A simple cheat to direct a viewer’s eye

We can’t always control the shoot as much as we’d like. One of my regular gigs is shooting real food prepared by real kitchen staff at real restaurants. The shots are more about the cooks and the restaurants than about my photographic prowess. Many times food comes out of the kitchen looking perfect, other times … not so much.  On these assignments I’m also usually restricted to available light, or minimal supplemental lighting. Immediately I’ve lost control over two key aspects of the shot. It’s on assignments like these that I’ll often employ a trick that’s so simple I’m almost   embarrassed–vignetting.

By artificially darkening the corners and edges of images we can direct the viewer’s eye toward the center. The trick is to not overdo it, but to have it be subtle. If you look at an image and think, ‘Oh, darkened corners,’ you’ve most likely gone too far. There are several points along the way where you can employ this trick, but my preference is in Photoshop, after the image has been cropped and the contrast adjusted.

My personal method involved the Quickmask tool and an Adjustment layer. On you image, enter Quickmask mode (Q key command) and select a round paint brush of appropriate size. Then simply mask the majority of the image. Remember this is a mask, not a selection, so the areas you paint will not be affected by the next step.

Quickmask mode
Quickmask mode


Continue Reading

Handholding: Making Sense of the 1/f rule

Polar Bear Walking. Without familiarity with the 1/f rule and how to use it, this 300mm shot would have been a blur.
Polar Bear Walking. Without familiarity with the 1/f rule and how to use it, this dusky 300mm shot would have been a blur.

I got some questions over the weekend about the details of the  1/f rule and I thought I’d share some of my answers with you. It is a simple formula which allows photographers to roughly estimate how fast a shutter speed they’ll need to prevent camera motion from blurring an image.

The “1/f rule”  simply says that the longest shutter speed you can handhold a 35mm camera, with careful technique but without a tripod or other support, without getting blur from camera motion is about one second divided by the focal length of the lens (in millimeters). For a 100mm lens, the rule suggests that you’d have a shot at getting a sharp handheld shot at 1/100 of a second (or a 1/1000), but not a 1/10, or 1/50. This is fairly intuitive. Telephoto lenses magnify more, magnify motion more, than wide-angle lenses, and so you need a proportionally faster shutter speed to get a sharp image with the longer lens.

The rule is not  particularly  precise, though, and it is helpful to keep a few caveats in mind.   (more…)

Continue Reading

Using Your Tripod: Why and How

In my last two articles, I talked about how to select tripod legs and a tripod head, with that gear assembled it’s time to get out into the field and learn how to use your new tripod to best advantage.

One of the primary reasons we use tripods is stability. It is simply impossible to hold a camera steady enough for a critically sharp image as shutter speeds get longer and longer, and longer shutter speeds are often an inevitable requirement of smaller apertures and wider depth-of-field. (more…)

Continue Reading
Close Menu