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For my own photography, I use digital camera filters too - particularly the polarizing filter. I use the polarizer most often for minimizing glare and boosting colors on reflective surfaces.
In fact, I almost always avoid a polarizer to deepen a sky when shooting with a wide-angle - especially in the horizontal format. Wide-angle with a polarizer can cause uneven or patchy polarization in the sky - with some areas looking unnaturally over-polarized (very dark) compared to under-polarized areas (very light). That's because polarizers work at an angle to the sun, with the wide-angle/horizontal taking in such a wide sweep of sky that the amount of polarization can vary widely across the frame.
Of course, as with everything in photography, there can be exceptions, so don't take my "rule" as gospel! Still, being aware of the issue is important. Then you can decide for yourself how things look when previewing in the viewfinder (or double-checking the LCD monitor). Be sure, though, to rotate the polarizer when viewing, in order to find the proper orientation!
Here are a few of my own thoughts on the subject:
I really make use of one of digital photography's great benefits: the LCD monitor. I always used to admire the large-format photographers (those who use the view cameras that require a big cloth for viewing and focusing). Often they use a Polaroid back on the camera, and take a quick pic to check composition, light-to-dark contrast, etc., before taking a "real" picture. Now, with my DSLR, I can do something similar. For example:
For setting my White Balance, whenever I'm in doubt, I can take some quick shots with different WB pre-sets to determine the best one! This comes in handy in wintertime, since light really affects the color of snow (i.e., bluish tint in shade and on overcast day). This works in other settings too. Recently, during the NYC Summit, it was overcast ... Daylight WB looked too blue, Shade WB too warm, Cloudy WB just right.
For exposures, I'll also do a quick test - check the highlight warnings and/or double-check the histogram. Especially with snow scenes, I want to make sure the snow doesn't appear too dark (since bright white can fool a camera's meter into underexposure), but also to make sure brights aren't clipped at the right (loss of detail - in other words, blown out). Then, if I determine that the best exposure is, say, with a +1 exposure compensation, I can shoot with confidence (with the +1) until either my composition changes radically (i.e., more or less snow) and/or the light changes ... times when I would re-evaluate.
"I’ve had many times where the light is what really made the picture - not the subject, necessarily, but the light and the way it defined the subject."
Check out Brenda's excellent BetterPhoto Instructor Insights post:
Travel Photography Tips: It's All About the Light!
"The only way one gets better as a photographer is by shooting. Reading books and magazine articles, surfing the Web for camera and lens reviews, watching videos are all well and good, but it eventually comes down to getting up, walking outside, and making photographs. And as I often tell my students, it's about the willingness to go out there and make a lot of bad photographs as you explore and try to understand what you are seeing."
Read the rest of his photo blog here: Do Your Best Photography: Commitment to the Craft
I use the histogram regularly to double-check exposures. Now if I'm shooting action or candids, I won't look at the histogram after every shot - I don't want to miss a key image while I'm looking at the monitor! But I will check it as often as possible. Especially if the lighting doesn't change, once I've checked to make sure I'm not clipping important highlights, I can be confident of getting the exposure just right for a series of shots in those particular conditions. Then, when the lighting changes or when there's a lull in the action, I can double-check things ... I'll even run a "test" shot to make sure the camera is reading the scene the way I want it read! Of course, it's easier to check with stationary scenes. :-)
But how does the histogram work? For many digital shooters, it remains a mystery.
Doug Steakley has written a terrific article on the subject. Check it out at BetterPhoto.com: Digital Exposure: Histogram Made Simple
"They see something interesting, something that makes them stop in their tracks and inspires them to make a photograph. And that's what they do. They make 'a' photograph. And then they are eager to rush on to the next thing. They haven't even gotten started. They haven't even given themselves time to really see what they're seeing and they're off looking for the next best thing. That's no way to live a life and that is not a way to be a photographer."
Read more of what Ibarionex has to say - and see some of his fine images - here: Take Better Digital Pictures: Slow Down!
It's easy to subscribe to any of BetterPhoto's four free photography newsletters, including POTD. To subscribe, go to this page:
Travel Photography: Cityscapes at Twilight
A photogenic subject, a great location, and soft overcast light were ideal ingredients recently for an outdoor portrait photography session. Of course, a red umbrella added visual interest too. :-)
I captured these images at the BetterPhoto Summit in New York City's Central Park on a fine autumn day. It was late afternoon and Summit workshop participant Barbara graciously posed. The solid gray sky acted like a giant softbox to provide very pleasing and even light.
Choosing a low f/number (wide aperture) helped create a shallow depth of field - important to separate the sharp subject against a blurred background.
The right subject and the right light just seem to deserve multiple compositions!
Additional info on shooting portraits outdoors: Get inspired in Kerry Drager's online photo class that covers natural light and creative composition. In addtion, BetterPhoto's online digital photography school offers exciting courses on photographing people and natural light portraits.
Note: Both photos copyright by Kerry Drager
"Noise, that annoying sand-like texture in a digital photo, has been seriously attacked by all major DSLR camera manufacturers. But one thing you don’t hear too much about is how exposure is still a limiting factor. In fact, exposure becomes more critical with higher ISO settings. So if you underexpose a high-ISO exposure, you are likely to make that noise visible."
Read more of Rob's thoughts and tips: Digital SLR Cameras: Exposure Vs. Noise
"It's necessary to protect camera gear from the water, of course, but the hassle of that is well worth getting great images of reflections while photographing at night or twilight".
Read more from Jim's BetterPhoto.com Instructor Insights blog - complete with a very colorful twilight scene of a rainy Krakow, Poland:
Night Photoraphy Techniques: Wet Pavement
"I know that there is a lot of fear and anxiety about approaching people, but it's been my experience that the worst thing is not that they say 'no'. The worst thing is actually the anxiety and tension we feel at the thought of approaching someone, not the actual rejection when it does happen. And since people say yes more often than they say no, it's a worthwhile thing to do."
Read more in his BetterPhoto Instructor's Insights blog: Approaching Strangers: Street Photography.
I totally agree with Rob ... but if possible, be sure to read his entire blog:
Enjoy your photography!
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