Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One More Day.

Let's recap.

On this day I told you I don't know anything, but pointed you in the right direction for people who do.

On this day I gave several pop culture references, and also gave you some simple things to think over to better consider if you're ready to buy a DSLR, or if you want to wait.

On this day I couldn't resist posting a picture of Louise Jefferson, and I let you know I have a really simple DSLR.

Today, I'll answer...
What lenses do I use/recommend?

Until about a month ago, I shot with my kit lens (the one that came with my camera). It's all I had. When I felt comfortable enough with my camera, and I don't know...I could just tell that it was time...I sort of knew for sure when I was doing things right, and it wasn't meeting my expectations anymore. Basically, I sort of outgrew it (this took me 9 months). So I spent a LOT of time mulling over my choices, and in the end, got a 50mm f/1.4. I won't talk about it, because you can read about it here and here and here (good for learning about basic lenses, and also great people too). It's well-suited for what I need and want, for my own use, and for my clients. I absolutely love it. I will not be purchasing another lens for a very long time. I plan to use only this lens until I purchase a new camera, and I'm very excited to go wide angle- which is down the road a bit for me- that's why it was so important for me to make the right choice. I don't know what brand I'll land on for sure, so I'm not going to buy lenses that may not jive with it. And when I do that, I'm also affording myself a Shootsac and keeping my dear a200 and my 50 mm close at all times. (Altogether, this will be a several thousand dollar purchase...gulp. Don't hold your breath to hear about it. It will be a while.) Until then, I know I'm very content with what I've got, and I hope to rock that 50 mm into the ground. (Again, I need to mention, this, or any, lens is not a magic bullet. A 50 mm, while awesome, also has a couple of BIG quirks that you have to know and recognize, avoid and learn to work around- it's not an instant "fix" for great pictures!!)

How do you achieve sharp photos?


If you're hoping to sharpen your images, I'd suggest plugging away at the photography basics I listed in my first post. Specifically, you would want to first learn about: how to hold your camera, how to position your body and even how to breathe when shooting, shooting on continuous shot rather than single, setting your aperture and shutter speed, lighting and FOCAL POINTS! That's a big one. Again, see the sites I gave in the first post for lots of very easy to understand information on some basics. Once you have those basics covered, a great lens, especially a prime lens (like a 50 mm) will really get things clicking. But even with an amazing lens- if you aren't shooting correctly, the images will still not be consistently sharp. I practice on all kinds of things. I need a LOT of practice. You'd think I'd practice on my kids, but I don't. Mostly, I practice on my dogs (great for practice on moving targets), and inanimate objects in my house (great for working on focal points, and gaining fluidity in changing my camera's settings without looking). One afternoon I spent almost 30 minutes photographing an Oatmeal box. Mr. Quaker's eyes were TACK SHARP when I was done, I tell you.

How do you edit?

When we see photographers' amazing photos (I oogle about 20 photographer's blogs in Google Reader just for this pleasure and for inspiration), when we see those images, they didn't come straight out of the camera (SOOC) looking exactly like that. You have to have a sharp, clear, great image to start with- it's all about achieving the best shot in camera for photographers- that's what you want- but then that works in tandem with post-processing (Photoshop). Working with RAW files rather than jpegs, processing the images to taste with knowledge and skill- these two pillars of photography (great SOOC and great processing) are what set pro images apart. That's how you add little touches, and take a photograph to the next level. That's where you remove eczema and snot and weird guys in the background that "ruin" an otherwise great shot.

Learning Photoshop in order to enhance (not "fix"- that's true sometimes, but not the goal) and finish your photos is a huge undertaking, but it's also fascinating, and completely worth the effort. I shouldn't fail to mention again that I have very little skill in Photoshop. Any photographer who knows what they are doing, and sees my shots can tell you that. But I am learning. And my workflow has improved by about 300% since I purchased Photoshop (CS3- not the same as Elements- I have no idea what Elements will and won't do for you- though it is much cheaper, but may not be what you want) in July.

My personal processing style is subtle- most of the time. My goal would be to keep my editing as natural as possible- to enhance what's already there, to make the edits "invisible" so what you really see is the subject at it's best, and distractions eliminated or toned down. You almost never see "effects" in my photos, for a reason. I personally don't usually like them. I keep it natural...and I have so much to learn.

Other than iHeartFaces and Pioneer Woman, if you want to delve into Photoshop, MCP Actions is an amazing resource.

There you go.

Don't hesitate to keep the questions coming- I absolutely love to talk about this stuff- I just wanted to post some of the basics here, but I'm happy to email/in person answer your questions any time! (As long as you remember, I don't actually know what I'm doing, and will probably just tell you who you SHOULD ask :).)


Tara. said...

Thanks for the tips and websites for help! I have a 50mm 1.8 and wish I would have splurged and gone for the 1.4. Oh well.
But. I do need help with making my photos look "sharp" so I'll for sure check out those links!

Danielle said...

It's funny, since I'm new to following you, but we're about in the same place with our photography journey. I too, bought a 50 mm 1.4 this summer, and love it! It did take a bit of getting used to. Figuring out the right aperture setting for single subjects and groups, to get it tack sharp for the subject but a nice blurry back ground was tricky for me. But I really do love it. Next on my radar is a nice wide angle too. But who know when that'll be. My kit lens is still nice for wide angles in tight spots when I need it, just not great for low light.

Love hearing about your photography journey!

Martha said...

Oh, my, I'm glad I Heart Faces highlighted your photo on facebook and I found your blog. It's wonderful and I've already learned a few things from you. I am a very novice novice photographer so as little as you think you know, I know 99% less. I think I'll go get an oatmeal box out of the pantry and take about 30 minutes of shots of Mr. Quaker. Maybe I'll learn something. Thanks for all the tips. ~Martha

Rachel said...

I really, really love this photograph...she looks like an ice princess! Your photos never dissapoint :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you for posting these three entries. I cannot tell you how often people see my camera and say, "So THAT'S how you do it! That's how you take nice pictures." And it aggravates me to death! I'm learning and growing as a photographer every day but it's my passion - I can't absorb enough information. I wouldn't be a good photographer if not for that drive; that passion. It has nothing to do with the camera around my neck.

So, again, thank you for saying it more eloquently then I ever could.