Understanding the creative aspect of lens aperture
We all learn in Photography 101 that the aperture setting is a physical property of the lens, and you can vary its size to control the amount of light entering your camera. Usually, we think of aperture as it relates to the rules of exposure.
Back when I was shooting film and early digital cameras, it was considered ideal to have a “fast” lens (meaning one with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider). Why? because with limited ISO options (remember film rarely was faster than ISO 800 and early DSLRs got noisy in a hurry above ISO 400), a fast lens meant you could shoot hand-held in dim conditions without a flash.
Today, ISO no longer limits most photographers. Sure, images are still cleaner and have greater dynamic range at a camera’s base ISO, but you can shoot above ISO 6400 these days pretty much with impunity. That means you have much more creative latitude to choose the aesthetic of your shots by varying the lens aperture.
This week, we revisit the age-old challenge of getting sharper shots. Sharp photos require a combination of camera settings, technique, and post-processing, and we’ll offer our suggestions for each one. If your photos aren’t sharp, it might have more to do with your camera settings than your focus system.
Ever since interchangeable lens digital cameras entered the market in the early 2000s, sensor dust has been a constant nemesis of digital photographers. There’s just no way to really keep dust out of your camera, unless you never change lenses in the field. Blower bulbs and sensor cleaning kits became a mandatory accessory for digital photographers, and even then the occasional dust bunny would still show up on an image.
Mirrorless cameras are even more prone to sensor dust given that the sensor is completely exposed to the elements when you remove the lens or body cap. Thankfully, the Nikon Z8 and Z9 cameras offer a great feature to prevent dusty sensors, but it’s disabled by default.
If you have a Nikon Z8 or Z9, there’s one setting you should make before doing anything else when you get your camera. This one setting will keep dust off of your sensor and save you time post-processing your photos.
Nikon Z8 & Z9 Sensor Shield
The Nikon Z8 and Z9 cameras have no mechanical shutter in front of the sensor, just like most mirrorless cameras do. But these cameras offer a great feature: a sensor shield.
The sensor shield is similar to a camera shutter, except it’s sturdier and serves no purpose except to protect the imaging sensor from dust. However, the feature is disabled by default in the Nikon Z8/Z9 cameras.
If you enable the sensor shield function before removing the body cap from your brand-new Nikon Z8 or Z9, you may never need to worry about a dust spot on your images ever again.
To activate the sensor shield feature, go to the Setup Menu (wrench icon) in your Nikon Z8/Z9. From there, scroll down until you find the menu item labeled: Sensor shield behavior at power off.
By default, it’s set to “off,” meaning that the shield isn’t deployed. Change the setting to “on.” and you’re good to go. If you make this setting change before removing your camera’s body cap for the first time, you may never need to clean your sensor ever again!
Note that if you do need to use a blower to clean your image sensor, you’ll need to disable the sensor shield before powering off your camera so that the sensor can be exposed for cleaning.
Photo AI is the newest Topaz plug-in, and it combines sharpening, noise reduction, and upscaling features in a single application that uses AI-based technology to deliver impressive results. In this presentation, I discuss the software and several use cases for how to incorporate it into your own photography workflow.
Topaz Photo AI is part of the Topaz Image Quality Bundle, which is available here.
This week, we’re discussing image sharpening. If you’re not sharpening your images, you’re probably not getting the best quality out of your files. In-camera sharpening can be particularly poor, and often leads to more noticeable noise. We’ll walk you through the steps we use to sharpen (and apply noise reduction) and the tools we use to do it.