Friday, May 11, 2012

Photography 101 | Think Like a Pro More Examples

Just joining in? Here's what you've missed:
Photography 101 | Coming Soon!
Photography 101 | Aperture
Photography 101 | Shutter Speed
Photography 101 | ISO
Photography 101 | Exposure Meter
Photography 101 | Depth of Field
Photography 101 | Motion
Photography 101 | Think Like a Pro
Photography 101 | Think Like a Pro Examples

Welcome back to my Photography 101 series! I'm so glad that you have decided to join me.

This week I am going to share some more examples with you.  Again, I am hoping that these will help you to make a little more sense out of my previous post, Think Like a Pro.  All of these are real life examples, where I created the photos under the given circumstances instead of making any attempts to stage the "perfect" shooting environment.

Example 3

Before we get started, here is the scene for the following photos.  Again it is my backyard, only this time it was about 7:10 PM.  This photo was taken from the opposite side of the yard from last week's examples and the setting sun is almost directly behind me...

I took the above photo with my 50 mm lens, set to 1/40 f/16 ISO 400.  To select these settings, I recognized that nothing in my scene was in motion so I was going to focus on selecting my aperture opening first.  I knew that I wanted my entire scene in focus, so I wanted a large depth of field, which is the result of selecting a small aperture opening.  I knew that it was getting dark and I was going to have to use a fairly slow shutter speed in order to get enough light into the camera to properly expose my image and experience has taught me that I can usually hand hold this lens at 1/40 and still keep my shot in focus.  The camera had automatically adjusted the ISO to 400 as I made my other selections and I decided that would work just fine for the above image and took the photo.

A few days ago, I put a post up on Facebook asking if anyone had any requests of shooting situations they would like me to address in these examples. Someone left a comment requesting that I show an example of photographing a moving subject (i.e. dogs or children) in low light.  This was a great suggestion, as it presents a fairly difficult set of circumstances to consider and doesn't fit within the regular sequence of my considerations for determining manual settings.  So, instead of addressing this example like I did the others, I'm going to take a different approach.

When you want to freeze the motion of a moving subject in low light conditions, you have two conflicting situations to consider.  You have the motion of your target that you want to freeze, requiring a fast shutter speed and a reasonable aperture (so the depth of field isn't too narrow) and you have the low light conditions, requiring a slow shutter speed and a large aperture.  So, what's a photog to do?

Well, let's consider our options, and the potential problems of each:

1. Use a larger aperture than you really want to use in an attempt to let more light into the camera.  (This is assuming that you have a lens that will open up wide enough to consider this options.  I was using my 50 mm f/1.2 lens for several of these example photos.)

Pro: Let in more light, allowing you to properly expose your photo and allowing you to shoot with a lower ISO to help eliminate noise.

Con: Small depth of field makes it harder to capture subjects in motion, especially when they are close to your lens and moving perpendicular to you.


The above photo was taken with the following settings: 1/500 f/2.0 ISO 250.  Lexi was running towards me and was fairly close to me when I took this photo.  There is sort of a small plane of focus starting at the front of the wall near the left side of the photo and extending over to the middle of her back. (I was kneeling down at an angle when I took this so it's a little bit hard to envision the focal plane since it isn't straight on.) Everything else in the photo fell outside of the depth of field and is therefore out of focus.

2. Use a slower shutter speed than you really want to use in order to let more light into the camera.

Pro: Let in more light, allowing you to properly expose your photo and allowing you to shoot with a lower ISO to help eliminate noise.

Con: A slower shutter speed will probably result in some blur of the motion of your moving subject.


The above photo was taken with the following settings: 1/80 f/2.8 ISO 1600.  Obviously this shutter speed was way too slow to freeze the motion of Zoe & Lexi as they were playing!  If you are going for intentional blur, then you won't have as much of a problem with low slight conditions, but when you are trying to freeze the motion it makes it a bit tougher.

3. Use a higher ISO than you really want to use in order to increase the sensitivity of the camera sensor, allowing you to shoot in lower lighting conditions.

Pro: Increase the sensitivity of the camera sensor, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed and/or a smaller aperture opening to better freeze motion while properly exposing your photo.

Con: The higher the ISO the more noise will be in your photo. (Exactly how much noise will be present at each ISO is very dependent on your camera model.)


The above photo was taken with the following settings: 1/500 f/2.8 ISO 3200.  It this particular photo the noise in the image is starting to become noticeable but isn't too awful yet.

The above photo was taken with the following settings: 1/320 f/2.8 ISO 3200.  As I was losing light, I had to slow down my shutter speed a little bit more, and I was still able to freeze the motion of Lexi running.  However, in the lower light conditions the noise of the photo is more apparent.  (I also cropped this photo slightly to help demonstrate the noise for anyone who didn't know what I was talking about when I mentioned noise in photos.  It's impossible to miss it in this one!!)

4.  Use a flash or another additional light source

Pro: Adding light to the scene will reduce or eliminate the issue of low light, allowing you to select the camera settings that you want to use to freeze the motion of your subject, and/or you can use the flash itself to freeze the motion of moving subjects.

Con: The flash on your camera doesn't have a very large range, so it probably won't illuminate your subject unless they are fairly close to your lens (and it does affect the shutter speeds you can use, but that's definitely a topic for way in the future), and other sources of light aren't all that easy to come by unless you happen to travel with some portable studio lighting every where you go.  If you're reading this article, I'm guessing you're just getting your feet wet with photography and don't own any expensive lighting equipment yet.


I didn't take any.  :)  Sorry, but I don't currently own the lighting equipment that would have been necessary for example photos, either.

5. Intentionally underexpose your image, knowing that you can edit it in Photoshop to brighten it up.

Yep, I said it.

I know that there are people that want to reach through the computer right now and strangle me at the mere suggestion of not "getting it right in the camera" but here's my thinking... we have a-maz-ing technology at our finger tips for editing photos today, so why not use it to our advantage every once in a while when it will help us to get the results we want out of our photos?

Pro: Allows more flexibility with the manual camera settings to freeze motion without inducing noise

Con: Requires the extra time and knowledge to edit the photo


Before Photoshop:

(This photo was taken with these settings: 1/320 f/2.8 ISO 3200)

After a quick adjustment of the exposure and brightness in Photoshop:

So, I guess you're still waiting for me to tell you what I would do, huh?  Honestly, there is no right answer.  It all comes down to personal preference.  For me, I don't love it when subjects that are in motion are blurry in my images when I didn't intend for them to be blurry.  I also don't love it when my images have a lot of noise in them.  And, I'm not really a big fan of shooting with my flash.   However, I am a HUGE fan of blurred out backgrounds in photos, so I have a lot of experience shooting with my lenses wide open.  As a result I know what to expect from them as far as depth of field.  So.... I usually opt for the wide aperture opening option.  I just try to keep in mind that if my subject is farther away from my lens, I will have a wider depth of field to work with.  I also try to keep the path of my subject's motion parallel to me if at all possible.  Here are a few examples...

1/500 f/2.0 ISO 200

1/500 f/2.0 ISO 200

1/500 f2.0 ISO 250

1/500 f/2.0 ISO 320

And there you have it! We have now covered everything you need to know to begin using the manual settings on your camera. I really hope that you have found these Photography 101 posts helpful as you begin to navigate your own path toward creating gorgeous photos in manual mode. I still have several more topics that I would like to cover in future Photography 101 posts, so stay tuned!

As always, thanks for stopping by and for reading. If you have any questions or suggestions for future Photography 101 topics, please leave me a comment or send me an email. I love hearing from readers!

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Visit Michele's website at Become a fan of Michele's work on Facebook. Follow Michele's updates on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. What adorable pups!! I'm going to have to come back to this series (from the beginning). So awesome.


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