May 20, 2018

Archives for December 2013

Take Your Photography to the Next Level: Camera Settings


Mala Boat Ramp in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii | Photographer Rene Swart / FC Schwartz Photography

Mala Boat Ramp in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii | Photographer Rene Swart / FC Schwartz Photography

Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Maui in Hawaii. This photo of the old dilapidated pier was taken at the Mala boat ramp in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

The deteriorated and rusted ruins falling into decay just asked to be photographed.

It was a bright and sunny day and the photo could easily be overexposed. As can be witnessed in the photo on the left.

Bracketing was used to capture the photo, and I used the overexposed photo as an example what can be done if the maximum possible amount of data is recorded by the camera.

In digital photography, this is where everything starts. The collection of data in the camera. The camera doesn’t actually take a picture. It collects data and then converts the data into a picture. So, the more data is available, the more the camera can do to convert it into a picture.

If you take your pictures in RAW, as I do, the camera does not convert the data into a picture. The data is transferred from the camera to your editing device, normally your computer or laptop, where the conversion takes place via your conversion software (Lightroom, Capture One, etc.). Again, the more data your conversion software has available, the more detail can be extracted. I always stand amazed on how much data is hidden from the naked eye.

The method I use to capture my data in camera, produces an unflattering image. I know that beforehand. I am hesitant to show my RAW images as people may think I’m the worst photographer they ever met (maybe that is true).

In photography school they teach you to do it right in the camera. In the bygone film days it meant that you had to get the photo as picture perfect as possible. In the digital era it means that you have to capture the biggest amount of data to work with afterwards.

Once you understand this principle, you’re on your way to take great pictures!

Now for the crux. How do I set my camera?

  1.  RAW
  2. Color space: Adobe RGB. sRGB will give you a more vivid initial picture but with a smaller color gamut than Adobe RGB.
  3. NO in-camera contrast as this will also limit the amount of data (or detail) that can be recorded.
  4. NO in-camera image sharpening. I’ll do some initial sharpening during RAW conversion, but the bulk of sharpening is the last step in my workflow.
  5. I leave my white balance setting on auto. I find that, in about 95% of scenarios the camera’s interpretation of light is quite good. Because I shoot in RAW, I can always correct the white balance afterwards.

As a result of applying the above settings, enough data was available in the image on the left to produce the one on the right.

Even if you shoot in jpeg, you can apply the above principles. Just be more careful on the in-camera setting for white balance, as it is more difficult to correct a wrong light interpretation with your software when shooting jpeg.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further enquiries.

Night Photography: Get Rid of the Noise

Christmas on Knobhill | Photographer Francois Swart, FC Schwartz Photography

Christmas on Knobhill | Photographer Francois Swart, FC Schwartz Photography


This photo of Santa, and his beautiful Christmas tree was taken on Knobhill Road, San Marcos and is part of my Christmas Lights collection.

In general people find it difficult to take high quality photos at night. The big secret lies in the way you handle the light, and of course, the editing.

When it comes to the exposure, I make use of my in-camera histogram to make sure that I have captured as much data as possible in both the dark (left) and light (right) areas of the graph. I will discuss the interpretation of the histogram in a future blog.

When it comes to editing, it is important in night photography to first do your noise reduction before starting the editing process. If you don’t do that, all enhancements will also enhance the noise, as the editing software will interpret the noise as part of the detail in the photo.

Therefore, LESSON 1 in night photography, FIRST do the NOISE REDUCTION, THEN embark on the editing journey.

Good luck!

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!