View Full Version : Tips/Tricks thread

01-30-2009, 10:14 PM
I myself am constantly trying to find ways to improve my own photography knowledge and skills. One of the first things I try and do is not only gain knowledge from other users on the forum, and share the knowledge I have myself. One of the best ways I have come to do this through is from a Tips/tricks/advice threads. Beginners would also flock to the thread to look for help and ideas. As minor as it may seem to the experienced, the rule of thirds is a major one I have examples and short write ups on and photo manipulation during the exposure. It is just a suggestion. Take it for face value but I feel it would be a good addition to the forum. Thanks again. Cheers!

01-31-2009, 01:47 AM
Adjustment layers.

I think every digital photographer needs to learn all the different adjustment layers (especially curves) and use them. They can make the difference in a picture.

There are several colors I always desaturate. Red is one of them. For some reason, to me at least, reds always stand out. So, I desaturate my reds and utilize layers so I can just paint in the red I want desaturated. I usually then tone it back a little with opacity. Reds get me. Also, you can use this to make sunsets really pop by saturating specific colors. I don't always edit in this manner but adjustment layers are my greatest ally in post.

01-31-2009, 10:38 AM
Now many of you are aware that you can move the position of the camera during a long exposure to get a desired effect. Sometimes you can control it others you cannot. I took a recreational photography class my last semester of college. Could have taught the class myself, but that's not important. Over time, I have learned, always listen to someone with experience, no matter how much they have. There is always something to learn from someone. After a while, I developed a relationship with the instructor and aided in the class instruction. The last week he said I didn't have to show up to class for my efforts and would still receive an A in the class. Thank God because on the final day he was giving different tips as to how and take different pictures. Like anything, it has a limited use and shouldnt be overused. But during a long exposure instead of moving the camera, if you have an adjustable focal length lens, it can be moved during the exposure. The change in the focal length will give an effect that is impossible to duplicate in any software program. Its fun sometimes but, does not work to much. Just thought I would share it. Here is the only half way decent result Ive received. Have fun.

01-31-2009, 10:39 AM
During my time spent as a a photographer, there are many tips and tricks that I have learned. There is the rule of thirds, one of the most important things you must know about photography. Then there is the exposure, aperture, white balance, and iso. Again, extremely important elements that take time and patience to develop. Using the flash is another skill that should be learned depending on you style. Get a tripod. A tripod is like a carpenters hammer. Never in my life have I heard of a photographer that does not use a tripod. If not a tripod, then a monopod. Get a tripod. This stuff is extremely important to know, but many that do know this information forget to change their perspective on things. When I got started, there was not a single picture I was happy with. For several months getting an image I wanted was so elusive I actually put the camera down for a few weeks, to ponder what I could do. Being completely self taught, I could only rely on what I have seen in magazines and on TV to mold my own skills. Then one day, the idea of that new perspective dawned on me. A common concept about photographers is like piano players, they dont like to get their hands dirty. Depending on your style, it can be true. For many others, this could not be anymore wrong. Especially for myself. When I go out, I always wear clothes I do not mind getting dirty. When I come back, most of the time I have dirt everywhere, and need to take a shower. It is all to get a new perspective on things. Laying on the ground, climbing a tree, walking out into the water, and mud. If its cold, dress warm, if its hot, don't wear anything lol.gif bring some extra water. Mosquito's=100%deet. Its a nice day, its a better night. It is worth it! More quality images have come from this than any other tip I have learned. Just be careful with your camera. My first DSLR was a Pentax K110d. Unfortunately, it is not weather sealed. It is all but ruined. Its nearly impossible to see through the viewfinder(foggy), and the interior of the camera is even worse. I can still get images from it, but not without spending 5 minutes on each image cleaning spots from it, even after being cleaned. Be aware of your surroundings as well. Here in this part, we do not really have killer bees, poisonous snakes, or spiders to worry about. Just be careful when you do this, bring a friend, get dirty, have fun.

01-31-2009, 10:41 AM
For those beginners out there, one of the most important rules you need to learn first is the rule of thirds. This is the one thing in photography that is used the most. When taking a photograph, it is easy place the subject of the photograph directly in the center of the image. Try as hard as you can to break yourself of this habit. Although it is not always applicable, it is 90% of the time.

When taking an image, it is necessary to imagine these lines. After imagining the lines, place your subject on one of the lines. Our eyes naturally look away from the center of a photograph, by placing your subject on one of these lines, the viewers eyes will naturally gravitate towards your subject making for a more captivating image. When looking at the first image above, the focus point is directly in the center of the photograph. However, your eyes do not recognize this. They recognize the white frame(rule of thirds) first and it confuses to about the subject of the photograph. Now look at the second photograph, the white frame is now in focus. Your eyes are no longer confused because what your eyes perceive as the subject really are the subject. Again, this is one of the most important tips in all of photography. Remember it, force it into your head. After a while it will come naturally, until then, remember, RULE OF THIRDS!

If there are any administrators that want to add or change this feel free to. This is the best illustration I could find for the rule, maybe some of you have better?

01-31-2009, 12:21 PM
If you have a dslr with selectable focus points, you can set it up so your focus point is always at this point also. With the d90 I carry around it is setup so that the focus point is to the left and up one... landing right at the upper right third center. It is a great tool and keeps you from centering... it actually punishes you for centering your shots because that is not the focus point. Think of it as training wheels... even for the experienced...

If you have been shooting for 20 years look for people to teach... so you can learn from them. I started a local organization of photographers. We get together pretty often.. usually twice a month and go shooting. There are several professionals in the group from different disciplines - wedding, photojournalist, etc... and there are a couple that like to use P&S cameras... there is something to learn from everyone.

Another tip: If you have a child over the age of 3, get them a digital P&S for under $100 and you will see a different view of the world through their pictures.

01-31-2009, 10:53 PM
It is impossible for me to say I have always thought about the composition of my photographs. In a previous post I mentioned the rule of thirds. This is something that will come through practice. Eventually your eye will be trained to this and it will be second nature. Over time though, the composition of your photographs will not necessarily follow the rule of thirds. This is when you must critically think about the image you are trying to capture. Myself for example, as a beginner, I used to just shoot away, thinking I was doing a good job. After a while, the images began to seem relatively boring. Nothing exciting to look at, just something to remind myself of what I was looking at. That is when my passion for photography really started. I began to just browse other images to see what amazed me and what didn't. An image study if you would like to call it that. Then I would try and figure out how the shot was taken. Where was the position located? What were THEY seeing? What were the camera settings? How were they in the right place at the right time? Then every time I went out, these thoughts began to play out in my own images. By criticizing myself, my eyes began seeing things in a new fashion. It only comes through personal criticism. Yes, you can ask for others criticism, but only after the image is taken. By criticizing yourself, you can correct the image before, or at the moment the image is taken. So, next time you are taking a photograph, do not necessarily plan on taking as many images as possible. Focus on an image that you feel is worth taking. Take the time to get it right. Criticize each image until you think it couldn't be taken any better. Not every image you take will be perfect. Practice makes better. Give it time though, and you will take better images, and then it will take less time to capture a quality image. You will learn the functions of your camera inside and out, and will then understand the lighting situation and how to adjust your settings according to your preference. Good luck. Cheers!

01-31-2009, 11:11 PM
I so many images, its hard to decide which one I want to show next. I have several images that were created in a similar fashion. Generally, they are created through images that I have a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Generally, they are good images, but lack the extra touch that makes them great. So I created this technique that allows for HUGE prints. It is actually four images, rotated the four different ways, and then stitched together. Since no cropping is needed, once they are aligned, it creates a perfectly symmetrical image. It is fun once you know what to look for to create images like this. Just know, I use four full size images. This quadruples the size of the image. Taken with a 6 mp camera, it is now a 24mp image. It can be printed as large as you could possibly want, without any destruction to the image itself. It also creates a huge file on your computer which sometimes has difficulty processing an image of that size. Here it is though. This image is for an example. I will post another one in another thread just to show. Cheers!

02-01-2009, 12:11 PM
jjeling, you are bringing some fantastic ideas to our forum!! many thanks!

This is another great resource thread. In order to make it really well organized, posts with tips should have the TITLE of the post filled out to reflect the tip. I'm editing some now, but for the future please title the posts in this thread.

many thanks everyone!!!!:highfive:

02-01-2009, 12:18 PM
I've done a podcast on dodging and burning (http://www.photography.ca/blog/?p=100) as well.

But in a nutshell, 99% of all printed or web photos will benefit from Dodging and Burning (lightening and darkening) specific areas of the image.
Almost all of the great masters dodged and burned extensively.
Dodging and burning can make an image sing!

02-01-2009, 11:24 PM
Ok, this is something I have just ventured into. Since I am a recent college graduate, without a place of employment, I have noticed a lack of funding necessary to progress my photography addiction at the pace that I wish. However, with a few items found around the house I have made huge improvements, without breaking the bank. It is quite cheap, but yields some great results. First off, get a medium sized box, preferably something that you are going to throw out or recycle. It can be any size really, but just base it on the size of the objects you are going to be photographing. A couple of flashlights, some toilet paper, glue, and a knife. Cut one side of the box off so you can take photographs through one end. Then take white paper, or black paper, or any other color you wish and glue it to the inside so it is a uniform color. After that is completed, then you can cut holes in the sides and top of the box for places your flashlights and for your camera to take pictures through(these can be any place as well, just experiment with it). If you are on a low budget, you can cover up the flashlights with some toilet paper to use as light diffusers(this also works on your built in flash). VOILA! A homemade light box. It controls the lighting situation relatively well, but there are some limitations. It is not exact science, it is cheap, so just experiment with it and use what works well for you. This is my set up, and costs me literally nothing. I used materials laying around the house. Ill post some of the results box in the "Show your picture" thread. But the box itself is here. Remember, this is primitive and cheap, but it works. In the image, I used a black book in the background, but later on used a black t-shirt that absorbed more light and reflected less.

Ben H
02-02-2009, 04:25 AM
Lightboxes are great - I set up a quick one as an expriment a couple of weeks back.

I used one of those plastic storage boxes - they are about the size of a cardboard box, but made of "smokey" plastic - nice to diffuse the light, with glossy white paper sheet as base/background - worked brilliantly. I only did a quick test with one camera flash, but the results were great, so when "proper" light is set up it will be even better.

Mad Aussie
02-03-2009, 12:31 AM
Spent a couple of hours this morning making a lightbox. Another inspiration from this website and considering I was looking at pro boxes of around
US$250 it's sure to be a decent saving. Still need to get the translucent paper for the light holes I've cut and a couple of desk lamps and bright flourescent globes to suit.

It's big ... my wife has some big items she wants to photograph so I made it large enough to fit a baby in there :D

I had some large sheets of 3mm (would have preferred 5mm) coreflute around so I've used those. Due to the size of it (900mm w x 530mm h x 700mm d) it needed some support around the mouth. I had some 3mm aluminium flat strips I've riveted on and covered in black tape just to make it look a little nicer.
The slot at the back is one of two slots (another is just out of sight) for poking the card (seen laying inside at present) through and bending or taping in place so it flows back through the box providing a smooth, non shadow inducing surface.

Hopefully should do the trick when get around to trying it out.

My daughters ex-room is looking more like a studio every week ;)

02-03-2009, 01:04 AM
Nice job, my box is not nearly that nice. It is functional for my use. Looks like you spent a little more time than I did, but I am sure it will pay off. Much better than spending the money on a box at the store. This way you can customize it to your needs, or build another one, for less than a fraction the store would charge. Nice job, can't wait to see what the results yield from this!

Mad Aussie
02-03-2009, 01:07 AM
Nothing wrong with yours for the subjects you are using. Your shots are awesome!

I hope mine will come out as well or I'm going to look like an idiot now http://www.mtbdirt.com.au/home/smf/Smileys/classic/biglaugha.gif

02-03-2009, 11:28 AM
A huge thank you to JJ for his energy put into this thread :highfive: ... I am sure that I can say for Marko and the rest of the members that JJ, MA, MF, Ben, TI, AL and others have contributed just the way Marko had in mind when creating our photography home. Many have slid in through the back door, so to speak via lurking...as we all know, the best of friend always come in the back door. Sharing and caring are essential for making this forum (and any other one for that matter) successful. Freshness and excitement are the fuel that feeds this machine. Thank you so much for making Photography.ca the warm and exciting place that it is! :goodvibes Thank you for sharing and caring about each other. Since this thread is about hints and tips - my tip is to let those who teach you know that they are valuable to you! Let the learners know how much you appreciate the opportunity to share with them. In a nutshell, continue to .....

Pass it on.

02-03-2009, 12:18 PM
Thanks TT. It is really appreciated. Which brings me into my next tip. Photography is something that you will always get better at but will never be perfect. Something always to improve on and learn about. As you have said in the prior post, it it now just about learning but teaching as well. Once you reach a level of confidence in yourself when you feel like your ready share your knowledge and understanding with others, you should do it, immediatly. Whether it is with friends, family, or on a forum, you will begin to understand photography much more in depth. Its the clear understanding of the explanaition which gives you an idea as to why you take pictures in the style that you do. Even if it is just taking pictures at family get togethers, which will be the case most of the time, or creating a whole new monster out of someone. It will at least give them a more enjoyable experience that they can share. They will thank you and will be forever grateful, even if it is just a better P&S technique.

02-03-2009, 12:33 PM
Taking it one step further from the previous post. RULE OF THIRDS, RULE OF THIRDS, RULE OF THIRDS. This is the best and first piece of advice to give any photographer in the beginning. It does not matter what kind of camera they have, they will always be able to control the composition. This is the best, and easiest way for them to do that. Not only will they see the results, generally, once you have given them valuable information, they will return to you for more. This gives you a chance to figure out what to explain to them next. Make sure it is simple though. If consider yourself advanced, then what you want to tell them is sometimes too much for them to understand. This should be applied to your own techniques as well, it is not always the extremely complex shots that win the awards, sometimes they are extremely simple. To keep it simple, you must also learn to settle down. Yes, being off the wall is good sometimes. But to explain any of this to someone, you must make sure they understand it. Again, apply this to yourself. Instead of stressing out about getting that next shot, go outside with your camera next to you, and sit next to your favorite tree, or bench. Sit on your favorite couch inside the house. More inspiration will come from these places than anywhere else. It doesn't hurt, all your doing is relaxing anyways.

For example, here is another image, that is loved by nearly everyone I know. It is extremely simple. I followed the rule of thirds, the whole way. Was something I saw when I was sitting in the recliner while looking out the window. I was extremely relaxed, and just happened to see something that caught my eye. It is an image that is extremely simple, yet so hard to explain to someone because of its simplicity.

Take a look, and then go and teach someone. Make sure you know them, its easier that way.

02-05-2009, 01:53 PM
There are many things that will make a great image. After leaving several suggestions as to how and improve your creativity, I keep amazing myself as to how much you can actually do. You can always buy the lens baby attachment, there are extension tubes, along with a whole slew of other things to buy. Once you have begun to capture images that are technically perfect you can begin to take a step outside of the box. Start using the rule of thirds a little less. It is something always to keep in mind but should be second nature at this point. The reason I thought of this is because I bought a few new filters yesterday. I remember a while back taking a picture of some shallow areas of a pond. With the lens shade on at wide angle, I got some shadows around the corners of the image. It turned out I like that image much better than it without the lens shade. It turns out, it is a filter that attaches to the front of the lens instead of around it. By attaching it on top of a filter, the effect becomes a little more pronounced. It is a rubber filter, so it is extremely flexible. Then it occurred that there if you back out to full wide angle and then move it with your hands while taking the image, you can frame the image within the picture itself, in an abstract way. This is not telling you to run out and to this, but the shade only costs about 4.99. It is something to try. More than that, when you get comfortable with yourself, take yourself out of your comfort zone and think outside of the box and get creative with things. You will surprise yourself. Even if you don't get anything worth keeping, you will always learn something.

02-07-2009, 03:56 PM
This is an old trick but worth repeating. I use the focus dots at 10 & 2 o'clock or 8 & 4 o'clock to line up the horizon or as 1/3 markers on my Canon 40D.


02-07-2009, 05:35 PM
Long exposures are images that produce some of the most dramatic results. They can show images and scenes in low light, or show movement. They can make images extremely sharp and images with a huge depth of field(DOF). Many people complain about their pictures being out of focus when taking long exposures. You must remember, if your camera moves during an exposure and the shutter speed is not fast enough, then the image will move during the exposure giving you an image you probably did not want. In any situation, you will need a tripod. Again, a tripod is to a photographer like a hammer is to a carpenter, you need one. Even with a tripod, sometimes images will still be less than desirable due to camera shake. To solve this problem, many people tend to buy wired or wireless remotes to keep their hands off of the camera. This is an excellent way to solve the problem. Unfortunately you will still have to compose and expose the image properly which leads to hands being on the camera. If you are fiscally pinched or frugal there is another way to get out of this purchase. The self-timer is an option available on every camera, unless it is disposable, even most of them have one as well.
For myself, step one is the composition(assuming focus as well) of the image. It is the most important, especially because if I am taking a long exposure it is necessary to make sure there is enough time to properly set up. Once it is composed, I figure out what the DOF should be(At night, a high DOF/f-stop will result in starred light sources). Then choosing the shutter speed to expose the image properly with complete the setup. Once you find the right composition and exposure, turn on the camera's self timer. Taking a series of images at -.07, 0, and then +.07 manually will make sure you will leave with an image you need minimal post production with, or an image you can work through in post production to result in a quality image. Hopefully this will help someone in the future, or save a few more pennies.

This is a rough guideline to my personal process of long exposures. Everyone will develop their own technique but for those who are still beginning, here is my own style.

For those of you who are experienced, please feel free to add to this if something is missing.

02-09-2009, 12:04 PM

If you use photoshop, there is a tab where you can review the history of your actions. If you pay close attention or are familiar with photoshop, there is another tab next to the history tab, it is an action tab. This is where all of your plugins can be run through. This website has a bunch of free photoshop plugins for a variety of things. Some run from simple black and white conversions and image borders, to converting things into cartoons. It was named after photoshops actions as 'ActionCentral' for the plugins created by a number of different programmers. Since they have been developed by programmers and photographers, they are extremely useful at times and completely free. Regardless of your experience with photoshop, you should check this site out, it will give you some great ideas once you get familiar with some of the plugins. Some of my favorite are the Orton Effect, Professional Retro, Duotone Dream, and Maredas Cartoon Action. Hopefully this will give some of you something else to play with. I know you all have LOTS of time on your hands.

02-10-2009, 08:51 PM
There was an earlier post about thinking outside of the box. There was nothing in particular about that post that would inspire anyone to get creative with the materials they have laying around that would never be used for photography. It seems the light box worked for at least one person, but I am disppointed about the first post of thinking outside of the box. It might not have been stated explicitly before, but pushing myself to become inventive as creative as possible is the key to becoming the best I can be and should be the case for anyone. After some use with a new light box, there has been a new revelation in materials that are laying around the house. This might not be something that everyone has laying around. Sometimes, a macro lens is a great thing to have. What if you do not have the money for it. Improvise! A poor mans macro lens. It might not come out as crystal clear as a macro lens, but there is a different effect. (It doubles as a super macro lens if you already have a macro lens - my case) Just think about what you have laying around the house. I believe Henry Ford once said, "Thinking is the hardest job there is, that is why not many people do it." If you really think about what materials are readily available, there are a number of countless possibilities at your disposal to create extremely creative and captivating images. Hopefully this will inspire a few more people to try something new. Maybe not this exact technique, but something outside of the standard photography routine. If you want to try macro out but are on a really tight budget, this might be the way to go. This is just showing you what I have done. I will post a few of the actual results in the Show your picture thread.

Upon further review, I decided I really liked this photo and ended up doing some PP work and ended up with this. This is an edited version of the original now.

02-10-2009, 11:05 PM
Of course, there’s always the old trick of turning a prime lens (50mm works best) around backwards and holding it up to the camera for another version of the “poor man’s macro”. You can even get adapter rings to help avoid getting dust on the sensor or scratching the lens for about fifteen bucks on eBay.

02-13-2009, 12:26 PM
It is always a shame when you are looking at someones pictures from their vacation from the South American rain forests or the picture of their friend on a beach. Although it looks like it would be a great picture, our eyes function quite differently than our camera does. What seems like a nice picture of the sun over the mountains is really a blown out sky with not texture and some mountains, usually smack in the center of the image. Since we have already touched on the rule of thirds, the mountains in the middle of the picture are going to get left alone. However, you must pay attention to where the light is coming from that your camera will be using. The sun is going to be brighter than almost any light you will ever use. Just shoot into it. Unless you are going for an HDR image, and at that point, this advice will not matter to you. When looking out into a nice scene, make sure you are not facing the sun. If it is, turn 180 degrees and see if you see close to the same thing. If you do, then you can take the picture, it will almost always be better. If you are facing the sun, then your subject will almost always be a shadow. Whether it is a person or a forest, the camera is will almost always adjust for the sky instead of the foreground. Sometimes, and I really mean sometimes....you can shoot into the sun and still get decent results. If you cannot turn away from the sun and still get the picture, then use your flash. The flash might not inherently seem necessary, but it is. Since the person you are taking a picture of will have their back to the sun, the front of their body will not have enough light to show up in the picture. If you turn on your flash, the flash will make sure there is enough light to allow the persons face to be seen, while still being able to see the beach. Since the sun is probably a trillion times brighter than the flash on your camera, you will always be able to see the background. Take these tips into consideration next time you go out. You will have better pictures to remember your memories with, and better memories means a better time.

02-28-2009, 09:17 PM
I didn't see this topic anywhere in this forum so I'd thought I'd talk about it here a little. Most of my info on this subject comes from personal experimentation and from online research. I will be pretty brief here, assuming that if you would like more in depth info, you can always google the subject.

The moon is a bit tricky to photograph. Most people's first reaction, me included, is to shoot it at night, we it is most prominent. The problem with that is that the moon is too bright and the camera cannot capture enough dynamic range to correct expose both the moon and the rest of the scene. There are 2 basic work-arounds for this problem: post-processing and evening out the dynamic range.

Many people, me included, just take 2 separate pics, one with the moon properly exposed and one with the rest of the scene properly exposed, and composite them in post (I guess you could do an HDR if you really wanted too). You'll need a tripod for the long exposures and I recommend a low iso and small aperture for more dof. I use the spot meter in my camera to meter off the moon when taking the moon shot, otherwise the camera will overexpose it because of the dark background (unless you have a super long lens and can fill most of the frame with the moon). The shot of the scene can be metered regularly. Then, just use a photo manipulation software to "cut 'n paste" the moon in where you want it (of course, it's more involved than that, but that's the basic idea).

The other method is to shoot the moon when there is more light out so that there isn't such a difference in dynamic range. I've taken pics of the moon during the daytime. If you want more of the nighttime effect, you can shoot during twilight, after the sun goes down but before it gets really dark out. You'll have to do some trial and error to get the exposures even. You can meter the moon, then wait until the scene meters similarly.

A note about moon pictures: The moon is usually not interesting enough to be the subject or focal point of a picture alone. Try finding a nice scene or subject, then composing a shot with the moon as an added element.

Here is one of my early attempts at compositing a moon into a pic. There are a lot of things wrong with this pics, but it's good for illustration purposes. The moon was shot with a longer lens than the rest of the scene, so it looks bigger than it was in the original. Sometimes it's a good look, sometime it looks fake (kinda like here). Most of the time, you can start out with a moonless scene and add one in. You just need to be aware of how the light would interact with scene.

The 2 pics of the moon are to show how big the moon will look in the frame at different focal lengths. The larger one was taken with a 300mm lense, 200mm for the smaller one.

03-02-2009, 11:12 PM
Edit images on a mid-gray background. Fairly self-explanatory and something I have just recently started doing.

I miss my eye popping wallpaper but the colours were conflicting with the images and throwing my eye off.