by J. Rae Chip

I advocate new photographers learning about and producing photography, which is in its most basic form, adjustments of aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO speed. Being called a "Sooc Snob" for that is something I don't quite understand. 

I get comments on my work (by the way, I appreciate getting comments, whether or not I agree with them) "this would look so much better in HDR" or "I'd like this, but you should have HDR'd it" or some of my other favorites, "You should have cloned out _____" or "You should have changed the sky." Why am I considered a snob for posting what was made in the camera (often journalism in this case), but they're not snobs for saying that's not good enough?

By the way, I USE SOFTWARE SOMETIMES. I use Photoshop CS4 and Camera RAW. I don't over-use them. I don't have to use them for every photograph, but for some photographs, I do need them. 

Software (usually) is to digital photography what dark room tricks are to film. I can dodge and burn in Photoshop. I can change exposure time digitally like I can do with developer times in a darkroom. I can change color balance or contrast like I can do with filters on my camera or on an enlarger. The difference is with HDR and other tricks where multiple photos are combined to make one photo, composites, and cloning out objects in images. Those are not exercises in photography, but rather in graphic design. That's fine too, but it's snobby to try to get me to change my art medium from a production of photos to creating graphic design. Likewise, I don't care if people want to make digital art. To each his own. 

Software is often pitched as the godsend to photography (sometimes it's camera gear). You know what the godsend to photography really is? The photographer.

The camera is the tool the artist uses to make art. Computer software has now become an additional tool, just like enlargers and chemicals were before. It's not about the camera, or the software, the chemicals, or even the drugs. It's about the ARTIST, his or her vision, and the interaction between the artist and the audience. Whether it's photography or graphic design, it has to be a good composition, an appropriate exposure, and it has to have a message of some sort. Those all come from the photographer.

Let me therefore be a snob and discuss photography now.

Camera basics
The aperture is how wide you open your lens while the photo is being taken. A big number means a tiny hole in your lens to let light through. A small number means a big hole in your lens to let light through. A bigger opening creates a shorter depth of field, or a smaller area that is in focus. A smaller opening creates a longer depth of field, and with very small openings it is often possible for the whole photo to be in focus.

The shutter speed is how long it takes your shutter to open and close, exposing your sensor (or film) to the light from the photograph. A short shutter speed (short exposure) is a little number, and a big shutter speed (long exposure) is a larger number.

ISO speed is referring to how sensitive the shutter (or film) is to the light hitting it. A small number is not very sensitive at all, and larger numbers are very sensitive. In other words, small ISO values are best used when there is a lot of light, and bigger ISO values are best used when there is not very much light. Higher values can create something called noise (or grain, in film). Digital noise from a high ISO value is from inaccuracies with the light recorded by sensor at this super-sensitive setting.

White balance is a setting in the camera that will tell the sensor what true white (or gray or black or any color) is. This can be changed on most cameras, to either reflect the true feeling of the photo, or a surreal, unrealistic feeling. More about this will be published in my upcoming book about lighting for digital portrait photographers.
"Chat Pile" - Picher, Oklahoma
Straight out of camera (as in, the .jpg file produced by my camera with no alterations in Photoshop except EXIF entries, re-sizing for web use, and watermarking). This is a photo of the chat (a mixture of lead and zinc) mine tailing outside where the town of Picher, Oklah. used to be. The cloudy day was a gift when it came to shooting SOOC out here with a DSLR. Composition-wise, this photo was about the erosion lines in the chat pile.

Canon EOS Rebel xTi (400 D)
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L
Aperture: f/16 (to make sure the entire chat pile was in focus, and to add a bit of definition to the cool clouds)
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec.
ISO: 200
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 23mm
Metering: Average (because of the texture, this created the best composition.)
Lighting: Ambient, 2:00 pm winter sun behind me, covered by clouds
WB: Cloudy

"The Aborigine"
Straight out of camera (as in, the .jpg file produced by my camera with no alterations in Photoshop except EXIF entries, re-sizing for web use, and watermarking) featuring model Jacob Campbell.

Canon 5D Mark 2
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L
Aperture: f/1.2 (because I wanted the backdrop out of the depth of field from the small aperture.)
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec.
ISO: 100
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 50mm
Metering: Spot (because I wanted the camera to meter off Jacob.)
Lighting: Flash, compulsory and 2 strobes, one on left in front of model, and one on right in front of model
WB: K6500

"Purple Skies" - Joshua Tree National Park
The actual scene did not look like this, as the model, fellow San Diego photographer Justin Papreck could confirm. Still, I produced an image that made it look better on the computer than it did in real life (in my opinion).... without using software to alter it. In this case, the photo's alterations came from white balance settings.

Straight out of camera (as in, the .jpg file produced by my camera with no alterations in Photoshop except EXIF entries, re-sizing for web use, and watermarking).

Canon 5D Mk. 2
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L
Aperture: f/4 (chosen to blur the background compared to the subject, which was Justin.)
Shutter Speed: 1/5000 sec. (a fast shutter speed ensured he didn't move while I was taking the candid photo.)
ISO: 500
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 40mm
Metering: Spot (in this case, I wanted the camera to meter off Justin.)
Lighting: Ambient, just after a very gray sunset created by extensive cloud cover
WB: K2500 (to give the photo a blue hue)
Magenta / Green brkt: A9 M9 (to give the photo a red hue)

The added blue hue with the added red hue in this photo created a purple hue.



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