Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio Ottawa
Welcome to this informative photography column by photographer, Jeff Ryan of Ottawa, Ontario, which will provide the reader with answers pertaining to several topics in photography. Working as a professional photographer and instructor over many years has inevitably led to me being questioned as to how I achieved a particular effect in my photographs, which lens or camera did I use etc. For this and other reasons, is how these articles have come to fruition. It is my wish that this column will prove beneficial not only for the novice and advanced amateur photographer, but for numerous individuals who feel they have an appreciation of our visual surroundings, artist or not. Making reference to the previous statement, it has been my experience that many people’s sense of vision is subdued and has not been allowed to develop to it’s fullest potential for a variety reasons. The propellant for this visual abbreviation in life is primarily due to the fact that numerous individuals are unfortunately not giving themselves permission to invest the necessary time to develop a newness of visual perspectives available to all who seek a fulfilling visual richness in life. I am confident that the reader will expand their sense of vision with a much heightened awareness, as they proceed throughout these tutorials.
Several students over the years have expressed interest in having me release material which was presented during my courses and seminars, whether the instructional program was held in a community centre, my photography studio or in the field. The upcoming articles will feature a broad range of topics ranging from basic camera operation, to proper composition of your subject matter including the interpretation and manipulation of light. These initial articles are written primarily for film photography cameras however, the reader will most definitely benefit from the material presented and have the ability to incorporate both mediums, digital and film, to achieve excellent results in the creation of their imagery. Naturally, reference will be made to digital products in conjunction with film camera’s when comparisons between each will benefit the reader. Having worked with both mediums, it is my personal opinion at time of this writing, (Oct.2016) that film is a more capable product in rendering true professional archival imagery. The technical aspects of photography will be discussed throughout the column with emphasis placed on “seeing” the natural world and it’s inhabitants around you. Through careful examination of your subject matter, you will enter a world currently unknown to you in this visual photographic journey.
To reflect briefly regarding digital image products particularly when making reference to image manipulation, I find the majority of my students creating in the digital medium depend heavily upon photographic software programs to either correct or enhance their imagery after viewing their results. My belief as a photographer is that you should strive to put a well exposed/composed image together be it on film or digital file, similarly to the way you wish it to appear in the final print. By learning photographic lighting, exposure methods, and studying composition, you will have immeasurably greater success in predicting your final results and certainly one of a more satisfactory nature as opposed to image manipulation. It is my belief that camera enthusiasts who extensively alter the characteristics of imagery they record with a digital camera, not to be a photographer. They are image manipulators more so than photographers, and any individual can learn the various tools and other requirements to doctor imagery to an alternate level. While I can unquestionably at times appreciate the need for corrections in imagery, people are depending too heavily upon software devices to produce excellent looking photographs denying themselves the ability to progress through much thought to finally achieve a personal satisfaction as an image creator. Retouching has been with us for an extensive period of time and prior to the advent of the computer, airbrushing techniques using dyes and pencils to subtly change the characteristics of the print/negative were employed. More often than not, these applications did not drastically alter the physical characteristics of the finished print if done correctly. With the digital age, the majority of imagery we view is artificially enhanced in the majority of publications, and I often struggle to find talent pertaining to copying a certain area of a print and pasting it elsewhere to repair inefficiencies in photographs.
It is my hope that a photographer being either amateur or advanced leans more towards being a true crafts person, depending less upon the above mentioned services. It should be obvious that individuals committed to achieving excellence through the artistic medium of hand retouching of yesteryear, are unquestionably not predominant in today’s society. With the advent of the computer, the talents of these people have regrettably dismissed do to cost factors. I have come to the conclusion after having viewed professional portraits for over forty years, that there is undeniably a difference in both of the before mentioned products. On a positive note, digital retouching should not be dismissed. It is extremely beneficial particularly when heirloom photographs which are cracked or torn require restoration, or when commercial photography applications arise. Here, the computer is a very helpful tool to a large extent, and the client is usually more than satisfied with the finished product. In my opinion, so called “correct/professional imagery” refers to making well thought out compositions, determining the appropriate angle of light, utilizing the correct lens for a particular application etc. This current dependency of altering imagery can for the most part, often be avoided at time of exposure. Another advantage of a digital product is the convenience of e-mailing imagery immediately to others which is certainly convenient in today’s hurried society. On a closing note, it should not be overlooked that clients have the option of having negatives scanned at high resolution and converted to digital files should they be an advocate of film photography products. These high resolution scans are capable of rendering excellent results in finished photographs of many sizes. It would seem for arguments sake, that both systems be it film or digital, have their plus and minus sides. The final decision is naturally left up to the user but as mentioned previously, film should not be overlooked for it’s phenomenal quality even in this digital age.
Additional topics covered will be quite extensive and encompass black and white photography including wet darkroom technique, electronic flash, lens filtration methods, exposure in automatic and manual modes, proper lens selection, depth of field characteristics, tripods and much more as we proceed from month to month. Consider this series of articles to be a course providing you with supplemental levels of education in professional photography at your desk, home, or lap top. As a suggestion, it might be a good idea for you to have these printed pages of text accompany you when you are in the field producing photographs of nature or people at your discretion. I am a firm believer that education is something that should be exchanged and shared freely between people, and not be held as “guarded secrets”; alternatively, practically everything is available on the internet today for the benefit of achieving greater levels of education.
***I would like to very politely request from the readers of this column that you “do not” call or e-mail me regarding difficulties you are experiencing with your photography. As I’m sure the reader is already aware, I regrettably would not have the time to cater to each person specific photographic difficulties. If we were to assemble as a group on a given day during one of my workshops, I would be better prepared to address the concerns of students on a more practical basis. My recommendation would be that you contact better quality camera stores for advice if your photographic problems persist.
It is my desire that this informative column be an asset in helping you produce stronger, well thought out compositions, which reflect your unique vision as a photographer. In addition, the technical explanations should prove to be informative in helping you resolve difficulties you are currently experiencing with your camera. I will endeavour when preparing this material to keep it clear, very informative and simple, so all people particularly the novice, will be able to fully comprehend and apply my techniques to their best advantage. Kindly enjoy these articles which have benefited many that I have had the pleasure of serving.
With Good Wishes………Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio, Ottawa—2017.