Living with Photography: Introductions

By Norman Chan

Let's shoot first and talk about it later.

Hey there. It’s Norm from Tested. Nice seeing you here--we should hang out more often. We have some exciting stuff happening on the site this week, so I thought it may be a good time to try something different. If you follow the site, you may know that I’m really interested in photography. That doesn’t mean I would call myself a professional photographer--though I’ve been known to take a photo or thousand, it’s still very much a hobby for me. It’s something I do for fun and also helps with work. I also happen to believe that the technology of photography--a field approaching two centuries of practice--is in the middle of a tremendous growth curve due to the convergence of many other technological advances. Large digital sensors, high-def video, always-connected smartphones, and social networks are all changing the way people use cameras and shoot photos. Now seems like a great time to invest in a camera.

So, every week, I’ll share some thoughts about my experience with photography. I’ll talk about gear I’m testing, techniques I’ve learned, or questions and challenges I’m facing that week. My hope is that we’ll get to have a conversation about photography--maybe you’ll learn something new on occasion and maybe I can learn something from you guys as well. Like I said, I’m not a professional; I don’t even own a DSLR. But I plan on buying one in the next year, and it’s a journey I want to involve you guys in.

As is appropriate for these kinds of introductions, here’s a little background about my shooting experience and my current gear. I’ve previously shot with an Canon 30D and 40D DSLR, though my current primary camera is a Sony NEX-C3 compact mirrorless camera. I like shooting with an iPhone on occasion, but am using it much less than I did two years ago. I’m a big fan of the advantages of mirrorless cameras, though don’t think they’re all DSLR killers. My DSLR experience has mostly been with Canon cameras, though I have never shot video with one in the post 5D Mark II era. Right now, I’m testing a Sony RX100 compact camera, and liking it--but not loving it.

I read about camera news like most people interested in photography, and my daily blogroll includes dpreview, petapixel, and various rumor sites (canonrumors, nikonrumors, sonyalpharumors, etc). Photo aggregation blogs like the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture and The Atlantic’s In Focus are gorgeous and fun to browse as well. I’m a huge fan of Kai Wong and the videos on DigitalRev. There are so many professional photographers’ blogs and resources online, and I’d love to hear which ones you have bookmarked.

Because of the nature of what we do at Tested, I have a lot of thoughts on static product photography and what images best attract readers and complement a written story. Believe me when I say I get really excited about new ways to shoot an iPhone, video card, or even other cameras. Technology can be really beautiful. A consequence of that is that I suck at shooting moving objects; I’m still getting a feel for the best balance of shutter speed, aperture, iso, and exposure comp. Portraiture, subject composition, color balance, lens selection, and dear god, lighting? Going to take those topics slowly as well.

Like with other types of devices, I’m finding that there’s an overemphasis on hardware and specs in the camera community, and that photographers are just coming around to having really good discussions about user experience. Things like interface responsiveness, logical button placement, user customization, and the implementation of “smart” features really matter both in the studio and in the field, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on those topics as well.

One last thing. Along with my thoughts for the week, I’ll also share my favorite recent photo I’ve taken. We don’t have a Tested Flickr pool (anyone interested in that?) but I encourage you guys to post your own recently snapped photos and give some constructive feedback to each other. Let me start with this photo I took at Adam’s a few weeks ago for our video on learning to carve dovetail joints.