Las Vegas Trip. Photo tips. Part two

On the first post I mainly talked about the equipment that I took with me and a little bit about exposure compensation. Here I will go over a bit more about some of the setting I normally use.

As I mentioned on the first part, in my opinion the only three settings worthwhile using are the ones that gives me full or most control over the creative process and those are.

Aperture priority. AV for Canon and A for Nikon shutters. When shooting in this mode one can choose the f stop and the camera will select the correct speed for the aperture you selected. This setting will let the shooter decide how much from foreground to background is sharp. The higher the number, the greater the portion that will be within acceptable focus. Having a large area in focus might be what you are after if you are shooting landscapes, on the other hand, shooting outdoors portraits normally benefits from a shallower focus (narrow depth of field) therefore selecting a lower number and blurring the background might be the way to go.

Speed priority. TV for Canon and S for Nikon shutters.This setting does the exact opposite. It let you choose the speed needed while the camera choose the correct aperture for selected speed. When taking pictures of kids playing in the park, sports etc, one wants to set the camera to a speed that can stop the action. If you are shooting landscapes and there is a river with a beautiful waterfall for example, then you might prefer to have a low speed to capture the movement on the water.

Manual. M for Canon and Nikon shooters (one of the few things they agree on) This is the one setting most people fear to even touch and is the one that let’s do take full control over your camera. Here you select the right combination of both speed and depth of field.

With that in mind, depending on what I’m photographing is which of the three settings I will use. If I’m dealing with architectural things like city buildings and other stationary things, most likely I’ll be shooting in manual mode, if I’m just walking around waiting for something to happen or just jutting away to nothing in particular chances are the camera is set to AV.

White balance. Cameras now days have quite a few predetermined setting for different  kinds of lightning. Automatic white balance is the most common if one is going to be walking around. Unless you are in a place where the color temperature is constant Auto is the way to go.  The cloudy setting is pretty useful also when shooting portraits outdoors, even if it isn’t cloudy since it will warm up the scene a bit but the skin tones on people will look a bit better as well.

Focusing points. Majority of modern cameras will come with a cluster of focusing points on the screen. Many people select all an let the camera set focus on either one of them (big mistake) many times the camera will choose to focus on the part of the frame that wasn’t what you wanted. At the end of the day you’ll be asking yourself why so many pictures are out of focus. If you can select a specific one do yourself a favor and select just a single one, every time you aim at your subject with that point you know that that the camera will lock the focus right on that spot.

Raw or J peg. Why not both? If you already spends hundreds on equipment, spend a few more dollars and  get more memory cards if space is your concern. I always set the camera to shoot the largest RAW and small J peg’s. I rarely use the J peg files  but if I want to share the pictures quickly with someone I can download those pretty fast.

Hands down the RAW files will beat J pegs every time when it comes to amount of info, plus the camera presets such as sharpening, contrast, saturation ETC are no embedded on the file. You will be surprised the amount of data contained in the RAW files, also iIf you have over/underexposed files, wrong color balance and some other errors RAW is the best way to recover.

Here are some more images from Vegas.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and I welcome comments, questions or ideas.

Alex Elias

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Las Vegas trip. Photo tips and equipment selection. Part one.

I recently went to las Vegas with the family. We spent most of the Saturday walking around the strip and visiting some casinos. For that Saturday I loaded a Lowepro slingshot 300AW with a Canon 7D, Canon BG-E7 battery grip and 3 lenses. Canon Ef-s 10-22  Canon Ef 24-70 f 2.8 L and Canon 70-200 f 2.8 is L I also took a Canon 580 EXII for fill light, a Manfrotto 2021 tripod with a Manfrotto 498RC4 ball head. Last but not least a circular polarizer, spare batteries and memory cards.

Lens selection

There is always two sides of a story. If you are looking for the best image quality you will take primes with you. If you don’t want to be changing lenses too often or don’t like zooming in and out via your legs then a zoom will be the ticket. I had coverage from 10 to 200mm between the three lenses I took. If you wonder what one or two lenses are most suitable/ useful for a day like this the answer of course will be;  it depends on your style. The Canon ef-s 10-22mm is a very good and fun lens to have but too short to be the primary lens. The Canon ef 70-200 f 2.8 is L is a fantastic lens, the one thing though, is that after hours of holding that rig around it becomes pretty heavy. The image quality is fantastic, it gives nice images from the distance and some great close ups and tight portraits. The Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L  had the most useful range for a walk around lens.

From that day kept 370 pictures and here is some data I pulled from those images.

Out of the 370 pictures 324 were taken with the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 26 pictures with the Canon Ef-s 10-22  and 20 pictures with the Canon ef 70-200 f2.8 is L. The one thing to note is that some times I get lazy and I don’t swap lenses when I think I should. To help prove my point here is a bit more data. From the 324 images I got from the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 89 of them were at 24mm and 57 at 70mm, nearly half the pictures taken with that lens were taken at either end. Based on my experience, if I can only carry one lens (from what I own), the Canon ef 24-70 f 2.8L would be the one. One other lens to consider, is the Canon ef 24-105 f4 is L but it seems like that would be a fantastic lens to own for something like this. Now If you are going to shoot prime lenses only, my first choice would be a 24mm second choice a 35mm and third choice a 50mm.

Shooting Mode

Shooting in manual mode always gives you the most control and creativity, at the expense of loosing great pictures along the way while playing with the settings. I enjoy shooting in manual mode as much as possible, but when walking around  in a place that exposures changes every step of the way I rather switch to a mode like AV, or TV and let the camera do the heavy lifting for me. In this case AV was my choice for 80% of the day; whenever it made sense to choose manual I did.

Exposure compensation

This is a feature of the camera a lot of people either don’t know what it is, or do know why they should use it to begin with. To me, this is the one function of the camera that let the user set an automatic mode such AV or TV and still be creative and have control over what the camera is doing.

The main reason reason why this should be use more often, is due to how the camera’s meter is design to work. Without getting into lengthy explanations of a meter system, cameras are set to see the world as neutral grey, AKA 18% gray. Therefore if you take a picture of a white wall, the camera will assume that the wall is meant to be gray and will shorten the exposure “underexpose” to make the wall grey. The exact opposite will occur if you take a picture of a black wall. The camera will give you a longer than needed exposure (overexpose) to make the black wall gray.

Once this concept is grasp, that is when one begins to use exposure compensation all the time, to complete the creative process. Go out there and set the camera to AV , choose an f stop that suits your subject; Do you want a nice portrait with a blurry background? Open up the lens all the way. Is it the place a bit dark because your subject is on the shade? Use a higher ISO. Once the camera have 2 of the 3 variables “in this case an f stop and ISO” the third value is chosen by the camera, in this case the shutter speed.But… What would happen to your portrait if a good portion of the frame is going to be a bright blue sky? Well, chances are the camera will expose that sky properly leaving you with the portrait of a lovely black silhouette. If that is what one was looking for, then great, but if you were not going for the silhouette effect that was when you needed to overexpose via exposure compensation to have a proper reading of your main subject. In a nutshell this is how you can use some semiautomatic setting but still have control over what is going on as supposed of the camera doing all the thinking for you.

Thanks for stopping by.

I welcome, questions, comment and critiques.

Here are some random images I got from that day.