Shoot manual mode with E-TTL flash just once

If you have an external flash (and this even applies to the onboard flash but that’s a lot weaker) for your DSLR try shooting with the camera in manual mode and let the flash light the scene for you.

Canon flash units use E-TTL to figure out what power to use, Nikon and other manufacturers use something similar. In the bad old days photographs had to figure out the right settings with a light meter but now the tiny computer in your flash does the job automatically. This means you have a lot more freedom with your camera.

Instead of shooting in Program or auto mode switch the dial to M and change the aperture to F8, and the speed of the shutter to match how wide your lens is (or faster if you’re hand holding, try 1/50th of a second to start). Try shooting an indoor scene with objects at various distances. Do the same in Program mode too. You’ll probably find that objects that are blurry in Program mode are in-focus in manual mode!

By shooting in manual mode you’ll have more control over the depth of field, that is the area of the scene that will be in focus. F4 means that only a narrow sliver of the scene will be in focus but F8 broadens that. This is why those family portraits you shot in Program mode had some blurry faces in the background!

Many lenses produce sharper and better looking images at a certain aperture setting. F8 is widely suggested as a good starting point but it depends on the lens in question.

Unfortunately changing the aperture means less light gets to the sensor but your flash will do a good job of compensating for that. It can’t cope with every aperture setting or scene so experiment and get to know your equipment.

On Canon cameras Manual mode is better than Aperture priority mode for simple flash photography. In Aperture priority mode the camera adjusts the shutter speed for the ambient light and doesn’t use the flash in this calculation. In a dim room this will result in a long exposure. The flash will illuminate the subject but the background will be exposed for too. This is of course a valid way of taking photos but you have to be prepared for some camera shake, or you can underexpose the image on purpose to reduce the shutter speed. Long exposure shots with a flash produce some great looking action shots too, but be sure to set the 2nd curtain sync correctly! Here’s a good comparision of 1st and 2nd curtain sync.

Here’s some good advice and tips on the subject for Canon EOS owners.


Aperture ƒ/5.6
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 88mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 1/30s

Save instead of Export in GIMP 2.8

Version 2.8 of GIMP saves images as .xcf files by default when you hit CTRL-S. I remember a development version did this years ago but it was reversed before final release due to user feedback AFAIR.

I can understand the reasoning behind this decision but I hate it. It really, really bugs me. I don’t think it’s going to change in the future but if you must have your CTRL-S “save as a bloody jpeg because I said so” there is a way around it. You’ll use keyboard shortcuts.

Go to Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts and then search for export. Now change the shortcut to CTRL-S for either “Export…” or “Export to”. The former shows a save dialog, while the latter overwrites the file you have loaded. I prefer the save dialog.

You’ll still get the “close without saving” dialog. If it really bugs you (and I think it will) there’s a checkbox in the preferences asking you to, “confirm closing of unsaved images”.

*sigh* what a mess.

Padded bag inserts for camera equipment

Wow, I’ve been looking for something like this for years but I never knew what keywords to use to search for it. I have a backpack for my laptop and when travelling usually carry my camera gear wrapped up in clothes or paper but this should fit (with a little squeezing) into my backpack. I hope I can fit a Canon 40D and Sigma zoom lens in there with enough space for my Sigma wide angle too.

The flash can sit outside, it already has a padded cover.

I’ll update this post in a few weeks time with photos. You can find loads of these on Ebay.

Aftershot Pro B&W Workflow

Martin, over at Photoakademie.eu created a workflow video showing how a photo was processed and eventually turned into a black and white image using Aftershot Pro.

Coming from a GIMP background I used layers and layer masks but never used adjustment layers to keep changes separate. Quite an eye opener for me!

Plus another demonstration of Aftershot Pro and a Google Plus account dedicated to sharing presets.

You can download a 30 day trial of Aftershot Pro here (I should be on commission for this..)

Aperture ƒ/9
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 18mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 1/200s

HOWTO: Add a copyright notice in Aftershot Pro

This is a tutorial that will explain how to add a copyright notice to your photos in Aftershot Pro. It can even be done automatically when you export the image as a Jpeg for publishing online. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to create a new preset called “My Copyright Text”. This tutorial uses the zText plugin.

This is what a simple copyright message will look like but you can change it to suit your own needs.

After you install zText find it in the plugins tabs and enable it, type your copyright notice and set the size appropriately.

You can adjust where the message will appear on the “Preset” tab of the plugin.

Once you’re happy with your copyright message hop over to the Presets widget and click the + “Add Preset” icon.

This window will popup, rename the preset to something meaningful and click “None” to unselsect everything.

Go into the Advanced tab and select zTextPlug and you should see the settings you already configured. Click OK.

Click the Show checkbox next to your new preset and the “Done” button on the Preset widget.

If you have an output job configured you can add the copyright notice as a preset in the job settings to automate the task every time you export a file. One advantage of doing this is your image in Aftershot Pro won’t have the copyright text making it easier to export it again using a different batch output job.

Hope that helped, want some more Aftershot Pro tutorials?

Stupid Photo Thief

It’s inevitable that photos put online will be stolen. It’s a fact of life unfortunately. People think that just because something is on a website they can use it and claim the photo is there own.

Sometimes it just gets silly however.

Check out this guy’s photos on photo competition site pictures2win.com. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may recognise this photo. It looks very familiar doesn’t it?

With the help of Google Goggles on my Android phone I checked a few more photos. This photo of Venice (despite the author saying it’s in Pakistan) looks suspiciously like this one from the National Geographic. I’m sure they won’t be too happy to see that.

The Pictures2Win T&C of course include the condition that photos “must be the work of the individual submitting them” but there’s no link to report stolen images. I contacted Martin at that site. Hopefully he’ll take a look at that user’s account and take appropriate measures.

Thanks to _jmphotography for telling me about this photo theft.

Fort Camden

Fort Camden overlooks Cork Harbour near Crosshaven and was abandoned years ago. I’ve never been inside but Joleen Cronin and Siobhan Russell were and took some amazing photographs of this decaying military fort.

Lots of photos in the post above, on Abandoned Ireland too, with forum discussion on celticradio.net.

In 2010 a 4 man team Vince Farr, Noel Condon, Paul Brierly and Skully formed the Rescue Camden group.
With the help of Noel O’Driscoll (Cork Co. Council) in July 2010 restoration work finally began.
22 July 2010.
The handing over of the key to the RESCUE CAMDEN Committee
In 1938 The British Navy marched out of the fortress for the last time, handing it over in pristine condition to the Irish free-state army.
Sadly, since then Fort Camden has been neglected, and recently it has been systematically vandalized. Not one single part of this stunning facility has been left undamaged.