Photography for the Beginner


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  • Welcome to photography!  Since you're here this afternoon, I assume that you have some interest in the art of photography; that you want to learn how to make your images better, or even just how to use your camera. Photography is an art - like any art, personal visions will vary, and what I like won't necessarily be what you like - and that's FINE. The important thing is that you learn how to use your tools - because that's what a camera is.  A tool.  And before you can make art, you need to understand a little about the WAY it's made.
  • Myths to dispel: - P&S can't take good photos - photos can't be printed well      - WM lab vs. pro lab - you need the latest & greatest - you need 100 Megapixels Some facts about P&S cams: - most pro's own one - most pro's use one often - they're perfect for carrying - Chase Jarvis - the best camera is the one you have with you = P&S, iPhone, etc. Here is proof that you can take good photos with a P&S (Show 3 images done with a P&S)
  • This was taken with a P&S in macro mode, just after sunrise on a spring morning. I've framed this print and sold copies of it.
  • This is Frederick the Duck, who lives at a pond near me. He's a domestic duck, so this isn't really a true “wildlife” photo, but he was abandoned at the pond, so I take care of him all winter. He's doing his “duck dance” in this image. It's a territorial thing, probably because I way lying on the ice only a couple of feet away – he wanted to let me know I was on his turf. Although you may have trouble getting this close to the critters, the point is that you can even take wildlife images with a P&S. Since many P&S cameras have 10x-30x zoom lenses these days, it's actually getting easier to do.
  • This is a telephoto image of Owego, NY, taken from a cemetery that overlooks the town. In true photography terms, this was taken with the equivalent of a 105mm lens, or thereabouts. The camera I used to shoot this had a 5x zoom lens – any photographer with a 5x zoom P&S could take a photo like this. In all of these examples, the camera was just the tool that let me make the image. What really mattered was the fact that I identified the scene, was able to make the best use of the light, and was able to compose it in a way that translated my vision into an image. Your cameras can do this – you just need to train your mind and eyes.
  • So here's your camera; the purpose is to turn light into images. In photography it's ALL about the light. Don't fall into the marketing traps here either.  The brand name is not as important as how well the tool does its job. A $400 P&S does not necessarily work better than a $100 model, although it may have more “Features” What matters is your comfort level with the camera.  Does it feel good in your hand?  Can you access the menus and functions easily?  Are you comfortable carrying and using it?
  • All electronics are confusing right out of the box - even to people like myself who are generally comfortable with them. When I buy a new camera, I plan to spend at last two weeks working with it before I commit to using it during a gig. And I read the manual. Who here has read the manual?  Cover to cover?  With the camera in hand?  And understood it? Use the manual as a reference - don't try to ingest it. And have the camera there with you as you read it – perform the functions with the camera as you read about them. Here are a few important basics for setting up and using your camera: (above)
  • Auto mode is where many folks start out.  It's fast.  It's easy. Remember this: Auto=Average=18% gray. 18% gray is how the camera's light meter sees the world. You do NOT want to be average - you want to stand out.  Likewise, you don't want your camera thinking for you.  You wouldn't want your toaster deciding how brown your toast should be; or your TV deciding what channel to show you.  So why let your camera tell you how the image should look? It's a computer!  It has no brain - just a series of pre-programmed comparisons it can make.  And when the scene you're showing it doesn't match anything in it's library, it GIVES UP and goes back to 18% average. Blah!
  • Who can tell me what color these two squares are? 'Cause I don't know about you, but they look gray to me. Kind of an ugly, blah gray, actually
  • These are the same two pieces of paper you saw on the last slide, except this time they are overlapping in the same frame together. Both the previous two images and this one were shot in AUTO mode. In the last two, the black and white paper each filled the camera's view individually. The camera couldn't tell what color they were, because there was no reference point – it defaulted to 18% gray. Put the two together, however, and the camera is suddenly able to tell the difference, and you get black and white. But how about shooting a snowy day in winter...? Or the Gettysburg battlefield at twilight...? The camera is going to get lost, and run home to 18% gray, which isn't what you want.
  • Get off Auto. First step is the control dial. Here's what those silly symbols actually mean...
  • Now that we've gone over modes, let's address some of the other mystery buttons on the camera.
  • I'm going to tell you straight off that on-camera flash is a recipe for ugly 9 times out of 10.  It hits your subject straight on, it washes out, and it's not flattering. But there are times when you need it.  The trick is to use the flash only when you absolutely have to, and then to try and use it as fill-flash - just a little splash of light that lets you peer into the shadows; don't try to nuke the whole scene. It won't work.  And it won't be pretty. The flashes that are built into these little cameras are really a joke - they barely have enough power to be useful.  And the huge drain they put on your batteries makes it hardly worth while.
  • I'm going to tell you straight off that on-camera flash is a recipe for ugly 9 times out of 10.  It hits your subject straight on, it washes out, and it's not flattering. But there are times when you need it.  The trick is to use the flash only when you absolutely have to, and then to try and use it as fill-flash - just a little splash of light that lets you peer into the shadows; don't try to nuke the whole scene. It won't work.  And it won't be pretty. The flashes that are built into these little cameras are really a joke - they barely have enough power to be useful.  And the huge drain they put on your batteries makes it hardly worth while.
  • Face Detection is one of those new-fangled features that has gone from being a marketing ploy to a usable technology. FD can actually "see" faces in a scene - mathematically. These days, it can see multiple faces in a scene, and will work to keep them all in focus at once, adjusting settings as needed.
  • However, when any of the listed variables interferes, Face Detection fails, because the mathematical calculations don't come out right. Useful?  Sometimes.  Worth playing with at your next family party?  Definitely!
  • Macro mode lets you get close to things. Counting whiskers close.  As in, lens up against your subject close. Macro mode isn't actually changing anything in your camera - it's just changing the range that the camera is allowed to focus in. Normally the camera only lets itself focus on objects that are, say, 2' away or farther.  This makes focusing faster, since the camera isn't starting at the end of the lens and searching the entire range out to infinity. Macro simply reverses this limit; the camera can search from as close as possible out to a few inches, but no farther. But it lets you get really close to things for great texture, detail, etc! Just be sure to set it back!
  • The rule of thirds is best visualized as a grid over each potential image. The goal is to compose the image so that the primary elements correspond to the intersections on the grid. One of the major giveaways of an armature photo is centered images. Sticking the subject smack dab in the middle of the image is NOT the best way to make photographs. It's plain. It's boring. Your eye looks straight at it, sees it, and then wanders off for a cup of coffee. But by placing the subjects at the thirds intersections, the eye is forced to do more work – it has to move through the image, taking in the details in a pleasing fashion. Good composition makes or breaks a shot, regardless of the subject matter, because it turns the ordinary into art. It doesn't matter if you shoot the photo that proves Bigfoot exists – if he's smack dab in the center of the frame, it will be a boring image. But put Bigfoot at a thirds intersection, with some other details composed in as well, and you've got a winner!
  • Here's the rule of thirds again, this time using a couple I did an engagement session for. You'll see that although the subject matter has changed, the image is still composed so that the primary details – the eyes – correspond with the thirds intersections. In this case, I have 3 out of 4 intersections in play; two on the eyes and one on the guy's head. The fourth one is sort of off in space on her hair, but that's okay – because the other three anchor the shot.
  • This is a variant on the rule: yes, the top left intersection is still on the end of the dock, and that's great – but you'll see that the other three intersections are all floating over nothing in particular. What's happening here has more to do with the horizon than with points of interest. In the previous two shots, we were working close in; now we're shooting a full landscape with a horizon, and just like a centered subject is boring, a centered horizon is boring. So what we do is put the horizon off-center, like this. With the horizon following the top thirds line, we're telling the viewer that the bottom of the photo is more important. And it is, since that's where all the “stuff” is; the top would only have shown foggy sky anyway.
  • Now we're going to break the rules. This shot is a little faint, but what you're looking at is the Milky Way stretching to the southern horizon about an hour after sunset. As you can see, the primary focus of this shot – the milky way – runs straight through the vertical middle of this shot, and the primary area of focus (the Milky Way) is dead center in the entire image. This goes against everything I just told you. But you know what? The image still works. Why? Because of the nature of the subject matter. I'm shooting a band of stars in a big, dark sky – putting it dead center makes your eye notice it first, and then fill in minor details around it. This is art – you learn rules, and then you break them.
  • This time we're going to work with dead space. Dead space is any large section of a photo that is filled with nothing. In this case, it's the sky – there's a lot of it. The point here was to show the cell tower against the sunset, a contrast between man-made and nature. There's enough color variance in the sky to keep all the dead space interesting, and just enough earth at the bottom to ground the image. This is a minimalist image – there's nothing in it that doesn't absolutely have to be. Dead space works well with minimalism. (And notice that the tower is on a thirds line!)
  • Here's a photo that I purposely altered and made into a “bad” example. We're in a field again, this time at sunrise, and once again we have a little bit of earth at the bottom, and then some sky. A whole lotta' sky, really... And there's nothing in it. No color gradient, no moon, nothing of interest at all. Boring... This is a case where dead space ruins an image. The point of the photo was supposed to be the flowers in the field...or the mountain through the ground fog... We're not quite sure, because the dead space has overpowered the subject, and all we know is that there's a whole lot of boring blue sky.
  • One final note on composition – watch out for distracting elements. This is something you have to train your eye to look for, and most non-photographers don't ever pick up on it. This shot, for example, has a huge distracting element in it. Right here. That's a roofline in the background, and it's ugly. Unfortunately, the only way I was going to get the shot of Mrs. Cardinal was to include the roof. But it's a big, dark, ugly thing that takes up half my photo, and it shouldn't be there. Just like things shouldn't be growing out of people's heads in your backgrounds, and horizons & objects shouldn't bisect people at their joints, nor should random things take up half the photo and draw power away from the subject.
  • This is the hardest part of photography, because this is where the hard and fast rules break down. I can't tell you what makes a good subject, necessarily, because that's a very personal choice. What I can tell you is, there is a very real difference between taking a snapshot and making a photograph.  And you should make photographs of things that move you in some way; photos that aim to capture that emotion so that they in turn can move someone else equally. DeWitt Jones, who is a famed NatGeo photog, uses photos to “celebrate what's right with the world.” He uses his camera to open doors and forge connections with his subjects, and find the good in each day. Very hard to do. But while you're figuring out what moves you, here are a few final things to keep in mind:
  • People often ask about software – mostly they ask if they really need it, and when I say “Yes,” they look panicked and say, “But I can't possible understand Photoshop!” Good news – you don't have to. Photoshop is the industry standard, and it's great fun for dorks like me. You don't need it. For most people, using Photoshop to process your photos would be like flying from Binghamton to Scranton. It's overkill. What you want is a program called Picassa. It's made by Google and is very easy to use. It automatically shows all the photos on your computer, and lets you perform basic edits, such as cropping, adding contrast, switching to sepia & B&W, etc. Event better news – it's FREE. But why do I say that you need it in the first place? Because ALL photos look better with just a little work. When you used take your film down to CVS to have prints made, the machines there made adjustments – you never saw a print as it was shot on the negative (unless you specifically requested it). That hasn't changed.
  • Alright, enough of this crap - let's get out there and chase the light!
  • Photography for the Beginner

    1. 1. <ul>Photography for the Beginner </ul><ul>-or-  &quot;I bought a what?&quot; <li>Brent Pennington
    2. 2. Photographer
    3. 3. </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul>The Point & Shoot Camera </ul><ul><ul><li>You do NOT have to be a photographer to use a P&S </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You CAN make great photos with a P&S </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You CAN make great prints with a P&S </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You do NOT need the latest/newest/etc. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Image made with Canon Powershot in Macro focus mode. Prints of this image have been sold.
    6. 6. Wildlife photography is possible (to an extent) with a point & shoot camera.
    7. 8. <ul>Meet Your Camera </ul><ul>The purpose of a camera is to turn light into images. It doesn't matter if you have a Canon/Nikon/Olympus - what matters is that you are comfortable with it... And that you know how to use it. </ul>
    8. 9. <ul>Setting it Up </ul><ul><ul><li>Superfine & Large - get the best files the camera will make </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Format vs. Delete - formatting preserves the life of your memory cards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Batteries: </li><ul><li>Regular &quot;AA&quot; is fine - but bring extras!
    9. 10. Rechargable NiMH is even better - but still bring extras
    10. 11. Don't fall into the marketing trap!  e2, Lithium, etc = BS! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Memory Cards - 2GB - 4GB will hold THOUSANDS of photos </li></ul></ul>You don't need a high-speed card in a P&S camera. <ul><ul><li>Stabilizer - set it to &quot;Continious&quot; if you have it </li></ul></ul>
    11. 12. <ul>Shooting in AUTO Mode </ul><ul>AUTO = Average = 18% gray </ul>Given a scene in AUTO mode, your camera tries to reach an average exposure tone of 18% gray.
    12. 13. What color are these two squares of paper? Each was shot in AUTO mode, with the paper filling the entire image. The result appears to be two rather ugly shades of gray...
    13. 14. These are the two pieces of paper from the previous slide, now overlapping. Individually, the camera cannot determine the proper exposure, so defaults to 18% gray. When placed together, the camera is able to determine that they are really black and white, and expose correctly. Think about how this applies to low-contrast scenes, such as an overcast winter day, or cloudy beach.
    14. 15. <ul>On the Dial </ul><ul>Portrait <li>Landscape
    15. 16. Night Portrait
    16. 17. Kids & Pets (Sports) Party Scene Modes </li></ul>Image Credit: Canon USA (Usually include options such as foliage, sunset, beach, underwater, etc.) Get off AUTO mode!
    17. 18. <ul>Those Buttons on the Back </ul><ul>Flash <li>Macro </li></ul><ul>Face Detection <li>Zoom </li></ul>
    18. 19. <ul>Flash </ul>Using the built-in flash often gives results like this: poor exposure, glowing eyes, and digital noise. The flash is too small and too underpowered to properly light this scene. It simply drains the battery and slow shooting time, with little benefit.
    19. 20. <ul>Flash </ul>This is also common – notice how the people in the foreground are properly flash-exposed, but none of that light reaches the stage, again because the built-in flash lacks the strength or range to adequately light anything beyond a few feet. Just turn it off.
    20. 21. <ul>Face Detection </ul>Image Credit: Canon USA Face Detection is new technology that uses mathematical algorithms to identify faces in the scene and instructs the camera to both focus on and expose for them. Face Detection is also being built into camera self-timers.
    21. 22. <ul>Face Detection </ul><ul>Oops...when Face Detection fails <li>The following circumstances can fool Face Detection algorithms and cause them to fai: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Glasses
    22. 23. Hats
    23. 24. Hoods
    24. 25. Faces in profile
    25. 26. Distracting elements
    26. 27. Phantom faces (random elements erroneously identified as faces) </li></ul></ul>
    27. 28. <ul>Macro Mode </ul><ul>  </ul>Macro focus mode instructs the camera to only focus on objects in close proximity to the camera; in this image, the dragonfly was nearly touching the lens.
    28. 29. <ul>Composition Basics: Rule of Thirds </ul>The Rule of Thirds uses a “tic-tac-toe” patter to overlay the image as a composition aid. The primary subject(s) should align to one or more of the intersection points, circled in red. This placement results in intersting, aesthetically pleasing compositions. Note that in this photo, the primary subject is under the bottom right intersection.
    29. 30. <ul>Composition Basics: Rule of Thirds </ul>The Rule of Thirds applies to any type of subject: notice in this image that the bottom right and top left intersections correspond with the subject's eyes. In portraits, eyes should always be the primary subject – and focus – of the image.
    30. 31. <ul>Composition Basics: Rule of Thirds </ul>In this case the end of the dock still falls within one of the intersections, but more importantly, the horizon is aligned with the upper horizontal division. Where centered horizons are visually boring, horizons aligned with either of the horizontal divisions are more aesthetically pleasing.
    31. 32. <ul>Composition Basics: Centered Horizons/Elements </ul>This example breaks the previous rules: the subject, the Milky Way, is in the vertical center of the image, with the primary point of interest dead-center in the frame. And it works. Although the Rule of Thirds is an excellent guideline, there are times when centered images are visually stronger.
    32. 33. <ul>Composition Basics: Dead Space </ul>This image is an example of minimalism, where much of the image is taken up by empty “dead space.” In this case, the dead space is the sky, which shows a subtle natural color gradient that contrasts with the man-made antenna that is the subject. Dead space can be used very effectively to enhance the subject, especially in a minimalist image.
    33. 34. <ul>Composition Basics: Dead Space </ul>In this instance, the dead space is once again the sky – except now it lacks any subtle gradient and is instead blue and empty. The subject is also undefined: is it the field? The mountain? The dead space is distracting in this image, and does not lend to the over aesthetic.
    34. 35. <ul>Composition Basics: Distracting Elements </ul>The blurred roofline in the background distracts from the main subject (the cardinal).
    35. 36. <ul>Choosing a Subject </ul><ul>The goal is to find a moment that moves you, that you find worthy of capturing an sharing. <li>National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones uses his camera to “celebrate what's right with the world.”
    36. 37. The camera holds the power to open doors and forge connections. </li></ul><ul>Do not fall pray to &quot;spray & pray&quot; Do not shoot scenes b/c you feel you're expected to; shoot because you FEEL them. Do not allow yourself to be lazy - no &quot;fixing in post,&quot; no shooting from only one angle, etc. Take camera with you! </ul>
    37. 38. Software Google's Picassa is free photo library/editing software available for download. It is the ideal solution for camera owners who do not care to tackle Adobe Photoshop. Picassa allows basic image corrections, with simple options for the most commonly used adjustments. It is very simple to use, while still providing a high level of quality. Image Credit:
    38. 39. <ul>Let's Go Shooting! </ul><ul>  </ul><ul>  </ul>