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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
7 Contrast is bad. With the popularity of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography has come the rather arbitrary idea that contrast is no good. Consider this: Photography has always been about contrast. Contrast in tonality, contrast in color, contrast in texture all help define and structure a composition. Without contrast, a photograph can look flat and dull.

It's true that cameras have a more limited capacity—dynamic range—than our eyes do. This naturally results in contrasty images. That's neither good nor bad except as it affects how you want to portray your subject. HDR can be ideal for certain subjects because it can be used to reveal elements in a scene that are important and can't be captured by the camera without it. On the other hand, the drama of contrast can be equally important, and working to eliminate that contrast can weaken a photo. In the final analysis, contrast is simply a tool to be used by the photographer to control the image and give it the interpretation that works best for your subject and your needs as a photographer.

8 You can always crop for a better photo. Technically, this isn't a digital myth. Photographers used to do it with film, as well. With high-megapixel cameras, however, there has become almost a culture of cropping as a way of creating images. There's nothing necessarily wrong with cropping, and sometimes that's the best thing to do with a photograph. However, if cropping is always used as a way to improve the image, that means you're not getting the best photo from the start when you take the picture.


Underexposing the photo while shooting RAW can lead to problems. If this image had been underexposed, most of the texture and detail in this dark scene would have been lost.
9 RAW should be underexposed for highlights. This is another persistent myth that started early on in digital. Images always should be exposed as accurately as possible, and that means making bright areas bright in the exposure. When bright areas are underexposed, everything else in the photograph is underexposed, as well. All digital sensors are at their worst in the darkest parts of an exposure. This has to do with the physics of how sensors respond to light. When an image is underexposed, you're pushing midtone tonalities and colors down into darker parts of the exposure, which is the worst place for them to be recorded by the image sensor. Even if you process the image to brighten it, you're never working with the best-quality tonalities and colors. Image tonalities always look their best, no matter what processing you do, when they're exposed to hold good detail from dark to bright.

An easy way to check this is to look at your histogram. You never want to have a large gap on the right side of the histogram; that means underexposure that's causing problems for your sensor.


Getting close up to a foreground subject with a wide-angle lens creates a different look than simply cropping. Many new photographers have the mistaken belief that they can simply crop the image to create this look.
10 Cropping is the same as getting closer. Cropping, in this sense, is about cropping an image when processing, but it also refers to standing in one place and zooming in and out. When you set up your camera in one spot and zoom, you're essentially cropping your scene. To prove it, try taking some photos from one spot with your camera on a tripod and shoot a wide shot and then a telephoto shot. In the computer, crop your wide shot to match the composition of your telephoto shot, and you can see that it matches exactly, other than possibly losing some image quality due to the crop.

Physically moving closer to or farther from your subject changes things that can't be changed by cropping or zooming. As you move, you change relationships of foreground to background, you alter perspective, and you affect the appearance of space within your photograph. These things can be significant, which is why the same subject shot with a wide-angle lens up close and with a telephoto lens from farther away will have totally different looks even if the subject is the same size in both photos.

See more of Rob Sheppard's photos, buy his ebooks and sign up for his workshops at robsheppardphoto.com. Sign up for his online class "Shooting Intimate Landscapes" at craftsy.com.

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