Thursday, October 30, 2008

6 photo myths

I read a lot of photo articles every day. And inevitably, a lot of forums. It's really funny how much misinformation there is out there — and how some people will believe everything that they read. A lot of the same sort of misconceptions seem to crop up over and over again. Here are a few common photography myths I see again and again.

1. You need X amount of megapixels to make Y-sized print. You'll see phrases like "12 megapixels for stunning prints up to 10x13" or "megapixels mean clarity." Best Buy and other big-box stores tell you that you need to be making 300dpi prints for them to look good, and that anything less sacrifices quality. While perhaps mathematically true, the idea that good prints are only made at 300dpi is absolutely untrue. I recently made a 24x36" print
from a 10-megapixel file (that's a 108dpi print if you do the math) out of my 40D and it looks wonderful as long as you're not up on top of it with a magnifying glass. Which you shouldn't be, anyway, for such a large print. Do you plant your face right up against a painting that size at an art museum? Of course not.

2. Expensive cameras take better pictures. First, cameras don't take pictures, you do. And second, if I buy a Steinway, do I sound more like Beethoven? Get real. Shoot with what you've got, and shoot often, you'll get better at it. I learned on an entry-level camera before I could truly appreciate the step-up features of a "fancier" camera.

3. A sharp shot is a good shot, period. Really, nobody who takes a lot of pictures believes this. Not that sharpness is bad, but get the exposure, focus, and colors right, you've got a good picture. Well, I guess it has to be interesting, too, but not necessarily "tack sharp." Man, I hate that term.

4. "Screw it, I can just fix it in Photoshop." Photoshop rules — but it's no substitute for proper technique. Highlights clipped really bad? They're gone forever.

5. Noise ruins photos. ISO 3200 Photos from my 40D look like ISO 400 film. Grain is good, baby, embrace it. Here's a tip — if you still hate your photo because of all the noise, convert it to B&W and see what you think. Me, I'd rather have a noisy shot with detail than one with smeared details due to heavy in-camera noise reduction.

6. Sensor dust is a huge problem. I shot with my Digital Rebel for 5 years, never once cleaned the sensor. If you turn your camera off when you change lenses, you'll keep it from attracting dust due to an electromagnetic charge. Point your lens toward the ground as you change lenses. These things will help. Don't worry about dust.

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