This week starts off with a DSLR Photography Lesson with new student Teresa and her Canon 7D. As you might expect from a Canon 7D owner, Teresa already has photography knowledge. What I helped her do in this first of four lessons she has already booked (which gets her a discounted price) is pull all that existing knowledge together and add to that my own process for dialing in the best settings that produce the exact exposure, DoF and sharpness I want.
Teresa is already entering into action pet photography and hopes to break into newborn photography as well, especially since a family member will be having a baby soon. She has a nice assortment of lenses and a new Nisson external flash, so first it is a matter of finding out what gear is best for each type of situation. Using her Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens we practiced photographing moving subjects in strong mid-day Florida sunshine, which she will often need to do in her pet photography work. We started out using aperture priority to see what shutter speeds it would give us, and they were all over the map. Varied results are exactly what one does not want. Thus, we switched to manual mode.
Knowing that to freeze most action a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th is required, we set the shutter to 1/640th to make sure we had enough, then adjusted our aperture and ISO settings to yield the best possible exposure given the non-ideal light conditions. In this manner we locked in settings that consistently produced results we were happy. Once one locks in the best possible settings, the photographer is then free to concentrate just on shooting, composition, etc with no worries about exposure or other technical aspects of shooting.
Our next lesson will be how to make use of her external flash for portrait work as well as how to use Color Efex Pro to edit digital photos. It will be a longer lesson than usual, but Teresa is a self-declared photography sponge right now, which makes having lessons fun for me as well. I am looking forward to it since external flash and Color Efex Pro are two of my favorite photography related things!
Wide angle lenses cause distortion. Depending on the subject of the photograph, the distortion can be very apparent or very hard to notice. If there are tall straight lines in the photo, especially at the edges of the frame, then the distortion will be very easy to see. If the photo is free of geometric shapes, then the distortion will not be obvious. Wide angle lens distortion is very easy to see when photographing buildings or other rectangular shaped objects, like the fireplace above. It was shot at 17mm causing the walls to pinch inward and the mantle to appear to have a bulge in the center. Here is how I used Photoshop CS5's lens correction filter to straighten it up:
In Photoshop CS5, the keyboard shortcut for launching the lens correction filter is SHIFT-CMD-R. Or, you can just go into the Filters menu and select it there. The auto correction by choosing camera and lens model does not work for me, so I always go into the custom tab. For the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens I used for wide angle shooting, I always have to Put the Geometric Distortion slider into positive territory, as I did here (+7). Then what I do from there depends on the individual shot, but I mostly adjust the Vertical and Horizontal Perspective sliders as needed. I turn the Show Grid option on and adjust those sliders as needed until a horizontal/vertical line in the photo becomes parallel with a horizontal/vertical grid line. I also toggle Preview on and off to see the differences made. Click OK and Photoshop does the rest!
Lens Correction Workflow:
- SHIFT-CMD-R in CS5 to launch the lens correction filter
- Toggle on Preview and Show Grid
- Slide Remove Distortion to positive side as needed
- Adjust Vertical/Horizontal Perspective sliders as needed following grid lines for guidance
Show us your practice results with a link in the comments below. If you correct one of your own images send me a 600px wide version of the original and corrected one and and I will feature it in this post.
For our second of four DSLR photography lessons, I once again meet Natasha in downtown St. Petersburg. For this second lesson we focused on low light portraits. We started off in a covered area along 2nd Ave that I have used for other lessons. For all my portrait work I use manual exposure mode. However, I had Natasha start out using aperture priority because I wanted her to see what type of exposures the camera is capable of choosing on its own. Using several different apertures and even adjusting the ISO did not yield an exposure I thought was the best possible. This is when I had Natasha switch to manual mode.
Aperture priority mode did provide us with useful information. Noting the shutter speeds it chose, I was able to advise Natasha on what shutter speed to actually set in manual mode to yield a more properly exposed portrait. For example, if the camera was choosing 1/160th in aperture priority mode with a slightly dark exposure, in manual mode a slower shutter speed like 1/100th would be set to better expose the subject matter.
Natasha does not yet have an external flash, so we used the popup flash on her Canon XT. Using some special composition techniques, and a well placed wall, I was able to show her how to kind of bounce the light even from her popup flash so as to not directly blast the subject straight on, which usually results in a not very natural skin tone.
I am enjoying these single focused, high detail lessons. Lesson three will be soon!
It seems lately my DSLR photography students are coming in even more enthusiastic, more eager to learn than ever before. New student John and his Nikon D300s is yet another such example. Even though John has quite a significant photography background in the past, if one does not keep up on it, like with many other things, skills can be forgotten, or at least buried under other memories. So during our first lesson I helped John dig up some of that old photography knowledge and added a lot of new DSLR specific info for him to put into his memory banks as well.
John (his website) is a very interesting person of some notoriety in the permanent makeup world, though I cannot say I had even heard of that term before I met him.
Due to the St. Pete Grand Prix going on last weekend, we did not meet at my preferred first lesson local, downtown St. Petersburg, instead meeting at John's Pass Village. After setting up his Nikon D300s with all the customizations I have done to my own Nikon D300, we used the mix of waterfront, beach and gift shop environments to go through all the normal settings one needs to change on a given day of photography in the bright Florida sunshine.
John has the same awesome Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR micro lens that I do, which is what we ended the lesson practicing with. That macro lens has very unique DoF properties, outstanding sharpness and the best looking bokeh around. John is excited about having more and more lessons, and I am as well, especially using the 105mm lens.
I often wonder what someone, something, anything animate or inanimate, might be thinking. I believe even an inanimate object can feel, thus I would never haphazardly toss my shoes into the closet, or set something heavy on top of them, for example. It is much easier to wonder what animals are thinking since they are sentient, but cannot speak English. Thus, they have to be thinking something, but they have no verbal way of telling me. So, I am left to observing their behavior and concluding from that what possibly might be going through their minds.
Such is the case with the above pigeon. It was reaching elegantly and gracefully for its closest tail feather. It instantly looked to me like a ballet dancer reaching for her toe over her back. That lead me to thinking of BLACK SWAN, the 2010 movie starring Natalie Portman (my movie review). Might this pigeon want to be the Black Swan?