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Ask An Artisan: Tony Gale On Bokeh, Normal Lenses, The Need To Calibrate

Q. I hear a lot about bokeh, but I don't fully understand why it's such a big deal. I shoot a good amount of street/urban photography. Do I really need to worry about my lens being able to create good bokeh?

A: Bokeh refers to how the out of focus parts of your photo appear. It is affected by the optical design of the lens you are using and by the number of aperture blades that lens has. Like so many things in photography, what kind of bokeh you like is very subjective. Being aware of it and figuring out what you like can be very important. Typically higher end lenses have more aperture blades, which lead to a round bokeh, while cheaper lenses often have a more geometric bokeh. I prefer a nice round bokeh because it feels more natural.

Q: I've always been told that the human eye has a focal length of about 17mm, so why is the 50mm lens considered a normal lens?

A: The 50mm lens is considered a normal lens on full frame cameras because it approximates the normal field of view of the human eye. The difference here is because of how the eye is constructed. Your eye sees with a concave retina, or a 'curved sensor' instead of the flat sensor that your camera sees with. This, combined with your more than 180-degree field of view allows your eye to process more with a smaller focal length than a camera lens and sensor. With a APS-C camera, like the α6300 or α6000 that has a smaller sensor size, a normal lens would be closer to a 35mm. By using a normal lens, things in your photograph won't feel distorted as they might with a wide angle, or compressed as they might with a longer lens.

Q: Is it really necessary to calibrate my monitor? My friends who are into photography tell me it used to be a big deal, but today it doesn't really matter because monitors are better.

A: Fundamentally as a photographer we want to make the best pictures we can, so while modern monitors are better, please, please, please calibrate your monitor. Color is obviously very important to photography and without a properly calibrated monitor there is no way to know if the colors you see are accurate. If you have prints made of your photographs, the prints will look much better if you use proper color management. Your results will be much more satisfying. Also if you are calibrated, even if other people aren't, your photos will be closer to accurate across a wider spectrum of uncalibrated monitors because you started in the right place.

Sony Artisan of Imagery Tony Gale is and award winning commercial photographer based in New York City. He is the National President of APA, a Manfrotto Ambassador, a X-Rite Coloratti and teaches at FIT in Manhattan.
Do you have a question for one of the Sony Artisans Of Imagery?
You can submit your questions to Tony at his Facebook page or send us an email and put “Ask An Artisan” in the subject line.

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