Beginner Basics

Photography knowledge exchange.

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Ted
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Beginner Basics

Post by Ted » May 13th, 2011, 4:40 pm

Ok, so I just bought my first dslr. :D :D While waiting for it to arrive, I thought I should ask for basic (and not so basic) Photography tips anyone might have. So thats about it, what tips and tricks do you use to get good pictures, and what should I watch out for. If it changes anything, the camera is a Nikon D3000. Thanks for any help given! :thumb:

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Jason Mintzer
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Re: Beginner Basica

Post by Jason Mintzer » May 13th, 2011, 11:54 pm

My biggest leap from point and shoot to dslr was learning to shoot in aperture priority, which is what I almost always shoot in. Typically, when doing macro work, I don't want a shallow depth of field (I want as much of the herp in focus as possible), so I use the smallest aperture possible (larger number, f stop) while maintaining a shutter speed that will give me a sharp image (I shoot for for 1/200 or faster). Once you get your camera, practice shooting something similar to a herp and play around with the settings. Good luck.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Antonsrkn » May 14th, 2011, 1:23 pm

May be self explanatory but the best advice I can give is practice, practice and practice. Try new things, step out of your comfort zone and try settings you normally wouldn't necessarily use. This will familiarize you with your equipment and its strengths and weaknesses and you will see an improvement in your photos as your understanding grows.

Erik Williams
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Erik Williams » May 15th, 2011, 6:04 am

Biggest advice: read about the four basics, put it in manual mode, and shoot a lot. Shoot nothing. Shoot something. Just shoot and figure out why the photos come out the way they are. When you know why, you know how.

here's a place to start
http://forums.photographyreview.com/sho ... hp?t=29868

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Ted
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Ted » May 15th, 2011, 8:07 am

Thanks everyone! I can't wait for my camera to finally get here, should only be 3-5 days now. I definitely will fiddle around with my camera to see what works. However, are there any little tricks you've found that work well? maybe unusual exposure or different shutter speeds?

Erik Williams
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Erik Williams » June 15th, 2011, 3:36 pm

There are no "tricks" to exposure, it doesn't work that way. The only thing I can think of that qualifies as a trick is to shoot in the sweet spot of your lens - that's probably between f/3.5 and f/8, and most likely somewhere in the middle of the zoom range (although that can vary based on the manufacturer's choice of how to optimize the lens). That will help insure that you have the best sharpness and least distortion possible. Also, shoot in RAW+JPG. Even if you aren't a super photoshop expert, it is nice to have the negative and storage is cheap.

The other novice tips are not camera related, but you might benefit from keeping the sun behind your back, gettiing down to eye level, and making sure that you are not shooting ultra high contrast - for instance, white on black or bright on dark. Once you understand why these are suggestions, you'll understand when to ignore them.

Erik Williams
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Erik Williams » June 15th, 2011, 3:53 pm

Actually, there are a couple of other "tricks" I can think of.

It is very hard for a beginner to visualize how fast life is in terms of a fraction of a second.

you can freeze most normal human speed motion at about 1/100s or faster. For running you'll need at least 1/250s.

For normal still photos, try to keep your shutter speed no slower than 1/focal length. So with a 100mm lens, try to shoot at 1/100s or faster; that will usually take care of camera shake problems, although with very long lenses you'll need even faster speeds. That's not an imperative. I find that with proper bracing I can handhold shots in the 1/10s range pretty reliably.

If you are shooting something very fast, try to get into the 1/500s range or faster. Unless you want it to have motion blur, in which case you'll use a totally different technique.

slower than 1/50s you will start encountering camera shake and you will need good bracing technique. Ask a hunter to show you some positions or poses that they use to steady guns. Control your breathing. Slowly depress the shutter button, don't jam it.

You won't be able to freeze a car on the highway with less than 1/1000s. Without looking, your camera probably goes as fast as 1/4000s, although some get as fast as 1/8000. You'll do most of your shooting at somewhere between 1/60 and 1/1000, based on ISO200 and a normal standard lens.

----------------------------

Depth of field varies with f/stop and magnification. All other factors are insignificant. F/8 on any lens will give you the same depth of field if your magnification is equal (there are small differences based on focal length also, but magnification is the biggest factor). Higher magnification: less depth of field for any given aperture.

I shoot people at f/4 or faster (smaller f/number) because it will give me a nice softly out of focus background. Herps are usually between f/5.6 and f/12, depending on how close I am. The closer you are, the higher f/number you'll need to get the subject in focus.

I'll leave some more as I think of them, good luck!

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Ted
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Ted » June 16th, 2011, 8:29 pm

Wow! :shock: And here I thought this had been closed. Thanks for the great post! :D If it changes anything my camera is actually a Nikon D70, and my usual lens is an 18-200mm zoom. I have found that on sunny days w/ little to no clouds I can usually shoot animals with about a 10 f-stop, and if it is cloudy i need more of a 8. Also, later in the day or in the morning I seem to need a slightly higher f-stop than in the afternoon. So far I've just been fiddling with it to try to find what works, and as far as shutter speed goes you completely verified what I was doing! :thumb: I just wasn't quite that precise yet, as you can expect. :mrgreen:

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chrish
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by chrish » June 20th, 2011, 12:17 pm

Ted,

There are no fast "rules" for how to set your camera for herps and herping shots. You really have to learn how photography works and then superimpose that knowledge over your understanding of herps.

The thing you are trying to control is how the light reaches the sensor in your camera. There are two variables you can change to affect this, the shutter speed and the aperture. Fast shutter speeds freeze motion but small apertures (large f/stop numbers) give you more depth of field (i.e. more of the image in focus). These two variables are inversely proportional which means if you want faster shutter speeds to freeze motion, you have to give up depth of field and vice versa.

It is like draining water out through a hole in a bucket. If you make the hole small (large f/stop number) you have to allow the bucket to drain longer (slow shutter speed) in order to get all the water out. If you make the hole larger (small f/stop number), water drains out more quickly so you don't need to drain as long (fast shutter speed).

So how do you choose which thing to adjust?

The shutter speed is how long the sensor is exposed to the image/light. If you have a long shutter speed (1 second for example), there is enough time for the camera or the subject to move slightly and that motion will show up as a blur on the image. Sometimes this is bad, sometimes it isn't. It is really dependent on what you are shooting.

If you want to freeze motion, like these hummingbird wings, you need a fast shutter speed. I used 1/8000th of a second here but still didn't completely freeze the wing motion - these wings move too fast even for that shutter speed. Fortunately, herps aren't that fast.

Image

Here, I deliberately chose a slower shutter speed to give the plants in the foreground a chance to move and blur to convey how windy it was at this spot. So I wanted the plants to be blurred to show something about the place.

Image

Having adequate depth of field is controlled by the aperture or f/stop setting. If you have an low f/stop value (e.g. f/2.8), it allows a lot of light through which helps you get fast shutter speeds, but has very little depth of field. If you "stop down" to a higher f/stop (e.g f/13), more of the image depth will be in focus, but you will need a slower shutter speed to allow enough light to reach the sensor.

One mistake that herp photographers sometimes make is to always stop down to f/22 to max out depth of field. Sometimes that might be necessary, but generally it isn't. You don't actually have to have to whole animal in focus to get a great photo. Learning how much DOF you really need is a trick that comes with experience. (And you don't "need" a particular amount in any case, you need as much as you want).

Check out these two Eyelash Viper shots. In the top one, the DOF is very low due to the low f/stop value of f/2.8. But this doesn't ruin the shot. In fact, I would argue it helps bring your attention to the subject of the photo - the snake's head.

In the second photo shot at f/10, there is a lot more DOF. And yes, now the snake is all in focus, but so is the stupid brick background (zoo shot :( ) which isn't what I wanted as the subject of the photo. It makes the photo distracting.

Image

For a field example, imagine a rattlesnake coiled up under some dense brush. You want a photo of the snake, but if you include too much DOF, all the sticks and brush in the foreground will be distracting, as will the stuff behind it. If you "open up" the f/stop, you can isolate the focus to just the snake or even its head blurring out all the distracting grass and background.

So figure out what kind of DOF you want, and how much motion you want (none vs blurred motion) and make the compromise between those two variables by setting the camera appropriately.

I think it is maybe more instructive as a new photographer to shoot in Aperture priorty mode (indicated by Av in Canon and A in every other camera make). This lets you pick the f/stop (aperture) you think you need and then the camera picks the shutter speed. If you want to max out DOF for a landscape shot, choose a aperture like f/22 and the camera will choose a slow enough shutter speed to make that exposure. However, if you want to freeze motion, choose an aperture like f/4 and the camera will increase the shutter speed accordingly. So you only have to adjust one setting to get what you want. I've been taking photos of herps for almost 30 years, and I shoot almost every shot I take in Aperture priority mode. I know how to use manual, but I find Aperture Priority a much more efficient way to control the camera.

The tip about shooting stuff around the house is a good one. Put a tennis ball on a table and shoot photos at high/low f/stops, etc. to figure out the effect it has. The good thing about digital camera is that "film" is free. Learn from playing.

Chris

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Ted
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Re: Beginner Basics

Post by Ted » June 23rd, 2011, 11:08 am

I've started to figure out this kind of stuff myself through trial and error, and I completely understand what you are saying. When I first got my camera, I was confused about the relationship between f-stop and shutter speed, but over time I think I've figured it out pretty well. :)
Here's an example. I stay in Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod, over the summer and have already been out a couple of times herping. The last time I was out, I saw a young frog (bullfrog I believe-not quite sure, I'm not good at IDing anything at all :cry: :lol: ) sitting on a lily pad. I wanted the lily pads in focus, so I used a higher f-stop than usual, 13, and a shutter speed of 250. here were the results: (and no, I didn't plan the foreground blurring, but it worked out quite well. :roll: )
Image
At the same pond I spotted my favorite species of dragonfly (once again no ID :roll: ) and it was sitting on a small stick. I knew that it wouldn't stay there for long, and I didn't want the background in my picture, so I used a faster shutter speed, I think it was 500 or close to that, and a smaller f-stop, around 8 or 9. I think that I could have gotten a better picture than this with more time, but as I suspected the dragonfly didn't feel like staying. :evil: here was what I ended up with:
Image
So I completely understand what you were talking about. The main problem I used to have was that I was new to dslr's, and no one I knew seemed to be able to explain the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. :? You however, knew exactly how to explain it! Thanks Chris! :thumb: Thanks also to everybody who posted, I wouldn't be as far as I am now without your help! :beer:

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