Op this page I would like to give you some photo tips out of my year-long experience as a photographer. I hope this will give you more pleasure and satisfaction in photographing. The risk of unsuccessful images has decreased a lot since the break-through of digital photography, because now the photographer can control instantly whether a shot has been successful or not, through the built-in LCD-monitor of the camera. It is no longer crucial that the shot is perfect straightaway, as was the case with conventional photography, correction is always possible. Modern engineering is leading to new, unknown possibilities. On the other hand this can lead to laziness and a blind trust in technique. Many digital cameras have a lot of gadgets, but to my own experience the best shots are still the result of a long experience and making the right decisions at the right time. The manual adjustment setting as well as the shutter time / aperture preference settings are not at all superfluous. Of course there is no law which dictates how to make good photographs. Moreover, not everyone has the same demands with respect to photography. Nevertheless I thought it a nice idea to comment a number of photo matters here, hoping that some people might benefit of it.



  • Before making a picture, think of which lens is best suited for the purpose. If you are working with a zoom lens, make sure which optic angle is desirable. With portrait photography, setting the focal point to 60-90mm is preferable for digital cameras, and 100-150mm for analog cameras. The subject itself will fill up the image area sufficiently and you as photographer are yet on a comfortable distance of it, while no perspectivic distortion is occurring. When you are shooting a landscape or a big building, you could better use a wide angle lens, unless you are capturing details, for example of a memorial stone which is at a distance. With digital cameras this means using lenses with focal points between 10mm and 25mm. With analog cameras those values have to be multiplied with 1,6. That is because the surface of conventional small-film (24x36mm) is 1,6 times as big as the sensor surface of most digital cameras as it happens.
  • With wide angle lenses one has to cope with perspectivic distortion. This can be very artistic, but can also have a disturbing, disorderly effect, for example when a big building is being photographed from nearby and the lens position is held slightly upward, making straight lines to converge, which has the effect of the building falling over. Such a thing can be corrected with special, expensive lenses or with computer-software like Photoshop, but it can be prevented by holding the camera upright while taking a shot, in an angle parallel to the horizon. This is not always possible though, for example when you are too close to a building, bringing about that the top of it will not appear on the picture. On the other hand, you can make excellent, dynamic photographs, by using a 10mm lens (fish eye) and holding the camera upward when making a shot of e.g. a church tour, a suspension bridge or a sky scraper, creating paraboloids instead of straight lines.
  • If your intention is to capture flowers or insects, a special macro lens is recommendable. Many ordinary zoom lenses also have a macro reach, they are disappointing in that field though, because they do not have the sharpness of special lenses, made for the purpose (which are often quite a bit more expensive because of their special construction). A greater aperture value (which means a smaller lens opening) does not automatically imply that the sharpness of a photograph will improve. Sometimes, especially with cheaper lenses, the opposite occurs. The most useful aperture values for standard zoom lenses lie between 4 and 11.
  • Especially when you are working with higher focal points the rule is: whenever the shutter time with analog cameras is greater than 1 divided by the value of the focal point, you better could use a tripod because otherwise movement blur will occur, which is caused by the movement of your camera. Again, with digital cameras this value has to be multiplied with a factor 1,6. Many zoom lenses nowadays have a long-focus reach, for example 80-200mm. In the 200mm setting the lens will cover the same area as a 300mm lens of an analog camera (which does not imply that both lenses are equivalent !). No doubt a lens of special construction with a fixed focal point, which costs 6 times as much as a standard zoom lens, will lead to better results. For example such a lens has the possibility to use an aperture of down to 1.0, bringing much more light into the camera and improving thus the exposure latitude, compared with a standard zoom lens, the latter often being limited to aperture 5.6 at 200mm. Apart from this, the sharpness with more expensive lenses usually is a lot better. For sports photographers, who work with 1000mm lenses under all possible weather conditions, this is an absolute necessity for successful photographs.
  • Are you shooting fast moving objects like running horses, birds in flight, sportsmen in action or insects, than you will have to make sure that your shutter time is as short as possible, preferably smaller than or equal to 1/1000th of a second. The same goes for shooting images from a driving car or train. This can lead to shutter time/aperture combinations which are unsufficient to get the exposure right, which means that you will have to make the shutter time longer. Much depends on the available amount of light. On a bright, sunny day the exposure latitude is much greater than on an overcast day and at dusk the average amount of light which reaches us is a lot smaller than on mid day. In winter time the amount of light again is smaller than during the summer period, even on a sunny day, because the sun is situated lower at the sky. Many light does not reach us directly but only after lots of reflections of the sky, clouds, objects reflecting the sunlight, etc. This is clearly visible on photographs taken on a bright wintry day, in the shadow. A blue hue is predominant, originating from the sky.
  • To obtain a greater exposure latitude, one can adapt the ISO speed of the camera or of the used film. Under good day light conditions it is preferable to take the ISO speed as low as possible, for example ISO 100. In that case there is almost no noise in the dark areas of the image in case of digital photography and no grain in case of conventional photography. When you are photographing running horses or unpredictable moving children, there is sometimes not enough exposure latitude to produce sharp images with ISO 100, because the shutter time has to be as short as possible, while the exposure value always stays shutter time x aperture and the aperture value thus has to become greater, the latter being limited by the greatest possible value, which with a standard zoom lens mostly amounts to 4 or 5,6. Speeds of ISO 200 or 400 give better results in that case, supposed that there are not too many dark areas on the image, where noise/grain will have the upper hand. With sports photography noise or grain are often not critical. Speeds up to ISO 1600 are not unusual there. In some cases the presence of noise/grain can even have an artistic effect.
  • Is your intention to make interior photographs in particular, than a tripod is an absolute must. In church buildings for example you can hold the camera against a pillar or a pew, but that will not give you the same freedom than using a tripod, which you can place everywhere, after which you can adjust the camera to aperture preference. This is very important, in order to obtain a maximum depth-of-field (the area between the closest and the most remote object that is sharp on the image), when shooting architecture or interior photographs. Optimal quality can only be reached here by make the aperture as small as possible. The shutter time is less important, When you are using a stable tripod this can easily amount to 30 seconds, without the danger of the image becoming unsharp. On analog cameras color distortion will occur with color films (especially transparency film). That danger has disappeared once and for all with the modern, digital techniques.
  • Are you still using an analog camera, than the use of transparency film is not preferable for interior photography, because of its limited contrast extent, amounting, even with high-quality transparency films, to only 5 aperture stops. With interiors mostly much higher contrast values are reached. First there is the light that enters through the windows and than there are deep shadows. A negative film like Fuji Réala has a big contrast latitude, up to about 9 aperture stops, and the colors have been improved a lot during the last couple of years. I even dare to say that this high-quality film can compete with digital photography, when used for interior photography.
  • Adjust the exposure value of your camera, when you are using negative film, to the darkest areas, by applying partial metering. These films have such a great dynamic reach, that even sun-lit spots of an interior appear not too overexposed on the photograph. Better this, than an image which is mostly underexposed.
  • With digital cameras you best can adjust the exposure value to the lightest areas of the image, by partial metering. That goes for interior photography as well as for out-door photography. Sometimes even exposure compensation is demanded, when big, bright surfaces are present at the photo against a dark back-ground. This is preferable above shooting an image where the bright fields are completely bleached. The exposure latitude with digital photography is even greater than with the already mentioned negative film Fuji Réala.
  • You can improve a photograph, which at first glance seemed to be too dark, with computer software quite a bit, creating thus a fine image. When you are making the exposure value too dark (underexposure), an annoying noise will occur in the dark areas, comparable with the “grain” on a conventional film. Some experience is needed here.
  • Blindly trusting your camera is never good, although at the moment it is possible to judge a taken image directly after the shooting. It can be redone easily. Unfortunately the LCD-monitor of a digital camera is showing only the upper 5 aperture stops of a much greater contrast area. On these 5 stops a flattening curve is implemented, which goal is to increase the contrast of average photographs. The camera screen does show only the lighter parts of a shot (comparable with the dynamic reach of transparency film!), the rest is hidden in the “dark”. With a PC however, most invisible information can come forward again, supposed that the shot was well lit.
  • Difficult is the exposure of principally dark areas in combination with one subject which is bright and which is the main objective of the photograph, e.g. a full moon against a black sky.  Under compensation is essential here, -2 often is not sufficient, manual exposure is preferable in that case. Experimenting is sometimes the only way to find the right exposure value.
  • The opposite does apply to photographing a dark bird against a field of snow. Overcompensation will be advisable then. This does not apply to counter light, of which the sun is the cause, though. Here the right exposure settings for dark areas in a snow field are problematic. Much depends on whether the sun is shaded by clouds or not, which often will give softer results. Bright light with deep shadows will sometimes cause such a degree of contrasts, that only a software program like Photoshop can restore hidden information on the image. This has to be done properly, otherwise the image becomes sallow or just dull. Sometimes the light contrasts are of such proportions, that making photographs really is impossible, unless special effects are desired which are making use of hard contrasts and counter light.
  • The best light for shooting images, with the greatest degree of color saturation, is to be found at sun-rise and sun-set. Some photographers have engaged themselves in making use of those events optimally. Beautiful light can be encountered also after a shower or a thunderstorm, the sky being dark gray yet and the sun starting to shine again, often attended with a rain bow. The colors of a landscape are deeply saturated then, in such a degree that even a PC monitor can't cope with all colors which present themselves before the human eye. Even worse the situation is on a paper print, because of the imperfection of the available color inks which are being used with printed matter: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
  • There are all kinds of tricks to improve the quality of images, by employing software curve filters. A computer monitor can only display a fraction of the contrast and color values which are visible by the eye on a bright, sunny day. Therefore, on high-contrast conditions it is often necessary to compress these tone values. Standard the shadows are compressed but present in de computer file. The shadows of the original shot stay thus hidden in the “black” area and are not visible on the screen, while these tone values are present in the image. Software curves, if applied in a wise way on contrast-full images, can improve the dark tone values a lot, without the original becoming sallow. This is demonstrated on the image below, of the Old Castle at Untermaubach (D). The original photo without processing did not exhibit any details in the shadow parts of the river. When you adapt the contrasts by using curves however as done here, it is desirable to adjust the color saturation as well, because otherwise the colors become dull.



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