Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Preparing for Portraits

You've probably noticed between my Flickr Account, my iPhone Photoblog and this blog, that I like to take pictures and share pictures. Well now... after 3 or so years of having my DSLR camera and many trial and error photos (more error than good), I decided it was time to actually understand all the settings.

Bob's recent frisbee action photos prompted me to pay attention to things like "max aperature" and ISO speed. I quickly learned that I did not have a decent or satisfactory lens for Portrait type photos. Could anyone guess why I was wondering about the need for portrait type photos in the near future???

Good thing for an amature like me, you can get a lens for about $100, which I bought today (ah hem, to give you an idea, when I began to ask about lenses a friend pointed me to a $1200 lens).  This $100 entry level portrait lens is good for me to start (even more) trial and errors pictures and then maybe, just maybe, I can graduate to a more sophisticated lens... No, I'm not talking about the $1200 Canon lens, I'm talking about the knock-off $400 Tamron lens !!

In a nutshell, here's why I needed the new lens... If you know all this, then no need to read, I was just excited about my revelation, my new toy and my pending new photography object! Or if it bores you and you don't care, maybe skip ahead to the before/after photo pictures.

Good Portrait focal length is somewhere around 50mm. Yes, my current set of lenses could provide this length but did not have not a wide enough aperature. What does that mean??

Bascially, if you notice in good portraits, the face or foreground is crisply in focus but the background is pretty blurred. That is what a wider aperature gives: a "shallow depth of field". It also lets in more light, without needing a flash or having to set a long shutter speed (that means the object, or camera operator, would have to stay still and... I don't think babies stay very still on command - about as still as my cat)

Here is a great article on "The Imprtance of Maximum Aperature". It really helped me. Also, once I ran out and got the new lens I had my trusty test-photo subject do some posing for me. Thanks Kitty :-)

Before Picture: approx focal len: 40mm,  aperature: f/4.5
f/4.5 was the max allowed aperature at this length on my initial lens
Notice (in the upper left corner) that you can clearly make out objects in the background

After Picture: with new lens:  focal len 50mm, aperature: f/1.8
Notice that Kitty's face is nice, crisp and detailed while the background is substantially blurred.

More initial efforts from this lens or, Kitty's full photoshoot (7 pictures),  is on Flickr. I can see after one session how a little zoom leeway (with the upgraded lens) could be necessary... I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, for my friends who are curious, closet photo geeks, here is my current, modest Camera Kit:
  • Camera: Canon Rebel XTi Great entry DSLR and it fits my little hands! Which comes with the starter 18-55mm lens
  • Lens: Tamron AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 VC (Vibration Compensation) Good all-around camera lens for travel to capture both close and far away pics without changing lenses. What's good about Tamron is that they make the same lens as Canon for 1/2 or even 1/3 the price
  • Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8
  • The Shootsac, and you can customize your own cover. My onlly gripe is that the sac is for your lenses, and doesn't fit the camera base, or any thing else very well for that matter which leads me to...
My new object of desire: the Epiphanie Red Lola camera bag

Although I have my Shootsac... Can a girl really have enough accessories? Plus this bag can actually hold the camera without looking like a dorky camera bag.

Someone remind Bob around my birthday please :-)

Hmmm, is there a nice, cute Diaper/Camera bag out there.... somewhere?????

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