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.

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

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!

Post-Production Software – Part 4

MyPaint is a program designed for the creation of digital art or artistic expression on a digital image in .PNG; . JPEG or .ORA (Open Raster images). Do not worry if you do not understand the “Open Raster” terminology for a file format. This .ORA format will largely only be used by or applicable to professional artists.

For those that do use the Open Raster format, you will be interested to know that you can transfer .ORA images between GIMP and MyPaint.

MyPaint does not as much occur in the daily workflow of a photographer, unless there is a special ordered image to be styled or retouched as a painting.

Parents, this is a wonderful and inexpensive alternative to getting an artistic interpretation of your child’s professional portrait. Using one of your favorite photographs of you child, import the photo in .JPEG (.JPG is the same format) into MyPaint and use the different brushes for your desired effect.

Copyright of Foetoss Light 2012

I took a photo I had taken, imported it into MyPaint and used different brush style to compliment or fit the texture of the surface being altered. Now it has a feel or photograph and hand painting.

Artistically inclined users will find MyPaint intuitive. Be sure to look around the menus. There are many hot keys listed next to the operation in the menu. (The menus being “File”, “Edit” and so on.)

Capabilities: Layers, Brush Styles, Quick Tool Selection, Paper Texture, Single Key Hot-Keys and Quick Working Surface Positioning.

Strengths: The software is very attentive to each detail, including mouse cursor position, touch-pad scrolling and touch-pad selection. These three touch-pad specific things will affect your work by rotating your work surface, zoom in or out or move your work surface in the opposite direction of your mouse cursor’s position. Quite a surprise if you are not expecting the help.

MyPaint is a “light” program meaning that it is quick to respond and resourceful in its operations so as not to require large amounts of CPU time and Swap space. (Those are technical terms for “thinking power” = CPU time and “temporary memory” = Swap space.)

Weaknesses: While I have a hard time saying this, it is true. MyPaint devotes 75% of its power and ability to graphics pads like the Wacom tablets. It is still possible to use the program (MyPaint) without a graphics tablet, but it is not as fluid or convenient. This is not to make a case against the program. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make a program as effective with both graphics tablet and touch-pad.

This is a strong program also young in the market as Darktable. MyPaint is currently on version 1.0. While I have not found bugs in MyPaint, I must confess I do not have the time or experience in the program that I would like.

Each program has its own capabilities, strengths and weaknesses just as we will choose them based on our use for the program’s applicable service.

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.”

The Make-up Of An HDR Photo

This is a completed HDR photo. When making a HDR, you want to add to each element. Be careful not to detract from the photo's statement. In this photo the ray of sunlight on the rock is part of the statement, being "the viewer is in a safe place and cool shade" and still maintaining the cheerful bright awareness of the sun. More details are given in the article below.

Welcome to 2012! I hope the Christmas and New years celebrations were enjoyable and filled with family and friends.

In the tender start of this new year, we began discussing the techniques of photography. We like new perspectives and informative articles, but only when simultaneously woven together in artful story form.

There are so many “HDR tutorials” out there that searching “How to make a HDR photo in (your favorite program here)” will bring one or more tutorials! So I do not intend to make this another tutorial, rather I desire to give some thoughts and insight into what make an HDR photo so impressive.

What creates that “wow” factor in the HDR photos I see? From observation of and experience in photography, a photo well made will have the most detail in the moderate range with light and shadowed areas. The technique of using a High Dynamic Range (speaking strictly of light) is designed to add detail to the light and shadowed areas.

Illustrating what I mean by adding detail to areas of light and shadow, this side-show gives you and idea of what each layer of the HDR image brings to the completed work.

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The basic theory is adding detail to the light and shadowed area of the photo, but the HDR technique adds to much more than simply expanding the detail by diversifying the amount of light between image layers. The High Dynamic Range adds more to a photo in color, definition and detail. Light is central to these three things, but when we speak in terms of light, my mind begins to construct a black and white image in which to better understand the use of light. HDRs add much more than blacks and whites to an image. Light expounds the color spectrum, and this is the basic foundation of a HDR photo.

This is why it will be hard to explain every detail of the HDR technique, because light is the core and many scientists admit that they can not define light, but only explain some of what it does for us.

Here is a parting thought: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (Found in the First Epistle of John; chapter 1 verses 3-5.)

Amazing!

High Dynamic Range

Almost everyone has something to “show off” or say about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. Well, I am like everyone else in that I have played with HDR photos, using it and many other techniques to draw out the beauty of each photo’s subject. However, I can not say that I am completely enamored with HDRs more than any other technique.

So why write about HDRs on your blog if you do not like them more than other techniques, right? Ah, well that is the beauty of appreciating each tool that is at our disposal without over playing any one of them!

Please do not misunderstand my position. I like HDR photos, but I do not want the HDR technique to be so commonly used that it is no more amazing than any ordinary thing! A lot of things should be used in moderation. For example, would you add a tablespoon of salt to your bowl of soup? No! Salt is best used in moderate amounts, often spoken of by saying “add salt to taste.” It is this same principle by which I wish to use the HDR technique.

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HDR photos can be used in several ways. Again, I do not wish to disparage the use of HDR or call it “cheating”, because many things are required in shooting HDR. Just a few examples are:

  1. An in-depth knowledge of lighting.
  2. Vast experience in camera handling.
  3. Pointed expertise with image editing.
  4. Measured speed and timing of the shutter releases.
  5. Knowledge of how your camera sees the scene.
  6. Specific settings for each captured image.

So in no way is it cheating! Certainly some who may speak less of shooting High Dynamic Range photos would be correct to say it is not worth the effort because their ‘niche’ does not cater to the technique. Since I am a “minimalist” photographer, I love HDR for the fact that I can get 3+ photos, edit them together and “voila!” the photo has all of the detail we can naturally see!

Yes, I know that there are good reasons to use flashes and studio strobes; but why, with so many other techniques at my disposal, would I sacrifice the artistic ambiance for using flashes? It seems to me, to use such logic would be the same as saying “I cut my nose off because I run into the stone pillar.” Well okay, Cyrano,  but I would rather utilize all of my standard equipment than remove it because I tried to make it occupy the same space as a solid mass!

One other use of an HDR is to draw out the color of the scene creating a “wow” factor unsurpassed in any form of natural art I have ever seen. I have mainly seen the HDR used in this way for landscapes, seascapes and city scenes.

Thank you for reading!