Monday, 13 March 2017

How to take photographs of moon using a normal dslr?

I learn something new every time I go out with my dslr camera to do photography. An ultra wide angle lens is a part of my gear now, and I have experimented a lot with it in last couple of days. The motivation behind this post is my most recent work doing night photography including moon and stars. It required a fair amount of dabbling with camera settings and post production work too. If you have ever wondered on how to take pictures of our planet's natural satellite, this post will walk you through each and every step. Let's get started.

Equipment required:
Telephoto lens. 
Sturdy tripod. 
Any APS-C or full frame dslr camera. You don't need a fancy full frame or high fps camera. 

Camera settings: 
Manual Focus.
Spot metering.
White balance: Auto if shooting RAW.
Aperture: Somewhere between f8- f12.
Bracketing: Not necessary though, but you can take 3-4 different shots by varying shutter speed. 

1) Attach the telephoto lens to your dslr and turn the power on. 
2) Set up your dslr on a stable surface using a really sturdy tripod. 
3) Point it to the moon and zoom your lens to its maximum focal length. Look through viewfinder if you can see the moon.
4) Turn on live view and magnify 10x times. 
5) In manual focus mode, try to adjust focus on the moon by rotating the focus ring on lens. This takes a lot of patience as the camera shake is really strong since we are zoomed all the way in.
7) Once focus is set up, adjust the shutter speed for proper exposure. I am happy with single shot for now, but you can try 3-4 bracketed shots as well. 
8) Take a picture of some other interesting subject such as highway light trails, a person or a tree to act as foreground. This would add so much more interest to the photograph and make it stand out a lot. For me, I took an image of highway using wide angle lens with exposure time of 30 seconds. 

After photography work: Import both the images in ACDSee Ultimate 10, Adobe Photoshop, or any other layer editor. Combine the image from step 7 and step 8. I would love to show my post production workflow, but it will make this post too long. Stay tuned, will do another post soon. Here is what my final image looks like after merging two images:

79% moon during night
                                                   F11, 100 ISO 30 seconds.
                                                    F11, 100 ISO, 1/80 seconds for moon.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Does Nikon vs Canon really matter while buying a dslr?

It's Friday night and I just finished my dinner. Instead of going somewhere this weekend, I decided to give some time to my blog. As the title explains, this post is going to be about the most burning topic in the history of digital photography.
Is Nikon better than Canon?
Is Canon better than Nikon?
Should I buy Canon or Nikon?
I was recently asked one of the above questions above and honestly believe it served as the motivational source for this blog post. I always feel happy and delighted to talk about anything related to digital photography, but the Nikon vs Canon battle is very tricky. Without referring to lab results or super technical facts, I will keep try to keep it really simple. Both the brands manufacture superior quality products and are very close competitors of each other. Full frame sensor cameras, cropped sensor cameras, zoom lenses, wide angle lenses, prime lenses, flash units and what not. These two brands run almost parallel to each other. Choosing one over the other especially without any specific purpose or target in mind is like spotting a needle in the dark. I am sure there are so many fellow photographers who will connect with me here. On a personal note, I will add what my arts teacher told me in junior high: 

              "For photography, vision matters more than the camera."

I would still agree with what he said. Buy any brand and just take pictures. The more you take pictures, the more you will learn and eventually develop a style or niche. What matters the most is simply taking pictures. When someone asks me a comparison or versus question, I simply request them to buy a dslr that will motivate them to do photography. It is your dslr camera and it should feel comfortable in your hands. Nobody is going to look down at you if you have Nikon or Canon. I have friends who take stunning shots with Pentax  and Sony cameras too. Do not waste energy on choosing brands. Focus on the amount of money you have and what feels comfortable in your hands. You will enjoy the photography journey much better when you begin with a learner mindset. I still learn new things every single day.

Share if you like:)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How to use a 10 stop square shaped neutral density filter?

Since the beginning of my photography journey, I have always been a fan of clouds, stars, sunset, sunrise and ocean. 11-16 mm and a 70-300 mm telephoto lens can definitely be called as my best friends. Having purchased a 10 stop neutral density filter recently, this post is about my experience using a ND filter for the first time. 
Let's start with a bit of introduction. A neutral density filter is a dark piece of glass or resin used to minimize the amount of light hitting the dslr sensor.  They can be either circular (ring mount) or rectangular (square mount) in shape. Brands like Haida, Hoya, Cokin, B+W, Singh-Ray, Lee, etc are some of the major neutral density filter manufacturers. The darkness of material stays uniform in a classic ND filter unless it is a graduated nd filter. Graduated neutral density filter is a sub-type of ND filters which can be divided into further 2 parts:
Soft grad: The darker-softer part merge is gradual, smooth and hard to notice. 
Hard grad: The darker-softer part merge is sudden, rough and easy to notice. 
The image below represents my classic 10 stop Haida neutral density filter.

Rectangular filter from haida
Haida 10 stop ND filter

Silver metallic ND filter box
Haida filter box

It came in a really nice metallic case with a shiny and smooth touch. If you are wondering about the meaning of ND3.0 or 1000x, check out one of the old posts explaining the nomenclature of neutral density filters. As the filter is square in shape, we need something to hold it properly in front of the lens. For this, a ring matching the size of lens filter and a slot mount is required. A typical set up for rectangular filters looks similar to my camera image shown below. 

10 stop ND filter set-up
Rectangular ND filter set up
Coming to the photography, a good tripod and dslr remote shutter is a must for getting decent shots using a neutral density filter. This helps to avoid possible shake issues due to camera touch or slight wind. Here is the step by step process for using a rectangular 10 stop ND filter:
1) Connect the ring and slot mount to the ring of your lens. 
2) Connect the remote shutter and set the exposure value. 
2) Compose the shot, focus (manual or auto..up to you). 
3) Switch to manual focus once composed and position is set. Or you can use the back button focus technique here, but it would require you to consistently hold a button. 
4) Slide the ND filter into the slot with extreme caution. You don't want to disturb the focus or composition while sliding it in. Once done, it would be totally dark and impossible to see. 
5) Activate the remote shutter and wait for the filter to do the magic. 

Here is a 10 second exposure shot I took recently just before sunset.

Haida ND 3.0 filter 10 second exposure
10 second exposure before sunset. 
Enjoy the silky water and cotton ball clouds doing long exposure photography. 

Pro Tip:  A lens with rotating front element for focusing will be harder to work with ND filters as compared to lens with a fixed front element.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

How to use a wired shutter remote for long exposure shots on a dslr?

A dslr remote timer is a device used to activate and deactivate the shutter, which means they control the shutter speed duration. A dslr remote timer offers so much flexibility and additional benefits for any type of photography. My second investment as a beginner was remote exposure timer with display, first one was a tripod.  Since then I always carry one in my backpack. Not just landscape, they can be beneficial for portraits, fashion, street, time-lapse, astro and wedding photography too. Here is a picture of my dslr remote timer:

dslr exposure timer canon
dslr remote timer for canon
It can either be wired or wireless, wireless one uses IR sensor technology. This requires a good line of sight communication between the camera and the remote. Coming to wired ones, again there are two types depending on the pin connection. 
RS-80N3: Canon 7D, 6D, 5D, 5D mark II, mark III, mark IV, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 1D series.
RS-60E3: Canon rebel T5, T6, T4, T3, T2, T1, T5i, T4i, T3i, T2i, 60D, 70D.
The official canon remotes don't have a display and other functionalities, unless it is TC-80N3. TC-80N3 has a decent display and functionalities such as time interval of each exposure, delay and number of shots. To get this same functionality, one can buy cheap ones easily available on amazon and ebay. 
Image below shows close up of a cheap dslr remote from amazon.

canon remote shutter wired
Display based dslr remote shutter
1) Connect the dslr to pin located located on side of your dslr body. Some of the dslr cameras have a sign indicating the port for shutter release timer. 
2) For long exposure shot, switch the camera to bulb mode. If this step is not done, camera shutter speed would be used for every shot after every interval.
3) Description of settings on your remote shutter release. 
Delay: Initial delay once you start the timer. 

Long: Duration of each shot or exposure. Shutter speed in other words.

Interval: Time gap between each shot. Let's say the value is set to 10 and shutter speed (long) is at 2. The interval value is subtracted, and it would be 8 second gap between every shot.  

N: Number of shots. 

4) Toggle between settings using left/right key and then press set key. Use up/down key to change the value. Again press set to finalize the value. The digits would flash indicating they can be changed.
5) Click on start to activate the timer, and it will go on until 'N' pics are taken or your battery dies. User can deactivate any time in between by pressing the same start button. 

Hope this would help you take some real good shots. One advantage of using a shutter release timer (either wired or wireless) is the amount of reduction in camera shake and ability to move around a little bit. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

How to make a product photography light tent for cheap?

Have you ever bought a product from eBay or any other online store? Notice how the images are so crisp, sharp, and properly lit. The magic wand behind those professionally looking photos can be a soft box, or a light box. The whole purpose of having a light tent is to spread the light evenly in every direction; photography is all about light. A light box minimizes issues such as shadows, harsh blown out edges (from flash or direct light), and faded color. 
Now the difficult part, spending money. You can buy a professionally built light tent online around 70-100 bucks. More cheap? Buy used. More cheap? Do it yourself. Yes, that's the best way. Only thing required from you is a visit to your local market, and a couple of hours. Here is a list of things you will need:

1) Old used cardboard box or moving box. Any color would do. Preferably 18x18x16 inches. 
2) Cello tape or any other kind of tape. Duct tape would also work, I believe it works for everything.  
3) Tissue paper or a white muslin fabric/cloth. 
4) Cutter. 
5) Three table lamps. 
6) Three 80W or 100W fluorescent or daylight bulbs. 
7) A pen or pencil for marking. 
8) White poster board. 

Before we start, I request you not to scream with joy ( I did) looking at your product pictures after finishing the light box set up. Let's do it:

Step 1: A cardboard box has 6 sides, out of which one is already opened in order to take out whatever product was in it. This would be the entry for placing the product. Also, do not touch the exact opposite side to this opening. 
 Step 2: You have 4 sides remaining now. Choose any 3 sides of your choice and make square shaped gaps by using cutter. 
a) If you are using a tissue paper like me, take a pen to mark the gap size required for a tissue paper to fit. This cut would be smaller as tissue paper has a limited and fixed size.  
b) If using a white muslin cloth, you can cut as much big as you want leaving some space on the edges for cello tape to sit on. 

Step 3: After finishing the cuts an any three sides, all you have is a box with three sides wide open. You can put your hand or arm or even face through that gap into the box, just to have some fun. Place the tissue paper on top of gap, and hold it. Grab the tape and apply on all 4 sides. Do similar thing for remaining 2 sides as well. 
If you were using a white muslin cloth, cover up the whole gap and fix using tape on all four sides of cloth. Do similar step for remaining 2 sides. 

Step 4: Did you notice you still have 2 sides intact out of total 6? One would be your product background, and other one as the box base. Tilt the box and place it in such a way that you will have gaps on top, left, and right side. Take the white poster board and place it inside the box in a sliding motion. It needs to form a curve. Fix with tape. See picture below:

Product photography light tent
Light Tent or Light Box ( Not finished yet)

Step 5: Bring all three of your table lamps containing day light bulbs close to left, right, and top gap. Turn on the power. Voila! 

Place any suitable sized object inside your light box and take brilliant quality product pictures using your DSLR or smartphone camera. 

Here is a sample shot:

sample test product photography image
Sample Product Photography Image

Friday, 10 February 2017

Metering modes on canon dslr with examples

Metering is a process in which a dslr camera measures the amount of light entering the camera depending on the sensitivity of the sensor (ISO). Once the light is measured, it informs the user to adjust either shutter speed or aperture to get a properly exposed image. Older cameras never had a lightmeter preview, so an external light meter was a necessity. The same external light meter logic applied to film cameras as well. 

In this age of dslr cameras, there are few quirks about various metering modes available in almost all of the brands. A metering mode is a way for camera to determine the correct exposure settings. Your dslr then tells you to adjust the settings, so that the meter needle sticks to zero. This can be achieved by changing the shutter speed, aperture or ISO settings. Let's see how does metering mode works with examples. 4 images below are taken from a kit lens using Canon 40D dslr with same shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings. All of them are exactly similar which is expected as no setting was changed except the metering mode dial. 
Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center weighted average. 

                                                                         F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Evaluative

                                                                     F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Partial

                                                                             F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Spot

                                                             F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Center weighted average

Above 4 images clearly explain that the image exposure would not change just by changing the metering mode dial, settings need to be varied. Look at the 4 images below now, exposure settings were changed for every mode in order to keep the metering needle at center. In all of the images, same spot was used to focus using center cross point. Here are the settings for individual shots:
1) F5.6, 1/25 second. 100 ISO. Evaluative
2) F5.6, 1/20 seconds. 100 ISO. Partial.
3) F5.6, 1/15 seconds. 100 ISO. Spot. 
4) F5.6, 1/20 seconds. 100 ISO. Center weighted average. 

                                                                          F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Evaluative

                                                                          F5.6, 1/20 second, 100 ISO. Partial

                                                                        F5.6, 1/15 second, 100 ISO. Spot metering

                                                             F5.6, 1/25 second, 100 ISO. Center weighted average

My personal favourite out of the above 4 would be first image, for the fact that it has somewhat properly exposed background. 
How does it work?
As soon as the in camera meter is balanced (any mode), the metered area records at 18% gray tone of a gray card. Under normal circumstances, metering would yield the expected results. Most commonly used or default option: Evaluative metering mode (matrix in Nikon). 
Evaluative/Matrix: Takes the whole scene into consideration. Works for 90% of the cases, will make another post on where it fails and the possible workarounds. 
Spot metering: Only considers the AF point exposure which is roughly 2-3 % of the total scenery. Let's say you focus on the subject's forehead while taking portraits, spot metering will ignore the background ( Example: Sun) in this case and expose for the forehead only. 
Partial: Quite similar to spot metering except for the fact that it takes into consideration approx 6% of the total scenery. 
Center weighted average: Extra focus on the center while ignoring the corners. It does take into account 75% of the scene.  

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Naming of neutral density filters for photography

Planning to invest in a decent filter system to include in your photography gear? I am sure the nomenclature might have confused you a bit. I got lucky to be able to borrow a few grad filters from my friend who is a professional wedding photographer. This allowed me to fiddle around a bit with different level of optical density and thus served as the photography inspiration behind this post. The naming of the neutral density filters ( either gradual or non gradual) is a kind of myth, but this short and sweet post will make it easy for you. Some filter manufacturers name them as per optical density of filter while others focus on f-stop number.
Table below relates optical density, filter factor and f stop number for neutral density filters.

Optical density of filter:
0.3     0.6     0.9     1.2     1.5     1.8     2.1      2.4     2.7     3.0  
Filter factor:
2         4        8        16      32     64     128     256    512    1024
F stop:
1         2        3         4        5       6        7         8         9      10

Example: 0.9 ND filter. This means it is a 3 f stop ND filter. Similarly, a 10 f stop ND filter would have an optical density of 3.0. 

So we have got the basic of density filters, but what's the main motive behind spending money on density filters. There are certain aspects of photography which require a use of ND filter. For example: 

1) Outdoor portrait photography: Neutral density filters help for outdoor portraits in broad daylight. Example: Sun is behind your model or subject. In this case a balance between ambient light and subject exposure can be achieved by using a fill flash and ND filter. Fill flash will prevent shadows on subject face and pop out the subject more. Other way can be exposing for the background which would require a very high shutter speed and great flash power. 

2) Landscape photography. Shooting in harsh daylight sun can be made possible by using ND filters of higher optical density. Capturing sunset over the beach using ND filter gives a nice and silky effect to waves and leads to properly exposed sky. ND filter actually allows a longer exposure as it minimizes the amount of incoming light. 

Pro Tip: If you find it hard to focus after attaching filter, focus before on a point (either manually or auto) and then switch your lens to manual mode. Slide the filter in front of your lens and boom. Another way can be bumping up the ISO all the way to allow your camera focus through filter and then lowering it back. There is a huge debate of using screw on density filters vs square shaped filters which require a holder system such as Lee SW150.