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 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 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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Class #6

Light Meter
Today we learned that our light meter isn't so smart.  Objects come in countless shades of light and dark.....from bright white to absolute black.  All of these objects require different exposure settings.  Our cameras are making a big assumption that everything in the world is medium gray.  With this assumption, the light meter gives you a reading that will make whatever you're pointing at gray.  This is fine for many scenes that have "average scene brightness" (equal amounts of lights and darks).  But as soon as there is an imbalance of tones (like bright white or dark black) you've got problems.

To correct this you need to over expose when you're taking a picture that is bright white, and under expose when the object is dark black.  This is easy to adjust by looking through your light meter.  We also learned about the Exposure Compensation on our camera.  Usually when taking a picture, you adjust your settings until the light meter is balanced at 0.  If you are taking a white picture you'll want the light meter to read to the left (over exposed).  Or, you can adjust the Exposure Compensation setting in your camera so that when you're taking a picture, you'll adjust your settings until the light meter is balanced.  You just need to make sure you turn off the Exposure Compensation setting after you're done taking pictures......wanna bet I mess this one up.

Photo Essay
Next we talked about a Photo Essay.  This is any time you want to use more than one photograph to tell a story.  Often it is difficult to tell a story deeply with only one picture.  A photo essay can explore an idea or event with more detail and depth of emotion than one picture. 

Like writing, the Beginning, Middle and End is the basic frame work of a photo essay.  You start with a picture that describes where you started, what you did along the way, and where and how the trip ended.
There are no rules....but here are a few suggestions.
- The viewer knows nothing.  You have to guide them through the story....
- Break a scene down.  Take different shots from different angles with different focal length lenses edited together to tell the story.
- Start with an "establishing" shot or "long" shot.  The establishing shot is often an overview of a landscape, building or room that gives the viewer a sense of where the scene is taking place.
- Medium shots and close shots are the usual progression to the main theme in a scene.  Medium pictures are usually the bulk of a picture story.  The provide the body of the narrative.
- A detail shot is a quick "cut away" edit to some telling detail in the scene.  A close-up of a cigarette held in a shaky hand during a medium shot of dialogue is an example of close up.
- Camera viewpoints play a major role in story telling.  In film you'll often see three quickly edited shots of the same subject from three different camera angles.  Remember, a director is trying to tell you a story with everything that he or she does with the film.  By quickly showing you three separate views of the same subject they have told you everything about the environment that the subject is in.
- Try to think like a director when you make a picture story.  Shoot establishing shots, medium shots, portraits and details.  Be aware of the passing of time, the weather, and people's moods.  Ask yourself what is the real story unfolding here, and make sure you are using all your photographic skills (good light, composition, color and exposure) to tell it.
- Put meat into the story.  Include Action Shots and Point of View

My final assignment is a photo essay bound in a book.  I'm going to need a little help with please feel free to share.  I want to keep the story simple....nothing too complex.  Final class is July 19th and it takes about 1.5 weeks to get a book printed and mailed.  The clock is ticking!!

I'll most likely be printing my book at

Links to Picture Stories:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Assignment #5

This week we worked on our shutter speed.  This one was a little difficult because I needed a volunteer.  Thankfully I was able to twist the arm of a Belmar beach house friend.  Considering I didn't really sell the experience, she was a really good sport.

Stop Action
- I set my camera on a tripod and took pictures of Crystal going by on a bike at multiple shutter speeds.

Shutter Speed 1/30

Shutter speed 1/60
Shutter Speed 1/125

Shutter Speed 1/250

Shutter Speed 1/500

Shutter Speed 1/1000
Now for a couple of fun ones.....
(after taking this one, I really started to crave a bigger zoom lens)

- If you remember from my Assignment #5 post, there are two types of blur.  I'll start with Static Blur, then move to Panning Blur

Static Blur

Shutter Speed 1/ 125

Shutter Speed 1/ 60

Shutter Speed 1/30

Shutter Speed 1/ 15

Shutter Speed 1/8

I was also suppose to take a picture with Shutter Speed 1/4....but somehow I forgot.  Oops!

Now a few fun ones!

Panning Blur
Shutter Speed 1/30

Shutter Speed 1/ 15

Shutter Speed 1/8

Shutter Speed 1/4

Shutter Speed 1/2
Shutter Speed 1

Now a quick fun one

Next we had to communicate an idea.  This one was a little tricky.  For the next couple of weeks he's going to give us a word and/or phrase and we need to capture in a picture......ugh.

- Portrait of a loved one without them in it

- As time goes by

- Urban jungle

- Will this ever end?
Seriously when will it end??!!