Thursday, April 28, 2011

3 Good Reasons to Use Auto Modes

 1. If you’re relatively new to photography.

The auto modes will give you a great opportunity for exploring photography on several levels. It’s less to think about, and you have the freedom to concentrate on composing your photos and subjects that you wouldn’t have if you were concentrating on selecting shutter speeds and apertures. Photography takes training the eye to find good subjects and compose your shots. Shooting in auto modes gives you the opportunity to explore your camera and photography.

Steller's Jay - Auto Portrait Mode

When I first got my camera I used the auto modes for 6 months. I suggest you do the same. After several months of concentrating on composition and style my images were terrific. No one ever asked me if I was shooting using auto modes. A well composed photo is a well composed photo no matter what mode you’re in. And no one cares anyway!

2. You have an active subject.

Taking candid shots of kids, wildlife and pets can be a challenge; they tend to run, jump, or fly away. They move from sunlight to shade faster than you can change your camera settings. Shooting on an automatic mode can save the day. You’ll have a bunch of great photos and calm nerves.

Robin's Bath - Auto Sports/Action Mode  
3. The terms: Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual make your eyes go glassy and your brain shut down.

Take your time, wait until YOU are comfortable and have time to move beyond the auto modes. It will happen when YOU are ready. All the great photographers had to start with the basics. Don't rush. Just don’t pick your son’s first birthday party as your day of camera exploration. Spend lots of time practicing the advanced modes and do lots of “throw away” test shooting. Practice, practice, practice. Read, read, read. Look at lots of other photographer’s work. Study your own work - what can be improved?

Rainy Day Pine Cone - Aperture Priority Mode

Shooting in any of the auto modes doesn’t make you “less” of a photographer. Disregard anyone who tells you otherwise. Each of us has a different learning curve, and everyone’s goals are not the same. Some folks are headed down the path to becoming professional photographers; some want the ability to take perfect photos of family, friends and vacations without much effort. There’s room for all of us.

So, give yourself, a break! Use the automatic modes as long as they’re working for you. When you’re ready to step it up with your photography, you will.

Look at my past blog posts for a refresher of the various auto modes or if you are new to this blog. Revisit Matt Considine's guest post Capturing A Satisfying Image for more tips and ideas. 

Next blog post - composing your photos like a pro.

Keep On Shooting! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Capturing a Satisfying Image

Matt Considine, one of my favorite photographers, is today’s guest blogger. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his words and extraordinary photography as much as I do.

Matt is a professional photographer, based in Hong Kong, with over 25 year’s experience. He is currently working on several travel photography books.

I’ll turn the post over to Matt:

Thanks Mari for inviting me on as a guest blogger.

I think everyone who has have ever taken a photograph knows the feeling of capturing an image that has that special something that makes it stand out. When you start photography, it is hard to really pin down why you like one image more than another.

There is no doubt that the more keepers you get, the more enjoyment you will get from your photography. The question is how do you increase your rate of keepers. Initially, you might take a lot of photos hoping that sheer numbers will do the trick. This approach works to an extent, and if you are starting in photography it will also help you develop basic camera skills.

However to really increase your rate of keepers, it helps to know a few fundamental concepts and to really think about each image before you take the photo. It might seem counter-intuitive that good images can be analyzed, but it turns out that there are a bunch of factors that can be found in most interesting images.

So what are some of these factors? Firstly, you should know what sort of image you are taking. Is it an image with a clear subject or is the image more abstract. In this article I’ll talk about images with a subject.

For this type of image it helps to ensure that the exposure of subject brings out the features you intend. These features could be from an evenly exposed subject to a shadowed subject or even a silhouette. The point is, you choose don’t let the camera choose the exposure for you.

Avoid cluttered backgrounds and minimize distracting the viewer from the subject. In fact, the background is often one of the most important factors in a good image, so move around until it’s right. Find backgrounds with repeating patterns or interesting textures. Lines leading into the subject can also help direct the viewer to the subject.

Next, is controlling the aperture and thus the depth of field (that is the parts of he image in focus). A wide open (big) aperture (say f 2.8) gives you a shallow depth of field which means that if the subject is in focus the background will be out of focus. This helps concentrate the viewer’s attention on the subject.

If the subject is alive try to capture the moment when the subject is doing something. For example sipping a coffee, growling, yawning…you get the idea.

Consider placing the subject according to the rule of thirds. To do this, divide the frame vertically and horizontally into thirds and position the subject where these lines intersect. Alternatively have the subject fill the frame or perhaps make the subject smaller than normal, to convey a sense of scale.

Something to consider, is that a DSLR or high end point and shoot will give you more control over the aperture (depth of field) and will actually help you take better images. DSLRs have undergone amazing improvements in recent times so even entry level DSLRs are very good tools for acquiring satisfying images.

Follow these guidelines and you will find that the more keepers you get, the more satisfaction and fun you will have with your photography! 

Be sure to have a look at my site at and leave a comment on my blog.

Matt Considine
Travel Photographer

Matt, thank you so much for this great information and for the guest blog. Also check out Matt’s work at Palau – Micronesia Gallery, Laos Indochine Gallery, Sri Lanka GalleryRajastan – India Gallery and
Varanasi India Gallery. Please do leave your comments on his site.

It's not too late to enter our Mission Possible Challenge! See fellow bloggers photos in the comments section of the Mission Possible post.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm challenging you to a MISSION POSSIBLE

From 1966 to 1973 the TV show Mission Impossible was an action packed adventure we rarely missed. The series followed the exploits of the IMF, the Impossible Missions Force, a small team of secret agents used for covert missions against evil organizations.

The show always started with the lead character receiving a tape recording with his instructions for the next big adventure in crime solving. After listening to the tape, the tape would self destruct. Then the good guys were off to solve crime using elaborate tricks that seemed very mysterious. The "high tech" means they used back then to capture said bad guys is, in retrospect, pretty hilarious.

Why am I blogging about this?  Because I'm handing you a virtual MISSION POSSIBLE tape, NOT Mission IMPOSSIBLE Tape. It won't self destruct and there's no elaborate tricks, no mystery, and no high tech involved.

Here's your Mission Possible Challenge:

Set your camera to one of the automatic camera modes I've blogged about over the past couple of months. This challenge works for both Point&Shoot and dSLR cameras. See your particular camera's manual for help if necessary.

Over the course of the next 7 days take 70 photos using whichever mode you choose. Take your time during your photo shoots. Think about what you want to capture but don't worry about perfection. Relax and have fun. The goal is to get first hand experience using one automatic mode. Upload the photos to your computer and study them. What do you see? Did you capture images you'd hoped for? If not, spend another day on the assignment focused on your goal.

Do you have 5 or so photos you are really proud of? Don't be critical of your work. Do you see improvement over the course of the 7 days? 

Whichever mode you choose is the type of photography you are most interested in learning first. You may choose to stick with that setting for several months to learn all you can about it and that's fine.

Look at lots of photos that relate to what you are shooting as you take your 70 photos. You'll find you can easily take 70 photos in one day but stretch it out, take your time, think about each shot.

A few great locations to find photos are Google Images, Flickr and other photo storage sites, other photographers' blogs, and library books. 

The choices for auto modes I've discussed in my posts are:

Sports/Action mode includes kids playing or those hard to capture toddlers who hate to sit still; pets romping, horses running, even flowers on a breezy day. Depending on your camera lens you may have some blur, this setting is not infallible. Don't despair, just keep practicing and you'll get to know your camera and what works.

Use landscape for scenes that include elements like barns, fences, even grazing animals. 

Portrait mode is fun. If you don't have a tripod make sure your subject sits still or substitute portrait mode with action mode.

Close-Up/Macro is one of my favorite settings. I use it primarily for flowers, let's see what you can come up with.

I'd love to see some night shots of city streets or neon signs or continuous action shots. 

Don't limit yourself to my suggestions. This is your personal challenge.

Post your favorite photos from this Challenge to your online photo account. Paste your #1 favorite photo's url into the "TinyURL" link in the top right column of this blog to shorten the url.


will look like this on TinyURL:

Post the link from "TinyURL" into the comment section of this post so we can view your photos and share your success. 

Tell us about your experience taking this Challenge. It will be fun to read!

Any questions? Leave a comment in the comments section of this post. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I've received a MEME! It's more exciting than getting an Oscar!

Tag–I’m it. Melissa, author of the blog Depth, has tagged me with a MEME. I am to answer a few questions about myself then pass the MEME on to other bloggers I enjoy. It’s a fun, getting to know you, assignment.

Here goes:

1. If you could go back in time to relive one moment, what would it be?

I must cheat a bit and say it would be the birth of my two sons-hence two moments. Holding my new infants then raising my boys was the most amazing experience I've ever encountered. They are now incredible, wonderful, loving adults.

My 2 sons -early 1900s,  Fuji print film scanned to computer

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

I would have met my second husband much earlier in life which would give us, hopefully, more years together. We have been married 19 years and I believe we grow closer and more in love every year.

My wonderful hubby - Summer, 2010

3. What movie or TV character do you think you resemble most in personality?

I’d like to think Katharine Hepburn for her sense of the absurd, ability to laugh at herself, strength of character and kindness to others.

Katharine Hepburn

4. Which TV or movie character would you like to be?

That would be Audrey Hepburn for her humanitarian work with UNICEF, her grace, charm and compassion.

Audrey Hepburn

5. If you could push one person in the whole world off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?

Hmmm, no real names but she knows who she is. I'd never do it, I don’t have it in me, but it’s nice to think about once in a while.

And I call her Spam

6. Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

My temper, when pushed too far I can really get going lol.

My great-great-grandfather Enos. A Connecticut Yankee.

7. Describe yourself in one word.



8. Describe the person who named you in this MEME in one word.


9. Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.

To teach others about photography, which is something I love.

10. Name at least 3 people or more to send this MEME, and then inform them.

Three blogs I love:

David Michael Smith at Erin Is Love
Bod For Tea at Bod For Tea
Matt Considine at Matt Considine Blog

Thank you Melissa for this opportunity to share a bit about myself with my fellow bloggers. If you don't already follow Melissa's blog I encourage you to do so - she is extremely talented. I always come away feeling blessed after reading her posts. You can find her at Depth

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Workin' On My Night Moves... and Yours

Go ahead, grab your camera and set off into the dark. Add a container of coffee while you're at it.  Photographing at night has special challenges but they're easy to overcome with practice.

"Happy 4th" photo credit krwHome

My blogs to date have been for my beginning photography readers.  This one is for more advanced photography readers. Beginners, don't despair. We will cover manual settings, f-stops and shutter speeds in a future blog.

When  photographing at night you will use a long exposure setting with the flash turned off. Take plenty of shots at different exposure settings - from say 1 second to 25 seconds.  Use the manual setting on your camera.  

It helps if you can view your photos in-camera as you go along to compare your shots and make any setting adjusts. Both my Point and Shoot camera and my dSLR have settings for long exposures. Read your specific camera's manual on how to set yours.  

"Sonoma Boulevard" photo credit krwHome
Using your tripod and your camera's self-timer or a remote shutter release are absolute necessities. A tripod alone with you tripping the shutter will more than likely give you blurred photos. The self-timer or remote shutter release allow you to release the shutter without shaking the camera. 

"Night Light"

Most any type of lens from a wide angle to a short telephoto will work. Because I want to make sure I can get everything in the frame I carry a couple of lenses with me.  

Tips for photographing neon signs at night:

  1. Get as close to the sign as you can.
  2. Turn off your flash.  The flash will distort the overall colors and effect.
  3. Open up your aperture (f-stop) to its fullest extent.  F-stop is measured with numbers: 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, etc. Keep this number as low as you can. Example: 2.8 lets more light in than 4.0, etc.
  4. Do not go below 1/100th of a second on your shutter speed.
  5. Set the ISO as high as you can. 

Adjust the white-balance of your camera for ambient light. If you balance your camera for daylight, your photo will have a warm glow. A tungsten balance will make the sky appear more bluish. Check your camera’s manual on how to make these adjustments.  These adjustments may not be possible with a Point and Shoot camera. My Point and Shoot, however, has specific settings for fireworks and other night shots so definitely check your manual.

Looking for night scenes with lots of bright colors is fun. Try city lights, crowded city streets, buildings with lots of neon lighting, even bridges. 

What ideas does this blog post bring to mind for your night photo sessions?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Digital Art Kinda' Day

I love creating digital art and tend to use bright vivid colors, often with a soft glowing look. With the various photo-editing software packages on the market there are all styles of digital art you can make, just pick your favorite. 

Digital Art "The Twins"

The above art was created using several colored layers placed over the original photo. I added a very soft glow which softened the overall look of the art. 

Original photograph of "The Twins"

The alterations to the original photograph are not drastic but I love the colors of the layers and the softness - to me the digital art says "spring is here".

Pick your favorite style of altered photographic art: mixed-media, photo manipulation, layering, texturing, montage or collage. And that's just the beginning of what's available. Any one software package can make most of the digital art I mentioned.  

Software prices range from free (Gimp - download off line) to Picnik (about $25 a year) and the various Photo Shop programs. If you use Flickr to store your photos there are Flickr groups for all of these software packages which offer support and answer specific questions. A couple of Google searches will bring up lots of information.

You can learn to make your own layers and textures or find them free online.  Flickr has several groups offering free textures but be sure you understand the copyright licensing of each texture.  My Amazon Search Tool (in the right hand column of my blog) will assist you in finding books on photography, digital art, cameras and camera gear.    

I'll be posting more digital art in the coming days and weeks with more information. I hope you like my work.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hold The Button-Capture Continuous Action

My client wanted a series of photos showing her riding form while she trotted her horse in a simulated cross-country* horse show event.  Studying the photos helps her know what skills she and her horse have to practice to gain points in events. My camera was set to continuous high mode.

Continuous low and continuous high modes, sometimes called burst modes, record a series of images as long as the shutter is held down.  

Lean back for balance and down we go.

Eyes up looking to the jump.

Lining up her horse for the jump.

Calm and relaxed.

Up and over with ease.

Phew! Job well done.

*Cross-country is an endurance test of both horse and rider and may also be known as hunter trials. The object of cross-country is to prove the speed, endurance and jumping ability of a well trained cross-country horse. The rider must demonstrate knowledge of riding pace and the best use of his or her horse on the cross-country field.   

Personally, I love continuous mode settings and use them often. I primarily use these settings at horse shows and with horse owners during their practice who want to check their riding skills and riding form prior to a show. My clients show the series of photos to their riding instructors. This gives my client and their instructor a good idea of what skill-set needs correction.

Single frame, the camera default, captures one frame each time you press the shutter button down completely. Continuous low and high modes have maximum frames per second and record a series of images as long as the shutter is held down. The frames per second vary per type of camera and between low and high modes.

Both my DSLR and my Point and Shoot cameras have continuous low and continuous high mode settings.  Check your camera's manual to see if your camera offers these. You'll love them!

I worked hard! Cookies please - chocolate chip!