As photographers, we often forget about monopods. Selfie sticks are all the rage now, but what I mean by a monopod specifically, is a single pole your camera can mount on to provide stability when doing photoshoots. Let's say you have to crouch down to get that perfect angle for a shot. Staying in that position while holding your camera can be a pain and you might not get the greatest shots over a long period of time. So, consider using a monopod! It can fit in places where tripods sometimes can't.
There's a wide range of options when you're shopping for monopods. I've even seen someone use their umbrella flipped upside down to provide stability for their camera during a shoot! For an actual single pole device that can stand up straight on its own (mostly) and hold your camera as well, you'll have to buy something. The cheapest models have a little spring button lock to hold sections of the monopod leg out. These can be quite a nuisance to fiddle with, and sometimes, very difficult to unlock. About the only time they unlock reliably is when you're using the lightest of cameras. The concept that you can simply pull the monopod sections out and have everything click into place is better in theory than in reality.
Moving up in price point will get you more reliable functionality. This includes monopods made by reputable companies like Manfrotto and Giottos. These can come with the cam-lever type locks or the twist-to-tighten locks. The cam-action locks seem to be easier to lock and unlock, but can be intrusive with the cam-lever hanging out just waiting to be snagged and released.
The twist locks are much more streamlined, but can be a bear to release if over-tightened (like when trying to hold too heavy a load for the monopod's rating) or if poorly designed, which is what you'll get with a cheaper, off-brand monopod.
The higher end monopods can come with either a long-handled tilt-pan head like on the cheaper tripods or video pods, an inexpensive ball-head, or a 1/4" bolt for screwing directly into your camera's tripod mount or attaching whatever head you'd like to use (at an additional cost).
If you want to go high end with monopods, the sky's the limit. High end varieties can have ball-feet, suction cup feet, snow-spike feet, and the very popular 3-mini legs that make it closer in stability to a tripod.
Monopods can be made from everything from lightweight aluminum to space age plastics. Weight of the monopod can be an important consideration for those that will be doing a lot of hiking to their photoshoot destinations. Speaking of hiking, there are even walking sticks with a 1/4"-20 thread on top for use as a non-collapsible monopod.
The length of the monopod from fully collapsed to fully extended will have to be chosen with your particular needs in place. Does it need to fit in a pocket, backpack or suitcase? Does it need to extend to 9-feet so you can do aerial photography without leaving your seat in the bleachers? Usually, the more sections a monopod has, the greater the difference between collapsed and extended lengths.
Overall, you should buy a monopod that's rated for a little bit more weight than you intend to use so you have some margin should you tend to abuse it. A monopod is a great way to improve your photography's sharpness by holding it all steady and is quite often allowed where tripods are restricted.
Tripods are a key piece of any photographer's kit, and there are as many choices for tripods as there are lens systems for cameras. So how do you choose? Here's a primer on basic tripod types, available options and things to consider when buying.
Main Things to Consider
There's an expression: good, fast, cheap. Pick two. The same applies to tripods, but change the options to sturdy, lightweight, and cheap. If you want a lightweight, sturdy tripod, expect to pay a lot of money for it. If you want something inexpensive and lightweight, don't expect it to be very sturdy. So it becomes a balance, and the key is in understanding how you will be using your tripod.
There are two main kinds of heads - ball heads and pan heads. A ball head has a single knob and the head easily rotates around until you lock it into position. A pan head has a pan lock, tilt lock for up and down movement, and a third lock for arcing the camera side to side.
This is the simplest kind of tripod head. A single locking mechanism provides a full range of movement for your camera. If you tend to shoot quickly, or with moving subjects, this might be just the tripod head you need. The trade off is that you cannot easily do panning shots, such as with panoramas, and a simple tweak in the tilt will force you to re-frame the whole shot.
With pan heads, multiple locking knobs give you precision in your tripod work. You can lock down the tilt and still adjust the pan without having to re-frame the whole composition. These are very useful heads if you do a lot of tabletop or macro work. The different locks give you precision in your camera movement and allow you to pan easily for panoramic shots or even for use with small video cameras. The trade off is speed. With so many adjustment knobs, it can take longer to frame and lock down your shot than with a ball head. If you want to use your tripod for both still and video work, definitely choose a pan head, but make sure the connector on the quick release plate will work with both your still and video cameras.
Other Things to Consider
If you're very tall, make sure to purchase a tripod with a high maximum height. You don't want to be bending over every single time you use your tripod. Make sure the tripod you choose is rated for the weight of your camera and the heaviest lens. If you think you might upgrade to a heavier camera in the next 5 years, choose a tripod that will handle the extra weight. Finally, always choose a tripod with a quick-release plate. These allow you to quickly remove the camera form the tripod without a lot of fuss.
When cleaning my gear recently, I thought I’d take an inventory of my camera bag. Here’s what I’ve got in my bag. What have you got in yours?
In this article, we'll cover the equipment needed to add macro photography to your photo arsenal.
First things first, what is macro? It means the object appearing on your digital camera's sensor (or 35 mm film plane) is close to the same size as the subject you are shooting. Essentially, it's a function that allows you to focus closer than normal on your subject, giving you the effect of a magnified image.
There are four primary ways to shoot macro shots.
1. Macro Lenses
These lenses allow you to focus closer than normal lenses. They generally have a long barrel, so they look larger and more substantial than standard lenses. Macro subjects are certainly not the only subjects a macro lens can shoot. Their focus range is merely extended from much closer than normal to infinity. And like normal lenses, different macro lenses are appropriate for different kinds of photography.
Long macro lenses, such as 150-200 mm, are good for taking pictures of insects, animals, birds, or things that are generally farther away. Wide macro lenses, such as 30-60 mm, are great for shooting products, toys, and small things. Mid-range macro lenses, such as 70-120 mm, are great for flowers.
Macro lenses tend to be more expensive than their normal focus counterparts, but they give you the flexibility to expand your photography into the smaller, closer subject range. If you think you will be shooting a lot of macro subjects, this could be your best bet.
2. Extension Tubes
These are special tubes that attach to the camera between the camera body and the lens. There is no glass in the tube, and their only function is to move the lens farther away from the camera’s sensor (or the film plane). The effect is that the image appears more magnified and the lens can focus closer. There are different sized extension tubes, and the farther away the lens is from the camera, the greater the magnification. Tubes can range in price, depending on the size and camera model.
3. Close-up Diopters
The least expensive of the DSLR macro options, diopters are essentially glass filters. They screw into the front of the lens and magnify the image, allowing you to focus closer. We recommend getting the size that will fit your largest-sized lens (or the largest one you plan to buy in the future), and use inexpensive adapter rings to make them fit all of your lenses. The drawback to diopters is that the images are not quite as clear as those taken with macro lenses or extension tubes. If you need super sharp shots of the hairs on the legs of a bumblebee, then stick with a macro lens. But for easy, inexpensive close-ups of toys, baby faces, objects, etc, diopters are a good option.
4. The Macro Function on Your Point-and-Shoot
You may already have the ability to shoot macro, by using your point-and-shoot. Ever notice that flower icon? That is the macro icon, and it’s perfect for quick and easy macro shots. Simply press the flower icon or turn the dial, depending on your camera model, and voila, you can shoot super close-up.
There are other ways to shoot macro, such as a bellows attachment that is like an adjustable extension tube, or a reversing ring used to reverse your lens (actually turning it around and shooting out the other way), or even shooting through a magnifying glass!
We hope you enjoyed this information. Stay tuned for a macro technique article in the future!
You have adorable kids, and you want to preserve those fleeting moments for all time with your digital camera. But all too often, you snap a few shots of your son's crooked smile or your daughter's mischievous glance and call it a day, only to download the pics to your computer later and be less than thrilled with the results. Instead of lasting and vivid portraits, all too often we get blurry, dark images, or when using the flash, we get ugly, harsh shadows and blown out details. Stop ending with these disappointing outcomes and start loving your portrait shots. How? By using the right light for every picture and saying no to your on-camera flash!
The key to great portraiture is great light. This sounds obvious, but it also sounds a bit confusing, right? What exactly counts as great light and how does one find it? Great light is everywhere, and surprisingly, can be found at pretty much every time of day (when the sun is up, of course!). You just need to learn how to use light - even harsh midday sun - to your favour.
I find that my best portrait shots are the ones I've taken indoors near a window in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is casting warm, soft tones and light is diffused. But even at other times of the day, great light can be found all around you. For example, placing your subject indoors, next to a large window, can allow you to use natural brightness in your favour. The light will feel soft and give the eyes of your subject a fantastic glow, because light is bouncing off the concrete outside and then onto your subject, instead of directly hitting your subject. If the subject was outside at the exact same time, you would have gotten some harsh shadows and most likely squinty eyes! The bottom line is, natural light cascading in from a large window gives you great catch-light in the eyes and some interesting shadows on the face of your subject.
For shots taken later in the day when light levels are lower, try diffusing the available light through a sheer curtain. Then, bump up the ISO settings on your camera and shoot away! See what kind of warm light and interesting shadows the setting sun can give your shots.
Another idea is to create your own do-it-yourself studio to utilize natural light. Use any sort of solid colour, smooth texture material as a backdrop for your subject. A crude example could be a large black winter coat. Let natural light shine on your subject and the backdrop while you take your shots.
Using natural light is really such an easy way to bump up the caliber of your amateur portrait shots. This works for all ages of subjects, of course. When photographing kids, however, keep the ISO setting just a little higher than you might normally since they tend to move around a lot and blur your photos. Or, invest in a faster lens that allows in more light, such as a 50 mm. And remember, just because you're indoors doesn't mean that you need to use your on-camera flash. It just means that sometimes you need to get a bit more creative, in order to figure out how to use all that great natural light you have available.