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Workshop Ic: Introduction to the Camera Menu

Time for the menu.

My SLR has nine pages of menu settings, most of which I've never looked at or adjusted but we'll take a look at some of those I have found use for.

Quality: This is the size and "quality" of the shots, from large smooth to small jagged. There is also raw and raw plus jpeg. Most of these settings concern the production of .jpg files, which is what most of the net and most of us work with these days. There have been other graphics file systems but this seems to be the standard for now. The .jpg files are processed by the camera from the native image that is presented on the sensor into formats we can use. As I mentioned, I usually have the camera set down to 8mp and fine/smooth. The smooth/jagged makes some difference in the size of the files so must be related to how much compression is applied to the information.

Raw is what most people call the "native" file but of course it's not, raw files are a processed proprietary format that gives you more information than the jpg, but which also need to be further processed with an editing program. To shoot in raw and process later you are assuming that your editor has a better idea how to convert the files to .jpg than your camera company, or you are betting that you will want to tweak things later.

Assignment: Shoot raw and jpg

I suggest that if you have the skills now, (and if you do why are you reading this) for an assignment you shoot raw plus jpg for a few shoots, don't look at the jpg and process the raw files to what you want them to look like. Now go back and compare them to the jpeg files from the camera. I do this about once a year and the two files are never far enough apart to make me want to shoot in raw... in other words, what I see in the camera, what I set the camera to take, is what I want at the end of the process. That being the case, I see no reason to shoot raw unless it's a non-repeatable event.

Figure out your quality and set that.

Image review: this is the amount of time your photo is displayed on the back of the camera after you've taken it. This allows you to "chimp" to push the camera away from your face so you can check the image and then jam your eye back on the viewfinder thus making you look like a monkey or something.

The way one sees this term used online or by "prosumer" photographers you'd figure chimping was a bad thing. Talk to some long-time pros and you'll get an entirely different opinion. That instant review is the best thing that has ever happened to cameras for those who want to shoot what they see in their heads. Seriously. No other development in photography has ever been as useful to beginners and professionals alike, outside or in a studio, than the ability to see what you are getting. Do not turn this feature off, never turn this off. Use it, pay attention to what you're shooting and if it's not what you want to see, start playing with settings, lighting or what have you until you're seeing what you want to see on that display.

Or never take your eye away from the viewfinder and shoot raw so you can fix it all in post? There's an ipod app out there that makes you take 24 shots before letting you see them, just like the "good old days". I am shaking my head right now, I remember shooting my roll of 35 and having to wait until I developed them to see how I was doing... if I'd been able to "chimp" back when I was starting out I would have been in photo-heaven. Being able to take 700 shots in a session is the other half of that heaven.

Exposure Compensation: First up on the second page is Exposure Compensation / AEB. This is a way of setting an over and under exposure so that you can then take three shots in a row with a bracketing of exposure. This is great for doing HDR but even better for making sure you get a proper exposure on things like high school graduation shots. Put this one in the category of "save your ass" functions along with raw files.

Metering Mode: Evaluative, partial, spot and center-weighted average. As you can imagine, this changes how the camera determines exposure when you're in an automatic mode (anything other than manual). I'm usually on evaluative, use spot for when you want to get a single object exposed within the limits and you don't care about anything else or when you're doing/experiencing weird lighting and you don't want to hunt around for the correct manual exposure settings. From widest light sampling to narrowest it seems to be: evaluative, center-weighted average, partial and spot.

Custom White Balance: Really useful in difficult mixed lighting. Shoot something with no colour (white/grey/black), set camera white balance to custom, go to this menu command and set the custom colour balance.

Picture Style
: This is where you cange your custom picture styles so that you create .jpg files that match what you get after you futz around with the raw files in an editor for an hour.

ISO Auto: What range of iso values your auto iso uses.

Format: To format your sd card. It's like formating a disk on your computer.

File Numbering: Set it to continuous so you get the maximum difference between shot names from one week to the next. It's easier than you think to start mixing up files on the backup disks.

Auto power off, auto LCD off etc. Power saving is good.

Copyright functions:
Check to see if you can automagically stick your copyright information into the image files.

So, you have your assignment above, add to that a read through your manual and a look through your camera menu to see what all the other bells and whistles do.

Dec 31, 2011
Lytro Camera

OK so there's a new camera technology coming, it's a sensor that measures the direction and intensity of a beam of light rather than it's impact on a 2D sensor. This will allow users to change darned near everything in the shot which will be about 23mb.

Don't like the focus? Change it. Want three focus spots in the shot? Why not? Want to boost the light in some places and dial it back in others? I suspect it will be possible.

What this means, I suspect, is that you can walk into any environment, spin around with your lytro in your hand, get enough shots to cover the area and bam, you're all done. You can then spend a couple minutes on your computer and pick your focus and depth of field, fix your colours, do the HDR to end all HDR, and anything else you want.

In fact it will be easier than that, all you'll do is hit "auto" and the software will give you the agreed-upon best of everything, including hunting through the shot for the best composition.

It's going to be so easy! Much more easy than digital imaging now, which is ever so much more easy than the old manual film shooting we used to do where everything had to be decided before you tripped the shutter.

Eh... I'm guessing not. Much as the pixel peepers want more and more stuff from the photo editors, lens makers and camera manufacturers, it will always come down to the eye behind the camera. Who thinks about the camera that Man Ray used, or Robert Capa, or Thomas Struth? Well, who beside those who figure if they only had an 8x10 they could take shots like Ansel Adams.

Me, I won't be buying a Lytro any time soon, can't think of a single thing I'd use it for. I'm happy slapping a focus point on the focus point and not worrying about changing it later, I'm not going to want to change it later.

Dec 30, 2011
Light Painting

Anybody reading these workshop blogs? Let me know.

I looked back over a few of my old posts in this blog and a lot of them have to do with learning and technique and other fun stuff so if you're doing the workshops try reading back in the blog too.

Meanwhile, I'm not keen on writing another one today since I'm exhausted and my hands hurt. I've managed to develop arthritis in the base of my right index finger of all the stupid places, and that new handgrip that I bought online doesn't help much. I like my old cat-coller strap but I couldn't figure out how to attach it. Maybe I'll take the fancy hand-pad off the thing.

Eh, likely won't do anything more than take an aspirin next shoot I do.

light painting

Which brings me to this shot which required no holding of the camera at all. It was on a tripod and I walked over and pushed the button then walked back and painted my lovely model with an led work-light that has some cool properties. No problem with the arthritis, just the old knees on that tile-on-concrete floor.

It turns out that there is a website or seven with a history of light painting so easy pickings on the history, although mostly they define the technique as pointing a light at the camera. That's the stripy white line stuff behind the model.

Check out http://lightpaintingphotography.com/light-painting-history/ for a quick look at the history.

Me, I kind of prefer to paint the subject with the light, it gives a sort of non-directional, sort of internal glow to things, like a Caravaggio painting actually.

Or you can go with multidirectional light that is put wherever you want it.

Light painting outdoors

In this case we were using a 2M candlepower flashlight.

All you need to do these types of shot is a camera that will close down the aperature and open the shutter for long enough. A camera that does not work hard at getting high iso is best for this sort of thing. The key is to slow down that shutter speed.

Even a point and shoot will often give you several seconds if you can find the right mode. My Pentax w30 has a fireworks mode that is a four second exposure. Gotta be quick but you can do stuff with it. Combine that with an iso that can be set to 64 and you've got a pretty insensitive sensor. The shot above was done at 4 seconds, iso800 and f6.3 so the Pentax could do it easily.

My Canon A590 has a manual setting (love that camera, everything after it is "more" which means "useless" as far as I'm concerned) that lets me set 15 seconds and f8 at iso80 so that's pretty nice to work with in a dark room.

Best of course is an SLR with aperatures down to f22 or smaller, a neutral density filter if you need it, a remote trigger, lots of manual control of shutter times out to 30 seconds and then bulb (on my digirebel).

Go, play.

Dec 29, 2011
Workshop Ib: Introduction to the Camera

Camera back

OK here's the back of the camera with some more bells and whistles. On the left top you have the menu button, this turns on yet more bells and whistles that we'll get into later. The Disp button does similar stuff, turns on and changes the display. The little camera like symbol beside the viewfinder turns on the sensor-viewer for those who didn't buy the SLR for the viewfinder.... well OK it's also useful above your head, with the camera sitting on the ground and when you're using the movie function.

Right beside the viewfinder is a focus wheel so that you can use the finder without scratching up your glasses, put your eye up to the finder and turn the wheel until you are as focused as the autofocus is. Don't mess with other people's wheels, they'll figure their camera is busted.

The two buttons at the far right top are of variable use depending on whether you're shooting or looking at pictures... the "look at the pictures" button is the triangle button down beside the trash can button (picture into trash). As I said before, most of these things will be on your camera, but in different places. Canon can't even decide where to put them on their own various models. Back to the top right... when  you're looking at photos they zoom in and out. When you're shooting the outside button is how you change the focus point (inside the viewfinder you'll see a little red dot that lights up when it's in use, there are 9 in my camera, if you want more you buy a more expensive camera and of course we know already that more is better.

In fact I keep the focus points mostly to the one in the middle, it's the most useful to me in a dim studio since it's the most sensitive. If I'm doing a lot of portrait work I change the button to the one on the right, tilt the camera so that one's upward, and use that one to focus on the model's near eye. That way I don't take so many shots with the model's eye in the dead center of the photograph. (We'll talk about composition later I suspect).

When you're shooting the inside button makes a little asterisk * appear in the viewfinder. With careful attention you'll find that if you push the shutter button half way down (which focuses and does the exposure measurement) while keeping this button pushed, you can freeze your exposure and move the camera to a different framing.

Huh? Yeah I don't use it much either.... well OK I've used it once to try it out, it works. Here's how you would use it... on a beach, you change the metering to "spot" (woah, I was on spot metering... wonder how long I've been there, change your camera to evaluative right now, I just did) push the back button, put the center focus spot on the model's face (make sure she's got the sun behind her head) and push the shutter button down half way...

OK go back to the last workshop (Ia) and look at the top of the camera, the shutter button is the one in front of the wheel.

Now swing the view so that the model's near eye is exactly 1/3 of the way from the side and the top (composition rule), and push the button the rest of the way down. Your focus is on her eye and the exposure is for her face which should be pretty and the stuff behind her blown out like crazy.

Pushing that button half way to focus and then moving the camera to the composition you want is a very important point, can't imagine why I forgot it when we were on top, but now you know. It's how to focus and frame, and it also eliminates all the shutter lag you can eliminate easily. Shutter lag is when you push the shutter but the camera is still futzing around with the focus and exposure and other stuff and doesn't click until your kid has fallen off his bicycle on his first no-dad-holding ride.

Beside the picture viewing screen at the top is a genuinely useful button. When you're in P mode you can push this button and roll the wheel to set your exposure compensation. Remember the girl on the beach with the sun behind her? Rather than setting the spot meter etc. etc. you can roll the wheel and tell the camera to overexpose the picture by two or more. This will give you a well exposed face and a blown out background. Two what you ask? Two f-stops. An f-stop is an aperature thing, it's the relationship between the lens length and the aperature opening. An f-stop lets in twice as much light as the one that is one f-stop smaller.

OK OK, your aperature is f8 right? Now on my camera it's set up for three clicks per f-stop so I roll the wheel three to the right (I curl my finger) and the aperature value reads f11. Three more and it's f16.

So f11 is an f-stop or half as much light as f8. Don't worry about these numbers, they're really useful in the studio but not necessary right now. The series is 1.4 2  2.8  4  5.6  8  11  16  22 Look at each second one, they're doubles and halves, so all you need to know is 8 and 11 and you can generate the rest. They're ratios of something or other so they're weird.

Go back to the exposure compensation button and it's guage... meter thingie. It's scaled in +1, +2 or -1, -2 etc. That's up one f-stop or down one.

While we're at simple f-stop numbers, the exposure time is similarly easy, twice as much time is twice as much light on the sensor. Same with the iso, twice the iso is twice the sensitivity to the same amount of light.


Time: 2x is half the exposure (did I mention you should put a 1/X where X = the time(number) on this, so 1000 to 2000 is actually 1/1000 of a second to 1/2000 of a second, so twice the time (NUMBER) is half the exposure. Twice the time of course means 2X more light on the sensor... Clear?

ISO: 2x the iso is twice the sensitivity so iso 100 is half as sensitive as iso200 which is half as sensitive as iso400.

Exposure Compensation: +1 is twice as much light to the sensor as 0 and four times as much as -1

Aperature: f-stop 8 is 4 times as much light to the sensor as f16 because of that weird scale we talked about, but 8 to 16 is two f-stops so an f-stop up is half as much light (8 to 11). Remember time? Think of f-stops like that, 1/8 is bigger than 1/11

The following table has settings with exactly the same exposure. At least I hope it does, if it doesn't it's a test.

exposure compensation

Mind you, exposure compensation doesn't quite work like the other stuff but the theory should work for you. You can manually set the first three but exposure compensation really only works when the camera is doing some of the settings for you, when it's in a mode other than manual and then it adjusts f-stop, time and/or iso to give you an over or underexposure.

Another way to consider exposure compensation (exposure value) is the combination of the other three, so the first three combinations are the same EV, the fourth one is twice as much exposure, so you need to compensate by setting one down.... nah that doesn't really help, the EV of the fourth one is actually +1 unit compared to the others.... oh never mind.

And what is this exposure we're looking at? Back to the girl on the beach, her face should be somewhere in the middle of what the sensor can detect right? So you put the spot-meter point on her face and half a shutter press tells the camera to make it so this light value is half way through what the sensor can detect from can't (0) to too much (say 255). Film used to do about 5 f-stops so sensors are divided into 5 zones from 0 to 255. Eyes do what? About 11 stops? So "faster" film (iso400), was film that was more light sensitive (you set a faster time (1/1000 instead of 1/500)) so had a 5 f-stop sensitivity to a lower light range. Nobody ever made a film or sensor with an 11 stop range that I'm aware of.

Don't get me started on HDR go look it up and play with it yourself. Just remember that your printer doesn't print 11 f-stops and your monitor doesn't display 11 f-stops.

What's in the middle according to a grey scale? 18%. So anything you expose for will be a sort of middle grey, and that includes snow. Now you know why your snow always looks grey when you take pictures of it. So set your EV to +1 or higher and your snow-scape becomes white, you don't have to shoot raw and do a white point on the white snow in post production... unless you like doing that sort of thing.

Now if your scene is snow and buildings that are black, and it's about 50-50 switch your meter to evaluative or average or something and there's a chance the snow will come out white because the meter will make the exposure give you an average of middle grey for the whole frame.

Helpful yet? Right where were we... under the exposure compensation button is another of those "does a bunch of stuff" buttons so ignore that one. Then we come to the little cross. At the top is white balance. Click that one and you can pick from a range of options including daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and whatnot. Automatic is where you'll usually be.

White Balance

Look, I know you bought the SLR because you wanted the manual controls, but seriously, most of the time things like auto exposure and auto white balance are going to give you great results. These cameras really are smart, and 80% of your shots are going to turn out just like you want if you let them do their jobs. Go to AWB and come off of it only when you can't get a decent shot. Or ignore all of the WB buttons, shoot in raw and do it all in post.

One of those choices, however, is custom white balance and it's just a hoot. You shoot something that has no colour (usually it's white but it can be neutral grey or even black), then tell the camera to use that to set the white balance. It's finicky but sometimes gives you a much better white balance.

The camera store will sell you a fancy screw on filter to use to set your custom white balance, but I usually just grab a white plastic bag and pretend I'm smothering my lens. All the light sources filter through the white and average out... sort of. Try doing a white balance with a combination of blue LED, halogen and fluorescent bulbs. Give up? Switch to black and white.

You can also buy a neutral grey card or a white card to set your custom balance, or you can use a piece of paper.

Back in the days of film you got daylight (out in the sun) or indoor (balanced for incandescent lights) and then started messing around with coloured filters to try and do this stuff. Ugh.

OK fun time, still life shots with different white balance settings.

awb AWB
This is NOT short for Average White Band but I defy the 50 year old crowd to not see that every time they read it from now on.
daylight 5200K Daylight
shade 7000k Shade

So what's it doing? Putting in more red to counter the blue of open sky. No yellow sun means all blue sky.
cloudy 6000k Cloudy
Tungsten 3200K

Tungsten bulbs are red. Halogen desk lamps too, which is the light source I used.
Fluorescent 4000K

Green light means magenta to correct.

Camera flash is obviously what... 5500K? Compare to above.
custom image 1

Use a white sheet to set the balance.
Custom 1
custom image 2
Custom image 2

Blue wrapper.
custom 2
Custom 2

So green balances blue.
custom image 3
Custom image 3
Custom 3
Custom 3
custom image 4
Custom image 4

Custom 4
Custom 4

And blue balances red.

Change those settings and see what fun you can come up with. Here's a shoot with a custom setting on a point and shoot. http://180degreeimaging.com/180mag/0808/taylor/taylor.html

You can see how far you can force the custom white balance and get fun things happening.

On the left hand side of the cross is the self timer stuff. Pretty obvious.

On the right hand side of the cross is the autofocus stuff, I usually leave it at "one shot", figure out the rest of the settings but I presume one is a continuous focus of anything moving in the frame... set your dial on top to sport and you likely get this one. Read the manual if you're interested, I will if I need a weird focus solution.
The button at the bottom of the cross is "picture style" which is a set of different combinations of sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone (hue). Again stuff you can set here in three custom styles, or you can do it later with the raw file. Of special interest is the monochrome setting where you can do different filter effects and toning as well as set sharpness and contrast. Fun and a lot more instant gratification than working away over a hot computer later.

camera front

On the front of the camera is the "pop up the flash" button... useless most of the time, use that flash only when the situation calls for it... birthdays with your least favourite niece so you get ugly red-eye pictures... if you're Terry Richardson (you also have to trade in for a point and shoot).... if you want a fill flash. Fill flash? Stay on P, pop the flash and shoot that girl on the beach with the sun behind her. Let the camera take care of all the exposure stuff, it will turn on enough flash to light up her face, and then expose for the rest of the shot so you don't get a blown out background. The first fill-flash shot I ever saw blew my mind. Must have taken half a day with light meters and polaroids. You will have seen so many now it's just a ho-hum ad shot but there you go.

The buttons on the lens turn on and off the autofocus and optical stabilizer. Leave them on unless you really really miss your old Spotmatic II. (I miss mine but I'm damned if I'm paying for the film to run through it).

The big fat one by the white square is how you remove the lens so leave it alone.


Play with all the buttons.

Next time "THE MENU"

Dec 29, 2011
Workshop Ia: Introduction to the Camera

OK folks, I've had so many requests for workshops that I've decided to do some online. I won't promise anything.

The Camera

Let's assume you have bought yourself a nice SLR digital camera. I've had three Canon Rebels so we'll use mine, but all the bells and whistles will be found on just about any similar model from any manufacturer, it's a competitive market so they'll all have the same stuff.

[These guys just flog what they figure people want, which usually turns out to mean what the sales guys in the stores find easiest to shove at you. Megapixels... I was completely happy at 6 and I cranked this camera back to 8 from its usual 18. 18 MEGAPIXELS what the hell is that? Most of my stuff goes on the net, 2 megapixels is plenty for an 8x10 shot if the glass is decent... 18 is just stupid unless you're cropping the hell out of the file. Use your feet and save the "digital telephoto crop function" for the pictures of the mountain goats a mile away.

Same goes for raw files. If you learn to control your camera you don't need to go back to the "extra data" in the raw files to try and save a shot. OK shoot raw for wars and weddings, something you can't re-shoot but for everything else learn how to shoot what you want in the first place. But Raw is a selling point.

High ISO is a selling point, you gotta get those low-light shots right so you really need an iso of 128,000 right? And then you shoot in raw to make sure you save all that noise? So what happens when you set it to iso128,000 and then pop the flash because you're on green box? Oooooh you can't set the iso when you're in green box.... aha. So spend $8000 on an f1.2 lens, max out the iso and megapixels and shoot raw, that way you can shoot right through the lenscap instead of looking foolish that you left it on.

What I want is a 6 megapixel camera with the same size sensor as this one, and an iso that goes down to 25 along with a 1.4 lens. But you can't sell that stuff because it's not "more" it's "less".]

It's your job to find the controls and that's where your manual comes in. RTFM.

[OK ignore the bits about how to take good shots. I'm not interested in good shots (something you should keep in mind for later) I'm interested in interesting shots that I find interesting. You should be interested in shots you find interesting. Doesn't matter what I think about them, and that's something else you should keep in mind for later. I won't be doing any critiques unless you want me to tell you how close your shots are to what I like. Can't imagine what good that would do you though.]

camera top

OK here's the camera top. That's where the on off switch is, you likely know where it is on yours so we'll leave that. Next is the dial which is pretty common. The four switches marked M Av Tv and P are the ones we'll be talking most about, the other stuff certainly does things for you, but I rarely use them. The green square turns your SLR into a point and shoot complete with a pop-up flash. The next one says "flash off". I suspect this turns the flash off. Probably cranks up the iso too (we'll get there). After that is portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, and movie. The one on the other side is for maximum depth of field.

[CA? I just noticed the CA and had to go look it up (yeah I really am that slack about the camera doodads). It's half way between green box and P they say... it's a mode you can customize so it's called custom auto. I just set mine up for no flash, blurred background, overexposed, monochrome and it's sort of cool... bah, resets itself when you turn it off... I'll play with it some day and see if I can make it stick.]

If you're taking snapshots of your kids at a soccer game, use sports. Why would you not? You'll likely get decent photos. Same if you're shooting a face at night. I just tried it, it popped the flash, cranked up the iso, slowed down the shutter (to capture the nice lights of the city behind the girl), and did an averaged exposure (it looked all over the frame and tried to balance everything). The flash would catch the nice red-eyed girl, and there would be something beside darkness behind her head.

night portrait

[I usually just do that stuff in my own head but if I was distracted... like if the girl wasn't a model and I had to actually talk to her, I'd probably just go to night portrait instead of playing with my settings for a couple of minutes and getting an off-camera flash set up. Do these things even give you red-eye these days?]

Assignment 1.

Here's your assignment. Turn on your camera and shoot something using all the different modes. Let the camera do the work, your job is to figure out what the difference between a night portrait and a plain old portrait is. Hint, it's not really the time of day. Now figure out what all the other modes are for and don't be afraid to spin the dial.

I'll talk about the lettered ones a bit. Manual is for studio work and maximum control of your shots. Av is aperature controlled autoexposure. You set the lens aperature (how much light comes through the lens to the sensor) and the camera sets the speed (how long the sensor is exposed to the light). Tv is time-locked, you set the time and the camera uses the aperature to make the exposure correct. On the rebel you roll that wheel just above the iso button to change either after setting the dial. P is where the camera sets speed and aperature and you can then change that by rolling the wheel. Try it out on your camera, figure out where the adjustment for P is displayed, and you should see that time (exposure) and aperature (f-stop) both change.

Why change it? Maybe you want to freeze motion, you crank up the speed (1/100 of a second is middling fast, 1/4000 of a second is really fast). Maybe you want a shallow depth of field, you crank open the aperature. f22 is really small, you get a big depth of field (it's easier to focus your eyes in a well-lit room when your iris is tiny) f2.8 is what passes for a wide aperature these days, f1.4 is a lot better and f0.95 would cost you a bazillion dollars and a hernia to lift the lens. Think of this as night blindness, when your eyes open up and all the stoplights and streetlamps get that nice fuzzy effect that just screams for an eye exam and driving glasses.

OK one more part of the exposure puzzle is iso or "film speed" or "sensor sensitivity"... oh just call it iso. That's the button on top there, and it usually pops up something on the display so that you can pick the iso. 80 is much less sensitive to light than 3200. The iso reading in the photo up there for night portrait was 400. That's not bad, back in the day I used to shoot indoors without flash using iso400 film and an f1.4 lens. I miss that lens, but I've got a nice f1.8 now so I shouldn't complain too much, not quite so "big" but I'm not paying hundreds of dollars more for the extra blur.

Lower iso usually means less noise in the photos, which is the digital equivalent of grain. No change there, sensitivity to light comes at the cost of detail in the photo, but these days, and because digital isn't film, an iso of 1600 on an SLR is just fine.

I have a point and shoot that is always set to black and white and 800 or 1600 iso, the noise looks enough like grain that it makes me happy and reminds me of shooting with HP5 which always seemed to be cheaper than tri-X.

Oh, for less bother, there's usually an auto iso you can choose along with the P setting. I'm usually there unless I'm in the studio or doing something cool.

OK I'm bored reading my own crud so off you go and try out the main wheel. See if you can figure out what each mode is doing. Next time we'll look at the rest of the controls.

Dec 28, 2011
Is Photography a Record?

Photographs slice off a bit of us. They remove time, they stop flow. What we see in a picture is a mask,  a death mask because they are not live. A photograph is never a record of a person.

People live too fast, too continuously for a photograph to capture them. Photos can record slow things like buildings, landscapes, things that have little movement, things that have less life.

The more a photograph is a record, the less life in what it is recording. Life is an average of all our twitches.

Folks say that paintings are fake, and photos are real, we use the word "photorealistic" for paintings that look like photos. I think that's wrong, a painting from life is full of the averaged twitches of ourselves, it's not a random grab of some strange quirk of the eyebrow or jerk of the ear. A painting represents the total time the artist has looked at the model. It's probably closer to his person than a photo could ever be.

Now with digital imaging folks claim that photographs are less real, less a record than they were in the good old analogue days. Crud. They were no more real in the era of silver than they are in the age of silicon. Photos are always fake, not even "one remove from reality" not "an abstraction from life". Photos don't have enough time information in them to be considered statistical, they're single point events. But if I use one of those skin-plasticating software programs to remove divots and zits from my daughter's face, I'm willing to bet that's a more realistic image of her than the moon-scapes I've done on occasion.

Why do those programs sell? Why do brides want them used?

Premeditation in a photograph, previsualization if you will, along with framing, means photography is a process of removing life from the world, of removing information. Even time-lapse photography is not real, it's simply too few samples over too long a time. Bean plants don't sprout and grow in minutes, they live in days. All those little jerks and twitches never happen. Beans don't move unless they're blown in the wind or dropped from the window-ledge.

Not my son

People don't have the expressions we see in photographs, our minds edit them. That is not a photograph of my son, or of his mother. My mind smooths out his rather warped grin, opens his eyes, gets rid of the blur, and fills in the rest of their faces. I don't know what those things there are, but I do rather like them "polaroided". Now that's a photo that reminds me of the stuff I took back in the day.

Still not my son

It's a curious thing that the less knowledge we have of being recorded, the less "real" our expression. I'm pretty sure the photo below is of my daughter, but model that she is, she's always aware of the camera when it's aimed at her.

Probably Lauren

For fondness of my life, I won't publish a shot of her talking, blinking and scratching her nose. It would be some other thing anyway.

Dec 27, 2011

Something the models love, and I've done quite a bit of it now, but this is the most complex attempt yet. I don't think we quite got it from all three angles but it's fun.

Dec 23, 2011

I can't begin to tell you how much I detest Flickr. I've never been able to get into the site since its first days, but now it's even more abominable. I don't look at the place at all, can't imagine wading through the slush, but even when I'm taken there it's a disaster.

I just followed links to four photographers and in four out of four I couldn't find a website, or even a hint of an email. I'm not signing in and sending messages through their system just to have a message go back to my Flickr account, what's the point I'm not going to check for it.

That's four photographers who aren't going to appear in 180mag unless they find me.

Folks, if you want to get your stuff out there, get a website and an email account. Nobody but Flickr people is looking at Flickr.

And Facebook? Won't even go look.

Dec 20, 2011
HDR? What's That?

I just dropped into a camera review site and noticed a review for a book on HDR

HDR? Oh yes, High Dynamic Range... otherwise known as compress the range of the real world into something I can see on the monitor or on the paper. Essentially you take a shot for the bright end of the scene, and one for the dark end of the scene and then you combine those so you can see into the shadows and don't have any blown out areas.

Like I said, compress the range into something you can see all at the same time.

This is all fine, and it saves a lot of lighting on interior architecture shots if you can get away with it, that is, if you can convince a magazine editor that interiors really do look like they have no light sources coming in to the shadows and ...

Thing is, I've been away from the camera and software sites for a while and I haven't heard a thing about HDR. I can't say for sure but I'd be willing to bet that the average guy on the street doesn't know that a closed shadow or a blown out window with full sunlight coming through it is a problem.

If it gets a magazine shoot, great, but I'm not going to worry about it the next time I'm in a restaurant taking a photo of the birthday boy. That dark shadow with the mop and bucket can stay dark as far as I'm concerned.

Find a solution, then create the problem for the solution.

Of course, those who know me know that I'm often happy with blown out, unfocused, unsharp and "it came out of the camera that way" so take my wonderings with a grain of salt.

One that caught my eye from today's shoot.

Nov 22, 2011
Seamless White Paper

Avedon and Verushka, on white seamless
Richard Avedon and Verushka on seamless paper

Having been a member of a couple of photography studio collectives, I seem to keep battling this stuff.

It's not that I'm against it, really, it's just that I'm very tired of the attitude that a "studio" is a place where you have a white seamless paper unrolled and taped to the floor all the time. My current studio advertises that "we have seamless paper" and I feel a bit queasy every time I walk in the door and see the tattered, scuffed, dismal stuff waiting there for me.

So, um, what's it for? Are we using it to do "green screen" stuff, cutting out the model and putting him in front of a decent background? In the age of photoshop, I suspect yes, so ya put two background lights on it, and a big softbox on the model and you're a real studio photographer.

Originally, that plain background was to isolate the model from anything at all, to get rid of that "environment" that were used for "environmental portraits". It was to force the viewer to confront the face only, with no hint as to who or what. It was, in other words, a radical new idea.

Katherine Hepburn by Richard Avedon 1955
Deal with that portrait by Richard Avedon: 1955

You can find examples of "isolated" portraits a good many years before my time, with some of the earliest photographs being taken against a blank wall, but that's not really seamless, is it. The curve of seamless paper makes the background "limitless". With no clue to corners or distance, the model is supposed to hover in space.

Of course once you scuff it up the floor appears again, and if you use it in a 15 by 15 studio which is too small to get back far enough to do full-length portraits, you're really just using the stuff as a clean wall.

Look, like I said, I don't mind seamless paper, but it's been around for longer than I've been alive, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon were the big names using the technique and Penn started shooting in 1943. Both of them liked it so much they took backdrops out into the field to do images, Penn a portable studio and Avedon a roll of paper that he tacked up in the shade.

So, ermm, why are the 20-something photographers of today still so enthralled with a technique that was half a century old when the 21st started?

It's easy?

I don't know, I should ask them I suppose.

Meanwhile, I spend a lot of time trying to make the white seamless be something else.

Oct 17, 2011
180 magazine
Summer Issue Online

The summer issue, covering several months, is now online with a variety of stories from past and new artists.

I hope to get back to regular monthly issues starting in September provided I get enough stories and time together in one place.

Aug 6, 2011
Weekend Workshop
Re-starting the workshops

OK you guys, how many would be interested in a weekend of photo workshops near Wiarton Ontario? I have a cabin with an 800 square foot studio (13 foot high ceilings) and 42 acres of bush to work with. I'm thinking of a series of workshops over Friday evening to Sunday morning. They'd be a series of 2 hour workshops, I'm thinking 5 or 6 classes, from basics of camera use up to outdoor and indoor nudes.

Sept Workshop Weekend

The cabin/studio is about 3 hours from Toronto and there are cabins within walking distance to rent, or motels in Wiarton (about 15 minutes drive) or you could kip on the studio floor.

If you're interested let me know and we'll work out a weekend. I'm looking for about 6-10 participants at around $250 each for the weekend.

 E-mail Me

This story was done at the cabin http://180mag.ca/0812/taylor2/taylor.html

July 22, 2011
Ed Freeman: WET - the Underwater Nudes

Shot in a variety of Southern California pools, these nude studies of women, men
and couples represent a new and innovative approach to a subject that is as old
as art itself. Underwater, models become more uninhibited; the human body transforms,
becoming lyrical, graceful, even more shapely than on dry land, while the water
itself and the reflections it produces balance and compliment the human form.

Ed Freeman's art has been featured in virtually every English language magazine
devoted to fine art photography, in two books and dozens of museum and gallery exhibitions
worldwide. Four years in the making, this is the first public showing of his "Underwater
Nudes" series.

Opening September 10, 6 - 9 pm

Show runs through October 15

The Gallery at 945 Chung King Road

Los Angeles CA 90012



July 22, 2011

Toronto Image Works Gallery
80 Spadina Avenue
Suite 207
(King and Spadina)
416-703-1999 ext 0
July 21 - September 3, 2011
Thursday July 28, 5:00 - 7:00 PM
Richard Marazzi
This project is a visual exploration of the Cuban dance of life. Cuba is in a moment of great hardship and joyous celebration. For 50 years, Cuba's reality (which includes the crippling economic isolation that has resulted from the U.S. policies towards Cuba) has been dominated by a revolutionary dream of creating a more just society.
From the artist statement " My purpose is not to judge the revolutionary experiment, however, in Cuba this political reality permeates everything. It is the canvas for every image. And yet, these pictures reflect the fierce independence and enduring exuberance of the Cuban people, and the music and rhythm of the island nation that continues to define the Cuban experience above all else. It's what keeps drawing me back. It is in this spirit that I share these images with you."
Join us at the Opening Event and Book Launch on Thursday, July 28, 5:00 - 7:00 PM. The artist will be in attendance.
For further information please contact the gallery curator/coordinator: 
Bernice Lyons Page

July 20, 2011
We're Baaaaack
180mag for March


The March issue is now online. It's there because I was half done when I was hit with an attack of the renovations to my house.

All under control now but I'm still suffering the after-effects which include having to go back to the bank for more credit so that I can put the kids even further in debt.

180 will now be doing a spring-summer issue to catch up and hopefully the monthly schedule will resume with September.

If you have the urge to contribute, feel free, and spread the word to innovative, exciting new photographers... you know, the other guys.

Much more of this and I may even dust off the camera myself, it's been about half a year.

July 20, 2011
Our People
Matthew Wilson

Hey Everyone, 
Check out my latest Beauty Shoot "Color Me Beautiful" for The GOODS Magazine

The full editorial can be seen in The GOODS Magazine, "February Issue" online at http://thegoodsmag.com/
Visit my website www.mathewwilsonphotography.com 

Jan 31, 2011
Real Blog Now
Another Blog


Can't believe I just did that.

Jan 31, 2011
Our People
Alexander Binder

Dear Freunde,

I hope you all had a good start in 2011 - attached please find some news which I'd like to share with you.

∆ Allerseelen book. 
I am very glad to announce the upcoming release of my second book with Morelbooks called 'Allerseelen'. The book should be available within the next few weeks and it is strictly limited to 250 copies.

∆∆ Radio interview with BTR New York. 
My interview with BTR is now online - the nice people at the radio station also allowed me to choose some music. So be prepared for a eerie oOoOO/Salem/Lynch mix ... and get to know more about my very first photo.
Stream: http://www.breakthruradio.com/#/post/?blog=64&post=256
MP3: http://btrmedia.s3.amazonaws.com/ThomasArtUncovered1112011.mp3

∆∆∆ Last chance to see my works in Oakland and New York.
My works at Krowswork gallery and SUGAR are still on show for a few days. Thanks to all of you for visiting, spreading the word & your feedback.
'Raven Rainbow', Krowswork gallery (12.03.10 - 01.22.11) http://www.krowswork.com/ravenrainbow.html
'Ace of Spades', SUGAR (12.04.10 - 01.15.11) http://sugarbushwick.com/artwork/1695987_Ace_of_Spades_12_04_10_01_15_11_opening.html

Jan 12, 2011
Our People
Manjari Sharma

I will be having a show at Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Culver City, LA. The opening is Jan 8th - Feb 12. There will be a closing reception that I will be flying in from India for. So if you happen to blow through LA town, it would be great to see you or I would love for you to visit the show if you can.

All the details for the show are on the links below. 


Thanks in advance! and here is a final edit of the new series Ive created over the last few months.  


Manjari Sharma

Jan 3, 2011