February 10, 2004
Indoor photos of people

pdhtripd.jpgLast Sunday evening I had dinner chez Perry de Havilland, and as often happens when Samizdatistas gather chez Perry de Havilland photos were taken and put up on Samizdata. Of those six pix, numbers three, four and five were taken by me.

Aside from my Canon A70 (now improved upon by Canon in the form of the A80 with no doubt further improvements to come), the vital pieces of kit I used were: my recently acquired 256MB Flash Card (which means I don't have to worry about running out of card space and can click a lot to the point where people stop noticing, or noticing so much); and: the little tripod that Perry (a friend indeed) gave me recently when I admired it, and promptly replaced by buying another one just like it for himself to carry on using. It's definitely got the word "Velbon" on it, and I think it's the tripod in this picture. My first picture here shows Perry complete with new tripod supporting his digicam, which is the Sony he used to take his other three pictures. I'm the little guy in Hobbit Corner.

louisa.jpgThree quarters of the battle with these cheap digicams, I'm learning, is keeping the camera still, which is especially the case if you are taking photos without flash, indoors. Flashing away at a dinner party is a deeply anti-social habit, and in any case the results are generally just what you'd expect, garishly lit and hideously unnatural, nothing like a real dinner party at all. So, no flash, and if in addition there is not that much light then stillness is crucial, hence the value of the tripod. Even resting a camera on a wine bottle, in the way I rest it against a lamp post when out and about in London town, is far too wobbly.


Even quite small tripods do two valuable things with dinner party pix. First, they improve the angle and get a little bit further above people's chins. But much more importantly, they raise the camera above all the glasses and clutter on the table and enable people actually to be seen properly. Photography of humans is a very human thing, as well as a technical thing, and anything which reduces the disruption and allows attention to wander from the photography process and back to the party itself gives you an extra little advantage.

tripodcd.jpgAnd these particular tripods, like our digicams, are small enough to just keep in a pocket all the time, which means that when we suddenly decide we need them, we actually do have them and can actually use them. I have two other bigger and "better" tripods, but they mostly just gather dust. Too much bother.

Despite all the kit being used, all these picture here (and unlike most of the outdoor pictures I have taken that I show here) needed Photoshop enhancement to brighten and contrast them up. Especially this one, which was the absolute last photo I took that night. Despite the rather unfavourable light conditions, and partly because of them, I got lucky. My human target (Samizdata.net editor Adriana Cronin) stayed reasonably still, while behind her there was commotion.


Result: that nineteenth century human in foreground with twentieth century chaos in background effect that most of us like so much. Usually what emerges from a digital camera in such circumstances is a blurred and deranged twentieth century person in front of a mockingly perfect nineteenth century background.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:17 PM
Category: Photography