Pub. Date:
Taylor & Francis
Langford's Basic Photography: The guide for serious photographers / Edition 8

Langford's Basic Photography: The guide for serious photographers / Edition 8


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Langford's Basic Photography has informed the work and career of many of the world's leading photographers. It is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of photography, from pre-capture to output, written for photographers who want to understand the principles behind photography and how to create great images.

In this book you will learn:

. How images are formed and how to control what you capture* The best camera and lens type for your work
• The principles and equipment of lighting
• How to organize the picture and measure exposure
• How to edit, organise and store digital images
• How to print, finish and present your photographs
• How to get your work noticed

Stunning photographs and visual learning - key principles and techniques are explained using diagrams and images. Inspirational and thought-provoking shots are shown throughout, from key images by photography greats to those by working professionals. Projects and Summaries at the end of each chapter help to cement newly learned skills and get you exploring key techniques.

This 8th edition has been entirely restructured and rewritten for digital photography. It will continue to instruct, inspire and motivate up and coming photographers for generations to come.

Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands as Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK.

Anna Fox is Head of the BA Photography program at the University College of the Creative Arts at Farnham, UK and has been working in photography for almost twenty years. Her work has been exhibited in numerous shows around the world.

Richard Sawdon Smith is Deputy Head of the University College for the Creative Arts at Maidstone, UK. He is an award-winning studio photographer, exhibiting worldwide for over twenty years.

The Langford Series

Langford's Starting Photography - The ultimate introduction to photography, covering all the beginner photographer needs in order to start achieving great results

Langford's Basic Photography - The authoritative classic for beginner to intermediate photographers wanting to understand the principles behind photography and how to put them into practice

Langford's Advanced Photography - Highly respected guide for the serious photographer wanting to advance their skills and produce professional results


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780240520353
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 04/25/2007
Series: Langford Series
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 7.44(w) x 9.66(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands. As Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK, his key involvement with photography courses and exams set the standard worldwide.

Read an Excerpt

Langford's Basic Photography

The guide for serious photographers
By Michael Langford Anna Fox Richard Sawdon Smith

Focal Press

Copyright © 2007 Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith, Peter Renn, Christian Nolle and Mark Bolland
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-047888-3

Chapter One

What is photography?

'What is photography?' May sound like an easy question to answer but the potential replies could fill this book alone. The fact that photography can mean different things to different people is part of its enduring appeal. Photography is such a part of our lives now that it would be incomprehensible to think of a world without it. We probably couldn't contemplate the fact of a wedding, watching the children grow up, or going on holiday without the camera. We are bombarded and saturated by images constantly, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, as well as the television and Internet, yet we have an insatiable desire for more.

So why take photographs? What roles do photographs play in our life and relative to other forms of expression or communication? Does a photographer have responsibilities? What is actually involved? And what makes a result successful anyway? We will explore these issues and some of photography's possibilities over the course of this book, with the understanding that photography is a combination of subjective thought, creative imagination, visual design, technical skills, and practical organizing ability. Begin by taking a broad look at what making photography is about, to put in to context and perspective your thoughts. On the one hand there is the machinery and the techniques themselves, although try not to become obsessed with the latest bit of equipment or absorbed in the craft detail too soon. On the other you have the variety of approaches to picture-making – aiming for results ranging from documenting an event, or communicating ideas to a particular audience, to work which is self-expressive, socially or politically informed or perhaps more ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Why photography?

Perhaps you are drawn into photography mainly because it appears to be a quick, convenient and seemingly truthful way of recording something. All the importance lies in the subject itself, and you want to show objectively what it is, or what is going on (a child's first steps or a scratch on a car for insurance purposes). In this instance photography is thought of as evidence, identification, a kind of diagram of a happening. The camera is your visual notebook.

The opposite attribute of photography is where it is used to manipulate or interpret reality, so that pictures push some 'angle', belief or attitude of your own. You set up situations (as in advertising) or choose to photograph some aspect of an event but not others (as in politically biased news reporting). Photography is a powerful medium of persuasion and propaganda. It has that ring of truth when all the time it can make any statement the manipulator chooses. Consider the family album for a moment: what pictures are represented here; all of family life or just the good moments?

Another reason for taking up photography is that you want a means of personal self-expression to explore your own ideas, concerns or issue-based themes. It seems odd that something so apparently objective as photography can be used to express, say, issues of desire, identity, race or gender, or metaphor and fantasy. We have probably all seen images 'in' other things, like reading meanings into cloud formations (Figure 1.1), shadows or peeling paint. A photograph can intrigue through its posing of questions, keeping the viewer returning to read new things from the image. The way it is presented too may be just as important as the subject matter. Other photographers simply seek out beauty, which they express in their own 'picturesque' style, as a conscious work of art.

One of the first attractions of photography for many people is the lure of the equipment itself. All that ingenious modern technology designed to fit hand and eye – there is great appeal in pressing buttons, clicking precision components into place, and collecting and wearing cameras. Tools are vital, of course, and detailed knowledge about them absorbing and important, but don't end up shooting photographs just to test out the machinery.

Another attractive element is the actual process of photography – the challenge of care and control, and the way this is rewarded by technical excellence and a final object produced by you. Results can be judged and enjoyed for their own intrinsic photographic 'qualities', such as superb detail, rich tones and colours. The process gives you the means of 'capturing your seeing', making pictures from things around you without having to laboriously draw. The camera is a kind of time machine, which freezes any person, place or situation you choose. It seems to give the user power and purpose.

Yet another characteristic is the simple enjoyment of the visual structuring of photographs. There is real pleasure to be had from designing pictures as such – the 'geometry' of lines and shapes, balance of tone, the cropping and framing of scenes – whatever the subject content actually happens to be. So much can be done by a quick change of viewpoint, or choice of a different moment in time.

These are only some of the diverse activities and interests covered by the umbrella term 'photography'. Several will be blended together in the work of a photographer, or any one market for professional photography. Your present enjoyment in producing pictures may be mainly based on technology, art or communication. And what begins as one area of interest can easily develop into another. As a beginner it is helpful to keep an open mind. Provide yourself with a well-rounded 'foundation course' by trying to learn something of all these elements, preferably through practice but also by looking and reading about the work of other photographers.

How photography works

Photography is to do with light forming an image, normally by means of a lens. The image is then permanently recorded either by:

chemical means, using film, liquid chemicals and darkroom processes, or

digital means, using an electronic sensor, data storage and processing, and print-out via a computer.

As digital methods have become readily accessible and cheaper photographers readily combine the two – shooting on film and then transferring results into digital form for retouching and print-out. In many cases now, such as news photography, for simple quickness of use the digital route is taken.

You don't need to understand either chemistry or electronics to take good photographs of course, but it is important to have sufficient practical skills to control results and so work with confidence. The following is an outline of the key technical stages you will meet in chemical and in digital forms of photography. Each stage is discussed in detail in later chapters.

Forming and exposing an image

Most aspects of forming an optical image of your subject (in other words concerning the 'front end' of the camera) apply to both film and digital photography. Light from the subject of your picture passes through a glass lens, which bends it into a focused (normally miniaturized) image. The lens is at the front of a light-tight box or camera with a light-sensitive surface such as film facing it at the other end. Light is prevented from reaching the film by a shutter until your chosen moment of exposure. The amount of exposure to light is most often controlled by a combination of the time the shutter is open and the diameter of the light beam passing through the lens. The latter is altered by an aperture, like the iris of the eye. Both these controls have a further influence on visual results. Shutter time alters the way movement is recorded, blurred or frozen; lens aperture alters the depth of subject that is shown in focus at one time (depth of field).

You need a viewfinder, focusing screen or electronic viewing screen for aiming the camera and composing, and a light-measuring device, usually built in, to meter the brightness of each subject. The meter takes into account the light sensitivity of the material on which you are recording the image and reads out or automatically sets an appropriate combination of lens aperture and shutter speed. With knowledge and skill you can override these settings to achieve chosen effects or compensate for conditions which will fool the meter.

The chemical route

Processing. If you have used a film camera the next stage will be to process your film. A correctly exposed film differs from an unexposed film only at the atomic level – minute chemical changes forming an invisible or 'latent' image. Developing chemicals must then act on your film in darkness to amplify the latent image into something much more substantial and permanent in normal light. You apply these chemicals in the form of liquids; each solution has a particular function when used on the appropriate film. With most black and white films, for example, the first chemical solution develops light-struck areas into black silver grains. You follow it with a solution which dissolves ('fixes') away the unexposed parts, leaving these areas as clear film. So the result, after washing out by-products and drying, is a black and white negative representing the brightest parts of your subject as dark and darkest parts pale grey or transparent.

A similar routine, but with chemically more complex solutions, is used to process colour film into colour negatives. Colour slide film needs more processing stages. First a black and white negative developer is used, then the rest of the film, instead of being normally fixed, is colour-developed to create a positive image in black silver and dyes. You are finally left with a positive, dye-image colour slide.

Printing negatives. The next stage of production is printing, or, more often, enlarging. Your picture on film is set up in a vertical projector called an enlarger. The enlarger lens forms an image, of almost any size you choose, on to light-sensitive photographic paper. During exposure the paper receives more light through the clear areas of your film than through the denser parts. The latent image your paper now carries is next processed in chemical solutions broadly similar to the stages needed for film. For example, a sheet of black and white paper is exposed to the black and white film negative, then developed, fixed and washed so it shows a 'negative of the negative', which is a positive image – a black and white print. Colour paper after exposure goes through a sequence of colour developing, bleaching and fixing to form a colour negative of a colour negative. Other materials and processes give colour prints from slides.

An important feature of printing (apart from allowing change of image size and running off many copies) is that you can adjust and correct your shot. Unwanted parts near the edges can be cropped off, changing the proportions of the picture. Chosen areas can be made lighter or darker. Working in colour you can use a wide range of enlarger colour filters to 'fine-tune' the colour balance of your print, or to create effects. With experience you can even combine parts from several film images into one print, form pictures which are part-positive, part-negative, and so on.

Colour and black and white. You have to choose between different types of film for photography in colour or black and white (monochrome). Visually it is much easier to shoot colour than black and white, because the result more closely resembles the way the subject looked in the viewfinder. You must allow for differences between how something looks and how it comes out in a colour photograph, of course (see Chapter 7). But this is generally less difficult than forecasting how subject colours will translate into tones of monochrome. Black and white is seen as less lifelike, creating a distance between the 'real' and its representation, and for this reason appeals to a number of beginners and advance photographers alike, wrongly or rightly considered more interpretative and subtle.

Colour films, papers and chemical processes are more complex than black and white. This is why it was almost a hundred years after the invention of photography before reliable colour print processes appeared. Even then they were expensive and laborious to use, so that until the 1970s photographers mostly learnt their craft in black and white and worked up to colour. Today practically everyone takes their first pictures in colour. Most of the chemical complexity of colour photography is locked up in the manufacturers' films, papers, ready-mixed solutions and standardized processing routines. It is mainly in printing that colour remains more demanding than black and white, because of the extra requirements of judging and controlling colour balance (see Advanced Photography). So in the darkroom at least you will find that photography by the chemical route is still best begun in black and white.


Excerpted from Langford's Basic Photography by Michael Langford Anna Fox Richard Sawdon Smith Copyright © 2007 by Anna Fox, Richard Sawdon Smith, Peter Renn, Christian Nolle and Mark Bolland. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction; What is Photography?; Light: How images are formed; Analogue photography: cameras and film; Light sensitive media and formats; Lenses, camera kits and various extras; Exposure measurement; Digital photography: cameras and kits; Lighting: principles and equipment; Organising the picture; Where photographs go; Films, filters; Film Processing; Printing: facilities and equipment; Printing techniques; Digital Image Manipulation and printing inc Digital retouching and Permanence and archiving; Finishing and presenting work; Appendices; Glossary; Index.

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