Beyond the Settings - Manual Mode & Auto ISO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR5JCfqLb-IGet beyond the settings and focus on the image, the key point to a recent article we had on the weekly live show. As photographers when we go to shoot we're balancing the camera settings, composition, timing, not tripping on something, and possibly handling a model. When you're starting out you usually cram learning the camera settings, but what's the next step?

As you move beyond the basic settings and focus more on composition your photography is going to improve immensely.

How we approach a scene usually goes aperture, shutter speed, then ISO. A shallow setting like f/2.8 is perfect for a portrait but a landscape needs something a bit slower at f/8 (btw, video on aperture coming soon!). Next shutter speed comes into play, you need to make sure the shutter speed is 2x the focal length to be safe, the reciprocal rule. You can find out more about shutter speed settings here and here. Once we get that down as a start, then we need to move past it to improve.

 What about AV mode? We've all been at the mercy of a wrong camera setting at some point. The thing is the camera is smart, but it's not you, it just sees pixels and can't interpret a scene. Especially if my subject is moving, dancing, running and even walking - the camera doesn’t know this on AV mode and you'll end up with a blurry subject. Manual puts you in control letting you tell the camera what you need.But AUTO ISO can be good - Compared to aperture or shutter speed, ISO means the least to a shot technically. That it affects exposure and noise only, compared to aperture and shutter speed that drastically alter the look of a shot. With modern cameras, a high ISO setting can mean a bit of noise and has to be extremely high before it is a detriment to a photo. Having AUTO ISO on takes away part of the exposure triangle I have to focus on and lets me concentrate more on composition and timing.If you are starting out get those camera settings down. That way it's secondhand, so you don't need to be chimping (checking the screen) when it counts. Once you understand that then you can let the camera take over, a little bit, giving you room to be creative and focus on more important issues.

Backup your photos!

I hope you have a backup plan in place for ALL your important photos and documents, but if you don't! Take a few minutes to look at some options.Readers and viewers share their sad stories of losing ALL of their photos! Please back up your photos, Don't think it won't ever happen to you!  I recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy.  A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different devices, and at least 1 copy offsite or in the cloud.Example: You have captured a nice family photo and downloaded it to your computer. That copy on your computer is ONE copy.  Now you need to back up to a second device in the home- an external HD is an easy solution and Amazon has excellent deals on BIG hard drives.I currently recommend - WD 4TB RED for just $102!You now have TWO copies, but both are local and if anything happens to your house ... to be safe you should have an offsite copy. Google Photos, Dropbox and Amazon Prime Photos are all systems that can help.Amazon Prime - $10.99 a month - Free 2-day shipping, Movies & TV Shows and Unlimited Photo storage to backup on ALL your devices.Amazon Prime Photos Storage

Your Prime membership comes with free unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos, which lets you securely save as many photos as you like and see them on your phone, computer, or tablet. You can share this Prime benefit and give free photo storage to up to five family members or friends. Collect photos together with your invited family and friends in the Family Vault and store memories from everyone in one safe place. New photo search technology makes it easy to find specific photos by searching for things like “sunset” or “Seattle,” and your photos are organized automatically so it’s easy to find and enjoy them.

 

Don't use a Tripod or Tripod Tips and Tricks

https://youtu.be/0wIlHixjTr8 Tripod Recommendations:Budget Tripod: Dolica ProlineMy Recommendation: MeFoto Road Trip CFTop of the line: Feisol Legs with Acratech GP Ballhead Mini Tripod: Pedco UltralightFlexible Mini Tripod: Joby GorillapodI want to take just a few minutes and talk about when you should and should NOT use a tripod - far too often I see beginners carrying around and using a tripod when they don’t need too. In my opinion the only time you must use a tripod is when you are shooting at shutter speeds slow enough that you might get blur from handshake and that typically happens when your shutter speed is less than your focal length. If shooting at 50mm your shutter speed should be at least 1/50 of a second. There are more variables in figuring out the best shutter speed to avoid shake and I talk about those in my shutter speed video.Shooting at those slower shutter speeds is when you DO want the camera on a sturdy tripod DOES it really hurt to use it at those other times? It can because I see beginners doing two things when they use a tripod - setting up at eye level and rooting. We are humans we like to be comfortable and so we often setup cameras at a comfortable eye level, for some compositions this is OK but being free of a tripod means you are free to quickly try a variety of heights - what does your composition look like from ground level, just above? How about as high as you can reach? Using a tripod encourages us to set up at ONE height and stick there - this brings up ROOTING. We plunk the tripod down, put the camera on it and don’t move, continually shooting from the same location - maybe you try a different depth of field, maybe you try moving the focus point but generally you are going to end up taking way too many photos from that point of view and being free from a tripod encourages movement. Small shifts left or right, up or down can make a large difference in your composition not to mention frees you to look in all directions. When we work with new photographers on our trips we like to remind them about the 360 rule - always take a moment to do a slow spin looking for other possible subjects or compositions that are sometimes behind you. Shooting with a tripod is friction against moving and that’s potentially holding you back from a better shot.When are tripods useful?

  1. Using a tripod to shoot a bracketed exposure can help reduce ghosting and increase image quality but if you have a camera with a decent burst rate, with some practice you can certainly shoot a fast burst of bracketed shots without serious alignment issues.
  2. When you are setting up a careful composition, I find a tripod makes it easier to really study your composition, leveling your horizon, scanning the frame for distractions. It's harder as a beginner to study a shot and bring it up to your eye making the adjustments you want though it is possible, just don’t get rooted in the same spot
  3. Working with really heavy lenses, it is nice to have some support there even if you remain above the shutter speed rule.

So there are certainly valid reasons for using a tripod but as beginners I want you to aware of the drawbacks and hope you will keep those in mind as you photograph.

Quick Tripod Tips -

  • Always turn of image stabilization when your camera is on a tripod - some stabilizations systems at some shutter speeds will actually cause blur and give you soft images as a result.
  • I like to position one of the tripod legs under my lens for increased stability.
  • Never ever walk away from my camera on a tripod unless you are 110% sure it is stable.
  • Position the tripod plate release under the lens, making it harder to accidentally grab. There are times in the dark I thought I was adjusting the ball head when really I was loosening the plate. Not fun!!

Do you have additional scenarios where tripods are useful - leave them in the comments below.These days because of all the travel I am doing I am happy carrying the MeFoto Carbon Fiber Road Trip - it offers a nice blend of portability and stability- You can see several other recommendations at different price points below. If you would like to plunk your tripod down next to me in some awesome locations- Click here to see where I am headed next year. Tripod Recommendations:Tripod Recommendations:Budget Tripod: Dolica ProlineMy Recommendation: MeFoto Road Trip CFTop of the line: Feisol Legs with Acratech GP Ballhead Mini Tripod: Pedco UltralightFlexible Mini Tripod: Joby Gorillapod

 

How-to: Photographing the stars and star trails

https://youtu.be/w3X_R_6cslU

 Tips on capturing the stars and star trails.

  Sony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm 25 secSony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm - 34 MINUTE Exposure When taking star photos you can end up with star trails or no star trails. It all depends on your focal length and shutter speed and whether or not you follow the 500 rule. Over view for Star Trails (or stars as points of light if you follow the 500 rule explained below)You need a camera with bulb mode - all modern DSLRS and mirrorless cameras offer this - Bulb mode lets you shoot as long as you are holding down the shutter button. that could be 31 seconds to 3 hours!! Now you don’t actually want to hold your shutter down so you need an intervalometer or even better - the Triggertrap dongle and app - I have separate videos about this but it has a mode specifically for star trails and the default settings work so well, plus it does so much more  I highly recommended it. You also need a lens - the kit lens at 18mm with f/3.5 will work but if you can get a hold of something wider with a faster aperture it will be even easier with better quality results. The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 is great. So is the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. And you need a sturdy tripod. Depending on the time of year or location you could also use hand-warmers and a rubber band - if you have dew on the grass in the morning it would be a good idea to rubber band the hand warmer to the end of your lens - it helps prevent your lens from fogging up during the shoot.So gather your gear and head out to your selected spot. Setup and decide your composition - if you have picked a nice dark spot it’s probably really hard to see -SO I RECOMMEND YOU DO A LITTLE TRIAL AND ERROR... EYEBALL THE COMPOSITION AS BEST YOU CAN AND RAISE THE ISO TO SOMETHING RIDICULOUS 4000, 8000  THE GOAL HERE IS NOT TO CREATE A NICE IMAGE BUT TO SIMPLY GET AN IMAGE QUICKLY AND JUDGE YOUR COMPOSITION.You typically want some of earth in the shot, trees, water, buildings can all add a nice balance to a big starry sky. Set 8-10 seconds on the shutter, ISO very high 4000, 8000 and fire a shot. Use the resulting noisy image to adjust your composition and repeat. You also should be checking focus at this time - setting your lens on infinity. Not all lenses focus marks line up perfectly with true infinity so it may also take some trial and error.  This can be something to figure out during the day - use AF on a distant object and make note of where the focus mark lines up.  Or at night find a distant light, radio tower, something you can see to focus on - either carefully by magnifying live view or using autofocus if it is a large enough and bright enough target.So you have focus and the desired composition- Now we need to test our actual settings. Plug in your intervalometer or triggertrap - The default in triggertrap is 2 minute exposures with a 5 second break - You can get decent start trails from just 40 minutes of shooting these 2 minute exposures. Why not just leave the shutter open for 40 minutes? You get heat build up and additional noise, light pollution builds up too and if anything goes wrong during that 40 minute exposure the whole thing is ruined. If something goes wrong during one of your 2 minute exposures it is likely salvageable.So 2 minute exposures, I usually set aperture as wide as possible and star at ISO 800. One more tip - set your WB to tungsten for a nice blue look to the night sky and you should be shooting RAW. Try one exposure at these settings. Wait 2 minutes and review - The stars won’t be points of light but short streaks - you should still be able to zoom in and judge focus but you are really looking at exposure - adjust ISO accordingly and review again if needed, otherwise start the app - as I said 20 frames at 2 minutes each will give you decent results- longer will be better so get comfortable - a great time to watch for meteors or just listen to the sounds of night. Be careful if you are out there with a flashlight you want to avoid splashing that light around and haphazardly lighting the landscape. I use a headlamp with a little red mode that doesn’t ruin my night vision and isn’t bright enough to light up the landscape but you still want to make sure you don’t shine it into or across the lens.  You can do some fun light painting or purposefully lighting cool buildings or trees too. At the end of your sequence take one shot with the lens cap on for a dark image reference - helps the StarStax program deal with hotpixels.So you should now have 20 or more images- import those into Lightroom and let’s do a little post processing - I don’t have any hard or fast rules about editing - I usually just play around until I see something I like. Some tips - Cooling the WB more, boosting exposure, contrast and clarity- adding more clarity really helps the stars pop! Once I have an image the way I want I will sync all of the images in the sequence. I also take a moment to inspect the images for annoying plane trails or anything else that you might want to fix/clone out. now export all of these at 90 JOEG, full resolution. We could take these into Photoshop but there is a free program for mac and windows called StarStaX that works even better. It’s linked above and while free you should donate a few bucks if you find yourself using it more than once. We have exported the shots, open StarStaX and import the images, import the one dark frame and leave everything set as default except the blending mode - change that to Gap Filling. Have fun and be sure to share any shots you get on my Facebook Page or tag me on Instagram.

500 Rule for Star-trail-less Photos

The 500 rule states that your shutter speed needs to be faster than your focal length divided by 500.  Some places you see 600 used but safer is 500.  So if you are shooting at 50mm you take 500/50 and get 10 seconds.  BUT that only applies to folks shooting with full frame cameras, if you have a crop sensor camera like the Canon Rebel Series of the Nikon Dxxx series you need to multiple your crop factor times your focal length and then divide that by 500.   Nikon crop factor is 1.5 and Canon is 1.6.Here is a handy chart to use as a starting guide- Numbers are your maximum shutter length in seconds before you will start to see the dots of the stars turn into streaks.500 Rule Star Trail ChartColumns B through D give you the number of seconds before you will probably start seeing star trails. You can of course go shorter, longer and you will start to see star trailsFor a starry sky you often want to go as wide as possible. 18mm if using the kit lens but if you have access to anything wider- use it.  Starry skies look great with a wide angle lens like the 14mm Rokinon. You can go even wider if you want. See my Rokinon 14mm post for budget friendly suggestions of wide angle lenses.

A good starting point

8 second shutter

Aperture f/3.5 (wider if possible with your lens)

ISO 4000

The trick is focusing and composition.  It is often helpful to include some of the landscape in your composition but judging if you have a straight horizon and focus in pitch black is difficult. A solution is to take some test shots using a VERY high ISO and a shorter shutter speed - these will be very noisy images but you can, without waiting a full 10 seconds at a time, judge your composition and probably your focus.Focus Tip - If your lens has any type of distance indicator you want it set near infinity, that is not a guraguaranteet the stars will be in sharp focus but it is likely. Use the test shot suggestion to judge focus and make adjustments as needed.   If there is a silhouette or a building, anything in the distance you can use that to manually focus, radio towers with their little blinky red lights can also be helpful.  Anything further than a 1/2 mile away is going to give you a target that will set your camera on infinity focus and that should give you sharp stars.Keep warm and keep shooting.Recommended Gear-Sturdy Tripod: Dolica Proline Tripod |MeFoto Travel Tripod (Review of both Tripods)Intervalometer or TriggerTrap for using Bulb Mode or just firing your shutter without shaking the camera.Wide Angle Lens:  is one of the best and most affordable lenses for photographing stars. 

 Photographing Meteors

When photographing meteors you want to avoid any star trails, you want the little streaks left by the meteors to stand out so follow the chart.First task is to find a suitable location with a clear view of the source or radiant. In the case of the Perseids you want a dark sky to your north east, in the direction of the Perseids meteor shower.  I intent to use the the Google Sky App on Android | iOS options.   You really want to make sure the sky is dark, these longer exposures quickly pick up any light pollution and are going to blow out the bottom of your image.Picking a focal length and focusing - You want to go fairly wide here, under 50mm but not really wide as that will likely give you puny little streaks that take up a very small percentage of your image.    Focusing is tricking.  If you have a light tower or something contrasting against the sky, like a mountain, in the far distance you can use that. If you have a distance scale on your lens you can set it just shy of the infinity mark.   Neither of those work for you?  Raise your ISO to the highest possible and take a few shots, a very high ISO will allow you to take a shorter longer exposure so you aren't sitting around for 30 seconds wondering if you have focus.  Take a series of test photos until you are sure you have nailed focus.Camera settings - You have your shutter speed from the chart above, your aperture should be close to wide open and your ISO should be as low as possible.  You might be better off with even shorter exposures, longer exposures will dim any streaks you get. I hope to use my Triggertrap long exposure (star trail) feature to automatically take photo after photo, their star trail feature lets me specify a long exposure and the gap between images.  You can use a standard intervalometer too but that isn't quite as elegant. You could also use a remote and have the camera set for the desired shutter speed and least desirable you push the shutter button - if you use this method make sure you use the 2 second delay so that you pressing the button doesn't jiggle the camera creating blurry images.Your Camera must be sitting on a sturdy tripod.Sit back and enjoy the show.(this is one reason I am going to let Triggertrap do the work, I want to be looking at the sky, not the back of my camera all night. More about the PerseidsThe best budget lens for astrophotography.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TSrFKLzsrQShare your thoughts, tips and comments below.   

Mastering ETTL and On-Camera Flash Portraits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBiOJCrak88The first part in a series of videos and one of our most requested video topics in the last year - how do I use my flash.  dec_1_popup_flashYou know the popup flash on your camera? (like the image to the right) We don’t recommend using it as the flash being direct and right over the lens creates harsh lighting. While a soft light from a window or daylight would be preferable owning an external flash also called a speedlight - same name, sounds cooler is best. SPEEDLITE 600EX-RT SIDE LEFT ROTATE UPRecommended Features

  • ETTL for automatic flash exposure
  • A speedlight that lets you rotate and angle the flash direction
  • (optional) Built in wireless support instead of optical, easier to learn

 Test ButtonSetup

  • Four AA batteries required, Eneloops (also listed below) are a good rechargeable option.
  • Due to the charge time leave it on and press the test button. That’s the button on the speedlight that looks like the flash symbol. This lets you double check everything is in good order.

 Attach to Your CameraHotshoe

  • To start shooting you can attach the flash to your camera, it slides onto your camera's hot shoe at the top.
  • Make sure to use the locking mechanism on the bottom of the flash by turning it to make sure it is secure.1330701884000_IMG_243258
  • Turn the flash on and check that it started in ETTL mode (setting on the top left).  If not press the mode button until ETTL is displayed.   

 Taking photos

  • For a test, shooting on the camera is a good start with the flash pointed at your subject.
  • Shoot with a shallow depth of field (f/2.0), Shutter Speed (1/125) to avoid shake, and ISO 800. Generally this makes for an underexposed photo. If it’s not underexposed then don’t use the flash.
  • Turn on the flash in ETTL and take a photo. It should provide enough light for a proper exposure.

fix How does ETTL work?fecETTL works like echolocation but with light. The flash sends a pre flash out to measure the required amount of light needed to expose a photo. In the same second after that test the actual flash happens within the same shutter press exposing the subject correctly.Sometimes when you let the camera decide the exposure, it doesn’t always get it quite right and the same can happen when you use a speedlight - that’s why you have flash exposure compensation. As easy way to adjust the power of the flash up or down relative to what the camera thinks is appropriate for your scene and subject.  Now what if, because it does, the metering is off and the photo is wrong?Just like exposure compensation while shooting in aperture priority you can do the same with ETTL. If you get an overexposed image adjust flash exposure compensation down and turn it up if scene is underexposed. You can either do this in camera or manually on the back of the flash by hitting the center button and raising the exposure. Practical shooting with a flash135Now with portrait shooting in mind having the flash straight at the subject creates flat, boring, light. As a start for portraits indoors we’d like to have a bit of depth and we can do that by turning the flash around, 135 degrees around and 45 degrees up. It seems counter intuitive but by firing the flash over our shoulder it will hit a wall or ceiling and bounce back for a larger light source. As you can see below, shooting in ETTL 0 was a bit flat. You can adjust it by stops just like in AV mode to raise the power to a proper exposure as in ETTL +1. Flash ScaleGear OptionsWe are using a Canon 600RT but are happy to recommend the extremely similar Yongnuo 600RT Canon 600RT, available via B&H and AmazonYongnuo 600RT, available via B&H and AmazonAs for other options check out our article on Yongnuo FlashesEneloop Batteries - http://www.amzn.com/B00JHKSMJU/?tag=ptrv_roy-20

Type of Portrait Lighting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjTARHCTntsGear Used:

butterfly lightingsplit lightingrembrandt lightingloop lightingbroad lightingshort lighting

Cleaning your DSLR or Mirrorless Sensor

Disclaimer- Cleaning your sensor isn't risky but does carry risks. If you damage your sensor while cleaning it is not going to be covered by your camera manufacturer's warranty and the only official cleaning method recommended by the camera manufacturers is to send in the camera for cleaning. The information I present in this post and video is based on my own experience, by following, you accept complete liability for any damages that may result.Let’s talk about dirty sensors. It happens, it’s not a big deal.Dirty SensorsDust on the sensor typically doesn’t show up unless you are shooting at smaller apertures. Bigger bits might show up starting around f/8, but it is really above f/14 and up to f/22 where you see the dust. If you are shooting lots of landscapes, this can be an issue. If you are shooting lots of portraits, with apertures below f/5.6 you can stop reading and go back to enjoying life. It is unlikely you will see any dust impact your image.f/22 - can you spot the dust and HAIR!!! Embarrassing. The first step in cleaning is to determine how dirty your sensor is. A quick way to test is to take a picture of a clean white piece of paper at f/8, f/14 and f/22 - don’t worry about your shutter speed - the dust spots will be sharp even if you shoot at slow shutter speeds, but you do want to keep your ISO fairly low to avoid noise confusing the issue. You could also photograph the sky on a clear day.Now pop that image in Lightroom and in the develop module there is a nifty option to Visual Spots located under the Spot removal tool.  Need Lightroom?Screenshot_9_8_15__8_43_AMScreenshot 2015-09-08 08.42.33Rollover the image below to see the before and after Visual Spots with my Sony a7RII sensor at f/22[himage]Dirty SensorDirty Sensor[/himage]If your sensor looks like Sony a7RII sensor does after just a few weeks of use - you probably want to clean it.Many DSLRS and Mirrorless cameras have a sensor cleaning mode - some run every time you turn the camera on or off and some run when selected. This is the first option you should try. With many of the systems, it is recommended to either hold the camera normally or facedown with the lens off so that the dust falls out. The Sony A7RII I have violently vibrates the sensor for a second or two and did absolutely nothing to reduce the amount of dust on the sensor. Hopefully you will have better results. Test again after using the in camera method.CleanSensorGif_animThe next step is to use a rocket blower - NEVER use compressed air or air in a can dust off products. Again hold the camera in such a way that the dust will fall out and give a few puffs directed at different areas of the sensor. They do sell sensor loupes - little magnifiers with led lights that make it easier to judge your progress. I used a tiny LED bike light to help see the sensor but it is clear that a bit of magnification will help too as some of these dust specks are invisible to the naked eye.$17 Sensor Magnification and LED light Sensor Loupe LED Magnification$9.95 Rocket BlowerRocket Blowers are cheap and do a great job of cleaning your sensor.Buy Rocket Blower from Amazon | B&H Photo VideoI was impressed with the results of the rocket blower- it did a good enough job that I would be happy stopping there - but if you want to get your sensor even cleaner you are going to need to touch it with something.Please read and follow all directions carefully for the kit you purchase and consult your camera manual for additional information.You have options - there are the expensive static charged brushes like the Arctic butterfly (see it at B&H) for $130 - you drag a statically charged brush across the sensor and it picks up the dust. In theory this should work fairly well with all but the stickiest particles and you never need to replace any pads etc but your up front cost are quite high. It does have two nice, bright LEDs to see what you are doing.butterflybrushOr you can go with something like the DustAid Platinum DSLR Sensor Cleaner for $26 that provides 6 cleanings - you get these little sticky pads that you gently press on the sensor, the dust sticks to the pad and then you use included “tape” to clean the pad.Dust Aid Platinum - Sticky lollipop for your sensorOr a more traditional kit like this DustAid Dust Wand Kit for $30 - Should provide about 20-40 cleanings depending on your sensor which is what I used in the video. You simply take one of the dust cloths out, wrap it carefully around the wand and apply a few drops of their cleaning solution- The larger your sensor the more drops you apply.Dust Wand Kit ReviewIf you are working with a DSLR you do need to put it into manual cleaning mode which pops the mirror out of the way. The dust aid directions suggest starting in the lower left corner and moving across the sensor. Put a new cloth on and repeat the process from the top left to the right again. Use your light and or loupe to inspect and if necessary wipe again with a clean cloth. Note that the special liquid evaporates fast so you should wipe immediately after applying.I hope this video was helpful. Do you have a favorite sensor cleaning method? leave your suggestions below and if you have any questions - you can leave those too. I’d love it if you hit that subscribe button - that way you can be notified of future videos, tips, tricks and reviews.Follow me on Instagram to see more of what I am up to day to day and all my dirty sensor photos.Make sure you don't miss a future video, subscribe to my Youtube ChannelLearn Lightroom 

How-to Install Magic Lantern on a Canon DSLR

I walk you through the install of Magic Lantern on a Canon T5i(700D). Add some neat and powerful features to your DSLR with just a few minutes of work.Download Magic Lantern: http://www.magiclantern.fm/downloads.htmlDisclaimer: Magic Lantern is not approved nor endorsed by Canon in any way, and using it will probably void your warranty.We are not responsible for any damages to your camera.

Monitor Calibration: X-Rite vs Datacolor Spyder & how-to

X-Rite ColorMunki Short Answer: The X-Rite ColorMunki Smile can be a bit aggressive & warm with its calibrations but mostly works for what you need on a budget. If you want something a bit less aggressive the Datacolor Spyder4Express is a better option although you’ll need the next model up from Datacolor for multiple monitors if you use their software. Using free third party software you can get a better reasonable calibration from both but especially the smile.Why Do you need color calibration? If you are editing your photos and doing anything beyond hitting an automatic fix, you are trusting the monitor to be true to life. One of the ones I normally hear from people is that their prints came out quite dark or an off color and they want to immediately blame the print lab. One of the reasons, but not the only one, is what they see on the monitor is off in color and brightness. Your average monitor on full brightness displays at 200 cd/m² which is fine for normal use, near a window, or outside but for editing it has to be around 60% of that for a decent print.If you’re using the monitor to edit photos it needs to have the most accurate colors possible and while the monitor is calibrated at the factory over time it needs recalibrated. While the monitor ages very slowly the screen deteriorates which can throw the overall color off its optimal setting. If you look at an old LCD you can notice a slight yellowing to it because the chemicals used to create blue light are the most susceptible to this effect leaving a stronger red and green presence making yellow.As an example these are two photos that on screen look identical but as you can see are quite different. On the left being my desktop that has been calibrated with a white photo and the right being my laptop set to its default which is more of a cooler blue tone. For the laptop to have the same image as the desktop the photo has to be made significantly warmer which would affect prints and posting/sending it to anyone else.Roy Mckee's Sample ImagesThe ColorMunki Smile from X-Rite (Amazon) tries to fix this issue by creating a color calibration file for your computer. Without getting too technical it creates an .icc profile that acts as an index for the computer telling it the correct colors to send to the monitor. This is accomplished by using the Smile on your monitor and letting it display a baseline of colors for it to take the differences it monitored and come up with a calibration to negate the effect making the display true.Most of the monitors I’ve tested over the last couple weeks the results were positive with usable results. That is to say not all of the monitors did manage to make a correct calibration and the X-Rite software is not a magic bullet. The software tried to aggressively warm the monitor on displays that were cooler (mainly laptop displays) or were originally quite off. For one of my own monitors that errored testing the software, it was warm enough that I ended up switching to the profile only when editing.X-Rite’s solution is to install their baseline icc profile as a default and the software will tend to be less aggressive. It still edges on being slightly warm but will give you a much better result if you are having any issues. While packaged with the ColorMunki Display it is left out from the Smile but you can download the file below. Right click on the file, click install, go to color management in the control panel, add the icc profile, click it and select it as default, restart, then re-calibrate.Download the .icc profileAs I mentioned above if the monitor is off a fair bit the software can be a bit aggressive trying to fix the problem and in more than a few I tried it actually ended up with a warm result. For laptops and some monitors this is mainly due to the temperature being set for 9300K instead of 6500K which is great for videos and documents but overall a bit blue. While you cannot directly change the output of the monitor in this case you can alter the graphics card color setting for a less blue to get a better result at the cost of some brightness (see dispcalGUI below). Also if you use a USB display adapter they are not connected to color management for it to use .icc profiles so this will not work.As for ambient light, if you have a strong yellow lamp or light in the room the Smile does not have a ambient light sensor which in that case a Spyder4Pro or ColorMunki Display would be a better option.As for the instructions, which in terms of documentation leaves a bit to be desired.

  1. Leave the monitor on for 30 minutes minimum and don’t let it go on standby
  2. Reset the monitor to its factory default
  3. Plug the sensor in
  4. Run the Smile software* and press start on display
  5. Place the sensor on the screen in the box below
    1. It has to be flush with the screen, this may involve tipping the monitor back
  6. After pressing start it will go through a series of colors for testing
  7. Click done or calibrate another monitor

*As a note if you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1 your better option is to download the updated software vs using the packaged version. Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.20Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.28Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.36If you're on a budget the Smile is a workable solution. It sells for $69 frequently on Amazon Gold Box and for the most part does a decent job. In terms of software for another $20 you can go with the Datacolor Spyder4Express and have a few less issues. In comparison for your average when it does work correctly X-Rite software usually is warmer than the Datacolor software. The main drawback for some of the Spyder4Express is that it’s default software while somewhat limited the same as the Smile does not handle multiple monitors.Fortunately with both units if you would like to use them as a sensor only you can go a bit more advanced for a better result with the free software below.While they are expensive for a calibration I provided a link below in which you can rent a Spyder3 Print which does have that capability as well as making print calibration profiles. At least for laptops, unless you want to haul your desktop and monitor in, you can check with your local camera shops as sometimes their camera demo days sometimes have monitor calibrations for free using one of the pro models.Rent the Spyder3 from BorrowLensesBuy the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoBuy the Datacolor Spyder4Express From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoDispcalGUI using Argyll CMS can solve a lot of the issues with the Smile having warm results. It is compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux for those wanting to avoid the stock software. In terms of sensors the Spyder4Express is relatively the Elite model bar a ambient light sensor and the software. The Smile is in the same respect as an older pro iProfiler model rebadged with dumbed down software. Compared to the previous two though the software is a bit more complicated to run.Compared to the Smile software the main benefit you gain from this is being able to set a monitor white point using monitor settings, something the more advanced products have. Compared to the default X-Rite software this leans towards a cooler result that for some monitors that I tested was preferable and you have the ability for a bit of fine tuning. For laptops this allows my above point of using the graphics card settings to account for a better calibration as well.Monitor calibration files are not permanent so you can try this software without causing any permanent issues to either device. You will however need to switch the driver back to the original to use the previous software again.Download DispcalguiWindows Instructions: (full instructions can be found on http://dispcalgui.hoech.net/)

  1. Same as before you need to warm the monitor for 30 minutes and reset the settings
  2. Plug the sensor in
  3. Install the Argyll Driver
    1. If you're in windows you need to disable driver enforcement
      1. Windows 8/8.1: Bring up settings from the charms menu (menu on right). Click settings, power, hold down shift, and click restart. When the menu comes up select troubleshoot->advanced options->startup settings->restart. After reboot press 7.
    2. Run the software and select tools->Install Argyll CMS Insturment Drivers
    3. If you already have installed the previous software or it picked up the driver you need to check Launch Device Manager.
    4. Press OK
    5. If you did open device manager select the device under x-rite at the bottom. Right click and press update->browse my computer->let me pick->select Argyll driver->next and close.
  4. If you have installed the previous software you can grab the calibration data from it to improve dispcalGUI. Select Tools>Import colorimeter corrections>Auto.
  5. Choose your settings. In this case select photo at the top then adjust for 6500k. If you have an older monitor selecting drift compensation does seem to help. For some monitors selecting 2.4 gamma is a better option but that is up to experimentation.
  6. Click Calibrate and Profile
  7. Attach sensor to screen as previously
  8. Start measurement and manually adjust your monitors color until all three bars are in the center and the text turns green. The final bar is for brightness, the goal of this would be somewhere close to 125cd/m².
  9. Click stop measurement then continue
  10. Finally, Install Profile

Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.20.53 Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.21.07 dispalGUIWant to see more of Roy's work? Follow him on Facebook or InstagramRent the Spyder3 from BorrowLensesBuy the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoBuy the Datacolor Spyder4Express From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideo

Build a Photography Portfolio w/ Squarespace

There are many reasons you should have your own portfolio site - in this video I outline the reasons and show you just how easy it is to have your own piece of the web. Build a complete portfolio site from scratch in just 15 minutes!SQUARESPACE - Save 10% off your purchase and get a 14 free trial - SQUARESPACE7 the all new all in one hosting and building platform. Use coupon code: TOBY at http://squarespace.com/toby

Photo Assignment #3 - Show Motion & How-to Panning

We are nearing the end of photo assignment #3 (this was announced a few podcasts ago)- Your task is to show motion, but no flowing water. Assignment #3 is due by 12pm EDT 6/30/14 - paste a link to your flickr/500px as a comment or watch for the call on Facebook. We recently had a brainstorming session on Facebook with some of the options including panning with cars (or planes) in the example below, people walking, kids running and oh so much more - be creative, think outside the box :) Screenshot 2014-06-25 11.29.22 Panning is one way to show motion and I thought I would give you some quick tips.Panning is the act of moving your camera with a subject - see example above.  The trick is to find the right shutter speed that blurs the background but still lets you get your subject in sharp focus. It will take practice and your keeper rate when shooting panning shots is going to go down.

  1. Set your camera on the fastest burst rate you have available.  The more shots you take in a panning series the more likely you will get one that works.
  2. Set your shutter speed (see table below) and determine your exposure. Avoid situations where your exposure is going to change greatly over the pan- if it is consider using Auto ISO.
  3. Pre focus on the spot your subject will be passing through, you can wait and focus on slower moving subjects but anything moving faster than a brisk walk is going to give you fewer chances for focus AND a good series of shots.
  4. Determine the point of your subject you will track and use one of your focus points as a guide to keep your camera aimed at the same location. Eyes are great point for tracking, or a wheel - keep your target small!
  5. Start(anticipate and start moving before your subject enters the frame) and end your pan in one smooth motion while shooting a burst of images. - This smooth motion increases your chances of getting a sharp shot.  As you move try to minimize your movement, just twist on your hips keeping everything else steady.
  6. Don't trust your LCD- Your subject can look in focus on that small screen- zoom all the way in and check at your point of focus.

 Screenshot 2014-06-25 11.41.42 Got more tips for panning shots? Leave them in the comments below.  This isn't the ONLY way to show motion - just one that I shared a few tips on.

Steel Wool Photography - Quick How-to

Steel Wool PhotographyHad an opportunity to try some Steel Wool Photography last night and thought I would share my experience-You will need -

  • Steel Wool - Grade 0, 00, 000, or 0000. Don't buy grade 1 or higher.
  • Wire Whisk to hold the wool
  • Chain or dog leash to clip to the wire whisk for spinning- this should be 3'-4' long
  • Lighter or 9 volt battery to light the wool
  • Tripod or someway to hold your camera steady for 20-30 seconds.
  • Flash light or light source(lighter can work) for focus assist with the camera
  • Junky clothes including a hoody or a hat to protect your hair and eye protection
  • Space to spin that isn't going to catch on fire.*

*You will potentially be throwing sparks 15-20' possibly more depending on the wind and these are sparks or bits of wool that continue to burn. DO NOT experiment with this anywhere that potentially could catch fire and have someone with you keeping an eye out for for issues.  And when done do a walk through picking up any mess and making sure nothing is still burning or smoldering.Directions -

  1. Stuff the steel wool inside the whisk and rearrange the whisk so it is spaced evenly, closing any big gaps created when you stuffed the wool inside.  You can keep the wool packed or unravel and re-pack loosely.  The more tightly packed the slower and more consistent the burn.
  2. Attach the chain, dog leash to the end of the whisk and experiment with spinning the contraption.
  3. Using a flashlight, compose and get focus on the subject that will be spinning.
  4. Set camera on manual mode - suggested starting settings around 20-30 seconds, f8-f/10 and ISO 200-400 - not a bad idea to set the camera on 2-second delay to avoid any extra jiggling or use a remote to trigger the camera.
  5. Light the wool(you don't need the wool to be on fire - small embers are enough, once you start spinning it will catch fire) and start spinning.
  6. Review images and try again.
Results -
Alternative Ideas - Not interested in spinning burning steel around your head?  Use a glow stick, flashlight, electrowire- You won't get the sparks but can still create some very cool images using the same basic camera settings and setup.  Watch my Electrowire light painting videoFuture Plans - I'd love to try some more - locations with reflections, locations like tunnels where the flying sparks hit walls and define the space, spinning as I spin to create more of an orb look and one more than I am not ready to share yet.   Have you done any steel wool photos? Share them in my Flickr Group or on my Facebook Page.Questions? Comments? Suggestions for future video topics? Leave them below.     

Photographing the Stars - Quick Guide

Quick tips on capturing the stars and possibly a meteor or two if you are shooting during a meteor storm or have access to a very clear sky. During the peak of meteor storms you can see 80-100 meteors an hour for those with clear/dark skies. Normally that number is closer to 12 an hour, again skies need to be dark! Sony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm 25 secSony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm - 34 MINUTE Exposure When taking star photos you can end up with star trails or no star trails. It all depends on your focal length and shutter speed and whether or not you follow the 500 rule.

500 Rule for Star-trail-less Photos

The 500 rule states that your shutter speed needs to be faster than your focal length divided by 500.  Some places you see 600 used but safer is 500.  So if you are shooting at 50mm you take 500/50 and get 10 seconds.  BUT that only applies to folks shooting with full frame cameras, if you have a crop sensor camera like the Canon Rebel Series of the Nikon Dxxx series you need to multiple your crop factor times your focal length and then divide that by 500.   Nikon crop factor is 1.5 and Canon is 1.6.Here is a handy chart to use as a starting guide- Numbers are your maximum shutter length in seconds before you will start to see the dots of the stars turn into streaks.500 Rule Star Trail ChartColumns B through D give you the number of seconds before you will probably start seeing star trails. You can of course go shorter, longer and you will start to see star trailsFor a starry sky you often want to go as wide as possible. 18mm if using the kit lens but if you have access to anything wider- use it.  Wider lenses allow you to gather more light and often offer a wider maximum aperture.

A good starting point10 second shutterAperture f/3.5 (wider if possible with your lens)ISO 3200

The trick is focusing and composition.  It is often helpful to include some of the landscape in your composition but judging if you have a straight horizon and focus in pitch black is difficult. A solution is to take some test shots using a VERY high ISO and a shorter shutter speed - these will be very noisy images but you can, without waiting a full 10 seconds at a time, judge your composition and probably your focus.

Focus Tip - If your lens has any type of distance indicator you want it set near infinity, that is not a guraguaranteet the stars will be in sharp focus but it is likely. Use the test shot suggestion to judge focus and make adjustments as needed.   If there is a silhouette or a building, anything in the distance you can use that to manually focus, radio towers with their little blinky red lights can also be helpful.  Anything further than a 1/2 mile away is going to give you a target that will set your camera on infinity focus and that should give you sharp stars.

Keep warm and keep shooting.Recommended Gear-Sturdy Tripod: Dolica Proline Tripod |MeFoto Travel Tripod (Review of both Tripods)Intervalometer or TriggerTrap for using Bulb Mode or just firing your shutter without shaking the camera.Wide Angle Lens: Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 is one of the best and most affordable lenses for photographing stars. 

 Photographing Meteors

When photographing meteors you want to avoid any star trails, you want the little streaks left by the meteors to stand out so follow the chart.First task is to find a suitable location with a clear view of the source or radiant. In the case of the Perseids you want a dark sky to your north east, in the direction of the Perseids meteor shower.  I intent to use the the Google Sky App on Android | iOS options.   You really want to make sure the sky is dark, these longer exposures quickly pick up any light pollution and are going to blow out the bottom of your image.Picking a focal length and focusing - You want to go fairly wide here, under 50mm but not really wide as that will likely give you puny little streaks that take up a very small percentage of your image.    Focusing is tricking.  If you have a light tower or something contrasting against the sky, like a mountain, in the far distance you can use that. If you have a distance scale on your lens you can set it just shy of the infinity mark.   Neither of those work for you?  Raise your ISO to the highest possible and take a few shots, a very high ISO will allow you to take a shorter longer exposure so you aren't sitting around for 30 seconds wondering if you have focus.  Take a series of test photos until you are sure you have nailed focus.Camera settings - You have your shutter speed from the chart above, your aperture should be close to wide open and your ISO should be as low as possible.  You might be better off with even shorter exposures, longer exposures will dim any streaks you get. I hope to use my Triggertrap long exposure (star trail) feature to automatically take photo after photo, their star trail feature lets me specify a long exposure and the gap between images.  You can use a standard intervalometer too but that isn't quite as elegant. You could also use a remote and have the camera set for the desired shutter speed and least desirable you push the shutter button - if you use this method make sure you use the 2 second delay so that you pressing the button doesn't jiggle the camera creating blurry images.Your Camera must be sitting on a sturdy tripod.Sit back and enjoy the show.(this is one reason I am going to let Triggertrap do the work, I want to be looking at the sky, not the back of my camera all night. More about the PerseidsThe best budget lens for astrophotography.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TSrFKLzsrQShare your thoughts, tips and comments below.   

HOW-TO: Sparkler Photos - Long Exposure Light Painting

For many summer means fireworks and sparklers - here are my quick tips(with video) on capturing cool photos using sparklers or really any small light source.

You need:

  • Camera with control over manual settings

  • Tripod

  • Flashlight or cell phone (for low light focusing help) OR Hotshoe LED light

  • Pile of sparklers or a glow stick or small flash light - any light source really

  • Remote shutter release - Not mandatory but helpful (Recommended cheap one)

First task is to do this all safely.  Don't hurt anyone in an effort to get a photo and make sure you are complying with all fireworks and sparkler laws in your area - beautiful photos can be made with glow sticks, flash lights and other non-dangerous light sources.

Your shutter speeds are going to range from 2 seconds on up to Bulb mode so the use of a tripod is a must.  

Setup your camera - manual mode (M), a good starting point is a 5 second shutter speed, ISO 200 and an aperture around f/4.5.

Have your subject stand still and hold up a small light source so you can focus on them, either auto focus or manual, zoom in. After you get focus switch to manual so that the camera isn't struggling to get focus in the dark.  You can also use back button focus to avoid this issue. They can now put away the little flash light

Once you have focus have them light the sparkler and start moving it around.  Use the remote release to trigger the shutter or gently press the shutter button on the camera (you really need to be careful not to wiggle the camera when you press the button, alternatively you can use the self-timer: 2-sec delay but that does require a bit more coordination with your subject.

A third option is to use the remote shutter release and BULB mode in your camera.  In the T4i/T5i bulb mode is activated by setting the camera to M and increasing the shutter speed past 30 seconds. This doesn't mean the shutter has to be longer than 30 seconds for your exposures, it will just stay open as long as you hold the shutter release button down.  This is great if someone is trying to write their name with a sparkler, you hold it down just as long  as it takes the subject, when you release the button the shutter closes. With sparklers I notice that the slower you move them the more sparky trails you get - fast moving sparklers leave a more smooth line of light.   You are limited by your imagination!

Video: Sparkler Photos - Long Exposure Light Painting

Related Video - How To Photograph Fireworks

How to Capture Lightning

The first rule of lightning photography is to be safe.   Do NOT put yourself in any danger to get a photo, ever. 

The story behind the photo.   With spring comes thunderstorms and I had been paying attention to the weather reports and thinking about possible vantage points.  I was looking for some place with enough elevation to get a good view without being at the top of a mountain myself.  I also wanted a view that was going to be fairly clear or artificial light, with longer shutter speeds those lights can really ruin a scene.  Though there are plenty of shots with cityscapes and lightning, but the area I am in doesn't really offer that.     I used my knowledge of the area and Google Earth to scout potential vantage points settling on a location that gave me a good view of the Connecticut river valley.

I brought my 5D Mark III, tripod and Triggertrap app on an iPad.    Now I don't have any pictures of the setup in the car, I was shooting out of the car window with the tripod spread around my lap.  It was not the most comfortable and roomy setup but I could live with it.  Truthfully I didn't end up using the Triggertrap app, for no reason other than I pulled up and lightning was happening so I rushed to setup everything. I should have taken a moment to plug in the app, the Star Trail Mode would be perfect for lightning photos.


Triggertrap Star Trails

Yes, contrary to popular belief you don't try to capture lightning by watching for a bolt and quickly pressing the shutter button - you will not be fast enough. What you do is shoot long exposures - anywhere from 6 seconds to 30 seconds can give you good results.  So the shutter is open, the sensor is recording a fairly dark scene and hopefully during the time the shutter is opening a strike will happen.   I have heard from one of my readers that if a strike happens in the middle of an exposure it is a good idea to throw  a black cloth over the lens to keep any more light from entering and potentially ruining the image.  I may try that in a future shoot.

Now when I first set up I took a few long exposures to get a sense of my composition, it was quite difficult to get a sense through live view or the view finder, so you can raise your ISO way up for a few test photos, this way your shutter speed only needs to be a few seconds - these aren't keepers, just trying to get a feel for what the camera will capture.

001_10.0 sec at f - 7.1It is a good thing I took her advice and adjusted my horizon, I would have cut off even more of this bolt.I was shooting around 40mm on a full frame camera.  That is about 22mm on a crop sensor camera like the Canon T4i/T5i.30 shots later I captured what would turn out to be the best of the night- Rollover to see the unprocessed straight out of the camera shot.  38mm on full frame at ISO 400, f/10 and 20.0 seconds shutter speed.

[himage]003_20.0 sec at f - 10

004_20.0 sec at f - 10[/himage]

I continued shooting for another 30 minutes, another 40 shots and captured a few more bolts but the storm fell apart and low level clouds rolled in making it difficult to capture individual bolts[gallery ids="3623,3622,3621,3620,3619,3624" orderby="rand"]SO if you read all of this, or skipped to this point let me give you the moral of the story.

  1. Be Safe
  2. You have a higher probability of making a cool photo with planning. Gear, Location and Knowledge all need to be considered in your planning.
  3. Be patient - I sat in my car, rain coming in the window for over an hour, in this case I was enjoying myself so it wasn't a hardship but you can't expect to roll up/show up to someplace and instantly snap something magical. Don't count on luck. Anytime I think about luck I think about Las vegas, none of those casinos are hurting for money, luck is NOT on our side most of the time.

  

Photographing Waterfalls - Tips and Tricks for Long Exposure Water Photos

Watch the video to learn how to take photos like this Gear Needed:Camera that allows shutter speed control and a tripod.Recommended Gear:Remote shutter release(to avoid wiggling the camera) and a Circular Polarizer or Neutral Density Filter.  If you don't have the filters you will need to shoot when light levels are low, almost to the point of getting dark - after sunset and before sunrise.In this video I use a Canon T5i with 18-135 STM lens with a Circular Polarizer on a Benro MeFoto Travel Tripod.I mention Back Button Focusing in this video, helpful to keep the camera from refocusing each time you try a shot.Even with the filters the best time is near dawn or sunset, the rest of the day is too bright, even if it is overcast.