Your Camera Does NOT Capture Reality! (and what to do about it)

O'Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado

O’Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado.

You have heard it said a lot, and maybe said it yourself: “This picture doesn’t do the scene  justice.” That is often true and for several reasons. One is that digital cameras do not capture reality. No matter how fancy or expensive, digital cameras simply do not capture what your eyes see. That is also true with film cameras. All color photographic films have different color characteristics. Some have better reds, others have better greens or blues. Some are more saturated and others less saturated. But none of them are totally color realistic. So why don’t digital cameras give you realistic images and what can you do about it?

Originally posted December 16, 2015. Revised, expanded, and re-posted May 4, 2018.

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Get the Shot!

Just in case you missed this viral screen capture from the national championship football game, this is the 42 yard touchdown pass that gave Alabama the victory over Georgia. In other words this is the biggest play of the biggest game of the year. Whoever grabbed this screen capture off their TV circled the sideline photographers. I call this “shock and awe”. Their editors are probably calling this “missed photo”. It is hard to get the shot if your camera isn’t at your face, or even pointed at the play.

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A Snowy Owl Photo Expedition

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

What is a Snowy Owl expedition really like? This article is your chance to find out. Join me for a two day photo safari! I give you tips and photo suggestions along the way, and you get to see how I prepare, plan, and adapt on a photo trip. This is also about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

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Using the Histogram to Check Studio Flash Exposures

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

When using studio flash units, usually the best way to check your exposures is to use an incident light meter which is capable of metering flash exposures. But what if you don’t have an incident flash meter? Or what if you have a subject that absorbs a lot of light? Or a subject that reflects a lot more light than your typical photographic subject? You can double check your exposure settings by using the histogram on your camera. FYI: Do not trust the LCD image on the back of your camera to judge your exposures.

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Environmental Portraits and Off-Camera Flash, Part 2

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3

Off-camera flash is so useful because it gives you a different look from the millions of photos that are taken with the flash on the camera. The light can come from any direction you choose, no matter where your camera is, and the latest technology makes automatic flash exposure quick and reliable.

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Environmental Portraits and Off-Camera Flash, Part 1

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3, Columbus, Ohio.

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3, Columbus, Ohio.

If I am using flash for an environmental portrait, I usually prefer having the flash off of the camera. In this portrait of Warren Stevens (program director and mid-day air personality at Magic 106.3 FM in Columbus), the flash is above Warren and to his right, providing a nice semi side-lit photograph. On camera flash is flat and even. Getting the flash off of the camera and moving it to the side provides more shape and texture to the subject.

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Photo Shoot: Using a Halo Softbox with a Yongnuo Radio Controlled Flash System

Kristina

Kristina. Sunlight coming from the right. Halo softbox with Yongnuo speedlite providing light from the left.

After testing a Bob Davis 45 inch Halo Softbox and Yongnuo YN600EX-RT radio flash on my most available model (my dog), I needed to test it out on a real model. Opportunity called in the form of a message from Kristina, a professional model based in Los Angeles (and an absolute delight to work with). She would be in Ohio for Thanksgiving and she wanted to schedule a shoot. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, but fortunately for us we had one day to shoot after she arrived and before I left.

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How To Set Up a Halo Softbox or Umbrella with an Off-Camera Speedlite

Halo Softbox set up on location and ready to use.

Halo Softbox set up on location and ready to use. The radio controlled flash and umbrella adapter are inside the softbox.

If you have never used an umbrella adapter to put a flash and umbrella or softbox on a tripod or light stand, the steps below will show you exactly what is involved. If you have already used an umbrella adapter, setting up a Halo softbox will be ridiculously simple for you. Skip to the Halo section below.

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“How To” Series: Off-Camera Flash

Margarita

Margarita, Studio Portrait with Off-Camera Flash

Twelve articles (links below) to get you started with off-camera flash. The equipment you will need and how to use it.

Getting your flash off the camera opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities. And the really good news: the equipment is way less expensive than it used to be. If you are ready to get started, I just finished writing (or re-writing) a series of articles on off-camera flash that covers the equipment you will need and shows you how to use it.

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Getting Started with High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography

Sunset, Gibraltar Island. Combined images.

Sunrise, Gibraltar Island. HDR Image.

Compared to the human eye, digital cameras have a very limited dynamic range. Your digital camera simply can’t capture the range of tones from light to dark that your eyes can see. That is why HDR photography has become so popular with so many photographers, and absolutely essential for some commercial photographers.

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Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance App for iPhones and iPads

Simple DoF app for iPhone and iPad

My favorite depth of field app for the iPhone and iPad is the “Simple DoF Calculator” by Dennis van den Berg. It is fast, accurate, and simple to use. Best of all – you can set the Circle of Confusion (CoC) to the value of your choosing. In this screen capture of my iPhone the app is marked with a red square.

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GPS Variations in Google Earth’s Timed Satellite Images

The tripod is at the camera location for the GPS camera test. Buddhist Temple, Keller Texas.

The tripod is at the camera location for the four camera GPS test in the previous article. Buddhist Temple, Keller Texas.

Over a period of time Google Earth records multiple satellite images of the same area. You can cycle through those images. You would think the same identical GPS coordinates would show up on the same location in the images as you go back through time, but that is not the case.

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“How To” Series: Using GPS in Photography

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

The GPS system is increasingly important to photography. It will help you figure out where you took some of your more obscure photos and help you caption your photos. More and more photo editors want GPS information for the photos they publish. A GPS communicator could save your life. This series will help you learn the ins and outs of GPS, plus keep you and your family safe.

Originally posted Jan. 29, 2016. Updated and re-posted Feb. 11, 2017.

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Comparing the GPS Accuracy of Three Cameras

19 MI Road looking west, Michigan's U.P.

Looking west from the intersection of S. Hantz Road and 19 Mile Road. Canon 7D2 and 100-400mm lens.

I was on S. Hantz Road east of Rudyard, Michigan looking for Snowy Owls. According to eBird there had been several recent Snowy Owl sightings in the area, but no owl was to be found the day I was there. Another photographer I met didn’t have any luck either. I had three GPS enabled cameras with me, counting my phone, so with no owls in sight I decided to compare the accuracy of the GPS units.

Originally posted Jan. 31, 2017. Revised and expanded Feb. 19, 2017.

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