As a photographer I’ve worked for many concerns, from scientific to medical to portrait/wedding and on and on. My niche is photojournalism.
A challenge for me is someone who says: “Don’t use backlighting when shooting for the paper.”
“Really? Hmm... “
This was said to me, or rather this information was passed on from owner to publisher to yours truly. Not this news organization, another paper I had the pleasure of working for on several different occasions.
According to my studies in photo school and my experience as a commercial photographer, the best way to light a subject is with good backlight (the predominant light source is up and behind the subject) and then fill with secondary light from the front. Ah yes, his statement was a challenge. From that point on, whenever possible I shot everything I could with backlighting. Using a flash fill for secondary light, I don’t think he noticed what I was doing. I never heard anything about it, so, I guess I proved my point.
What does that have to do with this, your introduction to Against the Light feature writing and photography column? Everything. Against the Light is going against the grain, pushing against conventional ways of doing things, a different perspective, if you will. This attitude has taken me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise; some by choice, some not.
So, whatever you read here, is from a skewed perspective, mine. Against the light. Always looking into the sun, instead of having the sun at your back, one sees things differently.
A first topic is something most professional photographers’, well maybe those of us who grew up with film, have a hard time adjusting to: no viewfinder on a camera, just a flat screen on the back of the camera for composing, viewing and taking pictures, that might be too small to even see when held at arms length.
It is rather awkward to hold a camera out in front of you, with one's arms stretched almost to their full length, in bright sunlight, when one can hardly see the screen. How in the world do you manage to compose a decent scene like that? Let alone take a good picture?
It is the main reason I haven't purchased a small point and shoot, aptly named from my perspective. I've been holding out for something with a viewfinder where I can place my eye up to the camera, compose a scene and fit everything I'd like in the image in the viewfinder, and then push the shutter. Those cameras are becoming rare and I may not even be able to find one, at this rate. So be it.
Maybe that is a positive conspiracy by professional photographers to slow or even halt people who don't making their living with a camera, from getting into the business of photography. If that is the case, I applaud you and the organizations you work for.
However, it is more likely, the reason cameras are now without viewfinders is because it cut the cost of manufacturing them and one could put a larger screen on the back of the camera and a larger sensor inside for recording the image. Ah, always, the profit margin, not the ability to shoot well and have decent images.
Another side effect from this method is blurry images. Try holding a camera at arms length in bright sunlight, compose your scene of a group of people and then push a shutter without moving the whole camera. Unless you've been doing that sort of thing for a long time, it's not that easy to do well.
Not having actually performed this task with a point and shoot very often I'm not sure of the delay time from pushing the shutter to the actual recording of the image, but I do know there is a delay, and that is also a deterrent to obtaining quality images.
When one pushes a shutter on an electronic, or digital image camera, the electronic signal from the button you just pushed to the logic board in the camera to the shutter mechanism (which is mechanical) takes some time to complete a circuit, hence a delay from the initial action to the final action.
Even with a sophisticated, professional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera there is a delay; a much shorter one of course but a delay nonetheless. That being the case, one must compensate by knowing when to push the shutter during a fast action scene, whether it be a sporting event, a protest march or a speaker gesturing to an audience.
What does this mean for the average user? It means it is important to understand how your camera works, what it is capable of in terms of taking pictures, and what it can't do. This means there are several important points to keep in mind: This goes against the grain of some professionals I know, but… Read your manual, get to know all the functions of your camera, and Practice, Practice, Practice. The more often you do a particular task, the better you become at doing that task, and obtaining quality results. The more images you shoot, and then constructively criticise what you did right and what you did wrong, the better you will become at seeing, composing and shooting scenes.
I do know one thing, not everyone has the ability to shoot well, even with practice. My mom is a case in point, she just never got it, no matter how hard she tried.
But one can raise one's level of skill with constant practice, the key word being constant. My mom was just an occasional shooter, so she never reached a level of competence that was acceptable, and that's ok. She had fun and that was more important to her than producing an Ansel Adams type image.
So, get out of that armchair, quit watching that dumb t.v. and go out there and Shoot, Shoot, Shoot.
Next week? Who knows what next week will bring, one may be reading about a pet peeve or a favorite subject, or maybe, what camera should I buy (that will be a short topic), or perhaps, something unrelated to photography in this vein. Find 'Against the Light' on the Payson Roundup website and find out.