Terms – Perspective

Taking a perspective on an object can show its many sides. I refer to a view as illustrated below as perspective versus squared.

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By perspective I mean that one part of the object is further away from the viewer than the rest. I have found that looking at an object from more than one of its sides gives me a better idea of how I best like to see it.

Learning how to take a photo of something from the angle I like to see it can be more challenging than first expected but it will come in time. Start by using one lens only and find its range of limitations. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment. Observe and learn how what you photograph may seem distorted or disproportionate as compared to reality. All of these things give a “perspective” and will help us learn what to avoid as well as how to make this look if ever we want to use it. Learning in this way teaches us a more thorough understanding of our equipment and technique than if we learned only by textbook. Experience is key. Schools and employers both know this so do not feel like you are cheating or being cheated. This is a natural learning process that some professionals wish they had more of early on in their career.

Have fun, shoot something straight on and then find a perspective that looks good to your eye through the view of your camera and lens!

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!

Workflow – Part 2

Workflow is a process that details the first step to the last. Setting up a workflow will become an instinct to you, but until then let us catalog and learn the process of priorities. By priorities I mean, by completing the previous step you now have what is required to complete this step and have made available to yourself the tools for the next step.

Taking a small project using the same principles as photo processing will help us explain the process in as few words as possible.

To build a storage shed there must be some decisions made of the size and design. From these decisions an architectural blue print can be made. Now with the blue prints we can make a materials list and go shopping. Do you see the progression? Here is another way of looking at the process:

  1. Design and size
  2. Architectural drawings
  3. Materials list
  4. Materials shopping
  5. Ground breaking and construction

Each step when completed is setting up the success of the following step.

Starting with a new project, what are the signs of the first step?

  1. What is the first puzzle piece? First, set up your end product. How will it look? What are you providing; service or tangible product?
  2. What will you give with this service/product? What else should hold your attention in the phase of “material gathering”?
  3. How many practical steps can be made or planned to affect a clear understanding for everyone involved?

Something I have found invaluable in this process is having a scratch pad and new paper to record both ideas for consideration and decisions leading to the conclusion.

Take deep breath and relax. Things will start to fall into place on their own with these foundational questions answered. A challenge is not worth gray hair, unless you like the distinguished look. *Grin*

Enjoy.

Workflow

Workflow is a tool that promises to save you time, stress and money if used and delivers! Allow me to explain.

Say you just finished taking photos of your child’s birthday party and the camera is set down out-of-the-way until you can deal with downloading the pictures and do your minor edits. When do you pick it up again (to download the pictures or on your way to the next event)? Probably on your way to the next event, right? Perhaps I can give you some cheery news.

Cameras now being digital are made to be “plug and play” ready. That means that as soon as it is plugged into the computer the computer recognizes the camera and can do almost anything with the information for you by automatic protocol. This is not scary, just be aware of what goes on after key events.

Key events being the device having been plugged in to a computer (laptop or desktop); opening a program while the digital recording device is plugged in; etc.

Take a moment to read the owner’s manual for your camera or read an internet “how-to” on your software to help yourself better understand the tools given to you and ready for use at your finger tips.

Many digital camera manufacturers offer some basic programs that will download your photos automatically to a place on your computer hard drive. There are many other programs that also do this as a means of processing workflow and personal convenience. Take some time to look, read and make an inventory list of your tools to avoid working any harder than necessary.

Let automation take the work and stress out of your life by taking care of the small details for you.

If you have most of this available to you, try plugging your camera into your computer the next time you set it down after a shoot and let it work for you.

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 – Flash

Flashes are designed to do just what their name suggests, “flash”. This operation is different from a studio strobe because flashes do not light as lamps before firing. Flashes are smaller when compared in size to studio strobes and much more portable.

Flashes are a quick and easy way to add light to a photo without requiring a full light set-up and accessories like reflecting umbrellas. Just to be clear a flash is no substitute for the full lighting set-up.

I have so long kept back from writing about strobe, flashes and every other studio light because it is very easy to think “If a little light is good, then more is better!” or “This shot isn’t quite right because of this dark spot, it must need more light.” These assumptions are not always true.

Up to this point I also have not defined the venue of the photography. Many portraits these days are shot outdoors. Yes a good number are shot in a professional in-door studio, but just because more or less are shot in one place over another means absolutely nothing when it comes to doing your best job with each portrait. As I write this article, I have an outdoor setting in mind with some great texture variations and color fusion. Something like your nearest botanical garden.

Never hesitate to use the light already in your setting. The more natural the lighting looks will enable you to focus on your subject’s personality and facial expressions.

I understand there is a lot to think about when taking photos, believe me, I do not work like some photography super hero. We will get better, faster and smoother the more we practice the right techniques and processes.

Having your subject looking into the sun can be hard to do for a while, so offer for them to turn their back or side to the sun and fill your shot with a flash. Perhaps even getting the hard shots over first and then just dealing with the flash in the rest of the shoot will not be as difficult.

Always being considerate to the subject so that looking any one  direction is not kept up too long, find a routine that works well for you and use it!

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)

A Theory Of Light

We are delving into an area where sciences meet theology and thus can easily escalate this post high into the nose-bleed section of intellectualism. I shall employ every precaution at my disposal to keep from being confusing as well as leave my aptitude and ability to speak on this subject. *Grin*

Light is invaluable to us both as human beings and photographers. Our bodies require a certain amount of light to continue necessary functions, one of our primary functions being vision.

Continue reading

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 5

There is one more part of the human Eye and camera that we have not covered. This is the process of the Data Transfer from the Sensor to the Storage media via the Processor.

The Data Transfer:

The human capability for vision is amazing because we think we understand it enough to duplicate the process, only to realize our duplication is much less efficient than our inspiration.

As soon as our Retina receives the light of our surroundings, beginning to send the neurological impulses to the Optic Nerve there is a process of Data Transfer initiated. The amazing thing about this Data Transfer is the amount of detail that can be recalled, or amounts of certain information which one can be trained to receive and recall.

Illustration of information recall: Military branches train their personnel to acquire a target and discern in an instant if it is friendly or hostile. After an operation, begin the reports from each member and with it the lists of information that is most important; number of personnel on the operation, enemy patrols encountered, branches to which the patrols are affiliated, shots fired, number of injuries…etc. There is a lot of information to take in with precious little time to do so. This information is primarily accumulated by sight and secondarily with the other 4 human senses.

The same for public servants. Police officers require the use of sight in making reports besides assessing the threat to the public and their own safety. Paramedics make reports with vital statistics of a patient from many different senses at the same time. Firemen and women are trained to take verbal queues before getting to the scene of an emergency to take their own assessment of the situation.

This is all gathering data. These mentioned public servants and military are trained not just to gather information but to recall it for the purpose of reporting the events as they happened. This Data is what I draw upon in likening it to the Data a camera receives.

When the sequence in a camera is initiated, the light received by the Sensor is converted into Data which is transferred  across thin metal conductors. However, here is where Data loss becomes a problem. The Sensor is made up of millions of little pixels which receive light. There is not adequate space to give each pixel its own dedicated metal conductor for Data Transfer, so there ends up being about 100,000 or more pixels attached to 1 metal conductor lead.

Even still it is incredible that with so much Data being Transferred there is not more Data loss in digital cameras.

In the next and last post for the “Camera Troubles” series, we will discuss the specifics of the digital camera limitations so that we can learn to capture the detail we want.