On my recent Q+A session on Facebook, I received some great questions that I thought would be better answered here where I can elaborate a little better. I really enjoy answering the questions and sharing whatever knowledge I have that might help you in your photographic endeavors, plus it makes for a great community
• What is your favorite book/blog other than your own?
There are so many it’s hard to call one my favorite, but I’ll try. For a general book on landscape photography, I really like “Mastering Landscape Photography” by Alain Briot. It provides a good balance between technical and aesthetic material, great fundamentals in composition and vision, and includes real world exercises at the end of each chapter.
For inspiration and know-how, check out Mountain Light by Galen Rowell – a must have and huge influence for me always.
For a blog, Digital Photography School is a great resource for anyone wanting to get better at their photography, regardless of their skill level.
• If a beginner could only get one lens for landscape photography which one would you tell them to get?
The bread and butter of any landscape photographer is a good wide angle lens. I like zoom lenses for their versatility and all of the top manufacturers make great wide angle zoom lenses. If you’re using a full-frame camera then a lens in the 17mm to 24mm range is what you want.
For Canon a great choice is the 17–40L f/4 lens which I have used extensively. On a crop sensor camera, then this lens will become a 27mm–38mm and may not be wide enough. Canon makes the 10–22mm lens for these cameras, and that would be great as well.
• What company do you recommend as a printer for someone who isn’t ready to invest in the equipment to do their own printing?
For outsourcing your printing, I highly recommend WHCC. They provide great quality, customer service, and fast turn around times. I have used them in the past with great results. File preparation is critical, so make sure you’re sending them optimized files.
• What equipment do you recommend for someone who is ready to invest in their own printing?
At the very least, you should invest in a good monitor, monitor calibration device, and a good archival printer. Here are some great choices:
– X-Rite I1 Display Pro or Spyder 4 Pro Calibrator
– 24″ NEC Wide Gamut monitor or for a less expensive option the Dell Ultrasharp 24″ Monitor (I own and love both.)
– Epson R3880 (which I own and love) or the new Canon Pro 10 printer
• Do you think stock photo sites are a good way for a photographer to make money?
In short no. The market is highly saturated, rates are very low, and you would need to generate a huge volume of images in order to have a chance of making a decent profit. Sure there are some who are making a good income, but they are the exception to the norm.
Earning some money from your photography here and there is not that difficult, but generating a consistent income over time, or making it a career is a whole other matter that would be impossible for me to address here. Whole books have been written about this, but suffice to say it is really, really hard and requires work, work, and more work, plus tremendous dedication. Is it possible? Of course, and I have written about it many times. 🙂
Exposure, Histograms, and Picture Styles
I received a question about exposing properly for winter shooting and how that relates to your histogram.
When shooting in the winter and specifically trying to capture snow, it’s important not to clip the highlights otherwise you will lose detail in the snow. It may look white, but the detail is what gives snow its texture, and that’s where you need to watch the histogram.
The exposure meter in digital cameras try to average out everything in your viewfinder to 18% gray, so that the highlights and shadows balance out nicely. This can cause problems with snow however since the camera tries to make snow gray. So in order to compensate, many recommend over-exposing slightly in order to make snow appear white again. You can achieve this by adding a stop or more of over compensation to your meter reading.
The key is using the histogram to make sure you are maximizing the exposure, but not clipping the highlights under any circumstances.
One important thing to factor in is the “picture style” that your camera is set to. While this is used to process images when shooting in JPEG mode, it has no bearing when shooting in RAW. However, it does affect the histogram shown on the back of the camera, and can lead you to think you have clipped when you really haven’t.
So for example if you have it set to add lots of contrast, it will boost the highlights in the histogram making you think you have clipped, but in fact the actual RAW file has not. The way to avoid this is to set the picture style to a “flat” setting, or Neutral in Canon cameras. This does not add any saturation, contrast, sharpening, etc, and you will get a much more accurate histogram that you can then use to judge your exposure correctly.
Here the histogram shows some room in the highlights, and more importantly lets me know I didn’t clip any highlight detail.
A closeup of a snow area with direct sunlight shows plenty of detail and texture, so critical to maintain when working with side lighting.
Hope that was useful, and if you have any related questions, feedback, or comments, please post them below. I’m always happy to hear from you.