Image quality Q&A

image quality q&a

I created this page because I am passionate about image quality and doing things right. I’m speaking specifically in terms of what the camera can accomplish and why I choose to shoot how I shoot. I did not create this page to discuss editing or Photoshop techniques, and I feel that my portfolio is pretty straightforward in that regard. I like fairly simple clean editing, and I hope never to make images look drastically Photoshopped. That’s my style. Other photographers have different styles, and that’s good because otherwise we’d all be the same.

why are professional photographers so expensive? 

We make a living using certain tools. Like any professional, our tools have to be of the highest quality. We invest in excellent cameras, lenses, and lights because it makes all the difference. This investment has been a slow evolution over the course of my life. In 2004 I got my first point-and-shoot digital camera (a Pentax Optio S40), and it was awesome. I could take it with me everywhere and I did:


In 2006 I got more serious about photography and decided to purchase my first dSLR with interchangeable lenses. A friend recommended to me the Olympus E-500 system because it was affordable and came with a 2 lens kit. I worked with the Olympus all through college and several years after. I took this photo of my niece as recently as the spring of 2012 with it:


I’m proud of all the work I did with this camera. The bulk of my niece’s lives have been photographed with it, and it got me through college. After graduating with my BFA in 2009, I knew that eventually I would have to upgrade though. Technology is always changing rapidly, but it wasn’t just that. My Olympus was an amateur camera, great for learning, but in no way professional. I knew this for a lot of reasons: I had to spend a lot of time editing the Olympus photos because what was coming straight out of my camera was pretty rough, my images needed a great deal of sharpening, and in all but ideal circumstances (good light and a steady subject) my images didn’t look professional at all. The noise (grain) at even 400 ISO was terrible. After much frustration and saving of funds, I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II. It was like getting glasses after years of functioning without them and not realizing how blurry everything was. I’m still grateful I was able to make the upgrade. Every time I pick up the 5D I’m humbled that I get to have it in my hands, seriously. I know that sounds sappy, but it was a huge deal for me after years of waiting.

some comparisons

I created these comparisons of the same subject with both cameras so you could see what I’m talking about. All the images were shot at 100mm, and the only alteration was a +1.00 exposure correction for the Olympus images, so the comparisons would look similar in terms of exposure. The Canon images have no exposure adjustments. This is what I mean when I talk about the Olympus only performing in ideal light conditions.


 The angle of the subject matter here is slightly different because my Canon lens can get much closer to the subject and still focus. I have to be at least 5 feet away from my subject with my Olympus lens because it won’t focus on anything closer than that. Both images here have blur because I was indoors and didn’t have a lot of light to work with. This is a situation where the Canon len’s Image Stabilization is really helpful. Even though the Canon image has a small amount of blur, I would still consider it usable for some applications.



400 ISO here, and things are looking alright for the Olympus. It has definitely produced a usable image.



This is the ISO level where things start to rapidly deteriorate for the Olympus. The color noise, particularly in the shadows, is pronounced. The Canon isn’t looking much differently than it did at 400 ISO.



 1600 ISO is the highest ISO setting the Olympus has. It’s not good here and looks much worse in low light.


so what’s the point?

These comparisons are pretty straightforward. Professionals use professional gear to get the best images we possibly can, and that way, when it’s time to make prints or enlargements, there is a really solid high quality file to work with. The more information that file contains, the more we can do with it. While image quality may not be as big of an issue for the average Instagram/Facebook photo (two things I love using, btw) it matters infinitely when you want keepsakes, not just snapshots. That’s why we are here. Because we love what we do, and we learn as much as we can to do our best with integrity and excellence. Anything less is not professional, and that is the difference.