One camera feature that is sometimes overlooked by photographers is Auto ISO! This is a mode where the ISO setting is adjusted by your camera to a setting that the camera predicts as a useful choice without you having to manually adjust the ISO all the time.
This is an especially perfect option when shooting handheld. When your camera is in Aperture Priority Exposure Mode, the camera is “thinking” about what ISO would be right to ensure the shutter speed is fast enough for handheld photography, minimizing the effect of motion blur caused by hand movement. It also takes into account the focal length you are using, and it does a great job at making a good choice for the ISO value to be used. It raises it automatically in lower light scenarios, but then brings it back down to lower values in brighter circumstances. That is exactly what you would want it to do!
One small distinction is with regard to Nikon cameras: Nikons have something called ISO Auto Sensitivity Mode. Rather than totally surrendering control of the ISO to the camera, as other brands do, Nikons allow you to still set the ISO value, and then when you enable ISO Auto Sensitivity Mode (in your menus), it will automatically will override your ISO choice if it thinks your choice is too low for handheld photography when in Aperture Priority Mode. That’s still a great feature! You could just set your camera to ISO 100 or 200 and just let the camera raise it automatically as needed.
Also, Auto ISO is quite useful in Manual Exposure Mode! In this mode, you then take control of both the aperture AND shutter speed, and the camera will try to choose the right ISO value that will work for that aperture/shutter combination (at least within the limits of your camera’s capabilities).
SO if you have never used Auto ISO before, I encourage you to check your user manual and try it out!
I encourage you, as a photographer, to purse the greatness within you. Your art can (and should) be distinctively your art! Sometimes we artists might find our creative selves sort of drifting between copying other’s styles or losing inspiration entirely.
I am a firm believer in embracing your individuality and don’t really worry about imitating others or even seeking the approval of others. Find the part of this art that motivates you to create more art, to improve in your skills and vision, which will lead to even better art!
Photography has been my life for a lot of years, and know first-hand how we artists can sometimes lose our inspiration. Or even if we do feel “inspired,” we still might feel like there must be something more we can do to expand our creativity.
Having taught countless photographers over many years, I have found many photographers think the key to better photography is just knowing their camera features better, and managing exposure modes, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all that. Yes of course those aspects are important. They are our “tools of the trade,” but they are just the starting point. The REAL journey in the art of photography begins when you get in touch with yourself and your creative vision.
I consider this SO important, I created a class for that called Photography: Finding Your Way – Creativity and Inspiration Workshop. The funny thing I’ve observed is that a lot of photographers think they don’t need that class but I sincerely believe every photographer would benefit from this workshop, so I can’t emphasize it enough.
Here’s one example comment from a class participant:
“It’s so easy as an amateur photographer to become overwhelmed with all the technical aspects of photography. And as a photographer at any level, there is often an expectation of working to get the best technical picture. Kevin does a wonderful job of teaching the technical aspects of photography, for sure, but his Finding Your Way class focuses instead on the joy of photography, on photography as an experience and way to express ourselves. We are all creative beings, an image of the great Creator, and it is healing to the soul to pursue that. In addition to revealing the depth of Kevin as an amazing person, this class gives permission and encouragement to explore our individual path of creativity using photography. We laughed, we cried, we learned, and we found the spark that drew us to photography in the first place. Thanks, Kevin.”
At times, I am tempted to say this class is required of any photographer who wants to take any of my other classes, but such a requirement just isn’t practical. So, I am left with just “urging” you to sign up, and see what you discover about you and your photography. (You can thank me later! 🙂 )
Whatever type of photographer you turn out to be, be a good one!
There are many ways to learn photography. While there is no one “right way,” there are choices you can make in where you devote your energy while trying to learn. For example, if you have a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, you’ll find it has so many options and features. Which modes should you use? Which should you avoid? What features matter most? These questions lead to important answers. When you are just starting out, you don’t really even know the questions to ask. All you know is you want to take better photographs!
As with anything in life, some lessons have to be learned the hard way. You’ll make mistakes, but those are learning opportunities. If you find a solution for a problem you’ve encountered, you have grown in the process. Still, I want to encourage you to consider some suggestions on paths you might choose in your process of learning photography.
Learn the Fundamentals
Get to know the basics of how a camera operates. Learn about the Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Exposure Modes, White Balance, etc. While you could just use your camera’s fully automatic mode, you’ll miss out on some great capabilities you might not even realize your camera can do. Starting with a firm foundation in the fundamentals of photography is always a good possibility for beginning your learning. I have a class calledPhotography 101 Fundamentals of Great Photographythat would be a good starting point. Also check out my book on Amazon, “30 Practical Tips for Better Photographs.“
Expand Your Creativity and Inspiration
Just as important as the technical details are the artistic considerations. More than camera settings, this is about how you see the world, what excites you, what motivates you, and what inspires you. It is so important to explore this side of the art of photography as well. In fact this is also a good starting point. Or after you learn the basics, I’d recommend devoting some time to this other artistic side of photography. I highly recommend taking this course I teach “Photography: Finding Your Way – Creativity and Inspiration Workshop.“
Gradually Advance Your Skills Further
Once you have been exposed to the basics of camera settings, etc. It is wise to remain always in that mode of seeking to learn more, and practice, practice, practice. I encourage you to keep striving to be more comfortable with adjusting camera settings for a variety of different scenarios, indoors, outdoors, actions shots, night sky shots, portraits, wildlife, nature, etc. I have a Photography 201 – Expand Your Photography Skills class you might consider. Also, sharpen your nature photography skills with this class: Nature Essentials Photography Class.
Be a Student of LIGHT
Pay attention to light, both in the good qualities of light and the not-so-good qualities of light. Learn to manage and manipulate light. Quite often a photograph can be improved dramatically by simply using better light. I occasionally offer a course on light and photography. As we move further past this pandemic, I am sure I will offer this class again! Either way, this is something you can study on your own, too. Pay attention to the qualities of light that you find attractive, and take more photographs with that type of light. The more you do this, the better your photographs will be! Also, if you are trying to figure out how to use electronic flashes (often called SpeedLights) I have a class for that: Flash / Speedlight Photography Workshop.
Learn the Software
A very important part of digital photography is the process you choose for managing and enhancing your photographs on the computer. I love Adobe Lightroom Classic. It’s a very powerful and full-featured program. I offer a class that will get you off to a great start: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC Workshop. And then, when you are ready to really explore the full amazing photo editing capabilities of Photoshop, I offer this class: AdobePhotoshop CC for Photographers Workshop.
The real key to better photography is more about YOU than it is about your CAMERA. Sure, camera features matter, but what matters more is how you use your camera and how well you understand the fundamentals of photography.
There’s the old joke about a person who invites friends over for dinner. The food was wonderful and the guests all enjoyed the meal. At the end of the evening, they said to the cook: “That was a wonderful meal! What kind of pots and pans did you use?”
As photographers, our “pots and pans” are our cameras and lenses, etc. I am not saying our camera gear is unimportant. I am just saying what matters more is how you use them.
Or as Ansel Adams said: “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
The key to better photographs is about YOU:
Know the fundamentals of photography and all the technical aspects of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal lengths, white balance, etc.
Understand your camera features and use the right settings at the right times
Become an avid student of LIGHT, all aspects of light, qualities of light, ways to manipulate light, mixing light, creating beautiful light
Always strive to be better, always learning, always growing
Hey friends! I thought I should post a comment about this common misconception about the use of a flash diffuser in wildlife photography.
A few years ago, I took a quick snapshot with my iPhone of a photographer’s setup photographing elk over 50 yards away. In fact, he wasn’t just a photographer, he was a photography instructor leading a group of other photographers on a “wildlife photography workshop.” I have since seen numerous “photography experts” advising the use of this exact setup, with the claim that a flash diffuser like the one used above will “soften the light and blend it more naturally in wildlife scenes.”
I don’t want to embarrass anyone who may do this, but actually this advice is totally incorrect. Adding a flash diffuser on a speedlight/flash while shooting wildlife with a telephoto lens like this is totally pointless, so don’t bother following that advice from “experts” who claim it is so important to do so.
Let’s say you just put a flash on top of your camera, without a diffuser. Depending on whether your flash has a zoom capability, its light distribution will vary a bit, but the light will be projected outward like below.
The only portion of the light that illuminates the elk are the light rays in the red region. The light that goes above the elk, into the sky, has no effect on the photograph.
IF you use a flash when doing wildlife photography, really the only thing you need to make sure you do is to not have the flash be a dominant source of light. It should only be adding a small amount of light on the animal, otherwise the photograph will not look natural.
In this case, with the elk being 50 yards away, it is not likely the flash will even have that much effect on the photograph, given the inverse square law of light will result in only a small amount of light illuminating the animal. That’s ok since you don’t want much light contribution from the flash anyway.
Now, let’s say we add a diffuser on the front of the flash because so many “experts” say that will soften the light on the animal. Note below how the light rays are just scattered more broadly by the diffuser. Doing so, does not “soften” the light whatsoever. It only scatters the light.
Again, the only portion of the light that illuminates the elk are the light rays in the red region. The light that goes above the elk, into the sky, has no effect on the photograph. And the light rays are just as much coming from a pinpoint source of light, and the light on the animal will not be diffused any more than if you used a flash without a diffuser. The light actually illuminating the animal will look exactly the same either way.
What’s worse, adding a diffuser will cut down on the light output of the flash by maybe 2 stops or so, right when the flash is already limited in being able to have much effect on a subject 50 yards away.
What that means is the diffuser, at most, is really just causing you to burn through batteries much more quickly because the flash will most likely have to push out a full-power pulse of light to have any effect at all, AND the light isn’t diffused anyway. And harder you make the flash work, the slower the recycle times.
Some people have questioned me on this, saying they have noticed that when they use a diffuser, it does seem to “soften” the light and make it not look as much like a flash was used. Actually, when that happens, what is really occurring is the diffuser is inhibiting the light output, so the ambient light is more dominant and the flash is less dominant. It is not really softening the light from the flash. It is just diminishing its light output by a couple of stops. You could also reduce the light output by reducing the power level of the light, or if you are shooting with TTL, use the flash exposure compensation to reduce the light output, and save your batteries. No need for a diffuser, ever, for a scenario like this.
Of course, this is a bit ironic, considering that little white device you can attach to your flash is often called a “diffuser” and ads for those devices often boast how they soften and diffuse the light, but that really is for indoor use where it scatters the light more broadly so it will bounce off more surfaces like walls and ceilings. For outdoor use, you won’t be bouncing the light off the sky. Keep your diffuser for indoor use. 🙂
I guess most of you have heard of the song “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Well this blog post really has nothing to do with that song. :-}
In this blog post, I am really am just briefly talking about how much a little help from electronic flashes / speedlights can enhance a portrait. They are my best friends for portraiture on location whether indoors or outdoors. The key is to use them to enhance and blend with the ambient light in the scene to make the image better.
I have seen so many people say they hate using speedlights because they just don’t like the results they get, the light is too harsh. Actually the trick is to use them in the right way. Of course, you sure don’t want to add bad light to a scene. Use speedlights to add good light, to a scene. By “good” I mean light that has attractive qualities, mixing in soft diffused light, or adding subtle highlights intermingling with the ambient light. You can do this with various light modifiers such as reflectors, photographic umbrellas, or softboxes.
So, this post is intended to just encourage you to not give up on speedlights. Just use them in the right way at the right time. They are your portable magic light sources if used in the right way. They are your friends.
Here’s a famous quote by legendary photographer, Ansel Adams:
“The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it.”
There is so much truth in this! What matters more than the particular camera features, is the photographer who is using it! You simply must manage the critical setting choices such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure modes, focusing, depth of field, focal length, white balance, metering modes, etc. The camera can’t make those choices automatically on its own and always get it right. You, as the photographer, must make those choices, based on the artistic intent that only you know. (The camera is not the artist, you are!)
We photographers must make choices that go way beyond camera settings. If we’re shooting portraits, we must bring out the best in the person being photographed, help them feel comfortable in front of the camera, shoot their best angle, manage the best qualities of light, etc.
If you are a nature photographer, you have a wide array of other issues to consider, the weather, sun angle and light qualities, timing, location, wildlife patterns, the flora and fauna at different times of the year, what time you’re getting up in the morning, travel plans, etc.
Yes your choice of camera gear matters, camera features, lens features, tripod quality, and all that, but still these other factors beyond the camera often matter more. Whether you shot the photo with a 20 megapixel camera from 10 years ago, or a brand new 60 megapixel camera will affect various image qualities such as level of digital noise, resolution and fine details, but ultimately the creation of a great image is up to you more than the camera. Whether you shot the image with a Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, etc. is secondary.
You are that important component that is “12 inches behind the camera.” Upgrade that component, and you’ll get better shots!
Practice, practice, learn, practice some more. Make mistakes, but learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be a better photographer!
I hear this from so many photographers! In fact, I’d say this is the #1 issue people encounter. The solution is multi-faceted and I’ll touch on the key factors you, as the photographer, must keep in mind if you want consistently sharp images.
Focus It is critically important to correctly focus on what is most important in your image. Whether it is an animal or bird in the trees in a wildlife shot, or someone’s eyes in a portrait. All current generation cameras offer automatic focus features, but you’ll need to make sure you really know how to use those features appropriately. A poor setting choice will lead to poor results.
WHERE to focus: You may not want the camera to simply automatically decide where to focus. Depending on your camera’s capabilities, that might even lead to terrible results. You might need to choose single point focus which allows you to point at exactly where you want the camera to automatically focus, or if you’re shooting portraits and your camera has an eye-detection feature, you could turn that on. Single point focus is pretty universal across all cameras, and that provides the greatest degree of control when automatic focusing.
WHEN to focus: Also, consider whether you want the camera to focus once, or continually focusing up until the shutter fires. For relatively static scenarios where there is not much movement, stick with One-Shot focusing (Canon) or AF-S (Nikon,Sony,…). For active scenes like an animal running or a bird in flight, use AI-Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon,Sony,…)
Aperture Your choice of aperture value affects the “depth of field” (range that appears in focus). While this is not a focus setting, it is still very important. The higher the f/number, the greater the depth of field. A poor choice for the aperture value could lead to problems with part of the image not being in focus. Let’s say you photograph a group of people. If they are not all the exact same distance from the camera, you need to make sure you choose a high f/number like f/8 or even higher (just depends on how far their distance varies). Photographers often forget about this, and this leads to serious problems.
Then there is one more issue related to depth of field and focusing. For higher depth-of-field shots, when you choose a higher f/stop you can also achieve better results by not focusing on the foreground or the background, but instead focus on something in between. This technique is called “hyper-focal focusing.”
Shutter Speed Sometimes a blurry photograph has nothing to do with a focus or depth of field issue. It might be an issue where the shutter speed was simply too slow to freeze motion of the subject, or freeze any camera vibration that is problematic at slower shutter speeds.
Handheld Shots: A general rule of thumb is to keep the shutter speed at least 1 / focal length to ensure you minimize hand vibration blur. So if you are shooting at 200mm, make sure the shutter speeds are at least 1/200th or higher. Technically you would need to take into account your camera’s sensor crop factor that affects the effective focal length of the lens. At least this rule gets you in the ballpark of sufficient shutter speeds. When in doubt, err on the side of faster shutter speeds. It can really make a difference.
Action Shots: When there is movement of different elements within a scene, you might need to choose even faster shutter speeds. For example photographing birds in flight or an animal or person running, you might want shutter speeds in the 1/1000th or faster range.
Image Stabilization This feature, offered by many different camera manufacturers under different names (Image Stabilization, Vibration Reduction, Vibration Compensation, Optical Steady Shot,…), is designed to help eliminate motion blur caused by movement in hand-held shots, allowing you to break that 1 / focal length rule by a bit. The features vary depending on the make and model of camera and lenses you are using, but are quite helpful. I most definitely highly recommend taking advantage of this feature in hand-held photography!
Using a Tripod Another way you can stabilize your camera is to use a tripod. It won’t eliminate motion blur in moving subject, but at least it will eliminate or reduce blur caused by camera movement. There are still some situations you must be mindful of.
When Image Stabilization is a Problem Sometimes when your camera is mounted on a tripod that otherwise-wonderful image stabilization feature actual can cause a problem in some scenarios and actually introduce some vibration. So the general rule is to turn off image stabilization when using a tripod. Otherwise it could conceivably introduce a slight amount of motion blur.
Unstable Tripod There are several ways your tripod might not be as stable as you’d like. Let’s say you have the tripod on a wooden deck, that you are also standing on. You can introduce movement that might cause some motion blur, simply by moving around, so stay very still. Or if you accidentally bump the tripod when shooting, that can cause a problem. Or maybe one of the legs is not latched securely and the leg slides down ever so slowly while you are shooting, that could also cause a problem (hey, I’ve seen it happen).
DSLR’s Have Mirrors There is one other factor that is more rare but can cause a problem. It’s the mirror inside a DSLR. You mirrorless camera owners don’t have to worry about this. Inside a DSLR, when the shutter fires, the mirror slaps up very quickly to get out of the way, for the shutter to open. That action causes a very tiny amount of vibration right when the shutter fires. Even if you have the tripod on very secure ground, there is always a slight possibility that this tiny vibration can hurt image sharpness. Some DSLR’s support a “mirror lockup” or “mirror up” mode. Check your camera user manual for more information. This usually is only a problem in rare cases where you are using a long lens (400mm+) and a moderately slow shutter speed (1/4th – 1/60th ish).
An Update on This Article: Almost two months after Apple released Catalina 10.15.2 (12/10/19) that caused the breakages, they released Catalina 10.15.3 (1/28/2020) which fixed the tethered capture bugs. The other problem I reported regarding that “Disk Error” message persisted even after updating to 10.15.3. I never found anyone with an answer to what was causing that, but I discovered on my own that it was a file permissions issue that was somehow introduced with the 10.15.2 upgrade. I had to modify folder permissions to allow Lightroom and Photoshop to have read and write access to the folder containing the files, even though in earlier versions there was no problems with this. I am still experiencing intermittent problems with my Mail app since upgrading. Not sure what the cause is. Very frustrating.
I have a MacBook Pro and recently upgraded to the latest Mac OS Catalina 10.15.2 and have been TOTALLY regretting having done so. I am hearing from several of my former students that they are also running into problems since upgrading to Catalina 10.15.2.
I have personally encountered several problems that I would categorize as SERIOUS and I hope will be addressed ASAP.
Here’s what a rep at Adobe says about Catalina upgrades on Mac: “You may want to remain on your current version of macOS until these issues have been resolved.”
For me, it was specifically the upgrade from 10.15.1 to 10.15.2 that started causing the most grief.
Strange behavior in my Mac Mail app, intermittently not being able to connect to my mail servers, but then the problem goes away, and then comes back again. Seem awfully coincidental with having just upgraded the OS.
The latest version of Adobe Lightroom Classic CC Version 9.1:
Tethered capture connecting via USB to any Canon DSLR (I have 3) simply does not work at ALL any more. Tethered capture is totally broken.
The Edit In Photoshop command when using the “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” is totally broken. Now I just get an error claiming there is a “Disk Error” but there is no problem with my hard drive (after scanning with Disk Utility for problems). The only time I get this error is when doing this one command from Lightroom. It simply does not work any more, at all.
I have heard from a couple of other people who were having problems opening their catalogs, although I haven’t encountered this problem (yet, at least).
Canon EOS Utility (3.11.1 latest version)
Tethered capture connecting via USB to any Canon DSLR (I have 3) simply does not work at ALL any more. Tethered capture is totally broken by any means, whether using Canon’s utility or Adobe’s.
Canon tech support says 3.11.1 is compatible with the latest Catalina, but I am experiencing results that are contrary to that.
My battery on my MacBook Pro is virtually brand new. I just replaced it a couple of months ago. I am noticing the power is draining at a much faster rate than it ever did before. At the moment, my battery is at 50%, but one hour ago it was at 100%. Checking to see what app has been the biggest power consumer, it reports Photoshop is the culprit. BUT I didn’t have this problem until I “upgraded” to Catalina 10.15.2.
p.s. 5 minutes have passed since I type this and I am already down to 40%
SO the bottom line is unless you have a very compelling reason you just need to upgrade to Catalina 10.15.2, I’d say DON’T DO IT.
Some people respond saying they haven’t experienced a problem with Catalina, but I am not sure that is relevant because lots of people ARE experiencing problems like this and if you search, you will find a lot of discussion and frustration over the problems. So if you upgrade, maybe you’ll be fine, or maybe you will totally regret it. I am in the latter category. :-/
I guess I’ll have to look into rolling back my MacOS to a previous version. That’s a pain also though. I am hoping Apple will make some fixes to resolve these problems OR I am hoping that Adobe and Canon can put out releases that work around these problems caused by the most recent Catalina release.
p.s. If anyone is curious about my particular model of MacBook Pro, here are the specs: Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013 model,2.6 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2 GB w/Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB; Hard drive: Apple SSD SM1024F
I have been a photographer for quite a few years, and I have taught photography classes to a wide range of photographers, from beginner to advanced, with almost every camera on the market.
Over the years, I have occasionally discovered various myths photographers sometimes believe and are perpetuated in the photographic community.
I’ve noticed the reason behind the photography myths are varied:
They just “guessed” something to be true and never tested their assumptions.
It might have been a standard practice that was relevant back in the old “film” days but is not relevant today.
Everybody in their camera club does it this way, but no one knows why. (“Hey if everybody’s doing it, it can’t possibly be wrong.”) 😉
They had an instructor who taught them incorrect information.
They read it in a camera user manual or photography book.
Believe me, this isn’t an exhaustive list. These are just some “off the top of my head” I am writing down on a Saturday morning. I won’t bother with photograph illustrations of each, but if any of these don’t make sense, just ask and I can add an example.
Uncovering Some Myths I Have Heard… Here are 10:
Myth: Some people are “just not creative.” Truth: Brene Brown said it best: “There is no such thing as creative and non-creative people, only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.” So don’t give up too soon by believing the myth that you just can’t be creative. (I have a class that would help.)
Myth: The purpose of Neutral Density Filters is to cut down on glare. Truth: I hear this a LOT from people who were mistakenly told to use an ND filter on bright days to reduce glare. The purpose of Neutral Density Filters is to enable the use of slower shutter speeds.
Myth: Keeping a Polarizing Filter on your lens all the time will make your photographs more colorful. Truth: Actually if you adjust a polarizing filter on a per-shot-basis, you might be able to get richer colors in blue skies and eliminate some glare and reflections, BUT you really should not just keep a polarizing filter on your lens all the time. Only use it when you need to. For removing reflections, it is great! For just enhancing the colors in the sky, you can do that easily in post processing without using a polarizer. Negative side effects you’ll get by shooting with a polarizer all the time is slower shutter speed or unnecessarily high ISO values just adding digital noise to all your shots. Only use it when you really need it. Otherwise, take it off!!
Myth: The key to a more perfectly exposed photograph is to have a histogram that is a nice bell-curve in the middle range. Truth: I actually read this in a camera manual, but that is not at all a universal truth. For a dark image, the histogram should have a hump on the left. For a bright image, the histogram should have a hump on the right. For an image that has both bright and dark areas, the histogram might have a hump on the right and left like an inverted bell curve. There is no one “right” histogram for all photos. It depends on each individual shot, and most importantly pay attention to the left and right sides to make sure you are not having the dark areas fall off into blackness (clipping) or bright areas blowing out to pure white.
Myth: You should never use higher ISO values. Truth: While higher ISO settings do result in higher digital “noise” (a graininess), keep in mind that modern digital cameras are offering better and higher ISO ranges. On a camera that goes up to 102,400 ISO, a value of 1600 is not bad and you can always apply noise reduction in post processing. If you have an older camera that only goes up to 3200, though, 1600 is not going to be very good. So it really depends on the camera you are using. Twenty years ago, I had a camera that was terrible at 800. Most modern cameras do much better, and note there is a REASON camera manufacturers are pushing their technology to higher ISO ranges. Higher ISO values allow you to take photographs that were much more difficult in “the old days.” Higher ISO ranges allow you to ensure the shutter speed is fast enough to freeze action. If you are so afraid of high ISO that you don’t use it, you’ll get motion blur that might ruin the shot, and that is not nearly as fixable as simply applying a little noise reduction. The main point with ISO selection is do not be afraid to use higher ISO when needed, but don’t use it if you don’t need it.
Myth: The best camera exposure mode to use is P (Program) Mode. Truth: I noticed a pretty prominent online photography instructor was saying this, and his reason was you don’t have to do any thinking and that the camera chooses the “best” settings for you automatically. That’s just not true. It has no way of knowing what’s “best.” The fact is, the two most important settings that give you the most creative control in photography is the aperture (which controls depth of field) and shutter speed (which controls the freezing or blurring of motion). Program Mode surrenders those important decisions to the camera which has NO idea what would be the best choice for any shot. So actually it is not the best camera exposure mode at all! Of the four modes, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program Mode, I’d say Program Mode is the one you should use the least if at all!
Myth: When using a tripod, always make sure to extend the center shaft all the way up before extending the legs, to achieve greater stability. Truth: I started hearing this myth coming from various photographers a couple of years ago after a pretty prominent photography instructor at a well-known school was telling his students that. I heard this from multiple sources and was truly baffled. All I can say is that’s just wrong, completely wrong. I am not just a photographer, I have two engineering degrees, and speaking as an engineer, that’s wrong. And just because it was so startling that anyone would make such an erroneous claim about how to best use a tripod, I contacted the well known professional tripod manufacturer, Manfrotto to see what they said. They agreed with me.
Myth: A good hand-held incidental light meter is essential for studio photographers. Truth: While it is true that they will give you very accurate information for adjusting lighting and camera settings, their greatest value was back in the “old days” of film where they were pretty necessary. These days, with digital cameras, you have the ability to simply take a shot and look at the image on the back of your camera and check the histogram and that gives you even more valuable feedback than just a digital display on a light meter. So, I’d say you should save the $500-$600 you might spend on a light meter and instead put that money into quality lighting instead.
Myth: You need a top-of-the-line camera to get the best quality photographs. Truth: You need to know how to use the camera you have really well. That matters much more than upgrading to the most expensive camera. Your choice of camera settings, managing shutter speed and aperture, ISO, etc. is really the key. I laughed one time when I saw an ad on Craigslist that said: “Camera for Sale – Takes great photographs.” That is like saying “Paint Brush for Sale – Paints great paintings.” What matters most is how you use the tool you have. You’ll see that some pretty outstanding photographs out there on the Internet were taken with less than top-of-the-line cameras. Granted the higher end cameras may have better features, faster frame rate, more sophisticated auto focus capabilities, more durable, etc. Still, the real key is you and how you use the camera.
Myth: You need more megapixels to get sharper shots. Truth: Unless you are always cropping way in on the photos you have taken, OR you are making extremely large prints, several feet in width, you don’t really need all those extra megapixels in the 50MP and up range. If you make 16×20 prints, you would be hard pressed to even see any difference. Instead pay more attention to ensuring your shutter speed is fast enough to eliminate any slight blur caused by hand vibration, and use IS/VR to further stabilize, and make sure you manage depth of field and focus carefully. If an image is not sharp, having 61 megapixels to record it won’t help at all. Besides, you’ll be filling your memory cards even faster, and you’ll have higher demands on card speeds since it takes longer to transfer from the camera to the card with large images, and then transferring the images to your computer takes longer, and you’ll fill up your hard drive faster. So you pay a real price for those extra megapixels. I am not saying the high megapixel cameras are useless. There are times when they are the right answer. But most folks simply don’t need them at all. Oh and one other point about “sharpness.” Sharpness is really more about edge contrast than it is about megapixels. You could just apply a little sharpening in post-processing your images and people will think you upgraded your camera. 😉
Let me know if you have heard other myths I should add to this list. I am SURE I have heard others I am just not remembering at the moment.
Happy picture-taking my friends!
Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes