Earth Day and a Photography Lesson

This post actually pains me to write. Don’t get me wrong; we had a gorgeous and wonderful day. I thought I was coming home with a memory card full of gorgeous and wonderful photos to document it. Whenever we have an outing where I take my camera, I always love to scan through the photos on the memory card while The Captain drives us home.

Everything looked lovely on the tiny little viewfinder on my camera. I generally don’t spend a whole lot of time in front of the lens, so I don’t have nearly as many photos of myself and my girls as I would like. But on this day, I passed the camera to The Captain and he got some photos with me actually in them that I was genuinely excited about. I couldn’t wait to get them home and into Lightroom for previewing at a bigger size!

What I found when I got home really shook my confidence as a photographer, and made me sad as a mama. The photos looked pretty when they were tiny, but blown up, they were grainy. Like, really, really grainy. I only had to think about it for half a second when I realized that I hadn’t changed my ISO settings on my camera from the last time I used it. The last time I used the camera was to photograph the babes sleeping in a dark bedroom, and had the ISO cranked up ridiculously high for low light circumstances. ISO is essentially the setting on the camera that determines how sensitive to light the image sensor is. Photography in bright sunlight, like what we had at the Earth Day celebration, calls for an ISO setting of around 200 (even lower, if the camera can go lower, and if you don’t put your subject in the shade.) My camera’s ISO was on 3200 (yes, 3200, not 320) the entire day. I shoot with the Nikon D7000, which boasts excellent low-light capability with reduced grain on the images at high ISO settings…but on a sunny day, the photographic results of having ISO set at 3200 are painful for me to look at.

Have I piqued your curiosity yet? How about a sample?

An example of part of a photo shot at ISO 3200 in bright (shaded) sunlight, at full resolution. It’s not pretty.

My stomach drops to my toes whenever I think about possibly making such a flub on a professional shoot…a circumstance where a client is paying me to photograph their event or their loved ones. What if it had been a wedding? Not exactly something that can be re-created for the sake of a photo shoot. I do have a series of steps I go through before a photo shoot; checking settings, formatting memory cards, charging batteries…but for some reason I didn’t do it before we went to the festival. Hopefully this will serve as a good reminder to never become complacent.

Anyway, here are some of the images from the day. They don’t look too bad when they are small for blog posting, but I certainly won’t be purchasing a canvas of my girls and I to put up on the wall like I’d planned.

Regardless, my babies are adorable, despite photographs that are technical stinkers. I really battled with myself whether or not to share these anywhere publicly, and in the end, the cuteness of my kids and the desire to provide a learning experience to any other photographer that might stumble across this ended up winning out.

This was supposed to be an adorable artistic baby belly shot…I didn’t even bother doing anything with white balance since it is so tehnically bad anyway.

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