Give Yourself Options: Don’t Be Afraid To Boost ISO

This is a tip that actually took me some time to get accustomed to- boosting ISO. I probably had the fear from the old films days that ISO of 800 and above resulted in grainy images causing me to hesitate before venturing above that threshold. Thankfully, I have learned that under certain conditions boosting my ISO is a very useful technique and allows me to get great images that I perhaps wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.

For the most part, digital cameras seem to be able to handle ISOs of 1000-1600 quite well. Remember, this blog’s title is, Cindy’s Everyday Photography, so I am emphasizing consumer level equipment. Pro cameras and lenses can make use of even higher ISOs with very little noise. I have also found that when noise is produced at higher ISOs, programs such as Lightroom and/or Topaz Denoise, to name a couple, do a great job of eliminating or at least greatly reducing it. The take home message is feel free to push the ISO when you need.

The two situations where I most find myself using a high ISO is when I am shooting sports in the late afternoon/evening and when I am hand holding a macro lens. For sports shooting, I use a Nikon d7000 with a Nikon 70-300mm that has a 4.5-5.6 maximum aperture. The d7000 has been around for a while now and the zoom is just one of Nikon’s kit lens, but even with this combination, I can confidently shoot at ISO 1600. This is important as the sun sets earlier and earlier in the fall and you can lose light rather quickly, particularly on cloudy days. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This shot was taken at ISO 1000.HighISO1000

 

This shot was taken at ISO 1600.

HighISO1600

 

Shooting hand held with a macro lens is a difficult task for me (if you shoot macro, you probably know what I am talking about). With practice I am getting better, but I still need all the help I can get and that’s where a higher ISO comes into play. If I keep my aperture the same, but boost up the ISO, what happens to my shutter speed? My shutter speed increases, thereby assisting me to get sharp images. If I can use a tripod with my macro lens, I will, but there are times and places when I simply can’t and I have to hand hold. Boosting my ISO gives me a fighting chance at getting the critical sharpness that a macro image must have. Here are a couple of examples:

This image was taken outside so I just needed to boost the ISO to 500 to give me a shutter speed of 2000.

HighISO5002000

This image was taken inside a Botanical Garden (no tripods allowed) so I boosted the ISO to 800 which gave me a manageable shutter speed of 250.

 

 

HighISO800250

 

I am pleased with the level of sharpness and lack of noise in all of these images and they were all possible because I was willing to boost up the ISO. If you are not accustomed to doing so, give your camera a test drive with high ISOs and see what results you get. What situations will a higher ISO help you to get a particular image? As each new model comes out, the ability to push ISO just keeps increasing. Remember to push the limits as sometimes it could be a matter of capturing an image or missing out.

Happy shooting.

Want To Be A Better Photographer? Compete! (Part 2)

In last week’s post I blogged about the benefits of joining a local camera club as a way to improve your photography. Within that post, I mentioned that this week I was going to specifically discuss the benefits of competing at the club. For me, taking part in the monthly photo competitions has been critical to my growth as a photographer. There are several specific reasons for this.

Firstly, competing at a local camera club is rather safe. What I mean by that is, for the most part your work can remain anonymous. When an image is put before the judges only the title of the piece is read aloud. The maker’s name is not mentioned so unless you tell other people it’s yours or you react so strongly to the score given that it becomes obvious it’s yours, no one in the audience will know. The only exception to this is that if you win a particular category, your name is then announced so you can say a few words about it. Considering the fact that your image just won, however, you probably won’t mind receiving the recognition.

Secondly, having your images “judged” by strangers can be very helpful. Often when creating images you can get so engrossed in them that there can be elements of composition, lighting, etc. that you didn’t even take into consideration until someone else pointed them out. At the photo clubs I belong to comments are given by the judges so you get a feel for why they judged the image a certain way and how they perceived it. This feedback can be very useful (even if you don’t particularly agree with it). And you won’t always agree with what the judges say about your image and that is okay. Photography has it’s share of “rules” for making a successful image but there is also an artistic element to photography that can not be defined by “rules”. There will be times when you create an image based on your artistic sense and the judges just may not share the same aesthetic feeling. Always take scores from the judges with a grain of salt as the only opinion that really matters is yours. You are the one taking the image home and perhaps mounting it on your wall. With that said, hearing what the judges say about, not only your images but everyone else’s, can provide you with a world of valuable information as you continue to create.

Lastly, the mere exercise of entering an image into competition will make you a better photographer and a better editor, both before and after an image is taken. Let’s face it when something you have made is going to be viewed critically, doesn’t that inherently make you work a little harder? You begin to think a little more carefully about your composition. You begin to edit it a little more carefully afterwards. You begin to refine your eye and raise your own bar of excellence. It gives you that little extra incentive to not get lazy and to always look to improve.

If you have never taken part in local competitions, I strongly encourage you to do so. You will improve because of them and when your images begin winning, the accolades and recognition are a nice bonus!

If you are new to competitions, feel free to share your experiences. If you are a judge for local competitions, feel free to share that experience as well.

Happy shooting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is Signs. Here are my entries and why I chose each one:

SignPrivate

The apartments that sit behind this private courtyard are very coveted due to the fact that there are so few properties in Greenwich Village that do not sit right on the street. The irony is that when these apartments were first built they were inhabited by the poor as properties not right on the street were very undesirable.

SignBarbershop

At first glance, the prices advertised on the signs at this Barbershop seem very good. Judging by the hairstyles of the three people inside the shop, however, I am not so sure.

SignBikeLove

Can’t argue with that.

SignJokeGuy

Does this guy strike you as someone funny, because I am not getting that vibe?

SignNoPee

Seems reasonable enough.

SignOffTheWagon

When I first shot this image, I did so because I thought it was neat being able to see into this bar with it’s eclectic mix of people. It did not dawn on me until much later what a clever name it has.

SignMLK

And some signs contain timeless messages, such as this one from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy shooting.

Travel theme: Inviting

I have started following a lovely Travel/Photography Blog called Where’s my backpack? It sponsors a weekly travel theme for others to interpret. This week’s Travel theme is Inviting and I thought I would give it a go.

For many people, large cities can often seem like the opposite of inviting- too busy, too complicated, too crowded, too overwhelming, and so on. It has been my experience, however, that once you become a bit familiarized with a particular city, there are often endless inviting spots to be enjoyed. New York City is a prime example of a place that evokes very strong opinions from visitors ranging from those who are afraid to visit due to it’s immensity to those who find it to be one of the most inviting places on Earth. I fall into that second category as I always feel a bit more “alive” within it’s confides.

New York City offers an unending array of spaces that are truly inviting- parks that make you forget you in the midst of a metropolis, neighborhoods designed to stroll through at a leisurely pace, architecture from days gone by, small shops that have serviced the local area for generations. Here are some scenes from my Inviting NYC:

NYCVillageBookstore NYCStrolling NYCReadingInThePark NYCFallTrees NYCCurvyTrees NYCCentralPark NYCBikeForTwo

Happy shooting.

Want To Be A Better Photographer? Join The Club! (Part 1)

One of the best decisions I made regarding my photography was joining a local Photo Club (two Clubs, actually). A little over two years ago, I saw a small article in the newspaper describing a Photo Club in my town and it grabbed my attention. I am not a person who really joins clubs but I thought I would at least check it out as I was interested in improving my photography and was trying to do so without spending a lot of money. I was immediately greeted by an elderly gentleman as I walked through the door of the meeting hall and the rest is history.

This particular meeting was one of the Club’s Competition nights. It was a great first meeting as I got to see a lot of terrific images that displayed a wide range of subject matter, technique, and skill level. It was valuable to hear how images were scored and why. Participating in Club Competitions has raised the level of my photography so much, and so quickly, that next week’s Blog Post will focus specifically on Competitions.

Photo Clubs offer a lot more than just Competitions, however. The two Clubs I belong to also hold a Program Night once a month. During these Program Nights, guest speakers may come and present on a topic that they specialize in, others are designed as practicums so everyone brings their cameras and practices a certain technique, sometimes if a Club Member has been on a great trip they may hold a slideshow, and so on. Program Nights are just another way to expand your photography knowledge and skill set.

Another great benefit to joining a Photo Club is the opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals. Of-course, there is the obligatory needling between the Nikon and Canon camps, as well as between the DSLR and Point and Shoot camps, but it is all in good fun. The Club puts you in touch with all sorts of photographers who, for the most part, love to share their knowledge and experience with others. It also makes it easy to find people who may want to go out shooting together, go on field trips together, or who just point out local areas of interest and happenings that you may not have been aware of.

My friend, Don, who greeted me on my first night at the Club also let me know of another Photo Club he belongs to that is held in the next town over. On his advice, I checked it out and that is how I came to join two Clubs. While both Clubs have similarities, they also have some differences in feel and format. Not every Photo Club is the same so if you do check one out and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you, look elsewhere. If you don’t know of any Photo Clubs that are out there, do an online search of your area. They are rather prevalent so chances are there is one nearby. I hope that if you are interested in improving your photography, looking for others to go shooting with, or just want an opportunity to see great images, that you will check out your local Photo Club.

Have you had a good experience at a Photo Club? What do you like most about them?

Happy shooting.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge is Nighttime. Night Photography can be somewhat tricky. You definitely need a tripod and a cable or remote release to keep things steady for those longer exposure times. I love the fact that at certain times the camera can pick up colors in the sky that are invisible to the human eye.

Purplesky NYCNight NightPier NightOBX NightB&W

Happy shooting.