Dynamic Range in the Camera

If you are shooting for high dynamic range photos, then your camera should be capable of providing the dynamic range necessary. But how much dynamic range is really needed?

Since the goal in photography is to capture what you see, how much dynamic range can you see? You can see a maximum of about 13 – 14 stops (13 – 14 EV) when viewing any scene. So, you would want your camera to provide something close to this if you hope to capture what you saw. But digital cameras don’t provide as much range as your eyes, and they tend to come in at around 9 EV for the JPEG files they output.

But, if you shoot in RAW, you have an advantage – the RAW files always contain more data than the JPEG files and therefore more dynamic range. Just how much more range is dependent on your camera, but in general it is about 1.0 – 1.5 EV more on the highlight end and 1.0 – 1.5 more in the shadow end, with a total not usually exceeding around 2 EV more dynamic range. Here’s a list of dynamic ranges: Continue reading

Photo Aspect Ratios and Picture Frames

Sooner or later you’re going to want to print your photos and sell them or show them to others. But what aspect ratios are standard? What if someone wants to print and frame your image later? Are they going to be able to get it to fit a standard frame size? These are the questions you may ask yourself right now.

These are very good questions. Here are some answers. Continue reading

How to Avoid Too Much HDR Effect

I really like the added dynamic range that HDR offers, but dislike the over-use of HDR to the point where images look unreal. I want my images to look “real” and sometimes HDR oversteps that. I’ve tried a variety of software for HDR and I have found one underlying theme that always results in a realistic-looking photo that also has high dynamic range: Continue reading

Vignette to Draw the Eye

Why would anyone want to add vignetting to a photo? It is usually something that photographers try to avoid! Lens and filter combinations that produce vignetting can be frustrating to photographers — often resulting in time spent in post-processing software to crop and remove the vignette. Even though vignetting is not always desirable in photos, it can be employed by the skilled photographer to create a “drawing” effect on the viewer. Here’s how . . . Continue reading

Film Grain – Is It Cool?

Film Grain?

I’ve seen plenty of high-end photos with film grain visible in them. If you get right up to them and look, you can see it. I saw it in a Peter Lik photo when I was in on of his galleries in Waikiki and I thought “how could the great Peter Lik allow film grain in his photos?” But I realized shortly after, that great photographers do have film grain in their photos — usually because they shot on film!

So is it cool to have film grain in your photos? The answer is more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. But, generally yes.

Continue reading

Panoramic Images From Normal Photos

Consider the panorama next time you take a “normal” photo. Why? Because with some cropping, you can have a panoramic image quite easily and without stitching multiple photos together in specialized software!

With photos of high resolution (high megapixels), cropping the photo to be panoramic does not lose a lot of resolution. I call these types of photos “cropped panoramics.” When taking the photo, you have to have the panoramic image in mind and set up your composition accordingly. But, with some practice, this can be an easy way to get panoramic images into your portfolio without a lot of extra work!

For example: Continue reading

HDR Overdone – Sacrificing Light and Dark

HDR techniques can help photos – even if it is only a single-image RAW file where the HDR technique is applied.  I’ve had success with this in HDR Express, HDR Expose, Photomatix Pro, and Dynamic Photo HDR software. However, HDR can be overdone and this is when a photo goes from looking realistic to totally (or partially) unreal. Here is one major flaw I see in most HDR photos, and even in the ones that are well-done.

Just because HDR can bring out every detail in the shadows and highlights, that doesn’t mean that it is best for a photo. My objective in photography is to use all of the dynamic range possible to faithfully represent what I saw when I was taking the photo. My eyes may be able to make out some detail in the shadows, for example, but that does not mean that I value those details in my overall view. Neither should my photo. Those shadows should remain primarily dark. The same goes for the highlights. Continue reading

How to Paint with Light

Painting With Light

“Painting with light” is a term I give any photo where I selectively lighten or darken areas of it to make it more appealing.

Here is an example in Lightroom showing the original photo on the left and the enhanced one on the right. Tone adjustments were made to give color and luminance balance to the image, but then I lightened selected areas because it was still flat and drab. Lifeless. Continue reading

Lightroom Adjustments for Correct Prints

Let me guess. You’ve done these following things:

  1. You’ve adjusted your monitor(s) so you’re viewing colors and brightness correctly on your screen(s).
  2. You’ve adjusted your photos in Lightroom (or some other program) so they look great on your screen and across the world wide internet web.
  3. You’ve done some soft-proofing (see a previous post of mine for this one), but your photos look dark and off-color when soft-proofed.
  4. You’ve printed one/some of them and it/they look dark and off-color (similar to the soft-proof but maybe even darker).

You are in a baaaaaaaad spot my friend. You can’t print anything because it’s going to look like crap! And, if you make some adjustments, you’ll screw up your well-adjusted photos in Lightroom.

Never fear. Here’s what you can do! Continue reading

Realism in a Photo

The sun is bright and when you look toward it, your eyes can’t see any detail in it. It is “blown out” in your eyes. Is this any surprise? No. Shocking information? No. Well then why do we as photographers complain when our photos show the sun as a feature-less blown-out highlight? It is, after all, what you would have seen had you been standing there behind the camera isn’t it? Of course it is.

Let’s say you’re standing in a dark ravine looking up with dark rocky outcroppings all around, but a bright sun shining above. Do your eyes see detail in the shadows? Of course not. Surprising? No. Something wrong with your eyes? No. It’s a high-contrast scene and this is what your actually seeing. So why do we as photographers when we look at the photo later, feel as if we’ve failed somehow because the shadows in our photo are black without much detail. It was, after all, exactly what we saw when we were there.

How well can you see details on the horizon? Are treelines perfectly clear to you? No. What about the haze in the air. Do those distant tress or mountains look perfectly clear? No. Could they be a little out of focus to your eyes? Sure. When we get behind the lens though, we want everything to be sharp and clear – but clearly not how we actually saw it. Why?

Continue reading

The Barbell Strategy…for photos

What is the Barbell Strategy?

I first read about the barbell strategy in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan. In it he claims basically that investments should be mostly (80%) safe, with a few (20%) very risky, but none in the intermediate. This strategy works for me with my investments where I have 20% in risky stocks (growth, emerging, etc), 80% in safe stocks (bonds, etc), and none (0%) in between . But what does this have to do with photography?

You can apply this same principle to your photography both in post-processing and during capture! Continue reading

Analyzing Photos Taken by the “Masters”

How can you tell if you are making your photographs look as good as the “masters” in the field of photography? One way is to do an analysis of their images using Lightroom or similar software. I used Lightroom for this example.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I captured a photo from the “master” artist/photographer that I wanted to emulate.  I chose Peter Lik for this example because he is a great landscape photographer in my opinion. Here is a copy of one of his most beautiful photos from his website. You should choose whomever you want based on who’s works you find the best and whom you want to be most like in making your own. When doing this, don’t feel that you have to get full-size images. I took mine from his site at a low resolution and low size. This works just fine. Continue reading

Lightroom + Focus Magic Workflow

Focus Magic Rescues Blurred Photos

When I have a photo that needs to be corrected for focus or motion blur, I use the stand-alone version of Focus Magic. I also use Lightroom first and have integrated Focus Magic into my workflow shown below. Please use it whole or in part as you need. I’m not going to show you each detail, but all the information you need will be in here. The part that is different from my standard Lightroom workflow is shown in bold. Continue reading

Lightroom Workflow

My Lightroom Workflow

I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo processing needs and I have a workflow that I will share here with you. Please use it whole or in part as you need. I’m not going to show you each detail, but all the information you need will be in here. I’m writing it as if I’m telling myself what to do so if it seems direct, well, it was meant to be that way. Continue reading

90% JPEG Quality

Here is a short but useful piece of advice when it comes to saving your JPEG files:

Save them at 90% quality.

It saves space on your hard drive like you can’t believe.
It saves you time when uploading to your photo site(s).
They look the same as if you saved them at 100%.
You take advantage of the JPEG compression algorithm, using it for what it was meant, where at 100% you do not.

Downsides? Continue reading