In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight out of the Camera
“a practical reference to achieving great results while bypassing post-processing.”
Gordon Laing’s In Camera: How to Get Perfect Pictures Straight Out of the Camera is a brilliant demonstration of the considerable capabilities and flexibility of the current crop of digital cameras, and how in the proper hands they can be utilized to their fullest in creating stunning images. But it is up to the photographer to be completely familiar with their camera in order to maximize its image-making capabilities.
Gordon Laing is the camera reviewer at cameralabs.com with a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of all digital photographic camera systems. Laing, a major proponent of mirrorless cameras—for their compact lenses, lighter weight, and lower costs—has a philosophy, that great photos can be readily created in-camera at the point of capture; and that the refined and evolving technologies of digital cameras should be used to their greatest advantage. He illustrates the fact that many modern cameras give the photographer the ability to lighten shadows, crop after shooting, alter contrast and saturation, work in black and white instead of color, use film simulations, even modify tonal “curves” on the fly, and process it all into JPEG images in-camera, without ever touching a computer.
On his YouTube channel with Doug Kaye, Laing has poked a bit of fun at photographer’s he calls “posh” who declare, “you must shoot RAW or use a big DSLR [digital-single-lens-reflex] to be taken seriously.” Laing’s response is, “Nonsense,” and has published In Camera to prove it.
And his photos are lovely and perfect. Laing has created stunning architectural images, food shots, and landscapes, both in color and black and white, by working with a variety of mirrorless cameras from most of the major brands, i.e., Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus, and Sony.
Laing writes in a very down-to-earth manner that is simple and clear. Typically, he relates anecdotes of where the photograph was taken, under what conditions, and his solutions to create the picture he wants. Every image shown has the specifics of camera, lens, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation printed in detail, which is very helpful to those encountering similar conditions.
This book is not so much a step-by-step “how-to” book but rather a detailed guide in how to use an assortment of approaches—with lots of tips as to exposure, aperture, and the kinds of lenses to use—for various shooting conditions. It is a practical reference to achieving great results while bypassing post-processing.
Laing is an excellent photographer and uses the 100 photos in the book to demonstrate the capabilities of lenses and a variety of cameras as well as filters, composition, time lapse, slow-shutter speeds for blur effects, lunar eclipse, and nighttime shooting.
While not backing away from his claim of capturing his highly polished images in-camera, Laing states, “Don't get me wrong, I know some styles of photography demand post-processing and I equally understand some photographers simply enjoy the process, but more can be achieved in-camera than many realize.”
As a photographer personally wedded to RAW post-processing for a variety of reasons, I wholeheartedly agree that there are some styles of photography and techniques that are best served by the broad flexibility inherent in post-processing, such as the darkroom equivalent of dodging-and-burning, masking, color shifts of specific areas, controlling “noise,” extreme dynamic range, etc., which remain a challenge for the in-camera process.
Some familiar with the JPEG versus RAW controversy understand that JPEGs are at worst truncated, and at best a compressed “lossy” format that minimizes file size. It is the easily exportable in-camera format that is ideal for social media and sharing. RAW format is loss-less, thereby retaining much more exposure information, and ideally suited for post-processing. Today’s digital post-processing is the equivalent of the traditional film darkroom, and technically, in today’s parlance the digital RAW file is the equivalent of a film negative. The quality of straight-from-the-camera JPEGs has improved markedly in recent years to the point that it is a net gain for commercial photographic work that values speed, greater productivity, and high quality.
For the vast majority of photographers the current generation of JPEGs from most cameras are eminently suitable for use, and Gordon Laing’s book does an excellent job of proving it. In Camera: How to Get Perfect Pictures Straight Out of the Camera is beautifully printed with excellent binding, and provides a practical easy-to-understand reference for all photographers.