Make Shift Reflector

Poster board + masking tape + aluminum foil = make shift reflector
None of these image have been modified

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Here’s the before and after shots using light from north facing window:

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No reflector

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With reflector

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Remove a stray hair from photo

In small areas, use the heal or patch tool (depending on your photo editing software) to select areas you want to fix and clone. I have found using the tool in smaller areas produce less patchy results:

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Original Image – No Edits

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Stray hair removed

If you’re interested,  you can see the final result with saturation turned up and surface cleaned up here: http://galleries.soft-graphix.com/colored-cubes

What I Learned Doing My 1st Photo Challenge

Over the weekend I entered a photo challenge titled “artificial light”. This was the first photography challenge I’ve entered and at first I was very pleased with what results I was able to present; however, the more I look at it the more I second guess some of the decisions I’ve made. This post is dedicated to that experience and what I’ve learned in the process.

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This was my entry – I wish I had less exposure & changed the angle of the camera so the corner of the table was not visible.

My first camera was a Canon AE-1 that I bought in college many moons ago. The price tag at that time: $500.00.  There is something powerful about capturing an image only from a view finder and then developing pictures in a dark room by placing sheets into a chemical bath. While I may not make it sound all that romantic, the outcome was always awe-inspiring – partly because, as the photographer, you were finally presented with the outcome of your art. I know I’m rambling, but my point was that you captured that image looking through a view finder and basically cropping, framing, angling and capturing the light content right then and there. We didn’t have photo editing software to nit-pick the imperfections out (though we could control how long we allowed the negative to expose on the sheet and also crop the image). This forced us as students to become very conscious of what we were looking at and how the camera was interpreting it.

As life continued on for me, I put my camera aside for many years – only pulling it out when I had an extra $20 to spend on film and developing said film. Then digital cameras became the go-to (and I’m not complaining; cost-wise & ease of use, I love what the digital cameras have brought to the table). Looking back at my experience with the two different technologies and joining that photo challenge opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve been treating my personal digital photo taking adventure poorly. I look at the small screen on the back of my point-and-shoot, click the button and [usually] edit my digital photo. By no means is this a bad or wrong way to go about it,  but the recent challenge presented a problem if that’s the way I’ve been doing things (unless of course I’ve misinterpreted the rules of the challenge). Upload unedited, raw images straight from the camera.

The benefits of these restraints from the eyes of an amateur photographer:

You need to compose in the shot. Your whole thought process changes when you can only upload one photo, and that photo may not have any edits. I began thinking of what I could shoot that entailed ‘artificial light’. When I finally decided to do a photo shoot of a board game I set up the game and started playing by myself just to get pieces out organically. I placed this cheap drafting / table lamp I had on the table. The original idea was to get the whole lamp in the shot so you could see the neck of it angled, hopefully centered over the board game. Behind it I placed a cheap white form board that we had bought for a school project some time ago, though never used. As I playing with positioning my camera it became apparent that that shot I WANTED was not going to happen because the board was too small to get the whole image without the wall and window blinds peaking out from behind it.

You need to get creative, even if your first idea starts falling apart before it ever happens. So I had easily sunken an hour into playing this board game by myself and setting up the equipment, I wasn’t going to just pack everything back up because idea #1 was not going smoothly. As I continued to play with the composition and camera position I noticed the lamps figure produced a shadow that bounced off the backdrop board – so I tried using that instead. After that first shot I tried playing with the camera settings to achieve different effects.

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You can see the shadow of the lamp in this image. Originally I wanted the board centered in the image with the lamp off to the right and other game pieces on the left to balance it. The board was too small – you could see my walls & blinds when I zoomed out to get it.

With a new found enthusiasm I continued taking pictures; zoomed in and out of the subject, re-positioned the tripod, placed the camera on the table and back on the tripod again. It was actually very enjoyable. The goal was to take a picture that would not be edited in anyway other than camera settings. This forced me to rethink the way I’ve been taking pictures.  I’m not saying that many digital photographers skip this step, I’m saying that I have been skipping this vital step basically since I put my Canon AE-1 in the desk drawer. If you are interested in photography and are an amateur like myself, I highly recommend entering into challenges where your file is your submission – you might find it as helpful and exciting as I did.

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Promising Accidents

Here’s a challenge for you:

Find a location to take some shots; however, take two shots: one of clear view of your subject and one with obstacles in the way to frame your subject. Here’s a couple of shots from the same location:

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First shot, not minding my whereabouts.

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Second shot: Trying to get a cleaner shot of the sun rise.

These have not gone through post production and they are not the most refined images I have taken, but this little photo accident produced a nice outcome by framing the sun rise.

 

Experimenting with light

This is a series or photos where the only dynamic was the lamp placement and the cameras allowance to automatically decide the f-stop; the shutter speed, iso, manual focus, placement of objects to be photographed as well as the placement of the camera remained stagnant. Non of these photos have been edited yet and I didn’t realize until today that my lens is dirty! Either way, I’m going to try to work with what I got and by this weekend I’ll have [some of] these on the gallery page of soft-graphix.com for others to see and use.

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Light source (LED desk lamp that can be adjusted) is pointing toward the ceiling. Two white film boards act as the back drop and also allow light to reflect back onto the aloe plant and army toy.

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Light source stayed in about the same position, though the lamp was adjusted downward – facing the white film board backdrop and positioned left of the plant & toy figure.

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Light source placed close and facing subject from right.

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light source moved to the front and right – pointed toward white film backdrop and tilted up.

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light source pointing down on the subject

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light source pointing down and close to subject. I imagined summer at high noon with this position.

Simple color correction with Gimp

 

 

 

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For this project I will be working in Gimp. If you are not familiar with the program, I highly recommend checking it out (especially if you do not have any photo editing software): gimp.org

The above image shows some simple techniques for correcting some minor issues with photos. On the left is the edited version and on the right is a copy from my gallery page. My goal was to create more contrast and give the statue a ‘bronze’ appearance –  (this image was taken on a semi cloudy day and has a pane of glass between the camera and the subject. ie: windshield).

The first thing to do, color correction & balance:

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On the menu bar, click ‘color’ and then ‘color balance’, this will bring up a window that you see on the screen shot above. I played with each setting: shadows, midtones, & highlights. With careful control of the sliders, I was able to rid the statue of that green washed appearance and bring in tones of red.

Next I further adjusted the coloring with the ‘Levels…’ found in the ‘color’ tab on the menu bar. Because I wanted to wash the green out of the statue, I choose it’s complimentary color on the color wheel, red. Notice that I’m working exclusively with the red channel bar at this point (this option is right above where it says ‘input levels’ and below ‘presents’ on the adjust color levels pop up).

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Because I couldn’t stop messing with reds, my leaves in the back ground became slightly discolored and washed out themselves. To try and correct this, I open the ‘Hue-Saturation’ option in the ‘Color’ drop down from the menu. Notice I have the color green selected. These sliders are a little touchy, so take it easy on them by moving in small increments until you are happy with the results. statue-hue-sat

And wah-la, these simple steps allowed me to create more contrast in this image.

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