Hello and welcome to my blog. Today I'm going to talk about the use of shadow to create effects in your photos.
When we start out as photographers we imagine that we need lots of light and that everything must be fully light up. However, we begin to notice that in certain images it's the shadow that gives us the effect we want.
What we are inclined to forget, at the early stages at least, is that we mostly photograph three dimensional subjects, the image is recorded onto a two dimensional chip, edited on a two dimensional monitor and printed onto two dimensional paper. To avoid our images looking flat and uninteresting we must try and create a three dimensional effect in our images. We do that by including shadow on our subjects.
Sometimes we look at a photo and see immediately that shadow is what makes the image. In this photo of the Desmond Banqueting Hall in Newcastle West we see a lot of shadow in the clouds. This is the main focus of the image and without it we would have a plain image of a building.
It's not always as obvious as this however and we often overlook the shadow in the image and don't realise what it is that gives it it's three dimensional result.
This image of detail from a stone wall on the Burren in Co. Clare would not work without shadow. When I arrived at this scene first I was facing a wall with the sun shining directly on it. It looked flat and uninteresting. I found a section of wall that was running at an angle to it and this is the result. The shadow gives the feel of the texture of the stone and the shape of each one. Without the shadow, the roughness of the stone and the sharpness of the edges would not be obvious. All it took was to look for a different section of wall, just five meters away, to change from a flat uninteresting image to one of depth and texture.
Shadow is just as important in portraits. We can use shadow to make our subject stand out from the background or to give three dimensions to our her. Either way, we must be conscious of where we place the shadow and how much to include.
With all portraits it is vital that we can see at least one eye clearly and that our subjects eyes are sharp. It doesn't matter how well we've done on all other aspects of the portrait, if the eyes are not sharp or not clearly visible, the photo fails. There are exceptions to this, as always but 95% or more of the time we need the eyes visible and sharp.
In this image of Sinead shadow slims her face, while giving it form. You will notice that both of her eyes are in the light and sharp. Our subconscious plays an important role in how we interpret images. Large bright areas are seen as big in real life also. When we turn our subject fully towards the camera and light her face fully, our subconscious tells us that the person is large. By turning her at 45 degrees to the light we are reducing the bright area on her face and tricking our subconscious into seeing her as slimmer than she actually is.
This is easy to do with a single person or indeed a small group but it's not so easy with larger groups. In a natural light situation you may find yourself unable to fit a large group into the space available unless you turn them fully into the light. Sometimes we have to make compromises and don't get the image we want. In this case it's better get an image that satisfies most of the rules rather than get none.
In general, you should work to include shadow to give shape to your subject. As already mentioned you can also use shadow to make your subject stand out. Sometimes we get a dark subject and are tempted to add light but this is not always the thing to do.
In this image of an alter the shadow keeps attention on the alter and creates a nice triangle around our main subject. I could have used a speedlight and filled the area with light but it would have taken away from the image. Instead, I used a high ISO rating and took the image as you see it. There are more items in the shadow area in the background, including plants and religious items, that would have taken your attention. So, by exposing for the light on the alter and using only the natural light, I let the shadow hide the distracting details.
In portraiture we can do something similar. For example, if using window light, place our subject on the edge of the light, close to the window and expose for that. Unless you are in a very well light room, with several windows, the room will fall into shadow. You may need to throw some light back on your subject from behind, so as not to lose detail in her hair or clothing. This can be done using anything white and that's large enough.
The image on the left shows what I mean. I used a large reflector to throw the light back on Chrissie and it helped to separate her from the background. The difference in the lighting levels on Chrissie and the background allowed the background to go completely dark.
This effect can be used on a bright day, using a window that is not facing directly into the sun. Artist's studios have what's known as "north light". This means that the window is north facing, to avoid direct sunlight, giving a lovely soft light. We can get a similar effect with an east facing window in the afternoon or a west facing window in the morning.
Bright cloudy days give a similar effect. However, on a bright cloudy day the light is bounced about the place by the cloud and comes in the window in all directions, often lighting up the entire room evenly. Closing the curtains so that there is only a narrow gap open will usually solve this problem.
So, that's it for today. I hope I've given you food for thought and that you'll try using shadow to improve your photography.
Until next time, take good care of yourself and those you love. Enjoy your photography.
Hello again and welcome to my blog. Today I'm going to discuss what to do when you can't get a well composed shot on site and what to consider before you take that shot.
It's not always possible to get exactly the image you want, for various reasons. Lighting conditions is one of the most common reasons but I'm not going to deal with that now. Perhaps in a later blog. Sometimes, it's not possible to get close enough or to avoid having an obstruction in the image, a pole on the left side, for example.
The first thing you must do is frame the image you want, in your mind's eye. Then figure out the best angle from which to take it. These are two steps you should be doing before every image you take but it's especially important in this situation.
Things to watch out for are how the light is falling on your subject, what the background is like, will there still be unwanted objects in the image and does it show your subject from a good angle.
Now position yourself so that you are taking the shot from the angle required. The image above was taken with a 450 mm lens but the plover is still small in the image. I had already moved so that the background wouldn't compete for attention.
I had been over to my right, in line with the bank she is standing on. This would have given me a very complicated background and the bird would have been lost in it. In the low light conditions, the brown of her feathers would have blended in with the many shadows in the bushes that would have formed the background.
The bird had seen me moving and was watching me nervously. I could have moved closer but the possibility was that she would fly away before I got my shot. As it was, she flew away almost as soon as I took this one.
In my mind's eye, the area framed in red was the image I hoped to get. However, as explained above, I couldn't get close enough for that. However, by positioning myself correctly, I got the image, within a larger one and just had to crop to size in Photoshop.
The final image may now be on the small size but it can be resized, also in Photoshop. Open Image>Image Size or press the short keys Alt+Ctrl+I, a dialogue box opens. In this box, select Per Cent. If you are using an older version of PS, this will be in the top section of the box, where you will have the option of selecting Pixels or Per Cent. In CC, the sections of the box have been combined and there is a drop down menu, in line with width and height, where you select Per Cent.
It's important that you don't increase the size of the image in one step, unless you are increasing it by a very small amount. It is recommended that you increase it in size by no more than 10% at a time. So, when you've selected Per Cent, the number in the digits box will be 100. Change this to 110 and press OK. Repeat this step until you have it at the size you want or a little larger.
It's possible also to set up an Action for this, it's much quicker. Click Alt+F9 to select your actions panel. At the bottom of the panel there are a number of symbols. One looks like a page, with the corner turned down, click on this. If you're unsure, hold your cursor over it for a couple of seconds and the description will pop up.
A new dialogue box pops up. Here you can name the Action, I've named mine "10%". It's best to choose something obvious. You can also select a Function Key to launch the action. Doing this makes like even easier. I've select F10 but you can select anyone of them. If it's in use already, you may need to combine the Shift or Ctrl key with the Function Key or both. Press Record and go through the action once. Then at the bottom of the action panel, click the square button and this stops the recording. Next time you want to use the Action, click the Function Key you've selected for it and it happens automatically. This is time saving when you have to repeat the action a few times.
Hello and welcome to my blog. This time I will discuss the problem of theft of images, especially those online. For most photographers, it's not a major problem and policing your images online may be more effort than it's worth.
If you have a particularly salable image it's worth protecting it by not uploading at all, except to the library selling it for you. Our everyday pictures are different and we often like to place them in galleries or enter them in competition. There are ways of discouraging theft but a really determined thief will still get them. Here's the information that you need to know.
Metadata; Metadata is information that's included in the file of every digital image. The first part of this is implanted in the image file at the time of taking it. This includes details about the camera, it's make and model, serial number, lens used, etc. It also includes the settings you used to take the photo and details like whether the flash fired.
All of this information is permanent and can not be removed. It's useful to you, if you want to review a photo and see how to repeat an effect. The serial number of the camera is possibility the most important piece of information, if trying to prove ownership.
IPTC Core; This sounds very complicated and advanced but it isn't. This is the section where you fill in your own name and other personal details. At the bottom of this section there's a place where you can claim copyright and the terms of that copyright.
When you upload a folder of images, open your browser, Adobe Bridge for example and select all. Fill in the details in the IPTC Core panel and it will be applied to all the images. There is the option, under Tools, of creating a template for your metadata, which will save you having to fill in your personal details every time.
Start at the top and work your way through the various headings. There are a few that you won't fill in as an amateur, for example, job number but fill in any information that you can.
Keywords; The image above shows you the personal data that I've included with the image on the left. This makes tracing me, for permission to use the image, very easy.
Also included is a set of keywords, which makes finding any image, at a later date, very easy. If you enter keywords that are descriptive of the image and as many possible ways of describing the image as possible, the image can be quickly found by your browser, simply by entering some of the keywords in the search panel. I'm digressing a little but it's worth it.
If, for example, in five years time I was looking for this specific image, I could enter bollards, chrome and footpath in the search panel, at the top right in Adobe Bridge and this image will be found. Any one of the keywords that I entered, when filling out the metadata, can be used to recover this image. I may be looking for images that include paving bricks or that were taken in November and a simple search will recover this image and any others with similar keywords.
Filling in the keywords takes a few seconds and can save hours searching, at a later date. It also saves time when uploading your image to certain sites. Some online galleries require that you provide keywords with your image, to make finding it easier for visitors. You can enter the keywords manually but many sites can read the keywords that are already included in the metadata.
Finally, you can go back to your browser at any time and alter the keywords. When you edit the image, it's also possible to alter the keywords and other metadata. In Photoshop, this can be done by clicking on File and then on File Info. All of the same sections will be included in the pop up dialogue box, except this time they will be in tabs. Any information that can be entered and altered in your browser, can be altered here.
Using a logo; Many photographers place a logo or watermark on their images, when uploading them. This seldom works as a form of protection and is usually used as a way of advertising. Professionals place their logo on an image so that a viewer who likes it can trace the photographer and book him.
Unless you place your logo or watermark right in the middle of the image, it can be edited out by re-cropping the image or with a little careful work in Photoshop. If you decide to place one on the image anyway, Photoshop and many other editing programmes, have a filter for doing it. There are also a number of plug-ins which will do it for you, some are even free.
An easy way to create a logo file and paste it onto an image is as follows. Assuming that you already have a logo, open Photoshop and open the logo file. Then go to File, then New and select an appropriate document size. In the Background Contents box, make sure to select Transparent.
Click OK and a new blank, transparent document will open. Next bring your logo file to the front, click Ctrl+A to select it and Ctrl+C to copy it. Now bring the new blank file to the front and click Ctrl+V to paste your logo. Shape and alter your logo to suit your taste. It's now possible to use a Layer Style on your logo, for example, a drop shadow or outer glow. When you're happy with how it looks, click Ctrl+Shift+E to merge the layers and save to where you will find it easily and with an obvious name, for example Logo 2016.
When you want to place your logo on an image, open Logo 2016 or whatever title you gave it. Then click Ctrl+A to select it and Ctrl+C to copy it. Open the image you want to place it on and click Ctrl+V to paste the logo file. You can now resize your logo and place it where you want, within the image. Merge your layers and save the final image as a copy of the original. Always keep a copy of the image without the logo on it, you'll never know when you may want it.
If you don't have a logo, open the transparent document, as explained above. Type your name on it, using the font and style that you like. Then add any layer style you wish and merge the layers. Save this as your logo and use it in the very same way.
Care is needed; Be careful where you post your images. Some sites offer great protection, while others don't. Many online galleries, 500px for example, put a blank, transparent layer over your image. This means that when someone tries to save your image, they will save the blank layer instead. Others put the site's logo on the image, in a way that can't be seen while viewing on the site but will be very visible, once downloaded. Different sites have different ways of protecting the images uploaded to them. Generally speaking, the bigger the online gallery or photo library, the better the protection provided.
When you upload an image to a site that is not dedicated photo library or gallery, you usually don't have any protection at all. Indeed some will claim copyright over your image, once uploaded or at least claim the right to use if for free, even after you have deleted the image or your account.
Copyright; If you live in the USA, it's possible to register your images and your claim of copyright. I don't know how this is done, as I don't live there but it's worth looking up, if you do live there.
In Europe, you automatically own the copyright of all images you take, even when someone is paying you to take the photo. There are a few minor exceptions but unless you're taking commercial images, they don't affect you.
At the end of the day, if someone is determined to steal your image, there is little you can do. If you make it more difficult for them, many will move on and find another image. Filling in as much metadata as possible and making sure it's included in your files, will discourage thieves and help prove ownership.
If your image is stolen, you'll have to consider the costs of recovering it. Usually, the best you can do is have it removed from whatever site is using it but that can be difficult and costly, at times, although many will remove your image immediately. There are sites, Tineye.com, for example, that will find where your images are being used. It may be that someone has copied your image to a gallery of images he or she likes and makes no other use of it and even credits you. Do you want to tell them to remove it?
It could also be the case that it's being used to make money by a business, that's worth chasing down, most of the time or it may be that another photographer has claimed credit for it.
Sometimes, a photo editor or photographer will edit your image and claim copyright on the result. This breaks the copyright law in two ways. It is a breach of copyright to edit an image without permission and also to claim copyright over an image you did not create.
So, for example, if someone was to take the image above and crop it tightly around the flowers, without my permission but didn't claim copyright for themselves, that's a breach of the law. If they let the image as it is and claimed copyright, that's against the law also. If they changed some of the colours in it or made it black and white, that's against the law also.
Would any of the above be worth pursuing? That would depend on what it costs and what benefit would accrue to you, as a result. Only you can decide.
I've had one instance of a photographer putting an image by me up on an online gallery, under his own name. He had gotten several likes and a few comments but there was no means of him making money from it. I sent an email to him, first and got no response. Then I sent an email to the gallery controller and he removed it. Was it worth doing any more? I didn't think so. Had he made money from it, it may have been different, depending on how much. There would be no point going through the hassle of court cases and paying legals fees to recover a small amount of money, especially as he was in a different country.
When you put your images on line, it's a bit like the guy who places vegetable for sale at his front gate. Most people are honest and if they take something, they will put the money in the box but there will be one, every now and then, who will take a bunch of carrots and put nothing in the box. The gardener could stand by his table all day every day to prevent the loss of €2 once a week or he could carry on doing what he enjoys, gardening. Where he strikes the balance is an individual decision.
I hope that I've given you information of use to you and some food for thought. It's a complicated subject and much of it has to be decided on a case by case basis.
Enjoy your photography and until next time, take good care of yourself and those you love.
A question I'm often asked is "how many megapixels should I get?". Many camera salesmen present megapixels as if they are the single most important thing in your camera and sell equipment on the basis that one camera has more megapixels than the others.
In truth, megapixels shouldn't worry you at all. All modern cameras and even cameras ten years old, have more than enough megapixels for most people needs. As I've said in previous blogs, the lens, sensor; ISO, shutter speed and F number ranges are more important.
First off, let us understand what a pixel is. The name is an abbreviated version of picture element. Pictures is shortened to pics and then to pix and the first two letters of element is added. The picture element referred to is the little dots that make up an image in your camera, print, monitor, etc. These dots are tiny and so tightly packed together that the look like one continuous image and can't be seen individually, with the human eye.
So, for example, when you print an image at 300 pixels per inch or dots per inch, you have 300 pixels or dots for every inch (PPI) along the side. A print 10 inches by 8 inches, at 300 PPI has 10 by 300 pixels on the long side, in other words, 3000 pixels and 8 by 300 pixels on the short side, 2400 pixels in total.
To find out how many pixels are in the image as a whole, simply multiply 3000 by 2400, that gives you 7,200,000 pixels. A megapixel is one million pixels, so it is 7.2 Megapixels.
A print at 300 PPI is a high resolution image. In high resolution printing it is recommended to use between 240 and 350 PPI. This standard is used for magazines, books and wall prints. If you choose to print at 240 PPI you will only need 4.6 Megapixels.
There is also the option to use low resolution printing. Posters, for example, are printed at low resolution. This would require resolutions of 25 PPI and up. Obviously, you will need even less megapixels for one of these images. So for example, if you want to print your image at the standard poster size of 36 by 24 inches and use 50 PPI, you will have 36 by 50 pixels on the long side and 24 by 50 pixels on the short side or 1,800 by 1,200 or 2,160,000 pixels. That is less than 2.2 Megapixels.
So far, I've written about printing but suppose you only want to display your images on a computer or smart phone screen. What do you need then? The resolution of a screen is 72 PPI. There is no point in using a higher resolution, as it will slow down you display, while it works out how to show the higher resolution, removing pixels and trying to get an accurate representation of the image, at the same time.
If you are sharing your images by email, 72 PPI is also the resolution that you will use. The gives the best representation of your images on the receiver's monitor or screen. If you're sharing images for printing, you will need to send one to match the requirements, as laid out above but usually, they are for viewing only.
Let us suppose that you are sending an image to fit the screen at the other end and the screen is 1,300 pixels by 800 pixels. That makes the screen 1,040,000 pixels or just over 1 Megapixel. If you want to know what the dimensions of the image should be in inches, simply divide the 1,300 and 800 by 72, giving you 18 inches by 11.1 inches at 72 PPI, in landscape format.
If you are posting your images on a website, there will be maximum dimensions you have to stick with. For this site the maximum is 500 pixels by 300 pixels or 150,000 pixels. That's 0.15 Megapixels.
So, as you can see, we've come across no circumstances where you require more than 8 Megapixel in normal use. If you have an 8 Megapixel camera and you want to print a large, high resolution image, that requires 16 Megapixels, for example, there are ways of solving that problem without investing in a new camera. There are plug-ins for editing programmes that will sort that out for you easily and at low cost.
The simple answer to the question "how many Megapixels should I get?" is that it doesn't matter. All cameras on the market have more than enough Megapixels to do even professional photographers.
Scientific cameras require much higher resolution and there's a race on to be the first with the next level of high resolution. To the best of my knowledge 185 Megapixels is the highest resolution available at the moment but there are talks of a 240 Megapixel camera coming out soon.
It's a bit like motor manufacturers producing cars that can go at 380 KPH, when the speed limits in all countries are 120 KPH or lower.
In a way, all of the extra pixels are in fact a waste. They take longer to process, require more storage space and end up being dumped at the final stage of processing.
Until next time, enjoy your photography, take good care of yourselves and those you love and keep shooting. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me, by leaving a comment or emailing [email protected]
Eddie Guiry Photography, 085 1531498 or 069 69381, email [email protected] Facebook - Eddie Guiry Photography, Viewbug -
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Hello and welcome once again to my blog. I hope you've been enjoying taking lots on photos of the autumn colours.
Today I'm writing about how to take a good image where the light is varied, with very bright and dark patches. I'm going to use images of a church interior, St. Nicholas's Church of Ireland, in Adare, to illustrate some of the points I'm making. As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section or email me directly on [email protected]
There are two settings you can use to help overcome varied light and low light conditions. In the image to the left, I used both.
The first is the ISO rating, which I've written about before and the second is the exposure compensation button, usually marked with a +/- symbol.
The image was taken in a dark church building and I didn't have a tripod with me. I hadn't planned going into the church. In fact I stopped to take some images of the main street and carried on from there. The tripod was in my van, two kilometers away.
So, the shot was going to be handheld, in low light conditions. I've explained how to pick a shutter speed before, so I'll only do it briefly here. I was using a focal length of 36 mm and needed a minimum speed of 1/36th second. Both my camera and lens are heavy and I was shooting in portrait position, so one of my elbows was in the air. To be certain of avoiding camera shake, I needed to go for a much higher speed and opted for 1/160th second.
To get this I needed to increase my ISO rating to 1600.
So, now I had avoided camera shake but there is the problem of capturing the light and shadow areas. The camera computer will attempt to balance the bright and dark areas of the photo, never doing a good job of it, in these conditions. There are times that your camera will do a good job but with a large bright area, surrounded by dark areas, it won't.
I needed my dark areas to remain dark, while preventing the bright areas being overexposed. This is where the exposure compensation button comes in. I selected to underexpose by -0.3. This was enough to prevent washed out shadows and whited out window details.
The next image couldn't be taken correctly without using exposure compensation. As you can see, there's a huge range of brightness, from the wall above the window to the glass on the window itself.
The camera would have tried to brighten up the wall area, if left to it's own devices. This would have blown out all detail in the glass. There would also have been a ghosting effect on the frame of the window, diminishing details there also.
I decided to use a very high shutter speed because I was hand holding the camera, in portrait mode. That one elbow being away from your body increases the likelihood of camera shake, so make extra allowances for it.
I set my camera to ISO 3200 and F7.1. To ensure I saved the detail in the glass, I underexposed by -2.0. This then gave me a shutter speed of 1/500th second, more than fast enough.
When you start doing this first, you'll have to experiment. Even when you've gotten experience at it, you'll still need to experiment, to an extent. At the start you may decide to underexpose by -0.7 first but discover it's not enough, increasing the underexposure by 1/3 stop at the time. Eventually you'll take the shot at -2.0. With experience you'll maybe go for -2.3 or -1.67 before settling on -2.0. Later again, you'll go straight for -2.0. It just takes practice.
The final example of underexposure that I'm going to give you comes from the lakes of Killarney.
This shows the detail that can be recorded by underexposing the image dramatically.
Here I went for -3.0. Any less and the sun would have been a patch of white in the sky, instead of a ball. The reflection in the water would have been larger, pure white, with no detail and the edges of the trees would have been lost to the brightness of the sun.
The final image shows an example of where I over exposed. In this case, the sun was to the side of the building and slightly behind it, leaving the facade in shadow. I would have lost details in the left side, especially in the stone building.
I have done no editing at all to this image, apart from converting it from RAW to JPG. As you can see there is plenty of detail in the shadows, while retaining a little detail in the bright sky. Had I edited the image, I would have been able to recover full detail in the sky, using Adobe Camera Raw, while loosing no detail in the building itself.
Had I used the exposure suggested by the camera, the stone building on the left would have come out very dark and detail would have been lost. There is also some detail on the gable which may have been lost.
So, in summary, when light levels are low, increase your ISO rating and make sure you get a usable shutter speed. Go as high as needed. Also, where the light levels vary significantly in the image or there's strong shadow, where you want detail, use the exposure compensation button and either under or over expose to suit. This is also true where the area you want detail in is very bright, compared to it's surroundings.
Remember, your camera can't read your mind and doesn't know that you want to record the variation in light or detail in bright or dark areas. You have to tell it. Override the automatic settings by using the exposure compensation button. Use ISO to achieve shutter speeds that will help you avoid camera shake or blur.
Until next time, take good care of yourselves and the ones you love. Enjoy your photography. Feel free to comment or ask questions. If there's any subject you'd particularly like covered, let me know.
Hi everyone, I hope you all are well, healthy and happy.
I haven't written a blog in some time. The last few months have been very busy and I've been putting this on the long finger, as a result. So, now I've finally gotten down to it and the subject I've chosen to write on is why you should always back up your work. While I'm writing about photography, this rule applies to everything that you do on an electronic device.
In late August, my PC was attacked by a Crypto Locker. I had heard of them before but never met anyone who had been victim of one, so assumed that they were very rare but they are not.
What happens is, a programme infects your hard drive and enters every folder on it. Once there it encrypts everything in the folder and you are unable to open the image or file.
Two new items appear in each folder; one explains what has happened and tells you that you can't unlock the files, the other provides a link to a website, where you can pay money to the owners of the Crypto Locker, to unlock your files.
Some criminals will unlock your folders, once you've handed over the money, some will not. In my case, they were looking for €300 per folder, I have thousands of folders. Sub folders are counted as folders in this case. There was no way I could afford to pay them, even if I wanted to. There is also a very strong possibility that they wouldn't do as promised and I would still not be able to access my folders, after paying.
The possible combinations of codes used to lock the folders runs into millions, so it wasn't feasible to sit down and figure out which combination was used, even if I could break into the programme and control it.
I had no option but to format my hard drive. Even that wasn't a guarantee that the crypto locker would be gone. I was advised to format it at least three times, just to be sure.
So this left me with a major problem. Not only was I deleting the infected folders but I was also deleting all of my programmes, including Windows. Everything had to go, as the infection could be hidden anywhere.
You could find yourself in this situation for a number of other reasons too. A virus may wipe your hard drive clean or make it otherwise unusable. A power surge could wipe out your hard drive or destroy your device. It could be stolen. Something may be spilled on it, causing a short circuit. The list possibilities goes on and on.
What would you do? How much work and files would you loose? Could you come back from such a situation?
In many walks of life we take out insurance. You will, no doubt have your hardware insured but that will not restore lost files. The real insurance, in this case is to back up everything, regularly. I back up automatically everyday. When working on something important, like wedding images, I back up more regularly. Sometimes, every two to three hours.
You shouldn't rely on one form of back up either. A typical system is an external hard drive with your PC, one at another location and cloud back up. Nothing is infallible, so always have alternatives.
Back up several times a day onto your local external hard drive. For example, if designing a wedding book, back up every few pages. At the end of the day, ensure that all of your day's work is backed up, then disconnect the external hard drive from your device and disconnect the power. I have a fire proof storage cupboard for my cameras, my external hard drive goes in there at night. It's best to keep it in a different room to your PC or other device, when not in use.
Once a week or so, bring in the second external hard drive and back up everything new, since the last time. This should be taken away again immediately. I keep this at home.
This gives you two extra copies of everything, one at your work place and one at a remote location. Plus you will have anything that you are working on, on your PC or other device. In the event of a fire or break in, at least one of your copies will be secure.
The final step is to use cloud backup. This is now relatively cheap and there are several trustworthy providers. I have unlimited storage for two devices, for less that €100 per year. At present I have 85 TB stored on cloud. All of my images in RAW format, all JPGs, PSDs, TIFFs, edited and unedited are there. So also are all my accounts and related documents. In fact, everything that was on my PC for more than a day is there, except the crypto locker.
It's vital that you have this set up to back up every day. When doing important work, do a manual back up every few hours also.
How you configure this is also very important. When selecting folders and files to back up, make sure that all of your work will be backed up, completed or not. Similarly, when backing up to your external hard drives, ensure that everything is there. When you create a new set of folders be sure that they are also being backed up.
That point is where I made a major mistake. I had assumed that all new folders that I create would be backed up. That's not the case because I created some new folders outside of the range of what I had previously chosen to back up. In other words, they were not included in any of the lists selected. I should have reconfigured my back up systems, to include them, I didn't. The result was that when I formatted my hard drive, I deleted a lot of unfinished work. I was working on seven photobooks and they were all deleted. I had to start again, from scratch.
I tell you this as a warning. I have learned from my mistake, I hope you can too and not have to go through what I did.
The final point is that restoring your system is not easy or quick. Remember, I had to format my hard drive, so I had to restore every programme, including Windows. Some of these programmes are a few years old and the original copy had to be updated. This resulted in updates being downloaded, the PC being restarted and the next batch of updates being downloaded, the PC being restarted and on and on.
Eventually, you will think that it's all complete but a few days later, you do something that you haven't tried since formatting and the whole update process starts again, for hours. I'm not sure how many hours it took in total but it has put my work back some weeks.
So, that's my tale of woe. I hope it doesn't happen to you and that my story will spur you into regular, complete backups, if you are not doing it already.
Until the next time, take good care of yourself and the ones you love.
We often want to take photos in low light situations but don't want to use flash. It can be done and your ISO rating is a major factor in how successful you will be.
I've already discussed ISO ratings in another blog, see What is ISO. Now I'm going to discuss a real life situation and how I handled it, which may help you.
The event was a showband concert in Shanagolden Hall, about 15 Km from where I live. The hall doesn't have it's own stage lighting system and the lights were set up by the band. There are no lighting bars to the front of the stage, so most of the lights were to the side or rear of the performers. The exception were some lights set up on top of the amps, a little to the front and side of the stage.
As you can imagine, there was very little light falling on the front of the performers. I wanted to use the ambient lights, to capture the colour and atmosphere of the event. Flash would have overpowered the stage lighting.
The most important thing in this situation was my shutter speed. Camera shake was a strong possibility and if that happened, it wouldn't matter what I did with the aperture.
The image above is the first one I took on the night. The singer was obliging enough to turn towards me, while I took the shot. This made life easier, as I could get an interesting image, while using a pillar for support.
To begin with, I increased my ISO to 5,000. I could have gone up to 6,400 but I decided not to. Why? At 5,000 I was going to have a lot of noise in my image. It would be especially noticeable where there were shadows or dark backgrounds. As you can see from the image, there are plenty of these. I knew from experience, that I could get rid of most of this with Adobe Camera Raw, at ISO 5,000 but realised that I wouldn't be as successful with a higher setting.
This is where practice is important. The better you know your camera, the less dud shots you will take. It's like using any other tool, if you don't know how to use it properly, you won't do a good job. Take your camera out and try out the different situations and settings, somewhere it doesn't count. Don't wait for an important event to experiment, do it somewhere and sometime, that you can throw away the images, if you fail.
I would like to have used F11 but this gave me a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second. Much too slow for a hand held shot. I was shooting in a dark, crowded venue, so the use of a tripod was out of the question. I didn't want to risk anyone tripping and getting hurt or knocking over my equipment.
As in many situations, compromises had to be made and I didn't get what I wanted to but had to choose a setting that would still allow me to get a shot, without camera shake and with acceptable results.
I settled for F5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second. This would give me a very tight depth of field and I had to ensure that my focusing was very accurate.
You may remember that in my blog about choosing shutter speeds, I told you that your shutter speed should be the inverse of your lens focal length. I was using a focal length of 90mm and therefore needed a shutter speed of at least 1/90th. The nearest to that on my camera but faster is 1/100th of a second, four times faster that what I was using.
All was not lost. By using a pillar for support, throwing my full weight against it, keeping my elbows tight against my body and holding my breath, while I took the shot and for a few seconds either side of it, I got a very steady image.
The slightest movement of my body would be registered by the slow shutter speed. While 1/25th of a second may seem fast, it's surprising how much movement you can fit into it. Bracing my elbows against my body helped prevent shake in my arms.
Holding my breath reduced movement in my chest and anything attached to it, my shoulders and arms for example. Placing my full weight against the pillar reduced the effect of any slight movement in my legs or torso and steadied me. Of course, it's vital that what you lean against can safely support your weight.
Finally, I counted to six. On one I pressed my shutter button half way, on two I pressed it fully, the camera fired and on six I took the camera from my eye. This helps avoid camera movement, due to me taking it from my eye too quickly. It's always a good idea to allow a second or so after the shutter has fired, before moving your camera but in low light situations it's better to leave it a little longer.
The second image gives you a better idea of how dark the stage looked to the camera. Remember that your brain makes allowances and will add light to many situations, especially if you think you should know what's in the shadows. The camera records it exactly as it is.
The singer was the main subject, so I exposed for her(you've got a dirty mind). This resulted in the other band members being a little dark. Here it's no problem. Had they been as bright as the singer, they would have competed for attention.
It's important to learn how to recognise differences in light levels, so that you can choose settings to suit the most important part of the image. The audience would not be aware that there were different levels of light on the stage, they wouldn't even think about it but you have to learn to analyse the light and work accordingly.
A final point to remember. I took all these images in RAW. JPEG is fine to an extent but it involves your camera partly processing the image, before saving it. Some of the information is dumped, making it less likely that you can correct any mistakes later. Removing digital noise is much more complicated and difficult. I was able to reduce the amount of burned out highlights on the side of the singer's head, in the first shot. This would not have been possible, had I used JPEG.
For the moment I'm not going to write any blogs about using ACR and Photoshop. I'm basing my blogs on the idea that you're a beginner photographer and I don't want to complicate things. Anything that you need to do in Photoshop can be learned from videos on Youtube and the channel I find best is Phlearn
and another one is Photoshop Tutorials.tv
They have hundreds of tutorials and present them in an easy to follow format. When you open their channels the videos may look much too advanced for a beginner but if you search, all the basic stuff is covered too, just in older uploads.
Until next time, enjoy your life and take good care of yourself and those you love.
Slan go foil,
PS; Feel free to comment, ask questions or suggest subjects for future blogs.
All other things being equal, composition makes the difference between a good photo and an ok photo. No matter how well an image is exposed, even if it's technically perfect, a badly composed image will not work.
A number of factors need to be considered, when composing an image. The first one is the crop. Your camera can not record everything you see and so, when you compose the image, you must select what to include and exclude. Sometimes this is obvious but not always.
In this first image of busts at UL, I've focused on one bust, the green one, the only woman's bust in the image. This was taken with a long lens, 360mm, from a balcony, about 100 meters away.
This is a fairly cluttered image. For one there are four more full busts and one partial bust in the image. It also includes a piece of rock and the stands that they were all displayed on, plus a large white metal frame, a glass frame, reflections on the frame and the large windows behind and distant trees and buildings. So, why does the main subject stand out?
Proper composition. First, there's the selective use of depth of field. I give more detail on this in my blog "Taking that photo". I used F10 for this, knowing that at the focal length I was using that it would give me a narrow depth of field. See my blog "What are F numbers?" for more details.
Only my main subject is in focus but with all of the clutter in the image, you may still not find her. So, where I placed her is also important. There are several rules of composition and the one I use most often, the easiest to use, is the rule of thirds.
Imagine dividing your image in three equal parts vertically and then horizontally, see the red lines in the image on the left.
This forms a grid on the image. If you place your main subject along one of these lines, it has more of an impact and stands out better. By placing your subject close to where the lines cross or at the exact point where they cross, you increase the impact further.
As you can see, my subject's face is placed along the right hand vertical line, just above where it crosses the bottom horizontal line. This is one of the most powerful positions in the image, along with the three other crossing points.
Because she is facing right, it is more common to place her on the left vertical line. This gives her space to walk into, if she could walk and the area she is facing is called positive space. The space behind her is called negative space. It is better to provide more positive space than negative but not always. This is something that you will have to learn with experience and is why it's a good idea to analyse your own and other people's images, to see why they worked or did not work. You can gain quiet a lot from doing this.
In this case I decided to use more negative space for two reasons. It is now obvious that the busts are part of a much bigger display and not just four busts.
There was a pillar close to the busts on the right, which would have split the image, making it look like two images combined. Even though the pillar would have only taken about 10 - 15% of the right side of the image, it would have looked like it was added in. Being white, it would also have attracted the eye away from the subject.
I could have cropped in tighter and not include the bust on the left of the image, which I also did. That image is posted below. Both images work but in different ways.
You will also notice that the top horizontal line runs just over the top of the head of the highest bust, the horizon of the image. It's better to place the horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, the image is more dynamic that way. You will see this in the images I've placed below.
I've also used a leading line, the green line. Often leading lines are actual lines in an image but more often than not they are imaginary but your eye will follow them all the same. By composing the image so that the line of busts appear to be one slightly forward of the other, I've created an imaginary leading line.
Had the white lines in the background been sharp, they would have pulled the eye away from the main subject, another reason to use a shallow depth of field.
I chose this point of view for a number of reasons. One was that this was the least distracting background and because it was a long way away, it was easier to place it out of focus.
Had I shot the bust head on, the background would have been much more cluttered, more busts and rocks would have been included and competed for attention. The wall behind all of this had a very colourful mosaic and a model airplane hung in front of it.
Another reason for not shooting head on was that it would have placed four busts on the same plane. They would all have been in focus and competed for attention. I could have zoomed in on one and excluded the others but I would then have lost the context of the image, which I think is important.
The blue lines between the tops of the busts indicate imaginary triangles in the image. These are especially useful when posing a group of people. Flat lines in an image hold the eye in one place, while sloped and curved lines encourage the eye to move about the image. When your eye moves about an image, you see it as having more life and being more interesting.
Below you will see some images, with the "rule of thirds" grid marked on them, along with leading lines. Notice how I've created circles, ovals and triangles, where possible and not just lines.
What you should do next is look at my galleries and see how I've used the information above to compose my images. Then look at your own images and see where this information applies and how you may have improved your images using the above details. Finally, look at other people's images and see how they have composed their images. Ask yourself what you may have done differently. Always analyse your own images, ask yourself why they work or don't work. This will help you improve constantly. No one is ever so good that they can't improve.
Until next time, enjoy your photography and take good care of yourself and those you love. Feel free to leave comments, ask questions or suggest topics for another blog.
White balance is not a natural concept for most of us. When we see an object, the light is collected by our eyes and sent to our brain, where it is processed, to produce an image. Over time we have learned that things are usually white, green or some other colour and when we see them, our brain will adjust the actual colour to what colour it "should" be.
However, our camera does not possess the ability to learn and if there is a colour cast, our camera will record it. Digital cameras are designed to do a certain amount of correcting automatically. That's good news for us and in most situations, we can use the auto white balance. Makes life simple.
It's easy make a mistake and I would suggest that if your camera can shoot in RAW mode, you should use this mode. The reason is that if you get your white balance wrong, when shooting, it's possible to correct it, most of the time in your camera RAW processor.
So, what difference does the white balance make. In the series of images below, I have in fact edited the same image four times but changed the white balance in each.
Each image was edited in exactly the same way as the others, except I changed the white balance. As you can see, I've indicated the white balance by printing it in the top left corner. The results are very different.
This shot was taken at about 2pm, so the Daylight white balance is the more accurate. The auto, in this case got it wrong and looks more like the Shade white balance. At least 50% of the building walls are in shadow and the river is also dark. This may have fooled the camera into thinking the subject was in the shade. I don't know for sure.
This series of images shows how choosing the correct white balance can be critical. Imagine if you shot in auto at a wedding. The brilliant white wedding dress would come out as off white.
Had I not shot the image in RAW, I would not have been able to correct the white balance.
You've seen the effect in daylight, at night it's even more critical, especially if there is more than one light source. All artificial light has a colour cast. In public buildings and retail outlets, the fluorescent lighting is usually daylight balanced. Fluorescent lighting in the home will have a purple or green cast, depending on which standard has been used in it's manufacture. Sometimes, it may have another colour.
Tungsten lighting is usually strongly yellow, the lower the wattage, the more yellow it is. Candles and fires also give off a yellow light. We know this already but our brains will clean up the colour cast caused by them.
When we see white, what is happening is that all of the light falling on the object is reflected back and enters our eyes. If there is no colour cast in the light(it's pure white), that will mean that the object is pure white but if the light falling on the object has a yellow cast, we should see the object as yellow.
Our brain can sort that out for us but our camera has to be told how to. So, that's why you would pick a white balance to match the lighting, especially in artificial light. If you have more than one source of light, of different colours, then you must decide which is the most important.
In the image below, taken in Limerick, during Christmas 2010, you will see that there are several light sources.
The street lights have a yellow cast, as you would expect. The top of the building on the right is flood light by a light with a blue cast but we would see it as white. The tree itself also has a blue cast but again we would have seen it as white and it was described as white by newspaper articles about it. To the left of the tree you will see a window with a greenish light inside. This is a domestic fluorescent light and the it too would have looked white to those in the room.
As you look further through the image, you will notice many windows with light inside, of several different colours. However, to the occupants, each of these lights would look white.
This image has been edited in exactly the same way as the one above, except I changed the white balance to Fluorescent. Looking now you will see the the light at the top of the building on the right is white. The light inside the window to the left of the tree is also white.
The street lights are a stronger yellow, as are the lights inside many of the windows. The tree is less blue.
Again nothing has been changed, except the white balance. The tree is now white, the street lights and yellow window lights are even more yellow and the light at the top of the right hand building has changed tone.
Which one is correct? It depends on which item in the image is most important. It was taken to show the tree and it's position in relation to the water front, so, for me, the last one is correct. It's set to Flash, even though I did not fire the flash but the lights in the tree and the flash are both daylight balanced. That is why it works.
If you were to stand where I took this shot from and looked at the river bank, you would not see the lighting as being as yellow as it is in the final image. In fact, if you had been in that light for a few minutes, you would not see it as yellow, at all.
So, that's it for now. As usual, feel free to ask questions or make comments, using the comments section below or by emailing me at [email protected] Suggestions for future blogs are also welcome.
Until next time, take good care of yourself and those you love.
So, now that you know the three factors that effect your exposure, lets see how to use them in practice.
The image above was taken at the Way of the Cross procession, in Newcastle West, on Good Friday last. It was a cloudy day and even though it seemed bright to the human eye, light levels were low. The default ISO rating for my camera is 200 but at that level I was getting shutter speeds too slow to hand hold and avoid camera shake.
I increased my ISO rating to 500. This means that at the same F number I can get shutter speeds that are 2.5 times what I would get at 200, 500 being 2.5 times 200. With experience, I have learned to hold the camera steady at relatively slow shutter speeds, for example 1/60th or 1/125th of a second. You may need to increase your ISO to 1000 or higher, depending on how steady a hand you have.
When choosing an ISO rating, remember that you should pick the lowest rating you can get away with, so as to reduce noise levels. While it can be fixed in Photoshop and most other editors, it is always better to get is as right in camera as possible.
Next I set the camera on Aperture Priority. This is usually denoted by A on your camera's selection dial. I've already selected the ISO rating and I will now select the aperture or F number.
The camera will then automatically select the shutter speed. This doesn't mean that I can forget completely forget about my shutter speed, it's just the the camera does the math for me. I need to be aware of the shutter speed selected because if it's slow, my images will suffer from camera shake or motion blur, neither of which can be fixed.
It's always good to take a test shot, to see what speed is selected and then look at the enlarged image on your screen, to check for camera shake. If you have some, increase your ISO again and take another test shot. Only go up one step at a time, don't jump from ISO 400 to 1600, for example, try use the lowest rating you can.
During the procession, I checked my shutter speed each time the light looked to have faded. This happened when they came into narrower streets or were in the shadow of a building, for example. I also checked it regularly over time, as light fades as the afternoon passes, anyway. I maintained my shutter speed by increasing my ISO. By the end of the procession, I was using ISO 1600.
My next decision was which aperture or F number to use. This varied from photo to photo but for this one I used F11. The woman in the image was part of a group of three and I wanted to be sure that if any part of the others came into the image, they would be out of focus. As you can see, there is a large crowd(number not weight) in the background and I wanted them out of focus also.
To pick her out from the crowd I used a 70 - 300mm zoom lens at 270mm.
If you look closely at the image, you will notice that she is sharp, except for her far shoulder. A shoulder and head from other people, on the left side of the image and the people in the background, on the right side, are all out of focus.
The result is that the lady herself, my subject, stands out, without competition from any other element of the image. Had I used a much smaller F number, say F4, only the point of focus and a little bit around it would have been sharp, most of the woman would be out of focus.
Had I used a much larger F number, say F22, most of the image would be in focus and she would have had to compete with the people in the background and the bits of people visible in the foreground, for attention. As a portrait, it would not have worked.
I focused on her eye. In most portraits, the person's eyes are the most important. If you have sharp eyes and other parts of the face are out of focus, the image still works. However, if the eyes are out of focus, it doesn't matter how sharp the rest of the image is, it wont work.