White Balance Explained

If your camera’s white balance is set incorrectly, or if your camera chose the wrong algorithm for measuring colour temperature, then you will observe a colour cast on your image: it will either look slightly blue, slightly orange, or slightly green. A low colour temperature shifts light toward the red; a high colour temperature shifts light toward the blue. Different light sources emit light at different colour temperatures, and thus the colour cast. Let’s take a look.

Colour temperature is effectively the warmth that is emitted from a light source, and the effect that temperature has on the intensity of any particular colour in the visible spectrum. For example, a 200 W bulb has more intensity in the orange/red end, and shows purples and blues with very little intensity. This makes your photo appear “warm”. Daylight has equivalent intensity across the whole spectrum, so you see purples and blues with the same intensity as oranges and reds. But shade or a heavily overcast sky has more intensity in the blue/purple end, so your oranges and reds will have very little intensity. This makes your photo appear “cool”.

Here are some examples of colour temperatures from common light sources:

  • 1500 K: candle light
  • 2800 K: 60 W bulb
  • 3200 K: sunrise and sunset (will be affected by smog)
  • 3400 K: tungsten lamp (ordinary household bulb)
  • 4000-5000 K: cool white fluorescent bulbs
  • 5200 K: bright midday sun
  • 5600 K: electronic photo flash.
  • 6500 K: heavily overcast sky
  • 10000-15000 K: deep blue clear sky

Newer light sources, such as fluorescent and other artificial lighting, require further white balance adjustments since they can make your photos appear either green or magenta.

Your camera searches for a reference point in your scene that represents white. It will then calculate all the other colours based on this white point and the known colour spectrum. The data measured from its R G B sensors is then run through a whole lot of numbers and predetermined equations to figure out which white balance setting is most likely to be correct. Remember, white balance is the automatic adjustment that makes sure the white colour humans observe will also appear white in the image.

Setting your camera’s white balance to AWB will provide colour accuracy under many conditions. Your camera will adjust the white balance between 4000K – 7000K using a best guess algorithm. Auto white balance is a good choice for situations where the light changes over time and speed is an issue (e.g. animal photography, sports photography). However, you should avoid using auto white balance settings in the following situations:

  • Your scene is heavily dominated by one colour
  • Colour accuracy is absolutely imperative
  • You are photographing particularly warm or cool scenes (e.g. a sunset)

White Balance Presets

Most digital cameras come with multiple white balance preset options. These presets work well when:

  • The light source matches one of the preset white balance options
  • Your scene is heavily dominated by one colour

Shoot Sharp Digital Photos Without a Tripod

Like film cameras digital cameras are also sensitive to movements and shakings while shooting a photo. If the digital camera moves while the shutter is open the result will be a soft or blurry photo. Usually camera movements are very small and in high shutter speeds the camera does not have an opportunity to move enough in order to distort the digital photo. However in some scenarios such as slow shutter speeds, low ambient light and macro or high zoom photos even the tiniest movement will result in a blurry digital photo.

As a general rule photos that are taken with slow shutter speeds or high zoom values should be taken using a steady platform. The best steady platform is a tripod – but when a tripod is not available (for example when you travel and you do not want to carry a bulky and heavy tripod with you) there are some other methods and alternatives that you can use as a steady platform. Here are a few:

  • Lean the camera against a steady surface: you can use almost any surface that is steady in order to stabilize the digital camera. Such surfaces can be anything from a table, a wall, a bench or a light pole. Make sure that the surface is indeed stable by trying to shake it a bit with your hand. When taking the photo put the camera against that surface and apply some force (for example your weight) to make sure it does not move.
  • Place the camera on a horizontal surface: another option is to simply place the camera on a horizontal surface. The surface needs to be flat and stable. When you shoot the digital photo you should gently press the shutter button making sure that the camera does not move and then let go. Gravitation will make sure that the camera stays stable on the surface. The main problem with this method is that the camera might shake or bounce when the shutter button is pressed. To overcome this problem you can use two methods: delayed photo – set the camera to timer mode using the shortest time for example 2 seconds. When you press the shutter button the camera will start counting and will have enough time to stabilize before the photo is actually taken. Remote control – if you have a remote control use it to initiate the photo shooting instead of pressing the shutter button.
  • Image stabilizer enabled lenses: an expensive option that requires thinking ahead is the usage of lenses that include an image stabilizer. This technology can be implemented in a few methods for example using a floating optical element that compensates for movements or by using special software that controls the CCD sensor. Regardless of the technology such image stabilizers can effectively compensate for small camera movements and are commonly used by professional photographers taking high zoom photos.

Regardless of the method you use to stabilize your camera one thing to remember is that the more photos you take the higher the chances that one of them will be perfectly sharp and in focus. If the scenario is not easy to shoot and you are afraid that you might get blurry digital photos take your time a shoot a few photos using different stabilization methods and camera settings. You can later on browse through the photos and choose the best one.

Buying a Digital Camera

Megapixels:

With the exception of the high-end professional digital cameras of 12 plus megapixels, the number of megapixels a digital camera is capable of generally speaking is the most important quality factor when it comes to how good your digital photos will come out. In the case of the high-end digital cameras the lenses themselves will also play a very important part.

When comparing digital cameras by the number of megapixels they are capable of, you will need to look closely at the small print on the digital camera or in the digital cameras manual. You may find that the camera is in reality capable of less megapixels then it leads you to believe.

For example some digital cameras will have in big print on the camera and or in its documentation say six megapixels, but underneath in small print it will say something like five megapixels enhanced to six using software. Basically this means that the camera is really only capable of five megapixels but the software in the camera will attempt to enhance the quality of the photos to six megapixels, this will never be as good as a true six megapixel camera.

How much zoom do you need?

You’re going to have to decide just how much zoom your camera will need, for this think about the type of photography you want to take with the camera, if a lot of long-distance photos are going to be taken, obviously more zoom will be very useful.

There are two kinds of zoom, optical and digital. Optical zoom zooms in using lenses within the camera, so there will be no quality lost. Where as digital zoom on the other hand will simply make your pictures bigger and so will lose you are lot of picture quality. Here too many digital camera manufacturers will try to mislead buyers by stating the digital zoom in big letters, but only revealing that it is in fact digital zoom in small print underneath.

In my opinion digital zoom is about as useful as mud, I’d much rather not use digital zoom and instead digitally enlarged the picture at home on my PC. This way I would be able to see exactly how much picture quality I would be losing and I would still have the original picture at full quality.

The powersupply for your digital camera:

The powersupply is something greatly ignored when people buy digital cameras. People just don’t consider it, yet when you think about it having a reliable power source for your digital camera is vital to make sure you don’t ever run out of power right when you need your digital camera most.

AA and AAA batteries are the most common method used to power the lower end digital cameras. In many ways having this kind can be a good thing in that these batteries are cheap and easily replaceable at anytime.

Some lower end and most of the higher end digital cameras will only accept their own powersupply specifically made for that camera. These powersupplys are normally Lithium batteries and can be quite expensive. They will generally give you the advantage of lasting longer, however it is still wise to have at least one spare pack charged and ready to go with you at all times. When considering price on different cameras remember to take into account the added price for battery packs in the future.

A few digital cameras have the capability of being able to take both their own specific battery pack and normal AA or AAA rechargeable batteries you can find at any supermarket. If you take into account everything mentioned above when you compare digital cameras, you should have no problem in choosing a good camera for your usage. Also remember to check out on-line reviews as they will help you compare each camera.

Red Light Camera Solution

The cost of traffic tickets and the rate of being ticketed are both rising. A big reasons for the increase in the number of traffic tickets being issued is the proliferation of red light cameras. These red light cameras are there to take pictures of the license plates of vehicles that pass through an intersection after the light has turned red. Somewhere between two weeks and two months later a ticket is mail to the offender, often with his or her picture attached. The tickets can range anywhere from $30 to over $300. The private companies that supply and operate these red light cameras share the revenues with the municipalities where the cameras are located.

We’re told that these cameras are placed at intersections for our own good, and not for the financial windfall. The fact is there has been over 1 billion dollars in traffic fines issued to date because of these red light cameras. There are even people who swear that some of the traffic lights are calibrated to increase the number of red light tickets.

There are three huge flaws in this photographic ticketing system.

First, there is the obvious one of a camera malfunctioning and photographing a vehicle when the light has not yet turned red. How do you successfully argue such a case?

Secondly, what if there was a legitimate reason for being in an intersection when the light turned red. Maybe there was a pedestrian straggling through the crosswalk. Or maybe late, oncoming traffic prevented an intersection committed driver from making a left turn before the light turned red. Perhaps there was some obstruction in the road that caused a driver to have to slow down, and thus get caught in the intersection when the light turned red. These type of mitigating circumstances could be explained to and verified by a police officer who could then decide not to issue a ticket. But how do you explain anything to a camera?

Thirdly, there’s the problem of the time lag between the traffic infraction and the actual receiving of the ticket. It can be as short as two weeks or as long as two months. How is someone to fight a ticket for an infraction that he can’t remember, or didn’t even know he committed?

The case against the use of red light traffic cameras has gone to court and in some municipalities there have been moratoriums placed on their use. But, despite these little victories, there use continues to spread.

While the law wrestles with the legality of the red light cameras, the people have decided to fight back. The resistance is two-pronged: legal and creative.

Exposure Compensation

Looking at different digital cameras, even temperately costing digital cameras have arrangements for exposure compensation settings. To explain in a bit detail, the exposure compensation allows the users to control the amount of light entering the lens. And thereby the illumination of the photograph is decided. Exposure compensation can be altered manually or by the help of a digital camera’s exposure compensation setting that lets one override the metered exposure set inside the digital camera itself. Strictly speaking, the exposure values provide an expedient line of attack to put a figure on the available light intensity and therefore exposure.

As per general norms of the users of digital cameras, certain standards exist for selecting such values. These values are specifically known as Exposure Values (EV). Selecting an up to standard Exposure Values (EV) helps maintain the details contained in dark areas of a photo, or diminish the more than usually bright areas. Again, looking from technical point of view, the Exposure Values are numbers that refer to an assortment of combinations of apertures of lenses and shutter speed respectively. They have a selective range of values, ranging between -2 to +2 Exposure Values (EV). As a general rule positive exposure settings are used for cases where bulky areas of a scene are especially bright such as taking pictures of a snow scene and also during times of photographing when the background is a good deal brighter than the focal area under consideration. Also, negative exposure settings are used for cases where bulky areas of a scene are especially dark and also during times of photographing when the background is a good deal darker than the fore area under consideration.

One point that is worth noting is that light meters cannot see color. They deliver every scene as 18% middle gray and become accustomed to the exposure accordingly. And most digital cameras will allows a photographer to compensate the exposure by 1 to 2 EV plus or minus in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments. A very important realization for any photographer is that the right exposure is only “correct” in the eye of the photographer; Exposure Value compensation can also be used as a creative tool.

Digital Submissions

  • If you can get any Internet connection faster than dialup, get it! You’ll save much time and frustration.
  • Calibrate your monitor — that is, adjust your screen as close to a set standard as possible, so that your photobuyers view your images in the same way you do. Shareware programs are available, or you can buy off-the-shelf software such as the Spyder line by ColorVision (see the PhotoStockNotes article.
  • Learn to take advantage of all the basic Photoshop features. (While there are other imaging software programs, Photoshop is the industry standard. It even comes in a “lite” version, known as Elements).
  • For a great resource for learning Photoshop, I highly recommend joining NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals – you don’t have to be one in order to join!). For $99/year, you get their bi-monthly magazine Photoshop User, discounts on books, workshops and seminars, and access to online video tutorials to guide you step-by-step through virtually all the things you’ll need to know how to do in Photoshop, as well as the best ways to accomplish them. http://www.photoshopuser.com.
  • Examine your images at 100% to find and eliminate dust and scratches. Adjust levels or curves (the darkness and lightness of your image). Color-correct your images. If an image is a preview (usually sent as 4×6″ or 5×7-1/2″), SHARPEN the image. If it’s the hi-res version a buyer has requested for publication, keep the above corrections MINIMAL, and DON’T SHARPEN the image at all!

In the editorial field, such as magazine and textbook publishers, most of your pictures will be used at the quarter-page size. This is an advantage to entry-level photographers still learning Photoshop.

Once an image is accepted, it gets passed on to a “designer,” who has the job of making any technical improvements to your digital submission. However, if you consistently submit images whose technical quality is not high, your name will soon drop to the bottom of the photobuyer’s/designer’s list. They are not overjoyed when they have to put extra time into your digital images.

It’s no small task to learn this medium of digital photography. Reading the instructions for a scanner, or especially for your new digital camera, can mean wrestling with an English translation of Japanese “engineer-speak”! It ain’t easy. I recommend three courses of action:

  • Attend a local workshop on the product you’re interested in, presented by the manufacturer’s own reps. Large local camera shops often host these for a nominal entry fee (about $10).
  • Buy or rent a video produced either by Nikon School or Blue Crane. They are available at retailers such as http://www.bhphotovideo.com. It will cover all the basic controls and features in an hour. A great advantage is that you can watch with your digital camera in your hands, pausing and repeating sections as often as you need. There’s even one for Nikon scanners!
  • Buy a “Magic Lantern Guide “ for your particular digital camera or flash. They are written in English, by photographers, produced by Lark Books and available at Amazon.com.
    A final reminder, which bears repeating: Make previews you’re sending to photobuyers look as perfect as you can, but when asked for a hi-res “final” image, keep necessary corrections minimal, and don’t sharpen it.

Camera Bags

If you are in the market for a new camera bag, you should know that there are a lot of different options to choose from. When shopping you may have a hard time deciding which bag is just right for you. Many photographers find that they actually need two different bags: one bag for when they will be out and about and need many lenses and a smaller bag when they will just be shooting for fun and won’t need to carry as many lenses with them.

When you are shopping you need to consider how easily you can access your camera at any one time. If you are on the go and you need to be able to grab your camera with ease, you should look into a shoulder bag. A shoulder bag will give you the fast access that you need. If you don’t need to access the camera quickly and you don’t want to deal with a bag that swings to and fro when you walk, you may want to consider a backpack.

A backpack is a great option because it is on your back, will protect and transport, but will not get in the way of you walking and will not swing around. Many people feel that this is simply a much more comfortable way to carry their camera and other items because it is accessible but very stable.

If you know which style of bag appeals to you the most, you also need to consider how much storage space the bag has. If you will be carrying many lenses with you, you need to consider if the bag will be able to house your lenses, as well. Another important consideration should be if the bag can house extra memory, batteries, flashes and the like. A bag is only as good as its ability to hold all of the items that you need to be the best photographer that you can possibly be.

If the bag cannot house all of your lenses, you may want to look into lens bags. These are bags that are meant just to transport and store your lenses. Lenses are very costly, so you shouldn’t force them to fit into a camera bag if they cannot fit the way they should. It would be better to simply purchase another bag meant specifically for your lenses.

Great Landscape Shots

Capturing the moment

Photography is about freezing a moment in time. You must make the most of the time that you have whilst you are out taking photos. If the weather is not right, use the time to explore the area, assess good viewpoints and work out what time of day will work best for the shot. Using a compass is invaluable in determining where the sun sets or rises, but remember that this changes with the seasons. Preparation and planning will help you to capture a successful photograph.

Composition

Keeping it simple and not cluttering the shot with too many elements is a good rule. By removing distractions from your photographs will help bring more prominence to your subject. It is also important to include some form of foreground interest, which may be your subject or it could be used to draw the eye towards the subject.

There is also a rule that will aid you in creating good composition, which is called the Rule Of Thirds. In photography, using this The Rule of Thirds keeps the main subject off centre, away from the middle of the frame. As a result, a photo looks more dynamic and interesting. Imagine your image divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Placing your subject where any of the lines intersect will help in producing a well-balanced image. But sometimes rules are there to be broken as well!

Focal Point

Without focal point the eye can sometimes wander around the frame unsure of where to look. The focal point is what drew your attention to the shot. It could be a tree, hill, building or boat but should hold the whole composition together. By giving your photograph a point of interest it will also help create a sense of scale.

Time of Day

The quality of light changes considerably during the day. At sunrise there are weak shadows and pastel colours. Atmospheric haze and pollution are also at their lowest.

After shooting sunrise the light becomes harsher and more contrasting. Colours are fully saturated and can be enhanced further by using a polarizing filter. Shooting with the sun behind you or to one side will usually work best for maximum colour.

By late afternoon or sunset the sunlight will create much warmer colours and subjects will benefit from strong side lighting.
Shooting into the sun as it moves towards the horizon can also create stunning silhouettes. Making a silhouette with a sunset couldn’t be easier. Your foreground subject will usually automatically come out black in these conditions because the camera’s meter will underexpose when you are shooting towards a bright light source. Silhouettes can produce very strong eye catching images that will look great when blown up big and hanging on your wall.

Taking Great Pictures

  • Get a little closer, do not be shy. One of the biggest mistakes most beginning photographers make is shooting from so far away. They leave too much distance between themselves and their subjects. Instead, get up close and personal. Fill up as much of the camera frame, with your subject, as you can. You can always reshape, trim, and resize a good quality shot. But you cannot continue to blow up a distant subject and hope that it will come into focus. It just won’t happen.
  • Focus your shot on only one subject. Determine what the main subject of the photo will be, and catch that image. Try and find the one key subject, person, or event that accurately portrays the feeling you are trying to capture.
  • In addition to getting one subject, in your photos, you will want to make the background of the photo as simple as possible. Busy, distracting backgrounds pull the attention away from the central theme of your photo. The subject of your photo is absolutely the most important element, and anything that detracts from the subject can ruin your shot.
  • Subject placement. Most people place the subject at the exact center of the frame. There is nothing wrong with this. However this often leads to a bland and uninteresting picture. You may use a method called the rule of thirds. Imagine having a camera lens split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down (like having a tic tac toe game printed right on your camera lens). Where those “tic tac toe” lines cross, should become the focusing point of your subject, when you are arranging to take your photo.

Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.

Creating Great Panoramas

  • Graphics editing software that lets you stitch photos together to create a panoramic photo will save you time and can create great results. You can use Adobe Photoshop Elements Photomerge tool to create a panorama.
  • Mark the point where the sequence of photos begins and ends. This is helpful to do especially if your camera does not have a mode for taking digital photos for panoramic images.
  • Use the wide-angle setting of your lens. Remember to use the same focal setting for each shot, as changing the setting by zooming in can ruin the effect, and try and shoot from the same position.
  • Use the same exposure for each shot. If you use the manual mode on your digital camera you can set the aperture and shutter speed ensuring it will maintain consistency between shots. Some cameras also have a panorama mode, which will lock these settings for you.
  • Focus your digital camera on the edge of the scene that you want to include in your panorama. This is the photo that will be the first photo that is used in your panorama.
  • Taking shots for panoramas becomes much easier if you use a tripod with a spirit level. The tripod keeps the shots straight and allows you to make more precise alignments rather than handholding the camera. Use a spirit level to help keep the camera angle consistent as you rotate it on the tripod.
  • Take between four and eight shots of your subject. Make sure each picture overlaps the next by 20% or more. This will allow the software to produce a soft transition between shots and it makes it easier for you to align the images. This technique will work well with cityscapes or landscapes.