Cameras

As early as the 11th century, a camera using a pinhole or lens was developed. This projected a specific image on a viewing surface. At that time, these images were preserved by manually tracing them, due to non-availability of adequate photographic technology and material. The first small and portable camera was invented in 1685. However it was not until 1826 that the first permanent photograph was made.

The word camera is derived from the Latin word ‘obscura latin,’ which means dark chamber. A photograph is a medium through which people can relive past events and revisit moments. From the days of stencils, black and white to color, cameras have come a long way.

A camera is essentially a lightproof box fitted with a lens. A shutter is used to collect incoming light and direct it onto the film within. There is a viewfinder, used to frame the scene and a mechanism that helps with focusing on the object. An external or internal flash maybe used to maximize lighting conditions.

The shutter speed controls the aperture through which light enters the camera. The higher the shutter speed the smaller the aperture, and vice versa. This mechanism controls the time during which light is permitted to enter the camera. Pinhole cameras use a tiny hole to focus on an image. Other cameras use a lens for focusing purposes. The focal length of a lens, which is the distance between the rear of the lens when set on infinity and the film, establishes viewing angle and the size of the viewed objects.

35-mm cameras are currently the most widely used cameras. Modern cameras are available in rangefinder and reflex models and use an integrated rapid film-transport mechanism. Lenses can also be interchanged with ease, using the same camera body. Photographers may use lens filters, flash bulbs, and tripods to support their photographic ventures.

Making good photos great

Okay, so here’s our picture from a recent fishing trip at sunrise. You say “Hey, that’s a nice picture and all, I mean, I like the champagne colored sky and water, but I’m used to a sunrise being more orange.”

After initially wanting to smack you upside the head, I think to myself, this is a good idea. The picture could be improved upon and the champagne color is a bit drab. Often times, this happens in alot of the photos we take — they’re nice, but not spectacular shots. Let’s see what we can do to our sunrise to change all that.

Warming Up
BackgroundAs we’ve just brought this image into photoshop, you might have already noticed that the layer stacking order looks something like this to the left. By default all images opened in photoshop have their content placed on a “Background” layer.

Before I get too far ahead, I should tell you more about layers themselves. Layers in photoshop are literally just that — layers. For a visual explanation, imagine a few sheets of wax paper. Each sheet could be referred to as a layer in the grand scheme of the stacking order. What’s a stacking order? A stacking order, again, is literally implied to its meaning. You have these sheets of wax paper stacked on top of one another. If you have 5 layers of wax paper stacked up, you could can easily refer to each sheet by its layer number. In this case, the middle sheet is the 3rd layer in the stacking order. Are we crystal? Good, I thought so. If not, we’ll see this idea in more detail as we progress.

layer requester
Layer 0
Double clicking on the Background layer results in this requester box. Like anything computer related, the first number is 0 and not 1. For now, we can simply click OK and we’ll have our layer. Why do we do this? Because photoshop automatically assumes that the bottom, or first layer of our composition will never be modified. Notice that there is no longer a padlock icon on the layer. That means the layer is fully editable. From here, we can begin to incorporate the changes needed to spruce this photo up.

auto levels
The first thing you should do after converting your image to a layer is to use photoshop’s “Auto Levels” feature. What Auto Levels does is automatically sets the highlights and shadows of the image. Sometimes this effect can be dramatic, other times, not so. In any case, it gives you a better idea of what your image might look like. As an example my digital camera is notorious for having too much blue, so I can use photoshop’s Auto Levels to correct that problem in a single step.

Auto Levels is found by selecting Image > Adjustments > Auto Levels (SHIFT + CTRL + L)

Here’s our photo after using Auto Levels. As you can see, there’s not much difference between this and the one above. This is because there is alot of contrast in the image. You have the sun being nearly white and the fishermen almost purely black. Since this image has a good representation of highlights and shadows, there’s not much to adjust, which is why there’s not a significant change in the image after using Auto Levels.

Now it’s play time!
color balance
In the beginning of this tutorial we agreed on making the image look more like a traditional sunrise with lots of orange hue added to the photo. The first method to doing this that comes to mind is the Color Balance method. Photoshop has a great a way to adjust specific colors of an image and we’ll do that right now.

To open the Color Balance requester, navigate Image > Adjustments > Color Balance (CTRL + B)

By default, Color Balance will adjust midtones of the image. Generally this is a good idea when adjusting colors because you don’t want to manipulate your highlights or shadows, afterall, you just set those with the Auto Levels command, right? So let’s think back to grade school when we used to eat glue and lick the tempura paints during art class… What combination of colors yields orange? Red, yellow and blue are considered primary and colors like orange, green and purple are considered secondary. Remember that? Of course you did. So what colors combined make orange? That’s right. Red and yellow make orange.

It just so happens that the folks at Adobe built red and yellow into their color spectrum for the Color Balance feature. So let’s fiddle with these for a bit and see what we get eh?

color balance 1By pushing the red to +100% and the yellow to -100%…yes, I know. The slider says -100% even though there’s actually +100% yellow added to the image. This is because the slider is measured in terms of blue, not yellow. Technically there’s -100% blue to the image. However, we both know it’s yellow. No big deal. The idea is you added equal amounts of red and yellow and now have an orange hued image. Compare it to the one above, and it’s looking pretty snazzy now!! You can leave this image as is and it will look spectacular to anyone who sees it, but since we have the Color Balance already open, let’s mess around with the shadows and see what happens.

color balance 2Click on the shadows radio button and we’ll begin to adjust the shadows color balance now. Pushing the red +100% and the yellow -100% provides this look to the image. Pretty cool. Looks like something from a travel brochure of Hawaii with the way the reds and yellows are so dominant in the scene. To me personally, I think this is a bit too far for a standard photo. If we were incorporating this image into a marketing brochure, then this would do the trick. For a standalone photo, it’s a bit extreme.

Finalizing the adjustments
color balance 3By reducing the red adjustment to +50% and leaving the yellow as it is, we have a more evenly balanced image. The orange hue is vibrant, yet not obnoxious. The shadows and highlights are still preserved. Compared with the photo above, this is a dramatic improvement. This final image illustrates a good point about adjusting colors, you might have heard that old saying about women’s makeup: “The trick to makeup is making it look like it’s not makeup”. This is especially true in photo correction. If your photo looks like color balance 2, people will pick it out immediately unless it’s understood that the photo deliberately should look the way it does. Color balance 3 looks like that perfect moment in time captured through the lens of a camera. That is what a good photo does for the viewer.

Hopefully after completing this tutorial you’ve gotten a better understanding of color adjustments for photos. There are many different ways to accomplish this same effect, this is just one. Perhaps you’ll see another tutorial with an alternate method soon! Until then, EXPERIMENT ALL YOU CAN with settings, filters, and effects in photoshop. Personal experience is the best teacher!

Techniques For More Photos With Photograph Booths

photoboothA different one will be the backdrops to pick from. This will allow you to pick to discover the one which complements your wedding design. Some companies offer photo customization and it’s also not worsen to choose these kinds. Contemplating how long it’ll take to get photos concerns too. You will be provided with instant photographs by the top business to engage. They need to have CDs to give. You can find a company that offers photographs that can be witnessed or submitted to societal Medias like Twitter and Facebook where in you can indicate on your own account the pictures taken. The chance of the photos also lessens dropped or to acquire ruined during the celebration.

Select a design away. Yes! photo booth Melbourne has changed into a trend today. It is an ideal concept for your visitors to revive their remarkable nights by selecting these design choices that are generally accessible the Photo-Booth for the Wedding offers. Those laughter, the enjoyment, the wild part along with the silliness – Photo Booth Accommodations for a Wedding captures everything. They have desirable models, beautiful props and they together produce everybody’s experience fun and energetic.

Celebrities also opt for photo booth hire Scotland for weddings and their birthday celebrations. A number of people for example Hugh Hefner have photobooths in their properties completely for many their property visitor to-use. Merit shows including the Golden Globes have also had photo booths to consistent at their activities as entertaining destinations for visitor.

If you spend more for the booth, you’re probably be ready to decide on equally white and black, and colour photographs. This include another ingredient towards the wedding photo booth Melbourne, making it extremely attractive, and could create a huge difference. You will also must determine copies of every it’ll produce. One will be only printed by some for the files, which is no fun to your guests.

LOOK – you’ll find tube, bins, tents, stands & shades, kiosks and even a “pod”! Some photographers can set up a photograph section where they consider portraits and call it a photo booth. Be sure you discover exactly what the cubicle will look like; a very good reason is possibly there if none is highlighted on the site. As the pace may be better for your budget, know about what is going to show up at your party first! Everything you do not want is actually a surprise. Most brides do not are interested ruined by an ugly product and spend weeks generating their party that is perfect.

In a marriage, photography is just a quite essential issue which deliberation is created. The pair and their near people want every time to become captured. It is a once in a lifetime issue that happens towards the partners’ lifestyle, and has immense historic relevance for that two households! Hence, in a marriage, depending fully on inexperienced arms managing the digital camera models might not satisfy your preferences!

You Need To Understand Your Film Choices To Take Good Pictures

Which Kind Of Film Do You Really Need??

Sorry but there are no easy or simple answers to choosing the right film. Regardless of what camera you use, whether or not you’re doing wedding photography, nature photography or just shooting your favorite mother-in-law (of course, when you do that, just make sure you’re using a camera and nothing else).

Do you use ISO 100, 200, 800?? Do you use black and white, color negative or color slide film? Do you buy the name brand box, the ‘house’ brand or the really cheap stuff neither you or any of your friends have ever heard of? Unless you’ve tried them all it’s expensive and time-consuming to wade through all the myths and half-truths that surround these various products. For instance, I’ve heard that ISO 800 film is “the best all-round film you can buy”. It even says so on the yellow box!

Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything a manufacturer tells you when he is trying to get you to part with some of your hard earned money.

With experience you will come to know which film works best for the type of pictures you ‘normally’ take. Pictures generally fall into three or four main categories: people, scenery or people in scenery. Pet photos are also very popular. Fortunately, most of us take pretty much the same kinds of photos most of the time so once we choose a film that works well for us we can stop worrying about it.

Let’s talk about ‘film speed’ for a minute. What this means in practical terms is that to get the best pictures we need to know what activity will be taking place and what the lighting conditions are going to be like where we plan to shoot.

Is there going to be a lot of water, snow or light-colored sand where the pictures will be taken? Is there going to be a lot of furious activity like car or boat racing or is it going to be the equivalent of a family picnic? Is it supposed to be sunny or isn’t it? These are the types of considerations that must be taken into account before choosing a roll of film.

I want to spend a minute relating film speed to camera settings. Assume we have a constant shutter speed of 1/60th of a second and ISO 100 speed film. The ideal aperture setting has been pre-determined to be f5.6. With ISO 200 film this setting would be f8; with ISO 400, f11 and with ISO 800 it would be f16. I hope this helps you a little to see the difference.

never recommend using ISO 800 film unless there is a very specific need for a very fast, high-contrast film. It is simply impractical for general photographic use. It is a highly specialized film that should be used with experience and discretion. Otherwise it is generally a waste of money. It also creates serious difficulties for the processing lab because inexperienced users invariably overexpose the film and make it extremely difficult to get any kind of decent color from the negs.

In spite of what it says on the ever-popular yellow box, ISO 400 film does not work really well around snow, water or sand. The film is simply too fast for the shooting conditions. The highlights get ‘burned’ out and a lot of detail is lost unless it is quite cloudy. A picture taken in sunshine does not need as high film speed as those taken under low light conditions.

ISO 400 does not work well with flash shots of people either. Once again the highlights get lost because, unless you have a very sophisticated external flash gun you often times can’t compensate for the high film speed and the results are generally an overexposed negative. This results in very poor color.

Generally speaking ISO 100 or 200 is your best bet for all-round general photography. It works equally well in boats and in the family living room. You can usually use it for close-up flash photography (6 to 8 feet) without burning up things like faces.

You need to know that overexposed negatives do not produce good color.

Several years ago a lady came to my professional lab with a series of very badly overexposed 4X5 professionally taken wedding negatives. The photographer had really blown it because the shots were all about four or five stops overexposed. I accepted the order with the proviso that I could not guarantee the color results. As I recall it took close to five minutes to expose an 8X10 print. A normal negative would normally take a little less than 30 seconds to print.

The customer (like most people) simply did not understand that good color (or a good color ‘balance’) depends on a properly exposed negative. In spite of everything we could do in the lab, in order to get a decent flesh tone in the faces of the bridal party we had to turn the photos a ghastly greenish colour.

In the end, the client settled for dress colors that looked pretty well like the color of the dress material sample she provided to us even though the faces of the bridal party looked like the colour of overripe tomatoes.

A hard lesson learned. The wedding formals were essentially ‘toast’ until we employed a very old technology. In the end we were able to make some reasonably acceptable black and white prints which were then hand-colored with special photographic print dyes.

I grew up with black and white photography and I probably have a built-in prejudice in favour of the older technology. Color has certainly taken its rightful place in the industry but I still love the soft, gentle tones that you can only get with black and white.

I had my favorite kinds of black and white film and developer combinations, most of which aren’t even available any more. There was a real art to taking good black and whites but to a large degree the skills have been lost.

Speaking of not being available any more – did you know that the largest camera ever built was called “The Mammoth”? It was built in 1858 by an English photographer by the name of C. Thurston Thompson. It was designed and built to take a promotional photograph of a brand new luxury railway train and took a 3 ft. by 3 ft. square picture. The camera body was so big it needed a railway flat car to move it about the country!

To its credit, Kodak has developed a very nice black and white film with wonderful mid-tones that has to be developed in (C-41) color film developer and printed on an automatic color printer. Most of the black and whites I have seen going through the lab are poorly done but every once in a while there is a roll that goes through that is absolutely perfectly exposed and the results are very spectacular to say the least.

If you like to ‘play’ with your camera and are a little on the artistic side, here is a real challenge here for you. “Try it, you’ll like it!” I believe is the way the old saying goes. My new digital camera has a black and white capability which I am really starting to enjoy. You need to play with it to get good results but it’s a bunch of fun trying.

By the way, when people started using the old box camera in large numbers, the most popular week-end activity was known as “Kodaking”.

Back to business!

The decision about what ‘brand’ of film to use can be a rather perplexing one. The larger retailers have their own ‘house’ brands that they sell as the “best” and then there are the familiar yellow boxes from Kodak or the green boxes from Fugi or the blue boxes from Konica and so on and so on.

A lot of the ‘house’ brand film has in the past been manufactured by Fuji and Konica although the manufacturer is not always disclosed by the retailer. Some products are made by lesser-known firms, mostly from the Asian countries. It has been my experience that consistent results are best obtained by using the branded product.

The main reason for this is that you never know when the ‘house’ is going to change suppliers. The box looks the same but what’s inside may change without notice if the retailer finds a supplier with a better deal. You can always ask your retailer for the name of the film manufacturer of the house brand. Some can tell you and some can not. If they can’t it is my suggestion that it is because they keep switching suppliers.

In my experience, Kodak films usually favour the warmer colors, the reds and yellows with a rather soft contrast. Fuji on the other hand tends to lean towards the green and blue side with a somewhat higher contrast. Konica seems to me to have an overall better color balance and a contrast level that suits me. I like good colour ‘saturation’ and good, snappy contrast.

Many moons ago worked as a production supervisor for a very large photofinisher in Western Canada. The company does not exist today but it was about the largest company of its type back then.

The owners were staunch Kodak supporters. They used nothing but Kodak paper and chemistry for years and years. When the industry-wide competition started becoming ‘cut-throat’ in the early 1970’s it became crystal clear that costs of manufacturing had to be cut severely. That meant buying unbranded paper and chemicals. My employer did this.

My point is this. Hardly anyone noticed the difference in our output. The color looked the very much same as it did when we used the branded products and the end customers were satisfied with our work.

This happened because we were able to adapt our production processes to the new materials. The same can be true today of the lesser known brands. Just because you don’t recognize the name does not automatically mean it is a lesser product and can’t do an adequate job.

There’s a lot more that can be said but that will have to wait for another time.

You Need To Develop An “Eye” For Good Composition

How many times have you seen pictures with cut off heads or feet because of poor composition? How many times have you taken a picture of ‘Aunt Mary’ standing in front of the ‘Empire State Building’ (or whatever) and when you get the picture back from the photo lab, you can’t tell if its Aunt Mary or Uncle John? Composition is an extremely important factor in taking a good photograph. Most of the more expensive 35mm cameras have viewfinders that show pretty well what you are going to get. These are commonly called SLR’s or Single Lens Reflex cameras. What this means to the user is ‘wysiwyg’ or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’. The reason the view is so accurate is the fact the operator is looking through the actual ‘taking’ lens and not just a simple viewfinder.

A viewfinder camera (like single-use or digitals) on the other hand has a ‘viewing’ system that is independent of the ‘taking’ system. This can cause composition problems for some users. You have to do some experimentation to find out if yours is one. A general rule of thumb is to move in on your subject until you see exactly what you want to photograph and then move back a couple of feet to leave a little room on all sides of your composition. Play with your camera until you know exactly what works best for you.

Take a few moments to really look at what you’re shooting. ‘Snap’ shots are all well and good once you become good enough to see your actual composition very quickly but they don’t always work out the way you might want. (Ask me how I know about that little rule!)

Just because you see something on the edge of your viewfinder when you take the photo, it doesn’t mean you will see it on the finished picture. This has to do with cropping during the printing phase of aerial photographs UK production.

There’s a difference in the proportional dimensions of a 35mm negative and an 8X10 print for instance. Printing the full negative will produce a print that is closer to 8X12. This is why the industry changed the standard print size from 3 ½ X 5 to 4 X 6. Too many customer complaints were being received because of the severe cropping. Even with today’s superior printing technology, if a photographer shoots a little too ‘tight’, there is a very real possibility of losing some of the image on the very edge of the negative. Here’s a couple of examples of what I’m saying about composition that I happen to like. (I should…I shot ’em!) Years ago the movie industry thought it was absolutely essential to get an actor’s entire head in a given shot or scene. There was no such thing as “tight” shooting. Look at what’s happened in the past 25 years to that theory!

The same principle applies to our own pictures. You can get far more pleasing composition if you don’t always include Aunt Mary’s feet in the picture. Whether you’re shooting the Grand Canyon or the Empire State Building you can get a very pleasing shot of Uncle Gordon standing in front and off to the side a bit without including his entire body.

Frame Your Shots

Whenever possible, ‘frame’ your subject. The tree on the right is a good example of what I’m talking about. It provides a natural frame for the main subject.

I was on my way home from shooting a commercial job one day and spotted this little scene by the side of the road. While there is nothing particularly spectacular about it, it does provide a pleasing, peaceful effect and looks good as a 16X20 print on the wall. The ‘frame’ in this instance is the foliage around the pool of water.

I love brilliant color, lots of it. This scene was taken in Jacksonville Florida. One of the reasons I like it is because the brilliance of the lights on the water keep the viewers eyes centered on the picture. Essentially there’s nothing to lead the viewer’s interest ‘out’ of the picture.

Use One Hour Labs “Yes” or “No”?!

 

One hour labs are here to stay. Whether or not you get good work from the average one hour mini lab is pretty much a crap shoot. It depends totally on who manages the place and what that manager’s level of expertise is. It also depends on who the operator is. Some are good, some are really good but, unfortunately, most are not. There’s usually no employment incentives for them to become good.

There are thousands upon thousands of horror stories about experiences gained in one hour labs all over the continent.

Keep in mind that these places are usually put in place for reasons of profit and profit alone. When a box store invests around a million bucks in a photo lab, they want to see a decent profit. In these days of cut-throat pricing this usually means minumum, untrained staff. Customer service is generally not a major priority in spite of the advertising hype.

We had this sign on the wall of a one-hour lab I used to work in…

We do work that’s

perfect, fast and cheap.

However:

If you want it perfect and fastit ain’t cheap.

If you want it fast and cheap, it ain’t perfect.

If you want it perfect and cheap, it ain’t fast.

…and that’s pretty much the the way it is.

As a paying customer, you have the right to expect reasonably good work from even a one hour lab. You may have to send it back once or maybe twice but one-make-over usually does the trick.

Here’s a chuckle for you…

It you know the buzz-words, the techno-babble as it were, you’re gonna be a whole lot further ahead. To start with, you’ll have to know a little bit about color and color ‘balance’. I’m gonna teach you more in the next few minutes than most one-hour lab operators ever learn. Sorry but I’m going to get a wee bit technical here so please bear with me. If you pay attention it will all come clear – promise!

Here’s a chart that will help our discussion. Have a good look at it and I’ll explain a little better what it’s all about after you’ve done that.

To make this simple, the one hour lab operator needs to find a “balance” between the “additive” (red, green, blue) colors and the “subtractive” (cyan, magenta, yellow) colors. Note the color opposites – cyan/red; magenta/green; yellow/blue. If the lab’s photo chemistry is “in control” and your exposures are within one or two stops your pictures should look fine if the operator is any good.

If a print is too red for instance, ask the lab to add a ‘button’ of cyan. Be careful not to confuse cyan with blue or magenta with red. If you do, you’ll simply look foolish. Do your homework. Remember you’re looking for the best possible ‘balance’ between the six colors.If they don’t, here are some things you might want to do.

There’s a lot of advertising hype surrounding a very famous name in the photo industry. Kodak’s name and trademarks are bandied about by companies which claim to adhere to national “standards” but you have to take these claims with a grain of salt. The typical one hour lab is not really great at following the ‘rules’.

You can ask the lab personnel to look at their chemistry control charts. One hour lab people won’t generally like you for asking but if you’re going to entrust your valuable pictures to them you should have the right to know if their quality control is any good. If they’ve nothing to hide there won’t be a problem. Any good lab will be proud of their controls.

It won’t mean much to you if you do get to see them but there are some things that even a lay person can readily tell. If the lab operator-drawn red, green, blue and black lines on the chart are fairly consistent and if they don’t run outside of the control limits (which you can readily see) and if they appear to plot control strips every day or so, you’re pretty safe in assuming somebody is doing something right.

If not, run, don’t walk to the nearest exit and don’t go back – ever!

It’s absolutely critical that the “C-41” chemistry that processes your color negatives is both in good chemical and temperature control. Kodak temperature tolerances are plus or minus one half of one degree on the Fahrenheit scale. Anything outside this will damage your negatives and that can’t be fixed. Bad printing can be fixed so that’s not as critical.

If your prints are simply out of ‘balance’, a makeover is usually sufficient to correct the situation.

This was really funny…

I haven’t touched on too light or too dark photos (density). This is purely subjective and it’s up to you whether or not you like any picture either darker or lighter. All printing the equipment in use today have almost infinite control over density. Don’t accept something you don’t like. It isn’t necessary.

For example, a lot of one hour lab printer operators don’t have a clue how to print a good sunrise, sunset or mountain shot. Most inexperienced operators print them far, far too light. Be aware of this.

The one hour lab industry as a general rule has, over the years, educated customers to accept whatever comes off the printing equipment as the very best that can be done. However, in spite of this, unless it really IS really good stuff, the odds are very, very good that it can be improved if you know what to ask for.

Taking Digital Photos Is Not The Same As With Film

 There are some ‘wrinkles’ you have to iron out

First of all, an important caution!Well, the first order of business after finding a camera you like is making it take a good digital picture. Please note I said “making it take”, not “letting” it take.

One of the great advantages of using a digital camera is the opportunity to take a virtually unlimited number of pictures. The kicker is, you need to have a sufficient amount of storage capacity to do it. The size of the storage media or card you have will determine the number of pictures you can take.

Don’t go cheap! Spring for more than one memory card. The insurance and peace of mind you’ll gain is well worth the investment.

I guarantee you’ll run into trouble if you don’t. For instance, a man walked into his local box store and asked for a copy of each of the 12 prints he had on his card (true story). The customer copied the image data into the printer’s storage area and then immediately erased his image media so he could reuse the space for more pictures and left the store. To the store’s credit, there was a sign posted on the customer terminal advising against erasing digital media before the pictures are printed. It was obviously ignored.

In the meantime, one of the lab operators inadvertently erased the printer’s storage area and the pictures were irretrievably lost.

This man had traveled over 200 miles to get this series of pictures and he had to go back again to do it all over just because he was too cheap to spring for another $30 card. Needless to say he wasn’t happy.

Organizating your pictures can be a real pain in the neck, especially if you shoot a lot and most digital camera users do. It simply goes with the territory.

I ran across a small piece of software that takes a lot of the work out of creating albums. One of the things it does very, very well is to help you rename the photos you’ve taken.

Digital cameras (thankfully) supply each and every photo taken with a unique identifier. However, these will need to be changed somewhere along the way if you’re going to organize your photos in any meaningful way.

This piece of software solves this problem quite nicely. Go to theDigital Camera Utility site that will tell you a lot more. It’s worth a look.

Okay, back to pictures…

This is pretty well a never-ending topic. We can start our discussion by asking a question…what is it you want to accomplish? You need to have a goal if you’re going to get what you want. Once you’ve made this decision, you can start the creative process.

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that you, like a lot of other ‘weekend warriors’ are out to create something you can show family and friends and maybe even put on a photographic feature wall in your home. You may even want to submit one of your better creations to a photo contest.

Even if you don’t win anything, it’s a real hoot seeing your work on display somewhere. There’s a lot of good contests on the Internet these days and if you enter one or more of these, your photography will be seen by people all around the globe.

Okay. Pick a subject. Odds are you have something very near your home that will make a good photographic subject or maybe even a photo essay.

Municipal parks can give you a never-ending supply of items you can feature in macro (extreme close-up) shots.

Years ago I took a group of my students on a field trip to a local park close to where we lived. The assignment was to pick out a suitable subject within a 100-foot radius from where we parked our cars and produce a photo that was suitable for framing.

They were assigned to use nothing more than a small home-made reflector and a tripod. The results were exceptional to say the least. I’m sorry I don’t have any of the original pictures samples any more.

I do have some stuff I shot for my wife a year ago when I first got my new digital camera and I’m going to use some of these as an example of what I’m talking about. Judy plants a wonderful array of annuals in our yard every year. My job is to photographically record the results.

Years ago, when we still owned the photo studio, I used to use a Mamiya RB-67 medium format camera. It produced a 2 1/4 X 2 3/4 (professional format) negative. It was a fully manual camera which gave me full control over the field of focus.

It’s not quite as easy to achieve the results you want with the newer digital cameras. Manual, high-end film-based cameras are still the best in my opinion but digitals are catching up fast. I know I’m going to get an argument on this from some died-in-the-wool digital enthusiasts but this is my website and I’m entitled to my opinion. So there!

All kidding aside, I don’t think that many of the folks who read this stuff are going to need to or even want to electronically manipulate whatever they shoot.

Unedited – – – – Edited

If you’re going to have people in your shots, you’re going to have to be aware of what I consider to be a couple of serious failings in each of the digital cameras I’ve tried.

There’s almost a full one second delay from the time the shutter release is pressed until the time the camera shutter actually fires. In my own camera I can minimize this to some extent by setting the autofocus feature to “full time” which means the camera’s focusing mechanism is resetting itself continuously. This is not a great answer. To start with, it’s hard on batteries. It also ‘burns’ up a lot of memory space. Even with rechargables it seriously cuts into the number of photos I can take before the power cells run out.

One other way is to set the focus, shutter speed and aperture manually and run with it in full manual mode. With the flash turned off, there is still a delay which could cause you to miss a great shot by the fraction of a second. It’s also somewhat annoying for the people standing in front of the camera who have somehow engineered an acceptable facial expression and find they can’t hold it for as long as it takes for the camera to fire.

There is a third way to minimize this effect to some extent. If your camera has a multiple-exposure capability, you can play around with this until you get the effect you want.

The second failing in my opinion is the lack of having a place to use a cable release. Granted, most of the higher-end boxes have an infra-red remote trigger but you need to be in front of the camera to activate the shutter, not behind it or to the side of it while you take your shots.

Proper Film Storage Counts!

It’s not a widely understood fact but proper film storage plays a great role in the production of good prints. Correct film storage forms a very important part of the quality control process. Ideally the production of satisfactory pictures will be a partnership between the photographer and the lab. For instance, unexposed film that is dumped in a drawer or closet somewhere for an extended period of time cannot be expected to produce optimum color.

Film stored in your refrigerator in a moisture-protected container will outlast and outperform film which has been stored any other way. My wife and I have successfully stored film in our ‘fridge for several years without any evident deterioration in colour quality. Film is made up partly of special emulsified coatings that have been designed to record light images that have been projected through a camera’s optical system. In addition to being sensitive to light it is also sensitive to heat, perfume and x-rays to mention some of the more common elements.

I remember getting about 24 rolls of film in the lab from one customer who had been on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Hawaii. He kept promising his wife for about six months that he would take the film in for processing but he kept putting it off. He reasoned that the film was safely stored in a plastic bag in the back window of the family car which is an excellent example of bad, bad film storage.

Unfortunately for him, it was a very hot summer that year and we didn’t get the film in the lab until mid-September. By that time the color balance had been absolutely destroyed and, as a result, he was furious. He threatened a lawsuit and was planning to make us pay for another trip to Hawaii among other things.

After trying unsuccessfully trying to explain why his photos didn’t turn out the way he expected I finally talked him into sending his film to the Kodak customer complaints office for an explanation of the failure. He grabbed the address and muttered something about Kodak putting me out of business. I don’t really know exactly what Kodak told him but he never did launch his lawsuit and we stayed in business.

There are numerous cases of gals who leave negatives in their purses right next to their perfume container and have completely blown the color on the negatives they wanted reprinted. Once again, the lab is often charged with gross failure in cases like this when, in actual fact, they have had nothing to do with the lousy color reproduction. They do the best they can but the most sophisticated photofinishing equipment in the world still needs a good negative to produce a good colour print.

Want a quick way to tell whether or not the lab has had a processing problem? This works especially well when the negatives have been incorrectly processed. Each roll of film has what is called the “rebate edge”. This is the area where the 35mm sprocket holes are located. It is also where the manufacturer has printed the name of the film and the negative numbers.

If the printing on rebate edge is crisp and sharp and quite dark or even black, and the area surrounding the sprocket holes is a healthy orange or orangey-pink color, (this colour is called a “mask”) odds are the film has been process correctly. This holds true for most Konica, Kodak and Fuji film but some off-brands may have a slightly different colour mask.

If the actual negative looks ‘thin’ (and I don’t know a better way to describe it) or ‘heavy’, this is an exposure problem, not processing. It simply means the camera operator either underexposed (thin) or overexposed (heavy negative image) the photograph. This kind of problem can be fixed reasonably well in black and white negative film but not in color.

If you have any question in your mind about this, ask your lab tech to show you a sample of a properly processed piece of film which you can easily compare with a piece of suspect film for relative differences.

Perhaps this is a good time to tell you about the quality control systems that are supposed exist in most one-hour mini-labs. I don’t think it’s any secret that Kodak holds the major share of the photofinishing market. Ask any lab operator and they will tell you that they are supposed to adhere to some pretty strict standards that are sometimes physically monitored and enforced by Kodak.

I have no special axe to grind for Kodak. It is a large company like any other and I don’t own a nickel’s worth of Kodak stock. It just so happens that the majority of experience I have had is around the Kodak product lines. I am certain in this day of computers being able to talk to other computers that the other companies like Fuji and Konica will have similar quality control programs in place.

Every morning each lab has to run a series of controls that will indicate a problem-in-the-making. These controls are transmitted to Kodak on a regular basis. In the event that a lab is running outside the normal processing parameters set by Kodak the lab will be called by a service rep to set matters straight before customer film is processed.

This system does not always work as well as it should but it is a whole lot better than it was when no external monitoring at all was taking place. Customers had to depend on people like me and others like me to do my job correctly. When techs failed in one way or another, the customer sometimes paid a price.

Panoramic Shots – A Challenge Worth Accepting

Panoramics – The “Rolls-Royce” Of
Great Nature Photoraphy

I just love panoramic shots! One of the limitations standard film cameras have had that I have lamented for years is the fact that even with a very good wide-angle lens, the ability to do an effective pan shot was limited to say the least. I’ve spent hours and hours in the darkroom trying to match up two or three customer negatives so the finished product looks like a true pan shot.

I’m sure you have seen the long, long photographs that used to be taken of large groups of people…everything from entire school populations, to medical school grads, to graduates of law schools, etc. Look on the wall of your doctor’s or lawyer’s office. These kinds of photos used to be taken with a special pan camera.

The photographic subjects were arranged in a semi-circle configuration with the tripod-mounted camera being placed in the very center. When the shutter was tripped, the camera actually panned from one end of the group to the other. I remember when I was in high school being placed at the very end of the bottom row and when the camera had passed me, running like the wind to the opposite end of the group and having my image appearing twice in the same photo. What a hoot!! (The school principal wasn’t amused and I had to serve five one-hour detentions as a result.)

To take a good pan series you will need a tripod. Hand-held will work but not to the same high degree. Sorry, but you’re going to have to go to your camera’s user manual to get the correct settings. Once the pictures are in the bag (or on the media card) you can download them to your computer.

The rest is easy. The software that came with your camera will have a pan assembly capability. In the event you don’t have this capability, PaintShop Pro can come in real handy. This software has the capability of allowing you to electronically enhance your picture(s) to the point you may even want to hang your masterpiece on your livingroom wall.

Just to demonstrate a little of what I’m talking about, I have included three shots of downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’ve set up the three just as they were taken, separate photographs taken with a wide-angle lens. Just below these three shots is the completed composite. Look closely and you’ll see it’s absolutely seamless. You can’t see where they were joined.

This can be a lot of fun and is really worth playing with.

Make Your Flash Work FOR You Not Against You!

Things you should know to take better flash photos

There are lot of misconceptions about flash photography and how best to use it to get the kind of pictures you want. Loads of folks simply point and shoot without giving the lighting a second thought. Then they’ll sit back and wonder why they didn’t get the shot they wanted or what they thought they shot.

There are a few simple techniques you can use that will vastly improve your picture quality if you’ll just take a few moments to understand and use them.

The built-in flash units that come with most cameras these days can be both good and bad at the same time. In spite of what the ‘automatic’ features of your camera will do, you still have some control you must exercise for best results.

Let’s look at outdoor pictures first. Early mornings and late evenings usually provide the best natural lighting conditions for ‘people’ photography. The midday sun can create shadows that are deep and unforgiving and can ruin an otherwise perfect photograph.

The extreme contrast between the light dark areas of your subject will sometimes seem to be accentuated with a camera. Our eyes don’t always see what a camera does. Our brains automatically ‘filter’ the images and we see pretty much what we want to see or what we ‘think’ we see. The camera does not. It records what’s actually there.

For instance, go in to the family room of your home well after the sun has gone down. Turn on a standard filament lamp. You will undoubtedly see objects in the room as ‘normal’. In actual fact, they aren’t. The lamp actually produces a very pronounced red-yellow light which is what will be recorded by your camera.

By the same standard, most standard fluorescent lights produce an overall greenish cast to everything. Even flesh tones often look more like a dead mackerel than a live being.

Having said that, most good digital cameras have a built-in correction system called “white balance” that will usually correct the color balance of your pictures regardless of the color temperature of the ambient lighting where you’re shooting. In some instances you may have to adjust some of the white balance elements but this isn’t usually too difficult. If your camera has a memory feature you can manually lock in unusual or frequently used settings that you can access quickly and easily at a later time.

Film does not have this inherent capability unfortunately. You need corrective filters to do the job properly. Have a look at the discussion on one-hour labs to help you understand what kind of filters to use. Okay. Let’s assume you’re going to take a picture of a couple of your favorite people in the late afternoon on a sunny day using your film camera. The light looks pretty good and you fire away leaving your flash unit turned off.

Odds are your subjects are going to wind up with very red faces, not from embarrassment, but from the sunlight. You can avoid a lot of this by using your camera’s built-in electronic flash. The output is already ‘balanced’ for normal daylight and, if you use it in ‘fill-in’ mode, it will help cancel out the strong red sunlight. Indoor photos are different. Here you can have two or three different kinds of lighting to deal with. But again, using your camera in ‘fill’ mode will usually give you pleasing skin tones in your finished pictures.

Be careful not to overpower your subjects with a too-powerful flash output. You can literally ‘burn’ all the color from faces if your flash output is too strong. Because each make and model of camera has a different kind of flash unit, there’s no basic rule of thumb I can give you that will cover everything.

You’ll have to go to your camera’s user manual to get this.

While we’re talking about flash, we should also think a bit about lighting in general. An electronic flash unit is already color balanced for daylight output and you can wind up with what is called a ‘mixed lighting’ effect if you’re shooting indoors. For example – let’s assume you’re going to take a flash picture of a group of three or four people wearing white blouses or shirts in a place that is primarily lit with fluorescent light fixtures using a film camera.

It looks like your flash goes off normally but you wind up with a picture that shows these people with very pink faces and ghastly green shirts.

The shirts are reflecting the greenish cast from he room lighting and the automatic printing equipment tries to compensate by adding a little extra magenta to the whole print which turns the faces a bright pink. Your camera’s built-in flash usually comes with a ‘fill-in’ capability, one where the output of the flash is reduced sufficiently to fill in those deep shadows without wiping out the subject completely. Make sure you know how to use this setting for best results. If you don’t happen to have a unit with this capability, you can always use a reflector.

Years ago, before I could afford a really good flash unit, I used to use a nylon stocking fastened tightly over the face of the flash to reduce the intensity of the light being produced. This worked extremely well for black and white but not so good for color. As I recall, the nylons introduced a green cast to the flash.

My favorite reflector is made from crumpled aluminum foil (dull side out) wrapped around a piece of flat cardboard. Of course, a better one would be the very expensive gold reflector favored by a lot of professional photographers but my way is a lot easier, a whole lot cheaper and the results are arguably quite compatible. (A pro will give you an argument on this.)

I personally like what I call “cloudy-bright” days for shooting. Here is where the built-in flash works best. Colors are somewhat muted under these lighting conditions and using a fill flash will bring back the ‘snap’ to the pictures you’re shooting.

Ideally you will have a flash unit that you can dismount from your camera and hold it in your hand, well above and to the side of the lens. This makes a world of difference to the way your subjects will look. It adds shape to foreheads, cheeks, noses and lips. Gone completely is the terrible red-eye effect produced in camera mounted units.

One real problem to getting a good picture with on-camera flash is the ‘halo’ effect produced when your subjects are standing in front of a wall-type of background. By holding the flash above and to the side, will not only get rid of this unattractive halo but will actually produce a pleasing shadow effect.

Because the flash and shutter are necessarily synchronized at 1/60th of a second on film cameras, you can’t use the following technique but digital cameras were made for it.

To eliminate the usual ‘black’ background you always get when shooting in ‘program’ mode with a big space or room as a background, use the camera’s manual adjustment capability and shoot your picture at around 1/15th of a second with a normal aperture or f-stop. This will get the main subject you want but at the same time will record a normally-lit room. The background will now be visible and will bring some perspective to the shot.

One technique I love to use is ‘bounce’ flash. This is where I use a flash unit that has an adjustable head, one that will swivel between horizontal and vertical. You can actually ‘bounce the light off of the ceiling. You need to play with this one to achieve best results.

The unfortunate part of this is that the flash guns that have this capability are often priced at around the $300 to $400 mark which takes them out of the reach of the average ‘weekend warrior’.

There’s a lot more to say about lighting but this should get you started. Remember, this is your camera. Play with it. Make it do what you want it to do, not the other way around.