Terms – Exposure 2

So what is the difference in exposure between photography fields? The answer may be more fascinating than you realize.

Without an in-depth knowledge of a science it seems basic and small. Thus it would seem incapable of containing enough product for very many markets. However they more the science is studied and further discoveries are taken the science’s markets begin exploding with possibilities. Within each market is a specialized way of dealing with the product for that market. Allow me to explain:

A coin to the founder is equal to his time, resources and product used in minting it. To a collector (still in the market of the numismatist) this coin no longer holds only the value of the coin upon its date of minting, but now any more historical and geographical significance, making its value increase (besides the rising value of precious metals).

To photograph such an item as marketed to a collector, he will be interested in seeing the coin’s condition, its inscriptions, distinguishing marks and a clear representation of the metal color. This suggests to the photographer a specific method of lighting, absence of artistic embellishment and being close up for the best view of the coin’s condition. Can we safely say this requires skill and vocational specialization? Yes, without a doubt.

Take the same coin but in a different market. This coin is not being photographed to a market focus on collectors but sold to a precious metals store who pays out cash to the seller. Photography in this market (if used) would most probably focus on damage detail, over-all likeness and any metallic tarnishing. While these shots are close enough in description, the execution and lighting set-up of the shots are quite different.

While the subject is lit just as well in both shots, the lighting is different because of the market’s push for equal, over or under exposure of the background in reference to the subject. The details of how this is accomplished is still a new topic of discussion.

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.

Skin Tone

People can become upset when ethnicity is brought up, which is not my intention in this post. This post simply is to draw out the courtesy which photographers should extend to others whom may have preference to their appearance.

Skin tones vary from person to person and it is not so much the slight variations we will discuss here, but the contrasting tones.

Photography, as we have been discussing on recent posts, is in general terms the art of capturing the subject in the “perfect lighting”, or as I have put it “properly exposing” your focal point.

An interesting point of history quickly; the use of the word “expose” comes from the time when film was the standard medium product for transferring current events to two-dimensional record because of the chemical reaction begun as the film comes into contact with light and the heat created by it. Thus the film was “exposed” to light and heat.

Light sensors in our cameras can be tricky especially when in this case we want to be sure that we show-off the face of our subject. If that means taking a darker shot so that our subject is not “washed-out” or adding light so that our subject is not a silhouette, we know what should be added to make that great shot.

Family photos are always more appreciated too when mom can see the each face of her loved and ever irritating children. (Oops! Did I just type that?) It is important however to realize that art is not void of science and utilizing the foundation of science for artistic creativity in your family photos, is exactly the inspiration we desire for you. I may sound like an expert, but please remember an expert is only a drip, under pressure. So please, enjoy your leisure!

Learning Your Equipment – Part 4

Learning the capability of your equipment and how it will see a scene you shoot and utilizing that knowledge, I think is a skill akin to that of Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso or Rembrandt van Rijn. You think this is a little over stated? Perhaps not. Not only will you notice the shading caused by the light, the setting around your subject and how you want to set-up your shot, but when your new skill is perfected you will be able to estimate with some certainty the shutter speed necessary to render your subject perfectly lit.

As I have personally begun my own education in estimating shutter speed in connection with proper exposure, I understand it takes a little time and thought before pushing the shutter button. I was the impatient student ready to push the shutter button expecting a miraculous photo worth thousands of dollars. Even if I were completely talented, talent can be formed and shaped. So now I understand the value of learning the basics and the power of their effects in a photo. So get ready: Here we launch into a few practical steps to learn and practice in “self-metering” light.

Where is your subject? Sitting in light, with face shadowed? The location of your subject relative to your light source is important to note because a person’s face is a delicate surface to capture.

What is the part of your subject you want properly lit? Eyes more specifically than only the face for best expression. What I meant by a person’s face being a delicate surface to capture is that being so well-shaped it is deeply shaded or over lit. Proper lighting may require a longer exposure time than you are used to, but keep a tripod or mono-pod on hand to help steady your camera.

How is the background lit in contrast to your subject? Is the background part of the photo as you planned? Be sure to plan steps to include the background elements essential to your designed shot.

Leaning Your Equipment

I have talked a lot about learning as much about my equipment as possible before investing in something new or additional for the studio. I almost did not take my own advise. Let me tell you a story.

I have become “lazy” in the digital part of photography by letting my camera suggest the proper exposure time for a photo. I usually shoot in manual mode with my Canon Rebel xTi, but I have only used half of the capabilities given to me in manual mode.

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Just yesterday as I was on an errand, I looked into the sky to see some of the most beautiful clouds back-lit by the sun. So I got my camera, made sure my settings were proper for shooting into the sun. Raising my camera to my eye and observing the metering, it showed that the photo would have been much to over-exposed for the style of shot I was seeking, so I forgot the meter and raised my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second. Then as the instinctive digital photographer I am, I looked at the LCD screen to see how the shot came out. *Fail Buzzer*

I have wanted to distance myself from these “fail-safe” practices by pursuing extensive education in film photography. I wanted to know what the conditions for a shot around me were as well as knowing how to manipulate the camera settings to get the best shot for style, exposure or journalism.

So I began asking myself, why I thought film would help me accomplish this goal. My answer came to this: “Film is 1 set quality of ISO per roll.” Thus the ISO cannot be easily changed without risking the exposed film.

Guess what? I can start this training by setting my digital camera ISO and refrain from changing it. This will give me only the options to change shutter speed and aperture to best suit my shooting preferences. While this will not keep me from watching the camera meter I can accomplish my goal in maintaining a certain ISO quality and working with more effective resources.

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!

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.”

“Rules”

You could say that I have never grown up because I keep bending or breaking every rule I have ever been taught! Not to worry there are a few rules that I have learned can not be bent or broken.

Rules as they apply to photography though are a different story! Each photograph is made for the purpose of communicating a message. Not every message is formatted the same way as every other, and thus you have creative expression! Just as with crafting a message in language, framing a picture requires some insight, forethought and creativity.

For example, in photography there is a rule named “the rule of thirds.”

This photo illustrates the rule of thirds. The white space of the corn field, even the sky in the mirror. The mirror frame provides the containment for the subject and finally the road leads you to the subject which is a farm house.

Each image requires a third to consist of “white space”, the second third of “framing” and the final third being your “interest” or focal point. There are many ways of making this “rule of thirds” way too restrictive! On the other hand it can provide a wonderful guideline as you frame your next photographic interest.

Do not obsess with getting an exact third each time you release your shutter, only focus on a third until it is naturally formed every time you lift that camera to your eye. If you shoot every day, a week maybe all the time you need. If you do not shoot a frequently, say a minimum of 3 times a week, I would suggest 4 weeks. Again, this is setting a rule hard and fast of the time it takes us to learn. I merely suggest these time frames to give a bench mark so that you may set your goal reasonably so as not to burn out.

Here’s a little humor on the lines of “Burn Out” for your pleasure:

Original found on Despair.com

So please do not take my suggestions so seriously as if you were to carry them out that you will be a better photographer. Perhaps you would be and then again my attitude may be far too aggressive causing you to burn out. That would surely be a sad event and one that I would be ashamed to cause!

Besides the “rule of thirds”, other guidelines are utilizing leading lines, lighting techniques, focus points,  setting for the point of view and best perspectives for starters! I find it most helpful to take a rule and break it down into manageable portions.

I suggested working on one-third of your photo when speaking of the “rule of thirds”, and this illustrates how something can be brought to manageable portions to learn one piece at a time. For leading lines, practice shooting only leading lines and then when you feel comfortable with adding something, add a subject and use the leading line to draw your viewer toward the subject.

I truly does not need to be complex. Some of the best photos are the simplest in message.

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!