On Photography

“The thing that's important to know is that you never know. You're always sort of feeling your way.”― Diane Arbus


Growing a Photography Practice

With photography there is no one path. So relax, follow your nose and your eye, and keep going. The requirements for great photography are determination, passion and a curious mind. Now keep going.

  1. Shoot a lot of photographs. Also film video (video is motion pictures)

  2. Collate your negatives. But get some distance from them. I like to bury mine for awhile to let them age.

  3. Import your negatives into Adobe Lightroom. Practice developing images using theDevelop module Correct images for white balance, exposure (blacks, whites, shadows, highlights), lens imperfections, straighten, remove dust spots, and sharpen. And more.

  4. Also Import negatives into Photoshop, and develop images there. With Photoshop you can and experiment with stacking up layers, creating adjustments, layer masks, etc.

  5. Experiment editing your work wildly and freely. Lightroom and Photoshop both offers creative ways to non-destructive perform  adjustment layers. Embrace them.


the first known photograph

In the early days of photography, long exposure times were necessary. The French artist and photographer, Louis Daguerre created the first known photograph of a human being, titled Boulevard du Temple.

The pedestrians in the photograph were not visible in the final image except for a single stationary shoeshiner who remained in place for the full duration of the exposure.

Boulevard du Temple Louis Daguerre

Boulevard du Temple Louis Daguerre 1839


Color Spaces

A colour space is a specific range of colors that can be represented. the sRGB colour space can represent the same number of colors as Adobe RGB, but the range of colors (or gamut) of possible colors that it represents is narrower.

Default is SRGB

sRGB is pretty much the default color space everywhere. Most web browsers for example assume that images are in the sRGB color space, and will simply ignore the images colour space and render them as sRGB images. For web images, you should save and publish them as sRGB, because most browsers render images as sRGB regardless causing Adobe RGB images to appear desaturated and washed out. For images to look the same regardless of where they're displayed, publish them as sRGB.

Adobe RGB (1998)

Adobe RGB (1998) has %35 wider color gamut than sRGB. So for 16-bit images with extra color range (or gamut) for professional-grade printing,  save your images in Adobe RGB.

In Practice - Color Spaces

Shoot in Adobe RGB (1998). Most cameras will ship set to capture using sRGB. But choose Adobe RGB (1998)


Understanding Camera Exposure

Cameras Exposure = F-STOP + ISO + SHUTTER SPEED

Camera exposure is also known the Exposure Triangle, which describes this relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. We want to shoot 'normal exposures' which is another way of saying we want optimum exposure for the scene we’re focused on.

It's not hard exactly. But it will confuse as you are working to wrap your mind around it.

Shoot properly exposed images while experimenting with the different exposure settings and the penny will eventually drop.

exposure value (EV)

We call a specific combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO an exposure value (EV) and often refer to a change that either doubles of halves the amount of light reaching the sensor (or doubles of halves the sensitivity) as a stop.

Correct Exposure

Correct exposure is having a combination aperture, shutter speed and ISO speed that produces a perfectly exposed image. Correct exposure is about shooting photographs with the ideal brightness, achieving high levels of detail in both the shadows and highlight areas. To accomplish correct exposure you need to understand the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

underexposure = not enough light
over exposure = too  much light

Colour Temperature

Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light. Colour Temperature is expressed in ‘Kelvin’, a measurement unit for the colour of light illuminating a subject. Higher colour temperatures are bluer, lower colour temperatures are redder. When the colour of light changes from sunny to cloudy to being indoors, our eyes automatically adjust.  But when shooting you’ll immediately notice the change in light affects the way your camera represents colours.

This can be problematic in photography, as white surfaces can appear orange in low colour temperatures, and blue in higher colour temperatures. The human eye will see white in real life so to compensate for this, cameras are equipped with a ‘White Balance’ settings.

White Balance is a camera setting used to ‘balance’ or correct colour to represent a scene as true as possible in an image. All cameras will have an Auto White Balance’ (AWB) as well as the ability to manually adjust your camera’s white balance to achieve true colour for the scene.


The Nutshell

You can get by on auto white balance. Better to know your colour temperatures. When you shoot images expose for correct exposure. Set your exposure around your aperture/shutter settings. You can ride the ISO for light.


Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time your camera spends taking a picture. This could be 1/100 of a second, or 1/10 of a second, or three seconds, or five minutes. There are custom cameras that take decades to capture a single photo.

Boulevard du Temple Louis Daguerre

Michael Wesely, Alte Försterei, Berlin

Shutter Speed Duration

Bulb Mode is an exposure setting enabling shutter speeds greater than 30 seconds. Generally, bulb mode is used in extremely low light situations, such as taking photos of the night sky.

On average cameras the longest allowable shutter speed tends to be around 30 seconds. It's typical to be able to shoot any shutter speed from 1/8000 second to 30 seconds. You uwill also have a time mode (bulb mode) for even longer exposures.

extremely long camera exposures

Michael Wesely is a German photographer who has  developed techniques for extremely long camera exposures — usually between two to three years. Wesely states he could produce eve longer exposures - ten, twenty and even forty years.

Shutter Speed Guide

Stop race cars or pro-athletes  1/2000 - 1/4000 sec.
Stop a bird in flight 1/1000 - 1/2000 sec.
Stop action at gymnastic meet 1/800 - 1/1500 sec.
Still life or portraits 1/125 - 1/250 sec.
Landscapes 1/20 - 1/100 sec.
Waterfall on a cloudy day - velvet smooth water 1/2 - 1/30 sec.
City lights at night 8 - 30 sec.
Low light indoors with no flash & no movement 5 - 30 sec.

The Nutshell

So many possibilities with Shutter Speed. From soaking in light at night, to freezing the moment with high speed shutters.

Shutter Speed is about controlling the light entering the camera and resulting amount of motion blur.


Aperture and Depth of Field

Aperture is the opening within a lens that controls how much light enters the camera.  Aperture is like the pupil in your eye. In photography, Aperture is expressed in ‘F numbers’, for example F/1.4, F/2.0, F/2.8, F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11.0, F/16.

Diagram of decreasing apertures, that is, increasing f-numbers, in one-stop increments; each aperture has half the light-gathering area of the previous one. — 

F Number

The smaller the 'F number', the larger the Aperture, which means less light entering the camera. The bigger the 'F number', the smaller the Aperture and the greater the amount of light which is able to pass through. I know, it seems backwards.

F numbers are listed as ‘stops’ which have a halving or doubling relationship to each adjacent number. For example, F/2.8 lets in twice the amount of light as F/4.0, but only half as much as F/2.0. This of course has a critical effect on exposure; if you ‘stop down’ from F/2.8 to F/4.0, you will need to keep your shutter open for twice as long, in order to let in the right amount of light.

F/1.4, F/2.0, F/2.8, F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11.0, F/16

Depth of Field

The Aperture will dictate two things; firstly, your depth of field and secondly, the shutter speed required to expose the image correctly. Adjusting your Aperture settings will therefore play a huge part in the look and feel of the image.

I like to set my depth first (aperture), then expose around it as it were using shutter speed and ISO. On modern cameras you can 'ride the iso' pretty well and nail clean exposure using your preferred aperture/shutter.

You can Simulate Depth of Field

You can simulate depth of field using this simulator.

The Nutshell

Aperture is all about depth of field. If your camera supports high clean ISO settings you can set your aperture first for your desired depth of field. Then ride your ISO and shutter speed for normal exposure.


ISO(Film speed)

ISO for a digital sensor is the measure of the sensors sensitivity to light. ISO is the relationship between exposure and output image lightness in digital cameras.

Digital cameras have far surpassed film in terms of sensitivity to light, with ISO equivalent speeds of up to 4,560,000. Faster processors, as well as advances in software noise reduction techniques allow this type of processing to be executed the moment the photo is captured, allowing photographers to store images that have a higher level of refinement and would have been prohibitively time consuming to process with earlier generations of digital camera hardware.

With modern cameras you can ‘ride the iso’ according to your desired tastes and condition. In this case you might push your ISO then more comfortably achieve your desired aperture (depth) and shutter speed (sharpness of frames).

The Nutshell

With ISO think noise. Lower ISO settings produce cleaner images, with higher ISO’s images in general producing image with more digital image noise.


Frame rate

Frame rate (expressed in frames per second or FPS) is the frequency (rate) at which consecutive images called frames are recorded.

The term frame rate applies equally to film and video cameras, computer graphics, and motion capture systems.

Early silent films had stated frame rates anywhere from 16 to 24 frames per second (fps), but since the cameras were hand-cranked, the rate often changed during the scene to fit the mood


Dig Deeper into Photography

Feed your mind with more on photography.

The History of Photography in Five Minutes

Journey through the history of photography and discover how cameras have developed.

The Photographers on Photography

Sitting down with 44 photographers coming through headquarters this year to talk with me about how they found photography, and why they never left