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Features information, tips and hints on all aspects of photography as well as photo editing technique. Your critique, comments and compliments are always welcomed to help me improve and learn.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Portrait Tips

Here are some excellent potrait tips that you will learn when taking a shot.

1. Don't Just Sit There...

Static portraits—with the subject just slouched there, or stiffly posed, are not terribly appealing. It generally pays to play director as well as photographer when you're photographing people. Don't just hide behind the camera; interact with your subject. Tell a joke, have a conversation, do something silly, or even tell the subject what to do. The results will be be much more interesting portraits, and the session will be a lot more fun for you and your subject.

2. Use the Right Lens

The right lens for a portrait is the one that provides the desired framing at a distance that provides the desired perspective. For a natural-appearing "head shot," this would be a short telephoto (85–135mm range for a 35mm camera), at a distance of around 31/2–5 feet from the subject. Use a wider lens, and you have to move closer to frame a head shot, and moving closer will expand perspective and elongate the subject's features. Use a longer lens, and you'll have to move farther away to get the right framing, and moving farther away will compress perspective and "squash" the subject's features. Of course, the "right" framing and the "right" perspective are up to you, the photographer. Try different focal lengths at different distances, and see which combinations you like best. For example, for waist-up and full-length portraits, wider lenses can be used, keeping in mind the relationship between distance and perspective.

3. Props & Backgrounds

Great portraits have been made using just face and light. But you can add interest and variety by using props and backgrounds as integral parts of the image. Props can serve as compositional elements and something to take camera-shy subjects' minds off being photographed. You can use the background to say something about the subject—an environmental portrait—or use a wide aperture to throw a distracting background completely of of focus and thus minimize the distracting elements if you can't eliminate them through camera position. You can also use commercially available portable backgrounds indoors and out, or make your own from posterboard or cloth. The thing to keep in mind is that everything in the picture is part of the picture—don't forget about the background as you concentrate on the subject.

4. Lighting Up Their Lives

In the glory days of Hollywood, photographers almost as well-known as their celebrity subjects used direct "hard" light to produce dramatic portraits. Hard light is dramatic, but it also is not very forgiving of errors in positioning by the photographer, and imperfections in the subject's complexion. Soft light, as produced by umbrella reflectors or open shade outdoors, is far more forgiving on both counts, and thus a better choice for the beginning portrait shooter (and subjects with less-than-perfect complexions).

The simplest studio portrait lighting setup involves two lights: a main light, which determines the "look" of the lighting; and a less-intense fill light, which softens the shadows. You can start with the main light 45° above and 45° to one side of the camera (try both sides to see which looks best with your particular subject), and move the light lower or higher, and closer to the camera or more to the side to suit your subject. Then place the fill light (or a fill reflector) next to the camera to soften the shadows.

Studio flash is popular with portraitists today, because it is daylight-balanced, its brief duration minimizes subject "blinking" problems, it's not uncomfortably hot like tungsten lights, you can easily set ratios between main and fill lights, and the modeling lamps let you preview the lighting. With hot-shoe flash units, you can't see what the lighting looks like until you see the photo—there's no light until the flash unit fires, and then it's there for only a brief fraction of a second. Tungsten lights let you see the lighting and cost less than studio flash systems, but are hot, require longer exposure times (increasing the likelihood of getting a shot with the subject blinking), and require tungsten-balanced color films (or corrective filtration, which furthers extends exposure times). Many terrific portraits have been made with both types of lighting, so take your pick.

One of many popular portrait-lighting variations is the over/under: Position a soft main light (a photographic umbrella reflector will soften the light beautifully) just above the camera lens, and a fill reflector right below the camera lens—you can even have the subject hold the fill reflector in his or her lap. This produces a more "glamorous" effect than the 45°/45° lighting.

Of course, Mother Nature provides some gorgeous portrait lighting, too. In late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, it comes from an attractive angle and is less intense, so it doesn't make subjects squint. (Avoid harsh midday sun for portraits!) You can have the subject face directly into the setting sun, or turn at an angle to produce a lighting ratio (you can use a silver, gold or white fill reflector to lighten the shadow portion of the face). Open shade, and thinly overcast skies also produce nice soft portrait lighting outdoors.

Yet another good source of natural portrait lighting is a large picture window. Position your subject near the window, and use a large white posterboard as a fill reflector, and you can do anything from formal to glamour effects.

5. Camera Height

Camera-to-subject distance isn't the only camera-position consideration in portrait work. There's also the matter of how high the camera should be. Generally, the best height is the subject's eye-level. This is especially important for shots of children and pets, which are usually photographed looking down on them because the photographers are generally adults who are somewhat taller. Shooting down on a subject diminishes it—OK if that's what you intend, but not the most effective way to do a portrait of the subject. And shooting up at the subject generally does not produce an attractive head shot. Start with the camera at the subject's eye level, then try a little higher and a little lower, and see what happens in the viewfinder.

6. Try Something Different

Portraits don't all have to be formal head or head-and-shoulders shots. A portrait should represent your subject, and tell the viewer something about that person. Or not! Try something different—shoot a portrait that doesn't show the face, photograph the shadow instead of the subject, frame a dancer's feet and unique shoes, catch the subject at work or play instead of aware of the camera, look for unusual lighting and shadows.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nikkor Lense (Normal)

To capture an angle of view that approximates that of the human eye, Nikon has developed these lenses to provide a 46 ° picture angle, which are useful for landscape and candid shots.

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D

With the modification of other AF Nikkor lenses from S-type to D-type, the entire AF Nikkor lineup is now comprised of D-type and G-type lenses. This D-type Nikkor lens, like all other Nikkor D- and G-type lenses, relays subject-to-camera distance information to AF Nikon camera bodies. This then makes possible advances like 3D Matrix Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash. The lens delivers superior optical performance thanks to the incorporation of high-grade Nikon Super Integrated Coating.

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D

High-performance standard lens. Distortion-free images with superb resolution and color rendition. An ideal first lens, perfect for full-length portraits, travel photography or any type of available-light shooting. Accepts 52mm filters.

Nikkor Lense (DX)

With the significant rise in the popularity of Nikon's digital SLRs, the DX Nikkor lens line-up have been developed to deliver higher optical performance to meet the demands of professional and advanced amateur digital SLR users.

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (3.0x) new

With built-in Silent Wave Motor and Vibration Reduction, this compact, lightweight and affordable 3x zoom NIKKOR lens offers remarkable versatility and covers the essential focal range of 18 to 55mm. When mounted on any DX-format Nikon digital SLR camera, the picture angle is equivalent to that produced by a 27 to 82.5mm focal length lens on a 35mm-format film camera or Nikon FX-format camera.

AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED

The AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED is a compact and lightweight 3.6x zoom lens featuring a host of state-of-the-art optical technologies such as the Vibration Reduction (VR), Nikon ED glass element and SWM (Silent Wave Motor). It has been specifically designed to complement the D80 as well as the D40 and D40x cameras. It also delivers outstanding performance at a remarkably affordable price.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II

An ideal companion for Nikon's newest, smallest and most affordably-priced digital SLR, the 18-55mm Zoom-Nikkor lens will be included with D40 digital SLR outfits. Incorporating cutting-edge Nikon optical technologies such as ED glass and aspherical lens elements, D40 customers will enjoy sup
erior image quality made possible in part by legendary Nikkor optics.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED offers outstanding performance at a remarkably affordable price. The lens has a focal length range of 18-135mm, which is suitable for a wide variety of shooting situations ranging from tight sports, action and portraits to wide-angle landscapes. (The picture angle is equivalent to a 27-202.5mm lens in the 35mm format.) Advanced Nikon engineering, in particular the compact SWM, has enabled a compact lightweight design with excellent handling characteristics.

AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, a compact, lightweight 11.1x zoom lens that is ideal for everyday photography and incorporates advanced features such as Nikon ED glass, SWM (Silent Wave Motor) and enhanced VR (Vibration Reduction), as well as featuring optics optimized for use with Nikon digital SLRs. The lens offers users the remarkable 18-200mm focal length range, which conveniently covers everything from wide landscapes to tight portrait shots. (The picture angle is equivalent to a 27-300mm lens in 35mm format.) Advanced Nikon engineering has given rise to a compact lightweight design that offers excellent handling characteristics.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED

Developed exclusively for use with Nikon DX Format digital SLR cameras, this lightweight, compact zoom lens is an excellent match for the new D2H digital SLR camera. The 17-55mm range exceeds 3x zoom to broaden wide angle to medium telephoto photographic possibilities, and the lens maintains fast f/2.8 aperture throughout to make it practical and easy to use. When mounted on any of the Nikon D2H, D1-series or D100 digital SLR cameras, the picture angle is the equivalent to 25.5 ~ 82.5mm on a 35mm [135] format camera.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED

An important addition to the DX Nikkor lens lineup specially designed for Nikon digital SLRs, this convenient zoom lens offers ample 18-70mm zoom performance. Equivalent to a 27-105mm lens in 35mm format, such a focal range comprises the most commonly used focal lengths ? offering maximum versatility that can accommodate anything from tight portraits to expansive scenes. The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED also offers easy handling and excellent portability through compact dimensions of a mere пи3 x 75.5mm (2.9 x 3.0 in.) and a minimized weight of approx. 390g (13.5 oz.).

AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED

An important addition to the DX Nikkor lens lineup, the first fisheye lens designed specifically for digital SLR photography is also the first to achieve a full-frame 180? picture angle. The ultra-wideangle focal length of 10.5mm brings digital camera users a picture angle equivalent to that of a 16mm fisheye lens on a 35mm [135] format camera. The lens is targeted at Nikon DX Format digital SLR camera users who seek the unique visual effects a full-frame fisheye lens lends to landscape and other shots, to taking close-ups, or when shooting within vehicles or other tight interiors.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm* f/4G IF-ED is the first lens in the new DX Nikkor series. Designed specifically for use with Nikon D1-series and D100 digital SLR cameras, it features ultra-wideangle zoom capability, ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and Nikon?s exclusive built-in SWM (Silent Wave Motor).

Monday, December 3, 2007

How to Take Great Group Photos

1. Prepare

There is nothing that will make of people posing for a photograph turn upon you faster than you not being prepared. People don’t like to be kept waiting so think ahead about some of the following aspects of your photo:

  • scope out the location of your shot before hand
  • think ahead about how you will pose people and frame your shot
  • one of the group’s head hiding behind another person
  • make sure everyone you want in the shot knows you want them a few minutes ahead of time
  • make your your camera is on and has charged batteries

2. Location

The place that you have your group stand is important to group shots for a number of reasons. For starters it can give the photo context - for example a shot of a sporting team on their playing field means more than a shot of them in front of a brick wall. The other reason that choosing locations carefully is important is that it can have distractions in it.

Choose a position where your group will fit, where there is enough light for the shot and where there is no distractions in the background. Also avoid setting up a group shot directly in front of a window where the light from your flash might reflect back in a way that destroys your shot.

3. Take Multiple Shots

One of the best ways to avoid the problems of not everyone looking just right in a shot is to take multiple photos quickly. I often switch my camera into continuous shooting mode when taking group shots and shoot in short bursts of shots. I find that the first shot is often no good but that the one or two directly after it often give a group that looks a little less posed and more relaxed.

Similarly - shoot some frames off before everyone is ready - sometimes the organization of a group shot can be quite comical with people tell each other where to go and jostling for position.

Also mix up the framing of your shots a little if you have a zoom lens by taking some shots that are at a wide focal length and some that are more tightly framed.

4. Get in Close

Try to get as close as you can to the group you’re photographing (without cutting some members of it out of course). The closer you can get the more detail you’ll have in their faces - something that really lifts a shot a lot.

If your group is a smaller one get right in close to them and take some head and shoulder shots. One effective technique for this is to get your small group to all lean their heads in close to enable you to get in even closer. Another way to get in closer is to move people out of a one line formation and stagger them but putting so me people in front and behind.

5. Pose the group

In most cases your group will pose itself pretty naturally (we’ve all done it before). Tall people will go to the back, short people to the front. But there are other things you can do to add to the photo’s composition:

  • If the event is centered around one or two people (like a wedding or a birthday) make them the centr al focal point by putting them right in the middle of the group (you can add variation to your shots by taking some of everyone looking at the camera and then everyone looking at the person/couple).
  • For formal group photos put taller members in the group not only towards the back of the group but centered with shorter people on the edges of the group.
  • Try not to make the group too ‘deep’ (ie keep the distance between the front line of people and the back line as small as you can). This will help to keep everyone in focus. If the group is ‘deep’ use a narrower aperture.
  • Tell everyone to raise their chins a little - they’ll thank you later when they see the shot without any double chins!

6. Timing Your Shoot Well

Pick the moment for your shot carefully. Try to choose a time that works with what is happening at the gathering that you’re at. I find it best to do a group shot when the group is already close together if possible and when there is a lull in proceedings.

Also towards the start of events can be a good time as everyone is all together, they all look their best and if there is alcohol involved no one is too under the weather yet.

7. Think about Light

In order to get enough detail in your subjects you need to have sufficient light. The way you get this varies from situation to situation but consider using a flash if the group is small enough and you are close enough for it to take effect - especially if the main source of light is coming from behind the group.

If it’s a bright sunny day and the sun is low in the sky try not to position it directly behind you or you’ll end up with a collection of squinting faces in your shot.

8. Take Control

I’ve been in a number of group photos where the photographer almost lost control of his subjects by not being quick enough but also by not communicating well with their group of subjects. It is important to keep talking to the group, let them know what you want them to do, motivate them to smile, tell them that they look great and communicate how much longer you’ll need them for.

Also important is to give your subjects a reason to pose for the photograph. For example at a wedding you might motivate people to pose by saying ‘((insert name of couple being married here)) have asked me to get some group shots’ or at a sporting event ‘lets take a group photo to celebrate our win’. When you give people a reason to pose for you you’ll find they are much more willing to take a few minutes to pose for you.

Another very useful line to use with group is - ‘If you can see the camera it can see you’.

This one is key if you want to be able to see each person’s face in the shot.

If there are more photographers than just you then wait until others have finished their shots and then get the attention of the full group otherwise you’ll have everyone looking in different directions.

Of course you don’t want to be a dictator when posing your group or you could end up with lots of group shots of very angry people. The best photographers know how to get people’s attention, communicate what they want but also keep people feeling relaxed and like they are having fun.

9. For large groups

Large groups of people can be very difficult to photograph as even with staggering people and tiering to make the back people higher you can end up being a long way back to fit everyone in.

One solution to this is to find a way to elevate yourself as the photographer. If I’m photographing a wedding and the couple wants one big group shot I’ll arrange for a ladder to be present (I’ve even climbed up onto church roofs) to take a shot looking down on the group. In doing this you can fit a lot more people in and still remain quite close to the group (you end up with a shot of lots of faces in focus and less bodies). It also gives an interesting perspective to your shots - especially if you have a nice wide focal length.

10. Use a Tripod

There are a number of reasons why using a tripod when taking photographs of groups can be useful. Firstly a tripod communicates that you’re serious about what you’re doing and can help you get their attention (it’s amazing what a professional looking set up can make people do). Secondly it gives you as the photographer more freedom to be involved in the creation of the posing of your subjects. Set your camera up on your tripod so that’s ready to take the shot in terms of framing, settings and focus and then it will be ready at an instant when you get the group looking just right to capture the moment.

11. Use an Assistant

If you have a very large group and assistant can be very handy to get the group organized well.
An assistant is also incredibly handy if you are taking multiple group shots (like at a wedding when you’re photographing different configurations of a family). In these cases I often ask the couple to provide me with a family or friend member who has a running sheet of the different groups of people to be photographed. I then get this person to ensure we have everyone we need in each shot. Having a family member do this helps to make sure you don’t miss anyone out but also is good because the group is familiar with them and will generally respond well when they order them around.

12. Smile

Yes YOU should smile! There’s nothing worse than a grumpy stressed out photographer. Have fun and enjoy the process of getting your shots and you’ll find the group will too. I usually come home from a wedding which I’ve photographed with an incredibly sore jaw-line from all the smiling because I find the best way to get the couple and their family to relax and smile is to smile at them. It really does work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bokeh and DOF (depth of field) tips

What is bokeh and DOF?

Depth of field (DOF), refers to the area of an image that is in focus. You have most likely seen images where the main subject is in focus, while the background is out of focus or totally blured. The area that covers the focused area is the DOF (depth of field). Bokeh on the other hand, refers to the appearance of the light that is seen within the blured part of the photograph. Bokeh and DOF are important to consider for photographs when you need the main subject to stand out on its own and not be lost in background distractions.

Isn't Bokeh and DOF the same thing?

No, bokeh and depth of field is not the same thing, although they do work together.

  • DOF is seen in a photograph where there is an obvious focus area, set against a blured background or foreground.

  • Bokeh on the otherhand, refers to how your camera lens renders the light that is seen within the blured parts of the image. Sometimes this can be soft or harsh circular shapes, or look like hexagons, depending on your lens design and aperture settings.

Camera settings for bokeh and DOF

Important steps to achieving blurred backgrounds with good bokeh in most circumstances, is to have:

  • start with a low aperture or f number as it's also known (see examples below)

  • if you're using a telephoto lens, zoom it out to the longest length

  • move in so your physically as close to the subject as your lens will allow you to be, yet still focus properly

  • photograph subjects where the background objects aren't too close behind

  • light of some sort, whether it be sunlight steaming through branches or street lights when doing a night portrait, will be helpful when shooting bokeh
Examples of bokeh/DOF within photograph

Camera: Nikon D40
Lens: AF-S DX Zoom Nikor 18-55mm F/3.5- 5.6 G ED II (kit lens)
Exposure: 0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 55 mm
ISO Speed: 200
Exposure Program: manual

Why the bokeh / DOF in this image worked

The shape of the bokeh also depends on the lens design. Some lenses are considered to result in a nicer bokeh than others. Usually the more expensive the lens, the nicer the bokeh. However, in most cases if you shoot the photograph so you're aiming towards some kind of light, then it will result in some form of circular bokeh like in the example above. In this case, there was sunlight shining through the leaves of the tree. This sunlight resulted in a circular bokeh. The blue color is caused from the blue sky above.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Introduction to Shutter Speed in Digital Photography

  • Shutter speed is measured in seconds - or in most cases fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (ie 1/1000 is much faster than 1/30).

  • In most cases you’ll probably be using shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second or faster. This is because anything slower than this is very difficult to use without getting camera shake. Camera shake is when your camera is moving while the shutter is open and results in blur in your photos.

  • If you’re using a slow shutter speed (anything slower than 1/60) you will need to either use a tripod or some some type of image stabilization (more and more cameras are coming with this built in).

  • Shutter speeds available to you on your camera will usually double (approximately) with each setting. As a result you’ll usually have the options for the following shutter speeds - 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8 etc. This ‘doubling’ is handy to keep in mind as aperture settings also double the amount of light that is let in - as a result increasing shutter speed by one stop and decreasing aperture by one stop should give you similar exposure levels (but we’ll talk more about this in a future post).

  • Some cameras also give you the option for very slow shutter speeds that are not fractions of seconds but are measured in seconds (for example 1 second, 10 seconds, 30 seconds etc). These are used in very low light situations, when you’re going after special effects and/or when you’re trying to capture a lot of movement in a shot). Some cameras also give you the option to shoot in ‘B’ (or ‘Bulb’) mode. Bulb mode lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you hold it down.

  • When considering what shutter speed to use in an image you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement).

  • To freeze movement in an image (like in the surfing shot above) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. The actual speeds you should choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred.

Motion is not always bad - I spoke to one digital camera owner last week who told me that he always used fast shutter speeds and couldn’t understand why anyone would want motion in their images. There are times when motion is good. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing, or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed, or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go. However in all of these cases you need to use a tripod or you’ll run the risk of ruining the shots by adding camera movement (a different type of blur than motion blur).

Focal length and Shutter Speed - another thing to consider when choosing shutter speed is the focal length of the lens you’re using. Longer focal lengths will accentuate the amount of camera shake you have and so you’ll need to choose a faster shutter speed (unless you have image stabilization in your lens or camera). The ‘rule’ of thumb to use with focal length in non image stabilized situations) is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens. For example if you have a lens that is 50mm 1/60th is probably ok but if you have a 200mm lens you’ll probably want to shoot at around 1/250.

Introduction to Aperture in Digital Photography

What is Aperture?

Aperture is ‘the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.’

When you hit the shutter release button of your camera a hole opens up that allows your cameras image sensor to catch a glimpse of the scene you’re wanting to capture. The aperture that you set impacts the size of that hole. The larger the hole the more light that gets in - the smaller the hole the less light.

Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’. You’ll often see them referred to here at Digital Photography School as f/number - for example f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6,f/8,f/22 etc. Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens (and the amount of light getting through). Keep in mind that a change in shutter speed from one stop to the next doubles or halves the amount of light that gets in also - this means if you increase one and decrease the other you let the same amount of light in - very handy to keep in mind).

Depth of Field and Aperture

There are a number of results of changing the aperture of your shots that you’ll want to keep in mind as you consider your setting but the most noticeable one will be the depth of field that your shot will have.
Depth of Field (DOF) is that amount of your shot that will be in focus.

Large depth
of field means that most of your image will be in focus whether it’s close to your camera or far away (like the picture on top where both the foreground and background are largely in focus - taken with an aperture of f/22).

Small (or shallow) depth of field means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be fuzzy. Aperture has a big impact upon depth of field. Large aperture (remember it’s a smaller number) will decrease depth of field while small aperture (larger numbers) will give you larger depth of field.

The first picture on the left was taken with an aperture of f/22. The f/22 picture has both the flower and the bud in focus and you’re able to make out the shape of the fence and leaves in the background.

The f/2.8 shot has the left flower in focus (or parts of it) but the depth of field is very shallow and the background is thrown out of focus and the bud to the right of the flower is also less in focus due to it being slightly further away from the camera when the shot was taken.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flash Technique

A basic guide showing the principles of flash photography.

Manual Metering standard setting (DSLR user only)

Use "manual metering" for this setting.
This is the standard setting when taking photos for manual metering. Just remember this few settings and you will be on your way to take great photos.

How To Make Money From Micro Stock Photography?

Stock photography agents are companies that represent photographers and sell their photographs "right of use" graphic artists, news papers and advertising companies. One of the evolving domains in stock photography is called "micro stock". A micro stock agency, as the name implies, is a stock agency that deals with low (micro) price - about a dollar - photographs. Usually the micro stock agencies will restrict the uses allowed for a photograph.

Filtering and Choosing Photographs

When you are choosing your portfolio, consider the following point:
Does your photograph has a value as an illustration or as a concept or idea that a customer can benefit from? For example, a photograph of a businessman in a suit climbing a mountain will sell better that a macro shot of a mosquito on a pinhead. A lady holding a disk in one hand and a handful of dollar notes on the other hand, will sell better the a photograph of a hippopotamus chasing a koala bear. This has nothing to do with the quality of the photographs. The micro stock agencies and their customers are looking for clear ideas and concepts that their clients can use.

Preparing the Photograph

Before uploading your photographs to a micro stock agency site, you need to make sure you comply with the following guide lines:

  • The picture should be uploaded in JPEG format with minimal compression (some sites allow for RAW image upload as well)
  • Most sites require that you upload your photographs in their original resolution. Do not resize the image.
  • The guys who verify the images you have submitted are very sensitive to noise and granularity. Try looking at your photo in a 100% magnification to verify you do not "suffer" from noise. If in doubt use tools to remove the noise such as Noise Ninja or Neat Image
  • The photograph must not have any copyright material or trade marks. This includes bottle labels, T-shirts with logo, or any other product that has a trademark. Remove those logos using Photoshop.
  • For any picture that contains persons that can be identified, you must enclose a Model Release Form - this form shows the consent of your object to be photographed. If you photographed yourself, include a Model Release Form signed by you. Here are shutterstock’s model release forms, and here are dreamstime's model release forms, there are also some generic Model Release Forms on the web.

Choosing Keywords

If you will not index your photographs with good keywords, you will never get good exposure on the micro stock site. You are competing against some 1,000,000 (yes that is more than one million) pictures and about 25,000 photographs added weekly. My suggestion is put allot of effort into the keyword that you use. If you have good pictures that customers can use, attaching good keywords will give you the best rating and maximum downloads. So, how do you select your keywords? The best way is to look at similar photographs uploaded by other users to get ideas. For the following picture of two wine bottles I used the following set of keywords:

Keywords use for this picture

alcohol, bar, Bordeaux, bottle, cater, celebrate, celebration, contain, cork, culinary, diagonal, dining, dinner, drunk, empty, ferment, fine, full, fun, glass, goblet, grape, isolated, juice, label, liquid, menu, pair, party, pinot, pub, restaurant, Riesling, romantic, two, vineyard, white, wine

Recommended Sites

There are many micro stock sites, some better. Since most contracts are not exclusive, I recommend using several micro stock agencies in parallel. Here are some recommended sites

Bigstockphoto - Yet another great site for photographers. They pay 50c or 1$ per image downloaded. And they allow to get paid after only 30$ has accumulated. They will approve photos in about three days. They allow FTP upload.

Fotolia - Fotolia is a rising star in the field of stock photography. They usually pay more then 50% of the commission to the photographer, and allow you to set your own price. They are one of the fastest to approve photographs. Another nice thing is the way you can get your money. They will allow you to make a paypal cashout once you've hit the 2 dollar mark.

Shutter Stock - This is the leading micro stock agency today. Shutterstock’s business model allows a customer to make a subscription and during the subscription period the customer can download 25 pictures a day. This model encourages downloads, and indeed you will get allot of downloads. The photographers earn 25c per download, and additional 5c if the customer also requested to burn the image on a CD. There are also broader uses licenses that the client can buy for additional payment. The site is very friendly. It has an FTP upload option and pictures are approved within a day or two.

Dreams Time - This is a less known site, but still very popular with the clients, and gets great sells. The basic price per image is 1$ (or 2$ for full resolution) out of which the photographer gets 50%.
The site is very friendly. It has an FTP upload option and pictures are usually approved within a three days. - 123rf is a relatively new agency which is doing well. They are still small, so if you are good standing out is easy. They pay 50% of each sale to the photographer - nice. Another nice feature is email notification once your images has been approved or rejected.

Lucky Oliver - Lucky Oliver has been around for some time now, but they still small enough so you can easily get noticed if you are good.
They have a very fresh design that is fun to use. They payment starts at 30% and get higher if you give Lucky Oliver exclusivity and stay around to get allot of downloads (those 30% translated to 0.3 to 6 Dollars depending on picture size)

Stockxpert - Stockxpert is another good micro stock agency. They have good FTP support, and they will approve your photos within days. 50% out of each download goes to the photographer.

iStockPhoto - Istock Photo is another big micro stock agency. They pay something between 20% to 40%, but the image is sold for 1-12 dollars so there is a chance of a nice payoff. Also as a photographer progresses, he/she gets more % out of every sale.

CanStockPhoto - They pay 50% for guest/member download and 0.25 USD for subscription download. They are a great agency, with a little cluttered design.

Feature Pics - A very nice agency - they let you set a price for your stock photos or set the percentage that you want to earn.

- photostockplus gives a great variety of products you can sell. They
will not only sell your photos, but put them on mugs, shirts and more.
photostockplus also provides great resources for event photographers

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Horizontal or Vertical Photos?

Horizontal or Vertical?

Many photographers never think to turn their cameras on their sides
to capture a vertical image. Horizontal photographs are sometimes
referred to as "landscape," while vertical photos are referred to as

If you are taking a photograph of a single person, then it's
probably a good idea to take it vertically. This will prevent the
person from being surrounded by blank space. Even when you are
shooting actual landscapes, you might find that a vertical view
makes for a more dynamic composition.

Always ask yourself if horizontal or vertical would be better before
you take a photograph. It may be readily apparent, based on your
subject and its surroundings. If it isn't, take one of each shot and
decide which you like better when you see the prints.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kek Lok Si Trip

The Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si is situated in (H)Air Itam, a suburb of Georgetown. You can make that by local bus from the Komtar, but you can also make it by taxi. I prefer taxi, because the taxi takes me up the hill (the Kek Lok Si is halfway on a hill). I like to walk down, but not to walk up the hill in a tropical climate.
Taxi ride from the KOmtar in Georgetown will cost you about RM20.-

The temple was begun in 1890 and, from all appearances, construction really hasn't ever stopped. And it's still going on! The temple is supposedly the largest in Malaysia.
The Kek Lok Si project was inspired by the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple of Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Manchu Emperor Kuang Hsi, who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Seven Tips for Taking Great Photos

Shoot at the highest resolution you can

While high-res pictures will take up more space on your
digital camera's memory card, shooting big gives you the
most flexibility later. Shooting at a higher resolution
guarantees that when the magic strikes, you've captured
the picture at the highest quality level. So whether you
want to crop the picture to show a special detail or print
at a large size, you'll have plenty of detail to work

Get comfortable with your digital camera settings

In addition to auto, most digital cameras have a variety
of settings calibrated for special situations-like the
bright light of the beach, or the muted light of a museum.
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with these before
you start shooting. This will let you adjust settings
without consulting your manual.

Take lots of pictures

The best way to get good photos is to shoot often. Try
shooting the same subject from a variety of angles: low,
high, side view, close up and far away. If your camera
lets you, also experiment with different settings when
you shoot.

Use the Rule of Thirds to compose photos

When you compose a picture, imagine a tic-tac-toe grid
over your digital camera's LCD screen or viewfinder. The
vertical and horizontal lines divide the image into
thirds. Experiment with placing the subject off center-
right or left-or higher or lower. This is called the Rule
of Thirds, and using it will result in fresher, more
interesting photos.

Think in terms of stories

Imagine you're taking pictures at your son's third
birthday party. Before it starts, think about the
different activities, and plan to shoot parts of each
one. Also, strive to show the emotion in the moment:
Delighted grads throwing their mortar boards high in the
air, the big inhale before the birthday candles are blown
out-look for moments such as these that express the
feeling of what you're photographing. This will let you
tell the story in pictures-perfect for scrapbooks, albums,
or sharing online.

Shoot against a simple background

Whether you're shooting a portrait, a landscape, or a
quick snapshot, make sure there aren't any distracting
elements in the shot. Trees sticking out of heads, or
wires dangling will inevitably draw the eye away from
the subject. So when you're ready to shoot, double check
that the background is simple and sets off your subject
to its best advantage.

Maximize natural light

Light can transform an ordinary photo into one that evokes
emotion and captures the essence of the moment. So shoot
during the "beauty" hours of early morning and late day,
when natural light is most even and flattering. Avoid the
bright light of midday, which can cast harsh shadows and
flatten out colors.

When shooting indoors, let in as much light as you can.
Open curtains, turn on lights-but avoid using your flash
as it causes shadows and color distortion.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Best Time To Take Photography

The most important element to many great photographs is the lighting. Warmth, depth, texture, form, contrast, and color are all dramatically affected by the angle of the sunlight, and thus the time of day. Shooting at the optimum time is often the biggest difference between an 'amateur' and a 'professional' shot. In the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is low, the light is gold and orange, giving your shot the warmth of a log fire. Professional photographers call these the 'magic hours' and most movies and magazine shots are made during this brief time. It takes extra planning, but saving your photography for one hour after sunrise, or one to two hours before sunset, will add stunning warmth to your shots.

5am: Pre-dawn: A pink, ethereal light and dreamy mist for lakes, rivers and landscapes.

6-7am: Dawn: Crisp, golden light for east-facing subjects.

7am-10am: Early morning: The city comes to life; joggers in the park.

Midday: The sun is too harsh for landscapes and people, but perfect for monuments, buildings and streets with tall buildings.

2pm-4pm: Afternoon: Deep blue skies with a polarizer.

4pm-6:45pm: Late Afternoon: Terrific warm, golden light on west-facing subjects. Best time for landscapes and people, particularly one hour before sunset.

6:45 - 7:30pm: Sunset: Great skies 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after sunset.

7:30-8pm: Dusk is great for skylines, while there's still a purple color to the sky.

9pm: Night shots, or go to bed - you've got to be up early tomorrow!

Ten Tips For Better Photography

1. Hold It Steady

A problem with many photographs is that they're blurry. Avoid 'camera shake' by holding the camera steady. Use both hands, resting your elbows on your chest, or use a wall for support. Relax: don't tense up. You're a marksman/woman holding a gun and it must be steady to shoot.

2. Put The Sun Behind You

A photograph is all about light so always think of how the light is striking your subject. The best bet is to move around so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out color and shades, and the slight angle (side lighting) produces some shadow to indicate texture and form.

3. Get Closer

The best shots are simple so move closer and remove any clutter from the picture. If you look at most 'people' shots they don't show the whole body so you don't need to either. Move close, fill the frame with just the face, or even overflow it. Give your shot some impact. Use a zoom to crop the image tighter.

4. Choose A Format

Which way you hold the camera affects what is emphasized in your shot. For tall things (Redwoods, Half Dome) a vertical format emphasize height. Use a horizontal format to show the dramatic sweep of the mountains.

5. Include People

Photographs solely of landscape and rocks are enjoyable to take but often dull to look at. Include some of your friends, companions, family, or even people passing by, to add human interest. If there's no one around, include yourself with the self-timer. Have you ever got your photos back only to discover that something that looked awe-inspiring at the time looks dull on paper? This is because your eye needs some reference point to judge scale. Add a person, car, or something of known size to indicate the magnitude of the scenery.

6. Consider Variety

You may take the greatest shots but if they're all the same type or style, they may be dull to look at. Spice up your collection by adding variety. Include landscapes and people shots, close ups and wide angles, good weather and bad weather. Take personal shots that remember the 'being there' - friends that you meet, your hotel/campsite, transportation, street or hiking signposts.

7. Add Depth

Depth is an important quality of good photographs. We want the viewer to think that they're not looking at a flat picture, but through a window, into a three-dimensional world. Add pointers to assist the eye. If your subject is a distant mountain, add a person or a tree in the foreground. A wide angle lens can exaggerate this perspective.

8. Use Proportion

The beauty of an image is often in its proportions. A popular technique with artists is called the Rule of Thirds. Imagine the frame divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, like a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Now place your subject on one of the lines or intersections. Always centering your subject can get dull. Use the Rule of Thirds to add variety and interest.

9. Search For Details

It's always tempting to use a wide angle lens and 'get everything in'. However, this can be too much and you may loose the impact. Instead, zoom in with a longer lens and find some representative detail. A shot of an entire sequoia tree just looks like a tree. But a shot of just the tree's wide base, with a person for scale, is more powerful.

10. Position The Horizon

Where you place the horizon in your shot affects what is emphasized. To show the land, use a high horizon. To show the sky, use a low horizon. Be creative.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rule of Thirds

Rules of Composition

Camera Interactive

Cameras Interactive aims to help novice photographers grasp the main concepts of SLR photography.

The Flash-based Virtual Camera gives users hands-on experience operating an Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera.
Four tutorials explain focusing, aperture, shutter speed and exposure.


How to check Shutter Count? (For Nikon user)

Check out this site. If you are looking for software that can check "shutter count". Here it is.
Just choose the image from your computer or URL and voila. You can check a lot of Exif info from your image taken from shutter speed, aperture, ISO, shutter count and so on.