Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friday Q & A on Saturday -- photography & techy stuff

With Elle's birthday yesterday I never got to my Q & A. I have so many good questions waiting to be answered that I don't want to skip a week. The parenting ones are sure making me think. Some of those are coming next week...

I have a Nikon (D100) and am having some serious trouble when I take pictures of anything white, such as my daughters blessing dress, or even a bright room. The camera seems to think things are too bright and therefore darkens the photo. I know this problem could be solved by switching to manual, but I don't even know how to do that or what to do once I have switched to manual! Help!

Yes, you need to flip that little switch to manual and discover the new, beautiful world that mode will open up for you! It is true that there are so many amazing things cameras these days can do on automatic settings. You can get some beautiful results. But if you really want to be in control of your images you will love "harnessing the light" in manual settings. I'm sure you could find numerous tutorials if you google them, but I would SO recommend investing in a good camera class. I praise the class I took on a daily basis because it taught me so much.

I'll tell you what I do for what it's worth, but if the following sounds like gibberish to you please go invest in a class! You'll never regret it.

Ok, here are my thoughts: It's all about balancing the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I usually start with setting the ISO according to my light. The brighter the light, the lower the ISO number. When I am at the beach I generally have it set on 160. Inside my house I set it to around 320-500 depending on how close I am to a window. In the evening I keep upping it until I can't get any more light. Sometimes I take photos on 6400 ISO when it gets really dark.

Next I set the aperture. If I'm taking a photo of one person I like to keep my aperture at a 2.8 (the lower the number the wider the opening to create a more shallow depth of field). I love how it blurs out the background and can keep the eyes sharp. (I always toggle my focus exactly on the pupil of the eye.) But if I have a few people in the shot I up the aperture number a few notches unless I want one person in focus and the others blurred out.

Finally, I set the shutter speed while looking through the lens at my subject. I use my thumb-dial to get the light meter right where I want it (usually one or two tiny notches up from the middle on the "+" side).

Just so you feel better about the white balance thing, I had a Nikon D100 that really was horrible with white balance. I thought it was just me and then I upgraded and realized it was actually the camera. So maybe you can forget all that mumbo-jumbo above and just ask for a new camera from Santa...Christmas isn't too far away, right? (wait, did I just say that?)

Although I shoot in manual mode I almost always leave my white balance setting on auto. If I discover "auto" mode didn't do it's job very well when I get to Lightroom I use that little dropper thing to fix it and it is magical.

Hope that helps!

I am wondering how you blur your background. Is that a photo shop thing or do you do that with your camera?

The answer to that is all in the aperture setting. The higher the aperture number the more in focus the entire picture will be over all (good for landscapes and large groups). If you set your aperture to be wide (low, low numbers), you will get more blur in the background and a smaller area in focus (like the eyes...love that).

We bought the 5D Mark ii about a year ago and I finally know all the ins and outs. I'm wondering...do you have certain settings that are your go-to settings to taking your everyday family pictures?? That is my ultimate goal...to take great family pictures. Do you always shoot in manual? What is your favorite aperture to use? Do you use autofocus or do you always adjust your focal points? Do you always change your white balance or do you use AWB? AI Focus vs AI Servo vs one shot? Spot Metering?

Yes, always in manual. Favorite aperture: 2.8 (it would be lower but I am too lazy to switch out to my 50 mm 1.4 more often). I always use auto focus but I always adjust the focal points to be sure the camera's focus is on the eyes. White balance: auto (see above question). I never change if from the "one shot" setting. I do not use spot metering although I would like to start.

How do you shoot in bright sunlight without over-exposing the white area? Or is this something you fix in editing software? Also, what lens/settings do you use to shoot macro shots with your big camera? I love to do super-close-ups of nature, but they don't always turn out how I'd like them to.

I think the spot metering would totally fix the over-exposure issue if I took the time to do that in the first place. But in bright sunlight I make sure to meter right on those eyes/faces and most of the time that works like a charm. I like photos to be bright (hence the setting my light meter a couple notches closer to the "+"), but if someone or something happens to get overexposed I can scale down the exposure in Lightroom and also use the "recovery" dial that will pull back some of that information.

As for the nature photos I like to use my 50mm 1.4 lens but I honestly take a lot more of them with my little point-and-shoot (Canon Elph 750) on the "macro" setting. I just always have that camera with me so it makes capturing nature easy as pie.

On a sunny day I often end up with a pictures that have shade and sun on faces and I hate that. As probably every kid, my kids hate having sun in their eyes, so I pose them so they don't look directly into he sun, but then their faces are half sunny and half not. Is there a way to avoid that? I want some sunny pictures and I keep having this problem!! Can you help???!!

I kinda like the half sunny/half not look for for a dramatic effect sometimes, but most of the time I opt for more of a back-lit picture. If the sun is behind my subjects I make sure to up my shutter speed a little to get a little more light in for exposure (bump up the light meter closer to the "+"). Am I making any sense?

What tips do you have for photographing young kids (around age 1–2 years)? They are SO wiggly and it's hard to get them told still.

I basically make a complete fool of myself behind the camera. I play peek-a-boo while trying my darnedest to hold the camera still. I make every kind of animal noise imaginable. I get my other kids or husband to stand behind me and clap or coo or make the silliest faces they can. I follow kids around and let them do what they want to do...that way I tend to get more natural shots.

So what DO you do with all the pictures of your kids? You don't scrapbook. I have 5 kids too and think it would almost be impossible to keep up on that many scrapbooks anyway, but how do you plan to be able to "hand over" pictures of them to them? Do you do photo books like Blurb or something? Do you plan on attacking that later? I take a lot of pictures of my kids as well, and I feel a little sick wondering how to preserve them in a meaningful way.

Oh my word I wish I had a magical answer for this. In my dream world I would do a blurb book every year and a yearly digital book of images of each child for a gift for them each Christmas like some of my friends do. But instead I have thousands upon thousands of pictures just sitting on my computer that I don't even have an external back-up for. It scares me to death. As of last week I just completed my third summer failing on my serious goal to get busy on that stuff. Please help!

How do you make your own header on your blog - I love the collage of photos.

and
I was just wondering if you know how your daughter, Elle, made the personalized header at the top of her blog? {see here} Did she use a specific program such as Picasa?

Elle and I both used Photoshop for our headers. I love Photoshop for stuff like that. But it does take time and you have to know Photoshop relatively well. I know that my friend Sarah has an awesome tutorial here about making a blog banner in Picasa. (I love Sarah.)
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