Archive for May, 2009

Fire Your Camera from Your iPhone

Posted in Cameras, In the News with tags , , , , on Saturday, May 30, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

DSLR Camera Remote by onOneSoftware company onOne Software (famous for having developed Genuine Fractals, an industry standard for image enlargement) have announced DSLR Camera Remote, an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that will allow you to control your DSLR from a distance. Not only can you fire your camera, but with the Professional Edition you can control parameters such as shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc. It even features an intervalometer and self-timer.

This is newthink. And it’s not coming from a camera company (although the consent and collaboration of the camera companies was required in order to develop and release this software). While the app. only works with Canon cameras at the moment, onOne are already working on a Nikon version.

Now before all you iPhone toting Cannonites rush to the iStore to iPurchase this iApp, let me break the bad news to you: Your camera needs to be connected to a WiFi-enabled computer. Bummer. To reap its full benefits, it also needs to feature Live View; if it doesn’t, you can still control the camera and its functions from afar, but you won’t be able to see on your screen what the camera is seeing in real time (but you can still review a shot after it’s taken).

Remember that article I published long ago…on Tuesday: The Time Has Come for a New DSLR Paradigm? Amongst many other things, I suggested the addition of WiFi capabilities to cameras: How about shooting tethered to a computer…only doing so without a physical tether? How about doing away with the computer and controlling the camera from your phone? Looks like onOne are one step ahead of me (feel free to laugh at the pun); it’s reassuring to find smart, imaginative people out there like onOne that are using newthink to come up with useful technology.

Is this “remote shooting” a gimmick? I don’t think so. I can imagine a few situations where I would use such a device: At a party, wedding, etc., set you camera up high on a tripod (looking down on the crowd). You could do this with a remote trigger, but with this application you would actually be able to see the scene on your phone screen and you wouldn’t just be guessing at the right moment to take the photo. How about shooting wildlife up close? Imagine setting your camera up in a tree to capture a bird’s nest. You would be hidden out of sight (and out of the tree!) so as not to frighten the bird while taking pictures very close to the nest. This could also work for larger wildlife, say deer coming to drink at a stream. No need to remortgage your house to buy a 600mm f/4 lens, just set up your camera somewhere safe pointing at the stream with a normal lens and monitor the stream from afar; when the frame looks nice, click!

Of course, many of these scenarios only work if the camera doesn’t have to be connected to a computer. This is not onOne’s fault and there is little they can do about it apart from suggesting to camera companies that they equip their cameras with WiFi. I can see a profitable niche market here for the first brave entrepreneur who develops a WiFi add-on for DSLRs.

I’m sure you can imagine other situations where this functionality would be useful. If so, write them in the comments! And if you shoot a brand other than Canon or Nikon, maybe you should write onOne and let them know you would purchase this application if it were available for your camera brand. Ditto if you use a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone. While the people at onOne have big imaginations, they can’t read your mind!

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Epithets

Posted in Editorial with tags on Thursday, May 28, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

I bought a piano; nobody called me a pianist.

I climbed a mountain; nobody called me a mountaineer.

I caught a fish; nobody called me a fisherman.

I bought a car; nobody called me a racing pilot.

I started a blog; nobody called me a writer.

I calculated the tip at a restaurant; nobody called me a mathematician.

I made a sandwich; nobody called me a cook.

I cleaned a wound; nobody called me a doctor.

I bought a camera; and suddenly I’m a photographer.

Why?

The Time Has Come for a New DSLR Paradigm

Posted in Cameras, Editorial with tags , , on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

Let’s face it, DSLRs have made it as far as they need to go in many aspects. Nobody is discussing whether digital is better than film anymore (OK, most people aren’t), nobody complains about having to wait 5 seconds for the photo to be taken after pressing the shutter release, and nobody needs to take out a second mortgage in order to buy a damn good DSLR. Speed, IQ, ergonomics, resolution… The average APS-C, four-thirds and full-frame DSLR has them in spades. Despite the constant complaining typical of our species, the vast majority of photographers now have a DSLR that is as good as they need it to be.

But it can still be made better.

While it is true that DSLRs have come a long way and are better than we are photographers, there are still some problems that camera brands have not tackled, or even acknowledged. What I will write in this article is nothing ground-breaking, and no statues need be erected in my honour. I did not come up with all the ideas, many of which have been whispered amongst digital photographers for years—all I’m trying to do is put everything in one place. I do this with the hope that you will agree with what I’ve written and that when you forward this article to your photographer friends, they also will agree and forward it further, until somewhere down the line an executive of a big camera brand will read it and get his arse into gear. All we need is one brave company to do this, and the rest will follow suit.

I hereby declare it is time to enter a new era in DSLR design. How? I’ll tell you in one word: Modularity.

  

The Way Things Were

Let me tell you a little story: Once upon a time photographers used to have the ability to change how their photos looked by using different films. If they were going to shoot sports under a cloudy sky, they might pick an ISO800 B&W film; if they were going to shoot landscapes, they might choose an ISO50 Colour film. I know we now have this ability built in to our DSLRs with sensors of varying ISO and post-processing techniques, but in designing sensors that are jacks of all trades, we have sensors that are masters of nothing. I admit that they do a lot of things very well, but many of us wish they could do them even better, without compromises.

There was also a time when high-end cameras had interchangeable viewfinders, plus a whole host of focusing screens and motor drives to suit your particular needs at any given time. The point of these cameras was that they were customisable to suit each photographer’s individual needs. A fashion photographer has very different requirements to a sports photographer, and both have very different requirements to a proud dad or mum snapping away as the kids grow up.

Given today’s economic crisis, I strongly believe the modular approach would save money for both the camera companies and the photographers. On top of that, it would give us better cameras.

Let’s see how this would work.

  

Sensors

Maybe the most important part of the camera, the sensor is in charge of collecting those valuable photons. Sensor technology has come a long way since the days of 1MP digital cameras, and now is the perfect time to make them modular. Such a sensor would be interchangeable and would go into your camera in a similar way to the battery. But what is the purpose of an interchangeable sensor? The same as the purpose of an interchangeable lens: To adapt your equipment to the subject you are shooting. While sensors such as the latest all-around 12-15MP ones would still be available, there would also be specialised sensors for those with particular needs. Four likely options spring to mind:

  • Low Light: This sensor could be 6-8MP for APS-C (12-15MP for full-frame) and offer big pixels with circuitry optimised for low light shooting at high ISO. It would probably have a base ISO of 400 or 800 and be capable of delivering exceptional IQ at ISO12,800, and usable images from there upwards.
  • High Resolution: Landscape, fashion and architectural photographers would love one of these sensors. They would probably only go up to ISO800, but on the plus side they would go down to ISO25 or 12. They could also offer 14-18MP for APS-C (25-35MP for full-frame), allowing high-resolution photographs. Needless to say, they would be optimised for extremely low noise and exquisite tonal transitions.
  • B&W: Believe it or not, there would be a market for this type of sensor, not to mention an aftermarket of colour filters! A B&W sensor would have the advantage of not needing to mask individual pixels with red, blue, or green filters, therefore doing away with interpolation, which is how current sensors obtain colour information. Such a sensor would need less pixels to obtain the same resolution as a colour sensor, so it would likely perform very well in low light while still delivering great resolution.
  • Infrared: Like B&W, the demand might not be huge (although wedding photographers might flock to it), but this could simply be a B&W sensor with an IR filter on it. A firmware module would have to be supplied with it to ensure correct auto- focusing.

Smart camera manufacturers would offer discounted kits with maybe two sensors and one body, or a “professional kit” comprised of the camera body and all the available sensors. Of course, you could buy your camera with just one sensor and buy another sensor later on if you thought you needed it.

 

Bodies

Because camera bodies would be modular, we would have hardware options to fit every pocket and need. Given that they wouldn’t contain a sensor to make them obsolete within 12 months, they would have to be robustly built to last the long years they would be in service. I imagine each company would have to decide on the sizes of bodies they would offer; maybe small, medium and large for the wealthier companies, while the more modest companies would maybe just offer small and medium. However, it should be possible for each size to be spec’d to the pro level—camera companies need to realise that just because you want a pro-spec’d body doesn’t mean you want to carry a brick in you hands. Likewise, just because you have large hands shouldn’t mean you have to spend extra money to get a larger camera if all you need are entry-level capabilities.

 

Hardware

Here comes the interesting part, the bits and pieces that you can buy to customise your camera. If you’ve ever bought a computer online directly from a manufacturer (such as Dell or HP) you’ll know exactly what customising means. You don’t buy a computer, you buy the exact computer you need. You pick and choose every component and spec that goes into it, from the processor to the hard-drive speed. This makes sense because a user that just wants to surf the internet and write letters in MS Word has very different needs to a user that wants to play multi-player online games.

Here are some of the hardware pieces that could be available, divided into two groups: those that come pre-installed into the camera body from factory and those that can be changed by the end-user.

Factory installed:

  • Shutter: A professional photographer would need a heavy-duty shutter guaranteed to deliver well over 100,000 shutter actuations, while for an amateur 100,000 is probably more than enough and they could do with an average shutter mechanism. Maximum shutter speed is also determined by the type of shutter, as are frames-per-second (fps)—some people require 10fps, some are happy with 3fps.
  • Image Processing Engine & Cache Memory: How fast can the camera process images? That would be determined by this component. The speed is also linked to the shutter mechanism, as a shutter capable of 10fps (frames per second) requires a faster image processor.

User installed:

  • Sensor: As discussed earlier, this will be the major factor in determining what type of photography you have decided to focus on.
  • Focusing Screen: Some current DSLRs allow changing focusing screens, while others don’t. All of them should, as the needs of somebody who shoots mostly in auto-focus are different to those of a wildlife photographer who uses manual focus with very long lenses. Focusing screens should be available for every need.
  • Viewfinder: Cameras such as the Pentax LX boasted a wide array of different viewfinders to cater to every photographer’s needs. Let’s bring this approach back!
  • GPS: Used to geotag your photos with the geographic coordinates of the place they were taken from. Especially useful for landscape and adventure photographers. It could be added to a grip, or there could be a dedicated space in the camera body for it if using a large body.
  • Bluetooth/Wireless: Imagine being able to download your pictures to your computer without the hassle of USB cables or taking the card out of the camera. Imagine being able to upload your photos directly to your website or blog without the need of a computer. How about shooting tethered to a computer…only doing so without a physical tether?
  • Wireless Flash: While we’re talking wireless communications here, why not include flashes? The Strobist movement has gathered momentum over the last few years and many amateur photographers are no longer afraid to take their flashes off-camera and link them via 3rd party radio transmitters. Camera brands are missing out on so much revenue by not having proprietary radio controllers. Wouldn’t it be so much better if the radio emitter was inside the camera or additional grip? Wouldn’t it be nice if you bought a flash and the receiver was inside it? I know they have optical communication at the moment, but radio is more advanced and practical for many reasons.
  • Grips: Some people want the grips for extra battery life, while others would prefer to insert hardware into it (GPS, Bluetooth/Wireless, etc.). Make both camps happy by offering a grip with an adaptable chamber inside..

 

Software

The stuff you cannot touch, yet makes your camera work. Up until now there has only been firmware, which is basically your camera’s operating system, and it has always been controlled by the camera companies (except in the case of CHDK, a firmware hack for Canon P&S’s). The time has come for software to also enter the DSLR vernacular.

  • Firmware: Camera companies could come up with new and/or improved capabilities they could sell as a firmware upgrade. Remember that much of a camera’s IQ and image “look” depends on the firmware. Firmware development is much cheaper for a camera company than creating a whole new camera, so their return on investment would be very high. Plus, more people would invest in new firmware than in new cameras.
  • Applications: If camera companies would allow it, users could build their own applications for their cameras, just like those currently available for the Firefox browser, the iPhone or the BlackBerry. Why do I have to think of obvious things like this? Seriously, the first camera brand to allow users to create and share camera apps will sweep the market. Let me repeat that:The first camera brand to allow users to create and share camera apps will sweep the market.
  • Soft Buttons: Each photographer is unique. The same way we all have different shaped hands or favour one eye or the other, we all have preferences as to button positioning on the back of the camera. Because it is not feasible to manufacture camera bodies with different button layouts, there should instead be three or four buttons located close to the right-hand thumb that could be assignable to whatever functions the photographer wants.

 

Lenses

This element of photography has always been interchangeable, and it’s brought many good things to photography…so why not follow this example and make just about everything else interchangeable?

 

But…Can It Be Done?

There might be people thinking that the problem with this crazy idea is that camera companies will not make enough money if we, the photographers, are able to keep bodies for so long. I disagree. By making the body semi-perennial they are free to invest more R&D money on more important things…such as sensors and improved firmware, which they would still be selling and making a profit on. In fact, they could make the same profit, while photographers spend the same amount of money, and yet we the photographers would be happier and better equipped because we would have a single camera with various sensors to allow different styles/types of photography.

I believe sensor technology has reached a point where it is improving slower and slower, and photographers are no longer requesting more megapixels, but better megapixels. Like I said above, a lot of what makes those megapixels better is the firmware and image processing engine, so I could imagine sticking with the same physical sensor for a few years while upgrading the firmware to gain improved IQ, processing speed and functionality. I’d rather pay $200 for a firmware upgrade than $1000 for a new camera I don’t really need. Wouldn’t you?

Another money-earner for the camera makers would be lenses. Yes, lenses. With more money in their pockets because the latest upgrade cost $200 (instead of $1000-1500 for a whole new camera), photographers would be much more likely to spend that money on lenses. I predict that the possible (yet unlikely) loss in profits from camera sales that would come about from modularising DSLRs would be offset by the increase in lens sales.

Of course there would be engineering challenges, but challenges always bring about improvements. As it is, I feel the current DSLR market is reaching stagnation and could use a reboot.

 

But…Should It Be Done?

Yes. This is why: I want a camera that does exactly what I want it to do and doesn’t do the stuff I don’t care about. Some of this stuff is hardware, some of it is firmware. I know I’m not alone. Whenever any brand releases a new camera the forums are inundated with complaints about features left out or included. It is true that you cannot please everyone all the time, but if DSLRs are made modular in hardware and software then the number of people camera brands can please will undoubtedly increase.

 

If you think this idea makes any sense, and if you have something to add to the list of modular hardware, then leave a comment below expressing your support for such an initiative. I have hopes that maybe one day some influential camera company executive will read this article and think “hmmmm…this guy has a point!”

One can only dream…

Are You Bokeh?

Posted in General with tags , on Sunday, May 24, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

 

James Wei - Bokeh

©James Wei.

Bokeh, that misunderstood stepchild of photography… James Wei has a nice couple of articles explaining who’s bokeh and who isn’t. Check them out: Part 1 and Part 2.

Photo.net – Question of the Day

Posted in Cameras, Lenses with tags , on Saturday, May 23, 2009 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack

  

…or every day for that matter.

So you’ve gone out and finally upgraded from a Point and Shoot style camera to a D-SLR.  You’ve heard that you can do so much more with an SLR type body because you can change lenses. The SLR kit you bought has a a decent 18-55mm (Nikon, Pentax, Canon) 18-70mm (Sony) 14-42mm (Olympus) but all of them are f3.5-5.6 maximum aperture. They take good pictures but you want to take better advantage of the upgrade to an SLR.

Photo.net is a very good forum site with dedicated forums for each brand of camera. There are lots of sites like this that are dedicated to a particular brand. Canon shooters might go to Photography on the net, Nikon shooters might try Nikon Cafe or Pentax shooters might choose Pentax Forums and so on*.

So now it’s time for the question of the day:

“What lens should I buy?”

This question in all it’s various forms is posted hundreds of times every month. All asking for help from ‘more experienced users’ on what lens to get. This question is almost impossible for someone else to answer without some extra information provided. First it’s very much a personal choice based on what you want to capture and how you like to shoot. Second you have to be careful with the skills of these ‘experienced users’. Other shooters will have their own needs and bias toward one lens or another. Many will forget the 3rd party choices* like Sigma, Tamron or Tokina all of which offer some excellent options.

Macro house flyA macro lens can produce nice close up images with soft out of focus backgrounds

Before you post that question, you need to have used the camera with the kit lens for awhile. You need to determine how you have used the lens to this point and what things you find limiting. What areas you’d like to be able to shoot and this lens can’t now do.  I’d suggest you read an earlier article on exposure controls to better understand the various factors that influence the final image. Next you should look at your earlier shots and see what focal lengths you use the most often. Many of us will get a zoom lens and then take all the shots at the extreme ends of the focal range. Maybe a prime lens (single focal length) would suit your needs better. I’d also suggest that you consider the next lens as an addition to your camera, instead of a replacement.

Here are a few things you might ask yourself as to which lens might be a good addition to your kit.  Consider these and then you can ask a more informed question on a photography forum.

  1. Do you want to shoot Close ups or Macros? Would a dedicated macro lens be a good lens to add? They can be fairly fast (Sigma 105mm EX f2.8 macro or Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro) and also double as fast prime lenses that could be used for portrait shooting or street shooting.
  2. Are you shooting indoors or outdoors more? Possibly a lens like the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 will give you the speed and flexibility for both inside and outside shooting.
  3. Is low light an important factor (weddings, before sunrise, indoors)? Do you need a fast max aperture? So you might need a faster maximum aperture for indoor shooting in tough lighting conditions. Like the Canon L 24mm f1.4 or Pentax DA*55mm f1.4 or Nikon 85mm f1.8D.
  4. Do you like shots where most (all) of the subject matter is in sharp focus? Do you prefer shots where the subject is sharp but the foreground and background is Out of focus (OOF)? A lens that is sharp both in the center (most are) as well in the corners (some are not) may be important. Sharp lenses may not also render soft out of focus backgrounds. Zooms have a tough time with this. The design is to try and make the lens as sharp as possible across all focal lengths and as a result they may make the OOF areas look busy or distracting.  Generally prime lenses will do this better. Sharp subjects with better OOF blurred areas. Something like the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 isn’t considered the absolute sharpest lens (wide open) in this focal range (although few lenses are better at mid apertures) but can render a beautiful  smooth background to isolate the subject.

    50mm Prime lens stopped downA good prime lens can render very sharp images across the frame with excellent colour and contrast.

  5. What is the subject you prefer most? Landscapes, Street shooting, architecture, wildlife, birds, sports, chasing the the kids, flowers and insects? These different subjects often require different lenses and features.   Possibly a telephoto zoom like the Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX zoom will give you the flexibility and length to capture more distant objects. For sports shooting you might need a 200mm f2.8 telephoto or something even longer depending on the sport you like.

    300mm Telephoto shot of a Blue JayA 300mm Telephoto can get you close enough to some subjects for a sharp image.

  6. Do you shoot wide angle images most, or subjects that are further away that you’d like to get closer to? Do you need a super wide lens like the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 for wide shots indoors or of buildings? Would a long prime or possibly a zoom like the Sigma EX 50-500mm get those backyard bird shots you want?
  7. Is ultimate sharpness the most important consideration or the bokeh (out of focus blur)? A prime lens would be the consideration for the sharpest choices and a Macro lens (meaning the dedicated 1:1 versions and not the zooms that are really close up lenses) might possibly be the best overall choice even if you don’t shoot close ups very much. Macro lenses will tend to have a sharp image from corner to corner that can be better than most other lenses available. For the best bokeh, a lens like the Sony 135mm f2.8 STF which features 2 sets of aperture blades will produce the best OOF backgrounds.

    Sigma 105mm MacroA macro lens can render very nice subjects and backgrounds that isolate the subject well.

  8. Is a more versatile lens for hiking, travel and vacations more important where the amount of equipment you carry is a big consideration? A lens like the Tamron 18-270mm Di II could be the perfect compromise. Wide to mid length telephoto. For such a large range this lens and others like it can be a single lens solution where weight and cubic volume might be a large concern. We all like to fool around with the various lenses but if you are climbing a back woods hiking trail, changing lenses may not be practical or easy to do.

Another consideration with lens features is the shooting subject. If for example, you like to go to the lake at sunrise and get the early morning shots in that warm but difficult light, then do you carry a tripod? SR/VR/IS anti shake reduction systems, has made us casual and lazy. We assume that we can get the great low light shots hand held all the time and a faster aperture will be enough. Nope, a tripod is still a must have item for this type of shooting. So you might not require the fastest lens around to get the same results when using a tripod. Consider that for $200 or so you can get a decent basic tripod and go shoot in tougher light conditions. If you look at a mid speed 300mm lens at f4.5 the cost might be around $1000. The similar focal length f2.8 version might cost $3000 or more. I’m not ignoring the other benefits of the faster lens but for the sake of this discussion, a tripod is a very good investment in better pictures.

There are other questions you may also consider for your particular needs and you should consider what subjects you might shoot before getting the next lens. I think the kit lenses have a valuable place for both the new and more experienced shooter. For someone just getting into photography,  this lens offers you an inexpensive way to understand your needs and to learn. For the more experienced shooter, these lenses can be valuable as a backup to the kit, a supplement to a bag full of prime lenses or a lens that you don’t mind using when the conditions are poor (rainy day or dust at the beach) and you might sacrifice the lens to get the shots you want.

I hope this offers some guide lines in looking for a new or replacement lens. The choices are broad and varied. Forum members can offer some valuable real world advice but take it all with a grain of salt. You can’t account for their experience, background and frequency of use. Web sites with reviews also often offer some pointers as well but many times these ‘reviewers’ have very little time to spend a few weeks or months to do some real world shooting with each individual lens and learn the strength and weakness of a lens on a particular camera body.  There are some excellent sites and some not so excellent ones, don’t bases the entire choice on these sites.

Only you can make the final choice before spending the money. Like me, you’ll probably research a lens almost too much and once in awhile, choose the wrong lens. That’s what 7-30 day return policies are great for and beyond that, Ebay or Craigslist are good spots to sell a lens you got that doesn’t do the job. On that point, it you buy a used lens and decide it doesn’t work for you, it’s a good learning experience to expand your lens understanding. You can most likely resell the lens for close to what you paid and consider any difference as a ‘rental’ fee to expand your knowledge.

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack

*the linked web sites are for informational purposes only and not endorsed by ETL. ETL does not recieve any promotional advancment/funds for these links.

Why I Am Quitting Photography

Posted in Miserere's Photos, Photos with tags , , on Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

 

Because my photos suck, that’s why. What’s the point of going on if my photos suck? There is no point!

Oh, and how do I know that my photos suck? Because Acquine told me so. I don’t care what anyone says, Acquine is a precise, exact, computationally perfect machine that knows what is good and what is bad. And she’s decided I am bad. Oh the humanity…

Here are some of my photos with the score Acquine awarded them:

Freshly Rained
Freshly Rained – 28.4%

I'm Going to Eat You!
I’m Going to Eat You! – 56.3%

Caressed by the Sun III
Caressed by the Sun III – 1.2% (that’s my wife you’re talking about!)

Diana Looks Down
Diana Looks Down – 37.2%

The Sky Threatens
The Sky Threatens – 41.2%

The photo that sucked the least was, ironically, the one I used as the banner for this blog. But it still sucked.

Scratching the Sun
Scratching the Sun – 63.4%

Acquine-rated MasterpieceAnd so, I must hang up my camera and take on some other hobby. Maybe crocheting. After all, how can I ever expect to make masterpieces that score 88.9, like the magnificent artwork displayed here to the right? I know I will never be that good.

Farewell, my friends. It was fun while it lasted.

All photos not masterpieces: ©Miserere.

 

Addendum:
I just received this e-mail, which I thought might be of interest to my readers. I would like to thank Mr Taylor for offering me a glimpse of hope for my future in Photography. I will be contacting him soon to inquire about buying one of his cameras.

To all who are concerned in achieving lots of points and high percentages on a Photographic Critique.

The attached image shows a neat little camera I invented a few years back to satisfy all the insecure photographers out there that they would get only the highest scores possible by just entering the required amounts into the calculator back and taking the picture, BINGO a perfect score.

If your not having Photographic Fun anymore, try something else.

You have my permission to reprint this email if you think it’s worthy.

Regards,
Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor - Claculator Camera

Graduation Speech to the Class of ’09

Posted in Humour with tags , , , , on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

 

Just 1 week ago I was contacted by the New England School of Photography and asked to give the main speech to this year’s graduating class. It seems the important photographer they had scheduled had cancelled unexpectedly and they were pretty desperate to find a substitute. Given the short notice, I had to think quickly about what I would say to these young, hopeful students that could help them in their career and would stay with them forever.

The ceremony took place this past Sunday, and this is what I came up with.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’09,

Use a tripod.

If I could offer you only one tip for your Photography, a tripod would be it. The IQ benefits of the tripod have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the steady hands and clear eyesight of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the steady hands and clear eyesight of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos you took and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how many backup hard drives and slide boxes lay before you and how optimistic you really were. Your JPEGs are not as small as you think.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to shoot Olympic ping pong with a Holga. The real troubles in your Photography are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind-side you at 4 am on some idle Tuesday night before a deadline.

Photograph one thing every day that scares you.

Strobe.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s photographs. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Clean your sensor.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the internet insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old photographs. Throw away your old camera purchase receipts.

Tuck your elbows in.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what genre you want to shoot. The most interesting photographers I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their photographs. Some of the most interesting 40-year-old photographers I know still don’t. Get plenty of filters. Be kind to your lens hoods. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. Maybe you’ll get an assistant, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll switch to medium format, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll stick with film, maybe you’ll laugh at the old-timers when film is gone and you’re celebrating 20 years of shooting digital. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Half of your pictures are blurry. So are everybody’s else’s.

Enjoy your camera. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Shoot macro, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the instruction manual, even if you don’t follow it.

Do not read Photography magazines. They will only make you feel useless.

Get to know your local camera stores. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best models and the people most likely to let you practice your strobe portrait shooting in the future.

Understand that lenses come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in centre-to-corner sharpness and contrast wide open, because the older you get, the more you need fast lenses that auto-focus well.

Shoot Leica once, but sell it before it makes you condescending. Shoot Holga once, but sell it before it makes you artsy-fartsy.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths. Pixel counts will rise. Explorers of Light will philander with other brands. You, too will buy different systems. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were shooting with another brand, prices were reasonable, lenses were sharp, and customer service never put you on hold.

Use Photoshop.

Don’t expect anyone to buy your prints. Maybe you have unlimited ink from Epson. Maybe you’ll get a big gift voucher for MPix. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your digital files or by the time you’re finished postprocessing that shot of Yosemite it will look like craters on Mars. Be careful whose Photoshop advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Photoshop is a form of cheating. Using it is a way of fishing a crappy photo from the rejection folder, adding layers, modifying the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the tripod.

 

With thanks to Mary Schmich for her inspiration.