Author Archive

Paying attention while shooting wildlife: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Ben Long explores wildlife photography.

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In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long discusses a fun and challenging photographic subject: wildlife. Whether it’s the birds in your backyard or the buffalo in a nature reserve, wildlife presents an array of photographic challenges—starting with the fact that you don’t have a lot of control over your subject.

This lack of control can lead to an interesting phenomenon: forgetting how to be a photographer. As Ben explains, when you do see an interesting critter, maybe one you haven’t seen before at close range, it’s easy to get so caught up in the experience you neglect those aspects of photography you’ve spent so much time learning—like the need to really work a shot, to move around and experiment with different compositions, focal lengths, and exposure settings.

The Pros and Cons of Tripods: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Friday, August 30th, 2013
The pros and cons of tripods

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Do you need a tripod? If you’re Ben Long, you need a few of them. In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben admits to being a tripod fan: he owns three along with a couple of different tripod heads and a monopod.

And yet he admits to employing this arsenal of stabilization only occasionally: for macro work, for low-light scenes, and for product photography. As Ben points out, the high-ISO capabilities of today’s cameras, combined with the vibration-reduction features found in most lenses, make carrying around a tripod less essential than it used to be. A tripod remains a big help when you’re shooting with slow shutter speeds—keeping you in crisp focus when there’s little light in a scene, or when you’re shooting at a small aperture setting to increase depth of field (sharpness from front to back).

Shooting macros with your phone: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Using the Easy-Macro lens band

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Cell phone cameras are compact and convenient, and they deliver better image quality than ever.

But what phone cameras aren’t is versatile. For example, their tiny, fixed-focal-length lenses usually can’t focus very close. Several companies have come out with close-up attachments that let you shoot macro photos with a phone. But most have two disadvantages. They can be on the pricey side—$60 and up is a lot to pay for a tiny lens that you may not use all that often. And they tend to be designed for a specific model of phone. If you switch brands or upgrade—or if your family mixes and matches models and brands—you’re out of luck.

Creating a “tiny world” effect: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, August 15th, 2013

tiny world example

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Sometimes the world seems so small. With some clever shooting and Adobe Photoshop techniques, you can make it seem even smaller. I’m referring to what’s often called the “tiny world” or “tiny planet” effect, and Ben Long explores it in this week’s two-part installment of The Practicing Photographer.

Resist the urge to zoom: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Resist zooming and explore fixed lenses.

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The zoom lens was patented in 1902, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that zoom lenses became increasingly popular on the 35 mm cameras of that era. The zooms of the ’70s were expensive and often lacked the sharpness and contrast of fixed focal length, or prime, lenses.

Today, thanks to advancements in optical design, zoom lenses are common and often inexpensive. Indeed, the “kit lens” that comes with a typical digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera includes a zoom. And the images from a high-quality zoom can stack up against photos taken with a prime lens any day.

Batch Processing with Photoshop’s Image Processor: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, August 1st, 2013

There’s a lot of drudgery in digital imaging. Sure, shooting is fun and so is editing and enhancing photos in programs like Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop. But then the time comes when you need to send a batch of photos to someone who needs them at a specific size and quality setting. Suddenly, you’re looking at reopening, resizing, and exporting dozens or even hundreds of images.

Doing all that on an image-by-image basis is only slightly less tedious than swinging a pick-axe at a rock pile.

It turns out that computers are pretty good at performing repetitive tasks, and that’s the subject of the latest installment of The Practicing Photographer. This week, Ben Long crawls into one of Photoshop’s nooks and crannies to explore its Image Processor feature.

Photoshop's Image Processor

The Practicing Photographer: Is a mirrorless camera in your future?

Published by | Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Digital SLRs are versatile and deliver great image quality, but are big and heavy. Point-and-shoot cameras are compact, but their image quality and versatility are often lacking.

Welcome to an episode of “Goldilocks Buys a Camera”—isn’t there an option that’s just right?

For a growing number of photographers, the answer is a mirrorless camera. This up-and-coming category sits between point-and-shoots and digital SLRs, and Ben Long talks about it in this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer.

pract photog week 10 mirrorless screen shot

Working with reflections: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Friday, July 19th, 2013

Reflections are something you often don’t want in photography. If you’re shooting through a window, for example, you might attach a polarizing filter to your lens to reduce the glare and reflections of the world behind you (see Chapter 2 in Foundations of Photography: Specialized Lenses).

At other times, though, reflections can add a striking element to a photo. And that’s the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, wherein Ben Long reflects on the value of reflections.