MARCH, 2021


Welcome to this photography column hosted by Ottawa professional photographer Jeff Ryan. Each month will feature a new topic in photography and if necessary, the articles will overlap month to month if additional space is required to fully explain a particular feature of your camera or photo technique. References will be directed towards both film and digital camera’s so the reader “will unquestionably benefit” from the following information. The reader should be advised that I own several film camera systems as well as a high end Nikon digital product so the articles are not slanted in favour of either format of camera system. Why I make reference to film photography products in the year 2020 is due to the fact that for the most part, I continue to produce a great extent of my imagery utilizing this excellent medium. As mentioned, my approach in writing this column is to accommodate both film and digital photographer’s but more importantly, to help photographer’s in a general sense, realize that sophisticated digital equipment is truly not required to produce award winning photographic imagery. The reader should be reminded that film has produced the most striking historical portraits and commercial imagery for years prior to the introduction of the digital camera and computer. It is my intent to make the reader understand that getting caught up in digital software programs and expensive camera systems will “not” produce better imagery. Serious photographer’s have long realized that although expensive and excessive amounts of equipment are nice to own, it often comes down to your talents as a photographer, working with a limited amount of equipment that often creates the finest imagery.



Many years ago when I became interested in photography, I started with an Instamatic point and shoot camera that housed a cartridge of film that was accompanied by flash cubes should the need for flash photography arise. This camera produced prints or slides in square format, and all that was required on behalf of the user was to aim it at the subject matter and as they say, “shoot”. What could be easier? No fussing with exposure, lenses or tripods. This is many a beginner photographer’s dream. I was satisfied with these images for a few years, until one day when viewing my prints which had recently been returned from the lab, I realized that the images presented to me did not accurately represent the subject matter I had photographed. At this point, I started making a series of tests with my camera to determine if it was defective and not operating properly. A few rolls/cartridges of film later, the same problems occurred. These included: improper colour balance and density of each image, over and underexposure, lack of sharpness, etc. I then made a trip to my local camera store presenting a question that many of my students to this very day ask me particularly during this digital state of photography which is: “why do these prints not look like the scene or person at the time I made the exposure?” Does this sound familiar to you?
After conversing with the store clerk and unfortunately obtaining indirect and rather vague answers to my questions, I began reviewing several publications regarding exposure, film, paper characteristics, various lenses and processing procedures. Approximately six months went by and I realized at this point that my camera wasn’t in the least defective, but there were twofold issues that presented themselves. The first was, that I was expecting far too much from such a limited piece of equipment and it no longer would represent my needs. Secondly, there are so many steps involved between creating the image and printing it. The additional steps I am referring to involved the people who at that time were responsible for processing the film and printing it. Having worked in a camera store that housed a processing lab, I can unfortunately attest to inaccuracy in the automatic printing equipment, using chemistry past the expiration date and in addition, somewhat limited knowledge on behalf of the technicians pertaining to manual override exposure controls during the print making process. These comments obviously do not pertain to the majority of photographic outlets but the reader should make efforts to direct their films (if they are still utilizing film products), to “qualified” photo labs with good reputations and accredited staff members. Many novice photographers viewing dissatisfied photographs feel frustrated and tend to give up on photography when their cameras do not perform as they expect them to. However, if you have a good understanding of exactly what your camera is doing when you depress the shutter release, you can rest assured that even the novice will be well on his/her way to producing exceptional images with a limited amount of photographic equipment.

In my opinion, equipment can essentially be broken down into two categories: 1) levels of necessity, and 2) levels of convenience. The more time you invest behind a camera, the more sophisticated products you are most likely going to acquire in the future. The reason behind this simply stated is that you, a photographer, are maturing in your methods particularly when referring to pre-visualization of your subject matter and consequently, developing your own style of picture making. At this point, you may discover that you will no longer be satisfied with the limitations of your present equipment, and be forced to upgrade equipment to produce imagery which more accurately reflects what you see in your mind’s eye before the shutter is released. On our next get-together, we will cover basic equipment that will deliver fine results at a moderate price range, and I’ll also touch on the second-hand market.

With Good Wishes……Jeff Ryan.