What Digital Camera – My Camera – Micro Four-Thirds

I was asked if I would like to have my images published in “What Digital Camera” magazine. I told them I have a 1DS, and two micro four thirds camera the Panasonic  GF1 and GH2. They responded by saying that the micro four thirds models were probably of more interest to their readers. Oh dear I thought, I only use my micro for days out, family, walking the dog and short breaks. All of my ‘serious photography’ is done on the 1DS. Then there is the fact that, try though they might, micro four thirds cameras still do not produce the same quality as a mid to high range SLR. It was a challenge at first but being able to view by camera type in Lightroom made the task relatively easy, selecting the best from the GF1 and GH2.

I use Photoshop and Lightroom for editing. If you need to learn more about Photoshop then take a look at the Photoshop Training courses at Silicon Beach Training.

They chose to publish four of the images, one of my mum and one of my dog! It made me think of how easy it is to make images worth keeping from everyday situations, the ones when I have my small camera with me.

Here is the short-list of the images they picked from those I sent them. Below you will find the full editorial.

Andy and Filby - Newhaven Beach

Andy and Filby – Newhaven Beach


I have had a Canon 1Ds for five years now. I love the clarity and sharpness I get from it and it is still my weapon of choice when I’m going out for a serious shoot. With one additional lens and a flash unit, however, it’s like carrying a backpack full of concrete. A year and a half ago I invested in a little micro four-thirds camera the Panasonic GF1.

Children of the Desert - India

Children of the Desert – India

I have used it a lot, I’ve taken it with me for days out, dog walks, anytime really when I don’t want to be lumbered and weighed down. I have an ultra wide lens; I’ve always liked to shoot wide. It’s a 7-14mm which acts as a 14-28mm and I use this most of the time.

Filby on Mount Caburn - Ringmer

Filby on Mount Caburn – Ringmer

I’ve since upgraded to the GH2 mainly because the back screen broke almost as soon as I started using the GF1 and got progressively worse. The GH2 has a flip back screen, so I can keep it safely tucked away when I’m not using it.

old railway land lewes

Lewes River Ouse

Sometimes I miss the extra detail I get from my pro camera, and I miss the ability to crop hard. With a smaller sensor than the larger pro cameras it can lack detail in the highlights and shadows. Also the distortion of using such a wide lens is more pronounced than when using the wide angle for my pro camera. Having been spoiled with a pro camera I find the noise levels can be quite noticeable in low light. On the other hand I’ve got loads of images that I would have missed, just because I’ve had a camera on me, and with a bit of tweaking in Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop some missed detail can be recovered or sorted with a little cheating!

My Mum

My Mum

I love street photography and I often look at the work of Eric Kim who uses an Olympus Pen. I see blown out highlights and blocked in shadows but they just don’t seem to matter, the images have impact because they are real, because they have impact,  not because they have registered the most detail. Sometime I think that pro cameras have become so sophisticated that we get bogged down with perfectionism, just because it’s possible.

old railway land lewes

old railway land Lewes

My husband and I run Silicon Beach Training in Brighton and I use both the GH2 and the GF1 creating video for work. I must say the video quality is brilliant and, because they use facial recognition, they are in fact much superior to the Canon 5D.

Swanky Bar - City of London

Swanky Bar – City of London

If you need a little help with processing your images in Photoshop we provide brilliant Photoshop Courses for beginners and advanced, as well as SEO Training and Social Media Courses.

What Digital Camera - Left

What Digital Camera – Left



What Digital Camera - Right

What Digital Camera – Right

Using Photoshop with Exposure bracketing

With the new trend for High Dynamic Range (HDR) images, it is becoming quite popular to bracket your exposures. In my experience though not everything looks great with exposure spread evenly throughout the image making it look highly unnatural and often quite fussy.

tattooed man in shiney american airstream

tattooed man in shiny American airstream – Brighton – click to buy this image

Unnatural I can cope with but I sometimes long for some moody areas of blackness, or even the occasional burnt out mass of white. When I used film, I would use the grainiest film and the hardest papers and I miss all that drama. So I am going to show you how you can use bracketed exposures to get even more drama rather than less. This is especially effective for images with difficult light/exposure conditions as it allows you to get the details back where you want it or to loose it – you stay in control.

Exposure bracketing means that you take one correctly exposed image and two more pictures: one slightly under-exposed (usually by dialing in a negative exposure compensation, say -1/3EV), and the second one slightly over-exposed (usually by dialing in a positive exposure compensation, say +1/3EV), again according to your camera’s light meter. But if you have an image that has various parts of the image under or over exposed you can export three images using Camera RAW or Adobe Lightroom and import them into Photoshop. You could use the vomitty Merge to HDR technique (I know it can sometimes look good and I have used it myself!) or you can use masks to get back the detail in the highlights and put some depth in the shadows.

The image above started out like this:

original exposure

original exposure

Now I’ve gone to quite a lot of trouble here – first I asked if I could take his picture in his hoodie reflected in the bus, than I said “Yes Please”, and kept a serious face on when he offered to strip. I like the picture but it has no drama, there’s detail in the sky but you can’t see it, his face is too dark and the background is too fussy, some of the detail has been lost in the strong highlight on his back. So I have used Lightroom here to underexpose the image (you could use Camera Raw) until I see what I want in the sky. I then opened the image up in Photoshop.

expose for the sky

expose for the sky

I then exposed the original image for his back and opened up the image in a new layer in the Photoshop document.

expose for the back

expose for the back

Then I exposed the original image for his face and opened that up in Photoshop too so that I have three layers all exposed differently.

expose for the face

expose for the face

  1. I put the over exposed one at the bottom of the layers and left that one alone
  2. Then I added masks to the top two layers by clicking on the quick mask icon when I have the layer selected
  3. Turn off the top layer by clicking on the eye icon next to that layer.
  4. Select the middle layer and make sure you have the mask and not the layer selected and brush black where you want the underlying image to show through and white where you don’t want it
  5. You can use the selection tools for sharper lines and fill with black but you may need to soften the selection using refine selection or by painting the edge afterward with a soft brush
  6. You can also play with the opacity of the brush strokes so you can have some of the underlying image showing through
  7. Do the same with the top layer
  8. Play around until you have the effect you want and save your image.
  9. I have done my final overall effects in Lightroom as I find it the most versatile. I have increased the clarity using the “Punch” effect and converted to Black and White.

If you need Lightroom Training or a Photoshop Course you can book with Silicon Beach Training. We also offer Email Marketing Training, Access Training and SEO training.

Is Photoshop Good or Bad for Photography?

Some people claim that Photoshop is destroying the art of photography.

There is so much information out there on improving your shots with Photoshop that we do seem to be encouraged not to worry about learning good camera techniques but simply learn how to ‘fix it’ in Photoshop.

london market

This was more or less finished in the camera. I have selected the correct exposure, decided on the focus, waited for a good position of the lady in the background and click. I have, however, added a vignette and boosted clarity in Lightroom – no Photoshop here! (Click this image to buy )

In a way Photoshop allows you to skip some of the key techniques that can improve your camera skills in favour of trying to quick fix it on the computer.

Though I use Photoshop extensively in my work, I do think it’s really important to learn how to use, aperture, focal length, ISO, Shutter Speed etc, and understand camera settings and the effects they have on your images in order to get it right at the time of taking the shot. This can save you hours messing about with Adobe Photoshop afterwards, after all, who would prefer an hour of fixing a problem in front of a computer screen to messing about outside in the landscape or street having fun experimenting with your camera? More time out in the field rather than spending hours at a PC also gives you more opportunity to see and capture a moment and to enjoy the natural world and it’s inhabitants. Photography should be fun, exciting and free, it should not be about being glued to a computer screen all day, what’s the fun of that?

Photoshop is still amazing, and it is great to be able to recover a missed opportunity, but maybe we are becoming too reliant on it and wonder if the tendency these days to use it instead of learning the correct technique is makes us poorer photographers.

You can, on the other hand, use Photoshop (or Camera Raw or Lightroom for that matter) as a leaning tool by noting the adjustment you need to make each time and trying to get those right first time in camera next time. It can be good when you have limited time in on location and don’t have time to take different images on different settings, because it’s all about the moment, like at an event when everything is moving fast. So it’s useful if you have made a mistake on a great image or change your mind after the event, or for doing really funky things that are impossible in camera.

skateboarding brighton

This has been in Photoshop! Whilst the shutter speed, apperture and ISO have been carefully selected to freeze the action. I have moved one of the lamposts on the promanade so that it doesn’t go up his bottom! The Black and White conversion, the square crop, and the burning in of the edges especially the left corner has been done in Lightroom. (Click this image to buy )

However – ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear” – Photoshop cannot correct a badly focused image or a badly composed one. It can correct things the camera got wrong, like white balance, and you can go to any extremes in processing to create a particular effect if that is what you want.
If you want to visually transform an image then that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. You can combine images, change skies, get rid of blemishes, clone out things, get rid of noise, desaturate parts of an image, selectively darken or lighten parts of a image- these are the things that Photoshop excel in.

Things you should definitely learn to do in camera:

1. Select the right depth of field / lens aperture
2. Decide where you want your Focus
3. Choose a great composition
4. Choose the right shutter speed to avoid camera shake, or enhance movement.
5. Choose a filter when necessary for example a polarising filter

Things you can learn to do either the camera or Photoshop

1. Colour balance
2. Sharpening (jpegs only)
3. Using filters (on camera) or filter effects (PS)

Things you can only do in PS

1. Cropping and straightening
2. Dodging and burning
3. Adjusting low and high levels independently
4. Adjusting levels brightness / contrast, hue / saturation etc
5. Lots of strange filter effects.
6. Cutting and pasting part of on photo to another.

If you get it really wrong in camera delete – don’t waste your precious time. Learn as much about your camera settings as you can and start to experiment and practise with your settings. If you get it nearly right you can recover in PS, even though cameras are really sophisticated they don’t alway get it right on Auto.
I know photographers have very different opinions about this, what do you think?

If you need help with learning Photoshop I can recommend the beginners Photoshop Training course and the Advanced Photoshop Training courses at Silicon Beach Training