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Portrait photography: Light, shadow and colour conditions around the main motif must be right

The famous painter Rubens knew this as well as photographers do today: the high art of pictorial representation are portraits. Technically there are different tricks in modern camera times, in order to set faces with successful portrait photography advantageously in scene.

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Portrait photography – Only the literal moment

Light and shadow, the background and special features of the model influence the quality of a portrait shot. These details must be checked and balanced as perfectly as possible before the actual recording:

  • Tip One: The Smallest Things

The lens of a camera sees the smallest details – even those that nobody likes to find in a portrait photo. A cup still standing on the back of the table can make the entire portrait unusable. A pitchfork next to the model is just as little a part of a nature portrait as a wilted leaf on a windowsill is of an interior photograph.

Distracting distractions are more noticeable:

First, the image section for the camera recording is determined. Now the photographer zooms as close as possible to the person to be portrayed. During this process, the smallest details suddenly become much more visible. This can already be a window through which the daylight falls unfavourably in the direction of the model. Only now follows the next step to prepare a really good portrait photo.

  • Tip Two: Looking in all directions

Some of the mentioned side issues change the mood of the portrait advantageously. So it is worth the effort to have a close look at the model from all sides in the planned photo environment. From above and below, from all sides and from behind – if necessary, helps to kneel and bend down, to sit the model down or to change his head posture.

Thus the panoramic view improves the portrait effect:

Leaves, a piece of sky with a nice cloud formation or a park bench can influence the effect of the portrait advantageously. It depends with this selection on which statement from the later portrait photo is desired.

The interplay of sharpness, light and shadow in portrait photography

The actual motif can only be created by carefully checking all light, shadow and colour conditions around the main character. Further tips improve the recording quality:

  • Tip Three: Bokeh

In photography, the Japanese term stands for photographic blurriness of backgrounds. But instead of shaking, it’s exactly this focusing game with the lens of a camera that comes into being for a good reason: it emphasizes the advantages of the portrait model. Technically, this shooting goal is achieved by changing the aperture and focal length and the photographer gets close to the model. The prerequisite for a desired blurring of the background is that the model is removed from it.

  • Tip Four: The Exposure

Shooting in the dark will be different from shooting in bright daylight. For optimal exposure, the camera should determine the brightness of the model. The previously required exposure measurement is based on this criterion. No matter how bright or dark the background is: Only the exposure number of the model leads to a really professional portrait photo.

Result: Apart from all technical tips, patience is the most important aspect

There are many aspects to consider to get a really successful portrait. With patience, these four basic tips and other criteria such as distance, glare spots or the eyes of the model, every portrait can be perfectly photographed. One tip that hasn’t been mentioned here is patience. Because even the most beautiful model is only flawless if every detail in this millisecond of the recording is right.

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Lenses for Sports Photography: Sharp Images Without Noise

In sports photography, the choice of lens is crucial. For cameras, compromises are possible and there are many features that are optimal, but not a must. A good lens for sports photography has significantly fewer criteria, but these must be fulfilled for good shots.

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Good lens for sports photography: What to look out for?

The autofocus must be able to focus on the subject quickly enough. In addition to the motor and the autofocus module in the camera, lenses also have their own autofocus motor. Cheap lenses from third-party manufacturers cannot match the engine performance of the Nikon and Canon originals. The lens otherwise creates a bottleneck that turns some promising shots into rejects.

The aperture and focal length requirements should be based on the sport, which doesn’t mean you need an arsenal of lenses. For owners of a Nikon camera, the AS-F lens is a real all-rounder. If a Canon or another model is used, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is the right choice. In principle, an aperture of f/4.0 only makes sense in bright daylight. For almost all other sports and applications, an aperture of f/2.8 should be selected. As a rule of thumb, the further away you are from the action, the higher the focal length should be.

Some lenses offer additional image stabilizers. These are not harmful, but are also not necessary. This feature is especially interesting if you want to drag the camera during car races to free the car from a blurred background. It is then particularly noticeable and conveys a moving motif. The image stabilizers support such ambitions and provide a concentrated view through a tilted viewfinder.

Settings for sports photography: Aperture, ISO & Co

Field and indoor sports in particular have different requirements. On the sports field, telephoto lenses are the right choice in good daylight. Usually you will sit far away from the action and still be able to get everything close. The aperture can be set to f/4.0, so no wide opening is required when shooting. This saves you a high ISO setting and gives you a sharper image. If you want to shoot very close scenes, you can start with a focal length of 24 mm. Normally you are well equipped from 70 mm on. With 400-500 mm you can overlook the playing field even behind the goal line up.

From 600 mm focal length it is difficult to achieve a good result. The situation is different when the super telephoto lens is used. If you record a scene from the edge of the field in the penalty area, 600 mm focal length is a good choice. However, this is more of an option for professional photographers who carry multiple cameras. For racing sports even 700 mm focal length can be necessary, if the own location is very far away from the events.

Phases in low light

In indoor sports, challenging lighting conditions prevail away from the professional leagues. Even a match under floodlight on the football field can deliver valuable results in the recording quality with f/4.0 aperture. In poorly lit sports halls, you can’t get around aperture f/2.8. The shutter opens further and more light penetrates the sensor in a short time. This is where autofocus comes in again.

In addition, an image sensor (in the camera) that delivers good images at high ISO values helps. The image noise should not be processed in the camera, because the quality suffers from it. The camera only calculates internally which color pixels would be suitable at this point. If there’s such a powerful image sensor behind the lens, you don’t need to worry about f/2.8 apertures. If this is not the case or if you want to achieve absolutely high-quality results, a lens with an aperture of f/2.0 and a focal length of 200 mm is a good alternative. Generally, focal lengths in indoor sports start at 24 mm. For shots of the opponent’s half of the game, a focal length of up to 400 mm is helpful.

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Photo vocabulary: Short and long exposure time

An important point for image display and exposure is the exposure time, also known as shutter speed. It determines how high the influence of light on the sensor of the image recording device or the duration of the open aperture is. You know what they call a short or long shutter speed? So, as a rule, exposure times of less than 1/60 sec. are called short shutter speeds, everything above that up to one or more seconds is called long shutter speeds. The more the aperture is open, the more light shines on the sensor. The same applies to the exposure time: the longer the shutter speed, the more light falls on the sensor of the image recorder.

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Handling a Long Exposure Time – Especially Attractive for Night Shots

Surely you have already photographed without flash and tripod: only once during the shooting the apparatus is not held in rest position and already it has happened. Your picture’s blurred. Such an out-of-focus image is produced when the exposure time is too long, caused by unfavourable light incidence such as at dusk. If you set the automatic mode, your device first tries to compensate by opening the aperture or increasing the ISO value.

If this is not enough to expose the image perfectly, the shutter speed will slow down and blur will occur. The shutter speed at which you should not shoot from a standing position depends on the available light, the focal length used, how quietly you hold the camera and the use of an image stabilizer on the lens of the camera. However, you can set the already expressed value of 1/60 sec. as a limit value. Values of 1/50 sec. or 1/30 sec. are already in the critical range. Just try it out by using the time preset on your camera.

But what good is a long shutter speed then? To a quantity not to be despised! Correctly used, it provides some interesting application possibilities for you. Equipped with a tripod and a remote shutter release you can take perfect pictures of city panoramas in the night.

Good exposure through photography with a tripod

In such photos the headlights of the cars blur thanks to the appropriately long exposure time. The image capturing device must stand firmly on the tripod and be operated with a radio trigger. With such shots, a longer exposure time is unavoidable to capture the special lighting atmosphere. Movements of the motives can be thrown out by a longer exposure time into the picture. Think of photos with waterfalls, in which the water appears as a haze. Or to hurrying pedestrians who ghostly blur after a certain exposure time. These are just a few examples for you. There are of course no limits to your joy of experimentation and creativity. Try different things to get your own intense feeling for them.

The use of a short exposure time – especially interesting in sports photography

The handling of a short exposure time is rather uncomplicated in contrast to a long one (as long as there is enough light). Shake is completely excluded. Narrow to very tight shutter speeds are used in sports photography to let a movement rest in the image. This opens up a series of creative means for the photographer to create a picture. Particularly at very short shutter speeds, moments can be captured that cannot be perceived with the eyes alone. With enough light, you can “freeze” everything that gasps and flies. Have fun with your motive search!

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Photography Basics: Light sensitivity, sensor and aperture – the ISO value simply explained

The ISO value indicates the light sensitivity of the sensor. The higher the ISO value, the higher the light sensitivity. Higher ISO values allow you to set faster shutter speeds to get sharp photos even in low-light conditions. However, a higher ISO value has a detrimental effect on image quality, resulting in image noise. It is advantageous to photograph at low ISO values (100-200).

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ISO value – What is that?

The ISO value describes the light sensitivity of the sensor. ISO is the abbreviation for International Organization for Standardization. The ISO value of your camera is therefore an internationally standardized value. It means the same in Japan as in Sweden. The higher the ISO value, the higher the light sensitivity of the sensor. The ISO value is another way to influence your photo, in addition to shutter speed and aperture.

If the environment is rather dark and you have no possibility to illuminate it by flash or any other means, then you can set the ISO value of your camera higher and thus achieve a higher light sensitivity of the sensor. A small amount of light is then sufficient to obtain a correctly exposed photo. Accordingly, you can then choose a shorter shutter speed to avoid blurring or motion blur (if not explicitly desired). For example, a higher ISO value is required in most churches or for outdoor photography at dusk. You can orientate yourself on the following values:

  • ISO 100-200: Photographing in the sun
  • ISO 400-800: Dusk or heavy cloud cover (thunderstorm, storm)
  • ISO > 800: poorly lit interiors, at night

An example: You want to “freeze” children jumping on the trampoline in the air. That means you have to set a short shutter speed. But it has already started to dawn an hour ago and at the back of the horizon a thunderstorm is coming up. It is so dark that a shutter speed that would actually “freeze” the children would produce a clearly underexposed photo. The solution is of course either a flashgun or simply to set the ISO value higher.

The ISO value – the small, but fine hook

If you later look at the photo of the “frozen” children, correctly exposed thanks to the higher ISO value, you will probably notice that it is noisy. A higher ISO value unfortunately always means more image noise – these are some pixels that differ in color and brightness from the rest of the image (scissors). Thus, the image quality suffers from the higher ISO value. Depending on the camera and the ISO value, this is really extreme. You can remember:

  • ISO high and bad light = poor picture quality
  • ISO low and good light = good image quality

If you have your pictures taken by the camera in RAW format, you can reduce the noise later during image processing, but of course it is better not to have any noise in the picture at all. It is therefore advantageous to set a low ISO value (100-200) whenever possible and only increase the value if there are no alternatives, such as using a flash or a tripod. It has to be said that it is always better to have a sharp but noisy picture than a noiseless but blurred one.

ISO value for portrait photography

Portrait shots should always be taken with low ISO values, as the image noise at higher ISO values is extremely disturbing, especially in the human face. Use a studio flash system for portraits or wait for better light. Sometimes the situation does not allow you to think long about the correct ISO value. In this case, the camera’s ISO auto mode is recommended. Depending on the aperture and shutter speed, the camera then selects the correct ISO value.

Within certain limits, the ISO value can help compensate for poor lighting conditions. The worse the lighting conditions, the higher the ISO value should be. However, ISO settings that are too high should be avoided as they lead to annoying image noise.

Photography: Increase of the ISO value

What is the isovalue?

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Photography Basics: The Aperture

The aperture is a device integrated into the lens that can be used to control the amount of light incident on the sensor. Large aperture numbers mean small amounts of light and small aperture numbers ensure that a lot of light falls on the sensor. The aperture has a significant influence on the creative mean of the depth of field. The larger the f-number, the greater the depth of field and vice versa.

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The aperture – What’s that?

There are essentially three parameters in photography that influence the photo. The shutter speed, ISO value, and aperture. The aperture is a device integrated into the lens with which the amount of incident light can be controlled. The dimension of the aperture is given as an aperture number. It is the ratio of focal length to aperture length (cross-sectional area through which the light passes) of the lens. Large aperture numbers stand for small apertures and small aperture numbers for large apertures (you can remember: the larger the aperture number, the more “aperture is there”, the smaller the aperture opening and the less light passes through it).

An aperture number of 2.8 thus means a large aperture and correspondingly much light, an aperture number of 16 exactly the other way round. The f-number on lenses is always given in the form 1:aperture opening. So if the lens is 100 mm 1:2.8, this means that you can set a minimum aperture of 2.8 for a focal length of 100 mm. Usually the aperture is built as a so-called iris. In this case, circularly arranged lamellae are displaced against each other in such a way that the incident light beam is either smaller (large f-stop number) or larger (small f-stop number).

Aperture and shutter speed interlock

If one arranges the different f-stops according to size, the row of f-stops is formed: 1 – 1.4 – 2 – 2.8 – 4 – 5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 – 32. Along this row, the amount of incident light is halved with each step. With an aperture value of 5.6, only half as much light hits the sensor as with an aperture value of 4. The value of the shutter speed must therefore be adjusted accordingly: the larger the aperture value, the longer the shutter speed (at a constant ISO value). The word aperture is usually used in photography to describe the aperture opening. In technical jargon, “large aperture” means large aperture opening. This can easily lead to confusion, because a large f-number correctly corresponds to a small aperture.

The aperture – What can I do with it?

The most important design tool, on which the aperture has a great influence, is the depth of field. The depth of field is a measure of how far the sharp area extends into the photo. For example, only the foreground can be sharply imaged, while the background is perceived as a blurred, possibly colored area. This possibility of image design would be used for a portrait, for example (this is also called “cropping”).

On the other hand, if you want to photograph a beautiful landscape, say a stream, you want this stream to be sharp as deep as possible into the photo, so you want to achieve as much depth of field as possible.

What you have to do is set the aperture correctly! Small f-stops mean shallow depth of field, large f-stops mean great depth of field. So in our portrait above you would choose a very small f-number (1 or 1.4), in the course of the stream you would choose 11 or even 16, if the light conditions allow it; because as I said, the larger the f-number, the longer you have to expose. A large depth of field therefore usually requires the use of a tripod. The correspondingly longer shutter speeds, however, also lead to motion blur worth seeing, especially in flowing waters.

The aperture is one of the three basic parameters that you can use to influence the image design. It controls the amount of light falling on the sensor and the size of the light beam. It is the most important control element when varying the depth of field.

Important parts of the camera: The aperture

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