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Forget the Thirds http://forgetthethirds.com Thoughts on Photography Mon, 23 Nov 2015 23:01:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.17 Reuters Says No to Raw http://forgetthethirds.com/reuters-says-no-to-raw/ http://forgetthethirds.com/reuters-says-no-to-raw/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 23:01:45 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=257 As reported on PetaPixel and many other locations this week, Reuters is asking it photographers to submit their images in JPEG format, generated in camera and not in RAW format. I’ve noticed this policy seemed to surprise a number of photographers and created a controversy online with hungred os posts an all the usual places and […]

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As reported on PetaPixel and many other locations this week, Reuters is asking it photographers to submit their images in JPEG format, generated in camera and not in RAW format. I’ve noticed this policy seemed to surprise a number of photographers and created a controversy online with hungred os posts an all the usual places and plenty of discussion on YouTube.

I don’t get the controversy at all. In fact, I would be very surprised if most photojournalists don’t already shoot in either JPEG only or both JPEG and RAW and then submit the in camera JPEG. It is certainly faster and for a business that wants information as fast as possible, it would make sense. More importantly, the photojournalism profession demands objectivity and using a camera generated JPEG would seem to demonstrate a greater adherence to objectivity. Just a couple weeks ago, a photographer was forced to withdraw an image from the Nikon-Walkley Contest and back in March 20% of the final round of images were disqualified in the World Press Photo contest along with revocation of the first place award. I know submitting in camera JPEGs will not solve all these issues and the composition the image can change perception, but for an industry that is so focused on objectivity that depends on the trust of its readers, it is a natural move to require in camera JPEGs.

As a photographer more interested at creating the best possible image (often illustrating a feeling more intense than reality) and in a discipline where few are concerned about communicating the scene realistically, I shoot exclusively in RAW and will continue to do so. It gives me the most flexibility to communicate the reality I want people to see in the image.  I would expect this to be seen as a natural choice for me and not controversial either.

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Improve Lightroom 6 Performance http://forgetthethirds.com/improve-lightroom-6-performance/ http://forgetthethirds.com/improve-lightroom-6-performance/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2015 18:40:42 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=196 Simple Lightroom 6 Performance Fix If you read my previous posts about Lightroom 6, you no doubt realize that I was underwhelmed by the performance improvements that were supposed to be part of the new release. I am happy to say that I found a simple way to improve, if not completely fix the Lightroom […]

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Simple Lightroom 6 Performance Fix

If you read my previous posts about Lightroom 6, you no doubt realize that I was underwhelmed by the performance improvements that were supposed to be part of the new release. I am happy to say that I found a simple way to improve, if not completely fix the Lightroom 6 performance issues I experienced.

Camera Raw Setting

Lightroom sets up space to use as a cache on your hard disk or SSD to hold your Raw files while you manipulate them. In theory, this should give Lightroom unfettered access to the data it needs when it needs it to provide buttery smooth performance when users are working on their files. For some reason, Adobe decided to set the default Camera Raw Cache Size to 1GB.  This may have been to minimize the impact on machines with limited free storage or because the typical user does not need a bigger cache size. To see this setting simply go to Edit>Preferences and the dialog below will come up:

 

Lightroom Camera Raw Cache Setting Close Up

The area in yellow is where you will need to adjust the setting. Here is a closeup of mine prior to changing it.


Lightroom 6 Camera Raw Setting Closeup


Whatever the reason, I discovered that by increasing the setting has a big positive impact on Lightroom 6 performance.  In my case, I found 25GB did the trick. Here is my updated cache setting:

Improve Lightroom 6 performance by increasing cache setting

 

At this point simply click OK at the bottom of the dialog box and enjoy the improved Lightroom 6 performance. You may want to try a few settings to see what works best for your system.

Conclusion

In the end, I am not convinced that I have the performance I had hoped for, but I definitely find Lightroom 6 performance improved and overall it is more than enough to provide an excellent user experience. I am sure Lightroom 6 performance will continue to improve as Adobe optimizes the performance improvements they added over the coming months.

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Abstract Subject Photography http://forgetthethirds.com/abstract-subject-photography/ http://forgetthethirds.com/abstract-subject-photography/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 22:04:30 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=149 Abstract Subjects in Photography When learning photography you will invariably get told to make your subject stand out. No doubt, you will be told a number of ways to accomplish this including, focus, depth of field, composition, leading lines and countless others. While I agree all these techniques can lead to a well composed subject […]

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Abstract Subjects in Photography

When learning photography you will invariably get told to make your subject stand out. No doubt, you will be told a number of ways to accomplish this including, focus, depth of field, composition, leading lines and countless others. While I agree all these techniques can lead to a well composed subject within a photograph, I believe that they also limit creativity because they focus too much on the actual elements in the image and not enough on the story told or the emotion conveyed by the image.

To illustrate, how these rules can actually limit the maker’s creativity, I am going to use one of my images I captured on a recent walk around San Francisco.  By classic photography definitions, one could say that it either lacks a subject or its subject is ambiguous because of the composition. I can hear the judge at some photography competition now, ” What is the subject? Pick one and better isolate it so the viewer’s eyes are drawn…”  They are so focused on basic rules that they completely miss the meaning of the image.

Old vs New Subject

Old vs. New

This image was captured under the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. As I was looking at the scene, I was struck by the contrast of old construction of the bridge support compared to the new construction of the building. Being the maker of this image I wanted the subject to be the tension between old verses new. Even more I wanted the viewer to see it the image as a lens from a imposing history giving way to a new future. Perhaps as a way of saying that societies future is largely shaped by the by it history. Clearly my subject was not the bridge, the building, the space between them or any tangible element that I could capture in any image. So arranging the objects in the image around a set of rules would not suite my purpose.

Just to be clear, I am not against the various composition rules nor do I suggest that someone break them without thought. What I do believe is that the rules are too often presented as absolutes to beginner and intermediate photographers and it becomes difficult for them to feel comfortable making an image that does not follow the basic rule. In then end, this limits what is possible in their images far too much. As artists we need to feel open to composing our images to create feelings and and convey concepts even when that requires ignoring the rules.

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One Week with Lightroom CC http://forgetthethirds.com/one-week-with-lightroom-cc/ http://forgetthethirds.com/one-week-with-lightroom-cc/#respond Sun, 03 May 2015 19:35:53 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=106 One Week Living with Lightroom CC   For more than a month, I was anticipating the release of Lightroom 6. I had some wishes that I covered in this post. As you can see my list was: More performance Improved tagging Integration to more cloud services Android support Based on all the rumors, I was […]

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One Week Living with Lightroom CC

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For more than a month, I was anticipating the release of Lightroom 6. I had some wishes that I covered in this post. As you can see my list was:

  • More performance
  • Improved tagging
  • Integration to more cloud services
  • Android support

Based on all the rumors, I was particularly excited about the promise of additional performance by leveraging the graphics processor. The release made good on the promise the performance features and even added a few surprises. The initial rumors predicted a late March release, but it was late April before the big day actually arrived and we were able to install and start using the next Lightroom.

With a little over a week with the new version of Lightroom and processing a Bat Mitzpah using it, I have a good feel for how well it works and how it delivers on my number one and number two wish list features. You can find piles of people talking about all the new features, what they do and how to use them, so rather than rehash those topics, I am going to focus on how well the features work and deliver value in my workflow.

Performance

To me, Lightroom performance is composed of two elements: speed of using the editing features in the develop module and speed of using catalog functions.

  • Develop module – This is the area that should see the most improvement because of the impact of off loading the heavy lifting tot he graphics card. My main editing system has a Radeon R9 285 graphics card and I expected pretty dramatic improvements with no discernible lag when using the gradient or radial filters and brushes. Unfortunately, the initial release did not deliver on this point at all.  I can see Lightroom is making use of the graphics card, but I don’t see any real performance gain in the development module. What’s worse is, in my experience the new Lightroom seems to be less stable than the old version and crashed a couple times. On Thursday, Adobe released an update to Lightroom. The update seems to have solved the stability issue, as I have had no crashes since its release. I also believe the performance improved things some, but the difference is small enough to fall within confirmation bias error. So, while the graphics card support is promising for performance improvements, we have yet to really see much if any results.
  • Catalog – Because I usually shoot a lot on images, I really want Lightroom to import them, allow me to select/rate them, develop and export as quickly as possible. This was even more important to me than the develop module performance and while there was no promise of improvements here, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, it seems as no attention was given to this area. For those that are in the market for a product that provides super fast import, browsing and selection of shots, take a look at Photo Mechanic. I really delivers in this area, but it lacks a lot of the features of Lightroom.

Improved Tagging

This was an item on my wish list and because it was not mentioned in most of the rumors, I was not expecting much. Then I heard Lightroom’s new features would include facial recognition, I was intrigued, but I was not expecting it to be be useful to me. I was wrong. After using Lightroom CC to process a Bat Mitzpah, I realized two things. First, Lightroom CC has excellent facial recognition with a fast workflow to identify all the people in your images. Secondly, facial recognition is a fantastic tagging mechanism for any photographer with a lot of shots of people. As an example, imagine you have 1,500 to 2,000 images from an event shoot and your client asks if you have any shots of John with aunt Sally and uncle George. Facial recognition is a real time saver and big credit to Adobe for the vision to include it in Lightroom.

Cloud Integration

I was really looking for better integration with other cloud services. I realize this was a little too much to ask. The promise of the cloud was a world with one place to store all your data. Unfortunately, because every vendor seems to want to make you use their cloud service, the would has turned out to be more of world with 30 different places to store all your data. All that said, Lightroom does make better use of Adobe’s cloud service and provides a nice way to sync data across devices.

Android Support

I was hoping for a Lightroom application for Android devices, and it was fantastic to see Adobe launched one. It does not have feature parity with the iOS version, but overall it is a good start and I am hoping for more capabilities in the future. If you have yet to install Lightroom on you favorite Android device, you can get it in the Play Store.

Surprise Additions

Lightroom CC/6 contains several nice additions that were not widely rumored and most make Lightroom easier to use and more functional. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Adjustment brushes in filters – This makes the standard filters in Lightroom far more useful. Using this feature, I find that I need to go to Photoshop a little less frequently and this speeds my workflow. Anyone who is familiar with adjustment brushes in Lightroom will be immediately able to use this feature.
  • Panorama Merge – While I only played with this feature to see how it worked, I think it is a nice addition and implemented with enough control to make it usefull. Once again, Adobe allows me to do more in Lightroom and this will same me time.
  • HDR Merge –  Again, I need to preface this comment with the disclaimer that I only played with this feature, so my experience is limited. That said, I see this as just the opposite as the panorama merge feature. When I do HDR, it is to dig out details in the shadows in landscapes while preserving the natural appearance of the scene. This means I need quite a bit of control of the process and I do not see that control in the Lightroom implementation. This is an area, that I believe Adobe should leave to Photoshop or a dedicated application. In my opinion, Adobe would be better to focus on improving the core Lightroom function (catalog performance) rather than adding a lot of specialized capabilities. I could say this about the panorama feature above, but since since panorama stitching requires few adjustments from the user, I see it as a useful addition to Lightroom.
  • Slideshow improvements – This is a small one, but it is very useful for event photographers. Lightroom now has a slideshow option to add pan and zoom (sometimes know as Ken Burns effect) to slide shows. For any one that wants to run a slideshow of shots as part of an event, this feature makes the images far more interesting. It is currently very basic with only one slider, but with over time, I am sure the feature will mature and offer a little more control over the effect.

Bottom Line

I like most of what Adobe did to Lightroom. It has promise for better performance and with luck we will see Adobe deliver on this in future updates. I really hope they pay some attention to the catalog performance as well. I spend a lot of time navigating the filmstrip and it would be a real time saver for it to be a snappier experience. With the stability issue resolved, I would recommend any Lightroom user to upgrade and start to leverage the new capabilities.

What do you think?

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Textures & Wildlife Images http://forgetthethirds.com/textures-wildlife-images/ http://forgetthethirds.com/textures-wildlife-images/#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2015 05:49:50 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=96 Adding Feeling & Depth with Textures I’m always looking for new ways to add unique characteristics to images. One of my favorite wildlife subjects is the Black-Crowned Night Heron. I find they have an oddly expressive face and are often posing in unique positions. I recently captured this image at a local county park. Overall, I […]

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Adding Feeling & Depth with Textures

I’m always looking for new ways to add unique characteristics to images. One of my favorite wildlife subjects is the Black-Crowned Night Heron. I find they have an oddly expressive face and are often posing in unique positions. I recently captured this image at a local county park.

Black-Crowned Night Heron without textures

Overall, I love this image. The pose reminds me of a person looking over their shoulder. It is even vaguely reminiscent of Girl with a Pearl Earring, an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. I find the emotion in the eye is very striking. It is almost like the subject is in deep thought about a long lost friend.

I decided to see if I could make the image more interesting by blending a couple textures to add more feeling and some depth to the image, but I also really wanted to maintain as much realism as I could. I used this technique of blending textures in layers quite a bit in the past for still life and landscape, but I never considered it for wildlife until seeing a YouTube video on the This Week in Photo channel, Texture blending in Photoshop with Alan Shapiro,  where Alan demonstrates his technique for texture blending with bird images.

With Textures

So after doing basic adjustments in Lightroom, I moved to Photoshop to try some textures and experiment with blending modes to get an interesting look. In fifteen minutes of trying a variety of textures and settings this is where I settled.

Black-Crowned Night Heron with textures blended

I think I accomplished my goal with this image, but I want am sure I will continue to play with it for a while. I might remove the concrete texture and try a few different canvas textures.

An interesting outcome of this experience is that I realized I like the idea of capturing some wildlife images with the subject posed similar to classic paintings. Depending on how successful I am at getting a good selection of images with properly posed animals, I may do a series on the concept.

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Photography from the Train http://forgetthethirds.com/photography-from-the-train/ http://forgetthethirds.com/photography-from-the-train/#respond Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:46:16 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=86 Because I am always looking for ways to practice photography in my daily life,  I typically have a small M43 camera in my bag. This lets me carry something that can get great images without a lot of extra bulk and weight. This allows me to do some street photography in the city or capture an interesting […]

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Because I am always looking for ways to practice photography in my daily life,  I typically have a small M43 camera in my bag. This lets me carry something that can get great images without a lot of extra bulk and weight. This allows me to do some street photography in the city or capture an interesting moment in the office.

Recently I began taking the train to San Francisco four days a week. One day, while looking out of the window of the train, I noticed some interesting scenes passing by and decided to try capturing a few and see what I could do with them. This is one of my favorites so far.

 

Sunset with Clouds

Sunset with Clouds

When I captured this shot, I was southbound around San Mateo, California. This evening was particularly nice for the sunset because it was a rare time that we have had clouds in the recent past.  I think it would have been a little better a couple minutes later as sun got closer to the mountain top, but when shooting from a train, you cannot stop and wait.

Tips to Try

Thus far I learned a few things that help minimize the problems of shooting through a dirty window while traveling on a moving train.

  • Try to position the lens flat against the window – I found this reduces glare from the inside of the window. It reduces your ability to pan, but it does help remove unwanted artifacts. Staying close to the window will also keep scratches and dirt on the window out of focus and basically unseen in the final image. This image was shot with the lens touching the window, but I had to angle the camera some to get the framing I wanted. Fortunately, it was reasonably dark in the train, so the interior glare was not a problem.
  • Take a lot of shots – Generally, I am not a fan of the, “spray & pray,” method of shooting, but in this case you are literally facing a lot of moving pieces and taking several shots at and around the decisive moment really improves the chance of capturing your image.
  • Plan you shots when possible – Because the train is moving (often fast), it is very difficult to look through the camera while identifying nice scenes. To make it easier, I actually use some rides to just select points on the trip that I will use to shoot on a future ride. I try to note things in the scene, time of day/date, location of the sun, color and anything else that may influence how I setup for the shot. Then I can be prepared on a later trip to get the shots. Obviously, this will not work for all shots. Sometimes a one time confluence of people, items and light come together and you want to capture it. The shot above is an example where this is true, so always be ready if you see something that is screams out to be shot.
  • To get more unique views of buildings and other structures, get a seat on top floor if you train car has a double deck. If you want a more natural view of the street and passing people, get a seat on the lower deck.
  • When possible get a solo seat so no one sits next to you.

This image of the Baker and Hamilton building is an example of a shot where being on the train gave me a great perspective of a classic building that cannot be captured from the ground.

 

Lines & Pole Removed

 Photography from the Train

So far, photography while riding two hours per day on a train not only makes the trip seem to pass more quickly, but it also opened up to a lot of time to be creative and is forcing me to think about how to get great images within the constraints of being on a train. I am considering doing a series of shots from the train and I will update my blog as I develop better techniques.

 

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Baker & Hamilton Building http://forgetthethirds.com/baker-hamilton-building/ http://forgetthethirds.com/baker-hamilton-building/#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2015 01:52:26 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=75 The Baker & Hamilton Building The Baker & Hamilton Building is a challenge photograph. How do you capture the feel of the building with its sign not the clutter of modern San Francisco. I captured this image of the Baker & Hamilton building a couple weeks ago. Originally built in 1904 – 1905 the building […]

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The Baker & Hamilton Building

The Baker & Hamilton Building is a challenge photograph. How do you capture the feel of the building with its sign not the clutter of modern San Francisco.

I captured this image of the Baker & Hamilton building a couple weeks ago. Originally built in 1904 – 1905 the building is now a San Francisco landmark and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It also has the distinction of being one of only a few brick buildings remaining in San Francisco that were built before the earthquake of 1906 Today it is an office building occupied by Adobe.

I love this building for the old stone architecture, but most of all the sign. Walking past it gives you a feel for what the world looked like back in the early 1900’s

Original Edit

Baker & Hamilton Building

The Baker & Hamilton building, San Francisco

I really wanted to capture the sign and not a log of the clutter of the people and traffic. Overall, I am happy with the composition, but I hate the power lines. I guess it is a classic problem. How do you get a shot of a cool urban location without all the distractions of the setting. Normally I would just Photoshop out the power lines and  poles, but in this case, I think it is too much to remove. I suppose I could also argue that the power lines actually add feeling and authenticity of the image.

Edit 2

So, I played with this image a little mote and decided to try it in black and white. My think was that perhaps the power lines would be less intrusive in B&W and maybe even add more to the feeling than they do in the color version.

Baker & Hamilton Building

Baker & Hamilton Building in B&W

As you can see, I think B&W succeeds in reducing the impact of the power lines on the image, but I think a lot is lost because the richness of the color of the brick construction is lost in B&W.

Edit 3

At this point I think, why not try to rid my image of the power lines. The easy way to do this is the first recompose to crop out the pole on the right and then go to Photoshop to work on the lines. This is what resulted.

Lines & Pole Removed

Baker & Hamilton Building Recomposed with Line Removed

I realized that the power lines that most bothered me were the ones in front of the sign, so those are the only ones I removed. I think this version is my favorite.

This exercise was an interesting learning experience to me. First I hated the lines, then after looking at the image, I convinced myself that that they added more to the image than they distracted, but I wanted to experiment to see what I could come up with. The more I played with the image them more convinced I was that the power lines needed to stay. It was only after removing them that I realized that they really were the distraction that I thought they were in the beginning.

What do you think, please leave comments.

By the way, did you notice the two seagulls? Look closely and you will see on on the H and one in the N.

 

 

 

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Break Creative Inertia – Shut-up, Go Out & Shoot http://forgetthethirds.com/break-creative-inertia-shut-up-go-out-shoot/ http://forgetthethirds.com/break-creative-inertia-shut-up-go-out-shoot/#respond Fri, 13 Mar 2015 03:35:15 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=65 Difficulty starting a project is something that many creative people face. I know my friends and I experience it  at one time or another, with some of us experiencing it more often than others. Apparently, even great artists suffer from the same creative inertia when it comes time to start something new. I found a great quote from Vincent […]

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Difficulty starting a project is something that many creative people face. I know my friends and I experience it  at one time or another, with some of us experiencing it more often than others. Apparently, even great artists suffer from the same creative inertia when it comes time to start something new. I found a great quote from Vincent Van Gogh where he actually described it with incredible clarity and even offers a solution to the problem. See his full letter on The Paris Review. The Van Gogh refers to the letters as, “The letters are the window to Van Gogh’s universe,” and many with a little patience much much insight can be found in them.  For those who are interested in the full collection of Van Gogh letters you can read a large collection online at: The Van Gogh Museum.

“Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares—and who has once broken the spell of ‘you can’t, ‘” Vincent van Gogh, from his Essential Letters.

Reading through this letter gives you an inside look at how Van Gogh felt about being afraid of starting a new project. He describes the state of mind as paralyzing.  Then in a “Nothing to fear, but fear itself,” like moment suitable of Churchill, he tells you the canvas is more afraid of you than you are of afraid of it.

For photographers, we can break our creative inertia with some inspiration directly from one of the greats and just – Shut-up, Go Out and Shoot.

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Find Creative Inspiration from Trends http://forgetthethirds.com/find-creative-inspiration-from-trends/ http://forgetthethirds.com/find-creative-inspiration-from-trends/#respond Wed, 11 Mar 2015 14:54:56 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=60 I saw a great interactive infographic on Shutterstock the other day showing trends in several regions around the world. It occurred to me that this infographic is a wonderful tool for creative inspiration. I’ve used Pintrest and other sources of images for a long time to serve as a springboard to see possible compositions, subjects and colors. […]

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I saw a great interactive infographic on Shutterstock the other day showing trends in several regions around the world. It occurred to me that this infographic is a wonderful tool for creative inspiration. I’ve used Pintrest and other sources of images for a long time to serve as a springboard to see possible compositions, subjects and colors. What I like about this particular infographic is the curation process. Typically other tools provide one of two results. Either you see the favorites of one or a few people or you see a relatively random set of images driven by the host website’s SEO.

What makes this infographic different is that it is built from the preferences of Shutterstock’s customers worldwide as they browse and select images to use in their creative work. Because of this it really gives insight that is difficult to find elsewhere. First, it is is based on actual preferences for images people are choosing to purchase and use, so it is more connected with with the designs that you may see in the wild and that your clients may be looking for in your work. Secondly, you can see what is hot in your region and drill down to the top categories in your geography.

It starts with some good high level trends like blurred backgrounds, linear design and unique perspective and quickly gets more specific as you drill in and scroll down. Definitely worth a look.

 

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Photography Technique – Expose for the Highlights http://forgetthethirds.com/photography-technique-expose-for-the-highlights/ http://forgetthethirds.com/photography-technique-expose-for-the-highlights/#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2015 03:55:12 +0000 http://forgetthethirds.com/?p=56 I was reading a review of the Nikon D750 today and I ran across an interesting analysis of what the reviewer calls ISO Invariance. The DPReview Ariticle compares the noise in shadows of under exposed images vs. images shot at higher ISO on both the Nikon D750 and the Canon 5d MKiii. While it is a […]

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I was reading a review of the Nikon D750 today and I ran across an interesting analysis of what the reviewer calls ISO Invariance. The DPReview Ariticle compares the noise in shadows of under exposed images vs. images shot at higher ISO on both the Nikon D750 and the Canon 5d MKiii. While it is a clear when for us on team Nikon, it is good information to know to get the most out of your RAW files regardless of the brand of camera you are using.

Since modern cameras all perform pretty well with regard to recovering the detail and DR in under exposed shadow areas, I generally expose to prevent the highlights from being clipped and then recover the shadows in post. Based on the results presented in this article, I have been using the right photography technique. As it turns out, Nikon seems to produce the same level of noise in the shadows regardless to ISO. Knowing this, I can choose a lower ISO (for a given shutter/f-stop) to protect the highlight details with the knowledge that I did not introduce more noise in my shadows when I recover them.

The Canon seems to be far more ISO dependent. In other words, increasing the ISO is preferable to underexposing the shadows, from a noise perspective. This means you may want to be a little less aggressive on underexposing, but probably not so much as to loose details in your highlights.

This is a rare example of something that was found in a camera review and can be used to improve your photography technique. I hope this is something that you can find useful. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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