From adding artistry to your action shots to zinging zip into your zebra portraits, this year’s annual how-to special is a veritable encyclopedia of photographic fun. Read on for an alphabet of inspiration.
F is for Fog
Photo by: Stan Horaczek
Next time you’re literally in a fog, grab a camera and start shooting. Make flattering portraits: Fog can erase wrinkles, as well as wash out cluttered backgrounds. In really dense fog, use it for high-key portraiture—dress your subject in white and bump up the exposure. Add depth: Moderate fog can suggest depth in land- and streetscapes. Compose so that you have foreground elements close enough so that they are almost sharp, with background elements blurring out. Use it as a scrim: In the shot above, the photographer aimed a remote flash at the backs of the couple, letting the fog diffuse the beam.
G is for Gel
Even shooting RAW, you can run into white balance issues when foreground color temperatures are radically different than those of the background. There is an easy, cheap fix. Green-gel it: If you’re shooting with on-camera flash in fluorescent ambient light, pop a green gel over the flash, and set the camera white balance for fluorescent. Amber-gel it: Same situation, except tungsten ambient light? Use an amber gel on the flash and tungsten WB on the camera. Visit stickyfilters.com for a nice selection of gels.
H is for Hold Steady
In holding a DSLR, the left hand provides primary support; the right hand operates the controls. With a short lens, rest the camera on the base of your left hand; with a long lens, rest the lens on your hand so that focus and zoom rings are within reach of your fingers. Brace your left elbow against your body for stability.
I is for Image Stabilization
Maintain a half-press on the shutter button to activate stabiliza-tion, which needs a moment to settle down. Concentrate on keeping your eye on the subject. Check tripod compati-bility: With some lenses, you should keep IS on.
J is for JPEG
Yes, we recommend shooting RAW for maximum image control, but sometimes JPEGs rule. Stick with them when you want to... Shoot fast action: Many cameras reach their maximum burst rate only in JPEG mode, and can take far more shots in a burst than with RAW. Conserve memory cards: RAW files can take up to 3 to 5 times more bytes than a JPEG of the same image. Ignore the computer: If you’re uploading without editing via a camera’s Wi-Fi connection, unprocessed RAW files can look flat, while JPEGs don’t need to be converted, and upload much quicker. Not overdo quality: For a product shot for eBay, or a photo for a fishing license, RAW is overkill. Make a panorama or composite: Combining multiple photos is a serious workout for your computer; using smaller JPEGs can save you a lot of time in editing.
K is for Kit Lens
Kit lenses (typically 18–55mm in APS-C, 14–42mm in Four Thirds) perform really well for the price, but they do have drawbacks, notably slow speed. Here’s how to get the most out of them. Look sharp: Our tests show the sharpest apertures are f/5.6 at wide angle, f/8 at mid focal length, and f/8–11 at tele. Don’t neglect the mid focal lengths: With an APS-C lens, 35mm gives a normal perspective, and 50mm a very nice portrait tele view. Distortion is lowest at these settings, too. Get better bokeh: Depth of field decreases with magnification, so step closer, zoom farther, and get your subject as far from the background as you can. Move to put a plain background behind your subject.