The Digital Photography Book – Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book was one of the first books that I read as an aspiring photographer, and was definitely one of the best. Originally published in 2006, over the years it has been updated and revised as well have new books added to the series. As of the time of writing, there are 5 volumes available, each continuing where the previous book left off.

The idea behind the books is to explain concepts easily, without too much technical jargon. This excerpt from Scott sums it up best.

“If you and I were out on a shoot and you asked me, ‘Hey Scott, I want the light for this portrait to look really soft and flattering. How far back should I put this softbox?’ I wouldn’t give you a lecture about lighting ratios, or flash modifiers. In real life, I’d just turn to you and say, ‘Move it in as close to your subject as you possibly can, without it actually showing up in the shot.’ Well, that’s what this book is all about: you and I out shooting where I answer questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned, just like I would with a friend–without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak.”

The story set as if you and Scott are two friends out on a shoot. The books are broken down into several chapters, each focusing on a certain type of photography, i.e. weddings, sports, landscapes, portraits, etc. Each page within the chapters presents a particular tip or technique, conveying it a simple, straight forward manner. It mostly avoids getting too technical, rather it simply focuses on what you need to do or what settings you need to change to achieve a certain kind of shot.

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Excerpt from The Digital Photography Book Volume 3 (Kelby, 2009)

The books are filled with Scott’s light hearted humor and puns. This serves to lighten the mood of the book, helping to turn it into a fun read instead of a textbook. This is what makes Scott’s series stand out from the other photography books out there. It’s fun.

Some key things that I learned from the books – 

  1. Holding the camera steady (Scott shared a technique about how to wrap the camera strap around your arm to achieve better stability.)
  2. Framing (Where to crop your portraits.)
  3. Perspective (Using a wide angle vs using a zoom to achieve very different effects)

Scott’s books are one of the best selling photography books in the world – and for good reason. If you’re a beginner just starting out in photography, these books will definitely help you learn what you need to know to capture better pictures. And if you’re a seasoned photographer, these books make a great read – and you might learn something new too.

part5cvrAt the end of each book Scott presents some of his photos and tells you exactly how he achieved that result. All of these and more, are compiled into volume 5 of The Digital Photography Book. So if you want to know more about how Scott shoots his subjects, and his exact thought process and workflow, book 5 is worth exploring.

The Digital Photography Books are available to purchase as physical copies or ebooks on Amazon.

References

Kelby, S. (2006). The digital photography book. volume 1: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2008). The digital photography book: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2009). The digital photography book: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! : Volume 3. Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2012). The digital photography book, part 4: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit.

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Goodbye Lightroom?

Adobe’s Lightroom is without a doubt one of , if not the most popular RAW photo processing software out there. The vast majority of professionals use it for their photo editing needs, and even if you don’t use it, you’ll have at least heard of it.

However in the past few versions, Lightroom has been acting up. Performance is painfully slow, rendering previews take forever and it guzzles up RAM like a monster. And it’s not just me, a quick internet search will turn up hundreds of unhappy users over the past several years, in various forums and websites bemoaning Lightroom’s performance. And while Adobe has very recently acknowledged the issues in Lightroom (Fitzgerald, 2017), it will still take some time for them to roll out fixes to the problems, if at all. And to top it all off, a subscription to Lightroom isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that shelling out cash for a program that is simply too slow to use at times is simply not worth it.

So what is a photographer to do now?

Well, one option is to give up photo editing, but that probably not an option for most people. The second choice is to switch to another program. While none of these software have the popularity of Lightroom, they still provide a fairly solid alternative for editing photos. Two notable ones include DxO Mark’s DxO Optics Pro and Phase One’s Capture One Pro. Of the two the one I prefer is Capture One, and as such that’s what’s going to be the focus of this post.

By far the biggest problem with switching from Lightroom is the interface change. Capture One’s interface isn’t bad per se, but it will take a while to get used to, especially if you’re used to a Lightroom workflow. The black and orange layout may not be to everyone’s taste and unfortunately there’s no way to change it, although you can customize other aspects such as windows and toolbars.

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The performance though is a long way from Lightroom, it renders previews and applies changes much faster. It’s still not perfect though. It does occasionally lag and there are some stutters here and there. But it’s still a far cry from the almost unusable mess that is Lightroom. Adding to the benefits of Capture One you also get a minor image quality boost (Richardson, 2016). RAW images processed in Capture One simply have better color and sharpness. Another plus point to Capture One is tethering. For me, Lightroom has simply never worked when trying to tether my camera, so this feature is a nice added boon to have.

However the switching workflow hasn’t been easy, and I still have Lightroom installed – just in case. But for those of you wanting to give Capture One a try, I highly recommend watching this guide from Fstoppers to get aquatinted with the software (Woloszynowicz, 2014).

References

Fitzgerald, T. (2017, July). After years of complaints, Adobe acknowledges Lightroom performance issues. Retrieved from http://blog.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/blog/2017/7/after-years-of-complaints-adobe-acknowledges-lightroom-performance-issues

Richardson, M. (2016, June). Is it time to switch from Lightroom to Capture One Pro? Here’s why it might be. Retrieved from https://www.slrlounge.com/time-switch-lightroom-capture-one-pro-heres-might/

Woloszynowicz, M. (2014, July). The ultimate guide to getting started with Capture One Pro. Retrieved from https://fstoppers.com/originals/ultimate-guide-getting-started-capture-one-pro-27179

Mirrorless vs DSLR

Recently I had the opportunity to briefly use a Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a mirrorless camera. As the name implies, mirrorless cameras lack the mirror that typical DSLRs have. Due to this mirrorless cameras don’t have the optical viewfinder found in DSLRs. Apart from that one key difference though, for the most part they’re pretty similar. So why would you choose one over the other? Using the Sony A7s got me thinking – as a pretty avid DSLR user could I switch to using a mirrorless? Would I one day switch to a mirrorless?

The most obvious change when going from a full frame DSLR to a mirrorless is the size. The Sony is tiny. This is great because, there are way too many times I left my camera at home simply due to its sheer size. The Sony’s weight, or lack thereof, make it easier on the arms during long trips and photoshoots. However the downside is ergonomics. Now this may vary with different brands and models, but I found the A7s difficult to hold comfortably. It’s edges are sharp and there simply wasn’t much space to get a grip on. This problem was made worse when the lens mounted on it was a gargantuan 70-200mm f/2.8. I preferred my DSLR’s larger, softer grip and better balance with larger lenses. On a similar note, I didn’t like the buttons and the scroll wheel either. This could be seen as a minor quibble, but when you spend north of $2000 on a camera, little things matter. They matter all the more if you plan to make a living by spending hours a day using the camera.

Apart from the size, the next most obvious change is the viewfinder. Because they lack a mirror, mirrorless cameras have to rely on an electronic viewfinder. At first this takes some getting used to – the whole image just seems off. As electronic viewfinders go, it’s definitely not a bad one, but if I had the choice, I’d pick an optical one every time. At least until technology progresses and electronic viewfinders improve. Regarding image quality – there are absolutely no issues. Pictures are every bit as good as a DSLR. In some cases this is because both cameras use the same sensor!

So would I switch to a mirrorless or recommend a mirrorless to someone?

I wouldn’t switch to one, largely in part because switching between camera ecosystems is mind numbingly expensive, and I’m already invested into Nikon’s DSLRs. However for someone who hasn’t yet chosen a ecosystem, I might just recommend getting a mirrorless camera. While they may not replace DSLRs yet, mirrorless cameras are proving to be a pretty popular and viable alternative.

 

Cover image from Sony (2017)

Emotion

A Small Project

What do I want people to know about me? There are many things I would like to tell, and narrowing it down to just one was difficult. After browsing through my previous work for inspiration, I eventually settled on emotion. More particularly how I love to capture emotion in photos or videos, or create them in illustrations and stories. Emotions are at the core of most great works. It’s what makes people laugh or cry, it’s what brings a smile to their face, or a tear in their eye. In the end that’s what I aspire to do with any of my art. It’s to evoke emotion.

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For this project, the medium I chose was a poster, as I could use easily use my photography to its effect. While a video or animation would have also been a great idea, I chose the poster due to it’s simplicity.It’s relatively easy to create, but done right, can be a very effective medium. Various designs were experimented with and different sketches were drawn in the brainstorming process, but the final design was chosen because it was simpler and more to the point. There’s no guesswork needed to figure out what idea is being shown. There are photos of people with various expressions to help convey emotion, as well as a quote from a song. The starry sky backdrop also adds to the grand, dramatic feel of the whole piece.

Emotion

A Short Essay

If a picture is worth a thousand words, just imagine what a video is worth! It’s thousands of photos combined into one! In my videos, I like to take simple ordinary things in life and put them on the screen. Things that we sometimes tend to take for granted, or things that simply go unnoticed because they’re “normal”, and showcase them. It could be nature, people, maybe a few toys on the shelf, or even just some empty roads. With a little creativity and imagination almost anything can work.

My favorite kinds of videos are the ones that have an extra emphasis on music. It can be a music video, or it could just be a video that has a great soundtrack. The music is really important as it helps complete the video. Great videography is nice, but combine it with great music and it has the ability to change people’s worldview, to give people new perspective – that’s what I aim for.

Videos that stir people’s feelings. Motion pictures that create passion in people. To make them laugh or make a tear roll down their cheek or put a smile on their face. Short films that people can say reminded them of a special event in their life. Movies that people can watch and say it really touched them, it lifted up their spirit even if only for a moment. And that’s the great thing – everyone can feel. Anyone from a child to a grandparent can watch a video. Age doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, that’s my hope for all my work, whether it’s a movie, or a photograph, or music – to create memories and emotions in people.

About Me

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had an interest in art and design. It started out with drawings and sketches – I would draw almost anything that I saw, although it was mostly limited to cars and animals. Later when I got my first camera my focus turned into photography. I carried the large – for 12 year old me at the time – black camera everywhere I went, clicking pictures as if my life depended on it.

Gradually, as time passed, I got into videos, music, graphics, web design, UI design and more. Eventually this led to pursuing Multimedia Design as a degree.  During this time I worked on several projects, including doing an graphics design for CanOfJuice, a company that showcases designs from various artists by selling products and home accessories with their artwork. I also recreated the Facebook app in my own way as part of UI/UX design, and later created mockups of my own app.

While I did designs and projects for all of these different areas, my main focus has always been on photography and videography. It could be because with a camera you can go out and capture real people out in the real world, as opposed to the other mediums, which are more “digital” so to speak. There’s just something about a good photograph that I simply love.

The way you’re able to capture people’s emotions in one picture is, for me, amazing. And videos are able to do even more! A video is a continuous set of photos, and combine it with great music and sound, and it has the ability to make a person cry, or laugh. In the end that’s what I aspire to do with any of my art. It’s to evoke emotion. To me that’s what makes art what it is – the way it can lift people up, encourage them. The way it makes people feel.