Author Archives: Chuck Groot

7 Measures Of Brightness

The Value of Light or Measures of Brightness

To begin with we have a specific brightness of light at any given time. Different times of the day, conditions, cloud cover etc. provides for changing light values. It is just like the temperature, it is never static, but it is totally measurable. At 72 F or 20 C we are comfortable, if we increase the heat to 100 F or 37.8 C we are too hot, and when it is 20 F or -6.7 C we are cold.

We can measure light and we say that the “light level” or “light intensity” is “X”. Light is measured in the European version as “LUX” or the North American format of “foot candles”. A foot candles measurement is the amount of light that one candle can emit at a distance of one foot. Naturally, when you have more candles it will be brighter. Another measurement that we know of when dealing with artificial light, is that light loses its brightness inversely proportional to the square of the distance. In other words, if we have one-foot candle power at one foot, by being another foot farther away the light level is not halved but quartered. We’ll get into this more when we discuss flash photography. For now, you can see various light levels outdoors under different conditions.

Light Level or Illuminance, is the amount of light measured in a plane. The work plane is where the most important tasks in the room or space are performed.


Illuminance is measured in foot candles (FC) or LUX ). A foot-candle is actually one lumen of light density per square foot, one lux is one lumen per square meter. Condition Illumination

• LUX = FC (10.752)

• FC = LUX / 10.752


conditions of illumination

Normal Exposure

Normal Exposure

1 Stop or unit of Light Overexposed

1 Stop or unit of Light Underexposed

Determining the proper exposure.

Ok, let’s get back to determining proper exposure. As we discussed in our last post, the camera sensors are geared to read the part of the scene you are metering as if it looked like it was 16% gray.  If what you are looking at is white, then the picture would turn out darker because the sensor thinks it is light gray. Opposite to this, when you are looking at something that is dark and the camera thinks it is 16% gray, the picture would turn out too light.  This is where your creativity and imagination kick in.

If you want as close to the “best” exposure as possible you would look at the scene and imagine it as a black and white scene and then pick an area that looks close to 16% gray and use that area to meter for the best light level reading. You now get to turn this “level” into the exposure that you want to use to create the image you want.

How do we translate the exposure reading into the image we want?

Now we get into the trinity of photography; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. By properly adjusting these three elements you will get the exposure you. That we will discuss in our next blog.

The Belagio

Night at the Bellagio – always a tough exposure

We hope this will help you get the images that you imagined and deserve.

Good shooting and understanding light!

Bob and Chuck

We would love your comments – let us know.

What is the colour of light

What is the colour of light

In the last post we talked about the properties of light, today we are going to look at “What is the colour of light?” No pun intended, ok maybe a little bit. You are probably wondering why we are spending so much time on this stuff? The reason is that in order to take great pictures you need to understand clearly why you are not getting the results you had hoped for.

Yes, all the technical information that we have covered and will be covering in greater detail is important. But the human element, how we handle our equipment, how we align things compositionally, and finally how we see a scene is the most important,


The electromagnetic spectrum


Light is energy that travels through space at a rate of 186,000 miles per second and comes in a packet called a photon. Each of these photons travels in a wave that is seen as a different colour depending on the length of the wave it is travelling on.

We all know that the light coming from the sun is a rainbow of colour, but we see it as white. Within this ray of light, there are many types of light in the forms of various wavelengths. From the illustration above you can see a variety of them. We can only see what is called the visible light spectrum. Red has the longest wavelength and each colour gets shorter from there: orange, yellow, green, blue, to one of the shortest violet.

What happens when the light gets absorbed or refracted?

A good example would be, “Why is the sky blue?”

The atmosphere is full of various water and gas molecules. These molecules cause the incoming sunlight to be scattered or redirected. We have talked about the length of the wave and now know that blue has the shortest length and the others are longer with red being the longest. This means that blue is easier to scatter than the red so the blue is scattered all over the place and the other colours get through to the surface and we get to see the sky as blue.

At the other end of the spectrum, why is water blue? Water absorbs warm colours which are long wavelength light and scatters the cooler colours (short wavelength light). Red light is absorbed strongly, and the blue light has the deepest penetration depth. That’s why we get blue water.

The opposite occurs early in the morning and at sunset. The shorter red wavelengths hit our eyes because they are not scattered while we don’t see the blue wavelengths because they are scattered. What we see are beautiful warm orange/red sunrises and sunsets.

How do we see colour?

White light consists of blue-violet, green, and red, when these are all mixed together they produce white light. These are known as the primary colours. True enough, when an artist works with pigments and mixes these together they are far from white. But we are working with transmitted, reflected, dispersed, refracted, and absorbed and when the primary colours are used in this way they mix together to make white light. In our investigation of light, it is the absorption of colour that we are concerned with. It is the absorption of light that make the colour. Objects will absorb, transmit, or reflect light falling upon them. We cannot see the light that is absorbed, only that which is reflected.

This brings us to the next concept in light, that which is called Colour Temperature


We need to understand that the colour of light is not consistent because of the dispersion of the wavelengths at a different time of the day or the light source that you are using to take pictures with. As we saw with blue skies and sunsets the amount of the various wavelength being scattered caused the colour we see. Similarly, light sources have a variety of wavelengths in their chemical makeup that changes how a camera will record the colours. The eye does not see how a camera sees. In our brain, we have recorded what colours should look like and when we process the scene we will see it as we think we should see it. For example, a white shirt in bright sunlight will be white, but under tungsten light it is orange, and under fluorescent light it is green. All the while the brain tells us that it white and we see it as white.

The need for an accurate means of measuring the colour of the light was realized by the English scientist, Lord Kelvin. When you put an iron poker into a fire it first turns a dull red and then glows to a brilliant red and finally turns white. Lord Kelvin produced this effect and standardized it and then identified the colours by the temperature of the metal at that instant.  The temperature is described as Kelvin degrees.

This is the point where you can say to yourself, no wonder when I take pictures inside the colours are wonky. Or on the opposite extreme, when you see a fantastic sunset and you take a picture of it the colours are not as vivid as you “see” it.

Your camera has a variety of settings that control or allow various colour balancing. Several of the common symbols for these options are seen below:



“AWB”, or auto white balance is the standard go to. It automatically tells the computer to reproduce the colours to make it look like the picture was taken at high noon – 5500 k. So, the nice glow of the fireplace on the kids’ faces or that vivid sunset is lost with the AWB.



“Custom”, allows you to set your own white point. The best way to do that is to use a “Gray card”. A grey card is a photographic card that is covered with a neutral grey set at 18% on the gray scale. A grey scale is a scale that goes from white through various stages of grey all the way to solid black. White has a value of 255, while black has a value of 0, and the greys have a value in the middle.

All light meters are set up to take a recording of the light as if it were looking at a 16% grey patch. We will discuss reading light in another post. Because if you think of it logically, when you are taking a picture of snow and the light meter is thinking that it is looking at 16% grey, your picture will look muddy, or at least grey, lol.

Why do they use a grey card? Because when you use a grey card it is easier to see slight colour, tonal, and contrast shifts.

Back to our grey card. Take a picture of the grey card in the sunshine between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm and save it on your camera. Make sure that the card is evenly lit. Use the automatic setting. Fill the screen with the grey card.

For Canon users:

  1. Find the “custom” setting in your colour balance menu and it will ask you to choose an image.
  2. Choose the image you just took of your grey card and choose “Ok”.

For Nikon users,  the custom setting is actually called “Pre” for Pre-set Manual White Balance setting.

  1. Set your camera to the automatic exposure mode
  2. Fill the viewfinder with your grey card
  3. Select white balance, press ok
  4. Select PRE, press the Multi Selector right,
  5. Select Measure, press OK
  6. Select Yes and press OK

for other camera makes and models look in your instruction manual.


Although it takes a bit more thinking, using Kelvin is much easier the more you use it. Not to forget that you will get the results that you are aiming for. Basically, memorize the “Colour of Light”  chart above and set your Kelvin setting to the temperature of the light you are working with. If you are photographing with candles you would be around 2000K, outside in the sunshine 5500K, in the shade approximately 7000K. Those are rough parameters. Another way to think about it would be; if you want cooler colours to go higher up the scale 7000K – 9000K, if you like warmer pictures 2500K – 4000K. As mentioned back in one of our earlier posts – you are in control of your image. Make sure that what you see is what you will get or create.


This setting is the one you would use when taking pictures in your home when you have tungsten bulbs in your lamps. Tungsten bulbs are the old fashioned normal light bulb that is a yellowish/orange colour.


Fluorescent lights have an ugly green, cool colour. You would use this setting to get rid of that shade.


This may sound silly but daylight means you are using pure sunlight and are away from shady, or areas that would get a colour cast reflected from grassy area or buildings.


Naturally we are talking about an overcast, cloudy day that offers a cool colour. This will warm up the image for you.


Each flash unit has a colour temperature of its own, but usually they are considered “cool” colours. So this setting will warm it up for you.


We come to the last option, shade. Shady areas often are cooler and have tinges of green or the colour of the object that is creating the shade. Once again we see a warming effect.

AWB                                      Kelvin 5,000                                  Kelvin 2,000

indoors it would look good           indoors it would look good

blue removed                           yellow removed

Tungsten setting                             Fluorescent                                         Daylight

yellow/orange removed              red/green removed


Cloudy setting                                      Flash                            Shade – some blue removed

We hope this will help you get the images that you imagined and deserve.

Good shooting and pure colours!

Bob and Chuck



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Photography and light

Photography and light, the dynamic duo.

You can’t have a photograph without light. Photography has been credited, at least the concept of photography, to the Chinese around the fourth century BC. They had a box which later was called a “camera obscura”, a Latin term meaning “dark chamber”. Basically, it was a box with a small hole pierced in one side, which allowed light in the box. The light would shine on the opposite wall to the opening showing an inverted image of what was reflected from the outside.

When did photography start?

It wasn’t till the 1800s that actually capturing an image on light-sensitive material was made possible. Joseph Nicephore Niepce is credited to creating a permanent image, called a heliograph, around 1826. A heliograph is basically a piece of highly polished pewter covered with a concoction of bitumen and lavender oil. Apparently, bitumen which is a kind of asphalt is light sensitive.

Credit: Wellcome Collection

The first heliograph of Niepce looking over his balcony.

Heliograph means writing with the sun – helios = sun, graphein = writing.

Today we have something similar, a box with a hole in the lens which when the curtain inside the camera body is opened allows light in. The light shines on a light-sensitive surface such as film or digital sensors and leaves a lasting image. Like the original camera obscura, the image is still rendered upside down.

How are images saved?

Film contains light-sensitive silver-halide crystals whose silver ions clump together when light reaches them; these clumps of silver form the image on a photographic negative. As more light strikes the film, more silver ions clump together, and the image on the negative becomes darker.

Instead of film, a digital camera has an array of image sensors that capture incoming light rays and saves them as electrical signals. it’s simply an electrical charge much like the static electricity that builds up on your body as you shuffle across a carpet on a dry day. As the light comes in and hits the sensors, the computer in your camera measures the colour of the light coming in as well as it’s brightness.

These sensors are typically called pixels. A pixel is only given size and shape by the device you use to display or print it. The information of these millions of sensors is then stored as a long string of numbers. Naturally, the more sensors you have, the higher quality image you will get.

There are three types of sensors; a CCD or charged coupled device, a CMOS image sensor or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor sensor, and the Foveon X3 image sensor. Each has its advantages but suffice it to say that there are millions of image sensors used to create a digital image.

The advantage the Foveon system is that is unlike a digital sensor which only records one colour at a time, either the red, green, or blue; it has three layers and directly captures all the colours and densities to give a richer more detailed image.

But here is the big rub.

What and how our eyes process a scene is different from how a camera does.

In fact, that is the number one reason why people are disappointed with their pictures. It doesn’t look like what they remember they saw or are seeing.

What is light?

We all know that this magical entity called ”light” comes from the sun and bounces off of the item you are looking at lets you know the shape (because it is bouncing off of the things around the item you are looking at) and the colour by absorbing all of the colours it isn’t and reflecting the colour back to that it is.

We know from our early science classes that English scientist Sir Isaac Newton and Dutch physicist Christian Huygens came up with the idea that light was made up of particles and waves in the 17th century. This conundrum of which it is, still hasn’t been resolved.

The18th century saw Danish scientist Orsted seeing that changing electric fields creates a magnetic field. Later English scientist Faraday found that a changing magnetic field creates an electric field. Scottish physicist Maxwell brought the two concepts together into “electromagnetism”. But Maxwell took it a step further and brought all these ideas together to explain light.

Light is electrical fields combined with a magnetic field that travels through space as a photon which has no mass and moves at high speed. That’s why we think of a photon as a “unit of light” and an electromagnetic wave as a “light wave”. That is why light can be reflected and refracted.

How do we see colour?

The first question we need to answer is how do we see? In very simple terms, under low light conditions the rod-shape receptors in our eyes registers black, white, and grey tones. That is why our night vision is sharper but only a little colour. The cones in our eyes (there are three types of cones) are the primary receptors and under normal light give us normal sight and the sensation of colour. These electrical charges are sent to the brain and interpreted as an image with the colour that is reflected. The human eye is only sensitive to the red, green, and blue wavelengths.

We get to see just a little bit of the wavelengths that are transmitted. The length of the “wavelength” determines the colour that we see.

The combination of all the visible wavelengths combines to give us “white light”.

The shortest of the wavelengths is violet while red is the longest of the wavelengths. As I mentioned earlier, white light hits an object and all of the wavelengths get absorbed but the one which is reflected back to us, which is the colour of the item.

The sky is blue because blue is the shortest wavelength and it is scattered around the sky by all the molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. Likewise, because blue has such a short wavelength, it is totally scattered out and away when it has to travel so the farther distance early in the morning and later at sunset, giving the sky a warm red and yellow tone.

Think about these things as you go take pictures. We will take you to the next level in our next post.

To your great shots

Bob and Chuck

We would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments let us know.


Composition techniques for photography – planning pictures

Planning pictures, what a concept. Most people think that all you need to do is take lots of pictures and occasionally get lucky and get a good one. I firmly believe that you need to plan, create, and capture beautiful pictures on a regular basis.

But today we are looking at composition techniques for photography that go beyond the obvious of using leading lines in photography. Last post we talked about cropping your image as much as possible in the camera, the placement of elements using the rule of thirds, horizontal, vertical, diagonals, S curves, and circular composition.

There is more to creating an exciting, great photograph. Elements like balancing shapes, finding patterns, maximizing texture, and properly balancing size and space. Photography is more than a hobby or a profession – it’s a passion. A passion that allows you to see the world in a whole new way. It allows you to be in the present, to create with a purpose, but most importantly – live with purpose.


The shapes in the photograph tend to be noticed first. It helps to set a mood, create a character to the picture.  The secret to creating a great picture using shape is to search for the unconventional or surprise shape in objects.

How do you create shape when you need to? The easiest way is to use backlighting to create a silhouette. Backlighting is basically having the sun or whatever light source you are using is behind or mostly behind the subjects.


Line is a powerful tool that helps you create shape, pattern, depth, and perspective. You can use lines to guide the eyes in and around the image. Improperly used, lines can draw the viewers eyes out of the image. Of course, it is your intent to keep the viewer’s eye in the image so that your story can be told and understood. Lines can take the form of an actual line or an implied line made, by contrast, various colours or balancing spaces.

Lines can be enhanced with dramatic angles, application of the rule of thirds, finding converging lines, repetition, and creating diagonals. Lines can be your friend or your worst enemy, it is only by carefully looking through your viewfinder and being cognizant of all aspects of what you see.


Basically, pattern is the orderly combination of shape, line, or colour in a repeating manner. We can find patterns all around us in both a manmade and natural form. These can make for some very dramatic and creative photographs.

The beauty of pattern is that you can find it anywhere and everywhere. You don’t need any fancy equipment or techniques to use it. The strength lies in consistent geometric formation and regularity of the pattern.


Regular patterns

Irregular patterns

Natural patterns

Man-made patterns

Breaking patterns



Some of the most beautiful photographs are those showing texture. Just like pattern you can find texture everywhere. Texture adds a heightened sense of realism. To capture texture, you would usually have sharp or hard lighting that brings out the texture. To highlight texture, you either set your light on one of the sides of the image or move so that the light source is hitting the subject from the side.

One of the most important elements in photography is to take a 2D object and try to make it look 3D. That is one of the wonderful pleasures of texture photography, its depth. That brings us to our next element – Using light for Depth.

Using light for Depth

Light itself has different values or texture – soft, medium, or hard. Properly using or seeing the light greatly enhances your ability to capture amazing images. As I mentioned earlier photographs are 2D and to be truly outstanding we want the illusion of 3D. After all, we see our world in three dimensions.

Our eyes are drawn to the greatest area of contrast in an image. In a darker picture, it goes to the lightest part of the image. In a lighter image, our eyes go to the darkest part. This natural phenomenon gives us a powerful tool in our storytelling and creating depth in your photograph.

One secret is to place your main subject, which should be the lightest area in one of the four main corners or along the lines of the rule of thirds. By placing it there you create depth and flow. When you add side lighting which further enhances the depth in the image.

Size and space

 Size and shape take on many forms. Basically, they define space and by defining that space we can control how the eyes track around the photograph.

There is two-dimensional shape which is determined by height and width which looks flat and three-dimensional shape which adds the dimension of depth to the other two.

Shape is further defined as organic, which is a shape that is irregular and asymmetrical. Or geometric, which are regular and defined shapes, such as cones, sphere, squares, circles, and rectangles to name a few. To confuse the issue, you can put organic shapes in geometric ones or the other way around.

There is also negative and positive space. Negative space has nothing in it and positive space which is filled space. We often will use this positive and negative space to balance the difference in size of an object to its background. It can also evoke a psychological feeling such a showing a lot of space around your subject causing a lonely or “small” feeling. Reciprocally, by cropping very close to the subject you end up cramming it in or creating a feeling of claustrophobia.


There are two types of contrast that we as photographers use. The first is tonal contrast which refers to the difference between the light and darkest part of a picture. A high contrast image is one that has black or really dark areas opposing light areas in an image – very little in the grey tones or medium tones

The second type of contrast is colour contrast. Here we pit complimentary colours against each other. Blue vs Yellow, or Red vs. Green are a couple of examples. They do not need to be primary colours, they can be secondary or tertiary as well.


Many studies have been performed on people to see how colour affects how they see and feel. Responses vary when the value of the colour changes. Value is the lightness or darkness of the colour. The same is true of the hue of the colour. Hue refers to the pure spectrum of colours. Naturally, there are volumes written on the psychological implications of colour and it has been found that culture has a determining factor in how people feel about colours.

This all sounds like a lot of work -but well worth it. These thoughts are ideas to help you see the possibilities and hopefully increase your enjoyment. The bottom line is to go have fun, take lots of pictures, and think about how the image looks just before you push the shutter release.

All photographs are created by Bob Vanderford and Chuck Groot

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Compositional elements of photography – creating your perfect picture

It really doesn’t matter if your picture is technically perfect in every way if it is compositionally boring you have wasted your time. More importantly, you may lose the whole context of your story. The whole purpose of a picture is to tell the story, your story. Just like employing proper spelling, grammar, and syntax you need to have effective composition. Luckily, we can help you with the compositional elements of photography. We can help you in creating your perfect picture.


Crop inside your camera viewing screen

The easiest and most important compositional element is to make sure that you capture exactly what you want the first time. That means that you don’t have too much or too little information in the picture. For example, here we see a picture of my brother, dad, and I standing in front of a cathedral in France.

If the story is to show a family portrait, I would say that this is a failure. If the intent is to show that we are travelling and sightseeing at a cathedral, this is passable. A family portrait needs to be up close and personal. Unless of course you are creating a lifestyle portrait. On the other hand, if the intent is to create a travel photograph, we need to focus on the cathedral.

It’s all about the story, homing in on exactly what you want to say. When you crop, do it in the camera viewer if possible. Before we go any further, I want to make it crystal clear, rules are meant to be broken. But before we go further, we need to know the rules.

Rule of Thirds

Imagine this grid over your viewfinder or canvas or paper.  The paper is divided into thirds each way equally.  An interesting (point of emphasis) subject/object should be placed on one of the red “+” areas.  Other elements in the photo or picture should not distract from this main point of emphasis.

Horizontal Happiness

I call it horizontal happiness because it is laid back. Horizontal composition gives a sense of peace, restful and zen-like. In order to make this feeling happen, it is essential for you to make absolutely certain that you have your scene perfectly level. If it isn’t level, it will not work.

Vertical Mass

Whenever you want to show strength and power, you want a vertical composition. It forces a person to go against the grain and read the image from top to bottom as opposed to the traditional left to right.

Western Diagonal

A western diagonal is a compositional tool used to lead the viewer’s eye in the direction you want them to go. This technique has a natural flow from upper left to lower right, in the same direction as reading.

Arabic Diagonal

Is the very same effect as the Western Diagonal but goes in the opposite direction. It’s called Arabic because it reads right to left. Due to the fact that it goes opposite to how we normally read a document, it seems to arrest the viewer’s attention.

“S” Curve

It has two forms of angle top left to bottom right or bottom left to top right. It is very lyrical and a great tool.



 CA circular composition is one of the oldest and primitive of compositions. Circles are all around us, they are power, unending, primordial, and symbolic.

Your composition should drag your viewer through the photograph. Our eyes are pulled along these lines and our story unfolds. So, you can see all these diverse lines – straight, diagonal, curvaceous, winding, and radial lines make for a more spellbinding narrative.

Autofocus points Focus Focus Focus


In our first blog, we explored the importance of holding the camera correctly to make sure that your images will be as sharp as possible. The first rule of photography is that your image must be razor sharp. The second rule is that there are no rules and you need to have the ability to creatively have parts or all of your image out of focus on purpose. The key here is total creative control.

Our next goal is to learn about focusing your lens or lenses.

To begin with, your picture quality can only as good as the quality of the lens you own.

But we will talk about lenses on another blog. Lenses are not just another piece of glass that you put on a camera body to capture your images. But let’s get back to the matter at hand, there are two ways to focus your lens:

  1. Manual focus
  2. Auto-focus

Manual Focus

By using your manual focus mode, you have total control of your area of focus. Indeed, for general use auto-focus maybe easier but there will be times you will need your manual focus mode. It may feel clumsy or finicky but in the long run, you will have occasions where this extra level of control will give you results you might not otherwise achieve.

Times to use your Manual focus

  1. Macro photography

Macro photography is a matter of specifics. There usually is very little depth of field and it is critical to have the exact point of focus.

    2.  Landscape

Much like macro photography, landscape photography is dependant on critical focus and judicious depth of field.

       3.  Crowded scenes

When you are focusing on scenes that are busy the autofocus has a difficult time choosing the point that is important to you.

       4.  Street photography

It’s faster, controllable, and reliable

Using your manual focus

We talked about the proper way to hold your camera in the first blog. Hold the camera in your right hand and place your left hand under your lens. This gives you the best stability. When you turn the focusing barrel of your lens to the right you are focusing items that are closer than your last image. When you turn the barrel to the left, you are focusing items that are farther away.

There are three main viewfinders for focusing; all Matte Fresnel, Split Image Matte type, microprism.

A.   Fresnel – basically you have a matte, roughly ground surface that when your image is in focus, it is sharp.

      B. Split Image – to get a sharp image you align the two sides of a sharp edge.

      C. Microprism – The screen has a bright center area and the focusing is done on the central microprism spot.

But none of this helps if your diopter is not properly adjusted.

Where do we start

  1. Your viewfinder diopter
    •  Most people don’t realize that you can and should adjust the diopter on your camera diopter. If you don’t have a diopter on your camera you can get an add-on viewfinder lens.
    • Why would you use and adjust your diopter? Because although your picture through the lens is focused when you look through your viewer it may be fuzzy because it is like reading the newspaper with the wrong prescription glasses.
    • To adjust your diopter there is a small wheel or slider next to your viewfinder that you can slide or turn one way or another and this adjustment should align the viewfinder with the lens so you can feel certain about your sharpness.
    • The easiest way to adjust your diopter is to put your camera on a tripod or the edge of a table for stability. Make sure what you are looking has lots of pattern with sharp edges. Using your auto-focus press your shutter release halfway to focus your camera. At this point your image should be sharp so now you look through the viewfinder and adjust the diopter so that the image looks sharp.
    • If your camera doesn’t have auto-focus what do you do? In fact, if you haven’t properly adjusted your diopter most of your pictures would have been out of focus. To make sure your diopter matches your eyesight is to set up your camera on a tripod or table as close to ten feet from your subject as possible. Look through your viewfinder and adjust your diopter so that your image is in focus.
    • Finally, it is easier to move your diopter out of its optimum setting than you think. Remember to check it often to make sure it is correctly adjusted.
  2. Choosing the best auto-focus focus mode.

A. Single shot auto-focus (AF-S). You point the middle of the camera at your subject and gently press the shutter release halfway. The reason is that we depress the shutter half way is that we are taking pictures with a computer. This computer analyses the amount of light there is on the scene, the colours, and the distance the subject is from the camera for a sharp picture. If your subject moves, you must refocus.

  • Thankfully, in all camera modes more advanced than ‘Auto’, you can select which AF points you want the camera to use (ie all of them, just some of them, or only a particular one). You’ll either have a dedicated AF Point selection button (most Canon’s do), or perhaps it’s inside your menu (most Nikons it’s under AF -> AF Area Mode) and honestly, for 95% of you photography, you’re far better off setting it to ONLY USE THE CENTRE AUTO FOCUS POINT (single-point AF, and set to be the middle point).
  • Suited for still subjects. When you press the shutter button halfway, the camera will focus only once. With evaluative metering, the exposure setting will be set at the same time focus is achieved. While you hold down the shutter button halfway, the focus will be locked. You can then recompose the shot if desired.
  • Autofocus continuous (AF-C). As it says in the title, continuous means that if the subject moves closer or farther away the camera keeps finding the optimum focus. It even works when you move one way or another.
  • This AF mode is for moving subjects when the focusing distance keeps changing. While you hold down the shutter button halfway, the subject will be focused continuously. The exposure is set at the moment the picture is taken. When the AF point selection is automatic, the camera first uses the center AF point to focus. During autofocusing, if the subject moves away from the center AF point, focus tracking continues as long as the subject is covered by another AF point.

                       Missing the focus point

Tracking focus

  1. Autofocus auto (mode select) (AF-A). With this choice, the camera chooses for you which option will be better in a certain situation. The challenge is that you might not notice when it changes the method.
    1. [AI Focus AF] switches the AF mode from [One-Shot AF] to [AI Servo AF] automatically if the still subject starts moving. After the subject is focused in the One-Shot AF mode, if the subject starts moving, the camera will detect the movement and change the AF mode automatically to AI Servo AF.


  1. Picking the best combination of focus point
    • Single center focusing point. If you want to make sure that a specific point of your photograph is crystal clear in focus this is the one for you. It allows you to control precisely everything that you want in focus. You can use a center focus point or read your specific camera’s manual to figure out how you can easily change which single point you want to use.

  •  Various multi-focusing points. The theory is that by using more focusing points you will get an overall better-quality photograph. Another element is that by having more points in play you will get better tracking. A very important feature when photographing a moving target.

The only challenge with this system is when there isn’t a lot of light. Your camera needs contrast to focus.

This is just an overview. There are many great in-depth articles and webpages discussing the above. And of course, check your camera manual or camera manufacturer website.

To your great shooting

Bob and Chuck

Tips to taking better pictures – photography tips and techniques

Congratulations, you got a Digital Camera. In this blog, you are going to get a lot of tips to taking better pictures. You are going to have a lot of fun learning new photography tips and techniques!

You will even have more fun when you figure out how to use this amazing piece of equipment you’ve received. This lesson will be about hand holding camera. We are going to make this as easy as possible for you. Hang on and enjoy the ride.

Let’s start with tips to taking better pictures and making sure you are successful as possible.

Step 1: It all starts with holding the camera properly

Clarity in communication is key, it is the same with a photograph. It needs to be sharp! Or at least the part of the photograph that is important to you to tell your story, needs to be extremely sharp. Oh, did I say, tell your story? You bet I did. Any picture that you take should tell a story, it shouldn’t need you to explain what it is all about.

When I take a photograph, I want people to say wow that is great or yuck that is awful. Any show of emotion to me is a good thing. It means the story that I was trying to tell was conveyed. Of course, if it is a photograph of people, all the people must look good, or at least sharp!

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Focus can be affected by too low of an ISO Setting, too large an Aperture Setting, or too slow a Shutter Speed. We will discuss each of these in later blogs. But now we are focusing (pun intended – boo) on properly holding or supporting the camera.

Here are the various ways you can troubleshoot pictures that are out of focus.

  1. When you look at the photograph there is nothing in focus. Or, your Center of Interest (we will call this CEI from now on) is blurry, but another part of the picture is in focus. This is caused by poor focusing. If you used manual focus, or when you used Auto-Focus your sensor was not set on the CEI. This is a Focus


2. Let’s say that you carefully set up your picture and your centre of interest is in focus but the area in front of your CEI and behind your CEI is out of focus it means one of two things. 1. You choose an Aperture Setting that was too large or 2. Your ISO was too low and your automatic setting chooses an aperture that was too large. This is a Depth of Field We will learn more about this in another post.


3.  In this scenario, the background and foreground are sharp but any subject that can move is out of focus. In order to stop motion, a person running, or a car driving by, you need to choose a Shutter Speed that is set high enough to “stop” motion. Shutter speed will be addressed on a blog coming up soon.


4. Blurry is different than out of focus. If you see a blurry image it is caused by one of two errors.

  1. You moved the camera during the exposure.

2. You choose or the autoexposure choose a shutter speed that was too slow to stop motion. Shutter Speed is another topic we will cover in a later blog, but both errors fall under the Camera Movement section.

Let’s talk about camera movement and how to reduce the chance of it ruining your image. To begin with, holding the camera properly is essential. As a matter of fact, the smaller the camera, it is even more important to hold correctly. With a smaller camera, the motion is exaggerated causing more distortion. Especially if it is the camera on your phone.


  1. Hold the camera in your right hand with your fingers wrapped around the body of the camera and your index figure on the Shutter Release Button.
  2. With your left hand lay your camera on the palm of your hand to give it extra support. As I mentioned early, the smaller the camera, the more important it is.
  3. Have both of your elbows into your sides for additional support.

When taking your photograph, it is important to depress your shutter release button very gently halfway down. Your camera is a computer which needs to assess the amount of light, choose an appropriate shutter speed/aperture combination, and determine the correct focus area. This is done very quickly, but it still takes some time, it is not instant. Then gently depress the shutter release button till the photograph is taken. You should hear a sound.

Important Tip:

Take the picture slowly and gently. Pressing hard and fast will not take the picture any faster or better. In fact, you most surely have a subpar photograph.

Here are some bonus pointers:

  1. If you can, find a place to place the camera on, like a railing, tree bough, chair, or car if the light level is low (early morning or late afternoon – early evening).
  2. When taking a vertical photograph, you place the bottom of the camera on a door jam, tree trunk, or fence.

The most important thing for you to do is to take pictures. Go Play. Experiment and try different things. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask it on the form below and I promise to get your answer as soon as possible.

Happy creating!

Chuck and Bob


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