Tag Archives: Photography

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A Really Basic Guide to SLR

I’ve been after an SLR Camera for ages. I knew a few people who had one, but they cost crazy money.  Then SLR became affordable.  Tech that five years ago was prosumer all of a sudden was entry level. So for Christmas I finally got my SLR.  An entry level Nikon D3200 (with cashback).  Good job they come with auto mode.  As much as I like the photos I took, I really wanted to know what the heck all those notches on the dial meant.  M A S P.  I tried using them but the photos I took were rubbish.  I tried Google, but I don’t learn by reading something then trying to do it.  There was only one thing for it – a beginner’s photography course.

Living close to Manchester means that there’s a lot of learning opportunities out there, but I opted for Manchester Photographic.  It’s only a day long, but it was definitely worth it just to put into practise what I had learned.

First off, we covered A – Aperture Priority.

Aperture relates to the amount of light the lens lets in (much like your iris).  In this mode I decide the size of the aperture or f. the camera decides the shutter speed and ISO settings.  Aperture is good for blurring backgrounds to really highlight your subject.  To do the blurred background you choose a larger aperture size (this is where it gets confusing), which is a smaller number.  If you want to take a picture where you have the background in focus too, use a smaller aperture size (like when you squint to see something in the distance) – this is a higher number.

Hopefully the table below will clarify this for you.  These are the examples of the most common applications of the aperture that the tutor provided.

f. Example of Use
1.4 Good for showing details in portraits
1.8
2 Object in focus, background blurred
2.8
4 Standard Portrait
5.6 Average
8 Landscape
11 Landscape
16 Great detail within a landscape shot
22

 

f. 1.4 – f.4 – are a shallow depth of field

f.8 – f. 22 – great depth of field         

f.4
f.4

 

f.8 35mm fixed lens
f.8 35mm fixed lens
f.1.8
f.1.8

Next we looked at S shutter speed priority.  That is the time it takes the camera to build the photograph, or, the amount of time the camera’s shutter is open. Shutter speed is good for taking arty shots with blur (think iconic pictures of New York taxis, a yellow blur).  If you are using Shutter priority, your camera will select the Aperture for you based on some maths calculations I cannot get my head around!

 

f. Shutter Speed (seconds) Example of Use
1.4 1/4000
1.8 1/2000
2 1/1000 Good for showing water droplets
2.8 1/500
4 1/250 Standard Portrait
5.6 1/125 Average
8 1/60 Use a tripod!Low light situations eg candles on a cake
11 1/30
16 1/15
22 1/8 Milky effect of water
Exposure Time 1/8
Exposure Time 1/8
Exposure Time: 1/8
Exposure Time: 1/8

If you really want to play with shutter speed, wait until dusk, set your shutter speed to 4 seconds, put your camera on a tripod and take a photograph of someone walking slowly across the field of vision.  They will be in the photo 3 times!  This shutter speed is also good for light lines on cars, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a tripod in these low light situations.

We covered ISO next.  This is accessed via the menu rather than the dial on my camera.

ISO relates to light.  The brighter the situation, the lower the ISO.

My camera’s pretty good, in that should I feel the need to play with ISO, it tells me what setting to use in which situation.

IMG_1770[1] IMG_1769[1]

But, here it is in table format.

100      Lets light in slowly – shows high detail.

200

400      Good for Manchester’s rainy weather!

800

1600

3200    Lets light in fast – but shows grainy detail.  Good for low light situations.

A situation where you could utilise the ISO is when you’re using a slow shutter speed.  It’s also good when you’re not able to use a flash. A high ISO will bring light in but the quality of the pictures lower.  This is way too much for me to be thinking about so I set the ISO to auto.

After the course I got a little lens happy.  I went on eBay and bought a second hand 70-300mm lens.  Unfortunately in my excitement at seeing such a lens for £60 I didn’t realise that it wasn’t AF-S.  This means that the lens doesn’t have a motor to auto focus.  It’s all manual.  This is OK sometimes, but I find that I think it’s in focus and then when I see it on my screen, it’s not.  But it’s still a cracking lens that takes stunning photos when I’m in focus!

The tutor on the course was a Canon fan.  She mentioned that when she first started, then lens that she used most was a 50mm fixed lens (also known as the nifty fifty).  Great for portraits and landscapes.  She showed us some of her work.  It’s amazing the variety of shots a lens can take in the right hands!  Bearing in mind the D3200 comes with a DX format lens as standard, I will always be a few mm out.  Therefore, when Nikon did their latest cashback, I bought the 35mm prime lens.  I’m really glad I did.  It does that whole portrait / blurred background thing so well.  My 9 year old daughter even remarked “You do like that lens, don’t you!” as I took yet another picture of her eating ice cream!  And this time I made sure I got the AF-S version!

 

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Building the perfect photo editing PC: part 3

If you’ve already read part one and part two of these posts, you’ll know that professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has been sharing his knowledge on the components you need in a photo editing PC. In his final post for us, Richard looks at monitors, accessories and photo editing software.

Accessories

A memory card reader can make life easier, especially if you’ve got multiple memory cards for one camera, as it saves you having to swap cards within the camera itself in order to transfer photos. Depending on your set-up, you can either go for aninternal card reader that goes in a spare slot in your computer case, or a USB card reader, with USB 3.0 card readers being the fastest.

Monitor

While any monitor will do the job, as all the actual work is done on the PC, a quality monitor will guarantee better colour reproduction, and a larger monitor will make it easier to see what you’re doing. If you’ve got the budget, a pair of monitors, such as the ViewSonic VA2248-LED 22” will give you all the space you need to edit your photos and keep an eye on your emails! For those that just want one monitor, the larger the screen the better when it comes to photo editing. As well as giving you more space for all your tool palettes, it will also enable you to clearly see the images you’re working on.

Software

The most commonly used photo editing software is Adobe Photoshop, currently in version CS5.5, with version CS6 just around the corner. While it is expensive, its power and flexibility is unrivalled, and once you’ve bought it, it will last you for years. You can also upgrade it when new versions come out, for a fraction of the cost. If your budget is especially tight, try GIMP, which is free to download and offers a range of powerful image editing features.

If you have gone down the route of buying a separate hard drive for backup, you can use software to automate your backups, taking the hassle out of the process and ensuring you never forget to do it yourself. FBackup is free and highly customisable, and many external hard drives also come with their own backup software.

While I’ve pointed out the components that will make the biggest difference in a photo editing PC, you’ll still need to buy a couple more components before you can start building your ultimate photo PC. You’ll need a case to put everything in, an optical disk drive, a keyboard and mouse, not forgetting an operating system. The components I’ve chosen are all designed to work together, and you can buy the whole thing for as little as £900.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and that they’ve inspired you to build your own machine. There are lots of guides out there for building a PC, and if you’ve got the patience to be a photographer then building a PC should present no problems. Let us know how you get on with the project in the comments. Once you’ve edited your first batch of photos, and wowed your friends and family, you’ll wonder how you ever got on without it!

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Building the perfect photo editing PC: part two

In the second of our posts on building a great PC for editing photos, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters discusses memory, video cards and storage options. If you have any questions on Richard’s recommendations, or just need some buying advice, get in touch with us. 

Memory

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a form of computer storage used by programs on a computer. Rather than things like photos and music on your hard drive, data on RAM is only stored temporarily by whatever programmes you are using. The more RAM a computer has, the easier it is for it to run multiple programs and carry out complex tasks. As this is what you’ll be doing when editing photos, a good amount of RAM is very important. At the moment, RAM is relatively cheap, so I’d recommend getting as much as you can afford. 8GB is a comfortable minimum for this kind of computer and the tasks that it will have to do, but adding another 8GB will help future proof the machine and won’t add much to the total overall cost.

Video Card

The video card is responsible for displaying everything on the computer, sending the signal directly to the monitor. While some motherboards come with built-in video cards they’re not quite enough for the needs of modern photographer. While you don’t need something quite as powerful as a dedicated gaming graphics card, a standalone card will improve performance and allow you to take advantage of multiple monitors. I’d recommend Asus GeForce GTS 450, as it is half the price of other cards, but will still meet your needs for photography. With many DLSRs now supporting HD video recording, you may want to move in to video editing, in which case a more powerful card would be worthwhile, if you’re prepared to pay the additional cost.

Storage

Not a component to be over looked, storage is vital. As with memory, storage is now quite cheap, and you should get as much as you can afford. Photo files are getting bigger as camera technology improves, so you can never have enough storage. Internal hard drives like this Seagate 2TB drive are more than big enough for your needs. However, it shouldn’t stop there, as hard drives do fail. A serious failure can mean the loss of all your photos, flushing years of work down the drain. To guard against this, you can use external drives, networked attached storage, or even online storage (or all three if you’re really paranoid) to back up your data.

In the third and final post of the series, Richard will look at accessories, software and monitors, giving his advice on each component. He’ll also cover the basic components you’ll need, including the computer case and power supply. You can view the previous post in the series here.

New York Rockefeller pano

Building the perfect photo editing PC: part one

With so many of the readers of our blog keen photographers, we wanted to provide some help and advice on how to create the perfect machine for editing photos. Rather than doing it ourselves, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has very kindly written a blog running through everything that a budding photographer needs in their ideal rig. So without further ado, we’ll let Richard tell us what we need.

Since the advent of digital photography, as well as the massive increase in computer users, many amateur photographers simply take their shots, upload to their computer, and then share them with friends and family. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with this, but to really make the most of the time and effort that goes into taking these photos, a bit of editing can go a long way. While photographers originally needed a darkroom to develop their photos, the modern photographer can get themselves set up for processing their images with a desktop PC.

However, without the right type of PC, photo editing can go from being a pleasure to a teeth-grinding chore as the computer struggles to do the tasks you’ve asked of it. With this in mind, I want to discuss the key components that a photographer needs in their PC for photo editing, so that they can make the most of the money they are investing.

Whilst I have been a Mac user for some time now, not everyone wants to go this route. If you shop around you can actually build a Windows-based PC with more than enough power for a fraction of the cost of a Mac. While the thought may scare some people, building the machine from scratch can save money, and allow a much greater degree of customisation. Of course, pre-built machines are available, and offer a great solution for those without the time and inclination for tinkering with a computer. All of these components have been chosen to ensure that processing, saving and editing large image files is as quick as possible.

A fantastic monochrome image of a red deer by Richard Peters

Processor

The CPU is the brains of the computer. While high-end gaming and video editing machines place a high reliance on a powerful graphics card (which we’ll come to in a minute), the processor is the key component for an image editing PC. When doing anything in Photoshop, for example, the processor has to do a lot of number crunching. That’s why certain actions in Photoshop can seem to take ages on an older or less powerful PC. The Intel Core i7-3820 is well worth looking at as it offers the best combination of power and cost, and will make it much easier to manipulate large RAW images.

Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the key components for ensuring that your computer will remain up to date as long as possible, and also dictates the components that you can use with it. A good motherboard, such as the Asus P9X79 PRO, will reduce the need for adding extra components. For example, if it already contains USB 3.0 ports and a soundcard, then there is no need to buy these extra components, cutting down on cost and additional hassle when building. An advanced mother board will also mean that you have the space to add extra RAM, PCI cards and hard drives should you need them in the future.

In the next post, Richard will be looking at the video card, memory and storage requirements for a photo editing PC. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of the guides out there for building a PC, and don’t forget to keep taking lots of photos!