Nick Carver Photography Blog

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Featured Testimonial: Private Lessons

After taking my 4-Week Landscape Photography class at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, Sheila Dement enrolled in some private photography lessons with me. Having already covered landscape photography in the group class, we focused the private lessons on photographing portraits and family events. Among other things, we covered how to shoot in full manual mode, how to find good light, how to frame a portrait, how to edit photos in post-production, how to use Aperture 3 (the image editing software by Apple) and how to prep files for printing. Sheila was kind enough to write a great testimonial for me that I wanted to share here with you.

Here is one of Sheila's photos from AFTER doing private lessons:

Here is one of Sheila's photos from BEFORE doing private lessons:

Here's what Sheila had to say about my private photography lessons:

I have always enjoyed photography and loved taking pictures of my kids and documenting their lives. For years I never knew how to do anything but auto on my camera. I was happy with my results at times, but there were many occasions when my pictures didn’t always turn out. About 3 years ago my daughter joined a dance team. This led to many performances on stage with low light situations. I was continually frustrated with the poor results that I was getting. I would achieve enough light in my photo, but would get a lot of motion blur. With this frustration I decided I wanted to find someone to help me learn how to use my camera and help me achieve the results I wanted.  

I started to search on line for a class or teacher to help me with my quest. In my search, I came upon Nick Carver's website. I was amazed at what I saw and signed myself up for his 4 week course on landscape photography. I took his class and learned a lot. As I practiced what I learned I started to gain a better understanding on how my camera worked. It surprised me at how easy it was to shoot in full manual. It really wasn't that scary!! After the 4 week course, I took several private lessons from him. This took me to a whole new level. I was even more confident in what I was doing and loved what I was achieving. Nick makes it so easy to understand. He is an amazing, gifted teacher. He helps you understand in such a simple way. He is very knowledgeable and is so willing to share. He is very friendly and fun. I would recommend him to everyone. I love it now when someone says….WOW you took that picture! And I can say yes, I had an awesome teacher show me how. I am so grateful that I found Nick.

- Sheila Dement

If you're in Orange County and are interested in doing private photography lessons, click here for more information. If you're in another part of the state or country and can't make it out here for private lessons, check out my online courses here.

Featured Testimonial: Online Course

Student L. Jorgensen recently finished my How to Shoot in Full Manual Online Course and had these great things to say about it:

I took an on-line course last year [not by Nick Carver] which cost me a fortune and did nothing but make me angry! It was frustrating, pompous and I learned very little! For each chapter, I had to go out and buy books to try to understand what they were trying to say!  

So, I decided to try Nick Carver's method, and I felt that my "photo eyes" had been opened for the first time! “Is that how you meter - how simple, and why didn't anybody tell me!?” I was so fascinated that I read all the material and watched the videos in one day. Everything was explained in a manner that I could immediately grasp.  I literally began shooting in Manual and metering as per Nick’s instructions within minutes. I have not become Ansel Adams overnight, but I do shoot in manual 90% of the time and it has become very second nature.

Nick is very professional, a great teacher and it does not hurt that he is very helpful and pleasant to work with. I have already started his course on Filters and plan on signing up for the course on Composition. I would recommend his courses in a heartbeat!

- L. Jorgensen

And here is a gorgeous photo by L. Jorgensen taken in full manual mode using the manual metering technique discussed in my course:

Photo by L. Jorgensen

Click here to learn more about the How to Shoot Full Manual Online Course. Click here to view all 4 courses offered by Nick Carver. Enroll today and start taking better pictures sooner than you ever thought possible!

How Many Megapixels Do You Really Need?

With the recent announcement of the 36.3 megapixel Nikon D800 and D800E, I figured it was high-time I write a blog post about megapixels and how many you really need.

First things first: You should understand that I'm not a gear head. I love my equipment as much as the next guy, but to me, these are just tools in the hands of someone who knows how to use them or not. I don't care about Nikon vs. Canon, I don't need a coffee mug shaped like my favorite lens, I don't want a wrist-band that looks like the lens barrel of my 24-70mm and I'm not about to wear a t-shirt that announces my brand-loyalty to the world.

So when I talk about gear and camera specs, I'm looking at it from a realistic, practical application type viewpoint. No MTF charts, no side-by-side images, no bias towards one brand - I'm giving it to you straight. I'm also trying to talk you out of spending more money, so listen up 😀

Alright, so let's get down to the nitty gritty: How many megapixels do you really need?

To put it simply, it all boils down to how big you want to print. Or better yet, how big you will print. That's a more realistic way to look at it. Because I would love to print gallery-quality billboards, but let's be honest, I'm not going to.

Let's look at some common print sizes and see how many megapixels you'd need to print that size natively (meaning straight out of the camera with no "blowing up" the image). These calculations are done with a 300 DPI print quality for all prints below 20" in the long edge and at 200 DPI for anything above 20" in the long edge. Why? Because that's how photo labs work.

But really, where do most people's images end up? Facebook, email, Flickr, etc. Not many people print very many of their images. It's almost all digital sharing now. So let's look at the megapixels required for some common digital sharing avenues.

So think about all your pictures and where they all end up. How often do you print 24x36? What about 16x24? How about anything above 8x12?

The truth of the matter is most people's pictures rarely end up larger than 8x12. Even fewer go above 16x24. Hardly any print at 20x30 or larger. Of course I'm not talking about professional photographers, but even then, anything above 16x24 isn't the lion's share of their work.

But let's say you do want the ability to print all the way up to 30x45. Does that mean you need a 54 megapixel camera? No! Of course not! 54 megapixels is what you'd need to print straight out of the camera at 30x45 with loupe-worthy detail. You don't need that. With just a little blowing up of the file using software like Alien Skin Software's Blow Up (that's what I use) or Photoshop's built-in resizing tool, you can get great results from 18 megapixels. I know that sounds hard to believe, but I've printed at 30x45 from my 12.8 megapixel camera with results that were good enough to sell as fine art pieces to an art buyer.

The quality of a blown-up file definitely isn't as good as a native 54 megapixel file, but trust me, the difference in quality isn't worth the $31,000 price tag. Plus, you have to realize that larger prints are always viewed from further away. A huge 30x45 print isn't meant to be viewed from 3 inches away. People will look at it from whatever distance allows them to see the entire image. The bigger the image, the further back they need to be. And the further back the viewer is, the better the quality will look.

I print gallery-quality 20x30 prints all the time from my 12.8 megapixel files. That means I blow my files up to nearly double the original size and the results are great!

But if you have the money, why not buy the highest-megapixel camera you can? Well, there are a couple drawbacks to having a ton of megapixels. The first is measurable and obvious: more megapixels means bigger files. Bigger files means more memory cards and more hard drive space. For instance, my 12.8 megapixel camera produces RAW files in the neighborhood of 13 MB. So, I can fit around 79 photos in 1 GB. A 21.1 megapixel RAW file is around 25 MB. So, you could fit 41 images in 1 GB. And the Nikon D800 with its 36.3 megapixel sensor will produce RAW files around 40 MB. That will give you a mere 26 images in 1 gigabyte. That's less than a roll of film!

Given that memory cards and hard drives are pretty cheap nowadays, that might not be a big deal to you. But the other thing that people fail to acknowledge is the extra strain on your computer. Processing 36 megapixel RAW files will take quite a bit more computer power than processing 12 megapixel RAW files. Your computer will act sluggish when you work and you'll have a harder time running multiple programs at once. You may have to get a new computer altogether.

Another drawback to ultra-high megapixels is a little less measurable but, ultimately, much more expensive.

An ultra-high resolution sensor will create ultra-high resolution images that, when viewed 100% on the computer, will reveal every single little flaw in your lenses, subjects and your technique. Your 18-135mm lens that looked great on your 18 megapixel camera suddenly looks a little soft at 36 megapixels. Also, all those little blemishes that make us all human now look like huge blemishes!

This will lead to new, more expensive lenses in that never-ending quest for perfect sharpness and lots of extra Photoshop time removing blemishes. And it will all be for nothing, because although now your 36 megapixel images look great at 100% on your computer, all of your money spent on top-notch lenses and Photoshop plugins will be lost on the 0.7 megapixel file you sized-down for email and Facebook.

So really, don't put down a deposit on the D800 just yet. You probably only need about 18 megapixels at most. No reason shelling out $3000-$4000 so you can throw away half your megapixels with every image you take.