Workflow – Part 3

Workflows as we discussed in Workflow – Part 2, is supposed to be a logical progression from start to finish. No worries if you do not understand the process outlined in Workflow – Part 2. While the principles will work in whatever project you apply them, the logic or thought process may not be yours. Allow me to give another perspective of this process so that you can break it down for yourself.

A workflow is “a process designed to stop detail loss; to produce the best quality product in the least possible amount of time.” This is my working definition of “workflow”; a dictionary definition gives this meaning: “progress of work: the progress or rate of progress of work done by a business, department, or person”. I have described this at the level of a personal project but will become business if you use it for your photography studio and departmental if your studio hires employees. See how quickly this expands?

Let the progression be your own, but be careful to include the details. In my experience working in the corporate world, one practice run on a workflow is good and two is better but three is wise. I have run it through on paper the first time, working out the major problems. The second time I run it through with friends, explaining to them the details: I ask for their questions, understanding and critiques. Third time through, I take a test product through my process making notes of snags and problems.

Make no mistake, by this time I am tired and ready to quit. This is the point at which you are closest to letting the workflow do your heavy lifting. You are doing a great job!

One of the best ways of making certain your workflow has everything you ought to have in your completed product is to write these details on paper. Documents are your friends!

Back Lighting – Part 5

Since this Back Lighting series started from Jewelry, I figure it only fitting to finish this series with some details of jewelry photography.

These are a few things I have picked up in experience, some of which would have been ever so valuable when I started out! Listed below are a few items and some information about them as to why they are helpful.

Light Stands: They say you never know what you are missing until you do not have it. Well, that is one way of looking at all situations. Me? I prefer to think of what I have as tools which will afford me new learning opportunities. Without throwing a pity-party, I understand that my learning opportunities could expand with more and new equipment, but one of things I do to keep myself financially responsible is checking myself to see that I am “unconsciously competent” with my current line of equipment. Light Stands are very helpful when you want to move lighting versus your subject.

Seamless Background: When shooting in-studio, Seamless Backgrounds are one of the accessories that give the viewer the visual relief that white space without giving the hints of spacial limitation. For some reason wall seams or the corner of the wall and floor took away my pleasure of imagining this one little ring on a table top in the expanses of a large room.

Macro Lens: Macro Lenses are designed with a closer focal range giving the photographer the ability to get closer-in without losing the sharp focus they live on. I cannot say that I have met anyone who did not like to look as closely as they could at the gems in a piece of jewelry they were looking to purchase. Since retail stores know that purchases will rise if the customer can see the product, the store managers will pay photographers very well for being able to capture the sharpest most accurate picture of the product they sell.

Jewelry Wax: For those pieces of jewelry that simply will not stand on their own without some help. I have read many photographers who insist on not paying more than absolutely necessary for wax used in jewelry shots, so they substitute dental wax. Personally, I am careful what I substitute for a product designed for a purpose. Waxes take many forms. Jewelry Wax is designed to be “sticky” without leaving residue or wax on the jewelry. I have not yet been able to test any other wax on my jewelry sets to determine if residue truly will be a problem. I am sure I will post about it at some point, after the testing is complete. *Grin*

God bless!

Back Lighting – Part 2

Specifics on soft-box set-up:

Lighting the space behind and around your subject requires a lot of care, patience and finesse.

Controlling the amount of light taken into the camera is another important concept to understand when trying to utilize the style of Back Lighting. We discussed controlling the amount of light your camera receives in “Camera Troubles” through “Part 6” and how it is based on the operation of the human eye, nervous system and brain.

Lighting for jewelry is a tricky occupation because of the many shiny surfaces we so enjoy not just of the metal but the gems too. Back Lighting jewelry uses the least direct lighting in my opinion. (I say in my opinion, because like any other profession you will find many an expert who: knows what others do not and used or has seen extremes which others have not. Yes, truly this is experience and opinion wrapped up into one statement.)

There are a couple of ways to back light a subject even in a “light-box”. The first way is to reflect the light off of the back drop. Another way is to light the object through the sheer fabric of the soft box back. I created a kind of soft box, only because I diffused the major lights in my set-up.

So my basic point is; there is no need to buy soft boxes if you are not focusing on staged macro photography. Have fun and improvise with the equipment you have or invest in basic equipment that you can re-use for other projects. Soft boxes are not designed to eliminate all shadows but do a very good job of softening them, especially since setting up proper lighting means more than one light source which the soft box technique so easily facilitates.

Step 1: Soften harsh lighting.

Post-Production Software

Where do I start? Where can I find good software which will not require me to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy? Now, I am exaggerating and being very sarcastic. Let me be clear. All of the software which is sold by companies like Adobe, Corel, Sony, Canon & Nikon, cost a bit more than most of us would spend on a whim. They are well priced to cover the cost of production, packaging and shipping as well as hopefully a proper amount of profit.

All of that production, shipping and profit adds up to a lot of money for private users and even small businesses. So is there effectively operative software that is free?

Here are a few free programs of which I know to operate well at basic level.

Now, GIMP and “Darktable” I know have versions which will run on Windows and Linux operating systems, but “MyPaint” I have only found for Linux distributions.

You can read about these programs on sourceforge.net or on their own websites and they will provide links from which to download the software.

I would like to give you a brief overview of each program from the photographer’s point of view which will not be included in the information to be found on sourceforge.net.

GIMP is an image manipulation program. In fact, “Image Manipulation Program” are the last three-quarters of the program name. GIMP is an abbreviation for “Gnome Image Manipulation Program.” It operates with simple tools to edit, create and manipulate digital graphics files. It saves the completed files in several formats such as .PNG .GIF .BMP and its own native format .XCF. The .JPEG format is proprietary so it requires the download of the .JPEG package to save images in this format, but it is still free and completely possible to enable. GIMP is not a program that is hard to learn or void of tutorial lessons on any topic you may desire to read.

Do not fear, we will get into more specifics of each program in future posts.

“Darktable”: I only recently downloaded and installed “Darktable” on my computer, so I will be learning “on the fly” and sharing it with you. If you know about the functionality of “Adobe LightRoom” you will take up “Darktable” quickly and with a great amount of skill. I will describe though the basics of its operations without the predication of our prior experience with “Adobe LightRoom”. “Darktable” is a program that is designed to make working with a group of photos from a shoot and streamline the process of post-production, maximizing your time without compromising the quality of the photo. How does that work? Please be patient and we will discuss that in-depth in a future post.

“MyPaint” is a program designed for the digital artist who uses digital equipment like Graphics Tablets. “MyPaint” is designed not so much for editing images as creating them. “MyPaint” does not require a Graphics Tablet, but its capabilities are certainly optimized by using a Graphics Tablet.

Please “tune-in” Friday for Part 2 of “Post-Production Software”!

Camera Troubles – Part 4

With this basic knowledge we have built on the human Eye and how the camera lens was designed from the model of the Eye, I would like to venture into some observations of human vision.

Again please take note of my disclaimer from Camera Troubles, “I am not an Optometrist”, so I am not attempting to prove anything for or against medical science but observing our ability and capability.

We have some magnificent capabilities to see detail in deep shadows while focused on well-lit objects. It is in fact this ability that I find most fascinating, because I have tried to  figure out whether I had looked into the shadows subconsciously noting the detail or if I am seeing that wide a spectrum of detail. In either case, the ability to see the wide range of detail in light or shade is a characteristic that I have not yet found innate within a camera, but I find it most common in creatively thinking people.

There are some ways to achieve the look of detail in shadow while focusing on the lit focal point. Before going to the topic of how the camera see a scene, we would do well to better understand what and how we see.

I have a hard time discerning the varying degrees of light and how well the area is lit where I am shooting. This I know from experience and so now I take some test pictures before getting into the heat of the photo shoot. This tells me some amazing things about my Eye sight. The Iris opening so wide that I do not notice the slight shadows between light fixtures and my Brain filling-in details of the wall paneling. We have an awesome device in our Brain to automatically fill-in such detail! Thank God for giving us such magnificence to be used and shared!

Now we have not discussed the process in-depth of taking the photo after exposure from the Sensor to Storage. So in the next posts in this series, I plan to explore “The Data Transfer” and “What the camera sees of what I do.”

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!