#673 Monday Post: Like investment, photography is about the yield…

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Nov 27


Not all improvements are due to major shifts in technology, or significant progress in our photographic skills, unlike in my post https://www.dearsusan.net/2017/11/04/decisive-steps-looking-into-my-past-purchases-to-plan-the-future/ Here are three apparently minor, but worthwhile lessons.



Step One starts during an evening walk. The light was fading fast, and, already, I needed all the help I could get to focus properly and shoot with adequate stability. Alas, I couldn’t seem to focus properly. I tried everything I usually do: opening my lens wide (it is MF with a good old-fashioned focusing ring), trying the LCD, or the EVF, shooting from the waist. Still, no shot was really sharp, neither wide open, nor stopped down one stop, some of them not even focused properly. When you are shooting an awesome lens like the Zeiss Otus 28mm f:1.4, not being able to get proper focus or sharp shots is not pleasant.



This went on for about 10mn, until I checked, and only then I knew what was happening. My IBIS. I had left it “off”. This shows how much IBIS is an integral part of my practice. Miss it, and I am lost. Of course, that wouldn’t have been true in daylight, when shutter speeds are enough to provide adequate sharpness. Now I know. I will not even consider a camera, on today’s terms, that doesn’t offer in-body stabilisation. I am just not up to it any more. My hands aren’t stable enough, my eyes clear enough. And it isn’t going to get better, so I hope cameras will. And the thought of focusing throught an OVF, like, say a DSLR, any DSLR? I dont know whether to laugh or to cry… If you think that a lot of dedicated photographers are getting older, you know why mirrorless are gaining ground. Smaller, lighter, EVFs, often stabilised.



Just don’t forget to turn the stabiliser on….. And lest you think this is restricted to cameras with stabilizer (how any manufacturer can now release a new other-than-entry-level camera without stabilizer is beyond me), let’s all remember when we shot in ample light but with high ISO settings left over from a previous shoot (guilty as charged, as recently as this week!), and all other settings we forget to check when starting on a shoot. The worst of course happens to those rangefinder shooters who forget to take off the lens cap. It all looks wonderful through the viewfinder, but the image itself is rather… black. And if the manufacturer has seen fit to produce one type of such rangefinder camera without a rear LCD, you can’t find out before the whole shoot is over. Just thinking about it hurts…



Second lesson. I have indicated already that I enjoy participating in photo Meetups. Shooting with a bunch of usually (or unusually) friendly people, walking through interesting spots, comparing results, learning…



Well, one day the theme of a Meetup is wandering through the Serres d’Auteuil, a set of period greenhouses, not unlike a miniature Kew Gardens. Now they happen to stand within spitting distance of where I was born and raised, and my mother still lives there. So I have shot the greenhouses and their contents dozens of times when I had time after a family visit. But always alone. That is where my many arum shots come from. How would I fare in the framework of a Meetup? What would the others see that I wasn’t seeing? What would I see and/or do differently?



To make a long story short, the answer is: plenty. Being with others, call it peer pressure, call it emulation, call it imitation, call it self-image, call it pride, led me to do more. In numbers, here is how it looks. Alone, I would probably have harvested 5 shots, 4 of them arums, of “post-worthy” quality. I could have done more, of course, but wouldn’t have because of a “been there, done that” lack of interest. But that afternoon, I came away with 9 shots. 4 of them arums, 5 others. Meaning my total of non-arum shots had grown (exploded?) from 1 to 5, none of them done before. And I was far, far from having seen/tried/done everything that others had done. Dozens of shots (there were 15 of us) that I had never envisaged.



The lesson is simple, and I am sure I am not the only one it applies to. With the same gear, and the same talent (or lack of), I could do more, much more, of relevant interest, if only I can get myself in “Meetup mode”. With Boris, then Pascal, then Dallas and others (hi Kai!) I already practiced the “2-person Meetup”, it is now up to me to invent the one-person-Meetup. Call it the Koan Meetup and, once I have it down pat, I can one-hand clap myself for achieving this. And my yield of good pics will increase significantly at no cost whatsoever.



Third lesson. I use Capture One to process my shots. They send a newsletter to educate/promote/keep up customer interest. In one of them multiple ” C1 ambassadors”, usually pros, share their views and their tips. One tip struck me as super useful. With one keystroke, I could duplicate all the PP of one shot, including cropping, and paste it onto another shot. Almost instant. I am customary to shooting the same subject more than once for multiple reasons. To make sure I have one shot that is sharp when using very wide apertures and/or slow speeds. To try different apertures. To try slightly different angles. Then, when I open the lot in my computer, I rapidly select the one I like best, and process that one. Well, because I’d read that tip, I went back to a shot I’d done twice, processing one and leaving the other fallow. Now, with this useful tip, I instantly processed the other one as well. And, guess what, I found it to be superior, even though it hadn’t been processed specifically, which could still improve it a bit.



Here are the 2 pictures I wrote about. The bottom one was the one I hadn’t processed. Wouldn’t you say it is worth a second look and a couple of keystrokes?



There , you have it: 3 steps, all of them free. One which should enble me to avoid wasting shots away, one which should help me get more shots “in the bag”, one which should help me increase my yield of good shots out of my bag. Hardly rocket science…



Hardly glamorous stuff, like an “unboxing my new Sony A7RIII video”, is it? But I cannot imagine a camera body that will improve my overall yield as much as these 3 steps. Am I the only one who needs these “lessons”? Do you have some of your own that you care to share?


  • The anonymous grunter says:

    Great post. Thanks. I got your 3rd lesson a few months ago, but used it for a different subject: panoramas.

    1) apply the same processing in C1 for all photos of the panorama
    2) load the resulting tiffs in Affinity Photo for stitching. The latter does its rendering job that well that I don’t even bother about correct exposure (e.g. a manual medium exposure for all photos). Saves time and hassle, especially if moving objects are framed.
    3) Filling the gaps with the Affinity auto fill feature (I use it just for the skies, cropping the rest, as there it isn’t that brilliant).

  • NMc says:

    A very basic lesson that I often need to remind myself is; – If you can’t find a composition, or subject, look behind you, or approach from a different direction. Basically simply move around and study the scene or subject helps to move your thinking from simply recording to imagining how the final two dimensional images will be seen or perceived. Now all I need to do is get out and practice it more often.

    The other side of the coin is sometimes you just need to stop and be still, not over think or prejudge what you should produce. You need to let the environment or atmosphere get under your skin before pulling the camera out.
    Regards Noel

    • philberphoto says:

      Noel, this resonates with me. Waiting “a bit longer” to let the scene “sink in” is something I will try out on my next outing. Thank you for sharing this.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    One utterly useless tip that I can pass on has landed in my lap by accident. My wife has an ancient Olympus pocketable smaller than a smartphone, that you can’t kill by drowning, and when she isn’t using that, she pulls out the phone and shoots with it, instead. You can’t give her hints on composition because she just ignores them. So – I leave her to it.
    Strangely, she has on three occasions recently told me I was doing it wrong. There’s nothing universal in her comments, to pass on – but it was kind of humbling, after taking photos for nearly 70 years, to get kicked by a complete amateur – and I have to confess that she was right, too.
    Maybe that’s a bit like your second tip – shooting with a group, and getting fresh ideas from them. 🙂
    BTW – I ALWAYS like your photos Philippe – and recognising that we can always learn something new is simply part of living – people who won’t do it are often dismissed as having (in some sense) already died.

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