Your photograph is not perfect.
You see good quality photographs every day. Why does your photo not match up to the photographic quality in a publication? What can you do? The answer is simple. You need to look at your overall technique.
Things add up…
Assuming a great idea and composition – what can go wrong? In photography every step of the process counts. The more you get right the better the result.
Professional photographers often repeat a shot tens of times to get it right, sometimes more. They aspire to excellence. Care, dedication, persistence and attention to detail add up to technical quality.
What can go wrong?
- Bad lighting: There’s no substitute for suitable, interesting light that’s sympathetic to the subject. If the light is wrong, your shot will not work either.
Solution: Learn everything about the quality of light, hard light, soft light, the colour of light and the properties of light.
- The whole picture is soft: You moved the camera while shooting.
Solution: Pros use tripods – good ones. They use them fast and efficiently because they practice.
- The whole picture is soft: You had to hand-hold the shot.
Solution: Professionals know how to set up a manual exposure that suits the light. Learn to shoot in manual modes. Know what shutter speed/ISO combinations you can use without movement.
- The exposure is too dark/light: Common when learning manual camera control.
Solution: Use RAW, then you can compensate. With RAW you can deliberately manage your exposure too. There is no ‘perfect exposure’ – there is only the result you want. To get the result you want you have to adjust your exposure. (Hint: you can’t adjust your exposure effectively in *.jpg unless you use exposure compensation).
- Colours off: If you are shooting in *.jpg you deserve all you get. The white balance is probably wrong. The manufacturers settings are limited. You can’t fix it in processing. Remember, *.jpg is a RAW file developed in-camera to manufacturers settings, not yours. The settings are applied to your shot blind. No wonder they are not what you want.
Solution: Get it right. It’s easier to shoot in RAW and develop the shot yourself. It gives you fine control and you can develop your shot work the way you want. Something *.jpg cannot do.
- Poor focus: Focus is critical to the right technical and artistic result.
Solution: Learn about: Depth of Field; aperture, Bokeh, Circle of confusion and how they relate to your lenses. Pros know these things intuitively. You can too with practice.
- Poor or soft focus from movement: Focus mode is on the wrong setting.
Solution: Learn to use the correct focus mode (eg. single shot or continuous etc). Also, learn to focus manually. There are situations where auto-focus is poor (eg. in poor-contrast light). Switch off auto-focus to get better results.
- The shot is not sharp: A suspect, poor quality or broken lens.
Solution: Buy decent lenses. All lenses have sweet and sour spots – even professional ones. Cheap lenses have a poorer optical quality and have more sour than sweet spots.
Solution: Quality costs money. However, look after a good lens it will last longer than your camera. If you choose right, it’ll fit your next camera. It pays to buy the best quality lens you can afford.
- Great lens and tripod! My shot’s still not sharp: Sharpness requires attention to the above and these specific details too…
one: Turn off vibration reduction functions. On a tripod motors cause vibration, not stop it.
two: Turn off auto-focus (another motor), or at least the continuous-focus setting (use the ‘one-shot’ setting).
three: Use ‘mirror lock-up’ (DSLRs). Mirrors clunk up causing tripod vibration.
four: Keep out of wind, away from vibration and keep your tripod low (don’t fully extend legs).
five: Use a remote shutter trigger. Button pushing causes vibration.
- I did all this and it’s still not right!
one: Practice – putting this together takes time and effort.
two: Return to locations many times to get the right light and conditions.
three: Post processing! RAW users, this is where you polish the shot up. Since the earliest photography developing the shot has been a key process. RAW processing is another skill to learn. It’s essential, so learn it. Only *.jpg’ers should worry because they have disabled files. If you used *.jpg there is no hope of properly completing the job.
There is a lot to do! Follow the links and keep at it – you WILL succeed.