If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you already know two very important things about me and my approach to photography. The first– getting it right in the camera– is certainly not unique, but I truly believe that a unicorn loses its wings and the Earth briefly stops rotating on its axis every time the words, “I’ll fix it later in Photoshop” pass someone’s lips. The other has become a bit of a mantra in my photography classes– Photoshop is a tool, not a crutch. A bad photo is a bad photo– no amount of Photoshop is going to change that. But working a little bit of Photoshop magic can, in fact, bring that extra creative dimension to the work if used carefully. When I look at a photo, my first reaction should be, “Nice image.” It shouldn’t be, “Nice editing.” Having said that, however, I recently learned a couple of easy tricks for adding light to almost any scene in Photoshop.
If you’ve been reading my posts here at DIY Photography for a while, you probably already know that I generally don’t spend too much time on some of the more technical aspects of photography. I’ve covered legal issues, written some fun reviews, and put some myths to rest, but I pretty much spend most of my time here howling at the moon. Okay– maybe not literally howling at the moon, but the opportunity to share whatever random thoughts have been bouncing around in my head a couple of times each week is a privilege I don’t take lightly– even when I’m ranting. I’ve decided that today’s going to be a little bit different. Today we’re geeking out and deciphering one of the greatest photographic mysteries of all time– your flash’s guide number.
It’s easy to pick just about any photography-related topic– exposure, lighting, etc.– and make the claim that it is the most important element of photography. By extension, that bold statement would mean that the element in question would also be the most important step to taking better photos. The truth is, though, that all of the components come into play each and every time we bring the camera to our eye. We continue, however, to give more weight to some than to others. Sometimes it’s because we’re learning something new, while other situations may be dictated by the subject or surroundings. For me, though, that quintessential element is composition. If the composition fails, the entire image fails. Now, I can already hear feathers being ruffled. Some of you are already scrolling down to the comments section to remind me that without proper exposure, composition becomes irrelevant. The reason I totally disagree is that I am confident in your ability to assess a scene and dial in the right aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. But telling your story– creating a photo that truly speaks for itself within the four corners of the frame– that’s a process that separates a photo that works from one that doesn’t.
While creativity will mean different things to different people, I believe there are certain traits that are shared by highly creative people and personalities. Regardless of whether we’re talking about photographers, writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, designers, or poets, the creative process affects us all in similar ways. We may each see the world around us through vastly different lenses, but how we approach those visions can’t help but share certain similarities. Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this stuff. While I’m only speaking for myself here, I’m betting that at least a few of these apply to you.
Of all the types of things I photograph, shooting food probably comes the closest to being a full-blown DIY project. There’s a lot going on– from lighting and composing to styling and shooting, food photography is almost always a production. But regardless of whether you are shooting food for a big publishing client or for a small cookbook of your old family recipes, the process of capturing food at its most flattering remains the same.
Hopefully, you’re doing nice things for the mothers in your life on a regular basis and don’t need any suggestions from us. For those who may need a little extra help finding the perfect gift for their photography-minded mothers– or for photography-minded mothers looking to drop a few hints around the house– we offer this year’s Mother’s Day Photography Gift Guide. Choose wisely. She brought you into the world, and quite possibly wanted to take you out once or twice along the way.
I had a post earlier this week called “51 Things I Know About Photography.” If you haven’t read it yet, you should check it out. I’ve received a lot of emails over the past couple of days, asking me to clarify or expand on several items on the list. Interestingly enough, it’s been #37– Keep a journal– that’s generated several interesting discussions with readers in the last 72 hours. This also happens to coincide with one of my monthly rituals– running a complete catalog backup that I store off-site (#21, for those keeping track).
Perhaps I should explain.
I was certain that today was the day. It was going to be my 50th post for DIY Photography. To prepare, I’d been putting together bits of advice, lessons learned, and general observations about photography and life. It was when I decided to go back and re-read all of my earlier posts, though, that I realized the numbers were off– I’d lost track of the dates. As it turns out, this is actually post #51. My milestone had come and gone. My initial thought was to simply trash the post and move on, but a milestone is a milestone, even if it’s a day late. So, instead of 50 observations, I offer 51– the 51st from a rather unlikely source. There is no particular order. There is no ranking. While they are all a matter of personal opinion, I think there’s a little something here for everyone. I hope that at least one or two of these are as helpful to you as they have been to me.
Let’s face it– photography is expensive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hobbyist or working professional. We use a lot of stuff and none of it’s cheap. Camera bodies, speedlights, reflectors, memory cards, lighting equipment, backdrops, batteries, stands, hard drives, tripods, back-ups, gear bags, hard cases, the latest gadget-that-you-seriously-cannot-possibly-live-without. And, of course, don’t forget the glass. Next to the camera itself, quality lenses make up the most expensive component of just about any gear closet. In an ideal world money would be no object and pesky things like gear budgets would be non-existent, paving the way for me to purchase all of the shiny, brand-new lenses I could possibly want (“Hi, Nikon? I’ll take one of everything!”). The reality, though, is that I have to balance my lust for gear against how many meals my rapidly growing 13-year-old son gets to eat each week. The truth is, the buying and selling of used lenses has almost become an industry all its own. There are a lot of high-quality second-hand lenses out there, which means you can satisfy your “need” and still save a good bit of money if you’re smart.
We love photography and we love our kids. It makes sense, then, that finding a way to combine photography and spending time with our kids would be a major win. If your kids are anything like mine, though, they’ve either already reached that point where they vanish into the mist the moment they hear the zipper on your camera bag, or will reach it soon enough. So, how do we enjoy our hobby without abandoning our kids for hours or days on end? If they’ve grown weary of their time in front of your camera, it may be time to put the camera in their hands and see what kind of magic they can create themselves.