Shutter speed

20 Dec

What is shutter speed?

it’s the time that the 2 shutters are open to show the scene to your sensor. It’s the common term use to define the exposure in photography.This is an important factor to understand to achieve sharp images. The shutter speed will allow you to stop or show motion in a photography. There are some rules about shutter speed to be understood.

Rule #1

The shutter speed should always be greater than the focal length. This means, if you shoot with a lens at 200mm then your shutter speed should never be under 1/200th of a second. If you are shooting with an 85mm focal length then you speed should never be under 1/80th of a second. This basic rules allows you to freeze your motion when taking a picture. This is where Image stabilization has an effect. You can achieve images in lower shutter speed of STATIC subjects. This technology will not allowed to achieve a sharp picture of a soccer player at 1/60th of a second but it will allow you to achieve a crisp images at 1/60th of a second of a building.

Rule #2

– For lifestyle portrait photography, you do not want to go under a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second or above.

– For sports photography, if you want to freeze motion you will want to shoot images at 1/500th and above To show motion with a pan you will what to shoot at a maximum of 1/125th of second.

– For architectural photography, you want to select your lowest usable ISO and use a tripod for a longer exposition.

When considering what shutter speed to use in an image you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement). To freeze movement in an image (like in the surfing shot above) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. The actual speeds you should choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred.

Motion is not always bad – There are times when motion is good. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing, or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed, or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go.


Panning is a technique that can produce amazing results (if you perfect it…. or get lucky) but is also one that can take a lot of practice to get right.

The basic idea behind panning as a technique is that you pan your camera along in time with the moving subject and end up getting a relatively sharp subject but a blurred background.

This gives the shot a feeling of movement and speed. It’s particularly useful in capturing any fast moving subject whether it be a racing car, running pet, cyclist etc.

I’ve found that panning seems to work best with moving subjects that are on a relatively straight trajectory which allows you to predict where they’ll be moving to. Objects that are moving side to side are challenging and can result in messy looking shots as the motion blur can be quite erratic.

The panning technique will require to learn your AF system. You will need to put your AF system in Ai Servo or AF-C for the lens to adjust focus while following your subject. The composition of the images will be important. We need to see where the subject is going. Your subject needs to be at one side of the image and going into the other side of the image which should be empty of subjects. I suggest to you go practice with cars in your area before shooting race cars or moving subjects. Practice does make perfect!

How do you Pan?

  • Select a slightly slower shutter speed than you normally would. Start with 1/30 second and then play around with slower ones. Depending upon the light and the speed of your subject you could end up using anything between 1/60 and 1/8 – although at the slower end you’ll probably end up with camera shake on top of your motion blur.
  • Position yourself in a place where your view of the subject will not be obstructed by anyone or anything else. Also consider the background of your shot. While it will be blurred if there are distracting shapes or colors it could prove to be distracting. Single coloured or plain backgrounds tend to work best.
  • As the subject approaches track it smoothly with your camera. For extra support of your camera if you’re using a longer lens or are feeling a little jittery you might like to use a monopod or tripod with a swivelling head.
  • For best results you’ll probably find that setting yourself up so that you’re parallel to the path of your object (this will help with focussing).
  • If you have a camera with automatic focus tracking you can let the camera do the focussing for you by half pressing the shutter button (depending upon it’s speed and whether it can keep up with the subject)
  • If your camera doesn’t have fast enough auto focussing you’ll need to pre-focus your camera upon the spot that you’ll end up releasing the shutter.
  • Once you’ve released the shutter (do it as gently as possible to reduce camera shake) continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shot is complete. This smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish in your shot.


Stopping motion



19 Dec

What is aperture?

The aperture of a lens represent its iris. This is measure in F stop’s. I love to compare a photography lens with the human eye. When dark, the human eye can open it’s iris up to receive a much greater amount of light. You can do the same thing with a lens. The maximum aperture of your lens is written on the barrel or front of your lens. Using a lens at maximum aperture requires skill to properly achieve focus. You will also noticed that the quality in definition and sharpness will increase to achieve it’s best at around f5.6-f8 depending on the lens.

Tip: test your lenses and write the f-stop you find most usable on a sticker inside your lens cap.



There is 16X times more light available at f1.4 then at f5.6

The Aperture also gives you a creative control called Depth of Field (DOF). The depth of field is the area in which your subject is defined in your image. Meaning the point A to B where the image will be sharp. You want to pay attention to this effect since you can control your audiences eye through your image with the DOF.

For portrait a shallow depth of field (small f stop) is usually used to isolate your subject from is surroundings and the distractions around him. In landscape photography a more extended DOF is often use to show the whole surroundings.




The aperture of a lens is an important factor towards Autofocus performance. The more light a lens captures,  the more light the Autofocus system will see. A bigger aperture will also allow you to see more light in your viewfinder since a digital camera also shows you the scene at maximum aperture, hence the DOF preview button on most DSLR. This is also why sports shooters will use f2.8 lenses to capture sports images. The bigger aperture will help them achieve a higher shutter speed, a more pronounced subject isolation, see more light in there viewfinder, achieve faster AF performance to chase their subjects.

Shallow DOF

Deeper DOF

I hope you liked the information, if you have question please write them as comments.


19 Dec

What is ISO?

ISO is an international standard of sensitivity to light. Your camera’s sensor “sees” more light as the number goes higher. You will see more light at ISO 3200 then at ISO 100. The dark side is the fact that you will get more digital noise in your images at higher ISO. I don’t pay much attention to digital noise since I want my image. The audience will see the emotion or moment rather than the digital noise. You also have to be careful since higher ISO will cause a softer (not as precise and defined) looking images.

Why would you use a higher ISO?

You need a higher ISO to “see” more light inside and during sporting events to freeze subjects movements. Higher ISO in possible because the electrical current that passes through your sensor is higher and make the sensor more sensitive to light. You need to keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/125th of a second to proper achieve portraits. For landscape and architectural photography, I would strongly suggest to use a tripodand use longer exposition.

ISO 160

ISO 2500

How can you hide digital noise?

You can either use software to reduce digital noise if it’s unacceptable. Adobe LightRoom 3 is a great software for file editing and noise reduction.


To hide digital noise, insure that you use proper white balance and that you over expose your images by at least 1/3 of a stop. Improper white balance can cause you to underexpose your images by a full stop. Overexposing the images by a small amount gives you the latitude to bring the exposition down while editing your images hence hiding the digital noise.

Both the following images have been taken at ISO 2500.

Overexposed and corrected via LR3

underexposed and corrected via LR3

You need to learn about your best ISO to use the performance of your sensor to it’s limit. In a Canon DLSR you want to use 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500, 5000, 10000, etc. For a Nikon DSLR, you want to use 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this little learning post. If you have questions, please feel free to write them in comments.

Flash photography

19 Dec

Flash photography

Flash photography is an art and a hard subject to understand. Flash can be hard light, flattering light, added light in low light and a flash can be used to achieve focus in low light.


Always purchased the biggest flash gun of your manufacturer. Sigma flashes have been known to not be consistent in ETTL mode. Why purchase the biggest one? You will need the most power especially if you do not shoot with the biggest aperture lenses (see f1.4). The power will also be helpfull when used in Off camera flash (OCF).

Off camera flash example

There is alot of knowledge to learn about when using flash as main or fill light. You need to understand that a flash is usually 5200K balanced. You need to proper balance your flash gun with gels for the environment in which your are in. In a tungsten environment, you will need to use CTO gels (orange) and in a NEON light area, you need to use Green gels to balance with the ambient light. Proper white balance will need to be achieve for proper results.

Now that your light is properly colour balanced, you need to put your camera in manual mode and your flash can be used in ETTL mode. You need to understand your light meter to properly balance your ambient and flash photography.

Your Shutter speed and ISO will control your ambient light. You will need to overexposed your images by 1/3 of a stop to make your flash look like natural light. Your aperture will control your DOF like usual. If you can only achieve a highest shutter speed of 1/60th of a second then you will need to put your flash in rear curtain sync.

Bouncing your flash…trust me on this!

You should learn to bounce your flash off the walls instead of the celling like demonstrated on the following examples. Don’t be afraid to bounce your flash off of any surfaces…I have made portraits while bouncing my on camera flash off of a reflector, my assistants shirt and even leaves in a tree. Just explore the potential and open your mind to the possibilities.

On camera flash bounced on the wall to the left of the camera.

Here is a mix of natural light and flash. The model is exposed to the natural light of the window and the pool table is illuminated by an Off camera flash

Here is a hint when bouncing your flash on walls. When using a wide angle, you’ll need to bounce it behind you with a direction. When using a standard to telephoto lens, you can easily bounce you flash at a 90 degree angle. The direction of your flash is always depending on the nose. Point your flash where the subjects nose is pointed. This once again where the best manufacturers flash will be useful with it’s 180 degree towards the left and right.

You can see multiple examples on my Event and Wedding photography blog.

AF help from your flash

You can use your flash’s infrared beam to help you achieve focus without using the flash to fill light. You can disable your flash just to allow this focus help to be used.

Small flash big power

A camera flash can create big light. You will just need to at dusk or dawn. You do not get 1100 watts out of a camera to compensate for a full powered sun but you can create amazing images with such flashes.

Read this book it will teach you amazing potential with camera flashes.

The hot shoe diaries from Joe McNally

The stobist a great blog about Off camera flash.

This last picture was done with a on camera flash in ETTL mode with a silver reflector to bounce it and make it bigger. I used CTO gels to shoot in tungsten white balance to make the sky go blue.


Off camera flash is a very popular technique to allow you to add and control your subjects lighting. The technique is used in studio photography, automotive photography, portraiture, event photography, macro photography and more. You will need tools and knowledge to properly exposed your pictures with using OCF.

The first tool needed will be portable flashes. You will have the choice of using portable camera flashes or a powerful set of flashes used with a power pack. Now power will be the main issue here. Like stated before, the camera flash will be powerful enough to illuminate subjects that are in a shadow and when shooting at dusk or dawn. They will not be powerful enough to overcompensate the light from a mid day sun. The second option will give you the power to compensate for mid day lighting but it’s less transportable because of it’s weight.

With both solution you can achieve an amazing quality of light if used properly.

The second tool that will be needed is wireless flash triggers. You can use them manually or in ETTL depending on your budget and need. There are tow brands trusted by the pros, Pocket wizards and RadioPopper. They both can be used in manual setups and in ETTL setups. They are very easy to use and give you an amazing creative control. I chose Pocket wizards since I have been using and trusting that product for over 3 years now. Pocket wizards also give me the opportunity to remote trigger my camera with a special cable.

The third tool needed is knowledge. Don’t be afraid to test at home with dolls, fruits and round objects. They will teach you how light reacts and shapes your subject. You will need to be in manual mode on your camera to control all aspect of the flash and ambient light. The ambient light will be controlled by your ISO and your Shutter speed. (watch your lightmeter) and the amount of flash power will be control by the Aperture. You need to note that this is also in manual power control with the flashes. In ETTL, the flash power will be automatically calculated and control by the amazing flash system.


Here is a fun picture. It was made with one flash and a long exposure. I selected a long exposure to achieve an ambient light capture and flashed the tree at multiple time with my flash in my hand while running around the tree. This way I could pick which part of the tree would be exposed and which one would not be. The orange sky is from the city’s light.

I hope you enjoyed the information if you have question’s, feel free to ask them via comments.