The Fourth Ingredient in a Recipe for Success - TDS Photography Podcast

This is The Digital Story Podcast #927, Dec. 26, 2023. Today's theme is "The Fourth Ingredient in a Recipe for Success." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

I was thinking about all of the great tools I have access to for my photography - sophisticated cameras, intelligent software, tons of information. And if I were only after good pictures, that's all that I would need. But what if I wanted something more? Special images require a fourth ingredient, and that's the subject of today's lead story. I hope you enjoy the show.

Digital Photography Podcast 927

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The Fourth Ingredient in a Recipe for Success


This churn began a little over a week ago when I was out for a portrait shoot in a local park. It was a beautiful late afternoon with the sun hanging low in the sky. I was working with Victoria, who had helped me out back in the days. I needed illustrations for an article on Fill Flash that I was writing for Live View.

I opted for the Nikon Zf and the Fujifilm X100V for the assignment. The X100 was going to be an example of cameras that have built-in flashes. And the Nikon was going to host the Godex Lux Senior external flash I had discussed a couple of weeks ago.

The point of the article was that I could have taken all of the pictures with any camera or smartphone letting the device make all of the decisions, or I could intervene by adding flash and finding the perfect output that still looked natural, but smoothed out contrast and filled in shadows.

I would start at each location by looking at the lighting and how it was illuminating Victoria, then ask myself, what could I do to make it better? In the case of the X100V, I used TTL flash, but dialed it down two-thirds of a stop. With the Nikon, I started with manual flash at half power, then increased or decreased output depending on how I liked the first exposure.

As I worked each scene, it dawned on me how much I liked this process. I own four of the most sophisticated cameras in the world - iPhone 15 Pro Max, OM System OM-1, Fujifilm X100V, and the Nikon Zf. Each one of them is capable of producing perfectly acceptable photographs in auto-everything mode.

And I love that technology. I would not give up a single feature in any of these cameras - subject detection, pro capture, sensor-based image stabilization, high ISO performance, film simulation, wireless communication, portrait enhancement, skin smoothing, and the list goes on and on.

But what really excites me is that these tools are at my disposal for when I choose to use them. I make the creative decisions, not the camera.

During that photo shoot in the park, I knew I didn't need to tap portrait enhancement or skin smoothing on the Nikon because of the lighting I had created, and Victoria's complexion didn't need it. With the X100V, I added the NISI Black Mist filter for a lovely rendering. The shots from the two cameras are different, and I like them both.

The same is true during post-processing. A.I.-powered tools are my able-bodied photo assistants, but not the creator. I refuse to relinquish control. I decide when to apply AI Noise Reduction or any of the other options.

I believe these are the best of times for photographers. We have access to 1) amazing gear, 2) sophisticated software, and 3) tons of information. But there's a fourth ingredient. Us. It's our contribution to the equation that makes a creation personal, something truly unique.

Years ago I heard this story about a lady named Kate who went back to her butcher who had recently sold her a cut that she used for corned beef. She stood at the counter and explained how difficult the meal was to chew.

The butcher respectfully listened to Kate tell her entire story. When she finished, he paused for a moment, then said, "But aye Kate, there's a little in the cookin' of it."

The "cookin' of it" is our great opportunity as artists. We have the smartest tools available to help us. But remember, they work for us, not the other way around. Let's not relinquish our power to make something truly spectacular.

Author's Note: You can see the pictures from the photo shoot and read about the technique I used by visiting The Endangered Camera Flash on Live View.

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Virtual Camera Club News

The Nimble Photographer Newsletter is now publishing every Thursday. Readers will enjoy a variety of content spanning from short photo essays, to commentary on weekly events, to reviews of the latest and coolest photo gear.

TDS Workshops! - You can sign up for available workshops by visiting The Nimble Photographer. Inner Circle Members receive a 10-percent discount on all events.

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts! We are having a blast at our new Inner Circle hangout, the private group I've set up at DerrickStoryOnline. We'd love it if you join us. You can become an Inner Circle Member by signing up at our Patreon site. You will automatically be added to the new hangout.

Great Photography Articles on Live View - If you check out our publication and appreciate what you see, be sure to follow us and clap for those authors. You can find us at

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The New Donation Kit for Carefree Shipping of Found Film Cameras - If you've discovered a film camera that's no longer being used, our new Donation Kit makes it easy to pack and ship. Just visit the Contact Form on, click the box next to Donating a Film Camera, and let me know what you have. In your note, be sure to include your shipping address.

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Red River Paper - And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.