Let's Get Digital
An Easy Way to Photograph Roses
By Kitty Belendez
I love taking pictures of roses. In the garden. At the rose shows. On garden tours and in public parks. There is always something new and special to capture. In addition to roses, I like to take pictures of my rose friends at special events. Bugs and diseases also make interesting subjects.
When I first began taking rose photos, I used Kodak color print film with a small fixed lens Canon G-III camera. Prints are great for sharing with friends, mounting into scrapbooks, and keeping in picture frames. This got to be expensive, and it took time to wait for the photos to arrive from the developer.
Later, as I became more proficient, I switched to Kodak Ektachrome color slide film and a Canon AE-1 with various lenses including a zoom. I like slides because the photo quality is very good, they are inexpensive to produce, and I can use them in slide presentations at meetings. However, unless you have a really good filing system (which I don't) the slides can get very dusty, and are difficult to find when you want them. Also, this camera was heavy, especially with the zoom lens and the flash attachment.
As editor of "Rose Ecstasy," whenever I wanted to use photos in the bulletin, I would need to ask a friend to scan the prints or slides using his scanner, since I didn't have one. Even though my friend was very quick to respond to my many requests, it was always a hassle and inconvenient for me to take them back and forth to his house. Plus, I didn't have the control over the scans like I wanted.
A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a digital camera which was given to me. This Sony Mavica camera was already two years old at the time I got it, so it was already outmoded but it still did its job. It used a 3" floppy disk with about 20 photos fitting on each 1.4 MB disk, when the setting is set to "fine quality." The newer cameras use a tiny disk that holds hundreds of photos. With my digital camera there is no film to buy or develop, the disk costs less than a dollar, and it's so quick to snap a shot anywhere, anytime, and instantly see your results. Of course, since then I have upgraded to a newer Sony camera with 7 megapixels and it uses a tiny disk that holds 2 GB and more.
The digital camera was scary at first. How did this thing work? I thought it was too technical! I got over my initial fear by taking the camera to the ARS 2000 national rose show in Atlanta where I took my first digital photos. I played and experimented with it. Some of the shots turned out pretty darned good and are even posted on our Pacific Southwest District web page. Once I found out how easy a digital camera is to use, I began taking pictures at the fall rose shows. That was in October 2000. I have taken thousands of digital photos since then.
By March 2001 I was in the process of designing web pages for the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society. I was so very happy that I had finally learned how to use the digital camera, although I still by no means consider myself an expert. But, I did learn how to use it and began to use it extensively on the web pages as well as in our Rose Ecstasy newsletter.
I soon learned that if I wanted to have the best digital photos possible, I would have to purchase photo-editing software, and decided on Photoshop. Now, every photo I take is adjusted to perfection for sharpness, color balance and brightness. Junk in the background is cropped out, and flaws are touched up before it is published.
What's great about the digital camera is that it is instantaneous, somewhat like the old (and now defunct) Polaroid cameras, except much better. You can see what you have just shot right on the camera display. And if you don't like it, you can shoot again until you get it right. This way you are always assured of getting a picture of that special event. Plus, it's easy to e-mail your photos to family and friends.
When I first began taking digital photos, I was told that digital was poor quality for print reproduction. That is not exactly true. Many of my digital photos have been published in the American Rose magazine. You just need to know how to do it. If you need to make prints or slides from your digital photos, there are vendors on the Internet who can convert them for you.
Here are some tips of some of the things I have learned about using digital photos successfully over the past two years.
- Always keep your original photo intact; make a copy of the original before editing.
- Always brighten, sharpen, and color balance all photos before reproducing them.
- For the web page, keep the photos small so the web page can load quicker.
- Use thumbnails linked to a larger photo when you want to show detail on the web.
- Never enlarge a digital photo; start with the largest size and reduce from there. This is especially important for print reproduction, but also true for the web.
- I have found that the best quality digital photos are taken without a flash, both indoors and outdoors.
- The best format for web pages is jpg, which can also be used for print reproduction.
- You do not need to convert your color digital photos into black & white for printing in black & white, unless your commercial printer requires it when using black & white photos within a full color brochure.
- Crop a copy of your original for your web page, but don't crop the photo for print reproduction. This will give you more flexibility when fitting photos into picture boxes in a layout program.
- Always copy your originals onto your computer or zip disk as soon as possible. Personally, I trust my hard drive more than any disk. But, disks are good for backup.
- Name each photo as soon as you get it onto your computer. If you wait, you will surely forget what it is.
- Place each photo into an appropriate file folder on your computer. For example, I have a folder named "Rose Photos" and then sub-folders such as "Hybrid Teas," "Miniatures," and "Floribundas.
- As with any camera, take the time to hold your digital camera still and focus properly before snapping the shot. Use a tripod if you have one.
- Frame your subject so that distracting elements are not in the background.
- Keep the camera lens clean. Use a soft cotton cloth for cleaning, such as an old piece of soft T-shirt. Digital cameras seem to pick up smudges and fingerprints on the lens and photos more easily than conventional cameras do. I wipe the lens clean every time I begin a session, and a couple of times during the session.
- Use the "auto-focus" feature carefully and correctly. Some people think that by using auto-focus every shot will automatically be in focus. Not true. On my camera, I push the shutter button slightly down, wait for it to focus, then only snap the picture when I can see in the camera display that my subject is completely in focus like I want it. You can't just snap the shot and assume it's going to be in focus (although camera manufacturers would like us to believe that's how auto-focus works).
- Use your zoom feature. It's great for taking close-up shots of roses, especially minis. Here again, make sure your subject is completely in focus in the display before you press the shutter button.
- Become familiar with your camera and its various settings. Read the manual.
© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.
This article was originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.
Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez