Thursday, April 25, 2013

Picture Composition: Frames

Not the camera takes the picture, the eye does.

A good camera and good lenses help taking nice pictures but more than the technical supplies a good eye is needed: Often when I’m out taking pictures, I see something special and photograph it. In the photo, however, what I had seen before is not reflected. Photos are always an artificial reproduction of the reality, not a realistic mirror of your subjective view. 

In order to take more powerful pictures - photos that draw the attention of the viewer to one detail or convey the mood a certain place had - I tried some tricks in the composition, in this post I would like to share the technique of using a natural frame with you.

Framing your motive

A classmate once showed me pictures he had taken in India and in some of them he used a “natural” frame to make his photo more special. He took pictures trough “doors” (the word “door” might be inadequate here but I´m using it because I lack a better alternative) of what is beyond the door. The content beyond the door stood out in the photos because it had normal colors, while the frame of the door itself was almost black.

I tired this myself at the Borsa Italiana and got the following result:

The trick is here to focus manually or to manually chose an autofocus point and to make sure you focus on whatever is beyond the frame. This way, your camera will choose settings that match the light beyond the frame and the frame itself will remain of a darker color. 

This photo might not be the perfect example but I hope you got the idea. If you have other tips on the composition of photos, please share them with me!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Anonymous said: Great site Virginia, I too have just purchased a 600D and going through the (hopefully) upward curve. I come from the film era where you had to think carefully every time you squeezed the shutter as it cost money every time. I spent many years working for Agfa before slipping into the void of never taking photo until now.One comment I will make is the background more often then not will make the photo. I draw your attention to the Ice cream pic on your first page. Never cut a persons head off.

Hi Chris, thank you so much for your message and your constructive criticism! It is very much appreciated. I was actually planning look into the composition of photos more and write some posts about it. I hope I will have time soon. If you find out some new things about our camera, let me know! There´s still so much to learn.
Cheers, Virginia 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Italy seen through a 50mm F1.8 II lens

Favourite lens: Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

This post is dedicated to my favorite lens: The Canon EF 50 mm F1.8 II. I will explain you why I love it so much and why I think it is an optimal lens for beginners. I got it shortly after buying my Canon EOS 600D because a classmate used it with her camera and recommended it to me. Have a look at her blog, too. She takes beautiful pictures.

What can the lens do?
As its name indicates, the lens has a fixed focal length of 50mm. That means you can not zoom in or out. You have to deal with the small detail of reality your lens allows you to capture and have to arrange it in the best way possible. This is the essential reason why I think it is such a good lens for beginners. Because the lens is fixed, you concentrate on the settings of your camera and don´t worry about zooming in or out. You have time to focus on the light. Furthermore it can teach you how the aperture works better than the standard lens because it goes down to an f-stop of f 1.8.


And there is another plus: I personally think that the pictures I take with the 50mm lens are more colorful than the ones I take with lenses that let in less light. I am not sure if this is only true in my imagination but I believe that the colors appear more intense when taken with this lens.

How much?
I bought the lens shown in the picture used over ebay because the new ones were over my budget. This way I payed 90 Euro for it and I got a Calumet Filter with it as well. Until today I have not quite figured out yet what the filter is for - I use it as a protection for the lens. I will let you know when I know better.

My next post will be a couple of pictures I took with the 50mm lens so you have an example for what I was talking about. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ciao! You may now begin learning Italian


Duo has started preparing for his trip to Rome.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Anonymous said: dude, are u alive ?

Yes, alive and well! Will publish a new post until Sunday! Thanks for letting me know there´s someone out there, reading my stuff.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Manual autofocus point selection

I recently discovered how the manual autofocus point selection of my Canon Eos 600D works and I want to share that secret with you: 

This is one of the pictures I took with manual autofocus point selection:

After understanding the difference between the autofocus and the manual focus, I played around with the manual focus a lot but the autofocus also comes in very handy sometimes. The focus does not have to be in the center of the lens, the camera lets you set it where you want it. In fact, there are nine focus points to choose from and two ways to choose them: 

1. Selection of autofocus point in Live View mode

Make sure you are in the Live View mode, then push the button that has a blue magnifying glass assigned to it. A screen with the nine focus points will appear and you can choose the focus point you want by turning the selection wheel that is located right behind the trigger. After going though all nine possible focus points, the tenth option is the automatic focus point selection again.
This picture shows you more or less what the selection screen looks like and where the focus points are located.

2. Selection of autofocus point in the lens

The manual autofocus selection works basically the same as in the Live View mode. The only difference is that the Live View mode is deactivated and you see the autofocus point selection by looking though the finder.

When you try this for the first time, it might be easier to practice a little bit in the Live View mode, because sometimes it is a bit tricky to see the red light that indicates the selected autofocus point through the lens.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First Try: Portrait Photography

I like photographing the people around me a lot but I also find it challenging: The object moves, the picture blurs, the facial expression varies…

I believe that discussing the good and bad features of a photo is a very good way to improve photography skills. Of course this applies mostly to the discussion of pictures that one took by himself but also looking at the strengths and weaknesses of photos made by someone else can be very fruitful. Therefore I will discuss one of my portrait shots in this post.  

I was able to take a portrait picture recently that turned out quite good: 

I really liked the picture but I did not know exactly what was good about it. Therefore I asked for feedback from one of my teachers. Currently I am assisting to a complementary class about Photojournalism in my Masters degree. Our teacher has worked as a professional war photographer and he kindly commented this photo so I could learn from it.  

1) Colors. The nonexistence of colors in the photo contributes to its atmosphere - there are no colors that can distract the attention from the main topic of the photo: The face and the facial expression. I find it easier to take portrait photos in black and white. 

2) Camera settings. I used a fixed 50mm lens. The ISO was set to 3200 because there was not much light. I took the picture in the AV-mode and set the f/stop to the biggest aperture: f/1.8. This way only the face is in focus and the background remains blurry and, again, the attention is centered on the face and the viewer is not distracted by other details.

3) Light. The light hit the face frontally. Fortunately, I was standing on the right side of my model when I took the picture. This made him tilt his head into my direction a little: He turned the right side of his face out of the light a bit, while the left part is still completely exposed to the light. This way a nice effect is created where one part of his face is lighter than the other but nothing is completely shaded. This way the special and unique features come out more clearly. 

4) Motive. I chose to display only the face of my model in the photo. I wanted the attention to be solely focused on his face and his facial expression. I also positioned the face in the left part of the photo so there would be a free area on the right and his expression could prolong itself into that part of the photo. I also like that there are some blurry forms in the background on the right that could be a window because this way this part of the picture is not completely empty.

5) Criticism. My teacher pointed out that the photo is not completely in focus - it could be sharper. This mistake happened because I used the autofocus-function instead of focusing manually. Also he also pointed out that the focus problem could possibly result from my lens being irritated by the light that hit it sideways. This can be prevented by using a lens hood. I will buy one and find out if this solves the focus-problem.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Custom White Balance

A short entry about the custom white balance-function of my Canon Eos 600D: 

As far as I understand it, the white balance is a function of the camera that allows you to apply realistic color settings to your photos. Depending on the light you have in a room, your photos have different colors and the camera might not display the colors adequately – the white balance allows you to adjust the colors. 

Last night I took pictures of my friends inside and the light turned out to be too red. Therefore I tried the custom white balance of my camera for the first time:
In order to use it, the first step is to take a picture of something white. A wall, for example. Then you have to enter into the menu (by pressing the MENU-button) and go to the second tab (white camera, red background, two squares in the upper right corner) and choose the fourth point in the list: “Custom White Balance”. Next, push SET and the camera will show you photos which can be used for setting the white balance. The picture of the white wall you just took should be among them – select it. Then you leave the menu, go back to picture-taking-mode and set the white balance to custom (it´s the last choice in the menu). You can continue using the custom white balance until you change the setting or the lighting. 

This examples compares how my photos look with automatic and custom white balance.

After changing the white balance to custom, my camera took pictures that displayed the situation and colors much more accurately – red was not dominating the picture anymore. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to trick your autofocus

I taught myself the most basic features of my digital SLR camera and now I´m simply taking it everywhere in order to learn more about it and understand it better. Yesterday I found a solution to one of my frequent problems: Sometimes I can not take a picture because the trigger is blocked. This situation often comes up when I take pictures without flash in a rather dark room or when I try to take close-ups.

The solution is easy: Deactivate the autofocus and focus the object manually. The autofocus in my camera, the Canon Eos 600D, can be deactivated by switching from AF (autofocus) to MF (manual focus). The switch is located on the left side of the lens. After turning the autofocus off, it is possible to focus manually by regulating the lens. Two parts of the lens can be rotated to sharpen the image: The part in the very back of the lens (closest to the camera) can be used for zooming in and out and the rotatable part in the front to sharpen the image.

Using the manual focus, I was able to take these beautiful close-ups last night. The focus might not be perfect yet but for first tries I quite like the pictures.