Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wednesday: F-Stops? No, Not For Me!

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Ralph, Kent, and I were sitting around recently reminiscing some of the great experiences we have had teaching at the numerous photography schools around the country.  All three of us have been in this profession for quite a while and have heard just about everything. 

F-Stops? No, Not For Me!

Ralph's story was the best though.  He was telling of a time last year while teaching at Texas School - LaDawn and I were teaching there at the same time and BTW we’ll all be there next year too.  Ralph enjoys teaching the beginning portrait class because, as we all agreed, of lot of new shooters are perfectly clueless, when it comes to knowing anything about the CRAFT of photography. 

Ralph's story says it all.  He was approached by a student who asked him to review a few of the student's portrait images. Ralph tells how he looked them over and saw the the F-stop the student used was far to small and put everything into sharp focus.  Ralph suggested the student use a larger F-Stop to get the benefit of selective focus for his subject.

No F-stopsThe student was taken back and looked completely confused by the remark.  Ralph quickly noticed the reaction so he asked straightforwardly, Well, what F-Stop did you use when you made these images?". The student quickly answered, thinking he was above it all, "F-Stops?  I don't even use f-Stops!". His answer says it all.

I’m not trying to get up on my soap box here, well, maybe a little, but that type of attitude is more prevalent with today's new digital photographers. In years past when one used film one really needed to know and understand the workings of their cameras. Digital has made it easy to capture acceptable images. Many ways this is a good thing and in many ways it is not.

We also looked up to, respected, and admired our instructors.  There was a lot less "know it all" attitude floating around back then compared with today, I think.

Don't get me wrong, I’m VERY honored that my DigitalProTalk readers take the time to read my posts.  I'm thrilled when I see young photographers like Jody and Zak Gray, Blair Phillips, and so many other  new young guns, who expend the necessary ongoing effort to attend seminars and conventions, read books to improve their photography, sales, and business building skills.  Those guys got it right and I am one of their biggest fans. 

It’s too bad a few others think it is OK to express themselves by breaking the rules, and just doing their own thing.  Hey, I'm OK with breaking the rules too, but you know what, you've got to know the rules before you break them otherwise you are just taking a shot in the dark, hoping for the best, and may even get lucky now and then.

Now for a little confession

Early on, I was one of those "know it all's". Thankfully I got over it early in my career and became an earnest student of the photographic masters in the field.  In fact I still am attending as many seminars as I can each year.  I hoped I've learned a little over the years which I'm trying to pass on to you here at DigitalProTalk.

I did a post a number of months ago entitled: "Are You A Good Student Or A Bad Student?"  It speaks to my coming of age as a student in those early years.  You may enjoy the read again right here.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. The sunshine and Cabo breezes are calling so I'm on my way.  Plan to stop by again tomorrow for a very fascinating Business Day Thursday: Time To Cut Your Prices In Half.  Hope to see you then.

Adios, David     


  1. This is one of the best (and gentlest) reminders to those of us who are working hard to learn, but lack the benefit of decades of know-how.

  2. "In years past when one used film one really needed to know and understand the workings of their cameras. Digital has made it easy to capture acceptable images. Many ways this is a good thing and in many ways it is not."

    I simply have to play the Devil's advocate for a moment here:

    Regardless of whether you are shooting film or digital, you can make great images without knowing one bit about the inner workings of your camera, as long as you know how to look through the viewfinder and put what you see there to good use.

    Let me elaborate a bit on that. :)

    My first camerea was a point and shoot Ricoh XF-30 which I quickly outgrew and bought a real SLR-camera - ar at least I thought so.

    The problem was that I actually bought a P&S with interchangeable lenses: The Minolta Dynax 3000i, the only SLR that I know of that had NO manual controls whatsoever. There was a "Sport-mode" and a full auto - that was it. The entire concept of shutter speed and aperture made no sense to me at this point, except that I knew that too little light would give a slow shutter speed (I could physically hear that) and that would give me blurred images.

    Also, I knew that using the "Sport" setting would cause the background to be a bit more blurred but it was much later before I understood that this was because the camera would open the aperture as much as possible to give me the fastest possible shutter speed.

    Here is the fun part of all of this: Even with this very limited camera and a Sigma superzoom (28-200 IIRC) I took home prices in local photo-marathons where I was competing with guys running around with pro-quality gear and more lenses, flashes and umbrellas than you could shake a stick at.

    My advantage was that I simply could not screw up an image as long as I made sure that I had sufficient light or used my tripod so all I thought about was finding the right image! I learned to use my focal length creatively and to use my viewfinder to actually SEE the image.

    I'm not saying that you should choose to live your life as a photographer on the green square on your mode dial but I DO believe that sometimes we get caught up in technicalities and forget to actually SEE the image through our viewfinder, and that - in my opinion - has caused more great images to be missed than the lack of technical knowledge.

  3. We live in a snapshot world. With so many "photographers" giving clients acceptable photos rather than beautiful images, many people don't really know good photography. I am determined to be a great photographer. Thank you for challenging me to learn and grow not just get by.