Flow in your picture

Have you ever observed what your eyes are doing while looking at a picture? Do you observe a difference between looking at interesting and boring pictures?
A picture is nothing more than a flat representation of the 3D world in which no objects exist. It is pure colors, textures, shapes, and lines. So, the question is “what is a good composition that makes a picture attractive?” There is of course no simple answer, otherwise everybody would shoot perfect pictures all the time.
Bruce Percy wrote a nice book about that: Simplifying Composition, in which he explains how the eyes flow over a picture. Most people when they look at a picture they start between the bottom and the middle left and  then explore the rest of the picture. It turns out that lines in the pictures may lead the eyes to different parts of the picture. Have a look at the picture below.
Museum road through rebuilt RoombeekWhat in reality is a road is in the picture a line which takes my eyes from bottom left along the diagonal line to the middle right of the pictures; after that my eyes come back via the repetitive vertical lines (the trees on the left of the road) to the contrasting colors. Finally, my eyes travel again along the repetition of the vertical lines (the trees on the right of the road). This may repeat itself a couple of time, every time discovering more details. This makes a picture interesting.
Lines can be as simple a road, a horizon, a cloud formation, however, they can also be imaginary lines between areas with similar shapes or similar color, or a repetition in texture or shape. Of course, most of the time the lines are not straight, they are curves in various shapes. S-curves cause a strong pull. Think of an S-curve of a river.
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Next time before taking a picture have a look at how your eyes flow over  the scene to see how interesting it is. Maybe a different position or angle will improve it.

Settings: in which mode to shoot?

IMG_0810In this blog I will discuss the right mode to shoot: Aperture-Priority Mode, Shutter Speed-Priority Mode, or Manual Mode.
In Automatic Mode (A or P) it is the camera that decides what kind of picture is taken instead of you. So, the first step is to step away from Automatic Mode. The second step is to decide what is more important:

  • Large or small depth of field (Aperture Priority: Shutter Speed is computed automatically).
  • Frozen movements or not (Shutter Speed Priority: Aperture is computed automatically).

Aperture-Priority Mode (A)
Most of the time I use Aperture-Priority to have control over the depth of field. Wide open aperture to have a small depth of field to get the subject in focus and the background completely out of focus. This draws the eyes to the subject. Or, and almost closed aperture to get a large depth of field which is handy in for example landscape and cityscape. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions. While closing the aperture, the shutter speed goes up (longer time). If it is longer than 1/60th or 1/30th of a second, you should use a tripod. An alternative is to increase the ISO to keep a fast shutter speed.
Shutter Speed-Priority Mode (S)
When shooting activities with fast movements, it is best to use Shutter Speed-Priority so you can decide yourself if you want to freeze movements or not. Keep in mind that fast moving objects close by require a much faster shutter speed than when they are far away. Normally 1/60th of a second is enough, however, if you use a long telelens, for example mm, then you should us a faster Shutter Speed than 1/th of a second. This is to make sure that you do not need a tripod.
Manual Mode (M)
In Manual Mode you can set the Aperture and Shutter Speed yourself to get the lighting you want. I mainly use that in two cases:

  • when using flash, so I can decide the Aperture and Shutter Speed I want; longer Shutter Speeds give more ambient light and more saturated colors.
  • when there is not enough light I want to make sure that I have the right Shutter Speed; if there is not enough light the ISO is increased automatically.

In one of the next blogs I will discuss the use of lenses.

Roombeek: rebuilt after fireworks explosion

Houses in rebuilt RoombeekOn Saturday May 13, 2000 we saw from our garden very dark smoke coming from the direction of Enschede. Later it turned out to be caused by an enormous fireworks explosion, turning the Roombeek district of Enschede in total chaos and ruins.
Recently my research group had a guided tour through Roombeek. It is now completely rebuilt. Many new houses mixed with some of the old buildings. Quite a variety of architectural designs giving a dynamic and modern character to the district. At the same time the map of the streets remained the same, giving the district the same structure, and a feeling of familiarity.
Roombeek is now the lively home of the creative industry with several museums and many smaller exposition spaces for architects and artists. It is a pleasure to be there. Below you see the restaurant bij Rozendaal and the museum TwentseWelle.

Museum and restaurant in rebuilt Roombeek
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here are some more pictures I took of Roombeek.
Stock Images

Settings: before shooting

IMG_0801Especially the more advanced digital cameras have many buttons. In this blog I discuss the settings before shooting.
Before you start shooting pictures check your settings! Sometimes your camera still has the settings of your previous photoshoot. Also check your batteries, both of your camera and your external flash, if you are going to use one.
RAW – JPG
RAW has the advantage that you can adjust exposure, white balance etc  afterwards before making a jpg file. Using the JPG setting this is not possible. The advantage of jpg is that the conversion of RAW to jpg is done fully automatic in the camera resulting in smaller files: faster transfer, easier to share with others and on the web. The disadvantage is that the automatic conversion may not result in the picture you had in mind. Using RAW gives you full control. Because of that I always use RAW.
Color space
Adobe RGB is a bigger color space than sRGB. The advantage of Adobe RGB is that the colors can be more saturated (which is nice for printing). The disadvantage is that not all browsers support Adobe RGB resulting most of the time in dull colors. I normally shoot using Adobe RGB and convert it to sRGB for pictures on the web (although I am a bit sloppy). For Dreamstime I do not know where the pictures will be used (print or web), so I leave it to Adobe RGB.
ISO
In principle I leave the ISO on 100. During daytime, it gives the best quality picture you can imagine. However, if there is not enough light, I use the following setting: if, for a particular combination of Aperture – Shutter Speed, there is not enough light the ISO is increased automatically. Most advanced cameras still do very well for very high ISO values. Capturing the moment is most of the time more important than the quality of the final picture. And using a flash would ruin the ambiance completely. Leave the ISO, however, on low values during a night shoot if you want the night to be black.
White Balance
Most of the time I leave the White Balance on automatic. In combination with shooting RAW this is no problem. It can be adjusted during post processing. Some say you should set the White Balance right during the shoot to get a better view of the colors. Wearing reading glasses I prefer to see the pictures on my iMAC afterwards  instead of the screen of a camera.
Next time I will discuss the settings during the photoshoot.