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DSLR 101 – White Balance

251693960_23f2711016We’re continuing with our DSLR 101 this week and today we’re explaining white balance.

What?
White balance is responsible for keeping your photos the correct temperature. A low colour temperature creates more red, a higher colour temperature more blue. Digital cameras create the correct colour temperature by picking the part of the photo that it thinks should be white and filtering the light to make that area white.

Why?
If you want natural looking photos you need the correct white balance. In other words having the correct white balance prevents your photos from looking too cold (blue) or too warm (red). Although your camera will have an Automatic White Balance (AWB) setting digital cameras are not as good at detecting which part of the photo should be white as you are.

You can get a more accurate white balance by choosing a manual setting for the white balance or creating a custom white balance of your own.

How?
Most DSLRs will let you choose a white balance from within the menu. The choices are likely to include daylight,

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DSLR 101 – ISO

Time for lesson number two in our DSLR 101 series! Our topic today? You may have heard of it, it’s a little thing called ISO.

What?
ISO is traditionally a measure of film speed; basically how sensitive a roll of film is to light. Obviously if you’re using a DSLR you’re not using film but your camera still has ISO settings. Instead of film it’s a reference to how sensitive the camera’s image sensor is to light. ISO settings can vary greatly but most cameras have at least 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. The lower the number the less sensitive the sensor is to light.

Why?
Although lower ISOs are usually desirable (leave your camera on Auto settings and it’ll choose 100 or 200 most of the time) to give you clear, sharp photos there are times when a higher ISO can be useful.

Choosing a higher ISO allows you to use a higher shutter speed or smaller aperture. This is especially useful for shooting in low light, particularly shooting action in low light (for example indoor sports events or concerts).

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Learn from Big Shot

bigshotIn keeping with the theme of learning, here’s an interesting program I hope expands in the future. Bigshot is currently only running workshops in the New York City area but it looks like they might reach other cities soon. The Bigshot workshops allow kids to build their own camera from a set of Bigshot click-together camera parts. The idea is to teach engineering and science concepts while building a working camera, which can then be used to teach photography.

The program is run by Columbia University and, although you can’t buy the Bigshot camera parts, you can visit their website to learn how the different parts of a point and shoot camera work.

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DSLR 101 – Auto Exposure Bracketing

Do you own a DSLR but use it mostly as a very expensive point-and-shoot? Time to take off the training wheels! Join us for DSLR 101! Don’t worry we’ll take it slow, and the little green rectangle of the auto setting will always be there for you to run back to if you find yourself in over your head!

Welcome to class, first up; auto exposure bracketing.

What?
Auto exposure bracketing allows you to automatically take a series (usually three but sometimes up to seven) of photos, each at different exposures. Basically the camera takes one image at what it perceives to be the correct exposure, one underexposed, and one overexposed.

Why?
What your camera views as the correct exposure may not necessarily be the exposure that suits a particular image best. You may find that you like your photos slightly overexposed, or that for a particular shot the underexposed version appeals to you more.

Auto bracketing allows you to take the different exposure shots in one quick succession, meaning it’s almost as fast as just taking the correct exposure shot.

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Homemade Photo Gifts

craft ninjaPanicking over those perfect photo gifts you just can’t find/left too late to get delivered? Never fear Photodoto is here for you with some homemade photo gift suggestions.

Collage: Especially good for the college student in your life, perfect for dorm room walls, but great for Grandparents and everyone else too. Print a bunch of photos on a theme – photos of the grandkids, your daughter’s best friends, Aunt Mable’s most beloved dog – then figure out a way of arranging them together so they look awesome. You could glue them onto a sturdy backing (thick cardboard, styrofoam, or corkboard are some ideas), link them together using photo clips, or use photo corners to arrange them on a patterned background.

Poster: Head on over here and use the free motivator, magazine cover, or movie poster tools. Print and put in a frame. Simple.

Perpetual Calendar: This requires photos with numbers but you could cheat and photoshop numbers onto some of your favourite shots. Basically you need photos numbered 1 -31, photos with the days of the week on them,

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Winter Photography Tips

Yes, it’s almost Christmas and yes, there’s the tree to decorate, and those holiday cards aren’t going to print themselves, and you really should untangle those strings of lights. But winter isn’t just about Christmas so if you feel like taking a break from Santa and his friends here are a few tips for capturing some non-Christmas winter snaps.

1. Get your equipment prepared. Don’t forget spare batteries (the cold will sap their energy faster) and try and think about packing some hand warmers in your camera bag to keep your camera all warm and toasty.

2. Overexpose! One of the main problems with photographing snow is the fact it’s so shiny and white. Your camera’s light metre will struggle with all that white shininess and read it as grey. Many point and shoot cameras have a “snow” mode you can use or for a DSLR try overexposing the shots (try +1 or +2 if you have automatic exposure compensation).

3. Try a graduated filter.
For grey-sky days a graduated filter can give the sky a bit of colour and make the pictures look a little less overcast.

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Tips for Better Backgrounds

The next few weeks will provide plenty of opportunities for most of us to whip out the camera and snap a few portraits. From candid shots of visiting friends to the carefully composed holiday family photo, the background is almost as important as the subjects. Poorly composed backgrounds detract from the faces you want the focus on so to help you get some good portraits this year here are a few tips for getting good backgrounds.

1. Think about the background. Ok, so that one seems obvious but many people don’t give the background of their shot any thought until they’re sitting at the computer trying to crop parts of it out. Of course for candid shots you may not have a lot of control over the background but taking a quick glance before you press the shutter will give you a chance to take a step to the left and crop out that overflowing kitchen trash can.

2. Get up close. If the background is undesirable, but you can’t fix it get in close and let your subject fill the frame. This can work especially well with kids who look extra-cute close up.

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Quick Tips for Photographing Autumn

Up here in the Northern hemisphere autumn is most definitely on its way. In my town we went from 90F+ last week to 60F this week and some rain came along too. It’s not bad news though because autumn can be the best time of year for photography. The light is great and there’s all those pretty colored leaves to document. Here are a few quick tips to help you make the most of the season:

1.Take advantage of the shorter days. You don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to photograph a sunset and that pretty warm evening glow occurs early in the evening. So even if you’re too lazy to photograph in the beautiful first-light/last-light in summer now you can get out there and capture it.

2. Get the details. Leaves are, of course, a big part of autumn photography. Put your camera on a low f-stop and get in close, capture the color and the detail of the leaves. Don’t leave out the big picture but these closer shots can really capture the color of the season.

3.

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Getting Rid of Dust Spots

There are few things more irritating in photography than taking some great photos and then getting back to the computer and discovering there are dust spots all over them. Dust spots come from dust (shocking that!) getting into the cameas sensor, usually when you’re changing lenses. So to get rid of the dust spots you need to clean the sensor. There are two choices here, one is to pay someone to do it for you the other is to do it yourself.

If you want to take the do it yourself option there are plenty of guides out there on the World Wide Web but it’s worth checking out this guide at Cleaning Digital Cameras (catchy title, I know). It’s the most detailed I’ve come across and if you have the time and patience to read it and follow the instructions then it can save you time without your camera and a bit of hard-earned cash. Plus, it’s good to learn how to care for your equipment!

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Brush Up Your Skills!

For most of us up here in the Northern hemisphere the summer is over and we’re back to work, school, and the regular routine. Once the first day of school pics are taken it’s easy to put down the camera and forget about photography only to remember it’s existence when Halloween rolls around. But wait! Don’t do that! Practice makes perfect (or at least slightly improved) and that’s as true for photography as anything else. So keep the camera out and use these tips to keep your eyes in shape over the coming months. That way there’ll be no dust to shake off when the festive season rolls around.

1. Get down on your knees or up on a chair or really anywhere that gives you a different perspective of something you’ve seen a million times. I have a friend who gets up on the roof of her house once each season and photographs her family standing in the garden looking up at her. It gives a different perspective of the garden and makes a great portrait.

2. Get in close and practice getting some beautiful bokeh. Click here for our easy to follow guide to bokeh.

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