Week 3 / Project 1

Photography FRESH START

Week 3 / Project 1 – Learn Your Gear and Stop Worrying About the “Tech”

Like it or not, photography is a tech based activity. And so many times, the tech is what holds us back.

Well, this week we’re going to look at our gear, and settings, and lenses and all of those things that you maybe wonder about. Is one lens sharper than another? When does MY CAMERA really start to show me noise with higher ISOs?

Techie things, along those lines, that cause us to take pause when we’re out shooting and should really be concentrating on the photo in front of us.

As always, share your thoughts and results in the comments below. This should be fun to see what everyone’s results are. 

DOWNLOAD: Click Here to Download PDF mentioned in Part 1 video

Part 1 – Photography Project

Part 2 – Examing the Photos From Part 1

32 Comments

  1. Kathy

    This was very helpful! I have avoided doing these tests for years (too boring) but I really got some good insight into my lenses and will probably do the tests again every so often, assuming I have a good audiobook to entertain me while I shoot. Good lesson. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Bonnie

    Hey Matt. You say you aren’t a “photographer”, you are. Your photos are beautiful. I think maybe you meant you aren’t a pro selling your photos. This is why I like how you teach. Pro photographers are over my head, I don’t need to be that good. I am not trying to be a pro and sell photos. It’s my hobby. I want my photos to be great but as you said, I don’t care if people zoom in and see a little flaw. I also prefer jpg if I can get away with it. I do not like spending my day trying to edit photos. I want to spend my day enjoying photography. I want to get as close to right in the camera and not worry about little things. So this exercise is great for me. I will learn so much doing this that will make it easier to use my equipment to it’s max potential and have photos that don’t require a ton of editing. I know some people enjoy editing, I don’t. I like your attitude about not needing to be perfect. I do have a question for you as you were talking about the sky and the sky is obviously a challenge in photography. What makes the vignetting in a deep blue sky and how can I avoid it? Not sure what change to make in exposure or if it is even possible to avoid in camera.
    Hoping for some brighter days instead of dark dreary winter days here in NY state so I can shoot. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Bonnie – thanks for the message. Not sure what I said, but yes I am a photographer. Honestly, I don’t care much what anyone calls me 🙂
      But yes, I’m not a pro photographer making a living off of it.
      As for vignetting in the sky, it usually has to do with the lens you’re using and is a natural effect of a lens. Shooting in raw allows you to use the Lens correction panel to correct it. Also, having filters on can make it worse so be careful using filters on a wide angle lens. Hope that helps.

      Reply
      • Bonnie

        Thanks Matt

        Reply
  3. Dan Maks

    Thank you Matt. You have me excited and ready to work. Just retired and decided to make an investment in my favorite hobby, upgrading my camera, as well as buying a couple of “faster lenses” adding to my tried and true existing group. You are correct I need to see what is best as well as what is different. We shall see, but you have me motivated.

    Reply
  4. Norman Soskel

    Having watched these from the first one in the series I have to applaud you for doing this. These videos/topics are much more than “how to take pictures” and emphasize the more human side of creating art with a camera, the mindset behind taking pictures, etc. Thanks for putting this out there, Matt. Wish I could attend another workshop with you. The Costa Rica trip really helped Judith and I a great deal.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Norman! Tell Judith I said hi!

      Reply
  5. Sharlotte Coker

    Thank you again for all these videos.

    Reply
  6. Lee Fuller

    Having just moved from Canon 5D iii to R, I was interested in the low light performance of the
    R. As a result of my testing, I now don’t hesitate to use Auto ISO up to 12,800 without being too concerned about noise. And Thanks to your comments about the jpg format, I now use that for most of my family and personal photos, saving lots of disk space.

    Reply
  7. Sharon Brownlow

    This is what I needed. I have been thinking about focus stacking for quite a while, because there have been times when I think it would be really effective. I made a point to read some tutorials on how to set up my camera for focus stacking. Took camera and tripod out to our horse pasture between rain storms and took several sets . Looking at my pictures in LR later I noticed on a few of them I needed more shots, or the width of the shots should be a little smaller. Doesn’t matter, I started the process of figuring it out and now feel pretty confident about going forward with it. I shot at f/8 and comparing the merged image with the single image it was pretty dramatic, and that was with just 3 shots. I merged them on Photoshop, but I have also read about a few other programs that may do better. If you Matt or anybody else has any feed back on this I would appreciate it.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Sharon – just keep in mind that if you’re comparing a focus stack of 3 photos, and comparing the same image shot at f/8, you won’t have the front to back sharpness. You’d have to shoot it at around f/16 to get that. At the end of the day though, if you see the difference and want to put in the time to do it definitely go for it. I just want to make sure you’re not basing your sharpness comparison on a landscape photo shot at f/8, like you said your focus stacked photos were. Thanks!

      Reply
      • Sharon Brownlow

        Yes, I understand that now and some other settings I messed up. The camera part is actually pretty easy since my camera has the Focus Shift feature, but the best part for me was understanding how to bring the images from Lightroom and then merge them together in Photoshop. I certainly won’t do this a lot, but I always wanted to do it when photographing the wildflowers at Mount Rainier. Now I just need to wait for August. Thanks for your response.

        Reply
  8. Bill

    1- Shoot an over and under …
    2- Lens Focal Length Test
    Etc., etc.,etc …

    Who didn’t know that stuff already???
    Who knew it, never took the time to do it, but will now? Me!

    Thanks Matt

    Reply
    • Jim Lassoie

      MattK is great at kickin’ my butt and getting me to do things I know but avoid. Think camera insurance. This includes his advice on cutting through the all the BS about buying stuff and thinking you’ll be a better photographer! His editing avvice in ON1 is always spot-on too. He and Hudson Henry are my favorite teachers as they offer reinforcing but different perspectives to our art. Keep rockin’ in the free world!

      Reply
  9. Helen

    Enjoying the course! This week’s lesson has taught me to….relax and stop fretting!

    Reply
  10. John A Pascucci

    Matt
    Really enjoying the Fresh Start series. I did some of the tests but still have more to do. Doing the lists in the earlier lesson is a project i will be working on. Thanks for a great series.

    Reply
  11. Larry

    Good job Matt. Mostly I’m too lazy to do these tests. At least up until I need to. I admit to reading reviews though to find out if I want to purchase an item. I guess I could borrow one and test it myself.

    As far as Jpg’s go, I just hate shooting Jpg. I can’t stand the thought of inadvertently throwing away data that was hard to come by or possibly unique. In fact I use the “blinkies” to know when I have a good exposure. I put it to the right until I get at least something blinking, which I know I can recover in post if I don’t go too far. The only time this really doesn’t work for me is in really low contrast scenes, White Sands, in fog for example.

    I’m in the position that you created these videos for though. I have very expensive cameras, and glass, but am going on a long trip that will be physically demanding and can’t afford to carry all that. So I’m looking at m4/3 for equipment that may not be the “very best” but manageable, while still give me “acceptable” results. I’ve switched from which is “the best” to which is “good enough”. Rather a different mindset but along the lines I think you are going with these videos.

    Reply
  12. Anne Sandler

    Hi Matt
    I think this lesson is important. Where were you when I started shooting 7 years ago! I did the routine of asking every photographer I saw. when on an outing, what their settings were. Of course, that was a waste of time. I now tell new photographers to just test their own camera! I’ve tried focus stacking and don’t care for it. I’ve tried most of what is on your list except for mirror lock up and color spaces, which I will test this week. Thanks again for doing this series!

    Reply
  13. Julie Picardi

    Matt, you continue to amaze me with your knowledge of software. I wish you could airdrop Photoshop into my brain! Lol. Another jewel I picked up – comparing images using layers in PS. I know this was not the focus of your video, but for me I am tickled to gain another valuable PS tip. The outcomes of your experiments are for me, a lagniappe and very interesting as well. Thank you for putting this together. All of it is so helpful.

    Reply
    • Marty Shirey

      Matt,
      Thank you so much for this video. I’ve wanted to do this before but I could never get organized to do it. Your process will be easy to do now. I got the same tidbits as Julie P. above.

      Reply
  14. Julie Boyle

    Another interesting video. I like going over this info as often as possible as when I get out into the scene I still have trouble sometimes in working out what I need to do. Thanks for making it easy to understand.

    Reply
  15. Philip Zwick

    Matt, you are using all high quality lenses. I did what you suggest a few years ago with a Canon 70-300 mm lens versus a Canon 70-200 mm F/4L lens. I found that I could crop the L lens at 200 mm to match the 300 mm from the other lens and the cropped image was much sharper. With a lower priced Sigma 25-250 mm lens, there was an even greater difference. Which is why I sold the 70-300 mm lens.

    Reply
  16. Virginia Jamieson

    Hi Matt: Thanks so much for taking the time to show us how to compare the various settings on our lenses, camera to compare sharpness, noise, etc. I’ve often read about doing this but never bothered myself to do it. Great exercise! No matter how long you’ve been shooting, its good to “know your numbers”.

    Reply
  17. Judy Belanger

    I am enjoying this series a lot Matt. Thanks for all the great information. I now have a better understanding of the technical aspects of lenses in regards to sharpness and a better understanding of ISO and aperture.

    Reply
  18. Lisa Erdberg

    I’m curious why you use Photoshop layers to compare images rather than just using the compare view or survey view.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Just easier and more accurate – for me – to have them on top of each other rather than next to each other.

      Reply
  19. Loretta Fran

    Hi Matt, This is quite a coincidence. I’m taking a 1-1 class with a local photographer and first class, last week, was get familiar with your camera and lenses. Mine’s a Sony a6300 and several lenses. Practicing shooting in manual focus and shutter speed mode. I’m finding that one of my biggest problems is trying to remember everything I want to check before taking a picture–i.e., what is shutter speed, what is aperture, and what is ISO. And what do I want them to be regarding depth of field, sharpness, etc. Think I’m not being thoughtful enough before doing the shot. Doing what you’re suggesting re lenses, aperture, focal length, and realizing just how much more thought I have to do before taking the shot.

    Reply
  20. Neal Rattican

    Year-old video; timeless advice. Thanks, Matt.

    Reply
  21. Bill Bentley

    Hi Matt. Regarding RAW vs. JPEG and sharpness. No mention of checking camera settings before conducting the test? If “in-camera” sharpness is +1, +2, -1, -2, etc. this will affect the look of the JPEG file, correct? In order for it to be an apples to apples test for sharpness, ISO, etc, ALL in-camera settings should be set to ZERO value first, correct?

    Reply
  22. RD Parker

    After an email exchange we had on noise and de-noising, I took my Canon APS-C and FF camera outside with a tripod and a 50mm prime lens to shoot 3 objects in various light using 100 to 6400 ISO. I probably had 500+ images and then used 5 different denoising products (techniques) to look at the results using 3 different brands of graphics cards. After I re-surfaced 3 or so days later, I am now comfortable with ISO levels when out taking photos outside using AUTO ISO. I can look in the view finder and have a sense of the noise effect. Since my results are peculiar to my setups, I will not publish my results. Also, in some cases, a small amount of noise is inconsequential at times to the viewing of the picture in certain situations, in my opinion.

    Reply
  23. John Gunkler

    Matt, I can’t find a Week 3 video to play on this page. Am I just dull-witted or is there a problem. Thanks. I’m really enjoying this series.

    Reply
    • Terri

      John – I can see two images that run videos just above the comment section: Part 1 and Part 2. Could you have some security settings that prevent images?

      Reply

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