Category Archives: Photo Tips & Techniques

Photo Lesson: Mysteries of the Histogram Unraveled

What secrets are hidden in the digital histogram?
What secrets are hidden in the digital histogram?

One of the pillars upon which good photography rests is proper or optimum exposure. Without it, an otherwise outstanding photograph falls short or may be completely ruined.

If you don’t know much about histograms, and don’t want to know much about them but want to improve your digital photography here’s the condensed version of this post: Histograms show the distribution of brightness values in a photo. Check the histograms after every shot and adjust your exposure to keep the graph within the left and right borders like the histogram above. If you want a better of understanding of histograms then read on…

How to Photograph Fireworks

I often like fireworks photos where they spill out of the frame.
I often like fireworks photos where they spill out of the frame.

I wish I had posted this a week or so ago in order to give you a little more of an opportunity to soak it all in, but better a little late than never. Right? There’s still a day till the 4th.

Fireworks are intensely hot explosions but photos of fireworks can be pretty cool. How’s that for some clever word play? OK, forget that… I’ve had a glass of wine…

I probably didn't leave the shutter open very long for this shot.
I probably didn’t leave the shutter open very long for this shot.

Seriously, getting good photos of fireworks requires both knowing how as well as good luck. I can help with the first part. READ MORE…

Photo Lesson: HDR… What’s That About?

You may have heard of it. Possibly seen the letters on your camera or smart phone screen: HDR. What does that mean? What does it do? Why should you care? Glad you asked. What follows is a simplified, lay explanation of HDR but it should suffice for our purposes. I’m also including some photos so you can see for yourself. READ MORE…

The HDR image at the bottom right combines the best of the other three.
The HDR image at the bottom right combines the best of the other three. Click to enlarge into a new web browser window.

Shoot the Moon and Miss Completely

Full moon
The exposure for this moon shot was calculated using the Sunny f-16 Rule. See article text.

Have you heard the song? Shoot the Moon by Norah Jones? How does any man listen to her sing and play her piano and not fall hopelessly in love with the woman? And it’s not just Shoot the Moon. I’ve got her album Come Away With Me in my music library and it’s the most listened to of all the albums I own.

In Shoot the Moon there’s a line, part of which is title of this Photo Tip. Have you ever seen a big, beautiful full moon in the dark night sky that you wanted to photograph but when you tried it came out over-exposed, all white with little or no detail? You may have a camera that makes terrific exposures most of the time but when you shoot the moon it misses completely, giving you disappointing exposures.

Here’s what’s going on… READ MORE

Oopsie!

Last night I published a post titled “Making Better Photographs: Which Camera To Buy”. It was supposed to include some photographs, but apparently it did not, at least for some people. Whether it was a breakdown in technology or operator error I don’t know. Either way, I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience . I will attempt to include the photos below. Cross your fingers! If you don’t see them below, and even if you do, HERE is a link to the full article on the blog.

The photos above were all created on the iPhone. Most if not all the post-processing was also done on the iPhone.

Making Better Photographs: Which Camera To Buy

It’s not uncommon for people interested in improving their photography to ask me about the equipment I use to shoot my photos once they’ve seen them. Nikon? Canon? Some other brand? The thought is that with the right equipment their photography will improve.

While there is some truth to the thought that good equipment will help make better photos, I’m here to tell you that the equipment used has a lot less to do with it than you might think. It’s understandable that people ask about equipment in pursuit of making better photos. There are better, more important questions to ask, however, but people often don’t ask these questions because they don’t know what questions to ask.

It is far more important to understand photography than to have the best camera. A skilled and knowledgeable photographer can make better photos with less than the best equipment than can be made by a person with a $5,000 camera but inadequate skills. I offer in evidence the photos accompanying this article. The equipment used to shoot these photos was none other than an iPhone, and not even one of the newer ones. It has no aperture or shutter speed controls, no white balance settings, no automatic modes for close-ups, portraits or landscapes. It has absolutely none of the bells and whistles of even the cheapest Nikon yet here you some examples of what you can do with it… IF you know what and how to do it.

I’m fond of saying that for just two letters “if” is a very big word. If you understand something about lighting, composition, color theory, using a histogram and post processing you can do a lot with little in terms of camera gear. Beyond that, a lot of the bells and whistles camera manufacturers include are nothing more than crutches for people lacking basic photographic knowledge and they stand in the way of making better photos! For example, some cameras have a close-up setting.Well, what does that do, exactly? How about the landscape setting, or the sport setting? If you don’t know you need to learn. Do you think pros use those settings? Not hardly. They can do a better job than the automatic settings.

So, if you are wanting to improve your photography it might be better to ask yourself what you can do to learn about the subject rather than what equipment you should have. Have you taken any classes? Read any books? Joined any clubs? Taken any lessons? Ask not what a fancier camera can do for you but what you can learn to do with the camera you have.

More of my photos are here.