Three Common Photo Mistakes and How To Fix Them

When you look at a lot of pictures, you begin to see trends in the mistakes.  Look at enough pictures over a long enough time and you’ll start to see the major trends fall into just three or four broad categories.

Anyone can take better pictures by following a few simple guidelines that will help you avoid the big three mistakes that are most common as you look across hundreds of images.

Get In Closer

wide shot
This is as close as I could get without getting wet

Probably the most common mistake I see in photos is that they were taken from too far away.  There’s a huge amount of background and right in the center is the little tiny subject.

The easiest way fix that is just to zoom with your feet and walk up closer to your subject, cutting down at the amount of background in the shot.   Sometimes, like when you’re shooting at the beach, you can’t always do that.

cropped surfer
Now the picture is more interesting with less background

For the times you can’t walk up closer to the subject, you can use your camera’s digital or lens zoom to frame the picture a little tighter.

Okay, you’re as close as you can get on foot and your camera lens is zoomed all the way and it’s still not close enough.  From there you can bump up the image size your camera is shooting to its absolute maximum, and then crop out parts of the picture you don’t want later on your computer.

Use Fill Flash During The Day

fill flash
The lighting is good but there are too many shadows around the subject

It’s ironic that most digital cameras are optimized to take their best pictures at a time of day that the light is less than perfect for taking pictures.  Well, it is what it is and you have to deal with the harsh shadows, ball caps, and squint-eyed subjects that are the result of direct sun.

Fixing direct sun involves a device called a scrim which is a lot of work to set up and take down.

fill flash
Fill flash, a little cropping and this photo is much better
Another option is just to move into a shady area and turn on your camera’s internal flash or use an external flash.

Remember to ask your subjects to remove their sunglasses unless you want them to look like mobsters.

The Point of Interest Does Not Go In The Middle

rule of thirds
The eyes are the subject of a good portrait and don't belong in the center of the photo

It’s called the Rule of Thirds and not the Suggestion of Thirds for a reason.  So many times people will zero in on the subject and want to put it right in the middle of the shot.

In a portrait, the eyes tend to be the point of interest, so make sure they’re not right in the center of the picture.  Put the subject or the point of interest at the intersection of one of the thirds and compose the rest of the shot around that.

If you follow just these three rules, your shots will be better than 90 percent of pictures ever taken.


Nikon Raises The Resolution Bar With D800

Nikon raises the resolution to 36.3-megapixels in the D800 and D800E

Nikon is raising the bar on resolution and video by fielding two new cameras the D800 and D800E, both boasting an unusually large 36-megapixel image. That would make the D800 the first in the Nikon DSLR line to challenge resolution formerly only available in medium format cameras.

That will mean 7360 x 4912 resolution RAW images that are over 70MB in size, while processed TIFF files will be over 212 MB. The files are so big Nikon decided to add USB 3.0 support to the camera.

At the core the D800 and D800E both start with a full frame, FX-format, 35.9 x 24 mm CMOS 36.3-megapixel sensor backed by Nikon’s Expeed 3 image processor. The imaging system incorporates the latest 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering III and Advanced Scene Recognition System, coupled with an improved 51-point AF system that promises lightning fast response.

The D800 also promises minimal noise under variable lighting conditions, with a native ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to 25,600 and will output 16-bit images. Coupled with the image processing is a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor for its Advanced Scene Recognition system, which can accurately detect human faces, and recognize scene colors and brightness, according to Nikon.

Back of the D800 shows a clean layout and full size LCD screen

While recent camera models have included upgraded video specs to make them competitive with Canon cameras, the D800 is the first that aggressively attacks the video market. The D800 boasts manual exposure and audio controls in video mode and 1080p recording at 30, 25 and 24 fps, coupled with a built-in optical filter with anti-aliasing properties. Nikon also claims users can also send full uncompressed video out via HDMI as the video is being captured. It remains to be seen whether that promise delivers on the set, but could be a huge upgrade for filmmakers.

The D800E model is basically the same camera without the anti-aliasing filter and is aimed at studio and commercial photographers who may be less concerned about moire and more concerned with maximum detail.

The D800 will be priced more competitively with the Canon 5D MK II with the D800 being offered at $2,999.95 and the D800E at $3,299.95.

For a long time Nikon seemed reluctant to battle for the DSLR video market, but with the introduction of the D800, it’s on now as Nikon fields a camera worthy of both studio photographers and professional videographers.

The upgraded video specs in the D800 will certainly appeal to filmmakers

More Info At:

Nikon USA

Compare To:

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Nikon D800 vs D700

Do We Really Need $6,000 Cameras?

canon 1dx
Canon and Nikon think we need $6,000 cameras but do we really? - by Canon

Apparently Canon and Nikon think the photography world is ready to trade in their car for a new camera and set of lenses. That’s just about what a Nikon D4 or Canon 1-DX and a set of lenses will set you back. A camera or a car? Not a tough choice for most people.

It’s not at all certain these two particular cameras were aimed specifically at still photographers anyway. Both cameras boast impressive video specs and perhaps the real targets are filmmakers, to whom a $6,000 camera body is a relative bargain. Still, when you start with a $6K body and add lenses, rails, flags, follow focus, and a monitor it starts getting the price up near real digital film cameras like the Sony PMW-F3L.

“While you would still have to add the lenses, the price difference on a budget film production is not that significant compared to what you gain with features like Genlock, Timecode, and 10 bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output,” says Bill Pryor, a Kansas City commercial video producer who shoots most of his footage on the Canon 5D MK II.

captain america frame
Footage from Canon 5D MK IIs integrates seamlessly with 35mm film in Captain America - via Canon

When shots from Canon 5D MK IIs can be seamlessly integrated with 35mm film in movies like Captain America, it begs the question of just how much more quality do filmmakers really require?

For years photographers were spoiled as technology and competition drove prices down and to see the trend reversed so abruptly on the flagship products of both lines will be an interesting trend to watch. The question it begs for photographers centers around the compelling value proposition that would make the EOS-1DX the definitive choice over a Canon 5D MK II?

Certainly the flagship cameras have better low light performance. If you’re a full-time professional sports photographer shooting in highly variable lighting conditions inside sports arenas, perhaps the price tag is worth it. I might argue the Nikon D700 and Canon 5D MK II are fairly capable low light shooters themselves, but the D4 and 1DX push low light performance to new levels.

I could also see a National Geographic photographer on assignment someplace near the end of the world needing both the superior weather sealing and low light performance, which cuts down on the amount of lighting gear they have to carry. In places where every slot in an equipment bag is a precious commodity, then the extra $4,000 for a camera body is outweighed by other factors.

nikon D4 skeleton
Is what's inside a Nikon D4 really justify the price tag?

Overall, I’m really working to find justification for the added expense and just can’t see it. You can buy two D700’s for the price of a D4 and carry a spare body. Instead of a 1DX tricked out for filmmaking, get two 5D MK IIs and use one for covering shots.

It’ll be interesting to see if the photography world proves me wrong and demonstrates there’s a serious market for $6,000 cameras, but I’m not holding my breath.


Nikon D700 vs D4

Nikon D700 vs Canon 5D MK II

Nikon D700 vs Canon 1DX

Canon 5D MK II vs 1D x

The Five Biggest Lies In Wedding Photography

wedding picture
February is Pop The Question month which officially kicks off the spring wedding rush - by Diamond Farah via Flickr

We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, which a wedding photographer friend of mine euphemistically calls Pop The Question Day. No matter how you look at it, there will be a lot of rings in a lot of champagne glasses by the middle of the month.

The Valentine’s Day rush will inevitably kick off the wedding booking season, which promises to be a good one in 2012. Wedding photographers I know are already seeing healthy bookings for the season, with one reporting 15 deposits in already.

As brides pull out their checkbooks and the real stampede starts to book venues, arrange catering, find a DJ and book a photographer, this is a good time to review the basics of shopping for a wedding photographer and to be aware of the most common untruths that can slip through unnoticed in the rush.

Sometimes it’s not a deliberate lie. Wedding photographers have a natural tendency to answer every question with yes, yes, yes. That sometimes leads to misunderstandings with brides thinking they’re getting service that isn’t in the contract.

The “Now Or Never” Lie

wedding 4
"Now or Never" is a love song, not a negotiating strategy - by I.A. Walsh via Flickr

If a wedding photographer tries to tell you that you have to book today or the slot won’t be available tomorrow, leave. Anyone trying to bully you into signing a contract is a major red flag.

The best photographers will book early but that doesn’t mean you need to be in a rush. There are many great photographers out there and cancellations happen. In fact, be suspicious of any photographer who tries to use fear of availability as a pressure tactic to get you to sign a contract without giving you a chance to sleep on it. The best photographers will show you their calendar, show you the dates they have open, remind you that bookings are only finalized when they get the deposit and let you leave with the contract to read at your leisure.

The very best wedding photographers will also have a shelf of books you can sit down and page through at your convenience.

The “Sure, I’ve Shot That Venue Before” Lie

wedding shot 2
Sure I've shot that venue before...where is it again? by Photos In Cancun via Flickr

Some photographers will say they’ve shot a venue knowing they can figure it out. If they really have shot that venue before, then they’ll be able to show you a wedding album shot there.

If they haven’t shot a venue before, an honest photographer will just admit it and the really good ones will swing by on their own time beforehand and take some background shots to make sure they have the proper lighting gear on the big day.

The “Preferred Vendor” Lie

This is a big one and usually comes from a caterer or venue operator, but sometimes a photographer will trot out a list of local venues and caterers that claim them as a preferred vendor. Those endorsements are almost always paid.

Carters and venue operators rarely get to the see final pictures anyway, so why would you take their word in the first place?

The “Top Rated Wedding Photographer” Lie

Some wedding photographers will trot out some really impressive ratings and endorsements from groups with names that sound really impressive. Anyone can manufacture endorsements and there are companies specializing in what’s called “online reputation management” that can boost vendor ratings in online forums and rating sites.

The best wedding photographers have a blog and post a few pictures from every wedding they shoot so you can see consistent quality from one wedding to the next. Pick out your favorites and ask for the bride’s contact information as a reference check.

wedding 3
If their assistants were that good they'd be running their own business - by Harold Hoyer via Flickr

The “My Assistants Are As Good As I Am” Lie

Really? Then why aren’t your assistant photographers running their own successful wedding photography business?  The real pros are members of a professional association or a guild and when they need help, that’s where they go.

This is a topic to approach with some caution. After all, if the photographer you really want is sick or ends up under a bus, you want someone there, right? Many photographers do have hand-picked teams doing most of the work while the top person goes from wedding to wedding inspecting the shots and maybe adding a few of their own. That’s okay as long as they explain that all up front and you agree to it.

Sometimes there are really good reasons for a person not to be available and you want to be a little flexible. What you do want in writing is some reasonable assurance that the photographer you want isn’t merely handing the paper off to someone else while they’re out playing golf.

Pentax’s new Mirrorless Camera the K-01

pentax K-01
Pentax fields a winner with the stylish K-01 - by Pentax

Pentax finally announced their newest interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera, the Pentax K-01, will be available starting in the middle of March. Judging by the initial specs, it looks like it will be worth the wait, with Pentax avoiding the mistakes made by many of their competitors.

Pentax started with a big chip. At its heart the K-01 sports an APS-C CMOS 16.28 megapixel sensor, avoiding the mistake of some camera makers in hobbling their mirrorless cameras with tiny chips. Backing that up is the new Prime M imaging engine that boasts an ISO rating to ISO 100 to ISO 12800, or to ISO 25600 with the noise reduction features enabled.

pentax k01 top view
Top view of the K-01 showing the hot shoe and mode dial - by Pentax

Then they take the big chip coupled with a fast processor and layer on all the fun mirrorless goodies, like the choice of four image aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1) to accommodate different subjects and it also supports RAW output.

The K-01 boasts a six frame per second burst mode with near silent operation so you can take pictures even at events where noise would be a problem.

pentax k01
The K-01 sports both a hot shoe and pop-up flash - by Pentax

Software features an in-camera, ultra-wide HDR mode, an 81 point contrast detect auto-focus system and it’s one of the few digital cameras to sport a multi-exposure mode.

The video shooters will flip over the K-01’s video specs with the diminutive camera offering 1080p at 30/25/24 fps. Pentax is claiming HDMI full HD output with sound, but it’s not clear if that’s live output or just for exporting video clips. Here’s the claim right from Pentax, decide for yourself:

“The PENTAX K-01 also comes with an HDMI type C terminal, which allows the user to simultaneously output both Full HD movie clips and stereo sound, as well as an external microphone input terminal.”

Pentax included both an intelligent hot shoe and a pop-up flash when some manufacturers mysteriously dropped one or the other.

Anti-shake image stabilization is accomplished by sensor-shift technology and it uses focus peak technology for faster response.

At $749 for the body and $899 for the camera and a 40mm XS pancake lens, Pentax may have a winner on their hands with the K-01.

More From:


Pentax Forums

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