Monday, December 29, 2014

Composition - The next step

Learning how to use your camera is just the first part, the next is learning how to take a photo.

There are rules to taking photos, but the rules are more guidelines and don't always work in every photo opportunity.  I have read numerous books, searched the internet and watched videos but still find that many of the examples photographers use are pretty useless to me.

I just don't see their photo composition the way they do.  Maybe that's because many photographers are a little too strict with the rules...and maybe those rules only exist to me once it's been pointed out in the photo.

So I'm adding two Youtube links to this post that I found very interesting.  Note, you do need quite a bit of bandwidth to play with but I am also including article links for those who can't Youtube for an hour or more in one go.

With the digital age people don't think about the photo they are taking, it's more a case of snapping away to get as many photos as you can.  While many readers here just want to enjoy taking a photo, you will get to a point where just taking a photo isn't enough if you carry on with photography.  You may even start to feel that your photos are uninteresting, maybe even crappy and wonder whether or not you should even bother.

You should, because, as you can see in Scott Kelby's video, it just takes a few adjustments like changing the angle to get better composition.  You will also see that no matter how good someone is at photography, they will still take crappy photos at some point.

Look at it this way, if you could only take film photos and the film was extremely expensive, you would think more about your composition and what the photo was about.  You could even try this out with a Fujifilm Instax Camera, which uses film and does need some thinking over before pressing the button as each photo is fairly expensive (but a very cool gadget on my wishlist).

If you feel that your photos are just not getting there, use the tools in the videos e.g. think about why you were drawn to that scene, what sparked your interest and work on that.  Photographers gets days where inspiration is non-existent and nothing seems to work, almost like a Writer's Block.

If you seem to be stuck with that block, frustrated that no matter what you take a photo of nothing seems to work, then just sit and look around you.  Forget about taking photos for a job, an assignment or to impress someone.  Forget about taking photos because you think you must.  Just look around you and if you see anything interesting, don't take your camera and take a photo.  Think about how you would frame the photo and why, what's interesting about that scene, does it get you excited about taking a photo etc?  Naturally, if it's an action photo, go for it :-D.

It's so easy to press the shutter button that you can get bored just as easily.  If you actually pay attention to your surroundings, see where your eye follows and if it makes you itch to take a photo, then photography will be more interesting and the inspiration greater.

Here's hoping you have a great photographic experience with the Samsung NX300 (or any other camera you may have) in 2015.

Article on composition
Youtube - Scott Kelby on Composition
Youtube - B&H

I'm working on an opportunity to use the Night modes in Auto Mode, let's hope that pans out soon lol.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Samsung NX300: Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range can get very technical but basically is the difference between brightest and the darkest areas of the photo.  Some details are "lost" in photos so using other options like HDR can bring back that information (HDR brings back highlight details).

For a better understanding that is a little less technical than some sites, go to Dynamic Range.

On the Samsung NX300 under Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range you have three choices: Off, Smart Range + and HDR.

Now you may have noticed that the HDR function is greyed out.  There are two things you need to set in order to make use of the feature.

First, HDR will only work in JPEG so you need to change your Quality setting under Camera settings to JPEG (Super Fine is the best quality but takes up more space on the memory card).

Second, HDR will not work with Continuous Drive.  So you need to change your Drive (either by clicking Menu < Camera settings < Drive or the navigation button to the left of the OK button) to Single Drive.

So to use HDR, make certain the following is checked:
Menu < Camera Settings < Quality < Super Fine (JPEG)
Menu < Camera Settings < Drive < Single
Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range < HDR

Using Smart Range+ is a little less complicated.  Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range < Smart Range+.  Drive can be set to Single or Continuous, Quality can be RAW and/or JPEG, ISO will only start from 200 up and whereas HDR takes 2 photos Smart Range+ will only take one.

HDR can't go higher than 3200 and the 2 photos taken are automatically merged. I use Manual and the HDR takes photos based on those settings.

HDR and Smart Range+ work in P, A, S, M but remember to keep an eye on your aperture, ISO and and shutter speed

Ok, before I get into the photos below, just a quick note.

I used the 18-55mm lens because I was at the Voortrekker Monument and I needed a wide angle.  As I have said in the past the Samsung 18-55mm is a very good lens and currently outshines my Canon's 18-55mm (I don't have the STM lens).

Next, HDR is a technique that needs to be used wisely as people starting out tend go a little wild and create photos that are...well, garish to look at.  While the HDR function on the Samsung NX300 combines the photos for you (unlike AE Bracketing) the photo will mostly likely need a lot of tweaking.

Smart Range+ is far more subtle than HDR as you will see in the photos below. Photos below are all SOOC (straight out of camera) with downsizing for the net.  I only included Smart Range+ in a few photos because the difference is so small compared to OFF.

Not every photo will have the settings as each comparison of No HDR, Smart Range+ and With HDR share the same settings.

This was taken inside the monument, near the entrance.  The walls have a slight cream colour look and the HDR increased that to give a orangy/yellowish tint.  Smart Range+ did a better job by correcting the loss of bright details (compared to OFF which is the first photo).

Can you believe that this was taken handheld at 1/4?  ISO was pushed to 1600.  I used the flash without HDR (setting OFF for Dynamic Range), no flash with the HDR as that option isn't available.  Again, a yellowish cast.  When taking photos, note the lighting and what it's bouncing off of, if anything.  The colour of whatever it's bouncing off can give a cast on your photo.  This is easy enough to fix by specifically working with the yellow and orange colours in Lightroom.

I chose objects that had texture and depth so that I could test out the HDR feature.  The problem with built in HDR is that you can lose quite a bit of shadows and blacks, creating an almost washed out look.  Here the HDR didn't do too badly, I like the lightened detail in the windows but would want to bring back more shadow in the crevices of the wall.  

Landscapes seem to benefit more with the HDR as it lightened the green more.  But some shadow detail was lost in the clouds and the building.  

You can see that the sky is almost blown out but the grass is lighter.  I would use masking to bring back detail in the clouds and the city, but very slightly decrease the brightness of the green.

Here, the HDR failed.  It was a cloudy, rainy day but somehow the HDR found a bit of blue.  The statue is washed out, shadow detail is gone and it almost starts to blend into the building behind.  In the Smart Range+ there is less yellow, light areas are slightly brighter but shadows are kept and the statue stands out from the building.

HDR technique is not a one click and done setup.  Nice to have a tool that can bring out the highlights more but not when the result is a washed out photo.  As you can see, HDR works in some situations and not others e.g. the landscape photos worked better than the building photos but the criss-cross stone design with windows as well as the wagon were fairly good.

Smart Range+ worked better but had results that were very close to a normal photo (Dynamic Range on OFF) that it didn't stand out enough for me to rely on Dynamic Range instead of my usual settings.

And, just for the fun of it this photo was taken with HDR, at the very top of the monument looking down to the bottom (but not the bottom most level).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Samsung NX300: Brackets - AE, WB and P Wizard

Once again, delayed in uploading a post so please accept my apologies.  That's what happens when you go to SA's biggest photo expo, the Photo & Film Expo.  Always enjoy the show and get so wrapped in the events I forget everything else lol.

So, today's post is about Bracketing.  Unlike the HDR option, the bracketing feature doesn't combine the photos for you but instead takes a set of 3 photos based on the settings. It's then your choice to combine if you want using software.

I used a tripod for all the experiments below so that when merging, photos would be properly aligned. I also took these photos in manual mode but the features will also work in P, A and S.

To make this easier on yourself, make certain that you get correct exposure first before taking the photos because the camera will take exposure points based on what exposure you selected.  E.g. if I had my exposure at -1 instead of 0 (correctly exposed), then the exposure settings will start with -1 as the "correctly exposed" photo and place the exposed points from there.

Auto Exposure Bracketing allows for RAW format whereas White Balance Bracketing and Picture Wizard Bracketing doesn't.  As you will need to set AE, WB and PW bracketing using the drive button, you can't use Continuous Drive or the Timer.  The features will each take 3 photos based on your settings.

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is meant to provide you with 3 different exposures (some more advanced cameras allow more than 3 photos), one underexposed, one correctly exposed and one over exposed. The idea is that you get 3 options to choose from later on if you are not certain what exposure to use in a specific lighting.  You can decide on how many stops e.g. -2, 0, +2. The negative and positive will be the same number.

The AE Bracket feature is favoured for HDR (High Dynamic Range) which records more detail in shadows and highlights when 3 or more different exposure photos are combined.  You do require software for this and while Lightroom 4 is a powerful product you still need photoshop to merge the photos into an HDR image.  There are also other programs for merging, I use Photomatix but Photoshop Elements might be a cheaper option.

I played with Auto Exposure Bracket photos in Photoshop 11 Photomerge-Exposure feature.  The initial result given lost shadow detail, highlights and was oversaturated but under Smart Blending I was able to bring back more detail.

To use the AE Bracketing exposure feature, click on the Drive button (to the left of the middle OK button on the camera body) and scroll to your right and select AE Bracketing.  Once selected you now need to select the exposure points.

Click the Menu button and scroll down and select the User Settings (where the red arrow is pointing).

Now scroll down to Bracket Set and Select AE Bracket set.  A side menu will pop up and give you a selection of exposure points with -/+3 being the highest (+3) and the lowest (-3).  For example, if you select -/+3 the camera will take 3 photos, one underexposed by -3 points, one perfectly exposed by 0.0 and one overexposed by +3 points.

The lower the number selected e.g. -/+0.7EV, the less of a change in exposure (light and dark) you will see.  The higher the number, the bigger the difference. 

You can't use the timer (as it's under the Drive feature and you can't select both Bracketing and Timer) to prevent camera shake when touching the camera (even when using a tripod) so I found that the easiest way was to changing my shooting option to One Touch Shot.

Menu<Camera Settings<Touch AF<One Touch Shot

This way, you touch the screen where you want to place the focus and it will immediately take a shot for you without having to touch any other part of the camera, accidentally causing camera shake.

In the photos below you see the difference in exposure points and a comparison to an un-merged and two merged exposure points. Only the merged have been edited, everything else is Straight out of camera (SOOC).  Notice how the shutter speed changes (why a tripod or stable surface should be used) but the Aperture stays the same in Manual?

In Manual you can change the Shutter Speed and Aperture but as you have to press a button to change the Shutter Speed, the camera keeps the Aperture you selected and changes the Shutter Speed.  You can still change the shutter speed and the exposure points will adjust from there.

Aperture Priority Mode does the same, keeps the Aperture you want and changes the Shutter Speed but you can't adjust the shutter speed individually.

In Shutter Priority, the camera keeps the shutter speed you select and changes the Aperture.

Program Mode seems to favour the Aperture, so this you can set while the mode changes the Shutter Speed.

In Auto, Smart Auto mode and Lens Priority mode Brackets are not available.

Here the exposure points -/+3 selection was used.  Note that the over exposed photo is far more brighter than the +2 below.  The underexposed photo is also darker than the -2 below.  

The -/+2 selection was chosen here.  You could work with the darker -2 exposed photo as it contains more detail than the -3 (which could be more difficult to recover).

The top photo is correct exposure without bracketing using Auto White Balance.  The two photos below show a loss of shadows with the -2 exposure setting losing more than -3. The bracket merges could be tweaked more with better software and produce a fairly nice photo.

AE Bracketing is great for trying different exposures quickly and effortlessly.  If you want to go HDR out of camera then that is an entirely different technique that needs to be done well to look good. But it's achievable based on your skills, the Samsung NX300 will help with the first part.

I will be working a post about the HDR function in camera on the Samsung NX300 after this posting.

White Balance Bracketing (WBB)

White Balance Bracketing follows basically the same idea as AEB in that you use it to quickly get photos with different results.  But in this case, instead of changing the light and dark, you are changing coolness and the warmth of the photo.

RAW is not available here, only JPEG.

What if you took a photo and it came out too cool or too warm?  Instead of fiddling with settings, you change the Bracket settings (see above for changing the settings to AEB) and instead of AE Bracket set select WB Bracket set.

Now similar to AEB in changing the points, here you will change by how many points cooler or warmer the photos.  AB is Amber value (yellow, orange) and MG is Magenta value (red, pinkish).

So if you choose AB -/+2 you will have one photo with Auto White Balance (AWB or the white balance you selected), one photo with a warmer, more yellow/orange cast (colour) and one with less yellow/orange.

If you choose MG-/+2, one photo will be AWB, one with more red/pink and one with less red/pink. Unlike AE Bracketing, in White Balance Bracketing you can only change by increments of 1.

Photos below are SOOC.  Note that with WB Bracketing, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO don't change at all.  You can use other White Balance options under the Camera Settings<White Balance or by pressing the Fn button and scrolling to White Balance and choosing a setting e.g. Cloudy.

The camera will use that setting as the starting point and base the bracketing on that.

Amber value (AB) -/+3.  More yellow in +3 photo and less yellow in -3 photo.

Magenta value (MG) -/+3.

If you not certain about what white balance to use, first choose the one you think is closest e.g. Cloudy Day or go with Auto and let the camera choose.  If you are more knowledgeable about White Balance you can use a custom white balance (uses a Grey Card to get the correct balance) and bracket from there.

Picture Wizard Bracketing

The Picture Wizard Bracketing feature is more fun orientated and for those who want a photo in different styles e.g. Vivid, Retro etc.  This is a very quick method for trying out those styles but you are limited to 3 at a time from a selection of 9.

RAW is not available, only JPEG.  To select the P Bracket feature, press the Drive button (to the left of the OK button) and scroll until you get to P Bracket and select.  To change the styles, go to Menu<User Settings<Bracket Set<P Wiz Bracket Set and select 3 styles.

Your aperture, shutter speed and ISO don't change, only the styles.  To get an idea of how each of the styles look, go to: Smart Filters and Picture Wizard.

f.4, 1/80, ISO 100.  The settings stayed the same, only the styles changed. 

There isn't much else to add about Picture Wizard Bracketing, it's a very simple and straightforward method and one you will most likely use more than the AE Bracketing and WB Bracketing.

Just for the fun of it I Photomerged with Exposure in PSE 11 (breaking the rules lol).  I merged the Vivid (for the red and yellow colours), Forest (for the intense green) and Retro (for the brown).  This is the result: 

The colour here is far more rich than with a single Auto White Balance photo.  

So you have an idea of what a little bit of imagination can do and help you create a photo with the colour elements you want by using the Picture Wizard Styles.  You are not restricted to 3 styles in Photoshop Elements, so you can take as many selections of 3's as you want, then choose how many, if not all to merge and see what happens.

Next up, and hopefully soon, Dynamic Range using the Smart Range + and HDR.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Samsung NX300: Tracking and Continuous AF

Tracking allows you to keep a moving object/subject in focus.  One you have placed the focus point (touched the screen over the area where you want the focus to be) the camera will start tracking the object/subject under that focus point even if there is movement.

To activate got to Menu then Camera Settings (camera icon at top), selected Touch AF then select Tracking AF.

The tracking shows up as a white border box and will track the subject/object as long as it's in view of the camera i.e. if you remain still as the action moves past.  If you pan (move the camera by following the action) then the tracking will remain on the object/subject as long as it's in view.

If the camera loses focus while tracking, a red box will show and focus will be reset.

I did find that sometimes the tracking wanted to wander and track something else (in this case I used a heavy wind and flowers for this experiment).  When it did I had to touch the screen to refocus.

Tracking is available in Auto Mode, Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual and Lens Priority Mode.  In Smart Mode Tracking is only available in Beauty Face, Best Face and Creative Shot.  It's not available in Action Freeze.

The thing about the Tracking feature is that it will carry on tracking (while object/subject is in view) until you press the shutter button half way down.  This then locks the focus in and as long as the subject/object remains on the same focal plane (distance from the camera) it will remain in focus.  If the object/subject moves out of the focal plane after locking (pressing the shutter half way down) in the focus then it will be out of focus as the camera is no longer tracking it.

Annoying if you want to keep the moving object/subject in focus.  So what do you do?  If you want to rely on the camera's help you need to change the AF Mode to Continuous Auto Focus.  You also need to keep the Tracking feature activated (Menu<Camera settings<Touch AF<Tracking AF)

Select Menu on the camera, make sure the Camera Settings is selected (top sub menu with camera icon) and scroll down to AF Mode, then select CAF (Continuous AF).

What this does is continuously refocus on the moving subject/object even when the shutter is pressed half way down.

If you don't want to use the Tracking and would rather pan and track the movement yourself, then select Touch AF under the Touch AF menu while leaving Continuous AF selected under AF Mode. Wherever you touch the screen to place focus, CAF will continuously focus on the area but will not track.

So to manually track you will need to pan (move the camera with the action) and keep the subject/object under that focus area.  It doesn't matter if you move closer (don't forget what the closest focusing distance is of your lens) or further away.  As long as the subject/object is under that focuses area it will remain in focus.

For the AF Area under Camera Settings you can use Multi AF and touch the screen to place the focus where you want it if you are not happy with the camera's placement.  But, each time you release the shutter button and press half way again your selected focus will be lost (unless you press half way quickly).  The camera will choose the focus points so you would then need to touch the screen again and place the focus where you want.

For something a little more accurate, Change the AF Area to Selection AF.  Each time you release the shutter button and press down again, the area you chose to focus will remain there (the camera doesn't have control here, you do).

The downside of Tracking and Continuous AF is that it's not always fast.  Lighting conditions can affect how fast the lens focuses but I found it lagging a bit behind which could mean lost shots.

Another issue I had (besides the camera crashing on me once or twice) was that the camera just wouldn't focus.  It's happened a few times on my normal settings where the camera wouldn't focus. As for crashing, I had to remove the battery as the camera wouldn't turn off even when the switch was on Off.  Don't know why this happened.

Personally I don't favour the Tracking feature all that much and prefer to use Continuous with Selection AF for moving objects.  Panning and following the action takes some practice so play around.  Anticipating where the object/subject is going to be can aid in getting a sharp shot.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Christmas Drive for Animal Sanctuaries

I could grovel for forgiveness being late with posts, especially posts about the Samsung NX300 but you know, life happens lol.

I am working on a post about Tracking with the NX300 as it seems to be done in a round about way and hope to have it up soon.

In the meantime, something very close to my heart, animal sanctuaries.  It's almost Christmas again, time seems to fly by so fast and the animal sanctuaries could always use a little help.

One group of very dedicated people started an initiative last Christmas to organise a drive to collect the equivalent of a Christmas Shoe Box, but for animals shelters.  Not only did they achieve their goal but they were also able to collect extra donations and help even more.

They didn't stop there, throughout the year they ran smaller drives and have been helping various different animal shelters with donations from the public.  Kind members of the public and businesses have also donated different items which were auctioned off and the money added to the donations.

The work that these people have done is phenomenal and once again they are gearing up for the Santa Cause for Paw Christmas Drive.

If you would like to help out, you can find information on their Facebook page: Santa Cause for Paws.

Pledging opens on 20 September 2014 where the public can pledge one or more boxes for a cat, kitten, puppy or dog (the choice is yours and you can donate how many boxes you want).  Get your school involved, family, friends, your work, community. Even if you can only donate one box, it will make Christmas something special for a shelter animal.

Keep an eye out on the site and the Facebook page for drop off areas.

Follow the links below for more information on what to pack per box:

What to pack
What to pack: Something fun
What to pack: Something useful
What to pack: Something warm
What to pack: Something yum (tin of food AND treats)

The list of beneficiaries has grown this year, extending further than before:

Beneficiaries Cape Town
Beneficiaries Gauteng
Beneficiaries Durban KZN

A kind gesture when putting your boxes together would be to also add a little gift for the staff at the sanctuaries e.g. a packet of sweets.  Just something to let them know they are appreciated.

NOTE!!!  Keep in mind that kitten and puppy boxes require extra care as they will need food, treats and toys specific to their age group i.e. don't add adult cat food to a kitten box, a tin of kitten food is what is required.

Also, don't add hooves or bones for dogs as they may swallow sharp pieces.  For soft toys, avoid any toys with loose parts, buttons, plastic eyes and mouth.  This too can be torn off and swallowed causing implications.

This is, in my opinion, one of the first to ever extend help to as many different sanctuaries as possible.  They have also helped sanctuaries for rabbits and chickens because each and every life deserves a chance. With the help of the public, more and more sanctuaries are getting the support they need.

My hats off to the wonderful people who have worked tirelessly to make this initiative successful and my greatest thanks to every donation from businesses and individuals of the public.

Monkey Helpline Shoe Boxes

Monkey Helpline works to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys who have been injured in some way whether it's from a fight with another monkey, bites from dogs, knocked over by passing cars or the ever growing pellet gun shootings.

A volunteer group, Monkey Helpline also educates the public, school and businesses on the behaviours of monkeys, how to avoid conflict and how to respect our wildlife.  See a detailed description of who Monkey Helpline is here:

About Us

Monkey Helpline works tirelessly 24/7 and relies on donations from the public to keep going and any thing you can help them with is greatly appreciated.  The perseverance and dedication of Monkey Helpline is an inspiration in determination to save our wildlife and many could learn from them.

Donations of the following items are welcome anytime of the year but Christmas is coming up so if you would like to help see the following link:

Shoe Boxes

For other donations, including international please see the link below:

Monkey Helpline Web page

I will always be for the health and wellbeing of animals because they are the ones who are usually forgotten.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Samsung NX300: Smart Filters, Picture Wizard and Editing on camera

The Samsung NX300 provides in camera editing of colour, contrast, exposure etc as well as using Smart Filters and Picture Wizard.  All offer creative options besides basic editing which allows you do to adjustments in camera and upload directly via the Wi-fi option without having to go through your pc.

In the photos below I have taken shots of a setup where I tried to incorporate as much colour variations as possible as well as texture.  None of the photos have been edited on the computer other than to decrease the size for the blog.  Any editing has been done directly on camera.

Please read below on how to activate Smart Filters under the camera settings.

I did have an issue importing any RAW photos into Lightroom 4 where I used the Picture Wizard feature.  After importing, the photos would seem to lose their adjustments e.g. Classic would turn from black and white into a normal colour photo without adjustments.  After a quick experiment I found that JPEG worked fine but not RAW.  This could be due to JPEG processing photos in camera whereas RAW keeps the photo as is without any form of processing (the adjustments are a form of processing).

So, for uploading via Wi-Fi and to keep the adjustments for Picture Wizard and editing (Smart Filters only allows JPEG), set your Quality to JPEG (Super Fine is best).

Duh me, only realised this after packing my setup away.  Instead of the having the photos themselves I did a screen capture of the RAW files.  Just didn't have the motivation to reset everything again lol.

This is the original image

Smart Filters

How the freak do you activate Smart Filters?

That was my first thought when trying to follow the instructions (all of one sentence) in the manual. Unless hidden somewhere in small print, the manual doesn't seem to mention that in order to use Smart Filters you need to set your Drive mode to Single and change the Quality to JPEG (Super Fine for the best if you had the setting on RAW).

I used Smart Filters after taking the photos and not before i.e. once the photo was taken I then went to review the photo, selected the icon in the middle of the screen (that shows as a piece of paper with pen) and used the navigation buttons or touched the screen on the far right icon (looks like a drawing of a landscape).  This was how I used the Smart Filter on the photos below.

(photos of icons are screenshots from the manual, just to show the icons you need to select)

In Playback (reviewing your photos) first select the middle icon (Editing):

Then select the right hand icon (Smart Filter) which looks like:

This way of adding Smart Filters is via the editing tool.  You will be given a selection of settings.

Now, the manual mentions that you can't use Smart Filters and Picture Wizard together, and you can't. Unless you do it the way I mentioned above.  

First choose the setting/feature you want in Picture Wizard (shortcut is to press the iFn button and select the dropper icon to the right of the AWB), take the photo and then review the photo.  Select the middle icon for editing, then the right icon (see above) for Smart Filters and you can apply a filter to any photo taken using the Picture Wizard feature.

To activate the Smart Filter setting under the camera options and take a photo using Smart Filters: make sure that under the camera settings, Quality is set to JPEG (Normal, Fine, Super Fine - Super Fine is the highest quality) and that your Drive is set to Single or Timer.  None of the other settings e.g. Continuous or Bracketing will work.  Also make certain that Picture Wizard is set to Off.

Once those three settings are in place then the Smart Filter option should no longer be greyed out and available.


Above are the creative features available and the last photo Edited Watercolour is the Watercolour feature applied and then edited: Auto Adjustment to make the photo darker and the colour Temp was changed to -1000K to remove some of the warmth.

You can further edit in anyway that you like with Exposure, individual colours like red, more contrast etc, all in camera.  Every time you edit a a photo a new file is created in JPEG (so the original file is kept untouched).  But editing can only be done after Smart Filters has been applied as you can't further edit this feature e.g. I would like to been able to adjust where I want the miniature effect.

To edit further, review the photo in Playback, select the middle Edit icon (see above for description) then touch the screen or use the navigation buttons to select the third icon (looks like a paint palette), which will then take you into a selection of editing options.  Click on or select an option e.g. Exposure and you will be able to adjust the exposure.

Picture Wizard

Unlike Smart Filters, which adds a painterly effect, Picture Wizard applies different styles to the photos i.e. retro for an old fashioned look.

You can't use Picture Wizard and Smart Filters at the same time but by applying Smart Filters (after taking a photo using Picture Wizard) in Playback review of your photo using the Edit tools, you can still apply both.

And also unlike Smart Filters, you can change the presets of Picture Wizard and add your own custom colours, saturation, sharpness and contrast.   I would personally leave the presets as is and rather create a custom preset using the same settings and change that.  You can reset.

For quick access press the iFn button and navigate to the dropper icon to the right of the AWB setting. Select and you will be taken to a set of 9 styles excluding the 3 custom settings.  Once you choose a setting, click ok or touch the setting and make sure a blue tick is visible in the corner, this means the style has been selected.

If you want to change the preset or the custom preset navigate with the navigation buttons until a blue box is around the style, then press the DISP button or touch the screen on the word Adjust.  You can then change the Colour, Saturation, Sharpness and Contrast.  To keep the change make sure you press Ok or touch the word Ok on the screen to set.

As you can see above, there is a very small amount of change in the styles, except for Forest which starts to present more green as the name indicates.

 In the above photos the styles are more pronounced.

I played around with a custom style.  Again, remember to set the Quality on your camera settings to JPEG as RAW will show on your memory card but not when you import into Lightroom 4 and you will lose the Picture Wizard Styles


As mentioned above, you can further tweak your photo with the editing tools.  This is done after the photo has been taken and once in Playback view, select the editing icon in the middle, then navigate to the pain palette for options:

Auto Adjustment
RGB (red, green, blue) Adjustment
Colour Temperature

Once you have selected one of the options above you will have the option of changing the adjustment except for Auto Adjustment, which does the adjustment itself.

When in the editing tools (after selecting the middle editing icon) you will also have the option of cropping the photo, rotating or adjusting the size.  My option for adjusting the size was not available but the manual says this depends on the size of the photo selected.

To crop, once you have selected the option, use the two corner squares by touching one at a time and moving the box to where you want.  Rotating gives you visual examples so you only need to select the one you want.

And I think that's about it :-).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Samsung NX300 - Quick Shutter Speed Tutorial

Shutter Speed shooting mode is exactly what it says and for speed shots this is the favoured shooting mode by many.

Before going into this tutorial I would suggest taking a look at the Program Tutorial and Aperture Priority Tutorial.  I know it sounds irritating but my reasoning is because I have explained settings and so on in further detail.  It also means I don't have to keep on repeating the info.

With Aperture Priority, the f number was controlled by you and the shutter speed adjusted by the camera.  But in Shutter Speed, the roles are reversed and you control the shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture.  Another reason why I wanted you to check out the Aperture Tutorial first.

As always, just selecting a shutter speed and shooting won't get you the photos you want.  In order to maintain what the camera believes is correct exposure it needs to compensate by opening the aperture blades wider to allow more light in (the smaller the f number the more light but less is in focus).  So you can lose out on depth of field (what is kept in focus).  That is why you also need to keep an eye on the f number while changing the shutter speed.

Also if the shutter speed e.g. 1/2000 shows as red instead of blue, then exposure is incorrect and the photo will be dark.  The shutter speed number needs to remain in blue and the slightest shift in light can change this so don't neglect the shutter speed in anyway.

You may want to push it and increase the shutter speed to what you want, underexposing the photo and then use Exposure Compensation to lighten the photo.  Give it a try and compare to a correctly exposed photo.  Noise will increase greatly and you may only be allowed to add a certain amount of Exposure Compensation.  It will look terrible so I wouldn't recommend trying this out.

To increase the camera's sensitivity to light and therefore increase the shutter speed you can increase the ISO.  I'd say 800 is the highest you can safely go without too much noise although up 1600 can work but higher and you get visible noise in the background.

I haven't had much of a chance to travel and would have loved to get some speeding bike action in but used Newton's Cradle Balance Balls for this tutorial.

You can use anything with movement e.g. toy car, pinwheel, water etc.  A simple experiment is to half fill a glass or jar of water, add glitter and stir.  While the water is moving take a photo looking down on the glass/jar.

Ok, let's get started.

1. Switch on the Samsung Nx300 and turn the shooting mode dial to S (in between the A and M).  Don't confuse it with the Smart Mode small S in a black camera silhouette.

2. Quick check of the settings:
Autoshare - on or off is your choice, I keep it Off.
Photo size - 20M 5472 x 3648 (this will be greyed out if RAW is selected under Quality)
Quality - I usually use RAW but for the tut I changed to JPEG Super Fine
ISO - start at 100, avoid using Auto
White Balance - set for now to AWB
Picture Wizard - for now keep this Off, I will later go through each setting
AF Mode - Single AF
AF Area - Multi AF
Touch AF - Touch AF
MF Assist - Enlarge x5
Framing Mode - Off
Drive - High
Metering - Multi
Dynamic Range - Off
Flash - won't be using flash for this tutorial, so don't worry about this setting.

3.  As mentioned above, watch both the Shutter Speed number (e.g. 1/200) and the Aperture (e.g. f4). The shutter speed number needs to remain blue to keep correct exposure.  Depending on your light available, the higher the shutter speed goes the wider the aperture (smaller the number) becomes.  In shaded areas the shutter speed might not go higher than 1/200 and aperture may be the widest the lens allows f2 (depending on the lens).

This means that while you may have a fairly fast shutter speed the area in focus will be very small and there will still be a chance of blur.

Before moving to Step 4 I want to show you examples of how changing the ISO and Shutter Speed in turn changes the Aperture.

The photos haven't been edited other than to make smaller for the blog.

Here are examples in a shaded area and direct sun to give you an idea before taking the shot.  I have also included 100% crops of two of the photos to show you the noise levels:

The highest shutter speed I could get while keeping correct exposure was 1/200 at ISO 100 but this meant the aperture was f2, decreasing how much was in focus.  Also, I used Continuous Drive and captured 4 photos, of which the last one showed the moving ball as being blurred.  So the speed was ok for 3/4 photos but that 4th may have been important in another situation so the speed wasn't as fast as it should have been.

You can also see that the depth of field was shallow so only the balls (and anything at the same distance) were in focus as this was where I touched the screen to place focus.

I increased the ISO in the photo below to 400, so the highest shutter speed allowed was 1/640 with a slight increase in the aperture f2.5.

Now that the shutter speed has increased I can play around with the setting to increase the aperture.

To increase the aperture to f4 and get more in focus I had to decrease to 1/200 but as you can see the slower shutter speed didn't capture the photo fast enough.  If I wanted to I could increase the ISO to 800 which would increase the shutter speed fast enough to capture the shot clearly.

In direct sunlight I reached a shutter speed of 1/6000 with aperture f2.8 on ISO 400.  Each photo taken in direct sunlight with ISO 100-400 produced shutter speeds over 1/2000, which was fast enough for clear shots.

The high shutter speed gave me room to play and I was able to get a clear shot with ISO 400, aperture f8 and by decreasing the shutter speed to 1/640.

If you are taking a photo of a bird in flight or a plane against a bright blue sky then you will be able to achieve a shutter speed of over 1/3000 with aperture f8 and up.  As said before, it depends on your lighting.

4. Once you have found the correct settings depending on your lighting, press the shutter half way to focus and touch the screen if you want to place the focus elsewhere.  Once you are happy with the focus, press fully to take a photo.

5. Sometimes the camera doesn't always get the exposure right so you can use the Exposure Compensation to make the photo darker or lighter.  Go to Program Tutorial and scroll down to where the article says But what happens if the photo appears too dark?  

ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture all work together besides the influence of light.  It might sound complicated but if you just pay attention to the Shutter Speed and Aperture, then it's more than a good start.  Unlike Manual Mode the Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority mode have settings where the camera acts as an assistant.

It's why I always suggest starting with Program mode. The camera still has more control than you do in Program mode but you can still decide on the combination of settings although limited.  When you move onto Aperture or Shutter Priority the camera hands over the reigns of one of the settings i.e. full control over shutter or aperture.  

As you move through these shooting modes, you choose what suits you best or use each one for different modes.  Aperture was my favourite until I tried Manual and have stayed there ever since.  But I only reached manual by going through each mode and learning what works where.  Some will tell you to go straight to Manual, and if you want to why not?  But if it seems to much for a first go, just start at the beginning and work your way through.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Samsung NX300: Smart Mode Silhouette

Silhouette is a fairly nice Smart Mode feature and even though it was intended for photos of people, I won't be using human subjects due to the sensitivity of privacy and so on.

But who said you can't break the rules?

The reason I like Silhouette is because it gives a type of glow depending on where the light source is coming from.  More detail is kept in Silhouette than in Sunset but Sunset brings out the warmer colours.

The photo examples below were taken around sunset and haven't been edited in anyway other than to make them smaller for the blog.

To use the Silhouette Mode, as with the other modes under Smart Mode (represented as a small S surrounded by a black camera shape on the shooting mode dial):

Turn on the NX300, turn the mode dial to the small S and you will be given a selection of modes to choose from.  Use the Navigation buttons to scroll through the modes and press OK (the mode will have a blue box around it) to select the Silhouette mode, which will show with a tick as the selected mode.  You can also just touch the screen to select the mode.

The rest is easy as the camera does everything else for you, unless you want to change some of the limited settings.  But to get started, just point, half press the shutter button to focus and fully to shoot. The camera will take one photo and even in low light I didn't have a problem with blurring as the photos were sharp and clear.

Settings wise this is what I used:

Autoshare - Off (Your choice whether this is on or not)

Smart Mode set to Silhouette

Photo size - 20M 5472 x 3648 (for best results I go for the highest resolution)

Quality - Super Fine (RAW is not available in Smart Mode features)

AF Mode - Single Auto Focus (if you have a switch for Manual Focus MF and Auto Focus AF on the lens, then when AF is selected on the lens, MF will be greyed out and visa versa.  This is different for lenses like the 30mm that don't have a switch and must be manually changed in the menu)

AF Area - Multi AF

Touch AF - Touch AF - you can touch the screen to place the focus.  Tracking is not available

MF Assist - I leave this at Enlarge x5, i.e. when you want to fine tune focus using manual focus ring (small front ring) the screen will enlarge the area x5

Focus Peaking - I have this set to High Level and Colour White.  Some people don't like this as they find it distracting.  What happens is that areas considered over exposed will flash the colour selected, in this case White.  It does in no way affect the photo.

OIS - Set to Mode 1 but this is only available on lenses that support OIS e.g. 18-55mm kit lens

Drive - set to Single.  Timer is also available but Continuous is not.

Ok, so that's the extra settings that you use to fine tune the Silhouette mode. The 18-55mm lens was used with the following examples.  You may see some banding (rainbow like lines) in the sky but that is due to the quality that the photo was saved at for the web.  In the original photos you don't see any banding.

Smart Mode Silhouette - camera chose ISO 100, Shutter 1/500, Aperture f9

You can also achieve the same results in Manual but the point of Smart Mode is to make it easier for those not used to DSLRs to take photos without the hassle of settings.  ISO was kept at 100, which is perfect as noise is kept at its lowest and I didn't even need a tripod.  The ISO will go up the more the lights drops and may get to a point that a tripod is needed but at just before Sunset I didn't have an issue.

Not a great idea, but the Sun was directly behind the trees so I quickly snapped a photo.  In comparison to the Sunset mode below, the Silhouette has more impact with more detail.  But, the sky was one of our bland pale blue and white sunsets so the Sunset mode literally didn't get a chance to shine here.  Silhouette also darkened the trees, street, street sign and wall whereas in the Sunset photo you can still details in the bottom elements.

 A little less detail and impact in the sky, but would have worked better with a sky that had more red in it.  You can see feintly some red captured.  Photos were taken within a 1 minute of each other so the light source was the same.

Playing around with a more defined outline.  A wire and beaded Christmas Tree with lights.  You can see some colour has been kept for the Christmas lights but a majority has been darkened out (the star on top is made of blue beads).  No lol, that's not a UFO on the right but part of a street lamp.

Another Silhouette photo but facing the direction of the sun whereas the photo below, also taken in Silhouette, looks like any normal photo.  It was taken with the sun at my back so for successful results make sure the source of light is facing you.

Taken with my back to the source of light, in this case the Sun.  Avoid pointing your camera directly at the Sun as you can damage your eyes as well as your camera.

Just for some fun and maybe artistic value.  Different shapes; a bare Winter tree with old peach pips hanging from the branches.  Taken facing the light source (sun) and shows the stark impact of Winter.

So while Silhouette is a people thing, you can take a photo of anything that peaks your interest and get great results.

I'm a Manual Shooting Mode Fan but for those times when you don't want to fiddle with the aperture and shutter speed, Silhouette does a very nice job of capturing that drama quickly and effortlessly.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sock It To Me - The fun side of life

No, this isn't a photography related post but will appear to the inner creativity of anyone and everyone, including designers.  Quickly now, read on.

Sock It To Me it was I like to call the fun side of life.  I loathe boring socks and as adults we tend to get the downright snorefest of sock designs.  Sock It To Me does things differently with the idea that we all want some light hearted enjoyment in life while looking hotter than hot in designs that will have you slinging off your shoes and showing off.

Sock designs I dig: Cherry Blossoms, Tree Owl, Clover, Koi Fish, Pocket Watch, Water Lily, Sloth, City Scape, Flying Bonsai, Rainbow Blast, Dragon, Foxy Lady, Toadstool...and that's just to start. Designs for women, men and children so clean out the old sock draw and make space for a fashionable feast!

Keep an eye out for their yearly competitions where designers have a chance to show what they know. Sock It To Me

Friday, July 11, 2014

Samsung NX300: Firmware and Lens update

I haven't been as active on the blog as I could have been but a few projects took the majority of my time.  The cold didn't help either lol.

This is just a quick posting regarding the latest firmware update and lens updates to the Samsung NX300 and range of Samsung lenses.

The reason I wanted to post about the updates is because some people (I did too) have had some issues with updating the Lens firmware.

First off, download the body and lens firmware (2 zip files) from here:Samsung NX300 firmware updates

I used my country's link because I found the UK link a bit of a runaround but you can also go to Samsung.

Also download the guide. Now the one thing that isn't here is the Lens update guide but it isn't much different to the body update guide. But you can get the Lens update guide here: Lens update guide.  I selected the 30mm but the guide is the same for all lenses.

In the South African Samsung Link the Lens firmware file contains all of the updates for the lenses, which is another reason why I chose that link.

You do have the option of working straight from your camera by attaching via USB as the option I used works by loading the firmware onto your memory card.  If you want to work via USB follow the instructions in the Update guide via the links above.

Once downloaded onto your computer, unzip both files.  You should have two files: NX300_FW_v1.41 and LENS_firmware_140311.  Make sure that before transferring to memory card that the card has been formatted in camera and that your camera's battery is fully charged.  It only took a few minutes but don't take a chance.

Open the NX300 file and you will see the nx300.bin file, copy this to your memory card.  Don't put it in any of the files that your camera has created on the card.  See the photo below, my NX300 created two files so your view might be different.  But just copy and paste the bin file next to these files.

In the photo you can also see the lens.bin file but this is where the problem comes in.

Also note that when you update your lenses, you need to have the specific lens you are updating on your camera i.e. 18-55mm lens needs to be on the camera in order to update the firmware.  Then you replace the lens with another (if you have more than one lens) e.g. 30mm in order to update the firmware of that lens.

Open the Lens Firmware file you downloaded onto your computer and you should see numerous files for the range of Samsung Lenses.

Where the problem comes in is that some lenses have different versions and apparently some of the later versions don't have updates.  An example, the 18-55mm has 3 versions and I couldn't find what version my 18-55mm was.

Another problem I faced was that when I transferred the entire Lens firmware file to the camera the lens update was greyed out so I had to update each of my lenses individually.

For the 18-55mm, after trying out versions 1 and 2 with the option being greyed out on camera, I tried version 3 and worked perfectly.

I opened the 18-55mm-III iFn (v1.11) file under the Lens firmware file and copied the lens.bin file to my memory card (that's what you see above on the memory card).  I could have renamed the bin files for each lens as the file name was the same for each lens but I didn't want to mess around with the files.

I re-inserted my memory card into the Samsung NX300 and followed the instructions in the Body firmware guide from Step 8 and the Lens guide from Step 8 - select Menu, scroll down and select the Setting cog wheel, then scroll down and select Device Information, then Firmware Update and two options should show - Body Firmware and Lens Firmware.

If Lens Firmware is grayed out then the bin file is the wrong one and you need to remove the one on the card and replace with the correct bin file.  If you are not certain then do a trial and error, replace the bin files until you find the correct one for your lens.  Both options will be available if firmware updates are detected and correct.

Start off with the Body Firmware and again look at the instructions in your guide.  It's pretty straight forward although vague about what to transfer to memory card at the beginning.

Make sure your camera's battery is fully charged and that your memory card formatted.

I promise to get working on the Silhouette, Night and Light trail reviews as well as the Shutter Speed tutorial by the end of the week as I need to get some projects finished first :-D.