Sunday, November 20, 2016

Topaz Labs - a world of creativity

While photography is a creative process in its own, software can either enhance or take a photo to a whole new level.

I'm not easily sold on software enhancements other than the general editing but when I want to have some fun, like Twirling (yeah I said Twirling) then Topaz Labs is my favourite for editing features.

While Twirling might not seem like a photographic quality, it does help to have a decent photo to start with and once you start with Topaz Clarity, Simplify, Glow etc you start creating beautiful abstract art.

My personal favourites are Clarity (for its non-destructive sharpening qualities), Remask (for detailed masking of areas) and Glow (beautiful ethereal results).

Topaz works with Lightroom and Photoshop as a plugin or can work through an standalone program called PhotoFXLab.

The PhotoFXLab allows you to apply multiple effects to one photo which is a plus when working in Lightroom and you want to add more than one effect.

Below are some examples from just some of the software from the Topaz Collection.  All was done in Lightroom 4.

 From the top go to the left: Original photo, Simplify, Lens Effects
From bottom to left: Restyle, Mix (Simplify, Lens Effects and Star Effects), Glow

You are also welcome to give the software a trial run for 30 days.  Read the requirements for Glow, Impressions and Textures.

Take a look at their website: Topaz Labs

Topaz Labs also features videos to help you get started with each of the different effects.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pledging open for Santa Cause for Paws

Santa Cause for Paws is an initiative where boxes of simple items are pledged and donated to shelter animals.

Every year new beneficiaries are chosen so that various animal sanctuaries have a chance to benefit from much needed donations.  Not only do the items like a can of food, a blanket, something useful etc help make a furry heart happy, it also brings to attention the amount of orphaned animals waiting at shelters for a new family.

Pledging is open so get your school, your workplace, your community involved but remember that when pledging it's also your duty to complete the pledge and drop off the boxes.  There is a huge list of drop off areas to make it easier for you.

If you can't pledge a box, Santa Cause for Paws more than welcomes donations which are used to make up boxes.

For more information on Santa Cause for Paws as well as what is needed in your area go to: Santa Cause For Paws

For a list of what to pack (furry kids require a lot less than human kids) click on your area and click on the What to Pack menu at the top.  Here is an example from the JHB/PTA area:


Optional Staff item is your choice but adding a packet of sweets, or a bottle of cream, anything that can be used by the staff is always highly appreciated. These items are for the staff at the animal sanctuaries as a Thank You for everything they do for the animals.

PLEASE NOTE: pay attention to the right hand side which shows how many boxes are needed for which animals i.e. kitten, puppy, adult dog, adult cat.

People usually buy more for kittens and puppies but the adult animals also need boxes so please consider them as the target for kittens and puppies may already have been filled.

For kittens and puppies, make certain that food and toys are appropriate for the young ones.

For dogs, rather buy biscuits (besides a can of food) than bones or hooves as they make choke on these.

Two things Yum - example, biscuits and a can of food
Something warm - a blanket
Something fun - a toy
Something useful - example a bowl, a leash, flea powder, shampoo, pet brush etc
Optional staff item - example, biscuits, clothes, tea, sweets etc

Follow them on Facebook where auctions are run to raise money for sterilization of animals in locations etc and where you can view the handing over of donations to the various sanctuaries - Santa Cause for Paws

Make a pledge and make a furry heart happy this Christmas!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

She.Clix with style

It's time for the Photo & Film Expo, now in its 8th year to be hosted at the Coca Cola Dome from Oct 27th - Oct 30th 2016 from 9am to 4pm.

Photo banner from Photo & Film Expo

Details of the event, workshops, brands etc can be found on the website Photo & Film Expo.  Check out the cool workshops, competitions and speakers on their Facebook page.

Tickets to the event can be bought at TicketPro.

I like to refer to the expo as a feast for the photographic mind because with such a variety of brands, gear and free workshops it's not difficult to see why the Photo & Film expo lives up to its title.

"The Largest Photographic Event in Africa"


Gear galore with free workshops (over 100 sessions), body painting, underwater photography, competitions (don't forget to enter the mother of all competitions), free lens (outer elements) and sensor cleaning and the list go on and on.

A wonderful addition to this year's expo comes in the female form of She.Clix. Created by a team of female photographers "that promotes emerging female photographers as well as assist in promoting established ones in other platforms".

You will be introduced to the works of photographers from various genres including Jabulile Hlanze, whose work showcases everyday life with a depth that draws you into the photos as if you were there.

Yvette Victor will take you on a fantastical journey of photographic art with a uniquely creative personality.  Step into her world of magic as she sees it.

Jordan Hyde speaks to the confidence of a woman in her body where all shapes and sizes are beautiful.  She positively impacts on how women feel about their bodies and emphasizes that strength in her photos.

These are just some of the talented female photographers that will be showcasing their work, each telling a story of how they came to form their style of photography.

See the inner workings of a photographer's spirit and mind with displays of work and get to know who they are and how they came to be.

For more information on She.Clix go to their FB page - Facebook

You don't want to miss this event.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Understanding White Balance

I've been missing in action on this blog.  Whoops lol.

If you have had trouble understanding White Balance, the links below should help you get a better grip on what is going on. The first article by Graphics simplifies White Balance a little better.

White Balance can be just as confusing as understanding Aperture as it can look as if everything is working back to front.

A higher Kelvin number e.g. 10 000k is more blue whereas a lower Kelvin number e.g. 2500k is more red.

When you take a photo and it appears too blue/cold, you increase the Kelvin number and it adds in more red.  The same goes for a warm photo that has too much red so you decrease the Kelvin number to add more blue.

Ha?  White Balance works in reverse like Aperture.  When you increase the Kelvin number the camera is reading the white balance as having more blue than red so it compensates and adds more red.

WB selection and changing of presets is not available in Auto, Lens Priority and Smart Mode.

The automatic options are represented as Auto WB (the camera chooses), Daylight, Cloudy, Flourescent, Flourescent NW, Flourescent Daylight, Tungsten and Flash.  Followed by customary options Custom Set and Colour Temperature (where you dial in the Kelvin number you want).

To access WB:

Via the Menu Button - Select Menu, under Camera icon menu on the left scroll down until you get to White Balance, select and then select one of the WB options.

Via Fn Button - Click Fn button, scroll down to the WB menu option, it will be the third row from the top.

You can adjust the WB presets by scrolling to the preset and then pressing the DISP button (up button for this selection) and move the selection tool around e.g. say you want to add more green and blue, move the selection up and to the left.

After you have changed the preset it will show up on the right side of the screen next to the WB symbol selected e.g. if you selected Cloudy, a cloud will show with the letters, B, G, M or A (A is yellow) or a combination of two letters in their colours (B is blue etc).

This doesn't make a new preset but changes the current one however you easily just change it back to the original by using the Reset button or moving the selection to the center dot where the two lines intersect.

For Custom Set, you need to take a measure of the white balance either with a grey or white area.  Select Custom Balance (just scroll until it's highlighted) then press DISP (up button).

There will be a grey box in the center, hold this over an area of white or grey then click/screen touch Measure.  The camera will click as if taking a photo but is only taking a measure, you won't find any photos in your review.

Once a measure has been taken the camera will go back to the Live view screen. Custom Set will be selected as the WB and the measure it took will be used. That won't change unless you take another measure or change the WB to another setting.

For Kelvin Colour Temperature, here you set the temp according to a number from 2500K (will add more blue) to 10 000K (will add more red).  Select Color Temperature (has a big K) then press DISP to change the temp.

Below are some sample photos.

The first (and not so glamorous) Jelly Bean photos were taken indoors under a fluorescent energy saving bulb, 14w, cool white (but more an off white colour).  I included a sack material, which is a light brown, colourful Jelly Beans and used my Grey Card for the background of the sweets.

AWB and Custom Set were more accurate where Custom Set was measured from the Grey Card.  I included the highest and lowest in the Color Temperature (Kelvin Temp).


Taken inside using natural light from a window behind the mason jar.  For Custom Set one measure was taken from the center of the jar and the second from below the jar.

Desert Rose - taken outside in the shade of a tree with sun just past midday.  I used my grey card for the Custom Set, as you can see there is more green in the custom measure than in AWB.  Daylight was a little more closer to what I saw as it contains a warmer cast than AWB.


As you will have noticed I didn't play with the Flash WB. Balancing ambient light and flash is a whole other ballgame, especially when you are stuck with the "internal"  flash.  So for now that will be left for another post.

Ok that's about it for this post.  Check out the articles below, they should help clear up a few things and have some great info.

Understanding White Balance
Bob Atkins
Fstoppers
Cambridge in Colour
Exposure Guide

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Samsung NX300: Smart Mode Night, Fireworks and Light Trace

This post has taken me a long time to complete.  First reason being that these features are not used on a regular basis and second because I came across something unusual about the Fireworks and Light Trace features and tried to find an answer for it.

Read on if you noticed your camera going out of focus in Light Trace and Fireworks.  Otherwise, scroll down to the heading Night Mode.

So, about the second reason.  I took photos of a colour lit fountain and to be honest, the results were really beautiful to me.  I started to get excited about Light Trace and Fireworks (ignore the name, I'm not a fireworks person because of my animals but this feature can be used creatively).  The photos were sharp and lit just right (no flash was used because of long exposure) and I was happy with the results.

When I arrived home I sat down to write the post and had the camera in front of me as I prefer to go through everything again while writing.  Now when I was taking the photos of the fountain I didn't look at the screen when I used AF (Auto Focus).  The camera was placed on a steady stone ledge, two second timer set, half pressed the shutter button for focus and then pressed all the way to take the photo.

When I half pressed the shutter button at home (I didn't take a photo) I noticed that the camera went out of focus.  What?  I touched the screen to place the focus, it didn't change, just remained slightly out of focus.  It happened in both Fireworks and Light Trace but when I tried Night and other features focus was obtained.

I focused in Night and switched over to Light Trace, half pressed to focus, even touched the screen as I did this a few times, and the camera immediately went out of focus.

Worried that there was a problem with the camera I searched the Internet to death.  All I found was that a majority of reviewers/bloggers just glossed over the feature and barely, if even, used it.  I was told that they prefer manual so they don't use this type of feature.  Oookay.

I contacted Samsung in my country and overseas, was promptly told this was not normal and to take it in for repairs.  I tried updating the software on camera and lenses but nothing changed.  I contacted the repair center suggested by Samsung and sent them a video plus a photo sample and asked them if they had actually played with the feature.  The repair center was a fair distance from me and I didn't want to make a wasted trip.

The repair center told me their Samsung technician said I most likely didn't have the camera stable and that's why the photos were blurry.  Er...the photos were not blurry and the out of focus issue occures before photos are taken plus the camera was stable.  They said they were get back to me...they didn't.  Samsung also left the conversation.  Both parties above wouldn't answer me when I asked them if their technicians had actually played with the feature.

So I went out to two different Samsung stores to test out their NX300, which they didn't have on display.  Instead I tried out the NX3000 and NX Mini, both of which did the exact same thing in Light Trace and Fireworks mode: when you tried to focus the AF went out of focus.

One thing to note here, Manual focus also worked so I could focus there.  But I was beginning to wonder if this out of focus could be related to the lens and feature.

For example, with my 18-55mm lens I had more in focus at 18mm than with my 30mm at the same distance.  Light Trace is expected to be used for moving light like car lights but at a distance.  Fireworks is also expected to be used at a distance.

And yet no one could give me an answer.  I'm going to post the video and would be curious to know if anyone is experiencing the same thing, an experiment if you will.

It's nothing major, but little things like this irritate me when I can't get an answer and wonder if it's product failure or product feature.

Note, the video had to be taken in a dark room (for Light Trace/Fireworks) because of the long exposure.  In daylight everything would be white because of the amount of light that is being allowed in.  The camera was also placed on a table.  No photos are taken, they would be blurry if the 2 second timer isn't used due to me moving the camera but the point here is to show how the AF goes out of focus BEFORE the photo is taken.

Light Trace

Night Mode

Night Mode is a fairly good feature for night time shots where you don't want to have to fiddle with the settings.  It brings in enough light to add ambiance to the photo but I did notice the increased amount of noise.  You do need to have a stable surface or tripod even though the shutter speed can be fast enough for handheld.  You can actually use this during the day

Reason: the camera takes about 4-5 photos in a quick burst and a faster shutter speed means a quicker burst whereas a slower shutter speed means a slower burst.  The camera then puts these photos together, like Exposure Bracketing, to get a properly exposed shot.

While you may be able to get away with handheld when the shutter speed is higher, there is still a chance of the photo blurring in the finer details.

To activate Night mode, change the Mode dial to the black camera icon with the S inside and then scroll along the features bar at the bottom until you get to Night. If you are already in Smart mode but have selected another feature, tap the black camera icon with S on the screen left side or press the Fn button and select the feature.

The camera chooses ISO, shutter speed and aperture unlike Fireworks where settings don't change.

Where the ISO is concerned, the more light in the scene the lower the ISO.
The photos tend to have a slight softness, more so than Fireworks and Light Trace but unless you zoom in it's not too noticeable.

Settings:
Autoshare: Off
Smart Mode: Set to Night
Photo size: highest set at 20M 5472x3648 (3:2)
Quality: No RAW here so set to Super Fine
AF Mode: Single Auto Focus but Manual focus is also available
Touch AF: Touch AF
MF Assist: Enlarge x5
Focus Peaking:  I leave this on, Normal and White colour
Depending on your lens OIS may be activated
Drive: Set to Single but I navigate on screen to use the timer
Flash is not available even though it shows up in Night and Light Trace mode

Photos are as is, no editing except for cropping.  The first photo was taken just before sunset when there was still enough light but the camera was placed on a stable surface.

Notice how the feature turned the lighting in the fountains into a fire like effect.  The water is not as smooth as with Fireworks or Light Trace. 
Aperture f3.5, shutter 1/40, ISO 1600, focal length 18mm.


A night setting which was captured exactly as I saw it with different areas lit nicely.  The squiggly lines are reflections from another shop, not blurred movement.  Noise is very high, the details are a bit soft in comparison to the other photos below.  This can be fixed in Lightroom to a degree.
Aperture f5, shutter 1/8, ISO 3200, focal length 42mm.

Fireworks

As I said above I don't like fireworks because of the emotional distress it causes my animals but the feature doesn't necessarily have to be used for it.  Both Fireworks and Light Trace are for moving light so technically any moving light will work.  With stationary light you won't see much of the feature in work there.

To activate Fireworks mode, change the Mode dial to the black camera icon with the S inside and then scroll along the features bar at the bottom until you get to Fireworks. If you are already in Smart mode but have selected another feature, tap the black camera icon with S on the screen left side or press the Fn button and select the feature.

As with both Fireworks and Light Trace you need a stable surface or tripod as both use long exposure and the features work best at night or just before sunset and there on.  If you try taking a photo during the day the photo may show up completely white or mostly blown because of the amount of light being allowed into the camera.

The photo I took was about 30 min after sunset.  You don't need to do anything other than...uh focus (if you read above you would understand).  You don't need to set anything as you would with P, A, S, M but you can still change the following settings (below is what I used in my settings).

Autoshare: Off
Smart Mode: Set to Fireworks
Photo size: highest set at 20M 5472x3648 (3:2)
Quality: No RAW here so set to Super Fine
AF Mode: Single Auto Focus (here you can change to Manual Focus)
Touch AF: Touch AF
MF Assist: Enlarge x5
Focus Peaking:  I leave this on, Normal and White colour
Depending on your lens OIS may be activated
Drive: Set to Single but I navigate on screen to use the timer

When I took the pic I was unaware of the focus situation so I didn't take a manual shot as an example and haven't had a chance to get back to the fountain but hope to soon.

The camera takes one photo, long exposure unlike Night mode that takes several photos.

The photo below is the result, SOOC (straight out of camera meaning no editing was done i.e. levels, colour etc) with some cropping, ok a fair amount of cropping.  Straight out of camera and wow.

Aperture f8, shutter 3", ISO 100, focal length 55mm

Other than the noise and some blurred people movement (remember long exposure means anything moving will be blurred) the lighting of the fountain is beautiful, ethereal and clear.  Anything not moving is in perfect focus at a distance and behind the fountain whereas the tree top left is closer and slightly unfocused.  Even the person sitting to the right is in focus.

As I said above regarding focus, the feature appears dependent on distance and the lens.  I used the 18-55mm in all of these photos.

What looks like just lighting in the fountain is a mix of light and water, the water giving that smooth, soft look.  The noise isn't too bad, in fact I don't mind leaving it as is although I'm not too fond of letting JPEG take over.

The camera seems set on leaving ISO at 100, which is no problem for me as this keeps the noise down (the lower the better as long exposure introduces noise), shutter at 3 seconds and aperture at f8.  f8 should have quite a bit in focus from front to back yet that darn focus issue.

To get this feature to work with something other than fireworks I would suggest a bit of distance between you and the subject/object because of what I mentioned earlier on.  Assuming it's a part of the feature that is.

The Fireworks feature does have some creative potential so don't ignore it.

Light Trace

Not much difference other than the longer exposure time and that the camera adjusts the aperture according to the amount of light.  The end result is similar and below are two photos, one from just before sunset and one after.

To activate Light Trace mode, change the Mode dial to the black camera icon with the S inside and then scroll along the features bar at the bottom until you get to Light Trace.  If you are already in Smart mode but have selected another feature, tap the black camera icon with S on the screen left side or press the Fn button and select the feature.

But first, the settings:

Autoshare: Off
Smart Mode: Set to Light Trace
Photo size: highest set at 20M 5472x3648 (3:2)
Quality: No RAW here so set to Super Fine
AF Mode: Single Auto Focus (here you can change to Manual Focus)
Touch AF: Touch AF
MF Assist: Enlarge x5
Focus Peaking:  I leave this on, Normal and White colour
Depending on your lens OIS may be activated
Drive: Set to Single but I navigate on screen to use the timer
Flash is not available even though it shows up in Night and Light Trace mode

Aperture f22, shutter 10", ISO 100, focal length 18mm.

This one I really love in how it turned out.  While the movement of people is blurred, the tree, the lit fountain etc are all in focus and has a magical feel.
Aperture f11, shutter 10", ISO 100, focal length 42mm.

I don't normally go for the quick fix settings but these three I find very interesting and useful.  Would love some feedback from NX300 owners, even other NX camera owners regarding the camera going out of focus in Light Trace and Fireworks so if you have time please leave a comment if you notice anything.

Here is a video example of using the Samsung NX300 with Light Trace.

For South African readers who own a Samsung NX camera, if you are looking for the elusive 2D/3D lens have a look at the Samsung store in The Glen as they have stock (at the time of this posting).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A little fun in RGB and Curves

I love puzzles, love figuring things out.  Recently I tried out two 'tests' that were posted on Facebook.

The first one tests your knowledge of curves.  The creator of the test provides a quick (I would have liked a little more information) explanation on each answer.

Understanding how curves works, whether in Photoshop or Lightroom, helps to create colour manipulations with just a few adjustments.  You are able to work independently on the red, green and blue channels (RGB - Red, Green, Blue) and the slightest shift on the curve can dramatically change the photo.

The first link here is the Curves Challenge.  The second link is each part of the challenge discussed lightly.

Curves Challenge
Curves Challenge Explained

Now the reason I posted the Curves Challenge first is because it can help you understand how RGB works i.e. moving one curve up lightens the colour, moving it down darkens and this also works as an add and subtract equation.

The more you lower the curve below the grey/gray line the more you remove the colour.

The second quiz is a little more difficult.  Here you are working with numbers, each number corresponds with the amount of red, green and blue that has been added or removed from the photo.

The first number is red, the second green and the third blue.  I'm not going to give it away and even though this is not an absolute necessity in photography it will help you understand colour a bit better.  And hey, it's fun once you get the hang of it.

Think about adding and subtracting, the higher the number the lighter the colour, the lower the number the darker the colour.  Also think about how colours work together i.e. if you mix green and red you get yellow etc.

I found that working out the first two and then adding the third is how I was able to figure out the closest answer.

RGB Challenge

Once you have an idea of this all fits together it should open your eyes to the bigger world of colour.

But...if you want to be able to test out your colour theories and practice try this Colour Chart.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Samsung NX300: Key Mapping (working with Auto Exposure Lock)

By now you will hopefully have figured out how to use many of the features of your Samsung NX300.  One of the features, though not so obviously placed, is the Auto Exposure Lock or AEL.

When taking photos you will run into situations where you want to recompose the scene but not change the exposure.  Recomposing/re-positioning is when you decide to change where your subject/object will be placed e.g. instead of directly in the middle you choose to place the subject/object slightly to the side.  Doing so can change the exposure when you don't want it to and that's one of the times where AEL comes into effect.

But, recomposing requires that you keep the focal plane the same i.e. the distance between your camera and the subject/object the same.

Before going into AEL let's quickly discuss Recomposing.  When you press the shutter half way down you are locking in the focus (plus the exposure) and if you decided to recompose (change the where subject/object is placed) you would need to make certain the subject/object remains at the same distance because any change in distance will affect the focus.  In other words, you could go from having the subject/object in focus to being out of focus if distance changes.

For a more detailed explanation take a look at this article: Recomposing

What's the point of AEL if you can just half press the shutter to lock in exposure and focus?

AEL helps in situations where the camera under or overexposes part of the scene e.g. the camera might expose for the background (so it will be properly exposed) but the foreground may be too dark.  It makes metering easier, especially for those who don't have a full understanding of how Aperture, Shutter and ISO work together.

A quick note: AEL doesn't work in Manual because Manual is controlled by you. It works in the following shooting modes: PAS.

To activate: Go to Menu, select the icon below the video camera that looks like a little person (3rd menu icon from the top). Scroll down to Key Mapping, press OK and under Custom select either AEL or AEL Hold.  The Delete button (the trashcan bottom right of camera) is used as the Custom button and for AEL when the function is assigned to it.

AEL, when pressed to lock exposure, will lock it until you have taken the photo.

AEL hold is pretty obvious, it will hold that exposure even after you have taken the photo and this can be very useful for Panoramas and photo stacking where you want the exposure to be consistent.

AEL doesn't depend on recomposing to work, but recomposing works better with AEL. So you can change the focus plane (distance between camera and subject/object) and keep the exposure the same when using AEL and not worry about focus.

How to use AEL:

1. Make sure that AEL or AEL Hold is selected in your Menu options.

2. Select a shooting mode, either Program (P), Aperture Priority (A) or Shutter Priority (S) but not Manual.  Remember this doesn't work in Manual.

3. Decide on your shot and place the focus point over the area you want to expose (use the exposure) from, even zooming in if needed.  Press the Delete/Custom button, which then locks the exposure.

Since the Samsung NX300 holds the exposure until you take a photo, you can safely release the Delete/Custom button, recompose and take a shot.  You won't have to worry about the AEL deactivating until the shot is taken.  But, if you take too long and your camera goes into sleep mode, AEL deactivates.

4.  Recompose your photo, half press the shutter to gain focus and take the shot. The exposure will remain the same because you locked it in so the camera won't take another reading of light.

Keep an eye on your settings and practice with taking different exposures as you may not always get the result you expect.  This is where you learn about how shutter, aperture and ISO work.

I try to find articles that are easy to understand as well as helpful.  Below are two links that will give you examples and more insight into using AEL.

Digital Camera World
Auto Exposure Lock

I'll play around with the other features under Custom (which was originally as preview for Depth of Field) and post as I go along.

Wishing everyone a great New Year!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Samsung NX300: Christmas editing tutorial

Christmas is just about here so Happy Holidays to everyone.  I decided to add a quick editing tutorial on a photo I took with the Samsung NX300.  You will see something similar to the right side of the blog that is available for purchase on my portfolio.

Firstly, the photo was taken in my very small, as in very small "studio, office and official cats playground".  My access to light is limited due to the angle of the house and being currently in the middle of Summer I get light in the mid afternoon.  I try not to use artificial light with natural light because of colour balance but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

I'll also add in a badly lit photo just for the fun of it.  If you believe in taking a shortcut with photos by thinking you can save it in software then straight out you should rather be in retouching than photography.  The reason I'm going to share a badly lit photo and rescue it in software is because there are times when you are faced with terrible lighting.  Whether or not you choose to go for a higher ISO or an underexposed photo you will have the problem of noise in both cases.

There is plenty of noise reduction software available like Topaz Labs Denoise but some people may not have the money for that extra software.  The Luminance slider in Lightroom does a pretty good job of reducing noise but the more you reduce the more you lose detail.

Anywho, the first photo that was properly exposed according to camera was taken on a tripod to allow for longer exposure due to low light even though I had a fairly wide aperture.

I used a diffuser in front of the window because the light was too hard and I couldn't move the objects further away from the window.  The diffuser also spreads the light out a bit wider.  The window was at a 90° angle to the camera on my left side with the light coming in behind the camera.  A curtain cut off light closer to the table (not intentional).  The diffuser was at a 45° angle to the camera behind the camera.

Do excuse my lack of creative drawing skills but this gives you an idea.


Camera: Samsung NX300
Lens: Samsung 30mm
Flash: No
Aperture: f2.8
Shutter speed: 1/5
ISO: 100
Software: Lightroom 4

Straight out of camera (SOOC)

Technically speaking Lightroom is designed to help your workflow by having you start with the top and work your way down.  But in some cases you want to start at another point.  Keep an eye on your Histogram.  The arrows (when clicked) on either side show when Highlights have been blown or detail has been lost in the Shadows.

The colours of the arrows:

Red, green and blue means those colours are clipped.
White is all of the channel whereas Black is none of the channels (black is what you are aiming for).
Cyan is clipping of green and blue channels where Yellow is red and green channels and Magenta is red and blue channels.

Exposure: -0.71 (the photo was too bright, I wanted a slightly darker look and would add in a "glow"  later on)
Contrast: 0 (I prefer to work with Clarity more than Contrast, it's just a personal pref thing)

Highlights: -40 (I usually decrease Highlights if some are blown in the shot)
Shadows: +48
Whites: 0 (wasn't really needed here and I would be adding a glow to the ball and wanted to keep the surrounding background dark)
Blacks: +24 (to help with clipping shadows a bit)

Clarity: +21
Vibrance: +12 (this is a better option than using Saturation but be careful of how much you use).
Saturation: 0

Generally starting off with the above mentioned settings is creating a base for the photo in the same way you prep a canvas.  Now I will make specific adjustments.

Next I played with the tone Curve which let me target highlight and shadows areas.  Just remember to keep checking your Histogram but here you want a gentle S curve.

As long as you don't lose too much info on your Histogram i.e. blown highlights or lost shadow detail then you are still good.  You can get away with some some small lost details.

You can work directly on the curve line, just click to place a point and then move it or click on the small box bottom right and tweak the adjustments from there. Go easy here as the S curve is pretty sensitive.

Under HSL I adjusted the Luminance of the Red and Orange.  I like the red colour and didn't want to change the Hue or Saturation.


I added a bit of Split Toning because the image is too warm. I could change the Temp and Tint but Split Toning gives more control as it targets the Highlights and the Shadows which you can change to whatever colour you want.

Not being a huge fan of Sharpening I left this alone as my image didn't need it. However, if you want to get a better idea of the Sharpening feature this will be a good article to read: SLR Lounge

Even with the adjustments the noise level in my photo didn't increase by much but I still upped the Luminance slider to 15 and left the Detail slider at 50. Contrast was upped to 18.

Lens Correction, Effects and Camera Calibration were left alone.  I could have added a Vignette but I wanted to control that by rather using the Gradient Tool instead.

Using the Gradient Tool I pulled down a gradient from the top right and top left corners as well as one from the top down.  You can see by the 3 three white round circles at the top. I varied the exposures but made all 3 negative e.g. -4.00, -1.56 etc to create a darker background and to remove that edge line you see between the background the "floor".  

The 4th darkened gradient on the right hand side is just because I felt like it and the 5th gradient on the bottom left is of positive exposure i.e. lighter as that's the direction my light was coming from.

I then used the Brush Tool, set the size to just a bit bigger than my ball as the Feather was set to 100 so it would feather out nicely.  Exposure was 1.24 and Contrast 13.  Here you can change the tint or the temp but I left as is.  I then clicked once in the middle of the ball.  If it was too bright I pulled the Exposure slider down and vice versa.

You can change the adjustment gradient and brushes at any time.


Now if you look at the Histogram you can see clipping on both white and black. Clicking the arrow on the white shows very little detail is lost, only in small areas so that doesn't worry me.  On the black clipping arrow a big blue patch shows up on the background. 



Don't let this freak you out, it's not a permanent fixture i.e. it won't show up on your finished product it's just there to show you where detail is lost.  Since I don't mind losing detail in the background as it's dark I'm also not worried about this. If I were to play with the Blacks and Shadows slider to remove the clipping then the background will no longer be dark.

A problem I may face is that the background might not be completely dark and patches from the original background might show through as splotches.  This will also depend at what quality I save the file.  For a problem like that I use the Clone tool in PSE to clone out areas that may show through as patches.

I added as a final touch a small glow at the top of the ball with the Brush Tool with an Exposure of 0.32 and Contrast 0.

I could spend time with the Clone and Healing tool removing finer blemishes but that would take time.  

I wanted to add words like Happy Holidays but the limit to wording is in Watermarks.  You could get creative and make a Watermark in Lightroom but you are limited by where you can place your watermark i.e. you can't move it freely around as you can in Photoshop or GIMP.

I created a simple watermark which is at the bottom of the photo, and added Happy Holidays in Photoshop Elements.  GIMP is free so you can use that.

I tried to find a simple explanation of how to create and add watermarks: Watermarks.  The font I used is Channel Font.

Final result:




Quick Edit of low light photo

I'm not going to go through the edit because I just wanted to show that a photo can be "rescued" if too dark but as you can see this will take a lot more work and tweaking plus the noise level from the tweaking is much higher.  That means more work on removing the noise, more info that gets stripped from the photo and more loss of contrast.


And that's it.  Hope everyone has a relaxing and wonderful holiday plus New Year.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Santa Cause for Paws - something close to my heart

I love animals and there are so are many sanctuaries in need of help.  Santa Cause for Paws was put together by a wonderful group of people with the initiative of trying to help as many animal sanctuaries as possible.  Every year, at Christmas time, requests are made for donations of Christmas boxes for the rescued animals in numerous animal sanctuaries.  Boxes require very basic items, yet very much wanted items by furkids far and wide.

Donations of money is also accepted as this goes to paying vet bills, medication, sterilizations etc.

You can find further info here: http:Santa Cause for Paws.

Every year we try to support at least 4 boxes.  Check what is and isn't allowed, and always keep up to date as to what is needed e.g. some sanctuaries require more boxes for their adult furries than puppies and kittens.  Also take note of what is required specifically for puppies and kittens.

Besides running this amazing drive, many have come together to offer up products which are auctioned off on the Santa Cause for Paw FB page found here: Santa Cause for Paws FB.

So get your work involved, your schools, community etc and if you are unable to help, just share, share, share.  Santa Cause for Paws welcomes and appreciates any and all help.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Improving your photographic knowledge

As I mentioned in Composition, learning how to use your camera is just one part of photography, learning how to take photos is the next step.

When I bought my first DSLR I didn't have a clue how to use it other than to stick to Auto.  Out of frustration, I put my camera away for over a year because I lacked motivation and encouragement so felt I was just wasting my time.

After following a few photographers and their work, I decided to pick up my camera again and start teaching myself as best I could.  I couldn't afford a workshop, didn't have transport to move around to clubs and Youtube chowed my bandwidth.  So I stuck to books.  Unlike some other photographers who progressed within a year, I took longer.  Without direction, guidance and so on, I was floundering a bit from one place to another and learning erratically.

But what made me improve was taking the time and dedication to learn.  I wish that I could have gone to a workshop because there at least you have a proper starting point, someone to help you, motivate you and keep you going.

Some photographers don't need a workshop, they are able to focus well enough to work on their own. But for someone like me with waaaay too much going on in my mind and my life, I couldn't focus the way I used to so a little backup was always needed.

I have been following a very inspiration photographer called Christina Greve.  I would suggest reading her bio on how she started on her FAQ page under the question: Did you study photography in school or are you self-taught?

She provides workshops in photography and is also a Life Coach.  Christina's photos are at times light and delicate and others times slightly moody, which will appeal to many photographers of different genres.  She is currently offering a workshop, which starts in September 2015.  More info can be found here Workshop.

Enjoy!