Tag: mirrorless

Natural vs artificial light

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w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerLight. There’s a lot of it about. And as photographers it’s up to us to harness it in every shot we take.

You may have a personal preference as to which light source you prefer, be it natural or artificial and, despite the combative title of this blog, we’re not for one minute going to suggest that one is better than the other. Instead, we’d suggest that it’s what you’re shooting that counts and should make your choice accordingly.

By way of demonstration, I set up a couple of still-life images, lighting one using artificial light from a humble desk lamp and the other using diffused daylight on a cloudy day. Along with the lighting being switched, I also changed the subject, but nothing else – the background is the same as is the kit – a tripod-mounted X-T1 with the spectacular XF90mm F2.

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Shooting in artificial light

The beauty of artificial light is that it’s completely controllable. Even a simple desk lamp, like the one I’ve used here, can easily be moved around so you can direct the light where you want it. The same, of course, applies to flash, LED and fluorescent light sources. Compared to daylight, artificial light sources are comparatively small, meaning the light they emit is more harsh. You can diffuse it or you could simply play to these strengths, as I did here to light my spanner collection. Metallic objects – among others – are great for this kind of light, which throws deep shadows on the opposite side to the light source. For the collection of images below, I simply moved the light around the set up to get a variety of different effects.

As well as being a harsher light source, artificial light like my desk lamp tends to be less powerful, so you may need to increase your ISO if you want to shoot hand-held or – as I did here – mount the camera on a tripod. You also need to consider your white balance settings, but we’ll come to that a bit later.

Shooting in daylight

Putting my desk lamp to one side for a minute, I moved on to shooting with daylight, using a large, north-facing window in my house as the light source and opening the curtains completely. North-facing windows are best because no matter what time of day you shoot, the light will always be soft as the sun will never shine directly through it. I had no such problems on this dreary day. Daylight like this is lovely and soft, so it lends itself perfectly to flattering portraiture. With no willing human subjects on hand, I switched to this gerbera, which benefits just as well from the diffused light.

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I started by setting up with the window directly behind me, which created the shot above. It’s OK, but the light is very flat and the background is a little more prominent than I would have liked. To solve this, I moved the flower round by 90° to help create some shadows between the petals and tried again. Much nicer – there’s some improved definition on the stem of the flower and the background is darker!

The daylight was a little brighter than my artificial light set up, but not by a huge margin and, wanting to keep the ISO down, I shot tripod-mounted again. With a human subject, I’d have pushed the ISO higher. Despite the fact that I was shooting within one metre of a floor-to-ceiling window, daylight levels do drop off quickly as you move away from the window. To counteract this, I used an A2 sheet of white card as a reflector to push light into the left hand side of the flower.

A question of white balance

Every light source has its own colour temperature, which is measured in Kelvin, essentially this means that different types of light have different colours. The human eye automatically corrects for this, but cameras can’t so you need to make sure you set the correct white balance setting to make sure colours are accurate under different lighting conditions. It’s tempting to shoot with white balance on Auto, but this one size fits all approach can get caught out. Which is why I always change the white balance setting myself when I shoot. Shooting in Raw is also an option as you can change the white balance setting in post production; a luxury that isn’t available with JPEGs.

Your X series camera comes with a variety of preset white balance options – daylight, incandescent, shady, fluorescent etc – in the first instance, use one of these. But the X-series cameras also have a Custom white-balance option which helps you get super-accurate colours 100% of the time.

Using it is simple, just frame the shot as you want it, select the Custom white-balance mode and then follow the on-screen instructions. Essentially, you need to hold a piece of white paper or card in the same lighting as the subject and then let the camera do the rest. I did that on both set ups, as well as used some presets, the results of which are shown here. Of course, there’s no right or wrong here, you can simply pick the shot you like the best, but it’s well worth playing about with white balance settings. Give it a go, whatever lighting you’re using!

For more help with white balance & settings please find our dedicated tutorial here.

Lightning Photography 101

BY BEN CHERRY
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Witnessing a lightning storm can be frightening, but it can also be energising, certainly to photographers. The thrill of capturing lightning in a frame is like nectar to a photographer’s calling. Before we get consumed by this exciting subject it is important to remember that lightning storms can be extremely dangerous so please take suitable precautions when around a lightning storm; photographing lightning is great but it is not worth putting yourself in danger.

Lightning occurs all around the world, at different frequencies and strengths. I’ve been lucky enough experience a good few lightning storms, with my most memorable occurring in the tropics. But this isn’t to say that you can’t get great lightning shots wherever you are, all you need is some knowhow and then the lightning! Here is a brief 101 of lightning photography to get you started.

“It’s all about the light”

Like a flashgun, lightning is over in but a moment, and like flash if it is the predominant (or only) light source then it acts rather like its own shutter speed.
When using a flash at night for example, you might set the power output of the flash and then move to the camera settings. Generally speaking you turn the shutter speed to the maximum flash sync speed and then use ISO & aperture settings to compensate for the power of the flash. If it is too bright you increase the aperture and/or drop the ISO, if it is too dark then you do the opposite; much the same applies to lightning photography.
The intensity of the light from lightning is affected by two things:
The first is the power of the lightning: if it is a particularly large strike then if you’re set up for some previous strikes that weren’t as powerful, it’s more than likely the lightning will have blown out your highlights in the image.

The second thing to affect the light intensity is the distance between you and the lightning itself. Generally, lightning storms are large storm clouds which means that the lightning can be very close by one moment and then many miles away the next. These fluctuations in light can’t really be predicted but it is something to be aware of, and even to account for by increasing your aperture by a stop more than required to save your highlights.

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Composition 

Lightning is spectacular by itself but sometimes a scene can be made all the more special by being aware of your surroundings and looking for things that could add to the moment.
If you’re lucky enough to have something of interest in the foreground then see if you can add this to the electric scene. If there is still some ambient light around then you should be able to illuminate the foreground via your long exposure. If not, then illuminate using a torch or flash. This simple addition to the frame can help to better portray the scene. However bear in mind that you want to photograph as much of the lightning as possible so a sky-dominant frame will help to ensure this.
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Intervalometer

Built into many of the X-Series cameras, an intervalometer allows you take a set number of photos with pre-determined intervals between each shot, this is set by the photographer and can be between 1 second to 24 hours. This is very helpful for lightning photography as you can set the camera to take a series of 30 second exposures (or less if this is overexposed) and sooner or later you’ll capture a lightning strike within one of those frames.
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Be patient 

The curse of photographing lightning is you can never guarantee where or when it will strike so you should always be prepared to wait a while for a good shot!  At the same time though, be aware of where the storm is moving to and adjust your composition if it is moving out of frame.
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Shoot RAW

This really can make all the difference! Because the exposure changes so frequently due to the intensity of the lightning, you cannot always achieve the perfect exposure 100% of the time. A RAW file records so much information compared to a JPEG that you can recover many more files which have the highlights blown out according to the histogram.

Daytime

If you come across a lightning storm during the daytime my method is to set up the aperture and ISO to the most light-demanding settings possible (e.g. F22 ISO 200) and then simply use the intervalometer to repeat the suitable shutter speed. It can produce some interesting results.
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Let us know if you’ve caught any lightning photos using the hashtag #fujilightning
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Ben CherryA little about Ben – Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:

Getting started with flash

Off cameraw360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerSo how do you get on with using flash? If you’re like 90% of the world’s photographers the answer to that will be ‘pretty badly’. You’re never quite sure what it’s up to, never feel fully in control of what’s going on and are never completely happy with the results you get. And that’s a shame because, when you come to think about it, flash is the most controllable light source you have at your disposal. You can fire it when you want, put out lots of power (or very little) and you can even shape or colour the light. Just imagine what brilliant landscape photographers we’d all be if we had the same amount of control over daylight! So, flash isn’t the bad news that many photographers consider it to be, it’s simply a question of learning the functions you have at your disposal and how to bend them to your creative will.  

No doubt, after the rousing words of my opening paragraph you’ll be wanting to get to grips with multiple flash set ups right from the off. But that’s a little like competing in the 100m at the Olympics before you can walk. Let’s ease you in more gently by giving you an overview of the flash features you have at your disposal on a Fujifilm X-series camera and when you might press them into service. In this particular case, I’m heading to the Flash Set-Up menu on an X-T10.

Within that menu you’ll find the Flash Mode option, which gives you five choices: Forced Flash, Slow Synchro, 2nd Curtain Sync, Commander and Suppressed Flash. The last option is perhaps the most obvious; selecting Suppressed Flash means the flash won’t fire even if it’s popped up ready for action, nor will a hot-shoe flash fire if it’s attached to the camera and switched on. But seeing as this a guide to firing the flash, we best move on.

Forced Flash is the polar opposite of Suppressed Flash. As long as the integral unit is flipped up or a hot-shoe flash is attached and switched on, the flash will fire on every shot, irrespective of how bright the light in the scene is. This may sound a little odd, but you’re actually most likely to use this mode in bright daylight for a technique called fill-in flash. This is where you ‘fill-in’ shadows – typically in a portrait – with a low powered burst of flash, which is achieved by combining Forced Flash and the Flash Compensation mode. Take a look at the two shots above. The one on the left is taken without flash. It’s OK, but the subject’s face is in shadow. By using Forced Flash and -1 Flash Compensation, we got a lower powered burst of flash that filled in the shadowy area and put a nice catchlight in our subject’s eyes.

Slow sync

Next on the menu is Slow Synchro, which is used to add a touch of dynamism to action images or to shoot portraits in low light conditions. Selecting this function and a slower shutter speed produces the sort of image you see above on action shots. Panning the camera during the exposure introduces the blur, but then the burst of flash momentarily freezes the subject so you get this look. The shutter speed doesn’t have to be too slow – the shot above was taken at 1/8sec, but it adds an extra dimension to your shots.

Equally, using Slow Synchro can help capture more ambient light in low light conditions. Take a straight shot with flash at night and you’ll end up with a shot like the one below left – rather dull. Use Slow Synchro and the longer exposure ensures the background appears while the flash illuminates your subject perfectly. In this case you’ll need to keep both the camera and the subject still – we’d recommend a tripod and a head brace. Ok, maybe just the tripod.

Note: It’s worth noting that Slow Synchro is only available on the menu in aperture-priority and program exposure modes. If you want to combine a slow shutter speed in shutter-priority or manual modes you still can – just switch to Forced Flash and select the shutter speed you require.

2nd Curtain Sync is another one for those who want to make movement look natural and, much like Slow Synchro is a question of combining a burst of flash with a longer shutter speed. The ‘curtain’ part of the equation refers to the camera’s shutter curtain. In any given exposure, the first curtain begins the exposure, the second curtain ends it. Typically, when you’re using flash, the flash is fired at the start of the exposure – when the first curtain moves. But switching to 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure. This is largely irrelevant if the exposure is a fraction of a second. But it’s important with a longer exposure. Take a look at the two shots below. For the shot on the left, the flash has fired at the start of the exposure and then the car has moved to create the blurred light effect. The trouble is, it looks as though the car has reversed. It didn’t, it moved forwards. By selecting 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure after the car has moved, so you get a more natural-looking effect with the blurred lights.

Note: When using 2nd Curtain Sync with a built in or hot-shoe flashgun, two bursts of flash will fire. The first at the beginning of the exposure, is purely designed for the camera to get an exposure assessment and does not effect the actual exposure. The second flash, at the end of the exposure, is the one that actually illuminates the subject.

Finally, we have the Commander mode, where you can use the camera’s integral flash to fire a second flash away from the camera. This is used for more creative on-location effects, like the one below. It’s simple enough to do and produces professional looking results.

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So that’s the top line when it comes to shooting flash. Hopefully, this top-line introduction has armed you with enough information to start getting to grips with the flash modes you have available. But we’ll be going into more detail on each of these techniques in subsequent blogs over the next few weeks.

Which focus mode should I use with my X-series camera?

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w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerMost people know what it means to focus with your camera lens. To do this, you adjust the distance of the lens (or an element inside the lens) from the sensor. There are two ways you can focus your camera – automatically (Autofocus or AF) or manually (MF).

As you probably already know, autofocus is there to do the hard work for you, and in most shooting situations this is all you will need to take great in-focus photographs. What you might not know is that there are different types of autofocus for different situations; this is what we hope to give you a better understanding of here.


Focus modes

focus-mode-selectorThe focus modes are generally set using a dial on the front of your camera. On some cameras this control is a switch on the side of the camera.

Single Autofocus (AF-S)

With single autofocus, once you half press the shutter button, the camera will focus on the closest object within the focus area (which we come onto shortly) on the screen. You can then take a picture knowing that the subject is in focus. This can be a very useful setting for portraiture, still-life, macro work and landscape photography.

Continuous Autofocus (AF-C)

When using continuous autofocus, half pressing the shutter button will focus on the closest object in the focus area, and then while you hold the shutter half pressed, will continue to refocus on that point. This mode can be very useful for sports, action, children & pets who are moving and wildlife photography – a great choice for moving subjects.

Manual Focus (MF)

As useful as the autofocus modes are, there are many situations where using manual focus could be the better option. Don’t worry, we’ll go into the manual focus mode in a bit more detail later on.


AF modes

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49 focus points

The “Focus mode” lets you choose how often the lens will focus while the shutter button is held half-pressed, while the “AF mode” determines where in the frame the camera will focus.

Most of our Fujifilm X-series cameras offer 49 focus points. From this you can select a single AF point, a group of points, or even make all of them active. Let’s look at the different options available:

AF mode: Single Point

AF-S + Single PointWhen combined with the AF-S focus mode, this delivers highly accurate autofocus on a specific area. You can choose one of the 49 available focus points and also change the size of the focus point to suit your subject. This is your “go to” focus configuration.

When combined with AF-C focus mode, this tracks a subject with a fixed direction of movement, e.g. moving straight towards the camera. Again you can choose which of the 49-point focus areas to lock onto and also change the size, however this time when you half press & hold the shutter button you activate the continuous tracking on that area. Fully press the shutter button when you want to take the shot.

AF-S + Zone

AF mode: Zone

This setting is effective for a subject with moderate movement which the Single Point mode may have difficulty capturing. You start by choosing a 3×3, 5×3 or 5×5 block of AF area points and then position them where you want them in the frame. We recommend you choose the phase detection AF areas for faster autofocus speeds – these appear in a different colour and make up the middle 5 x 3 points.

When combined with AF-C mode, the camera will continue to refresh the autofocus while the shutter is half pressed and this is how we recommend you use this mode. This way you can “lock” onto your subject once it enters your chosen block size by half pressing and holding the shutter button, the camera will then continue to re-focus as you follow the subject with your camera.

If you use the Zone AF mode with AF-S, the camera will simply lock onto the closest object within your block of focus points once and then stay focused at the same point. If the object then moves it is possible your image will not be in focus.

AF-C + Wide tracking

AF mode: Wide/Tracking

This mode is perfect for capturing a subject that moves unpredictably up/down, left/right and closer/further from the camera, where you do not wish to move your camera around to “chase” the subject.

Decide the composition and layout of your shot first and then move the AF point to the point where you want to start tracking the object from. When combined with AF-C, half press the shutter button while your subject is within the AF point and the camera will lock onto the subject and follow it wherever it moves within the whole frame while the button remains held. Fully press the shutter button to take the shot.

Note: The Zone and Wide/Tracking modes are only available on the X-T10 and X-T1 (firmware 4 and above) cameras.


More about Manual Focus

Here are some examples of how and when MF might be used:

When the light is dim. The autofocus sensor in your digital camera needs light and contrast to perform properly. When you’re shooting in low-light, AF may not be able to see subtle, indistinct details, so it will have a hard time locking onto a specific area of your subject.

When you’re shooting fast action. With manual focus, you can set up your camera to capture a certain area. Then when your subject comes into the frame, you can shoot continuously to get the best exposure. This is ideal for shooting at races and can even be used for street photography.

When AF gets confused. Sometimes you are shooting something that has another object in front of it, like a fence or a branch. AF will try to focus on the closer object. This may also occur when another moving object moves into the frame. So, if you’re shooting animals in the wild or active children, manual focus often makes more sense.

For full maximum control. Some photographers actually prefer to use manual focus on a regular basis as it gives them more creative control. With advanced functions like focus peaking, techniques such as focus stacking and panning shots, MF allows the photographer complete control.

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