June 2014

Is your photographer shooting RAW?

Most people who buy a dSLR camera to just snap the family and friends don’t care about complicated settings that need to be done in manual mode or all the post-processing of images on expensive PC’s using expensive software. Most people who own a dSLR are not professionals and like using the camera in Auto Mode. There is nothing wrong with using Auto, it is there for people who don’t have time and are shooting for themselves and are happy with what comes out of the camera, but when you are a hired photographer the rules change.

Is there any benefit to shooting in RAW?

Many people don’t even know about RAW, never mind wondering if it is useful. RAW is the unprocessed base image captured by your cameras sensor before it is processed internally and then compressed to the lossy JPG format. JPG images are bad for editing (bad bad bad). A jpg image to start off with (in Fine mode) is already 15% less quality (or more) than the original RAW due to compression. Once you edit a JPG and re-save it you lose a further 15% quality compounded onto the original 15% (more than 30% loss!). These are the simple terms and I am not going to bore you with the complexities of how JPG works.

In the example image the top image is a JPG image from the camera…the image below it is a RAW processed image. When you are hiring a photographer, make sure they are shooting RAW as it gives them the ability to do proper processing. Photographers not shooting in RAW are lazy as it does take a big longer.

NOTE: There are certain situations in which even Professional Photographers would shoot in JPG mode, but these cases are rare and will NEVER apply to shoots such as Weddings.

Lens Quality vs. Camera Resolution

I have often heard comments such as “Wow, you can take photos of the moon with that”, “That is a really big lens/camera” when people see me with my camera. I most often have my Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro lens fitted to my Sony A900 camera which is also fitted with a vertical grip. The Tamron 70-200 is a big lens for its focal range and when fitted to the A900 the set weighs in at an astounding 2.4kg. This may not sound like much, but carry that over your shoulder all day and you soon realize it is heavy! This makes a big and fairly heavy set, but why do I bother? Why not just use a smaller camera body and a small and light 18-200mm lens which costs less than half the price? Well, it comes down to quality of images I wish to produce with the option to enlarge.

The quality is in the lens

With a cheap 18-200mm lens I could still produce good images which will look identical to photos shot on the Tamron I use when uploaded to Facebook or when printed at 10X15cm (4″X6″), but once you start enlarging the images you soon see a difference. Even when you are perfectly focused on your selected point, a low quality (cheap) lens is never going to provide you the clarity you need for enlargements. A high quality (unfortunately also expensive) lens captures light with less optical distortion and dispersion which, when captured by a high resolution sensor, translates into a clearer image. This fact is not obvious when you print on small sizes or even upload the images to internet media such as Facebook since most of your uploads are low resolution. I could take a photo with my mobile phone and one with my top-end camera and the shot would look identical under certain conditions on Facebook, but as soon as you print an A4 enlargement the difference is huge.

Here is a sample of an image recently captured. The focus point I selected was the grooms left eye (on right of image). At full viewing size the image is good and one could argue that any camera could capture it like this. I could take a consumer grade camera from chain store and get a shot to look just as good, but would it enlarge properly? Click the image to get to the full resolution image to really understand this.

The Camera Body Captures Quality

I am sure you have heard the adage, “junk in, junk out” which is true for camera bodies. Even if you have the best quality camera in the world, if you fit a poor quality lens to it then the images will still not be that good. I would rather fit a great quality lens to a cheaper camera body than fit a cheap lens to a great camera body. The resolution of the camera means nothing if the light is passing through low quality optics which distorts and disperses it. If the optics provide you with excellent light then resolution of the camera will only determine the enlargement possibilities, not quality.

So why do people want high resolution cameras?

Most people want high resolution camera because of an oddity which occurs when you downgrade the resolution for display/print… fuzzy edges seem to become sharper!
What happens is that when you shoot an image with your 16mp camera fitted with a cheap lens and you upload it to Facebook it appears sharp and clear, but in fact the image is slightly blurry. This fact is not apparent because Facebook has dropped the resolution which compresses the pixels together and gives them the appearance of being sharper. However, when you print the image on A4 you soon notice that the image is slightly blurry.

This concept is sometimes difficult to understand so I will give an example. The image below is a representation of what you get with a low quality lens versus a high quality lens. The bottom half of this image shows what you would get from a low quality lens and the top half from a high quality lens. If you cannot see the difference it is because this is small image is displayed in low resolution as it would appear on a small print (10X15cm), but on A4 you will quickly see an image difference. To see this effect, click the image to view the larger size. It is exactly the same image and you are welcome to download this sample and test it at home. First print the image on a postcard size piece of paper (10X15cm) and then print it on A4 and notice the difference.

I hope that this article will give you a little more insight into why professional photographers spend so much money on expensive lenses and camera equipment and don’t just settle for those which you can purchase in a chain store.

Gerald Lues Cover Shoot for WOW Magazine

On 26 May 2014 I did a photo shoot with Gerald Lues from Gerald Lues Kitchens & Cupboards (082 926 3536) for the cover of the June issue of WOW Magazine in Klerksdorp.

Meeting Gerald was great as I immediately discovered a person who has as much passion for his work as I do for mine. Looking at the kitchen we were standing in you could not help to reach out and touch the surfaces and perfect edges. Gerald takes pride in his work and with reason. Gerald pointed out a few of the extra touches added to this kitchen for this specific client and it is here you discover that Gerald does not just build a kitchen to get the job done, he builds a kitchen for his client to enjoy which is perfect for that individual. Gerald has been creating kitchens and building cupboards for 10 years and the quality of workmanship and precision of his craft shows not only experience, but a special skill.

This is the final shot which was chosen for the cover of the magazine

Shooting magazine covers is stressful enough, but for this assignment for the WOW Magazine cover the setting was an upmarket kitchen. Even though the kitchen has great natural lighting, which is a combination of fluorescent and warm incandescent lighting, it was quite a bit of a nightmare from a photographers perspective. The colours look good to the human eye when you look at them, but to the camera sensor the mix of colour and colour cast on subjects creates havoc with white balance. The only way to get all the colours to mix would be to use a single large softbox and then blast out the other colours and allow only a tinge of the ambient light to bleed through. I would have loved to use 2 light sources, but with the limited space and multitude of reflective surfaces I had to keep to 1 light source. I used a 80×80 softbox with double diffusers worked great and the colour combination turned out great.

Shot on the Sony A99 with Sony SAL2875 at 35mm on f/8, ISO400, 1/50. (I chose 1/50 just so I could get a little ambient bleed)


Here is the final cover of the WOW Magazine





Contact details:

WOW Magazine Website: wowmagazine.co.za

WOW Magazine Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/WowMagazineKosh

Gerald Lues Kitchens & Cupboards: www.geraldlues.co.za


Thank you so much Angie de Abreu for letting us take over your home for the time it took to get a great photo of Gerald (and BIG thanx for the Coffee!). Also, thank you for the behind the scenes photo!

Here is a behind the scenes photo taken by Angie de Abreu