Monday, 3 August 2015

A Head Slap Moment

Just when you think you are getting the hang of this photography lark, I recently had another brain melt down moment.

I seem to have taken on the mantle recently of official family event photographer. This weekend was a big event where my niece and her family had come over from Japan and would have a blessing followed by a family party. It would therefore be, perhaps, a once in a lifetime chance to get a photo of my daughters and all their cousins in one location.

So it goes without saying that I was pretty keen to get a great shot and record a unique moment for posterity

Now generally I leave my camera on aperture priority mode. While auto can be a safer option, my camera has a limitation in that mode. Generally when it has an option of slowing the shutter speed or increasing the ISO in poor light conditions, it tends to increase the ISO.

Generally this is unnecessary. Unless  you are say at sport events, you rarely need a shutter speed of say over 1/160th. Also I find that at any ISO over 400, noise tends to creep in. Some cameras, including the latest Sony's, allow you to set a maximum speed limit and this would be really welcome.

However to overcome this  I work in aperture priority, so it gives me greater control of ISO and aperture. Generally I try and work in ISO 100 as much as possible, however it does mean I need to work harder and be more aware of the camera settings at all times.

However this being a family event, it was very easy to get carried away with the social side and lose concentration (and I must admit alcohol may of been involved). During the day I was moving in and out of the house taking photos. Inside I needed to push the ISO to 1600 to get shots(I don't really like using flashes). Unfortunately  when i went outside I left the camera at 1600 ISO where it stayed for most of the rest of the day, including for the important shot.


As a result a lot of my shots came over-exposed, and  to me even worse,  with a lot of noise. Fortunately because I work in RAW, they could be rescued by the  use of the exposure compensation control and very aggressive noise reduction(being slightly over-exposed is a lesser sin than under-exposure since details can be extracted). Heavy noise reduction can however result in loss of detail so it is not a get out of jail free card, which is why I try and avoid it.

To me the results are not that pleasing, but fortunately my family seem to like them.

One of the side-effects of the heavy noise reduction is that to me, skin tends to look waxy and plastic. Strangely however, this is the same effect you get on some portrait manipulation packages. This is because it tends to blur spots and other skin blemishes making skin look more uniform. So to the vain the effect can be quite pleasing, though to me it is just unrealistic.

It also made me realise the pressures of professional photography. Fortunately this was just a family event, but if I was being paid for it, it would of been a reputation disaster. The important lesson sto me are :-

  • Practice switching between social and professional modes. 
  • Learn to check the basics, even when under pressure to get the shot. 
  • Detach yourself from the situation and concentrate 100% on getting the best photo you can

If you don't there, you will end up with a big red patch on your forehead where your hand smacks your head.

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