What I’ve learned recently, passing on some tips, part I
As I said a few posts back, I’ve been spending some time watching online tutorials and equipment reviews in an effort to improve my photography skills. Most of the stuff that I started watching, I quit not very far into the video, as most of them aren’t very good. However, B&H Photo has posted some really good tutorials, I’ve watched one with Tim Cooper on Creating Dynamic Landscape Photographs twice so far, and I’ll probably watch it again soon.
There’s so much great information contained in that hour and a half long video, that I may even take notes the next time I watch it. I’ve been putting what I learned from that video, and some other sources, to the test the past week or so, and this will be the first of two posts that I’ll do passing on what I’ve learned.
One segment of the video is on white balance, and how your camera can be fooled if the scene you’re shooting contains large amounts of the color blue, or the colors yellow through orange to red. The second time I watched the video, it dawned on me that while I wasn’t shooting landscapes, there were times when the auto white balance of my camera may have been fooled by the color of the subject I was shooting. So, as a test, I set the white balance of the second body I have to daylight and left it on auto on the other body.
Here’s the results of my mini test. The first photo was shot with white balance set to auto and I used the 300 mm prime lens.
The same flower shot with the second body, Tokina macro lens, and the white balance set at daylight.
Another test subject.
I think that you can see that the colors were much better when I used the daylight white balance versus auto. The differences between the two aren’t as dramatic here where I’ve reduced the quality of the photos for posting here, but in the full versions, using daylight white balance won hands down. So, from now on, I’ll be setting the white balance manually for both camera bodies. It does make a difference!
My test would have been more accurate if I had used the same lens for each photo, but the 300 mm prime and the Tokina 100 mm macro lens are both superb lenses, and are very close as far as image quality.
That brings up something else. It took me a while using the Tokina lens to get my camera dialed in as far as the best setting to use for it, and of course, it took me a while to learn how to get the best from it. I’ve said before that every new lens, every bit of photo gear for that matter, has come with a learning curve, and the more that I use the equipment that I now own, the more apparent that becomes.
When I first began using the Tokina lens more often this summer, I would have rated it as equal to, or slightly less sharp than the 300 mm prime lens. Not any longer. The more that I use that lens, the better my images become.
For me anyway, there’s only one way to learn to get the best from my equipment, and that’s to use it, a lot! Reading the manual or watching the online tutorials do help, but the only way that I’ve found to apply the “book learning” to actual improvements to image quality is go out and try what I think I’ve learned, look at the photos to see what I’ve done right, and what I’ve done wrong, then go out and try it again.
Nothing illustrates that better than this dragonfly that I shot yesterday!
I almost feel as if I should hold off from doing this post now, as my photos for it are so last week, and I could easily replace the ones so far with even better ones from this week.
But, that sort of proves the point that I was in the middle of making, there’s nothing like experience as a teacher.
Amy, one of the people who follows my blog, and does her own blog here, posted something a short time ago that I’d like to respond to. She read an expert’s opinion that beginning photographers shoot too many photos, and that they should slow down, put more thought into their photos, and shoot fewer but better photos.
Well, yes and no. I see a problem with the expert’s thinking, how does a beginner know how to get a great photo if they haven’t shot enough photos to learn their equipment and what it takes to get a great photo?
I’m still of the opinion that you should shoot many photos, to learn from them. If you shoot a lot of photos and just delete them when you see that they’re bad, you weren’t learn anything from them. But, if you can figure out why the photos came out poorly, then you’re learning what not to do the next time.
I probably still don’t put enough thought into many of my photo, but I’m getting better at thinking before shooting.
I’ve said all of that before, many times, so I’m probably boring you, as I’m even boring the subjects of my photos.
I’ve learned how to use the digital filters that are programmed into my Canon 60 D body. I doubt if many of you care, but the digital filters are there to take the place of using real filters when shooting in black and white. And, we all know that “real” photographers shoot in black and white, so I just had to play around one day when the clouds were too good not to try out the red filter programmed into my camera. Here’s the view in color….
…and two in black and white.
When shooting in black and white, the red filter adds contrast, it’s one of the tricks used by Ansel Adams when he photographed the landscapes that he is so famous for.
Now, I’m going to have to find the quick photo guide that I used to carry in my bag when I shot film to jog my memory as to what the other color filters are for. 😉
We all know that “real” photographers do street photography, so here’s my effort from last week.
Okay, so it was a bike path and not a street. And, there’s nothing creative about the dove photo, it’s one of my more typical bird portraits.
I do like the shot of the chipping sparrows taken while I was laying on the ground though, it reminds me to try out different angles from time to time.
We’ve all heard that “real” photographers shoot in manual, so I tried it a few times this past week, and to tell you the truth, I see no advantage in using manual for the type of photography that I typically do. There are times when switching to manual is a must to get good photos, such as night photography, or when using a graduated neutral density filter. Maybe I haven’t worked in the manual mode enough to see the benefits? As long as I’m using the light meter in my camera, and I get he correct depth of field and exposure, I see no difference in what mode that I used to get the photo. If I were using a better light meter than the one built into my camera, as many good landscape photographers do, then I could see shooting in manual.
I’ve also heard that all “real” photographers shoot in RAW, so I also tried that this past week, and for me, there was no real advantage to it. I ended up with two photos of each subject, one huge file in RAW, then another much smaller JPG file. I could see that if I shot in RAW all the time that I’d be filling external hard drives up almost as quickly as I could purchase them. 😉
The advantage to shooting in RAW comes when you post-process your images, and since the only post-processing I do is cropping, there’s no advantage to shooting in RAW for me. That may change one of these days, if I ever get Photoshop, Lightroom, or some other photo editing software. First, I would need a new computer, as mine is old and outdated, much like me.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos for this post, some were shot in manual, some were in RAW originally, since there’s no real difference, I’m not going to bother noting which are which. If you think that you can tell which are which, more power to you.
To wrap this up, I’ll say that it pays to play. Even if something doesn’t work for me, I learn from it, and can apply it to the photography that I do. In the next post, I’ll continue that theme, and also discuss what I’m learning about the lenses that I’m using, and how what I learn from using one lens helps me to improve when using other lenses.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!