#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 – Matrix Metering Alternatives

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Matrix metering or evaluative metering as it is also known, is the modern and tried & tested standard metering mode for digital cameras. The camera evaluates the whole picture, taking into account subject and scene and calculates the correct exposure for a great picture. Most of the time it works well, but it’s not infallible. There are situations and lighting conditions that can confuse it. In these circumstances, or just when you want to take more control, there are other options.

Centre-Weighted

Before matrix metering, the most common metering mode a camera had was centre-weighted metering. This is going back to the days of film cameras, but many modern digital cameras still have this as an option. As the name suggests it takes a reading from the whole frame, but biases its readings from the centre of the frame, where it expects you to be placing the main subject (of course, this isn’t necessarily the ideal for most compositions!). It’s still a good general one for measuring portraits and landscapes, but like matrix metering, it can get easily fooled in tricky lighting conditions.

Centre-weighted metering

Partial

To take more control of your metering measurements, select partial metering. This takes a reading from the central part of the frame (usually designated in the viewfinder by a large circle etching). Unlike centre-weighted metering however, it not only ignores the rest of the frame, but you can usually lock and hold the reading, by half-pressing the shutter button, so you can recompose and not have to place your subject dead-centre. Used with care you can achieve accurate exposures every time, even in tricky light such as shooting backlit subjects.

Partial metering

Spot

Taking things further, spot metering takes a reading only from the small circle in the centre of your viewfinder. Point this at any area of the scene or subject and you can take small and accurate readings or even multiple readings, which the camera will evaluate. Where you point the spot-meter has to be taken into consideration however. Ideally, this should be from an 18% reflective grey area, as this is how your camera sees the world. Pavement or grass matches this tone and therefore these subjects make ideal areas to take a reading from, whereas white or black areas or subjects for instance, will require a 2-stop exposure adjustment to keep them at their correct density.

Spot metering

You can read more about camera metering and exposures in my eGuides. These are available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk

#Photo3 – Long Exposure Subjects

A weekly trio of top photo tips

If you’re yearning to make your images more creative, then an easy way to achieve this is by extending your exposure times. Of course, simply putting your camera in its Bulb mode and leaving the shutter open for a couple of minutes is just going to lead to very over-exposed images! However, place an extreme ND filter, such as a Big Stopper over the lens at the same time and BINGO! Beautiful, evocative images, full of creativity and movement. But what subjects and locations work the best for these type of images? Well, seeing as you ask…

Coast

To use the full potential of a long exposure, you need lots of movement in your images and at the coast, you have that aplenty. Not only can you capture movement in the clouds in the sky, but with an abundance of water at your disposal, you have a second element to blur with a 6, 10 or even 15 stop ND filter. The results work best if you can also place a static subject in the frame for the other elements to move around. Luckily, at the coast you have these too. Piers, groynes, rocks, harbour walls and marker posts all make suitable subjects, making the coast a great place to shoot long exposures.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

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#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 – 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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