Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking best photos at the Top of the World- 124th floor at Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Currently, Burj Khalifa in Dubai holds the world record of the tallest structure or building in the world. There is always a long line of visitors who pay from $30 to $100 to go on the 124/125th or 148th floor of it. Naturally, every visitor of the world famous building tries to take some photos. Most of the time, the photos do not come out well. The reason is the high dynamic range. In Dubai's desert like condition, outside is mostly very bright compared to inside the observation gallery.
If you take a photo in an Auto mode, the face will be too dark so your friends would not be sure if that person is you or someone else. Or if your camera decided to expose your face properly or used Flash, it is very likely that you will look great in the photo but the background will wash out! Your friends wouldn't know if you are on the top of the world or looking the window of your office building LOL.
Photo 1: Exposed for the face will wash out the background.

Photo 2: If you want to expose for the background, the face will be too dark.

So what is the trick to take nice photos at this Top of the World?
Trick#1. Use Trial and Error. Take few photos in landscape modes and in Auto mode. Now turn on the Flash and take a photo first in Auto mode, then in Program mode and then one in Landscape mode. It is possible, one of the photos will come out good.

Trick#2. If you want to take a great photo in such situations where you want to capture background as well as subject nicely, here is my trick.

Take a photo in landscape mode of only the background.
Burj Kahlifa
 You can see that the photo came out nice! Now I read the 3 important numbers that the Camera had used. The shutter speed was 1/640 second, aperture was f/4 and ISO was 100. Bingo!
I changed the camera mode to Manual mode. Set shutter speed, aperture and ISO to these values! Had my family sit in front of the glass and I took a new photo with Flash. As I turned on the flash, there was enough light to brighten my family! The shutter-speed of 1/640 second, aperture of 4 and ISO of 100 was enough to bring in the background!

 What do you say? With some trick, I was able to take a nice photo at the Top of the World, 125 th floor of #BurjKhalifa !

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How to turn okay outdoor photos in the Sun to nice photos? It is easy. Just use Exposure Compensation or meter it on the dark object!

How to turn okay outdoor photos in the Sun to nice photos? It is easy. Just use Exposure Compensation or meter it on the dark object!

Here is the original photo:
Photo in Auto mode

As the photo was too dark in the Auto mode, I used Exposure Compensation and set it to +1.5
Here are new photos! 

New photos with Exposure Compensation of +1.5

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Focusing on smartphones!

When you are taking photos with a smartphone or a camera, it is important to focus properly. Luckily, these days, focus is built into most cameras, if not all, and it is very easy to use. On most cameras, you press the shutter release button half way to tell the camera to focus.If you are using a smartphone camera to focus, just touch the area of the photo on the screen to tell most cameras where to focus. 
Proper focusing can make your photo look great. 
Here are two photos that I took with a Samsung Note 4 camera. I wanted to focus on the flowers closer to my phone camera.

I didn't like blurry flowers in the center of my capture. Also, I wanted to highlight these flowers in the center and have the tree in the background- a bit blurred.
Here is a photo I took by tapping on the flowers.

As I keep telling on this blog, most smartphone cameras or real cameras are smart but often times they act dumb ;) If you don't like the photo that is taken by the camera, help your phone or camera a bit. Tell it what you are looking for and it will give you a better photos. Photography is so simple these days with Trial and Error way!! Take a photo, if it does not come out well, tell your camera by pressing a button or two and you will be able to take a much better photo.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Sun can make or break your photos! Use it to your advantage!

Some parents and I were taking photos of kids in my son's school on Super Hero day. We wanted to
capture kids wearing super hero clothes. To get better light on the face, the natural instinct was to have kids face the Sun. However the morning Sun was coming in the eyes and kids were barely able to keep eyes open. See the first photo below. One could barely recognize any kids. It was a disaster.

To get better photos, I asked kids to keep the sun on the back so they can keep the eyes open. However, as there was significant back light, I knew the photo will be very dark. So I quickly changed Exposure Value compensation on my Samsung Note 4 phone. As the bell had rang, kids were rushing to get back into the close so I didn't have lot of time to fine tune exposure. I just move it to some positive value and took the shot. As you can see below, the photo came much better. YOu can see kids and their super hero t shirts better. It is not a perfect photo but it would work to share with other parents and save the photo for memory

Isn't Trial and Error photography easy and effective?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A beginner photographer- how much money should you spend on a tripod?

It all depends. If you are a beginner photographer, I am going to assume that you have got an entry level DSLR camera and a kit lens for few hundred bucks. On that assumption, I am going to give  you some practical advice.  It does not make sense to spend a hundred or so dollars on tripod in my opinion and that money can be well spent on some lens to improve quality of your images.
The real question is where and how do you want to use a tripod. How serious are you about photography. I have bought and used 10 plus DSLRs so far- from mirrorless to full frame. I am not a professional photographer. I shoot for fun and I think I am a  serious enthusiast. I started with a cheap $30 tripod (I have a good quality Vanguard tripod with ball head for last 6 months but I have not yet used it!). The fact is I rarely carry a tripod with me. I use tripod in very limited situations. For indoor photos of family, gatherings, events, a tripod is not that useful as most people move within 1/50th of a second. Shooting slower than that, even on a tripod, will give you blurry photos most of the time. Plus for events and gatherings, unless you are hired to shoot, carrying a tripod is a bit of overkill IMO. Now for outdoor or travel photos, most of the time, the light is enough so you do not need slow shutter speed and hence a tripod is not needed.
When and where I use a tripod. I use a tripod when I am shooting sunset or in low light WHEN subject is not really moving much. (In this kind of situations too, I am generally able to find a place or a thing to put my camera on to keep it steady. However it is a compromise and you have to sacrifice angle/level etc but it does come handy when I don't have a tripod with me). I use tripod when I am shooting stars in a dark night, or when I want to capture silky look in moving water or a waterfall. Or sometimes, I want to take photos of myself, or a group with myself included, and in that case, with a remote control/timer, I would put my camera on a tripod. There may be few more instances but a cheap tripod has worked for me, for quite a few years.
Now coming to the main question: how much should you spend on a tripod. A cheap tripod works fine in indoor use. It works fine outdoor too but when it gets windy, you would need a good tripod. A cheap tripod also gets you shake when you use the shutter release. To overcome that, you can use 10 seconds timer so that shake is less of a problem. In case of wind, you might need to take 5-10 photos to get one usable photo with a cheap tripod but it can work.

Here, I am not trying to say the expensive tripods are useless or bad. If you can spare 100 bucks, you can get a decent tripod- new or on Craigslist/eBay. If you don't want to spend that kind of money, you can probably live with a $30 tripod. After some time, if you see a need, you can upgrade. Expensive tripods are great (I love how my new Vanguard feels!) but they are expensive, they are bulky to carry and may not suit well for many beginner photographers. If you are into family/people photography, you can buy a Canon or Nikon 50mm F1.8 lens with the money saved on a tripod and that will give you better ROI IMO.