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Photographing “Perfect” Cherry Blossoms

Achieving Epic Cherry Blossom Photos

My neighbour has a cherry blossom tree, so I always watch their’s to try and get an indication of when these beautiful trees will be in full bloom. In Edmonton right  now, they’re starting to come out already and it makes for a spectacular display of pink and purple.  The window to capture these in your photos is tight… only around two weeks! Here is an example of a pretty basic shot of a cherry blossom tree that you could accomplish with most cameras, using the auto function.


As you can see with the next picture, we have really given these cherry blossoms a new look! Once you understand your camera’s manual mode, you can completely transform the way something looks with just a few clicks. What makes this next photo look so much more interesting than the first (besides the beautiful model!) is we used a shallow depth of field. To achieve this, you’ll need to practice by positioning yourself so that you’re shooting through the cherry blossoms in the foreground, and then adjust the aperture on your camera to a lower f/stop (ex. less than f/4.0)

edmonton and calgary photography class, how to capture cherry blossoms.

To achieve the effect of this next photo, understanding lighting is key. We cover this (and much more!) in our Portrait Lighting workshop. When you’re photographing outdoors, it is important to understand the magic hour. This is when the sun is at it’s lowest point in the horizon so, you’ll want to plan your shoot near sunrise or sunset. If you get the timing right, you’ll be treated to gorgeous soft lighting.

IMPORTANT TIP:  You might not appreciate how fast the sun actually moves until you’re trying to get your shot so, be ready! You have a narrow window and you don’t want to spend it fiddling with lenses and memory cards 😉 Also, you may need to slow your shutter speed down as it is getting darker, so perhaps plan to bring along your tripod to reduce camera shake.  Most of all, Have fun!

shooting cherry blossoms edmonton and calgary photography class

Do you live in Edmonton or Calgary? We are now offering photo walks in these two cities! So, grab your camera, some comfortable shoes and join us!

What is, and Should I Buy a Full Frame Camera?

Are you looking to buy a DSLR camera (What is a DSLR?) or are otherwise wondering what the difference between a normal DSLR and a full frame (or “FX” as Nikon calls it) DSLR is and what that difference means for your photography?

When you read all of this article you should end up pretty well able to talk any camera salesman’s ear off about the difference between full frame and crop factor DSLRs. Here are the highlights in a few bullet points.

The Good

  • Other things being equal full frame DSLRs are usually quite a bit better at resolving details compared to typical DSLRs.
  • Full frame DSLRs generally have less noise at a given ISO than their crop sensor cousins. However a full frame DSLR from a few years ago may not be as good as a crop sensor DSLR from today.

The Bad

  • Full frame lenses are generally 50-100% heavier than crop sensor lenses.
  • They’re generally much more expensive than the typical DSLR.
  • Lenses can cost more too, though not always.

The Ugly… err uh… I mean “The It Depends”

  • Full frame wider field of view using lenses of the same focal length.
  • A full frame DSLR will have a slightly narrower apparent Depth of Field producing more out of focus backgrounds.

If you really want to be “in the know” read on

Different cameras (of all kinds, not just DSLRs) can have different sizes of image sensors, some are very very small, others many times larger. The sensor in some cameras may only a fraction the size of a postage stamp, the one in a full frame DSLR could be 40× larger.

The size of the sensor can have a strong effect on the way your images look.

Most people don’t hear much about sensor size because most people buy point and shoot cameras. That’s not a bad thing, However with point and shoot cameras there are a lot of other features that usually have higher consideration than sensor size.

Often even if the sensor size is listed it’s in a difficult to visualize fraction like 1/2.3″ or 1/1.7″. Usually only when comparing similar cameras does it becomes a consideration.

DSLRs generally only have two sizes of sensors, full frame and… well… not full frame. Most are the smaller size often called APS-C or crop. The smaller size isn’t always the same between brands or even different models but the window of variation is small.

Often people are looking into full frame because a website said “if someone wants to be a professional photographer” (or even a serious enthusiast) “they have to have a full frame camera!” As a result people wonder if they should spend the [considerable] money and “upgrade” to a full frame camera.

Before we go any further, I do not feel you need a full frame camera in order to be a professional photographer. There ar many successful professional photographers in various specializations of photography who use non-full frame DSLRs, an not for of lack of money.

One of the reasons sensor size is such a buzz topic when we talk about DSLR cameras is because most DSLRs are built using a lens mount that accepts lenses that were designed for use with 35mm film cameras. As a result those lenses create an image inside the camera designed to cover an area the size of a frame of film.

Typical DSLRs have sensors quite a bit smaller than a frame of film. Full frame DSLRs have a sensor that is the same size as a frame of film and thus they make use of lenses with the film sized image inside the camera as they were originally intended.

Most Sensors Are Not Full Frame

35mm film cameras generally speaking produce images that are 36mm × 24mm, that means to be full frame the sensor in a digital camera must be (very close to) 36mm × 24mm, no other size should be considered full frame for a standard DSLR (in the author’s mind.) “Why so precise?” you might ask?

If you subtracted just 1mm all the way around the outside of a full frame sensor you lose 13% of the area.

The sensors in most DSLRs are called APS-C sized because the area is similar to (though smaller than) that of the “classic mode” of the now defunct Advanced Photo System (APS).

I prefer the term “crop sensor” because it is more accurate as to what’s going on, and APS failed because it was unpopular, so why use it as a yardstick when many people don’t even remember it?

This diagram shows how much larger a full frame sensor is than a typical crop sensor. The size for the typical sensor is sort of an average of the Canon and Nikon sizes; smaller than a typical Nikon, larger than a typical Canon sensor.

Typically crop sensors have about 40% the sensor area of a full frame camera.

Unlike film, image sensors are VERY expensive to make, and size greatly effects the cost per unit. A sensor of twice the size is said by some to cost three to four times as much. In order to make digital cameras affordable and portable manufacturers use these smaller sensors.

When DSLRs were first introduced they were edging in on the 35mm film SLR market, so they had to use the same lenses and handle similarly. That would allow people invested in one brand of SLR to use a DSLR from the same manufacturer without buying new lenses. Now days most manufacturers make lenses targeted at DSLRs. These lenses are smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

These new digital only lenses cover only the small image sensor and not a full frame. Canon calls these EF-S lenses and Nikon calls them DX lenses.

You may or may not be able to use them on your full frame or film cameras, and with some brands and lineups of lenses doing so could even damage the camera and/or lens or using a full frame lens on your crop sensor camera may damage it. But not with all lenses, and not with all cameras.

The following picture was taken with one of these “digital only” lenses designed for a crop sensor but used on a full frame camera.


Not all crop sensor lenses have this same limitation, some produce only darkened corners called vignette.

Why Are They Called Crop Sensor Cameras?

If you put a 50mm lens on a full frame camera and took a picture, then put the same lens on a crop sensor camera and took a picture from the same location the crop sensor camera will produce an image that looks like it was cropped out of the center of the image from the full frame camera.

The following image demonstrates the difference in image that would result if you were to set up a camera in the same location using the same lens and took a picture using a full frame camera or a crop sensor camera.


The crop sensor camera produces an image that looks as though it were cropped out of the middle of the full frame camera’s image.

Although the wider field of view looks like it would be “better” for this landscape photo in reality the crop sensor camera user could have just backed up a little or used a wider angle lens to get the same result.

Equivalent Focal Length

As you can see the cropping of the image inside the camera caused by the smaller sensor makes it seem like the lenses are longer (they have a longer equivalent, or effective focal length. Or using inaccurate layman’s terms are “more zoomed in.”) Thus a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera is said to behave like a 75mm or 80mm lens would on a 35mm camera.

Most of the time this is not really important because we compose our shots after we’ve selected our focal length. If you need a wider field of view, you need to back up or use a lens with a shorter focal length, regardless of the platform you’re using. If you need a narrower field of view you can get closer or use a lens with a longer focal length or just crop closer on the computer.

Sometimes the small sensor making your field of view narrower is good when getting physically closer isn’t allowed and you don’t have a longer lens.


So the same lenses having a wider field of view on a full frame camera is largely moot. You would not all of a sudden start taking head and torso pictures of people instead of just head shots because you switched to a full frame camera, you’d simply move closer, or zoom in more.

What Does Full Frame Do For The Look?

The real fuss comes from depth of field and detail. This is the reason full frame cameras are worth the extra cash for many people. Most people find a photo that’s otherwise the same, but taken with a larger sensor (or film) to be more pleasing… to a point. Given the same aperture and field of view (the picture being framed the same regardless of the focal length of the lens) a larger imaging area will have a narrower Depth of Field. The narrower DoF will produce softer, more pleasing, out of focus area such as the background behind the subject. Notice that in the picture of the turtle the sand in front of and the background behind the turtle are out of focus, that makes it easier to appreciate the turtle.

Also larger imaging areas will generally be able to better resolve detail. More detail is better, right? If detail weren’t good we’d all use $7 disposable film cameras right?

The following comparison image was very generously provided by Edd Nobel, be sure to check him out on Flickr.

This picture compares images taken with a full frame camera and an 85mm lens (top) and a crop sensor camera and a 50mm lens (bottom) of the same subject using lenses with approximately the same field of view.

Notice how the background of the image on top is softer and more pleasing? Especially look at the plants in the background and the front edge of the white table cloth. You can click the image to see it larger.

I Heard That Was a Myth, and That The DoF Was The Same!

Look at the picture above and contemplate that until the practical truth hits you… the background on top is more out of focus, as is the foreground.

You’ll often see web sites claiming the DoF being narrower isn’t true, and that’s sort of correct. If you set up a typical DSLR, point it at something a fixed distance away, and take a picture and then replace the body with a full frame body and do not adjust anything else, the DoF will actually be the same. However the field of view will be wider. Nobody takes pictures like that. If you want the narrower DoF get the full frame DSLR. We don’t pick our focal length and position arbitrarily without considering framing.

Low Light / High ISO Shooting

Full frame cameras often have good high ISO performance and dynamic range. Basically dynamic range is the range of light and dark the sensor can capture at the same time. However those aspects are both technological points and if you compare an old full frame DSLR to a new crop sensor DSLR you may find the noise and dynamic range are superior on the newer crop sensor DSLR.

Illustration of Dynamic Range

Notice how you can’t see detail in the shadows because they drop off to black and the highlights because they blow out to white? The noise is also more prominent.

Get Ready To Spend

Sadly the leading edge costs money, lots of money. Some the fuss we hear about full frame is simply because people like to talk about the latest most expensive gear.


It’s not a scam, they simply contain more raw materials, and the companies sell more of them. Compare these two similar setups.

If we compare the high price end of the APS-C market to the low price end of the full frame market using lenses with similar fields of view (they take photos with similar coverage) we can compare cameras with similar handling (buttons and such) but different prices and image characteristics.

A Nikon D300s with 17-55mm f/2.8 lens runs you about $2,688.76. A Nikon D700 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens runs you about $3,836.47. The full frame setup in this instance costs $1,147.71 more, or about 43% more.

I realize that neither camera is new, and in months of writing both with be replaced. The point is the price difference, not that they’re the leading edge of technology. Besides everyone knows the Canon 5D Mk II is better than the D700… right?! hehe.

Should I Buy A Full Frame Camera?

I’d love to just say yes or no but that depends on the reality of your goals and constraints. The CPLC has staff who use full frame cameras, and those who don’t. Cost and portability big factors for most people, you have to consider not only the cost and weight of the body but also the lenses.

Might your money be better spent on photography classes? Might it be better spent on more lenses? Might your money be better spent on plane tickets to somewhere interesting so that you can take some interesting photographs?

Technically stunning photographsof the same old same old are going to just be the same old same old photographs… but technically better… huzah I can’t wait to see them.

Weight is also an important factor. The weight of the bodies isn’t actually that different. Adding all those dials, buttons, and switches adds weight, so it’s not fair to say full frame cameras are heavier. High end crop sensor DSLRs are heavy also. The sensor itself only makes up a small portion of the weight of the camera.

However the lenses do tend to be much heavier, larger sensor needs more glas. If you don’t demand the narrower DoF, higher image quality and frankly more prestigious image you might seriously want to consider a crop sensor camera, particularly if portability is an issue. You can expect the full frame lenses to weigh 20-40% more, with the 40% end being more realistic than 20%.

The Professionalism Factor

It's okay… I'm a pro!

Relax… I’m a pro!

One of the big reasons for a pro to buy a full frame camera is simply so that other people will see that you have one. It sounds horrible but the fancier your equipment the more the average person will take you seriously.

I know, I know! It sounds terrible and I almost didn’t write it, but it’s true and a reality that effects your photography and your profitability. That is if you’re a professional… if you’re not a professional you can probably just skip this section.

Put yourself in the place of a client for a moment. Imagine you’ve hired a photographer to do a romantic couples portrait session to send out with your wedding invitations. This session is costing you $200 plus prints. Then the photographer shows up with the same $699 camera your goofy Aunt Betty has… You’d feel at-least a little unsure of this person’s skill… after all Aunt Betty’s not exactly a pro, she just bought that camera with her tax refund. You might second guess the photographer, project distrust making them self conscious and ruin the photos. You may not even not cooperate feeling you were taken advantage of by an inexperienced person trying to pose as a professional. Even if it weren’t true.

When your subjects don’t trust and respect you as a photographer it’s flat out going to have a visible impact on your photographs. Projecting the image of professionalism is an important reality in the business of photography. If you’re serious you may want to show that you’ve invested in your tools. That’s a sign of your commitment as a professional to your craft.

Will the full frame camera produce better photos for clients? Yes… to a point. Images with lower noise and narrower DoF will generally be more pleasing to your clients.

However the respect may have more of an impact than you might think, not just in their subtle expressions and willingess to buy prints. It’s going to impact their word of mouth. Nobody wants to tell their friends they hired a great photographer knowing that if that friend does the same the photographer is going to show up looking like an amateur. Nobody wants their friends and family to think they hired an amateur… even if the person is an outstanding photographer. They don’t want their friends and family to experience that moment of “is this person an amateur” doubt they experienced.

God help you if you show up for a shoot and the customer turns out to be a newly interested amateur photographer and they turn out to have considerably better gear than you do… you’re not getting any cooperation unless you’re a master of interpersonal dynamics.

I mitigate this issue of image by blacking out all the identifying markings on my gear with black cotton tape. When people ask what kind of camera I have I say something cheeky like “I don’t know what it’s called… I just know the sound it makes, when it takes a photograph.” (it turns out Tropic Thunder was popular enough that saying that actually gets laughs.) Incidentally this usually turns into a nice way to explain to them that the kind of camera you have doesn’t have as much of an effect on your photography as your skill and experience. If you do this you should tell them to invest in some photography classes… from The CPLC of course.

Have Your Cake And Photograph It Too

It's cake… eat it

Many DSLR owners also own a point and shoot camera. It’s often not desirable to take a large DSLR somewhere, and the issue is only magnified with a larger heavier full frame DSLR. Thus a larger number of your photos will end up being taken with a point and shoot than would be the case if you had a lighter camera setup. That isn’t so bad, a good point and shoot still make great small prints.

My recommendation for a point and shoot is the Canon S95 or the Canon G12, or whatever the latest versions of them are, regardless of if you’re not a Canon DSLR user or not. Of course something better might come out tomorrow, but those two are really solid. The G12 has great controls but is is hardly pocket sized so I’d opt for the S95.

Full Frame Fraud?

Often people will claim some cameras are full frame when they are not. The best example of this is when people are selling APS-H sensor cameras on the used market. APS-H sensors have around 63% the surface area of a full frame. The following cameras use sensors larger than APS-C sensors and are often claimed to be full frame by mistaken, or unscrupulous people selling them used. It doesn’t make them bad cameras, just not full frame.

  • Canon EOS-1D
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark II
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark II N
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark III
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
  • Leica M8
  • Leica M8.2
  • Various Kodak DCS SLR bodies have various sensor sizes, only some are full frame

Professional Fashion Photography Workshop With Amanda Diaz

Want to add a fashion element to your photographs? The CPLC is proud to host internationally recognized fashion photographer, Amanda Diaz, to help you do just that!

Learn to build your portfolio, work with designers, professional models, and a styling team. Learn about submitting your work to blogs and publications to build recognition and get your photos out there!

Amanda will talk to you from her own experience and show you how to build your brand and portfolio even on a small budget.

This intensive two day professional workshop will have a strong hands-on element and you will learn to photograph models in a natural light setting and a studio lighting setting. You will photograph two concepts, beauty and fashion to add a minimum of four new looks to your portfolio.

During this workshop you will be working with agency represented professional models, learning posing techniques together with lighting to help you succeed on your own by adding fashion photography elements into the type of photography you already love!

Day two of the workshop you will learn Amanda’s workflow and editing techniques using Adobe Photoshop. Learn to use curves, patching, and liquifying in to fix hair, slim, edit skin and eyes, remove background items, and perfect your photographs!

It is recommended that students have a basic knowledge of how to photograph in manual mode, and have Adobe Photoshop loaded on a laptop or portable computer for day 2 of the class. Come with questions and with your camera gear!

Length & Format 12 instructional hours
2 Days 9am to 5pm with 1 hour for lunch
Fee $1,500 SALE! $1,200 + GST Ends Sept 15th
Maximum Number of Students 12
Prerequisites None
Bring With You
  • Camera, Bat­teries, and memory card
  • Note taking supplies
  • Day 2 only laptop computer with Adobe Photoshop installed
The Canterra Suites Hotel
11010 Jasper Ave NW
Edmonton AB T5K 0K9
Scheduled Dates Event Completed

We’re expanding to Calgary!

Why haven’t we been posting?

Well in addition to all of the usual goings on in Edmonton we’ve busily been working to start offering classes in Calgary!

That’s right, and we need more instructors! So if you, or someone you know lives in Calgary and might be interested in teaching photography classes please contact us!

Welcome to the Canadian Photography Learning Centre!

Welcome to our brand new web blog! The Staff at CPLC is planning to make this a blog to help you improve your photography and inspire you. We’re accepting guest posts, and suggestions for posts, just use the Contact Us page if you’ve got something you want to say to the world. If you’d like to suggest a topic for a future blog post feel free to comment on this post!

We’re going to start off our new blog with a series of posts on basic photography concepts including what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and depth of field are. We’re planning one post in this series a week. We’ll also be answering your camera questions on the blog.