Hey hey! Happy #TravelTuesday, once again. I’m Dave Williams, coming at you from the UK to share something about Photoshop, photography, and life. This week: photography! Pick up what I put down, and let’s go!
Time and time again this question lands in my inbox: – “How many megapixels?” Well, in truth, the only time you really need a lot of megapixels is when you’re shooting something for a billboard. Here’s why:
Photography is both an art and a science. It’s an art in terms of its creativity, but a science in terms of the application of all the elements that lend themselves to the creative result. The science is made up of gigabytes, megapixels, photons, and a whole load of other cool sounding words. The problem can often derive from people’s scientific or technical way of thinking being transposed into the art of photography, and particularly, in terms of the requisite number of megapixels, it’s often misunderstood.
Here’s the marketing myth that goes with the theory: – the more megapixels you have, the better the camera.
So, a megapixel is basically a million dots. These dots make up the image. It would seem that more megapixels mean a sharper photo, but this is not necessarily the case—you could just have more dots on a bad photo. The lens you use, the sensor in the camera, and the photographer’s grasp of light and composition are far more important factors about what makes a good photo than the megapixels cameras are arranged by in the electronic store. It’s often said, in various different ways, that the most important thing about a camera are the six inches behind it.
The big things to consider when buying more megapixels, along with the aforementioned potential creative differences, are that more megapixels mean bigger file sizes, which in turn, means you need more hard drive space. And, that more megapixels cost more, owing to the marketing value associated to megapixels when retailers rank cameras.
Let’s go back to the billboard thing. You know when you watch TV and you have the option to go between the regular channel and the HD version of the channel you’re watching? On the whole is there actually a difference? Perhaps there’s a difference on a huge screen, but on the average TV screen, it’s not noticeable. This is exactly akin to comparing what most people will use a photo for versus the one in 100 photographers who is shooting that billboard ad. Make sense?
Taking that a stage further, a very common use for images is social media. Often we find that we’re downscaling the images before we post them, and then the posting algorithms of Instagram and the like will resize our image and its resolution, once again, when we upload it. Those megapixels you invested in are, in this case, wasted.
In short, if you’re going to make a tight crop on an image or shoot for that billboard, megapixels matter. In almost all other cases, they simply don’t.
Megapixels matter in some cases, but not many! If you’re shopping for a new camera, look at other things first—read reviews on sensor quality, ISO performance—and make sure you invest properly in your lens, as well as the camera.
What better time to end a Valentine’s Day sale, than the day after Valentine’s Day, right? Look, we don’t run a lot of sales, but when we do, they blow up (in a good way), and people join up from all over the world (Hmmmm, maybe we should run more sales?), but anyway, today’s your last chance to save some sweet cash (which that savings could perhaps offset presents you bought for your Valentine yesterday).
Of course, if you forgot to get that special someone you love a gift yesterday, well…better late than never.
Head over to KelbyOne.com – hit the pricing page, and jump on the sweet deals for our Plus and Pro plans. The deals end tonight, so let’s do this! :)
Have a great weekend, everybody. Hope it’s filled with learning a ton about Photoshop, Lightroom and Photography. :)
Learn how to do a family portrait with a magical twist! Join Bret Malley as he teaches you all the steps, from shooting to post processing, needed to create your own fantasy fine art composite. Bret takes you through the gear he uses, his process for pre-production, how to communicate and work with the subjects, his lighting setup, how to photograph each element of the composite, and then how to bring it all together in Photoshop. The first half of the class is a live shoot where Bret creates all the pieces, and in the second half he teaches you his tips and techniques for creating a seamless composite that brings your imagination to life.
I can still remember that day back in 2013 when I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I was in my early 20’s working a job I didn’t like, living a lifestyle that didn’t suit me and feeling like I would never get to fulfill my dreams and ambitions. But it was out of that dark place in my life that I took probably the most important and somewhat reckless decision I had ever made – I threw up my hands and said: “The hell with it!”
Almost overnight, I started selling everything I had except for my camera gear and a few sets of clothes, and bought a one-way ticket to Asia. I wanted to set myself off on a unique journey, hoping to find a new path in life and follow my childhood dream of becoming a world-traveling cultural and documentary photographer.
While this might sound cool, or even fun for some of you, this decision was absolutely terrifying for me. I didn’t know what to expect, what might happen, or if this huge risk I took would even pay off in the end. But when I look back at it today, I know that this journey single-handedly started my current career as a full-time photographer. These days I’m working on my own book, have had my images featured in National Geographic, and have even had the privilege of sharing my experiences from the amazing stages of TEDx and Oxford University.
Now while I’m very proud of what I do, I’m not here to boast. What I am actually hoping to do in this blog post is to share with you my “Secret Weapon.” A secret which I use all the time in my own photographic work and, hopefully, you’ll be able to use it for yourself as well! It will help you feel more fulfilled from your photography, getting your images noticed, and, at the very core of things, help you take an extra step towards becoming a better photographer. So… Are you ready??
First, we need to understand that in our modern, and highly digitalized world, photography is literally everywhere. Every minute there are over 200,000 never before seen new images shared online – and those are only the numbers from Facebook! Meaning there are way more new images shared on Instagram, Flickr, and the seemingly endless photography websites and forums out there.
These are ridiculous amounts of photographers trying to get their work noticed, recognized and published. If you wish to give your photographs a chance to stand out in this overflowing ocean of images, you need to do more than just make “pretty images.” What you want to do is to start delving into the world of creating your own personal photography project – and that is the secret weapon I’m talking about.
Now, at this point, I know some of you are either super hyped and ready to take on this challenge, but, on the other side, many of you are thinking “This looks like way too much work and, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have the time or means to work on a photography project of my own.” All I ask of you is that before you make up your mind, please allow me to give you 3 reasons why I think you should set aside the habit of occasionally strolling around with a camera and start dedicating your time to working on a personal photography project.
Take Better Advantage Of Your Time And Efforts
For the majority of us, the most important resource in our photography is time. Those of us who are amateur or aspiring photographers can often only dedicate a few hours a week for their passion of photography, and those of us who are professional photographers end up clearing maybe a few weeks out of the year to invest in our own personal work and portfolio. This means that when we finally have free time to do whatever we like, we should use this opportunity for its maximum potential. Unfortunately, in my eyes, one of the best ways to waste that precious time is by aimlessly wandering around, randomly snapping images and hoping something special will come out of it.
When you are working on a photography project, you have a set goal. You are following a theme which is leading and shaping your work as a photographer. This means that, once you have chosen your project’s topic, it becomes much easier for you to recognize in what you should invest the time, energy, and budget that are available to you in a more potent way. This helps you focus mainly on getting the best images and story for the series. This is a highly effective way to make sure you don’t waste your time on fruitless endeavors.
I can easily speak from my own experience. This focus and mindset were extremely helpful for me while I was working on my very first photography project – The Eagle Huntress. Only after I decided what would be the topic of my photographic work in west Mongolia (which was the future generation of eagle hunters), did I manage to dedicate all of my resources to both learning more about the local culture and getting the best images for my photography project; the same images which ultimately ended up catching attention in the world media and helped jumpstart my career.
The Greats Have Always Done It
There is a saying from Bernard of Chartres which, in my opinion, is a great piece of advice for anyone who deals with a creative art such as photography. It goes like this:
“If I have seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
-Bernard of Chartres
When it comes to the topic of asking yourself “Should I start doing photography projects?” in order to find your answer, all you need to do is to look at the work of great photographers from the past and many of the industry leaders today.
A very good example can come from the work of, probably the greatest master of street photography, the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson, who dedicated almost his entire career working on one project which was the city of Paris. Other great photographers, whose work is composed mostly of personal projects, would include photographers like Annie Leibovitz with her beautiful series, ‘Women Who Led,” or Sebastiao Salgado with his fine art book, “Genesis.” And if you wish to look at more modern photographers, who are working in the industry today, check out the work of Jimmy Nelson’s ongoing project “Before They Pass Away,” Brandon Stanton’s internet sensation “Humans of New York,” and the talented Von Wong, who has recently focused his unique talent of creating breathtaking visuals to work on photography projects revolving around waste and its effect on our environment.
Even Steve McCurry, who is one of my personal heroes, managed to photograph his iconic portrait “The Afghan Girl” only through his long term photography project on the Afghan rebels during the ’80s. While the general public might only care for the final famous portrait, we as photographers need to see beyond that. We must understand that it was the process of working on a photography project, a photographer focusing his full attention and working on a specific topic, that had led McCurry to capture probably one of the most well-known images in history.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that photography projects are the only way for making great photographs. But I am saying that it most definitely seems to be a great path to them. A path which many great photographers explore.
It’s One Of The Best Ways To Give You An Edge As A Photographer
As a rule of thumb, photography projects tend to flourish the more you work on them. Once you choose your topic of interest and start working on your project, your first series of images won’t necessarily be any better than anyone else’s. But as we said before, once you’ve decided to invest most of your time and efforts specifically into your project, you will find yourself returning to your subject matter again and again – digging deeper, exploring more unique photographic opportunities and pushing yourself beyond the edges of your comfort zone as a photographer and storyteller.
Many styles of photography can benefit from this! Landscape photographers would be encouraged to explore a more unique viewpoint. This would help them to stray away from the easy to get and well-known spots, exploring the horizon for unique angles of their own which many others have either missed or didn’t bother to look for. Documentary photographers, such as myself, could invest more time into building a deeper personal relationship with the people they photograph – resulting in a better understanding of the culture they meet and even gaining better access to the lives they document.
This mindset of coming back to the same topic, again and again, looking for better photographs, will push you to find unique visuals which have a better chance to stand out and catch attention wherever you may share them. This edge can be the difference between someone investing time out of their day to check out your work or simply stay in their daily routines until something unique comes along and grabs their attention.
As we arrive at the end of this blog post, if you do end up deciding to take on my challenge and start working on a photography project of your own, let me give you another word of advice… You don’t have to start big – you just need to start.
No one is asking you to fly halfway across the world to reach deep into the Amazon forests, or the high Himalayan mountains, integrate yourself with isolated communities and create one of the most unique photography projects ever seen. While you might decide to do something like that in the future, you can start slow and small. In order to start, all you need to do is to simply choose a subject that truly interests you. Something that you would like to learn more about and using your camera, go ahead and explore it. If you do, I can guarantee that by doing a photography project on something you like, you will improve significantly as a photographer and the process will be one of the most rewarding photographic experiences you’ve ever had.
And for those of you who still remain undecided, working on photography projects has allowed me to follow my childhood dreams and become a full time traveling photographer – What is the worst that can happen to you for trying it?
If you want to learn more about doing your own photography projects and starting to get your work published – you should check out my free Ebook “Making a Photo Story.”
I’m Dave Williams and it’s #TravelTuesday here on Scott’s blog. This week, I’m going to tip most articles on their head.
When we start out in photography, we seek inspiration and education from all manner of sources—YouTube, KelbyOne, magazines, blogs, workshops— but I think the most important way to learn is to make mistakes.
The thing these methods all have in common is that they tell you what to do. Obviously! They tell us the mistakes to avoid, so that we can be better photographers. But, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my journey and I strongly recommend you do too! (Stick with me here!)
I’m not saying make all the mistakes I’ve made—for example, don’t drop your camera from a rock on the coast of Iceland straight into a rock pool (it survived), or don’t continuously trek to a remote location to shoot only to realise when you arrive that you have one bar left on your battery. I’m talking about other mistakes.
We learn in life from mistakes, and often it’s the best way to learn. A combination of both regret and education, mistakes are something from which we learn how to do something and how not to do something, as the lesson from the experience is etched into our memory.
Shooting at too high an ISO and having an overly noisy image is one of the mistakes that’s important to make in order to understand how your camera’s sensor interacts with the available light, and how your manipulation of the camera’s settings affect the final image. The extra effort that would have gone into using a tripod and shooting a longer exposure at a lower ISO would be the fix and the lesson to learn in such circumstances.
Speaking of ISO, when I used to shoot weddings, I lost track of the number of times I’d be shooting inside a beautiful church at a high ISO to balance the tonal range of the images, but then stepped outside continuing to shoot at that high ISO and ruining the first handful of images. It was essentially a learning curve—it happened a few times, but once I eventually got it in my mind, it never happened again!
On the same sort of level, one thing that used to often happen when I was shooting in the high north during winter, is that I would go out to shoot the Northern Lights (or at least look for them!) and have my camera set on a long exposure to capture the motion, with a high ISO to be sensitive to the level of light coming at me (which I obviously wouldn’t overlook), but I’d also have the autofocus switched off! The following morning I’d grab the camera, having seen a cool-looking mountain or something, and shoot it, having adjusted the ISO and shutter speed to suit, but forgotten about the autofocus! Again, once I’d made the mistake a few times, it was set in my mind and it hasn’t happened since.
And again, on the same sort of level, the cold, in this case. Have you ever had a wet tripod and not dried it off properly? The result is terrible—trust me! It’s a lesson not forgotten when everything seizes up!
Over-processing is a mistake often made in the early days, and it’s worth noting here that if you want to make your images look unrealistic and have a halo around every object, make sure you crank the Clarity and Saturation sliders right up. ;)
See the big shadow, here, in the sky over Turkey? A reminder to clean the sensor or lens is learned from the mistake of not doing just that!
Making mistakes is very important. I’d like to say we only make them once, and although that is often the case, it’s not always the case. Nevertheless, when we make mistakes, we (sooner or later) won’t repeat them and will get our time to shine and get it right every time. It’s in our nature to make mistakes, and it’s also in our nature to learn from them. I just wish I didn’t make the same mistake twice!