Saturday, July 24, 2010

Calibrate Your Display Today

I don't think of myself as a photo editor but, I find myself sliding controls around more than I realize.

Most photo software will let you do basic adjusts like warming up a photo that looks too blue. Or maybe cooling down a photo that's too red.

I happily make these sorts of adjustments just before uploading photos to a website but today, I realized it had been almost 6 months since my last calibration.

I use an older Spyder Express  model from Datacolor. It's very easy to use and I've heard good things about their competitors too. No matter which brand or model you buy, you should have one on hand so you can calibrate your display at least four times a year.

When the calibration is complete, the software will show you some photos with a Before and After option. My display was rather cool and blue looking. It was off enough that it made me shudder thinking about all the photos I edited last month.

While I go back and review my photo library you shouldn't wait any longer. It only takes a few minutes. Go calibrate your display today!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nikon D90 Auto Bracketing

Earlier this year I was on a four day photo workshop learning how to shoot waterfalls.

A lot of the photographers were bracketing their photos and they made it look so easy! They'd press the shutter release and the camera would bang out 3 or more shots in less than a second.

My Nikon D90 wasn't playing so nice. I spent half an hour looking for the bracket option in the camera menu before I found it, a button labeled [BKT], on the left side of the camera next to the lens.

Pressing the button doesn't turn on bracketing but, it does display 0F followed by a number between 0.5 and 2.0. Rotate the back command dial to change 0F (off or 0 frames) to -2F (2 frames under exposed), +2F (2 frames over exposed) or 3F (3 frames, one under, one over and one normally exposed). Rotate back to 0F to turn bracketing off.

Next, while still holding the [BKT] button, rotate the front command dial to change the second numbers from 0.5 to 2.0. This changes the amount of over or under exposure from half a stop to two stops.

Finally, if you want to fire off all the shots with one press of the shutter button - it took me the longest to figure this tip out - change the shutter mode from single shot [S] to high speed [H] or low speed [L] continuous shooting. Sounds pretty simple now but, it took me a couple of months to figure this out :)

What if you want to use the self timer to take all three bracket shots? That's pretty simple too. Go into the menu, locate option c3, Self Timer and change the number of shots to 3. Finally, change the shooting mode dial to display both the timer and the low [L] speed continuous shooting mode. When the shutter is pressed the timer will count down and take all 3 shots.

Neat, huh?!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scanning Negatives and Slides

I bought a Nikon Coolscan to scan slides like this one from my grandfather's photo collection. That's him about 1955 standing on his rig.

I had 200 slides to scan and it took me about a year. It was fun and I turned the old photos into a book.

Now, I'm looking at my old negatives. I have 2000 images on 35mm color negatives taken between 1985 and 2002.

I've been hearing a lot about a company called ScanCafe. They accept your film, scan it for you and allow you to pick and pay for only the photos you want to keep. However, you have to pick at least 50% of the ones you ship in to them.

How much does it cost? 2000 photos at $.29/each - a special summer price through August 31st - would cost $580 if I keep all 2000 images. If I select 50% then the price drops to $290. By using the code FOCUS at checkout then I get a 20% savings on my order - courtesy of Scott Bourne and the Photofocus podcast - then the price of my order drops to $232. I have to add in shipping so the final cost works out to $.25 per scanned image.

If I scanned an image myself it'd take about an hour from start to final corrected finish. An hour of my time or $.25 per image? Definitely - I'm paying the $.25/each!

I'll let you know in September how it worked out.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Project 365

I just finished my first photography project. It's called Project 365 and the only requirement is that I take at least one photo a day.

I thought this would be a great project to do for two reasons. The first was to learn how to use all the controls on my brand new Digital SLR.

I took about 6500 photos over the past year to get my one a day and you can't press the shutter that many times without figuring out a thing or two about how the camera works. Here's a short list of my favorite lessons:

  • Manual Mode and Manual Focus - I no longer struggle with figuring out how the triangle of settings - Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO - to get a good photo because...
  • Histogram - I learned a lot about the histogram and how to use it. When I started the project I never bothered to look at it. Towards the end of the project I began to realize many of my photos were too dark. Using the histogram I learned to use....
  • Exposure Compensation - The little button on the camera that looks like this [+/-]. If your photo is too dark then you want to increase [+] the exposure. If it's too bright then use [-] exposure compensation. It sure sounds simple to me know but, it's not a button I ever touched when I started.
  • Back Button Focus - I heard about this on a few podcasts and thought I'd give it a try. On my Nikon D90 camera the menu setting is called AF-ON and it causes the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of the camera to become the focus button. Press this button with your thumb to focus on the subject then use your index finger to fire the shutter whenever you're ready to go. Most of the podcasters must use Canon cameras because they leave out one important tip for Nikon users - change the autofocus [AF] mode to AF-C. The AF-A and AF-S settings will lock the shutter unless the camera has determined the subject is in focus. Changing to AF-C will prevent the camera from locking the shutter button allowing you to press the focus with your thumb and let go. Whenever you're ready to take the picture then press the shutter with your index finger. The camera will fire whether it thinks your subject is in focus or not.
  • Tripod - I started the project with a cheap, small and rather flimsy tripod. I took a photo workshop to learn how to take photos of waterfalls. I learned pretty quickly that I needed a strong and sturdy tripod to get those sharp photos.
  • Off-Camera Flash - I don't own an off-camera flash yet but, boy did I learn why I need one. That'll become a future purchase though because I bought a sturdy tripod first!
The second reason I did this Project 365 was to become a better visual artist. My left brain so dominates the right that I struggle to do anything creative and that became the hardest part of doing this project - coming up something new, interesting and/or creative every day of the year. I think I'm a little bit better at the end of the year than I was when I started but, I didn't make any great leaps. Here's a short list of things I learned (or still need to learn) along the way:
  • Zoom In - I used the word zoom but I didn't use a zoom lens during my project so I had to zoom in with my feet by walking closer. Anyway, zoom in to the subject. Focus on what's important in the photograph and get rid of everything else. It rolls so easy off my fingertips as I type it but, it hasn't yet sunk into my photographic brain yet.
  • Negative Space - The subject is the positive space within the photographic frame. Everything else is negative space. I still struggle with this one too. All too often I take a great photo of a subject only to notice later that a branch, telephone pole or some other object is totally distracting. I wasn't paying attention to the negative space.
  • Light - Learning to see light and shadows, textures, warm red light, cold blue light, harsh light, dull, boring light. One more thing on my list of things I still need to learn!
Wow, what a year. At times the project was tough but, worth it. Nothing like forcing yourself to grow whether you want to or not!