When photographers talk about diffraction, they are referring to the fact that a photograph grows progressively less sharp at small aperture values – f/16, f/22, and so on. As you stop down your lens to such small apertures, the finest detail in your photographs will begin to blur. With good reason, this effect can worry beginning photographers. However, if you understand how diffraction impacts your photographs, you can make educated decisions and take the sharpest possible photographs in the field.
While photographing famous landmarks and photo spots is usually a safe way to obtain a beautiful photograph, being able to scout and find own subject to photograph is a skill that many of us have to acquire at some point. Identifying good light, finding the right angle for proper framing and composition, pre-visualizing the end result and using the right tool for the job in order to create a unique and compelling image takes years of practice in the field. This is the area that many of us, including myself, struggle with the most. Despite the difficulties and the challenges, it is important to keep on advancing the “photographer’s eye”. Sometimes we look at a beautiful image and really like it, but have a hard time understanding exactly what in particular attracts us to it. Is it the beautiful light, the composition or the subject itself? An untrained eye often sees certain elements of an image, while neglecting to see other, equally important elements that make an image successful. Being able to see and visualize all the minute details in order to properly execute a photograph is something we all need to continuously work on, because those details really do matter. Personally, I find great help in “dissecting” a solid photograph, to try to understand what kind of thought process and work went into making it. During this process, I pay close attention to everything from light, framing, composition, colors, subject, area of focus and other details, so that I can apply that knowledge in the field. In this article, I would like to present a landscape image that I recently captured in Joshua Tree National Park and go through the process of unveiling everything that went into making this image.
Please note that the below article is compiled from some of the chapters from our upcoming eBook “Creative Landscape Photography” that Spencer Cox and I are currently working on. This will be our first eBook, specifically written on the subjects of Light, Vision and Composition when photographing landscapes.
As we already mentioned in the previous article “Where are my Mid-tones?“, most raw converters apply some hidden adjustments to a raw shot, often resulting in a bumped mid-tone, clipped highlights, and compressed shadows. This is done to make the shot look good, but can also lead to all sorts of confusion. If you are using or planning to use some raw converter, you may want to know what “beautifiers” it applies, and their price.
When the world saw the very first photographs, the idea of being able to capture the world as we see it took off rapidly. In a relatively short period of time, film photography evolved from black and white to color photography. From there, it made motion pictures possible, allowing us to see the world from our couches at home. When the first digital camera was invented, little did the inventors know that it would later revolutionize the world of photography and media in general. Today, billions of images are captured and shared between people and the number of image recording devices is growing at a rapid, unstoppable rate. There are cameras literally everywhere – in our mobile phones, homes, computers, cars and even in wearables like eyeglasses and watches. We trust these devices to give us a glimpse of reality, documented moments of time that we can go back to and review. And yet with the fast growth, ease of access and use of image and video manipulation tools, we have been seeing more footage that can twist reality: whether we are looking at popular magazine covers, Internet sites or news media, the imagery we see is getting harder and harder to trust, since it is being altered, faked or staged. Media turned out to be a powerful tool to influence and manipulate people, which brings up the question and the importance of ethics in photography. Should photography only be allowed to display reality, or is it acceptable to alter images for presentation purposes? And if manipulation is acceptable, what are its limits, if any? These are very hard questions to answer, but with some common sense, we can create a set of ethical rules and guidelines that should help photographers in determining what’s acceptable and what’s not.
We’ve gotten several emails, the most recent and the best phrased one from a reader of Photography Life, with questions along the following lines:
What happened to my mid-tones? I set the exposure using exposure meter, opened the shot in Adobe Lr (or Adobe Camera Raw, or some other converter) … and the shot looks overexposed and everything from mid-tone and up looks very flat. If I shoot in RAW+JPEG, the JPEG looks OK, while the RAW is not. Should I expose lower?
We’ve decided that the reply to this question belongs here.
When photographic architecture, landscapes and even people, photographers often desire to increase detail and resolution, capture a wider angle or create a unique look that is impossible to achieve with standard camera gear. That’s where panorama photography comes in – it can be a great technique to utilize in order to accomplish such goals. Although the concept and the technique itself are fairly straightforward, panoramic photography often confuses many photographers. We often get many inquiries about this topic from our readers and one of the most frequently asked questions is about the specific type of gear to buy in order to produce stunning panoramas. And that’s certainly one of the biggest myths about panoramic photography – you rarely ever need such gear! Most of the panoramas I have stitched so far have been done without panoramic gear and although I do own a panoramic slider, I rarely ever get to use it. Read on to find out why!
When photographing landscapes and including a bright source of light like the Sun, we often end up getting quite a bit of ghosting and flare in images. Although seeing lens flare is quite normal in both images and video (in fact, videographers and movie makers often purposefully add ghosting and flare to their footage to make the scene look more natural), sometimes the effect can heavily harm images. Since every lens reacts differently to bright sources of light, with some having special coatings and optical optimizations in place to reduce such effects, the effect of ghosting and flare and its damage are not something that can be easily predicted – there are too many variables involved, like focal length, optical design, coating, light source angle and even dust within the lens. So what do you do when you have a beautiful sunrise / sunset moment and you want to capture it with the sun in the frame without traces of ghosting / flare? I have been using a “finger the sun” technique for many years and today I want to explain how this technique works and how you can use it to create stunning, dramatic landscape images.
In my photography classes I often get asked, “What is a long exposure?” Many beginning photographers want me to give them a definitive shutter speed with my explanation. However, long exposures are not only subject driven, they are largely based on the artistic vision you have for your photograph. Panning, light painting and night photography all make use of long exposures. However, these techniques are subjects of a future article. Today I would like to discuss “really” long exposures, exposures in excess of several minutes. These types of exposures create surreal, dreamlike images. They use neutral density filters (think sunglasses for your lens) to extend exposure times far in excess of what could be achieved by simply decreasing ISO and stopping down your aperture.
I never intended for it to be this long between the two articles, but life got in the way. I have been busy with trying to sell our photography at various fairs and craft shows, when you have a day job as well it ends up taking up all your spare time. I don’t like disclaimers or fine print, but here is mine: “What I do, works for me, the information here is designed to be honest from my perspective and maybe useful to some readers. Take from it what you can and find your own path along the way…”
In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.