My Most Used Camera Setting - Aperture Priority

There are hundreds if not thousands of different camera configurations. Because of this it can be daunting to figure out how to use anything more than the Auto setting. Eighty percent of the time, however, I use the same one - Aperture Priority. Aperture Priority mode gives the photographer control over the aperture values and, more-or-less, allows the camera to determine the rest. Most camera manufacturers represent this mode on the dial as 'A' or 'Av. '

Aperture Priority is ideal for portraits, group shots, family, travel and landscapes photos.

The Aperture is the hole in the camera’s lens. The size of the hole influences how much light hits the camera’s sensor. Not surprisingly, a larger opening allows more light to reach the sensor. More often than not, this is a good thing because light is needed to create photographs. The opposite is true for smaller openings.  Aperture values are read out in f-stop numbers such as f1.8, f.2.8, f4, and all the way up to f22 (further in some cases). The smaller the f-stop value, the bigger the opening while larger f-stop values shrink the opening resulting in less light hitting the sensor but creating greater depth of field.  Let me explain further.

Depth of field is used to describe how much or little the photograph is in focus. A shallow depth of field can be demonstrated in a portrait where the background behind the person is blurred while the subject remains in focus. The opposite effect can be produced as well where there is a lot of depth of field meaning everything in the image is in focus...even the background which, is often desired in landscape or vacation photos.

To see how aperture affects an image, click through the images shown in this post. Notice how the background changes from a blur to being in focus as the aperture values increase. The pictures shot at f1.8 and f2.8 demonstrate a shallow depth of field. While the last couple shot at f16 or f22 demonstrate a lot of depth of field. Also, notice how the ISO jumps from 100 at f1.8 and up to 6400 at f22. This is because as the f-stop values increase, less light is being allowed into the camera which then automatically compensates with higher ISO values. ISO is a digital effect that increases the sensor's sensitivity to light. Higher ISO values also add grain to an image which, is often not desired.   

Note: for purposes of demonstrating how Aperture values impact depth of field, I kept the shutter speed at 1/400th to ensure my subject stayed in focus. 

Let's breakdown some situations that are well suited for using Aperture Priority mode. 

Portrait Photography

If the goal is to blur the background and isolate the subject which, often makes for a great portrait, then consider using the lowest f-stop value the lens will allow for...this could be as low as f1.2 or as high as f4 or f5.6. To further enhance the blur effect consider these three additional steps:

1) Place the subject as far away from the background as possible.

2) Use a longer zoom such as 100mm or even 200mm lens. 

3) Get closer to the subject. 

vacation, travel, landscape photography

Often, when taking images of big vistas or other beautiful scenes while on vacation or traveling, the desired outcome is to have the entire scene in focus including the foreground and background so that the image will not only capture your family in the foreground but also capture the details of that beautiful mountain range, lake, or building they are standing in front of. To accomplish this it is best to use a higher f-stop value such as f8, f11, f14 or higher. It is important to remember when using higher f-stop values that less light is hitting the sensor and the camera will lower the shutter speed and increase the ISO values to compensate for this. This is generally OK as many cameras will not let the shutter speed dip too low. or the let the ISO go beyond its practical limits. 

As with all photographs, first ask yourself what the desired outcome or intent is. If the intent is to capture a portrait or isolate a subject from its background consider using a low aperture value.. If the intent is to get the background in focus, also use higher f-stop values. If the intent is to freeze action consider using in Shutter Priority mode. More on that in the next blog. 

Like all things, the best way to understand these concepts is to practice.

Ping me if you have any questions.

If you enjoyed this post a like and a share would be super appreciated!

Best,

JG

Check out some of my recent fine art images here: www.johnguillaume.com 

Find me on Instagram @john_guillaume



 

Print Your Photographs for FREE - Here's How

Printing is easier than ever. You have the option of utilizing dozens of different online print lab services or print on your own at home on an inkjet printer. Either way, we are lucky to have so many choices. 

Why print photos when in this digital age it is so easy to share our photos on our favorite social media? Well, nothing beats being able to actually touch and hold a photograph or a photo book. We have all gone through our childhood photographs - maybe they are in a shoebox or an album - and have experienced the joy of those memories. My kids will often pull a photobook off of the shelf and flip through the pages with big smiles on their faces. 

While digital formats are awesome for sharing and storing they also run the risk of digital failure or obsolescence. What if iCloud, Google Drive, or DropBox has a failure and accidentally deletes your pictures? Do you have a backup? In 20-years will the jpeg format (the standard file format for 99% of pictures) still be readable by the latest gadgets? There is a potential risk in digital archiving albeit small but they are real. Printing your most important memories is a safe and easy backup. 

While I was exploring a related business idea, I discovered a handful of interesting and convenient options for printing.  The two services worthy of highlighting are Shutterfly and Chatbooks. Both of these applications run on Google Android or Apple iOS. 

My FREE 4x4" Photographs from Shutterfly - ©johnguillaume

First,  Shutterfly, through its mobile application (only), offers free, unlimited 4x6 and 4x4 prints. Not bad, right! The application is easy to use. Simply download the app, create an account, and give the application access to your photos. Then you can easily select which ones you would like to have printed. Your prints will arrive within a week. It's that easy. There is a shipping fee but the net price of each photo is very low, depending on how many you order at a time. Shutterfly's print and photo paper quality are just OK. The paper is a tad thin and the colors are lacking pop. Overall, I would give the Shutterfly app an A for value,  a B for convenience, and a C for print quality. 

Second,  Chatbooks, is a very cool and super convenient way to get your best memories printed in book form. After you've downloaded the application, you'll give it permission to access your photos, Instagram, Snapchat, and/or Facebook accounts. Here is the slick part; for approximately $10/month, each time you post 60 pictures, it automatically generates a small, square book that is mailed to you. It also has the option of including your quotes from the various social media platforms, which is great in my opinion. Like Shutterfly, the image quality isn't great but acceptable. The paper is a soft touch, waxy feel and delivers a softer look compared to traditional photo paper. Chatbooks gets an 'A' for convenience and a 'C' for print quality. For most folks, I would guess that the print quality is good enough.  If you're interested in high-quality photo books, I recommend Blurb (www.blurb.com). Be sure to look for Blurb deals because they often run promotions. 

My Chatbooks - ©johnguillaume

Chatbooks - ©johnguillaume

So which is for you? If you prefer single prints, Shutterfly is an economical way to go with decent quality prints. If you prefer the booklet format, Chatbooks is super easy to use and delivers similar quality. 

If you value higher quality prints, I recommend printing them on an inkjet printer at home or using a better photo lab such as Mpix. On Mpix, 4x6 and 4x4 prints will cost as little as $.24 plus shipping but the print and paper quality are a bit better and, in my experience, worth the extra money. Mpix does not have a convenient mobile app so a little extra effort is required to get them uploaded to their site. 

Regardless of which you choose, consider printing those memories for keepsakes, photo albums, or framing. You and your family will get years of enjoyment out of them. 

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.  

If you enjoyed this post, please take a few seconds to like and share with your friends and family. 

Don't forget to subscribe to always stay up to date on my posts, new images, and exclusive deals. 

Best,
John 

Landscape Photography - You Don’t always Need Epic Locations for great images

I recently captured this image - ‘Row of Trees’ - last week, during the last Nor’easter we experienced on the East coast. Despite the epic snowfall, capturing this image was not quite as epic. This location is only 15 minutes from my house. The most difficult part of getting this shot was driving there on the snow and slush covered roads.

 A Row of Trees - ©John Guillaume - f11, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

A Row of Trees - ©John Guillaume - f11, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

While not technically challenging to shoot, capturing this shot did require some foresight and planning. I envisioned this very image over a year ago but needed weather conditions to cooperate. Using a long lens was necessary to get the shot without trespassing. The snow effectively simplified the scene by eliminating distracting elements. 

I wrote about  seeing things differently as a photographer in the Four Reasons I Love Photography Post. I would have never noticed the intimate beauty of this scene if I did not take the time to notice my surroundings.

Key take aways:

1. You don’t need to be in an epic location to find great images.  

2. Keep your eyes open and imagine compositions that may be hidden by other distractions.

Thanks for reading and please use the comments section to ask questions or share your thoughts.

A like and a share are always appreciated. 

Best, 

JG

 

 

Four Reasons I Love Photography

1. Photography Creates Lasting Memories 

We all take a lot of pictures these days.  Capturing those fleeting moments and recalling them on Facebook or in a photo album is priceless. Sometimes I catch the kids grabbing a photo album off of the shelf and turning the pages with a smile on their face...priceless!  

Garden of The Gods, Colorado Springs, CO ©John Guillaume

2. Photography Gets Me Outside

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and my camera gives me another reason to do so. Sometimes, I’ll go explore a new location in hopes of getting that next portfolio image. Even if I don't get that killer image, the experience of getting outside is always worth it. Other times, I’ll bring my camera along for a hike, trail run, or bike ride - Yes, I often will run or ride with my camera!  You just never know what may catch you eye. 

Beach Patrol - Stone Harbor, NJ - ©John Guillaume

3. Photography Makes Me Look at Everything Differently

I notice details around me that I would not otherwise see. Such as the subtle details of a building's architecture, the shape of the clouds, how the light hits the hillside, the long shadows of dusk and dawn, the catch light in someone’s eye, the leading lines created by a street or fence line, or the rich colors experienced during a morning walk. Photography has even shaped my thinking about business - how do I keep the message clear and simple?

One Cloud One Wave - Stone Harbor, NJ ©John Guillaume 

4. I Love the Creative Process

Taking the picture is the just the beginning. The editing process is just as fulfilling for me. Getting the images off of my camera and into Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop [or your favorite editing tools] is the next step in the process to make an image come to life. Editing cannot make up for a bad image but post-processing absolutely makes a great photograph better. The best part...there aren't any rules! 

What do you enjoy most about photography? Let me know in the comments, below. 

Have a great day! 

John 

PS - If you are enjoying this blog, please take a moment to share with others :-)

www.johnguillaume.com

Speedster - ©John Guillaume

Learn Your Camera - Watch this Video

Your camera is simply an instrument to take pictures. Knowing your instrument will eliminate the mechanical nature of photography and free you up to more easily capture something special whether it be a family moment or something more artistic. Like all things, the best way to learn the subtleties of your camera settings is to practice. 

There are three important functions you will want to learn: 

Perfect Stream - Olympic National Park ©John Guillaume 

1/60 sec, f7.1, ISO 64 - Shot on a tripod 

  1. Shutter Speed - Determines how fast the shutter opens and closes 
  2. Aperture - Changes the size of the opening to your camera's sensor
  3. ISO - Impacts your camera's sensitivity to light 

Once you understand each of these and how they interact with each other, you will be able to focus on more important aspects of photography such as composition and light.  

The video below, by Tony Northrup, does a good job of explaining how each of these impacts the outcome of your image. After watching this, practice and experience what you've learned. Take a picture of your son or daughter outdoors using a low Aperture (f2.8-f4) and then a high Aperture value (f16-f22)...notice the difference in the background and the ISO? Have her run slowly towards you with a high (1/1000th) and low shutter (1/100th) speed and notice how it impacts the sharpness of the subject.  

Valley Forge National Park - ©John Guillaume 

1/500th, f4.5, ISO 100 - Shot handheld

When I was learning these functions I simply took pictures of anyone and anything. Through trial and error, you will begin to appreciate how they work and then be able to use them to your advantage to get the shot you wanted.

Let me know if you have any questions. 

Best,

John

www.johnguillaume.com

It's a Blizzard Here! - Quick Tip - Photographing Snow

Snow can dramatically change the look of any neighborhood, city, or landscape.  However, your photographs can often disappoint because your camera can make the white, fluffy stuff look flat, dull and grey :-( 

YOu need to overexpose your images because your camera will automatically underexpose the scene because of the brightness value of the snow.  

Here are two ways to do it:   

  1. EDIT YOUR PICTURE after you've taken it by increasing your 'white' or 'brightness' slider and add a bit of 'contrast' as well. Adjust these to your taste. 
  2. INCREASE YOUR EXPOSURE BY USING EXPOSURE COMPENSATION before you click the shutter button - I covered how to do this on your iPhone HERE.  Many DSLRs have a dedicated dial, as well.  Bump your exposure up by 1-2 stops and viola...your snowy photograph just a got a little better.  

iPhone Photo - Original 

 iPhone Photo - Quickly Edited for Snow 

iPhone Photo - Quickly Edited for Snow 

For those of you getting hit by this nor'easter, winter storm Quinn, stay safe and warm and get outside and take some pics! 

JG

Better Pictures Immediately with This One Piece of Gear

Have you ever felt like those beautiful, rich colors you witnessed didn't materialize on your camera? Well, they probably didn’t! Why you ask?  It has a lot to do with the sunlight. During a beautiful morning walk, you have undoubtedly noticed how rich the colors are...the blue of the sky, the green of the leaves, the red of the cardinal. That same walk in the afternoon, when the sun is high in the sky, would yield flat and desaturated colors due to the of the amount of direct sunlight on the same subjects. Have you admired a river or stream that showed off its beautiful bedrock only to be disappointed with the picture? When light reflects off of non-metallic surfaces, such as water or leaves, it becomes polarized. It's this polarization that can ruin what you see.  

polarizing filter to the rescue

A polarizing filter is a piece of polarized glass that is typically screwed onto the front of your camera's lens that absorbs much of the polarized light before it hits your camera's sensor. The filter can be rotated 360º to optimize its effectiveness. It's You simply turn it while looking through your camera's viewfinder and stop when you see your desired effect. It is rotatable because its effect is impacted by the angle of the sun relative to your camera.  

 Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

KEY BENEFITS OF THE POLARIZING FILTER

  • Richer more saturated colors  
  • Remove glare from water or leaves and other non-metallic surfaces

Look at the images to the right to compare polarized and non-polarized images.  Big difference, right! 

Which filter to buy?

Like many things, you can spend as much or little as you want. The price varies based on the size of your camera's lens but expect to spend between $50-$90 for a good one that will last you a lifetime.  The cheaper ones tend to reduce overall image quality and scratch more easily.  

I've had good luck with Breatkthrough Photography filters. Other good brands include B+W, Tiffen, and Hoya. An Amazon affiliate link is below if you are interested in purchasing a polarizer. 

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this please take a moment to like this article and share it with your friends.  

Thanks and make it a great day!

John

See more of my imagery on Instagram

www.johnguillaume.com 

How I got the shot - Out to Sea

Out to Sea was my most popular photograph of 2017.  This image was taken last summer in Sea Isle, New Jersey.  Sea Isle is a short distance away from Stone Harbor and Avalon, where we typically vacation each summer.  Despite its proximity, I had never been there but and wanted to explore a new area.  

In preparation for the early morning outing, I used The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) app (available for iOS or Android) to scout out potential photographic opportunities. TPE does a lot of things but I primarily use it to track the path of the sunrise and sunset relative to my shooting position.  In addition, I use the maps view to look at the terrain.  In this case, the maps view was my primary tool because I was looking for interesting features along the shoreline.  Note: You could easily do this on Google Maps or Apple Maps using satellite view.  After I had pinpointed a couple of points of interest, I got my gear ready and set the alarm for 4:30 am. Why so early?  The best light for landscape photography is most often just before and just after sunrise or sunset. During this 'golden hour,' colors are rich and vibrant and the light is soft - ideal conditions for photography. 

BZZZ, BZZZ, BZZZ - I tiptoe around the family and quickly get dressed without waking them.  I grab my gear and head to WaWa for a mega-large coffee - coffee is my friend ;-).  The drive was less than 10 minutes.  In short order, I’m barefoot on the beach and searching for those points of interest and just enjoying the solitude of the early morning.  Life is good! 

 Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

There were too many clouds for a rich and vibrant sunrise but what I did get was soft and muted colors which suit my style anyway.  The composition I had in mind was simple...I wanted a straightaway shot with the jetty starting at the front of the frame and extending to the horizon.  My vision was to create an ethereal image by making the water creamy and getting some movement in the clouds.  Also, I had black and white in mind since the morning colors were obscured by the cloud layer.

CAMERA SETTINGS FOR A LONG EXPOSURE
I put my camera on the tripod and found my composition.  Next, I added a 3-stop ND and polarizing filter. I then dialed-in the settings using Aperture Priority mode which I set at f11. I also manually set my ISO to 64.  These settings resulted in a 60-second shutter speed (exposure time). When shooting moving objects, such as water, longer shutter speeds smooth out the water making it like creamy. 

I LOVE LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY BECAUSE IT'S LIKE CAPTURING A VIDEO IN A SINGLE MOMENT IN TIME. 

A shorter shutter speed, such as 1/25 of a second, would have shown the texture of the water and the surf.  Either approach is fine.  It comes down to artistic choice.

After getting the shot I wanted, I wandered the beach a bit and took two other images but then headed back to join my family for breakfast.

Editing the RAW Image

Later that week I found some time to edit the image.  I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and cataloging all of my photographs.  I enjoy this part of the process...it is probably the tech nerd in me but there is something cathartic about. Sometimes I make a lot of changes sometimes very few...again, it comes down to artistic choice and what the photographer had in mind when taking the image. 

In this case, there were not a lot of changes but a few big ones. 

  1. My normal tweaks:  Some black and white level adjustments to get the exposure just right.
  2. I converted it to black and white and adjusted some of the tonal values to my liking.
  3. Desaturated the sky completely.
  4. Added some blue-greens into the shadows of the water.

While this may seem like a 15-minute process, the final image was the result of several different edits and changes over multiple days.  I have found it is helpful to step away from an edit and come back the next day to see if it still looks good.  Sometimes it does...sometimes it doesn't...it just takes time to get it to feel right. 

The result is clean, simple, minimalist image.  It's something that would not be seen by the naked eye.  Tens of thousands of people walk by this jetty every year but they've never seen it this way.  It’s 60 seconds worth of time captured in a single moment.

Use the comments section, below if you have any questions.  I'm always happy to help. 

If you are interested in hanging Out To Sea on your wall, please CONTACT ME and we can discuss printing and sizing options.  

Make it a great day!

John Guillaume 

www.johnguillaume.com 

Source: www.johnguillaume.com/blog

Why You Should (& should not) Crop Your Photos

In my previous posts, 6 TIPS FOR SHOOTING KIDS SPORTS and THE SIMPLEST PHOTOGRAPHY RULE TO IMPROVE YOUR IMAGES,  I mention ‘cropping’ a number of times.  Cropping is a process by which you adjust a photo’s orientation, aspect ratio, and/or area of focus by cutting out unwanted  parts of the photograph.  Cropping is a common tool available on apps and in photo editing programs such as Apple’s Photos, Instagram, Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, and VSCO.  The crop tool works similarly across applications and easy to learn and use. 

FOUR REASONS YOU SHOULD CROP YOUR PHOTOS

1.  Zoom in to make your subject more prominent.  

As you can see below, the cropped image now emphasizes the subject and shows off the background while cutting out the foreground which, doesn't add any value to the image's story.  This results in an image that is much more appealing to the eye. 

 Original Image -  ©John Guillaume

Original Image -  ©John Guillaume

 Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

2.  Cut out unwanted parts of the photograph  

Here, I've cut out the ski lift wires and poles that are ugly and detract from the image.  

 Original Image - ©John Guillaume

Original Image - ©John Guillaume

 Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

3.  change the aspect ratio for printing and framing

It's a small change, but because the aspect ratio of the camera is different than the size needed for an 8x10 (Original image was 3x4) print and frame, I need to crop the image a bit.  As a bonus, I also got rid of the distracting light at the bottom right and was able to zoom in more on the subjects.  

 Original Image - ©John Guillaume

Original Image - ©John Guillaume

 Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

4.  straighten your horizon line  

I must admit, having a crooked horizon line is a pet-peeve of mine.  An image just looks unbalanced to the eye when the horizon line is off.  Getting the horizon line straight isn't easy when you're in the moment and getting a quick shot like the one below of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl parade.  It is easy to quickly fix the horizon line using your photo editing application and slightly rotating the image. 

 Original Image - ©John Guillaume

Original Image - ©John Guillaume

 Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

Cropped Image - ©John Guillaume

As you can see in these examples, cropping can enhance an image quite a bit.  You should be aware that when you crop you will reduce the overall image resolution. Therefore, you limit your ability to print larger.  The resulting size limitations will depend on how much you crop and the original resolution of the image.  For sharing online, you can crop your image a lot while not impact the overall quality.    

Take a look at some of your photos and give cropping a try.  You'll be amazed at how much it can change the feel of your images. 

Comments, questions, suggested topics, are always welcomed.  Use the comment and like buttons, below.  

Also, If you would like to check out some of my fine art photography, click or tap on 'gallery' on the site menu and follow me on Instagram - www.instagram.com/john_guillaume

Make it a great day! 

JG

www.johnguillaume.com

The Simplest Photography ‘Rule’ to Improve your Images

Photography can be complex but there are a handful of simple things you can do for immediate improvement.  The ‘rule’ I’ll touch on, today is The Rule of Thirds.  The concept is simple: Slice your composition into vertical and horizontal thirds and place your subject on one of the intersecting points.  Often, the resulting photograph is more pleasing to the eye as it helps the viewer move easily through the image.  I have presented some examples, below.  

 Super Blue Blood Moon - ©John Guillaume

Super Blue Blood Moon - ©John Guillaume

 Rule of Thirds Applied - ©John Guillaume 

Rule of Thirds Applied - ©John Guillaume 

Above:   I took this image, last Wednesday, of the Super Blue Blood Moon as it was setting over Denver, CO.  To the right, I've sliced the image into thirds to better illustrate how the rule of thirds can be applied.  You'll notice the main subject - the moon - sits at the upper, left intersection.  Equally as important, you'll see the horizon line of the lake aligned with the bottom horizontal axis.  I cropped this image to a 1:1, or square aspect ratio because I felt it was a more pleasing composition, largely because of the rule of thirds.  

Below: To the left is the original image a friend of mine took of me skiing last week, in Sun Valley, ID, using his iPhone.  This is probably pretty typical vacation picture where subjects are often centered in the frame.  It makes for a fine memory but not a great picture.  To the right, you'll see a cropped image where I placed the subject (me) at the bottom right intersection, resulting in a far better image.   

 Original iPhone Photo - Un-cropped ©John Guillaume

Original iPhone Photo - Un-cropped ©John Guillaume

 Cropped using the Rule of Thirds - ©John Guillaume

Cropped using the Rule of Thirds - ©John Guillaume

Keep in mind, the rule of thirds is really just a guideline and not a hard and fast rule.  As an example, if your image lends itself to symmetry then centering the main subject can make sense as demonstrated, below.  Even though my main subject is centered, note how the rule of thirds plays into the foreground of the image and the horizon line.   

 Out to Sea - Study 2  - ©John Guillaume 

Out to Sea - Study 2  - ©John Guillaume 

 Rule of Thirds Overlay - ©John Guillaume

Rule of Thirds Overlay - ©John Guillaume

Composition and good light are the two most important elements in photography.  Your gear can matter but most of the time it does not.  Give the rule of thirds a go and see how much it can improve your photos.  

BONUS TIP:   You can enable the rule of thirds grid on your iPhone screen when you take pictures.  Simply go to Settings > Camera > Grid.  It is a great little reminder to help you compose your pictures better. 

Comments and questions are always welcomed. 

Make it a great day! 

JG

www.johnguillaume.com

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