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.

Portraits – Soft light

Softening light is a process in which light is made to evenly fill the viewing area. This can be done in many ways but often the simplest methods are the best. Soft-light is not only about adding light, it also involves making sure that the natural light in your shot is not too concentrated in one place.

Basics: When lighting a surface it is important to light the surface evenly to prevent overlapping coverage. Light is a key element to showing the rise and fall of a surface. So as you can imagine, if a person’s face has areas of their face better lit than others it can give them a very strange appearance.

Softening the light can be done basically two ways by either diffusing the light or reflecting it. Diffusing the light uses a direct light on the subject with a partly transparent piece of material between it and your subject. Lighting companies sell “soft boxes” which fit over the light making it easier to soften the light than holding a diffuser in-front of it for every shot.

Reflecting the light is indirectly lighting your subject by bouncing the light coming from your light source (sun, porch light, strobe, flash, etc) directly on your subject. Indirect or reflected light will not be as “harsh” as it would be from the light source but can still be too harsh if physically placed too close to your subject. So use distance (close or far) to your advantage here as well!

Listed below are some examples of diffusers and reflectors. Have fun and use your imagination! This is the stuff of artistic shooting!

Diffuser:

  • Umbrella (Great for artistic element in a shot too!)
  • Translucent fabric (not darkening fabric)
  • Plexiglas (colored Plexiglas)

Reflector:

  • Water
  • Disk (sold at any videography and photography lighting store)
  • Fill card (Light or dark-colored – darker colors absorbing more light)

Light Has Color? Part 2 – White Balance

Have you noticed some shadows have a little bit of color to them? Clouds for instance; some clouds on mostly clear days have a sort of blue hue to them. I can not help but wonder in noticing this and with the understanding of the how and why rainbows are made we can understand the process of a camera’s White Balance.

Looking at pure light as a simple harmony of ROY G. BIV producing a brilliant “white”, we have laid the foundation to working with camera White Balance. Now camera are not charged only to filter natural sources of light but also other forms of light produced by man-made light sources. Since we have seen that light can be divided into 7 color forms, the basics of our study tell us that we will be dealing with more of 1 color than the other 6. It is possible that we would be dealing with a sever lack of 1 or more colors, but since our color pallette is only based with 7, our filters can be adequately limited.

White Balance is the effort of compensating for the lack of or overdose of a specific color through the use of filters. This is also the job of Image Specialists. One of their most common jobs is “color correction”. So software is outfitted with the ability to manipulate the colors which may lack or overwhelm the captured photo.

For interest sake I have made a list of ways that light is produced, natural and man-made.

Element (Metallic element made to conduct enough energy to glow without quickly exhausting the element’s lifespan.)
Vapor (Gases – Fluorescent, Mercury Vapor and Fire are uses of vapor in proper conditions to yield the production of light.)
Chemical (Liquid – Phosphorescence and Glow sticks)
Electronic (LED)

Take care and do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning is a wonderful opportunity!

Location, Location, Location!

We photographers are able to express ourselves in ways that not many people do. This is not a bad thing, but rather means that we complete a part of communication by still images which otherwise would be non-existent or at the very least different.

Since we find pleasure in communicating through imagery, we desire to learn, grow and become better communicators through our images. Here is something to consider as we learn and grow.

Texture:

I chose my locations mostly by the textures they contain. Personally, I find that too many textures or a texture out of place can throw off the focus of a picture. Thus, when I choose a location (let’s say a train station, since it has a great many textures) I want the person looking at the photo to feel the refreshing cool breeze as they wait on the platform and the rumble of the train as it comes and goes.

Now that I know what I can work on (texture) and how to capture it’s story in a still image, I can begin bring texture into my work as an added element on other photo shoots!

Stay tuned for Friday’s post on using texture as an added photo element.

Rough Start…Smooth Finish

It take a lot of things in co-ordination to bring anything from “good” to “wonderful”.

Images that speak a thousand words, take quite an eye to create or a lot of study, research, patience, experience and knowledge. An artist makes each piece of art with a specific purpose, for an intended group of people, to make a specific statement.

For instance; a writer puts in order his thoughts so as to make a concise point, adding attention grabbing action, descriptive words (to cultivate the reader’s imagination) and a strong story line that answers the questions it creates as well as the anticipated questions of the reader.

A photographer is required to frame the subject of the work so as to draw it out and give it interest. Take a look at how other great artists use the extra space in their works by adding interest with supporting visual aid.

I love texture! I will use a macro lens so often that when I raise my camera to shoot a bird flying over head only to find that I have forgotten what type of lens I am using. Then I catch myself, “What am I thinking? I cannot shoot a bird flying high overhead with a 35mm!” The problem is, I was not thinking!

Notice the use of the rough brick texture to emphasize the soft flowers.

Texture is something that requires the sensory use of touch, a close-up view, hearing or all of the above to notice the differences in the surface. Macro lenses, in a word, are designed to focus at a closer range than wide-angle, tele-photo and tilt-shift lenses. Therefore the macro lens is the champion of lenses when you desire to explore the microscopic worlds within flowers and underneath rocks!

Photography is the artistic expression of how one person (the photographer) sees the world around them. Therefore my body of work displays my interests, unique/creative perspectives, capabilities and even what I believe. Perhaps “just getting by” is not enough to get me out of the “creative slump”, but learning something in the process will add to me as a person and artist.

Take a look at your work and consider “What element would you bring into an image that will raise its value?”