Advice Centre by Photography Experts (Part 4)

6/12/2012 4:35:12 PM

Q & A

Which tablet?

I want to buy a graphics tablet for my Apple Mac. Can you recommend a suitable one?

Description: Wacom intuos 5 medium - pth-650, pen & touch

Wacom intuos 5 medium - pth-650, pen & touch

Wacom is the most popular brand of tablet and is favoured by the majority of photographers. There are numerous models to choose from, starting with the entry-level $62 Bamboo Pen Tablet. If you want more sophisticated features, look at the Wacom Intuos range - the A6-wide lntuos4 Small is the baby and costs $264, while the new A4-wide lntuos5 Touch Large is a top of the range professional tablet and costs $638.4.

Which laptop for image editing?

My laptop has recently broken and isn't worth repairing so I'm in the market for a new one. The thing is, I can't decide between a PC or an Apple Mac. Which would be the best for editing images and videos?

That's rather like asking us if a Nikon is better than a Canon -it's horses for courses. Long-term users of PC laptops often swear by them, but Macintosh fans wouldn’t use anything else either. That said, Apple computers tend to be more intuitive, so if you head in that direction you'll soon get to grips with how everything works. You don't often hear of Mac users switching back to a PC, but lots of PC users are happy to switch over to Apple Macs.

The one downside to Apple Mac computers is the price. You can pick up a capable H P, Sony or Dell PC packed with RAM, a large hard drive and a fast processor for $650-$910, but you'll need to spend at least $1,600 on a Mac to get the same.

The super-slim Macbook Air (from $1358.4) looks fantastic and is great if you travel, but they don't offer much in the way of memory (256GB maximum), have a slower processor, lack an internal DVD drive and only offer USB ports, not Firewire. For photographers, these omissions are limiting.

Description: A MacBook Pro

A MacBook Pro

A MacBook Pro is well worth consideration. The entry-level 13in model with 4GB Ram, 500GB hard drive and 2.4Ghz dual-core processor costs $1598.4 and will give any PC a run for its money, so if you can afford it we'd say go for a Mac. They're used widely in the design, publishing and photographic industries because they're so well suited to the job.

Blown highlights

I read all the time about how it's important not to 'blow' the highlights when shooting digital images. Does that rule always apply, or are there exceptions?

There are no 'rules' as such in photography, only guidelines that are intended to help you produce successful images. However, having learnt those guidelines, there's nothing to stop you ignoring them and taking your own creative path if you so wish.

Avoiding 'blown' highlights is one such guideline. It's recommended because if you do blow the highlights, there will be no detail recorded in those areas and usually that's not a good thing. For example, if you shoot a landscape at dawn or dusk you will normally want to record the colour and detail in the sky, but unless you use a Neutral Density grad, large areas of the sky will end up blown out due to the high contrast nature of the scene. If that happens, there's little you can do to reverse it.

Description: a blown highlight is when the highlight of the shot is blown

a blown highlight is when the highlight of the shot is blown

However, in some situations, blown highlights can be used to your creative advantage, adding atmosphere and helping to capture the true feel of a scene. Backlit scenes are a perfect example of this. Left to its own devices, your DSLR will usually underexpose backlit scenes so your subject comes out dark or even as a silhouette. But you may not want that -you may want to record detail in the shadow areas, which means you need to increase the exposure by a stop or two.

In doing so, the highlights will almost certainly 'blow out', but far from being a bad thing, it can work brilliantly. The same applies if your subject is against a bright background such as a white wall. Set an exposure that's correct for their face and the background may overexpose to the point that it blows out. However, the person is more important than the background, so ignore those highlights.

It's important that you understand how to avoid blowing the highlights, and recognise situations where detail needs to be recorded in them. But at the same time, don't be afraid to throw caution to the wind and use overexposure creatively.

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