#Photo3 – Three Really Useful Photo Apps

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Everyone carries a smartphone around with them these days. Whether its Android or iOS, Samsung or Apple, these computers in our pockets are a resource of information (and can make phone calls too!) and every photographer should have one. Besides being useful for a quick burst of Angry Birds or whatever your favourite waste of time is, the apps available can be very useful for the creative photographer. So, here are my three favourite photography apps for your smartphone.

LongTime Exposure Calculator  iOS Free (Android alternative: Exposure Calculator)

Extreme ND filters are very popular with photographers now and rightly so. These filters open a whole world of creativity and whilst results can be a clichéd, they are a lot of fun to create and the results are always breath-taking. Calculating the exposure times with a 10 or 15 stop ND filter attached can be tricky however and you can soon run out of fingers trying to figure out the new required shutter speed. This app therefore takes all the guesswork and maths out of the equation and gives you a clear and easy way to calculate how many minutes an ND filter requires at 4pm on a cloudy day. If you use LEE Filters, then they have a very similar version of their own, which is well worth a look too.

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LongTime Exposure Calculator

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#Photo3 – Live View Advantages

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Is Live View the best invention to make it into the digital camera…EVER?! Being able to check your image immediately after capture is wonderful, but having that rear LCD screen available for Live View, is so much more than not having to look through the viewfinder. So, if your camera has the Live View feature (and most do these days), do you actually use it? Are you aware of its potential? Here are three Live View advantages you need to know.

Precheck the exposure with live histogram

Quite a mouthful, but this is exactly what Live View gives you. You can see the result before taking the picture! With Live View set to Exposure Simulation, you get a real-time preview of how the image will be exposed once you press the shutter. What’s more, change the display settings and you can have a live histogram on as well. This is also a great way to learn how to use the histogram to your advantage and what it is telling you about the image.

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Live View Exposure Simulation and histogram

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#Photo3 – Three Advantages to Prime Lenses

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Zoom lenses are great, aren’t they? They cover several focal lengths all in the one lens. You can zoom in to distant subjects with it or shoot something close-up, all without even moving your feet. They offer great value for money and whilst they might have average maximum apertures, combined with a high ISO, you can shoot in most situations and light conditions with them. So, with all that in mind, why would you even consider a prime lens? Well, let me give you three reasons why you should in fact, consider a prime lens.

Speed

One big advantage of a prime lens is that they are fast. Yes, primes have speed on their side. You may be thinking here, Craig what are you on about! What exactly is a fast lens? Well, the term refers to their maximum aperture and this is usually wider than any equivalent zoom. So, whilst your favourite zoom lens may only have an f4 or even an f2.8 maximum aperture, a prime lens may have an f1.8 or even f0.95 maximum aperture. What this means, is more light coming in through the lens. More light means quicker focusing, brighter viewfinder, more bokeh effect (shallow depth of field), better low light capabilities and less need for high ISO settings, so ultimately better quality images too. Yes, a fast lens, i.e. a prime lens, is all good news.

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Many primes also have a depth of field scale

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#Photo3 – Three Ways to Break the Rules

A weekly trio of top photo tips

There are a lot of so-called rules in photography, mostly regarding composition. Most can be ignored however, as there shouldn’t really be any rules in a technique of artistic interpretation, which all photography basically is. The rules have been designed to help you achieve a safe and average image, that will no doubt be pleasing to the eye. By breaking the rules however, you are encouraging questions to asked and making your image stand out. So, let’s rebel with these three rulebreakers.

Centre

Placing your main subject dead-centre can lead to a static-looking result, where the subject is not making use of the whole frame. It can interpret a sense of lack of imagination in composition, whereas an off-centre placement starts to reveal more about the surroundings and this main subject’s relationship with that. Putting your subject slap bang in the centre however makes a bold statement. It focusses the eye on the subject and makes us question its authority. There’s nowt much more that says “Look at me, look at me” than a centrally placed subject!

Dungeness, Kent

Centre

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#Photo3 – The Photographer’s Notebook

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Despite computers, tablets and phones trying to modernise the notebook, there’s something very special (maybe because of this!) about using the old-fashioned notebook and pen for note taking. A notebook is a useful tool for the photographer and it helps organise thoughts and ideas, as well as serve as a tuition tool. Let’s therefore look at three ways a notebook can improve your photography.

Camera Settings

Now whilst modern digital cameras record every aspect of exposure on the image file, including shutter speed, aperture setting and ISO rating, there’s still plenty of notes you can take that will help improve your photography as you refer back to them. You can still record all the camera setting details of course, but include you own important information too. Location, weather, set-up situation, filters used (a camera can’t record this important information), reasons behind exposure compensation and bracketing and anything else you did for the shot, that may prove useful later. It’s all part of the learning process and a vital source of information as you progress and you can of course refer back to details when it all went right!

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#Photo3 – Alternative Framing Formats

A weekly trio of top photo tips

The rectangular framing format is a common one. It’s how we basically see the world and therefore how cameras are designed by default. Longer on the top and bottom and shorter on the sides, this can be reversed by turning the camera into the vertical format. This then is your first alternative and now you can emphasise foreground within this frame. Here are three more to consider that may prove more creative.

Square

Make the top and bottom edges of the frame the same size as the sides and of course you now have a square format. A more even frame with no bias either way. You can use this balanced alternative to frame up views with similar aspects. Some subjects just sit perfectly within a square frame and just require a neutral frame to show them off, which is exactly what the square format is. The square format is also more forgiving for subjects placed dead-centre, so use this rule breaker to make a creative statement.

Brierley Tree, South Yorkshire

Square

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#Photo3 – 3 Essential Filters

The first in a new series featuring a weekly trio of top photo tips

Photo filters used to be an essential item for photography. In the days when you shot with film, these where the only ways to manipulate your images. Digital has removed the need for many filters, or has it? There are still some filters that digital can’t replicate or don’t need to. Most of the process of creating an image is done in-camera, so if like me, you enjoy using your camera more than a computer, then here are my three favourite and essential filter purchases.

Polariser

The polariser. The king of filters! Not only does it darken blue skies by increasing contrast, it also boosts any colour in the scene, making them rich, vibrant and ‘pop’ in the picture. The polariser also removes reflections, which again increases colour saturation and is useful when shooting views including water. This filter absorbs up to 2 stops of light, so whilst you will have to bear this in mind when calculating exposures, it also means that this filter can also be used as a 2 stop ND filter if you need assistance in bringing the shutter speed down.

Whitby, North Yorkshire Moors

Polariser

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