Monthly Archives: June 2011

3 Brand Spankin’ New Photography Shirts!

Introducing 3 brand new photography shirts from Wide Open Tees! How much better can it get? Much better! We’re throwing in a July 4 promotion on top of that! 15% off your entire purchase until July 4th at 11:59pm (CST). Get your gear now before it’s too late! The code is: PHOTO4TH

To all of the 35mm shooters and lomographers out there: We didn’t forget about you!


Photographing Fireworks Tips

With Fourth of July right around the corner, I thought that an article about photographing fireworks would fit the bill perfectly! It’s a little intimidating knowing you only have about 20 minutes to get a great shot. There isn’t much time to perfect your settings out there. Not to mention fireworks only shoot about 4-6 times a year, it’s not something you can readily prepare for. The following article is a bit more technical than I’d hope, so my apologies for those who aren’t versed with terms such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Many point and shoots now come with a fireworks setting. Some cameras yield good results, others not so much. However, there is still time for you to whip out that manual and learn how to play with these settings! Most likely, your camera (yes, your point and shoot camera included) will allow you to change these settings easily. Likewise, those who own DSLRs but don’t stray away from auto mode can learn these settings as well. It shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to learn how to play with these settings.


Many people think that because fireworks are a nighttime affair, their major concern should be the low-light. However, it’s the complete opposite. Capturing too much light is much more common! This is where our cameras get confused. The bursts of lights that last only a few seconds, accompanied with multiple bursts will throw your light readings all over the place. If you’re setting your shutter speed to more than 4 seconds, you’re most likely going to get huge bursts of lights. Many people bump their ISOs higher because of the low light, resulting in a noisy night sky, which isn’t very attractive.


The low light does affect one thing, your shutter speed. For those who aren’t photography nerds that know the ins and outs of photography, shooting at night usually results in blurry shots. This is because the shutter needs to stay open longer to allow more light in. Therefore, when your subject moves, or when you inadvertently move the camera, your shot comes out blurry. A tripod will definitely fix this! Tripods are useful because they keep your hands off the camera, keeping the camera completely still. If you don’t want to spring for a tripod just for this one fireworks show, then find a ledge or tabletop that is steady. You might find yourself having to fandangle some type of contraption to point the camera towards the fireworks as well, which can be a pain. Can you shoot without a tripod? It’s possible if you have a steady hand and shoot closer to 1-2 seconds. Give it a try, you might surprise yourself!


Start off by setting your ISO to the lowest amount your camera offers to combat noise. I recommend shooting at or around f/8 with a 2-3 second shutter speed. Now, the shutter speed is actually the one element you can change to your liking. If you let the camera try to figure it out, you will most likely get a shot with a huge light burst, because it’ll suggest 10+ seconds. You want to stay in the range of 1-4 seconds. 4 seconds is a little long, but might work under your circumstances. The longer the seconds (shutter speed), the more flares/tails you will get from the fireworks. The shorter the seconds (shutter speed), the less flares/tails you’ll get. It’s all personal taste at this point. Timing is also a big deal. You want to catch the firework right as it’s exploding. Some have an eye for the tiny lit tail that is shooting up, which is great. You can watch it burst and hit the shutter. If you don’t have a keen eye, listening for the burst works well as some of my colleagues have suggested. Lastly, because you’re manually setting your shutter speed, you can keep the flash off!


RAW vs. JPEG Shooting

“Shooting RAW is the only way to shoot!”

I see that quite a bit, but is it always true? For semi-professionals, professionals, and hobbyists who have the proper software and time to edit these RAWs, it’s a great way to get absolutely beautiful photos. But does that mean shooting JPEG is the “wrong” way to shoot? This article’s here to help!

Before I begin, I’ll do my best to help explain it in the simplest terms so you’re not bored with drawn-out, long-winded definitions.


RAW shooting gives you the ability to easily manipulate the photograph using photo editing programs like Adobe Photoshop in post-processing. Post-processing, sometimes referred as “PP”, is the photo editing process a photographer applies after he/she takes the photograph. When the camera snaps a RAW photo, the image will be recorded to the memory card rather bland and dull. Some shooters think shooting in RAW is the best way to get the best shot straight from the camera. That’s not the case at all.


JPEG shooting is almost the opposite of RAW shooting. When you shoot JPEG, you’re telling the camera to do all of the compressing for you. It automatically applies all of the right corrections in order to get a good photo. This correction is different on every camera. So it’s wise to do your research before selecting the right camera for you, but that’s another topic!


RAW shooting can lead you to amazing photographs. Say you take a photograph of a beautiful landscape, and the sky isn’t quite the right shade of blue for you. You can easily change it to the right shade that fits your standards. However, this isn’t the only correction you can make. When shooting in RAW, you’re in charge of what the photograph looks like in the end. You have the ability to work with the brightness, contrast, colors, saturation, exposure, and so much more.


Shooting in JPEG has its own benefits. First, JPEGs file sizes are much smaller. The difference can range from 800kb JPEG to a 25Mb RAW depending on your camera and camera settings. Secondly, you might not have the budget for expensive software like Adobe Photoshop ($200). Third, you might not be very interested in post processing. Photographers would much rather be out shooting!


As mentioned above, RAWs are huge files. If you don’t have the patience or hard drive space, shooting in RAW isn’t for you. Secondly, photo editing software is not as easy as Windows Paint, not to mention expensive.


You lose the ability to edit your photos easily. Sure, photo editing programs can edit JPEGs, but it won’t be able to clean up your photo as well as it could with a RAW photo.


Simplistically speaking, you’re working with many more levels (not to be confused with exposure levels) when it comes to RAW files. Therefore, you have a bit more freedom when it comes to editing your photos. When it’s all said and done, it’s all personal preference. It depends on where you are in the realm of photography. If you’re an enthusiast that loves to point, shoot, and upload, then shooting JPEG should be sufficient. If you’re a hobbyist who wants to get into more detailed photography (maybe even becoming a pro), RAW is the way to go. Both have pros and cons, but it depends on which pros and cons outweigh each other for you. Don’t let others tell you that shooting in RAW is the only way to shoot. It’s not for everyone, and with today’s technological advancements, trusting the camera to do all of the fine tuning usually ends rather well!


Here is a photo taken with a Canon 7D. I purposely shot into the sun to show levels, contrasts, and brightness within the trees in the foreground.

The first set is straight off the camera (RAW version vs JPEG version). You can see that the trees are underexposed in the raw version, and the JPEG version did it’s best to correct that, resulting in a “better” version.

The set below is the “best case scenario” after editing.

You can see both JPEG and RAW after post processing yields great results. The RAW version did better when it came to the underexposed trees and details in the sky (see the cloud details). The difference is also in the variety of post processing. The JPEG you see in the second set is pretty much the only good version that will come out after post processing. With the RAW, you can obtain many more results that turn out beautifully. Say, you wanted to add a nostalgic-element and push your white balance towards the yellow side. The results:

You can see that the sky in the JPEG version is completely blown out on the right side. Likewise the sunlight on the tips of the trees are completely washed out as well. With that being said, it’s not impossible to correct that. You can always bring down the brightness, but that would completely darken the trees in the foreground. Bumping the fill light beyond this point will only make the JPEG more noisy, which is a no no. Of course you can always start mixing multiple layers (background, foreground) to fix this unevenness, but that would of course take you more time and patience. That’s starting a whole different subject (HDR, or High Dynamic Range).


Shooting RAW has it’s benefits. You can see it in the photo proof above. However, that doesn’t make JPEG completely obsolete. It all comes down to personal preference. When people say, “RAW shooting is the only way to shoot.” They aren’t explaining all of the advantages and disadvantages to you. You have to consider the price of RAW-capable cameras (which are usually expensive DSLRs), price of photo-editing software (usually expensive), and the ability to actually edit photographs (which takes time to learn). The biggest misconception is when people buy RAW-shooting cameras expecting to get amazing photos when they shoot in RAW, without realizing that the benefits are in the post-processing.

Want us to discuss something to help you becoming a better photographer? Send an email to: or leave us a message on Facebook! You might see your question on our next blog!

Wide Open Tees Photo Contest #2: BLUE

Our second photo contest on POTN forums has a winner! Again, there were lots of great submissions, and after a really difficult vote, Lee Kordel’s Blue Whale took home the prize!

About the Photographer and Photograph:

Pic was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70 2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/2000 Family and friends were out on the lake enjoying a beautiful day and one of my daughters pool toys was hanging out on the dock all by it’s lonesome….and this was the result On the regular I’m on POTN and flickr looking at pics, getting great ideas and learning as I go.

Great photo, Lee. The contrast, clarity, and composition are spot on! Check out Lee’s online portfolio here! Congrats and enjoy your 2 shirts from Wide Open Tees!