Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm just sayin (part 2)

The last blog was about the difference between people who studied and those who just rely on talent. This blog is all about gears: "You don't need to have professional/ crazy ass expensive/ equipment to be able to produce good images."

*There are a lot of kinds of professional equipment out there, but for simplicity's sake, let's just think of lens since I'm sure most of you dream of upgrading lens.

When I bought my dslr, it came with a kit lens. I told myself that I don't need to buy a fancy shmancy lens because I believe that it still depends on the user. The user must know the limitations of his camera and adapt his shooting style to it. And that's what I did... for a while. If you just like taking pictures of your family on holidays, then the kit lens is perfect for you. But sometimes, kit lens is not enough...

You see, photography is like a girlfriend. The 3 types of guys are:

1.Guys who leave their girlfriends behind. To these guys, photography is just a passing interest. Maybe they thought that it's too complicated, bitchy, demanding, two - timing piece of... oops... I got a little carried away. I mean some people lose interest because they think it's complicated.

2.Guys who love their girlfriends but don't want to get married. These guys think that kit lens are good enough for their needs.

3.Guys who love their girlfriend so much that they want to marry them. Of course, if you want to marry someone, it is preferable to move into a better house. Staying in your mom's basement or your disgusting moldy apartment won't do. A house with a big lawn and a swimming pool is the dream, dude. A movie house and a bowling alley inside won't hurt either. To these guys, photography became a passion. You want to create better pictures and you know that sometimes, ordinary equipment has limitations. You can overcome those limitations for sure. But it will be difficult. Who wants to make love in a sticky couch with cockroaches falling from the ceiling? YOU CAN. But the results won't be good...

Basically, it depends on your needs. If you're just a casual shooter then your kit lens is fine. If you're a casual shooter but wants to have nicer pictures then it's okay to buy a nicer lens. But if you want to be a professional, it is proper to use professional gear. You wouldn't want to go to a dentist that uses a straw to suck the saliva from your mouth then spit it in a bucket right? Dentists should have a machine to do that. That example is a bit exaggerated. But it's true. For example, covering for a wedding is so hard when the only thing you've got is your kit lens. The lights inside churches are usually dim so you have to use slow shutter speeds to achieve proper exposure. And as you know slow shutter speeds result to blurry photos. You can use a tripod to counter camera shake. But it's too cumbersome to move around with it. And remember, tripods only remove camera shake. Your subject's movements will still be blurred... That's okay if you want to make your groom and bride look like ghosts. You can also use the pop up flash but the pictures will be as if it came from a point and shoot camera. There's no depth. It will also have that distinct "deer in the headlight look". If you want decent photos, you should have a fast lens and a speedlight to bounce off of walls.

Having said that, please don't think that you will suddenly have "professional" shots once you buy professional gears. Just because you have a machine that sucks saliva like there's no tomorrow doesn't make you a good dentist. A lot of people make this mistake. They often blame their current gear set up. You should study the fundamentals of photography and practice. And if you found out that your gear is lacking at something, then that's the time you buy. Base your purchases depending on your style and needs. Don't just buy everything you can afford.

To sum things up, it basically depends on your needs. Period. "Ordinary" gears are for casual shooters. Professional gears are for professionals. Casual shooters can buy professional gears as well as long as they know what they're buying and how to use it. But professionals shouldn't use "ordinary" gears. As professionals, you do have to get good gears to get incredible images. But please take note: I used the adjective "good". I didn't say "expensive". Unfortunately most of the time, good gears ARE expensive. But again please take note: I used the word "most" not "all". Confused? Yeah, me too. Anyway, the point is, there are some gears out there that are cheap yet good. An example of this is the Tamron 28-75 f2.8. This baby is incredibly sharp. Even at wide open. I'll make a review of it soon. Please watch out for that.

But you have to realize that there is no perfect gear but there is a perfect gear for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm just sayin

What I'm going to blabber about now isn't a lesson. But I'm going to discuss my opinions on two, very controversial yet widely known sayings in photography. These are:

1. You don't need to study photography to be good at it.
2. You don't have to have professional/ crazy ass expensive/ equipment to be able to produce good images.

Let's just deal with the first one. We'll deal with the second on the next blog.

I believe that there are two types of photographers: those who studied photography and the insanely-weird-guy-who-for-some-unknown-reason-takes-good-pictures-even-though-he-doesn't-know-what-iso-is-or-any-other-photography-terms-means guy/gal. Some of these people would prefer to be called talented but I think that is too douche-y. So let's just call them weirdly gifted.

Let's face it. Those weirdly gifted guys have good taste that's why their compositions are good. It's just like making out. You are a good kisser. Period. No one taught you that. You're so good, science should be studying you. But talent can only go so far. It's only limited to good compositions as humans aren't normally born with camera terms let alone camera skills in their brain. Yes. People must know how to use the camera to produce what they're imagining. Your composition might be spot on but if you don't know how to control the shutter or whatever, then your image might be blurry. You might have some crazy creative idea for a silhouette photograph but you don't even know how to create one. It's like being an awesome driver with an awesome car. Sometimes, you want to be more awesome-ly fast but you don't know where the awesome turbo button is so you push a little red button on the dashboard. That was actually your awesome windshield wiper. Fail... I hope you get my idea.

However, those who studied don't have the right to be cocky. Just because you know how to do stuff manually doesn't mean you are better than those weirdly gifted guys. Remember, photography is art. It's about self expression. You may know all the rules of composition and I'm sure your shots are good but if you focus on the theoretical side, it'll be too monotonous. Too formulaic. Too contrived. Again, let's go back to our kissing metaphor. I'm not a sexist but let's assume that you are a guy. They call you El Casanova. You're so awesome you  formulated a system for kissing. You might be a good kisser but if you just kiss your girl the same way you kiss other girls, then what if you need to kiss your sister? Kidding! What I mean is you shouldn't rely purely on the theoretical side. You should just use what you've learned as a foundation only. Use your technical know-how to make your photographs portray the feelings that you're having.

So basically, nobody wins. We're all equal. Talented people should study to help them produce what they're imagining. And those who studied shouldn't rely too much on their brain. They should rely on their emotions as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's a girl!

Yes! After months of absence, I'm back! I was so busy taking care of my wife who is now pregnant with our baby girl! =) We haven't done our official preggy shots yet but I tried some shots just to get the feel for things. This is the best in my opinion:

I was so happy with the result! Now since this is a photography class, I'll share how I took the shot.

This was shot using a Nikon D5000 body with a 50mm f1.8 lens. I used an aperture of 2.8 to give it a shallow DOF. Reminder: the bigger the aperture, the smaller the number. (Yeah, I know... Pretty confusing eh?) And also, the bigger aperture, the shallower the DOF. So you're probably asking, "If you want shallow DOF then why didn't you just shoot at 1.8?" Good question! I have 2 answers for that:

1. It's because as with any lens, it's sharpest is only achieved a few stops down its maximum aperture. So if your max aperture is 1.8, try to shoot at around 2.8. It will still have a shallow DOF but it'll be sharper. Of course, the softness of the image is dependent on the quality of the lens. Most pro lenses are still sharp even if shot wide open.

2. 1.8 is so shallow. If I used that, most of my shot will be blurred. The only sharp part will probably be the ring on her finger.Why? Because big aperture = small sharp part. small aperture = big sharp part. I don't want to focus mainly on the ring so I used a smaller aperture. Don't worry. I'll discuss this in detail on my next blog.

For the lighting, I used a speedlight and simply bounced off the wall and ceiling to achieve that look. As you can see, it's very soft. Again, as a rule, the larger the light source, the softer the light is. I suggest you try practicing bouncing off different parts of the room to familiarize yourself on how bounced light behaves.

So I guess that's it for now. If you have any questions or corrections for me, feel free to leave me a message. =) Until next time, classmates!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Hi guys! I’ve been so busy lately so sorry if I haven’t posted for a while. So let’s get right into it. The lesson for today is: Metering.

What is metering? Metering computes the amount of light that passes through the camera to help you achieve the best exposure for the photograph that you’re taking. For example, if you are on semi automatic modes e.g. Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Auto, the camera does the computation for the exposure triangle and ADJUSTS whatever it can so that you can have a properly exposed photo. In Manual, the metering computes the exposure triangle as well but it DOESN’T ADJUST them. Instead, it shows you a graph to tell you how over exposed or underexposed your photo will be so you have to adjust it by yourself. It’s like the camera is asking you: “Are you sure you want this photo to be underexposed like this?” or maybe : “Are you sure? These settings that you chose will give your subjects a characteristic that medically inclined people usually call “albino-riffic”...I’m just saying... It’s up to you... *cough* dumbass *cough*”

“So what’s the point? Why bother? I’m always in semi automatic mode so why do I need the rest of this lecture? I mean the camera will compute for the proper exposure! Duh?! ” Thanks for the very good question. Basically the metering modes are there to help your camera see which part is the best to meter from and how much. Why? Because not everything around you has an equal amount of light. Some parts are darker, some parts are brighter. So, for example, if you told the camera to focus on something that is dark, it will think that the whole image is dark. If it thinks that the whole image is dark, it will try to overcompensate for that and result in an overexposed image.

The 3 amigos of metering are: MATRIX/EVALUATIVE, CENTER WEIGHTED and SPOT.

Matrix or evaluative metering is the most commonly used because it is the easiest. It “sees” the whole image splits it into parts and then calculates complicated algorithms to expose for it.

Center weighted metering prioritizes the center part of the image(duh?). It’s a bit more accurate because the camera is only considering a small part of the photo.

Spot metering concentrates on a spot. Literally. About 1% of the frame.

How to use them? It’s up to you. It depends on the effect that you’re trying to achieve. I’ll give you an example. Let’s assume that you’re a guy. You're in a beach. You’re lazy so you always shoot  in Aperture priority mode. You saw a very sexy lady wearing a very very revealing bikini *gulp* and you suddenly had an inspiration. You imagine a photograph of a silhouette of a lady against a sunset. Nice! Here’s what you should do:
1. Take that creepy smile off of your face.
2. Wipe the drool on your chin.
3. Go up to her and ask if you could take a photo of her.
4. If she says yes, please try your best to remain calm and composed. Calm and composed...
5. Step back and point the camera towards her. Tell her the poses that you’re imagining. NO. Not those poses! I mean the poses for the silhouette shot. *cough*creep*cough*
6. You’re probably perspiring... A lot... You are not thinking properly that’s why you made a mistake of putting your metering to spot. Since your subject is the lady, you’ll probably meter her first. Wrong move. You’ll soon discover that the shot has a very nice exposed body, I mean lady, and an overly exposed sky. I’m sure that photo would still be awesome, but it will only because of the body of the subject and not because of your photography skills.
7. If you use evaluative/matrix, it will try it’s best to keep the subject and the background properly exposed. So again, you won’t have a silhouette because the shot would probably have a balanced foreground with the background. Instead, try using center weighted. But don’t meter off of the girl. You meter the skies so that the sky is properly exposed and then the girl would now be a silhouette. You could use spot metering and meter again for the sky but since you are metering using only a spot, it might be a bit difficult because of inconsistency. If you meter on a darker part of the sky, you would have a totally different photo if you compare it to a lighter part of the sky. Whereas for center weighted, you could just expose at the same part of the horizon over and over until you finish all of your shots.

The camera makes mistakes too. It’s because it doesn’t actually see light. Its computations are based on middle gray. Middle gray is like the “standard” of perfect exposure. Blah blah blah. I’m sure you don’t want to read these. But what you should remember is that sometimes, the camera can be a “dumbass” too. It can be fooled when looking at a scene that is mostly white or mostly black. It doesn’t really know what light looks like so if it sees a surface that is white in color, it is fooled into thinking that that white surface is a light source even though it is not. So, if the ambient light in a shot is just right but the scene is mostly white, then the camera might think that the scene is bright. So it will try to underexpose the image to “balance” it out, resulting in an underexposed shot. When the camera sees black surfaces, it thinks that it is seeing a scene that doesn’t have any light. So again, if there is sufficient ambient light, it will still think that you don’t have enough light so it will make the image brighter, resulting in an overexposed shot. So as you can see, telling the camera where to point and what mode of metering to use is crucial to having a perfectly exposed shot. Here are some examples:

This photo is shot using evaluative/matrix metering. As you can see, it is a bit underexposed. But only a bit. Why? Because there are more white surfaces than black. So the camera thought there's too much light and it darkened the shot a bit.

Now in this photo, I used center weighted. It's overexposed. Because the center weighted metered the mostly the black part of my cellphone and only a bit of the white table. Since the camera mostly saw the black part of the cellphone, it got fooled into thinking that the photo needs extra light. That is why it over exposed it.

Now in this photo, it is waay over exposed. I used spot metering in this one and metered only the black part of the cellphone.

Now, in this photo, I used center weighted again but this time, I took the liberty of placing it in a different place so that it has almost equal amount of white table, silver keypad and black lcd of the cellphone. The result is a properly exposed image.

So there you go! Now you know metering. Try to practice it to get a feel for what metering mode to use in a given situation. It will help you tremendously. See you next time!


Since I was gone for a long time, I'd like to give you a bit of a bonus tip. Here's my technique. Others may find it complicated, others might think it's convenient so it's up to you if you want to use it. You may consult your manual if you get confused with these settings:

1. Set your camera so that when you half press the shutter, it autofocuses.
2. Set your AE-L/AF-L (nikon) to Auto exposure lock only. For Canons, I'm not sure but I think the button that you should be looking for is the Star or Asterisk button. This button is your Auto exposure lock.
3. Set your focus to Single point.

After you've done that, here's what you can now do:

1. Put your subject in the center of your viewfinder. Focus on it by pressing the shutter button halfway. Don't let go of the button.
2. Meter where you want to meter. If you're using the spot and center weighted mode, you can point to wherever you like. Then press the AE-L/AF-L (nikon) or Star or Asterisk button (canon) to lock your exposure. However, if you are using Evaluative/Matrix mode, disregard this and proceed directly to step 3.
3. You can now compose your shot. After composing, press the shutter button fully.

"Why do I need to do these steps?" So you can control everything. This way, you can focus on a subject, and then move around to meter where you want to meter.

-Autofocus sometimes focuses on the wrong thing. But with Single point focus, just point it at where you want it to. You can recompose the shot while maintaining focus as long as you don't let go of the button.

-Exposure lock is very helpful because once you lock it in a proper part of the camera, you can recompose the shot but still get the the proper exposure until you let go of the button.