Photography tips, tricks and other things to help make great photos!

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Photography tips, tricks and other things to help make great photos!

Hi everyone,

We all love to take photos of our trips to Disney World so I thought it might be fun to have a thread on photography techniques, tips and tricks etc. to help get the best photos possible.

If you have some great photo taking tips, post them here. biggrin

I realize this isn't about Disney World per se, but since Disney has so many places with different conditions to take photos, it may be helpful.

Please also post any questions you might have and hopefully someone can provide a meaningful answer! awesome

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I'll start off the conversation with a quick discussion of different types of cameras.

As we all know, cameras seem to be everywhere now. From smart phones all the way up to full frame DSLR cameras. But what camera is the "best" one? That is difficult to say, but here are some points to consider...

First, it all comes down to light. There must be some amount of light in order to take a photo. A camera's sensor is responsible for capturing that light and handing it off to the camera's processor to create an image. The sensor in a camera can be very small or large in size. Generally, the larger the sensor, the larger the camera. This is why a "professional" full frame camera and it's lenses are quite large when compared to say a pocketable point and shoot.

Almost all types of cameras can take great photos in good lighting. If you were to take a small pocket camera and a large DSLR and take a photo in full daylight with both, you'll most likely get good results from both cameras. There are other factors and differences, but by and large they are both good quality.

However, when the light levels drop, cameras with small sensors will start to struggle. This is because the sensor is not capable of receiving the same amount of light as a a large one. Just like how a large bucket will catch more rain than a small one.

Usually, in order to compensate for the loss of light, a flash unit is used. This brings the light levels back up to the point where the sensor can absorb enough to make a photo. However (and this is just my opinion), flash photos have a "fake" look to them because of the type of light that a flash produces. Therefore, in my opinion, it's best to try and avoid the use of a flash if possible.

A camera with a larger sensor can take a photo in darker conditions without the need for a flash. All of the photos that I posted in our trip report were taken without a flash. In fact, I don't think I've ever used the flash on my camera. The camera I use is called Micro 4/3rds and the sensor is larger than a point and shoot, but not as large as a full frame DSLR.

A full frame DSLR is typically what you see wedding photographers using. These can be quite large and heavy, but the can take great photos and are the most capable when it comes to dark conditions.

So, in the end, it comes down to some sort of compromise. A large sensor camera will be larger in size and more difficult to carry around, but is most capable when taking photos in darker conditions. A small pocket camera or smart phone is small and convenient but will not be able to take the same quality of photos in darker environments.

For example, even though my camera has a large-ish sensor, it still struggles in places like the Haunted Mansion where the light levels is extremely low.

In order to let more light into the camera, you can decrease the shutter speed which will keep the shutter open longer, but then you will get motion blur if there is action in the scene. This is where a flash is sometimes needed. The flash allows the shutter to open and close faster by blasting light into the scene as the shutter button is pressed.

To put this in context, I was in line at Toy Story Mania last week and we were just about to board the ride vehicle. There was a guy next to me with a large Nikon D800 (a full frame camera) and a rather large lens. The person next to him has some sort of smart phone (couldn't tell which model). Anyway, they were both taking a photo of the ride vehicles coming out of the tunnel (a rather dark area). The D800 was snapping photos with no problem and "freezing" the action. All without a flash. But the smart phone was struggling. The person would press the shutter button and even with the small flash, it was unable to capture the image. All they were getting was a blurry shot of "something" going by.

Hopefully this makes sense. Again, these aren't hard and fast rules, but more "guidelines". There are some very good performing smaller cameras around these days.

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Good start, I will be following and trying to absorb all this information for sure.

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In my trip report, I mentioned that I like to shoot using RAW files and processing them later in Aperture. I like this for many reasons, but the biggest one is that I get to do photo editing on a large computer screen instead of the small screen on the camera. Plus, the RAW files keep all the data from the sensor which gives even more freedom when it comes to editing and processing.

Here are some examples...

There are 3 photos of each scene. First one is the "out of the camera" JPEG. Then the "out of the camera" RAW. Then the RAW file after processing (this is where you can be creative).

First a shot of the monorail as it looked straight out of the camera as a JPEG (a bit dull).

Now how the RAW file looks before any processing.

Finally, how it looks after processing the RAW file. Again, I like punchy color so I increased contrast and saturation.

Now a darker scene.

A shot of the boardwalk as out of the camera JPEG.

Then the RAW file before processing.

And finally the processed RAW file. Notice you can now see the the front of the buildings.

You don't HAVE to shoot RAW to get these kinds of shots. You can process a JPEG in Aperture or Lightroom. But, processing a RAW file gives you more fine control over things because none of the data has been thrown away.

If you shoot JPEG, you can also play with the built in effects in the camera like "vivid", "natural" etc. These modes change settings while the photo is actually taken.

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Thanks for all the info! You made some really great points!!

And I completely agree with this. I dislike the look of "flash" pictures.... But sometimes, you gotta use it! Smile

KenJ wrote:
Usually, in order to compensate for the loss of light, a flash unit is used. This brings the light levels back up to the point where the sensor can absorb enough to make a photo. However (and this is just my opinion), flash photos have a "fake" look to them because of the type of light that a flash produces. Therefore, in my opinion, it's best to try and avoid the use of a flash if possible.

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Thanks for the info Ken!

So, when I am transferring photos from my DSLR camera to my MAC, how do I upload the photo as a raw image? I have Aperture as well. Can you type me through that? Smile

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Wonderful information...it really makes sense to me now....I keep hearing about RAW but never gave much thought to it till now.

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The Boardwalk is perhaps the most startling difference in jpeg to RAW.

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Eeyore wrote:
Thanks for the info Ken!

So, when I am transferring photos from my DSLR camera to my MAC, how do I upload the photo as a raw image? I have Aperture as well. Can you type me through that? Smile

Well, the first thing you need to do is set your camera so that it shoots in RAW mode. It will be in the menu system somewhere. Most DSLRs will allow you to shoot JPEG, RAW and even RAW+JPEG. In this last mode, the camera stores both RAW and JPEG files on the memory card. Keep in mind that RAW files take up significantly more space that JPEG, so you won't get as many photos on a memory card.

These settings will only apply to photos that you take after you make the setting change. So, any current photos on the memory card will still be in whatever format they were captured in.

So, once your camera is set to store RAW files. You simply shoot the photos like you normally do. But when you import the photos from the memory card, Aperture will recognize the RAW files and import them. Once in Aperture, you can process them using the Adjustments tab.

The final step, once you're happy with the look of the photos is the export them out as JPEG files so you can then use them normally, like uploading to forums, emailing etc.

I should say that I don't shoot absolutely EVERYTHING in RAW. If I'm just going to be taking "boring" photos or ones that don't need to be especially good, I'll just shoot JPEG and be done with it.

Edit... I downloaded the D5100 manual and it looks like the settings are outlined on Page 35. Nikon calls their RAW files NEF.

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Magic Mirror wrote:
Wonderful information...it really makes sense to me now....I keep hearing about RAW but never gave much thought to it till now.

Thanks Magic! Yeah, I'd heard about RAW for a few years now and never paid much attention to it. However, I just decided to give it a try and I'm finding that I really like it. I used to just take photos with the camera, upload them to the computer and that was it. But once I discovered the fun of processing the photos, I was hooked! biggrin

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Magic Mirror wrote:
The Boardwalk is perhaps the most startling difference in jpeg to RAW.

Yes, I basically increased the shadow detail in Aperture to get the fronts of the buildings to show. I should point out that the RAW file isn't really responsible for this alone, but it makes doing this type of adjustment after the fact much easier.

The other way to do this shot would have been to increase the exposure while I was taking the shot. Having the RAW file just allows you to make more adjustments later.

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Oh, and one HUGE benefit of shooting RAW is the ability to adjust white balance after the fact. This has a great impact on the color accuracy of a photo. I'll post a more in-depth look at this with examples when I get a chance.

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This is great info which I'm planning to make Joe get on & read before we go.
My favorite way to get great photos is to let Joe take them. silly
I was never a good photo taker but now that the joints in my wrist have deteriorated, I have a hard time holding a camera steady. So beyond a few phone shots that I upload to facebook, I try to stay out of the picture taking game altogether. Thankfully, Joe is a GREAT photographer and we usually end up with a lot of good snaps. I know he'll appreciate this info.

Thanks to everyone for sharing!!

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So, here's another great thing about shooting RAW. You can adjust the white balance in post processing. White balance is what tells the camera what the color white should look like under the lighting conditions the photo is taken in. This in turn affects what other colors look like as well.

The camera will generally do a good job of judging white balance when set to auto white balance. However, it sometimes doesn't do it accurately, typically when light levels are low. If you shoot RAW files, you don't have to worry about it since you can easily adjust it later.

Here's an example. I took this photo while we were walking around the Boardwalk at night. The camera was set to Auto White Balance. As you can see, the lighting and buildings have a yellow look. This is not what I was seeing in reality, but what the camera thought was right.

So, I then adjusted the white balance in Aperture to set it to what I thought was correct. This more accurately represented what the scene looked like in reality.

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I love the idea of doing RAW..but I take so many pictures it would take forever .. how do you get a balance?

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Magic Mirror wrote:
I love the idea of doing RAW..but I take so many pictures it would take forever .. how do you get a balance?

Well, I don't shoot RAW for everything. Editing does take time and that's the other side of the equation. On our recent trip to WDW, I took over 700 pics. I was posting photos each day and spent probably about 45 mins to 1 hour a day editing. This was downtime anyways as we were cooling off in our room.

Not everyone likes to spend time processing photos but I find it fun and rewarding.

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awesome

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Here's a diagram that shows the different sizes of common sensors in cameras. Small point and shoots typically use the smallest one. Look at the difference between that and full frame and you get an idea why low light performance is much better on the larger cameras. Smart phone sensors are even smaller that the smallest one on this diagram.

Here also is a good article on the topic of sensors:

Camera Sensor Size

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Hi KenJ and other photographers on this forum. We were thinking of getting a better camera. I have just discovered that I could get a canon power shot SX500 using mainly my amex points. I just wondered if you had any opinions on this make and model, as we can get it for next to nothing. Thanks Mikki

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Hi Miss Mikki,

I'd say it's a good camera, especially if you can get such a good deal on it. Most cameras are "good cameras" actually. It all depends on what kind of photography you're interested in and how "into" photography you are or want to be.

The SX500 is a super-zoom and it gives you a very large range from wide angle to zooming in on far away subjects (perfect for Animal Kingdom Safaris!)

You'll find that the camera will take very good photos in daylight conditions. However, it does have a rather small sensor. Looking at the chart I posted above, it is just a hair larger than the smallest one on that chart. This means that it's performance in low light conditions won't be one of it's strong points. The flash will help of course, but keep in mind that a flash has a limited useful range. It won't help you take photos in darker conditions where the subject is not near the camera.

That camera does not have the ability to capture RAW photos so, if you are at all interested in RAW, this is not the camera to get.

I'd say it's a good camera if you want the zoom capabilities. The zoom is the camera's biggest feature I'd say. It has the equivalent of a 24mm - 720mm on a full frame camera. That is a HUGE range and all in one lens. To give you an idea of how significant this is, take a look at this photo.

This is a 600mm lens for larger cameras (the larger the sensor, the larger the lenses need to be). The SX500 goes even further than this one (720mm)!

The reason the SX500 can have such a huge zoom range yet remain small is due to the sensor being small too. The lens has to guide light onto a smaller area (the "image circle") than a larger sensor camera. This is why the lenses for large sensor cameras are so big.

So, if you're looking for a decent point and shoot camera with the ability to zoom in on far away subjects, I'd say it's a good camera indeed. A super-zoom is a very convenient camera to own.

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I got an A Grade in my GCSE photography, 25 years ago, so I was really into photography, even developing my own pictures in the darkroom. However, I have become cheap (buying the smallest most inexpensive camera) and lazy (point and shoot on auto). I am playing with the idea of getting back into it properly (digital SLR) but am worried that I will spend a lot of money on a camera that will be too cumbersome and complicated for me to use and I will end up leaving it in the hotel room and taking pictures on my phone! Equally I am worried about getting a camera that is neither one thing or another. Eg. It is still quite large but does not have any real advantage over a small, cheaper model.

KenJ Thank you for the great info on the canon powershot

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I should also add that I used a Canon Poweshot S3IS for years and it was a great camera. In fact I still have it and it still works fine. Can't go wrong with a Powershot really. Again, the zoom is really handy for places like Animal Kingdom.

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I have had about five Canons from powershots to elphs. I use Nikon at work for crime scenes but personally I love my Canons. I am in a similiar situation where I want a camera that is small enough I can comfortably take it with me but large enough I can have a range of options. Shooting in low light, macro and now, thanks to Ken, RAW are important to me. I am currently looking at the Canon G series, specifically G15. Whichever you choose, I think you will be happy with Canon. Their controls are set up to be user friendly.

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Magic Mirror wrote:
I have had about five Canons from powershots to elphs. I use Nikon at work for crime scenes but personally I love my Canons. I am in a similiar situation where I want a camera that is small enough I can comfortably take it with me but large enough I can have a range of options. Shooting in low light, macro and now, thanks to Ken, RAW are important to me. I am currently looking at the Canon G series, specifically G15. Whichever you choose, I think you will be happy with Canon. Their controls are set up to be user friendly.

Interesting... Nikon's must be preferred by police forces. My brother was a detective in the Ident Bureau (forensics) for a few years and used Nikons (D300s and D700 I believe) for crime scene photos. Oh, and they shoot RAW files too as they hold up as evidence in court since they cannot be altered (the RAW file is always an original). awesome

The Canon G series is great btw. Lots of controls and a larger sensor. Nice cameras.

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Thanks Magic Mirror and KenJ, I think I am definately in favour of a Canon after your posts and also after doing more research myself on the internet. I am really up for getting one with the RAW files after KenJ has explained and demonstrated it. I might possibly get a second hand mid-range one to play around with before committing to purchasing a new, expensive camera.

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VelcroPooh

I have a Canon Powershot SX30 IS and I absolutely love it as a point and shoot. I actually bought it for the zoom, because we cruise a lot and I wanted a strong zoom. I can also change the settings fairly easily. Thanks for the tip about RAW. I had no idea what it was but now I'm eager to try it.

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So....if you could buy a camera in the $200-$300ish price range that would take good shots of say...fireworks....what might you suggest? I usually just use my iphone for my "everyday" camera, and only use a real camera on vacations.

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Hmmm... well, to be honest, I don't have a lot of experience taking shots of fireworks. This is one subject I'd like to get more practice with though and what a better place than Disney World? biggrin

My understanding is that they are not too difficult as far as light goes since they are usually bright. So, I *think* any decent point and shoot would get the job done. Some other members here like ZapperZ have posted some great fireworks photos.

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I finally decided. I went for the canon EOS100d. I decided that I wanted a small DSLR. I have ordered it online from a national retailer. It should be delivered in a few days. I spent PS488 (which is approx. $778). I am not a big spender normally and this is a lot of money for us but I know we will both get good use out of it and I see it as an item we will use for many years. It was actually a very good deal as the camera came with an 18-55mm lens, a lens cloth, spare battery, two 16g memory cards and a canon DLSR camera case.

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Great choice. I keep saying I'm going to bite the bullet and get a DLSR.

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Miss Mikki wrote:
I finally decided. I went for the canon EOS100d. I decided that I wanted a small DSLR. I have ordered it online from a national retailer. It should be delivered in a few days. I spent PS488 (which is approx. $778). I am not a big spender normally and this is a lot of money for us but I know we will both get good use out of it and I see it as an item we will use for many years. It was actually a very good deal as the camera came with an 18-55mm lens, a lens cloth, spare battery, two 16g memory cards and a canon DLSR camera case.

Wow, that seems to be a great deal. Going to check out that camera!

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