I’ve seen a few posts on this subject recently, as well as some distraught people thinking they’ve lost all their data, so thought I’d note down my process which I think is fairly safe in the hope it helps someone out there.
It’s a very boring subject, but hugely important. I did this to an extent before I got serious about photography and to be honest it’s not the arty photographs I’d be most gutted to lose but my family photos. There’s also a lot of other things which aren’t sentimental but would be very annoying to lose, like the music collection in my case. I couldn’t imagine being in a situation where all my data was gone. I’m approaching this as a keen amateur though, as a professional your entire career could be based on these files and a hard drive failure without backup could mean significant loss of earnings.
Recently my work has drifted towards a darker more abstract side, I’ve been using quite a lot of camera movement within this, which normally means shutter speeds of 0.3 to 2 seconds. In daylight the bottom end of this is just about achievable with ISO 100 and f/22 but sometimes you need to get things darker, a polariser or ND8 usually get me in the right ballpark.
That’s all easy enough on the Canon 6D but often I only have a Fuji X-M1 in my pocket, the 27mm lens has an awkward 39mm filter thread and I don’t really want to be messing about with filters on there, the point of that camera is compact portability. The other downside is it maxes at ISO 200 and f/16, so I’m miles away from getting the slow shutter I need.
If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram you will have recently seen me post a dark black and white photo of some blurry trees, if not then here it is.
I entered it into a couple of regular weekly competitions on Twitter, one of which being Fotospeed Print Mondays where a photo from that weekend is chosen to win an A3 print. For those who don’t know Fotospeed they make fantastic papers, so if you print your work do check them out.
Composition is a very subjective thing, there are lots of guidelines like the rule of thirds but as clichéd as it sounds these are all there to be broken. One thing I have found as I’ve been learning photography is that I often prefer landscapes shot in portrait orientation which might not be the most obvious or conventional approach.
I think it’s always worth trying when you’re shooting your next landscape, take a portrait version of the same scene and see the difference it makes to the photograph.
A while back, before my latest trip to Scotland, I posted a picture on my Instagram showing the camera kit I was packing to take with me. One of the biggest subjects that comes up in photography blogs and magazines is gear, so I wanted to give my take on it as someone who can’t afford to spend a lot.
Obviously great gear doesn’t make for great photos, you still need to have an eye for composition and lighting as well as learning all the technical aspects of photography, but you can’t take those photos without the right equipment to back you up, so it is an important topic to cover.
One of the things that helped me most in my progress as a photographer was learning to take control of my camera, making it do what I wanted it to, rather than just letting the camera decide. Hopefully I can pass this on, with some tips on how to move away from auto settings.
The first thing you need at this point is a basic understanding of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, so you can make informed decisions on how to set up your camera. These three settings are often described as the exposure triangle, as each one contributes to the amount of light that gets into your camera. One common analogy is filling a bucket of water, the ISO is how big the bucket is (how much light you need), the aperture is how fast you pour the water in and the shutter speed is how long you’re pouring for. You always need the same amount of water (or light) to fill the bucket, but you can add it quickly or slowly. The shutter speed and aperture are often chosen for creative reasons, so I’ll explain what they all mean and why you would choose certain settings below.
I strongly believe that knowing how to edit your photos to maximise their impact is as important as knowing how to take them well in the first place. It’s not a new thing, having been very common in the film days too, it’s just become more accessible and doesn’t require specialised equipment or advanced skills to get started with.
There will always be debates on how much you should edit, my personal approach currently is not to add anything that wasn’t there, and mostly keep removals to spots/artifacts, so I do 99% of my editing in Lightroom. For this reason I always shoot RAW as it allows much greater scope for adjusting exposure, white balance, etc. and helps reduce the need for some filters like graduated neutral densities.
Macro photography is always seen as a bit of specialist subject, there’s lots of different techniques to get the level of magnification needed, from expensive dedicated lenses like the Canon MP-E 65mm, to reverse lens adapters, extension tubes, bellows… it’s a confusing market and can seem daunting to get started.
There’s also a lot of challenges, finding your subject and getting close enough, shallow depth of field, getting enough light in. No matter what equipment you use you will come across these problems.
For my first blog post I decided to cover a technique I have been using more and more recently, which is using heavy neutral density filters to create long exposure photographs, even in bright daylight conditions.