Photography for Dummies: Part2
In the first part of this Photography for Dummies series, I tried to bust some popular myths that people have about this field of passion and how to find yourself in this sea of madness. Let’s dive deep now into the world of serious, ass-kicking photography using hunky DSLRs and confusing software.
The first question that came to my mind is, why the hell do people spend thousands of rupees on these bulky plastic boxes, with another bulky plastic pipe protruding out one side, which they tow around in bulky bags or on their neck? Why do they spend hours darkening and lightening a photo at arbitrary places using software that cost more than their camera? What is the need for such specialist equipment for recording our day to day visual encounters?
One way to compare DSLRs and digi-cams would be to look at iOS and Android operating systems. iOS is like a digi-cam, good looking and user friendly, but give you little or no control over the functioning of the device you paid thousands for. DSLR is like Android, you can tweak it like crazy and control almost all aspects of its functioning, but it may not be that intuitive or easy to use.
Advantages of DSLR over digicams:
- Manual Control:
This is THE MOST important aspect of shooting with a big camera, you can control all aspects of a photograph, Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, White Balance, Exposure Bias, Bracketing etc. If you have ever seen the EXIF data for a photo, you will understand that in the end, it’s all about hitting that perfect combination of the above mentioned entities to get that wow shot.
- Depth of Field:
Also called Bokeh, this is most widely recognised as blurry background. The biggest problem with digicams is that they are very bad with this magic, their nature of work is more like journalistic photography, everything in focus and no artsy stuff. Even if you are somehow able to control the aperture, their max. apertures are so small that bokeh is minimal at best.
- Perfect Focus:
When you look at a digicam screen, usually you will see a small rectangular area which tells you which part is in focus. This is rather vague and does not help at close ranges or for getting quick focus. DSLRs have Focus Points, so you can choose any one of the many available and it will stick to the subject like chewing gum under a desk. So even if you are shooting a Cheetah running at full throttle, you can look into his eyes and tell if he’s been drinking.
- Buffer for manipulation:
One of the most important aspects of any photograph is how much information has been used to create it. You might see a view as mountains, rivers and birds, the camera sees it as 0’s and 1’s, it’s all digital. So the more 0’s and 1’s the camera can capture, you more you can manipulate it later to reproduce that moment perfectly. A normal digicam shot is roughly 5 MB in size, on the other hand, even a beginner DSLR would shoot more than 25 MB of files on an average.
- RAW shooting:
RAW shooting is like the God of wisdom for photographers. Think of it this way, you go to the fish market and buy a big tuna. You come back home, chop it into hexagons, cook it on a campfire and then eat it nude. This is RAW shooting, you can do a lot with your intial shot, you have all the choices in the world. On the other hand, digicams usually shoot in JPEGs. This is like you go to a restaurant, order a tuna, eat whatever they serve and go home. So no nudity, no hexagons and no fun.
So succinctly, if you want complete control over your shot and will cut no corners as far as image quality is concerned, you are in DSLR territory. If you don’t mind some loss of focus and your field of work is more towards realism than fine art, a digicam is your love.
I mentioned in my last post, shooting with a DSLR requires a lot of work before, during and after the actual process of clicking the button. This should be clearer to you people now after we discussed the manipulation advantage of DSLRs because of more information per shot. Now, I must warn you that serious post processing is no child’s play, it’s not like Snapseed or Instagram, there are no ready solutions, you have to do everything yourself.
So again, if you shoot with a mobile or a digicam, you process it with Instagram or Snapseed, you have little control over the shot or the processing but it will not take more than 5 minutes for the whole thing. If you shoot with a DSLR, you process it with Lightrooom or Photoshop, you have every possible control over the shot and its processing, but the combined time spend behind your camera and in front of your computer would be in hours, many many tiring, back aching, legs sleeping, bloody eyed hours.
Processing solutions based on need:
1. Level 1, good control over processing, easier to use, less time consuming: Lightroom.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is like the slutty sister of Photoshop, it is easier to please, looks better and gets the job done quickly. Just want to add some darkening to the edges? Slide the Post Crop Vignette slider to left. Want to remove all colors but yellow? Set all color slides to -100 and leave yellow as it is. Want to sharpen? Choose the amount, radius and detail and you are spent.
2. Level 2, awesome control over processing, difficult to use, time consuming: Photoshop.
Photoshop has been the bread and butter for photographers for centuries, or maybe years who cares, it’s just always been there. However, a simple task of darkening the corners will have you choose the Burn brush, set its opacity, flow, hardness and size as per need, then thousands of clicks later, if you are satisfied, it will be over. So the foreplay lasts forever with Photoshop, but the climax is much more intense.
3. Level 3, crazy Indian-parents-with-their-teenage-daughter control, much difficult to use, extremely time consuming: The complete post processing workflow.
Check out this shot below.
This image was made with approximately 200 MB of image data. It is a 3 shot HDR. First of all, i imported all the photos to Lightroom, then tweaked them for basic contrast and exposure settings and exported them as TIFF files. These TIFF files were then processed using Photomatix, which brings out the details from both over and underexposed shots. The final product from Photomatix was a 150 MB TIFF file. This file was then processed with Photoshop to remove some overhead wires and other distractions. Finally, the file was again sent through the bowels of Lightroom for Vignette and other tweaks to give us this result. How much time? More than 4 hours.
If you are ready to spend this much time and effort, your results will reflect it for sure. There is no shortcut for beautiful shots, you need to pack your bags, travel and eat dust, set up your shot, process it and then present it. There are many many more post processing solutions available, like Nik Software, Aperture etc.; I have discussed here what I use.
It’s all a bargain, what you give is what you get. See you next time, when i will discuss Digicams, Mobiles and their post processing philosophy.