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Thread: DSLR Photography

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    Default DSLR Photography

    Hello, many of you know I purchased a new DSLR early in 2010. I got a Sony a380 with two lenses, 18-55mm and a 75-300mm lens. I consider myself a complete noob to photography.

    The purpose of this thread is to post pictures I have taken of my trains or 1:1 trains and ask for critisizm and critique. I plan on explaining, in my own words, what I discover as I go. Please believe me when I say I am new to photography, I am NEW to photography! Be Gentle!


    I just recently got out of auto mode. It took almost two years to become familiar with my camera and I have only recently figured out that I cannot screw something up so bad that it cannot be corrected by simply returning to factory settings.

    I encourage anyone who wants to comment on any picture or comments I make. I want to discuss how we, as modelors, can take better pictures of our trains! Please also remember that a perfect picture is subjective. What I consider to be a perfect shot, you may not. I just know what I like to see in pictures of trains so that is my goal.

    I know that most of the photography sites I visit tell you that the first thing one needs to learn is the exposure triangle.....uhhhhhh, yeah. Right. The exposure triangle is explained, in professional terms, here: http://www.digital-photography-schoo...al-photography

    I am not gonna lie. I don't completely understand it. What I DO understand is I want to take excellent pictures of my trains (and other stuff) with my camera.

    The first thing that I decided I wanted to learn about was Depth of field. Depth of field, in my words, is the depth of the photograph that is in focus. I cannot STAND to see pictures of my trains that the locomotive is in focus and everything else is not. I want the entire picture in focus. To me it just looks more real. So, The setting I started playing with first was Aperture. This is what controls depth of field. The larger the aperture, the larger depth of field. I decided to take several shots at different settings. It is a pain to take, download to computer, upload to photobucket and then post here but I am going to do this because I want everyone to see the difference in the pictures taken. You pros don't look for all the EXIF data on here because I ain't that learned yet! But I will post the F setting for each picture so hopefully it will give a good basic understanding of what the function does on your camera. I also understand that lighting, motion and probably a billion other things will have an affect on the picture being taken. This is only meant as a tutorial/learning excersize.

    I am learning a lot as I go along and I hope you will learn with me and teach me.

    The following series of pictures were taken in my train room, under flourescent lighting, no flash, with the camera in Aperture priority mode. There were 18 in all. I am only including a sampling of them to show the difference in the settings. I placed the camera directly on my tracks to get down to "eye level" Or at least as close as my camera will allow. If you want to see the entire series, click here: http://s1189.photobucket.com/albums/...epth of field/ I think I accidentally loaded them in reverse order so start with the one labeled Depthoffield 001.jpeg and work backwards.


    The first picture was taken at F4.5 which means the apreture did not open for very long. 1/20th of a second.



    As you can see, the CSX boxcar, the front of the gondola, the covered hopper, the switch on the second track from the right, the caboose ground throw and part of the orange tree are in focus. This area is about 12-14 inches in front of the camera.

    This shot is at F6.3



    You can begin to see the area of focus growing, It is expanding not only away from me but the area closer to the camera is coming in to focus also.

    The next one was taken at f9 and the shutter was open for 1/5th of a second. The time the shutter is open is getting longer, allowing more light in the camera and the camera to focus on a larger area.



    Again, see how the area of focus continues to expand.

    Next was at f13 and the shutter was open for 1/2 of a second:



    If you look at the green boxcar in about the middle of the screen, you can begin to tell that the door is open. In prior pictures, I couldn't even tell the car HAS a door much less that it is open.

    Next is f18 and the shutter was open for .8 of a second or 4/5's of a second:



    The boxcar door is more clear and the background trees are in focus. Even the background painting is becoming clear.

    Next is f25, and the highest f setting my camera would allow at this focal length, the shutter was open for 2 seconds:



    As you can see, the entire photo is in focus. This, to ME, is a good photograph. I like everything in focus.

    Now, what are the drawbacks? Well, the more that is on focus the more you can see your own mistakes and areas for improvement. Like all of the red and yellow foam that has fallen off my trees on the right, the track that has been weathered at different colors, all the nail heads sticking up, and not in this picture but it shows every little detail, cobwebs, dust specks, junk laying around and what have you.

    For you pros, bear with me. I may not be approaching things the way it should be approached but it is the way I see fit.

    So, lessons learned for me so far are:

    1. Higher aperture= larger depth of field.
    2. The higher the aperture setting the more critical it is to have a stable camera, either tripod mounted or sitting on a solid surface. If the shutter is going to be open for two seconds, my shaky hands cannot and will not produce a crisp shot. Photo number 16 in my album is proof. Look close it is blurry. I had the camera sitting on the table and barely moved the camera when depressing the shutter button and that is what happened.
    3. Good lighting is critical! I do not have good lighting. I want to work on that aspect next.

    After we discuss this for a bit and kick things around I will be doing a segment on lighting. Both camera settings and external lighting.

    I hope you have enjoyed so far and we can learn something together!

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

    For now, innocent bystander and occasional commentator

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    1. I'm not familiar with Sony's glass but I try not too go past f/22 with my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 as images start ending up a little on the soft side for my liking(I print pretty big so need sharp images).
    2. Tripods are handy - even a tiny bean bag will do for sitting your camera on. The other option is to increase your iso.
    3. Fluorescent lights can be really painful and give colour casts to your images. Shoot in the Raw format and you can correct easy enough in post-processing. http://www.diyphotography.net/ has a lot of ideas you can make/use to help light on the cheap. I have heard of people using baking paper to diffuse the fluorescent lights and take out some of the harshness.

    As for your images, I like the one at f/18 and if you compare that to the f/25 you'll see that a lot of colour is being washed out of the image. If you are shooting in manual mode, don't be afraid to under-expose by a stop or two.

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    Hi Drec, thanks for your response!

    I like the idea of using a small beanbag for a stand, neat idea.

    I should have mentioned in my OP that As for now I will not be enhancing any photographs or touching them up in any way. The number one reason is, I have no idea how to do that.

    I see what you mean about the color starting to wash out. I see that everything will be a sacrifice it appears. The largest contrast to me, is in the tree. The f25 is not as bright as the f18 shot. Thanks for pointing that out.

    For this session I shot only in Aperture priority mode but I will experiment further with manual mode and change the ISO to see what it does for me.

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

    For now, innocent bystander and occasional commentator

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    An inexpensive cable release will allow you to trigger your camera without pushing down on the button and smearing the image.

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    very interesting, especially from someone still stuck on "auto"

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    Interesting development. I went today to see about picking up a remote trigger. My camera is not equipped to accept it! Grrrr! As much as I paid for this thing, I guess they had to sacrifice something to get the 14.2 megapixels in.

    Anyway, I think I will do the same setup and adjust the ISO settings a bit to see what it does.

    Back to the trainroom batman!

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

    For now, innocent bystander and occasional commentator

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    Moving right along. Second set of pictures. These were all taken at f22 (Upon drec's reccomendation, which I do like by the way). They were taken during the same conditions as before, lighting etc. I used a tripod. I have learned that ISO is basically the sensitivity of the image sensor. I do not completely understand this yet. But I did learn that What I will probably do is choose Auto ISO initially, look at the picture and see if I think it should be lighter or darker and adjust from there. One of the great things about digital photography is it really costs nothing to experiment.

    The first shot was taken on AUTO, I let the camera choose every setting it chose f4.5 and ISO 400:





    The next picture was taken at ISO 100, the lowest ISO setting:



    Next us is ISO 200:



    Next ISO 800:



    ISO 1600:



    ISO 3200:




    So, what I see from this so far is the higher the ISO setting the lighter the picture gets. I think the camera made a good choice. I see that I could ahve taken multiple shots. In the prior set I used all of the F settings available for that focal length. If I had taken an ISO picture for each one I would ahve wound up with 108 pictures. So, Having found an aperture setting that I like now (f22) I will try and base most pictures offof that setting for my little experiment.

    From this point forward, I will use an auto ISO setting, look at the picture and see if I want to adjust from there.

    I realize I may be approaching this from the wrong direction to someone who is well versed in DSLR photography, but having no experience to go off of, I guess it'll just have to do!

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

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    As your ISO goes up the quality of your files will actually go down. When you enlarge them they will have more "noise" particularly in the dark areas. Your best quality will come from a lower ISO, small F-stops such as F-22 and longer exposure times. Basically for every F-stop smaller your exposure will double. I would recommend an ISO of 100 to 400. On another note, while on a tripod be sure to turn off any image stabilization your lens or camera may have. When this is on it will look for movement and actually blur your photo. Keep experimenting with your equipment and have fun!
    Richard D. Shell
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    www.shellscale.com

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    Very good information Richard! Thanks for the tip! I will turn off image stabilization and see where that puts me.

    I think the next thing I will experiment with is the lighting settings, flash, fill flash, fluorescent vs incandescent and etc.

    I read somewhere that I need to "tell my camera" what white is. The recommendation was holding a white piece of paper in front of it. Can anyone expand on this?

    I appreciate the info so far!

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

    For now, innocent bystander and occasional commentator

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    I have a feeling what you are talking about is the use of a Grey Card to help set your white balance. I've never used/seen a Grey Card and believe they can be skipped - others might hold a different opinion here.

    Introducing a flash and fluorescent lights will be fun. Not sure if it's because I'm new but you'd be better reading a lighting 101 post by David Hobby at the Strobist blog. You'll need a Roscoe Green gel for your flash to balance the light output to that of the fluro's you're shooting under. If my previous post doesn't show up and you'd like the link, let me know.

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    Grey cards are usually used to set the exposure. A completely neutral grey (assuming you have a card that color) should be exposed at exactly the center (0) of the exposure meter to get it to come out a proper neutral gray. If you have THAT color right, all other colors will be exposed properly in the picture (excluding tricky conditions like having the sun shining behind the subject). You don't have to use a grey card to do this. Black should be at about -2 on the exposure meter, so you could meter something black at -2 and you'll have the exposure right. From experience I found that my pink foam worked well for a neutral reading and when that was showing I used to meter that for 0. Now with the scenery in, I use the gray ballast to meter for 0.

    Here are my recommendations for using a DLSR.

    1. To keep the whole thing in focus, use a higher f/stop, but don't just pick the highest. Do some test shots, and use the lowest one you can that will keep the entire subject in focus.
    2. Always, always use a tripod.
    3. Use your camera's "timer" feature so that you can press the shutter and then there is a pause before taking the shot. Or else use a remote control. Even on a tripod the camera will shake a tiny bit when you press the shutter release.
    4. Use the spot meter feature, not matrix averaging or center weighted.
    5. Spot meter something of whose exposure value you are reasonably confident... Spot meter gray ballast to +0, or a dark blue engine to -1.25, or what have you. You may have to do some testing to figure out what works best.
    6. Use the camera's "white balance" feature to tell it the kind of lighting you have (fluorescent, incandescent, sunlight, etc). This makes a huge difference.
    7. Check the histograms in your shots. If you see the bars piling up on the left or right side of the screen you've got the exposure or white balance set wrong.
    8. Never use automatic anything. Manual focus, manual speed setting, manual exposure. It's digital. If it doesn't come out right, delete the shot, re-do your settings and try again. I do this all the time. It's the fastest and best way to learn, and will give you better shots than your camera can take automatically.

    Especially important is #8. Auto settings are fine for what the camera makers thing of as "normal" operations. For example, over the holidays I took tons of pictures of my 3 year old nephew. I used auto focus, full auto exposure/speed, a flash attachment, and just let the camera figure everything out. The pictures came out great... because that's what Nikon designed it for. Same with taking pictures out doors. The camera "knows what to do" in this situation. But when you are taking pictures indoors of a tiny area but want it to focus/expose like it's an outdoor giant area (which is what we are doing with our trains), well, the camera can't do that (well) automatically, because its computer doesn't know how. So WE have to figure out how and force it to do the right thing for us.

    All that said... I think your pics look great. Like you I prefer the ones where the entire view is in focus.

    Just remember... faster ISOs and smaller f/stops may make it come out more in focus, etc, but you lose resolution doing that. So always use the slowest speed and largest f/stop you can get away with.

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    I wanted to highlight what Chessack said about the timer feature. Most "consumer-level" cameras won't accept a remote or cable release, but they do have a 3-second timer setting that achieves the same purpose.
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmodule View Post
    I wanted to highlight what Chessack said about the timer feature. Most "consumer-level" cameras won't accept a remote or cable release, but they do have a 3-second timer setting that achieves the same purpose.
    Yep, my pretty basic Fujifilm SD2500HD does not have the capability of using a cable release but it does have the 2/3 second timer feature.

    Although I have not used it as yet, but then I haven't even used a tripod as yet either!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chessack View Post
    3. Use your camera's "timer" feature so that you can press the shutter and then there is a pause before taking the shot. Or else use a remote control. Even on a tripod the camera will shake a tiny bit when you press the shutter release.
    I actually figured this one out. I was trying to come up with a way to take a cicture and not shake the camera and figured I could do it this way.


    Quote Originally Posted by Chessack View Post
    4. Use the spot meter feature, not matrix averaging or center weighted.
    I have no idea what your talking about....LOL. I haven't got that far in my camera yet.


    Quote Originally Posted by Chessack View Post
    5. Spot meter something of whose exposure value you are reasonably confident... Spot meter gray ballast to +0, or a dark blue engine to -1.25, or what have you. You may have to do some testing to figure out what works best.
    See number 4......... Sorry, just don't know what that is yet.

    As far as the lighting goes, that is my next experiment. I understand the camera has all kinds of lighting setting and I will be playing with them in my next session, possibly later this afternoon.

    For future sessions I will be taking a picture in auto as a base line and then making my adjustment shots after that.

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    Ron

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    Years ago, photographers used to use a "meter" which was like a light detector. They would point it at the subject and see how much light was falling on it. This told them how to set the exposure.

    SLR and DSLR cameras nowadays come with internal ones. They fire through the lens (TTL), and they register how much light is falling on your subject. Cameras usually come with 3 types of meters. "Matrix averaging" meters use a very complicated mathematical algorithm to sample light from the ENTIRE image, and the computer inside the camera "figures out" the best exposure. The problem with this setting is that it makes assumptions about the environment which may not be true of your situation. The makers designed it for "normal" use so it works shooting photos of your kids at Christmas using a flash... but not so well shooting long exposures of your trains at tiny F-stops.

    The second type of light sampling is called "center weighted." This takes a sample of the center part of the picture, weighting less and less as you go out from the center. Think of it like a bull's-eye... the center circle gets the most weight, next ring gets 2nd most weight, etc. This ensures that the center of the picture is properly exposed. However, if you have light and dark images in the center, say a Zebra, you could get a false reading.

    Spot meters take a reading from a tiny spot. This spot is usually projected into the viewfinder so you can see it. This allows you to sample the light from one tiny area. So you could sample the light from the white stripe of a zebra. Knowing that white is about +1.5 to +2 (depending on brightness), you could spot meter a white stripe and tweak your exposure until you get a +1.5 on the meter.

    Here's an example of what I mean:


    Matrix Metering samples from a grid throughout the picture and averages the lighting information (in a very complex way).


    Center weighted uses information from the middle, weighting the center more than the edges.



    Spot metering samples just from one small spot:



    The advantage of spot metering here is, I know that road's exposure value. I know from experience that this road is slightly darker than neutral gray, and that if I set the exposure meter to be something like -0.5, I will get a proper exposure. So I sample what I know, and set the exposure based on that.

    I could also sample the houses or the bushes or whatever, but I'd have to do some trial and error to figure out their exposure value.

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    Chessak, I really do appreciate that explanation. I understand more now. I'm not gonna lie and say I get it all, but I have a better understanding. I did check the setting and it is set for matrix metering. I will play with the other settings at a later date. I imagine this is more of an advanced function. Now that I know it exists I can add it to the ever growing list of things to attempt shots with.

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    Default Fun with lighting!

    I just spent about 2 1/2 hours in the train room playing with different lights. At work today I purchased a few different bulbs just for this. I have places in the house that I can use them when I am done, and I learned that I can use different lights for different moods or time of day perception.

    I have a small work light fixture that has a reflective metal shield around it. I tried several bulbs in it and also my 250w halogen work light.

    Here are the results. I am placing them in no particular order. I have a personal favorite type of light but would like to know what you guys think. Again, please remember this is my opinion, you may feel different and if you do, I would appreciate your feedback as to why.

    The fixture was placed approximately 8 feet away and up about 7 feet. I was trying to simulate a late afternoon shot.

    100w Incandescent bulb:



    100 Watt soft white CFL:



    100w Bright white CFL:



    100wDaylight CFL:



    250w Halogen worklight:



    I know I probably shouldn't but I really like the light that the 100w Daylight cfl and the 250W halogen light!

    I have two windows in the train room but this time of year I get very little useful light in through them. When spring and longer days roll around I will have better opportunity for natural light shots.

    I just checked the camera and realized that I took all of these shots set in Daylight white balance. I meant to take them in auto but forgot to set it. I tried a few shots in flourescent and they were so blue I couldn't stand it.

    Anyway, I hope you are enjoying the continued experiment and aer getting something out of it, other than a good chuckle at the noob toying with his camera!....

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

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    The reason the daylight shot looks better is that you didn't re-set the white balance. If you had set the white balance for the correct light type they'd all look fairly similar.

    They also all look a little under-exposed to me.

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    I also use a Sony DSLR(A200) and have found that I have a horrible time getting the white balance correct. If your A380 is like my camera, you can use a grey card as mentioned above to set a custom white balance. I have just started using one, and really am happy with the results. On my Sony, you go into the white balance menu, scroll to the bottom to custom, arrow to the right to change to menu to set it. Then just point the camera at the grey card placed in the scene you want to shoot, and snap the shutter. The camera will keep that custom setting in the menu until you go through the process to reset it.

    The most difficult part might be buying the grey card; my local Ritz didn't carry any and another chain camera shop wanted $15 for one. I found an independent shop that had them for about $6. You can also order them from B&H.

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    Thanks Chessak, as always I appreciate your comments!

    Question though, I understand what you mean when you say you believe they are underexposed. My question is, how do I know that? To me the picture looks pretty good. I assume that it is under exposed in your eyes? Is there a standard as to how bright it should be or is this a subjective selection?

    I know I said that I am not going to use any kind of editing on my pictures but I wanted to try this just to see what it does. I used the auto correct feature and this is what it did to the picture:



    Here is the original:



    I think I may put the 100w daylight cfl bulb back in and play with aperture and lighting settings on the camera.

    I do know that every picture is going to be different and it will take a lot of practice to be able to guesstimate the initial settings for pictures but that is why I am doing this. Just to be able to analyze a shot in my head, guess the initial settings and go from there.

    I think what I want is to be able to take good acceptable pictures without having to use editing software. If I wanted to use editing software, I could have purchased a cheaper camera and a good editing program.

    I also think I need to spend a lot of time looking at pictures and deciding what I like and don't like about them.

    One of the funny things is, I thought my original picture looked pretty good. But now after lighting it up a bit I realize it didn't look as good as I thought. I like the corrected version better.

    Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



    Ron

    For now, innocent bystander and occasional commentator

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