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Things About Photography

Saturday, September 3, 2011
A list of things to know if you are serious about photography or want to become a professional. These are the technical aspects that every photographer should at least be familiar with if not very adept. How do you become adept at these things, through experience, so start now and you will be well on your way to understanding digital photography. The things about photography are;

  • Calibrating your monitor - There is an international standard that all digital imaging devices reference or should be calibrated to. A good color workflow will have ALL of your digital devices talking the same language. Buy a decent to professional level monitor and learn how to calibrate that monitor. 
  • Understand what a "Color Space" is - Learn what the difference is between sRGB, Adobe RGB, CMYK, LAB, etc. This is another digital language that takes on greater significance as you progress up the ranks of professional photography. For instance, the RGB color space is used for computer monitors, while more advanced printing may use the Adobe RGB spectrum. Understanding when and how to use color spaces is important in this day and age, especially in commercial photography, because your photos may be used for many different output devices.
  • Color channels and color correcting - Simply put, there are 10 channels in every photo. I use all 10 channels when analyzing and color correcting a photo in photoshop. If you are RGB centric and get a commercial project that requires a CMYK output, your lack of knowledge in that color space may cost you a job. But ultimately, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each channel will allow you to make better post processing decisions. This will separate you from the wanna be photographers.
  • Your camera - Understand your camera and lenses like they were your hands. All of those menu options on a camera are there for a reason. REALLY! They are. The preset slots allow you to program the camera for a specific job. On a Nikon D700 there are 8 different "Setting Banks" where you can change the camera performance to match the shooting environment. For instance, I have one shooting bank that has auto D-lighting, auto ISO exposure and a specialized picture control curve. I will switch to this Setting Bank when I need low light performance, usually with a long lens while doing street photography or photojournalism without a flash.
  • Your lenses - It is very important for you to research the performance of your lenses. There are plenty of lens testing sites on the web where you can do the research. Learn at what aperture the sweet spots or highest level of reproduction are. Understand the chromatic aberrations and distortions your lens have inherited from the lens design. Your lens is like your paint brush, it is your job as a Professional Photographer to optimize the tool (lens, paint brush) in all situations.
  • Photography, Art History, Composition - There have been plenty of artists before you that have faced the same situations you are trying to figure out today. It doesn't matter if you are using film, canvas or digital photography. There are awesome prints and paintings that you can learn from in books or museum galleries. Learn where other people have been, understand the language of "The Visual Arts" so you can talk the language and create your own style. Composition is always a challenge so learn from the masters. They have explored how to use line, shape, tone/color and light to create a pleasing visual image in order to highlight the subject.
  • Printing and Post Processing - Photography is really meant to be viewed as a print. Post processing is the equivalent to taking your film to a photo lab. Understanding white point, black point, tone curves and proofing for printing is a skill that cannot be underestimated. The earlier you start learning this the better you will understand the photography process of seeing light in order to create a photo with the correct contrast, shadow to the highlight detail and color rendition. For instance, there are plenty of street photography scenes that have great composition, or an interesting subject, but the lighting is all wrong. I already see the highlights being blown out, or the shadow detail being wrong. The subject will not be highlighted in order to create a great image no matter how much post processing I do. The print will be terrible.
Things About Photography

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Our goal as a photographer is to pre-visualize a photo before clicking the shutter. Optimizing your tools and knowledge is what makes a professional in any career. The list above sets photographers apart from the casual camera user that takes a few head shots. These are the things about photography that every professional photographer should know about in order to make a successful photo. At least in my opinion. When you know what a photo will look like before you click the shutter release then you will know how it will look after a few post processing tweaks. Photography school teaches student to make the correct decisions in the capture process. Whether planning a shoot or taking a photojournalistic image, a photographer makes many decisions before clicking the shutter and already knows what it will look like in a print or computer monitor.

Understanding/practicing what goes into the the photography process: seeing the light, optimal camera capture, post processing work flow and final viewing output will make you a successful photographer over time.


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