What It Takes

by Scott Setterberg July 24, 2017

What It Takes

With the emergence of smart phones with cameras and endless phone filters, nearly everyone has become a photographer and thinks creating great photographs is easy.  But how many smart phone photographers do you see hiking five, six, eight, thirteen miles, in extreme weather, with 30 pounds of gear, to a secluded location?  How many do you see climbing or descending dangerous terrain for that great angle?  How many do you see wading waist-deep into fast moving water to get the shot of the day?  It takes work to make great photographs, and getting to incredible locations is only half the battle.  Once there, the above-mentioned hazards, conditions, and much more remains to be overcome, and then come the decisions...

Scott - La Fortuna
Doing what it takes to get the shot at Catarata La Fortuna in Costa Rica.

I always say photography is about making decisions.  Those decisions change from day-to-day and location-to-location, but always remain.  What ISO?  What shutter speed?  What f-stop?  These are the top three questions I ask myself, and obviously those three answers have to work together, are dependent on numerous factors, and can change rapidly.  Once those decisions are made for each shot, I move on to others.  How can I improve this composition?  What foreground objects can I include?  How much sky helps or detracts from the image?  Where’s my focal point?  How fast is the water moving?  How much wind is there?  Do I need an ND filter?  A graduated filter?  A polarizing filter?  How has my exposure changed since adding filters?  Where’s a better angle?  The questions are endless, and more often than not, individual answers change other answers, and decisions must change with the environmental conditions.

After the physical labor of image capture comes post processing, which for most phone photographers usually means simply adding a preset phone filter.  And… I’m done!  But for true photographers - those willing to do the work to get to a great location, overcome challenging environmental conditions, and create high-quality RAW compositions - post-processing is the beginning of many more decisions.  Exposure adjustments, lens correction, color balance, individual color channels, hues, vibrance, luminosity, saturation, curves, contrast, sharpening, chromatic aberration, and many more.  It’s true that some of today’s smart phones have RAW capabilities and most offer some individual adjustments, but the vast majority of phone photographers are not shooting RAW, and adjustments made and saved to a JPEG forever degrade the photo. 

A few years ago, while displaying my photographs at a prestigious art festival in La Jolla, California, a woman oozed compliments for several minutes about my photographs and then asked, “Did you take these with an iPhone?” Ummm, no.  Sigh.  Such is the state of photography today. 

If you’re willing to do what it takes to create great photographs, join one of my exceptional photography tours today, and I will help you do so.

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Scott Setterberg
Scott Setterberg