Photography on a budget: 5 Awesome Props

One common way to up your photography game is to shoot with different props placed in front of the lens or placed onto your subject. Light deflection is a common way to take a boring photograph and turn it into some very unique and captures a different perspective. Each of the items discussed all came under the price tag of $15 (AUD) so roughly $10 (USD) and I highly recommend you invest in these to create your own unique style. Each of these items do not have one specific use, they can be used in many different forms, allowing you to expand your creativity!

LED LIGHTS

Fairy string lights are a very common prop that is used alot in low light photography, mainly for portraits to light up the subjects face and create some killer bokeh. One common instagram user is Brandon Woelfel, who creates incredible portraits that makes full use of these lights. Not only this, these LED lights are easy to carry, extremely cheap and reflect off any smooth surface at night. Chuck your portraits into lightroom or photoshop and edit them to create some very creative shots. Let your subject hold the lights or wear the lights, it’s completely up to you and make sure you buy tonnes of AA batteries. Not only this, you can place the LED lights into a mason jar and place the jar wherever you seem fight. This is mostly used in the golden hour of the sunset at the beach. Place the mason jar with the lights on in the water and capture the waves crashing into the jar to create some awesome effects. Not only this, you can place this jar wherever you want to form a light source. One other use of these lights is to create bokeh for your photos, throw them somewhere in your background and suddenly you will create some really nice bokeh to add to your photo. These lights can be bought in copper or white (yellow or white) and come in a range of different lengths. I bought my 2m one from Ebay for $3.99 (aud) and I absolutely love using them.

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Light Prism

These prisms are the ones used in your physics class, they are incredible little things that can split light, reflect light from different angles and and definitely helps create some whacky photos. They can reflect the light from different angles onto the lens and can also reflect small rainbows onto the lens depending on the light source. The light is dispersed when it travels through the medium(which is the glass prism) and is refracted, meaning that the light comes out of the medium at a different angle compared to the original. You can use these light prisms at anytime of the day, however at night the light produces the best results as it brings in the many different lights from your surroundings.

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Crystal Ball

A very common prop that is used in photography is a crystal ball, a smooth round ball of glass. These balls are very cheap to purchase online from Amazon, Ebay or even your retail home decor store. What they essentially do is refract the incoming light and the outputted light is inverted, creating a very unique flipped look. The images are upside down, meaning you can either flip the image in post to create an awesome effect or leave it the way it is, both work extremely well. These are normally used for landscape photography, it is better to use a telephoto or macro lens here to ensure that you can focus on the ball. However in saying that, prime lenses do also work. Ensure to choose a correct aperture for the lens to ensure the ball is sharp and in focus as well as producing some very nice blurry and bokehlicious backgrounds. You can place the ball wherever you like. If you want, you can also use the crystal ball to cover the edge of your lens to create a prism like effect where it shoots rainbow lights onto your lens to create another cool perspective on your subject.

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CD or DVD

Use any old CD or DVD that is laying around and find a light source to reflect these rainbow colourful lights onto your subject. I’m sure when you were younger you used to point the reflection at your friends whilst swapping out DVDs. Now you can reflect the light onto your subject or even onto your lens to create some cool effects. Having the light reflect onto your subject gives then a rainbow face, which is definitely a unique look in portrait photography. This would be the cheapest item on the list as I’m sure you would have plenty of discs lying around the house.

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Beginner Digital Photography: 5 common mistakes

It’s Friday again! (well in Australia it is). This week we will be looking at the 5 common mistakes made by every beginner photographer and how to avoid them. When i first picked up my camera, I pretty much had no idea what I was doing, all I knew was to press the shutter button, I just left in auto and shot whatever I could with no sense of composition or anything! Don’t fret if you do some of these, we all make mistakes when we start off and it’s learning from these mistakes which helps us improve and improve.

Focusing on the wrong subject

I suffered from this mistake the most when I was began shooting my photos and it still happens today when I loose focus. Essentially if you leave your camera on autofocus and let the camera choose the focus points, you often leave your main subject blurry, leaving something else to be in sharp focus. This can be fixed relatively easy. The easiest fix is to change your camera settings to programmed auto, this allows you to choose the different focus points easily. Programmed auto also allows you to change different settings and I found it much easier to learn with. You then change the focus point to your subject, allowing your subject to be sharp. If you plan to take portraits, make sure to focus on the subjects eyes for the best results!

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Blurry and shaky photos

Blurry and shaky photos are a very common sight for a beginner photographer. This would be commonly caused by shooting at a shutter speed that is too low. The higher the shutter speed, the crisper the photo will be. At a lower shutter speed, the camera sensor is subject to the natural shaking of your hands or movement. If you stay very still or use a tripod, you can bring your shutter speed down. However a common rule is to never shoot at a shutter speed that is 1/(your lens focal length). So if you are using a 35mm lens on a crop sensor, you aim to shoot 1/50 and above. You can manually adjust this in the Shutter priority setting, which then the camera automatically adjusts all the other settings to compensate for your shutter speed. The more you are zoomed in, the more vulnerable your shots are.

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Blown exposure

This is a tough one to fix when you are shooting in JPEG. You can do your best to change your ISO settings to a lower setting, however you are better off shooting in RAW and fixing up the photo in post. If your exposure is too low, the grainier the photo will be and discoloring will occur. If your highlights are way too bright, it would be hard to recover the data. A general rule of thumb when shooting in RAW is to make sure your highlights are exposed correctly and then adjusting the shadows which will bring out the data. If your camera struggles to bring up the shadows, overexpose the photo and just bring down the highlights in post processing. If you really want the best results, shoot the scene at different exposures, such as underexposing, over exposing and then compile the image into light room or Photoshop and merge as an HDR, this will give you the best results. Make sure each frame is exactly the same!

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Shooting in the wrong file format

JPEG and RAW are the two files your camera will shoot at. JPEG normally as three settings such as FINE, NORMAL and BASIC. Ensure that you shoot FINE if you want to save your photos as JPEGs and don’t plan to post edit them. If you want to edit them later, save them as RAW files. The biggest mistake is saving the files as normal or basic, these file formats are very compressed and loose a lot of important data that will make your photo become less editable for Instagram and your colours will be off and find some distortions. JPEGs algorithm is an efficient algorithm but looses a lot of detail. The size difference in the file formats will be the amount of data that is on each photo. If you find yourself running out of memory, buy a new or larger SD card.

Angles

This is the biggest mistake beginners make, that is shooting photos from eye level. The reason this mistake is costly is that the photos can turn out to be very bland and mediocre. If you shoot from a different angle, you create a whole new perspective that people don’t normally see everyday, this gives the photo some appeal and creates a mood or a story. Everyone everyday views the world at eye level, however struggle to view the world from down below or up above. When taking portraits, try taking them from higher above or below, each represents different “power” stances and moods. When taking landscapes, try take it from down low, up above, giving a new unique perspective. If you struggle to find a unique angle, try shooting through something such as a branch, tree, people, rocks or grass. This gives a new angle of approach to the photo, making it stand out from the rest. If you have a tilting screen, it makes it very easy to get down low and take some photos through using live view. If you don’t have a tilting screen, just blindly take some photos and adjust accordingly to get that photo you want.

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Make sure to keep shooting with all this in mind! If you can get past these mistakes, your photography game will be on point. Next week I will go through a second part to this, with more suggestions on how to improve your beginner photography game. Remember, any progress is progress no matter how big or small. I’m currently on the market for a full frame camera and will post an article in the coming weeks about which are the best budget full frame cameras for you guys! Have a good week and catch you next time!

Beginner digital photography: 4K cameras

This week we will focus on beginner level entry cameras that shoot video at 4K (or UHD). A very common mistake is distinguishing between 4K and Ultra-high definition. 4K has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 whereas UHD has a resolution of 3840 X 2160. Your 4K televisions are actually UHD, however for the stake of this article, we will refer to 4K as UHD. 4K cameras started to appear on the market as early as 2015 and have now become the standard video format for cameras. A Lot of professional cameras have moved to 4K in 2017 and there are more cameras that will move to this format very soon. You may be starting out a vlog, filming some cinematic clips or even just filming your family member’s birthday party and you’re unsure as to which camera to buy, l have compiled a list of the best budget and beginner 4K cameras that are on the market today for you to use. Trust me, all these cameras produce killer 4K video and will throw the traditional HD 1080p footage out the window.

 

Panasonic G7

 

This has to be the best bang for buck 4K camera on the market today, with amazingly crisp 4K footage and fast autofocus, this camera is a definite buy. Not only this, it also produces some amazing still photography. Many view this camera as the younger brother of the GH4, which makes this little camera a best for filming and photography. The lenses have optical image stabilisation and the camera itself is very light, allowing you to stabilize the camera and hold it for long periods.  Footage itself can be recorded at up to 30p, at a bitrate of up to 100Mbps, and you can also call upon zebra patterning and focus peaking to help when recording. Not only this, chuck on a hotshoe mic and you have a complete package. Did I forget to mention the touch swivel screen? It’s got one of them, perfect for vlogging.

 

Sony A6300

 

The Sony A6300 mustn’t be looked over despite its replacement, the A6500, already on the market. With prices falling due to the updated version, the Sony A6300 is a very solid choice with a huge range of features and it’s an APS-C sensor. Furthermore, there are Log gamma modes, 120fps HD recording (also at 100Mbps) and enhanced zebra patterning to keep an eye on exposure, which can be extremely beneficial. You also benefit from a highly advanced focusing system for rapid focus and a 2.36-million-dot OLED viewfinder all inside a dust- and moisture-resistant body. I would highly recommend the A6300, if you have the extra money go for the A6500 as it contains inbuilt image stabilisation which helps with recording footage, however the battery life of both these cameras is relatively low compared to the competing mirrorless cameras.

 

Panasonic GH4/GH5

This bad boy was the 4K camera that changed the way people viewed mirrorless cameras, many youtubers and film-makers starting use this camera for their 4K videos due to its huge capabilities and very very impressive battery life. The battery is able to record nearly up to 4 hours of 4k footage and produces very impressive 4K for the user to color grade. This is a little more expensive than the other recommendations, however buying this second hand would be a good idea especially as the GH5 has come out onto the market. It is a powerhouse and has a wide range of lens selection, plus you can always get an adapter to use your current glass on your camera. Remember to purchase a large and fast enough SD card as you don’t want the camera to be buffering or create any distortions. It also has 12fps continuous shooting and the list of functionalities is very impressive.

 

Sony RX 100 (versions 4 and up)

The Sony RX100 was a camera that surprised many photographers. It was a compact camera for starters and we were told it could shoot 4K and take amazing stills. It did everything it was set out to do and did it very well, apart from overheating in the 4th variation. The RX100 shoot incredible 4K footage and has stabilised images and it also holds up very well whilst taking stills. The new version has a continuous shooting rate of 16 frames per second and has a tilting screen. This camera is a very popular backup camera which it’s very small form factor and many youtubers take this camera to events where they can’t fit their main rigs. The best part about this camera is how it can fit inside your pocket and has a surprisingly good battery life. The only downside to this camera is it’s non-removable lens, but apart from that it is a very solid camera that many enthusiasts have bought.

 

Xiaomi yi M1

 

When we talk about budgets, this is a real budget superhero. It is a 4k 20MP mirrorless camera and sells for around 300-400 USD, which is incredible. It has a very sleek and minimalistic build like the leica cameras and offers a range of functionalities. It is an interchangeable lens camera and can be bought with the kit lenses. It is an almost fully touchscreen interface with hardly any dials or buttons, which I dislike, however the interface is easy to use and even has a hotshoe for a flash! Shoot the camera is Aperture priority mode for the best result, however the autofocusing is rather poor and you can’t change focus whilst in video mode. It has an impressive ISO range and uses a sony sensor. If this camera got any cheaper, I would recommend to buy it just as a backup or a camera you can throw around. However, this camera does not get my recommendation to buy IF you have a larger budget and can buy the other cameras.

 

GoPro Hero 5 Black

Right now, the GoPro Hero 5 Black is a very promising action camera to purchase. Not only is the price dropping, but it has a range of functionalities and recording modes. The Hero 5 didn’t get off to the best of starts when it ran into production problems, which some still lurk today, but this doesn’t take away the incredible performance it has. The 4K footage from the gopro is crisp and sharp and also produces some very nice colours. With a touchscreen interface, the gopro is easy to use and control and also has inbuilt stabilisation which makes the footage a whole lot better to watch and use. I must warn you to not take your gopro hero 5 in the water, most of the batches have cracks in the waterproof sealing and I would recommend to buy a waterproof housing for the gopro hero 5. If you aren’t taking it in the water, it is a very promising and cheaper alternative to have 4K footage.

 

Your Phone

If your phone has 4K capabilities, get a rode mic to plug into your phone and boom, you have a 4K camera. Make sure you have a big enough SD card to fill up and also spare battery packs to charge your phone!

 

These are budget options to get into the 4K scenes and hopefully there is something in the mix for you!

Photography on a Budget: Splash Photography

Today we start a new series called photography on a budget, where you can get professional looking photos with everyday items around your house. Each week I will look at different ideas you can try at home and outside with everyday household items or cheap items that can be purchased online.

 

Introduction:

Splash photography is one of my favourite types of photography, freezing water in motion (or any liquid) is truly magical, giving you another perspective on water. The water you drop can be dyed to create different colours and you can add different liquids to the water to give it another effect such as oil, vinegar or even cordial. To maximise the effect of the water splashes, pick an everyday object to pour the water over, or drop an everyday object into a bowl of water. Lighting is going to be very important in this, normally professional photographers use high powered flashes to freeze the water in time, however their flashes are done behind the subject through wireless sync and those flashes often cost a lot of money, however I keep an eye out for my recommendation on budget flashes.

 

Aim:

To capture the water splashes at a high rate, freezing it in mid-air on a budget.

Equipment:

  • CFL lamp, we need these lamps to light up the water from behind
  • Baking paper, this is to diffuse the light from the lamp
  • LED torches, we need these to light up the bulbs from the front
  • Water, to pour over the object
  • Light bulb, our object to pour over (you can choose your own)
  • Camera with a sharp lens, preferably a prime.
  • Making tape, to tape up the baking paper
  • Tile or a plate, to rest our object on
  • Bucket or a tub, to rest our tile on and to catch the water that falls
  • Tripod, to ensure our shots are stable and crisp
  • Towels, we will end up spilling water unfortunately
  • Food dye, to colour the water, spicing up the photos
  • Table, to create a stable surface for your set-up

 

Method:

  1. Pick a spot to set up your equipment, preferably somewhere dark as you only want the background to be lit by the CFL lamp.
  2. Place your tub on your table with your tile or plate on top, make sure there is enough room for your water to drip down into the tub after you pour your water.
  3. Use blu-tack to secure your object in the middle or towards the back of the tile, you want the camera to focus on the tile and the object, don’t want to include the tub.
  4. Set-up your CFL lamp behind the tub and tiles, make sure your object is directly in front of the incoming light, place books or anything to raise up the lamp.
  5. Cut some baking paper to cover the lamp, this is because we want to diffuse the light, rather than making it very harsh on the subject. You can hang this from wall to wall. I hung my baking paper from the wall to a pole, think creatively of how you can hang up your baking paper.
  6. Set-up your tripod and camera up, make sure you get the framing right so that your object is in the middle and on a good angle, otherwise the splashes will look less appealing. You may not even use a tripod, you can use a small bookshelf, or books stacked together or even a chair.
  7. Once you have your framing right, set up your LED torches, I used two, on either side of the object give the front of the object a bit of glow, so the viewer can see the object. The LED torches don’t need to be bright and should be placed a fair distance away, just giving enough light to light up the front.
  8. Set your camera is a shutter speed of 1/4000, iso to around 800 to 1600 and your f stop to around f/5 to f/9 to ensure you get good enough depth of field so that all your water droplets are in focus.
  9. Take a few test shots to adjust your settings to ensure that everyone works well. Remember you can edit certain things in post so don’t be too pedantic on the quality.
  10. Pour water as your hold the shutter down, make sure your camera is on continuous shooting.
  11. Repeat with dyed water to create different scenes and moods.

Sample set-up:

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Results:

HOT TIP: Make sure you are shooting in .raw so you can edit in post!

Concluding thoughts: 

The entire exercise took me no longer than 15 minutes to set-up and was really quick to tear down. Make sure to take as many shots as possible or up until you get the shot you really want. Not only is this cheap, it also produces some amazing photographs for you to share with your friends and the outside world. Remember to tune in every Wednesday or (Tuesday if you live in the states) for a new weekly photography idea on a budget!

 

Beginner Digital Photography: First Prime Lens

Kit lenses only take you so far in your photography journey, If you have been shooting on your kit lens for a while now, you may be thinking about buying your first lens, which in my opinion should be a prime lens. There are hundreds and thousands of prime lenses on the market, whether it be a vintage lens, new lens or a used lens. They come in all different focal lengths and different maximum apertures. This is all very very confusing, so today I will boil it all down to the lens you would buy depending on your camera mount.

 

First lets look at the difference between a kit lens and a prime lens. A kit lens has a range of different focal lengths, let’s say from 18mm to 55mm. You may have noticed that as you zoom in, the maximum aperture increases, this is due to the aperture adjusting to the amount of zoom. These kit lenses often have a lot more glass and are typically not as sharp as the prime lens due to all the addes glass and moving parts, which can create softness in your lens. When shooting zoomed up taking a portrait, you may struggle to get good enough creamy bokeh due to the physical limitations of the aperture. You can get a lower min aperture by walking closer to the subject and reducing your zoom, however your depth of field of the subject changes and the subject has end up being distorted by the fisheye structure of the lens. Here, the prime lens comes in handy, you can bring the aperture right down, normally f/1.8, producing extremely creamy bokeh, sharpness and you zoom with your legs. With a prime lens, you cannot zoom, so you will need to zoom in and out by using your legs. I will have an article coming up in the coming days that will talk about aperture.

 

The reason why many photographers suggest the first lens to be a prime lens is due to their weight and how cheap they can be. They have the best bang for the buck in terms of sharpness and bokeh and would definitely recommend buying one on sale, as they are constantly on sale. The lightweight nature makes it easy to carry your camera around and can fit in your bag with ease. Not only this, they are very durable due to the lack of moving parts and don’t cost too much to replace. Furthermore, prime lenses help you progress in your photography game into the next level and remember to share your photos.

 

You may have come across the term nifty fifty before, this term refers to the 50mm prime lenses you can buy for your camera. These lenses are one of the most versatile lenses on the market today, they offer the best sharpness, bokeh and weight. 50mm prime lenses are most commonly used for street photography, portraits and event photography. These lenses are extremely sharp, making your images really pop out and have some of the best bokeh that can be produced. Bokeh is the creamy blur of the background behind your subject, it adds emphasis on the subject. Not only this, having a lower aperture allows you to let in more light to your camera, making it better for night photography or low light photography. This being a photography guide for those who are beginners, your camera would have a x1.5 up to x2.0 crop factor. This would mean we must adjust for these factors.

 

The following is table of which lens I would recommend you to buy depending your camera brand, remember these are crop sensors, if you are on a full frame camera, go ahead and buy a 50mm prime lens, make sure the max aperture is below f/1.8.

 

Camera Brand Lens
Nikon – f mount Nikon NIKKOR AF-S 35mm f/1.8G F1.8 G DX
Canon – EF-S mount Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Panasonic – Micro four thirds Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Sony – E mount Sony E Mount 35mm f1.8 OSS Lens
Olympus – Micro four thirds Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 Lens
Pentax – K- mount Pentax DA 35mm F2.4 AL Lens

 

Remember, you can opt for different focal lengths, these distances are for getting the nifty fifty prime lens focal length (apart from the canon). For the canon, I would opt for either 24mm or the 50mm. Both are fantastic lenses and very affordable. Not only this, you can look at other different brands such as sigma for their fantastic lens selection. But for now, I would strongly recommend purchasing a lens from that table as they are the best bang for your buck prime lenses which you should have. I don’t think I could live without my 35mm prime lens from NIkon, it is a fantastic lens and I use it on nearly every outing due to the incredible sharpness and crispness.

 

I hope to catch you next week as we go through which 4K cameras to buy at this current time!

Explore: Blue Mountains

The world heritage listed blue mountains, named after the blue haze that surrounds the mountains and cliffs, is a beautiful and enchanted range visited by hundreds and thousands every year. The views are spectacular with the range covered infinite eucalyptus trees. Only situated 90 minutes away from the CBD, the blue mountains has proven to be a very popular among the locals and tourists. I would highly recommend a visit to the blue mountains if you are nearby, definitely grab out your camera and a wide angle lens to capture the beauty of the mountains. Today I will go through the top attractions as well as some tips and tricks when visiting the blue mountains to make it the most memorable experience to date.

Free parking

We will start off by showing where the free parking is, trust me, It will come in handy when visiting these attractions.

Three sisters

The three sisters is an iconic sandstone formation which have eroded over time to leave 3 protruding rocks towering over the landscape. These massive rock formations are connected to the Aboriginal history and can be seen from the lookout. Be mindful there will be lots of people at the lookout, walking down and to the left will give you the best view. Not only from this lookout, you can see a panoramic view of landscape, giving you a middle earth vibe. According to the Aboriginals, these three rocks represented three sisters that transformed into rocks. The lookout is called echo point and there are toilets, drink taps and seating areas.

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Wentworth falls

One of the many waterfalls on offer at the Blue mountains, Wentworth falls is one of the most rewarding waterfalls to visit. Along the trail you will encounter different waterfalls and it the common trail normally takes around 20 minutes, and is definitely worth your time. If you are more of a hiker, don’t fret, there are so many different tracks you can take, pick and choose and walk. You will not regret it and every trail has something different on offer. There have been reported sightings of many different wildlife along princess’s walking track. All the tracks include stairs, but they are easy hikes to complete. Make sure to bring water and also food to have a picnic to rewind and recharge.

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Katoomba falls and cascades

Not too far from the three sisters, the Katoomba falls is an easy to get to destination and has plenty of options to free roam around the falls. From the car park, there are a few tracks that lead you to many different lookouts for the Katoomba falls. I would highly recommend visiting them first then following the path. You will be greeted with this spectacular waterfall where you can climb and take photos. The trees block the harsh sunlight, making it very nice to take some photos. Now the fun part is following the river trail, I highly recommend exploring this river. I take no responsibilities if you slip or fall, please go with caution. The river is clear and there are clear paths to take. Be Careful of the depth and make sure to take photos whilst you travel down. You will pass many smaller waterfalls and suddenly be greeted with a massive cliff edge, the edge of Katoomba falls where the scenic skyworld passes focuses on. Trust me, it is an exhilarating experience being at the edge of this gigantic waterfall, best to visit when there hasn’t been a lot of rain due to the current of the water. The entire waterfall and walk is drop dead gorgeous, the greenery being contrasted with the sandstone and seeing the blue haze in the distance is something that still amazes me today. Below is a video of my mates and I exploring the waterfall.

Prince Henry Cliff Walk

I strongly recommend following this relatively walking track that takes you towards Katoomba falls, the views along the route are incredible and have many different lookouts situated along the walk. Ensure to wear runners with grip and prepare to stop randomly as the path can be relatively tight at times. Cliff View lookout is a must stop destination along the way, giving you more panoramic views and you can climb under the metal chains to walk along the rocks to be an unobstructed view, once again please be careful when doing so.

Glow worm tunnel at Lithgo

If you still have time in your day, make sure to visit the glow worm tunnels in Lithgow. These tunnels are old railways tunnels and are 400m in length, the line was discounted back in 1940, however larvae of the fungus gnat now surround the tunnel, make sure to bring a torch and good walking shoes when exploring this tunnel.

Beginner Digital Photography: Kit lenses

The past two weeks we have been focussing on beginner cameras that will get you into the photography scene. When you purchase the camera, you may be asked to buy it with a kit lens or it comes bundled with the camera. Today I will take you through why I feel that Kit lenses are an important foundation for your photography journey and why they mustn’t be overlooked.

It is a major misconception of the kit lens being trash and a waste of money, kit lenses have improved so much over time. They were once plastic gimmicks that took below par shot, nowadays these kit lenses have evolved into lens that will last throughout your time as a beginner. These lenses now have silent autofocus, sharp image and impressive glass for its price. To put this into perspective, most kit lenses come with inbuilt vibration reduction making it easier for the user to shoot sharp images down at 1/20 and even 1/10. This brings out the camera’s potential in low light situation.

Most common kit lenses are 14-42mm for mirrorless cameras and 18-55mm for DSLRs. These are fantastic ranges as they are wide enough for landscape photography and zoom in enough for portraits and everything inbetween. What the kit lens does not do well is distance photography such as sports, animals and avian photography where you are at large distances away from the subjects. If you need, you can also get extension tubes to shoot macro photography. (I will cover this in the coming weeks) Often manufacturers offer a zoom kit lens that go from 55 – 200 or even 300mm. My first lens was a Tamron 18-200mm lens and it was perfect as a beginner lens where I could shoot landscapes, portraits and even macros. These lens are very underrated and extremely handy when travelling.

Another aspect where Kit lenses excel at is the weight, which again makes it ideal for travelling. Most are well under 200 grams due to their plastic build, which is okay as these lenses aren’t made to last for a very long time. Having a very light lens makes it easier to carry the camera around and helps when taking photos. I currently use a Sigma 17-50mm and it is very very heavy compared to the kit lenses. I miss having a light lens as when i’m walking from location to location, the camera would be a pain dangling around with all the momentum of the lens. The Kit lens is versatile in that regards, however does lack in durability. Since kit lenses are made out of cheaper materials, they do tend to not last a long time and can break in falls. Fortunately, they are very cheap to buy new and are dirt cheap to buy used.

The downfall (spec wise) of the kit lens is the sharpness, autofocus and aperture. The sharpness is decent enough for most photography, however it isn’t as sharp as prime lenses (which I will cover next week). The Autofocus is a bit slow and noisy, however has gotten better which each new generation and I know the new Nikon kit lenses have a very decent focus speed. The maximum aperture is f/3.5-5.6 (it increases as the lens zooms), meaning it is not a fixed aperture lens. This would be more than adequate for portrait photography but don’t expect to get very creamy bokeh from this lens. However this is perfect for landscape photography and just everyday photography.

Now that the specs are out of the way, I want to emphasise the important the kit lens has on your photography development. When you use the kit lens, you tend to get similar shots and the distance may not be adequate. The kit lens will start to make you think about how you are shooting your subject, how you could change your positioning. Remember, you can zoom with your legs, thus leaving you with a lower maximum aperture. Not only this, you soon start to learn about the limitations of the lens and you being to adapt. This creates creativity in your shots and thus you begin to find your style of photography. Currently I am still deciding on what to shoot, seen from my instagram @bokehgon. It doesn’t matter if the photo isn’t the sharpest, it is your photo and you tell the story through your lens. Be creative with how you use your kit lens, how you angle your shots, whether it be from low or high and be creative on how you use your lighting to help you take that perfect shot. There is nothing special about the kit lens, it is something that is very generic and it is up to you to create something special out of nothing. Once you master the kit lens, read my next article that will talk about your first lens (after the kit lens).

The only way to improve is to keep practising, photograph anything and try to see where the improvements can come from. Could this be your framing? Could this be your angle from which you are shooting your subject at? Could it be the lighting? Dimly light shorts create a darker mood whereas shots with plenty of light create a happy and vibrant mood. I would recommend photography anything at the start, don’t be afraid to walk around the neighbourhood with your camera and take photos of plants, people, cars and houses, (as long as you are not doing this in a creepy stalker type way). Happy shooting for this coming week and I will be back next week to talk all about your next lens you should invest in for your photography. Make sure to comment your instagram photography account below and we as a community will follow you and help see your photography grow!

Explore: The Great Ocean Road

Ask any Melbournian and they will recommend a visit to the Great Ocean Road, it’s a simple masterpiece. With a length of 243 km, the Great Ocean Road contains something new and exciting every turn of the corner, whether it be a different landscape, another vibrant coastal town or a forest. Starting in Torquay and ending in Allansford, the Great Ocean road covers hundreds and thousands of landmarks, towns and events. I will cover the major attractions that are along the Great Ocean Road and some advice for those who want to have a fun driving experience.

The most famous attractions lay beyond the Otways national park, but we will start our coverage of the top ten places to visit along the Great Ocean Road from the start (east end).

12 apostles

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Probably one of the most well known attractions along the great ocean road and would definitely need a visit. The 12 apostles, well actually only 8 now are giant limestone stacks that are just off the shore. They are an incredible site to see with their giant tall structures being crushed by the white waves, making it a fantastic piece to photograph and view. There is a dedicated discovery centre with lookouts and I would definitely recommend walking all the way down to the beach to view the 12 apostles. The stacks currently erode at 2cm per year due to the harsh nature of the southern ocean, hence I believe you must visit these mammoths before they all collapse and erode away.

Otways national park

The Otways national park is a fantastic national park along the Great Ocean Road and has some of the best roads to drive along. The national park itself contains 3 waterfalls which are a must visit and contain a huge range of different plant life, animal life and fungi. It is a perfect place for a picnic, mountain bike ride and camping. The Otways have a lot to offer which treetop adventures, hundreds of walking tracks and a seaside view at the edge of the national park. There are an abundance of lakes and rivers, making the Otways a photographers dream. Close to the Otways, there is a fantastic windy road which I would highly recommend any driver to visit, Turtons track. Make sure to have tyres with plenty of grip and are comfortable to drive on these windy roads. It is a fantastic drive with wonderful scenery and greenery that surrounds you, it truly is a magical experience.

London bridge

Remember the childhood nursery rhyme of London bridge is falling down? Well the London Bridge along the Great Ocean Road has in fact fallen down and has now taken on the name of London Arch. It is a natural arch caused by erosion and used to be connected to the mainland, however in 1990 the arch connecting the bridge to the mainland collapsed and thus now is called London Arch. It is still a fantastic natural arch to look at with and provides fantastic photography opportunities.

Loch Ard Gorge

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Just situated 3 minutes away from the 12 apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge is gorgeous. Visitors are allowed to walk down the beach and see in beautiful beach in all its glory. It is fantastic on a warm day and also provides moody photos on a cloudy day. It was named after a ship with ran around on a nearby island, leaving on 2 survivors out of the 54 on board. The Loch Ard Gorge has served many purposes in film and media and will continue to be one of the most beautiful attractions along the Great Ocean Road. Make sure to bring your towel and bathers if you would want a dip! The water is crystal clear and I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the water.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a coastal town situated before the Otways national park and definitely deserves a visit for a lunch stop. There is a lot on offer in this town with fantastic eateries, sea-side views and even the chance to catch a few whales. Southern right whales are known to breed in the area and there have been many sightings of humpback whales in the vicinity. Other towns to visit include, Lorne and Torquay. In fact, I would recommend stopping at as many coastal towns as possible as each has a different vibe, atmosphere and culture.

The Razorback

The razorback is another rock formation that is situated very closely to the Loch Ard Gorge. The name is given to this rock formation with the way it looks due to the wind and water erosion the rock has experienced over the many years. The walking path is a loop and you have a fantastic view of the other rock formations surrounding the Great Ocean Road.

The Blowhole

No surprises here, the blowhole spurts out water on the viewing flatforms and surrounding rocks. It is a fantastic way to cool down on a hot summer’s day and also creates some very interesting long exposure photography. The blowhole is located near the Loch Ard Gorge, but mind you the sea-spray on a calm day can be little to none. The area is also heavily vegetated, so please be careful when making your way to view the blowhole.

The Arch

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The arch, different to London Arch, is a natural formation of an arch located not too far away from the 12 apostles. There is now parking and access to the arch and is a fantastic thing to view no matter what time of the day. It is a quieter attraction which is good to take a breather here and there. There are stairs and walkways to get close to the arch, however getting very close to the arch does require going off roading (with your legs).

Bay of Martyrs

Situated closer to the west end of the Great Ocean Road, the bay of martyrs is one of the most beautiful sites along the great ocean road with plentiful bird wildlife. There are guided walks here and is a prominent sunset destination with its large open views with the limestone cliff edges, reefs and the sparkling water. Some have said the bay has better views than the 12 apostles and are less crowded. I would place this as un underrated spot to visit along the great ocean road.

Bay of Islands

The bay of islands, close to Warrnambool, has spectacular sights and is definitely worth the trip . Many tourists often miss the parts beyond London Arch, however I strongly recommend to travel further to these locations due to their fantastic views and low crowds, making it feel like a private beach. It is quiet and relaxing, a great escape from everyday life. Yet again, the locals have rated this higher than the 12 Apostles and I don’t blame them.

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When travelling along the Great Ocean Road, ensure to travel early in the morning to avoid large tour groups and parking can be limited so be prepared to park far away and walk for the most part. Ensure to pack plenty of water and snacks and definitely bring a DSLR if you have one. If you are unsure as to which DSLR to buy, refer to this guide. Make sure to put the Great Ocean road on your bucket list, you will not regret it. Summer, Winter, rain or shine, there is never a bad day to visit the Great Ocean Road as each climate has a different mood and different perspective.

Explain it: ISO

You may have seen this term, ISO, on your camera before, but what exactly does it do? Essentially ISO is the level of sensitivity of the sensor in your camera to the available surrounding light. A lower ISO number means that it is less sensitive to light whilst a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your sensor.

How may you use this to your advantage?

Well when shooting in low light conditions, raise the ISO to compensate for the lower light, meaning that the sensor captures more light. Your camera sensor can see more light than your eyes, which is incredible when taking milky way photos. The trade off at higher ISO is that it adds noise to the photo, which is just grain and makes the image look less sharp and crisp. Like those old vintage cameras. Normally you would want to shoot at the lowest possible ISO to reduce this grain and noise, one way to bypass this is to use a flash. Most Cameras have a base ISO of 100 and top out at around 6400. However newer and more expensive cameras can go way higher and lower, which make them really good for low light photography.

What do the ISO numbers mean?

Well the numbers are actually a progression of the power of two. The progressions are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400. Each step is twice as more sensitive as the previous number, so the sensor sensitivity grows exponentially. This also means that we can shoot at a faster shutter speed which is good for lower light indoor sports photography. ISO is very handy for many different reasons, such as keeping your aperture high to keep more things in focus and having a faster shutter speed.

What ISO to use?

It is optimal to use the lowest ISO as possible, this way you will get a sharp, crisp and clear image every time. I would play around with the camera in manual to see how everything affects the photo and remember, practise makes perfect!

Leave a comment below for suggestions on what I should cover next!

Beginner Digital Photography: Mirrorless 2017

Last week I covered the traditional DSLR cameras, today I will cover the mirrorless camera options that are available to you as a beginner entering the scene of photography. The biggest difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is the size. They are a breeze to carry around and are very compact even with the lens on. Many entry-level mirrorless cameras will easily fit into your coat pockets, handbags and small bags. With the smaller size also comes the reduced weight, making it easy to lug around your neck or bag. Furthermore, since mirrorless cameras are an improving technology, many older but still good models are becoming cheaper and the capabilities are forever increasing.

To quickly understand how mirrorless cameras work, instead of having a mirror that reflects the light coming into the lens into the viewfinder, the light goes straight onto the image sensor which the user previews through the electronic viewfinder or screen. Therefore, there are fewer moving parts in the camera, meaning a greater shooting speed. There are many advantages of mirrorless cameras, such as a lot more autofocus points, better image stabilization (for price point) and a much better video quality. Referring to ISO levels in last weeks post, mirrorless cameras have a much higher ISO point, making them ideal for low light photography. Keep an eye out for a head to head comparison between mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.

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Today we will be looking at some of the mirrorless cameras that are on the current market which I consider to be the best for beginner photographers.

1. Sony A6000

The sony A6000 is a fantastic mirrorless camera that is pure bang for the buck. You can find these cameras constantly on sale and are fantastic little units. Inside they have an APS-C sensor, 11 frames per second shooting and some of the best low-light photography at the price point with its max ISO being 25600. The A6000 is essentially a striped back version of its older brother the A6300. The electronic eyepiece is definitely usable where a DSLR shooter would be able to use. The earlier you start with using the eyepiece, the more comfortable you will be with it.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3 inch tilting screen, 11FPS shooting, 1080p video and uses Sony’s E-mounts. I would highly recommend this camera for anyone entering the mirrorless scene.

2. Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80

The panasonic Lumix GX80, GX85 for the USA, is another bang for the buck mirrorless camera, however with more options over the A6000. This time the sensor is a micro four thirds sensor, which is similar to the APS-C sensor where it crops the image compared to full frame, however the cropper is more significant. This generation of camera incorporates 4K video, which is a huge positivity for crisp videos and can capture 8MP stills from recorded video. The Autofocus is very fast and has a 5 axis image stabilization, which is incredibly helpful to obtain sharp shots. The shutter shock is also reduced, which was a problem in the previous generations. Panasonic has stepped up its game with this camera, If you want the next step up, look into the Panasonic GX8, however it is pricier.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting touch screen display, 8FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you also want 4K video.

3. Sony A6300

The Sony A6300 is a beast of a camera, though it is a lot pricier than its competition. It has a much improved sensor over previous generations and also offers 4K video. With a microphone jack, this camera becomes a viable option for those who also want to get into cinematography. The build quality of this camera is better than the A6000 and also contains weather sealing and a higher ISO range. Sony opted for a sharper OLED viewfinder, however the LCD panel is not touchscreen. The camera is dropping in price which makes it perfect for a beginner who wants to start off with an more advanced mirrorless camera.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 11FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you are interested in having some of the most advanced features.

4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

This camera is sort of an underdog, it is fantastic value for money, looks great and has loads of features. This new generation includes a 5 axis image stabilization like the panasonic and the shooting speed has increased to 8.5FPS. The only major let back of this camera would have to be the micro four thirds sensor, which by the way is half a typical APS-C sensor. It has a max 1080P and has a really high shutter speed of 1/16000s. This camera excels in street photography as well as portraits. With the retro looks, the camera sure looks fantastic around your neck.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 8.5FPS and 1080p video. Being one of the cheapest and powerful contenders on this list, I would definitely recommend this camera.

5. Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T20 takes the good bits from its older brother and places it in a smaller and much more affordable body. The design is superb and has the similar retro theme like the E-M10 II. The Fuji makes use of an APS-C sensor, being 24MP. It produces extremely rich and detailed images thanks to its sensor. Once again, this mirrorless camera is capable of shooting at 4K with an external microphone port and has a max ISO of 12800. Unfortunately there is no image stabilization which means the user needs to be extra stable when taking photos. This camera excels at landscape photography.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 14FPS and 4K video recording. I would definitely recommend to try out this camera as the buttons have a really nice feel to them.

Overall thoughts?

I would recommend all of them, however my top recommendation would be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II, it is a fantastic camera with excellent image quality, class leading features and is relatively cheap which is fantastic. Not only this, in my opinion the olympus looks the best with its retro theme and the lens selection is relatively large. However, if you were wanting to shoot 4K, I would recommend the Panasonic Lumix GX80/GX85 as the pricing for the camera is incredible, being slightly more expensive than the sony A6000. The kit lens that comes with the camera is more than capable and make sure to invest in spare batteries, mirrorless cameras chew through batteries twice as fast as DSLRs, however most can be powered and charged by external power banks (the ones use to charge phones). This feature makes mirrorless cameras seem like a better investment compared to DSLR cameras.