Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Here it is, the moment you all have been waiting for........faking lighting in photoshop (ok, calm down).

I have used many different ways to adjust the lighting in photoshop, starting with photoshop 5 and now using cs 2 (9). The easiest way to learn about the techniques is to just play with them.

I am going to start with the most basic one, brightness and contrast. Every version of photoshop has this. But, before I get into that, the concept of a grayscale needs to be understood.

I'm only going to work with a black and white image this time, or only focus on what can be changed in it. Each of these steps will work with a color image, the next post will be about color correction.

So, a grayscale, as far as a computer sees it, is a chart made up of 256 different shades of gray (starting with pure black and ending with pure white). When an image is brightened, what happens is that the amount of gray is lightened over all. On a chart, it would look like the mid point (50% gray) is shifting to the left, with the left side (50%-pure black) being compacted and the other side (50% - pure white) being expanded.

Contrast does the same thing, but it actually decreases the number of shades of gray in an image. This creates additional contrast in the image, at the sake of shades of gray.

This does solve problems of underexposed images, but only slightly underexposed. The problem is that the brighter an image gets, the more grain it produces. So brightness and contrast should be used sparingly.

Next up is a bit of a more technical way to brighten an image, called levels. Levels is a visual representation of the grayscale chart. The only difference is that you can control the black, white and gray points. This means that you have control over how much each shade of an image is brightened. I'm going to be honest on this one, I just move sliders until I get the look I like.

The next 2 are much more complicated in what they actually do, but very easy to use.

The first is called shadow highlight. This will bring out shadow detail and allow highlight detail to be added. Once again, playing with sliders is the easiest way to learn this.

Exposure does exactly what it says, this allows the image to be changed as though the exposure in the camera is being changed. Once again, slide until you like what you see.

There are 2 things I want you to get out of this. 1. Playing with the tools is the easiest way to learn what they do and what the results look like.

The second thing is that the better the image you have starting off, the better the results will be.

next time, color correction.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ok, I'm going to actually post about faking lighting in photoshop in the next post (later tonight).

There is more pressing business, I'm ordering my new camera gear this weekend!

And, for those of you that are reading this (all 8 of you) I'm going to break down each piece, what it is used for and why I need it.

First up are the lenses. There are 3 of them total and you are going to see a lot of numbers. The first number is the focal length and the second is the f stop.

So, the three lenses are:

70-200 2.8
12-24 4 dx
50 1.8

The first is a telephoto lens. Long distance and is a very fast focus. The 2.8 means that it will operate well under low light. This will be used for sports mainly, along with any event I go to where I can't get close to the action or I prefer to stay back out of the crowd.

The second is a 12-24 dx lens. This is a wide angle designed for digital cameras (I'll explain this further down). It is very wide and most importantly it has an f4 aperture from 12-24.

The last is a 50 1.8. A 50 is a very general lens and although I have a lens that covers this range, the f is what makes it important. An f of 1.8 means that in extreme low light I can work without a flash (think clubs where flash distracts everyone). It also gives me a very small depth of field.

The dx, as mentioned earlier, means that the lens is designed for digital. Digital cameras (with the exception of the canon 5d) do not have what is called a full frame sensor. A full frame sensor is a sensor the same size as a 35mm negative. Most digitals have a smaller sensor. Because of optics and other stuff I don't understand, when a normal lens is attached to the camera, the focal length is increased 1.5x because of the smaller size. This means that my 50 becomes a 75. This is great for telephoto lenses because that is even more distance to shoot from (for instance, my 70-200 costs about $700, but with the sensor length taken into account, it becomes a 105-300 2.8. I can get a 300 2.8 for around $1600, but it is really a 450). Digital has the advantage that length is added to long lenses.

But, super wide lenses, like a 12mm, become longer. This means that the 12 is now a 18. Some of the effect is lost because of this. With a dx lens, which is designed only for digital cameras, you don't lose the super wide aspect.

Other than the lenses, I'm also getting 2 sb-800 flashes (top of the line from nikon, lots of power and a fast recharge rate).

One is for my current camera, the other can be used off camera as a strobe. I'm also getting the gear needed to turn it into a strobe.

I'm getting a set of pocket wizzards. These are a transmitter and reciever with a 1600 foot range. These will be used for the strobes and my big lights when I eventually get those as well.

The rest of the gear is little stuff, a tele converter (makes the lens longer, at the cost of an fstop), memory cards and card reader, and a flash extension cable which will allow me to shoot with a flash I can position where I want to, not just on top of the camera.

The lighting setup is actually really cool, so I think a link is warrented. The entire setup, minus the flash, costs about $130, which is a bargin really. Other items can be interchanged (less expensive umbrella, longer stand, etc).


Monday, October 02, 2006

I actually plan to talk about faking lighting at one point, buut not this week.

This week is all about slow shutter speeds. Not 1/30 or 1/15 slow (thats 1/30 of a second). No, I mean reall slow, like somewhere between 2 and 8 seconds slow).

The reason for these long exposures is simple, the fair.

This last week was the Natchitoches Parrish Fair. Being from shreveport, this fair is nothing, but it is still something nice to see and a good few hours to spend outside. Not to mention all the food, I'm a sucker for corn dogs.

Anyway, the fun part, the pictures.

This was taken at f18 for 5 seconds with nothing other than my flash set to rear curtain sync (more on that in a min). It was an interesting experiment because I had never done long exposures before.

Basically, I shoot the scene for a long time, to allow all the light available to show on the frame. The flash is only used for foreground objects.

Now, for rear curtain sync. Translated, its closing shutter sync. When the shutter opens to take the shot, the camera normally tells the flash to fire then. Thats called rear curtain sync. When the flash fires when the shutter closes, that is called rear curtain sync.

Basically, if I fired front curtain sync while I was at the ferris wheel, you could see the basket in place with all the light going through it. This is because the basket was frozen first, then the rest of the exposure allowed the other light to move in over it.

With rear sync, the basket is the last thing shot, so it looks frozen with all the lights going around it.

In other words, when you take a picture of a car at night driving by, with front sync you will see the car and the light from the tail lights will be moving forward in front of the car. In rear sync, the car will be frozen with a tail of light behind it.

Here is a good shot to show rear curtain sync

Here is the site (warning, images are of Amsterdam clubs, some are not appropriate for children

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I was supposed to write about how to fake lighting conditions in the computer this week. I decided to change that because of this weekend. This weekend was the first home football game. The entire day was horrible, had to be 110% humidity with 90 degree weather. Nasty day overall. Well, I had to shoot a ton of events during the day, and the game in the evening. Whoever decided to play college ball at 6 pm is an idiot!!!!!

I will explain in a minute why, but for now, a little teaching is needed. In photography, there is something called iso (or asa for those of you that remember it). The iso is a number (anywhere from 50-6400) that defines how sensitive to light the film is. The higher the number, the less light is needed to have a proper exposure. The way this happens is with the size of the grain on the film. A lower number has a smaller grain size than the larger numbers. This means that an image shot with iso 50 film , with proper exposure, will exhibit less grain than an iso 6400 piece of film with proper exposure.

In digital cameras, the iso can be changed on the fly, so it is useful for changing light conditions.

So, now with that out of the way, on to why the person is an idiot. In the begining of the game up until halftime, the light was fine. I was able to shoot that half in either iso 200 or 400. After halftime, I had to keep increasing it until I got to iso 1000.

Now, for newspaper work, this is fine to shoot at. Since noise (digital equivilant of grain) is most evident in the blue channel, getting rid of that channel when converting the image to black and white takes most of the grain out. But for my personal archive as well as my own printing, this is bad. The image looks like crap. Normally, this wouldn't bother me, but when its a really good shot, it sucks.

The image here was shot in the 3rd quarter. The catch didn't count, but it still looks pretty. But, its only lit with the stadium lights (which might look bright but aren't worth crap), and had to be shot at iso 1000. Now, it's a great action shot that looks like crap.

And, with the exception of homecoming, every home game this year is at 6pm. With the rest of the season playing longer into the fall, light gets much worse. So, unless something interesting happens during the first half of the game, there won't be really good photos coming out of my camera.

So, the obligatory link: Shooting football

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lighting, the wonderful and evil part of photography. Without enough light, no image appears. It's important for any image. There are ways around this though.

I'm no good with lighting, never have been. I also don't like using it. For me, it shows that I'm there. In formal events with people and all, it can be a blessing and a curse. IT illuminates the entire photograph, but it also tells everyone that is there that I'm there. I lose the spontaneity of the moment because everyone is looking for me and where I'm at.

The two images are with and without flash (fill flash actually). They illustrate what can happen when an image is only shot using natural light (especially the sky) and when it is used with flash.

Fill flash is used to do just that, fill. Use it to throw a little light under a baseball player's hat to see his eyes, keep a beautiful sky but still have a visible subject.

One of the major problems of shooting outside is the sky. It is always brighter than anything else in the image. This makes landscapes really easy, but has a tendency to darken anything else. For instance, if the camera meters the sky instead of the football players, then I get a beautiful shot of the sky and nothing else.

Flash is tricky to use because of the power it can have. It is easy to blow away someone's face without even trying. Luckily, with digital the light can be tweaked to get the proper amount of lighting. Take a shot, if its not right, tweak, shoot again. Rinse and repeat.

I only use flash when I need to, big social events where other photographers are there, indoor sports where there is crap lighting (basketball and volleyball come to mind), and the ever boring grin and shake photos. The most recent event I used flash at was a reception for Dr. Webb. I could have used a high ISO, but then I get a lot of grain. Grain = the evil, so thats a bad one.

Next week, ways to get around iso settings and flash, both in the camera and in the computer.

For now, a link to basic flash usage

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, this is starting because my class is requiring that I keep a blog for journalism. It’s a good idea, and it is finally a reason for me to add one here. This also has to somehow mesh with my final project. Regardless, I think this should help me keep this blog going.

So, more about me. I’m a senior News Editorial major with a photography minor at NSU. I have been on the newspaper and yearbook staff as a photographer (and sometimes helping with graphics and web) for 4 years. I shoot nikon, partly because I like the way it works, and partly because it helps to have the same camera system that the rest of the school shoots with. Easier to borrow equipment that way.

I shoot a lot of news mainly, with events being the majority of what I shoot. I like that, it gives me much more freedom to get interesting shots. I am also working on portraits. I take what I can get and all my clients are very pleased with the results. I would love to one day open my own studio, but I have a long time before that is really feasible.

In this blog, I will chronicle my weekly shoots, problems, funny stories and most importantly solutions to everyday problems I face (dead batteries, non-existent subjects, etc).

The above photo is my girlfriend and Casper, the friendly snake at the wild week of welcome in the Student Union Lobby.

Something interesting I found when thinking about this was the "Starving Student" lighting kit I found online. I plan on talking about lighting next week. I think I might look into buying this kit. $160 per kit works out great for me, since I was considering a single light for twice the price. More on lighting next week.