Keep Moving Forward… 08.09.10


This Week In Photography – Image Quality

This week we’re gong to take a look at Image Quality, from the perspective of varying each element that makes up the Exposure Triangle and then observing the impact.

Now, the Exposure Triangle is a concept that allows us to understand the interaction between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.


Change any one of these and the others have to compensate in order to produce an equal/equivalent exposure. As a result this has some desirable/controllable impacts on image quality and some less desirable impacts, and that is what we’re going to explore here.

In the days of film, we’d basically work at one ISO setting and just vary the shutter speed. More light faster shutter speed, less light slower shutter speed. Simple. Nowadays, we can also hold the shutter speed constant and vary the ISO (light sensitivity) less light, more sensitive, more light less sensitive.  We could also hold the aperture (Depth of Field) constant and then vary the other two elements, can you guess? More sensitive, faster shutter speed, less sensitive, slower shutter speed. but none of these conveniences of choice come without their pros and cons. So, what are they? You take a look.

Aperture (Depth of Field Control)

We know that if you open up the iris of the lens, more light comes in, and if you stop down, less light is allowed in. As a result, less or more of the picture is in focus. That is, with regard to image quality, image sharpness and detail is strongly influenced by Depth of Field.

Take a look at these shot of my son, standing two meters away from my APS-C camera on which I had a “35mm f/2” lens mounted. What do you notice in these images as I stop down from f/2 to f/22?

ISO (Film/Sensor Sensitivity) – Day Light

ISO Numbers are the current way in which we rate the sensitivity to light of a particular film or sensor. In general, the lower the ISO Number, the more detail, and colour contrast is available. The higher the ISO Number the more artifacts, like grain in film, or pixel noise in the sensor (hot pixels) star to appear. This generally results in a loss of sharp detail and reduced contrast, flatter or muted images.

Take a look at the following outdoor scene as I shift from ISO 100-12,800. how do the images change? What happens to their overall image quality? At which ISO would you say that my camera works best?

 ISO (Film/Sensor Sensitivity) – Low Light

OK, same exercise, but this time in low light at a long slow shutter speed, 30 sec. Do you notice any difference in image quality due to the slow shutter speed? Does this compound the noise at higher ISO settings?

I suggest you go out and try this for yourself with your own camera. By exploring this, you will gain a greater understanding about how your camera reacts under various lighting conditions, better understand the quality of images your camera produces, and be able to select optimal settings for different lighting conditions, rather than just let your camera do it for you.

Just for today, that’s what’s in my

Line of Sight.

This Week In Photography – Normal Lens FOV Estimation

We all pick up and/or develop little tips and tricks that help us to visualize image creation.

Occasionally, I go on photography walks with people who have joined The New Hanoian Photography Group. On these walks, I usually prefer to use a Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 lens on my Canon EOS 7D. This gives me roughly the equivalent of a 55mm lens on 35mm film.

Back when I used to own an old Asahi-Pentax SP500, my favorite lens was a Super Takumar 1:2/55 Prime. So the look and feel is very familiar to me, like an old friend, and I think it is not so intimidating, when doing street photography.

One tip I discovered for myself on that day was to hold my hand near my eye and peer with one eye through the gap made by spreading my index and middle fingers apart.

Portrait View

Landscape View

This gave me a very good approximation of what would be captured by my camera when using a normal lens.

Now, you might be justified in saying, “So what? Why not just look through the viewfinder and you’ll get the same thing?”

But, therein lurks the danger of only looking at the world only through the narrow vista offered by the camera’s lens, rather than seeing the whole world, direct on, in periphery, and in full context.

The second reason this works well is when doing alternative photography. Now, I like to do digital pinhole photography from time to time, and my particular body cap pinhole is rated at around 43mm, f/94 on an APS-C sensor.

Cups: Canon EOS 7D, Body Cap Pinhole 43mm f/94; ISO 3200

This approximates the same coverage as my Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 lens.

Cups: Canon EOS 7D, EF 35mm f/2.0 @ f/5.6, ISO 1000.

However, except on very bright days, it is almost impossible to compose a shot by looking through a dSLR camera’s viewfinder. So what to do when you don’t have a 40mm or 45mm hot-shoe viewfinder?

Fingers work well!

For today, that’s what’s in my

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This Week In Photography – Pre-Visualizing a Photo Shoot.

I’ve decided to undertake The Photography Institute‘s Freelance Photography Course, to test my knowledge and to refresh my skills. I believe that it is essential for any photographer to periodically revisit not only the basics, but to also check their current knowledge in this ever changing business.

Along the way, I’d like to share my thoughts on each of the assignments that I encounter. Hopefully, you may find my musings useful. Feel free to agree or disagree. You are more than welcome to discuss my musings at my Facebook Page in the Discussions Area.

So, onto the task at hand, Assignment One.

Imagine if you will, that you only have the following equipment at your disposal:

Note: Follow the links above to understand more about what each of these items are best used for.

Now, consider that you’ve been asked to shoot ten different jobs, and you need to make an equipment list, selected from the above, for each job and justify why you have selected each item.

Job One: A large art gallery would like you to photograph every individual framed painting in the gallery for an upcoming exhibition and that they require color accurate copies of the artwork for use in a catalogue.

My Choice of Equipment: Tripod, 2 x dSLR, 24mm TS lens, 90mm TS lens, Studio Kit, Polariser

My Reasoning: Firstly, I’d prefer to shoot outside of opening hours rather than progressively close and reopen segments of the gallery as equipment is moved around, because of the inconvenience that this might cause to gallery visitors as well as the risk of clumsy persons potentially stumbling over my equipment.

Next, I would definitely need a tripod for camera stability stability. If much of the framed paintings are of the same size then it becomes easier to set up the camera at the same distance from each picture and then tweak the perspective using a tilt/shift lens.

I would need the Tilt aspect in order to correct converging diagonals particularly when trying to shoot very large images. The Shift aspect would be needed to assist in removing any camera reflection in glassed artwork.

Gallery space can vary from large to cramped so, a Wide angle lens would be required for large works or for shooting in more cramped conditions. The studio kit is essential for even, soft illumination of the artwork It would be needed to be set up to provide 1;1 illumination of the art pieces and ideally would come equipped with remote triggers.

The polarizer is required in order to manage stray reflections that might occur in glassed images and to reduce the impact of reflective highlights that might on textured oil paintings. This helps to maintain correct colour rendition. Another aspect that helps with colour reproduction is to white balance each of the dSLR’s for each series of shots taken.

Lastly, it is always a good idea to carry two cameras. This allows for backup if one camera goes bad. It also allows for the mounting of different lenses to streamline different lens choice options, rather than constantly changing lenses and risking dust contamination of the camera’s sensor.

Read More: Sinar p-slr, Photographing Paintings, Do my homework for me

Job Two: An advertising agency would like you to photograph individual “pack shots” of a range of packet soups. The soups come in small rectangular boxes, which have a glossy finish. They want the pack to look heroic and important.

My Choice of Equipment: Tripod, 2 x dSLR, 100 mm macro lens, Studio Flash Gear, Polarizer

My Reasoning: Firstly, the client wants an ‘heroic and important‘ look. What is heroic and important? In my mind this suggests larger than life, compelling and attention grabbing. That is, within a picture it needs to be the dominant element, so I think I’ll need to control the environment in which the packed is placed, and to minimize and  blur out any possible background, i.e. I would need to make the soup packet appear big in the image and not have any distracting foreground and background detail.

Now, the soup packet is glossy so there is a risk of flaring and reflection. So, I may need some flags to control light flares, and possibly might need to use a vaseline wipe over the box to soften the gloss. The polarizer would also help to control glare and stray reflection.

I prefer to use a tripod so that I can set the camera up in one spot and then not have to worry about it’s position while I fuss around with setting the lighting and flags. Flags are basically gobos that can be cut to shape and placed between the product and a source of flared light or cause of reflection. I’d also take a number of shots with the pack oriented direct on and at an angle and with the camera level with the product and slightly below center. Shooting Down onto the Pack especially with a 100mm lens would tend to compress the pack and make it look, “Odd.”

Read More: Product Photography, Over my head

Job Three: A men’s magazine would like you to shoot an action outdoor fashion feature of a male model in the centre of a large city wearing various business suits. They want lots of movement in the images and are happy with some motion blur.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 300mm lens, 35 mm or 50mm lens, ND Filter or Polariser, Monopod

My Reasoning: Depending on time of day, year, and geographic location, filters may not be necessary. If I used filters, I’d use an ND filter in bright sunlight in order to slow the camera down to assist with getting some motion blur. Similarly, if the model could hold still enough, using an ND filter could help introduce some additional vehicular and pedestrian motion blur, or even render the city street more or less empty.

As for a polaraizer, I’d use this to control spot reflections in the event that water or shiny objects were causing some issues aspecially if the AD had a particular prefference for a particular location.

I’d use a monopod to support the 300mm lens and either have a runner or walkie talkie (I love using these and they’re a part of my regular camera kit whenever I go out) to communicate instructions to the model and assistants. A 35 mm or 50mm lens would be essential for some up close shots that capture also some of the location and to assist with developing a sense of place.

Read More: Shoot Outdoor Fashion

Job Four: A sports magazine would like you to photograph an afternoon football game. They will provide you a press pass, which will allow you access to the playing field. They want high contact physical shots with frozen action.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, monopod, 300 mm lens.

My Reasoning: “…high contact physical shots with frozen action.”  This is football. It’s fast action and requires a good sense of game play and predicting ability to pre-visualise good shots involving physical contact. Because I can’t run around on the ground, I’ll need a long telephoto lens and monopod to support it, hence the 300mm lens and monopod.

Frozen action shots need a higher speed shutter speeds. Depending on the lighting situation, I’d establish the minimum ISO and Aperture settings I’d need to get the sharpness, detail, and depth of field I want, at the minimum shutter speed necessary for freezing the action, then I’d increase ISO by the equivalent of one stop to take into account, fading light and to give more latitude with the selection of fast shutter speeds. This, of course, is a trade off, especially where noise at higher ISO settings may become an issue.

The second camera is primarily a backup, but perhaps it might be useful to also have it coupled to a 50mm lens, in the event that the play comes particularly close to my chosen, “off field,” boundary area.

Read More: Sports Photography

Job Five: A lifestyle magazine would like you to shoot a cover shot of a woman in a large, bright, modern city apartment. The woman is to be the main focus, but they would also like some of the atmosphere of the apartment to be evident.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 20mm lens, 50mm lens, portable flash.

My Reasoning: This is a typical Interview Documentation task. Treatment will mostly depend on any initial direction from the AD as to particular stylistic expression for the images. If none are given, then it’d pay to have a look at past issues to see if the magazine has any particular, ‘House Style.’

The shoot is in a large, bright, modern city apartment, so natural lighting would be best with some bounced off camera flash as fill especially if shooting the subject with a window background.

Many would choose a medium telephoto lens like the 90mm or 100mm lens for portrait work, I don’t particularly like the length of these, especially for indoor work. The choice of 50mm for close ups here, is one of my personal favorites, as this ‘normal lens’ arrangement usually renders nice head and shoulder, ‘head shots‘ with little distortion. However, unless there’s a lot of space to back up in, getting full body seated shots or atmospherics become hard to do. As such, a 20mm would give the broadest options for capturing people in a room shots. There is a risk though that with closer shots the possibility of physical distortion of the subject may occur. For this reason, some may prefer to use a 35mm lens instead.

Lastly, I’d mount each lens on its own camera and trigger any fill flash wirelessly.

Read More: Photographing People at Home

Job Six: You have been asked to photograph a wedding in a church. The light is bright enough to avoid having to use a flash and the minister has allowed you access to all areas.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 135mm lens, 50mm lens, 20mm lens.

My Reasoning: [Hand over to assistant and head to the pub until its over…]

Alright, I’ll admit it! This is a bit flippant, but, I don’t particularly like the whole, Wedding Photography bit. That’s just me. However, the purpose here is to look at equipment choice and validate that choice. Bright Church, All areas access. there’s a lot that happens during a wedding, before church, in church, and post church. It’s important to have a very clear plan and running sheet of what is going on, when and where.

Two cameras, essential. You’re messing with someone’s important day, or at least, their significantly important hour or two, and you can’t afford any equipment failure.

Entry of the Bride, Exit of Bride and Groom, front of church shots of the seat family and congregation, Priest, Bride, Groom, maids of honor best men, atmospheric shots of the church, detail shots of things like the rings. Lots to do in a short amount of time.

50mm lens mounted on one camera for roving, vox pop reportage-style shots. 20mm lens mounted on other camera (and interchanged with the 135mm lens) for wide angle, ‘get the building’ interior shots. 135mm lens (perhaps the 100mm Macro would be a better choice here) for candid portraiture and detail shots.

Read More: Wedding Photography

Job Seven: You have been requested by a gossip magazine to shoot “social” shots at a gala movie premier one evening. The location is inside a dark Rococo (ornate) cinema and you have a press pass and are free to mingle with the “stars”. The editor requires a collection of posed and candid shots as the crowd parties through the night.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 50mm lens, 35mm lens, portable flash

My Reasoning: Basically, this is a Vox Pop, walk up, chat and shoot activity. What’s required? Posed and candid shots in a relatively dark, ornate cinema. So, I’ll need to bring some light to the shoot. It needs to portable, flexible and small, thus I’ll need off camera flash, hand held with cable connector (better still, wireless trigger), sync’d on second curtain for some funky movement shots, and normal sync for candids.

Depending on space availability, I’ll need either the 35mm or 50mm for posed, individual and small group shots. For candids, a 50mm lens and ‘street style’ approach ala Bruce Gilden would probably do the job. Alternatively, a longer lens with long through bounce flash would also give access to candids from across a room.

Read More: Event Photography

Job Eight: A book publisher would like you to photograph Italian food in their studio for a new cookbook. The studio has large windows along one wall and lots of working space. They want the entire book shot from above, looking down on the food with an “aerial” perspective.

My choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 90mm TS lens, 100mm Macro lens, Tripod.

My Reasoning: The primary requirement from the client is that the photos be taken from above. So, I will need a tripod. A studio stand, or large copy stand would be better, or an extension bar mounted on the tripod would be helpful. Failing that, hopefully the tripod has long legs and the head can be reverse mounted, so that it can be used much like a copypod. A ladder may be necessary for assisting with setting up the shoot, and the camera would be best triggered remotely and tethered to a computer or laptop.

With large windows, natural lighting could be a bonus, but I may reqire some reflector fill to help balance and even the lighting of the plate. the choice of 90mm t/s lens allows for ensuring that the camera plane and table are parallel to each other so as to minimize any distortion. Ideally, there’d also be a macro focusing rail to assist with fine tuning the camera in relation to the plate.

The 100mm Macro lens give additional choice such as capturing fine detail. An additional lens that might be considered is a 50mm lens and a camera spirit level.

Read More: Food PhotographyAerial Food Photography

Job Nine: A book publisher would like you to travel through France to take photographs for a book on wine. They want farm and regional images, as well as shots inside the cellars and manufacturing areas. They are on a tight schedule and have a limited budget, so you will be traveling alone in a small rented car without an assistant. You have only three weeks to cover all viticulture areas before the autumn harvest.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 20mm lens, 35mm lens, 135mm lens, ND Filter, Polariser, tripod, portable flash.

My Reasoning: Small car, limited time, and a lot of places to visit. Risk of equipment damage and/or theft is a possibility, which dictates, to me at least, to take only the minimum I think I can get away with. Choice of shots range from closeups, interiors, exteriors, vines, fields and landscapes, i.e. my lens choice  should cover from wide angle through to short telephoto. thus, 20mm for wide angle indoor shots, 35mm for wide angle landscapes, (Oops! I forgot my normal lens – Damn! I was thinking in APS-C again), a 50mm for general purpose shots, and the 135mm lens for details, closeups, or candids. An alternative to the 135 might be the 100mm Macro, but I’m not so sure it’s 1:1 macro capability is sufficient reason for inclusion.

Lighting would range from natural, outdoor, lighting to indoor brightly lit, e.g. restaurant, to indoor poorly lit, e.g. cellar. Thus, an off camera flash that can be triggered wirelessly would be a good inclusion.

As for the filters, Because we’re heading into the Autumn Harvest season, an ND filter (or GND might be better) would be useful for controlling contrast between sky and ground in early morning landscape shots. In brighter light, the polarizer is very useful for removing reflections from foliage in landscape shots, thus allowing the distant ‘vines’ to look greener, and the sky to look bluer.

Read More: Wine Travel Photography, Viticulture Images

Job Ten: A fashion magazine would like you to photograph the latest trends in makeup. You will be shooting female models in a studio and they may be accessorized with the latest earrings and other jewelry, but the makeup is the star. They are looking for striking, close-up images with vivid color and texture.

My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 100mm Macro lens, 135mm lens

My Reasoning: As I’d be shooting in a studio, I’d want to check first if the studio had existing lighting solutions and that it worked, before making a decision to bring my own portable strobe kit, but it is an option that should be considered, seriously.

The cameras will need to be white balanced for the strobes being used in the studio. I’d perhaps increase in camera sharpening a little, select a low iso setting, use a medium to low aperture for depth of field,and a fast shutter speed to freeze any model movement.

For lens choices, I’d use the 135mm lens as it’s a great lens for detailed portrait work especially since we’d be concentrating on capturing mainly the model’s face, with minimal distortion. As I’d also be required to take some detail shots, particularly of jewelry being worn by the models, I think the 100mm Macro lens would be the best choice in this case rather than something shorter and lacking the capability of 1:1 macro reproduction.

Read More: Photographing Makeup, 100mm Macro Photography

For today, that’s what’s in my

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This Week In Photography – A Handful of Courses

This week I wanted to share a couple of online courses with you. I’m not advocating that they are be all and end all, but something for your consideration.

Why take an online course?

There are many resources available on the net for budding photographers and for, “lost that lovin’ feeling,” older ones, such as myself. So, from time to time it’s good to go back to the basics to test yourself through a course to see just how much you think you now or think you’ve forgotten.

Of course you can do a two year full time course, or study through Brooks etc. and get the Bees Knees in photographic training, mentoring, and buy (oops earn) your way into that prestigious “Alma Mater”  if that’s what floats your boat.

But for many others, doing an online course is a way of dealing with day to day realities and testing oneself  through guided study with externalized feedback.

Some courses:

The Photography Institute

New York Institute of Photography

Academy of Art University

Free digital Photography Course

…and for today, that’s what’s in my

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This Week in Photography – Australia

Hi folks,just a quick note to let you all know that I will be travelling for the next two weeks in Australia.

Normally, I am based in Hanoi, but the oportunity to visit my parents came up and I’m taking it.

What this means is that for the next couple of weeks there will be a little silence from me. When I get back, I promise to tidy up the loose ends and continue with some new information. Til then, enjoy, review the previous info I’ve posted, there’s quite a lot to digest and cya when I get back.

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This Week in Photography – Built-In Flash [Train Wrecked]

Hello folks,Well, seems like the wheels have fallen of this cart and we’ve derailed – no longer on track. My apologies, something came up.

This Week in Photography
The aim this week was to look at making better use of you Camera’s built in flash. Now there are a number of tutorials around on this but, I don’t really like them. Part of the problem is, is that most people are approaching this from the perspective that built in flash is bad.

It’s Not!

But, it’s not that good either. The thing to get here is how do we make the most of what we’ve got?

Here’s a couple of links to whet the appetite:

STsite’s Guide to Still Photography Camera
Dan Knight’s Pros and Cons of Built-in Flash; and
Peter Bargh from ePhotozine in Make the most of your cameras built-in flash

So, we’re back and now you’ve got a rough idea of some of the issues. The take home point here is that the built-in flash can be very useful for providing fill flash on sunny days, improving foreground illumination in strongly back-it scenes and in small to medium sized rooms.

However, it’s possessed by “devils’ eyes” when shooting people straight on and up close. Red-Eye Reduction helps but it’s not perfect, and if you’re shooting a lot indoors with flash, you can rapidly drain your camera’s battery.

Even with “off-camera” flash, many photographers go to great lengths to modify the light from the flash, built in flash is no different and a quick search will produce a number of sites with suggestions on how to go about that – from placing tissue or paper in front of the flash through to using exposed, developed film to create an Infrared Light Source. If you have a pop up flash, then many of the mods aim at adding some type of flash bounce or diffuser to the camera. (Follow these links to some of the mods I’ve made from time to time: Business Card Bounce for built-in, pop-up flash; and Off Camera Flash Bracket with Stofen type diffuser.)

One of the simplest flash diffusers for pop-up flash is to take a frosted plastic 35mm film canister, remove the lid and cut the bottom off it, then split it down the length. This will then clip over your pop-up flash and stay in place kinda like a weak clip spring. Works a treat! But you have to bear in mind that diffusers reduce and soften the light – on one point a good thing, on another you may need to use flash exposure compensation, if you camera has that feature. Most of the time, however the built-in flash overpowers subject photographed at about 2-5m, thus using a diffuser can be highly beneficial.

The point to all of this is that like with other things when using your camera, you need to have a considered eye for the lighting situation and the scene and evaluate if you need to add more light to the scene and how best to do that. The built-in flash, when used intelligently and skilfully can be of great benefit.

All the shots at this event were shot using the business card diffuser, built-in camera flash, and my standard kit lenses. [Canon 400D; EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS; EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS; ISO 1600]

In Practice
This week I’d like to see you try out your camera’s built-in flash.
First, make sure your batteries are fully charged.

Next, Pick a person or a subject that is strongly backlit, and take two shots, one with the built-in flash switched off and one with the built-in flash switched on. If you can change the way the flash works, by selecting “fill” or Flash Exposure compensation, then take some shots with that as well.

After this, set up a still life arrangement (flowers in a vase, fruit in a bowl, etc.) and experiment again with no flash, some flash, full flash, and Diffused flash – yes, hunt around for ideas and ways to diffuse your flash and see what that does.

Once you’ve got comfortable with this, try taking some indoor night shots of the family and adjust the flash to get a shot that you’re happy with, and that you think is better than most of what you’ve done before, then come back here and shre a selected “best of” sample with the rest of us.

Reference Material
From the Flash Photography with Canon EOS Cameras FAQ, a bunch of useful links on the topic of Flash Photography.

Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.

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This Week in Photography – Workflow & Post-Processing, Part 2

In a bit of a departure from previous weeks, this week I’m going to add additional thoughts and considerations as we go along. As previously mentioned, Andrea and I went out last Friday to play with an umbrella and to explore exposure issues under some pretty typical shooting conditions, here in Hanoi. At this time of year, it’s pretty overcast and the light is fairly flat. We were out by West Lake shooting at the top of some stairs which go down into the water.Here a shot based on my (Canon 50D) camera’s idea of what a correct exposure should be for this scene:
Canon EOS 50D; EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS @ 53 mm; ISO 1000; 1/640 sec @ f/16, +1/3 EV.As you can see from this the image is pretty muddy, not particularly inspiring, and it really doesn’t represent the scene very well. In spite of the flat light, its apparent brightness was much higher and I thought the day would lend itself well to playing with low key and high key effects – I was wrong.

So what to do with such an image. In most cases I would dismiss it as a fail and move on. However, for our purposes here it’s actually useful as a demo piece for playing with some basic post processing techniques.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I use Adobe Lightroom, but many of the things I do here can be similarly done with other applications. For example, by using adjustment layers in Photoshop you can achieve similar, ND edits, but I’d recommend making a copy of the image first and then carrying out your edits on that. check out Murray Edward’s Blog entry for more on backing up your files.

Ok, fist off, what I do is make a virtual copy of the image, select the copy, hit the image Reset Button to remove any remove any and all preset import development changes, colour space issues etc.; and look at it. That’s right, just sit there and “Look” at it. Thinking about: it’s strengths and weaknesses; how I felt at the time; what I wanted to achieve with it at the time; what do I want to do with it now?

Next I usually try the Auto WB adjustment and Auto Tone adjustment to see what that does to the image, sometimes it works well, sometimes not.

It’s a little yellow, so here’d I’d tweak the Temp slider in the WB panel a little towards the blue end to bring back the cool/cold look that the day had.

Next I’d play with the Whites and Blacks.

OK, now we’re cookin’! On the day in spite the overcast feel to it all, the sky was around zone 5, approx. +2- +2 1/2 EV I don’t want anything blown out here. Similarly, because of the low contrast, there wasn’t anything particularly black either. By stretching out the histogram, I now have a better tonal range over this image. It’s starting to look the way I felt about the scene. From here a quick tweak of the curve and we have something like this.

Now, the next few steps are not necessary in the overall scheme of things, you could probably leap from here to the straightening and cropping step. But, when I originally conceived this idea, it was a misty, drizzly day and I want to see if I can bring a sense of that day into this picture. So, what we want to do as add some blur to the overall scene without losing too much detail in person. In Lightroom, that means using the slider, you could also possibly play with the sharpening tool and large radii.

Well that’s starting to look almost painterly, an idea comes to mind…

This is still looking too warm so let’s play with the Vibrancy, Saturation and Recovery sliders. Bear in mind as you make various adjustments, you can occasionally clip either the blacks, whites or both, so monitor them and just pull the back a touch when needed.

Now we’re starting to get somewhere. The image is much greyer, and flat in the midtones, the background lacks definition as though look through a light mist and the red is not screaming, “Look at me!”

Now, let’s look at the arrangement of the elements. Can’t do much about the horizon coming out of Andrea’s ears, but we can straighten it, and since Andrea makes a strong, dominant, vertical element lets pop her and the horizon somewhere near one to the Thirds lines.

Oops! Can’t get both, which do I want? Horizon or Feet? I decided to go with the feet. By changing the aspect ratio I could get both but it kinda upset the look I was going for.

Ok, now for the distracting detail in the bottom left corner, a touch with the exposure brush?

No. Don’t like that. Perhaps a vignette?


“By Jove! I think we’ve got it, old sock!”It’s quite a distinctly, different picture now. To me, it feels moody, cold, distant, and reflective all at the same time. It hints at the kind of day it was without taking away from the seemingly solitary activity of the subject, who we can vaguely see is taking a picture.All guff aside, this picture has a presence to it that was hidden in the initial, “out of the camera” image we started with. Sculptors often describe their process as trying to uncover the true subject hidden within the rock or medium being used. In a similar way, post-processing our images is a way of uncovering the hidden picture lying within the captured scene.Have a great day.

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This Week in Photography – Workflow & Post-Processing

Ok, over the last couple of weeks we’ve been spending a bit of time thinking about how to use our camera, managing the process of transferring images from the camera to the computer, exploring aspects of composition and taking a few photos. This week we’re going to concentrate more on what to do with the images once we’ve got them, that is, post-processing.This Week in Photography
Allow me a moment to outline a typical workflow, from when I used to play with black and white film photography, mostly.

The Camera
I used to have quite a collection of second hand cameras. They all used different types of film. For example, Polaroid instamatic film, 110 cartridge film, 35mm film, 120 roll film, and 620 roll film. You may not have heard of 620 film, but it was basically the same format as 120 roll film, only the spindle was thinner and it had a narrower hole in the ends – restricting it’s use to certain cameras only. So, as a first step I had to choose which camera I wanted to shoot with, i.e. what was I going out to shoot? And, which camera would be most suitable/most fun to play with in that situation?

Having chosen the camera I would then look at what DIN/ASA/ISO film to use. Typically I’d take a look out the window and guess: It looks overcast today, maybe ISO 400; or, it’s looking to be really bright so perhaps ISO 64. At this point I’d also decide if I needed a tripod, some filters, extension tubes, etc.

Next I’d load the film in as dark as possible conditions, under the blankets, in my bed, or in the toilet with the light off, or in a closet with the door closed, under the my jumper or coat in the darkest shade of a tree or building shadow. Later I got a light tight changing bag, which made things easier.

The Shoot
Then I’d go out and shoot. Because film was kind of expensive, I had to be pretty frugal with my shots. This meant that I had to carefully evaluate the lighting conditions and try to make educated (well usually more intuitive) guesses of the correct settings to use. With point and shoot cameras with AF and built in meter this wasn’t too difficult for average scenes. With older manual cameras the range of aperture settings and shutter speeds was not very large, so aging it was a choice of one stop here, half a stop there.

To improve my chance of taking a better exposed shot, sometimes I’d use a little Hanimex Sekonic Handheld Light meter, but I was far from proficient, and I hadn’t heard of The Zone System, which just didn’t feature in any of the books I was reading. Regardless of exposure concerns, I had to be highly selective of what I shot, so composition was a critical issue, along with “interest.” Yes, Is this an interesting view, shot, subject, scene, etc. So the process of critical self-expression had a defining and selective input into the choice of whether to shoot or not, because wasted frames were a waste of money, especially when you on a low income or tight budget.

After shooting, I’d carefully rewind the film, remove it from the camera and store it back in it’s canister. I was not big on record keeping: documenting the location, time, and settings used on each shot; which is probably why it has taken me so long for some of these things to sink in. There is a definite benefit to being able to examine shot settings (now called exif data) and relate that to how an image has been recorded.

The Darkroom
Next, into the darkroom, door closed, curtained light trap securely in place, it was time to pull out the development tanks, measuring equipment, chemicals, and set everything up. Then grab the developing spool, lights out, pop the film out of the canister, roll it onto the spool, drop it into the tank and close it up. On with the red light – by this time your eyes have adjusted from normal light to seeing reasonably well in the red. Mix the chemicals follow the development procedure, pined to the wall somewhere, timer’s buzz, rinse water drips and after a while, it’s time to pop the top on the tank and take the film out. A final rinse, a careful squeegee, and it was time to peg the film and hang it in the drying cabinet.

So now we have our images out of the camera, they’re dry and it’s time to start looking at them. Different photographers did different things here. Some would use a light table and loupe to examine each image, others, like me, would hold the film up to the light scan through them to see what I had then cut the film into six-frame strips load them into a contact print frame, print a contact sheet, and load cut negatives into plastic storage pages, number and label the pages and stick them in a binder of some description.

I would then scrutinise the contact sheet to see what was of interest. (Oh, if I was using canister film, or colour, I’d send it off to the Kodak lab for development, and Polaroids developed themselves.) After dealing with the usual disappointment over the quality of the shots, I then select a few “good ones” and go back to the dark room. Usually I’d then pick a grade of paper for printing onto, pick a representative image and print an “exposure time” strip – basically at a set enlargement distance, with whatever filter setup, you draw a piece of card across an image moving it every 5 sec. Until you crossed the strip; develop the strip and then number it from lightest to darkest in 5 sec. Intervals. This would give a rough indication of the best exposure time, for that hardness of paper and negative density.

Unless there was an image with very strong contrast that required selective burning and dodging, most of the print development from here was more or less straight forward process work: size and crop the image, evaluate the correct exposure time, expose, and drop into the developer. For special images, once in the developer you might play with ‘flashing’ the image whilst in the developer for a ‘solarised’ effect. Sometimes you’d select several images for montaging and compositing into one image. This would require selective, custom masks so that each section of the image could be built up. The difficulty in this was getting the right exposure for detail and managing the blending – I never could quite make it work.

Photo Finishing
After developing the prints they were hung to dry and then stuck in an album. A few of the “lucky” ones would end up being framed. At this point, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering, “relevancy?”

As I said at the start, this was a typical workflow, for me. Many people took their shots, dropped the film into Kodak and then dealt with what came back. It’s important to understand what goes on when you, “drop your film in,” so to speak, as this is the part you are now going to wrestle with as you explore ways of post-processing your images, either for web use or for making prints.

The Digital Darkroom
The digital darkroom is your computer and an application like Adobe Lightroom. You capture the images with your camera (undeveloped film in the canister),

you remove your images from the camera and place them onto your computer in such a way that they are ready for you to work with (developing the negatives), next you examine thumbnails of your images (create a contact sheet, or use a loupe and light box) to select the images you think are worth sharing/working on. Having selected those images, you then make image adjustments, colour, WB, exposure, saturation, sharpness, etc. (exposure time sheet and enlargement) then next you output the images to the web, a slideshow or print package (photo finishing.)

Do you see the connection? A lot of people have highly polarised view about digital post processing, much of it relates to the fallacious idea the digital cameras should be wysiwyg (what you see is what you get.) In other words, what’s in the camera is true and anything else is an attempt to deceive or warp reality. That is, the camera should do all the work; all we really do is hold it and point it in the appropriate direction. ROFLMAO!!!

It’s my view that you wouldn’t be here, following this series, if the above, “truth” concept actually worked.

If you carefully read back over my old workflow process you can clearly see that digital darkroom development i.e. post-processing is an essential part of the process of creating great images. It takes a lot of work and effort and energy on behalf of the photographer to create great images. Cameras don’t take great pictures, photographers do!

In Practice
This week I’d like you to take a look at your workflow, in particularly that in wich you handle images after taking them out of the camera, that is you particular way of post-processing images. Document what it is you do with your images once you take them out of the camera.

:- Do they just sit on a hard drive somewhere awaiting “someday” development?

:- Do you just look at them and go, “blah!..blah!…blah!…” and then leave them alone?

:- Do you pop them into emails and send them to friends and family?

:- Do you put them up on Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, Myspace, Livespaces, Picture social, Tagged, or some other image sharing site?

:- Do you drop them into Photoshop and play with different filters and effects?

:- What is it that you do, and how is that failing you right now?

Here are some sites with video tutorials for the following applications. I found these sites by doing an internet search for: application name video tutorial; e.g., photoshop video tutorial
I’m sure if you favourite app is not listed here you could do the same thing.

Photoshop Tutorials Blog

Paintshop Pro Photo X2
Corel Resources
Google Video

Lightroom Resource Centre


Paul van Roekl
Geeks on Tour

The Gimp
Design your own web
Six Revisions

Lastly, here is a comparison of various Image Viewers that you might be interested in.

Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.

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This Week in Photography – Assignment 2

As there are many blog posts, and more to come, from Picture Social members, “This Week in Photography” does not remain in the list for very long, so I thought I’d put the assignments on their own separate page, which kinda makes more sense than editing the original, related post or burying the assignment in the comments. So, here it is, this week’s assignment.

Assignment 2
Your Assignment this week, (should you choose to accept it…)

:- Explore Distance and Field of View (fov) as a compositional element.

What I’d like you to do is take three photos of some subject.
a) Close Up – This can be a macro shot, or zoom shot, but try to fill the frame with the subject
b) Middle Distance – Step back from the subject a couple of meters and shoot, or widen you zoom lens to some mid-focal length
c) Far Away – Step back even further or shift your zoom to wide open and take the shot.

Be mindful of correct exposure and other aspects of composition. Take steps at the camera not to overexpose the highlights.

Have fun.

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This Week in Photography – Learning to See

Last week we made a good start and hopefully some things are dropping into place, allowing you to look at photography and the world in a whole new way. Along with this, that there are some very simple and effective techniques that can help improve how you use your camera. Among these are how to hold the camera, stand and manage your photographic workflow.This Week in Photography
This week we’re going to take a look at something more conceptual, particularly with respect to composition, exposure and how these relate to “ seeing” in a photographic way.

Looking and Analysing
In his 48 lectures on Art History, Bill Kloss refers to what he calls, “Looking” when it comes to viewing any work of Art. According to him, Looking consist of five elements. These are: Subject; Interpretation; Style; Context; and Emotion. It takes time to look in a considered and critical way at a work or Art.

Like any creative expression aimed at some audience, photographs are also subject, at some point, to being looked at, analysed and evaluated in a critical, considered way. The feedback from this is what we call “Criticism” or “A Critique.” This considered, external or self-driven evaluation is the minimum, essential feedback, necessary for improving one’s work.

Working backward through the above list will lead us to this week’s focus. Emotion is basically how we feel about an image. Context is the circumstance around the moment of the image, the greater unspoken dialogue that helps to define the image’s place. Style is the means in which the image is rendered. This can vary from gallery prints to digital scrapbooks and the method of viewing the image. This is intimately tied into the Interpretation, which could involve simple documentation of the subject through to highly complex post processing techniques, not only at the image level but also at the print/displaying level. Lastly, we come to Subject. Images with readily identifiable subjects tend to engage us more than something abstract requiring a conceptualised tangential leap of intellectual faith. The process of identifying and arranging the subject in an image frame is called Composition.

At the end of last week we started to look at ShapeColourTexture, and Pattern. Now we’re going to tie these to some loftier, underlying concepts and culturally charged aesthetics. These are, SymmetryTruthfulnessBalance, and Tension.
Symmetry is probably the number one element at the heart of what we consider to be appealing and attractive.

Truthfulness is a difficult concept, and highly charged. Photography seems to the one medium where people seem to feel that images need to be “true to life” and not manipulated in any ‘devious’ manner in post processing.

If you’re aiming at photo documentation then this is an important aesthetic. If you are intending an ‘artistic’ interpretation of the subject then the degree of reality may actually be a variable and creative element such as in multiple exposures and montages, by way of example. Balance is more about the degree to which colours, shapes, textures, patterns, fore, mid & background element interact with each other and the principle subject. The degree to which the balance of an image moves away from an harmonious juxtaposition of elements is the visual or dynamic tension present. This tension can at times be crucial for communicating and stimulating emotive responses to a particular image.

In Practice
:- This week we will be focusing on understanding how light influences the way we see. Exposure control is critical to defining patterns, shadows and colour within an image.

:- To gain an in-depth understanding on how to control exposure you might want to take a look at The Zone System.

:- Another mystifying device is the Live Histogram Feature on your camera and it’s relation to Dynamic Range.

I know that there’s a lot of reading here, but that’s ok. Take your time to look over each of the links provided. Browse them first for a brief overview. Play with your camera and keep coming back to them to gain greater insight.
As I mentioned at the start these are concepts that will shape and form the foundation of your thinking as you approach any subject with a photographic intent. This is an ongoing, always learning, process that you will keep coming back to time and time again.

Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.

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This Week in Photography – Some Basics

Ok, let’s make a start.Introduction
First off, I’m assuming that “You” will be the principle audience of this series of blog entries and that “You” are interested in improving your skill at taking pictures and using your camera. If this is not you, then you’re still welcome to read along, and interject from time to time, as we go.

So! You’ve got this camera. It’s a great camera. It’s got buttons here and there, a big screen on the back, and a 10x zoom thingy etc. You’ve taken some shots of the kids, snapped a few landscapes and street scenes and even the occasional flower of two. But! The kids are blurry, the landscape’s boring, you can’t remember what it was in that street scene that caught your eye, and the flowers looked, bigger, didn’t they?

You’ve tried reading the manual, but it reminds you of a bad hair day in the middle of a math class, and for whatever reason, you’re just not satisfied with the results. What to do?

Well, first off, welcome to the world of photography. In articulating this dissatisfaction, you’ve taken your first steps on the way to becoming a photographer.

Over the next five weeks we’ll establish a dialogue together, in which we will explore some simple and effective ways of improving your photography. It is my aim that we interactively progress, in a non-sequential manner, through the following areas, that is, we will,

:- examine ways of using your camera
:- discuss aspects relating to light and how we use it
:- practice seeing in a photographic way
:- explore post-processing methods, and
:- establish a basic workflow routine.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get onto the real stuff.

This Week in Photography
This week we’re going to examine two core aspects. These are fundamental to making the most out of taking pictures. One is camera control, the other is what to do with the images you make, i.e. Image management. The process of managing all of this is called Workflow. Simply put, workflow is the method, the recipe if you like, that you use each time to take recorded images and turn them into pictures.

Camera Control.
First up, what do all those pretty icons on the dial, or screen, mean? You should read the manual for your particular camera. By way of introduction though, I’d like you to take a look at Digital Camera Modes from Kodak’s website.

There are a number of different ways to manage the images you collect with your digital camera. First and most likely, you will/should have installed the software that came with your camera. This would allow you to download images from the camera to your computer, store and browse those images and to make some creative changes to your images before sending them of to be printed, displayed on the web or put into an album/scrapbook of some description.

If you haven’t installed your camera’s image management software, you may want to do that first. If you have and you don’t like it then here are some alternatives.

Lightzone and Review
Adobe Lightroom […this is what I use]
Adobe Bridge.

If you have Photoshop then it’s more than likely that you have Bridge as well, but you probably either don’t know about it, or haven’t started to use it. Programs like Lightzone and Lightroom aim to provide, in addition to image library management, non-destructive photo editing.

In Practice
:- Do the reading.

:- Select two Picture Modes, other than “Auto” and take some pictures using them. Try something counter-intuitive, e.g. photograph a building using the flower/macro mode; using portrait mode photograph a fast moving object.

:- Write down the steps you use to get images from your camera into your computer; what you do to edit your images; and, what you do (would like to do) to print/display them.

:- If you don’t use a workflow application, pick one that matches/simplifies your workflow process.

:- Lastly, write down two questions that you have as a result of this week’s reading and post it here in the blog comments.

Most of all, spend time think about what it is you are actually doing with your camera. Do you just, Point & Shoot? Or do you aim to take a deliberate and thought out photograph?

Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.

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