Getting It Right In Camera Etc.

Maybe I should call this true confessions or something. In any case I just wanted to post something short and sweet on tools, rightness-wrongness, working method, etc. When it comes to this kind of stuff I am of the school of "Whatever works - for you. Something helps you work faster, produce more consistency, saves you a bunch of time, gets a look you want, makes you feel good - by all means - do that.

I know that I come off all old-school curmudgeon a lot of the time but I am not. I am all about hi-tech… if it helps me. I do get confused at all the hoopla that surrounds metering and exposure automation, etc. Being the ever curious type I don't just dismiss it out of hand - I try to figure out what all the hub-bub is. I truly try a lot of stuff - just to see if I am missing the point or even accidentally discover something that might work for me better. Even if I think I know better. I suggest all of you do it. Obviously it's not a great idea to alter your working method that you have down pat when it really counts - that's not such a great idea.

I finally got around to processing a set that I shot in DC - the no plan road/train trip. Not my favorite set but not a disaster. Since I was just down there to fool around with stuff I thought one of the things I would revisit was all this metering/auto exposure tech for the millionth time. Would it really help me? Would it allow me to work faster and better? On this set - my third little setup in the space of an hour I figured why not - this is an easy one to get right…

In stead of my normal working method I switched to matrix intelligent metering on the D600 and Aperture priority auto. So let's see how fast this makes me compared to say a spot meter and manual or a whatever meter and a test shot + tweak. Point the camera take test shot look at what happened - why not, that's the benefit of digital right? Okay WTF? it's a stop under. Gee a little bit of white dress and the friggin intelligent meter cannot figure that out. Okay all in the name of science let me point the camera somewhere else and watch the meter reading until it reads a stop more than what it just did. There we go - hit AE lock and hold. Now we're cooking. Now I'll just pay attention to that little AE lock indicator and the shutter speed and make sure it doesn't move while I shoot.

Here's what really happened - why the hell do I need to pay attention to yet another thing on my friggin camera while I am trying to pay attention to the subject, the framing, the verticals, the geometry, the expression, the light, the wind… turns out that's a distraction and the absolute last thing that I actually paid attention to - so I didn't. Well I did but just kinda sorta. AE lock would disengage every time the metering when off. Too bad that put my exposures during that time all over the map. Anywhere from a stop and a third under to right on and everything inbetween. Oooops did that over and over.

Results are that this set is litered with exposures that are spot on for a bit then a dose of sporadic random -1 1/3, -.66 -.33, then I would see that and fixit - wash, rinse repeat. In this light it's not a big deal with this camera at this ISO. The shot at the top is one that I liked - it happened to be off 2/3 stop. Yea I fixed it in post - no you cannot tell the difference between in camera and post with this minor exposure correction.

That's not the point - I was paying way more attention to the moving subject, framing - especially with this background, the light (overhead is tricky with eyes) and at this moment the little bit of breeze - wind. It wasn't a breezy day - every once in a while a tiny little puff of wind would blow and hit the dress just the right way. That's what I wanted along with the movement of the subject. Far more important than that 2/3 stop. What I hate is having that variablility shot to shot I have to go fix. To hell with that. AE saved me no time in calculating what the exposure should be at the beginning - none. It may actually have taken 2 seconds longer. AE lock is not REALLY AE lock - it's AE lock until the camera at various points decides it's not any more.

All cameras are like this - of course you can pay very very close attention to that if you want - me, I rather not. For what and how I shoot. Real AE lock (manual) is just a better solution for my working method. I already knew this but I still wanted to see if it would actually help me someway. Okay 2013 test over - nope doesn't help me a bit.

What about the changing light? Well I am already paying attention to the light - closely. That's what us photographers do isn't it? The session right before this - indoors I was shooting manual. Paying attention to the light - a cloud came between the sun and us… um yep saw the light change instantly and actually just waited a minute - took time to chat until the light came back - then just started shooting again. I am far better at paying attention to what's going on with the subject than what my camera is doing - I just want it to do what I tell it to most of the time. Not because of any righteous bullshit - because it works for me and saves me time in post. If I am shooting manual I can take a look at the first shot in my processing tool of choice. I will be a third off at best. Correct and apply that to the entire set - done.

Now real quick let's jump to the other side of the fence of things that do help. You know I absolutely love working in Apple Aperture right? Well I do. I hate Lightroom - I never use it to do my selects, metadata, etc. but… ACR does have a lot of things going for it depending on the situation. Local adjustment implementation for one - more on that some other day. Here I used Lightroom for this set entirely because it works. Specifically this set is a mess due to barrel distortion of my 50mm 1.4G. With strong verticals all the way to the edge lens correction is a god send - especially with lens profiles where I don't have to do anything. So I will use Lightroom ACR on this set. Done.

The point is to absolutely have some sort of working method that you can use repeatably, reliably, where you know what the hell you are doing. Changing that up willy-nilly every time you make pictures leads nowhere - a good baseline on how you work is the cure to most screw-ups and fumbling and bumbling and surprises (bad ones). Exploring other working methods and taking a look at how they might work for you is also not a bad idea - not every time you shoot but here and there… Same goes for tools. Whatever works.


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