Friday, December 13, 2013

My Guide to Photography

The first question I get asked, when people see a good photograph is: "Which camera did you use?". My wife cheerfully recalls someone enjoying a great dinner, and asking "So, which cooking range did you use?".

The Simple Basics
Monkeying around - Photo Effects
Photographing Children
Best kept secret - How to view photographs!

The Simple Basics

The Magic of Composition - Look out for Clutter
The eye sees what it wants to see. The camera sees everything that's in sight.

Dusk and Dawn - the best times are on
Good photography is a lot about the play of light. Angular light has very warm tones, changes rapidly by the minute, and casts long dramatic shadows. Especially when you travel, devote your mornings and evenings to photography, and the rest of the day to do your activities and/or be with your family.

Flash? Or no Flash?
My view is - Do not use flash, unless absolutely required. Flashes darken the background, flatten the picture, and bring artificial "shine"s on subjects (not to mention those ghastly reflections off of any glass surfaces).

Some instances that do warrant a flash:
- Fill-flash, where the foreground is dark, and the background is well lit (esp. during broad daylight)
- Indoor situations with low-to-average overall lighting
- Moving subjects, combined with the need to "freeze" them

Three degrees of Freedom
If you skip past the "Auto" mode (and I recommend you do), there are three simple levers available for manually controlling a shot: Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO.

  • The faster the shutter speed (1/1600 is faster than 1/60), the faster the shot, and the more you "freeze" your subject. 
  • The wider (or more open) the aperture (F/1.8 is wider than F/5.6), the faster the shot, and the shallower the depth of field. 
  • The higher the ISO, the faster the shot, and the grainier the image is.     

Like the project cost-scope-time triangle (how else can I explain it to your IT folks?!), changing one parameter changes the other. A few examples:

A) If you keep the ISO fixed and increase the aperture, that increases shutter speed for a given lighting condition. In other words, a wider aperture allows the camera to capture the image in a shorter time period.
B) If you keep the aperture fixed and increase the ISO value, that increases the shutter speed for a given lighting condition. In other words, a compromise on quality (graininess) allows the camera to capture the image in a shorter time period.
C) If you keep the shutter-speed fixed and increase the ISO value, that decreases the aperture for a given lighting condition. In other words, the camera reduces its aperture to slow down the amount of light that enters its lens, given the increased image-grain.
And there's more combinations ...

Monkeying Around - Photo Effects


A "motion" picture


Shooting into the Sun (or Against the Sun)

Photographing Children

Get down
Get to their eye level to get a well-balanced image. Else, kids start looking like dogs yearning for a bone.

Patience ... Patience 
The best kids photos are candid. Give them their favorite toy; say/do things that tickle them; use the spouse to do this while you're ready to shoot; Don't ask them to smile. Don't force them into places/poses you like.

Timing your photo shoot
Kids are on their best behavior just after they're well fed. They're least cranky, and most happy. A sound mind in a sound body.

Infants / Toddlers also calm down closer to bed time or nap-time. They'll just sit quiet wherever you plonk them, or just do what you ask them to do.

Best Kept Secret - How to view photographs!

What? Do you need to be taught how to *view* a photograph? Never thought there were two ways to view a photograph, did you?

The best way to view a photograph, is the way the camera saw it! With one eye!
Yes, keep your one eye closed, while you view a photograph - on screen, or in print. You'll see the picture "un-flatten", and different layers emerge, one beneath the other, at varying depths of focus.