Off-Topic - advice, experiences and examples, for images that will be processed in PhotoLab

That’s about the same as the A-mode. But slower :stuck_out_tongue:


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Two thoughts, based on personal experience…

1 - If someone is content with allowing the camera to take control, and create acceptable photos, the photographer will never learn, let alone, understand, what is going on. If it’s a decent camera, the photographer will never understand to really learn all this exposure stuff. He, or she, will have no need to do so, as they will already be capturing good images most of the time.

2 - If someone sets their camera to (M)anual, they will be forced to learn about shutter speed and aperture and ISO, and why and when to manipulate them for the best possible photograph.

I was firmly in the middle of the first group, and very grudgingly went along with the idea of taking control myself, and grumbled when I captured poorly exposed images - “the camera would have done better!!!” I’m too stubborn for my own good, and once I made the switch, so many other things I learned, as I had no choice. For instance, the only thing I used to set the aperture, was the desired depth of field. Also, the shutter speed was determined by how fast it needed to be, to deal with movement by the subject, and movement by the photographer. I would then try to set the ISO to the lowest number I could, even on my latest cameras. Speaking of which, I was only concerned with grain/noise - but PhotoLab obliterated noise pretty well. What PhotoLab could NOT correct, is that the higher the ISO, the less detail my camera captured. (See my next response, with examples.)

I’ve got no more desire to argue any of this with others, in person, or online. What I learned here worked well for me. I’ve also learned that there is a lot of “wiggle room”, and that maybe I should start using my light meter, which may be more accurate than my camera.

As for “Automatic Mode”, it’s fine if I’m taking snapshots I don’t care about, and it’s useful when I don’t have time to do things in what I consider the “proper” way (see above).

  • …and the same thing applies to focus - if that is off, the important parts of the photo won’t be sharp.
  • …and the same thing applies to how steadily I can hold the camera. I searched for and experimented to find the best way I can hand-hold my camera. Being 80, and not very strong, makes this a challenge for me.
  • …and also, in the heat of the action, I need to remember to keep the camera level, and try to crop the image to maximize the quality of what I care about, the reason for taking that photo.

Repeating… - I’m not trying to argue with anyone, or convince anyone. I’m just saying what I’ve learned to do, and why. And a HUGE part of the above was learned from reading @Joanna’s posts here.

Suggestion - check this video for a fresh view on how ISO affects photo quality, and the main consideration is no longer “digital noise”.


Fast forward to 16 minutes into the video, when the ISO discussion starts.
It is certainly NOT what I expected to see.
Maybe all of you already realize this.

Ken Rockwell ? Seriously ?

Not everyone learns well by being thrown into the deep end. Many get turned away from doing something they have the potential to be really good at, because they were forced to learn. Others may require being forced. And not everyone is consistent with that either… analogue, biological, human randomness.

The problem I see with being forced to learn something where creativity also plays a role, is that it can quickly lead to a person’s creativity withering, because they were prevented from simply trying out things themselves before getting to the guided part. Others require more guidance in the beginning. Both types can be butterfly-heads.

Proper way here or there, I think what counts is getting to the of shooting manual / RAW as a natural habit. Doesn’t matter if you rely on an external light meter, in-camera histogram or your experience to get the RAW file(s), what matters as someone using PhotoLab, is being able take the shot to create the RAW file that will allow you to show what you perceived or want to highlight.

Honest question: What do you mean by “this”?

Absolutely - whether people like him or not, Ken Rockwell is a source of a lot of good, useful information, including things from decades ago. What has he written that upsets you? Perhaps his style?

No argument from me - I’ve always thought of “creativity” and “the basics” as two completely different things.

Quite a few VERY capable people write things, and I’m shaking my head, what the heck does this person mean - and is it really good advice. If I “followed the crowd”, my Leica gear would have been history decades ago, and my DSLR cameras would have been replaced with “mirrorless”.

Back to your thoughts on Ken Rockwell - I felt almost, almost, persuaded to buy a Nikon Zf, as it looked like a perfect camera for me. Thanks to Ken, I wouldn’t touch it any more. Read this, to see what a huge mistake I almost made:

Nikon Zf Review & Sample Image Files by Ken Rockwell

It “looks” like the Nikon Zf is a wonderful replacement for my Nikon Df, but it is all 'looks", “wallpaper”; it was styled to look great. Every other review I have read raves about it.

@Joanna was far less than enthusiastic about my Nikon Df. She was telling me how inferior it is, compared to my D780. I took it with me on my trip to India, partly to learn how to use it, and “become one with the camera”. Half-way through the trip I thought back to what @Joanna wrote, and how right she was. I forced it to do anything and everything I wanted it to do, and it did so, but with a little bit more weight, the D780 (or my old D750, or the D850), would have been much better for me, and equally importantly, all things being equal, the specs on the Df are way out of date.

People here would say “use what ya’ got”, and that’s what I did. But I’m spoiled, I guess.

To anyone here reading this - forget the discussion, and for one month, use your camera in (M)anual mode, learning as you go how to get the most out of it. After a month, consider if you want to continue doing that, or going back to the simpler ways. After only a week, I was convinced @Joanna was wrong, and I wanted to take my camera out of (M)anual mode and make life “easier” again. But a few more weeks, and using Manual was no more difficult, and I felt better knowing all the settings the camera would use. …and if you really want to hate me, go through ALL the camera menu settings, and look for what the camera is automatically doing for you. Grudgingly, I turned those automatic things off. Every so often I find one I missed. My D780 is much “dumber” than it used to be. :slight_smile:

(I used to ask if “______” is a useful setting, and was told “turn it off”. Gosh, the list of settings is huge!!! All trying to get us a prettier image. :slight_smile: )

the last place somebody ( raw-shooter ) needs to go to learn about “ISO” and how setting a specific nominal ISO in camera can affect raw image data

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Because I rarely have time for that and because I trust camera exposure meter more than external one (based on my experience using Sekonic L-758D). I didn’t speak about camera metering modes and exposure compensation to keep it simple. External exposure meters might be useful in the studio but then you have the luxury of being in full control over lighting, timing and the scene, and you can do very well without additional gadgets.
I prefer to preset the camera for the expected conditions, perhaps adjusting on the run, rather than to think about it before each shot. Put it shortly: it distracts.

There are many myths and dogmas flying around. You can hear sometimes two opposing views by photographers, both of them achieving good results. One example is using external light meter. Another is (not) using Auto ISO with flash. Other hot topic is (not) using Auto WB. ETTR is yet another such thing. The photographic “rules” are there to break them, treat them just like “hints”. It helps to know the rationale behind these rules, but they are not like the rules of physics (well, unless they are), which you can’t change. My own dogma is “choose what suits you”. Discover and use your “rules” and develop your own “style”.

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ETTR is not to be used when raw is intended to be processed by DxO tools :grinning:

I’m not sure if it applies to all cameras. Personally, I’ve never run into this problem (D700/D4/D780), but for safety reasons I tend to underexpose, just a bit. Probably because I had problems with highlights in LR5.7. Sunsets require special manual treatment too,
because of software and hardware artifacts.

Likely you meant @noname, however to clarify, all I knew about Ken Rockwell aside from his site always coming up in search results when I’m looking for lens reviews, is that he wrote a lot about photography. I was however never drawn in by his style of writing.

Being curious about where the difference in opinion could be, I had a quick look through the review to see what the cons were for him with the Zf. I left the page when I read this “For instance, critical is my ability to reset my camera immediately from one kind of shooting (sports, portraits, landscapes, macro, products, studio, etc.) to another,…”

Then I had a look to see what he says about RAW on his site. Quotes from what KR thinks about photography really don’t belong here. Unless this isn’t a thread about processing RAW files with PhotoLab.


A photographer I respect greatly once noted about Mr Rockwell that his problem is that he tends to confuse opinion with fact.


Oops, sorry. My mind must have been getting some mords wixed up. Yep, Ken has been at it for so long, reviewing just about anything, photographic. His stuff is like an encyclopedia of photography. He has his own style, that I don’t think I would ever use, with VIVID being one of the key words. I own a Df, and was considering a Zf. No more.

I was taking a photo of a Rolls Royce hood ornament an hour or so ago. I had left the camera set to ISO 200 (no reason not to change it), shutter at 1/640th, and aperture had been left at f/7.1 which seemed to put the “exposure bars” close enough to make me happy. I didn’t see any reason to change anything. Thinking back to this discussion, since the exposure bars in the window were good, and nothing was moving, I didn’t see any reason to change things. I figured f/7.1 would give me enough depth of field. As I walked away, I was thinking of this discussion. With no reason to change anything, I just left things as they were. The exposure bars told me I should get a good exposure. My concentration was on focus, composition, and trying to hold the camera still.

I guess my own mental check list considers whether anything is moving, does the exposure seem good, am I likely to get the depth of field I want or need, do I need to move closer or further away, or zoom, and finally is everything included or excluded to get the photo I want. The final “check” is to “chimp” and verify I didn’t mess up, which I often do, especially the “including/excluding” part, which I might not even notice until I chimp.

I’m curious as to what all of you think of, in what order, as you come across a scene you want to photograph. Do you just raise the camera and capture the image, or what goes through your minds?

I was talking about the in-camera exposure meter which, on the Nikon is very good in spot mode.

What are they?

Sorry for my misinterpretation. On D780 I also found ‘highlight-centered’ metering useful, which makes life much easier in some specific situations.

Now , to open next two cans of worms, looking at your photos from Pondicherry:

  • why did you use Active D-Lighting? Please be aware, that DPL7 does not take it account and you may get very underexposed RAW data. This might have both good and bad sides. Personally I don’t use it, unless photo is special and intended for NX Studio processing (and ISO is low). LR has some support for ADL, but from what I hear, it’s quite primitive.
  • why do you use VR with 1/500s at 135mm (FF)? VR can be tricky. You must wait a little for it to “lock”. The first photo was misfocused. Was it because of active VR, while you were panning? I have very little experience with VR.

PS: For people, I would use Lens Softness correction somewhere between -2 and 0. Setting it to +1.0 produces too sharp hair (for my taste), which may look like wires.

At the top of my viewfinder is the area to suggest under, correct, or over exposure. I’ve gotten into the habit of calling them “exposure bars”. If you have a more appropriate name for them, I’ll use that from now on. If there are five or six of these bars on the right or left, I almost always feel I need to correct the exposure. Ideally, there would be none of those “bars” on either side, just a single “bar” under the zero.

I’m always aware of them, and if a lot of them show up on the right or left, I might have an exposure problem. For me, it’s a “check” if my exposure is likely correct.

Stupid mistake on my part - I remember I turned it off, and I assumed it was “off” on all my cameras. It was supposed to be “off”, along with all the other trick stuff from Nikon. Idiot mistake. The D780 has two “U” modes, “U1” and “U2”. I need to go through all those settings (I wish I could print the whole list) so I can check it every so often. Anyway, to answer you, because I was careless is the best I can say. It certainly was not on purpose.

Something else I don’t understand. Why shouldn’t I leave it at zero (off)?

Ken explained one way to make use of U1 and U2. Anyone here have a suggestion?

What is it, what does it do, and why should I use it?

More help needed:

Regarding the above, @Joanna told me to turn off Active D-Lighting off, on my D750. When I got the D780, I guess I forgot to turn this off. It’s off now!!!

As to the VR setting on my lenses - I’ve always been leaving this on. Why is this a bad idea?

About the mis-focused “first” photo… I’ll need to check this out, but I think I know why. I went through all my photos from the fishing village, using PhotoLab. The best 10 images I used the ratings scale, setting those to “5”. Then, one by one, I deleted the 5-star rating, until I was down to only two images. I think I know why, but let me go back and check…

My camera ws set to focus on a single point in the middle of the image. I failed to keep the boat centered, meaning the focus was on the water behind the boat.

This was my second favorite image, but the other one, despite the focus issue, seemed to be a better photograph to me. This image, by comparison, is boring.

You should be able to zoom in on this image - it’s in focus, but I gave up on editing it, because I didn’t like it. :frowning:

Something else I just learned - I need to use one of the other focusing modes, not a single point, for photos like this. Oops…

I need to make a check list of all these things, so I do better next time.

I will be going back there again, in July.

Maybe someone here can help.

What is the best way to record all my settings on one of my Nikon cameras, so I know for sure how it is configured, and can recall the settings in the future if I ever need to.

Nikon offers a way to back up my settings, but I would like something I can actually see.

The best thing I can think of is to set up two cameras, with my other camera aimed at the display screen on my D780, and scroll through every settings screen, taking a photo of each one. That, and a photo of the top of the camera, and maybe the back, should get me what I’m after.

Maybe there’s a better way to do this?

I hate to leave all this up to my memory… for each of my cameras.

Well, what exactly were you expecting?

You mean for the sake of 3oz you actually took the Df all that way and ended up with an inferior shooting experience and inferior images? Wow!

At the top? Are you sure? Here is the user manual image for the Nikon Df viewfinder…

The exposure meter is on the bottom, as with all Nikon viewfinders that I know of. Here it is marked 29. If you are working with manual exposure, this is indeed where you see by how much the image will be over or under-exposed.

No, it is not a “check”, it is the camera’s exposure meter.

Each large tick represents 1 stop and each small tick represents ⅓ stop. So you can very precisely set the exposure to exactly what you want. If you are spot metering on the brightest part of the image, then this should be pointing at anything up to 2-3 stops (EV) over-exposed, depending on how “white” you want that part of the image to appear.

If you set it to the zero mark, anything white that you are metering will appear 18% grey.

This first shot was spot metered off the rear door of the white van at 0EV (centre tick)…

But what I wanted was the van to appear as white as it did in the bright sunlight, without blowing the highlights. So I metered it at +2EV (two large ticks to the right)…

What you set the softness correction to is entirely up to you and how soft (or sharp) you want the image to appear. @Wlodek mentions that he softens the image for portrait work - it helps hide the wrinkles in skin.

More correctly called “highlight weighted”, this is very useful when you are shooting something with coloured spotlights, like a concert. It simply under-exposes slightly to help with avoiding blowing those lights.

You can but some folks turn it off unless absolutely necessary.

As you get older, it can become more necessary. The “rule” for whether to use a tripod or not is usually when the reciprocal of the shutter speed is less than the focal length so, in theory, for your 135mm focal length, you should only need it if your shutter speed is slower than 1/135 sec.

But there is the additional guidance that, if the subject is moving, double that speed and, if both you and the subject are moving, triple that speed.

Personally, at our age, I would use VR most of the time except when using a tripod, when it should be firmly disabled.

But the Nikon mechanism doesn’t guarantee to save all settings so, maybe a better idea is to only note which settings you actually changed and then go through the menu from the default reset after camera servicing or the like.

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a general note

VR – Nikon’s optical stabilizer built into the lens – is particularly useful when shooting images handheld with a telephoto lens. It “calms” the image in the viewfinder, which would otherwise just jump around. Of course, VR should be turned off when the camera is on a (stable) tripod.

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