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!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Samsung NX300: Video

I'm not the best one to come to for video because my knowledge is limited to just the basics and I prefer photos to video.  But I figured that since this blog was helping others to learn I can learn along with you.  This did take me longer to put together so apologies for taking so long.

While playing around with the Video feature I found out, to my surprise, that I could add the Picture Wizard feature and Smart Filters to my videos in camera (although not both at the same time).

I won't discuss anything in the videos, but will give the descriptions and so on here.  Just a quick note, you can start recording a video at any point by pressing the red record button top right of the camera (red circled surrounded by silver).  To stop recording, press the red button again.

Samsung NX300 Video

To start, the settings:

PAL or NTSC?

NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee and the standard format for DVD players and in broadcast television in America and Japan.

PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line used for broadcasting and DVD players in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

PAL DVD players are said to play both PAL and NTSC while NTSC DVD players can't play PAL.

Choosing either will depend on your region and your audience e.g. I'm in South Africa so my region's format would be PAL and wouldn't be able to play on a DVD player in America.  So check what your region's format is and go according to that.

Movie Size - I used the highest for my region which would be 1920 x 1080 (50p) PAL to play around with.

I thought that visually, this example might be easier to understand regarding frames per second: Frames per second

The more frames per second the smoother the movement in the video.  24p is considered the "film mode".  The less fps the more choppy the video will look, as if you took multiple photos and put them side by side in a fast slideshow.  It can lead to a creative video so don't overlook it.

Take a look at this article and examples: FPS

The size 1920 x 1080 is 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall and provides more definition than say 640 x 480. The smaller size you select, the more pixelated (blocky) the video will be when you try to view it on a bigger screen.  But, a bigger size will also depend on the screen or TV you will be viewing it on as older and/smaller screens and TVs might not be big enough to view the entire video at 1920 x 1080.

The 1920 x 1080 resolution just fits on my computer monitor.  So when taking a video keep in mind the resolution of the screen.

Here is an article on resolution.

A quick note here, in your manual you may have noted that some Smart Filters can only be used at 1920 x 1080 (15p) but the settings under movie quality don't go lower than 1920 x 1080 (24p) in NTSC and PAL.

In order to use the Smart Filters with quality 1920 x 1080 (15p) you will need to activate the Smart Filters under the camera icon under Menu.  If Smart Filters is greyed out then you need to change your photo Quality (under the camera icon) to JPEG (I chose Super Fine) and Drive to Single.

Smart Filters won't work if RAW and Continuous Drive is selected.  You can get more details on Smart Filters here.

I will get back to using Smart Filters with videos shortly.  For now we will carry on with normal videos.

Movie Quality - I have 16GB memory cards so prefer to use the best settings and set HQ (High Quality).

Multi Motion - This setting....well I was laughing all the time.  Sounds is cut off when anything higher or lower than x1 is selected.  I can just see this feature being used in a comedy (attaching a music file in a video software) as the video speeds up so when using Multi Motion, make sure to take at least 15 seconds of video for 5x and longer for anything higher than the speed.

For slow action you can go lower than x1 but only if Movie Size is set to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 for x0.25 (really slow and funny) or x0.5 when set to 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 and 320 x 240.  x1 is for normal recording and is the only one where you will have sound.

Fader - handy feature for a gently fade in, out or both.  I have this on off but examples will be below.

Voice - enables or disables sound, I left mine on.

Wind cut - cuts down on wind noise.  I left mine off.

Mic level - how sensitive the microphone is, I left mine on high although the sound can be a bit tinny.

Aperture and ISO work in the same way as photo but Shutter Speed is calculated according to degrees or angle.  Working with this principle helps to create a realistic looking video.  But unless you intend creating videos for sale etc then it might appear complicated to you.

If you want to take video recording more seriously, here's an explanation of how the 180 degree works: 180 Degree.

But if all you want to do is just take some videos, whether it's a family event, something funny your pet got up to etc, then take a look at this article/video example: Understanding shutter speed.

The slower your shutter speed the more blur you have.  But, the shutter speed usually won't go lower than the frames per rate selected e.g. if I chose 1920 x 1080 (24p) the frames per rate would be 24.

But since the shutter speed doesn't allow for 1/24 the shutter speed will be 1/30 and won't allow you to go lower.  There is an option for 1/25 but the camera chose 1/30 instead (the shutter closest to the frames per rate is usually selected).

This low shutter speed will cause quite a blur with any moving object e.g. propellers of a plane. You can increase the shutter speed as high as you want (I went up to 1/6000) but this is going to make your video darker to a point that you won't be able to see anything unless you have a large amount of light available.

A faster shutter speed will also "freeze" the movement so instead of a blur of propellers you will be able to the see the movement of the blades clearly.

While taking video I will admit I was oblivious to all of this, and yet, the video came out pretty good lol.  So if I can play around and not make a total mess up without any knowledge, you shouldn't have a problem lol.

Now let's go through the video tests.  I tried to keep it fairly short just to give you an idea.  You can also view a video of the Annual Zwartkops Airshow used with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm lens here: Airshow

Samsung NX300 video examples

I tried out different light settings to see how the video handled noise.  As the video says, all but the waterfall (in the video examples of the movie) was recorded handheld.  Throughout the rest of the video, recordings were handheld.

The Aquarium: there was backlighting in the aquarium but I had zoomed in to 55mm which wouldn't let me open my aperture further than f5.6, so less light allowed in and I because of my video settings I couldn't go lower than 1/50 shutter speed.  I had increased my ISO to 3200-6400 and could have increased further for more light but as you can see, the noise was becoming pretty evident.

The video of the fish in a smaller tank meant the lighting was stronger so I could get a brighter video.

Now in video software like Premiere Elements (not free) you can lighten the video, add more saturation etc.  There is also a free program called MPEG Streamclip where you can to basic editing.  I created the videos in Premiere Elements 10.

Movement is good, maybe a little slow at times and if you noticed, the camera kept adjusting the focus.  I haven't yet found a way to stop the Continuous Focus other than to go to Manual Focus.

Zooming in and manual focus created a very feint sound, which might not be evident at an event where there is plenty of sound but with something quiet it might present a problem.  If sound isn't needed then it's better to turn off the sound.  Turning the Jog Dial (for changing aperture/shutter speed etc) while shooting a video is picked up by the mic and you can definitely hear it.

You could try an external mic to reduce the noise but as I don't have one I can't comment further.

Zoo - Full Sunlight

Not the most exciting of videos but here the ISO was at 100 because of the amount of light, I could also increased my shutter speed and aperture without having to worry about light issues.

Waterfall - Shadow

The waterfall was in the shadow of a mountain, but there was a decent amount of light although I had to increase my ISO to about 400 but I could also increase my shutter speed enough to capture the movement.  As I zoomed in you couldn't hear the mechanism (but some wind as I didn't have the Wind Cut feature on).  I used a tripod for this, could have used handheld or leaned on the wooden railing but there were too many people moving around and bumping the railing that it was easier to grab my ground with a tripod.  You know, a sign to say to them, "my space".

The light was consistent even when I zoomed in so I didn't have to change anything while zooming.
I used the Manfrotto, which I discussed here: Tripod

Fader Feature

This is pretty much self explanatory, the Fade In feature fades the video in at the beginning when you press the record button (red button near top right) but doesn't fade out when you press the button again to stop recording.  The Fade Out feature is the opposite, doesn't fade in at the beginning but fades out when you press the record button to stop recording.

With the Fade Out feature there was a very slight fade in at the beginning of recording, almost unnoticeable. The Fade In feature was a bit hard with the fade in whereas the Fade Out was softer.

Fade In and Fade Out is where both features are used, so your video fades when you start recording and fades out when you stop recording.

Oh and if you notice the slight shifting now and then, that's me bumping the camera accidentally or pressing the stop button.

Picture Wizard

I chose 3 features (but all work fine), Retro, Classic and Landscape.  In Video Picture Wizard can work in RAW, Drive set to Continuous High etc.  I.e. if you use these camera settings for taking photos, they won't prevent you from using Picture Wizard, unlike Smart Filter where certain setting need to be turned off.

Retro

I like the Retro feeling, especially for the Airshow showcasing some very old planes.  As you will notice, Little Anne didn't come into focus immediately until the plane had reached the area I had selected as my focus point.  Now, the cool thing about the touch screen on the Samsung NX300 is that you can can place your focus anywhere you want while recording, just touch the area.

I didn't do that with the plane but later in the video I show an example of changing focus while recording.

Retro is nice and clear, no banding (those lines you see when blending isn't done well).  It also kept up fine with the speed and unlike Smart Filter I wasn't limited to 15fps.

Classic

Classic is basically Black and White.  Even though the jet was fast, it passed an area of sky that was blue and all colour is removed from this feature.  Also, no restriction on frames per rate and this could be used very nicely for an old black and white film, but with a lower frames per rate (e.g. 24p) for a more authentic look.  Adding a little more contrast in software would bring out the Black and White better as it looked a little bland.

Landscape

Landscape, as with photos, is used more for scenes with blue and green. I chose to use Landscape because of the blue in the sky.  The blue wasn't enhanced greatly, just very gently and if you wanted something with more punch then Vivid would be better.

As said above, Picture Wizard doesn't restrict the same way Smart Filter does, so you have a little more freedom for creativity here.

Smart Filters

Smart Filters can be interesting to use and the effects they produce are fun although I'm not certain how often a video with these effects would be created.

Take a look at my post about Smart Filters here: Smart Filters

Smart Filters will be greyed out unless Picture Wizard is set to Off, Drive is set to Single and Quality set to JPEG.  So you need to make those changes in order to use this feature in video in the same way as with photos.

Some of the Smart Filters are also limited to 15 frames per second (15p) whether it's 1920x1080 or 640x480.  You may have seen that when selecting Movie Size under the Video Menu, 25p (if you are using PAL) or 30p (if using NTSC) will show up as an option. Even if you select 25p/30p, the camera will change to 15p for certain filters.  Below are the filters I've tested and which work with 25p/30p and which with 15p.  Note, I tested out in PAL but the same applies to NTSC.

Vignetting - 25p
Miniature - 15p
Coloured Pencil - 25p
Watercolour - 15p
Wash Drawing - 15p
Oil Sketch - 15p
Ink Sketch - 25p
Acryl - 15p
Negative - 25p
Red - 25p
Green - 25p
Blue - 25p
Yellow - 25p

Vignetting

Corners are darkened, this is meant to bring attention to the subject in the center.  Slight banding (in a circular way) with frames per rate being 25p.  Not too bad.  The reason the video took so long to upload is because I wanted to use the highest quality save in order to show the original videos instead of degrading the quality for a smaller file.

Oil Sketch

Colourful, different but slow and creates a lot of banding.  It almost looks as if the jet was mirrored towards the end.  Speed 15p.

But I didn't want to give it a bad rap because I don't think it works well with fast objects.  Still life on the other hand looks pretty good which is why I added in a video example of a little house and a flower.  The more detail and definition there is, the better this feature seems to work.  If you look at the house, colours are well defined, lines easily visible but with the flower contrast is lost.

Negative

Heavy, visible banding here.  Speed is 25p.  Another interesting effect which can be cool, but might be best used with objects that are dark in colour to be more visible in the video.

Colour: Yellow, Blue, Red and Green

These filters are meant to filter out the said colours.  Sorry for the fast movement, didn't realise until afterwards how fast I was moving around.  Speed for these filters is 25p.

Colours showed up well and stood out clearly.  Shades closest to the said colours (e.g. pink showed up in the red filter) also showed up but while the colours in these videos were clear and defined, when I played with a desk (with different grains of wood) in low light, the filters struggled.  It looks like light plays a part in whether or not the filters in Smart Filters can pick up the colours clearly else they will be patchy and continuously shift over the area if you move your camera.

Out of the filters, Blue seemed the lightest in the video but I had adjusted my settings and set the exposure a little too high.  I didn't seen any banding here.

The banding in the features of Smart Filter seem to affect areas where there is differnt shades of colour blending into one another.

Multi-Motion

Ah, now here is a good feature to have a laugh with.  x1 speed is normal and you will have sound but decrease it to x0.5 or x0.25, or increase higher than x1 and sound will be turned off.

While recording, everything will look normal but when you playback the video it will speed up or slow down according to the setting.  For x0.5 and x0.25, you don't need to record for long (even 5 seconds is good enough) but for x5 and up, don't go below 10 seconds because the playback is so fast it will be over before you can blink.

Here your only restriction for frames per rate is when you want to use x0.5 and x0.25 where you can only select the highest of 1280x720 (25p/30p) for x0.5 and highest of 640x480 (25p) for x0.25.

You can also use Picture Wizard or Smart Filters with Multi-Motion. I only played with Retro and Watercolour just to test it out.  I also changed the aperture and shutter speed while recording.  Because sound is turned off when higher or lower than x1 you won't hear the dial turning.

There was a bit of banding evident in the slower video, you don't really have time to see it in the faster speed.

Changing Focus during recording

If you find that your focus area isn't where you want it to be and have already started recording, simply touch the screen over the area you want in focus and the camera places the focus point there.  It's pretty efficient, quiet and doesn't create that much disturbance as the camera refocuses.

For now that's it on video.  I'm still going through info so will add more as I go along.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Samsung NX300: Video sample

Okay, okay, I have been so behind this.  I did make a video, two actually.  One is already on Youtube, which I will post below.  The other still needs to be loaded and contains examples of the different features but it's rather big and will take time to upload (I use my night time gigs and will take a few hours depending on my server).

I also have a post about the whole process but as video isn't my area of expertise I'm still doing some research to better help you and me.

In the meantime, here is the link to the Youtube video.  It was taken at the Annual Airshow 2015 at Zwartkops SAAF Museum and contains some features like Picture Wizard's Retro, Classic and Landscape including Multi-Motion.  The Multi-Motion is really something funny to look at and can make for some interesting videos.  I show both fast and slow speeds in the second video (hopefully up soon).

The videos were shot with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm lens (I don't have a Samsung telephoto and want to have a wide angle option besides my telephoto on my Canon).

Enjoy and I'll get back to you soon!

Samsung NX300 with 18-55mm lens

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Samsung NX300 and Tutankhamun

Before all the hullabaloo I was able to get to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at Silverstar Casino recently and it is truly an amazing experience.  The exhibition has been extended to 12 April 2015.

The rules of the exhibition state that you are allowed to take photos but ONLY for personal use and if you do not interfere with the viewing of others.  Also no tripods, flashes or backpacks allowed.

So naturally I took along two cameras lol.  I took my Canon 650D with 50mm (low light lens) and my Samsung NX300 with 18-55mm kit lens (I wanted a wider angle as the 50mm doesn't having zooming capabilities).  Both fit into my small shoulder bag.

The photos posted here have been taken with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm.  A member of my photographic community will be working with my one photo (the same composition taken with the NX300 will be posted here) and when available on his site I will post the link here.  He's the reason I started playing a little more with Lightroom 4.

I'll admit I'm not an expert where LR4 is concerned because I have been working with PSE the entire time.  But thought I'd give it a try.  Other than adding my watermark in PSE, all other editing has been done in Lightroom 4 (including using the Cloning Brush).

You will see that with some photos the ISO was 3200, which is quite high but working with the Luminance and Detail slider under Noise Reduction helps to reduce the noise greatly.  Just go easy with the Luminance slider as it will start to soften the details the higher you go.  Work with the Detail and the Contrast slider to bring back more detail.

Also, most of the photos were taken using the Smart Shooting Mode. Although I won't remember which feature (EXIF data shows these features as Normal) I think I used the Rich Tones feature the most.

ISO 3200, 1/25 seconds, f4.5


ISO 1600, 1/50, f4


ISO 3200, 1/20, f5


ISO 3200, 1/30, f5.6


ISO 3200, 1/30, f5.6, here the statue was on a stand which I cloned out in LR4. A very common image but still an experience.  See below for settings in LR4.


ISO 3200 1/40, f3.5


ISO 3200, 1/30, f4.5 - taken in Manual Mode, RAW, no tripod or flash


ISO 3200, 1/50, f4

Learn to use your Lightroom 4 software that came with your Samsung NX300 because it's a pretty powerful program that gives far more flexibility with exposure, shadows, colour etc than Photoshop Elements (but does not allow for layers and composites).

Settings used for the Tutankhamun Head Statue:

The colour on my screen, which has been calibrated, is more golden and darker than it may appear in your browser.

Under Basic:
Temp: +2
Tint: 0
Exposure: +12
Contrast: 0
Highlights: 0
Shadows: -40
White: 0
Blacks: -52
Clarity: +7
Vibrance: +10
Saturation: 0

Tone Curve was left on Linear and customised:



HSL/Color/B&W:

Color was selected with the following adjustments:

Red - no adjustment
Orange - Saturation -9, Luminance +13
Yellow: Saturation -13, Luminance +4
Green to Magenta - no adjustment

Split Toning

Highlights - Hue was set to 60 and the Saturation set to 21
Shadows - Hue 43, Saturation 27
Balance was set to +10

I like to add some blue to some images that have an orange hue to take away some of the warmth.

Detail

I don't really like to add sharpening unless I work with Topaz Clarity as sharpening can increase the noise in a photo.  As it is the ISO is quite high in this photo so noise is also increased.  But under Detail I prefer to use the Luminance and Detail Slider.

Sharpening amount is set to 0.  Don't worry about the greyed out settings beneath it.

Noise reduction settings:
Luminance: 32
Detail: 56
Contrast: 0
Colour: 0, greyed out Detail is also 0

I didn't use Lens Correction, Effects, or Camera Calibration settings.