The Fundamentals of Digital Photography
With such labour-saving advances in digital camera and software technology, many of us are increasingly passive about photography, readily accepting the benefits of automated digital production without fully understanding the fundamental principles. We often view our photographic work only on-screen, making review, reflection and development much harder than it need be. Left to dominate, such complex technology can sap our energies and dampen our creative spirit. Through navigating this technology, we often forget the core skills of photography – that of picturing the world in a visually compelling way.
The Fundamentals of Digital Photography has a simple aim, to restore the guiding principles of great photography through efficient and effective technique, while cutting out unnecessary complexity. Once you’ve got good technique under your belt, you can focus more of your thoughts on tackling the visual problem in front of your lens. To help you explore the creative process we have included some images that have not have been taken using digital cameras, but are as relevant to digital photography as to analogue photography.
My experience of teaching photography has allowed me to observe many emerging talents. All of my keen photography students developed their unique picture-making approach by practice underpinned by a solid understanding of materials and processes. By shooting every week, you will build up your observational strengths and at the same time, explore the full potential of your tools. You’ll learn from shooting, reviewing your shoot and then shooting some more. Practice is the key.
Throughout the book, I’ll be suggesting that you follow-up your reading with a practical assignment, some of these will be short and some more time-consuming. These tasks are carefully designed to help you put fundamental principles into practice and help you better understand some of the more tricky concepts, which will make little sense unless you explore them with your camera. If you are student of photography, these assignments are ideal material for your research journal, where you can evidence your understanding of the key concepts in photography. I’ll be urging you to print lots of things out too – so you can reflect on your efforts, add notes, and keep them all together in a journal rather than scattered across a laptop, desktop or photo-sharing site. Printing will help you work out which images are your strongest.
HOW EQUIPMENT WORKS
The Fundamentals of Digital Photography starts with ‘How Equipment Works’, outlining all the major items of equipment that you can use to make effective photographs. Using jargon-free language to unpick the practical implications of choosing different kinds of kit, this section describes all the key functions common to most camera brands and models. Comparing a range of camera systems and lenses, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge of what’s worth investing in and what’s not, while being alert to the benefits of using the right tools for the job.
The second chapter, ‘Shooting Skills’, will guide you through the creative potential of using your camera to visualize great photographs. Here, I’ll be showing you how to create different emphasis effects using focus, depth of field and of course, learning how to frame your subjects through the viewfinder. We’ll be looking at how to harness the potential of auto-focusing, auto-exposure and all camera settings, putting you in complete control rather than at the mercy of technology.
THEMES AND THEIR WORKFLOWS
Once we’ve established a solid technical foundation, we’ll kick-start our practical work in chapter three: ‘Themes and Their Workflows’. Here, through a series of practical challenges, we’ll explore photography’s major themes, including portraiture, abstract, documentary and landscape. Alongside your shooting task, I’ll be asking you to follow a unique digital workflow that I’ve devised where you’ll learn the most effective route for transporting your image files from camera to the final print. Working in this way, you’ll learn how to adapt your practical skills to the requirements of the job in hand, and not to get bogged down in software processing.
After you’ve made some practical work for the first time, chapter four, ‘Project Development’, plots out the best practice for developing your ideas and giving your work a personal identity. Here, I’ll be showing you how to structure a sustained project, how to research your subject and how to learn from other photographers doing similar things. This research will be both visual and conceptual and will alert you to the many different ways of representing your subject or narrating a story. You might be a beachcomber type of photographer – seeking out, unearthing and recording the changing world around you. Or you might be a storytelling photographer – narrating important issues that touch your life. Or you might be more of a director – changing, constructing and structuring the very reality before your eyes.
The penultimate chapter deals entirely with post-production techniques, which photographers often refer to as ‘treatment’. Here, you’ll practice core software techniques for enhancing your final images for print. We’ll be exploring digital black and white, colour recipes and different ways of adding a visual signature to your prints, avoiding the superficial effects that can be found on millions of photo-sharing websites. You’ll be adding just the right amount of digital trickery to make your final images more alluring and you’ll be sourcing different materials that will make your work stand out from the crowd.
OUTPUT AND FINISHING
The book closes with the most important chapter of all: ‘Output and Finishing’. Here, I’ll show you best practice workflows for making inkjet prints at home, using online printing services and for getting the best quality photo books. We’ll also look at how to prepare files for use online and how to avoid destroying image quality in that final, most important step.
HOW EQUIPMENT WORKS
Digital SLR cameras
Medium format cameras
Using Adobe Photoshop
Image-editing software: Adobe Lightroom
Archiving your work
Assignment: Unique approaches
Camera quality settings
Shutter speeds and movement
Exposure and how to measure it properly
Camera metering modes
The lens and focusing
Depth of field
Composing your image
Seeing the world in monochrome
Assignment: 20 different views of the same thing
THEMES AND THEIR WORKFLOWS
Project: Traces and places
Project: Natural or man-made
Project: The street
Project: True stories
Project: Private made public
Project: The portrait
Project: Memory and the archive
Project: The social landscape
Project: Fashion story
Assignment: A sustained personal study
Deciding on the scope
Developing your authorial voice
Developing conceptual strategies
Devising a statement of intent
Doing the groundwork
Starting a visual journal
Working in a group
Making a practice blog
Reflecting on your shoot
Reviewing in Lightroom
Making digital contact prints
First edit prints
Assignment: Reflections on the archive
Core image editing
Assignment: Narrating the workflow
OUTPUT AND FINISHING
Packaging for inkjet
Print profiles – essentials
Using profiles for printing
Printing through an online mini-lab
Making a digital C-type print at a pro-lab
Photo book printing
Make your own photo book
Assignment: Make a pop-up exhibition
Acknowledgements and credits
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