The Perfect Panorama

So we know that the iPhone can take panoramic shots now. Yep, it’s super easy, you just make that tiny little arrow (oops! you are moving too high!) stay as close to the horizontal line (shoot, now it’s too low…) as you possibly can. That might be all well and good for family reunions or a killer crowd shot at the Rolling Stones concert, but is that really what you are going for? If you have subscribed to this blog (which you most likely have if you are reading this) then you are seeking a better level of panorama. Let us share with you what we know.

Perfect Panorama Rule #1:

First and foremost, and we’ve said it in earlier blogs…tripod, tripod, tripod! Stability in every way is an absolute must when it comes to creating seamless panoramas so start with that great 3-legged foundation.

Perfect Panorama Rule #2:

Shoot vertically, in portrait style. You will have to take a few more shots to cover the entire landscape, but it will create the most seamless and stunning panorama.

Perfect Panorama Rule #3:

This one is SUPER important; change your white balance to cloudy. If you leave it on auto, the balance will change between each picture and then you’ll be looking at a patchwork panorama. Nobody wants that.

Perfect Panorama Rule #4:

For the same reasons as above, set your exposure. See what it is through the viewfinder, switch to manual and then keep it at that same exposure. We don’t want any auto exposure going on and thus changing the image from frame to frame.

Flickr djshanu
Flickr djshanu

Perfect Panorama Rule #5:

Third times a charm. You guessed it, follow the same process for your focus. Once you’ve set your focus, turn off the auto feature so the focus remains the same for each frame.

Perfect Panorama Rule #6:

When capturing each segment, make sure to include at least 15% of the previous frame in the new frame. Having overlap will be important when it comes time to put everything together.

Perfect Panorama Rule #7:

Use a shutter release or a self-timer. We always want our photos to be tack sharp but in this particular instance, having zero camera shake is even more dire because it will be far more noticeable when the frame right next to it is clean and crisp.

Perfect Panorama Rule #8:

Last but definitely not least, HUSTLE!! Move quickly through capturing each frame so clouds or lighting or a new object coming into frame will not create inconsistencies in your image.

That’s it. Super easy and super worth remembering. Your next panorama will be so spectacular, it will make your viewer feel as if he or she were there. Take that iPhone 5!

5 Easy Tips That Will Help You Turn Pro

The first rule of being successful at anything, whether it’s photography, bull riding or playing the stocks, is to never stop honing your skill. Those that are the most successful in their craft continue to evolve their perspective and learn from their experiences. It has taken decades for the art of photography to become what it is with the foundation of principals that it has. Those that came before us and before you, as you are sitting here reading this blog, have created some basic knowledge and understandings that continue to remain true for the most professional of photographers. In this week’s blog, we have 5 quick and easy tips that are favorites of the pros but often missed by those just starting out. When put into everyday practice, these 5 little gems will help you get consistently excellent shots and turn you from an amateur to a pro.

Pro Tip #1: Lock in your focus.

Focus is focus. It’s where your eye is drawn first and then becomes the focal point of the entire image. If you are trying to get more than one subject to remain in focus in your shot, point at your first subject area and hold your shutter button half way down. This means your focus is now locked and you are free to move to the remaining portions of your image and finish pushing down the shutter release button. Your camera will not be able to readjust, which is what always ends up leaving your initial subject matter blurred and fuzzy.

Pro Tip #2: Move your point of focus.

I know I know, it is literally the exact opposite of what the first point says, but that doesn’t make it wrong and we’ll tell you why. When you look through your viewfinder, you see that rectangle or square or circle right? Well that is your camera’s “auto focus” point. Whatever happens to be in that sweet spot of your view finder will be the most focused portion of your picture. However, the sneaky truth about a camera’s auto focus is that you can move that AF point to correspond with the way you are composing your picture. Thus, both a brilliantly sharp and artfully composed image. What was that? Did I just hear someone whisper “pro”…?

Flickr dojoklo
Flickr dojoklo

Pro Tip #3: Get real close and use a high shutter speed.

One of the most underrated skills of photography is getting in close. Real close. Famous photographer, Robert Capa has been quoted saying, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Don’t let your fear of getting in someone’s or something’s personal space stop you from getting the shot you truly want. They’ve already agreed to be photographed and therefore are already on display. What could it hurt to get in a bit closer? The important thing about getting in close though is that any teeny tiny movement will be detected and captured in your photos. Therefore, make sure to set your camera to a high shutter speed so when you push the shutter release, it can instantly capture the image with little or none of that camera shake. (Check out more tips on how to manage camera shake).

Pro Tip #4: Don’t edit it later, recompose in the moment!

Our blog post a couple weeks ago was all about the magic of Photoshop. We love it, we really do, but one thing we love more, is recomposing and getting your exact subject matter the first time. It may not take you very long to crop out that telephone pole or funky cloud arrangement but it will take you even less time to adjust yourself or the shot in your viewfinder in the moment. Photoshop should be reserved for enhancing the slight details of your shot, not completely recreating it. That job is up to you and the YOU is what makes your shots individual, desirable and emotional. The magic of you as an artist trumps the magic of Photoshop any day of the week!

Pro Tip #5: Be a harsh critique when editing.

You’ve heard it before but we’re gonna say it again…less is more. The best way to exhibit yourself as a pro is to only show your pro shots. Not the ones that have 2 out of the 4 elements you were going for. Not the ones that have 3 out of the 4 elements. Only pick the ones that are a straight homerun. 4 out of 4 elements, exactly what you were going for and don’t need any explanation. When you are looking at your shots, if there is one bit of hesitation, flag it as rejected. Your intuition is there for a reason. Listen to it, trust it, follow it. If the shot isn’t a “hell yes!” it’s a no. Take a look at these three pictures of these lovely little girls. Which one evokes the most emotion…?

Flickr noborders2
Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2Flickr noborders2
Flickr noborders2

Yep, this last one above is the one. Happy editing!

Lightning and Fog – Two Elusive Muses, Captured

Elusive-Muses-Captured-Lightning_hunty66

When it comes to artistic muses, lightning – with its white hot bursts of power and fog, with its soft, almost ethereal quality, are often found at the top of most photographers’ lists. While capturing these two natural phenomenons can be tricky, they’re not impossible. Here are simple steps and techniques you can use to capture both, faster than Mother Nature can say, “Cheese!”

Lightening – Dramatic, Powerful and Just a Wee Bit Dangerous

A gorgeously captured shot of lightning as it streaks across the sky is downright dramatic. And as we all know, the power behind lightning is a force to be reckoned with, and therefore it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), that standing outside in the midst of a lightning storm can be dangerous. So, before we tell you how to capture the lightning, here are some safety tips to help prevent the lightning from capturing YOU instead:

  • Photograph at a safe distance from the action
  • Do not stand directly in the rain, under a tree, etc.

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to the how-to portion. First things first: you’ll need a tripod and a shutter release cable or wireless shutter release. Both are absolutely necessary as they will prevent any and all vibrations from thunder, wind, rain or your shaky hands from blurring the “money” shot.

Next, switch your camera mode to “Bulb” or the “B” setting. This allows your camera’s shutter to remain open for as long as you hold down the shutter button. You’ll also want to use f/8 as a good starting point. (This can be adjusted later, if need be.) Once you’re settings are dialed in, compose your shot by aiming your camera toward the area where the lightning has been most active.

When the see the first lightning strike, press and hold your shutter release cable button down. Then, when you see the second lightning strike, pause for a half-second, then release the shutter….voila! That should do it! Granted, it may take you a few times more to get your timing down exactly right, so don’t get frustrated. Just keep trying and you’ll get it eventually. (The shot that is. Not the actual bolt of lightning itself. Ahem.)

Elusive-Muses-Captured-Fog_acidzebra
Flickr: acidzebra

Fog – Misty, Intriguing and Despised by Light Meters Everywhere

A gentle rolling fog can add an element of mystery, enchantment and perhaps even a touch of “spooky” to your shots – if you can capture it! So what’s a frustrated photographer to do?

Begin by aiming directly at the fog itself while holding the shutter button halfway down. Next, you’ll need to adjust your camera’s Compensation Control (you can find this just behind the shutter button) and increase the exposure by one stop. (You’ll do this by holding down the Compensation Control button while simultaneously turning the Command Dial – the black dial on the back of your camera) until you see the “+1” in your viewfinder.) By doing this, you’re basically telling your camera, “You’re wrong, fog is good and we’re gonna do things my way!” When you’re finished capturing the “misty mornin’ fog”, don’t forget to return your exposure compensation setting back to zero; otherwise the rest of your shots will be overexposed by one stop all day long. (And trust me – that’s pretty frustrating, too.)

And there you have it, folks. Two of nature’s most elusive muses, captured right before your very eyes. Experiment with these two techniques and watch how fast you ramp up the cool factor during your next outdoor shoot!

Photo Noise Reduction: Stop the Noise

Photo Noise Reduction

(“Slight” noise in this photo, particularly in the shadows)

Stop the Noise

I’m not talking about the noisy neighbors blaring music at 2 a.m. Although noise in digital images can be just as annoying and frustrating!

Noise in a digital image is the same as grain in a film image. Noise looks like random speckles where it should be smooth. While there are times this look enhances an image, generally we avoid noise (kind of like banana flavoring – once in a while okay, but usually pretty distasteful).

To not have noise, you need to stay away from the things that cause it! Continue reading “Photo Noise Reduction: Stop the Noise”

Not-so-Extreme Weather Photography

Weather Photography Techniques

Overcome Weather and Time-of-Day Obstacles

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night…”

Weather Photography TechniquesThe quote is in reference to postal carriers. But what about photographers?

Do you let the weather stop you? Okay, admittedly, I do. But sometimes there’s no option. In fact, often I’ve gotten my best shots during unfavorable weather conditions. The following are tips for great shots in different weather or time-of-day situations. Continue reading “Not-so-Extreme Weather Photography”

HDR Photography: How to Make a Photo Look Like You Took it with Your Eyes

HDR High Dynamic Range Photography

HDR High Dynamic Range Photography

Do you ever wonder why you can’t quite capture with your camera the same “wow” you saw with your eyes? Sometimes I wish my eyes were a camera! But a digital camera cannot capture the full dynamic range of luminance that the eye can see. But there is a solution: a HDR, or high dynamic range, image shows a greater range between the lightest and the darkest areas of an image in a high contrast scene. Continue reading “HDR Photography: How to Make a Photo Look Like You Took it with Your Eyes”