How to use shutter speed effectively in DSLR photography?

Shutter speed is the duration of light falling on the digital image sensor. It is the time for which light stays on the image sensor to make a perfect exposure. It is controlled by a mechanism housed in the camera body closer to the focal plane (image sensor).

The role of shutter speed in photography is very important and can produce interesting effects that human eye cannot see. The very meaning or understanding of a photo can be changed by varying the shutter speed.

Mohan S.V.jpg

Fast shutter speeds like 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 and above will let the exposure very brief and slow shutter speeds like 1/30, 1/15, 1/8 and below will let the exposure long.

Total flash photography needs a shutter speed 1/200 (flash sync speed) or below for most of the cameras. There is no impact of flash exposure by changing the shutter speeds when there is not enough ambient light.

Jerome Desilva (26)

Shutter speeds higher than the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens used will guarantee images without camera shake when a tripod is not used – A 400mm lens needs atleast 1/400 shutter speed and a 18mm lens needs just 1/20 shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

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Fast shutter speeds can assure crispy and sharp images without camera shake and apparent subject motion effects.

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Fast shutter speeds like 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 and above are used to arrest the fast motion – faster shutter speeds can capture fast actions we missed to see. Use highest possible shutter speeds for shooting sports, birds in flight, wild life action – shutter speed higher than 1/500 is a good choice.

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Slow shutter speeds like 1/15,1/8,1/4 and bellow are used to record movements as a blur – some of these blurring effects  like panning and zoom burst are unique that human eyes cannot see .

Sendil Selvam (10)

Long exposures like 1sec, 2secs, 4secs, 8secs and longer can produce beautiful light streaks – something we cannot see with our eyes. Use of a tripod is a must for such shots.

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Bulb shutter denoted by ‘B’ is a longer than the 30secs preset shutter speeds available, is something used for very low light shots, fire works, lightning, light painting and abstract images. Use of a tripod is a must for such shots.

Mandeep 2014 (1)

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How to shoot through glass?

There are lot of occasions we will be shooting through transparent glasses. Especially scenes from inside a car or airplane, aquariums, merchandise on display, exhibits in a museum, artifacts and lot more. If we are not careful, we may end up with disastrous pictures.

inside a display case

Inside a display case

The following few tips can help you to get the shoots right when you shoot through the glass,

  1. Use manual focus to get the subject behind the glass sharp. Some autofocus cameras may not get your subject sharp when it is behind the glass.
  2. Clean the surface of the glass if possible to get the subject clear. Dirt is a major enemy for shots through the glass.

    from Indigo

    Inside a flight

  3. Shoot from near the glass to make the dirt/scratches go out of focus. This also could take the reflections outside the frame
  4. Use Polarising filter to remove unwanted reflections of the surrounding on the glass. Rotate the glass element of the filter till you see the reflection going off.

    from giant wheel cubicle 011

    Shot from a Giant wheel cubicle

  5. Do not use direct on camera flashes while shooting parallel to the glass surface. Stay little diagonal to use a bounce flash light from the ceiling or walls.
  6. Avoid back light as it unnecessarily reveals all the dirt/scratch on the glass

    Energy

    Shot from inside a car

  7. Check for proper exposure as there may be drastic difference in brightness in the scene. Play with exposure bracketing to settle for something you want.
  8. You could try HDR imaging technic for high contrast subjects

    from a car

    Shot from a moving car

  9. Use the best of white balance control to shoot subjects inside glass cases lit with different kinds of display lights.
  10. Include the frame or the edge of the glass using wide angle lenses to establish the glass if you want to show that you are shooting through it.

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How to create the feel of depth in the photos?

The feel of depth can be understood as the feel of walking through the photo. A photo is two-dimensional and the feel of three dimension is all about the feel of depth in it. An illusion of the third dimension is tried in all the photos to give the feel of reality. It is the added perspective mainly from the point of view. Our eyes can see in three dimension as the scene in front of us is not flat. The feel of variable distance of different objects in the frame is known as the feel of depth.

To establish the depth, the photo must contain multiple planes or layers in it. May be foreground middle ground and a background._MG_4178c

The following tips may give us a feel depth in our photos

  1. Use wide-angle lenses for a greater feel of variation of the object sizes in the frame and the feel of distance in it.IMG_9664c
  1. Avoid using very long focal length lenses as they compress the scene and make it look very flat without depth.
  1. Lookout for multiple planes or layers as seen from the point of view. Every distinct planes will give an additional feel of depth in the photo.IMG_0404c
  1. Include or add a foreground element in the scene to get a comparative distance from the main subject_MG_4723c
  2. Lookout for visually identifiable real or imaginary lines or curves running from the corner of the frame diagonally across. This will give an illusion of depth and distance.IMG_9490c
  1. Avoid flat front lighting and use sidelight with good shadows to define the planes and distance.
  1. Shoot from a diagonal angle to give the feel of diminishing perspective. This will give a feel of depth to the scene.   IMG_0242c
  1. Include repetitive and overlapping patterns to add the feel of depth
  1. Use shallow depth of field while shooting portraits and people shots. The out of focus background will give the feel of extra distance from the main subject._MG_0005c

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How to use backlights for an effective feel of the photograph?

Back lighting is something which gives us the feel of mood and glow in the photos. In particular, the back light with a feel of rim at the edge of the subject truly brings the third dimension of the subject. The translucent subjects reveal fantastic texture details in the backlight scenes. Landscapes looks refreshing with a good backlight

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The following tips may help you to shoot nice backlight shots.

  1. Choose to shoot in early mornings and late evenings for an effective back light.
  1. Use mist, smoke, stream, dust and extra humidity for an effective visual of backlight._MG_4991c
  1. Position the Sun at an oblique angle and let the light pass through the scene towards the camera.
  1. Use good lens hood or light cutters to avoid unwanted glare or flare in the shots. An added glare or flare sometime gives an extra punch to the photo.IMG_0149
  1. Take exposure for the shadows and underexpose for about a stop or more for a better details of highlights.
  1. Use gentle fill in flash for people shots to get the details of the shadow areas.IMG_0096c
  1. Be careful about Auto focus. Most of the entry level DSLR cameras may not be able to autofocus the scene that easily. If you are comfortable and the subject is fairly not moving fast, then you can try manual focus.
  1. A shift in the white balance towards amber will be good for day light shots.
  1. A landscape shot with the feel of shafts of light using back light will be looking fresh and energetic.                          _MG_0211c
  1. Add an extra contrast in the picture style setting or while working in the digital darkroom.
  1. The punch of steam or smoke will be appetizing while using a gentle back light.
  1. Use a gentle rim or back light for all the portraits and people shots to enhance the texture of hair and skin textures._C1A6700
  1. A bright back light where the exposure is settled for highlights, results in a beautiful silhouette.
  1. A back light shot of a food setup and transparent products are definitely appetizing.IMG_3842s

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How to avoid camera blur on subject?

Camera shake or camera blur is a crucial problem while shooting in slow shutter speeds and it is a major issue with the beginners. It is the feel of visual jerk or vibration seen in a photo. A point and shoot instinct without understanding the effect of slow shutter speeds results in camera blur. The image looks unclear, without sharpness and the out line of the subject is not well-defined when there is a camera shake.

This is a big challenge if you are a nature/wild life/sports/macro photographer using long focal length lenses. Lenses with built-in tripod collars (70-200mm, 100-400mm) are supposed to be used on a tripod especially you are shooting in the available light.

The following tips will help us get rid of unwanted camera shake resulting in blurry pictures.

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  1. Use faster shutter speeds possible in a given situation.
  2. Try increasing the ISO sensitivity or larger apertures instead of reducing the shutter speeds in low light conditions when you are not using a tripod.
  3. Choose a shutter speed higher than the reciprocal of focal length of the lens while shooting the camera hand-held. For example, use 1/60 while shooting at 50mm and 1/125 while shooting at 105mm. This does not matter when your camera is on a solid tripod.
  4. Use fast lenses (lenses with wider maximum apertures viz.f/2.8,f/1.4,f/1.2 etc.). Fast lenses will give you scopes to use fast shutter speeds.
  5. Activate IS or VR image stabilization technology of your camera/lens for shooting below the reciprocal principle as mentioned in point 3. This may let you shoot at least two stops lower than the reciprocal principle._MG_0026r
  6. Use sturdy tripods to hold on the weight of your camera plus lens and other accessories perfectly and confirm the camera is not shaking during the exposure.
  7. If you do not have a sturdy tripod, you can try holding the camera firmly by leaning on to a stable support or you can even use a sand bag and set your camera on it.
  8. For very slow shutter speeds and long exposures do not press the shutter release directly with your fingers; instead use the remote shutter release or self timer release.
  9. When shooting in live view mode (both still images and video) hand-held camera operations, use the camera strap on your neck and stretch in front tight to hold the camera steady.
  10. Check your image at 100% magnification level to identify the camera shake. The LCD on the back of your camera cannot give you a clue about camera blur in its normal display.

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How to take advantage of shapes?

Shape is the first visual information human eye can take to understand a subject. From our childhood, we learn a lot from shapes. A recognizable shape is what makes us relate things subconsciously.

What is shape in photography? Shape is a definite distinctive form, something which is distinguished from its surrounding by its out line. It is two dimensional element of basic picture composition in photography. It usually helps us to identify the object.
SeafoodThis out line of the subject changes when we change the point of view.  That is, when we move to different point of view the shape of the subject changes quickly. Some times this out line is not defined well and hence we cannot understand the subject. To define a subject, we must get an identifiable shape from an appropriate angle. We need to move around to see as how the shape of a subject is changing and how relevant is the point of view chosen.

To get the best of the shape in any subject the following tips may be tried

  1. Move around the subject to find a recognizable or attractive shape
  1. Choose a relatively clear background without clutter and confusion
    bottle
  1. Find a contrasting colours or tones in the background to make the subject stand out in shape.
  1. Overlapping patterns or objects must be avoided to get the advantage of shape.
  1. Make the background out of focus to separate the subject shape clearly – use shallow depth of field controls.
    Pushkar Camel Fair - Rajasthan
  1. A strong rim light or back light all around the subject can pronounce the shapes more powerfully than a flat front light.
  1. The shapes without colour, texture and details are very interesting. They are called, ‘silhouettes’ in photography. Silhouettes are very powerful and aesthetic means of shape.
    dancer in mahabalipuram
  1. Avoiding the camouflaging background will improve the feel of the shape.
  1. A side angle or a total profile shot will be ideal for identifying birds and animals distinctively.
  1. The identifiable shapes in the architecture makes the photos very strong in terms of its beauty and understanding.
    necklace.jpg
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How to look for different/unusual view points

A photograph looks different when it is shot from an unusual point of view. An unusual point of view is a view that many photographers would not have tried. May be it is something very contemporary or unconventional. A conventional photograph is one that is normally shot from a comfortable zone. When we try to jump out of a common path the photo automatically becomes different. The unusual point of view creates an extra attention to the photo.

The following tips may help you to shoot something unusual.

  1. Come out of the tourist instinct and avoid seeing things from a gallery point of view or a tourist guide’s point of view.

turban

  1. Go around the subject if possible or visualize the other sides of the subject.

temple

  1. Step out of the common path…and refrain from shooting along with most other persons with a camera.

Kapaleeshwarar temple

  1. Avoid eyelevel point of view as far as possible. Look at the subject little from a low level or climb up little elevations.

forest

  1. Include some interesting foreground… a suitable or meaningful foreground will make the point of view truly unusual.

Balaji Prasad (4)

  1. Shoot through arches, doorways, holes, fences, jolly etc. to make it interesting.

Hindu temple

  1. Look for interesting reflections in the foreground or background.

Church

  1. Shoot people from others point of view – an over the shoulder shot will be exciting and unusual.

ganesha

  1. Overlap the subject meaningfully on to a suitable background to make the subject unusual.

Jallikattu

  1. Use extra wide-angle lenses for unusual perspective distortions and visual effects.

Rajasthan

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How to make HDR images

HDR (High Dynamic Range) images are photos with better details in the extreme brightness areas. In other words, the details of highlights and shadows are fairly good despite of extreme variation in its brightness. Most of our cameras can only give an average details in the extreme bright areas. Unlike our eyes, the sensors of digital cameras are not capable of seeing and recording the extreme brightness in a scene.

In a practical scenario, DSLRs with larger image sensors (full frame DSLRs and medium format DSLRS) perform better than the cropped APS sensor cameras. Larger size pixels in these cameras are able to do retain the details of highlights and shadows.

HDR

On the other hand, we can perhaps shoot more than one exposure, say three shots or five shots or seven shots deviating little more and little less from the camera’s exposure. For example, if the camera’s exposure at ‘0’ is 1/125 f/11, we can also shoot an under exposed image at 1/250 f/11and an over exposed image at 1/60 f/11. In this sequence of three exposures, the first 1/125 f/11 will give the details of the mid tones, the second 1/250 f/11 will give a better high light details and the third 1/60 f/11 will give a better shadow details. Now all the three shots may be sandwiched together for an over all details in all the three tones in an image editing software. Most of the advanced DSLRs can also do this automatically as an in camera post production process.

A HDR shooting and processing is recommended for high contrast lighting scenes like landscapes, Sunsets and Sunrises, interior and exterior shots, shooting from inside to outside shots, night scenes and more.

For a professional HDR shot the following aspects may be considered,

  1. Choose to shoot non moving subjects (a compositing shot of the movement will show it as a ghost effect)
  1. Use a stable tripod for perfect composition and alignment of consecutive shots (three, five or seven.
  1. Use manual focus or auto focus lock to maintain the point of focus as the same in all the shots in the sequence.
  1. Work in aperture priority exposure mode and stay on the say aperture for all the shots. (This will maintain the depth of the field same in all the shots by changing the shutter speed only)
  1. Use manual selection of ISO (avoid Auto ISO because, the change in ISO in otherwise will result in change in noise level)
  1. Decide about the first exposure perfectly – may be some times you need to compensate the exposure. The subsequent exposure in the sequence will change from the first exposure.
  1. Decide the variation of exposure steps (1/3 or 1/2 or 1stops) based on the contrast of the scene.
  1. Decide the number of shots in a HDR based on the contrast of the scene – a seven shot variation will give a smooth transition compared to three shot variations.
  1. Use continuous frame shooting in the drive mode option.
  1. Image correction and editing may be done only on the final HDR image.

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How to shoot highly reflective products in the studio?

Highly reflective products will reflect almost everything in the studio. Jewels, watches, industrial products, automobiles are some of the reflective products which need a very special treatment. The reflections are something that need not be removed completely but handled in such a way it looks natural and does not distract the sheen, shape, colour and contours. There is a great challenge in getting them right in our shots.  engine parts

  1. As a ground rule, we can try using a soft, indirect lighting so that the reflections are looking natural and reveals the contours and texture perfectly.
  2. Use of a commercially available light tent can be a good choice for shooting large numbers of small products for catalogues and on line sales. For artistic shots, the light tent must be avoided because the light tent makes the whole product look flat without the feel of 3D.gold jhumkis
  3. The lights should not be aimed directly at the subject, but bounced from a matt white reflecting surface or diffused through gateway translucent sheets or white acrylic boards. The reflected/diffused light from these gadgets will prevent hot spots or specular high lights on the subject.
  4. Black cards may be used on the sides of the product to define the shape with clear dark outlines.jaguar car
  5. Use of black cards will add the feel of darkness in certain areas of the subject to make it look more three dimensional. We need to experiment with lighting, reflectors, black cards and the composition.
  6. A white background will make the job relatively easier to show the details of the reflective surface of the subject.Ornaments
  7. A dark/textured background can give a dramatic feel of the product with a variable light on it.
  8. The product needs to be cleaned thoroughly without visible scratches & spots otherwise it will show off the dirt and scratches most perfectly. The finger prints are apparently seen (better use a soft cotton hand gloves while handling the product) when the surface is not clean.watch
  9. A continuous light is sometimes preferred to the studio flashes. This is because the light fall from highlights to shadows is gradual. We can even use the tungsten light (modelling lamp) of the studio flash.
  10. A tungsten white balance or 2500 Kelvin will be suitable. Let the camera be on a steady tripod and use mirror up and remote shooting options while trying long exposures.gold bangle
  11. More than everything the arrangement of the product in front of the camera and an aesthetic composition is very important to get the shots attractive.
  12. In the process of getting rid of the reflections, the charm of shine and glitter of the highly reflective products should not be sacrificed. Remember these products stand and sell for its reflective nature!Perfume

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How to shoot Fireworks?

Fireworks is one of the ways of celebrations. It is exciting to shoot the fireworks, for it involves a lot of challenges.firework

  1. The ground rule is to use long exposure to get the feel of movement and streaks of light. The exposure time depends on the brightness of the fireworks. You need to try possible variations of exposure by trial and error method. The cameras exposure meter may not be of any use while shooting long exposures.
  2. A solid tripod or other good camera support is mandatory while trying long exposures. If you do not have a tripod, try keeping the camera on a solid base. A sand bag (a cloth bag filled with sand) is an ideal choice to hold the camera in position for a good composition.Diwali
  3. Use manual exposure and small aperture (f/11 or f/16) selections. Choice of low ISO (ISO 100) would be ideal for getting a slow shutter speed.
  4. Long exposure up to 30 full seconds can be set in the camera. If you need to shoot longer than 30 seconds, choice of ‘Bulb’ shutter is fine. A very long exposure (up to five minutes or more) can also be tried to get multiple fireworks in the same shot. You can use the stop watch of your mobile phone for checking the exposure time.
    fire work
  5. Use ‘mirror-up’ option to hold the reflex mirror of the DSLR camera up before the start of the exposure. Otherwise the mirror vibration will produce undesirable blur in the photo.
  6. A remote shutter release comes as a handy tool to start the exposure without touching the camera. You can also try ‘self-timer 2secs’ if you do not have a remote shutter release.
  7. Identify the zone in the sky where maximum number of fireworks is happening and compose a fairly wide frame. You can even include some buildings or landscape to make the shot interesting.Diwali night
  8. Manual focus set at ‘infinity, will be better. Remember, Auto Focus is difficult because of low light and less contrast. You can also keep the flash light of your mobile phone ready for handling the camera in darkness.
  9. If you are shooting in JPEG format, choice of ‘landscape’ picture style and ‘shade’ white balance will give vibrant yellows in the fireworks.fire works
  10. Fireworks scenes during the twilight time is ideal for recording colorful sky details.
  11. Try a lot of shots to get few good and interesting.
  12. Note: The same tips can be followed for shooting ‘lightning’fireworks