Monday, February 28, 2011

It's about people not pixels.

Cameras like the Fuji HS10 take the worry out of available light photography.
Fuji Canada has a photo contest and I entered the picture of Fiona shown above. The contest is focused on portrait photography. I had thought of doing something traditional. Find a blond (man or woman, boy or girl, light hair is what I'm looking for here) or an older person with greying hair, place a bare-bulb table lamp behind them and one bare-bulb table lamp off to the side and in front and, if necessary, place a white sheet of bristol board off to the side bouncing light into the shadows.

Then I watched as Fiona fell asleep in a dark bedroom. The curtains were almost completely closed.. The light looked great but there wasn't much of it. I thought, "not to worry." With a pose like that I'll work with the light I've got.

This is where today's sophisticated point-and-shoots show their strengths. Fiona tends to move a lot while she sleeps. Working fast was important. This picture opportunity was not going to last. I grabbed my Fuji HS10 and set it to automatic.

This picture was shot hand-held at 1/6 second at f/4.0. Today's cameras with their sophisticated stabilization systems make hand-holding possible even at such extremely slow shutter speeds. I accepted a pushed ISO setting of 800, but then I am not a stickler about noise.

I figure pictures like this are not about pixels but people.

There is one glitch with this image: Colour cast. If you look carefully at the white sweater at the bottom of the picture you will notice a cyan colour cast. If I had noticed this before, I would have removed the cyan stain.

Remember, the room light was almost non-existent. This image is much brighter than the actual scene. When digging deep into dark shadows to make an image, one can expect some problems: colour shifts, colour casts, confetti-colourful noise and blurred detail resulting from over-enthusiastic noise control by the camera software.

Print the picture small and most problems disappear. Print the image large and most folk will view it from some distance and again most problems will again disappear. I have 16X20s that were printed from 4MB files taken with a Canon SD10 and folks have raved about these framed pictures. No one has ever pointed out the technical shortcomings because these are strong images.

Of course, if you are shooting for publication then all bets are off. Unless your technical shortcomings add a patina of style, your images will just come up short in the eyes of an art director.

(If ultimate quality is important to you, and think carefully as for many people it is very important, then take a look at the blog Nothing Special. This blogger knows his stuff and will point out the stuff that I was once also concerned with. My resolution/contrast charts and Macbeth Colour Checker now sit gathering dust in my basement.)

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