Summer Photo Tips

Each year many customers ask me for tips and ideas as to how to improve their photos during their summer vacation.

Step 1: Polarize It! – A circular polarizing filter will do magical things to your photos – especially at the beach or during the fall foliage season. First and foremost, it will minimize glare on reflective surfaces, such as water (which is commonly found at the beach, in case you didn’t know). That’s something that no amount of photoshop can mimic. In addition to that, it’ll help add contrast and color saturation to your images, giving them that additional “pop” that so many photographers covet. There is one downside to using a polarizing filter and that’s the fact that it’s going to cut your light down by approximately 2 stops. Make sure you have enough light for the exposure or use a tripod.

Just like any other filter there are many different categories of circular polarizers. They can range in price from $50 all the way up to $300, depending on size and brand. The better the filter, the better the photo. It’s as simple as that.
Recommended brands: Promaster HGX, Promaster Digital, or B+W if you’re feeling rather German.

Step 2: Use A Flash! – If you’re photographing people outdoors you almost always want to use a flash. Using a flash will help minimize those high contrast areas and fill in those unflattering dark shadows that appear under the eyes, nose, and chin. It will also help if your subject is in a backlit situation, which nearly always happens at the beach. Unless it’s raining – but then why are you even at the beach?!

Step 3: Overexpose! – It’s not often that somebody recommends you overexpose your photos. At the beach or in snow your camera will usually underexpose in any of the auto-modes. The light being reflected off the sand/snow is so bright that it fools the camera into thinking that that’s the light source – which will then underexpose your image. Find the exposure compensation feature on your camera and overexpose your image by .3 to 1 stop. A significant amount of point and shoot cameras even have a beach/snow scene mode, which will do this automatically for you.

Step 4: Check Your Watch! (or Cell Phone!) – The time of day can considerably impact the quality of your images. The optimal time is an hour before sunset – also known as “The Happy Hour for Photographers The Doesn’t Involve Booze”. At this time of the day the sunlight tends to be more diffuse, giving you softer and most pleasing lighting. At this point you still would want to use flash.

Step 5: Be Careful! – Sand is a cameras worst enemy. If the sand or salt in the air gets onto your camera’s sensor it may be curtains for your vacation photos. Keep your camera in a zip-lock or waterproof bag. As long as the bag is clean and clear you should be able to shoot through the bag without issue.

As always, please stop by the store or give us a call if you have any additional questions or concerns.

And don’t forget the sunblock.

Photo industry discovers YouTube! News at 11!

As you may (or may not) already know, YouTube’s M.O. is useless videos, which is why it’s one of the most popular sites on the web. People love useless stuff – I know I do! But buried within the millions of pointless videos on YouTube is the occasional useful one. Nay, you may say? YouTube and useful in the same sentence? Pfft!

LumiQuest has (somewhat) recently made a YouTube Channel specifically dealing with using flash and flash diffusers. It has some really good info on there and I recommend checking it out.

View more useful LumiQuest videos at

Now that we’ve got the lame “useful” video out of the way, here’s one that’s not useful. At all.

Now that’s what the internet was made for.

Phones with cameras and cameras with phones and so on and so on…

I’ve had a lot of customers stop by the shop recently and ask if we can print photos that they’d taken with their cell phone. It’s definitely a do-able process, though it’s not easy.

First and foremost, your image quality is going to be sloppy at best. The imaging sensor in cell phone cameras is small – smaller than any pocket sized digital camera. Even at 4×6 it’s going to be an extremely pixelated photo. Cell phone images are generally meant for sending in phone messages or uploading to the net.

If you aboslutely need to print an image from your cell phone, check to see if your phone will accept a memory card. Most modern, mid-to-high end cell phones will take some type of removeable flash memory. If that’s the case, get the images copied over to the memory card and we can pop it into one of our photo kiosks and make some prints that way. Nice and simple.

If your camera doesn’t take a memory card, your next best option is to get it onto your computer and email it to the store. Getting it to your computer is the hard part – you need to make sure you have the correct cables and/or wireless connection. Some phones and computers are able to connect to one another via Bluetooth, which is a quick and easy way of transferring files.

Fireworks Photography – What to do and what not to do.

It’s close to that fireworks time of the year and we thought it would be a good time to post some tips on fireworks photography.

Most modern compact point and shoot digital cameras include a “fireworks” scene mode. You can usually access that mode by going into “SCN” or “Scene” mode on your camera and selecting the firworks mode.

Here’s some tips if you’re using an SLR:

Manually set your ISO to 100
Lens Choice – Wide Angle Zoom would be most appropriate
Auto White Balance or Daylight
Set your lens to manual focus then focus to infinity
Set your camera to Manual exposure – Try 5 seconds at f/ 16
Carefully release the shutter to capture from one to several bursts
Evaluate your exposure
Evaluate sharpness by zooming in on your image – adjust as needed

Improving Fireworks photos:
Shoot with a tripod – it will give a more natural cascade of light
Carefully release the shutter without moving the camera or use an electronic release.

Other Techniques:
Set your camera to B and lock open your shutter – keep the lens covered with a dark hat and remove the hat to capture a burst then recover and repeat to capture several bursts. Just be carefull not to bump into your camera.

Also – you’re most likely to be taking these images after a nice, family-friendly, backyard barbeque. By “nice, family-friendly”, I mean one-too-many-drinks and more hot dogs than Takeru Kobayashi can eat. Another good reason to use a tripod!

Attn: 5D Mark II Owners!

As much as we are nerds here at the camera store, we’re generally pretty jaded when it comes to firmware updates. It’s usually the standard “fixes banding issues when shooting at ISO 3200 in RAW mode with the white balance set to cloudy and the moon is beginning it’s waxing phase”. But! Every now and again they like to surprise us with something that’s actually useful.

Canon just released a firmware update which deals specifically with HD Video in the Canon 5D Mark II. Normally, when doing video with the Mark II, there’s not a lot in terms of manual controls. Actually, none at all. This new firmware update gives you full manual freedom when doing video.

Follow the link to download and for more info:

If you’re having trouble installing the firmware, feel free to stop by the store and we’d be more than happy to help you out.

Blurry Images? This is what to do…

Everything in photography is about light. Many people complain about blurry images and the amount of available light has everything to do with it. If you can get away with using a flash, that’s a sure-fire way to get the job done. Keep in mind that most point and shoot cameras have a flash that will only reach to about 13 feet. If you’re using an SLR, the camera’s built in flash will give you a very similar light output. If you can afford it, it would be wise to invest in an accessory flash unit. A high-end flash can give you up to 80 feet of distance and will cost you around $500. In addition to drastically reducing blur, an accessory flash unit will also help in reducing red-eye.

Another thing that can help you is image stabilization – but there’s a catch. Image stabilization (or vibration reduction or steady shot or vibration control… it’s all the same) will help control blurry images caused by camera shake. If your subject is moving they’re still going to end up blurry. If you’re getting camera shake and you don’t have image stabilization, hold the camera with both hands while holding your arms against yourself – essentially forming a tripod. It’s not a 100% solution, but it should help.

Some small digital cameras have something called “E.I.S.” or “Electronic Image Stabilization”. EIS essentially raises the camera’s ISO (or light sensitivity) in order to capture a less blurry image. In doing this, it is also lowering your image quality and creating a lot of noise, or grain, within the image. I would only recommend doing this if it’s completely necessary.

The only absolute solution for blurry images is to increase the amount of available light, though of course in many situations this is not possible. Get creative if needed – then you’ll get the best results.