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How my photography evolved with technological advancement

As camera technology continues to advance from cell phone to consumer camera and professional DSLR, it’s helped taken the process of taking and sharing photos to new heights. With the rise of popularity of Instagram, it has completely reshaped how we now view images and people now consume images at an unprecedented rate. With so many different advancement over the years, I think there are a few things that helped reshape my work the most -tilt screen, higher dynamic range, and the advancement of photo management / processing software.

Tilt Screen, no longer an amateur feature

The tilt screen actually started making its way to professional bodies only recently, but it’s definitely a welcome and much anticipated feature at least for myself. I value and pay great attention to  the use of camera height very much, and with the introduction of tilt screen, it has definitely opened up new opportunities to how I can shoot, and also made it far easier to capture certain shots in ways never before possible. One of those cameras that feature a tilt screen is the Nikon D750 that I love so dearly that I currently own three!

With a tilt screen, it allows me to see what I’m doing even when the camera is 6 feet above my head.
combined with shooting in live view mode and a tilt screen, I could even put my camera right above water. (Shot in F/1.2 wide open)
I used to have to lay flat on the green to get real close to getting my camera this low, but shooting with a tilt screen allows me to get this camera elevation and angle without getting all dirty!

HDR (High Dynamic Range) and how it helps us develop our style

Since the days as a photography enthusiast, I have fallen in love taking pictures of cars, particularly experimenting with the then new technology advancement of HDR. With the ability to combine several exposures together, HDR allows the photographer to capture far deeper dynamic range than ever possible even surpassing film. However, at the beginning of the development of HDR processing, it was an extremely tedious process having to steady a camera on tripod, shoot several exposures of the exact same image with different settings, and fumbling with complicated software to put together together, and spending hours to edit the picture.

I loved doing car photos with the help of HDR technique. This shows what the file looks like before image processing.
Herman's signature HDR technique applied on cars
With proper HDR processing, the previous image that looks perfectly fine otherwise look completely unfinished. It works great for cars and our technique was featured in numerous publications.

It’s estimated that film can capture about 8-9 stops of light, but cameras in recent years, particularly the D750 that I’m currently using can easily capture somewhere around 15 stops of light, practically eliminating the previous cumbersome process of creating HDR, allowing me to push my images to levels never believed possible. This also means that sensor technology is getting so good that the RAW files we’re able to capture with our current equipment in a fraction of a second actually rivals what we were doing with multiple exposures and complicated software along with hours of work. If I had a time machine, I’d love to travel back in time and try to convince myself from years ago what we’re able to do today and watch my own reaction.

Transitioning the HDR technique to what we do

The most difficult part for us was the transition going from jaw dropping car pictures and applying the same technique over the otherwise softer looking images but still retain the jaw dropping looks without making the images look too artificial. With wedding pictures, engagement photos, and portraits, they require a high degree of realism or we’d risk making them look out of place. It took us years to get to perfect our technique and achieving the balanced looks that we like.

This is the RAW image without processing and before applying our HD rendering editing
After processing. The spotty lighting all cleaned up, foreground darkened a bit, areas too bright have been toned down to helping the viewer focus at the bride and groom. These types of lighting would have been a nightmare to shoot and process at the early days of digital photography

 

This is the original image straight out of camera. The exposure looks good already and captures enough of the details in the shadows without over-exposing any of the highlights.
This is the image after the first round of editing, which looks very good already exceeding normal standards.  (bonus: see that plane above their heads in the previous image? it didn’t make it past the first round of edit!)
Herman Au's signature HDR wedding photo edit
This is what the image looks like after applying our signature style of HDR editing, allowing the image to truly shine and live to its full potential.

 

One more example here to show what we could do with our night photos. This is before applying any editing..
and this is the final results. Notice how we’re able to bring out so much details from the sky and enhancing the image as well as bringing out the lighting to get our pretty couple to shine.

Look mom, no Photoshop!

The last thing I’m very thankful and feel like never quite gets enough credit has to be advancement of photo management and processing. This basically goes hand in hand with the high dynamic range RAW files with the new generation of DSLRs. With softwares like Adobe Lightroom allowing me to handle my huge libraries of catalouges instead of manually managing a sea of folders spanning across multiple hard drives and RAIDs, it helps me manage all my files efficiently, transfer between devices, find my desired files efficiently. Most importantly, It also enables me to do the majority of my edits without actually having to go into Photoshop unless I need absolute fine control. This is a huge time saver that we have grown to take for granted these days. It would be impossible to think about how my life would be without the help of the softwares that help me do my job.

160,892 images since mid 2015. This amount of files is next to impossible to deal with without the advancement of photo management software and computer systems. Oh and can you believe we’re able to achieve about 99% of our edits purely in Lightroom nowadays?

What next?

360 photo, could that be the next big thing? (no my finger really isn’t that big)

We’re constantly looking for new technological advancement, new technique, and the next breakthrough. By keeping ourselves open and up to date with technology, it allows us to not just follow the newest trend, but to set new trends and continue to improve our work. Like the 360 sample photo from above that we’ve been experimenting. We’re eagerly awaiting major tech companies to embrace and support a universal 360 format to allow us to natively support it on cell phones or even on desktop/mobile browsers so it can be more widely accepted and viewed.

We’re eagerly awaiting major tech companies to embrace and support a universal 360 format to allow us to natively support it on cell phones, compact cameras or even on desktop/mobile browsers so it can be more widely accepted and viewed. Anyway, that’s it for now! We hope to find the next cool camera or gadget that we’ll be able to apply and share with you guys soon! Let us know what you think and leave us a comment below!

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