In last week’s Tip, I covered autofocus modes, choosing the proper active autofocus point and the depth of field preview button. This week, I continue with some more key features so you can take advantage of your DSLR’s capabilities. Even if you’ve owned a DSLR for awhile, read below to test your knowledge of the things you should know.
Enable Long Exposure Noise Reduction: Most of the exposures you make won’t require long exposure noise reduction, but for the few times your shutter fires for eight seconds or longer, you’ll be ecstatic you enabled it. Go to Long Exposure Noise Reduction (LENR) in the menu, set it to AUTO, and when it’s needed, it automatically comes into play. There’s no negative impact to pictures made at fast shutter speeds, but there’s a huge benefit when LENR kicks in. With exposures of eight seconds or more, heat builds up on the sensor. This in turn creates noise in a digital file. With LENR turned on, the camera processes the file with a secondary dark image to eliminate the visible noise. There’s one drawback, though. However long the exposure is, that’s how long you have to wait for LENR to “process” the file before another photo can be made. For instance, if the shutter remains open for 15 seconds to make a photo, you have to wait 15 seconds before another image can be made. The wait time is totally worth it because you’ll spend more than 15 seconds post-processing the file to get rid of the noise. Check your camera manual to see where LENR appears in the menu. In my Nikon, it’s housed in the Shooting Menu.
Shoot In Raw With Auto White Balance: You own a DSLR, which proves you’re serious about photography. If you use it to make jpg images, exploit the technology and shoot in RAW format. It will dictate that you have to process your photos. It will dictate that you have to purchase media cards with greater capacity. It will dictate that you need a bigger hard drive. While these factors may discourage you, it’s time to realize they’re a tremendous benefit. The quality of a RAW file is far superior to a jpg, especially if your white balance or exposures aren’t accurate. Jpg files get processed based on the camera manufacturer’s guidelines. When it comes to processing my photos, I prefer to make the final decision regarding its appearance. With jpg images, the white balance, exposure, saturation and contrast are embedded in the file. RAW files provide pure data over which you maintain a lot of correctable and creative control. If you’re reluctant or new to capturing RAW images, set the camera to capture jpg AND RAW files. Start to process the RAW files as your photography evolves. As you realize the control you have, you’ll wonder why you didn’t shoot RAW from the get go. For white balance, because a RAW capture provides unprocessed data, leave it on AUTO. The color tint and temperature can be changed non-destructively in post processing.
Learn The Flash Modes: Some DSLRs have built-in pop-up flashes. They do have power limitations as to how far they project light, but they also have features that let you fine-tune the light they emit. Learn its features so if you do purchase a more powerful accessory flash that includes the same features, you’ll already be familiar with them.
Red Eye: A pre-flash is sent out prior to the actual burst of light that exposes the photo. This pre-flash contracts the subject’s pupil, which prevents the red-eye effect.
Fill Flash: If the subject is close and the light is contrasty, enable fill flash. The light from the flash will brighten up the shadows. This in turn softens the contrast. Experiment with the amount of fill by dialing it down or up. The subject has to be close enough to the camera for the flash to have the effect.
Slow Sync: By default, the flash syncs with the camera around 1/200th of a second. The exact shutter speed varies according to the manufacturer. This fast shutter speed doesn’t provide enough nighttime or dark interior light to build up on the sensor. The flashed subject will be properly exposed, but the backgrounds will be dark. The subject will have the appearance of floating in a sea of black. The slow sync setting provides a shutter speed commensurate with the amount of ambient light to provide illumination to the background. It’s imperative to use a tripod to prevent camera movement during these longer exposures.
High-Speed Synch: High-speed sync is somewhat the opposite of slow-speed sync. In a situation where the ambient light is very bright, light from a flash is comparatively weak. Try to get the subject close enough for the flash to have impact and incorporate high-speed synch. The idea is to set the shutter speed to one that exceeds the default synch speed of 1/200th. For example, in bright light, the ambient shutter speed may be 1/1,000th second. If the flash cuts off at 1/250th, the resulting photo is overexposed by two stops. High-speed synch allows the flash and high shutter speed to work in conjunction with each other. The result is a properly exposed mix of flash and ambient light. Without delving into great detail, due to the way high-speed flash syncs with the camera, the subject has to be close to the flash, and you’ll need a fairly powerful auxiliary unit.
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