Project 52

With the Christmas holiday’s drawing to a close & 2015 increasingly near, many people’s thoughts turn towards New Year’s resolutions. I have to confess, I am not usually that type of person. Don’t get me wrong, I think goals are a good thing but if I feel I need to accomplish something I’ll start it as soon as possible. “No time like the present” as the saying goes. Why should we put it off until the beginning of a new year? Maybe because that way it’s easier to know when we started & hence, keep a record of how long we’ve been doing our new activity?

With this latter thought in mind I’ve decided to start my own “Project 52”. I’m sure you’re all aware of the “365 Project” where you have to take a photograph everyday for a year. However, as Clint Eastwood once said “A man’s got to know his limitations” & I know this isn’t a realistic challenge for me at the moment. Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius, to work out my plan. I aim to take a photo a week either trying a different  photographic style or, trying my hand at a new Photoshop technique. Hopefully the longer gap in between each picture will allow me to spend a little more time thinking about the shoot or working on the post shoot editing (in the case of creating a composite, for example,which I’d like to try my hand at).

So a happy new year to you all (for tomorrow night) & here I go!

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Histograms

Histograms are used to determine whether a picture is over- or underexposed but should not replace looking at your image on the LCD after shooting. They merely provide additional information. Sometimes it is hard to tell from the preview image if certain areas are too bright or slightly too dark, the histogram should help in these instances.

The histogram plots brightness (darkest on the left, brightest on the right-hand side of the x-axis). There is NO ‘ideal’ shape to the graph. Some shots will naturally produce more brighter tones than others (eg. shooting a model in a studio with a white backdrop) & visa versa. However, to get the best tonal range the histogram should be vaguely bell-shaped.

In digital processing, overexposure is difficult to correct at the editing stage. Therefore, with high contrast subjects it is better to have an image that is stacked to the left as it’s possible to recover underexposed areas within image manipulation software (eg. Photoshop).

White balance

White balance (or WB) is necessary in digital cameras because light doesn’t just vary in brightness but also in ‘colour temperature’. The human eye naturally adjusts for this (making a sheet of white paper appear white no matter what the lighting conditions) but the camera requires WB to compensate for these different conditions. Generally the Auto White Balance (AWB) setting does a good job in getting the colour correct in your photos but like many automatic settings, is not foolproof. Also, the AWB only operates between a confined range of colour temperatures (3000 – 7000 Kelvins). It may struggle for example, taking a picture of a floodlit building or, on a foggy day.

Your DSLR has a number of presets designed for specific light sources to try to help you:

Tungsten (normal light bulb) 3200K

White fluorescent 4000K

Daylight 5200K

Flash 5900K

Cloudy 6000K

Shady 7000K

For greater control of colour temperature use the Custom White Balance setting which provides a range from 2000 – 10000K. To do this take a picture with a piece of white paper in the centre of the frame. Press the Menu button & search for Custom White Balance, then press Set. The reference picture should be shown on the display. Press Set once more. Your new custom white balance is now created. Select the CWB option & take the actual shot.

If you shoot in RAW it is possible to alter the WB in the editing stage.

Getting the WB wrong on purpose can create some artistic shots. For example, set WB to “cloudy” with an outdoor subject lit with sunlight on a bright day & the picture will have a warmer tone (good for portraits or architecture). Sunsets can look more impressive with WB set to “shade” & landscapes obtain a moonlit look with a “tungsten” setting.

White balance tungsten
White balance “tungsten”
White balance cloudy
White balance “cloudy”