Monday, October 13, 2008

Photography 101 - Ashrunner Style

Before I begin talking about my photos and all, a little bit of background on my style of shooting is needed. I am constantly watching, checking, reading up digital photography. Mostly to keep up with the latest gear, but also to find out what other photographers are doing.

When I first started in digital photography, I had a Sony Mavica FD-91. I could fit on the average, 7 of largest sized images it took on a 1.44 meg 3.5 inch floppy drive. So I carried a whole bunch of floppies with me when I went out shooting. I had no reason to worry about image format.

Later I upgraded to a Minolta DiMAGE 7i. With that camera, I could save images in either TIFF or Minolta RAW format. However, I had no idea of what the difference I began reading up on the formats and what I can do with them.

I came to the following conclusions.

First, TIFF when saved in a lossless format, are probably the largest files a camera can produce. I also determined that if I shot an image worth printing somewhere, a TIFF would, and generally is the format asked for.

Second, a photographer can do anything with a RAW file. What do I mean by "anything"? Simply this -- if I need a JPG, I can convert it to a JPG; if I need a TIFF, I can convert a RAW file to TIFF; if I need a certain color space, I can convert a RAW file to required color space.

Since coming to those conclusions, I rarely save my images in any format other than RAW.

These days, I shoot with a Canon Digital Rebel. Yes, the six megapixel imaging box which started the digital revolution. I like the camera. It has size, it has the right weight, and it shoots excellent images. From the first day I got the camera, it's been set on RAW for the file format and only changed to JPG for shots taken for other people.

I also shoot my images with everything set on the default settings. I don't add sharpness, or saturation or anything inside the camera...except in the cases when I shoot JPG...a bit of sharpening is added. But with my RAW shots, I also under expose by one third a stop. Yes, you read third of a stop.

The day I first read about the hacked BIOS for a Canon Digital Rebel, I found it, downloaded it and installed it. I haven't left home without it ever since. It has added so much to my camera. Among the additions was the ability to make exposure adjustments in one third increments, mirror lock up capability and other additions which I set and forgot.

But back to the one third stop underexposure. I do this to prevent blown out highlights. I live a desert environment and the light here is bright. The camera itself does a fabulous job of setting the exposure, but to be on the safe side, I underexpose that one third stop.

I also shoot in Aperture Priority and Manual 95 percent of the time. When shooting Aperture Priority, I set the aperture at f/8 and shoot away. When shooting manual, I use the Sunny 16 Rule and compensate for the light conditions accordingly. Read about Sunny 16 here.

When I do shoot in Manual, my camera is set to ISO 100, Aperture at f/8 and Shutter to 1/400. I use f/8 for most of my images as I have found the lens I shoot with 95 percent of the time, produces the sharpest images at f/8. Changing the aperture to f/7.1 or f/9 (one third stops up and down) doesn't change much for the images, so if I need a bit faster shutter, I drop the aperture to f/7.1 and if I want a slight increase in depth of field, I'll move up to f/9, or even f/10 or f/11.

So to review, I shoot with a 6 megapixel Canon Digital Rebel. I save my images in the RAW format. I set my camera to Aperture Priority and f/8 or Manual at f/8 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/400. I shoot 75 percent of the time at ISO 100, and as light fades, I move to ISO 200. These two ISO settings are the least noisy settings on my camera.

I realize a lot of people will disagree with what I have said above. I'm sorry, but I could care less what they think. The above works for me and hopefully, my images will bore this out.

In the future, I plan to talk about my workflow as it relates to digital photography. This will include the programs I use and some of the process I use to "develop" my files.

I hope I have covered my shooting style background in an understandable and complete way. If I haven't please leave a note to that effect and I'll see what I can do. Also, if you are curious about something I haven't covered, shoot a question my way. As my friends know, I am always willing to share what I know to help others.

Until the next installment of Photography 101 - Ashrunner Style...enjoy what you see here.

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