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Photography Tips by Ken Finegan

This week I want to start by looking through what we have covered over the last few weeks. These tips are the basis for a good understanding of photography fundamentals.

In the first week we discussed focus and YOU telling the camera where you wanted to focus and you selecting the subject of the photograph. The 3F’s (Focus, Frame and Fire) are an invaluable part of photography and one which I use on a daily basis. Being fussy and accurate about focus and composition improves your images immensely. It may be a little slow at first but speed comes with practice.

Another tip in week 1 was in portraiture. Focus on the face, as this is the first part of a portrait we usually look at. Always take at least 3-4 images for a portrait to make sure you have a good selection to choose from. Also remember do not take one picture and then look at the screen. This distracts the subject and they will come over and look at the image as well, meaning you lose contact with the subject and you have to set up the picture again.

In the second week we concentrated on composition and common mistakes that people make with portraits and landscapes. We discussed the ‘Rule of Thirds’ which assists us to make really good landscape images by NOT putting the horizon line right down the centre of the picture. Remember put the horizon line (where the sky meets the land) either in the upper third or lower third of the picture.

With portraits we also said that one of the most common mistakes is to place the subjects head in the centre of the image, wasting all of the lovely detail at the top of the frame. The other would be rushing and cutting the top of the subject’s head off!!! Remember, a slow thoughtful approach will give you better images.

In week 3 we looked at exposure and making the image the correct brightness level. This is done on the camera phone by touching the screen to get a ‘sun’ symbol. Then drag either up or down to brighten or darken the image. This can be really important if you are taking a picture or video of a band on a stage. This will allow you to expose for the area of the picture you want at the correct exposure.

In using the DSLR on automatic or semi-automatic modes you can use the EV button to do the same thing by either over or underexposing the image until you get the exposure you require.

We also discussed taking multiple shots when required by pressing and holding the shutter button.

In week 4 we discussed the first semi-automatic mode on your DSLR. This was Aperture Priority.

Aperture Priority allows you control the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. As I said then, this is a good mode to start getting off the fully automatic mode as you will get good pictures.

We also discussed what aperture does by introducing you to ‘Depth of Field’ which basically means how much of the image appears in focus. Remember if you use a small f stop number, like f3.5 only a small part of the image will appear in focus. This really makes the subject stand out from the background and a large f stop number such as f11-f16 is great for landscape photography making sure most of the image is in focus.

Last week we discussed the second semi-automatic mode, Shutter Speed priority which introduced us to showing movement/blur and stopping movement for sports images for example.

Sports photography would probably be the genre I like best. As most of you know the images in the Argus cover all sports from junior soccer, GAA, NEFL Soccer, to Rugby, golf and athletics.

Shutter speed priority is very suited to sports photography. Keeping in mind my ‘Rule of Thumb’ from last week ‘to stop movement use a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster’, this will keep you right and ensure you get good pictures.

In sports photography though, it’s not only the technical you have to know. A good knowledge of the sport is essential and better still if you know the players and what they tend to do when they get the ball, how they pass, which way they turn etc. A general rule of sports photography is ‘if you see the ball in the picture by the time you press the shutter release button the ball will be gone’.

Timing and basically guessing when the ball will appear in an image, such as two midfielders jumping for a ball in the middle of the field is very important. You get them on the way up to their highest point to catch the ball. Quite a lot of people would say we would put the camera on multiple shots (continuous) and you’re guaranteed to get the ball.

Not necessarily so. I’ve seen a ball come into a picture and leave the picture in a matter of milliseconds. My general rule is that I shoot in bursts of 3-4, refocus and shoot again.

By refocusing you are ensuring sharp images. Shoot another burst of 3-4 and refocus again. With action pictures I again, especially in Gaelic Football, Hurling and Soccer like to get the actual challenge. When two or more players collide generates fabulous pictures with faces reacting to the challenges.

All sports pictures don’t necessarily need to be full flight action. Some ‘action’ can happen off the ball. I’m including some of my favourite images over the last few years.

For most sports you’ll need a ‘long’ lens. This generally means a focal length from 200mm upwards. I generally shoot my sport on a 400mm. This allows me to get closer to the action but also brings its own problems with very little or no depth of field, meaning you have to be accurate.

The lens I would suggest for beginners is a 70-300mm, that we mentioned last week. You should be able to buy it for around €300. To begin with, use it outdoors in relatively good weather/light to get used to it and the way it focuses.

In sports photography you will make lots of mistakes but when that one special image appears, it will be worth it. Remember all sports pictures don't have to have people moving!!!

So till next week, keep shooting, keep safe!

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Photo Tips by Ken Finegan

I hope you all got to try last week’s tips about Aperture Priority and what aperture does to pictures. Even if you didn’t succeed the first time try, try again!!! It takes a bit of time to get used to where all of the buttons are but it’s worthwhile.

Don’t forget if you want to ask a question directly you can message me on my Facebook page: Ken Finegan Newspics Photography.

This week I want to talk about the other semi-automatic mode on your DSLR. It is Shutter Speed Priority. Shutter speed priority is represented by the letter ’S’ on Nikon cameras and ‘TV’ on Canon Cameras. ‘TV’ represents Time Value.

This mode is similar to Aperture Priority in that you control one setting, namely the Shutter Speed and the camera controls the aperture this time. The exact opposite to Aperture Priority. But, as with Aperture Priority, you will get pictures.

So what does a shutter do. When you press your shutter release button to take a picture the mirror lifts and then the shutter opens to let light into your camera making a noise (the one I asked you to listen to last week). The light hits the image sensor in a digital camera and the film in a film camera making the image.

The shutter speed ranges from very fast speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second to really slow speeds of 30 seconds depending on the camera model you have.

What is the effect of a slow shutter speed on an image?

Using a slow shutter speed allows you to show movement in an image to emphasise speed or motion. It is a beautiful effect and can even make a moving object appear semi-transparent or see through. In illustration ‘1’ you can see where I used a very slow shutter speed and the tennis ball is nearly invisibly. You would have a problem even recognising it as a tennis ball.

Illustration 1

Illustration 2

In Illustration 2, I used a slightly faster shutter speed which still blurs the ball but it is more apparent as a tennis ball and in illustration ‘3’ I used a faster shutter speed and stop the ball mid-air. Showing all of the detail.

Illustration 3

The 4th illustration sums up shutter speed in general. This picture was taken of people in an ice rink in France a few years ago. If you look in the background there is a girl who is perfectly sharp with no movement. This is because she is standing still. You will see varying degrees of blur or movement in other people in the image depending on the speed they were actually skating. So the amount of blur or movement is also related to how fast your subject is moving.

Illustration 4

Here is a guide (Rule of Thumb) I use on a day to day basis:

To show movement us a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower.

To stop movement us a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster.

For general images where there is no major movement, such as a family occasion use 1/125th or 1/250th of a second.

To use faster shutter speeds you need good light, so outdoors is the best place. I’ll be dealing later in the series with some specific settings which will assist with shooting faster shutter speeds in low light.

Now, we’ve discovered we can show movement in our images or stop movement. But remember there are two types of movement. The one we have already discussed is ‘Subject’ movement but the other is ‘Camera’ movement.

If we use a slow shutter speed we can become subject to camera movement often called camera shake. This can actually produce some really artistic and abstract images but for the moment we will try and stop camera shake.

The usual way to do this is to support your camera on a wall, something steady or a bean bag for instance. The best way is on a tripod. There are various models of tripods ranging from a few Euro to thousands of Euro. When selecting a tripod go for something that suits your camera.

In general when I suggest buying a cheaper tripod I always say extend the tripod to its full height and put some of your weight where the camera would go. If the legs bend or the tripod lowers under this pressure do NOT buy it!!! You should get a reasonably good tripod for around €100 and there are quite a few really great camera shops locally, all offering great advice.

When shooting really slow shutter speeds, such as night time views I would always suggest using a remote control or the camera self timer to fire the camera. This stops you touching the shutter release button and prevents movement as you press on the camera causing camera shake.

There is another general ‘Rule of Thumb’ I would suggest when you are experimenting with your new camera ‘Do not use a shutter speed slower than the focal length of your lens’.

What does this mean exactly? Focal length of a lens is measured in mm. As stated in previous tips you kit lens is usually around 17-55mm. The next lens most people get is a 70-300mm. This brings your subject closer (Zoom).

So to implement the rule of thumb with the 70-300mm lens I would not use a shutter speed slower than 1/300th of a second. This is just a general rule but a good one to keep in mind.

For sport such as Gaelic, Soccer, Hurling, Rugby etc I would rarely go slower than 1/500th of a second to keep my images sharp. This Rule works every time.

One thing I forgot to mention last week was ‘when I would use Aperture Priority’? In general I would always use manual settings to control my camera but I do use Aperture Priority.

The main situation where I use Aperture Priority in on a sunny day covering a match. If there is a shadow falling across the pitch from a stand or group of trees the camera can react quicker than me to adjust the speed. I know it can be either slightly over or under exposed BUT I will get an image which I can then adjust.

So until next week, enjoy your camera and keep safe!

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Photography Tips by Ken Finegan

For the last few weeks we have been concentrating on tips that give you more control over what YOU want to achieve with your camera and photography. This applies to both camera phone and DSLR.

This week I want to deal with ‘aperture’, what it basically is and what it does to our images. This may apply mostly to DSLR owners but is also a part of the more modern phones. The ones I have experience of are the Huawei P30 and P20.


Some people get a headache as soon as soon as aperture is mentioned, so let’s break it down. Basically an aperture is an opening, something similar to a tap.

Aperture controls the amount of light going through the lens and is measured in f numbers. Most entry level DSLR’s have a kit lens which have an f stop range from f3.5 to f29, and you control them with the rotary button on your camera. The Nikon cameras have them on the back- top right and the Canon cameras have them on the top right, near your display.

So, go get your camera and take it off the Green setting (Fully Automatic) and put it to ‘A’ in Nikon and ‘AV’ on Canon (AV stands for Aperture Value). We are now taking the first steps on our journey to Manual mode.

The mode we are in at present (A or AV) is ‘Aperture Priority’ and it is a semi-automatic mode. This means that YOU control one part of the camera setting and the camera controls the other. You will get a picture no matter what aperture (f stop number) you choose (I will deals with the consequences of different f stop numbers on shutter speed next week when you have tried out Aperture Priority).

The f numbers control the amount of light getting into the camera but also control a thing called ‘Depth of Field’. ‘Don’t go for the Anadin just yet’!!!

Right, what is depth of field? I’ll give you the definition firstly and then explain. ‘Depth of Field is how much in front and behind your subject (the part of the image you focused on) appears in focus. Therefore a small f stop number has small Depth of Field (DOF) and a large f stop number has large DOF’.

Small depth of field (f 3.5-5.6) has mainly the subject in focus and blurs the foreground, in front of the subject and the background, behind the subject. This is really great when you want to emphasise your subject, such as portraits.

Large depth of field basically has everything in the image in focus. This is ideal for landscape photography.

Let me show you some illustrations. The first illustration is of the tennis balls shot at a small f stop number. As you can see the tennis balls either side of the centre ball (the one I focused on) are out of focus.

The second illustration is of the same tennis balls from the same position but shot at a large f stop number. As you can see, all of the balls now appear in focus.

Have a go at this process and you’ll be very surprised how simple it is. The main thing to keep in mind is to focus on the centre object and go as close as you can to get the best out of the effect. For a start I’d normally do this outdoors as you have better light.

I’ve included another two images which show this effect also. The first image was taken at the Poc Fada. It shows large Depth of Field showing the trophies in the foreground to the mountains and Dundalk Bay in the background all in focus. The other is a portrait blurring out the background and foreground totally, making the subject stand out.

Two other things control Depth of Field as well. These are: How close you are to your subject and the focal length of the lens (the larger the lens (focal length/magnification) the less depth of field appears in the image).

While you are trying out this mode, ‘Aperture Priority’ start to listen to your camera. What? Yes listen to the sound your camera makes.

When you use a small f stop number (f 3.5 for example) your camera selects a shutter speed (remember I said you select one function and the camera selects the other). With a small f stop number your camera shutter and mirror inside make a noise. It will sound ‘fast’. Try it a few times and listen.

Now set you f stop number to a large number such as f 16 or f 22 and do the same. You will notice a change in sound and speed. Try this both inside and outside and hear/see the difference. As I said earlier I will deal with the consequences of this next week.

For the camera phone users these features are usually in the ‘Pro’ settings /menu. They are good and can get you similar effects. They can even automate the process for you.

But knowing what aperture actually does is very important.

Here is something to think about for next week. If you use a tap to fill a glass and not much water is going through the opening (aperture) how long will it take to fill the glass? Will it be slow or fast? But if we open the aperture fully how long will it take to fill the glass? This will make more sense next week.!!!

If you have any queries you can always go on to my Facebook page Ken Finegan Newspics Photography and message me.

So until next week, enjoy your camera and ‘keep safe’.

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