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Photography Tricks from the Pros

Pro Shooter Ken Ross Critiques Student Cindy Spicer’s Images

Pro Shooter Ken Ross Critiques Cindy Spicer's Images Hi Cindy, I wanted to take some time to go over your images and give you as much specific feedback as I could – drives me crazy when all I get from a critique is “nice” or “I like that” – doesn’t help me get better and I try not to do the same thing to my students  I’ll also include an example adjustment of your original image, just to illustrate my comments – it’s art so remember that my comments are just my own perspective and opinions; you have your own story to tell in your own way!             I love the angle of this shot for expressing the grandeur of the sanctuary – it really helps “set the table” for this set of images and gives the viewer a sense of perspective when their viewing the other images. There are two things that I’d want to do in order to improve this a little more; correct the perspective skew and the white balance. The skew is a natural side effect of lens distortion of course but when you’re shooting architectural subjects, it’s really important to make sure the walls at straight. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom has a feature that makes this sort of thing super easy to fix! Also, knowing that you’ll have this sort of correction to do with architectural images, be sure to always shoot “wider” than you really want for your composition; straightening out the walls will result in cropping off some detail on the edges (the top left & right in particular for this image). For the color balance, you’ll find scenes like this are very difficult for the “auto” white balance to deal with; there are a lot of different light sources in the scene and lots of colored light too. The camera does the best it can but just doesn’t have a good reference. There are a number of ways to you can solve for this; the easiest is to make note of a white or “neutral gray” area in the scene that you can use for a point of reference; as long as you are shooting in RAW, you can use the White Balance Selector Tool in Lightroom to select that white/gray area and it will adjust all the colors in the image to correct them. If you’re in a place where you don’t see a good candidate (and it can be something like a white plastic bag, a gray sidewalk, etc.), just drop a blank white sheet of paper in the scene where it’s being hit with “representative light” and use that as your reference; you can take a second shot without the paper there and, again in Lightroom, you can copy the white balance adjustment from your paper reference to your other image (select both images while in the Develop tab, click the Sync button and select just the White Balance adjustment to copy). Since the samples you sent me were JPG files I couldn’t do a true White Balance correction (you need RAW for that) but Lightroom tries really hard to re-tint a JPG to get close so it’s representative of what you could do with your original image (but you can definitely do a better job!). Likewise, Lightroom does a better job of correcting lens distortion if it knows the make and model of the camera and lens used; it can usually read that from the original image meta data but that’s often stripped from JPGs (and for some cameras you may need to download additional profiles if it doesn’t know them automatically). Love the high angle of this shot – it’s more dynamic than the first image and less of a literal expression of what the sanctuary looks like, but is more exciting due to the perspective. Here again we have some alignment/skew correction to do as well as white balance (although the camera is doing a better job this time). Other small adjustments include increasing the exposure, contrast and a bit of Clarity (helps pop textures in these sorts of setting but be careful of using it with people in the scene as it can make their skin look haggard). I remember working with you on this composition and am really pleased with how well it turned out – I think the angles work well and framing the pipes between the stain glass windows gives it a strong sense of place. I made a few adjustments here to boost contrast and add a bit of Clarity, but didn’t want to brighten the image too much more and lose the mood (or blow out the windows). I did feel like the pipes needed to be enhanced though because they’re a key element in your story; I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to just “pain on” more exposure for the areas of the pipes I wanted to emphasize and used the pipes themselves as a White Balance adjustment reference (they’re gray).                     Really love how this turned out – I told you you’d get it!! This is exactly what we talked about with this technique; get enough exposure at one spot to cement the details (especially her face) and then pull back on the zoom to create that dynamic effect in-camera. Great job!! My only contribution here is to boost contrast and add Clarity to help the image pop and create more apparent sharpness on the base image (see how her face looks “sharper”? That’s due to Clarity).                   This is another outstanding image. I really love how you saw this possibility while we were walking out and insisted on “working the scene” to make this happen. In particular, I liked how deliberate you were in your framing and, as a big fan of high-contrast B&W images myself, I love the mood of this image. Here again I’ve made just a few small changes to take an already great image up a notch; exposure has been increased slightly to get more detail on the foreground element, I’ve rotated the image slightly to straighten the window and added Clarity to bring out the texture in the floor. Lastly, I used the Lightroom Adjustment Brush to paint in some “drama” on the top three window panes, adding a bit of exposure and Clarity while making the dark areas just a wee bit darker. I’m going to be honest here; this isn’t a great composition. The exposure is good and the white balance is reasonably good, but in terms of presenting a subject or telling a story I feel this fails to hit the mark. I know that you were drawn to that amazing keyboard, a subject that excited you and was frankly challenging to capture (you knew what all the buttons did but it might as well have been the space shuttle cockpit for me!). Looking at this image as presented, it appears that the subject is the decorative carving at the end of the pew (rather than the keyboard) but the keyboard in the background is too distracting (and the top of the carving is just being clipped by the top of the frame). Lastly, the railing at the edge of the pew is acting like a “leading line” – pulling the viewer out of the image instead of into it. Now, there are a number of things we might do differently if we had it to do over again (hindsight is awesome) but what we can do to improve the image we have at hand? Well, let’s assume the subject is the carving. Let’s take advantage of that leading line like we talked about in class – use that to help direct the viewer to our subject. How? We’ll flip the image so that line is coming in on the left . Next, we need to create more emphasis on our subject than the background; we can do that by using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to paint the areas we want to de-emphasize, making it darker (less exposure) and less distinct (lower the Sharpness and Clarity). Then, create a new brush and paint a little added exposure and Clarity on the details on the face of the carving. Lastly, we crop the image in a bit tighter on the main carving and use the Post-Crop Vignetting to darken the edges of the image, further deemphasizing the windows and back wall. There’s a lot to like in this image – the atmosphere of the solitary “parishioner”, the dramatic lighting from the windows. However, when we have a person in the image then the story really is about them and I feel like the image is too dark with too many bright windows and our subject just gets lost. What I’d recommend in this case is to re-crop the image to make it more about the subject and then use the Adjustment Brush to paint on just a bit of extra exposure on our subject’s face and arms, just enough to lift them out of the shadows but not so much as to make them look “flashed” or unnaturally lit. I didn’t want to do anything to the overall exposure since that would change the mood too much.                   Another great angle to explore in this venue – really love how you’ve picked up the play of light across the floor and controlled the exposure so that the massive stained glass at the back of the sanctuary wasn’t blown out. With this image we have very little to correct that we haven’t looked at earlier – some White Balance and perspective skew adjustment is all we need, as well as a smidge of Contrast to make it pop.   I hope you found these comments and examples helpful and thanks again for coming to my class and for sharing your images with us!   Ken mailto:ken@kennethrossphotography.com http://www.kennethrossphotography.com/


How the “Aperture Priority” camera setting can transform “snapshots” into compelling images that tell a story.

How the “Aperture Priority” camera setting can transform “snapshots” into compelling images that tell a story. The aperture setting controls the “depth of field,” i.e., how much of the photo will be in focus, and how much will be blurred. “Small” or “Narrow” aperture (e.g. f 22) = a deep depth of field “Big” or “Wide” aperture (e.g. f 4.0) = a shallow depth of field Below are two examples of shallow and deep depth of field photos: f 4 – the area in focus is shallow So, foreground is rendered sharp and background is blurred f 22 – the area in focus extends from front to back – i.e. deep Below are two more shallow depth of field photos (“large” e.g. f 4.0 aperture). WHAT is in focus (that is, the foreground or the background) is determined by what the photographer focuses on. If he focuses on something in the foreground, the shallow depth of field created by the large aperture will necessarily blur the background. Conversely, focusing on the background will blur the foreground elements. TIP: This effect is most effectively achieved: a) With your camera set to aperture priority (“A” (Nikon) or “AV” Canon), select the widest aperture available (e.g. as close to f/2.8 as possible), b) Position yourself (and your subject, if posssible) so that the foreground and background elements are not too close together, and c) Use a telephoto lens, or if a zoom lens, zoom it OUT to its longest focal length (e.g. zoom your 35-100 mm lens to 100m) The combination of these three things will give your camera the best chance of capturing this effect, i.e. “isolating” the subject in a shallow depth of field. UNDERSTANDING AND MASTERING THIS SIMPLE TECHNIQUE WITH A BIT OF PRACTICE WILL MAKE A VAST DIFFERENCE IN THE QUALITY OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES


REMEMBER–PIXELS ARE FREE

REMEMBER--PIXELS ARE FREE Rebecca Bozarth  attended a session led by DPA Instructor, Ken Ross, at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and beautifully exemplified the old Photo Adage, that "Pixels Are Free" so take as many images as you can, from every angle because you may not have another chance!! In fact, as we should have guessed, Rebecca is not the typical Digital Photo Academy student. She is a professional photographer in Atlanta, Georgia, who owns her own design company, Fotografia Film & Design www.fotografiafilmanddesign.com.  She is a SCAD Atlanta graduate, and specializes in photography, videography, graphic, and web design. Great opening image with colorful floating orbs in the foreground to anchor the eye of the viewer and lead first to the Chihuly glass structure with adequate attention to the waterfall and of course the magnificent plant lady. The entire scene is upon us without too much focus on a detail or too far away so the impact of the scene is lost. Remember, either with your lens or your body or both, get closer. In this case the image is still anchored by the floating orbs but not all 4 and there is greater emphasis on the chihuly AND waterfall. The plant lady is left in the shadows. Now after closer go further back. The plant lady is shown in the context of the broader setting and creates a different perspective of the way she dwarfs the Chihuly. Interesting perspective. The colorful flowers in the foreground, green leaves included add a brightness to the overall image and compliment the Chihuly. Now back even closer than before to isolate the Chihuly and its relationship to the waterfall, grey stone to accentuate the artwork, with drama added with a shutter speed priority to catch the water in midstream. Even closer to allow the viewer to make a comparison and closer still. This one would might be favored by Chihuli himself even though a portion of his work is cut off. Now an emphasis on the plant lady in a vertical, enabling the viewer to take greater note to the water from the lady's hand. Chihuly is nice but the image works without its presence too. Same notion but this time horizontally and the photographer has a choice as does the viewer of the photo. This time the colorful orbs are missing and it is a study in green, enhancing the focus on the lady's face and arm. Another vertical with some complimentary yellow in the hair and closer look at the face of the lady This Chihuly might even be a completely different display but why not add it in to show the Art Deco, opaque whimsy of the man's creation.


Washigton, D.C. DPA Instructor Jim Tetro Shows Us Great Iphone Images Are Possible!

Washigton, D.C. DPA Instructor Jim Tetro Shows Us Great Iphone Images Are Possible!    


Composition Tips On Michael Willems’ Images

Composition Tips On Michael Willems' Images FRAMING the earth toned mall with the bold and contrasting red street symbol on the left where your eye is first drawn, then sending you across the street. It is enjoyable to study this image and note the details of the parallel street sign across, just above the traffic cop, who is looking at the man in the black shirt, as is the b/w street sign of a direction arrow. Continuing the man in the black shirt is looking back and upward toward the brown building that then takes you in to the recesses of the scene and back via the white truck. The eye and brain of the viewer are having a great time here. Another FRAMING Shot, exemplified by the arched entryway into the hall. PATTERNS AND COLORS are always visually pleasant. Note the added dimension with the green grocery flags at the top of the image. Another trick to create appealing images of produce is to go close up and fill the entire frame with the fruit or vegetable, turning the contents into a colorful abstraction. LEADING LINES of the produce draws the viewer in to the interior of the scene. LEADING LINES in this shot are combined with an ASYMMETRICAL focus on the strawberries in the foreground. Great way to tell the viewer what they are looking at by FRAMING the building with the sign on the lower left. So many composition options inside a church with stained glass windows. In this case work with PATTERNS and LEADING LINES PANNING to create the effect of speed and motion With a SIMPLISTIC red background this street portrait helps one to view the individual in an empathic way, particularly with the same red in the jacket. The dark shadow under the vehicle is also a PARALLEL in shape and color to his legs in black pants. He is leaning on a post that anchors the eye of the viewer into the narrative taking place to the left. The bird is flying away, and out of the frame but your gaze is anchored by the structure at the bottom of the image. The visual between the bird and the wall at the bottom can be referred to as NEGATIVE SPACE, playing the role of keeping your eye movement within the frame. APERTURE CONTROL, where the photographer focuses the scene, blurs the background in a dramatic and visually pleasing manner to create a focus on the bust. There is also a RULE OF THIRDS at play, creating a more dynamic layout instead of an image with the bust dead center. Sometimes an image with the main subject in dead center is exactly that, DEAD. Depending on SHUTTER SPEED, moving water can be captured as a smooth flow or a split second of action.


Tip on Photographing the Hudson River

That photo was taken during the Sunday workshop and Long Dock Park. It was just a grab shot since I rarely shoot during a workshop. 24mm on full frame Nikon D810 camera, 0.6 second exposure at F18. Shutter speed was important to render the water texture just right, so shutter speed of 0.6 seconds was chosen, then F18 was chosen to render a good exposure. Exposure was intentionally 1 stop less than the meter reading. The camera meter wants to render the scene a middle gray, but at this time of day, the scene is darker than middle gray. Using the exposure meter’s setting would have caused the photo to be too bright. Story 1: The chap who sails this boat swims to and from it from shore. Note that the water temperature on April is still quite chilly. Story 2: Most photographers go to Long Dock Park at low tide to shoot the pilings in the river that are visible at low tide. This beautiful view south towards the Hudson Highlands near high tide is rarely photographed.  


Phone Apps Can Help You Create Great Effects With Your Phone

The photo is two images…the location of the moon rise while we were at Church Street Station was over a high-rise apartment building. So, we hoofed it to Lake Eola. To get it into position near the fountain wasn’t happening, and to get the exposure right for both wasn’t going to happen either. So, I shot the moon and fountain separately with this double exposure in mind. Attached is the picture straight out of the camera. ISO 100, 1/80, f/11 Canon 100-400L @ 400mm.   Note that I used a simple app called PicBender; it just puts one picture on top of the other. Photoshop requires many more steps. John Cullum, Jr., Orlando DPA Instructor


Finding a Crowd

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit http://digitalphotoacademy.com/portfolio/josh-anon/ A small change in perspective can make a big impact in the photos we create.  The San Francisco Ferry Building is often quite crowded during the Saturday morning farmers market, but when you’re down in it the crowd, it’s tough to capture the feeling you have of being there.  By finding stairs to a second floor, I was able to find a unique perspective, looking down at the crowd and showing how dense it was.  However, if I just took this with a regular lens, even at a small f-number, the crowd would read as a texture and the photo would lack a subject.  Instead, I used a Lens Baby to bring selective focus to just one part of the crowd, specifically an area squished in the middle of the crowd.  This blurred the crowd in such a way that it didn’t read as a texture (some is blurred and some isn’t), and it makes it clear that the focus of the photo (pardon the pun) is the crazy crowd.  Additionally, the lines in the wall converge, further brining your attention to the in-focus area. Canon EOS 1D MkIV with Lens Baby Composer.  f/4, 1/60 sec, ISO 400  


A vision and a camera

From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit  http://digitalphotoacademy.com/portfolio/frank-siteman/ Sometimes, quite often as it turns out, great photos are no further from your front door than your front porch.  This image is an example of that.  No need to travel to a distant land or even get in the car to chase light.  I did have to put on a serious coat and go outdoors though, but once there, all I needed was a vision and a camera.  To give this image the feeling of the day, I selected a tungsten color balance, which gave the chilling blue color-cast to the snow.  The contrast between the on-coming car’s headlamps and that blueish snow make the vehicle pop from the photo.  I actually enhanced the lights with NIK software, darkening and warming them, and used another NIK filter to add a cool glow to the overall image. One important technical aspect of shooting in the cold and/or snow is to keep your equipment (and yourself) warm and dry.  I made a plastic covering for the camera with an opening just large enough to poke a lens hood through.  When not actually shooting, I kept this opening pinned against my body which prevented any snowflakes from landing on either the camera or the lens. IF I’d stayed out longer, I would have kept the camera under my coat, not just for protection, but to keep the battery warm.  Shooting in the cold can suck the life out of your battery in a very short time.  To address that, I always keep an extra battery in an inside pocket, next to my body, and switch it out with the battery in the camera which is continually chilling as I work.  For extended shoots outdoors, I hold a Hothands Hand Warmer outside the camera’s battery compartment.  Along with keeping my battery active, I end up having at least one warm hand as well.  Another win-win. Camera was Canon 5D, ISO 100, 1/60th sec,  24-105 IS lens at f/5.6, shot at 105mm.


The Panning effect

 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor from Boston View more of his images at http://digitalphotoacademy.com/portfolio/frank-siteman/ The technique used to make this photo is called panning.  It is a very effective means of conveying motion, and can bring amazing energy to a photo. To obtain images like this, one moves the camera with the subject, keeping the main object in the same place, relative to the edge of the frame.  The image of the background sweeps from side to side while the car remains centered….or wherever you’ve placed it in the frame.  You can check out the intensity of the blur by simple experimentation, moving the camera at different speeds and/or following subjects which move at different velocities.  I like to find a shutter speed which gives me an acceptable and appealing blur and then find an aperture/ISO combination which gives neither an over nor under exposed file, checking your histogram to ensure you are not unnecessarily blowing out important detail.   Digital photography makes taking pann shots relatively simple, as it gives you the means to adjust your settings to meet whatever situations you encounter and provide you with an instant preview.   In this instance, I was in the small village of Lyme Regis in England and saw this red coupe coming towards me at a relatively slow speed.  In order to show it’s motion, I knew from experience that I would be able to get the results I wanted by setting my camera to it’s shutter priority mode and to a 1/15th of a second.   If the car had been traveling slower, I might have used a 1/8th sec exposure.   This technique is wonderfully effective when shooting runners, people biking, dogs running or even kids playing soccer.  The important thing is to find the shutter speed which works for your particular situation and then work around that setting.


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