Photography for Testers Part 4: The Exposure Triangle and Shutter speeds

By Pickle Toes Team
on July 30, 2018

Photography for Testers Part 4: The Exposure Triangle and Shutter speeds

Welcome to Part 4 of our series “Photography for Testers”. This week we continue with our discussion of the exposure triangle. Last week we talked about ISO. This week is all about shutter speeds.

 

Shutter Speed

 

The second element of the exposure triangle is shutter speed. Shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter stays open. Or, the length of time the sensor “sees” the scene you’re photographing. This time is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds. So, the bigger the denominator, the faster the shutter speed. For example, 1/500 is faster than 1/60.

 

We’ll take a moment here to talk about “stops”. Stops refer to a doubling or halving of exposure (light). This is how you refer to making a change in exposure. So, when you change one element of the exposure triangle, you refer to the change in terms of a stop. A full stop and half-stop are the most common, with some cameras capable of making changes in a third of a stop. For the sake of simplicity, I will only be referring to full stops.

 

With shutter speeds, full stops are as follows:

1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, ¼, ½, 1s (s stands for second), 2s, 4s, 8s, etc.

On your camera, they will appear differently. 1/250 as 250, 1/8 as 8, 2s as 2”.

1/4000 is a really fast shutter speed and lets in very little light. 2 seconds (2s) is a really slow shutter speed and lets in a lot of light.

 

 

1/125 lets in twice as much light as 1/250. It can also be said that 1/250 lets in half as much light as 1/125. This change is one full stop. These numbers follow a logical sequence. Each will be either half the previous number or double the next. This is not the case with apertures, but we’ll talk more about that in the next section.

 

Only the shutter speed was changed in each photo to show how each stop affects the light let in. 

 

How do you know what shutter speed to use? That depends on what you are photographing and the effect you want? Are you taking portraits? Shooting a sports event? Taking landscape photos? How much light is let in is not the only reason you need to change your shutter speed. How you want to capture motion is also a factor. A fast shutter speed is going to freeze movement. A slow shutter speed will create blur. For example, if you’re taking photos of a model and they are not moving, you don’t have to have a super fast shutter speed. If, however, you are photographing your kids and they’re running around (like kids normally do), you’ll need a fast shutter speed in order to not get just a blur.

 

You can use shutter speed in creative ways, too. If you want to create a sense of movement, you can slow your shutter speed to intentionally create motion blur. Say you are photographing someone running. A fast shutter speed might capture the runner with both feet in the air, showing no indication of movement. Switching to a slower shutter speed will cause blur, which will show the movement of the runner. Another example is shooting running water or waterfalls. Using a fast shutter speed will freeze the movement of the water. You will see individuals drops if there’s any water spray. If you use a slow shutter speed, the water will appear silky and convey a sense of movement. There are so many ways you can use shutter speed creatively. Experimenting with different speeds is the best way to get a feel for how they affect your photos.

 

Another factor that will affect your choice of shutter speed is the focal length of your lens. The simple technical definition of focal length is the distance between the lens and the sensor. It is listed on your lens in mm. (18-55mm, 50mm, 85mm, 70-200mm) The lower the number, the wider the perspective. And the higher the number, the narrower the perspective. In regards to shutter speed, the longer the focal length, the harder it will be to keep it steady when hand-holding. The general rule is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator (bottom number of a fraction) that is equal to or larger than the focal length. For example, with a 50mm lens, 1/60 is usually okay. But, if you’re using a 300mm lens, you’ll need to choose 1/500 or faster. (1/500 is chosen because the next fastest shutter speed to 300 is 1/500) If you need to use a slower shutter speed, a tripod will be necessary to avoid blur.

 

To break it down:

 

Fast SS = less time open = less light let in = freezes motion

Slow SS = more time open = more light let in = motion blur

 

I hope this has been helpful for some of you. Feel free to ask questions here or in the PTP group! Next week will be about apertures (f/stops). After that, we will briefly discuss using your camera’s meter before we bring all 3 of the elements of the exposure triangle together.

 

Photography for Testers Part 3: The Exposure Triangle and ISO

By Pickle Toes Team
on July 14, 2018

Photography for Testers Part 3: The Exposure Triangle and ISO

Welcome to Part 3 of our series “Photography for Testers”. This week we begin a basic photography tutorial on the exposure triangle and using your camera’s light meter. This info isn’t specific to testers. It’s meant to help anyone who would like to learn more about using their camera in manual mode. We will go over what the exposure triangle is and what it’s three elements are. Also how each element affects your photo individually and then how to tie them all together to get the proper exposure. We will also discuss how your camera’s light meter works and the different types of metering available. This covers a lot of information, so it will be broken down into 5 separate posts. This week will be the exposure triangle and ISO. This will be followed with weekly posts on shutter speed, aperture, metering and then how to bring it all together.

 

The Exposure Triangle

 

By WClarke [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

 

What is exposure? In photography, exposure is the amount of light that your camera’s sensor “sees”. It affects how light or dark your photo will be. Too much light means your photo is overexposed. Not enough light means it’s underexposed. The “correct” exposure is a balance of three things: ISO, shutter speed and aperture (also called an f-stop). These are often referred to as the three elements of the exposure triangle. These three elements work in relation to each other to make a photographic exposure. Because of this, when you change any one of the three, it affects the other two, making it impossible to isolate just one element.

 

If you think of the exposure triangle as a perfect triangle, will all sides and angles the same, it represents the correct exposure. If you change any of the three elements, the sides and angles are now unequal. This is no longer the correct exposure. Now you must change one, or both, of the other elements to make them equal again. We will come back to this after we go over the three elements individually.

 

(Above, I say “correct” because, for any given scene, there is more than one “correct” exposure. Which “correct” exposure you choose will depend on the look you are going for. Examples of this will be in the section on tying the three elements together.)

 

ISO

 

We’ll start with ISO, which I believe is the easiest element for people to grasp. ISO stands for International Standards Organization. It is a scale used for measuring the sensitivity of your camera’s image sensor to light. With digital cameras, you have a much broader range of ISOs than with traditional film. With traditional film, you were also limited to what film you had in your camera. Film was only available at 50, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. With digital, you can fine tune your ISO because you have the ability to choose speeds in between. The typical range for digital cameras is 100, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600...you get the idea.

 

 

Now, what do these numbers actually mean? It’s fairly simple, really. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive the sensor is to light. You would choose this when there is a lot of available light, like on a bright, sunny day. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light it will be. You would choose a higher ISO when shooting in low light situations. Keep in mind, though, that higher ISOs can produce noise. This is similar to the grain of higher speed film and looks like tiny speckles throughout your photo. Noise can make your photos look less sharp than when using lower ISOs. Also note that some cameras perform better at higher ISOs than others.

 

You can see here how changing just the ISO affects the photo. Each increase lets in more light.

 

You can see the difference between ISOs here. See how the noise starts to show the higher the ISO. 

 

So, to break it down in the simplest terms:

 

High ISO = low light = more noise/grain

Low ISO = lots of light = no noise/grain

 

ISO is pretty straight forward, but I hope this was helpful and that you now have a better understanding of ISOs. As always, feel free to leave any questions you might have either here or on the PTP Facebook page. Next week will be all about shutter speeds. 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography for Testers Part 2: Lighting

By Pickle Toes Team
on June 30, 2018

Photography for Testers Part 2: Lighting

Welcome to Part 2 of our series “Photography for Testers”. Last week, we covered some general tips on testing and preparing for final photos. This week, it's all about lighting! Our focus will be on the use of natural lighting and the different types available. Flash and other types of artificial lighting will be covered in a later post. 

 

Lighting, in my opinion, is the most important element of photography. After all, if you break down the word photography to it’s Greek roots (phos meaning light and graphe meaning to draw), it translates to “drawing with light”. Natural light is typically the best light source. However, there are different types of natural light available. Knowing the difference between them and how to use them, can be the difference between an okay photo and a great one. Today, we’ll discuss how to shoot under several different lighting situations; the golden hour, the blue hour, midday sun, cloudy/overcast days and using natural light indoors. We will talk about the qualities of each one, how to best use each type and provide tips on model placement in relation to the light source.

 

I can tell you that achieving well lit photos doesn’t always come easy. Some people intuitively just know what makes good lighting. If you’re like me...it will take practice to train your eye to “see” those qualities. It’s not difficult to do. I had to learn to slow down and really look at the scene before photographing it. In no time, it became second nature to me.

 

The Golden Hour

 

When asked, most photographers will tell you that the best type of natural light is found during what is known as “the golden hour”. The golden hour is typically about one hour before the sun sets, but can also refer to the hour just after sunrise. The light during this time is more diffused, softer, and has a golden or reddish hue that makes for nice, warm skin tones. The term golden “hour” is somewhat misleading. It isn’t always an hour. The length of time will vary depending on your location, time of year and even the weather. There are websites/apps available that will tell you when the golden hour is in your area. Here is one.

 

When shooting at this time of day, the best advice I can give you is to be prepared! Find out when the golden hour is for your area and set up beforehand. Have your model ready and in place. Have your camera ready to go. Know where the sun will be in the sky. Like I said before, the golden “hour” isn’t always an hour, so being prepared is crucial.

 

There are various ways to position your model to take advantage of this golden hour light. This is where knowing where the sun will be comes into play. Front lighting is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when you have your model facing towards the source of light so that the light falls across the front of them. Because the sun is low in the sky at this time of day, it makes it possible for your model to face towards the sun without squinting and without harsh shadows falling across them. Front lighting is also easier if you are shooting with a phone or a point and shoot camera.

 

My "golden hour" was overcast. That and adding text seems to have taken most of the "golden" away. 

Backlighting is when the light falls on the back of your model. You simply place them between the camera and the sun. Backlighting can be trickier than front lighting, especially if using a cell phone. To do this, you need to meter and expose for the subject, otherwise they will be darker than the background (in silhouette). This is especially true if shooting in auto mode. Your camera sees all of the light from the background and sets the exposure for it, which underexposes the model (makes them darker). You can set your exposure for the model’s face, which will overexpose the background, making it look washed out. This will bring the focus solely on the model. Some cell phones have a slider to adjust your exposure (this will lighten or darken the photo). You can experiment with this in order to achieve the desired backlit effect. With a dslr, it takes a little bit more knowledge about the manual controls on your camera. You can use spot metering (on the face) to get your exposure, lock it in, and then recompose to take the photo.

 

The Blue Hour

 

After you have taken photos in the soft, warm light of the golden hour, consider sticking around a few more minutes to take advantage of “the blue hour”. This is the short time (once again, not usually an hour) after the sun dips below the horizon. The light takes on a cooler, bluish tone, but still remains soft because there is no direct sunlight hitting your model. This “hour” is fleeting, usually lasting only minutes. Because the light fades quickly during this time, you will need to compensate by raising your ISO. This will allow you to use a faster shutter speed. Another option is to use a tripod.

 

When it comes to choosing which time to shoot, the golden or the blue hour, remember that one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s simply a matter of preference. Personally, I prefer the golden hour. I tend to like warmer colors and skin tones. So, it really is a matter of preference. Both will make for great photos.

 

Midday Sun

 

As great as the light can be during the golden and blue hours, it’s not always possible to take advantage of them. We’re all busy people and sometimes you just have to take your photos on a moment’s notice. Like at 1 pm,when your child is finally in a good mood! Unfortunately, this is also when the sun is high in the sky, which makes the light bright and hard and creates harsh shadows. (Hard light means that there is nothing between the light source and your model to diffuse it.) While the light at this time of day isn’t ideal for photos, there are ways to utilize it and still make great images!

 

If you have to shoot in the midday sun, make sure not to have your model face towards the sun. This will cause squinting and harsh shadows. It can also make your photos look flat and boring. This is front lighting and, while it looks quite nice when shooting during the golden hour, it is not flattering in the harsh midday sun.

 You can see the harsh shadows on her face here. Not a very flattering portrait.

An easy way to fix this is to have your model turn so that the sun is completely behind them (backlighting). Doing this will eliminate the squinting and harsh shadows. It also makes for more pleasing skin tones. While this is now a better photo, depending on the angle of the sun and the way the light falls over your model, their face may now be in shadow and appear dark. (Typically morning or late afternoon when the sun is not directly above.) One solution for this is to use the technique above to meter off the face and expose for it. This tends to overexpose and wash out your background, bringing the focus to your model. Another solution is to use a reflector to brighten up the shadowed areas. Simply angle it so that the sunlight bounces off of it onto your model. Play around with the angle to get the best results. You will be able to see this happen as you move the reflector around. (An assistant is very handy here unless you have a way to prop it up.) This will lighten the model’s face, while keeping the details of the background. If you don’t have a reflector, a piece of white poster board or foam board will do. If you have a silver sun shade for your car’s windshield, those work great, as well. Another option is to use fill flash, but that will be covered in a later post.

 Much better!

This is with the reflector on the ground directly in front of her. 

Another way that you can get great results is by shooting in the shade. The light found here is soft and diffused. You want to look for what is known as open shade. Open shade is when your model is just inside the shaded area and facing towards an open area of the sky or sun. The sun won’t be directly on them, but it will provide nice diffused light for your photos. If there are any shadowed areas, you can use a reflector to brighten them. The reflector can be placed on the ground in front of them to do this. You can also create a backlit effect by having your model stand in open shade, but with the sunlit area behind them.

 Compared to the backlit photo in full sun, you can see that she doesn't have any hot spots on the top of her head and shoulders. This is because the light isn't hitting from directly above.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also create your own shade using a scrim. A scrim is a white, translucent fabric on a frame that is used to diffuse light. Simply hold it above your model to block some of the sun. I have a 5 in 1 reflector that has a scrim...it’s pretty handy. If you are going to buy a reflector, I highly recommend one like this . I’m sure some of you fabric “collectors” might have something on hand that can be used in a pinch. I’ve used sheer white curtains before.

 

One thing to watch for when shooting in a shaded area, is dappled light. The best example I can give for this is the effect you get when shooting under a tree that doesn’t provide full coverage shade. The light coming through the leaves will cause you to have spots of light covering your model. It can create interesting and dramatic portraits, but isn’t always the right effect for tester photos.

 You can see the spots of light from the trees. This is something you want to try to avoid.

Also, don’t worry if your model wanders further away from sunlit areas into a fully shaded area. The light here is not as soft as in open shade, but it will still make for a pleasing photo.

 

Cloudy and Overcast Days

 

I love a nice cloudy, overcast day for taking photos. The clouds act like a giant diffuser, making the light soft and even. The only downside is that this giant diffuser can make everything look flat and dull. To avoid this, look for any brighter areas in the sky and have your model turn towards it. This is frontlighting (again) and will brighten up the photo and add a little dimension. If it’s only partially cloudy, you can find find any pockets of sunlight and use it to backlight them. Simply place the sun to their back, but keeping them out of the direct sunlight. Again, the same techniques can be used from above for taking backlit photos.

 

You can see that turning away from the sun makes for a darker image. I didn't compensate for this. I could have used a reflector here to brighten up her face.

Another thing to consider when shooting on overcast days is your camera settings. Because it tends to be darker, you might need to raise your ISO. This allows the camera to let in more light. If raising your ISO still results in a dark image, you might have to widen your f-stop or use a slower shutter speed. Be careful of lowering your shutter speed too much, you don’t want any blurriness in your photos. (If all of this talk of ISO, f-stops and shutter speeds have you confused, don’t worry. Next week’s post will be all about these.) For any strike off seamstresses, overcast days can also be used to showcase bright, colorful fabric. The gray skies and flat, even lighting can make things look dull. If you add in colorful fabric, the colors can really pop.

 

Natural Light Indoors

 

The last lighting situation for today is using natural light indoors. This can be tricky. If you have a big enough window, you can place your model in front of it and backlight them. With a cell phone, you can adjust your exposure if yours has an exposure adjustment slider. The same as described in the golden hour section, this allows you to lighten or darken the photo. With a dslr, you can use the same techniques as above. Depending on how much light there is, you might have to raise your ISO.

 

If you don’t have a large window, you can still use that natural light to take your photos. Once again, raising your ISO might be necessary. One thing I like to do is place my daughter with the window on one side and use a reflector on the other side. This helps to even out the lighting by brightening up the shadows on the side not facing the window. Remember that it doesn’t have to be an actual reflector. Poster board and foam core work just as well. You can also have your model face the window and place the camera between the window and them. Just be careful not to block the light falling on them.

 This is similar to what most cameras will do when shooting in front of a window. Trying some of the techniques mentioned above should help correct this.  

This is facing the window. My dining room (which has the most natural light) is tiny and isn't ideal for this. I have about 5 feet of space to work in, but you can get an idea of the difference. 

This is with the window to the left. Adding a reflector to the right would add more light to the shadowed side.

All of these suggestions work best with a north or south, facing window. The light from these directions will be soft and indirect. East and west facing windows are the opposite and not as ideal. If possible, you want to turn off any lights and open all curtains/shades of any other windows in the room. Your interior lights can throw off your white balance and cause a weird color cast. Sometimes, like with my small dining room, indoor natural light photos just aren’t possible, no matter what you try. Unfortunately, when this is the case, you either have to wait for better lighting conditions or use an artificial light source (flash or studio lighting).

 

I really hope that this blog post has been helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!! You may leave a comment here or in the main PTP group. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for next week’s post, which will be on the exposure triangle (ISO, f-stops and shutter speed) and metering.

 

Photography for Testers Part 1: General Tips

By Pickle Toes Team
on June 20, 2018

Photography for Testers Part 1: General Tips

 

I love pattern testing. It has fueled my passion for sewing and, for the most part, is how I learned to sew. It has also renewed my love of photography! The photography part of pattern testing is what seems to intimidate testers the most. Here at Pickle Toes Patterns, we don’t expect everyone to take professional quality photos. They do, however, need to be nice, clear photos that showcase the pattern. Great photos can be taken without expensive equipment. It’s all in knowing how to use the tools you have!

Think of it in terms of sewing. Yes, a serger and coverstitch will make constructing your garment easier and quicker, but you can create something just as beautiful with a regular sewing machine! You just have to know how! It’s the same with photography. Today begins our series on photography for pattern testers. I will be doing weekly posts on different aspects of photography. We will cover topics such as choosing a location, posing, lighting (both natural and flash), and photographing kids. My goal is not to turn everyone into professional photographers, but to give you tips and pointers to take great photos with any camera. We will ease into the subject with some general tips for testing and preparing to take your final photos.


Prepping to sew

 

Fabric Selection

Always make sure you choose fabric appropriate to the pattern. Ensure that it has the correct stretch and recovery for knits. For wovens, make sure to use one of the suggested types listed. Not all wovens will work all the time. Also, try to use the same type (or stretch) of fabric for fits and finals. Your results will be much more consistent this way.

I try to plan ahead with my fabric selection and how and where I will photograph my final garment. I say try, because, let’s face it, sometimes life happens and things don’t go as planned. Especially in my world! This is in no way required, but if you think about how you will photograph your final before you sew, you’re much more likely to have some creative ideas (at least for me).

 

Getting Your Model Prepared for Photos

Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. Like taking a few minutes to make sure your model is neat and presentable. Make sure your model’s hair is brushed and not covering any important details of the design (collars, buttons, etc). Before you take your photos for finals, get yourself ready like you would if you were going to have your picture taken. Any accessories, including shoes, should be appropriate to the style/design. Last, but not least, wear good fitting undergarments. It does make a difference!

For kids, most of these same tips apply. Hair brushed and not covering important details, appropriate shoes, washed faces. All of the same things you would do if you were having a professional take their photos.

 

Your Finished Garment

Fix any sewing mistakes you might have made. Yes, it can be a pain, I know! But, it’s necessary and appreciated! Press your garment!! I cannot stress this enough!! It only takes a few minutes and is probably one of the most important things you can do to make your garment stand out. Not doing so can make it look as if the pattern has fit issues when there aren’t any, or even that you sewed something incorrectly. So...iron. Please!

 Flat lay

Location

 

Let’s talk a little about location in general. I will go into more detail about location and lighting next week. But for now, we’ll go over some things to keep in mind when selecting your location.

When taking final photos, you want a nice, clutter free background. No pictures in your messy sewing room. If outside, try to find an area free of distracting objects. For example, if you’re taking photos on your patio, try not to have outdoor furniture or toys in the photo. Move things if possible. Sweep if needed. If nothing else, clear a spot by a fence or the side of the house. This is much preferable to a cluttered background.

When taking photos with trees or bushes, or even light posts, in the background please make sure that you move slightly to the side so your model doesn’t have a tree or light post growing out of their head! I see this all the time! And yes, I am guilty of this one, too. I have quite a few photos like this because I am in such a rush, usually with my kids.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind as you go through the testing process and prepare for your final photos. Next week I will go into more detail about selecting your location, as well as, lighting. These two topics definitely go hand in hand. I hope you enjoyed my post today and if there are any specific photography topics you’d like to see in this series, please leave a comment and I will try my best to include them.

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