Judy Cabbages on Photography

Learning the Nikon D700 and photography

Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-05-17

Skin correction is about subtlety, with eyes, specially the irises, I can go a beyond subtle. Hair is somewhere in between – especially colour.

There are generally two effects I apply to hair – sharpening and colour adjustment. But in this photo of H, he has no hair – it’s all under his hat! I should have picked a better (or do I mean worse?) photo to show my post processing of a portrait. In this case, I shall explain what I do for hair by using his beard; something I’ve never done before but it should work.

Of course, I start off with a new lay group and call it “hair”.

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Create a hair layer group

Sharp hair

I sharpen just the highlights of hair to give a “more shine” look. This is done by using a high pass filter, and then a mask to limit the amount of effect it has on areas of hair (as well as the usual, layer opacity to turn down the whole effect).

This technique can also be used to sharpen eyebrows and eyelashes (or to sharpen anything for that matter) but I would these separately from hair because they would require slightly different options.

I duplicate the background layer, usually by pressing Ctrl-J, or you can drag the background layer over the “Create a new layer” icon. I drag this layer into the new hair layer group and rename it to sharp. This is layer that I perform my sharpening on. By carrying out sharpening on this layer, instead of the image directly, I can then make use of layer controls such as blending, masks and opacity. I could also make this layer a “smart object” to give me option of later adjusting the sharpening that I’m about to apply, but I’ve never (well, not yet) had to have that flexibility.

Sharpening

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Create a duplicate layer

This duplicate layer will not have all the skin and eyes corrections that have been applied, but that’s ok, since I’m ultimately only going to be working on hair.

Now to actually sharpen the image, with the new sharp layer highlighted, on the menu select Filter > Other > High Pass…. I use a lowish number of 8 to 12px, just enough to start to see a little colour bleeding in. Basically, the higher the number, the more sharpening. In his case, I chose 10px. Now I end with a horrible grey mess!

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Apply a high pass filter

And then, just change the blending mode to Overlay.

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Change the blending mode

Now it’s sharp, but everything is sharp,and it’s all probably a bit too sharp as well!

Selective Sharpening

To sharpen just the hair it is a simple matter of using a layer mask. I select the hair, and the eyebrows and sometimes eyelashes. I usually have eyebrows and eyelashes less sharp than hair highlights but that will be taken care of shortly.

In this slightly contrived example, I’ll select his beard,but this means that I’ll also be including some of his skin in this hair processing which is not something that I want. The hair that I really want to sharpen is hair highlights,and often the fringe. After doing this for this gentleman’s beard, I think that unless the man has a full beard, don’t do it! But I’ll labour on.

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Select the hair

Save the selection, apply a largish feathering by using Shift-F6 or menu Select > Modify > Feather…. I used 20px in this case. Then I add a mask of this selection to the sharp filter by clicking the Add layer mask icon.

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Create a layer mask

I next lower the layer opacity until I get the area of hair I want the sharpest looking right. For all other hair that shouldn’t be as sharp, or not sharp at all, I use a large brush with a low flow, 20%, to paint black on areas of the mask. I paint over eyebrows a few times, and dark areas of hair. Ultimately, the hair highlights are left sharp.

For H in this photo, I turned down the layer opacity quite a bit, as well as masked quite a lot. I should have a picked a photo with a head of hair to show the sharpening and it’s effect :(

Rich coloured

Sharpen is fairly mechanical and straight forward, but playing with hair colour is fun! Especially if you’re working on a photo of someone with wild hair colour. Working on hair colour is also great to reduce those strands of grey ;)

There a a few easy ways to play with hair colour, by using the hair selection that was saved, I usually use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, or sometimes a curves adjustment layer.

Have a look at how the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was created for Eye Whites. Of course, for hair, I am not trying to lower the red, usually I increase it a little.

And then have a look at Irises – levels adjustments to see how a curves adjustment layer is created.

Typically, I make hair a little darker, and more saturated. But I’m not going to do that for his beard!

Post process series

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?
Post processing part 2 – The shot
Post processing part 3 – Nice skin
Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes
Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair
Post processing part 6 – Cool clothes (soon)
Post processing part 7 – Final tweaks (soon)

Posted in Photoshop, Processing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

D700 firmware update to v1.01

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-05-17

This is old news, from January, but there has been a D700 firmware update. V1.01 (of boththe a and b portions) of the firmware are available from http://nikoneurope-en.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/26608

The issues fixed are very very minor, things that I had never noticed. If you are into long exposure shots and make use of Long exp. NR, then it might be an upgrade that you are particularly interested in:

An issue that, in extremely rare cases, resulted in noticeable black dots in images captured with Long exp. NR in the shooting menu set to On has been resolved.

Some SB800 and Battery Pack MB-D10 issues have also been fixed.

Posted in D700, General, Software | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Something else not so good

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-04-12

As much as I like the Nikon D700, there are a few minor things that I think that are not so good. The D700 is fantastic in many ways and I didn’t think that I’d find anything else with that annoyed me, but after a few months of use, I have.

Now, I can pretty much drive the whole camera while my eye is up to the viewfinder, but this lead me to make mistake. I use my camera in full manual mode, and in this particular time, I wanted to change ISO. So while the camera was up to my eye, I just quickly pressed the ISO button and turned the back dial – but the ISO did not change in the viewfinder! Huh?

I lowered the camera, and successfully changed ISO. So what was wrong? Then I noticed that the image quality had changed from raw to large jpeg. Obviously, instead of pressing the ISO button, I had accidental pressed the QUAL button.

The WB, QUAL and ISO buttons are all very close together, and are pretty much flush. And all are operated in the same way – press it and use the back dial to change the option. Unfortunately, there is no viewfinder confirmation of which of the three buttons is being pressed. And changing the ISO is the only thing shows any status in the viewfinder. There is no viewfinder indication when dialling either WB or QUAL. :(

What I would like is a little more tactile indication of which button is being pressed – just putting a small raised point on the ISO button (similar to the F and J home keys on keyboard) would be great. Secondly, I’d like an indicator inside the viewfinder that shows what button is being pressed. ISO value is already shown in the viewfinder but by turning off all other display data except ISO, I would know that I have pressed the ISO button. Finally, and this may be asking for too much, along with the “which button is pressed indicator”, it would be brilliant to show the appropriate value. Again, the ISO value is already displayed (but there is no indication of that you have pressed the ISO button), but displaying the WB and QUAL settings while the button is pressed would be a dream feature!

In the meantime, I’m going to have a get a bit more practice at using these three buttons while the camera is up. Specifically, I’m going to have get practice at not using the WB and QUAL buttons while the camera is up – I can’t see the value that WB and QUAL would be set to through the viewfinder so those are strictly camera down operations.

This is just a minor gripe.

Why put the raised tactile point on the ISO button?
Because of the three, that’s just about the only button that I’d use while holding the camera up to my eye. Changing either white balance or quality are both more “considered” changes and not something I’ll do with such frequency as changing ISO.

Posted in D700 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-29

To me, the eyes are probably the most important part of a portrait shot. Ask me again after loads more experience and I’ll have probably changed mind. But for now, it’s the eyes. Unlike the post processing for skin, you can go a little wild with the irises.

This person already has great eyes – there is no need for any work. But I will go through the steps that I carry out when I want to add some extra punch to the eyes.

Just like for when doing the skin, I create a new layer group, and call it “eyes”.

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Create a eyes layer group

Spot correction

“Spot correction for eyes?!” Yes, because there are often numerous catch lights in the eyes and I prefer them with just one well defined catch light. So if there are numerous catch lights, I clean them up in the same way as for skin.

I create a new layer, rename it to “spots” (I could perhaps call it “catch lights” but I as I said before, am such a lazy typist :)

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Create a new layer

On this layer I make whatever corrections I need to. Mostly this is removing additional catching lights.


Eye whites


The white of an eye is not pure white! So I don’t make them pure white. But if the person has been awake all night (like me) having fun in Edinburgh (not like me, I’m stuck in front of a computer screen) then their eyes might be a little bloodshot (like mine).

Firstly, I select the eye whites, then save the selection and next very slightly feather (Sift-F6, menu Select, Modify, Feather) it, perhaps 2px.

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Select the eye whites

Then I create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

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Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer

I rename the new layer to “eye whites”. Notice that this adjustment layer is not clipped to the layer below – there is no small downward pointing arrow in the icons for the layer. This is because I want the adjustment to be applied to all layers below, specifically the background layer, and not just to the layer immediately below. To toggle the “Clip to layer below”, use the button shown below.

Also, below are the two adjustments that are made. First, I reduce the saturations of the red, making any bloodshot eye whites greyer. Then I increase the master lightness to make them a little whiter. Care must be taken to not go overboard and give the person glow in the dark eye whites – these adjustments are usually very small (unlike I’ve shown here). Of course, I can always lower the power of the effect by reducing the layer opacity.

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Desaturate the red and lighten it all

Irises

This where some fun and some fairly wild effects can be applied. There are numerous ways to make the irises really pop, but I tend to use just either levels adjustment or dodge/burn, sometimes I use both. There’s another method that involves painting and blending that I’ll describe, though I’ve not really had much success with it I’ll describe it because it a quite a different process – perhaps it’ll work better for you than it has for me. Methods similar to levels adjustment that also produce a pretty good effect and are worth trying out are Curves, Hue/Saturation or Brightness/Contrast adjustment layers.


Irises – levels adjustments


This adjustment is just for the irises, so I start out by making a selection of the irises (and of course, saving that selection), then some very fine feathering of just a few pixels. If the black pupil is reflecting some colour, I usually exclude that from the selection – I don’t want to make the pupil reflection more vibrant (except once when there was a very good silhouette of me taking the shot!).

Levels adjustments are very good for someone who has eyes in one of the adjustment channel colours – green, blue or red (ok, maybe not red). For other colours, I tend to increase saturation and brightness a curves adjustment, but it is a little trickier.

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Select the irises

Create a Levels adjustment layer.

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Create a Levels adjustment layer

For a Levels adjustment on blue or green eyes, simply reducing the brightness of the appropriate channel is usually enough – reduce blue channel brightness for blue eyes, green channel brightness for green eyes. Below, is the change that I would make for blue eyes, as well as the equivalent for a Curves adjustment.

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Typical Levels adjustment for blue eyes (and equivalent Curves adjustment)

But this was not the effect I used for this gentleman’s irises.

Irises – dodge/burn

By dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) the irises, I often manually draw in a slight effect to make the eyes stand out.

Dodging and burning can be carried out directly on the image, but I prefer to do such changes on a layer. That way I have the freedom adjust the effect, particularly in this case, the blending mode. So this almost starts out like most operations by creating a new layer, but this layer is created in a different way. Either hold down the Alt key at same time as clicking the “Create a new layer” button, or use the menu Layer > New > Layer…, or press Shift+Ctrl+N. This will open a dialog box to giving very useful options.

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Creating the Dodge/Burn layer

I give the layer a name, and set the Mode to Overlay, and tick the “Fill with Overlay-neutral colour (50% gray)” option. This creates a grey layer that has no effect – my dodging and burning later will produce the effect that I want.

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The new layer

Then I use the Dodge/Burn tool on this layer. Where the “burn” is applied to layer, the image gets darker. Similarly, when the “dodge” is drawn on this layer, the image gets lighter. While dodging and burning, I make sure that the exposure is set to something low, like 20% so that I can more carefully apply the effect,and I only use Midtones (the others have next to no effect). Like all eye changes, subtlety is the key!

What to dodge and burn? I could just say “Wherever is best” but there is a pretty good guide that I always follow – I darken the outside third of the iris, and lighten the inside third. Then I apply any extra little bits of dodging and burning as I see neccessary.

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Darken the outer iris, lighten the inner iris

Finally, I change the layer blending mode from Overlay to Soft Light (to more exaggerate the effect) or to Hard Light (to extremely exaggerate it) to see how it looks. The effect can always be toned by by reducing the layer opacity.

Again, this was not the effect I used for this gentleman’s irises.

Irises – paint and blend

This is the quickest and probably easiest method on it’s own, but I usually find that it’s not enough on it’s on. In particular, the irises get darkened and so there is usually some extra work to do afterwards. Because of this, I very rarely use this method.

I use the Eye Dropper (keyboard I) to select the iris colour. Then I create a new layer, and use the Brush to paint the iris colour over the irises.

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Paint the irises with the iris colour

After that, it’s just a simple matter of changing the blending mode from Normal – Soft Light is usually best but Overlay and Hard Light can also be good. Finally, lowering the opacity of the layer can make it look a lot less outlandish. A little selective erasing with a low flow and it’s done – easy, fast.

And even this was not the effect I used for this gentleman’s irises.

Irises – so what did I do?

H’s eyes were already brilliant. I initially did nothing to them, but in the end, I added an Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and increased the saturation just a fraction. It’s just enough to add a little more of the wonderful dark golden colour in his eyes.

Phew, that’s the eyes done!

Post process series

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?
Post processing part 2 – The shot
Post processing part 3 – Nice skin
Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes (soon)
Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair
Post processing part 6 – Cool clothes (soon)
Post processing part 7 – Final tweaks (soon)

Posted in Photoshop, Processing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Post processing part 3 – Nice skin

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-29

I have no order for doing post processing – it is simply driven by whatever catches my eye. But I typically start with skin since that is usually such a large area of the photo. I create a layer group, rename it to “skin” and place all the skin post processing in layers within this new group.

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Create a skin layer group

Spots

Everyone has spots or small skin blemishes. The good news is that they are gone in a few days, the bad news is that I don’t have a few days to wait, so I correct them.

I create a new layer, rename it “spots” (I could perhaps call it the slightly less bad sounding “blemishes” but I am such a lazy typist :) and make sure it is in the “skin” layer group.

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Create a spots layer

With the new “spots” layer selected, use the three healing tools. Make sure that “Sample all layers” option is checked so that the healing tool will heal the background image, but place the alteration on the “spots” layer (but I haven’t completely figured this important bit out!). I try not to over do it – I want the person to still look human and not like a porcelain doll. Apart from skin, I also correct things such a maybe a stray hair, distracting clothing glint (zips are bad for this) and lips.

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Use the healing tools

Blue channel softlight blur

I had been applying a very similar process but just using greyscale until bassqee suggested Iuse the blue channel – what a great improvement! This is probably the most complex operation. It also has the one greatest effects on the image, particularly in shadowing and colour.

I start out by making a selection of the skin – avoid anything that you want to keep pin sharp such as eyes and eyebrows. For beards, sometimes I keep it out of this selection to keep it sharp, and sometimes I include it in – I have no rules on when or why, just what ever looks better to me at the time. Once I’ve made the selection, I save it (Shift+Ctrl+N, menu Select, Save Selection…) because it will needed again soon. Because I’m not imaginative at all, I named the saved selection “skin”.

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Select the skin

Then I feather the selection (Sift+F6, menu Select, Modify, feather…) to something reasonably large so that the transition from unprocessed to processed skin is not (very) obvious. In this photo, I used 20px. I save the selection before any feathering so that if necessary, I can later apply a different feathering to reloaded unfeathered selection.

I create a new layer in the “skin” layer group and name it “skin” (see, no imagination). It is important now to highlight the “background” layer to make it the source of what I do next. Switch over the Channels tab and select the Blue channel, copy it (Ctrl-C), switch back to the Layers tab, select the new and empty “skin” and paste the blue channel into it (Ctrl-V). This will create a grey mask of the selected skin over the person.

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Copy and pase the blue channel

But wait! There’s a problem. The mask is a copy of the blue colour that is in the “Background” layer, which means that any blemishes corrected on the”spots”, are also in this mask! To fix this, just do the steps again but for the “spots” layer – create a new layer above (this is important) the “skin” layer, select the “spots” layer, copy the blue channel into the new layer, finally merge this new layer and the “skin” layer. It sounds worse than it is, trust me.

I select the skin layer and blur it a lot (menu Filter, Blue, Gaussian Blur…) so that all detail is lost and only the general shape and shading remain. I used 20px here and probably should have gone quite a bit higher, 30px looks better.

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Blur the mask

Finally, change the blending mode, “Soft Light” is usually best but for a more edgy look, “Hard Light”.The other modes give very freaky effects. I also adjust the opacity to lower the effect if it is a bit overwhelming and doesn’t look good.In this case, I left it at 100%.

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Set the blending mode and opacity

Try toggling the “skin” layer on and off (click the little eyeball just to the left of the layer) to clearly see what effect this layer has on the image. The most obvious thing is some increased shadow definition and some very very gentle skin smoothing, but now there is a slightly yucky yellow cast!

Warming

To correct the slight yellowing, I add a warming filter. To add a warming filter, select “Create new fill or adjustment layer” (there are a few ways of doing this but I use the popup menu from the bottom of the layers tab), and chose “Photo Filter…”. Rename the new layer to “warm skin”.

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Add a warming adjustment layer

The small downward pointing arrow in the icons for the layer indicate that the effect will only affect image in the layer below, which is what I want – I only want to warm the skin and not the whole image. The “Clip to layer below” switch (indicated above) on the Adjust tab for the layer toggles this option. Another way to restrict the warming layer to only the use would be to create a layer mask using the handily saved “skin” selection.

And that is it for the skin!

Post process series

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?
Post processing part 2 – The shot
Post processing part 3 – Nice skin
Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes
Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair
Post processing part 6 – Cool clothes (soon)
Post processing part 7 – Final tweaks (soon)

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Post processing part 2 – The shot

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-29

Raw

raw _9035762

D700 + Nikkor 85mm f1.4 + SB800 at ISO200, 85mm, f5.0, 1/500sec, exposure -2/3EV, flash +0.7EV

This is the photo straight from the camera. Often, white balance and exposure correction is required but not in this case. With the white balance set to “cloudy”, the colour was right.

This photo is a fairly typical of the way I do things. Since I am only interested in the persons face, I use center weighted metering to get the exposure for the face correct. I only care a little about the exposure of the environment behind them – a little – I want to darken it to make the persons face stand out from the background. I set my camera exposure compensation to -2/3EV making the whole image darker than it would be, and then I set my flash (SB800) to +0.7EV in commander mode (Custom Menu Setting, e3 Flash cntrl for built-in flash, Commander mode). This will lighten the foreground to a good exposure level, and leave the more distant background darker.

Basically, all I’m doing is setting a relative exposure difference between the background and the person.

Of course, there are some fine points to it.

  • More often than not, I err on the side of slightly overexposing the person since it is easier to correct that than underexposure (well, at least with my camera).
  • If I have time (and can be bothered), I use matrix metering and read the exposure setting for the whole scene and then later spot meter the person – this give an acurate exposure setting but it takes time to do.
  • If it’s very sunny, then I increase the exposure difference and this reminds me of the most important thing, shot in the shade!

Importing

I import the photo in Lightroom, and then right-click it and select “Edit in Photoshop”. This will conveniently stack the Photoshop image with the original raw on in Lightroom so that the two images (the oringal raw, and the photoshoped one) are kept together.

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From Lightroom, Edit in Photoshop

In Photoshop, I try not to make any changes directly to image, so there are still things I haven’t figured out and a few slightly mucky steps to manage and use layers – I must learn better ways!

Post process series

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?
Post processing part 2 – The shot
Post processing part 3 – Nice skin
Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes
Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair
Post processing part 6 – Cool clothes (soon)
Post processing part 7 – Final tweaks (soon)

Posted in Flash, Lightroom, Photoshop, Processing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-29

I was asked “What post processing do you do?”

“I really don’t know what I’m doing, but just enough to so that the person is really happy with their shot”, I replied. Truthfully, just “I really don’t know what I’m doing” would be right. I work through a few processes that I’ve discovered but I’m always learning and looking for better ways of doing things. At the moment, I’m not entirely happy with the way I currently process skin.

Anyway, yesterday I took a photo that I really liked – no white balance or exposure correction was required, but I then performed some post processing. The amount of post processing and the actual steps I carry out vary from photo to photo, but this is a reasonably typical example.

Here is a half-size crop (click the image to see the full size) that show the Photoshop alterations – skin, eyes, hair, clothing.The changes are subtle, I hope, but they add some impact, again, I hope :)

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Before and after

The final Lightroom adjustments are some exposure gradients, and the obvious crop.

Full image

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D700 + Nikkor 85mm f1.4 + SB800 at ISO200, 85mm, f5.0, 1/500sec, exposure -2/3EV, flash +0.7EV

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After Photoshop

H

Finally, after some Lightroom tweaks and cropping before publishing

Post process series

Post processing part 1 – What post processing?
Post processing part 2 – The shot
Post processing part 3 – Nice skin
Post processing part 4 – Dazzling eyes
Post processing part 5 – Brilliant hair
Post processing part 6 – Cool clothes (soon)
Post processing part 7 – Final tweaks (soon)

Posted in Lightroom, Photos, Photoshop, Processing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Posing a face

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-20

I’m supposed to be witting this blog so that I don’t forget… but I did forget! I watched an interesting video, thought “wow, I must save that”, and then promptly forgot to do so :(

Today I spent ages searching for it again. At long last I found it.

Threatening grass

Here’s a shot that I like, I even like the fun text with it (click on the photo to read that) but I’ve never been 100% happy with the face angle.

Threatening grass

D300 + Nikkor 85mm f1.4 + SB800 + SB600 at ISO200, 85mm, f2.8, 1/80sec

Rembrandt Lives

David Ziser of Digital Pro Talk gives a great 15 minutes presentation called Rembrandt Lives on posing a face for portrait shots. He says:

Classical portraiture is an important starting point in becoming a good “people photographer”. By knowing the classical basics, we can do out best at creating the and most flattering images for are clients.

It is probably the of stuff that is taught in the first year of a photography course, but since I’ve never done any such courses it was all new and interesting to me. Also, it addressed something that I was starting to get an inkling of in my portraits – how do I angle the face? I hadn’t yet found anything that explains a such concept, and then I stumbled across David’s video which does it so well. Now I’ve got to put it into practice, and then learn to break those rules.

I’m not certain that “Threatening grass” above can be improved by following one of the classical poses; perhaps it is one of those cases where the rules have to be broken.

My notes

These are my notes to act as a memory jogger for me, but make sure that you watch the video; David goes into depth about the poses and suggestions on use.

Full Face Here’s lookin’ directly at you babe

  • The axis of the subjects face is in line with the lens axis.
  • Pupils are centred in the whites of the eyes.

2/3’s View It defines the mask of the face and is not dependant on the eye direction

  • Inside corner of the eye lines up with the tip of the nose. Outside eye always contained in far side of face.
  • Don’t let the tip of the nose break the check line, and/or don’t let the far eye hang out in space.

Modified 2/3’s View

  • The axis of the subjects face is not quite 2/3s View.
  • Pupils slightly decentered in the whites of the eyes.
  • Even a little white of the eye shows at the bottom of the eye.

Profile View

  • Exactly half of the face.
  • Only look for far eye lashes, not eye ball, eye lid or check.
  • Pupils looking slight towards the camera side to give centred appearance and reduce eye white on the side. Chin down a fraction to get eyes looking slightly up.
  • Keep profile clean.

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A shot in the dark

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-13

A few days ago I zipped out to photograph a band who I meet last year at the Edinburgh Festival – Mayhew. It was enjoyable evening listening to them and others play, and also fun to meeting other people there enjoying the music.

I usually take shots in bright light, and with a flash, so shooting a band on a dark stage was something completely different. I had to rapidly discover how to take shots in such a dark environment.

The shot in the dark

For stage shooting I learned to use high ISO, large apertures, held holdable shutter speeds, spot metering and ignore colour.

Here’s the singer of Mayhew.

Mayhew

D700 + Nikkor 85mm f1.4 at ISO2000, 85mm, f1.4, 1/100sec

Camera settings

I am glad my even in such loud place, I was glad that I have camera set not to make any noise (d1 Beep: off). I was sometimes shooting over a person’s shoulder, so a camera going beep in their ear would have been disturbing. I also have the low light auto-focus assist light turned off (a9 Built-in AF-assistant illuminator: off). The musicians can’t see much because of the strobing stage lights but once again, it would have annoyed other people in the audience. And no way to a using a flash – that would have annoyed everyone! So I had use my camera in “dark-mode” :)

I made one setting change, I already have the LCD brightness very low (Setup menu, LCD brightness: -2) but I set it the lowest of -3. Even then it seemed bright in the darkness of the audience space. The LCD can only be adjusted from -3 darkness to +3 brightness. This range is fairly limited; you can still see the full gamma chart at -3 and at +3. It would be nice to be able to set it even darker and a lower contrast so that I can still see the images, but not light up myself at the same time! I only need to check composition and focus. For stage photography with crazy lighting, I don’t really care the colours, surprisingly.

Along with reducing the LCD brightness, I should have also made another setting change. Next time, I will also turn off the auto view of the images (current set to c4 Monitor off delay, Image review: 4 seconds) but instead, I simply half pressed the shutter immediately after taking photos to get turn the LCD off when it displayed an image. I would shot a series of images, then check them later – I didn’t want to check them immediately.

One thing that I did like was being able to press the function button, right where my fingers were on the body grip, and bring up the camera info display. When I needed to look at the camera settings, the info screen was a very fast and very clear way to see everything. The LCD displayed in night mode (black background, grey text) which was perfect. The function button is still set to let me change the focus area (f5 Assign FUNC button, FUNC button + dials: Dynamic AF area) but I’ve now added spot metering to it too (f5 Assign FUNC button, FUNC button: Spot metering). I used to have this setting do nothing, but quickly being able to do spot metering I sometimes find useful. I don’t do it often do spot metering using the function button while looking through the viewfinder, but when I do, I put up with the LCD suddenly coming to life below my eye. Of course, for the photographing of the musicians, I had the metering mode switched to spot metering anyway.

Shooting

Making the shots also involved a quick bit learning. The obvious was high ISO, large aperture (have I told you that I love my 85mm f1.4?) and shutter speeds that I could hand hold.

The stage was light by a few coloured stage lights, and then flickered in steaks of moving colour and strobes. I wanted the person well light, particularly their faces. Talk about impossible! I tried to spot any lighting pattern, but it seemed random. In the end, I spot metered for the face, fired off rapid shots, and quickly looked to see if anything was good. I was only looking for good focus, exposure and a good image. If the colours were something crazy, that didn’t really mater since I have so much flexibility in changing them during post-processing. If the colours were really wild, then that would probably make a good shot too.

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Just starting?

Posted by judycabbages on 2009-03-12

A friend of mine has bought a Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD for a safari trip and asked me “Help!” I offered to go along on the safari to take the photos for him (as long as he covered my expenses, of course), but what he actually wanted was help with understanding photography :(

So anyway…

I found this great series of articles that explain the basics of photography. If you are just starting out, then perhaps you’ll find them a good introduction too. The clear explanations, diagrams and exercises really make this series a brilliant tutorial, particularly lessons 4, 5 and 6.

Lesson 1: Light and the Pinhole Camera
Lesson 2: Lenses and Focus
Lesson 3: Lenses, Light and Magnification
Lesson 4: Exposure and Stops
Lesson 5: Aperture
Lesson 6: Shutter
Lesson 7: ISO
Lesson 8: The Light Meter

They say:

In this series, we cover all the basics of camera design and use. We talk about the ‘exposure triangle’: shutter speed, aperture and ISO. We talk about focus, depth of field and sharpness, as well as how lenses work, what focal lengths mean and how they put light on the sensor. We also look at the camera itself, how it works, what all the options mean and how they affect your photos.

Questions and answers on this series have been posted to Question Time.

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