Sunday, July 31, 2005

Photo upload sites - audience opinion

Having uploaded to numerous websites which allow photographers to share their images with a world-wide audience I've come to some interesting conclusions.

Each website has it's own audience and character, although I have noticed that like me there are other promiscuous photographers who upload to more than one site. I may upload the same picture to different sites and the reaction will be completely different.

Some sites, like altphoto are open about their preferences. They want to see 'alternative' photography and warn photographers not to upload sunsets and flowers - two subjects that are very popular on ephotozine.

In many ways these websites for photographers to showcase their work and get feedback play the role of amateur photography clubs, albeit on a much bigger scale.

Conforming to any of them, in the sense of pandering to the predominant taste on the site, can be detrimental to your photography. This is especially true if you take photographs to please a specific audience rather than pursuing your own artistic vision with integrity.

One of the most important things to realise about the camera club mentality is that in order to get members to conform, or measure their progress against their peers it is necessary to follow a set of dogmatic principles. They try to get you to fit a mold. It is easier to measure people against pseudo objective criteria, the received wisdom of photography classes than it is to judge each work by the artists intention. So they hammer on about things like keeping your horizons straight and various other criteria all to do with presentation rather than content.

Beware and remain true to your own vision, no matter how many clicks, ratings or whatever else the online camera club deals out. Don't let yourself get pushed into their way of thinking. Rather seek the audience that suites your work.

I think that there are many different audiences each with it's own set of values and preferences. Art directors, marketing executives, picture editors, amateur photographers, professionals, art critics and museum curators will all look at the same image in a slightly different way and their judgment will reflect their viewpoint.

The thing that really surprises me though is that so many truly great photographs get ignored by the masses. I try to judge pictures in terms of how effective they are at achieving the photographers intention. Do they really communicate something? Do they evoke an emotion? Ultimately I think the judgment of whether a photograph is good or bad is not very useful. Images should instead be looked at in terms of whether they are interesting or not, and this will often depend on context and content.

Your feedback is always welcome. Click on my name below to send me an email.

Paul Indigo

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Self publishing

Today I discovered a site which allows you to print on demand and publish books and calendars. Printing is done digitally, mostly with Xerox printers. Ag magazine tested the product and seemed happy with it.

I'd advise anyone considering using the service to read everything carefully, including the forums. It seems to work for many people, but not everyone is a happy customer. I may give it a try, after doing some more research.

The advantage of using the site is that they will help you market your book on the net. You only pay for the copies that get printed plus a commission on the copies that get sold, but you can set your own price.

Check it out at www.lulu.com

If any of my readers has tried the service I'd love to hear from you.

Paul Indigo

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The cheap and easy way to correct printer colour casts

A lot gets written about colour profiling your printer and indeed you can get inkjet printers perfectly and professionally profiled. But there is a cost involved. Most amateurs will not go to these lengths. So here's a quick easy and cheap method of doing it.

Buy a colour card. Photograph it. Print it out using the same settings you would for your photographs. Choose the paper you like and stick to it. What you are trying to do is limit the variables so that you can predict results in the future.

Now instead of adjusting the printer settings to get the colours right, use Photoshop and tweak it until the colours in your test prints match your target (the colour card) as closely as possible.

Your monitor is probably not calibrated so don't worry that it doesn't look right on screen. You're aiming for the best print possible. Once you've worked out how you need to change the colours in Photoshop to produce a good print on the particular paper of your choice you can take the process a step further and create an action (see Photoshop's help file to find out how to do this).

Then when you want to print your pictures you open them, choose the action, print and then close the image without saving the print specific tweak ie the effect of the action.

My advice is to choose two or maybe three paper types and develop the unique set of actions for each of these.

There you go. The simple and inexpensive way to get consistent prints with your printer, particular inks and paper. If you change any of the variables you'll have to go through the trial and error process again.

Good luck.

Paul Indigo

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Busy bee

I'm really busy at the moment so please forgive the long delay in posting new info to the blog.

In the meantime, this site is worth a visit. It provides a lens calculator which displays the angle of view of all the lenses in the Nikon Nikkor AF Lens range. It is compatible with all the 35mm film SLRs and all the digital SLRs from Nikkon (like the Nikon D100), as well as the camera bodies that take a Nikon-fit lens (such as the Kodak DCS 14n or the Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro).

Hope you find it helpful too: www.sweeting.org/mark/lenses/nikon.php

Paul Indigo

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Tone or custom curves: an explanation

UPDATE 28 March 2008: Although I wrote this article almost three years ago I have notice that is visited almost every day. So a quick update. I now shoot with Canon cameras although my wife and fellow pro still uses Nikon. Both manufacturers make great cameras.

I use Lightroom to develop my RAW images and shoot using the most neutral setting. I'm happy with the results and I don't use custom curves when shooting anymore. Still the information below may be useful and the principals of science apply as they always will.

ORIGINAL START OF ARTICLE

I often use tone, or as they are also known, custom curves on my digital slr. Other photographers have asked me to explain what they are. So here's my brief overview.

I do most of my digital photography nowadays with a Nikon D70 digital slr. It's light, doesn't cost the earth and does all I need it to. The quality, if you know how to extract it is superb and can happily be used for everything from magazine covers to superb large prints. This explanation of tone curves is based on my experience with the D70.

Back to basics

Each film has a characteristic curve. Kodak explains a characteristic curve: "It shows the relationship between the exposure of a photographic material and the image density produced after processing."

So what about digital

The same principle applies to digital photography. Here, unlike film, a large part of the processing is done in camera, even when you are shooting raw. You cannot duplicate a digital tone curve, as far as I am aware, during post processing because it relates to how light captured is handled directly after it hits the sensor, ie digital film.

Nikon explains it as follows: "As photographs are saved to the memory card, they are processed to adjust the distribution of tones in the image, enhancing contrast. Tone compensation is performed by means of tone curves that define the distribution of tones in the original image and the compensated result."

Simply put tone curves can:
  • increase contrast
  • reduce contrast
  • alter the way colours behave under different lighting situations
  • brighten mid- tones
  • extract more detail out of highlight areas
  • brighten shadows
Custom curves are especially used to achieve the last three bullet points. Nikon provides excellent built in curves but the D70 and D100 when used with the normal tone curve, sometimes look like they're underexposing the mid-tone areas. Now you could try compensating by increasing exposure but this would be at the cost of highlight detail. A good tone curve can boost your mid-tone areas, lighten up shadow and keep more detail in your highlights - and that's why I like them!

But a word of warning. Getting them right is not easy. The adjustments have to very subtle or you'll spoil the colours and tonal balance. The curve has to be kept as linear as possible in the mid-tone areas.

Custom curves are by no means always the best solution. In high contrast scenes you'll probably want to try the Nikon's low contrast curve and in misty scenes you'll no doubt want to boost contrast with high contrast curve. The D70 also has built in curves for landscapes and portraits. No doubt other DSLRs will have similar options. But the benefits of using custom curves will be the same.

The key thing to remember is that unlike film, digital photography requires some of the normal darkroom lab work to take place inside the camera.

Nikon's D70 requires the custom curve to be loaded into the camera while it's tethered by usb cable to a PC/Mac running Nikon Capture 4 software . At the moment you can only load one custom curve at a time. As with all things the custom curve business is, if you'll pardon the pun, a rather steep learning curve. Just something you've got to keep trying out in different circumstances.

Please let me know if you've found this article useful.

Paul Indigo

More sites for sharing pictures

I've already posted a list of the sites for sharing your images. Two more have come to my attention. Both look good.

www.altphotos.com
This site features mainly people. They don't want boring photographs. Lots of good art stuff.

www.photopoints.com/main/
Loads of features and stuff on this site. Well worth a look.

Paul Indigo

Top tips for photographing events

Here are some of my tips for photographing people at evening events like balls, parties and gatherings.

Top tips are:
  • Make sure all your equipment is in perfect order
  • Take a backup camera if you can
  • Test your flash beforehand and do a few shots in similar lighting conditions to check that all the settings are right.
  • Remember if you're shooting digitally and relying on flash to set the white balance for flash/daylight not auto
  • When photographing get people's attention and get them to look at the lense. Be assertive. Don't be afraid to ask them to pose for more than one shot but remember you also can't keep them hanging on waiting for you.
  • Get everything set, then go in and take the shot as quickly as you can, 30 seconds per shot.
  • Try some innovative angles. Stand on a chair or shoot down from a stage or whatever is available
  • It is really important to watch your backgrounds. Keep them clean. Avoid light sources in the background that can be distracting
  • Have fun. If you look like you're relaxed and enjoying yourself it will put your subjects at ease.
  • Use a high enough aperture to ensure that people in the foreground of the group are as sharp as those at the back - typically f8, but depends on the focal length of your lense.
I hope the above helps. If you can think of something else that should be added, please email me by clicking on my name (mailto link). Thanks.

Paul Indigo