What camera do I need as a beginner and/or to be a good photographer?
To be a good photographer isn’t about the camera that you use. It’s how you use any camera to get the best photo possible from it’s composition.
Buying an SLR or SLT camera is becoming more affordable everyday and more and more people are buying them and calling themselves a photographer. Being a photographer isn’t about buying a camera and snapping photos. That’s only 20% of a photographer’s job. Buying the most expensive camera possible won’t make you better either to where you can call yourself a professional in that matter. You can have an $8,000 camera and still take atrocious images.
Being a photographer with great pictures just comes naturally. You can’t buy that! Knowing where to be, how to compose and how to final produce the image is what it really takes. Seeing a subject out of the normal is key as well. Once you let the creative fluids flow, then you’ll be coming up with unique ideas to give you that creativity that makes your work stand out from others.
Selecting a camera as a beginner can be the hardest thing to do. It’s so many options, but in general they all do the same thing… Take photographs.
When I was buying my first SLR some years ago, there weren’t as many options out as there are now. There are compact SLR’s now that weren’t even heard of 5+ years ago. There are even the SLT (Single Lens Translucent), where the camera doesn’t use a generic mirror in the camera and the light goes straight to the sensor.
The best way to find the best camera is to try some out before you buy. I’ve used so many different systems and kind of have a feel for what I like and don’t like. Sony and Nikon are my top two choices of use for me, their user friendly and have great lenses, especially Sony for it’s AF Carl Zeiss collection, but Nikon for it’s edge for Landscape Photographers doing a lot of HDR.
See what works, see the pros and cons! You’ll find something from all of them that you will like but may not like. From Pentax to Sony, to Canon and so forth… to compacts to the monster SLR’s. There’s lots to choose from. SLR’s once use to be the primary thing for photographer’s, but the more compact camera’s are pushing their way forward and leaving SLR’s in the dust, so it just makes choosing that much harder!
Which ever you choose, decide on what you’re going to be doing. Is it just for a hobby or a potential career change? If this will just be your hobby, don’t go for the most expensive body and lenses you can, start small and work your way in. If this is a career thing for you, then you can risk pulling out the big bucks! Go for a mid-range or a pro level camera!
Remember though, whatever system you choose… you’re pretty much stuck with it. Meaning, if you go Nikon and buy tons of Nikon gear, don’t think going over to say Canon will be easy. Selling all of that for the price you paid will not be happening, especially with how fast the age of technology is moving and electronics becoming obsolete so quickly in just a year or less.
About image: This is a new photo taken for the 2013 Midtown Atlanta | Tour of Homes, which is being published for the tour as well. Click here to see more!
Sharing photos has become much easier as the age of technology progresses with so many new ways to share images. For photographers, it’s their domain to share their images online… or is it?
Do you know why you share images online? What’s your purpose for doing so?
There are so many photographers… and some "so called photographers" in this world who are sharing photos via social media output and other personal sites as well. Many are doing it, but not always for the reason they should.
Have you gone on Twitter and Facebook and received those tweets from random followers (and I do mean random) who tweet their photos or links all day saying to"check this out and if you like what you see, email or call them for bookings"? This is an example of what you don’t want your presence online to be known for.
Here are reason’s on why (as a photographer) you should share your images online and what you should and shouldn’t do as a photographer.
When you begin sharing your photos online, it shouldn’t be because you’re trying to gain something from doing it. It should be because you hold something special and are wanting to share it with those around you or far away, because you love doing it and are wanting to share what you know.
If you enjoy photography then "money" won’t be your priority. There are many who are doing photography as their full time business and may be starting out and are looking for clients, but you still don’t want your presence to be known for just the "dollar" over the "art" itself. If people are seeing and feeling your passion for what you’re doing, then that’s how people will be drawn in. Show people you love what you’re doing, show them that this is what you live for and are giving your all.
Dominate what you do best! Meaning, be an educator of what your strongest skill is and share with others. I know many are saying ohhh no, I can’t share my secrets. Of course, you can’t share your niche that you’ve worked so hard for to develop. With myself, I don’t share all I know, just the superficial parts of everything I specialize in, because everyone has their own creative thinking to where they will take what you’ve given them and work it to their liking to come up with something new and different. That’s one of the great things of photography. If you do this, others will see you take to heart what you do, willing to share and are always continuing to be educated in your field.
Get involved! The more you’re commenting in forums, joining in groups, and making reviews on products, the more you gain a fan base and those interested in what you’re sharing with them. This is a great time to share photos as well and get feedback and then give feedback to others and learn from one another. In photography there’s always something to be learned, so don’t become "big-headed" as that is another way to hurt your business.
Being "big-headed" is the kill to your career if you don’t get rid of it. No one knows everything, and when someone is sharing something with you, don’t be negative. As a celebrity photographer, I still learn from so many others around the world. Many of my great photography friends are from the UK, California, New York, Michigan and DMV (Delaware - Maryland - Virginia). We all learn from each other and it helps us become better together. We all have respect for one another and we encourage each other, not put down.
Don’t share images for fame! Social media has become the place for people to become overnight online celebrities very easily. Don’t let this be your calling. This is another fast track to failure, because you’re not putting the time and creativity in to your art and more so on getting more people to know you, follow you or become a fan. Your work will suffer from that and you won’t get the audience you’re looking for.
How do you get your images so detailed? Vibrant? So Clean?
The best way to end up with great images is to start with great images right out of the camera. Get to know your camera and it’s capabilities. Use those capabilities along with good composition, correct exposure, correct white balance, and a solid focus.
I try to analyze my photos before I snap the photo, usually you get better quality that way. Many photographers use Nikon and Canon cameras, but as you can see all are taken with a Sony D-SLR/SLT [a300, a560 or a57] and my photos still have just as great of quality as other brands. It’s not about what camera you use, but how you use it and get to know your equipment and of course… who’s behind the camera!
I’ve been a photographer for several years, so finding something new and creative to add to what I do every year is a huge task, but it comes about naturally when the time comes.
Many have asked me to disclose if I “photoshop” my images, and this meaning taking pieces of another images and combining with the photoo I actually took or doing some far out adjustments. The answer is 100% No! Yes, I don’t photoshop any of my images and the way you see them is exactly how they were taken and came out as. The only images that obviously will not look the same are my HDR [High Dynamic Range] images (Those are special images that are merged with 3 to 7 [The numbers vary based on what scene I’m capturing and just how much Dynamic Range I’m wanting to gain] images to make the 1 photo that you see, but it’s still naturally taken and not a photo-shopped composite.) Even Fashion images I take are the same also… the way you see them is how they are. Now, if it’s a person with bad skin then of course that’s had help, but for Fashion that’s standard so no avoiding it there.
Most of my images have been through Adobe Lightroom just for it’s accurate contrast setting. I love high contrast on my images (reason why they’re so vibrant and detailed). Color wise, my camera does that. It really depends on the image itself for me to really know what I’m going to do. Have I even ever uploaded images without using Lightroom? Yes, you’ll find a few on my website gallery where nothing was used. Typically Lightroom is the farthest I go… black is a color that is key to my photos and camera’s tend to not capture deep black’s, which I hate. Considering I have two different camera bodies and neither give me that black that I’m looking for is a shame, oh well… maybe I’m just too particular in that area!
Lastly, it simply requires great optics on your camera. If you have great camera lenses then you’ll always have great photos right from the camera that are sharp and full of great color.
Here are some quick bullets on the main things I typically use or go about for my photos, to get the look that you see in my images.
Focus on the camera lenses vs the camera body. - I actually prefer shooting with the mid-range camera’s. They’re far adequate for what I need and use them for. My standard lens I keep attached to my camera actually cost more than all of my camera bodies! Put your money into the better glass, as you’ll allow the full resolution of your camera to be utilized with that higher optic glass on the front of your camera. Having the most expensive body and the cheapest lens does you nothing. A cheapo body with the best lens money can buy will have MASSIVE improvements for you!
Shoot in your highest JPEG setting or shoot RAW. - Majority of my images are photographed in JPEG surprisingly enough. Weddings images however are ALWAYS RAW (this is mainly because I design Wedding albums and it allows me to be very creative and manipulate images however far I please without limitations of a final JPEG image). For everything else it’s either or. No one can tell the difference with the final image and once it’s uploaded on the internet. That’s because I have good camera bodies with sharp detailed lenses. I always get sharp and colorful images.
In camera sharpening and saturation - I’m VERY heavy on sharpening in camera. All of my camera settings have sharpening set as high as it will go. Saturation is usually medium set, to get my signature color to my images, which lately I’ve been doing away with for a more neutral look now. My style always changes so don’t get hooked on to my style that long. Many photographers will shake their head at a lot of my methods, but back in the film days many standard may have been correct, but here in digital age… there’s really no more rules, just old mentalities. I’m so opposite from most photographers that it’s probably my most significant thing people remember about me. Ha!
Quite simple right? Many think my setup for everything I do is very complex, but that’s not true at all. I have grown accustomed to what I do now, so I may not notice it as much. I think when people actually see me in action they’re very surprised!
About image:1) This was taken in Summer of 2012 at my sisters Wedding reception location in Duluth, Georgia. Since then this image has become one of my most popular images shared from any Wedding. I must agree, I love this photo as well. 2) This is a night time HDR image I took one night. I’ve never done night time HDR so I just wanted to see how it would come out. It came out better than what I expected it to.
Typically when I review anything, I try to base it on general preference and not my own personal preference. Ex: Personally, I dislike using Canon camera’s, because I find them rather difficult to use (or at least at the time I was trying them out) and rather pick up a Sony or a Nikon. I do however review Canon camera’s for what they are, which are some amazing camera’s indeed! If I could grow to liking them, I would pick up a Canon 5D Mark III in a heartbeat!
I bought the Sony Alpha a57 in early August, just a few months after it was released. I wanted either this or one of the NEX camera’s, but chose this as I still wanted the traditional feel of a SLR body, but with the SLT (Single Lens Translucent) technology.
What I think about the a57 camera
Since the day I’ve bought it, I’ve used it 99% of the time. All of my latest images have been taken with this camera, even on my first trip with it, which was to Huntsville Alabama.
The SLT or “mirror-less” camera’s were not in my favor a year ago and I was just downright against them (mainly for the EVF over an Optical viewfinder at the time as they were new and not well designed, but things have changed in two years and they’re AWESOME), but as I enjoyed my Sony Alpha a560 so much and the quality from it, I was interested in getting another just like it to replace my much older Sony Alpha a300 that I no longer use, or the Sony Alpha a580 (it’s big sister). I thought, why get a camera that’s two years old and get one that’s newer in that same class model. Sony is now all SLT’s, so I was looking at the big sister to the a57, the Sony Alpha a65. It has more MP’s (24.3 MP to be exact) and a few more features over the a57, but just analyzing them from their exterior’s they’re identical.
The body is very light-weight and easy to carry around for a long while. One thing Sony has done differently, this camera doesn’t have an available vertical grip that you could buy for this, not even a third-party one either. Initially I saw that as a negative, but using this camera I don’t really care to put one on even if it was available.
Sony Alpha a57 Images
My range is very wide. The one thing I don’t use this camera for at the moment are High-Fashion shoots & Weddings. Until I learn more about this camera and it’s features, I’ll stay safe and use the camera I know fully.
Church photography, where low light is an issue. This camera eats up the a560 in the area of noise control and detail. It has 2 MP’s more than the a560 for greater detail and also has a better handle on noise so you don’t lose that detail when shooting at ISO 1600 or higher.
Macro photography, this camera is a bit sharper for when detail is very key in the particular photo I’m capturing.
Sony Alpha a560 Images
My everyday camera that’s used for everything, mainly High Fashion & Weddings at the current moment.
High Dynamic Range, the photos of the a57 are great for HDR as well, but I prefer this camera in a way for these types of photos.
This picture was taken with…… the Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Sony Alpha Lenses
If you’re new to Sony and are needing recommendations on some great lenses to purchase first then here you go. If you buy this camera, you can buy it with the kit 18-55mm lens, which I haven’t had a chance to try, but I’m sure is pretty good. If you’re wanting more quality lenses to get the most out of your 16 MP camera then these are some good ones to start with.
Sony 16-105mm - This is an excellent lens that stays attached at all times on my a57 now. It’s a very expensive lens (not as much as the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm). It’s $700, but well worth the money. I chose this over the CZ, just for the range. I don’t use telephoto lenses, so the further a standard lenses the better for me, but not too far to where the aperture is too small and ends at 6.3.
Sony 50mm (f/1.8) - A great prime lens range that on an APS-C sensor is 75mm. It’s great for those instances where you need a faster lens in low light and also have a very sharp image also. It’s a great price, with astounding quality. Also look into the 50mm f/1.4 as well. It’s a bit more expensive, but also worth it for the quality.
What do you like about the Sony Alpha a57?
The #1 thing is by far the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). What you’re seeing is an LCD screen in the viewfinder to compose your image. It’s 100% coverage, which for those Full Frame professional users will love about this camera that’s in a mid-range camera. The information is crisp and clear and the capability to make all your changes/adjustments from the LCD, as well as seeing how your image will look before you take the image and review your images all in the viewfinder is incredible! It’s also an upgrade over the a55’s EVF. Sony has really made a great improvement here!
The weight is great and the grip feels right in your hands. A great improvement over the Sony Alpha a55.
Distortion correction is a GREAT feature to have INSIDE the camera. This feature, however is only available when you’re shooing in JPEG.
The addition of a movie option on the mode dial, so you can actually disable the movie mode button if you are one to accidentally hit the button during normal operation. It can then only enabled once the mode dial is in movie mode.
You gotta love the screen’s tilt action. I could never see myself without a camera that doesn’t have a tilting screen.
I love the addition of the Matrix AF that wasn’t in the Alpha a560 SLR I have. Vs using the local AF point, I tend to use this one more now as I can choose which of the 3 frames I want the focus to only concentrate in.
The movie mode feature is very good on this camera. The HD quality is rather great also (See video below for the video test)! When I want to capture something very quick, this camera is ready to go!
Clear digital zoom: If you’re a Sony user back in the ye ole days of when Sony first took over Konica-Minolta, you’ll remember that awful digital zoom feature that was available when using the “Live View” and would be a cropped image each step you went in the digital zoom mode. Sony has reintroduced that feature and has revamped it to make it one of the most appealing features of this camera! Using the clear digital zoom, you’re utilizing the camera’s digital zoom, but how about the photo will still be a full resolution 16MP image? I found that very impressive! This feature has made it less likely I’ll ever get a long range telephoto lens, as I can push my 16-105mm lens even further now and not lose detail or image quality! Way to go here Sony… this is another favorite feature of mine!
What don’t you like about the Sony Alpha a57?
Sony made a lot of the controls combined into other controls to do multiple functions. This can be a pain when trying to choosing a setting very quickly. It’s a bit much. I rather have tons of buttons all over my camera (Like the previous Sony Alpha a560).
The hinge on the a57 is hinged at the bottom, which makes using a tri-pod quite difficult from it’s flipping downward and being dead smack at the bottom where the camera sits. I would have liked to see the return of the upper hinge from previous Sony camera’s in the SLR range.
Menus and Controls
One of the greatest things about a Sony is the easy to use menu system. It just doesn’t get any better than this. This is one thing Sony has always done a great job on. Some down it for it being orange and black in all the menus and not color coded for different options, but I could careless about that. It’s easy, so who cares?
Shooting Modes and Other Controls
Talk about LOADED! This camera has tons of features that you can use to make your photos more amazing. For this price point of just $700 for body only, it’s a steal!
Shooting 12 fps (frames per second) is easy on this camera. The camera will be shooting at just half the MP count of 8mp to achieve this however. At full resolution you can still shoot at an amazing 10 fps.
There are some cool picture effects you can add to your image to either only account for the reds in an image and make the rest of the image B&W. I’ve never really cared for these features in a camera, but I must say these are all pretty sweet… Try them!
The can set different settings for some of the buttons on the camera, which is great to give priority to the settings you adjust most and don’t have to go through so many menu’s to get to them.
One interesting thing on this camera that’s found on the NEX camera’s is the iA (Intelligent Auto). There is also a Superior iA, which I haven’t tried either of, but one day I will and maybe can expand on this some.
High Dynamic Range
As usual, the bracketing on this camera sucks! This would be something to always go in the dislike for a Sony camera, even at the mid-range level. Sony only brackets for 3 exposure (-0.7 EV, 0 EV, +0.7 EV or by .3 EV in the same format). It works for what it’s worth, but what I usually do is manually bracket myself by choosing my exposures myself.
The in-camera HDR on this camera I haven’t tried yet, as that was something I did try on the Sony Alpha a560, but didn’t care for much. For a quick image, it’s useful, but I still prefer doing it in post.
Who is this for?
If you’re an amateur, you’re going to love this camera for all the features of it. If you’re a true professional, then you’d still love this for the 100% coverage in the viewfinder. It’s a great friendly camera that’s very powerful with all that it offers.
If you’re photographing a lot in low-light than any Sony may not be your best pick. I would go for a Nikon 1st, Canon 2nd. Sony is a heck of a lot better than where they were say 3 - 4 years ago, but still far below Nikon. Performance up to 3200 on this camera has proven excellent, but if you want cleaner results straight out the camera, you can’t beat Nikon… at least for now! If your heart is still set on Sony, just as me and noise really isn’t a major worry for you, then for sure go for it! You can even pull some nice looking 6400 ISO images from this camera as well.
Below you’ll find some of my photos that I’ve taken with the Sony Alpha a57. I tried to include as many different situations as possible, so look for the EXIF data on the bottom of them to see just what they are.
For all of them except one, was processed in Lightroom 4. You’ll see the full notes under each image! If you wish to see more EXIF DATA, then click on the picture and you’ll see the full data for that image on my Flickr. Also, you can see a larger image than what’s displayed here by clicking the “PHOTO” link above the image on my Flickr page.
Above: This is a photo of my Olympic pin collection from 1996. This is the first image I took from the camera and is right from the camera! -Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), Original straight from the camera.
Above: I took this outside of Huntsville, Alabama of the sunrise over the water as we were traveling at 70mph. -Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/8, 24mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A macro of my newest bought CD’s that I’ve been enjoying listening to. -Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/3.2, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This was taken at “How Sweet the Sound 2012” at Philips Arena. Here you can see how well this camera does, even with low light. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Night photo of the Blue Moon. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/13, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: HDR landscape I took that’s close to where I live. I always get cool photos in this location that I use quite often. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/16, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), High Dynamic Range (3 exposure bracket)
Above: A test image I took a couple days after I obtained this camera, just playing with depth of field some and seeing how well the AF was. It’s pretty fast I must say! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: This was taken at “How Sweet the Sound 2012” at Philips Arena. Here you can see how well this camera does, even with low light. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 50mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Some delicious Zebra Cakes - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/8, 35mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A Fall Wedding I assisted in photographing back in October 2012. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/9, 55mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A macro of one of our plants that I used a spray bottle to get the water drops on. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This is a photo I took of my favorite little cutie at Atlanta-Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church (My new and current church) - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/2.2, 50mm (50mm f/1.8)
Above: I love capturing macro money shots quite often, not sure why, but they make for nice cool photos! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/5.6, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This is by far the best image I’ve taken at the West End Church. I loved the detailed the camera retained at ISO 1600. I could have used 800, but forgot to change it. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/3.5, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Great AF points on this camera, they’re pretty accurate for the most part and really fast. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Food photos are always fun and this one of my salad came out very nicely! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/7.1, 90mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A High Dynamic Range image of the outside of the Atlanta-Berean sanctuary. These were 3 exposure JPEG’s combined in Photomatix Pro 4. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/9, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), High Dynamic Range (3 exposure bracket)
Above: A pretty cool wide angle image from the lower part of the West End Church. When I did a 100% crop of this photo, it’s amazingly sharp and has so much detail! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Sony Alpha a57 Review Video
Here’s a quick YouTube review video on the Sony Alpha a57, showing the movie feature and test images taken with this camera.
Photographing sunrises & sunsets are quite a fun project to do, but it requires a lot of patience to get the best results possible. It can take a long time before you get that opportunity of a day where the sunrise/sunset is really beautiful and will make for a priceless capture.
You don’t really need much to capture sunrises/sunsets. The real deal is in camera setting adjustments. Here’s what I use for all of my sunrise/sunset images;
Sony Alpha a560 [Alexis] Camera body
Sony Alpha a57 [Aaliyah] Camera body
16-105mm f/3.5/5.6 Sony Lens
Carl Zeiss 62mm UV HD Filter
I currently have three lens choices that I use pretty evenly across the board, the Sony 16-105mm f3.5/5.6 standard zoom lens stays attached to my camera at all times. Because I’m usually shooting in good lighting or on a tri-pod, I don’t care too much about the lens being slow. If I am shooting in situations that require a faster lens, I don’t have any issues cranking up my ISO to 6400 if I have to. The Sony Alpha A560 is relatively clean compared to where Sony use to be years ago.
The Sony 30mm f/2.8 macro and the Sony 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses are my other two I use quite often. I do a lot of macro and then I use the 50mm to get me those shots that have the blurred (bokeh) backgrounds and situations where I want the fastness of the lens. Of the two, the 50mm prime 1.4 or 1.8 are my suggestions for anyone. The 1.4 isn’t as forgiving as the 1.8 in terms of depth of field and can be difficult to focus. Just the slightest movement or wrong placement of focus will make parts of the image out of focus, that you may have wanted in focus.
My new lens (which will be added later this year) will be my first time buying outside of Sony. The Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 will be my new wide angle lens. I typically aim for wider when I’m photographing most of what I shoot. Telephoto lenses aren’t my thing and the 105 does me quite well. I kind of wish Sony had a lens that kept the 16mm wide range but have a bit longer reach and not being a f/6.3 speed lens, but oh well. So, pretty much after this year, I’ll have 4 lenses that are my selections for everything! Now that you have all that good stuff, now to the fun stuff!
These days, pretty much any digital camera has some manual controls to them, to a certain extent. There are some pretty advanced point and shoot and high zoom camera’s to where you can obtain pretty nice sunrises/sunsets out of them and not just from a SLR/SLT (Single Lens Reflex & Single Lens Translucent) or Compact SLR/SLT camera.
Metering: Majority of the time, your camera is automatically set or most people keep it set to the wide metering mode. For sunsets, you’re going to want to use the center or spot option. What this does is adjusts the camera’s sensitivity to light location and gives you the flexibility to now position your camera’s sensors in the location you want it to account for and it will dial up or down according to the light that’s in that range. If you don’t change this, then automatically the camera will adjust for the darkest areas of the composition, which then blows out the entire sky in the frame.
Focus: Set your camera to focus where you would like to and after it’s finished focusing, switch to the manual focusing (this will avoid any changes in composition from the lens moving as you take your different frames, especially if you’re doing any HDR).
ISO: The lowest your camera will go, the better. If you’re using a tri-pod, there’s no need to be above your minimum, which will remove any chances of significant noise being in your image as you may have some longer than normal exposure times.
Filters can be good to use at times and not only for just protecting your lens. Neutral Density (ND) filters are special filters that actually cuts the light amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor (they come in a variety of options on how much light they cut before reaching the sensor). These are great for those bright days where you’re out and may want to use a slow shutter on say a waterfall and want that creamy like effect or want to have nice neutral colors, as if you were out in the evening. Another type of filter that’s very beneficial is the Graduated Neutral Density Filter. From it’s name, it’s obviously similar to the other one, but the difference is that part of the filter is just like a regular UV filter and then it slowly goes darker (reason why it’s called the "Graduated" Filter). This is perfect for having the filter where it’s the most dark to be at the top of your frame (typically for the sky) and keeping the ground the way it is to have a nicely balanced photo where you’re keeping the skies detail in the photo. Another filter is the standard Ultra-Violet Filter (UV). I keep one of these attached on my 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens, which is an HD Carl Zeiss filter. It’s rather expensive, considering regular off brand filters that are pretty cheap (the CZ filter was around $80 for the 62mm diameter of the lens). I usually keep them mainly to protect the lens, but sometimes I’ll actually remove them. They’re not a “need” so to say, but I have them.
Now that you have the setup options, you can now start photographing! I can’t tell you how to compose your photos or what to look for, but just take what looks pleasing to you and make it work.
For me, WIDER is my best friend! Most of my images in my collection are pretty wide (when it comes to landscapes). Under 20mm just presents a really nice look when you’re able to catch so much of a scene in the image. Not always will everything be pleasing, so that’s why I have the 16-105mm lens, for the times where I may need a little range to eliminate things that I wouldn’t want to crop later and take away the detail of my photo.
With sunrises/sunsets you have to pick the right time of the day to photograph them and also be QUICK! You only have a good hour or so to catch the sunrise/sunset the way that you want, from different locations, compositions and with different settings. Having an idea of what you’re going to do before-hand is the best advice I can give!
More Cool Stuff:
I’m not very big on shooting in RAW on my camera and mainly just keep it to Fine JPEG 99% of the time (Unless it’s a wedding then I definitely will shoot RAW). RAW can open up more flexibility with your image(s). Ex: You can just take a single RAW file and create your own HDR brackets with it a lot better than if they were JPEG’s. Of course you can do this with either or, but the difference is that a JPEG is final and RAW isn’t. You can make heavy adjustments and not lose quality in your image.
SUNRISE TUTORIAL OVERVIEW:
Here’s a post on a project (The Sharp Morning Sunrise - Tutorial) I did that explains what I did for those exact images that was drastically different to give me a greater range of things to do with the images.
I’ve included some examples of sunrises/sunsets that I’ve taken over the years, many of which are HDR (High Dynamic Range) of 3 to 7 different frames (sometimes more and some are masked images as well). These will give you ideas on things to try.
Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/9, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), 3 exposure HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/8, 18mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), 3 exposure HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 100, f/20, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), RAW converted HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 200, f/8, 20mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 100, f/10, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 200, f/9, 26mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), HDR - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 100, f/22, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), HDR - My lens actually wasn’t dirty or anything and not sure how I had the spots from the light, but I kept them in, because I thought it was pretty cool! - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 200, f/13, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6) - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 200, f/18, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6) - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 100, f/18, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6) - Sunset
Sony Alpha A560, ISO 100, f/10, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), HDR - Sunset
View my Flickr Gallery of my Sunrises and Sunsets I’ve taken over the years here.
Here’s a quick YouTube vlog on one of my outings photographing sunsets. This will give you an idea on how my setup is for my photos and how all of my photos are done.
Macro photography is a very unique aspect of photography that can be loads of fun to do on any given day or for any project, such as Fine Art, Commercial Sessions and even Weddings.
My latest D.I.Y. How-To Youtube tutorial was showing how to go about to doing macro photography. It’s a bit different than what you’re use to with normal situations. The depth of field, compositions and aperture’s are very key elements that you’re really focused on the most. Why is that? With macro photography, when you’re using a macro lens, you’re losing a great amount of DoF as the closer you get the your subject as that’s what macro lenses are designed for. Movement is very key as well and must take into account for. Using a tri-pod is the way to go for macro, but handheld works to. if you have the speed for the shot once you’ve composed it.
From my YouTube tutorial, I showed two fun macro projects, "The Glass Chess Set" and the "Money Macro". Here’s what I used and my camera settings for these projects;
The Glass Chess Set:
I used my Sony Alpha a560 DSLR [Alexis] camera body.
I used my 30mm Macro F2.8 Sony lens.
The first time doing this project, I used a Tungsten/Incandescent white balance setting as well as used the Black & White creative style in the camera. Second time as displayed in this video was using an Automatic white balance and the Portrait creative style.
All photographs where hand-held.
The Glass Chess Set [Analysis]:
This project was fairly simple. You can try numerous amounts of compositions with the Chess set or arrange the pieces in any way you feel you want to capture.
I didn’t use any light source but the natural light from outside for this project. It was an overcast so it was a very pleasing soft greyish tinted light. I used the Tungsten/Incandescent white balance setting to compliment that soft lighting to give a very nice pleasing color on the glass Chess pieces. I usually don’t shoot RAW for any of my photos so getting everything just right ahead of time before releasing my shutter is very important to me. Try your hand at shooting RAW if that’s your preference… your flexibility widens as you’re able to do any and all of your adjustments in post. Where as this process can be time consuming for some, it still will present some nice final images that would be more to your liking that the camera may wasn’t able to capture.
In the tutorial I mentioned that having a tri-pod was very important. As for none of these projects did I use a tri-pod, I did however sit the camera on the table I was working on for some of the images or was in a good position to eliminate as much camera shake as possible.
I used my Sony Alpha a560 DSLR [Alexis] camera body.
I used my 30mm Macro F2.8 Sony lens.
I used an Automatic white balance.
All photographs were hand-held and taken in Black & White.
Macro Money [Analysis]:
This is a no brainer type of project. There’s nothing really to this. You can compose it and set it up anyway that you feel to create your photos. With these photos of course, as close as you can get will be best! You want to see the fine details on the coin that even you can’t see with your eyes alone, so get in there to capture more!
Depending on your location and focal length of your macro lens, having a tri-pod would be the ideal thing here if you’re getting in SUPER close, unless you have really quick and steady hands then try it without a tri-pod to see if you get it that way as well. Mine were without a tri-pod, because I pretty much know now what I have to do to get the photo sharp right where I want it before I happen to move, even just a millimeter.
One night, I decided to revisit my old water droplet project and try it this time using a Macro lens, to enhance last year’s images that I photographed. The set-up was pretty much the same as last time, but with a minor change, vs using a plastic bag hanging from a rod, I just used an old medicine dropper to do the water drops this time.
I used a black basin to hold my water and to catch the drop lets.
I used my 30mm Macro lens attached to my new camera body, the Sony Alpha A560 [Alexis] which sat on the tri-pod.
I used my Sony HVL-42am flash gun aiming about 35 degrees to the right at 1/8 power [using this manually] and wirelessly.
I used a small and simple medicine dropper to use for the water intake and to do the drops.
The initial purpose of this project was to get water "DROPLETS" but instead the entire project just turned into water splashes and ripples, which I think was a nice change up to be different from last years try at this. I took over 250 images, to only come out with 5 images that I “Really” loved!
Here are my camera settings that I used and what I did in post-processing as well;
Camera: Sony Alpha a560
Lens: 30mm MACRO
Exposure: 0.017 seconds [1/60]
Focal Length: 30mm [45mm equivalent on full frame camera’s]
ISO Speed: 400
Exposure Bias: +0.7 EV
Flash: Sony HVL-42am at 1/8 power
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Images taken were all done in black & white as well.
Adobe Lightroom 2: I adjusted clarity, blacks and white balance. White balance was adjusted [You’ll see the reason behind my using B&W images] to give the color I wanted for the water. An alternative is that you could use colored paper or gels for your flash gun to give the color you want from the start, but I didn’t want that and wanted to do something different from last time so I did all black and white images.
Corel Paint Shop Pro X2: I didn’t do too much here aside from the clarity in this program as well. I love strong and deep blacks in my photos and that’s the only reason for going to this stage.
That’s all of what I did. It’s pretty simple of a set-up… the hard part is actually trying to get a water “droplet” and not splashes, but whatever you capture will be unique as you can’t get that shot ever again.
Go out and try this for yourself and add a spin to it like I did… the more you try this project over and over, you’ll always feel like doing something unique and different to get different effects from the last time. It’s also good to do, so you can see just how "creative" you are.
HDR can be very fun and useful for many different situations on things you’re photographing. Visualizing your composition as an HDR image is a very important thing to do as well. After a few years of doing this, I can truly see how an HDR image will look from a given subject, without having to use a program first and seeing it. Of course on a project such as this, what I visualize will be the final project after everything. I try to have sort of an idea of what I’m photographing before I do it, so I don’t waste time and can get only the images I want and need to have.
The above image is a manual 7 frame/exposure HDR image. I use the term “manual” quite often in reference to some of my HDR images, because I actually have to set my exposure’s myself as my camera will not bracket that many frames itself. Doing it this way has a few drawbacks, especially when you’re dealing with a fast moving sky, things will seem to not measure up upon your HDR composing in post.
The image above has the following alterations done to it to get what you see;
The image was processed through Adobe Lightroom 3 with some special and creative touches that I felt would complement the image more than what it already was. For a photo like this, having a rugged warm like feel was best.
I used Corel Paintshop Pro X2 for my final adjustments where I added a large amount of clarity (my favorite thing to enhance on anything, sometimes I go over board though). I also tried something new and different, I usually don’t add any type of effects to my images, but I felt like trying something just to see what it would come out to look like. I added a crumpled paper filter and I REALLY loved what it added to the image, so I of course went with it.
This is an in-camera 3 frame/exposure HDR image. The camera I use (Sony Alpha a560) has it’s own built in HDR program, which works quite effectively, with it’s differences compared to using Photomatix and tone mapping the image.
Pretty much the same steps that were used for the 7 frame HDR image were used on this image. Typically I apply the same things to photos with-in a project, just to keep everything sort of similar in feel, but of course that’s just a personal preference of mine.
HDR is an aspect in photography that deals with creating a balanced range in the luminance with-in the entire range of your image. It generally gives a full color range that your camera doesn’t obtain with a single image. Here are some quick and easy steps on doing HDR photography.
1) Compose the photo that you want to use for your HDR images in your camera. You must select the bracketing drive mode in your camera and choose accordingly the exposure bracket range that you would like to use. Generally most consumer slr camera’s have a 3 image composite at .03 or .07 EV levels. Pro-sumer and professional slr’s will generally have 5 or 7 brackets it can perform. You can, however choose to manually do your brackets as well, but just be careful that the composition doesn’t change (due to movements).
HDR can also be done by using 1 single image, which will be discussed in a later tutorial.
2) Once you have your images, you will want to construct your HDR composite using an HDR specific program (Photomatix 4 is what I’m using). After you’ve selected your images that will be merged, and you’ve made your adjustments using the tone mapping, save your file.
3) For final adjustments I use Adobe Lightroom 3, where saturation, white balance, and other adjustments are made to produce our final image.
4) I also use Corel Paintshop Pro X2 & X4 for added clarity only to bring more sharpness to the edges in the image. Usually Lightroom is my final stop.
There are many ways to complete HDR images with many different effects it will have on your image or the type of feel you’re wanting to come from your image.
View my HDR album gallery to see some of my other cool HDR images; http://www.flickr.com/photos/dynamic_vision/sets/72157622898098129. If I didn’t photograph anything but Fine Art images, I could dedicate more time to HDR photography to do more with my images to really make them POP, but for now I can only do so much, before I have to return to images for clients.