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5 Important Photography Lessons I've learned About Life

This post will most likely not include any images as I am extremely pensive over the past few months.

1. Dynamic Range

There are a few genres which use dynamic range such as photography, film, and music. A more layman definition of dynamic range is simply the ratio between the lowest and the highest values a certain quantity can assume. Not to get too technical here, but it is good to know that dynamic range is generally the measurement of light and sound by giving it a range. Depending on how powerful your gear is, if the ‘Whites’ gets too white, any of the captured information over the whites would just be pure white, and we will lose details after this range. The reverse is true for the ‘Blacks’ as well. The photography term for ‘Whites’ is highlights and ‘Blacks’ is shadows. Therefore, it is essential to protect your highlights in the photography world as we like to capture as much details as possible.

In life, we receive information by sight according to our own experiences and judgement - we analyse such information to the best of our capabilities. However, similar to a camera’s dynamic range we may not be able to see what goes beyond the purest whites and the darkest blacks. Thus, we always need to make everyday decisions in what to keep and what not to keep. – juggling our priorities in tandem with our needs and wants. Just the other day, I was having this conversation with a fellow photographer about whether it is more important to expose for the highlights or the shadows. Taking out the artistic nature of the both of us, we agreed that it is more important to expose for the highlights as details are easily lost at the highlights. Again, in life I find that we need to know our limitations and concentrate in honing our highlights while embracing our shadows at the same time.

2. Compensation

Compensation or exposure compensation is used to alter exposure from the value selected by the camera, making images brighter or darker. This is done in-camera settings before the shot is taken. By manipulating this setting, we are able to keep a series of picture in the same constant setting which we have set. This compensation allow us to keep our pictures constantly corrected.

In life, it is always good to have someone or somebody who can check on you constantly. May it be a friend or a family member, it is always a blessing when you know that there are pillars of strength all around whenever you are down or just do not feel right at that moment. I am always thankful and contented as my own philosophy is that I do not need a lot of friends, just a few good ones will do. Those that can help to compensate your shortcomings.

Many years back, I came across this conversation of someone sharing about how her best friend needs to be someone that will cover her may it be right or wrong. I beg to differ. I believe that a good friend should constantly check on you and have the courage to tell you what is right and what is wrong. In fact, it takes a more than a normal friend to do that.

On a side note, in the real-world usage, I hardly use compensation unless I am using flash. Not to get too technical here, but it is only useful during this time for me.

3. Overpowering the Sun

Back in my younger years of shooting, we always have this saying that a certain person wants to overpower the sun. While all of us had a good laugh about it, many years on - we are all indeed overpowering the sun with new technologies now. You guessed it right if the word ‘Strobe’ was the first word that came to mind. Gone were the days when you need a full generator just to bring out your lighting set to shoot outdoors, equipment are getting smaller, faster and lighter in recent years. While it took a few generations to be able to overpower the sun now, it didn’t come easy. Nowadays, it is a lot easier for newbies to get into photography as compared to when I first started. Overpowering the Sun now is a lot cheaper and easier.

In life, strobe is like an alternative path which one takes to get an innovative result beyond the norm. As mentioned earlier, in that the camera body’s dynamic range may be limited, I did not mention that the whole equation significantly changes when strobe is added. Have you wanted to try on something which is different from what everybody is doing before? I would like to believe that everyone of us at least have one gifting or specialty, this is the ‘strobe’ which you have. All of us have this ‘alternate’ gift, you just have to find it. I believe this gift is innate, you need to discover it and bring it out - a gift that can overpower the 'Sun'. Go find your gift.

4. Filter is Key

In photography terms, a filter is an accessory consisting of an optical filter that can be inserted into the optical path. Either to enhance or to take away, they usually improve the quality of the final image. There are many kinds of filters for different purposes. Such as UV, ND, Polarizing, Color-enhancing, Star-light, etc. I mainly use these 3 kinds for different purposes.

UV – To protect camera lenses and filter out UV light

ND – When I need to take some special effect of smooth-running water

Polarizing – This works similarly like shades, to block out the sun’s ray, eliminate unwanted reflections and desaturate color levels caused by glare.

Everyday we take in so much information from the media and we need our own truth-seeking ball to filter out unwanted reports. Just like there are different filters for different purpose, we should filter out negativity which are so prevalent nowadays. I wish there were auto-filters built into our brain so negativity and worries would be filtered out automatically at all times.

5. Global Modifications

My own definition of Global modifications are steps I would take to correct the overall look of an image such as the lighting, tones, saturation, color correction, etc. This is what I would explain to my client in the way I do my edits. I used to do heavy edits for everything in my younger days, but I realized that I will never be satisfied with my edits. There will always be methods or ways I could do to further enhance an image in photoshop. Nowadays, everything in on top of a global modification is considered an add-on and is chargeable. I believe this needs to be communicated across clearly as the commission fee at its base is for photography and enhanced editing is not included.

In my ‘Global Modification’ mode, I have already set a consistent flow in how I edit my pictures for different genres. These steps are embedded in me, and it becomes auto-pilot whenever I pull out an image to edit. The global modification mode allows me to take away a bit of the artistic aspect of photography and to adjust what is ‘right’ by workflow. This is being fair to all my clients in that they get the same quality and standard in all my work. Of course, there are times when I would go slightly more to edit out of the norm. Some of these ‘extras’ were not charged, and it is purely out of goodwill.

I believe time and space is important in life. Everything happens for a reason and it is not fair to simply say that life is not fair. Right, I agree that life is never fair but it should not be used as an excuse to not get better. Sometimes, clients ask for more but at least that is to my discretion in obliging. In a nutshell, what I am trying to convey is about an important lesson in life which I have paid a high price for: “If you do not ask, the answer is always no.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this new norm. Many of our lives have somewhat taken a hiatus due to the pandemic, it seems like a whole life movie is screening through our eyes frozen in time everyday listening to never-ending Covid’19 news and the number of deaths resulting. The whole world had been stricken with consecutive bad news one after another for the past two years. Some of the major ones in my opinion include the Myanmar coup, China-US tension, China-Taiwan tension, US withdraws from Afghanistan, passing of many famous people, etc.

Now, what is the new norm? Xennials like me still trying to grasp some of these new concepts in recent years while realizing that there might really be some inventions we would get to see in our lifetime. Well, maybe we will get to live on the moon in our lifetime! For now, I am simply contented with spending time doing what I love may it be for passion or for better financial status.

Wishing everyone a blessed new year!




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