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Photo Tips << 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 >>

photo tip
Child's Play
Digital cameras have made it easier than ever for children to learn about photography. If your child is interested, encourage him or her to shoot from varying perspectives and distances, move around the subject to shoot from different sides, and experiment with the camera’s settings. Scanning the background to check for clutter is a simple concept for kids to learn. Photo: Emin Kuliyev/Dreamstime Stock Photos

photo tipBuilding a Landscape
Landscape photographs, such as those you might take on your summer vacation, sometimes fall flat because they don’t give viewers a sense of “being there.” Include a foreground, middle ground and background to make the photograph appear three-dimensional. It helps to crouch down to a low vantage point, making smaller foreground elements appear larger.

photo tip
Go Wild
Photographing a wild animal usually requires a long telephoto lens so you can zoom in close to the creature without scaring it off. If you want to capture the details, use a smaller aperture, anywhere from f/11 to f/22. A larger aperture, f/2.8 to f/8, will yield a shallow depth of field, causing the background behind the animal to blur.

photo tipStar Bright
June is an ideal time for night-sky photography. Obviously, the farther you get from man-made light sources, the brighter the stars will appear in your photos. But don’t forget to take a flashlight or headlamp to help you hike to your location and assemble your gear. You can also use that light source to “paint” the landscape beneath a starry sky, adding depth to your photographs.

photo tip
A Little Less Flare
Having trouble with a sun flare in your frame that just won’t go away? Most lenses have a plastic hood that mounts to the front of the lens to help reduce the flare and haze that can come from the sun. If you don’t have one handy, try holding your hand just above and in front of your lens, at an angle between the glass and the sun. It might take some work, and you’ll have to be careful not to get your hand in the frame, but there will be a sweet spot that eliminates the flare.

photo tipSimplify Your Choices
Having more choices doesn’t always make your life easier. Just look at photographers struggling with large bags of equipment and multiple cameras around their necks. Versatility can be great, but next time you head out, try taking just one camera and one lens. It’ll lighten the load you have to carry and force you to get creative when you can’t just change your lens for a different perspective.

photo tip
Getting Closer
Some of the most powerful images can be tight, close-up shots that focus on emotion. Because they are closely cropped, they include very little background, making them compositionally clean and direct. There are a number of tools available to get closer shots, including a zoom lens and one’s own two feet. The longer lens will help a photographer maintain distance and capture a candid moment before the subject reacts to the camera. But by moving closer to the subject, the photographer can increase the intimacy of the image.

photo tipCalibrate Your Computer
One important step when editing an image is to calibrate your computer monitor for color accuracy. Color display varies from monitor to monitor, and if you try to print an image from an uncalibrated monitor, you might find it looks significantly different from what was displayed on the screen you edited with. The process for calibrating each machine will be different, so be sure to check your manual for the appropriate steps before you get started.

photo tip
Metering Modes
Being able to accurately measure light for a given scene is critical to making correct exposures and successful photographs. Most of today’s cameras come equipped with built-in light meters, which can be used in a number of different modes. Evaluative, or matrix, metering is the default metering mode of most DSLRs. It samples light from a number of “zones” within the frame, then analyzes each zone for highlights and shadows, giving you a readout based on those calculations. This mode works well in evenly lit scenes that don’t have a lot of contrast, and it’s a great place for beginners to start.

photo tipMixed Bag
Photographers can be a quirky bunch, so it’s no surprise that many of them have odd items buried in their camera bags. Arizona Highways consultant Rick Burress always carries a small piece of string with four knots in it — one knot to mark the minimum focal distance for each of his four lenses. “It comes in handy for anything within 18 inches, where precise tolerances ‘make or break’ the focus,” he says.

photo tip
Buffing Up
Although there are several components that affect how quickly a digital camera can make and record images, the size of the camera’s buffer is one important factor. Often, when taking multiple pictures in a burst mode, the camera may stop shooting while it pauses to write more images onto the memory card. The buffer is the portion of internal memory that temporarily holds the images waiting to be recorded, and its size will affect how many images you can continually shoot before the camera must stop and think.

photo tipCompensating for Exposure
Exposure compensation, commonly written as EV compensation, gives the photographer a tool to adjust exposure when in semi-automatic shooting modes such as Program, Shutter-Priority or Aperture-Priority. Positive EV compensation tells the camera to allow more light in, effectively making photographs brighter. Negative EV compensation achieves the opposite effect. These settings can be useful in situations with mixed light, when the in-camera meter may struggle in choosing the exposure that you prefer.

photo tip
Modes of Operation
There are five main shooting modes on most DSLR cameras: Auto, Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual. In Auto, the camera controls everything to, theoretically, keep your photos mistake-free. In Program, the camera still automatically adjusts aperture and shutter speed, but the photographer can choose from several combinations that will produce the same exposure. Shutter-Priority allows the photographer to control the shutter speed while the camera adjusts aperture, and Aperture-Priority does the opposite of that. Manual leaves the photographer in full control of both aperture and shutter speed. Our advice: Move the dial off of Auto and start to explore your creativity.

photo tipSeeing Double
Want to make double exposures in-camera, without using Photoshop? You can, and you just might get a creative boost in the process. Go into your camera’s shooting menu, find “multiple exposure,” then choose the number of exposures you’d like to capture. If you’d like the exposures to be balanced, choose “auto gain.” If not, leave it off.

photo tipHands Off
When working with a long exposure, even the smallest amount of camera shake can reduce image quality. To reduce the shake, try a cable release on the camera in addition to using a tripod. Compose your image, press the release button and take your hands away from the camera until you hear the shutter close. Along with using the mirror lock, this should reduce even the smallest amount of vibration your hands might create.

photo tipPrecise Focus
Photographers often are seen contorting themselves into odd positions to get that perfect angle, but what do you do when you can't look through the viewfinder to compose or focus an image? Many digital cameras now have a function called "live view," which displays a live, video-like preview of the image on the back digital screen. If you're unable to look through the viewfinder, try using the digital zoom button to zoom in on the preview and focus the image manually without changing your composition.

photo tipNeutral Density
One of the most difficult scenes to photograph is a landscape with a bright sky. Photographers often choose whether to expose for the sky or for the foreground, sacrificing one for the other. However, by using a graduated neutral density filter (pictured), the over-bright portion of a scene can be slightly darkened. These filters transition from a neutral density to clear glass, and they can darken a sky while allowing the foreground to remain perfectly exposed.

photo tipTelephoto Compression
When it's time to photograph a distant object, photographers will reach for their telephoto lenses, which have a focal length of 70 mm or greater. But those lenses aren't just for distance — they can also be used to compress elements in the frame. The narrow angle of view on a telephoto lens means that the relative size and distance between objects appears smaller, creating the illusion that elements might be closer together than they really are.
photo tipNatural Supplement
In challenging lighting situations, try using bracketing to ensure the best exposure. Usually, this means making three or more images: one slightly underexposed, one with the presumed correct exposure, and one slightly overexposed. Most DSLRs have an automatic setting to do this, but if your camera does not, you can bracket manually by slightly adjusting your exposure for each shot — usually in 1/3 -or 1/2-stop increments above and below the camera's reading. When it comes time to edit your images, you'll have more options from which to choose.

photo tipLet's Reflect
Although you can purchase reflectors to enhance the light in your images, don't forget to look for nature's own reflectors. In the Grand Canyon, for example, many of the canyon walls bounce warm light to other surfaces, creating beautiful sunlit walls and shafts of light. In more urban areas, certain buildings — particularly those with large white walls — can reflect light onto nearby structures. Paying attention to your surroundings can help you naturally bounce the sun's rays onto your subject.
photo tipNatural Supplement
Natural light can be a photographer's best friend, but sometimes it needs an assist. A set of reflectors can help enhance natural light, particularly from the sun. Many reflector sets are inexpensive and fold up small enough to carry into the field. White and silver reflectors will light up a subject with a cool glow, while gold-toned reflectors add warmth. They're particularly helpful during portrait sessions, when the sun casts harsh shadows across the face of the person being photographed.

photo tipSize Matters
While a big selling point for many cameras today is the number of megapixels they contain, not all pixels are created equal. If you're looking for a camera that will cut down on noise or grain at a high ISO, it's the size of the sensor and not the number of pixels that can be most important. Bigger sensors contain larger pixels, which equate to larger receptacles for the light particles the camera collects. The larger the light receptacle, the less noise produced.
photo tipDutch Tilt
Some photographers — like contributor Paul Markow — have turned the tilted horizon into a signature style. While a slight tilt is often reason for a straightening of the horizon during editing, a deliberately skewed angle is referred to as a Dutch angle or Dutch tilt. This technique can add a dramatic quality to an image or create tension and uneasiness, depending on how the new lines lead the eye through the image. However, this unusual perspective is not for everyone, and whether you experiment with angles is based on personal taste and style.

photo tipLocked On
Some cameras have up to 51 focus points that can be individually selected, allowing you to focus on almost any part of the frame. But, sometimes even these don't cover the area you would like, or your camera doesn't have 51 points. This is where focus lock comes into play. If you place a focus point over your subject and press the shutter button halfway, the camera will focus on that point but won't take a photo. While holding the button halfway, recompose your photo, then push the button all the way down to make your image. Alternately, focus the image and hold the "AF-L" button on the back of the camera to stay locked on while you recompose.

Photo TipNew Heights
Perspective changes everything. Whether you're climbing up a boulder or crouching in the dirt, it's important to consider angles that aren't just at eye level. While some photographers are naturally tall, others might need some help in the height department. Look around for a structure to climb on, or if you're feeling ambitious, take a stepladder with you. And don't be afraid to get a little dirt on your knees. Sometimes, the most interesting images are found when you get closer to the ground.

photo tipHalo Effect
Backlighting can often be problematic for photographers, but in some cases, it can make for a beautiful image. When the light hits your subject just right, it can create a halo that seems to add dimension and make your subject glow. The halo effect can be achieved with artificial light by placing the light source behind your subject, but you'll also find it in nature, particularly when the sun is low in the sky.

Photo TipGeometry 101
At a basic level, photography is about the arrangement of shapes within a frame. A photographer who keeps an eye out for geometric shapes can create interesting images by learning to think more abstractly. Look for silhouettes and shadows that create a graphic composition — whether you find the outline of tall plants against a sunlit canyon wall or the shadows cast by the spines of a cactus. Remember to pay attention to the edges of the frame and reduce distractions before you release the shutter.

photo tipIn The Raw
Adobe's latest Camera RAW tools (version 5 and higher) include a graduated filter, which is useful for lightening or darkening — and for adding color, as with traditional grad filters. But, instead of carrying a load of various colored filters, the digital version can be changed at will, simply by clicking and dragging.

Photo TipSharp Shooting
There's an easy trick when it comes to the sharpening of digital photographs. It's called "unsharp mask," and it's explained by knowing that the average human eye can see the effects — but not the cause — of artifacts smaller than 1/200 of an inch. So, when adjusting the "sharpening" feature in whatever software you're using, set the "radius" to your file's resolution, divided by 200. Round down to the nearest tenth for the best results.

photo tipIn The Raw
With live-view mode, you can press the zoom button on your camera to check your focus with more accuracy prior to pulling the proverbial trigger. The live-view function is particularly helpful when it comes to verifying sharp focus for macro and odd-angled shots, especially when it's difficult to see the viewfinder.

Photo TipBe Steady
Image stabilization, or vibration reduction (IS or VR), helps reduce camera shake while holding the camera or working from a shaky platform. This technology is built into camera bodies or lenses — depending on the manufacturer — and allows users the ability to shoot three to four stops slower. Since IS or VR only help arrest camera movement, they're great when shooting static subjects, but they won't help freeze fast-moving subjects.

photo tipTrigger Point
With live-view mode, you can press the zoom button on your camera to check your focus with more accuracy prior to pulling the proverbial trigger. The live-view function is particularly helpful when it comes to verifying sharp focus for macro and odd-angled shots, especially when it's difficult to see the viewfinder.

Photo TipFocal Point
The viewfinder diopter is a built-in pair of eyeglasses for your camera. With the diopter set to your vision specifications, you can tell when the subject of your photograph is in focus. If the built-in diopter can't be adjusted to your eyes, you can purchase a viewfinder diopter for around $10.

photo tipPull A Fast One
Using a fast shutter speed helps to freeze movement in an image. Think of capturing the frantic energy of a hummingbird's flutter. What's more, a faster shutter speed is more forgiving of typical human wobbles and vibration. Use this general rule: shutter speed = 1/x seconds, where x is the focal length of your lens. Multiply by your camera's crop factor. This photograph was made with a 500 mm lens at 1/2000 second.

Photo TipGoing the Distance
To capture the greatest depth of field, focus one-third of the way into your image — the hyperfocal distance. When the lens is focused at that distance, the depth of field extends from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. To be more precise, use a depth of field calculator or a smart phone app such as DOFMaster: www.dofmaster.com.

photo tipGreen Means Go
A little-known but invaluable focusing trick is the "green dot." The green dot appears in the viewfinder whenever an object is in focus. It works in the manual-focus mode in all cameras, and in the autofocus mode in many of today's DSLRs. If you don't trust your eyes, you can usually count on the green dot.

Photo TipAnimal Instincts
If you think you'd like to photograph wildlife, start with a few trips to your local zoo. Keep your photography gear simple: one camera body, a long telephoto lens (300 mm or longer) and a tripod or monopod. Work on your timing and learn to be patient. In the wild kingdom, you'll soon find that everything happens on the animals' schedules, not yours.

photo tipA Closer Look
If you're considering close-up photography, there are at least three different approaches. To test the water and not break the bank, try buying an inexpensive set of close-up filters, which are threaded onto the front of an existing lens to decrease the minimum focusing distance. It's a good option, but your photos won't be as tack-sharp as with the other two. The second option includes expensive extension tubes, which can be placed between your existing lens and the camera body. Tubes give sharper results than close-up filters. The best option, however, is a macro lens. They come in a variety of focal lengths — from 60 mm to 200 mm — and are designed to be extremely sharp at the closest focusing distances.

Photo Tip The Right Light
If you'd like to try "painting with light," here are a couple of things to keep in mind: First, start with a small, manageable subject. Second, be aware that different light sources produce different colors of light (color temperature). A flashlight that uses a traditional tungsten bulb will bathe your subject in warm yellow-gold light. A newer LED flashlight produces a much cooler blue light, giving your artwork a completely different feel.

Photo Tip Maintaining Your Balance
Because of the highly reflective nature of snow, shooting winter scenes can present a number of challenges. The most common are exposure and white balance. If you're out in the field and see that your winter whites are looking more like dingy grays, try using the exposure compensation button (+/-) on your camera and set it to overexpose by at least one f-stop (+1). You might need to fine-tune this, so check your histogram. Snow reflects everything around it, including the blue sky. The best way to correct color is to shoot in RAW, but if you're locked into JPEG capture, try setting your white balance to "open shade" or "cloudy." Either of these will help get the blue out.

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PortfolioSee a sampling of photographs from the portfolio featured in this month's issue of Arizona Highways... [more]

Featured Prints Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints... [go]

Vintage CoversArizona Highways covers have changed a lot over the years, from the first black-and-white image in 1925 to today’s full-color stunners. Explore their evolution in our gallery of vintage covers. ... [more]

Photo ContestPhoto Contest We've chosen the winners of our 2013-14 Online Photo Contest. Check them out now! ... [more]


Photo of the Day Your daily dose of  the landscapes, people, wildlife and events that make our state so unique... [more]

Global Snapshots Send us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo Submission GuidelinesWe welcome photographic submissions of original transparencies, 35mm slides and high-resolution digital files that exhibit the high quality we demand from professional contributors... [more]

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