This course lasts for about five hours over two evenings. Check with Henley's for the latest schedule.
The class starts at 6:00 pm at Henley's Photo, 2000 H Street, Bakersfield (661-324-9484). The class ends at approximately 8:00 pm depending upon the number of question from students. Following class, the instructor will help students with individual needs and provide individual attention for "problem cameras" that may have an undiscovered malfunction or erroneous menu setting.
- Bring your camera with a fully charged battery, memory card and lens
- Bring a notepad and pen if you wish to take notes
- Class is informal, dress is casual, questions are encouraged
- Cost is $60 per student payable to Henley's
- You may Email me for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
In your Introduction to Photography class we will go beyond AUTO mode. Way beyond! Please review the following ten ideas so that you will be more able to enjoy the introduction class. Get ready, we are leaving AUTO behind!...
1. While using a digital camera, you may select "shutter priority" using the camera's "mode dial" to lock-in a desired shutter speed. Shutter speed, or shutter time value, is the length of time the camera's shutter remains open when you push a camera's shutter-release button. A shutter speed, such as 1/25s (one-twenty-fifth of a second) is slow. This can be used to reveal some motion in the "subject of interest" of your photograph. A shutter speed of 1/4000s is very fast. This will make the blades of a helicopter appear motionless. Shutter priority is often used in sports photography to freeze action. A shutter speed of 1/1000s will stop most all human movement. But is it desirable to always stop any hint of motion? Clearly, no. To obtain a correct exposure when selecting shutter priority, the aperture or opening in the middle of the camera's lens will automatically open or close to balance the amount of light striking the camera's film or sensor. This is very similar to the functioning of an eye's iris. (Note: in reality, we typically do not want to eliminate all automatic functions of the camera. While this option is available, as a practical matter, it makes photography a tedious affair. Most often photographers select a few features to control manually and allow the camera to control the remainder).
2. Sometimes you are more interested in a particular f-stop (the diameter of the aperture within a lens) than the camera's shutter speed. Using "aperture priority," you can select a particular f-stop for a lens and the camera will obtain a correct exposure by altering the shutter speed. Convenient! Aperture openings are standardized along a scale from f/1 to f/64 but, most often, consumer lenses range from f/1.2 to f/22. The "f" stands for F-Number or focal ratio (the ratio of lens' focal length to aperture diameter). You may choose an aperture of f/1.4 to f/2.8 (if your lens allows) to obtain a narrow "depth of field" or limited area of sharp focus. You may also choose an aperture of f/22 to obtain a deep depth of field. Such decisions are made to obtain a photographic "composition" suitable for the artistic expression or visual documentation being recorded. Remember, depth of field is dependent upon not only the aperture setting but also the point of focus. Another reason to select a particular f-stop may be to obtain the sharpest area or "sweet spot" of a lens. This is typically between f/5.6 and f/11 but individual lenses vary considerably. At f/16 or f/22 there may be some image softening due to light "diffusion" through small apertures.
3. ISO to the rescue! or Not? You may find that you don't have enough light to successfully use the shutter speed or f-stop that interests you. One possible solution is to increase the camera's ISO (International Standards Organization) value. The "native" ISO of most digital camera sensors is ISO 100. As you increase the ISO to, for example, ISO 200, 400, 800, or 6400, or more, the sensor becomes more sensitive to light. This would be very convenient except that as ISO increases your photograph will reveal more "digital noise" or grain. At some point, grain will become distracting for viewers. It is very much like turning up the volume on a pair of stereo speakers. At some point, higher volume surrenders to an awful noise! In fact, digital grain reveals the "signal to noise" ratio of the imaging sensor. Increasing ISO may be a necessity, but is always an unfortunate substitute for having additional light.
4. Can I just leave my camera on automatic? Yes. And you can keep those trainer wheels on your bicycle too! You can keep your driving instructor in your car as you drive. You can also keep mom or dad with you on your dates...well that may be a good idea! At some point, you will wish to stop taking snapshots and become a photographer. A photographer is someone who has mastered the camera options as well as photographic composition. This requires becoming knowledgeable of your camera's numerous settings. It is impossible to separate photographic composition from camera options or lens settings. That would be like separating a train from its tracks.
First start with "P Mode" this will provide you with options for both aperture and shutter speed. To view these options, observe the information at the bottom of the camera's viewfinder. You will have to push the shutter button halfway for this information to appear. Some cameras provide menu choices to keep this information illuminated for longer than the few seconds provided by default. Shutter priority is a good choice for sports photographers and aperture priority is good for those who know how their lens will respond at various aperture settings.
5. Who are these RAW shooters? And isn't that illegal? You can choose to shoot JPEG photographs or obtain RAW files (or both at the same time!) from your camera. Those who shoot RAW obtain a file that includes everything collected by the camera's sensor. This is very good! However, the RAW shooter must process the image. For JPEG files, the camera does all the work of image processing. For RAW files, the photographer does all the work using Adobe Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe Lightroom, Phase One's Capture One, or Adobe Photoshop CC. Many photographers enjoy this process. The process is known as "post-production." JPEG image files are always less forgiving when being edited than RAW image files. The color accuracy of JPEG file is more easily lost during image adjustment than the color accuracy of RAW files. JPEG files are the camera's best guess concerning all visual aspects of an image. With RAW you may choose from among a host of visual nuances and variables. Additionally, all JPEG files are compressed. Image compression is like wine tasting, you get a sip, not an entire glass. A RAW file captures much more "dynamic range" than JPEG files. Dynamic range is the range of detail from shadows to highlights captured by a camera's sensor. RAW files contain a "full glass" of image tones from black point through three-quarter tones, mid-tones, one-quarter tones, subtle highlights and white point. RAW files are also more easily adjusted for exposure inadequacies, color inaccuracies (tints), and white balance errors. A RAW file may be finalized as a JPEG, lossless (uncompressed) TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) or in many other file types. RAW provides great freedom. JPEG not so much.
6. What is exposure? We all know when a photograph is overexposed. It looks too white. It hurts our eyes to look at it! We all know when a photograph is underexposed. We can't see any detail in the shadows. An "ideal" photograph has a small area of pure black and a small area of pure white and everything in between. Such a photograph has a correct exposure and is easily appreciated. A digital camera obtains exposure by looking for the middle ground between black and white. This middle ground is gray (more technically, the light reflected from an 18% gray card). The exposure meter within the camera is tuned to middle gray. It would be silly for it to be tuned to black or white wouldn't it? Such a camera would only be good for taking photographs of a black cat in a coal mine or a snowman in front of a white fence. (Disclaimer: nothing I have said is intended to stunt the artistic desires of great artists. A photograph may be largely black or almost pure white but, as a practical matter, most photographs simply are not). Your camera can be set to determine exposure by examining all the light in front of the lens (evaluative), only the central area (center-weighted), or merely a small portion in front of the lens (spot metering).
7. Exposure compensation and bracketing. Almost all modern digital cameras have a function for fine tuning the exposure metering process. Most often the camera will determine a very suitable exposure, but you can assert control over this process. If the subject of interest is light absorbing like cast iron or highly reflective like snow, the on-board light meter may misinterpret the scene as being grayer than it actually is. An experienced photographer uses exposure compensation to overexpose a reflective subject and underexpose a light absorbing subject. This renders blacks as black rather than gray-black and white as white rather than gray-white. This seems counter-intuitive doesn't it? With experience we can learn how and when to use this tool but it is a very important tool to master. You can also set the camera to bracket a series of shots from a chosen exposure. Minimally, this includes + and - 1/3 or 1/2 of a "stop." The intended result is a range of photographs from which to select the optimal exposure. A "stop" is twice as much or half as much light allowed to strike the sensor. One stop + or - is also known as one +1 EV or - 1 EV (EV is short for exposure value and can include shutter speed adjustment, aperture adjustment or both).
8. The exposure triangle. To change exposure values we may increase or decrease shutter speed, increase or decrease our lens's aperture (f-number), or increase or decrease the sensor's ISO. This is a juggling act! Change one and you have to change the other. This is not uncommon. You do such things every day! You select a restaurant based on the amount of cash in your wallet, plus available parking, minus your craving for the Juicy Bun Hamburger joint. Photography is no different. You have to make decisions and compromises on the way to the perfect shot. Remember your first 2,000 photographs are the most difficult. I don't mean just snapping the shutter 2,000 times in automatic either! Those first 2,000 photographs that turn you into a real photographer come from sizing up the scene, selecting the best lens, positioning the camera for the most effective rendering of the subject of interest, and choosing a shutter speed and/or aperture (and, perhaps adjusting ISO and exposure compensation). Then you must study the result on your computer screen and, perhaps, in the form of a print to discern what you did right and what you could have done better. THEN you have to ask the opinion of others because we often do not see our own errors. Photographers...so human an animal!
9. The modern digital camera is a scientific instrument that records light. It is scientific because it employs applied physics and engineering, exacting measurements, and advanced digital technologies to produce an excellent reproduction of visual phenomenon in front of the lens. Without light there can be no photography. No photographer ever went home despondent and said, "I couldn't photograph today! There was light everywhere!" Understanding, using, and controlling light is the key to successful photography. A successful photograph is one that communicates your visual concept with such perfection that viewers gasp in wonder and delight! Well...hopefully. Light that just happens to be there is "ambient light." "Incident light," includes ambient light plus electronic flash. But there are many ways to augment and control lighting. Many times demanding photographers will wait for perfect lighting conditions when photographing landscapes. Photographers also use studios to obtain exact control of lighting and composure. Whatever your goal, you must learn to use light to enhance your visual communication.
10. With regard to the hue of lighting, our eyes may deceive us. However, a digital photograph or print tells the truth. The hue of light can be measured as a color "temperature" from 0 degrees Kelvin at absolute zero to 60,000 degrees Kelvin in light produces by a giant blue star. Daylight, on planet Earth, is about 5500 degrees Kelvin. You may see an image illuminated by candle light (about 2000 degrees Kelvin) as a pleasing amber but the camera will record it as white if its white balance setting is set to automatic. A camera's white balance setting can be used to compensate for light that is amber, such as from a candle, or light that is blueish, such as ambient light beneath a bright blue sky (as much as 10,000 degrees Kelvin). Setting white balance to compensate for amber to blue lighting variations and tints, such as are produces from fluorescent or mercury vapor lighting, will provide greater control over color. Is white balance is best left alone!!?? Well, as with every camera setting, if you change it, it remains as you have selected until you change it again. If you select a particular white balance for a particular lighting situation, be certain to adjust it at the next shoot if the lighting changes. Automatic white balance is quite good in very pricey cameras. Less expensive cameras require decision making by the photographer, especially if amber or blue color casts are to be removed in favor of white light. Remember, amber light is "warmer" and has a happy ambiance while bluish light is "cold" and emotionally subdued. JPEG image white balance is locked in. RAW file white balance can be changed effortlessly.
11. In many digital cameras, you can change focus points to create a focus priority area within a scene. A modern digital camera may have nine to sixty-four or more focus points. Central focus points (also known as cross-type focus points) are the most accurate. I use one central focus point much of the time to maintain control over focusing.
12. Digital cameras typically have a "focus lock" button conveniently near the shutter-release. Using this button, you can focus on an object at one distance, hold the button down and use that focus while recomposing your shot. This takes some practice but is a great tool for altering depth of field within a composition. In the camera's menu, focus lock can be set to lock focus and exposure, only focus or only exposure. Options, options, options!!!
13. Lenses are known by their focal length in millimeters (mm) and their largest aperture. A 50mm f/1.2 prime lens is a lens with a "normal" field of view (FoV) having considerable light gathering power. Such a lens is called "fast" because a fast shutter speed may be used with it. A 600mm f/5.6 lens is a telephoto lens that has limited light gathering power. It will also be very heavy so a tripod will be useful. A 17 - 40mm f/4 zoom lens is a cost effective and very versatile wide-angle lens. Remember almost all consumer cameras have a sensor that is 1/2 the size of a traditional 35mm (actually 36mm x 24mm) negative. This means that most sensors have a "crop factor" of 1.5. On such a camera, a 200mm lens has the FoV of a full-frame (35mm equivalent) sensor at 300mm (200 x 1.5 = 300). And a 20mm lens has the FoV of a 30mm lens on a full frame camera (20 x 1.5 = 30). Smaller sensors focus well on near-by objects. Larger sensors often show better results in low light. When you buy a digital camera, you are paying for sensor quality, processing power, environmental seals and options. You get what you pay for.
14. Pixels and resolution. Now that we are all grown up its time to think in terms of pixels rather than inches. For fine art prints we typically shoot at the highest available resolution. A digital image having 240 to 360 pixels per inch (PPI), will print nicely. For the Internet you may use from 85 to 300 PPI. Do not confuse PPI with DPI (dots per inch) inkjet printers spray dots of ink not pixels.
15. What is sRGB? Your camera may record images in sRGB or Adobe RGB. For fine art printed on a professional quality ink-jet printer use the larger Adobe RGB "color space." The rest of the world, and especially, the Internet uses sRGB (standardized RGB) as a color space. Experienced RAW users employ the ProPhoto color space. Working in a larger color space insures more reliable color consistency when processing RAW files. Being mindful of color accuracy is part of the "color managed workflow."
16. The histogram. Is this like history? Because I hated memorizing all those dates! NO! This is far more exciting than Waterloo (1815). A histogram is a graph that shows you the distribution of pixels in your image from black point to white point and how many pixels there are in any tonal area in-between. And it's free inside your camera. To view the histogram of an image you have taken, go to the view screen and press that universal triangle button on your camera to bring up images stored in the memory card. You may have to press the "INFO" button several times to display the histogram or access the menu to enable it. There it is. Good work! A histogram tells us more and more about an image as we grow in understanding of the message it is conveying. If a histogram is skewed to the left, the image may be underexposed, to the right, it may be overexposed. If there are gaps adjacent to the black point at the extreme left or adjacent to the white point on the extreme right, then the image is lacking valuable tonal information in those areas and the exposure or lighting needs to be changed. Remember, for an image to have "POP" it must have a properly located black point and white point. Think of the black point and white point as anchors. When properly set, they solidly fasten tonal values. Learning to "read" a histogram provides you with an analytical tool that is used in all post-production software programs for image adjustment. In Photoshop CC, I always study an image's histogram and alter black point, white point and midtones (gamma) as needed. This is known as "remapping" tonal values. Histograms are key to understanding exposure and improving images in the "digital darkroom." The digital darkroom is that software you use to craft your images. Famous photographers, such as Ansel Adams, spent hours in the darkroom improving images. Today we use computer programs to do the same work. It's not cheating, honest!
17. Computer monitors display color by adding red, green, and blue colors together. If you own an Apple computer, your monitor typically displays accurate colors. Apple products are subject to Apple's strict quality control standards (thank you CEO Steve Jobs!). If you own a PC (Personal Computer) your monitor may display colors inaccurately right out of the box. Owning a PC provides you with many, many component options. Some of these options, such as Nvidia video cards, advanced ASUS motherboards, Intel CPUs, Western Digital hard drives, and Corsair computer memory or power supplies, are excellent. However, the price and quality of available PC components and monitors varies considerably. The color gamut (span of colors) of less expensive PC monitors is the sRGB color space. More sophisticated monitors may display much of the larger Adobe RGB color space. However, regardless of its manufacture or price, your monitor may not display color correctly or may be too bright. This results in photographs that display different colors on different monitors. The original photograph may look quite acceptable on the monitor of the computer where it was first composed but may reveal an annoying magenta or green tint on other monitors. The solution for professional photographers, is to calibrate their monitors using Datacolor's Spyder5Elite (about $225). This device is simple to use and will provide you with a monitor that displays colors captured by your camera accurately. The device's software installs a color profile within the Windows operating system that loads into your video card during boot up. Generally, a calibrated monitor will appear somewhat darker (the 65K standard) than users may prefer. A computer monitor is not a television. Most televisions are way, way, way too bright for accurate photographic post-production. Often monitors that are too bright result in darker prints and monitors that are too dark produce unacceptably light prints. The only solution for professional results and accurate color management is to calibrate your monitor. Also, see my book: Building Your Own High-Performance Personal Computer for additional information.
18. Learning photography is a lifelong process. As we critique ourselves and study our camera and lenses we can't help but become more sophisticated photographers. But don't be discouraged if you do not "get it" all at once. Some concepts in digital imaging and graphic arts can take quite a while to sink in! But, at some point, you will print an image that exceeds your expectations on many levels. At that time, a flash will go off in your mind and you will say to yourself with absolute certainty, "I am a photographer. I really am."
19. To find the perfect computer for your photographic work visit: www.thepcbook.com.