Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shoot available

When I first got into the photojournalism game, my boss accompanied me on my first assignment to show me the ropes. Seems a little boy had found an injured squirrel and had nursed it back to health. The paper wanted a picture of the kid with his somewhat wild pet.

When we got to the home the little guy was quite excited and ran for his squirrel. With the squirrel perched on his arm, the little boy waited impatiently to have his picture taken. I shot a few available light shots with my Pentax Spotmatic to kill time as my boss set up two lights. He insisted on the highest quality for the images destined for the paper. Always use two lights, he said, and a 120 Rolleiflex camera.

As he worked the little boy's smile sagged and the squirrel began getting antsy.

With everything in place, my boss started the shoot. Snap! WHOOMP! The two flashes fired. The little boy closed his eyes and the squirrel headed for a place unknown, not to be seen again, at least not until after we left.

When we got back to the paper, my boss's one and only picture, shall we say, sucked --- big time. My available light picture ran in the paper. I never touched the Rolleiflex and I rarely used two lights. One of the other photographer taught me to use bounce flash instead.

Today, I still try to shoot available as much as possible. Today's picture was shot at f/2.5, at 1/80th second at an ISO of 640 with my Canon S90 set to Lowlight automatic.

There is a large window behind me. That's important. Set the scene such that it unfolds where there is ample light. Don't make the shoot any harder than it needs to be. Think light, think time of day, think location and then sit back, camera in hand, and let serendipity take over.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Photoshop: a fast fix

Credit: Photo Illustration by Rockinon
I do a little reporting for an online citizen-reporter driven newspaper called the Digital Journal. Writing for DJ is good practice for someone who's still thinks he may someday be a reporter/photographer.

Today I was asked to write a piece on a report by an influential research group. The report recommended opening the Canadian telecom industry to foreign investment. My story, Canada's telecom industry needs foreign participation, needed some art and it had to be ready in minutes.

I took my cell phone, turned it off and on so that the Bell name was momentarily displayed, and took two quick pictures. The exposure setting for the first picture captured the cell phone screen and the Bell name. The second exposure overexposed the screen but captured a fair picture of the cell phone itself.

I took the two images into Photoshop and selected the screen showing the Bell name from the one image and pasted it on top of the second image. In levels I viewed both layers but only activated the one with the screen and the Bell name. Using skew I distorted the screen to overlap the blank screen in the second image. The handles are found in each corner of the selection. When I was happy with the results, they weren't perfect but they would do to illustrate a news article, I merged the layers and saved the image.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to improve your pictures: Cheat!

Mallard duck shot with a Fuji FinePix HS10 set to emulate Fujichrome.
Remember memory colours? Green grass, blue sky, flesh-tones, these are all known as memory colours. For years film manufacturers all had their own ideas on how our memories remembered these colours. When film became history, replaced by digital chips, memory colours were reworked. Today some cameras will even allow you to emulate famous films from the past.

So, if we are all in agreement that accurate-when-compared-to-reality colour is not what any of our cameras --- film or digital --- give us, are we not free to fudge our colour accuracy a little? And if you're shooting for yourself, hey, why not match the colours to your memory?

I love to punch up my highlights and anchor my pictures with a solid dark tone base. I love to smack 'em with some saturation and finally whack 'em with some sharpening. If I were submitting these images to someone for publication, I'd refrain from the above. But I am not, and so I do.

Note, the colours in today's picture. Now, those colours are the way I remember them.