Monthly Archives: November 2016

5 Tips for Taking Gap Year Photos

Gone are the days of taking a cheap disposable camera on your gap year – now, anyone can get their hands on a camera that’s capable of capturing great images. But how do you achieve shots that are truly jaw-dropping and stand out among the mass of shared photos online?

Make sure you read these top tips before you head out on your travels.

1. Pack the right gear

Have you ever tried capturing that once in a lifetime experience on camera, only to find that you don’t have a back-up battery to hand when your current one inevitably dies? Battery life is crucial to ensure you capture the best footage, but there are dangers to recording for long periods of time.

Keep in mind that your camera can overheat, which can damage it or stop you getting your footage or photo. Look out for cameras with their own heat management system to help avoid overheating when capturing high-resolution footage. Ensuring you pack the right gear is vital for ensuring you get the perfect shots without any setbacks.

2. Know your equipment

Get used to your equipment before you head off on your travels. Having the right size camera is crucial too; something that’s small and easy to fit in your pocket is ideal if you need a camera that’s convenient to use at any time and in any place. Be sure to gain a good understanding of what its strengths and weaknesses are so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture something amazing all because your camera takes a few seconds to fully switch on.

Explore different settings on your camera, experiment with burst mode and slo-mo, and don’t forget about the self-timer as it gives you the chance to get into that shot you’ve spent so long setting up. Of course, settings such as Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) are ideal for when you need to compensate for any tilts, bumps and shakes when recording footage.

3. Add a human touch

There’s nothing wrong with capturing the view of a vast landscape which looks totally untouched by humans, but it can feel like something is missing. Try adding people to your photos to give the shots some more personality and to provide a real sense of scale. This will help you to showcase how amazing a location really is to visit. If you can get yourself in the pictures, then it also gives you bragging rights to prove that you’ve actually been there.

Don’t forget to make the most of the range of accessories you can get for your camera. Additions like selfie sticks and handlebar or head mounts can take your pictures to the next level to help you take even more amazing shots.

4. Go waterproof

You never know when you might need to protect your camera from an accidental splash, or when you want to take a dip in a lake surrounded by beautiful scenery. When finding the right waterproof housing for your camera, be sure to choose something that’s designed to be compatible. You can even attach a floating grip to your camera if you’re worried about it sinking into the abyss.

An extra tip: if you are worried about damaging your equipment, then make sure it’s all covered by your insurance.

5. Have fun

Don’t forget to have fun when you’re out exploring every nook and cranny of each new place you visit on your gap year. Get locals involved, try striking new poses, and don’t be afraid to do something that you’ve never tried before. The more you get stuck in, the more you’ll relax.

Remember to use a camera that makes downloading your pictures and footage straight to your phone easy and quick, so you can instantly edit and share that amazing shot to your social media channels for your friends and family to see.

Ensuring you have the right equipment is key to capturing great photos. Thanks to advances in technology, many cameras are capable of capturing every step of your travels whilst staying extremely lightweight and compact. This is the perfect combination that allows you to see and do more as you continue on your gap year.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance

 Cleaning Lenses, Sensors, Mirrors…

Digital camera cleaning and maintenance is something many photographers (including myself) neglect to do with sometimes costly consequences.

It is too easy to come home after a days shooting, whip out the memory card, have a play with your new images and forget all about maintenance of your kit.

If you are like me, anything new that I buy over time (car, motorbike, watch, glasses etc), get cleaned immaculately at least once a day. Then after a few weeks it falls to once a week or so and then just “on the odd occasion” or when they look really dirty.

Because photography is my livelihood, I have to physically make myself grab my camera bag, go and sit somewhere quiet and take a good half an hour to an hour after a shoot to clean every piece of equipment that I have used.

This kit has cost thousands and its cleanliness has a direct bearing on the quality of my images and the longevity of its use. Not only that but as I upgrade my equipment, I may want to sell on my old cameras at the best price.

These are the checks that I make;

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – Lenses

Obviously take great care when cleaning the glass, it is what makes the lenses so expensive and costly to repair or replace. Use only fine tissue paper and alcohol solutions that are designed for camera optics. Clean both the front and rear elements using a blower brush first to remove any dust particles.

The last thing you want to do is scrape even the smallest piece of dust across your lens.

Make sure you clean the brush or replace it often too otherwise you simply end up smearing minute particles of grease and dirt onto the lens.I also use the bristles of a blower brush to clean in between the moving parts of the external barrel. This prevents a build up of dirt over time and maintains smooth operation whilst helping to prevent dust from entering the internal optics.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – Camera Sensor

The most talked about and asked about issue with Digital SLR maintenance is the sensor and the accumulation of dust. If you are altogether unsure of how to go about it, wait until any sensor dust is at a point where it is unbearable (most specs are easily and quickly removed in editing), and then take it to be professionally cleaned.

Damaging a sensor is expensive…

If you intend to do it yourself, just be careful. Set the camera to manual with a 30 second exposure. You will need time to clean the sensor but using the bulb setting (“B”) could be a mistake.

If whilst cleaning the sensor, you accidentally close the shutter you are in danger of damaging the mirror, shutter, sensor or all three. Even if you use a remote release set to “B”, the batteries on the remote could give out and close the shutter prematurely.

With a fully charged battery in your camera and a 30 second delay, you know where you are.

Once the shutter is open, hold the camera up so that the sensor is facing down, and use the blower (without the brush) to blow any dust away from the sensor.

N.B. The camera is held this way to allow any dust to fall out of the camera and the brush is removed in case it touches the sensor and adds grease smears or dust to it rather than removing it.

If the sensor is really dirty, you are able to buy cleaning kits with swabs where you physically touch the sensor to “swipe” away dirt. Again, you need slight of hand and great care to do this so if unsure, seek professional help.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – Mirror/focussing screen

Unless I can barely see through the viewfinder (exaggeration), I tend to leave the mirror and focussing screen alone apart from a quick blow/swipe with the blower brush. The only time I would give it more attention is if it were to run the risk of transferring dust to the sensor.

Dust on the mirror or screen has no effect on the final image so any dust you see on these through the viewfinder, won’t affect the photograph (although excessive dust on the screen “may” affect the accuracy of focussing).

Once again, be careful as the mirror in particular is extremely sensitive and easily scratched.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – Outer casing

Even though it is mostly aesthetic, it is still important to try and keep the external workings clean. The dirt on the outside can easily make its way inside, particularly if you change lenses often with dirty hands.

I give it a quick once over with the blower brush first and then a quick rub with a lens cloth or dustcloth. I usually do the outer parts before the inner. This reduces the chance of dirt transferring itself inside.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – Accessories

Most accessories have mechanical or electronic workings so it is just as important to keep these clean to help with their longevity. For example, the battery contacts in a speedlight or remote switch need a quick clean now and again just to prevent any build up of dirt or even rust.

A failing accessory can be as disastrous as a failing camera in certain situations, especially paid ones.

Digital Camera Cleaning and Maintenance – The Bag

This is something that many people wouldn’t consider but the quickest way for cameras, equipment and accessories to become dirty is if you have a dirty camera bag or holdall.

Dust, dirt, sand and even bits of Mother Nature (leaves, grit etc) are easily accumulated when out and about.

Remove all equipment once in a while and just Hoover/vacuum the bag thoroughly inside and out.

All of this seems a bit tedious but once I have done it I feel surprisingly good and happy with myself. I also know that when I go out shooting or turn up to a paid job, the equipment is in tip-top condition.

The Camera Phone

 The Camera Phone With Video, Worth Upgrading To?

In the past we have considered adding a section devoted to your camera phone to ATP but felt the resolution and popularity of most mobile phones with cameras didn’t justify it. Now however, most mobile phones being manufactured include a high quality camera and video feature as well as all the other goodies that they pack into mobile phones these days.

Do you use the camera much on your mobile phone? Do you use the video? How important would you say the camera feature is when buying a new cell phone camera? Please share your thoughts, ideas and images at the bottom of this page, we would love to hear from you!

We will start to incorporate camera phone photography into ATP now that they have better:

  • Resolution
  • Flash
  • Mega-pixels
  • Quality
  • Ease of uploading images to the web
  • Focussing
  • Tracking
  • Video
  • Face recognition
  • …the list goes on

So it may be time to start looking into how to take better photos with your camera’s phone.

Because these mobile phones and their cameras are so incredibly portable, we are seeing a huge surge of images being taken at venues that:

  1. Don’t allow traditional cameras
  2. Are generally not suited for bulkier cameras

Camera phones are great for parties, nights out, day trips or anywhere that you don’t want the hassle of taking a traditional DSLR or even a compact camera out as well as your mobile phone.

It has opened up a whole new world for many people and I expect that quite a few people who started taking snapshots with their mobile phones have upgraded to a better, more dedicated camera such as a bridge or DSLR once they found they had a talent or love for photography.I find it amazing how photography has become so incredibly popular over the past decade and I think much of that is due to more and more people getting hold of a decent cell phone camera.

However, you need to be aware of the limitations and drawbacks that come with a camera within a mobile phone though as you may sometimes find it frustrating trying to get decent images.

The traditional photography rules still apply regardless of the size, shape or type of camera you are using…light plays a bigger part more than ever.

The sensors on these cameras are so small that any imperfection or lack of light will show up big time in the form of noise for example. Low light still means slow shutter speeds which can lead to blurry images from camera shake.

Even though the cameras in mobile phones are way more advanced these days, they still have to abide by and use the old rules as a guideline.

  • Hold the camera steady
  • Use flash if needed, low light photography will be poor with a mobile phone camera
  • Pan with a moving subject to ensure sharp images
  • Gently squeeze the shutter, don’t stab at it
  • Compose the image well using the rear LCD screen
  • Use both portrait and landscape orientations
  • Look for a decent and different viewpoint
  • Remember the shutter lag (a camera phone will have a longer shutter lag than a traditional camera…shutter lag is the time between pressing the shutter and the image being taken)
  • Use the zoom if you have one but remember you are more likely to get camera shake the more you zoom in

Tips To Photograph Water

 As the weather gets warmer, many photographers are getting back into the habit of heading outside to run through a variety of nature and landscape shots, one of the most popular being photos of various bodies of water.

If that’s a compositional niche you’re looking to practice, here are a few pieces of advice for you to review before getting started:

  1. Exposure- In most cases, underexposing photos of water is your best bet for achieving the most flattering look. Otherwise, you will likely create too many highlights and the entire shot will appear a generally jarring, too-bright shade of white. One exception to this of course, and an additional recommendation of ours, is if you are working on an overcast day. While many people mistakenly think cloudy days should be avoided when it comes to outdoor photography, we disagree. Check out our tutorial on overcast photography here for some details on why.
  2. Filters- Photographing water is also a great opportunity to use a polarizing filter. If there are distracting reflections you want to remove in favor of a more serenely flat, placid look, this is the tool you should reach for. On especially bright, sunny days, this will also help you remove any unwanted glare.
  3. Reflections- If interesting reflections are a part of your compositional vision, consider the benefits of creating appealing symmetry when composing a reflective shot. If you need some advice getting started, here’s a brief video guide on photographing symmetry.
  4. Motion- If you are photographing a moving body of water like a waterfall or rapid river, you need to adjust your shutter speed accordingly in order to freeze the motion in a way that fits your artistic vision. If you’re not familiar with which shutter speed to use, check out the link for a helpful chart.