I want my pictures to look like what I see when I take them

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by marvlaw, Nov 8, 2011.

  1. marvlaw macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    I first want to say that I am very impressed with all the photos posted in this section of MR and I look forward to seeing them everyday. While I am no where near a professional or even an advanced amateur I would really like to take better pictures. My biggest gripe is that when I upload my pictures they don't reflect what I was actually trying to capture and I end up deleting most of them.

    I was hoping some people could recommend a non-dSLR camera that would help me achieve this goal or close to it. I have been reading and trying to learn about some of the manual features that will help to create a less distorted image and I am willing to step outside of "auto mode" to get better pictures. Is there any compact camera that any of you use when your dSLR is prohibitive? If not any particular camera, are there any features beyond MP and zoom I should look for when researching different cameras?

    Thanks in advance
  2. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    I think the first mistake is assuming the problem is the camera and not the person using it. Buying a better camera does not equal better pictures. They might have higher megapixels, but that doesn't mean it is a better picture.

    I recommend that you look for the book "Understanding Exposure" and read it. It will go a long way to helping you figure out how to take better pictures.

    Now, that said, every camera has limitations that you must work with. The cheaper the camera, the more likely it will have more limitations you have to deal with. That doesn't make it impossible to take good pictures with it, either. The iPhone 4S (and 4 does, too) has quite a good camera, but it is not as good as any of the point and shoots currently available (though the 4S is probably close enough that don't need a low end cheap one). I've seen some great pictures taken with those phones. I've seen a series of shots from Iraq and Afghanistan taken by a journalist photographer with the iPhone 4 that are great that probably couldn't be taken with a DSLR (social/intimidation factor of the larger camera might take away the candid/in the moment feel).

    There are some types of shots that require a certain level of camera to be useful (sports comes to mind for one). But, in general it isn't the camera's fault.
  3. noisycats macrumors 6502a


    Jun 1, 2010
    The 'ham. Alabama.
    Perfectly stated.

    Experienced photographers can take amazing pictures with crap equipment and inexperienced photographers can take crappy pictures with amazing equipment.

    I would recommend spending more time reading about "how" to take pictures. Then you will have a better understanding of what features are important for you AND how to use those features when you get them.
  4. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    Neither megapixels or "zoom" are particularly good features to look at.
  5. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
    I don't think you will ever get a camera to see what you see...A big part of the problem is you don't see what you think you see..

    ...you see what you think you should be seeing...

    A good link to look at..check out the 'cube illusion'

    Also 200 years of camera development does match 2 million years of evolution... (or the magic of god for anyone who's not quite down with darwin)
  6. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    You've asked two different questions here. How to get your pictures to match your vision is one issue, and which camera to buy is another matter entirely. If you want good answers to either of these questions, you should probably post one thread for each topic.
  7. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    You're right, I did ask two different questions. I intended to present the problem I am having and the question to be that while I am trying to do my part to improve my skills and knowledge as a user, is there anything camera-wise I should look for other than megapixels and zoom. I apologize for not being more clear.
  8. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    What do I look for in a camera:

    1) As large a sensor as I can afford. I currently own two digital cameras (neither are compacts). Both have APS-C sized sensors. These have about 12x the surface area of your average compact camera sensor (the 1/2.5" type). The image below gives a good comparison:


    2) As fast a lens as I can afford (without too much distortion). I have fast prime (one focal length: no zoom) lenses for both my cameras. These are not cheap but allow photographic choices that slower lenses do not. I'd consider f/2.0 or faster as a requirement.

    3) Good manual UI. I want as much of the primary camera control on physical dials/knobs. My Epson RD-1 is very good for this: you can fold the screen in and use the camera perfectly with only the external controls

    4) Ability to shoot RAW. I user Aperture. The output is only as good as the input. So JPEGs are a no-no

    Taking all this into account if I were to buy a small camera I'd look at the Micro 4/3 range (the new Panasonic GX1 looks nice), perhaps the Sony NEX range (the NEX 7 in particular) although the lenses are in general less good or if I didn't want to spend that much something like the new Fuji X10.
  9. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    Thank you! I had my eye on the canon powershot s100

    Do you have an opinion on this camera?
  10. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    It's a nice camera. It's not got as large a sensor as the X10 (7.49 x 5.52 mm versus 8.8 x 6.6 mm) and they have the same number of pixels so each pixel is smaller (so less light falls on the pixel). The S100 goes usefully wider (24mm vs 28mm in 35mm full-frame equivalents) but it's lens gets way, way slower when you get out of the wide end (f/5.9 vs f/2.8).

    But the S100 is much lighter. They say the best camera is the one you have with you: perhaps the smaller size and weight would mean you actually have the camera on you to capture what you see :)
  11. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Thanks again for your help, it's very much appreciated. I have been reading about what all the features mean in a book I downloaded as well as reading the techniques that people use in these forums. I was looking for something to test it all out and get familiar with without diving head first into the dSLR world. All your recommendations are along the lines of what I was looking for.

    Thanks again :)
  12. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    I don't know if this would be useful to you or not OP but one thing I do when taking a picture is before I press the button I think to myself if what I see in the viewfinder is something I would hang on my wall, then I picture it on my wall. If it doesn't fit, I recompose and try again.

    It sounds tedious but it becomes quite instant after a few tries.
  13. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    One of the problems with trying to capture something how you see it is that your eye has a lot more perceived dynamic range than most camera sensors. When you look at the sky and something in the shadows, your eye instantly adjusts so that everything is optimally exposed. The camera only gets one look at the whole scene and therefore, when a lot of dynamic range exists in the scene, it's highly likely that something will be underexposed or overexposed (or both).

    Some (usually cheap) lenses compound this by reducing saturation and contrast.

    Even if you spend a lot of money on a top of the line DSLR with good dynamic range, and expensive high-quality lenses, you're still going to have to compromise. You have to accept that you may not be able to capture the entire scene exactly how your eyes perceive it without HDR, supplemental lighting, or serious post-processing.

    Now, given that, I believe there are three critical elements to producing good photos assuming you have an interesting subject to begin with...

    1. Interesting lighting
    2. Good equipment
    3. Post processing

    Remove any one of those and you will not achieve the best possible outcome.

    For those that say it's not about the camera and all about the photographer... Yeah, ok... a good photographer will shoot with good or interesting light, with good equipment, and do the proper amount of post processing... if that's what you mean, I agree. But if you think someone who normally posts stunning photos on this board does so in crappy light with a camera phone and no post processing, then I disagree.

    As an example, the difference in saturation and contrast alone between some of my lenses are quite noticeable. Output sharpness of RAW images varies greatly from one camera to another which will determine the amount of post-sharpening you need to apply to achieve an acceptable outcome. The 7D happens to have a very aggressive demosaic filter that produces a rather soft RAW image that requires a more sharpening in post compared to say a 5DII. So there's an example where even the best lighting and an expensive camera and lens combo still needs post processing to achieve decent output.

    My advice:
    - Seek out well lit or interesting subjects (which often means having patience or added equipment to get the lighting just right)
    - Buy the best gear (biggest sensor and top quality glass) you can justify given your other priorities
    - Invest time in learning your camera, the variables involved in exposure and how to manipulate them to get your result, and how to get the most out of your photos with Lightroom or Aperture.
  14. Milessio macrumors newbie

    Nov 20, 2008
    It's not (all) about the camera

    For a first camera, the Canon S95/100 ARE great cameras capable of taking images to be proud of. Check out 'CHDK' to add extra functions/features. If you later decide that you want a dSLR/medium format camera, the Canon will be a perfect complement. A 35$ bag housing from Aquapac or similar will allow you to take photos at the beach, river, swimming pool, skiing etc, where most dSLR owners would probably not spend the extra for a housing & just miss the opportunities. A compact will also allow the use of flash without concern about shutter sync speed (so removing shadows in scenes with bright sun).

    Remember that it's better to get the best image when you press the button, than spend hours in PP trying to improve an average image. By taking more photos & critically evaluating them, you will quickly be taking better photos. That is probably the time to start worrying about PP & shooting in RAW.

    Remember that your eyes have the best image processing in existence, so a camera will always find it hard to compete!

    Have fun!
  15. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Thank you!

    Thank you all so much for your replies and advice. I did download the "Understanding Exposure" book that someone suggested and I'm excited to put some of that information to use. That said, I am so impressed with all of the photos on these threads that I thought it would be interesting to hear what all of you look for in a camera. A lot of my pictures would turn out so blurry or dark that it was a big disappointment. I can't say to my 2 1/2 year old niece "do that cute thing again" or "sun, set that way again through the trees" so that I can get the picture I intended.

    Again, thank you all so much for your responses, I have a lot to learn!
  16. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    This was posted elsewhere on MR today but is a good read: Ken Rockwell on Simplicity. Read it. Consider if you really need new/fancier gear?

    If you shots are blurry there are two reasons: you moved or your subject moved. If you moved then stay stiller :)p). If your subject moved you need a faster shutter speed. You can either use a higher ISO or a wider aperture for this.

    If your pictures are too dark your exposure is wrong. Either have a slower shutter speed or a wider aperture.
  17. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    That Ken Rockwell article is a good read.

    I have an older S90 that I take almost everywhere with me, it's a great P&S camera and the fast lens keeps flash use to a minimum. I also run the photos through a program called DSO Optics $150 that fixes the imperfections of the lens + sensor on most better digital cameras.

    I'm also looking at the S100 for its 1080 movie mode and wider / longer albeit slower in the telephoto lens.
  18. Escher2112 macrumors member

    Jul 25, 2011
    I'll admit - I didn't read through every reply, so I apologize as some of this is probably repeated...

    First - The eye is an incredibly sensitive device. No camera will reproduce what you *think* you see... your eye adapts so fast to light changes, that you think you are seeing one thing, when actually you are seeing a combination of things as your eye adapts.

    Second - I agree with the others here - Megapixels doesn't matter as much as the quality of the pixels. The larger the sensor the better..

    Those things being said consider the following:

    Do some research and look at High Dynamic Range (HDR) photographs. They use a technique of combining images taken at different apertures (brightness levels) and blend them so that all the details in the image are shown.. In my experience, good quality (not the overdone cartoony type) HDR images more readily replicate what we think we see. As a result, I have been doing a lot of HDR work lately.

    I just picked up the Sony Nex5, as it meets all the criteria mentioned above. Good MP range, but great sensor size (uses the same sensor as the Nikon D7000 dSLR). Amazing low light performance (ISO up to 25600, and very little noise up to around 6400 ISO). In camera HDR, face recognition, in camera panorama shooting... Best of all, interchangeable lenses and adapters for most major lens brands (some will be manual focus only, but the camera has a focus guide mode).
  19. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    Here's something that's a bit different from the other suggestions, but it's worked well for me over more decades than I like to think about.

    Assume you're looking through a viewfinder.

    It's normal to interpret the view through a viewfinder as an extension of what you see with your eye (and brain, of course). The problem that causes is that you tend to look at what interests you and ignore the rest of what's in the frame. Everybody does this, I think, and has to learn not to.

    Also, the image you make is going to be displayed on a flat surface (screen, paper), and the entire frame is going to be captured (let's ignore editing).

    Train your eye/brain to "look around" the image you're seeing in the viewfinder. See what's actually there, in addition to what you're interested in. Flatten what you see (mentally) and inspect the entire frame by forcing yourself to look at all parts of it.

    Obviously this isn't going to work for action shots, but for relatively static scenes it works well once you train yourself to do it. There's nothing mystical. It only takes practice, and after you've practiced you'll be able to do it in a second or two.

    When you learn to do it, you won't have nearly as many surprises when you look at the images you've captured -- surprises such as the object in the corner you didn't realize was there, or something in the background that's dominating the image.

    Again, nothing magic here. It's just a matter of working around human perception
  20. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    New York
    Have you thought about taking a workshop or a class at a community college?
  21. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Thank you all for your detailed responses. I will check out that article along with the other learning materials I have. Looking through the viewfinder is great advice. Often, I will see something that I would like a picture of and just pick up my camera and snap away. I have never considered taking a second to look at it through the viewfinder and adjusting to what I see there rather than what I saw before grabbing my camera.

    As for taking a class, I would love to eventually but I am a third year law student so adding another class to my already busy schedule is, to be honest, nauseating. That's another reason why I want to first learn on an advanced compact with manual options or a micro 4/3 system. Until after the bar exam in July, I will not have the amount of time and energy to give a dSLR that will justify the cost.
  22. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Ah, maybe you've found the problem. ;)

    A bit of time and effort spent at the taking stage will quickly produce better pix...
  23. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    I'm by no means a great photographer but not getting the shot I wanted was one of my biggest gripes and I think I'm getting better at it. First off, don't expect what you have in your head to always to be the image you get. Sometimes your better off making the best of what you can then trying to get a shot that's not really possible in the conditions in which you are. Secondly, I'd suggest looking at stuff and figuring out how you'll shoot it and think of how it will come out before pressing the shutter even once.

    Also, you might want to look into basic color correction software. Photoshop is not needed for most photos, something like apperture or lightroom (heck even iPhoto) can handle most of it and it's fairly simple. Correcting the white balance and adjusting the exposure curve can improve a picture a lot and is quite easy to understand and fast to do.

    Bottom line shoot, shoot, shoot. ;)
  24. marvlaw thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    You're 100% right. That's why I downloaded some materials to learn what to do when I take that time and was looking for some insight in regard to what others consider important when trying to get the shot they want. But yes, the first step was admitting that I have no idea what I am doing and I wanted something (a good picture) for nothing (lack of time and effort). :)
  25. fitshaced macrumors 68000


    Jul 2, 2011
    Photography for me isnt trying to capture what I see but changing what I see. Using the features of the camera, you can make an entirely different picture than a simple snapshot and i think that makes photography far more interesting.

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