Best online photolab

Nowdays when almost all photos we take are digital they seem to end up in a complex directory-structure somewhere on our laptop, tucked away. When we then are about to show them for family and friends we have to go through endless of mumbo-jumbo to get the photos from the computer to the tv and so forth. Well, I for one think that we all should send off our best photos to get papercopies now and then. Not only do you get your photos in a better format for show and tell, you also get the feeling that you actually created something in a better sense then just the images on your screen.

The Swedish photo-magazine “Kamera & Bild” had a test in their latest issue about the best digital photolab and once again the winner was – Crimson. This is a company that almost always come up in forums, magazines or discussions when people are to rnak their best photolabs and therefore I would like to throw them a bone here aswell.

I have not personally used this company yet but I’m looking on using their services to get some posters printed using pictures from my last trip on the Transmongolian railway. That’s right, they offer poster-printing aswell!

Worth mentioning is of course also that the cheapest contendant did come in on a whooping thrid place (out of twenty-one) and this was Fuijifilm so if you are to print alot of photos these are defenetly worth a look!

Do D-SLRs use film?

Analog cameras use a roll of film which first must be processed and then all photos is printed out on special paper and delivered to the photographer. In digital cameras this roll of film has been exchanged with an light sensitive sensor (CCD or CMOS). Photos are then stored on memory cards which can then be transfered into a computer or any other device which have the software to show the photos.

The introduction of the digital film made photography alot cheaper and also faster.

Reduce camera shake

If there is one thing that is an issue for all photographers alike it is camera shake. Experience and practice can minimize the shake from the hands but it can still never be completely removed. Due to this there is a couple of small tips you can use to reduce the camera shake.

First of all we can try to identify what factors we have that will introduce shake to your photographs. One might think that all shake is generated by the photographers hands but as we will see this is not always the fact.

Handshake is the form of shake we get from taking photos while holding the camera. To reduce this you can do any of the following:

  • Use a tripod on which the camera is safely mounted. To even further reduce the shake check so that the tripod is firmly on the ground and not in direct wind.
  • Lean against something solid like buildings, trees or a light post. You can even press the camera body firmly against the surface of any of the above to fixate it. Use caution while pressing the camera against a surface though not to harm the camera.
  • Lay the camera on anything you might find like stones, fencepost or cars. Utilize your surroundings and try to find “natural tripods” to fixate the camera. If you take a custom of bringing a small beanbag together with your camera equipment this is a great tool to use while using natural tripods.

Trigger shake is caused by the trigger itself while a photo is taken. By using a remote to shoot you remove the chance of you pressing down the trigger causing any shake. If you do not have a remote you can also use the timed shot if this feature is available in your camera and for example set the timer to a few seconds before the shot is taken. This time will let the camera settle after you stopped touching it.

Apart from these physical changes in your handling you can also use the settings in your camera to reduce shake. The longer time the shutter is open, the more sensitive to shake it become. Because of this try to take photos with as fast shutter-speed as possible while still getting enough light. By using a lower zoom or getting closer to your object you can also reduce some shake. This because shake originating from a single point is experienced greater at a longer distance.

So there you have it, a few tips on reducing camera shake.

Good luck!

Also check out the article about taking photos in low-light using techniques taught to sharpshooters.

Sensor sensitivity (ISO)

If you are using or have used an analog camera with “real film” you might have seen that film is sold with different ISO-values. This value tells us how sensitive the film is to light and by photograph using film of different ISO we can manage to get photographs in very low light as well as photos in a sunny day. In digital cameras the same value can be set telling the sensor inside the camera how sensitive it should be to light.

The most used span of ISO today is between ISO 100 and ISO 800. At the lowest value we need the most amount of light to get a good photo. When we increase the ISO value it mean that we can take the same photo as before but using less light.

The downside of a higher ISO is that the higher the value we use, the more blur we introduce into the photo. The real pros of using a higher ISO is that we can use a faster shutter even though the light is low. This is very useful if you are to take a photo in low light and have no tripod, by boosting the ISO you can keep the shutter fast and still get a good photo.

A rule of thumb is to keep the ISO at the lowest possible setting for the situation. In other words, start out by trying to take the photo using a low ISO and increase it until you get the outcome you were looking for.

Rule of thirds

When photographing an object it is easy to aim the camera with the object dead center in the viewfinder and snap. Our main concern is on keeping the entire object within the borders of the viewfinder, getting good light and keeping our object in focus. The final thing needed to make the photo stand out is composition.

The rule of third
The rule of third

There is a technique used in photography, painting and most cases of design which is called the rule of third. This rule is based on the fact that when we look at something we tend to focus not on the dead center but slightly to the side of the far center. There is a natural urge in us to look for the final flaw which makes something unique.

To use the rule of third we can imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines over the scene we are about to photograph. While doing this we try to find a way of placing the main object in on of the four intersections, bringing in the rule of third into the composition. If the object itself can not be placed in the intersection, try to pick out a point in the object to focus on. If your object for example is a portrait of a person you can place one of the eyes in one of the intersections.

Creative use of the rule of third in a macro-shoot. Photo by rhett maxwell
Creative use of the rule of third in a macro-shoot. Photo by rhett maxwell

Remember though that the rule of third is not really a rule. It is a guideline which can be used to compose a better scene to photograph but there will always be photos which get even better by not go by the rules. An easy way to use the rule of third is to always ask if it can be applied for each photo taken. It can also be used but varied to match like in the instance of full body portraits. For these many photographers use more the shape of a cross where the body is centered horizontally and then placed so that the eye-line is located one third from the top. In a way a vertical variation of the rule of third.

Many new digital cameras today have an option to show guidelines in the viewfinder to make the composition easier. Please refer to you manual to find if your camera has this option or not.