Camera Settings & Best Practices
Great prints. Yes, we are talking about printing, but it all starts here. It starts with your camera, and it starts with your technique. I call it field technique. Your field may be landscape photography, like we were talking about this morning. Your field might be portrait photography or macro or whatever, but whatever that topic is that you're photographing, make sure that you light it well and you expose well. You're gonna find really quickly when you make prints that if you've blown up the highlights, you've lost detail in the bird, let's say for example. I'm just gonna hold this little bird up here. This is an albatross. I took it about a week and a half ago in the Galapagos. And I can see the detail on these feathers. Very fine detail. And if you look very carefully at this print, you'll see that there's this blown out highlight area. Almost blown out, but it isn't quite blown out. So when you're taking your photos, pay attention to your histogram. Pay attention if you have a hig...
hlight screen. You know the blinky screen on your camera? Pay close attention to that 'cause if this area is blinking on the bird, it just becomes a white area on the print. You've lost that feather detail. So I'm always paying very close attention to my exposures. Tripod, I'll talk about that in just a second. Great camera technique is important. Your camera isn't as important as the technique. Case in point. Drew mentioned I've written a bunch of books. My newest book's coming out in December. Guess what the cover of my book was taken with? My cellphone. The cover of my new book was taken with my Android cellphone. And it's not 'cause that camera's especially fantastic. More importantly, it was the technique that I put into it. The methodology and the approach, the approach. So know thy camera well. Let's talk about some specifics. In general, I recommend setting your camera for the lowest ISO you can get away with. Low ISO. What does that give you? Well it gives you low noise. If you're shooting with a high ISO, you're typically going to introduce more noise into the photograph. So I always try to get away with ISO 100 if I can. That said, sharpness matters. Unless your intentionally trying to get a blurry shot. But most of the time, we're not trying to get a blurry shot. Let me show you this example here. Drew, maybe you can help me. So this one is one of my favorite birds in the Galapagos. This one is the red-beaked tropicbird. Red-billed tropicbird. And if we look at it. This part of the bird is sharp, but its tail feathers are a little bit blurry. And so I was using a thousandth of a second to get that shot. And in order to get that thousandth of a second, I had to bump my ISO up to probably ISO 400. ISO 400 these days is okay for most the modern cameras. Once you start getting up to ISO 1600, ISO 3200, and a lot of the new Nikon and Canon and Sony cameras will push out to ISO 25,000. ISO 50-something thousand. You're probably not gonna get great prints if you're shooting at those really high ISOs. I wish I had a little bit more shutter speed, a little faster shutter speed. So I didn't blur out the tail feathers. It's okay. It's real subtle. But one of the things you don't want, of course, is you don't want the whole bird to be blurry 'cause it won't print well. When you print stuff this big. This paper here is 17 by 22. When you print big prints, your photos have to be perfectly sharp. Like really sharp. So don't skimp on your shutter speed, and don't skimp on the ISO. You're always fighting those two things. ISO gives you faster shutter speeds, so. One of the things I say when I talk about field technique is use the ISO that you need. Don't be afraid of the high ISOs 'cause you can always fix a noise issue. Convert it to black and white. Then it's art. (laughs) Or use noise reduction software, right? Lightroom and lots of other software out there has noise reduction software. But you know what you can't fix very well? Blur. You can't fix a blurry photo. Although I hear Photoshop is introducing some new technologies to help us deal with blurry photos, but you get my point. My point is you can't fix blur, but you can fix noise. Next is depth of field control. So depth of field. That term relates to what's in focus in the foreground and what's in focus in the background. I wanna show you another image here that I took. This was also in the Galapagos about 10 days ago. So this one, look at that. That's really cool. Look at that mud, the cracked mud. Fantastic. And it's in perfect focus. And guess what? That mountain in the background is in perfect focus. And if you go right up to it, you can see the detail in that mud. Well guess what? I did not take this photo at F2.8, right? F2.8 is very narrow depth of field. So in my mind, I'm thinking, "Oh yeah, I need to use a small aperture." So I used, I'm guessing, F16 maybe on this shot. And I'm doing one more thing. In the field on my camera, I have what's called a depth of field button. A depth of field preview button. I'm actually clicking that on my camera. It's usually on the right side right by your middle finger or ring finger. And I'm checking at F16 if this is in focus and that's in focus. And I'm even going one step farther and using a technique called hyperfocal distance. I won't explain it now, but you can all look it up online. And I'm sure some of our other classes at Creative Live talk about that. I do wanna point out one more thing with this photo. I talked about sharpness and I talked about detail. Technique, field technique, also relates to how clean your sensor is. How clean your lenses are. If you look at this photo. I'm blocking this. I wrote on here what type of paper it was. But can you see up here? There's these black dots on the print. You know what that is? Sensor dust. And I didn't pay attention before I hit print to make sure that I cleaned off the sensor dust. So it would have been a lot easier if I just cleaned it before that morning. But now I gotta go back into Lightroom and clone that stuff out. So field technique also pertains to how clean your camera gear is. Next is shooting RAW. I highly recommend you're shooting RAW for the best quality prints. One of the big reasons why is RAW allows you to have incredible dynamic range. Bit depth. A RAW photo, when you take it in your digital camera, comes out of the camera usually at 12 bits of data or 14 bits of data. And then when you bring it into Lightroom or Photoshop, you can then kinda interpolate to 16 bits of data. A JPEG file is only eight bits of data. And I know that doesn't sound like a big difference. You know, eight bits to 12 bits. But it's a huge amount of difference in terms of pulling detail out of the shadows. And I'm not gonna go into all the details of that, but I just wanna show you what shooting RAW allows us to do. So this is a Sally Lightfoot crab. Sally Lightfoot. I always wondered who is Sally Lightfoot? Every time you go to the Galapagos, you see these Sally Lightfoot crabs all over the place. But a RAW file allows me to process this photo in Lightroom and pull out detail in the shadow areas. Whereas a JPEG file, a lot of times, the shadows are gonna block up. And that term block up means just kinda turning solid black. So like down here before the Sally Lightfoot, I see detail in the lava rock. Detail that you might not get in a JPEG file. The only way, I shouldn't say the only way. But you can produce great prints with JPEGs. You can. If it's exposed perfectly. And that's the key with JPEGs. You have to expose perfect. With the RAW file, there's a lot of latitude. With a RAW file, sometimes we get lazy with our exposures because there is so much data. We can brighten the whole thing up. We can pull up the shadows. We can push down the highlights, right? So RAW files give you so much flexibility. I've made a bunch of prints from other instructors here at Photo Week. I can guarantee you a lot of these instructors are shooting RAW files. Look at this photo. This is from another instructor. Unbelievable. It's just gorgeous. And I don't know how he processed this. Who shot this? This was Chris Knight. Christ Knight, one of our instructors here this week. I'm assuming he shot RAW, and if he did, it allows you to just have so much flexibility with your post-processing. Burning and dodging, and highlights and shadows, and texture and grain and noise. All that stuff. So much better with RAW. Life is better when you shoot RAW. So prints matter, RAW matters. (laughing) Let's talk about color space here real quick. If you are shooting JPEG, and some of us do shoot JPEG because it's fast and easy and convenient. Then I recommend that the minimum that you set your camera for Adobe RGB, 'kay? Adobe RGB. I just wanna show you. I'll move this camera here over so that the studio cameras can see what I'm doing on the back. I'm just gonna go into the menu system here real quick. So we go here to color space, and this is a Nikon. Specifically, it's a Nikon D850, but the Canons and the Fujis and the Olympus, most of these cameras have the ability to choose color space. So I almost always use Adobe RGB. Adobe RGB is a bigger color space. I'm gonna talk about color space a little bit more later in this class and also in the next segment. But SRGB is a smaller color space, and a lot of printers, like let's say a printer at a commercial lab, or maybe even your local big box store. We can all go to the local big box shopping center and make prints there. Those types of printers work in the SRGB color space. And a printer like this from Canon, which by the way, thank you Canon. Canon shipped out these printers for us this week so we could use them in this class. These printers have a much larger color space available into Adobe RGB and sometimes exceeding Adobe RGB just by a little bit. So if you want to maximize all the colors available, set your camera for Adobe RGB. I'm just gonna make this statement. If you don't understand it, that's fine. But in a JPEG, the color space matters because in a JPEG when you take the picture, the color space is locked in, 'kay? You're set. Whereas on a RAW file, the color space is just kind of information on the side. A RAW file is truly raw. You get all the data no matter what. So if you choose SRGB, if you choose Adobe RGB, you can change it later in the RAW file inside of your software package. So I won't go into too much detail there, but just know that in a JPEG, I think it's wise to choose the bigger color space. And now all of the camera professionals and printer professionals in the world are gonna email me with hate mail saying, "No, no, no! "You need to shoot SRGB! "You need to shoot Adobe RGB!" And they're right, and I'm right, and we're all right. Because a lot of times there is no perfect answer for this. But my opinion, shoot in Adobe.