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Tuesday, 22 April 2014


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I notice in this post (and the previous) you didn't seem to mention "chimping". I'm playing around with an Oly OM 50mm/1.8 on a Canon 5D and, if not for chimping, my whole-system learning curve would be way longer. As it is, I could figure out pretty quickly what kind of exposure compensation is needed to "fool" the 5D into setting the right exposure.

That said, I like your suggestion of using a studio to optimize your setup. I'm generally a street photographer, so in my case, I trade the studio for an afternoon of puttering in the back yard with a tripod on a cloudy day, but the result is the same.

well said Mike. With digital, the volume of photographs has increased; but the quality of composition has not, to the same degree, in my personal opinion, which is based on what I see in photojournalism and who-wins-what-prize...whether it be Nat. Geographic, or Pulitzer.
I used to go to Art Galleries to study paintings, playing the game where I was guessing lens and exposure and "printing technique" used for any , say, oil painting. With digital, corrections are easy, but Composition remains just as difficult as in the days of Film.

Mike, I can say that I haven't really seen any improvement in highlight recovery in the last few generations of cameras/software. If it's blown, it's gone. All the new "magic" in post-processing highlight recovery seems to boil down to "turn everything that's blown into a uniform grey".

The three pieces of advice I still give everyone who asks for (technical) tips haven't changed in years:

0) Take tons of pictures

1) Shoot raw

2) Get your white balance looking good (and don't even bother fiddling with it in-camera if you're shooting raw)

3) The "correct" exposure is the one that makes you happy, not necessarily the one that makes the meter happy.

4) With #3 in mind, always err on the side of underexposure. It's better to be two stops underexposed than 1/3 stop over. Tons of detail is can be pulled out of inky shadows, very little can be saved from blinding highlights, and blown highlights--even "recovered" ones--are much uglier than blocked up shadows.

Mike wrote, "Average and inexpensive lenses are getting better all the time, and the visual qualitative differences between really superb lenses and just very good ones are diminishing."

Does this mean that the price differences between really superb lenses and just very good ones will diminish as well?

[I don't observe that happening, do you? If anything, the opposite has been more the case. --Mike]

"As it gets easier to recover from an error, it reduces the penalty for making those errors—which tends to inadvertently encourage less care and more sloppiness."

Another example of that kind of behaviour is drivers who take more risks because of the safety features there car is equipped with. Risk compensation can ruin your picture and your life

I used to shoot raw most of the time. Now I shoot jpeg most of the time. It forces you to get exposure nailed as close as possible. It reminds me of shooting transparency film.

Ken Tanaka started me on this path: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/03/ken-tanaka-shooting-jpeg-instead-of-raw.html

"Exposure" seems rarely ruined by an errant camera's meter any more. In fact, in-camera metering systems have become just plain damn great often saving even the worst framing and timing judgements.

No, the ruin today generally takes place later at the keyboard.

I think the high quality of "average" lenses is pushing up the cost of the best lenses. First, the bar is just higher. Second, fewer people find it worthwhile popping for the very best lenses, meaning the volume ought to be down. (However, there is now real competition at the top, too. Canon and Nikon are at least seeing Zeiss lenses for their brands, as well as the usual suspects. Micro Four Thirds has Zeiss, and also Rokinon, Voigtlander, and adapters for everything.)

For some kinds of photography, opportunities exist very briefly. "Sloppy" is by definition bad; but "in a hurry" often has exactly the same signature, and being able to get usable pictures even when in a terrible hurry can be key in photojournalism, street photography, wildlife, sports, etc. This is how 35mm took over; people liked the grainy pictures of actual things happening better than the smooth nice pictures of stages setups (granted that you can to some extent shoot actual events in medium format; you're still working slower than 35mm people).


You're quite right about chimping, actually, with this exception: it can shorten the learning curve. Once I have an idea (and a general idea is all I need for this purpose) what the LCD will do on a cloudy day in the backyard then I can use it to give me an idea about the exposure I'm capturing, before I wander back in the house, plug the card into the computer and have a good look at the frames I've captured.

I think my previous comment suffered from the perils of distilling into two paragraphs what has actually taken me umpteen years of bumbling around with digital files to figure out!

Thanks for another featured comment. Thinking back to those many years ago I think I need to correct one thing I said. I'm pretty sure Steve was the AP photographer in Milwaukee, not Minneapolis. He went from our paper to work for AP in Columbus, Ohio, and from there to Milwaukee where he died much too young. I think that's right, though if there's someone out there who remembers Steve's later years better than I do, please correct me if I'm wrong.

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