Putting CLASS into your photography
An old guide for art applies very well to photography, the rule of thirds. What this rule does is divide the picture frame with two horizontal and two vertical lines. The horizontal and vertical lines will intersect in four places. Draw this diagram on a sheet of paper to see what it would look like. Here is a link that explains the rule of thirds - http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/rule-of-thirds/ The rule of thirds is one of the best ways to improve the overall photo design and arrangement of picture elements in our photos. There are times when it's ok to ignore the rule too. But learning and using it will definitely improve our pictures. Understanding it will also help us to know when it's ok to ignore it. Composing a picture is something like arranging furniture and decorating a room. :) When you get everything put in place so that it pleases your eye and is comfortable to you, you know it. So with composing a picture, you want to arrange the parts of the picture so that they make up a scene or whatever that pleases the eye. So "C" stand for composition and is the first of the things that can add class to our pictures. Tips on composition - http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/category/composition-tips/
You might remember me saying about photography that it is all about the light. There could be no photos without light. It illuminates the color, contrast, shading and tones, shapes, forms and helps us to give the illusion of depth and distance, adding 3-D effects to a two dimensional image. We do well to look for unusual or beautiful light or the great things that light can do to a subject. We can use front lighting, side lighting and back lighting to get the different effects we want. We should study the light when we look at a scene, indoors or out, and see what the light is doing to it. What is the intensity of the light, its direction, its mood and its color? What can we do to make the light more dramatic or contribute that extra touch to the subject? The more we understand how light works, the better we can use it for adding class to our photos. Some good information about light - http://photo.net/making-photographs/light
We control the amount of light coming to the sensor by means of the aperture. Learning the f/stops will help us to know which of them is appropriate for our purpose. It's like different sizes of garden hoses. If you want more water at once, you need a bigger hose. The size of the hole in the hose determines how much water goes through at one time. But the aperture does one more thing. It also determines how much of the scene will be in focus. The bigger the aperture (size of the hose), the smaller the area that will be in focus. The smaller the aperture, the more of the subject area will be in focus. Aperture sizes are identified with names such as f/1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. Rather than worry what all this means it is easier to just remember that smaller numbers (f/1.4, 2, etc) correspond to bigger hoses, or openings in the lens. And each smaller number lets in twice as much light as the next bigger one. So f/4 lets in twice as much light as f/5.6. No need to understand why. Just memorize it. f/22 will let in the least amount of light because it is the smallest aperture, or garden hose so to speak. The other thing to memorize is how aperture or f/stop relates to depth of field, or how much of the scene from front to back is in focus. Here the smaller the number (like f/11, 16 or 22 for example) means more depth of field, more is in focus. So if you want to control how much is in focus in your picture then you do it by selecting certain apertures. If you want narrow DOF to make what's in focus jump out at the viewer against an out of focus background, you use the smaller numbers, such as f/2.8, f/4, etc. One way to have control over the aperture or f/stop is to use Aperture Priority mode. Or if you use Program mode find out how to change the aperture when you need to. Some more on controlling focus - http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/how-to-get-shallow-depth-of-field-in-your-digital-photos/ And some more info on f/stops - http://blog.epicedits.com/2007/06/16/so-you-think-you-know-what-an-f-number-is/
Just as we control the amount of light that comes through the lens with the aperture size, we control how long the flow of the light continues with the shutter speed. The aperture is like the size of the garden hose. The shutter speed is like the length of time you run the water. Shutter speeds are designed to act like aperture settings in that the higher the shutter speed, the less light flows because the exposure time is less. For example, let's list some shutter speeds as parts of a second - 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th and 1/500th and so on. Here too each of the listed speeds lets in half or twice the amount of light. 1/60th lets in twice as much light as 1/125th. So this is a second way to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. Shutter speeds and aperture settings go together to determine the amount of light used in an exposure. Your camera light meter will choose what it considers the right amount of light. If this is more or less than you want you can either increase or decrease the light by changing the shutter speed or the aperture size. Now, as with apertures, there is another use for the shutter speed. If you want the picture to be tack sharp, you can control that with a fast shutter speed. If you want some blur to suggest motion you can get that by control of the shutter speed too, using a slower speed. So both shutter speed and aperture can be used for creative purposes. Here is an example of creative use of shutter speed - http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/photographing-moto-gp-races/
The subject you choose and how you present it can make or break a photograph. One way to get images of subjects that grab the attention of the viewer is to look for what grabs your attention when you are out shooting. Look for what interests you or attracts you. Then analyze why you were drawn to the subject. What was it about it that drew you to it? Was it the way the light hits it? Is it the uniqueness of the object, its shape, colors, or beauty? When you have determined the center of interest, what it is that interests or attracts you, then you know what to highlight or emphasize in the picture. Analyze how to photograph the subject in such a way that you convey that interest or appeal to others who view it. Perhaps you can use lighting to get your message across and some are masters with flash and the use of lighting. Maybe the composition you make will show the viewer what you saw. One can use different lenses, lighting, positioning and framing, etc, to get the results they are after. Often creating a photograph is a process of eliimination. You eliminate elements in the picture frame, or other distractions until what is left all contributes to the picture you want. This process of elimination and organization, of changing one's point of view, of emphasizing the key interest and making it stand out from all the rest, can add class to your photographs. For more on seeing photographically - http://paulindigo.blogspot.com/2006/05/photographic-seeing.html
Exposure Settings with Automatic Cameras
A good article about exposure methods:
Most new cameras set the exposure and film speed automatically. Not all automatic cameras, however, have the same features. Many compact 35 mm cameras have very simple exposure systems and allow little (if any) control of exposure. Some sophisticated SLR models offer several exposure modes. Between the two are cameras that have only partial auto-exposure systems. These may require you to make part of the exposure decision-setting the shutter speed or aperture, for example. If your camera has several exposure modes, knowing the advantages of each mode is of great importance in making the most of auto-exposure capability.
Automatic cameras that offer a choice of modes do so to suit different needs, such as extending depth of field or stopping action. Other modes optimize results with a particular piece of equipment, such as a telephoto lens. Below is a look at each of the different auto-exposure modes. Read your instruction manual for specifics about your camera.
In this mode you select the aperture and the camera automatically picks a shutter speed for correct exposure. Aperture priority is ideal if you want to control depth of field. By choosing a small aperture for extensive depth of field or a large one for selective focus, you get the benefits of auto-exposure while being able to manipulate scene sharpness.
In this mode you set the shutter and the camera sets the aperture required for correct exposure. You can choose a fast shutter speed to halt action subjects or a longer shutter speed to accentuate motion (to blur water going over a waterfall, for instance).
If the shutter speed you have selected requires an aperture beyond the range of your lens, you may have to adjust the shutter speed or use a faster or slower film. If you wanted to make a 1-second exposure in daylight with medium-speed film, for example, even a very small aperture, such as f/22, wouldn't be small enough to give proper exposure. The solution in this example would be to switch to a slower film or to use a neutral density filter.
Cameras that offer a full program mode choose both the aperture and the shutter speed for you. In the normal program mode, the camera provides a moderate shutter speed (one that is safe for handheld shooting and a relatively stationary subject) and a moderate aperture for an average amount of depth of field. Unless you have specific creative or technical demands that require other settings, this is the best mode for general photography.
Some cameras have a feature called program shift (Nikon calls it Flexible Program) that allows you to choose any equivalent combination of shutter speed and aperture by simply turning a dial or pressing a button (usually near the shutter release). With this feature you can let the camera figure the exact exposure, but then quickly tailor the exposure combination to your subject's needs. If the camera meter chooses a combination of 1/125 sec at f/8, for example, you could shift to an equivalent exposure: 1/250 sec at f/5.6, 1/60 sec at f/11, etc.
Two special program modes that some cameras feature are a depth-of field program and an action program. Both are full program modes (aperture and shutter speed are chosen for you), but they allow you to tailor the exposure system to a particular type of subject. When set to the depth mode, for example, the camera will automatically choose the smallest possible aperture that still allows a safe handheld shutter speed. This is a good mode to use in scenic photography when you want great depth of field. Similarly, in the action-program mode, the camera will pick a fast shutter speed with a large aperture to stop fast-moving subjects.
Some cameras that use interchangeable lenses often switch automatically to these special program modes as you switch lenses to choose a mode that best complements the specific focal length of the lens. For example, if you're using a telephoto lens (typically the cutoff point is 135 mm or longer), the camera will automatically go into the action mode and set a fast shutter speed to prevent blurred pictures caused by camera shake. If you attach a wide-angle lens, the camera will switch to the depth program and select an aperture that will give the maximum available depth of field-since gaining maximum depth of field is a prime reason for using a wide-angle lens.
What about zoom lenses? Cameras with a choice of programmed exposure modes often have sensors in the lens mount that monitor focal length and set the program mode accordingly.
Finally, you can use most automatic cameras in a full manual exposure mode by selecting the manual mode on the mode selection switch. In the manual mode you are free to select both aperture and shutter speed, to handle a particularly difficult subject or to create an imaginative effect.
Selective Meter Readings (Automatic Cameras)
Automatic cameras are programmed to give you good exposures with subjects of average brightness under average lighting conditions, and generally they do this job very well. But as mentioned in the previous section, you won't always be working under average lighting conditions or with average subjects. The meter in your automatic camera can be fooled-although some exposure systems are more foolproof than others.
A few automatic cameras, for example, are able to evaluate even the most complex light situations and provide accurate exposure information. They do this with a system called matrix or zone metering. In this type of metering system, the camera's computer divides the picture area into a grid. It compares various data such as contrast, brightness, and subject size, and then uses this information to make "educated" exposure decisions. In some cameras these decisions are based on comparisons with hundreds of thousands of exposure patterns that have been programmed into the camera's memory. This type of camera can make a correct exposure even if, for example, the main subject is backlighted.
Nikon Matrix Metering
The exposure corrections we suggest for unusual lighting conditions may not always be needed for cameras with matrix or zone metering.
If your camera has such a system, study your pictures to see how accurate the meter is in handling tricky lighting. If it sometimes falls short, you may be able to switch to an averaging meter mode (or manual) and follow our recommendations.
No matter how sophisticated the metering system, all automatic cameras occasionally need your guidance. And most provide one or more controls that can alter the exposure. Common controls are the spot meter, exposure lock, backlight button, and exposure compensation control. With any exposure-compensation feature, be sure to set it back to its neutral or zero position when you change subjects or settings.
A spot meter enables you to take a reading from a small area (usually marked by a circle in the center of the viewfinder) that you deem important, such as a brightly colored flower against a black background. To activate this feature, you would typically depress the spot-metering button and then activate the meter by pressing the shutter release part way. As long as you keep the shutter release depressed (or until you take the picture), the meter will lock in this spot reading. With some cameras, just pressing the spot button locks the exposure until you take a picture.
A memory-lock button lets you take a reading from the entire metering area and hold that reading until you take the picture. By moving in close (physically or with a zoom lens) to fill the frame with the main subject and locking the reading, you can get accurate exposure for the important part of the scene-a face, for instance. As long as the exposure remains locked, you can recompose the scene in any way you want and still get the right exposure.
Memory-lock is particularly useful in very contrasty situations. For example, if you needed to make a close-up meter reading of a dark subject in front of a light background (or vice versa), you could move in close to make the reading, push the memory-lock button to hold the exposure, and then move back to your original shooting position to take the picture. If you were using a zoom lens, you could zoom to the longest focal length, take a reading and lock it, and then recompose the scene by adjusting the zoom setting.
An exposure compensation control lets you alter the exposure automatically by up to plus or minus 2 or 3 stops, usually in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments. Exposure compensation is useful for backlighted scenes and for very bright or dark subjects that would normally mislead the meter.
Some simpler cameras have a similar but less sophisticated exposure-compensation feature called a backlight button. This is actually an exposure-compensation button that gives a fixed amount-usually 1 1/2 or 2 stops-of extra exposure to compensate for dark foreground subjects (like faces) in strongly backlighted situations.
If your automatic camera doesn't have a compensation control or a backlight button, it may be possible to change the exposure by changing the setting on the film-speed dial. All you have to remember is that each time you double the film speed, you decrease exposure by one stop; each time you halve the speed, you increase exposure by one stop.
To correct the exposure by altering the film-speed setting or using any type of compensation feature, you first have to know the amount of correction that's needed. Estimating the correction is fairly simple for overall light or dark scenes, especially when they don't include people. Also the amount of correction isn't as critical when you are using color negative film, which has a fairly wide exposure latitude.
For example, a sunlit, snow-covered hill would cause a meter to underexpose the scene so that the snow would appear gray rather than bright white. Since this kind of scene usually requires 1 stop more exposure than that indicated by the meter, simply divide the film speed by 2 (effectively adding 1 stop of exposure) and set this lower film speed on the film-speed dial-or set + 1 stop on the compensation control. With a 200-speed film, for instance, you would set the dial to 100. Conversely, if you were photographing a very dark scene that the camera would normally overexpose, multiply the film speed by 2 (ISO 400 instead of 200, for example) -or set -1 stop on the compensation control.
With cameras that set the ISO speed automatically for DX-encoded films, you may or may not be able to alter the ISO speed. If you do change ISO speeds in mid-roll, be sure to set the correct speed back when you're done, or you will alter the exposure for the rest of the roll.
For more information about f/stops and shutter speeds, plus a quiz for you, check out the following links:
http://www.silverlight.co.uk/tests/f_stopc.htm (a quiz for you)
FREE PHOTO LESSONS ONLINE
For those interested in learning more about creativity in photography, I am attempting to put together some photo lessons for you to study at your own pace. Basic exercises for you to follow will be included. I will try to make lessons fitting to the needs of all types of student, but primarily those less experienced with the basics. Besides these lessons, a photo guide will be based on my 'five easy steps to quality photos.' For those who are competent with a camera, the 'five easy steps' would stimulate photographic seeing. The emphasis would be on creativity and learning to see photographically.
The 'Five Easy Steps to Quality Photographs' photo guide will be helpful to any who are unhappy with their picture making and haven't discovered the keys to attention-getting pictures. Well-established amateur photographers would likely have already achieved success in this area. But review of the steps can be good for anyone.
Any amateurs living in the Eugene/Springfield, Oregon area interested in getting together for photo shoots can contact me - email@example.com. The fellowship of likeminded photographers would be an unforgettable experience.
Best wishes from Fotabug (Vern Rogers)
Lesson One - Basic Camera Controls
Focusing the camera is a basic function that the user
must control, either by manually turning the focusing ring or by using
the autofocusing feature of many cameras. You should study the
manual for your camera to learn how this is done. There are so
many different models available, each with its own manner of control,
that it would be impossible to give specific instructions here.
Manual focus - in some situations, manual focus is the only way to achieve exact focus. If the scene lacks sufficient contrast it is best to use manual focus, if your eyes allow for it.
Autofocus - for many of us, AF is a godsend. If eyes are failing or lacking in any way, autofocus is a feature that you should have in your camera.
Single image - For stationary objects, AF single image mode is preferred. The shutter will not fire unless the subject is in focus.
Continuous - AF continuous mode is ideal for action shots, or when it is likely that the subject might move when trying to shoot, such as children, wildlife or other such images.
Aperture and f/stops
Depth of Field
Action and motion
Holding the camera
Lesson Two - Basic Guidelines for Shooting Better Photographs
Avoid common errors
Watch the background
Get the picture sharp
Avoid the bulls eye effect
Use flash properly
Avoid exposure errors
Beyond the basics
Lesson Three - Useful Accessories
Lesson Four - The Creative Process, Making a Photograph
Learn to see photographically
Train yourself to see shooting opportunities
Discover the center of interest
Analyze your interest
Previsualize the photo
Capture your vision
Adjust the image
Present your art
Lesson Five - The Advantages of Digital
Digital is photography!
It is fun!
Lesson Six - The art of photographic seeing
Subjects for photography can be found anywhere. All you have to do is look and see. The problem with most people is they have forgotten how to really see, with the inquisitive eye of a child. This is what we must relearn in order to see photographically. Often a great subject can be right at our feet. It is good to develop the habit, whenever you go out, to concentrate on looking around carefully as you walk. Take a 35mm slide frame or something similar you make yourself and carry it with you as you go about your daily routine. Have it along whether you are carrying a camera or not. Whenever you see an object of interest (something that captures your attention), take out the frame and use it to see how you might shoot the subject in order to present what you are seeing. Whether you take a camera along or not isn't important. You are trying to develop photographic vision, where you will recognize a good shot when you come across it. I take almost daily walks and, as I walk, I am looking all around, sensitive to what grabs my attention. When something does attract my attention, I then look at it carefully and try to determine what it was that attracted me. Was it the color, the play of light, a pattern, or just the beauty of it all? These questions are important, they help me focus on the real center of interest. I then give thought to how I are going to convey that interest in the picture to the viewer.
Learning to see and identify subjects that attract you is the first step toward creating quality photographs.
It is what sets the photographer with originality apart from the run-of-the-mill shooters. What it means is for a person to look beyond normal vision and see what would be overlooked, and recognize the potential in what they are seeing for a photograph. It also means learning to see the way a camera sees. A camera takes in and records everything in its view, whether good or bad. We humans have the ability to look and take in only what our mind sees, not seeing the pole or tree in the background or the numerous other distractions that spoil a good picture. They are there but we just don't see them. With photographic seeing, we observe things that others just don't see. This contributes to creative photography. We will notice the design in a part of our view and be drawn to it. We will recognize the distracting elements that shouldn't be in the picture. We will analyze the whole frame of a possible picture and study the background. We will know what must be eliminated to get a good picture.
Photographers create by a process of elimination
What this means is including in the frame only what contributes to a pleasing composition, eliminating distractions by changing position, hiding them or framing a smaller area. On the other hand, painters create by adding things to the picture and assembling them into a pleasing arrangement. Both are artistic exercises and involve creative expression. Both photographers and painters need to learn how to previsualize the finished work and use their own personal vision in eliminating or adding to create their art. Sometimes, however, something can be added to contribute to a picture. For example, you might be shooting a beautiful landscape, but feel that something is missing. All of a sudden, you realize that what you want is to include a person to add interest and perspective.
But what about reality in photography?
It is important that we realize that photography is NOT reality. When you made a photograph, you are translating your vision, what you saw, in a three-dimensional world to a two-dimensional image. When you print it, you transfer it to a flat piece of paper. How much farther can you get from reality than that? Reality has form, shape, depth, color, smells, sounds and other real life characteristics. A photo has none of these. They are only implied or suggested. When one uses various films, filters, lenses and other accessories to adjust or enhance the shot before shooting, the so-called 'realists' have no objections. But if the exact same things are done after shooting they raise strong objections. There is not something magical about tripping the shutter on a camera. It is only part of the creative process. If you need to enhance something to make the image appear more like the way you saw it, your personal vision, it is entirely proper to do so. All of the masters of photography, including those the 'realists' point to, used these enhancement tools to create their works of art. Again, your photo expression will never be reality! It will communicate your way of seeing, but only if you learn to see photographically as the camera sees, and then control the camera to communicate your personal view.
There have been many fine books written on the subject of photographic seeing.
One of my favorites is "Photography and the Art of Seeing," by Freeman Patterson. He didn't pay me to say this. He doesn't even know me or that I read his book. His book would help you to get this concept better in mind. Reading some good books on the subject would be helpful to anyone. The fact of the matter is - the art of seeing is the real key to fine photography!
So many teachers of photography put too much emphasis on the technical part of photography.
To be quite honest, with the marvelous cameras available today, the technical isn't that difficult. For much of what you shoot, the camera can meter and focus better than you can. But the camera doesn't know how to be creative. I have seen so many photos that are technically perfect, but are dull and boring. On the other hand, I have also seen those that are sometimes flawed either by under or over exposure or even not being in sharpest focus and they are still absolutely masterpieces. Some of these have been works of those we all view as masters of photography. It appears to me that those who insist on going back to the way we were and learning what we had to know when all cameras were manual may just be afraid that new photographers using the more capable cameras will become superior photographers. I hope they do! I am all for our latest technology. It results in better images.
When it comes to photographic seeing, there is no easy way to learn the art.
No one can give you an easy formula or list of rules. It is something you must think on and develop personally. It is a very personal thing. If others were to influence you with their way of doing it, you would end up with their way of seeing. Imitation is a form of flattery but is also counterfeit. You need to develop your own personal style, one that would enable others to recognize your work.
Here is an example of how I attempt to see photographically.
This photo was shot on one of my walks. It is just a flower growing along a fence. The contrast between the lavendar flower and the black mesh of the fence grabbed my attention. I wanted the flower to be off center to avoid the bulls-eye effect (always centering the subject in the picture frame) and made sure the light (direction and quality) and depth of field (area of sharp focus) made the flower and fence stand out from the background. Hopefully, I achieved success in conveying what I saw to you. If it grabs your attention as it did mine and the beauty of the lavendar and black colors stand out to you, then I feel satisfied that I created a beautiful photo. Such satisfaction is my payment for a good shot. It may not be perfect, but it is my creation. Out of the vast surroundings I saw this area of interest and was able focus on it. I saw photographically and translated what I saw into a photograph.
Summary - Photographic Seeing
The more you practice photographic seeing, the more likely you will get the desired results. The key element of photographic seeing is to revive the inquisitive nature you had as a youth, when everything was new and you stopped to take time and really study it. As we grow up, we lose this marvelous quality and in our daily rush to keep up with the rat race, we don't take the time to look and pass by so much that could be a marvelous picture. Look at the photos in online galleries or photo books. You will find many exciting photos that you could have shot, if you had only seen the possibility. Look for such possibilities and stop at anything that gets your attention. There must be a good reason why you noticed it. Find out what that is and why it stimulates you. Capture that stimulating quality in a photo and you will have a creative work of art.
Take a walk to look more closely at what you see
Avoid the quick casual look. Instead, stop and look all around you, even at the ground where you stand. Try to spot things you haven't noticed before, things that seems to draw your eye. Imagine how you would look at this object if you were a child. What would you show a child about it?
Choose a center of interest
Based on what got your interest, determine what it was that attracted you to it. This is what you should cultivate. Is it the contrast in the view? Or the color? Is there a pattern that drew your unconscious attention? Could it be the pleasing design?
Previsualize and put the shot together
This is done more by a process of elimination than it is assembling picture elements. Many times the area of interest is not something you can reassemble or change. Use the picture frame to get the picture elements positioned so that they contribute and direct attention the the center of interest. The viewfinder is like a picture frame where you can change composition and perspective by moving around the subject and getting closer or farther away. Take time to study the viewfinder and make sure all picture elements are where you want them in the frame. Objects that don't contribute can be eliminated by adjusting your view.
Think about lighting and contrast
Does the light focus attention on the center of interest? If not, can you move your position or find some other way to affect the lighting? How much contrast is there in the scene? Does it fit the subject matter, which could call for harsh lighting or soft. Use these qualities to add drama and your own vision to the picture. When you feel the viewfinder image resembles the image in your mind, shoot the picture.
Study the results
How closely did you capture your personal viewpoint? Look at the finished photo. With a digital camera, you can see the results immediately on the LCD monitor. Use it as a learning tool. With film, do this when you get the prints back. As you look at the picture, see what needs to be changed or eliminated. Such analysis will help you on your next shoot.
NOW, GET OUT THERE AND TRY IT!
This information is meaningless unless you do something with it. You can't develop the art of photographic seeing without trying. It won't jump up and slap you. GO! And let me know what kind of results you get. If you shoot a masterpiece, please share it with me. Even if you think it isn't, I might think so!
Lesson Seven - FIVE EASY STEPS TO QUALITY PHOTOGRAPHS
- a basic guide to creative results
ANALYZING YOUR PICTURES
There are three basic steps to follow when you want to critique your own photos. By following these steps, you can assess your progress and determine how to make improvement:
- Check technical execution - Did you use the proper camera settings? Is the photo properly exposed? Is it sharply focused? (Unless soft focus is part of the photo's purpose)
- Study the composition - look for pleasing arrangements of picture elements, using leading lines and elimination of distractions
- Picture concept - What was your photo idea? Is it unique or is it ordinary? Does it reflect originality?
- Impact - Did it capture attention? Does it show bold visual design?
GUIDE FOR QUALITY PHOTOS
I am working on a guide for shooting quality photos, with the above name. I am doing this primarily to improve my own shooting. If the booklet turns out to be good, I will make it available to others. Following is an outline of the five steps:
- DETERMINE YOUR CENTER OF INTEREST
- ISOLATE THE SUBJECT
- STUDY THE COMPOSITION
- SETUP THE SHOT
- CREATE THE PICTURE
As time progresses, I will expand on each step here and explain the idea behind the step. If you have any tips you think would be helpful, feel free to send them in - firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography is an exciting pastime, and a livelihood for some. Most of us are involved to express our creativity. The problem is that the quality of our work could be easily improved. I have that desire and the motivation to learn what it is that will help us to consistently get fine results. This is not so much about camera settings and technique as it is about improving photo quality and learning the art of photography.
Draft - FIVE EASY STEPS TO QUALITY PHOTOGRAPHS
By Vernon L Rogers
FIVE EASY STEPS
to Quality Photographs
Vernon L Rogers
I have been involved in photography for a long time, owning a lot of quality equipment. I thought that by using the best I could be better. But my photographs were often less than memorable.
The quality shots came once in a while and I would be elated. It reminds me of a temptress who teases just enough to keep one attracted. I never got to the point where I felt confident that I could win her love and capture what I saw on film. Results were often quite different from what I could see in my mind’s eye.
Still, I continued to buy magazines and books, admiring the wonderful works of the masters. I felt that there had to be a formula that would increase my chances, even if I could never be a Margaret Bourke-White or W. Eugene Smith.
So, I continued my quest, and would draw from the experts. Craftsmen like Alfred Eisenstaedt, Andres Feininger, John Hedgecoe, and Freeman Patterson; they were all my heroes.
What I came to realize is that it was a matter of slowing myself down and taking time to think and analyze my subjects. I would get excited about an object of interest and shoot away, all the while forgetting to evaluate the elements of the scene, the lighting, good timing and exposure settings.
What I needed was a simple process, one that would help me stay focused on the picture but, also, prevent me from overlooking the elements that spoil good photographs.
As a result of my analysis and research, I came up with “Five Easy Steps” to quality photography. I want to record here the results of my examination - for my own use in the field, but also to share with you.
It is my hope that you will find these steps as useful as I do, and will take each step, one at a time, in a systematic way. If you do, I truly believe that you, too, will soon see improvement in your photography.
THE FIVE EASY STEPS
I. DETERMINE THE CENTER OF INTEREST
II. ISOLATE THE SUBJECT
Center Of Interest
Setting It Apart
Placement In Frame
III. STUDY THE COMPOSITION
Elements Of Composition
What To Include And Eliminate
Frame The Subject
Lead The Eye Into Composition
IV. SETUP THE SHOT
Location, Angle And Framing
Control The Lighting
Choose Your Equipment
Steady The Camera
V. CREATE THE PICTURE
Decision To Trip The Shutter
Study Subject, Composition, Lighting And Settings
The Right Moment
Remember Your Audience
USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE!
Make The Most Of Your Inner Natural Abilities
Would you like to have simple steps to follow whenever you want to make quality photos for others to enjoy and appreciate? Well, it really isn’t far from reality for you. I know something about you.
Before we begin to examine (and put to use) the ‘five easy steps,’ there is something you need to realize about yourself. Take some time to read and digest what I know about you! Don’t think I do? Read on.
The inner qualities are there, all you need to do is draw them out. Why do we say that?
Everyone has creative instincts, a natural ability to be creative. All you have to do is unlock your natural creativity and use it to create pictures with artistic talent.
If you will complete this information, learning to apply the keys presented, you will succeed in making the most of your hidden picture-making talents. You won’t need to spend months or years studying. Hopefully, I will help you in a short time. It depends on how much effort you want to put into each lesson.
The ‘Five Easy Steps to Quality Photos’ is a photography course. Ideally, it could be finished in a few days. Five lessons in five days is possible, if you are able to set aside enough time each day. The lessons are not meant for brief reviewing and forgetting.
You need digest the information. And, you need to go out and practice it, until it becomes second nature. If you aren’t willing to do that, I don’t think you will be able to take the steps. It’s like learning to walk. You have to do it a step at a time. Are you willing to do that in order to make unforgettable pictures? The pleasure and satisfaction it can bring to you will be a worth the effort.
The best plan is to go at it as you would a work schedule or school course. Set aside the amount of time you can allow, and at a convenient time. Then follow your schedule. Don’t go longer than you have scheduled and don’t spend less time. If you go overboard, you could burn yourself out or neglect other activities of life. If you cut the time short, you will be setting yourself up for failure.
For those of you with full lives (and that includes most of us), taking a ‘Step’ a week would be a more realistic goal. It would allow for time to really dwell on the information and do the exercises.
It is by means of application and practice that advancement will be made. A ‘Step a Week’ would mean that the book would be finished in a little over a month. In that time, you would see a definite improvement in your work.
A practical schedule would not interfere with the essential activities of life, such as family, work, religious activity, or other important matters. It is easy to get excited and immersed in what we really enjoy, but it can also throw us off balance.
There is good reason for bringing this up at this point. If we don’t maintain balance in our activities, we will likely become discouraged and give up. That isn’t necessary. Appropriate periods of relaxation and enjoyable activities can help us to be balanced and happy. Simply put, set up a workable schedule for the sessions you are about to begin. DO IT NOW!
Once you have time scheduled for it, please take the time you need to complete each step. Move on to the next step only when you have absorbed the information enough to apply it.
In other words, when the step is second nature to you and you automatically think about it in your picture-making process you can go on to the next step.
With each step, follow the same procedure. If you see improvement in the quality of your photos, you will know that you are on the right track.
As I have said, this book isn’t intended for you to just read. It is a photo course. It should be followed one step at a time, along with practice and analysis of your work. It should be close at hand when you study your photographs, and even when you are in a shooting session.
Do you know what makes a picture interesting to others? That’s the true test. Others aren’t as forgiving of bad pictures, they don’t have memories of the event or occasion to cloud what the eyes see. The picture has to stand on its own.
What I have learned is that there are only a few key elements that cause others to admire and appreciate a picture. You need to make these keys part of your picture-making process. You’ll want to become so familiar with them that they are part of your way of thinking creatively.
There are two key qualities of quality photographs:
· They are interest arousing
· They have meaning or a message
These keys should become second nature to you.
We all have an inborn need to be creative. We are often interesting to others without even thinking about it. It comes naturally when we use the natural abilities we were born with. It happens when we are totally involved with what we are sharing and use inner skills others appreciate.
What are your natural talents? What is it that makes others like and admire you?
These same natural abilities can be channeled to new interests, and you can do this with photography.
TIPÞ It boils down to finding out what is extremely interesting to you, then using your natural abilities to share it with others.
HERE IS SOMETHING TO TRY
Next time you go for a walk, to the store or out in your yard, look around for subjects that attract your eye. Make a list of what attracted you. It could be a spider web, an apple on a tree, a rose, light rays or something else that gets your attention.
Now try to determine what it was about the object that interested you. Write it down on your list, so you have an explanation for each subject.
The exercise will do two things for you:
1) It will help you quickly find good subjects for photographs, and understand why they interest you.
The creative process involves knowing two things:
· what got your attention
· discern why you are attracted
TIPÞ Look first for the meaning in what interests you, then determine how to show that meaning to others. This will lead to your creating quality pictures.
If you understand your interest, you can learn what it means to you.
Does it represent something of value to you, is it the beauty and organization, or the mood it instills?
If you understand the meaning and its influence on your feelings, you will be ready to decide how to represent that message in a picture.
TIPÞ The more you practice looking for what interests you, then analyzing the meaning in what you see, the easier it will be to find picture possibilities.
Think of some good photos you made, those others liked. Analyze what attracted you to the subject of each.
Remember, the great photographs all have this quality. They are interest arousing.
Once you have identified the interest, see if you can state the message it conveys.
What does the photo say?
The answer can be a simple one:
It is a beautiful scene and it makes me want to be there. Or, it could say that this is an adorable child that anyone would want to hug. Other pictures could have a more complex message, such as, an environmental issue.
Once you have determined the interest and its message, you will understand why the picture has quality.
The whole idea is to help you to think creatively, to know your thoughts and feelings as your eyes pass information to your brain.
You will recognize a composition that presents itself, or can construct one where the elements need to be arranged.
THE KEY PICTURE ELEMENTS
All quality photographs share common elements that work together to make pictures interesting to others. Think of some photos created by masters of photography and analyze what is common to them. Essentially, you will find two things stand out.
There are two key elements to focus on:
1. The Center of Interest – the main attraction, the focus of the picture
2. The Photo Content – the other elements of the picture area
There are times when the object of interest should be emphasized and should totally dominate.
When center of interest dominates
If an object of interest jumps out at you in a scene, then the rest of scene should contribute. Anything included in the scene should add to, and emphasize, the object. If something in your view distracts, it should be eliminated from the picture frame.
At other times, the subject has more meaning as part of the overall view. The rest of the scene is essential to the picture and adds to it or contributes to its meaning.
When rest of scene is vital to the view
If the entire setting attracts you and includes necessary elements, then fit the subject into the frame in such a way that it adds up to a pleasing arrangement. The object of interest is the spice needed for a tasty dish.
Do you remember a photograph of a beautiful wilderness scene, perhaps there are mountains in the back ground that glow in the evening sunlight, a river starts at the bottom of the picture frame and meanders into the picture, leading the eye to the glowing mountains above the colorful valley below?
This is an example of a setting that requires the whole scene to be successful, the rest of the scene is vital to the subject.
Learn to classify the scene before you.
What is it that interests you? Is it an object of interest within the frame? Then focus on that.
Is it the whole scene, drawing attention to a center of interest? Then build the picture into a powerful composition, arranging elements using your natural creative instincts.
A SIMPLE METHOD
Be aware of photo possibilities wherever you go.
- May use rest of scene to contribute
- May want setting to be neutral
- May want little or no background
- Subject fits in and is important part
- Setting draws to subject, focuses on
- Whole scene important, draws in
- Feelings – stirred by picture
- Information – what you learn from
- Record – for future reference
Using the center of interest
- Center of interest when setting is neutral
- Center of interest - little or no background
- Scene important, subject adds to picture
Use a simple picture-taking process
- See the picture in viewfinder before you create it.
- Seeing with the eyes, the mind, and your emotions.
- Record what you see when you snap the shutter.
- Use natural abilities to record what you see.
Don’t be overly concerned about technique. You can depend on your camera to handle technical settings. Then learn from your pictures what you could have done.
ANALYZE THE OBJECT OF INTEREST
The first step involves some important creative concepts. This is what I had to learn. It takes time to create or make a photograph, but only a moment to snap or take a picture.
Let’s quickly analyze what it takes to succeed with Step One. There are four key elements of analyzing the object of interest:
Each person is a creative individual. You are too! You may not realize it, but your latent talents have to be drawn out.
What will it take if you want to improve your photographic talents?
Start out by determining what attracts you, what draws you and brings out feelings and emotions. This is what leads the creative individual to find expression in a manner in which he/she is skilled and finds pleasure.
Some people are talented painters, some are creative with crafts, and others find delight in other ways. The key is that they are finding fulfillment in what they do.
To make quality photographs, you need to respond to what attracts you. Then take time to analyze the subject, find out what interests you about it. This is the start of Step One.
Once you settle on what things attract and interest you, stirring your creative juices, you are in a position to further analyze the object of interest.
What got your attention?
What is the attraction?
What is it that interests you about it?
Why does it interest you?
What is your main focus?
Does it demand attention?
What is most appealing about it?
Does it stir your emotions?
Analyze you feelings about the subject. When you understand your feelings about it, you can begin to think creatively about it.
When a subject attracts your attention and you become interested, that object has conveyed some message to you. The message is read by your thoughts or emotions, and you respond to it. If a photo gets a response, it is a good picture. If it doesn’t, it is usually not a good picture. Ask yourself:
What is the message with this object? What has it related to me?
Did it cause me to reminisce about the past?
Did it stir emotions - such as beauty, sadness, joy, or love?
Determining the message in an object of interest is a key part of making a quality image. If you cause others to think and feel, you have succeeded.
We have all seen photos that really aren’t very good, that make us wonder why they were made. In our own case, it may be that the picture reminds us of the events associated with it. There is nothing in the picture of value, we just remember when it was taken, an occasion we remember fondly. But that doesn’t give it value.
I have looked at some of my own photos with a critical eye, and wonder why I kept them. I still miss on a lot of pictures, but so do professionals. You just never see their misses, only their successes. Preserve your good photos and discard the bad ones. Be critical of your own work and you will improve. Each good photograph has a message that is obvious to others.
The exercises found in this book are valuable for progress in making quality photos. It is the mental process that makes the difference.
A snap shooter just goes out, snapping away at whatever he/she thinks is a good picture, without thought about creativity. Being creative takes time, involving emotion and analysis. My goal is to get you to slow down and ‘take time to smell the roses.’
We will have exercises throughout the book for you to do. This will be a good time for a break from reading and analysis. It is time to apply.
So, when you come to an exercise, please stop to get out and practice.
Here is a list of exercises that accompany the Five Steps:
STEP ONE – EXERCISE
· Take a walk without your camera
· Use a view frame or finder to practice seeing pictures
· Take a notebook along with you
· When something attracts your attention, pause and reflect
· Determine what got your attention
· Write down your thoughts in your notebook
STEP TWO – EXERCISE
· Take out your notebook and review the subjects you recorded Take your camera with you and go back to the same
· Walk around each object of interest
· Notice other objects that compete for attention
· The subject should dominate the frame
· Move around to eliminate distractions
· Make photographs of each subject from Exercise One
STEP THREE – EXERCISE
· Revisit your five objects of interest with your framing tool
· Make a determination about the best composition for your photo
· Carefully set your camera and make the exposure
· Compare your finished prints with your previous pictures
STEP FOUR – EXERCISE
STEP FIVE - EXERCISE
ANALYZE THE OBJECT OF INTEREST
· What was it that attracted my attention?
· Why does it interest me?
· What was it that drew me to it?
· What is my main focus?
· What is the attraction?
· What is most appealing about it?
· What is the message that I get from it?
· Is it important enough to make a picture?
· Does it demand attention?
This exercise is designed to heighten your senses, and train you to take time to really see subjects that you are drawn to.
Take a walk without your camera. Use a view frame or finder to practice seeing pictures. Take a notebook along with you. When something attracts your attention, pause and reflect. Determine what it is that got your attention. What is the attraction? Is it a mood, lighting, beauty, message, or the memories it instills? In your notebook, write down your thoughts on the following points:
ATTRACTION - What is attracting you?
INTEREST - Why does it interest you?
MESSAGE - Is there a message, what is it?
IMPORTANCE - Would it be important to others?
Do this at least five times, stopping to analyze objects that capture your attention.
Take good notes each time. You will use these notes later when you go out with your camera. You can refer to them and if the interest is still there, use them to make a photograph of the object of interest.
You will find it to be a better picture than you would have snapped if you had the camera with you the first time. It will help you to realize that making quality photographs involves thought processes, taking time to reflect and examine.
This is really an exercise in self-analysis. It will help you determine your interests, values and feelings. It will lead to well-thought out, quality photographs.
How did you do with the exercise? The idea of Step #1 is to make you more aware of the photo opportunities that exist wherever you are. You don’t have to go to exotic places to find good pictures. You could go through the whole exercise in your back yard.
Wherever you decide to go for the exercise, learn to relax and make it an easygoing, pressure-free walk. Make sure that time constraints won’t distract you from really looking and getting involved in what you are doing. This really needs to be an exercise in looking and analyzing. That takes time and mental focus. It can be a most enjoyable experience.
STEP TWO: ISOLATE THE SUBJECT
The object of interest becomes the subject for your photograph. It is this center of interest for you, what drew your attention and held your interest as you analyzed it. It is what you want to draw the viewer’s attention to and cause them to respond in the way you did. How do you do that?
There are so many things that compete for visual attention. This makes it difficult to concentrate on an object that interests us. It also can cause to overlook distractions that might affect our picture. Isolating the subject from all the distractions the flood our view is what will help your photo to communicate its message. It will focus all the attention where you want it to be, not confusing the viewer with too much detail. The photo needs to isolate the subject and present it clearly.
There are three key elements of isolating the subject – center of interest, setting it apart, and placement in the picture frame. You must become thoroughly familiar with these elements if you want to make quality photos. This is where you begin to compose the photo, much as a musician uses the elements of melody, harmony and repetition to put together a beautiful piece of music.
CENTER OF INTEREST
What makes up the center of interest? Having your subject clearly in mind will help you to center you attention on the subject and also recognize what should not be there. Be sure you have your center of interest, you subject, clearly in mind. It will help you to verbalize or write it down. If you can explain it, you can present it in a picture.
SETTING IT APART
How can I best isolate the subject and set it apart from other subjects?
There are a variety of ways to isolate the subject – you can frame it with foreground objects, you can lead the eye to it with graceful lines use contrast and colors, or other means of separating it from other picture elements. You can even use the other elements to center attention on your subject.
Whatever you use, it should cause the subject to stand out from the rest of the composition.
Where you place the subject in the picture frame will affect how well it stands out. It is often best to use the ‘Rule of Thirds’ for placing the subject in the frame.
If you place the center of interest at the intersections of the lines within the frame, you will find it to be more attractive to the viewer. Of course, you are free to break the rules when it would provide more impact. But most often, a photo is more static and lifeless when the subject is in the center of the frame. When on one side or the other and facing inward, the photo with be more dynamic and imply action.
I. ISOLATE THE SUBJECT - EXERCISE
Center of interest – what you want others to focus attention on
Setting it apart – decide how to separate the subject from other detail
Its placement in the frame – consider where put the subject so it draws attention
STEP THREE: STUDY THE COMPOSITION
Composition could be defined as a pleasing arrangement of the elements of a picture. It means that you must study the object of interest and consider how you can put a photograph together that will focus on that subject, all the elements working together to accomplish this.
It could benefit some to take an art class or study composition with the help of a good book. Most people would do well enough to go with their natural eye for beauty, order and design. We all know when we respond to an object of interest. It may be the beauty of lines, shapes and color, or it could be the drama of lighting. We naturally react to what attracts us. We can use this reaction to analyze, isolate and design the photograph.
Step Three gets us started in adding real quality to our pictures. We can all learn how to put together photos with the skill of a painter. The artist has to have a picture in his/her mind before it can be put on canvas, using the principles of good composition.
Content – Elements Of Composition
Conveys interest and meaning
What makes up the subject?
How we see it
Effect on viewer
- Balance – lines, shapes, tone, colors, contrast
- Background relationship
- Foreground relationship
- Foreground/background balance
- Isolate subject
Contrast – between subject and rest of scene
Set apart, emphasize
Proper focus and depth of field
- Whatever doesn’t fit
- What doesn’t enhance subject
- By changing position, lens, angle, etc.
Rest of scene – points to center of interest
- Frames subject
- Leads eye to subject
- Contributes to subject
- Connects with, relates to subject
A few of the basic guidelines we can use are:
Center Of Interest
Every picture must have a center of interest, the object everything else focuses on. The center of interest should dominate the scene. It should convey a simple message. If it is too complicated, it will confuse and, perhaps, put off its viewers. The key word is simplicity, unless your message conveys clutter and confusion. Let the message determine design.
Elements Of Composition
All of the elements of the picture should work together, should be harmonious. Anything that is distracting or breaks up the harmony should be eliminated. Study the composition. Look at all parts of the frame. Don’t overlook what is at the top or corners of the picture. Sometimes, if we don’t look closely, we can overlook what doesn’t belong. Take time to study the composition. If, after contemplation, the view still pleases you then make the exposure.
Foreground And Background Objects
During your study of the composition, look closely at foreground and background objects. Do they add to the structure? Are you using foreground objects to direct attention to the subject, or to frame it? Does the background contribute or distract? If a distraction, what can you do to eliminate it? Can you throw it out of focus, or change your position?
How does the picture fit together? Are all the elements of the composition balanced with each other? Are other elements secondary to the principle center of interest? Balance does not mean placing the subject in the center and other objects surrounding it. Remember the rule of thirds and place the subject off center, where it will create visual tension. Break the composition up with lines, shapes and forms.
Framing The Subject
Often, foreground objects can be used to frame the subject and draw attention to it. An overhanging tree, a door frame, a window; anything can be used to frame the center of interest.
Lead The Eye To Center Of Interest
When viewing a photo, the eye should be led toward the subject. You can use lines to give direction, such as an angled walkway, a curved road or a winding river. Use something that will lead into the picture.
Step Three Exercise – Study The Composition
Look at the contents of your focus.
What are the elements of the composition?
What elements do I need to include?
What should be included in the foreground and background?
How do I achieve balance in the composition?
How can I best capture the object of interest?
How will I frame the subject and lead the eye to the center of attention?
In this exercise, the first thing I want you to do is to find a slide frame (with film gone, that is). Use this frame to study composition. Revisit your five objects of interest with your framing tool (the slide frame) and use it to analyze your subject. Make a determination about the best composition for your photo. Then carefully set your camera for making that very composition. When you see in your viewfinder what you pictured through your framing tool, make the exposure.
Get your film processed or transfer the digital file to your computer and print it. Put your finished prints in your notebook. Compare them with your previous pictures. Do you see a difference? Are these photos better than your previous attempts? If you see improvement, you are making progress. If not, don’t be discouraged. It took me several years to see real improvement in my work. In your case, you will definitely improve with each step of the way. Of course, you need to keep what we have discussed in mind and review each of the Five Steps often so they become second nature.
I would recommend that you study each step twice before going on to the next. You could even repeat the exercise and compare results. The more you put into this process, the more you will get from it. Practice makes perfect. Your photographic skills will improve only by practice. Make pictures as frequently as you can.
Don’t be satisfied with inferior photos. Be critical of your work. Try to view it as others would see it. They wouldn’t be affected by memories called to mind only because the picture reminds you of the event. They would judge the photo on its own merits, without hidden messages. They would see only the message the photo conveys. Try to look at your own work that same way. Don’t put out your mistakes as being creative. Only save your best, with the exception of those that are record shots you want to save.
When you see something good you have done, find joy in your success. This will give you confidence that you can do it again. Don’t be afraid to shoot often, making a lot of pictures. This will help you to see where you are good and where you can improve. As your creative eye improves, make a display to share your work with others.
STEP FOUR: SET UP THE SHOT
How do I best present the subject? What is the message I want to convey? How can I present it?
Location, Angle and Framing
Where should locate myself for the best viewpoint?
What is the best position for the best angle of view?
Should I stand, sit, lie down or get in some other position?
Which view of the subject is most appropriate?
What kind of framing can I use?
What would get the right mood, lighting, and composition?
What about time of day?
What other considerations would affect the quality of the photo?
What should be eliminated?
How can I best eliminate them – changing position, lens or viewing angle?
Study and Control The Lighting
Quality – mood
Suitable to subject
Study the direction and intensity of the light.
Is there too much contrast? How do I control it?
How do I create the mood I want?
What time of day would work best?
Choose Your Equipment
What equipment is needed?
Film or memory card
Steady The Camera
Use a tripod or monopod. If not, brace yourself on a tree, car hood, or other solid object that will help you to steady the camera. Camera movement is the biggest cause of unsharp photos.
STEP FIVE: CREATE THE PICTURE
The decision to trip the shutter and make the exposure is a very important one. Don’t take it lightly. Study your subject, composition, lighting and settings and make sure all contribute to your message. What are you trying to say? Is it a message that this is a thing of beauty? Is it an expression of interest, concern or love? Timing is everything. Be ready for the right moment. It might be an expression, an action, quality of light, mood, or other message to present. Remember your audience – will others appreciate and enjoy your creation?
- Determine Proper Exposure Settings
Pay attention to the meter settings in your camera or handheld light meter. Are they appropriate? Determine which settings are the most important. Do you need a certain aperture or shutter speed setting? Is depth of field important? Should I highlight the subject through selective focus and large aperture? Is fast or slow shutter speed important to catch action or create mood? Don’t just ignore the settings and make the photo without first checking the exposure settings.
- Timing – press the shutter button when everything fall into place
- Use exposure compensation for critical shots
DIGITAL PROCESSING WITH SOFTWARE
Digital images coming from the camera are by nature softer than a film image and need a little sharpening. Most manufacturers try to do some of that in-camera, with varying degrees of success. It is all up to the engineers designing the software the camera uses. Engineers are not usually devoted photographers and must depend on feedback from professional photographers in order to get things fine-tuned. That is why more and more professionals set the camera for RAW files (unprocessed files, not yet converted into images) and do the processing themselves. They know what they saw. The engineers don’t.
The photosites on a digital sensor use what is called a ‘bayer pattern’ for a color filter that are over the sensor itself. The filter is divided up into small squares over each photosite. Half of the squares are green and the rest evenly divided between red and blue, since what we see is a mostly green world. This filter pattern was designed by an individual named ‘Bayer’, thus the name. Without the filter, the sensor would see only in scales of black and white. So color has to be introduced. It is not a feature of the computer data stored by the camera, without color being added.
Each manufacturer uses sensors of either their own design or sensors purchased from another maker. Then each manufacturer develops their own in-camera software to interpolate the camera computer data into an image. Thus the resulting image is dependent on the interpretation of the specific camera maker. That is why you will read test reports on cameras and will find the resulting images differ in color tone interpretation, amount of contrast, sharpness, and, very important to some photographers, how skin tones turn out.
A lot of professionals make camera choices based on their preference for a particular camera’s results. For example, many professionals who work in a studio setting have a preference for the FujiFilm S2 and S3, because these cameras give superior skin tones when shooting models, etc. Some photographers choose to set the camera for less or no in-camera interpolation (which means that the manufacturer’s software is doing the image processing for them) and prefer to do that processing themselves. In both cases, the photographer is choosing a legitimate and ethical means of arriving at a resulting picture.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Foveon is working on a sensor that works more like film, with three layers (one each of red, blue and green) instead of the one ‘bayer pattern’ filter design most commonly used at present. The way it works is very similar to the way film is structured. This arrangement holds a lot of promise, even though about the only digital SLR camera maker using the sensor is Sigma.
Reports I have read speak highly of the possibilities of having something very similar to the way film works. It too has three layers that arrive at colors. What the Foveon chip needs to really fly is for one of the major manufacturers adopt and further develop it. Results are equal to a ‘bayer pattern’ chip, but at a much lower resolution requirement, since the multiple layers somehow work to equal twice the resolution of a bayer chip.
I found research on this Foveon chip to be very interesting, if not exciting. It has the potential of sharper images with lower resolution requirements. The Foeon sensor still has some hurdles to get over but it is a significant development. I wish someone besides Sigma would get involved there. Sometimes great ideas do not fly because of the lack of interest.
It is interesting to know that Nikon invented image stabilization in lenses but did not move forward with it. Canon bought the right to build them from Nikon. When Canon introduced them and became very successful with them, Nikon decided to join the party after all. If Canon had not shown interest, image stabilization might have died. Other companies have now incorporated it into lenses or bodies. But Nikon invented it.
When it comes to progress and improvement in digital cameras, I think we will see some big steps made in the future. For one thing, digital SLR’s will eventually come down to the price of current 35mm SLR’s, spelling their doom, unfortunately. I still like and use film too. But manufacturers have to consider the principle of supply and demand. They aren’t charitable organizations. And present dSLR’s (those having 6 MP resolution or more) are already a match for 35mm, some even outperforming film. One can easily test the truthfulness of that with their own equipment.
Digital media does not have the same graininess of film. It, rather, does have a problem with something similar, noise, which also increases with higher ISO ratings. Camera makers are continuing to develop new ways to overcome the noise problem and some have made great strides. Software has been created that helps overcomes the noise problem. So, noise is becoming less of a problem. No doubt a certain amount will still exist, just as film makers haven’t totally eliminated grain.
Some manufacturers have come out with image sensors that are the same size as a 35mm film frame. This, of course, benefits the wide-angle lens users among us. But it is not a requirement, just as the 6x6 or 6x7 frame was not a requirement when the Leica, the first 35mm camera, was developed. There is nothing magical about the 35mm frame size. Barnack chose it when designing the Leica because he used half of a movie frame from the film in use at that time. Thus, since higher resolution can be achieved with digital from a frame smaller than 35mm, it makes sense that manufacturers would go that route. Most of them are doing just that. Lenses to fit the digital frame are being introduced. It is easy to tell that digital is the wave of the future and film will be a secondary interest for specific uses.
I have heard and read estimates from a number of sources saying that to equal 35mm, digital would have to be anywhere from 9-22 MP. It has been pretty well established now that the 6 MP dSLR’s with their bigger sensor (about 5 times the size of the sensor in consumer digitals) equal the resolution and sharpness of 35mm film. Prints made from each have been put side by side for unknowing participants to choose the 35mm print. Invariably, they chose the digital print over the 35mm. In my own tests here at home (without the benefit of an expensive lab) I find my digital prints every bit as sharp as my 35mm, which I still use, by the way. There is no question in my mind that my D70 is capable of sharper results than my F4. Pop Photo used to claim it would take 22 MP to equal film. Since then they revised that to 9 MP, and some there now recognize that 6 MP is more likely the threshold. But when digital matches film is another issue that will never be resolved in the minds of some. For me, we have already reached that point. I have seen enough evidence that establishes it in my mind.
I find future developments to be exciting. I have always been willing to look into the new developments. When TTL metering came out, I thought it was a marvelous idea. When autofocus was developed, I saw it as a boon to those with less than perfect eyes, where I am now. And digital has renewed my passion for photography also. I learned to do things the hard way years ago when cameras were totally manual and many photographers learned to process their own film. I learned all that too and continue to learn. That is what keeps us young.
Still, I would never go back to the old days of photography. I have kept a few old cameras and handheld meters to shoot from time to time to remind me. I am thrilled with the new equipment we have now. And when I see that my wife (who has tremendous artistic talent, but no desire to learn all the controls of a camera, wanting to just ‘point and shoot’) can pick up a camera and get some really nice shots, it makes me pleased for her. She is having fun with photography. I think all the new developments will win others to becoming camera users too. This is wonderful. Before digital, photography and camera sales were becoming quite stale and some makers went out of business. Once again cameras equipment is part of a thriving industry. This will benefit all of us.
One problem that is considered more serious by some and not so much by others is that as technology changes image files could be lost or destroyed. And it is true that as new technology develops our image files may have to be transferred to new storage media. But that is what is being done with old slide collections of well-known photographers now gone. They are being transferred to digital media. Some feel that CD’s have a relatively short lifetime, of five to ten years, and may become unreadable. If this is the case, it would require recopying the data to another form of storage at some point. I don’t find this to be a big factor. Most of us have bought the new technology as it is developed, moving now to DVD. So, saving new copies of image files is a practice already being used. As storage media and even computer software changes, users will be saving new copies of their images, not a big problem that I can see. Some feel that saving prints is the solution. But prints also deteriorate and fade, thus failing over time too. And a print is not the best source for copying images, giving a result that is inferior to what one gets with digitally stored or film images.
Thus, it is true that time marches on and some things become obsolete. But, if we have the equipment we can still use our CD’s, or Zip disks, or whatever we have pictures stored on. All we have to do is keep the CD players and burners we have. Just because something is considered obsolete doesn’t mean it doesn’t work any longer. My old Nikon F4 is considered obsolete by many, but is capable of wonderful results. And my D1x has now been replaced in Nikon’s lineup with the D2x. That doesn’t all of a sudden make my D1x any less capable of getting great results. I will probably go on using it until I can’t take pictures any longer. It is built so strong that it would outlast me. Some of the original Nikon F’s are still going strong. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t think we need to worry about preserving our data, photo and other. There will always be ways of preserving it.
My wife’s family has a number of old 8mm movies of the kids as they were growing up, some of my wife show her as an infant. They are still good and the family is transferring them to video and CD’s. Thus they will exist in two or three formats. They are priceless to the three of them now that both parents are gone. So I think we will always be able to find a way to preserve our images. I was reading about the son of a famous photographer (can’t remember his name) who shot a lot of photos of Marilyn Monroe, as well as of other Hollywood stars. The son is now copying all the slides to digital images and preserving them. Some of the colors on the slides now have to be corrected as a result of fading, etc. But even though it is a big project, involving thousands and thousands of slides, it is already paying off in increased interest in them and a new market for them. Interesting!
I have to admit that I don’t print out enough of my photos, only those that I consider the best. But I am glad I have prints from the late 70’s when I was using a rangefinder camera to document my work, both customers and fellow workers, etc. All of my negatives from that time were destroyed accidentally. The only things I have left are prints that were made. I did copy some of the prints, but they don’t really come out too well. Good enough to keep as memories but I doubt that I could make another print from the transferred image unless a lot of work was done on it. In the circumstance, the prints were invaluable as far as being the only source of images I had. But they aren’t the best source.