Auto ISO .. Nikon or Canon

Of course one of the most irritating things with Canon cameras is the way they set their auto ISO speed which is something you use all the time .. In Nikon it is the logical choice .. auto ISO tries to get a shutter speed >= 1/focal length with a pre-set minimum .. so if I use a 200mm it is 1/200+ .. if I set the minimum as 1/60sec and I use a 16mm lens then it won’t drop below 1/60 to 1/20 for example .. in Canon it is not the case .. they use an obscure algorithm and so it is very random and has no relation to the focal length you are using which is absolutely crazy and goes against all photography rules .. but Canon users have got used to living with it by setting a maximum and minimum ISO and minimum shutter .. this obviously is not good because if I set a minimum 1/60 for a 70-200mm lens I may end up with 1/60 at 200mm because the camera thinks so ..


Something else Nikon does well with auto ISO is that it sets Auto ISO to be up to 2 stops either quicker or slower than the focal length .. i.e. if you have VR and want a slower shutter speed than 1/FL you can have 1/100 @ 200mm or the opposite 1/400 or 1/1000 at 200mm if you are shooting something moving .. this doesn’t exist in Canon .. you have no control over what Auto ISO is at all and that is a major flaw that people keep moaning about all the time ..


The third thing is that inspite of Auto ISO .. if you are in A or S modes you can still vary the other variable i.e. A in S or S in A just by turning the main dial to vary the ISO without having to press any ISO buttons as well .. so it is the opposite variable on the opposite dial always .. and that is very useful and quick because you don’t have to take your eyes off your target you just turn one of the dials and hey presto the other variable changes .. so if I am at f4 and the speed according to Auto ISO is 1/200 and I want it to be 1/1000 I just turn the dial and I have high speed .. this is not in Canon either .. so Nikon cameras have better practical controls that you use all the time .. they are extremely user friendly once you go deeper than the shell or the skin as they say ..


Also, if you use Manual Aperture and Shutter then Auto ISO sets in to keep the exposure right for the set A/S .. i.e. if it becomes cloudy or sunny during the shoot yet I want all the pictures to be f4 and 1/60 then the ISO varies to keep the exposure right for these settings as much as possible .. of course if you set it in cloudy weather and becomes suddenly sunny or the opposite then you will have to change your basic settings .. but it is important if you are shooting a group of photos and want them all to have the same DOF and speed for the same look and effect .. Canon does not do that in Manual .. in manual you have to set your ISO as well .. So whether 6D, 5D or 1Dx they are all the same irritating settings .. baseline I would like to have a Nikon camera with a Canon L lens ??


Have you calibrated ?

Calibration and colour management are very critical to all photographic activities, from the second you take your photo, to the time you process it and display or share it either in print or digital form.

Most people are not initially aware of colour management, until the picture in the camera doesn’t match the scene, the picture on the computer screen doesn’t match the camera, or the print doesn’t match what they see in either or both.

The least that can be done by any photographer is to have a monitor calibration device that calibrates the colours, brightness and contrast of their computer display. In this way they are at least sure that what they see on the screen will be matched by professional prints, and by any calibrated display.

To get the right colour from the scene requires either shooting a test shot at the scene using ideally a photographic grey card, or at least a white sheet of paper, and maybe a colour chart. This calibrates the camera at the scene or works in post-processing for RAW files.

The last bit is calibrating the printer, as the colour profiles change with change of paper and ink, and the generic manufacturer profiles don’t usually do a very accurate job. The spectrophotometers for scanning prints are not as cheap as the display ones, but once a colour profile is produced for the printer/ink/paper combination the result should match either the original scene or at least what has been captured in JPEG or RAW, before or after computer processing.

So have you calibrated your workflow yet ?

Photo Processing

Most people, me included, are very excited after a shoot, and they want to use and show off their photos immediately .. what people usually miss is the excitement of going through the photos very slowly and processing them properly;

  • Renaming for organisation
  • Inserting keywords, tags and labels
  • Rating (stars and colours)
  • Discarding bad photos
  • Basic processing (White balance, exposure and contrast)
  • Intermediate processing (lens corrections, perspective corrections, colour corrections, noise and sharpening)
  • Advanced processing (area and spot corrections, vignette, graduated and colour filters)
  • Cropping and levelling
  • Creating several versions with different processing options
  • Artistic processing (Photoshop)
  • Exporting for sharing, printing, publishing, and archiving

Ansel Adam’s ‘The Zone System’

Ansel Adam’s ‘Zone System’ is something that all photographers have to be aware of

To put it simply, any scene is divided in brightness from 0-9 (IX), with zero being pure black and IX being pure white with no details .. and zone V the middle neutral grey 18% which the camera metering always aims for .. with each zone or stop double the one below in brightness or vice versa ..

Although originally developed to understand and control the processing of black & white negatives and prints , it is still as relevant to the digital process as ever ..

Understanding this system helps setting the right exposure either in manual mode or by setting EV in program mode and also proper RAW processing in software ..

It is such an important cornerstone in photography that many books and articles were written about it .. and here are some nice comprehensive links about the subject:

, and I am sure any Google search would produce tons of results .. so happy researching and hopefully applying ..

Exposing to the Right !

I once asked a photographer presenting a workshop whether he exposed to the right .. I can still remember his face looking at me very puzzled waiting for an explanation of my question .. as he did not understand the question I wasn’t bothered to hear his answer ..

Basically .. there are many photographers who feel that photos should be exposed as much as possible without burning the highlights (checking the histogram for all colour channels on most DSLR’s) ..

The idea is not clipping while preserving as much detail as possible in the shadows where the signal/noise ratio is very low while also preserving most of the tonal details residing in the right bright illuminated part of the curve where there is a high signal/noise ratio ..

Photos will need a bit more processing in the RAW converter, especially to recover the contrast and colour intensity which usually look washed out .. and to recover the highlights up to a stop or two depending on the camera dynamic range and bit depth ..

This is of course done only using RAW and not JPEG ..

Exposure to the right of the curve (histogram) is discussed in detail at Luminous Landscape and is worthwhile considering in practice .. please read their very informative article

Flash Aperture Distance ISO and Shutter Speed

This must sound like a very long winded subject header .. and it is

I never understood how Flash lights work .. I almost always ended up with a very over or under-exposed shot .. and after a while I started firing several test shots before I started using the flash to work out the best combination of the above without really understanding how it worked ..

It wasn’t till I read a book : Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash by Bryan Peterson  (Aug 30, 2011) .. that I realised that shutter speed makes very little difference to shots with flash .. it is more about how far the subject (double the distance you get 1/4 the light or the inverse square law), what ISO and most importantly what aperture .. while shutter speed only alters how the ambient light is captured .. there are loads of posts on the web about flash photography in full detail ..

So next time you use a flash .. decide whether you want to capture the ambient light or not by setting your shutter and ISO .. then either use the flash with TTL metering i.e. set to automatic or set things manually .. vary the FEV or flash exposure value compensation, flash intensity, aperture and most importantly stand at the right distance .. and try first and second curtain sync for special effects ..

I still never get it 100% .. but using a bouncing flash and/or off camera flash and maybe a second and even a third flash or more can all help get your shot right .. there is also a place for playing with on or off-flash reflectors/diffusers and coloured gels .. and now there are LED continuous flash units that are weaker but easier to use as they become part of the ambient light and makes the camera work much easier .. and also ring flash units for macro photography ..

Hope this helped to start you off on a search and a new project .. get the flash photography right