Student Q&A


One Hour Photo Featuring Colby Brown


Lesson Info

Student Q&A

Hello everybody, my name is John Greengo and welcome to One Hour Photo. This is the very first of one hour specials that we're gonna be putting on once a month here and this is kind of a bonus video to go along with the Fundamentals of Photography class. As you know, in the Fundamentals, I have my very elaborate key notes that takes us through a lot of the, well, the fundamentals of photography and I think that's really important for anyone wanting to get to know photography and getting to know their cameras, to know that skill set. But there's a lot of other things that can make you a good photographer, besides going out and actually shooting. And so I wanted to produce a one hour show where we can get together, once a month, and I can take your questions, we can take a look at your photos, and maybe have some other fun along the way. And so what we're gonna be doing in this very first version of the One Hour Photo, is we've got 10 questions, and these are questions that we've pulled ...

from the previous class, as well as the Facebook page from Creative Live, questions that you have about cameras and photography. I wanna go through and give some answers to those. And then for this first episode, I'm really happy about this, we have a special interview with Colby Brown, who's done some classes here at Creative Live, and we're gonna be talking to him, looking at his photos, and be talking about how he got to where he is now in the world of photography. And he's got some great images, so it's gonna be fun to talk about how he created some of those and maybe some advice that he has for all of you. And then he's gonna stick around and we're gonna look at some of your images in a photo critique section, and we're gonna talk about what we like, what we don't like, and maybe, most importantly, what we would do if we were in those situations and we were wanting to get that type of photo. Would I use this lens? Would I move a little bit to the left? Or whatever those things may be. And so I think this is a really helpful tool, a helpful way of getting better just looking at other people's work and then going through what worked and what didn't work. And so that's what we'll be doing in the third section here, the photo critique section. So to start with, what we're gonna be doing is looking at some of your questions. I get lots and lots of questions. And in the actual class, I only get time to answer one or two questions per section, and so this is a chance for me to go through and look at a bunch of other questions. I've been teaching photography and I've been in the world of photography for decades now, and so I know these questions come around quite a bit. And so I've picked off ones that I think are gonna be very valuable to a lot of different people. So first up is, where do I find the histogram on my camera? I have a Nikon d53. So, just as kind of a word of warning, we're not gonna be able to always address very specific camera issues in this class because this is only gonna apply to Nikon, but I thought I'd throw this in here because Nikons are particularly frustrating to me because they don't allow you to turn on the histogram until you dive into the menu system. You need to go into the playback menu under display options. And there will be a checkbox, so that you can turn on the histogram. So, menu, the display menu under the playback menu, and turn on the histogram option. And then when you go back to playback your image, on the back of the camera there's usually a four-way, up down left right controller, and I believe on most Nikons, if you go left and right, you'll go forward and backward through your images. And if you go up and down, you'll cycle through the different information tabs. So you do have it on that camera. You have to turn it on. And then as you cycle through your images, you would just simply go up or down, to look at that additional information. Next question. Talking about lenses, do you recommend to stay with the brand of camera you have? So, for all the manufacturers, they of course recommend that you stay with the own brand of lenses. And so if you have a Canon, they recommend you stay with Canon lenses. But there's a lot of other manufacturers out there that make some interesting options. And myself, I own predominantly the name brand lenses for that brand of camera. But that does not mean that's the only lenses I'll have. Sigma, for instance, as of lately, has been putting out some really, really nice, high quality lenses. I have their 50 one four for the Canon system, and I absolutely love it. I think it's better than the one that's offered by Canon right now. And so Tamron, Sigma, Tokina, those are all some pretty major manufacturers that make autofocus lenses, but there's other manufacturers. Zeiss and Voigtlander, and many more we don't have time to go into. And if you find it a better value, if you like the way it works, I would say it's probably not gonna be any sort of problem at all. It's not gonna damage your camera. There is a case, from time to time, where some of these lenses don't have the right chip, or the right information in it, and there is some focusing problems. Some of the older Sigma lenses were notorious not working on brand new cameras from Nikon and Canon, because they didn't have the right electronic information. They would then fix it on warranty. And so there is that one little slight precaution that you need to be aware of. But in general, whatever works, works in my mind. What is the best lens for food photography? I'm using a Canon 70D. Well, food photography is not my expertise, but I know the size of most plates of food. It's not too big. I think a good place to start is probably a macro lens, so that you can get in really tight. Like if you wanted to show a baby tomato, full frame on your camera, a macro lens will allow you to get in, but it also allows you to focus at a greater distance. And so if you're just trying to document the food, I think a macro lens would be the best lens. But if you're trying to do maybe more lifestyle food, like you want to show a plate of food at a restaurant, and you wanna have a little bit of the restaurant in the background, maybe a little bit blurry, you could be using a slightly wide angle lens. Full frame equivalent of a 35, or a 28 millimeter lens. You probably don't wanna get too crazy into the ultrawide category. And so, this can be very easily done with your kit zooms, and your very basic lenses, but if you wanna get closeup details, that's when the macro lens would come in. I have a lot of Nikon questions here. I have a Nikon DX 3300. I have the DX 18 to 55, and the 55 to 200, so that's the standard zoom and the telephoto zoom. I'm considering a used Nikon 35 one eight. Will that be a good choice to take on a cruise? Well let me forget the last line for the moment. With those two lenses, I can almost always recommend the Nikon 35 one eight. I think it's a great lens that gives you an option that you don't already have. And so, if you want a lens that has a faster aperture, that can be very good under low light conditions, that 35 is a normal standard angle of view, and that 1.8 aperture is, I'm not gonna do the math right now, but it's about four times faster, letting in four times as much light, than your zoom lens. Now, will you be using that on a cruise? I've been on a number of cruises, and I don't think that you're gonna get a lot of use on the deck of the boat with a 35. If you're wanting to shoot pictures, maybe in the dance hall, or reception area, it might be kind of nice for that. But when you stop, and you go into towns, like I've been on a cruise ship that goes in through Italy, and Croatia, and you have all these neat little dark walkways, that's when the 35 might be really nice. Especially if you get tired carrying around all your gear, and you just wanna throw one simple lens on your camera, to kind of force you to think and work in a certain style, I know a number of photographers that are completely happy taking their camera, and a standard lens with them, as they walk the streets. And so, I think it's a great third option. It depends on where you're gonna wanna use it on the cruise. But I like that three lens kit option there. How do I get sharp photos in low light conditions? Anytime I bump up the ISO and shutter speed, the picture is grainy. Well this could be a complicated long answer here, but I'm gonna try to keep it as short as possible. The first thing to do, is you need to figure out what is the slowest shutter speed that will work for what you're doing? And this is gonna come down to what type of action are you shooting, and how steady you can hold the camera. Let's just say for the moment, you're photographing dancers on the stage. And they're running around and jumping. In that case you're gonna need 500th of a second. But maybe if you don't take pictures while they're running and jumping, you do it more when they stop and they pose, you could back that down to 250th of a second, or 125th, or maybe even a 60th of a second. So it depends a little bit on the type of shot that you're trying to get. And so you don't wanna get an overly fast shutter speed. It's the slowest shutter speed that does the job that you need. And so, it's not the shutter speeds that are gonna really cause the problem there, and so that is kind of getting you setup correctly. When you bump up the ISO, all cameras get noisier. And it's just the fact of way the sensors work on the cameras. Each camera is gonna be a little bit different. On my current camera, once I get over 3200, it starts not looking so good. But I remember back in the earlier days of photography, once you got over 800, it started to look pretty bad. Cameras with larger size sensor. Cameras that are more current, are typically gonna do a little bit better, and so you might look at potentially some of the cameras that have larger sensors, or might be newer. But first, I would take a look at that shutter speed, and make sure that you're making the correct choice there. Also, you can also throw in the little idea that if you have a faster lens, you won't need as high of ISO. So there's a lot of different options on a way to attack this problem. But good question. How do you recommend testing your ISO limits on your camera? Do you use certain lenses, or is it different with different lenses? And so as far as your ISO goes, that's not going to matter from lens to lens. And so when I get a new camera, I do wanna see how good it is at different ISOs. And despite there's lots of companies, and websites that do testing. I kind of wanna do my own test, just to see how it works for myself. I'll set my camera up on a tripod, on an object that is stationary. I'll be very careful to make sure that I am focused exactly right on. So I'm usually using live view and manual focusing. But I make sure that I'm focused properly, and then I just shoot a series of photos, at all the major ISOs. 100, 200, 400, 800, and on up. I download them. I look at them in my software program. I usually use Lightroom. And then I look at them at about 100%. And I look at 100, and it's usually really clean. And 200, 400, 800's looking pretty clean. And then you start noticing the noise coming in. And what I do is I just try and remember, when does that noise start to really show itself? And then when does it get so bad, that it has really impacting the quality of the images? And for a lot of the cameras out there these days, that top ISO most people feel comfortable shooting, is somewhere in the 3200 to ISO 12,800. But it all depends on a case to case basis. What do you think about using auto ISO and manual mode, i.e. only ISO changes to balance the exposure? Well, as many of you know from my class, I'm not a big fan of auto for anything in the exposure world. But there is always exceptions to the rules. In general, I don't like using auto ISO. If my subject is under a relatively fixed, or non-changing light, and so let's just say I'm focusing on a soccer game. And they're out playing in the field, it's outside, and the light's not changing. I don't want the fact that my camera has panned over to an area where there's some dark trees, for the camera to go uh oh, it's dark, let's change the ISO on you. It doesn't need to be doing that, because that's just in the background. And so, if it's a fairly stable situation, and stable in terms of the light changing, I wouldn't wanna use auto ISO. If you are in a little bit more of a wild, changing environment, maybe you're doing bird photography, and the bird flies from bright sun into the nest in the shadows, and you need to have very different settings as it goes from the sun to the shade, that would be an excellent time to incorporate auto ISO. It's a little bit of a matter of personal preference. Some people leave their cameras in auto ISO all the time. But I like to be in manual, just to be on top of all the settings on my camera. I'm thinking about upgrading my camera in the next 12 months. Should I start looking at a mirrorless? I currently have a Nikon D5300. Well first off, the D5300 is a relatively current, very good camera. I think you're capable of getting very nice results out of that. If you are looking at a new camera, yes, you should of course look at the mirrorless. There's a lot of options out there. There have been more mirrorless cameras introduced over the last two years, than there has been SLRs. And so, there seems to be more and more options in the mirrorless world. And I have no doubt that in 10 years from now, most people will be shooting mirrorless, pretty much all the time. I think there'll still be SLR's for quite some time, but there's gonna be a trend going that direction. Now that doesn't mean you should rush out and sell your SLR. I have two of them, and I have no plans on selling them anytime quick. But the industry is going more and more towards mirrorless. They are attacking each of the problems we've had. They've had poor quality viewfinders, which are very good, and completely workable now. If you are doing a lot of sports photography, I would stick with your SLR right now. The mirrorless cameras are just starting to come up on par with your intermediate level SLR's. But, they haven't surpassed it at this point. At some point, I think they may. I don't know when that's gonna be. And so, it's an option. Look at what's out there. See if there's something that fits your needs. I'm looking to get a better camera. Should I buy a top of the line crop frame, or a basic full-frame body? Okay, this is a dilemma a lot of people have, because once they go through my talk on sensors, and I talk about how great full-frame sensors are, some people are saying, well maybe I should skip the beginner step, and get full into what I wanna get into. And, this is gonna depend a little bit on what you're doing, and how much money you have to spend. The honest truth of the matter, and I do say this in my class, is that full-frame cameras require more expensive lenses for the most part, and they're often a little bit bigger and bulkier. And so there is a price to be paid, and the first question you should ask, is does that work well for you? And I know a number of photographers, some travel photographers, that, okay maybe they're not as young as they used to be, and they don't wanna carry around as much equipment, they're shooting with crop frame cameras, because the quality is good enough for what they're doing, and it's lighter weight, and it's smaller and it fits what they're doing. If you are looking to get into photography professionally, look at what the professionals are using in your field. If you're gonna be a wedding photographer, yep, pretty much all the serious pro wedding photographers are shooting full frame. Gonna shoot professional sports? They're pretty much all shooting full-frame as well, because they're shooting under low light conditions. And so, it's a complicated question. I can't answer it in perfection, because I don't know the rest of the details. But those are some thoughts. There's a new version of my current camera. Is it worth the upgrade? And I've kind of paraphrased this one down, because usually they come in, and they're much, much longer than this. But this is a lot of, I see this a lot. And, I like to read reviews on new cameras. And one of the things that happens at the end of the review, is the reviewer always tries to say whether it's worth the upgrade from the previous one. And in almost every camera review I have read, they have said, it is worth the upgrade. And, I'm gonna call baloney on this. And that is because they do not know what you are doing with your camera, and how well it's meeting your current needs, and they don't know your budget. If you're having a hard time paying the monthly rent, no, you should not go out and pay a lot of money to get two more megapixels. And so I think this is an impossible question to answer. This is something that only you can, by just gathering more information. How much better is the new camera than the old camera? Is it gonna solve problems that you are currently having? Does it have features that you don't have right now? And I'd be a little bit careful about saying, "Oh it's got this, and I don't have that." Ask yourself, really honestly, are you going to use that? Because some people think, well, it'd be nice if I had this, and then they never end up using it. And so, in most cases, I tend to be a little bit more on the thrifty side. And, most of the time, it's not worth upgrading from model to model. I'll throw this out there. I think Nikon upgrades their cameras, a lot of their lower and middle level cameras, way too often. I think Canon is kind of guilty of this as well. Every time they come out with a new model, every 12 to 18 months, it is too frequent. There are too many changes, or there's not enough changes, and you should probably wait to an every other year cycle. I've seen many people using cameras that are five, six, seven years old, and it fits what they do very well. So you first have to address, does it fit what you are doing really well? So, hopefully that helps in making those decisions. I know that's always a tough call, and it's tough to answer that.

Class Description

Click here to ask John Greengo your questions for future One Hour Photos!

Every month, John gives you an hour of expert guidance and immediate feedback with ten student questions and ten critiques in this exciting new series we're calling One Hour Photo. John will also sit down with one guest photographer who will offer insights, advice, industry knowledge, and participate in a photo critique of student images, and this month's guest is Colby Brown.

In this hour, John responds to questions about lens recommendations for different types of cameras and genres of photography, photography tips for how to get great sharp images in low light conditions, the differences and benefits between auto ISO and manual mode, just to list a few.

Colby Brown is a photographer, photo educator and author based out of Eastern Pennsylvania. Specializing in landscape, travel and humanitarian photography, his photographic portfolio spans the four corners of the globe. Throughout his work, one can see that he combines his love of the natural world with his fascination of its diverse cultures. Check out his CreativeLive classes.