Camera Controls an Introduction

CAMERA CONTROLS

© Robin Whalley 2005 ( http://www.lenscraft.co.uk/documents/photo_know_how.html )
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Introduction

This article is about the basics of camera control that will open up creative possibilities for you. If you have an SLR camera then it’s likely that you will have a number of pre-programmed shooting modes available, often selected by a dial on top of the camera (although you may need to refer to your camera’s manual). The simplest mode is often represented by a green square and when selected the camera becomes very simple to operate, allowing you to just point and shoot. Whilst point and shoot can be helpful for the grab shots and snaps, for a Photographer it does not give a great deal of control. By losing this control you are removing an important artistic element from your work and taking a great picture will become very much hit and miss.In addition to the point and click mode SLR’s will often provide a number of other preprogrammed modes to assist in picture-taking. These are often represented by simple pictures such as mountains, runners and flowers, indicating the type of image they are best suited to. Whilst these give you control over and above the point and shoot mode, you are still relying on what the manufacturer has programmed into the camera. If you want to take real control over your camera and use it creatively to produce consistently good results you had better learn about the inter-relationship between aperture, shutter speed and film and how these affect your image.Shutter SpeedMost SLR cameras will allow you to select a shutter speed of between 1/2000 of a second and 30 seconds. This enables you to control the amount of light reaching either the film or the camera’s digital sensor allowing control over the exposure of the picture. In addition to exposure the shutter speed will affect aspect of the image that allows you to become more creative.If I am taking a picture of a car travelling at speed I have a choice as to how I want to represent the car. Assuming I can select a very fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/500 second) without affecting the exposure of the image then I can freeze the action and make the car appear sharp in the image. If I now slow down the shutter speed to perhaps 1/30 second then this is unlikely to be slow enough to freeze the motion of the car. The result is that the car would appear blurred whilst the other stationary elements of the image would appear sharp. Applied correctly, this blurring effect can be used to provide the image with a sense of motion and movement. This takes the image away from being a simple representation of a scene to something moreartistic.Once you understand the above principle you can start to apply it creatively to all sorts of images. A common example is the blurring of waterfalls. By selecting a shutter speed of between 1 and 10 seconds, moving water can appear almost misty and smooth. Another example is the light trails captured at night when the headlights from passing cars leave a trail across pictures.In the preceding discussion we assumed that we could select whatever shutter speed we wanted without affecting the exposure of the image. When selecting a shutter speed you will also need to adjust the Aperture and film speed accordingly in order to correctly expose the image. One easy way to overcome this is to use the Speed Priority mode that most SLR’s offer. This is often represented as a “Ts” setting on thecamera but you may need to check your camera’s manual. When you select the shutter speed in this mode the camera will automatically determine the film speed and then select the required aperture to produce a correct exposure.The shutter priority mode is very useful when you decide that you need to control the shutter speed but are not worried about the other factors such as Aperture.  Typically this will be where you wish to control the degree of movement represented in yourpicture.If your subject is stationary then you are unlikely to worry about the shutter speed.The exception to this is however where you are hand holding the camera rather than having it mounted on a tripod. What hand holding introduces is the risk of Camera Shake, however this can be reduced or even eliminated through selecting the correct shutter speed. A basic rule of thumb is to take the inverse of the focal length of thelens as the slowest shutter speed. If you are using a 50mm lens then the slowest shutter speed is 1/50 second whilst a 300mm lens would demand a shutter speed ofat least 1/300 second.ApertureOnce you have got to grips with the ideas around shutter speed selection and the implications, you can move on to consider the aperture and the effect this can have on your images. Like the shutter speed, aperture settings also control the amount of light reaching the film or digital sensor. Very simply you can think of the aperture as the size of the hole inside the lens that allows light through. A wide aperture will therefore allow more light through than a narrow aperture.The aperture is measured in f stops which are represented by numbers such as 1.8,5.0, 8.0 etc. The smaller the number then the more light allowed through by the aperture, so an aperture of 1.8 allows much more light through than an aperture of8.0. Again, this is a method of controlling the exposure of the image being taken.There is however an important feature of the aperture setting that allows it to be used creatively in photography and that is it controls something called depth of field. The depth of field is the range between which the objects in the picture will be in sharp focus. There is a further twist on the above and that is the nearer the point in your image that you are focussing on the shallower the depth of field. For example you might select an aperture setting of f.22 assuming this will give your image sharp focus from the front to the rear. Whilst this might be true when the point you are focussing on is perhaps 15 feet away, if the point of focus is only 1 foot away it’s doubtful. There is away around this problem using a technique called “hyper focal focussing” but it is an advanced technique beyond the scope of this article.Different lenses will also have different depth of field characteristics. A wide angle lens such as a 24mm will provide much more depth of field at f4.0 than will a telephoto lens such as a 200mm at the same aperture.Depth of field can be a great tool to add impact to your images. With scenic views such as landscapes it’s common to use a very small aperture to achieve the sharpestpossible focus throughout the scene. This helps create the feeling of depth and add impact to this type of image. Portrait images however often benefit from using a wide aperture so that the person is in sharp focus but the background is thrown out off focus. This helps focus attention on the subject in the picture.The final point is that as the aperture affects the volume of light hitting the film orcamera’s digital sensor, it will also affect the shutter speed. This means that you are likely to need to make some kind of trade off between aperture and shutter speed.For example if you want to capture a pin sharp scenic view you will need a very small aperture which will increase the shutter speed and could make it impossible to handhold the shot. This could be made worst still if you are using a slow film or a low ISO setting on a digital camera.Film SpeedThe final variable to consider is the selection of film speed. The film speed (indicated by an ISO value) determines how sensitive film or in the case of a digital camera the sensor is to light. The lower ISO values of 50 or 100 or much less sensitive to light than the higher values such as 1600 or 3200.If you are using a slow film or ISO setting such as 100 then you will need to use a wider aperture to achieve the same shutter speed as you can with a faster film or setting. This can make slow film or low ISO settings impractical for fast moving subjects such as sports unless you are able to select a very wide aperture or introduce some for of artificial lighting.Film speed carries with it another creative possibility which is the size of grain. As the film speed increases so too does the amount of grain that can be seen in the final picture. Grain can look particularly effective in Black & White images where you wish to create a moody scene. Fog and stormy conditions can take on a whole new appearance when there is a lot of grain present. If you want to experiment with grain try using an ISO 1600 or even 3200 film speed.In the case of digital, grain is replaced with the problem of noise. Noise does share some of the characteristics of grain but it does not look quite right in images. That said, if you turn a colour image to black and white noise can add a creative dimension to the image. It’s also possible to add additional noise in software such asPhotoshop.If you find that other creative choices require you to use a higher ISO setting on your digital camera and that this is introducing unwanted noise, you can always use specialist software to remove most if not all of the noise. If you are shooting in RAW format you will find that the latest versions of Photoshop (CS onward) have support for RAW files and that there is an option to remove noise. Another alternative to investigate noise removal products such as “Neat Image”, a link for which can be found on the Links page of the Lenscraft web site.So there you have it, some basic camera control that you really should learn and master. Happy shooting.

 
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Adding a Creative Vignette Effect

I was recently asked how to add a creative Vignette effect to an image. There are quite a few ways and some will depend on your version of Photoshop. Here is a really quick and easy method that will work with most versions of Photoshop.

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Creading a Digital ND Grad Filter

Whilst it is almost always advisable to use a ND Grad filter when shooting landscapes, what can you do if you just don’t get it right in camera. This article exaplins how you can create a digital ND graduated filter in Photoshop to help darken or lighten a sky and balance the exposure of your image.

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Adding Realistic Film Grain

There is more to a good black and white image than just the conversion from colour. Being able to reproduce realistic film grain is one of the keys to being able to make a first rate print. Whilst editing software such as Photoshop can produce grain, the results are often less than successful and not really believable. In this tutorial I will demonstrate how Photoshop can be used to easily recreate and control realistic film grain.

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Correcting Coverging Verticals

When shooting architecture, the problem of converging verticals often occurs. The ability to deal with this issue often marks an image as being of professional quality. This tutorial explains why the problem occurs and what you can do to correct it in a non-destructive way.

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Professional Dodge & Burn

Don’t stop enhancing your images once you have made global adjustments. To really make the most impact you need local changes to light and  shadow contrast through dodging & burning. This tutorial explains how to do this in an effective non-destructive way.

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Film and Scanner Calibration in Vuescan

A recent addition to my articles is this tutorial explaining how to profile a scanner using the VueScan scanner software. It provides step by step instruction on how to use a film target to create a colour management profile in VueScan. This is a great feature of the software that is in itself worth the purchase price. If you purchased dedicated film profiling and calibration software it would cost many times the price of VueScan.

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High Pass Sharpening

There are many ways in Photoshop to sharpen an image. I find one of the best and most flexible to be using the High Pass filter. This isn’t an obvious technique but it is relatively simple to use. It’s also very powerful and effective, especially on noisy images. One of the key benefits of High Pass sharpening is that it doesn’t emphasise noise in the image.

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High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography

High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR for short) is one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of photography. The technique which springs from the Movie and Computer Games Industry has only recently become possible for many photography enthusiasts but is rapidly being accepted as mainstream. It is very easy to achieve once you have had a little guidance but it is also very easy to abuse. I have seen brilliant images and unfortunately I have seen dreadful examples as well. This tutorial will take you through all the basics of what you need to know using the Photomatix tool.

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How to Holga an Image in Photoshop

The Holga toy camera has been with us for some time but has seldom been used seriously outside of the fine are photography community. More recently it has gained a mainstream popularity through the work of photographers such as Lee Frost with articles appearing regularly in the photographic press. Whilst the camera is cheap to buy and now easy to obtain (thanks to ebay), there is an alternative to achieving the Holga look by using Photoshop. This tutorial explains step by step how to create the distinctive Holga appearance in Photoshop.  It is an incredibly popular tutorial, regularly holding the monthly top spot and is downloaded hundreds of times each month.

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How to Fix a Vignette in Photoshop

Vignettes provide a useful tool for the visual artist to help focus the eye on the main subject matter of the image. At other times it can be a source of frustration as a filter or filter holder strays into the edge of the image and you get a black corner in your shot. Most camera viewfinders don  t shop 100% of the image and with the popularity of super wide angle lenses, the unwanted vignette can be a regular problem. Here are a few simple steps to removing them from your image without the need to crop the shot.

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Photoshop Layers Explained Simply

Layers in Photoshop are an incredibly powerful and vital feature. Most of the complex processing and images that you now take for granted probably couldn  t be achieved without layers. Layers also provide a means of non destructive image editing. This tutorial will get you started with the basics of layers and how to use them.

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Using Quick Mask in Photoshop

The Photoshop Quick Mask tool is extremely useful and something that I use almost as often as the Curves adjustment. Once you understand the basics, it  s an incredibly powerful and versatile. This tutorial will introduce you to the basics of the tool and how it can be applied by the serious photographer.

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Create the Infrared Look in Photoshop

When we had film there was quite a movement of photographers that liked to play with infrared photography. Now unfortunately much of this specialist film can’t be purchased and if I am really honet it’s a good thing because it was far too difficult to use reliably. More recently the creation of infrared images has grown in popularity with many photographers choosing to have their digital cameras modified for the job. Whilst the images are great the downside is that it’s expensive and once modified the cameras will only shoot infrared images. Here is an easy alternative where you can simulate infrared images in Photoshop.

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Boosting Image Colour in Photoshop

In the good old days of shooting film (something that I still like to do) there were a number of films that photographers liked because they were highly saturated. For those of us that like to shoot Landscapes, there was only one real choice and that was Fuji Velvia. For a time it looked like we would lose our beloved Velvia but then it was re-released. This article describes how you can achieve similar levels of colour separation and saturation to those provided by Velvia. It goes way beyond just boosting saturation using the Hue & Saturation adjustment.

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Photoshop Curves Introduction

Possibly the most useful and frequently used tool in all of Photoshop is the Curves tool. If you don’t know how to use this tool properly you are only achieving a fraction of your images potential. When I wrote this article I intended to write a part 2 which would go into much more detail about colour correction, optimisation and special effects. I haven’t done this yet but it will come in the future. For now, here is part 1 covering the basics of what you need to know.

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Image Sharpening Basics

Images need sharpening no matter what the output, and that includes output to screen. Getting this right is however a true craft. It’s very easy to over sharpen or under sharpen an image. The very act of sharpening an image will also cause damage to the image so it’s vital you take care. Learn the basics here and you will be on your way to creating sharp images that have a real impact on the viewer.

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Introduction to Photoshops Shadow & Highlight Tool

In the more recent releases of Photoshop, a new and highly useful tool has been released. To my mind it hasn’t received the publicity that it should have given what can be achieved and the variety of uses it can be put to. Here I explain how to use the Shadow and Highlight adjustment to boost a sunset image whilst bringing out the detail of the foreground.

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Basic Inkjet Printing

I wrote this article some time ago when it was much more difficult to produce an acceptable inkjet print. I wrote it in response to frequent questions being asked of me as to why peoples prints just didn’  look like photographs. Whilst most of the problems are easily solved and probably don’t occur as frequently, I think there is still valuable advice in the pages, so for now it stays on the site.

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Image Editing Basics

Photoshop is a huge software program with immense editing power. Part of this power comes from the ability to achieve good results in a variety of different ways. This flexibility can however be confusing and even dangerous to the quality of your images.  When we first start to use Photoshop it seems difficult but some of the tools seem to give good results (usually include the word Auto in the title). We therefore tend to learn by trial and error, often picking up poor practices. This article sets you off in the right direction with some of the basics.

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Understanding the Colour Temperature of Light

You might not realise it but the light around you has temperature and this temperature affects its colour. Because of the colour temperature light can appear cold and blue or warm and red. Whilst digital cameras offer a way to control this in their white balance setting, it’s much better to understand what is happening. Once you understand light colour temperature you will be able to use it to your advantage in the photographs you take. This tutorial explains what you need to know in order to add drama to your images.

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Introduction to Digital Black & White using Photoshop

Not too long ago if you wanted to produce good black & white images you needed to master the complicated black art of the dark room. With the advent of the digital dark room it  s never been easier to turn an image black and white. Unfortunately this has made many people lazy and the quality of many images is poor. This tutorial explains a few of the approaches you can take to creating black and white images from colour in Photoshop. It isn’t a definitive guide but will get you started with the right tools. Best of all it works with even the earlier versions of Photoshop.

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Basic Camera Control

When you first seriously start in photography and purchase an SLR camera, the terminology can be very confusing. What is depth of field, an f stop, the ISO rating? This tutorial explains some of the basics as well as providing a firm foundation on which to build your own photographic skills. You will learn how to control aperture settings and shutter speed to give creative control over your work. Don’t just capture images, learn to create them.

Courtesy of Lens Craft UK

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