It’s not hard to find lots of good information on the internet about how to improve your photography, and many of us take different journeys to get where we are going. We could write an exhaustive list of all the things you should do and know but it really boiled down to three main things that took us from there, the image on the left taken in October 2013 to here, on the right taken March 2015.
The RAW file format is really and truly what your camera sees and records, from the brightest highlights to the darkest shadows. RAW files may be far more forgiving of low light or high contrast situations but that doesn’t mean that you can simply rely on your RAW file to get you out of all trouble, it just means that you have more to work with later. Shooting in RAW is not an excuse for not getting everything right in camera- from your lighting to your composition. You still need to make sure all those things are the best you can get them. But it does mean that you can take control of the editing process rather than leaving to your cameras JPEG compression. This may not work for everyone, depending on what you want to photograph and what you want your images for, but it was an important step for us.
I confess that I actually love editing. It’s one of my favourite parts of the whole process. I can’t even draw stick figures but editing allows my artistic side to flourish and like most forms of art, sometimes I have good days where it all just works perfectly, and others days I can’t seem to make anything look good at all. Having said that, I love that working with RAW files in Lightroom means that no matter what I do to the image I don’t affect the RAW file so I can always simply hit reset and start again. I also know that I have a long, long way to go in my editing skills and I’m constantly working to learn new tricks, techniques and skills. But for all the instructional videos I’ve watched and books I’ve read, it boils down to practice, practice and practice some more.
The histogram is the little graph that comes up and lets you know what pixels you have captured from pure blacks to pure whites and everything in between. An ideal histogram looks like a little mountain or hill in the middle. You most often get these in perfect light situations because it’s the easiest for your camera to get a correct exposure level on. However the most use we have gotten out of the histogram has been in high contrast situations like sunrises and sunsets. Your camera can tell you what the correct exposure is for either the bright sky, or the dark foreground, but it can’t tell you what is best for both- or at least the best case medium. That’s where we have found the histogram to come into its own. It doesn’t take to many shots to tweak the exposure so that it doesn’t blow at either end. Also, when you are shooting on a bright day, and it’s really hard to see the view screen on that back of the camera, the histogram is still quite visible and can tell you how you are going.
So these are the big three for us. We’ve come a long way since the first time we shot Saltwater Creek, and still improved a lot since the last time we were there. That’s one of the reasons we go back time and again to our favourite spots because we know what images we are looking for and we want to get better at them. We have a lot of growth ahead of us on our photographic journeys and we are always keen to learn. We’d love to know what your big three are- what three things would you recommend?