Chas Mills Productions: Blog en-us (C) Chas Mills Productions (Chas Mills Productions) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:14:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:14:00 GMT Chas Mills Productions: Blog 120 113 In the beginning there was light…and it was good.

Light is the essence of photography.

The purest definition of photography dates to the early Greek word “photos;” which means “drawing with light.”  Today, we define photography as “the science, art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.”  Indeed, without light, we cannot easily see; either with our natural eyes or with standard photographic equipment.

The most abundant source of light available is our Sun, located roughly 93 million miles from Earth.  The Sun, as a source of radiant light, is sufficient to illuminate at least a portion of the earth at all times.   Depending on where you are on the earth, you can experience its full power or a directional, reduced power based on its rising or setting positions.  Its hue can change too, as it mixes with various gases in our atmosphere.  This can also have an impact on its heat index. The quality of the sunlight can also vary based on whether there are sufficient clouds in the sky to block or scatter the rays of light.  Some of the most majestic images are witnessed when the sun’s rays peer through an opening in the clouds.   These rays can also be exaggerated when backlit with morning fog.  Matched only by imitation in art, Nature provides us with the most unmistakable expression of majestic light.

In photography, to emulate this majestic light, we have to study the impact that light can have on film.  (The term “film” is used to represent any image recording device currently in use that captures light.)   To be an effective photographer, you must understand the characteristics of light and how to use it to achieve your desired outcome.  And, therein lies the problem with using the Sun as a consistent source of light.  It is not consistent.

Nature controls the sun and she doesn’t always play fair.  Therefore, to create an even playing field, scientists developed a means of creating artificial light to compliment the photographer in various situations in which the sun was not a sufficient source. (IE.  In a dark, poorly lit, or night-time environment.) The basic term was coined, “Flash.”

As described above, the basic characteristics of light are Strength, Temperature/Color, Direction, and Quality.  These characteristics are consistent regardless of whether the light is created by flash or occurring naturally. (From hence-forward, the term “Flash” will be used to describe all sources of mechanically induced pops of light…ie. Speedlights or Strobes)


In theory, the strength of the Sun and its impact on the Earth is directly proportional to the position of the sun in the sky and not the distance between the subject and the source.  This is believed to be true since the distance between the Sun and the Earth remains constant.  However, the strength or intensity of the sun light, can have different affects in photography based on its position, ie. High-noon, dusk or dawn, or any variation in between.

As photographers, we tend to enjoy the impact of the “golden hour” sun when its either at is set or rise.  Because, during this time, it is a lesser intense light than at high noon.

To emulate the ability to have varying strengths of light, Flash devices have settings that allow us to adjust a dial that will modify the intensity of the beam as well.   Many of these settings range from Full power to 1/256th power of the original output. 

But there are also additional resources available to those using artificial light; resources such as the Inverse Square Law. (The inverse-square law, in physics, is any physical law stating that a specified physical quantity or intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.)

For Photographers, this basic assessment states that distance can also be used to increase or decrease the intensity of a beam.  This can easily be witnessed using an inexpensive flashlight.  If you stand 1 foot from a bare white wall and shine the beam of light on the wall, you will notice an intense small circle of light.  Now, while maintaining the same position, step backwards about 3-4 feet.  Notice that the beam on the wall gets wider and less bright.  The intensity of the beam is being affected by the changing distance.

Note: there are various affects that can occur using a combo of power output and distance.

Understanding this is crucial to using distance as an additional method to control intensity in Flash Photography. In Natural light photography, without additional equipment, using distance to affect the light intensity is impractical.


  • Natural light Photographer can use the position of the sun in the sky to control the intensity of the light.

  • Photographers using Flash can control the intensity of the light by using any combo of Distance of Light source to Subject (Inverse Square Law) and the direct power settings of the flash.


The kelvin is often used in the measure of the color temperature of light sources. Color temperature is based upon the principle that a black body radiator emits light whose color depends on the temperature of the radiator. Black bodies with temperatures below about 4000 K appear reddish, whereas those above about 7500 K appear bluish. Color temperature is important in the fields of image projection and photography, where a color temperature of approximately 5600 K is required to match "daylight" film emulsions. The Sun closely approximates a black-body radiator. The effective temperature, defined by the total radiative power per square unit, is about 5780 K. The color temperature of sunlight above the atmosphere is about 5900 K.

As the Sun crosses the sky, it may appear to be red, orange, yellow or white, depending on its position. The changing color of the Sun over the course of the day is mainly a result of the scattering of light.  The blue color of the sky is caused by the scattering of the sunlight by the atmosphere, which tends to scatter blue light more than red light.  Some early morning and evening light (golden hours) have a lower color temperature due to increased low-wavelength light scattering. (Wikipedia)

So for us, this is the function of the White Balance.  Playing around with this feature can create different hues as the camera interprets the Kelvin of light based on the setting created in camera.

Photographers using flash (Strobists) must be equally aware of this feature and must be able to match the artificial light to the appropriate Kelvin to blend Ambient (Sunlight or existing light) with Flash.  And also, Strobists can add Gels (a thin translucent material of varying colors) to the flash to aid in changing the hues or temperature of the light on film.


As stated earlier, the direction of the Sunlight or the placement of the Sun in the sky, has a specific impact on the intensity of the light.  However, direction also plays an important role in the placement of shadows.  Shadow placement in Photography is just as important as light itself.

Controlling the direction of light is extremely important for a photographer.  By controlling light, you inversely control darkness. Blending light and darkness into an image is an artistic expression mastered by the Painters of the Renaissance, like Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt. 

Chiaroscuro means “light to dark” in Italian.  Chiaroscuro also is used in cinematography to indicate extreme low key and high-contrast lighting to create distinct areas of light and darkness in films, especially in black and white films.  In photography, chiaroscuro can be achieved with the use of "Rembrandt lighting". (Rembrandt lighting is a lighting technique that is used in studio portrait photography. It can be achieved using one light and a reflector, or two lights, and is popular because it is capable of producing images which appear both natural and compelling with a minimum of equipment. Rembrandt lighting is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. It is named for the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who often used this type of lighting.) (Wikipedia)

Natural light shooters are limited in this type of control to the time of day they wish to conduct a session.  Nature waits for no one.  So, the Natural Shooter lacks complete control in this area.  However, there are techniques and devices that can aid the experienced photographer in achieving the desired directional light.

Strobists can place their strobes at various heights and in specific directions to control how the light engages the subject.  In addition, Strobists can also add additional lighting to complement the lighting environment…in order words, to fill-in the areas of undesired darkness or to add lighting to create separation of subject and background.


Light quality can be divided into two categories: hard and soft.  Despite Intensity, Temperature and Direction, the Quality of Light is most important. The factors that impact the quality of light are: distance and the size of the light source.  And, a lessor known feature called, “Feathering;” which uses the angle between the illuminated object and the source to create a soft light….in other words, the skewing of light from the source or the dead-end of its effective light using the Inverse Square Law.  

Hard Light

Hard light can be defined as a small source of light.  And, while the Sun is a large object, it is 93 million miles from Earth.  The effective light is hard because the Sun, relative to the Earth, is a small source of light.  Hard light sources cast shadows that are very distinct.   The intensity of the beam creates very refined edges to the shadows it produces.  When striking a subject at an angle, this light can reveal well-defined details in photography.  These details could be undesirable in certain situations.

Soft Light

Contrary to hard light, soft light is defined from larger sources of light.  In order to create softer light, light must strike a larger source and scatter.  The scattered light is multi-directional, less intense, and produces less refined edges.   Often in Photography or Cinematography, soft light is created with diffusion material or Scrims.   Silk is one of the best and most often used material as if reflects light easily.

Even though smaller lights begin as hard light, proximity relative to the subject can impact the quality of light as well.  However, a softbox or large sheets of material that can scatter the light are usually a better source of creating soft light.  Soft light is a favorite for Portrait Photographers.

In nature, Clouds can be a natural scatter-box and can turn what would be hard direct light from the Sun into soft more pleasurable light.  This is why many portrait photographers enjoy shooting on Overcast days, where the clouds can serve as a huge source of diffusion.



Regardless of whether the photographer uses the Sun to light her subjects or Flash, understanding the characteristics of light is extremely important.  And, we must not just understand the characteristics of light itself but also the various sources that produce the kind of light we seek to use.  As the Sun, which is the most abundant source, is not easily controlled, determining which type of light to use is often overwhelming.  Light can be uneven on some images, create hotspots on others, and/or unwanted shadows; and knowing what caused it and how to correct it, are crucial factors to becoming a well-rounded photographer.  

As a Strobist, it is my belief that every Photographer should have in her bag of tricks: diffusion panels, reflective panels, and deflective panels to block sun and create shade. This is true for us all, whether using the Sun as a primary source or Flash as a Primary source.  So, in closing, I hope each of us has found a new respect for light...regardless of the source.  I hope we can learn to appreciate it, study, and use it to our advantage.

It is my hope that this blog will give a minimal introduction to the four basic characteristics of light and that it will encourage you to engage in a deeper form of research and practice.  It is not my intent to promote one style of shooting over the over; nor did I intend to write a thesis on light and/or discuss every nuance of light’s impact.  In writing this, I only seek to encourage and promote a deeper sense of understanding.  I hope it motivates you to want to learn more.  


For more information, contact my Page through messenger.



(Chas Mills Productions) Tue, 26 Dec 2017 20:22:54 GMT
To Flash or Not To Flash: That is the Question Actually, my title is probably misleading. To determine when you need flash is subjective, until you post your image and then all the gurus will yell at you saying, “you should've used flash.”

In this short blog, I am going to just talk about one very important thing, and that is the perspective by which we approach the need to use flash.   We all know that photography is mostly about “light” and we know that there are basically two categories of light (Ambient and Flash (albeit from a strobe, a speed light or the addition of a constant light)).  So now, all we really have to concern ourselves with is which do we need to light the scene.

In normal photography, whether your light is sunlight, room light, or some other kind of light, already available, we can approach the scene from a standpoint of “managing EXISTING light.”  In Flash photography, your approach has to be different, because you are introducing another source of light into the scene.  With that, your new responsibility is the management of this new, additional, or foreign source of light and understanding its impact on your particular scene. 

Therefore, the real question is:  "how do I introduce this new light?"

This is the preception that determines how you're going to make your foreign light source either the dominant source, a blended source, or a Fill source.  With this paradigm of thought lingering in your professional mind, you have to decide how to apply your new light to the scene.  It will require an understanding of the complexity of the categories of light present in your scene; because you will be managing the two lights independently to produce the desired outcome.  Let that sink in for a second.  Your new responsibility is to manage both sources of light independently

So, if you remember that when you introduced Flash to the scene, your approach (using the same Exposure Triangle that you are now familiar with) has to be modified to account for the new equipment and/or the additional functions you must use for the light you are adding.  In normal photography, while managing existing light, your understanding of the Exposure Triangle allows you to use any combination of the values to control the primary source of light.  But, in Flash Photography the roles of the Exposure Triangle factors, take on a different meaning. (If you are not yet familiar with the Exposure Triangle, then stop and go back to other Tutorials to learn that before going forward.)

The ISO will control the overall brightness/darkness of the image; like a master exposure slider in your favorite Post Processing software.  This function is often the least manipulated setting.  The basic role follows the premise that if it is bright outside then you should use more of a native ISO (somewhere around 100); but if it is darker out, then you may want to increase the ISO.  So, this is simple:  Brighter lesser, darker more.

However, in contrast to what you know about Speed, it now has a slightly different role.  The new role of using Speed in Flash Photography has now shifted to controlling Only the existing light in the scene.  It will not impact the Flash output or power, but it is the primary tool for controlling the existing light.  (More on this with when we talk about High Speed Sync (HSS))   So, in order to be successful using flash, you must understand that distinct difference; you must understand the different roles Speed has in normal photography versus Flash Photography.  Most of what you know from the Exposure Triangle theories, changes here.  

Understanding the role of Speed versus Aperture is the key factor that empowers you to separate the control of Ambient Light from the Flash output.  This is highly important and requires your devoted attention.  As we've introduced two sets of lights into our scene, you must understand how to control those lights separately.  From hence forward, you must know that Speed will control the Ambient light and Aperture will control the Flash light. 

Now if that doesn't confuse you, let's add some additional things Aperture can control also.  As we remember from the Exposure Triangle, Aperture also controls Depth of Field (that area of Focus surrounding your subject).   In Flash Photography, Aperture maintains this role.  Aperture still controls Depth of Field (DOF) in the Image as it has always done, but its new role now is to primarily control the output of your new light source—the Flash...and, this is especially true in TTL (an automatic setting that meters the light passing through the lens to the sensor)  The Aperture still maintains its dominant role by controlling depth, but its other primary function it to control the output of flash power in your scene.   

So, when you approach your scene, you should first determine what DOF you want to use.  Once you establish your desired DOF,  then if using TTL, you do not have to worry about the Power output.  The communication between the camera and the flash based on Aperture, will determine the amount of light that will strike the subject from the flash and return to the camera.  Stop here and let that sink in.  If you are using TTL, then the Flash is practically in auto mode and its strength or output power is based on what you set for Aperture.  It will add just the amount of light to complement the existing lighting in the scene.  

Well, Perfect, right?  TTL handles adding light to your scene and usually manages this perfectly.  Now, if you are paying close attention, really close attention, then you have figured out that when using Flash in TTL it is really easy to set the camera mode to Aperture Priority.  In Aperture Priority, you set the Aperture and ISO, and the Camera sets the speed.  Well, if you also set your camera to Auto ISO, (A/ISO), then the camera will use your Aperture setting to expose the image, and it will have the power/authority to adjust ISO and Speed to get an accurate exposure.  

Well, Voila.  You can now begin to add Flash to your images by just controlling the DOF, while letting the camera make the remaining decisions on how much Flash to use.   Then you can focus on the Quality of Light, Direction of the Light, and the Temperature of the light...while the camera decides the power based on your Aperture setting.

After you have mastered this technique, to change the amount of light striking the subject from the Flash, you can make adjustments to Exposure Compensation (EC) or the Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC).

Note: It is important to note that this function is “coupled” together in TTL mode; because TTL is an automatic function that attempts to use your camera’s sensor as a meter-receptor.  I will not discuss those details, but there is a complete mathematical algorithm that is used to determine the exposure values.  In manual, Aperture still controls the light, but controlling the flash output is decoupled from an automatic setting and therefore a hand-held meter may be needed to measure the specific exposure value, which must then be set in the camera.

When you have a full grasp of this concept, then you will be better equipped to use the functions of TTL.   Shooting in TTL  is the equivalent of shooting in Automatic in normal photography; the communication between the camera and the Flash works to produce a correct flash exposure.   And, it works most of the time, but it relies heavily on your camera’s metering algorithm. (By now, you should be familiar with your camera's metering system, so I will not explain that.)

So now, let's do a brief recap of the camera's metering system.

Whether you have your camera set to Matrix, Center-weighted, or Spot metering—the mixture of Flash and Ambient light will heavily depend on that setting.  This can be confusing, since I already said that it is your responsibility to manage both categories of light, independently.  So, you must remember that the tools you have available to you are TTL or Manual; where TTL will use Matrix, Center-weighted or Spot metering to determine the flash out.  

Therefore, understanding the potential outcome and the variances that each can create in the scene is extremely important. 

Matrix and Center-weighted are more Flash controlled settings where the Ambient is averaged at various locations on the sensor where light strikes;  whereas Spot tends to allow the Photographer to make her own assessment of where the camera will measure the light, based on a single Spot in the scene—then it will automatically measure that spot.  So, for Matrix and Center-weight, it will attempt to measure the existing light and balance the potential Flash with the current ambient light.  For Spot, it will only measure at that Spot.  

The most important thing to note here is based on manufacturer and camera type, the Spot metering may be decoupled from the focus dot.  Whereas, if you place the focus dot in the corner 3rd of your composition, Spot metering can still measure the scene at the Center Spot in the viewfinder--causing a potentially undesired reading.  Therefore, if you are unaware that your camera decouples the Spot Metering from the Focus Point; TTL is most likely to give you a meter reading that is not what you intended. This is where TTL overall gets it wrong sometimes. 

Full manual flash, decouples this functions, allowing the Photographer to meter anywhere in the scene she wants.   She has full control over the output of flash.  This is where understanding the Inverse Square Law and the Power output settings of your Flash are paramount.


In Flash photography, using Speed to control the ambient light has some limitations inherent in every style of camera.  To fully illuminate the sensor, when the flash fires the shutter blades must be fully open.  This is called, "sync speed." (Sync Speed is the maximum speed by which both shutters blades are fully open). 

In many cameras, that sync speed is 1/250 of a second; any amount of time faster than that, then the shutter blades begin to close, causing a gradient bar on your image.  This is undesireable.  So, as solution, some cameras and flash can be synced using a technique that allows the flash to pulsate its beam as the closing shutter blades move across the sensor.  This illuminates the sensor similar to how a copier or fax machine operates. This is called High Speed Sync (HSS).

HSS allows the photographer to achieve Speeds as high as 1/8000th of a second.  By pulsating the flash rapidly and consistently, such that as the shutters move across the sensors, it becomes evenly exposed by the pulsating light.  Now, since Speed controls the Ambient light, HSS allows photographers to shoot in bright daylight while still using shallow DOF or very wide open Apertures. 

Many seasoned photographers have also developed other tricks to overcome those limitations too (I will not discuss those now), but HSS is usually the easiest way to do it.

Note: When using HSS it is important to remember that the camera, the flash, and the triggering system must all be compatible for HSS use.

So the most important thing to remember when you use Flash photography is the Perspective of the Approach. You must remember that because you are introducing new light into the scene that the Exposure Triangle takes on a different role.  In addition, you must know and understand both the functions and limitations of your equipment.  "To Flash or Not to Flash," is really based on what you know about light and how you want to use it.


Next Time: Dramatic Lighting, Controlling Falloff, and Understanding Shadows. 

(Chas Mills Productions) Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:17:08 GMT
From Newbie to Newbie...Just When I thought I knew.

A Journey of Learning Photography to Learning Photographic Equipment

For 20 years, I worked in the field of Radiology.  Learning everything from Radiation Physics to Human Anatomy, and during that time as I learned all that I could, I became an expert in my field. While most X-ray techs perfected areas of Radiology like the Barium Enema or Barium Swallow exams, I was more curious about the unconventional Emergency and Operating room procedures, and I excelled in areas where getting the shot meant figuring it out on my own, since the book didn’t cover every situation.

It is very important to understand this before we proceed; while each tech may approach the patient and/or situation from a different knowledge or experience base, the final result in x-ray must be a standardize image or series of images that the Radiologist or other Physicians can read.

Similarly to Photography, we have our own Exposure Triangle (using Kilovolts, Milliamps, and Seconds); but, Radiology follows strict rules of acquisition and display standards.  But from about 5-7 years into my career, I knew just about all there was to know in that field and I was at the top of my game.  I was a pro—or in the terms we affectionately used--I was a Super Tech.

My experience started from my days in the Military.  I was in the medical field, in the mode of specialty assigned as 91P—X-ray Tech.  I was assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC, at Womack Army Hospital.  There I excelled in Radiology, learning not only the required information to be good, but I also learned those unconventional views that no one really wanted to do and that were also rarely used.  I also volunteered to go where no one wanted to go—like the Emergency Room, the Operating Room, and the Morgue.

I was fearless and I was good.  I was a Super Tech.

In 2009, I picked up a Camera and that started my journey into Photography.  My first camera, of which I still use, was a Fuji XS1.  It is a digital camera, but it has a mounted, non-detachable lens.  I was proud of this camera and shot very good images; at least that’s what I thought at the time.  And, of course, I was shooting everything in Auto.

Now, let’s just stop right there for a moment and let the dichotomy of my journey settle in.

In an instant, I went from being a Super Tech in Radiology to a Newbie in Photography.  This is significant to this blog as that process will be continually repeated throughout our journey. 

With so many similarities between Radiology and Photography, I mistakenly thought that I could just jump right in and apply the sciences.  Oh, how wrong I was. But, all was not lost.  I started shooting sports primarily for my kid’s school; and, as you would guess, other parents were there too shooting with whatever cameras they had also, (from Point and Shoot to full DSLRs.)  Yet, there was this one guy who stood out—he was not a parent but he asked to shoot the games. He shot with a Canon and he had a very long, very big 70-200m, 2.8 lens; and, his images were far superior to mine.  But, honestly, besides his images being superior to mine, I began to feel inferior in lens comparisons.  And so, as you would guess, I went out and bought a new camera and a big ole lens (Sigma 150-500mm) myself and I committed to learning more about Photography than I had already known. And, that is where we begin.

Even after 7 years of shooting and learning, I am still a Newbie (of sorts)—not a novice but a newbie nonetheless.

But, that begs the question and will probably spark controversy, so let me explain.  The term “newbie” is subjective.  It could mean “new to Photography” in general (as in a novice) or it could mean an “amateur without a comprehensive knowledge of photography” as in an Enthusiast still honing her skills; or an old photographer on a new journey.  Regardless of how we define it, the term is affectionate. I mean, I don’t think Webster limits its definition exclusively to the field of photography.

So, now let’s talk about your possible journey!  You have just bought your new camera.  It’s a Point and Shoot, with a bunch of bells and whistles and you are extremely excited to embark on this photographic journey.  You've been hearing so much about how once you learn your camera you will move from full Auto to full Manual.  And then, since you will be controlling everything, you will be a much better and more respected photographer.  (You can laugh here!)   

That sounds exciting because it means you will learn how to take pictures.

“How to take pictures;” that is probably an oxymoronic phrase; because photography's lesson is a journey without an end. 

But, just when you were getting good at taking pictures with your point and shoot, someone suggests moving out of automatic and learning how to shoot in manual.  Well, ok, you thought you had an “eye” for photography because your images were really good but you listen to this person anyhow.  And then,  because someone said that since you shoot in "Auto" that you are not a real photographer  and as a result, you almost peed in your pants over the fear of learning something new. You think, whatever happen to just taking the picture…now, you have to learn how to set up the camera, too.  And, we know that this is just as scary as settings on the DVD and trying to get the clock to stop flashing.

The anxiety builds because all you wanted to do is to learn “how to take pictures.”  So, you think to yourself that you never really! wanted to learn about the intricate details of the camera; if so, you would have gone to school to study Photography.  But, and that is the nature of the beast, you begin to read books on Mastering your Nikon (any camera), ask questions, and learn.  And, soon, soon you have moved out of the realm of auto and you have mastered the Exposure Triangle.  You understand the relation between the settings and you have now begun to shoot in full manual (assuming your P&S can accommodate).

As a gift to yourself, you venture out and buy the latest and best camera on the market that the sales person at Best Buy told you was a good deal for your skill level…it’s a Nikon D3200 with a few kit lenses. (No hate mail on the D3200 being the latest and best; it’s a hypothetical folks) And, you’re excited.  After spending a little time reading the manual, you fire off your first fully Manual shot with your first full blown DSLR.   Wow!  You've arrived and feel like you are a real photographer.  In some perspectives, you are no longer a “Newbie;” because, you now shoot your DSLR in full manual. (A little sarcasm there!)

Then it happens!

You buy a new prime and a telephoto lens, because someone across the world told you how these lenses did wonders for his photography. So, yep, you run out and buy these lenses...on that advice.  Then as you are honing your skills on the Exposure Triangle with your new camera and pro-feeling-like lenses, you begin to notice a few anomalies.   On your 50mm, 1.8 prime lens, you notice that when you shot wide open the sharpness is slightly different than when you shoot your 70-200mm, 2.8 wide open.  So, you begin to inquire and you learn that “wide open” just means that the lens it at its maximum aperture and the depth of field from being wide open at the different focal lengths produces small variances in the image quality comparison.  And, for that you say, “What?”

Then some guru begins to explain to you that the various lenses that you have will produce slight variances in image quality at different focal lengths and that you will need to understand those differences within the lenses themselves.  “OoooK.”  You rationalize that this means, in short, that 2.8 on your 50m is very different from 2.8 on your 70m-200m.  So then, you adjust your thinking in terms of the Exposure Triangle and conclude that while the exposure triangle is true to form, that the type of lens you use can require a different approach to photographing the subject matter.  And, as complicated as it sounds, you understand it a little.  But still, it makes you a little nervous because it means that the limitations or variations in your lenses will cause you to think differently about the Exposure Triangle settings…whereas each lens treats light a little differently than the next and each aperture is relative to its focal length.  And, yep this is starting to get scientific and all you want to do is to learn “how to take pictures.”

Pressing on because you understand the lenses that you need for different scenes, you take a few images with the various lenses and post your best pictures to favorite Photography Group on Facebook.  Within minutes, someone begins to ask you questions about Diffraction, Chromatic Aberration, Vignetting, Focal Length, Hyper-focal lengths, Back Focusing, Focus Points, Metering, Noise, Shadows, Rule of Thirds, RAW vs Jpeg, Vibration Reduction and a few other things that only the photo-geeks can muster.  You feel the anxiety rushing and boiling up in your loins.  There is no way you are going to answer; more than likely, you are going to delete the post and vow never to post again.

Besides, all you wanted to do was to learn “how to take pictures.”  What the hell is Diffraction anyway?

But, you plow through anyhow.  You manage to ignore the jargon, focus on your own photography, use what you understand and not worry about the rest.  After a few months of shooting, you begin posting your images to your favorite group again, and you are more than comfortable with your new-found toy.  You feel you have arrived and are no longer a newbie in the field of photography.  You don’t shoot in Auto anymore, you have mastered your D3200 and very satisfied with the images you produce.

As you continue to familiarize yourself with your camera, you notice another little anomaly with your Exposure Meter in your viewfinder.  You begin to see variances as you switch between Spot Metering, Center Weighted and Matrix Metering.  Getting up courage, you ask your (by now familiar) Photo-geek and the onslaught of posts pour in.  You try your best to decipher what seems to you like a Secret Language the Photo-geeks speak.  But, it nags at you that if your exposure meter setting is reading Zero, giving you a correct exposure on Spot metering, than why does switching to Center-weighted give you a plus or minus by a stop or two without your changing the composition or shifting focus. That seems to baffle you, because you are shooting in Manual and you are attempting to control the Exposure Triangle like a good little photographer is supposed to do. But, this darn camera keeps changing things on you.

Now you are utterly disappointed in having to adjust your understanding of metering when you switch between the meter settings, you conclude to leave it on one setting all the time, only to have another photo-geek in a group post, chide you on not fully utilizing the metering features on your camera.  He becomes irate enough to express to you how you need to fully read your manual before embarking on taking pictures and if you don’t understand what you’re doing then don’t post pictures.  After you recoup from using every profane word and making every equivalent gesture known to man, while standing up and yelling at your computer, you quietly resolve to study more.  Your epiphany is quiet and personal; but, you admit somewhere in your core that there is so much more to learn and ponder on, and whatever happened to just learning “how to take a picture!”

Now, you begin to realize that there is really a Science behind the Art.

Months go by and you are really starting to understand the intricate workings of your camera (without the photo-geeks)…you learn where everything is, how it relates to what you want, and you get comfortable with how your camera fits in your hand.  You feel you are ready to upgrade and decide you want a new camera.  That Full Frame Nikon D700 is priced relatively favorably for you, so you go get it.  Expecting it was going be somewhat similar to the D3200 that you have, you are astonished at all the differences. Having just gotten used to the D3200’s features and functions, the D700 puts many of those things in new places and opens you up to a wider range of options.  The Menu option has more features and settings than you knew you were possible to change.  For you, this just means more stuff to learn. And, with more stuff to learn, you feel like a newbie all over again.  But, you have a little excitement too, especially in seeing all the possibilities of how you can assign features that you don’t what they do to buttons that you didn't know you had.  It’s a new experience; a new dawn, and you’re committed to learning this new camera.

But, before you can really understand it, another photo-geek tells you that your D3200 was a cropped sensor and your D700 is a full sensor, and after chiding you, really chiding you, for not knowing that, he then proceeds to explain something about multiplying your focal length by 1.5 to see the real focal length in terms of 35mm comparisons…which just sounds like Greek.  When he is finished, you are just staring at his post, with a Deer-in-the-headlights expression, uttering…”What the [front door] have I gotten myself into?  You mean I can’t just take a [darn] picture, I have to learn Algebra now too?”

Your utter confusion doesn’t really stop there, because the Photo-geeks and the Techno-geeks start a highly controversial debate (btw in your post) about some photographic settings versus manufacturer developments and debate some seemingly useless jargon about hyper-focal lengths...ultimately arguing over some minutiae of details in which you don’t give hollering-hoot about anyhow. 

So now, you are dismayed that you have might have bought both DX and FX lenses (on the advice of someone on the other side of the world) and both a DX and an FX camera; and you might not fully understand the interchangeability of them at all, possibly confusing which lens goes with which camera or their inter-dynamic exchangeability.  And, since, you really only wanted to learn “how to take pictures;” in your mind, you rationalize that you were doing quite well when you only had the Point & Shoot.  Seems now with the “better” camera, you have to go back to school to learn a whole bunch of other stuff that you didn’t know that you really needed to know.  And, the dichotomy of Photography, its Science and Art, really starts to annoy you.

But…you plow through, only to discover that per the comparison of what you see on Facebook, your images lack that special touch.  And as is now customary, someone then “advises” you that you ought to get a Flash and they explain how that will make your images pop.  You've been a natural light photographer, so with that new suggestion, your anxiety level rises again.  You have no idea what type of flash you need and exactly how to use it. But, after a test shot you post your image and, once again, the photo-geeks start up with questions of Hard light, diffused light, bounce light, Catch light, Key Light, Main Light, Light Meters, Camera Meting, Ambient Light, Balanced Light, Off-camera Flash, On-camera Flash, TTL, power settings, Moon Lights, Studio Lights, Rim Lights, Soft-boxes, Remote Triggers, Battery Powered Lights, Constant Lights, GN numbers, and just when your head was about to explode, they tell you that to use Flash effectively you MUST learn the Inverse Square Law.  

Okay that did it.  Before, it was just a little anxiety and you felt like you wanted to vomit.  But now it is much worse, your stomach is in such a knot, that not only do you say it, but you actually run to the bathroom and do it—yelling all the way, “For God’s sake! I just want to learn ‘how to take pictures!’”

Well, on to my point with all humor aside.  Photography is both a Science and an Art… and they work in tandem and are inseparable.

So, as I start to end this visual journey, I will say that I completely empathize with your experience and I hope you empathize with mine.  I was an Expert in Radiography.  I knew it all and was at the top of my game.  But, now I have to learn Photography from the beginning and learn my equipment too along the way…and sometimes there is a feeling of inadequacy.  And yet, while I was able to transfer some of the knowledge of Radiography to Photography, my Super Tech status did not.  I am again a Newbie—albeit not a novice.

I am a newbie for many reasons like just when I thought I understood how to buy a 50mm, 1.8, I was introduced to whether it is D, or G or some other initial that represented something foreign to me.  Or, that when I bought the Tamron 70-200mm, 2.8 for $780, which I thought was a good deal; then someone said that is not the one with Vibration Control.  Somehow I am supposed to know that I need the VC or don’t need the VC, even though I am not sure what type of photography I will be using this for.  And, I am also supposed to “know” that if I get the VC make sure I turn it off when I use a Mono- or Tripod when using it.  WTH. 

Just when I thought I knew something, I realize I don’t know that much.  There is so much more to learn.  There are so many areas of photography to focus on and each area of photography requires different equipment and different skill sets. So, yes, I am a newbie—albeit not a novice.

Worst, after I thought I knew “how to take a picture,” I discovered that it might be of no consequence if I don’t know “how to post-process a picture.”  Because, as soon as I post an image to my favorite photography group, some photo-geek critiques my image and tells me that horizon is slightly off, the shadows are too strong, the dynamic range of the clouds makes the image too bland, and that I should or could have corrected all that in Photoshop.  My mental-want-to-scream-out-loud comment is:  “Why the [heaven] didn’t they tell me that I needed to learn post-processing when they sold me that camera?”

I just want to learn “how to take pictures,” that’s all…nobody said anything about a lesson in Photoshop.

So, what’s my point?  Well, the point is that having experience in Photography is also subjective. 

You may take horrible pictures but you are an expert in Post-processing to veil the fact that you are a horrible photographer. Or, you may take technically correct images, but do not have a lick of knowledge on how to enhance the dynamic range, smoothing out the overall look of the image.  Either way, the assessment of the end product doesn’t tell me anything new or overly accomplished about your photographic skills.  To the contrary, it actually tells me less. Without standards, like we have in Radiology, then unless I was there, I have no clue on how you obtained the image.  Just because it is beautiful, gorgeous or award-winning, doesn’t mean I know anything about your skill-level and the thoughts that went into producing it or the expertise behind the shot.  For all I know, you could have a book out while testing a shot and you got lucky, or you could have had a mentor with you who guided you through every step of your shoot. Your final results tell me little about what you know and more about how well you know how to post an image to Facebook.

You have may even have experienced "anxiety" shaking all over the place just taking the shot or you may exude the greatest confidence, who knows?

The point is that we all experience some sort of new feelings of anxiety or excitement about some aspect of Photography that is new to us.  And, and, and, that some aspect of Photography “IS” indeed, new to us all…each of us…regardless of your experience. 

The Science of Photography is dynamic and evolving and the Art of it is creative and subjective.  No one can bottle that up without having new experiences.

At, some point, regardless of what you know there is still a photographic experience and some equipment that will be new to you…thus making you a Newbie.  And, if you are newbie to that experience, be kind to a Newbie of a different experience.   Because,   just when you thought you knew what you thought you knew--there came something new!

We are all Newbies…albeit not all Novices.



(Chas Mills Productions) Sat, 23 Aug 2014 14:34:07 GMT