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Remember those time when you were in this warmth, romantic, nicely lit restaurant, you took a picture with your camera, and what happened? The subject in the picture is washed out, and the background is dark, or in some other occasions, It’s evenly lit, but the subject is blurred. It’s frustrating, but it seems like the camera only works best during the day, outdoors. Well, here’s some tips that could help you take photos in low light condition better.

Romantic, nicely lit restaurant means darkness to your camera. And if you set your camera on auto, the built-in flash most definitely will kick in, replacing the ambient (available light) with high density light that doesn’t reach far. The results just don’t resemble the nice restaurant as you remember. So, try to avoid ‘Auto’-mode in difficult lighting condition, because only you know what is it that you’re trying to capture.

Everything other than front lit (your subject is facing the light, not against it) daylight situation, is considered difficult lighting condition. That’s why in most compact digital cameras, there is the ‘scenes’ mode (pre-set exposures) which will help you define the best exposure for whatever it is that you try to capture.

Valentine’s day dinner with my Keira, the lighting was too nice to pass. I set my camera on high ISO, resting my hand holding camera on top of the camera bag on the table to keep it steady, and use the 2 second self timer. (click on image above to enlarge)

For something like this situation (the romantic, nicely lit restaurant), you set your camera to ‘indoor’ mode (each brand differs in the naming departments, some have specific modes for indoor situation, i.e. ‘party’, ‘birthday’, ‘candle light’). And then what happened? The subject still comes out blurry, or sometimes even the whole picture is blurry. That’s because the camera decided to lower the shutter speed to get as much light as possible for the perfect exposure in those low lit conditions.

The slower the shutter speed, the more likely the image is affected by movement. When we press the shutter release button, our finger motion shakes the camera a bit. A small movement within a large fraction of a second is enough to make a blurry picture. Thus, the waving hand (no shake, please) icon appears in your display to warn you when the shutter speed is slow.

Same goes for a moving subject. If the shutter speed is fast, it stops the moving subject in the picture. But if the shutter speed is slow, you’ll get the subject in motion blur. So the key is to keep the camera as steady as possible, and ask the subject to be still during the point of shutter release.

Differ in some brands, in Lumix LX3 you can set the scene to the ‘party’ mode.

You can do reduce this shutter release shake by using the self-timer and by hand-holding the camera against a steady ground. You can lean your camera holding hand against the table, or on top of the purse that you stack on the table to lift it higher. Sometimes you can use the wall beside you, or the top part of the chair, or anything that will keep your hand steady. Try to use the 2 second self-timer, instead of the 10 seconds, because people’s smile rarely look natural when they have to hold it for 10 seconds. :) (Unless you want to be inside the picture, then 10 second self timer will give you the time to get into place)

On her 5th birthday last year, with her cousin. Had I used flash, the candle couldn’t be the focal point as I intended to here.

Some compact digital cameras already have a built-in stabilizers to counter shakes. There are two types of image stabilizer, the real, mechanical one is the optical image stabilizer which makes some part of the lenses inside react to your movement. And the cheaper version is the digital image stabilizer which only push the ISO number, or open the widest aperture possible to keep the shutter speed fast to minimize blur. If it’s within the budget, get the one with optical image stabilizer. The moments you capture are irreplaceable, you wouldn’t want many blurred mementos, would you?

Many ways to improve the quality of pictures, I’m sure you got other real-world tips on how to take better pictures in low-lit places. Please do share. :D

by ingimg
ingenious imaging

What is bokeh?

Bokeh or blur is created by the distance of the object and out-of-focus area.

This is the example.

And this is the original image. How to create easy and nice round bokeh and by using almost any type of lens?

Here are the steps:

  1. Mount your camera on tripod
  2. Aim it at the multiple light source (Christmas tree or neon sign are great objects)
  3. Turn off the autofocus feature from your lens or camera body.
  4. Turn the focus barrel manually till you saw totally blur from your viewfinder.
  5. Set shutter speed. Try experience and have fun with the shutter speed. As rule of thumb, the darker the area, the longer you set the shutter speed)
  6. Set timer to avoid camera shake.
  7. And shoot!

This is the result. I reversed the picture below just for artistic purpose. Have fun! :)

by flyingbeagle

Continuing last week’s topic, I’m still a firm believer that ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you’. But there were cases where people start thinking “ah, my camera sucks, I wish i had a Digital-SLR camera with me”. They bought one, use it for couple of months, -in most cases without reading the manual first-, then disappointed that the results were not as spectacular as they had expected. Some even feel that the results from their DSLRs lack the punch and vividness of their previous compact cameras. Worst case is, they feel DSLRs turn out to be a burden to carry around. Especially if they just go hang out in a local restaurant, they’d think they look like tourists.

If that’s the case, prosumer- (a marketing jargon for professional consumer, to differentiate from ‘amateurs’)- level compact like the Panasonic Lumix LX3 might be an option. It’s small, lightweight, has large sensor (CCD) for details, also large aperture (f2.0) to make a nice bokeh (background blur), and manual control so you can be as creative as with a DSLR.

I had my hands on one LX3, thanks to a buddy of mine who’s kindly enough to let me try it out. And it did churned out great result. Here are some of the photos I took with the LX3. Click on it to enlarge and see it’s amazing detail. Except for the sunset shot, I changed the color tone in Apple’s Aperture for most of the picture. I prefer a bit less saturated colors then the originals. I took them in RAW format, one of prosumer level camera’s features. So any adjustment won’t ruin it, as you will in Jpeg format.

I tried the macro feature, on this 50th wedding anniversary event (not mine, I’m not that old ;P) with its f2.0 aperture. Real shallow Depth of Field. (click on image above to enlarge)

Even closer, and even shallower DOF

It’s Popeye the sailor girl. Click to enlarge, see in the eye-lash area, and I’d say it’s pretty detail for a compact.

Amazing color rendition. Tho not bad for a compact, compare to a DSLR the noise level is annoying. (This was at iso 400)

(click on image above to see what’s bugging me)

I didn’t take enough photos with it as much as I want to, but I could say that if I want to get a compact, LX3 will come top of my mind. Though in high iso number (800 and above) the noise become more pronounced, I’d still think it’s an improvement compare to smaller sensor cameras. As of now, the Lumix LX3 is the reigning champion in its class. It’s a hot item, so hot that it might be hard to find in some areas. But that’s about to change with the recent announcement of its successor, Panasonic Lumix LX5. It will have more range (24-90mm from the previous 24-60mm), supposedly better CCD to reduce noise, and better image stabilization (power O.I.S.). I can’t wait to see how far it really improved.

So, any camera you’ve tried and compared that you really recommend? Or maybe camera you had bad experience with? I could name a few, especially the ones that made my wallet empty,… =P

by ingimg
ingenious imaging