It’s about the light.

It’s probably the oldest cliché in the photography book book, but it really is all about the light. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who stops short of calling himself a photographer. He was talking about shooting so that all of his photos look good in the camera, which is why he’s never delved into post-production. It’s a good theory if you’re happy with it, because delving into post production takes a lot of time.

The conversation made me realize that I don’t actually shoot to make the photo look as good as possible in camera. That realization kinda took me by surprise, which is why I love good conversation with good friends. It makes you learn about yourself, and learn about things you thought you knew.

I’m usually shooting to make the camera capture the most amount of data, so that I can make it look it’s prettiest in post-production. Like this photo. This photo is actually nine photos. When I was in Hakone and saw this spot along the shore of Ashinoko, I knew that the star of the photo was the shadows, the way the trees block the light along the trail. But I also knew that if the sky was white and blown out, it would detract from the shot.

All my hopes of making this shot great “in camera” are dashed right there – my camera doesn’t have the dynamic range to make that work. And besides – there’s no award for “great in camera,” just for good photography. So I set up to bracket the shot, and I planned those shots to collect as much high-quality data as I could, because I knew I was pulling those shots into one final photo later.

Even when I’m not shooting HDRs, I still have that same mentality. Sure, looking down at my camera’s LCD and seeing a great shot is fun, but knowing that I’ve got the best version of the data that I can capture, so that I can make the best version of the photo possible come alive in post, that’s the more satisfying bit.