Super street pic Sam, gritty processing.
Monthly Archives: August 2009
Super street pic Sam, gritty processing.
Congrats Matt, feeling the heat in Busan.
The great debate since the advent of digital photography is on going: which is superior?? Film photography? Or shooting digital… Over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at the pros and cons of each, and hopefully have a better handle on each medium as a result. Probably the best way to do this is compare different areas of photography and image quality, using the SLR style camera as the common denominator. This week we’ll compare some costs associated with owning cameras.
A 35mm film camera is cheaper than the equivalent digital and this is undisputed. A comparable digital camera will set you back in excess of a couple of thousand dollars, whereas a good film camera is considerably cheaper. However, you can still pick up excellent DSLRs for less than $1000, but because the image sensor is smaller than 35mm film image quality suffers as a result by comparison. Don’t misunderstand, the image quality you get from consumer and pro-sumer DSLRs is still very good (actually better in some areas), but when directly compared to a 35mm print, the difference in quality is unmistakable. We’ll look at the issue of image quality in a couple of weeks.
The option that the film camera presents that digital does not is the second-hand purchase. You can pick up a used film cameras as much as 10 or 20 (or more!) years old that function as new, and often for much less than $100. In contrast, advancing digital technology renders the modern DSLRs obsolete quickly – a good film camera will last you a lifetime while that state of the art digital you bought the other day is junk in a few years. In terms of value for money combined with longevity, the film camera would appear to be the best option.
The digital camera has the advantage of lower running costs. After all, the ongoing purchase of rolls of film combined with processing and printing costs conspire to make shooting film a high maintenance endeavor, while these costs are non-existent shooting digital, right? Well, yes. But think about what you would spend on keeping up with technology – buying several expensive DSLR cameras over the years – against a single inexpensive film SLR plus film and processing. How does it stack up? As digital is the preferred method of storing and sharing images, you can further save in the film arena by forgoing physical prints and getting your negatives processed straight to CD. I don’t know the definitive answer to this question, but seen in that light, the costs associated with shooting film don’t seem quite so great. It’s certainly food for thought.
So, all things considered economically speaking, which is the better option? The justification for the purchase of many expensive DSLRs is the claim that “We’ll save money on film and processing”, but as we’ve just seen over the long term, this argument isn’t necessarily founded on facts and you may just be better off with an inexpensive 20-year-old film camera.
Next week, we’ll look at the question of how easy it is to use film cameras vs. digital. In the meantime, head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
By Aaron Raisey
Nice pic Darwin, gotta watch those pandas!!
Last time we talked about what bokeh is and how we can produce it. We now know that bokeh is strongly linked to the size of aperture we choose, and the kind of lens we use has an effect on the bokeh we get. This week we’ll look at lenses in a bit more detail and how they relate to producing bokeh.
Before we go any further, we must remind ourselves that bokeh is a very subjective quality and there are always exceptions to any typical set of circumstances, but we can make some generalizations. So let’s look at the different lenses that photographers use. We can group them into three convenient sets, or kinds of lenses – wide-angle, prime and telephoto.
First let’s deal with wide-angle. Here, wide-angle means shorter than 35mm and bokeh is typically difficult to achieve, especially at very short focal lengths. The commonly smaller minimum apertures combined with the wide-angle effect means you have to be very close to the subject with a very large distance between subject and background to even begin to produce noticeable bokeh. If you are looking for the ability to create worthwhile bokeh, wide lenses are not the kind to be using, and this is also why point and shoot style cameras have great difficulty in this area.
At the other extreme, telephoto lenses generally produce a good bokeh effect. Telephoto lenses of about 135mm and longer can produce nice blurring of the background as a by-product of their perspective at similar apertures to the wide-angle lenses. Nature and sports photographers use telephoto lenses to separate their distant subjects from the background. Many portrait photographers also prefer a short telephoto for this very reason.
Without a doubt, the kings of bokeh are prime lenses. A prime lens is a lens whose focal length is fixed, and most generally taken to mean a fixed length lens from about 35mm to 135mm – and within this range bokeh is often an important design consideration. Using a prime lens to produce attractive bokeh means we don’t need to get into extreme situations like with wide-angle lenses, or to stand a great distance from the subject as when using a telephoto. Using a prime lens at larger apertures, we can get that great bokeh effect in just about any ordinary photographic situation. The focal length of 50mm is by far the most popular among the primes. Commonly with apertures of f/1.8 or f/1.4, these lenses are usually of very high quality, reasonably cheap and excellent bokeh makers.
So you bought a DSLR last week with a zoom lens? What about zoom lenses?
Most zoom lenses span focal lengths in the prime range, but they vary greatly in quality, and perhaps more importantly, have smaller apertures than primes for any given focal length. The more expensive zooms can often produce great bokeh, but if you are really looking to bring this effect into your photographic repertoire, you need the larger apertures only available on prime lenses.
Get out there, experiment with different apertures and head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
by Aaron Raisey
It’s a mysterious quality, and effective use of bokeh can greatly enhance your photography. I mentioned it last week, so we’ll look at it in more detail this week.
Q: It’s a strange word, where does it come from?
A: The origin of the word is Japanese, meaning something similar to “blur” or “not in focus.” It has been adopted into the language of photography to mean the aesthetic quality of the out of focus areas of a photograph. There is some debate over the accepted pronunciation in English, but “b” + “oke” as in “poke” combined with “ay” as in “pay” seems to be most widely employed.
Q: Okay, but getting back to the photography, what really is it?
A: Let me give you an example. Have you ever seen a photo taken at night where the lights in the background are big round blobs? Or a portrait where the background is so blurry that you can’t see any detail, just fuzzy shapes? It’s those areas of an image that photographers refer to when they talk about bokeh.
Q: I like the effect, so how can I get my pics to have some decent bokeh?
A: There are several contributing factors towards achieving nice bokeh, but probably the most significant is the selected aperture, or f value of your lens – how much light your lens is letting in. At larger apertures (the smaller the f-stop number) you will get more bokeh effect. For example, if your aperture value is f/11 (small aperture), you will get little to no bokeh. If f/2.8 (large aperture) is selected then you will get good bokeh in most conditions.
Q: You said aperture is important, what are some other considerations?
A: The relationships between various factors and the existence or degree of bokeh you can produce are extremely complex, but I can give you a couple of guidelines to keep in mind.
Distance is a factor – if the distance between you and the subject is smaller than the subject and the background, you will be enhancing the bokeh.
The focal length of the lens has an influence – the shorter the lens, the less bokeh you can get for the same aperture value. At an equal distance from the subject, a 50mm lens at f/2.8 will produce more bokeh than a 16mm lens at f/2.8. Point and shoot cameras typically struggle to produce good bokeh due to their very short focal lengths.
Q: How do I see it in action for myself?
A: First, you need to have control of your aperture, so click into Aperture Priority mode on your SLR. Choose a convenient subject – a lamppost is good – and from a meter or two away, take a series of pictures at various apertures. You will see the effect the different apertures have on the background.
Next week, we’ll look at bokeh in a bit more detail as it relates to different types of lenses and how we can use it creatively in our photography. In the meantime, you can see some great examples at the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
by Aaron Raisey
Last week we talked about things to avoid in our photography. This week we’ll address some of the “should do” things, but with special regard to portraits. Portrait pictures are at once easy to take, yet difficult to do well. Here are a few easy tips and techniques to help you make your subject look great.
1. Get close. I don’t necessarily mean make them feel uncomfortable by invading their personal space, but typically you want to fill the frame with your subject. And not with just their body, we need to get closer than that. Fill it with their head and shoulders – close enough to see the twinkle in their eyes. Be very careful though, if you are using a lens of less than about 50 mm, distortion can become a factor. While this can look amusing, it usually isn’t very funny for the subject.
2. Focus on the eye. The point of focus should be the nearest, or both. The eyes are, as they say, the window to the soul, so let your subject’s personality and mood shine through. Having the eyes out of focus is the surest way to kill a portrait, and it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the picture is. Also work to position the eyes in the upper third of the frame, as this helps the image look more natural.
3. Eliminate distractions. We looked at some of these issues last week – Background elements merging with the subject and pictures that are too “busy” being a couple of examples. In short, remember to pay equal attention to the background and ensure there’s nothing going on back there to take attention from your subject.
4. Blurry backgrounds are good. Use a larger aperture to give the area behind the subject that nice blurry look. This effect – bokeh as it’s often called – is one of the hallmarks of a great portrait. What this “out of focus effect” does is reduce or eliminate many of those distractions in the background and focus the viewer’s attention onto the subject. Creative use of this effect by say, seeking a background with colors complementing the subject, or with an attractive distribution of bright and dark areas can really enhance an image. Use an aperture of f/4 or less for portraits. Be careful though – at low f-stop values (larger apertures) nailing focus on the eyes becomes critical, especially if you are very close.
5. Relax! If you are a relaxed photographer, your subject is likely to be more relaxed too. Natural, relaxed subjects are always better than cheesy grins and hard eyes.
6. Rules are made to be broken. This week’s challenge winner breaks some of these tips. Small aperture (f/8), eyes in the middle of the frame and a large space at the top of the image, yet the portrait is successful. Offsetting these “broken rules” are a very natural, relaxed subject, no background distractions and an interesting, complementing cloud-filled sky. The point of view is also different. Changing the point of view – be it higher or as it is here, lower than usual – is another technique to make your portraits more interesting.
To see some fantastic examples of portraits, join up at the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
by Aaron Raisey