Learn to use your camera!

See, my photos are long because I’m stealthily taking a picture of the lady on the bus sitting next to me who pulled out an avocado and silverware (spoon and butter knife) and proceeded to slice the avocado in half and eat it with the spoon. See, if I had turned the camera sideways she’da known I wasn’t actually playing Candy Crush and was, in fact, documenting her public transportation dinner.

One of my local places recently stuck up a series of photos for a house that included a room full of hydroponics equipment (largely knocked over and broken), with blackout stuff over all the windows. Reeeeal professional there, guys.

I’ve had people try and take flash photos of me fire performing… Yup, flash photos of fire.

I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and this is one rant I can wholeheartedly get behind.

Smartphones in general, thus giving us the “pleasure” of page after page of small, too-dark photos on Facebook.

You belong to the 1 out of a thousand who actually understands how to use the iPad camera.
In addition to the issues mentioned above, I pit people who don’t understand the purpose of a built-in zoom. I once talked with a woman who showed me pictures she took at the wedding of a mutual acquaintance. There was one picture in particular where the bride and groom were very small. I asked her if her camera had a zoom function. It did, but she just didn’t think about using it! GAAH!!

And here’s my biggest photography pet peeve–people who think that making a picture black and white somehow automatically makes it fine art. Hint–it doesn’t. A bad color picture is still a bad picture after it’s been run through a black and white filter. Furthermore, there’s a REASON why color photography was invented. When I see people who are overly in love with black and white, I want to slap some sense into them.

I am with Gaffa on this one, with one addition…

When you are at a concert and you move close to the stage to take your “flash” picture, stop right there and do not do it. Why you ask? Well let someone who has spent his entire sub-adult and adult life in the live music biz give you a clue.

As you might have noticed as the performance began the house lights went down or completely dark. Also you might have noticed that the stage is now illuminated. Now this is where the “Olde Thinking Cap” goes on, try it for size.

The person on stage is looking out into the dark hall and you shine an extremely bright light into their eyes. What is the probable result besides a gray wash over your photo?



How about temporary blindness? Ever occur to you?

Pay attention to the pro photographers at a big concert, if they are using a flash it is pointed up and usually has a diffuser on it. There is a reason besides photo quality.

Thus endeth the rant


I have repeatedly said - usually on holiday - that when someone buys a camera, they shouldn’t let them out of the shop without checking they know how to turn the flash off.

The number of places I’ve been where there are signs proclaiming “no flash photography”, and people that just carry on regardless because they simply don’t know how to turn it off. I’ve even seen people putting their finger over the flash on their compact camera. Yeah, that’s going to work.

I totally get the OP’s contention. I’m always amazed at my MIL, who has a decent Canon consumer dSLR, and yet uses it on the auto mode EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I keep thinking she’d be better served with a higher-end point and shoot than that big clunky thing if she’s not going to learn how to use it, and maybe get a better lens than the craptastic short zoom that it came with out of the box.

There are a lot of photographic tricks that you need to know even with a relatively automated camera- they’re fairly good at getting a good exposure, but odd situations can trick the software into over/underexposing the photo, and it’s good to know how to remedy that. For example, in snowy scenes, the large amount of white confuses the meter and causes most (all?) cameras to deliberately underexpose the photo. You actually have to overexpose by a stop or two in those situations. Similarly, in dark situations, cameras will try to overexpose the photo, and to get it suitably dark as the real situation, you’ll need to underexpose.

This is because most cameras try to average the light from the sensors to the same overall brightness level as 18% gray card. A photo with mostly white will be underexposed, and a mostly dark photo will be overexposed as a result.

But nobody really knows this… and you get weird blurry overexposed low-light photos, and dark, weird looking snow photos.

I’ve actually not noticed this to be a problem. Exposures are relatively good, in general. If anything, I often have to use a special app to shift the exposure down on the iPhone. These cameras seem to default to a general 18% gray reading, so if there’s anything dramatic (high contrast with a lot of black, and a few white highlights) in your photo, it will over-, not under-, expose.

Well, that depends whether it’s digital zoom or optical zoom. If it’s digital, it makes no difference. You can zoom in in software after the fact. Optical? Yeah, that makes a difference.

True, for the most part. A bad picture is a bad picture, whether black and white or color. But there’s nothing wrong with loving black and white. I’m 80-90% a color shooter, but black and white is its own artform, and there’s perfectly valid artistic reasons to explore that medium. My ultra-simplified decision process of b&w vs color is this: is color adding anything to the image? Consider black and white. Is color detracting from the image? Go black and white.

You may be onto something there…

When you turn on the flash, the camera usually goes to a safe shutter speed, one that minimizes camera shake, such as 1/60th of a second. The idea is that the flash is extremely fast, so there is no need to keep the shutter open longer. (in flash photography the shutter speed only controls the level of ambient—non flash—light in your photo)

Normally, without the flash, your camera’s exposure meter sees low light and might determine that the shutter speed should much slower to gather enough light for a good exposure. If it choses 1/2 second, that photo is guaranteed to be blurred by camera shake.

At a concert, it might just happen that the stage is a bright area that really would look good at 1/60th sec, and the camera is fooled by all of the darkness around it. If that’s the case, using the camera in flash mode, the flash would be useless, but the forced 1/60th second shutter speed would capture a good shake-free exposure from the stage lighting.

At least that’s my theory of why you get better pictures of concerts with the flash on.

ETA: Another reason why it’s awesome to leave your flash on for many ordinary snapshots is for fill flash: filling in shadows in a daylight photo. Under the right conditions (fast shutter speed and bright flash) you can take a picture of someone with harsh shadows from bright sunlight and have them come out looking evenly lit.

“Excuse me, but I noticed you’re using your flash. You’ll actually get better pictures if you turn it off, and you won’t disturb the performers or the people around you. I can show you how to turn it off if you like. I’ve been doing concert photography for quite some time and can probably give you a few tips if you like.”

If you sat through the whole concert without saying anything, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I would agree that your explanation is exactly correct.

Ah yes, 50 years later, the song is still the same.

1964 World’s Fair, Flushing, NY.
Central point of interest: Unisphere (open gird globe)

Scene: Middle aged woman, 100 feet from said Unisphere, after dark, readies her Instamatic.
Realizing it is dark, she confidently loads her mighty AG-1 flash bulb and fires!

The AG-1 bulb is the size of the tip of your pinky finger. It has a working distance of 5’.

I was 15 when I saw that. That image, still with after all these years, is probably Exhibit A in the reason I am convinced that people are morons.

A conviction which is reinforced with great regularity.

And using a phone as a camera for any image you wish to preserve is incredible.

Now: ask me how I feel about this new “real lens” you are supposed to put in front of the crap lens on your camera to improve the image.
Keep in mind that a chain is only as good as its weakest link and a defect on the surface of one element in a 9 element lens ruins the lens.

Fill flash is wonderful - those little pop-up flashes on some cameras (do they still have them?) are wonderful.
Never photograph a human face with the sun overhead without it - the shadows of the eyebrow ridge and nose are brutal. Fill flash will erase them.

You want to play with shutter speed? Great! You already have figured out fill flash. Maybe now would be a nice time to get a real camera - one you can mount on a tripod and use long exposures or crank it down to 1/100 (the usual speed of a fixed shutter film camera). A real camera is fast enough to handle such things.

Bothering the people around you to improve a phone image is really rude.

Here’s an example of the type of Facebook photo that I was talking about. You should be able to see it without logging in.

As for the zoom issue–that was back before digital cameras were very common.

I have nothing against knowledgeable people who occasionally choose black and white as a deliberate artistic choice. My beef is with people who know that black and white is considered “artsy,” but they don’t know how or why, and they probably wouldn’t recognize a well-composed photo if it came to life and bit them. They run around turning things black and white like some sort of color vampire, and they imagine that they’re creating art.


I’m finding the professionals and serious amateurs just as annoying as the clueless flash users. I have to tell you, I’m such a crappy photographer that the best camera invented will still result in crappy pictures. So I’m happy using my iPhone. If that offends you, get over it.

It has to be a real problem for pro concert photographers and videographers that so much of the modern music press is made up of non-professionals. Especially at festivals, even big ones like Bonnaroo, an awful lot of the media passes will end up going to bloggers, practically unpaid writers for online publications, volunteer DJs from college or community stations, and others who have not really come up through the ranks. (I am such a DJ and I go to several festivals and shows as press every year.)

The bigger festivals separate out press and photo access, so that (in theory) only real photographers can get into the photo pit. Still, there’s usually a press orientation at the beginning of the big festivals, and 90% of it is about how the pit works and how not to be an asshole in it–use a real camera, don’t use a flash, first three songs only, don’t come in the pit drunk, get your shot and get out of the way, etc. It’s all stuff they really shouldn’t have to say, but apparently they do.

As one of the veteran photographers explained it to me–they might give two photo passes to a medium-sized online publication or a large nearby college newspaper. The editor will give one of those passes to its ace semi-pro photographer, usually a scruffy-looking dude with 10K of equipment hanging on his body, and he’ll be great. The other one will go to the hottest girl in the office. She’ll skip the orientation, waltz into the pit after the show has already started, and start shooting with her iPhone.

I know I’ve committed a press faux pas or two over the years, but I pride myself on not committing the same ones twice. The few times I’ve attempted serious photography the veterans have always been extremely helpful and accommodating to non-asshole amateurs.

I have no idea how you managed to read the OP and come away with “that guy is offended by people using iPhones and thinks everyone needs an expensive camera.” That is in fact so far from what he posted that it would need to apply for a passport and wait three months before visiting what he posted.

If you’re not using your iPhone’s flash every five seconds right in front of his face, don’t worry, you’re not who he’s talking about.

Ooof. Yeah, my news feed seems to have better visual editors. I’ll occasionally see something like that, but it’s not common.

My personal peeve, and I see this with professional photographers (much more the professional wannabes or starting out professionals, but even some seasoned ones, too), too, is the arbitrarily skewed horizon/tilted photo. I mean, I’ll skew a horizon, usually for one or (more often) a combination of three reasons: compositionally the lines work better that way, I’m trying to fit in more visual information, or I’m giving the photo a sense of “motion” or dynamics through the tilt (especially popular in car photography, but it can be anything.) OK, and maybe a fourth reason–trying to give the photo a spontaneous, snap shot, loosely composed feeling.

But I see a lot of photo tilting that looks completely arbitrary to me, more of a “I can’t think of a good composition, so I’ll tilt it, it’ll look funky, and it’s art!” kind of a feel. Drives me nuts. Or the slightly off-skew horizon that is just a couple degrees off. I hate it when I see a cityscape and it feels to me like all the building are slowly going to slide off the edge of photograph. Fix that!

And do not get me started on HDR.

Heh - as a fairly avid amateur who is trying to get better, I am a stickler for my horizons being horizontal. Yay me! :smiley: