In Camera Effects

If you’ve seen the Colerkings photos and are wondering how I achieved the effects without using Adobe Photoshop or any other photo-manipulating software, then read on!

To photograph bands, you need to consider the stage lighting. This is usually in the form of spotlighting and is pinpointed onto the band members. The lighting colour is frequently changing not only in colour but also colour temperature too. It is harsh yielding strong shadows. The remainder of your view will be unlit. In order to get maximum light in your image, you need to push the boundaries of your equipment, i.e. find out first what it can do then take your gear to the absolute limits.

So what am I talking about? There are 3 settings that control the exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. All have a secondary function which are controlling depth-of-field (dof) this is how much of your image is in focus; how much movement there is in the image; and the quality of the image respectively.

 

In order to capture a bright scene with plenty of detail of the band, I am using lenses with a maximum wide aperture of f1.4, f2.8 or f4. This allows the greatest amount of light and records the greatest amount of detail across the image. However, it reduces the amount that’s in focus too but, used to your advantage, you can draw attention to a particular feature. Secondly, freezing the action with a relatively short shutter speed of 1/focal length (= 1/200sec for a 200mm lens) will capture the action preventing camera-shake. Thirdly, allowing the ISO to float and give a the correct exposure allows you to set the other two controls. The higher the ISO, the more noise in the image but in band photography to some degree, noise = atmosphere and I like this.

Colerkings-214

I have used a shutter speed much longer than I would normally choose, i.e. anywhere between 1/20sec and 1/2sec. This gives what is known as Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). To add a second effect and because I’m using a zoom lens, I will turn the zoom lens during the exposure or deliberately move the camera whilst taking the image. So here you get camera movement! Sometimes it fails miserably by cutting heads, limbs or instruments off, etc and sometimes it works. It’ll give you the light trails as you turn the zoom barrel. Different effects are achieved zooming from wide to tele and vice versa.

The third effect that I have added is to use my speedlite (flashgun) attached to the camera. If you don’t have one, a pop-up may suffice. You do need to make the follows adjustments to your flash though: Set the power down to a low output as you don’t wan’t the image to be dominated by the flash light – it is only a fill light. Set the flash to ‘Rear Curtain Sync’ or ‘2nd Curtain Sync’. This is the icing on the cake as it will fire the flash at the end of the exposure thus freezing the movement at the end of the exposure making the movement look natural.

Colerkings-219

By using a combination of all of the above, you can achieve some great effects but for rock band photography, I like the effect this gives. I also prefer to do this effect in camera rather than using Photoshop to save time spent behind the computer. I appreciate that it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it invites atmosphere into the photo that was present during the gig!

Other settings on your camera that you might want to consider are:

  • White Balance: I use Auto White Balance (AWB) and adjust the colour temperature post production especially when the lighting can change from cold blue to a very warm orange. The Canon AWB feature is very accurate.
  • Spot Metering v Evaluative/Matrix Metering: Should you spot meter off the musician’s face or meter the whole scene? I use the latter as again, I find the Canon metering system very accurate.
  • Shutter Priority v Aperture Priority v Manual Mode: I need to control the depth of field so need to set the aperture. I also want to set the time the shutter curtain is open so the only mode I use is Manual. The pictogram modes don’t offer the control needed to obtain these results.

As I said initially, this type of photography may not be to everyone’s cup of tea but if it floats your boat, I hope this helps you be a little more creative with your photography. If you like what you see, why don’t you have a go? You only need a DSLR with a manually driven zoom lens and a speedlite/flashgun set on low power/rear curtain sync. You can practice on just about anything at home preferably in a darkened room. You will find that there’s a lot of images that didn’t quite work. Don’t worry because with plenty of practise you just need to shoot, study the results, revise your settings, repeat and have fun!

If you’ve been successful with your attempts, feel free to share your successes. If you’re struggling and need more assistance, feel free to contact me.

Alternatively, you could learn far more about advanced photography on one of my many different Workshops.

© Jeremy Malley-Smith LRPS DPAGB BPE2*  |  jmalls@me.com  |  +44 (0) 7540 163136

Image Stabilisation Lenses

Introduction If you’re not careful, camera shake can ruin your photos. Pressing the shutter button whilst hand-holding the camera/lens may cause slight camera/lens movement during exposure and thus could blur the image. Much of the time, you won’t notice the effects of camera shake. If you are shooting with a fast shutter speed or a wide-angle lens, the blurring may not be significant− but it will still be there, and might appear if you have a big enlargement made from the image.

Overcoming Camera Shake The only way to overcome camera shake is to eliminate the movement of the camera and lens during the exposure. The two obvious ways to do this are by using a shutter speed that is faster than the reciprocal of (your sensor crop multiplied by any fitted extender multiplied by the focal length of your lens) or by attaching the camera to something that will not move, such as a heavy tripod or professional beanbag.

Another Way Fortunately, lens manufacturers do offer another method of reducing, if not eliminating, the effects of camera shake. Image stabilised (IS), vibration reduction (VR), optical stabilised (OS) lenses, approach the problem laterally. They all work slightly differently but essentially rather than trying to stop the movement of a hand-held camera, they seek to introduce an opposing movement within the lens. Their aim is to keep the image static on the sensor or film, despite the movement of the camera.

Power for these lenses comes from the camera battery, so there will be fewer exposures per battery charge when an IS lens is attached to the camera and switched on.

IS types There are basically two types of IS lenses:

  • Type 1 detects movement in the pitch axis (raising or lowering of the lens relative to the camera) or yaw axis (spinning yourself around a central point also known as panning) and will try to correct these movements.
  • Type 2 just detects movement in the yaw axis i.e. when you are panning and switches off the IS correction in that direction (horizontal or vertical). IS correction in the direction of perpendicular to the panning movement continues as normal to help give a sharper image.

Performance IS lenses are usually effective with camera movement from 0.5Hz to 20Hz (1Hz is one movement cycle per second). This will cope not only with situations from simple camera shake (0.5Hz to 3Hz), but also the engine vibrations encountered when shooting from a moving vehicle or helicopter (10Hz to 20Hz). There is no reduction in the optical performance of an IS lens.

Fitting to a tripod Whilst some lenses detect being fitted to a tripod and will automatically turn the IS off, generally, you should turn the IS off when attaching the camera & lens to a tripod. You can leave it turned on whilst connected to a monopod as as it is unlikely you will be able to keep this type of support perfectly still.

How effective is IS on a lens? The earliest IS lenses manufactured in the 90s offered a gain of up to 2 stops, i.e. if you can obtain a sharp image without image stabilisation at a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, you will produce results of similar sharpness at 1/15th of a second with image stabilisation, other factors staying the same.

  • More recent IS lenses have improved their effectiveness, giving a three-step, four-step or a five-step gain. A four-step gain means that shooting with a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second with image stabilisation gives the same image sharpness as shooting at 1/250th of a second without image stabilisation, other factors remaining constant.
  • One of these factors is focal length. Increasing focal length not only magnifies the subject − it also magnifies the effects of camera shake. A useful guide is that you should use a shutter speed at least equal to the reciprocal of (your sensor crop multiplied by any fitted extender multiplied by the focal length of your lens) when holding the camera and lens by hand. If the focal length of the lens is 200mm with a 1.6 crop sensor and a 1.4x extender, then the shutter speed should be at least 1/448th of a second, so 1/500s is ok. Don’t forget that telephoto lenses are heavy and as such, difficult to be handheld. This is one advantage of using an IS lens over a non-IS lens.

Where can you find IS lenses IS used to only be found on the super telephoto lenses but have now worked their way across a number of lenses including 70-200mm, 24-105mm, 100mm macro and 16-35mm wide angle plus lots more lenses.

Cost Naturally, the costs of an IS lens vs a non IS lens is as you would expect much more expensive as the manufacturers will attempt to recover their development costs.

Buying A Camera?

A lot of people ask me about buying a new camera. Below are some things you might want to consider before parting with your hard earned pennies:

Type of camera: Compact cameras are small enough to fit in your pocket, great for casual photography and assist if you know little about photography. Bridge cameras offer more facilities but still only have the one lens to cover all functions. A DSLR system camera provides the greatest flexibility with a different lens for a each occasion, Medium Format cameras are large, heavy and expensive but offer very high quality images (useful for commercial photographers). Large plate cameras are used by traditional film photographers but they are very heavy and are for extremely competent photographers (with a darkroom).

Camera system: If you are buying a DSLR, you’ll be buying into a system. Do you need all the accessories offered by Canon, Nikon or Sony? If you already have a camera or lens, you might want to remain stay that system on reasons of cost alone.

Usage: What are you photographing? What weather conditions will you be shooting in? Does it need weather proof seals to shoot in heavy rain or are you a fair weather photographer? For nature, you might want to use a telephoto lens.

ISO: How much light do you need or how sensitive to light is your sensor? If you rarely shoot in the dark, then it’s not really something to consider. The higher the ISO number, the greater the ability to shoot in near darkness but does produce noisier images. ISO settings may run from 100 to 409600.

Size of camera: Do you have huge hands or tiny hands? You might want to physically try the camera in a camera shop. This really is a personal thing and only you can decide to the physical size of your camera.

JPG v Raw: JPGs are easy to immediately show to friends and family but once taken you have limited ability when manipulating images. Whilst RAW images cannot be directly shown to others, they do offer a greater flexibility for image manipulation. I only ever shoot in RAW.

Pixel count: The greater the pixel count, the larger print you can make. Alternatively, you can crop the image and still make a decent sized print from the remaining pixels. However, you do may need a much larger file storage system to keep all your lovely photographs. Some cameras do provide a huge 50Mb sensor though 15-18Mb is ample for many beginners.

Camera weight: For the Olympic weight-lifters out there, using a large camera isn’t an issue, however, carrying a heavy camera all day long especially with a big telephoto lens can be a burden on your shoulders.

Motor drive: If you are photographing landscapes or other subjects that barely move, motor drives aren’t that important. Fast moving subjects do demand more frames per second to increase the chance of capturing your photograph. Look at frames per second between 1fps to 16fps.

Vertical grip (VG)or not: Ability to hold the camera in a portrait position and keep your shooting arm  close to your waist. Some VGs are built in to the camera adding not only extra battery power to the motor drive & comfort whilst holding it but unfortunately also add expense too.

Built-in flash: All compact cameras feature this but they are generally only useful unto 3m (10’) from the camera. External speedlites offer greater flexibility but at an additional price.

Cost: Can you afford £5000-100000 for a top-of-the range body or just £50 for a third hand compact camera? It’s your choice!

I realise some of the above pointers may be a little brief but I hope they help you make your decision when buying a camera. I can and do offer much more advice when running workshops.

Filters – The Basics

Do you use filters for your landscape photography? Maybe you’re missing a treat by not using them as they can massively change your photo before it is recorded by the sensor. I think it is better to get the image right in camera rather than trying to manipulate it in Photoshop and filters can help do that. So what can filters do for you?

  • In monochrome photography coloured filters affect the relative brightness of different colours, e.g. a red filter will lighten anything coloured red but darken anything coloured blue. These are known as contrast enhancement filters.
  • The light balance within an image can be changed from the original source to another type, e.g. tungsten, fluorescent, daylight, warm sunlight, etc. These are known as colour correction filters.
  • Image distortion filters, e.g. star burst, vignette, motion, etc.
  • Close up filters to allow the user the ability to focus closer than the lens would ordinarily allow.
  • Linear and circular polarising filters reduce oblique reflections from non-metallic surfaces such as water or foliage and help saturate the sky and boost cloud detail. Autofocus cameras will need circular polarising filters.
  • Graduated filters are used to balance the tonal range between the lighter and darker parts of an image (usually the sky and the land). Grads can either be neutral density (i.e. doesn’t affect any colours) or can have tints to boost certain colours.
  • Stoppers allow you to have a longer exposure (to create motion blur) or larger aperture (for selective focus) than otherwise required for correct exposure in the prevailing light conditions, without changing the tonal balance of the photograph. These are usually available in 6, 10, 15 stops or variable 2-10 stops.

Filters can be manufactured from glass or resin and are either screw-in or square/rectangular. Different sized screw-in filters are required for each different filter thread size whereas square/rectangular filters require a holder and adaptor to attach to the front of the lens.

The quality of filters is like the quality of a lens (though quite cheaper). I have, over the years bought many brands of filter but now only use Lee filters because their quality is excellent. Yes they are expensive but always deliver the goods when required.

The Histogram

This is one the most important tools for providing us with an instant check on the exposure of the image.

Wiki describes a Histogram as “A graphical representation of the distribution of numerical data. To construct a histogram, the first step is to ‘bin’ the range of values, that is, divide the entire range of values into a series of intervals and then count how many values fall into each interval. The bins are usually specified as consecutive, non-overlapping intervals of a variable. The bins must be adjacent, and are usually equal size.” So our bins are shades of tones from pitch black to pure white. Cameras divide the full tonal range of the image into 256 consecutive chunks and count the density of pixels providing these amounts of tone.

Reading the histogram yields info:

  • A graph with a curve that starts in the top LH corner and slopes down to the bottom RH corner will generally indicate the image has too many blacks, i.e. is underexposed.
  • A graph with a curve that starts in the bottom LH corner and slopes up to the top RH corner will generally indicate the image has too many whites, i.e. is overexposed.
  • A graph with a curve that starts in the bottom LH corner and rises up to the top somewhere in the middle of the graph, then slopes down to the bottom RH corner will generally indicate the image is well exposed.

Overexposure means lack of detail in the highlights; underexposure, loss of detail in the shadows. For over exposure, you can get around the problem increasing your shutter speed, close down aperture or lower your ISO; the opposite settings will serve to correct an underexposure.

You can usually access the graphical data by taking a test shot, pressing the ‘Play’ button then passing the ‘Info’. You may have to cycle through a series of options in order to see a smaller image but comes complete with the tonal graph.

Some cameras also come with the ability to view histograms covering the tonal range of the red, blue and green pixels within a scene as well as the full tonal range of the graph.

Useful Camera Features

Deciding which features you really need in a camera depends upon the type of pictures you expect to take. Here are some of the features you can expect to find on a DSLR and the purpose they serve.

Viewfinder: Allows you to look directly through-the-lens at your subject. On most DSLRs it provides useful information, such as aperture and shutter speed set, a flash ready light and under/over exposure warnings. By looking through the viewfinder you’ll see the focusing screen. In autofocus SLRs this shows one or more focusing ‘envelopes’ which should be aimed at your subject to achieve sharp focus.

LCD Panels: These are usually found on the top plate and the back of the camera and display all necessary information on exposure, film speed setting, AF mode, flash mode, etc. so you can find out at a glance what is happening.

Display Screen: Allows you to immediately review the image that you have just taken. In the good old days if film, you had to wait until the film had been developed until you saw the photograph.

Bulb Setting: Sometimes you may need to use a shutter speed outside the camera’s shutter speed range. The bulb setting makes this possible by allowing the shutter to be held open for as long as the shutter release is depressed. This should only be used with a cable release so as to prevent camera shake.

Depth-Of-Field Preview: Before pressing the shutter button, you can stop the lens down to the aperture you’re using so you can assess what is going to be in/out of focus in the final picture. It used to be a standard feature among SLRs, but is sadly missing from a lot of the basic SLRs. In stopping the aperture down, the image in the viewfinder will get progressively darker. If your aperture is set to say f/22 and you press the DOF preview button, the aperture will close and the image will be barely visible. A better alternative is to set the aperture at max, e.g. f/2.8 or f/4, press the DOF preview button to stop the aperture down (as the aperture is fully open, there will be no change in image brightness). You can then slowly adjust the aperture until you reach the desired setting. Using this method will give your eyes chance to become accustomed to the darkened image.

Exposure Compensation: Although camera meters are accurate and reliable most of the time, they can still be fooled by tricky lighting situations. For this reason the majority of cameras have some form of system that allows you to over-ride the meter and compensate the exposure to prevent error. If your scene has plenty of snow, the meter may under-expose by up to two stops so you might want to over expose by up to two stops.

Bracketing: Allows you to look take a series of images that vary in exposure, e.g. you could set the camera to take three images with say a 2 stop variation so your 3 photos would be (1) at 2 stops under exposed; (2) correctly exposed; (3) 2 stops over exposed. These photos could then be merged together for an HDR image or you could use one of them to achieve correct exposure.

Built-In-Flash: Some SLRs have a small flash unit built into the pentaprism that works in conjunction with the metering system to give perfectly exposed results. Integral flashguns are handy for taking snapshots indoors, or for fill-in flash, but the power output is low. They only work therefore on subjects relatively close to the camera.

Motordrive: This is a handy feature for ensuring you’ll (hopefully) never miss a shot and speed up the picture-taking process. Most work at a rate of three to five frames-per-second (fps), but some offer up to ten or beyond for the pro cameras. Once set, simply hold the shutter butter down and the camera will take a number of photos in quick succession. It is difficult to look through the viewfinder whilst this is taking place and you may fill the camera’s storage buffer if you take too many photos thus forcing you to wait until the camera has written the data to the storage card.

Multiple Exposure Facility: This feature allows you to take a second photo directly over the first image to create multiple exposures. A common feature on film cameras but rarely seen on DSLRs.

Eyesight Correction: Some SLRs have an adjustable viewfinder eyepiece that can be adapted to suit your eyesight. This is ideal if you wear glasses and prefer to remove them when taking photos. Other DSLRs allow a dioptre adaptor to be fitted to the viewfinder to perform the same function.

RAW v JPEG Images

There are two basic file formats when saving images on the memory card of your digital camera; RAW and JPEG. Yes, some cameras can save images in other formats such as TIFF and DNG but this article is just covering RAW and JPEG formats.

RAW is not really a file format, instead it refers to the file format used by each camera manufacturer where there is minimal in-camera processing of the image data. The camera saves unaltered, or raw, image data plus camera settings for the image such as white balance, sharpness, contrast and saturation. The camera manufacturer usually supplies the software tools required to process their own version of a RAW file with their cameras. There are software suppliers who offer alternatives that promise better, faster or more convenient computer processing of RAW files. Either they can be stand-alone programs or as plug in extras to programs such as Photoshop. The RAW format tends not to be found on basic compact cameras.

JPEG (or jpg) comes from the Joint Photographers Expert Group and is very common storage option for nearly all digital cameras on the market. The camera’s on-board computer takes the RAW data and applies preset image preferences, such as sharpness, saturation and contrast. The processed data is compressed and saved to the memory card as a JPEG file. You choose to use a range of JPEG sizes but the quality of the stored image gets worse the smaller the file. The advantage of smaller image size is that it allows more images on a memory card. The smaller JPEG image files make better use of storage space and are quicker to send over the internet. JPEG is the standard for the display of photographs on web pages, although these are usually smaller more compressed images. The best quality, or least compressed JPEGs do produce very usable images. It is possible to get three to four times as many high quality JPEG images onto a memory card than RAW. This can be an important consideration for any press photographer, who may shoot thousands of images at any shoot. The smaller JPEG file size enables faster transfer and selecting of images to meet editorial deadlines for newspapers and internet news sites. However, for most photographers this won’t be an issue.

When to shoot RAW, when to shoot JPEG?

You shoot RAW when you expect to have to do some post exposure processing. If you’re not sure about exposure or white balance, or if you want to maintain the maximum possible allowable post exposure processing, then you’ll want to shoot RAW files. Some cameras can store a JPEG image along with the RAW file. This is the best of both worlds, you have a JPEG image that you can quickly extract from the file but you also have the RAW data that you can later convert and process if there’s a problem with the JPEG. The disadvantage is, of course, that this takes up even more storage space. Many cameras also store a small thumbnail along with the RAW file that can be read and displayed quickly without having to do a full RAW conversion just to see what’s in the file.

The main reason to shoot JPEG is that you get more shots on a memory card and it’s faster, both in camera and afterwards. If you shoot RAW files, you either have to import them into Lightroom, Bridge, Aperture or similar or you have to then convert them to TIFF, JPEG or PSD on a computer before you can view or print them. If you have hundreds of images, this can take some time. If you know you have the correct exposure and white balance as well as the optimum camera set parameters, then a high quality JPEG will give you a print just as good as one from a converted RAW file, so you may choose to shoot JPEG.

Key Questions To Ask Yourself

If you can’t decide which format to use (RAW or JPEG) ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What are your goals as a photographer? The significance of this question is quite important, as you’ll want to select the right file format to match your output goals (print, online display, etc), your technical comfort level, your available storage capacity, your computer software/hardware capabilities and the amount of time you’re willing to commit to the post-production of your work.
  2. How comfortable are you with editing images on a computer? Many long-time photographers are technically excellent and seldom need to make substantial edits in post-production; while newer photographers out in the digital format may need to employ many post-production editing features available to them to clean up their images. Realistically assessing your technical skill level behind the camera and behind a computer is a key factor in deciding the file format to use.

RAW Pros:

  • RAW is a digital negative holding all the data captured by your camera providing you a foundational element to which to apply all of your edits to with no sacrifice of image quality.
  • RAW file software editors allow you to quickly and easily change the output of your image such as adjusting exposure, white balance, noise reduction, image size (interpolation), saturation, contrast, levels, curves, sharpness, output resolution, bits/channel, etc.
  • RAW file software editors allow you to load saved adjustment settings and some even enables users to batch process a group of files versus making changes to one file at a time.

RAW Cons:

  • RAW files take up more space on your camera’s storage card than JPEG images.
  • Because the RAW file sizes are much larger than JPEG, file storage in camera is much slower, therefore when using motor drive, the number of shots that can be taken is considerably lower than JPEG.
  • RAW files require some degree of post processing via photo editing software to convert your image to an editable file type for editing, printing and/or online display.
  • RAW file software editors have a learning curve, even if mild, and for the uninitiated can be intimidating.
  • Batch processing and/or loading multiple files may tax slower machines and require more computing power to keep your software running smoothly.

JPEG Pros:

  • JPEG is a file format that has been adopted as a standard and can be loaded in a variety of programs making display easy and simple.
  • JPEG files take up less space on your camera’s storage card than RAW files.
  • JPEGs can be loaded easily by most all image editing software applications, requiring no intermediate steps.
  • Most cameras enable you to choose what size JPEG files (S, M, or L) to save to your storage card when shooting. This enables you to use smaller images that are easier to handle for email attachments, web display or as an alternate preview mechanism if your camera supports saving files in JPEG and RAW formats simultaneously.

JPEG Cons:

  • JPEGs are not a lossless file format. Each time the file is saved, data is compressed, with some data being lost in the process. The net impact can be small loss of colour saturation, colour range and a degree of sharpness. Over time, this can be significant.
  • JPEG files reflect a one-time interpretation of your subject based on the settings of your camera (white balance, exposure settings and output resolution, etc.). Altering these settings and re-outputting a new file, as you can with a RAW file, is not possible. What you capture at the taking stage is what you get.
  • Interpolating or upsizing an image initially saved as a JPEG can result in less than ideal results. There are some 3rd party software applications that can do this better than others e.g. OnOne’s Resize or Photoshop, but you’re still dependent on using another software application to get the job done.

Which Format Is The Better Format To Use?

For your best shots choose the RAW format and get more details, with minimal in camera processing. This allows greater scope for individual image adjustment on the computer, rather than accepting the preset in-camera adjustments. Also continuing advances in software promises better RAW file processing in the future. Only you can decide which file format to use after matching the pros and cons to your photographic needs and goals. I only ever shoot in RAW  not only because I want  the highest image quality but the cost of of file storage is relatively inexpensive.

Supporting Your Hobby?

Tripod? Monopod? Beanbag? Hand hold your camera?

They are all different forms of supporting your camera as you press the shutter button. In fact there are many different ways of supporting the camera and I’ll discuss some of these at  some point in the future. You might like to consider the type of photography that you enjoy and whether or not a support is required. There are two main problems to consider:

  • Preventing camera shake – this can often be a problem when hand holding the camera though it can occur with other supports too. If your shutter curtain is open too long whilst holding the camera, your images will be blurred.
  • How fast does your shutter curtain need to open/close? You can answer this by asking yourself how fast is your subject moving? Should your subject be moving very fast, you’ll need short shutter speed and there’ll be little chance of camera shake. If the subject doesn’t move, you may opt to use a shutter speed thats very long. If it’s longer than 1/20 second, you won’t be able to handhold the camera still enough to record a sharp photo.

I hope this helps you achieve sharper shots.

Read The Manual

So you’ve just bought your latest piece of kit and can’t wait to use it. A camera, lens, tripod head, filter or piece of software, etc.

But then disaster strikes as you cannot work out how to use it correctly. Hands up those who’ve thought the gear was broken? I’m sure we all have at some stage but the easy answer to your problem is to read the manufacturer’s manual!

The manufacture went to great trouble designing that piece of equipment, then wrote a manual giving you an indication of how it will work.

Yes, it might be boring to read through those introduction pages but quite often, they will give you that little extra enabling you to get that little bit more from your gear.