Showing posts with label newbie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newbie. Show all posts

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Explaining the Exposure Modes

What this article is about.

This article isn't about Exposure or Calculating Exposure - that's a different topic. This article is about choosing which Exposure Mode you want to consider. That's the P A S or M on the camera's dial - (Canon users will recognise that as P, Av, Tv and M).

This article isn't about the Variables of Exposure

But, how does one mention choosing the Exposure Mode if one does not enumerate the Variables of Exposure. They are:
  1. ASLL - Actual Scene Light Level (sometimes quantified as EV number at ISO 100 - e.g. 2 or 16 - 2 being darker than 16)
  2. Aperture (otherwise known as the f/no e.g. f/2.8 or f/16, f/16 being darker than f/2.8)
  3. Shutter Speed ( e.g. 1/30th sec or 1/500th sec, 1/500th being darker than 1/30th)
  4. ISO (or the sensitivity of the recording medium e.g. 100 or 1000, 100 being darker than 1000)
In addition to these factors, there's something very obvious but not often stated. This is what the what the camera's metering system reads - let's call this, the Camera Estimated Light Level (CELL).


P stands for Program (optimised combination of f/no and shutter speed for the same CELL)
A stands for Aperture Priority (you choose an f/number, the camera chooses the shutter speed for the CELL)
S stands for Shutter Priority (you choose a shutter speed, the camera chooses the f/no for the same CELL)

Whether you choose P or A or S, you are letting the camera recommend the Camera Estimated Light Level.

Exposure Compensation

The camera is not a human being - it does not have the same subjective assessment as you, the human being. Thus, you might want the image to be darker or lighter than what the camera recommends (the CELL).  

Since you are using P A or S, you can roll one of the dials on the camera to force an offset - this is commonly called Exposure Value Compensation. This shows on your camera display as  -0.7. A negative number means you, the human prefers a darker image than the CELL. A positive number means you, the human prefers a brighter image.

But should you use P or A or S?

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if you get the shot that you want. Usually that means whether P or A or S, it results as the Same Camera Setting for the shot you envision.

P - for Professional

P might get the shot "right". The camera chooses an optimum combination of shutter speed and aperture for the same CELL. Who knows, the camera's choice might be what you have come to by yourself anyway.

A - for Artistic

With A, you explicitly choose an f/no. You choose f/2.8 so that the camera will be forced to use a fast shutter speed. This might be to get a nice blurred background OR to attempt freezing motion. You choose f/16 if you want the street lights or sun to show sunburst.  Or choose f/8 if you want a sharp group shot where people are several rows deep.

S - for Superfast

With S, you explicitly choose a shutter speed. You choose 1/500th to safely freeze most motion. You could choose an even faster speed or settle for a slower speed if you don't have enough light. But with S, you can choose for example, 1/500th the camera will not attempt to change that setting.

M - for Manual Exposure

What about M? What does the camera adjust? What do you adjust?

On my brands of cameras, the camera is hands off. It does not adjust anything. (Unless you set the ISO to Auto ISO - and then it adjusts ISO - that's another story). So,
  • F/no - you adjust
  • Shutter speed - you adjust
  • ISO - you adjust
  • Exposure Compensation - prevented from working.
So, why would you go M - for Masochistic? I mean what's the point? You do all the work. It could be:
  • You heard "That's what the Pros use"
  • You don't like what the camera recommends.  And you don't like it by a lot - like EV + or - 3 or 4 - way past what the camera's dial can do under P A S.
  • As you wave the camera at the scene, a slight change in aim point changes the CELL under P A S. - That usually means there is a light or sun in the scene, pointing into the camera's lens.
  • You're using manual electronic flash
  • You just feel like doing it.
M for Masochistic isn't actually that Maso in the age of the Electronic Viewfinder or Mirrorless LCD systems with Exposure Simulation. As you twiddle with the settings, the EVF changes brightness and darkness - it's like well, the view is Live - no wonder they call it Liveview. 

The Take Home Point

Whether you opt for P or A or S or M, the final chosen setting might be the same.

For a reinforcement information try Understanding Exposure

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Snapshooting is an activity, Not a camera type

We often refer to those small cameras as a “Point and Shoot”. It’s colloquial for “compact camera”. And people often yearn to graduate past such a limited camera and get a big DSLR. And then, after that, the gates of Gear Acquisition Syndrome are opened and the hounds of hell pursue you to the house of Full Frame. (Have a look at +Eric Kim 's article on how he left Full Frame.)

Sure, it’s their life, it’s their money – they can spend it anyway they want. They can collect gear and enjoy the pursuit of Gear Lust and Camera Collection.

But, a fair number of people really do want to take better photos. Have you seen the recent burgeoning of Digital Camera Magazines and Photography Magazines in your local newsagents? The Personal Computer Magazines have all but disappeared as a result.
So, some newbies finally save up and grab an expensive, big, serious camera. Then what?

Some take to the new gear easily. And produce way different photos. But some just shoot really sharp, squeaky clean, noise free photos of… the same as they shot with the compacts. That is, the gear has upgraded, sure the picture IQ (Image Quality) has gone up by leaps and bounds but the photo itself, well it isn’t that interesting. You don't have to tell them it doesn't look interesting – they themselves feel something is missing.

So what do they do? They reach for the technique du jour (or the gear du jour).
Yet, the underlying photo looks the same.

And then, they ask YOU, the more experienced photographer for critique.

What do you say? Here’s what Sab Willi says (it’s not just for Street Photography). There would be differences in some examples but I would concur.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Tips for newbies to Google+ and newbie amateur photographers

I’ve been on Google+ for a while now. Google+ is young and evolving social network. As more people come on board and different types of people (age, gender, educational and life background, cultural and national background) affect this social network’s aggregate vibe. And the network’s developers and corporate direction also evolves the vibe.

So, here I am, thinking about how I can advise these new people about how to enjoy photography, soak up the love of the Google+ people can offer. I’ll note that these are my perceptions and perceptions are subjective, personal and….evolve.
  1. Don’t be timid or stingy in taking lots of photos. Shoot lots if shooting lots helps you understand the gear and the technique.
  2. Do pick out shots to share. If you shoot 100 shots in a session, that does not mean you should upload oh, 80 or more to an album and share. More than say, 30 shots gives even your fans, nausea and ennui as they initially look through and then subsequently force themselves to go through the album. Having too many shots in one album undermines the importance of each shot. Exceptions may be when you are submitting a set for people in a crowd to pick a photo where they appear.
  3. The point about picking out shots to share is to develop your sense of taste and choice. Developing your sense of taste and choice is as important as learning how to shoot, what to shoot.
  4. Make it clear when your shot is to celebrate your joy and when it is to seek critique. We’re all human. Sometimes you want to share a shot that might be technically awful but it is a source of joy. Some people can’t or won’t read your mind. They say the weirdest, unexpected things at the wrong times. Develop strategies to handle such incidents for them and for your ego. Remember, be social.
  5. It’s ok to make several posts of photos a day when you’re feeling all warmed up by the joy of a good session. How many is too many? Depends on a lot of things. You’ll know when people start unCircling you. Or Muting you. Or putting you in a Circle which does not show to their main stream. Being unCircled, you can tell. But being muted or put into a zero volume circle, you can only deduce or guess. Don’t go overboard.
  6. Think about your freedom to do what you want when you post direct from your account vs posting into a Community. Some people don’t have much experience with Google+ and they think the Community is all of Google+. Google+ offers the independence of self as well as the ready eyeballs of Community members. If you post independently to the Public circle, you have much freedom. If you have not engaged much on Google+ however, you won’t have many people circling you. If you post into a Community, there are lots of eyeballs but the Community owner, the moderators will have guidelines and rules on what you can or cannot do.
Food for thought.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Short and Long of Lens Hoods

I've thought of writing an article but why, when Phil Steele speaks so eloquently?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Menus, Buttons, Dials and Settings on Olympus Mirrorless Cameras

Seems lots of people are buying into the OM-D and other models of the family. Some people come from Canon, Nikon ownership, others come from film. Yes, the Olympus OM-D has sparked enough interest and motivation that film diehards are coming on board to digital.

I've had Olympus digital since the C-750 Ultra Zoom camera and eventually moved to the DSLR, the E-510. My latest camera (looks like I'll keep it) is the E-PM2. So I've lived the Olympus approach to buttons, menus, dials and settings for a little while.

If you hand me a Nikon or Canon, I take a while to figure it out, I find the Olympus approach fairly logical but that's because I've used that gear for a while. As an aid, I thought I might write a series of articles for new users (not necessarily new to photography) on using / setting up the Olympus cameras.

The My Settings Idea

When I shot film SLR, I was often caught out. I would set up the camera for indoors and then wander outdoors and vice versa, with the wrong settings. I'm kinda klutzy like that. If you don't set up a profile / My Settings, you'll encounter the mistakes like that more often.

The Idea

You can reset the camera to factory settings. Most digital cameras I know have a menu to do that. What's worthwhile in Olympus gear is to have two or more "My Settings" to set up as a "home". You could set up My Settings 1 for indoors, My Settings 2 for outdoors. You could set up My Settings 1 for shooting colour and My Settings 2 for Black and White (otherwise referred to as Monotone by Olympus, an odd term). You could switch between them very quickly without remembering a whole brace of menu steps. You could switch to one of them when you start a shooting session or at the start of a day.

Yes, there are deficiencies with the implementation of My Settings - for example, we could have a memorable name for My Settings 1 - I am such a klutz that I forget what My Settings 1 was set for. But leave that aspect alone.

To set up your camera and then save the state to My Settings 1 

This only works when your camera is in either P A S or M exposure modes. It won't be much use in Green Auto / iAuto / Auto Everything. It won't be useful for SCENE modes or Art Filter modes.
  1. Go into menus and set up your camera the way you want. I'll write more articles on some settings I prefer in the future.
  2. Press the [Menu] button - there will be a vertical menu panel on the left
  3. Choose Camera Icon 1 also known as  "Preliminary and Basic Shooting Options"
  4. Press the right arrow on the cursor cluster, choose Reset / My Set (Page 58 English User Manual of the Olympus E-PM2). On the E-PM2 - there are 5 choices - Reset, Myset 1, Myset 2, Myset 3, Myset 4, Myset 5
  5. Place the cursor on Myset 1 and press Right Arrow to choose Set
  6. Press Ok
You have now stored the camera's settings (most of them) to Myset 1. 

To get the camera back to this state

You could now have used the camera for a bit, played around with this or that menu. You now want to recover back to Myset 1
  1. Go into menus and set up your camera the way you want. I'll write more articles on some settings I prefer in the future.
  2. Press the [Menu] button - there will be a vertical menu panel on the left
  3. Choose Camera Icon 1 also known as  "Preliminary and Basic Shooting Options"
  4. Press the right arrow on the cursor cluster, choose Reset / My Set (Page 58 English User Manual of the Olympus E-PM2). On the E-PM2 - there are 5 choices - Reset, Myset 1, Myset 2, Myset 3, Myset 4, Myset 5
  5. Place the cursor on Myset 1
  6. Press Ok and confirm
You have now restored he camera's settings to Myset 1.

You can subsequently tinker with the camera and choose different settings. These can be saved as Myset 2, 3, or 4

If you want to get the camera to "as delivered" from the factory, choose the Reset menu item.

Hope this was helpful.

(Guy Parsons has more MySet discussion at his website)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

There’s more than one path

There’s more than one segment to a path.

There’s more than one path to a result.

There’s more than one result that one can achieve.

There’s more than one appreciation of each result.

Friday, 6 July 2012

What is it?

We sometimes come across beginners to photography who don’t “get it” as often as we come across newbies who take to photography like ducks to water.

  1. What makes a person not get it?
  2. What does not getting it mean? How does one tell? Obviously, the person who doesn’t get it is the one who can’t tell….
  3. How does one help someone see the light?
  4. Can you not get it and still enjoy photography?

Ming Thein on PetaPixel wrote an insightful article on Common Photographic Mistakes. For beginners he cites:

  • The missing subject
  • Poor perspective use
  • Being stuck in the wrong gear

But why do they do that? We know that’s what they do but why do some people do that? It is sometimes difficult for a veteran to time shift back to the days when the camera was new and experience was low.

The Missing Subject

If the subject is missing, the following could be the reasons:

  • The mind might already have taken the subject as a “given” – i.e. the photographer has already sighted, understood the subject but is unaware that the guest viewers have no pre-bonding and association with the subject. For example the subject could be so small in the scene and indistinguishable from the background that everyone else can see this issue except the photographer.
  • The photographer is not comfortable with camera settings and thus there is so much focus on settings and the camera, that the subject becomes completely secondary.
  • The photographer is trying to juxtapose elements of the scene – that tree, that road, that leading line or pattern that the subject is visually forgotten.

Bottom line: Understand what the subject is, understand that often (guidelines are made to be broken) there is really only one primary subject and everything else is story  telling and decoration (which are not unimportant, but they enhance the subject, they do not replace it).

Poor Perspective Use

Perspective with regard to the subject requires that the photographer first identify what the primary subject is and be aware that taking a photo of the subject means actually visualising what aspects of the subject – top, bottom, left side, right side, behind, overview, close-in the photographer needs to story tell.

Or rather, the difference between a photo that says “this is a picture of a man cleaning his glasses” and a photo that says “this is celebrity A cleaning his glasses in a thoughtful way as he muses on whether he should take the high road or low road” is based on story telling and perspective is part of the story telling.

You have to discover perspective. You have to move your feet with perspective and bend your knees and your waist and you neck up or down, side to side. Even if you have a zoom.

It’s way to easy for any photographer, beginner or veteran, to point the camera at the subject, optionally adjust the zoom and think “yup, that’s the shot, let’s do this”.

Way too often, we miss a much more awesome shot by just adjusting our position.

Cropping after the fact is sometimes the only technique we have to get the look that we want, but that’s an afterthought, and getting it right upstream often yields a technically higher quality image and potentially a visually more appealing angle.

Being stuck in the wrong gear

The camera not giving us the image when we click is the most common and annoying primary issue with all photographers – newbie or veteran. Why can’t all this high tech get into our head and just “make it so” like Jean Luc Picard would enunciate?

Actually, with the passing of each year, the tech is getting there. If you are not convinced, get your hands on a match needle film SLR of the yesteryear, shoot some shots in the city of people walking around pointing into the shadow in one shot, subsequently into the bright sun in another. Use a zoom lens with variable max aperture and it complicates it even more. Use transparency film with the classic lack of tolerance of exposure stuff ups, use manual focus lenses.

Then come up and use a modern DSLR camera with automatic smart scene detection, autofocus and do the same gig and see what happens to the number of relevantly exposed, correctly focussed shots.

It’s already there.

However, it isn’t what we expect still, because we raise our expectations every year. And we expect to shoot the human form against the sun and expect the camera to know whether we want a black silhouette or commendable flesh tones. – like as-if.

And if you came in from an auto everything camera phone or point and shoot compact, you expect the more expensive, purpose built camera to be whatever you were using, just more better.

Really to be successful in re-creating a dish you bought take away from an excellent food outlet, you can’t say to your food replicator “make it so"  - even in the notionally Utopian Star Trek, the food replicators need to be programmed to produce specific food. The same with setting up the camera to take a shot.

  1. You must visualise the shot
  2. You must de-construct the shot into the controllable elements
  3. You must figure out what techniques and settings in camera, in the lens choice and potentially in post processing, to re-construct the shot.

Food for thought.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Exposure, the Metering Pattern and the Histogram

What is correct exposure?

What criteria do you use to assess correct exposure? Is it reading the histogram? Is it setting the camera to P A S and flipping to M to “match needle”? Is it buying this pro looking external exposure meter, then transferring the settings to the camera on M? Is it the way the photo “comes out?

There is no correct exposure. There is contextually suitable or relevant exposure. That means if you are wanting the face just right, it is. If you want the sky, it is. If you want that bright sky and that darker ground just right, well that’s being just…. greedy.

  1. The exposure histogram describes the brightness levels of the scene in numbers.
    1. It’s not a visual assessment. I’ll say it again, its not a visual assessment.
    2. It does not show whether the exposure is correct (see point 1 – there is no correct exposure). you can have what looks like a “good” histogram, whatever that is, but the face you want is contextually too dark or too light.. ditto with the sky and the earth.
    3. It can show that you are clipping highlights (255) or the shadows are going too dark ( 0 ). that does not mean you photo is “wrong” – it just shows that technically in numeric terms, you have lost digital data – that does not mean you have lost visual aesthetic.
    4. The averaged histogram may be misleading in technical terms. because your separate r g b channel histograms are different and one of them may already be clipping whilst the averaged histogram may not indicate that.
    5. There is more than one histogram for the same scene. Yes. There are:
      1. the Liveview histogram which is quickly computed so that the camera’s Liveview does not slow down. It is the stats BEFORE the shot is captured.
      2. the exposed photo JPEG histogram – this is the stats AFTER the shot is captured.
      3. the invisible and yet-to-be-deciphered raw file histogram. The reason why it is not visible can can’t be displayed is that the raw file has not been processed against your preferred set of contrast, saturation gamma curves. And if we did apply our preferences, it would no longer be the raw histogram, it would be the processed photo histogram.
    6. You might consider the highlight / shadow blinkies as an alternative to the histogram. But, the highlight and shadow blinkies give you even less information than the histogram – it can distract you by corrupting your perception of whether your exposure is contextually correct by painting your LCD with big blobs of red.
  2. You will often encounter naturally lit scenes that exceed the dynamic range of a single shot, even if you shoot raw. You will have to turn the tables (Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru) by any trick – come back another day / season / time, stand with the sun behind your back, carry out exposure blending from multiple exposures, big a bigger sensor, shoot film).

Generally, we have:

  • Spot Metering
  • Centre Weighted Metering
  • Evaluative / Matrix Metering

Spot Metering

It tries to make anything you point at, 12% grey in tone. Point it at a white shirt and it will try to make it grey. Point it at a black shirt and it will try to make it grey.

That’s not a general use, point and shoot metering pattern. Some people figure they can use it like this, well and good for them.

Centre Weighted Metering

Centre Weighted covers a central area – yes, around the centre AF spot. The area may be hard edged. Or not. On optical viewfinders you may not be able to estimate how big the area is.

It has sufficient area that if you point it at something, it will average that bit of face, that bit of shirt and that bit of background to 18% grey. That might be just what you want – the face might turn out alright.

It has a small enough area to exclude the bright sky or that dark table shadow from dominating your camera’s exposure proposal.

There is also on some cameras, a spot biased centre weighted choice.

Matrix / Evaluative Metering

You could get the meter to measure the whole scene and take a dumb average. If you do that, some bright sky could “pull” the meter reading quite unfavourably towards a darker exposure.

So the camera makers came up with Matrix / Evaluative. Some cameras even have computationally enhanced evaluative (with elements of Artificial Intelligence, database statistics on image scene modes, face detection etc…)

This is the metering pattern (well it is not a pattern, it is a tremendous state of the art calculation) that the camera makers put a lot of their skill and knowledge into. If there is one thing they can create to help the millions of customers who just want to aim and press the trigger, this is the epitome of technological prowess.

So far on my cameras which are not leading edge nor are they the most expensive, this form of metering still can’t make it happen for the majority of my shots. Yet. And I can’t predict in which direction and by how much it will bias the camera’s setting since it is using some dynamic logic, not a standard pattern.

The Bottom Line

I have met a whole bunch of amateur photographers of various experience levels. And encountered even more on the web and in forums. Using my preference – Centre Weighted and the subjects I shoot, let me put forward some advice:

  1. Each country (e.g. Australia, Malaysia), each season (blue sky summer, gauzy overcast winter) and each time (Golden Hour, mid day, etc..) merits different consideration and care.
  2. There is no set-and-forget. And there is. Depends on your style and what you approve of and accept. You can accept that, for example, Street Photography of strangers cannot be controlled and is an unrepeatable point in time so any shot is good, even a technically imperfect shot. Or you can put on your grumpiest attitude and criticise the hell out of every landscape / panorama shot.
  3. These are modern cameras. Centre Weighted should be predictable. I didn’t say what you want (who knows what you want?). But it should be predictable. On a “standard” scene “what is standard?”, it should either be pretty close to good, or within 0.7 dark or light. If it is too dark or light, remember how it behaves and set the bias semi-permanently. It is semi permanent because there is no standard scene.
  4. Learn to identify several types of scenes. Why? Because that is what the camera makers are also doing for point and shoot people – that mechanism is called SCENE Modes. I’m NOT saying you should use SCENE mode. I’m saying you need to identify the scene you are pointing at, test it out beforehand how your camera’s Centre Weighted Pattern predicts and develop your own exposure biases so that they become instinctive and intuition.
  5. If you are using an EVF / LCD mirrorless camera, it’s even easier. Set your Liveview to exposure simulation mode (they’re already defaulting to that) and point, assess the darkness / brightness of the scene and flick your Exposure Compensation Dial. Just like that.

Further Reading

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ananda's 10 Point Photo Critique Rating System

Updated: 23rd April 2013

I participate in a Beginner's Forum and interact with other photographer's senior and junior, experienced and newbie - this aspect of social interaction and learning is unparalleled by anything pre-Internet. Not only have my technical skills evolved at a rapid pace but my understanding of what I like and my appreciation has too.

One perennial feature of understanding the human aspects of a photo is the seeking of justification, validation and vindication. This urge often detracts from and clouds the learning experience and waylays explorers away from the truth or their perception of the truth.

I had created a rating system for myself to assess photos I come across and also assess my reactions to these photos previously (see APR Edition 1.1).

This is Edition 2: I'll call this "Ananda's 10"

Without further ado, here it is:

Ananda's 10

Is the subject interesting by itself ? Max 1 point
Is the photo delivering subject/scene context? Max 1 point
Is the photo context part of a general historical / family / celebrity / time in personal life context? Max 1 point
Is the subject well abstracted from the mundane-ness of the scene or other photos of the subject (Visually Interesting) ? Max 1 point
Do technical aspects of the photo convey / obscure what the photo is all about? Max 2 points
Does the assessor have a Chip On Shoulder Obsession about the photo? (see example list of ChOShO points) or conversely Emotional Subconscious Positives (see example list of ESP) Max 4 points
Example list of ChOShO
  1. That photo wasn't taken by a Leica / Nikon / Canon / put_your_brand_here.
  2. That photo wasn't taken by Me.
  3. I just came from a small sensor Point and Shoot cam. Ooooh, this photo has NOISE!
  4. I just came from a Four Thirds / Micro Four Thirds beatup.  Ooooh, this photo has NOISE!
  5. I just came from a Four Thirds / Micro Four Thirds beatup. Where's the Bokeh in this?
  6. I just came from a small sensor Point and Shoot cam. I just hate the "everything is sharp" look
  7. I don't like photos of dogs / cats / squirrels / birds / landscapes / graffiti / urban decay / tattooes / guns
  8. I just don't like HDR / faded shot through a nylon stocking David Bailey looking waifs
  9. That's sooo digital, I shoot film
  10. That's sooo film, I shoot digital
  11. It's not sharp. Really. Look at this 100% crop. It doesn't look like this (show ace shot from the Internet)
  12. It's Noise Reduced Smear Messed / JPG artifacted.
  13. So, you didn't post process? Can't be that good.
  14. So, you shot RAW and post processed. Dude, you oversaturated and messed up.
  15. Heck, where's the Rule of Four Thirds? Sorry, Rule of Thirds.
  16. The Horizon's Not Level Mate
  17. Umm, you're makiing me woozy, can't stand that crazy wide angle distortion
  18. Seen one panorama / fisheye / sunset / sunrise / tropical beach / underwater shot / flower closeup / bug close up / flowing silky water 30 second shot? Seen them all.
  19. Where's The People In This Scene Mate?
  20. Street Photo of a Person - nah, I think it's a affront to privacy and aggression
  21. Why is the sky white? Huh?
  22. Why is the sky so uneven in blue? Your polariser's just ruining your shot
  23. That's not my idea of art
  24. That's not my idea of photography
  25. That's my idea of graphic arts not photography
And the ultimate:
26. "Like that also want to take a photo"
Example list of Emotional Subconscious Positives
  1. Wow! That's a Great Shot
  2. Awesome!
  3. Well composed
  4. Well presented
  5. I like the light
  6. I like the pose
  7. You captured the moment
  8. The moment captured you
  9. Bloody Good, Mate
  10. You're my idol photographer - you could shoot a picture of a _____ with a Kodak Brownie and it would still come out awesome
  11. Adventurous and explorative technique.
  12. I love photos of HDR / flowing water / blurs of people moving past / Art Effects from ____ cameras - that's cool!
  13. How come you saw that when I didn't and I was next to you at that time?
  14. How come you made that shot of _______ when my shots look like throwaways?
  15. You shot that with ______ brand camera, you can't go wrong, hey, I use one too.
  16. We of the _______ gender got to stick together
  17. We went on the same Photowalk together, we've got to bromance.
  18. That's a photo of my fetish for shoes / tatooes / roadside kerbs, it's Sheldon time.
    So, that's it. Now, let's see whether "Ananda's 10" works out. Tell me how you go.

    Saturday, 3 December 2011

    Making up your mind on a new camera

    Choosing the Brand (from the DSLR / Interchangeable Lens category)

    Revised and updated: December 2011

    The individual camera brands have personalities - bear that in mind when you are befuddled by tables and comparison matrices of blow by blow feature lists.


    Canon produces the most cameras worldwide. Pros shooting Olympics, Getty Images, in war zones, in sports, use them. They have a full range of product from small compact point and shoots to the big DSLRs with honking big, white, expensive "L" lenses. If you are a pro or wanna be a pro or want people to think you are a pro, it seems like one of two brands to embrace. If you want the safety and conservatism of being part of a large tribe, this is the brand for you. Regardless of whether you bought a hundred dollar Canon camera, you can say - "I use this brand, hey!"

    But, as in all well run and structured religions, let it be known that Canon has circles - the pros, the wannabes, the want-to-be-known-as, the nerd shooter and the family shooter. And so, you will be offered competent cameras and lenses. Doesn't mean that your $200 lens is the equivalent of an "L" lens worth ten times more. It isn't.

    Canon DSLR bodies have bulk and volume. At the low priced end, they can feel hollow (less dense). At the lower end too, I find the right hand grip a little odd, my hands don’t curl around the grip comfortably. But that’s me. The menus seem to use more icons and less words.

    Canon changed their lens mount some time back, the old one was called FD and the current one is called EF / EF-S. Of course FD lens owners were not happy but that was some time ago. Canon bodies don’t have an internal AF focus assist lamp – so in dim light, the built-in flash blinks in a beserk manner to light up the near subject.

    Canon does put attention to their non DSLR compacts and bridge cameras. They have some individuality and features. There are firmware hacks (CHDK) to enable features that are not normally available in these cameras.


    Nikon has the next largest market share. I confess to having a soft spot for them but I was let down by the first Nikon I ever owned, a Nikon 775 compact 3x digital zoom camera. Nikon does have a range of non DSLR compacts and bridge cameras but mostly the passion to make them stand out isn’t the same as Canon.

    Now, the Nikon DSLRs go head to head against the Canon DSLRs and are used by pro photographers. Their lenses are good too, however, Nikon stove pipe lenses are black not white. Lowest range Nikon DSLR bodies do not have an AF motor in the body (for old lenses) and cheaper bodies are said not to meter the scene with old lenses in a convenient way – a sign of product differentiation.  This is at odds with the pride that the Nikon physical mount has changed little and old, old lenses fit new, new bodies.

    I like the Nikon DSLR grip, even the cheapest ones, and the cheap bodies feel dense and compact. The feel of solidity and denseness is a Nikon design ownership aesthetic.

    Either brand will do if you are into the "I belong to heap big tribe" attitude.

    And now, the other small tribes

    Firstly why bother with a brand that is not in the top two in market share?
    1. You like to root for the underdog.
    2. You want new features, earlier. They try harder – they introduce more innovative features, earlier. Flip Twist LCDs. Auto HDR. Sweep Panorama. Smaller and lighter gear, More attractive out-of-the-camera JPEGs. Mirrorless or non swinging mirrors. The list goes on.
    3. You eschew conservatism, financial and asset safety and are willing to take risks


    Sony is the next DSLR brand to discuss. Originally, the DSLR factory was Minolta but Minolta got sued heavily by Honeywell over a bun fight about who invented Auto Focussing and amongst other things, Minolta merged with Konica and then the merged entity lost interest in high risk, low returns camera market, so sold to Sony.

    Sony DSLRs of course have very strong innovative features - Sweep Pano, Automatic HDR, Translucent Mirrors and so on. Mirrorless. And with Sony's money bags, they can afford to launch several similar models at the same time and multiple lines of cameras - Full Frame, classic APS-C with mirrors, translucent mirrored SLTs and mirrorless NEX. They can afford to overlap market segments – compete with themselves. And ally with Carl Zeiss (lenses).


    Pentax has been a reliable, middle performer brand. They have moments of brilliance. They make good, respectable bodies. Their range of single focal length lenses / pancakes are famous. They’re cost effective. Competent. And now they come in scores of shades and colours. They have a long history of being “there”. Unfortunately, it’s hard being a small company. Hoya bought Pentax and then sold Pentax to Ricoh.


    Olympus is a maverick. Has been, Will be. Somehow Y. Maitani has retired but the legacy of his boldness is still in the company’s culture. They are the essence of the Japanese bento box – delicately made, well presented. Small. Because they don’t have a large tribe in tow, they have to be and are agile. Risk takers – again, if you are that size, you take the risk or become lost in the herd of tribesmen from other tribes. Who else would come out with a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera first? Who would take the decision to voluntarily retire the bulk of their DSLR line ahead of time? Their last and remaining DSLR model is the E-5. They are fully focussed on designing and making their PEN series of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras.

    However, the management has been in disgrace – they have carried out all kinds of financial and management misdeeds. We hope the company makes it.


    Panasonic and Sony are rivals in the TV and appliance space. In the photography space, Sony has the lead but Panasonic is not weak. Panasonic have established credibility in the compact and bridge categories. They have allied with Leitz (Leica) as Sony has allied with Carl Zeiss.

    In the DSLR space, Panasonic allied with Olympus but were quickly dissatisfied with progress in that category in terms of sales achievement. Panasonic are more comfortable in a category where there is more electronics than mechanicals so they jumped into the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless category with Olympus as collaborators.

    How about the different Types of Cameras?

    I’m not a camera taxonomist and I now look more at Interchangeable Lens Cameras (both Mirrored i.e. DSLR and Mirrorless)
    Let’s start from the top.

    The Pro DSLR

    Firstly we have the big bodied 24x36mm sized sensor “full frame” DSLRs. Expensive. Big. Heavy. Robust. Professional. Chatter faster than a machine gun. Takes equally expensive, big, heavy lenses. Why?
    1. Because you need professional quality equipment. I didn’t say anything about the often misused phrase, image quality. I said high quality equipment. Weather sealed.
    2. You have more cash than you know what to do with.
    3. You like carrying something weighty.
    4. You take out insurance and are not worried about getting mugged or robbed. Heck, you could even bash out the mugger’s brains with that D3s.

    The Enthusiast / Premium DSLR

    1. You wish you had the cash for a Pro DSLR but don’t.
    2. You want a second body for your Pro DSLR.
    3. You want a really good high ISO performance.
    4. You want a sizeable, dense body
    5. You want dual dials and big viewfinders, big, detailed LCD screens and lots and lots of mod cons. You want gear that performs.
    6. You want to be one up on the guy next door.

    The Entry Level DSLRs (or any DSLR for that matter)

    1. You want to “take your photography to the next level” and you see so many people with those black DSLRS.
    2. You want to shoot “manual” whatever that means.
    3. But you’re “happy to use iAuto or SCENE modes for the time being”
    4. You’re dissatisfied with your previous “point and shoots”
    5. You think a DSLR will make you a better photographer – after all, if you are the constant factor, surely throwing money at a better camera will make you take better pictures, right?
    6. You want “bokeh” whatever that is.
    7. You want to take shots of kids in motion in dark, dim rooms without flash. Or heck, just kids in motion, they never stay still and your “point and shoot” just shows the back of the leg in a blur.
    8. You are willing to step down from having a big zoom range to a paltry 3x or less zoom in a camera and lens package that costs more.  Oh, by the way, how do you measure a DSLR lens when you want to compare it with your current insane 36x zoom?
    9. You think these entry level DSLRs are soooo good, why on earth would you fork our more dough? After all, the sensor is the same, right?

    The Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

    1. You want a DSLR but you don’t want a DSLR in bulk and weight and clumsiness.
    2. You don’t mind paying more in the long run for this smaller camera than you would for an entry level DSLR – such new MILCs and Lenses are new, risk taking product – the companies need / want to make a good buck before the big tribes spoil the profits.
    3. You are willing to let go a little of that bokeh or use a manual-everything lens to get it.
    4. You’re ok with one, maybe two settings worse graininess or lower ISO ceiling.
    5. You’re ok with less choice of lenses because the lenses you want to use now or eventually are already in the catalogue.
    6. You’re ok with a slight hesitancy before the shutter clicks.
    7. You’re gonna try harder for shooting birds and sports.
    8. You don’t mind not having an optical viewfinder or even no viewfinder sometimes. And you enjoy Transformer type gadgets.

    The Ultrazoom / Bridgecam

    1. You don’t think all this interchangeable lens business is worth the money or the trouble.
    2. You want a real zoom. I mean 40x, is that too little?
    3. You want maximum bang for buck.
    4. You’re sure that your sensor isn’t small and besides, most of your shots are in bright sunny seaside towns of Devonshire
    5. You are a  “point and shoot”. Really,
    6. You like Kodakcolor, Fujicolor or Panasonic Color (thought I was gonna say Panacolor, didn’t you)
    7. You know how to fake bokeh with software. The real thing is over-rated.
    8. You haven’t got the time to futz around on a tourist trip. Wife and family aren’t gonna wait for you to set up a shot.

    The LX-5, ZX-1, S95 class of compact cams, with good image quality

    1. You want a real compact cam. I mean, have you seen one of those huge MILCs?
    2. You reckon the image quality is good enough.
    3. You don’t mind a 3x or 5x maximum zoom. Really.
    4. You like deep Depth of Field. Bokeh is for the birds.

    Saturday, 1 October 2011

    Community Articles at DP Review

    Recently, offered members the ability to publish Community Articles. I've been waiting for forum stickies - those posts that will not descend into the vapour of the timeline and these could be used as a reference point instead.

    I've contributed a few - the Table of Contents is at A-compilation-of-tips-for-beginners.

    Sunday, 4 September 2011

    Your Sense of Self in the Photos You Take

    It’s father’s day 2011, “Happy Father’s Day” to all those Dads. I’m pausing for reflection on the times and memories I had with my Dad and those I have myself with Number One. I’ve also been thinking about the photos I take and incidentally, Robin Wong has just posted on his blog - Robin Wong- Snapshots vs Photographs.

    To add context to my searching for self, I’ve been exposed to a barrage of Photogs on Google+, with lists of lists of lists of Photogs. Some with an immense sense of self, some with a sense of sharing, some that make images that you can tune in, some that are nowhere like it. On the other hand, I participate in the Beginner’s Forum at DP Review and that brings insight as well into how digital beginners view their efforts and their search for instantiation and validation by their peers.

    Really, it’s this. Photography is a journey for me. A search for my ability to create artistically – when my other pursuits are more logical and analytical. A liberation and a breathing of soul and life.Not every one approaches photography like this.

    Some people just want a quick snapshot of life, of the moment, of the people, of the circumstance. We speak of snapshots in a somewhat second class way, as something we don’t bring to the table in intellectual company. And yet, without this fervour for snapshots through the years, those intellectuals and collectors who now treasure sepia toned or faded colour photos for their vintage effect, won’t have much to treasure or collect.

    Some others treat Photography as an income source, with a workman like approach to the skill, to the photos and whatever perfectionism they place in competently and repeatedly taking a reliable, technically valid shot for a client brief. No, these are not snapshots, they’re sometimes very “set up”, staged and planned but I propose, they are not automatically satisfying to every individual viewer.

    And there’s a whole rainbow and plethora of reasons and rationale between the two cases.

    So, where does that leave you?

    • You’ve got to shoot what you like, in the way that you like.
    • The issue is that on the start of the journey through photography, one seeks validation and one seeks out a critic, a judge or failing that a peer. I guess that is part of the learning process – what do people think about your efforts. Is it too dark? Is it too light? Can you see what I see? Is my bum too fat in this?

      In some ways, this is inevitable – the search for truth in aesthetic appreciation. In other ways, it can be quite painful, tortuous as different viewers give varying opinions. Do you trust this opinion or the other opinion? At the end of the day, it comes back to you making your own opinion – it’s like the oft repeated saying of hiring a consultant to affirm what you already know.
    • A new aspect to me, is establishing what I like to see. Yes, before Google+, you had to venture out to see another artist’s work. Now, you just have to Circle everyone and your Stream is full of some gems and a lot of photos that you would not shoot yourself. And that’s the second big point – you take the time to sieve out what you don’t like and you absorb osmotically, visually, what makes you happy.
    • Finally, the pursuit and the journey – to produce the images that make you, and make what you like.
    • Don’t be in a hurry to achieve that final goal. Remember, it’s a journey of self discovery. You’re supposed to enjoy the journey. You’re supposed to discover yourself and your skills. If you could produce what you want yesterday, what would you do next?
    Between the stone men

    Saturday, 16 July 2011

    ‪Photographing Children - Tips

    For those newbies who want tips on taking photos of their active children
    We get a lot of newbies at DPR saying that they need the bestest camera at the cheapest price in the smallest package with the most bang for buck to take photos of their never still, restless children. I happened to see a video at the Tamron website and then followed the breadcrumbs....

    Sunday, 29 May 2011

    A wet Sunday and reflecting on technical RAW image quality

    Here's a response I posted on at a DPR forum:


    I was looking at the reviews on dpr and wanted to know about RAW image quality.  All other things being equal is RAW image quality the most important?  I mean isn't that the "real" picture?


    The most important, in no real rank sequence are:

    • The shooter - at least 80% of the picture. I have repeatedly seen Grumpy Old Conservatives (sometimes I am one of them) proclaim that gear A is so bad that it could not be used for activity X and then wait a few months, look around and voila, some unknown person on the other side of the internet produces an image which is spectacular.
    • The ability of the shooter and camera to get exposure "right". Some people rely on the camera a lot, others rely on themselves a lot. Those who rely on the camera need the exposure to be "just right"
    • The ability of the shooter and the camera to get the focus "right". Again some people rely a lot on the camera, others are more tolerant
    • For their needs, some shooters rely on the in-camera JPEG engine to get it right. They have no patience or persistence to sit at the computer and process data, their skill is in the field - composing, choosing the "decisive moment" - you can get gear that is technically perfect (i.e. 99% better digital quality vs 80% digital quality) but the image sucks because the shooter is a dud and gets composition, focus, exposure, depth of field or the moment, wrong.
    • RAW quality is technical quality - in order to render on the screen, a human or a program has to initially preset the choice of gamma transformation curve, colour saturation, sharpening, aberration correction, perspective correction. Any image you see on the screen that is recognisable to a human, has been rendered with these rendering parameters - the rendering is not about technical perfection it is about visual choice - the two do not have to be equal.
    • The RAW quality is the sensor and image processing pipeline quality - if you pick a camera which does not have the lens you want to use or the lens quality that you want, then the image could suck.

    Sunday, 23 January 2011

    Observational vs Expressive Styles

    In a recent discussion, a respondent asked what I meant when I said that most beginners start with an Observational Style and progressed to an Expressive Style. My take on this is that when one gets a camera and starts shooting, the scene one captures is what the camera sees, not what one wants to convey. Of course, there are exceptions, people who have what we call, a “natural eye” for the photo but they are exceptions rather than the rule.

    That “visualising eye” may indeed be inherent or it may be consciously and explicitly developed. Some “get it” early, some achieve some semblance of it, some work very hard but never “get it” – that side of the brain is so recessive that it appears with difficulty. There’s always hope though, that’s what’s so fascinating about going out with the camera on a purposeful mission – your encounter with the world should bring new, unpredictable, savoured moments – if you feel you’ve “been there, done that”, it’s maybe time to give the hobby or your approach to that hobby a rest or a change.

    I often see beginners on the DPR Beginners Forum ask – “which camera, which book, which website, which tutorial DVD” and on. And yes, there are products that will provide information but information is not knowledge and knowledge is not “soul”. You really need to go out, hang out with people who have soul, who have passion, to get some Shutter Therapy otherwise, as much as you read about cameras and menus and settings, it is hard to develop your aesthetic appreciation and artistic skill in a vacuum. Of course, there are exceptions.

    On a fresh and upbeat topic, I’ve just met up with a nice bunch of guys and girls – they’re members of the Malaysian Pen Lovers / Zuiko Lovers Group. David Chua is the Olympus product and brand evangelist (he assures us it is part time and he has his own clients as well as a young family) and the fabulous Robin Wong turns up when he can to contribute and lead as well. Robin’s written a blog article of our meetup as well: Robin Wong: Olympus Walkabout in KL

    The youthful exuberance and joie de vivre is infectious. You really have to walk in their shoes

    Add to that, age old memories of that little hill that hold Stadium Merdeka and downtown Petaling Street and it is a magical journey, a revisit to the past and the dilapidation that is here today.

    Robin comes from Sarawak, and he sees Kuala Lumpur with new eyes and new visualisations. I do too, as a visitor now, rather than someone who went to two schools in the city. There are so many offbeat visuals jostled within the life and living today. Many family businesses and even shops have extinguished and torn down, but there is still a lot of grit and texture to see.

    It’s not an easy life in the streets, in some respects, the whole world has shaken off its lethargy and it is no slack life anywhere else. The work in KL, however can be demonstratively hard.

    As the city develops into more styrofoamed, artificially contrived shopping malls, where the environment and appearances are manipulatively manufactured out of textureless blankness are we merely textureless visually or do we still run lives of challenge and difficulty like we’ve always run?

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    Advice to newbies asking “is this photo good”?

    Some random thoughts that occur to me when I look at photos that newbies show:
    • When anyone shows a photo, we look at the photo in its entirety. It's very difficult to look at a photo for "exposure" alone and not assess composition. It's like one bangs the keys on a piano and then one asks, was that a good piano? Without playing a recognisable tune, the banging of the piano overcomes any aesthetic appreciation of the quality of the piano.
    • Aesthetic appreciation varies with the person and with his mood.
    • Some people are more direct, some less. Sometimes you learn more from a direct remark, sometimes an ego gets hurt. That's life.
    • Just because someone buys a camera does not mean that someone is an artist or wants to be an artist. Cameras are no longer expensive now and everyone can choose to get one. People buy cameras to fulfil a need and that need may not be artistic. They may simply want to record and event, a memory. They may indeed want to “show” or “show off” to family and friends where they were, what they saw and they did not plan or did not have the opportunity to take more than a second to point and shoot. Or they may want an artistic shot but decades of mind numbing mundanity has grimed its patina onto their consciousness.
    • I've also noticed that cultural environment / economic environment / geographical environment / opportunity means that people point the camera at something quite different with quite different sense of aesthetic. Some of the photos look downright ugly to me but it may well be that I do not view them in the context that the shooter views them.
    On the other hand, you want standard, good old fashioned classic advice and criteria, then have a look at this Kodak Tutorial. Tags:

    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    What question should I ask

    Many, many times, we see newbies ask questions which they consider is crucially important or which they don’t understand the context of, at all. Invariably they desire a clear answer to the question. And proceed to the next question in a hurry, so that they resolve the issue of choice.

    TED Talks: Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice

    Let’s walk through some of these questions. (I’ll add more as I find them)

    Q1: I wish to purchase a wide angle zoom lens for taking wide angle landscapes. Should I buy the one with the bigger zoom range?

    A: No, you buy the one that has the wide field of view that you desire, has better image qualities, is within your budget reach. A bigger zoom range is a practical desire but it’s not the highest priority criteria.

    Q2: Should I choose a brand that has In Lens Image Stabilisation or In Body Lens Stabilisation? Which is better? Does In Body work out cheaper?

    A: Choose the camera model that you like to use and bond with. Choose the camera brand that you like to own. In Body Image Stabilisation works fine and is useful when you want to fit any hunk of glass (lens) onto the body, often old legacy lenses or modern wide angles which are not offered with In Lens Stabilisation. In Lens Stabilisation is good when you want the best expensive pro grade telephotos – because the lens should have a mechanism tuned just for that lens. The cost of an expensive lens is largely in the quality and size of the optics and build – the cost of the IS mechanism does not affect the price advantage either way. Some brands offer an IS body can third party lenses for that body offer IS in the lens. That’s nice to have but I wouldn’t use that feature as the prime criterion.

    Q3: I love those low light shots. Should I get the Canon XXX or the Nikon XXX? I’m avoiding those small sensor cameras because of high ISO image noise.

    A: It is true that an APS-C size sensor camera will have better high ISO, low noise performance, relatively. It is also true that these two brands typically have a 50mm f/1.8 nifty fifty cheap and bright lens. But that’s it.

    • If you are into landscapes, a formal one that is set up nice so that you reap the rewards of taking the patience of setting it up means, a tripod. I don’t like to carry a tripod and I hand hold whenever I can but really if you want a horizons level, nice depth of field, good composition that takes more than a split second of framing then click, high ISO isn’t the sole criteria. You might take the time to bracket your exposures or explicitly meter your exposure and mentally employ an Ansell Adams moment or a histogram / review moment to get it right. A high ISO, feel good fast click isn’t the sole reason to choose a camera.
    • Having a fast f/1.8 lens isn’t the absolute solution either. If you shoot an f/1.8 lens at f/1.8, the sharpness and micro contrast of that lens at that aperture isn’t the best. Additionally if you intend to use f/1.8 for indoor portraiture, the 50mm image magnification size and the shallow depth of field yields very soft portraits except for the eye you are focussing on or the nose that you mis-focussed on.

    Get some experience first and see what the total package works like in practice. Maybe you need a flash and reflectors. Maybe you need a tripod. Maybe you need brighter lights indoors or ask the subjects to come nearer the windows or existing lights.

    Theory doesn’t overcome practical experience.

    More as I see them….

    Saturday, 25 September 2010


    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans…

    When I was in school, this Max Ehrmann poem was all over students’ doors, walls. It’s since lost favour in this world of incessantly competitive and vexatious world of internet forums and dropped remarks.

    As I participate in DPR forums, the Beginners Forum reveals lots of insecurities and misconceptions. Lots of people want better photos with the elusive Image Quality (IQ) – they think that getting a better camera magically creates better photos. We keep telling them that 80% of the photo comes from the envisioning + patience + persistence + evolving skill of the photographer. Particularly when one starts from zero base. And a 50% improvement in equipment performance is 50% enhancement of the remaining 20% due to gear. Certainly a skilled craftsperson can and does benefit from heavy investment in better gear but encountering that boundary requires a enlightened understanding of that encounter.

    I’ve shot the scene above, many times, under different weather, different seasons, with different cameras at different times of day. Whilst persevering with my Kodak P880 a few days ago, I was evolving my approach. The P880 is a love-hate camera for me – it can surprise with amazingly clear and detailed photos (usually in the hands of someone who lives in Devon, England or Greece) and amazingly unspectacular, nondescript photos. And this scene has shown all the variations.

    This time it works for me. Nicely detailed foliage, stone and wood. Sky not burnt out. Strong colours but not distractingly burnt out.

    ISO 50. Matrix Metering. Programmed Mode. EV – 0.7. In-camera contrast at max. In-camera sharpening at max. Tags: ,,,