Lots of Questions

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by jlarmor, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. jlarmor

    jlarmor TPF Noob!

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    I am new here, so I am going to jump right in and ask away. I hope that no one minds.

    Okay, I have a Nikon D50, 20-80mm and 70-300mm. Here are my questions:

    1. I want to get an off camera flash, which one would you suggest?
    2. What is the barest minimum to set up a good studio? By this, I mean what color backdrops, what lighting (continuous or strobe), how many lights...etc.
    3. I am still baffled by aperture and shudder speed. ISO is like greek to me. I normally shoot in a pre-programmed mode, but would love to learn more. I have read the books, but it is still confusing to me.
    4. I will be shooting environmental senior portraits in a couple of weeks, anyone got any suggestions for that?
     
  2. snownow

    snownow TPF Noob!

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    1. SB-800/SB-600 with a stand or flash bracket
    2. Big question. 1 min dedicated flash, (alien bees are great) 2 or three make it much better (hair light, fill, ect). Most seem to like strobes. As far as backdrops, you can get a few non reflective paper ones for little money from most shops. So to start 1 flash and at least a large reflector...
    3. You should get this settled first before you worry about lights. Take a class or put your camera in manual and leave it there. Take a bunch of shots. Try changing your Aperture around to see what a difference it makes in DOF. Same with SS and ISO, the more you shoot the more you will understand. Class projects will make you play with all of those.

     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Wow, that is a lot of questions :D

    Welcome to the forum.

    Do you want to get a portable (hot shoe) type flash to use off camera (an on, if you wish). Or do you mean a studio style light? If you mean a hot shoe type light, it's not su much a matter of which one to get, but how you want to trigger it while off camera. What's your budget?

    The barest minimum could be nothing more than a window. What's your budget? For shooting people, I'd suggest a strobe system...have a look at Alienbees.

    Keep reading, it often takes a while to sink in. Try shooting in A mode or T mode (the priority modes), that will give you the same exposure as shooting in auto but will give you more control and hopefully some understanding. A good book is 'Understanding Exposure'.

    If shooting outdoors, avoid direct mid-day sunlight and use flash (or a reflector).
     
  4. alrey

    alrey TPF Noob!

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    I wouldn't have any idea about setting up a studio as I am a poor college student, but:
    I've never really understood why lenses are called "fast" or "slow" when referring to aperture sizes. Aperture numbers are just that; sizes. A lower aperture number means, essentially, a bigger hole for light to come through. A bigger hole means more light per unit time. If you want brighter images, use a larger aperture. Smaller apertures also increase the depth of field; larger apertures make everything outside of your focal plane blurry.

    Shutter speed is how long the sensor is exposed to light. It's a measurement of time. Obviously the longer the sensor is exposed to light, the brighter your image will be. The shorter the shutter speed, the less light hits the sensor, the darker the image.

    ISO is a bit different, in that it isn't really a physical optical setting as much as a calibration of your sensor. ISO is how sensitive the sensor is to light. Higher ISO amplifies the light being read by the sensor; every "unit" of light is interpreted as being brighter than it really is. Lower ISO's are generally more natural, less noise, less light.

    You've got a DSLR; slap it into manual and see what happens. Experiment, and you'll get a feel for how to combine aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get the exposures you want.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I would say it's because a larger aperture allows the use of a faster shutter speed. So a lens with a larger aperture is called 'faster'.

    Here is a somewhat good analogy that might make it a little more clear to understand.

    Think of taking a photos as filling a bucket with water. The bucket is the sensor (or film) and the water would represent light. To make an exposure you need to fill the bucket. You fill the bucket with a tap. If you open the tap just a little bit, it takes a long time to fill the bucket. If you open the tap more, it takes less time to fill the bucket. It's an equal relationship. If you open the tap (making the opening twice as big), it will take half as much time to fill the bucket.

    Photography is very similar. The aperture of the lens is like the tap and the shutter speed is the length of time it takes to make the exposure (fill the bucket). If you open the aperture, it will take less time. If you make the aperture smaller, it will take more time.

    Often, the hard part for beginners, is understanding the numbers. The aperture is represented by F numbers (which are actually a ratio). The smaller the F number, the larger the aperture opening. So an aperture of F2 is larger than an aperture of F8. Also, the scale of F numbers isn't a linear scale. For example, F4 is not half the size of F2. It's actually 1/4 the size. The F numbers go up in increments of the square root of 2. So F2.8 is actually half the size of F2...and F4 is half the size of F2.8.

    It's not really all that necessary to understand all that, not right away anyway. Just remember than smaller F numbers are larger apertures and larger numbers are smaller apertures. And so as the F number gets higher (smaller) the shutter speed must get longer, in order to keep the same amount of light.
     
  6. jlarmor

    jlarmor TPF Noob!

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    So then, does it really make that much difference to take my camera off of the preset modes and use it manually? So far, the only thing that I have seen, from experience with my camera, is that I could really use a reflector outside and that it would help to be able to turn off my own camera flash and use an off camera flash instead.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    No, the mode the the camera is in, won't affect how the images turn out, if you have the same exposure settings.
    However, the next lesson is that the camera isn't always right. The settings that the camera give you, in any of the auto modes, is calibrated to give you an 18% (middle grey) exposure. This may not be the exposure than makes your photo look how you want it to...so you must deviate from the camera's settings. In manual mode, this is easy...just adjust the setting until the 'needle' in at zero, then change it to get more or less exposure. If you change one variable in the auto modes, the camera will compensate by changing the other setting and your exposure would stay the same. You could still use the auto modes (including the priority modes) but change the EC (exposure compensation).

    This is where you can experiment. Set the camera to manual mode and change the settings until the needle on the meter goes to zero (while pointing at your scene). Now take a shot. Then change one setting so that the needle is not on zero, take another shot. Continue like this until you understand what is going on.

    You should also learn about why we would choose different settings. The aperture setting affect the DOF (Depth of Field, look it up) and the shutter speed affects how motion is captured. A faster shutter speed will freeze motion, which usually makes for a sharper image than if you had a slower shutter speed.
     
  8. alrey

    alrey TPF Noob!

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    Well the crux is that aperture and shutter speeds don't only affect the "filling of the bucket", but other things as well. You want to keep them in balance to get a properly exposed image, but you might want to tweak one or the other to get a desirable "side effect".

    Smaller apertures, for example, increase depth of field. If you want everything in your picture to be in focus, from close to far and everywhere in between, then you'll want to use a higher number f-stop. Higher number means less light, so slower shutter speed required to keep the balance.

    Lets say you want to shoot a really deep field, so you pick f22 and a 1/30th of a second exposure.

    On the other hand, though, maybe you want a narrow depth of field so that your subject is in focus and everything else is blurred, which is great for portraits or other pictures where you really want your subject to "pop".

    You open your aperture up to f2.8 and opt for a 1/250th of a second exposure.

    Now both methods succeed in "filling the bucket", which is what the auto modes on your camera are meant to accomplish, but they result in completely different images.

    Another example is if, say, you are shooting an action sports scene with an athlete running by at top speed. If your shutter is open for too long, you'll get motion blur, not that tack-sharp image you want. The auto setting on the camera doesn't care about motion blur. It just wants to fill the bucket.

    That's why, at the least, you should start playing around in the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes. In Aperture Priority you can get the depth of field you want, and let the camera figure out the shutter speed required to "fill the bucket". In Shutter Priority you can freeze that moment in time (or intentionally motion blur it if you like the effect), and let the camera figure out the necessary aperture size.
     
  9. little_earthquakes

    little_earthquakes TPF Noob!

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    What do you mean so that the "needle is not at zero"?

    do you mean adjust the aperature so that it's -1 over/under the center of perfect exposure?
     
  10. snownow

    snownow TPF Noob!

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    It does, Most of your presets are going to shoot for the middle, a balance between Aperture and Shutter (within some limits (ie sports more SS, landscape more A, ect). By going to Aperture or shutter priority you are able to control the look of your photos. An example, If you have a cluttered background behind your subject. In Aperture mode you can drop to your fastest aperture (2.8, 1.4 ect...) By doing this your going to get a more blurred background and just your subject in focus. It helps your intended target stand out. Or if shooting a landscape and you want as much in focus as you can, drop it up to something smaller to help open the depth of field....Or if your in low light, You need to get the shutter speed up to keep objects from blurring... I think the best thing you can do is rummage the wedding gallery and and some macro shots. It will give you great examples of the difference. Go search for Christi photo, or april, digital matt, Mike.. the list goes on of stunning photographers on this site. I would look for macro and wedding sections to see what differente apeture does to your photos. A lot of shots will still have the EXIF data attached, so if you see a shot you like you can check to see how it was shot.Your a nikon user fo take a look here as well. http://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/index.php

    Also back to taking a class... Some camera shops put on clinics as well. I'm taking a one in a few weeks, I guess it depends on where you live...

    An Introduction to Portrait Lighting
    Saturday, August 25 — 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    This limited-space seminar is a full-day introduction to portrait lighting in a working studio space. As one of only 10 participants, you’ll learn proper metering, safety and techniques while using top-of-the-line studio lighting equipment and light modifiers. This hands-on class is geared toward photographers who have never shot with studio lighting, but it would also benefit intermediate photographers who want to fine-tune their skills.
    Event Details
    Where:Calumet Santa Ana
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yes
     

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