Remember

May 31, 2010

On this Memorial Day my son will be flying back from Liberia, Africa to return to his home in Toledo before flying out to the Middle East later in the week. He is in the Air Force Reserves after serving 4 years on active duty maintaining giant USAF C5 aircraft in California.

While not on active duty at the moment, I think often of when he will go back on active duty, which in turn reminds me to think – especially today – of the young men and women who are serving in two wars, and of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice that we may be able to live in safety and enjoy our families, particularly our children.

Remember those who gave their all that we might be free to celebrate their sacrifices today.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

The Rule Of Thirds

May 28, 2010

If you have been anywhere near photography and photographers before you have, no doubt, heard about the “Rule of Thirds.” But what is this rule, what does it mean and how do you use it?

When we take photographs of our children we want to capture something very special in the way they look, act or do something. And, when we get out our photographs to show friends and relatives, we want them to see the same thing in the photograph as we do.

This is why it is important to properly frame our image, and where the rule of thirds comes into play. We want to frame our image and place our subject in such a way that when someone takes our photograph and looks at it they immediately see the point of the photograph. This means placing the most important element in the image in such a way that the viewers eyes are naturally drawn to it.And, in photographing children, it is the image of the child we want the viewers eyes drawn to. We have already discussed the tendency of new photographers to place the image in the middle of the frame, and even fill the frame with that image. However, that may not be the best way to accomplish our goal.

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds


Imagine for a moment that you were to draw four imaginary lines – two vertical and two horizontal – through our viewfinder onto the image we are framing. Like the image you see on the right. This will divide the frame into nine separate boxes with 4 interior corners where the lines intersect.


These are the “sweet spots” in your picture. If you place your child in any of these intersections you are bound to come up with an interesting photograph. Thumb through a magazine, look through a photography book, and you will quickly notice that this is where the subject of the photograph is usually placed.

That is why this is known as the “Golden Rule” of photography.

No matter where you look you will see that professional photographers follow this rule at least 75% of the time. And while the rule of thirds is relatively easy to do you may find it counterintuitive. Most amateurs try and place the focal point of their picture in the dead center of the frame.

Trust me here – there are few things in life more boring than looking at a bunch of photographs where the subject of the picture is in the center of the photograph.

While this rule is important remember there may be occasions when you want – or need – to break it. For example, assume your subject has a background full of people, strangers really, that would take away from the photograph. In this case you might want to fill the frame completely with just your subject.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Where Should You Focus?

May 27, 2010

Most amateur photographers will have the main subject of their photograph in the middle of the frame. When you’re composing a scene, this is not always the most creative option available. Achieving an accurately focused image is a fundamental aspect of photography. If the image is out of focus the image is virtually unusable. Luckily, digital cameras have a variety of ways for dealing with focus.

The first thing you want to do is isolate the focal point. The focal point is the main subject of your picture, such as a building or perhaps a person. In other words, the focal point is the main point of interest in the photograph that draws the viewer’s eye to it when looking at your picture..

You should always strive to consider what the focal point of your picture actually is and then plan your photograph accordingly. The single biggest problem with photographs taken by new photographers is that they fail to consider what their subject really is..

Photographing children

What is the focus of this photograph?


When you’re not sure what you’re taking a picture of, it’s hard to emphasize that in the final composition. That leads to muddy, confused arrangements in your photographs because there is nothing specific for the viewer to look at.


When your subject is simply too large to be considered a focal point in and of itself, try to figure out a focal point and add some interest for your viewer. Remember, when someone wants to look at your photographs, and they pick them up, they expect to have their eyes drawn to the main subject of the photograph immediately.

One way to picture this is to think about photographing a landscape with a mountain in it. As you look at this scene try to pick out a single object such as a mountain cabin, a group of hikers or perhaps even a vehicle somewhere on the mountain to focus on. Think about where to place this object within the frame, but don’t lose sight of the mountain itself.

Technically, this is what we would call a secondary focal point. Remember, photography is subjective, and while we may not want that single object to be the photo’s subject, but rather the mountains to be the photograph’s subject, the mountains by themselves alone simply wouldn’t make a very interesting photograph.

Many amateur photographers don’t really think much about the organization of what they see through the viewfinder of the camera. Therefore, it is important to develop a system to provide some balance to your photographs. You don’t want to forget how to get the most mileage out of the frame in which you’re working. What I’m saying is, you should minimize the amount of dead space in your photograph. Once you decide what the focal point of your image is there is no reason to relegate it to a small portion of the picture.

As you’re thinking about how to compose your photograph walk around your subject, look at it from some different angles, get close, move to the side or perhaps move further away. No matter what you do it will change your perspective, and therefore the viewers perspective, of your photograph. The more interesting you can make your photograph, the more interested others will be to look at it.

With children this may be a bit more difficult because it is hard to get them to stay still. Moreover they may not co-operate with you and take a particular pose. This is where innovation really comes in. Enter into a game with them, become playful, and gently coax them into the position you want by involving them in the process.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Why Is Composition Important?

May 26, 2010

As we get ready to photograph our children you might ask why is composition important? After all, for years we have just grabbed the camera, pointed it in the direction of our subject(s), and snapped the picture, right?

Well, now that we have children, and we want to get some great shots of our children to record their history, it is time to get serious about the business of taking their pictures. We have discussed the finer points of what makes a great camera, and how to keep it clean, but now we need to get down to the real work and photograph our kids!

Have you ever been on vacation, whipped out your camera upon seeing your loved ones in a setting you feel is lovely, and then been somewhat underwhelmed with the final results when we get the prints? If so, you have just learned the first golden rule of photography: the reality you see is quite different from what the camera sees! If you don’t think about this every time you frame a photograph you will always be disappointed.

There are a number of reasons why your camera sees things differently than you do. To begin with, your eyes are not little optical machines that function in a vacuum. Quite the opposite, what you see is interpreted, enhanced and supplemented by your brain.

Children Playing

Children Playing

In a way, when you see a majestic landscape while hiking through the mountains of Colorado, some of the beauty of the scene is being added to by your brain. Pick up a camera, look through the viewfinder, and you will get a completely different objective view of the scene without any intelligent enhancement.

Simple: that is because the camera is a little optical machine and it has no brain!

Add to that the fact that the camera has a limited range of focus, exposure and composition than you do. The camera can only see a static scene when it snaps the photograph, while our eyes are continually moving and recomposing the view. Moreover, the pupils of our eyes constantly adjust to changing light conditions in response to the changing light conditions. The pupils of our eyes are like aperture in the camera, the biggest difference being that our pupils can change instantaneously, while the lens of the camera has to select a single aperture (opening) at a single moment in time.

Yes, our eyes, working with our brain, are creating a visual panoply that is difficult, if not impossible, to recreate on paper. Its amazing that we can even get any good pictures at all considering the limitation of our cameras.

Look around you. If you look carefully you will realize that our field of vision is rectangular with rounded corners – in other words, we see the world as a panorama. This is not the kind of shot cameras take.

Our job when photographing our children against this panoramic backdrop is to translate the scene into an attractive photograph using the laws of photographic composition. To get what we want means we need to take a lot of photographs using different composition to get exactly what we want.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

The Importance Of Metering In Child Photography

May 25, 2010

It is really the camera’s exposure sensor – known as an exposure meter – that does the majority of the work when figuring out what exposure the camera should use when you take your photograph. It looks at the available light, decides how much light it needs for the image on the sensor, and then adjusts the aperture and shutter speed accordingly.

The kind of metering your camera is capable of will have a significant effect upon the kind of camera you will want to purchase. In order to take advantage of exposure compensation you need to be able to meter, or read, the available light accurately to begin with.

Some metering systems are better than others at metering a scene and providing the correct exposure settings in your camera. There are three basic forms of metering:

Matrix Metering System

Matrix Metering System

Again, it is always best to have at least one camera available that will give you some options when it comes to metering the light on the subject you want to shoot. In order to make sure you get the very best photographs of your children, you really need to have at least 2 cameras: a digital SLR camera and a compact digital camera.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Exposure Compensation

May 24, 2010

You probably have heard a lot about exposure compensation when photographers talk about taking photographs, and wondered what all the fuss is about. Well, not all lighting situations are easy to shoot, that’s why photography is considered both an art and a science.

It is fairly easy for real life scenes to trick your camera’s exposure sensor and under or over expose your photograph. Sometimes you can fix the problem later with a program like Photoshop, but you would be much better off to expose the picture correctly to begin with.

The reason you want to get the exposure correct the first time is that an over or under exposed image is missing some information about colors, texture and detail which can never be restored afterward. Only at the moment of exposure can you be sure that all the information will be in your image.

When you base your exposure on the wrong portion of the picture you can find yourself with an over or under exposed photograph. There are, however, several ways you can correct your exposures when you see a problem in your viewfinder. They are using:

Most digital cameras come with an exposure compensation control, usually referred to as the EV adjustment. The EV control allows you to lock in and use the cameras recommended automatic exposure setting, but then adjust that value up or down based on factors that you’re aware of but that the camera may not be smart enough to see.

It is really the camera’s exposure sensor known as an exposure meter that does the majority of the work when figuring out how to shoot your picture. It decides how much light is needed to adequately expose your picture. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to learn that cameras distinguish themselves by the kind of exposure meter they use. Some meters are better than others at metering a scene and applying the right exposure.

Tomorrow we will discuss more about metering.

The exposure lock feature in most digital cameras, ias borrowed from 35mm camera technology, and it is one of the handiest tricks you can learn and master. Exposure lock is almost always achieved by applying slight pressure to the shutter release. Not enough to activate the shutter and take a picture, but enough that you feel the camera itself respond. This allows you to focus on the part of the image you want properly exposed, hold that exposure, and then re-frame your picture.

You may be perfectly satisfied with the results you get from the automatic exposure controls in your camera. But there will be times when you can do much better on your own. Some of these situations are when you’re in very bright sunlight, or your subject is back lit or you’re in a very low light situation.

It is very important to consider exposure when you’re taking your photograph. This is particularly true when you are working with photographing children. Again, learn the controls on your camera well and experiment. You’ll be glad you did.

A really great new camera is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD. This is a great little
compact digital camera which has many of the controls we have been discussing, is a great value and a handy camera to carry and use when you are out and about with your children.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
BettySignature

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

How Digital Cameras Choose Aperture and Shutter Speed

May 21, 2010

You might ask: How do digital cameras choose aperture and shutter speeds for photographs?

Usually when you apply pressure to the camera’s shutter release, the camera’s microcomputer samples the scene in front of the lens and decides how much light is needed to adequately expose the scene. With most digital cameras the camera selects the shutter speed and aperture combination that is just sufficient enough to get the picture taken.

You might wonder, how does the camera make its choice? When you consider how many shutter speed/aperture settings that work, how does the camera know which one to choose? Add to that with the same ISO setting you can have different aperture and shutter speed combinations.

Point and Shoot Digital Camera

Point and Shoot Digital Camera


Typically, the digital camera uses the following logic:The photographer wants to take a picture using the fastest available shutter speed to minimize camera shake and motion blur from objects moving inside the picture.


Most cameras will choose the combination that allows for the highest available shutter speed, limited only by how small they can make the aperture given the current lighting situation and the ISO setting.

However, that isn’t what you always want the camera to do. Sometimes you might want to choose a slower shutter speed, over expose the image, under expose the image, or perhaps base the exposure on a particular portion of the picture. You should investigate your camera and look for the controls that let you decide the shutter speed and aperture.

One thing you should be aware of is that few digital cameras have a real physical shutter. If you remember, the 35mm cameras actually had a physical barrier that blocked light from entering the chamber where the film was stored. This mechanism was called a shutter blade which could move lightning fast, and was able to deliver shutter speeds as fast as 1/8000 of the second!

Most digital cameras don’t have a real physical shutter. So, if there is no shutter blade, how is the picture actually taken by the digital camera? The CCD is simply turned on long enough to expose the picture. Since the CCD is an electronic component that acts like film, it can be actuated electronically for whatever exposure time you may need.

The most basic manual exposure control, you can exert over your camera and wall setting both the aperture and shutter speed. Some digital cameras allow you to set these controls as if you had a fully automatic 35mm SLR camera. There are two types of cameras that may allow you to do this:

  • Electronics inside your digital camera can attract dust particles;
  • Every time you change lenses the camera body is open to elements in the air. Even though the sensor itself is not directly exposed to the air, it does increase the possibility of that dust particles can find their way onto the image sensor.
  • The way you can determine if dust has gotten onto your image sensor is if you see small spots on your images. You can remove these spots with image editing software like Adobe Photoshop CS5

    , but it is better to try avoid this problem first.

    Dust Particles On Photo Image

    Dust Particles On Photo Image


    The manufacturers are aware of this problem and work hard to alleviate the problem. They use specialized manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of dust which accumulates on the image sensor. These processes involve placing a low-pass filter cover on the image sensor, anti-static coatings on vulnerable surfaces and screens placed in front of the image sensor that stop any particles.

    Removing Dust

    Should some dust particles attach themselves to the image sensor and become a significant problem there are a couple of things you can do:

    To remove the dust yourself you will need to first lock the camera’s mirror in the up position. This can be done through the camera’s setup menu.

    Then, use a bright flashlight beam to illuminate any dust particles on the sensor. If necessary, use a magnifying glass for smaller particles. Once you locate the dust particles use a hand powered bulb blower to remove the dust particles. If this doesn’t work consider using some compressed air, but be warned if it is too strong the compressed air may damage other parts of the camera.

    Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
    BettySignature

    Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

    Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

    Tripods

    May 18, 2010

    A high quality tripod is more important for a digital SLR camera than for a compact digital camera, and here are the reasons:

    Sometimes you want to capture interesting night photographs where the shutter needs to be open for several seconds, or even a minute, in order to capture the photograph you are looking for. You might also want to use a slower shutter speed to capture a sense of motion like water or cars moving.

    Manfrotto-190XDB Tripd

    Manfrotto-190XDB Tripd

    Anytime you use a shutter speed of less than 1/60th of a second you will need a tripod – not just any tripod, but a good quality stable tripod. This is because you do not want the tripod falling over with your camera, nor do you want incidental movement near the camera to be transmitted up the tripod legs to the camera.

    It is always a great idea to test a tripod before purchasing one. You should try a variety of tripods at your local camera store before you decide, and here are some of the things to consider:

    Usually you will need to make a choice between, price, stability and weight.

    Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!
    BettySignature

    Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

    Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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