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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is Sharpness Over Rated?







Who hasn’t admired photos with incredible sharpness? Tack sharp, from the foreground to the background. Just as the magnificent masters of landscape photography capture. Photographers spend a lot of money to buy the highest quality lenses, lug around heavy tripods, and spend a lot of time studying up on the latest tips all in effort to capture the sharpest possible image. But is it all worth it? Or is sharpness over rated?

Photography is art, and like all art & beauty, tastes vary greatly. Most photographers try to achieve ultimate sharpness in their images, attempting to capture images with the most details. That is often a good thing and works for many different subjects from portraits to landscapes. But as usual, I would like to offer an alternative point of view.

I love soft and dreamy imagery where the viewer can feel the mood and atmosphere. Yes, many of my images are sharp. Either all the way from foreground to background, or sometimes with just a sliver of sharpness as in my shallow depth of field floral images. But occasionally I’ll experiment with creating images that have more blur than sharpness. Sometimes I’ll even deliberately capture images that are a total blur. A Simplified, impressionistic interpretation of a world over saturated with distracting details can make for an interesting image.

Most photographers start out trying to capture the sharpest, most detailed photographs possible. But as time goes by and we get deeper into the craft, many of us start to appreciate creative blur. Creative blur is not for everyone, some people never appreciate that type of imagery. And then there are the many that do enjoy viewing those images, but have no interest in creating them. And that’s OK, just because you can appreciate a style of art doesn't mean you need to incorporate it into your own work. Diversity is a wonderful thing.


For those of you interested in creating images with creative blur read on.

1
Know The Rules
In order to create deliberate & creative blur in your images, a good solid base knowledge of knowing how to create tack sharp photographs is necessary. Know the rules and then figure out how to break them to present a whole new interpretation of your world.

Use of a telephoto lens at its widest aperture
 while working at a closedistance to these leaves
rendered a beautifully painterly style photograph.
2

Shallow Depth Of Field

My most used technique for creative blur. Using the widest aperture your lens offers is a good place to start with creative blur. I love images with shallow depth of field, where only a small part of the image is in focus and the rest of the image is in varying degrees of softness.

Depth of field is a term to describe how much of an image is focus from the near to the far planes of an image. As objects are different distances away from the camera, you may be unable to have all parts of a scene be in sharp focus all at once.

I don’t want to get into a lengthy discussion about depth of field here but here are a few tips on rendering images with shallow depth of field. Use a wide open aperture. When using wide apertures such as F2, often only a small plane of focus will appear sharp. How large this plane of focus will be depends on how close you are to your subject and how far apart the elements in your scene are. The closer you are to your subject, the less depth of field you will have. What lens you are using will also play a factor in depth of field. Use of long telephoto lenses usually renders less depth of field than use of wide angle lenses does.

To sum it up: Using a telephoto lens, shot wide open, and working close to your subject will render the softest, shallowest depth of field that your lens has to offer. I especially like this effect for flower subjects. But I also use it when photographing details in nature. I love when the background appears almost like a painted backdrop acting as a supporting role to highlight some feature in nature that I chose to single out such as some berries, or a branch filled with beautiful leaves. It is a technique that has become part of my signature style.


I used my Lensbaby 2.0 and a wide aperture to
render a soft image with some detail in the center
of the flower.
3
Lensbaby

I love my Lensbaby! This cute lens that resembles more of a toy than a serious photographic tool has added a whole new layer of style to my own imagery. I will dedicate an upcoming entire blog post just to this unusual len but here I will quickly say that this lens is a wonderful tool for images that have creative blur. Those of you that are unfamiliar with this lens should check out their complete lineup at:

http://www.lensbaby.com/

Basically it’s a lens with a flexible lens barrel which allows you to bend and tilt the optic resulting in creative blur. It is a simple lens which offers a shallow depth of field. It is my go to lens when I am seeking the shallowest depth of field and when I want to create impressionistic, "painterly" style images.





A combination of camera and subject movement
here made for an interesting photograph of a
professional wrestling match.
4

Camera Movement

Moving the camera during a long exposure, such as 1/10 shutter speed or slower, will "paint" an image. Move the camera up and down, side to side, swirly style, etc. Experiment with movement.

Panning is another type of camera movement. Using a relatively slow shutter speed, you press the shutter button and follow a moving subject. A 1/20 shutter speed is a good starting point. Works great for moving subjects such as horses, race cars, runners, bicyclists, and many other types of action.








5

Zoom!

Another time honored technique is to use your zoom lens, press the shutter button and zoom your lens at the same time while using a slower speed. A 1/10 shutter speed is a good starting point to render a nice zoom effect.

6

Sharp / Blur Combo

This technique works best when using a tripod. A scene that contains both static and moving features make for ideal subjects for this type of photograph. A long time favorite technique of landscape photographers when photographing waterfalls, rivers, and wind blown foliage. The still parts of the image will be sharp while the moving parts (water) will be creatively blurred. This technique works well with many subjects. Experimentation with different shutter speeds is key, 1/20 second is a good starting point.

7

Focus? What’s That?!

Sometimes an image looks just fine with no focus at all. A good way to experiment with this technique to is to manually focus your camera and watch the image in your viewfinder. When you see an abstract image that pleases you it is time to press the shutter button.






In Photoshop I combined a photograph of a
cloudy sky and some flowers that I took. I then
added a bit of lens flare and enhanced the color
a bit.
8
Software

You can use a variety of computer programs to selectively add softness and blur. This option does offer the most control as you can choose to capture a sharp image and then later decide which parts to selectively blur and by how much. I prefer to do it in camera, it is more fun and saves you computer time later. But software is another option for those that either want more control, or want to add softness after the image has been captured sharply. I don’t think software realistically renders softness the same way the camera does, but sometimes it does work and there are a lot of new programs out there that now do a good job with mimicking various softness effects.



9

Optical Filters

Good old fashioned optical lens filters. Yes, they still have their place in this digital age, especially if you are like me and enjoy getting effects done in camera. Fun filters to experiment with include: soft focus, soft focus with clear spot, zoom/motion effect, mist & fog, and more. Another technique that is fun to experiment with is using a clear filter smeared with petroleum jelly.

10

"Found" Filters

Photographing behind objects such as textured glass, fishnet, screens, translucent fabrics, colored plastic, and just about any other semi-translucent material will work to capture images with unusual patterns, abstractness, and softness.
I used a telephoto lens shot at its widest aperture to render the
pleasant out of focus background which helped to make the
subject pop in this image.
I hope these tips will get you started on your creative journey.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Capturing Autumn Color


The peak colors of autumn last only a couple of weeks, but the time before and after peak color can also render beautiful photographs for those that are observant and persistent in their photographic efforts. Autumn color is happening now and lasts for such a short while. Don’t just spend all your time sitting there on the computer, get outside with your camera, and capture that color before it’s all gone!

Here are a few tips & techniques to keep in mind while out there capturing one of mother nature’s most spectacular shows:

Shoot in overcast light to capture subtle details and bold color
Shooting in the overcast light of cloudy days can help to render detail in boldly colored leaves. Subtle gradations of color come through, rather than blow out like they can on sunny days. When shooting on cloudy and rainy days, aim for tight compositions in which boring white and gray skies are mostly cropped out so as not to detract from the lovely bold colors of the trees. Overcast days are also great for shooting macros and closeups.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


 Capture glowing back lit leaves
    I love the way that semi translucent leaves glow when lit up from behind. Back lit leaves look best when contrasted against dark backgrounds, such as dark tree trunks or trees that are in the shade. In this situation, I tend to set my exposure value to -.3 to –1 to render the boldest colors. Bracketing your exposure is a good idea in contrasty situations such as this. More on bracketing shortly.
Look for strong shadows and bold silhouettes
I love to look for strong shadows and silhouettes all year long. But autumn is a favorite season for these types of images. Bold silhouettes, such as interesting tree trunks or other strongly shaped silhouettes look particularly stunning against bold color. As days shorten, the sun remains lower in the sky than it does in summertime. That type of lighting makes for an ideal situation to capture long shadows cast from trees. Low angled sunlight also works well to spotlight leaves. Place those spot lit leaves against darker backgrounds for a stunning effect. I also like to capture spot lit leaves against a tree trunk as the leaves will often cast interesting shadows on the tree trunk. Again, here I tend to go for slight underexposure to render the boldest colors and darkest shadows.





Capture autumn’s bold colors in reflections
I always love to look for reflections during any season. But autumn’s reflections can be particularly appealing because of the season’s bold colors. There are many different ways to capture those beautiful reflections. Three of my favorite ways are:

1. The wide view that shows both the landscape and the reflections in a single image.
  1. 2. Bold color reflected in water that acts as a wonderful background for the main subject, such as a rock, statue, bird, etc.
  2. 3. In its pure abstract form, just a simple celebration of color and pattern.

Capture Landscape views with deep focus
When capturing landscape views, using a small aperture (such as F8-22) helps to achieve sharpness throughout out the image. Of course when using such small apertures, less light is admitted into the camera requiring longer shutter speeds. Use of a tripod may be necessary to avoid images spoiled by camera movement. The basic rule is 1/focal length as being the slowest recommended shutter speed to handhold a camera. IE: if using a 150mm lens, shutter speeds under 1/150 generally require a tripod. It is just a guideline though. And if your camera or lens offer lens stabilization, you may be able to handhold the camera for 1-2 stops under the standard recommendation.


Experiment With Shallow Focus
Not all autumn landscapes need to be captured with deep focus. Use wider apertures such as F4 to capture a more painterly view of the landscape or to help distinguish individual and clusters of leaves from cluttered backgrounds. This has become my signature style. I love images that are mostly out of focus with just a sliver of the image being in sharp focus. An added bonus with this style of photography is that since you are using wider apertures and more light is entering through the lens, so you can use faster shutter speeds that are ideal for handholding. This technique works equally well for wider landscape views or when creating close ups of small details, although it is more frequently used by most for the latter.


Capture macro & close up views

While out capturing those wider landscape views, don’t forget to zoom in and focus on the details in the landscape. Individual leaves, interesting clusters of leaves, and other small details such as berries and seed pods all make interesting close up subjects. Switch to a longer telephoto lens, I like lenses in the 150-600mm range, to capture those hard to reach leaves on distant trees. Use of a macro lens will help you to capture macro images of closer subjects such as fallen leaves, seed pods, berries, and more. Don’t forget to look for interesting abstract patterns as well. Colors and patterns in leaves also make excellent abstract subjects, fill your frame with color and pattern.






Experiment with exposure for different effects
There are many different "correct" exposures for any given image depending on preference and the desired effect. I generally underexpose many of my autumn images to render the boldest colors. The exception to this is usually when I am capturing frame filling images of gold and light green leaves in overcast light. I recommend taking a few captures of a scene and changing the exposure for each one. This technique is known as "bracketing" and some cameras even have a setting where this is done for you automatically each time you press the shutter button. Refer to your camera’s manual to see if this option is available to you. This is a particularly important technique to use if you are shooting jpegs, but even if you shoot RAW it still is a good idea to bracket.



Capture the dreamy side of autumn with a Lensbaby
Use of a fun novelty lens called a "Lensbaby" can add a soft and dreamy effect to your autumn images. I love to bend and tilt the lens to create soft streaks of color. I already mentioned how I love images that are mostly out of focus with just a tiny sliver of the image being in sharp focus. My lensbaby renders this effect, but even more dramatically so and with the addition of being able create streaking and interesting blur effects. I’ll be posting more about using Lensbaby lenses in future blog posts, bu you can check out their web site right now for more information and their online catalog.










Pay attention to your composition
It can be a challenge to present a cohesive representation of what can sometimes be an overwhelming scene filled with many colors and patterns. Experience will help make this task easier for you as time goes by. Reading books and articles on composition can also help as they will give you useful guidelines. The subject is a vast one, too vast for this blog post. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. What is it that drew you into the scene in the first place. Was it the light? The colors? A unique feature such as a waterfall or a cluster of autumn leaves or wildflowers? Base your composition around those features.
     
                                                                 


2.  Move around to find just the right background for what you consider the main subject of the photo. For example, if you are photographing a single leaf or cluster of leaves on a tree, move around to position the leaves or leaf against the most pleasing background.

3. Don’t be afraid to shoot many pictures of one scene. Experimentation is the key to learning. Take a lot of variations and you will soon be on your way to being a better photographer. And remember: there is no one perfect photograph of any given scene, but many. Click away!
      I hope these tips have given you something to think about while you are out capturing autumn color. Now turn off the computer and get out there!


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    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    I Love My Backyard Birds!


    Dark eyed junco bird in autumn. Use of fill flash opened up the shadows a bit and added a subtle catch light to the eyes.

    I Love My Backyard Birds!

                   Birds are everywhere. We often take our common birds for granted. In New York City it was pigeons and sparrows. In suburbia robins and yet more sparrows reign supreme. Ducks on the lake are another common scene. Go to the beach and seagulls are there as a common sight. Most people either don’t notice them or find them to be a bit of a nuisance.

                  
    Creeping nuthatch on tree branch.
                   Birds are another subject that fascinated me as a child. My earliest attempts at taking photos of them in my teen years led me back to my childhood playground where the pigeons would always hang out. Pigeons are actually intelligent, friendly, and inquisitive. If you point a camera at a pigeon, many of them will start posing for you. They are used to being ignored and often enjoy the attention. I’ve even had the pleasure of photographing birds in Florida years ago. And even though my photo skills were far from where they are now, I still managed to capture quite a few keepers.


                   I’ve lived here in the Poconos since 1998, but it was in 2008 when I started to get really curious about our local birds.  Before then, I had never really bothered much with photographing our new cast of characters. I had felt that serious bird photography was out of my skill range. But the purchase of a 70-140mm (140-240mm in 35mm equivalence) got me focusing on these small fast moving targets. I got a few keepers and felt somewhat encouraged, even though I still felt that serious bird photography was out of my reach. It wasn’t until 2009 when I bought my 70-300 (140-600mm in 35mm equivalence) that my interest really took off.


    Goldfinch in springtime.
                   It started simple enough, put a little bird seed out and a few visitors would come by. Mostly dark eyed juncos , sparrows, and mourning doves (the pigeon’s country cousin.) After improving the mix of seed then we got visits from titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and the occasional woodpecker. But once again,  my husband got interested an took it to the next level. Adding suet and peanut butter to the mix, more woodpeckers and then wrens started visiting. Next we began putting out niger seed and that lured in visits by finches. We even have had a few rare visits by rose breasted grosbeaks. Cardinals like to  come by for the black oil sunflower seeds. And during migration, a hungry blue jay or two will stop by. Hummingbird feeders and flowers have rewarded us with regular humingbird visitors. And robins like to pop by to munch on our garden worms. Crows fly by, but don’t hang around much. It’s a good thing as they often scare the smaller birds and like to eat the corn we grow in our garden. We have even had hungry wild turkeys stop by in the dead of winter to eat any discarded seed that falls to the ground from our hanging bird feeder.
    A friendly chickadee.


                   My favorite times of the year to photograph birds are in autumn, winter, and spring. Summer usually has me distracted by my flowers, but I still remember to photograph our feathered friends when they stop by. Last summer I got to watch a mother bird teach her fledgling to fly. And this summer I got to watch juncos, woodpeckers and sparrows feed their juveniles and teach them to eat at our feeders. Very cool!


                   But it is in winter when these birds really make my heart sing. Winters here are long, cold and brutal. Never underestimate the joy of hearing a bird's song in wintertime. It somehow triggers that “summer feeling” and brings a smile to my face every time. Any time of the year a visit by a bird to our feeder can wipe a grumpy grimace off my face in mere seconds. I love my backyard birds!

    Female downy woodpecker.
    I still consider myself a novice on bird photography. But I have improved greatly over the past few years and here are my favorite bird photography tips. Follow these tips and your bird photography will also improve:

    1. Get a telephoto lens. One in the 500-600mm (in 35mm equivalence) is ideal. If you are using a camera with a high megapixel count, or if you are shooting large birds you can get away with a shorter lens in the 200-400mm range. But remember you will lose quality and megapixels if you have to crop the image too much in the computer. It’s always best to get the bird as large in the frame at the point of capture for the highest quality images.

    2. Put out a bird feeder with an assortment of treats. Be sure to place natural looking perches nearby, such as a twig, as birds will often perch there making for excellent photo ops without seed or food in the frame. Buy a book on backyard birding and you will find out what birds are local to your area and what foods they like to eat.

    3. Use aperture priority. I usually use aperture priority to capture my bird images as lighting conditions frequently change. In addition, I often find myself focusing on different parts of my backyard as I try to capture a variety of birds, which can also mean a great difference in lighting values as some birds are in shade and others in full sunlight. I don’t want to miss a shot just because there wasn’t enough time to change my settings before the bird flew away. I also use the RAW format to capture the images. That way if there are small errors in the auto exposure, there may be a chance to still salvage the image without the quality of the photo suffering because of it. See my earlier blog post, “Raw, JPEG, Tiff?” for more information on capture format which will explain exactly why that is.

    4. Use fill flash. Use of an on camera flash will freeze bird movement, add a catch light to birds’ eyes, and also will help to balance contrasty lighting situations. I usually set my flash to -1.7 stops so as not to overpower the natural lighting which looks disturbingly fake in photographs. I will discuss the use of fill flash in future blog posts. Learn from the experts. I recommend purchasing instructional photography books by Tim Fitzharris, David Tipling, and Arthur Morris.  You may also want to join photo workshops and tours led by professional photographers. They will lead you to where the exotic birds are and teach you valuable techniques to capture their beauty either on film or digitally.

    Mourning dove in early springtime.

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    Monday, August 29, 2011

    My New fan page on Facebook

    I just created a new fan page on Facebook. Enjoy my photography and blog posts? Why not give my fan page a "like". Put me in your newsfeed to view my photography as well as other updates on what I'm up to. Check it out!
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dorothy-Lee-Photography/198400046891248
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    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Passion For Flowers

        I love flowers and always have. From the time I was tiny two year old discovering flowers for the first time to now as an adult, I've always had an interest in flowers. Even though I grew up in New York City, I was always lucky enough to be around flowers. On the way to my favorite playgrounds, I used to pass a small garden. I have photos of me as a young child in front of this fenced in garden, I just loved those flowers so much. Surprisingly, this garden is still there and when I visit NYC I always make sure to stop and see what they have growing.

        Through the years I've always photographed flowers, but the photo marketing books always told me that photos of flowers were not high in demand. Since in my early years I shot film and found the costs prohibitive to just photograph things for my own enjoyment, I never fully explored the subject.

        Once I went digital and was no longer restricted by film and processing costs, I felt free to shoot more experimentally. It started simple enough, capturing images of wildflowers and potted plants in front of restaurants and homes that I may pass by. But then with the encouragement of my husband, I started buying potted plants. Tulips and hyacinths were first. A few weeks later I bought some more plants: gaillardias, begonias, petunias, & osteospermum daisies. More, more, more please. Geraniums, sunflowers, portulacas, impatiens. Oh, never enough flowers. Give me more! The colors, shapes and scents, I love them!

        Three years later, I not only fill my porch with annual potted plants, but thanks to my wonderful husband I now have a garden filled with perennial flowers that come back to visit me every year. I admit it, gardening is not my thing. My husband does most of the work. But I totally reap the benefits.

        And you know what? Those photo marketing books forgot to mention one thing: photos that you are truly passionate about will sell if you market them correctly. I have a passion for flowers!

        In future blog posts I will share many of my favorite tips on photographing flowers. I have many! So many, that I am putting the final touches on a book that I am currently seeking a publisher for. But in the meantime, here are five of my favorite tips to get you started.

    

    1. Pay attention to your backgrounds.
    Yes, my number one tip and one that I learned the hard way. After spending many hours retouching distracting backgrounds and deleting weak images flawed by poor backgrounds, I quickly learned to pay more attention to the background before pressing the shutter button. Seek out plain, simple backgrounds. Avoid backgrounds with light or bright distractions. Branches, stems and fences can also create unwanted distraction. Move around the flower to find the best possible background option.



     Left:
    For this image of a beautiful yellow Dahlia flower, I chose to use a complimentary background consisting of blue sky mixed with green trees. A wide aperture assured that they would be out of focus and that all focus would be on the beautiful flower.


    2. Photograph the prettiest blooms
    Unless it's a rare specimen or you are trying to capture a flower in its aging state, choose the most unblemished flower you can find. In person, it's easy to miss those minor flaws, such as a spot or tear and minor petal damage. But in a photograph those flaws will be highly noticeable. And don't think you can just easily retouch the problems later. Sometimes you can, but other times it is highly time consuming and frustrating. Unless you prefer sitting at the computer instead of being in the field, take the time to find the most unblemished flower you can find.

    3. Light
    Frequently, I look for the best light in any given location and then I search to see if there is something suitable there to photograph. Light can make or break an image. My favorite light for flower photography is bright overcast light. A bright cloudy day is the perfect time for flower photography. In this type of light subtle color gradations are clearly visible and there are no distracting shadows. But I also love backlighting and speckled sunlight. Even full bright sunlight can work for some flowers. The subject of light can easily fill a chapter in a book, and I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my upcoming book. I'll also be writing more about the subject of light in future blog posts.




    Right:
    The late afternoon sunlight back lit this Petunia to perfection.


    4. Use shallow depth of field
    Using a wide lens aperture, such as F2 or F4, renders the background out of focus which results in the least distracting backgrounds. Not a technique to be used for all flower images, but one that is a favorite of mine. I love soft and dreamy floral imagery. But occasionally I opt for a smaller aperture, such as F8 or smaller, when shooting detailed close ups or ultra wide views where I want an entire field of flowers or the background to be all in focus.





    Left:
    I used my Lensbaby lens and a wide aperture to capture this ultra dreamy rendition of this boldly colored Orange Symphony African Daisy flower.




    5. Get Close
    Unless you are going for an ultra wide view to illustrate a flower in its environment or an entire field of flowers, you should get close. Don't be shy! Get right on top of your floral subject, it won't mind. Just be careful to not cast any unwanted shadows onto your subject or background. Although I do actually have a use for that shadow, discussed in my upcoming book. Hey, and while you're down there, why not explore capturing different angles of your beautiful subject?




    Right:
    I got close to this stunning Dahlia flower and used the widest aperture on my telephoto lens to render the distant trees completely out of focus resulting in a smooth and complimentary green background.


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    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    RAW, JPEG, or TIFF?



         Capture file format is a subject that has been discussed over and over again in blogs, forums, books, and magazine articles. Opinions differ wildly but most do agree, the RAW file capture format offers the  most flexibility in processing and highest quality images and that JPEG is the quickest and easiest to capture & process as long as you need to get all the settings right in camera. TIFF offers high quality images, but the file sizes are the largest and just like JPEG you need to get the settings right in camera. Most agree that there isn't much benefit to capturing images in the TIFF format.

        I have tried all three at various points in time and have made the choice to use RAW for my scenic, nature, and floral images and JPEG most of the time for my event photography. Why? Let me express my own personal opinions as well as further elaborating on each file format's strengths and weaknesses.
       
    RAW:
        Indisputably offers the best and highest quality images that your camera has to offer along with flexibility in processing. The images are more "elastic", you can change things like color balance and saturation without degrading the quality of your images. The RAW files can also be processed to either offer more detail in either the shadow or highlight areas of your images. Processing an image both ways, you can later combine those 2 images in a photo editing program to create one image with more detail in both the shadow & highlight areas in a scene than you would with just a single photo alone. Not as much detail as you could by using fancy HDR (high dynamic range) programs and a series of 3 or more image captures, but still an improvement over a single processed image alone. More about that in a future blog post.
        There are 3 main drawbacks to RAW. 1. Files sizes are larger than JPEG (but smaller than TIFF.) 2. The file format can be difficult to deal with on the computer end of things. Many programs can not read the RAW format and you will need a special program to view and process them. Your camera manufacturer's own file processing software does a great job with that, as well as Photoshop and many other third party software. 3. Extra processing time. RAW needs to be processed and then saved as a standard file format (such as JPEG or TIFF) to be viewable in general software or computer browsing software. This may involve you to have to work on your images twice, once time for RAW processing and then again then another round in your regular photo processing software for any advanced image enhancements that you may want to make.

    JPEG:
        The smallest and easiest to manage file option. If you choose the highest quality JPEG file option that your camera has to offer and expose the image properly at the time of capture, the resulting images can be quite beautiful and hard to distinguish from RAW. There may be some slight loss of quality and a smaller gamut of color due to the JPEG compression, but most viewers won't be able to notice the difference. But you really do need to make sure you nail your exposure and color settings at the point of capture as JPEG images quickly deteriorate when you start to alter them. JPEG artifacts and digital noise often increase when a JPEG image is overworked in a photo editing program.     In my own work, I notice that there is almost no chance for highlight detail recovery if an image is overexposed and if an image is underexposed and later brightened during computer processing, then there is an unacceptable increase in digital noise (similar to film grain, but more objectionable due to the resulting colored specks.)
        JPEG is the best choice when card space is at a premium or when you don't really  have the additional time and patience to deal with the extra processing that RAW requires. Just remember that you really need to get it as close to "right" in camera or your image quality will suffer.

    TIFF:
        Similar to JPEG as the images are readable in nearly all computer programs but there is no image file compression so the file sizes are larger and the image quality is slightly clearer. There also is a slightly better gamut of color. The files are slightly more "elastic" than JPEG, they don't deteriorate as quickly as JPEGS when changes are made in photo editing software but it is still best to get it as close to right in camera for the same reasons as JPEG, just slightly less so.

        I tried this format for a while and came to the conclusion that it's not worth the extra file size. I choose RAW or JPEG.


        A recent computer breakdown this year has me working on a shared computer. I started using JPEG for my scenic and flower images again, in attempt to save myself some computer time. I stuck with the plan for about a month before deciding to switch back to RAW. Why? I'm a handheld shooter that often chooses to slightly underexpose my images in order to use a faster shutter speed to avoid blur due to camera shake when using slower shutter speeds handheld. One stop can make a big difference for me. But I noticed an unacceptable increase in image noise when brightening the images during computer editing as opposed to the same amount of brightening for my RAW images. I also like to have the option of changing color balance later when necessary. Sure you can alter the color balance of JPEGs later, but it just never really looks as good as the same fix in RAW. To me it's worth the extra processing time. And I actually find that I have to do less editing to my images in Photoshop with the RAW processed images. Most of the alterations to my captured images are just simple things like altering color balance, brightening the image, and sometimes adding a slight boost to color saturation. All done during RAW processing. In Photoshop, usually all I need to do afterward is some minor cloning out of spots or distractions in the background, a slight darkening of edges or background, and perhaps the occasional minor cropping of an image. I do like getting my images as close to "right" during in camera image capture. It's my preference.

        So which should you pick? My advice to you would be to experiment and make your own decision based on your own work and experiences and not to get to obsessive wondering what everyone else is doing or what they think of your choice. While many pros choose to work with RAW, there are still many others who choose to shoot in the JPEG format. If it looks right to you, then it is right. RAW simply is just not for everyone!

    So which photos were shot in which format here?
    The first and third photos (red tulips, yellow tulip closeup) were captured in JPEG and the second and fourth photos (viola, African daisy) were captured in RAW.


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    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Is New Technology Overrated?

        In my first blog post I stated that I purchased my first DSLR camera in 2006, and I also mentioned that I am still using this camera as my  main camera. I did not mention, however, that the camera I use was originally released in 2003. some may ask "why do you choose to use a camera that is using technology that is 8 years old?" Especially since I sell and market my images.

        Well let me start off by saying that I have never had any complaints about the quality of my work. Whether it is being used as a small editorial photo in a magazine, being used as a photo that spans 2 pages in a book or magazine, or being sold as an 11x17 art print. And yes, I can go even larger than that with careful upsizing in Photoshop.

        But I still haven't answered your question. Well, I'm not one of those people that crave the "latest & greatest" in technology. There are many people that feel the need to buy the newest technology simply out of a need to have the newest to show off to their friends or casual observers that they meet, or simply because they were told it's better by people "in the know." Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having the newest possible camera but you may not really need it. But I don't believe in going into debt just to buy the newest equipment. I am not out to impress anyone with my gear, only with my images.

        I am currently using two Olympus E-1 cameras. I do love m y current setup as I enjoy having two of the same camera bodies. When photographing at home, I usually leave one with my longer lens (70-300mm) attached so it's always at the ready to capture on the fly bird and butterflies when they come to visit. I then have my other E-1 with either my 14-54mm or Lensbaby attached, depending on what I may be photographing at the time. It is also nice to have a backup camera that is exactly the same as the main one that I am using. No need to worry about the main camera breaking down and then having to work with a backup camera that may have a lesser pixel count, a different look to the images, and a slightly different configuration of controls to deal with. After my eventual upgrade, that will be an issue for me to deal with. But not now.

        I love the ease of use of my E-1. The ergonomics of the camera has made a favorite with many. Plus the way it handles color is quite exceptional. Those two points are the reason the E-1 is still a popular cult favorite today. I am not alone in my love for this "dinosaur" of a camera. When I visit my favorite Olympus online photo forum, there are always posts from fellow E-1 users showing off their newest photos. And there are also posts from new E-1 users. Yes, 8 years later there are still new buyers for this old camera. I will upgrade one day but right now I am in no hurry.

        But you are probably still sitting there wondering if new technology is overrated and if YOU need the latest and greatest. Well, obviously I believe that new technology is overrated and that there is no shame in using a camera with older technology if it meets your needs. But everyone's needs are different. If you are thinking about upgrading your camera or if you are buying your first DSLR camera here are some things to keep in mind:

    1. Do you really need lots of megapixels? Are you going to print large or heavily crop your images? Or perhaps you would like to capture images with lots of detail so that you can zoom in and see all the details in
     a landscape, natural or urban? If so, then yes, you need as many megapixels as you can afford. If not, a lower megapixel count will render file sizes that are easy to manage and process. My E-1 is only 5 MP and I have not had any complaints about quality from my editors or fine art photo buyers. I do look forward to having more megapixels to play with in the future, but there is no rush.

    2. Do you need all those extra current features available in newer cameras? Most specifically I am talking about the recent inclusion of HD video. I don't need it and don't wish to pay extra to have it. Other often unneeded features may include 3 color histograms, rapid fire capability, numerous focus points for autofocus, additional automatic features and modes, super high ISO capability, art filters, etc. Keep in mind if they are in your camera, you are paying for them whether you use them or not.

    3. Are you out to impress your audience with your camera or your images? Be honest and choose accordingly. If you are going to shoot events like weddings, you may find yourself wanting to have the latest and greatest to show off. Plus the bride's "Uncle Bob" may have it and you don't want him to have the most expensive camera in the room, do you? Well, remember the bride hired you and not Uncle Bob because, quite frankly, his photos suck!

        If you do decide to shun the newest technology and go the alternative route of purchasing a slightly out of date camera, you now have the option to save money which can be used to purchase lenses, the photographer's "paint brushes." I and many other pros believe that this is the best investment over buying the latest & greatest camera bodies. You can choose to buy "brand new" (unopened with warranty) older model cameras or choose to buy used. I prefer the first option. This is also an option for lenses too, as they often update those as well resulting in stores offloading the older versions at lower prices. Again, used is also an option here as well since many photographers will upgrade and sell their used ones to help pay for their upgrade.

        Whether you are on a budget (yo!), smartly frugal, or just plain ol' cheap - buying slightly older technology may be the way to go. Don't fall into the trap of "the latest & the greatest."

    Photos used for this post, top to bottom:
    Gaillardia After The Rain
    This image won 3rd place in Popular Photography's Your Best Shot Contest, July 2011.

    Perky
    This photo of a cute deer on my front lawn was used as a cover for "Blue Mountain Momements", a local monthly magazine here in the Poconos, Pennsylvania.

    Summer Daisy Closeup
    Here I captured the wonderful detail in the center of a beautiful Summer Daisy osteospermum flower.

    In The Magical Light
    I recently sold an art print of this image that was captured in New York City's Central Park.

    All images captured with my Olympus E-1.


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