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Fotospeed Photographers

The ABC of CameraWork: Andy Beel discusses part 2 of his viewfinder workflow

Posted: 23 Jan 2019

Professional photographer and monochrome printer, Andy Beel FRPS talks about his viewfinder workflow to pre-visualise the picture artistically and technically before pressing the shutter. In the second part of the two-part series, Andy discusses the second half of his innovative viewfinder mnemonic. Andy uses Fotospeed Platinum Baryta 300 and Platinum Etching 285 papers. 
You can find out more about Andy here.

As photographers, we all have completely different ways of working with our cameras, however, the intended end result always has a common theme. From the vast possibilities of subjects, the photographer selects a subject to present to the viewer. You are the viewer’s eyes – you decide what to photograph, how, why, and when to press the shutter release. The little matter of understanding how your picture will look artistically and technically before you press the shutter is an issue for many photographers. This pre-visualisation of the artistic and technical is the subject of this series of articles.

In part one of this series, we looked at the Viewfinder Workflow beginning with A for Attraction, B for Background and C for Composition. In part two of the series, we will complete the review of the ABC of CameraWork mnemonic with parts D, E, F, and G. The expressive photographer will have a handle on the D for Depth of field, E for Exposure, F for Focus, and G for Gently pressing the shutter release.

 

D for Depth of Field 

© Andy Beel FRPS 2009 St Cuthbert’s Way Lindisfarne, Northumberland. This was a cold and very windy day in March, a 12mm lens has been used to increase the linear perspective of the posts across the bay. The ultra-wide-angle lens was approximate 600mm fr

 

 

How is depth of field used expressively?

Depth of field (DoF) is the apparent zone of acceptable sharpness from front to back in a picture. The principal job of depth of field is to control the relationship between the foreground and background of the picture. Take for example the picture above of St Cuthbert’s Way. If the picture did not show the posts stretching into the distance the meaning of the picture will be lost. This is an example of extended depth of field. The opposite to extended depth of field is shallow depth of field. The principal advantage of shallow depth of field is only the point of focus is acceptably sharp making it the dominant visual element.

 

© Andy Beel FRPS 2009 Here is Amelia as an example of shallow depth of field taken with an 85mm f1.2 lens @f1.2 focusing on the left eye.

 

 

How is depth of field controlled?

All of the following camera controls must be working together to allow you to use depth of field expressively.

Creating depth of field is controlled by four levers:

1.    Size of sensor – a small sensor creates more depth of field 
2.    Focal length of lens – a wide-angle lens gives more DoF
3.    Lens aperture – big number, small hole gives more depth of field
4.    Distance to point of focus – the greater the distance to the camera increases DoF

Shallow DoF

The converse of the example given above where you want to unlink together the foreground and background to help tell the story or make a single subject look more dominant is to use a telephoto lens with a wide aperture (big number small hole).

How to create shallow depth of field

•    Size of sensor – the larger the sensor the greater the ability to reduce DoF
•    Focal length of lens – a telephoto lens gives less DoF
•    Lens aperture – small number, big hole gives less depth of field
•    Distance to point of focus – the closer the camera is to the point of focus, the shallower the DoF

 

E for Exposure

 

© Andy Beel FRPS Snowdon Horseshoe March 2015. After a day of few photo opportunities on a workshop recce, I was on my way back to the hotel. Looking in the car rear-view mirror I had to stop immediately. I then sat on a rock for an hour and shot the eve  

 

How important is optimal exposure in the printmaking workflow?

Your job as the photographer in charge of the artistic and technical process is to create a digital negative that holds as much information as possible. For me, this means ensuring there is sufficient detail in the highlights. I am using a Fujifilm XT-2 camera body which has a histogram in the viewfinder, this allows me to accurately modify the exposure compensation before pressing the shutter release.

In most relevant cases, I will be dialling in negative exposure compensation to ensure detail in the highlights. This is particularly true if I have included the sky in, say, a landscape picture. The sky is always two or three steps brighter than the foreground and I do not bother with graduated ND filters on the front of the lens. If I get the exposure right in-camera I have far more control in Lightroom to balance the exposure of the sky and foreground. As a hot hint, if the sky is not adding to a picture leave it out – use or lose it.

Printmaking with Fotospeed

When the end result of the creative process is a print, you need to use the optimum exposure. If your digital negative is wildly over or underexposed you will not be able to get the best quality print from the file. If you want the best quality print you must plan to use the optimum conditions to take the pictures. As I said in part one of this series, for me, the best type of lighting is low contrast and directional. Contrast for colour and black-and-white photographs can always be added far more easily and controllably at the post-processing stage.

I have been a Fotospeed Ambassador Photographer for over ten years and my favourite art papers are Fotospeed Platinum Baryta 300 and Fotospeed Platinum Etching Paper 285. 

 

F for Focus

© Andy Beel FRPS 2017 Lloyds Amphitheatre Bristol. An 85mm f1.4 lens was used to place the point of sharp focus on the drain cover @f1.4 to ensure the background was soft and open to interpretation. Ambiguity in a picture can make it more interesting.  

 

What is the critical part of accurate focusing?

Focus can mean to emphasize, draw attention to, or concentrate effort on. It is all about helping the viewer see the dominant attraction or subject.
Like a good boy scout – be prepared. When thinking about focus, hone in on what it is you are photographing and whether it be moving or not. Most cameras now have very sophisticated focusing systems but they do need some help with your preparation. 

Your camera is made to deal with three basic focusing situations: (Fujifilm terminology)

1.    Non-moving subject – try using the Single Centre Focus Point only with or without back-button focus lock
2.    Predictably moving subject – Try the Zone Area Grid 
3.    Non-predictably moving subject – Try the Wide/Tracking Focus options 

Each scenario will require experimentation and practice to increase the percentage of acceptably sharp shots. If all else fails, you could try reading your camera manual to find out how it works. 

 

G for Gently 

© Andy Beel FRPS 2013 Dunraven Park South Wales. On many occasions, the most interesting picture will be behind you. It is always a good idea to take a look. The picture above came out of the camera with detail everywhere, I have chosen to make the picture

 

Why is important to gently press the shutter release?

There are a couple of things that post-processing is not good at correcting, one is camera-shake and the other is inaccurate focusing. Both of these technical faults have the ability to ruin a potentially good picture.

Therefore, every effort must be made to find out the slowest hand-held shutter speed you are capable of holding with each of your lenses. Most photographers use zoom lenses, so that implies discovering the slowest usable shutter speed at the long and short ends of the zoom range. 

There is an old photography adage – the shutter speed should be at least 1/focal length of the lens. For example, with a 70 – 200mm lens at the long end a minimum shutter speed of 1/200 is required if the lens or body does not have image stabilisation.

If you are interested in discovering how slow you can go with each of your lenses here is a straightforward test. Firstly, take a benchmark shot with the camera on a tripod (turn off the IS/VR/OIS on a tripod). Then take a series of hand-held pictures making the shutter speed slower and slower, and then examining them in Lightroom Survey View (Cmd/Cont+N) against the benchmark tripod picture. This will give you a very good indication of how slow you as an individual can go with that lens. 

 

The ABC Manual of CameraWork – how to see photographically

The ABC of CameraWork Manual provides a workflow and unravels the process of instantly made viewfinder decisions, helping you avoid making unconscious decisions. Discover how you can decide artistically and technically what your picture will look like before you press the shutter release.

 

Want more ideas on how to improve your photography and prints? Check out the rest of our blog, or get in touch to see how Fotospeed can help!

 

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