Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Working in "M"

What’s the Difference between and Amateur and a Professional Photographer?

Do you need a reason to set your camera to “M”?  Try these:
-    As a professional you should be the author of your images.
-    As an artist you must be the master of your tools.
-    To be regarded as an expert you must be able to tell how and why you created a given image.
-    Most important to you is the ability to recreate any photographic effect or style or technique, on demand, at any time, in the future; or to apply a given technique to a different subject in the future.

The only way you can know how to do these things at a moments notice with consistent quality, is to know the effect of all the various combinations of shutter speeds and f-stops at various ISO settings.  When does cool looking “grain” turn into unacceptable “noise” in Your camera—and at what degree of enlargement does that happen?  You need to know this. Why? Because a client, when you least expect it, may say, “Great image, make me a 50” print of that!” Photoshop is a marvelous tool, but it can’t fix everything.  If you used too high an ISO for your camera, that 50” wall print could look like crap.

If you used the wrong f-stop and did not get the depth-of-field you needed on that group photo you’re out of luck. The problem with the auto modes is that the camera does not know what it’s being pointed at; it does not know what the subject is.  Therefore, it can’t know the best f-stop/shutter speed for that subject.  Nor can it pick the best ISO because it does not know how large you’re going to print the image…heck You may not know that at this point!  And that’s just what happens when you throw the dice using the camera’s auto modes including auto-white balance. 

As professionals we need to immediately decide when we walk into any given setting what shutter speed/f-stop combination we’re going to use and why. Nothing new here, it’s always been that way.  Do you know with out thinking what to change when you are following that bride and groom from inside the church to bright sunlight outside the church?  Or what you need to do when the sun keeps popping in and out of the clouds during an environmental session. You should. If you look back in our film days we did all this with no preview screen on our cameras—we had to know the results before we got to see them! These days you also need to know the effect a given f-stop will produce with various digital cameras—because the depth-of-field of a given f-stop is different on cameras with different size sensors!  I’ll put it another way…Using exactly the same lens and f-stop on a digital camera with an APS-C-size sensor will have a lot less depth-of-field than a camera with a “full size” 35mm type sensor.  Do you know what your camera is using?  You need to know these things!

Here are some examples for you:

In ANY auto mode your camera connote be trusted to make a proper exposure of snow.  That's because its reflective metering system will always try to make it 18% gray--so, you'll get grey snow.

My camera wanted to expose this @ f11.0, 1/400 sec, ISO 400.  So, I opened up a couple stops to expose this at: f7.1, 1/400 sec., ISO 400

To photography my outdoor snow set at twilight using the Christmas lights as my predominant light source: I picked ISO 400 as my baseline to minimize noise--you don't let your camera pick ISO because IT certainly does not know it's own noise limitations!  Then I picked f10.0 for really good depth-of-field.  That then gave me a shutter speed of 2-seconds as measured with my, hand held, incident light meter. And because the incident light  meter measures the light fallen onto your subject instead of the light reflected off your subject, as your camera's reflective meter does, it's not affected by the very dark (the wood) or the very light (snow) features in this scene.

So, this is why photographers should use the big brain (the one that has a neck!) instead of their camera's little rat-like brain that tries to make the whole world grey!

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