Picture Perfect - Basic Photography Workshop

A picture speaks a thousand words and a well-shot picture say much more. In the first segment of our workshop, we discuss the various aspects of shooting the perfect picture in different scenarios and enhancing them after they’ve been shot. Right from the initial steps of shooting, using proper cameras and equipment, to the post processing and printing of images, we’ll give you brief step-by-step guides on the various crucial aspects.

Camera settings and techniques
First and foremost, avoid shooting at noon or when the sun is directly overhead. Apart from the lighting conditions, you will need adjust your camera settings. For a normal point-and-shoot, having settings like aperture, shutter speed and the manual mode are helpful, however not all have a manual mode. In such cases, just the aperture and shutter speed controls will suffice. We have taken both indoor and outdoor shoots into consideration for the following tutorial as there are no fixed settings that apply to all situations.

Step 1: Rule of Thirds
A very common mistake that most of us make when shooting portraits is to place the subject right at the center. While it might seem like the most natural way of capturing portraits, it definitely has the makings of a very dull and unimaginative picture. The basis of this rule states that if you were to divide a rectangular frame with two equidistant vertical and horizontal lines into nine equal parts, then the point where the lines meet is where the subject should be placed. This rule is applied to prevent positioning the subject at the center. To make things simpler, you can enable the ‘grid’ view option that most cameras come with.

Step 2: Aperture and Shutter Speed
Both aperture and shutter speed are inversely proportional to one another, which means that if you increase the aperture range, the shutter speed will automatically decrease, and vice versa. However, this only happens when you choose to shoot either in aperture priority mode or shutter speed mode. The shutter priority mode is best used when you're shooting either in low light or when the subject that is being shot requires a really high shutter speed, like when you're capturing fast moving objects. If you want greater control over the depth of field, then the aperture priority mode should help achieve this. Decrease the number of f-stops to get a better depth. However, they require sufficient lighting to make the overall picture stand out field. This is best used when you only need your product or subject to be your point of focus.

Step 3: ISO
The selection of ISO settings plays an important role in photography and how your images turn out. The lower the camera's ISO levels, the finer will be the overall image quality. However, the ISO levels all depend on the lighting conditions. Better the lighting conditions, smaller will be the ISO levels. However, we recommend not going beyond ISO 400 when using digital cameras, because anything over this value will produce visible noise. The same cannot be said when shooting with an SLR, because SLRs come with a larger sensor size along with better post-processing capabilities. The best way to overcome the noise issues with digital cameras would be to set it to manual mode (if your camera supports this) or switch to either shutter/aperture priority while not going above ISO 400. It is recommended that you make use of a tripod, especially when you are shooting under low light conditions.

Step 4: Flash Intensity
Depending on what you are shooting, you will need to adjust the flash intensity, otherwise you might just end up burning your overall image. We do not recommend using the on-camera flash, as you will only end up spoiling the overall image. Try making use of the Bounce Flash method discussed later on in this workshop. For point-and-shoot cameras though, the Bounce Flash method won’t quite work since the flash comes built in. So apart from reducing the flash manually, you can have a white sheet of paper placed in front of the flash to further reduce the flash intensity.

Camera gear
Lenses for Indoor and Outdoor usage: As far as point-and-shoot cameras go, you obviously don’t have the choice of choosing the lens. There are a few that offer up to 30x optical zoom, which is more than enough to capture objects that are at quite a distance. Adding to this are the preset scene modes that make the normal digital point-and-shoot a jack of all trades. For cameras that offer add on lens support, a zoom lens, macro lens and a normal lens are designed to fit into one single unit. However, the stock lens that you normally get with a DSLR has a maximum of 3x zoom, which isn’t much, especially if outdoor photography is what you are into. Here, however, you have lenses to take care of each aspect of photography. There are three types of lenses that generally fit a DSLR - zoom lenses, prime lenses and macro lenses.

Zoom Lenses: A typical zoom lens (24 – 90 mm) will give an approximate zoom range of 3.5x. However, if you want the best of both worlds, try going in for a 28 – 200 mm zoom lens. That way, you wouldn’t need to carry an additional lens when traveling.

Prime Lenses: Prime lenses, on the other hand, don’t offer any kind of zoom. In other words, these lenses have a fixed focal length. But what they lack in zoom, they more than make up by delivering superior image quality. In addition, these lesnses are lighter and cheaper than traditional zoom lenses. They also have a larger aperture range that is capable of capturing images in low light conditions while maintaining the same shutter speed of a zoom lens. Prime lenses are best used when you require the picture to have a certain depth of field.

Macro Lenses: Macro lenses are best used when you want to capture extreme close up shots of subjects. They are best used to highlight specific parts of a subject while blurring out the rest. However, they require sufficient lighting to make the overall picture stand out.
Tripods: Tripods are an essential part of any photographer’s equipment. So making use of a tripod when shooting will undoubtedly produce much better results. There are a few things that you need to look at before taking the plunge. First and foremost, you will need to check the overall weight of the tripod. This will depend on your requirements. If you are the kind to make use of several lenses and camera flashes, it would be advisable to settle for a tripod that’s slightly heavy. But if you are always on the move and all you have is the camera, you should consider buying a tripod that’s light and compact enough to carry. Secondly, check the tripod for stability as there are a few that tend to wobble when fit with a camera. The best way to do this would be to mount the camera with the legs of the tripod spread out. If it feels wobbly or uncomfortable, you should consider looking at something else.

Next, consider the extensibility of the tripod. Choose something that reaches your height when fully extended. However, this also depends on what you are trying to shoot. Tripod heads should also be taken into account i.e. their ease of use, overall movement of the camera when attached to the tripod and if they are easy to detach when the need arises. Take all these into account before purchasing a tripod.

If you’re not interested purchasing a tripod, you can instead invest in a monopod which are much lighter and since they only have a single leg, they wouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to set up. They are also considerably cheaper. However, keep in mind that a monopod will not eliminate camera shake as well as a tripod, but will only reduce it to a certain extent. Their usage all depends on what you're looking to shoot. For example, a monopod would be best used when you need to shoot in cramped places, where setting up a tripod would be a probelm. However, for outdoor shoots or when taking a slow shutter shot, a tripod would be a much better choice and would provide more stability.

Bounce Flash: The problem with using a flash is that it tends to make the overall image look too flat or burnt. For instance, if you are shooting a product that is dark and reflective, it won’t come out right if you have the flash directed at it. You’ll get an extremely over exposed picture that wouldn’t effectively grab the viewer’s attention. There are many ways to get around this problem, such as investing in a flash diffuser or by making use of the bounce flash method. Adding a diffuser helps soften the overall light, thereby making your pictures look more natural. However, bounce flash is a totally different technique of diffusing light. For starters, you can try the ceiling-bounce by tilting your flash towards the ceiling at an angle of 75 – 80 degrees. Here, the ceiling acts as a diffuser and reflector as it bounces the diffused light onto the subject. However, you will need a pretty low ceiling to make this work effectively.

If it’s a person that you are shooting, you might notice shadows underneath the eyes as the light is being reflected from a higher surface. In such cases, the reverse ceiling bounce method is the way to go. Here, you have to tilt the flash 45 degrees backwards, allowing the light to hit the wall, then the ceiling, and finally on your subject. Here again, you will need to make sure that the rear wall isn’t too far away from the flash, otherwise the final image will turn out rather dull and dark, making the flash pointless.

For outdoor photography, you can make use of reflectors. There are various types of reflectors that one can make use of, such as lamp reflectors, board reflectors and portable folding reflectors. Unlike bounce flash, portable reflectors are flexible to use as you can have them positioned just about anywhere to help give you that perfect shot.

Polarizers: If you are into outdoor photography, you should consider investing in a polarizer. Such filters are mostly used when the requirement is to eliminate reflections. Moreover, they also help in saturating and darkening the overall image. When shooting with a polarizer, the direction of the sunlight should be perpendicular to the position of your lens.

Props: Adding props to your products can enhance the overall outcome of the photograph. For example, if you have a gaming laptop that you would like to sell/resell. Just photographing the product won’t quite define the product at hand. A better and more viable approach to this would be to have some kind of a gaming poster in the background along with the product. However props will vary from product to product. It is best to keep it simple and minimal. Moreover, make sure that the prop isn’t as big as the product, because then the whole focus would be on the prop rather than the product.

Here are two questions you should ask yourself when shooting with props –
1. Does it enhance the product that is being shot or does it simply overwhelm the subject?
2. Does it help define exactly what you want to convey to the potential buyer?

Benefits of RAW over compressed
If your camera supports RAW, use it. Why? Because the unprocessed file contains pixel information that can be used to make fine adjustments to the image using an image editor such as Photoshop without sacrificing details. Consider it as the negative equivalent to a film camera.

Here Are The Benefits Of Raw:
Better image quality.
Freedom to manually sharpen and remove noise
RAW formats make use of lossless compression or remain uncompressed. So the file contains maximum detail when compared to compressed formats such as JPEG.
RAW files allow you to make finer adjustments to a wide range of parameters such as white balance, hue, saturation, sharpness, etc.
Fewer artifacts when increasing the overall exposure of an underexposed photo.

Raw Also Has A Few Drawbacks:
RAW files are two to six times larger than a normal JPEG. So fewer images can be stored on the memory card.
Since the files are large, the write speed is much slower than clicking in JPEG.