When you hear the term ‘fast lens’ it means that the lens in question has a large maximum aperture (the bigger the aperture, the faster the lens will be). The aperture is often displayed as an f followed by a number but do remember that a large maximum aperture will actually be a small number such as f/1.8. A fast prime lens would be considered fast when it has a maximum aperture under f/2.8. However, if the lens is 300mm or longer, an aperture of f/2.8 would be considered to be fast and the same goes for zoom lenses.
Let’s Talk Apertures
A bigger aperture (small f-number) will allow more light to reach the camera’s sensor which means faster shutter speeds can be used even in low light situations. They’re useful in various shooting situations including places where flash can’t be used, at concerts where there’s not much ambient light, indoors when you’re trying to capture movement such as dancers on stage and for subjects such as sports photography where fast shutter speeds are essential.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D lens, Different apertures: f/1.4, f/4, f/16. More on exposure and camera settings here.
You Can Work Hand-Held
Another advantage to fast lenses is that you won’t always be forced to use a tripod as the faster shutter speeds allow for hand-held shooting in more situations. This is something that’s particularly useful in places where tripods aren’t allowed such as in cathedrals or in busy locations where light can be an issue such as in a museum.
A downside to fast lenses is that they can be expensive and they tend to be heavier and bigger than other lenses. Care needs to be paid to focus when using autofocus as you may find it tries to focus on the wrong part of the shot, leaving focus on an area of the image that wasn’t your intended subject. It’s also worth investing in a good quality lens so images don’t appear soft when viewed on-screen.
So A couple of years back, Amateur Photographers list of possible presents for Christmas (I think it was) included a Fujian CCTV lens, all the way from China for under £20. I bought one, and it gives rather charming results. I can envisage a few glamour photographers buying them for a Sliver-like dont you like to watch set of pictures. (I remain a Sharon Stone fan.)
But you can have too much of a good thing, as I proved to myself when I bought a 50mm f/1.4 Fujian in the hope of even better things. And while the 35mm has faults that add charm to the Bokeh and dark corners on full frame cameras, the 50mm has FAR more of them.
Neither lens has click stops, and a diaphragm with plenty of blades changes from near-circular at full aperture to a long and thin rectangle when stopped well down before closing completely. There arent any index marks for either aperture or focus, so they might as well not be marked: though at least the 35mm lens has the f-stop sequence the right way round the 50mm markings, if you can see them, mislead you as to which way to turn the ring
It doesnt stop there (pardon the pun ) While the 35mm optic focusses to infinity more or less at the end of the focus movement, the 50mm goes way past infinity, and goes no closer than around four and a half feet: most 50mm lenses go down to one and a half feet, not one and a half meters! The package I received included a couple of extension tubes as well as the Sony mount adaptor, but these bring the furthest focus down to a few feet. It doesnt feel well thought-through.
Both lenses appear to be available still, at vastly varying prices, and I believe that theres another branding with the same optics in a more user-friendly lens body. AP reckoned that this was worth the extra money, at nearly double the price. Im less sure!
If weird appeals, for the price of a cheap meal out, you may want to give one of these lenses a go though unless you have gone mirrorless, you will never achieve infinity focus!
Sharp images are what most of us strive for and indeed are encouraged by a variety sources from advertisements of the latest lenses to picture library editors.
On the whole I like to see something sharp in an image as the focal point to draw me in as I explore the image. Not all of an image necessarily needs to be sharp (think differential focusing for example). Unsharp images produced by poor equipment or bad technique are no substitute for carefully considered and crafted soft images (something produced by a Lensbaby for example). Light and composition are still the important elements.
There are times of course when sharpness is a prerequisite. Scientific and technical photography rely on detail and clarity. NASA took the hit on weight by taking medium format cameras to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Faultless technique and competency with good equipment is necessary. Advertising photography makes use of top quality gear, such as Phase One and Hasselblad cameras. With most advertising being viewed on small screens such as phones ultimate sharpness isn’t of any benefit or great concern except for high end products. A soft and dreamy result may be what a client is looking for and that can be added later (it’s easy to make a soft image from a sharp original than the other way round). For those of a certain age the Cadbury Flake adverts of the 1970s epitomise that look (though for some the chocolate was a secondary attraction!).
Before the internet, photographic magazines would regularly publish lens test results. I guess they still do but I don’t buy them. Amateur Photographer would use the view from their offices in south London, placing one particular building at the centre and edge of the frame and showing enlarged sections of the frames for comparison. There were some truly awful lenses. With many enthusiasts shooting on colour print film and having nothing larger than small prints made I doubt edge softness wasn’t a huge concern. Stopped down somewhat and with solid technique acceptable results were possible with most lenses.
Old lenses (or ‘legacy’ lenses) are enjoying a revival for some of their optical qualities and imperfections as photographers look for something less clinical and more individualistic than the cold and clinical rendition of modern lenses. Landscapes and portraits are ideal subjects for them.
In the days of film you could choose to develop your monochrome film with ‘Acutance’ developers. What they did was increase the edge contrast between dark and light tones which gives the impression of greater sharpness. Useful with technical and architectural photography for example. There was no equivalent for colour film.
For any image that’s digitised (so that includes scans from film and print originals) there are various methods of sharpening an image. They all have their merits. The ‘Unsharp Mask’ which seems inappropriately named does in fact have its origins in the darkroom. An unsharp copy of a negative would be sandwiched with the original negative when producing a print. The result would be an apparent increase in sharpness. All to do with edge contrast. And the ‘Unsharp Mask’ tool does just that, increasing edge sharpness. Details stand out more clearly.
With this increased control over sharpness there is the spectre of over-sharpening. I think spectre is a good description as the result of over-sharpening is the stuff of nightmares and something you don’t want to see. Images take on a wiry look with halos around the edges of subjects. It’s often seen in poorly taken (or heavily cropped) images that someone has tried to rescue. Even a soft image looks better than on over-sharpened one.
So in most cases sharpness is an important consideration. What about those situations where nothing is sharp? Or at least critically sharp? There are some very successful images that fit this description and I don’t profess to be able to do such things well though I keep trying.
ICM (in-camera movement) where the camera is deliberately moved during the exposure produces impressionistic images. I do find it works better if you are sharply focussed on the subject to start with so there is some structure to the streaks and patterns.
Lensbaby lenses produce dreamy and blurry images and even the ‘sweet spot’ maybe isn’t crisp. But that’s to miss the point, it’s not about the ultimate detail.
Panning with moving subjects is used to obtain a sharp subject against a blurred background to give the impression of speed. If you take the shutter speed even slower you’ll come to a point where even the subject isn’t sharp but you can still end up with something that embodies the atmosphere.
It may seem counter intuitive, or even perverse, that a sharply focused, or at least as accurately focused as you can, will result in a better soft image than an image that’s unsharp to start with.
Keith (Dark_Lord to those who dont know him) posed a question about mobiles and models, and how the latter react to being photographed with the former. As it goes, Id asked a few about this, very specifically, after EPZ published my article on using a cameraphone for serious pictures.
Models are all individuals, and so I got a range of different reactions, and it may be a good thing that I dont remember who said some specific things notably the lady who said that a photographer turning up with nothing more than an iPhone would be shown the door in very short order!
The majority expressed some slight uneasiness about the idea, as it could be an excellent way for someone who is classified in the modelling industry as a guy with camera to cut his costs. An advance explanation that the said guy was doing this as part of a project, or because his pride and digital joy had died the day before would definitely help!
One very specifically said that she doesnt care, so long as the photographer pays she clearly understands that she is in this to make her living. One gave a very definite no! Others were more or less sympathetic, with distinctly more tolerance for someone giving advance notice and a credible reason. Putting this slightly more in context, you may want to remind yourself that quite a few models have a strong presence on social media of various kinds: Twitter and Instagram are part of their marketing.
And actually, this may horrify you a bit: its definitely not unknown for models to want to photograph the screen of your camera to post with a cheery look what I shot today! message. It could be part of your marketing, too, if youre interested in that, and have an account on the relevant platform. Marketing may not be quite the right word if youre not in photography to make money, but maybe it works if youre after the fame and glory.
Ive posted one or two Mobile Monday model pictures deliberately shot with my mobile this will work better next time I shoot because my very basic Vodafone own-brand handset has been replaced with an iPhone SE, with a significantly better camera in it. If Im cool, calm and collected, I can do that a week next Monday, when Im aiming to return to a studio with Misuzu, to produce a series of pictures showing just what we can achieve (and teach) in that setting. Watch that space
So, just how good is colour grading in Lightroom when you compare it with the colour grading technique you can use in Photoshop? To find out, we’ll be putting both pieces of Adobe software head-to-head to see which comes out on top.
In the latest round of updates to Adobe’s line-up of software, an improved Colour Grading tool, that replaces the Split Toning tool, was added. The new Advanced Colour Grading tool gives photographers more editing precision by adding colour control for mid-tones in addition to highlights and shadows which can be adjusted via colour wheels.
Now, we’re all for improvements but just how good is the new tool? And does it do a better job than the already well-known method for colour grading in Adobe Photoshop? These are the questions The School of Photography are asking in their newest photography tutorial where they show you how to colour grade in Lightroom as well as put the two techniques head-to-head in an Adobe colour grading competition.
Before we get onto what The School of Photography thinks, we should probably cover off what exactly colour grading is and, basically, it’s just when you change/enhance colours in an image to create a certain mood/feeling and to just generally make a photo more aesthetically pleasing. It’s something that’s used in cinematography a lot so once you see it, you’ll probably recognise the effect.
Lightroom Colour Grading – Paola Franqui ‘Coat And Hat’
As for which is better at creating the effect, Lightroom or Photoshop? The School of Photography says this will depend on what you want as if speed is of the essence Lightroom is your tool of choice but for more complicated edits, always reach for Photoshop.
“If you want a quick, easy and somewhat effect approach to colour grading, Lightroom will do the job fine. If you want a more professional, refined look, particularly in portraiture, Photoshop is where to go,” The School of Photography.
You can see side-by-side comparisons of images colour graded in Lightroom and Photoshop over on The School of Photography website where they also go into more detail on how the effects are created.
Lightroom Colour Grading – ‘Vintage Cat’
For more details on the latest Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop updates, take a look at our update.
You’ve probably purchased one or two things from online retailer Amazon but did you know that the shopping giant offers a paid-for membership level that gives you access to loads of benefits? There are actually so many perks to having a Prime membership that we thought we’d outline them for you in a handy guide. Plus, you’ll also find information on pricing, how you upgrade to Prime and Prime Day.
What Is Prime & How Much Does It Cost?
Amazon Prime is a membership Amazon customers can sign up for to gain access to a variety of benefits. It’s priced at £7.99 a month, and you can cancel it at any time. There’s also a Prime Video membership which is available for £5.99 a month but this just gives you access to the movies and TV shows Amazon streams.
There’s also a Family plan available that allows you to share certain Amazon Prime benefits with your household and one for students that give those in education access to a 6-month free trial.
What Do I Get With A Prime Membership?
Unlimited Photo Storage
The most useful Prime Membership feature for photographers is the access to cloud space called Prime Photos where you can store an unlimited amount of photos. You can also share and view the photos from multiple devices and the photos that are stored are at full resolution so you won’t be disappointed in the image quality. Plus, you can safely delete images from your mobile, creating room to take even more images, in the safe knowledge that your photos are backed up.
Unlimited One-Day Delivery
Prime Members get access to Unlimited One-Day Delivery on millions of eligible items so if you suddenly realise you need a memory card, for example, you can press the ‘Buy Now’ button and know it’ll arrive the next day. Plus, in select residential postcodes, Same-Day Delivery is available with Prime Now, offering 2-hour delivery!
Unlimited Reading On Any Device
Prime Reading gives you unlimited access to a rotating selection of more than a thousand books, current magazines, comics, Kindle Singles, and more. This means that you can find a photography themed bestseller and read it on the train or download a photography technique book that will help you brush up on your Lightroom, Photoshop and landscape photography techniques.
Prime eligible items are clearly marked. Just look for the Prime logo (shown right) when you shop.
Early Access To Lightning Deals
Lightning Deals are available all day and every day over on Amazon.co.uk and this includes the camera, electronic and software sections of the site. By signing up to be a Prime Member, you’ll get access to the deals before non-members so you’ll be the first to find the best daily deals.
Other Perks Of Amazon Prime
These aren’t photography related but they’re still nice things to have access to:
Stream two million songs. Thousands of playlists and stations. On-demand, ad-free music streaming.
Bonus game content with Twitch every month, exclusive discounts, plus loads more.
Prime Day – an exclusive shopping event for Prime members
Amazon Prime members, including customers enjoying a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, will have an exclusive 30-minute early access period to all Lightning Deals running on Black Friday.
What If I’m Unsure If Prime Is For Me?
Amazon Prime is available on a 30-day free trial so you can see if the membership is something you’d benefit from before parting with any cash. After the free trial, you will be charged for Prime Membership on a monthly basis but you can cancel this at any time.
Top Tip: Sign up for a free trial at the start of July and take advantage of the Prime Day Deals that will go live in July. We don’t know the full details yet but we will announce the date as soon as we know it!
The simple answer is to ensure that theres some thoughtful and positive feedback on images in the Critique Gallery. The nuts and bolts vary from one member to the next, and what follows is a (fairly) methodical record of what I do. Other members of the Team may well do something slightly different.
First, a couple of times a day, I check the Critique Gallery (hereafter CG) for new images. If there are any, I look at them, and at the narratives that the photographers have put with them. (When you upload, the site asks you, very specifically, to say what you want comments on, and why you think the image has worked or not. We encourage introspection as a first step to improvement.)
I check the EXIF to see if there are any actual or potential technical issues in there (for instance, if you shoot in Program mode, you cant exercise creative control of depth of field or movement blur).
And, of course, I check the image itself. As a rule (but remember rules were made to be broken) the first things are that the image should be well-exposed and sharp. These are basic, like driving with your eyes open, and on the correct side of the road, unless theres a particular creative reason for something else.
I check composition, to see if it makes sense it doesnt have to be conventional, but it does need to have a point. Im entirely happy with a portrait with the subject at the edge and looking out of frame if that adds to the narrative. Otherwise, thirds, S-curves, leading lines and so on provide a basic structure for something that is reasonably pleasing.
And I look at any special processing techniques. Now, this is a bit of a Marmite area: some people dont believe that they have made a photograph unless theyve processed for hours. My touchstone articulated by Moira (mrswoollybill) some years ago is that the effect should not overpower the image. Someone described Sean Connery as wearing a Clan McNoticeme kilt at a Scottish event. McNoticeme processing is a turnoff.
I also have a few personal hot buttons these include (but are not limited to) faux HDR effects, plastic skin processing, oversharpening to the point of creating wiry edges, and unfeasible softness added in processing. (Thats where area the same distance from the camera are not equally sharp, or where sharpness is selective through the frame in a way that no real lens could achieve, with or without the Scheimpflug Principle.) In fact, these all tend to fall under the heading of McNoticeme
A final thing for me is processing that comes out looking like the sort of the print I hide in the bin if I produce it in the darkroom. Grey and lacking contrast, soot and whitewash without justification, or with light leaks and dust marks all over the place. Others will tolerate these more! But years of working to minimise them in my darkroom printing have left their mark
After analysing, Ill comment appropriately, and sometimes, if I can see a way to improve things, Ill do a mod. I try to be kind if theres a hard lesson to learn, I aim to say it, but gently. People respond to encouragement, so a this is good, that could be better, and this is lovely format works well. Those versed in interpreting managementspeak will recognise that theres a common name for this, but its not as polite.
One final step: I set the notification marker before posting my comment, and I check my notifications at least twice a day. Its really important that when the poster responds to comments, the people who offered critique reply reasonably fast. If we can get a conversation going, thats all to the good.
And linked to that: if youve posted an image in the CG, please go back and see what people say, and respond to the comments. A terse thanks guys doesnt really cut it for me it makes me think that the twenty minutes I spent on a detailed analysis may not have been optimally employed, shall we say. I really appreciate proper engagement, even if you dont agree with me. Did I say something negative about something that you had no control over, but didnt include in your description? Thats fine: say it, and explain. We may be able to move things on at a deeper level.
For all the civilians out there the CG is for you, too both to post images and ask for help if you want it, and to offer your views. It doesnt matter if youre not technically advanced: sometimes, the important thing about a picture is the emotional impact. And you can feel that, whether or not you know how to increase depth of field or get water droplets pin sharp!
Pincushion distortion is the opposite of barrel distortion, as the lines bow inwards. The effect is usually quite subtle and can only really be seen in square or rectangular objects when they are shot straight on, such as architecture with windows and doors, and other straight lines. This effect tends to be more of an issue in long telephoto lenses. Pincushion distortion is a lot less pronounced than barrel distortion and so it is often not noticeable in images unless you look really closely. However, it can also be corrected quite quickly and easily in photo editing software. The majority of modern cameras will provide built-in options to correct for this as well.
Extreme example of pincushion distortion, from an uncorrrected image, from the Sony E 18-105mm lens – you can see corrected versions in the review.
What is Mustache distortion?
Mustache distortion is basically a combination of barrel and pincushion distortion. Some lenses display both at the same time. It is most commonly seen in wide angle zooms and makes straight lines in images appear wavy. It can be noticed on the horizon, for example when photographing seascapes, particularly if the horizon is near the top or bottom of the frame.
What is Chromatic Aberration?
Chromatic Aberration creates colour fringing on an image, usually around the lines and edges on the image, but it can also be present in other areas of the shot, where there are areas of high contrast, for example a black tree branch, against a bright sky. It usually appears as a purple, glowing halo giving “purple fringing”, or can appear as red/magenta lines, often with green/cyan lines as well.
An example of chromatic aberration can be seen above, note the megenta and cyan / green lines on the edges of the window frame. You can see an example of purple fringing below, where the gravestone is up against a bright (blown out) sky.
This can often be corrected either in camera automatically in modern cameras, or in photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Lightroom.
Purple fringing can be seen around the top of the gravestone.
What is Vignetting?
All lenses have a little vignetting – it’s the term used when the image is darker at the edges than in the centre, due the curvature of the lens. Vignetting can sometimes be used to your advantage as a stylistic tool, to highlight the main aspect of your image in the centre. Most modern cameras will automatically correct for vignetting, depending on the lens used, and this can be corrected in photo editing software quickly and easily, or alternatively added to give a creative effect and style to your photo. See our guide on how to add a vignette to a photo in Photoshop.
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