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Put simply, macro photography is close-up photography. Depending on the lens or lenses that you got with your camera, you may have the perfect tool for macro work. Some lenses are designed to shoot in a macro mode, but you don’t have to feel left out if you don’t have one of those. Check the spec sheet that came with your lens to see what its minimum focusing distance is.
If you have a zoom, you should work with the lens at its longest focal length. Also, work with a tripod because handholding will make focusing difficult. The easiest way to make sure that your focus is precisely where you want it to be is to use manual focus mode.
Since I am recommending a tripod for your macro work, I will also recommend using A (Aperture Priority) mode so that you can achieve differing levels of depth of field. Long lenses at close range can make for very shallow depth of field, so you will need to work with apertures that are probably much smaller than you would normally use. If you are shooting outside, try shading the subject from direct sunlight by using some sort of diffusion material, such as a white sheet or a diffusion panel. By diffusing the light, you will see much greater detail because you will have a lower contrast ratio (softer shadows), and detail is often what macro photography is all about (Figure 11.11).
THE “SWIRLY FLASH”
It’s no secret that I don’t like to use the built-in flash. The light is harsh and flat, and when you photograph people in a dark setting, such as indoors or at night, it’s too easy to get a background that is dark and underexposed.
So when I’m in a situation in which I have no choice but to use the flash on my camera, I like to change some of the settings to give my snapshots a different look. I drag the shutter, setting it much slower than normal, usually between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second, and spin the camera on axis with the subject while the shutter is open. This keeps the person mostly frozen and well lit while creating an interesting blur of lights in the background (Figure 10.6).
I like to call this technique my “party trick” because when I’m in a room full of people, I’ll use this method to take a quick portrait, and often it’s something that they haven’t seen done before. This technique is not limited to DSLR cameras, and I frequently show people how to set up their point-and-shoot cameras to do it. I find that it adds a unique look to an otherwise boring snapshot. One quick tip: This type of image usually works best when there are a lot of lights behind your subject, such as the lights from a Christmas tree.
CREATING THE “SWIRLY FLASH” EFFECT
- Set your camera to Tv mode and start with a shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second.
- Press the built-in flash button on the front of your camera.
- Point the camera and center your subject in the frame. Start with the camera slightly tilted, and then press the Shutter button to take a photo and spin the camera so that the subject stays centered in the image.
- If your flash is too bright, press the Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top of the camera and use the Quick Control dial to move the exposure value (EV) to the left. Take another photo and preview your results.
- If the background is too dark or too bright, you’ll want to adjust your ISO setting. The higher the ISO number is, the more ambient light you’ll bring into the background.
- If you have too much or too little blur in the background, adjust the shutter speed (a slower shutter speed for more blur, and a faster shutter speed for less blur).
- Keep adjusting the settings until you find that “sweet spot.” It will be different for each environment, and there’s no single right way to do it. Just have fun with it!
Another fun technique that’s worth trying is light painting (Figure 10.7). For this, you’ll need a dark environment (nighttime is best), your camera on a tripod, and some semi-powerful flashlights or another light source. Shine your flashlight on your subject to light it, and in effect you’ll “paint” the light that will show up on your image. But you don’t have to paint the light on something for it to show up—if it’s dark enough you can stand in front of the camera and move the light source to make shapes or spell something out. A fun item to use for this effect is a sparkler (a type of handheld firework that emits sparkles). Just set your camera up on a tripod outdoors at night and have someone run around the frame holding a sparkler, and you’ll create shapes and streaks that can look really cool. You could also use small flashlights or LED lights. In Figure 10.8, I used a small LED flashlight with a green gel over it to add a different color to the writing.
SETTING UP YOUR CAMERA FOR LIGHT PAINTING
- Place your camera on a tripod in a dark environment, preferably nighttime or a darkened room.
- If your environment is extremely dark, set your camera to the Bulb shooting mode with a large aperture. If you have some ambient light in your scene, set your camera to Av mode and use an aperture that is large enough to capture the light from your light painting but small enough to give you a fairly slow shutter speed—several seconds is usually a good place to start.
- Using a cable release or one of the self-timer drive modes, press the Shutter button. If you are using Bulb mode, you’ll need a cable release in order to hold the shutter open for the duration of your light painting.
- With the shutter open, use a flashlight, a sparkler, or any other type of powerful light source to create your image. The creative possibilities are endless!
There are going to be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The pop-up flash on the D7000 is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night…or just filling in the shadows.
If you are working with one of the automatic scene modes, the flash should automatically activate when needed. If, however, you are working in one of the professional modes you will have to turn the flash on for yourself. To do this, just press the pop-up flash button located on the front of the camera (Figure 8.8). Once the flash is up, it is ready to go. It’s that simple.
The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash in the automatic and scene modes, the camera will typically use a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use Night Portrait mode, which will fire the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light in the scene has time to record in the image.
The real key to using the flash to get great pictures is to control the shutter speed. The goal is to balance the light from the flash with the existing light so that everything in the picture has an even illumination. Let’s take a look at the shutter speeds in the professional modes.
- Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second. The only adjustment you can make in this mode is overexposure or underexposure using the Exposure Compensation setting or Flash Compensation settings.
- Shutter Priority (S): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/200 of a second all the way down to 30 seconds. The lens aperture will adjust accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its smallest aperture.
- Aperture Priority (A): This mode will allow you to adjust the aperture but will adjust the shutter speed between 1/200 and 1/60 of a second in the standard flash mode.
Because the pop-up flash is fairly small, it does not have enough power to illuminate a large space (Figure 8.9). The effective distance varies depending on the ISO setting and aperture. At ISO 200, f/4, the range is about 14 feet. This range can be extended to as far as 20 feet when the camera is set to an ISO of 1600, f/8. For the best image quality, your ISO setting should not go above 1600. Anything higher will begin to introduce excessive noise into your photos. Check out page 147 of your manual for a chart that shows the effective flash range for differing ISO and aperture settings.
The built-in flash uses a technology called TTL (Through The Lens) metering to determine the appropriate amount of flash power to output for a good exposure. When you depress the shutter button, the camera quickly adjusts focus while gathering information from the entire scene to measure the amount of ambient light. As you press the shutter button down completely, the flash uses that exposure information and fires a predetermined amount of light at your subject during the exposure.
The default setting for the flash meter mode is TTL. The meter can be set to Manual mode. In Manual flash mode, you can determine how much power you want coming out of the flash ranging from full power all the way down to 1/128 power. Each setting from full power on down will cut the power by half. This is the equivalent of reducing flash exposure by one stop with each power reduction.
Setting the flash to the Manual power setting
- Press the Menu button and then navigate to the Custom Setting menu.
- Using the Multi-selector, highlight the item labeled E Bracketing/Flash and press the OK button (A).
- Highlight item E3 Flash Cntrl for Built-in Flash and press OK (B).
- Change the setting to Manual (C) and then press the OK button to adjust the desired power—Full, ½, ¼, and so on—and press the OK button (D).
Don’t forget to set it back to TTL when you are done because the camera will hold this setting until you change it.
The Canon 60D records audio by utilizing the microphone located on the front of the camera (FIGURE 9.9). It records monaural sound, meaning the sound is recorded on a single channel. This audio basically gets the job done. It’s not top-notch, but if you are making quick, simple movies and don’t need high-quality sound, then this microphone will work quite well for you.
One huge drawback to using the built-in microphone is that it will pick up operational noises made by your camera. Changing the ISO or manually refocusing your lens during the recording process might not sound loud to your ears, but when you play back the video you’ll hear every click, bump, and swish your camera made during those changes.
If you’re serious about shooting videos and want to ensure that you have the best audio possible to go along with your movies, your best option is to invest in additional audio gear instead of using the built-in microphone (FIGURE 9.10). You can plug in this equipment by using the external microphone IN terminal located on the side of your camera, beneath the Terminal cover. The advantages to using an external microphone and other equipment are that you can record your sound in stereo and you can regain control over the sound recording level. When you have a microphone plugged in, your camera sound will automatically be recorded through that microphone.
TURNING OFF THE SOUND RECORDING
It’s possible, however, that you don’t need to record any audio with your videos. With the 60D you have the option of turning sound recording off so that you are only recording the video. Be sure that you turn the Sound Recording setting back to On when you are finished so you don’t unintentionally record silent movies!
We have covered some of the techniques for shooting in low light, so let’s go through the process of capturing a night or low-light scene for maximum image quality (Figure 8.7). The first thing to consider is that in order to shoot in low light with a low ISO, you will need to use shutter speeds that are longer than you could possibly hand-hold (longer than 1/15 of a second). This will require the use of a tripod or stable surface for you to place your camera on. For maximum quality, the ISO should be low, somewhere below 400. The long exposure noise reduction should be turned on to minimize the effects of exposing for longer durations.
Once you have noise reduction turned on, set your camera to Aperture Priority (A) mode. This way, you can concentrate on the aperture that you believe is most appropriate and let the camera determine the best shutter speed. If it is too dark for the autofocus to function properly, try manually focusing. Finally, consider using a cable release to activate the shutter. If you don’t have one, use either the Self-timer mode or Exposure Delay mode. Once you shoot the image, you may notice some lag time before it is displayed on the rear LCD. This is due to the noise reduction process, which can take anywhere from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds, depending on the length of the exposure.
The basic idea behind the term flash synchronization (flash sync for short) is that when you take a photograph using the flash, the camera needs to ensure that the shutter is fully open at the time that the flash goes off. This is not an issue if you are using a long shutter speed such as 1/15 of a second but does become more critical for fast shutter speeds. To ensure that the flash and shutter are synchronized so that the flash is going off while the shutter is open, the D7000 implements a top sync speed of 1/250 of a second. This means that when you are using the flash, you will not be able to have your shutter speed be any faster than 1/250. If you did use a faster shutter speed, the shutter would actually start closing before the flash fired, which would cause a black area to appear in the frame where the light from the flash was blocked by the shutter.
Is ISO 6400 just not enough for you? Well, in that case, you will need to set your camera to one of the expanded ISO settings. These settings open up another 2 stops of ISO, raising the new limit to 12800. The new settings will not appear in your ISO scale as numbers, but as H 0.3 for 8000, H 0.7 for 10000, H 1 ISO for 12800, and H 2 ISO for 25600.
How to use the higher ISO settings
- Press and hold the ISO button (A). Then rotate the Command dial while observing the control panel. Rotate the dial until you reach the Hi settings, then release the ISO button.
- Select H 0.3, H 0.7, H 1.0, or H 2.0 (B).
A word of warning about the expanded ISO settings: Although it is great to have these high ISO settings available during low-light shooting, they should always be your last resort. Even with the High ISO Noise Reduction turned on, the amount of visible noise will be extremely high. Try to avoid using high ISO whenever you can, but don’t skip an opportunity for a terrific shot because you’re afraid to use a higher ISO. The D7000 does remarkably well at 1600 and below, so experiment a little. Remember, a picture never taken is far worse than one with a little noise! (Figure 8.2).
Let’s begin with the obvious way to keep shooting when the lights get low: raising the ISO (Figure 8.1). By now you know how to change the ISO by using the ISO button and the Command dial. In typical shooting situations, you should keep the ISO in the 100–1000 range. This will keep your pictures nice and clean by keeping the digital noise to a minimum. But as the available light gets low, you might find yourself working in the higher ranges of the ISO scale, which could lead to more noise in your image.
Everyone has a different tolerance for digital noise, so experiment a bit with different ISO settings and see what your limit is. My tolerance depends on my subject. For my landscape photography I have a very low tolerance for digital noise, but for street photography I have been known to let it slide here and there.
Now, you could use a flash and try to avoid bumping up your ISO, but that has a limited range (15 to 20 feet) that might not work for you. Also, you could be in a situation where flash is prohibited, or at least frowned upon, like at a wedding or in a museum.
And what about a tripod in combination with a long shutter speed? That is also an option, and we’ll cover it a little later in the chapter. The problem with using a tripod and a slow shutter speed in low-light photography, though, is that it performs best when subjects aren’t moving. Besides, try to set up a tripod in a museum and see how quickly you grab the attention of the security guards.
So if the only choice to get the shot is to raise the ISO to 1000 or higher, make sure that you turn on the High ISO Noise Reduction feature. This custom menu function is set to Standard by default, but as you start using higher ISO values you should consider changing it to the High setting.
Raising the noise reduction to the High setting slightly increases the processing time for your images, so if you are shooting in continuous mode you might see a little reduction in the speed of your frames per second.
Don’t let digital noise stop you from taking a photo. There are tons of wonderful postproduction software programs that help remove digital noise from your image.
Noise reduction saves space
When shooting at very high ISO settings, running High ISO Noise Reduction at the Normal or High setting can save you space on your memory card. If you are saving your photos as JPEGs, the camera will compress the information in the image to take up less space. When you have excessive noise, you can literally add megabytes to the file size. This is because the camera has to deal with more information: It views the noise in the image as photo information and tries not to lose that information during the compression process. Thus, more noise equals bigger files. So not only will turning on the High ISO Noise Reduction feature improve the look of your image, it will also save you some space so you can take a few more shots.
This section comes with a warning attached. All of the techniques and topics up to this point have been centered on your camera. The following two sections, covering panoramas and high dynamic range (HDR) images, require you to use image-processing software to complete the photograph. They are, however, important enough that you should know how to shoot for success should you choose to explore these two popular techniques.
I’ve never been much for panoramas until I visited the Grand Teton National Park. The Tetons are probably one of my favorite mountain ranges and easily identifiable, but a single frame just doesn’t do them justice. Only a panorama can truly capture a mountain range, cityscape, or any extremely wide vista.
The multiple-image panorama
To shoot a true panorama, you need to use either a special panorama camera that shoots a very wide frame or the following method, which requires the combining of multiple frames.
The multiple-image pano, as photographers often call a panoramic, has gained in popularity in the past few years; this is principally due to advances in image-processing software. Many software options are available now that will take multiple images, align them, and then “stitch” them into a single panoramic image. The real key to shooting a multiple-image pano is to overlap your shots by about 30 percent from one frame to the next (Figures 7.19 and 7.20). It is possible to handhold the camera while capturing your images, but the best method for capturing great panoramic images is to use a tripod.
Now that you have your series of overlapping images, you can import them into your image-processing software to stitch them together and create a single panoramic image.
Sorting your shots for the multi-image panorama
If you shoot more than one series of shots for your panoramas, it can sometimes be difficult to know when one series of images ends and the other begins. Here is a quick tip for separating your images.
Set up your camera using the steps listed here. Now, before you take your first good exposure in the series, hold up one finger in front of the camera and take a shot. Move your hand away and begin taking your overlapping images. When you have taken your last shot, hold two fingers in front of the camera and take another shot.
Now, when you go to review your images, use the series of shots that falls between the frames with one and two fingers in them. Then just repeat the process for your next panorama series.
Shooting properly for a multiple-image panorama
- Mount your camera on your tripod and make sure it is level.
- In Aperture Priority mode, use a very small aperture for the greatest depth of field. Take a meter reading of a bright part of the scene, and make note of it.
- Now change your camera to Manual mode (M), and dial in the aperture and shutter speed that you obtained in the previous step.
- Set your lens to manual focus, and then focus it for the area of interest using the HFD method of finding a point one-third of the way into the scene. (If you use the autofocus, you risk getting different points of focus from image to image, which will make the image stitching more difficult for the software.)
- While carefully panning your camera, shoot your images to cover the entire area of the scene from one end to the other, leaving a 30 percent overlap from one frame to the next. The final step would involve using your favorite imaging software to take all of the photographs and combine them into a single panoramic image.
Shooting high dynamic range (HDR) images
High dynamic range (HDR) can create stunning images by using the full tonal range of an image. Depending upon your preference they can look quite real or very surreal. I have found people either love or hate HDR, but regardless of what side of the fence you are on it is a wonderful way to understand the effects of exposure on an image.
HDR is used quite often in landscape, cityscape, and, believe it or not, interior design images. Typically, when you photograph a scene that has a wide range of tones from shadows to highlights, you have to make a decision regarding which tonal values you are going to emphasize, and then adjust your exposure accordingly. This is because your camera has a limited dynamic range, at least as compared to the human eye. HDR photography allows you to capture multiple exposures for the highlights, shadows, and midtones, and then combine them into a single image using software (Figure 7.21).
A number of software applications allow you to combine the images and then perform a process called “tonemapping,” whereby the complete range of exposures is represented in a single image. I will not be covering the software applications, but I will explore the process of shooting a scene to help you render properly captured images for the HDR process. Note that using a tripod is absolutely necessary for this technique, since you need to have perfect alignment of the images when they are combined.
Setting up for shooting an HDR image
- Set your ISO to 100–200 to ensure clean, noise-free images.
- Set your program mode to Aperture Priority. During the shooting process, you will be taking three shots of the same scene, creating an overexposed image, an underexposed image, and a normal exposure. Since the camera is going to be adjusting the exposure, you want it to make changes to the shutter speed, not the aperture, so that your depth of field is consistent.
- Set your camera file format to RAW. This is extremely important because the RAW format contains a much larger range of exposure values than a JPEG file, and the HDR software needs this information.
- Change your shooting mode to continuous. This will allow you to capture your exposures quickly. Even though you will be using a tripod, there is always a chance that something within your scene will be moving (like clouds or leaves). Shooting in the continuous mode minimizes any subject movement between frames.
- Adjust the Auto Bracketing (BKT) mode to shoot three exposures in two-stop increments. To do this, you will first need to press the BKT button while moving the Command dial to the right.
- Now use the Sub-command dial to adjust the bracketing to 2.0.
- Focus the camera using the manual focus method discussed earlier in the chapter, compose your shot, secure the tripod, and hold down the shutter button until the camera has fired three consecutive times. The result will be one normal exposure, as well as one under- and one overexposed image.
A software program such as Adobe Photoshop, Photomatix Pro, or my favorite, Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro, can now process your exposure-bracketed images into a single HDR file. Remember to turn the BKT function back to Off when you are done or the camera will continue to shoot bracketed images.
Bracketing your exposures
In HDR, bracketing is the process of capturing a series of exposures at different stop intervals. You can bracket your exposures even if you aren’t going to be using HDR. Sometimes this is helpful when you have a tricky lighting situation and you want to ensure that you have just the right exposure to capture the look you’re after. In HDR, you bracket to the plus and minus side of a “normal” exposure, but you can also bracket all of your exposures to the over or under side of normal. It all depends on what you are after. If you aren’t sure whether you are getting enough shadow detail, you can bracket a little toward the overexposed side. The same is true for highlights. You can bracket in increments as small as a third of a stop. This means that you can capture several images with very subtle exposure variances and then decide later which one is best. If you want to bracket just to one side of a normal exposure, set your exposure compensation to +1 or –1, whichever way you need, and the use the bracketing feature to automatically bracket your exposures.
Setting the exposure for video is similar to setting exposure for still photographs, but you will notice a few differences that will only apply when recording movies. One obvious difference is that you can only view your scene in Live View, and the LCD Monitor will display a simulated exposure for what your video will look like during the recording process. There are also some limitations on shutter speed and exposure—keep on reading to learn more about them.
AUTOEXPOSURE VS. MANUAL EXPOSURE
When shooting movies on the 60D, you have two options for exposure: Auto and Manual. When shooting in Auto, the camera determines all exposure settings (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), whereas with Manual, you have control over these settings just as you would when shooting still images. Auto is a simple setting to use if you want to get a quick video and don’t have the time to change the settings manually. However, with autoexposure you have limited control, and if you want to take full advantage of your DSLR and lenses when shooting video, you’ll probably want to give the Manual mode a try.
The Manual mode for video functions in the same way as it does for still photography: You pick the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You can even change your settings while you are recording (although the microphone might pick up camera noises— read more about audio later in this chapter). I prefer to use the Manual mode when shooting video because I like to have control over all of my settings, and I also like to use the largest aperture possible to decrease the depth of field in the scene.
One important thing to note when shooting video is that you have some shutter speed limitations, depending on your frames-per-second setting. The slowest shutter speed when shooting with a frame rate of 50 or 60 fps is 1/60 of a second, and for 24, 25, or 30 fps, you can go down to 1/30 of a second. You can’t go any faster than 1/4000 of a second, but it’s recommended that you keep your shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/125 of a second, especially when photographing a moving subject. The slower your shutter speed is, the smoother and less choppy the movement in your video will be.
CHANGING THE MOVIE EXPOSURE SETTING
- Set the camera to video mode using the Mode dial on the top of the camera.
- Press the Menu button and use the Main dial to get to the first menu tab, and then select the Movie Exposure option at the top (A). Press the Set button.
- Make your selection (Auto or Manual), and then press the Set button once again to lock in your changes (B).
WHITE BALANCE AND PICTURE STYLES
When shooting video, you want to be sure to get the white balance right. Remember the difference between RAW and JPEG. Well, think of a video file as a JPEG. If you were to edit the video file on your computer, it would be difficult to change the white balance without damaging the pixels, and if the white balance is completely off, you might not even be able to salvage the video’s original colors.
What’s neat about shooting video is that you can see what the video quality will be like before you start recording. This means that you can set the white balance and see it changing right in front of you
Picture styles are also a very useful tool when shooting video. They work the same way as with still photography and you can preview your scene with the changes while in the video Live View mode. Just remember that once you record in one of these settings, you can’t change this quality of the video. For example, when using the Monochrome (black and white) picture style, once you’ve recorded a movie, there is no way to go back and retrieve the color information.