Monday, June 8, 2009

Available Light

Summer is travel season, and, if you travel, you most certainly will see a photo like this in one of those brochures in your hotel.

Have you ever wondered how something like this was done? Here's a few pointers on getting this type of shot.

Use a Tripod
Traveling with a tripod is getting more difficult. With weight restrictions and the large size of a tripod you may be dissuaded. Have a look at the Gorillapod by Joby or other light weight tripods. They are really worth the effort for getting in the group shot as well.

Shoot at a Low Angle
For this type of shot, set your tripod down low to add a bit of interest. Most of the time we see things at eye level, so photographs from this height won't really be all *that* special. Lowering the tripod can add a surreal effect, as if the viewer were a small child looking up.

Use the Self Timer
Pressing the shutter button can start the camera vibrating and make the shot look blurry even though its focused. If you're using a full size tripod and a heavier DSLR, this isn't so much of a concern. With smaller "Point and Shoot" cameras on a light-weight tripod, you should definitely use the self timer to trigger the shutter.

Check the White Balance
Your photos may have a yellow or blue cast if the white balance is set wrong. Most outdoor lighting is either tungsten, mercury vapor or sodium vapor. Your camera has a setting for tungsten, but not the other two. Experiment a bit to get the color cast you like.

Play with the exposure
Use the +/- function to over/under expose the shot for different effects. Often times, the default metering won't produce the desired effect. Try over exposing by one stop (+1) to see what happens.

Now that you have the basic tools. Go out and give it a try. Practice makes perfect. Don't wait for the vacation to experiment with your camera settings. Now is as good a time as any. Try these in your own backyard and see what you come up with. Enjoy!

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