Things I wish I'd known when I started photography

So this is as the title tells you, things I wish I had known about when I started photography. Some of it is head smackingly obvious, and some of it is almost arcane when you are learning it. And like anything, the more you know about the rules of how something operates, the more free you can be with knowing what you can do and what you can’t do because of the limitations of your kit, the light, your ability at that point, etc. You have a better understanding of what can be worked around, broken and subverted!

Please bear in mind, if I had to note everything about the below topics, not only would you fall asleep, this blog post would be something of a dirge. This is just to point you in the direction of the resolution, and to stop you spending days on the web trawling for the right direction :)

  • No one else cares about your work like you do

I am lucky to be loved. I celebrate this. My loved one does not however celebrate my love of photography, nor can be critical of my work. If everything I shot were pictures of cats and dogs, the story would be different. But it isn’t and so I can’t ask her to critique my work. She doesn’t know photography, but knows what she likes. When you are learning, find peers that will be honest and constructive. And remember to extend that curtesy to them if they ask it.

  • Why are my pictures so dark when I print them?

    To calibrate your PC monitor to be able to print correctly - hows and why

This is a rabbit hole, but one that you need to go down but I’ll be shining the torch down it for you to see.

Say you have taken a picture. It looked a bit dark on the back of your camera, but once you put it on your computer, suddenly it’s exposed properly! You then print it, and low and behold, it’s very underexposed.

So you adjust the images brightness right up until it looks uncomfortably bright, and it prints a bit lighter, and you wonder if every single photographer in the world knows this witchcraft and just doesn’t tell anyone. And the answer is…Yes!

Just kidding. No. The answer actually lies with the computer monitor. It’s obvious when you think about it ( but I didn’t get it until I stumbled on an article about it!) that the monitor is turned up too bright. What you are seeing isn’t a true reflection of the photographs approximate exposure as you are viewing or editing it.

I run my computer monitor at around 110 cd/m2. When I print, the images come out as bright as I expect them too.

110 cd/m2 eh? I know. What is that?? That is just a measurement that I know how bright to set my screen so that when I print, I have a pretty good approximation of how bright it will be. And how do I set that? What button? Now here is the git of the process. I have a monitor that is made for the job. It’s an NEC spectra view and it’s not that cheap. And that is just half of the story. You need a tool to be able to configure the screen to specific setting and brightness. I have an X-rite i1 Pro. I tell it to set it up as Daylight D50 Standard and the white luminescence at 110 cd/m2 . It does it’s thing, and tells me what it has set everything too, and then I can crack on with working on images again.

I had other, cheaper monitors and calibration tools, but a lot of them perform the calibration at a software level (rather than a hardware level like the Spectra View), and they approximate what the colours should be like. So if the colours are off to begin with in the monitor, you can’t do anything about it, and the software works off of what it is given.

Basically garbage in, garbage out.

  • Why is peoples skin so red in my images when I put them up on the web, or view them in a ‘viewer a pc or mac

    This can be down to a badly calibrated monitor, as per the last part of the above topic. It can also be that they look a little too red on the web because of the way that web browsers render the SRGB colour space

    I found this very, very helpful The basic color theory behind color-managed browsers

  • Editing in a bright room

    You can’t see the screen properly (as it’s set at 110 cd/m2 ) and so ideally you need a dark room. Edit in the light at your peril. Then subsequently the next day when you look at your 4 gig psd file that you spent 4 hours dodging and burning and how badly it now looks over exposed with your dodging, remember the logic behind why you edit in a darker room without light spraying on you and the screen.

  • To realise the difference between a phone pic and a DSLR (mention sensors)

    Most phone sensors are set at something like F9. It means unless you have something like Apples or the newer breed of mobile phone cameras, you won’t be able to achieve that fabulous ‘bokeh’ background., where everything is blurred and doesn’t detract from the subject. The architecture of the chips defies it

  • Why are my zoom lens images a bit blurry or soft when I zoom in?

    Not all lenses are created equally. On a lot of multi purpose lenses, when you zoom in and shoot at say the 200mm focal length, the images aren’t sharp. They are soft.

    Before you buy a lens, do your research and see if that is the case. No matter how much you sharpen in Photoshop, it won’t look like a £1700 70/200mm lens result.

    This link also has some handy tips

  • What is a full frame camera and what is a crop sensor?

    No need to reinvent the wheel. Said well here

Please also bear in mind, anything that you don’t quite agree on in the links above, this post is just to highlight these things to you :)