At What Point Does Gear Matter?

I read a fair amount of articles around when to get gear, arguments for and against gear and on and on and on….  Most of these articles do make valid points and I’m going to toss my 2 cents into the ring Smile

My standpoint is going to be a little different as I’m not going to approach this from the gear side – closer to the scenario side of things.  Let’s explore this a bit.

To me, photography is about capturing the moment.  If you can capture the moment, in reality, how you captured it, is irrelevant.  Now, in saying that, as one progresses and tries to improve, there is a bit of a natural progression.  You have a camera or perhaps decide to get a new one – the initial intent of course, is to take photos.  In fact, it might even be your phone – doesn’t matter.  Not yet anyway Smile  Soooo.. as one progresses, you may want to get better.  If you follow ads, that latest and greatest camera will get you better photos – right?  Well, it depends…..sort of……  IF you have learned the basics and rules of  photography AND perhaps reached a point where your existing camera simply doesn’t do something you “see”.  At some point you become VERY serious and may trade, or buy your way into your “dream” camera and here you are…..  Soooo….what do you end up with?  Perhaps one camera, a backup and related accessories?  More important here – do you have your camera with you at all times?  If you are a serious amateur, you likely don’t Smile  You may have a DSLR or even a mirrorless perhaps, but there is a strong likelihood you don’t.  Unless. of course, you are not worried about using your phone…..To me, it’s about the moment and the camera is the tool.  What that tool is, shouldn’t matter for the most part.  BUT in saying that, there’s another perspective.  THIS also depends on where you are on the totem pole.

I consider myself a very serious photographer.  I have over 15 years in 35mm film and have now been in the digital space for more than a few years.  From my 35mm days, I do know the basics and despite the fact I’m still developing my brand, I have developed some personal mandates. 

1.  It is about capturing the moment.  I have my own theory around that.  When I started in the digital space and started to acquire my cameras, the intent was to have a camera with me at all times.  The one thing I DIDN’T do, was get rid of my cameras.  And I have a LOT of them – 15+ at last count.

2. I do try to “get it right” in camera.  So what does that mean.  Two things – I know the technical side of the camera to ensure my settings are correct for what I want to do.  I get my composition as close to what I “see” on the shot.  Does that mean I don’t take a lot of photos?  Not really – it goes beyond that.  I will take different exposures, angles. compositions as well.  There’s a reason – reduce post processing time.  Look at it this way – if you are sitting at your computer, you are taking time away from taking photos or time to prepare to take photos.

When I got going on this, I actually got my gear based on what I was doing at the time and as my “direction” changed, I got different gear accordingly.  Everything I do, even to this day, is based on mobility – or having the least amount of equipment to get the job done.  To a point…..  My photography fits into two basic categories.  The casual stuff and the serious stuff to keep it simple.  Casual  basically is the snapshot area.  In other words, everything from social events to reference photos for my properties.  Serious stuff is the stuff that the public sees.  DSLR’s are my primary use cameras but I am not bound to them in some situations either. 

So, why DSLR’s?  I do have a Micro Four Thirds unit – a Panasonic GX1 with a couple of lenses and it does just fine.  I also have a Fuji X10 – another great unit that I still use.  DSLR’s get me “into the game”.  I went into DSLR’s for two primary reasons.  First – image quality – I knew I would be in the space where the larger sensor would become a factor.  As good as Micro Four Thirds is, I do like what the larger sensor returns.  My Nikons are APS-C and not full frame, but all things considered, my preference is still with my Nikons.  The Panasonic and Fuji’s render every so slightly warmer in some situations.  The second was based on circumstance – battery power was a key factor and even today there are times when the extra battery power of  my Nikons reigns supreme.  Does the extra weight get in the way?  Yes, there are times.  And then there are accessories.  Micro Four Thirds, to my knowledge, have only recently been in the high speed sync space.  In mirrorless it’s just hitting a point where the flexibility is there.  But not in all cases. DSLR’s have had that flexibility for accessories for a long longer.  For instance – if I need to use radio triggers for a studio setup or equivalent, I don’t have to worry about looking very far or even spending a lot of money to get them.  I have several sets of radio triggers actually depending on the scenario.  I recently bought a bare bulb flash unit for some very specific work – getting one for Nikon was easy.  If I had been using say a Panasonic GH4 – not a hope.  Try and get a radio trigger release or even a remote release for something other than Canon or Nikon – not as easy as you think.

Sooo.. the bottom line.  Is there a point where gear matters or makes a difference?  To me, yes.  It’s also a judgement call.  You envision a specific type of photo and your current stuff doesn’t quite fit the bill.  Will getting new gear or extra gear make you a better photographer?  No, it won’t make you a better photographer – it will get you the shot though Smile

New Directions–Gear to Fit

Let’s face it – most of us in this space a gear junkies to a certain degree.  I probably have way more cameras than I could possibly use let alone things like studio gear, flashes and accessories.  BUT, in saying that, in order to shift with direction changes or addressing some new markets to ply my “trade”, one needs to ramp up too.  I’ll explain a bit.

In my “real life”, I’m an unemployed Sr. Business Analyst in IT.   For a while now, I’ve been looking at photography as an alternate area.  Yeah yeah – I know – this could be a tough haul.  I know that, but at the same time…..  Indicators are there with the research I’m doing.  There are opportunities out there.

From the camera and lens side of things, I’m at a point where I “think” I’m in good shape to tackle everything upcoming.  Lighting or getting more of it is where I’ve been targeting my efforts recently.

When I’m doing close up work (flowers, plants mostly), I use flash where necessary.  Everything from fill flash to High Speed Sync to multiple units including continuous lighting.  For portraits, I use strobes.  Event work is mostly with flash and my LIghtSphere.  My primary flash is the Nikon SB700, with a Yongnuo as my backup.  For the most part, this works fine.  For a lot of my work in stills, I do use either a remote release whether it be Nikon’s infrared one or their cable release.  I also will use a radio trigger release depending on mobility requirements.  And then… I recently some stuff where the SB700 simply didn’t have the “oomph” I needed to light things up the way I wanted.  Sooo…. the hunt began.  My first thought was the Nikon SB900.  This would allow me to stay inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System.  That was the first thought Smile  BUT… when I started to look at it closer, I thought there might be other options.  That option ended up being a StrobePro X360 Bare Bulb Unit tied in with a set of radio triggers capable of High Speed Sync. This was a bit of a tough call in it’s own right.

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Ok – this unit puts out at 300 Watt Seconds for starters. That’s strobe territory!!!  It does have a battery pack.  It’s got a lot of pieces, though keeping it partially assembled gets around that.  This is also quite a big unit.  Think SB910 but with a battery pack attacked.  The battery pack will allow me to go over 900 shots on a charge).  Now in thinking about that, I won’t be using it anywhere close to that in real life, but what I was after was power AND mobility.  What this now allows me to do, is increase WHAT I can do.  The tough call part…….

For  a little bit more, I could have got the new StrobePro LED strobe that just came out – it’s a battery powered LED strobe/600 WS  and in reality, easier to set up.  The deal breaker for me was two fold.  I didn’t want another strobe at this point and more important – I would literally have to haul more gear with me.  It’s not that I won’t get it – I can see needing one at some point.  Just not now.  Also for what I wanted to do, I would still need to add the HSS radio triggers anyway.  The X360 plus triggers actually cost less than the base strobe. More important – portability.  I can attach this to my D7200 (though I do have a bracket as well) if I need to.  If I used a strobe, that mobility would be lost.  THAT was real deal breaker.  At this point anyway, I wanted the most flexibility for the price.  Horsepower, mobility and High Speed Synch.  Set up time was a compromise I would have to sacrifice.

Now about bare bulb units.  These aren’t for everyone.  Not cheap by any stretch but if one needs sheer horsepower in a smaller unit – these are definitely a consideration.  Sure there were others out there that were smaller and single unit, but nothing close performance wise.  The X360 comes with a reflector and diffuser.  My initial tests were done with the diffuser and to me, it’s amazing!!!  Even with the diffuser on it, this thing puts out!!!  My most powerful studio strobe is 250 W/S and for most things I do with portraits, I’ve got these dialled down.   From the mobility part  – a battery powered strobe would ALWAYS require a stand.  The flash wouldn’t – I could attach it to my camera or even a bracket if needed that way.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to use this on a stand.  Did I need more accessories around this?  Yes.  A couple of things.

As I mentioned before, I added some radio triggers.  Go figure – I already have radio triggers for my strobes, but they don’t support High Speed Synch.  That’s OK – my strobes aren’t set up for that anyway Smile  When I started to experiment with High Speed Synch, I was working inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).  In reality, this is a REALLY neat thing if you can incorporate into your photography.  I do Smile  When I was looking to get the bare bulb unit, HSS was definitely a consideration.  With the extra power that the bare bulb unit has, it’ll increase my capability to do other things in this space.  I have ideas……. Smile  This was also a consideration when it came down to choosing a higher powered flash – an SB910 or the StrobePro X360. 

Before I continue on…. a comment about power in lighting units.  It’s interesting how your perspective changes over time.  For instance, with my strobes and existing flash units, what I had currently is more than adequate for everything I was doing at the time.  THEN, I started to work in a few new spaces – product displays and still life work. It was then I decided to start changing things up a bit.  The thinking went along these lines….

When you are taking photos for yourself or even for competition, things like setup time takes a back seat.  By that, I mean, we are striving for “that shot”, and so we’ll go literally go to extremes to get the setup correct.   As we become more and more advanced, lighting becomes a little more complex depending on the session involved.  I like to work on the principle of keeping things as simple as possible.  That doesn’t mean I won’t go to a more complex configuration, I will, but then again, I’m constantly striving for a certain look to my photos – part of my “brand” if you want to call it that.  Part of the close up work I do (a lot with plants), involved experimenting with different lighting configurations.  My most sophisticated one for close ups was on a plant, an Amaryllis, where I used window light, a couple of LED lights and electronic flash to create the shot I wanted.  Over the last few months, I had been incorporating more and more continuous lighting into my close up photos.  Again, this was in specific instances.  At the same time, I was also watching what was happening in LED technology.  It was advancing and I started to work with more and more with LED studio lighting.   I had acquired a StrobePro L308 and a Neewer one for “testing” purposes and then, I had to do a larger type of shoot.  I was able to get by with strobes, but I had to take more than a few shots to get the lighting how I wanted it.  I decided that I wanted to get a little more efficient in doing this sort of things, seeing as this was an area I would be spending more time in.  That prompted a hunt that resulted in a StrobePro L1500, a 1500 watt LED studio light.    I went to StrobePro to check it out and play with it and then decided to buy it.  This is actually my first “pro level” light and WOW is all I can say.  That totally changed how I look at product work!!! 

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In the big picture, my existing camera bodies and lenses are more than adequate for what I’m planning to do.  The big puzzle now is the future adventures as I book more gigs.   Onward.

Fit for Purpose…”Stuff” for “Stuff”

Sooo… what the heck do I mean by that?  Smile  From previous posts, I guess you do know that I’m a gear junkie. Actually, I’m like that beyond photo gear too……  If you didn’t know, I’m also a person that is a firm believer in the correct tool for the job.  When I started my “passion revival” in digital photography from 35mm film days, as I advanced in the gear I was obtaining, there was this realization that set in.  These smaller cameras actually did a pretty job.  Once I hit DSLR’s though, I really didn’t stop using them.  AND, I have more than few Smile

I guess there are a few trains of thought around this and to a certain degree, there’s merit to both.  Here’s sort of my take on this.

I’m a fan of high quality images just as much as the next serious amateur.  Perhaps the biggest difference for me, is that I’m very conscious of what the end image needs to look like in high quality for a specific purpose.  Here’s a take for you.  I have revenue properties.  I need to take reference photos constantly for inspections, potential investments, repairs, etc.  I do need a good quality image, but I sure the heck don’t need RAW.  A pointy shooty of sorts more than fits that bill.  Does that mean I DON”T use my DSLR’s?  Not really, if I am putting up a property for rent, THAT will be shot on my DLSR’s.  Maybe…. Smile  It’s going to be web sized photo.  Content is more important – image quality should be good.  Look at it this way.  Why would I spend time doing image processing on something that may or may not even get looked at more than once? 

Family events, or social events with friends.  You know – for the most part, if it’s convenient, I’ll take my DSLR’s, but one of my more advanced pointy shooties like a travel camera is more than adequate.

The DSLR perspective.  I guess one of the key differentiators of when I do use my DSLR’s tend to be this “end purpose” thing.  Anything that says “formal” or even resembles formal – it’ll be DSLR’s first and Micro Four Thirds. IF image quality is paramount – it’ll be the “big stuff”.  Event shoots, landscapes that I may show, my close up work all will be done with my DSLR’s.  RAW, of course Smile  BUT… there are those “compromise” moments too.

Have I gotten great photos with stuff other than my DSLR’s?  Absolutely.  It all breaks down to being able to squeeze out the best in each unit I have.  My travel cameras and hybrids have big zooms.  My Fuji X10 gets me into low light where my DLSR’s don’t always do that great.  Well, they do, but sometimes….. I shoot with Nikons with APS-C sensors.  Not fully “pro” but more than adequate for what I do.  Yes, I do paid gigs Smile  There’s also budget Smile  Staying here, allows me to get experience with gear I wouldn’t be able to afford. 

One area that I’m exploring is available light, or lower lighting conditions don’t always merit a flash.  I attend networking sessions where I’m simply too far away to use flash and even with the travel cameras there’s a limit to how high I can kick up ISO and still get a decent image.  Not a high quality image, per se, but a good working image.  AND, at these events, I rarely bring my DSLR’s anyway – simply too bulky.  They are my reference photos for other things.  What I was looking for, was something that didn’t break the bank, had a fast lens AND a pretty big zoom.  That solution turned out to be the new Panasonic LUMIX FZ200.  24x zoom and f2.8 thru the zoom range!  I recently acquired this and did my first “tests” at a recent networking event.  I was able to shoot at ISO 1600 quite easily and got some pretty usable shots for what I needed.  I’ll show some of my results once I do more testing and get a little more familiar with the camera.  I’ve only had it a week or so, but I’m pretty pleased so far.   More a little later.

For me, I like to have a camera with me all the time.  My normal “truck around” type camera will be something like the Nikon S9400 or S9900 – both are quite small and easy to chuck into my “man purse” or brief case.  I will also take my Fuji XF1 – quite a bit smaller than my X10 – as well.  That gives the versatility of both big zoom and low light.  BTW – that S9400 or S9900 has gotten me some pretty great shots Smile  IF I have a bit more time in tasks, I will take my DSLR’s. 

Does it sound like I have a lot of cameras?  I do Smile  As I progress over the last few years, I’ve acquired cameras to suit my changing needs. Compared to many, I didn’t sell any of them – in fact, I do use them a LOT.  There are a few that I don’t use a lot of – my Panasonic GX1 – it’s a Micro Four Thirds unit.  AND I really should use it more as I have several lenses for it and it does give me a great image.  BUT with the advent of me acquiring more DSLR gear, especially bodies, it’s getting lonely, I think Smile  It used to be my backup unit as was my Fuji X10 for a while, but with each progression, they get used less and less.   And then there’s planning for the future.

Up until recently, my “top end” DSLR was the D7100.  Before that, I had a D3200 and D5100.  I got the D3200 to get me “into the space” and as a learning tool.  Then I got the D5100 for it’s articulating LCD viewer to allow me to do close ups and portraits easier.  High speed synch was the motivator for getting the D7100 as the other two couldn’t manage that.  One of the key things here though, is that there’s a bit of a difference in controls and under certain conditions, the other two, don’t quite have the functionality of the D7100.  I decided to get the D7200 to offset that and stay consistent. 

When it comes to lenses – there are tons of articles that talk about all those lenses that one SHOULD have.  Again, this is something that should be taken a little tongue and cheek.  So here’s the thing.  IF you get a DSLR, that kit lens isn’t such a dumb thing.  Images are more than adequate and it’s a pretty good starting point to boot.  The Nikon one is an 18-55mm and it covers short wide angle to medium telephoto.  Where most photos are generally  taken.  The other thing and I guess it depends on where you are coming from, but there will be a bit of a learning curve in figuring out those controls.  The metering is different to those smaller ones.  DSLR’s, I think, are a but reverse in that you do need to understand controls to achieve the “art” or at least the vision.  Or to put a little different – you can now get closer to the vision Smile  Everyone “sees” a photo different and as you advance in the art, getting the camera to reflect the “vision” is the trick.  Software can get you even close if the camera can’t though getting it right in camera is where it’s at to me.  I’ve had instances where things like polarizers and ND filters still don’t quite reflect what I see so LightRoom it is.  Getting the exposure to the point where you can do that however – new issue Smile  To me, it’s very critical to know the limits of the camera.

Back a bit to lenses.  I’ll give you a but of insight into my “working lenses”  The brunt f my work is based around mobility and efficiency.  What that means, is that I want to work with as few lenses as possible while being able to be mobile and not lug tons of gear.  For me, I like landscapes so rather than restrict myself to prime lenses, I have a Tamron 10-24mm super wide to wide angle zoom.  My other lens is a Sigma 18-250mm which give me a bit of overlap on the wide side and a fairly significant zoom on the other.  This lens also has macro, so it covers some of my close up work capability.  Now – to stay even more flexible – I have two bodies.  That way – no swaps.  Does that mean I don’t have primes?  NO – I do have primes around the things I do.  I do have a Nikkor 50mm f1.8, Micro Nikkor 40mm f2.8 and a Tamron 60mm f2.8.  The 40mm and 60mm cover off my close up work.  The 60mm sits right in my “portrait” focal length and the 50mm is my general purpose lens.  And then there’s the accessories Smile

A tripod is a given – I have two, actually.  One heavy duty one for portraits and close ups.  The other for portable.  For my close up work, I use flash a lot so have an extension cord for remote flash work, focusing rails, extensions tubes and close up lenses.  For my portrait work, I use strobes, electronic flash so have those, plus backdrop stands, umbrellas, reflectors, radio triggers, etc. to accommodate how I do “stuff”.

I’m going to chat about workflows vs equipment acquisition for a bit as I feel it’s relevant. 

I’m sure most have read about the pros and cons of acquiring gear.  There’s a lot of merit to this.  One of the pitfalls of just going out and buying gear for the sake of buying gear isn’t always a good thing and it definitely doesn’t make you a better photographer.  I’m just as impulsive as the next person for getting stuff, but despite all that, I do plan a lot before acquiring gear.  It’s also a matter of balancing usage vs budget.  I can’t emphasize enough about researching before you buy.  Researching includes the internet, of course.  BUT that also means heading “out there” and taking those photos – chatting with other photographers (photo meetups are a great way of learning, BTW), and even assisting a pro if opportunity shows up.  Even with the amount of experience I have, I’m constantly learning new stuff.   And the heart of things – taking photos……

I go about it like this.  I do take a lot of photos – I do a lot of experimenting in the areas I’m interested in.  I’m also VERY cognizant of what my cameras are capable of and so if I need to use software after, I also take that into account if I can’t get my cameras to do what I “see”.  I’m also game for trying out new areas that I normally don’t consider if the opportunity arises.  For instance – I may be out with the express intent of landscapes (I recently did this, actually….), but along the way, I found some flowers, I had an opportunity for some street photography and candid work – we were in a curio shop or two and I got some pics of some furniture for a future woodworking project – reference photos.  Bottom line here – LOOK AROUND!!! 

I guess a lot has to do with your interest level.  I’m quite passionate about several hobbies – photo being one.  I’m not so fussy about others.  I’ve run into so many folks who have quite sophisticated gear but simply don’t “see” stuff.  They will take the odd photo, maybe some vacation pics or family events and that’s that.  They are not interested in capturing the “moment”, I guess.  PLUS, they don’t use their cameras all that often, as you can imagine.  I use my cameras at every opportunity – I like to have a camera with me all the time as well.  Do I have moments where I don’t take photos?  ABSOLUTELY!!  Do I have moments where I can’t find a thing to take a photo of?  Yes.  Do I force myself to take photos?  NO!  What I will do though, is read or do something else.  I am very busy, so for me, when I do get the chance to take photos, I’m usually ready Smile 

I also find that researching stuff around photography gives me inspiration to try other things.  I see a pic and think “How did they do that?” – research, experiment to see if I can duplicate that, and then if I can’t, try to decide if it’s something I want to do on a more regular basis.  For instance.  I was at a job fair and saw a pro taking photos.  He had a rather unique reflector on his flash.  I inquired about it.  It turned to by a Gary Fong LightSphere.  Our discussion prompted me to investigate further.  That conversation resulted in me totally changing certain techniques for events and certain types of outdoor things.  It also launched me into a whole new level of photography.  There was a ripple effect – one thing that one of  the videos showed, was using the LightSphere in conjunction with High Speed Synch to achieve an effect I was trying to do Smile  The issue – the cameras I had at the time didn’t support it.  At the time, I had a D3200 and D5100, which were more than adequate for what I was doing at the time.  I got the LightSphere and started to experiment like crazy to figure out the nuances.  I was also contemplating getting another body – the choices being a D7100 or D7200 both of which would support high speed synch.  I happened to hit a sale and got the D7100 for a very good price.  I looked at it also as an opportunity to find out what the next level was for gear.

From what I thought to what I found out, were totally different – believe me.  Even knowing the extra capabilities didn’t prepare me for the learning curve!  Operational was easy – taking advantage of extra controls was a whole new issue!  The big thing was, was where it’s taken me.  When I was deciding to get the D7100, there were a couple of things that were going to make my life easier.  More battery power, dual card slots for starters.  Learning all the external controls away from menus and a larger buffer were some of the benefits.  Battery power was a key thing for me – certain events I had done still required me to swap batteries.  The D7100 did away with that with it’s extra capability.  Despite all that – I was ecstatic about getting it.  It ultimately prompted me to acquire a D7200 body as well.  It’s also driven me to take even more photos and try even more things!  Bottom line here, for me, is that it’s starting to define certain areas of photography a little more clearly for the long term.  Very important for me as I’m considering it as a sideline, not a hobby.

The bottom line here, is that I do research and experiment a lot before making an equipment acquisition.  I also will try to DIY first to see if something can be done that way.  In the case of the LightSphere, before, I was using several different flash attachments – the LightSphere did away with that.  The other reflectors weren’t that expensive compared to the LightSphere but the efficiency of the LightSphere more than offset the cost.  I actually have two with a complete accessory kit, so if needed, I have a super portable indoor/outdoor studio.  For what I do, this was a worthwhile investment.  For me, I will look for a DIY  solution first, and then decide if the commercial solution will be easier and more convenient.  To me, speed and efficiency in setup in certain environments is critical.  For close-ups, another example.  I could have done some DIY things to achieve a lot my results but it was simply more efficient to get extension tubes or a focusing rail.  For my studio – I’ve researched a ton here to see how to get the best results with the least amount of equipment.  Yes, I’m still learning, but I’ve hit a point where I can get some pretty great results without getting sophisticated. 

A bit on the researching piece.  When researching, of course, on of the things is reading reviews.  Now – to me, it’s one thing to read a review about a piece of gear one is considering.  It’s also critical to look at the BIG picture around YOUR style and YOUR gear requirements.  Sometimes, one piece of gear may offset another and end up saving you big bucks.  Here’s an example of an offset that I encountered.  I was toying with the idea of getting Nikon’s new 18-80 f2.8.  I was looking at this lens for low light work.  A very versatile lens that could potentially be helpful in the long term.  The more I thought about it, the more I hesitated.  It’s not that I could use the lens – I could but  I had this gut feeling there might be a better solution.  That ended up with me acquiring another body – the D7200 – they were about the same price.  The reason the body made sense was that I could now use both the D7100 and D7200 together on a shoot and not have to worry about consistency in menus.  The D7200 had a better sensor and processor and so could address the buggering on sequential shots that I encountered in certain shooting sessions.  The new sensor could handle low light better than the D7100 sensor and so I could shoot at least a stop faster with little image degradation.  I had more battery power.  In the end, though, it did cost me more Smile  That came in the form of the Panasonic FZ200 with it’s 24x zoom and having F2.8 thru the whole range.   So why the hybrid?

There are times when size becomes an issue.  I attend a lot of networking events and there are times when I simply don’t have the focal length I need.  My Fuji X10 or XF1 stop at 4x.  If I shoot with any of the travel cams, I get more quality loss than I like.  At the extreme telephoto end, the f stop isn’t good enough so I do have to boost ISO “up there”.  The FZ200 does away with that.  Not as bulky, so easier to take.  I can’t just stuff it in my briefcase, but I have a case that makes it easier than taking my DSLR’s.  Image quality based on current testing so far is showing that it’s more than adequate for what I need it for.  Web publishing and general viewing.  No – I’m not shooting RAW with this unit – JPEGS are fine at this stage of the game. 

And then there’s that constant battle between JPEG’s and RAW.  To me, if I am using my DSLR’s, it’s hit a point where I shoot both RAW’s and JPEG’s on my D7100 and D7200.  On my D3200 and D5100, it’s also RAW’s.  Everything else – typically JPEG’s, despite the fact that more than a few can or should be RAW’s.  The reasoning?  For the most part, I’m doing the type of shot that really doesn’t need RAW’s.  JPEG’s are fine for the end use.  In other words – I ensure that the exposure, etc. is correct when I take the shot, so I minimize post processing.  I’ve hit that point in gear that I can basically split off what I want to do with gear.  Is there overlap?  Yes – definitely.  Certain types of close ups I do, are not really achievable with something other than a DSLR.  Despite that, I don’t miss all that many shots – so far anyway.  Knock on wood Smile  Again – knowing what your camera can and can’t do. 

Equipment – I do own a lot of cameras.  Sure, there are a few that just sit for a while, but generally speaking, they do get used.  Some, I simply have spare batteries and for those, it’s the ones that I use a lot.  My Fuji X10 was my first advanced camera and that’s the one that got me really going, and that’s still one of “ go to” units when I need a small unit for some advanced work.  My Micro Four Thirds unit, the Panasonic GX1 is another one that I use when I need a unit for event “snaps” or simply need a high quality shot for some occasion that I’m at.  My travel cameras are a constant companion and I’m constantly using one or the other on my “day to day” travels.  My first hybrid was the Nikon P520, a super zoom at 42x and articulating mirror.  My Panasonic FZ200 is a hybrid with low light capability – a nice alternative to DSLR’s for some of my networking events. 

When it comes to accessories, I focus on “stuff” for my DSLR’s and more important, for the areas that I really do a lot in.  Close ups and portraits are my primary focus areas, and landscapes are also in there.  I have a lot for close up work ranging from extension tubes to focusing rails.  My flash units serve double duty.  I also have radio triggers.  One set specifically for Nikons and another for other units that drive my flash units.  Oh yeah – I have several flash units as well so I can be super mobile if needed.  Polarizers, ND filters for my lenses as well. 

Bottom line – I feel that in order to get better, it makes sense to add accessories to simply be more efficient.  The other thing – budget.  There are times when a DIY option is necessary when you simply can’t afford to buy a commercial unit.  Totally understand that.  There are certain reflectors, for instance, that I’ve made simply because I couldn’t find something OR quite simply – easy to make and cost next to nothing.  A piece of white foam board can be got for a couple of bucks at the Dollar Store – why would I want a commercial one?  I do have a commercial white reflector, but it also folds up into a pretty tiny unit.  For around the home – either works.  I go to fabric stores to find backdrop material.  At $5 per meter on sale, it sure beats dropping $100.  Granted the more expensive ones are 10 ft ones instead of 6 ft wide, but then again, it’s what you need.  For head and shoulder shots – 6 ft is plenty.  Yes, I do have a couple of big ones for my big stand.  Again, fit for purpose.

Onward…..

Gaining Experience–Kicking It Up a Notch or Two

From my last musings on getting better, a few things have changed.  Actually,  a lot of things of changed Smile  Considering I’m not working, I sure am busy!  I’ve been networking, of course, but lately, I’ve been backing off a bit and only networking where it really counts.  Anyway… that’s another post in another blog…..

The experience I gain, the more I find that my needs are changing.  Just today, I picked up a Nikon D7200 body.  The reason – have two bodies in the same model range.  I’m actually glad I picked up the body first.  I ALMOST got a lens instead.  I potentially saved some cash, though testing will be the proof of the pudding.  What I was initially after was the ability to shoot in lower light conditions with no flash.  The option I was looking at was simply getting a faster lens – actually, I wanted the D7200 body too Smile  BUT, it turns out that the D7200 has better low light performance so I may still wait on the lens for a bit.  

In being out of work, but looking at options, one of the things I have been doing, is taking more photos.  A LOT more photos.  Earlier this year, I did the Linkedin photos for a job conference and recently I went to a Linkedin photo shoot that had a pro shooting.  It was actually set up so anyone with a camera could come, but in reality, you could use the existing backdrops but not the strobes or light modifiers.  I initially hadn’t planned on taking any  photos but ended up taking more than a few.  I used my flash and LightSphere.  This was actually my first time that I used the LightSphere in a studio setting – I normally use my strobes.  More important – I had my SB700 on my camera – nothing cute and fancy.  I was actually pretty pleased with what I got, though I should have set up in manual instead of Programmed Auto.  The LightSphere, though, is designed to be used in Programmed Auto Mode.  Didn’t matter – the results were awesome!!!

My primary focus (no pun intended), has been more in the area of close-ups and portraits as opportunity presents itself.  Most plants on the close up side of things. I’ve been looking at stock or micro stock type photos and in doing so, wanted to accumulate some “inventory”.  I do want to do some landscapes as well and that’s going to happen very soon, believe me. 

Photography is one of the options I’ve been looking at as an alternate to the IT space where I consult.  There isn’t a lot of work there and being out of work for a long time is only proving that out.  Also real estate.  To make things more complicated, I’m on a course building meetup, and more recently, started to revive a past hobby in woodworking.  I have revenue properties and do a lot of that, so woodworking was an easy jump – I did some before properties anyway.  This time around, though, it was to help a close friend with some furniture needs.  I thought I had it tough – WOW!!  My troubles are nothing compared to hers!!  I help every chance I get.  Another friend needed to prep her house to sell (same reason as me – needed to sell to survive) and that took a fair amount of time.  I really didn’t realize how much the technology space constrained me, now that I’ve been away from it. 

I’ve also added some studio gear, but I’m going to need to get more if I do more in this direction.  The D7200 purchase, for the moment is fine, though I would like to obtain the SB910 flash.  We’ll wait on that though.  Sooo.. is the D7200 better than the D7100?  Based on specs – yes.  I got it because there would be a short learning curve – like literally zero, though, I did learn a few new tricks.  Now to back those into my D7100 Smile  Constantly learning…..

I’ve also been studying the market a bit – trying to figure out where I fit in or could fit in.  The flowers look promising – actually, stock photos.  IF and this is a BIG IF, I do find work, this may be a way to drive a bit spare income.  Real estate looks good, but it’s going slower than I initially thought and there some uncertainty about how much cash I will need to survive until a steady stream of income shows up, so I do have to be careful with my cash.  The D7200 was my “treat” for selling one of my properties. 

Onward…  So far, I’m noticing that the colors seem ever so slightly richer than the D7100 despite the same settings -  I need to study this a bit more.  Might be a setting – might be the newer engine.  Anyway – I like what I see!!!!  I’m currently shooting in 12 bit RAW  but may switch to 14 Bit RAW to see if there’s a difference.  So far, the 12 bit RAW has served me well, but……..   And then there were lens considerations……

I was initially looking for an “event” lens – Nikon has one – the new AFS-DX 16-80 f2.8-4.0  I initially was looing very hard a this lens and then thought about the the Sigma equivalent, but once I got the D7200 body and started to figure it out, the higher performance of the D7100 may have offset that.  Mind you, I still need to test that theory too Smile  Should I be adding more?   Dunno – I’m going to ponder and experiment more here.  Onward….

The other thing I’ve been running into over the last couple of months anyway, has been SD cards.  For my D7100, I was using 32 GB ones and shooting just enough that I was starting to get them pretty full.  Not that I don’t have spares, but I’m the type that likes to keep things safe.  I do shoo both RAW and JPEG’s but at 32 GB, it gives me about 575 pics, and I’ve been hitting anywhere from 300-400 pics per session.  Not that I don’t have a but of “fudge” there, but for me, cutting it a little close.  I recently came off a shoot where I did hit about 450 shots in one session and that’s what got me thinking a bit.  With the D7200 now going to be my primary unit and the D7100 being my backup or secondary, I figured I should “up the ante” and got 64GB cards.  That gets me 1000+ shots – a little safer by also a little riskier.  Oh – and I found out something I wasn’t counting on.  With the two card slots, they need to both be the same capacity!!! 

And then there’s learning curve Smile  I THOUGHT I had my D7100 pretty well figured out and it should have been pretty simple setting up the D7200 to match.  Well…… I ran into a few features I didn’t know about (NO – I don’t read manuals – only to reference when I need to figure out stuff) and go figure, they were on the D7100 as well!  AND they were nice shortcuts for certain things. 

Onward….

Musings on Getting Better

The other day, I took delivery of a strobe to add to my studio gear.  I have a fairly big shoot coming up and wanted to try a slightly different config for this shoot.  Nothing too fancy here – it’s simply some head and shoulder type shots but they need to be “business” shots.   Nothing cute and fancy about these – for me, that is.   Recently, actually before that even, I got thinking about the various ways I’ve progressed over the years. 

At one time, back in the 35mm days, I was a very serious amateur that did a bit of free-lancing at the time.  I also owned a photo retail store and had quite an interesting career that surrounded photography.  Then, a career change took me away from that for about 30+ years and over the last few years, I’ve regained my passion for this hobby.  Digital made things easier in some aspects, but more difficult in others, but it was nice to see that I could still “see” Smile  My current career as a Business Analyst, has given me the skills to be a little more methodical in my thinking, hence this entry on learning.  Oh – and I also have done a lot of training – not photo though – concepts are the same.  Sooo…. I guess one of the key root questions in photography – How does one get better in the art itself?

In the beginning…. Smile  Thought I would toss that in there…..  I feel that in order to even think about being a better photographer, one needs to have a bit of creative talent.  The ability to see things “differently” for lack of a better term.  To me, it’s one thing to look at picture and ask the question “How did they do that?”, turn around and continue on, and totally another to try to sit there and figure out how they actually did do that. Smile  Like any hobby or creative venture, it’s getting to that next step or at least taking it.

The vast majority of folks who use cameras, use them to simply take snapshots and basically that’s it.  Their only concern is catching the moment (not that that’s a bad thing),  and their world simply stops.  Let’s face it – today’s technology does a pretty good job from the technical side of exposure, etc.  Composing or understanding some of the “rules” – totally different issue.  There’s a big difference between a photo and good photo Smile  I’ve seen some photos that are simply not good and person thought it was a great photo.  To each their own.  I’ve also seen some great shots embedded in a photo and all it took was a little cropping to make it a great photo – they simply didn’t fill the frame.  To me, this brings up the issue of that “line” between the casual photographer and the more serious photographer.  Let’s explore that a bit.

IF one does want to get better at the “art” itself, I feel that there’s this combination of learning the art and learning your equipment that comes into play.  I mean, let’s face it – something as simple as understanding how the Rule of Thirds works and applying it to your camera will move one forward almost instantly.  BUT, in saying that – how many folks even know about the rule?  OR learning the basics of exposure and being able to tie that in with what the camera can do?  Technology, to me, has come a long way in assisting with the exposure piece.  Even the pointy shooties or phones for that matter, do a surprisingly good job, all things considered.  Sooo.. what are some of the “blockers”?

This is a little subjective but in most places, I sometimes think that “other” technologies surrounding our respective lifestyles is HUGE blocker.  We need to make a living, so photography like any other hobby is exactly that – we “dabble” the odd time and leave it at that.  Quite simply, there are other things that need to get done.  Fair enough.  Even with me, I have a surprisingly limited amount of time in today’s world for photography itself.  My knowledge spans over 15 years in 35mm film plus motion picture and now digital.  When I first got going in this, photography was my only hobby.  Today, I’m an IT Consultant, have revenue properties, write blogs, and a myriad of other things and if anything, I have less time now than I used to pursue this hobby, which I am loving dearly.  BUT, I still try to keep learning at every chance.  

In understanding the “art” and basic things to getting better at photography.  To me there are two pieces to this.  The first, is getting the information about the art.  The second is implementing what you learned.  In other words, getting out there and using your camera.  Todays technology make this a very inexpensive proposition to the film days, so taking a lot of photos shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Results are instantaneous.  A big part of your learning should follow along these lines.  You take a photo – it didn’t come how you thought.  Was it you, or was something set wrong in the camera?  OH – do you know what your camera is capable of?  Smile  To me, it’s amazing how many folks I run into that  tell me that they are having trouble using their camera because they had trouble with the controls.  What – they didn’t read the manual?  They didn’t try taking photos with the settings to see the result?  To me, the term point and shoot, can be a but misleading.  Those little pointy shooties can be surprisingly complex.  the other thing.  When they say point and shoot, did you know that basically meant a sunny day or using the flash (within their limitations).  Not necessarily those cloudy days, or funny lighting conditions.  To me, creativity is one thing – knowing your camera… well… you need to know.  We seem to always be in a hurry  and one wants to be good instantly.  Sorry – doesn’t happen that way.  It comes with time.  Sort of like buying your first set of golf clubs and expecting to qualify for the pros Smile  Sorry again…..

For me, it sort of goes along this path.  From the photo side of things first.  I may see a photo or perhaps a technique that interests me.  I try to figure out how the shot was done and then figure out how I would take that shot.  I usually can’t duplicate the shot due to location, so I have to apply the same technique to something different.  OR, I look at something and it dawns on me that there’s a shot hiding in there Smile  Same thing – How do I pull of the shot I “see”.  Then, I grab my camera and take the shot or shots.  Sometimes….. I get the shot.   Many times, I don’t get the shot right away.  Some of the factors – lighting didn’t come out, exposure might be off a bit, composition wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  Sooo… I start to experiment.  Adjust settings. bracket the shot, change  composition – maybe set up an external flash, add filters.  Oh yeah – I also take notes Smile  Sometimes, I can only get close and have to rely on software (though I hate doing that).  All breaks down to understanding your camera and also what YOU know about getting that shot.  AND I take as many photos as I need to.  Deleting stuff after is easy Smile  Notice I said after.  Yes, I’ll punt the shots that were simply bad right away.  The rest – well, I’ll leave them until I get  a chance to see them on screen.  I’ll give some examples.  I went looking for a location one day to get a cityscape of our skyline.  I found the location, the lighting was what I wanted.  I took about 20 shots that encompassed location more than exposure and got what I wanted.  My wife has plants.  She had this one rose that I wanted to capture a pic of.  The lighting wasn’t ideal and I ended up using flash with hi speed synch to get the shot.  That shot took a couple of hours and close to 100 photos to capture a couple that I thought were good enough to show anyone else.  I kept about 10 and punted the rest.

And then there’s the equipment.   I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen people jump to DSLR’s because they thought it would get them better pictures Smile  Quality is one thing – yes, the DSLR will get you a high quality image but so will a pointy shooty if taken in the right context.  It ain’t the camera!!! I have a lot of cameras – we won’t get into the extra stuff I have for the moment.  What most folks don’t seem to understand – a DSLR has a LOT of extra functionality.  That functionality takes a long time to learn – if can’t take advantage of that, it’s gonna sit in your closet colleting dust because it was either too bulky or too complex to learn.  Even the entry level ones aren’t necessarily that easy to learn.  More important – you don’t get one of these to keep in “Auto”.  You can actually get a camera that does more, is smaller and likely less expensive.  A DSLR can actually do more but you need accessories – that means more money.  AND more bulk.

Let’s assume you already have a camera.  Or maybe you are looking at moving “up”.  Perhaps even from your smartphone.  What typically will happen?  We happen to be going by the camera section at a department store and the thought occurs – “I should get a new camera.” Smile  It’s only then, you try to formulate in your mind the “why”.  Some questions here – have you figured that “why”?  Have you hit the limits of your camera?  Are those limits enough to justify stepping up?  Yeah, it can be a tough call, but it’s a good reality check too. 

When I look at new gear, there’s very little impulse – well sometimes there is Smile  I buy gear to fill some specific thing that I can’t currently do easily.  Notice – I said “easily”.  When it comes to cameras, I stepped up to DSLR’s in very small steps.  I knew I ultimately would end up there because of my history – I just wasn’t in a hurry to get there.  When I decided to move up from the pointy shooty class, it was because I wanted something that could deal with low light.  It was a big shortcoming on a vacation I took, and when I got back, the hunt started.  My thoughts were to get a camera that was advanced enough to handle low light but at the same time, for me to grow and find out more about the aspects of digital photography in a more serious manner.  The camera I got was the Fuji X10, which, at the time, was one of the more advanced cameras out there for a compact advanced camera.  I  still have that camera and still use it Smile  I used that camera for about 6 months exclusively.  Two things came out of that – for some of the stuff I was doing, I was running out of battery power, coupled to flash range on some events I took photos at.  Second – it only had a 4x zoom, which was a bit of a restriction for a few things I wanted to do.  I got extra batteries – fine.  I then looked at units with a larger zoom.  That prompted my journey into travel cameras.  At the time, I was commuting and time was a huge factor, so being able to stuff a camera in my daypack was convenient.

Between the two, my passion for photography began to grow and I started to do more and more, and with that came more cameras.  I wanted to get more serious, but DSLR’s were still a bit “out there” for me.  I wanted a more advanced unit, but wasn’t sure where to go and one day, I chanced on a Nikon 1 J1 on a clearout.  This is an interchangeable mirrorless unit, but it was pretty well fully automatic.  It was a cheap buy as I got two lenses and the body for under $500.  It was a chance to play in larger sensors to see what they could do.  There were certain aspects that caught my attention immediately.  For certain things I did – scenery, close ups – the colors were richer.  Image sharpness was the same at normal viewing but when I enlarged to crop – the image quality held up.  I used that for about 3 more months, and then I had an opportunity to be a backup photographer at a formal event.  I knew I would need way better gear and I made a decision to stay with mirrorless.  I got the Panasonic GX-1 with two lenses and spare batteries.  I got the gear about two months in advance of the event to ensure I would be comfortable with it.  Wow!  What a difference to the Nikon in performance.  Mind you – the extra control was what I was after.  BUT, the big shortcoming there was flash power.  I was restricted to about 20 ft. and around 100 flash shots per charge.  That meant a lot of battery swaps.  I had the Fuji X10 as my backup.  This event prompted my move to DSLR’s.  I got chatting with the pro about her gear – she had Nikon.  What I did notice were a couple of things – her flash cycle times were literally nil compared to me at a couple of seconds.  No battery swaps – she didn’t miss a moment.  She also mentioned that I did a good job with what I had.

I had to make a hard call here.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in this direction and moving to DSLR’s was too early.  I knew that.  BUT this event got me into another one about 4 months out for the same group.  A couple of weeks later, I found a sale on the Nikon D3200 with a kit lens so I got one to “dip my toe in”.   THAT put me into a whole new space and from there, it basically “got me back”.  It also flushed out certain things I wanted to do.  I love my scenics and close ups, but one area that wanted to explore was portraits.  I decided on flash and strobes.  I already had the flash units and strobes were a natural migration.  I now have 3 bodies and a bunch of lenses and a pretty full blown portable studio.  I do a fair number of events. Some paid, some volunteer but it’s also carving a possible future path.  Still out there on that one.

Did I stop using my other gear?  On the contrary – NO.  In fact, I didn’t sell any of  my gear – I still use them (so does my wife).  I look at it this way.  As much as I love my DSLR’s, I’m not tied to them either.  There are times when I need them for their versatility and functionality.  BUT – for other stuff, I don’t need them.  ANY of my other gear will do just fine.  Even when I take my DSLR’s, I’ll take one of my travel cams with me and in many instances, use the travel cam first.  For what I shoot and use photos for, the others are more than adequate.  I get the results I want and that’s what counts.

I can be impulsive at times, but when I need a piece of gear, it’s at the point where my purchases are very targeted.  They have to fulfil a very specific function.  Have I made some bad buys?  Sure – who hasn’t.  BUT in saying that, I’ve also made some buys that have moved my photography to a whole new level and expanded my capability too.  Here’s a good example of moving up.  I was at an event taking some casual photos for my reference.  I noticed this bulb thingy that was on top of the pro’s flash.  I asked about it.  It was the Gary Fong LightSphere.  For me, up to that point, I was using reflectors and softboxes on my flash.  His comment was to the effect that if I got one of these, I could probably get rid of the rest in most instances.  I started to research and got one.  Man – was he right. What  wonderful things.  I have two plus all the accessories.  That was one thing.  The other big thing came out of the research.  One of tutorials was about Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) and using High Speed Synchronization.  After seeing that, my mind went nuts on how I could use that.  The blocker – my D3200 and D5100 didn’t have high speed synch.  I would have to move up to the next model body – a D7100 or D7200.  I found a demo D7100 (saved me about $700).  This was on a clearout and last years model, but it got me “in the game”.  And WOW!  I couldn’t believe the extra functionality I got!

Learning curve – this camera is targeted at the serious amateur and possibly semi-pro category.  After about 5 months and more than a few thousand photos, I’m still finding out stuff.  But, I can do the stuff I normally do without blinking.  For the novice – they could be out taking photos instead of trying to learn.   One of the big pitfalls I’ve seen, is that most folks quite simply don’t take that many photos.  Interesting in one sense, as more photos are being taken more than ever, but at the same time, I feel that many simply don’t take enough photos to get familiar with even their cameras let alone try to learn.  To me, I think this is a very common thing.  One wants to “look the part” without the knowledge backing it. 

Anytime I get a new piece of gear – back up.  Let’s look at what I do when I get a new camera – maybe this will help more.  I’ll use the example of my most recent “smaller” cameras that I got.  It was the Nikon S9900.  The reason I got this one was two fold.  First, it has an articulating viewer – handy for doing low shots.  Second was the 30x zoom.  It’s also quite a small unit, so handy too.  Once I set  it up.  The first series of test shots were to ensure that the metering was consistent to my other Nikons.  I normally set my ISO to 200 and put the camera in Programmed Auto mode with matrix metering as well as matrix type autofocus at the beginning.  This gives me a good idea of how the camera sensor renders generally.  I also set the camera to the “vivid” setting.  I found that overall color rendering with my Nikons is pretty well the same across all my cameras.  I find the photos “bright” with a slight emphasis on blue – not noticeable if you haven’t shot across various brands.  Once I get those shots, I will try the under and over exposure setting to see what they do and ensure that the EV values are what I expect.  And then, I’ll fiddle with the zoom – perhaps take a few shots at various zoom levels.   At this point, I will know what I can do with the camera under normal conditions.  THEN, I’ll grab a coffee and start to go over what’s in the menu to see what else is hiding there that might be useful and to familiarize myself with the menus themselves.  What I am after at this point, are the places where I need to get at changes fast.  ISO, metering, autofocus, etc.  The things that I may change “on the fly”, so to speak.  I do look at the Scene modes, though I rarely use them.  For me, I target myself to start using the camera as fast as I can. 

Once I get fairly comfortable with the camera itself in being able to use it for most normal things, I’ll then start looking at the more advanced functions.  Some of them I may use, others I probably won’t.  Like Wi-Fi and GPS – no use to me at this time.  Generally speaking, there is a bit of a charge in the battery, so I’ll use it for a few shots or until the battery is drained and then charge it overnite.  Then, I may or may not use it the e next day – it depends on what else I have on my plate.  If I can I will, if not I don’t sweat it.  On a smaller unit, I’m usually not concerned with learning a lot at the beginning – I’ve done this for more than a few cameras (I own 15+), so it’s come naturally.  BUT, if it’s something I’m trying to learn on my DSLR, that’s a different story.  It sometimes takes a bit of scheduling but I will try to block out several hours if  I need to learn a new technique or something like that.  I count on the fact that I will be taking a lot of test shots to perfect the technique.  I’m at that point where if something like portraits needs some tweaking, it’s worth taking the time to learn and be good at it. 

Onward……

DIY vs Commercial? Equipping Yourself and Thoughts

I was recently involved in some discussions  in the area of Do It Yourself (DIY)vs Commercial gear and the in’s and out’s of when each should be used.  When it comes to photography, there are some very interesting articles I’ve read about and more than a few things I’ve tried out myself.  I also developed a few opinions around this.

When to DIY

By DIY, I mean when exactly that Do It Yourself– are there things that one can build vs something that is available commercially?  For me, I have some mixed opinions on this.  My usual first instinct is to see if something is available commercially and at what cost.  That cost factor tends to be a very critical piece.  If I really really need it for a project and it is exactly what I want, I may buy it.  More important – if it’s something I can use a lot, the cost may go out the window.  Let’s talk about a few of these “instances”. 

It’s About “Looking Professional”

I’m going to start here to set the stage for what I’m going to chat about later.  This also applies to life in general, I would think.  In talking with more than a few professionals about this,  two pools of thoughts have emerged.  It basically breaks down to this.  You want to “look the part” as often as possible.  If you do need to DIY, it should be in areas where commercial stuff simply isn’t available.  Let’s expand on that.

We’ve all heard that thing about having a DSLR strapped to your neck makes you “look like a pro” Smile  I guess that’s correct to a certain degree.  Most pros do use DSLR’s for their work Smile  I look at it this way.  If you are at that stage where you are getting paid for the gigs or even if you are a backup photographer or a volunteer photographer or someone who aspires to “get there”, you need to get noticed in one way shape or another.  Soooo.. how does one do that? 

Basics

Of course, in order to attract more business, a big concern when starting out is  getting your name out there?  Do you have  a business card?  Let’s start there.  Putting you name and number on a napkin is not a good way, believe me.  It’s probably going to get tossed before the nite is out.  A business card, though will get kept.  Remember – you are going into business or hoping to.  Portraying that impression is important.  Business cards are a cheap investment – one should spend a bit more to get one that stands out.

The next piece is obvious but not so obvious.  Dress for the occasion.  If its a formal occasion a suit and tie may be in order, though a tie may not be so essential.  If you are in a more casual atmosphere, I would dress slightly “upscale” for the event just so I can differentiate myself.  The bottom line here – align your clothing to match the event but at the same time, you do need to stay comfortable and loose.  A real world example.  Last year, I was requested to take Linkedin photos at a job fair.  A couple of things about this one.  Typical to job fairs, there were a pile of recruiters at the booths.  This one was also targeted to mature job seekers.  Most photographers who were asked to do this wanted to get paid for this.  To me, they missed the whole point or the big picture.  This was one of those rare instances where doing a pro bono shoot could get your name out big time.  This was an association.  I volunteered.   More important, this wasn’t a tough shoot, if you knew what you were doing.  All the administration was set up so all one had to do was take the shots (about 3 if you were set up), catalogue them, and just a bit of post (crop for Linkedin), and email them off to the client.  There was about 35 sets,  about 8 hours of post and my name got out to over 300 “others”.  How do I know that?  I had my business cards at the administration desk AND at the photo desk.  On my side, this was a bit of a test market to see if there was a long term photo opportunity in that market space.  I dressed in suit and tie for this occasion and took my suit off when I was shooting.  It went back on if there was a quiet moment.  Also – this gave me an additional opportunity to chat with recruiters first hand as well.  At the time, I was also looking for work.  I’m an IT Sr. Business Analyst.

Sooo… did I get some spin off?  Yes.  More important and this was very interesting.  NO ONE asked me to do a shoot for free!!!  Did I get asked about my gear?  Absolutely.  I was using my Nikon D7100 as a primary and tethered it to my notebook so the client could see their photos.  I used a 3 light set up with strobes and radio triggers with a portable backdrop.  In this case, there was nothing DIY about this.  I was also taking some candids.  I used my D5100 with my SB700 and Gary Fong Light Sphere.  Again – nothing DIY here.

We have this thing in July called the Calgary Stampede.  Blue jeans/cowboy boots – western wear.  I’ve done a few events, and have dressed accordingly.  This is one where its really hard to distinguish yourself from a dress standpoint, but you camera will make you distinctive.  Everyone is partying and photos are the last thing they think of Smile 

I do several fashion show events per year.  Again – suite and tie, usually.  Do I do more casual events?  Yes and again, I try to dress for the occasion. 

Most important – am I a pro?  NO.  I am, however, a very serious amateur and do get paid for a few gigs along the way.  I feel that I have a ways to go, but having free-lanced before,  these are things I’ve picked up along the way.

My perspective on this, is that if I am public facing, I want to look as professional as possible.  This also means as little DIY stuff as possible or anything that could detract from that.  If I show up at an event, I’m not going to be carrying say, my power cords or power bars or any accessories in plastic grocery bags Smile  I have equipment cases.  For my studio gear, I have everything in several cases or carrying bags that are made for toting this stuff.  If I am doing flash work, which is actually quite often, I don’t DIY anything there.  My primary flash accessory is the Gary Fong LightSphere.  I do have other reflectors and softboxes for more specialized stuff.

If I am doing more specialized stuff, I will DIY a bit.  Again, this is a “depends” thing.  Sometimes, it’s easier to take the time to DIY something than try to find it commercially.  More important, some of these things can be made very easily.  Even things like backdrops.  I go to a fabric store Smile  Because I do mostly head and shoulders work or full body  work, the 2 meters wide for most things from a fabric store is more than adequate.  AND, the cost is minimal compared to commercial backdrops.  In saying that, I recently acquired a full sized backdrop and it looks like I’ll have to bite the bullet on some 10ft ones…..

Doing It for Free

Man – is this a hot topic Smile  To me, this is a bit of a two edged sword.  If you are just starting out and feel confident enough to start charging, there is is “moment” where one looks at this as a full time career.  I look at things this way.  One does need to get their name out there.  How you do this is up to you.  For me, if I am going to do a pro bono shoot, it will be of MY choosing.  I am not going do a shoot where the client tells me that doing the shoot for them for free will enhance my career.in photography.  That also tells me that the client might try to chisel the price even if I do the shoot.  In fact, for me, I will walk away from that type of scenario.  Because this is still a hobby, I still take a professional attitude.  If I am asked for price, I will give one.  NO…it won’t be cheap.  I have my rates set and they hit the middle ground.  I do put out top quality work – there’s a price for that.  Do I negotiate the price?  No.  I’m not making a living doing this, but that doesn’t mean I should discount because I’m a serious amateur.  I did get paid back in the 35mm days – why should that change.

Now – the pro bono side.  There are certain types of events that I will shoot for free.  These are the types of events that can get me huge exposure.  My wife and I volunteer for certain events.  I get “volunteered” for others Smile  Most of these types of events gets me vital connections for potential future business if I go this way.  I’ve done a bunch of these over the last few years to the point where if my wife is there, I’ll be there.  My photos do get published with credits.  What do I gain from this?  Those contacts!!!  When I get called, they fully expect to pay.  They already know the quality of work  from past performance.  Do I get business from all events?  No – in many cases, the photos are used for their newsletter. 

Do I do other things for free for other folks.  Yes, I do.  BUT, and this is a big BUT.  I choose.  If I get invited say, to a wedding.  I’m NOT the primary photographer or the pro for that matter.  I will take my shots and give them to the bride and groom.  Yes, they will be at the “pro” level for a wedding and they will be post processed.  Mine will simply be their “wedding present”.  They will have the pro’s work too.  NO – I don’t do weddings Smile  It’s not that I’m not good at doing them, I simply prefer not to do them.  Other events – certain ones, yes.  If I am invited to something like a recruiter event – Stampede Week lunch, XMAS event, I’ll take a camera and donate photos. 

Depending on the event, will also determine what gear I take.  A wedding – my DSLR’s but not everything.  Social events – maybe DSLR’s but not likely.  I’ll grab something smaller – they are going mostly be candids anyway.  If I am heading to an event where I feel I can get connections – DSLR’s all the way.  Judgement calls.    

Studio Gear

When I was looking in the world of portraits and studio work,  I looked at various lighting setups.  At the time, I already had a light box (more on this later) and some continuous lights for that and that was my first thought – use these.  BUT, the more I thought about that, the more I steered clear of that.  My lights were those clamp ones and they were fine for the light box I created, but using them for studio work?  Well, maybe not.  ’

I do have a lot of experience in the world of 35mm film and re-engaging in digital and seeing how the technology had evolved, allowed me to think a little differently.  I decided to use strobes and electronic flash.   There were a couple of reasons or more for this.  With electronic flash, I could be very mobile which is paramount for me.  Strobes were a bit of mixed bag, but in the end, I used them because I could sync them with radio triggers and in the end, fewer cords.  The trade-off?  Correct exposure.  There is bit more learning curve there and if you are doing anything a little complex, there is a bit more experimentation involved.  Not a bit deal.  For most of my work to day, it’s very straightforward and I use a pretty standard lighting technique and get what I want with little or no change to exposure.  Usually, it’s a couple of test shots and I’m ready. 

Did I do a lot of experimenting? Absolutely!!!  AND I write everything down once I get my set ups how I want them.  Critical when I go to site.  For me, each time I get an accessory, I try to experiment with it  and make sure I have it nailed down tight.  I had an instance where I got my Nikon D7100 and had a volunteer event that my wife got me into and rather than risk missing a shot, I used my D3200 and D5100 instead.  I actually didn’t use the D7100 for a formal event for a bit.  The controls were very different and I didn’t want to risk missing a shot fiddling with settings.

Do I have DIY stuff for studio?  Yes.  For product work, I built my own light box.  I had space constraints so I had to fashion something to accommodate the space available.  This was an easy build for me as I do renovation stuff as well Smile  I occasionally have to build reflectors and backdrop stands for other things.  I also do renovation work, so building some of this is pretty well a no-brainer for me.   For portrait work – very little in the DIY space – I’ll buy whatever I can and DIY as a last resort.  I’ve had to build certain types of reflectors and build certain backdrops for some work.

Bags

  Ahhhh… bags.  This is the never ending quest I think Smile  Every photographer I know seems to have the same dilemma of finding the “perfect bag”.  You see, we “think” we have the perfect bag – we get something else and that theory goes down the tubes and the quest begins again.    I have lots Smile  For me, I’m perhaps a little different in that I don’t use DSLR’s exclusively.  I will use anything from a pointy shooty to a DSLR depending on what I’m doing at the time.  It’s not that I don’t use a DSLR at every opportunity, I do, but there are times when it’s simply not convenient to lug one around.  To me, I look at it as “fit for purpose”.  Sure the DSLR will give me the best result but at the same time, those other units do a darn good job as well.  Especially when all I need is snapshot that I need for reference purposes.  I need a good exposure and little or no post required.  Don’t need RAW.  Fill the frame – done.  Some instances.  Renovation work for my properties.  I like to take progress photos of  work progress or when I do inspections.  One of my travel cameras or pointy shooties will do fine for this.  If I am looking to buy a property or help someone buy or look at real estate – again, nothing cute and fancy needed here.  Family things – snapshots.  Here, though, I do have my DSLR’s with me in case we want a formal family photo.  I COULD use another camera, but I don’t.  When I’m doing my weekend tasks.  I like to have a camera with me at all times.  This can be little mixed depending on what and where I go.  Sometimes, it’s  with my DSLR’s and sometimes not.

Back to bags.  If I am doing one of those really simple out and abouts, I have A Fossil bag.  A man purse actually Smile  I can drop in my iPad, a small camera and  away I go.  There are other times though, when I am wanting to take more – like my DSLR’s.  AND sometimes, I want to take 3 bodies and 6 lenses.  AND I want to have them easily accessible.  That one, I have yet to solve.  My usual for this has been a Think Tank Messenger plus a LowerPro messenger.  Recently, I got a Nikon Daypack and it’s pretty versatile, but only two bodies.  More in a bit.

The bottom line – as one gets more and more advanced, I think it can become more complex depending on what you are doing.

Lenses

There’s always discussions here Smile  The usual is zooms vs primes.  My take on this.  For me, my goal is to be able to be able to get my camera out and get a shot quickly.  This is where I find myself in most instances.  On my way somewhere, see a shot, get out of the car or stop walking and take the shot, continue on.  Not take the time to swap lenses.  Sure there are other times when I do go out with the express purpose of getting a landscape or something, There, I will take the time.  Ultimately, my preferences is to use primes.  I do own some, but you know, I’ve found that zooms do well for the things I do.  I have a Tamron 10-24mm on one body and a Sigma 18-250mm on another body.  In reality, that covers about 80% percent of the things I normally do.  There are times when I use the Nikon zooms, but since I got the other ones, not so much.  With Nikon, I have the kit lens 18-55mm and a 55-200mm.  For primes, I have a Nikon 40mm f2.8 macro, a Nikon 50mm f1.8  and a Tamron 60mm f2.0 macro.  Aside from landscapes, I do close ups and portrait work – these fit for that.  These also give me a lot more depth of field control for what I want to do.  I am considering getting a high speed intermediate level zoom for event work, but that’s just on my bucket list until I decide if I want go there.  I’ve done a few of these band events but he players were my friends, so it was more to “test market” myself there.  They got some great free pics and I got some great experience.

Tripods

When I was in 35mm, I did have a tripod, but back then, I didn’t use one all that much.  This time around, though, with close ups, certain landscapes,and portraits, the need for one or more became pretty well an essential.  Because I was focused on being mobile, my first pass at one was a carbon fibre Pro Master2 .  I ended up with a Manfrotto RC series ball head after a couple of others.  The kicker was being able to support the D7100 with the Sigma 18-250.  I needed a beefier ball head.   BTW – a ball head makes sense to me for portability.  Nothing sticks out.  Talk about sticker shock!!!  In the days of 35mm, you could get  a pretty substantial tripod for under $100.  In today’s world, it’s a lot more.  I paid about $400 in total for my portable one.  I opted a 5 section one to keep it light and small.  The problem with this one, was that it was find for being on the road but for more formal work like portraits, it simply didn’t cut it.  I had to look for another one.

As luck would have it, I stumbled on to a sale where I could pick up a Manfrotto 290 series with a Movie Pan head for about $300.  That’s the one I got.  Because they used the same base plates, I got some extras.  This is not a light tripod by any means.  Not quite at a pro level, but could easily work there.  It does get a lot of use and so far, is a workhorse.

Knowing What You “Need”

You know, we see all these articles on something called “equipment lust”.  Getting the latest and greatest for whatever reason.  I am a firm believer in getting the correct tool for the job, though.  Yes, there are times when I have gone really stupid overboard.  Like my travel cameras – I have about 6!!  Do I use them?  Interestingly enough – yes.  My wife uses two of them.  I do have my favourites but I also got a couple that were purchased for very specific reasons.  My Fuji F800,for instance.  It’s my backup to my X10 (a more advanced camera).   It’s also more advanced than others in this class.  More controls.  My Sony HX30V – better flash and again more controls, but it has a faster zoom.  Latest kid on the block – Nikon S9900 – 30x zoom in a tiny package!! 

Once I got to travel cameras, I started to take a very serious look at those super zooms  or “hybrids”.  This was before the Nikon S9900, actually, but if you’ve never played here, this is a whole new space and tons of fun.  I got the Nikon P520 on a clearout.  It has a 42x optical zoom.  Reasonable sensor size for what I do.  For what I paid, well worth it.   There is no way I could even get to close to this zoom level with my DSLR’s, let alone afford something.   At $300, it was a no brainer.  Yeah it’s a little slow on some things, but all things considered, it cranks a pretty high quality image.  Heck, the fun of just using it pays for itself Smile 

The Gear Factor

This is the million dollar question at the amateur level.  Hardly a factor for the pros.  They know exactly what they need to get their job done.  For the rest of the world, not so easySmile  There’s always been this quote about getting a better camera will yield better photos.  What they don’t tell you, is that, in most instances, it’s not the camera Smile  The camera is simply the tool that captures your “mind’s eye”, so to speak.  What one does, is get a better camera to better interpret what you are seeing to a digital or film image.  What the heck does that mean?  Like anything else, one has to learn and experiment in order to get better at something.  Like most things there are some “rules” and some knowledge needed to understand the how’s and why’s of what comprises a good photo.  You look a a landscape and go “How did they do that?”.   If you understand the theories or rules,  it’s not that hard.  To me, I look at the perspective that the photo was shot at for instance.  Composition tends to be fairly standard, but in many cases, the difference between a great shot and a stunning shot, is a combination of composition, perspective, time of day and exposure.   Knowing how to control that is where the gear comes in.  More advanced gear allows you get the shot easier, but it comes at a price.  Learning curve.  AND experience.

In reality, what I sometimes think that novices think, is that the pros can get that shot without taking that many shots.  Well, it’s not exactly like that.  Because the pros are exactly that, I would say they can get a particular shot in fewer shots Smile  If one comes from the world of 35mm like I did, one tends to have this obsession about getting the shot right in the camera.  My preference is to do as little post processing as possible.  What surprises me, is that with digital, it’s easier than ever to get it right in camera – there’s literally no cost to taking multiple shots at different settings, so why are we sitting at a computer changing it after?  Granted – certain types of work do need post work, but really, if you can get it right the first time, why not? 

Where I take the most shots is when I am outdoors or doing something outdoors.  Depending on time of day, light changes and with that comes exposure compensation.  Certain exposure changes can make the difference between great and stunning.  Knowing what your camera is capable of is critical.  Part and parcel to this – if you are getting new gear and “moving up”, it can take some time.  For me, my biggest surprise came when I moved from my Nikon D3200 and D5100 to the D7100.  The D3200 is an entry level camera and the D5100 is a mid-range unit.  The D7100 is very much so a serious amateur to semi-pro level camera.  When I first got it, getting it set up to where I could use it was pretty easy.  Taking advantage of the extra functionality was a whole new story!!  After several months and thousands of photos, I’m still discovering stuff. I’ve had the D7100 for about 6 to 8 months now.  Onward.  When I can control the lighting, like studio work, I take fewer shots.  Studio, is a different breed of cat.  Portrait type work or product photography require some pretty strict lighting controls.  In reality, if you get the lighting correct, exposure is pretty much a no brainer.  In this type of work, to me, the set up is where the time is spent.    Do I still take a lot of shots?  Yes and no.  When I’m working with the lights, I’m going to take a lot of shots to ensure my exposure is correct.  The final shots will only be for getting the pose I want.  I will get as many as I need to obtain the correct shot. 

For instance – models or someone who has been in front of a camera a lot will take instructions well.  In saying that, you also need to give instructions too Smile  When I am doing fashion photography, I get a lot of great shots, but I also get a lot of stunning shots.  With others, it takes moreSmile  To me, timing is everything.  My preference is using strobes – less heat, but needs a lot more setup compared to continuous light.  When I started acquire my gear for studio/portraits, there was a ton of experimenting and I acquired very slowly.  I got stuff because I wanted to create a very special “effect” and kept trying until I knew I needed certain pieces of gear.  My studio accessories are such that I can get what I want for most things.  For my strobes, I have several soft boxes, barn doors, umbrellas, reflectors, etc. to get my shots.  In reality, way more gear than I originally intended, but in saying that, I can do a lot of things between my strobes and flash units. 

File Formats

When I moved to DSLR’s, I was still shooting in JPEG format for everything.  In fact, I still do to a certain degree.  I really resisted moving to RAW as at the time, I didn’t see the need to go there.  I wasn’t in that space where I needed to do that much post processing.  Then, I had no choice for certain things.  I couldn’t get the exposure control I needed and had to move to RAW to get that.  That also meant new software.  With my D3200 and D5100, I can only shoot one format at a time.  I went to the D7100 because it has two card slots and I can shoot RAW on one and JPEG on the other.  Depending on the scenario, I will shoot in this mode.  For others, I will shoot RAW exclusively.  Again, this goes back to understanding your gear.  My smaller cameras can’t shoot RAW, but at the same time, I normally don’t need to shoot RAW with those if I get the exposure I want, which I can usually do.  Also, because I know what the limits of each of my cameras are, I don’t have any qualms about using one of my smaller cameras if the need arises.  For the record – depending on the event or whatever I am doing, if it’s an important event or something that counts, I’ll shoot with my DSLR’s and use RAW first. 

In the End

For me, it took about 3 years to “get back in”.   I started with the concept of being mobile and worked my way into DSLR’s.  I’m perhaps a little different in that I came from the world of 35mm and with that experience I had a very good idea of what I needed for what.  What I wasn’t expecting, was to get to DSLR’s.  I initially had no intent to go there, but here I am.  I’m now sitting at a point where I’m pondering kicking it up a notch again.  I still need to take more photos in a few areas to see how I do Smile  For me, my time is such that it’s easier to buy than build.

Onward.

As Spring Rolls In…. Thoughts

Wow!!  Does time ever fly!!!  Over the last few months, I’ve been taking a bit more time for photography than I normally have been.  I’m a consulting  IT Business Analyst  and have been sitting in between contracts for a bit now with the Oil and Gas industry pretty well grinding to a halt Sad smile   It’s been both good and bad, in one sense.  The good part, is that I am able to get caught up on “stuff” that normally doesn’t get done as well as focus on photography a bit more.  The bad part, is that I’m not working.  Am I worried?  Well, sort of, but at the same time, I’m happy for the extra time.

As an IT type of person, I’m in a “busy” career path if you are familiar with this career path or know of people in this business sector.  I’m very technical for a Business Analyst type – pretty “geeky”, and getting on in my years.  HOWEVER, in saying that, I leverage my past experience for everything it’s worth in today’s world.  When I got back into digital photography about  three years ago, I came back in with roughly 15 years of 35mm film experience with a background in retail/distribution, purchasing, free lancing, darkroom work.  We should also get something straight right off the bat.  I never really was without a camera.  I was in that mode of “casual” photography.  Mostly of the kids, family events, “simple” vacation photos – you know – the simpler side of things from the photo perspective.

I’ve mentioned this before – when I came back into the “craft”, it was from a very different “angle”, if you want to call it that.  It came from both wanting to be able to take more photos again, but at the same time, being mobile.  My life has changed quite radically from the 35mm days and in today’s world, “busy” has taken on a whole new meaning Smile  I’ve been in the computer space for the most part since the beginning of  the PC and even though there were a few bumps in there, it’s been good to me.   Going into the consulting side of things over the last 8 years or so has allowed me the comfort of being able to afford to move quickly to try things.  And I did when it came to photography – I acquired gear like crazy trying to figure out the digital side of things.

Back to the spring thing.  Over the last month or so, I started to work in RAW with the cameras I own that can shoot RAW.  This was prompted by a few of my pro friends pushing me there plus some research plus an upcoming course where I will have to know about RAW.  To explain a bit more….  notice I mentioned cameras.  I own roughly 15 cameras that range from pointy shooties to DSLR’s.  Part of the the 3 year journey.  My DSLR’s are Nikon and my preference is to utilize 2 bodies with two zooms.  I have more lenses, but this is my base gear.  Despite all the stuff I read about pros using primes all the time, the pros I know, tend to use zooms.  Discussions have revealed, that it’s more than sharp enough for most things.  I use APS-C sensor cameras in the D3200 and D5100, which is also adequate should I venture closer to the pro side from what I have been told.

From my experience and learning from the 35mm days,  I am a firm believer in “getting the shot right the first time” and still am.  As a result of that, I’ve shot JPEG’s along the way.  The other thing that I have found is that the digital space is very different from the world of 35mm.  Some discoveries:

1.  The “Art” itself hasn’t changed that much in one sense.  The basic “rules” still hold – a good photo is still a good photo.  Digital has allowed very different things that can be done with the art.

2.  Technology has made it easier to take photo’s.  The sheer number of photos that are being taken is mind boggling.  Good that more people are taking photos, but what are they doing with them.  The quality is also there for the most part.  Surprisingly good.

3.  Social media and the internet make the world accessible.  If you have thoughts of going pro, it’s a very different market  now.  A photographer today, has to not only understand their gear, there’s software and the internet to deal with.  More complicated in one sense.

4.  Once you hit the serious amateur side of things, there seems to be this tendency to “pixel peep”, or become a little more concerned about sharpness and noise.  Almost to a fault.  The camera manufacturers keep putting out more and more advanced “stuff” to cash in that obsession.  When I was shooting in 35mm and in low light with high speed Black and White, getting the shot was the important piece, grain was second.  Today, we call the grain “noise” if I got my understanding right Smile  Back then we used that grain to enhance the “mood” of the shot. 

5.  There is a lot of time that can be sucked up doing post work.  In learning more about RAW and the software associated with it, I am REALLY glad that I have a bit of time to learn about this.  I’ve also found that RAW  isn’t necessarily RAW.  Each manufacturer has it’s own version and “It ain’t the camera”, and I really agree with that.  A little more later on that.

So – back to spring.  It’s here!!!  Stuff here in Calgary hasn’t started turning green yet, but it’s getting close.  I am so looking forward to getting out and about more.  For the first time since I got into this, I feel I’m at the stage where I was back in 35mm with my DSLR’s.  It’ not that I’m ignoring the rest of the gear, is more being able to do certain things with the DSLR’s that I can’t do with the rest of my gear.  One of them is the super wide angle stuff – landscapes and scenics.  As nice as it would be to have something for my Panasonic GX1, it really didn’t exist, so I went to a Tamron 10-24 mm zoom.  In 35mm terms, that give me the equivalent of 15mm to 36mm.  Back in the day, the majority of my landscape stuff was done with the 17 and 20mm lenses.  Interior work was done with a 24mm and other stuff could be managed with the 28 or 35mm lens.  I have that with this zoom.  This was actually the one lens that actually held me back in some respects. 

Am I going to add more gear coming into this season?  You know – I really don’t think so.  A few accessories, maybe, but from the “big stuff” standpoint, probably not.  If I do, it’ll be to add a third body – a D7100 with an 18 – 140 to get the extra horsepower and functions.  The one thing I’ve found in shooting in RAW, is that under certain conditions, especially when I do sequence shots, the camera (D3200)  becomes unusable for about 10 seconds while the buffer writes out.  The D5100 is better, but file sizes are smaller too. Faster SD cards hasn’t helped – it’s simply a processing issue – the processor isn’t fast enough to handle this.  To make matters worse, I’m also set up at the moment, anyway, in RAW + JPEG Fine, so that doesn’t help either.

Now – about RAW.  From my understanding of this format, it’s all the data that the camera sensor captures. JPEG’s are what you get with the camera settings in place and what the processor “thinks” is a good photo.  Soooo… in reality, if you set the camera up correctly, there shouldn’t  be any difference between the JPEG and the RAW.  What the RAW does give you though, is all the data not just what the processor settings were, so the file is much larger.  Because you have so much information, you have more flexibility in post processing.  Whew!! That was a mouthful eh?  (Had to toss that in – Canadian Smile)  What I have been doing, is shooting with both formats to compare and ensure I’m doing stuff at my end right.  The good news – I am Smile  BUT, in saying that – RAW still has advantages.

This is where the post piece starts to come into play.  Yes, I can do more with RAW, but the cost is time.  TONS of time.  Granted, I’m still in the learning side of things, but the time factor is significant.  What it does emphasize though, is how important it is to learn how to do it right the first time Smile  Before I forget, I am set up with computer equipment that can handle those larger files Smile 

Soooo…. coming into this spring – the attack plan.  I will likely continue to use my DSLR’s set at both RAW +JPEG Fine.  My other two units, the Fuji X10 and Panasonic GX1, I’ll likely leave them at JPEG Fine.  I do some free lancing and when doing those, I will likely shoot exclusively RAW, but we’ll see when I get there.  I also want to expand WHAT I take pics of.  I’m only 45 minutes away from the Rockies and some of the most beautiful mountain ranges around and don’t get there that often.  That’s gotta change.  I’ve designed some new stuff to test for my outdoor plant stuff – can hardly wait to try it outdoors.  I do want to get some studio “stuff” – backdrop and lights, but it’s not a priority yet.  Likely for this fall.  More consistency in my blogs – I have a lot started but nothing finished  – that’s gotta change.

Onward…..