Understanding Light Falloff
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
One of my favorite lighting principles to share with young photographers and students is the inverse square law. That's the physics principle that states that light falls off two stops for every doubling in distance from the source to the subject. I love this law, because it is an immensely useful. And it's something I think most new photographers don't think much about. But once they understand it, the sky is the limit in terms of how they can apply it to their advantage—changing the brightness of a background, for instance, simply by moving the key light. Anyway, the point is, I love the inverse square law, so I'm happy to pass along to you this inverse square law primer from DPS. It includes a simple graphic that shows exactly how the law functions photographically, as well as a good explanation of how you can apply it to your own work. Once you get the hang of the intricacies of light falloff, a whole new world of lighting will open up to you.
Quick Fix Fridays: Two “Sammonisms” That Can Help You Make Better Photographs
Friday, August 30, 2013
I like to make learning fast and fun. That's why I developed what I call my "Sammonisms," one-liners that drive home an important photo tip.
In this post I'll share two of my favorites. All my "Sammonisms" are listed on my website: www.ricksammon.com/about.
Light Illuminates, Shadows Define
Every picture you have ever taken has one main element: light. Break down light and you have two sub elements: highlights and shadows. As photographers, we need to learn how to see the light - the highlights and shadows in a scene. We need to realize that light illuminates – shadows define. Without shadows, pictures look flat, which actually could be the goal is some photographs.
In the opening image for this post, the sand dunes in this Death Valley photograph have good definition due to strong shadows.
The sand dunes in this photograph have little definition due to soft shadows.
The combination of shadows and highlights in this photograph of Herbie Hancock are the result of very careful lighting. That lighting produced nice shadows that added to the mood of the scene.
Hey, here is a bonus "Sammonism": Shadows are the soul of the photograph.
Very wide-angle lenses distort horizontal and vertical lines in a scene. The wider the lens and the closer the subject, the greater the distortion. Distortion can be fun, unless you are shooting for an architectural magazine. So I say embrace the distortion.
I used a Canon 15mm full-frame fish-eye lens to photograph this section of a lounge car in the South East Railway Museum near Atlanta, Georgia. I think the cool distortion makes the railway car look even cooler.
I used the same Canon 15mm lens for this shot of the observation area of the same car. In both cases the scene is distorted, but, again, I think that adds to the impact of the photograph.
Here I used a Canon 14mm lens to photograph this old Caddy. Shooting very close added to the impact of the fins in this photograph. Again, the wider the lens and the closer you are to the subject, the greater the distortion.
Got questions? Drop by my website at www.ricksammon.com.
Abstract Images Of Earth From High Above
Friday, August 30, 2013
NASA isn't the only game in town when it comes to amazing images from outer space. Don't forget about the European Space Agency, which has a pretty amazing archive of its own (there's a link below). The blog awkwardly titled but always interesting blog, "But Does It Float" has curated an awesome gallery not just of any old images from space, but of our amazingly beautiful earth. These images are often abstract, and always interesting, including views of everything from Africa's Namib desert to the geometric abstraction of Peru's Andes foothills. It's a beautiful, colorful, fascinating collection—exactly what I want to see our space explorers working hard to bring back to us here on earth.
The Photographic Art Of Hipgnosis
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Do you know about Hipgnosis? That was the name of the artistic partnership that produced some of the most memorable album covers in rock 'n roll history. Founded by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, the noted industrial music pioneer Peter Christopherson eventually joined the group as an assistant, and ultimately became a full partner. Hipgnosis may be best known for their iconic album covers for Pink Floyd—especially Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals—but in fact the team designed and photographed hundreds of record covers for many other acts. The point today is not simply to walk you down memory lane (though that is one of the most fun things about looking at old album covers), but to really take note of how experimental and creative was their approach to employing photographic images. Christopherson died in 2010, and Thorgerson followed only a year ago. Shortly before his death the Chicago Reader ran a two-part interview with Thorgerson, linked below, in which he walks the author through a gallery of his works and explains a lot about the motivations and the philosophy behind his photographic and design sensibilities. I've seen a few other interesting interviews, both in print and in video, with Thorgerson and Powell as well—though less is readily available from Christopherson. I'll link to a couple of favorites below, but also encourage you to explore their work online, to really get a feel for how innovative and influential this group of commercial artists really was.
An Aubrey Powell interview on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI_fxK_Z0uI
A Storm Thorgerson interview on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8SMUmkdzH8
A selection of Peter Christopherson's work included in this obituary from Creative Review: http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2010/november/peter-sleazy-christopherson-1955-2010
A marvelous collection of Hipgnosis album covers: http://soundcolourvibration.com/2012/10/21/cim-212-hipgnosis/
Upping Your Equipment Efficiency
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
This group of tips comes from the world of videography—even though it's still based around shooting with a DSLR. They're immensely helpful if you, like me, work in an environment where you're regularly interacting with other photographers and videographers, or if you have the occasion to intermingle your gear with someone that of someone else—maybe through working together, or even renting or loaning equipment. But these tips are also useful for simply making your life more convenient. For instance, have you ever considered upsizing all of your filters to the same size (via step-up rings) in order to have a single size lens cap fit all of your lenses? Brilliant! That's just one of a great selection of tips to make managing your equipment easier and more efficient. Check out Tim Fok's advice at the Cinema 5D blog.
Awesome Old Mugshots
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Learn composition and posing… from old mugshots? Who knew you could learn the dually important photographic arts of portrait posing and creative composition from looking at an archive of gangster-era police photos. These were either some very creative investigating officers, or some seriously cool criminals who knew how to maintain their image even while being booked. Check out this awesome gallery at the Phoblographer.
How To Freelens
Monday, August 26, 2013
Oh, kids these days. They're always inventing some funky photographic technique and then giving it a cool name. Like Freelensing. I'm hopeful that I'm not last to the party on this one, because I've never really considered this technique before. But why not, right? Freelensing consists of holding your DSLR's lens in front of the camera body, but not mounting it there. Why? Because then you can create funky focus effects not unlike when using a Lensbaby or tilt-shift lens. Seems like the only downside is the potential for allowing dust into your body, but if you've got a good sensor cleaning regimen in place, and you don't try it in a windstorm, I'm all for it. I'll have to give it a go, but first I'll read up on the visual guide at Luke Roberts' blog.
Quick Fix Fridays: Don’t Be So Quick to Delete
Friday, August 23, 2013
Today, among some photographers, there is a tendency to press the Delete button on the back of one's camera if a picture is not, well, "picture perfect". Well my friends, don't be so quick to delete and image. There is much you can do in the digital darkroom to save/improve a shot. Here are just two examples. I used Lightroom, but you can use Photoshop or Aperture to achieve the same results.
The opening image shows a cowboy and his horse silhouetted against a colorful sunset. The image, however, did not start out that way.
I took that shot in the Fort Worth Stockyards on an overcast afternoon. The sky had just a hint of color.
Compare these two screen grabs. The image on the left shows the Lightroom default settings in the Basic window. The image on the right shows my enhancements. My original image needed more color, so I boosted the Vibrance and Saturation. I also wanted an image that had more impact, so I boosted the Clarity. In addition, by adjusting the Tone settings, I was able to preserve the highlights and create more dramatic shadows. Increasing the Contrast and decreasing the Exposure also helped to improve the image.
Here's a nice rainbow image from San Miguel de Allende. I took the picture with an early iPhone. Look for noise – you probably don't notice it.
Here's my original image. If you look for noise, you'll see plenty of it. That's because early iPhones produced images with lots of noise in low light, as well as in underexposed areas. Newer iPhones do better a better job with noise, but you'll still see noise in low light shots and in shadow areas.
Now compare these two screen grabs. The left shot shows the Noise Reduction default settings, and the right shot shows my Noise Reduction adjustments.
Lightroom does an amazing job of reducing noise without degrading an image – to a point. Basically, you have two noise reduction choices: Luminance and Color. To greatly reduce the noise in my image, I adjusted the sliders as you see here. Had I reduce the noise a bit more, I would have lost some detail in the clock. So, don't be overly aggressive when using this tool.
Have fun working and playing in Lightroom (or Photoshop or Aperture) this weekend.
Got questions? Drop by my website at www.ricksammon.com.