River City Camera Club
Helpful Information for Photographers

The ‘Odd Rule’ of Composition

“Odd numbers are better than even ones in photography.” I heard about this ‘odd rule’ years ago in a magazine and laughed it off as the author having some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder – but ever since I heard it I’ve noticed that in the shots I take it is true. I’m not exactly sure why it works – but it does. Perhaps it’s about the balance that odd numbers create (there’s always one thing in the centre to give balance)? I find that three objects in a shot are particularly good. Five, Seven or more can work but you run the risk of clutter. Give it a try – it works!

The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

The Difference Between Flow and Density

When using the Adjustment brush, the Flow sets speed of the adjustment made when painting. For example, if you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Flow down to 25 and paint in the image, you will notice that it takes a longer to build up that +2 stops than if you had left the Flow setting at 100 (eventually though, it will get there). A low Flow setting can help when trying to slowly dodge and burn in an area of an image.

The Density slider caps amount of change that can be applied with a paint stroke. If you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Density down to 50, no matter how long you paint, you will never get more of a change than 1/2 of the +2 (or +1 stop). At first I thought why not just reduce the slider to cap the maximum amount, but then I realized that I can set the sliders at the highest point I need for the image, then prevent overdoing the adjustment by setting the density slider to cap the adjustment in certain areas.

Long Exposure Noise Reduction

LENR  is based on the fact that two identical exposures that are shot successively will display the same noise characteristics. As long as the shutter speed, ISO, and temperature are the same, and as long as there has not been a long interval between the shots, each photo will have almost precisely the same noise. The noise records regardless of whether there is any light coming through the lens. In other words, you could put the lens cap on for one of the exposures and both photos will still display the same noise.

This is important because it gives the camera a way not only to measure the noise, but also to remove it. With LENR enabled, you shoot the photo just as you normally would, but after the exposure is finished, the camera takes a second exposure, using the same settings, but without allowing any light reaching the sensor. This second exposure records only the noise, the same noise that recorded on the first shot. So now the camera has two photos to work with, one with the image you shot, which we call the “light frame” and one that shows only the noise. The second frame is referred to as a “dark frame” because it did not record any light.

The software looks at the dark frame, measures all the noise, and determines precisely where it is located on the frame. Then it goes back to the light frame and plucks away all the noise that it measured. The process is called “dark frame subtraction.”

Unfortunately, LENR is not always a good thing. Since it doubles the exposure time, you can’t use it for some types of shots. For instance, you can’t shoot star trails. With star trails, you need the shortest interval between exposures as possible to prevent gaps between the trails. If you’re shooting 60-second exposures with LENR, you’re going to end up with 60-second gaps between the trails. Not good.

LENR also doesn’t work when shooting time lapses with an external intervalometer. LENR screws up the signal and causes the camera to shoot short exposures in between the desired ones.

Similarly, if you’re shooting a meteor shower or Lightning, you want your camera exposing for as much of the night as possible. You can bet that if you shoot meteors or lightning with LENR, the biggest and brightest fireballs of the night will occur while the camera is performing its dark frame subtractions.

The 500 Rule - The Secret of Sharp Stars

The Earth revolves on its axis once every 24 hours, at the equator it is rotating at an absurd 1000mph. This is why the stars appear to move across the sky every night; of course, they’re not moving, we are. The amount of apparent movement is a factor of how long the exposure is. There is a great guideline for how long you can open the shutter and STILL have sharp stars, that is, before the movement is visible in a final print or web post.


14mm                                   35.71 seconds

17mm                                   29.41 seconds

24mm                                   20.83 seconds

35mm                                   14.28 seconds

50mm                                   10 seconds

100mm                                  5 seconds

200mm                                 2.5 seconds

300mm                                 1.67 seconds

500mm                                  1 second


These times are just a guideline, because in a small web post you can get away with a little longer because the stars are so small. In a 60” print however, you may want to be even more cautious than these figures. The second consideration is in what direction you are pointing the camera. Around the poles, North and South the stars seem to move less, whereas East and West towards the Celestial Equator the stars will appear to move a lot more. For small prints or web posts, the 500 Rule guidelines can be relaxed and you can use the 600 Rule. The exact same principle with slightly longer exposure times.

What is Reciprocal Rule?

Due to the fact that we as humans cannot be completely still, particularly when hand-holding an object like a camera, the movements caused by our bodies can cause camera shake and introduce blur to images. The basic premise of the reciprocal rule is that the shutter speed of your camera should be at least the reciprocal of the effective focal length of the lens.

Say you are shooting with a zoom lens like an 80 – 400mm on a full-frame camera. All the rule is stating, is that if you are shooting at 80mm, your shutter speed should be set to at least 1/80th of a second, whereas if you zoom in to say 400mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/400th of a second. Using such fast shutter speeds should prevent blur by camera shake. Why? Because there is a direct correlation between focal length and camera shake – the longer the focal length, the more potential there is for camera shake.

Effective Focal Length

Please note that I used the word “effective focal length” in the definition and gave you an example with a full-frame camera. If you have a camera with a smaller sensor than 35mm / full-fame, (and most entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have smaller sensors), you first have to compute the effective focal length, also known as “equivalent field of view”, by multiplying the focal length by the crop factor. So if you use the same 80-400mm lens on a camera with a 1.5x crop factor and you are shooting at 400mm, your minimum shutter speed should be at least 1/600th of a second (400 x 1.5 = 600).


You bought a professional piece of camera equipment. You purposely didn’t buy a simple point-and-shoot, and you want something with more creative control than your iPhone. But you can’t expect to master that complicated piece of equipment by going out and shooting once or twice a month.

1.      Get out and shoot more. It’s a really simple time-tested formula that works every single time you try it: Practice = Improvement. It’s easy… the more you shoot, the more you’ll start to remember and understand those settings.

2.      However if shooting more really isn’t an option. Sit down with your camera every day for 2-3 weeks (for 10 minutes), and go through the menus and settings that you use a lot. At the end of those two weeks, you’ll feel so comfortable with your camera that you won’t think twice about changing settings the next time you go shoot.

Memory Card Data Recovery

You have been traveling in Europe and have some great photos of the Rhine River. You have been sightseeing in South Dakota and have some great shots of the Badlands. Or you spent a weekend at the beach with the Grandkids and you captured some priceless memories.

You get home and you put your memory card into the computer and you find that the card is corrupted. Or you accidentally delete some photos by mistake. Or you format over the wrong card by mistake.

Do Not Panic. Most important of all, do not write to this card.

It is possible that your photos can be saved. There are many software tools available today that can recover photos and files from memory cards that are at this state.

Some of these options are free and some cost dollar’s. Some places to explore further are:

4 Best Photo Recovery Software for PC and Mac

3 Ways to Recover Deleted Pictures, Fix a Damaged Card and More

How to Perform Free SD Card Recovery


I hope these resources help you save some great photos or possible lost memories.

Focus Stacking

Steps for Shooting Landscapes for Focus Stacking

  1. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod – a must!
  2. Frame the subject and compose the shot.
  3. Determine exposure for the scene, and set the camera to manual mode, to ensure that the exposure is constant for every image.
  4. Set the camera to Live View and aim the focus point on the nearest object desired to be in focus. Use the camera’s zoom (+ button, not zoom on the lens) to preview the focus through Live View. Then switch to manual focus and use the focus ring to fine tune for sharpness if necessary.
  5. Take the first exposure.
  6. Without moving the camera or adjusting any settings, move the focus point to an object mid-way in the image and refocus.
  7. Take the second exposure.
  8. Again, without changing anything, refocus on an object at the farthest point of the intended image.
  9. Take the third exposure.
    To capture landscapes, three images are generally all that is necessary to create sharp focus stacking images, but it’s completely fine to take extra images to make sure that the entire scene is covered.

Macro Photography

Macro photography can benefit from focus stacking more than any other type of photography, because a macro lens has an extremely shallow depth of field.

  1. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod – a must!
  2. Frame the subject and compose the shot.
  3. Determine the exposure for the subject, and set the camera to manual mode to ensure that the exposure remains constant for each and every image.
  4. Set the camera to Live View and aim the focus point on the nearest object desired to be in focus. Use the camera’s zoom (+ button, not zoom on the lens) to preview the focus through Live View. Then switch to manual focus and use the focus ring to fine tune for sharpness if necessary.
  5. Take the first exposure.
  6. Without moving the camera or adjusting any settings, move the focus point to a distance slightly farther away from the lens. Remember that DOF in macro will be measured in fractions of an inch, instead of feet, as in landscape photography.
  7. Repeat step 6 as many times as needed to cover every aspect of the subject’s DOF. This could range from as few as six images to 30+ images.

Processing the Final Images

Processing the files to accomplish the final image may seem like the most difficult part of creating a focus stacked image, but it’s really very simple to do in Photoshop. Here’s how:

  1. Open Photoshop
  2. Get each image on a separate layer: Under File, choose Scripts and Load files into stack. Click Browse and select all the images.
  3. Check the box for Attempts to Automatically Align Source Images.
  4. Click OK and each of the images will open into a new layer in Photoshop.
  5. Open the Layer palette and select All Layers.
  6. Under Edit, select Auto-Blend Layers.
  7. Check the box for Stack Images and Seamless Tones and Colors. Optionally, select Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas, which will fill any transparent areas generated by aligning images in step 3. (Be aware this will increase processing time. Generally, I do not choose this option; rather, I just crop the image slightly later, if necessary.)
  8. Click OK
  9. Flatten the image by selecting Layer/Flatten image and save.


The Dangers of Synchronize Folder

“Synchronize Folder.” Sounds safe enough, doesn’t it. And it IS safe enough… as long as you read and understand the dialog. But how many of us hit OK on dialogs without first stopping to read them? I’ll admit, I’ve done it too. If you do that with the Synchronize Folder dialog, you can get into all sorts of trouble, so let’s take the time to read it properly…

The main purpose of Library menu > Synchronize Folder (also found in the folders right-click menu) is to update Lightroom’s catalog with changes made to the selected folder by other programs, for example, adding or deleting photos or updating the metadata.

  • Import new photos searches the folder and subfolders for any new photos not currently in this catalog and imports them.
  • Show import dialog before importing displays the photos in the Import dialog, to allow you to view the new photos and adjust the import options prior to import.
  • Remove missing photos from the catalog checks for photos that have been moved, renamed or deleted from the folder and removes the missing photos from the catalog. If in doubt, leave this option unchecked, as you’ll lose all of the work you’ve done to the missing photos.
  • Scan for metadata updates checks the metadata in the catalog against the file, to see whether you’ve edited the metadata in any other programs, such as Adobe Bridge. (For a complete discussion of XMP metadata, see pages 128-129 and pages 343-346 in my Lightroom CC/6 book.)
  • The Show Missing Photos button searches for photos missing from the folder and creates a temporary collection in the Catalog panel. You can then decide whether to track them down and relink them, or whether to remove these photos from the catalog.

But stop! Before you press the Synchronize button, stop and think. If Remove missing photos from the catalog has a number next to it and you synchronize that folder, you may lose the work you’ve done in Lightroom. It doesn’t intelligently relink missing files. Instead, you need to cancel out of the Synchronize Folder dialog and manually relink the missing files.

Synchronize Folder is also the wrong tool to use when moving photos to a new hard drive, or moving to entirely new computer.

So when is it useful? If you’ve dropped photos into a folder using other software (including Windows Explorer/Finder), or you’ve edited a photo in an external editor (e.g. Photoshop or OnOne) and it hasn’t been automatically added to the catalog, then Synchronize Folder saves you navigating to the folder in the Import dialog.

Next time you need to use Synchronize Folder, don’t forget to stop and read the options carefully before pressing OK.


Selective focus is a rather self-explanatory term: you focus on the specific part of a subject you want to highlight or emphasize, and you “ignore” the rest, letting it fall into the blur of the background or the foreground.  Selective focus is often used to draw attention to a subject or part of a subject and evoke a contemplative mood when viewing the subject in context of its blurred but recognizable surroundings. As you might have surmised, selective focus is achieved by using shallow depth of-field. Shallow depth-of-field has a magical way of adding some serious “pop” to an image, from portraits to macros.

In selective focus photography, the in focus parts and out of focus parts are equally important, but nothing about the technique is particularly difficult.

Given that selective focus is about zoning in on a specific part of a scene and throwing the rest out of focus, you’ll want to use a large aperture — at least f/2.8. Be sure to check your focus, as accurate focusing becomes a bit more difficult when working with shallow depth-of-field.

Use your longest lens or a zoom lens extended to the far end of its range. Longer focal lengths create a compression effect that throws the background out of focus.

Keep Composition in Mind - Put the subject in focus in such a place that allows the viewer’s eye to wander off and still be able to enjoy the rest of the image.

The selective focus technique is easily achieved and easily adapted to your own creative vision. Not only will you create images that strongly emphasize your subject, they will also be free of distractions and further augmented by gorgeous bokeh.

USA Photographers Rights

1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.

e.g. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.

e.g. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

e.g. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:

* accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities

* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers

* bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities

* residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.

21 Tips for Getting Sharper Photos


Image “sharpness” has been the goal of many photographers over the years. Some photographers seem to nail the “razor-sharp” or “tack-sharp” image every time, while some struggle to capture a truly sharp image.


Before we start, know that there are basic ways photos end up not being sharp.


1. Movement Either the camera, or the subject is in motion during the capture.
2. Optics/Electronics Soft focus, soft lens, etc.
3. Atmospheric The amount and quality of air between the camera and subject.


Here we will break down all three and think about possible considerations to increase image sharpness.



1. Movement in the frame, either from a moving subject, or from the camera being less than completely still at the time the shutter is open, will cause motion blur in your image. Depending on the type of gear you are using or have available, there are ways to reduce and/or eliminate this movement.


2. Shutter Speed Shutter speed (a bit of a misnomer) is the duration of time that the shutter is open. The shorter the amount of time that the shutter is open, the less movement can happen during the capture of the image. The downside of a fast shutter speed is that less light makes it to the film or sensor, making it necessary to shoot at a higher ISO or at a wider aperture. Therefore, the maximum shutter speed for any given situation varies but, in general, you’ll want to shoot the fastest shutter speed possible to maximize sharpness.


3. Stance / Brace Even the Queen’s sentries at Westminster Abby move. No one can stand completely still. Using proper photographic technique will help reduce camera movement when taking the photo. Also, if possible, bracing yourself against a wall or other solid structure will help steady your body while shooting.

4. The “Squeeze” In the event you didn’t click on the last hyperlink, please note that the way you depress the shutter release is another important aspect in reducing camera movement. Never stab at the shutter release. This is where we all impart movement into the camera. Squeeze it gently and wait for the click.


5. Burst Shooting Many cameras offer a choice of single-shot or continuous mode. When you depress the shutter release in continuous mode, the first shot could be blurred, but the second, third, or fourth, taken immediately after, without moving your finger, may be better. The downside? More editing time and more memory being taken up on your card.

6. Remote Release The remote release is a tried-and-true best way to reduce camera shake while the shutter is being released. Old-school ones threaded into your shutter release. Today, you can use electronic, remote (IR, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi), or, even use your smartphone to release the shutter.


7. Mirror Lock-Up The SLR shakes itself when it takes a photo. When the mirror flips up out of the way of the shutter, it does so at high speed and that creates vibration. Mirror Lock-Up mode allows you to delay the shutter opening until well after the mirror is up. Mirrorless cameras do not suffer from the dreaded “recoil” of the mirror.

8. Tripod / Monopod It is not always practical to have a tripod or monopod with you. Or, if you have them, it’s not always practical to use them. But, there is no more surefire way to steady your camera than with a good support. The monopod is obviously not as steady, but it is better for portability and capturing movement.


9. Wind Wind can topple buildings. This means it can buffet you while you take a photo and it can also shake your tripod. Look for breaks that protect you and your gear from the wind while capturing photos on breezy days. You may further stabilize the tripod against the wind by hanging weight from the hook at the bottom of the tripod’s center column (if it has one).

10. Image Stabilization Modern technology has given us a host of electronicimage stabilization gizmos engineered to take the shake out of camera shake. They are getting better and better. However, there are times where these systems can hinder your image (fast motion, tripod, etc.) more than help it. Know when those are.


11. Focus If your photo is out of focus, it will not be sharp. It is as simple as that. Unfortunately, some autofocus systems can malfunction or give erroneous focus. Make sure yours works perfectly. If you are focusing manually, use all the available aids, be they electronic focus indicators, on-screen focus magnification fields, your focus screen prism, or electronic live view.

12. Autofocus Mode Autofocus is a wonderful invention, but it only works when it helps you get the photo you want. Autofocus systems can seem to have a mind of their own. Knowing how to master your autofocus modes and settings means that the parts of the image you want to have in focus will be sharp.


13. Lens Quality Most modern lenses are very, very good. However, there is a difference between entry-level optics and professional glass, and that difference can often be seen in image sharpness (among other things). Sound technique will help get the best possible image from every lens, but you need a sharp lens, first and foremost, to get the sharpest photos. Do not fret—some of the sharpest lenses are very reasonably priced, such as the venerable 50mm f/1.8 lenses made by most lens manufacturers.

14. Lens Cleanliness Lenses can be pretty dusty with no degradation of the image projected, but smudges are one of the enemies of sharpness, especially on the rear element. So, keep your fingers away from the front and rear of your lenses andclean them when needed.

15. Aperture The aperture of your lens has a definite effect on image sharpness. Each lens has a “sweet spot” aperture that provides maximum sharpness. This is, generally, two or three stops from the lens’s widest aperture. Therefore, an f/2.8 lens will have a sweet spot around f/5.6 or f/8. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, so you may want to test your lens. The lens’s widest aperture is unlikely its sharpest and the depth of field shallows as you open the lens. As you stop down toward smaller apertures, diffraction can affect sharpness.

16. Depth of Field A very shallow depth of field—caused by shooting at very wide apertures—will leave only a narrow sliver of distance in the image to be sharp. The rest of the image will appear out of focus. To show shallow DOF image as a sharp image, you need to ensure that the point of interest is that which is in focus… and sharp.

17. Zoom Zoom lenses are a wonderful convenience. The bad news is that they are rarely working at their sharpest at the extreme ends of their zoom range. Again, test your gear, but you will likely find that any zoom lens is sharper in the middle of its zoom range—not at its widest or longest focal length.


18. Optical Filters Filters have countless uses in photography. One thing they do not do is increase sharpness. The more elements of glass (or plastic) (or crystal) through which light must pass before it gets to the film or sensor, the more the light is degraded. For maximum sharpness, skip the filters.

19. ISO Not technically an optical issue, boosting your camera’s ISO to increase shutter speed in an attempt to reduce camera shake is a good thing, but the higher the ISO, the less sharpness you will have. As you raise your ISO from the camera’s native ISO setting, the more digital noise you will get. This digital “grain” will reduce image sharpness.


20. Antialiasing Filter Many digital cameras have built-in anti-aliasing (or optical low-pass) filters covering their sensors. These filters reduce image sharpness intentionally to avoid some unfortunate optical phenomena that occur when light hits a digital sensor, like moiré. Some cameras allow you to remove the sensor, and some have no AA filter at all.

21. Air Unless you are reading this in outer space, we are not photographing in a vacuum. The farther away your subject is from your lens, the more air that light must travel through to get to your camera. Haze, smoke, fog, smog, and more can prevent you from getting a sharp image of a distant object. Get closer, if you can.


Stay sharp! Got other tips and tricks for sharpness?

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