Newbie Question

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t3ch
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Newbie Question

Post by t3ch » June 20th, 2010, 8:32 pm

Well I'm using just a low level digital camera (Canon PowerShot SX100 IS), and want to get the most out of my pictures. I've been messing with the manual settings and stuff like that but can't seem to figure it out.

My question is, can anyone give me some advice on shooting quality herp pics with a low level camera? Best settings for light, focus, etc. I understand it varies with time of day, lighting, etc. but there must be some general tips and secrets.

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chrish
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by chrish » June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 am

There is no easy answer to this question. There are a lot of things that go into making a good herp photo and there is no recipe for success.
Make sure you understand the principles of exposure and what the purpose of the iris (f/stop) and shutter speed are. Once you understand that you will have a better feel for how to achieve the depth of field you want while still stopping motion.

Another thing that really helps is to look at lots of photos. Decide which photos you like and how you would emulate that perspective, pose, background, etc. Decide what you don't like about photos and how to avoid those pitfalls.

Once you have a basic understanding of the principles of photography, you can then come here to get specific answers.

It's a real shame we lost all the years of good tips, etc., on here last month. But I'm sure if you keep reading here you will learn a ton about improving your herp photography.

And having a "low-end" camera doesn't preclude you from taking great photos. Learn some techniques and understand how to work within the limitations of your camera and you should get some great shots.

I know this isn't the answer you are looking for, but it is the best answer to your question that I could come up with.

Chris

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VAS
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by VAS » June 23rd, 2010, 2:54 am

t3ch,

You can always post a photo you took and mention what you did or did not like about it and ask for opinions on what should have been done differently .

Scott

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t3ch
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by t3ch » June 28th, 2010, 6:14 pm

Sorry it took so long to reply. Anyway here is an example of something that could have been a great picture had I made some tweaks and used some different settings. Question is, what. Any suggestions?

Image

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Image

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justinm
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by justinm » June 28th, 2010, 7:51 pm

Stronger flash would have been key. Your camera was struggling to find the right exposure with the dark and light going on in the frame. Flash would have brightened up the snake and given you balanced even light. You can buy cheap flashes for this purpose online for as little as 40 on amazon.

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swerning
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by swerning » June 28th, 2010, 7:58 pm

I would say the best way to learn is by taking a lot of photos. If your camera can save the image info, or if you can preview each pic after taking it, you can get a feel for what is changing when you change settings pretty fast. I would say white balance was the most important thing for me to master at first. But really, for every one awesome shot I get, there might be 20, 30, 40 that aren't as great. When I realized professionals shot tons more than even that, I felt better. Good luck!

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VAS
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by VAS » June 29th, 2010, 2:23 am

tsch,

Now post a picture that you really like or admire from someone else. It may sound like a pain in the rear but it will allow for more of a detailed response from the experts here (excluding me).

Just a suggestion but my experience is I know what I like and what I want to create but once I look through that viewfinder it's TUNNEL VISION and I don't know why. As long as the subject is in the shot I think I've nailed it. Later sitting at the computer reviewing the shots I took thinking to my self what was I thinking oh I know I wasn't thinking at all :( .

Again not an expert myself but the comment about more flash being needed I would definitely agree with. I've heard of guys that have cameras that do not have great flash systems taking reflectors out in the field with them to throw light around where needed. This may be an option :)

Scott

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t3ch
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by t3ch » June 30th, 2010, 3:02 pm

Here's one I really like that shows the style of pics I like. The way it shows the color, the scales, etc

Image

Heres one I took today that I think is a little better. Suggestions?

Image

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Re: Newbie Question

Post by Paul White » June 30th, 2010, 3:34 pm

I have that camera and have really enjoyed it, but I've been running into problems in low/mixed light situations too. Flash tends to really wash things out, but without some flash good luck getting a decent picture of a moving animal.
I don't *think* this camera takes an external flash, unless they maybe make generic ones but I'm not sure how you'd link them together?

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justinm
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Re: Newbie Question

Post by justinm » June 30th, 2010, 7:31 pm

Paul White wrote:I have that camera and have really enjoyed it, but I've been running into problems in low/mixed light situations too. Flash tends to really wash things out, but without some flash good luck getting a decent picture of a moving animal.
I don't *think* this camera takes an external flash, unless they maybe make generic ones but I'm not sure how you'd link them together?
I have a phoenix brand flash that fires off when when other flash unit does. I can place it anywhere or have someone hold it for me to get the desired lighting. It was $40 on amazon. Remember it's a lot easier to darken a photo than lighten one up.

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Re: Newbie Question

Post by monklet » June 30th, 2010, 9:53 pm

t3ch -First off, seems like you forgot to give photo credit for the example you posted ;) I admired that photo too from the recent "Spain" post in the main forum.

Anyway I think its good to understand what's going on there lighting wise that makes that image so appealing, aside from the nice pose and specimen. He's taken advantage of a high sun here to provide top or rim lighting and has filled in the hard shadows produced by that high sun with flash, but not so much that the shadows are drowned out.

This gives it a more natural feel as our eyes can compensate for contrast much better than photographic sensors and the fill flash compensates for this. So while we get nice even lighting over most of the snake in view, the top lighting adds shape and highlights which are visually exciting. A telltale artifact of this lighting technique is the double shadow effect which you may notice at the base of the snake where due to the flash being slightly offset from the camera lens, neither light source has reached.

I generally favor this technique for a more "artful" appeal but it doesn't necessarily produce the best results for shots in which you want maximum information across the whole subject as you get in the example of the green snake. In this case, go ahead and shoot the snake in full shade and depend wholly on the flash for the most predictable results. The lighting is harsh, with hard shadows lacking texture and a loss of subtle shapes which add interest, but the whole snake is evenly lit and all it's color, pattern and scalation are clearly revealed

Now, as far as getting your flash exposure balanced against your ambient light exposure when using flash fill - many digitals automatically do a great job of this and as you shoot you can use the compensation features for flash and ambient exposure to fine tune it.

Higher aperatures require more light and so will drain your flash battery quicker for slower refresh and they'll also limit the "effective reach" of the flash, so while greater depth of field might be an advantage in many cases you'll want to be aware of that.

When using flash I'm typically not concerned with "camera shake" degrading image quality so I don't pay attention to shutter speed and use Aperature Priority Auto, tweaking my aperature and the exposure compensations as necessary.

Once you get home you'll want to have some sort of image processing software, such as Photoshop or GIMP to adjust your images. The basic tweaks would be lighting/contrast, a sharpening filter and of course resizing. As we generally wish to portray our subject's colors accurately you'll probably NOT want to use color balance or saturation adjustments.

Those are tips for how I get around suffering with my Canon Powershot S3, which is handy but falls short of being a professional quality tool with poor lens quality, and a slow error prone focusing mechanism. It works good enough for me to get some nice images but others may have very different methods.

One more tip - If you're not deleting many more than you're keeping you're not deleting enough - half of photography is knowing what's good and what ain't. While getting the lighting right is a critical first step (this is photo-graphy or "writing with light") there is obviously more to compelling imagery which is a whole other HUGE subject and one for endless exploration:)

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