Nikon AE-L / AF-L Button

Nikon D3100 AE-L AF-L Button

Whether you are using an entry-level DSLR like Nikon D3100 or a top of the line DSLR like Nikon D3x, there is a special button on the back of your camera labeled “AE-L / AF-L” that can be quite useful in many situations. After I wrote the Autofocus Modes article, I received several requests from our readers, asking me to explain what the AE-L / AF-L button does, when it should be used and how it can be combined with different autofocus modes. In this article, I will try to go through this button in depth and explain how I personally use it on my cameras.

Nikon D3100 AE-L AF-L Button

1) AutoExposure-Lock / AutoFocus-Lock

The AE-L / AF-L button stands for “AutoExposure-Lock and AutoFocus-Lock” and its primary function is to lock camera exposure and/or focus. What does this exactly mean? If you are using any of the camera modes like Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or other scene modes, the button could be used to force the camera to use a certain value for shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. Since in any of the automatic modes the camera uses its metering sensor to determine the optimal exposure, instead of having your camera re-evaluate the light every time you recompose, you could lock the exposure to a value you are comfortable with – hence the term “AutoExposure-Lock”. There are many cases where using this feature is very helpful. One example is when you photograph panoramas. It is extremely important to use exactly the same exposure from frame to frame in panoramic photography. If one exposure differs from another, it is practically impossible for panoramic software to stitch images together in a consistent, continuous form. Another good example is if you are photographing a subject with a constantly changing background and you want to expose the subject exactly the same way from shot to shot. Basically, any time consistency of exposure is required and you do not want to switch to a full manual mode, the AE-L button can be very useful.

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How to Wet Clean Your DSLR Sensor in Less Than 5 Minutes

After I posted my last in-depth video on DSLR sensor cleaning, I decided to create a 5 minute version of DSLR sensor wet cleaning, so that our readers could see how simple the process actually is. I was getting the equipment prepped for Lola’s last photo shoot and while I was in the process of cleaning everything, I thought it might be a good idea to do a short version for the impatient ones out there. This wet cleaning process is easy, because I use ready-to-go tools (sensor swab + fluid) from VisibleDust. It is certainly not a cheap product, given the $3 cost of each swab, but it does a good job of keeping your DSLR sensor clean when compared to other solutions out there. Either way, the below process is much cheaper than sending your camera for $50 or more every time you need the sensor cleaned. As a photographer, you should learn how to do this yourself.

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Things to Do After Buying a New Lens

Nikon Product Registration

So you have just received your brand spanking new lens that you have been dreaming of for a while. The first thing you probably do is mount it on your camera and take some sample pictures. But before you do that, it might be a good idea to do a couple of things that will not only help keep your camera gear clean, but also decrease your frustration level with your new lens in case it is defective. Below you will find the list of things I personally do after buying and receiving a new lens.

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How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 3

WordPress Dashboard Links

This is Part 3 for the “how to create a photography blog” series of articles. In Part 1, I gave some brief history of the blogging platform, showed how to purchase a domain with a web hosting account through GoDaddy and how to create a database for WordPress. In Part 2, I showed how to get WordPress installed and configured with the most basic settings. Now I will go through some basics of using WordPress and how you can get the initial structure of your blog going, then I will jump into plugins that enhance WordPress functionality. Let’s get going.

14) Building the initial site structure

As of now, you have a very basic WordPress blog without any content in it. Before you start playing with plugins and themes, it is a good idea to first create some site content like pages, links and posts. Go ahead and login to your WordPress dashboard by typing your blog + “/wp-admin” in your browser, for example “http://myphotographysite.com/wp-admin”. Within the dashboard, you will see a bunch of links on the left side of the page that look like this:

WordPress Dashboard Links

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How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 2

Download WordPress

This is Part 2 for the “how to create a photography blog” series of articles. In Part 1, I gave some brief history of the blogging platform, showed how to purchase a domain with a web hosting account through GoDaddy and how to create a database for WordPress. Now I will go through the WordPress installation and configuration process for your future photography blog. Let’s get going.

11) Upload WordPress Installation

Now that we have a MySQL database, we can proceed with the process of download WordPress installation files and then uploading them to your hosting account. To download WordPress, open up your browser and go to http://wordpress.org and then click the blue button that says “Download WordPress”. You will be taken to a separate download page that looks like this:

Download WordPress

You are given two options to download WordPress – in zip (archive) or tar formats. Just click the blue download button and your browser will start downloading the zip version of WordPress.

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How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 1

GoDaddy Hosting Prices

Whether you are an aspiring photographer or a full-time pro, a blog can help you showcase your work and connect with your viewers, fans and potential clients. In these series of articles, I will show you how to create a photography blog from scratch – from buying a domain and hosting, to installing the most popular blog platform in the world known called “WordPress”. I decided to do this because I know that many photographers simply don’t have the technical know-how to create and manage a blog, while others don’t have the financial means to pay for the installation, configuration and customization of WordPress. Once you get your own blog up and running, you will be able to perform routine maintenance yourself, instead of relying on someone else.

Since this is going to be a rather large tutorial/howto, I decided to split it into several parts. In part 1, I will provide some basic information on domains, hosting, databases and content management systems. I will also go through the process of purchasing a domain together with a hosting account, then will set up a hosting account with a database. In part 2, I will go through WordPress installation and initial configuration. In part 3, we will deal with some customization and basic plugins, while Part 4 is going to be on themes and templates that you can use with WordPress. I will obviously try to explain everything in very simple terms, assuming that the reader has no prior knowledge of the Web. Let’s get started!

WordPress Dashboard

1) How Websites Work

Before delving into some blogging verbiage, let me first explain how websites work in general. Every time you open up your browser and type in a website, or find a website through search engines like Google and Yahoo, your computer obtains some information about the website on the Internet and then connects to a particular server that hosts that website. The particular server I am referring to has a unique address on the Internet and that’s how it is found. Ever heard of a term “IP address”? When computers and servers communicate on the Internet, they find each other through unique IP addresses that look like a bunch of numbers with dots in between – something like 55.66.77.88. Since those numbers are hard to remember, domains like “.com” were invented. Thanks to those domains, you just need to know the address of a website like “cnn.com” or “mansurovs.com” and you can get to a website without even knowing the IP address of the machine that hosts that website on the Internet. This domain name to IP translation happens through Domain Name Servers (DNS) on the Internet, the sole purpose of which is to convert domain names to IP addresses. Here is how the actual communication takes place:

  1. Once you type the website address/domain on your browser (client), it looks up the IP address of the server that hosts the requested website (through a DNS server).
  2. Your browser then contacts the server through the IP address and sends some information to the server about what page/URL is being requested.
  3. The server processes the request and outputs a webpage, which then gets fetched by your browser.
  4. Your browser goes through the content and then parses it in a nice, readable format for you.

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How to Take Black and White Pictures

Tree in Color

If you are inspired by the works of Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey or other masters of black and white photography, you probably want to try doing some B&W yourself. If you don’t know how to take black and white pictures and where to start, then this guide might help you to get into the world of B&W photography. I must admit that I am no guru when it comes to black and white photography, but I have been experimenting with it lately and would like to share what I have learned so far.

Tree BW

1) Colors in Black and White Photography

As strange as it may sound, black and white photography is not about the tones of white, grey and black colors that we see in B&W images. Instead, it is all about the colors that are recorded by the camera and how those colors are converted to different shades of grey, whether in-camera or through post-processing. Back in the film days, photographers used color filters in front of their lenses while shooting B&W film, then would employ special darkroom processing techniques like dodging and burning on top of that to lighten or darken particular parts of a photograph (some landscape photographers still do it today with medium and large format film).
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Case Study: Image Quality

Sharpness

One of our readers sent me some sample images from his camera, asking why his photos are not sharp and often too bright and flat-looking. He is using a pro-level body (Nikon D700) and very good lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 that he bought after reading my reviews and he is disappointed with his setup. Here is what he wrote me:

I really need your help.

I own the Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 + recently bought the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 after reading you review. I wanted the 14-24mm f/2.8, but without filter it is a big problem for me. Anyway, I have owned the camera for about 8 months and I am not satisfied with the results…

I mostly shoot in RAW with Active D Lighting set to “Auto”. My photos never seems as sharp as the samples you put on your site and they always looks too bright and flat. It’s like they are “dead” without contrast and color and I don’t know what’s wrong with my setup. Maybe it’s a problem with the camera sensor or I don’t know what… I am not a pro photographer and not even close, but I expert much better results from what I have. I mean I can always fix in post-processing software like Aperture 3 which I have, but i want great photos out of the camera without playing with it too much in post.

Please let me know if you see what the problem is and if there’s something wrong with what I am doing? I totally feel hopeless…

Thank you for your time.

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DSLR Autofocus Modes Explained

Single-Point AF-Area Mode

Most modern digital SLR cameras are equipped with advanced autofocus systems that are often hard to understand. Whether you are shooting with an entry-level or professional DSLR, knowing how to use autofocus system effectively is essential to get sharp images. A badly-focused, blurry image can ruin a photograph and you cannot repair it in post-processing. Some professionals often end up converting their images to black and white, to hide their focusing problems. If you learn how to focus correctly, you do not have to resort to such measures and you can deliver much better results to your clients and family. Simply put, accurate focus translates to sharper images and that is something everyone is looking for in photographs today. I know some photographers will argue with me on this, saying that sometimes image blur yields a “creative” look, but it is one thing when you do it on purpose and another, when you consistently mess up just because you don’t know how to focus well with your camera. Once you learn how to properly focus with your camera, you can then decide whether you want to blur something on purpose.

Blue Heron in Flight

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Suuthe and small creativity in short time

Suuthe

While Nasim is working on another big article about DSLR autofocus systems (shhh, I didn’t tell you that), I decided to write another quick post on a recent photo shoot. I had an opportunity to photograph this beautiful lady, Mari Carlin Dart and her skin care line, Suuthe recently. The session was supposed to last no more than 45 minutes and I only needed a couple of good images for an upcoming advertisement book called “CRAVE“.

First of all, let me introduce Suuthe. It is an all organic skin repair cream company which started with Mari searching for ideas to cure her son’s eczema problem. Without being able to find a solution from doctors for her son Peter’s aching problem, she decided to look further and work on something natural and effective. That’s how Suuthe came to live. As a mother of two children who suffered from eczema for a while, I wish I have met Mari earlier! If you know anyone like that, tell them to check out this wonderful product.

Here is how the photo session unfolded. All of the images were taken with the Nikon D700 body and a single Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens (my favorite as always).

Denver-Suuthe #1

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