Ask a Photographer – Part 4

1. John Jones III

  • Digital vs Shutter: Pros/Cons; best practices for each, use cases, suggested equipment, when to HDR when not too (including use cases on both Digital and Shutter, showing where it helps and where it fails ).
    Digital is convenient and inexpensive. Film is great for astrophotography as film doesn’t collect digital noise and it is not as susceptible to cold conditions. You can get better sharpness and resolution with film cameras but if you’re using a 35mm  film camera, you will probably be more satisfied with a modern digital camera.
    Generally speaking don’t use HDR, there are better ways to capture a wide range of detail in a photograph.
  • Which is best when photographing musicians in action, in a poor lit area and why.
    If you’re permitted to change the lightning to suit your needs (like a flash), do that. Since that is likely not an option, you’re going to need a low light lens, one with an aperture that can be opened wide, like your eye’s iris opens wide in the dark and shrinks when you look into a flashlight. For instance, Nikkor 24-85mm f/2.8-4D.  This is a zoom lens, meaning you can take wide shots and zoom in without changing lens. The “f/” indicates the “openness” of the lens, 1.8 allows for more light than a value of 4 or 11. The greater the zoom, the more expensive a lens will be to maintain image quality and keep a wide open aperture. More details on classifications of lenses and  will follow in another post.
    Then there is ISO, this refers to the sensitivity of your “film”, even though we’re probably talking about digital, the same scale applies. Most digital cameras go as low as 100 ISO, requiring quite a bit of light to make a good exposure. Some digital cameras can go as high ISO as high as 256,000. However, the images are virtually unusable. I would generally keep the ISO around 1600 to 3200, lower if possible.
    If you are using film, you will need to change your film anytime you need a different ISO. You will be hard pressed to find any film over 1600 ISO and the images will look grainy.
  • How the hell did they make this 1942 picture look as good as if it was snapped in 2010 ( I like looking there at Lindon/North Orem) and seeing nothing but scrubs and trees instead of crappy housing tracts ) I presume they took the actual original negative and applied modern voodoo to it to make it so clear, but what would they have used/done to make that so?

Andreas Feininger - Geneva, Utah - 1942 - FSA/OWI Color Photograph

Andreas Feininger primarily used medium format and large format cameras. This means the original transparency for the image below was large and contains more details than most, if not all modern digital cameras can obtain in a single exposure. Color film was not perfected at the time this photo was taken (1942) and some details are lost in the highlights; this is a common issue with transparency or “chrome” film and could be exaggerated by the scanning process (compare this version). If you look closely there are tiny marks from dust or damage to the original. Methods can be used to reduce and remove issues, but the bottom line is this: Feininger used a high resolution piece of film and knew how to use his camera..

2. Joseph Mortimer: Is is important to use big, expensive great our can you get away using low, cheap, even diy stuff?
Having expensive gear is only better if you know how to use it. The reason the expensive gear is better is because it can give a photographer more options. For instance, a simple point and shoot is best used in daylight for wide angle shots. I would not typically want to use it for closeups and macro photography. I probably could not control the exposure manually, so it may be difficult to use in low light and in other conditions like snow where the exposure can be tricky to get right. In my opinion, it is better to know the equipment and its limits than to buy equipment because it is simply “better”.

3. Derrick Walton: What is a dslr?
Digital SLR, and SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. The name comes from the use of a mirror and prism to show in the viewfinder what will be photographed. Then the mirror is moved out of the way as the photographer presses the button to take the photo allowing the digital sensor or film to be exposed. You could think of the prism/mirror/viewfinder as a “live view” like you would find with current digital cameras like your camera phone.

4. Shawn Lelle: How do you take a long exposure shot? Can it be done using a smartphone?
Most cameras can take a photo where the shutter is open more than a quarter of a second, although you may need to be in a manual mode. A quarter of a second is more than enough time to allow significant motion to be captured, like a moving car or falling water. It helps if you have a tripod to stabilizing the camera, if you don’t have a tripod on hand try using a steady flat surface like a railing or wall to lean on. For really long exposures, from 30 seconds to hours, you will probably need a cable release/remote and the ‘bulb’ setting. There are other methods to extremely long exposures but that will be covered in another post.
Regarding smartphones and long exposures, it depends on your smartphone’s hardware and software. For instance HTC has an excellent post by a photographer using an HTC One M8 to take long exposures.

Here are some long exposures I took with my M8.


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