Saturday, December 12, 2009

Part 8 - Depth of Field (DOF)

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Today I want to talk about Depth of Field.

Depth of field is the area of your picture, from foreground to background, that is IN FOCUS.
Here, in the first picture (left) you see the two pieces of fruit clearly because they are in focus.
The background is out of focus, or blurred. This is a technique used to emphasize a subject and make it stand out from the background.
Here again is another example in this sports photo (right), where the player in the foreground is in sharp focus against a blurred background.

collage 1Sport photo credit at right to Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

You will also see depth of field referred to as DOF in photography texts.

In these next examples, the first mug (left pic) is the only one in focus and the rest are progressively more blurred. We can say that in this photo there is a SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD because the area that is sharp extends only to the first mug, in the immediate foreground.

collage 2
In the photo above right, there is a DEEPER DEPTH OF FIELD where most of the mugs are in focus. Sometimes you will want to have the whole of your photo sharply in focus (eg. landscapes, holiday pics or full dining table), and other times, such as in some food photos, you may want to have your subject stand sharply against what is only a suggested background, misty or shadowed to give an impression of what's there without detracting from your subject.

Although creating a very shallow depth of field can be done beautifully with DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras, due to the lenses available for them, (you change the lens according to the type of photography you want to do), it's possible to get an attractive blurred effect with a simple point and shoot, such as the left picture of the mugs above. (I think in future I will call them P & S cameras, as it sounds better and is easier to write).

Just to digress and show you what I mean about the possibilities of the DSLR, here below is the same subject taken by a DSLR at left and with a P & S right. You will have seen such extreme shallow depth of field on many food blogs on the web. In this case you see both the foreground and background out of focus, while the second row of the left egg and the right ceramic chicken are relatively in focus. To the right, the P & S version shows nearly all in focus except the chicken in the rear. I deliberately used a very shallow depth of field on the DSLR to demonstrate that a middle plane can be also chosen as the in-focus area. (50 mm Canon lens at f/1.4).

collage 3
So how do you get your foreground sharply in focus and the background out of focus? Here is one way to do it. Let's make a test run during daylight. Find your best window light with a table or shelf underneath and get some fruit, eggs, muffins on a plate or whatever you want to use as a subject, preferably an object with a little height.
Even a couple of coffee mugs will do.

Take some other larger objects which could be pots and pans, a plate of fruit, a vase of bushy greenery or even a stack of books. Set your table so the pots, books or whatever are about 20 inches (50 cms) away from your subject (fruit, muffins etc.). Here's my setup for the first photo on this page...the prickly pear and kiwi pic at top left.

foto 1
I sat on the low stool and rested my forearms on the edge of the table, holding the camera. See if you can somehow duplicate this setup and sit low down enough to be able to have the camera just above table level and close to the subject.

Set your SCENE or MODE dial to PORTRAIT. Why do I use portrait mode so much on these examples? The reason is that portrait mode is a medium closeup setting, meant for taking photos of someone about 6 feet away in front of you, rather than of a distant landscape. Therefore the aperture (lens opening) is wider than it is for distant shots. (Explanation about aperture later.) When the camera lens is wide open, the depth of field is shallow, which will make foreground objects sharp and background objects unsharp. So that a person in a portrait will stand out more against an out of focus background.

(Are you still with me ? :-)) So this is probably the best setting for closeups of food. Many digital cameras have a "cuisine" setting which also adds extra red to give warmth to the picture. Do try it out if you have that option, because it will be designed for a tabletop setting. You may or may not like it but don't ignore it before giving it several tryouts on different foods.

So back to the test. You have your SCENE set to PORTRAIT. Add MACRO (the tulip icon) as well to your portrait setting.
Point to the subject and add some optical zoom until the subject fills the viewfinder and you are happy with the composition. Press the shutter halfway and check that your focus light doesn't blink.

If it blinks, then zoom out a little or move the camera a bit further away from the subject. Press the shutter halfway again.....does the focus light still blink? If so, move back a little again. Press the shutter halfway again and once the focus light stays steady, press the shutter the rest of the way. Now take another 10 pictures in the same manner. Go and check them on your computer. Not happy? Do it all over again :-). The key to good photos is practice, practice, and practice again. You will find that you do get better as you learn and it's a great feeling!

The way to get blurred backgrounds in tabletop closeups with a P & S is to get close to your subject and have your background items at least 20 inches away as explained above.

The closer you are to the subject and using MACRO, the more out of focus your background will appear.

To get a nice background blur outdoors is to have a subject ...such as this dish of fruit below (photo left)....resting on a table about 10 feet in front of a tree and hanging basket. I sat in a chair next to the table where the dish was resting and using PORTRAIT, MACRO and optical zoom on the bowl, took this closeup showing a background that was nicely out of focus. You can have some good effects when you get close to and zoom in on a subject which is a good distance from a dappled shrubbery background where you see pinpoints of light (photo right).
You need to experiment constantly.

collage 4

You may hear this word used by photography buffs at one time or another. Bokeh is the Japanese term for "blur" and refers to the beautiful creamy out of focus backgrounds behind a sharply in focus foreground subject. I haven't found out why we use a Japanese word but it does sound a little more exotic than just saying "blur". And here again I have to say that the best bokeh comes from the SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, both film and digital, just because one can use lenses with very wide apertures, wider than are seen on a P & S.

There are other differences between the two types of cameras but I won't go further here. Point and shoot cameras are designed to take faultless, sharp travel and holiday photos of beaches, landscapes and family events with the least possible intervention of the photographer. They're made to be easy to use although they do have some creative possibilities if one so desires, in both the manual and semi automatic settings.

Here are a couple of pics I took with my Canon EOS 30D DSLR where you see examples of background shrubbery totally out of focus so the subject stands alone.

collage 5
And here are a couple taken with the P & S, outdoors with a brass vase on a table about 20 feet away from bright shrubbery . I sat at the table, about 2 feet from the vase, used PORTRAIT, MACRO, and optical zoom to bring the vase closer. I moved my position slightly to the right to get two different shrub backgrounds. Do try to see what you can get using a similar setup in daylight. Best results are when the background has a dappled sunlight with light and dark areas and it fills the screen behind your subject. Use your MACRO and optical zoom or get close to your subject, aiming so both the subject and background are within the viewfinder (or LCD screen.)

collage 6
I think this is enough for one day. I did want to go into some visual diagrams to better explain how depth of field is altered by the aperture or opening of the lens. A wide lens opening gives a shallow depth of field and a small lens opening gives a deeper depth of field (all is in focus from near to far). Well there's always next week isn't there. Coming up will again be more about aperture shutter speed, and the meaning of f/ stops, but I'll go softly and keep explanations simple. It may also be handy to have a quick guide on how to open and set up your tripod. It's sometimes a very frustrating experience the first times you do it.

I hope you understand it all and if you have questions please ask here or PM me.

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon. And please feel free to save the pages on your computer.

Coming up next: How to Set up a Tripod.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Part 7 - Macro and Camera Icons

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Today I want to again go over shooting closeups or macro photos, as well as explaining the use of some of those icons on your camera.

Icons for MACRO and SUPER MACRO:

macro & s macro icons
The term macro when used with photography refers to making small objects look larger through the lens of your camera.

collage 1
collage 2
You may have found that when you try to get a closeup picture of something on a table or even a closeup of a flower, the result is blurred, even though you braced the camera on the table or used a tripod and had enough light. Depending on your camera you were perhaps too close to the object for the camera to be able to successfully focus. Many digital cameras have a flashing focus light which you can see in a corner of the viewfinder or on the LCD screen to warn you that the camera could not focus properly while you attempted to take a closeup photo. You have to then move backward a little or switch on your MACRO mode.

Remember that you should always press the shutter button half way to let the camera focus on your subject before pressing it fully. If the light begins to flash as you do that halfway press, then you know the photo will be out of focus unless you change something. Either move further away or turn on your MACRO setting, press halfway again and your focus lamp (that light in the screen corner that flashes) should stop flashing. It should stay fixed and give a little beep to tell you that it now has the subject in focus and you can finish pressing the shutter.

Note: don't confuse the FOCUS light with the FLASH symbol because they can both blink. The flash symbol is a red thunderbolt, which if blinking, indicates there is not enough light to take an optimum photo.

Examples of using PORTRAIT mode without MACRO when camera was too close to be within focal range, and then the same setup using PORTRAIT and MACRO mode.

collage 3collage 4
Some cameras have SUPER MACRO which allows you to get very close to your subject, where in some cases the camera can be placed less than an inch away from the subject.
I'll show some examples: Coins in PORTRAIT mode without macro, then with MACRO, then with SUPER MACRO.

3 coins
Here are a couple of cameras owned by friends with their focal ranges (distances at which things will be in focus.)

The Kodak Easy Share DX 6490 - this camera will focus normally from infinity down to 2 feet away from the subject. If you want to get closer than 2 feet to that piece of blueberry shortcake, you will have to turn on your MACRO mode (it may also be termed CLOSEUP mode). The macro mode on this camera will focus from 2.3 feet down to 4.8 inches.
So you should get a sharp picture within that range.

Canon Powershot SD880 IS - another camera. This one can get as close as 1.6 ft in a normal mode setting. Closer than that and you have to turn on your MACRO mode which has a focal range of 1.6 feet down to 0.8". That means you could put the camera a little less than one inch away from your subject. That would be too close for food photography but you can try it at a distance of 1.6 feet and see how it turns out.

On my Olympus SP560 UZ the macro and normal settings have the same focal ranges, which is 3.9" to infinity (10 cm to infinity.)
So when I want to get really close I use the SUPER MACRO setting which gets as close as 0.4" (less than a 1/2 inch). Good for insects, flowers or miniature items.

On the little pocket-size Olympus Stylus 800, the normal focal range is from infinity down to 19.7 inches. If I want to get closer than 19.7 inches to my subject, I have to turn on MACRO mode, which is good down to about 8 inches away.
Closer than than I would switch on SUPER MACRO if it were appropriate for the photo. Examples with this pocket camera are the photos of eggs,above.

You should be able to use macro in several of your camera’s SCENE settings appropriate for a closeup photo , such as PORTRAIT, INDOOR, CANDLE, DOCUMENTS, AVAILABLE LIGHT, CUISINE, but not in pictures where distance is a necessary factor in the photo. (Landscape, landscape and portrait, fireworks, sunsets etc.)

Try setting your camera to PORTRAIT mode and prepare a plate of fruit or other food. Set the WHITE BALANCE (WB) and if not during daylight, to the type of lighting you have. If the picture through the viewfinder (or LCD screen) looks dark, then use the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION (EV) button to get a plus factor until the picture through the viewfinder looks good. Take a picture. Then holding the camera in the same position (or with your tripod) switch on the same options plus the MACRO (or closeup) mode. Take the photo again and compare the two. Or better still, take several because it’s a fact that the more you practise and the more photos you take, the better they will become.

If you continually experience blurry photos it might be a good idea to check out your normal focal range in your (shudder) manual under ‘specifications’, ‘Macro Mode Shooting", or go online to *one of the websites that does reviews* and look at the specs for your camera model. There you will see the normal focal range (it may be called ‘shooting range’ or ‘macro/close-up mode’) as well as the MACRO range.

*A couple of good websites for checking out details of your camera are: Steve’s Digicams as well as DP Review. But the easy way to check it out is to get close to your subject, half press the shutter and if the focus light blinks, move back and repeat pressing the shutter until you find a distance where the light no longer blinks.
That will be the focal limit of your normal range. Closer than that you will need to switch on MACRO.

Other reasons for blurry photos are:

1. Not enough light. The camera needs more time to focus in low light and during that time you or the subject have moved. Use a tripod. This is true especially for indoor or evening photos, and when using night scene options on your mode dial.

2. Camera shake. Even though you have strong light your photos are still blurry. You are moving the camera or your subject is moving. Don’t move the camera when you press the shutter button. Hold arms tightly to your sides, brace yourself against a wall, rest the camera on a solid object or use a tripod. If necessary, breath out and hold it while you press the shutter! (Remember to breath in again please.)

Leaving MACRO for now, I wanted to go over the BUTTON OPERATIONS and THE MODE DIAL to briefly go over what some of those icons mean and what will they do when you click them into action.

Here’s a typical MODE DIAL, found on the top right of a digital camera.

mode dial
When you turn this dial and select a mode, you are telling the camera to change the settings for a certain situation. Some cameras will have some of these icons together on a separate mode entitled SCENE …or SCN on the mode dial.
Typical mode choices found on the top of a modern camera dial are for :MOVIE, AUTO, CHECK PICTURES (Review), GUIDE, MY MODE, and M, S, A, P for choosing MANUAL, SHUTTER PRIORITY, APERTURE PRIORITY and PROGRAM.

The photo shows icons for an older digital camera where some of the scene options were included there rather than in an in-camera menu. Here’s what they mean:

AUTO – The simplest of all shooting modes, the settings are fully automatic. The camera selects what it deems to be the optimum focus and exposure for your still picture.

portrait icon PORTRAIT - suitable for taking a portrait style photo; the camera sets a wider aperture (lens opening) to blur the background a little, so the subject stands out clearly from the background.
sport iconSPORTS - suitable for fast action shots, in this mode, the camera sets a faster shutter speed to catch moving objects such as people in sports events.

landscape/portraitLANDSCAPE and PORTRAIT – the camera sets the optimal shooting conditions for a background scene with a subject in the foreground.

landscapeLANDSCAPE - This is the opposite setting to PORTRAIT where the background is deliberately blurred. In this mode the picture is sharp from foreground to background. Blues and greens are enhanced in this setting.

night icon NIGHT – this is where you will need a tripod because the camera will use a slow shutter speed, meaning that any movement while the shutter is open will create a blurry photo.
You can have some interesting results with coloured lights and portraits in night scenes. Do play around with this mode and see what comes out from your inventiveness.

sself portrait iconSELF PORTRAIT – hold the camera at arm’s length and turn it toward you to take a photo of yourself. A fun mode.

movie iconMOVIES – the camera sets aperture and shutter speed for optimum results for taking movies. You may have to click on the microphone icon in one of your menus to include sound.

my mode iconMY MODE – perhaps not seen on all cameras, this mode allows you to save a group of settings of your choice which can be recalled together with one click.

playback iconPLAYBACK MODE – allows you to go back and see the photos you’ve just taken.

aperture priority iconAPERTURE PRIORITY – also seen as AV on a mode dial. This setting lets you set the aperture setting manually while the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed for that aperture (lens opening).

shutter priority iconSHUTTER PRIORITY – also seen as TV on a mode dial. This setting lets you choose the shutter speed manually while the camera chooses the appropriate aperture for that shutter speed.

These two above settings are semi-automatic in that you have control over one or the other function. For example if you want to photograph sports and you know you need a fast shutter speed and don’t want to rely on the automatic sports mode, then you would use the SHUTTER PRIORITY setting and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture.

If you want to set a certain aperture setting but let the camera figure out the shutter speed then you would choose APERTURE PRIORITY. You can control the DEPTH OF FIELD, or the blurriness of the background where you want the background to recede and a subject in the foreground to stand out sharply by using a wide aperture setting.

We could perhaps go in the next tutorial or so a little into DEPTH OF FIELD because I think many folks would like to learn how to get that beautiful effect of a single flower or piece of cake (!) standing sharply against a dreamy blurred background.

program mode iconPROGRAM MODE – With just a little more freedom to be creative than the AUTO mode, here the camera sets both the shutter speed and the aperture, allowing you to adjust other functions such as white balance, ISO.

I think next time I’ll go over the FLASH icon and FLASH menu as well as the SELF-TIMER option which lets you jump into your photos. Subjects I’d like to mention: Depth of Field and how to make those beautiful Blurry Backgrounds, the important triangle of variables that you need to know: APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED and ISO, how they work together and how to adjust them…..or at least understand what is happening.

And oh yes….I have to finish that full sized LIGHT BOX so we can see what results we can get from that!

I hope you understand all and if you have questions please ask here or PM me.

Coming up in Part 8 is: Depth of Field
and in Part 9: How to Set up a Tripod.

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon. And please feel free to save the pages on your computer.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Part 6 - Making a Mini Light Box


Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

collage 1 light box
This time I'm going to show how to make a miniature version of a light box, which can be useful for photographing small objects.

I'm also working on making a full sized box out of a cardboard printer box which will be used for photographing larger objects, including plates and dishes of food.

collage 2 light boxesMini box (left)
Full size box under construction (right)

But it might be easier to practise with a mini box to test your results and your skills with a box cutter or sharp scissors. It takes less than an hour to make, requires no special skills and doesn't have to be good looking.

The idea of a light box is to create a partially enclosed 'white room', with white walls, a white sweep (that paper background we made previously in Part 4 - Seamless Backgrounds), with cutout windows and ceiling covered with white paper, into which we project a strong overhead light and usually a light on either side aimed at the white paper windows so that any object introduced into the box will be bathed in total white light with no shadows. You will have often seen pictures on the web of an object which seems to float on a pure white background. This effect can be achieved in a light box.And it's quite entertaining to see what you can produce from this setup.

collage 3 cookies & ring
These last two pictures were taken with my 15 watt CFL desk lamp overhead and one 7 watt CFL spot lamp (that green one) at the left window. Even better would be a 2nd spot pointing at the right window. (I should go out and buy that 2nd spot lamp...they cost about $12 here so not an expensive item and good for the mini box.)

collage 4
Construction of the Mini Box:

Materials needed: small box of sturdy cardboard, box cutter or small sharp scissors, ruler or metal straight edge, pen, glue stick, white paper (I always seem to use printer paper.)

I used a small box measuring 5.25 x 7 inches (13.5 x 18 cm) that contained a little desk lamp. You can use a larger box as well of course, but your lights will have to be accordingly more powerful. And I think it's better that you keep it as a vertical box, higher than wider, so that the lid opening will be your ceiling. We can still make the bigger box later once we have caught the idea of how best to create the whitest environment.

On my little box I took off the top flaps of the lid and using a box cutter, cut out windows on the sides, leaving a frame of cardboard about 1 inch (2.5 cm) all around, except for the bottom edge of the front 'door' which I cut off.

hand and instructions
box & instruc
Then I took white printer paper and after cutting it to the size of one side (5.25 x 7 inches/ 13.5 x 18 cm) glued it with a glue stick into the INSIDE of a window side, then repeated that on the inside of the window facing it.
Glue carefully and smooth out any wrinkles, which would show up in your photos. To further cover the edges, cut out strips of white paper to size and overlap the newly installed white paper to the back wall and the floor, smoothing carefully so the edges are well stuck down and wrinkle free. Do this on both window sides.

Cut a paper sweep to go inside your box, but DON"T GLUE it in, just slide it in so it is removable when it becomes spotted . The measurements should be....width a little smaller than the width of your box.
In my example, with a 5.25 inch (13.5 cm) box width, my paper sweep was perfect at 1/4 inch less than the box width...that is at 5 inches wide (11.5 cm).

Length of the sweep:....start with a piece of paper a little shorter than the box height plus the box depth (from back wall to front door) and slip it into place until it reaches the edges of the door, as in the photo below.
Check that you have a nice curve in the sweep, that it reaches the 'front door' and trim off any excess that sticks up over the top at the back. The finished box should look something like this.

coll 5 sweep & boxes
Many light boxes also use a thin sheet of paper...often white tissue paper or white tracing paper over the 'roof' of the box and this will give you a soft diffused light. If you are going to photograph any reflective item of metal, ceramic or glass you won't want a reflection of the light bulb in the top lamp showing on your object, so you should then use a thin white material or paper to soften the white glare. If you have a good strong light on both top and sides you will be okay with the diffusor on top as the light will be sufficient. If the light is too strong, then move the lamps away a little from the box.

Some examples with fruit: First a sideview of the setup and one example of creating a very soft photo using Exposure Compensation (EV +1.3)... that's 4 clicks up from 0.0... to give deliberate over exposure. Here I was able to get photos using just the overhead desk lamp. If you don't have extra lamps (they must all have the same type of bulb...tungsten or CFL, not mixed) see how you can do with the overhead lamp close to the top opening of your box and raising the EV value to make the picture lighter. This you can do while looking through the viewfinder before taking the photo.

coll 6 cam & fruit
A little less raising of the Exposure Compensation, that is.... pushing it up 3 clicks (instead of 4) to EV +1.0, makes the image a little less over exposed and more defined (left photo).
With no EV changes to the picture, you would have a normal exposure, as in the second photo, below on the right.

2 fruits EV examples
Now you know how to make misty white photos if you wish to have that effect. When you raise the EV value using the plus+, you are actually decreasing the shutter speed of your camera, so it stays open longer, lets in more light and gives you a more exposed (lighter) image. Conversely, when you lower the EV value using the minus -, you are in fact increasing the shutter speed, the shutter closes sooner, letting in less light and your image is darker.
If you manage to make this mini light box, try using a PORTRAIT setting, and maybe add a click on the MACRO option as mentioned below. Remember to set the White Balance WB for the type of bulb you are using...hopefully you have a CFL fluorescent in there, and practice using the EV button to lighten or darken your image while looking through the viewfinder.

I think this is enough for one day but I did want to introduce MACRO, or closeup photography.
If you look at the back your camera you will have noticed a little tulip icon somewhere on or near the round touchpad.
That is your option to tell the camera that you want to make closeup photos. You should be able to click on it from any of the other options that you have, such as AUTO, PORTRAIT, INDOOR. By clicking on the tulip icon you will probably bring up three options: OFF, the tulip icon representing MACRO, or another tulip icon with a small 's' beside it. Some point and shoot cameras may not have this second tulip but it refers to SUPER MACRO where you can get even closer to your subject. Try it out....remember you can still be in another mode and add the macro option. I'll explain more next time with examples of how you can capture very close, sharp pictures of food, insects and plants.

I hope you are understanding it all and if you have questions please ask here or PM me.

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Part 5 - Artificial Lighting

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Finding the right illumination for taking food photos after dark can be even more challenging than finding the right window for daylight photos and much has been written about it.

It would be an ideal situation if we all had a room off the kitchen with studio softbox lights set up over a table where we could just whip down the plated food, snap the shutter and then breeze back into the kitchen to serve the family dinner before it got cold. Those with large, well lit kitchens are perhaps lucky to have focal lights over a counter, or a well-illuminated baking center, ideal for photos.

It is known that the larger the light source, the softer will be the shadows and conversely, the smaller and closer the light source, the sharper will be the shadows. So an ideal studio situation would be to have an illumination diffused enough so that it cast a flattering light without creating heavy shadows, used perhaps together with secondary lights and reflectors. Flash should never be used for food photos as it flattens the images so the result is most unattractive.

But most of us have to cope with less than perfect conditions with over the counter strip lighting, lights in the stove exhaust hood, a lamp over the dining table or a small desk spot in a corner of the kitchen.

This is an extensive subject which has turned into a large entry for today, so I'm going to separate it into paragraphs of different situations, showing how to cope with a certain type of lighting and equipment so you are able to digest it a bite at a time.

1. Worst Case Scenario - The Small Kitchen -
One under-cupboard tube FLUORESCENT LIGHT:

In this case, my tiny kitchen ...which has one old fashioned 8 watt fluorescent tube to illuminate the counter.

collage 1
Above you see the improvised studio: a white cutting board placed behind, a white paper towel as reflector hanging over the paper roll, a piece of white foam as reflector left, and the subject placed on a white paper napkin draped over two cereal boxes. Took just a minute to set up, and it worked fine, considering the less than ideal setting. Here's the result:

 pic 1
Since indoor lighting is much weaker than daylight, the shutter speed of your camera will be slower, and the Scene settings such as Indoor, Candle and Available Light on your point & shoot will make that adjustment when you choose that scene. When the shutter stays open longer, any slight movement of the camera will cause a blurry photo.

To put it simply, you really need a tripod when taking photos indoors after dark unless you can brace yourself and the camera so there isn't the slightest movement.

To take this photo above in the weak light from the little 8 watt bulb I made several tries hand holding the camera but without success, so I set up the tripod and was able to get a fairly decent photo.

If you are trying to photograph your food in these lighting conditions, you will need a tripod. In most cases there just isn't enough light to do it otherwise when avoiding flash.

The camera was set to Scene: INDOOR, White Balance (WB) set to FLUORESCENT 1 (that's the first of those centipedes on your WB menu), and the Exposure Value (EV) was raised to 0+.3....that's one notch up from 0.0.

More details on settings for anyone who likes to know: Shutter speed 1/25s Aperture.f/4.2 .ISO 800.

How are you doing so far?
I hope you find it still easy to understand.

2. Overhead Lamp - TUNGSTEN - single 60 watt bulb

coll 2
These are the incandescent light bulbs which are being phased out to be replaced by the new CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs which are much brighter at lower wattage and cooler temperatures.

But many of us still have these in our homes and so I used this as an example of how to get by with just one such desk or floor lamp shining down on your subject.
You may have to raise it up nearer to the lamp by using some books and a cloth covered tray.

In this case I just put the plate on a small side desk under the light, and set up reflectors on either side.....the right side with the old photo frame and a piece of white printer paper clipped to it and on the left side another piece of white paper taped to the bookend. I'm quite pleased with the result, although it could have been a little brighter if I had used the EV (Exposure Value) button to lighten the photo with a setting of +0.3.

Such a brightness can be adjusted in a post editing program. See what happens in the second picture when the AUTO white balance misread the light. The photo has a strong yellow cast. This often happens when you forget to change it to TUNGSTEN.

coll 3
The camera in the left photo was set to Scene: PORTRAIT, White Balance (WB): TUNGSTEN, with no EV +/-.
More details: Shutter speed 1/40 Aperture f/3.9 ISO 100

3. Overhead Lamp – 1 CFL bulb

Here I changed the incandescent (tungsten) bulb for a new compact fluorescent 11 watt bulb (CFL) in a cool daylight colour.

Here is the picture that came from using that lamp, with the same setup as above in number 2, with reflectors either side.

collage 4
These bulbs are wonderful because they don’t heat up, they use lower wattage for the same light intensity as a tungsten bulb and they last for ages.

The camera was set to Scene: PORTRAIT, White Balance (WB): FLUORESCENT 1, with no EV +/-.
More details: Shutter speed 1/40 Aperture f/3.5 ISO 100

4. Overhead Lamp and Small Spot – 2 CFL bulbs

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Here is another setup on my desk, with a white paper sweep as backdrop , an overhead swivel desk lamp with a 15 watt CFL bulb and a mini spot light on one side with a 7 watt CFL bulb, the photo frame on the right as reflector with a piece of white printer paper clipped to it.

If you were doing this in a photo studio, the lights used would be of a higher wattage and the whole setup would be more professional and perhaps the reflector on the right would be replaced by a third spotlight. The photo resulting from this homemade arrangement is on the right above.

I’ve used the first of the three fluorescent settings my camera offers. It’s a little warmer than the other two.

This is what happens when you mistakenly use a TUNGSTEN setting for your White Balance (WB) instead of a FLUORESCENT setting (Remember the centipedes).

More about those CFL lamps:
Here’s the one in my desk lamp. It uses 15 watts and puts out the same light as a 75 watt tungsten bulb. I’m also showing the card it came on as well as a closeup of the tiny 7 watt spot.

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You can see that the 15 watt bulb is rated as cool and it has a Kelvin value of 6400k.

The Kelvin scale is one used to determine the temperature colour of light. The higher the number, the bluer or colder is the light. The lower numbers are for warmer light.

The Kelvin rating of 5000k and 5500k are considered to be the same as pure white and noon sunlight and are therefore best for taking photos that resemble daylight.
The store where I bought mine didn’t have any at that rating but the 6400k , which you see marked on the card from the package, is also considered a daylight fluorescent lamp.

If you need a warm fluorescent CFL for your house, look for a Kelvin rating around 3000k. Candlelight is rated at 1500k.

The camera was set to Scene PORTRAIT, White Balance FLUORESCENT 1, with no EV +/-
More details: Shutter Speed 1/25, Aperture f/4.0, ISO 100

5. Restaurants – Overhead Tungsten Lamp(s) + Candles

You may have to look underneath the lamp to see if it’s a tungsten (incandescent) bulb or a CFL (fluorescent) but when it’s combined with candlelight for a cosy romantic setting you could wonder what setting to use on your camera without resorting to flash.

I would go for the INDOOR Scene setting and then try looking through the viewfinder with the White Balance (WB) set at TUNGSTEN and if everything looks blue, then you know you have to switch the White Balance to a fluorescent setting.

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The camera was set to INDOOR Scene, WB TUNGSTEN, with no EV +/-.
You could also try out the Scene setting of AVAILABLE LIGHT if you have that on your camera. It has a slower shutter speed so you will have to brace the camera and hold tightly and avoid any movement when you press the shutter. This is true of all photos you take in low light without a tripod.

If there is more candlelight than electric light, try the CANDLELIGHT setting as well. A look through the viewfinder before snapping the shutter will tell you if the setting is right for that scene. You can ask your table partner to hold up a white napkin on the dark side of the subject to reflect some light onto it while you take the photo.

I have done that. Of course it might attract some attention, but where we live there are many tourists and they often take photos of the food on their tables while on holiday, so here it's not unusual to do so.

More details of 2 photos above: Shutter Speed 1/60, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500
Shutter Speed 1/20, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500

Another Restaurant Example: Overhead Tungsten Lamp :

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Here there must have been more than one bulb in this quaint array of bottles but you can see the atmosphere, bright on the table and indirect light on the diners.

I believe I set the scene to PORTRAIT, but it could also have been INDOOR, The White Balance (WB) was set to TUNGSTEN with no EV+/- change.
More details of first photo: Shutter speed 1/20 (I’m amazed it turned out without blur), Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500
Second photo of chips: Shutter Speed 1/125, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500.

6. Candlelight
I didn’t have a tripod for this but I braced myself and stopped breathing for a moment (not a good thing to do on your birthday) while pressing the shutter. Normally you would need a tripod for such a low light photo. I still don’t know how it came out without blurring.

The scene was set to CANDLELIGHT, White Balance (WB) AUTO and no EV+/-.
More details: Shutter Speed 1/25, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading today's entry and have found it useful.
If you have questions please post them here or send me a PM. :-)

Next week I’ll show you how to make a mini light box and later we’ll make a full sized one.
I have mine started but need some more materials from the craft shop.
In the meantime here’s a preview of the mini light box and what you can do with it:

mini white box

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)
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