Sic transit gloria mundi

Thus passes worldly glory… we are here for a limited time. Hence, make the most of it while you can. And especially, make photos. Or better, have them made, by someone who does it for a living.

This kid’s mom is a very good photographer, and I shot her boy with her yesterday:

(As usual, I used an off camera flash, and the speed was the usual “outdoors starting point” of 1/250 sec at 100 ISO; the aperture needed to match this was f/4.5, which also gave me the blurred background I wanted.)

I often hear “photography is dead”, “from here on, we are all just doing iPhone snapshots”, and so on. But looking at these, do you believe that?

I am sure that there will always be a market for great photos, photos that this young man will treasure when he is my age. An iPhone cannot give you blurred backgrounds, sharp images, lens choices, or the use of flash.

For this image we want a dark background to get saturated colour. That is the 1/250 sec at 100 ISO and f/4.5.

Then for the subject we want a flash: after all, “bright pixels are sharp pixels”.

To be bright enough, the flash was set to half power shooting through an umbrella, so:

A single speedlight is enough in this kind of light. If we had been in the bright sun, the speedlight would have to be very close and/or unmodified.

In any case: please have images like this made, or learn how to make them. After all, you can never travel back in time to do it over again.

Tomorrow, a special technique you can use when you have to shoot a subject in the bright sun.

High ISO on a Canon 7D

You know, forget using a Canon 7D (original) above 800 ISO: it’s just too noisy.

Oh? So how did I take the picture above at 3200 ISO?

Simple. By exposing right. I.e. by exposing bright.

Bright is right.

Bright pixels are sharp pixels.

If you expose on the bright side, noise is not nearly as bad as you may think. Just avoid muddy, murky, noisy pictures. “3200 ISO and bright” is much better than “800 ISO and dark”. Cockroaches hide in the dark. As do millipedes, politicians and noise and grain.Bright is good; “extra bright and then pulling the picture back in post” is even better.

The moral of this story: Do not be afraid to go to high ISO values if you have to. Just do it right: and expose brightly.


Experiment with aspect ratios

Your camera produces an image in the aspect ratio 3:2 (or 4:3, if you use a four-thirds camera). But why not let go of that, and use your own ratios?

Like square.

Or like wide.

Or odd-shaped.

I am a firm believer in “make the picture whatever shape you think fits the picture best”. Not “whatever the frame-makers in China or the paper-makers in Switzerland have decided for you”. Make the picture the way you like, and then cut white edges off paper, and have custom frames made.

On that note: no, you cannot print a 4:3, say, on 3:2 paper without either cropping the picture or cutting off white edges. It’s the reality of life.

I have found that often, people do not understand this: “yes but I want my 4:3 picture to fit on this 8:10 paper and no, I won;t accept cropping or white edges”. Well, here’s news: you have to. To understand why, imagine you have a square picture. Try fitting that on an 8×10 piece of paper, and now you will see why it cannot be done. So you either crop to the paper aspect ratio prior to printing (Lightroom is very good at that), or you print with white edges, which you then cut off. It’s one of those “it is what it is” things.


Symbolism in your photos

Photos tell stories. Some stories are good, or at least, are allowed. Like the end of the summer in the southern Netherlands, the other day:

All these help tell the story and are very evocative if you’ve been there.

Other types of symbolism are best left alone. Like an 85-year old walking away into the sunset, and worse, unmistakably in the centre:

This is not the kind of symbolism you should strive for—at least not unintentionally.

The moral of today’s post: ask yourself: “what does my photo mean”? If you cannot answer that, you have a snapshot.

I would say more, but I am about to board a flight to Reykjavik and thence, to Toronto.