So now that you know the fundamentals of photography and you are able to practice this art, we come to some of the more practical matters. What common tasks must you perform and what kinds of tools are available to you today for doing them.
First, you have to capture the images themselves– the tools for doing that are cameras. Most beginners today start with their cell phone cameras, and thankfully they are more and more capable. I tend to prefer cell phone cameras with more manual control options, which is why I tend to buy LG phones, and specifically the v-Series phones. These phones can be a pretty good bargain especially if you’re willing to buy about 6 months after release and get a used or refurbished unit. I also like super zoom compact cameras or even super-zoom big cameras for beginners. They usually have manual controls and the wide zoom range makes them ideal for practice using the frame for composition. Eventually if you’re serious about photography you’ll want to consider getting a large sensor interchangeable lens camera. I prefer the “mirrorless” cameras, but the DSLR cameras are very capable as well, and can offer some good value. For more detailed information if you’re at this stage in camera purchasing, please check out Tony and Chelsea Northrop and their excellent information and and review videos at their YouTube channel.
Second, you’re going to need a way to review your photographs and choose which ones are good enough to edit and maybe show others, which ones to delete, and everything in-between. For automatic backup and cross-platform accessibility and basic viewing functionality I really like Google Photos. If you are starting out on a phone this app will automatically back up the images you have on your phone to the web whenever you are on Wifi, which allows you to free up space on your device if you need it. You can also access your photographs from an internet connected PC or Mac to review what you got on a larger screen. If you are using a PC or a Mac to review the images you can start using the built in image viewer (each operating system has a basic standard program that comes with the system, for viewing images) to review, trash, and even add favorites or star images. Eventually as you get more sophisticated you’ll need to get a raw processing editor, there are a few different options out their but the industry standard editor is Adobe Lightroom, and at least right now in 2019, this is the program to use and learn if you want to be competent in the industry. The runner-up software is called Capture One by Phase One. Both of these tools are for sorting and the initial editing of images.
Which brings us to the third task and the tools that are available, namely, proof editing your images. Proof edits are images with a basic edit for exposure, color, and contrast applied so that clients and publishers can easily see the potential of the image. For most people this is as far as their images will ever go. If you are a cell-phone photographer you should use Snapseed. It’s my favorite phone image editor. There are many other photo editing apps for your phone, and I’m sure many of them are good as well. I would look for something that allows you to edit exposure and contrast, as well as apply area specific edits such as vignettes and selective blurring. I would also look for software that has capable crop and rotate functionality. If you are using a PC or Mac they both have basic built in photo editing solutions, a quick Google search will get you more options as well. If you are more advanced and able to pay for software, Adobe Lightroom or Capture One from Phase One, are both good options. The level of polish exhibited in proof edited images is often so much greater than what average people are used to that they don’t see any way the image could be improved.
However, there is a further stage in the editing process. That is the digital retouching and fine detail contrast, exposure, and dynamic range adjustments. Photoshop is the professional tool for digital retouching. Sometimes, Photoshop can be used to create composite images as well. A decent open source alternative is GIMP. The success of Photoshop has lead to a number of alternatives that offer similar functionality. But again, the industry standard is Adobe Photoshop, so if you want to be prepared to work professionally it’s worth figuring out how you can use the standard professional tools. That being said any of these tools will allow a fine level of detail in working on each area of the image, and will provide some kind of layering functionality for finishing the images. They also usually provide more advanced tools for removing unwanted objects, and for compositing (putting different images together into a final image).
Finally, if you want to share images an easy place to start is social media. Or you could go retro and printing your images, or even publish them with a story in a magazine, periodical, or even newspaper. A blog is another great way to share your images and give them an online home. More and more people are sharing images between devices using Google Photos or even just in messaging chat streams. All of these are important ways to share images, but some of them seem more temporary than they should be which brings me to the bonus task: archiving.
As you take photographs over years you’ll accumulate a lot of images, and you want to have a way to make sure they are safe and accessible in the future. Google Photos provides part of that strategy as the online storage they offer is free for standard sized images and will remain accessible and searchable from any internet connected computer. It is also important to have a backup where you live too, though. And probably more importantly, you need to sort your images and get rid of the ones that aren’t your best. If you don’t do this you could easily find it so difficult to find the images you want that you effectively make it so that your old images cannot be easily used and enjoyed. This bonus task is really an extension of the sorting task. I recommend getting rid of at least half of the images you take, especially if you follow my advice from an earlier class and shoot a lot to make sure you get the best images.
These are the primary tasks for a photographer, especially a hobbyist or beginner. Are there any tasks I forgot? What specific part of the process still seems difficult to follow for you?