The histogram - Photography Course - Lesson 25

This article is part of the online digital photography course.

The histogram is an essential tool in digital photography, but many people don't know what it is or don't give it the due importance. Its purpose is to understand if the exposure is correct, if we've lost detail in the areas with shadows or high lighting.

Many people just rely on the LCD screen of the camera, a big mistake, because it doesn't always give a reliable result cause of its backlighting (too weak or too strong) or the lighting of the environment, which, if too strong, can annoy our vision of the picture and then misguide us in the evaluation of the exposure of a photo.

The histogram can be checked during the shot from the LCD screen of the camera can be very useful, the post production software one is helpful too.

In this article I’ll use as example my Nikon D90, check the user manual of your camera to see how to visualize the histogram.

Just after having shot the photo I can see the image preview on the LCD screen.

As you can see, I can see the shot details, the graph above on the right is the histogram. In some cameras you can access a more detailed histogram, divided in the three RGB colors.

Now we need to understand how to read a composite histogram, it represents the amount of pixels for the different lightings, the image is correctly exposed when the areas where the graph begins and ends are not cut.

In the histogram on the horizontal axis we have the lighting divided in 256 levels, we start with 0 on the left, which represents the black, and continue till 255 on the right, which is white, halfway we have the gray and on the vertical axis we have the tones inside the image.

Here we have the underexposed version of the same shot, in this case the curve moves towards the left, but being not cut we have captured all the information on blacks, then in post-production with Photoshop we can correct the levels rebalancing it without losing any information on blacks.

In this overexposed version the histogram is shifted on the right, and cutting the curve, I burnt part of the whites, this way I’ve lost information that I won't be able to recover not even with Photoshop.

Now you can understand the histogram’s importance, watching it when you realize a picture you can immediately understand if the image is correctly exposed and you can recover it in post-production.

Histogram and Photoshop

If you use Windows to open the histogram you have to press Ctrl+L, if you use a MAC you can press Apple+L.

It opens the levels where you can visualize the histogram.

In the level window there are 3 cursors under the histogram, on for the black 0, one for the middle tones 1,00 and one for the white 255.

If I take the white cursor and drag it to the end of the curve I’ll expose correctly the high lights: I made my picture brighter.

But the middle tones are still dark, so I can take the middle tones cursor and drag it to the left and this way I’ll obtain a correctly exposed image, or rather I won't have burnt my whites, the black will not result closed, the image is then clear. If I close and reopen the levels graph I’ll see that it’s balanced.

By opening the overexposed image (the one where I’ve lost the whites information) and using the levels tool, the first thing that comes up is that the curve is cut.

Photoshop unfortunately can't make miracles, I can't recreate information that wasn't captured during the shot, the overexposed image will remain such as it is, that's why it’s important to check the histogram during the shot phase.

There are situations where you will never have a perfect histogram, so we have to introduce the concept of exposure latitude (dynamic gamma), that is the capacity of the sensor to record the information between blacks and whites, generally a camera sensor captures between 5 and 6 stops, it means that between the blackest point and the brightest one there are 5 apertures.

If the scene we are going to photograph has an high contrast, that means that contains both very bright areas and other areas in very dark shadows, the camera won't be able to capture all the information available, then the photographer will have to choose if he prefers to renounce to have information on the lights or on the shadows. Luckily technology fulfills our needs with HDR photography, of which I’ll speak soon.

A curiosity: our eyes, in ideal conditions, can discern only 200 different gray levels, the 256 available tones in a digital image are more than enough to show even the slightest tone variations.

Translation by Nina Kozul

Strobist Equipment And Tips - Photography Tips

This article is part of the section Photography Tips

In the UK we say "flash" and in the USA they say "strobes". Either way using them for more complex lighting scenarios has become all the rage and the technique has become commonly know as strobist or even strobism.

But let's face it, all we are talking about is adding light and how we add light to our subject, preferably without having to spend a small fortune on a load of studio kit, ranger packs and generators!

In this video I take a look at some setups for strobists and some tips on how to make your flash work better and more effectively.

Safe backup for photos - Photography Course - Lesson 24

This article is part of the online digital photography course.

Now let's deal with a topic that worries the photographers that moved to digital, that’s the risk to lose your pictures.

The world of photography is split in two: those who lost their photos and those who are going to lose them!

This problem actually doesn't just concern digital photographers, but also those who love silver photography, although the negatives are pretty resistant and, if well preserved, last for a long time, sooner or later they'll age and ruin, as everything in life, unfortunately eternity doesn't exist, but wandering through the forums it seems that some fierce analogic fans just ignore this simple idea and find in the ease of losing the data a criminal charge to digital, eventually throwing in your face some beautiful prints made by a negative from the beginning of the century.

The clear advantage of digital on film is that you can realize thousands of perfectly identical copies of the same file in a simple and fast way. It's obvious that if we keep our pictures and our important data in the same partition of our operating system without making any backup copy we are truly irresponsible, sooner or later our operating system (or our hardware) will have some problems, I even surf the net with a different operating system (Ubuntu) than the one I use for my photos elaboration.

Now some practical advices to avoid losing our pictures.

  • Install an internal HD dedicated to store your photos, this way, if your operating system stops working you can format without problems.
  • Make a copy of your data on both optical discs (DVD or Blu-Ray) and External HD, hard drive that you won't use for any other purpose, the more you use it, the less it will lasts.
  • If you own more than a PC copy your folder with your best pictures.
It's difficult or almost impossible that your internal and external HD, DVD/Blu-Ray, pen drive and the other pc stop working at the same time, but if you are really unlucky and a meteorite hits you house, or an earthquake engulfs it, you have lost everything anyway, but there's a solution to that problem too!

There are also online services that offer great amounts of storage space completely for free, they are basically online HD, it's also possible for the Microsoft server to blow up, but I believe is more likely that a meteorite hits your house.

I suggest you these services:

SkyDrive is a free data storage service that you can access through your Windows Live ID. All you have to do is to register an account and access SkyDrive. You'll have an online panel to manage your files and folders, charge new data, delete it etc... The capacity is 25 GB but in the near future it may be extended (at the beginning was just 5 GB), with this system we have on hand an online HD of 25 GB with the safety that our data will be never deleted, if you need more than 25 GB you may always register more Hotmail accounts.

Let's assume that we want to save all our work and not just our best pictures, then there's nothing else to do than charge your files on ADrive that offers 50GB of free space that can be extended up to 1 terabyte for fee!

It offers from 2 up to a maximum of 20 GB for free (but to reach 20 GB you have to bring new members), if you pay you can go up to 100 GB, it's a convenient method for anyone who wants to save his data and find it synchronized in real time on all the terminal they use: pc, mac, Linux, smartphone, iPhone, to have our data always with us.

After all these services we really need to be an evil genius to lose all our files!

Translation by Nina Kozul

How to organize your pictures without using programs - Photography Course - Lesson 23

This article is part of the online digital photography course.

One of the great problems of a photographer is to organize and archive his pictures, without creating disorder and confusion.

There are several programs that can help, but you risk to end up addicted to them, if you have to show your photos to someone else, maybe burning a DVD, you can't expect that they have the same filing program; so let's just leave the software at home.

Useful advices:

- Try to order your pictures for genre and context affinity and for color at the same time, for example it’s not great to watch black and white pictures with color or sepia toned ones.

- Even though the photos may share the same photographic genre, it may be useful to divide them inside the genre by subject (that later can be developed bringing to interesting results).

Personally when arranging my archive I faced some problems that I’m going to explain with their relative solutions.

FIRST PROBLEM: Pictures of the same genre clash with each other because their subjects are too different. MY SOLUTION: My favorite genre is the Street Photography, the first thing I did was creating a folder with that name, the subjects are pretty various: I live in a seaside city so I had photos of fishermen and other sea people, and photos of suburbs and street, it wasn't a good to mix them, so inside the Street Photography folder I created the "The man and the sea" folder and the "Street" folder, this was the solution to my problem, creating subfolders inside the folder with the name of the photographic genre, this way you can get also interesting projects. If like me, you practice more photographic genres, just create a folder for every genre, for example Street Photography - Reportage - Portraits - Landscape & places - Macro - Still Life - Architectural Works etc... SECOND PROBLEM: How to number your pictures to keep them in order.

MY SOLUTION: Before picture's name add this kind of numeration "0000 -" for example the first picture of my album is called "Fear of the infinite" which I renamed "0000 - Fear of the infinite" the second "0001 - What is it" and so on, I practice more genres and my pictures undergo a strict selection and to arrive at the 9999 picture I will need some years (actually a lot of years), at that point I’ll create a folder named "002 - Street Photography", but if you want to reach sooner this number you can still add some zeros more (obviously you have to right click and select "sort by name").

WARNING: Don't use a classic numeration as 1 - 2 - 3 etc... because after 100, if you choose "sort by name" I can assure you that the classic order will not be respected

THIRD PROBLEM: A reportage or also a sequence with a train of thoughts can be included pictures of different photographic genres.

MY SOLUTION: I suggest you to copy the pictures in the folder of their genre (having this way two copies of these pictures in your PC) or to simply not care about it, because they will be seen in any case; if, for example, in a reportage there must be some portraits I can't suggest you to remove them because our photographic tale would lose strength!

Translation by Nina Kozul

The image formats - Photography Course - Lesson 22

This article is part of the online digital photography course.

Before starting photographing it's better to set the format in which our pictures will be saved on the flash card, there are different formats and we choose, depending on our needs.

Personally, I always set the format with the highest image quality, that is the RAW, while if I have to take pictures with friends or family I use the Jpeg format.

Let's see in details the various image formats on my Nikon D90, under the voice "image quality".
  • RAW: This format, as its name suggests, contains all the information captured by the camera sensor, compared to the jpeg allows a greater freedom of movement in post-production without great data loss. This format being not compressed is "heaver" in terms of disk space, for its traits is considered the digital negative, it's not present on all cameras but just on those of medium-high level. Moreover shooting in RAW ensure us at least one or two stops more of dynamic gamma compared to the jpeg images.
  • JPEG: As you can see from the image we have three kind of jpeg, fine, normal and basic, they are three compression levels, the fine is the less compressed and of higher quality one. This is the format normally used to publish pictures on the web, it's a good compromise of quality and size, the better the quality the more space the image will require on the disk and vice versa. After the Photoshop elaboration of the RAW file I usually save the file in Jpeg in my personal photo gallery. Remember that every time you open a jpeg to make some modification, at the moment of the saving it's compressed again, basically it loses quality, hence never delete your RAW files that may be necessary to modify your picture again.
  • RAW+JPEG: The camera save the same picture in both Raw and JPEG, I consider useless this mode because by saving two times the same picture you can shoot less because you fill your memory card at a faster rate. With the modern computers converting a picture from RAW to JPEG is a fast operation that doesn't require a long time anymore.
  • TIFF: It's not present on my camera menu but I'll explain anyway what it is: like in the RAW the image is not compressed, so the quality is equal to the RAW but the TIFF is usually big about the double, Why? The RAW unlike the TIFF is not a universal format. Every manufacturer use its own and not every image elaboration software can open the RAW of all the manufacturers, the TIFF instead is universal, but for the same reason it saves the information in a less efficient way.
Aside the registration formats on the memory card there are also export format, that are those format used to export the image from an image elaboration software after the post production. To us photographers it’s important to know just two export formats:

  • Adobe photoshop export format (.psd): By exporting the photos in this format we save all the settings and the levels applied to the image, this way is possible to modify the parameters at our liking and export the picture in another format. I'll make a practical example: I save my photo on the pc, the file is in RAW format, I open it with Photoshop, I set the lighting, contrast, create levels etc..., at this point I have two options, I can save it directly in JPEG and if I were to rethink about something I must modify again the RAW from the start, or I can save it in .PSD format that allows me to go back on my modifications and export the file in JPEG or other formats.
  • JPEG export format: We have just talked about it, remember that when you load a picture on the web, no matter if on your portfolio or on a forum etc... you should resize it, an image of 4288x2848 pixels will be extremely heavy to load an useless for the web vision where the most you could use is an image of 1200 pixel on the widest side. WARNING when you work on a JPEG and save the work it is compressed again, never re-elaborate a JPEG because it’s compressed at any new save!

Translation by Nina Kozul

Canon 5D Mark III Test and Hands-on Review

In this video we take a look at the new Canon 5D Mark III and question whether it is worth the extra 30% price increase? Will this successor to the great 5D Mark II make its mark in the DSLR world?

Related post:

Digital camera modes - Photography Course - Lesson 21

This article is part of the online digital photography course.    

Now that we have seen what are times, apertures and ISO let's see how to set them in our camera, we're going to talk about the shooting programs.

In the image at your left you can see the ring of the shot settings/modes of the Nikon D90.

Automatic: It sets automatically times, apertures, ISO and white balance depending on the framed scene, in this mode you can't set times and apertures by rotating the ring, is just possible to set the ISO manually.

In fact, if we enter the shooting menu, in automatic mode we'll notice that some options, among which the white balance, can't be changed.

Manual: We choose the combination time-aperture and the ISO, the camera anyway will tell us when the exposure is correct or if we are making an error.

Shutter priority: We choose the time on our camera and it automatically sets the aperture, useful when the subject is fast, it's the mode that I use in street photography by setting a "safety time" and leaving to the camera the choice of the aperture.

Aperture priority: It's the opposite of the shutter priority, we set the aperture and the camera will set the shutter time.

Other than these modes there are some presets suitable for various situations, but if you are following this course forget about them because with the notions learned here you'll know all the essential principles of photography and you'll manage to succeed in any situation using the modes just described.

If you've lost it I invite you to read the previous lesson, that is of vital importance: ISO, apertures, depth of field and shutter times - Photography Course - Lesson 20

Translation by Nina Kozul

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Test and Review

Fuji X-Pro1 Test and Review by What Digital Camera

Related article:

- Fujifilm X-Pro1 Hands-on Review and Field Test with Samples

- Leica M9 (M8) vs Fujifilm X-Pro1 - On The Streets

Tripod Heads

This article is part of the section Photography Tips

Tripod heads are always a confusing choice, especially with so many different types on the market.

Having recently purchased a new one myself, I thought I would share with you some of the things I looked for and show a little bit about them.

ISO, apertures, depth of field and shutter speeds - Photography Course - Lesson 20

This article is part of the online digital photography course.  

Let's start with a little experiment: try taking a drawing sheet and a paper handkerchief, a felt-tip pen with a very big tip and one with a very thin tip, no matter the color.

Now do these little "tests":

First experiment: take the bigger felt-tip pen and lay it for 2 seconds first on the drawing sheet and later on the handkerchief. On which paper is the bigger mark? obviously on the handkerchief that absorbs more ink than the normal paper.

Second experiment: On the same sheet (the drawing one) lay the both felt-tip pens for two seconds. Which one leaves the bigger mark? Obviously the bigger one.

Last experiment: take the handkerchief and the bigger felt-tip pen; lay it for 5 seconds and then lay it again for a brief second fraction. Which one is the biggest? The one made laying the pen on the paper for 5 seconds.

Summing up, if you want to get a big mark you have to use a more absorbing paper, a pen with a bigger tip and you have to lay it for a longer time. Vice versa, if you want a smaller mark you have to use a less absorbing paper a pen with a thinner tip and lay it for a shorter time.

Now presume for the ink to be light. A photo it's made of light, setting the camera we decide how much light will hit the sensor or the film. What we called "mark" before is, in truth the picture that will result from the shot. Let's follow the tests made before in the same order:

  • ISO: the ISO indicate how sensitive to light is the sensor or the film. The lower the ISO, the minor the sensitivity (like the drawing sheet), while the higher the number the more sensitive to light will be (like the handkerchief). Then, using low ISO we'll have smaller marks (less light will expose the frame), using high ISO we'll have bigger marks (more light shall be recorded on the frame).
  • APERTURES: the aperture is the set of sheets that you can find behind the lens. Try to remove the lens and watch through the glass, on the bottom you'll find a lever, try moving it while watching and you'll see the sheets opening and closing. This is the aperture. The more open the sheets the more light will pass through (bigger tip pen) the closer the sheets the less light will pass (thin tip pen). Then, to follow our previous example, to make more light pass and obtain a bigger mark we have to open the aperture, to have a smaller mark we'll have to close it. How? It's all depending on our camera. The old cameras make you open and close directly from the lens, the modern cameras make you open it from themselves. The values start from small numbers, almost always with comma, to higher numbers. Smaller numbers open the aperture, bigger numbers close it: an aperture at 2,8 will be more open (big tip, more light) and one at 22 will be closer (small tip, less light).
  • TIMES: In this case the example is pretty similar to the test, when speaking of times we mean for how much time we are letting the light enter the camera, for how much time we are letting it hit the sensor or the film. The longer it is the more the light will be recorded on the picture (bigger mark). It’s measured in seconds, and usually a pose of one second is pretty long. For a picture in normal lighting conditions the times are definitely shorter, about fractions of a second. For example a time of 1/125 means that we've set a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second. On the time ferrule on your camera you may find 60, 125, 250, 500, they aren't times in seconds, but in fractions of a second (then 1/60, 1/125, 1/250...). Summarizing to make more light enter we should use more sensitive films or in case of digital photography raise the ISO, open the aperture (low numbers) and set longer times, vice versa if you want to let less light enter.
This part was written by Diagaz.

Let's examine more in details the concept just shown.

Depth of field and aperture

Photo by Edgaa -
In the chapter where I explained how a camera works we've seen how generally the aperture works and what is used for, here I’ll examine it in a more detailed way and I’ll explain the concept of depth of field (DoF).

While focusing a scene only a single level will really be sharp, it’s an area of a pretty variable size, called depth of field; simply called DoF it’s the space that appears sharp ahead and behind our subject. But pay attention, remember that actually only a plane is really on focus!

The DoF depends on three factors:

  • Opening of the aperture.
  • Focal length
  • Distance between the subject and the lens.
To closer apertures corresponds a higher depth of field, while for wider apertures as f1.4 (or also f2.8) corresponds a lower depth of field, the wider the aperture the bigger the light beam that draws the image on the sensor, vice versa, the closer the aperture the thinner, and then more accurate, the beam that will draw our image, that is why we'll have a higher sharpness in front and behind our subject. Attention, with too closed apertures you may run into a particular phenomenon, the diffraction.

By setting the camera on manual or in aperture priority you have the chance to raise or lower the DoF. If, for example, we set f22 we'll have a considerable DoF.

If, for example, we set f22 we'll have a considerable DoF. we'll have substantially a bigger portion of the sharp area in front and behind the focusing plane, such opening is used generally for landscape photography.

By letting the aperture unchanged and keeping the same camera-subject distance and raising the focal length, the DoF decrease, while the higher the distance between the lens and the subject, the wider the DoF, vice versa, the closer you get to the subject, the least DoF you'll obtain.

That's why for landscape is better to use wide-angle lenses, so to have everything on focus (but also to catch a bigger portion of landscape) and why telephoto lenses are used for portraits to easily blur the background. Many people assert that the DoF is higher in digital compared to film, this is partially true and it’s applied only for cameras with sensors smaller than the full frame.

With a reflex provided with an APS-C sensor, smaller than a full frame, is substantially performed a cut-out of the center of the picture, with the result that the focal will appear more marked, here comes into play a multiplier factor of the focal length that for an APS-C is about of 1,5, for example a 35mm for the APS-C will give a frame equal to a 80mm full frame, the DoF then will remain the same because tied only to the aperture and the lens focal length.

Here there are some shots made using different apertures and focal lengths to make you understand how it varies the DoF (the pictures in this example have been realized by Davidd):

As you have just seen in the example pictures, to move the subject away from the background it’s better to use a wider aperture.

One of the question that I'm being asked more frequently, especially by new amateur photographers, is which is the better aperture, the answer is simple, it all depends on the result that you want to obtain, for the street photography I use medium apertures that should provide me with a higher image quality, that's because with medium apertures as f11 you employ just the central part of the lens that is the one with the higher quality and avoid the risk of running into diffraction.


They are another parameter with which we can dose the light, thanks to the shutter we can decide the time of the exposure; with an equal aperture, a slower time will let more light pass through than a faster one, shutter speed and aperture opening regulate the exact amount of light that reaches the sensor.

These times are indicated in second fractions, here I’ll show you some:
1/2 - 1/4 - 1/8 - 1/15 - 1/30 - 1/60 - 1/125 - 1/250 - 1/500 - 1/1000 - 1/2000 - 1/4000 - 1/8000

Other than these the cameras allow to use intermediate fractions, se we may have a time of 1/200 and one of 1/800.

Every SLR allows to use the B (bulb) pose that allows very long times (seconds, minutes, hours), the B pose is useful in those photographic genres as the night photography. When you set the B pose the shutter is opened by pressing the shutter button and is closed when is the button is released, it exist also the T pose that works in a similar way, by pressing the shutter release the exposure starts and pressing it again it ends, in both cases you risk to move the camera, that's why it's better to use the remote control or the self-timer.

The shutter times are divided in slow and fast; we may consider slow those times equal or longer than 1/60, we consider fast those shorter than 1/60, it all depends by the focal length used, by the speed of the photographed subject and the distance from it, with a telephoto 1/60 is generally slow and we'll have blurred pictures if the subject is moving, while with an ultra-wide-angle 1/60 may work well to freeze the movement.

If we have to take a picture of a static subject and we can't raise the ISO or change the aperture opening, the only way is to lengthen times avoiding the blurred caused by the vibrations of our hand by using a tripod.

The right amount of light is given by a certain combination of time and aperture, corresponding to a certain shutter time. The EV exposition values indicate the lighting of the framed subject through a scale of numbers, the table above shows the combinations time-aperture and the corresponding EV.

Let's see more in details what is EV.

EV means exposition value, it’s related to lighting of the scene and the sensor's ISO sensitivity, in short the EV may be considered the unit of measurement of light.

When the light of an EV varies, to compensate you have to change your shutter time by one or by one stop on the aperture, then if the light increase of a single EV it means that, to reach the correct lighting intensity on the sensor you have to close the aperture of one stop or set a faster shutter time. But the time and the aperture don't change just depending on the light intensity but also depending on the ISO sensitivity you set.

The EV value is related to a sensitivity of 100 ISO. When the sensitivity varies you have to compensate this variation with a different combination time/aperture. For example, passing from 100 ISO to 200 ISO I'll have to halve the shutter time or the aperture opening.

To calculate EV, times and apertures, times ago was used the table you saw before, now you’ll find a built-in light meter in all the new generation cameras.

Aperture and shutter time both influence the picture in two different ways.

The pair time - aperture

1st) By modifying the amount of light that reaches the sensor the aperture changes the intensity, the shutter changes the time.

2nd) Each give to the image a different effect, the aperture modifies the DoF, while with the shutter time, when the subject is moving, according on the time set, we can freeze the movement (using fast times) or create a blurred effect (with slow times).

To clearly record the image, the sensor has to receive the right amount of light. There are time/aperture combinations for which using a short shutter time with an open aperture or a long time with a closer aperture is not influential, at least for the quantity of light that reaches the sensor.

The image-graphic above shows the ratios of doubling and halving between apertures and times, using these values you can modify the effects on the image letting always enter the same amount of light.

Among thees pictures there are just small variations regarding the lighting (cause of the sudden change in the natural lighting and other factors related to the camera), the only clear changes are in the DoF and in the blurred effect.
The ISO sensitivity

When, cause of the poor lighting, it's not possible to change the shutter time or the aperture over a certain limit it comes to assist us the adjustment of the ISO sensitivity.

The photosensitivity of a sensor is defined by the ISO standard (International Standard Organization), for the film it was called ASA, and to vary it you had to change the film itself, while in digital photography you can adjust the photosensitivity to your liking, the more the technology develops, the more we can increase the ISO sensitivity without suffering the electrical noise.

For every doubling of the ISO the photosensitivity of the sensor doubles too (and vice versa by halving the ISO we halve the photosensitivity). For example at 200 ISO we can shoot with a shutter time or an aperture halved compared to those used to take the same picture at 100 ISO.

Practical example - ISO test 1

ISO 200 f/11 1/60sec.
ISO 800 f/11 1/60sec.
ISO 3200 f/11 1/60sec.
Practical example - ISO test 2

In the first test you can notice how by changing the ISO values and keeping unchanged times and apertures the lighting in the framed scene increases. In the second test I’ll try to make you understand what’s the effect of increasing the ISO, that is the arrival of the electrical noise and the lowering of detail, the pictures in the second test were taken with the compact Canon G12.

Then which ISO values should we set?

In conditions of optimal lighting (both in exterior or in studio) it's better to leave the ISO value at the standard that is usually 100 or 200 depending on the digital camera.

Try to avoid raising the ISO and to find an acceptable solution regulating the aperture and the shutter time, if it's not possible ‘cause of a poor lighting requiring too long shutter times, then raise the sensitivity of the bare essential to obtain fast shutter times and not to wide apertures.

I'm telling you this because by raising the ISO will increase the electronic noise of the digital signal that causes the effect of digital grain and chromo noise, that are the red and blue dots, the image will be consequently less sharp. In some photographic genres, that require a high detail of the image such as the fashion photography, the ISO should never be raised.

Sometimes we may use this grain effect caused by the noise at our advantage in post-production, for example in Black and White can add something to our picture.

Warning: some cameras with a standard sensitivity of 200 ISO can shoot at 100 ISO in extended mode. At 200 ISO the sensor can work at its optimal condition, giving its best performances, the chance to lower the ISO to 100 is just an option useful to shoot in situation of high lighting conditions, when we don't want to change our time/aperture combination.

This sensitivity lowering is obtained via software, lowering the "lighting" of the image, basically it’s the same when recovering overexposed pictures with raw camera. This entails less dynamic gamma and a lower color correspondence compared to a picture correctly exposed.

Translation by Nina Kozul

Nikon D800 Hands-on Review - Test

We finally get our hands on the much anticipated successor to the Nikon D700. The D800's high megapixel count has rocked the digital camera world, but has divided opinions. Kai takes a look to see if this full frame DSLR is the right camera for you.

Compared to D700: Specification highlights

The focusing - Photography Course - Lesson 19

This article is part of the online digital photography course.  

When your camera focuses on the target have you ever wondered how it works?

When you rotate the focusing ring (even when you use the auto focus) you are just regulating the distance between the lens elements and the sensor, a subject appears sharp only when this distance is correct.

Focusing ring of the Rolley B35 (the more external, the internal is the aperture), on the old cameras on the focusing ring the distance appeared in both feet and meters.

The light enters the lens and is collected towards the sensor creating a cone, if the vertex hits the sensor’s plane the image is focused, otherwise it will result blurred.

In the auto focus you have just to press until half the shutter release and automatically an electric engine will move the groups of elements until the correct focus, on the viewfinder should appear a light to inform you that you can shoot (some cameras also utter a buzzer).

SLR usually have 4 focusing modes.

  • One shot AF (Canon) or also AF-S (Auto Focus Single on Nikon): it works as I just explained, you have to press halfway the shutter release to obtain the subject correctly on focus, it’s better to use this AF mode with still subjects.
  • Continuous AF, AI Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon): This mode continuously update the focus for all the time we keep the shutter release pushed, useful when we have to shoot moving subjects.
  • Intelligent AF, AI Focus (Canon) o AF-A (Nikon): The camera decides automatically, interpreting the scene, if it has to use the AF-S mode or the AF-C (continuous) mode, this kind of focusing is also called hybrid for this peculiarity.
  • Predictive AF: This also has to be used with moving subject, the camera corrects the focus trying to foresee the point of focus esteeming the subject’s movement during the brief time of the shot.
  • Manual: this kind of focus was pretty used in the times of analogic photography, when the auto focus systems were still pretty inaccurate, to use it you have to disable the auto focus and rotate the ring of the lens until the image appears sharp. Nowadays is still used because in some occasions the auto focus doesn't work, for example if another object obstructs the line of sight, the auto focus could not focus on the wanted plane, or another very common case, with a monochromatic subject (as a colored wall) the autofocus may jam trying to value the distance.
The modern cameras have many focusing points, and it's possible to choose the area of the frame where the subject that we want to focus on is placed.

If the subject is decentralized you may frame and focus it by positioning it in the center of the frame, and later recompose the frame without releasing the shutter release in way to keep the setting, finally you have just to shoot!

Translation by Nina Kozul

Lytro Light Field Camera Hands On Review

Lytro Light Field Camera Review by Dpreview

Lytro light field camera review

LYTRO Light Field Camera Basic Features Overview

Just received my LYTRO light field camera today via UPS. With the Lytro light field camera, you compose and capture the image, and then focus the image after the fact. You can output traditional stills or post dynamic digital images that allow the viewer to play with depth of field and focus. In this video, I cover some of the features and user experience with the actual camera.

How do you protect your camera in stormy conditions? - Photography tips

This article is part of the section Photography Tips

Some of the best photographic opportunities are in the least camera friendly conditions. But from an equipment point of view, photographing a storm or trying to capture pictures in the rain doesn't sound very appealing!

In this video I show you how to protect your gear so that you can still go out and shoot even in the worst conditions and best of all it doesn't have to cost the earth. You'll see that a few simple items can give you all the protection you need.... as I find out!

What's New in Lightroom 4

This article is from the Lightroom Course

Laura Shoe gives a video tour of the new features in Lightroom 4. She covers Develop changes, new video editing and developing, the new Map and Book modules, DNG enhancements and more.

What's New in Lightroom 4 with Laura Shoe

DNG Enhancements in Lightroom 4

Discover the new enhancements to the Digital Negative File format and how to use them to improve the way you work with and archive your photographs in Lightroom 4.

Black and white or Color - Photography Course - Lesson 18

This article is part of the online digital photography course.

If you reached this part of the course starting from the beginning and following all the advices, it means that you already bought your camera, with the first notions learned here you started shooting and you started having a doubt: "should I shoot in colors or black & white?".

If this doubt didn't arise during the shooting phase, it surely came once in front of your post-production software.

First of all you should know that it's better to shoot in colors and convert them in black & white afterwards, with Photoshop or any other photo-retouch software. This for two reasons, the first is clearly logic, a color picture can be converted in black & white but not vice versa, the second is that the quality of the B&W realized with Photoshop is higher than the one obtained with your camera.

But why in the digital era, with HD and 3D, are seen pictures in B&W with grain and
imperfections often even wanted on purpose? There isn't an exact reason, might be a choice suggested by personal taste, the will to search your own style or because the lack of color distracts the attention of the observer from the message that you want to give, is not accidental that the B&W is recommended especially for reportage.

We choose to shoot in colors because the reality that we see is colored and it seems natural to reproduce it entirely.

Color photography is therefore "realistic" unlike B&W considered more "abstract and artistic"; I love to use it for street photography.

In black and white the images have only 2 dimensions: perspective and contrast, in fact when photographing in B&W we have to pay particularly attention to shadows and geometries.

In color photography there’s perspective, contrast and color, which is not a trivial element, in fact we can realize beautiful photographs exploiting just this last one.

If you decide to shoot mainly in B&W, because, like me, you love the street photography, you have to "change your eye", it's very difficult to get used to neglect colors as they are and value them only depending on the chance to transform them in white, black or gray tones, and to exploit contrasts between light and shadow.

Who shoots color pictures thinks in the opposite way, or rather acquires a particular sensitivity the softest color nuances, saturation and chromatic brightness.

But, in the end, which one should we choose? I think it depends on the photographed subject, there are subjects that look better in B&W and others that are better in colors.

Curiosity: a color portrays should obviously be more realistic than a B&W one, because reality is not in B&W, but that is so obvious! I'll make a little example, one day I converted a color portray in B&W, strangely the B&W version resulted more realistic than the color one, why? For two reasons:

1°) Black and white is usually accepted by the public, as if we were "used" to it and the lack of color is seen as completely normal.

2°) The color portray, that should appear realistic, appeared on a first impact unreal because its colors seemed "false" because the skin had a strange color dominance, due surely to the fact that the subject was near a colored object that reflected the light.

But if you think about it, that color picture was the reality of that moment, then why does it appeared unreal? Because our chromatic perception is not developed at the point to make us consciously sense, in the objects, slight colors aberrations, then colors are judged from memory and if they are different from the usual (that automatically happens if the lighting is not absolutely white) we judge them unreal, that's why the white balance was created (very used in wedding photography).

Translation by Nina Kozul

Philippe Halsman Dalí Atomicus [1948] - Photos that made history

The picture that made surreal real: "Dalí Atomicus" by Philippe Halsman, 1948.

In 1941 Halsman met Salvador Dalì with whom he would start to cooperate at the end of the decade. The pictures that they realized together are out-and-out surrealist paintings, the realistic transposition of the imagination of the Spanish painter.

Philippe Halsman is probably the only photographer that advanced in his career taking pictures of persons while they are jumping. He claims that the act of jumping reveals the true nature of his subjects, looking at his most famous jump, "Dalí Atomicus" it's pretty hard not agreeing with him.

This article is part of the section: Photos that made history

Translation by Nina Kozul

Canon or Nikon? Nikon vs Canon - The best Reflex is...

Canon or Nikon? That is the question.

The war between Canon and Nikon fans fought on Forums, Blogs and Social Networks. You can't write a bad opinion on one of these brands without being accused to follow Canonism or Nikonism and to take money from the respective manufacturers.

At this point I’d like to spend some words, many people say that I’m a Nikonist and I have a bad opinion on Canon's cameras because Nikon pays me, I’m sorry but It’s not true, although I admit that I wouldn't mind earning something from Nikon, but the harsh truth is that Nikon doesn't pay me; I use a Nikon but I don’t worship it, I just use it to take pictures, unlike those that before sleeping say their prayers to their Canon (or Nikon); the articles that I publish are sent by other users, developed by discussions on different forums or blogs (many articles are mine too but I always prefer to entrust experts and read up) and then passed under x-rays to prove their “Truth”.

I've also published positive Canon reviews (passed unnoticed) and I don't care if my Nikon D90 is inferior to another camera, I use it just to take pictures, I’m open to any opinion and to publish articles written by other users (as long as they don't provide highly subjective opinion instead than a technical one). Now let's get back to the subject...

Canon or Nikon? A terrible doubt when you plan to buy your first reflex. Once I read this comment "if you have to choose between a Nikon and a Canon ask someone who uses a Leica".

Now let’s face the heart of the matter, which is better of both brands?

After reading several discussions, trying some reflex from both brands, I can say that both take pictures (crazy isn't it!?), the more expensive models can make you a coffee if you need one; the only comparison you can do is the quality-price-ratio, there isn’t an absolutely better brand, the balance of power varies with the periods and the new models on market.

Talking about differences, there are always little things, magnified by marketing. Do you want to know from a webmaster why in blogs you can find comparisons between cameras? Because they make them earn money thanks to AdSense (not surely a bribe from Nikon or Canon) and assure many visits, and that shows how nowadays people think more about having the camera with a little more than reading up on what photography really is!

2 or 3 megapixel less or a shutter speed that doesn't allow you to take a picture of a missile are not an handicap so vital in a photographer’s career, I still think that the difference is made by the man behind the camera.

Think about the great photographers of the past and the cameras they used, almost toys compared to our reflexes, and nevertheless their pictures are still beautiful, immortal masterpieces!

Translation by Nina Kozul 

Nikon D5100 vs Canon EOS 600D review comparison

Comparison between the Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D and Nikon D5100 DSLRs.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D vs Nikon D5100 review comparison part 1

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D vs Nikon D5100 review comparison part 2

To see part 2

Robert Capa - Masters of Photography

Robert Capa, alias of Endre Ernő Friedmann (Budapest, 22nd October 1913 – Province of Thai Binh, 25th May 1954), was a Hungarian photographer.

His reportages testify five different armed conflicts: Spanish civil war, second Sino-Japanese war, World War 2, the 1948 Arab–Israeli war and the first Indochina war.

Capa documented also the course of World War 2 in London, Northern Africa and Italy, the invasion of Normandy of the allies and the liberation of Paris. Capa's minor brother, Cornell, was a photographer too.

He started in 1931 as a self-taught photographer, in 1933 he move to Paris where he changed his name in Robert Capa and started working as a freelance photographer.

His most famous work is "the falling soldier" the second picture that you can see in his portfolio on the website of the Magnum Photos agency (a photo gallery with 50 shots of Robert Capa).

The authenticity of this picture is very debated, when someone asked some question, Capa answered:

No tricks are necessary to take pictures in Spain. You don't have to pose your camera. The pictures are there, and you just take them. The truth is the best picture, the best propaganda.

Another famed picture of Robert Capa was taken during the invasion of Normandy. I'm talking about the picture you can see above, it’s one of the few frames escaped from a laboratory error, the others were burnt...

The versions are contrasting and legends have piled up on real facts, anyway it seems that Capa during the first moments of the invasions used four rolls of 35mm film of 36-exposure (144 shots), he probably used some 120mm rolls(medium format), but the most of the invasion was on 35mm because remains a note where he reported the importance of the 35mm rolls (but someone, considering the number of the safe shots, thinks that the good shots were taken with the medium format).

Anyway, aside the support used to take pictures, these rolls arrived to the editorial office of Life in London that at the time was inside a development laboratory; everyone was waiting for Capa's pictures because, even though the event was covered by several photographers, no one landed in the middle of the battlefield side by side with soldiers at the beginning of the battle... Once the roll arrived, it was immediately sent to the laboratory where they started the development and where, before the photo proofing, they developed and placed them to dry in the appropriate drying room. It seems that the room was too hot and the door was closed, so when he came back in the room the negatives were melted and gray, only 11 frames, which were far from the heat, vaguely survived, showing some images though ruined and confused cause of the error, those that we all know.

When Life published the pictures, they never mentioned the error in the laboratory and just apologized because the picture were slightly out of focus but the agitated situation of the invasion justified the quality. Capa, who perfectly knew how he took the shots, during his writing of a diary of those experience called them "slightly out of focus".

In 1947 in Paris he found - with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David "Chim" Seymour and George Rodger - the Magnum Photos agency, that became one of the most prestigious photographic agencies.

The 25th May 1954 Robert Capa died in Thai-Binh (Vietnam) blown up after erroneously entering a minefield.

One of Capa's quotes that particularly stroke me: 
"If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough" (Robert Capa).

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 1

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 2

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 3

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 4

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 5

Robert Capa documentary - In Love and War - Part 6

Nikon D800: Interview with Jim Brandenburg

Interview with National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, who spent a month with the Nikon D800 last year. In the interview he discusses his first impressions of the camera. 

Nikon D4 Hands-on Review - Test

Almost 5-years since the D3 was released and with the D3X and D3S sandwich fillings in between, Nikon finally bring out their latest top of the line professional DSLR, the Nikon D4. We arranged some fast action to see how it fares.

Related article: Nikon D4 Guided Tour - Review