Expert Advice On Histograms, Color Spaces And B/W Previews

I’ve long admired John Paul Caponigro as a wonderful photographer, but I didn’t realize he was such a great blogger too. I’ve recently added his blog to my regular routine, and I recommend other folks do the same. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite recent posts from his blog. He has a knack for communicating complex technical issues in a clear and simple way. Know how to use histograms? Even if you do, Mr. Caponigro’s explanation offers a simple and very practical look at how you can use in-camera histograms to improve your exposures. That also applies to his post on color spaces, and how and why you should choose the right profile for your own photography. It’s a simple and easy to understand investigation of a fairly complex issue that really matters to photographers—and that’s what Mr. Caponigro does so well. Lastly, he offers a simple insight for improving compositions that I can really identify with. It’s the suggestion to turn off color previews in your camera in order to see your compositions more clearly in black and white. The camera still captures colorful RAW files, but JPEG previews can be set to display only in black and white—which allows you to concentrate on light and shadow without getting distracted by color. A great and simple workaround for improving compositions, and another example of Mr. Caponigro’s very reasonable approach to making better pictures. 

Histograms: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/?p=4591
Color Space: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/?p=4674
BW Preview: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/?p=4685

I’ve long admired John Paul Caponigro as a wonderful photographer, but I didn’t realize he was such a great blogger too. I’ve recently added his blog to my regular routine, and I recommend other folks do the same. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite recent posts from his blog. He has a knack for communicating complex... Read more

Visualizing the Inverse Square Law

I recently lost a bet with a friend and fellow photographer. I now owe him a dollar because I couldn’t articulate the inverse square law correctly. The inverse square law, as it applies to photographers, is all about the falloff of illumination from a light source. A few days later he sent me an interesting hand-drawn illustration to help visualize the law, and I thought it was so unique, and allowed visual thinkers to see the situation in a unique and clear way, that I decided to share it here. Here’s what’s special: I’d always thought about light moving in a straight line and getting less powerful as it traveled, but I’d never thought about the inverse square law as a function of the same amount of light spread across a greater area. A subtle difference, but a big one in terms of my understanding. Because of that spreading, there is exponentially less light within the same square foot of real estate as you move farther from the source. The "light as water" concept kind of applies here: If you imagine a bucket of light spilling out of a source, there’s significantly more "water" a foot away than there would be two feet away, or four, or eight, and so on. As that puddle of light spreads out, it thins—and that ultimately creates the light falloff that the law defines. With every doubling of the distance from the source, light will fall off not just twice but four times—i.e. there’s four times less light because the same quantity of light is spread out over four times the area. Ultimately, every doubling of subject distance from light source equates to a two-stop drop in brightness. And now I can visualize that in another simple way thanks to the drawing of my friend. Maybe I should pay him that dollar after all. 

I recently lost a bet with a friend and fellow photographer. I now owe him a dollar because I couldn’t articulate the inverse square law correctly. The inverse square law, as it applies to photographers, is all about the falloff of illumination from a light source. A few days later he sent me an interesting hand-drawn illustration to help visualize... Read more

Arbitrary Image Rotation Tip

I was recently scanning some photos when I took note of one crucial part of my workflow—rotating the images to level horizons and orient pictures straight and true. Most scans end up on the flatbed somewhat crooked, and rotating them is a necessary step in the process. Even if you’re not scanning it’s still an important step. If you’re anything like me you have a bit of difficultly holding the camera level. Thankfully there’s a simple Photoshop fix for lining things up precisely with straight lines and level horizons. Choose the ruler tool (hidden behind the eyedropper on the toolbar) and draw a rule line along a line that should be horizontal or vertical. (The horizon in a landscape photo, for instance, or a window in a room.) With the line drawn, choose Image>Rotate and select the Arbitrary option. Normally you might enter your own values here to rotate the image a particular number of degrees in the clockwise or counterclockwise direction, but because of that ruler line you drew the clockwise/counterclockwise direction will already be selected, as will the exact measurement necessary to rotate your image perfectly. Click okay and take a look at your straight and true composition. Simple cropping will eliminate any visible background canvas, and voila: you’re looking at a perfectly aligned image with only a few simple clicks of the mouse—and virtually no math at all. 

I was recently scanning some photos when I took note of one crucial part of my workflow—rotating the images to level horizons and orient pictures straight and true. Most scans end up on the flatbed somewhat crooked, and rotating them is a necessary step in the process. Even if you’re not scanning it’s still an important step. If... Read more
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Carr Clifton’s Sacred Headwaters

I recently received an email from master landscape photographer Carr Clifton. It seems he’s just returned from a trip to photograph the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia with the International League of Conservation Photographers. Here’s what he wrote: "Home to Canada’s most important salmon spawning rivers—and one of North America’s largest predator-prey ecosystems—the Sacred Headwaters is being threatened by large scale industrial development, including copper strip mines and coal-methane gas extraction. ILCP’s mission is to obtain a comprehensive portrait of the Sacred Headwaters, giving voice to the historical, cultural and ecological significance of this region." Check out a portfolio of amazing images from Carr’s trip to this rarely photographed region at his web site, www.carrclifton.com.

http://goo.gl/ZskLe

I recently received an email from master landscape photographer Carr Clifton. It seems he’s just returned from a trip to photograph the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia with the International League of Conservation Photographers. Here’s what he wrote: "Home to Canada’s most important salmon spawning rivers—and one... Read more

Top iPhone Photo Apps

I don’t have an iPhone. Horrible, but true. I think I’d like one just to have that little camera in my pocket all the time—and to make use of some of pretty great iPhone photo apps. There’s a list at Lightstalking of the top 10 iPhone photography apps every photographer should have. I’m particularly fond of the depth of field calculator, which could come in really handy if you know some simple dimensions about the subject you absolutely must make tack sharp. Hipstamatic is, of course, practically a household name on its own these days. I’ve seen plenty of amazing Hipstamatic pictures, and it’s enough to make me want an iPhone on its own. An app I’d never used, Pano, allows you to make seamless, simple and beautiful panoramic photographs—really taking the usability of that tiny little camera above and beyond. It’s the kind of thing to make you really happy you own an iPhone. Now if only I had one…

http://www.lightstalking.com/10-iphone-apps-for-every-photographer

I don’t have an iPhone. Horrible, but true. I think I’d like one just to have that little camera in my pocket all the time—and to make use of some of pretty great iPhone photo apps. There’s a list at Lightstalking of the top 10 iPhone photography apps every photographer should have. I’m particularly fond of the depth... Read more

Processing old Kodachrome

With all the hubbub about Kodachrome going away a couple of weeks ago, I’d been wondering what, really, we can do now with our leftover rolls of the stuff. I knew there’d be folks who would want to keep shooting and processing it themselves, and it turns out Mike Johnston at the Online Photographer thought so as well. He even looked into it. Turns out it’s not as easy as I hoped it would be. Processing Kodachrome involves scrubbing and chemicals and all sorts of compromises and difficulties, it’s probably not practical to keep those old rolls around unless you’ve already shot them and you’re concerned they contain some notable images. Of course there’s bound to be someone who continues to do-it-themselves, no matter how difficult and challenging, but I’m curious if some entrepreneur will step up and rescue Kodachrome processing in much the same way the Incredible Project rescued Polaroid pack film. It’s doubtful, but something like that could happen. I guess only time will tell.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/12/old-kodachrome.html

With all the hubbub about Kodachrome going away a couple of weeks ago, I’d been wondering what, really, we can do now with our leftover rolls of the stuff. I knew there’d be folks who would want to keep shooting and processing it themselves, and it turns out Mike Johnston at the Online Photographer thought so as well. He even looked into... Read more

The sun gets double-crossed

I’m a sucker for the awesome astral photographs. It makes little sense, because I’m not an expert astronomer or even an avid space photography fan. But when I see amazing, truly "out of this world" photographs, I can’t help but stare at them for minutes at a time. In these digital pages I’ve previously published a similar sun photo, one with the space shuttle transiting between the earth and sun and silhouetted beautifully against the glowing star. This one, though, this is something really unique. It’s got sunspots, a space station, and a partial solar eclipse, all captured in one instant on the same sheet of film. Actually, it was probably shot digitally. Either way, what a great shot by Belgian astral photographer Thierry Legault that you have to check out.

http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/04/5765312-sun-gets-double-crossed

Photograph © Thierry Legault

I’m a sucker for the awesome astral photographs. It makes little sense, because I’m not an expert astronomer or even an avid space photography fan. But when I see amazing, truly "out of this world" photographs, I can’t help but stare at them for minutes at a time. In these digital pages I’ve previously published a... Read more

Inspiration for your photographic year

Looking for a little bit of photographic inspiration? Try this suggestion from DPS. It’s a list of weekly themes for photographers who are trying to take a picture a day for a whole year. This list will offer a bit of guidance and make those 365 pictures seem a whole lot less daunting. After all, at most you have to come up with seven shots that meet the weekly theme. Even if you’re not trying a year-long photo project, this list can still be great inspiration. I’m a big believer in self-assignments. Shoot more to get much better, and giving yourself assignments is a great way to do that. Consider these 52 guidelines like a weekly assignment and get out there and shoot. By this time next year you’ll thank me, I’m sure.

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/53-weekly-themes-for-your-2011-project-36

Looking for a little bit of photographic inspiration? Try this suggestion from DPS. It’s a list of weekly themes for photographers who are trying to take a picture a day for a whole year. This list will offer a bit of guidance and make those 365 pictures seem a whole lot less daunting. After all, at most you have to come up with seven shots... Read more

New Dynalite Strobes

I use Dynalite strobes in my location lighting package, and I generally love them. I replaced a set of older-than-me Speedotrons (which I still use in-studio) because they also weighed more than me and that made traveling with strobes quite tricky. But the Dynalites, as anyone who’s ever shot with them knows, are tiny. I’m talking like six pounds for a 1000ws pack smaller than a breadbox. I can get four heads and two packs in a single bag that’s not much bigger than a carry-on. So you can imagine my excitement when I read this report from Rob Galbraith about a new lineup of strobe packs from Dynalite. They’ve increased the top end from 1000 watt seconds to 1600ws, and shrunk the 500ws and 1000ws models, the previous standards, to 400ws and 800ws respectively. Apparently Dynalite has made them more reliable with faster flash durations, quicker recycling and an even smaller form factor than before. Guess I’ll have to add them to my ever-growing wishlist.

http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/content_page.asp?cid=7-11133-11146

I use Dynalite strobes in my location lighting package, and I generally love them. I replaced a set of older-than-me Speedotrons (which I still use in-studio) because they also weighed more than me and that made traveling with strobes quite tricky. But the Dynalites, as anyone who’s ever shot with them knows, are tiny. I’m talking like... Read more

Photography Isn’t About Cameras

In case you were thinking photography is all about the equipment, it’s not. Photography is about cameras the way dinner is about forks. As an example, take a look at this video that has nothing to do with photography. It’s from a talented animator who has used a very rudimentary tool, free Google docs cloud software, to create an amazing piece of art. If he can make this magic with a simple, free bit of software that wasn’t even intended for this, then you can do amazing things with whatever camera you currently own. Check it out, and try not to be blown away by the unbelievable creativity on display.

http://www.pixiq.com/article/its-never-about-the-equipment

In case you were thinking photography is all about the equipment, it’s not. Photography is about cameras the way dinner is about forks. As an example, take a look at this video that has nothing to do with photography. It’s from a talented animator who has used a very rudimentary tool, free Google docs cloud software, to create an amazing... Read more

Joyce Tenneson’s View

I was just yesterday gazing at a favorite photograph of mine, made by Joyce Tenneson close to 20 years ago, and wondering what she was up to these days. Then this crossed my desk http://www.joycetenneson.com/view/letter.php and I got my answer. She’s working on the View Project. The View is a book she’s curating, filled with photographs of places that hold deep meaning for the photographers who submit the work. About it she writes, ìI have been interested in what it is that touches us–and it is something different for each individual–when we are somehow in the presence of a view that strikes us with awe. My thought is to ask photographers around the world to contribute a photograph of a particular place–for example, the desert, mountains, ocean, reflections, gardens, etc, etc–that has moved them in an indelible and deep fashion." Not just nice views, though, Joyce really wants to see the places that move you. Visit her web site and read all about the project, and if you’ve got an ideal image, send it in. 

Photo © Joyce Tenneson

I was just yesterday gazing at a favorite photograph of mine, made by Joyce Tenneson close to 20 years ago, and wondering what she was up to these days. Then this crossed my desk http://www.joycetenneson.com/view/letter.php and I got my answer. She’s working on the View Project. The View is a book she’s curating, filled with photographs... Read more

Make Skies Ultra-Blue

Balancing strobe exposures with ambient light is one of my favorite photographic techniques. It’s also the one that I think is most indicative of a robust understanding of photographic lighting. If you can control strobe and ambient independently in an image, I think you can do anything. That belief tends to be echoed at the Strobist blog, where David Hobby teaches people how to make amazing lighting with simple hand-held strobes. His most recent amazing lighting post showcases a simple technique for creating very deep blue skies when illuminating a subject with a flash. The trick? Apply a Rosco Plusgreen or orange gel to the strobe, balance for that light (with fluorescent or tungsten presets), and watch the ambient shift to ultra-blue while the subject remains neutrally balanced. Great tip, easy to apply, powerful effect. What more could you ask for?

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2010/12/rosco-plusgreen-magic-sunset-filter.html

Photo © David Hobby

Balancing strobe exposures with ambient light is one of my favorite photographic techniques. It’s also the one that I think is most indicative of a robust understanding of photographic lighting. If you can control strobe and ambient independently in an image, I think you can do anything. That belief tends to be echoed at the Strobist blog, where... Read more
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