I’ve been getting more into photography recently and have been trying to learn how to control the various aspects of my camera to produce better shots. I haven’t quite progressed all the way to full manual mode at this stage, however I have been using the Av and Tv modes of my Canon EOS 7D pretty extensively and getting quite nice results. Hopefully I will be able to think fast enough to work in full manual mode soon, but for now I am happy to master one feature at a time!
While in Wollongong on the weekend, I took some photos of my friend Broc using my new Sigma 50mm ƒ1.4 EX DG HSM lens. This is a beautiful lens that has really helped me get some great shots and experiment with the depth of field which can so often set great photos apart from good photos. One of the shots from this weekend is the below photo of Broc, captured mid sentence (I forget what we were talking about).
As I scanned through all the photos I took over the few days, this one really popped out at me. I was quite happy with the composition, so gave myself a quick pat on the back (hey, someone has to)! I took a closer look at the EXIF data displayed in Aperture and began to realise that I could improve my technical skills using feedback in the program. If there was an adjustment I needed to make inside the RAW development process, then it was likely I could actually capture that on my camera with slight settings changes. So with that in mind, I began thinking about the details and how I needed to adjust them to polish the photo (to my amateur level at least).
Taking a look at the overview on the metadata tab I realised quickly that I had accidentally knocked the exposure bias out. I seem to do this occasionally by moving my thumb dial while the shutter button is half pressed. To correct this when I take a photo, all I need to do is keep an eye on the exposure metre in the viewfinder and make sure the bias is set appropriately for what I want to photograph.
Conveniently, this is also easily fixed inside of Aperture. On the Adjustments panel, I simply shifted the exposure bias up by 0.33, to compensate for the accidental -0.33 ev that I had set with the camera. This made a noticeable improvement to the photo, improving the overall colour and lighting, looking much closer to the actual scene at the time.
I was much happier with the shot at this stage, however it still felt like the light was a little flat. The colours lacked the brightness, punch, and feel of that morning, standing in that light filled room. I took a look at the levels and noticed that the top end is entirely missing, showing up as the blank area on the right hand side. There was no clipping, which meant I was able to easily adjust this.
Still in the adjustments panel, I enabled the levels dialogue and tested the Auto features. These were just awful, skewing the light balance so badly it looked like Broc had been given a rather nasty black eye! I undid the changes and then manually adjusted the toggles to even out the light distribution better, as seen in the screenshot. This really made the image pop and I am now about as happy with it as I can be without reshooting it (and without Photoshop work, but that’s a story for another time)!
I am not sure what I need to do on the camera to avoid this occurring in future. It may simply be something I have to live with and correct without adequate lighting (this was shot with no flash or artificial light of any sort in a room sunlit from one side). There is also a mode in my camera called “highlight tone priority” which could perhaps help, although I don’t understand what this feature actually does. I will need to run some tests!
Auto focus points
One thing that Claire pointed out which I failed to notice before now was the slightly poorly placed focus. I shot this using the manual selection mode, so I had most of the control but somehow managed to get the focus a little off (not paying enough attention to the viewfinder again!). Impressively, Aperture is able to show me which AF points were active at the time the shutter fired, thanks EXIF data! Taking a look at this it is obvious that I had left the focus on Broc’s nose instead of shifting it one point higher to be over his open eye, giving the shot a slight focus skew to the right hand side and leaving his most visible eye slightly out of focus.
What did I learn?
This little exercise has taught me a few things, chief among them being that I can use Aperture to improve my technical photographic skills and learn from my mistakes quite effectively (while simultaneously correcting them). Of course, the main thing it shows me is that I need to pay more attention to each of the settings (in this case all shown in the viewfinder) of the camera to get the shot exposed correctly to begin with, rather than relying on post processing software like Aperture. I look forward to applying these lessons on future shoots and eventually developing the automatic movements that seasoned professionals build up to get the right exposure every time.
Got any comments, critiques, or compliments for my photo? Leave them in the comments below! Once I have shot a few more photos, I will upload some other portraits I am quite happy with to Flickr (and the ones I am really happy with will show up on 500px) and you can judge me there too.