What Photographers Should Know
Depending on your purpose, you can pretty much take photographs with ANY device today. It can be either a “point and shoot,” DSLR (mirror or mirrorless), iPad, a simple camera phone. These devices take photographs in various degrees of quality, so it is important to understand your equipment, and know which of these devices is practical (or acceptable) for what you’re trying to do. Yet, at the same time, a real photographer will also tell you that it’s not about the gear, but the photographer him/herself. Not just his/her photographic eye, but also skill; on the camera, on the computer, and with his/her vision. Neither of these things can be out of sync. I don’t care how much software skills you have; if you don’t have a vision for YOUR art, then you won’t be able to see with your camera; and then be able to enhance (or create art) what you saw using your software. Taking a “good photograph” doesn’t mean the photographer has to sharply stop objects in motion; this isn’t the meaning of photographic art. Photography means “to draw with light,” and like any other type of drawing, you tell a story with that drawing. Making great photographs takes time to develop. Each one of us finds our inner photographer at different stages in our lives. Once we find that inner photographer, we can then build on it as time goes on. If a photographer still thinks that spending thousands of dollars on a camera (only to stay on automatic mode) is what’s going to give them perfect pictures every single time; I’d say that is a pretty insecure photographer (or lazy) about his or her abilities to take photographs. One thing money absolutely cannot buy, is an innate ability to create photographic art.
So many people who don’t understand photography, think that they can just purchase a “good camera,” and make 6 digit figures a week. This is absolutely not true at all! Which is one of the reasons most REAL photographers have to supplement their income by doing multiple jobs. Despite what many of you may falsely imagine, photographers don’t make thousands of dollars of random pictures of people on the internet (this is not the meaning of what it is to be a photographer). So please, don’t get your panties in a bunch! If it were true that every photographer can potentially make a 6 figures, almost every single person on the planet would be a photographer by profession. Not only that, the world would be terribly imbalanced. People take for granted how difficult street photography is. Often times there are many obstacles that come in to a frame that is uncontrollable. Sometimes you can quickly improvise, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to let it go, sometimes you get a second chance. But one thing is for sure about street photography, if you don’t take a chance and shoot, you may never get another opportunity to shoot that same shot again. However, this is also in the fun of being a street photographer; “the chase for that special photograph that becomes a piece of our archived history.”
I had no idea what title I wanted to give this post. Let me start off by saying, I realized over the years that sometimes purchasing any piece of technology can be stressful (especially from a retail store in particular). I find that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find the most basic electronic parts, and I had absolutely no idea why! Something as simple as a pack of blank Blu-ray discs were no where to be found. Until it dawn on me, a lot of the big named stores I used to purchase my computer/smart phone supplies are either closing down, or they are selling exclusively via web. One company that comes to mind is a company called “Newegg.” If I remember correctly, it cost them way too much money financially to keep their stores here in New York, so they’ve gone exclusively online. They’ve been doing VERY well since they’ve made that decision. Although I am glad they are still in business, as a customer, I still like physically going to a store and touching and experiencing the product for myself. There are just certain things that you don’t want to order from the internet (and computers & parts is one of them, unless you have knowledge of them before hand).
But the other thing is, the level of rudeness when you ask for help is off the charts! Not only that, sometimes the attitude comes from employees working in stores that are already going out of business. You’d think they would offer better service to stick around as long as they can. So I’m writing all this to say, we are now living in an age where you really have to do your own homework. So many sales people don’t have any clues about much of the technology today. Personally I’ve gotten to the point where I prefer to order my electronic things online; it appears that you get so much more customer service than in person. Not only do we get more detailed product information; we can make our own comparisons rather than solely relying on the retail employee; we don’t have to deal with that o’l “bait and switch” that is so common amongst many retail stores; we also no longer have to deal with a retail trying to charge you full price for a unit that is obviously “open box.” It’s a good thing tho, because this means we are empowered to make better decisions. But I also think the better customer service I’ve always received online is probably due to the fact that, there is a lot more mail order competition. However even then, I can’t tell you how many customer service reps I’ve talked to that had absolutely no no clue (sometimes that includes tech support). And when I say “no clue,” I don’t just mean about them not knowing their product, I lot of them don’t use the technology either. This includes companies like Sony and Samsung. However, much to my surprise, Nikon has always been spot on point with all their answers! So, in essence try to get as many camera magazines, and computer magazines as you can possibly stomach; cause retail isn’t the same as it once was. In fact, most technical support is now done exclusively through email; so you must have a basic understanding of technology in order to receive the help you need.
Not too long ago I saw a Facebook post about cropping an image. I thought to myself, this would be a good subject to post on my blog. There has always been this huge debate when it comes to image cropping between the traditional film photographers, and the new age digital photographers. Now personally, I think this is such a silly debate because to crop or not to crop is strictly up to the individual photographer. However, I draw the line when a traditional photographer uses the kind of language that suggest that someone who does crop is less than a true photographer. This in my opinion is not about someone teaching their photographic experience; but of someone usually with a hugely inflated ego. Again, photography is like any other art; it is about expression either derived from the heart, deep emotion, the deepest corners of our imagination, etc. So art is VERY personal. Regardless of your tools, or theme, or subject, whether you use a model, or an inanimate object, it is still creative expression through the eyes of the photographer. It’s about the photographer’s ability to see the story that needs to be told through your camera lens. To speak as though your better than someone else because “you don’t have to crop” is rubbish. What that actually is telling me is, that person really don’t understand the true benefits of digital photography. The idea that cropping prevents photographers from actually “working for their photograph” is also rubbish! The idea that we spend less time in lightroom to develop a photo, then developing film in a dark room is also rubbish.
Nothing against the more traditional photographers, but their is a reason why many have ditched film and gone digital. People have gone digital not because they’re lazy; but because we are now living in a world were digital technology and mindset are now necessary. Have you ever thought of the possibility that cropping can give us the opportunity to actually create several shots from one photograph? This is the problem when dealing with many traditional photographers; as open minded as they may be when it comes to finding that great shot, they are also extremely one dimensional when looking through their viewfinder. Every living thing on the planet as more than one dimension to themselves; every none living statue has different dimensions to it; and every inanimate object has several dimensions. Perhaps we cannot see it because it is my view that most people function with a one tract mind. The reality is most people crop, it’s not a bad thing unless you make it a bad thing. You are the creator of YOUR own art; therefore you make your own executive decisions as well as execute them; which makes © copyright that much more meaningful.
I’ve been meaning to write this for some time. Public Domain is a huge, broad, and a complicated subject, despite what a lot of people believe. If there is one thing I’d like to make my readers aware of, is that your personal beliefs (or things that sound correct in your mind) does not trump copyright laws when it comes to images! Now that more and more regular people like you and me have blogs now; we are literally considered digital publishers! You may not realize it but, online blogging has changed the way the world receives news forever! Not only that, but it allows anyone with a keyboard to have a voice and to build an audience that includes those who can relate to what you’ve written. Once you create a blog, almost everyone around the globe has access to read your blog, therefore I think a new attitude and/or a new way of thinking is necessary when publishing articles. The first attitude is the sense of responsibility, to make sure that to the best of your ability your articles are not only accurate but of your own. If anyone questions you about an article you wrote, you are able to truly speak on behalf of that article because it’s your own. If you can’t put real content that comes from you personally, then why the hell invest time in building a blog in the first place? People no longer want to read about generic news, they want to read opinions with substance.
But what about the images you use to help tell your story? Although I’ve spent many years on reading about public domain and it’s relation to copyrights, I am not a lawyer! Therefore if you got yourself in to trouble and are in need of real legal advice, then you need not to cut corners and see an actual copyright attorney. Copyright laws will be different depending on the situation. In terms of images (and movies), public domain is basically any works of art, where the copyright has expired. If the copyright has expired, anyone can use them as they wish. However, movies are a little more complicated, as music that is contained in the movie can still be copyrighted despite the fact a particular movie may not be. I’m not sure how is it that people assume that because someone found an image on the net that it is “public domain,” I can assure you that belief is incorrect, and if you’re not careful you could risk getting yourself in trouble. You must understand it’s not about whether your making money off the image or not, that’s for the judge to decide. I’m not going to break down various scenarios and what could happen, you need to read up on them for yourself.
Although photography can be a fun hobby for many; it is also a serious business matter to others. People are being sued thousands and thousands of dollars everyday, for both legitimate and non-legitimate issues. Although bloggers are protected by fair use laws, we still need to be careful of “right of publicity.” As long as you are using the image for education or a news worthy purpose (and you do not remove any logos or signatures on the image itself, or use the photo in such a way that it is assumed that you’re the owner of the work taken), the law is on our side. However, that doesn’t stop a copyright holder who may or may not understand what fair use means from trying to take you to court. An artist protecting his or her work is a big deal, but I also don’t like to be cyber bullied either. There are those cases where the copyright holder is charging huge licensing fees for the photo your using. If that’s the case, my opinion is that unless there are no other images you can use, just change it to avoid the drama. Or another idea would be to draw a similar photo of the image you borrowed, because now that would be of artistic expression (remember you don’t want to make it identical, just use your imagination). That drawing would then become your copyright, because you’ve created it. A person cannot copyright their face (or clothes for that matter). LOL
If you want to use an image for something more than just fair use, you should know that it is much harder to research whether a photo is truly public domain or not, because most of the time we don’t have all of the information about the photo on hand; such as artist, time frame, copyright registration, etc. You may actually have to pay for a librarian @ the library of congress to help you look for copyright status (if you have the information mentioned earlier). Sometimes even if you determined that a image is public domain, an estate can still make a frivolous lawsuit for “unclaimed copyright.” It’s a racket out there, what can I tell you!
Question? How far are you willing to go in order to get a shot? That’s the question I thought to myself when I shot this picture. Personally, I would have never tried to get that close for a shot (this particular shot); I would have been too scared I would have fell in to the water LOL. It makes me really appreciate the fact that I have a zoom lens. Mind you, not that a zoom lens would save me all of the time; however I would like to make the point that zoom lenses are not just good for close-ups; they are also great tools for ensuring safety. This is a clear example that more expensive lenses are sometimes worth getting. Again, there exist different lenses for different situations and purposes; and when you’re a street photographer you should always be thinking about safety when you go out and shoot. We all should be thinking, “which equipment I can purchase, that would allow me to take a shot safely.” Then again, I guess this all would depend on the kind of photographer you are. For example, I am not that kind of photographer, that would practically immerse myself in water, just to take a stunning picture of geese; or get in proximity of a poisonous animal just to get a “fantastic shot.” Hopefully the photographers that do want to do things like that, would take the time to get trained before hand. 🙂
First, I think I should clarify something very important for people new to photography and or photo editing. A filter is simply a tiny program that could come with your photo editing software, or third party, that allows you to perform all kinds of cool effects with your photos. Having said that, I need to point out that some filters not only allow you to perform cool photo manipulations, some filters also can make adjustments as well. Some Photoshop action files may also use filters in your existing Photoshop application. The important thing I want you to understand is that, there is a clear distinction between adjustment filters and adjustment layers. What is the difference? The difference is that when using adjustment layers, the edits are nondestructive and it’s easier to make changes on the fly. When you use a filter, the filter does the job it’s designed to do, it starts calculating several things such as colors, pixels, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some filters used your photo’s meta data. Often times photographers don’t realize that, like when using your camera in automatic mode it is not perfect, so not all the time you’ll get a perfect exposure. Using filters are no different. Some filter programs allow you to adjust the effects, and some are as is. Depending on the filter, if you blow up your photo you’ll notice that your colors are sometimes scattered, or the wrong color pixel is in the wrong place etc. This is because the filter tried to calculate the best way it could the data in your picture, to create the out put you have. This one of the reasons why a lot of professional photographers don’t like using filters, because these kinds of things can come out on big print. Hence why a professional always tries to get as much in his camera as possible. But what about for artistic purposes primarily for PC/digital frame viewing? Then I think it’s perfectly fine. Knowing when, and when not to use filters is totally up to the discretion of the artist/photographer. Remember, you are in control of your own creativity, not someone else. Once you practice, and practice some more, and the creative juices are flowing, you’ll get a natural feel for when you need to use them. Also remember that using filters does not remove the need to learn the application your using; you still need to know your tools.
I have discovered that quite a few people do not like to see any sort of “signature,” “brand,” “logo,” “website urls,” or “watermarks” on photos. There exist a wide range of opinions concerning this subject. However, I think this is an important subject that all photographers (regardless of your level of photographic knowledge or experience) to seriously think about your position on this subject. Now, this might be only an issue that is specific to online forums (actually some galleries are like this); I have not seen it in any other environment involving photography. A common word used when a photographer chooses to put his or her a watermark on their photos; and that word is “distracting.” Personally, I think it’s a bunch of bullshit, and extremely petty and childish attitude. Another stupid reason, quite a few people seem to think it’s amateurish; and I say that’s a load of rubbish! First off, I think that this is one of the reasons why so many people can’t distinguish cellphone pictures from real photographs from a photographer. Unfortunately, social media sites in addition to the “selfie” phenomenon caused not only a lot of misconceptions of photography, but the true art of photography has been lost due to the abundance of imagery we’re bombarded with on the social media sites. Actually, although my prior statement is really a separate issue, at the same time they are kinda related. I think the social media culture has changed people’s attitudes about photographs, period. It’s about taking pictures for no other good reason, other than they can. Having said that, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Photo bucket, Flickr, and other equivalent websites have just become a dumping ground for trillions of imagery and growing every day. Now, I don’t mean to bash these social media sites, my pet peeve is how it is now being used. I have not met any true photographer (whether a hobbyist, professional, amateur, or however one defines themselves) that would randomly put their photos on the net without letting people know whom the photo comes from (unless you’re donating the photo to the public domain). I am absolutely stunned when I hear professional photographers that look down on watermarking, because there are so many professional photographers and wannabes (just in NYC alone), that its almost compulsory to put one on every photo.
While one can argue about the aesthetics of how a watermark makes a photo look; another is more concerned about visibility as well as pride for their own work. Pride of not having to copy someone else work, because they are confident in their own photographic abilities. Some web admins go as far as not allowing watermarks on photographs. Personally, I would not feel comfortable staying in a web forum that demands that you do not watermark your work. Copyright goes far beyond legal, it is about being proud to tell the world this is what I have done! I’ve not only have I captured the photo, I’ve done the work in processing it too! And if someone is inspired by your work, they know how to find you (should the photo be copied and paste)! Do you realize how many copyright holders who can’t be contacted to get permissions on a photo (unfortunately, social media is a apart of this problem because much of the culture doesn’t care about watermarking)? If we can’t get permission to use a photo (for anything other than fair use), that’s lost revenue for that photographer! Which also proves the need for a good organized website, so those interested know they are talking to the right person. Any of this ringing a bell? All of this could have been remedied by a watermark. Other wise, what’s the point? So in short, don’t let anyone convince you that watermarking is bad. Watermarking gives meaning to your photo, and allows admirers of your work to find you! Common sense tells the viewer that an obvious watermark is not a part of the photo, and their minds will compensate while viewing the photo (unless it is huge and or without any change in opacity). No one complains about logos when purchasing stock photos, neither should you, so stop bitching. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just being plain old anal. Just like there are those who say “its has a tad too much contrast,” or “too much of this, too much of that,” without taking any consideration for differences in monitor display. What displays on your computer monitor will be different on paper; type of ink will also be different as well as color schemes; same is true if in a digital gallery. Or simply put, photographers have the tendency to forget that we all have different visions for our work, period. Get over it, the world would not end because of a watermarked photo, which every photographer has a right to do. Your personal opinion is not law, it is your personal opinion. Actually, it may not even be your own opinion, you’re just probably following the same nonsense that some others preach. Be your own mind.
As I delve more and more in to learning photography, as well as the numerous types of software used to edit, modify, enhance, or create whole new works of art, etc; sometimes it feels a little intimidating due to the sheer amount of tools available. However, it is important to be as familiar as you possibly can with these wonderful new technologies, if we want to produce the best work. Do this especially with Photoshop, simply because they literally have new upgrades about every year and a half. Actually, I’ve read that Adobe promises more frequent updates since the launch of it’s new cloud service. The more we continue to learn about them, the better; the only thing left to really do is practice. I know I’ve mentioned a lot of plugins I’ve used on a number of occasions. Plugins and or filters are great (when their compatible), however, 90% of these plugins and filters are NOT standalone. What I mean by this is? These plugins still require you to be proficient in your base application it’s used with. Plugins are really only tiny add-on(s) that compliment Photoshop/Paintshop. Also, keep in mind, the small amount of standalone filters that are out do not give you the same flexibility. Because Photoshop (professional) & Paintshop (semi-professional) are the two most popular & vital applications used for photo editing, I realized that, maybe I should no longer make note of what plugins/software I’ve used for each of my work. The reason being, its a bit extraneous. It’s kinda like when members in a photography message boards asks photographers to post their ISO, aperture, shutter speeds, etc with their picture. This is stupid in my opinion, because those numbers are real-time for that photographer. Not to mention the climate, environment and other variables. The lens you own also makes a huge difference. No one will be able to use those exact figures, and get their photo to look the same way. I’m also thinking it’s possibly too easy for new visitors, who are new to photography to think, that “those” software is all they need. There is a lot of patience, practice, imagination, and understanding your base application that’s involved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to use substitute tools to perform a particular action, or when something doesn’t go my way, I have to think of alternatives. Sometimes your tools don’t work in the same way, depending on the quality of your photo (or when the subjects color is almost identical to the background color); which is one of the reasons I shoot RAW with the highest possible resolution (even when you use RAW files, it doesn’t mean you can’t run in to problems; this is why professionals always take “test shots”). So, it’s not like pressing one button, or using one tool for everything and voila! Instant fabulous picture (with no effort)! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. Plus, I think it’s really important that, if someone is serious about photography, it is much better to self-research and experiment with software other than what I’ve mentioned. It’s a lot of work, but it can help to expand your imagination/creativity (cause you’ll know what’s out there), as well as developing your skills in finding “how to’s” and free resources.
So, which software is better, or worse? When I first met Mindy (someone who teaches photography lessons), she told me that I was like her, in that “she is a rebel photographer”. It didn’t sink in ’till later. I realized, yes I am a rebel, because my views on photography are so left-wing, compared to most traditional/professional photographers. I think my problem is, I focus more on creativity and expression, while others focus only on the technical, and other people only focus on doing things “one way” for every situation (and they think others should do the same), which in my opinion can hinder one’s creativity. Make no mistake, it’s very important to know the technicals of photography; however, the technicals are not the absolute/definitive rules in photography, because there are none when it comes to art expression. At the end of the day, I talked to more photographers that rely on their ideas on how to get a particular picture, than solely on “what they know”; however, if they know nothing, they can’t get any ideas. Make sense? One thing I know they teach in Photography school is, “there are millions of photographers in the world, therefore if you want to make it as a professional photographer, you have to stand out”. Well, very few stand out, because most stick with the same format that everyone else does! Soooo boring! Being so technically stuck up, can hinder ideas. Then again, I can see how it is possible for many photographers to “get set in their ways” (which is probably the core issue). Photography is art, your supposed to tell a story! Why even call yourself a photographer if you can’t step out of the box? The very essence of photography IS expression; to express those things that can’t be expressed through words. You must have imagination, and not be scared to try new things, period. I can honestly say, I haven’t came a cross any photo editing application I considered “bad”. For me, this is also one of those things that may be about “the eyes of the beholder”. Also, as I’ve said in my first post, its all about your needs. Some people find that Photoshop Elements is all they need; I’ve heard people talk about GIMP and say that’s all they need; Some say Corel’s Painter is all they need; some say Adobe Lightroom is all they need, and on and on.
Now, for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to only what I’ve actually experienced using. I love Paintshop, and it is unfortunate that it is soooo underrated by many high-end professional photographers. However, let me tell you, this is a damn good product; photographers need to realize, Paintshop is not meant to compete with Photoshop, Photoshop is a whole other animal, therefore it should NOT be compared. Paintshop only offers the opportunity for amateur photographers, photo hobbyist, & scrapbook makers, to create high-end photo edits at a fraction of the cost! I find my self shifting back and forth a lot between Paintshop and Photoshop. There are so many things that are so much easier to do in Paintshop. Photoshop has soo many options it’s not funny. It is more than likely I will always flip back and forth between Photoshop and Paintshop. One thing I find incredibly easier in Paintshop is it’s selection tools, however, Photoshop allows me to effectively select in more finer detail, such as hair blowing in the wind. Masking in Photoshop is also a nightmare for me, I always get confused, Paintshop is soo much easier in this regard. I REALLY hate the fact that Photoshop has literally one million shortcut keys LOL. Yes, I do find Photoshop a huge challenge to learn (however, learning any new software is; especially when it comes to PS), because their are too many options. Now Adobe had the nerve to include a 3D module. But I will say this, If you are strictly a RAW shooter, personally I prefer to process my photos using any Adobe product over Paintshop. Paintshop really sucks in that area.
If I had to pick one overall frustration I have between the two, it’s has to be the fact that there are literally hundreds of ways to do the same thing (for both) in the same application. Yet that same diversity allows us to create fantastic works of art, with just a little imagination. However, for beginning photographers, enthusiasts, and people who are broke spending almost all their money on a new DSLR camera, and starter supplies, etc, I suggest that you start off with Paintshop first. It is so much easier to learn, as well as inexpensive. Let’s face it, while photography is a really fun and creative hobby, it also can be an expensive habit/hobby (at least in your first introduction), but I see it as a good thing. After you purchased your first camera, a good sized memory card, and a decent software to work with your photos; there is nothing else you really need as an amateur. You now have a limitless ability to create, and to take as many pictures as you want, without being burdened with the need to purchase something else (unless you’re advancing towards being a better photographer; any other purchase is purely optional in my opinion). Once you get your feet wet, then you can move on to the more advanced photo packages. Paintshop has all the basic necessary features to correct many common photo problems, such as red eye, white balance, contrast, and straighten tools, just to name a few. Paintshop is compatible with some Photoshop filters (however, many of them are not to be honest, this is because may programers are just not writing for Paintshop). When you try Paintshop, you may decide you don’t need Photoshop (the average photographer/hobbyist doesn’t). Hope this helps. If I think of anything else, I’ll update this post. Thanks for visiting!
© 2014 / ShadesOfSepia.com
I was in a camera shop yesterday, and I happen to notice some kind of plastic protectors used for preserving negatives. I said to the clerk helping me, “Oh, I didn’t realize people still use negative? I haven’t actually seen one for many years now!”. There was a beautiful older semi-silver haired women waiting behind me said “My son is taking photography in school, and he knows how to work with negatives”. She also ended with “Digital photography is way too easy”.
Now, this is one of those subjects that could have turned out to be a long dragged out discussion of who’s opinions can convince another of what; and or at least which one’s in a conversation will be the one to finally say UNCLE!! LOL… However, from prior experiences talking about this very subject, my initial thought was, I’d better leave her comment alone. You know, I could be very wrong in my assumptions, but the mother’s statement about “digital photography being easier” than processing film the old fashioned way, did not sound like it came from her personal experience. Judging the mother’s proud smiley face, her son must be doing very well in school, and has made a wise choice in to the path of photography. However, that doesn’t mean that digital photography is any less complicated.
In fact, I beg to argue that digital photography is even more complicated than traditional manual equipment. Part of the reason why I strongly feel this is simple; we have more photographic options and features than we ever had before; which also means that more planning and decision making needs to be made before each photo is actually taken. Let’s not forget, processing a photo from a negative means nothing, if a photographer cannot make heads or tails of how to properly set-up his/her camera. I’d say the one thing that digital technology has made “easier” is the fact that, we no longer have to wait for film to be developed in order to see our film mistakes. We can make changes on the fly. But this still requires not only knowing your camera, but studying and understanding the lighting in the photographer’s immediate environment, and have an idea of features/technology to use and what not too, etc.
In terms of software, If digital photography was so easy, most professional Photoshop classes would not cost hundreds of dollars (sometimes I’ve seen them in the thousands). People are not paying this money because they like to give away their life savings, they do it because Adobe applications are complicated, and books aren’t always enough to learn about it’s capabilities. In addition, these adobe courses don’t include popular applications used outside of Adobe. Most people don’t realize, Adobe is also very scientific. How is Adobe scientific? Well for instance, many hardcore Adobe users enter a lot of numbers such as exact hex color values for printing, or a numeric value in order to use a particular filter, etc, etc. Not to mention the thousands of hours needed practicing in order to become proficient in using the product, because there is no substitutes for industry standard applications. While technology has allowed us to defy the laws of color, in addition to the way we see the world, it has also gotten very complicated because we now have more options and more to learn.
Like to hear it or not, Kodak has lost millions of dollars due to the technology world improving. At some point, film will be non-existent because there will no longer be a need for it. We can now print professional photos at home with a very inexpensive standard photo color printer. So at this point, whether film is harder, or digital is easier is irrelevant. If digital technology did not serve some kind of improvement for our society, it would not be so prevalent today.
I thought it would be a good idea to write about my experience buying my first DSLR camera. First off, I gotta say that no matter how much you know about cameras and or digital photography; to actually be in the market for a new DSLR camera is a whole different ball game and experience. It’s like trying to figure out what’s the “best” cold medicine to use at the moment you’re sick. Anyone who is reading this article should know that it is REALLY a good idea to take someone knowledgeable with you, when making this kind of purchase. That is NOT to say I don’t love my new camera, however, it is a big investment. Because at the end of the day, I realized that it doesn’t always come down to the specs of a camera (which ones have the greater numbers, etc); what matters is how your camera will perform in real life situations outside a controlled environment; the ergonomics of the camera your interested in; is it weather resistant; etc. This is were a friend’s expertise can come in handy. It’s no longer enough to hear “it has a 1.4 aperture, that means it gives you the best picture.” When in truth, there are MANY components of a camera that contributes to creating a beautiful picture; you just have to invest a little time to learn how to use them. In addition, it will not always be possible to stay at 1.4 (realistically in manual mode) all the time; because it is a feature, not a benefit. Spending thousands of dollars on a “good camera” will not make you a great photographer, it will most likely make you broke instead.
In this article, I’m not going to get in to brands because I think it’s kinda pointless, I know many of you are probably disagreeing with me right now. However, let’s be honest, if we were to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all. People love their cameras because the camera fills all their personal needs at that given moment in time; or phase in their photographic taking, not that the camera they own is the “best” on the market! There are people that swear by cannon, others swear by Nikon, then you have others that swear on Pentax cameras, and so on, and so on. None of the camera companies I’ve just mentioned are bad; these all are great companies who simply chose to use different technologies for their awesome products. In the end, you have to ask the question, does the camera serve your current needs?
The best advice I ever gotten was, the most important things to look for in your first DSLR camera is Auto Focus, Aperture, and a good Shutter control (which all DSLR cameras pretty much have today), and a really good lens. However, I’d like to add that depending on the type of photography you’re doing, prepare to spend good money if you want a lens aperture of 2.8 and smaller with a good zoom.
Lastly, don’t get caught up on the ISO. I noticed that a lot of manufactures push the ISO extended/expansion (I should stop using the word expansion cause its really not) feature. “Don’t believe the hype”. Unless you have money for a super $5,000+ telephoto lens with all the latest techno features (even then); any ISO greater than about 1,600 pictures will start to look grainy. This happens because light sensitivity is way too high (Nikon cameras with FX format handles low light situations better). To be honest, rarely would a photographer set their camera to any ISO greater than 1,600 (unless for a very specific reason). Even at 6,400 (one stop before extended) can produce too much grain for my taste. Then again, this all depends on environment, other camera settings, and or any other variables. I would imagine you’d have to be in a room with almost no light in order to use the extended ISO with minimal grain; which would also be hard to auto-focus, or not at all. You may not see any grain on your camera screen, but you will see it when you get it one your computer and zoom in. In fact, you may see more distortion than grain, if there was too much light for the ISO you were set at. Sometimes if there exist too much noise in the picture, you may or may not be able to edit in Photoshop successfully. Although there are smoothing/noise removal tools that exist, depending on how much grain, the photos dpi, and resolution, sometimes you loose quality in the photo when you try to smooth out a photo with that much noise. Extended ISO is now pretty much a standard feature with all DSLR cameras, so it is pretty much built in to the price of the cameras. Although, you should know that ISO results are different for some cameras; for instance I’ve read that Nikon’s ISO 200 is Cannon’s 100 (take that which ever way you want). Even if you like the grain because you want a vintage look; take your best shot and use Photoshop to artificially create the grain. This way you’ll have a copy of a clean shot, and another with the gain you like .
Any other features on a camera are just unnecessary add-on’s. Actually, to be fair, I shouldn’t use the word “unnecessary”, but a lot of these new add-on’s are not essential to cameras today; they are just things that add to the cost of the camera. Many of these extraneous photo effects can 99% of the time be nicely produced in Photoshop or Paintshop Pro if you understand what you’re doing (practice makes perfect). Bottom line, in the real world, unless you carry your tripod 99% of the time, and your brain is fast enough to think of the exact camera preset you want to use, manually go in to your settings for each and every picture, and your hands are quick enough to set-up all those desired settings for each situation before the entire process drains all your batteries; you’ll spend most of the time shooting in auto mode. I don’t mean to sound like you’ll NEVER need them, ’cause that’s not completely true either. There will be times when you WILL want to have fun and be creative, but in reality, its not something that most photographers do frequently (on every shoot).
The most important asset to a camera is it’s lens. The really nice thing about owning a DSLR camera is that you’ll find compatibility with many lenses of the same brand/product line. So you can save money by only buying the camera body and continue to use your old lens. However my opinion is, about every 15 years it’s always a good idea to buy a new camera body, just because of the wear and tear (all the moving mechanisms), as well as to get any improved physical enhancements. It’s important to understand that the cost of a camera comes from the brand name, and the amount of added physical features. Having said that, if you purchased an inexpensive DSLR camera, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “bad” or a lesser quality camera, because ALL DSLRs will have the same basic functions needed to take a great picture. All you need is to take a little time to understand what those features are, maybe even take a class or two, or watch a youtube video or two. Technically, any DSLR purchase would be an upgrade from your standard low resolution *jpg cameras. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about what your relatives have on their camera, verses what you don’t have on your camera; this should not be your only determining factor for what is a “good” camera. ‘Cause it really about preference, and what features are needed to accomplish your desired results.
© 2015 Updated / ShadesOfSepia.com
To raw, or NOT to raw; that is the question! Well, although film did not exist in Hamlot’s/Shakespeare’s day, I’m pretty sure if they were alive today, they’d be asking the same question. I promised myself that I would not make my blog a technical site, and for the most part, I still stand by that. However, I think this is an important enough subject that I feel I should write about. If you are a photographer (be it as a hobby or professional) and you use DSLR technology, I am pretty sure you’ve been confronted with the whole RAW vs JPEG debate. If not, I’m sure you will at some point, as you eventually converse with others about your photographic interests.
I have a real big problem with this “RAW vs JPEG” debate. One of the big issues I have is, most people that say they “hate it”, or “its a waist of time”, often only looking at things from one side, and haven’t informed themselves enough in order to get that 3D perspective I always talk about. I’ve even heard someone call another stupid for shooting in RAW (clearly this person was an absolute idiot); but this is why some advice need not to be taken seriously. When it comes to photography, yes, although their is a lot of science involved (depending on the level of photography your doing), on the other hand, there is also a LOT of objectiveness; and so much of what people will try to “school” you on mostly comes from a side of bias. I’ve heard too many times when “experts” give advice, and the advice really isn’t advice at all, it’s what THAT adviser personally likes to do, and not real constructive advice. Becareful, there is always two sides to every story, and one person’s advice, can kill another person’s creativity.
Without getting technical, the first question you should be asking yourself is, what is a RAW file? Second, what is a JPEG file? So, let’s start with the first question; what is a RAW file? If your answer is, just a huge ginormous file that makes my camera shoot slow and takes forever to work with on my computer, your wrong! Although those things are true, that’s not a good reason never to shoot RAW. The simplest way to explain what is a RAW file is, a RAW file in my opinion, is the equivalent to an actual film negative that is needed to develop a picture. A RAW file, or RAW data, is an image that comes directly from your camera’s sensors. A RAW file is nothing but pure unprocessed, and uncompressed zeros and ones. It is a “digital negative” that is needed to produce a picture!
Second question, what is a JPEG file? A JPEG file is in essence a processed photo. Once you tell your camera to only use JPEG, your camera will use your existing settings to create your photo, and throw all the RAW data information away resulting in a significantly smaller *jpg file. So, what is the problem? Isn’t smaller better? Well, I’d like to start off by saying, there is a reason why your type of camera is called DSLR! Why would you spend so much money on a DSLR camera to shoot exclusively jpeg? If your gonna do that, your better off with a basic 12MP point-and-shoot camera and call it a day. What many don’t realize is that, when you shoot in jpeg, the camera strips away more than half the photo’s data, and uses your current settings to process the photo for you. This may sound like a good thing, but it really depends on the situation. Later on, if you want to edit that jpeg photo’s aperture, or adjust lighting, adjust exposure, etc, etc, you’ve lost all of the information needed to keep that photo looking realistic; because your application has fewer pixels to work with. In other words, you’ve lost too much color and dept information to keep the photo from looking natural AFTER THE PHOTO HAS ALREADY BEEN PROCESSED IN TO A JPEG FILE. So in short, I guess you can think of it as RAW is the negative, and JPEG is the picture developed from the red light/dark room. Editing a RAW file is almost the equivalent of making changes to an image whilst it is still being captured by your camera’s sensor (before a RAW file is even created). I’m sure heavy Photoshop users can relate to what I’m trying to say.
Now, I’ve also heard arguments that RAW files and JPEG files look identical, just that the JPEG files are smaller, and I save space on my storage drives. Well, even if you look at “Handsome Guy Image #2” both images had no edits done to them, however, if you take a close look at the raw photo, it has a lot more subtle detail, especially his eyes, even his contacts appears to be more pronounced (with no edits). In order for you to really understand want I’m talking about, you really need to shoot a RAW photo, and play in Photoshop or Paintshop, and make comparisons. The magic isn’t whether or not RAW and JPEG files look identical (this is the o’l point-and-shoot mentality), the magic comes when you edit a RAW photo, and the quality you get after you’ve finished your edits. You may not appreciate this until, let’s say, you’re at a house party & maybe your ISO was too low, and your image came out dark; or maybe the flash was too strong. Try and correct these by editing a JPEG file and then edit a RAW file. Beyond a shadow of a doubt you will see the difference, and why some shoot strictly RAW. Some cameras will allow you to save in both RAW + JPEG (simultaneously, which is the best way to compare edits), and most cameras will allow you to change the size of the photo as well (keep in mind, changing the size of your camera’s jpegs will also change the quality of your photo edits too). The most important thing is, there is no right or wrong, it’s about the purpose, and personal preference. DO NOT let any idiot try to make you feel stupid, because you choose to shoot in what ever format you choose to. There is a reason why cameras offer CHOICES!!!
I should point out that, the only downside to using RAW files is that, they are NOT, I repeat, they are NOT always universal. There are some newer formats that are out that Photoshop and or Painthsop may not be compatible with, in that case, you will have to wait until one of those programs develop a plugin for it. Or you can use the (usually cheap) RAW editor tool that comes with your camera. Hope this helps.. Next time…….
© 2013 / ShadesOfSepia.com
As I’ve said before, my blog is not meant to be a technical site, and unfortunately pinhole photography is kind of a huge subject. So I’ll just make this REALLY quick and simple. Pinhole photography is a whole separate genre on to itself. It is another type of photographic art that in my opinion is an acquired taste. Then again, it depends on what your doing, and the type of pinhole photographs your trying to create. The short story is, the difference between regular photography and pinhole photography is in essence, one uses a lens, and the other does not. Back in the days, people used to make their own home made pinhole cameras, and created some very interesting photographs. But by today’s standards, most people are not interested in doing pinhole. Part of the reason is, today every photographer wants to do HDR images, overly processed images, or really sharp photos; however, pinhole photographs is often NOT sharp, because you’re not using a lens. When people made their own home made pinhole cameras, even holes with the circumference of some safety pins might have still resulted in a blurry picture. You see, because you’re not using a lens there is no focusing mechanism; so, you’re totally relying on you’re ability to make the smallest hole possible, to get that focus you want. In today’s digital world, there are a couple of companies that make special adapters for your camera such as the one above. Unfortunately, even the $20 pinhole caps aren’t worth spending in my opinion, I think even this Holga kit with all the works is too much money. Your better off getting one of these “Do It Yourself” toy kits like this one, and get much better quality pictures from 35mm film. Either that, find if there still exist a camera shop that can convert your old camera in to a pinhole camera.
Like lomography, I think it’s ridiculous that some of these manufactures are charging so much money for their accessories and conversion adapters, and give really bad quality. Don’t get me wrong, a good majority of pinhole art are not “sharply focused,” perhaps not meant to be in most cases. However, the quality should be good enough that the subject be recognizable. Fans of my blog already know that I prefer to put as much in my camera as possible, and do less on the computer as possible. However, this is one case were I think there are so many of these “pinhole wanna be adapters” for digital cameras are so poor, it’s best to artificially reproduce them on our computers. Save your money that’s my opinion; cause the only other ones that are worth it, are too expensive for the average hobbyist.
Speaking as a hobbyist/enthusiast, all we need to start off in photography is to fist learn some basic principles of photography; second is understanding your camera; third is imagination; fourth is being in tuned; and the fifth is intuitively being able to find that subject you naturally connect with before you shoot. There are probably a few others I’ve missed, but these are the 5 primary things we need to successfully enjoy photography. Oh yeah, and practice. Practice makes a world of difference; but not just practice, experimentation as well. Work with all the accessories and techniques frowned upon by closed minded photographers, cause that’s what is going to help you be unique (by then everybody will be asking you how did you do it?). Practice and experimentation will also give you a greater perspective and understanding of what your doing, rather than quick assumptions and spread these assumptions as truth for everybody else. Practice has definitely improved my photographic perceptions, as well as interpretations of what I’m shooting. Although reading is essential, but practicing will make us proficient. There is no such thing as a “magical shutter number” that we can set for every and any situation (as though a shutter speed was a benchmark of sorts, the shutter speed is a camera function not a benchmark). Remember that your shutter, ISO, Aperture, WB, & flash all have their own side effects, in addition to effecting other components. There is no such thing as an “all purpose lens” that can be used for every circumstance. But, for those who are hobbyist like me, we don’t need to spend 10-20 thousand dollars on a professional camera and studio accessories or fancy photography studio. You’d be surprised on how many photographers I’ve met and spoken to that managed to created their own home made alternatives. For instance, the photo on the left I simply used my entry level DSLR hobbyist camera, to create this stunning photo of my freshly half drunken bottle of Poland Spring water bottle. So, it’s more about the photographer (his/her ability to understand the technology well enough, that you can then become resourceful with limited resources, and within the best of your ability produce a beautiful meaningful photo that tells a story), not the equipment per-say.
I have a growing concern that there exist some people that think the best equipment will make them a “good photographer,” this is absolutely not true! There are reasons why we have so many options within both software and camera technology; it is to give us the diversity we need to be the photographer we’d like to be. Not every photo needs to be in HDR, and neither does HDR automatically make us good photographers. Even if it’s just a matter of “HDR” being your preferred processing; you’d have to consider the possibility that too much of any one particular tool can cause dependance. NOW, that doesn’t mean I am against using filtering, I love them and use it all the time; in fact I feel they are essential for making not only corrections to bad exposures, but enhancing photos with already great compositions. However, the rule of thumb is, capture as much as possible in your camera so that you’re not solely depending on photo editing tools for everything. The more you put on the camera, the less processing you have to do on your computer, and the more natural/dynamic your finished creation will look. Unless of course you are creating something with artistic, rules can sometimes made to be broken. 😉 If you can’t get everything in your camera, it doesn’t mean you’re are a bad photographer at all; it now means you have the tools to correct. Bottom line, I am coming from the opinion that, using when needed is much better than using when dependent on a particular software tool or equipment. I’m sure some of my readers understand what I’m trying to say. If the image you’re working on is meant to be a photo, then let it be that photo. There is no need to dowse it with filtering. If the intended image is meant to be used to create art, then there is no limit.
Take a look at this photo, despite this was captured some time in 1910-1911, the composition is extraordinary. I’m referencing this photo to illustrate the fact that Photoshop did not exist back then, neither did we have automatic cameras (that would try its best to think for you), we didn’t have wireless flashes, or flashes that allow for control of power. In fact they used powder that was equivalent to gun powder in my opinion;their was no option to control the flash duration because the powder was basically on fire until powder was fully consumed. We didn’t have insanely fast shutter speeds, there was no strobe lights, back lights, center lights, diffusers, exposure metering, light metering, we didn’t have the luxury of a preview pic, and deleting it if the exposure was not right, or you’ve miscalculated, etc (you know what I’m getting at). However, because this photographer was skilled, he captured a photograph that was not only beautifully exposed, he also captured the story and emotion of this photo, which made this shot worthy of archiving. So in essence, don’t try to compensate for lack of imagination or intuitiveness with a bunch of Photoshop filters. Photoshop & Paintshop tools only exist to enhance an already meaningful photograph. Either you have the magic of photo taking, or you don’t. Or you can be inspired by photographers and build that creativeness within you. But this also means being open minded enough to listen and observe, and find YOUR OWN uniqueness as an individual intuitive photographer.
With the right lighting, be it artificial or natural, and if angled correctly, a great photographer can even show emotion, or tell a story from shooting a simple statue. I realized I am a rebel, because my views on photography are so left-wing, compared to most traditional/professional photographers. I think my problem is, I focus more on creativity and expression, while others focus only on the technical, and other people only focus on doing things “one way” for every situation (and they think others should do the same), which in my opinion can hinder one’s creativity. Make no mistake, it’s very important to know the technical parts of photography; however, the technical parts are not the absolute/definitive rules in photography, because there are none when it comes to art expression. At the end of the day, I talked to more photographers that rely on their ideas on how to get a particular picture, than solely on “what they know”; however, if they know nothing, they can’t get any ideas. Make sense? One thing I know they teach in Photography school is, “there are millions of photographers in the world, therefore if you want to make it as a professional photographer, you have to stand out”. Well, very few stand out, because most stick with the same format that everyone else does! Soooo boring! Being so technically stuck up, and stubborn can hinder creative ideas. Then again, I can see how it is possible for many photographers to “get set in their ways” (which is probably the core issue). Photography is art, your supposed to tell a story (of course there are exceptions to the rule, but the photo with the story is the one with the lasting impression)! Why even call yourself a photographer if you can’t step out of the box? The very essence of photography IS expression; to express those things that can’t be expressed through words. You must have imagination, and not be scared to try new things, period. Even those of us who have a strong fondness for a particular genre of photography, there still exist diversity within that genre!
A good photographer knows that everything needs to be balanced in order to create great photographic art! A good camera must have a decent lens; and a decent lens requires good filters; but a good filter(s) without taking the time to set up the appropriate camera settings doesn’t mean much; and the settings don’t mean much either if you don’t have a powerful & flexible flash (and know how and when to use it); but flashes can’t be utilized effectively if you don’t understand the contrast between your flash and natural lighting, etc. A good photographer knows that the internet is a massive resource for free education and free tools for imaging/photography; all you need is to learn how to use Google (which is not hard at all believe it or not). Don’t just let people tell you about photography, go on walks with them and see them in action, this is the best way of learning photography (IMHO). The last thing every good photographer knows is photo editing software, which you can add any finishing touches to an already perfect photo, but if you don’t have a quality photos to edit, there is very little any software can do for you. That’s what makes a photographer a photographer, and the difference between taking pics and shooting photographs.
It is really important to remember, the more you improve as a photographer/photographic artist, the more likely you may encounter a lot of people who will never understand your art, your photographic vision, your passion for photography, or simply may not respect your way of doing things in respect to your own photography and your camera. Unfortunately, once you make your images available for others to see regardless of the medium, there always will exist people who feel the have an exclusive right to comment negatively on your work. It usually has nothing to do with you or your photography. Although I guess it could be slight chance of jealousy (you’ll always have quite a few of those), but I also think most of them just desire to impose their personal preferences of how images should be handled, or how photos should be taken. Strange how these same type of negative “overly smart” people don’t know how to use Google, or feel they don’t need to, yes miss thang, you do. Gotta love all those “know it all” people, they feed off that shit, but I digress. Others are just in capable of minding their own business, or not capable of saying something nice to anybody. From experience, the minute someone gives you negative feedback about anything your doing in your own life, you’re on the right track! The point of art is NOT to be a copycat, but to allow you to express what you see and feel through your mind’s eye. Unfortunately, because it’s your eye and not anybody else, chances are many people will not have a clue. The only way to really combat this is to surround yourself with people of the same interest, and people who are positive and supportive.
© 2014 Yogi / ShadesOfSepia.com
The Photographer’s Creed
- Spend a little time with yourself, in order to find YOUR OWN inner photographer.
- Not everyone will understand YOUR photography, accept that for what it is and move on.
- Don’t accept criticisms as failure, or that you’ll need to change any part of your work; it is just an opinion.
- Photography is in the eyes of the individual photographer, not the critic.
- There is photographic beauty in every single object.
- A talented photographer knows how to intuitively turn something bland and ordinary in to beautifully artistic photograph.
- Follow YOUR OWN photographic intuition and interpretation.
- There is more to photography than just HDR.
- Practicing with an open mind is a key element in photography.
- It’s best to try and get as much processing done from the camera as possible.
- There is no such thing as the best “equipment model”, ’cause there will always be an even better one tomorrow.
- A photographer knows how to harness his/her creativity with limited resources.
- The world of photography is continuously evolving, it’s best not to get stuck in repetitiveness.
- Always keep your eyes open and see what’s new in the world of photographic techniques.
- You cannot create good photography without imagination; yet, you can’t have imagination if you don’t understand photography.
- Be inspired by other photographers; there exists a plethora of resources, and social media sites to connect with!
- Stay open minded when it comes to software, you’ll never know where your next work of art will come from.
- Staying in automatic mode all the time is a cop-out.
- All parts/aspects of photography/camera and software are important, you shouldn’t only focus on one aspect while disregarding another. They all work together to create an amazing image. Limiting yourself will only limit your imagination and your photographic abilities.
- There is nothing unique about a photographer that stays redundant.
I will answer this question in the context of street photography. It is interesting how many people don’t get street photography. But trust me, there is much beauty within street photography. We all know that photography is an art form; however, along with the art from, comes the philosophy of photographic art itself. The whole philosophical aspect of photographic art is not only huge, but it’s meaning is also personal and individual. I think one of the problem many people may possibly have with street photography, is that people align street photography on the same level as picture taking with our cellphones (socially); and I don’t necessarily consider these two things the same (now I could be wrong about that, but that’s what’s in my thoughts right know). I’m sure that if my readers were to ask 300 street photographers why they do what they do; you’d get 300 different answers, and possibly 100 additional in depth responses.
Although I enjoy MANY different kinds of photography, I think street photography is up there with my “most liked” list. It is not just taking random pictures of people, but capturing the true nature of people. In my own words, how I’d like to explain it is, there are two very distinct and measurable differences between a picture, and a photograph taken on the street. If I ask a man in a football uniform to stop what he’s doing to pose for me, I interpret that to be a picture. Why? He is temporarily altering his state of mind, while preparing himself to pose. However, if I take a picture of that same man while he is playing football in his uniform, I am now helping to tell his story, by capturing him doing what he loves; which is football. I now have the opportunity to capture part of his essence, at which point becomes a photograph. It’s about telling the story of culture and life through my lens.
Note: The only time I would accept a pose (and quite a few have for me), is if that person as a ham. There is a certain energy that a ham gives off; and if that’s the case, that person is naturally being who they are. I would then consider that a photograph, because they are not taking a moment to alter their state of being.
© 2014 / ShadesOfSepia.com
I think we know by now that whether you are a professional or just a hobbyist, photography can be very expensive for everyone (regardless of your level). Unlike shopping for a desktop computer, there are some technologies within photography that will always remain consistent. Which theoretically should make purchasing a camera a little easier (or at least help narrow down your choices (this is not always true, but it does help somewhat)). Because finances and tight budgets is a reality for most Americans today, it is even more crucial that you not only have a good understanding of basic camera technology, but your manufacture’s accessory lines and what the features are worth in the current market. Remember, the money you pay is for the featured technologies, not for the “longevity” of your unit. Especially when it comes to the lenses; lenses have mechanical moving parts, therefore will suffer wear and tear one day. Although you can have maintenance done to your equipment, that doesn’t guarantee said part can’t become unusable because of what you “paid” for it. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that your camera/lens can’t last for many years, so long as you take good care of them.
This article is really focused on the new hobbyist, but I guess some veterans can be helped by this too. I’d like to discuss how you can save money on camera bodies and lenses. I’ve worked in retail for many years and would like to share with you a few things that I feel can be beneficial to some. But as I do this, it is important that I go through a few retail vocabulary heard in most stores today. Businesses and manufacturers are required by law to label the state of the products they are selling. Here are four common labels.
OPEN BOX: An open box is simply an item returned by the customer. I know many consumers get squeamish about open boxes, but there really isn’t anything wrong with buying one. I’ve worked for several retail stores, and I can honestly say that the most common reason for someone returning an item is because either that customer realized they purchased way above their means, or the sales person oversold the customer; sometimes it was also because the product was too complicated for the purchaser to setup. If there is no damage to the product or manufacture malfunction, a restocking fee is often charged to the customer for the return. Restocking fees are usually charged at a percentage, additional charges can be tacked on if parts are missing from the return. This is because it is no longer manufacture “new” and the product must be now resold at a discounted price to the next customer. Restocking fees cover the financial loss retail business get when dealing with open box items. Be aware, manufacture warranties are sometimes different on open boxes. Many retailers are not aware of this. Make sure that the open box includes the warranty certificate. If the item does NOT have the warranty certificate, and it is a big ticket item, CONTACT THE MANUFACTURE DIRECTLY FIRST, AND FIND OUT WHAT THEIR WARRANTY POLICY IS ON OPEN BOXED ITEMS. DO NOT LISTEN TO THE STORE, UNLESS THEY ARE OFFERING THEIR STORE WARRANTY AT A GOOD PACKAGE DEAL. This is important, most sales people assume that the warranty is the same as new, but not always with some manufacturers. Also find out if the manufacturer will still honor the warranty if there are any pre-existing physical damage on the unit (very important)! Do not say I didn’t warn you! If you don’t believe, well quite frankly its your problem, and it will be. And don’t go back to the store 60 days later and say, it’s broken and I need it fixed without a warranty, cause you bought it from them..
REFURBISHED: Do not confuse refurbished products with open boxed items, because sometimes they can be both! Refurbished items are products that have been returned to the manufacture, then serviced, then returned back to the retail store. Sometimes the unit hasn’t been actually “serviced or repaired.” Sometimes the product was returned because it was missing an accessory, NOT because the product was ever damaged. Sometimes the product was refurbished because the casing was slightly damaged on shipping; so the manufacture replaces the body, however everything else is technically brand new. Sometimes depending on the manufacture, the retailer, and sometimes the current market, the refurbished product is sold at an insanely low price. Especially with camera lenses because lenses have a high turnaround rate; and most retailers don’t want to be stuck with older models, so to get rid of it fast, they will sell the items at a significant price reduction (which benefits both consumer and business. Refurbished products almost always come with original packaging, and warranty certificates. Manufacture honors their warranties in full on all refurbished products (this has been my experience on all major manufacturers).
USED: The term “used” is self explanatory. However, there is a difference between “retail used,” and someone selling on eBay used. It is extremely important that you carefully inspect every camera or lens you before you purchase from someone. Keep in mind that if you purchase from a camera store, you get at least a 30 day in-store warranty, and an option to purchase an extended store warranty for that “used” product.
DISPLAY PRODUCTS: Personally I would stay away from purchasing a camera display. Unless they are giving you a great deal, with warranty included.
Although I personally prefer my camera body brand new instead of “used” (just cause I don’t want wear and tear), however open boxed/used/refurbished products are a huge business in the photography world; and you should not be scared of them, so long as you are on your P’s and Q’s. Make sure that the store/person you’re buying it from has a good reputation. If you’re buying online such as amazon, make sure the vendor (not the product) you’re ordering from has a good rating. You want to make sure that the vendor sold refurbished before, and that consumers had a good experience, and they are trustworthy. I find that you can get better deals on lenses (which is more important). I have purchased refurbished lenses for more than half off it’s market value (be it online or in a retail store). Personally, I would only purchase from a vendor and NOT an individual, because 99 percent of the time, if you want to return the item there is no hassle. Even if you purchased your refurbished item in a retail store, if you purchased their extended warranty, you are still getting it at a significant reduction in price. In terms of lenses, I think it’s worth getting the store warranty; simply because it is a mechanical unit with moving parts, and if you use it a lot, it may need maintenance every once in a while (which labor and parts costs). Understanding what lens you are buying, and it’s market value is key. A Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor, is not that same as a Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR the big difference in price is because one has VR (Vibration Reduction) and the other doesn’t. So don’t go on a rant inside a store saying “that looks like it will work in my camera “how come I can’t have it for xxxx price?” Also, be forewarned, aperture, and the “from” and “to” zoom capacity of your lens makes a difference in price. Also keep in mind, the smaller the aperture number the greater the price, the greater the zoom capacity the greater the price; not to mention the physical weight of the lens will also increase. Do not equate the heavy weight with having a “sturdy quality,” it’s just that more glass is needed to get the type of lens you need. Period. Understand the differences between cropped and full framed lenses. Not all 3rd party lens work good with brand named cameras (plus the quality isn’t always equivalent either).
In the end, do your research because it will pay off big time. It is ultimately your decision, but there is no doubt that understanding photo technology will give you a huge edge when it comes to buying parts and accessories for your camera. Please do not depend solely on the sales person. Good luck!
There are literally billions of web articles on tips on how to take the “perfect” photo; probably there exist an even larger amount on printed magazines by now. Each author’s article has their own spin on what is a “perfect” photo. In my opinion, I’m not sure if such a thing exists? I say this simply because like any other forms of art, the meaning of what is perceived to be a “perfect” photograph, is subject to one’s personal opinion. But at the same time, a truly artistic photograph’s purpose is not to tell the viewer “look how beautiful I look.” The purpose of photographic art is to make the viewer think about it’s story (although it can be both beautiful and tell a story). But what is the formula for this? This is one of those questions I’m not sure I would readily answer in a room full of paid photographers; many times these conversations can turn in to the equivalent of political discussions. Although, I think its still important to listen in to some of those discussions, because often times you’d hear valuable information. The important thing is to only add those things that resonate with you personally, before you add them to your existing pool of photographic knowledge; opposed to just taking that information and let it become a part of you. In other words, one single thing isn’t going to work for every situation. In my opinion, this is just as bad as someone who never gets off using his/her automatic settings; yet often that same person usually bombards you with millions of questions about “how did you do that.” Just for the record, personally I don’t mind when people ask questions; this is how we learn obviously. But, if you really don’t intend on opening your mind to experiencing new ways of doing things, how do you expect to really understand photography? Especially if you have a DSLR? Keep in mind, there is nothing wrong with staying on automatic if that’s what makes you feel most comfortable. However, any good photographer will tell you, your camera can’t calculate the best exposure all the time. Having said that, there comes a time when you will need to take control.
If you want to get off auto, there are 7 major parts of your camera you MUST understand and grasp. There is no way of getting around this, if you don’t want to take the time to understand these 7 principles, then it makes no sense talking to a photographer about creating the “perfect” shot:
- Focus Modes & Focus Points
- White Balance
- Natural Light
Anything beyond these 7 (that I can think of at the moment) are unimportant. When your camera is set to auto, 6 out of these 7 things are controlled by your camera. I’m just going to give you a quick run-down. Anything beyond what I’ve written you can use Google.
Aperture. This is what gives you your depth of field (or bokeh). What creates this? It is the hole that the shutter blades create inside your lens. The wider the blade, the smaller the F-stop. The greater the F-stop number, the smaller the shutter hole will be. Smaller number for greater depth of field, larger number for less depth. When using certain lens filters, be sure to read the documentation, because some of them actually take away a couple of stops, and you’ll have to compensate/take in to account.
ISO. Simply put, it’s your sensors sensitivity to light.
Shutter. This is what controls your exposure time. Contrary to beliefs, the shutter is not the granddaddy of all camera features. It is simply a function like any other camera function. There is no magic shutter number. The only number that’s important, is the number that is needed for that split second in time.
Focus Mode & Focus Points. I almost forgot about this. Not sure if it’s called something different on the Cannon. But the focus mode and focal points are extremely important, especially if you’re shooting sports. it can really help reduce blur as a result of continuous movements from your subject. Learning how to use this feature can also ensure that several subjects are all focused in one frame.
White Balance. Not enough photographer talk about white balance. White balance controls the “white” in the color your sensor sees, and keeps it balanced. I think the best way I can explain it is, your camera interprets light color by using the kelvin temperature scale system. Many different light sources emanate light at various temperatures. So for instance, if your indoors, the sun would be one light source, your light bulbs is another light source, florescent light bulbs is another source, candles is a light source, mirrors can also be a new light source (because it bounces light, the direction of where the light is bouncing from can change temperature too). Believe it or not, whether it’s Winter or Summer also effects temperature emanating from light sources. Your camera tries to calculate and balance the correct colors based on the readings of the various temperatures, but staying in automatic mode doesn’t always do a good job. If this happens, you manually use a “White Balance” card to tell your camera what temperature level to start from. Do not confuse this with using “flash color correcting gels.” The difference between the gels and white balance, is that gels cast a color hue over the entire frame; whereas the “White Balance” feature changes/shifts your camera’s internal color palate. Although you can change the White Balance using a good photo editing software, I think it’s worth doing it in your camera instead. There are a ton of videos on youtube about White Balance.
External/Internal Flash. I feel that flashes are under discussed in the photography community too. Guys, know that flash is not the enemy! Sometimes you need a little help from your flash, it’s not a bad thing. However, I should also add that if you want to make most of your flash, you should know how to operate both external and internal manually as well. Understanding when and when not to use a diffuser, and what kind of diffuser. There may also be times when you will need to use a flash off camera; and understanding how to control the power is important. Its all part of learning how to manipulate light in order to get the exposure you want. The flash is just another different kind of light.
Natural Light. The last one is not a camera feature, but it is the very essence of photo taking. We must learn how to see light. The direction of light, its shadows, contours it makes around the subject, and so forth. All of these things will help you figure out the best camera position, angles, and poses for your subject. Once you can see light, you can learn how to manipulate it to serve your purpose.
Side Effects. It’s equally important to note that all these five important features all control light in different ways. But they also all have side effects. An aperture hole too small will become too dark. An aperture hole too open with an high ISO would be staggeringly white in some circumstances. Even different white cards can give you different results, which is one of the reasons why some photographers are anal when it comes to certain products. Each lighting condition will give you different results. Not every bad exposure can be fixed in LightRoom or Paintshop, so it’s important for you to take the initiative and do the extra work required for a good shot. Understanding the above will help you get the photograph that YOU want, and gain better control of your camera. Although the type of lens and sensor you have does make a difference too; however, even if you don’t have the most expensive equipment, understanding all of the principles above will help create the best photograph using your available resources.
Alright, this article has gotten longer than I planned 🙂 The bottom line, practice, practice, and more practice. Inform yourself, inform yourself, and even more reading, as well as being in the midst of other photographers. Having read the above article, now do you see why it’s insane that any person would make the claim that digital photography is “so much easier” than film? I digress. I hope this article was of value to you. Thanks for visiting.