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Photography workshop - day 1

Discussion in 'Photography Workshop 2005 by Connie' started by connie, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. connie

    connie Alumni

    Hi all

    Well its a few days late, but here is day one of the Photography workshop. I hope you all enjoy it and learn a little something. Feel free to ask any and all questions you might have.

    Today is going to be a bit quiet compared to later in the week. I'm going to be going over what to look for in a camera.
    We'll start getting into the meat of the subject on Day 2 with How to Set Up a Studio.
    Day 3 will be F/stops and shutter speed (or how your camera works)
    Day 4 I'll be concentrating on how to photograph all those problem items, concentrating on photographing black and red.
    Day for will be Photoshop/postproduction. Because there is just so much Photoshop can do, I thought I'd do this day as an all question and answer session so get your questions ready.
    I'll be here on and off from 11am through 6pm Central time. If any of you are in time zones where it is difficult to email at that time, just post at the end and I'll answer your questions as I have time.

    I want to first start out by giving some words of wisdom. This comes from years of being a starving artist. You DON'T need fancy or expensive equipment to take professional photos. You really, really don't. All that is necessary is knowledge and a little ingenuity. I'm going to be going into the basics of how your camera works starting on day 3. This may seem unnessesary if you have an automatic camera but it really isn't. There are still many ways you can manipulate your camera even if you don't have all the manual options on there. Photography is like any other subject - the more you know, the better off you'll be.

    Now without further ado...The Photography Workshop.

    I’m going to start off talking about cameras. What to look for and think about when getting one. First off, I have to say that I learned about camera’s back in the stone ages when digital cameras hadn’t happened yet so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t have all my specifics on digital cameras.

    Anyway...if you’re going to be taking pictures for online, do yourself a favor and buy a digital camera. I did the whole film camera to digital thing for a while and boy oh boy, what a pain! If you haven’t made the move over, do it now.

    Like I said above, you don't need expensive equipment to take good photos. A lot of photographers get into the whole brand name snobbery. I used to work at a camera store and I can tell you there just isn't that much difference between the different brands. You should be able to take decent photos with any of the well known brands. Nikons are always great but not everyone can afford one. Canon and Olympus both make really good cameras. Personally, I have a Fuji FinePix S602Zoom and I just love it. I'd avoid anything with a brand name that I hadn't hear of but most camera/electronic stores won't sell those anyway.

    One thing with digital cameras is that you need to look carefully at battery usage. Some cameras, especially if you use the LCD display, go through batteries like wild fire. I like my Fuji in part because it uses regular Double A’S. We have a battery charger at home so there is always a fresh set of batteries when I need them. Otherwise, be prepared to buy two batteries all the time so you know you have an extra on hand.

    If you are looking Only to use you’re camera for online pics, you don’t really need anything with too fancy. That being said, I always recommend going with the best you can afford. You should certainly consider getting a camera with manual settings on it. Even if you don’t know how to use them now they might come in handy one day. Shoot, by the end of this week you should have a better understanding of cameras and how they work and (hopefully) will want those extras so you can take better pictures yourself. For those of you who only have cameras with auto settings (landscape, portrait, etc - I’ll explain how you can use those to your best advantage as the week goes on)

    If you only have one camera, you should definitely buy one with a zoom lens. You need to look at the Optical Zoom. Generally a 3X should work but get a better one if you can. Don’t, I repeat Don’t be fooled by all that digital zoom stuff. This isn’t a real zoom. It is simply camera messing with the pixels. A digital zoom should never be used. It is just a scam by camera companies to get you to buy their cameras. There is a long, technical explanation here but in the interest of time, just trust me on this one. Only go by the actual Optical zoom. Digital zoom is a waste of your time and won’t give the good quality pictures that you want.

    More to come in a couple of hours...

    Connie :)
  2. Thanks so much for doing this Connie!

    If a digital zoom pixellates so much, why do they offer them?

    (i guess that is unanswerable)

    but is there a situation that someone would need it? maybe a different use than still photography? (still life, clothing, portraits, etc)

  3. connie

    connie Alumni

    Good question about the digital zoom. I really can't think of a good reason to use one. Possibly (and I'll talk about this more when I talk about f/stops) that it would be handy if you are in a low light situation. If you have to hand hold the camera and zoom in close, you might not be able to open the shutter enough and you end up with a blurry photo.

    If you really want to do professional looking photos though, you're going to want to use the true zoom. What happens with the digital zoom is that your camera doesn't really zoom in at all. It crops the photo, enlarges the cropped area and then guesses what the extra pixels should look like.

    Well I said I wasn't going to explain this but I'll give it a try. Now this isn't exactly how it works but for the sake of arguement, say you set your camera for an 8" x 10" picture at 100dpi If you use the real zoom, the camera will zoom onto the center. Now the center (lets say half for the sake of this example) 4"x5" will now be blown up to 8"x10" with still the 100dpi since your camera is actually zooming in closer to the subject.
    A digital zoom will simply take the 8x10 original and crop it to 4x5. When that is blown up to 8x10 you will be left with only 50dpi since your camera lend wasn't actually zooming in. Since you set your camera at 100dpi, your camera will guess to fill in the other 50dpi.
    So even though in both cases you end up with an 8x10 picture at 100dpi, in the first instance you acutally have the real details in the second, you only have your camera guessing as to what those pixels should look like. Does that make sense?

    I can only assume that camera companies were putting in digital zoom because it sounds impressive. There really isn't a good use for it that I can think of. This is actually similar to the way the one-use panoramic cameras work. They don't actually give you a wider angled picture, they simply crop the top and bottom off the photo.

  4. ellenm

    ellenm Registered Guest

    Connie, what would you recommend as the minimum megapixel size for a camera to take online pictures? I think a lot of people buy cameras with up to 6 megapixel capability and then produce huge pictures that load very slowly online and make people scroll from side to side to see them. In my experience, 1.5 megapixels is perfectly fine for online pics.
  5. connie

    connie Alumni

    Minimum megapixel? That's kinda tough. I probably wouldn't recommend a camera that has less than 3 megapixels in general. You can certainly use a 1.5 megapixel camera just fine but what you get is a correlation between how many megapixels your camera has and how good of quality lens your getting. When you pay a little more for a bigger megapixel camera, the camera companies generally give you a better quality lens in the bargain. You should deal with the sizing issues postproduction.

    Even if you don't have a big program like Photoshop, you should definitely have some sort of basic photo editing program on your computer. You need to always size your photos so that they are the size you want them on screen (generally less than 8" in any direction) and at 72dpi. Lots of people don't know this and so you get those huge pictures that take forever to load and/or don't fit on peoples screens.

  6. connie

    connie Alumni

    Well since you already asked me about my next subject that I was going to talk about (megapixels) I'll just continue from there.

    When looking at megapixels, its hard to have too many. As I said earlier, if at all possible, do your sizing after you take your pictures. I always take my pictures bigger that I need them and so give myself room to crop.

    Also, if you are planning on taking pictures for print (maybe your making flyers or something of the sort) you'll want your pictures to set at a minimum of 300dpi. I can get into this more on Friday when I talk about Photoshop/getting your pictures print or online ready.

    Although I recommend using natural light as much as possible when photographing clothes, a small pop-up flash is really handy. You want to be able to turn it off though. I'll have some examples of good and not-so-good use of flashes later in the week.

    By all means, get a camera with a macro setting. This is for all those close, close-ups. I use my macro setting all the time! It really makes a difference when you want to show off those lovely details on your nice dresses. you also get good pictures of tags and labels that way. You need to remember, with a normal setting, your camera generally can’t focus on anything closer than 18” or so. A macro setting will allow you to get as close as one inch away, depending on your camera. This is one of those things that seem like you could give or take but it is the single most useful setting for taking pictures of clothing.

    Here are some examples. First is a close up I took without the macro on. This is as close as I could get and still have the picture in focus.

    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1cuwomacro1.jpg>
    Not bad but it could be better.

    I tried to get closer without the macro but this is what I got:
    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1womacro2.jpg>

    I turned on the macro button and was able to get this from about 5 inches away:
    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1wmacro.jpg>

    I also have a super macro setting on my camera. I took this picture less than 1 inch from my subject:
    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1wsupermacro.jpg>

    As you can see, if you have nice details on your dress or really want to prove that it has that nice designer label it, a macro button is the only way to go.

    a little more to come later...

  7. In the past i have laid things on the scanner to show close details if i can.

    I have a 7.1 megapixel and have been playing with that on close ups. the only caveat is that i have to be sure to use a tripod for steadiness and sometimes i don't always get the right color as a block the lightsource from being so close. For outdoors, the macro works beautifully.
  8. connie

    connie Alumni

    Yes, you do need good light for close-ups. I shot mine indoors but they were just a couple of feet from a big window.
    That's very clever with the scanner! Of course not everyone has one of those either.

  9. debutanteclothing

    debutanteclothing VFG Member

    Two questions for me.
    1. I have a Nikon coolpix, It has 2.0 Megapixels. I know you said 3 is better. Should I start thinking about upgrading? I definately want that professional look.

    2. 72 dpi? When I go to save for the web in Photoshop, I always make sure my pics are less than 50K. Are we basically talking about the same thing?

    I have been looking forward to this workshop since it was announced!!! Thanks Connie. I hate that I have to do my workshop tomorrow while this one is going on! I'll be online a lot tomorrow.

  10. connie

    connie Alumni

    Well if you're happy with the way your photographs are turning out, then I wouldn't worry too much about upgrading. You can still to a lot with 2 megapixels.

    The thing to remember, is that the pace of change and improvements in digital/computer technology is very fast! A $1000 computer today has far, far more memory and works faster than a $2000 computer from 10 years ago. As technology improves, you get more for your money. What I've do is wait until I really, really need to upgrade and then get the best that I can afford. The hope being that by buying something really good, I'll be able to use it for a longer time.

    For your second question about sizing images, do you mind waiting until Friday for that one? I'll be going over all that sizing info then, along with other Photoshop stuff.

    Good luck tomorrow!
  11. connie

    connie Alumni

    Well I said that today was going to be quiet day. This is my last planned post. If you have any other questions about cameras, feel free to ask. I'll be on and off the computer until 10 or so this evening.

    The final thing to think of when you buy you’re camera, is to get yourself a tripod as well. A tripod is the best investment you’ll ever make! I’m not kidding. I read here ocasionally about people who don’t have tripods. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how you manage to take pictures at all. Unless you’re outside, or have a pretty professional lighting set up, you’re going to have a hard time taking decent pictures of clothing without a tripod. I’ll get into this more when I talk about setting up a studio, but the basic thing to remember is this; any exposure longer that 1/60 of a second is considered non-handholdable. You might be able to take pictures that way, but they will turn out blurry and/or grainy. By all means, invest in a tripod. You don’t need any fancy lights or backdrops to take good pictures but you really handicap yourself if you aren’t using a tripod.

    One of my fuzzies offered to let me interupt his beauty sleep to pose for me. These pictures were both taken in my family room. It certainly seemed bright enough. I had some natural light and a reading light on above but here is what I got when I hand-held the camera:

    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1wotripod.jpg>

    Its all there but is blurry. Here is the same picture with a tripod:
    <img src=http://www.cosmiccatvintage.com/web-data/Components/photoworkshop/day1wtripod.jpg>

    I could have taken the picture with a flash but it would have turned out much differently. There will be more details on this Day 3 and 4 but let me just say here, tripods are a wonderful thing!
  12. debutanteclothing

    debutanteclothing VFG Member

    Well I have been experimenting with lighting, which I know you will cover later. I think maybe after this workshop, if I am still not happy with my pics, I might consider upgrading. but would going to a 3 megapixel camera just give me more memory? Or would it give me crisper pics? What would be the difference? Or does it depend on the camera?
    Sorry for all the questions.
  13. connie

    connie Alumni

    Don't be sorry about the questions! That's what I'm doing the workshop for.

    A higher megapixel camera will give you either more memory or sharper pictures depending on how you set it. My own camera has several different quality settings. Basically I can set it for 1 megapixel, either normal or fine; 3 megapixels, normal or fine; or several 6 megapixel options. A normal 3 megapixel setting will give me better quality photos than a normal 1 megapixel setting. I won't be able to fit as many 3 megapixel pictures onto my compact flash card though.

    So basically I have the option of either taking lots and lots of 1 megapixel pictures, pretty many 3 megapixel pictures or just a few 6 megapixel pictures. I set my camera according to the end result I'm looking for. If I am only going to use the pictures for online purposes, I might use a lower setting so that I can take lots of pictures without going back and forth editing things. If I want a really good quality picture that I can print out for something, I'll put my camera on a higher setting. I won't be able to take as many pictures before filling my card though.

    Basically what it comes down to is that a higher megapixel camera gives you the option of taking better quality (higher dpi) photos but you don't necessarily need to have high quality photos for everything you do.

    Hope that helps.
  14. My pictures really improved with a tripod immensely. Huge difference. and i noticed that my pictures really were pixelated because of pooor lighting
  15. debutanteclothing

    debutanteclothing VFG Member

    I too invested in a tripod, and boy does it help! the only problem I have is when I have to take very close up pictures I have to remove the camera from the tripod and then we're back to square one, fuzzy pics. I've tried using the zoom, but with the macro feature, the pics come out blurry.
  16. What about taking a farther shot and cropping it?
  17. connie

    connie Alumni

    Why do you have to take your camera off the tripod when using your macro? That seems really odd. If there is one time when you really need a tripod, it is when you are taking pictures in a macro setting.


    Oh, and I forgot to mention that the reason your macro pictures might be coming out blurry is that macro is ONLY for close ups. You have to set your camera within the focus range. That range depends on the indivigual camera so you'll have to check your instruction book. For instance, my macro is good between 3.9 inches and 2.6 feet. My supermacro will focus only on objects 0.4 to 7.9 inches away.
  18. debutanteclothing

    debutanteclothing VFG Member

    I would take it off the tripod to get close enough to the detail on the garment. When I zoomed in, with the macro setting, it would get all blurry. but maybe my problem is not zooming, it's my macro setting. Hmmm, going to play with my camera!
  19. connie

    connie Alumni

    You definitely want to leave your camera on the tripod for macro pictures. It is very hard to hand hold those real close, close-ups. Those pictures I posted were all taken with the camera on the tripod. Even the one where the camera is less than an inch from the item.
    Have fun playing!
  20. Have you seen the table top size tripods, Sandra. I thought about getting one.

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