PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

What makes a good photographer/photograph is highly debated constantly to this day.

Under development more content to be added 1/4/20

To any professional photographers and good amateurs please do correct me if I have anything wrong

Photography

Problem 1. Everyone is a photographer now. mobile phones have changed that, and sometimes fantastic images are taken with them.  (one of my favourite shots was with a mobile, an old one as well)  
Photography can be regarded as an art form and therefore judged on its subjective qualities. One person loves it (You!) another thinks it is rubbish! However they can also be judged by their technical aspects – focus, grain, exposure, clarity etc and those things are definable.

Problem 2.  Spending lots of money does not make you a photographer, but you might get better ‘quality’ images from the science point of view. For example you are not going to get good images of birds with a standard 50mm lens unless you train the birds to sit next to you or on you!

Problem 3.  If you cannot see it (even with 20/20 vision) you cannot photograph it. In other words most times you know what you are looking to achieve and then you can use the correct technique to achieve it.  Usually having that ‘vision’ to ‘see’ an image is what separates the good from the not so good images. I know before I take the shot in some instances that I will convert it to Black and White or a single tone.

Problem 4. It’s a number game. Today for example, I took over 50 images and got about 6 good! ones.  Watch some professionals at work and they will spend ages (hours sometimes) getting the setup correct both physically and in the camera and then take the shot or shots. As you may know nature photographers will sit for days, weeks or months trying to get the shot. In addition an awful lot of preparation will proceed the actual shot time. 

 Ok, you have the camera and lens or lenses. You go and take some photos and get them home and print some of them out or post them on social media! if you are lucky you might have a ‘good one’. A few people still try to work without using an app like Photoshop and some manage it. Photoshop is however a modern darkroom, that’s all. OK a bit more sophisticated as to what you can do.  As far as I am concerned you need something like Photoshop or Lightroom. See opposite > 

More often than not what makes the good photo is, correct exposure and focus (arty shots aside)  and to achieve that you needs to go beyond automatic, although sometimes it works fine!  Not forgetting of course the composure/framing of the shot.

On the one hand there is no right and wrong but, on the other there is.

Most photographers, artists and film makes will tell  you this “It’s all about light” and it is.

Of course what we have not mentioned yet is the purpose of the photograph.

  • It is a snap shot, a memory?
  • Is it a record of an event?
  • Is it to illustrate something?
  • Is it to inform?
  • Is it to create a reaction of some kind?
  • Is it just for your own pleasure?
  • Is it for someone else?
  • How will it be used?

Each will change the acceptability of the image and its quality, and how you go about getting the image.

So the trick is to understand how to adjust your camera setting to accommodate some of the above.
For example: When I am photographing birds I usually overexpose by .3 or .7 and use Aperture priority as my main setting. You have to be careful though in poor light the shutter speed will drop considerably leading to blur. You can of course increase the ISO to compensate ….  You can see the rising number of variables here that can affect your image. Now if the bird is flying on a bright day you might reverse those settings and under expose!

It is becoming clear now what we can and cannot control. You must learn to understand how these things work in concert to affect the final outcome of your image

Natural Light. – you cannot control it but must work with it and use it to effect.

ISO Setting –  Modern cameras are now so good you can get images using ISO setting of  thousands. Old film cameras had limits way below this, in fact the film determined the ISO.  The basic rule is though, low ISO for stationary subjects and to achieve maximum clarity (no grain) Higher ISO for dark subjects or moving subjects, the downside is grain unless that is what you want!! Many photographers now add grain in Photoshop or similar to give an effect to the image.

 

My Nikon D2700 will go to 25600 ISO, whilst the limit of practical use film is 3200. really you would never go over 800 with film apart from very special applications.

In auto cameras this controlled by the camera and if your camera does not have auto settings you get what the camera software decides.

 

Exposure. –  You can control this and auto cameras or setting do for you but not always well. The facets of exposure are:-

 Shutter Speed – Can be low for stationary objects landscapes etc  usually! needs to be fast for moving objects, unless you deliberately  want blur.

Aperture – Apart from allowing more or less light on to the sensor or film (film is making a comeback) it affects Depth of Field  DOP.  A very  effective way of creating arty shots or making the subject stand out.  But if you do not understand it you find what you thought was in focus is not.  Much more pronounced with telephoto and macro lenses.

Focus –  Most times you want sharp focus and the camera will not always achieve this sometimes you MUST use manual. Especially so in low light conditions or a ‘busy’ subject area, lots of leaves and twigs for example.

Sensor – Technology is advancing rapidly now and the sensor size is increasing. My last camera a Nikon D80 had 10 million pixels, my new camera has 25 million pixels. The difference in the quality of the photographs was amazing. You may now add to that the quality of you lens/lenses, these too will affect the quality of your image. Starting to think OMG!

The key thing regardless of equipment is to get out there and enjoy whilst taking photographs. Part of the enjoyment is the adventure looking for the shots and taking them not the end result.

 

It saddens me that so many people wander and walk around the countryside and they do not carry cameras apart from their phones, however the times I have talked to people about this and for some their entire photo collection is on the phone with no back-up. Lose the phone you lose all your pictures. It has happened many times.

Photoshop editing and Rescuing poor images.

The images below show the difference photoshop can make. The orginal exposure is poor, so in Photoshop you can correct some of that and for example improve the clarity , sharpness  and colour, even take out unwanted  distracting bits. 

The process was.

1. Auto Tone

2. Scale and Enlarge

3 Adjust Exposure and Gamma

4. Sharpen

5 Selective Dodging and Burning

6. Remove some Background

7. Reduce some noise/grain.

Original shot from camera over exposed

Photoshop edit – Still not ideal but better.

The image above of a Chiffchaff was taken on a sunny day, the bird was about 4 – 5 meters away with no twigs leaves and branches in the way. It was relatively (for a bird) still.   On my camera was a 300 – 500mm Sigma lens at full length. However I did have to use manual focus  because birds like they do move around the tree looking for food and security.  I used Aperture priority to keep depth of Field. ISO was set to 600.  I used +.3 value to over expose slightly.   In addition I took a burst of about 5 shots.  However you do need to take care with Long lenses camera shake can be a real problem so high shutter speeds are needed.  I some times use a Mono-pod but these are not always useful when you are tracking moving objects.

As you can see the camera has captured good detail, the exposure was good and consequently very little work was needed in Photoshop.