Sunday, January 11, 2009

What kind of Camera did you use?

Well I am sure many of you get the same questions I do, "What kind of camera did you take that picture with?" I know this has been debated on the net since the beginning of the net but I just had to revisit it. There are many views that the camera does not matter, it is the photographer and their vision. The other side of this debate is that the camera does matter as it influences the outcome and many would say in very fundamental ways. More so today this is true than in the days of film when only the lens and the film really mattered.

I am firmly in the camp that the camera is a distant second in making the image. Sure the right camera can make getting the image easier and less work on the photographer but it still takes the person controlling it to make it come together. Even in the days of film and darkrooms the print was always manipulated in ways to achieve the photographers vision and so the work only just starts in the camera. Just because it is digital nothing has changed, images always need
work out of the camera to achieve the desired look. If you are really in doubt I would suggest reading Ansel Adam's book's "The Print" and "The Negative" where he goes through the zone method he used to create his famous images and all the manipulations it took to create the final image.

I thought it illustrative to show the image that inspired this post. The first pictur
e is a scene from the pacific north west, lush green and showing new life coming from the old. The web is not capable of showing the full depth of color and range from this image that the print can. It still works to show the end point though.

The second image was the starting point. S
traight out of the camera converted in Adobe camera raw: dark and flat. The third with changes for color and tone but it still does not have the final openness and luminosity desired. Finally the last image was processed through a single image HDR work flow after the color and tone was set, opening the mid tones and creating the desired image which gives the same impression as being there that the camera did not capture.

1) Out of the Camera 2)Tone, color and shadows

A second example from a promotional photo shoot I just completed in my studio for an up coming theatrical play shows the sequence from in camera to variations on a theme. The second image shows the original concept with the cardboard box now made of wood (with a little digital help) the background is not so boring and some focus is on the actor. Finally some high pass layering more vignettes and grunging it up a whole lot. Lastly this is a variation without the other back ground changes to just grunge up the actor.

So which camera did you use? Does it really matter?

Alan Mitchell

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