Category Archives: Gear

Zoom, Zoom, and Check: Manually Focussing a DSLR Camera for Lowlight and Video Shooting

When you are shooting in lowlight conditions, it can be very difficult to get your camera to focus.  Similarly, when shooting video, focus often becomes a manual process as well. If want to check focus, you need to take a few extra steps.  Just turning on the LCD and glancing at it won’t cut it.  The small screen makes everything look more in focus because it can’t show you all the pixels at once.  The reduced image size creates the illusion of a sharper image.

The Technique

If you want to really see what is in focus, you’ll need to zoom, and then zoom some more.  If you’re using a zoom lens, zoom in as tight as possible on your subject.  Zooming in on an area like the eyes works well; a button on a shirt works well too.  You’ll then need to digitally zoom.

©2012 Richard Harrington

Typically, you’ll find a Zoom button (look for a magnifying glass with a plus symbol in it) on your camera.  Pressing it will enlarge the image on your screen and only show you part of the image.  You may need to use the command dial to navigate around the zoomed in pixels.  Find the detail area that you want to focus on.

You can then use the focus ring on your camera lens to tweak the focus. Make minor turns to find the ideal focus. If needed, adjust the aperture and ISO settings of your camera to refine the depth of field. When you’re satisfied, you can either press the Zoom Out button or just press the Record button or shutter release to roll the camera.


Triple Exposure Podcast Episode #5

Welcome to the Triple Exposure podcast.

You can direct-download the MP3 here.

You can subscribe on iTunes here –

Scott & Rich talk about the Lytro camera (including its role in time-lapse) as well as the new Lightroom 4 Beta.  A good overview of where things are going in 2012 is shared.


Making Custom Presets with Nik HDR Efex Pro

© Richard Harrington – Click to Enlarge

Learn how to use custom presets in Nik HDR Efex Pro.  Rich shows you which controls get results. Plus you can store your own looks for easy access.

Adobe Clarifies Upgrade Policy for CS6

This is a cross post from my personal blog as well –

Recently, there was a lot of online static about Adobe changing its upgrade pricing. There were some conversations, overheard statements, and misinterpretations on what they were going to do. Many thought the only option to upgrade for CS6 was going to be a CS5 customer. I started digging into this a while back and have had a few conversations with folks to get clarification.

I am glad to tell you that Adobe has made an official announcement today about what user’s can expect. I have put Adobe’s statement in bold and added my commentary in italics.

We’re very excited about the upcoming release of Adobe® Creative Suite® 6 software and Adobe Creative Cloud™. CS6 will be a major new release of our creative desktop tools, with huge improvements for every type of creative professional. 

  • I’m excited. More than anything in the past 7 years.
  • You will be too.

Pasted Graphic

Adobe Creative Cloud will be our most comprehensive creative solution ever, giving members access to all of the CS6 desktop software plus additional services, new tools, Adobe Touch Apps, and rich community features. 

I am not clear on all that is in the bundle… but what I hear sounds good. A subscription based plan that looks to be about $50 a month. With access to apps as well as many online services for publishing and collaboration. Here are more details –

In addition, Creative Cloud members will receive continuous upgrades and updates to all products and services as part of their membership.

This is the biggest news. The next thing I am going to say is a little complex, but the Sarbanes-Oxley Act prevent publicly traded companies from doing free software updates after a certain period of time. It’s a convoluted law that grew out of the Enron scandal that places limits on how companies can sell products and realize revenue if they are publicly traded. This is why Apple has to charge you 99¢ for FaceTime because you licensed the OS once, but can push out free updates for the iPhone because it has monthly services fees. See these articles for more details –

What’s really cool is that apps could see more frequent updates. So support for new file formats could come out as needed. Adobe could be more nimble and release new features officially (instead of trickling out public beta versions through Adobe Labs). This could really increase the pace of innovation and has a lot of potential.

Adobe’s new Creative Suite upgrade policy, which goes into effect in the first half of 2012 when Adobe Creative Cloud™ and Creative Suite 6 are released, will require customers to be on the most current version of Creative Suite in order to qualify for upgrade pricing when new versions are released. This means that customers need to be on CS5 or CS5.5 in order to receive upgrade pricing when CS6 is released. 
This is why everyone freaked out… take a breath and keep reading.

With these great new releases coming in the first half of 2012, we want to make sure our customers have plenty of time to determine which offering is best for them.


Therefore, we’re pleased to announce that we will offer special introductory upgrade pricing on Creative Suite 6 to customers who own CS3 or CS4. This offer will be available from the time CS6 is released until December 31, 2012. More details on this offer, as well as any introductory offers for existing customers to move to Creative Cloud membership, will be announced when CS6 and Creative Cloud are released later this year.

In other words, read between the lines.

  • Just like recent releases, you can only upgrade from 3 versions back. They are going to continue this policy for a short while longer.
  • Buy the upgrade to CS6 when its released if you want to own the software. Expect upgrade pricing to be similar to past pricing.
  • If you have CS5, CS4, or CS3, upgrade to CS6. You will not be able to upgrade after December 31, 2012, unless you are a CS5 customer (or CS5.5).
  • When CS7 rolls around (I AM NOT STARTING A RUMOR HERE) it sounds like you will need to be a CS6 customer in order to upgrade.

Read the details about our Creative Suite upgrade policy –
Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud –

The lesson here is:

  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • You will be able to upgrade to CS6 if you own CS3, CS4, CS5, or CS5.5.
  • Sounds like CS6 is around the corner.
  • You can already subscribe to the Creative Suite bundles here – for between $65 and $130 a month… so the new $50 a month pricing is going to be even sweeter.

Hope this clears things up.

Want Better Photos or Video? Avoid Lens Flares

Pointing the camera up into the sun is an almost guarantee to get lens flares. You’ll see a washed out area with a geometric flare in the trees.

While the sun is generally incredibly useful to photographers, it can occasionally be annoying. If the sun hits your lens at an undesirable angle, you can end up with spots or flares that ruin a shot. Flares generally take on a geometric shape, and may be easy to miss while shooting.  Additionally, a flare can significantly reduce the amount of contrast and saturation in your image.

The flare is typically caused by a very bright light sources (in most cases the sun).  Flares are far more common in zoom lenses as they have multiple surfaces that are prone to light scatter. With a little practice you’ll learn to spot flares quickly. Getting rid of flares just requires a few strategies and modifications to your shooting style.

Use a Hood

When shooting, reverse the lens hood to protect your lens from flares and other issues. You can reverse it back for packing or shipping.

Most lenses include a hood attached at the end of the lens. Typically, the hood is reversed for shipping (to make the lens shorter and easier to pack). Unfortunately most people never bother to turn the hood around.

Once a lens is mounted to your camera, you should properly set the hood. With a quick turn (and perhaps a push of a release button) the hood can be removed. Reverse its direction and re-attach it to your lens in order to protect the lens from flare.

Sometimes a slight tilt to your camera can remove a flare. Photo by Robert Vanelli

Hoods are usually specific to each lens.  Some will have notches (called petals) to better accommodate the aspect ratio of your camera’s digital sensor.  These type have an angle of view which is greater in one direction than the other . Others will vary in length to avoid casting a vignette in your final image.

If you lose your hood, I recommend you purchase a replacement.  The hood is the best way to cut down on flares.  It can also help protect the front of the lens from accidental impact as well as contact smudges.

Keep the Lens Clean and Clear

The use of a cheap UV filter accentuated my lens’ tendency to flare when shooting on a bright sunny day.

Most lenses have an anti-reflective coating to cut down on lens flare. Of course greasy fingerprints and other smudges can also cause their own problems. When you clean the lens, be sure to use a proper lens cleaning cloth to remove smudges without damaging this coating.

If you’re going to use additional filters on your lenses (such as a protective UV filter or a neutral density filter) make sure you don’t skimp on quality. Cheap filters often lack good anti-reflective coatings). These filters can often cause flare through the introduction of additional reflective surfaces. If using filters, make sure you choose a quality that matches your lens.

Flag the Lens

I used a Rogue FlashBender to protect the lens from additional flare while shooting on a bright day.

One way to prevent lens flare is to block the light.  Typically the flare is caused by light entering from the side of the frame.  This light is rarely needed for a proper exposure and can be blocked.  If using a tripod, you can place your body to the side of the lens to serve as a wall.   You can also reach out with a hat off to the side to block the light.

You can of course use other devices to block unwanted light.  I’ll often attach a Rogue FlashBender right to my lens (  These flexible cards are normally used to shape an off-camera flash, but I find the built in flexible support rods bendable surface works well to flag a troubling flare.

Change your Position

I use the SunSeeker3D app to know where the sun will be during my shoots.

If you can’t minimize a flare, you have one simple recourse.  Move your camera until the flare is gone.  Remember flare is caused by light hitting the lens at an unwanted angle.  Often a little adjustment can be very effective at removing the flare.  You can look to frame the shot so objects are blocking the sun or light source (or even reposition your subject to block the light for you). You may find that tilting or panning the camera just a few degrees can remove the flare.


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