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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

Cameras don't necessarily see the world like our eyes do. Here, using focal length and aperture creates a look that our eyes don't see.
3 What the camera captures is "real." The camera sees the world very differently than we do. Our eyes have far greater capabilities than any sensor on the market today. Every sensor is restricted in its ability to capture dynamic range, colors and tonal gradations compared to what we see. In addition, every manufacturer tunes a camera's sensor in a way they feel makes the camera perform better, not more realistic.

If you want realistic or even naturalistic, you're often going to have to do some processing of the image whether that's something like a RAW file in Lightroom or a carefully setup processing of JPEG files in your camera.

4 RAW isn't processed. This is one of those myths that has persisted forever. All cameras do some processing of the image signal as it comes off of the sensor and then again as that signal is converted into a digital file in the A/D (analog/digital) converter. This processing affects the noise, tonality and color of an image, which is why you can have the same sensor in cameras made by different manufacturers and get different-looking RAW files from each.

5 Sharpness is mainly about the lens and camera. I wrote the article "Sharpness: The Deadly Dozen," which shows how much sharpness is affected by things like camera movement and your choice of ƒ-stop. (Find it in the February 2014 issue of OP or online at outdoorphotographer.com.) The best, most expensive lens in the world isn't necessarily going to get you sharper pictures unless you're also paying attention to your craft as a photographer. Cameras and lenses today are extremely good, and if your photos aren't sharp, it's rarely because of the lenses. It's most often because of camera movement during exposure.

Buy your lenses based on the focal length's unique qualities and on what you can afford. Then hone your craft to get the most out of whatever gear you own, and you'll be surprised at how sharp your images can be.

A little noise in the photo can help to bring the viewer's eye to the main subject.
6 All noise is bad. Because cameras today are doing such a good job in controlling noise in digital photos, a rather arbitrary idea exists that any noise in a photo is a bad thing. To the contrary, noise can be helpful. For example, an image with even a slight bit of noise often will look sharper than an image without any noise. This was well known by black-and-white photographers who shot TRI-X; when the grain (which is similar to noise) of that film was sharp in a print, the image looked sharp, even if the focus wasn't spot-on. Also, photo retouchers often add some noise to images that aren't quite sharp because they know viewers then will have something to focus on, thereby making the photo look sharper.

In addition, noise can add a grittiness to a photo that gives it emotional content that can't be had in any other way. A photograph of wildlife in extremely bad weather conditions, for example, can look kind of unreal if there's no noise. Having some noise there adds a feeling of grittiness that adds to the mood. So consider that noise can give you some creative and technical possibilities.


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