#Photo3 – Three Advantages to the ‘Nifty Fifty’

A weekly trio of top photo tips

There was a time when new cameras didn’t come supplied with a kit lens, well not the basic zoom we have come to expect nowadays anyway. No, instead they used to come complete with a 50mm standard lens. An all-round versatile lens, that was great for the beginner and got you started with your first SLR. Now, because it’s all zooms these days, these fantastic 50mm lenses are often overlooked, even though you can still buy them, so here’s my three reasons why you should consider the ‘nifty fifty’ as your next essential lens purchase.

Price

Want a great cheap lens? Then here’s one for you. The 50mm lens is often one of the cheapest examples that camera manufacturers make. The Canon 50mm f1,8 cost just £106 new, whilst Nikon’s is a bit more at £189, still cheap for lens however. Buy second-hand and you’re probably looking at £50 for a good one. Their simple design keeps the cost down, but even with this, they still have a metal lens mount and fantastic optical quality, plus that nice fast maximum aperture. Great value for money when you think about it.

 

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Canon’s 50mm f1.8 is an absolute bargain!

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#Photo3 – Three Essential Accessories

A weekly trio of top photo tips

The accessory is the vital extra component that usually makes life easier no matter what hobby or craft it is associated with. In photography, there are a whole wealth of accessories available to purchase. Some bad, some good. Some you just can’t do without! So, let’s take a look at those must-haves and see if you ask yourself – why have I not got one of those!!

Spirit Level

Simple in design, their sole purpose is to keep things looking straight and level. In photography, this means the horizon and if this isn’t straight, the whole picture looks wrong. A simple hotshoe-mounted spirit level, avoids this faux pas and every landscaper should not leave home without one. Manufacturers have realised this too and now incorporate one into the camera. If yours isn’t one of these latest models however, go spend the best ten pound you will ever spend.

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#Photo3 – Three Rule-of-Thirds Techniques

A weekly trio of top photo tips

The rule-of-thirds composition technique often gets a hard time in photography. It’s one of the most simple and effective rules to apply to an image, yet often is attacked for being too bland and obvious and the first rule that you should break to be more original. However, I’m here to defend the rule-of-thirds. It’s a great rule, does it job well and can make or break an image and in my book, that makes it a winner!

Divide your scene

The classic use of the rule of thirds, is to use it for the positioning of a key subject in the framing of a scene. Instead of putting it dead centre, you instead divide your scene into segments and cross-points with four dividing lines, with the crossing points of these lines being the rule’s ideal placement for your main subject. This takes the subject, just off-centre, to a more natural area of your frame, one that the brain responds to as being pleasing and easy on the eye.

A classic use of the rule-of-thirds

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#Photo3 – Three Uses of the Polariser

A weekly trio of top photo tips

As digital progresses and Photoshop becomes more advanced, there’s certain filters that we could do without and let Photoshop replicate instead. Graduated filters are one such example, but there is one filter the image editor can’t replace. One filter that has many uses and refuses to be replaced by modern technology (for now!). Step forward the polariser. Probably the most useful filter you can buy and one every photographer should have in their gadget bag. Here’s just three examples of its versatility…

Boost the Sky

A polarising filter removes the polarised component of the light waves in the air and thus, darkens the sky. Add in some fluffy white cumulus clouds and you have a beautiful contrast that adds impact to a sunny day scene. Include a subject featuring warm colours, such as yellow and red and again you have contrast, but here contrasting with the cool, deep blue of a polarised sky. And of course, your chosen subject will also be polarised, boosting its colours to a rich, vivid saturation.

Barn in buttercup meadows, Muker, North Yorkshire Dales

Use a polarisaer filter to boost a blue sky, as well as enrich the other colours in the scene

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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 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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Open Wide – the bokeh effect

The aesthetic quality of blur produced in the out of focus parts of an image is known as bokeh (pronounced boh ka). Bokeh can also be defined as the way the lens produces out-of-focus points of light. This is the effect the lens design has on out-of-focus highlights in the background which mimic the lens aperture blade’s shape inside the lens. These may be perfect circles or they may appear as hexagonal shapes, with a good lens rendering these as soft looking circles, making the bokeh effect less distracting.

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Olympus E-M1, 12mm, 1/6400 @f2

Creative landscapes

A different mindset needs to come into play when shooting landscapes which feature bokeh. If you swop f16 to shooting at f1.8 instead, then you need to consider your composition carefully as well. Using a wide angle, you will need to be nice and close to a foreground subject, just so that you can achieve a suitable bokeh effect. So, fill the bottom of the frame with this and focus carefully on this subject. Check the image afterwards for sharpness and use the depth-of-field preview if your camera has one. You may not be able to reduce your out-of-focus part of the frame to a series of soft circles, but you will produce a nice sense of depth with your results

You can read more about bokeh in my eGuide ‘Open Wide’, available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk