Week 12

Settings: f/5.6, 1/50 second, ISO 100, 50mm prime

Set up. I poured boiling water from the kettle into a glass mixing bowl which I then covered, tightly with cling film. I placed the bowl on a piece of pink card & used an external flash (set to 1/128 power) on its side next to the bowl. The camera was on a tripod looking vertically down (I placed my hand over the camera’s flash to prevent it reflecting in the water).

Opinions. Even though the condensation droplets are facing down into the bowl, in the image they appear to be sitting on a flat surface. I had experimented with a coloured bowl, different angles of view & alternative back grounds before this shot but much prefer this end result with a simple piece of coloured card photographed from vertically above. The colour really brings the image to life.

Panoramic cheat sheet

  1. Level the tripod (use the bullseye bubble if your tripod has one).
  2. Set the white balance, don’t use AWB.
  3. Take the polariser off the lens if you have one fitted.
  4. Take a picture of an average part of the scene, not too dark or too light. If the histogram looks OK, set that exposure in “manual” mode (shutter speed, aperture & ISO).
  5. Start shooting with a 30-40% overlap.

Panoramic shots work best if you avoid moving objects (eg. clouds, running water, people etc.)

Night photography cheat sheet

  1. Tripod is a must. Don’t touch the camera (use time delay or remote trigger).
  2. Shoot in RAW.
  3. Manual mode.
  4. Use the lens sweet spot (f/16 on my 18-55mm).
  5. ISO 100
  6. Which white balance? “Cloudy” produces warmer results but you can change later if shooting in RAW.
  7. Switch “Image stabilizer” off.
  8. Use “Auto focus” on the part of the scene you want sharp (shine a torch onto this point so the camera can lock onto it) then switch to “Manual focus” (the focus won’t change).
  9. Mirror lock.
  10. Be aware that battery power is reduced in cold weather.

Week 11

Settings: f/4.5, 1/50 second, ISO 100, 50mm prime

Set up. I took a few of my wife’s freshly baked blueberry seeded muffins & arranged them on a plate. I placed this on a table near the kitchen window, with a large, white dinner plate held on the opposite side to reflect some of the light back (it was an overcast day & so I didn’t need to diffuse the sunlight coming through the window). With the camera on a tripod I selected AV mode & set a large aperture in order to obtain a narrow depth of field. I also focused the shot manually & set white balance to “auto”. Finally, after checking the histogram for any exposure problems, I dialled it up by two-thirds to compensate for any clipping.

Opinion. I have to confess, food photography was not high on my list of styles to attempt when I began this project back in early January. However, I am quite pleased with the result. I think I was fortunate with the lighting conditions provided by mother nature on the day. A couple of tips I picked up while searching the internet beforehand definitely paid off too (namely, to use a wider aperture to focus on what’s important & to reflect some of the window light back onto the subject). Then it was just a matter of composition (I’d started shooting from a higher vantage point but found more pleasing results when I got lower down).

Selective colouring

Lavender selective colour
Lavender selective colour

Selective colouring refers to the technique of having a single colour appear in an otherwise black & white photo.

To achieve this, duplicate the background layer (Ctrl + J) & make it black & white. Add a layer mask to this new b&w layer. Select a suitable brush size & paint back in whatever colour you want (make sure the foreground colour is set to black). If you make a mistake just switch the foreground to white & paint the b&w back in (you can press “X” as a shortcut). Don’t forget to zoom in to make the colouring as accurate as possible.

(Hint: ” [ ” makes brush smaller; ” ] ” makes it bigger).

Remove unwanted items

To remove any unwanted items from an image, go to the “Enhance” panel on the left of the screen & click on the icon that looks like a plaster (or band aid), the spot healing tool. Now on the bottom menu (click “Tool options” if it’s not open) click on “content aware”. The letter “J” is a shortcut to get here. Now drag your mouse over the object to be removed. Do it in small increments, especially over areas which have a big difference in light & dark sections (eg. a cloudy sky) as covering a large portion at one time can produce a very fake looking end result.

“Proximity match” works very similar to the “content aware” tool.

Often the smaller the brush size, the better the results because the computer is taking a smaller sample to make the adjustments.

Week 10

Settings: f/5.6, 1/1250 second, ISO 400

Set up. This is one of the first photographs I took with my new DSLR camera. I was on a day out at Tatton Park, experimenting with depth of field in AV mode.

Opinion. I set myself the challenge of working out how to do selective colouring on a black & white photo this week & thought this image was a good starting point. Originally I’d considered highlighting all the lavender in the foreground but then chose to only bring out the colour in one of the flowers & crop the photo a little closer to make it stand out. I think the overall effect is quite good although it would have more impact if the colour was brighter (eg. a red or yellow) as this would show up better against the dark background.

Week 9

Settings. f/6.3, 1/15 second, ISO 3200, focal length 43mm

Set up. Stick a bunch of musicians in a recording studio & take some photographs!

Opinion. I operated the camera in ‘manual’ mode for this shoot & struggled initially with the settings. It was quite dark in the studio & the only way I could obtain reasonably light images while operating the camera hand-held, was to increase the ISO. I tried a couple allowing the flash to fire but it produced images which were far too bright.

Post production work consisted of increasing the contrast, converting the image to black & white, a little dodge & burn then finally some selective sharpening.

The above image is slightly grainy (due to the high ISO) but I think it captures the moment well so I’m quite happy with it. After all, isn’t that what photographs are supposed to do, capture a split second in time in order to help us relive our past?

A soft focus version
A soft focus version

Sharpening

Most digital images require a degree of sharpening in order to look their best. Here are a few tips on how to go about it (& things to avoid too).

Shooting in raw gives you the maximum amount of control over sharpening (so do it!) However, you don’t want to apply the same levels of sharpening to every image, take their content into consideration. For example, if the image has strong edges & bold contrast, adding too much sharpening may lead to halos appearing around objects which will make them look unnatural. Also bear in mind, you’re obviously looking for a balance but in general, under-sharpening is more acceptable than over-sharpening as the latter can create images which look too doctored.

Editing software, such as Photoshop Elements, provides you with three controls for sharpening:

  1. Radius. The radius is used to set the size of the edges you want to enhance. It should be varied according to the detail in your subject. As a rough guide 0.6 is a good starting point & it should rarely go as high as 3.
  2. Amount. This is the strength of the sharpening treatment (100% is a good point to begin).
  3. Threshold. Threshold controls the minimum brightness difference that an edge has to have for the sharpening to be applied. For instance, high values will only apply sharpening to strong (high contrast) edges. If your image has lots of fine detail, a low value is required.

When you’re applying the sharpening it’s often a good idea to view the image at 100%. This way you can focus on the important details. Having said that, don’t forget to view the whole picture at some stage & check for strong edges becoming too bold or developing halos.

Don’t confuse noise with detail. Noise can be a problem in areas of uniform tone (eg. skies) so be careful not to make it more noticeable than it already may be.

How to sharpen selectively. An easy way to sharpen selectively (& thus, ensure those parts of your image which require sharpening get your attention) is to use a layer specifically for this purpose. At the end of your post processing flatten the image & then duplicate it. Now add a fairly strong sharpening treatment to it. Create a layer mask & invert it (Ctrl + I) to hide the effect of the sharpening (the mask icon should turn from white to black after being inverted). Next use a white brush to apply the sharpening where you want it. You can vary the opacity to control the visibility of the sharpening effect.