Useful Photography Tip #60: Brighten Your Rangefinder On the Cheap

chris gampat the phoblographer yashica electro 35 gsn camera reivew (1 of 4)

We found an awesome hack on Lomography magazine for those of you who are really into rangefinder photography (and we’re talking about actual rangefinder coupled cameras.) Basically, if you look through the viewfinder at the middle area (which corresponds to focusing) you’ll see the two images that line up. If you place a little bit of gaffers tape right over that focusing area, the rest of the rangefinder screen will brighten.

The staff here was talking about this and we didn’t totally believe it until I tried it. With my Polaroid 185, Voigtlander Bessa R and Yashica Electro 35 GSN, it worked flawlessly. The key is to not put it over the rangefinder itself, but instead the key area in the viewfinder.

Try it out for yourself. But before you do, take a look at this piece on how a rangefinder focuses.

Via Lomography

Useful Photography Tip #59: Don’t Let Images Become Orphan Works

Orphans 20120520Gservo-0105

Everyone knows that free is good. However, there is a dark side to this idea–especially in photography. People and businesses want to keep a low bottom line and if they can obtain things at no cost they will, especially photography. If an image is found online and the owner is unreachable, it is open to theft. These images are considered orphan works. There are policies in place in some parts of the world that make this easy. It is sometimes sad to say, but photography is not always about hitting the shutter. We as photographers put a lot of work into image creation. However, we should also think about protecting those images by making sure it’s clear who owns them. In the ever changing world of copyright laws, precautions have to be taken. Here are some ways to avoid that.

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Useful Photography Tip #58: Develop Your Eye


We often talk about cameras, lenses and lighting but rarely do we talk about what’s behind them–your eye. Not the organ, no, the part of your mind that actually helps you see the world and share it with others. This is what inspires you to capture the world with your lens, what drives you. To me, photography is a person showing how they see their world and capturing moments in time. A person’s “photographic eye” is something that is developed over time with training.

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Take a look at all of them right here.

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Useful Photography Tip #56: Use a Rogue Flashbender for Macro Photos

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 images with phottix mitros flash (1 of 5)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 5.6

When you’re down to the macro focusing range, it is almost never recommended to shoot wide open. The reason for this is because you’re focusing so closely to the subject, very little will be in focus at any given aperture. So you’ll need to stop down the lens. But in order to also minimize your post-production, we recommend putting a flash on your camera to get it right the first time around. Set that sucker to TTL, and put a Rogue FlashBender on it and hover the modifier over the subject. The flash output will bathe the subject in beautiful soft light that will look extremely natural–perfect for shooting the rings at a wedding. Flashes can be affordable too, just take a look at this list! And when you’re ready for more, take a look at our lighting modifier guide.

Need extra help? Here’s a demonstration of how flash and apertures work together.

Gear Used: Canon 5D Mk II, Tamron 90mm f2.8 VC, Phottix Mitros, Large Rogue Flashbender

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Useful Photography Tip #55: Place a Flash Against a Large Wall to Imitate Window Light


Often when I shoot products for the website, I try to think of different and creative ways to light the scenes but also have a natural and lifestyle like appeal to them. Due to a busy shooting schedule, legitimate window light isn’t always available–so it needs to be faked. Firstly, we should keep in mind that the larger and closer a light source is to a subject, the softer the light is. And in general, the light coming in from a window is usually quite soft. Soft light refers to the quality of the shadows.

So when I shoot some images, I often simply take a speedlite, place it right up against a white wall, and shoot with an according shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Once again, shutter speeds control the amount of ambient light leaking into the photo white the aperture controls flash exposure but not flash output. Additionally, ISO controls overall light sensitivity in the scene. Often when I’m doing this, I use TTL. For this particular set of images above, I used a Phottix Mitros flash with their Odin triggers in conjunction with Tamron’s 90mm f2.8 Marco VC mounted to my Canon 5D Mk II. And if you didn’t know beforehand, you might just think that this was all shot with natural light.

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Check out our entire catalog here.

Useful Photography Tip #54: Use Your Phone’s Flashlight to Aid Your Camera’s Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Useful Photography Tip Phone Autofocus (1 of 1)ISO 16001-60 sec at f - 8.0

No matter how advanced autofocusing algorithms have become, they still tend to suffer in low light situations. Granted, your camera has an AF assist lamp/bulb. But sometimes, that little short-ranged illuminator isn’t enough to help your camera focus in the near dark.

Over our years of running this site, we’ve had to test many cameras in low light settings. And even though we place our focusing points on highly contrasting points, it hasn’t always worked. The solution is something that is highly mobile: your phone. Many phones have a flashlight app (or one can be downloaded.) If you shine this light on your subject, your camera will have less trouble focusing on that area of the frame.

To do this, you’ll need to hold the camera with one hand and your phone with the other–so hold super still while you’re doing it. For extra stabilization, hold the camera in closer to your body and control your breathing. Some people fire better at the top of their breath while others do better at the bottom.

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Check out our entire catalog here.

Useful Photography Tip #53: Tips for the Allergy Prone Photographer

Chris Gampat Digital Camera Review Red Tea image (1 of 1)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 2.0

You remember that kid who was allergic to everything growing up? For the most part that was me, and phases of those allergies come and go with my immune system. Being a creative and journalist over the years, I’ve had to do shoots where I ended up with red eyes from pollen or totally sick for the next couple of days. And as a photographer, we all know that time is money and that any time lost needs to be recounted for with you working twice as hard after your recovery.

If you’re an allergy prone photographer, though, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind whether you’re hankering for capturing that perfect landscape, or the newly engaged want you to photograph them amongst some beautiful cherry blossoms.

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Useful Photography Tip #52: How Aperture Affects Your Flash Exposure

Your flash and your lens’s aperture are directly correlated. First off, know that your shutter speed generally controls the ambient light in an exposure while your aperture controls your flash’s exposure. ISO controls overall sensitivity in an image. But then your flash’s power varies. Many people use TTL. But if you’re using manual flash output, then consider this: if your flash is fixed at 1/4 output, and you vary your aperture, the flash will either illuminate more or less of the image that your camera captures.

So how does this relate to TTL users? At a given ISO, your flash can only be so effective because it judges not only the distance that your subject is away from the lens but also your aperture. That’s why sometimes your image might be too dark despite using exposure compensation. The reason for this is because your flash only has so much power output–in fact it’s probably less than 1/10th of what a monolight (studio light) may have. The counter is to raise your ISO settings, but the veterans may tell you to never go above ISO 400 when using a flash. And in general they’re correct because that’s how you can capture the most specular highlights in an image. But sometimes you have to.

After the jump, we used the Phottix Mitros flash with the Odin TTL triggers in conjunction with the Canon 5D Mk II and Tamron 90mm f2.8 VC (which we’re currently reviewing.) The flash was in the same position fixed at 1/32 output while the camera was fixed at 1/200th at ISO 100. The only thing variable was the aperture. The results are just how much your aperture can affect an exposure.

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Take a look at all of them right here.

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Useful Photography Tip #50: A Reminder to Backup Those Holiday Memories


Back in April, I explained in detail how I go about backing up my data, and why it’s incredibly important to develop your own backup strategy and workflow to prevent data loss.

Since you’ve likely captured a bunch of unforgettable moments over the holiday season, and are also probably travelling a lot, I think it’s a good time to revisit your backup strategy and make sure you’re completely covered in all situations.

Maybe make it a New Years Resolution to define a backup workflow. After all, you wouldn’t want to lose all of your adorable puppy photos, right?

Be sure to also check out all of our Useful Photography Tips!

Useful Photography Tip #49: Improving Macro Photography By Using a Flash

A lot of photographers think about their flash all wrong, especially when it comes to macro photography. I had to include myself in this. I eventually learned that using a flash in your macro photography makes things a whole lot easier. Flashes provide more control. While natural light is very nice, a flash can augment it or even replace it. You do not need a lot of gear and it is easy to start experimenting with this. Once you do though, you may be hooked.

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Useful Photography Tip #48: Autofocus Not Working Perfectly? Clean Your Contacts With Isopropyl Alcohol

As our cameras get older, so too do our lenses. Every time we take a lens off the camera, little environmental nasties tend to get into the contacts of both the camera and the lens. The effect of this cause: slower autofocus confirmation or your focusing not working anywhere as well as it used to. The solution is extremely affordable and readily available at your local drug store or Amazon. Isopropyl Alcohol is designed for cleaning electronics as well as for other uses. For the best results, you should always dab one end of a Q-Tip ever so slightly and then scrub the contacts with a tiny of of pressure. I put a big emphasis on the word dab because you don’t want that stuff spilling onto the sensor by accident. Just to be extra sure, also try cleaning the contact area of your lens and body caps. If you’re feeling a bit braver, you can also try to dry the moistened contacts with the dry end of the Q-Tip.

So how effective is this? It’s kept my 5D Mk II clicking for all these years and helped to improve my Fujifilm X Pro 1’s AF speed a tad bit more. Proceed with caution and common sense and you’ll be all set to keep your device fine-tuned.

If you like this tip, be sure to check out the rest of our Useful Photography Tips.

Useful Photography Tip #47: 7 Reasons Not to Be an Early Camera Adopter

Sometimes, it is better to be late than early. When it comes to cameras, being an early adopter can have its disadvantages. Early adopters run the risk of glitches, recalls, or a lack of software compatibility. New cameras are always attractive. Nevertheless they can also lead to new problems. If it’s a part of your work life, buying a camera just as it is released can slow down your workflow. Here are some reasons why it may be wise to hold back on buying new gear.


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Useful Photography Tip #46: Boost Your Creativity — Use a Different Lens Today

So many lenses to choose from. Which one will it be today?

Every now and again in the life of a photographer — be they an amateur or a professional — comes a creative low point. They eye refuses to see new pictures, and the brain refuses to come up with new ideas. There are a many different ways how to cope with this. One would be to read through our entire Useful Photography Tip section. That may take you a while, though. If you want a remedy that helps immediately, here’s what I usually do when I find myself out of inspiration: I will simply use a different lens. How does this change anything? Read on to find out!

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Useful Photography Tip #45: Closing the Distance in Your Photography

Most photographers are aware of the phrase coined by the famous (or infamous, depending on your view) photographer Robert Capa “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” If you are not aware of that quote you should Google his name and oogle his images for a bit. While he was never deemed the world’s greatest photojournalist, he is responsible for two of the most famous war photographs of the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War of 1936 with his signature flair for being right in the midst of the action. Even as a war photographer who was having to dodge bullets to get the framing he desired, he saw the immediate value of closing the distance between him and his subject for that shot. While the majority of our readers will never step foot into a war zone to capture an image, there are some valuable lessons to be had in getting closer to your subject.
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Useful Photography Tip #43: Placement of Photos You’ve Shot and Printed

When you shoot for a while and become very proud of some of your work, there comes a point where you might want to display your pieces of work in a physical form vs on websites. After moving into my new apartment, that was exactly the situation I was in. Then a whole bunch of questions come up: what should I print the photos on? What rendering should I use?

And then after that: where should I put them? I was luckily pitched by a company called ChromaLuxe, who actually does a wonderful job of printing. Specifically, I received one of my photos from my last roll of Kodak Ektachrome printed on Aluminum Panels with four different finishes. And then it was a matter of figuring out where to place my favorite. Based on my knowledge of lighting, this came fairly simply.

You can also check out more Useful Photography Tips if you’d like.

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Useful Photography Tip #42: Keep Your Fall Photography Fresh

Have a seat


In observance of the passing of summer I am now thinking about and working on autumn images: one of my favorite things for some odd reason. It was a dry summer. While we got some rain in the north east of the United States, many were not so lucky. This dry weather led to leaves starting to change color early. Fall is a great part of the year to explore colors and textures. Every year is a different experience, as the weather shows us. I try to use everything I can to create new and different autumn images keeping them ever changing like the weather. Here are some tips to help you do the same.

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Useful Photography Tip #41: Keep Learning

My earliest knowledge of photography comes from books and magazines. I am a self taught photographer. This was not by choice, it was more of an economical issue. I would have enjoyed taking classes, possibly majoring in photography in college. I was at my PC, working on some photos with a photography podcast playing in the background. They mentioned getting training with their company. The cost was $24 USD a month, or $300 USD a year. While the company offered nice classes, the only thought I had was, “I can buy a prime lens with that money or take a trip”. The one thing I’ve learned in photography is with the internet, photography education is easy. There are many resources out there to help you learn, or give you a new perspective on things.


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Useful Photography Tip #39: Use Your Sunglasses As an Improvised ND/Polarizer-Filter

The flow of water captured at 1/13 sec thanks to a makedo sunglasses ND-filter

During this year’s summer vacations in the Austrian Alps, I found myself in need of an ND or polarizer filter a couple times. Wandering the mountains of the Alps, I often encountered beautiful mountain streams and small waterfalls that I desired to photograph. However, in the bright sunlight of the day, even with the lens stopped down to f/16, it was impossible to capture the flow of the water. At 1/125th of a second, the water would still look almost frozen. I would need at least 1/20th of a second to have the water appear flowing in the picture. In order to achieve this, I would have needed an ND or a polarizer filter. (A polarizer filter also “swallows” some light, making the resulting image darker.) Not having either with me, nor finding one in the right size in the various camera and electronics stores of Innsbruck, Tyrolia, I had to improvise.


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