Thursday, June 23, 2011

Street Candids Shoots

Singapore © dzignous
Candid or street-shooting is one of the most fun and satisfying genre of photography. You can use any focal length that you wish, from telephoto to wide angle or even with just a standard prime lens (50mm). However smaller cameras like the Olympus/Panasonic Micro 4/3 or Sony NEX cams, will be less obtrusive than a DSLR with big lenses. Whatever your equipment are, you have to react immediately to seize any spontaneous moments.

Other than trial and error and some luck, you can try some of the following tips for better results:

1) Go Public
More people means more photo opportunities and you are also less likely to stand out in busy places.

2) Seize the Moment
Always have your camera ready in your hands, finger on the shutter button.

3) Blend in 
Avoid drawing attention to yourself and do what everyone else is doing. Draw camera to your eye at the last moment.

4) Shoot Low
Apart from getting unusual pic angles, many people won't notice that you are shooting them when you shoot from hip. Using a wide-angle lens and stopping down the aperture (> f/5.6) helps to get most of your subjects in the frame. Cams with articulated LCD proven to be very effective too (e.g. Olympus E3/E5, Nikon D5100, Canon 600D/60D).

5) Keep it Simple
Don't fumble with different settings or changing lenses to avoid missing any shots. Shoot in 'P' or 'A' mode and let the camera do the work, venture into manual mode when you are absolutely familiar with metering.

Guang Zhou © dzignous

Shanghai © dzignous

Shanghai © dzignous

Bangkok © dzignous

Shanghai © dzignous

Moments is what matters.

Nevertheless, respect anyone who doesn't wish to have their photographs taken.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Basic Food Photography

© dzignous

Have you ever flipped through some magazine and saw mouth-watering food pics that you wished that you can do the same?

Possible, with some preparation of simple tools, food styling and esp. with the advantage of getting instant results from your digital cameras...

Basically you will need a light tent of min. size 40cm x 40cm or strobes with umbrella, tongs and gloves for handling food.

  1. Theme - Select a suitable theme for your food to emphasize the mood of the shot
  2. Extras - Food shots won't necessarily work alone, bring some accessories like napkin, cups etc.
  3. Simplified - The more complicated your set, the more things can go wrong.
  4. Mix light - Use a combination of natural light + 2nd flash light to get optimal pleasing results.
  5. White balance - Shoot RAW and adjust accordingly to the theme of the job requires.
  6. Avoid Fakes -  Try to shoot food straight out from kitchen for the fresh and real feel (90% cooked).
    After everything ends, you get to eat the food too!

© dzignous

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gears for Traveling

Hong Kong © dzignous

We have the tendency to pack every photography gears into our luggage and end up leaving 80% in the hotel room when traveling overseas. As we normally take our camera bag on flight as hand luggage, it is advisable to bring just the bare essentials that you know you'll use instead of a bulky bag which will have to check in as cargo luggage. (You wouldn't want your expensive gears being tossed around, right?)

Here are some suggestions which you may find useful on your next trip:

1) Lenses
Basic travel kit should comprise of a camera body and just two zooms will do. A more popular choice will be the all-purpose 18-200mm lenses (choose one with vibration reduction as normally the max aperture at tele is f/5.6-6.3). An ideal focal length which covers from wide-angle (landscapes) to close up (portraits).

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR
2) Blower
Camera and lenses are prone to dust, a blower is useful for zapping dust off lens and sensors. Intergrated dust-reduction cameras from Nikon/Canon/Pentax/Sony (Olympus SSWF works best) helps eliminate post dust-removal processing by a fraction.

Olympus E5

3) Shoulder Straps
Change to a neoprene padded straps that helps to reduce shoulder/neck strain. OP/TECH is one very good choice.


 4) Lens Hood
Minimize flare where it can affect picture sharpness and a great protection for your lens.

Nikon HB-19 © dzignous

 5) Flexible Tripod
Night scenes are mesmerizing but lugging a heavy tripod weighs you down, carbon fiber tripod defeats the purpose (light, not stable and damn ex too!). A flexible tripod like JOBY GorillaPods is strong enough to hold a DSLR+zoom lens and you can attached it to almost everywhere (railings, poles etc.)

GorillaPod SLR

6) Spares
Always pack at least two spare batteries and few more hi-capacity memory cards. Keep them warm as battery power from Ni-cad, Nickel Metal-Hydride and Lithium batteries will drops dramatically esp in cold countries. Prepare a compact point-and-shoot camera in case your main body fails. Also you could get a vertical grip with AA's batteries compartment.

7) Adapter
A multiple/universal travel adapter is useful for all your different chargers.

Last but not least, its about enjoying the scene and not feeling frustrated with all the heavy gears. However you will definitely appreciate the better pic quality of a DSLR than mobile phones or even compact cams.

Kuala Lumpur © dzignous

Friday, June 17, 2011


Found this on the internet and decided to get one to try for fun. Looks very much like the BlackBirdfly but at almost one-tenth price. Light, very light, got a few colors selection, uses 35mm film though, can't do precise focusing, producing very lomo-pics quality... Approx height of 15cm and 7cm width. Simple construction that only requires screws and some snap-on process.

1) Original packaging

2) Nicely wrapped with all parts properly distributed

3) The instruction manual
4) It's in chinese, but shouldn't have any problem
following the highly-detailed step by step illustrations

5) The two side panels
6) Close-up of the front panel

7) Top-view

8) Finish shot of set-up

Makes for a very nice display model...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gaffer Tapes

Nikon D70 © dzignous

The next best thing for any photographer will be the multi-purpose gaffer tapes. The popularity of the tape was due to that it will not leave any residue when removed. Thus these are normally used for gaffering studio lights wires to the floor to prevent tripping. Pack a small roll in the camera bag and you will never know when you need it.

One of the most popular usage is gaffering own photography equipments like camera bodies, lenses, speedlight and tripod. Not only it will protect against scatches, it can even improve the holding grip. They even comes in various camou colors and also carbon fiber for more fun and uniqueness! 

However as sweat and dirt will be consolidating on the surface after prolong usage, it is still advisable to change the tape every few months. 

Nikon AFS 80-200mm f/2.8 D © dzignous

Nikon AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 G VR © dzignous

Nikon AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 G VR © dzignous

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DIY - Ringflash

We all love to buy accessories add-on to our cams, lights or lenses... Why not DIY one for yourself instead? Esp the oh-so-popular RINGFLASH!! I will like to share mine here although I believe you would easily find tons of other DIY ringflash tutorial from the web too...

Here goes...

1) Working out the required dimension and sketches

2) Die-cutting the main shape

3) Joining
4) The outer piece

5) More joining

6) Adding light-directing panels
7) The area for speedlight head insertion

9) Additional diffuser added

10) Neoprene cushion-padding for lenses

11) Complete look with a Nikon SB-800

Pair up with a wireless strobe-trigger, fire your cam in manual mode and you're ready for some amazing ringflash-halo-effects!

© dzignous

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Photography Acronyms

© dzignous

DOF, AFS, ETTL, APS-C/H, FX/DX etc etc... Wondering what the hell are those? Photography got lots in common with Singapore too (also acronyms-crazy, think PAP, ERP, HDB, PUB, CBD, COE...)

With some help from my fave Google, a list (not comprehensive) below to help you understand a tiny bit more...


A-DEP: Automatic depth of field
AdobeRGB: Color space with a wider color gamut than sRGB
(Suitable for print)
AE: Automatic exposure

AEB: Automatic exposure bracketing 
AEL: Auto-exposure lock

AF: Auto focus 
AF-I: Nikon's lenses with the focusing motor built into the lens barrel itself

AF-S: Nikon's silent-wave focusing motors, similar to Canon's USM motors

AI: Aperture indexing – Nikon's lenses which communicate lens aperture to camera body via mechanical coupling

AI-S: Nikon's AI lenses which also transmit linear aperture information
APS-C: Advance-Photo-System, Type-C, either 1.5x crop sensor in Nikon/Sony/Pentax or 1.6x in Canon
APS-H: 1.3x crop sensor used in Canon 1D series (with high fps shooting)

ASA: American Standards Association - now known as ISO  (See ISO)

ATX: Advanced Technology-Extra (lens technology by Tokina

Av: Aperture Priority exposure mode  (same as A mode)
AWB: Automatic white balance 

B: Bulb mode – allows for the shutter to be open as long as the shutter button is pressed

BMP: Bitmap – a type of image format

CA: Chromatic aberration - Color fringing seen at high contrast areas

CCD: Charged coupled device (Type of sensor usually found in DSLR and medium format cameras)

CF: Compact Flash - Common type of memory card physically larger than SD

CMOS: Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor  (Type of digital sensor typically used in Canon/Nikon hi-end cameras)

CMYK: Cyan-magenta-yellow-black (printing)
CPL: Circular polarizer

CRW: Canon Raw format

CR2: Canon Raw format
DF: Sigma's dual focus system
DG: Sigma lenses with special coatings to help minimize reflections from digital sensors

Di: Tamron lenses with optics designed to combat the increased reflectivity of digital sensors

Di-II: Tamron's lenses for small-sensor digital cameras

DNG: Digital Negative (Adobe's open Raw format)

DOF: Depth of Field - The range of sharp focus in a picture

DPI: Dots per square inch - A measure of printing resolution

DSLR: Digital Single Lens Reflex camera
DX: Lens designed for use in cropped sensor cameras
ED: Extra-low Dispersion glass elements (helps correcting chromatic aberrations)

EF: Electronic Focusing ( Canon's autofocus lens mount)

EF-s: Electronic Focus Short Backfocus (Canon l.6x crop DSLR lenses)

EOS: Canon's electronic optical system

E-TTL: Canon's evaluative through-the-lens flash metering

E-TTL II: Canon's second generation through-the-lens flash metering technology

EV: Exposure value
EX: Excellence (Sigma's high-end lenses
EXIF: Exchangeable image file format 

F-stop: Aperture

FD: Canon's older lens mount system

FE: Fisheye lens
FEB: Flash exposure bracketing

FEC: Flash exposure compensation

FEL: Flash exposure lock

FF/FX: Full frame - 24mm x 36mm DSLR sensor size,  the size of 35mm film

F-mount: Nikon's lens mount
FPS: Frames per second - how many pictures per second the camera can capture

G: Nikon's electronically controlled lenses which lack aperture rings on the lens barrel
GB: Gigabyte – 1,000 Megabytes

GND: Graduated neutral density filter
GPS: Global positioning system 

HDR: High dynamic range

HSM: Sigma's quiet, fast focusing motor (similar to Canon's USM/Nikon's AFS)

ICC: International Color Consortium - Color reproduction abilities of devices, often used to calibrate monitors and printers

IR: Infrared - Light below the visible spectrum when photographed

IF: Internal focusing lenses

IS: Canon's Image Stabilization lenses

ISO: International Standards Organization

JPEG/JPG: Joint Photographic Experts Group - Most commonly used image format

K: Kelvin - Scale used to measure color temperature

K-mount: Pentax lens mount

LCD: Liquid crystal display 

LED: Light emitting diode

Li-ion: Lithium ion - Type of rechargeable battery with no memory effect, slow loss of charge when not in use

M: Manual exposure - the user manually selects both the aperture and shutter speed 

MF: Medium format

MF: Manual focus
MUP: Mirror lock-up - A technique to flip up the SLR mirror before exposure and minimize vibrations due to mirror slap

MP: Megapixel
MTF: Modulation transfer function - Measuring lens sharpness

ND: Neutral density filter - Dark filter which blocks light and allows for slower shutter speeds

NEF: Nikon Electronic File - Nikon's proprietary Raw format

OIS: Sigma's Optical Image Stabilization lenses

P: Program mode - Automatic exposure mode where the camera selects both the aperture and shutter speed

P&S: Point & Shoot camera 
PC: Perspective control - Lenses which have the ability to tilt, shift, rise

PNG: Portable network graphics - A non-proprietary lossless image format
PPI: Pixels per inch

ProPhoto RGB: Large color space featuring a color gamut larger than that of sRGB and AdobeRGB

PS: Adobe Photoshop

PSD: Photoshop Document - Adobe Photoshop's native file format

RAW: Unprocessed data, allowing for large amounts of control and high quality images
RGB: Red-green-blue - Three primary colors in additive color theory

SD: Secure Digital - Memory card physically smaller than compact flash

SDHC: Secure Digital High Capacity - A new standard allowing SD cards > 2 GB

SLR: Single lens reflex (Cameras with mirror-box, TTL metering)

TIFF/TIF: Tagged image file format - Uncompressed image file format (bigger file size than RAW)

TLR: Twin-lens reflex - A type of camera in which the viewfinder lens and the taking lens are separate optical systems
TTL: Through the lens - Metering system which works through the lens for ambient or flash
Tv: Shutter priority exposure mode

UD: Ultra-low dispersion glass - used to correct chromatic aberration

USM: UltraSonic Motor - Canon's fast and quiet focusing motor 
UV Filter: Ultraviolet filter
UWA: Ultra-wide angle - Usually a lens with an angle of view greater than 90°

VR: Nikon's Vibration Reduction lenses

WA: Wide-angle lens - Focal length shorter than a 50mm lens with wider view

WB: White balance

X-sync: Flash sync speed indicating the fastest shutter speed that can be used with a flash

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Shutter Counts

© dzignous

When buying 2nd hand cams, one major consideration to look out for is always the shutter count (like mileage on cars) apart from cosmetic condition.
Note: Even brand new cams may have already over hundred shutter counts due to factory/customer testing.

However major brands do not allow you to check that unless you go all the way down to their respective service centres.

Nevertheless, with the help of some very useful (and FREE!) softwares, you can easily get those numbers out from your cams.

a) Opanda IExif - Based on image file and also able to display full exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) as well.

b) My Shuttercount - Check your shutter counts online.


EOSInfo - Connect the camera to your computer. Works on Canon DIGIC III/IV DSLRs (Check the site for actual supported models).


No software created so far for Sony Alpha.


Require some finger workout on cam itself.

1. Turn on the power switch
2. Open CF card door
3. Press "menu" + "OK" buttons simultaneously
4. Press the menu nav arrow arrow buttons in the following sequence:
   - WB (Up)
   - ISO (Down)
   - Metering Icon (Left)
   - AF (Right)
5. Press the shutter release
6. Press menu nav button AF (Right) again

The following will appear:
Page 1:
L - lens code
F - flash code

Page 2:
R - number of shutter activations
S - number of times a
flash was fired.
C - number of times the mirror has been locked up (in cleaning mode).
U - number of times the camera has been turned on (ultrasonic wave cleaner activated).
V - counts two operations:

   [1] number of times the mirror has been locked up in Live View, and
   [2] number of times the AEL button has been used to auto focus while in Live View

Page 3:
CS - camera serial number

MCS - Is the same as the "Internal Serial Number" recorded in the EXIF data of pictures recorded with the camera. The 16-digit number contains a variety of information. Here is what we understand so far:
Digits 1-4 represent the camera model:

4001 = E-1, 4007 = E-300, 4011 = E-500, 4016 = E-330, and 4046 = E-510.
Digit 5 is the year of manufacture. E.g. "3" represent year 2003.
Digits 6-7 represent the
manufacturing month. E.g. "06" equals June.
(*original source:-

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Camera Shutter Life

D2X Sensor

Nowadays DSLR rarely fails but if it does, main major repair needed will be failed/roasted sensor (which can amount to a price of a new cam) and next will be replacing shutter (most probably a few hundreds replacement cost).

D3 Shutter Unit

To check how long cam shutter can last, check out here. If your model is not listed there, then a quick Google search should provide you with an answer very quickly.

However, one shouldn't get too anal about shutter life. e.g. Nikon D300 has an estimated 150,000 shutter life which ≤ to:

100 shots/day
3000 shots/mth
36,500 shots/yr x 4yrs = 146,000 shots

A whopping 4 whole years to even hit that amount and I bet by that time you would have gotten a new one! Start shooting and stop worrying!!!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

All about Nikon!

© dzignous

I'm a Nikon user, so naturally I would search for any infos related to Nikon. Wallpapers, reviews, rumors, manuals...  Therefore I will like to share some useful sites to like-minded Nikonians...

Nikon Club Singapore
Register online and get 3 more months warranty.

Nikkor Lens Acronyms
Wondering what's Ai, Ai-s, Pre-Ai, AFS, ED...?
Everything about Nikon!

Comprehensive reviews for all major brands.
Malaysia photography sites with details on history of Nikon/Canon/Olympus.

Nikon Brochures
Love brochures esp from the older film era?

Nikon Manuals
Lost your manuals? No worries!


Talented Photographers

I will like to share some of the sites by marvelous talented artists... Great DI skilled, concepts, visually stunning! Don't have to say much cos the pictures tells everything!

Dave Hill 

 Sacha Dean Biyan

 Andrzej Dragan 

  Jill Greenberg

Greg Gorman

"An image is already 50% successful when audience eyes are caught by it"
- Dzn