Digital Photography for Locksmiths, Part 2

Carrying your camera bag is no different than lugging an additional scan tool or safe scopes. Things change, and we need to update our toolbox with a camera


The first installment of our Digital Photography for Locksmiths series explained the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. In this installment, I will introduce the useful concepts of Depth of Field and Macro Photography, complete with real-life examples for locksmiths.

Last time we merely fiddled with the dials and buttons to gain familiarity. You will now see that they do indeed have a greater purpose other than “twiddle factor.” I will also touch on a feature called “white balance.” With basic cumulative understanding of these topics, you should have enough knowledge to photograph almost any scene you may encounter.

The turning of the dials and wheels to achieve a decent looking photo may be all well and good for simply getting your point across in the interests of gaining assistance. Anything beyond that, you will be severely disappointed with your efforts.

Histogram

When shooting digital, there is a feature called a histogram. This will be your lifeline to a somewhat properly exposed photograph. Somewhere in your owner's manual will be a section in regards to a histogram. I cannot stress highly enough that you find it, read it, and utilize that feature when shooting.

A histogram is a graph, or chart, of the exposure in your photo. When it is displayed, you will see what appears to be similar to a stock market graph of the year's past history of your favorite company. Dark, or shadows, are represented on the left, and whites, or very light colors toward the right end. There is no right or wrong histogram representation. The “goal” is to have a broad spectrum of light and dark.

If you snap a photo, then view the histogram and it shows the lines bunched toward the left, then you have an underexposed photo. If the lines are jammed toward the right side of the graph, you are overexposed.

With the smallish screens allotted to us for reviewing taken photos, this is the best way to be sure we have a somewhat properly exposed photograph. However, this in no way reveals anything in regards to focus. Properly exposed does not imply nor guarantee properly focused. Use of the histogram is one of the things that will help an inexperienced photographer immensely. It will allow you to “dial in “proper settings much quicker. Once you become more familiar with the camera, your dependency on the histogram will diminish somewhat.

white balance

In the interests of archiving and building your library, we will briefly touch on the subject of white balance. In a nutshell, white balance is the setting used on the camera that tells its computer what temperatures of lighting you are exposing the sensor to. Florescent bulbs give off a whiter, more harsh light than do incandescent bulbs. Incandescent gives off a warmer red-yellow light.

Well, we need to tell the camera that. We need to tell it what “white” really is. Our minds know what “white” is, but the camera does not. A photograph of a white piece of paper under incandescent lighting will appear creamy colored to our eye if we do not make the correction on the camera.

While this may be of no importance to the struggling locksmith who just needs to get out of his predicament, it may be of interest to those of us who would like to document a job well done.

Most of the time, white balance can be left on “auto.” At some point, the camera will be fooled by the ambient light, and you will need to know how and why this is. There are different settings on your camera to make this correction. Everyone's camera is different, so you will have to read your manual to learn the steps necessary to make a correction.

DSLR shooters have an added bonus. There is an easy way to utilize what is called “custom white balance.” This is a feature in which you can photograph a white object under the lighting the photos will be taken. Through menu settings, the camera can learn what “white” is, and this will aid in proper exposure at time of shooting. A coffee filter is a great thing to use for “white.”

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