Beyond Basics (please contribute also)


Senior Member
Mar 19, 2012
Do correct me if I am wrong as I am just a little past the newbie stage. :angel:

Topic #1: Exposure bracketing and Auto-Exposure-Bracketing (AEB)

What is it?

It is taking a series of photographs of the same composition at selected (arbitrary) exposure settings relative to what is considered "correct exposure".
Less technically speaking, it is taking a series of photographs of the same composition at different brightness intervals, and the interval may be determined by the shooter.

How does it work?
(I am not sure about other brands hence I can only explain from a canon user point of view)
The camera will do metering for you in Av/Tv/P modes. The camera will take (automatically) , a darker, brighter and normal exposure frames, if you turn on Exposure Bracketing (although you will have to shoot each frame manually if "Auto Exposure Bracketing" is not used). The difference will be explained later.

How can I get it to work?
You will need
(a) a camera with Exposure Bracketing / Auto Exposure Bracketing capability

(b) (optional) your camera manual which will tell you the most effective way to access this .

1. Press menu button. Seek out the icon for shooting settings. Look for the Exposure Comp/AEB. select it.
Using the main dial (or the appropriate control), "spread" the bracketing points away from the center eg i | i . how far away they brackets are spread will be the exposure intervals (ie, how much difference in brightness or darkness) .
Press 'set' or "enter" or equivalent.

You may now start shooting in Exposure Bracketing mode but each 3-photo series must be triggered manually and bear in mind that until each 3-frames series is "complete" the exposure for the next composition might not be what you are expecting. (meaning the bracketing might be messed up unless you count dilligently)

2. Auto-Exposure Bracketing
Set your shooting mode (or drive train) to Auto. The camera will now "burst" in 3-frames series to finish each 3-frame bracketing. This is more useful, especially at places where the shooter might be concerned that exposure is tricky and may not be accurate and the movement may be fast (eg weddings)

(Optional: The shooter may also "shift" the center point of reference exposure compensation to shoot brackets set-off from the "correct" center point of exposure )

1. High Dynamic Range photography (easier for static scenes) - to shoot 3 (or more!) images with different exposures and merging them with a 3rd party software

2. Fast action scene where exposure must die die be correct (eg weddings!) - very convenient (caveat: i am not a professsional nor claim to be one. this is just my experience from attending weddings. )

=== End of #1 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary .

Topic #2: Custom White Balance

White balance is used in "cooked" (as opposed to shooting in RAW) jpg processing in most DSLRs.
Your camera is quite smart to recognise which colour tones are "too much" and set the appropriate white balance. However on some occasions the camera is deceived by the lighting.

Hence "auto" white balance does not work. Using other white-balance settings might not work either - if your camera is tricked, chances are that the lighting does not fall within the 'known' presets... (caveat: maybe my camera is lousy to get tricked. if this never happens to you, please skip this topic)

When this happens, we may have to resort to 'custom' white balance (a lot easier than I thought it was, too -- not much fiddling and setting values either)

What is it?

The camera reads an input to determine the correct colour balance. We have to provide the input.

How does it work?

The camera receives the input which we give it, and determines the correct balance.

Usually the input is an image (preferably zero contrast and of 1 solid colour) . The camera takes this image as the reference of how "white" appears in the photograph and does some signal processing (not sure the algorithm) , to set the colour "white" (as seen in your image) - to be white to your eyes.

eg. In some places where the street lamps are exceedingly yellow-orange (tomato colour), the white walls of buildings look tomato. By submitting a tomato-coloured image (preferably of what you think white is) to the camera to use as "white" reference, the camera can do it's auto-magical stuff to sift out the tomato colour.

How can I get it to work?

1. Find a "white" (or what you would consider normally white) surface that is evenly illuminated. Tip: the zone that is minimally required is the circle in your viewfinder. Fill it up with the reference surface by zooming or standing really close. If the surface falls within the minimum focal distance (ie too close can't focus), you may wish to set the focus mode to manual because how sharp the image is does not matter. In fact blurry and low contrast of the same colour may be even better!

2. Take the photo of the white reference surface.

3. Go to the camera menu where white balance can be selected and choose "custom white balance". You may need to read your manual on how to do this. (or if your camera is capable of it at all)

4. The camera would prompt you for a reference image. use the white balance reference image shot in (2).

5. Wala wala! You are now shooting in custom white balance. Try shooting the same reference surface and see if it is now white (or at least, whiter!)

6. Enjoy your shooting. Remember to switch out of custom white balance or re-reference, when the lighting condition changes!

Tips: Some pros use a very pro-looking white balance or colour-balance card. I can't afford these. Plus, I am not a pro. Hence carrying a small piece of white paper in your camera bag or your wallet (or purse) is a simple and quickly accessibly surface for this purpose.


Getting the colour correct.

Advanced use: shooting a slightly more saturated version of "white" eg, yellower, greener, bluer...then shooting your subject will result in interesting colour tones. Have fun!

=== End of #2 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary .

Topic #3: Panning - handheld. (tripod panning beyond this scope)
What is it?

Panning is a method of photographing images which show the dynamism of moving objects (usually vehicles). Eg F1 racing, Moto GP, Redbull Air-race, somebody's grandfather cycling really fast, etc.

Key requirements (KPIs) to meet:

1) Sharp and focused capture of the vehicle operator's face or body, minimally

2) Reasonably sharp and focused capture of the static parts of the moving object eg car mirrors, doors, bicycle handles

3a) Blurred (motion blur) background - which will appear as streaks
3b) Blurred (radial blur) of dynamic parts of the moving object (usually tires or propellers in the case of aircraft)

How does it work?
By shooting at slow shutter speeds, and tracking the image with our camera (meaning, pointing the lens at the moving object), we can achieve a sharp focus of the static parts and capture the dynamism (the moving power) of the moving parts, and the motion-blurred background.

How can I get it to work?
If you are not using a fast lens it may be easier to practice panning in daytime.

Step 0: Make sure you do not have shaky hands or you may need a tripod (which we will not be discussing in this topic). For coffee-poisoned shooter like me (we all know furry cats don't handle coffee very well) - i have to stay off coffee - 2 days in advance :bsmilie: :bsmilie: :bsmilie:
Make sure you stretch your waist as we will be rotating our torso (upper body), while fixing our feet in one orientation. Consult your doctor if you have any doubts about your ability to do this safely.

1. Select a shutter speed between 1/20 to 1/60. The slower the shutter speed (ie towards a smaller denominator), the more dramatic the motion blurs. The tradeoff is that any blur from hand-shaking will be more pronounced.

2. Set your camera shooting drive mode to "multi shot". Some cameras do 10 fps (frames per second) , some do 3 fps. If you pan well you will not need a very high FPS anyway.

3. Set your camera to AI-Servo or equivalent, where the camera will attempt to track the moving object and constantly keep the object in focus.

4. Select a moving object. If you are practicing, you may wish to try shooting near expressways. If you are reading this at F1 races - read faster read faster! Then select any race car passing. The path of the moving object should cross you laterally (meaning not moving away from you or towards you but passing from your left to right, or right to left.

5. As the moving object approaches, focus on the object (by depressing your shutter button partway). For objects approaching from your right moving towards left: Anticipating it to reach your 2-o'clock position, burst shoot it as it passes through the 2 o'clock position. Take a deep breathe and exhale partway. Do not exhale until the vehicle has passed through the 10 o'clock position (if it is a casual rider on a bicycle passing by, this may take sometime. breathe as per required)

Hold the camera steady and rotate yourself at the waist to track the motion of the object, while burst shooting. Shoot the object while it passes by until it crosses the 10 o'clock position. Don't forget to breathe normally after finishing the shooting, or you might faint.

While shooting it is important that you continue rotating your body to track the motion of the object , so as to achieve the motion blur.

6. Observe the images which you have just recorded. If the blurring comes from shaky hands, it maybe good to use a faster shutter speed, and/or cut back on coffee. If the blurring is from the motion blur and dynamic blur, while the vehicle operator and static parts are in focus, the image is a successful pan! congratulations!

Tips: panning in the evening/night/early morning is trickier due to low light. In bright daylight, because of the brightness, the aperture of the lens (in Time-value mode), would not be required to open fully and a smaller aperture can be used. With a smaller aperture, there is greater Depth of Focus (DoF) - hence easier to get the static parts of the vehicle in focus.

In low light conditions, the shooter may wish to use a fast lens (expensive) or higher ISO (likelihood of noise - but not an issue with very good ISO performance cameras eg the newest ones...) With fast lens, the DoF is thinner hence not all the vehicle parts could be in focus. Hence there is more precision required in focusing and tracking the vehicle's static parts. Zone focusing using the zone focal points, or preset focal points may help.

Sports/action photography.

=== End of #3 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary .

Topic #4: Easiest (and most mechanical) way to use the light-meter (TTL) on your camera in Manual Mode

Scope: we will solely discuss using the light meter to achieve "correct" (as metered by the camera in any metering mode). Metering Modes will not be discussed.
Further to this because of metering modes , achieving the "correct" exposure on the light meter may leave darker (but no less important) parts of the composition underexposed. This flaw / pitfall shall be addressed in another topic :)

If you can already use Manual mode competently (no doubt you may be using it even more competently than I, as I am barely qualified to write this topic ;) ), please skip this topic. It will bore you. Serious.

What is it?

Almost every modern DSLR has a TTL (through the lens) light meter built in. Meaning, while the shooter sees and composes, the DSLR is able to also estimate reasonably accurately, how much light there is and hence determine how much light is needed for the "correct" exposure.

In most modern DSLRs, the shooter may see a series of Exposure Values in this manner

-2 i i -1 i i 0 i i 1 i i 2

the little pointer ^ indicating 0 being "correctly" exposed,
-1 being under-exposed by 1 stop and +1, over by 1 stop, etc.

Digression: what is a "stop"? A stop is actually half-light quantity (3 dB for engineers)
This means that to move 1 stop away simply translates to adjusting the aperture wider or narrower by 1 stop value (the aperture being opened or narrowed to increase/decrease light coming in by varying the aperture radius of factor of approximately 1.44), or the double/half the amount of exposure time required to increase/decrease the light collection.

Hopefully you would know this by now because this is a Beyond Basics topic. There is a very helpful guide understanding exposure.

Back to topic.

How does it work?

Our aim is to get the pointer ^ to reach the 0 position while in Manual Mode. Metering algorithms, etc, are not as relevant as the technique...

How can I get it to work?

1. Set your camera to Manual mode as this is a Manual Mode topic

2. Decide which is more important to you, Depth of Field (Aperture values) , or Dynamism (Time-values)

3. Dial in your Aperture or Time value first. If you are shooting in Manual in general with no preference, I would suggest F8 (general sweet spot) .

4. The metering indicator might show

-2 i i -1 i i 0 i i +1 i i +2
Underexposed . For a fixed/constant ISO:
iIf we dialed in Aperture values priority, we have to now dial in Time value that is greater, to collect more light. Stop increasing the exposure time when the ^ reaches 0.
If we dialed in Time values priority, we have to now dial in Aperture value that is wider, to allow more light in. Stop widening the aperture when the ^ reaches 0.
Be Careful when using Time Values priority. Under certain lighting conditions (ie too dark), the aperture of your lens may not be able to widen large enough to let in enough light. It may be recommended to increase ISO or get a lens with a wider maximum aperture if there can be absolutely no compromise on the shutter speed.


-2 i i -1 i i 0 i i +1 i i +2
Over exposed. For a fixed/constant ISO:
If we dialed in Aperture values priority, we have to now dial in Time value that is lesser, to collect less light. Stop increasing the exposure time when the ^ reaches 0.
Under very bright lighting conditions and very wide open aperture it may be likely that even the fastest time value may not be fast enough. Decrease the ISO or use a Neutral Density filter (darkened filters to block out light - - not discussed here) if the aperture value cannot be compromised.

If we dialed in Time values priority, we have to now dial in Aperture value that is narrower, to allow more light in. Stop narrowing the aperture when the ^ reaches 0.
Be Careful when using Time Values priority. Under certain lighting conditions (ie too bright), the aperture of your lens may not be able to narrow small enough to let in less light. It may be recommended to decrease ISO or get a lens with a very much smaller aperture or a Neutral Density filter


To shoot at a constant exposure without having to keep pressing AE lock (for canon users)

=== End of #4 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do Manual Mode, sorry to have bored you ^^ .

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Dear fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and readers, thanks for reading. Sorry for the slow update as I have been stricken with food poisoning and had spent the last few days as a Merlion.

Topic #5: Spot Metering for overexposed backgrounds , with "Edge Effect"

Scope: We will not be discussing metering algorithms. Instead we will focus on how to use spot metering to achieve blown out backgrounds (make sure the background is boring enough to blow out, otherwise you may be wasting the scenery. eg, travelled to a scenic spot to use this technique...not too productive )

This technique uses only the camera body and lenses and does not involve flashguns, strobes, continuous lights, etc etc. If you are already using this you may wish to skip this topic (or otherwise do bear with me ;)

Many thanks to a senior in Clubsnap for enlightening the writer over a lighting discussion about shooting into the sun.

What is it?
Spot metering measures the light seen in the little circle in your viewfinder. In Manual, Aperture, Time or even Program modes the meter will give the correct exposure for the subject seen within the small little circle.
While using spot metering, if the background is very much brighter than the subject, the image shot will result in the background being overexposed.
Overexposed backgrounds do look interesting if not overdone (eg, too regularly).

Here we will use a combination of spot metering + exposure lock , or spot metering + manual exposure (your choice...)

How does it work?

Spot metering ensures (usually!) that your subject within the small circle is correctly exposed (using it as reference). It ignores any and every other object outside the circle as "irrelevant". Hence for brighter backgrounds (than subject) the background, being brighter, will "burn" into the image, making it over-exposed.

Also according to diffraction theory (theories?), light does diffract around the edges of the subject (knife edge effect) ... you may see interesting lighting and color as it diffracts. will

How can I get it to work?

1. Select spot metering in your camera.
You would probably have to press the Menu buttons and scroll to the shooting/metering options. If you require detailed instructions on how to do this, you may have to refer to your manual.
most camera manuals are also downloadable so losing your manual is not such a...erm...loss?

Preferably you should get familiar on how to do this before heading to the shoot.

2. Decide to shoot in Program, Time, Aperture or Manual. So far for this technique I find that Aperture or Manual would be most most most productive. (Theoretically it would all be the same...theoretically )

3. (at shoot) Select a very bright background for your subject. It can be the morning sun, lights, wide open window, and even afternoon sun (but very hot. don't forget to rehydrate).

Have your subject stand between your camera and the bright background.

Ensure your subject completely fills up the small circle. If there are dark details eg ruched dark fabric, etc...make sure they are included inside also.

If your subject does not fill up the circle completely, it might be trickier because the background would "leak" through the sides of the subject.

In this case Manual Mode would be recommended (as per previous Topic), except that you may wish to increase the exposure by 1/3 stop or more (this is a matter of trial and error) , depending on how bright the "leak" is.

Cheat Tip in using Manual: use Aperture value and dial in an aperture 1-2 stops from widest, and observe what the recommended shutter time is. Switch to manual and dial in the shutter time and aperture, then increase the aperture 1/3 stop if available. :D [this may not work on all lenses and bodies]

4. Shoot away! Remember that in Manual, different angles may result in different lighting conditions. I find that Aperture Values is most useful for myself.


This is conducive for portraits, and shooting without fill flash
=== End of #5 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out :)

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Hi fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and shooters, thanks for reading!

Topic #6: "Cheating" for extra subject isolation (portraiture)

I would like to share some observation I have err...observed ... during a portrait shooting session some time ago, regarding subject isolation technique.

Many thanks to my friend for getting toasted while I shot in the shade :D

What is it?

Subject isolation is used to make the subject "pop out" or standout from among the background of the subject.
A common method is using a thinner Depth of Focus (DoF) with tele lenses to make the background blur while keeping the subject in focus.

But we're not going to talk about that (talked to death already! long focal length + wide aperture = instant bokeh gratification) :bsmilie:

Today we will use natural lighting to isolate the subject vs background by having the subject correctly exposed while background slightly underexposed.

How does it work?

Using Spot Metering ( favourite and cheapest trick), we will meter for the model while the model is standing in relatively brighter-lit area while the background is not as brightly lit.
We can then use Program, Aperture, or Time modes to shoot... (Time not so efficient but could be interesting too!) *

How can I get it to work?
You will need a reasonably good portrait lens (50mm F1.8 will do very nicely, but even kit lens at 70mm~100mm F4,F5, etc also will do. after all this is not about bokeh)

1. Find a location where there are tall trees well spaced out such that there is shadow and well-lit regions.

The easiest would be to find a place where the well-lit area is well defined and small vs large dark background. However in such a condition this trick would not be so subtle and the lighting difference may be harsh. Use your judgement :)

One such starting spot easily accessible would be MBS parkway (along the waterline where you can see the city skyline). Nice tall trees.

2. Find a suitable background that isn't too distracting (your choice...not relevant in the discussion of this method as this method would work for all backgrounds provided the lighting conditions are met)

3. Select a Tele focal length. anything 50mm upwards would be nice. This is not as important as the lighting still. Even if the lens was not a fast lens it would not matter.

4. Select Spot metering for the model. Have the subject stand just in the shaded area as the light is about to envelop (or just barely envelop) the subject. Shoot with exposure lock or Manual for the correct exposure of the model, with the shadowed area as background.

5. If the exposure difference between subject and background is stark, the photo would be more dramatic. If the exposure difference between subject and background is subtle, the viewer might wonder why the model is popping out. Individual shooters would (might) enjoy finding out their style :)

This is conducive for portraits, and shooting without fill flash, with a not so fast lens (i was shooting 105mm F4.5 and it came out okay enough for me)

=== End of #6 ===

Have a great weekend!

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out

Topic #6 extended:

Try to do this method at night (you will need to use a tripod) . It may be interesting (I have not tried it before)

Hi fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and shooters, thanks for reading!

Topic #7: Interesting backgrounds for outdoors portraiture

What is it?
Today I would like to share with you about selecting quirky backgrounds for outdoors portraiture. This is useful for people who don't want to (or have no fast lens to) shoot wide open.

By incorporating concepts from, and elements of art (visual art, fine art, music, flower arrangement), we will dope our photograph with subtle visually attractive items to make the image have a less cliched or "superior" look and feel.

How does it work?
Our eyes don't know it usually, but stuff like rhythm, repetition, colors (tricky - not discussed here), curves, and even the pseudo-scientific Fibonacci-derived curves (also not discussed here)
do lead our eyes around the image, provided it is used in a manner which is harmonious with the image (unless the photo artist is deliberately wishes to produce chaotic images).

Rhythm is hard to qualify. It could be a series of line/curve groupings which has regular interruptions (my idea of it, anyway. your idea or the general principle may vary. it is okay. Interpret Rhythm according to your concept).

What I would consider as and example of rhythm is found in observing the wood-grain of a plank.
==={}=== ====={}===oOo===
(forgive my bad ASCII art)

There is a series of === before a O or {} (knob) appears. Woodgrain is an inherently (for me) "interesting background" for shooting abstract items (not that I shoot a lot of that). It is not too plain that it is boring, nor too striking that it would compete with the subject for the viewer's attention .

Repetition is easier to think about. It is a group or single item or "visual motif" which looks very similar and appears more than once (preferably more than twice) within the image. One example perhaps is a whole array of ermm...servers closets where you could have the network engineer standing in front of them. The server closets, would serve as the repetition element of art.

Other examples:
Aircon compressor array, cats array, tree array. Some MRT stations have big-sized aircon vents which are completely identical (Bras Basah i think?).
Holland : Tulip farms. (don't bokeh them out if the flowers are cute...)

Basically any 3 or 4 objects / object groups within the background if similar looking, forms repetition. (did i repeat myself typing this?)

Be wary of "visual weight" though. If the repeated object is huge/relatively large compared to the subject, or has multiple confusing lines which are not firmly encompassed by the items border (eg an array of aircon compressors with a lot of electrical wires sticking out in chaotic fashion), or if the repeated object is brightly lit or has very bright colors compared to the subject, it may be visually distracting from the subject. Not that there's anything wrong with this, some do it on purpose...

How can we get it to work?
Select backgrounds which fit the criteria above!

=== End of #7 ===

Have a great week ahead!

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out

Please keep this thread clean so it is useful as a reference.

Hi fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and shooters, thanks for reading!

Topic #8: DIY "Custom shaped" Bokeh Filter!

What is it?
Make your own heart-shaped bokeh filter! Using inexpensive cardboard (discarded) or construction paper. We will then use this filter to shoot out of focus point light sources to make "bokeh" of the shape we cut out.

How does it work?
Diffraction physics. (etc etc. you can go wikipedia and read).

What you would need is a FAST lens. Minimum F1.8... nifty 50 is good. Any length is good too, but the longer the focal length, the narrower the Field of View (usually!).
With a Narrower Field of View it would not be so easy to catch so many point light sources.

How can we get it to work?
1. Ingredients:

a) Fast lens. No fast lens? Go rent, borrow (good luck with this!) or buy 1 before proceeding to step 2. Minimum F1.8, preferably a prime (for simplicity!)

b) Scotch Tape or Gaffer Tape.

c) a shovel to bury your sense of pride in your beautiful fast lens. Because unless you are a master craftsman (eg, you own milling machines, custom-fitting acrylic warper tool, etc). Well, the lens won't look tooooo pretty after we are done. (it's only temporary though! :bsmilie: )

d) Construction paper or stiff paper, minimum 90gsm (grams per sq meter) or higher. You may use discarded cardboard if you don't find it ugly. (I didn't). If it is black it might help. But any other color won't hurt either.

e) A sharp pair of scissors and preferably a penknife.

2. If you have a lens hood (it must be flat circular shape), skip this step and Step 3. this step is used for those who have no lens hood (i sold mine off ...oops).
Roughly measure the circumference of your lens using the long edge of the paper. It need not be precise and for the lazy and quick (me) I just got excess and taped it up.

We will cut out a width of paper (in the circumference of the lens) approximately 6-8cm, depending on your lens. Ideally it should not protrude too far from the maximum extension of your lens.

3. Wrap the lens "hood" around your lens and use a length of sticky tape or gaffer tape to go 1 round around the circumference of your lens. if you wish to expose some buttons of your lens eg AF/M select, IS/VR/whatacallit button, etc , you may use the sharp scissors to make incisions (be careful not to cut yourself, or scratch your lens. Your own action and risk, not mine)

Make sure the hood is completely "straight on" [ meaning the plane of the edge formed by the circumference of the hood has a surface vector parallel to the axis of the lens]. If your paper is filmsy , you may wish to double up the thickness by using two layers of paper.

4. Estimate or measure, and cut out a square (or circle if you have more time), the width of the lens hood (whether DIY or proper hood). Its area may exceed but must not be lesser than the lens hood area and must completely cover the lens hood (no light leakage). This is the filter-piece.

5. Cut your custom-shape into the center of the filter-piece. It must be in the center use a ruler or measuring tool to determine where the center is.
You will know it is not in the center if you see weird shadows instead of BOKEH when you point the lens (opened to widest) at point light source

It must be smaller than your fingernail (for people with huge fingers, i am saying something like 8mm at the widest).

Do NOT cut a circle because it will appear as ordinary bokeh ( *face palm* !!)

The easiest shape to cut (unless you have a CNC milling machine or plotter-cutter or maybe laser cutter), is a heart shape. I cheated by folding my paper into half so that it was easier to get symmetrical shape, and used a sharp pair of scissors to cut it. The cleaner the cut, the cleaner the bokeh. If your scissors are blunt and the cutout edges are jagged, you will not have nice bokeh. Do not continue to "trim" the jagged edges if the hole is bigger than 8mm already! You will lose the "definition" of the bokeh.

6. Use sticky tape to firmly mount the bokeh filter onto the lens hood. If your bokeh filter is too filmsy from being thin, please switch to a thicker material as doubling up would result in messy edges and messy diffraction (and not so pretty bokeh). Ensure there is little or no light leakage around the joining points of your filter and lenshood. Additional black sticky-tape may help to fill in the gaps.

our "filter" is now complete! Yippee!

7. Shooting time! To shoot these bokehs we need out of focus point light sources. Places where there are lots of single lights is good. An example would be maybe outdoors in the evening with many street lamps. or the ceiling in your office if you have a lot of down lights. If you are shooting outdoors you can also include people. If you have autofocus on, you may focus on these people and make sure the background point lights are out of focus.

No matter what, you must have out of focus point light source or you will NOT get the beautiful bokeh we are trying to create.
Do note that the filter does stop some light so you may need to adjust your ISO if the shutter speed is too low. I shot in Aperture Priority with Auto ISO (i just want my bokeh)

Making pretty (or mushy) bokeh for nice night shooting.

Actually now that you did all of these, I have to tell you that there are some very nicely cut professional bokeh-filter kits out there ...but hey you had fun making it right? It's FREE , too.
(Actually I know some people just read and never do)

Writing this guide actually took longer than making my filter. Whew!


Image #1 Plan view of Setup

Image #2 The filter (lens-axis shot)

Image #3 Results (my scissors skills are not good. it is hard operating scissors as a furry cat without opposing thumbs. I had to ask a human for help)
Significant vignetting seen! Crop if it suits you.

=== End of #8 ===

Have a great Sunday!

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out

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Hi fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and shooters, thanks for reading!
Kindly skip this topic #9 if you are NOT a Canon user! :p sorry sorry sorry. While this is exclusively a Canon topic (for which I will apologize again! sorry!), I feel it belongs to the Guides section due to it's tutorial nature.

Topic #9: Long exposure on Canon bodies in Bulb Mode WITHOUT use of Interval-meter. I feel I am barely qualified to write this (and some if not many will agree with me), so do correct me where I am wrong, or where the topic is not sufficiently covered.

What is it?
When shooting fireworks, long exposures, etc, especially in Bulb Mode, the usual traditional way is to use an external remote timer to keep the shutter open (and locked).

With Magic Lantern, software add-on, the shutter can be triggered remotely via sensors (LCD on-off sensor, audio sensor, or motion sensor), and used in conjunction with the Magic Lantern Bulb Mode Timer, the shooter would be able to take precise Bulb Mode times with zero handshake. Because you would not need to touch your camera at ALL !

(when I was a raw raw raw newbie, 2 days old into DSLR ownership, I used to handhold the shutter button on Bulb mode. I was stupid! haha )

How does it work?
Using the Magic Lantern software add-ons, we are able to select a variety of sensors to trigger the shot. If the camera is in Bulb mode and the Bulb timer is preset, all we need to do is grab a cup of coffee/tea/insert-favorite-beverage and sit nearby (guard your equipment if required)

How can we get it to work?

1. Update your firmware.
2. Install Magic Lantern. *Caveats and disclaimers as seen at Magic Lantern site applies.

Read more on how

3. Head towards the long exposure site and set up shop. You would ideally have a tripod, or a fixed steady support for your camera. For ideas on where to get long exposures, or how to compose them,do visit Travel Photography, sub-forum or Night Photography sub-forum.

4. Navigate to "Shoot" menu. Use your cursor buttons (up down left right) to select Bulb Timer. Press the Liveview button or equivalent to access the submenu (which details the time). Press the left or right button to dial in the Bulb time.

5. In the Shoot menu you would be able to select a variety of triggers :
LCD-detect > submenu allows you to choose the pattern of signalling put your finger nearby the LCD-detect like you are flushing the toilet, etc etc.
Motion-detect> submenu allows to choose between change in exposure or change in framing (motion), and the threshold for trigger
Audio-detect> select how loud a sound needs to be to trigger the shutter. This is fun because if the environment is quiet, a simple "meow" or "bang" (for the more action minded) can set off the sensor. You could shout the name of the person you love the most too, i guess. "OBAMA!"

6. Wait for image to be cooked. If you have set the max time - 8hrs - on the bulb timer, I sincerely hope you have a plan to while the time away.

Save money from buying an Interval-meter and have fun in the meantime.

=== End of #9 ===

Have a great Saturday! My profuse apologies to all non-Canon users who are now keen to go out and buy a Canon DSLR.

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out

Hi fellow Clubsnappers, sempais and shooters, thanks for reading!

Image #3 Results (my scissors skills are not good. it is hard operating scissors as a furry cat without opposing thumbs. I had to ask a human for help)
Significant vignetting seen! Crop if it suits you.

I think you can estimate by say if you use 50mm at f1.8, the estimated diameter is 50/1.8. Use that as guidance to cut your shape and you should be able to get rid the vignetting.
*I forgot if this is correct way to work out the diameter, can google or try to confirm*

Tried this quite some time ago for model but my coin bank....
see the line in between each heart? That is a crack in my 50mm f1.4

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I think you can estimate by say if you use 50mm at f1.8, the estimated diameter is 50/1.8. Use that as guidance to cut your shape and you should be able to get rid the vignetting.
*I forgot if this is correct way to work out the diameter, can google or try to confirm*

Tried this quite some time ago for model but my coin bank....
see the line in between each heart? That is a crack in my 50mm f1.4

Very nice. Thank you for the update and tip. I had neglected the physics of diffraction :)
Your bokeh is lovely, too.

hi dear readers, seniors and fellow Clubsnappers. thanks for reading so far.

Do correct me where i am wrong or add on if you have helpful tips. If it is boring , sorry in advance! :bsmilie:

Topic #10: Calculating the aperture value for approximately correct exposure with external Flash Gun (aka Speedlights aka external Flash) in Manual Flash mode.
This calculation does not work with bounced flash as the travel distance (optical path of Flashgun light) is greater and there is more dispersion.

What is it?
When using an off-camera flash (wired/ wirelessly triggered, etc), it is useful to calculate the correct flash setting if the lighting and composition condition is relatively static.

It is easy, saves time and battery (compared to using trial and error (which also does have its place) )

Guide Number (GN) is an equivalent of Rated Flash Power (although of course Watts/Power throughput is more scientific). Basically a high GN indicates a high powered Flashgun

How does it work? (optional reading - helpful and good to know)
As distance between subject and camera increases, the light which hits the subject (incident light) decreases. It decreases with the square of distance. This is known as Inverse Square Law.

Concurrently, as the aperture radius increases, it lets in light in quantities proportional to the square of the lens radius.

Summary: Distance decreases incident light at invese square. Aperture values increases incident light at radius square. Because of the square-square increase-decrease it is possible to have aperture-size x distance which is constantly correct for the correct exposure.

How can i get it to work?

1) Select ISO sensitivity.
Guide Numbers (GN) are given at nominal ISO 100 rating. Hence it is wise to select ISO on the camera first, and use that same ISO constantly unless more "reach", ie further distance is required. Google, the Flashgun Manual, box, etc, should be able to tell what the GN is. Please find out what it is. As this is Beyond Basics, the dear reader would easily be able to do this. ;)

ISO 100 is used as a Base for GN. Higher ISO Multiples gives higher GN. - eg Flashgun GN is 30. ISO selected : 200. GN now is (200/100 ) x GN = 2x30 = 60.
So on and so forth with other ISO sensitivity. Some shooters prefer ISO 100 due to "low noise" - find an ISO you like.

2A. Estimate the Distance (Fixed Distance Approach)
Having set the ISO sensitivity, now estimate with your eye, measure, use laser range finder, use acoustic range finder, distance finder, etc (although I am not sure if a Leica Rangefinder does work or not! LOL!).

To use Guide Number the distance should be measured/estimated in Feet. 1ft approx 30cm (12x2.5 cm) , if that helps. Some lenses such as legacy lenses (m43,m43, CY, Prakticar B, etc mounts) have distance scale for focusing on the subject. Focus on the subject and read off the scale, if that help. Modern lenses with focusing windows will report the subject-distance.

After all the preamble using GN is relatively easy... having set the ISO , GN is now the effective multiplied GN (not the base GN @ ISO 100)
As per previous example... GN is 30 (base) x 2 (ISO 200) = 60.
Distance = 20 ft .
Aperture value for correct exposure = GN / D = 60/20 = 3 . Hence select F3 (realistically, F2.8 or F3.2).

Of course this is not very useful because we have to get our Aperture Values to follow the GN. The more realistic use would be to select Aperture Values first. (It is helpful to shoot in Aperture Values mode or even Manual if you are so inclined. AV is really convenient though.

2B. Aperture Values Based Approach. The easier way is to select Aperture Values after selecting the ISO. hint: use ISO 100 if shooting really close or intending to shoot with wide open apertures.
Eg select F1.8 @ ISO 100. GN 30. Suitable Distance = 30/1.8 = 16.6ft.

If the shooter does not wish to shoot at 16.6ft away, and F1.8 is a Must, the shooter can dial down the power (in terms of stops) on the Flashgun in Flashgun's Manual Mode.
At full power, the Flashgun GN is at it's rated GN, one stop less, it is halved; two stops lesser, it is quartered ...etc. Each stop halves the power.

Hence if shooter prefer to shoot at 4ft (1.2m ) , the power on the Flashgun can be reduced by 2stops away from full power.

Conversely if subject distance is also fixed but secondary importance vs Aperture value, the photographer may also adjust the Flashgun power to suit the distance.

Do note at very close distances, a small absolute shift (eg 5ft -> 4ft ) increases the incident light by relatively large amounts as compared to 20ft -> 19ft. (Light fall off - the Inverse Square Law at work again!). Also note that the closer the subject the less accurate the calculation will be , as it approximates the Flashgun as a point-source of light whereas in really close distance, the distance is not exceedingly much greater than Flashgun dimensions that the Flashgun can be approximated as point source.

Estimating a suitable flash power or aperture value to shoot in controlled lighting conditions. It is also useful as a manual fill-flash calculation for shooting against backlit subjects while preserving the background from overexposure.

=== End of #10 ===

Seniors, and sempais please do correct me where I am wrong, I will make amendments where incorrect and where necessary. If you are reading this and can already do it, sorry to have bored you ^^ . If you have suggestions on how we may do this better (or correctly), please do help us out

Notice of Hiatus
(Sorry, no fresh content today)

Beyond Basics will be going on hiatus till 2013 as the writer (Shizuma, aka me) will be caught up in work.

Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Huat ah.
See you in 2013.

Wishing all readers and shooters good light

Yay! Beyond Basics is back (for a while)

Previously we did do some DIY stuff like DIY bokeh hearts. Today we will be doing something interesting as well - DIY Softbox.
As this is technically not a tutorial but a cookbook / lab manual, we will not be using the previous format for Beyond Basics tutorials.

A softbox is a light modifier for any light source to make a point light source (such as bulb, flash-head, speedlight) appear as a larger and hence softer light source. Usually, softer light sources are great for taking more flattering photos of people, still life, flowers (and maybe cats).

Anyway i am pretty sure you do know what a softbox is used for.
I am too cheap to buy one of my own, considering how inexpensive my flashes are (YN 465 flash used in these examples) hence I decided to make my own.
It works pretty good too (you can examine in the photos yourself later. if the photos are crap it is because I am a lousy photographer hahaha. I hope you get better results)

Ingredients / Material

1. Time needed: 30 - 45 mins.

2. A biscuit box. 20cm (length) x 20 cm (breath) x 10cm (deep). Your box should not be too rectangular as the light-falloff may not be even on the longer ends. I preferred a plastic box with flexible walls because it was then possible to cut a flap (instead of a hole) for the flash-head to enter and be held there by the tension. (more on that later)

3. A sharp cutter. If you have had too much coffee and have unsteady hands, or are too young to handle sharp knives, ask a grown up to help you. (Be careful not to cut yourself. The author disclaims any liability for any injury or loss sustained )

4. Double sided Tape - 1 roll (not all will be used)

5. Aluminum Foil - 1 roll (not all will be used)

6. Translucent cloth, or bouqueting rice-paper type of cloth (you can buy it at a florist or stationery shop). 1 sqm or a single unit more than 60cm x 30cm will do. This will be our softbox "front".

7. Marker pen (for making outline for your flash)

8. 2 new rubber bands (or more also can).


1. Use a marker pen. Put the flash-head against the side wall of the biscuit box, somewhere 3/4 near the bottom of the box. Mark on the side wall of the biscuit box, using the marker pen, the outline of the flash head. Do not draw a whole perimeter, only a rectangular U-shaped marking, with the horizontal part of the U-shape closer to the bottom edge of the biscuit box, parallel to the bottom edge.

This is our flap cut-out. We do not draw a rectangle lest the reader is as forgetful as the writer who would have cut out a rectangle instead of a flap.

2. Use a sharp knife or box-cutter to cut along the U shape to make a flap. The writer found that by "scoring" ( tracing a deep scratch along the U-shape without penetrating to the other side) along the shape, it was easier to make a precise, straight cut freehand by going over the scored-lines with penetrative cutting.

(Cutting precisely is not that important as cutting to the right size. Of course, being neat makes everything easier)

3. Test the entryway flap by bending the flap into the box and gently inserting the flash head in. The length (longer part of the flash head) should be correct (if you have used the marker correctly). If the breath of the flap is not long enough then a further careful incision towards the open part of the biscuit box is in order.

4. Prepare the inner surface box for aluminum foil by placing strip of double sided tape at strategic parts of the box. The writer found that the corners were tricky , because if the aluminum foil was plastered into the corner while having tension in the foil, the foil would break easily and this necessitated repairs.

5. use aluminum foil to light-proof the inner surface of biscuit box. This improves the light efficiency of the light box by transmitting more light towards the cloth part of the light box.

6. cut out with cutter, the aluminum foil coveriŋ the flap surface. This will allow the flap to bend inwards without breaking the surrounding foil.

7. use the translucent cloth, double it up and use the rubber bands to secure the cloth around the open part of the box.

The softbox is now complete and ready for use.

ɛxhibit 1ː The box, with flap already cut out, has been fully light-proofed.

ɛxhibit 2ː Translucent cloth and rubber bands

ɛxhibit ʒː Side view. The flap is visible.

ʊsageː insert flash head into flap. ʊse as a small lightbox.

Softbox (continued)

ʀ1ː hard light (naked flash 1/2 power) - some highlight details burned out. harsh shadows.

ʀ2ː hard light (bounce card 1/2 power) - underexposed.

ʀʒː With softbox mounted. - Correct exposure, nice soft shadows.

ɛxhibit 4ː The setup. Some light was seen leaking, and some fixiŋ was required.

ɪ hope you found the tutorial interestiŋ. Sorry about θe straŋe characters appeariŋ, ɪ θin θere is someθiŋ wroŋ wiθ my keyboard. ɪ wiʃ you to hæ fun wiθ your new softbox! Good day and till θe next Beyond Basics Tutorial!

Oh! I just realized. I had not included the camera settings for shooting .

It is manual mode, F8, 1/200 ISO 100 . standard studio still life setting i guess. (sorry if you already know...then come and read this updated thread. i can't give you back your 1 min of time, so sorry again! :D )

Yay! Beyond Basics is back...for a while.

Today we are going to fake a studio! Well, a small studio, at least.


Common stock photography studio or shooting requires or features a standard all-white background with relatively flat lighting. We will aim to fake it today with minimal gear.


1. Mahjong paper, preferably new x 1pc (more the merrier)

2. A table which is easily moved to a wall (or already against the wall).

3. Sticky tape. aka 'scotch tape'.

4. A tripod if needed.

5. A basic camera with Manual mode and metering or exposure compensation.

6. Something to shoot (duh), preferably smaller than the mahjong paper in width and max half its height

(If you have flash guns and softbox, that would be good. Balanced lighting or totally controlled lighting is not part of this tutorial, however.)

7. Some ambient light preferably from a nice big soft source like an overcast sky, or the morning sun, or diffused light from translucent window curtains. It need not be very bright but just soft, and even if a longer exposure (more than 1/20 seconds) is required, there would be no problem because we are using the tripod regardless of shutter speed.


1. Move table to wall, tape mahjong paper to the wall ensuring that subject has got mahjong paper high enough to cover its rear and sufficient mahjong paper to make a "floor" upon which the subject can rest upon in the foreground (ie, the subject must sit on the white mahjong paper and the subject must not exceed the mahjong paper when framing the shot)

2. Figure out the key angles for which you must capture the subject in.

3. Mount camera to tripod.

4. Camera Settings: set metering mode to "SPOT". Ensure the center aiming reticle (the center circle in viewfinder) is completely filled by subject and no background seen.

5. Set ISO to 100. Shoot in Aperture Priority at F8 or higher. I shoot at F11 sometimes because I am kiasu and my subject has quite a bit of depth. The shutter speed may vary depending on lighting condition. My shutter in the demo photo seen later is at around 4 seconds because it was almost dusk then. But that's okay.
(more experienced shooters can shoot in purely Manual Mode but then probably this tutorial would not be helpful to you as your skills surely surpass this level already)

6. Observe image shot.
a) Is the background (mahjong paper) grey or not completely blown out? Set exposure compensation to +1/3 exposure value (read your manual how). Adjust incrementally upwards until mahjong paper is white.

b) Is the subject too overexposed and blown out? Set exposure compensation to -1/3 exposure values (read manual). Adjust incrementally until subject not blown out.


This method works will when it is not perfectly pitch dark or too dark that you cannot see or cannot focus on subject. If it is too dark the background will not be blown out and you will not be able to fake this studio effect thing.



Image from

Thanks for reading. I hope this is useful to you.

Beyond Basics #13 : thin Depth of Field (DOF) Simulation in Photo processing / (GIMP/ Photoshop).


This tutorial will empower photoshoppers to simulate or fake a DOF blur.
Sempais and senseis please inform me and pardon me if there is anything incorrect or can be improved, thank you.

An understanding of what depth of field is;
what layers are;
what layer masks are;
Some general idea of how layer masks work.

tech talk: Note that the Modulation Transfer Function of a wide aperture lens aka Bokeh Characteristic does not directly correspond to the effect we will simulate although the functional result of having a blurry background is similar.

1. A computer with GIMP or Photoshop installed. I am using GIMP but the principles are the same (although the cost is vastly different...GIMP is free! :D google for it to download it.)

2. An image with very deep depth of field, with background in focus or not completely de-focussed, and foreground subject also in focus. If you do not understand what depth of field is, please do not proceed any further until you have read up and understood the topic.


1. Open the image and duplicate the layer. If necessary, rename layer to something meaningful eg "Blurred background".

2. Use Quick Mask on the top layer. Press Q (i think?) if you are using Photoshop. GIMP users press Shift+Q.
Layer turns orange (GIMP), indicating Nothing Selected.
Quick Mask is like a selection tool. When you toggle it off, what you have "painted" white is turned into a selection when you have un-QuickMask.

3. Select Foreground Color White, using the color palette selection (GIMP users press D to reset default= (background white, foreground black) and then press X to swap to foreground white. We are now ready to "paint" a background in.

4. Use gradient tool. Here we will paint using the gradient tool, "towards" the subject in focus in a vertical direction. If the subject is in the bottom of the image, use gradient tool such that the top part is white and the subject itself is orange.

The idea is to create gradients in Quick Mask such that the subject is not or minimally selected. If it is selected itself, that is not particularly important as we will be using Layer Mask (unrelated to Quick Mask), to paint in the original sharp subject. More later.

4b. If the subject is in the middle of the image, meaning both foreground thin DOF and background thin DOF is required, you will have to repeat all the steps separately for background and foreground for best effect.

5. Un-Quickmask. GIMP users press Shift+Q, Photoshop users press Q (if I am not wrong).
What has happened is that a graduated selection has occurred and the background is now in "intense" selection whereas the density of selection in the subject-vicinity is not so dense.

6. Select Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian blur. Select a pixel-size suitable for your blurness. Use the Filter preview if possible to see how blur the background becomes. The large the pixel radius, the blurrer it gets.

7. We now have a graduated blur (due to graduated selection). The background should be significantly blurrer than the areas near to the subject. We will now switch to Layer Mask and paint in the sharp subject.
Right click on the blurry layer and select "Add Layer Mask".
If you get a dialogue box asking for the opacity or visibility of the Layer Mask you are adding, select Totally Opaque (or White)
The layer mask icon can be found in the Layers Window . Click on it to make sure it is activated.

7b. Layer mask sits above a layer and determines the opacity of the layer by multiplying the value of the mask-area pixel to the underlying layer. If the masked area is white (boolean True) then the underlying layer pixels is visible. If the masked area is black (boolean False) then the underlying layer pixels are not visible.

8. Select a soft paintbrush. You may wish for a large or slow flow-rate (meaning applying the brush over an area for the same amount of time gets more 'paint' onto the area. You may also wish to select a lower opacity. I use 40% opacity with the default flowrate. Lowered opacity means that even at 100% paint applied, the paint is still translucent. Anyway...we are painting in the sharp subject by painting away the blurry part.

In the layer mask, paint the subject area black. Paint carefully or it will be obvious that the thin DOF is added in post.

9. Don't forget to save your file as a project from time to time. Export your file and it is ready to rock! GIMP users remember to select a layer before saving as JPEG, otherwise the Layer Mask, if not applied to underlying layer, will be saved as the file instead (oooops!)

I hope this tutorial is useful. If there is anything incorrect or can be done more efficiently or better, please let me know! Thanks for reading!