Posts Tagged ‘mostly photography tips’

Night Photography: A Guide on How to Shoot Long Exposures

Oct 16 2011

Golden Jubilee Bridge & the London Eye

Golden Jubilee Bridge & the London Eye. 16-35mm. 6s at f/8.0, ISO 100.

Many beginner photographers ask me how to take great night shots, so I thought I would share some simple tips for taking long exposures.

First, here is a list of the gear that will help you get a clear, sharp image:

1. Tripod:
You need to keep your camera as steady as possible, so unless you can find a ledge, wall or post that you can set your camera on you’ll need a tripod. I use the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber 3 Section Tripod, with a Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head ($500). You don’t need a tripod this expensive, but avoid the $29.99 ones you buy at your local drug store. I had one of these and I nearly lost my camera in the ocean because it was so unsteady and frail. With tripods you pay more for lightweight models. For me this is important because I have a bad back, so I need something that is no more than 4 lbs. But, if you are a big buff photog, you can probably manage something a bit heavier. ;)

Lisa Bettany night shoot in Austin

Setting up a shot in Austin, TX at last year’s SXSW.

2. Remote Cable Release
You want to avoid any camera shake during long exposures, so it’s best if you use a cable release remote to trigger the shutter. I prefer the wired models to the wireless ones because they always work and batteries always have this nasty habit of failing when you need them most. Cable releases are camera specific, so make sure you get the right model. If you don’t have a remote, you can always set your camera to 10s self-timer mode which will give your camera enough time to settle after you press the button and hopefully not cause any movement in your shot. I often use this method and it works fine, but if you are planning on doing a lot of night photography or self-portraits a remote is a good investment.

3. Lens Hood.
I rarely use lens hoods during the day because I love lens flare, but over-powering street lights can ruin night shots. If you plan on shooting in a well-lit city make sure you bring your lens hood!

4. Flash Light or head lamp or cell phone.
If it’s dark and you drop your lens cap in a bush, or you need to change lenses on a windy beach, or you need to change your camera’s settings in the pitch black, you’ll thank yourself for carrying a flash light! Cell phones are decent, but sometimes they don’t have enough light to see what you are doing. If you want to be hard core, you can buy a little LED head lamp that you can wear during your night shooting escapades. I used one when I was shooting out in the bush in Jackson Hole. Would I wear one in NYC? Not so much. :P

While I can’t give you a specific camera setting to use for night photography because every situation is different, here is a general guideline.

My Birthday Night view of Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. 5DMKII + 16-35mm, 10s at f5.0, 1SO 100.

1. Set your camera on Manual (M):
You’ll need full control of the Aperture and Shutter speed of your camera for night photography. If you use your camera’s Auto settings your photos will either turn out too dark, or with a lot of unwanted movement or ghosting of lights. If you’ve never used your camera’s Manual settings, I encourage you to head out one night and give it a try!

2. Use a shutter speed from 5s-15s.
Longer shutter = My photo is too dark, I need more light. I took the above photo just after sunset and there was still a lot of light, so I only needed a 3.2s exposure to get enough light in my shot. 30 minutes later, I needed to increase my shutter speed to 10 seconds to get the same exposure. If it’s totally pitch black, or you want to capture star trails, you may need to use a shutter speed of 30s or more. In this case, switch your camera to Bulb mode. You can trigger when you want your exposure to start and end. I use my iPhone’s timer to keep track of time.

3. Keep your ISO as low as possible.
I always shoot on ISO 100 to get the least noise as possible. Since you are using a tripod you don’t need to increase your ISO to get a brighter exposure.

Santa Monica Pier Sunset

Santa Monica Pier Sunset. Canon 5DMKII + 24-70 f/2.8L, 3.2s at f/22, ISO 100.

4. Set your Aperture for the optimal depth of field that you want.
There are two main aperture settings for night photography.

Shoot with your aperture wide open (f/1.4-f/4 depending on your lens). Wide Aperture = More light. Use this if your subject will benefit from a shallow depth of field for example, a lit fountain in front of a building where you want the fountain to be in focus and the building slightly blurred. You can also use a wide aperture if you don’t have a tripod or want to stop any movement in your shot because your shutter speed will be much faster if your aperture is wide. Note: Using a wide aperture will give street lights in your photo a slight halo, so if you don’t like the look of this use a higher aperture.

Shoot with a smaller aperture (f/9.0 and higher). Use this if you want everything in focus. It works best to capture landscapes, cityscapes, car tail lights with motion blur, water or star trails. Also, using a smaller aperture will give street lights a “star-like” effect which can yield really cool photos.

If you want to play it safe you can shoot right in the middle around f/5.0-f/8.0.

The Knight bus at Big Ben, Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster, 5DMKII+16-35mm, 8s at f/8.0, ISO 100.

5. Catch Focus, even in the pitch black!
Most cameras will have difficulty focusing using auto-focus in dark conditions. Auto-focusing can work at night if you your subject has enough light, like a well-lit bridge or building, but more often than not you’ll have to use Manual focus. If you are trying to shoot a dark statue, you can shine a flash light beam on the statue and grab your focus that way or use Live View. To use Live View, simply turn it on, increase your ISO so that you can see your subject more clearly, pick something to focus on, zoom in, manually focus and turn Live View off, reset your ISO settings to 100/200 and you are ready to go. If you don’t have Live View, then you can use infinity focus (the ∞ symbol) on the distance indicator of your lens. Place the dot or mark right in between the ∞ and your focus will be infinite. Some lenses aren’t tack sharp at infinity focus so make sure you test out your lens before taking any important shots.

I hope that this guide helps keep you motivated and inspired to get out and take some night photos. Please share your shots in the comments or on your Google+ page. Can’t wait to see your shots! :)

16 Photography Project Ideas to keep you shooting every day!

Jan 21 2011

Taking a photo everyday can be a daunting task, but as I look back over the last 20 days worth of shots I’ve taken for my Mostly365 challenge I am really proud of the results. To keep everyone inspired I’m giving you 16 photo project suggestions for your 365!

1. Self portraits

Day 15: Selfie + 5DMKII
50 f/1.4, 1/30 @ f/2.8, ISO 640.

Give people a glimpse at the artist behind the camera and take a self-portrait. You can do a classic camera-in-hand mirror snap like mine, or get creative and put your camera on a tripod, set a timer, and run in a wheat field. There are so many options for creative shots and the best thing about you being the model is you can take your shot whenever you like and take as long as you want snapping it!

2. Moon shots

Day 17: I have a dream... Moon over the Bay Bridge, San Francisco
Bay Bridge, SF. 5DMKII+ 100mm f/2.8 L, 1/40 at f/8.0, ISO 500.

There are many faces of the moon and almost all of them make for spectacular photos. If you happen to own a long or telephoto lens put it to good use and grab some stunning shots. If not, consider renting one for your dSLR and go on a special nighttime shoot and capture both the moon and stars. You can even share the rental cost between friends and make a fun night of it.

You’d also be surprised at the shots you can get with your camera phone. Just make sure you prop your phone on something stable while you take your shot.

3. Nature Macros

*silence*
Dew drops on grass.

There is so much beauty out there — leaves in puddles, dew drops on grass, snowflakes on tree branches. Head outside and capture all the little details of nature. Try shooting with a really shallow depth of field (f/2 and lower) to get dreamy artistic shots.

4. Portraits

*i found you*
5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/200 @ f/2.8, ISO 100.

I am most passionate about taking portraits. From candid street photos shots, to strobe light lit creatives, to magic hour back lit shots, the possibilities are endless. The only problem is you need a subject. If you are blessed with an understanding and patient partner or family member, start practicing taking portraits of them. If you are feeling a bit more bold, you can always head out on the street and try to get some candids of people walking by or even ask strangers to pose for you.

If you are looking to photograph the attractive sort then you can try finding a model through ModelMayhem.com (more tips on photographinc  models here) or pester some of your good-lookin’ Facebook friends. Almost everyone wants a great Facebook profile shots, so offer to give them a nice shot for their time. More tips on taking great portraits.

5. Fun Macros

Day 13: Mini Michael Bay Movie Still
5DMKII+100 f/2.8, 1/200 at f/4.5, ISO 125 + 430EX  double CTO gel.

During bad weather days, dig around in your house for a fun little toy, keepsake or gadget to snap. You can light your subject with strobes to get a bit more creative, or just position your toy in front of a large day lit window and get great natural light.

6. Musical Performances

Day 1: Florence + the Machine NYE at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
Florence + the Machine NYE at the Cosmopolitan, 1/60 at f/3.2, ISO 1600.

Every time you are out at a show grab a shot. Taking photos at concerts was actually how I started working as a photographer and all I had was my little Canon Rebel Xti and the 50mm f/1.4. Often, you aren’t able to bring dSLRs into concerts, so make sure you can before you head out. If you aren’t allowed to bring your gear,  try to grab a shot with your camera phone or small point and shoot.

7. Your City’s Landmarks through the Seasons

Day 18: San Francisco Union Square Heart
Union Square heart, SF. 16-35mm, 1/80 at f/4.0, ISO 4000

Every city has it’s famous landmarks. Set a goal to capture 10 of most interesting over the course of the year, and take a shot of each landmark during the 4 seasons. Imagine a a collection of shots of the same statue during fall, winter, spring and summer seasons. For more variation, you can take a shot during the day, night or sunrise and sunset. It’s always good to have your camera on you whenever you go out in your city, so that if you see a good lighting situation you can grab a quick shot!

8. Bokeh shots

Day 3- Snap!

Bokeh shots are always fun to shoot whether you set up little lights behind your subject like I did here or just use what’s in your environment. This is another great project for a rainy day. You can also get great bokeh with street or building lights at night.

9. Architecture & Building shots

Gorgeous Interior of The Plaza Hotel, NYC
The Plaza Hotel, NYC. 5DMKII, 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/125 at f/3.2, ISO 4000.

Head to your local museum, parliament building, or city sites with interesting architecture. A wide angle lens from 15mm to 35mm is ideal for this type of photography. Most kit lenses fit the bill. Obviously a really wide angle like the 16-35mm or even a fish-eye yield the most interesting results. But, if you don’t have a wide angle lens, then focus on capturing the details. Close-ups of pillars, doorways, or statues can make cool shots.

10. Landscapes

Oxbow Bend foggy at dawn, Grand Tetons
Oxbow Bend, Grand Tetons. Xti, 7s at f/, ISO 100.

If you live near nature or are taking a trip out of the city then make sure you take some shots of breathtaking landscapes. Old roads winding through snowy fields, mountains jutting up into cloudy skies, or majestic trees lining a sunken vallies all make great photos. Pay attention to your composition and look for “S” shapes in rivers, paths, and rocks.

11. Raindrops on windows


Rainy day in SF, iPhone4 processed with Camera+.

Raindrops on windows make really cool and interesting shots. You can get really creative with these shots so really stretch your imagination and see what you can create.

12. Food Photos

Ginger & Polenta Waffles

It may be slightly annoying to your friends and family, but snap a shot of your food before you eat it, especially fancy foods and deserts. Mmm. Chocolates :) Try to light your shots, either by placing the food in front of a nice bright window, or with speed lights if you have them, or just turn on some ambient light and use a nice low aperture lens like the 50mm f/1.4. If you are in a really dark restaurant you can also try moving the candle light close to your food to get a bit more light.

13. Pet Portraits

Leo's Ozzie
Leo’s Ozzie, Xti, 1/100 at f/4.0, ISO 100.

Pets are often easier to shoot than most people. Plus, they whine less and can be bribed with snacks. Here are some tips to get great pet photos.

14. Sports & Action shots

Felions at BC Place
CFL Felions, 5DMKII, 15mm f/2.8, 1/25, f/5.6, IS0 320.

Whether you are at at a World Series showdown or a little league game, there are amazing sports photos just waiting to be taken. Freeze the action with a fast shutter speed and a long telephoto, take a tilt-shift of the entire stadium, or snap a fish-eye shot of the distracting cheerleaders at the game like I did :P If you can’t make it to the Superbowl, head to a local sporting event or even down the street to the nearest park. I’m sure you can find some impromptu soccer match for some great action shots.

15. Sunsets

iPhone 4, edited in Camera+.

From cityscapes to silhouetted figures in front of a sandy horizon line, everything looks magical at sunset. What’s great about sunsets is that every camera can capture the magic . I shot the above photo with my iPhone. :)

16. Night shots

My Birthday Night view of Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate, 16-35mm, 10s @ f5.0, 1SO 100.

Grab your tripod and shutter release and head out into the night to take some stunning night photos. Take long 15s exposures of cars whizzing by creating trails of light, or ghost-like movement of people walking by dark buildings, or bright neon city signs. If you plan on doing regular night photography, you might want to invest in a small headlamp or LED flashlight to hemp you find your camera buttons in the dark.

Hope that this list helps keep you motivated and inspired to keep snapping a daily photo. Not every photo has to be a masterpiece. Remember to take photos that remind you of your daily life and the little things that make you smile.

If you haven’t already joined my Mostly365 project feel free to jump in anytime! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see your shots everyday. Getting a glimpse into the lives of so many photographers from all over the world is a wonderful thing!

I am also tweeting daily suggestions and showcasing some of the best 365 shots each day, so be sure to follow Mostly365 on Twitter.

Creative iPhone photography with Camera+

Aug 3 2010

The newest version of Camera+ offers some powerful tools to take great shots with your iPhone. I’ve seen some breathtaking shots from budding iPhoneographers through our weekly photo contests.

In this video tutorial, I demo some creative ways you can use our new Camera features, Touch Focus and Touch Exposure, to take your iPhone photos to a whole new level. I can’t wait to see your photos!

Link me to any of your great shots on this post!