Monday, November 26, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHY TIP #4 - Polarize Filtering

Sunglasses PolarizerIf you really want to add some punch to your images, then get your hands on a polarizing filter. A polarizer is the one filter every photographer should have handy for landscapes and general outdoor shooting. By reducing glare and unwanted reflections, polarized shots have richer, more saturated colors, especially in the sky.What's that you say? Your digital camera can't accommodate filters. Don't despair. I've been using this trick for years with my point-and-shoot cameras. If you have a pair of quality sunglasses, then simply take them off and use them as your polarizing filter. Place the glasses as close to the camera lens as possible, then check their position in the LCD viewfinder to make sure you don't have the rims in the shot.
If your camera doesn't accept filters, then you can still achieve the effects of a polarizer by placing your sunglasses over the lens. Figure 2a is shot normally without any filtration. Figure 2b is shot during the same session, but with sunglasses placed over the lens. Notice the enhanced colors and deeper sky tones. (Canon PowerShot S200, Program mode)
Without a filter.
Figure 1a.
With a filter.
Figure 1b.

For the best effect, position yourself so the sun is over either your right or left shoulder. The polarizing effect is strongest when the light source is at a 90-degree angle from the subject.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHY TIP #3 - Composition

Composition, the act of composing the image in the viewfinder, is a visual process of organizing the elements and individual details of a scene into a balanced and pleasing arrangement. Because what one person finds pleasing, someone else will not, composition is largely a matter of personal taste.
In this section, we take that into account. There is no right or wrong composition in photography; just Efective or not!. A composition that conveys a photographer's intended meaning is an effective one. A composition that doesn't or that confuses the viewer is not.
A photograph that communicates its message - that says what you want it to say, says it clearly, and that interests its viewer - is an effecive composition.
How you arrange a scene's elements in your camera's viewfinder will not only determine the effectiveness of your picture's graphic design, but will also contribute to how well its message is conveyed. There is more to good composition, though, than the placement of elements. Lighting,shutter speeddepth of field and other considerations contribute to a picture's mood and clarity of what the picture is saying, and therefore the effectiveness of its composition.

Some of the so-called "rules" of composition presented here should be considered as guidelines. They are based on recreating similarities in the make-up of many different images that many people have found to be esthetically-pleasing. We do not intend that a rule of composition or a design concept be taken as a hard and fast rule that must be observed. Besides, some renowned photographs break all the rules of composition and are still excellent pictures. This doesn't mean that the rules are without value. They are tremendously valuable. They are time-proven, and provide great guidelines for photographers at any level. We use them all the time.

Years ago, artists who had been born with an innate sense of design created works that were perceived, by other skilled artists, as having good composition. Not only that, but their works were very popular with the general public and art afficionados. Analysis of such works showed patterns and trends in the organization and inter-relationships of lines, shapes, forms and colors that were recognized as contributing to the effectiveness of the works. It was found that others could employ these patterns as techniques in improving their own works. When they were defined, they became known as the rules of composition.

We hope in this section to help everyone to compose better pictures, but especially the person who has no idea of composition - the photographer for whom taking a picture means just picking up a camera to point it and shoot it with little thought for the arrangement of the elements in a scene. Such a person would rarely be pleased with the results of his or her normal photography, and could benefit enormously from an understanding of the elements of composition.
Anyone who has an interest in improving their pictures would do well to go through this section and use the tips and hints it contains in their photography to see if their pictures improve.
By religiously observing the principles of composition, they will become firmly cemented in your mind. Employing them will become second nature to you. If you don’t find there is an improvement in your pictures and people aren’t commenting on how great they look, we will be greatly surprised.
Once you have the rules of composition down pat, experiment and break a rule here or there when you feel the image will work better without it. That’s called individual style, and the creativity that stems from it produces some great images. The point is that you will know when to break a rule of composition once you know what the rules are and how they work.

Friday, November 09, 2012


The intent of this "column" was to write tips of photography, to those who enjoy this beautiful craft, "every day"... But after trying to find the right time to do it I started to get really frustrated because I never find the time; then I've come to the conclusion to relax a bit and write as soon as I can sit down, focus and write. So, from here on (as has been from the beginning), I will write this column as soon as my availability allows me.

For many, these TIPS are already known an even used, but for even greater audience, these tips are not known, not used or not relevant at all (That's why I see so many BAD photographs around... especially in the internet).

I agree that these (and all) the tips, rules and gadgets in photography (an in many instances in life) are NOT ALWAYS used or even needed; so I rely in your common sense to determine when do you want to use these tips and when you don't want to use them.

The TIP for today is : USE A TRIPOD!

As I mentioned before, The rules and tips in photography are not always used, but it is important for us to know them all (or as many as is possible for us to know).
I don't think I need to explain the benefits of using a Tripod, but for those that are entering into photography for the first time, let me tell you that it is important to stabilize the camera in order to get sharper images. This is a principle well known for many (almost ALL) who likes photography, but not applied as often as it should be.
There are 3 main reasons why Do you want to use a tripod for your photographs (perhaps, there are more situations that require the use of a tripod, but for the purpose being here today I'll explain these three reasons):
1.- Low light.
2.- Taking long exposure photographs.
3.- Using long lenses.
Other reasons that require the use of a tripod could be, but not limited to, the following:
4.- Macro photography
5.- Products and commercial photography
6.- Architectural photography
7.- Studio, etc. etc.

Let me explain the first three reasons, so you can start being more familiar with these:

1.- LOW LIGHT SITUATIONS: The digital camera sensors, as did the film in time of the past for many, have a limit of sensibility; in other words, they can sense the light up to a point, after which they will capture only darkness.
Most of the time, when you want to take a photograph in dark areas, like you in a restaurant with your family, or playing outside in a summer night, you use the flash from your camera, right? Well, there are situations that the flash light from your camera will not reach the area you want to photograph, or simply it is not the look you want to achieve, like this photo below I took when I was in the Sourthen region of Utah, close to the border of Arizona.

2.- LONG EXPOSURES: This situation is awfully similar to the one mentioned previously... as a matter of fact, all the people who likes night photography, knows that the most important element in their camera bag is their tripod!
This type of photography is LOW LIGHT SITUATIONS in STEROIDS!!  This is for extreme low light situations, where the exposure surpass the 1 second limit... I am talking 20 seconds, 2 or 3 minutes, or even 3 or 4 hours!!

This is a 30 seconds photograph... obviously using my tripod. That's why is so sharp.

This photograph took about 5 seconds and it gives the effect of a curtain in the water fall. Not necessarily in low light situations, but when something is moving fast and you want to give the effect of even "faster" or a "dreamy" look, like this water fall.

3.- USING LONG LENSES: This is the least viewed by people who are not professionals in the matter, just because they don't usually own of these expensive lenses! But, most of the time, when we do wildlife photography and use one of these lenses, ranging normally between 300 mm and 500 mm (going to the extremes to 800 mm or even 1000 mm), they are REALLY heavy, and if we would hand hold them every shake will be magnified, and the result will be: a blurred photo!.
Beside these lenses being heavy to carry, they are mainly used in low light situations like early mornings (dawn) or during sunset (dusk), That is when wildlife is the most active.

Here is a sample photo, taking a close up of this mountain goat, using a REALLY long lens on top of my tripod.

REMEMBER!! : There are SO MANY situations where you will be tempted in not using (or taking) your tripod. You will be able to get away without the use of a tripod many times, BUT you are risking the integrity and perfectness of the photograph you want to take!
It's up to the situation you are in and How important is that photograph to you?  If it's REALLY important and your light is low, THEN you Must use your tripod.
The professionals use a tripod... FOR A REASON!!
Learn to use it TOO !!!

Feel free to contact me or ask me questions about the TIP of the day or any other topic related to photography. I'll be happy to answer it and help you as much as I can.

Keep taking photographs!!!
AL Aguayo.