Oxford School of Photography

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Category Archives: Digital Camera World

Best monitor for photo editing: 10 top models tested and rated

One of our most popular posts has been about monitors and which is the best for photo editing. You may be aware that the monitor you use to look at your images can have a substantial effect on how they look. That is not that they look better or worse more that they are accurate. If your monitor is too bright and you edit your images based on what you see then when you send your images for printing they will come out darker. The same of course goes for colour balance. So if you want some sort of accuracy you should always use the operating system software that is designed for monitor calibration, if you don’t know how just google monitor calibration on a (mac) or (PC). However if you want much better image fidelity you have to get away from a general purpose monitor which is OK for everything and get one that is designed for graphic work. This article on Digital Camera World lists the top ten as at October 2014.



Good luck

Here are some more up to date recommendations but not from sites that I regularly use so cross check what they say

Best Monitor for Photo Editing and Photography 2016

Photo Editing Monitor Buyer’s Guide – May 2016




Sticking with a traditional dslr or going for a mirrorless camers

You know this is a question that keeps cropping up because we hate the weight and bulkiness of our gear. I am currently in Thailand soon moving on to Myanmar and then Vietnam and the weight of my gear has already put me in pain. So I understand, I really do, the gear is a pain. But then when I look at a csc or mirrorless camera I am so underwhelmed. I do get to see them, people bring them to class so this is not an ill informed view but they just don’t do what a REAL camera does. Maybe if you have never owned a dslr you would not be disappointed but if you have you should seriously spend some time with one of these Johnny Come Lateleys to the game before deciding to ditch your old system. Find a camera shop, if you can, T4 Cameras in Witney are the last in Oxfordshire and really do more than just hold it, put it to you eye, see how it feels.

Anyway enough of my bias, here is a very good article on Digital Camera World that puts two of the heavy-weights against each other


There are highly attractive ‘all-rounders’ in both camps: cameras that don’t go overboard on megapixel count, yet aim to take everything from portraiture to landscape photography in their stride.

Two of our current favourites are the Canon 5D Mk III SLR, and the mirrorless Sony A7 II from Sony’s ‘ILC’ (interchangeable-lens camera) stable.

A major factor in choosing any ‘system’ camera is the depth and breadth of the system itself. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to lenses and other accessories for the long-established line of Canon SLRs.

Sony’s mirrorless cameras are a much newer proposition, especially when it comes to full-frame models, but the range of compatible E-mount lenses has grown over the last couple of years, and an adaptor is also available for fitting A-mount lenses.


What is 4K resolution and why does it matter?

I am sometimes asked by people who should probably know better than ask me about the future, “What is the next big thing in cameras?” Well there have been a number of false dawns, a couple of years ago everyone was talking about light field cameras, you take a picture and then on the computer decide what bit you want in focus, and if you don’t like it you can change it, see this post. Well so far it doesn’t seem to have taken off. People tell me cameras in phones are the next big thing, seems doubtful. Anyway for a while there have been grumblings about 4K video with the ability to grab a still of over 8mp, that means a file size of 25mb so big enough to print at full resolution without resampling up to A4. Most people don’t get close to printing up to A4 (12in x 8″ for our American friends) so that sounds OK then. The idea is that in the future we will just video everything and then grab a still from the vid. Well it might manage to capture the ‘decisive moment’ but I’m sure Henri Cartier Bresson would not have been impressed.

This article on Digital Camera World goes some of the way to explaining 4K.

Screen resolution AW 3 with annotations

This is the conclusion to the article But it’s the opportunity to capture stills from 4K footage that we’re really interested in. Creating digital images in this way is nothing new, but each frame of 4K video is 3,840×2,160 pixels – generating an 8.3MP image. By comparison, stills extracted from Full HD clips deliver images closer to 2MP.

Of greater significance is that these 8.3MP pictures are captured at up to 30 frames per second. Being able to choose a single, 8-megapixel frame from an entire sequence gives you the flexibility to isolate the ‘decisive moment’ at your leisure.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But the optimum shutter speeds for recording smooth video are generally much slower than when taking photos. This can result in moving objects being blurred in the extracted frame.

The other downside is that the image will be saved in the 16:9 aspect ratio. Cropping to a more photo-friendly 3:2 or 4:3 means losing some of the picture area and reducing the possible print size.

Keen to get around these problems, Panasonic has introduced a 4K Photo mode in its new cameras, with optimised settings for still image capture.

Meanwhile, professional broadcast video cameras are now starting to offer 8K – offering four times the resolution of 4k – and 33.2 megapixel stills from each frame!

Where will it all end?

Photo printers vs online photo labs: which delivers the perfect print?

A question I am asked regularly in class is what is the best way to get prints. In my experience getting someone else to do it is always cheaper and as long as your monitor is calibrated usually reliable. So this article on Digital Camera World opens up the discussion and is well worth a read if you are thinking about printing

Is it better to print your photos at home or have them created in a pro-level lab? We weigh up the pros and cons in our photo printers vs photo labs head-to-head test…

Photo printers vs photo labs: which delivers the perfect print?

Home printers on test
Canon PIXMA MG7550/MG7520, £150, $150
Canon PIXMA Pro-10S, £600, $770
Epson Expression Photo XP-950, £240, $275
Epson SureColor P600, £570, $790

Online labs (UK)
Loxley Colour

Online labs (US)
WHCC (White House Custom Color)

We’re the instant generation. We want it all, and we want it now. Instant coffee, fast food, streaming movies – everything’s accessible on demand, no need to wait. Digital photography is no exception.

Press the shutter button and you can review the image a split-second later, right on the camera. There’s no indeterminate wait until you’ve finished the roll of film, then had it developed and finally picked up your proof prints.

Indeed, printing your images at home can be similarly speedy. Some desktop photo printers can output a 6×4-inch print in as little as 20 seconds, which is great for the impatient among us. But hang on just a minute.

Faster isn’t always better. Think fine dining and, chances are, you’re not thinking of a microwave dinner. And many would rather splash out on a posh coffee rather than gulp down a mug of instant.

Again, digital photography is no exception. Sure, a simple press of the shutter button is all that’s required to capture the image, but a lot of work and effort will often go into setting up the shot, matched by painstaking image enhancement at the photo editing stage.

Similarly, if you’re creating a photo print to last a lifetime, it’s worth spending a little time to make it look its best. That’s where the important choices come into play.

Read on here

Photo Recipes: Scott Kelby’s killer one-light portrait setup

From Digital Camera World

In his new series in Digital Camera magazine and Digital Camera World, the legendary Scott Kelby reveals some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of some of his favourite images. This month Scott explains how to get a pro-level look to your portraiture without resorting to complex lighting, using just a simple one-light portrait setup.

Words and images by Scott Kelby. You can follow Scott and his work on his blog or on his live photography talk show The Grid. You can also find Scott and his KelbyOne team on their Facebook page and on Twitter as @KelbyOne.

Photo Recipes: Scott Kelby's killer one-light portrait setup

Photo Recipes is inspired by the chapters in my books where I show a photo and  discuss how to take a similar shot: what lighting equipment was used, the camera gear and settings, and so on. Here I can expand on what I did in the book, share behind-the-scenes photos, and even talk about the post-processing when appropriate.

Last time we looked at a very simple technique for rigging a remote camera for sports to cover areas that are either hard to access, impractical or unsafe to have a person standing there (Of course, it can also be used for weddings or any occasion where you need a second shooter but don’t have one). This time, we’re lighting a portrait.

When it comes to lighting, I’m really one of those ‘less is more’ guys. My lighting set-ups tend to be mostly one light. In this case, we’re going to do a really simple one-light shoot – perhaps the easiest one you’ll find, because it would really be hard to position the light incorrectly using this set-up.

The idea behind this look is to create the bright shadowless look of a ring flash, without the harsh light and dark halo shadows usually associated with a ring flash – and even without actually using a ring flash.


Read the full tutorial here

Best bridge cameras: 6 top options rated

This from Digital Camera World

A bridge camera makes a fantastic alternative to your main camera when you don’t want to take your DSLR. Here we take a look at six of the best options available.  I am not convinced I would buy a bridge camera as an alternative to my dslr, I think I would be constantly disappointed, I think I would buy a high end compact or csc camera, something that wasn’t trying to be a dslr but still offered excellent quality. I do know that people like the idea of bridge cameras so this is a useful article if you are in the market for one.


Best bridge camera: 01 Canon PowerShot SX60

Price: £400 / $549
Web: http://www.canon.com

Best bridge camera: 01 Canon PowerShot SX60

Best bridge camera: 02 Fujifilm Finepix HS50 EXR

Price: £276 / $289
Web: http://www.fujifilm.com

Best bridge camera: 02 Fujifilm Finepix HS50 EXR

Best bridge camera: 03 Nikon Coolpix P600

Price: £300 / $345
Web: http://www.nikon.com

Best bridge camera: 03 Nikon Coolpix P600

see the rest and the reasons why here

Focus Stacking: how to extend depth of field in Photoshop

Focus stacking is the new lens flare, which was the new off camera flash, which was the new HDR, which was the new….. there are always trends and fads and now it is focus stacking. This does make it sound as if I think this is a pointless activity but I don’t, in the right situation it is utterly brilliant and if you like making sharp pictures front to back, whether landscapes or macro flowers this is for you.

Shooting anything up close requires incredible patience and extreme precision. If your close-up photography isn’t sharp then you’re not only wasting pictures, but you’ve wasted hours of your time. In this in-depth tutorial we’ll show you how to use one of the most amazing Photoshop effects macro and close-up photographers can use: focus stacking.

Below we’ll show you step-by-step how to focus stack and extend depth of field when shooting close-up by shifting your point of focus in multiple images, which you’ll later stitch together so you can produce images that are sharp throughout the frame.

Focus Stacking: how to extend depth of field when shooting close up

One of the best things about close-up photography is the wonderful softness that results from working with such a shallow depth of field.

Even at the smallest apertures the plane of focus will stretch to a couple of centimetres at most, and anything outside this range will fall off into beautiful bokeh.

At times, however, this can be a problem –especially if you’d like a completely sharp subject. Stopping down the aperture will increase depth of field, but sometimes this simply isn’t enough to achieve sharpness across the subject from front to back.

The solution: fix the camera to a tripod and shoot several frames, each with a small shift in focus, then use Photoshop to combine the sharp areas to create a single pin-sharp image.

Read the rest of this very useful article from Digital Camera World here

we have an advanced DSLR course where one of the things we teach is focus stacking, go here for more information

Shoot brilliant bluebell photos

I have noticed that the blue bells in my garden are now at their best, visit some woods now. If you do go down to the woods today then this advice might help, from Digital Camera World


You have to be watchful at this time of year, because it’s almost time to go down to the woods – not for the teddy bears’ picnic, of course, but for something much more inspiring than that… it’s time for bluebells!

Their wonderful carpets of blue and green are one of the signs of spring, and make for fantastic photos.

Depending on seasonal temperatures and how far south you are, there’s a short window from about mid-April to the end of May during which you can see bluebells. With this year’s mild winter in the UK they may be early, so don’t miss them!

One of the joys of spring in Britain is walking through a woodland to enjoy the birdsong, smell the scented air, see the wildlife and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

An established beech wood is best for photographs, as you get tall, straight trees with little undergrowth and not many offshoots or branches protruding from trunks.

You ideally want an open aspect to the east or west side of the woods where you can shoot towards a low sun that’s not too strong.

Longer lenses to compress the image and make the display look more dense, attention to white balance or shoot in RAW and correct it later. Tripod, particularly one that goes low to the ground.

There is lots of good advice here



Best telephoto lens in the mid-price range: 8 models tested and rated

I would say an L Series lens from Canon is a pro lens and hardly mid-range and given that all of these are getting close to a grand these would be a serious purchase. Last year I bought the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM and have been extremely pleased with it. I decided the additional size and weight of the f2.8 was something I could do without, after all one stop of ISO is hardly a deal breaker although if we were still shooting film I would have gone for the f2.8. In a similar vein I have just bought a Canon 6D. This is a full frame camera and a couple of megapixels smaller than the 5DMk3. I chose it because it is smaller and lighter but with really excellent low light focussing and ISO results. Since having it I prefer it to my 5DMk2, the shutter is so quiet and it fits the hand beautifully. If you are looking for a full frame Canon don’t be seduced by the rather spurious advantages of the Mk3 and have a good look at the 6D

From Digital Camera World

If you’re looking for an upgrade to your ‘budget’ telephoto but can’t stretch to a fully professional lens, there are some smart mid-range options to be had. We test 8 top optics to find out which is the best telephoto lens for your money. On test are:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, £965
Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR, £950
Panasonic G X 35-100mm f/2.8 Power OIS, £895
Pentax DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED IF SDM, £745
Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM, £800
Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM, £1,300
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS, £1,250
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, £1,100

group test 70-200mm lenses

With prices ranging from abut £100 to £400, budget 70-300mm lenses can be a movable feast, especially in terms of physical length and aperture.

Indeed, as you move through the zoom range, these lenses stretch considerably in length, while the widest available aperture tends to shrink from f/4 to a fairly narrow f/5.6.

To keep shutter speeds fairly fast for minimizing camera-shake and motion blur, you can often find yourself having to combine the longest zoom setting with the widest aperture, which can really degrade image sharpness.

At the other end of the scale, fully professional telephoto zooms like the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM, Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II and Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II are much more refined.

The relatively wide f/2.8 aperture remains available throughout the zoom range, and the physical dimensions of the lenses remain fixed at all zoom and focus settings.

However, they can be heavyweights in two undesirable ways. Hefty price tags of nearly £2,000 for the Canon and £2,500 for the Sony put them beyond the reach of many photographers who aren’t taking pictures for a living.

Secondly, with their large front elements to enable an f/2.8 aperture, they have a big, heavy build, typically weighing in at around 1.5kg.

A popular compromise is to opt for a 70-200mm f/4 telephoto zoom, usually costing less than £1,000. These lenses are more compact, lighter in weight, yet still tend to have robust build quality and premium quality glass.

They also boast a constant-aperture design, albeit at one f/stop narrower than their f/2.8 counterparts. That’s less of a problem than it used to be.   

The latest SLRs usually deliver excellent image quality at raised ISO settings, putting less of a priority on ‘fast glass’. You can also get a tight depth of field when shooting at 200mm at f/4.  READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

How to take an exposure reading on your digital camera

It is your cameras job to meter for you, right? Well every camera or phone has to measure the light reflected back from the subject so that it can get the balance of aperture and shutter correctly set, given that this is essential to taking perfectly exposed images it is surprising how few photographers fully understand the process. We teach about metering on our Understanding Your Digital Camera Course but a bit of follow up in the guise of this tutorial will help

Even for experienced photographers, metering and how to take an exposure reading on your camera can be confusing, but the basics are easy to get to grips with…

Spot metering and AF: set spot metering point

All digital cameras have a built-in light meter which is used to calculate the exposure settings for a given scene.

Without getting bogged down in aperture and shutter speed, the most important thing to realise is that built-in light meters are programmed to expose every image as an average mid-tone.

This is fine for most scenes, because they contain a mix of shadows, mid-tones and highlights that average out to a mid-tone.

But the meter will also expose very light subjects (such as snow) or very dark subjects (such as black card) as a mid-tone, so you need to be aware of this to avoid poorly-exposed images.


Read the full article here