Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Class #10

Better Portraits

What Makes a Good Portrait?
- It should be expressive of the subject's personality.
- Create a narrative around the subject in the moment
- Subject should be composed within an environment that further enhances the story of the person.
- The portrait should be made with a sense of mood.

The Photographic Basics of Good Portraiture
- Light is the key to shape and texture.
The direction of the light sets shadows and creates the illusion of shape on the face.  The actual shape of your subject's face will determine the best direction of light for them.  A round face may benefit from sidelight, throwing more of the face into shadow, while a thin-faced person may look best with frontal light.  To bring out high cheekbones the light should be high to cast the shadows down.  But too high and your subjects eyes might end up in shadow.
High or low contrast can set the picture's mood.  Lower contrast tends to be a softer and gentler feeling light while high contrast light with its dark shadows, can yield more dramatic and mysterious pictures.
The balance between the specular and diffuse qualities of light is vital in portraiture.  We need a little specularity to create dimension and the sitter's face but too much can ruin a portrait by revealing too much texture.

Good composition is important to good portraiture.  We know that the sitter in a portrait is the main subject and all of our composition tools should be used to keep the viewer's eyes there.  Rule of thirds, strong lines, frame within a frame and pattern all still apply to making portraits.

Remember that lens focal length can expand or compress our scene.  Depth of field - how much or how little of the area in front of and behind the subject rendered sharp can be the difference between an effrective portrait and total visual chaos.

The Point of View that a portrait was made from has a huge effect on the stature of the sitter.  Low angles can aggrandize the subject while a camera position above, looking down can diminish them.

Environmental Portraits
- Good starting question - How does the environment "inform" the subject?

Where is the best light to make a portrait?
Any window is going to give a variety of light qualities......you just need to practice to find a great portrait.  The easiest window to use is a north-facing window.  They never get direct sunlight and therefore remain consistent throughout the day. 

Sadly I did not complete this weeks assignment....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Assignment #9

Fill Flash on a Sunny Day
- I was a little rushed with this assignment and didn't pick the correct light.  I should really go back and do again.....
For this assignment I had to take multiple pictures adjusting the flash exposure.  Thank you to my co-worker Maureen.  Here are a few examples. 

No Flash

Full Flash

-1 Stop

-2 Stops

Fill Flash indoor picture
Again I hate to take multiple pictures adjusting the flash exposure.  Thank you to Mike.

Last part of the assignment was to take some fun pictures.  Here are a few from Sarah's bachelorette party at Trapeze school in the city. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Class #9

A Flash Primer

Apparently my instructor believes the detachable electronic flash is one of the most useful accessories a photographer can have and should almost always be used.  Each manufacture makes flashes with slightly different settings and features....so the below is an overview.

The Three Basic Exposure Modes
Manual - The output of your flash is expressed as a guide number (GN).  The guide number is calculated by multiplying the f-stop required to make the correct exposure at 10 feet with ISO 100 film.  If at 10 feet your flash makes a correct picture when the lens is set at f8, then the guide number is 80.  Once you know the guide number, you can calculate an exposure for any distance with the simple formula: GN / distance = f-stop.  Or even easier you can use the exposure dial calculator on your flash.

Auto Sensor - Most flash units have a small auto exposure "sensor" on the front of the unit.  This sensor measures the light bouncing off your subject and turns the flash off when the corret amount of light has been detected.  On most flash units you can tell the sensor what ISO you are using and what f-stop you would like to shoot at and the sensor will do the rest.

Through the Lens (TTL) - Your digital cameras have an amazing system to measure the flash exposure through the lens, while the exposure is happening.  Like the auto sensor mode, the light leaves the flash, bounces off the subject and is read by a sensor.  As the name implies though, the sensor in the TTL mode is located inside the camera to give you the most accurate exposures possible.  Using the TTL mode will allow you to shoot flash pictures automatically, including tricky fill flash situations, with accurate results.  The key to using the flash in the TTL mode is in using the over/under adjustment.  Just like the camera's meter needs to be adjusted using the exposure adjustment override, the TTL mode needs a little help in achieving the correct exposure.

Fill Flash - When the flash is used to bring up the amount of light in the shadows.
A bright sunny day is very high contrast light.  If you want to photograph someone with the sun behind them chances are you will have to choose between overexposing the background in order to expose for the face or having the face in shadow to allow a correct background exposure.  Fill flash allows you to keep the natural exposure for the background and edge light and use the flash to match the exposure on the face. 

How to modify the light....
Take it off the camera!  Why do direct flash pictures sometimes look harsh?  Light coming from just above the lens is rarely flattering to our subjects.  The answer is to purchase a long "sync" cord and change the direction.  My instructor recommends a sync cord that is 3-5 feet long to begin with.  That length will allow you to hold the flash in one hand and the camera in the other.  If you have a TTL flash and camera make sure you spend the extra money on the dedicated TTL cord.

Bounce it.  The bigger the light source, the softer and more diffused the light will be.  Many flash units will pivot so you can bounce the light off a ceiling.  Some pivot so they will point towards a wall.  With automatic modes you can rely on the equipment to figure the exposure.  Remember when bouncing the light you loose a substantial amount, so choose a surface that isn't too far away.  Also, remember that the color of the surface that you bounce off of will be the color of the resulting light.

Class #8

RAW Workflow Procedure 

This week we discussed taking pictures in RAW format.  A RAW file is the pure, unprocessed data recorded directly as it leaves the chip.  A RAW file is not a picture, but a record of the data your camera is recording....information that jpeg destroys.  The file includes the entire range of light the chip gathers, adjustments to exposure, brightness, contrast, color, sharpness, shadows and more.

To edit and work with RAW files, you'll need software that will process the RAW files into picture files.  My instructor loves and recommended Lightroom from  Adobe.  You're camera will likely come with a software.....but I believe the controls and ability to edit the files will be limited.  Two other options are Capture One from PhaseOne and Aperture from Apple.

Another benefit of Lightroom is its a file database.  So you can add Key words to your pictures, and instead of searching through multiple files later to find a picture, all you have to do is search with your Key word.

Other benefits of Lightroom....it keeps all your changes in a catalog - so you're never actually altering your original picture.  So when you're in the Developo Module changing the color balance, exposure, tonal graduation, hue, saturation, contract, etc.....  The changes are kept in a separate file (xmp).

I went ahead and purchased Lightroom and a guide book....wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Little Late with the Assignment

I was scheduled to be in Memphis, TN June 20-21 for work, which meant I was going to miss Class 8.  So I was a little lazy with my creative pictures, figuring I had an extra week to get them done.  Unfortunately Delta decided to cancel my flight last minute, then run me between Newark and Laguardia with promises of a flight.  In the end I made a full circle and ended Monday night back home in NJ.  Great part about the cancelled flight was I made Class 8 on Tuesday, but without my Creative Pictures.  But that doesn't mean I left my camera in its bag all week.  While in Belmar, NJ Friday night, I looked up and saw an amazing red moon.  So I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed to the beach.  Only to discover the moon slipped through the clouds and came back white.  But that didn't stop me from messing around with my camera settings.  Here are the best pictures I think I captured. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Class #7

Digital Color
Each device we use has an amount of color it is capable of capturing; it has limits.  Your camera, monitor and printer all handle color in different ways and all have different limits to the amount of color they can display, record or capture.  This is known as Color Space.  Color modes are express through standard models however so that different devices can understand what they are suppose to do with the information.

Most labs print in the sRGB mode even though it is the smallest color space.  The Internet also uses sRGB as its color standard.  Because of these two uses, your camera as well as iPhoto and other consumer image editing programs are set to handle color within the sRGB color space.  Your chip is capable of recording twice the amount of color that can be expressed in sRGB.  Your chip (in RAW mode) is operating in ProPhoto RGB, a HUGE color space. 

If you choose to continue to shoot pictures in jpeg mode, you should set your camera's color space and your image editing software to Adobe98 RGB.  A bigger color space that will give you more color to work with.

White Balance
White Balance is essentially changing the camera's expectations of the color it is receiving so it can make whites that are white, grays that are gray and colors that are true. 

There is a menu of White Balance options (see below).  Your camera default setting is AWB or Auto White Balance.  However my teacher likes to call it Always Wrong Balance because it will get your pictures close but is never perfect.
Setting the White Balance for each situation that you encounter will improve your pictures.  Using your camera's custom white balance will improve them dramatically.  In the custom white balance setting, a reference frame is shot of a gray card.  The camera then calculates the new white balance based on what it sees.  This eliminates color variations between light sources and gives you an accurate color rendition every time.

White Balance as a Creative Tool
- Portraits often benefit from a bit more warmth, but too much can render skin tones that are yellow.  Warm color can also make pictures feel more nostalgic.  And any sunset can be enhanced by setting the camera to the open shade white balance.  Blue tones can enhance a cold feeling, fastness or apprehension.  In the hour before the sun comes up, using the sunny day shite balance will intensify the blue cast and add to the feeling of the picture.

Assignment #6

For this weeks assignment I kinda messed up.  We were suppose to put our mode into Aperture or Speed - then adjust the Exposure Compensation to either overexpose or underexpose.  For some reason I forgot that when you're in Aperture or Speed mode - the camera automatically adjusts the opposite setting so you have the correct setting - why is why you have the Exposure Compensation.  So I skipped the Exposure Compensation mode and did all of my pictures in Manual Mode so I could view the light meter and make the adjustment on my own.  I'll do better next time.....
We had to take about 7 pictures of white overexposed and 7 back underexposed.  I'll save you from all the pics and just post a few.

White - Overexposed at 1 1/3

Black - Underexposed at 1 1/3

Now for our Creative pictures.  We had to take 5 pictures from our neighborhood.