Sunday, October 25, 2015

Understanding Depth of Field and Focus

Focus is EVERYTHING when you want to take a beautiful photo.
I am going to try to teach you how to focus using
FOCUS POINTS on your DSLR camera plus
explain DEPTH-OF-FIELD and how it is controlled with aperture.
I know it sounds scary, so I'm not going to include lots of
confusing math....just the very basics that you will need to
 FINALLY get the correct focus all the time!
This tutorial is only for DSLR cameras because they allow
you to take control of your focus.
Let's start with that comfortable AUTOMATIC mode you are probably
using, and wondering why your subject's face isn't in focus all the time.
I shot this in AUTOMATIC:
In Automatic, you allow your camera to select where to focus.
This did a pretty good job.  You would probably post this on Facebook,
 but lets go in closer and see that...
her eyes are not sharp:
Now, let's zoom in on the bowl of gourds she is holding...
This is where the automatic mode chose to focus.
Time to go into the manual modes and take control of focus.
To make it easy...we'll go semi-automatic and use the AV mode or Aperture Priority
mode on a Canon.  "A" mode on a Nikon.
Read your camera manual to learn how to set this on your specific camera.
In this mode, you get to choose your aperture and the camera will automatically set the
shutter speed to give you a good exposure.
If you find that your camera is setting your shutter speed below 1/125, (In a darker situation.)
you will need to raise your ISO until you get at least a 1/ 125 shutter speed to avoid
hand shake blur.
Next, read your manual and learn how to use FOCUS POINTS.
This takes practice to learn how to use them, but it will
change your photography forever.  You will no longer have
blurry eyes! 
DSLR cameras have a grid of focus points that you can move around
and place one directly over an eye or whatever you want in tack sharp focus.
In this next photo, I want to focus on the fried eggs, so I set my red dot
focus point directly on the eggs.
By using focus points, you will finally be able to create those
artistic photos where the exact item like these fried eggs is in perfect focus
while the surroundings are blurred.
Once you learn how to use focus points, you are
ready to understand depth-of-field and how to
control it with aperture.
Depth-of-field is the distance between the nearest and farthest
object in a photo that appears acceptably sharp.
When photographing a person, you should set your focus point
on the eye closest to the camera...unless you're creating some kind of artistic
statement and want to focus on the tip of the nose.
So let's say your focus point is on the closest eye.
That focus point on the eye becomes the center of your
depth-of-field and will be in tack sharp focus.
By showing the side view, we can see this
depth in front and in back of the focus point.
With this depth-of-field, we can see that her entire face and hat will
be in focus, but the front of the bowl of gourds and her mittens will blur.
Aperture determines how much in front and in back of your
focus point will be in focus.
Aperture is how much your lens opens up to let in light.
The BIG hole is a big aperture, but to make it very confusing...the
lower the aperture number the bigger the hole/aperture!
So, an f 1.4 is a BIG hole/aperture
and an f  22 is a SMALL hole/aperture
I know...totally confusing...but once you wrap your brain around it,
it becomes second nature.
REMEMBER THIS:  The bigger the aperture the smaller the depth-of-field!
So, it makes sense that if we want the eyes in focus, but lots of pretty
artistic blur, we will want a bigger aperture.
Let's start with a BIG aperture with the small number... f 1.4.
This is the biggest aperture on my 50mm lens.
Since the bigger the aperture, the narrower the depth-of-field,
you can see in this next photo that when you set your focus point
on the eye....not much else is in focus.   Even the tip of the nose is not in
focus!  Most of the hat is not in focus, her ears are out of focus.
If my subject is facing me square on with both eyes on the same plane,
the f 1.4 will create a lovely photo with both eyes in focus.
It's okay to have facial features out of focus as long as your eyes ARE in focus.
But, if her face is angled even a tad...
the eye furthest from the camera leaves the narrow depth-of-field
and is no longer in focus!
Notice the gorgeous bokeh (artistic blur) in the background!
This is why portrait photographers want to use the biggest
aperture possible and still get those eyes in focus.
But the f 1.4 is too narrow to get the angled back eye in focus.
You need to be very aware of aperture and depth-of-field while shooting
in bigger apertures.
Let's keep her angled face and close down the aperture a bit to f 2.8
creating a tad larger depth-of-field to include the eye that's a bit farther back.
Let's go in closer to see that both her eyes are in focus,
but the aperture is still big enough to create the gorgeous bokeh in the background. 
Let's close down the aperture to f 5.6 and see that more is in focus,
plus the bokeh is  smaller. (But still pretty.)  
YOU get to choose
the look you want in your photo and YOU get to create it by choosing
the aperture and thus your depth-of-field!
A quick summary:
Select your aperture based on what you want in focus
Smaller number aperture means wider open hole in lens.
Larger hole in lens means narrower depth-of-field and less in focus.
Focus on the eye closest to the camera!
You may have to read this over and over...but once it clicks in your mind...
you'll be clicking your camera like crazy
and nailing focus EVERY TIME! 

Examples of Aperture and Depth-of-Field

I wanted to show you some examples of how you can use your
wonderful new knowledge of focus points and aperture to
determine your depth-of-field.
CLICK HERE to read my blog post about how this all works together.
I was just on an amazing Fall color tour of the M-22 corridor in Michigan,
voted the prettiest Autumn stretch of highway in the country by Good Morning America.
Let me tell you, it's TRUE!!!!  Mind-boggling beauty and color!
I knew I would be writing this blog post, so I purposely isolated
items in my photos by using focus points to show you examples.
We stopped at a farmer's stand by the side of the road.
Are you beginning to see what you can do with this knowledge of
aperture and focus points?
YOU get to pick where to focus and let the camera turn the rest to ART!
This pretty red barn with the Fall colors attracted me!
Notice, I focused on the barn reflection in the window
rather than focusing on the window, so the window frame blurred.
Your focus tells people where to look in your photo.
I wanted to focus on the asparagus weeds because they were a gorgeous yellow,
so I isolated them from the background with focus and depth-of-field:
By isolating the flowers in this next photo, the people blur in an artistic way!
I hope these examples give you a better understanding of my
tutorial about focus points, aperture and depth-of-field.
Now it's just a matter of you getting out there with your
camera and practicing the techniques over and over.
Soon you will be creating wonderful ART!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall Color Editing Tips

I know what you're thinking...
The fall colors were brilliant in Michigan when Jill took that first photo!
The truth is...the color show is late this year, and I was so antsy...I
went on a stroll with my camera and shot anyway.
This next shot is actually the above shot out-of-camera before
I added some PUNCH in editing!

No, it's NOT cheating if you take this next out-of-camera photo and...

Edit it into this:
If you are a photo journalist who is responsible for capturing truth
in photos...the first photo is the ethical choice....
Photography is also an art form.  You can turn your photos into
anything that pleases YOU!
You can simply boost some of the colors to turn this:

Into this:
You can also switch the colors of the trees from this:

To this!

Watch my VIDEO TUTORIAL to learn how to do that in Photoshop or PSE.
This next photo is DRAB!

Not any more!

Simply adding a new sky makes a dramatic difference!
Watch my VIDEO TUTORIAL to learn how to add a new sky in Photoshop or PSE.

Here's another drab fall photo: 
A new sky and new color in the trees makes the photo POP!

Another tip:  Fall color photographs much prettier on a CLOUDY day!
I know that seems crazy, but bright sunshine creates lots of harsh shadows
and thus blacks between colorful leaves.
To show you this, I photographed my neighbor's pretty tree on
a cloudy day.  Here's the photo out-of-camera:
Here's the same tree photographed on a bright, sunny day.
Notice all the shadows under the tree and in the tree.
Now, notice the difference in the edited photos:
Some may prefer the sun out's always what YOU like!
If the sun does happen to be out during your fall color shoot...
capture a fun sun flare!
I hope these tips help you create some gorgeous fall photos!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to Photograph the Moon

I was so excited when the clouds cleared for me to
photograph the super eclipse blood red moon last week!
Unfortunately, the clouds moved back in during the dramatic
blood red stage and I was swearing loudly in my backyard
because I could NOT get a proper focus through the clouds.
Sorry, neighbors!
But it's ALWAYS a SUPER thrill when you capture the splendor
of the moon for the first time!
You probably saw lots of photos like this next one online
after the super moon.
They're all gorgeous...but they are composites! (Two photos photoshopped together.)
It's impossible to capture a photo like this with one shot.
The exposure settings for the moon and a lit skyline are
entirely different.
Photographing a lit skyline at night requires a certain
amount of light entering the camera.
It's too much light for the moon.
See how the moon is totally blown out...over-exposed?

When the moon is exposed properly, the background will be dark.
To Photograph the Moon
You will need a DSLR camera and a zoom lens that zooms to
at least 200 MM.  400mm is better.
Set camera on a tripod and click the button on your lens to
manual focus.  Now manually set the focus ring to infinity
I start with these settings:
ISO:  100
Aperture:  f.11
Shutter:  1/125
I know what you're thinking...that won't let in much light and
it's dark night after all!
But the moon is bright and if you want to capture
the detail with proper exposure...start with those settings.
Practice and adjust your shutter accordingly.

You will be OVER-the-MOON when you
photograph your first moon correctly!

Try adjusting the contrast a tad in post processing.
You can also have fun changing the color of your moon in editing.

Once in a BLUE MOON!
Save your moon photos in a folder you can find again
and add them to night photos.
I show you how to composite a moon into a night landscape in this
Challenge yourself to photograph the moon at least ONCE
and you will have the photos forever to dazzle others!