Especially 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.
Although I have been to Rotterdam on several occaisons I never had the time to stroll around the center. There is a two-hour tour “Rondje Rotterdam” that takes you along many new buildings with exotic architecture and parts of the old harbor.
Rotterdam is of course famous for its large harbor. You can still find reminiscences of the old port in the center. However, Rotterdam is also famous for its architecture and art. During World War II Rotterdam was bombed heavily leaving many open spaces. This gave the city the opportunity to experiment with the architecture of new buildings.
The Central Station is an example of that. The hall is very spaceous and gives a feeling of freedom which connects very well with being a traveller. Also, the Market Hall, a place for international food, combines shops and restaurants in a tunnel-shaped appartement building with colorful decorations on the inside of the tunnel.
At the same time there are many old houses and buildings which nicely contrast the modern high-rise executive offices. Quite a few like to neglect gravity by shifting the upper part of the building, thereby getting rid of the static nature of regular buildings.
Rotterdam has many bridges, the most famous one is of course the Erasmus Bridge with its one-leg construction. A beauty to take pictures of.
Here you will find a selection of the pictures I took during my stroll. I used my 16-35mm lens to create some drama.
Recently I stepped down as chairman of a national research funding organization. As a farewell present I got books of Ansel Adams. So, now I have An Autobiography, The Making of 40 Photographs, and 400 Photographs. He was both an environmental activist and a photographer. He made beautiful black and white pictures of Yosemite National Park over a long period of time, so you could see the environmental changes. The picture that made him famous is Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.
In the seventies and eighties I spend in total one and a half year in California working for UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University. During these days I visited Yosemite National Park several times, hiked a lot in the valley and the upper park. It is a very beautiful area.
Imagine in the days of Ansel Adems he had to carry all the heavy stuff up the mountains. He could only take a limted number of photographic plates (pictures), so, he really had to make sure the picture would work out. Because of that he invented the zone-system to match the dynamic range of the subject he wanted to photograph and the limitations of the camera. The zone-system goes in 10 steps from pure black via different shades of gray to pure white. Nowadays the digital camera and the software handle the dynamic range quite well, although in some cases certain parts are completely white without any detail (or black). In that case the dynamic range of the camera is not sufficient for that particular situation. Again Ansel Adams could see that even before taking the picture.
Yosemite Park is still waiting for me 🙂
Valencia is one of the bigger cities of Spain. We stayed in Las Arenas Balneario Resort, a hotel along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. A really nice hotel with a beautiful view of the beach and the sea.
The old city (founded 138 BC) is nice to stroll through and to enjoy the food and the view. The cultural influences of the various occupiers on the architecture and the food is visible everywhere. We walked from Porta de Serrans to Estacio del Nord. We really enjoyed Plaça de l’Ajuntament, there are a lot of nice places to eat.
Another interesting part is the dried-up river Turia. Part of it is turned into a public garden with play grounds and cultural centers. Going through it by bike really gives a special sensation, seeing the high walls of the old river going more then ten meters up, and knowing that there used to run a lot of water between these walls.
Near the end of this old river it turns into an Art and Science park with many extraordinary buildings: Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Hemisfèric, Museum of Sciences, and Agora. The contrast with the old center is enormous.
Valencia is of course also famous for its fallas. Visiting them is high on my photography list. Here are my Valencia pictures on Dreamstime and here are some others.
As far as photomodels is concerned I am in a lucky position that I work with two young ladies that enjoy photoshoots and that bear with me while I am experimenting. Portrait photography is quite a challenge, besides learning the techniques for studio photography, it also requires interacting with the model.
For a photoshoot at home I have a large white background made of paper that goes all the way down and on the floor where the model stands. This gives a nice uniform background. The advantage of white is that it is easy to manipulate the color of the background, for example, by using a color flash directed only on the background.
The model stands a couple of meter before the background to make sure there are no cast shadows. I use a large softbox and an umbrella to light the model on two sides. Sometimes I use a backlight to light the model from the rear to create a kind of halo. Via my D800 I manipulate the strength of the various flashes. It is nicer to have a strong flash on one side and a weak flash on the other side to create shadows. This gives a more three dimensional impression.
The camera I put on Manual Mode, Shutter Speed on 1/60sec – 1/80sec, and Aperture on f/3.5 – f/6.3 (the only Depth-of-Field required is max 20cm). So far the technique. Via the builtin flash the various flashes are instructed what is expected from them.
The two models I have are natural photo models, so I have to tell them very little about poses. I have some books about poses, so before starting we talk about the clothes they brought, the poses they and I have in mind, and the story behind the pictures. The latter is the most difficult.
Below an example of Stephanie working for her graduation project in the design lab.
And here a picture of Adnela reading her email from an iPad.
Here you will find my portrait pictures on Dreamstime.
In our digital world most of the pictures taken stay on a smart phone or PC, or appear on the web. They are hardly ever printed. In the digital form it is quite easy to share pictures, at the same time we value paintings in our houses or offices. Pictures are in the same way a form of art which you can hang on your wall.
Printed pictures are something special. Especially in large formats. I first started to print in A4 format with my own HP inkjet printer; now I print in A3 format via Fotofabriek in Groningen, the Netherlands. Holding the pictures in your hands gives quite a different perception compared to viewing them on a screen. Also looking at these printed pictures together with others is a much nicer experience. Maybe in future, if there is enough demand, I will buy an A2 printer to further explore this special experience to view a large picture.
The next step is putting a picture on canvas to hang it on the wall. Below an example of a canvas in our living room. The picture was selected by my daughter.
It really give me the feeling that I am hiking with a backpack in the Alps. The quality of the pictures is more than enough to make a large canvas of perfect quality. I print my canvas at Profotonet near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Make sure you convert to the color space indicated by the printing company, for example sRGB.
If you feel like making your own canvas or poster you should have a look at my albums. If you find a picture in one of these albums of your interest, please contact me. For a reasonable price you may obtain a high quality jpg. Enjoy!
See also my post on My own shop @ Werk aan de Muur
In January we got our first snow of the winter 2014/2105 in my hometown. Always a pleasure to take pictures, especially if you are the first to walk through the snow.
Taking snow pictures is not easy. The camera tries to turn all the white in the picture into gray. Although our brains try to see it as white (because we know that snow is supposed to be white) it still does not look nice. So, OVEREXPOSE. How much, depends on the scene. So, experiment! If you overexpose too much, you will loose detail.
Below you see two pictures, on the left no exposure compensation and on the right one-stop over compensation. As you can see, the right picture the snow looks whiter. Here are some pictures I took this morning in my garden.
In 2012 there was a wonderful Chinese Light Show in Rotterdam. A perfect opportunity to practice night shots. It is important to try to make areas where there is ambient light as dark as possible. Therefore, preferably work in Manual Mode, and
keep the ISO value low (no noise),
keep the Shutter Speed low (no ambient light),
use an Aperture for the required Depth-of Field (DoF).
These suggestions of course contradict each other, so it is important to find the right balance, to get sufficient light on the sensor. In this case I used my D700 which even for high ISO values produces very little noise. So, this gave me the freedom to set the Shutter Speed to 1/60 sec, enough for not noticing my shaky hands (it was in the middle of winter). I also used my 50mm prime lens, which is very light sensitive. Because most of the objects were far enough so even with an Aperture of 1.8 I had still enough DoF. Here are some of the pictures I took at the Chinese Light Show in Rotterdam. Maybe you recognize the Temple of Heaven, which I visited in 2013.
In the beginning I used the built-in flash of my camera. Although I realized that the pictures I took had little to do with what I saw, I did not know what to do. Then I bought a separate flash for the hot shoe on the camera. The reason was that this one was more powerful and I could use the ceiling or a wall to get indirect light. Although this was an improvement, it was still not what I had in mind. The Hot Shoe Diaries and Sketching Light of Joe McNally made me aware of the wide variety of possibilities of using one or more flashes and getting better pictures. He is a very enthusiastic author and makes using several flashes to get better lighting easy. This book has been very influential for me.
The first step is to take the flash off the camera and put it either on the right or left of you. This will create some shadows and gives a better feeling of three dimensions. This is quite an improvement compared to the built-in flash that hits the subject right in front leaving only cast shadows. Cast shadows, by the way, can be avoided in several ways: use several flashes, place the subject far away from the background, make the flash bigger by using a softbox.
Small flash – hard light
Big light – soft light
The second step is to understand how the camera via the built-in flash (master) communicates with the off-shoe flash (slave) without flashing itself. You probably have to read your manuals. The idea is that the built-in flash communicates with the other flash just before the curtain opens. If you know how to do this it is quite easy to start using several flashes (left, right, rear, or top) with different flash power. This is real fun!
The third step is choosing the right Aperture and Shutter Speed. Actually, the Shutter Speed has no influence on the light coming from the flash. The duration of the flash is much shorter than the opening of the curtain. With some cameras you can go all the way down to 1/250 sec. On the other hand, if you leave the curtain open a bit longer, like 1/30 sec, then you will also catch some ambient light. It is important to remember that independent of the shutter speed the flash light freezes motion. The Aperture determines how much light we let through to the sensor. In TTL-mode (automatic mode), however, widening the Aperture does not give a brighter picture, only the flash requires less power; in M-mode (manual mode) it would make the picture brighter. In both cases the power balance between the various flashes is important, because it determines how much light each side of the subject gets.
The final step is to experiment:
where to position the flashes;
the power balance between the flashes;
use TTL- or M-mode of the flash;
what type of softbox gives the right light;
what type of background gives the right atmosphere
The Shutter Speed simply determines how long the sensor is exposed to light. Common is to use shutter speeds faster than or equal to 1/60 sec to make sure that slight movements of subjects and maybe also of the camera are more or less frozen. In general this works fine. However,
if the lens becomes too long it is best to take a shutter speed 1/x sec, where x is the length of the lens;
if due to low lightening the shutter speed becomes too long (less than 1/30 sec) it is best to increase the ISO;
if the subject moves fast and is close by don’t underestimate the required shutter speed to freeze the subject;
when using flash it is possible to use a slower shutter speed (for example 1/30 sec) to catch some of the ambient light without blurring the subject.
However, freezing the subject might not be the goal. There are many examples where slower shutter speeds better grasp what we experience: lights of moving cars in the dark, waves of the ocean, waterfalls etc. There is an almost unlimited number of possibilities to use slow shutter speed. Crafts and Vision has a nice eBook about this, called Slow by Andrew Gibson. In this case it is a good idea to use a tripod to avoid movements of the camera. Have fun with experimenting with slow shutter speeds.