SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS 5 – DON’T RUSH YOURSELF, COME BACK TO THINGS WITH A FRESH MIND – AND COLLECT DATA

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This is the fifth in a series of posts, aimed at novice photographers, that discuss simple ways to enhance images.  The other four posts are here: ONE   TWO   THREE   FOUR   .  THREE might be the most worthwhile in a fundamental sense.

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DON’T RUSH YOURSELF!

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There’s no getting away from the facts – I enjoy creating images and I enjoy posting them onto my blog.  There’s the simply vast creative potential that digital photography brings – the potential to realise our visions! –  and then there’s the ability to send images out around the world at the touch of a button, to find out what like (and unlike) minds think of them.  Never has photography had it so good!

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But a real downer that has often happened to me is as follows.  I’ve been out with a camera since early in the morning, taken a stack of shots, got home and got them onto my computer, sat down full of anticipation and enthusiasm, looking forward to posting something from the day’s shoot – only to grind to a dead and dispirited, creative halt.

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As often happens, my wife got it right first time, with the simple “Maybe you’re tired”.  And I thought yes, maybe so, but that didn’t really make an impact.

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But reading Amateur Photographer magazine (22 March 2014 edition), something about this issue appeared, that really has hit home.  In an interesting interview, Jonathan Chritchley ( www.jonathanchritchley.net ), a well known photographer of the sea and many associated things, talked about his journey into photography and, three pages in, revealed the fact that, after going out on a salty shoot, he downloads the resulting images >>> and then forgets about them for several weeks!

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So that when he eventually returns to them, he is rejuvenated and fresh, and he has “a clear head”.  He talks of looking at these several weeks old images, almost as if they had been taken by someone else.

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As soon as I read this, I realised that, in most cases, its what I’ve been unconsciously doing all along.  I have posted the odd (and sometimes very odd …) shot directly after coming in from a shoot, but in most cases I’m going back to images captured long before – often very long before – and looking at them in a new light.

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So my messages here – following good sense from both my wife and Jonathan Chritchley – are to give yourself time, not to feel that you must rush things – and this goes both for processing your images, and for getting them out to the world.  And also to return to your images sometime – maybe a long time – after capture, when you may well see them in a new light and have new ideas about them.

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FOCUSING A THIRD OF THE WAY IN FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE SHOT

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And in the same interview, Jonathan Chritchley, spoke of something that I learned years ago, and largely do as a matter of routine now – focusing one third of the way into images, to maximise the depth of field.  This is obviously not something that works with every subject, but it is something to think about if you have depth in your composition – here is a link discussing this technique.

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DON’T FEEL THAT YOU MUST ALWAYS FINALISE YOUR IMAGES AT CAPTURE – COLLECT DATA!

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It has to be said that I’m a firm devotee of getting as much right at image capture as I can, and here I’m talking mostly about the technical sides of things – most importantly, focusing (or lack thereof), minimising camera movement (assuming I want to), and exposure, because I know that if I mess any of those things up, my image may be ruined or, at best, retrievable only after much hard work on my PC.

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I also like to have some sort of composition at capture too, the way I see what’s in front of me, how I’m hoping to present it, to display it.  And this done in the full knowledge of course of the vast and easily applied benefits that digital photography has brought to image cropping.  The ability to change an image’s format from the 35mm rectangle, to square, or letterbox-shaped, for example, and the ability to exclude unwanted things from the frame, either via cropping or erasing.

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But there also arise the occasions, of course, when looking at the contents of a shot, I decide to produce an image – or IMAGES NB – that are quite different to what I initially had in mind.  Ideas which will at once be met with howls of protest from those with more puritanical views that see no worth in a image unless it is pre-visualised pre-capture, and who insist that I must, pre-capture, already know whether I’m intending to present the image in black and white or colour.

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Well, if you want to go down that route that’s your choice and, as I always say, we are all different, not least in our visual and photographic preferences.  But I see no worth in those purist approaches, and I stick 100% with my mantra which is, “If an image looks good then it is good” – end of story!  It matters not at all whether the final image reflects my initial plans for it, I am simply happy to have produced something that I like.

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And this leads to something mentioned in Amateur Photographer magazine recently, where a budding photographer had an epiphany – a moment of true revelation – on being told that he shouldn’t see his photography as necessarily demanding that he create perfect pictures at capture but, rather, that he should see it as COLLECTING DATA – taking pictures of things that appeal to him, and then looking at them on his computer, to decide how he should frame and crop them, to decide their final appearance and qualities.

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And of course this approach encompasses the possibility that NONE of the images will be any good, such that you have to go out and try again, but this is not about the end of the world – it is all about gaining valuable photographic experience.

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And this approach does benefit from cameras with larger sensors, since they provide larger cropping potential – there’s simply more detail in the file to play with.

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FULL FRAME DIGITAL CAMERAS

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And finally, talking about cameras with larger sensors – and acknowledging that money is obviously a factor, although costs are coming down –  I would urge anyone reasonably serious about their photography to use a full frame digital camera, i.e. one with a sensor the same size as a frame of 35mm film – for two reasons.  First, obviously, the larger sensor captures more information, and so makes its files more amenable to the cropping techniques discussed above.

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But second, there is a rather less obvious point – that full frame sensors allow lenses to display their true, 35mm characteristics – in particular, depth of field (DOF) characteristics.  Because the smaller the sensor, the larger the DOF, which is great if you want everything in focus, e.g in some abstracts – but hell if you are looking for subtle differential focusing, e.g. only a child’s eyes sharp in an otherwise soft portrait.

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And of course smaller sensors cause focal length magnification – which is great if you’re looking to extend the reach of your telephoto, but not so great if you glory in the vast fields of view of wide angle lenses.  Let’s take Nikon’s DX format cameras, which have a focal length magnification factor of 1.5 . If you use a 24mm wide angle on a DX camera, it becomes (1.5 x 24) = a 36mm lens, substantially less wide angle.  But if you want to extend the reach of your 400mm telephoto, you can do it – (1.5 x 400) = 600mm!  It is of course possible to buy lenses made for this DX format, to give, for example, wider fields of view – but there still remains the fact that you’re ending up with a smaller image file. 

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

13 Responses to SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS 5 – DON’T RUSH YOURSELF, COME BACK TO THINGS WITH A FRESH MIND – AND COLLECT DATA

  1. LensScaper says:

    All good points Adrian. I have heard the same comment and read it many times about evaluating images some time after a shoot rather than immediately. Often that advice is given also about avoiding making decisions about deleting poor quality images too soon. I find, myself, that re-visiting images weeks later can lead to a re-appraisal of the content, and more particularly that detachment from the immediacy of the capture seems to free up the mind to think outside the box and result in more imaginative interpretations.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I think you’re exactly right, Andy, what you’re saying is spot on. And that’s a good point about premature deletion too – I think that hanging on to everything is the thing, before coming back for a first look sometime later. I never ever delete images during a shoot – in fact I only use the screen to look at the exposure histogram – I’ve noticed that the screen can engender false optimism – images can look good on the screen, but be far from good on a computer monitor – once again, th thing is, leave it all alone, and then return to it all later on the computer. Thanks for your input, my friend! Adrian

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  2. Carrie says:

    Great info Adrian. Since I am new to following you I had to take a look back at all the previous posts related to this one. Really informative! Just curious, do all cameras offer the RAW file type or is that just available on some cameras. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thanks, Carrie! Now, we can be of possibly mutual help here. First, from me. No, not all cameras offer RAW capture, some just do jpegs – and so it pays to check first! AND, each camera producer has their own RAW type, they’re not all the same – in this world, what else should we expect???

      BUT, software packages like Adobe Camera Raw will convert RAW from “Company X” into .tiff files that many software editing packages can work on. Major companies like Canon and Nikon (at least) have their own, reasonably sophisticated image editing software that can edit their own RAW files – I use Nikon’s Capture NX2 (soon due for a radical upgrade I hear) to edit the files produced by my Nikon DSLRs; and I use Canon software to convert my Canon RAW files to .tiffs (bulky files made without information loss), and then hit them with Capture NX2 too.

      RAW is certainly the way to go, if you want optimum image editing possibilities.

      Any more questions >>>>> ASK!!!!!!

      Now, what you can do for me! >>> PLEASE!!!!!! As geologists, do you or your husband know of any books that summarise today’s geological knowledge? I’m sure this knowledge has moved on far from when I was in geological academia in the 1980s! The reason I ask is that I’m considering leading geological classes / groups, and I’d welcome any book that brings me up to date – in a general way, nothing too intricate. Do you two know any academics that might be able to suggest something. I worked on ophiolite complexes and plate tectonics for my doctoral work – but I’m sure these fields have moved on a good deal since then!

      Many thanks for anything you can dig up – no pun intended!!!!!! Adrian 🙂

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      • Carrie says:

        Sure Adrian, first off thanks for the details regarding RAW files. I am rather new to all the photography vocabulary and trying to soak up as much knowledge from those whose work I admire. I will ask more questions as they come up, thanks!
        As for new geology knowledge, my husband is a professor at Occidental College, his focus of study is Volcanoes. He teaches a lot of 101 and intro field classes too. What kind of classes/groups are you thinking of leading? What area(s) are you looking to do this in? I know my husband can point you in a proper direction for reading materials, there is also a very large YouTube video collection these days, you can find a lot of info there. If you give me a sense of what type of geology (tectonics, volcanoes, metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary, geomorphology, glacial, geophysics, paleontology,…) you are most interested in brushing up on, I know I can give you some current resources.
        I so appreciate our geologic connection! Thanks again.
        –Carrie

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        • Adrian Lewis says:

          Yes, questions are welcome any time! I don’t have comprehensive knowledge but where I can help I will.

          My “classes” will be small groups of retired people, probably with no background knowledge at all. So, probably, I’ll be looking at things very simply.

          Now it seems to me that the basic areas of geology will not have changed much – petrology, mineralogy, palaeontology, small scale tectonics etc – and I have enough of such things in my head, and I have some of my university text books too.

          But plate tectonics has revolutionised how we see geology overall, and I’m looking for some book that might be called “Geology Today”, that takes an introductory overview of how geology is NOW – it needs to have been published recently. An overview of plate tectonics, and an appreciation of how we use it to look at “geology today” would be ideal.

          I appreciate our geological connection too – its years since I’ve talked with anyone on these things ->>> and had them know what I’m going on about! Adrian 🙂

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          • Carrie says:

            Hello again. Yes, talking shop is fun! Okay, so I know this is a great synopsis of the history of Plate Tectonics, I gave this book as a gift a few years ago to my husband, he still references it. http://www.amazon.com/Plate-Tectonics-Insiders-History-Modern/dp/0813339812/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396541196&sr=1-2&keywords=plate+tectonics

            As for the overview of geology book, Here are a couple suggestions. The geology 101 text books are so colorful and offer a great overview of where the science is today. You would probably gain a lot from reading one. The EARTH series are great. You can find textbooks on amazon.
            If you are looking to brush up on a given topic my husband said GSA (Geologic Society of America) has memoirs they publish every year in a given topic that are great. Go here to find something along those lines: http://memoirs.gsapubs.org/ He isn’t sure what the equivalent would be where you are.
            He also said google scholar would be really useful, just type in a given area you are looking to know more about and you will be directed to all the papers on that subject. http://scholar.google.com/

            I don’t know of, or can’t really find a book, like the plate tectonics one above on an overview of geology, aside from geology for dummies, which I always just get turned off by the title, it might be great.
            Good luck! I hope this helps, happy reading. Oh, and I love the idea of sharing your geology knowledge with others, Good for you.

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            • Adrian Lewis says:

              Carrie, thanks indeed for going to all this trouble! I think, for a start, I would do well to look at the Earth series – I’ll find them on Amazon. I used to teach something like geology 101 at the University of Nairobi, in Kenya, years ago – too many years ago to think about!

              And I might look at Geology For Dummies too, although I’m with you re getting turned off by the title.

              This is a very useful set of texts for me to look at – thank you! Adrian

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            • Adrian Lewis says:

              Hello again, Carrie! I’m trying to find the EARTH series of books that you mention in your comment but am not having any luck. Would it be possible for you to send me an ISBN number for one of these books, to help me investigate them further?

              Many thanks! Hope you’re fine! Adrian

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              • Carrie says:

                Hi Adrian,
                We are getting ready for record breaking temps here, I am not a fan (at all) of hot weather, so I am bracing myself for today. It is supposed to cool down by the weekend, fingers crossed.

                The EARTH book is a text book. There is a 10th edition that you can get a used copy for under $20 on amazon and there is an 11th edition that just came out. The 11th edition is expensive I am sure there are a few revisions but nothing revolutionary per say, in the latest edition. Here is the link for the 10th edition
                http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Introduction-Physical-Geology-Edition/dp/0321814061/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1397054185&sr=8-2&keywords=introduction+to+geology

                Hope this helps 🙂 Really enjoying your photographs! I love that they make me look for a long time, there is so much to see in each of your images.

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                • Adrian Lewis says:

                  Hi Carrie – golly, that’s a quick response – thank you! The internet never ceases to amaze me – maybe because I was around for 40 years before it was invented – makes me wonder how we coped and communicated in those days – but we did! I’m not a fan of really hot weather either – I head for cool shade, if I can find it.

                  Many thanks indeed for more details on this book – I’m going to have a look at it – and thanks for pointing out the previous edition – it’ll be far cheaper.

                  And thank you too for your kind words re my photos – I’m glad you like them! Adrian 🙂

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  3. All good points I feel. MM

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