Sunday, 23 April 2017

Top reasons to use high ISO on a dslr

When I started photography 2 years ago with a cropped sensor dslr, ISO was one of the terms that would make me feel nervous about my own shots. Going through various blogs, there was a general perception about higher ISO values being always bad. I made a real solid picture in my mind that anything above 100 ISO would make pictures look really ugly and noisy even when the format was RAW. 
Switching slowly from landscapes to event and indoor photography after one year, the struggle to get properly exposed shots started to become fairly evident. Cultural events, music concerts and indoor sports taught me how important is the value of ISO. The need for faster shutter speed in a low light environment is one of the most common scenarios every photographer has to face at some point in his photography journey. 

Increase shutter speed -> Leads to less incoming light
Wider aperture-> Allows more light
Environment lighting -> Already very less during events.

As seen above, a poorly lit environment makes it harder to do dslr photography even when a lens with wide aperture is available. ISO or external flash can be the only life saver here. I recently shot my first indoor dance event with a prime lens and a telephoto zoom lens. Interestingly even my 50 mm 1.8 mm struggled to get properly exposed shots because I was still in my old mindset of not bumping up the dslr ISO. The event was in progress and I was losing shots, there is no worse feeling than this. Had to swallow my low ISO pride and changed the value to 800. Voila! The shots looked much much better from an exposure point of view. I came home and copied the photos to laptop for post processing followed by 2-3 hours of post processing. Here is what I observed:
A poorly exposed low ISO shot when post processed is inferior in quality as compared to a properly exposed high ISO shot. 

Use of external wireless flash units can help with properly exposed shots without bumping up the ISO, but most of the events don't allow this. Astro and star trail photography is another huge branch of photography that involves usage of higher values. What do you think is a usable range of  ISO value for a cropped sensor dslr?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How to do macro photography using reverse lens technique?

If pictures of extremely small objects sometimes draw your attention, then this post is for you. Taking pictures of small insects, objects, etc comes under the branch of macro photography. There are multiple techniques in order to do close up or macro photography as mentioned in the list below. In the next section we will get started with the third technique i.e. reverse lens macro photography.

1) Extension tubes: Electric and Non electric.
2) Macro lens
3) Reverse lens technique.

Close up or macro photography can be done using a cheap kit lens. The quality of pics produce by using the reverse lens macro technique is simply astonishing.  All you need is a reverse lens macro ring matching your lens filter size. Filter size of my canon 18-55 kit lens is 58 mm, ring is shown in image below.

ring adaptor for reverse macro photography
                                Reverse macro ring for canon 58mm
 Once you have the ring, following are the steps:
1) The ring comes with threads. Screw the ring to front element of your kit lens. Set the lens focal length to 55 mm. Lower the focal length, the closer you have to be the subject and thus greater magnification.


reverse macro photography ring attached to kit lens
                     Canon kit lens with reverse macro ring attached

2) Disconnect the lens from your dslr body and attach it backwards. The ring has threads which help in the attaching the lens in reverse direction.

Reverse ring adapter used to attach kit lens.
                      Kit lens in reverse macro style on 40D

3) Turn on the dslr camera. F stop value would be 00 as there is no electrical connection between the lens and the dslr body. Don't worry about controlling the depth of field as of now. Manual focus lenses (ring to adjust f stop value) really help to achieve superior depth of field, will make a separate post explaining this.

4) Look through the viewfinder and go close to a really small object such as a coin, almond, pen cap, etc. Everything would look blurry and out of focus. For accurate focus, concentrate on one object and move back n forth. You will see a particular distance at which the object would get in focus. This is your optimal distance, stick to it.

5) Take a few shots and adjust shutter speed accordingly for exposure. As there is a lot of shake, I would definitely recommend either a higher shutter speed or using a tripod. To compensate for a proper exposure, in built or hot-shoe mounted flash can also help. This topic would be covered in detail in next post.

Here are some sample shots taken by me using this technique.

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                           Clove

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                            Cumin Seed

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                           Water drops

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                Ray ban logo on sun glasses
Reverse lens macro photography is not an easy technique, it needs a lot of patience and practice. I would definitely add that the pain is totally worth it, as you can see the in example images. A 5 dollar reverse macro lens ring from ebay is all you need, so why not give it a try? Share your results in comments.

Pro Tip:
18 mm -> Example photography subjects: Cumin Seed, Fruit fly, Ant, etc.
55 mm -> Example  photography subjects: Currency coins, cashews, keyboard alphabet, etc. 

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. 

Steps:
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
 Steps:
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