3 camera lessons every new photographer should learn (free cheat sheet)

If you’ve just bought your first camera, you’re probably finding a bit of a learning curve in getting up to speed with all of its bells and whistles. There are a number of great beginner photography tutorials out there that can help you get to grips with all that functionality.

Before you get you get started, though, there are three fundamental concepts you need to understand: how your camera’s shutter speed scale works; how focal length affects your composition; and how your aperture controls what’s sharp.

We’ve explained each of these concepts below, and we’ve also compiled everything into a handy photography cheat sheet for you to download and save!

SEE MORE: First camera crash course – simple solutions for mastering your new DSLR

3 camera lessons every new photographer should learn (free cheat sheet)

Click on the infographic to see the larger version, or drag and drop to your desktop to save.

Camera Lesson No. 1: Get to know the shutter speed scale

Your shutter speed is one of the two ways of controlling the exposure (the other is the lens aperture). In normal, everyday photography, you might not have to worry too much about the shutter speed, as long as it’s fast enough to avoid camera-shake.

But when you’re shooting fast-moving objects, the shutter speed takes on a whole new role. The longer the shutter is open, the further your subject will move during the exposure.

To freeze your subject, you can simply use a fast shutter speed. What many sports photographers do, though, is set a slower shutter and ‘pan’ the shot, following the subject in the viewfinder as they press the shutter. This keeps the subject sharp but blurs the background, conveying motion.

SEE MORE: What is shutter speed – 7 questions new photographers always ask

Camera Lesson No. 2: How focal length affects a scene

Lenses are categorised according to their ‘focal length’. This is another way of describing their angle of view.

The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view – hence the term ‘wide-angle lenses’.

When you shoot with a wide-angle lens (such as a 10-18mm), you get more in the frame but objects look smaller.

The longer the focal length (such as 100-200mm), the narrower the angle of view. You get less in the frame, but subjects are magnified. This is what is meant by ‘telephoto’ lens.

Most lenses these days are zooms, which is convenient because they cover a range of focal lengths.

The 18-55mm lens that comes with many new cameras, for example, has a focal range of 18?55mm, for wide-angle shots at one end of the range and modest telephoto ones at the other.

These kit lenses are a good all-rounder, but sooner or later you’ll want to expand your shooting options with extra lenses.

Camera Lesson No. 3: The relationship between focusing and aperture

The lens aperture is just one of the controls used to get the exposure right. It controls the amount of light hitting the sensor, while the shutter speed controls the length of the exposure.

The size of the lens aperture also affects the depth of field in the picture. Shallow depth of field is where only your main subject is sharp, and any objects in the background or nearer to the camera are out of focus. You get this from using wide lens apertures, eg f/4.

However, you can also increase the depth of field by using a narrower lens aperture (eg f/22), which makes objects at different distances look sharper.

It’s important to understand how your camera’s autofocus system works so you can ensure it’s focusing on the right part of your scene.

But it’s also important to take aperture and depth of field into account if you want to blur backgrounds or make your shots look perfectly sharp, from the foreground into the distance.

Depth of field explained
The aperture is the main factor in dictating how much of the scene appears pin-sharp. The narrower the aperture (larger f/number) the more of the image will be in focus; the wider the aperture, the less of the image will be in focus.


Common mistakes at every shutter speed (and the best settings you should use)
10 common exposure problems every photographer faces (and how to fix them)
How to take good photos: 10 simple ways to boost your hit rate
Exposure Triangle cheat sheet – understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO

[syndicated from Digital Camera World]

How to See in Black and White

How to see in black and white

In my previous article I showed you how to convert colour photos to black and white in Lightroom. However, no matter which technique you use, good monochrome photography starts in your mind. If you can learn to see in black and white, you can create beautiful monochrome images. Here are some tips to get you started.

Understand the appeal of Black and White

Colour photography is very literal. It depicts the world as it really is. Black and white, on the other hand, gives us a new way of seeing. Removing colour takes us a step away from reality and towards creating an artistic interpretation. Shape, form, tone and texture are revealed to the eye, rather than overpowered by colour.

But the appeal of black and white photography goes deeper than that. The monochrome image, at its best, is beautiful. It’s art. It captures the beauty and soul of the subject. It moves people. It’s powerful and it endures.

Learn to see tonal contrast

Tonal contrast happens when there is a clear difference in brightness between your subject and the background. Here are two examples.

How to see in black and white

The photo on the left shows a white sticker pasted on a door. There is tonal contrast between the light and dark tones. In this image you find a light tone (the sticker) surrounded by dark tones (the door), a type of tonal contrast that works very effectively in Black and White.

The photo on the right shows a dark statue against a near white background. This is the opposite type of tonal contrast, where a dark toned subject is shown against a light background.

Tonal contrast is the basis of many successful black and white photos. Images that make good use of tonal contrast convert to monochrome with little effort. Let’s take a look at a couple of practical examples.

How to see in black and white

In this portrait I positioned the model against a dark background to take advantage of the difference in brightness between the light falling on her and the light falling on the trees behind her (which were in shade). If you want to create powerful black and white portraits, this style will serve you well.

How to see in black and white

Here I took advantage of the difference in brightness between the twigs in the home-made broom and the dark stones. You can see the same principle in action as in the portrait, a light toned subject against a dark toned background. I knew this would make a strong black and white image because it contains two things that look good in monochrome: texture and tonal contrast.

You can learn more about tonal contrast in my article Improving Composition with Tonal Contrast.

Simplicity and negative space

All the photos I’ve shown you so far have two more things in common. One is that the composition is very simple. I’ve deliberately moved in close to the subject and framed it in such a way to eliminate distracting elements. An added benefit is that the tonal contrast becomes much stronger when the composition is simplified.

Here’s another example.

How to see in black and white

I moved in close to crop everything but the vendor’s hand and the Chairman Mao pocket watch in this photo taken in an antique market in Shanghai. The simple composition emphasises the texture of the watch and hand as well as the difference in brightness between them and the background.

Negative space is the area surrounding your subject. It is negative space if it doesn’t contain much detail. In black and white, it would be an area of white, black or grey that creates a kind of frame for your subject, giving it room to breathe within the composition.

How to see in black and white

This portrait is a good example of using negative space. The model’s face (a light tone) is surrounded by an area of dark space that contains just enough detail for you to see what it is (his shirt and the wall behind him). In this portrait you can see the principles of tonal contrast, negative space and simplicity of composition working in harmony together.

My article Composition and Negative Space goes into this topic in more detail.

Monochrome previews

How to see in black and white

So far we’ve looked at some of the elements that contribute to strong Black and White images, but that may not be a great help when you’re faced with a colourful subject and the colours are so strong that you can’t visualize how it will turn out in Black and white. Don’t worry if this happens to you – it takes time and practise to learn to see in monochrome.

One thing you can do to help you visualize the subject in Black and White is switch to your camera’s monochrome mode. The key is to select the Raw format, so that the image is recorded in full 12 or 14 bit colour (essential for good Black and White conversions).

But when you play back your images on the camera’s LCD screen, they will be presented in Black and White. If you have a camera with an electronic viewfinder it may even display the scene in black and white as you look through it. This helps you see how the colours in the scene translate to the grey tones that make up a monochrome image. If the image is a little flat, which will happen if you’re not shooting in bright sunlight, increase the contrast to add some pop.

My article Mastering Monochrome Mode goes into this in more detail.

Over to you

Hopefully these tips will help you see in black and white and create better monochrome images.

[post syndicated from Digital Photography School]

Three Exercises to Limit Yourself and Grow as a Photographer

Today’s digital cameras are marvels of modern technology, allowing even the most inexperienced photographer access to state-of-the-art imaging systems that were the domain of supercomputers, and research institutions only a few decades ago. With prices plunging continually lower, and more devices equipped with cameras than ever before, photography has reached the point of ubiquity: cameras are everywhere, and anyone who wants to take photos can do so. But sometimes, the best thing you can do to grow as a photographer is to take the opposite approach and set some strict limits for yourself. By operating within the bounds of some simple constraints, you will often find yourself exploring new photographic possibilities that you had never realized were there before.

Duck pond

1. Limit the number of shots you take

Memory cards are extraordinarily cheap. It’s tempting to buy the biggest card you can afford in order to ensure you can fill it with thousands of pictures and not worry about running out of space. But not too long ago, photographers were limited to just a handful of pictures at a time. Each roll of film (i.e. memory card) could hold 36 shots at most, and they were crazy expensive by today’s standards. Imagine paying four dollars for a memory card that could only hold a couple dozen photos and only be used once! Nevertheless, for decades our photographic forefathers were able to churn out amazing images by working within these limits, and so can you.

Cicaida tree

The next time you go out to shoot, limit yourself to only a handful of pictures–set the number beforehand, and stick to it. In doing so, you will have to be much more purposeful about what you photograph. Rather than take the “spray and pray” approach where you shoot hundreds of photos now and find the good ones later, take a more measured and intentional approach by really studying your subjects and finding the best shots through careful planning. You might be frustrated at first, but will soon find that you develop a much more intimate relationship with your subjects, the lighting, the composition, and other elements of photography. Limiting yourself to only a few pictures will help you make each shot count, and help you shoot for quality instead of quantity.

Night lights

2. Limit your focal length

Zoom lenses are a wonderful thing, and are a great way to help you get closer to the action or take in a wide angle of view on a given scene. But zoom lenses on consumer cameras are a fairly recent invention, and not long ago every camera shipped with a simple prime lens, meaning it could not zoom at all. Imagine not being able to zoom in and out! You would have to physically move yourself to get closer to the action–not at all what people expect nowadays. But by limiting your focal length you can, ironically, find yourself stretching your photographic muscles in ways you never thought possible.

Flower bug

When you allow yourself only one focal length, it forces you to look at the world with a different perspective and see new opportunities for pictures. Let’s say you are out with your kids at the park, but instead of standing on the side and zooming in, try locking your lens at one focal length such as 24mm or 35mm and physically walking around to get closer. You will soon discover new perspectives that you overlooked, because you were relying on the zooming capability of your lens. Or if you normally like to take photos of nature or architecture at a wider settings like 18mm, try setting your focal length to something like 55mm and see what happens.

True, the pictures you take will look nothing like what you are used to, but you will see the world from a new perspective and find all sorts of different photographic opportunities you never realized were there. If the temptation to start zooming in or out strikes, don’t give in. Move yourself around and look for ways to work within the limit you have set, and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Toy top

Of course the best way to limit your focal length is to buy a prime lens, which I highly recommend. Not only will you learn to maximize the possibilities afforded by a single focal length, but you will get other benefits like a much larger aperture which means better photos in low light, and nice blurry backgrounds too.

3. Limit your subject

We’ve all heard people tell us to take time to stop and smell the roses, but what about taking time to photograph them? Or, specifically, one single rose. That’s the idea here: rather than taking pictures of many roses, trees, buildings, sculptures, or people – focus on just one subject and look for new and interesting ways to capture it on digital film. Study it from every possible angle, and find ways of positioning it (or yourself) that might not seem so obvious. Try returning at different times of day, or seasons of the year, and see how it changes. You might end up with dozens or even hundreds of pictures that are boring, uninteresting, or just not all that good. But you will also likely end up with some gems that are far beyond what you thought you could accomplish before.

Tree perspective

Limiting yourself, in a world with limitless photographic opportunities, might seem counter productive at first. But if you give it a try, you will find that putting some constraints on your photography will help stretch yourself in new ways and find interesting picture opportunities that you might have overlooked hundreds of times before.

The post Three Exercises to Limit Yourself and Grow as a Photographer by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

[post syndicated from Digital Photography School]

Lightroom Web Gallery: how to create a virtual photo collection in the Web module

Discover how to create a customised, virtual photo gallery, which you can then export or upload to a website using the Lightroom Web Gallery feature.

Lightroom Web Gallery: how to create a virtual photo collection in the Web module

It’s all very well spending ages editing, enhancing and sharpening your images, but it counts for nothing unless you mean to show them off afterwards. You could go the old-fashioned way and make prints.

But why not build a web gallery instead? It’s an opportunity to select your best shots and display them in a polished, professional way, and it opens up your images to an audience of millions.

Adobe Lightroom has a dedicated Web Module that allows you to produce customised image galleries, which you can then export or upload to a website server.

It’s simple to use and comes with a good selection of templates to start you off. The great thing about the templates is that you can choose a style of gallery to suit your images.

So for a set of moody portraits a dark minimalist gallery might work, while for wedding photos a light, breezy style might be more suited. It’s entirely up to you, and it’s very easy to get started. Here’s how it’s done…