Vincent Paone Photography: Blog 2014-08-13T15:48:00Z (C) Vincent Paone Photography Vincent Paone Photography Dad's Photography Corner: Out With The Old?

It's been about a year since I bought my Nikon D3100 and unfortunately, about that same length of time since I've last blogged. The title, as it suggests, is meant to address both issues. I've learned a LOT over the past year, though I wouldn't go as far as to call myself an least, not yet. A year ago, it would have taken me a minute to play with the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings to get an ideal picture of whatever was before me. Now, adjusting these settings based on the current situation is almost second nature. If it's really bright outside and I'm trying to take landscape photos, for example, I know to start with a shutter speed of 1/500-1/1000, maintain a low ISO, and go from there. Of course, a good photographer will be able to adjust these on the fly as the need arises...I think I'm at the point now where I can safely say that I'm there.

My current dilemma is that I feel that I've outgrown my camera. The Nikon D3100 is an entry-level DSR but make no mistake, it has served me incredibly well. I'd recommend one to any newly minted photographer, though the image sensor and lack of auto-focus on the body is something with which to be aware. With regard to the former, it's a DX, meaning that your lens ranges are greater than what you'd actually expect. If you're using a 50mm lens, for example, you will have to stand a few feet further back than someone using a full frame camera. I believe the conversion is 1.5x (50mm lens = 75mm viewing range), but I'd be lying if I said that I understood the concept fully. On the latter, the auto-focus, the body is not equipped with a motor. If you're intent on using auto-focus, then you'll need to make sure that the lenses you buy come with one (they are generally more expensive).

My other dilemma is that I often miss shots because I'm constantly changing lenses. My current "bag of tricks" includes the 18-55mm kit lens, the 55-300mm zoom lens, and a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. When I'm at the park and want to take landscapes or nature shots, the kit lens does me well as it can zoom out to 18mm (not accounting for the crop factor). However, if a bird lands on a faraway branch, I'd have to switch out to the 55-300mm in order to zoom in far enough to get then it would have flown away. I'm very much considering the 18-200mm or the 18-300mm Nikon lens...though they tend to be expensive ($600-$1000 new). Once I save up enough get one, I think I'll be less frustrated and be able to focus more on capturing the moment as opposed to switching out lenses to meet the occasion.

Becoming intimately familiar with Photoshop is also a big help, though I can't claim to know everything there is to know about the program. The biggest photo saver has been the ability to apply a mask to a second layer and allowing parts of the original layer to bleed through. I won't delve into specifics here, but it allows me to brighten or reduce the brightness of only part of a picture...very effective when dealing with outdoor photos with a blown-out sky. The clone stamp tool has also helped me to remove people and unwanted objects from photos altogether, though it takes time and finesse. Having just purchased a portable green screen kit with lighting umbrellas, I'm anxious to try out photoshopping people into various backgrounds.

I will say this...being a photographer isn't as easy as it originally sounded. Anyone can take a picture, but capturing a moment and touching it up with the right tools takes experience and time. Now I know why some professionals charge what they do. I myself am still working out a price sheet but am close to turning the key and turning my services into something marketable. It's been a frustrating year with regard to being a photographer, but it was also equally as informative and rewarding. I honestly can't wait to upgrade my camera (currently looking at the D7100) and buy a new all-purpose lens (18-200mm seems to be ideal financially, though I want the 18-300mm) so that I can step up my game a bit.

In the meantime, check out my official website and Facebook page below for the newest additions to my album:


The original article was posted on 8/13/14, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2014-08-13T15:47:37Z 2014-08-13T15:47:37Z Dad's Photography Corner: Say No To Auto-ISO?

My recent trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo was a success overall, but I felt that I could have done better.  Out of the four hundred pictures I took, only seventy-five of them didn't have that grainy look about them.  This was partly my fault, as I was trying something new this time around...Auto-ISO and Manual mode.

Having taken many a photograph in Shutter and Aperture Priority modes, I figured I would need to step it up to Manual sooner or later.  I figured with the Auto-ISO turned on, it might help my transition a bit.  My first mistake was not setting the limits of the feature as the camera defaulted the max ISO to 3200.  For those of you new to photography, high ISOs will result in grainy pictures.  With the Auto-ISO enabled, the camera will check your shutter and aperture settings and attempt to meter (adjust the lighting) for your photos by automatically setting the ISO.  ISO, to recap, is a value that determines how sensitive your camera sensor is to light.

Taking what I know about shutter speeds and aperture settings, I kept my shutter speed at about 1/400 and 1/500 and my aperture at about f/4.5-5.6.  The faster shutter speeds, I reasoned, would help to capture animals in motion should they make any quick movements.  The aperture setting I chose would help to ensure that my depth of field wasn't too focused on any one part of the photo...had I used f/1.8, for example, there's a good chance that part of the animal would have been blurred out.  The weather was about eighty degrees and the sun was out in full force, so I hoped that the faster shutter speeds would accommodate the brightness of the sun.

Sounds great, so what went wrong?  When I got home to look at the photos, most of my pictures were grainy, especially the indoor ones.  I expected the latter, as the lack of light at fast shutter speeds almost forces the camera to max out the ISO, unless you have a great lens that can stoop down to f/1.8 on your aperture.  That's actually what I did for the indoor photos...switched out my 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens for my nifty fifty (50 mm f/1.8) and lowered the aperture to about f/2.8.  Still, my ISOs were higher than I would have liked, hitting 1000 in some places the sun...where it was extremely bright.  Most of my indoor photos hit above 1000 ISO and some were simply too grainy to use.

Until I can figure out why my camera acted the way it did, Auto-ISO is staying off.  Either that, or I'm limiting it to 800 ISO and no higher.  I shoot in RAW, so I might have been better off with darker pictures (via lower ISOs) and fixing them in post.  This experience was a real eye-opener and I learned a lot from it, especially now that I have my feet wet with manual mode.  I suppose I could have played it safe with Priority or Auto, but that's not why I became a photographer.  Once I get this metering down, I think I'll be in a better place overall.  I find myself struggling with this particular goal, but I suppose this simply takes practice, practice, and more practice.  The next time I go to the zoo, I'm going to try an ISO of 100-200 (Auto-ISO is staying off) with a shutter speed of about 1/250 and bump that up to 1/500-1/1000 if my pictures come out too bright.

What are your experiences with Auto-ISO?  Feel free to leave a comment if you feel inclined.


You can check out the photos from that trip here:


The original article was posted on 7/16/13, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2013-07-16T11:57:30Z 2013-07-16T11:57:30Z Dad’s Photography Corner: Sunny Days & Shadow Woes

So, not much has happened since my last post.  Created a website on Zenfolio, scheduled my very first appointment for a photo shoot, drafted up price lists and customer FAQs, you know…the usual.  You can’t see me right now, but I’m jumping up and down like a little school boy who bagged his very first rare Pokémon.  Okay, obligatory update over.

Summer is upon us and I thought to myself, “Hey, it’s sunny out…great for photos, right!?” Holy blown-out sky Batman, was I in for a rude awakening.  Of course, I didn’t know it until after I got home from the park and checked them out on my laptop.  My ego took a big hit that day as I saw that every four out of five photos looked too bright or too dark.  At that point in time, I was familiar enough with Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 to adjust the exposure.  Before you ask, yes, I was shooting in RAW.  This fixed part of the picture, but made the rest of it look worse.  The sky would look fine after I was done, but the person I had photographed had shadows coming out of their nose.

This was probably my very first obstacle that I had to deal with as an amateur photographer and I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to perfect it.  I underestimated how important lighting was and how key it is to get it right BEFORE you take the picture.  A friend of mine showed me some tricks in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 that involved layers and layer masks, but I wanted to know how to fix the problem before it started.  As I said, it’s not easy, and I sometimes still get it wrong.

What I’ve gotten in the habit of doing is taking two photos of the very same shot, one with a flash and one without.  Taking two pictures allows me to save great shots that I’d otherwise have to discard by combining the best parts of them in Adobe.  My next hurdle is trying to read that exposure chart on the LCD that comes up beside each photo I take.  I believe they call it metering.  I’m not at the point yet where I can read my LCD and make adjustments on the fly, but I believe if I can master this, I’ll be one step closer to being among the pros.  Eventually, I’ll get to the point where I can say “Yeah, I can set my exposure to -1 and get away with not using a flash if I do this, this, and this”. 

To sum things up, sunny days, I’ve learned, is a very challenging environment in which to shoot.  Cloudy days and shaded areas work better, simply because the lighting is equal throughout the picture.  I’ve been looking at reflector kits on Amazon, which either block unwanted light or reflect wanted light into areas of the subject that are casting shadows.  If any of you folks use them and can recommend a kit or brand, please feel free to leave a comment below.  I don’t have an assistant to hold the reflectors, so anything that can stand on its own is preferable.

Stay tuned for more random musings of an amateur photographer!


The original article was posted on 7/3/13, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2013-07-03T12:18:01Z 2013-07-03T12:18:01Z Dad’s Photography Corner: OMG…SO…MANY…LENSES!!!

It’s been one heck of a ride thus far…that is, in terms of photography.  Since my last article, I’ve shot and edited many a photo.  I came up with a name for my photography quote unquote “business”, went out and bought Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, and have now begun seriously considering expanding on my lens collection.

At the moment, I have the following lenses:

18-55 mm, f/3.5-5.6 G, VR, AF-S

55-300 mm, f/4.5-5.6 G, VR, AF-S

The 18-55 mm is great for landscapes and taking shots in which there isn’t a lot of room to work.  The 55-300 mm is great for its zoom, catching things from pretty far away without too much of a problem.  I use it for macro photography, even though it’s not a macro lens.  I simply have to stand far away from the object, push the zoom to its fullest, and hope the autofocus can hit its mark.

I’m seriously picking up one or two of the following lenses:

50 mm, f/1.8 G

85 mm, f/1.8 G

85 mm, f/3.5 G, Macro Lens

105 mm, f/2.8 G, Macro Lens

The former two, I read, are great for portrait photography.  The low aperture number (f/1.8) makes photos sharper and provides a lot of background blur (called bokeh).  I want the 85 mm as it would allow me to not be so up and close and personal with a client, but it’s almost twice as expensive.  The 50 mm normally goes for about $125-150, but because my camera does not have an internal motor, I’ll need the AS-F lens (one with an internal motor) for the autofocus to function.  That adds about another $100, on average.  The 85 mm, I’ve researched, goes for over $500.  Ouch.

The latter two, I’ve read, are great macro lenses.  They do make macro lenses below 85 mm, but the less of a zoom you have, the more of a chance you’ll scare away insects and moving targets since you’ll need to be closer.  Unfortunately, the 85 mm is over $500, and the 105 mm hits into the $700 range.  Again…ouch.  I have to wonder though, if a macro lens is able to get up close and personal, how would it fare as a portrait lens?

If any of you pros out there know the answer to that or have worked with both portrait and macro lenses, feel free to leave a comment and help a budding photographer out.  Lenses are expensive, and if a portrait lens can do the work of a macro or vice versa, I’d like to know.

In the meantime, I’m awaiting test prints from WHCC and am considering opening up an account over at Zenfolio.  I do have a Facebook page, but I’d like something a bit more professional, not to mention my own URL.  Oh yeah, and Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 isn’t a bad product…confusing since I’ve never owned any version of Adobe Photoshop, but it’s user-friendly enough to where I can do a lot of things easily and quickly.  I haven’t messed with layers yet, but I have been able to remove blemishes, add a watermark, and the like. 

If you feel inclined to know more about the experiences of an amateur photographer, then stay tuned!


The original article was published on June 12, 2013, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2013-07-03T11:18:57Z 2013-07-03T11:18:57Z Dad’s Photography Corner: The Journey Begins

I’ve been pretty lacking this past week in terms of game reviews, but I’ve had a good reason.  I put down the controller (temporarily) and replaced it with my very first digital SLR camera.  I’ve always loved taking pictures, even as a kid.  Well, it was finally time to splurge and bring one of the hobbies I’ve been neglecting all these years to the front burner.  When I first opened the package and began playing with its features, I admit that I was overwhelmed.  In fact, you can read about all of that in my first impressions article (click on the hyperlink to the left).

As I explained in that article, I figured out a few things the hard way.  For one, the Nikon d3100 SLR camera didn’t have an internal zoom.  Apparently, you have to buy separate lenses which come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes (figuratively).  I also discovered that the USB cable on my point and shoot didn’t match the camera, forcing me to place a quick online order if I ever wanted to unload pictures or video from the darn thing.  It requires a memory card in order to function, though I lucked out in that my point and shoot’s eight gig memory card worked perfectly.

Now, we jump ahead a few weeks to the present day.  I’ve taken a few pictures and done some basic research into the wonderful (but complicated) world of photography.  Below is a quick list of things I’ve learned, though it’s worth noting that I’m still an amateur.  If any of you professionals out there have any suggestions or corrections, feel free to leave them in the comments below.


In layman’s terms, this is the “brightness” of the photo.  The exposure is affected by three main things: ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.


This is the setting that determines the camera’s sensitivity to light.  Low ISOs (100-200) are best used in sunny conditions where there is a lot of natural light.  Medium ISOs (400-800) are best during overcast/evening hours.  High ISOs (1600) are better when there isn’t a lot of light to work with, like at night.  The downside to using high ISOs is that they tend to make the picture grainy and degrade the picture’s quality.  I’ve learned to try the lower ISOs whenever possible for bumping this number up.

Shutter Speed

This setting determines how quickly the camera takes the picture.  Faster shutter speeds (1/4000 is the extreme end) freezes the image as if it were frozen in time and reduces the chance of a blurry image.  Slower shutter speeds (30 seconds being the other extreme) slows motion and is for when you want a blurry image, like running water.  Slower shutter speeds allow more light to hit the sensor however, making them an ideal for night shooting.  Longer shutter speeds are best used with a tripod or remote release, as any movement of the camera make blur the picture altogether.


This setting determines how open the lens is.  A higher “f” value (f/11 as an example) means more of the photo will be in focus, making it good for landscapes.  Lower “f” values (f/4 as an example) is better for focusing on a particular object.  Increasing the aperture also brings in more light.

VR: (Vibration Reduction)

Vibration Reduction is used when you want sharper photographs when hand holding the camera (if a tripod isn’t available or an option). You won’t need VR with a tripod and remote release. VR uses more battery power.


Some camera allow you to save the photo in either JPG format or a RAW file.  RAW files are larger in size (in terms of disk space), but retain the picture’s quality much better.  The downside to using RAW, besides the file size, is the need to convert the file to something usable via a photo editing software.  As an ametuer, I’ve had little need to use RAW, but have switched my settings to JPG Fine for good measure.

My camera came with a lot of modes on its dial.  ”Guide” and “Auto” were nice, but I wanted to know just what my camera was doing.  It’s the four below modes that introduced me to the above concepts in the first place and is thus worth noting here.

Programmed Auto (P)

The camera will set the shutter speed and aperture for optimal exposure. This setting is primarily used for quick snapshots when there isn’t a lot of time to mess with settings.

Shutter Priority (S)

The user selects a shutter speed and the camera picks the best aperture setting. This setting is used for freeze or blur motion shots.

Aperture Priority (A)

The user chooses the aperture setting and the camera selects the shutter speed. This setting is used to blur backgrounds or bring both backgrounds and foregrounds into focus.

Manual (M)

The user can set shutter speed, aperture, and ISO manually.

Knowing all of the above has been a big help to me, but I’m still miles away from being an expert. On average, ten out of the hundred I take are worth keeping.  At the moment, I’m having a lot of trouble nailing down indoor photography without the need for a flash.  As an example, I’d start with a shutter speed of 1/60, an ISO of 200, and an aperture of f/4.5.  This made the photo almost completely dark.  Increasing the shutter speed to values closer to one second (1/25) helped a little, but my photos tended to blur due to camera shake.  The ISO seemed to be my best option and 800 seems to be ideal for me indoors, but it still takes a shot or two before I get the lighting right.

Once I have the lighting down, focus seems to be my next hurdle.  There are times where my photos blur anyway, despite my best efforts.  This brings me to my recent crash course in lenses, which was a real eye opener.  My camera came with an 18-55 mm lens that couldn’t zoom far away if its life depended on it, which is why I splurged on a 55-300 mm lens.  It does pretty well, but doesn’t zoom as far as I’d like for those objects in the distance.  I tried taking a close-up of a flower today with the latter lens, but became very frustrated when it refused to focus.  I got some decent close-ups of the animals, but couldn’t get a darn flower for some odd reason.  After some research, I discovered the following:


18-55 mm lens (Wide Angle) – This lens came with the camera and is ideal for landscapes and wide-angle shots.

55-300 mm lens (Telescopic) – This lens is known as a telescopic lens.  In my experience it’s a good all-around lens, but apparently isn’t great with action shots or up-close shots.

10 mm – ? (Micro/Macro Lens) – I have yet to purchase one, but I’ve discovered that most photographers have them.  They are designed to take close-up pictures, but I’m still trying to figure out which one I want.  40 mm’s are cheaper, but I’m afraid I will have to get too close to the subject.  The 100 mm caught my attention, but so did the $800+ price tag.

Obviously, there are more ranges here that I didn’t mention, but wide-angle, telescopic, and micro/macro seem to be the biggies.

In conclusion, I’ve discovered that Excedrin Migraine works best when dealing with the headaches of professional photography.  You may want to invest in some, assuming you have any money left over from buying all those different lenses.  Joking aside, I’m really enjoying my experience thus far, even though it can be frustrating at times.  I guess I’ll just need more experience and for that, I’ll need to (*shudder*) get out more.


The original article was published on May 5, 2013, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2013-07-03T11:16:10Z 2013-07-03T11:16:10Z Dad’s Photography Corner: Nikon D3100 Digital SLR Camera (First Impressions)

So…the saga begins.  Like almost everything else I do, I’ve decided to jump head first into photography, having no prior experience beyond the point-and-shoot cameras I’ve owned over the years.  I’ve always wanted to take my board game reviews to the next level by taking nicer pictures, but I’ve also been dabbling with the idea of doing portraits & landscapes.  Who would have thought that all-knowing logical me would have an artsy side?

I wanted to do a review of this camera, but seeing as how I know very little about photography in general, I’ve decided not to pretend to know what I was talking about.  I will, however, jot down my thoughts for your viewing pleasure.  My first impression of the camera was something along the lines of, “holy &%$#, look at all of those buttons!” After watching a video or two on YouTube, I’ve grown comfortable enough with the camera to actually use the thing.  The manual is roughly seventy pages…so the next time you need to go to the john for the long haul, be sure to bring this with you.

So, what can it do?  It can take pictures (I should hope so) as well as record video.  It has four different ports for downloading your pictures or content to various media, like TVs and computers.  You can choose to use the viewfinder (the little window where you stick your eye) or the fairly large LCD screen on the back of the camera when taking a picture.  There’s a knob on the top of the camera that features different modes, which changes the camera settings appropriately to accommodate for the type of picture you’re taking.  While there is an “auto mode” on that dial, there’s also a “guide mode”.  The guide mode walks you through “simple” or “advanced” questions on the LCD screen and adjusts the camera settings accordingly.  Obviously, this is what attracted me to the camera in the first place.

What have I learned so far?  Well, let’s talk about zoom and lenses.  There’s no “zoom” feature on the camera itself…all of that is done by twisting the lens on the camera.  The lenses themselves are detachable and I quickly learned that different lenses allowed you to zoom various distances.  My Nikon came with an 18-55 mm lens with VR and Auto/Manual toggles, which I later discovered wasn’t ideal for far-away pictures.  It can do wide angles and close-ups decently enough, but it doesn’t zoom very far away.  I’m looking into buying a 55-200 mm lens with VR and Auto/Manual toggles…hopefully this does the trick as they are fairly expensive (a couple hundred dollars).  I also learned that VR stands for “Vibration Reduction” and minimizes the blur caused by camera shake and other movements.

I have a lot of learning to do.  I still don’t know what the different shutter speeds and ISO values mean, but I have a feeling that I’ll be able to learn them on this particular camera.  It’s incredibly easy to use and I honestly can’t wait to try out the manual settings to see how the “auto modes” compare in terms of picture quality.  I’m liking the camera so far and time permitting, I’ll write a full review.  I would have uploaded a picture or two, but I discovered that the USB cord I have for my point-and-shoot does not work with this camera…meaning I’ll have to wait until next week to actually unload my camera’s content.  The camera doesn’t come with an SD card either, which is required to make the camera work…luckily, the 8 gig SD card I had in my point-and-shoot worked fine.

For those of you that are friends with me on Facebook, I’ll go ahead and apologize in advance for the onslaught of pictures that I’ll be uploading in the next couple of weeks.  Perhaps it’s time to look into Pinterest?  At any rate, if you experienced folk out there have any tips for a first-time SLR user, feel free to leave a comment or five.


The original article was published on April 26, 2013, here:

Vincent Paone Photography (C) Vincent Paone Photography 2013-07-03T11:14:00Z 2013-07-03T11:14:00Z