Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wide angle great for kids taking photos despite distortion

Fiona, 4, used a Canon PowerShot S90 set to wide angle to take this picture of her sister.

Wide angle lenses used to shoot almost full frame pictures of people can introduce apparent distortions, distortions that can be very distracting. This shot of my youngest granddaughter was shot with a Canon S90 with the lens set to 28mm. A mistake, sorta. (If you don't see the problem, look at the little girl's left forearm. Close to the camera, the arm is unnaturally large, almost deformed.)

Still, I say " a mistake, sorta" because the picture was taken by the baby's 4-year-old sister. A child using a camera has some very specific needs with a fast shutter speed being one of them. Little kids have a hard time holding a camera rock solid, even when that camera is a small point-and-shoot.

The Canon S90 has a program favouring the use of the f/2.0 aperture teamed with a corresponding faster shutter speed. The downside to this setting is that the file size is reduced. Still, it is a trade-off worth making. (If you don't have an f/2.0 aperture, you have yet another problem. Slow lenses make me want to scream.)

Even being wielded by a child, my PowerShot S90 was able to stop both camera shake and subject movement despite the low level of available light illuminating the subject.

Another problem faced by a child taking pictures is focus. Getting an image tightly focused has always been a challenge for photographers in certain situations. A wide angle lens and the attendant great depth of field can really help.

A poor image that is blur-free and sharp is still a poor image. Too much distortion is an image killer. Some distorted images can be saved with careful cropping but others will be lost. The flip side is that fewer images are lost to camera and subject movement or to unsharp focus. All in all I think the decision to use the wide angle in this situation was a good one.

Now, if you are an adult the story changes -- especially, if you have a DSLR with a fast 85mm lens. Go with the 85mm.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Have an eye

Good pictures occur constantly. Some we see, most we don't and almost all slip by uncaptured. It takes a photographer, a hunter of images, to bag a prize photo with a perfect shot.

Fiona, my granddaughter loves the park. There is one looped metal bar that she always likes to poke her head through when heading for the slides. Behind the looped bar there is a translucent sheet of bright blue plastic and a round, translucent, white window. Catch the little girl at just the right moment and you have a picture.

Composition and colour: First, the beautiful blue didn't just appear by accident. I picked the camera angle with the background in mind. Also, the arc of bright white in the lower right wasn't just happenstance. The only major colour that I did not control was the bright pink of Fiona's coat. It was perfect and it was luck.

Today's point and shoots take care of the focus and the f/stop and shutter speed. In this case, this loss of control posed no problem. In most cases, the photographer still controls the length of lens, unless the camera has a fixed lens rather than the more common zoom. Remember, portraits look best shot with an 85mm to a 105mm lens.

These numbers actually refer to lens used on 35mm cameras but with many point and shoots an adjustment is made to allow the use of 35mm lens size terminology. This photo of my granddaughter was shot at a slightly long lens setting which was comparable to an 85mm lens on a 35mm camera.

The camera set the sensitivity at ISO640, the shutter speed at 1/500th second and the aperture to f/5.6. I couldn't have done better if I'd done it myself.

If you want good pictures and your aren't getting them, don't blame your point and shoot. Blame yourself. You simply have to have an eye.