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Thunderclouds and lightning strikes

Taking impressive photos of lightning storms

Natural phenomena arouse a particularly great photographic interest in many of us. Thunderclouds and lightning are a popular subject. In order to be able to capture such weather events, you need some luck and some technical skills. Since thunderstorms are only partly predictable for a certain region as well as relatively temporary, a thorough preparation is recommendable for the eventuality.

Your safety always comes first

The enchanting photo motifs of thunderclouds and flashes should always be taken from a safe location, because the risks of thunderstorms should not be underestimated. Shooting from the inside of a house or a car can also be an appropriate location, despite the presence of windows in between. Perhaps the raindrops on the windscreen offer a special charm for the photo.

So always remember: Your safety comes first. You should always keep a sufficient distance to the thunderstorm.

Which camera settings you should use with a DSLR

First, you should select the desired image section so that an interesting scenery can be seen. We also recommend a small focal length, which makes it possible to take large photographs of the surroundings and the sky and thus increases the probability of catching a flash.

Ideally, you should use a camera that allows you to make manual adjustments, such as an SLR camera. The camera settings depend on the time of day or night when the pictures are taken. Night shots of thunderstorms are particularly interesting. A high exposure value, i.e. a long exposure, is recommended. The shutter speed, which usually lasts several seconds – depending on the frequency of the thunderstorms – requires a stable and quiet exposure of the camera. A stand – preferably a tripod – is therefore the ideal companion for these shots. Furthermore, a remote shutter release is recommended, which can also be replaced by the self-timer or an interval function of the respective camera, so that you do not blur the picture by pressing the shutter release.

Blitz schlägt bei Nacht in ein Feld ein

The long exposure time should be set depending on possible light sources, such as street lighting or moonlight.

Since a long exposure time does not produce good results in daylight photography, you should use a neutral density filter during the day. This ND filter is a suitable tool for blocking excess incoming light. The exposure time should be adjusted again and again, as the lighting conditions can tend to vary greatly. The ISO values of such photographs should be in the range from ISO 100 to ISO 200. The aperture must be set individually depending on the situation. You should adjust the f-number in relation to the exposure time. The longer the exposure time, the less the contours of the clouds can be seen in your photos. An average aperture value of 8 tends to be a good start.

You should also adjust the focus manually, as the autofocus of a camera is not suitable for such brief snapshots. The short period of time during which the flash is visible is usually not sufficient for automatic focusing. The focus should be set to infinity. Alternatively, you can select a point further away within the image section for focusing.

Blitz schlägt in Berge ein – das helle Licht zwischen dunkelblauen Wolken ist gut erkennbar

Alternative to DSLR – Take photos of lightning with compact cameras and smartphones

Thunderstorms often occur unexpectedly and of course you are not always prepared for them. Since the SLR camera and its lenses are not always at hand, thunderstorms and flashes can also be photographed with compact cameras and smartphone cameras. The result is of course a different one than with professional equipment and manual adjustment possibilities.

Smartphone cameras offer numerous filters and settings that allow us to take photos of ever higher quality. If the aperture, the exposure time and the ISO value can be set manually, the relevant conditions for the success of such photos are met. In addition, burst mode functions make it easier to capture thunderstorms. With this method, numerous photos are taken one after the other in the shortest possible time, among which a good result can certainly be found.

You can also use apps that allow you to insert or even photograph a flash up to three seconds after the event. For Android devices, there is the Lightning Camera app, for iOS users the iLightningCam Lite app.

Nowadays, manual focusing can also be used with some compact cameras. If the essential parameters can also be set manually, there’s hardly anything standing in the way of your dream photo. As with SLR shots, a tripod and a remote or self-timer are also useful when shooting with a smartphone or compact camera. Subsequent image processing completes the results of the photographs.

Conclusion

The best results can be achieved with SLR cameras and the corresponding manual settings. Although some smartphone cameras also offer manual adjustment options such as ISO values and f-numbers, it is almost impossible to adjust the focus to infinity. Only a lot of patience, some luck and subsequent image processing remain for the smartphone photographers. Alternatively, you still have to resort to additional apps.

And always remember: In the mountains, at home or on holiday – never endanger yourself. Good luck trying it out!

Battery life – Power banks, solar chargers and other alternatives

When your phone or camera turns from a practical device into a brick.

Even the most carefully planned trips often have some surprises in store – some pleasant, others less so. The latter includes the battery life of mobile phones and cameras, especially for photo enthusiasts. To avoid missing excellent photo opportunities because of a dead or weak battery, many turn to portable charging devices. As there are countless products on the market of many different types and styles, there are a couple of things to consider before making a purchase:

  1. How intensively do you use your camera?
  2. How often do you have access to sockets?

Fresh from the socket

Let’s start with the simplest case: you go on day trips and can connect your charger regularly to the power supply over a longer period of time. The power consumption of the camera depends on your photographic behaviour and your camera model. From several batteries per day to only one in 14 days, everything is possible. The best thing to do is to test it out beforehand. Apart from the possibly necessary socket adapter, one or two well-charged camera batteries are normally sufficient. These are offered by various third-party manufacturers for the most common cameras at low prices (10 -20 CHF), original batteries often cost many times as much (50-70 CHF). To recharge, it is worth investing in the purchase of a dual charger in order to make efficient use of your time in your accommodation.

Professionals swear by it – Battery handles

Digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) are expandable with battery handles that dock to the battery compartment and provide room for two batteries. Although this makes the camera heavier and more bulky, the maximum service life of the device is significantly increased. Another advantage is the improved handling, because the device offers more grip area due to the extension and is easier to hold, especially when shooting in portrait format or with heavy lenses. In an emergency, some battery handles can even be equipped with standard AA batteries instead of lithium-ion ones. Third-party suppliers offer battery handles starting at approx. 30 CHF, original parts are available from approx. 100 CHF.

Batteriegriff auf hellem Untergrund

Compact bundles of power – Power banks

If you are away from your accommodation for a longer period of time and photograph a lot, you might want to buy a power bank (sometimes called power pack). These portable power storage devices have much larger capacities than single batteries. Some models offer enough reserves to fully charge end devices several times and may have different connection options available. However, a USB port is standard, which can be used to power compact cameras, action cameras and some bridge cameras. The advantage here is that smartphones, MP3 players and other technology that you don’t want to do without during your holidays are compatible with it. With DSLRs, direct charging is usually not possible, but there are chargers that are supplied with power via USB. Alternatively, you can also use a power bank with an integrated charging slot for your DSLR battery or insert a special battery dummy (CHF 20 – 40) into the battery compartment, which you connect with a power bank.

Powerbanks mit USB-Anschluss

The capacity of the power banks is given in milliampere hours (mAh), just like that of rechargeable batteries. The higher the capacity, the more you can charge with it. Another factor to consider is the current output. If this is too low, devices whose energy consumption is designed for higher strengths will take longer to charge. Powerbanks are now available in a tremendous variety and in numerous price ranges, starting from less than CHF 10 to an average of CHF 30 – 50, up to several hundred Swiss Francs for professional equipment.

When the wildernis calls – Solar modules

Experience has shown that it is difficult to find a power socket on an extensive hike where you spend the night in the great outdoors. If the tour lasts several days or even weeks, the capacity of your electricity storage devices will eventually be exhausted and they will need to be recharged. For this purpose, solar modules are available in many variants: The larger their surface area, the more solar radiation is absorbed at the same time and the higher their output power will be. But this also means that the modules become heavier and take up more space. Some manufacturers offer portable versions for backpacks or power banks and solar modules in a combined device, but these are usually weak and not recommended for consumers who are hungry for electricity.

For DSLRs, for example, you should use solar modules with sufficient output, which cost around CHF 400 – 500 in a kit with matching power banks. If you do not use a DSLR, simpler solar modules and power banks are sufficient for a total of around CHF 100 – 200. You should always bear in mind that they are dependent on several hours of sunshine for charging – you can find out how many exactly on the respective product pages.

Tragbares Solarmodul liegt am Strand auf dem Sand und lädt ein Smartphone.

A special case would be the road trip, during which you may not or rarely be able to connect to the mains, but you can recharge your batteries or your power bank with the help of adapters (10 – 20 CHF) via the car’s cigarette lighter.

Work in progress – New alternatives

If, on the other hand, you travel by bicycle, there are even chargers (20 – 160 CHF) that can be connected to the hub dynamo, but which do not work efficiently enough to serve as a reliable solution. Other unconventional but not yet fully developed options include fuel cell power packs filled with lighter gas or camping stoves that heat a power module that generates energy.

Planespotting – The right way to take photos of planes

The fascination of capturing the giants of the skies in impressive shots is called planespotting. Similar to sports photography, the challenge of planespotting lies in taking pictures of the rapid aircraft in motion. To achieve this, however, a few things must be done.

We’ll tell you what you should keep in mind when photographing airplanes, what weather and camera settings are recommended, and which apps will help you find airplanes in your area.

Recommended camera equipment for aircraft photography

You should use a system camera (DSLRs or DSLM) and a long focal length lens for planespotting. In some cases, bridge cameras may also be useful. However, they must have a particularly good zoom capability. Cameras with an APS-C sensor are well suited for this kind of photography due to the smaller image detail. In direct comparison to cameras with a full format sensor, the APS-C sensor displays the aircraft larger.

You won’t be able to avoid the use of telephoto lenses when planespotting. The airplanes are usually far away and there is only a limited possibility to approach them. Lenses with a focal length range of 55 – 250 mm already offer a good start. It is also beneficial if your lens has a built-in image stabiliser. In photography at higher focal lengths, blurring occurs even with slight shaking.

Planespotterin fotografiert startendes Flugzeug

Preparation – Scouting airports

Airports offer different possibilities for planespotting. Some have their own areas for aircraft enthusiasts and plane-spotters, while others may have a hill next to the airport site from which you have a particularly good view of your subject. If you are planning to take your photo at a certain airport, it is worthwhile to inform yourself about the local conditions in good time. You can contact the airport itself or look at the relevant planespotter forums where photographers exchange tips and information. Some airports even offer special planespotter tours of the airport grounds, where photographers are taken to particularly good spots.

Special care is required with planespotting outside of Europe. In some countries, planespotting at the airport is a criminal offence. Therefore, you should find out in advance whether planespotting is permitted at all at the location of your choice.

The best wheather conditions for planespotting

Varying wheather brings fresh wind into your photos. Clear blue skies with bight sunshine or clouds and rain – Impressive shots of planes can be achieved in nearly any wheather at all. Exceptions are thick layers of fog that block the view to the airplane.

Use the weather to your advantage and include it in your shots. When it rains, reflections may appear on the airplane or the runway, which can be beautifully incorporated into the image. Spray dripping off the airplane gives your pictures even more authenticity. Nevertheless, you should protect your camera from external weather influences. Despite splash water protection, the camera may otherwise be damaged during longer periods of rain.

Avoid photographing airplanes in strong midday sun. This will make the aircraft more evenly illuminated and prevent hard shadows from forming on the aircraft. In any case, make sure that you do not photograph against the sunlight.

Aircraft approaching for landing

In this picture, the aircraft appears to be at a standstill, as even the rotors are almost completely sharp. Such a result can only be achieved with a very short exposure time. The cloudy background adds depth to the image.

Camera settings for photographing airplanes

Beginners and professionals alike appreciate the comfort of the automatic aperture and aperture control. With automatic aperture control (S or TV mode), you select a value for the exposure time. The appropriate aperture is then automatically selected by the camera depending on the ISO value used. In Aperture Priority, it is the same. You select an aperture value and the exposure time is determined automatically.

You should use your camera’s special focus for moving subjects. For Canon cameras this is called “AI Servo”, whereas Nikon uses the name “AF-C”. The focus designation may vary depending on the manufacturer.

When choosing the exposure time, always remember that airplanes still travel at speeds between 200 and 300 km/h at take-off and landing. Planespotting basically offers you two ways to display the aircraft.

Would you like to display the aircraft and its surroundings as sharply as possible and prevent blurring effects at all costs? Then you should choose a short exposure time, about the value of 1/1000 sec. Depending on the speed of the airplane, the short exposure time causes your subject and its surroundings to freeze. The choice of a very short exposure time is not always possible due to external weather conditions. If there is not enough light, you have to cut back on the ISO or aperture value to maintain the short exposure time. In addition, your images will quickly lose their dynamic range.

Alternatively, you can capture the movement of the aircraft in the recording. The plane will be sharp, but the foreground and background will be blurred. As a guide, select exposure times around 1/100s. Place the focus point on a specific area of the aircraft, such as the fuselage, and follow the movement of the aircraft with the shutter release button pressed halfway. Concentrate on the movement of the aircraft and make sure that the automatic focus is always on the desired area. Press the shutter-release button all the way down to take the picture. This technique is also known as “drag” and is often used in sports photography.

Lufthansa Airbus A320 at landing

The aircraft appears sharp in the image, while the foreground and background are blurred. The picture gives the viewer a feeling of how fast the plane must have been when landing.

Just as important as choosing a suitable exposure time is determining the aperture value. If you select an open aperture, your image will have limited depth of field and the aircraft will only be sharply focused over small areas. A small aperture gives more depth to the image and focuses the aircraft over larger areas. However, the camera then needs much more light or a longer exposure time. Exactly this is problematic with planespotting due to the high speeds.

Apps for tracking airplanes

Planning plays an important role in planespotting. This is especially true for those who want to photograph a particularly rare aircraft. “Plane Tracking” apps are particularly well suited to get an overview of air traffic. You can track the flights in your area, but also on several continents and obtain helpful details on aircraft type, flight duration or destination.

The app “Plane Finder” performs very well in the iOS App Store as well as in Android’s Google Play Store with average ratings and offers many useful features. On both platforms, the app is available in a free (“Lite”) version and a paid version with some additional features. The extended version has, among other things, an augmented reality mode in which airplanes in the sky are identified with the help of the camera. In addition, more information on individual flights can be viewed.

Besides the “Plane Finder” app there are also a lot of other apps that have similar functions and are worth testing.

Conclusion

Planespotting offers many impressive ways to display aircraft. With the help of telephoto lenses with high focal length values and various shooting techniques, even less experienced photographers can create exciting photos. Comprehensive planning is at least as important as the correct execution. The planning can be made a lot easier with the right Smartphone App which reveals many helpful details of the air traffic to planespotters, such as aircraft type, flight route or the destination of the flight.

 

Tethered Shooting

Tethered Shooting or wired photography allows images to be transferred from the camera to the computer or tablet in a matter of seconds. The camera can be adjusted and triggered from there using software. In the past, Tethered Shooting was mainly used by professional studio photographers. As the technology became cheaper and easier to use, it became popular in hobby photography.

Advantages of Tethered Shooting

Tethered Shooting is mainly used for people photography or product shootings. It simplifies the workflow and saves a lot of time. The photos are sent to the computer right after they are taken, where they can be conveniently viewed by several people in large format. Immediately after the first shoot, important parameters such as lighting, colour values or sharpness can be checked directly on the monitor.

The model can also judge how they look on the picture and can make adjustments if necessary. Important camera settings can be adjusted on the computer using software. These include, for example, the aperture, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed. Ultimately, the photographer is only responsible for the focus and the image section.

Moreover, the photo session does not have to be interrupted in order to load the images onto the PC, as image files can be saved on the computer using tethering. With this automatic data backup, one is no longer dependent on a storage medium.

Equipment for Tethered Shooting

Most modern digital SLRs and some compact cameras today are capable of tethering. The cheapest way to transfer data is a sufficiently long USB cable. Conventional USB cables are available up to a length of five metres and usually provide sufficient freedom of movement for a shooting.

Some providers specialised in tethering, such as Tether Tools, offer special cables in signal colours so that you don’t accidentally stumble over them. A so-called JerkStopper, a cable holder developed for Tethered Shooting, also prevents the USB cable from being accidentally torn out of the camera socket by external pulling force.

Most modern digital and SLR cameras are equipped with WLAN today. Canon cameras, for example, can be connected to a smartphone or tablet via the free Canon Camera Connect app. In the meantime, most WLAN-enabled cameras have their own apps that allow photos to be transferred and the camera to be controlled via a tablet, for example.

If you want to retrofit older models with WLAN, a so-called CamRanger with the corresponding app is suitable. The CamRanger creates its own WLAN network that connects the camera to the computer. However, the CamRanger is only available for Canon and Nikon cameras and at a price starting at CHF 400 it is more suitable for professional photographers.

For tethered shootings it is best to use a mobile table to place your laptop on.

Foto-Kamera mit Laptop verbunden

Tethering software is essential for the transmission and storage of photos as well as for camera control. Nowadays, there is a whole range of easy-to-use tethering software available. Among the most popular options are Capture One, Canon EOS Utility and Adobe Lightroom. Before deciding on the software, it is important to check whether it is compatible with your camera. For example, Adobe Lightroom only works in conjunction with Canon and Nikon cameras. Usually, tethering software is supplied with a modern camera.

Workflow for a Tethered Shooting

Photographing with tethering requires only a few steps. The camera and computer are connected via the USB cable or WLAN. It is important to specify a storage location in advance so that the images can be located later. If you take photos with a memory card, please note that Canon cameras automatically create the image files on the memory card, but Nikon cameras do not. Once the shutter release button is pressed, the images are transferred to the PC or Tablet in just a few seconds. The camera settings can be adjusted intuitively in the menu bar next to the image.

Conclusion

Although Tethered Shooting may look complicated, it is easy to work with. All you need is a camera, a USB cable or WLAN connection, and a laptop with tethering software. The comparatively large screen size lets you immediately evaluate images in detail.

How to shoot expressive group photos

For festive occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and the like, a group photo is part of the memory of the special day. Depending on the number of people, however, even more experienced photographers may find this a real challenge. Are all of them in the picture? Does everyone look into the camera or has someone blinked or looked away? With our tips on equipment, camera settings and group formation, you are guaranteed to succeed in creating the next group picture.

Camera and Lens

Considering the various setting options, a system camera or SLR camera is of course best suited. The adjustable parameters, such as f-number, exposure time and ISO value allow you to better compensate for the prevailing lighting conditions. This is only partially possible when using a compact camera or smartphone. In good lighting conditions, however, they can also achieve good results.

For a camera with an interchangeable lens, it is best to use a standard lens with a fixed focal length of 50mm or a light telephoto lens if the group is large. The use of a wide-angle lens is not recommended as it causes distortion and unnatural proportions in the group picture.

Use a tripod

A tripod is almost indispensable for an impeccable group photo. It makes it possible to take pictures without introducing shake and you can easily align the camera to the desired section of the picture without having to search for it all the time. Especially for larger groups you can select a higher camera position with the tripod, so that all persons fit into the picture.

For spontaneous group pictures on the go, small travel tripods are suitable, which are usually lighter and easier to transport. If you have an elevation available along the way, for example a bench or a wall, you can also use it to stabilise the camera for the group picture.

Choosing a suitable scenery for group photos

In addition to the group itself, the background is decisive for a successful group photo. The background should be calm and, if possible, in muted colours in order to emphasise the group as the main motif of the picture. A moving cityscape as scenery or bright lights in the background are less suitable as they are very distracting and let the group drown in the picture.

Family photo in the garden

When the sun shines brightly, shade provides good lighting conditions for floodlit group photos.

Furthermore, an outdoor setting is more suitable than closed rooms because the lighting conditions are usually better. You should avoid bright sunlight such as at midday. The midday sun casts hard shadows, which can be seen on the faces of the people in the picture. In soft sunlight, you should make sure that it falls on the sideways onto the persons’ faces, as this will appear most natural in the picture later on. Direct light from behind or from the front would cast unwanted shadows of the group or the photographer. A slightly overcast sky or a shady spot is ideal for well-lit group photos.

If you want to take a group picture in an indoor space, you should use the flash to better illuminate the group. Windows and lamps can be a great help. If possible, use white walls and bright surfaces to reflect the light.

Positioning the group right

When arranging the people, make sure that they are as close as possible to each other. On the one hand, this ensures that everyone fits into the picture and, on the other hand, it creates a better group atmosphere in the photo. For large groups, a slight ascent towards the back or a staircase is helpful to ensure that the rear rows are also clearly visible. Experiment with different heights and poses of the persons for a dynamic image effect or consciously create a clear symmetry for an expressive group photo. In order to aesthetically stage the faces, it helps if everyone raises their chins slightly and stretches them upwards.

Try out different perspectives to create an exciting photo motif. Depending on the scenery and space, you can photograph the group from above or from a frog’s perspective. In order to achieve a well distributed image sharpness, you should always concentrate the focus on the middle of the group. For unusual group pictures you can of course experiment with focus and image framing and, for example, focus on a certain detail or only capture the people’s shoes.

Excerpt of a group of men in suits with colourful socks sitting on a wall

The detail of the group picture, in which only the shoes are to be seen, creates a funny and unusual motif.

 

Camera settings

As is so often the case, the required camera settings vary greatly depending on the lighting conditions of the selected scenery. In order to determine the perfect values of the individual parameters, you should try out different combinations. Basically, you should close the aperture a bit further (larger aperture value) in order to achieve a higher depth of field. In combination with a slightly longer exposure time, this is especially important for large groups in order to be able to sharply display the rear rows as well. But the exposure time should not be too long, because otherwise small movements of the subjects will cause distortions in the group picture. You may also need to increase the ISO value according to the aperture value in order to achieve uniform sharpness in the image. If the ISO value is too high, you will notice unwanted image noise.

 

Group setting in which everyone is placed behind one another

The depth of field is not sufficient in this setup. The persons in the back and front are out of focus.

When taking a group picture indoors, it is also recommended to adjust the colour temperature using a colour filter. If daylight entering from windows mixes with artificial light, unpleasant colour casts may appear in the image, which can be compensated for by changing the colour temperature.

Continuous shooting, interval timer & more

In addition to the various setting parameters that ensure a well-lit subject, the shutter release also plays an important role in group photography. To catch the perfect moment, we recommend the continuous shooting function. Here, the camera shoots several photos in a row as long as you hold down the shutter-release button. Some cameras also have an interval timer that takes pictures at set intervals.

If you are the photographer and want to be in the picture yourself, you can set a timer or self-timer for almost all cameras. A wireless shutter release is recommended if you want to be in the picture without hectically running into position. This lets you conveniently press the shutter button when you and the rest of the group are ready.

The right timing

An impressive group picture is a matter of timing. Especially with large groups, it is not easy to get the attention and the best smile of all people at the same time. To make everyone smile into the camera at the same time, many photographers use the usual instructions such as “cheese” or “smile, please”. This is where the aforementioned continuous shooting function comes in handy to capture the perfect moment. But somebody almost always blinks. There is a little trick for this: Ask all persons in the group to close their eyes and only open them again on your instructions, because after opening their eyes there is a short time window in which nobody will blink unintentionally. It is best to count down to three and then give the instruction ” Eyes open”.

Group photos will always remain challenging motifs. However, with these tips you are well prepared for the next photoshoot with your family or friends.

Die Pusteblume als bewegtes Motiv

Photographing moving images

Capturing water splashes and other moving subjects is a challenge for any photographer. In addition to technical knowledge, creativity, human skill, and a lot of practice are required. Photography offers a multitude of possibilities to deal with this challenge. With the right photographic technique and some practice and patience, you will get the perfect shot – the following tips make it possible.

First of all: With a simple compact camera you will quickly find yourself at the limits of your possibilities. It is worth investing in a good SLR camera for such shots.

Creating good conditions

Movement can be displayed either flowing or frozen. The right technique plays a decisive role. However, good light is the basic prerequisite for successful shots of moving objects. If the available sunlight is not sufficient, artificial light must be used. In an interview, photographer Gerd Gropp tells us: “What is important is the orientation of the lights, regardless of whether flash or photo lamps are used.

Sharp, blurred, or high-contrast images – the exposure time determines the result. If you want to display moving objects in razor-sharp detail, you should choose an extremely fast exposure time. For dynamic shots, especially with running water, a longer exposure time should be chosen. Basically, the sports mode should be switched on for these shots, if available, which automatically takes over some settings and thus makes life easier for every photographer. When photographing moving objects, settings on the camera must generally be made before taking a picture. In order to avoid additional camera shake in the picture, the tripod is a great help for beginners when shooting moving subjects. Gerd Gropp also recommends taking pictures with a tripod and a remote shutter release in order to have one hand free for the objects to be photographed. Shoot a few test shots first to get a feel for it all.

Thee techniques for the perfect shot

Razor-sharp, blurred, or high-contrast. Here are three techniques to show what needs to be considered.

1. Freeze

If you want all details to be sharply displayed, you should use the freezing technique. For this, the exposure time should be in the range of 1/500 and 1/1000 seconds. The subject section and the sharpness are preselected here. The object moves into the subject. A tip: Use the continuous mode to get as many shots as possible, because this way you can sort out unusable pictures afterwards.

2. Blur

This technique is especially suitable for those who still need some practice. The exposure time lies in a range from 1/10 to 1/90 second. Interesting effects are created with this technique by blurring the main subject. To avoid shaky pictures, the camera is fixed on a tripod. Characteristic for pictures taken with this technique is the contrast between the blur of the moving object and the sharp surroundings.

3. Panning

If you already have some experience, you can try out the technique of panning. With an exposure time of 1/60, 1/90 or 1/125 second, the camera moves parallel to the main subject. In contrast to its blurred surroundings, the subject appears relatively sharp. But be careful here, because the exposure times can cause shaky images. A tripod with a swivelling ball head can help.

Examples and tips for correct camera settings

Here we show a few impressive example photographs with personal tips from Gerd Gropp on the correct camera settings. A 60 mm lens was used for all shots.

Fruit slices in the aquarium

Fruit slices in the aquarium

Source: Gerd Gropp

The fruit slices are attached to the disc of an aquarium and backed with a blue background. With regard to the shutter speed, an exposure time of 1/100 second should be selected. Photo-lamps provide good light. In order to get a sharp picture, the camera should be fastened with a tripod. To ensure a sharp background, the aperture value is 13.

Strawberry in milk

Strawberry in milk

Source: Gerd Gropp

A bowl is filled with milk to absorb the strawberry into the milk. A flash is needed to put everything in the right light. Here, too, the tripod is an indispensable aid. In order to throw the strawberry into the milk bowl with one hand, a remote trigger should be used. It is best to adjust the sharpness beforehand to the level at which the strawberry is to be dipped into the milk. It is advisable to choose a smaller aperture to increase the depth of field. Now drop the strawberry and quickly press the trigger. Don’t despair, some attempts will be necessary.

The dandelion as a moving motif

Die Pusteblume als bewegtes Motiv

The dandelion as a moving motif

Good light is also a requirement here. You should therefore use a flash unit in spite of daylight. A remote shutter release and a tripod are indispensable. These aids make it possible to blow at the dandelion and operate the trigger at the right moment at the same time. In addition, the image processing program Photoshop could also be used to insert individual elements later.

Dice game with moving dice

Dice game with a moving die

Source: Gerd Gropp

In addition to the above-mentioned aids such as tripod, remote shutter release and photo lights, the correct camera setting is indispensable when capturing the moving cube. The exposure should be set to 1/60th of a second, as this will reveal the dynamics of the cube. To achieve a contrast of blur and sharpness, the aperture should be set to 5.6. Once all settings have been made on the camera, the cube is thrown with one hand and the remote shutter release is operated with the other.

Dynamically capturing a waterfall

Dynamically capturing a waterfall

Source: Gerd Gropp

Running water is best captured dynamically. A long exposure time should be set for this. The exposure time for this picture is 4 seconds. This makes it possible to blur the water structures. Since the image is slightly overexposed in daylight with an exposure time of 4 seconds, a grey filter is used to reduce the amount of light. This filter is available in various intensities and is mounted in front of the lens of the camera.

A few last tips

When photographing moving objects, the following applies: Have patience and budget sufficient time. Not every shot will be perfect. It is advisable to edit the photos afterwards. The Photoshop image editing program is worthwhile for this.
Interesting: Motion can also be generated using the zoom blur. By zooming in and out during a long exposure time, unique photographic effects are created. The image becomes blurred from the center outwards.

Have fun trying it out!

Filter for analogue camera

Filter in Photography

In photography, a basic distinction is made between correction and effect filters. Both reflect a small part of the incident light and thus allow less light to reach the lens. The photographer has to readjust. They do this by using the printed extension factor of the respective filter as a reference. With a factor of 2, for example, the aperture would have to be opened one step further or the exposure time doubled. The corresponding tables are provided by the respective manufacturers.

These basic settings are the same for all filters. But now we would like to introduce a few useful filters in more detail. We will show you which results can be achieved with the individual filters and for which type of motif they are particularly suitable. As mentioned before, a distinction is made between correction and effect filters:

Correction filter

These kinds of filters serve especially to influence the saturation, contrast, or UV exposure of the image, or to correct it.

Polarising filter

The polarising filter is a very useful filter the effect of which cannot be imitated with Photoshop. Especially in product, architecture, and landscape photography, the polarising filter is often used to suppress reflections on non-metallic surfaces.

The filter works because it only filters out light from polarised light in a certain plane of oscillation and absorbs the other reflecting light and converts it into heat. The polarising filter is mounted in front of the lens. The effect on the light situation is adjusted by rotating the filter.

In photography, the polarising filter can be used in many ways due to its physical properties. As already mentioned, strong reflections from non-metallic surfaces can be contained. On the picture below you can see the difference. In the picture above, the water reflects very strongly and appears impermeable, in the lower picture it appears more natural. In addition, the filter produces richer green tones, as excess blue light is filtered out.

Bilder ohne bzw. mit Polarisationsfilter aufgenommen

For many photographers, the polarising filter is a must-have. The small filter can be used flexibly and the user can quickly judge whether the use of the polarising filter would be worthwhile. There is no better tool against reflections.

Gray filter

The gray filter is also called ND filter or neutral density filter. Some also call the gray filter sunglasses for the lens. It consists of optical glass that is evenly coloured grey and reduces the incidence of light on a film or photo sensor.

Particularly with long-term shots, the dimming effect of a lens may not be sufficient to effectively reduce the amount of incident light. This results in overexposed images. Many photographers therefore resort to gray filters. The filter allows for longer exposure times or larger aperture settings without affecting the colour and contrast of a subject.

There is a table for the calculation of exposure adjustments for the use of ND filters. This is primarily based on the extension factor. A gray filter with the designation “ND 64”, for example, extends the exposure time 64 times. In other words, the photographer saves 6 f-stops.

The following image could have been taken with this filter:

Wasserfall in Finnland mit Langzeitbelichtung und Graufilter aufgenommen

In the picture the water seems to trickle from the mountains like fine sugar. This is achieved by using a very long exposure time which is made possible by the grey filter. In addition, the water surface looks very smooth. However, the gray filter does not only contribute to wiping effects on running waters, it is also used in architectural photography to make people disappear in photos. Extreme exposure times are also necessary for this, although the photos would be overexposed without an ND filter. In addition, continuous traces of light, such as those produced by moving cars at night, can be recorded.

Gray gradient filter

The human visual system can perceive differences in brightness much more accurately than modern SLR cameras. When taking pictures of landscapes, details in the sky or below the horizon may be lost even though the human eye perceives everything. This is largely due to the lack of dynamic range in digital cameras. If, for example, the sky is very bright, it can happen that there is no detail due to overexposure. In this case, even RAW images cannot be improved on the computer because the information is lost. Photographers therefore use gray gradient filters for their images.

Grauverlaufsfilter mit softem Verlauf

To get a proper exposure between the lower part of the subject and the sky, use the gray gradient filter. The captured image will have a more detailed sky.

The gray gradient filter transitions can vary in strength. But they do have one thing in common – the straight, horizontal line. This is also the boundary of gray gradient filters. Objects that protrude into the motif or beyond the horizon line may also be darkened. The only remedy here is a series of exposures, which are then combined on the computer to form an overall picture.

All three filters mentioned here originate from the times of analogue photography. Their correction effects can only be recreated more or less or not at all on the computer using image processing programs. This is why many photographers swear by the use of filters.

Effect filters

Effect filters or creative filters are used as artistic means of design. Some filters can, however, produce very tacky motifs when used excessively. We will therefore only discuss two filters in more detail.

Star filter

Verwendung des Sternfilters vor der St. Peters Basilica in Rom

With this grid filter, point-shaped light sources can be transformed into quadrangular, hexagonal, octagonal, or hexagonal stars against a dark background. Spotlights are mainly spotlights. Some photographers use this effect for water reflections, for example. Others have brilliant-cut diamonds shine through a small star effect on product photos. Our picture shows that the filter can also be used at night.

Colour filters

These attachment filters allow either radiation of a certain wavelength to pass through or filter out certain colours. The latter, however, is rarely the case. These filters are usually made of glass, plastic, or gelatine foil. Colour filters can be used as both correction and effect filters. In this case, however, these filters are used to highlight special colours.

Drei Farbfilter zum Aufschrauben auf ein Objektiv

In the digital age, almost all effect filters can be reproduced by modern photo editing programs. With correction filters, the situation is somewhat different. In particular, polarising filters cannot be replaced by image processing programs due to physics. Ultimately, every photographer has to decide for themselves which filters to add to their photographic equipment. Here, the area of application and flexibility play a very important role.

DSLR – Taking Photographs with Aperture Priority (A/Av Mode)

Aperture priority is a practical alternative to automatic or program mode, with which you can specifically control the depth of field. By automatically adjusting only one or two parameters of the manual aperture setting, this mode offers a lot of creative scope for the photographer.

Depending on the camera, the Aperture Priority or Aperture Value mode is marked A or Av on the mode dial, which stands for Aperture Priority or Aperture Value mode. As the symbols are similar, Av mode is sometimes confused with fully automatic mode. To avoid confusion, many cameras display a short help text explaining the program’s core function when it is selected. Automatic mode is labeled “AUTO” or displays as a green box labeled “A”. Furthermore, P stands for programmed auto, S (Tv) for shutter priority, and M for manual mode.

In Av mode, the photographer sets the aperture value and the camera automatically adjusts the exposure time and, depending on the camera, the ISO value accordingly. By specifying the aperture value, the photographer can control the depth of field without having to select or evaluate the appropriate shutter speed. Aperture priority is often used specifically in portrait photography or for subjects with an unsteady background, because when a low aperture value is set, the subject in the foreground is sharp while the background is slightly blurred.

Hilfstexte bei der Auswahl des Modus und der Blendenwerten

How do I set the Aperture Priority and what do I need to keep in mind?

To shoot in Av mode, first set the mode dial to A or Av. Once you have set the aperture priority, the display will show the current aperture value, which you can then open or close depending on the desired depth of field. The larger the f-number, the greater the depth of field. With a small aperture value you can blur the background and sharpen the foreground.

When the shutter release button is pressed halfway, the camera starts metering and displays the calculated shutter speed and the appropriate ISO value, if applicable.

To determine the ideal depth of field for your subject, try different aperture values. When checking shots, be aware that the preview on the display shows a smaller version of the captured photo, which may cause the sharpness and image quality in the preview to differ from the actual image. The actual result can usually only be judged on the computer or after the photos have been developed.

Vergleichsbild mit 2 verschiedenen Blendenwerten

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What are possible errors and how can they be fixed?

Frequent errors associated with aperture priority are overexposure or underexposure due to an aperture that is too wide open or closed. When looking through the viewfinder of the camera, the image effect achieved by the settings is usually not visible. Unfortunately, the viewfinder does not allow you to estimate the depth of field or possible exposure errors that will occur later, and the subject usually appears brighter than it should be with the aperture value set. Some SLR cameras have a Depth Preview button that serves to control the depth of field at the set aperture value. By pressing the button while looking through the viewfinder, the camera fades down to the set value and makes it easier to control the depth of field and creatively design the image.

Since A/Av mode automatically calculates the exposure time, warnings are displayed when the required adjustment exceeds the technical capabilities of the camera. If the shutter speed starts blinking red next to the set aperture, change the aperture or if possible the ISO value, otherwise the photo may be overexposed or underexposed. If the aperture is too wide open, the fastest shutter speed blinks and warns of overexposure. If the longest shutter speed blinks, the aperture value is too low and the image is underexposed. If possible, you can compensate for this by increasing the ISO value or by opening the aperture further.

Also note that Aperture Priority refers only to the aperture value, shutter speed, and ISO depending on the camera type. Before shooting in A/Av mode, you should also check other settings such as exposure compensation and image quality and adjust them to the shooting conditions if necessary.

Conclusion

Aperture Priority is a creative mode in which the aperture is used as the main design element. By selectively influencing the depth of field of the photo, the photographer can achieve a specific image effect. For example, a portrait can be sharply highlighted against a restless background such as a busy street. The A/Av mode is also ideal for beautiful macro shots, for example of plants, insects or small objects with a blurred background. The automatic adjustment of the exposure time makes it possible to achieve the desired depth of field even under changing shooting conditions, while still leaving enough room for various adjustment options.

DSLR – Photography with program mode (P Mode)

SLR cameras have at least 5 basic modes, which can usually be controlled using a wheel on the top of the camera. With this shutter speed dial you can switch between different shooting modes. The five most important options for photography are AUTO, P, A (or Av), S (or Tv), and M. Automatic mode is marked with “AUTO” or a green box with an “A”. P stands for Program Mode, A (Av) for Aperture Priority, S (Tv) for Shutter Priority, M for Manual Mode. In addition, most cameras still have various scenery modes and possibly also a video mode.

Automatic program mode is not the same as automatic mode (fully automatic), since important shooting parameters can be varied depending on the camera model. Only the aperture and shutter speed are controlled by the camera and automatically adjusted by the camera’s metering mode. Typically, when ambient light becomes poorer, the aperture is opened further and the exposure time is increased at the same time.

In contrast to auto mode, P mode allows for manual control of the flash and other settings such as the ISO value or exposure corrections. In comparison to the aperture or shutter priority, the image is also properly exposed when the ambient conditions change quickly, making manual adjustment difficult.

Why take photos using program mode and not just auto mode?

For many DSLR users, P-Mode is the standard program for snapshots and works well for a variety of shooting situations. Even though it is very convenient to use, since both aperture and exposure time are automatically adjusted, the photographer does not lose complete control over the settings, as is the case in automatic mode. It is therefore a kind of “basic auto mode”.

Object photographed in Auto mode (auto flash) and P mode (without flash)

Object photographed in auto mode (automatic flash) and P mode (without flash)

Most importantly, in program mode, you can manually decide whether or not to use the flash. Especially indoors, flash photography often creates an artificial atmosphere – the decision when to use it should be made by the photographer depending on the situation. To use the flash, it must first be opened manually.

The ISO setting can be adjusted by the photographer depending on the lighting situation. You can try out at which ISO values the optimum exposure is achieved. Depending on the camera model, high ISO values in particular can lead to considerable image noise, which should be taken into account when adjusting the settings.

Comparison - photographed in P mode with different ISO settings (ISO 500 / 1000)

Comparison – photographed using P-Mode with different ISO settings (ISO 500 / 1000)

The white balance can also be adjusted as desired.

Furthermore, P mode offers the option of exposure correction. This can become necessary, as the exposure measurement is based on average subjects in which bright and dark areas are relatively evenly distributed. If the subject is generally very bright or very dark, it deviates too much from these average values and incorrect exposures occur. These can be corrected by means of an exposure correction.

In addition, automatic exposure series can be captured in program mode, as required for HDR images. Only the shutter speeds are changed and not the aperture, so that the photos can be merged and superimposed later.

Program P recognises the focal length used by interchangeable lenses and tries to keep the shutter speed so short using the aperture and (with ISO automatic) the ISO settings that handheld shots are possible without blurring up to minimum lighting.

The image quality should be checked directly when using P mode and the corresponding parameters should be adjusted if necessary.

Drawbacks of program mode

Program mode responds to two basic requirements: The image should be correctly exposed and it should be sharp. In combination, the aperture and shutter speed must always match.

However, there is more than one combination that leads to the correct exposure. If, for example, you open the aperture a little (assuming a correct combination) and reduce the exposure time accordingly, you get another correct combination regarding the exposure with a different depth of field. The depth of field of a photo is often used as a creative tool, for example. By default, program mode cannot be set accordingly.

Program shift functionality

P mode prefers short shutter speeds to high f-stops. The combination of aperture and shutter speed defines depth of field and motion blur. If the aperture is too small, for example, but the subject requires more blur in the background, program shift (or flexible program) can be used with many camera models. While preserving the exposure value, the time/aperture combination determined by the program mode is overwritten manually. Depending on the camera, the program can be shifted using a dial on the shutter release button or using the arrow keys on the back of the camera.

The aperture and shutter speed are not shifted individually, but simultaneously. This guarantees that the exposure itself remains unchanged in accordance with the current lighting situation. Program mode takes changed lighting conditions into account in its parallel shift, but the direction of the shift is retained. Depending on the camera and settings, this program shift is only valid for the current shot or for a defined time.

Fotos des selben Motivs mit unterschiedlicher Belichtungszeit

Photos of the same subject with different exposure time

Other modes / scene modes

The selection of the time/aperture combination always considers the interplay between the correct exposure time and the optimal aperture setting for depth of field. This is why most modern cameras offer more than one program to cover different situations. The settings follow a kind of “patent recipe” for the corresponding subject.

The portrait program selects an aperture that is as open as possible for a shallow depth of field. Landscape and panorama programs as well as close-up programs select an aperture that is as closed as possible for a large depth of field. The sports program uses the shortest exposure time to reduce motion blur. The night program uses a long shutter speed for long time exposures.

Conclusion

Depending on how much the photographer uses the manual settings of their DSLR in program mode, essential parameters of the photo can be influenced. It is always ensured that the combination of aperture and exposure time allows for a correct exposure. With program shift, almost the same settings can be made for individual images or exposure series as the semi-automatic modes Av (A) and Tv (S) would allow. If other scene modes are used or no custom settings are made in P mode, the mode comes close to AUTO mode.

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