Photo Tips & Info Thread For Questions & Advice


Super Moderator
Jul 18, 2009
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Houston, Texas
Thought this would be a very helpful thread for myself & others. So if any of you have any questions or just want to give out free, good advice, this is the thread.

Exposure Basics

So you've just bought a shiny new SLR camera huh? And a lens or two to go with it? That's great. Now all you have to do is learn how to use it. I'm assuming here you bought an SLR camera because you want to do a little bit more than take happy snaps at family events and holidays. So for those new to photography as anything more than that, this article aims to give you a little background on the basics of exposure to help you on your way.

Shutter speed

There are two elements to creating a "correct exposure". These are aperture, and shutter speed, which we will look at first. When you press the trigger button on your camera to take a picture, it opens a set of sliders, like opening a window. How long it stays open, depends on how you set the shutter speed. Shutter speeds can range from extremely fast (i.e. 1/8000 of a second), to very slow (30 seconds), or even infinity if your camera has a bulb setting. These are extreme shutter speeds and not often used, except by people who shoot fast moving subjects, or in very low light. For most of us, we tend to stick to somewhere in the middle. As a general rule, the faster the shutter speed, the sharper your photo will be. For most people, anything at 1/60 of a second or above is acceptable when hand holding a camera. Lower if you have a particularly steady hand. If you need to use slower shutter speeds, you will need to use a tripod or rest your camera on a steady surface. These slow speeds can be particularly useful for creating blurred effects. For example the flowing water in a waterfall.


Ever wondered how photographers get their subjects to really stand out by blurring the background? The secret (which really is no secret) is adjusting the aperture. The aperture changes the depth of field in your photo. Depth of field is how much of the image is in focus. For example, if you have a depth of field of 4 meters, anything within that distance of the subject you are focusing on will also be in focus. There is as much variety with this control as there is with shutter speed. You can choose to set a narrow aperture (long depth of field) when you want the whole shot in focus, for instance a great, sweeping landscape, or a wider aperture for portraits.

Ok, so you've got your shutter speed sorted from your aperture. Now we just have to put them together. Any SLR camera will have an inbuilt light meter. This little gadget measures the amount of light you will need to create a correct exposure. It is usually in the form of a little bar with a too high (+) and a too low (-) sign at each end. It is simply a matter of balancing one against the other so that the meter is centered. Once you've done that you can press the button! That's all there is to it.


Another choice that will effect your exposure is the ISO you use. With film cameras, this means the speed of film that you use. If you use a 100 speed film, your ISO is 100. Digital cameras also have an adjustable ISO speed. It's just in the form of turning a dial instead of loading a different film. A general rule is to use the lowest ISO you can get away with. Higher ISO films or digital settings can result in noisy (grainy) pictures. They do, however, allow you more freedom in your exposures in that you can shoot with less available light. Experiment with your particular camera, see what you can get away with. Remember that the quality required will be different for everyone. If you only want to make small prints to put in an album, or just store the photos digitally on your computer, then you will not need the same quality as if you want to make large prints to hang on your wall.

So there is some food for thought for those starting out in photography and looking to do more than just point and shoot. Now it's time to go out there and shoot. Experiment with different settings. Try new things. The technical side of photography you can read about anywhere. The creative side, well, that's up to you.

Digital SLR Tips - Use a Tripod
An essential piece of kit and a part of learning about photography is to know when to use a tripod. There will be times when hand holding the camera simply won't do.

Many professionals, especially wedding photographers, leave the camera permanently attached to a tripod, and a good one too, as with weddings it is always better to be safe than sorry. With sports photographers a tripod or monopod is necessary just to take the weight of those huge 500/600mm lenses during a game.

What is the standard "rule" for when to use a tripod? Try this simple tip. If the shutter speed is slower than the focal length of the lens, use a tripod! For instance;

• 50mm lens needs 60th/sec or faster

• 200mm lens needs 200th/sec or faster

• 500mm lens needs 500th/sec or faster

Why? The more you magnify the subject with telephoto lenses, the more you magnify any movements which will inevitably give you "camera shake". Also, if you plan to enlarge the photo many times, you need to use a tripod to get the clearest image possible. For small prints it is less noticeable therefore not so necessary.

To start off with, I suggest spending no more than $100 to $200 (or less) on a reasonable tripod and upgrade as and when is necessary. A cheap, light but reliable and sturdy tripod will give you the support you need, when you need it for most situations you may come across. (You can always weigh it down by hanging a bag in the middle of it for extra support)!

Take night photography for example. It would be impossible to get any half decent, well lit night-time shots without having to use a tripod. The shots below were taken with shutter speeds of a few seconds, as part of an advertising/lifestyle campaign for a real estate company. As you can imagine, 4 or 6 seconds is far too long to hand hold and get a decent shot!
Other times you may need a tripod is when shooting landscapes because, as I mentioned before, the best light is early morning or early evening when the light is low. To get good depth of field, you would need to "stop down" (close) the aperture to around F11 or F16, which would normally mean a slow shutter speed.

You may want to do some still life shots of your stamps, jewellery or any other important items you have, or maybe you want to produce still life images for selling as stock. If you use a tripod, you can set the shot up and then simply re-arrange the subject matter accordingly. This way you don't have to continuously look through the viewfinder and re-position the camera or remember where it was.

This shot was set up to test a new camera (the Canon EOS 10D) when it came out. I used a very simple set up involving just a piece of orange card as a backdrop, 2 studio lights and the camera on a tripod. As you can see an exposure of 1 ½ seconds could not be handheld.

There are 2 types of "head" to think about when buying a tripod. The conventional "pan and tilt" or the "ball and socket". In fact there are more, but these are the favourites.

Note: Try to ensure that whichever tripod you buy has a "quick release" feature. This is great if you want to quickly release and re-attach your camera to the tripod in a jiffy!

A pan and tilt tripod head has one (see fig.1) or two (see fig.2) levers with which you (strangely enough) pan and tilt the head. This is the norm for the lower to mid range tripods and is what most people start out with (myself included).

A ball and socket on the other hand (see fig.3), is great for speedier work as you can fluidly manoeuvre the camera in one fast movement. A variation and addition to this, is the grip action ball head (see fig.4) which I use all the time. A quick squeeze of the handle and the camera can be moved swiftly and easily and set in place just as quickly and securely by releasing the grip…brilliant!

It is all food for thought and I suggest that when budgeting for your kit, keep some aside for a tripod. There will come a time when you will need one.

An introduction to camera lenses. A quality lens will last...Cameras come and go! -

The camera lenses that you choose now, will almost certainly dominate what camera make or model you stick with in the future. New cameras are being constantly updated and improved, but get yourself a decent selection of optics NOW, and it is one less thing for your wallet to worry about later on.

Don´t be fooled by the looks of a lens, it is the quality of the glass that really counts! As well as certain features such as the ability to switch to manual focus and operating in a smooth, sturdy manner.

Think of it like this. You buy an expensive pair of designer glasses, but put cheap, non-prescription glass into the frame. They look good, but don´t do the job they are supposed to do.

What camera lenses should I start out with ?

This animation shows the range of camera lenses from 16mm to 400mm. Bear in mind that the camera was digital and had a crop factor of 1.6. If used on full frame 35mm cameras, each picture would be slightly wider. Click on the picture to see the photos in strip form. As a guide, 50mm is the focal length that the human eye sees things.

If you are serious about photography as a hobby or profession, I cannot stress enough, that the choice of lens/s you make now will stand you in good stead for a long time. In fact, the only time you should need to change them, is if you change the make of CAMERA that you use.
Most semi/pro´s go for either Canon or Nikon kits, and once they have made the choice, rarely do they change it. The reason? It´s because they have spent years building a great lens collection covering the focal range from ultra-wide angle (16mm or below) to long-range telephoto (500mm and above).

It is a lot cheaper to trade in your camera every few years than to trade in all those lenses!

"I don´t have the money!"
Don´t panic! You don´t have to spend a fortune to get decent glass on the front of your camera. Use this page to learn about camera lenses, and this guide should lead you in the right direction for choosing your starter kit for now and/or your pro kit for later on.
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Full Access Member
Aug 6, 2009
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Beckley, Wv more for hobbyist than people wanting to go pro IMO (dont know if i can post this)
Ambient Light
The available light completely surrounding a subject. Light already existing in an indoor or outdoor setting that is not caused by any illumination supplied by the photographer. [Light the photographer didn't create ie. Sunlight, lightbulbs already in the room etc.]
Angle Of View
The area of a scene that a lens covers or sees. Angle of view is determined by the focal length of the lens. A wide-angle lens (short-focal-length) includes more of the scene-a wider angle of view-than a normal (normal-focal-length) or telephoto (long-focal-length) lens. [What the lens sees, kind of like what you see when you look at something]
Lens opening. The opening in a camera lens through which light passes to expose the film or sensor. The size of aperture is either fixed or adjustable. Aperture size is usually calibrated in f-numbers-the larger the number, the smaller the lens opening.[the f/ number thing, controls exposure and depth of field, also know as the blade things inside the lens]
The blurry part of the photo achieved with a narrow depth of field.
Shooting 3 or more shots with an equal stop difference between each one, usually used for HDR's
Chromatic aberration
Commonly seen as colour fringes at the edge of subjects caused by the inability of the lens to focus all wawelengths of light at a single focal point. Will also affect sharpness. Low dispersion glass is used to correct this. Canon L series, Nikkor ED, Sigma DG, Sony G, also labeled as APO.
The pleasing arrangement of the elements within a scene-the main subject, the foreground and background, and supporting subjects.[How you set up subject and props of the photo]
Crop Factor Sensor
Size of the sensor is smaller than a 35mm film frame. Most common crops are 1.3X, 1.5X (Nikon), 1.6X(Canon), and 2.0X(3/4ths systems)
Printing only part of the image that is in the negative or slide, usually for a more pleasing composition. May also refer to the framing of the scene in the viewfinder.[Cutting out parts of the image by decreasing what you see on the sides]
Depth of Field
The amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. Depth of field depends on the lens opening, the focal length of the lens, and the distance from the lens to the subject.[Blurry Background]
Digital lenses
Canon S, Sony DT, Tamrom Di II, Sigma DC, Nikkor DX, Pentax DA - have a smaller image circle specifically designed for APS-C sensors. Not usable on full-frame
The quantity of light allowed to act on a photographic material; a product of the intensity (controlled by the lens opening) and the duration (controlled by the shutter speed or enlarging time) of light striking the film or paper.[Brightness/Darkness of the final photo]
Exposure Compensation
a technique for adjusting the exposure indicated by a photographic exposure meter, in consideration of factors that may cause the indicated exposure to result in a less-than-optimal image.[adjusting the brightness of an image with one move]
Fast lens
Refers to a lens that has a very wide aperture ... ie f/1.8 or f/2.8
Fill flash
A technique used to to brighten shadow areas by using a flash.
Fisheye Lens
Lens that gives a 180 degree field of view
Internal reflection or scrattering of light from the lens elements. Usually manifesting itself as a bright image region, and/or a reduction in contrast and saturation. Lens hoods are used to shade the lens.
Focal Length
The distance between the film and the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused on infinity. The focal length of the lens on most adjustable cameras is marked in millimeters on the lens mount.[the amount of zoom of the lens, more mm more zoom]
Adjustment of the distance setting on a lens to define the subject sharply.[sharpness]Focus Point(s)
The dots/boxes inside your viewfinder where you select the camera to focus at, can be set to manual or automatic.
Full Frame Sensor
Size of the sensor is the same as a 35mm Film Frame.
The sand-like or granular appearance of a negative, print, or slide. Graininess becomes more pronounced with faster film and the degree of enlargement.[Pixel dots on image from film]
Grey card
Usually a flat card coloured neutral grey having a 18% reflectance across the visible spectrum. Used to provide a standard reference for exposure. Also used for white balance.
A graph Showing you if the image is under/over exposed.
Hyperfocal distance
The focus point where all objects can be brought into acceptable focus up to infinity at a given aperture.
IF - rear or internal focusing
Focusing mechanism in which the front lens group is not moved.
ISO Speed
The emulsion speed (sensitivity) of the film as determined by the standards of the International Standards Organization. In these standards, both arithmetic (ASA) and logarithmic (DIN) speed values are expressed in a single ISO term. For example, a film with a speed of ISO 100/21° would have a speed of ASA 100 or 21 DIN.[sensitivity of sensor/film. Higher ISO Brighter exposure and more noise/grain]
One or more pieces of optical glass or similar material designed to collect and focus rays of light to form a sharp image on the film, paper, or projection screen.[The thing you mount on a dSLR]
Lens Shade/Hood
A collar or hood at the front of a lens that keeps unwanted light from striking the lens and causing image flare. May be attached or detachable, and should be sized to the particular lens to avoid vignetting.[The black thing on top of lens to block light entering from the sides of the lens, professionals put it on to make their lens look bigger :p]
Lens Speed
The largest lens opening (smallest f-number) at which a lens can be set. A fast lens transmits more light and has a larger opening than a slow lens.[See Aperture]
Looking Space
Commonly associated with portrait and automotive photography, also links in with "Rule of Thirds". Making sure your subject has looking space means to allow some blank space in front of your model or car's face for them or it to "look" into.[Also referred to as breathing space]
Macro Lens
A lens that provides continuous focusing from infinity to extreme close-ups, often to a reproduction ratio of 1:2 (half life-size) or 1:1 (life-size).[Lens to shoot really close, great for bugs and flowers]
Measurement of light on the subject using desired setting in camera or an external light meter. Helps determine exposure.
A single leg usually used for heavier lenses while shooting for a long time. Used to take the weight off of one arm.Noise
Colorful dots you see on the photo when using too high of an ISO.
Normal Lens
A lens that makes the image in a photograph appear in perspective similar to that of the original scene. A normal lens has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view than a telephoto lens, and a longer focal length and narrower field of view than a wide-angle lens.[Usually a 50mm lens on a Full Frame Body]
A condition in which too much light reaches the film, producing a dense negative or a very light print or slide.[Too Bright]Panning
Using a longer exposure to show motion in a photo, usually used for fast moving objects like cars, sports players. Focus is on the subject and the background is "smeared".Post Processing
A technique used to accentuate motion of a moving subject by following the motion of the subject (though the viewfinder) for the duration of the exposure.
Polarizing filter
Transmits light of a particular polarization while absorbing light that is of a perpendicular polarization. Light reflected by shiny materials is partly or fully polarized. Polarizing filters are turned to change the polarization direction.
Prime Lens
Lens that you can't zoom on, usually has great image quality.
Rule of Thirds
The common technique of putting the subject slightly off-centre, about a third of the way from either the left, right, upper or lower part of the photograph. Not always the best option, but generally can help a photograph's composition. [For example, if your subject was a tree, you might have the trunk a third of the way from the right-hand side of the viewfinder to help composition].
Stopping Down
Changing the lens aperture to a smaller opening; for example, from f/8 to f/11.[Changing the aperture down]Teleconverter
Something you mount between the lens to increase the focal length of a lens. Usually come in 1.4X and 2.0 flavors. The benefit is that you have a longer focal length without buying a new lens, the draw back is that you lose 1 stop of light with the 1.4X and 2 stops of light with the 2.0X.
Sync speed
Usually referred to as the maximum shutter speed usable for flash photography.
Telephoto lens
A long lens, usually above 70mm, also meaning the physical lens is shorter than it's focal length.Tripod
Three legged thing that you put your camera on. Used for heavy lenses or night shots to prevent motion shake.Vignetting
A fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print. Can be caused by poor lens design, using a lens hood not matched to the lens, or attaching too many filters to the front of the lens.[Black thing in the corners of photos]
Wide-Angle Lens
A lens that has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view (includes more subject area) than a normal lens.[What people call fisheye...and they are wrong]
White Balance
Color Temperature of the image. Setting depend on the lighting available.
Zoom Lens
A lens in which you adjust the focal length over a wide range. In effect, this gives you lenses of many focal lengths.[Not Prime lens]
Acronyms used on TPF
If I missed something tell me

f/#= f/ number/aperture
OOF= Out of Focus
PP= Post Processing
C&C= Critique and Comments
CC=Same as above
ROT= Rule of Thirds
TPF=The Photo Forum
IQ=Image Quality
IS=Image Stabilization(Canon) \
VR=Vibration Reduction(Nikon) -- These are all the same ;D
OS=Optical Stabilization(Sigma) /
AWB=Auto White Balance
CA=Chromatic aberration
ETTL=Evaluative through-the-lens(Canon) \
iTTL=intelligent through-the-lens(Nikon) -- Also same thing
TTL=Through the lens
P&S=Point and Shoot
EXIF=Exchangeable image file format
SLR=Single Lens Reflex
HSM=Hyper-Sonic Motor (Sigma Lens)
USM=Ultrasonic Motor (Canon Lens)
VC=Vibration Compensation (Tamron Lens)
EOS=Electro-Optical System (Canon Camera series)
EF=Electro-Focus (Canon Lens)
EF-S=Same as EF, S stands for "short back focus" (Canon Lens)

---------- Post added at 06:01 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:54 PM ----------

the website of the camera maker usually has some very basic information and tutorials is a good website to pick up gear.....

stay away from eBay dslr kits that offer 6+ lens for only $$$...i tried that in the beginning and it was a painful experience... a camera and the kit lens is a great place to first start off and then decide where you want to go from there....

I have googled so many different websites I can't remember them all...


Super Moderator
Jul 18, 2009
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Houston, Texas
To be honest, I was actually considering the Ebay kits with a lot of lenses for cheap too.

Good thing I didn't.

What happened to you?


Full Access Member
Aug 6, 2009
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Beckley, Wv
First bought the Canon xti (i think that is the name of it, it is one step above the xsi) and 7 lenses and all kinds of accesories for $899 (which would have been an awesome deal). As soon as I clicked buy it now my phone rang and it was the eBay seller. I was brand new to all of this and the guy pulled a bait and switch on me and sent only 2 "upgraded lenses" I got the package and decided I wanted the wide angle lens and the fish eye lens to play around with and told him I wanted the original package(which he said was fine if i received the kit and wanted to switch back to the original package). So i sent the two lens back and he sent me the 7 "lens" which was basically 2 actual lens and 5 filters for those two took over 2 months to get that one straightened was an ebay store "getitdigital" and the sales rep was manny....i ended up just sending the entire kit back and losing the shipping cost to send it back which was about $70... now i stick to

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