Rightly or wrongly we have entered a period of low recognition of quality. Much of this is down to the development of the smart-phone. The smart-phone has seen the extension of the selfie culture. We live in a world of selfies and celebrity worship. This shallow culture may have been with us long before the smart phone however the speed of modern day mass communication is allowing more people to participate in this limited culture.
Quality is suffering as a professional photographer I often hear people say I’ve taken some wonderful photographs of the family and possibly they have. However, there is still a world of difference between what the professional produces and what the snapper produces. Most people will react to an image but few will know why they react, however reaction happens. Reaction may be triggered by many factors the clarity of the image, sharpness, strong highlights, deep shadows, composition, colour or lack of, saturation, positioning of the black points, distortion and even use of blur. Impact dictates that there is a world of difference between soft and strong images. Have you ever thought about why the eyes of a model on a station poster follow you? The professional will know what the objectives are and use the psychological and technical knowledge built up over the years to achieve the goal and will be able to through consistency arrive at the required result. This means that the equipment must cover the range of variables required to get the message across. Even with wedding photography the romance of the most important day in the lives of the participants needs to be recorded. However, most people don’t walk past an image and say WOW the highlights have made me register that photograph the reaction is far more subtly controlled than that and the explanation out of reach of the lay-mind.
Building the best possible solution is why there are different levels of quality in equipment, most major camera companies offer equipment that runs from entry level to high-end professional level. Such a spread can also be found in lenses why are some lenses more expensive. Variation in f stop can have a major impact on cost (The f-number of an optical system such as a camera lens is the ratio of the system’s focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil. It is a dimensionless number that is a quantitative measure of lens speed, and an important concept in photography. It is also known as the focal ratio, f-ratio, f-stop, or relative aperture.] The f-number is commonly indicated using a hooked f with the format f/N, where N is the f-number), the size of the sensor, the speed of the camera some run at 6/10 frames per second enabling the competent photographer to capture all the action, the level of ISO that allows the camera to be effective in very low light, the quality of the glass grinding (very important), the size of the aperture, the ability to control depth of field, the number of pixels, the breadth that the lens covers and pixels can also be part of achieving the objective giving cropping power however less pixels on a sensor can also be a tool, as less makes for bigger pixels that suck in more light that can sometimes be used to create clearer images. Prime lenses have no zoom capabilities but can produce images of an extremely high quality as they have few moving parts and tend to be at the high-end of grinding quality and more expensive than zooms.
Of course, lighting is one of the most important items; lighting ranges from the use of natural light to sophisticated studio lighting. The word photography from the Greek word ‘photos’ ‘phos’ (light) representation by means of lines or ‘drawing with light’ One of the problems with phone cameras is small sensors packed / cluttered with small pixels’ low quality glass small aperture but adequate for the family photo. The phone camera sensor layout will work with low resolution images that will be only utilised on social media transported to the viewer via phone, tablet or laptop. Press, posters, brochures, magazines printing requires high resolution to 300 ppi or ‘pixels per inch’; not dpi which is ‘dots per inch’. One of the issues that causes me to smile is the psychological role-playing by major phone companies trying to demonstrate the high quality of images shot on their phones. Many of these companies show blown-up images most of these blow-ups demonstrate the drafting and creative design talent of the participating photographers rather than the technical achievement embodied in the phone. The images although well-constructed tend to be pixelated, lack clarity, have some Chromatic aberration and can be soft when compared to the high impact of the professional images on posters in the same locations. The unfortunate reality of this type of promotion is that it convinces the lay snapper that they are working at a professional level. The camera phone has a real place in society but can sometimes try to move into a market that is currently out of reach. The use of professional well-constructed images in business photography can’t be emphasised enough even the simple head shot takes on a sales role when photographed properly ensuring that the model is believable and someone you would trust to do business with. A professional image is also a statement of competence by the company. Image is so important in business and good photography is the strongest way to convey that professionalism.
It is not possible to move on without mentioning the amount of work that goes into post shoot production to achieve a quality reproduction of the subject with all the right balances blacks’ greys colours. A shoot is not the day of the shoot but includes the days following the shoot where each image sometimes 1000s must be gone through individually looking for dirt specs, focus, handshake, Chromatic Aberration also known as ‘colour fringing’ draughtsmanship and general quality. In some instances, a high-quality shot that carries the exact massage may be too small in frame and may need cropping and resizing it also must first be found. High resolution images usually shot in RAW by professionals (a camera RAW image file contains minimally processed data of a digital camera. RAW files are not yet processed so not ready to be printed). RAW files make it easier for the profession to manipulate the data. JPEG files are usually processed in the camera and are compacted very like a PDF so not the available data required for high quality image manipulation. Most printers digital and mass require a high or maximum JPEG at level 10 or12 once the image has been finalised from the RAW. In photoshop a high or maximum JPEG opened will open as a TIFF this is a large file containing much of the information in a RAW file Such a TIFF can be worked on then save once again as a maximum JPG. Conversion to PDF can also be used many printers will accept such an image. Usually files are saved in high JPG at 300 ppi and a duplicate png file is made at 72ppi for web and mobile use. The smaller file for internet use is at a size that will hold viewing quality and download quickly but can’t be blown up for print purposes, as it lacks data. You can see the amount of post shoot work that is required to achieve a usable portfolio of work.
Printing is another issue the amount of times that people say I will get it printed at the local high street super market that’s cheap. If quality prints that you can be proud to place on a home wall next to the family art collection or in gallery are what is required prints that have clarity separation of the blacks and the whites or definition of colour, true reproduction of the high resolution image a printer that can give a good spectrum of the grey scale and colours in RGB is required ( RGB Red, Green and Blue) as opposed to CMYK (Cyan, magenta and yellow, the K stands for Key as the colours are carefully Keyed aligned) used in high number mass printers usually the offset system as opposed to digital ink jet used by the smaller run quality art and photographic printers. Brochures, posters and magazines are usually mass offset printed working in CMYK. Common printers tend to use dye inks and have a limited number of ink reservoirs where the higher quality printers have anywhere from 8 to 12 ink reservoirs using pigment inks giving a good colour spectrum including a grey scale and extremely long life running to 100s years non-fade in theory. Achieving a high-quality print also is highly dependent upon paper and its coating. The different coatings on high quality photographic and art papers gives tremendous variation in tones/colours. These papers range from gloss through lustre to matt. Papers of quality are acid free and quite often made from cotton. Art photographers will understand the variation in papers and coating using such variation as a tool helping to achieve the target result. Galleries look for reproduction on high-end archival gallery quality art paper. Galleries understand that a high quality photographic art print is a work of art. Some papers make the image bounce some a flatter feeling, some are better with black and white and mono colour others with full colour. High quality images tend to take longer to go through the print process as the fine accuracy of the printer slows the process. All this quality increases the visual experience. High-end printers are manufactured by Canon, HP, Epsom. It is also important to guarantee the best results to utilise only genuine inks manufactured by the printer’s manufacturer this makes for consistency of colour or greys and an understanding of how to achieve the final result.
There is nothing like having a high quality precious photographic image on your wall especially one that tells a story and can be a major conversation piece.
An image is an experience the more the experience can be enhanced the greater the experience.
All the images have strong subject points with separation of subject from background this adds strength to the image.
Shane Aurousseau – Shane A