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Hints and Tips

Tamron Lenses

Posted - 26 June, 2017
tamron

Lenses

Having the right lens for the occasion can make the biggest difference to your photography and although some will suggest specific fixed focal length lenses lens as being “ideal” for a given scene, this is not how the majority of us live our lives.

Having flexibility as an enthusiast or even a professional photographer can change the images you take as they give you the added option to react to situations and occasions in a different way, creating opportunities to take great images that with fixed lenses would not be possible.

Whether your passion is the city, long country walks, birds or planes we have some great zoom options to help you catch those great scenes and moments.

Superzoom Lenses

One of the most popular types of lens are superzooms, ie lenses such as Tamron’s 16-300mm lens that cover the focal length ranges of several combined alternative lenses.  This is a great way of giving you a multitude of Photographic options from 16mm wide angle right the way through standard and on to telephoto at 300mm.  The advantage you get is not only the variety and flexibility of such a large zoom range making lens changes largely unnecessary, but also that it is a lightweight solution making it easy to travel with.  This is achieved by using some clever optics and mechanical design to achieve a lens that at its wide end is still less than 10cm long. In this series of lens there are also several options to fit your budget with Tamron’s most recent 18-200 VC lens now offering an image stabilized superzoom option for under £200 (at SRP).

Tamron 16-300mm VC – Street Photography 1/640s F13

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Tamron 16-300mm VC at 16mm

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Tamron 18-270mm PZD at 270mm 1/400s F7.6

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Ultra Telephoto Zoom’s

If your passion is nature, birds or Aircraft for instance, you can change the type of images you take by adding a zoom lens that gives you flexibility with huge reach from 150mm to 600mm.  At 600mm the effective focal length on the most common entry level and mid range APS-C (crop) sensor cameras is about 900mm giving you the ability to take amazing images with remarkable detail.

Tamron have two lenses in this field, both of which have 150-600mm focal lengths but appeal to different budgets with the latest lens having enhanced weather resistance, optics, focus and stabilization as well as a zoom lock for breathtaking performance, but still weighing in at just 2kg.

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Extremely Wide

Of course there are occasions where a standard zoom lens simply isn’t enough to fit everything in. If you find yourself drawn to long walks and landscape photography or maybe if you prefer “city life” or interiors, then an ultra-wide lens is a great solution.  Tamron have two lenses, one for Full frame users, the 15-30mm VC which has stabilization built in and has a very fast F2.8 aperture giving great depth of field control or low light options.  If you however have a Crop sensor camera then there is a new stabilised option from Tamron in the 10-24mm VC HLD which like the 15-30 also boasts a Moisture Resistant design and has Tamron’s most advanced Fluorine coatings on the front element just in case you don’t get the weather you may have planned for!

Both lenses are designed to give superior sharpness and performance with the latest DSLR cameras.

Polperro by day 15-30mm VC at 15mm 1/400s F10

 

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wildlife

Get started with nature photography with these simple tips

 

Wildlife photography is a hugely popular genre, with hundreds of beautiful and varied different subjects to choose from. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go far to find some local wildlife to capture on camera – giving you the opportunity to hone your technique regularly, and hopefully produce some stunning animal photography shots.

 

There are a few key things to think about when it comes to photographing animals, especially wild ones. You’ll need to research your locations, take the appropriate gear with you and think carefully about your camera settings. In this post we’re going to take a look at some of the information you need to know if you’re thinking of getting started with wildlife pictures.

Wildlife photography: getting started

 

Wildlife photography is one of those genres where it really pays to do your homework before setting out on a shoot to avoid disappointment.

 

First of all, you might want to think about the type of wildlife you’d like to shoot. You may be lucky enough to have birds, insects and other wildlife in your very own back garden, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find something to photograph. If you want something a little more unusual, national parks can be a great place to start your nature photography – take a look at official websites to find out what’s available. Of course, you may also want to venture further afield, on a destination or overseas trip to capture a specific type of wildlife – again, it pays to take a look at what’s available and plan ahead.

 

Next you should spend some time researching your chosen animal’s behaviour. There’s no good turning up to a renowned wildlife hotspot only to find that all the animals are asleep, or have migrated due to the seasons. A quick look online to determine the typical patterns of your intended subject can pay dividends.
When you get to your location, remember to be patient. Wildlife photography is almost never a case of turning up, taking your photo, and going home. Be prepared to wait for animals to show up, behave how you want, and to get the shot. Always be mindful of your and the subject’s safety too – never take risks that could endanger yourself, or the animal, just to get a photo.

 

Best weather for wildlife photography

 

Although you will be restricted in some ways by how animals behave when faced with different weather conditions, there are some other aspects of the weather to consider when tackling wildlife photography.

 

If you can, seek to shoot at the golden hour. You may have heard a lot about this special time for photography – it generally refers to the hour or so around sunrise or sunset, when the sun is low in the sky and creates a golden glow. For wildlife photography, this can be especially beautiful, and it can also be the time when some animals are most active.

 

Try to avoid shooting at midday, when the sun is at its strongest. The harsh shadows caused by bright sunlight are not usually conducive to great animal shots. If the weather is cloudy however, you have a little more flexibility – an overcast sky acts a bit like a huge softbox, with flattering and even light which can work extremely well.

 

When planning your shoot, you should also take into consideration the weather forecast – some animals hate the rain, but others love it, so try to find out both what the weather is scheduled to do, and how your subject is likely to react.

 

Best kit for wildlife photography

 

As with most photography subjects, you can start out with a relatively basic kit bag, adding more as you get more deeply involved.

 

In terms of which camera is best, there are several options. For DSLRs, the standard advice is often that full-frame gives you the best image quality. However, when it comes to wildlife photography, the “crop factor” associated with a smaller, APS-C sized, sensor, can be beneficial in helping you get closer to the subject.

 

Being able to shoot at a fast frame rate is also useful. The Nikon D500 is an excellent choice, with its 10fps shooting speed and APS-C sensor. If you were to use a 100mm lens with a Nikon D500, you’d actually be shooting at 150mm, whereas a 300mm lens converts to a 450mm – handy if you need to get as close as possible to your subject without getting too close in person.

 

For compact system cameras, you also have a lot of great choices currently on the market. Olympus and Panasonic cameras use a Four Thirds Sensor, which has a 2x crop factor – in which case, a 300mm lens becomes a 600mm equivalent, which is even better for getting close to the action. Both Panasonic and Olympus have impressive shooting modes which allow you to shoot at super fast frame rates, and then choose the best frame from a range of stills. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a fantastic option, with its superb optical image stabilisation system also being handy for this type of photography.

 

If you don’t want a camera with interchangeable lenses, there’s a good range of bridge and superzoom compact cameras which you can use to great effect for wildlife photography. As an example, the Sony RX10 III has a 25x optical zoom, giving you an equivalent of 600mm to work with.

 

In terms of lenses, something which offers a long focal length is a good idea for helping you get as close to the subject as possible. The Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G lens is a flexible and affordable choice. Lenses such as the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C will get you even closer to the action. Similar lenses are available for Canon, including the Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM.

 

For Micro Four Thirds, there are options including Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 IS lens. Other lenses for other mounts, are also available – look for a long focal length wherever possible.

 

There are other lenses you may also want to consider taking with you. A wide angle lens can help you to show context and an animal’s natural environment, while a macro lens is ideal for photographing insects and other small wildlife.

 

If you’re using very long lenses, a tripod is essential to help you get sharp shots. Something which is stable, but also easy to carry around makes sense for wildlife photography, as you may find you have to walk long distances to get to your subject. The Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Tripod is a good example of a tripod which is light enough to easily transport.

 

Other pieces of kit which can come in handy for wildlife photography include remote releases, binoculars, camouflage gear and lens filters.

Best camera settings for wildlife photography

 

As always, don’t be afraid to experiment with different camera settings, but there are some starting points you can use to get you off on the right foot.

 

Use a fast shutter speed in order to freeze an animal’s movement and to prevent blur. To allow for fast shutter speeds, increase ISO from low or base levels, using mid-ranges such as ISO 400-800, depending on the lighting conditions.

 

Your aperture is likely to depend on the subject. A wider aperture is great for isolating subjects from the background, but a narrower aperture is ideal for context and environmental shots. Bear in mind that even reasonably narrow apertures, such as f/8, will result in a shallow depth of field effect if you’re shooting with very long lenses.

 

It makes sense to shoot in Raw format if your camera offers it, giving you the opportunity to adjust and tweak key parameters in post production if necessary. For white balance, adjust to match the situation, such as Daylight or Cloudy – but by shooting in Raw format, you can adjust afterwards if the camera hasn’t got it quite right. Choose a fast drive mode, along with continuous autofocus if you’re tracking a moving subject. Be aware that your memory cards will fill up faster if you’re shooting lots of photos in quick succession – always carry a spare.

Best composition for wildlife photography

 

Once you know some composition rules, you can begin to break them. The same is true for wildlife photos.

 

You can think of some types of wildlife photography in the same kind of terms as portrait photography. That means getting eye contact with your subject is the ideal aim to create striking animal portraits. Use a shallow depth of field to isolate the subject from the background, and always pay careful attention to any distractions appearing in the background that could ruin an otherwise good capture.

 

Classic composition tips, such as the rule of thirds and using leading lines, are also strong ideas for wildlife photography. Some subjects will also work well by being placed in the centre of the frame, while frame-filling close-up shots can be great to give you a more unusual view of the animal you’re photographing. Why not try lots of different compositions and putting all the shots together in a collage or montage?

 

We’d love to see your animal and wildlife photography – please share with us your best shots on our social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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flower

Tips and tricks to try for macro flower photography

Flowers are one of the most popular subjects that us photographers enjoy pointing our lenses at. This colourful and abundant subject can be hugely diverse, with so much opportunity to take vibrant macro shots often practically on our doorstep. In this post, we’ll take a look at some close up photography ideas to help get you started with this most beautiful of opportunities.

 

Best locations for flower photography

 

One of the best things about macro flower photography is that the subjects are so readily available, no matter where you are, and no matter what time of year it is. Whether it’s wild flowers in an orchard, formal gardens, your local park, your own back garden or a vase of blooms in your living room, there’s lots of opportunity to find suitable subjects to photograph.

 

That said, you may naturally be drawn more towards some flowers than others, so if you have something particularly in mind, it can be beneficial to put some time into research and location scouting. Many flowers are seasonal, with a brief window of opportunity to get some shots – bluebells and blossom are a particularly good example of this.

 

If you’re planning to visit a formal garden, have a look at the garden’s website to discover which species they hold, as well as any photography policy they may have (for example, some places prohibit the use of tripods).

 

Best kit for flower photography

 

You can get started photographing flowers with very basic kit. A compact camera with a macro mode is ideal, but, if you’re serious about close up photography, you might want to consider investing in some additional kit.

 

A DSLR or CSC (compact system camera) is ideal for macro flower photography. There’s a huge choice of different options available, but beginners may want to take a look at something like the Nikon D5600, Canon EOS 1300D for DSLRs, or the Panasonic GX800 or Fuji X-A3 for CSCs.

 

Next, consider your lens choice. A macro lens is the obvious choice for picking out those fine details, but don’t discount other options too. A wide angle lens is great for placing your flower photography in context of its location, such as a meadow or field. If you don’t want to buy a dedicated macro lens, telephoto zoom lenses can also be useful at helping to isolate the flower from its background.

 

Macro lenses are available for all major brands, at a variety of price points. For Canon, the Canon EFS 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens is an ideal choice for APS-C DSLRs, while for Nikon, the Nikon AF-S 40mm Micro f/2.8 DX G lens is recommended. For Fuji users, there’s the Fujifilm XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro lens, while Panasonic and Olympus users can use the Panasonic 30mm f/2.8 Macro Lens or Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 30mm Macro Lens. Sony also has a macro lens for its E-mount cameras, the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens is available.

 

While a tripod isn’t absolutely crucial for flower photography, it can help to keep your camera steady and leave your hands free to manipulate the scene, or hold props. Look for a tripod which is specifically designed for travel, such as the Vanguard VEO 235AP Aluminium Travel Tripod, since you may have to do a fair bit of walking to get to your preferred flower location.

 

A reflector is invaluable for directing natural light onto flowers, highlighting key areas of the bloom, and removing harsh shadows. You may also want to consider a cable release to remove camera shake, while a macro ring flash is something to consider for a different and unusual effect.

 

Other useful bits of kit include a kneepad or plastic sheet (a bin liner will do) so you can get low on the ground without getting wet or dirty, and some pegs or string to carefully move flowers into the position you want them to be.

 

Best backgrounds for flower photography

 

It’s important to pay attention to the backgrounds you use when photographing flowers. Depending on the lens you decide to use, you may find that you completely isolate the flower from the background, or you may find that you have a more contextual shot. Either way, keep an eye on shapes, colours and objects in the background that could become a distraction from your main subject.

 

A fun way to experiment and to create different looks is to carry a pack of brightly coloured card with you. Place the card behind different flowers to create a type of flower portrait that can have a very striking effect. If you use a colour which contrasts from the colour of the flower, you can create something very vibrant. Alternatively, a colour which matches your flower can leave you with a wonderful monochromatic effect. If you shoot with a tripod and cable release, you can hold the card in place, or, alternatively, use a peg to clip the card gently in place – be careful not to damage any flowers while you’re doing this!

 

If you’re photographing flowers at home, the same principles apply, but here you have more control. Try photographing flowers against a window, which should act as a giant soft box for backlighting your flowers. Similarly, you can attach a piece of card to the window for a different background.

 

Best weather for flower photography

 

You don’t need to wait for a sunny day to photograph flowers, as an overcast sky is actually much better for this subject. The bright white of a sunless sky acts like a huge soft box, with gentle light without harsh shadows that direct sunlight can produce.

 

It’s also good news if it’s been raining – drops of dew on petals and leaves can add a point of interest. You can cheat if it’s a dry day by taking a water spray bottle with you and spritzing flowers for the same effect.

 

Try your best to avoid windy conditions as this is the big enemy of close up flower photography. Any slight movements in your subject can throw your focus off, so in an ideal world, the air would be as still as possible.

 

If the day is forecast to be sunny, you can still create some excellent shots. Try heading out at dawn or dusk to take advantage of the golden hour, where the sun produces warming rays which work well as backlighting for your floral subjects. Shooting through your subject towards the sun (careful when doing this!) can create fabulous contre-jour lighting, where leaves and petals glow with light.

 

Best camera settings for flower photography

 

Another great thing about close up nature photography is just how much you can experiment with different camera settings. Depending on what kind of look you want to achieve, you can try a whole host of different techniques – perhaps even collating them together in a collage or set.

 

If you want to pick out one small detail of your flower, it’s likely that you’ll want to create a shallow depth of field effect. For this, shoot at a wide aperture – most macro lenses open up to f/2.8. If you’re using a telephoto lens, you can get a similar effect even if you can only shoot at f/4.5 or f/5.6.

 

Alternatively, if you want to maintain as much detail as possible in your shot, shooting at a narrow aperture is a better idea. Use a setting such as f/11 to maximise detail. You could also try out a technique called focus stacking, which involves shifting the focus slightly over a series of images and merging them together in software. Some cameras, such as the Panasonic G80, can perform this clever technique in-camera without the need for specialist knowledge or software.

 

When it comes to white balance, try to match the weather conditions with the automatic settings on offer, such as cloudy skies. For ISO, keep it as low as possible for best detail, but, don’t be too concerned about using mid-range ISOs such as ISO 400 – 800 if you’re having trouble getting a sharp shot.

 

Flower photography was made for shooting in Live View, especially if your camera is mounted to a tripod. Use manual focusing, and magnify the view, to ensure pinpoint critical focus.

 

If you’re using a DSLR, switch to Mirror Lock Up Mode and activate the camera’s timer to mitigate for camera shake to keep details sharp. If your camera has it, shoot in raw format – that way you have the most flexibility for editing in software such as Photoshop.

 

Best composition for flower photography

 

There are plenty of rules when it comes to composition, but you can have a lot of fun with experimenting. Flowers are the ideal subject to hone your creativity, since they don’t complain and can’t run away.

 

Try a variety of angles to show the flowers in different contexts. Get on the same level as the flower for a dynamic look, but also try shooting from underneath (a camera with a tilting screen helps enormously here), or even from directly above for a different effect.

 

Isolate one particular part of the flower and place it according to the rule of thirds, but, equally, feel free to break that rule and see whatever works best for you. A neat trick to try is to use another flower to create an abstract blob of colour – by placing it very close to your lens and focusing on a flower further away, the first flower should be thrown out of focus.

 

We’re keen to see your beautiful blooms: share how you get on photographing flowers via our social channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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audio part1

“I feel that sound is half the experience.” – George Lucas

“Sound is more important than picture.” Michael Moore

 

Audio part 1: In this three part total-beginner series we’re going to tell you how to get professional audio from your DSLR or mirrorless camera. We’ll explore some of the easiest options available to you, how they work, advise ideal camera settings, and explore how to push your new gear to get even better results.

 

We’re working closely with the team from RODE Microphones and we’ve spoken to many, many people taking their first steps into video, so we know that audio can be a daunting proposition. However, as you’re about to find out, it’s not a hard problem to solve – and it makes the difference between creating professional paid-for work…and ending up with a home movie.

 

The bottom line is you can have a ‘bad’ image (grainy, low light, entry level lenses and sensors) and good sound, and the result is still watchable. But you cannot pair a good picture with bad (distant, tinny, echoey, full of wind-noise) sound – it’s completely unwatchable! So if you do have a great looking image to start with, then capturing good sound will elevate your video project even further.

 

WHAT’S THE ISSUE WITH CAMERA AUDIO?

 

First – let’s better understand the problem. We all know how amazing our cameras are as imaging devices. What was once only a stills camera is now an incredible video camera, with access to beautiful lenses and shallow depth of field, giving cinematic results that videographers couldn’t dream of achieving on a modest budget even just a few years ago.

 

The problem becomes apparent when you start to watch your footage back. It might look, feel and move like a movie – but it doesn’t SOUND like a movie. Specifically:

 

  • People sound thin and distant, and you can barely hear them over the hubbub of chatter, street noise and other ambience going on. In bigger rooms, it sounds like you’re in a swimming pool. The video ‘feels’ cheap: you want speech to sound full, clear, close and intelligible.
  • You may not have stereo audio at all, so we don’t get any sense of the ‘3D space’- for example if you filmed a passing car, you’d want to hear it travel left to right.
  • You’re filming gigs or other loud concerts, and the music sounds distorted rather than clear – even given the loud volume.
  • The minute you step outside, your audio is ruined by buffeting wind noise. You want to be free to record sound that isn’t affected by even just a casual breeze.

 

So how do we do it?

 

The simple fact is that in order to capture decent audio, you do need a dedicated microphone. We’re going to explore your options by talking through different microphones and referring to Rode’s range of VideoMics, which will all help to address the issues above.

Each mic features a 3.5mm audio jack output, compatible with 3.5mm jack ‘microphone’ inputs on cameras (if your camera has 2.5mm jack inputs, then you can just grab a third-party adapter), and cold-shoe mounts so you can screw them into your flash mount. All of them will help to improve your camera audio enormously.

 

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MONO VS. STEREO

 

The first subject we’ll be tackling is: do you need a stereo or a mono ‘shotgun’ mic? Well, the type of microphone you choose depends on what you want to film.

 

Do you predominantly want to capture speech such as interviews, or people who are presenting straight to camera? If this is the case, you should use a mono ‘shotgun’ style mic, as the long barrel of shotgun mics makes them more selective – what you point them at, you’ll hear in the final footage, with ambient sound minimised.

 

When you’re trying to capture speech, you really do just want to zone in and record the speech as cleanly as you can. Ambience can always be added/faked later, whereas speech is much, much harder to ‘fix’ – if it can be fixed at all. Most ‘mono’ mics do output a stereo signal as well – but it’s just the same signal on both the left and right channels equally.

 

Rode’s range includes the VideoMicro (compact – great for action cameras), VideoMic GO (a great entry choice for DSLRs), VideoMic (a good, directional midrange choice for DSLR) or the VideoMic Pro (gives the best results on all DSLRs – more on why in Part 2!).

 

The alternative is to get a stereo microphone, such as the Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro, which gives you two-channel ambience – a proper, independent ‘left and right’ and a real three-dimensional sense of space.

 

You don’t get the selectivity of a mono microphone, but stereo mics really suit music performance, ambience and nature recordings. That’s why we’d suggest you use a mono shotgun microphone for speech/interviews, and a stereo microphone for everything else.

All of these mics have compatible furry windshields, which protect the microphones from wind noise shooting outside. If you do intend to leave the house with your microphone, ensure you grab the compatible windshield so your audio’s protected.

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So now you’ve connected a mono or stereo microphone to your camera, added your wind protection, and you’re ready to shoot.

But how do we set it up? What settings do you need on your camera for the best results? What do the switches on the mics actually do? Stay tuned, and join us for part 2…

 

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blacknwhite

Get your head around marvellous monochrome with this introduction to taking fantastic black and white photography

Black and white photography is all about paying particular attention to lines, curves, contrast and form. It’s an intriguing genre of photography that has appealed to many photographers throughout the ages. It’s often seen as more artistic than colour photography, and it’s certainly a different way to look at the world.

 

There’s more to monochrome photography than desaturating the colours, but it can also be a simple subject to get started with. If you’ve always fancied giving it a go, but aren’t sure where to begin, have a look at our simple tips to get you started.

 

Best subjects for black and white photography

 

A variety of different subjects work extremely well for monochrome photography, but some are arguably better than others.

 

Landscapes, portraits and street or documentary photography are classic choices for black and white pictures, but still-life and abstract can all work well too.

 

If you’re going to shoot landscapes, look for classic leading lines and shapes that give your shots a bold and minimalist look. Portraits work well because the lack of colour allows the subject’s character to shine through, which is one reason why monochrome is preferred by actors for headshots. Street photography can work well in both colour and monochrome, but perhaps a feeling of nostalgia for the “golden age” of street photography leads to a tendency to shoot in black and white.

 

For still-life work, look for patterns and textures that will be emphasised by a removal of colour. Shooting in black and white in the first place will help you to see if anything really doesn’t work well without colour – for example, red flowers on a green background can often be rendered as very similar shades of grey. In which case, bold textures and patterns will help your subject stand out – pay careful attention to composition in such cases.

 

Abstract black and white photography is an art form all by itself. Again, look for patterns that are bold and work well – try using a telephoto lens when shooting landscapes and architecture to pick out details that make for interesting studies in isolation from the main scene.

 

How to set up your camera for black & white photography

 

Most modern digital cameras give you the option to shoot black and white directly in-camera. This can be an excellent way to help you learn to “see” in black and white, as it’ll give you a great indication of how your final image will turn up.

 

There are usually two ways to shoot in black and white directly in camera. Some cameras, such as Nikon DSLRs, Canon DSLRs or Panasonic compact system cameras have a setting called “Picture Styles”, or “Creative Styles”. One of these is usually a variation of monochrome or black and white. Simply select one of these to shoot in, and away you go.

 

Alternatively, digital filters may also be available. These can often be available in JPEG only and are more dramatic or stylised than styles tend to be, but are definitely worth experimenting with.

 

Where possible, you should shoot in raw format. This means that you will have the colour version of the image to work with in post-production and create your own black and white conversions if you’re not happy with how the JPEG has been rendered.

 

If you use a camera which has an electronic viewfinder, such as mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X-T2 or the Panasonic GX80, you’ll be able to see how your black and white photos are rendered as you shoot them. If you’re using a DSLR, you won’t see black and white through the viewfinder – but, depending on the subject you’re photographing, you could try shooting in Live View to get a real-time monochrome view. Don’t forget to switch black and white off once you’re done, unless you want all of your photos to be monochrome.

 

Best camera settings for black and white photography

 

Sometimes, black and white pictures can look a little flat. Upping contrast can have a huge impact and really lift an otherwise dull photograph, no matter what the subject. You can do this easily in photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, but you can also make certain adjustments in-camera for JPEGs.

 

Every camera will be different, but it’s usually possible to alter contrast in Creative Styles, Picture Styles, or whatever it is called in your camera. As an example, if you’re using a Canon EOS 6D, head to the main menu and search for Picture Style. Choose the Monochrome setting, and then tap “info” to dial in some extra contrast from the options available.

 

You should also pay some consideration to sensitivity (ISO speed). Black and white photographs of old are often characterised by a rough “grain” as a result of image noise. Some people love that look, while others prefer a much smoother and crisper appearance. There’s no right or wrong answer about which is better, but, if you want to go for the cleaner look, keep your ISO as low as possible, but if you want to introduce grain, don’t be afraid to whack the ISO number up higher. Whichever you prefer, remember that a little noise is always preferable to a blurry shot – so if you’re shooting in darker conditions, don’t get too picky about shooting at the lowest ISOs.

 

Best weather for black and white photography

 

Everything you think you know about the best weather for landscape and outdoor photography when you’re trying to create a successful black and white photo can be turned on its head.

 

Converting to black and white can turn an otherwise dull weather shot into something far more interesting, so don’t write off packing up the camera and heading outdoors if glorious sunshine isn’t forecast. In fact, an abundance of clouds and moody skies can look seriously dramatic when colour is removed from the equation – remember to boost contrast for best effect.

 

Similarly, while you’re usually advised to avoid shooting in the middle of the day because of harsh lighting and shadows, these conditions can result in extremely interesting black and white shots. Meanwhile, shooting at dawn or dusk can look a little flat and dull in monochrome.

 

Accessories for black and white photography

 

Although you can get started with pretty much whatever gear you already own, there are some accessories which can help you get even better results.

 

Many cameras will allow you to adjust black and white mode to include a digital filter. You can use different colours depending on the look you’re trying to achieve – for example, a red filter will boost the appearance of skies in landscapes. You can also buy physical filters, such as the Cokin Black & White Kit, which also achieve this result without the need for digital intervention.

 

An ND filter can also come in extremely useful if you want to create some long exposures in black and white. The Cokin X-Pro Nuances ND1024 10-Stop Filter enables extremely long exposures without risking over exposure – you could try creating some dreamy milky water monochrome images.

 

Don’t forget, you’ll need a tripod if you want to create long exposure shots. For landscapes, a dedicated travel tripod, such as the Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fibre Travel Tripod with Ball Head, is a good idea for keeping weight and size down, while also providing great stability.

 

If you’re shooting monochrome portraits, a reflector can come in handy for manipulating light and shadows for best effect. Look for one which offers a variety of different surfaces, and ideally includes a diffuser to help soften light if necessary. The Lastolite Bottletop 5 in 1 Reflector is a great example of a reflector you can use for many different purposes.

 

High Key and Low Key Monochrome Photography

 

If you’ve not come across high key photography or low key photography before, experimenting with black and white is the ideal time to give it a go.

 

A high key photograph consists mainly of bright highlight areas, and is perfect for minimalist subjects. You can either search for naturally occurring bright subjects – such as a white flower on a white or bright background, or you can deliberately overexpose for dramatic effect. Portraits work well in high key, too.

 

By contrast, low key photography is, as you might expect, the complete opposite. These photographs are characterised by large areas of dark or black areas, with minimalism again being the key to a successful image. You can get some great results shooting low key portraits, but the technique is also ideal for still life shots lit by a simple single light set up. 

 

Do you like to shoot black and white photos? Let us know how you get on with our tips and tricks by sharing your monochrome shots on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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bank_holiday

A break from work is the perfect excuse to dust off your camera and have a go at some bank holiday photography projects

 

Bank holiday photography projects are a great way to have some fun and develop your photography skills. No matter what the weather, you can take part in some of these ideas for photography projects.

Water drop photography

 

A simple home set-up can yield some super interesting results. You don’t need too much kit to get you started, but you can add more if you find that you like the technique. The great thing about this idea is that you’re not reliant on the weather, as it’s 100% indoors.

 

Take a look at our blogpost on experimenting with water drop photography for more in-depth advice on this project.

 

Family portraits

 

There’s no better time than an enforced break to get the family together for some new portraits. That’s especially true if the ones on your mantelpiece are starting to look a little dated. Try different combinations of family groupings, or photograph just one family member (the one who complains the least) to really hone your skills. If the weather’s good, head outside, but portraits inside can be just as beautiful. Don’t forget to include the dog if you have one!

Still life and macro in the home

 

You may never have realised that there are thousands of photoshoot ideas in your very own home. Many different objects make for fantastic still life and macro shots, especially if you can get creative with lighting, or use different backgrounds. There are so many ways you could turn this idea into a project – you could focus on one room, pick one object from every room, look for hidden details that you never knew were there, and so on.

 

Food photography

 

Combine some bank holiday cooking with some fantastic food photography. If you’re new to food photography, pick something that you can take your time over – a cake that won’t go cold, for example. Fruit and vegetables also make for interesting still life subjects that you can manipulate in all sorts of ways. If you have a macro lens, make use of it to show off the interesting patterns and lines that natural subjects provide.

 

Find a new landscape

 

Are you guilty of visiting the same locations over and over again – perhaps sticking to somewhere local for your tried and tested photoshoot? There’s nothing wrong with that, but a new place can really invigorate your creativity. Spend some time researching some new locations that take you out of your comfort zone, and use the long weekend to make that trip you’ve been putting off for some time.

 

Experiment with monochrome

 

Some photography ideas never get old, and monochrome is one of those. No matter what you shoot this weekend, why not try shooting in monochrome. Most cameras offer at least one monochrome setting you can experiment with. If you shoot in raw format, you can always revert back to the colour version if you don’t like the results. Alternatively, why not convert some of your existing shots into monochrome using a program such as Photoshop for a new perspective.

 

One lens, one weekend

 

Too much choice can sometimes be overwhelming for creativity. This weekend, why not try picking one lens and shooting only with that. You might find that you have to rethink how you take some shots, leaving you with interesting results. If you’ve got an underused lens, now’s the time to let it shine and give it a new lease of life – you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

Create a photo book

 

How many of your photos are sitting languishing on a hard drive? Will they still be around in years to come for your family to enjoy? Why not use the bank holiday break to finally put together a photo book to showcase your best work. You could make something which highlights a special trip, or you could make it broader. There’s a range of photobook styles to suit just about every photographer, with prices starting from as little as £6.49.

 

Let us know how you plan to spend your bank holiday – and don’t forget to share the resulting shots via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

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bluebell

Get out and about with your camera to do some bluebell photography: one of nature’s most stunning seasonal subjects

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Bluebell photography should be possible near you because they are so abundant in the UK that no matter where you live, you should be able to find some beautiful examples of these woodland flowers. Only appearing for a few weeks, this yearly favourite for photographers gives you the opportunity to experiment with lots of different photographic techniques. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started with this gorgeous floral subject.

Research your location

There are lots of great places to carry out bluebell photography – which means there’s bound to be one not too far away. Try visiting at different times of the month, as well as different times of day, to make sure you catch the bluebells when they’re looking their best. There’s a relatively short window of perfection. Have a look at a few different locations if you can – for example, bluebells growing underneath trees can produce interesting shadows and patterns.

Pick your lenses

You can use a wide variety of different lenses depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. A macro lens will help to pick up the fine details of the flowers, while a longer telephoto length (85mm or over) will create dramatic solo shots. You can use a wide-angle lens to capture the overall scene, which works well if your bluebells are located in a pretty wood. You could even try a fish-eye lens to create something really unusual.

Choose the right accessories

Some useful accessories for bluebell photography include a reflector for bouncing available light into the right places, a tripod for your camera, filters, and clamps for (respectfully) arranging the flowers for your preferred composition.

Don’t worry about the weather

You can photograph bluebells in all kinds of different weather. Overcast skies are perfect for diffused, flat light which really brings out the beauty of an individual flower. Meanwhile, sunny skies can create interesting flares, halos and shadow effects. You probably don’t want to photograph in the pouring rain, but after it has cleared, you’ll be left with water droplets which can create points of interest. Even if it’s windy, you can create arty, impressionistic blurred shots. Why not try giving them all a different go, and see what you end up with?

Get on their level

The best shots will generally be created if you can get your camera down to the same level as the flowers. With that in mind, be prepared with a ground sheet (a bin liner will do), or even a gardener’s kneeling pad to save you and your gear from getting wet or dirty. Of course, if your camera has wireless connectivity built in, then you may be able to use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder to save your trousers – but whatever approach you choose, always be mindful not to damage the bluebells.

Check your settings

The good thing about photography like this is that you can experiment with settings all day long – your subject isn’t going anywhere. If you’re using a telephoto lens, or a long macro lens, remember that depth of field is going to be restricted.

Therefore, shooting bluebells with a wide aperture will leave only small details in focus – if you want more then you’ll need a narrower aperture. If you’re using a tripod – and the wind is still – then you can use relatively slow shutter speeds to let lots of light in, which will allow you to keep your ISO down for maximum detail. Try different white balance settings for different effects: a cloudy setting, for example, can produce warmer tones than a daylight one.

Shoot in Raw format

Shooting in Raw format will give you the best flexibility when it comes to editing your shots at home. You can alter the white balance, add in some exposure compensation – even if it’s just as an experiment.

Create a collage

Shoot wide, shoot close, fill the frame, pick out details – by shooting a variety of completely different shots, you can bring them together in one fantastic collage which really shows off your skills, and the beauty of bluebells all in one go.

Will you be photographing bluebells this year? Let us know how you get on via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Street_photography

Street photography for beginners is one of the most compelling subjects you can get involved with, and the good news is that you don’t need much to get started with – just some bravery and a good eye. Subjects are always to be found, and you can even curate a long-term project once you get into it. Here’s a few simple and quick tips for easy street photography

Easy street photography – Choose your spot

You don’t need to be in an unusual or exotic location for starting out with street photography – your local high street will do. When you’re first beginning, it pays to spend some time simply observing – even if you don’t take any shots for a while. Choose somewhere you can sit or stand without drawing too much attention and watch the world go by. You’ll soon see scenes which would make for excellent shots, and the more time you spend observing, the better you’ll get at noticing them.

Choose a discreet camera

In an ideal world, you want your subjects not to notice you’re photographing them. That way, they act naturally, and as they normally would. Nothing screams “photographer” in quite the same way as a large DSLR with a huge telephoto lens attached, which is why mirrorless cameras are perfect for this genre. The small size and form of something like the Sony A6000, for example, helps you to remain unnoticed, even though the sensor inside the canera is as large as many DSLRs.

Settings before shooting

You want to spend as little time as possible looking like you’re taking pictures, so get ready in advance. For street photography, it’s good to experiment, but try a reasonably narrow aperture of around f/8 to make sure everything in the scene is in focus. Use a mid-range ISO like 400-800 (maybe even higher if the weather is overcast, or you’re shooting at night). Shooting in aperture priority is perfect for this subject, so you don’t have to worry necessarily about shutter speed, but a quick speed of at least 1/200 is generally required if you want total control. Quick menus, like those found on the Sony A7 Mark II, make quickly changing settings on the fly even easier, so make full use of those, too.

Consider your focal length

While it can be tempting to stick a telephoto lens on your camera so you can shoot from afar, the best focal lengths for street photography tend to be “classic” lengths like 35mm and 50mm. That’s because these lengths give a realistic perspective, giving you a good overview of the scene and making the observer feel as if they are in the action themselves. Using a camera like the Sony A7 with a 28-70mm lens gives you the option to move between the different focal lengths to see what works best, but this is also a good project to get you started with working with prime lenses. Remember if you’re using an APS-C or Micro Four Thirds camera, you’ll need to consider the equivalent focal length compared with full-frame cameras.

Shoot from the hip

Many cameras these days have tilting or articulating screens, such as the one found on the Sony A6000. That makes it super easy to compose your images from the hip (or your lap if you’re sitting down). Not only does this make you more discreet, you get an interesting viewpoint, too.

Smile

Finally, if someone notices that you’re photographing them, a smile can go a long way. Looking nervous arouses suspicion, so if someone spots what you’re up to, flash them a smile and carry on – it will tend to diffuse the situation. Remember to be respectful, if somebody really appears to be uncomfortable with having their picture taken, put your camera away and move on.

Get out there today and start exploring your neighbourhood. When you’re done, we’d love to see the results. Share your shots with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

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blossom

The start of Spring sees trees and hedgerows burst into life with beautiful blossom, and the longer days provide us with even more opportunity to get outside and enjoy capturing this seasonal spectacle on camera. But how do you make the most of these delicate blooms while they last? We’ve got advice for you on great blossom photography – read on for our tips!

Blossom photography

This is one of the times when urban-dwelling photographers are just as lucky as those living in the countryside – cherries and other blossoming trees are frequently chosen by town planners to brighten up inner-city areas, and their petals look fantastic against steel and glass of modern buildings.

Keep a record of cherry trees planted near you and then when the season arrives you’ll be able to rush over, camera in hand. A mirrorless camera’s an ideal choice for travelling light: the Fujifilm X-A3 comes with WiFi for speedy image sharing once you’ve grabbed your shots.

Whatever the weather

Blossom doesn’t last: a night of strong winds or heavy rain can turn those beautiful bloom-covered bushes into denuded sticks. (If your selected subject has been stripped of its petals, try a shot looking down: there might be an opportunity to capture the flowers on the floor…)

No wind and soft, clear morning light are your ideal conditions to get the best from your blossom tree but creative shots can be had in all scenarios: a weather-sealed camera like the Fujifilm X-T2 is a good idea, particularly if you’re heading outdoors during April!

Watch your exposure

Masses of pale blossom petals can make your camera underexpose and come out much darker than you’re expecting, so try different exposure compensation settings until you’re happy with the result. A slightly increased exposure can give you the bright, pure feeling of blossom in full bloom – but it depends on the effect you’re looking for.

Capture contrast

Those delicate petals will look best against vivid blue skies, dark green leaves, brick walls – anything where their natural beauty can shine. This is why the deeper skies of early morning and dusk can give you the intensity of colour you’re looking for, but if you’re stuck shooting in the middle of the day, try hunting out shadows or setting the petals against the sky and shooting into the light for a gorgeous glow.

Capture every angle

Once you’ve found a tree that’s in a suitable spot, spend time studying it. Take a range of images of the blossom both as individual blooms using a shallow depth of field (a wide aperture lens such as the Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2 is ideal for this) and as a mass. Shoot the tree close-up and fill the frame with colour, then step back and place it within its environment. Do you want to add people to the frame for human interest and scale (particularly effective if you’ve found a whole hillside covered in blossoming trees) or keep the tree solo? It’s up to you, and your creative vision.

Don’t just shoot stills

Short films of cherry blossoms moving in the breeze can be extremely beautiful to watch, so don’t limit yourself to still photos only – if your camera has a video function then put it to work! Use a tripod to keep your shots stable and try gently pulling your frame through the blossoms so each individual bloom comes in and out of focus – or try slowly panning across the tops of the trees to show how the blossom sits within its environment. The tiny details presented by the blooms means the resolution offered by 4K video will come into its own here – so a camera like the X-T20 would be an extremely sensible choice to make the most of these short-lived subjects.

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sunsets

If you’ve ever been awestruck by a stunning sunset, here’s our advice for how best to capture the evening sky on camera…

 

Plan ahead

If you’re holidaying in a beautiful spot that you’d like to record for posterity or just have a special place nearby, the first step to ensure you capture a gorgeous photo of the sun setting is by planning ahead. Get your equipment ready – camera, charged battery, wide-angle lens, tripod – and maybe do a recce to frame up your shots ahead of the crucial moments when the sky looks at its best.

 

Check your directions

To make sure you get the best possible picture of the sunset, it’s a good idea to assess the location and light direction before the sun actually hits the horizon – that way you can think about silhouettes, shadows and composition so you’re ready when the magic starts to happen.

 

There are all sorts of apps available to help you see where the sun’s going to set on a given day – we like the Photographer’s Ephemeris, which is available on your gadget’s app store of choice. This gives you sunrise and sunset times and allows you to see where exactly the sun will disappear on a specific day – very handy for planning ahead.

 

Grab your tripod

A good tripod is essential for taking great sunset photos. It won’t just save your arms from getting tired – it’ll also allow you to take exactly the same picture with exposure adjustments, or capture the same scene as the light changes during the process of the sun setting.

 

Using a remote shutter release or your phone (assuming your camera has WiFi control) can help you to capture scenes without nudging the camera itself. A slightly slower shutter speed will allow you to record a little movement in trees, grassland or water – once your camera’s safely on your tripod and you’re happy with the composition, play around with your settings to see what works best.

 

Watch the clouds

If you’re lucky enough to live near a spot with a spectacular sunset on offer, you can afford to be picky about the weather conditions and wait for the right clouds to come along. Keeping a diary of the cloud formations and weather that results in the best skies can make your project easier. When you get a magnificent sky, make a note of the weather that afternoon – and eventually you’ll build up the skills to predict when a truly stunning sunset is going to occur.

 

Consider composition

If you’re faced with superb skies, you’ll probably want to make them the main focus of your shot – but you’ll also need to set them against a little of the landscape in order to show scale and give them context.

 

We’d suggest that for starters, you try placing the horizon along the bottom line (you’ll be able to turn on a grid overlay based on the rule of thirds by hunting through your camera’s display options) so the sky fills the majority of the scene, but so that you’ve still got a little foreground interest in the shot. Experiment with your chosen view to see what works the best!

 

Look around you

Sometimes the most beautiful aspect of a sunset isn’t the sky itself, but the colours and shadows caused by the setting sun’s light. To take creative sunset pictures, turn your camera around and capture the shadows cast by trees, or try a picture inspired by the red-gold light being cast on faces or illuminating buildings. If the skies are clear, the western sky will often go a deep blue – which makes an orange subject stand out even more.

 

Check your exposure

Shooting into the sun can play havoc with your camera’s exposure settings, so keep an eye on the histogram to ensure you’re not over- or under-exposing any area of the scene in front of you. Peaks to the right-hand-side of the histogram mean you’re likely to have bright white areas in your photo without any detail – so you’ll need to bring the curve back to the left slightly to reclaim those finer details.

 

Using exposure compensation alongside your Live View display and a histogram can give you creative control over your pictures. Taking a couple of different exposures will give you options when you’re back at your computer – and shooting in Raw lets you have the most possible control over finder adjustments.

 

Change your metering mode

The best metering mode for sunset photography is centre-weighted metering: this’ll give you an average exposure with both the sky and the land taken into consideration. Using spot-metering and placing the dot over the sky will allow you to turn the horizon into a silhouette – useful when you’re trying to capture the colours of the sky and not the land around it.

 

 

Don’t leave too quickly

As all good landscapers know, the actual moment of sunset isn’t the main event. It’s not until about 15-20 minutes after the sun has set that the skies become ablaze, so don’t pack up your camera too promptly – keep your eyes on the skies throughout and wait until the show’s definitely over…

 

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