Welcome to the June 2011 Out There Images, Inc newsletter! I’m honored that you are reading and I hope that you learn a thing or two this month that helps you improve your skill set. Photography is such a fun pursuit. I get such a kick out of it every single day and love challenging myself to improve.
I’m always challenging readers of my website and people in my workshops to take at least a photo every day in order to improve. Of course, I practice what I preach and bring a camera with me everywhere I go. Who knows what opportunities might arise?
For example, last night my son was at a presentation for his school. I encouraged him to bring his camera to the show. At first, he was feeling a bit tentative, but then decided to bring it after I prodded him a bit more. While at the show, he asked the class teacher if he could take photos of each of the students in front of their displays. The teacher said yes, so my son went around to each kid and snapped their portrait.
After the presentation, the teacher asked him to print all the photos so they could use them in their end-of-year book. I think it is awesome that my son scored his first photo job specifically because he brought his camera with him.
The moral of the story is very simple – if you don’t have your camera, you can’t take pictures!
Check out the blog for lots of new articles on photography. One of my favorites this month was a blog post on calibrating an Apple iPad using Datacolor’s Spider 3 system. Very cool and very useful for iPad owners.
Other posts last month include:
- – Metal Tulips
- – Thinking in Photoshop
- – Interview with a 5th Grader
- – The Sub $500 Camera
- – The Venerable S-Curve
Book and Hat Giveaway
During the month of June, I’ll be giving away two books and a Nik Software baseball hat for one lucky person who participates in the June GOAL Assignment Flickr group. I’ll pick my favorite photograph from the month’s postings and then ship out the prizes to the winner!
The prizes are:
- – A copy of Remote Exposure by Alexandre Buisse
- – An autographed copy of my book, Nikon Capture NX2
- – A Nik Software “Photography First” baseball cap
Join our Flickr group and start contributing! It’s free and it’s easy.
May GOAL Assignment: Shooting in P Mode
I really had a great time with last month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) Assignment to photograph in Program exposure mode. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before and can’t wait to share it with you right here.
As I mentioned in last month’s article on P (Program) Mode, there are many photographers who wouldn’t be caught dead using Program mode because it is a public acknowledgement that they aren’t controlling the entire process. Personally, I found shooting in P mode to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it was liberating to not have to put any significant thought into my aperture and shutter speed. A curse because sometimes the camera didn’t choose the exposure settings that I would have chosen.
As always, the purpose of the GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment is to learn. So, here’s what I learned:
Program exposure mode generally picked a pretty good combination of aperture and shutter speed for most situations. In other words, my exposures were good and the camera also chose combinations of shutter speed and aperture that worked for many scenes. For my general point and shoot photography, I was pleased with the results. However, when I wanted to transition into more of a professional shot, I wasn’t always pleased with the combination the camera picked.
Many of the photographs I took during the month were at or around f4 to f5.6. This is because the “program” that P mode uses tends to bias the aperture towards a larger value (bigger opening) in order to get to a faster shutter speeds. Unfortunately, this meant that many of my shots didn’t have enough depth of field to cover the scene.
On the other hand, there were many photos where I wanted a very narrow depth of field at f2.8 but the camera chose a safer aperture like f5.6. I’m not sure why, but Program mode very rarely chose f2.8, even in very low light where the camera would have benefitted from the larger aperture opening.
I took my camera to Disneyland during May and decided to shoot the camera in Auto ISO, Program Mode and Auto White Balance. As many of you know, this goes against most of everything I teach in my workshops. But, since I was dutifully participating in my own GOAL Assignment, I decided to go all-out with Auto!
My experience was that the camera did the “correct” thing most of the time. What I mean by that is it chose adequate settings for White Balance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Could I have done better if I made those choices on my own? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Since the lighting and environment changes very quickly at Disneyland, the truth is that I didn’t have a lot of time to make accurate photo decisions. One second I’d be in a dark room under incandescent lighting, then the next I’d be in blinding sunshine, then in the shade, and then on a roller coaster. Putting the camera into Program mode and Auto ISO/WB made shooting very simple. In the end I came away with some great shots of my family at Disneyland.
One of the most important things I learned about P mode is that it dramatically changes how the camera behaves when using a flash. More specifically, it changes how the camera chooses shutter speed and aperture in Slow Rear flash sync.
Slow Rear sync allows the camera to expose for the ambient light, and then pop the flash for the foreground. This fills in the subject with light so that it balances with the background. Normally, I shoot Slow Rear sync in Aperture Priority mode and I’m able to use ISO to adjust my shutter speed up or down.
In Program mode, I found it very difficult to get a usable shutter speed when handholding my photos. In fact, I found shooting Program Mode and Slow Rear sync flash to not work at all for handheld shots. I was shooting some friends and family at a bowling alley and wanted to balance the dark lanes with the subject. Program mode gave me a shutter speed of second to second no matter what I did with ISO. It also set my aperture for f11 to f16 which means my flash had to work extremely hard to illuminate the scene. All of my pics were blurry in Program mode, so I immediately jumped back to Aperture Priority mode for the remainder of the evening.
Auto Bracketing for High Dynamic Range (HDR) sequences worked just fine. I created some great HDR images during the month in Program mode and liked the results.
I found that creating images for Panorama merges worked well as long as I activated the Exposure Lock and Hold button. This button found on most SLRs and advanced point and shoots will lock your exposure so the brightness of the image doesn’t change from shot to shot.
Ok, so what’s the verdict? If I’m being honest with you (and I always am), even though I enjoyed the learning process of shooting in Program mode, I’m not going to continue using this mode for my photography. Yes, I liked the freedom of not having to choose shutter speed or aperture, but I also desperately missed the control I normally have in Aperture Priority or Manual Mode.
The truth is, I use SLR cameras like the D700, D7000, D300s, D3 in order to create images that I’m passionate about. SLRs, by their very nature, give me full control over how the camera responds to photo situations. Unfortunately, I found that shooting in Program mode caused me to care less about things like shutter speed and aperture and therefore falling into the “point and shoot” mentality (see David duChemin’s article on Point and Shoot mentality here: Point-shoot-my-a).
I don’t consider my drift into the point and shoot mentality to be a good thing. As a shooter, you should always aspire to be fully cognizant during your photography, always thinking about the variables of composition, light, depth of field, design and shutter speed. I find that shooting in Aperture Priority or Manual exposure mode is the best way for me to stay “in the zone.”
In the end, I created some great photographs while using Program Mode and found it to do a good job in most situations. But, alas, I’m back to shooting in Aperture Priority mode. What are you going to choose?
June GOAL Assignment: Photograph Landmarks from New Perspectives
Photographing famous landmarks is part and parcel to travel photography. When traveling to France, you absolutely must take a photograph of the Eiffel tower. In Egypt, you gotta shoot the pyramids.
The difficulty with photographing famous landmarks is that everyone in the world has seen that landmark a million times. How do you create something different? The answer lies in trying to photograph the landmark from a different perspective.
Your GOAL Assignment (Get Out And Learn) Assignment for June 2011 is to pick a landmark and photograph it from as many different perspectives and angles as possible. The point is to do something entirely different than the traditional travel photo. Feel free to pick any landmark in your town such as a statue, bridge, building or iconic figure. If you are traveling some place interesting like New York, London or Russia, then use a famous landmark there.
I’ve posted some examples in the Flickr Group of the Washington Monument in Washington DC to get you started. I’ll be adding more photos of local landmark in my hometown and will be posting pics to the Flickr Group for Out There Images, Inc. I’d love to see your shots there as well. Flickr is free and easy, so don’t be afraid! Here’s the link to the photo-sharing group: www.flickr.com/groups/out_there_images/
Finally, don’t forget that this month I’m giving away two books and a hat for the best photo posted to the Flickr group.
Quick Gear Review: Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f3.5 – 5.6
I had an opportunity to test out the new AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f3.5 – f5.6G ED VRII during May. It is an incredible lens and worthy of all the accolades people have been throwing at it. The lens handles well on all of my camera bodies, but most of all, it is sharp!
For example, take a look at the flower picture sequence to the left that shows how sharp this lens really is! The first image is the full image and second is at 100% crop. Razor sharp.
When you mount the 28-300mm lens on a DX camera like the Nikon D7000, its effective focal length is 42-450mm. Wow! I found myself composing everything from portraits to sports to far-off details with this amazing zoom range.
Obviously, the downside to shooting on a DX body is that the wide-angle end is lacking. Therefore, I tended to walk around with a smaller DX 12-24mm lens to cover interior shots and wide landscapes. On a full frame FX camera like a D3s or D700, the 28-300mm becomes almost the perfect all-in-one lens. If it was just 4mm wider at 24mm, then it would be epic!
I did take the lens to Disneyland and found it to excel in that environment. Coupled with higher ISOs on the camera and built-in VR (Vibration Reduction) on the lens, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t photograph. Seriously. Even in the dark caverns of Pirates of the Caribbean, I was able to capture some amazing images.
The 28-300mm lens focuses at a respectably minimum distance of 18 inches at any focal length. Also, the VR system works exceedingly well and I took some hand-held photos at 1/8 second at 300mm zoom on my D7000 that were very sharp.
In all, I’m very pleased with the lens. It is beautiful, sharp, and contrasty. It would be nearly perfect if the wide end went down to 24mm, but we can’t have it all. Nikon has created a winner.
Digital Tidbits: Ten Ways to Adjust Photo Colors in Software
Capturing accurate colors makes all the difference in how people perceive your photographs. If the image’s color looks off by just a little bit, people will know. They may not be able to accuracy describe what’s wrong with the photo, but you’ll definitely see it in their face or their body language.
The most effective way to capture great color is by properly adjusting white balance in the field. However, there are many times when we still don’t accurately represent the scene, and in those cases, it is important to know how to fix it later in software.
To that end, here are ten ways to adjust and improve your colors in software. Most of these methods can be performed in photo software like Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or Capture NX2. The concepts are universal and you should be able to perform a similar enhancement no matter what program you use. Keep in mind that some of these tips will only work on RAW files while other tips will work on JPGs or TIFFs.
Here we go:
1. Manually Adjust White Balance
If you aren’t happy with the colors in your photo, then nine times out of 10 it is because your white balance was off just a bit. The solution is to open your RAW photo in a RAW editor like Lightroom, ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), Aperture or Nikon Capture NX2 and adjust the white balance manually. You’ll almost always find the white balance adjustment in the top area of your software’s adjustment stack.
Here, you can choose from WB settings such as Cloudy, Daylight, Incandescent, etc. Many times, it is possible to even input a specific Kelvin value.
How do you know when you’ve done a good job adjusting the color? The answer is when it looks right. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to this question, so I adjust until the colors look good. This assumes of course that you are using a calibrated monitor!
2. Choose Auto WB from Software
Sometimes photographers (not you of course!) choose the incorrect white balance on their cameras while in the field. For example, maybe you took the photo in direct sun, but left the white balance set for Incandescent. In this case, you can go up to the white balance section of your software and choose “Calculate Automatically.” Sometimes this works well, other times it is a disaster. Each picture is different, so give it a try and see what happens.
3. Use White Balance Gray Point Dropper
I like this method since it generally works pretty well. The key to using this tool is that your photo has to have something in it that is neutral color. For example, a white t-shirt, a gray rock or perhaps a pair of black jeans. White, gray and black are neutral because they don’t have a color cast. In other words, they are equal parts Red, Green and Blue. If you were to look at the RGB value of a medium tonality gray, it’s RGB values would be (128, 128, 128). Lighter shades of gray are something like 213, 213, 213. Pure white is 255, 255, 255.
But I digress. The solution here is to choose the white balance dropper in your editing program and click it on a neutral color object in the photo. Remember that this is generally located in the white balance section of your RAW processing portion of your software.
4. Use Neutral Control Point in Nikon Capture NX2
Capture NX2 has a really cool tool that you can use on JPG and TIFF photos called the Neutral Color Control Point. If your white balance is off in a JPG, then simply choose the Neutral Control Point and click it on a neutral section of the photo. This neutral item should be white, gray or black.
If your photo doesn’t have anything neutral in it, then you won’t be able to use this tool.
5. Use HSL Adjustment in Lightroom 3
HSL stands for Hue, Saturation and Lightness. This tool can be somewhat effective, but it takes a lot of effort to adjust your colors properly. It also takes a lot of knowledge to do it right. Fundamentally, you need to visually assess what color range in the photo you want to enhance, then move the corresponding color slider.
I don’t use this tool very much in my photography, but your mileage may vary. By the way, the HSL adjustments are also available in many other programs such as Photoshop, ACR, and Aperture.
6. Use Curves by Color
This is an ‘old’ Photoshop method that I’ve been using for years to correct colors. The approach is to adjust the curve for a specific color channel. For example, let’s say that your photo looks a little bit too red. If that’s the case, then open the curves control in your software and then go to the red channel (usually accomplished by accessing the pull-down menu on the curves control interface).
Then, click on the middle of the curve and pull it down (or up) until you are happy with the result. You can do this in any of the red, green or blue color channels and it works on JPG, TIFF or RAW files.
7. Use Auto Correct or Auto Levels
Just about every software program has a function called “Auto Correct” or Auto Levels. Many times these utilities do a decent job of instantly correcting the colors. Programs like iPhoto, Picasa and Photoshop Elements are big users of this utility. The auto correct tool adjusts each color channel in an attempt to arrive at proper brightness, contrast and colors. I find that about 50% of the time, the photo looks better after auto levels and 50% of the time it looks worse after the auto adjustment.
You should try it just to see what happens. If you don’t like the result, then you can easily undo the change and try any of the other options in this list. The auto correct and auto levels method works on RAW, JPG or TIFFs.
8. Use Black/Gray/White Droppers in Curves
All curve controls also have dropper tools. The purpose of these tools is to set your RGB values for various tonalities. All this means is that you can use these tools to set your white point, gray point and black point. As I mentioned previously in this article, true white is 255, 255, 255 (RGB), true black is 0, 0, 0 (RGB). Gray is 128, 128, 128 (RGB). If you click the gray dropper, it will attempt to neutralize the colors in each channel.
If your photo has a gray object in it, then this tool works like a charm. If not, then you can’t use the dropper tools.
9. Use Color Balance
The color balance tool is a simple and visual way to adjust colors in your photo. It works with all file types (JPG, RAW and TIFF) and that’s why so many people use it. Truth is, it can be very difficult to get the colors to look good from the color balance tool. The key to applying it well is to be subtle with your adjustments.
To use it, look at your photo and determine what color needs to be reduced. If the photo looks too red, then go to the red slider and move it the opposite direction of red (cyan). Sometimes, you have to use more than one slider to get the result you’re after. Don’t be afraid to try a few different adjustments until you get it right.
10. Convert it to Black and White!
Seriously. When all else fails and you aren’t able to fix the colors in a photo, try converting it to Black and White. Many times, no matter what you try, you just can’t get the colors to come out right. In these cases, I convert to black and white and call it a day.
Workshop and Business Updates
Photoshop Workshop in Seattle, WA
We’re getting close to the Photoshop workshops in Seattle, WA area this June 24th and June 25th. Seats are still available for our Photoshop for Photographers Level I and Level II classes. You should bring your own computer loaded with Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5 or Photoshop Elements. Here’s the link to sign up:
Art of Travel Photography in Mazama, WA
In mid-October I’ll be taking a small group of photographers into Washington State’s beautiful North Cascades for a travel photography workshop. We’ll be photographing landscapes, mountains country western towns and interesting people. The goal of this trip is to teach photographers how to take better travel images in unfamiliar territory. More information here: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
The November 2011 Safari to Tanzania Africa now only has two seats remaining. Our group of intrepid adventurers will be traveling throughout the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire NP in our specially modified Land Cruisers. It is the trip of a lifetime and a wonderful opportunity to check another item off of your bucket list! Here’s the link for more information about the Tanzania, Africa photo safari: Tanzania, Africa Photo Safari
These Tanzania safari trips are popular, so I’ve added two more for 2012. The first one will be in May 2012 and the second in November 2012. May 2012 will include the Wildebeest rut during the Great Migration. November 2012 will include the Mara River crossing in Northern Tanzania. You can find more information on these adventures here: 2012 Safaris
We’re getting closer to pinning down a tour operators in the Galapagos to get a good deal for a privately chartered boat. I’ll post it as soon as I work out final details with the boat owner and guides. We are planning for September 2012 for our journey. Feel free to write me directly ([email protected]) if you have questions or want to sign up.
Custom Group Trips
If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo safari or photo trip, contact us and weill put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Simply email or call and weill give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.
Every month I run private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom, Capture NX2, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.
Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.
I hope you had a great time reading the articles and have picked up some new techniques that will enhance your photography. As always, try to take pictures every day. That’s the only way you’ll truly improve.I’m always interested to hear what you’ve been up to, so feel free to drop me a line at any time via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
Out There Images, Inc – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335