Recently I took a photography class, but unlike most photography classes, this class focused on photo evaluation.
Photography judging criteria evaluates a photo based on proper cropping, lighting, and many other aspects used in juried photography contests. Our focus was looking at the quality after the photo is taken. The classes weekly assignment was to go out and take photos based on the topic of the week. Unfortunately, I broken my leg, so I asked for special permission to use photos I had from past travel.
Each person in the class presented their photos in an 8 x 10 format mounted on a white backboard. I developed mine at Costco (looking to save a little money) and they do a superb job. I followed whatever the syllabus topic was for the week, which meant I had to search through my photos from past trips to fit the category. Not only was I able to find the three or four photos that were required, but I also found several others that I loved, so printed way more than needed to present in class.
As part of the assignment they required us to provide the Shutter Speed, Exposure, ISO setting, Focal Length, and Aperture. For the first couple weeks I provided all this information. I found that some of my pictures were rated the best in the class, even better than the instructors. So, the logical question in the class was, “what camera are you using”?
I went back and started noting which camera I was using, and the results amazed me.
Three basic camera choices
I have used three basic kinds of cameras for many years:
- Large censor, DSLR, with lots of lenses
- Large censor, high-end point-and-shoot camera.
- Normal , medium priced point-and-shoot camera.
Oh, I guess there is a fourth format that we all probably have and that it is my cell phone. I have been using an iPhone for many years; obviously, many different models. Also note the difference between large and small format cameras is the size of the sensor not the size of the camera.
It is one thing to look at your photographs on your laptop or tablet or even when you put them into a photo book. But when you enlarge the photo to 8 x 10 or larger, you quickly can see whether the photo is of excellent quality, sharpness, focus, depth of field, etc.
The photos I submitted were everything from wildlife, to famous icons like above from around the world to portraits. Each photo I submitted at the same quality. I use LightRoom 5 to crop my photos, adjust for camera lens calibration and in some cases color balance. The results were consistent.
Each camera of course has a high-quality lens, each camera is at least 16MP and have the capability of fast shutter speeds. But, when I looked at most of the pictures, the shutter speed and ISO was very normal. Except for a few shots; like the one below; taken in low light and on a moving ship as we left Sydney Harbour for a 48-day cruise.
I rarely do a side-by-side comparison of my cameras. But my Sony DSC-HX80 camera performs as well and, sometimes, better than my other two larger cameras. The pure ability to bring my small camera with me anywhere makes it my hands-down favorite. But today my phone is quickly changing the way I think unless I need zoom capabilities.
Editing and Post Photo Processing
This site is about wandering lite, the other aspect of course in travel is the case or backpack you need to take along your camera and equipment. Traveling lite mean everything needs to be evaluated for its necessity and weight. On a long trip I travel with my laptop and tablet, but on short ones only my tablet. When I add the electronic gear that goes with the PC and Tablet, i.e. charges, mouse extra batteries, etc. Oh and the larger cameras need many lenses, filters, tripods which vary from large to tiny or none at all for the small point and shoot camera or my iPhone.
Last, although not required, is the post processing. With today’s cameras and large memory disks, we just do not shoot pictures like we use to. It is possible to take lots of pictures without additional cost. We bury ourselves in so many pictures that we not only miss being present in the moment, but we can’t find our best photos that really captured what we saw. The real trick when taking a good photo is to put your mind on taking the shot, focus on the Rules of Taking a Good Photo listed below:
- Fill the Frame / Cropping. …
- Don’t Cut Off Limbs. …
- Understand the Rule Of Thirds. …
- Use Frames. …
- Make the Most Of Lead In Lines / Shapes. …
- Simplify – Know Your Focus. …
- Watch the Background. …
- Look for Symmetry/Patterns.
If you pay attention to these rules you can’t be present in the moment. After you take your shot put the camera down and enjoy the excitement of just being where you are.
Recording Where You’ve Been
For short trips when I bring my tablet, I rarely use LightRoom while I’m on the trip, but since it’s not uncommon for my wife and I to take trips of 60 to 80 days at a time, reviewing, editing, and adding location information to my pictures as we travel is essential. LightRoom allows me to use GPS location information from iPhone, and then I can add that information to the meta-file information for each photo for that location. I also use LightRoom to segregate the great pictures from the pack through a rating process in LightRoom. By doing this, I save a lot of time when I’m getting my pictures ready to put into a photo book or print.
Remember, the Best camera is the one you have with you. So, whatever method used for post picture processing, please remember this. That you are there not just to take pictures, but to enjoy the moment, to appreciate the sites in front of you in the history that they represent. This is the actual message in Wandering Lite.