Category Archives: Features

The Seasons: Autumn

I’m not a big fan of Autumn. In fact it’s probably my least favourite season. The nights drawing in, falling temperatures and the premature launch of the festive season, all providing good cause to mark down the latter months of the year.

However, Autumn does have one redeeming feature. It is the most colourful of seasons. The splendid reds and maroons, the vibrant yellows and orange, the vivid greens. On a clear day, these colours contrast beautifully with with grass greens and sky blues.

Early Autumn is the best time to photograph the season, before the wind blows the leaves from the trees and the rain turns them to mulch. This is when the shortening days cause chlorophyl levels to decrease and pigments such as cartenoids and anthocyanins are revealed.

The intensity of colour is related to the weather leading up to and during the Autumn. This can effect the chemical processes that take place as the trees prepare to shed their leaves.

When capturing Autumn colours I like to use a polarising filter. This reduces reflections in the leaves and really brings out the blue skies, especially at steep angles, without oversaturating the image. The effect can be especially pronounced in uncomplicated pictures.

Choosing the right setting for white balance also brings out the colours. The default setting for most digital cameras is to automatically detect the white balance, but this can be overridden by choosing one of a number of presets for such situations as sunlight, cloud, tungsten lighting and fluorescent lighting.

Autumn colours often appear at their best when photographed during the golden hour – the hour before sunset or after sunrise, when the sun is at it’s lowest. This produces a warm glow that brings out the greens especially. Manually overriding auto white balance is a must at this time as the automatic setting will try and compensate for the colour cast generated by the low sun.


Picasa is an excellent and functional image editing application that is available free from Google.

The photo editor allows you to make basic lighting fixes, crop and straighten photos, adjust colour and add a selection of effects such as soft focus, glow, black & white conversions and graduated tints.

I often find myself firing up Picasa rather than Photoshop to make quick, on-the-fly adjustments.

The program can also catalog all your photos and is very easy to use.

Picasa is a small 14MB download, available from

Aspect Ratio and Prints

It’s quite common for photos to be cropped when printing. This is because the aspect ratio of the picture taken is not the same as the paper that it’s being printed on.

Aspect Ratio

Digital cameras typically take photos with an aspect ratio of either 4:3 or 3:2. These values describe the relationship between the width and height of the photo. Most compact cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3, whilst most dSLR cameras have a ratio of 3:2. Some cameras also offer other optional aspect ratios, although they may simply describe them as “wide” or “panoramic”, which often refers to a ratio of 16:9, common in HD video recording.

As an example, an image with a 4:3 aspect ratio could be measured in pixels as 400 x 300, 800 x 600 or 2000 x 1500. All of these sizes have the same width to height relationship.

Looking similarly at the sizes of images with a 3:2 ratio, you could have 300 x 200 pixels, 720 x 480 pixels or 2000 x 1333 pixels. Again, in each example, the relationship between the width and height are the same.

4:3 aspect ratio 3:2 aspect ratio

In the above illustration you will see that both images have the same height (165 pixels) but the width is different. The 4:3 image is 220 pixels wide whilst the 3:2 image is 248 pixels wide.

A square image would have an aspect ratio of 1:1. The height and width are both the same, therefore the proportions of the two sides are equal.


Photographic prints however are usually stated in physical sizes, such as 6×4″, 7×5″ and 10×8″. Only the 6×4″ print has an aspect ratio that matches that of a camera, specifically the 3:2 of a dSLR. An enlargement printed on 10×8″ actually has an aspect ratio of 5:4. Wherever the aspect ratio of a print is different from that of the camera, some of the image gets lost – it disappears beyond the top or sides of the print.

Using our 4:3 aspect picture as an example, you will see that if we create a 10×8″ print from it, we will lose a little of the picture off the edges of the print. This would be even more pronounced if we were to use the 3:2 aspect photo taken by a dSLR. If we were to print a 7×5″ picture we would lose part of the top and bottom on the image. Regardless of the aspect ratio of the original photo, most standard print sizes will result in cropping.

Some online print labs offer dSLR friendly print sizes such as 7½x5″, 9×6″ and 12×8″. All of these sizes have an aspect ratio of 3:2 so none of the picture is lost. However, it can be difficult to find frames in these sizes.


The best way to deal with this issue is to allow space around your subject when composing your shots. In other words, don’t get too close. This will give you room to crop your photos so that nothing important is lost.

You can crop your photos using photo editing software such as Photoshop or Picasa. These will allow you to select a print size and create a crop window with the correct proportions. Alternatively, online photo labs often provide the ability to control how a picture is cropped.

The Power of Histograms

One of the features offered by many cameras these days is the ability to display histograms. These can be viewed for a recorded image, or in many cases for a live scene, allowing you to judge the exposure of a picture. So what exactly are histograms?

A histogram shows a graphic representation of the balance of tones across a range from black to white, through the various shades of grey. It shows the relative number of pixels across the range, usually for the full spectrum of light, but often for just red, green or blue – the colours that make up a projected image.

Using a histogram you can judge the exposure of an image – whether it is too bright, too dark, or just right.

Continue reading The Power of Histograms

Why Use A Professional?

Given that photography has never been more available to the masses, it’s quite legitimate to ask why anyone would pay a professional to take pictures.

There are many keen and competent amateurs and hobbyists out there creating some excellent work and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from their achievements.

What marks out the pro however is the amount of time they have to dedicate to their craft. A professional will have studied and have a sound background in aspects such as composition, lighting, post-production and presentation, not to mention an investment in equipment and facilities. A professional lives and breathes photography.

When photographing people in a formal situation, a career photographer will have patience and an ability to command whatever circumstances he or she is presented with. This is especially true of occasions such as weddings where you have to get it right first time, regardless of the environment. On other occasions, relaxed and informal, the photographer might have to blend into the background, being as unobtrusive as possible.

Overall, a professional photographer has to produce work that is of value. Work that people are prepared to pay for. To do this he or she has perform to a standard that stands out.