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Erbes talks photography

By Staff | Sep 27, 2008

In this day in age, digital cameras are about as common as cell phones. In fact, many people have a cell phone with a digital camera.

What’s amazing, though, is how little people really know about those settings on their digital cameras that can help them take better pictures.

Estherville photographer Leane Erbes told Estherville Rotarians Thursday how to get the best use from their digital cameras.

Erbes said many people take pictures on automatic setting. However, settings can be set manually to get better results.

By setting a small aperture, which is actually a larger number setting, the photographer can get a better depth of field. That means that a subject in the foreground and a subject in the background will both be in focus.

A large aperture, which has a smaller number, will create a shallower depth of field which is good for isolating a subject from the background.

A faster shutter speed stops action, something that’s important when taking sports photos.

Yet another adjustment is the ISO, formerly known as the film speed and now called the sensitivity of the light sensor. The higher the ISO, the more “noise” is apparent. A lower ISO reduces noise and so increases the image sharpness.

A red-eye reduction setting uses preflash to reduce glare from the retina in the back of the eye.

A white balance adjustment can help in setting the color of the photo. Erbes said she likes to shoot in raw format which allows her to adjust color.

While some people use a flash to shoot night football pictures, Erbes said the flash does not cycle fast enough for her to take another photo right away, so she prefers to shoot at a higher ISO rating with a fast lens that allows a lot of light to enter the camera.

Erbes noted three software products that help with photo cataloging and editing – Breeze Browser, Adobe Light Room and Photoshop.

Following are some common problems photographers have and how they can fix them that Erbes shared with Rotarians.

n Blurry images caused by poor focus – Photos that aren’t sharp are almost always caused by focus problems – either you or the auto focus didn’t do their job correctly. If you are using autofocus and still get blurred photos it might be because the camera used another focusing point rather than the one you thought you intended to use. Another reason might be setting the focus and then moving the camera without refocusing.

n Blurry photos caused by camera shake – Camera shake is a result of unsteady hands or too long of an exposure. To counter this you can change the shutter speed or make the exposure time shorter. If you don’t want to change the aperture you can always change the ISO setting. A higher ISO will create noise, but noise is better than a blurry image caused by too long of an exposure time. Another option is to use a tripod or monopod.

n Stop motion blur in photographs – The is the result of photographing a moving object with a too long exposure … no matter how steady you are. A faster shutter speed is the only solution in this problem. Some action sports require speeds as quick as 1/1,000 of a second.

n Too much contrast The sensor is not able to pick up the whole spectrum of light and expose it correctly in some situations. Unless you want to manipulate your photographs in post-production you have two options: either select the part of the scene that is most important to expose correctly, or use a graduated neutral density filter to get the entire scene exposed correctly (primarily used in landscape photography).

n Add more contrast – Low contrast can be a result from photographing in bad lighting conditions, or in unique instances, environments can play a role in this problem (such as a snowy landscape). This is most often easily fixed in Photoshop by using the adjustment layer levels to change the black-and-white point. Sometimes a photo may lack contrast due to stray light reaching the sensor. That can be corrected by using a lens hood.

n Prevent lens flares – A lens flare is created when the lens picks up stray light. The best way to black out this unwanted light is to use a lens hood. Different lenses create different lens flares – cheaper lenses usually create uglier flares than high-end lenses, but even with a high-end lens one should always use a hood to minimize the risk.

n Prevent double lights – This is an optical effect that can occur in low light situations in combination with some (often cheaper) lenses. A UV filter can increase this effect, so if you notice these types of odd lights on your night photographs you might want to consider removing the UV filter for the duration of the shoot.

n Underexposure – Not enough light reached the sensor; you need to change the exposure settings to get a correctly exposed photograph. Either a slower shutter speed, a larger aperture or higher ISO – or all of them combined.

n Overexposure – Too much light reached the sensor. You need to change the exposure settings to get a correctly exposed photograph. Either a faster shutter speed, a smaller aperture or lower ISO, or all of them combined.

n Dark corners (vignette) – Vignettes are dark corners in a photograph which occur when the light is not evenly distributed on the sensor or when the flash just lights up the center of a shot. Many lenses, even high-end, create this effect when opened wide (largest aperture). To fix this problem simply stop down the aperture a few stops and this should even out the distribution.

n Lens distortion – Mostly a problem when photographing architecture with a wide-angle lens. A lens below 50 milimeter usually creates some distortion but in most cases this is not visible. However, when you are photographing straight lines (such as buildings), standing close to the object and pointing the camera upwards you will more easily see these distortions. Take a few steps backward or change to a more suitable lens.

n Skewed horizon – You were either holding the camera skewed or the tripod was set up unevenly. Some digital single lens reflex cameras have the ability to change the focusing screen and install one that has guidelines. This is rather easily fixed in post-production by rotating the image, but you will lose some of the edges.

n Red eyes – This effect occurs when the flash is located close to the lens and is a common problem with our modern point-and-shoot cameras due to their placement of the flash. To prevent red eyes, do not use the camera’s internal flash if your camera has one. Use an external flash that you can bounce on a wall or on the ceiling.

n Reduce noise in photographs – Most likely due to a high ISO setting, but can also be caused by long exposures. To prevent noise, use a low ISO setting. If you have photographs with much noise you can always use a software to remove it, such as Photoshop or Noise Ninja, though some detail will be lost.

n Photo is yellow/orange tainted – The camera is most likely to have miscalculated and and thought the photograph was outdoors and added orange tones to compensate. The white balance is the fault here. Most cameras have a W/B setting for indoors and outdoors, as well as custom settings and auto. The fault could also be that you used a flash that bounced off an orange surface as well, so try to always bounce the flash at a neutral surface, such gray.

n Sensor dust – These gray spots are usually caused by sensor dust. The best way to get rid of this problem is to keep your gear clean and dust-free. The sensor is very sensitive and cleaning it will mean that you expose it to further risks. Some photographers send their cameras to be cleaned while others clean the sensor themselves.