IBImages: Blog http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog en-us All images on this site are (C) Iain Blacklock LRPS and may not be used in any way without express permission. info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) Tue, 20 Mar 2018 21:49:00 GMT Tue, 20 Mar 2018 21:49:00 GMT http://www.ibimages.co.uk/img/s/v-5/u648195183-o313464182-50.jpg IBImages: Blog http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog 120 60 So Long Elinchrom and thanks for all the fish http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2018/3/so-long-elinchrom-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish So this week has officially marked the demise of my love affair with Elinchrom. Okay, that is a bit harsh, it is not that I do not like the kit - although I was a little upset that the stand mount of one of the Action heads in my ELB400 kit got snapped off whilst mysteriously laying inside the case - it is because I am fed up of waiting for them to bring out a native trigger for my Fuji camera system that supports all the clever stuff. It seems to have been promised for over a year or so now but their last comment on the subject, which was recently when they released their new ELB500, said that they still had no time frame. So what have I been waiting for?

Well, firstly there is straight TTL (through the lens) flash, the ability for the flash and camera system to talk to each other to deliver the right level of flash to correctly expose the subject. In my studio life not having this is not really a big issue. I meter my subject and adjust the flash or aperture accordingly. However, there are times when it is just handy to have the whole process automated and to understand why you really need to understand the main problem with working in manual mode. The distance between you and your subject determines how much light hits the subject and consequently what exposure settings you need to set on the camera. As the subject moves further away you either have to increase flash power or open up your aperture to let more light in. In the studio this is not an issue as you will probably set up your lights and your subject will remain a reasonably fixed distance away from them. You take a meter reading and you are all set until you move the subject or your lights. At, for example, a party when people are moving around, dancing and so on it becomes much more difficult to gauge how far away they are and consequently what settings to use. This is especially true if you are bouncing flash off walls and ceilings which increases the distance. TTL flash will do all that hard work for you instantly so you do not have to worry. It is worth remembering that I keep referring to it exposing the subject correctly. Most systems calculate the flash requirements based on what your camera is focused on - the subject. This is why with TTL flash images the subject at night, for example, will be correctly illuminated but the background maybe dark. The flash is not trying to light the background as well. You can control that background light by setting the aperture and shutter speed to expose it while the flash exposes for the subject. 

Controlling the ambient light brings me on to the second problem I have with my old Elinchrom kit, the inability to do high speed sync (HSS) flash photography. Due to the way the shutter system works on some cameras using two curtains that pass, in turn, over the sensor (or even the film), cameras usually have a maximum sync shutter speed that you can use with flash. Typically this is around 1/200th or 1/250th of a second. If you set the shutter speed higher when using flash you get a banding on the image where the second curtain starts to move across the sensor before the flash has illuminated it. By pulsing the flash head the length of the flash is extended without over-exposing the image but still ensuring the flash starts before the second curtain starts to cover the sensor. Why do you need HSS? When shooting outside with flash you may want to use large apertures (f1.2-f2.8) to produce a nice shallow depth of field and isolate your subject from the background. On a dull day, or at night, that may not be too much of an issue but when there is a lot of ambient light around, such as bright sunshine, you need to compensate the exposure by using high shutter speeds even up to 1/8000th of a second. If you cannot go above 1/200th or 1/250th of a second you image will be over-exposed. Sometimes a photographer may just want under-expose the background to add drama to a shot and again to do this they may be forced to use a high shutter speed to cut down the ambient light.

The former issue, TTL, was not really a deal breaker for me. I have become quite adept at judging the flash power required. Certainly with digital it is easy enough to take a quick peak at the image and adjust if necessary although you rarely have a chance to retake a shot where there is fast moving action.

HSS is more of an issue for me. I love shooting outside, images like Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland etc. Not having HSS limits you creatively - turning day into night, adding drama to the background, and lovely out of focus backgrounds. 

It is also important to highlight it is not entirely Elinchrom's fault either. Fujifilm had been slow to release specs for how things like HSS worked that would enable third parties to develop solutions. Even Fujifilm's own flash system capable of doing it has not been out anywhere near as long as their cameras! That said many other manufacturers have now got their solutions in place and Elinchrom are woefully lacking. 

Anyway, after coming away from the Photography Show this year with substantially less cash than I went there with I have now jumped ship to a UK branded version of the Goddox flash and trigger system that does all the clever stuff even if my own technical abilities cannot. I am now armed with a 600w head, two 200w heads and a speed light, all battery powered and all controllable from a single trigger. I may have inadvertently bought a few modifiers to go with them! I just need this pesky Siberian spring to move on so I can get outside with a model and carry on with my Grimm Fairytale inspired collection.

 

 

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2018/3/so-long-elinchrom-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish Tue, 20 Mar 2018 21:49:01 GMT
Wise Words - but not from me http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2017/2/wise-words A friend of mine just bounced into a photographer’s equivalent of a marathon runner’s wall.  That moment when your look at you work and think to yourself ‘Something is missing from my work; I’m no good at this.’ It is probably something that anybody that takes up a creative hobby – or for that matter profession - like art, photography (if you want to distinguish the two), or music, suffers from time to time. Sadly, I also suspect in many cases it does become the death knell for that hobby or profession as well.

Thankfully, said friend already has the mind-set that this should spur him on to improve, but being the interfering git I am, I wanted to offer some encouragement and was mindful of a quote by Imogen Cunningham – “Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”  Now I love my photography, more now than ever before, but I have never been one for remembering great and influential photographers.  Ask me who inspires me and it is more likely to be some of my personal friends than the likes of Ansel Adams, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many more. Consequently, I confess, I had to look up exactly whose quote that was!  This inevitably led to me finding and being reminded of many other quotes from famous photographers designed to inspire us. Can the words of a 19th century photographer still cut the mustard?

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt 1898 – 1995.

Eisenstaedt famously took the picture of the sailor kissing the girl in Times Square celebrating V-J Day. As for the quote, yes I think that is very true. On the face of it you might think it just relates to shooting people and to an extent that is also true. Since I started producing a lot more portrait work it is very evident that the better the relationship you have with your subject, the better your image will be at an emotive level. I’d argue it does not even stop there though. Do you want to get on a piece of land for that ‘distinctive angle’ or accessible wildlife? If the land-owner does not like you or trust you, then you can probably forget it.

“I think that emotional content is an image’s most important element, regardless of the photographic technique. Much of the work I see these days lacks the emotional impact to draw a reaction from viewers, or remain in their hearts.” – Anne Geddes 1956.

Geddes is known for her distinctive and stylised photographs of babies which often have strong floral content. OMG as the youth would say. This style of photography does not appeal to me – unless there is some money in it – but with a quote like that I think Anne probably jumps to the top of my list of inspiring photographers.  This is what it is all about. We quite often criticise ourselves and fail to realise the impact we have on others. We also reject things on a technical level when the subject, or viewer, will not even notice, let alone care about an imperfection. We throw out or ignore what to some may be a beautiful image.

This is not just a photography lesson either. It is funny because my wall hitting photography friend is unhappy with his work, whilst the subject of some of his work, a musician, is elated at the memories the photographer is creating for him. In nearly the same breath the musician is berating his own skills failing to realise the way he and the rest of his band can give you goose pimples where many of the perceived technically perfect bands can leave you cold for all the wrong reasons.

I was recently asked why I enter marked photographic competitions. Well primarily I like to win! Print competitions force me to print my work and not let it languish on the hard-drive. Last year though I stopped trying to find 12 images that followed all the ‘rules’ and started putting in pictures I liked. It didn’t matter if the shadows had no details (that happens in the real world, why not in photos), it didn’t matter if my ‘high-key’ was a judge’s ‘too bright’. The picture is too green?  Well guess what, it was shot in a woodland which tends to be, well, green!  Does my texture layer add anything to the picture? Well, in my opinion yes otherwise I would not have added it. My purpose here is not upset Judges, I have great admiration for the tough job they do. My point is I stopped trying to chase perfection and, as I mentioned earlier, enjoy my photography now more than I ever have before. I hope that at least some of my work remains in the hearts of people who see it.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” – Ansel Adams 1902 – 1984

Twelve in my life would be good! My first question though would be significant to whom? Let us put that to one side for now though as we have already discussed other peoples’ perceptions of our work. Ansel did not have the luxury of large memory cards and 14 frames per second shooting speeds and, despite being excited by the prospect of digital photography, would probably not want either of those.

Should we see a proportional rise in good ones though?  Well it would be nice wouldn’t it but in reality we just throw a load more away. I am not saying we are all guilty of this but we can easily fall into the trap trying a couple of exposures, doing some exposure bracketing for good measure, zooming out, zooming back in, trying it in landscape format then in portrait format, finally repeating the whole process because there was something in the image we had not seen and did not want. What we should be doing is looking before we go hammering away on the shutter like there is no tomorrow. This, in my opinion, is the one place where traditional film photography wins hands down on the ‘using film makes you a better photographer’ argument. Having 12, 24 or 36 exposures at your disposal possibly for the whole day will certainly focus your mind on how many times you press the shutter.

I do not believe that argument holds water anywhere else. You can learn the principles of photography using either medium if you choose to do so. You do not need a film camera to learn how to use the basic controls of shutter speed, aperture, film or ISO speeds, or even focusing. If you want to learn, take the camera off auto mode and go and take some pictures – loads, experiment, what are you wasting? I have wasted loads of shots trying to get things like high speed flash photography working and watching the effects of varying flash, shutter speed and aperture to understand how they affect the mixture of ambient light and flash.

For landscapes and portraits it is true that we can carefully consider our setup before pressing the shutter but in other areas of photography that is not always so easy – street, stage, wildlife, and reportage spring to mind immediately. In this instance advancements in technology are a God send for capturing ‘the moment’. A mountain is a mountain and is unlikely to move, save for earthquakes, but a guitarist or wild animal will for sure, and a stage light will change when you least expect it to regardless of how carefully you are watching and listening to the action. I can take 400 photographs of a band in one evening, on a good shoot I might deliver 100-150 photographs back to the band, I might even like 1 or 2 of them myself. If I was shooting with film I probably would not get any.

Ansel’s quote, and I admit I have strayed slightly from what I suspect he was alluding to, is not quite so clear cut. Yes, modern cameras have made us lazy and wasteful but they have also given us a better chance of catching ‘the one’.

I didn’t introduce Adams in a similar way to previous photographers because even to non-photographers he is probably recognised as one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time. As such we can probably extend him the courtesy of another quote – You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

Sometimes, not often, I will post a picture and people will make comments along the lines of they would never have seen that; theirs would never look like that; or how did I make it look like that? Well, believe it or not sometimes I do actually put some thought into what I am taking. I have a myriad of phone applications telling me sunrise and sunset information, tide times, an even just the weather. With my model and portrait work I am now looking to photograph themes and develop styles. In short pressing the shutter is only part of the process. Strangely I have found this even more the case with the model work I have done in the last few years. I could be callous here and say if you are a half decent photographer or even have a good quality camera, you could rock up at a pretty location with some good weather and light, press the shutter and walk off with a landscape you could be proud of with very little skill. You do see it! The reality is though good landscape photographers will research locations; wait for the right weather; carefully evaluate exposure settings and use of filters and accessories, and take their one or two pictures. I do try to do this, it does not mean I get a good photo but I would like to think I get a better one.

The model work though seems to have taken things to a whole different level for me though and is probably why I am currently enjoying it. Take for example my reasonably simple desire to do a ballet style shoot. Pretty straight forward you would think. Get a ballet dancer, stick them in front of the camera with maybe a flash gun or two and fire away. Well, for me it started after seeing a ballet photo and thinking how I would like to replicate it. That’s fine, I do not have an issue with trying to recreate something somebody has done before if for no other reason than to see if I can. But, if you are going to do something like that, it is not worth just taking one photo. This inevitably leads you onto researching the genre and other options. I moved from a single detail shot of ballet shoes into looking at poses and even full dance movement. I use Pinterest to create mood boards for shoots allowing me to ‘pin’ images on the digital equivalent to a wall board. Great, so now I have some ideas but I need a ballet dancer to make them, or at least some of them, reality. I’m registered with a modelling site (not as a model you will be pleased to hear) but not all ballet dancers are made equal! Having found a ballet dancer, I am now looking for locations to shoot in. Some of the ideas work well for a dance or photography studio, some for a nice period building, some even outside. Once I have got the location, I just need to get model and photographer there at the same time and then we can start the actual photography bit!

I have no sense of guilt saying that the making of the photo comes in post-production either. I use a number of photo editing software packages but on the whole do no more than film photographers can do in a darkroom. The processes are no doubt simpler to do digitally, and I have absolute respect for people that master them in film, but they are essentially the same – cropping, dodging and burning light and dark areas to balance the tonal ranges and maybe adding textures. Yes of course you should try and get it right in the camera but sometimes it is not even possible.

Okay, let’s throw in some quick ones to round up with.

“Photography is a love affair with life.” – Burk Uzzle 1938

Uzzle is an American documentary photographer and holds, at the time of writing this, the title of youngest photographer ever to be hired by Life Magazine.

This is a very easy one to relate to. I love being out in a country park, woodland, or shoreline, pre-dawn and waiting for the sun to start lighting early morning frosts or dews. I love just going out and capturing nature. I love working with people to capture portraits or fairy tale like images. I love being able to capture good quality pictures of my family when they are dancing on a stage or just swimming in the sea. I love being able to capture some of those more special pictures on holidays that just pack that extra punch for creating memories.  You get the picture.

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” - Don McCullin 1935

McCullin is a documentary photographer especially renowned for his war photos and images of urban and poor lifestyles and I think it is easy to understand why he would say such a thing. Clearly the things he has seen would have had a great impact on him and if you look at his work I think you would feel it too.

Once we start to feel a relationship or an emotion with or for a subject I think we start the process of getting a good photo.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson 1908 - 2004

Cartier-Bresson is widely regarded as one of the greatest photographers of all time. He is known as the father of photojournalism, and coined the term ‘The Decisive Moment’.

It would not be too much of a stretch of the imagination to think of 10,000 pictures being nearly a lifetime’s work in respect of shooting with film. However, I have just started ‘trimming down’ the 29,000 images in my Lightroom catalogue and strongly suspect there is scope for Henri to increase his estimate!

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.”  Joe McNally 1952

McNally is an internationally acclaimed photographer known for his work with the National Geographic Society and he is not wrong. I have had several missed opportunities because I had put my camera away to walk back to the car. Wildlife has an exceptional ability to know when your camera has gone into your camera bag!

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information” – Man Ray 1890 – 1976

Ray was a fashion and portrait photographer, active during the Surrealist art movement. His style of photography would have undoubtedly left many asking how and why? I believe there is scope for both questions but I cannot tell from his quote whether that is implied or not. We should ask how if we want to improve our own techniques. Knowing how something is done and using that knowledge is not the same as copying it. Why was the photo taken, is quite often something I ask myself when looking at some work – sadly in the context of ‘Why did you bother?’ Flippancy aside, asking why before taking a photo may not be a bad idea. What is it you think you can see in the image?

“Only photograph what you love.” – Tim Walker 1970

Walker is a British fashion photographer whose work has been in titles such as Vogue. That’s all well and good and certainly don’t photograph things you hate but how will you even know if you love something new?

So, where do we stand with the quote that started all this, which of my photographs is going to be my favourite? Will it be the one I’m going to take tomorrow? Oh, I certainly hope so – I must start improving soon surely?

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2017/2/wise-words Fri, 24 Feb 2017 22:12:07 GMT
Watch out Lightroom - ON1 is coming for you http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/12/watch-out-lightroom---on1-is-coming-for-you So, my workflow goes something like this. First hire a good model or find a great landscape location. Take a card or two of bad pictures, get them home and pray I can make something out of them using a piece of software.

For the last couple of years now my software of choice has been Lightroom and I do pretty much 90% of my edits using it. I then pull some images into Photoshop to do final adjustments like skin retouching or more complex cloning and layer work. Lightroom does not support layers and the spot healing tool I find a little bit limiting.

Increasingly though I have been using ON1 Perfect Photo Suite 10 to add effects to my images (and very occasionally Nik Software). You can see this a lot in my fantasy/mystical work. Not only can you add individual effects such as a glow, vignette or colour enhancer but you can combine multiple effects into a preset. You can also download presets that others have made and modify them to suit your own requirements. 

I like Lightroom because of the cataloguing and the fast way it allows me to edit a shoot. Typically a band shoot, model shoot or even some of the events I cover have 300-400 images and I can quickly go through them and select the ones I want to reject and keep before running them through the Develop module. I also like the way edits are non-destructive (not affecting the original raw or jpeg file) and stored in the catalogue. This keeps the numbers of different file types down to a minimum and I don't necessarily have a raw file, Photoshop file and multiple jpeg images depending on where the final image is going to end up. Unfortunately I do need to create those additional files if I want to do final edits in Photoshop and/or ON1. That may be about to change ...

ON1 have just release ON1 Photo RAW. They have completely re-engineered the software from the bottom up with some major improvements over the older version.

Firstly as the name implies it handles RAW files. Previously it created a Photoshop file for you to edit. Now you can access all the lovely goodness that the RAW file holds like shadow details and better colour depth. The next big thing is it too has become a non-destructive editor, storing any changes you make to the image in a sidecar file and a database. 

It already has a browser application which looks directly at your hard drive filing structure so you don't have to import images before working on them. 

The new version is so much faster than the older one as well. I used to have to wait for what seemed like ages for filters to take effect on the screen. This was especially true when you had a number of effects on a single preset. Testing out the new version today it was significantly faster. 

One final thing that is a major improvement in my mind is the way it now processes a stack of filters in a preset. On previous versions, if you had several filters stacked together in a preset and wanted to work on one of the earlier filters in the stack, you had to disable filters above it. This meant you could not see the overall effect until you turned the higher filters back on. The game would continue, turning off some filters, adjust the one you want to adjust, turning the higher ones back on and checking the result until you were happy. You can now change filters lower down the stack live and see the effects straight away. 

Time for a change? No probably not. I will  continue to use Lightroom as my main cataloguing software and base editing tool because I like the interface. This is arguably just my resistance to change. There is nothing really wrong with the ON1 interface. I will continue to use ON1 to apply effects though and the improvements they have made are all things the really annoyed me with the old version. We should also not forget the other tools in the suite that include a resizing tool using fractals and the layers tool, allowing you to perform complex masking and make composites.

The example below was created using a downloaded preset with some personal modifications. You can apply a mask to any filter in the stack which I have done here to remove the texture layers the preset uses from the face.

If you are looking for an alternative to Adobe then ON1 is a strong contender. All photo editing suites that handle raw files do so with varying degrees of success - you should see the arguments about whether Lightroom handles the X-Trans Fuji RAW files well or not. I have not bothered to delve into the pixel peeping level yet (or ever likely to) but it seems to do the job.

At the time of writing ON1 were offering a 30 day free trial. 

 

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/12/watch-out-lightroom---on1-is-coming-for-you Wed, 21 Dec 2016 19:21:25 GMT
The Simply Adorable Emily http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/5/the-simply-adorable-emily I recently had the great pleasure to work with another young model from Folkestone, Emily. I had seen her portfolio when she first joined PurplePort and flagged her as somebody I would like to work with almost immediately.

Moving forward a few months I finally dropped her a line asking if she would like to do a shoot and provided a mood board of ideas way beyond my ability. We swapped messages and ideas and nailed it down to about 4 styles of picture that we both liked. We booked the studio I use frequently down in Folkestone and Emily made the magic happen.

 

It was all very well to say `Drink me,' but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry.

 

The first idea was to recreate a kind of Alice In Wonderland picture I had seen on Pinterest. Emily had managed to borrow a wedding dress from the studio and at huge expense I bought a small bottle to mimic the whole 'Drink Me' part of the story. 

The shot was taken using a crimson colour paper background and a single large beauty dish with reflector, sock and grid. The beauty dish, reflector and sock give a very soft lighting whilst the grid makes it very directional and gives a quick drop off in light.

Initially I had technical problems with the shot. My camera should synch at 180th second with flash but we were seeing a shadow down the right hand side of the images. I can only put this down to then wireless triggers that were being used to fire the flash. I dropped the shutter speed down to 125th and we ended up shooting these images again at the end of the set.

 

We moved from a very low key setup straight into a high key beauty style shoot. This is when I first noticed the shutter sync issue as the shadowing became very obvious. I very rarely shoot high key work and even more rarely full length fashion high key work but this section of the shoot gave me some of my favourite images.

 

 

This image is pretty much as it was shot. Using Lightroom I have selected the Fuji Astia film type to give some subtle skin tones. Lighting was with the beauty dish with just the sock and a second strip soft box on the right to balance the lighting. Strip soft boxes give better light for full length shots because they are longer and throw light the full length of the body.

 

 

This has to be one of my most favourite shots from the shoot, if not one of my most favourite portrait shots. A lot more work has gone into this image. Out of the camera I applied the same Fuji Astia film setting in Lightroom and increased the exposure by about a stop to increase the high key nature. The image was then pulled into Photoshop and using a Frequency Separation technique I did some skin retouching. Photoshopping images can be a mute point but everybody has spots, skin blemishes, and the likes - even models. I use Photoshop to remove that but never go to the extremes of remodelling features. Spots and pimples are temporary and do not need to be recorded for all of time! Finally I pulled the retouched image into OnOne Effects and applied a small amount of glow and a lightening graduated filter for the base of the image up just to increase the high key effect without affecting the face too much. Using a masking brush I removed the effects of the glow and graduated filter from the eyes and lips.

 

 

In this shot I used a toning filter in OnOne just to give the image a slightly bronzed look to warm it but still maintain the high key soft feel to the image. The expression on Emily's face here gives her a completely different character from previous shots. But we will talk more about that later!

 

 

When I set out shooting models it was to take beauty and fashion pictures to put on this site and hopefully take on paid portrait work. I was lead astray though by some models (honest) to lingerie and boudoir work!  It was genuinely a style I had no intention of shooting because I thought I would be awful at it and end up with some very tacky images. I would like to think that has not been the case. A couple of the mood board images Emily really liked were low key lingerie shots - who was I to say no?

In particular she liked some black and white images with the light used to create body sculptures like the images below.

 

 

I use the Shadows, Highlights, Blacks and Whites sliders in Lightroom a lot to make fine adjustments to the tonal range of images. I try to get the lighting as right at the shooting stage as possible so I get the best exposure to work from to start with. Dodging and burning images is not a new technique it is just the tools to do it with digital images are a lot easier than cutting out bits of card and sticking them on lollipop sticks!

The final idea was almost a lifestyle image to start with - a relaxed pose in a comfy jumper - but we ended up spicing it up a just little more than the original idea. 

 

 

I loved the warm tones this image has and the expression on Emily's face. I mentioned earlier about portraying a different character and I think in all four styles she has a different look to her. Maybe I am just imagining it but Ioved her versatility and it made for a very productive and varied four hour shoot. Probably the best planned one I have done to date. For this set of images we again turned to the singled beauty dish with grid and a dark grey background. The fall-off from the beauty dish effectively renders the background completely black.

Post processing consisted of basic tonal and cropping in Lightroom, skin retouching in Photoshop and final tonal effects in OnOne.

 

You can view the complete gallery of images here

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/5/the-simply-adorable-emily Sat, 14 May 2016 14:35:35 GMT
At Last - The Woodland Shoot http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/3/at-last---the-woodland-shoot Back in February I finally managed to do my woodland shoot. It has been on my cards for ages to do a kind of mystical/fairytale shoot in the woods. I've tried and failed to sweet talk a few people into modelling for me but after working with a model called Savra last year I knew she would be great for it and we managed to set a date.

Check out this Adobe Slate storyboard that talks about Savra, the location, and how I went about the shoot.

The Mystical Woodland Shoot

For the complete gallery of pictures click here.

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/3/at-last---the-woodland-shoot Thu, 17 Mar 2016 19:41:49 GMT
Working with Models http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/3/working-with-models So, a few weeks ago I started playing around with Adobe Slate - an Adobe application you can use to generate storyboards. It is pretty cool and as well as downloading an app for it you can also use a web browser to create stories.

Wanting a decent idea to test it with I thought I would do a quick story on 6 months of being on PurplePort and working with professional models.

You can view the slate story, as well has finding out about creating your own storyboards, here Working With Models

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2016/3/working-with-models Thu, 10 Mar 2016 17:57:17 GMT
Retouching - Part 2 How it's done. http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/8/retouching---part-2-how-its-done Yesterday I published a quick blog to show how I had used a technique called Frequency Separation to retouch an image. Just as a quick recap this is what I started out with and where I ended up.

So, how do we get to the final image? Let's start by looking at the retouching technique known as frequency separation. 

A bit like with audio sounds, images can be broken down into high and low frequencies. The low frequencies contain information about large areas of colour and tone whilst the high frequencies contain information about fine details, skin pores, hair, blemishes and fine lines. Frequency separation splits the two frequencies into separate layers so that we an work on each individually. 

We work on a colour layer to balance skin tone and even up any harsh light or dark areas and we work on a texture layer to remove skin blemishes. 

To understand why it is important to work on the layers separately we can compare it to an older method I have used to retouching skin. 

A simple way is to create a duplicate layer of the image, apply some gaussian blur on the second layer and using a layer mask paint detail back into the image.

First duplicate the layer by right clicking on the background layer and selecting Duplicate Layer (or CTRL+J/Command+J)

Now apply a gaussian blur to the new layer

Select a value that removes a lot of the skin detail (blemishes) and click o OK. Here I have gone for 7.8 but it will vary depending on your image.

Now we are going to add a layer mask to paint out where we do not want the skin softened. Making sure the blur layer is selected (I have renamed it from Background copy) click on the Mask icon highlighted in red below.

Now making sure the layer mask is highlighted in white in the layers palette select the brush tool, make sure you are using the default black and white colours (hit the D key) we can paint back in the detail. Adjust the brush size and opacity to paint the mask. Here I used a large brush with opacity set to 100 to paint in the background and dress, then reduced the brush size to paint details back into the hair before reducing the opacity of the brush down to about 20% to paint details back into the lips and eyebrows. Finally a small brush with the opacity set to 100 was used to pull detail back into the eyes.

This gave me this as a final (quick) product.

The problem with this technique is that the gaussian blur layer can remove all of the skin detail leaving a rather plastic effect. What we need is a way to retain the skin detail we want but at the same time blend the skin tones in the same way the gaussian blur technique does.

This is where frequency separation comes in. We start in a similar manner as before but this time we create two layer copies of the original image. 

After duplicating the original layer twice (using CTRL+J/Command+J), rename the first copy to Colour and the second copy to Texture. Turn off the visibility of Texture. Select the Colour layer and apply a gaussian blur to it. Apply just enough to remove any skin detail.

Now turn on the visibility of the Texture layer and go to Image -> Apply Image

In the dialogue box that comes up set the following values

What this essentially does is subtract the colour information from the Texture layer and will just leave us with the texture information.

Finally set the blend mode of the texture layer to be Linear Light

Our image now looks essentially the same as the original background layer.

What we have now done is split out the two frequencies onto separate layers and we can use each one to retouch our image. 

Make sure the Texture layer is selected and select the Clone Stamp tool from the toolbox. Make sure in the options at the top of the screen Sample is set to Current Layer.

Zoom in on your image and select an source for the clone stamp (ALT+Click) near to an area you want to remove a blemish (keep it close to where the blemish is to retain similar detail). Now paint over the blemish. Because we are working on the texture layer only the texture will be cloned out and colours will remain unaffected.

Now the long bit, go around your image removing skin blemishes and fine lines. Don't worry you can always come back later and finish it if you miss some be reselecting the layer, and clone tool.

Once we have completed the texture later we want to look at smoothing out skin tones. To do this we need to select the Colour layer. Then select the Lasso tool and make sure you set a reasonably large feather (around 30-50 pixels for a hi-res image). 

Select an area of skin you want to even out (I have selected under the chin) by drawing a rough outline around it. Then from the Filter menu select Gaussian Blur and apply just enough blur to even the tones out nicely.

Repeat this for all areas of the skin you want to even out. Be careful around the eyes and cheeks not to remove too much shadow as this can make the portrait look unrealistic.

Because we are only working on the colour we do not loose the texture detail. You can see this by zooming in.

There are no short cuts. You need to take your time over both the texture layer cloning and the colour layer blurring to get a nice effect. I'm reasonably pleased with my first attempt at using this technique and I am sure if I spent more time on it I could get better results but I'm learning as well!

To get the final 'fashion' look I created four additional layers. The first layer is just a colour layer and I chose a slightly yellow warm tone for the whole image and reduced the opacity down to about 30%

Then I added two graduated filters. A radial one positioned top right to act a little like a sun flare and a linear filter from the bottom up just to tone the base of the image again both with slightly yellow warm tone and opacity set between 50-60%

The final layer was a Selective Colour layer which allows you to pick a base colour (mainly green in this image to reduce the contrast of the leaves in the background) and adjust the CMYK values to alter the overall hue of the selected colour. I also selected the red colour and boosted the redness of the hair.

This gave me my final image.

These are some very basic layer adjustment to give an effect and I am playing around with other colour tones, and adjustment layers (e.g. Vibrance, Curves) to see what effect they have.

Frequency separation is quite a hard technique to put into words but I hope this tutorial can point you in the right direction. There are plenty of online video tutorials if you search for photo shop frequency separation which might help enlighten you some more ...... if you are remotely interested!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/8/retouching---part-2-how-its-done Mon, 24 Aug 2015 21:58:04 GMT
Skin Retouching and adding Fashion Effects http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/8/skin-retouching-and-adding-fashio-effects One of the reasons I recently hired a professional model for was to have some images I could use to improve my portrait retouching skills on. This was not such as bright idea as it happened because the idea of retouching is to remove skin imperfections etc. and my lovely model Coco was not exactly abundant in such flaws! Anyway, casting Portrait Professional and On One Perfect Portrait aside I have delved into the world of a technique called frequency separation. So entirely by hand I have gone from the image on the left to the one on the right. 

I also wanted to start playing around with effects to give pictures a more 'fashion' feel to them so I then ended up here ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? I'll update this later to explain how I achieved the effects.

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/8/skin-retouching-and-adding-fashio-effects Sun, 23 Aug 2015 20:41:29 GMT
Brave New World http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/6/brave-new-world It all really started with a Praktica MTL5 and by 1987 I wiped out my College bursary by upgrading to a Canon EOS620 with a 50mm lens. I still have the camera and the lens! I have since seen many Canon bodies come and go and built up a nice collection of glass over that time. Consequently it has not been a light decision and I am still filled with trepidation but I am defecting to another breed of camera. If anybody is interested this is what I am looking to sell preferably without venturing into eBay land.

  • Canon EF 70-200 F2.8 L IS USM (with case and lens hood) - around £750
  • Canon Extender EF 2.0 - £100 or £50 if it goes with the 70-200

If I sell the above kit I may put the rest of the Canon kit up but I haven’t quite got the heart yet.

  • Canon EOS 6D - around £700
  • Canon EF 24-70 F2.8 L USM - around £450

Everything is in good working order and condition but I don’t have the boxes anymore (my loft has enough cardboard). 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/6/brave-new-world Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:59:41 GMT
Creating a Landscape with Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/6/creating-a-landscape-with-lightroom-cc-and-photoshop-cc I was asked whether one of my recent landscape pictures had used any filters - having broken the bank buying Lee Filters it was reasonable to assume I would be getting my money’s worth out of them. I answered with some glib response about how I hadn’t but used Lightroom CC and its Merge To HDR function along with some other editing controls to produce the final image. When the response was along the lines of ‘What did you do??’ I suggested a tutorial which was warmly received. So here it goes. The landscape (or seascape if you prefer) in question was one of my recent barge project pictures. 

It started, as many of my pictures do, with a load of bracketed exposures. The above image is actually made up of six images in total although two of them were the same exposure. The Fuji X-T1 can take three bracketed images with one press of the shutter. I took two sets of bracketed exposures with shutter speeds ranging from 1/15th second down to 1 second. You can see the image details in the screen shot below. Bracketing exposures basically means taking additional images either side of the ‘correct’ metered exposure to get one or more slightly under-exposed images and one or more slightly over exposed pictures. 

The next stage in Lightroom CC is to merge the six images into a single High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. Dynamic range refers to the number of stops of light from the brightest areas through to the darkest areas. The higher the dynamic range the more stops of light you capture. This can now be done directly in Lightroom instead of needing a third party piece of software like Photomatix or using Photoshop. Select all of the images using CMD click on a Mac or Control click on Windows, then right click to get the context sensitive menu and select the Photo Merge -> HDR option.

Lightroom will then attempt to merge the selected images into a single file. The real beauty of using Lightroom to merge the files is that it creates a raw image final which maintains much more file information than a JPEG file would if you were using something like Photomatix to create your HDR image. This will be important after we have merged the files and use the Lightroom Exposure, Shadows and Highlights sliders.

After Lightroom has merged the files it will show you a combined preview image as shown below.

Clicking on Merge will cause Lightroom to merge the files together and create a new file in your Lightroom library. By default the file name will be the filename of the first file in the merged set with -HDR appended to it and it will be an Adobe DNG raw file. Double clicking on the new file in the Library module will open it to full screen mode.

We now need to start work on our merged image so we need to click on the Develop tab to move into the Lightroom Develop module. 

The first thing we need to do is bring the overall brightness down. The image was taken at night but Lightroom has assumed we want a much brighter image using the full range of brightness from our six individual images. Use the exposure slider to take the overall brightness down.

The problem now is that we have lost a lot of detail in the barge but because we are working with a raw file we can recover that detail using the Shadows slider. We are going to push it all the way up to 100.

Note that the position of the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks sliders will vary depending on how Lightroom merges the images. You can adjust them as much as you like to suit your personal taste - because the image is a night time shot I could take the whites down more to darken the image further but Highlights is already at -100 so cannot be reduced. 

The sky is still to bright compared to the original scene but if I reduce the exposure anymore the barge will become to dark and detail will be lost. I have already pushed the Shadows to its highest setting. I want to apply quick darkening of the sky so to do this I will use the Lightroom Graduated Filter tool. This is the rectangle in the middle of the tool bar just below the histogram display.

Click at the top of the image and drag the centre line down. The top line marks the full effect of the graduated filter and the bottom line marks the end of the graduation - no effect. Now move the Exposure slider to the left to darken the sky. You can also apply effects like colour saturation. When you are happy with the effect click on Done.

The raw images a camera produces will not include information like scene modes which apply in-camera colour saturation, sharpening etc. Consequently the colours can seem a little flat. Using raw files allows us to make decisions about how much saturation and sharpening we want to apply to the image instead of taking what the camera gives us. To boost the colours (either to render them as we remember the actual scene or to apply some ‘artistic license’) we can use the Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation sliders.

The clarity slider will boost the edge contrast giving a sharpening effect. Push the clarity to the right to increase it. Be careful not add too much clarity because it can make the edges look a bit unnatural. 

The Vibrance slider will boost colour saturation on the softer more pastel like colours before boosting saturation all over.

The Saturation slider will increase saturation across the whole image the more you push it to the right.

Lightroom is non-destructive, this means that we have not affected the original image in anyway and we can always reset our changes and start over. Also we can go back and change any of the settings we have applied including things like the graduated filter. I think there is still some scope to darken the sky down some more. Clicking on the Graduated Filter tool will bring the original gradient up (click on the small dot to select it) and I can adjust the exposure slider more to darken the sky.

Okay, finishing touches. We are going to open the image in Photoshop  and apply a textured background to give it that ‘canvas feel’.

Open the image in Photoshop by right clicking gone the image and selecting the Edit In->Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 (or whatever version).

When Photoshop opens click on the New Layer icon on the bottom right (next to the waste bin and looking like a piece of paper with the corner turned over. Make sure the new layer (probably Layer 1) is selected and then click on the Paint Bucket Tool. Use the Color swatch on the right of the screen to select a light brown colour.

Now in the Photoshop menu go to Filter->Noise->Add Noise and select Gaussian and an amount of about 12.5% and click on OK.

Double click on the layer thumbnail in the Layers palette to bring up the layer style dialog. Select Bevel & Emboss and the Texture options and click on OK.

This should create a basic texture as shown below.

Change the blend mode from Normal to Multiply and reduce the opacity down to about 40%

This applies the texture to the image but the multiply blend mode and colour toning also has the effect of darkening it. Use a Brightness/Contrast layer to brighten the image.

Adjust the brightness to suit and we are done!

I hasten to add this worked example is a slightly different texture to the one posted on my website and at the top of this blog. Also I have used slightly different settings in Lightroom for exposure, shadows, highlights, clarity, vibrance and saturation but this tutorial should show the basic methodology I used to get to my final image. 

 Robert’s your mother’s brother as they say!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2015/6/creating-a-landscape-with-lightroom-cc-and-photoshop-cc Mon, 01 Jun 2015 22:25:16 GMT
Just Mucking Around http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/9/just-mucking-around I have to do a talk on Digital SLR basics at the camera club. I have been asked if I can demonstrate in real time the effects of the camera settings and, with just a couple of weeks to go I had an epiphany on how I could demonstrate some things. So I have been lavish on props and spent a whole four pounds on an alarm clock and carried out some testing. In the process of mucking about I got this and really liked it!

I started with a shot using a slow shutter speed to show the second hand moving ...

Then I started playing about with some of the Photoshop filters and hit on the Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates -> Rectangular to Polar setting ...

I liked this in itself but you know how it is, you start clicking on things and then I stumbled on the Difference Clouds filter, Filter -> Render -> Difference Clouds. You get a different effect depending upon what you set your foreground and background colours to. In this case I had a white background and light grey foreground colour (DEDEDE) set.

I think it has taken very boring picture and turned it into something pretty cool but that's just my opinion, you might think it's ...

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/9/just-mucking-around Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:42:42 GMT
Taking the ordinary http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/8/taking-the-ordinary In this post I just wanted to run through some techniques I use for landscape images. In particular I have made a return to blending images manually to create high dynamic range (HDR) images. Let's start by taking the initial and brightest image of four shots taken at different exposures to create the final HDR image. Primarily this image gets the exposure of the rocks in the foreground about right (not perfectly).

I now paste in a second image where the foreground-midground is about the right exposure. Apply a layer mask to the whole image and select Control/Command I to invert the mask making it all black. Paint with a white brush into the areas you want to restore from the first layer. In all of the following images when we paint with white or black I use the opacity setting to feather the adjustment. You can set the opacity to a higher value say 40% when covering large areas but reduce it down to 4-5% and paint strokes to gain control over the smaller more detailed areas you are working on.

Paste in the third image which is exposed for the mid-ground. Again apply a layer mask, invert it to all black and then paint in the areas you want to restore from the previous layers.

Finally I put in the sky layer and repeat the layer masking process.

I am now going to apply a level adjustment filter to the whole image but adjust it until I like the brightness of the rocks in the very front of the picture. They are a bit bright in the image above. Again I apply a layer mask, invert it to make the mask all black and then paint in white where I want to show the levels adjustment on the foreground rocks.

Next I am going to apply another levels layer but this time adjust the levels to bring out some more detail in the hill in the distance. Again, use a layer mask, inverted and painted white where I want the levels adjustment to show through. This is quite a subtle change and may not show up very well on the screen.

Now it is time to bring out the colour a little more by applying a vibrance and saturation adjustment layer. I am only going to increase vibrance and saturation in the sky though by again applying a layer mask, inverting it and painting white where I want to vibrance and saturation settings to show through.

I'm not happy with the colour of the rocks right at the front, they are a little blue given the colour of the sky so I am going to apply a colour balance adjustment layer to redden them a little. Again add the adjustment layer and change the values to give the colour balance you like, add a layer mask, invert it, paint white where you want the adjust values to show through.

Greens! Always a problem with digital photos for some reason and here is no exception. They are just a little to vibrant and need toning down. Same process - add an adjustment layer (vibrance and saturation), add the layer mask, invert and paint in white to show the adjustment. Again it is only a slight change and difficult to see on the screen.

Now just to finish up the overall light and dark areas of the image we are going to use a layer to dodge (lighten shadow areas) and burn (darken highlights). Create a new layer using the Layer->New->Layer menu option. Change the mode to Overlay and select the option that says Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray) 

Darken any areas by painting with a black brush, lighten areas by painting with a white brush. In the image below I have mainly just lifted some of the shadows on the far hills and darkened the water on the sand in the middle of the image.

Nearly there! I have a couple of dust spots to remove in the sky and there are a couple bits on the far hills that keep catching my eye. I create a new blank layer and then use the healing brush and clone tool to remove dust spots and clone out the small bush in the middle of the far hills. There is also a small dip in the hills which does not really show up on this small image which I have cloned out.

One last bit now. I sharpen the picture to give a bit more contrast to the edges using a high pass filter. First I create a composite of all of the layers we have added using the Control+Alt+Shift+E (Command+Option_Shift+E on a Mac). This creates a single layer based on all of the layers you select (select them all!). I then turn off the visibility of all the layers except the new composite. Hit Control+J or Command+J to create a duplicate layer. Then add the High Pass filter (Filter->Other->High Pass). Marvel at the grey picture you are now left with!!!

Play around with the sliders to get a good edge definition and when you are happy set the blend mode of the layer to something like soft light.

And rest!

This is not meant to be the be all and end all of how to create a manual HDR image. It is more designed to show how adjustment layers and layer masks can be used to manipulate the image. The important thing to note is that this is completely non-destructive to the original photos. To revert to your original simply delete the adjustment layers. The other nice thing is you can go back to any layer and alter it. If for example you decide there is too much saturation in the sky go back to the sky saturation adjustment layer, open it up and change the settings. The mask is still in place so on the non-masked areas will be affected.

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/8/taking-the-ordinary Sun, 24 Aug 2014 21:11:07 GMT
Does a good camera make a good photographer? http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/7/does-a-good-camera-make-a-good-photographer You quite often hear people say a better camera, lens or any other piece of kit will not make you a better photographer and whilst I understand the sentiment it is simply not true that it will not give you a better photograph. I don’t even think this is a controversial statement to make either. If a better camera or better lens did not improve on an older one, manufacturers would have stopped making new models at the box brownie stage or even earlier!

I can demonstrate a couple of examples where my latest camera is better than my previous one and how the quality of a lens or its functionality is better than a cheaper one. As with most things in life, the more you spend the more you get.

I do a lot of photography for bands. I’m not a professional photographer getting my three songs, no flash and front row step ladder at the O2, I am talking about shooting for local bands in pubs and clubs mainly for promotional material. Invariably the lighting is shocking and if there is one thing a photograph needs it is light – even a little bit. Secondly these musicians do tend to bounce around the stage a bit not to mention fast moving limbs hitting and strumming things. I should also point out that the no flash mantra still stands – flash kills the atmosphere and annoys the listeners.

Let’s start with the camera. I have been quite happily chugging along with my Canon 5D Mk II. It is without doubt a fantastic camera, well built, reliable and good low light image quality. I get better pictures with my newer 6D though. Firstly, it can run at ridiculously high ISO settings – I have shot at 12800 and still produced usable quality images. Whereas before I would run at a maximum of 3200 at a push on the 5D and would be struggling for light even with the camera at 30th second and f2.8, the 6D allows me much more choice of aperture and shutter speed to vary the style of shot. Remember it is making decisions about how aperture and shutter speed affects your photograph that makes you a photographer and not a snapper.  Secondly, the 6D also focuses in low light much better than the 5D (in fact better than any other Canon SLR including the top end ones). With the 5D I frequently had to resort to manual focus, which is not easy when your subject is dark and bouncing about the stage like a mad-man (or woman). The net result is I end up with more images in focus than before.

Even more importantly to me is the quality of my lenses. I have chosen over the years to forgo upgrading cameras and divert my hard-earned on glass. I cannot recommend this approach highly enough. Camera bodies change with regular monotony with new and wonderful features but the lenses don’t really change that much. True, the quality of the optics improves through different revisions and they might get better stabilization technology but generally a sharp lens to start with will remain sharp and last you well. So, relating lenses to my photography, does a better lens make for a better photograph? Yes it does! I could use a perfectly good 70-200 f4 L lens to shoot band photos with but I would be lucky to have a 30th of second shutter speed to play with. I’m not that old (he lies) and not too shaky yet but I am sure there is no way I could not avoid camera shake without wedging my kit up against a wall (tripods are not much use in the live gig scenarios). I am lucky enough to be using a 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens. I’m not saying this always delivers nice sharp images but it will better the cheaper lens. The wider aperture means I can use higher shutter speeds and, combating the dreaded camera shake still further, the image stabilization effectively gives me a few extra stops. It is still difficult to get crystal sharp images of bands but usually these people are collecting pictures from smart phones and compacts. In comparison the quality is undeniable and, given the comments from clients and my local camera club about sharpness from professional lenses, they may not actually make you a better photographer but there is a massive perception that they do and perception can be everything!

True, it does not matter how much you spend on a camera, if you are not applying the basics of composition and some common sense about exposure and focus, it will not make you a good photographer. If you are though better kit will sure as hell help!

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2014/7/does-a-good-camera-make-a-good-photographer Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:03:06 GMT
Shiny Clean Sensor http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/12/shiny-clean-sensor Well, I thought I would take a moment out to share with you the world's most boring before and after picture! I finally summoned up the courage to wet clean my sensor. 

After spending a long time cleaning up some wedding photos recently I cleaned all my lenses, took some pictures of the sky, re-cleaned my lenses, took some more pictures of the sky, and realised that if the mark is in the same place with different lenses I would have to venture behind the mirror of my camera and touch ... the sensor.

I do have an Arctic Butterfly Sensor brush. It works by spinning the brush and building up a small electro-static charge that should pull dust off the sensor by gently wiping it. The trouble was that this time the mark did not appear to be dust but smudge marks. I don't know how they got on there, water, grease, I really don't know. The problem was that the Arctic brush was not going to remove them. 

​A lot of people shy away from using wet swabs to clear their sensor and why wouldn't you? You are about to stab the most sensitive and important component of you trusty x hundred pounds camera with a wet stick! Well, I've done just that and I am pleased to report that everything still seems in tact, phew!

Before, large smears around the edge...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After, all pixels appearing to be in tact! 

 

I used a VisibleDust EZ Sensory Cleaning Kit consisting of 1 whole millilitre of Smear Away solution and 4 four Green Swabs for the disgraceful price of £16. The colour is important. You get different swabs for different size sensors. The width of the swab then covers the complete width of the sensor allowing you to make a single sweep across it. I turned the swab over and swept back in the opposite direction.

I hope this gives some of you the courage to do your own sensor if it is something you have been putting off. Now hopefully the only marks are the ones on my study wall.

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/12/shiny-clean-sensor Sun, 01 Dec 2013 13:16:28 GMT
Judges? We Don't Need No Steenking Judges http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/10/judges-we-dont-need-no-steenking-judges Okay, so that is my homage to Blazing Saddles, one of the funniest films of all time, out of the way. A couple of weeks ago we had our first league competition for digital projected images and we had a massive number of entries - certainly the largest number for a single competition I have seen since being a member. As usual the judge's comments caused a ripple of dissatisfaction amongst members but this time the ripple seemed to be more of a tsunami. With 93 entries to sort through the longer standing members probably expected a diverse range of scores, the not so long members expected some criticism and the new members did not know what the Devil to expect!

A few years back now, I rocked up to my first competition with the greatest picture ever taken. Apparently the judge did not agree with my synopsis of the situation and, given that I could not even remember what the picture was of now, he may have had a point - it might even have got 'a' point if I was lucky!  Obviously I was distraught but it was a valuable lesson. I had spent far too many years listening to family and friends tell me how great my photography was and now, for once, somebody was being wholly objective about my work.  I can't remember the score, I can't remember what the judge said - I can't remember what I did this morning - but what I am certain of was that whatever the judge said I listened to. If it was something that was wrong, and I agreed, I didn't do the same thing again! 

The last point is important, I had to agree. Since that first competition I have seen many judges say what they do and do not like about an image, what's right and wrong with my image, whether it should be cropped this way or that way, whether they understood my image or not, say they love it and give it a 15! I have had foxes on carpets, rivers instead of pathways, spoons that are apparently unrecognisable and many other laughable moments. Don't get me wrong, I have respect for all of the judges but I do not have to agree with them. I also have to accept they don't agree with me! What we all have to remember is that we are asking a judge to pick three best pictures out of 93 and the judge has to find a reason why 90 of them are not in the top three. It's very difficult. I have been asked to judge a couple of competitions for a friend involving a mere eight or nine images and I struggled with that. And all those things I complain about in other judges - I started doing them as well.

So, what is my advice for entering competitions? Well, the first thing is don't take pictures to win competitions, take pictures to enjoy your hobby. I take a lot of pictures of live bands. They very, very rarely do well in competitions, there are too many 'technical' things they can be marked down on, flashing lights causing blown out highlights, digital noise where I am running the camera flat out at 3200 ISO, blurred bits where I have hand held a shot at one twentieth of a second. The thing is, if I didn't take them I couldn't enjoy my other great hobby - drinking beer. 

Next, we all like to get a score of twenty, or even nineteen or eighteen to be honest, but even after the judge has said they like it, it gets a low score. Don't be disheartened by the score. Listen to their comments when they appraise your photo and decide whether you agree with them or not. If you do agree try to make sure you put what you have learnt into practice next time - or even re-enter the photo with the changes suggested.  If the photo was not placed first, second or third, or given a twenty you are entitled to re-enter it. Also, keep in mind that sometimes they just plain and simply get it wrong and not always for the worst. I have seen many images that have been riddled with problems yet the judge does not seem to notice them - especially when I have helped put the competition together and had a good chance to look at the entries in close up.

Lastly, and really my main point, take away the judges excuse to mark an image down. Some of the things I am about to say may seem obvious, but if they are, then you have to ask why we see the same issues over and over again.

Make sure you image is in focus! Obvious? Not really, I have seen a lot of images where nothing is really in focus. If you are taking a portrait you should focus on the model's eyes unless you have a very good (and obvious) reason not to. For landscapes you really want everything in the scene in focus. Soft focus does not mean out of focus. Soft focus is an affect created either by the weather, for example mist, filters on the lens or filters applied with your editing software. Take away the filters or the mist and your subject should still be in focus.

Make sure the images are sharp if they need to be, judges will often refer to images as being 'a bit soft'. This is not just a case of being in focus but also making sure there is no camera shake or motion blur because a subject is moving too fast for the shutter speed you have used.  Use a tripod for landscapes to ensure they are nice and sharp and there is no camera shake (it will also make you think about your composition more as well). A simple rule for minimising camera shake is to make sure your shutter speed is not less than the focal length you are shooting at. For example if you are shooting using a 200mm lens your shutter speed should not be less then 1/200 second. Don't forget to allow for the fact that most digital cameras have cropped sensors that create a magnification factor. Nikon for example has a crop factor of 1.5 so a 200mm lens actually equates to 300mm in real terms and your shutter speed hold be at least 1/300 of a second.

Related to focus and sharpness is depth of field. I mention this separately because macro photography is a popular subject in the club.  If you want a good mark for your bug photo make sure the depth of field is deep enough to get the bug sharp from front to back as much as possible but shallow enough to throw any background out of focus so that it does not distract. You increase depth of field by increasing your f-stop but watch that your shutter speed does not drop too low, you will probably need to consider using flash. 

Your exposure should be correct. Ideally you should have it right when you take the picture but you can correct some exposure problems in your editing software afterwards. Shooting in raw will give you a lot more latitude for correction as well with sliders for adjusting blacks, shadows, whites and highlights. Highlights should not be burnt out i.e. pure white. Check your levels in your editing software to see if the graph goes off the right hand side. Likewise you should try to get some detail in your shadows and not be completely black. That is not to say blacks should not be black.  Sometimes colours can be blocked out as well. This is often caused by bad or too much contrast in your picture. It is difficult to explain when highlights are blown out, or blacks and colours are blocked out, but you should be looking to see detail in the objects - leaves and petals have veins, clothes have texture, even snow has texture and is not just white, and the underside of a mushroom is not black.

Make sure horizons are level. Again, using a tripod can help you compose the image and get this right in camera. Some cameras these days have levels built in to assist you. Failing that, editing software will have a function to rotate the image and get the horizon straight (the ruler tool for example in Photoshop). Sometimes you need to look at buildings instead of the horizon. Generally speaking most walls go straight up. Notable exceptions include The Leaning Tower of Pisa! 

In a similar vein, look out for converging verticals - the effect of walls leaning inwards. The only way to really avoid this is to use a tilt-shift lens to correct it at the taking stage but these are very expensive and quite specialist lenses. You can correct converging verticals in editing software using the lens correction filters and transform tools. You can also minimise the effect by getting further back from the building when you take the picture, avoid using a very wide angle lens close to the building or structure.

With regards to composition make sure you have no distracting features sticking in from the side of the image like half an arm, a piece of twig, or half a car. Think about your cropping to minimise these types of distractions.  Also, while you are composing your image in camera or cropping during editing, minimise blank areas that are not really contributing anything to the overall image. If you have a bland sky - cut it out. Is the foreground really adding anything to your picture? For pattern pictures try to find something for the eye to settle on, a focal point. If there are bright spots of light or colour they can detract from the focal point of the image. For example a brightly lit arm will draw attention away from the subject's face. With bright colours the only thing a judge will see in your serene beach-scape is a bright red life jacket hanging on a post (of course that may be your intention). Tone down bright spots using the burn tool in you editing software (conversely you can use the dodge tool to bring details out in shadows). Use the sponge tool to desaturate bright distracting areas of colour or clone them out completely if possible. Even better keep them out of the picture when you are composing it.

Make sure there are no technical faults in your final production. If you are entering a digital image or print ensure there are no dust spots from your digital sensor. It is an unfortunate fact of digital photography life that sensors attract dust and those dust spots can show up on your final image. Try to keep your sensor clean to start with (this is more an issue with SLR cameras where the lenses are being changed regularly). The dust removal setting on your camera might cope with some of it but not all. Use something like an Arctic Butterfly Brush to do some manual cleaning. Some more stubborn stains - like one I am contending with at the moment - may need wet sensor swabs and you may want to get a specialist to do this for you. If the worst comes to the worst and there are dust spots on your final digital image use your clone tool or spot healing tool in your editing software to remove them. Look for marks and blemishes on the image carefully at 100% magnification.

If possible invest in a screen calibration tool like a Spyder or Color Munki. This will ensure that you get true and consistent colours. Depending on your monitor's age, type and the ambient light around it, it can give off different colour casts. Suddenly, an image that looked great on your monitor, when displayed in all its glory on the big projector screen, looks too blue or too red. This is normally down to colour calibration. 

If you are printing images out, to mount yourself, make sure there is no banding caused by dirty or blocked printer heads.  The printer will have a nozzle cleaning utility and head alignment utility. Make sure you run these regularly to keep your printing in top condition. As with screens, you can get colour profiles for different paper types. These tell the printer the optimum amount of ink to lay down to reproduce colours correctly. Paper companies, like Permajet for example, allow you to download profiles from their website. Make sure you select the correct settings on your printer to use them. Printer profiles are not essential but will help. Even if you are sending images away to be printed the company you use may provide colour profiles to try and ensure what you see is what they print.

For prints, the mount should not really count against you but some judges will take it into account regardless. Poor mount cuts or un-sympathetic mount colours can lead to lower scores.

If you are not checking the things above you will always give the judge a reason to mark down your image. If you have checked them all then you should be on for a good score but the only thing you have to worry about then is whether the picture really holds any interest and stands out. You need to try and make sure that if your picture goes up first, 93 pictures later the judge is still thinking, 'I really liked that first picture, I'll hold it back.' You are on your own there I am afraid and you have to allow for the fact that different judges like different styles. Whether you win or not comes down to your 'seeing eye' and the judges personal taste!

It's a lot to take in. If I tried to make sure I did all these things every time I took a photo I would never manage to take anything, or if I did, I would bin it afterwards; but I don't take photos for the pleasure of a judge, I take them for the pleasure of me. Sometimes I get lucky, think I have ticked all the boxes and hope for a good competition score. Other times I know there are problems and expect to be criticised. Don't let any of the things above be a reason for not entering, you probably like the image you are entering and hopefully other people will as well. If the judge does, so much the better. If they don't, accept you will not get a high score and work out if they are talking rubbish or not!

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/10/judges-we-dont-need-no-steenking-judges Wed, 30 Oct 2013 12:05:20 GMT
Studio Portrait Lighting http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/10/studio-portrait-lighting I would like to thank Sittingbourne Photographic Society for putting up with my voice yet again! Last year I inadvertently agreed to do a talk on studio lighting – I thought after having had the lights for nearly a year and having done a few shoots I was more than qualified! I know we covered a lot during the evening and I did promise to pen some notes for people.

The first thing we covered was the kit that I use so let’s kick off with that to start with.

The first thing, obviously, is the flash head. I use Elinchrom 400-watt flash heads. I chose these because they have built in wireless receivers that can be triggered from a device that sits on the camera hot shoe, they are a strong plastic construction that makes them light compared to something like the Bowens flash heads, and finally, but importantly, a variable power output. They are not a cheap option but if you want to start out on a smaller budget Interfit do a range of studio flash heads starting at about £200 for 150-watt heads. For two flash heads, stands, an umbrella and a small softbox that is pretty good value especially when you consider a good quality flashgun will cost that.

The next important thing (although arguably not essential in the digital age) is a light meter. I use a Sekonic L-308S flash meter. These do not come cheap either; this starter model from Sekonic is about £140. However, as I mentioned, it is not essential these days – you can fire test shots with digital cameras and get a feel for the lighting. The light meter provides a more accurate and speedy method of finding out what you light is doing though.

Backgrounds are another non-essential item if you have somewhere un-cluttered you can shoot portraits. You may even want more of an environmental feel to the portrait showing furniture or the surroundings. For the demonstration I used my Lastolite HiLite. The advantage of using this is that you can light it internally to produce good high-key white backgrounds in a confined space. You can also turn it around and use the black side for low-key work. You do not need to spend a fortune though to get a background. At the end of the day you can pop down to your local fabric shop and buy a sheet – or use a spare one obviously.

Right, we are pretty much ready to shoot. For the demo I used my MacBook Pro running Lightroom 5 with a USB lead (Type A to Mini B) running from the camera to the Mac.  In Lightroom you can go to File->Tethered Capture->Start Tethered Capture and shoot straight to your laptop or computer. If you have Lightroom you should check that it supports your camera model.

http://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/kb/tethered-camera-support-lightroom-4.html

Let’s get down to business and set up some lights. For the demo we used up to four flash heads but it is entirely possible to shoot great portraits with just a single flash. Each flash, no matter how many you use, should have a single job. Let’s have a look at what we used.

The Key Light

This is the light that provides the main subject lighting. If you only have one light this is what you will probably need it for. I was taught to try and use a working aperture of f-8 on the subject. Position your light meter by the models face and aim it towards the flash head.

Trigger the flash to take the reading. If necessary adjust the flash power until you get to your working aperture. f-8 is big enough to provide the depth of field to keep the subject all in focus and hopefully narrow enough to throw our background out of focus. There is no hard and fast rule about this, the style of picture you want may mean using something different. You may for example want the background in focus so use a much higher f-stop. The important thing it to set a base working point. If you are using other lights they will have settings relative to your key light. We used a large softbox as a ‘light modifier’ on our key light. The softbox, as the name implies, gives a nice soft light on the model. The closer the softbox is to the model the softer the light becomes. This is to do with the size of the light source in relation to the subject. The larger a light source is in relation to the subject the softer it becomes. If we wanted a much harsher light (maybe for a male subject) we could use a bare flash head. To start with you should have the key light at 45 degrees to the model. This will give a good level of shadow on the far side of the model’s face. Again experiment with angle.

The Background Light

The background light is important to separate your model from the background. This is especially important if you are shooting a low-key image but only if you are entering for competitions! You may want your subject to blend into the background because it can give a very artistic effect. Judges, it would seem, do not like this type of artistic effect and are likely to mark a picture down for having no separation. Remember though – it’s your (or your model's) picture take what you want! If you want that pure white background then use a white background and aim to be two f-stops higher. For our high-key shots, because my working aperture on the subject was f-8, I want to measure f-16 off the background. What this mean is reality is that the flash head(s) lighting the background need to be throwing out much more power. Unlike when taking the key light reading, face the flash meter towards the background because we want to measure the light being reflected back from it towards the camera, not what is falling onto the background. Heavy velvet backgrounds, for example, can absorb maybe three or four stops of light. If the light coming from the flash head is f-16 the actual light being reflected may only be something like f-4 so much darker than you expect.

The Hair Light

The hair light is also used to create separation between the model and the background. It should be above and behind the model. For models with dark hair you want your exposure to be the same or up to one stop lower than the key-light. For our working aperture of f-8 the hair light should be between f-8 and f-5.6. For blonde models you should aim to expose between 1 and 2 stop lower (f-5.6 or f-4). Dark hair will, like backgrounds, absorb some of the light, blonde hair can bleach out if the exposure is too high. For our hair light I used a honeycombe light modifier to direct the light onto the models head and not allow it to spill out into the picture.

The Fill Light

The final light in the demonstration was the fill light. Again, this is an optional light but it is designed to provide an overall wash of light to lift the deeper shadows. It sits at the back of the studio. Ideally if you have a white wall behind you bounce the flash off of that.  For the demonstration we used a large white brolly, which is not ideal, but works when it is set further back. The fill light should be the least evident light source in the picture. The fill light should be set to about 1.5-2 stops lower (f-4.5 or f-4)

So, in summary, a good starting base is as follows:

Key light – f-8

High Key Background – f-16

Low Key Background – No light upwards!

Hair Light for Blonde – f-5.6

Hair Light for Brunette – f-8

Fill Light – f-4.5

Remember though, this is just a starting point. Your job is to position and balance the lights you are using to create effect. My thanks to Phillipa Day for being my suffering model for the evening and who usually sits on the other side of the lens doing portraits! You can see some of Phillipa's work on her website http://www.pdphotography.zenfolio.com

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/10/studio-portrait-lighting Sun, 27 Oct 2013 21:52:57 GMT
Creating Composite Images http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/4/creating-composite-images Well, the sun actually came out today for the first time in what seems like months so I am guessing spring is finally on the way. It also means it is high time I posted something new on here to keep you all interested!

It was an enormous pleasure to photograph a new band the other day and I thought it would be fun to create a composite of some of the images. In this blog I want to show you how I, and I am not saying it is the correct or only way to do this kind of thing, created a montage of the band members.

The technique I use involves adding a layer mask to an image and then painting out the bits I do not want to see in the final image. I repeat this for all of the individual images I want in the final montage and then basically stack the layers and their layer masks on top of each other. Sound confusing? It's not really and hopefully I will explain it here.

I took these 6 images to start off with. These were originally colour images but I had already converted most of them to black and white.

I usually start by creating myself a blank canvas to work on by going to File->New, choosing a width and height, setting the resolution to 300 dpi (my preferred print resolution) and ensuring the colour mode is RGB.

Next I open up my first image. Let's take our first image to be in the montage.

 

 

Use the Command A or CTRL A key combination (Mac or Windows) to select the whole image followed by Command or CTRL C to copy the image into the computer clipboard. Now select the blank canvas you created at the start and hit Command V or CTRL V to paste the selected image into the canvas. You can use Command T or CTRL T to select the transform tool which will allow you to resize or rotate the image after you have pasted it in. When resizing hold down the SHIFT key at the same time to keep the aspect ratio and not squash or distort your original image. We now start working on our new canvas and can close the original picture if you want.

I first want to add a layer mask to the image.  The layer mask will allow me to apply an effect to selected areas of the image. The easiest way to add a layer mask is to click on the layer mask icon on the bottom right of the PhotoShop screen as shown above. If the Layers palette is not being displayed go to Window->Layers to display it.  You will see PhotoShop puts a small white rectangle next to the thumbnail image in the Layers palette as shown in the image above.

Now all we have to do is paint black into the parts we want to hide from the final composite.

Select the brush tool from the tool bar. Hit the 'D' key to set the default colours for the foreground and background (black and white). To start with set the opacity to 100% and then finally make sure you have clicked on the white rectangle mask icon on the Layer Palette to ensure that you are about to paint on the mask and not the image itself.

Work roughly to start with with a large brush to remove the bulk of the image you do not want in the final composite.  Then as you get closer to the details, i.e. around the edges of what you want to keep, use a smaller brush (you can use the left and right square bracket keys [] to reduce or increase the brush size). You can also reduce the opacity of the brush - I drop it down to 20-30%. I find that reducing the opacity helps around areas like hair because it just fades the image. You will loose details in fine hair but fading the image allows you to blend it into the final background colour (I use black a lot for the background) and have a more pleasing effect than a sharp cut out. Also with composites you usually want to blend images over the top of each other. You'll need to take some time over this. If you make a mistake or want to 'un-fade' a bit you simply swap your foreground colour to white and paint back in the bit you have hidden. Swapping between black and white foreground colours, and adjusting the opacity and brush size allows a lot of control.  There are quick masks and things in Photoshop but this method provides me with the most flexibility.

Eventually you end up with an image like the one below.

 

Around about now I find it a good idea to drop my back ground in. I do this by adding a new layer and using the fill tool to paint it whatever colour I want.

Create a new layer by hitting the icon that looks like a piece of paper with a turned corner on bottom right hand side of the screen.  You will see it create a new layer on the layer palette (in the above example it is layer 2 because I already have other layers although I have renamed them. The fill tool is the bucket on the left hand tool bar. Select this and then click on the layer. It will be filled with the foreground colour you have selected. You may need to click and drag the layer to the bottom of the layers palette as it is shown on the above example. By being at the bottom it ensure it is behind any other layers (thus showing you beautifully cut out image). 

Now open up your next image and repeat process of copying it to the clipboard, pasting it into the composite canvas, resizing it and positioning it as you want,  adding a layer mask, and painting out the bits you do not want.

You can hide layers by clicking on the little eye symbol next to the image thumbnail in the layer palette.

Hiding the background layer sometimes helps you see where you may need to tidy up an image. As you build up layers in you final composite make sure you click on the layer mask icon to the right of the image icon in the layer palette before painting black and white into it to hide or show details. In the example above you can see I have renamed the layers I have added. You can do this by double clicking on the layer title and changing it. 

In the above example you will see I have hidden all of the other band members and the background.

You can use the move tool to reposition a layer.

Click on the move tool icon on the top left of the tool bar as shown above. Now select the layer you want to reposition by clicking on the image thumbnail (not the mask) in the layer palette on the right. Click on the image and drag and drop to reposition the layer. You will want to do this as you add the layers in to get them where you want them.

Finally make all the layers visible to see the whole composite. You can still select individual layer masks and using the paint brush with black and white foreground colours to fade or repair area on an individual layer. Usually it is not until you put them all together you see where an area needs to be blended a bit more.

Also keep in mind the closer to the top of the layer palette a layer is the closer to the front it will be in the final composite. So, if you want one layer to be behind another drop it down the list until it is under the layer you want in front. 

Once you have your composition as you want it you can crop any un-necessary canvas area or add borders etc to finish off you image.

It is a bit of a whistle stop tour of how I create these composites but hopefully you can follow the basic process. Feel free to comment or ask questions.

 

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/4/creating-composite-images Sat, 06 Apr 2013 21:08:36 GMT
And the award for best cinematography goes to ... http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/1/and-the-award-for-best-cinematography-goes-to As a kid I once tried to make a cine camera out of a cardboard box and a roll of paper. I think it was just after I had read a book on the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and got all inspired to become a film camera man. Needless to say, overall the project was not considered a major success by me or my peers.

 

Some years later and undaunted by my previous failure I was able to secure a Super 8 cine camera and real projector from Father Christmas.  What was set to be my film making debut that Christmas was slightly marred by Father Christmas inadvertently forgetting to wrap up a small lithium cell battery, to power the camera’s light meter, and include it in my pillow case of full presents.  There may have been some confusion because I did find a rather useless Satsuma and a couple of walnuts in the bottom of it but these seemed to appear every Christmas and prior to this one I had no use for a small round cell battery. A mystery! It wasn’t a case of waiting until Boxing Day and then popping into a shop to buy a battery either because this was the early 80’s on the Isle of Sheppey. Either of these things could cause a problem but combining the two guaranteed that the world did not see a need to open shops over the festive period and it was over a week before the little needle inside the view finder bobbed up and down to signify a satisfactory light level.

 

What followed was many poor attempts at stop frame animation, no doubt inspired the legendary Morph, and really fast moving planes at air shows as I tracked them for 4 or 5 seconds across the sky before moving on to the next display. Over the next few years I must have amassed a good twenty or twenty five minutes of footage. I decided to quit while I was ahead!  But, just like several years after a boy band’s last tour and the money has run out, film making has come out of retirement.

 

I was recently asked by OCD, a band I have photographed on a number of occasions, if I could do some HD video to be used as promotional material. I was reluctant and felt it prudent not to mention previous encounters - of any kind! I was persuaded when cash was mentioned and started my planning.

 

The Canon 5D II is equipment with the ability to shoot 1080p HD video but to be honest I had not even worked out how to put the camera into video mode. A trip to land of Google was required. Planning to show Spielberg a thing or two about film-making I wanted to shoot it at 24 frames per second to give it a true cinematic effect. Things were not looking good, I could not find a setting anywhere on my camera to select the frame rate, the forums just directed me to a no existent menu option. Then I realised I would have to do … a firmware update! Originally the camera did not offer 24 frames per second and to get it I would need to download and install the new firmware.  This was pretty easy, after downloading from the Canon website and copying it to a compact flash card, you just stick the card in the camera and go to the firmware menu option. The camera then detected the version on the card and upgraded the camera.

 

I enlisted the help of my friend Matt Linehan, who also has a 5D, because I wanted to be able to shoot multiple angles but maintain a consistent image quality and style. We would worry about editing it all together in post-production afterwards. After picking a date and venue to shoot the footage the tiresome planning stage was complete. We are consummate professionals and made the rest of it up on the night.

 

The initial idea was for one camera to be mounted on a tripod and film everything from a fixed angle. The second camera would then cut in to individual band members for close ups. The immediate problem we had though was we were both filming at similar focal lengths and hand holding a zoom lens was not practical. We swapped the tripod mounted camera lens for a 70-200 and started using that to get the close-ups. One problem now became two!  Firstly we had to try and keep an eye on each other to see who was filming what and when so as not to leave gaps. This was less of an issue because the band had said they only needed sections of songs to edit into a promo video but it was nice to be able to keep the continuity for the whole song. The bigger problems was my ageing eyesight and trying to focus a zoom lens manually in low light with virtually no depth of field. Standing five feet away from the band with a 200mm lens at f2.8 gives you about 4cm depth of field and to make matters worse musicians keep moving!

 

Another thing I had not really thought about much until we started the shoot was shutter speed. In my brain (small as it is) I had just thought ‘Oh, 24 frames per second setting, so the camera will work out the shutter speed’. I now realise this is rubbish. The camera is effectively running in manual mode and you have to select the ISO, aperture and shutter speed just like you would expose a still frame shot. The shutter speed on a motion film camera is what gives the cinematic feel to film (you notice this when programmes show you a film being made and you see the difference between some video footage of a scene and the actual filmed sequence). Just like on a still shot if the shutter speed is slow and the subject is moving there is some blur to the image. Video is usually shot at a higher frame rate which freezes each individual frame more giving effectively a clearer shot but not what we have become accustomed to in the cinema. Because the film camera shutter is like rotating butterfly wings the effective shutter speed is about 1/48 of a second so the best shutter speed to set on a digital camera to maintain the effect is around 1/50 or 1/60th of a second. This should give a similar level of motion blur as true film … apparently.

 

So, to recap, for that true motion picture feel set your camera to 24 frames per second, select a shutter speed of around 1/60th second, keep your ISO as low as possible to give you the best aperture value for the depth of field you want. Simple!

 

Just one last problem now, not including drunk people getting in the way, 12 minutes of HD footage on a Canon 5D Mk II used 4Gb of memory card so you need to have a few spares.

 

Film in the bag it was back home to work out how to edit it.  I already subscribe to Adobe to run Photoshop CS6. Effectively I rent the software for a monthly cost but that gives me a legal copy with all future updates for as long as I subscribe. It costs about £17 per month but I live and die in this software and a monthly payment is much easier to swallow than the £600 plus cost to buy it. You can do the same thing for Adobe Premier Pro, their film editing software. I downloaded a free 30 day trial version which allowed me to edit everything but for future use I will rent it a month at a time.  It is more expensive to do it this way than signing up for a year contract but I am unlikely to need it month after month.

 

So, apart from learning how to use Premier Pro, my final lesson in shooting multi-camera film was synchronising two lots of footage. After a bit of messing around I managed to get Premier Pro’s multi-camera mode working.  This is great, especially in CS6, because you can open a number of camera clips at the same time and play them all through simultaneously selecting which one to record to a master clip by clicking on their large thumbnail view. You can drag the record head back to re-record bits if you mess it up. To do this though, you must synchronise ‘in’ points on each clip so that they all line up correctly (you can use 'out' points and time codes as well). I found it much easier to do this visually than by using the audio tracks. For that to work it is imperative that at the start of filming both cameras are pointing at the same thing. In most of our footage they were not. This method also means both cameras have to film everything with no breaks. It is very difficult to drop separate sequences into a single clip and then synch that clip with one from another camera. You effectively need to pad out the missing part of the timeline with blank footage. I did manage to do this on one track, She Sells Sanctuary, but I think more by luck than good judgement.

 

Anyway, I don’t think my friend Mr Spielberg has too much to worry about just yet. I do consider my third excursion into film a case of third time lucky with this being the most successful thing to date I have done with moving pictures. Between Matt and I, we have managed to put together nearly ten complete tracks all of which are now available to view in the video gallery. There will be no BAFTA or Oscar awards for cinematography just yet but I hope some of the above explains why coupled with the moments of sheer genius there are moments when it looks like it was not just the audience that were drunk.

I’m off now to find a mountain made of mash potato. Click on the links below if you would rather see the videos.

Videos on YouTube (Stream Better)

She Sells Sanctuary

The Chain

Teenage Kicks

Bitch

Whats Up

Word Up

Hedonism

Creep

Weak

Original Videos on this site (including Smells Like Teen Spirit)

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/1/and-the-award-for-best-cinematography-goes-to Fri, 11 Jan 2013 17:34:43 GMT
The Learning Zone Goes Live http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/1/the-learning-zone-goes-live I have finally got around to converting an old PowerPoint presentation I created for a camera club talk into a PDF document so that I can upload it to this site (it's the only file type I can upload other than images). I was asked over a year ago if I would do a talk about the basics of using an SLR camera for some of the newer members that were keen to learn what some of the controls did and how to use them.

The new PDF version of the document expands slightly on the presentation and probably still needs some work so advanced apologies for the usual terrible grammar and typing mistakes and left out stuff.

You can get to the document in the new Learning Zone menu option off the Share menu or using the link below. I hope it is of some use to newcomers to photography and possibly a refresher for some more experienced people.

Back To Basics

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2013/1/the-learning-zone-goes-live Tue, 08 Jan 2013 22:54:19 GMT
Using Camera Raw in CS6 http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2012/9/using-camera-raw-in-cs6 When I created my blog I did kind of promise to add some educational articles as well as my general ranting.  I have talked about some of the the nice new functions in CS6 like the blur tools and content aware moves but I would like to demonstrate some much more fundamental functionality in CS6 and more specifically the camera raw editor.

You will hear a lot of talk about using your camera's raw capture mode if it has one and it really is the next step in getting more out of your camera's sensor.  It is, in reality, the closest thing to an old film negative that you will get. Normally your camera will capture a JPEG image.  That image will have been manipulated in camera to change things like picture sharpness, colour saturation and white balance to name but a few things.  Crucially it will also compress the information your sensor originally captured which looses valuable information. This certainly includes details in shadows and highlights but also colour information right across the image. A raw image provides you will ALL the information your sensor captured in a completely uncompressed file allowing you to get much more details and clarity out of you final image.

In this blog I aim to show you how I have used the camera raw function to pull, what I feel, is a good final image out of a file you might be tempted to throw away!

Because I have to show images on the blog as JPEG files the following is not an absolute version of the initial file because as we have already mentioned some information is lost but it shows what that original raw file looked like.

As you can see there is little to be seen! There is a pretty bright sky and no foreground detail. This was a handheld shot at 800 ISO and 1/40th of a second at f4 (the maximum aperture on my 17-40 wide angle lens). I did not use a graduated filter to try and balance the sky out because there would not have been enough light to get any shot. I did not want to push the ISO up any higher because this increases digital noise.

The first thing I wanted to do was pull out some detail in the foreground shadow areas. The latest versions of Camera Raw has a Shadows control which is a simple slider.  Moving it to the right brightens any shadow areas. There is no science to how much to adjust the level. Move the slider until you are happy is the rule. I settled on a value of +73 to produce the image shown below.

We are now starting to see some detail in the foreground that you probably would not have captured anywhere near as much of in a JPEG image. The next stage was to introduce some more detail into the sky.  To do this I used the Camera Raw Highlights slider. Again this is a simple slider with no science! To darken the sky down I opted for a value of -91.  You will notice is both the shadows and highlights I have happily travelled a long way along the possible values.

This has given a much deeper blueness to the sky and brought out some definition to the cloud base. The next stage is to use the Clarity control.  This is one of my favourite sliders in Camera Raw. It essentially enhances the definition of the image by boosting contrast around edges. Hard to explain and again my recommendation is to grab the slider and pull it left and right to see the effect. I nearly always end up pushing the clarity up to around 30-40.  In this case, 31.

Hopefully you should see a little more crispness around things like the gate and flowers heads. Next, camera modes like landscape will always have a little play around with things like colour saturation. The Camera Raw function gives you a little more control with two sliders called Vibrance and Saturation. Both boost colour saturation but the Vibrance slider will saturate the less saturated colours first enhancing more pastel shades.  The Saturation slide will change the saturation of the whole image. I find you can push the Vibrance control much more than the Saturation one. Here I have selected values of +23 and +6 for Vibrance and Saturation respectively.

Right, one final stage for me in Camera Raw is to see what effect the White Balance setting has on the image. The white balance setting determines what the camera regards as white (although in reality it is actually based what is known as 18% grey). It sounds silly maybe but you experience white balance throughout the day and probably pay little attention to it. At mid-day (assuming the UK sun comes out to play) the light is very blue but as the sun starts to set the light takes on a more red hue. Light bulbs, for example, tend to have a warm 'colour balance', that is to say a red hue to them. Digital cameras are very susceptible to white balance, or 'colour temperature'. This is actually a good thing though! In the old days of film you would have to decide what type of film to load into your camera to accurately record the colours. Once it was in that was it mate. If you wanted a different type of film, say tungsten balanced for those indoor light bulbs, you had to get another camera out! With digital cameras you can change it on the fly between shots.  If you shoot JPEGs you need to make sure you set the white balance to the correct setting.  Thankfully the camera will have an automatic setting where it will decide for you. If you shoot in raw it does not matter what you set the white balance to, you can adjust it in Camera Raw. Lower colour temperature values have a cooler look to them (i.e. blue!) and higher values are warmer (red!). I wanted to create a warmer feel to the image so to do this I adjusted the white balance pushing it up to 7100.

Once I had made all the changes I could open the the image in Photoshop and save it as a file that can be uploaded to my website or printed by a lab. Most online labs do not process raw files the images need to be submitted as JPEGs. Some labs will take files formats with less compression such as TIFFs but in general images for general viewing, especially on the Internet, are JPEGs.

The image below is just a screen shot of the Camera Raw editor. There are plenty of other options to play around with including lens corrections, sharpening, and colour balance to name but a few. 

I hope this has demonstrated what can be achieved using the raw capability of your camera and the Camera Raw editor in Photoshop. While Photoshop Elements does allow for raw image editing it does not provide all of the functionality you find in Photoshop CS.

You may be thinking well what you have produced is not really what you saw and it is all digital magic. Well, yes to some extent this is true but do not be fooled into thinking it never happened with film. Photographers would regularly dodge and burn areas of an image to alter shadow and highlight details, and clarity, sharpness and colour saturation could be manipulated by using different types of paper and exposure techniques.

We can all get on a moral high horse and say get it right in the camera but a lot of the fun is what you do after you have taken the picture!

 

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info@ibimages.co.uk (IBImages) 7.1 Camera Clarity Highlights Raw Shadows White Balance http://www.ibimages.co.uk/blog/2012/9/using-camera-raw-in-cs6 Mon, 17 Sep 2012 21:41:22 GMT