Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Technical’ Category

It isn’t Always Black and White

sccemetery-7919Yesterday I did some photos in Black and White and added a touch of colour.  It was a fun process to do and I think the images came out well.  I know there are many people in photography that think black and white is the only way to go, there are others who think most images look better in black and white, then there are some of us who think it depends on the image.

I am not going to get into an argument about what is best, it is purely a personal thing.  However, having said that, I know there are many images that could be great black and white images, but due to the processing they aren’t.  Again, I know this can be a very personal thing, so all I can do is talk about what I think.  You can all have your say in the comments section.

Today I had a comment from someone wanting to know about how I did the photos yesterday.  It was an interesting comment, and I remembered that I had done posts on this in the past.  I did a tutorial on doing Black and White photos in GIMP, Black and White in GIMP – My Way and then I did one on Black and White Conversions.  It is a very subjective subject and I thought I might tackle it again, especially since I sccres-hpm5786-7wrote the latter over two years ago.

I think black and white images can be very dramatic, but they can also be boring, and it really depends on your subject matter.  I have always felt that your subject matter should determine which images should be made into monotone or duotone images.  Does it enhance the image more, if the colour is gone does the image miss something?  There are so many questions, but you have to answer those. In the end it is your image and has to be what you want.

However, having said that, there are still ways of taking a photo that would be great in black and white and then making it look horrible.  When I wrote the article on conversions it was because I was seeing so many black and white images on the scbarwon-8016-se1internet that had a lot of potential, but they hadn’t been processed right.

Many cameras now can take black and white images for you, it is not something I have ever done.  I like to take all my photos in colour, and then decide once I get them on the computer if I will make them black and white.  I like to have that choice, but I know many photographers that just shoot in B&W, again it is a personal choice.

Once the image is on the computer there are many ways to make it black and white. You can convert it to grey scale (if you do this, you won’t be able to use colour in the image, unless you save it, then convert it back to RGB), you can completely desaturate your image, or if you have Photoshop you can use the black and white adjustment layer.  I like the last option because then you have the choice to play with the tones of each colour, not sure that is the right way of putting it.

There is something that a lot people do to their images, or don’t do, and that is lookscbarwonheads-hpm8063-1sep1 at the contrast.  The contrast is the different between the darks and lights in your images, or the black and whites and everything in between.

When I started photography, I started with black and white, and developed my own films, and then printed them.  I converted my laundry into a darkroom that could only be used at night.  It worked, and I spent many evenings in there working on my images.  I was given some advice from another photographer that said, “make sure there is a black in your image, and there is a white.  He suggested using a piece of white paper and a piece of black to help make sure I had those.  It is good to also have the greys in between.

LeanneCole-ocean-ant4173You don’t want the image to be just black and white, that would be horrible, but you want a range of tones from black to white.  When I was at art school and drawing, I can remember my lecturers telling me that my drawings had no contrast, I didn’t know what they were talking about, now I do, the drawings had no darks, and they were very grey.  I worked it out eventually and my drawings got a lot better.

Photography is the same, if you don’t have that contrast, the images can look washed out if there are no blacks, or too dark if there are no whites.  It is a good thing to remember.

So how do you like your black and white images?  What is your favourite subject for those images?  Lastly, what do you use to process them?

Here is a little gallery of the images if you want a better look at them.


The Eyes Have It.

Recently I have been doing some internet courses and learning how to retouch skin. There are so many ways to do it, and I guess eventually what you have to do is work out which one works best for you.  Today I thought I would try a couple of different ways.

LeanneCole-briony-7107-oThis is the image I decided to use.  I took this shoot the other day in the city when we were just sitting around.  She liked it, so I thought I had a winner there.  I have been looking for some images that I could do some skin retouching on, and I thought this one would be good.  So I just processed this in Camera Raw as I do with most images. The other obvious problem was her sisters face in the side, so I thought a square crop would work best.

LeanneCole-briony-7107I tried using Joel Grimes technique for skin retouching.  I think it is a little harsh, and she really didn’t like it.  I like aspects of it, but she thought the eyes were too intense. I did try to explain to her that her eyes are intense in this image.  It is funny when you look at only this one, it looks okay, but then when I compare it with the next one I did, it does look strange.

LeanneCole-briony-7107-2This one is a lot softer and I used a different technique, I did some of what Joel did but left out some of the steps in the beginning.  She still thinks the eyes are too much, but she doesn’t seem to realise her eyes are like that.

It isn’t perfect, but it is interesting.  I am trying to learn frequency separation.  I have just purchased another workshop and am working my way through it. It has lots of tips for skin retouching.

I think if I want to do portraits then I need to learn as much about skin retouching as I can.  I will put the above images in a gallery so you can see them separate from the writing.

Taking the Canon 60D to Harrietville

Last week, I’m sure I mentioned that I was allowed to have the Canon EOS 60D for another few days so I could take it to Harrietville and try it out.  I did take it and I managed to get out a few times with it.  It went back on Tuesday so it is time to tell you what I thought.

Benalla 1On the way up we stopped at the Benalla Art Gallery for lunch and I saw this bridge close by and went for a quick walk underneath it.   With images like this I had no trouble using the camera, it did what I wanted and the images came out quite well.

Benalla 2The bridge from the side.  Again, the colours are good and it is a good representation of what I was seeing.

As I stated before, it is a nice camera to hold and to take photos with.  I found it easy to carry around with me and never though, I really want to put this away.  It would be  good to use all day if you are travelling.  Well, compared to my Nikon camera, it is much easier to continue carrying.

Coffee Break 1When we went across the road in Harrietville for coffee I just slung the camera over my shoulder and when opportunities came up to take photos, well I took them.  Again, it was easy to use and fun to use.

Coffee Break 2I managed to get really close with this image and got a great shot of the muffin.

It had been fun to use, but when I went out the next morning, well, let’s look at a photo.

Harrietville 1In the morning I thought I would go for a walk around town with the camera and just take some snaps.  It wasn’t very good light and I tried to change some of the settings, but they wouldn’t change the way I wanted them to.

Harrietville 2I got a couple of good shots, but I was actually disappointed with a lot of them.  They were out of focus, or just not quite in focus.  I don’t know if it was because I had been fiddling around with the metering, or the ISO was too low, or what.  I am positive that it isn’t a real problem with the camera, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get any photos in focus.

It is a great camera, there is no denying that, but I don’t think I would buy it.  I found it hard to work out and things that I thought would be so easy to work out, just weren’t.  It really is a camera that you need, need to read the manual for.  I didn’t have the manual with me, but if I owned the camera I would always have it with me.  I  would keep a copy of the manual on my phone.  You would need to I think.  Some cameras you can just pick up, use and work everything out, but I didn’t find that.

When I was lent the Canon EOS 600D last year, I can remember loving it, almost to the point of not wanting to give it back. I thought it was a great camera, but I didn’t fall in love with the 60D.  I wanted to and I kept trying it, it just didn’t happen.  I know a lot of you have this camera and love it, and I really wanted to feel the same.  I am sorry about that.  Interesting how different each camera can be.

The Efex of Color

Since I showed you Silver Efex by Nik Software last week, I thought today we could look at Color Efex Pro 4.  It is interesting software.  You can get some interesting effects from it, not always what you want, but that is going to be the same with any software you use.  I think this is similar to using Instagram with all its filters, but the main difference, and a big difference it is, is that you can change and make the filter work the way you want it to.  You have a lot more control over it.  That is something that I like a lot.

cep-1To use Color Efex, it is the same as Silver Efex, you have to open an image up in Photoshop, or the program that you have it as a plugin.  The website has information about what programs you can use.

cep-2To open it you go to Filters, Nik Software, then Color Efex Pro 4.

cep-3Here is what Color Efex looks like.  You can see a list of filters down the left side, over the on the right is a list of functions that you can do with the filter that is choosen.  The filter for this image has been circled in yellow.

cep-4I have changed the filter to Film Efex: Faded.  You can see on the right all the different things that you can change.   In the above image, nothing has been changed yet.

cep-5I have changed a few thing here, not much, but enough to make the image more to my liking.  I also changed the film type.  Again, like Silver Efex, when you have a drop down menu if you hover over the top you will see how each one changes the images.

If you play around with one filter and then decide you don’t like it, you can click on another one and it will change everything for that new filter.  What you did previously is erased, which also means if you go back to the original one, you will have to make all the changes and adjustments again.

cep-6There are also a heap of recipes that you can try out.  Or you can make your own and save them.  Again, just because someone has done one, doesn’t mean you can’t make some adjustments to it.

cep-7This is nice, it comes with a history, or rather you can see what you have done to the image as you went along.  That is a great feature.

cep-8When you are finished, you can just click OK and your image will be transformed in Photoshop.  You can also click Brush, and then in Photoshop you can brush the effect on the areas that want.  I haven’t really played with that very much.  Of course, if you don’t like it and don’t want it, you can simply press Cancel and go back to your original image.

I have a few images now, well the same image, but it has been processed with different filters in Color Efex.

CEP - Film Efex: FadedThis image was processed with the filter Film Efex: Faded.  I actually like this one.  It gives it a very retro feel.

CEP - Paper TonerThis was using the filter Paper Toner.  You can get different tones or different coloured tones.  Remember in the days of black and white printing and we all tried different toners to give our images a slight tinge in colour.  I can remember using Tea, Coffee and, my favourite, beetroot.

CEP - Indian SummerThis is Indian Summer.  I can see this one being used a lot.  I like it.  I wanted to try Monday Morning, but it just didn’t work with this image.

CEP - SolarisationHere is the Solarisation Filter.  Pretty cool effect and a bit of fun.  Not really sure what you would use it for, though I used to know a guy that painted images that looked similar to this, they were pretty amazing.

There are many filters and some recipes.  It is fun to play with and I have used some of the filters to great effect, you have seen some.  For me it is just as important to have as Silver Efex.  Next week we might look at another Nik Software product, Dfine.  It is apparently very good at reducing noise in your images.  That is something I need to look at, since my camera can produce quite a bit when I go up the ISO.

I know that Topaz have some similar products, but they haven’t been great with allowing me to have extra time to try the stuff out.  I downloaded all the software before Christmas, and of course didn’t have enough time to try them out, now the trial time has run out and I can’t try them.  Oh well.  Perhaps if they read this, they might let me have an extended trial period, then again, I am enjoying the Nik Software products.

For those interested, todays image of the Thistle was taken in the Kitchen Garden at Heide last Saturday.

HDR or Not to HDR

In yesterdays post I showed you some images that work better with HDR and you see more detail.  Today I have some images that I took last night at St Kilda and this time you can see whether or not the images are better for using HDR or not.

Same thing again, originally exposed image first then the HDR image with the bracketed shots I took.

This is St Kilda Baths, I think that is what it is called.  There are swimming pools, gyms inside and outside around it are restaurants.  It is a very popular place in summer.

This is the HDR image, it is not really that much different.  I don’t know about you, but I love the original one more, the colours seem richer some how.

I have taken images of this before, but from the other side and very early in the morning.    It was very dark or starting to get light.  It is nice to take some photos from this view and I must say if I go back early one morning this is a view I should try.

This is the HDR image, and I think when you compare it with the one above there isn’t much difference.  Is HDR necessary for this image? No, probably not, the image doesn’t have that contrast between light and dark and if you were just presenting the first image then it would probably be fine.  I don’t think HDR is necessary for this type of image.

It was unfortunate we didn’t get to see a really nice sunset, but again this is the original image.  This building is on the end of the pier.  It burnt down a few years ago and then they rebuilt it.  So glad they did.

This one is the HDR and there are elements that I like, but there is ghosting that I couldn’t get rid of it, so I’m stuck with it.  The sky around the building has also turned out weird.  I think perhaps the first image has worked better, but the reasons could also be that my camera went really weird.  More on that soon.

When to use HDR, good question.  I suppose when you have lots of contrast in an image and you don’t want those black spots, or areas that are blown out, then HDR is the way to go.  For these images here then I don’t think it was necessary.  It will always have to be a judgement call and will always depend on what look you are going for.

Now, for my camera.  I have some questions. Look at the following two images.

These is when the images started going wrong.  I have no idea what that black thing is across the lens.  It wasn’t the camera strap.  I have no idea what that white strip is as well.  It was in every image after this, but not the black bit.

This is the same image has above, but I cropped it for the images I showed you.  There is that white strip again.  My husband thought some moisture might have got into the camera, but I don’t know about that.  I have a Nikon D300s and every image after this had this.  Though when I got home and took some photos it wasn’t there.  It was very humid down at the beach.

So any ideas.  I thought maybe it was the memory card, but my husband didn’t think so.  I have no idea.

Different Types of Photographers

Of course, there are photographers that take different images in different genres, but this week, I’ve realised that many of us can be divided into two different types of photographers, the technical ones and the non-technical ones.  I am pretty sure I fall into the second category.

I met a woman while I was down in Geelong and she was into photography, has done photography all over the world and when we talked, she talked about technical aspects of photography.  She talked about her zoom lens and what they really were compared with her camera, she talked about the Calvin temperature scale for taking photos.  I understood most of what she was saying, but it has occurred to me, that I am a lot more ad-hoc when it comes to taking photos.

I know a lot of the technical stuff, you can’t really do photography without knowing some, but I enjoy more the element of surprise, of trying something weird and wonderful and hoping I will get the weird and wonderful.  I love it when I go out to take some photos and what I end up with is nothing like what I expected and it so much better.  Look at the following image.

I took this image in about 1997 or 1998.  I scanned the negative, which accounts for the graininess of the image.  I went out one morning in winter, I believe.  We, my friend Sandra and I, arrived at St Kilda at about 6am and it was raining.  I thought, well that’s it, but instead we went to find coffee and waited a while.  We came back at 6.30, and while not raining anymore, it was still very wet.  It was also still very dark.

I decided that I had to take some photos, so I set up the tripod and took a heap of images.  I had no idea what I was going to get, but when I picked up the images from the lab, I was presented with some of the most amazing photos.  I had no idea that I would end up with something like the above.  I was so happy.  I always remember going to pick up those photos.

So when I go out to take photos, I just have a go.  I sometimes plan, like I will try the neutral density filter, but I don’t get too technical about it.  Perhaps that is the artist coming out in me, letting things develop on their own.

I do like playing on the computer with the images as well.  I had a play with the above image.

I didn’t do a lot to it, but I have darkened some areas and lightened others.  I enjoy the technical side of Photoshop, though it doesn’t seem technical, I just play.

So what type of photographer do you think you are?

New Stuff

Well, not really new, in any sense, but I did get to try out a lens on the weekend.  I was up in Shepparton for the 2011 Junior Road National Championships.  You can see the photos here.  It was a disappointing weekend in many ways, a lot of fun in other ways and I got to try this lens.

I decided to hire it from michaels Camera Video & Digital for a week at $35 dollars a day.  The lens was a 80 to 400mm Nikon lens.  It retails for around $1500, so it isn’t an expensive lens, but still a lot of money and I wanted to make sure it would be worth buying.

The lens is slower, at f5.6 but I didn’t think that would matter with photographing cycling.  It was going to be outdoors, so light wasn’t going to be a problem.  However, when they say it is a slow lens, it means that in many ways.  The auto focus is very slow and very clunky.  To photograph what I wanted I needed the auto focus to be fast and I got very frustrated with how slow it could be.  On some occasions it just couldn’t focus at all, and I had to work fast to get the shot I wanted.  On a couple of occasions I missed it completely.

I did like the photos.  I enjoyed being able to blur out the background and I liked the way the lens flattened the image.  It had a quality that I did like, but is that enough?  Here are some of the photos.

I like the top two, but the other two are fairly average.

Another thing I found hard was the zoom mechanism, it was stiff and didn’t zoom in and out as nicely as my other lenses.

So my conclusion is that I wouldn’t buy the lens.  I don’t think it would be worth it.  There are too many faults with it and I am used to working with far better lenses.  I think if I bought it, it would frustrate me too much.