Langford's Basic Photography
eBook - ePub

Langford's Basic Photography

The Guide for Serious Photographers

Michael Langford, Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith, Michael Langford, Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith

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eBook - ePub

Langford's Basic Photography

The Guide for Serious Photographers

Michael Langford, Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith, Michael Langford, Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith

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About This Book

This seminal photography text, now in its 10 th edition and celebrating its 50 th anniversary, has been revamped, reorganized, and modernized to include the most up-to-date, need to know information for photographers. Ideal for students, beginners, and advanced users wanting to brush up on the fundamentals of photography, this book is a must have for any photographer's bookcase. The heart of this text, however, retains the same comprehensive mix of scholarly and practical information. The new edition has been fully updated to reflect dynamic changes in the industry. These changes include:

an expansion and overhaul of the information on digital cameras and digital printing;





an emphasis on updating photographs to include a wider range of international work;





replacement of many diagrams with photos;





overhaul of the analogue sections to give a more modern tone (ie exposure measurement and film and filters with some more dynamic photo illustrations).

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2015
ISBN
9781317964728

Chapter One
What is Photography?

"What is photography?" may sound Like an easy question to answer but the potential replies could fill this book alone, especially when we consider all the digital alternatives that have transformed photography since this book was first published in 1965. In fact, in answer to this question the photographer Mishka Henner published a book (2010) called Photography Is. The book has no photographs but contains three thousand quotations edited down from 15.3 million hits when he searched online with the phrase "Photography is ...." The fact that photography can mean different things to different people is part of its enduring appeal. Photography is such a part of our lives that it would be incomprehensible to think of a world without it. We probably couldn't contemplate the fact of a wedding, watching the children grow up, or going on holiday without the camera. We are bombarded with and saturated by images constantly, on the Internet and television as well as in newspapers, magazines, and advertisements, yet we have an insatiable desire for more, especially now when so many of us carry a cameraphone (cellphone with camera) around with us (Figure 1.1). We are constantly uploading to Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, where alone it's estimated that we upload 350 million images a day (Figure 1.2).
1.1 Photographers and artists have always made self-portraits but the introduction of cameraphones has created a phenomenon known as the
1.1
Photographers and artists have always made self-portraits but the introduction of cameraphones has created a phenomenon known as the "selfie," which has contributed to the billions of photographs being taken every day. Built-in editing software and downloadable apps mean even post production (editing, retouching, filters) can be carried out in phone before an image is uploaded to any number of social media sites
So why take photographs? What is actually involved? How can you improve and become more professional in your own practice? What roles do photographs play in our life and relative to other forms of expression or communication? Does a photographer have responsibilities? Can we still call ourselves photographers if we all have sound recording and moving image functions on our digital cameras and smartphones? And what makes a result successful anyway? We will explore these issues and some of photography's possibilities over the course of this book. We use the term "photography" generically to encapsulate images created using either digital or analog (film) processes, with the understanding that photography is a combination of subjective thought, creative imagination, visual design, technical skills, and practical organizing ability. It is worth taking a broad look at what making photographs is about, as this can help to put into perspective and contextualize your own thoughts. On the one hand, there is the machinery and the techniques themselves, on the other you have the variety of approaches to picture making–aiming for results ranging from documenting an event or communicating ideas to a particular audience, to work which is socially, politically, or commercially informed, for the family album or sharing on social media, or perhaps work that is self-expressive, more ambiguous, and open to interpretation.
1.2 Making a comment on the number of images being constantly consumed by us on various social media sites Erik Kessels filled a gallery with thousands and thousands of images to represent twenty-four hours of Flickr uploads.
1.2
Making a comment on the number of images being constantly consumed by us on various social media sites Erik Kessels filled a gallery with thousands and thousands of images to represent twenty-four hours of Flickr uploads.

Why Photography?

Although it has been said that there are just two types of photographers, those that go out into the world to record it and those that photograph to project out into the world, there are still multiple reasons why we might use photography. In the book Photography Changes Everything (2012) nearly a hundred people, from artists to filmmakers, from scientists to garden photographers, talk about why photography is so important to them. Perhaps you are drawn into photography mainly because it appears to be a quick, convenient, and seemingly truthful way of recording something. All the importance lies in the subject itself, and you want to show objectively what it is, or what is going on (a child's first steps or a scratch on a car for insurance purposes). In this instance, photography is thought of as evidence, identification, a kind of diagram of a happening. The camera is your visual notebook.
Yet photography does much more than just record the world; it shapes and changes every aspect of our experience of it. The opposite attribute of photography is where it is used to manipulate or interpret reality, so that pictures push some "angle," belief, or attitude of your own. You set up situations (as in advertising) or choose to photograph some aspect of an event but not others (as in politically biased news reporting). Photography is a powerful medium of persuasion and propaganda. It has that ring of truth when all the time it can make any statement the photographer chooses. Consider the family album for a moment: what pictures are represented here—all of family life and experiences or just the good moments?
Another reason for taking up photography is that you want a means of personal self-expression to explore your own ideas, concerns, or issue-based themes, projecting out into the world. It seems odd that something so apparently objective as photography can be used to express, say, issues of desire, identity, race, or gender (Figure 1.3), or metaphor and fantasy. A photograph can intrigue through its posing of questions, keeping the viewer returning to read new things from the image, a way of capturing and interpreting the world. Sometimes it is just the everyday and the mundane that people find interesting but with a desire to reveal or highlight what is often overlooked. We have all probably seen images "in" other things, like reading meanings into cloud formations, shadows, or peeling paint that can make an intriguing image once photographed. So much can also be done by a quick change of viewpoint, or choice of a different moment in time. The way it is presented too may be just as important as the subject matter. The camera is a kind of time machine, which freezes any person, place, or situation you choose. It seems to give the user power and purpose. Other photographers simply seek out beauty as in sunsets and landscapes, which they express in their own "picturesque" style, as a conscious work of art or the simple enjoyment of the visual structuring of photographs. There is real pleasure to be had from designing pictures as such—the "geometry" of lines and shapes, balance of tone, the cropping and framing of scenes-whatever the subject content actually happens to be.
1.3 Even in the twenty-first century a simple black and white portrait can still have the power to captivate the viewers gaze Something so apparently objective as photography can be used to express issues of desire identity race or gender, as in this image
1.3
Even in the twenty-first century a simple black and white portrait can still have the power to captivate the viewers gaze Something so apparently objective as photography can be used to express issues of desire identity race or gender, as in this image "Mayita Tamangani, Harare Zimbabwe" (2011) by Zaneie Muholi, part of a series on African lesbians.
An attractive element of photography for some people is the actual process of photography–the challenge of care and control, and the way this is rewarded by technical excellence and a final object produced by you. Results can be judged and enjoyed for their own intrinsic photographic "qualities," such as superb detail, rich tones, and colors. The process gives you the means of "capturing your seeing," making pictures from things around you. Your interest in photography, however, could be more to do with the possibilities of postproduction that computer manipulation offers, constructing the image digitally.
These are only some of the diverse activities and interests covered by the umbrella term "photography." Several will be blended together in the work of a photographer, or any one market for professional photography. Your present enjoyment in producing pictures may be mainly based on technology, art, or communication. And what begins as one area of interest can easily develop into another. As a beginner it is helpful to keep an open mind. Provide yourself with a well-rounded "foundation course" by trying to learn something of all these elements, preferably through practice but also by looking and reading about the work of other photographers.

How Photography Works

Photography is to do with light forming an image, normally by means of a lens. The image is then permanently recorded by either:
  • digital means, using an electronic sensor, data storage and processing, and print-out normally via a computer, or
  • chemical means, using film, liquid chemicals, and darkroom processes.
You don't need to understand either electronics or chemistry to take good photographs of course, but it is important to have sufficient practical skills to control results and so work with confidence. The following is an outline of the key technical stages you will meet in digital and in chemical forms of photography. Each stage is discussed in detail in later chapters.

Forming and exposing an image

Most aspects of forming an optical image of your subject (in other words concerning the "front end" of the camera) apply to both digital and film photography. Light from the subject of your picture passes through a glass lens, which bends it into a focused (normally miniaturized) image. The lens is at the front of a light-tight box or camera with a light-sensitive sensor such as a CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) facing it at the other end. Light is prevented from reaching the CMOS by a shutter until your chosen moment of exposure. The amount of exposure to light is most often controlled by a combination of the time the shutter is open and the diameter of the light beam passing through the lens. The latter is altered by an aperture, like the iris of the eye. Both these controls have a further influence on visual results. Shutter time alters the way movement is recorded (blurred or frozen); lens aperture alters the depth of subject (Figure 1.4) that is shown in focus at one time (depth of field).
1.4 Terri Weifenbach's photographs are careful observations of overlooked spaces and stolen moments—backyard gardens, a bee suspended in midair, the house across the street, open fields. Through her use of saturated color and by the very photographic nature of selective focus/depth of field we rediscover the wonder and lushness of nature
1.4
Terri Weifenbach's photographs are careful observations of overlooked spaces and stolen moments–backyard gardens, a bee suspended in midair, the house across the street, open fields. Through her use of saturated color and by the very photographic nature of selective focus/depth of field we rediscover the wonder and lushness of nature
You need a viewfinder, electronic viewing or focusing screen for aiming the camera and composing, and a light-measuring device, usually built in, to meter the brightness of each subject. The meter takes into accou...

Table of contents