Black and White Photography, Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – Techniques For Better Images

Today I would like to discuss some techniques that you might find useful (or maybe not). This is not going to be technical in any way so there will be no calculations or math of any sort. Now that I got that out of the way hopefully most of you will stick around and read the entire post.

Different lenses have different angles of view (remember we discussed this in a previous post), and one of the most difficult lenses to master is the wide angle lens.

Why do you say that Joe ?  

Most people approach wide angle photography the same way as if they had a 50mm lens on their camera and most times they are unhappy with the resulting images. Wide angle lenses don’t really work too well when they are used in a point and shoot fashion. The angle of view is way to wide and the resulting images have no impact because everything looks so small in the photo.

Let me show you the first example which was taken with a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens. I just pointed and shot the photo. All of the examples will be in black and white so I don’t distract you with colors.


As you can see in the above photo there is no impact or point of interest. Everything on the horizon is tiny and there is a picnic table covered with snow smack in the middle of this shot (don’t panic over the snow these were taken last winter). Now lets try using our feet and move around a little bit (I know zooming is easier). I would like everyone to get used to looking at a scene and moving around it looking at it from different angles. One of the first lessons I learned way back in the dark ages when I studied photography was to photograph one object from every angle I could think of. Now lets take a look at the next example which was taken with the same lens.


What do you think ? This photo has a lot more impact and all I did was take a few steps forward and use a slightly lower shooting angle. When shooting with wide angle lenses it is always good to have an object in the foreground being the depth of field is so great. Lets take a look at another example with The Tokina 12-24mm lens.


I guess this photo would work for a casual snapshot but there is really no point of interest or impact from this angle. Yes its sharp and the clouds are nice but thats about it. Now lets see what happens when we take a couple of steps to the left toward the rocks.


Notice the three large rocks to the lower left. They are the same rocks as the previous image so all I did was move a little bit to the left and used the rocks to sort of anchor the image or add a little more impact.

If you will take the time to approach common objects and use about 10 minutes of your time to move around them and take photos from all different angles and varying heights I will guarantee your image will improve. Next time you go out shooting try it. I bet the first image you take won’t be the keeper after you see the same object from different angles.

Lets try another example this time using a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens.


This photo was taken on a foggy morning at a local park. I used a lower angle and I thought this image would be the keeper. After taking various images of the same scene from different angles and distances I liked the image below.


In this scene I moved back a little and stood on a large rock to get a higher angle. To my eyes this is a little more like I saw that day before looking through the viewfinder. The flow of the trees through the scene look a little smoother to me also.

Sometimes getting a better shot has nothing to do with moving around. In this example I will use the same lens and shoot the scene in landscape mode (not the camera setting but the orientation). Lets take a look.


There is nothing of interest in this photo it’s just too busy. Now lets take the camera and change the orientation to portrait (turning the camera sideways).


Thats better, all of a sudden by just changing the orientation of the camera the image improves. Its less busy and the composition falls into place. Now the boat and docking poles become the points of interest. The image was improved greatly just by turning the camera 90 degrees and I didn’t even have to move my feet ūüôā

So whats the moral of the story Joe ?

The moral of the story is don’t stand still and use your zoom to vary your images. Take the time to move around your subject and shoot it from all different angles. I really think you will be very surprised at the results you get with your images.


You Asked For It – Shutter Speed

This is the third installment of the “You Asked For It” series and we will discuss Shutter Speed today. Shutter speed is one method which controls the amount of light that reaches the film or digital sensor.

Oh no, their’s more than one method ?

Yup ! Last week we discussed aperture or lens opening which is the other way we control the amount of light reaching the film or digital sensor.

OK, now you’re full of it Joe, you wrote a whole damn article on depth of field and you had me believing that ?

Aperture does control depth of field, but it also is another way to control the amount light that reaches the film or digital sensor.

Remember last week when I told you I didn’t want you to worry about how aperture is related to shutter speed and formulas ?

Guess what, I lied ūüôā

We have to understand the relationship between aperture and shutter speed to be able to control light in manual mode.


The above chart will show in graphic form how aperture and shutter speed are linked. ¬† You will see as the aperture is increased (lower number) shutter speed must increase. ¬†Think of this graphic as a child’s SeeSaw with the pivot point in the middle indicating the perfect exposure and it will become clear how aperture and shutter speed are linked.

Why is this ?

When we increase the aperture or open the lens (lower number) we are letting more light into the camera.  By doing this we have to also increase the shutter speed so the shutter stays open for a shorter time or else we would overexpose the image.  If we were to use the opposite example by closing the aperture (higher number) we  are letting less light into the camera so the shutter speed must be decreased so the shutter speed would stay open for a longer period of time to compensate for the lower light.

To prove the above chart is accurate i would like you to take your camera and put it into Aperture Priority mode (remember when we are in aperture priority mode we are controlling the aperture and the camera is selecting the shutter speed).  Point the camera towards a brightly illuminated window or go outside if you prefer and change the aperture from its lowest number to the highest number.   I want you to take notice to how the shutter speed is reacting as you change the aperture.  Open the aperture and the shutter speed gets higher, close the aperture the shutter speed gets lower.

OK Joe but I thought this lesson was about shutter speed, and I’m still playing around with the aperture ?

Good point, now lets put the camera into Shutter Priority mode.

Can anyone tell me what happens when we put the camera into this mode ?  A show of hands please !

Yes you in the back with your hand raised really high Pauline, you are absolutely correct we are choosing the shutter speed and the camera is automatically selecting the corresponding aperture to achieve the correct exposure.

Why on earth do I need to know this ?

Lets say you wanted to take a photo of a fast moving object such as a train or an automobile. You really would not be too concerned with depth of field you would be more concerned with how to capture this object so it is clear.  To do this you would have to freeze motion.

How do we freeze motion and am I going to be cold during this lesson ?

I am talking about freezing motion by using a higher shutter speed not by temperature ūüôā ¬† By choosing a higher shutter speed (higher number) we are keeping the shutter open for a shorter period of time.

Whaaat ?

If you notice shutter speeds are expressed in fraction form 1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000,1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125 and so on.

Do you notice a pattern with these numbers ?

Very good Elina, they all look like they are exactly half of each other.  For example 1/1000th of a second is half of 1/500th of a second.  We can also state this as 1/1000th of a second will let exactly half the amount of light into the camera as 1/500th of a second, or expressed in photography terms 1 stop faster.  If we reversed this 1/500th of a second will let exactly twice the amount of light into the camera as 1/1000th of a second or 1 stop slower.

You might have noticed in the previous lesson on Depth Of Field the lens opening or aperture is expressed in numbers also.  Lets show that chart again.


Do you notice any similarities with the numbers on this chart ? ¬†f/4 looks like it’s letting half the light into the camera as f/2.8, and f/5.6 looks like its letting half the light into the camera as f/4. These are called f stops and f/4 is one stop slower than f/2.8 or¬†we could also say that f/4 is letting exactly half the light into the camera as f/2.8. ¬†As we look at the chart we will see that as we close the aperture or increase the number (higher) each f stop or f number lets in exactly half the light as the previous f stop.

OK so now that we know the camera aperture and shutter speeds are calibrated in stops we could make sense of why aperture and shutter speed are linked.

Lets say we point the camera at an any object and the meter on the camera is reading 1/125th of a second at f/8 for proper exposure.  Now lets say that object is a person and we want to isolate this person from the background by using shallow depth of field.  Well the camera is reading  f/8 so I am not going to be able to isolate the background with that aperture so I want to open the aperture to f/2.8 to get the pleasing background.  I cannot just change the aperture and expect not to compensate with the shutter speed and still achieve proper exposure so lets count backwards.  As I change from f/8 to f/5.6 (one stop increase) I am letting twice the amount of light into the camera so I would have to increase the shutter speed by one stop from 1/125th of a second to 1/250th of a second (one stop decrease).

Why are you saying decrease when the shutter speed is getting higher ?

Because as we increase the shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/250 we are letting half the light into the camera to compensate for the increase of twice the light by opening up the aperture from f/8 to f/5.6.  Starting to make sense ?

Lets continue to count backwards because I want to open the aperture to f/2.8 to photograph this person.   Now lets open the lens to f/4 or 1 more stop so once again we are letting twice the amount of light in so we have to increase the shutter speed to 1/500th to compensate or 1 stop less.  Lets continue and change the aperture to f/2.8 or 1 stop more and once again we are letting twice the amount of light into the camera so we compensate by increasing the shutter speed to 1/1000th one stop less.   We now have the aperture where we want to have a pleasing background and we are still getting correct exposure.  In other words 1/125th @ f/8 is the same exposure as 1/1000th @ f/2.8 all we did was adjust the camera from its suggested exposure to properly fit the situation of taking a photo of someone where we wanted to have a pleasing out of focus background.  I showed you an example of a camera in manual mode, if your camera was in aperture priority mode the shutter speed would change automatically as you changed the aperture.

Shutter Speed

First I am going to show you the difference between a photo taken with a slow shutter speed and then I will show you one taken at a faster speed. The photo on the top was taken with a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. This was done intentionally to convey speed or motion. This technique is known as motion blur and even though the bicyclists and car are really not moving that fast using a slow shutter speed exaggerates their motion.


This performer was in the Quincy Market Square in Boston and was using a giant Pogo stick. He was about 5 to 6 feet in mid-air as the interested crowd looks on.  Notice how using a shutter speed of only 1/200th of a second almost totally froze him in mid-air.  If I would have had the light to increase the shutter speed to lets say 1/500th of a second this photo would have been totally sharp. This is known as freezing motion.



As you become more familiar with aperture and shutter speed and practice using different settings you will begin to understand why some of you photos are turning out great and why some not so great. ¬†When you understand these concepts you will be able to identify settings or mistakes you might of relied on the camera to take care of before and correct them on the spot so you don’t miss the shot. ¬†I know this lesson was a little more difficult than the previous ones but as we progress the lessons will get more complex. ¬†I am trying to make these lessons as easy to understand as I can but if you do not understand something please email me through the contact me page.

Next Friday – Metering and Exposure

Black and White, Black and White Photography, Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – Composition


I had recently been asked to participate in a post called “Blog hop around the world”. ¬† In this post I had to answer four questions about my craft or passion which is photography. ¬†I was totally blown away with the comments and positive response I had received for this post and surprised how many people were encouraging me to write more. ¬†I have never really been one to write much with my posts but rather to post photographs with brief descriptions. ¬†People actually were interested in what was going on inside my head while I was taking photos (which is a very scary thought in itself).

So here is the first post in a series of called “You Asked For It”. ¬†The inner workings of an old retired guys mind who happens to love the art of photography ūüôā

We will start the series off with the subject of РComposition.  Why are we starting off with composition ?  Because thats what I feel like talking about today (you asked me to write, but I never said I would be a good teacher, LOL).  Actually most cameras today have advanced metering systems and lots of automatic features so achieving proper exposure with them is usually pretty easy.

What are the building blocks or elements that make a good photograph ?

1.  Proper exposure РThis is a given, proper exposure is essential for a good photograph.  Lets admit it we have all seen a photograph from a friend or relative that is so badly exposed you can hardly recognize the subject matter.

2.  Subject matter РThis is kind of subjective because whats interesting to one person might be pretty boring to someone else. Lets all agree for the moment that we are talking about subject matter thats interesting to everyone.

3. ¬†Composition – This one is a biggie in my opinion, you might be able to get away with poor composition but then I would call it a snapshot not a photograph. Composition is what makes your image appealing. ¬†Have you ever seen an image that you just can’t stop looking at ? ¬† The reason most likely is the photographer nailed all three of the above elements.

The Rule Of Thirds

How many of you have heard of “The rule of thirds” ? ¬†Lets see a show of hands. ¬†Okay you can put your hands down now I can’t see them anyway.

The rule of thirds states you should divide your scene into thirds in both the horizontal and vertical planes so the easiest way to do this is with gridlines. Most modern DSLR’s have a feature that can be turned on via the menu system called gridlines. My Nikon D610, Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujifilm X-E2 all have this feature. If your camera does not have this feature you will just have to imagine a blank Tic-Tac-Toe board or a total of nine squares.


The above photo is typically what I see through my viewfinder when the gridlines are turned on.  I usually leave the gridlines on all the time so I am not fumbling through the menus when I want to grab a shot.  The whole premise of the rule of thirds is to place one of the points of interest in your photo where any one or more of the lines of the grid intersect each other.   Before you ask you will not get extra points if you intersect all four locations, thats not the objective here. As you can see in the above example the hull of the ship is intersecting the bottom horizontal line and the vertical line to the right.  You can also see that the top horizontal line and the vertical line to the right is almost intersecting where one of the masts is placed.  What would make this image perfect composition would be if the horizon was a little lower so it would intersect the bottom horizontal line and the left vertical line.  After looking at the photo I decided to raise the horizon to its present place in the cropping process because I liked the way it looked better.   The rule of thirds should be used as a guideline for composition.   It is not cast in stone where you have to use it every time but in the majority of cases when used will make for better composition in your images.


Here is the same image with the gridlines removed.  I also used a wide angle 24mm lens on a full frame sensor camera to accentuate the ship a little more (I was a lot closer to this ship than you would think from the photo).

I hope I have explained this subject so most of you will walk away with an “AhHa” moment but if I was not clear please contact me through the “Contact Me” menu on the home page of this blog and explain to me which part is not clear and I will contact you through email to try and answer your questions.

Next Friday’s topic – Depth of field