Image Stabilization

We’ve discussed numerous methods of reducing camera shake, including the Reciprocal Rule, proper handholding technique, and other tips and tricks. Today, we’ll discuss a technological means for helping you minimize camera shake – image stabilization.

There are two main types of image stabilization: optical and digital. Both aim to do the same thing; reduce the effect of camera shake in your images. I’ve highlighted the word “effect” because none of these methods do anything to reduce the actual movement of the camera. Like handholding technique or using a fast shutter speed, they only take steps to reduce the impact of the moving camera on your images.

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Q&A–What type of lens should I get for my trip?

This question was recently submitted by Cheo.

I’m looking to get a fish eye. I’m taking a vacation to Key West and want a lens, but I’m not sure if I’m wasting my money. I have an 18-55mm DX VR. Looking for guidance on panoramic pictures and a bigger lens.

It’s a good question, because one of the worst things that can happen is you take a once-in-a-lifetime trip and aren’t able to achieve the types of shots you wanted. While gear isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of photography, it is important to have the right tools for the job.

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Focusing on Lenses

There are so many different types of lenses, when it comes to figuring out what you need, it can be a daunting shopping experience. Many people go through an experience similar to what I did… start with the kit lens your first DSLR comes with, buy an inexpensive telephoto zoom, pine for better results, hit up the used market, try 2-3 other lenses, and eventually sell everything you’ve acquired for professional-grade lenses. In the meantime, you’ve spent and wasted a lot of time and money, because you didn’t necessarily know what you were getting into because of the various terminology, options, and confusion.

I hope to cover most of the general topics regarding lenses in this post so that, hopefully, people can learn from my missteps without duplicating them, and make informed purchasing decisions in building a solid lens collection that serves their specific needs.

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Reading the Histogram

One of the most misunderstood tools that most cameras, and every piece of post-processing software I’ve ever used, include is the histogram.  There are sometimes multiple histogram readouts available, which offer a ton of information about your image. However, the one I find the most helpful when it comes to judging exposure is the luminosity histogram, because it gives us helpful information about our images that can help us to make quick exposure adjustments on-the-fly.

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The Reciprocal Rule

As it relates to sharp photos, good hand-held technique is where it all starts. But there are other tips and tricks you can use in conjunction with good technique to help ensure your photos come out clear and sharp. One such tip is known as the Reciprocal Rule.

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Valentine’s Day Special–Hand Holding with your Camera

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Happy Valentines Day

Okay, so this post isn’t about holding hands with your camera. However, it is about how to properly hold your camera in your hands in order to get nice sharp photos.

Properly hand-holding your camera is all about providing a stable base for your camera to minimize any movement while the shutter is open. Movement by the camera while the shutter is open results in a blurry photo: the more movement, the more blur. A stable camera can help produce images with details that are razor sharp. Especially at slower shutter speeds or longer focal lengths, minimizing camera shake becomes even more critical in ensuring that your images are sharp. A tripod makes an excellent stable support for this purpose, but it’s not always convenient or practical to carry with you, so I’ll discuss some of the finer points on good hand-holding technique.

Getting great photos all starts with stability. Unfortunately, the human body isn’t all that stable to begin with. When holding the camera to compose a photo, we have to hold it up to our eyes. Doing this, we have muscles that are tensing, chests that are moving in and out with each breath, and our legs working to keep our upper bodies in balance so we don’t fall over. All of this excess movement that doesn’t particularly help in our photography. There are things we can do to counteract these movements in order to get sharp images.

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Reading The Meter–A Tale of Exposure and Other Settings

I’ll start this post off with a big disclaimer…

Read your camera’s manual!

I use this disclaimer because I’ll be providing info on where to find certain settings, modes, and information on your camera’s display or readout. However, this information varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and from camera to camera. In some cases, information is displayed in a different place than my examples might show. In other cases, the text or graphic for a particular mode might be completely different. The differences might be subtle, but to avoid any confusion, consult your specific camera’s owner’s manual. Your manual will usually be your best guide to finding any particular setting or piece of information for your specific camera.

With that out of the way, let’s proceed…

We previously discussed the elements of exposure, and how to adjust those settings. I made mention several times of making adjustments based off of your camera’s meter’s reading of the scene’s exposure. This post will go into detail about how to read your camera’s meter, and the different metering options available.

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Exposure–Tying It All Together

Now that you (hopefully) understand the concepts behind aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, it’s time to review how they interplay with one another, and show how you can manipulate them to improve your photography.

For the most part, manipulating exposure is a matter of simple math, with a good understanding of the settings themselves, and their impact on the image.

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Exposure, Part 3 – ISO

The third component of exposure is probably the simplest to explain, but in many ways, the least understood. That component is ISO.

ISO is the sensitivity of the film or sensor to light. A lower ISO number means lower sensitivity, while a higher ISO number means higher sensitivity. The relationship of ISO numbers is linear, meaning ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100, ISO 400 is twice as sensitive as ISO 200, and so on. As with aperture and shutter speed, an increase of double or a decrease of half is also an f-stop, so ISO 200 is 1 stop faster than ISO 100, and so on.

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Exposure, Part 2 – Aperture

Aperture is a less-than- easy a concept for the novice to grasp, but once it’s control and impact is understood, it becomes, perhaps, the most utilized piece of knowledge put to use in your photography arsenal.

Aperture is the hole or opening that light travels through as it’s exposed to the center. The size of the opening is designated by an f-number, also referred to as an f-stop. This is displayed as the function f/x, such as f/5.6 or f/8. The math behind it is a little complex, so I’ll explain it in simplified form: f/x is the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the opening. Even in simplified form, it’s not so easy to understand, is it?

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