have to do in order to get the qualities you love into images you shoot on your own.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Flickr. For those of you who haven’t, it’s a photo storage and sharing tool with a bit of a social networking quality as well. The site has undergone some awesome visual upgrades lately but one of its coolest features still remains. That would be the ability to see the technical details of each image. With this information, it should be pretty easy to recreate an image similar to those you admire so much.

You’ll be able to tell exactly what shutter speed, aperture, ISO and more is the combination that produces the desired result. All you have to do is go out and find an image (on the site) that you want to emulate and go from there. Sure, some photographers may not like the fact that you can access this info. But the way I see it, it’s like sharing with and learning from other professionals and not really any different than when someone posts a Photoshop tutorial on Youtube. And besides, photographers essentially OK this when they decide to sign up of the site in the first place.

Check out the video I have created below to find out how to access this information for yourself. In this case, I used a model photography shot that I took myself but it works the same for every image throughout the entire site.

Comparing print on demand (POD) calendars

So, in a recent post I mentioned wall calendars. Well, I’m sure most of us know by know that with on demand printing, pretty much anyone with a digital camera and a creative side can easily make their own calendar. With that in mind, to date I have created several and used a number of different printers in the process. This post is essentially a review of those services. And maybe if you are thinking about creating your own wall calendar for the upcoming year, you might just find this helpful.

My scale is based on a 1-5 rating system with one being the worst and five being the best.

custom calendars

POD calendar printers I’ve used:

snapfish logo

Snapfish.com – Overall rating 4/5

Print quality – 4.5/5 This HP affiliates photo calendars are crisp and clear with very few if any drawbacks.

Pricing – 2.5/5 The pricing is a bit excessive as is the shipping. A decent product might cost around $26.00. If International shipping is required, you can tack on an extra $6.00 to that figure. Not real conducive for reselling.

Paper quality – 4/5 Snapfish provides paper similar in thickness to a medium level of card stock.

Shipping time – 4/5 Buyers will likely get their product in less than a week and probably more like 3-5 days

vistaprint logo

Vistaprint.com – Overall rating 2.5/5

Print quality – 2.5/5 The business card specialists should stick to smaller items. The photos come across a bit grainy with some color problems.

Pricing – 3.5/5 Vista Print’s calendars usually run around $18.00 plus shipping. They tend to be in the average range here.

Paper quality – 3/5 The paper is nice and glossy but tends to be rather thin.

Shipping time – 3/5 While copies can take several weeks to arrive, they usually come in a relatively reasonable time frame.

lulu logo

Lulu.com – Overall rating 3/5

Print quality – 2.5/5 Much like Vista print, the quality of images can be rather spotty.

Pricing – 4.5/5 Lulu seems to be the most affordable POD service by far. Full-sized calendars start at less than $14.00. These can easily be used for resale purposes.

Paper quality – 3.5/5 The company uses a heavy stock paper but as stated above it seems to hinder the printing.

Shipping time 3/5 The shipping speed is pretty average overall.

qoop logo

*Qoop.com – Overall rating 3.5/5

Print quality – 3.5/5 Qoop produced fairly nice images from photos with few real problems.

Pricing – 4/5 While not quite as reasonable as Lulu, this company was very much competitive in this area.

Paper quality – 3.5/5  Much like the others, they tended to use a decent medium grade card stock paper.

Shipping time 3/5  The time it took to receive the product was pretty typical.

 

* Qoop.com is now defunct but as I had a positive overall experience with them, I figured it was only right to include them in the list.

Followup To External Flash Diffuser Post

Recently, I posted a brief DIY article on creating a diffuser for a camera’s external flash. Well, I figured I’d take a second to show the project in action. Check out the pictures below and notice the difference. All images where shot by the same camera on the same aperture, shutter speed, ISO and general exposure settings.

I used a white glasses cleaning cloth as my material. Please excuse the blur in the last shot.

No flash used

no camera flash

Full flash, no diffuser

full camera flash

Flash with diffuser

camera flash with diffuser

Double diffused flash (two layers of cloth)

extra diffused flash

Quick and easy diffuser for your external camera flash

One of the biggest challenges with flash photography is the possibility that you might have to content with harsh shadowing and over exposure in your shots. One way to deal with this of course, if by using a diffuser.

As you probably know by now, I’m a big DIY fan. So, with that in mind, here’s an easy way to rig yourself up with a DIY diffuser for an external flash unit. And one of the best things about it – you probably won’t have to buy anything. Unlike many of these projects, I can all but guarantee that you have sufficent materials just laying around your house or apartment.

What you’ll need:

1. A rubber band – one that will fit tight and hasn’t lost it’s elasticity.

2. A piece of thin white material. I’d recommend something like a handkerchief or glasses cleaning cloth. But all in all, so long as it is fairly thin, most materials should do the job just fine.

What to do:

1. Wrap the material around the main part of the flash unit co it covers over the light emitting portion as tightly as possible.

2. Place the rubber band around the the white cloth in order to hold it in place.

That’s it, you’re done. In all of 30 seconds we can have a quality, effective diffuser!

This image is a similar concept to the method described in this post.

Why You Should Consider Making a Flyer For Your Next Event

Guest Post by Mike Turner

Flyers can be great promotional tools for any event. They are extremely affordable and easy to produce. They can be distributed almost anywhere. It’s a great way to put onto paper your upcoming event in a way that’s eye catching and easy for potential guests to hang onto. Using flyers is one of the best ways to advertise your event while working to a budget. If you want a lot of guests, make sure that you print out a large number for distribution. The more you get out, the more potential guests you will be able to reach.

Promotional flyers can be placed or distributed almost anywhere. Consider going to a store that sells the same interest as your event. For example, if you are promoting a concert go to a music supply store or record shop. You can place materials under the windshield wipers of cars in the parking lot, and many stores will let you place a stack of on their counter for customers to pick up if you ask them. This is a great way to reach a targeted audience that you already know shares a common interest in the event you are promoting. It also allows you to reach people you wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to.

If you’ve got some time on your hands, you can also stand on the sidewalk in front the store and hand them out to passers-by. Try not to be too pushy, and think of something clever to say when you do this. If you just shove a paper in their face, most people will just walk away without ever taking it your hand. If you take a minute to think of something funny or memorable to say as you are handing them out, they will be more likely to both take it and actually read it. Adding personality is always a good thing when you are promoting!

Another option is stapling your flyer to telephone poles, if your city allows this. Start in the area where your event will be held and then work your way out. Your event is more likely to appeal to local people who happen to see your signs and notice that it takes place close to their home. Consider dotting the neighbourhood with your flyers, and you will maximize the number of people who see them. The more people that see them, the more likely your guest list will increase.

Never place them on walls without written permission from the local authorities! This can be illegal. Just make your sure they are catchy to look at, clear and concise in what they are advertising, with a clearly written brief description of the event, time, date and location. Keep these points in mind and have the follow through to distribute them accordingly, and your flyers can be one of the best and most affordable promotional tools you’ve ever used!

About the author:

This post was written by Mike Turner, a design, home and technology enthusiast, who is currently doing online research on behalf of Vistaprint, Flyers specialists.

Photography equipment on a budget

So anyone who wants to get seriously involved in photography will come across some challenges along the way.  As one of the photographers in Pittsburgh PA with a minimal budget, I can assure you I’ve experienced this dilemma several times first hand.

The key is not to get discouraged and to make the best choices for equipment and other tools that fit your budget. How do we do this? Here are a few options.

Go DIY

If you’re not worried about the aesthetics of  things, you can create some props and tools yourself for a much more affordable rate than you might find when trying to purchase items through a commercial outlet. This blog contains a few examples and there are tons of sites online that you can find that will help you out. Youtube alos offers some good visual tutorials.

Buy second hand

While you have to be careful buying used items, don’t let that turn you away from benefiting form the savings you can gain by doing such. E-bay is a good option and so is Craigslist.

Look in unexpected retail locations

The tenancy might be to search out specialty shops when shopping for photography equipment. However, you can find some great quality buys at more general locations. For example, online retailers like Amazon and Buy.com have a surprisingly extensive selection of photography items. And in general, they cost less than the specialty shops.  Offline, you might benefit from buying materials for backdrops in the fabric section of your local Walmart or craft store. The savings can be hugh.

 

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