Once upon a time a photographer was invited to have dinner at the home of a nice couple. During dinner the wife comments to the photographer “Your pictures are beautiful. You must have a great camera.” The photographer nods politely.
After finishing dinner the photographer comments to the wife “That was a fine meal. You must have some great pots!
I post that humorous story as a way to introduce a few questions I get about photography and my common answers.
1. What kind of camera do you have? I shoot with a Canon 7D, which is a dSLR camera. Before that, I shot with a Canon 40d which I bought it used from Adorama Camera. Until January 2011, I shot with a Canon 20d, which I bought used off of Ebay in May 2008.
2. What lenses do you use? My shooting time is spent between two main lenses: Canon 50mm 1.4 and a Tamron 28-75 2.8. For macro shots I use a Canon 100mm 2.8.
3. What mode do you shoot in? I shoot in manual mode 99.9% of the time. The only time I can think of that I have shot in anything else is when we were on the beach, it was pitch black, and I was trying to show my friend what a flash would do in that situation. It wasn’t pretty. For those of you who aren’t into cameras, shooting in manual simply means that I set all the camera settings myself. I choose my ISO, then my aperture, and then my shutter speed. When you shoot in auto, your camera chooses all that for you. On a dSLR camera, which HAS an auto setting but is not MEANT to shoot in auto, the results aren’t usually very pretty.
4. Do you use a flash? No. Never. Even in low light at night, I crank up my ISO to 6400, stop down to 2.8, and hold as steady as I can as I shoot at shutter speeds under 100. Then I use noise reduction in Lightroom to help with the grain. Flash (pop up flash that is) creates awful shadows, pinpoints in the eyes, and other weird coloring issues.
5. Do you edit your photos? Yes, yes, and yes. I firmly believe in learning to take good pictures in camera. But I also believe that editing can take a photo from good to great. That said, if a photo takes me more than about 30 seconds to edit, I probably won’t do it.
6. What program do you use to edit? I use Lightroom. Until February 2012, I used Photoshop Elements. Both are great programs.
7. Do you shoot in JPEG or RAW?
I’ll admit it. I shoot jpeg. Because 1) I am lazy and I don’t want to take the time to learn something new and 2) I am not a professional (ie, charging for shoots) so no one is at a loss if my photos aren’t as good as they could be if I shot in RAW. That said, I would like to learn RAW. Some day. As of February 2012, I shoot RAW and I LOVE it. I have so much more control of my photos. That said, if I hadn’t also switched to Lightroom, it would have been much more difficult to edit.
8. What kinds of edits do you do? Almost all of my photos will have small tweaks in levels, brightness, and contrast. I will also usually add a slight vignette. I might use the healing brush or clone tool to clean up things in the photo that are distracting (a crumb on a table, a mosquito bite on the face, etc). I sometime crop, but most of my cropping is usually done in camera. I will also straighten horizon lines or fix anything else that distracts the viewer from the focus of the photo.
My purpose in editing is this: to show you (the viewer) what I see in MY eyes and in MY heart when I look at the picture. If my daughter has a bug bite on her face, and that bite is not the point of the picture, then I will probably take it out. If I remember a day as happy and sunny and perfect, I might boost the color of my photo a bit so that it better represents how I felt when I took the photo. I will also do things (like adding a vignette) that subtly draw the viewer’s eye to the main focus of the photo.
I’m not a great editor (just because I don’t take the time), but my photos are for me and I’m happy
9. I want to take better pictures. What kind of camera should I get? Well, it depends. Going out and getting yourself a big fancy camera won’t make you a great photographer any more than going out and buying big fancy pots will make you a great cook. Cameras (and pots!) are tools in the hands of a real person. What you plan to DO with your camera should help you decide what kind to get. I wrote this article a year and a half ago, but it still has some great info in it: “I Need a New Camera!“