This evening’s session was another Steven/Joe double act of basic photo techniques. I started the evening giving a presentation on the technical side of photography. Here is a downloadable PDF of my presentation:
The basic advice I gave is
- It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you own. Making images is what photography is about. You can make a good image with a smartphone or a terrible image with an expensive digital SLR. Buying expensive kit doesn’t improve your photography. Improving your equipment can help in difficult situations, such as in low light. It can also help you be more creative, e.g. by giving you more lens options, but ultimately the creativity comes from you.
- There are many opinions on how to set up your camera. Try out the different modes and use your camera as a tool. You might want to start with the “auto” modes and move to the more manual ones (A, S and M) as you learn more about how the camera behaves. The manual modes give you more control, and ultimately you should be in control. Manual mode (M) is good for situations, like a panorama, when you want every frame to have exactly the same exposure; or for night photography (or photography with an ND filter), when the camera’s exposure meter doesn’t receive enough light to work properly.
- The really vital thing isn’t how you set up the camera, it is checking the camera has captured the image you want. Always check the display at the back of the camera and check that the histogram shows a good exposure. I set my display into “highlights” mode so that blown highlights are indicated. If the exposure doesn’t look right, adjust it (using exposure compensation or by making a manual adjustment) and try again. The camera will tend to underexpose snow scenes and overexpose scenes with a dark background.
- Save your images to RAW files. These have a greater dynamic range and will make the images easier to adjust in Photoshop. (Only save to JPEG if you don’t have or don’t intend to use Photoshop).
- Any gadget with an optical element that you fit onto a lens will reduce the quality of that lens. This includes filters, close-up lenses and teleconverters. Don’t spoil a good quality lens by adding a poor quality filter to it. For a similar reason, extension rings are a better option for macro photography than a close-up lens (although a specially designed macro lens is the best option).
- A tripod is very useful for preventing camera shake, but remember to turn off vibration reduction if your lens has such a facility. A remote shutter release also helps to steady shots made with a tripod.
- Make a check list to consult before taking shots with your camera. Here are some common mistakes I have made, which a check list would have helped prevent:
- Leaving the camera set to manual focus.
- Leaving the vibration reduction on when attached to a tripod, or off when taking hand held shots.
- Leaving a high ISO setting.
- Leaving the camera set up for exposure bracketing.
Joe showed us some “reject” images from his recent trip to Iceland. He explained why each of the images didn’t work. A landscape image needs an attractive focus, and one image which leads the eye to a church in the background was spoiled because the church was dwarfed by a large, ugly tree. Joe showed us the right way and the wrong way to make a composite image. In a composite image, the light and shadows need to match. An image with warmly-lit ponies in the foreground and a blue-coloured mountain in the background looked wrong. The quality of landscape images depends very much on the available lighting. A bright, sunny day is not the best time for landscape or flower photography: the UV light which attracts insects to flowers is detected by your camera and spoils the exposure in the light areas.