Birefringence Photography

Birefringence photography basically involves the use of two polarizing filters: one between the subject and the light source, to polarize the light, and a second on the lens of the camera.

The first filter should ideally be linear, but the one on the camera can either be circular or linear. Polarized light sources are easy to find, because most LCD television screens and computer monitors already feature linear polarization. If you really would rather not use a screen or don’t want those RGB pixels, just try a light table that has polarizing paper sitting on top instead. If you don’t have a polarizing lens filter, you can use a polarized sun glass instead.

Here are some tips to get the best results from birefringence photography.

Providing back-lighting to the subject gives the photo-elasticity (the liquid look to the colors) the best effect. If you use a computer screen, make sure that it is pure white. The easiest way to get this is to open Paint or Notepad, and make the program full screen. Adjust the brightness as necessary.

Then, put the polarizing filter onto the lens. Turn it around to see how the appearance of the subject changes. If your camera has the “Live View” option, this is much easier to manage. Check out the LCD screen, and when the subject looks like you want it, take your picture.

If you want a stronger effect, apply more than one plastic layer.To make a hip, retro image of a cassette tape that would make a fun 80s party image for an Evite, set the cassette against the all-white monitor screen. When the polarizing filter is on your camera, you can see the swirling bands of color on the clear surface of the cassette.

After you take the picture, you can edit the background from white to the color of your choosing. Going with black allows the bright colors of your cassette to stand out with the most contrast.

You will wow the people on your invite list with your photographic wizardry!

Quick to Take an Awesome Selfie

  • Make sure the light is right! Lighting is one of the most important factors when trying to take a flawless selfie. Make sure the lighting doesn’t cast shadows (as this can draw attention to unwanted areas and make facial features appear larger, such as the nose) and try to avoid fluorescent lighting, as this type of lighting is universally unflattering and can make the skin look pale and lifeless. The best type of lighting to use is natural light, if possible!
  • Know your angles! It may take time and some experimenting at first to find your best angles, but it will be worth it! Try different poses and movements to see which ones flatter both your face and body. Knowing your best angles and how to work them is definitely an important factor when taking a selfie. Also, play around with the placement of the camera – you don’t want your selfie to be too close or too far away. A low placed camera angle is usually best to be avoided as it is an unflattering angle for most people.
  • Pick a natural pose! This goes hand in hand with knowing your angles – it’s best to pick a natural pose that doesn’t look too forced or awkward. Play around with head tilts, smiles, and facial expressions until you find the selfie that you like the best.
  • Use caution when choosing a filter! Filters are both amazing and a curse as they can completely change the way a selfie looks. Choose a filter that’s more on the conservative side that adds a flawless look to the selfie, instead of an extreme filter that edits the selfie so much that you don’t even look like yourself anymore. There’s nothing worse than posting a selfie that’s edited so much that people don’t realize it’s you!
  • Write a witty caption! The caption can be describing your makeup, what you’re doing that day, where you’re about to go, details on your outfit – pretty much anything goes! Selfie’s with a caption or description are just that much better than selfies without, and are more likely to gain likes from your followers. Double points if your caption is clever and funny!

Light The Night

The technique involves two methods, moving a light around in the frame during a long exposure, similar to writing with a sparkler, on cracker night, or using a controlled light source, such as a flashlight or speedlight, on or off camera, to light a particular part of a scene.

The latter is more of a contrived and creative technique that can yield spectacular results, especially in a commercial setting. LED torches are the tool of choice here. $6.95 from Kmart, will get you a small pocket sized, but extremely bright and useful LED torch, which is also daylight balanced, so you won’t get any undue yellow shift in colour to whatever you light up. I often use colored gels / filters that go with my Canon speedlight, over the light source to further increase the dynamic feel of the image. I used this technique on a trip earlier in the year to the tip of Cape York.

A major part of light painting involves setting your composition. Often hard to do, when you in the pitch of night, with all the necessary evils at hand. No moon, no ambient light, and quite often in the middle of a quiet nowhere, all alone. If you’re well prepared, you’ll find that the tiniest amount of light in such a setting will have either a dramatic or devastating effect in your shot, so paint carefully.

I always test the setting, with sample shots of various areas, to measure the reflectiveness off anything shiny or wet, the time absorbed when lighting dark corners and the relevant amount of exposure to suit each. From there, you’ll need to orchestrate, which parts of the scene, are to receive a “heavy brush” of light exposure with the torch or flash, and which are to receive a “sprinkle. And you thought it was an easy technique! Using a torch, will provide you with so much more control, as a speedlight flash will never “choose its target”

For this article, I thought I’d step you through how to create your own image using the light painting technique. Light painting does take a while to grasp as there are many places you can make minor mistakes which consequently ruin the shot, but with a little knowledge and advice, anyone can try this technique.??Equipment Required?- Digital Camera?- Tripod?- Light Source – Flash or Torch or anything else you can think of (I’ve used my iPhone before!!)?- An open mind!

OK, first, set your tripod up to a predetermined height and leave it to the side. Time to scout for a scene. There’s no point setting all your equipment up to find that you just have to move later because something is killing your shot or getting in the way. I take my camera and walk the scene, looking for interesting things watching my background is not too congested, and that I have a way of separating my subject from the “junk”.

Switch your camera to manual, and auto-focus or AF. Zoom in and find a light source or light area that is the same distance away as the subject you want in focus, press the shutter half way down. If need be artificially light the subject with your new LED torch. Once focused zoom back out to your desired length and make sure, without touching the shutter or the focus ring switch back to manual focus. Make sure you’re not touching the focus ring when you compose.

This is something that no tutorial can tell you how to do, this is in the eye of the photographer. Be creative and show off your creative eye.

QUICK TIP: Wide angles make for much more interesting settings at night than longer focal lengths.

Nearly there, but getting the exposure right, is crucial. The best way to expose your shot manually is to use your camera’s built in light meter as a rough guide, but not as a precise judge. When you first start you will need to follow it tightly but as you gain more and more experience you won’t need the meter at all.

Set the camera Mode to AV (Aperture priority) Now, set the ISO speed to 3200 (or your highest ISO available). As a rough guide I always start with an aperture anywhere in between f/4-f/8 to achieve maximum sharpness. Deeper apertures of f/16 etc will help your sharpness factor, but take much longer to expose, sometimes, too long. Two things you’ll need to be mindful of here, firstly, that such a shallow aperture setting of f/4 or f/8 will mean you will have to be accurate when focussing, and secondly, but just as important, the difference in exposure between these two apertures can greatly vary your result, depending on the conditions you’re in. Your in camera light meter will tell you its suggested exposure time when you half depress the shutter. Let’s just say the camera suggests a shutter speed of 10 seconds, remember 10 seconds. Now set the ISO to 100. Take your 10 seconds and multiply that number by 32. This gives us 320 seconds, Divide this by 60, this gives us about 5.5 minutes.

Now, drag out your light source and begin painting in sections of your scene, by shining your torch onto the scene, during each test exposure. Check the results with each test image you capture. Look to achieve a nice ambient overall exposure without too much digital noise (a drawback of long exposures on digital cameras) or excessive highlights. Using the results you measured in each of your test shots, you should now be able to see what parts of your scene require more light painting, and what parts only require a quick flash past.

Now plug in a remote shutter release, set the camera to BULB mode (move the shutter down past 30 seconds). Get a timing device (Phone, stop watch or similar) and get ready to wait. Press the remote shutter release and lock it on. Start the timer. Wait the desired time and check the results. Look for excessive highlights or shadows with no light (which will fill with digital noise), and adjust your torch technique to suit.
A few things to remember here, the longer your torch shines or the more times you flash your speedlight, the light will accumulate and therefore increase the overall exposure, hence why you should run test shots and paint carefully. It’s not an exact science to start with, but after a few test shots, your accuracy can be high, especially if you take notes, whether mental or written to help you orchestrate the final image. What do we call this?? Planning… the ideals of every good photographer should begin with good planning. In Light Painting, its essential.

Natural Photography Filters

Lens Changes

A powerful choice in filters allows you to change the way the lens of the camera focuses, or highlights certain elements of the picture. One example of these, is a zoom lens. Smaller subjects, even as far down as ants and bees can be captured in slow motion or with time-lapse photography. Separate color filters in magenta or red let you choose certain light types in your shot, hand highlight certain aspects of the subject. This is great for butterflies, or to help with some harder to see choices. You can even choose between these two options with a Switchblade3 filter.


Microphones let you filter out the surrounding noise, and really focus on your subject. Whether it is a creek babbling or the smallest bird call, an external microphone is a must. Depending on what you intend to use it for, you can get additional noise dampening benefits, or you can choose more directional localization. This is a really good way to get a backdrop recording of a natural experience, stop motion photography, of just the sounds by themselves. Many creatures communicate through imperceptible sounds, and directional microphones have been a big step in tapping into these languages.


The sun continuously plays tricks on nature photographers, causing many well thought out shots to be ruined by a mere trick of the light. Lens polarizers make sure these occasional sun glares do not interrupt the shot. They also help when you are photographing shinier objects, as the glint does not affect the polarizer either.

Photographs In Focus

Modern digital cameras come with really excellent auto-focus systems built in to try and make this as easy as possible. Remember, however, that your camera is not magic! Just a little bit of help from the photographer can make a world of difference!

Remember it is always a good idea to pause for a split second when you have half pressed the shutter button to give your camera a chance to do its job of focussing properly.

With compact cameras there are really two auto-focus methods that could concern us –

Firstly there is the ‘infra-red bounce’ or ‘Active’ method where your camera emits a red beam to measure the distance to the subject. If you have one of these do not put your finger over the beam light when taking a picture – you will not get any focus!

Then we have the ‘contrast measurement’ or ‘Passive’ method. In this a special sensor measures at which point the lens produces an image with the highest level of contrasting pixels – best focus. The camera needs something with contrast so if your camera struggles to focus try turning it on its side or look for something with more contrast which the camera can recognize.

Modern cameras are amazing – many of them now come with ‘image stabilization’ a really intriguing invention that helps to prevent the camera shake which can give you a blurred picture.

This is really useful but it is not magic! You still have to help your camera by holding it as steady as possible – how many people do you see taking pictures holding the camera with one hand? It looks cool and casual but does not lead to good, sharp pictures. The only time you should take a picture with the camera in one hand is when you need the other hand/arm to hang on, to stop yourself falling off a cliff.

At the best of times the human body is not a great camera stand – it moves too much but, if we hold the camera with two hands and, where possible, anchor our elbows against the body, it can do a pretty good job.

Practice holding the camera as steady as possible (it also helps you to think about the picture you are taking) and you will get better pictures.

When the light starts to fade you have a new challenge as your exposure times can get too long to hand hold your camera. The best solution is a tripod but resting your camera on a wall or a rock can work just as well. Just be sure that it is stable!

‘Keep it Steady’ should be the constant refrain in your mind when taking photographs and you will be impressed at how the quality of your images improves!

HDR Photography

  1. Use a Tripod
    HDR images should be taken on a tripod because the camera is still and is well able to take perfect images with no blur whatsoever.
  2. Aperture Priority Mode
    Because you need to take at least 2 photos and then combine them, each image must be consistent in terms of aperture and focus. In addition to that, use an ISO lower than 200 for a better contrast and less sensitivity to light.
  3. Turn off Automatic Focus
    Manual focus helps you take more focused photos, allowing you to ensure that the lens will not focus on a detail you don’t want.
  4. Point up
    Shooting the sky is certainly one of the most overlooked aspects in photography. Unfortunately, many photographers completely neglect this aspect when it comes to landscaping. However, a menacing thunderstorm, a trail of clouds or other awesome and unique patterns in the sky can become a saving grace, especially if you’re aiming to create a top-notch HDR photo. All these patterns are accentuated by HDR processing, so try to maximize this aspect when employing HDR Photography tips.
  5. Take More Photos
    Take auto bracketed photos. Because every camera is different, you might need to adjust your camera manually to take a bracketed set of images, adjusting the shutter speed by yourself. After the photos have been taken, bring all of them into Photoshop, align them on top of each other and start experimenting with blending modes. The final result can be an astounding masterpiece that will prove you are on the right track to becoming an expert in photography.

Exposure Value System

Briefly the smaller the f-stop number, the larger is the aperture size it represents. Each aperture setting is either half or twice the size of its neighbour (so f/8 – for example – is half the size of f/5.6, and f/5.6 is twice the size of f/8).

Similarly, shutter speed steps are also either half or twice as fast as its neighbour (so 1/30th – for example – is twice as long as 1/60th, and 1/60th is half as long as 1/30th).

Thusly, a number of different combinations of aperture size and shutter speed all produce the same degree of exposure. For example, f/5.6 at 1/60th provides the same level of light exposure as f/8 at 1/30th (where the amount of light halves, and the duration of exposure doubles).

Of course, there are even more permutations; f/8 at 1/30th is also the same as f/11 at 1/15th (half the light for twice as long), or f/4 at 1/125th (four times the light for a quarter of the time), and f/2.8 at 1/250th (eight times the light for an eighth of the time) etc.

A one step change, to either setting, is known as a “one stop” change.

To simplify the process of setting alternative aperture and shutter speed combinations, a German camera shutter manufacturer – called Friedrich Deckel – first developed the Exposure Value (EV) concept in the 1950s. The likely impetus for this was the rise in popularity of colour film, which required greater exposure accuracy than black and white film photography (modern 35mm colour film started to become available in the mid 1930s).

In 1954, numerous camera (and shutter) manufacturers adopted Deckel’s Exposure Value Scale (EVS); including Hasselblad, Kodak, Konica, Olympus, Ricoh, Seikosha and Voigtländer, to name but a few.

They introduced lenses with coupled shutters and, and EV scales, such that, after setting the exposure value, adjusting either the shutter speed or aperture made a corresponding adjustment in the other to maintain a constant exposure.

When camera models with built-in light meters started to emerge, some also metered against an EV scale (as opposed to an aperture or shutter speed scale), and correct exposure was accomplished by transferring the meter’s EV reading to the lens, though adjustment of lens apertures and/or shutter speed settings.

The Exposure Value (EV) is therefore a numerical scale that represents a combination of a camera’s shutter speeds and f-numbers, such that all combinations yield that the same exposure have the same EV value.

More than that, Exposure Value scale steps also align with intervals on the photographic exposure scale. In other words, an increment of one step on the EV scale represents a one step (often referred to as a stop) increase in exposure, and conversely a one step decrease corresponds to a one step reduction in exposure. For this reason, some cameras had, and still have, exposure compensation features that are graded as EV steps (e.g. +/- 2 EV).

For example, if EV 9 corresponds to f/4 and 1/30th of a second, EV 8 is f/4 at 1/15th of a second, and EV 10 is f/4 at 1/60th of a second (plus any other combination of settings that produce the EV scale value).

The EV scale starts at 0, which represents a 1 second exposure at f/1.0. Lenses with an aperture that big are rare, but it’s the same as a 2 second exposure at f/1.4, or a 4 second exposure at f/2, etc.

EV 15 equates to full sunlight with distinct shadows, while EV -4 would be a scene lit by a full moon. An EV is therefore a convenient “system” for describing the quality of light.

The EV scale can thus be used as a rough guide to exposure setting in the absence of a light meter. So EV 14 is hazy sunlight with soft shadows, EV 13 is cloudy bright with no shadows, 12 is overcast, and so on (for a 100 ISO film).

While the EV scale is still in use today (and has some merits in describing lighting conditions), it fell from favour as a means of setting a camera exposure towards the end of the 1960s, when meter coupling became more common, and removed the need to manually transfer a meter reading to lens settings, or even set anything at all (with the camera doing this automatically). In effect, the importance of correct colour exposure had been automated, leaving the way clear for casual photographers to concentrate on other aspects of the craft.

Optimum Settings for Photograph

  • Choose the Aperture priority mode:
    No need to change all the time the exposure mode. We recommend that you choose the Aperture Priority Auto (or A) and that you stick to it. In this configuration you choose the aperture and the camera selects automatically the appropriate shutter speed. You can play with depth of field while adjusting aperture. As a reminder, small aperture (high f numbers, like f/36) increase depth of field meaning the subjects in the background and in the foreground are in focus. If you want to focus on a specific subject and want the rest to be blurry choose a small number, the smaller the better depending on your equipment.
  • Choose Auto ISO or stay at 400
    ISO sensitivity is the digital equivalent of film speed. The higher the ISO sensitivity, the less light is needed to take a photograph. With films, exposure is controlled by aperture and shutter speed settings only because the ISO is already chosen by your film. With Digital cameras you can choose several settings but we suggest that you stick either to Auto or 400 ISO.Auto ISO is the easiest choice, the ISO sensitivity will be automatically adjusted by the camera. It is useful when your lightning conditions change all the time. The quality of camera’s have so much improved that it can be a reasonable choice.400 ISO might be the best solution if you prefer to stay in control. 400 ISO is the film standard and covers nearly 90% of our photographic needs. You won’t the see the quality difference between an image shot at 100 ISO and 400 ISO and you will still be able to play with depth and motion blur.
  • Choose White Balance Auto
    White balance ensures that colors in general and white in particular are unaffected by the color of the light source and that they are rendered as you see them. We recommend that you choose Auto White Balance. It is usually good with most light sources. The color temperature is adjusted from 3,500 to 7,000 K which covers a wide range of possibilities. Fine tuning white balance is often complicated.
  • Choose One focus point
    If you are not a professional specialized in sports or wild life, choose the single point focus or central focus. You might have to change frequently the composition of your image but it will become quickly a reflex. You just need a little practice. Focus on your main subject that you will put in the center of your composition and when the focus is done change your composition while keeping your settings (usually by keeping your finger half way on the shutter-release button).

High-Speed Photography

Shutter Method

The shutter method offers a major advantage. It allows you to enjoy high-speed photography outdoors. You will also be able to completely illuminate the subject and its background. Since the shutter can be used to freeze the motion of your subject, it offers limited speed. Usually, the maximum speed of a shutter ranges between 1/4000 seconds to 1/8000 seconds. Thus, in some cases, fast moving objects may seem blurred.

In addition to this, there is also a basic delay between the actual exposure and shutter release. Depending on the type of camera, it can even be close to 100 milliseconds. Moreover, you could also experience basic variation in timing. Therefore, if you require high timing accuracy, you should not use this method.

Flash Method

This is the second method of high-speed photography. You can take the picture by simply opening the shutter of your camera, activating the electronic flash, and closing the shutter. However, you need to take the picture in a dark room. Since the room is dark, long exposure will not have a major effect on the final output. Flash light duration will become the actual time of exposure.

Better timing consistency and exposure speed are the primary advantages of the flash method. Electronic flashes can offer speed of 1/10,000 seconds or faster. If you lower the power of the flash, the flash duration will be shorter.

Shooting Interiors

  • Use a wide angle lens. Shooting wide can make the room look great, especially when in Hong Kong, the size of the property is most likely less than 100 sq. meters. In a confined space, sitting tight into one corner while you try to get the other three corners in just looks wrong. You shouldn’t shoot all three walls into one picture. Showing the highlights of the interior design features is important. About the lens, anything in the 16-24mm range on full frame (or the APS-C equivalent which equates to 10-16mm approx. on some less expensive camera) is great. I often use 17mm full frame for my wide interior work.
  • Sufficient indoor and natural lighting are both important. Light up the room. If there is good natural light coming through the windows, use that as well. Adjust the overall feeling of the lighting to a balanced and optimized level.
  • Find the best angle. Take time to explore different angles to shoot from. Decorate the room with small artistic items, plants or anything you like to add a bit of creativity. We can’t all afford a tilt-shift lens to keep perspective in check, so it’s a really good idea to shoot with the camera at or slightly above mid-room height. This means you can keep the camera aimed out straight to keep the walls vertical. While the perspective distortion you get can be corrected in post-production, it’s much easier to get it right in camera. This is another reason to use a tripod as well.
  • Use post-processing software, e.g. Photoshop or Lightroom. You should bring the Highlights down and open up the Shadows. Next bring the Blacks down to ensure that the contrast lost from opening up the Shadows doesn’t impact the image too much.
  • Go vertical for staircases and other special feature. This is also important if you want to share the pictures on the web, as most images are horizontal in the interior photography world. Some vertical images could light up your portfolio. Verticals usually mean letting the eye fill in gaps, so make use of the composition to show hints of the room.