Club Meeting 22 September 2016 (Basic Photo Techniques)

This evening’s session was a Steven/Joe double act of basic photo techniques. I gave a presentation mostly on the technical side of photography, with advice on getting the most from your equipment. The important points are:

  • There are many opinions on how to set up your camera, with manual mode being proffered as the best option. But digital cameras are becoming more sophisticated, with the “auto” modes getting better. Try out the different modes and use your camera as a tool. You might want to start with the “auto” modes and move to the more manual ones (A, S and M) as you learn more about how the camera behaves. The manual modes give you more control, and ultimately you should be in control. Manual mode (M) is good for situations, like a panorama, when you want every frame to have exactly the same exposure; or for night photography (or photography with an ND filter), when the camera’s exposure meter doesn’t receive enough light to work properly.
  • The really vital thing isn’t how you set up the camera, it is checking the camera has captured the image you want. Always check the display at the back of the camera and check that the histogram shows a good exposure. I set my display into “highlights” mode so that blown highlights are indicated. If the exposure doesn’t look right, adjust it (using exposure compensation or by making a manual adjustment) and try again. The camera will tend to underexpose snow scenes and overexpose scenes with a dark background.
  • Save your images to RAW files. These have a greater dynamic range and will make the images easier to adjust in Photoshop. (Only save to JPEG if you don’t have or don’t intend to use Photoshop).
  • Any gadget with an optical element that you fit onto a lens will reduce the quality of that lens. This includes filters, close-up lenses and teleconverters. Don’t spoil a good quality lens by adding a poor quality filter to it. Most photographers leave a UV filter on their lens permanently for protection, but this is only necessary when you are outdoors. You can remove the filter when photographing in a safe indoor environment. A lens hood also offers protection without affecting optical quality. For a similar reason, extension rings are a better option for macro photography than a close-up lens.
  • A tripod is very useful for preventing camera shake, but remember to turn off vibration reduction if your lens has such a facility. A remote shutter release also helps to steady shots made with a tripod.
  • Make a check list to consult before taking shots with your camera. Here are some common mistakes I have made, which a check list would have helped prevent:
    • Leaving the camera set to manual focus.
    • Leaving the vibration reduction on when attached to a tripod, or off when taking hand held shots.
    • Leaving a high ISO setting.
    • Leaving the camera set up for exposure bracketing.

Here is a downloadable PDF of my presentation:


Joe showed us how to turn ordinary looking shots into successful images. He began with a series of shots taken during the demolition of Cockenzie Power Station. By photographing the whole event (rather than just the demolition of the chimneys) he was able to build up a composite showing the turbine hall and chimneys being demolished together, and create a much more effective dust cloud. Joe showed us how getting in close, or cropping, can make a big difference to a shot. A distant shot of a few ducks becomes a striking image when cropped and viewed close up. Joe moved one of the ducks to make a more satisfying line. Shots of performers at the Edinburgh festival can be superimposed on an interesting background to make a composite. Joe recommended that we look for interesting backgrounds and skies to use in composite images. The quality of landscape images depends very much on the available lighting. A bright, sunny day is not the best time for landscape photography. Sunset and sunrise, storms or mist make better lighting. But again, you can compensate for the available lighting by collecting different shots and combining them. When creating a composite, make sure the lighting and shadows look consistent. Joe combined two images taken at sunset for maximum effect.