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.

Reflections

Have you seen something that makes your mind race with questions and anticipation to record what you see in photograph? I have and spent the last 4 years attempting to fashion in my photographs the wow factor that I see with my eyes. It is a challenge!

If you are like me, it is the challenge that gets me excited. I am motivated by my perception of reward and that reward is learning how to compose the shot. I am not satisfied with just getting the shot. If I cannot reproduce the shot in some form or another, I did not learn the composition and structure of the shot well enough.

I recently photographed reflective objects. It is by experience in photographing these objects that I learn how to better expect the reflection placement.

For an illustration, the reflective ornaments in the linked picture sat in a bowl in the display window of Neiman Marcus. After taking the image I cropped the photo and displayed it; a friend asked where I was in the reflection because there was “no way I could not be in the photo!”

Truly, I did not edit myself out of the photo. I am sure that crossed many minds who looked at the photo, but in this case I found the one place where I could blend into my background with my black jacket and black camera body. Being in the city at night shooting a reflective object can have its advantages.

It is interesting however, literally every thing else is reflected in the ornaments!

I also want to include this statement; I knew reflection of myself was “inevitable” so I did my best to compose the shot as best I could and deal with my reflection. I was blessed to have taken this placement for shooting and learned from my own “accidental genius”. *Grin*

Portraits – Versus ? Part 2

Stock Photography is a field of scope more broad than portraiture because it does not cause an emotional attachment alone.

Stock (at-least in my opinion) includes styles Commercial, Product, Scenic, Wildlife, Botany, Oceanic, Astronomic, Architectural and Historical opportunities giving objects to be the primary focus in the photo.

Portraiture ought to emphasize the person over their surroundings, even if the photograph is not designed to prominently showcase the subject.

The difference between Stock and Portraiture is in the photograph’s use. For instance, a company selling a consumable product will use a photograph of the product for visual communication is a use of stock but meant to sell a different product than the photograph.

The Stock Photography industry is designed to sell photographs, rather than photographs being used to sell other products.

It is important to consider the purpose of the photograph whether displaying it in home or sale. Just as a photographer is critiqued for how they captured the subject and displayed the photo’s purpose, so an image out-of-place or incompatible with its surroundings is important to consider when placed.

If a portrait is placed in a photo frame intended to be used as a stock photograph but is an obvious portrait of the subject, it looks out-of-place as it sits on the store shelf. There are aesthetic changes that can be made to the portrait to show the commercial use, but without these changes it would seem that someone had left a framed photo at the store as they shopped for a new picture frame.

The same principle applies to stock photography. If a person or an object is in the photograph distracting from the photographic statement, it is better to change perspectives or wait until the person leaves the frame and not “shoot around them”.

One of the best investments in a shot is time. Do not be afraid to invest!

Portraits – Versus ?

Stock Photography is not well-known by that name publicly, but what is the true difference between Stock Photography and Portraiture?

This is as basic as I can make it without getting into a bunch of tedious details:
Portraiture often if not always requires or at-least involves an existing emotional attachment between the customer and subject which was photographed.

Stock requires no emotional attachment to the photographed subject, but draws from interest in design, style or object. (Perhaps even an emotion but coming from a experience or time in a place and not a relationship with the photographed subject.)

Stock photography ranges from advertising art for retail stores to examples of the effects of dentistry cleaning products. It is used to illustrate the help or use of the product in your daily projects.

Blogging cooks use stock photography to show the completed recipe as many readers are visually motivated over reading or hearing.

As you can see with these two examples Stock photography appears in many places and we do not even take notice of the kind of photography.

Internet sales use a stock photograph of the product to show what the product looks like accompanied the functions of the product in written description. This is not false advertising because these mass-produced items are all made the same and function the same. On the other hand sites like eBay, and other auction sites very carefully manage their resources so as not to misrepresent the product they sell but also tell the customer that this specific product. The reason for this detail is for the purpose that the customer is aware of the precise condition of the product whether new, unopened, used, partially functional or non-functional.

Photography is used as a visual description sometimes because we have put great stock in the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Often pictures are used as the best way to communicate what seems to lack in word.

Portraits – Candid

Candid shots can be hard to pick out from a few select pictures because posing does not have to show the subjects awareness of the photographer. However for our purposes we will call those posed shots candid anyway for simplicity’s sake.

What does “Candid” really mean? :

“Truthful and straightforward; frank.
(of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.”

So we could even say that the most important quality of a candid photo is not, the lack of knowledge on the part of the subject but how truthful the image is to practical life versus our Utopian fantasy. This is not to say, a photo should include our frustration, irritation and messes, but rather kept simple and uncomplicated.

Is that easier said than practically applicable? Perhaps, although here are some suggestions to inspire your own creativity for simplicity.

  1. Focus on your subject and what has drawn their attention.
  2. Beware of your frame corners so as not to include distractions.
  3. Intentionally use backgrounds that support your shot and not stealing your viewer’s attention.

Focusing on your subject and the object holding their attention: Using a macro lens will crop a lot of the surrounding scenery bringing your focus to rest on your subject and their object of attention.

Being aware of what your frame corners catch which may distract a viewer is easy to forget. In fact I have found that if I am not paying attention I still catch minor undesirables. It can sound like photography is an art impossible to meet or only for the totally devoted  who do nothing else but study for the next super-image. I can nearly guarantee you this is not the case in most photographer’s cases.

Intentionally using backgrounds that are not flashy or precisely perfect have helped me draw out more of my subject’s presence versus a nice scenic shot with a presence.

History Immortalized

One of my favorite periods of history is the 1800’s. From this time we gained several wonderful entrepreneurial inventions, one of them being the camera, but I enjoy most from this point in history, the active intent of men and actually believing in something for which they held to be worth dying. Those from this time, whose auto-biographies we can read today were very capable of articulating their reasons for their decisions and from this basis did not hesitate in their action to accomplish them.

What do these things have in common with cameras? I recently visited a replication of the “Arlington House” which was the residence of Gen. Robert E. Lee (Commanding Officer of the Confederate States of America Army). He with millions of others took a stand for what they believed. They knew the cost and consequence of their decision, but they were willing to pay it. General Lee would make comments of his decision to participate in war like; “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it!”

It is the vision of Foetoss Light to produce images that articulate truth to our viewers. Among these truths are Life, Joy, Peace, Liberty, Right and Moral Purity.

As we photograph our children, travels and the world around us, we are cataloging our time in history for generations to come as the auto-biographers and historians of the 1800’s did for us. Let us be honest, pure, honorable, respectable, loving, intentional, articulate, wise and true about our beliefs, the consequences of our choices and product of our time spent among the living.

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Inkscape and Darktable

In our discussion of Darktable in “Post-Production Software 3” I briefly mentioned watermarks and proceeded to move on. I am grateful to announce that I have successfully added a watermark to Darktable and now able to discuss the details with you!

It really is as simple as Darktable makes it out to  be in the resources section.

Having downloaded and installed “Inkscape”. I was able to import the image I created as my studio watermark and saved it off as an “SVG” file. Now that the “SVG” file is created, it can be moved to the watermark folder. The “watermark” folder may not be in the given file location listed in Darktable’s user manual. I did some searches and had each folder list its content until I found the “watermark” folder. Making sure to catalog the folder location I moved the “SVG” file into it and started the Darktable program to make sure it saw the file for watermarking. (If you place the watermarking file in the “watermark” folder while the program is running, use the reload button to the right of the watermark menu.)

Once your watermark is in place, you can change its position or check the box next to “blend” and change the layering modes as well as the opacity of the watermark.

One caution in using “Inkscape” for creating watermarks. When working with layers, be sure to merge all of your layers properly or you will come out with a blank box for text. For

example, below is an example of my mess-up. Watermarking the photo is no problem, however, I was hoping to display my website URL while claiming the intellectual rights of my photograph.

As you can see in the lower right hand side there is a short, white rectangle which was supposed to contain my website URL. I cannot win them all, I guess! This is a good illustration though of learning from mistakes instead of letting the mess-up dictate my choices and attitudes. Each mess-up is an opportunity to learn something new!