Category: ST Photo Tips


Every photographer knows, the higher the ISO, the higher the noise in the photograph. Sure, we have come a long way & most of the modern cameras can control higher ISO’s with minimal difficulty producing cleaner photographs yet most of the photographers fear raising the ISO.

What happens when you do not raise the ISO? You either get an underexposed picture or you get a shaky picture since you need to work at slower shutter speed which may induce blur in the picture. There is no remedy for a shaky picture, no amount of post-processing would work here. For the earlier under-exposed scenario, you might bump up the exposure in post but then again you would get noise(In case you shot in jpeg, forget it if you’re under by more than a half a stop).

In such a case, where one needs high ISO to gain a good exposure, go ahead & raise the ISO. Sure, your picture would have noise(turn the in-camera noise reduction to reduce it & preferably shoot in RAW) but it would be exposed perfectly & won’t have any shake either since you should get a decent hand-holdable shutter-speed. The gist here is to not fear higher ISO’s but to embrace them. It’s much better to get a noisy but good photograph than to get a shaky one.

As Rick Sammon says, “If a picture is so boring that you notice the noise, its a boring picture”.

“I am happy when I read a good book, listen to a good song, play with my dog, joke with my mother, take a walk in the wild, watch the stars in the sky, help someone, spend time in solitude, speak the truth, watch kids play. Happiness is both within and without.” – Priya Kumar

Music is a universal motivator. I feel, I make good photographs when surrounded by music. Music lifts my soul & freeds it from any anxiety which in turn let me concentrate better on getting the photographs I envision. Try it. Put on your favorite play-list on your mobile phone, plug in the earphones & begin to photograph. You’ll feel motivated & that will show up in the photographs you make.

Music is also known to divert the mind from fear & anxiety. If you or your clients feel uncomfortable, let the music flow into background as you shoot. Playing their(clients) favorite song will make them drop their guard resulting into more natural photographs.

And at times when you cannot foresight any photography, sit down, close your eyes & listen to music for a while. Let it pierce through your soul. When you’re done, you will experience a new vigor to photograph. So put on the headphones & grab your camera to go on a journey to make musical photographs.

Its a human tendency to lust on luxurious things. Photographers are no different species. Their wish-list is often filled with high end camera bodies & further high end fast glass. If you happen to go through it, you’ll find most of lenses having a fast aperture of f/2.8, 1.8, 1.4 or even 1.2.

The thing is, they believe owning these fast lenses will make their job easier. They will be able to shoot in lower light, get more creamier backgrounds & come close to making photographs like their role model photographer. However, there is also another aspect to this thinking. No doubt, one will get benefit of shooting at lower ISO’s with these fast lenses or getting creamier backgrounds. But has anyone given a thought to the shallows DOF’s provided by these fast lenses?

The shallow DOF commands the photographer to be very perfect in his shooting technique. Since the DOF is very shallow(and get even shallower at telephoto ranges), a photographer must be adept at his focusing technique. A small lapse in focusing and the picture will go straight into the Trash Bin. Here amateur photographers are better off with consumer grade lenses which offer medium apertures & conceal any mistake of the photographers when it comes to focusing. Also not to forget professional lenses like 70-200mm f/2.8 weigh a lot & if you’re not build like a tank, you’re going to get fatigued which will ultimately result in shaken pictures. In worst cases, you may prefer to keep such lenses at home & shoot with your normal consumer lenses which defeat your original purpose of getting a fast lens.

So as you see, its not that simple. Before you go out to buy those fast professional lenses, take a quick look at your capability. Ask yourself – How accurately you focus? How often you need to shoot Wide open? Do you really need the f/1.4 or a f/2.8 or f/4 lens will suffice? Its a case of, “With Great Power comes even Greater Responsibility”. Its better to hone your basic camera skills with your consumer lenses for a year or two before you take the path of getting fast professional lenses. This does not only applies to lenses but to any high-end photography gear. Any high-end photography gear might make your job simpler but will also magnify any of your shortcomings. So first measure your photographic capability before splurging.

Watch the background. It is the background which will often make or break your image. No matter how good your subject is & how pleasant the light is but a cluttered background can ruin your entire photograph.

The key to a good background is to keep it simple. Often including too many things can give the background a cluttered look. Even if you shoot with a shallow depth-of-field, a cluttered background will still look busy. If you’re shooting outside, be on the lookout for streams of light which may be passing through tiny gaps in your background. These can be a nuisance. Instead try to get a clear single coloured background which would not compete with the subject. Often we see tree branches poking out of people’s head. Unless you want to portray your subject as a reindeer, its better you take time while framing to avoid this common mistake.

Most amateur photographers are tempted to include a flashy background which off-course looks good but directs the viewer eyes to the background than the point of interest in the photograph. You do not want this to happen. A good background is one which complements the subject & not one which competes with the subject.

There are many tips on how one can get a good background to shoot but that will demand an entire post. I’ll do it in future. For time-being, watch the background & see how your photographs improve radically.

Being a photographer, you might be used to watching photographs from various photographers. You might have been addicted to seeing pictures published in newspapers, magazines, brochure etc. This is a good habit since it lets you study how the photographer made the photograph. It introduces you to viewpoint & thinking process of other photographer. Overtime, this will lead to a gradual growth in your photography skills. However, have you spared a thought of doing the same thing with video?

Photographers often perceive, video to be a totally different field & don’t seem to pay any attention to it. However if one looks closely, both photography & video share the same roots. Video shooters even abide by the rule of thirds, use a similar lighting setup while shooting video. If you observe movies closely, you’ll notice how the camera glides through the shot & at any point of time, the frame is perfectly framed. The lighting looks great, the composition is immaculate & so is a great deal of attention given to keeping the frames uncluttered. In movie’s, often DOF is managed perfectly & its an area where photographers can learn a lot from. Then there are framing techniques, like framing from within something, framing besides something & framing in such a way which might give photographers a new way to compose.

It has become an unconscious exercise for me, to pay attention to the cinematography whenever I’m watching any TV Show or a movie. I’m always thinking of the light, the composition technique, the camera movement etc. This has helped me immensely in improving my photography skills. Similarly, for cinematographers doing the reverse will also hold good. Next time, while watching a movie try this & you’ll appreciate how it helps to raise the bar of your photography. However, don’t complain to me if you miss the story-line doing so. It has happened with me on a few occasions . ;)

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