Terms – Exposure

I have written several posts that mention photos should be properly “exposed”. What does it mean to properly expose a photo? Good question. That is exactly the issue I intend to demystify.

“Back in the day” when every photographer used film to capture a scene for posterity the process included light rays piercing the film and chemical coating. When I refer to exposure, it is based on this process and how long the film is “exposed” to the light. If the film was left available to light it will be unintelligibly “bleached”.

So what this means in our digital world is we look at our digital exposures for areas that does not accurately represent the colors of our scene.

Proper exposure is not dependent on your field of photography. For example, a photo-journalist does not use a different measure for proper exposure than a commercial portrait photographer would. Each vocation specialty may prefer different exposures for their purposes, but there is one common key; they all want their subject in this range of proper “exposure”. We will discuss this more in-depth in our next post “Terms – Exposure 2”.

Exposure is effected by length of shutter speed, amount of added light (flash, strobe or constant) and lens aperture. All of these we have covered in earlier posts. For now, what are the keys that will help us discern a proper exposure?

Detail – How much detail is visible in the photograph? Detail represents the photographic subject and the surrounding scene.

Depth of Shadow – How dark are the shadows in the photograph? This will cause detail to be obscured.

Bright areas without detail – What areas in the photograph are saturated with more light than necessary? This will cause detail to not be visible.

As you look through pictures take some time to look at shadows and bright areas. Look for detail and consider other places the photographer could have stood for more or less light to expose the shot.

Revisiting “Darktable” – Part 2

I am not afraid to tell you, with my list of attributes it was not easy finding the right software package that fit them all. However software development companies have strategy sessions and customer feed back venues for just this purpose to develop their software to be the most applicable and versatile tool for the user available on the market. So do not be afraid to make a list of your desired software attributes.

Finding the software specifics:

Lightroom: Yes, to all but editing, and a drawback for investment. However, investment is not a bad thing, because it gives some assurance to customer support and software development.

Darktable: Yes, to all but editing. GPL and free downloadable installation. Good for starting, but how versatile is it really being free?

Aperture: Yes to all but editing and sharing to personal web albums. Is paying less than half for Aperture worth lacking the workflow to web sales? Not for me as workflow is very important.

Finding software to fit your situational requirements is research intensive, ending with all hope in an ideal solution. The start of the research period is difficult because no description of the program is the same as I search it. So the best form of research is to take the tact of searching “similar program to” the program with which you are familiar.

I have used and was familiar with Adobe Lightroom, so searching for similar programs was not easy to find, but I was familiar with the aspects of the program I sought. If my research ended with no other results, my opportunity to invest into Adobe Lightroom was a primary option for business workflow. Having found Darktable by interest from a recommendation I search it through the developer’s website “darktable.org” and found it very informative.

It is also beneficial to make informative contacts within your market description in or outside your market area. This is how I found out about the Mac software “Aperture”. Using resources for information and helping them by giving useful information is a great support in business and among hobbyists.

Service is important whether payment is rendered or with “gratis” consider its worth in relationship gained more than capital. Business is built and is maintained on relationship not spontaneously occurring capital gain.

Revisiting “Darktable”

In a post last year, we discussed software packages for photography workflow and one of them is named “Darktable”.

I am always on the hunt for software and hardware that will give me optimal performance with minimal effort to help me through an intense product workflow. After looking into other software packages for my specific criterion, I came down to two options. Let me walk you through my list and then we will discuss the process to get here.

This is a list of basics that are crucial  to portrait, scenery and still life photography:

  1. Editing power for spot removal, elemental selection tools and layering work. This ability must either be a part of the software package or ability for integration with an editing program. [These things are important for manipulate and image without also misrepresenting anything within the photo.]
  2. RAW adjustment ability for exposure, white balance, contrast, color pushing and pulling, Tonal adjustments, etcetera.
  3. Cropping photos in batch files to certain common print sizes and digital device resolution.
  4. Quality assurance is a particularly important part. No customer wants a picture that is unfocused or has poor quality. So the program should accurately read and adjust the printing quality of a photo in dot per inch (DPI).
  5. Upload batches of files to personal web albums and other public albums on commercial websites or social media for advertising.
  6. Intuitive Workflow through the program is a great help while not “necessary”, is better to have functions and menus organized and accessible without multiple steps.

Software packages like Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture will not contain as powerful manipulation processes as Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Paintshop Professional. That is why I said it should at-least be capable of import/export integration with the manipulation software.

Now that I have explained my list of software package attributes I wanted, I will discuss Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture in our second blog post this Friday.

Cameras & Light

Light is an incredible “force” in creation, and just in case you do not believe me, study the effects of light on plants (Photosynthesis), or the ability to permanently transfer the image of an object onto paper with light-sensitive photo paper. Even more so our fragile camera sensors demonstrate just how easy it is to get too much light in a shot, reminding us of the awesome power that we often take for granted.

I should have begun to realize just how powerful light is when most if not all of the camera settings and accessories work to shade the camera from full light or regulate the amount of light so as to properly expose the object in focus. The purpose of photography is not to fight light, but to work with it. Now I am not talking about anything zen or mysterious, I am talking about practical actions and changes to technique so that you will not feel as if you are swimming up-stream but letting the river carry you to your destination.

So how do I work with light? Slow down you exposure settings. Bring your ISO down from 1600 or 800 down to 100 or 200. Raise your aperture from f/1.8 to f/13 and breathe. Yes, it is true you will not be shooting very often at 1/250 of a second anymore. On the other hand, you will begin shooting higher quality photographs and have the opportunity to see possibilities for new shooting styles! When I started making this switch, I began getting more compliments on my pictures than ever before.

Quality is not something someone will always point out as a reason they like one photo over another, but when higher quality means the difference between eyes being out of focus or in, I am certain we all would choose higher quality and in focus!

Keep learning! It is the best way to grow.

Back Lighting

Back Lighting in very broad terminology can be used to describe many different photography styles, however it speaks directly to the way that the light illuminates the subject. We will not have the space in this post that would be required to discuss all of these options, but I will provide a list of shot types for you to play with and perhaps we will be able to return to discuss them in more detail at a later date.

Back Lighting is exactly what it sounds like, putting the part or all of the lighting source behind the subject to highlight their outline in light. In using light this way it is possible to capture silhouettes; Wash-out or over expose the back ground (giving a different appearance to the location); Add an infinite amount of light around your subject without making a harsh contrast in shadow and Vignetting. All of these options have more to do with camera settings than lighting, although lighting is still required. So enjoy your time playing with these things; now we will work more on the theory and practical work of Back Lighting.

Necessary equipment:

  • Reflector
  • Flash
  • Studio lights
  • Soft box
  • Bright light source in the background (it is cheaper to work with multiple light sources)
  • Tripod
  • Remote Shutter Release

Setting up your camera for success.

  • High aperture
  • Low ISO
  • Moderate shutter speed (1/10th – 1 second)
  • Prime focal lens (50mm optimal for portraits)

A slow shutter speed is not required for any reason other than to make sure the subject is properly exposed rather than the background. Feel free to shorten the shutter speed if you have enough light to do so. Obviously I know a small amount about photography, but just because I know something does not guarantee that I know everything. So play with you camera settings and have a ball getting the best photos you can!

Photographing Jewelry

I do not want to sound as if I were driven by spontaneity or a business owner who makes impulsive decisions, because that would not be accurate; however I will say that when it comes to writing blog posts my plans do change. When planning the possible topics for the blog, I sometimes form a temporary schedule for publishing which take on new priorities after some time away giving me time to reconsider their publishing order. So let me tell you why I think this post is better published today versus Friday: This post will inform you of many different ways for setting up the lighting for your photographic subject.

The photo you see below is one that I took as I found some good techniques on my own with the equipment I had available.

I will list here some of the best techniques to be used in the jewelry section of photography.

The best lighting set-ups:

  • Back Lighting
  • Diffused and Direct Lighting
  • Direct and Reflected Lighting

Shooting techniques:

  • High Aperture / Long Exposure (Larger Focal Plane)
  • Moderate Aperture / Short Exposure (Moderate Focal Plane)
  • Low Aperture / Fast Shutter Speed (Small Focal Plane)

Setting additions:

  • Wax to hold pieces in place.
  • Glass or Lexan (surface for reflection)
  • Modeling Services

Of course there is always the option of hiring me and my services. *Grin* Okay, enough of that. Get ready for the specifics on the lighting set-ups in the subsequent posts!

Canon Camera Production

This post will be a little shorter in words with an informational video on Canon’s production process of their camera lines. This video includes the consumer models as well as the professional Digital SLR cameras.

I find the specific science in making these camera parts amazing. These are the physical makings (or hardware) of the camera and the side we utilize most as photographers is the computer processing (or software) side as we change ISO, Aperture, White Balance, Single shot or Multiple Photo Burst shooting, Timed Shutter Release, Shutter Speed and Picture Style. Both are discussed in this embedded video. Thank you for reading and God bless!

*Disclaimer: I would have given a “Part 2” on Nikon manufacturing process of imaging products but as of today I have only been able to find lens assembly with no more detail or information than Canon in the video posted above. I will be more than happy to post a professional video of Nikon’s manufacturing process (after review), if publicly posted on vimeo, youtube or similar public forum.

Shooting In A Low-Light Situation

I do not often have the opportunity to shoot with other equipment other than my Canon SLR camera body and lenses. However this week, I was asked several times at a convention to use other people’s cameras for differing shots. Now that I have some experience with other cameras I have a few tips that will help you take better pictures in low-light situations.

First off, I would like to define what “low-light” means. Very often “low-light” is any situation indoors. “Low-light” is not having enough light for your camera to shoot a well exposed photo at the following settings:

  • ISO 200
  • 1/30 of a second or faster
  • At your preferred Aperture setting (I prefer to shoot at an average of 13)

(I understand that not all of you, my readers, have cameras which allow you to set each of these settings independently of the others or options such as Aperture. If your camera does not give you the option, disregard the information and work with shutter speed and/or ISO.)

Cameras as we have discussed see things differently than we do even though they are based off of our visual capability. If you wish to understand more about this, please refer to the blog posts “Camera Troubles through Camera Trouble – Part 6“.

Here are the tips that I have promised will help you capture better photos with less motion blur and camera shake.

Say you are in a hall with a person on stage who is lit with a spot light. You subject of the photo is the person on stage and you are currently in the darker corner of the hall.

  1. Get closer to you subject (physically).
  2. Zoom away from your subject (using a wider viewing angle).
  3. Step into the light of the spot light.

Hint #1 is a practical help by the principle of object relativity. For the rest of us non science majors, motion is more easily seen and anticipated when the viewer is more closely located to the viewed object or person. Yes the object will more quickly leave you viewing area, but movement is more fluid and easily tracked in closer proximity than further away.

Hint #2 is a light receiving issue. The more light that your camera receives the faster your shutter speed. The further your lens is extended means the less light is being received within the same shutter speed as if you were to shoot at widest angle. This works because if forces you to get closer to the light source.

Hint #3 allows more light into your camera lens and will adjust your shutter speed.

Enjoy!

Camera Troubles – Part 3

The Correlation Of Physical Human Vision And Photography Camera truly makes a lot of sense when the purpose of each part is clearly explained!

As we have studied in the last two blog posts (Camera Troubles & Camera Troubles – Part 2) the camera Lens is comparable to our Cornea, Iris and Pupil. The Lens glass is designed to focus and adjust for telephoto. The camera Lens is comprised of at-least two pieces of glass (I say “at-least” because there are “Prime Focal Lenses” and “Variable Distance Lenses” which we call “Zoom lenses”.), the first being the lens we can see and should refrain from touching; the second being capable of moving microscopic distances for the purpose of focusing.

Perhaps this is a bit more theory than anyone would choose to know. Although I would not be writing this series of posts if I did not believe this information would benefit you as you daily take joy in photographing your life and the wonderful moments with your loved ones.

In side the camera Lens is the Diaphragm adjusted in stops which we photographers call “f/stop” or “Aperture”. The solid and flat construction of the Diaphragm is a little hard to explain, but let me tell you about its purpose; it is designed to adjust the opening in small amounts to regulate the saturation of light to reach the Sensor. This is the same purpose that our Iris serves by regulating the size of our Pupil and allowing just the right amount of light to pass onto our Retina.

The camera’s Sensor is a sensitive piece of equipment because it is made to be able to see things in relatively low lit situations. In fact I would say that the Sensor is the most delicate pieces of a camera when subjected to light. If anyone remembers the days of film photography, the Sensor in our digital cameras are the modern replacement of film. Do you remember looking for the right “film speed” and handling one film set after another? Oh the questions I had; and the answers I received were such an education! The camera Sensor and its inspiration our Retina (even the original film) are designed to be sensitive to light, leaving temporary impressions to be received into our memory.

There is a notable difference between our Eye and a camera’s Sensor system. The difference is this, Our Eye sees things in continuous motion and high rates of speed (something along the lines of video), whereas the camera is designed to see things as individual momentary pieces of halted time.

This is a lot of fun to discover new things about our camera! There is more to discover about the camera and some specifics as to how we can get the best out of them. Stay focused; we will capture some more details later this week!

Camera Troubles – Part 2

I can be quickly angered with myself because I lack the understanding of how my own camera sees the same scene I do. Not only that, but if I did have the understanding of how my camera see the scene, I do not anticipate that I have the dexterity to change the camera settings in the time it takes to raise the camera to my Eye once I see a shot. Although, because I know why I am angered, I can learn what I do not know. So, let us get to it!

In Tuesday’s post “Camera Troubles” we talked about how our Eye receives light and the path it takes through our Eye to the Brain. Now I should tell you that your visionary organisms are so magnificently fashioned no camera can compare to its spectrum of strength, complexity and ability.

Cameras are doing some amazing and spectacular things today, but the camera which outputs the most fantastic images is only at a basic level able to capture 1 out of the 100 things the Human Eye sees. Amazingly, even giving it a 1 out of 100, is being generous.

The camera is fashioned after the organisms that give us the capabilities to see. By displaying the inspiration for the first camera prototype I will list and correlate the major devices of the digital camera to the human capability of vision.

Major camera devices:

  • Lens – The lens containing glass for focusing and diaphragm for measured light control.
  • Shutter – The shutter is a part of an SLR camera which covers the sensor and only opens for the purpose of taking a picture.
  • Sensor – The sensor receives the light which surrounds the scene.
  • Processor – The processor receives the information from the sensor and sets it in order for storage.
  • Storage – The storage is a memory card that can produce any or all of the images you have taken.

Cameras, film and digital, are wonderful devices we can use to remind us of those specials times and events. There are some limitations of camera technology as compared to our visual capabilities.

“So how do I learn the difference between what my camera sees and what I see?”

“What settings ought to be change, and what is the proper setting level?”

These and other questions will be answered in our first two posts of April. Please join us as we explore how to get the most out of your camera!