Okay – I’ll admit that I woke up feeling a little nervous when I realised I had ambitiously declared I would deliver you some demystifying photography advice! I mean ….. its unlikely I know much more than you BUT if there’s one thing I do know how to do, its use the internet to find out the answers to everything and I have some favourite spots to share with you.
The questions below are ones that I have wondered myself and not been all that willing to ask!
I also share my own process which is by no means the “right” way but I really want to communicate that its not all as mysterious as we think!
To interrupt the text I have scattered pics from a dreamy getaway to the Coromandel with good friends last weekend.
SHOULD I PLAY WITH THE DIALS ON MY CAMERA?
A purist would scoff at this heading but seriously – sometimes I wonder why you would when I look at the terrific results my compact but meaty old camera used to achieve on largely automatic settings!
I’ve just got to a point in my thinking that if you don’t want to play with settings and would like the camera to take care of most of the decision making, then there are SO many awesome, high quality compact options out there for you ….. eg. you DO NOT need to go buy some great big hefty model!
If, like me, you were getting a little curious and had an idea of the type of imagery that you want to create then YES! Its time my friend!
I opted to go for a mirrorless camera in the form of the XT1. Much smaller and lighter than their larger DSLR cousins, they are packed with technology and MORE than enough of it for my use. I attempted to diligently read the manual and it all dragged me swiftly back to high school maths and a rising anxiety. It really sounded like cracking the code of ISO and aperture was only for fanatics.
Fast forward to 30 minutes with Joseph Michael and everything changed. In fact my whole entire photo taking process altered. I am not going to attempt to explain how to use your camera on manual here BUT I will say it was less about the terms and so much more about understanding the effect the dials had on each other and understanding where to start them to begin framing up a shot.
From there it was simply all practice and excepting that taking shots take longer for me now as I have dials to deal with BUT I am finding that I am doing much less time editing on the other end….which I find interesting!
On writing this I realise that perhaps I need to herd in an expert to give you all the basics in manual camera operation but in the mean time check out this massive well of knowledge called Pinterest and YouTube (links to pre loaded searches!)
WHAT ON EARTH IS A RAW FILE + WHY SHOOT IN THAT RATHER THAN JPEG?
Essentially your camera will save an image as a JPEG file or a RAW file.
JPEG’s are smaller, all ready to go, can be downloaded from you camera to computer and viewed immediately, edited, emailed on or printed.
A RAW file can be downloaded to your computer but cannot be viewed or printed until it has been “processed” by another programme (like Photoshop or Lightroom) This sounds pointless right? But the beauty of a RAW file is that it is highly editable, acting much like a digital negative – if you are interested in bringing out the best in your photos, these are the files that let you have ALL the fun!
RAW files are big so do take up a lot of room on your computer – you’ll want to get an external harddrive to store and handle them. (Once you have processed and edited you then save them as JPEGS ending up with a RAW and edited version of one image.)
JPEG files of course are much smaller and much less high maintenance in many respects. You can still play around with them in Photoshop and to a lesser degree sort out any issues you might have had with brightness etc.
I’ve read about the “types” of people that might want to stick to JPEG instead of RAW (parents, bloggers…???) and think its kind of MORE about if you want to roll up your sleeves and get creative! It is time consuming but better than watching TV!
I found this article today which I think is BRILLIANT and goes into more detail on each of these file types.
Click here for “A Beginners Guide to Start Shooting in RAW – The Easy Way” by Christina Greve
DO I NEED TO EDIT MY PHOTOS?
Of course not! Camera’s are so awesome these days. You can shoot in full auto and get great clear results!
BUT I’ve got to tell you – editing is super fun and not nearly as hard as you might think! Its such an effortless form of creativity that you can pick up and put down at any time. No mess, no stress, no commitment, just you fiddling round and experimenting with sliders, actions and more.
I started by shooting in RAW then opening images in Photoshop (it has a built in program called Camera RAW that pops up to allow you to tweak exposure, contrast, sharpness etc with the file first then on to the main screen)
I’ve always been drawn to imagery that has a subtle film-like quality. The world of ultra high definition has always felt a bit jarring and “real time” as I like images that look like thay are a memory or frame from a movie. SO my lack of experience with Photoshop meant that I really needed somewhere to start the editing process and that port of call was the beautiful collection of actions by Wellington based photographer; Peta Mazey. You can browse them here – my favourite is the Schoolyard set and from time spent experimenting with the opacity and contrast sliders I slowly created the vibe I wanted.
In the last few months, with my new foray into shooting in full manual mode (!) on the Fuji XT1, I decided to throw caution to the wind and begin using Lightroom to process my images instead. This has been mostly under the guidance of my pro photographer heroes and I’ll admit, has not all been smooth sailing! Its not that Lightroom is harder, in fact all those using it claim its photo organising ability, batch processing etc is far more efficient and I’m enjoying experimenting with the VSCOcam presets I have downloaded ….but I just really miss my Photoshop opacity slider 🙁
ANYWAY I am very determined to go down this road and have actually found YouTube tutorials to be insanely helpful! It took a while but I have quite enjoyed the ones by American photographer, Anothony Morganti. His results are a little more saturated and full on then I am trying to achieve but he clearly explains and guides you through the million functions available!
How do you “get” Photoshop and/or Lightroom?
Well I bit the bullet this year and now subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud and for about $11 per month I have access to the very latest updates in the Photography Plan. I’ve got to say it is brilliant and means my programs are always at the front of the new technology.
What are “actions” and “presets” ?
Effectively they are prepared sets of tweaks and effects combined to be applied to an image. Its like using Edmonds pikelet mix instead of starting completely from scratch but of course allows much interpretation by the editor/cook!
Actions are for Photoshop and Presets are for Lightroom.
INSTANT GRATIFICATION: CAMERA’S THAT TALK TO PHONES!
For an instagram enthusiast ( I know I am not alone!) I have LOVED the fact that my camera can connect with wireless tech to my phone! This means that I can select a shot in real time that I would like to share, convert the RAW file to a JPEG on the camera, turn on the wireless function, locate and join to that on my phone then using the Fuji app I can simply download that ready to then open in an editing app or post/emailing directly …. no chords or cards or anything!
This has been surprisingly handy and for anyone using social media as a business channel, it allows you to always be presenting topnotch images without too much fuss!
I stitched together a really basic little view of how this all works below.
EDITING PICS TAKEN ON/OR SENT TO MY PHONE
When snapping moments on my iPhone to share on instagram I always use the inbuilt camera (eg. don’t take the photo using the camera in instagram or any other external app.)
I then open and upload that image to an “external ” (eg. not instagram) photo editing app. (This is also where my process would start with the images sent directly from my camera as in the vid above)
Up until recently I have solely used After Light but have just started experimenting with VSCO cam. With both of these you have a lot of options for tweaking brightness/contrast, sharpness and then applying filters. I have found over time that I tend to wind down the “opacity/strength” of any filters I use to about 50% or less. I also tend to stick to one or two max to achieve a cohesive vibe between my pictures. Just looks nicer!
Once you have finished editing in the app then you simply opt to publish to instagram and off you go with your editing done!
Another popular editing app that I know some of the insta super stars use is Snapseed.
I believe that all of these are available on Android too!
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
Shot on Fuji XT1
I hope this has been a little enlightening for some of you. Please don’t hesitate to leave any questions in the comments below and I will do my very best to point you in the right direction!!