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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.