Light is the most important element in photography. The subject has to be lit well to give it the three dimensional feel and most importantly to enhance the mood if that’s what you as a photographer wish to achieve. I love dramatic lighting and that’s how I light my subjects.
Basic lighting for a portrait is to position the main light to the right side of the camera pointing downwards from the model’s face. At this stage look at how the light falls on your subject – look out for shadows under the nose and under the lips.
You can add a fill-in light on the other side of the face at a lower power to fill-in the shadows.
However I have just used one light on the below photograph, the main light is positioned approximately 40 degree from the camera.
Lighting diagram for the above image:
Below is the lighting diagram for the next image that I took. The camera and the model both remain at the same position. I have only changed the angle of light in order to achieve the desired look.
Lighting diagram 2
The model is looking towards the light, with her head slightly down, so the hair also catches the light. The main light is positioned at approximately 45 to 55 degree from the camera. The light stand has been moved slightly higher in order for the hair to catch the highlights.
The final image and the setting that I used: - F-stop f6.3, Exposure time 1/60, ISO 320.
Take sharper photos by:
* holding the camera steady;
* using a tripod where necessary, i.e. long exposure and low light conditions
* controlling your exposure settings by using Aperture, shutter and ISO settings
It is possible to take good flower photographs with a compact camera also and not just with a SLR.
Compact cameras often do not have interchangeable lenses like SLRs, but the macro and zoom facilities on most compact cameras will allow photographing subjects in close-up as well as distant.
The first step is to know your camera; it is your greatest tool in creating your master piece. It is also advisable to read the camera manual to familiarise yourself with its basic and advanced functions.
I have often been told by novice/beginner photographers that the manuals tend to be complicated with terminology that tends to be alien to them. My advice to them is to start with the basic controls such as ‘Program Mode’, then move to the advanced features as ‘Aperture/Shutter Priority’, bracketing and others that may be unique to their camera.
Every compact camera should enable you to have some control over the aperture, shutter speed, the ISO, exposure compensation (+/-) and finally focusing. Some compact cameras will allow the user to take full control over the focusing using the ‘manual’ mode.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when photographing flowers.
The main control on a compact camera for close-up photography is the “Macro” button (often with the symbol of a flower). This enables you to focus closer to the subject and also blurs the background, keeping the flower sharp. The camera automatically sets the aperture and the shutter for you, so you don’t have to worry about the exposure, allowing you to just focus and press the shutter release.
Now I will briefly touch on the Aperture Priority (AV) mode. When in this mode, the camera will set the shutter speed to give you the right exposure. This mode is very useful as it allows the user to determine what part of the subject and background to keep in focus and what to blur by choosing the desired aperture. In close-up photography, it if often advisable to blur the background, as it draws the eye on the main subject when viewing the final photograph, therefore having an out of focus background is not considered bad.
When the camera is set to Aperture Priority, if the lowest ‘f’ number is selected, then the area nearest to the focus point will be in focus and the remaining picture will be out of focus. When the highest ‘f’ number is selected, the focus point and the area before and after the point is all in focus. If ‘f’ numbers between the lowest and highest is selected, then through practice and experience you can determine what to keep in focus and what to blur.
Red & Yellow tulips
As well as the aperture mode, the Shutter mode (TV) is also important. This mode can be used when you are unsure of what aperture to choose and its great for capturing movement in the flowers caused by any wind.
Selecting a slow shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/15 will capture the movement in the leaves on the trees and flowers creating a ‘ghostly’ effect, whilst shutter speed of 1/60 or above will freeze the movement without blur.
I hope this very brief insight into flower photography assists you in your photography.
Exposure: due to low light, exposures will be long ranging from 10 seconds to 90 seconds. Use a tripod to avoid camera shake, or alternatively change the ISO on your camera to 800 or higher to minimise camera shake.
Use Aperture Priority mode or Manual mode on cameras. Cameras which do not have the Aperture Priority or Manual mode will often allow selecting different scene settings, such as ‘dusk/dawn’, ‘nightlight’ or ‘sunset’ modes. Please choose which suits you and your camera best.
Below image photographed using a compact camera set on 'Night mode'
It is very easy to take photographs of smoke; I have provided the following tips as a guide to create stunning images. For this project, I have used my DSLR with off camera flashes and also a small compact camera with its built-in flash.
Compact Camera or SLR with manual focus
Off camera or 'built-in' flash
Plate to catch all the hot ash from the incense sticks
Black velvet or similar material ( a black card will also work if you don't have any material)
Black card or paper to block (flag) unwanted the light
Important: Photograph indoor in a well-ventilated room (not to breezy) to avoid smoke build-up. When working with smoke, you must take regular breaks as the smoke will begin to accumulate in the room which can be a health hazard.
Setting up the shoot
I have used a DSLR for the following shots. Pin the black backdrop on the wall or alternatively as I did, rest it on the sofa.
The off camera flash is loosely wrapped at the head with black paper. This avoids the light to fall back on the backdrop and also this keeps it directed on the smoke.
The incense stick is placed between the camera and the backdrop. I hand held my camera for better flexibility, but if you wish to use a tripod, by all means do so. As I will be using a fast shutter speed, I can get away without using a tripod.
Camera settings (fully Manual on SLR):
Set your camera on Manual mode.
Set shutter at 1/125 or 1/250, this is a common setting that will sync with your flash.
Set aperture on f8 or smaller like f16 or f22. This will maximise the depth-of-field.
Set ISO on 100 or 200
Use Manual focus as the auto-focus function may struggle to latch onto the smoke.
(Tip to assist focusing. Place an object behind the incense stick and make sure it is touching it, manually focus on the object, then remove it when it is in focus).
Light the incense stick and place the flash fairly close to the smoke.
Once the above setup is complete, take the photographs. Adjust the flash accordingly to see where it gives the best result.
Tip: Do not look through the viewfinder because you will not see the full length of the smoke patterns. Follow the smoke with your camera and try to capture the interesting shapes. If you don't have manual settings on the camera, set the camera on Shutter Mode 'TV' and increase the ISO to 320 or 400, this will give you an aperture nearer to f8.
The following three photographs were taken by manual focusing on smoke. The camera was set on Manual mode, aperture f10 and shutter speed 1/125.
Try to see when the smoke makes unusual shapes and take the photograph.
When too much smoke is accumulated it can create an atmospheric effect or may look messy (see below):
The following two photographs have been taken on 'Shutter' mode. I set the shutter speed to 1/125 and the camera selected the Aperture.
Photographing smoke is really fun, try being creative with your images. The following photographs have been taken using two off camera flashes; one was fitted with a light green coloured gel. The camera is set on manual mode just as before
Red gel is used on the below image:
Blue gel is used on the below image:
Using a Compact camera:
If you are using a compact camera with a built-in flash, follow the above setup and select the ‘Landscape’ mode on the camera.
Tip: It is important to cover the built-in flash with a piece of tracing paper so that the light is diffused, this will avoid 'hot spots' on the backdrop.
It is always best to photograph cities, towns and traffic trailing lights when there are still some shades of dark blues, purples, pinks and orange in the sky. The final photograph becomes more interesting with lots of colours rather than a darkened sky in the background. When photographing illuminated signs, it is advisable to shoot them in close-up, therefore the background may not be an issue.
The 'M' symbol stands for Manual mode (fully manual). In this mode you have full control of your camera. You decide what aperture and shutter speed to use in order take a correctly exposed image. In this mode you can also override any of the camera settings, i.e. flash, ISO, exposure compensation and white balance.
Choose this mode if you are fully confident about how the aperture and shutter work together to produce a correctly exposed image. I use this mode mostly for landscape, close-up portraits, snow and night photography, and even just experimenting with different exposures.
The 'TV' or 'S' symbol stands for Shuttermode (semi-automatic). In this mode you select the shutter speed, and the camera will set the aperture accordingly.
For example, if you change the shutter speed from 1/30 (slow) to 1/250 (fast) of a second, the aperture will change automatically. This will leave the exposure the same as the camera is matching your shutter settings.
The shutter mode is used to capture movement or create a blur. I use shutter mode to photograph movement in water, trailing traffic lights or to freeze the action.
I took the above photograph in Bangkok outside the 'Bangkok River Cruise Tours', where you get on boat to see Bangkok's temples on the Chao Praya River. I saw this lady sat on the boat I took the camera and took the photograph. I did not want her to look at the camera; her sitting there made me wonder what is she thinking, where is looking (as there was nothing behind me just the river).
It is always good to have an interaction with your subject, however this image would not have been the same if I asked her to look at the camera. The misty of her expression would have been lost. The final image works for me, it is just the way I had pictured in my mind.
The 'A' symbol stands for Aperturemode (semi-automatic). In this mode you select your desired aperture and the camera will set the shutter speed to match the aperture settings.
For example, if you change your aperture from f5.6 to f11, the camera will adjust the shutter speed automatically keeping the exposure the same. Use this mode to have more control on the depth-of -field.
Aperture is one of the three main functions in photography along with the shutter and the ISO.
The aperture is a ‘circular hole’ within the lens and is known as the ‘diaphragm’. To create an image, light passes through the ‘diaphragm’ and travels into the camera image sensor/film creating the image. The amount the ‘diaphragm’ is open to allow light through is measured in f-stops, i.e. f2.8, f4, f5.6, f11, f16, etc.
Beginners often get confused on what ‘f’ numbers mean and how they work. As a general rule: the smaller the ‘f’ number, the larger the opening of the aperture. The larger ‘f’ number, the smaller the opening of the aperture.
Therefore, f2.8 is considered as a large aperture. At f2.8 the diaphragm of the lens is larger and allows more light to come through and fall on the image sensor/film.
At f16, the aperture is small. The diaphragm of the lens is small limiting the amount of light passing through the lens and falling on the image sensor/film.
The below diagram shows the aperture in relation to its ‘f’ numbers: (not to scale)
How does the aperture work?
Just think about the human eye; the pupil controls the amount of light passing further into the eye by shrinking or expanding.
The aperture works exactly the same way. The amount of light is controlled by changing the f-stops on the camera. As you can see from the diagram, f2.8 allows much more light in than f32.
If the aperture is changed from one ‘f’ stop ‘either way’, it doubles or halves the size of aperture as well as the amount of light passing through.
Moving from f2.8 to f4 the amount of light is halved.
Moving from f8 to f5.6the amount of light is doubled.
When changing the aperture either way, it also affects the shutter speed (the amount of time the shutter is open) and the ‘Depth of Field’- (DOF is what controls the image sharpness).
Aperture and Focus
Choosing a large ‘f’ number such as f22 or f32 will bring all the foreground and background in focus. This aperture setting is always best to use when you want everything to be sharp and in focus.
This photograph has been taken using f22, as you can see everything is in focus from the foreground to the background.
On the other hand, a small ‘f’ numbers such as f2.8, f4 and f5.6 will blur the background, isolating the subject. This aperture setting is useful to use when you want to have parts of your photograph blurred to add impact as well as for photographing close-ups.
The 1st photograph has been taken using f2.8, as you can see the purple nail varnish bottle is in focus and the rest of the image is blurred. The 2nd photograph has been taken on f5.6.
For cameras that do not have aperture mode, use‘Landscape’ mode for a large DOF.
And for a small DOF use the ‘Close-up’ or the ‘Portrait’ mode.
The aperture adds dimension to the photograph by either blurring the background or keeping everything in focus.