"Let's get it straight!"

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

First, a little background: Back in the day I had the privilege to work with some great photographers. Also, I spent quite a few years working for British Rail, initially as an assistant to Paul K Childs, and after a year or two, as an architectural photographer, recording listed buildings for the architects' department in Croydon. It was a real joy to see these railway structures around the United Kingdom. More about that another day... I also worked with Paul Biddle on his complex and beautiful still life work. In both cases I was trained to use complex 5x4 plate camera systems like Sinar amongst others.

This allowed us to shoot buildings and still life objects, whose verticals and horizontals were corrected in camera. I loved it, because it was both challenging and technical. Both Pauls and I would work out depth of field and correct the film planes, transfer those calculations from the front to the back (the lens plane and the film plane) and have super sharp images across the depth of the image, making sure that we maximised the Scheimpflug, as well as correcting the structures and objects so that they looked their best, for the advertising agencies, technical publications and architects' journals that we worked for. It was too much fun for a geek like me.

This all seems like a curious Victorian tale of early pioneering photographers, but in fact it was the late 1980s, early1990s.

Looking back I simply cannot believe the lengths that we would go to, to achieve tack sharp results that were straight... And let's give some consideration to the fact that my own Sinar kit cost me around £38,000 in total. An eye watering figure!

Well, times have changed... The image below was taken, hand held, on my smart phone, earlier today. Read on for details...

A beautiful winter's day in Kingston, London

I shot the image on my new mid-range Huawei Nova 5T.

This £349.95 device allows me to shoot 48 megapixels images in RAW format. These are around 91-96Mbs in size. With this many pixels I can manipulate the image in the extreme*.

Remember, there is no creative retouching on the image above. I have simply graded it, using Camera Raw in Photoshop 2020. Once it was graded, I straightened the verticals as well as choosing to keep the 3 blinds on the horizontal, just as we would have done back in the day, only I did it with a device costing under £350, with a lens that is smaller than a pea, in around 5 seconds. That includes the variants and covering shots. I then processed and published the image on a 7 year old laptop, with industry standard software, available to everyone. The post production work was completed in around 10 minutes. Now I'm not claiming that it is suitable for publication in the Architect's Journal. I'm merely pointing out that today, with a little know-how, professional results are achievable by everyone with a mid range smart phone. Exciting and terrifying in the same measure.

*To give you an idea of what I mean when I say "manipulate the image in the extreme"... The image below is the ungraded original, as a point of reference, and as a visual control. It's the same file, processed with the same compression ratio (95%) No grading - As it was shot in the camera... correction smart phone 😉

A beautiful winter's day in Kingston, London - Pregraded

In case you're still waiting, as Gil said... "the revolution will not be televised", or, in this case, to be more precise, "The camera revolution came and went, and most people didn't even see it go by..."

I hope you like the image




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