10 things you should know about your digital SLR
4. Your Eyes Vs. Your Camera’s “Eye”
Our eyes are incredible light-sensitive devices. We can see a dynamic range of about 11 ƒ-stops. That’s why in a scene like this Mongolian landscape, I could see into the shadows, and the highlights in the bright clouds weren’t washed out.
Our digital camera sensors can “see” about five or six ƒ-stops. Therefore, it’s our job as photographers to work with that limitation to produce /images that look like the scenes we see—or at least look like we want them to look.
We can accomplish that goal by controlling the light and compressing the contrast range with reflectors, diffusers, flash and filters. Of course, we also can control the light in the digital darkroom.
The key is to realize that what we see with our eyes isn’t what the camera sees with its “eye.” Learning how to see the contrast range of a scene—and knowing how to compress it with accessories like diffusers, reflectors, filters and flash units, and how to control light in the digital darkroom—will make us better photographers.
In addition, seeing the light will help keep us from being disappointed when what we see in real life isn’t what we get on our camera’s LCD monitor, perhaps saving us from deleting outtakes that can be turned into keepers.
5. sRGB Vs. Adobe RGB And RAW Vs. sRAW
I’m a nut about capturing color—great color! In fact, when I’m out on location, as I was when I photographed this Masai woman in Kenya, I look for color and try my hardest to get good color in-camera.
One way to ensure the best color images is to set your camera to Adobe RGB color space. When you set your camera to the other color option, sRGB, you’re choosing a smaller color space, one with fewer colors. There’s an easy way to remember why sRGB has fewer colors: the “s” in sRGB stands for “smaller” color space.
That said, you might not notice the difference in the two color spaces unless you’re doing commercial work or making super-big prints of scenes with a superwide color and contrast range.
Let’s talk RAW. Some cameras offer both a RAW mode and an sRAW mode. When you shoot in the sRAW mode, your file is much smaller than a RAW file, meaning that there’s less information in the file. For example, on my Canon EOS-1D Mark III, a RAW file is about 10 megapixels compared to the 2.5-mega-pixel sRAW file.
For me, RAW is the only way to go because I want the flexibility of having that extra data in the digital darkroom.
6. ƒ-stop Info
When I first became interested in photography in 1975, there was a popular expression about how to get a good, extremely sharp picture with great depth of field: “ƒ/22 and be there.” The idea was that if you set your lens at ƒ/22 and had a good subject, you’d have a good chance of getting a good shot with the maximum amount of depth of field.
With digital SLRs, shooting at small apertures like ƒ/22 might not always be the best idea because pictures may look a bit soft. Here’s why. The aperture blades have the potential to deflect and bend light as it passes by them and scatters it as it heads toward the digital image sensor, so at smaller apertures, this will be more of an issue. At fairly wide aperture settings, the vast majority of the light rays entering through the aperture are unaffected—only those on the outermost peripheries are impacted by the aperture blades. The wide opening means that nearly all the transmitted light continues on its way, sharply focused by the lens.
I hardly ever take a picture at ƒ/22, choosing ƒ/11 as my smallest ƒ-stop, as I did here when photographing the interior of a church in Peru.