Sunday, May 6, 2018

Shooting food is easy but there are rules

There is a photog that I follow on Facebook who is possibly the best wildlife photographer in Ontario. He is amazing.

Yet, when he shoots food, his pictures wilt. The images are often dark, the food poorly presented. His food pictures are not inviting. You don't long to sample the food shown.

If you are shooting food there are some simple things to watch for and often an image enhancement program is necessary to get the most from you images.

First, do not use straight on strobe. The light is ugly. Enough said.

Position your food near a large window to take advantage of the soft, even, available light. The window glass must not be tinted. You want clean colour. If there is a shadow, make sure it falls at the bottom of a least toward the bottom. No horror movie lighting (lighting from the bottom) is used here.

My point-and-shoots do not shoot images with the same quality as the pro equipment that I used when working. My point-and-shoots blow-out highlights; the detail in the tart crust was gone (but not forgotten.)

I took this image into Photoshop and using Levels made sure the brightest tones were maxed out (255) but not to the extent that important detail was lost. I set the dark tones in a similar manner. I made sure I had a clean black somewhere in the image. This gives your image excellent contrast. Make sure you don't go too far. You don't want too much contrast.

In Curves I brightened the entire image and I burned the edges of the image as I would have done in a wet darkroom in the past. There was a hint of a green cast in the image. I removed this in Curves, as well. I saturated the colours a little, a setting of 8 as I recall, and finally I used Unsharp Mask to gently sharpen the image (16-.8-3).

Oh, I also made sure the cooling rack bars were parallel to the edge of the image using select all, transform and skew. It didn't take much. It didn't result in the tart being distorted. You don't want to make huge changes using skew but your image can be tweeked quite successfully if you are careful.

Photoshop is not the only program I've used to pull-off this magic. I've also used ACDSee and may at some point switch over to this Photoshop competitor. Photoshop is simply too expensive. When my computer will no longer run my version, I will look at ACDSee -- or maybe GIMP. It's free!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How to get a good picture? Luck and a handy camera.

We don't get a lot of red foxes in our backyard. To be at the window at the moment one is sighted in the yard takes luck.

We don't always have a camera handy but when the fox showed up, a camera was sitting right there. More luck.

I zoomed the lens on the Fuji HS10, stood still at the window and began tracking the fox. It strolled into the open. I got the picture. And that took luck.

All too often, the importance of luck is overlooked in photography. Being there, and of course, being ready, are so very important when it comes to getting a picture.

Now, if only I had better equipment. Ah, that takes money.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

As one gets older, one's shooting stance changes

When shooting children, the working rule is to get down to their level.
Soon I'll be 71. Ouch. My back doesn't bend as it once did, nor do my knees. I find myself shooting pictures standing up that I once would have knelt down to shoot.

With today's point and shoot cameras, one can hold the camera at waist level or lower and view the image on the screen filling the camera back.

It is not a perfect way of working but it is damn good. And it beats shooting down on little kids and totally missing including their faces in the pictures.

If you think about what you are shooting and have formed a clear idea about what you are trying to capture, you are well on your way to getting a fine picture.

Isla, my granddaughter, is a drama queen. Everything she does, she does with flare. It was clear I had to capture the magician's pose as Isla waved her wand and created long, tubular balloons.

This was not my first shot. It took a number of tries as the camera shutter was slow to fire. It is a hurry-up-and-wait camera from Canon. Isla, being three, was quick. I had to squeeze the shutter release as she just started sweeping her hand in front of her body. As it was late afternoon, there was enough light to force the camera to choose a fast shutter speed.

I know it is no longer cool but I still like to burn my edges - sometimes I burn too much. I may have gone a little far here, but I like it. And it even though I do this electronically using Photoshop, it brings back memories of the wet darkroom and working side by side with the other photographers at the newspaper where I once worked.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Are you a cook as well as a photographer? Take pictures of dinner.

I am learning to cook. At the age of 70 I am making dinner not only for myself but for my wife. And she is liking my cooking. I guess I can read and follow instructions well.

Shooting food is not all that difficult. First, use window light. It is clean and often soft but directional. Perfect. And serve your meals on dinnerware that looks good. No chipped dishes. No cheap, scratched plastic plates.

Keep your images simple. Simple means quick and quick means fresh, as in fresh from the oven. Food looks best when still warm. Gummy not only tastes poor but often cold and gummy does not photography well either.

One warning. Light usually comes from above. This means shadows usually fall below object. Place your meal to be photographed, with what will become the top of your picture, such that the top is closest to the window. This will give your images a naturally lit by the sun look.

And don't be afraid of trying different angles and different lenses. I tend to favour slightly long lenses like 85mm or 105mm shot from above but wide angles like a 35mm shot from a low angle can work as well.

Good luck and good dining.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Someone's listening. Who? My granddaughter.

I started this blog simply to encourage folk to spend a little time thinking about their photography. Cameras may be point-and-shoot but people don't need to be: Think and then point-and-shoot is a better approach.

One thing I've harped on while writing this blog is light and its quality. Is the light harsh, is it soft, is it clean or is it tainted with colour? Old fashioned tungsten bulbs, for instance, give pictures a yellow cast or even a reddish-orange look. Some modern lights are nicely colour balanced. When in doubt, consider shooting your pictures without the electric room lights. Turn the lights off.

Today my three-year-old granddaughter, Isla, got out a book with instructions on how to draw simple animals pictures. The book is aimed at young children. Isla loves the book and was soon drawing cats. The one she did of the cat on a pillow was especially good for a child her age. I got my camera. I needed to record this.

Isla told me to "hold it" and "wait." She ran over to the kitchen light switch and turned off the overhead pot lights. There was a lot of light pouring into the room through the large, kitchen window overlooking our backyard. "This will make the colour better," Isla told me. She turned toward the window and posed. The moment I saw the image on the back of the camera I knew she was right.

The little kid follows instructions well. Hey, one only has to look at her drawing of a cat on a pillow to know that. And clearly she's been listening and watching as I take pictures. Although, I am a little embarrassed that it was my granddaughter and not me who turned off the overhead pot lights.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Daylight LEDs deliver bright, clean light

I don't like this picture. It's too clear these kids know they are having their picture taken. It is almost a posed picture. Ugh. That said, it does capture their personalities: childishly goofy and pleasantly funny.

So, why am I posting this. What is there to see here? Anything? Or should we simply move on.

What's to see is the gorgeous lighting. The child on the right is perfect. And the light is amazingly clean. Look at the white of the sink. It is white. Not yellow. Not green. It's white.

The lesson here is that today's daylight LEDs really do closely match the colour temperature of daylight. This is good to know. Why? Because bright, clean light can make a picture sparkle. Shot with straight-on strobe, the amateur goto indoor light, this image would be flat and fall flat.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Better cameras do take better pictures

Shot with an aging Canon PowerShot S90.
When I started this blog, I hoped to encourage readers stumbling upon my blog to take more pictures. I tried to spread excitement with photography and to make people understand that their point and shoot cameras did not doom them to shooting poor images.

Gradually, I have had to admit that you can take good pictures with inexpensive equipment but it does limit both your creativity and the quality of your images.

In other words, if you can afford a digital SLR camera with a few interchangeable lenses, go for it. Bite the bullet and buy the stuff. And read the instruction book that comes with the camera. it will be filled with good suggestions. The camera maker wants you to be successful. If you are, you will buy more equipment.

I like my image of my 3-year-old granddaughter reacting to her winning of a computer game. It was a bit tough for the little girl as she was using an old notebook computer and not an iPad. She had to coordinate the use of a touch pad with the simultaneous pressing of a mouse below the pad.

Shot with an old Fuji FinePix HS10.
A faster shutter speed would have been wonderful. My camera couldn't manage it. If I had had an aperture setting of f/1.4 available, I'd have had a sharper image. The f/stops control the amount of light entering a camera through the lens. Most point and shoot do not let in all that much light. That's why these cameras are always pumping out bursts of light from their on board electronic flashes. The quick, short flashes freeze the action but they do so by using a truly ugly light.

When I shot the images of my 7-year-old granddaughter moving up to the orange belt level at her karate class, I was forced to shoot moments that did not contain a lot of action. The actual testing offered a lot of opportunities for capturing some fine images but my camera failed to nail even one. The action unfolded simply far too fast.

My advice. If you can't afford a great camera, don't sweat it. But if you can, move up to something better, do it. Before buying, read a good photography book. Your local library is a good source.

Another shot from an old Fuji FinePix HS10. Background blurred in Photoshop.