What is Ghosting and Flare?

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they can reflect and bounce off different lens elements, diaphragm and even off the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images. Better known as lens “flare”, the effect can impact images in a number of ways: it can drastically reduce image contrast by introducing haze in different colors, it can add circular or semi-circular halos or “ghosts” and even odd-shaped semi-transparent objects of various color intensities. Flare is not always undesirable in photography though – sometimes in is used creatively to add artistic elements to images. In fact, lens flare is often deliberately added to movies and computer games to add a sense of realism and boost the visual experience of the viewer.

Dune Sunset Panorama

To help decide whether to use flare in images, it is a good idea to understand why it happens in the first place. Let’s go over the causes of flare in detail, then discuss ways to use, reduce or perhaps completely avoid it.

1) What is Lens Flare?

Lens flare occurs when a point of light source such as the sun is much brighter than the rest of the scene, and it either happens to be in the image (within lens angle of view), or simply hits the front element of a lens without being present in the image. Depending on the position of this bright light source, it can result in a lot of haze / lack of contrast, orbs and polygon artifacts scattered throughout the image, semi-round shapes with rainbow colors, or a combination of all of the above. This happens due to internal reflections that take place inside the lens and even between the imaging sensor and the lens (more on that below). Take a look at the below illustration:

Lens Flare

[Read more...]

What is Vignetting?

Vignetting, also known as “light fall-off” (sometimes spelled “light falloff”) is common in optics and photography, which in simple terms means darkening of image corners when compared to the center. Vignetting is either caused by optics, or is purposefully added in post-processing in order to draw the viewer’s eye away from the distractions in the corner, towards the center of the image. Depending on the type and cause of vignetting, it can be gradual or abrupt. There are a number of causes of optical vignetting – it can naturally occur in all lenses, or can be caused or increased/intensified due to use of external tools such as filters, filter holders and lens hoods. In this article, I will talk about each type of vignetting and also discuss ways to reduce or increase the amount of vignetting in photographs using post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop.

1) Types of Vignetting

As I have already pointed out in the introduction of this article, there are different types of vignetting that one might encounter when taking pictures or viewing images. Some types of vignetting are naturally caused by the optical design of lenses, others can occur when using third party accessories such as filters and extended hoods and some are artificially added by the photographer in post-production. Let’s take a look at each type in detail.

1.1) Optical Vignetting

Optical vignetting naturally occurs in all lenses. Depending on the optical design and construction of the lens, it can be quite strong on some lenses, while being barely noticeable on others. Still, vignetting occurs on most modern lenses, especially on prime / fixed lenses with very large apertures. There are two causes for this. First, at the widest apertures, the light than enters the lens is partially blocked by the lens barrel, as indicated by the below diagram:

Optical Vignetting

[Read more...]

Rocky Mountain High – Canadian Style – Part II

This year’s vacation choice was a simple one. Based on last year’s trip to the Canmore/Banff area, we realized there was much more to see of this beautiful region than time allowed. Many of the Photography Life readers were kind enough to suggest possible itineraries for our next trip. In particular, Cindy (a.k.a. “Alberta Girl”) gave us a detailed listing rivaling the length of my original article! Her recommendations served as the foundation for this year’s itinerary. If you are seeking to combine your love of photography with hiking, wildlife viewing, and breathtaking scenery, I would strongly urge you to consider the area around Banff National Park. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

1) Canmore – Home Away From Home

We stayed at Canmore’s Falcon Crest Lodge for our vacation last year. After we decided to return for another visit, we initially thought we might travel around the region, staying in different lodges located in Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, and Jasper every few 2-3 days. But the more we considered the areas we wished to visit, the more we liked the idea of using Canmore as our home base once again. The notion of packing up our belongings every few days and checking into a new lodge lost its appeal when we considered the logistics and time involved.

Canmore_Elk

[Read more...]

What is Distortion?

In photography, there are two types of distortions: optical and perspective. Both result in some kind of deformation of images – some lightly and others very noticeably. While optical distortion is caused by the optical design of lenses (and is therefore often called “lens distortion”), perspective distortion is caused by the position of the camera relative to the subject or by the position of the subject within the image frame. And it is certainly important to distinguish between these types of distortions and identify them, since you will see them all quite a bit in photography. The goal of this article is to explain each distortion type in detail, with illustrations and image samples.

1) Optical Distortion

In photography, distortion is generally referred to an optical aberration that deforms and bends physically straight lines and makes them appear curvy in images, which is why such distortion is also commonly referred to as “curvilinear” (more on this below). Optical distortion occurs as a result of optical design, when special lens elements are used to reduce spherical and other aberrations. In short, optical distortion is a lens error.

There are three known types of optical distortion – barrel, pincushion and mustache / moustache (also known as wavy and complex). Let’s examine each in more detail, but before we do that, let’s take a look at a lens with zero distortion:

No Distortion

[Read more...]

Time Saving Tips for Wedding Photographers

Summertime for wedding photographers in the northern hemisphere can be quite hectic! Since the beginning of May I have been shooting 3-5 portraits sessions and 1-2 weddings per week – that means before I have little time to process, edit, and complete a session/wedding before I am already onto the next one. It goes without saying that good time management is crucial for not falling behind. In this article, I will share a few time savings tips for busy photographers like me.

1 Laura Murray Wedding Photography Tips

[Read more...]

Hiring a Second Shooter for Wedding Photography

Many photographers prefer to have second shooters to help them out during events, especially big weddings. Hiring or becoming a second photographer to work along with you on a job might be very complicated, tricky and sometimes downright nightmarish. You hire a photographer to come and help you out during one of the biggest weddings of your season, and the photographer shows up late, completely unprepared, with empty batteries, no flash and a completely different camera system. If you wish to avoid such situations, read this post up and make yourself thoroughly prepared. It sure is a hard job to let someone else represent your business. But when you are ready, you can make the experience both pleasant and even memorable for all parties involved.

Hiring a second shooter (7)

1) The difference between a second shooter and an assistant

First things first, without diving into semantics too deep, I want to clarify the difference between a second shooter and an assistant. A second shooter is a photographer that is called/asked/hired to work alongside the main photographer for a particular event. An assistant, on the other hand, is not necessarily a photographer – it could be anyone that is hired to assist the main photographer in carrying his/her gear and perform simple tasks like holding lights, reflectors, etc. While second shooters can also perform assistant roles (if agreed upon earlier), keep in mind that they could be skilled professionals, just like you. Assistants, on the other hand, can be interns or student photographers, who are hired to assist and who are there to learn. Regardless of who you choose to work with, a binding contract with clearly stated duties and dues should be put together and signed in advance.

[Read more...]

Nikon D7100 Infrared Conversion

I have a very unique Nikon D7100 – it is likely the first unit converted for infrared use – in the world. My D7100 is also likely the first to undergo two infrared conversions (more on this in a bit). I was fortunate to receive my D7100 from B&H as part of the first wave of product shipments. Apart from a night of putting the DSLR through its paces to ensure that there were no focusing problems or other issues, I didn’t have the D7100 for very long. For the many reasons Nasim outlined in his detailed D7100 review, and being very familiar with its predecessor, the D7000, I liked what I saw of this DSLR’s capabilities.

D7100 and 720nm filter

[Read more...]

What is Field Curvature?

Field Curvature, also known as “curvature of field” or “Petzval field curvature”, is a common optical problem that causes a flat object to appear sharp only in a certain part(s) of the frame, instead of being uniformly sharp across the frame. This happens due to the curved nature of optical elements, which project the image in a curved manner, rather than flat. And since all digital camera sensors are flat, they cannot capture the entire image in perfect focus, as shown in the below illustration:

Field Curvature

In a simple field curvature scenario like above, the light rays are perfectly focused in the center of the frame, at Image Plane A (where the sensor is). Since the image is curved, sharpness starts to drop as you move away from the center, resulting in less resolution in the mid-frame and much less resolution in the corners. The circular “dome-like” image in three dimensional form is shown to the right of the illustration. If the corner of the image is brought into focus, which would move the image plane closer (Image Plane B), the corners would appear sharp, while mid-frame would stay less sharp and the center would appear the softest. The effect of field curvature can be very pronounced, especially with older lenses.

[Read more...]

Lens Calibration Explained

If you are wondering about how to calibrate lenses, this article has detailed explanations and different methods of AF fine tuning. Due to the nature of the phase detect autofocus system that is present on all SLR cameras, both cameras and lenses must be properly calibrated by manufacturers in order to yield sharp images. Various factors such as manufacturer defects, sample variation, insufficient quality assurance testing/tuning and improper shipping and handling can all negatively impact autofocus precision. A lot of photographers get frustrated after spending thousands of dollars on camera equipment and not being able to get anything in focus. After receiving a number of emails from our readers requesting help on how to calibrate lenses, I decided to write this tutorial on ways to properly fine tune focus on cameras and lenses. Lens calibration is a complex topic for many, so my goal is to make this guide as simple as possible, so that you could manage the process by yourself, while fully understanding the entire process. In addition, I strongly recommend to follow these tips every time you purchase a camera or a lens in order to identify and address any potential focusing issues. But I have to warn you – this article is NOT for beginners. If you just got your first DSLR, you might get very quickly frustrated with the calibration process.

Lens Calibration Explained

1) Why Calibrate?

Why is there a need to calibrate lenses? With the release of new, high-resolution cameras like Nikon D800, it seems like calibration is becoming an important and hot topic. Why is that? As I have explained in a number of my photography articles and reviews, while the increase of megapixels in our cameras has a number of benefits (see benefits of high resolution cameras), it can also expose potential focus problems. A slight focus issue might not be as noticeable on a 10-12 MP sensor, but will be much more noticeable on a 25+ MP sensor (assuming both sensors are of the same size). Especially when viewed at 100%, which is what we, photographers unfortunately like to do too much. Hence, the need for a properly calibrated camera setup today is bigger than ever.

[Read more...]

Mountain Photography Tips

Starting from this month, I am reaching out to the best photographers in Colorado, asking them to write guest posts on our website and showcase their work. There are some amazing masters of photography in Colorado, with various backgrounds in landscape, travel, portrait, fashion and wedding photography. My goal is to not only support our local photography community here, but also to provide valuable information, tips and inspiration from the best in the industry. One of the photography masters is Jack Brauer, who I reached out to about a week ago, after spending a good half an hour enjoying stunning landscape photography on his website. Below is a guest post that Jack was kind enough to write for us, with some very important and useful tips on landscape photography. It turns out that Jack is not only a phenomenal photographer, but also a great educator and story teller. I am sure you will love his article as much as I did. Enjoy!


Originality in the Grand Landscape

I am a mountain photographer. Mountains are my greatest passion; whether I’m hiking, camping, snowboarding, photographing, or just sitting there soaking in the view, mountains make me feel more alive and inspired than any other kind of landscape, and definitely more than any city. For that reason I live in a small town in southwest Colorado, surrounded by the mighty San Juan Mountains, an endless sea of peaks that provide a lifetime’s worth of exploration and photography.

Bridge of Heaven Tent
(Winter camping on a high ridgeline above my town of Ouray, Colorado. Olympus E-420, Zuiko 7-14mm, 30 sec exposure)

[Read more...]