This is a question I was asked, in a roundabout way, on Twitter recently. The actual question was whether I, personally, calibrate my various items of kit.
Well I have to say, the truth of the matter is that I’ve never calibrated any of my lenses, nor my cameras’ autofocus – simply because I haven’t needed to.
Now, I appreciate this last point is something of a matter of opinion. Die-hard tech fans would say that such high-end items of gear should be regularly serviced and looked after in order to get the best performance out of them. They’d argue that, having invested so much money in your purchases, you’d be silly not to. Right?
Well, yes and no.
Of course, I do look after all of my photography and outdoor gear; however, all things are relative. Here’s the bottom line…
I’m more than happy with the quality of my images, as are my clients. Colours and tones are as they should be, focus is precise. The key point is that they look good on screen, just as they do in print media. Nothing leaves my hard drive until I’m pleased with it. If I took bad pictures, no amount of post production, calibration or trickery would make them look good enough to keep everyone happy. Even if the end viewer was delighted, I’d still know that they could have been a lot better.
Solid technique tops everything – why do you think they say ‘It’s the photographer, not the camera that takes great photographs’?
There’s also another factor at play here. I’m something of a creature of habit and when it comes to my equipment, I subscribe to the ‘better the devil you know’ school of thought. If I was to put the contents of my camera bag in for a service, it’s almost guaranteed that I wouldn’t like what come back to me. Yes, the cameras, lenses etc would no doubt be technically more accurate, but if I didn’t like the way they handled or the quality of the RAW files they delivered, what then? I’d be kicking myself for not having left them the way they were in the first place.
Here’s another clichéd expression you might recognise – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
One thing that I do take a look at from time to time is the ‘Lens Corrections’ menu when editing my images with Camera Raw. Within that programme is the option to select the make and model of lens used to capture a particular shot; particular adjustments such as distortion, colour, vignetting etc can then be introduced quickly and easily.
Interestingly, though, there have been plenty of occasions where I have made these tweaks, only to decide I preferred the ‘imperfect’ original version after all!
At the end of the day, always remember that photography is above all a flexible and creative medium and there’s often not a definitive right or wrong way to do things. Just do what works for you.
If you have a question about photography, writing, the outdoors, being freelance etc – just ask and I’ll give you a no-waffle 500-word answer. If you’re on Twitter, add the #QA500 hashtag and send your question to me @gilesbabbidge.