Good information about why one picture is better than another is hard to come by. As you would expect, you have to pay a price for the knowledge by studying, then practicing what you’ve learned by taking pictures. Some instructors advocate starting out with a manual camera in order to learn the basics.
That method has its merits, like learning to drive a car with a clutch, a gearshift, and one rear view mirror, on a two-lane road at 45 mph. Then, you buy one with an automatic transmission, three rear-view mirrors, and a cruise control. With that, you can drive downtown safely at 70 mph on the 14.
Going from manual to auto focus/auto exposure cameras, like late model Canons or Nikons, is like switching from a car with a manual gearshift to one with an automatic transmission. There are simply fewer mechanical distractions while you’re in the midst of taking pictures. By reading the camera’s user guide and becoming familiar with its controls, a new level of competence can be achieved.
When you don’t have to spend your time fumbling with focus and exposure, you can bracket exposures and composition with predictable results. It’s amazing how much higher your “acceptable picture percentage-perphoto shoot” becomes. It’s the method used by the pro’s. Sometimes, you have to call on your knowledge of the basics to make the right choice of film, lens, filter, exposure compensation, etc. Additionally, you have to be there at the “magic light” time of day to reproduce an image of the scene you had in your mind’s eye.
If you have a passion about producing high-quality photo graphs, you can remember everything you read, see, or do, having to do with photography. Also, if you’re reading two or three photography magazines cover to cover every month, as well as shooting several rolls of film every time you go out, it’s not going to take you long to produce winning results.
There is also the technical aspect of photography to keep in mind. To capture the highest possible resolution from your camera and film combination, you must discipline yourself to make the best technically perfect picture you can under the circumstances in which you are shooting. Ideally, you will:
- Use a sturdy tripod;
- Use a cable-release (or self-timer);
- Lock-up the mirror on a single lens reflex camera if it has that feature; and
- Select a mid aperture such as f8. (Lens resolution falls off quickly on either side of that f-stop).
If you observe all of these tips, it’s possible to achieve a resolution of 100 lines per millimeter (lpm) on ASA 50 to 100 speed 35 mm film. That will enable you to produce very large, very sharp pictures.
Of course, there are exceptions due to subject matter, when you must manipulate aperture and shutter speed to stop action, or control depth of field to get the desired image, but straying from the above guidelines reduces your resolution 30 to 40 percent. That can be the difference in a competitive environment between a blue ribbon winner and a nice snapshot.