Tuesday, May 24, 2016


What’s the difference between an amateur and a professional photographer? These are some of the traits that define a professional:
  • As a Professional you should be the author of your images.
  • As an Artist you just 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.
  • As a professional you must be able to repeat any successful image techniques, at will, on different subjects, in the future.
The ONLY way you can achieve these is traits is to be in control of all the variables when you point your camera at your subject. In my world great images are NOT created by accident! It’s about planning (“pre-visualization” as Ansel Adams used to say) and control of your tools.

The problem with the camera’s Auto Modes (don’t even get me started on the “P” mode!) 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—just like it could not automatically pick a focal length for your zoom lens! 

Why would you want your camera, with its little rat-like brain, to make such important artistic decisions. Its worse when you realize it’s a blind rat! So when I’m covering an outside event, like the following images, from the Idaho Civil War volunteers I’m constantly changing my camera settings, along with focal length, as my subject(s) change.

 f5.6 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400., Lens @ 155mm
Settings rationale:

ISO - my baseline outdoor ISO is usually 400. It gives me the most versatility and with my Canon 5D MKII my images are noiseless when properly exposed.

F-Stop - the aperture setting is my most important variable for creative control for static or slow moving subjects.

Shutter Speed - what ever I can handhold until the light goes away.

Lens - I use the MOST telephoto I can in most portrait situations.

I picked f5.6 for the civil war gun crew because there was a large group of people behind them and I wanted to limit my depth-of-field.

To get more depth-of-field on my gun crew and to compress their group I backed away and zoomed to 155mm.

Trivia:  Backing away 10 feet will double your Depth-of-Field—if you change nothing else.

Because I’ve done hundreds of family portrait sessions at these settings: f6.3 at about 30 feet away with my lens @ 150mm giving me a D.O.F. of 4.6 feet…I figured I’d get about 12 feet DOF if I doubled my usual portrait distance with the settings as this image was exposed.

Note: Checking in DOFMaster.com I later found that my DOF in this image was 15.6 feet.

It also helped that the wind blew much of the cannon’s smoke back to the gun crew further obscuring the audience in the background!

f4.5 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 200mm
For the portrait of the soldier I maneuvered myself to get that flag behind him, but because the flag is so powerful I went to f4.5 to really knock the flag out of focus—at f4.5 I focus on my subjects eyes. In addition I used 200mm, as I usually do on individuals, to further blur the background.

In Part #2 I’ll continue with examples of images from this event and talk about my choice of focal length—why longer is better!

As usual, your questions and comments are welcome…’Til next week.

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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