Monthly Archives: September 2016
It wasn’t all that long ago that simply having a phone with a camera in it was relatively rare. Not so today!
Now, the cameras on our smartphones are fully functioning with all sorts of bells and whistles that give us the capability of taking stunning photos (and videos) with little more than a decent understanding of the camera settings, a few apps, and maybe some add-on equipment like a lens or a tripod.
If you’re looking to step up your smartphone photography game, consider learning how to use the following three settings.
HDR (which stands for High Dynamic Range) is a camera setting that produces an image that has better quality in shadowed to highlighted areas. In other words, when you’re presented with a scene in which there are bright highlights and dark shadows, your smartphone camera might not be able to generate an image in which the full range of subject matter is visible. If the camera meters off of a bright area, the shadows will be dark black; if the camera meters off a dark area, the highlights will be bright white.
HDR solves that problem because it takes three separate shots, each one at a different exposure level, then automatically blends the images together. The resulting image has much greater detail throughout the image.
Although HDR can be used for any type of photo, it is especially useful for backlit scenes, like a silhouetted portrait, and landscapes. In the image above, note how the rock faces are still well-exposed, even though the sun is behind them. This is because one of the images that made up the HDR composite was exposed for the rocks while another was exposed for the sky.
Engaging HDR is different from one smartphone to the next, so consult your owner’s manual if you aren’t sure how to turn it on.
Many of today’s smartphone cameras also have an option to create time-lapse videos. This is a handy feature on occasions when a single still photo or a short video just won’t do justice to whatever it is you’re recording.
Essentially, the smartphone’s time-lapse feature takes a series of individual photos at an established interval over an established period of time. Those individual photos are then strung together into a single, seamless video that shows the event in a much shorter time span. To do this on your own by manually taking a photo at specific intervals would be difficult, to say the least.
Like the HDR function, each smartphone is a little different regarding how to create a time-lapse video. But, once you determine how the feature works on your phone, be sure to select a subject that has indicated movement so you can see the effects of the time-lapse. Clouds, waves crashing on the beach, or vehicles passing by on the street are all good subjects. No matter the subject, be sure you have your phone mounted on a tripod – it will need to remain absolutely still throughout the sequence of shots.
Action scenes – be that your kid’s soccer game or a deer bounding across the road – are best captured in a series of frames as opposed to one static shot. The theory is that by taking a number of shots in rapid sequence that at least one of them will be a pleasing shot of the action unfolding before you. What’s more, you can see the movement from frame to frame and choose the image that best represents what the action is all about.
Where the time-lapse setting on your phone takes a long series of individual photos and then seamlessly combines them into a video, burst mode takes a short burst of individual frames and saves them individually on your camera roll. So, where you might be able to manually take three photos in a five-second time span with your phone, in burst mode, the phone might be able to fire off double that.
But burst mode isn’t just for action shots. When taking a portrait of someone, use burst mode to get a range of facial expressions. Better still, you can use burst mode to capture candid shots between formal takes, resulting in laid-back and relaxed images that might well be the best of the bunch.
Add-On Lenses Benefit Your Images
Using the camera settings outlined above will help you get out of your normal routine and challenge your comfort zone. Rather than taking a solitary photo, you can challenge yourself to try burst mode to capture more than simple portraits or landscapes. Likewise, your creativity can be inspired by using the time-lapse setting to see how you can represent a scene over a longer period of time. Furthermore, using the HDR setting expands your ability to photograph scenes even when the lighting isn’t ideal.
What all that means is that using your smartphone camera’s tools will make you a better photographer because you will be better equipped, more informed, and have varied shooting experiences to help you develop your photographer’s eye.
But why not add a lens to your phone that enhances your ability to do all those things even more?
There are plenty of add-on lenses on the market today for virtually any kind of smartphone. Sirui has a line of three high-quality lenses that are easy to use in a host of shooting situations. But just because it’s a quick add-on doesn’t mean the results are so-so.
The beauty of Sirui’s lenses is that they are made with high-quality German schott glass. That means your images will be sharp and clear, so that no matter your subject, it will shine through in your images as it should. What’s more, Sirui has an entire line of lenses, from a 60mm portrait lens to an 18mm wide-angle lens to a fisheye lens that’s ideally suited for creating unique, eye-catching images of all sorts of subject matter.
Better still these lenses offer excellent color quality, minimal distortion, and minimal vignetting. They also come with an anti-reflection coating, so even if you’re shooting at the lake or on the coast, the sun’s reflection off the water won’t interfere with your ability to get the shot.
Smartphone cameras aren’t as powerful or feature-packed as a DSLR or mirrorless system. However, they’ve come a long way and continue to get better with every new model that comes out. By taking advantage of your smartphone camera’s features and using them in conjunction with a Sirui mobile phone lens, you’ll be able to create photos and videos that look much more like they were created with an expensive digital camera and less like they were created with your phone.
What’s the one thing all photographers are guilty of?
It seems that no matter how much gear we acquire, there’s always something else that we MUST have.
I’m certainly guilty of this, and I’m willing to bet you are too.
But, I’d like to argue that aside from the essentials like a camera body, a few great lenses, an excellent tripod, and some killer filters, there’s not much that the typical photographer absolutely must have in their kit.
That being said, there are plenty of awesome gadgets and gizmos that make photography easier, more fun, or both.
I’ve found a few such gadgets that, if you ask me, should be on your list of must-haves.
Let’s check them out!
I’ve written about pulse in the past. As I said then, it’s a fantastic product that makes creating stunning timelapse videos a veritable breeze to make.
It’s one of my favorite gadgets, hands down.
But to characterize Pulse as just for timelapses is selling this little guy short.
It’s a feature-packed remote that facilitates shooting traditional videos, still photos, heck, even selfies!
What makes it so innovative is that Pulse is controlled wirelessly from your phone from up to 100 feet away.
And when I say “control,” I don’t just mean firing the shutter.
You can take charge of everything from ISO to aperture, shutter speed to the timer. You can also control up to three cameras!
Better still, Pulse doesn’t have to always be connected to your phone. Once you’ve dialed in the settings, you can take off, and Pulse will do the rest. Watch the video above to see just what can be done with this awesome gadget.
Pulse even turns your phone into a live view monitor. Check the histogram for every shot you take and see thumbnail previews of images too.
All that in a hot-shoe mounted gizmo that weighs just 1.5 ounces and is priced under $100!
Whether you’re just starting out in photography or you do this for a living, Pulse is something you definitely need in your kit.
LockCircle Camera Body Cap
If I had to name one thing I like the least about photography, I’d put cleaning my gear at the top of the list.
It’s just such a drag, and even though I know it needs to be done, I find myself putting it off and off until I break down and finally do it.
But I found a way to keep my sensor cleaner for longer…
The LockCircle camera body cap is unlike any other body cap you might find.
This bad boy is made of billet aluminum, so you’re sure it stands up to the bumps and bruises it might encounter as you work.
The tight seal the LockCircle creates helps prevent dust from getting into the camera body, and it can’t be removed unless you press the lens release button on your camera.
That means it stays in place, safely and securely, which means fewer cleaning sessions! Anything that allows me to shoot more often and spend less time cleaning my camera is a must-have item in my opinion.
Like Pulse, LockCircle is easy on the pocketbook. Pick one up for Canon EF mount cameras and Nikon F mount cameras for under $80.
GearEye Gear Management System
As your collection of gear grows, it can be hard to keep track of where everything is.
As you can see in the video above, the GearEye Gear Management System helps you keep your gear organized and tracked, that way you’re never left wondering where your second camera body or nifty fifty lens is at.
All you have to do is place an RFID GearTag on your gear and GearEye will track it for you.
Access GearEye with the accompanying smartphone app and you can account for everything that’s been tagged, all with one tap of the phone’s screen.
This is especially handy for photographers that have gear for specific purposes. For example, if you currently need your landscape gear in your bag, GearEye will let you know if something that should be there isn’t.
Not only that, GearEye will help you locate the missing gear if it’s in range. That’s a lifesaver if I’ve ever seen one!
Once it’s released (check the Kickstarter page), it’ll only be about $200 for the standard package.
So for less than $400, you can get three of the hottest, coolest, and most functional photography gadgets currently available. In the photography world, $400 isn’t much money at all!
And the best part?
These gadgets aren’t just something to have for fun. Each one helps address a different need that will help you create better photos.
Camera shake is the bane of just about every photographer’s existence. It makes us use shutter speeds that are too fast or apertures that are too wide for the subject. We might even use a higher ISO to compensate for other exposure adjustments. It causes our backs to ache because we carry tripods around everywhere we go.
We invest in remotes, use mirror lock-up, and even trigger our shutters from afar with our smartphones, all in the name of getting photos that are as sharp as possible.
But what if there was a way to minimize the blurriness of camera shake without any of the aforementioned tools?
You can minimize camera shake without a tripod just by using your own body.
The Heidi Klum
The simplest method is to simply tuck your elbows in, like Heidi Klum striking a pose on the runway. Doing so improves your overall stability while giving your camera additional support because its weight is transferred from your hands to your arms to your elbows and finally to your chest.
Additionally, camera shake can be induced by the action of breathing. When using this technique, it’s important to exhale before you press the shutter button. If you don’t, the movement of your chest outward and inward as you breathe could cause your image to be blurry, especially if you’re shooting at a large aperture or slow shutter speed.
The Scarlett Johansson
Next up is the simple “on the ground technique.” It’s reminiscent of when Scarlett Johansson fell on her face and set the internet ablaze with memes.
It’s simple in that it’s really a no-brainer – lie flat on the ground and let your elbows and the ground form a tripod, as seen in the image above.
Much like the previous tucked elbows technique, using the ground beneath you as a support will help give your arms, and thereby the camera, the stability they need to get a tack-sharp photo.
In some instances, you might simply rest your lens on the ground or extend your hand such that its flat beneath your lens.
The problem with that is the extreme low perspective, which might incorporate too much of the foreground into the shot. However, you can get around this by taking the position shown above.
The Matt Damon
If you aren’t keen to lie on the ground, there is an alternative that allows you to stand up. As seen above, by bringing your left elbow in (like the first pose) you give added support to your camera and lens. Plus, it makes you look like tough guy Matt Damon in his new movie.
But, by locking your right arm in an upward and outward position, you create added tension in your upper body that might allow you to shoot handheld with a wider aperture, a slower shutter speed, or both, without inducing camera shake. Shift the camera to your left eye to create a tighter connection with your brow, and, like mentioned before, completely exhale before pressing the shutter button.
Use Your Off Shoulder
This pose is probably the most unconventional of the bunch, but trust me when I say, it works! By bringing your left hand back and wrapping it around your chest, you give your left shoulder a great deal of stability.
You can make use of that stability by resting the bottom of your camera on your shoulder. Bring the camera firmly to your face, using your brow as another point of support. Between your shoulder, your brow, and your grip on the camera body with your right hand, you’ve got three points by which to keep the camera nice and steady.
Use Your Knee
Using your arm and leg in tandem to create a sort of tripod is one of the most effective poses for stabilizing your camera.
Think about it – sitting on the ground with your knee upward forms an incredibly stable base for your body. Pressing down on your knee with your elbow transfers that stability upward, helping you to maintain control over the camera and lens.
Note in the image above that, again, the camera is held tightly to the face for further support, while there is a solid, supportive grip on the camera from both above and below.
This pose might look silly, but as you in see in the video below by Eventos Impresionantes, it’s certainly not the silliest pose you can use to get a photo:
6 Poses You Can Use to Avoid Camera Shake image
In some instances, you might find that getting your body into a tight tuck will be most advantageous for keeping camera shake at bay.
Note in the image above that the photographer uses the tuck in combination with the previous tip on utilizing the stability of the knee meeting the elbow, only in this case, both knees and both elbows are being used.
By getting into this position, you can counteract the effects of a strong breeze, take a lower shooting position to create a more unique point of view, and you avoid the displeasure of laying down or sitting on the ground.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of options to give your camera more stability that doesn’t involve carrying a heavy tripod around or having to use a remote shutter release.
Sure, those options are preferable in terms of getting images that are optimally sharp, but not every occasion will allow you the time or the space to set up your camera on a tripod and fire the shutter remotely.
For those occasions, give one of these shooting positions a try. I think you’ll find – as I have – that they provide a surprising amount of stability for minimizing the effects of camera shake.