What is photography?

What is photography? In a world that is overwhelmed by imagry, vissual also, article on photography, inflencers and start up brands, photography has taken a new voice. 

As defined Photogrphay is: the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.
First commercailly introduced in 1839 the practice of photography is still a relitivly new form of communication compaired to writing, speach and drawing that have been around for thousdands of year. With it being a younge form of communication, it has jump leaps and bounds in technology, use and form. It has been used commercially to sell products, relationally to reflect back on friends and loved ones and documentally showcasing wars, freedoms and news. 

While there is so much to go into on what photography is, I'm going to try and keep it both high level and practicall to you the reader. First I'll give a quick run down on what photogrphy is and the michanics of that process.


Simply put, the action of photography is taking a moment or scene in time and imprinting that scene onto format via film or file. In the dawn of digital photography the act of "taking" the photo has become eiser and eiser, which in my opinion is incredible.
Here is an incredible link to the history of the camera With that in mind I'll go over the main progress. The camera hit mass market by a man named George Estman and his company called Eastman Kodak Company in 1880. The original shutter bing taking the cap off the front of the lens and putting is back, super high tech for that day!

From that the Germans brought the highest quality and engineering with such cameras the Leica and the Rolleiflex which hit market in the 1920's. Fast forward to the 1950's were the Japanese bring electric technology changed the camera to what we know today. The introduction of the 35mm had features like super sensitive metering systems, atomatic exposure guides and autofocusing systems. 

Pin Hole | F.3

Pin Hole | F.3


Writer Notes: I'm not a technician, neither do I say that these are state of the art drawings perfect to every dimension and function of a camera, but what I will convey in big picture of how it works. 

Modern Camera Film F.4

Modern Camera Film F.4

These diagrams show how our cameras today have been altered from the pin hole camera to the digital camera we have today. 

The Principles are still the same. Light hits our subject and the reflection or the direction of that light then is directed into the camera via a pin hole or now a lens. From the light that is being directed it bounces through mirrors and glass to reach the back of the camera we're it hits the film or sensor, leaving an impression that is know as a picture. 

Digital Camera F.5

Digital Camera F.5

The three main components to take away is:
One - light is being capture and directed through the lens, 
Two - that light is imprinting itself on the film or sensor
Three - the strong the light the quicker the imprint. 

The Camera we know today or the digital camera we used today is represented in F.5 These principle are show on your point and shoot, your profession DSLR and your iphone. Light is reflected off a subject or from a source and guided into the camera via the lens. Once it move through the lens it is allowed to his the sensor on the back of the camera by the duration that the shutter allows it. 

Next we'll cover the simple outline of the camera and its components. 



So we now understand that a camera is a box that allow light light in thus imprinting it on the film or sensor. 
I won't be covering film in this section because it's a science in itself, but maybe in a later class. 
Let's talk about the actual tools needed to make a photo like we see today the camera body and lens

Camera bodies. A camera body is the what houses the sensor or film. It's what you hold on to take your picture. It can be your phone or actual camera. 
There are three main digital cameras on the market that consumers and professionals are using on commissions. 
1. The Iphone / Point and shoot. 
2. The DSLR
3. Medium Format


The point and shoot has been transformed mainly into the phone allowing the user to see and shoot what their looking at. 
The con's for many professionals was sensor size and image quality
but with the new attachment lens and new sensors its incredible what were able to capture. I've been using my phone so much more, even enjoying the style and raw gritty images that you can achieve. 

There are companies like: 
Moment Lens
Ollo clips
Lens Distortion. 
and others that make incredible image making tools.


THE DSLR is the workhorse of the industry. With giants like Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji and others owning the game. There are hundreds of tech blogs and youtube videos out there about everything from sensor ratios to dynamic range metrics, with that said. Here are the main things to know and look for. Dslr or Digital single-lens reflex camera, allow the user to capture images with incredible dynamic range, focal range and focal depth. These camera bodies can range from $500-$5000 in price. So with that said I'm often asked what camera I use and buy. There are hundreds of things to tech out on, but honestly it depends on what your shooting. 

These are the questions in asking when purchasing a camera. 

Am I comfortable using it? If its to big, too expensive, to cumbersome, none-user-friendly, why am I looking at it. 
What is my end goal image looking like? Is it landscapes, advertising, social media. 

Heres what I would recommend get a solid camera, one that you, and i mean you enjoy shooting with, there all around the same in quality and lenses now and let the need drive. It's better to have money to pour into shoots than into equipment that amazing but isn't used. 


The Medium Format camera is the workhorse of the commercial world. This camera is sought after because of its large files and sensor. Its great for retouching and taking images that will be used for billboard and print. In the image above we see my friend Jarred using his film Mamiya but the main companies in the games are PhaseOne and Hasselblad These bodies can rage 10k plus, being on the higher end of the camera spectrum. 

The Medium Format is used by car photographers, portrait, fashion, product and shoots that need intense detail for printing and enlarging.  



So with that all said which is the right camera for you? 


There are so many brands to choose from: Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Leica and so on. Many require that you stay in the family, requiring you to only purchase their name brand, or their class of product. So how do you choose the right gear for you. 

TIP: Heres what i've done in the past that has helped me choose and feel confident about my choice: RENT.
Here are a couple rental house that I trust:

I've rented Lighting, cameras and lens from both of these wearhouse and have been amazed with the service and quality of product they hold
Also a tip that I learned from hanging out with my film friends, its ok to rent. I rent much of my gear for shoots. Why? Because I'm able to show up on set with the right gear for the job and with new and top of the line gear for that specific job. It allows my cash flow to grow. 

Sony A7

Sony A7


I wanted to share a number of the images and the camera bodies that I've shot on. 
My Current set up is the Sony A series, I could talk all day about how impressed I am with these bodies. I'm working with either the Sony a7 Sony a7rII Sony a7II and the Sony A6000 on my assignments. 

In the past I've shot with the Canon Mk2 and the Canon Mk3 both work horses that slung on many assignments. 



Lets take a quick second and talk about shutter speed and ISO. Shutter Speed is how long you shutter is open the longer the shutter is opened the more light you have to enter your camera. The shorter your camera speed the less light that enters. Think of it like this, you have a bucket of water that you're pouring into another bucket. Your shutter is the cover of the bucket below and it has a opening at the top. The longer the opening for the bucket is open the longer the streams of water and the quick the bucket will fill up. The Same is with shutter speed, the longer the shutter is open the more light will expose and the more blur will occur. 

Here's a quick formula for practical. 
Shutter Speeds 1/60th and above cause for an image to freeze.
Shutter Speed 1/60th and bellow causes motion blur.
Shutter Speeds 1sec and longer exposes for in the dark and makes it light Example star photography. 


This image for for a campaign I shot for Lululemon. We wanted to show the explosiveness of their product and freeze her in air. We shot this at 1/800sec to freeze her and the product. You can see the laces and her hair are perfectly sharp which is characteristic of high shutter speeds. 


For this image I wanted to feel like the motorcycle was screaming down the dirt road so I sat in my car and we drove alongside of him I sat in the car and shot this at 1/60th. Because we were driving next to him i knew that the background would be moving faster and I choose 1/60th to blur the background but still all me to hand hold. 
TIP: If your shooting bellow 1/60th its best to put your camera on a tripod or sticks ( known in the commercial world) to allow for best sharpness. 


This image was shot at 30sec exposure. That means that the shutter was open for a whole thirty seconds. This allows for the light to pour into the sensor imprinting and allowing the stars to show up. When shooting stars or anytime at night it is crucial to have a tripod to remove image shake. To get the silhouettes of me and maggie we stood still for 30secs, which felt forever!



ISO took me so long to understand and I'm going to try and explain it quickly and simply. For more information there are hundreds of amazing youtube video talking about this subject. ISO is how sensitive your film or sensor is to the light. Remember our metaphor of the buckets above with shutter speed being the how long the cover was open for? ISO is how deep the bucket is. The deeper the bucket is the more water is filled in. The same is with light, if you're shooting in a dark area you'll need a deeper bucked to allow for more light to enter into your camera.  If you're in a bright area there tons of light around you'll need a smaller bucket to fill up the light.  The smaller the ISO number the smaller the sensitivity towards light the better for brighter areas. 

This leads us to the topic of exposure. I'll cover this in the lighting section but i'll briefly mentioned it. Overexposure means that there is to much and it's over filling your sensor. It will appear bright and washed out. The opposite is underexposure which is where there isn't enough light entering the sensor and the image seems dark. There are many ways to fix this but an easy way is for overexposure bring down the ISO number for underexposure bring up the ISO number. 




The Lens:

"A camera lens (also known as photographic lens or photographic objective) is an optical lens or assembly of lenses used in conjunction with a camera body and mechanism to make images of objects either on photographic film or on other media capable of storing an image chemically or electronically." - Wikipedia
The camera lens is a crucial part of photography. Its is how the light enters your camera through the glass and is focused. The Lens or "glass" is what makes your images crisp or milky or close or far away. 
There are three main types of lens: Wide, Normal or Mid and Telephoto. There is also Macro, Super Telephoto / Telescopic and Tilt but those are used for super specific substances, like architecture, product photography and star photography. 

The camera's lens is made up of glass that reflects and refracts the light within the cylinder, the less glass the sharper the image and the higher the price. There are two main types of lens that are used: Primes and Zooms. Both are amazing when used under the right conditions.  Before we talk about the different types of lenses let's talk about aperture. 






Aperture is defined as "a space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, especially the variable opening by which light enters a camera.a space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, especially the variable opening by which light enters a camera."

Simply put
The Lower the number the smaller the area of focus will be
The Larger the number the greater the area of focus will be. 

The effects are that images with Large Aperture have a milky look to them and feel painterly were as smaller aperture will feel detailed. 

Large Aperture (F1.4 - 5.6) equal milky and painterly


Small Aperture F.8-22 equals more detail


Prime and Zoom Lens

Via B&h

Via B&h

A Prime Lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length, meaning that you can't zoom in or out. 
There are multiple lengths but the main ones are 24mm 28mm 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. 
This is equivalent to how "zoomed in you are to your image"

A Zoom Lens a lens that unlike a prime lens can increase zoom and pull out zoom. Can can have different types of zoom covering all different types of ranges from wide angles like 16-35mm,  midrange like 24-70mm and telephoto like the 70mm-200mm. Zooms are amazing because they mean that you don't have to have a dozen different prime lens at different focal length. TIP: Often when starting out photographers will purchase as their first two lens the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm as there main shooting lens. This allows them to cover a whole slue of different lengths.

The Pros to Prime Lenses is that you can shoot at higher aperture like f1.2, f1.4, f1.8, f2.0 and f2.8
The lower the Aperture number allows for the background to become milky and out of focus, which is beautiful and sought after when photographing people for portraits or lifestyle. Or the higher the aperture number like f.8 f.11 or f.16 allows the pack ground and area to become in focus which is great for landscape photography. Also because you don't have to zoom that means that the engineers can have less glass in the lens. Less glass equals higher sharpness. 

The Cons of Prime Lenses They're often very expensive. Prime lenses offer incredibly sharp images and smaller aperture number which means higher engineering and lager glass lens so the price goes up. Second because you're within a fixed range your feet act as the zoom feature, which can be hindered by a wall or edge of a cliff. 

The Pros to Zoom Lenses is that you have more options on site. Often you'll see sports photographers and journalist use zooms lenses who need to have different focal lengths in a pinch. There are many incredible zooms on the market and I've owned and shot with both. 

The Cons of a zooms lens is that your able to achieve the smaller apertures of F1.2, F1.4, and 2.0 that primes offer. Because of all the mechanics of the glass that needs to enlarge the images zoom lens often offer less tack sharp images. 

So with all that said what does that mean. I've learned there are a large number of different options and neither of them are right or wrong. I personally shoot with both and love both options. I would again recommend renting a number of different options to see what works for you and your needs. There was a while were I was just shoot and working on commercial assignments with a 24-70mm 2.8 zoom lens and was completely content and capturing great images.

Currently I'm shooting with a 55m minolta film lens for all my portrait work and a Zeiss 24-70mm zoom lens. 
Bellow are all the different angles and perspectives that I've achieved with just these two lenes



There's one more lens that you should be aware of and work with, a telephoto zoom. A Telephoto zoom is any lens past 70mm. Why is this important, because of this on fact, a telephoto lens brings the background close to the subject. As you zoom in on a tlephoto lens you are actually moving the glass inside of the lens to compress the image which intern takes the background and brings it closer to you. 


See how the background is further away, this image was shot at around 200mm were as the images on the right was shot at 400mm.
Using each lens as a tool is a great way to achieve diversity in your work and portfolio.

TIP: Here's a great hack. lets say your on assignment and your client has a couple second and you're shooting in a front lobby of an office and it looks horrific, you can pop on a zoom and compress the background so that it becomes a wash and it isolates the subject. This will  removing your subject from the awful looking office space and create a great looking portrait, wedding photographers do this often when they have to shoot in a parking lot. 


So what does all this mean?

I want to get practical, what does all this mean to you? If your a beginner this can all feel overwhelming, believe me I've been doing this for years and I'm still looking at it from different perspectives and learning new features. Its funny, because i've been on set or on location with people that have been doing it for a while and don't know what or why the things above are important or how they are tools in your tool belt.

So with that said, is there a perfect camera body out there ? NO, but the companies and brands would differ. 
Is there a perfect lens out there for you? NO there are different options for different jobs.

I would take this approach when starting out or looking to purchase new gear, RENT IT FIRST! 
I've rented an number of different systems and lens on the market and for me its come down to these two principles: 

1. Will it make me shoot more?
This are so crucial, Its so easy to get camera happy and chooses the biggest and boldest but if it create an excuse not to shoot or go on location, the honest truth is you missed the shot and it cost you money. Your camera and lens selection should feel like an extension of who you are. I personally like simply and light that why I shoot with the Sony a7 and minolta film lens but i know people who run with the PhaseOne systems all over the world because that's what they're comfortable with. 
2. Will it add more value that the VIEWER can see.
This is a huge problem in the community. Yes I know It is important to have a teched out camera, and I have rented and used on set crazy high quality camera because we were shooting images that would be for storefront windows or needed intensive photoshop, but that come to the question. Will the viewer, the agency, the person, the billboard need that gear to make it the best. It might and it might not, it comes down to the end goal. So that's all I'm going to say. 
Have fun with you equipment and enjoy the process of learning about your gear, but at the end of the day it's just an extension of your creative vision.