owen watkin photographer

Photo Tip of the Month
About Me
Contact Me
Photo Tip of the Month

Photo tip for November 07

Gray Card:


Metering off an 18-percent neutral gray card is a good way to get a midtone reading that will give you a good overall exposure of a scene. Forgot your gray card? Hold your open hand up so it's facing the light, take a reading off your palm, open up one stop, and shoot. (Various skin tones rarely account for even a full-stop difference.)

Photo tip for October '07
Light Test

You can test the indoor (ambient light) performance of any digital camera by putting it through the paces at an open-air or farmer's market-style vegetable mart. Fresh veggies provide a full array of colors, textures, and surfaces while the lighting conditions mock the worse you'll ever encounter at home. Shoot close, shoot wide, shoot with and without flash.

Photo tip for September '07
Hyperfocal Distance 2

The Hyperfocal Distance of a lens depends on the lens's focal length and the f/stop setting being used. When a camera lens is set at its hyperfocal distance, everything that is more than one-half of that distance away will fall within the lens's depth of field. For example, if the hyperfocal distance of a given lens at a given f/stop is ten feet, every thing from five feet to infinity will be in focus. Most SLR and DSLR lenses include Focus Index marks flanked left and right by numbers that let you determine the hyperfocal distance at any f/stop. Here's how it works: set the lens at f/16. Turn the focus ring until the infinity symbol 8 lines up with the number 16 that is to the right of the Focus Index mark. Then read the distance setting that lines up over the number 16 that is on the left side of the mark (for example, 4 feet). Your camera lens is now set at its hyperfocal distance and everything from 4 feet to infinity will be in focus.

Photo tip for August '07

Little things that can make a big difference in your photography: Photoshop's Healing Brush is one of the most useful blemish-removal tools in this software. But if you right-click its band-aid-like icon and select the Patch Tool you will unleash an even more powerful portrait-fixer. Remove a blemish by drawing a closed circle around it and dragging it to an area containing the desired replacement color and texture. The good part is smoothly blended over the bad part until the ugly one disappears.

Photo tip for July '07
Old adage - New proverb

An old adage suggests that we use a shutter speed that is "one over the focal length" to avoid blur caused by camera shake. If shooting with a 200mm, for instance, use 1/200th of a second. The digital SLR with its lens factor changes this old law. That 200mm produces magnification equivalent to a 300mm, so be sure to increase the shutter speed accordingly. New proverb: "one over the effective focal length."

Photo tip for June '07
Photographing a parade

If you are photographing someone in a parade, try to understand that they have been staring at crowds for a while, and it's almost impossible to keep a genuine smile for an hour or so, especially since hardly anyone along the parade route smiles back. This presents an opportunity: Just before you take a picture of someone, move your camera away from your face, catch their eye and give them a genuine smile, meaning you really feel like smiling at them. I think of it as like when I'm taking a picture of an old friend. They'll give you a genuine smile back. Keep smiling while you take your shot. They'll notice it, and they'll continue to respond. Both of you will be better off for the improvement in the photograph.

Photo tip for May '07
Hyperfocal Distance

A popular 'pro' technique is capture great depth by combining a close foreground and deep background. Use a wide angle lens (20-28mm), get a few inches from the foreground (often flowers), put the horizon high in the frame. Using a small aperture (f22) keeps everything in focus (hyperfocal). Use a hyperfocal chart to correspond distance with aperture, or just use the smallest (highest f-number) possible.

Photo tip for April '07
Subject Placement.

The placement of your subject in the frame denotes its relevance to the context. The center of the frame is the weakest place -- it's static, dull, and gives no value to the context. The more you move the subject away from the center, the more relevance you give to the context; so juggle until you get the right balance. Each item has a 'weight' and, like a waiter filling up a tray, you need to balance the weights within the frame.

Photo tip for March '07

Photographing animals
Photographing animals, whether your cat at home or a cougar in the great outdoors, requires patience, perseverance and an understanding of animal behaviour so you can predict how they will be likely to act or react, and anticipate the moment for a good photograph.
If you consider an animal's character in the same way you do when photographing people, and try to capture it on film, you won't go far wrong. Make sure you know what you want your images to say about the animal before you start clicking away, and then put your knowledge of composition, lighting and angles to work to get the pictures you want.

Photo tip for February '07


On digital cameras you can change the sensitivity of the sensor when collecting light which is called the ISO speed. The common span of ISO speed is 80 to 800. The higher the ISO speed the faster the camera collects light but it also adds more noise to the photograph than the lower speeds. For example if your trying to take pictures in dim light without a tripod you might want to raise the ISO speed in order to get a picture that's not blurry. Most of the time you should keep it at a lower ISO speed if there is enough light, but it makes a big difference when there isn't.

Photo tip for January '07

Mid-range portraits:

Mid-range portraits are a little less personal than close-ups. These are easier to get satisfactory results from mainly because your subject is probably more relaxed plus you can include a little of the background. These are probably the most commonly used for single subjects and multiple subjects. The ideal lens would be around a 90 mm fixed telephoto lens but if there's many subjects in your frame you will need more of a wide-angle lens. These are usually used to mark occasions such as graduation, school yearbook, birthdays etc...

Photo tip for December 06:
Take photos at any time of the day:
Assuming a sunrise at 6am and sunset at 7pm.

5am: Pre-dawn: A pink, ethereal light and dreamy mist for lakes, rivers and landscapes.
6-7am: Dawn: Crisp, golden light for east-facing subjects.
7am-10am: Early morning: The city comes to life; joggers in the park.
10-2pm: Midday: The sun is too harsh for landscapes and people, but perfect for monuments, buildings & streets with tall buildings.
2pm-4pm: Afternoon: Deep blue skies with a polarizer.
4pm-6:45pm: Late Afternoon: Terrific warm, golden light on west-facing subjects. Best time for landscapes and people, particularly one hour before sunset.
6:45 - 7:30pm: Sunset: Great skies 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after sunset.
7:30-8pm: Dusk is great for skylines, while there's still a purple color to the sky.
9pm: Night shots, stars, fireworks, lightning etc.

Photo tip for November:

How to shot Sunsets:

The best times are when the sun is just about to touch the horizon, and the afterglow 10-30 minutes after the sun has set. Usually automatic metering works fine, but with high contrast, meter off the brightest part of the sky. Try adding a person in the foreground (they'll appear as a silhouette) for human interest, depth and character. Either include a reflection from the ocean, or eliminate the scenery and keep the horizon low in the frame. A zoom lens is useful and you'll need a tripod or wall for support as the shutter speed will be slow.

Photo tip for October:

Photographing water:

With sprayed water, use side- or backlighting for a translucent look. This also works well with smoke, grass and leaves.

Experiment with a slow shutter speed, perhaps 1/30 to 1/4s so that the rushing water creates a soft, romantic blur. I like 1/8s. A tripod or other support is necessary. Be careful with a polarizer - it can enhance the colors but it also removes reflections that you may want.

Photo tip for September:

Camera Clubs:

Want to learn photography? Are you a member of a camera club?
If not, get out and join one (or more) as they are a fantastic source of information and expertise.

Photo tip for August:

Environmental portraiture:

Environmental portraiture are portraits that let us into the life of the subject. These usually include the whole subject in a scenario or partaking in some hobby that they enjoy. These are best for telling a story to the viewer about the subject in the pictures. Photojournalists almost always use these to look into the lives of interesting people.

Photo tip for July:


Close-up portraits usually have the subject's shoulders and head or less. They are basically framed around the face. These are the best to capture expressions and glamour shots. It is very important to have the light coming from a good angle for these. If you want to accent wrinkles or small details you should have the light coming from the side or from the top. If you want flattering pictures you should take these on a day that's cloudy so there is a lot of diffused light and therefore no shadows.

You will get the best results if the subject is brighter than the background so there is not much distraction. For these you should use a wide aperture (low f/stop) to make the background out of focus and less of a distraction. Professionals usually use a fixed telephoto lens that's 90 mm or a little higher for portraits for the reason that it de-emphasizes the subjects nose or any other unflattering feature because at that far away the nose or any other significant feature doesn't seem closer to the camera than the rest of the face.

Photo tip for June:


A photograph is all about light so always think of how the light is striking your model. The best bet is to move around so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out color and shades, and the slight angle (side lighting) produces some shadow to indicate texture and form.

Photo Tip For May:

When doing Time For Print with a model allways give her/him a copy of every photo and let the model  choose between prints or a CD.

Photo tip for April:

Memory Card

When you're figuring out the budget for your next digital camera, make sure you factor in the purchase of an additional memory card. Why? Because the cards included with your new high-tech wonder toy are just to small.

If you have a 3 megapixel camera, get at least a 256MB card, 512MBs for 4 megapixel models, and 1GB for for 6 megapixels and up.

That way you'll never miss another shot because your memory card is full.

Photo tip for March:
Fill flash

One of the great features on digital cameras is the fill flash. By taking control of the flash so it goes on when you want it to, not when the camera deems it appropriate, you've just taken an important step toward capturing great outdoor portraits.

In flash on mode, the camera exposes for the background first, then adds just enough flash to illuminate your portrait subject. The result is a professional looking picture where everything in the composition looks good.

After you get the hang of using the flash outdoors, try a couple variations on this theme by positioning the subject so the sun illuminates the hair from the side or the back, often referred to as rim lighting. Another good technique is to put the model in the shade under a tree, then use the flash to illuminate the subject. This keeps the model comfortable and cool with no squinty eyes from the harsh sun, and this often results in a more relaxed looking portrait.

Remember, though, that most built-in camera flashes only have a range of 10 feet (or even less!), so make sure you don't stand too far away when using fill flash outdoors.

photo tip for February:
Backgrounds, The backgrounds in a phothgraph is one of the most important visual elements, second only to the model.
Hair, make-up, clothes and the foreground are worthless without the proper background. 
Photographers should not ignore these other elements of an image, but they should always be aware of the background and how it will look in the final photograph.  

Photo tip for January '06

Depth : Photographs are two-dimensional. To make images more real and alive, try to give the illusion of depth, avoid shooting people up against a wall, pull them away and have them stand with a room or field behind them. Light the subject or have them be the brightest object, Or if you're shooting a building, shoot it at an angle (from the corner) and have some branches be in the shot - close, yet out of focus (to add an element of foreground depth).

Photo Tip for December:

Shooting landscapes:

So many good landscape shots miss the chance to be great simply because we lift the camera to our faces and shoot. This may capture the inspiring scenery, but from a head-height perspective that we are all unconsciously accustomed to. Simply getting low to the ground can improve your results and make your photo stand out.

Photo Tip for November:

When shooting portraits it is important to ensure that your subjects eyes are in sharp focus.

Photo tip for October:

When shooting kids or animals like dogs & cats, do not stand up and shoot down at them, sit or lie down so that the lens is at their eye level.

Photo Tip for September '05

Take great care when focusing, make sure to get it right,

many things cam be fixed in the lab or in photoshop but

not bad focusing.

New photo tips will be added each month.

Owen Watkin Photographer