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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Digital Mythbusting

We bust some of the most common myths that digital photographers take into the field to help you get your best images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Sharpness like the spray in this lakeshore photo is determined by several factors. Good technique and choosing the right combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO can be more important than resolution.

Digital photography became popular at the same time that Internet access and usage exploded in growth. The technology behind digital photography was new, and a thirst for knowledge gave rise to rampant misunderstandings and half-truths that circulated like wildfire in the fertile ground of the Internet. In time, many of these myths were debunked, but some persist, and they can distract you from doing your best as a photographer and having fun at something you enjoy. Following is the top-10 list of digital photography myths that need to be busted.

1 More megapixels are automatically better. While there can be plenty of benefits associated with higher megapixel counts, more megapixels don't necessarily equate to better-looking photos. This myth has been perpetuated because it's a lot easier to take a quick glance at a spec chart rather than the more difficult task of looking at how good the pixels are. For example, the Mars Rover has a main camera with only 2 megapixels, and it does pretty well. Megapixels aren't about image quality; they're about image size. Some of the best sensors in recent years in terms of their rendition of color, tonality and noise have been well under 20 megapixels and from most manufacturers.

Keep this in mind as you're looking at cameras and what you need or don't need for your particular photography. If you're getting the photographs you need, never feel intimidated by someone who has more megapixels or manufacturer advertising that claims yours aren't enough.

Auto white balance can yield strange color shifts. If you're cropping close like this, you're usually better off choosing manual white balance.
2 Auto white balance is great for color. I hear this all the time: "I shoot RAW, so I can shoot auto white balance and not have any problems." While it's true that you easily can change your white balance in any program that processes RAW files, the challenge is that you have to do the processing and you have to have some reference to make sure the processing is accurate or even appropriate. Auto white balance has two main issues when shooting outdoors.

First, it's inconsistent. If you photograph a landscape with flowers in the foreground and shoot with a wide-angle lens, then use a telephoto on just the flowers, you'll discover the flowers have changed color because the camera has changed the white balance. White balance is designed to change, and that's a benefit indoors where things like fluorescent lights don't have consistent color.

Second, auto white balance has a tendency to add a slight blue cast to scenes, especially under cloudy and shady conditions. This blue cast makes neutral colors no longer neutral and damages the saturation of warm colors. A big problem with this blue cast is the way our eyes look at images on the computer screen. Our eyes are very adaptable, and unless there's a standard reference to work against, our eyes adapt to that blue cast and think it looks okay even though it isn't, so we don't adjust properly. Even if you do make the adjustment, you run into the problem of the inconsistency of auto white balance, making it impossible to know which photo is correct.

Shooting a specific white balance, such as Sun for sun, Shade for shade, Cloudy for cloudy and so forth, locks in your white balance to a specific point and ensures you don't have the unwanted blue cast. Cloudy white balance is also great for locking in colors at sunrise and sunset that are closer to what we expect from film.


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