Friday, January 17, 2014

Try a lens a little on the long side

Shooting babies is like shooting anyone. A slightly long lens is preferable to a wide angle. The wide angle will encourage one to get too close to fill the frame. Getting too close will distort the subject's features. Use a slightly long lens, in this case a 105mm when compared to a 35mm SLR.

Using a point and shoot with a long lens, pay careful attention to the shutter speed selected. As one zooms most lenses out, the fastest f/stop available gets progressively slower. The smaller f/stop will demand a slower shutter speed and both subject movement and camera movement can become problems.

The answer can be as simple as restricting one's shooting, or at least concentrating one's shooting, to a moment during the day. Choose locations that are bright, indoors try and get the subject to face a window. The baby in this shot was being lit by a nearby window that was letting a stream of soft light fill the room.

The camera was using a shutter speed of 1/125th second. That is fast enough to stop camera shake. It wasn't fast enough to stop subject movement, though. The solution? I shot lots. Clearly at the moment this picture was taken, the little baby wasn't moving.

Luck and a long lens delivered this successful picture.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Document those family moments

Recently I got the following e-mail:

"Thank you so much Ken.  Although we do not often express it, we are so grateful that you take the time and effort to document our family occasions.  All these photos will be cherished memories.  Thank you."

Documenting family moments is important. It is one of the main reasons we take pictures. Sadly, all too many pictures taken at family events are of the "say cheese" variety.

In the above image, grandfather is celebrating his 70th birthday and his 4-year-old granddaughter is helping him blow out the candles while his other granddaughter, only 7-months-old, looks on. Including the little girl on the far right was important. She is part of the story. She was kept in the picture on purpose.

When shooting moments like this try to capture complete moments and that means doing your best to get by without resorting to relying on your camera's flash. The light is damn ugly. I asked that the room lights not be turned off for the candle-blowing ceremony. The presence of room light made it possible to shoot in burst-mode with my Canon S90. This helps to guarantee the capture of a peak moment.

I saved this image as a jpg image and not a RAW file. I also saved it as a smallish file; My S90 will either save big files or smaller ones. Shooting jpg and smaller files gives a faster burst rate. The f/2.0 aperture available in low light situations when shooting at wide angle also played a part in getting this image. The new Canon S120, the latest in the S-line, has a marginally faster lens. It opens to f/1.8.

Remember, the smaller the f/stop number, the larger the aperture and the more light entering the camera. Large apertures, like f/2.0, are for dark situations. Smaller apertures, like f/16, are for greater depth of field. But the small sensors in most point and shoot cameras make deep depth of field more the norm, even when the lens is used at wide open.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Shooting lots to get good pictures

Taken by a 4-year-old.

My granddaughter is only four but she knows her way around a simple point and shoot camera. She has been taking pictures with my Canon S90 since she was three.

Taken by a 4-year-old.
If you're giving a kid a camera, also give them some instruction to go along with the simple camera. Don't set the kid up to fail. And above all encourage them to shoots lots of pictures.

My Canon S90 is ideal for a 4-year-old. Set to wide angle, the 28mm lens is fast: f/2.0 fast. (The newer S120 is even better. It has an f.1.8 aperture at wide angle.) This means that even indoors the camera is able to shoot on automatic at shutter speeds fast enough to eliminate any camera movement. And trust me, when a child of four is taking the pictures, camera shake is a problem.

It also has a bright, large screen that encourages the kid to pay attention to what she is shooting. At least this is true indoors. Outside seeing the image in the rear screen can be a challenge.

Even with all the above going for her, my granddaughter still managed to cut off the top of my head in the best shot she captured of me holding her baby sister. Oh well, Isla and I are both bald. The viewer isn't missing much.

If you've got a kid who is interested in photography, give them a suitable camera, let them shoot lots and then pull the best images. Later, explain what impressed you and discuss briefly why certain images were worth keeping while others were not.

I'm keeping an eye open for a rough and tumble camera with a good fast, fixed lens to give my granddaughter as a gift. But until that camera comes along, I'll let her keep using my Canon. It seems to be a durable little beauty.

Taken by a 4-year-old.