Kevin Giannini Photography: Blog en-us (C) Kevin Giannini Photography (Kevin Giannini Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:27:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:27:00 GMT Kevin Giannini Photography: Blog 120 90 How to Shoot Longer Exposures During Daylight What do you think of shots of waterfalls, or of water in the ocean where it appears to be very soft,  out of focus and smooth?  Some people love them, a some people hate them and think they're over-used.   I'm somewhere in the middle but to me there's no denying that they can be more interesting when used for the proper shot.  Sometimes the silky smooth appearance of moving water against the contrasting sharp elements of other objects in the photo can be interesting.  Here is how I accomplish this.


ISO 100 f/20 1/4 second shutter speed

ISO 100 f/20 1/4 second shutter speed

First, since you are going to be using a longer exposure, generally anywhere from 1/2 second to 30 seconds, you'll need a sturdy tripod.  But how do you shoot at such a long exposure in daylight, without overexposing the image?  There are a few thing you can do to force a longer exposure or shutter speed. First you must take your camera out of AUTO Mode.  AUTO mode chooses the camera's setting automatically for you.  You must instead choose one of the "Creative" modes - I use Aperture Priority but I sometimes use Manual as well.   Next I choose the lowest setting for ISO for my camera.  This is ISO 100 for the Canon line.  ISO is the "sensitivity" for the camera's sensor, similar to what ASA was for film.  The higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor will be to light and the lower light you can shoot in.  So, the LOWER the ISO number, the less sensitive the sensor will be to light, and the longer the shutter speed will be.  Of course, this will not be nearly enough.  Next, you should choose a smaller aperture for the lens you're using.  I usually start out with f/16 or f/18.  A smaller aperture will limit the light reaching the sensor, and force a longer shutter speed.  In very low light, such as pre-dawn or at sunset, this "may" be enough to slow your shutter speed to 1/2 second and get the effect your looking for.  But what if it's not?  In this case, you can use a Neutral Density filter to screw onto your lens.  This filter limits the amount of light reaching the sensor.  They come in varying degrees of "darkness"  or "stops".  "Stops" refers to f-stops or aperture settings for your camera.  If you buy a 4 stop neutral density filter, this means you will either need to manually select an f-stop that is four stops wider (lets in more light) or choose a slower shutter speed by four stops, in order to properly expose you image.  Obviously you're interested in using a slower shutter speed in this case.   BTW, if you buy a neutral density filter, they come in many brands - I have Hoya filters, but make sure you buy a decent one, and one that will FIT your lens - they come in different diameters.  They just screw on your lens.

ISO 100  f/18  15 second shutter speed

ISO 100 f/18 15 second shutter speed


When shooting a longer exposure on your camera, it's important to avoid ANY camera shake or movement during the exposure.  That's why it's necessary to have a decently sturdy tripod, but also you need to avoid any shake that can occur merely by pressing the shutter button!  To avoid this, you can use a remote shutter trigger attached to your camera, or what I do is set my camera to trigger the shutter 2 seconds (or 10seconds) after I press the shutter.   I think 2 seconds is adequate to give the camera time to "settle" before the exposure is taken.  One other point - if the lens you are using has "Image Stabilization" or "Vibration Reduction", turn it OFF.  I find that keeping it ON when using the shutter timer, or when using longer exposures,  can sometimes result in less than sharp images due to the nature of the Vibration Reduction.  It's really not needed since you are on a sturdy tripod, right?

To sum up, what I generally do is shoot in Aperture Priority, set ISO to its lowest setting, choose a fairly small aperture (f/16 or f/18) and if I'm in daylight, attach my filter.  I then put my camera in "live" mode - this mode displays the image in the display on the back of the camera in real time, and will display how the image will look when taken.  If it appears too dark, I'll open up the aperture a little (choose f/11) and see if it lightens the picture.  If too dark, I'll choose a smaller aperture.  I also want to see what shutter speed the camera is using - in aperture priority, this is the only setting that affects exposure that the camera will choose.  For a waterfall, which involves fast moving water, a shutter of 1/2 second may be sufficient to get the effect you're looking for.  For a standing body of water, or for waves, you may want to experiment with 30 second exposures.  The bottom line is to set, shoot and review and see if you're getting the image that you want!  Let me know if this has been helpful, or if there is something you may like added!  


Here are a few more examples of longer shutter speeds and the effects you can get with them,,,

Pre-Sunrise, Fort Fisher, NCPre-Sunrise, Fort Fisher, NC ISO 100 f/8 Shutter 30 seconds


ISO 100 f/6.3 Shutter 2.5 seconds

Bridge along the canal in Lambertville, NJBridge along the canal in Lambertville, NJ ISO 100 f/11 Shutter 25 seconds

(Kevin Giannini Photography) Tue, 07 May 2019 19:55:22 GMT
How to Become a Better Photographer INSTANTLY! This is perhaps the fastest and most logical step to take in order to be viewed by others as a better photographer.  And yet,  it may not be the easiest thing to do.  What is it?  Show only your very best photos to others - perhaps your top 5% of what you consider your best photos.  Really!


If you go out one morning to shoot landscapes and come back with 100 photos, only show or post 4 or 5 of those photos.  The other 95 photos will either not be up to the standards of your top 5%, or they will be redundant.  And yet  sometimes this is not the easiest thing for us to do.  It's certainly not for me.  Most of us have some sort of emotional attachment to the photos we take.  After all, we went through an effort to take them, we got up early, packed our equipment, saw how beautiful the scenery was in real life,  but that doesn't necessarily mean we have successfully translated all of this to an image where others may feel the same way.   That's why even though this may be the fastest way to be seen as an improved photographer, it's not always the easiest thing to do - to self-edit.


How do you start self-editing?  First, get rid of (or never show) those photos which are unintentionally out of focus or have some serious flaw.  Unless you've captured a photo of Bigfoot in the Northwoods, no one wants to see a blurry photo.  Get rid of all the extremely under or over exposed images.  My friend once posted 20 pictures to Facebook of the beautiful fireworks he saw the night before, and wanted to share this beauty.  What did he post?  Twenty DARK photos with what looked like a single pin light in the distance.  No color to them.  He even said in the post that they didn't come out, but, oh well.  He was really determined to post them.  He REALLY did this.


Second, don't show or post redundant photos.  A beautiful landscape is really not that much different from one taken 4 inches to the left or to the right.  The same applies to people photos.  Why show a photo of Uncle Joe holding a beer in his right hand, and another exact shot of him holding a beer in his left hand?    Why have your audience fall asleep or feign death flipping through 20 images that look the same?


Third, and this applies mainly to posting photos on social media, even if you have what you consider a lot of great photos, LIMIT the number you post at any given time to a really small number. Maybe 5 or so.  Another friend of mine routinely posts albums of 200-500 photos at a time to FB.  I can almost guarantee that very few people will get through the first 10 photos, if that, no matter how good they are.  If you look at some of the sites of pro photographers and view their portfolios, they RARELY have more than 10 photos to show in any one gallery.    Why not post 5 of your TOP photos that people may actually view and appreciate?     


One thing that's interesting is that as you develop as a photographer, you may go back to what you considered your best images from a year ago, and say, "How did I ever think this was so good?  I see so many things wrong."  This is a GOOD thing.  It means you are becoming more self-critical and your standards have been raised for your work!  I sometimes go back into photo albums from when I shot film (with a point and shoot) and I'm horrified.  Since I PAID for every shot printed, I put EVERY shot in the album (Even if was 20 DARK pictures of fireworks!). 


(Kevin Giannini Photography) Mon, 06 May 2019 18:35:09 GMT
Simple Composite using Photoshop Elements Here is how I combine 2 or more images into a single "composite".  I usually work with two images at a time in Photoshop Elements - combine them into one, and then I combine that image with a third, fourth etc.  This way I only have 2 layers at a time.  To keep it simple, we'll only work with two images here that we'll combine.  Here they are


The images should be exposed similarly to make the images match.  So, check the shutter speed, aperture and if you use auto ISO, check that.  If they vary and one image is brighter or darker than the other, adjust the exposure of one to compensate.  I do this in Lightroom but you can do it in Elements if you open your images directly there.  I then bring my images into Elements.  Here is how they look:

You can see that both images are here but they are not both shown as layers.  Only one image is shown in the "layer" section in the top right hand portion of Elements.  So, you want to bring the other image in as a layer.  To do this, open up the photo bin in the lower left.  Both images will show.  Hold your mouse over the image that IS NOT shown in the layers palette in the top right, hold the mouse down and drag the image on top of the large image shown,.

You can see now that in the layers palette in the top right, there are now two layers, each representing each image.  Now you need to see both images on the screen at the same time, and manually align them how you would like them.  Reduce the opacity of the top layer to about 50% to partially reveal the layer underneath.  The opacity control is in the top-right area of the layers box.

Here is how the two layers/images look when seeing them both.  Now, you have to move the top image to align with the bottom, or to where you want to align the element you want to combine.  In this case, I'll align the pole the kingfisher is landing on.  Use the MOVE tool.

So, right now, the top layer contains the image of the kingfisher on top of the pole, and the bottom layer contains the image of the kingfisher in flight.  You want to REVEAL the kingfisher in flight and combine it with the top layer.  To do this, you need to create a layer mask, and "brush in" the kingfisher to reveal it.  There are multiple ways to create the mask, and it depends if you' want to Show the top layer and  "reveal" the layer underneath, (by painting with a white brush) or Show the bottom layer and reveal parts of the Top layer (by painting with a black brush).  In this case, I want to Show the Top layer and reveal the layer underneath by using a White brush, and I want to create the mask this way:  Hold down the OPTION key on a Mac as you click the Add Layer Mask button above the layers palette.  This will create a default BLACK mask, not a WHITE mask.  Here is what the layers palette looks like after:

You can see now that only the Top Layer is displayed.  That's because we created a layer mask with Black, to hide the lower layer.  That means you want to paint with a White brush to REVEAL what you want to reveal in the lower layer - the Kingfisher.  Choose the Brush tool and make sure you're painting with a white brush.  Paint over where the kingfisher is in the lower image.  You can find out by de-activating  the top layer temporarily.

Here you can see I've started to paint in and reveal the kingfisher underneath.  You may want to change the opacity in your layers palette back to 100% to reveal it completely.  Here is the entire kingfisher painted in:

As you can see, there is a slight "halo" around the bird where the brush revealed more than the bird, and the exposure of the water was a little darker on the lower layer.

To fix this, change the brush from a White Brush to a Black Brush (to hide).  You can do this by hitting the "X" key, which switches the brush tool from Black to White or Vice versa.  Now carefully paint away the dark halo around the bird.  If you go too far and paint away some of the bird, switch the brush back to White and paint the bird back in again.


At this point, you can then flatten the image and crop or do any further processing.  If you are combining more images, you can do them now but I wouldn't crop until everything is done - you should really work with the same size images until done.  Of course you can do all layers at once (and I usually do bring in all the photos I'm going to work with ) and make them layers, but I usually only combine, then flatten, one layer at a time.  Let me know if any of this is unclear, okay?


(Kevin Giannini Photography) Fri, 26 Apr 2019 18:31:12 GMT
How I Capture Birds in Flight (BIF) First,  let me say that I am far from an expert on this genre of photography.  But since I first started concentrating on capturing bird images and birds in flight, my interest has grown steadily and I believe my images have improved.   So, the following describes some of the settings and techniques that I use to maximize the "keepers" that I get.  Keep in mind that other people may be successful using slightly different techniques, but if you've never done this before, this should help you to get started.  Feel free to check out some of my other images of various birds, some in flight!

Black Skimmer with MealBlack Skimmer with MealFlying back to feed its young

I am going to assume that most reading this will realize that you will need a DSLR for capturing these images, a point and shoot is just too slow in focus for capturing fast moving objects, at least with any regularity.  So the following are the equipment, settings and techniques that I currently use for most my outings.

Ibis in flightIn the early morning sun

Equipment:  I use a Canon 7D, which is a cropped sensor camera.  My current longest lens is the Canon 300 f/4 IS prime lens which is very sharp.  I sometimes use a Canon 1.4 TC, depending on the light, and how close (or far) I think I may be able to get to the subjects.  BIF is one type of photography where a full framed DSLR is not necessarily an advantage.  With a cropped sensor camera, you are actually getting MORE pixels on the bird since you can take advantage of the "reach" due to the 1.6 focal length factor.

Juvenile Black SkimmerHunting for food

Settings:  I almost always use Aperture Priority when shooting flying birds.  I generally set my aperture maybe one stop above it's maximum (f/5.6 on my f/4 lens) but it can vary depending on the light, and also how big/small the bird is and how much of it I want in focus.  Generally I want all of the bird in focus, but that's not always possible, especially for birds with very large wing spans.  I will then adjust the ISO so that I will get a shutter speed of AT LEAST 1/1600 of a second.  I prefer to shoot above 1/2000.  So as you can see, good light is essential,  especially if you don't want to increase your ISO too much and introduce noise.

As far as metering goes, I usually set my camera to use Evaluative metering, which is the general all-purpose metering mode.  Depending on light, and the color of the bird and background, it is often necessary to apply either negative or positive exposure compensation to your settings!  Your camera's meter is designed to want to expose your images to 18% grey, which is great for an all purpose scene with some area in the foreground being dark and some area in the sky being bright, and some areas being just right.  The meter works great for most "average" scenes.   But have you ever noticed that when many people take pictures after a recent snowstorm, the snow looks very grey and dingy?  That's because the scene is mostly bright, and the camera is fooled into thinking that it's just an average scene.  So what the meter does is it compensates for this very bright scene by UNDEREXPOSING the picture!  This is why it's imperative to manually apply POSITIVE exposure compensation for a scene like this.  It seems counter-intuitive to apply +EV to a brightly lit scene, and -EV to a darkly lit scene, but you must manually compensate for the shortcomings of your meter!

Applying positive and negative EV for bird pictures (or any pictures) is also important.  As an example, if you are shooting a flying black vulture against a very bright blue or white-ish sky and don't apply any exposure compensation, you will basically end up with a dark bird with no detail.  You must apply positive exposure compensation in order to better expose the bird.  

I am also going to experiment with Spot metering this week, to see how exposing strictly for the subject (bird) affects the outcome and if the exposures are better than guessing and experimenting how much exposure compensation to apply.  Checking and making adjustments as you go along are critical!  

Pigeon with straw in mouthBuilding a nest Most newer DSLRs have most of the following settings available which are helpful when trying to track and shoot a moving object like a bird.  The following settings are particular to Canon, but there are corresponding settings for Nikon and other cameras: 

Focus Method - I always use AI Servo focus (rather than one-shot focus), which allows the camera to constantly focus.  This is helpful with moving subjects like birds, but is also used in sports.

Focus Area - I have greater success using the "Center Point Expanded" focus area.  This means the camera will gain focus using the center focus point, but will RETAIN focus if the subject leaves the center focus point and falls to a point surrounding the center point.  Other Focus areas that I sometimes use (especially against an uncluttered sky) are Zone focus, which divides the focus screen into Zones and tracks subjects.  The disadvantage I find is that the camera decides which focus point to use within the particular zone.  This is usually not an issue when a bird is the only object in an otherwise uncluttered sky.  I find when shooting a bird against a wooded background or one with other objects, it's better if I can choose where the focus happens.  It's hard enough to attain focus in these conditions without having the camera decide to focus on a tree limb!  

Advanced Settings -  Within the menu settings for the Canon are other tracking/focusing options that may be helpful depending on what you are shooting.  Many of these settings I have played with and changed to see what I prefer - you should too.  The one setting I think may be more important than some of the others, is the fAI Servo Tracking Sensitivity.  Others can be left at their default, unless you have a compelling reason/need to change.  I have changed some, but I wouldn't necessarily suggest doing this immediately when starting out.  

AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity - There are 5 settings ranging from Slow to Fast - I have this set on Slow.  It really controls how sensitive the focus will be to another object entering the scene once you have already attained focus.  If you've attained focus on a bird and are panning on it and a tree limb comes between you and the bird, the camera will be more likely to get focus on the tree limb with this setting on Fast.

Two Ibis in flightAt Fort Fisher, NC

Techniques:  The Canon 300mm f/4 IS lens is really not all that big to handhold, so for capturing birds I rarely use a tripod with the 7D and this lens combo.  Many times when capturing images of birds, I do so while on a nature walk and am not actually staking out a particular site.  So, for my needs, handholding is best.  I also prefer to be between the subject and the sun. Of course this is not always possible but It's very important to get good light on the bird, especially the head and the eye.  Things like head angle and wing position also matter, but a lot of that is determined when editing through your many captures and deciding which shot is better than another.  In other words, don't hesitate to shoot a flying bird just because it's head angle is a few degrees from optimal!  

One last technique that I use is something called "Back Button Focus".  Most DSLRs have the ability to re-assign buttons to other functions or to custom functions.  I and many other people who shoot BIF have elected to remove the focus function from the button that controls the shutter and meter and  assign it to a button on the back of the camera to be controlled with the thumb.   There are some photographers who don't find a real advantage in doing this, but I can say  that my "keeper" rate for in-focus shots for birds has improved with this technique.  I also like the fact that the focusing is not tied into the metering.  I can constant focus and re-focus using the back button, and only meter and activate the shutter when pressing the shutter button.  One big disadvantage of doing this that when you turn your camera over to a friend to take a picture of you in your surroundings is that you will always be OOF, because you will forget to tell your friend that the shutter button no longer controls the focus!  

Please let me know if this post was at all helpful, or if you have any questions or comments!                                                                                                                                               

Great Blue HeronTake off at Greenfield Lake, NC

(Kevin Giannini Photography) bird birds flight Sat, 21 Sep 2013 17:25:26 GMT