Questions on photographic techniques

2011-04-20

in Daily updates, Photography

Is there anything anybody wants to know about camera equipment, taking photos, or the way in which any particular photo was made?

I probably don’t know the answers to many of the questions you may have, but it would be useful to know what people are curious about, and perfectly possible to discuss or look up the answers.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Nassichuk April 21, 2011 at 1:20 am

That is a fairly open-ended offer, so I have a question that fits your broad criteria.

I currently shoot macro shots of plants, fungi and insects with a canon a630, because I can focus it manually with fair accuracy with the lens very close to, often almost touching, my subjects.

I’d like to be able to take macro shots with my canon rebel xti with a tripod and cable release, because I find it produces much richer images than my a630.

What sort of lens would be best for this? It is worth noting that I find spending large amounts of money distasteful – Is there a large market for used camera lenses of the sort I require?

Lily April 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm

What’s a good basic camera for beginners?

Milan April 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Ryan,

The most important factor for that kind of work is probably the minimum focusing distance of the lens – something that macro lenses are specifically optimised for. There are quite a number of different Canon macro lenses, with various focal lengths. There is certainly a big secondary market for used lenses, but they probably still won’t be cheap. Particularly for L-series glass, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars.

Does anybody know of any non L-series Canon lenses that produce especially good results for macro work?

Milan April 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Lily,

That’s a very general question. It’s probably a good idea to go to a well-stocked photography store and have a look at the offerings.

Some Canon gear to consider:

The S90 and S95 point and shoot cameras
The G9, G10, and G11 point and shoot cameras
Entry level dSLRs

Lynn April 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Sorry for my lateness, just catching up on my blog reading.

I’m just starting to get into photography and I’m finding it slow going. It’s so difficult to get used to setting up the camera – I find I am missing out on spontaneous action because the camera isn’t ready for me. Do you find you can set your f-whatever and the speed lightning fast? Or are there general good-for-everything type settings that you default to, in say a party situation where there is a lot going on you might want to catch on the fly?

I’m also finding it really hard to get good indoor shots, even with the camera guiding my settings (I have a Nikon D60). Do you have any advice on how to get a good inside shot without using a flash? What kind of settings will help me avoid massive blurring? Would a better or different lens help?

And speaking of lenses, I have recently discovered that my D60 a) does not have an autofocus motor in the body, so it has to be in the lens, making new lenses very expensive, and b) uses something called a “VR” lens which is warped or weird in some way. So would you recommend buying new lenses for this camera, or would it be more cost effective in the long run to ditch this one and get one with a built in motor?

Which lenses would you recommend for a basic kit?

I just had a look at the set from your grandfather’s party and they are amazing. The lighting looks so natural and lovely. I only hope to take a half-as-good shot someday!

Milan April 25, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Do you find you can set your f-whatever and the speed lightning fast? Or are there general good-for-everything type settings that you default to, in say a party situation where there is a lot going on you might want to catch on the fly?

It’s complicated and takes lots of practice. If the lighting is remaining pretty constant from shot to shot, you can use an aperture priority mode, choose a suitable aperture, and let the camera establish the exposure properly using the shutter speed. Often, though, lighting changes from shot to shot and you will want to be adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO on the fly.

Things get even more challenging when you try to balance flash and ambient light.

Do you have any advice on how to get a good inside shot without using a flash? What kind of settings will help me avoid massive blurring?

Increase the ISO setting on your dSLR body. It will make the photos grainier, but will reduce the length of exposure required. dSLRs with physically larger sensors often produce much higher quality photos at high ISO settings than cameras with smaller sensors.

Flash is also much more flattering if bounced off a wall of ceiling, rather than fired directly.

Would a better or different lens help?

A 50mm f/1.8 lens is very useful in low light, and both Canon and Nikon make affordable ones. It collects a lot more light than a zoom lens, meaning you will be able to get away with quicker shutter speeds for any combination of brightness, aperture, and ISO.

my D60 a) does not have an autofocus motor in the body

That’s a choice Nikon made awkwardly. They haven’t committed exclusively to motors being in bodies or being in lenses. Canon’s EOS series cameras have always had motors in the lens. It makes them more expensive, but it means each lens can have a suitably-powerful motor tweaked for its particular characteristics.

something called a “VR” lens which is warped or weird in some way

‘Vibration reduction’ or ‘image stabilization‘ lenses are very useful in low light. They use sensors and active elements to partly counteract camera shake, reducing one cause of blurring in low light images.

So would you recommend buying new lenses for this camera, or would it be more cost effective in the long run to ditch this one and get one with a built in motor?

Someone more familiar with Nikon should probably weigh in on this. My sense is that the lenses they release in the future will probably have motors incorporated, as Canon’s lenses all do.

Which lenses would you recommend for a basic kit?

Start with the kit zoom and a 50mm prime lens. Then, consider adding a wide-angle zoom like a 24-70mm and perhaps a telephoto zoom like a 70-200mm.

See also:

I just had a look at the set from your grandfather’s party and they are amazing. The lighting looks so natural and lovely. I only hope to take a half-as-good shot someday!

Thank you. They were lit using two off-camera flashes, set manually and triggered using a radio trigger (in one case) and an optical slave (in the other). Getting your flash off-camera helps enormously, in getting more attractive and natural-looking light.

Milan April 25, 2011 at 11:34 pm

If you want to learn about photographic lighting, Strobist is a good resource.

A good book is Steven Biver’s Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting.

Lynn April 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks a ton, Milan, this is great info and good advice. Thanks especially for the links to your past posts – I knew you’d talked about similar topics in the past but hadn’t had time yet to search your archives. I’m off to read!

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