Monday, July 13, 2009

To Flash or Not To Flash

I am, of course, speaking of photography.

As I experiment a bit with the tips I learned at a digital photography class a few weeks ago, I'll pass on what I learned.

Our instructor had a lot to say about lighting, aperture, and shutter speed. I learned, for example, that ISO does not stand for "Image Stabilizer On", but rather it's "Is the Shutter Open?"...or something like that. ;o) I haven't mastered much with lighting, but I've been practicing with the flash a lot.

We learned about different lighting situations. Harsh light is mid-day with the sun overhead and everything bright. It creates shadows, and is to be avoided. However, you can use a flash outside in harsh light to diminish the non-flattering under-eye shadows. It does tend to flatten features out, but at least you can see them. I had never thought to use a flash with plenty of light, so I'm happy to have learned that tip. Here are two examples:

I hope it's obvious that I didn't use a flash on the left (just the automatic settings) and did use the flash for the picture on the right.

The instructor cautioned against using a flash indoors. He said it makes everything look flat and boring. Rather, you should bring in as much natural light as possible and be near white walls that will reflect the light. If you are working with fluorescent or incandescent bulbs, some cameras have settings to adapt. (I think that's where the ISO setting comes in, but it doesn't have to do with flashes, so I haven't studied much about it yet.) The automatic settings on the camera usually use the flash indoors, but in these examples, you can see the difference.

The picture on the left had the flash on.
I turned it off for the one on the right. It definitely added dimension, but didn't do much to make the food more appetizing.

I have been trying recipes that use broccoli leaves, which are said to have the same nutrients as the crowns. Because I grew broccoli in my garden, I felt bad about just composting the leaves. The crown is really a very small part of the plant. The leaves are bitter, sort of like chard or kale. This recipe called for spices used in Indian cuisine. At first it tasted pretty good. About halfway through my dinner, it started tasting like grass. I thought maybe the temperature had something to do with that, so I reheated my plate...and could barely gag down the next two bites. So I picked out all the tofu, which wasn't ruined too much by the taste, and composted the rest of it. Kent said he liked it well enough and even ate the leftovers for lunch. After this dinner, I pulled my broccoli plants out of the soil and tossed them in the composter. Maybe my other plants will appreciate the nutrients more than I could.

If your kids ever complain about their food, you can pull up this post and threaten to send them to our house. We always welcome dinner guests!


VickieG said...

Maybe we'll just visit our favorite Indian restaurant when we visit Provo and invite you to join us. Very interesting about use of flash; I never would have thought. Also, very cool that you found time to take a class.

mindy said...

Best explanation of ISO:

Imagine that your ISO is the amount of little bumblebees with buckets you have collecting light. ISO 200 means you have 200 little bumblebees collecting light, which in plenty of light is enough. But if you don't have a lot of light, you need MORE bumblebees to go out and collect light, say 800, or even 1600. But the higher the ISO, or the more bumblebees, the grainier your picture. So you trade off between catching the right amount of light and having a non-grainy picture. Outside in bright sunlight, you can get away with a very low ISO. In dimmer environments, you will need to increase it in order to have a sharp image. I don't know how adjustable your settings are, but you can do a test where you maintain aperture and SS and just fiddle the ISO. You will see that your picture gets progressively more grainy as the ISO increases.

hope that helps!

Mary said...

Mom--I hope Tandoori Grill wasn't your favorite Indian restaurant because it's been closed. (It was nice while it lasted.)

Mindy--That is a good explanation. My camera ranges quite a bit with ISO, so I'll have to experiment. Now I can remember that ISO stands for "Insects Searching for Orbs (of light)". Actually, I looked it up. ISO = International Standards Organization, but I like the insect acronym better.

Charlotte said...

Love the picture comparisons. I have learned to take pictures on several settings and then pick the one that turns out best. Plus I keep a little gorilla tripod in case I don't want to use my flash and need to keep my camera steady.