Michael Finger, Photographer in Melbourne

3 Ways to Learn Photography

Have you learned all there is to know about photography? If you think there’s nothing more to learn, what do you do?

Are you an expert on it all? If you are, stop reading this and go do something productive like teach someone.

Are you seeking new ways to do things? That’s the spirit. There’s always someone better than you. If you like what they do, why not learn from them?

3 ways to learn photography… its pretty much the same way to learn anything.

  1. Experiment and learn by trial and error.
  2. Start a formal qualification.
  3. Find a mentor and learn from them.

If you’re at all interested in taking a photo with a camera, you would have already done one of these. I have attempted two of the three, but never followed through entirely mainly because of practicality. I learned the basics in high school with 1970’s technology. The camera controls being ISO and shutter speed, and then on the lens, aperture and focus. Oh, it did have an on/off mechanism, and a depth of field preview.

So, with an understanding of the basics, I went for experimentation – and any photographer will admit some of their best work has been the result of experimentation.

I started a formal qualification at a private institution at Melbourne’s Southbank. This taught me how to bring the techniques I had learned years earlier into a professional arena. Taught me how to work under pressure with a project brief and deadline. Something of a challenge when you’re talking to a creative person. I didn’t complete the Diploma due to my passion being directed to a different industry.

Find a mentor. Ask to be their assistant and watch what they do to achieve their results. I have not made this happen, but have passively watched my peers as they go about their work and how they achieve results. The reason for me not pursuing a mentor is because its difficult for an assistant to be present in my main type of photography, due to the nature of the shoot. And, I don’t particularly admire the work of any local photographers.

So, have you tried all three ways of learning? Please tell me about your experience with at least one.

 
Spyder5 screen calibration

3 Important Steps to Prepare for Monitor Calibration!

Do you have your monitor calibrated? How do you manage your Colour?

The use of a high quality monitor and correct monitor calibration is essential in producing high quality prints from your digital files.

When you calibrate your monitor, you are adjusting it so it’s output conforms to an accepted standard, nominally an ICC specification. This can be likened to tuning a guitar. Once your monitor has been calibrated, the profiling utility lets you save a colour profile. The profile describes the colour behavior of the monitor — what colours can or cannot be displayed on the monitor and how the numeric colour values in an image must be converted so that colours are displayed accurately.

Before calibrating your monitor;

  1. Allow your monitor to warm up for at least a half hour. This gives it enough time to get up to its operating temperature and ensure a more consistent display.
  2. Check that your monitor is displaying thousands of colours or more. Ideally, make sure it is displaying millions of colours or 24-bit or higher.
  3. Set the background of your desktop to show neutral grays. Bright colours and vivid patterns surrounding an image interfere with the ability to accurately perceive colour.

Do one of the following to calibrate and profile your monitor;

  1. In Windows, install and use a monitor calibration utility.
  2. In Mac OS, use the Calibrate utility, located on the System Preferences/Displays/Colour tab.

The best quality calibration is obtained by using a colorimeter such as the Spyder Pro by Colorvision. In general, using a measuring device such as a colorimeter along with software can create more accurate profiles because a precision instrument can measure the colours displayed on a monitor far more accurately than the human eye.

It’s important to know, a monitor’s output changes and declines in performance over time. It’s recommend that you recalibrate and profile your monitor at least once a month. If you find it hard to calibrate your monitor accurately, it may be too old and faded or too low in quality.

What do you use?

Published photojournalism work

Do you want to be published?

Am I right in suggesting that every photographer wants their images to be published?

Are you a photographer that would like your images printed in a magazine, or even a book?

It’s certainly a nice feeling to see your images in print. Whether in newspaper or magazine, there’s a great sense of achievement. A level of respect from the editor or publisher of that publication, and then the admiration of the readers.

It takes a lot of commitment in your specific field of expertise to get shots published, depending on the quality of publication. Most people wont even reach for that, or just simply don’t have the time to commit.

One thing photographers can do is design a photobook. A coffee table book. Something they’ll put in position when friends or relatives come by. Something to gain the same senses of achievement and admiration. Its so easy to plug in a USB stick and perform a slideshow on your massive LED/LCD/Plasma screen, but it comes back to the feeling of having your photos professionally printed and bound in a hand-held book.

Pretty soon, I’m going to compile my own photobook. And I’m going to tell you about it.

Have you ever had your photos printed ?

 
fixed lens photography

Are you a hipster with a fixey?

camera Lenses… Fixed focal length or zoom?

There’s a German camera company that does not supply zoom lenses for two of their systems. They go on the belief that zoom mechanisms, and the construction needed for such lenses, inhibits quality.

So why do most use them? They are convenient, right? And with the current build quality of today, who can tell the difference?

I’ve used Canon’s 85mm f/1.2 for a couple of jobs, and I own a Sigma 50mm f/1.4. I make myself use the 50mm most often. It obviously has restrictions, especially when I’m trying to get a shot of one of my Daughters and I have to physically move, rather than twisting a zoom ring.

I trained on fixed lenses with my Minolta SRT-101, so I should be accustomed to it…. like riding a bike, yeah?

Now, when I was looking for the first lens for my 5D MKII, I could have bought a zoom like the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 and that would have covered me for portraits, sports, etc. But, I didn’t. I wanted a larger aperture for the obvious depth-of-field reasons. AND, I wanted to challenge myself with composition. Sure, if/when needed, I’ll hire a lens or two for specific jobs.

Do people use a zoom just because they are lazy?

Are you a hipster with a fixey?

Rear DSLR screen

Are you addicted to checking your LCD camera screen?

Do you always check your image on the screen after taking a shot? Yes, you do don’t you? Every single shot?

I was thinking back, not too far, to when I shot all my images on film. This is 6 years back… not long at all. When shooting, I always made sure my exposure was right and checked how my frame was composed before depressing the shutter release. I wasn’t going to waste any more Velvia or Provia than I needed to. Mostly because a roll cost $25. But also because as I was shooting motorsport, I couldn’t afford to miss any shots while I was reloading. I didn’t really know if I had THE shot until the film was processed.

These days, I find myself checking the screen of my DSLR after a series of shots so I know I can move on to another kind of shot. I don’t feel that I check it compulsively, though.

I brought this up in the office last week. I asked a few coworkers, who are also photographers, how often they check. One said he switches his off. He makes sure he has exposure is right before he fires the shutter, and doesn’t check till he brings the images up on the computer screen. He’s afraid of missing any opportunity of capturing a great moment while he’s looking at the LCD.

Another agreed, although said he does check after he’s stepped away from the scene.

I have a friend who’s very enthusiastic, and quite the emerging photographer. He’s guilty of checking his screen after almost each shot. He jokes with me that he has no idea of a world pre-digital as he took up photography well into the digital era.

It makes me think that there are many photographers out there, no matter what level, who have picked up the art form with no experience of touching film, have not positioned a loupe over a film strip on a light box, have not had cracked skin on their fingers from too many splashes of dev, and have certainly not learned to feel their way in the dark while loading a cassette from a bulk loader!

Tell me, how often do check your LCD?

Photobook

Quality Photobooks. How do you know what to choose?

In my last post, I wrote of the experience I had with my Dad’s recently made photobook.

It looked pretty good, but I could notice the binding was not perfect and the edge of some pages were not fine. He said the software was not as intuitive as he wished, and was difficult to make changes to what he’d done. At one point he decided to start the design again.

So, how do you know what you are getting? Pretty much all of these companies are online and you design your photobook with software obtained from those company’s websites. Furthermore, there are a number of them to choose from.

What stands out to me when purchasing anything is awards and recognition – Manfrotto gear with the Red Dot Design Award, Kata with the same award, the workshop I take my car to has many motorsport accolades backed up by word of mouth. So when it comes to a lab that prints my photos, and more specifically phototbooks, I’d choose one that’s awarded nationally and even internationally.

DRUPA, a print media fair and convention for the industry, is a worthy judgement of quality.

Last month, a Melbourne (Australia) company received two awards at DRUPA, which added to their existing collection.

I think their quality output is outstanding, and the comments on their Facebook page are in-line with this.

Film strip FujiFlim

Growing up on film cameras

I’ve been taking photos since I was a kid.

During the 80’s I had an Agfa fixed focus 110 film camera (the ones that you inserted a flash bulb cartridge atop of). I loved snapping away, pointing the camera at the things I was interested in (cars and birds…. yeah real birds. I was a geeky kid who bred budgies, finches and quail). I loved seeing my results after picking up the prints. There wasn’t anything technically I could do in camera to improve the images because it was fixed focus so it was all about composition.

It wasn’t too long ago that I developed a roll of film with all frames printed. Six years ago, actually.

I love to share my images on the internet, mainly through my social media channels, with my friends and peers. I love the digital experience.

A few weeks back, my Dad showed me a photobook he had made. A series of images with short descriptions of his and Mum’s trip to Europe and Japan last year. As I flipped each page, my senses were awakened. This was different to viewing pictures on a screen. I was not just visually stimulated, but the touch of the pages, the smell of the glue, the sheen on the pages… it reminded me of looking at a photo album.

It was inspirational!