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Shoot Like a Pro!
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES
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About the Author
Photographer Julie Adair King is the author of several popular books about digital
photography and photo editing. Her most recent titles include Digital Photography For
Dummies, Photo Retouching and Restoration For Dummies, Easy Web Graphics, and
Adobe PhotoDeluxe For Dummies. A graduate of Purdue University, King established
her own company, Julie King Creative, in 1988, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Shoot Like a Pro!
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES
Julie Adair King
McGraw-Hill/Osborne
New York Chicago San Francisco Lisbon London Madrid Mexico City
Milan New Delhi San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto
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McGraw-Hill/Osborne
2100 Powell Street, 10 Floor
Emeryville, California 94608
U.S.A.
th
To arrange bulk purchase discounts for sales promotions, premiums, or fund-raisers, please contact
McGraw-Hill/Osborne at the above address. For information on translations or book distributors
outside the U.S.A., please see the International Contact Information page immediately following the
index of this book.
Shoot Like a Pro! Digital Photography Techniques
Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of
America. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced
or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior
written permission of publisher, with the exception that the program listings may be entered, stored, and
executed in a computer system, but they may not be reproduced for publication.
Unless otherwise noted, photographs throughout the book appear courtesy of the Author, Julie Adair King.
Copyright © 2003.
1234567890 QPD QPD 019876543
ISBN 0-07-222949-7
Publisher
Brandon A. Nordin
Technical Editor
Alfred DeBat
Vice President &
Associate Publisher
Scott Rogers
Copy Editor
Lisa Theobald
Executive Acquisitions Editor
Jane K. Brownlow
Senior Project Editor
LeeAnn Pickrell
Proofreader
Marian Selig
Indexer
Karin Arrigoni
Illustrators
Lyssa Wald, Kathleen Edwards,
Melinda Lytle, Will Voss
Series Designer
Jean Butterfield
Cover Design
Pattie Lee, Jeff Weeks
Cover Photograph
© Albert Normandin/Masterfile
Acquisitions Coordinator
Tana Allen
This book was composed with Corel VENTURA™ Publisher.
Information has been obtained by McGraw-Hill/Osborne from sources believed to be reliable. However, because of the possibility of human
or mechanical error by our sources, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, or others, McGraw-Hill/Osborne does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or
completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or the results obtained from the use of such information.
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Contents at a Glance
I Gearing Up for Great Pictures
1 Getting the Right Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2 Exploring Creative Controls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3
25
II Discovering the Secrets of the Pros
3 Taking Memorable Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4 Exploring Product Photography and Other
5
6
7
8
Still-Life Adventures . . . . . . .
Capturing Close-ups . . . . . . .
Getting the Tough Shot: Low-Light
and Action Photography . . . . .
Creating Panoramic Images . . .
Manipulating Color . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
47
71
89
. . . . . . . . . . . . 105
. . . . . . . . . . . . 123
. . . . . . . . . . . . 139
III Printing and Sharing Your Photos
9 Becoming a Master Printer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
10 Putting Pictures on the Screen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
IV Appendixes
A Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
B Online Resources for Digital Photographers . . . . . . . 219
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
v
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Contents
Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I
xiii
xv
Gearing Up for Great Pictures
1 Getting the Right Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
How Much Camera Do You Need? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Manual Exposure Controls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Focal Length: With Digital, It’s Different . . . . . . . . .
Manual Focusing Mechanisms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Control Accessibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Traditional vs. Electronic Viewfinder . . . . . . . . . . . .
Filter and Converter Compatibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tripod Mount . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lighting Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Built-in Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Reflectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Auxiliary Flash Units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
”Hot” Lights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Setting Up the Digital Darkroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Computer Central: Is Your System Fit for Duty? . . .
Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4
4
5
7
8
8
9
11
11
11
12
13
15
17
18
21
2 Exploring Creative Controls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Image Resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Compression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
26
26
28
31
31
33
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Image File Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Exposure Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ISO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Flash Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Focus Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
White Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommended Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Features to Ignore (or Turn Off) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creative Scene Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Correction and Color Filters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Digital Zoom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
33
34
34
35
35
36
38
39
39
39
40
40
41
41
41
41
42
42
42
43
II Discovering the Secrets of the Pros
3 Taking Memorable Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Basics of Digital Portrait Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Composing for Traditional Frame Sizes . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing Aperture and Shutter Speed . . . . . . . . . . .
Taking Advantage of Portrait Mode . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Finding a Flattering Camera Angle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Avoiding Focal Length and Distance Distortions . . . . . . . .
Casual Indoor Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Boosting Exposure Through EV Compensation . . . .
Adding Reflected Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Quick-Snap Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Professional Head Shots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Outdoor Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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4 Exploring Product Photography and Other
Still-Life Adventures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Creating a Still-Life Staging Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing a Backdrop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Avoiding Moiré Patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Taming Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using a Polarizer to Reduce Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Photographing Glass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shooting Framed Art Under Glass . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Photographing Art Glass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shooting Architectural Subjects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
72
73
74
76
79
82
82
83
84
5 Capturing Close-ups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Zooming vs. Moving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Snubbing Digital Zoom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tweaking Camera Settings for Close-up Work . . . . . . . . .
Choosing Resolution and Compression . . . . . . . . . .
Focusing at Close Distances . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Previewing Your Shots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sharpening Without Sandpaper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lighting at Close Range . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Exploring Macro Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
90
92
93
93
93
95
95
99
101
6 Getting the Tough Shot: Low-Light
and Action Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Helping Your Camera Cut Through Darkness . . . . . . . . .
Adjusting Light Sensitivity (ISO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shooting Long Exposures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using Slow-Sync Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Capturing Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using Blur to Emphasize Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Freezing Action with a Fast Shutter . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Speeding Up Your Camera’s Response Time . . . . . . .
106
106
112
115
117
117
119
120
7 Creating Panoramic Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Setting Up for Panoramic Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rotating Around the Nodal Point . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shooting the Pieces of Your Panorama . . . . . . . . . . .
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Stitching Your Panorama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stitching Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Preparing Your Images (and Computer) . . . . . . . . . .
Stitching the Seams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing a Panorama Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
134
134
136
137
138
8 Manipulating Color . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Tweaking Colors with White Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Warming Image Colors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Making Gray Skies Blue: Using a Polarizing Filter . . . . . .
Strengthening Saturation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Converting from Color to Black-and-White . . . . . . . . . . .
Creating Color Effects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
140
142
144
149
151
156
III Printing and Sharing Your Photos
9 Becoming a Master Printer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
Buying Your Next Photo Printer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Picking a Printer Type: Inkjet, Dye-Sub, or Laser? . .
Sorting Through Printer Specs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Inkjet Printing for the Long Haul: Archival Solutions . . . .
Preparing Your Picture for Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Balancing Output Resolution, Print Size,
and Photo Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Adjusting Output Resolution by Resampling . . . . . .
Choosing Printer Properties and Other Printing Tips . . . .
Solving Color-Matching Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Understanding the Limits of Color Matching . . . . . .
Calibrating and Profiling Your Monitor . . . . . . . . . .
Fine-Tuning Printer and Monitor Colors . . . . . . . . .
Diving into Color Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Printing Black-and-White Inkjet Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Working with a Lab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
162
162
165
168
169
170
171
174
174
175
175
178
179
182
183
10 Putting Pictures on the Screen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
Setting the Image Display Size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Screen Pictures and ppi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
How Screen Resolution Affects Display Size . . . . . . .
Establishing the Image Display Size . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Saving Your Image in a Screen File Format . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using JPEG Wisely . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Creating a JPEG Copy of Your Photo . . . . . . . . . . . .
256-Color Grayscales: GIF or JPEG? . . . . . . . . . . . .
Exploring New Ways to Share Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Online Photo Albums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Web-Based Image Galleries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Multimedia Slide Shows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Camera to TV Displays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
193
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200
201
201
201
202
204
IV Appendixes
A Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
B Online Resources for Digital
Photographers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
Additional Resources
............................
221
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
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Acknowledgments
I am deeply indebted to many people who helped make this book a reality,
starting with Jane Brownlow, Tana Allen, LeeAnn Pickrell, Lisa Theobald,
Dodie Shoemaker, Jean Butterfield, Lyssa Wald, and everyone else at
McGraw-Hill/Osborne who lent their talents to the project. I also want to
express my thanks to my wonderful agent, Danielle Jatlow, for everything
she does on my behalf, and to Will Voss for bringing his design skills to the
color insert.
In addition, I was blessed to have photography guru Alfred DeBat on board
as technical editor. Al, your generosity in sharing your knowledge is truly
appreciated.
I’m also grateful to all the companies that provided information and product
loans for this book, especially the following:
ACDSystems
Canon USA
Fuji Photo Film
Minolta
Nikon
Adobe Systems
Cokin
Hewlett-Packard
Monaco Systems
Olympus America
Bogen Photo/Manfrotto
Epson America
Lowel
nik multimedia
Tiffen
Last, but absolutely not least, a huge thank you to the people who let me
photograph them for this book: Terry and Mary Beth Ingram; Barbara and
Dale King; Lana, Lisa, and Newton Kinney; Betsy Kranz; and Laura and
Brandon Wright. I love you all for being such good sports—not to mention
the immeasurable other ways you make my world a little brighter.
xiii
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Introduction
As someone who writes photography books, I often get calls from friends
and colleagues who are unhappy with their current cameras and want me to
recommend something that “takes better pictures.” Nine times out of ten,
further discussion reveals that a new camera isn’t the answer. All most people
need to turn out terrific photos is simply a little technical guidance and some
help with their photographic technique.
To get good results from a digital camera, you need to understand traditional
photography controls, such as exposure and focus options. That’s only half
the story, however. You also have to master digital-only features such as white
balance, resolution, and image file formats.
Professional photographers go to school for years to study these subjects and
refine their craft. Just because you have neither the time nor the inclination
to get a degree in photography doesn’t mean that you, too, can’t take
professional-looking pictures, however. With this book, you can get stellar
results from your digital camera without setting foot inside a classroom.
Shoot Like a Pro! Digital Photography Techniques condenses the most important
lessons of photography school into one, easy-to-digest package. You’ll not only
get the information you need to decipher the jargon associated with digital
photography, but also learn techniques that enable you to take full advantage
of all the creative controls your camera offers.
Each chapter shows you secrets that the pros use every day to get perfect
pictures, no matter how challenging the subject. Whatever you want to do
with your digital camera, from taking product shots for your business to
capturing a family celebration, this book will help you look like a pro.
xv
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Shoot Like a Pro!
Better Photography:
It’s Easier (and Cheaper) Than You Think
If you’re just beginning to explore photography or if you’re new to the digital side of
things—or both—you may be intimidated by all the new lingo that you encounter. Thumb
through the color insert in this book, for example, and you’ll probably see at least a few
terms that are completely foreign to you.
Unfortunately, both the photography and computer industries are infatuated with
technical jargon. Bring the two together, and you get twice the technospeak. As a result,
concepts that are actually quite simple seem incredibly complex. Rest assured that you
don’t need photography or computer experience to successfully use the techniques featured
in this book. I’ll give you all the background information you need to understand each
concept.
Nor do you need expensive, studio-level equipment. Some techniques that I discuss do
involve features that aren’t found on low-cost, entry-level digital cameras—things like
manual exposure control, for example. Don’t fret if your camera doesn’t offer all the
bells and whistles; I’ll show you ways to achieve similar results with even a basic, fully
automatic camera.
As for the techniques themselves, I’ve concentrated on tricks that make a big impact
without being complicated. In fact, most people are surprised to find out just how easily
they can improve their pictures by incorporating these techniques into their shooting
routine. I think you will be, too.
Pixels to Portraits to Panoramas:
All You Need to Know
This book emphasizes simple, practical ways to get pro-quality results with your digital
camera. Among other things, you’ll find out how to
• Take better advantage of all the options on your digital camera—from resolution
to ISO to exposure metering mode.
• Shoot flattering formal portraits and memorable family snapshots.
• Take dynamic product shots for your company’s ads or web site.
• Exploit your camera’s macro-focusing capabilities to capture the intricate details
of a subject.
• Create seamless wide-format panoramas and 360-degree virtual reality images.
• Manipulate colors using traditional and digital filters.
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• Solve common photo problems, such as eliminating reflections in glass objects,
wiping out red-eye, and working in dim lighting.
• Produce stunning, long-lasting prints of your favorite pictures.
• Prepare image files for use on the web or in a multimedia presentation.
Along the way, I’ll introduce you to camera accessories that can enhance your
photography as well as computer hardware and software that make photo retouching
and file management a breeze. Most of these products are very affordable—you may
even be able to find a no-cost solution just by looking around your home or office.
A few products, such as tripod heads for shooting panoramas and special macro flash
units, are on the expensive side. But if you specialize in the type of projects that call for
these accessories, you’ll find that they’ll quickly pay for themselves by saving you time
and frustration.
Margin Icons, Featured Software,
and Other Details
To help you quickly locate the information that’s of most interest to you, this book uses
little graphics—known as icons in tech talk. Here’s your icon decoder ring:
• Pro Tip
This icon highlights a trick that professionals use to achieve a particular
creative goal more easily.
• Cost-cutter
Look to paragraphs marked with this icon for tips on ways to stretch
your photography budget.
• Cool Tools
This label points you toward camera features and accessories that I
find especially useful, fun, or both.
• Troubleshooter
Information marked with this icon has two purposes: to help
you avoid problems in the future and to help you get out of jams that you didn’t
see coming.
• Technical Aside
This icon flags background details that give you a better
understanding of a technical issue or term.
• How To
Sections that carry the How-To logo walk you step-by-step through
a digital-darkroom process, such as removing red-eye and setting the print
dimensions for a picture.
Speaking of the How-To sections, you’ll notice that they all feature one particular
software product, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0. I selected this software because it’s
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reasonably priced (under $100), offers all the tools most digital photographers need, and is
available for both Macintosh and Windows-based computers. Moreover, you can download
a trial copy from the Adobe web site (www.adobe.com) for free.
If you use Photoshop Elements 1.0 or Adobe Photoshop, you’ll find that most
instructions mesh with your software exactly. You can easily adapt the steps in the
How-To sections to other programs as well.
One final bit of instruction about the instructions: This book uses a vertical line
to indicate a chain of menu commands. For example, when you see the instruction
“Choose File | Print,” click File on the menu bar (at the top of the program window)
to open the File menu. Then click the Print command on that menu.
Experiment, Be Patient, and Enjoy!
As I mentioned earlier, you may feel a little overwhelmed when you first start exploring
this book. Instead of trying to absorb everything all at once, try incorporating one new
technique each time you use your camera. The best way to improve your photography
technique is bit by bit, just as you would learn any other skill. To make the learning
process more fun, practice with subjects you enjoy, whether that’s the great outdoors,
a family member or pet, or downtown streets.
Remember that with your digital camera, experimentation is free. If you don’t like
the outcome of a shot, just delete the image and try again. Before long, you won’t be
pressing that Delete button nearly so much. And for every picture that doesn’t turn
out, you’ll take ten that make you stop and say, “Wow, that’s a great picture!”
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PART I
Gearing Up for
Great Pictures
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1
Getting the Right Gear
You’ve probably heard the axiom, “It’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools.” The same can be
said for photographers. If a picture turns out
poorly, the fault rarely lies with the camera, contrary to what those of us who pursue photography
for a living would like to have you believe. In skilled
hands, a cheap point-and-shoot camera can turn
out images that are every bit as captivating as
those that come from a studio camera costing
thousands of dollars.
That said, having equipment that’s geared to the
type of photography you want to do makes a big
difference in how easily you can capture a scene. If
you need to shoot employee portraits for your
company’s annual report, for example, a camera
that accepts an external flash will cut down on the
number of pictures that you have to redo (or retouch) because of red-eye problems. And if you’re
passionate about wildlife photography, working
with a powerful zoom lens will enable you to get
close-up shots of skittish creatures without actually
having to be up close.
This chapter introduces you to some products
that can save you time, expand your creative options, and generally help you get better results. In
case your budget is limited—and whose isn’t?—
I’ve bypassed ultra-expensive, high-end studio tools
and instead focused on products that enhance your
photography at affordable prices.
3
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How Much Camera Do You Need?
My goal in writing this book is to show you how to get better results from any digital
camera, even an entry-level, fully automatic model. For every technique that features
an option found only on more advanced cameras, I try to present a workaround that
you can use if you own a simpler model.
There’s no denying, though, that cameras that offer advanced photographic options
enable you to fine-tune focus, exposure, and color with more precision than a basicfeatures camera. The good news is that if you feel limited by your current equipment,
there’s never been a better time to upgrade.
For less than $500, you can get a camera with all the features a photographic control
freak could want, with the exception of the ability to use interchangeable lenses. For that,
you need a digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, just as you do for film photography,
and you’ll have to pay $1000 and up for the camera body, plus more for the lenses. If
you’re in the market for a digital SLR, enjoy! If not, rest assured that lower priced
point-and- shoot models offer the same advanced imaging features found on an SLR,
just without the lens flexibility.
Before you start shopping, you may want to review Chapter 2, which discusses critical
digital-camera options and the best settings to use for a variety of photographic projects.
Having that background will give you a better idea of which features you want your new
camera to have and which ones you can live without.
I also want to bring to your attention a few issues that don’t occur to most people
when they’re shopping but play a big role in their long-term satisfaction with a camera.
The next few sections discuss these important and often overlooked factors.
Although I’ve done my best to keep the technical jargon to a minimum, you may
encounter some unfamiliar terms as you read this chapter. The glossary at the back
of the book provides a quick decoder if you need help; upcoming chapters explain
the important stuff in more detail.
Manual Exposure Controls
When you take a picture, three camera components affect exposure:
• Aperture
The aperture is an iris in the lens that can be adjusted in size to control
how much light enters through the lens. Aperture size is represented by f-numbers
and written with the letter f followed by a slash and the f-number—for example,
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f/2.8. The higher the f-number, the smaller the aperture size. The aperture settings
themselves are referred to as f-stops.
• Shutter speed
The shutter is like a window shade behind the camera lens. When
you take a picture, the shutter opens briefly to allow light to enter through the lens
and strike the camera’s image sensor. Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter
remains open. The slower the shutter speed, the more light the sensor soaks up.
• ISO rating
ISO ratings are used to indicate the light sensitivity of the image
sensor. The higher the ISO number, the greater the light sensitivity and the less
light is required to expose the image.
If you’re used to working with autoexposure cameras, you may not be aware that
being able to set aperture and shutter speed manually gives you creative control over
more than just how light or dark your picture appears. Aperture affects depth of field,
which is the range of distance in the picture that’s in sharp focus. Shutter speed
determines whether a moving subject appears frozen in time or blurred.
Advanced cameras offer you the option of working in either autoexposure (AE) mode,
in which the camera chooses the aperture size and shutter speed, or in manual mode, in
which you make these decisions. As an alternative, many cameras offer semiautomatic
modes called aperture-priority autoexposure and shutter-priority exposure. In these modes,
you set one control (aperture or shutter speed) and the camera selects the other.
Although you can sometimes persuade the autoexposure mechanism to select a
particular f-stop or shutter speed—upcoming chapters share the tricks you use to do
so—working with a camera that offers the option of manual exposure control makes
it easier for you to implement your creative decisions. At the least, your next camera
should offer one of the semi-automatic modes.
Focal Length: With Digital, It’s Different
When you compose a picture, your creative choices are in part controlled by the focal
length of the camera’s lens. Focal length, which is measured in millimeters, is the distance
between the optical center of the lens and the element that records the image—in a film
camera, the negative; in a digital camera, the image sensor.
Focal length affects the angle of view and the size at which your subjects appear. At
a short focal length, you can capture a wide area, but objects appear smaller and farther
away. At a long focal length, the opposite is true—you can capture a narrow area, and
objects appear larger and closer. As an example, see Figure 1.1. I took both pictures
from the same position, but I doubled the focal length for the second image.
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Experienced photographers
pay close attention to
focal length when camera
shopping because of the
impact of this feature.
Many people, though,
aren’t aware that you
can’t evaluate digital
camera focal lengths on
the same scale you use for
a traditional camera lens.
To explain this fully
requires a lengthy lesson
in camera optics, but here’s
FIGURE 1.1 A short focal length captures a wide view of a scene (left); a long the short story: The size
focal length makes subjects appear larger and closer (right).
of the recording element
affects what the camera sees at a particular focal length, and image sensors are much
smaller than film negatives. To capture the same image as a film camera, a digital
camera needs a focal length about one-sixth as long.
Further complicating the matter, digital camera manufacturers use a variety of sensor
sizes, so there’s no reliable formula for translating traditional focal lengths to digital.
Instead, the digital industry has adopted the practice of stating camera focal lengths
as 35mm film equivalents.
Camera specs may read something like this: “Focal length: 7.5mm, equivalent to 50mm
with 35mm film.” In photographic magazines, the abbreviation efl (for equivalent focal
length) is sometimes used—50mm (efl), for example. Other resources, including this
book, use the abbreviation equiv. However it’s stated, this information tells you that
the digital camera lens produces the same image you would get with a 50mm lens if
you were shooting 35mm film—the most widely used negative size in film photography.
To sum up, if you’re accustomed to judging lenses based on focal length, just ignore
the digital focal lengths and look for the 35mm equivalency numbers. If you’re new to
the whole focal length thing, the following list offers a few guidelines:
• A lens with a focal length equivalency of less than 35mm is considered a wide-angle
lens. Wide-angle lenses enable you to cram a large area into the frame at close
distance. They’re perfect for shooting groups of people in a living room, for
example, and for landscape photography.
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• A focal length equivalency of 50mm produces the most natural view, recording
a subject at approximately the same size and distance as your eyes see it.
• A focal length equivalency of 85mm and up is considered a telephoto lens. These
lenses are designed to help you capture a close-up view of a distant subject.
• A zoom lens enables you to shift between a range of focal lengths—equivalent
to 28–105mm, for example. But this applies only to optical zoom lenses, not
the digital zoom function found on most cameras. (See Chapter 5 for more
information about optical versus digital zooms.)
If you’re moving from a film SLR camera to a digital SLR, you can use your film
lenses on your digital camera, assuming that they’re compatible with the lens
mount on your digital model. (For example, Nikon digital SLRs accept lenses that
work with certain models of Nikon film cameras.) Because of the size differences
between digital camera image sensors and film negatives, though, the lenses will
have a longer apparent focal length when mounted on your digital camera. Telephoto
lenses bring you even closer to your subject, which is happy news if you’ve been
wanting more distance power. But you lose ground at the wide-angle end of the
spectrum, which may not be to your liking.
Manual Focusing Mechanisms
All digital cameras offer autofocus, but advanced models also offer manual focusing.
When you work in manual mode, you typically set focus by dialing in the subject-tocamera distance—such as 11 inches, 2 feet and so on. Only a few cameras, including the
Fujifilm FinePix model shown in Figure 1.2,
offer the traditional SLR manual focusing
design, in which you twist a ring on the
lens barrel to adjust focus.
I find the traditional design much
easier, because I’m lousy at estimating
distance. More mathematically oriented
photographers may prefer the numerical
approach to setting focus, though. Mind
you, most autofocusing systems are very
adept, so this issue isn’t a major deal for
most people. But if you like to take the
FIGURE 1.2 This Fujifilm FinePix model offers a
focusing reins yourself, try both systems
traditional manual focusing ring on
before you buy.
the lens barrel.
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Control Accessibility
One thing that really drives me crazy is working with a camera that’s loaded with
photographic controls but buries those options in internal menus. You have to turn on
the monitor, scroll through batches of menus to find the control you’re after, and then
press multiple buttons to make your selection. By the time you work your way through
all those menus, you’ve missed the opportunity to take the shot.
If you plan on taking full advantage of the advanced options you’re buying, look for
a model that allows you to control important functions via external buttons or dials.
A camera that’s covered with doodads may look frighteningly complicated at first glance
but is actually much easier to use than a menu-driven model.
Traditional vs. Electronic Viewfinder
Some digital cameras do not offer a viewfinder, forcing you to use the camera’s monitor
to frame your shots. I don’t recommend these cameras for serious photography work for
several reasons. First, because you have to hold the camera away from your face to take
the picture, you increase the chance for camera shake, which leads to blurred images.
Second, the displays on most monitors tend to wash out in bright sunlight, making
outdoor photography a challenge. Finally, your camera eats batteries faster when the
monitor is turned on all the time.
Most cameras that do have viewfinders use the traditional type—the same kind that’s
been used for decades. But some models offer electronic viewfinders instead. When you
look through an electronic viewfinder, you see whatever the lens is looking at plus all
the information normally displayed on the LCD monitor. In other words, an electronic
viewfinder is like a mini monitor, but brighter, clearer, and without the bright-light
washout problems.
Some folks love this new viewfinder option, and some folks hate it. I’ve got one foot
in each camp. Electronic viewfinders are nice in that they display more information than
a normal viewfinder—typically, you see all the same icons and other data that would
appear on the monitor if you were using it to frame the shot. What I don’t like about
electronic viewfinders is that you can’t see anything through them when the camera is
turned off. So you can’t experiment with framing without switching on the camera. In
addition, electronic viewfinders consume battery power, which is always at a premium
with digital cameras. I leave you to judge whether the pros outweigh the cons for the
type of photography you like to do.
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If you want to use your LCD monitor in bright light,
whether it’s to frame a shot or review photos you’ve
already taken, attaching an LCD hood to the camera
makes seeing the picture easier. The hood acts like a
window awning, reducing the amount of light that hits
the monitor. Shown here is one such device, sold by
Hoodman (www.hoodmanusa.com). This particular
hood, which sells for $50, comes with a detachable
eyepiece that magnifies the display as well as a clear
monitor shield that protects the display from scratches.
Simpler shades without the eyepiece and shield sell
for about $20.
Filter and Converter Compatibility
As you expand your photography knowledge, you may want to take advantage of
creative filters, such as the warming and polarizing filters explored in Chapter 8. In
addition, you may want to extend your camera’s field of vision by attaching wide-angle,
fisheye, or telephoto converters. These converters give you some of the lens flexibility
that you enjoy with SLR cameras.
Until recently, few filters or converters were available in sizes to fit digital camera
lenses. But now that digital has caught on, manufacturers have begun to address this
need. Figure 1.3 shows an assortment of filters from two major players in the filter
market, Tiffen (www.tiffen.com) and Cokin (www.cokin.com).
To attach most filters and
converter lenses, you simply screw
them onto the end of your camera’s
lens barrel. Of course, your lens
barrel must have a threaded
ring that accepts such add-ons.
Many digital cameras don’t
offer threaded lens barrels,
unfortunately.
You may be able to buy an
adapter that slips over the lens,
giving you the threaded-ring
functionality. Adapters aren’t
FIGURE 1.3 Accessory filters expand your creative options.
available for all cameras, though,
and they can be expensive. In some cases, you can’t use third-party adapters so you have
to buy the manufacturer’s proprietary (and more costly) products.
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Cokin offers another filter alternative, shown in the middle of Figure 1.3. First you
attach a filter holder to the bottom of the camera, screwing it into the tripod mount.
Then you slip the filter into slots on the holder’s two vertical arms. This solution can
work great for some cameras, but make sure that the holder works with your lens barrel
size and tripod-mount position before you buy.
Be careful to remove filters and converter lenses before you power down the
camera! If you don’t, the filter or converter can crack the lens housing when
the lens barrel retracts into the camera body.
What’s a Filter Factor?
Most lens filters reduce the amount of light that enters the camera lens. To
let photographers know how much light reduction to expect, manufacturers
provide a guide number, known as filter factor, for every filter.
Filter factors are stated in X numbers—1X, 2X, 4X, and so on. The number
indicates how many times more light you need to produce the same exposure you
would get without the filter. A factor of 1X means that no light reduction occurs;
2X means that you need twice as much light; 4X means that you need four times
as much light.
When cameras required photographers to set exposure manually, filter factors
were vital. With most autoexposure cameras, the camera makes the necessary
adjustments for you. However, this automatic adjustment occurs only on
autoexposure cameras that offer through-the-lens (TTL) light metering. With
TTL metering, the autoexposure mechanism analyzes the light that’s actually
coming through the lens.
Some inexpensive autoexposure cameras take the light reading from a window
that’s separate from the lens, which means that the camera won’t know when you
attach a light-reducing filter. If you’re using this type of camera, you can ramp up
exposure by using the EV (exposure value) compensation control, discussed in the
next chapter. (Don’t worry; the control sounds complicated, but it isn’t.) You can
preview and review your shots in the camera monitor to check exposure.
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Tripod Mount
To get razor-sharp shots at night and in other situations that call for a slow shutter
speed, you need to mount your camera on a tripod. Almost all digital cameras except the
cheap plastic ones have the necessary screw threads for attaching the camera to a tripod.
But some manufacturers are more thoughtful about this feature than others.
If the battery chamber or memory card slot is on the bottom of the camera, you may
not be able to swap out either component without removing the camera from the tripod.
Très annoying—especially if you run out of battery power or memory after you just
spent a long time framing the perfect shot.
Lighting Solutions
One of the most important things you can do to enhance your photography is to learn
to assess and control lighting. Lighting is critical to a properly exposed photo, of course,
but good photographers also use light to set a mood, emphasize important aspects of a
scene, and play down distracting or unattractive elements.
When you’re shooting outdoors in the daytime, too much light is sometimes a problem.
Chapter 6 discusses some ways to deal with this situation. More often, though, you need
to bring more light to a scene. You can use a number of lighting tools to do so, from your
camera’s built-in flash to powerful, studio-style lights. The following sections introduce
you to these lighting solutions.
To get a basic education in lighting, fire up your web browser and click
over to www.webphotoschool.com. This online learning center offers
several free lighting lessons. For $60, you can get a year’s access to
dozens of additional lessons; a one-month membership is just $20.
Built-in Flash
The small flash unit on your camera is supposed to allow you to take pictures in a
darkened room or at night. But the light from a built-in flash is so narrowly focused
that it doesn’t serve well as a sole light source. Pictures taken with a built-in flash usually
show a small, bright blast of light, with rapid falloff to shadows around the perimeter of
the shot. See Page 24 of the color insert for an example of this effect. Built-in flash usually
causes red-eye in indoor and nighttime portrait pictures, too.
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Ironically, a built-in flash is most useful for shooting outdoors in daylight. Strong sun
can produce shadows on a subject, and the small pop of light produced by a built-in flash
is the perfect way to eliminate those shadows. Page 12 of the color insert offers an
example of this technique.
Reflectors
A reflector is a thin, flat panel that has a light-reflecting surface. It acts like a mirror of
sorts, reflecting any light that strikes it. The left image in Figure 1.4 shows an assortment
of portable fabric reflectors from Photoflex (www.photoflex.com).
(Photo courtesy Photoflex Inc.)
FIGURE 1.4 Collapsible reflectors are great for traveling photographers because you can fold them up
and slip them inside a small carrying bag.
Reflectors come in handy for eliminating shadows in a scene. For example, in the
portrait series featured on pages 8 and 9 of the color insert, I positioned my subject next
to a window. I wanted the daylight shining through that window to serve as the main
light source. But because the light was coming from a single direction, one half of the
face was in the shadows. I positioned a reflector opposite the window to bounce light
back onto the shadowed side of the face. (See Chapter 3 for more information about
portrait lighting.)
You don’t need to buy a commercially-made reflector to use this technique—a piece of
white cardboard will do. Those foil-covered windshield shades that you use to keep your
car cool in summer also make good reflectors. These solutions are a little cumbersome
for traveling photographers, however, which is why I prefer collapsible commercial
reflectors like those shown in Figure 1.4. You can fold up these reflectors and slip
them inside a small carrying case, as shown on the right side of the figure.
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Prices for commercial reflectors start at about $15 for a small, 12-inch reflector. In
addition to Photoflex, other companies that sell popular reflector lines include Visual
Departures (www.visualdepartures.com) and Westcott (www.fjwestcott.com).
Reflectors come in different colors, and each color produces a slightly different
lighting effect:
• White
Produces neutral reflected light—that is, the reflector doesn’t change the
color of the light source. (Light color is discussed in detail in Chapter 8.)
• Silver
Produces slightly cooler (bluer) reflected light. Silver reflectors also create
a bit stronger, more sparkly light than white reflectors.
• Gold
Produces slightly warmer, more golden reflected light, making it a terrific
choice for portrait lighting.
Usually, commercial reflectors are dual-sided affairs, each side covered with a different
material. For most projects, a white/gold combo is a good fit.
When you go reflector shopping, you’ll also find black, silk, and translucent
reflectors, which actually are light reducers instead of light reflectors. You can
place a black reflector between a subject and the sun to create instant shade, for
example. Silk and translucent reflectors act as light diffusers, creating a softer, less
focused light.
Auxiliary Flash Units
If you do a lot of indoor or nighttime photography, you may want to invest in an
auxiliary flash. Figure 1.5 shows such a flash unit.
External flash units offer several
advantages over your camera’s
built-in flash:
• You can angle the flash head, which
lets you control the direction of the
light. For example, you can aim the
head toward the ceiling, so that the
light bounces off the ceiling and
down onto the subject. This creates
a diffused light source and softer
shadows than a flash aimed directly
at the subject.
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FIGURE 1.5 An external flash unit features a movable head
that you can swivel to adjust the direction of
the light.
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• The light is stronger and more broadly focused than what you get from a built-in
flash, so a larger area of the scene is illuminated.
• External flash units typically enable you to adjust the strength of the flash. Some
digital cameras also offer this function for built-in flashes, but you usually have to
buy at the higher end of the price spectrum to get this feature.
You can connect an external flash to your digital camera in a couple of ways. Most
so-called prosumer cameras—that is, the high-end models with advanced photographic
bells and whistles—offer a hot shoe. A hot shoe is a little flash connection bracket on the
top of the camera, as shown in the left image in Figure 1.6. You simply slide the base of
the flash unit into the bracket.
Hot shoe
FIGURE 1.6 Cameras at the higher end of the consumer price spectrum include a hot shoe or socket for
attaching an external flash.
In medium-priced cameras, you may instead find a flash-cord socket that enables you
to attach a handle-mount flash, like the one shown on the right side of Figure 1.6. You
use a cord supplied with the flash to connect flash and camera. You can then either hold
the flash in one hand and the camera in the other, or you can attach both to a bracket,
as shown in the figure. (In photography jargon, handle-mount flash units are called
potato mashers because of their resemblance to that kitchen tool.)
What if your camera offers neither hot shoe nor flash socket? You can still enjoy the
flexibility of external flash power by using a slave flash. A slave flash works in conjunction
with your camera’s built-in flash. When your camera flash fires, the slave flash “sees”
that burst of light and triggers its own light in response.
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External flashes range in price from $50 to hundreds of dollars. At the high end of the
spectrum, you get sophisticated flash controls, such as the ability to adjust precisely the
timing and power of the flash output. Some advanced flash units, like the $190 Minolta
model shown in Figure 1.5, work either attached to the camera or as a wireless remote
flash, which gives you great flexibility in positioning the flash.
Although working with external flashes isn’t complicated, buying one can be. You
need to be sure that the flash you buy can communicate with your camera so that the
flash fires at the appropriate time. In addition, your camera’s autoexposure mechanism
may or may not be able to adjust exposure properly to account for the varying flash
power of the external unit. Typically, you get the maximum coordination between flash
and camera when you buy the camera manufacturer’s flash equipment. Unfortunately,
those units are usually pricier than third-party units.
If you’re in the market for an external flash, I suggest you take your camera to your
local camera store for advice. Tell the staff what type of photography you plan to do so
that they can steer you to the proper equipment. This guidance is especially important
if you’re buying a slave flash. Some slave units are engineered to operate as a secondary
light to a shoe-mounted flash and don’t respond properly to a built-in flash.
Also check out your camera manufacturer’s web site for recommendations. For
third-party flash equipment, check out Digi-Slave (www.srelectronics.com), Sunpak
(www.sunpak.com), and Metz (www.bogenphoto.com).
For close-up photography, you may want to invest in a special macro flash unit.
Chapter 5 discusses this type of flash.
”Hot” Lights
Although auxiliary flash units expand your lighting power tremendously, getting good
results requires a good deal of experimentation because you can’t see in advance where
the light from the flash will fall and how brightly it will shine. High-end studio flash
units come with modeling lights, which are little setup lights that show the photographer
the approximate intensity and direction of the flash. But these flash units are expensive,
complicated to use, and don’t work with many digital cameras. For that reason, I
recommend that you investigate so-called hot lights if your photography requires
precision lighting. Hot lights provide constant illumination, just like the lamp on your
bedside table, but they use powerful bulbs—anywhere from 250 to 1000 watts—to
produce a stronger light. With hot lights, you can see exactly how your subject will be lit
and adjust the position or angle of the lights accordingly before you press the shutter button.
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Figure 1.7 shows one popular style of hot light, the Tota-Light from Lowel
(www.lowel.com). Tota-Lights feature swinging metal panels—called barn doors in
the lighting biz—that you can adjust to control the spread of the light. You can attach
an umbrella, as shown in the right picture in the figure, to diffuse the light. (You can
also use a translucent reflector or screen to soften the light.)
Another common
(Photos courtesy Lowel-Light Manufacturing, Inc.)
hot-light design resembles
the shop lights you buy
in the hardware store—
a bulb surrounded by
an aluminum reflector,
sometimes called a can. In
fact, many people take the
budget approach and just
use those shop lights as
illumination. For casual
projects, that’s perfectly
fine, by the way. But
don’t make the mistake
FIGURE 1.7 Some hot lights come with barn doors that allow you to adjust
the spread of the light; attaching a white, translucent umbrella
of putting super-wattage
creates a more diffused light, which creates softer shadows.
photo bulbs into
hardware-store cans.
If you do, you may find yourself calling the fire department’s emergency number.
Here are a few other bits of advice about buying and using hot lights:
• You can get more equipment for less money if you buy a lighting kit instead of
purchasing each component separately. For example, an individual Tota-light like
the one shown in Figure 1.7 retails for about $110; a 10-foot expandable stand
to hold and position the light, about $60; and an umbrella, $25. But you can
buy a kit with two lights, two stands, and two umbrellas for about $325. All
the equipment in the kit may not come from the same manufacturer, but the
pieces should work together just the same.
• Light bulbs—officially called lamps—range in price from a few bucks to $30.
The cheap bulbs can cost more in the long run, though, because they have a
much shorter life span than the expensive variety.
• Hot lights got their nickname for good reason. You can easily burn yourself just
by standing too close to the bulb for a long period of time. Ditto for subjects
placed too close to the light.
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• If you’re using a light with the barn door design, follow the manufacturer’s
guidelines about positioning the doors. When the doors aren’t open wide
enough, smoke ensues (not, unfortunately, hilarity).
• Hot lights require a lot of power. So plug each light into a different electrical
circuit to avoid blowing fuses. Also, try not to run your dishwasher, washing
machine, or other large appliances while you’re working. They can create
fluctuations in the electricity flow, which slightly affects the color and intensity
of your light’s output.
• Finally, never touch the glass surface of a hot-light bulb with your bare fingers.
The oil from your skin can transfer to the bulb surface, and when you next turn
on the light, the oil may cause the glass to explode. For this reason, some hot
lights come with protective screens that you place over the bulb.
Hot lights come in a confusing variety of designs; selecting the correct bulbs is even
more perplexing. To make sure that you buy equipment that’s appropriate for the type
of subjects that you shoot, consult with the experts at your local camera store.
The auto white balance function on some digital cameras can’t deal properly with
some hot lights. Preview the scene on your camera’s monitor, and if colors look off,
switch to manual white balance. Normally, the Incandescent or Tungsten setting
works best. See Chapter 8 for more information on adjusting white balance.
Setting Up the Digital Darkroom
When photography pundits use the term digital darkroom, they’re referring to computer
hardware and software tools that you use to edit and print your digital pictures. The
name is a bit of a misnomer, if you ask me—one of the best things about going digital is
that you no longer have to stumble about in a darkened room to develop and print your
film negatives.
At any rate, being able to retouch, enhance, and print my own photos is one of the
things I like best about digital photography. But you, like many people, may decide to
opt out of this part of the game, preferring to have pictures printed at a retail lab. Or
you may buy a home photo printer that can output images directly from your memory
card. Even so, you’ll need a computer and software to store, organize, and manage your
image files as well as to share them over the Internet.
How sophisticated a system you need depends on the type of post-capture work you
want to do. The rest of this chapter offers some guidance on choosing hardware and
software to help you put together a digital darkroom that fits your needs.
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For information about printers and printing, see Chapter 9.
Computer Central: Is Your System Fit for Duty?
As the heart of the digital darkroom, your computer can make your photo projects
either fun and easy or a downright drag. Photo editing puts a big demand on a
computer, especially if you’re working with high-resolution images. If your system
is lacking in processor power, RAM (memory), or hard drive storage space, it will
carry out your editing commands at a snail’s pace, or perhaps not at all.
The next five sections tell you what you need to know about these critical computer
components along with a few others: monitor, video card, memory-card reader, and
long-term image-storage device.
Processor and RAM
On a PC, I recommend a Pentium II processor or better; on a Macintosh system, a G3
processor or better. If your system is of recent vintage—say, no more than three years
old—it likely meets this specification.
No matter how fast your processor, though, you need to feed it lots of computer
memory, called RAM, for your photo software to run smoothly. You need at least
64MB (megabytes) if you work with low-resolution files, and twice that if you want
to edit high-res images. For even faster performance, add as much memory as your
system accepts. (Also check the RAM requirements for the software you want to use;
some programs require 96MB or more.)
Many people ask whether a Windows or Macintosh machine is better for photo
editing. The art community has long had a fondness for Macs, and a Macintosh
is a fine machine. However, because the majority of consumers dance to the Windows
tune, many software manufacturers don’t offer Macintosh versions of their programs.
So you’ll be able to choose from a wider spectrum of software if you go Windows.
Don’t get me wrong—you can find good programs for the Mac, too—just not as many.
Hard Drive Storage Space
The hard drive is your computer’s filing cabinet, where you store all your programs and
files. As with RAM, the amount of hard drive space you need depends on the size of the
image files you want to store.
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However, you need to keep a chunk of the hard drive empty at all times. Your system
uses this free drive space for temporary data storage while you’re working in a photo
editor or other program. I suggest that you keep at least 500MB free for this purpose.
If your photo program displays an error message saying that your scratch disk is full,
it means you don’t have enough free hard drive space. To give your computer the
hard-drive breathing room it needs, go through your files and dump those you no
longer need.
Video Card and Monitor
Your video card determines how many colors your monitor can display as well as what
screen resolution settings you can use. Screen resolution affects the size at which your
pictures display, as discussed in Chapter 10, but even the poorest excuse for a video card
is likely adequate in this regard.
For photo editing, a more critical issue is whether the card offers so-called true color
display—also called 24-bit color—which gives you the ability to display about 16.7
million colors. Your digital camera captures all those colors, so you should be able to
view them on your monitor.
As for the monitor itself, size doesn’t matter, although your eyes will certainly appreciate
a 17-inch or larger screen more than a puny 15-incher. What is important is the type of
monitor you use. The new flat-panel LCD monitors look cool and eat up less desk space,
but they’re not the best choice for doing intensive retouching and color-critical photo
projects because image colors, contrast, and brightness appear different depending on
your angle of view. Traditional CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors produce a more even,
reliable display.
Memory-Card Reader
Your digital camera box no doubt included a cable that lets you connect the camera
to your computer in order to transfer picture files from the camera’s memory to the
computer’s hard drive (or other storage device). But transferring picture files this way
sometimes involves some extra steps, or requires that you use the camera manufacturer’s
proprietary transfer software, or both. In addition, you have to keep the camera turned
on during the file transfer, which consumes battery power.
A better transfer solution is to attach a memory-card reader to your computer. When
you’re ready to transfer pictures, you insert your camera memory card and then drag and
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(
FIGURE 1.8 Memory card readers simplify the
process of transferring picture files to
your computer; this SanDisk reader
accepts six types of memory cards.
drop files from the card to the
computer’s hard drive, just as you do
when you’re moving files from a floppy
disk or CD to the hard drive. (And you
no longer have to spend an hour trying
to remember where you left the camera
cable the last time you used it.)
Readers that accept a single type of
memory card cost less than $30; for
a bit more, you can get a model that
accepts a variety of cards. Figure 1.8
shows one multiformat reader, the
6-in-1 ImageMate from SanDisk.
This product sells for about $40.
✁COST CUTTER
A printer that can print directly from camera memory cards can double as a card
reader. While the printer is connected to the computer, the system sees the printer’s
memory-card slot as another hard drive.
Archival Storage Device
Never use your computer’s hard drive for long-term picture storage. Hard drives can die,
taking your picture files with them to the great electronics beyond. In addition, you run
the risk that you or others who use your computer will accidentally delete important
picture files.
At present, CD-ROM offers the best option for archival image storage. CD burners
are cheap, as are blank CDs, and you can buy external models so you don’t even have
to crack open your computer case to add one to your system. Be sure to copy your image
files to CD-R discs, which can’t be erased, and not the rewritable CD-RW discs. And for
long-term security of your image files, use brand-name CDs, not the el-cheapo brands
sold in outlet stores.
DVD recorders are another storage possibility. However, prices are higher than CD
technology, and the industry hasn’t yet agreed on a common DVD format, which means
that a DVD you create on your system may not play on another computer or DVD drive.
Having lived through the deaths of Betamax video tapes and the LaserDisc, I’m not keen
on joining the early-adopter ranks when it comes to recording devices.
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Using a mouse for photo editing is a
cumbersome way to go. A graphics tablet,
which enables you to swap out your mouse
for a pen stylus, gives you far better control
over your editing tools and also is easier
on the wrist. Shown here is a model from
Wacom, the leading tablet manufacturer.
Called the Graphire 2, this tablet sells for
about $70 and comes with a cordless
mouse as well as a stylus.
(Photo Courtesy Wacom Technology Corp.)
Software
A high-powered computer does you absolutely no good unless you have the appropriate
software. Every serious digital photographer needs a photo editing program and an
image organizer. The next two sections look at these tools.
Not all programs mentioned here or elsewhere in the book are available for
both Windows and Macintosh computers. So if you’re interested in a particular
product, visit the manufacturer’s web site to check the system requirements.
Photo Editing Programs
Even if you don’t plan on doing much photo editing, you need a photo editor to prepare
pictures for printing or e-mailing. If that’s all you want to do, you can get by with a
bare-bones program—in fact, your camera or printer probably shipped with a tool for
performing these basic operations. Many photo organizers (discussed next) also include
simple editing tools.
For more involved retouching work or creative photo artistry, you need software
that’s a little more sophisticated. In this book, I feature Adobe Photoshop Elements,
which sells for about $90. (Watch the sale ads, and you often can find the program for
substantially less.) For the novice photo editor, Elements offers on-screen assistance with
common editing tasks, as shown in Figure 1.9. But the program also offers a surprisingly
robust assortment of advanced editing tools.
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FIGURE 1.9 Photoshop Elements provides on-screen guidance to help you complete common photo
editing projects.
You can download a trial copy of Photoshop Elements at the Adobe web site
(www.adobe.com). In the same price range, also check out Ulead PhotoImpact ($90,
www.ulead.com) and Jasc Paint Shop Pro ($100, www.jasc.com).
For professional-level tools, you have two choices: Adobe Photoshop, which will set you
back about $600, and Corel PHOTO-PAINT, which is sold together with CorelDRAW (in a
package called Corel Graphics Suite) for about $430 (www.corel.com). Among other things,
the extra money buys you more advanced exposure and color tools, plus some features that
are important for folks who prepare photos for output on a commercial printing press.
If you make a living from digital imaging, as I do, these features are important—as is a
good book or class to help you learn to take full advantage of the program. But I certainly
wouldn’t recommend that you invest this much in any photo editor until you’re sure that
you really enjoy this aspect of digital imaging—even then, most people find that programs
like Photoshop Elements, PhotoImpact, and Paint Shop Pro provide all the tools they need.
Image Organizers
An image organizer enables you to sort, manage, and catalog your image files. This type
of program is essential for keeping track of your pictures, especially if you’re a prolific
photographer.
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Some photo editing programs have a built-in file browser, as do some versions of the
Windows and Macintosh operating systems. You may also find a basic image-management
tool on the software CD that came with your camera. You can do simple organizing
tasks with these tools, but after you accumulate more than 100 or so files, you’ll want
something more advanced.
Two of my favorite programs in this category are ACDSee, from ACDSystems ($50,
www.acdsystems.com) and ThumbsPlus, from Cerious Software ($80, www.thumbsplus
.com). Both give you a wealth of tools for the money. You can browse thumbnails of your
pictures, organize your files, catalog images by subject matter, print contact sheets (pages
of thumbnails), and even do some basic editing.
In addition, these programs allow you to view file metadata. Metadata is extra
information that’s stored with the image file when you take a picture. This data includes
the type of camera, the exposure settings, focal length, time, date, and more. Cameras
store this data in a standard format called EXIF, which stands for Exchangeable Image
File Format, so that you can view it in any organizer that can speak the EXIF language.
Figure 1.10 gives you a look at the EXIF viewer in ACDSee.
FIGURE 1.10 Image organizers such as ACDSee include an EXIF reader, which enables you to
see the camera settings that you used when you took a picture.
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ACDSee and ThumbsPlus aren’t the only good organizers, of course. Ulead PhotoExplorer
($30, www.Ulead.com) and Adobe Photoshop Album ($50, www.adobe.com) are two
other contenders that come to mind, and you can find dozens more by doing an online
search on “image-management software.” Many companies, including all those mentioned
here, offer free, downloadable trial versions at their web sites, so you can work with
each one and see which you like best.
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2
Exploring Creative Controls
If you’ve ever tuned in to the Food Network on TV, you
may have caught an episode of Iron Chef, a Japaneselanguage import in which two famous chefs do culinary
battle. The participants are challenged to combine a
random assortment of ingredients into a gourmet
feast for a panel of celebrity taste-testers. As the
contestants chop, sauté, and sauce, commentators
describe the action in dramatic, play-by-play fashion.
The dishes, which include such delicacies as octopus
risotto and eel à la mode, don’t always appeal to my
American palette as much as they seem to enchant the
celebrity judges, but the show is good, campy fun
nonetheless. Even better, it provides the perfect
analogy to describe this chapter, thus lending credence to my claim that when I’m watching TV, I’m not
wasting time but in fact working.
You see, the first thing that the Iron Chef competitors do is assess the ingredients they’ve been given to
see what goodies they may be able to prepare. Similarly, your first step as a photographer should be to
evaluate your subject, the setting, and your camera’s
capabilities. You then can figure out how to bring those
components together to create a tasty visual treat.
Later chapters detail techniques related to specific
subjects and surroundings. This chapter provides an
overview of all the major digital camera controls, explaining the creative impact of each option and
offering my recommendation about which settings to
use in various shooting scenarios. As you read, you
may want to have your camera manual handy so that
you can confirm whether your camera offers a particular option, and if so, how you activate that feature.
25
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Image Resolution
The resolution control determines the number of pixels that your camera uses to
produce a picture. Your camera likely offers three or more resolution settings, each
delivering a different pixel count.
You may see your options presented in terms of pixel dimensions, such as 2288×1712,
with the horizontal pixel count listed first, followed by the number of vertical pixels.
However, some manufacturers refer to the total number of pixels when labeling resolution
options, using the term megapixel to mean one million pixels. For example, if you
multiply 2288×1712 pixels, you get roughly 3.9 million pixels, or 3.9 megapixels
(which the folks in the camera marketing department round up to 4 megapixels).
Creative Impact
If you’re an experienced film photographer, you know that the larger the film negative,
the more you can enlarge the photo without losing sharpness and detail. You can make
a similar connection between pixel count and print size. The more pixels you capture,
the larger you can print your photo without a noticeable loss of quality, as illustrated
by Figures 2.1 and 2.2.
3 megapixels, 1.3MB
1 megapixel, 620K
FIGURE 2.1 At snapshot size, the 3-megapixel tulip (left) doesn’t look much different from the
1-megapixel version (right).
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3 megapixel
1 megapixel
FIGURE 2.2 When the print size is doubled, the 3-megapixel image (left) offers significantly higher
quality than the 1-megapixel photo (right).
I shot both tulip pictures with the same camera. For the left images in both figures,
I used the camera’s 3-megapixel setting. For the right images, I reduced the camera
resolution to 1 megapixel.
When printed at snapshot size, as in Figure 2.1, both images are perfectly acceptable,
although small details such as the dewdrops appear slightly sharper in the 3-megapixel
version. But in Figure 2.2, which shows a portion of both pictures as they would appear
if the original were enlarged to 5×7 inches, the 1-megapixel file doesn’t hold up. A
dearth of pixels leads to a stair-stepped appearance along diagonal and curved lines,
and subtle details are lost. The result is a picture that appears jagged in some areas and
blurry in others.
On the down side, more pixels means larger file sizes, so you can fit fewer pictures in
a given amount of camera memory. In addition, larger files take longer to process in a
photo-editing program. As a point of comparison, the 1-megapixel tulip in Figure 2.1
has a file size of roughly 620K(kilobytes); the 3-megapixel version, 1300K, which equals
1.3MB (megabytes). Note that file compression, explained next, also has an impact on
file size; I shot both images at the same compression setting.
Although good printed output requires a hefty pixel count, the story changes for pictures
displayed on a computer monitor, television, or digital projector. For screen images, the
number of pixels does not affect picture quality, just display size. At maximum, the image
pixel dimensions should equal the screen resolution (640×480, 800×600, and so on).
Chapter 10 provides more details about preparing pictures for the web and other
on-screen uses.
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Recommended Setting
The appropriate resolution setting depends on what you plan to do with your image:
• For printed photos
You need 200–300 pixels per each linear inch of your print;
the exact number depends upon the printer. Home photo printers, for example,
tend to deliver the best results when fed 300 pixels per inch (ppi), while commercial
machines used by retail photo labs produce great prints at just 200 ppi. Consult
your printer manual or the retail technician to find out the optimum resolution,
and do your own testing to see whether you notice any significant difference at
a higher or lower ppi.
• For web photos
A resolution of 640×480 pixels—sometimes referred to as VGA
resolution—is usually adequate. That setting gives you enough pixels to fill the
entire screen on a monitor that’s running at a screen resolution of 640×480.
Most people today set their monitors to a resolution of at least 800×600, but
keep in mind that the web browser itself eats up some of the available screen
space. Also remember that fewer pixels means smaller file sizes and therefore
faster download times.
• For pictures in a multimedia presentation
Follow the same guidelines as for web
photos, matching the pixel dimensions to the display device.
When you’re not sure how you plan to use your picture, shoot with print output in
mind. If necessary, you can easily eliminate extra pixels in a photo editor. You can add
pixels in a photo program, too, but you won’t get any noticeable improvement in print
quality by doing so. In fact, your prints may look worse than they did before you added
pixels. So when in doubt, always opt for too many pixels rather than too few.
Shooting pictures at a decent resolution setting also gives you more flexibility in the
editing stage because you can crop and enlarge a portion of the image to good result.
This benefit becomes especially important when you’re shooting spontaneous events,
such as parties, or when you’re photographing moving targets. You don’t always have
the opportunity to achieve the perfect composition, and starting with a high-resolution
image enables you to correct the framing later, as shown in Figure 2.3.
Although the children in the original portrait in Figure 2.3 look terrific, the objects on the
sofa table behind them are distracting. To create a better image, I opened the picture in my
photo editor and cropped the image to the horizontal framing indicated by the black box.
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How
To
MATCH CAMERA RESOLUTION TO PRINT SIZE
If you know the optimum image resolution (ppi) to send your printer, you can
calculate what camera resolution you need to produce a quality print at a specific size.
Just multiply print width by the ppi value to determine how may horizontal pixels you
need, and multiply print height by the ppi value to determine vertical pixels.
The following table provides a quick reference to the number of pixels needed for
quality prints at standard frame sizes, assuming an optimum image resolution of
200 ppi. Note that because the aspect ratio of a digital camera image is 4:3, which
is different from that of traditional photo frames, most cameras won’t offer a
resolution setting that matches these pixel counts exactly. Go with the setting that
gets you closest to the larger of the two pixel values. You can then crop the image
to the correct frame size in your photo editor. Chapter 3 provides more information
about digital camera aspect ratios.
PRINT SIZE
PIXELS*
MEGAPIXELS
3½×5 in.
700×1000
<1
4×6 in.
800×1200
1
5×7 in.
1000×1400
1.5
8×10 in.
1600×2000
3.2
11×14 in.
2200×2800
6
*Assumes a desired image output resolution of 200 ppi
FIGURE 2.3 Starting with a 3-megapixel original enabled me to crop this casual portrait closely to create
better composition.
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Because I started with a 3-megapixel image, the cropped image contained enough pixels to
produce a high-quality 4×6-inch print, a portion of which you see to the right of the original.
Compare the images in Figure 2.3 with those in Figure 2.4, which began life as a
1-megapixel picture. As with the low-resolution tulip featured earlier, the cropped and
enlarged low-pixel portrait doesn’t look nearly as crisp as its high-resolution cousin.
FIGURE 2.4 A lack of pixels is again to blame for the low quality of this cropped enlargement.
As you ponder the resolution question, consider these additional points:
• If you’re working with a very high resolution camera—say, 4 megapixels or
more—you don’t always need to use its maximum setting. Shooting routine
images at the top resolution is a waste of memory and photo-editing time.
I mean, how many times do you make prints larger than 8×10?
• Some cameras require more time to send a high-resolution image to the camera’s
memory than a low-resolution image (due to the larger file size). This issue can
prove problematic for action photography, because you can’t take another picture
until the camera saves the current image. In this situation, you may want to
trade off a little picture quality in favor of faster shooting.
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• Color photos printed on glossy, high-grade paper reveal resolution problems
more than grayscale images printed on uncoated, lower quality paper. Compare
the pictures in Figures 2.3 and 2.4 with the color versions on Page 3 of the color
insert to see what I mean.
Compression
Compression is a bit of software manipulation done to reduce the file size of a digital
image.
When you record an image in the standard digital-camera file format—JPEG—the
photo undergoes lossy compression, which means that some image data is eliminated
in the name of smaller files. You can significantly lower file size by applying lossy
compression.
Some cameras also enable you to store pictures in the TIFF format, which applies
either no compression or lossless compression. Lossless compression tosses only
redundant data and therefore doesn’t shrink file size much.
On most cameras, the compression option is labeled Picture Quality or something
similar, and the available settings have vague names, such as High, Fine, Normal, and
Basic. The type and amount of compression that these settings apply vary from camera
to camera, so look in your manual for details about your model.
Creative Impact
Compression enables you to fit more pictures into your available camera memory.
Be aware, however, that the more compression you apply, the more you sacrifice image
quality, as illustrated by Figure 2.5. I shot these images with a 6-megapixel camera
that offers four compression options (High, Fine, Normal, and Basic). The High
option creates an uncompressed TIFF file, and the other three produce JPEG files
at compression ratios of approximately 7:1 (that is, the compressed file is about
seven times smaller than the original), 15:1, and 39:1.
As is the case with a low-resolution image, a highly compressed image may appear
only slightly degraded if printed at a small size and on uncoated paper stock, as in
Figure 2.5. But if you enlarge the images or print them on glossy, high-grade stock,
the impact of too much compression becomes apparent.
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Uncompressed TIFF
7:1 JPEG compression
15:1 JPEG compression
39:1 JPEG compression
FIGURE 2.5 Altering the image compression ratio affects file size and image quality.
Take a look at Page 4 of the color insert, for example, which shows the color versions
of the High (uncompressed) and Basic (39:1 compression ratio) images from Figure 2.5.
In the highly-compressed example, subtle color transitions are lost, and areas of high
contrast, such as the black text on the white background, are littered with random color
flaws, or artifacts. (The tiling effect that mars the whole image occurs because the
compression algorithm evaluates and reprocesses the image in 8×8-pixel blocks.)
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Recommended Setting
Technically speaking, the compression question has an easy answer: For maximum
quality, use the setting that applies the least compression—and stock up on extra
memory cards to hold the larger image files you will create.
However, depending on the camera, you may not notice a huge difference in picture
quality when you apply moderate JPEG compression, and you can reduce file size
dramatically. Take a look at the top pair of images on Page 5 of the color insert, for
example. The left image shows the uncompressed TIFF version of the stamp picture,
which has a file size of 18MB. The right image shows the same subject captured at a
JPEG compression ratio of about 7:1. It’s difficult to detect any significant quality loss
in the compressed version, and the file size plunges to 2.4MB.
To find out how much compression your pictures can take before they start to fall apart,
shoot some test shots at each of the available settings and compare the pictures at different
print and screen display sizes. Work with a subject that offers both high-contrast details,
such as the lettering in the stamps, and areas of subtle color changes, such as the faces.
Remember, too, that resolution and compression work in tandem to determine picture
quality and file size. As you can see from the examples on Page 5 of the color insert, you
can achieve similar file sizes—but slightly different image quality.
One final compression caveat: If you’re creating photos for the web or some other
on-screen use and you plan to make any alterations to the pictures in your photo editor,
opt for minimal camera compression. After editing, you’ll need to resave your pictures
in the web-friendly JPEG format, which applies another round of compression and
degrades image quality further.
When a shortage of camera memory forces me to choose between a high-resolution,
highly compressed image and a moderate-resolution, lightly compressed image, I opt
for fewer pixels and less compression. In my experience, compression causes a more
noticeable loss of image quality than a shortage of pixels. Note that for prints, the
term “moderate resolution” is key—if you drop too low in relation to your desired
print size, you’ll wind up with a stair-stepping effect that’s every bit as ugly as
compression artifacts.
Image File Format
A half dozen or so data file formats have been created to store digital images, but only
three are widely used in digital cameras:
• JPEG
Named for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, the organization that
created the format, JPEG is the default format on most cameras.
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• TIFF
Short for Tagged Image File Format, TIFF has been the leading image
format for print publications for years but has just recently appeared as an
option on mid- to high-resolution cameras.
• RAW
Typically available only on high-end cameras, this option gives you just
what its name implies: a raw, uncooked file. When you select the RAW format,
the camera records the image without any of the processing that typically
occurs—sharpening and white-balancing, for example.
Few cameras offer all three formats or even a choice other than JPEG. If your camera
is limited in this regard, don’t be too worried—JPEG is a perfectly acceptable format.
Creative Impact
From a creative standpoint, each of the three image file formats has its pros and cons.
• JPEG applies lossy compression, which shrinks file size but also reduces image
quality. (See the earlier section “Compression” for more information.) On the
plus side, because JPEG is also an Internet format, you can upload pictures
directly from the camera to the web or e-mail.
• TIFF files may also be compressed. But because TIFF uses lossless compression,
top picture quality is retained. However, file sizes are much larger than with JPEG,
and TIFF images aren’t Internet-ready.
• RAW appeals to purists who don’t want the camera handling any image processing,
even if that processing makes the picture look better (which it usually does). Most
photo-editing and cataloging programs can’t open RAW files, however, and no
web browsers or e-mail programs can handle them, either. So you need to use the
camera manufacturer’s proprietary software to translate the files to TIFF or JPEG
before you can do much of anything with them. In addition, RAW applies no
compression at all, so file sizes are large, as with TIFF.
Recommended Setting
Choose JPEG for everyday pictures. As long as you use a light compression setting, you
can expect good image quality and reasonable file sizes. And you get the benefit of being
able to distribute photos online immediately if needed.
For situations that demand the highest possible image quality, choose TIFF, assuming
that you have enough camera memory to store the larger files. You will need to create a
copy of the picture in the JPEG format for online sharing, however. (Some cameras can
make the copies for you automatically, which is a great time-saver.)
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As for RAW, I rarely use it because a) it’s a nuisance, and b) I’m not a fanatic about
recording “pure” images. The only situation in which I’d consider RAW is when I’m
working with a camera that is heavy-handed with image sharpening. For more about
that topic, read “Features to Ignore,” at the end of this chapter.
Many cameras record details about camera settings, such as shutter
speed and lens focal length, in a hidden part of a JPEG file. You can
view this data—dubbed EXIF metadata—in some image-cataloging
programs and stand-alone EXIF viewers. See Chapter 1 for more
information.
Exposure Modes
Digital cameras, like point-and-shoot film cameras and some film single-lens reflex
(SLR) cameras, offer programmed autoexposure—AE for short. In this mode, the
camera automatically chooses the proper combination of aperture (f-stop) and shutter
speed needed to produce a good exposure. (See Chapter 1 if you’re new to these terms.)
In addition to programmed AE, advanced cameras typically provide two variations
on the theme:
• Aperture-priority AE
Chooses the shutter speed automatically after you
set the aperture.
• Shutter-priority AE
Sets the aperture automatically based on your selected
shutter speed.
Your camera may also offer a manual exposure setting that gives you complete
control over both aperture and shutter speed.
When you use any autoexposure camera, you must press the shutter button in a
certain way for the exposure mechanism to work properly. After framing the shot,
press the shutter button halfway down and wait for the camera to signal you that it’s
analyzed the scene—usually, by sounding a beep or displaying a light near the
viewfinder. Then press the button the rest of the way down to capture the image.
Creative Impact
Just as a movie director uses lighting to set the mood of a scene, you can use your camera’s
exposure controls to convey a certain feeling in the image. You can purposely underexpose
an image to give the subject an air of mystery, for example.
Beyond the obvious balance of light and dark in a photograph, however, you can alter
other aspects of an image by taking control of aperture and shutter speed.
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For example, you can adjust depth of field, or the range of the picture that’s in sharp
focus, by changing the aperture. The larger the aperture, the smaller the depth of field.
As an example, see Figure 2.6, shown in color at the top of Page 13 in the color insert.
Depth-of-field shifts get more noticeable as you zoom in or bring the camera closer to
the subject, as illustrated by the lower images in the color insert.
f/11
f/2.8
FIGURE 2.6 A large aperture produces shorter depth of field (left); a small aperture brings a greater area
into sharp focus (right).
In addition, when photographing a moving subject, you can use a fast shutter speed to
“freeze” action. Alternatively, you can emphasize motion by using a slow shutter, which
blurs the subject. For two illustrations, see Secrets #6 and #14 in the color insert.
Chapter 6 provides tips for using shutter speed to create different effects when
capturing motion.
Recommended Setting
You can rely on today’s programmed AE mechanisms to produce a properly exposed
image in most situations—assuming, that is, that you take the two-step approach to
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pushing the shutter button that I described earlier. However, your idea of “proper
exposure” may differ from the camera’s choice. If you don’t like the shutter speed,
aperture, or combination thereof that the camera selects, switch to shutter-priority AE,
aperture-priority AE, or manual exposure. You may also be able to get your camera to
deliver the exposure you want by changing the EV setting, exposure metering mode, or
ISO setting, as explained in the next few sections. And of course, you can always use
your camera’s built-in flash to add light to the scene, which will also force the exposure
mechanism to vary aperture and shutter speed.
If all else fails, you can force a change in exposure when using an autoexposure
camera by “tricking” the exposure mechanism. To brighten the image, aim the
camera at an object that’s darker than your subject and press the shutter halfway
down to set the exposure. Keep holding the shutter button halfway down and then
reframe your subject. When you capture the image, the camera will use the exposure
setting that it found appropriate for the darker scene, resulting in a brighter exposure.
To produce a darker image, use the opposite approach. Remember, though, that if
you’re working in autofocus mode (explained later in this chapter, in the section
“Focus Modes”), the focus is also set when you press the shutter button halfway
down. So be sure that the object you use when setting exposure is the same distance
from the camera as your subject, or the focus will be off.
Controlling Autoexposure with EV Compensation
Even when you shoot in full programmed AE mode, you may still have some control
over exposure. Most digital cameras offer an EV compensation control, which slightly
increases or decreases the exposure that the autoexposure mechanism deems
appropriate. EV stands for exposure value, in case you’re interested.
The increments of exposure shift vary from camera to camera; typically you can ramp
exposure up or down in one-half or one-third steps (for example, +0.5, +1.0, +1.5). Page 17
of the color insert offers an illustration of how EV compensation affects an image.
Choosing an Autoexposure Metering Mode
Many advanced digital cameras also enable you to control autoexposure by changing the
exposure metering mode. The metering mode determines the area within the frame that’s
considered when the camera analyzes the scene and sets the exposure. Standard options
include the following:
• Multi-metering
Measures the light at multiple locations throughout the frame
and tries to choose a setting that correctly exposes everything—a task that’s
not always possible if the image contains very bright highlights and very dark
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shadows. This mode also goes by the names matrix metering, pattern metering,
and multizone metering.
• Spot metering
Sets exposure according to the object that’s smack dab in the
center of the frame, the surrounding area be darned.
• Center-weighted metering
Also gives preference to the center of the frame, but
doesn’t completely discount the perimeter.
For routine shots, use multi-metering mode. However, if you’re shooting a subject in
strong backlighting, multi-metering will “see” all that bright light in the background
and use an exposure that leaves your subject too dark, as illustrated by the first image
on Page 12 of the color insert. To remedy the problem, switch to center-weighted or
spot-metering. You may also need to add a flash to illuminate your subject, as was
the case for the portrait featured on the color plate.
Although the monitor on your camera enables you to see whether you achieved
a decent exposure, don’t rely on it entirely. The brightness of the monitor can
make a too-dark or too-light image appear to be properly exposed. To give yourself
an exposure safety net, bracket your shots—that is, take the same picture at several
different exposures. When you download your pictures to your computer, you can
decide which exposure works the best.
When working in autoexposure mode, you can bracket shots easily by using the
EV compensation control. For example, shoot one picture at EV 0.0, one at a step
down from that, and one at a step up. Your camera may even have an auto-bracketing
feature that shoots the series of exposures automatically with one press of the shutter
button. (Don’t confuse auto-bracketing with the multi-exposure mode found on
some cameras, however. Auto-bracketing creates a series of individual images;
multi-exposure overlays a series of shots on top of each other, as if you had
composited them in a photo-editing program.)
ISO
Another factor affecting exposure, whether you work in autoexposure or manual
exposure, is the ISO setting.
The term ISO is a carryover from film photography. It’s an international standard
(from the International Standards Organization, of course) that describes a film’s light
sensitivity, often called film speed. The higher the film speed, the less light is required to
record an image. Consumer film ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 800, with higher numbers
indicating faster—more sensitive—film.
On digital cameras, ISO indicates the capabilities of the image sensor relative to film.
The default setting on most digital cameras is either 100 or 160; some cameras enable
you to dial in a higher ISO.
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Creative Impact
When you switch to a higher ISO film, you can get a good exposure at a faster shutter
speed or smaller aperture. But you pay with an increase in film grain, which can make a
photo look like it’s covered with fine sand. Similarly, raising ISO on a digital camera can
give your image a speckled appearance. Page 2 of the color insert offers a look at this
phenomenon.
Recommended Setting
For best picture quality, leave the ISO at its lowest setting. Raise the value only if you’re
working in low lighting or trying to capture very fast action—or both—and you don’t
have any other way to record the scene.
Flash Modes
Every point-and-shoot digital camera costing more than $100 offers a built-in flash, as
do most digital SLR models. You also get a choice of flash modes, which control how
and when the flash is fired.
Because the correct flash mode varies depending on your subject, lighting, and the
type of photography you want to do—all topics explored in detail in later chapters—I
won’t go into specific creative options or recommendations here. Instead, here’s a mini
review of commonly available modes and their uses:
• Auto flash
Triggers the flash when the camera thinks it’s needed, which is a great
feature for casual snapshooting.
• Fill (or Force) flash
Fires the flash for every shot. You often need to use this
mode for good outdoor portraits, for reasons discussed in Chapter 3.
• No flash
Prevents the flash from firing, which is a good thing when you’re trying
to shoot shiny objects, such as glass or chrome. See Chapter 4 for details.
• Red-eye flash
Produces a mini flash that lights in advance of the main flash. The
idea is that a subject’s pupils will constrict in response to the mini flash, thereby
lessening the chance of red-eye, which is caused by the main flash reflecting in said
pupils. In a dark room, the feature rarely solves the problem entirely—which is
why manufacturers refer to this feature as red-eye reduction mode, not red-eye
prevention mode. Chapter 3 offers more advice about red-eye.
• Slow-sync flash
Enables you to use slower shutter speeds than the camera
normally allows for flash photography. When you’re shooting at night or in a
dimly lit room, this mode enables you to capture both subject and background.
Without it, the background usually appears dark. See Chapter 6 for details.
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If you’re working with an accessory flash unit instead of a built-in flash, you may
not be able to take advantage of the full range of flash modes on your camera; check
the camera and flash manual to determine your options. You may also find that you
can adjust the intensity of both the on-board flash and the external flash unit by using
a Flash EV control.
Chapter 3 provides more details about working with an external flash; see
Chapter 4 for a look at how varying flash intensity can come in handy when
doing still-life photography.
Focus Modes
For film photographers making the transition from a 35mm SLR camera to a
point-and-shoot digital model, learning to cope with the focusing systems is perhaps
the most difficult adjustment.
Few digital cameras offer the manual lens-focusing ring found on traditional SLR
lenses—the kind that you simply twist to focus. Instead, autofocus is the norm. When
you press the shutter button halfway down, the camera reads the lens-to-subject distance
and sets the focus automatically. This process happens in conjunction with the autoexposure
reading, explained earlier in this chapter.
Typically, you get both a macro focusing option for shooting close-ups and a standard
focusing setting for normal photography. Many cameras also offer manual focus control,
but you have to use menus to set a specific focusing distance.
Creative Impact
Although autofocusing can be frustrating at first if you’re used to a traditional focusing
mechanism, it doesn’t really limit your creative options. You just have to learn to use the
autofocus system properly.
For example, suppose that you don’t want your main subject to be centered in the
picture. Not a problem. Frame the image with the subject in the center, press and hold
the shutter button halfway down to “lock” the focus distance, reframe the scene, and
then press the shutter button the rest of the way down.
You’re most likely to be limited in close-up focusing distance. You may need to invest
in an accessory macro lens if you want to shoot extreme close-ups. But the same is true
for a 35mm camera, so don’t blame this one on digital technology. In fact, most digital
cameras offer closer focusing at the macro setting than a film camera.
Chapter 5 discusses close-up digital photography in detail.
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Recommendations
If your camera does offer a manual focusing ring, by all means feel free to enjoy it. But
if you don’t have that option or you just don’t want to mess with manual focusing,
you can safely leave the camera in autofocus mode for most shots. Today’s autofocus
mechanisms are pretty savvy, as long as you use the correct technique. Again: Frame,
press the shutter button halfway to lock focus, and then depress the button fully to
capture the image.
For even greater focusing flexibility, check your manual to see whether your camera
offers a way to alter the subject area that the camera considers when setting the focus.
Some cameras offer a spot-focusing mode, for example, that enables you to target only
the object that’s in the very center of the frame.
If you’re shooting close-ups, remember to switch to macro focusing mode. For
close-ups where specific focusing is critical, you’ll probably want to use manual
focusing, even though it’s a pain to have to use menus to set the focus distance.
White Balance
White balance is purely a digital animal when it comes to still photography, but this
control may be familiar to you if you’re experienced with video cameras.
As with a video camera, the white balance control addresses the fact that different
light sources—daylight, fluorescent light, incandescent bulbs, and so on—have different
color temperatures. (Color temperature is a measure of the hue emitted by a particular
light source.) White balance enables the camera to compensate for any color cast that
may be created by the light source.
Creative Impact
Film photographers must account for changing color temperatures by using different
films and color filters. Going digital eliminates that hassle. Your digital camera should
offer automatic white balancing, freeing you to concentrate on other issues.
As creative digital photographers have discovered, however, you can use the manual
white-balance override found on most cameras to create the same effects as you get from
a warming or cooling filter. Nifty! See Page 26 of the color insert for examples.
Recommended Setting
Again, unless you’re trying to achieve a special color effect, automatic white balancing
works well in most lighting conditions. However, when you’re working with multiple
light sources that have different color temperatures, you may need to take control of
white balancing.
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If you’re shooting in an office that’s lit by both fluorescent overhead lights and window
light, the camera may be confused about what white balance to use, for example. Turn on
your camera’s LCD monitor to preview the shot, and if you notice a weird color cast,
white balance is the likely culprit.
Features to Ignore (or Turn Off)
In addition to all the other features discussed in this chapter, your camera probably
includes a handful of other options, which I consider to be minor conveniences at best
and downright annoyances at worst. Here’s my take on the most common of these
second-tier players, listed in order of their usefulness.
Creative Scene Modes
Most digital cameras offer some preset shooting modes that automatically dial in
the settings that the manufacturer considers best for certain types of photography.
Typically, you can select from at least two modes: portrait and landscape. Some
cameras go further and offer an action mode for capturing moving subjects and
nighttime mode for after-hours shooting.
Because every manufacturer uses slightly different settings for these modes, I can’t
make a wholesale recommendation about which ones work best. You may want to do
some tests to compare the images produced by each mode with the results you get when
you take the photographic reins. If you have an image browser or viewer that can read
the EXIF metadata that’s stored in a JPEG image file, you can see the specific settings
that the camera uses in each of the scene modes.
On cameras that don’t provide a way to set aperture or shutter speed manually,
you may be able to get the setting you want by changing the scene mode.
Switching to action mode usually produces the camera’s fastest shutter speed, and
choosing nighttime mode usually selects the slowest shutter. Similarly, portrait mode
typically forces a larger aperture (lower f-stop), while landscape mode selects a
smaller aperture.
Correction and Color Filters
With the exception of images captured in the RAW file format, all digital photos
undergo some image processing as they’re being stored to the camera memory. Color,
sharpness, contrast, and other attributes may be tweaked to produce an image that the
manufacturer believes will be the most satisfactory to the camera’s target audience.
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This image manipulation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, whether you know it or
not, your film pictures get similar treatment when you have them developed at a retail
photo lab. But some cameras can be overzealous, especially in the area of sharpening.
Page 22 of the color insert offers an illustration.
If an image seems a little soft, you can always use your photo editor’s sharpening filter
to improve things. But correcting an oversharpened image is difficult. So either turn off
in-camera sharpening or use the lowest available setting.
As for color effects, including those that convert your photo to a black-and-white
picture or add special effects such as a sepia tone, I recommend that you ignore them.
For reasons explored in Chapter 8, you get more control over your image if you shoot
in regular, full-color mode and do any color manipulations in your photo editor.
Digital Zoom
Digital zoom is nothing like having a true, optical zoom lens. Digital zoom simply
enlarges the existing image and crops away the outer edges, just as if you had taken the
same steps in a photo editor. The quality of the resulting picture is reduced because you
have fewer pixels in your “zoomed” image.
So why do manufacturers offer this feature? Simple. Most people don’t understand the
difference between digital and optical zoom, and they think they’re getting something
important when they see “digital zoom” on the camera box. Or they may see only the
part of the camera ad that claims “28X total zoom!” and completely miss the fine print,
which reveals that the model in fact offers an optical zoom factor of only 3X, with the
rest of that 28-times magnification being produced by digital trickery. I’ve even heard
camera salespeople say that a cheaper camera with only a digital zoom is better than a
more expensive model with an optical zoom—because the magnification number (that X
factor) is higher on the model with the digital zoom.
In the immortal words of the Mad Hatter in Walt Disney’s version of Alice in
Wonderland, “Oh, my goodness! THOSE are the things that UPSET me!” (I’ve been
waiting 20 years to use that line. Sometimes spending hours in front of the television
doesn’t pay off right away.)
In case you think I’m mad as a hatter, check out Page 21 of the color insert, which
illustrates what happens when you use digital zoom. Chapter 5 offers more advice
about using a zoom lens and other means of getting closer to your subject.
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PART II
Discovering the Secrets
of the Pros
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3
Taking Memorable Portraits
Have you ever wondered why portraits taken in the early
days of photography rarely feature a smiling subject?
One theory—a kind of disgusting one, actually—is that
dental hygiene wasn’t yet a priority, and thus a toothy
grin was not the most attractive choice. A more likely explanation, though, was that recording an image in those
days required exposure times of many minutes, during
which the subject had to remain absolutely still. Sometimes the sitter’s head was even clamped into place to
make sure it didn’t move! Small wonder, then, that the
most relaxed, happy-countenanced subjects appear in
so-called casket photos that were taken to memorialize
a person shortly after death.
Today’s cameras can capture a subject in fractions of a
second, and most people possess presentable choppers,
thanks to all those grade school lessons about the importance of brushing after meals. Even so, a smiling subject
doesn’t necessarily translate to a good portrait. Improper
lighting, unflattering camera angles, and other creative
missteps can make the most beautiful subject look terrible. And let’s not forget the number-one plague of indoor
and nighttime flash photography: red-eye.
This chapter focuses on techniques and tools that will
help you improve your people pictures, whether you’re
taking family photos for the living-room wall or employee
head shots for your company newsletter. The first part of
the chapter provides some general advice about using
your digital camera for portrait work, and the remaining
pages offer some specific tricks that you can use when
shooting casual, formal, and outdoor portraits.
For tips related to nighttime and action portraits, see Chapter 6.
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Basics of Digital Portrait Photography
Shooting a digital portrait involves many of the same concerns as a film portrait—
good lighting, complementary clothing and backgrounds, and, of course, a reasonably
cooperative subject. But working with a digital camera throws some additional issues
into the mix, as the next few sections explain.
Composing for Traditional Frame Sizes
An old rule of video photography says that you should include “head room” around the
top and sides of the frame so that if people move during the shot, their faces don’t shift
out of the picture. In still photography, close framing is perfectly acceptable and can
even be dramatic. But eliminating all head room when capturing digital images can lead
to a problem if you later want to print and frame the picture.
Digital cameras produce images that have a 4:3 aspect ratio (width relative to height),
which matches that of a computer monitor or television. A 35mm film negative, on the
other hand, produces images with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is the same as for a 4×6-inch
photo frame. A 5×7-inch frame has an aspect ratio of 5:7; an 8×10-inch frame, 4:5.
Figure 3.1 illustrates the difference between
these various aspect ratios. The light gray
background rectangle represents a 4:3 digital
image; the outlines represent the 4×6, 5×7,
and 8×10 aspect ratios. (For the sake of clarity,
everything is oriented with the long edges running
horizontally.)
When you enlarge a 35mm film image to a 5×7
or 8×10, the photo lab must either crop the picture
or add a white border to account for the difference
FIGURE 3.1 Pictures from a digital
in aspect ratio between the original and the
camera have a different
aspect ratio than traditional
enlargement. You must make the same decision
photo frames.
if you want to mount your digital image in any
of the commercially available frame sizes (or mattes), at least until manufacturers get
wise and start producing frames with a 4:3 aspect ratio.
As an example, see Figure 3.2. The left image is the digital original; the middle image
shows what part of the picture would remain if cropped to the 4×6-inch aspect ratio. At
this aspect ratio, part of the toddler’s head must be cropped away. Your other option is
to reduce the original and add a border, as shown in the right image.
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FIGURE 3.2 If you don’t leave a little head room (left), you must either crop away a portion of the
subject’s face (middle) or reduce the image size and add a border (right) if you want to
make the picture fit a 4×6-inch photo frame.
The moral of the story: To avoid having to lose part of your subject’s face or add an
unsightly border, always leave a decent margin of head room when you’re shooting digital
portraits. The top portrait on Page 6 of the color insert offers an example. This loose
framing enables you to crop the photo as needed to fit a variety of frame sizes and
aspect ratios.
Of course, another way to solve the problem is to take your digital prints to a framing
store and buy a custom-cut matte or frame. But you can save yourself the expense and
hassle by simply getting in the habit of allowing adequate head room for all your
portraits.
Some digital cameras now offer a special 3:2 format setting in addition
to the standard 4:3 format. This option limits you to capturing an area
that has a 3:2 aspect ratio, a feature that’s especially useful when you’re
shooting pictures that you know you want to frame.
Choosing Aperture and Shutter Speed
Portrait photography calls for a large aperture, such as f/2.8 or f/3.5, which creates a
short depth of field and therefore leaves the background slightly soft in focus. A short
depth of field makes the subject more visually prominent because the viewer’s eye goes
first to whatever is in sharpest focus. In addition, reducing the depth of field makes
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distracting background objects less noticeable, as discussed in Chapter 2 and illustrated
on Page 13 of the color insert.
You can set aperture precisely if your camera offers either manual exposure or
aperture-priority autoexposure (AE). Remember that as you enlarge the aperture
(by shifting to a lower f-stop number), you need to increase shutter speed to account
for the additional light that comes through that larger aperture. In aperture-priority
AE, the camera makes the adjustment for you automatically.
If your camera does not offer manual exposure control or aperture-priority AE, you
may be able to force a larger aperture by using portrait scene mode (covered next).
Taking Advantage of Portrait Mode
Many digital cameras offer scene modes, which automatically select aperture, shutter
speed, and other settings that are appropriate for various types of pictures. The two
most common scene modes are portrait and landscape.
Each camera manufacturer uses different settings for its scene modes, but portrait
mode typically selects the largest available aperture to achieve the shortest possible depth
of field. (See the preceding section, “Choosing Aperture and Shutter Speed,” for more on
this topic.) Depending on the camera, portrait mode may also select a particular focal
length, sharpening amount, flash setting, and exposure metering mode.
You can see what settings your camera chooses in portrait mode by shooting some
sample pictures and then inspecting the EXIF file data in an image viewer, as explored
in Chapter 1. You then can decide whether you can rely on portrait mode or need to
take more control. Remember that the settings your camera selects in any scene mode
will vary depending on the amount of light; in bright sunlight, for example, the camera
will likely choose a smaller aperture than it does in low light.
Using a neutral density filter over your lens reduces the amount of light entering
your camera and so enables you to use a wider aperture in bright light. See Chapter 6
for more information.
Check your camera manual to see whether you can store custom capture
settings as your own personal scene modes. This feature gives you the
convenience of preset modes without having to give up any creative control.
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Finding a Flattering Camera Angle
For most portraits, you should position the camera at the subject’s eye level.
A high camera angle creates the impression of diminished
stature, as if the viewer is towering over the subject. On the
flip side, shooting from a very low angle can make subjects
appear haughty because they seem to be looking down
their noses at the viewer.
In addition, a high or low camera angle may distort your
subject’s physical proportions, as illustrated by Figure 3.3,
which features a selection from my personal photo box of
shame. I shot this picture of my nephew from a high angle,
which led to a bizarre rendering of his body shape.
Just because your camera is positioned at eye level
doesn’t mean that you always need to have your subject
looking straight into the lens, though. As illustrated by
Figure 3.2 and by the left example in Figure 3.4, an upward
or downward gaze can be enchanting. However, as you can
FIGURE 3.3 Distortion of body
proportions can occur
see when you compare the left and right images in Figure 3.4,
when you shoot from an
a straight-ahead viewpoint creates a greater sense of
extreme point of view—
intimacy because the subject appears to be looking the
in this case, from high
above the subject.
viewer in the eye.
FIGURE 3.4 Directing your subject’s eyes to a position slightly above the camera can help reduce
red-eye (left); but a straight-ahead gaze creates a stronger sense of intimacy (right).
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What Causes Red-Eye?
Red-eye is caused by light from a flash reflecting off a subject’s retinas, taking on the
color of surrounding blood vessels. In some animal eyes, the problem may show up
as a green, yellow, or white glare because of a colored membrane that’s located behind
the retina.
Man or beast, the problem usually occurs only when the flash is positioned close
to the camera lens, as it is on point-and-shoot cameras, and in low lighting, when
the subject’s pupils are dilated (enlarged) to absorb more light. If you have no other
choice but to use a flash, you can lessen red-eye by taking advantage of the red-eye
reduction flash setting found on most cameras. Before the main flash fires, the camera
emits a brief “preflash” light to shrink the pupils a little. Another trick is to tell the
subject to look slightly up or down so that reflected light from the retinas doesn’t
bounce back directly into the lens. Of course, moving farther from your subject
also reduces red-eye because less flash light reaches the eyes.
Avoiding Focal Length and Distance Distortions
Extreme camera angles aren’t the only cause of subject distortion. You can also warp
features if you use a wide-angle lens (short focal length) and position the camera too
close to the subject, as
illustrated by the left
image in Figure 3.5.
This image is doubly
awful because I stood
so close that I exceeded
the camera’s minimum
focusing distance,
leaving the subject
distorted and blurry.
Stepping back from
my young friend fixed
both problems.
FIGURE 3.5 Using a wide-angle lens and standing too close to the subject
caused a blurred image and extreme smushing of facial features
(left); putting more distance between subject and camera solved
the problem (right).
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Even when you can achieve proper focus, however,
you may still be in the distortion zone, as shown in
Figure 3.6. This time, my niece was the unlucky subject.
Her face appears misshapen because I again used the
wide-angle setting on my camera’s zoom lens and stood
only a few feet away. Even my niece’s incredible blue
eyes, which you can see on Page 6 of the color insert,
aren’t enough to make this image a winner—the
distortion along with the ugly background add up to a
picture that’s good for illustrating common photography
errors, but not much else.
To get a better result, shown in Figure 3.7, I
convinced my niece to pose in a spot that would provide
a more pleasing backdrop. (My attempts to get her to
step in front of the bushes instead of climbing in the
middle of them weren’t successful, but when you’re a
proud aunt, you don’t let little things like that stop you
from taking pictures.) I stood about eight or nine feet
away and zoomed in to the camera’s maximum focal
length, which is about three times that used for the
previous image.
FIGURE 3.6 Even when you’re within
the camera’s minimum
focusing distance, you still
may be too close to get a
distortion-free image with
a wide-angle lens.
FIGURE 3.7 This time, I positioned the camera farther from the subject and zoomed to a longer focal
length (left). I later cropped the image to fill more of the frame with the face (right).
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If you want to fill the frame with your subject’s head and shoulders, use a focal
length equivalent to about 135mm on a 35mm film camera and shoot at a
distance of about seven feet to avoid distortion. You need to check your manual to
determine how your camera’s focal-length range compares to the 35mm film-camera
standard. On the camera used for Figures 3.6 and 3.7, the wide-angle setting equates
to a focal length of approximately that of a 35mm lens, and the maximum telephoto
zoom setting is equal to about 105mm.
If your camera offers only a fixed focal length, you simply have to keep moving back
from your subject until you reach the distortion-free position. Of course, when you do
so, you get more background in the picture. If you shoot at a high enough image resolution,
you can always crop away the excess background and enlarge the remaining image in your
photo editor, as I did to create the right example in Figure 3.7 and Page 6 of the color insert.
Chapter 1 explains how to compare digital camera focal lengths to focal lengths on
a 35mm film camera—and why the two technologies work on a different scale. See
Chapter 2 for tips on image resolution.
Casual Indoor Portraits
Whenever I walk through my local shopping mall, I pass by one of those quick-portrait
places that are so popular in suburbia today. I’m always filled with deepest sympathy
for the photographers and their assistants, who more often than not seem trapped in
a noisy nightmare. While they work desperately to coax a smile out of a fussy infant,
tantrum-throwing toddler, or sarcastic teen, the parent makes their job even harder by
scolding the child and giving unsolicited photography advice.
I have tremendous respect for people who can survive that kind of photographic duty
on a daily basis, and I certainly don’t want to take money out of their deserving pockets.
But I also have no doubt that you can produce portraits that are just as satisfactory in
your own home, without all the stress to everyone involved. In fact, because your subjects
are likely to be more relaxed at home, I dare say that your pictures will be even better
than those you bring home from the mall.
The secret to great home portraits is, as with so many things in life, simplicity. You
don’t need expensive studio lighting or a fancy backdrop that’s painted with cartoon
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characters or a fake beach
scene. A chair positioned next
to a sunlit window, as shown
in Figure 3.8, offers an ideal
foundation for an indoor portrait.
(If the chair is upholstered, be
sure that it isn’t covered with
a busy fabric that will be
distracting in the photo.)
Although window light will
serve well as your major light
source, it likely will not be
FIGURE 3.8 Window light provides a good starting point for an
entirely sufficient. The following
indoor portrait.
sections discuss a variety of
options for bringing additional light to your photo; some choices produce better results
than others, as illustrated by the series of images on Pages 8 and 9 of the color insert and
Figures 3.9 through 3.11. (Note that I cropped these images to show just the subject’s
head and shoulders; as discussed in the preceding section, filling the frame at the subjectto-camera distance shown in Figure 3.8 would have distorted the facial features.)
Using Flash
The easiest way to add light is to switch on your camera’s built-in flash. Unfortunately,
red-eye problems usually result, as illustrated by the first portrait example on Page 8
of the color insert. I should point out, though, that because your subject’s pupils will
be constricted somewhat in response to the bright window light, red-eye shouldn’t be
as severe as it would be if you were using flash in a dark room.
In addition to causing red-eye, a built-in flash is too focused to produce soft, even
lighting. Compare the left image in Figure 3.9 with its companion to the right, which
I shot using an external flash bounced off the wall behind the subject. (The second
image on Page 8 in the color insert shows the external flash example as well.) The
face in the second image is much more evenly lit, and as the color version of the
picture shows, red-eye is no longer a problem. On the downside, the stronger light
produced by the external flash creates a large, harsh shadow that pulls attention
away from the subject.
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Built-in flash
External bounced flash
FIGURE 3.9 A built-in flash creates uneven lighting (left); an external flash fixes that problem but adds a
large, harsh shadow behind the subject’s head (right).
When working with an external flash, you can soften shadows by placing a piece of
translucent white plastic or paper over the flash head to diffuse the light. You also
can find commercial flash diffusers in your local camera store. Keep in mind that you
may need to increase exposure because you will be reducing the amount of direct
light hitting the subject. Depending on your camera and flash, you also may be able
to adjust the flash output.
Boosting Exposure Through EV Compensation
When you have a fair amount of ambient lighting—in the case of the example portraits,
provided via the adjacent window—you may be able to go flashless and get a good
exposure by boosting your camera’s EV (exposure value) compensation control. Using
a positive EV setting produces a brighter exposure than the camera’s autoexposure
mechanism believes is appropriate. Figure 3.10 shows the exposure produced with the
flash disabled and the EV setting at 0.0 (that is, no exposure adjustment) and at +0.7.
The first portrait example on Page 9 of the color insert also shows the +0.7 image.
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EV 0.0
EV +0.7
FIGURE 3.10 For these images, I turned off the flash and used an EV compensation setting of 0.0 (left)
and +0.7 (right).
You may discover, however, that raising the EV setting enough to expose the darkest
areas of the face properly overexposes the lighter areas, as it did in the example photo.
The window side of the head and hand went almost completely white at the increased
exposure.
If you are working at maximum aperture, as I was for the example portraits,
your camera will reduce shutter speed in response to a higher EV compensation
setting. Be sure to use a tripod so that you don’t blur the image by accidentally
moving the camera during the longer exposure.
Adding Reflected Light
If a flash creates harsh shadows or red-eye, and boosting EV compensation blows out
highlights, a simple pro trick can save the day. Just use a reflector to bounce window
light back onto the shaded side of the face, as shown in Figure 3.11. If you don’t have
an extra pair of hands around to hold the reflector, you can prop it against a stack of
books or a chair.
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FIGURE 3.11 Using a reflector to bounce window light back onto the subject can enable you to shoot
without a flash or increased EV compensation.
✁COST CUTTER
You don’t need a commercially made reflector to create bounced light. A piece
of white cardboard will work just fine. If you want a more subtle effect, cover the
cardboard with a piece of gold reflective material from the fabric store. Just keep
in mind that the smaller the reflector, the more focused the reflected light. I used
a 32-inch reflector for the portrait in Figure 3.11 so that both the face and sweater
would receive a boost of soft, diffused light. With a smaller size—say, 12 inches—
you could concentrate the added light on the face alone.
In the example portrait, the reflector reduced deep shadows on the face without creating
heavy shadowing behind the head. And because the scene no longer contained a large
expanse of dark areas, the camera didn’t crank up the exposure so much that the brightly
lit side of the face was overexposed, as it did in the no-flash examples in Figure 3.10.
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In the reflector image, the bright side of the picture is only slightly “hot,” creating a
subtle glow that tells the viewer that the subject is by a window even though the window
isn’t visible.
When you are working with two different types of light, such as window light and a
flash, your camera may not render skin tones accurately when you use the automatic
white-balance setting. You can read more about this issue on Page 9 of the color
insert and find out how to tweak white balance in Chapter 8.
Quick-Snap Portraits
Not all subjects are as cooperative as the beautiful young lady who agreed to pose
for the series of window-side portraits featured in the preceding sections. In my family,
even getting people to stand still for a quick snapshot is often a challenge. When you
don’t have time to arrange people, lighting, or the setting as carefully as you’d like, try
these tricks:
• For a quick and easy backdrop for kid pics, throw some big pillows on the floor
and have the kids plop down on them. In Figure 3.12, for example, I used sofa
cushions, placing
them next to a sliding
glass door to take
advantage of strong
window lighting.
• For a family grouping,
a plain wall or curtain
can provide a nice
backdrop. If you use
a curtained window
as the background
during daylight hours,
however, you may
need to adjust your
FIGURE 3.12
exposure to account
for backlighting, as
covered in the later
section “Outdoor Portraits.”
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Sofa cushions placed next to a sliding glass door provided
a great backdrop for this snapshot.
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• At night, you will need to use a flash even if you switch on room lighting. If your
camera offers slow-sync flash or slow-sync red-eye flash, switching to that mode
will help brighten the background. (Chapter 6 has details.) That’s assuming the
background is worth showing—if it’s not, leave the flash in regular mode or
red-eye mode, and your background will appear dark.
• Speaking of red-eye flash mode, warn your subjects that they will see two
bursts of light, and that the second one indicates that the flash has fired.
The first light appears to constrict the subject’s pupils slightly, which helps
reduce red-eye. (See the Technical Aside sidebar “What Causes Red-Eye?”
earlier in this chapter.) If you don’t give people this warning, they will think
that the preflash is the real flash and stop smiling or move before the picture
is actually recorded.
• Don’t always insist that people face the camera and say “cheese.” Instead, look
for opportunities to catch a subject enjoying an everyday activity, which almost
always offers a truer reflection of a subject’s personality and is infinitely more
interesting. Also, capturing interaction between people tells more about their
relationship than the typical shoulder-to-shoulder arrangement that most people
use for their family photos.
• If you’re trying to photograph very young children, fire the flash a few times
before you really get serious so that they can get used to your presence. After
a while, they’ll forget that you’re there, and you can capture them doing what
they do best: being kids.
Even though I’ve just spent several pages offering advice about how to improve
your own home portraits, don’t write off the idea of working with a professional
portrait photographer every now and then, especially for important occasions such
as an anniversary or engagement. In addition to years of technical expertise, a skilled
professional can bring artistic ideas to the table that you may not have considered.
And a professional portrait may offer the only opportunity for you to get in the
picture instead of standing behind the camera!
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How
To
REMOVE RED-EYE
Almost every photo-editing program offers an automated red-eye removal
tool. Too bad these tools hardly ever work well. The good news is that doing the
job on your own is probably even easier than working with the automated tools.
Here’s how to do it in Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0:
1. Duplicate the background image layer so that if you mess up, you can easily
return the image to its original state. Just open the Layers palette and drag
the background layer to the new layer icon, labeled in Figure 3.13.
New layer icon
Sponge tool
FIGURE 3.13
Working on a duplicate image layer, first use the Sponge tool to desaturate the
red pixels.
2. Select the Sponge tool from the toolbox.
3. On the Options bar, set the Mode control to Desaturate and the Flow setting
to 100 percent, as shown in the figure.
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How
To
REMOVE RED-EYE (continued)
4. Choose a small, hard-edged brush. The brush should be smaller than
the red-eye area you want to correct.
5. Click or drag over the red-eye pixels. The program sucks the color out of the
pixels you touch, leaving them white, black, or gray.
6. Create a new, empty layer by clicking the new layer icon in the Layers palette.
This layer will hold your new eye color. Set the layer blending mode to Color
by using the menu at the top of the Layers palette, as shown in Figure 3.14.
Foreground color icon
Paintbrush
FIGURE 3.14
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How
To
REMOVE RED-EYE (continued)
7. Click the foreground color icon (labeled in Figure 3.14) and choose a
color that’s close to the subject’s natural eye color.
8. Activate the Paintbrush tool, also labeled in Figure 3.14. Again, use
a small brush, but this time you may want to work with a soft brush tip so
that your paint strokes don’t have hard edges.
9. Dab on the new eye color as needed. If you don’t see any change, as may be
the case when working on animal eyes, switch the blending mode to Normal
and reduce the Opacity setting in the Layers palette to about 50 percent.
10. When you’re happy with your work, merge the image layers by choosing
Layer  Flatten Image.
You can use this same approach with any program that offers a Sponge tool,
layers, and the layer blending mode. Don’t have any of those tools? If your photo
editor offers a hue/saturation filter, try this fix instead: Select the red portion of the
eyes and then adjust the color by using the hue control. You also may be able to use
a regular color balance filter, which is a basic filter found in every photo editor.
Professional Head Shots
In the business world, people often need a formal head shot, a close-up photo showing
just the face and maybe a bit of shoulder. Many social organizations also request this
type of photo for their publications.
If you take head shots regularly, I recommend that you invest in at least one professional
studio light. Moving a chair next to a window is a good solution for home portraits, but
it’s a little unpractical in an office, church, or other out-of-home setting. A studio light
will also enable you to shoot without a flash, saving you the hassle of having to fix
red-eye in every picture.
✁COST CUTTER
If buying a light blows your budget, you can save some money on your portrait
backdrop. Just head to the hardware store and buy a canvas drop cloth to use as
your backdrop. You can hang the drop cloth from a curtain rod, clamp it to a storage
cabinet door, or just tape it to the wall behind your subject.
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With just one light, you can produce a nice head shot, as illustrated by the top image
on Page10 in the color insert. Figure 3.15 shows the same image in grayscale along with
the relative positions of camera, light, and subject. I used a studio “hot” light, attaching
a white reflective umbrella to diffuse the light and prevent harsh shadows.
FIGURE 3.15 A simple, one-light setup produces a nice head shot.
Chapter 1 provides more information about hot lights and other lighting options.
By adding reflectors or a second light—or both—you can make subtle changes to how
a face is rendered, as illustrated by the other examples on Pages 10 and 11 of the color
insert. Here’s a look at the different setups I used and how they affected the portrait:
• One light with reflector
For the second and third images on Page 10 in the color
insert, I placed a large reflector next to the subject, as indicated by the diagram
in Figure 3.16. The reflector bounced light from the main light onto the face,
reducing the shadows that you see along the subject’s right cheek (left side of the
photo) in Figure 3.15.
For the first of the two reflector images (shown in Figure 3.16 as well as on
Page 10 of the insert), I used a white reflector. For the second reflector image,
I switched to a gold reflector. As you can see from the color plate, the white
reflector creates a stronger bounced light than the gold reflector, and the
gold reflector adds a subtle warming effect.
• Two lights
Replacing the reflector with a second light, positioned as indicated in
Figure 3.17, creates even lighting across the face. Losing the shadowing on the side
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FIGURE 3.16 A reflector positioned next to the subject reduces shadowing on the side of the face
that’s farthest from the main light.
of the face makes the face appear slightly flatter, however. And although the side
shadows are gone, the shadows around the nose and mouth are more pronounced.
In addition to being unflattering, those shadows add so much contrast to that area
that they pull attention away from the eyes and wonderful smile. Ditto for the
heavier shadow that results under the jacket lapel.
FIGURE 3.17 Replacing the reflector with a second soft light creates even lighting but results in harsh
shadows around the nose and mouth and under the jacket lapel.
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If you want to sound like a photography expert, refer to your main light source
as the key light and light used to fill in shadows as fill light.
• Two lights, low reflector
To soften the facial shadowing without abandoning
the second light, I asked the subject to hold a small white reflector on her lap.
We positioned the reflector to bounce light up onto her face, which softened the
problematic shadows, as shown in Figure 3.18 and in the middle image on Page 11
of the color insert. But that reflected light source also lightened the neck area, which
here has the effect of making the chin and neck appear to blend together. In fact,
the whole face starts to take on a two-dimensional appearance.
FIGURE 3.18 A reflector placed on the subject’s lap throws additional light on her face but also makes
the boundary between chin and neck less defined.
For the final image, shown in Figure 3.19 and at the bottom of Page 11 of the insert,
we used the same lighting setup but changed the angle of the face and tilted the chin
slightly downward. This new orientation solved a couple of problems. First, less of the
neck shows, so the illusion of chin blending into neck is gone. Second, with the change
in head angle, some soft shadowing appears on the side of the face, bringing some
dimension back to the features. Finally, only one earring is now visible, and in a much
less distracting way than in the earlier images.
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I also took care to pull the neck of the jacket and
shirt tight to eliminate the gapping that occurs in the
other images. (No sense in fussing with these details
until you work out the lighting and all the other
issues.)
FIGURE 3.19 Changing the angle of
the head produced a
more flattering image
and made the earrings
less of a distraction.
FIGURE 3.20 Connecting your camera to a television offers a better
way to evaluate each shot than using the small monitor
on the camera.
If your camera offers a video-out port, you may want to connect the camera to
a television or VCR, as shown in Figure 3.20, when shooting formal portraits. You
then can preview and play back shots on the TV instead of in the camera’s monitor,
which is too small to reveal subtle problems with an image. If you position the monitor
so that both you and the subject can see it, you can assess each shot together. (If you
oriented the camera in a vertical position, however, the image appears lying on its
side on the monitor screen, as shown in the figure, unless your camera offers an
automatic rotation option.)
To hook the camera to the TV, connect a video cable (usually supplied with the
camera) between the camera’s video-out port and the TV or VCR video-in jack,
as shown in the close-up in Figure 3.20. If your camera records audio, the second
plug goes in the audio-in jack.
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Outdoor Portraits
Given the option, I always take portraits outdoors during the daytime. Why? Frankly,
it’s easier than working indoors. The sun provides a convenient (and energy efficient)
light source, you don’t have to worry about red-eye, and you can usually find a suitable
backdrop close by—a stand of evergreens, a garden, or even a brick wall. Your only real
challenge is making sure that your subject is properly exposed. The following techniques
will help you accomplish that goal:
• The best times of day to work outdoors are in mid-morning and late afternoon.
Try to avoid shooting at midday, when the position of the sun can create harsh
shadows on the face.
• Position subjects so that they don’t directly face the sun. Otherwise, they will have
trouble not squinting. Either move your subjects into a shady spot or position them
so that the sun is to one side or behind them. Another option is to have someone
hold a large piece of cardboard between the sun and your subject—to create your
own shade, in other words.
• When your subject is in front of the sun—backlit, as we say in the biz—guard
against underexposing the image. In normal autoexposure metering mode, your
camera takes the entire frame into account when
calculating exposure. As a result, strong backlighting
results in an exposure that leaves the foreground
subject underexposed, as shown in Figure 3.21 and
in the top image on Page 12 of the color insert. (This
metering mode goes by several different names, by
the way: pattern metering, matrix metering, and
multi-zone metering are just a few.)
• If your camera offers a choice of autoexposure
FIGURE 3.21 In pattern or matrix metering
mode, which is the default
setting on most cameras, a
bright background will cause
the subject’s face to be
underexposed.
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metering modes, switch to center-weighted or spot
metering mode. For a single subject, spot metering
usually works best. But for a group of people, centerweighted may be a better option. Spot metering
calculates exposure based on a small area in the
center of the frame, and center-weighted metering
gives preferential treatment to the center of the frame
but doesn’t completely discount the perimeter.
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• Even with spot metering, you still may need to bring additional light onto your
subject’s face, as illustrated by the two images in Figure 3.22 (the second and third
examples on Page 12 of the color insert). Although spot metering did brighten the
exposure, some of the face is still a little dark because of the shadows produced by
the brim of the hat.
FIGURE 3.22 Switching to spot metering brightens exposure (left), but a flash is needed to bring the
face out of the shadows created by the brim of the hat (right).
Switching on the camera’s built-in flash, as I did for the example portrait, usually
results in a better exposure both for the face and the background. In my picture,
the camera assumed (correctly, in this case) that the subject was close enough to
be well-illuminated by the flash, so the autoexposure mechanism dialed down the
exposure from what it used for the nonflash picture. So while the face became
brighter, thanks to the flash lighting, the background became darker.
• No metering control on your camera? If you have an EV compensation feature, it
may be just as useful. Raise the EV value to force the camera to increase exposure
beyond what its autoexposure meter says is appropriate.
Because bright sunlight can wash out a camera’s LCD monitor, determining whether
you have a decent exposure can be difficult. One accessory that can help is an LCD
hood, which casts some shade onto the monitor. (See Chapter 1 for a look at this
type of product.) However, even with a hood, don’t rely on your LCD monitor as
a completely accurate indicator of exposure. Bracket your shots to make sure that
you come home with at least one decent image.
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• You can also bring along a portable reflector to fill in shadows. A gold reflector
brings the added benefit of slightly warming the skin, as described earlier in this
chapter.
• To get a more pronounced warming of skin tones, pop a warming filter onto the
camera lens. Chapter 8 explores warming filters in detail, but the short story is
that they lessen blues and increase reds. You can buy warming filters in a variety
of strengths; for the bottom image on Page 12 of the color insert, I used a
medium-strength filter that has the oh-so-user-friendly designation of 81B.
• As explored in Chapter 8, you can also apply a virtual warming filter by switching
to manual white balance and choosing the setting appropriate for overcast skies.
(The name varies among cameras.) If you’re working on a cloudy day, however,
the camera’s automatic white balance feature will likely have already selected that
setting. You can always use your photo editor’s color-balancing filters to warm
tones after the fact, of course. Again, Chapter 8 explores all these options for
manipulating colors in greater detail.
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4
Exploring Product
Photography and Other
Still-Life Adventures
Compared to portrait photography, shooting
still-life pictures seems like it should be a breeze.
When you’re taking product shots for your company’s annual report, for example, you don’t have
to worry about a flash reflection causing red-eye, as
you do when photographing the CEO. And when
you’re capturing a city skyline, you don’t have to
beg the buildings to stop fighting and sit still for
just five minutes so that you can get a halfway
decent picture for the family holiday cards.
Yet, as you know if you’ve done much still-life
photography, some inanimate subjects can prove
every bit as challenging as living ones. Objects with
shiny surfaces are incredibly difficult to photograph
because they reflect not just the bright light of a
flash but also everything else in the vicinity—
including the photographer. Skyscrapers may be
patient posers, but capturing their vertical bones
without distortion is often impossible.
This chapter offers the best tricks I know for solving these and other common still-life problems. Of
course, the solutions presented in other chapters,
such as using the EV compensation control to
adjust exposure and changing the white balance
setting to remove or apply a color cast, apply to
still-life photography as well.
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Creating a Still-Life Staging Area
If you regularly take product pictures for your business or you want to pursue fine-art
photography seriously, you may want to build a dedicated staging area for shooting your
still-life projects. I shoot most of my still-life pictures in my guest bedroom, so I designed
a stage that can easily be disassembled when company comes. Shown in Figure 4.1, this
setup involves nothing more than adjustable shelving brackets and supports, a pair of
white melamine boards, a curtain rod, and some clip-style curtain rings. Total cost: less
than $50 and one trip to the hardware store.
Simple as it is, this arrangement offers all the
versatility I need. The shelving supports are 48 inches
tall, allowing me to raise or lower the base platform to
get the camera angle I want. The white boards serve as
a good backdrop for many product shots, but if I need
a colored background, I just clamp poster board or matte
board from the art-supply store to the melamine boards.
(To prevent the vertical board from accidentally falling
forward onto whatever I’m shooting, I run a length of
cording through screw eyes along the top and tie the
cord to the curtain-rod brackets.) For shots that require
a fabric background, I take down the vertical board and
hang the fabric from the curtain rod.
FIGURE 4.1 You can build a simple yet
versatile still-life staging
area for under $50.
If you want something more sophisticated,
several companies offer commercial solutions
for still-life photography. Figure 4.2 shows
one such product from Smith-Victor
(www.smithvictor.com). Dubbed the TST
Digital Desktop Studio Kit, this outfit includes
the shooting table and frame, clear and white
Plexiglas panels, two lights, and dimmer controls.
The kit retails for about $450 and is sold through
professional photography-supply stores.
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FIGURE 4.2 This commercial still-life kit
includes a pair of lights and
interchangeable base and
background panels.
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Choosing a Backdrop
Just as the right clothing can make or break a
portrait, the background you use for a still-life
picture can enhance your subject or detract from it.
Consider the computer cable shown in Figure 4.3,
for example. When you’re working with a subject
that seems visually uncompelling at first glance, your
initial instinct might be to use a patterned backdrop
to add some interest to the scene, as I did for this
image. But rather than enhancing the image, a busy
backdrop just draws the eye from your subject.
For a better result, switch to a plain background
FIGURE 4.3 A busy backdrop doesn’t and think more creatively about your composition.
make a plain product
For the cable image, I decided to play off the idea
more interesting—it
that computer cables are often described as “snaking”
only grabs attention
around the office. I
from your subject.
fashioned the cable into
a shape that resembles a
coiled snake, as shown in Figure 4.4, anchoring the “head”
and “tail” in position by using transparent plastic thread
tied to my curtain rod. The dark black background provides
dramatic contrast to the cable without being distracting.
If you need both a color and black-and-white version of
your product shot, be sure that your background provides
not just color contrast, but also tonal contrast. A pale
blue subject set on a pale pink backdrop may look great
in color, but when you convert the image to black-andwhite, subject and background will both appear light
gray. If your camera offers a black-and-white specialeffect mode, you can use it to check your composition
for tonal contrast before you shoot. See Chapter 8 for
more tips on converting a color photo to black-and-white.
FIGURE 4.4 To create this snake-like
form, I secured lengths
of invisible plastic thread
around the cable ends
and then tied them to
a rod above.
On occasions when you can’t move a subject to improve
the background, you may be able to use these tricks to get a better image:
• For small subjects, slip a thin piece of poster board or matte board behind
the object.
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• You may also be able to hang a temporary fabric background by clamping
it to two light stands or other supports.
• When all else fails, use your camera’s largest aperture to throw the background
out of focus as much as possible. The examples on Page 13 of the color insert
show you the impact of this adjustment. You need to switch the camera into either
aperture-priority autoexposure or manual exposure mode to control aperture.
(Remember, to get a larger aperture, you choose a lower f-stop number.) If your
camera doesn’t offer either mode, try using the portrait scene mode, which also
results in a large aperture.
Small wrinkles in a fabric backdrop will look like major hills and valleys in your
picture. (See Page16 of the color insert for an example.) Keep a steamer or iron
handy to smooth the fabric before you shoot. Similarly, use a lint brush to get rid of
flecks of dust or dirt, which also will be more noticeable in the photo than they may
be in real life.
Avoiding Moiré Patterns
Objects and backgrounds that feature strong linear patterns can sometimes result in a
distortion known as a moiré pattern. The top set of images on Page 32 of the color insert
shows two examples; Figure 4.5 shows portions of those images in black-and-white.
FIGURE 4.5
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The wavy lines in these two pieces of fabric are a distortion known as a moiré pattern.
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The fabric in the first image is a rough silk in which the threads are running diagonally
through the picture; the moiré distortion creates the wavy lines. The second example
shows black-and-white checked fabric, a design that is probably the most challenging for
a digital camera. Here, the problem shows up not just as a ripple of waves but also stray
bits of green and purple throughout the color image.
Many newer digital cameras have built-in moiré-removal filters that automatically
attempt to correct the problem. So even if the moiré distortion is visible in the camera’s
LCD monitor when you preview the shot, it may not prove as significant in your actual
image. If you do encounter problems, these remedies may work:
• Adjust the angle of the camera to bring the sensors into better alignment with the
pattern of the subject (or background). Turn on the camera’s LCD monitor so that
you can preview the image, and just keep moving the camera until you see an
improvement.
• If your camera offers a choice of sharpening settings, try switching to the setting
that applies the least sharpening. The slight blurring that results may make the
moiré pattern less noticeable. (Refer to Page 22 of the color insert to see how
in-camera sharpening filters affect an image.)
• Of course, the best way to prevent moiré in picture backgrounds is to avoid
using backdrops that feature strong linear designs. But if you can’t swap out the
backdrop, shoot the picture at a short depth of field so that the backdrop will
become less focused. Again, you can shorten depth of field by opening up the
aperture (choosing a lower f-stop number) and zooming in.
More About Moiré
Inside your digital camera, the image sensor chips are arranged in a linear pattern.
When the pattern of the chips isn’t aligned with the pattern in the subject, moiré can
occur. The same thing happens with a video camera—this is why you sometimes see
the colors in a television guest’s clothing appear to be “beating,” or twinkling like a
tiny movie-theater marquee.
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Taming Reflections
One of the toughest challenges in still-life photography is capturing good images of objects
that have reflective surfaces, such as the racing helmet featured on Pages 16 and 17 of
the color insert. Although in some cases you may want an object to reflect neighboring
elements—for example, to show the petals of a water lily reflected in a pond—for most
product shots, the goal is a reflection-free shot.
To illustrate the different approaches that you can take when working with metal,
glass, water, glazed porcelain, and other highly reflective subjects, the following sections
retrace the steps I took when shooting the helmet.
Shooting with Ambient Light
Like anyone with a lazy bent, I first tried shooting
the helmet using ambient room light only. I knew it probably wouldn’t work, and I was
right—there simply wasn’t enough light to record the image, even at a slow shutter speed
and wide open aperture. But it never hurts to try, eh? Unfortunately, if the ambient room
light is bright enough to produce a good exposure, it’s also bright enough to cause
unwanted reflections.
Remember that if you’re shooting in programmed autoexposure (AE) mode, aperturepriority AE, or shutter-priority AE, you can raise the camera’s EV compensation value
to force a brighter exposure. Doing so may enable you to get an adequate shot using
only ambient light. But if the light is very dim, the camera may already be working at
its largest aperture and slowest shutter speed and so can’t increase exposure even if
you dial up a higher EV.
Using Built-in Flash
Flash reflection
FIGURE 4.6 A built-in flash creates a hot spot of
reflected light and leaves part of the
helmet in shadow.
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For my second helmet
shot, I used the camera’s built-in flash, which
is almost never a good option for shooting
reflective objects. The light from a built-in flash
is harsh and narrowly focused, which typically
results in a bright orb reflected in your subject,
as shown in Figure 4.6 and in the top image on
Page 16 of the color insert. Even if your camera
enables you to lower the flash output, you are
likely to get a reflection.
In addition, a built-in flash often results in
uneven lighting; notice that left side of the image
in Figure 4.6 is much darker than the right half.
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On top of that, the flash wasn’t enough to bring out the striking purple-blue colors in the
face plate, which you can see in the examples on Page 17 of the color insert. With the
built-in flash, the face plate appears opaque black.
Working with Auxiliary Flash
As explained in Chapter 1, some advanced digital
cameras enable you to attach an auxiliary flash via a hot shoe or cable. If your camera
doesn’t offer this flexibility, you can use slave flash units, which are triggered when your
camera’s built-in flash fires.
Although using an auxiliary flash works well for many projects, it probably won’t
do the trick when you’re shooting reflective objects. For the middle image on Page 16
of the color insert, for example, I turned off the camera’s built-in flash and attached
an external flash head. I aimed the flash head toward the ceiling, which was white.
Although bouncing the light off the ceiling reduced the hot spots, the issues with the
uneven lighting and the face plate remain.
Switching on Studio Lights
After trying ambient light, built-in flash, and auxiliary
flash to light the helmet—and getting poor results all along the way—I decided it was
time to drag out the heavy light power. I switched on a studio hot light, using a white
umbrella to diffuse the light. (Peek ahead to Figure 4.7 to see the light and umbrella.)
The last image on Page 16 of the color insert shows the result. Now the colors in the
face plate emerge, and the lighting is more even.
The bad news is that the reflection from the studio light is even more noticeable than
the hot spot created by the flash, and with the increased light, the helmet now reflects
the patterned area rug and other room elements.
Building a Light Tent for Reflection-Free Pictures
In most cases, no amount of
fiddling with various light sources completely eliminates reflections. So save yourself all
that experimentation time and do what the professionals do: Shoot the object through a
light tent.
A light tent is simply a piece of white fabric that’s draped around the subject, with an
opening just big enough for the camera lens to peek through. The tent serves not only to
prevent reflections but also to further diffuse the light. I stuck with my hot light for the
helmet project, but you can use a light tent with any light source except, obviously, a
built-in flash.
Figure 4.7 shows my homemade light tent, created out of a pair of white sheets and a
white shower-curtain liner. I used a light stand to support the outer edge of the tent. You
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FIGURE 4.7 To further diffuse the light and remove any chance of reflections from surrounding objects, I
built a light tent around the helmet.
can see the dramatically improved results on Page 17 of the color insert. Note that the
white sheets are reflected in the helmet, but the reflection is soft and even and likely
won’t be noticeable to most viewers.
For the helmet images, I wanted a backdrop that meshed with the racing theme,
so I went to the fabric store and bought a remnant of gray leather. Well, okay,
pleather. (Did I mention that this book is about budget solutions?) I don’t know if real
leather wrinkles, but pleather sure does, and it stretches out of shape to boot. In the
first four helmet images shown in the color insert, the warp in the backdrop creates
distracting shadows and highlights. I couldn’t remove the wrinkles with an iron, so I
pulled the fabric taut and used hardware-store spring clamps to hold it in place
before shooting the rest of the images.
After I got the light tent built, I shot the same image at several different EV
compensation values. When you go to this much trouble to set up a shot, bracketing
exposures is a no-brainer; you don’t want to have to return to the studio to do everything
again if you decide that you want a lighter or darker exposure. As you can see from the
examples in the color insert, the shifts in exposure affected not just the relative brightness
and darkness of the images, but also the colors in the helmet. For all the images, I
worked in aperture-priority autoexposure mode, setting the aperture to f/2.8 so that
the background would be slightly less focused than the helmet.
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Building a light tent is easy enough to do with sheets, shower curtains,
or drop cloths, but if you need one frequently, save yourself some hassle
and buy a commercial light tent or dome. Figure 4.8 shows two such
products.
The Cloud Dome (www.clouddome.com) has a bracket designed to
hold your digital camera in place while you shoot, removing the need for
a tripod. An optional extension collar enables you to increase the size of
the dome and alter your shooting angle. For larger objects, manufacturers
produce light tents in a variety of sizes; the two in the figure are from
Westcott (www.fjwestcott.com). The Cloud Dome, bracket, and single
extension collar sell for $225; Westcott’s light tents range from $59 to
$160 depending on size.
FIGURE 4.8 The Cloud Dome (left) provides a portable light dome for shooting small objects; the
Westcott light tents (right) are designed for larger products.
Using a Polarizer to Reduce Reflections
A light tent combined with diffuse lighting works great for eliminating reflections indoors.
But what do you use outside, in strong sunshine, with an immovable subject—say, a
storefront window like the one featured in Figure 4.9 and on Page 18 of the color insert?
The answer may—and I emphasize, may—lie in a polarizing filter. For reasons explained
in the sidebar “How Does a Polarizing Filter Work?,” the filter may completely eliminate
reflections, slightly reduce them, or have no effect at all. The outcome depends on the
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FIGURE 4.9 This storefront window reflects the sky, buildings and trees on the opposite side of the
street, and a large “Open” flag hanging just outside the window.
angle of the sun, your camera position with respect to the sun and the subject, and the
reflective nature of your subject.
In the storefront example, the polarizer reduced reflections almost entirely, as shown
in Figure 4.10 as well as in the color insert. (The window frame you see just behind the
lettering is a stained-glass window hanging inside the building, not a reflected window.)
I was standing at about a 35-degree angle to the front of the window, with the camera
FIGURE 4.10
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lens at a 90-degree angle to the sun—an arrangement that happens to optimize the effect
of a polarizing filter.
If you’re new to polarizing filters, here are just a few other basics you need to know:
• Two types of polarizing filters exist: linear and circular. Autofocus cameras
require circular polarizers.
• A polarizing filter has a movable outer ring that you twist to find the position
of maximum polarization. Depending on your camera, you may not be able to
see the effect in the optical viewfinder; you may need to preview the shot in the
camera monitor instead.
• A polarizing filter reduces the amount of light your camera sees. If your
camera has through-the-lens (TTL) autoexposure metering, as do most newer
digital cameras, you shouldn’t have to worry about making exposure adjustments;
the autoexposure system will make the adjustment automatically. But some
inexpensive cameras don’t meter the light through the lens itself, which means
that you need to tweak exposure manually when you use a polarizer. Check the
filter box or package insert to determine the filter factor and how much exposure
adjustment the manufacturer recommends. (See Chapter 1 for more details
about this topic.) You may or may not be able to preview the filter effects in
the monitor on this type of camera. Moral of the story: Always bracket exposures
to be safe.
Some autofocus mechanisms are thrown off by polarizing filters. If you have problems,
try this trick: Before you twist the polarizer to find the best position, press and hold
the shutter button halfway down to set the focus. Then move the polarizer as
needed and press the shutter button the rest of the way. If you’re in autoexposure
mode, however, keep in mind that exposure is also set with your half-press of the
shutter button. So you need to raise the EV compensation value a notch or two
before you start the process.
Chapter 1 offers tips on buying polarizers and other filters for digital cameras.
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How Does a Polarizing Filter Work?
When rays of sunlight hit some reflective surfaces, including glass and water, they
bounce off the surface and vibrate in a single plane. This reflected light, which is
said to be polarized, causes glare.
A polarizing filter allows you to screen out polarized light reflections, thereby
eliminating glare. This gatekeeper duty is performed by rows of tiny crystals, which
work like slats in a window blind to prevent light that’s coming from certain angles
from entering the camera. The visual effect is just like putting on a pair of sunglasses
that have polarizing lenses.
You can’t just pop a polarizing filter on your camera and wait for the magic to
happen, however. First, you must position the camera lens at a certain angle with
respect to both the sun and the reflective surface. For maximum effect, you need
to shoot the object from a side angle of about 30 to 35 degrees, with the lens at a
90-degree angle to the sun. You then need to twist the outer ring of the filter until
the rows of crystals are aligned with respect to polarized light rays that you want to
eliminate. Depending on your camera, you may be able to preview the effect in your
camera’s monitor or even in the optical viewfinder. If not, just hold the filter up in
front of your eye until you find the right position.
In addition to reducing glare, polarizing filters have an added use for outdoor
photography: they can make skies appear bluer. Chapter 8 talks more about this
benefit.
Photographing Glass
Two of the most common questions I field from people who are new to product imagery
relate to glass and art: How do you photograph framed art that’s under glass? And how
do you photograph glass that is the art? So before setting aside the subject of reflective
objects, I want to devote a few paragraphs to answering each question.
Shooting Framed Art Under Glass
With framed artwork, the obvious, easy answer is to remove the glass from the frame
and then photograph the piece. In many cases, though, that’s not an option, and you
have to shoot through the glass. If you’re not careful, you’ll capture your own reflection
in the image. As an example, see the painting photos on Page 18 of the color insert. If
you look closely, you can see my reflection in the top image.
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I took this picture standing about seven feet directly in front of the painting, using
one light set a few feet to my left. Although the light itself was diffuse enough to prevent
any hot spots like the ones in the helmet image discussed earlier, my reflection caused a
ghost-like countenance in the middle of the picture.
You may be wondering why I didn’t use a polarizing filter for this shot as I did when
photographing the glass window discussed in the preceding section. Unfortunately, a
polarizing filter isn’t much help in this situation. For a polarizer to have any impact, the
reflected light must be polarized, which isn’t typical with indoor lighting. Some people
use sheets of polarizing material to convert studio lights into polarized light sources and
then put a polarizing filter on the camera—a technique called cross polarization. But
that’s a little complicated for my taste and, more important, it can create unwanted
color casts.
If you simply light the artwork properly, you should be able to shoot it straight-on
without creating much of a reflection, if any. The secret is to use two diffused light
sources, one to the left of the art and one to the right. Position the lights at about a
45-degree angle from the art and at about the same height as the art. This lighting
setup—known as cross lighting—should enable you to stand right in front of the art
without creating much of a reflection. But if you still see some hint of yourself or the
camera in the glass, put the camera on a tripod and then drape both with a black cloth.
Use your camera’s self-timer function to take the picture so that you can step out of
reflection range before the image is captured.
This is the technique I used to record the second painting photo in the color plate.
Notice that the addition of the second light also brought out more of the frame details
and eliminated the heavy shadow that falls behind the right side of the frame in the
first image.
Another technique to avoid reflections when photographing framed art is to tilt
either the frame or the camera. But this approach distorts the parallel lines in the
picture, and you’ll need to use your photo editor to correct the problem. See the
How-To sidebar “Correct Convergence in Photoshop Elements” later in this chapter
for information on how to do this.
Photographing Art Glass
Art glass—that is, decorative glass such as the candle holder on Page 19 of the color
insert—offers some special creative photo opportunities, because you can shine light
through it as well as on it. By varying the direction at which the light enters the glass,
you can produce different effects, as illustrated in the color plate.
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The text in the color insert provides details on the
lighting setups that I used for each image, so I won’t
waste space repeating that information in this chapter.
But here are a few pointers to help you start planning
how you want to photograph your next piece of glass:
• Placing the object on a sheet of frosted glass
enables you to light the object from beneath
and at the same time diffuses the light to help
prevent unwanted reflections. I used this
setup, shown in Figure 4.11, to shoot the
candle holder.
✁COST CUTTER
If you don’t have any frosted glass lying around,
you can buy a can of “frost” in the spray paint
section of your hardware store and apply it to
a piece of clear glass. Do-it-yourself frosting
enables you to control how much light is
transmitted through the glass, too.
FIGURE 4.11 Placing your subject on
a piece of frosted glass
enables you to light it
from below.
• For small objects, a portable light box—the kind you use to sort photographic
slides—can serve the same purpose as the frosted glass and light.
• Experiment with different lighting positions to see how the resulting shadows
and highlights produce varying bands of color throughout the glass. Backlighting
usually leads to dark lines along the edges of the glass, for example.
• As when shooting any reflective object, remember that a small, focused light
source such as a built-in flash creates harsher shadows and is more likely to
produce hot spots than diffuse light.
Shooting Architectural Subjects
Did you notice anything a little off in Figure 4.11? If not, look again, paying special
attention to the vertical shelf supports in the picture. They appear to angle inward at the
bottom of the picture. In “real life,” however, they’re perfectly vertical. The distortion in
the image is due to a problem known as convergence.
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When the camera lens isn’t on the same horizontal level as the subject, vertical lines can
appear to tilt toward each other—to converge, in mathematical language. In Figure 4.11,
for example, I stood on a stepladder and angled the camera down to get both the platform
and light in the shot. Because the room in which I took the picture is small, I couldn’t
move far enough away to get the entire setup in the picture without tilting the camera
down a little. If I had tilted the camera up instead, the shelf supports would lean in at
the top of the frame instead of at the bottom.
Professional photographers use corrective lenses, known as shift lenses, to avoid this
problem when shooting architectural elements. But these devices are expensive, tricky
to use, and not even available for most digital cameras. So how do we ordinary mortals
manage to get around convergence? Simple. We cheat.
Almost any photo editing program today offers distortion tools that you can use to get
vertical structures back in proper alignment. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to right
the tilting San Francisco towers in Figure 4.12, for example. So when circumstances don’t
allow you to capture a scene at an angle that prevents convergence, take the picture
anyway. Then use the steps outlined in the upcoming How-To section to make it look
like you have one of those fancy shift lenses.
FIGURE 4.12 When buildings appear to be leaning on each other (left), you can fix things using a
photo editor (right).
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How
To
CORRECT CONVERGENCE IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS
The following steps show you how to fix convergence problems in
Photoshop Elements. You can use the same approach in any photo editor that
offers a way to distort an image; check the program’s manual for information about
a Transform, Perspective, or Distortion tool.
1. For safety’s sake, create a backup copy of your original image file before you
start. Then close the original and work on the copy.
2. Choose Image | Resize | Canvas Size and enlarge the image canvas by about
25 percent. You may need to stretch the image beyond the current canvas size
to fix the converging lines.
3. Choose View | Grid to display a grid of intersecting lines, as shown in
Figure 4.13. The gridlines provide some visual guidance as you align the
structures in your photo.
FIGURE 4.13 Drag the square handles to stretch the image into shape.
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How
To
CORRECT CONVERGENCE IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS
(continued)
4. Choose Select | Select All to select the entire image.
5. Choose Image | Transform | Free Transform. You should see little boxes,
called handles, around your image, as in Figure 4.13. (If you don’t see the
boxes, zoom out on the image and then enlarge the image window.)
6. Press and hold the CTRL key (Z key on a Mac) as you drag a corner handle.
The image stretches in whatever direction you drag. For example, drag the
top-right handle outward to pull objects at the top of the image to the right.
You can pull both top handles or both bottom handles in tandem by holding
down the ALT, SHIFT, and CTRL keys as you drag either of the handles. (Press
OPTION-SHIFT-Z on a Mac.)
7. Depending on your picture, you also may need to slightly skew or rotate
the image. To skew the picture, CTRL-drag (Z-drag on a Mac) a top- or
bottom-center handle sideways or a side-center handle up or down. To rotate
the image, drag a corner handle up or down—no CTRL or Z key this time.
If necessary, you can stretch the image vertically or horizontally by dragging
one of the side or center handles without the CTRL or Z key.
8. When you’re satisfied with your results, press ENTER.
9. The transformation likely created some empty canvas area. You can either
crop the picture to eliminate the canvas, as I did for my skyscraper picture,
or copy some other part of the picture to use as a “patch” over the hole.
The Clone tool works well for this job.
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5
Capturing Close-ups
TV pundits and editorial columnists are fond of the
expression “the devil is in the details.” That saying
may well apply to congressional bills and budget
plans, but in photography, the opposite is often
true. When you take a long-distance view of a scene,
you may not see anything of obvious visual interest.
If you focus your attention more narrowly, however,
you may discover incredible beauty in the details.
As an example, take a look at the top image on
Page 20 of the color insert. When I first came upon
this bed of tulips, I took a wide shot of the flowers,
thinking that they offered a pretty color palette. And
indeed, the photo is colorful—but other than that,
it’s nothing special. In search of a more interesting
image, I began concentrating on individual flowers.
Toward the edge of the bed was a tulip in its last
hours of glory, hanging on to two petals. My eye was
attracted to the way the sunlight was shining
through the petals, playing up their silky texture,
sensual form, and subtle blend of colors. So I
switched the camera into macro-focusing mode,
crouched down to petal level, and snapped away. I
love the outcome, shown in the larger image, because it reveals an essential beauty that isn’t obvious
in a tulip that has all petals intact.
When you want to get up close and personal with
a subject, the tools and techniques covered in this
chapter can help you capture the image you have in
mind. This chapter also contains information about
how some common digital camera features, such as
the inappropriately named digital zoom, affect your
close-up photos.
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Zooming vs. Moving
If you want to record the details in a subject that’s more than a few feet away, you have
two options: You can increase the focal length of the lens, either by using your camera’s
zoom or by attaching an accessory telephoto lens. Or you can simply move the camera
closer to the subject.
Which choice you make affects your photo in a few important ways:
• Angle of view
As you increase focal length, you narrow the camera’s angle of
view. That means that your picture will contain less of the surrounding area than
if you position the camera closer to the subject and use a shorter focal length.
Figure 5.1 and the corresponding color examples on Page 20 of the color insert
illustrate this effect.
I took both pictures
with a camera that
has an optical zoom
range equivalent to
about 35–140mm on
a 35mm film camera.
I shot the left image
from a distance of
approximately six feet,
with the camera zoomed
in to the maximum focal
length. For the right
image, I zoomed all
the way out to the
widest-angle setting
A long focal length (left) enables you to capture a subject with less
and moved to within
background than a short focal length (right).
about a foot of the vase.
The vase and feathers are roughly the same size in both pictures, but the wide-angle
version reveals much more of the surrounding area—my living room, if you’re
interested.
140mm (equiv.)
FIGURE 5.1
35mm (equiv.)
For an explanation of why focal lengths on digital cameras are stated in terms of
equivalent numbers on a 35mm film camera, flip to Chapter 1.
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• Spatial relationships
Moving the camera also changes the spatial relationship
of your subject to other objects in the scene. Notice that in the right image in
Figure 5.1, the wood cabinet in the background appears to be smaller with respect
to the vase than it appears in the left image. (The camera angle is slightly different
between the shots, which also has a minor impact here.) If I had taken the right
image from the same distance as the left image and merely zoomed out to the
35mm (equivalent) focal length, the size relationship of the cabinet and vase
would have remained constant.
• Depth of field
Increasing focal length also decreases depth of field (the range
of sharp focus). In Figure 5.1, for example, the wood cabinet is much less sharply
focused in the zoomed image (left) than in the wide-angle picture. For this subject,
the shorter depth of field is helpful because the grain of the wood becomes less
distracting.
• Exposure
A telephoto lens (long focal length) transmits less light than a wide-angle
lens (short focal length). So as you change focal length, the camera needs to adjust
aperture or shutter speed accordingly to ensure a correct exposure. In autoexposure
mode, the camera handles this adjustment for you; in manual mode, you need to
make the necessary changes. Keep in mind that enlarging the aperture (selecting
a smaller f-stop number) further shortens depth of field, as explored in Chapter 2.
(Also see Page 13 of the color insert.) And a slower shutter speed means there’s
more possibility of handheld camera shake, so you may want to use a tripod.
• Distortion
If you opt for a wide-angle shot, be on the lookout for convergence
problems. As explained in Chapter 4, convergence can make vertical lines appear
to lean inward. The problem usually gets worse as you shorten the lens focal length.
(Chapter 4 shows you how you can fix tilting lines in a photo editor.) In addition,
remember that getting too close at a wide-angle setting can distort a subject’s
proportions, as covered in Chapter 3.
Mind you, there are no right or wrong choices here; the best shooting distance and focal
length depend on the artistic goal you have in mind. Also note that when I speak of a
zoom lens, I’m talking about a true optical zoom lens—not the so-called digital zoom
found on most cameras. To find out why I say “so-called,” zoom to the next section.
If your camera doesn’t offer a zoom lens, see Chapter 1 for information about
accessory telephoto lenses.
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Snubbing Digital Zoom
When digital cameras first came to market, manufacturers believed that consumers would
be less intimidated by the new technology if camera features were described using familiar
film terminology. Thus, camera memory cards are often called “digital film,” and lens
focal lengths are stated in terms of equivalent focal lengths on a 35mm film camera. I can
deal with digital film—though it makes no sense at all—and the 35mm-equivalency thing
is a logical, if complicated, way to deal with the lack of a standard image-sensor size in
digital cameras. (Chapter 1 explains how image-sensor size relates to focal length.) But one
term that emerged from the digital-is-just-like-film camp is downright misleading. As you
may have guessed from the headline to this section, I’m speaking of digital zoom.
A digital zoom works nothing like the zoom lens on a film camera—referred to as
an optical zoom in the digital-camera world. When you use a digital zoom, the camera
simply enlarges and crops the image after you shoot it. The end result is the same as if
you were to enlarge an image in your photo editor and then crop away the perimeter.
The resulting photo will be of lower quality than it would be if you captured the same
subject with an optical zoom, as illustrated by the images on Page 21 of the color insert.
The quality loss occurs because the digital zoom function throws away some of your
original image pixels to crop the image. In most cases, the camera then adds new
pixels—or, in imaging lingo, it resamples the photo—to rebuild the remaining picture
area at the original, full-frame size. Adding pixels to an existing photo is always
destructive to image details. (Chapter 9 explores the resampling issue in more detail.)
Some cameras do not resample the image but instead simply save the picture file with
the reduced pixel count. But as explored in Chapter 2 and illustrated on Page 3 of the
color insert, this approach is no better than resampling if you want to print your pictures
at a decent size—you simply don’t have enough pixels to produce a quality photo.
In addition, angle of view and depth of field aren’t affected as they are with optical
zoom, because a digital zoom does not change lens focal length. Nor does digital zoom
have an impact on exposure, distortion, or spatial relationships. (The preceding section
offers more words of wisdom on these issues.)
Again, a digital zoom really should be called in-camera cropping and enlarging because
that’s what this feature does. That’s not to say that in-camera cropping and enlarging isn’t
sometimes useful—if you’re printing directly from a memory card, for example, and you
don’t need top-notch image quality. Just don’t buy into the notion that a digital zoom is
anything more than a convenience, no matter how the camera ads or sales reps try to
convince you otherwise.
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Check your camera manual to find out how your camera’s digital zoom function is
triggered. In some cases, the camera shifts to digital zoom automatically when you
reach the end of the optical zoom range. With other cameras, the digital zoom
comes to life only if you press and hold the zoom lever for a few seconds after
reaching the optical zoom limit. Some models enable you to turn off digital zoom
capability altogether; I recommend you do so if your camera provides this control.
You can always turn the function back on for those occasions when you want to take
advantage of in-camera cropping and enlarging.
Tweaking Camera Settings for Close-up Work
Along with the aforementioned digital zoom, a few other camera settings call for special
consideration when you’re doing close-up photography. The next few sections explore
the most critical of these options.
Choosing Resolution and Compression
When you’re shooting important close-ups, use the highest resolution and lowest
compression possible. Defects caused by too few pixels or too much compression are
much more noticeable in close-up photos because it’s easier for the eye to detect any
interruption in the color or design of the subject. In the far-away tulip shot on Page 20
of the color insert, for example, you probably wouldn’t be able to spot compression
artifacts; they would be lost amid the jumble of shapes and colors. But in the close-up
image, compression artifacts would have nowhere to hide.
Chapter 2 discusses resolution and compression in greater detail; see Pages 4 and 5
of the color insert for a look at resolution and compression defects.
Focusing at Close Distances
Depending on how close you want to get to your subject, you may need to switch
to macro focusing mode. The universal symbol for macro mode is a tiny flower, as
shown in Figure 5.2. Check your camera manual for the minimum and maximum
camera-to-subject distance to use when working in macro mode; this range varies
from camera to camera.
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Here are a few additional tidbits to help
you achieve sharp focusing at close range:
• If your camera has an optical zoom,
you may not be able to use macro
mode along the entire range of the
zoom. Usually, the camera displays
a symbol in the viewfinder or LCD
monitor to let you know when you’re
at a focal length that permits macro
focusing.
• Additionally, the zoom position may
Macro button
FIGURE 5.2 Your camera manual should state the minimum
and maximum shooting distance for sharp
images in macro mode.
affect the minimum close-focusing
distance. Again, your camera manual
should spell out the focusing distances
for the various focal lengths available
on your camera.
• Throwing more light on your subject
can help your camera’s autofocus
mechanism do a better job. Lighting at close range can be difficult, however, because
the camera can get in the way of the light source. For tips, see the section “Lighting
at Close Range,” later in this chapter. If you have trouble with autofocusing, switch
to manual focusing, if your camera offers it, and use a ruler to measure the lensto-subject distance precisely.
• Many camera lenses produce the sharpest images at a medium aperture setting.
However, depth of field is shorter at a medium aperture than at a small aperture,
so the range of the scene that is sharply focused will be more limited. Experiment
to find out how different f-stops affect your camera’s focusing abilities.
• What appears to be faulty focus in an image may actually be a camera movement
problem. Any camera shake will register as a slight blur that will be especially
noticeable in close-up shots. Use a tripod and snap the picture using the camera’s
self-timer mechanism to be sure that the camera is absolutely still during the
exposure.
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Previewing Your Shots
When shooting close-ups, always check your framing in the camera’s monitor instead
of the viewfinder. The monitor more accurately represents what the camera lens sees.
On most point-and-shoot cameras,
the lens and the viewfinder operate
independently, and the viewfinder has a
slightly different angle on the scene than
the lens. This disparity, known as parallax
error, increases as you move closer to your
subject. If you use very tight framing and
compose the shot using the viewfinder,
your image may not capture the entire
subject, as shown in Figure 5.3. Although
I could see the entire foreground flower
through the camera viewfinder, the outer
tips of some petals were actually beyond
FIGURE 5.3 Although the entire foreground flower was
the vision of the lens.
visible in the camera viewfinder, the lens
Some cameras force you to frame pictures
recorded only the area shown here.
using the monitor in macro mode. Your
viewfinder may also display tiny lines that indicate the actual area that will be captured
by the lens at a close distance. However, check your camera manual to be sure that those
viewfinder markings indicate the framing area and not the area being evaluated by the
camera’s autoexposure or autofocus mechanism.
If you own a high-end camera, it may have a through-the-lens (TTL) viewfinder.
With this arrangement, the viewfinder and lens are supposed to be in perfect synch. Still,
framing your shots using the monitor is a good idea because you get a clearer view of the
image-to-be.
Sharpening Without Sandpaper
Most digital cameras apply a sharpening filter as they record an image. This digital
manipulation creates the illusion of sharper focus by boosting contrast along image edges.
In digital imaging lingo, an edge refers to any point where a color change occurs—for
example, where the dark blue pixels of an ocean meet the light blue pixels of the sky.
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When a sharpening filter finds an edge, it
brightens the pixels on the lighter side of the edge.
Pixels on the dark side of the fence line get darker.
Figure 5.4, which shows a portion of a close-up
photo I took of an antique adding machine,
illustrates the effect. The left half of the image is
the unsharpened original; the right half has been
sharpened.
In the sharpened half of the image, you can see
the light and dark sharpening “halos” along the
boundary between the number and the button face
and also along the border between the button face
and the background. When you view the image from
FIGURE 5.4 Sharpening adds light and dark
a distance, this increase in contrast fools your eye
halos along the boundaries where
into thinking that the picture is more sharply
color changes occur.
focused, as illustrated by Figure 5.5.
Although the sharpened image in Figures 5.4 and
5.5 does appear to be better focused, the sharpening
in both cases is really overdone. (I purposely applied too much sharpening so that you
could clearly see the effect.) With this much
Original
Sharpened
sharpening, surfaces that should appear
smooth, such as the machine background,
take on a sandpaper-like texture. In addition,
extreme sharpening halos give the image an
“outlined” look—as if someone had traced
around the edges with black and white pens.
As with compression and resolution defects,
oversharpening defects are more noticeable
in close-up images than in long shots.
Page 22 of the color insert shows another
example of how oversharpening can ruin an
otherwise lovely close-up. I took all four
pictures with the same camera; like many
FIGURE 5.5 The increased contrast produced
Original
Sharpened
by the sharpening filter creates
the illusion of sharper focus.
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of the latest digital cameras, this one offered a choice of sharpening settings. For the top
left photo, I set the sharpening amount to maximum. Every line and crease in the hands
is magnified, the skin and the fabric look rough, and you can clearly see distinct light
and dark halos along the boundary between hands and background. Hardly the soft,
romantic look that I promised when I asked my just-engaged friend to pose for this
picture.
Dialing down sharpening to the medium setting improved the picture somewhat, as
shown in the top right photo. But even a moderate amount of sharpening has a big impact
at this close range. Although the fabric background no longer looks strongly textured,
the hands still appear more weathered and dry than they were in real life. (You have to
love friends who let you photograph them in an unflattering way!)
For the lower left image, I disabled sharpening altogether. Now the skin has its natural,
soft and silky look, and the folds along the fingers are diminished. In addition, the pattern
in the fabric is less obvious and so doesn’t pull attention away from the hands as it does
in the sharpened images.
Many people would find the unsharpened hand image perfectly acceptable. But
with no sharpening, some areas of the photo—the ring, in particular—looked a little
too soft to my eye. So I opened the image in my photo editor and used its sharpening
filter to apply a tiny amount of sharpening along the perimeter of the hands. I applied
a bit more sharpening to the ring. This selective sharpening made the overall image
appear sharper without adding unwanted roughness to the interior of the hands or
the background.
If your camera offers a sharpening control, I suggest that you either turn it off or use
the lowest sharpening setting when shooting close-ups. Almost every photo editor offers
a sharpening filter, so you can easily add sharpening later if needed. And while the camera
sharpens the entire image, doing the job yourself enables you to control where and how
the effect is applied. For an introduction to a sharpening filter found in many photo
editors, see the upcoming sidebar “Sharpen with Unsharp Mask.”
A printed image usually needs more sharpening than an on-screen image. And
an image printed on a home inkjet printer typically needs more sharpening than
a photo output on a high-quality professional printer.
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SHARPEN WITH UNSHARP MASK
If you dig through the menus in your photo editor, you may come across
a corrective filter called Unsharp Mask. Although its name implies just the
opposite, this filter enables you to apply image sharpening with a high degree of
control. The name comes from a traditional photographic process that had the
same goal but involved a purposely blurred negative. (Don’t ask.)
Figure 5.6 shows the Unsharp Mask filter dialog box from Adobe Photoshop
Elements. Most programs that offer an Unsharp Mask filter offer the same trio
of controls as this one, although the control names may be slightly different.
FIGURE 5.6 To get better control over image sharpening, do it yourself using an Unsharp Mask filter.
Each control alters a specific aspect of how the sharpening is applied:
• Amount
Increase or decrease the Amount value for a more pronounced or
more subtle effect.
• Radius
As discussed earlier, a sharpening filter adds light and dark halos
along image edges (areas where a color change occurs). The Radius control
enables you to specify how thick you want these halos to be. A smaller halo
is less noticeable but also doesn’t create as much of a sharpening impact as a
thicker halo, obviously. Let your eyes be your guide, but normally, anything
above 2.5 is going too far.
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SHARPEN WITH UNSHARP MASK (continued)
• Threshold
Finally, you can specify how much difference must exist
between two adjacent pixels before the program considers their border an
edge and creates the sharpening halo. By using a high Threshold value, you
limit the effect to areas of strong contrast. For example, the border between
a dark gray stripe and a light gray stripe would get the sharpening halos, but
the border between a dark gray stripe and a medium gray stripe would not.
For portraits, raise the Threshold value if you notice the skin taking on a
rough texture.
For a look at how various combinations of these sharpening controls affect an
image, check out Page 23 of the color insert. I used the same Amount value for all
three of the sharpened images but varied the Radius and Threshold values. Notice
that the sharpening halos in the lower two examples, for which I used a Radius
value of 4, are significantly larger than the top-right example, for which I used a
Radius value of 2. In the final example, raising the Threshold level to 20 sharpened
just the high-contrast areas and left the green background largely untouched.
Lighting at Close Range
Getting enough light on your subject can be a special challenge in close-up photography.
Here are a few tricks that can help:
• Try to position the camera so that the
light source is in front of you. Otherwise,
the camera may throw a shadow on the
subject or block the light, or both.
• Using a built-in flash probably won’t
produce good results. At close range,
a built-in flash typically blasts one part
of the subject with too much light,
as shown in Figure 5.7.
If your camera offers a flash exposure
compensation (EV) control, however,
you may be able to use your built-in flash
successfully. Flash EV enables you to
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FIGURE 5.7 At full power, the camera’s built-in
flash lit the upper-right corner of the
image much too strongly.
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reduce or increase flash output. For the example image, reducing the flash EV to
–2.0 solved the problem in the hand portrait, as shown in Figure 5.8. Of course,
you may need to increase exposure time (by reducing shutter speed) or open the
aperture (by selecting a lower f-stop number) to account for lower flash output.
FIGURE 5.8 By lowering the flash EV to –2.0, I was able to use a built-in flash successfully.
No flash EV on your camera? You can reduce the impact of the flash by placing
a piece of white plastic or thin fabric over the flash head.
• If you do a lot of close-up work, consider investing in a special macro flash unit.
FIGURE 5.9 A macro flash unit such as this two-head
model from Canon enables you to
achieve better close-up lighting.
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Figure 5.9 shows one example, the Canon
Macro Twin-Light, which retails for about
$650. This particular unit has two flash heads
that you mount to the camera lens via an
adapter ring. You can tilt the flash heads in
and out and move them around the lens to
arrive at the perfect position for even lighting.
You can also control the amount of flash
output and even have one of the flash heads
emit a stronger light than the other. The
lower two images on Page 24 of the color
insert show you the difference this type of
equipment makes in close-up work, especially
if your subject contains reflective surfaces.
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101
Another type of macro flash, known
as a ring flash, has a circular design
that puts an even dose of light all
around the camera lens. Figure 5.10
shows an example; also from
Canon, this flash sells for about
$450. A ring flash is especially
useful for shooting jewelry and
other very small objects.
Note that your camera must have
either a hot shoe or flash socket to
FIGURE 5.10 This ring flash mounts over the camera lens
and fires automatically when the camera’s
use most macro flash units. You
own flash fires.
also may need an adapter to mount
the macro unit onto your camera lens, so check your camera manual to find out
whether the manufacturer offers adapters. If not, the flash manufacturer may sell
them for your model.
• Don’t despair if your camera offers neither a hot shoe nor an external flash socket;
several manufacturers offer slave flash units designed for macro photography
with digital cameras. As explained in Chapter 1, a slave flash is triggered by
your camera’s built-in flash, so no hot shoe or socket is needed.
Exploring Macro Photography
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, many digital cameras offer a macro focusing mode.
But whether or not you’re really getting macro capabilities depends on the camera.
Traditionally, the term macro was reserved for a lens that could render an image at life
size on a 35mm negative. Camera manufacturers are a little sloppy about using the term,
though, so your lens may not actually fit that precise definition.
Don’t give this issue a lot of thought, however. Because there is no such thing as a
standard sized “negative” with digital photography, the whole macro yardstick—er,
millimeter stick?—is sort of meaningless. All that really matters is whether the minimum
focusing distance of your camera allows you to get as close to your subject as you want
to be.
Unless you have a need for extremely detailed close-ups of small objects, the macro
mode on your digital camera will likely serve you just fine. Remember that if you’re
working with a high-resolution digital camera, you can always enlarge the printed image
to reveal as much detail as you like.
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If you own a low-resolution camera or want to get closer than your lens allows, you
have a number of options. Serious professionals use super-macro lenses or attach bellows
or extension tubes to their lenses to gain more close-focusing ability. But these solutions
are expensive and aren’t even possible
for most point-and-shoot style cameras.
For those photographers just getting
started in close-up photography, a more
practical and less costly option is to
buy a set of close-up lenses, sometimes
called diopter lenses. You can see a pair
of screw-on close-up lenses from Tiffen
in the foreground of Figure 5.11. (More
about the other objects in the figure in a
moment.) This set sells for about $60.
(You may need to purchase an additional
adapter to mount the close-up lens onto
FIGURE 5.11 You can expand your close-up opportunities
by using screw-on close-up lenses or just
your camera lens.)
shooting through a magnifying glass or
The power of a close-up lens—known
photographer’s loupe.
as its diopter power—is assigned a
numerical rating: +1, +2, and so on, just like the reading glasses you can buy in your local
pharmacy. The higher the number, the greater the lens power, and the closer you can
focus on your subject. You can “stack” several close-up lenses on top of each other to
achieve their combined power.
Page 25 of the color insert presents some examples that illustrate the relative strength of a
diopter power of +7, +10, and +17. To get the +17 power, I stacked the +7 and +10 lenses.
Figure 5.12 shows the difference
Camera only
+17 close-up lens
between an image taken with the
camera’s macro mode only and
with the +17 stack.
However—and this is a crucial
however—the impact on your
photo depends on two factors: the
focal length of the camera lens and
the camera-to-subject distance. For
the images shown in the color insert,
the camera focal length was the
FIGURE 5.12 Stacking a +10 and +7 close-up lens, for a total
equivalent of about 60mm on
diopter power of +17, enabled me to get a
a 35mm film camera, and the
super-close view of a bracelet detail.
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camera-to-subject distance was about two inches. Of course, both focal length and
subject distance by themselves affect how large your subject appears in your image.
As you ponder all this information, keep the following additional tidbits in mind:
• With most close-up lenses, focus is slightly sharper at the center of the lens than
around the perimeter. If you need sharp-as-a-tack focus throughout your image,
leave a good margin of background around your subject. You can then crop that
excess margin away in your photo editor. (Don’t forget that using a shorter focal
length and smaller aperture extend depth of field, which also keeps more of the
picture in sharp focus.)
• You do not necessarily need to set your camera to the macro focusing mode to use
a close-up lens. However, doing so usually enables you to move the camera closer
to the subject and still achieve sharp focus.
• Look in the guide that comes with your close-up lenses to find out the manufacturer’s
recommended lens-to-subject distance for sharpest focus. If you are working at
your camera’s macro setting, you will probably be able to get closer than the guide
numbers suggest, however.
• On cameras that don’t offer a TTL (through-the-lens) viewfinder, you won’t be
able to see the effect of the close-up lens through the viewfinder. So use the
camera’s LCD monitor to compose the image.
• If you stack close-up lenses, put the lens with the highest diopter power closest to
the camera lens.
If you don’t do a lot of close-up photography, try shooting through an ordinary
household magnifying glass before you invest in a close-up lens. A photographer’s
loupe—a small magnifying eyepiece used to inspect slides and negatives—can also
work as a makeshift diopter, assuming that the camera lens is smaller than the eyepiece
on the loupe. Travel back to Figure 5.11 for a look at these alternatives. Hold the
magnifying glass or loupe absolutely still to avoid blurring your image.
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6
Getting the Tough Shot:
Low-Light and
Action Photography
In almost every regard, today’s digital cameras
either match or outdo the capabilities of comparably priced film cameras. But most digital models
still fall slightly short of the ideal in two photographic situations: shooting in dim light and
capturing moving subjects.
A typical digital camera has a light sensitivity
equal to that of ISO 100 film (or, in everyday lingo,
100-speed film). In case you’re new to the subject,
that ISO number indicates that the camera needs
plenty of light to produce a good image. Many digital cameras also offer a limited range of shutter
speeds and apertures, which can hamper your ability to adjust exposure to match the light or motion
in the scene. Add to these factors the lag time that
a digital camera needs to transfer image data to
your memory card after each press of the shutter
button, and you can see why you may have been
frustrated when trying to capture a nighttime skyline or roller-blading teen.
All this is not to say that you should go back to
your film camera when you want to work in
less-than-ideal lighting or to photograph a moving
subject, however. You just need to adapt your technique to your digital camera’s personality, which
this chapter shows you how to do. With a few
changes to your photographic approach, you can
produce excellent photos regardless of the lighting
conditions or the speed of your subject.
105
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Helping Your Camera Cut Through Darkness
Whether you’re shooting with a film or digital camera, taking pictures in dim lighting
poses special challenges. After all, a camera works by recording the amount of light in
a scene. If the camera’s eye doesn’t sense much light…well, you see the problem.
Of course, one option is to use a flash or another auxiliary light source. But on many
occasions, adding artificial light isn’t a viable solution. Most museums don’t allow flash
photography, for example, and dragging along studio lights to your child’s first nighttime
piano recital would probably get you booted by auditorium security. Even if you’re under
no such restrictions, a flash or other artificial light source may be too underpowered to
illuminate a subject fully.
When adding light either isn’t possible or doesn’t solve your exposure problem, you
can help your digital camera cut through the darkness in the following ways:
• Raise the ISO setting, which is akin to using a higher ISO film. As explained
in the next section, however, this solution sacrifices some image quality.
• Increase the aperture size (by selecting a lower f-stop number) to allow more light
into the camera. This choice also changes depth of field, as illustrated by Page 13
of the color insert.
• Select a slower shutter speed, which increases the amount of time that the image
sensor can gather light. The upcoming section “Shooting Long Exposures” offers
some tips on this tactic.
If you are working in autoexposure mode, you may also be able to tweak exposure
by increasing your camera’s EV (exposure value) compensation setting, if available.
Your camera will then adjust aperture or shutter speed—or both—to produce an
exposure that’s brighter than what the camera’s autoexposure meter suggests is
correct. (Some cameras also raise ISO automatically.) Check out Chapter 2 and
Pages 9 and 17 of the color insert for more information about EV compensation.
Adjusting Light Sensitivity (ISO)
As I mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, the image sensors on most digital
cameras have a light sensitivity equivalent to ISO 100 film, which means that they
respond best to brightly lit scenes. In an attempt to give photographers a better chance
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of recording a good image in dim lighting, newer cameras offer an ISO control that
adjusts the camera’s light sensitivity.
The ISO control settings typically match the ISO ratings on standard consumer films:
ISO 100, 200, 400, and 800. The higher the number, the greater the camera’s sensitivity
to light.
With a higher ISO film—also called a faster film in photography lingo—you can get
a good exposure with less light. In bright light, the increased light sensitivity enables you
to work with a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) or faster shutter speed than when
using a lower ISO film.
If you’re an experienced film photographer, you know that increased light sensitivity
comes at a cost, however. As you move up the ISO scale, you increase grain—a visual
defect that looks like someone sprinkled sand over your photo. The same tradeoff exists
with digital cameras, only in the digital world, the resulting defect looks like speckles of
random color and is known as noise.
You can see examples of how ISO affects both exposure and noise on Page 2 of the
color insert. Figure 6.1 shows the detail from the ISO 100 and ISO 800 examples. The
amount of additional noise produced when you increase ISO varies from camera to
camera; your model may produce significantly more or less noise than what you see
in these examples.
ISO 100
ISO 800
FIGURE 6.1 Raising the ISO setting results in a brighter exposure but also introduces noise, giving the
image a speckled look.
How much image quality you should sacrifice for increased light sensitivity is purely
a personal creative choice. As you debate the issue, keep these points in mind:
• If you’re shooting in programmed autoexposure (AE) mode, the camera
automatically adapts aperture and shutter speed to your ISO setting.
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In aperture-priority AE, the camera changes shutter speed only; in shutter-priority
AE, the camera adjusts aperture only.
Remember that the camera can do only so much in this regard, however. If you’re
shooting in extremely dim lighting, you may not be able to record a good image
at a low ISO even if the camera opens the aperture all the way and uses the slowest
available shutter speed. (You may be able to brighten the exposure to an acceptable
degree after the fact in your photo editor; for a brief lesson, see the upcoming
How-To sidebar, “Adjust Exposure with a Levels Filter.”)
• Noise is typically most apparent in shadows and areas of flat color, such as the
sky in the color insert examples. (This is actually a ceiling painted to look like
a sky, but the noise impact is the same.) To be fair, however, at a lower ISO, you
may lose all detail in the shadows. Areas that should contain a blend of dark
gray to black pixels may all be recorded as black, as you can see in the window
archways in the ISO 100 example in Figure 6.1. What can I say—life’s a series
of tradeoffs, eh?
• Some cameras offer an Auto ISO setting. In this mode, the camera automatically
adjusts ISO as the light changes. I recommend that you turn off this option and
select a specific ISO setting instead. Most cameras don’t inform you when they
change the ISO setting, and this control has too big an impact on exposure and
picture quality to leave to chance.
• Check your camera manual to find out whether your model offers a
noise-reduction feature. This option applies a software filter to erase noise
as part of the file processing that occurs as your camera stores the image.
Usually, noise removal kicks in only at very slow shutter speeds, however,
and also significantly increases the time you need to wait between shots for
the camera’s brain to do its thing.
• When all else fails, you may be able to diminish or even remove noise in your
photo editor by blurring the affected areas. Use your blur tool judiciously,
however, or you will blur image details, which is just as problematic as the
image noise you’re trying to eradicate.
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If you find yourself frequently doing
noise-removal work in your photo editor,
you may want to invest in a specialized
utility designed just for that purpose.
Products such as Applied Science Fiction’s
Digital GEM ($79.95, www.asf.com),
and nik multimedia’s Dfine ($99,
www.nikmultimedia.com) provide
sophisticated tools that eradicate noise
with better results than those found in
most photo editors. Both products are
Photoshop-compatible plug-ins, which
means that they work with Photoshop,
Photoshop Elements, or any other photo
editor that accepts such plug-ins.
How
To
ADJUST EXPOSURE WITH A LEVELS FILTER
All photo-editing programs offer at least one correction filter that adjusts
image exposure. At the basic level, you get a Brightness/Contrast filter, which
allows you to make all pixels lighter or darker and to adjust tonal range—the
overall range of brightness values (shadows to highlights).
A Brightness/Contrast
filter is clumsy tool,
however, and it usually
produces unsatisfactory
results. As an example,
see Figure 6.2 and the top
image on Page 15 of the
color insert. I took this
shot of an old sugar mill
just after dawn, when the
light is beautiful but also
difficult to capture
correctly. In this exposure,
the highlights look fine,
FIGURE 6.2 Sunrise and sunset light can be tricky to expose
properly; here, the image is too dark and lacks contrast.
but the midtones are too
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ADJUST EXPOSURE WITH A LEVELS FILTER (continued)
dark and the shadows aren’t as deep as they could be. To put it another
way, there’s a lack of contrast in addition to an underexposure problem.
Figure 6.3 and the middle image on Page 15 of the color insert show the photo
after I applied the Brightness/Contrast filter in Photoshop Elements. Raising the
Brightness value enough to correct the midtones made the shadows even lighter and
blew out the subtle details in the clouds. Again, remember that when you raise the
Brightness value, the shadows, midtones, and highlights all become lighter.
So what about that Contrast control—it should bring back the lost contrast, and
more, right? Nope, sorry. Contrast takes all pixels that are darker than the medium
point on the brightness scale and makes those pixels darker. Pixels that are brighter
than the midpoint get lighter. So you just wind up blowing even more highlights
and losing shadow detail to boot, as shown in Figure 6.3.
FIGURE 6.3 Stay away from simple Brightness/Contrast filters; they reduce tonal range and wipe out
shadow and highlight detail.
A better exposure correction filter, known as a Levels filter, allows you to tweak
shadows, midtones, and highlights independently of each other. All professional
photo-editing programs and many consumer-level programs offer this filter. Figure 6.4
shows the Levels filter dialog box from Photoshop Elements.
A Levels dialog box typically contains a histogram, which is a chart that graphs
the image brightness values, with shadows on the left and highlights on the right.
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ADJUST EXPOSURE WITH A LEVELS FILTER (continued)
The vertical axis of the
chart shows the concentration
of pixels at each brightness value.
For example, Figure 6.4 shows
the histogram for the sugar
mill image in Figure 6.2. The
histogram clearly shows a lack
of pixels at the darkest end of
the brightness spectrum—there
are no true black pixels.
The specific method you use to
adjust your image using the
Levels filter varies from program
to program. In Photoshop
Elements, you can just drag the
triangle sliders underneath the
histogram, as follows:
Shadows
Midtones
Highlights
FIGURE 6.4 Using a Levels filter, you can adjust shadows,
midtones, and highlights separately.
• Use the left slider to adjust shadows. Drag right to make the darkest pixels
even darker. In some programs, this control is called the Black Point control.
• Use the right slider to manipulate highlights. Drag left to make the lightest
pixels brighter. This control is sometimes known as the White Point control.
• Use the middle slider, sometimes known as the Gamma or Midpoint control,
to adjust midtones. Drag right to make midtones darker; drag left to make
them lighter. (In some programs, including Photoshop Elements, dragging
either the shadow or highlight control also shifts the midtones. You can
always move the midtone slider later, if necessary.)
Figure 6.5 and the bottom image on Page 15 of the insert show the original sugar
mill picture after I adjusted shadows and midtones, moving the sliders to the
positions shown in the Levels dialog box that accompanies the image. This change
lightened the midtones, deepened the shadows, and left highlights untouched. The
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How
To
ADJUST EXPOSURE WITH A LEVELS FILTER (continued)
result is an image that appears brighter and has a broader tonal range, yet
still shows detail in the highlights.
FIGURE 6.5 Moving the shadows and midtones sliders to the positions shown in the Levels dialog box
produced a better exposure and tonal range.
The Levels filter has one unwanted side effect: it can make your picture look a
little washed out. You can use a Saturation filter to strengthen colors if necessary;
Chapter 8 discusses this filter in detail. Levels may also shift image colors slightly, a
problem that you can easily remedy using your photo editor’s Color Balance filter.
I’ve provided just the briefest introduction to Levels, so check your software
manual to find out what other features your version of the filter may offer. In
Photoshop Elements, for example, you can apply the filter as an adjustment layer,
which enables you to adjust exposure without permanently altering image pixels.
Shooting Long Exposures
Somewhere in your camera manual—look in the back few pages, in the list of camera
specifications—you should find information about the range of shutter speeds available
to you. The longer your camera allows you to keep the shutter open, the darker the
scene that you can photograph successfully.
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Don’t have any way to control shutter speed on your camera? Check to see whether
the camera offers a nighttime scene mode. In that mode, the camera automatically
uses a slow shutter speed. On some cameras, this scene mode shifts you to slow-sync
Flash mode, explained later in this chapter. But on other cameras, you can disable
the flash for an even slower shutter.
Page 14 of the color insert shows four images that feature a nighttime subject that’s
been a favorite of generations of photographers: the Las Vegas “strip.” For the first three
images, I used shutter speeds of 4 seconds, 1 second, and 1/2 second, respectively. At the
longest exposure, the sky appears a dark blue—a little lighter than it looked to my eye at
the time. In the shorter exposures, the sky goes black, shadowed areas in the foreground
virtually disappear, and the city lights don’t burn as brightly.
If you bracket exposures in your nighttime shots, you can blend the images
together in a photo editor. This technique allows you to combine the shadow
details from the brightest exposure and the highlight details from the darkest
exposure into one image that has a broader tonal range than you could get from
any one shot. The fourth Las Vegas image on Page 14 of the insert offers an example.
First, I copied the sky from the 4-second exposure into the 1-second exposure. Then
I replaced some of the lighted signs that were too bright with darker ones from the
1/2–second exposure. For this technique to work, you must make sure that you don’t
move the camera between exposures; otherwise, the elements in the scene won’t
match up when you merge the images.
As with ISO adjustments, you need to consider the following caveats when using a
slow shutter speed:
• Most people can’t hold a camera still enough to capture an image without blurring
at exposures longer than about 1/60 second. On a good day—one that doesn’t
involve lots of caffeine, for example—you may be able to get away with 1/30 second
if you lean against a wall or other support while taking the picture. But to ensure
the sharpest images, use a tripod or put the camera on a solid surface before you
press the shutter button.
• Speaking of pressing the shutter button, take advantage of your camera’s self-timer
function, if available. The slight press of a finger on the camera can create enough
camera shake to blur the image, and using the self-timer enables you to take a
hands-free shot. Some cameras can be triggered with a remote-control unit or
shutter-release cable as well.
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• Even if the camera remains perfectly still, any objects moving through the scene
will appear blurry in long-exposure images. The longer the exposure, the greater
the blur. For example, notice the car lights in the Las Vegas images, shown in
Figure 6.6 in grayscale. (In the 1/2-second example, the cars in the center of the
image are waiting at a stoplight; you can see light trails from the crossing traffic
near the right side of the frame.)
4 seconds
1 second
1/2 second
FIGURE 6.6 Shutter speed determines not only exposure, but also how much blurring occurs from
moving objects, such as the cars in these images.
If you want more blur but don’t want the brighter exposure that a longer shutter
speed would produce, stop down the aperture (select a higher f-stop number).
Another trick is to use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light that
enters the camera, as discussed later in this chapter in the section “Using Blur to
Emphasize Motion.”
• Some cameras offer a bulb setting, which keeps the shutter open as long as you
keep the shutter button pressed down. However, the camera may put a limit on
the amount of time you can keep the shutter open—1 minute or 5 minutes, for
example. Dig through your camera’s menus to see whether you can adjust the
bulb duration limit.
• Image noise, explained in the preceding section, typically increases as exposure
time lengthens. You can keep noise down as much as possible by setting the
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camera’s ISO control to its lowest setting and by switching on the noise reduction
feature, if available. Of course, you need to select a slower shutter speed or larger
aperture (lower f-stop number) to get the same exposure at a lower ISO than at
a higher ISO.
Using Slow-Sync Flash
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 discuss techniques for using a flash when shooting portraits, product
shots, and close-ups. For nighttime and other low-light photography projects, you should
get acquainted with a flash option that I haven’t yet introduced: slow-sync flash.
To get a proper exposure, the flash and shutter speed must be synchronized so that the
light from the flash hits the subject at the precise moment when the shutter is fully open.
On most cameras, you’re limited to using a relatively fast shutter speed—say, 1/60 to
1/125 second—when flash is enabled. This setup ensures that the subject is lit primarily
by the flash and not ambient
room light. Slow-sync mode
enables you to use your flash
at slower than normal shutter
speeds, letting ambient light
play a bigger role in the
exposure.
Switching to slow-sync
flash has two effects on
your photograph: First,
a background that would
otherwise appear dark
becomes visible. Second,
you can get a good exposure
with less flash power, which
usually translates to softer,
less contrasty foreground
lighting. Figure 6.7 and the
bottom pair of images on
Page 7 of the color insert
FIGURE 6.7 With regular flash, the background appears dark, and
foreground lighting may be harsh (top). Switching to
offer two examples of the
slow-sync flash results in softer, more even lighting
impact of slow-sync flash.
throughout the scene (bottom).
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Whether or not you opt for slow-sync flash depends on your creative goal. Take the
scene in Figure 6.7, for example. In this image, the house in the background is distracting,
so standard flash is the better choice. But slow-sync flash works better in travel photos
and in other scenarios where you want to emphasize the location of the subject. In the
color insert image, for example, the Indiana state capitol in the background helps place
the subject in Indianapolis (well, to Hoosiers familiar with that government building,
anyway).
How you implement slow-sync flash and the extent to which you can control the
feature varies from camera to camera. Here are a few options and limitations you may
encounter:
• In programmed autoexposure mode, the camera automatically reduces shutter
speed when you switch to slow-sync flash and increases shutter speed when
you go back to regular flash mode.
• If your camera offers manual exposure control, check your owner’s manual
to find out what shutter speeds you can use with slow-sync flash and
standard flash.
• In normal flash mode, the flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, which
is why this mode is sometimes called front-curtain sync. (The curtain part
comes from the name given to the part of the shutter that opens and shuts
when you press the shutter button.) Some cameras also offer rear-curtain sync.
In this mode, known sometimes as trailing sync, the flash fires at the end of
the exposure.
The difference between the two modes becomes apparent only in long exposures
of moving objects, such as the Las Vegas images shown in Figure 6.6. With
rear-curtain sync, the ghostlike trails that emerge from moving objects appear
to follow the objects, the arrangement that has come to serve as the traditional
way to indicate motion in a still picture. If you use front-curtain sync, the
motion streaks precede the object, which looks a little bizarre—sort of like
buildings falling down before the windstorm hits. For this reason, most
cameras automatically take the rear-curtain approach when you use slow-sync
flash mode. But on high-end cameras, you may be able to choose between the
two options.
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Because of the slower shutter speed, always put the camera on a tripod or other
steady surface to avoid blurring when using slow-sync flash mode. All the other
cautions mentioned in the earlier section on long-exposure photography apply
to slow-sync mode as well.
Capturing Motion
When you want to catch a moving target through your camera lens, you can go in two
creative directions: you can use a slow shutter and purposely blur the image to create
a heightened sense of motion, or you can set the shutter speed high enough to “freeze”
the subject at a particular instant in time. (Experienced photographers also know to
claim that they were trying for the former if the latter doesn’t work as intended.)
The rest of this chapter provides some tricks to use for both approaches.
Using Blur to Emphasize Motion
If your camera offers manual exposure control or shutter-priority AE (autoexposure),
achieving the amount of blur you want is easy: just experiment with slower and slower
shutter speeds until you’re satisfied with the results. (Read the earlier section about
long-exposure photography for tips on getting the best image quality.)
Of course, as you reduce shutter speed, your camera senses light for a longer period
of time. So you should also reduce aperture size (by shifting to a higher f-stop setting)
to avoid overexposing the image.
If your digital camera offers only programmed AE—or programmed AE and
aperture-priority AE—you may be able to use these workarounds to get the slow
shutter needed to produce the blur:
• In programmed AE, try switching to nighttime scene mode, if available. As
discussed earlier, this mode typically forces a slower shutter. You may wind up
with too much light in your image, though; try using a negative EV value to
compensate.
• In aperture-priority AE, set the f-stop to its highest number, which results in the
smallest possible aperture opening. The camera will shift to a lower shutter speed
to account for the smaller aperture.
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The one tricky aspect of using a blur-inducing shutter speed is getting a good exposure
in very bright light. Even if you stop the aperture all the way down, a shutter speed
that’s slow enough to produce the effect you want may overexpose the image. As an
example, see the waterfall photos on Page 14 of the color insert, repeated in Figure 6.8
in grayscale.
1/125 second
1/30 second
1/30 second with ND filter
FIGURE 6.8 To give a waterfall a misty look, use a slow shutter. In bright light, you may need to add a
neutral density filter to avoid overexposing the image.
For the first image, I set the shutter speed to 1/125 second, with an aperture of about
f/5.6. The exposure was fine, but I wanted the water to be more blurred, which gives it a
misty look. To achieve that effect, I needed to slow the shutter to 1/30 second. But I was
shooting on a very sunny day, and 1/30 second resulted in a too-bright image even when
I used the smallest possible aperture. This level of overexposure is beyond what you can
successfully correct in a photo editor.
A special lens filter, called a neutral density (ND) filter, comes in handy for this situation.
The filter reduces the amount of light without altering image colors. You can see the
difference the filter made in the third waterfall image. (See the sidebar “Understanding
Neutral Density Filters” for details about this type of filter.) A polarizing filter can serve
the same purpose; if you don’t want the polarizing effect along with the darkening
impact, just turn the outer ring of the filter until the polarizing effect disappears.
Chapter 4 explains how to use a polarizing filter to reduce glare; Chapter 8 shows
you how to use the filter to make skies appear bluer.
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119
Some advanced digital cameras have a built-in neutral density filter that serves the
same purpose as a real lens filter. Usually, the filter works only when you select a
slow shutter speed.
Understanding Neutral Density Filters
Neutral density filters reduce light transmission to enable you to use a slower shutter
speed or larger aperture in bright light without overexposing your image. These filters
come in varying strengths, which are indicated by a density number.
Density numbers typically range from .10 to 4.00, with a higher number indicating
more light reduction. As with close-up lenses, you can stack neutral density filters
to enjoy their combined light-reducing strength. I used a single filter with a density
number of .6 for my waterfall image in Figure 6.8.
You may also see ND filters rated in terms of filter factor. As explained in Chapter 1,
this value indicates how much increase in exposure is required to produce the same
image that you would get without the filter. Again, just remember that the higher the
number, whether it’s density number or filter factor, the more you reduce the light
entering your camera. The .6 ND filter that I added for the waterfall photo has a filter
factor of 4X, meaning that you need four times the light to get the same exposure
with the filter as without.
Freezing Action with a Fast Shutter
If your photo collection is like most, it contains scads of images that were unintentionally
blurred because the subject moved too fast for the camera to capture clearly. You may as
well go ahead and toss those pictures, as I do, because no amount of fiddling in a photo
editor can fix them.
For future pictures, follow these guidelines to freeze a subject in motion:
• Switch to shutter-priority AE or manual exposure, if available on your camera,
so that you can match the shutter speed to the pace of your subject. Until you get
a feel for the shutter-to-action relationship, you’ll need to experiment to find the
right setting. For the subject featured in Figure 6.9, for example, a shutter speed of
1/20 second was much too slow; 1/60 second nearly stopped the action, but some
blurring was still visible around the hands, feet, and bottom of the shirt. At 1/125
second, my young friend appears cleanly suspended in mid-jump. You can see the
color version of these images on Page 7 of the color insert.
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1/20 second
1/60 second
1/125 second
FIGURE 6.9 Match shutter speed to the pace of your subject. Here, a shutter speed of 1/125 second
froze the jumper cleanly in mid-air in the far-right photo.
Don’t forget that you must add more light as your raise shutter speed, either by
shifting to a larger aperture (lower f-stop number) or by increasing the power of
whatever artificial light source you may be using. Otherwise, your image will get
progressively darker.
• If your camera doesn’t offer manual shutter control or shutter-priority AE, but it
does provide aperture-priority AE, you can increase shutter speed by shifting to a
lower f-stop. Doing so opens the aperture and lets in more light, which causes the
camera to increase shutter speed in response.
• No way to control either aperture or shutter speed? Check to see whether your
camera offers a sports or action scene mode. This mode automatically shifts your
camera to a higher shutter speed.
Speeding Up Your Camera’s Response Time
Although many digital cameras offer shutter speeds high enough to capture just about
any moving subject, some other camera functions can slow you down. Try these tricks
to kick your camera into a higher gear:
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• On most models, you must wait for the camera to write the current image to the
memory card before you can take a second picture. Even when this lag time is brief,
it can cause you to miss a great shot when you’re shooting action. To keep the lag
time as short as possible, use the lowest resolution setting that will produce the
quality and picture size that you need. The more pixels the camera captures,
the longer it takes to write the picture to the camera’s memory card.
• Turn off specialty image-processing functions, such as noise reduction (explained
earlier in this chapter) and color effects (covered in Chapter 8).
• If you can get by without it, turn off your camera’s flash. You can’t take a picture
during the time it takes the flash to recycle between shots.
• Turn off instant picture review, which displays an image briefly on the camera
monitor after each shot. Most cameras prevent you from taking the next shot
during the picture review period.
• Make sure that your batteries are fresh. Low-powered batteries can make a
camera behave sluggishly.
• When using autofocus and autoexposure, frame the image and set the exposure
and focus (by pressing the shutter button halfway down) in advance of the action.
That way, you don’t have to wait for the autoexposure/focus mechanism to do its
thing when the moment you want to capture happens. Just keep the shutter button
pressed halfway down and then press it the rest of the way when the action occurs.
If your subject isn’t already in the frame at the time, set the focus and exposure
by pointing the camera at something that’s at the same distance and in similar
lighting as your subject will be.
• If you just can’t get the timing of the shutter right, you may want to consider
switching to movie mode, if your camera offers one. This mode records a brief
digital video segment, just like a digital camcorder. You can then pull a single frame
from the video clip to use as a still photo. Unfortunately, most cameras limit you
to low-resolution images and don’t permit the use of flash in this mode. Movie
mode also creates large image files, so make sure you have a high-capacity storage
card in your camera.
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7
Creating
Panoramic Images
You’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon,
looking out on a spectacular vista. The light is perfect, your camera batteries are juiced up, and
you’ve found the perfect vantage point for photographing the scene. But when you look through
your camera’s viewfinder, you realize that your lens
can see only a small slice of the landscape, resulting
in a picture that’s nowhere near as powerful as you
had envisioned.
When you can’t fit a subject into a single frame,
consider capturing it in a series of pictures and then
using your computer to join the images into a panoramic photo. Whether you want to record a
jaw-dropping natural wonder, a towering
cityscape, or just your own street, this chapter
shows you how.
123
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Setting Up for Panoramic Photography
Your film camera may offer a panorama setting that produces a photo that’s much
wider, but also shorter, than a regular picture. This type of panorama is easy to do
but limits you to a specific image size.
With a digital camera and image-stitching software, you can create as large a panorama
as your creative heart desires. I stitched together five images to produce the urban
panorama shown in Figure 7.1, for example. (You can see the five separate images in
Figure 7.9, later in this chapter.)
FIGURE 7.1 I built this panoramic image from five individual photos.
In addition to flat panoramas like the one in Figure 7.1, you can create virtual-reality
(VR) panoramas, sometimes also referred to as immersive images, which provide a
360-degree view of a scene. When you open the panorama in a VR viewer, you can
spin the display to see the subject from all angles, creating the illusion that you have
stepped into the middle of the image. Figure 7.2 shows a panorama displayed in Apple’s
QuickTime Player, a free utility that you can use to view immersive images as well as
digital movies and other media.
The panorama creation process is the same whether you’re making flat or VR
panoramas. You photograph the first segment of the scene, rotate the camera right or
left to shoot the next segment, and keep going until you’ve captured each area that you
want to include in the panorama. Then you open the images in a stitching program on
your computer and glue them together. Most stitching programs create the pieced-together
image without much interaction from you; after you specify a few options, such as the
type of panorama, you can sit back while the program quilts together the images.
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FIGURE 7.2 Apple QuickTime Player is a popular tool for viewing VR panoramas.
For the stitching software to sew a seamless panorama, however, you have to feed
it good raw material. You must be careful about how you take each picture, or the
panorama will look like a crazy quilt of distorted lines, blurry objects, and odd shifts
in perspective, focus, and exposure. The next several sections give you the information
you need to do your part of the job.
Rotating Around the Nodal Point
When you rotate the camera between shots, the axis of rotation is critical. You
must rotate the camera with respect to the optical center of the lens, called the
nodal point. Otherwise, you get large shifts in perspective from one shot to the
next, which results in alignment errors that are difficult or impossible to remove
in the stitching process.
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Nodal point
Rotation axis
FIGURE 7.3 When you mount your
camera on a tripod,
the lens nodal point
is several inches away
from the axis of rotation.
If you put the camera on a standard tripod head, as shown
in Figure 7.3, the axis of rotation will be several inches away
from the nodal point. The same problem occurs when you
handhold the camera and merely rotate your body to take
each shot.
Nodal point and
To solve this problem,
rotation axis aligned
manufacturers such as Manfrotto
(www.manfrotto .com) or www
.bogenphoto.com), Kaidan (www
.kaidan.com, and Peace River
Studios (www.peaceriverstudios
.com) sell panoramic tripod
heads. These heads have sliding
plates that allow you to position
the camera so that it rotates
around the nodal point, as
shown in Figures 7.4 and 7.5.
The figures feature Manfrotto’s
QTVR kit, which sells for about
$325 and includes a base unit
that helps keep
the camera level—
another important
component of a
FIGURE 7.4 Special panoramic
successful panorama.
tripod heads enable
Most panoramic
you to position the
camera so that it
heads, like this one,
rotates around the
also enable you to
lens nodal point.
lock in a particular
degree of rotation to
guide you in framing each shot. (See the section
“Shooting the Pieces of Your Panorama” for more
about leveling and framing issues.)
FIGURE 7.5 This panoramic head also offers guides
to help you level the camera and
properly frame each shot.
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Although a panoramic head isn’t cheap, it’s an investment you should make if you
shoot panoramas regularly. The heads tend to be heavy, so you should also get a sturdy
tripod; cheap, lightweight models marketed to casual photographers can easily tip over
with the combined weight of the head and camera. Also be sure that the head is designed
for use with the type of camera body that you plan to use. Some heads are engineered to
work with larger, single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras or video cameras. Finally, don’t confuse
a panoramic head with a panning head—the latter is designed to enable smooth, easy
movement of the camera but doesn’t offer nodal-point positioning rails and other
panoramic features.
✁COST CUTTER
If a panoramic head isn’t in your budget, try this technique to make sure that you
rotate the camera around the lens nodal point. Find a flat, stable surface on which
you can place the camera while shooting your panoramic series—a tabletop, fence
railing, or ladder step, for example. Place a coin on the surface to mark the axis of
rotation you want to use. For each shot, reposition the camera so that the lens
nodal point is always on top of the coin.
When you want to use a tripod, put the coin or other marker on the ground.
Before each shot, move the tripod as necessary to keep the lens nodal point directly
over the marker. Some photographers use a string that has a weight at the end to
help in this positioning. You tie the unweighted end of the string around the lens
barrel and let the weighted end dangle down to the nodal-point marker.
How
To
CHECK NODAL POINT POSITIONING
Whether you work with a panoramic tripod head or use one of the
cost-cutter solutions described, the following steps will help you determine
whether the camera is properly positioned to rotate around the nodal point.
1. Find a scene that includes two vertical objects that are several feet apart—a
lamppost and the side of a house, for example, if you’re outside. Inside, an
open closet door located across the room from a window frame will do.
2. Position yourself so that you’re close to one of those objects, with the other
in view. (If you’re doing the door/window frame setup, you should be close
to the door.)
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How
To
CHECK NODAL POINT POSITIONING (continued)
3. Look through your camera’s viewfinder and frame a shot so that the
two objects appear side by side, as shown in Figure 7.6.
FIGURE 7.6 For the first step in your nodal point test, line up two vertical structures side by side
in your camera’s viewfinder.
4. Pan the camera to the right until the objects are at the left edge of the frame.
Then pan left until the objects are at the right edge of the frame. If the two
objects remain joined at the hip, as shown in Figure 7.7, you’re good to
go—the camera is rotating around the nodal point.
FIGURE 7.7 The relative position of the vertical structures should remain constant as you pan the
camera from side to side.
If the relative positioning of the objects shifts when you pan the camera, as
shown in Figure 7.8, the nodal point is either in front of or behind the rotation
axis. Reposition the camera and try again. Otherwise, the stitching program won’t
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How
To
CHECK NODAL POINT POSITIONING (continued)
be able to join the images correctly because of the variation in perspective
between the shots.
FIGURE 7.8 When the camera isn’t rotating around the nodal point, the relative position of the
two vertical structures changes as you rotate the camera.
Shooting the Pieces of Your Panorama
In addition to rotating your camera with respect to the lens nodal point, shooting good
panoramic images involves several other important considerations. The following sections
tell you what you need to know.
Shoot in Vertical Orientation
When you stitch together your images, the stitching software probably will shift some of
the images up or down to achieve a good seam, just as you do when hanging patterned
wallpaper. This results in ragged edges at the top and the bottom of the panorama, which
you then have to crop away. (See Figure 7.14, toward the end of the chapter, to see what
I mean.)
Because you’ll ultimately be cropping away some of the scene, shoot your panoramic
images with the camera in a vertical orientation, rather than in normal horizontal
orientation. After the stitching software does its cropping, your panorama will have
more height than if you started with horizontally oriented images.
Keep the Camera Level to the Horizon
For best results, keep the camera level to the horizon line. If the camera strays significantly
off level, you’ll have trouble getting good seams because the horizon line will shift
between images.
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In addition, tilting the camera up or down with respect to the horizon causes
convergence errors. As explained in Chapter 4, convergence errors cause vertical lines
appear to lean in or out. Some stitching programs can compensate for convergence,
but not all software is that savvy. Of course, you can use your photo editor to correct
convergence for each individual image before stitching, but taking care to get the camera
level before the shot spares you that chore.
Better tripods have built-in levels to help you with this aspect of camera positioning.
You can also use the little stick-on levels sold at hardware stores; just place the level on
the camera before each shot to keep the lens on an even keel.
If a subject is too tall to fit in a single frame without tilting the camera up or down,
shoot the panorama in two rows. Raise the camera as needed to capture the top
half of the scene and shoot one series of images at that camera height. Then lower
the camera and shoot the bottom half of the scene. Be sure that the camera stays
level for both series. To create the panorama, stitch each row and then join the
two rows together. (Some stitching software can produce multiple-row panoramas,
but if yours can’t, you can combine the two rows using your photo editor’s copyand-paste functions.)
Overlap Each Shot
Each shot should overlap the previous one in the series, as illustrated by Figure 7.9,
which shows you the raw images that I used to create the panorama in Figure 7.1. The
overlap gives the stitching software the data it needs to glue the images together. You
don’t need to be precise or use the same amount of overlap for each picture. However,
you should check your stitching software to find out the recommended amount of overlap.
A 30 to 50 percent overlap is the norm.
If you’re working with a panoramic tripod head, it likely offers a mechanism that
helps ensure that each frame includes the right amount of overlap. You adjust a locking
pin or other control to specify a percentage of overlap, and when you rotate the tripod
head, it stops when it reaches the correct position.
Check your camera manual to find out whether the camera can display a grid to
help you align shots. Some models also display a portion of the previous shot
to help you see where the next one should begin.
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FIGURE 7.9 Each shot should overlap the previous one.
Maintain Constant Distance and Focal Length
Position the camera so that the lens-to-subject distance remains constant throughout the
series of images. In an interior setting, for example, put the camera in the middle of
the room.
For best results, don’t use an extremely wide-angle lens or long telephoto lens. Both
can produce heavy distortion in the stitched panorama. A medium focal length works
best. If you’re working with a zoom lens, try to hit the middle of the zoom range.
Don’t change the focal length between shots. When you do, you move the lens
nodal point, throwing the camera off the proper rotation axis.
Lock in Focus
Use consistent focusing throughout the series. For example, don’t focus on an object
10 feet away in one shot and on something that’s 30 feet away in the next. If your
camera offers manual focusing, switch to that mode. If you must use autofocus, be
sure to set the focus at the same distance for each shot.
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Remember that aperture size affects the range of sharp focus (depth of field). The
smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field. On cameras that don’t offer a
way to control aperture, try switching to the landscape creative scene mode, which
should reduce the aperture size.
Take Control of Exposure
Working in autoexposure mode can cause problems unless the lighting is even throughout
the scene. As an example, see Figure 7.10, which shows two frames from a 360-degree
VR panorama of a
living room. Because
of differences in ambient
light between the two
shots, the overlapping
area is darker in one
shot than the other. In
the stitched panorama,
this creates an abrupt
change that makes the
seam noticeable, as
FIGURE 7.10 When light isn’t consistent throughout a scene, shooting in
autoexposure mode can result in significant shifts in brightness
shown in Figure 7.11.
levels from frame to frame.
Shooting panoramas
in automatic exposure mode may create shifts in focus between frames as well as lighting
breaks. Again, when aperture size changes, depth of field changes as well. For more on this
issue, see Chapter 2.
The best solution
is to work in manual
exposure mode, basing
the exposure on the
average lighting
conditions throughout
the panoramic view.
If your camera doesn’t
offer manual exposure,
see whether it provides
FIGURE 7.11 In the stitched panorama, the exposure difference makes the
autoexposure lock,
seam noticeable.
which tells the camera
to keep using the same exposure setting until you specify otherwise.
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For cameras that don’t offer either feature, aim the camera at an area of medium
brightness as you set the autoexposure for each shot. After you press the shutter button
halfway down to set the exposure, reframe the shot as necessary. Remember, however,
that some cameras set focus as well as exposure when you depress the shutter button
half way.
As with any photographic project that involves tricky exposure issues, always bracket
your shots, taking each image at three different exposures. You can use the camera’s EV
(exposure value) control or autobracketing feature, if available, to adjust image brightness
between shots.
Shooting outdoor panoramas on overcast days helps solve the exposure
variation problem because the clouds eliminate strong highlights and shadows.
If you want a clear sky in your panorama, shoot at midday, when the sun is directly
overhead and doesn’t cast strong shadows on the landscape.
Keep an Eye on White Balance
When not all areas of the scene are lit by the same type of lighting, pay careful attention
to how colors are rendered from one shot to the next. Automatic white balancing can
result in color inconsistencies in this situation. If one frame includes an area that’s
lit by daylight coming through a window, for example, and the next frame is lit by
both daylight and incandescent bulbs, colors in the overlapping area may be slightly
mismatched.
You can take control of white balance by switching from the automatic to manual
setting. Preview each shot to see what white balance option maintains the same color
balance as the preceding frame.
Check out Chapter 8 for tips on using your camera’s manual white balance options
to manipulate colors.
Watch Out for Moving Objects
Scenes that contain moving objects pose difficulties for the panorama photographer.
After the image is stitched, a moving object may show up as a ghostly apparition,
as shown in Figure 7.12. This ghosting usually results when the movement occurs in
the area of overlap and is captured in only one of the frames—for example, someone
walks into the camera’s view as you’re taking your first shot but is out of the frame
for the second.
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FIGURE 7.12
People moving through a scene can show up as a ghostly blur in a stitched panorama.
On the other hand, if you catch a moving object in several nonoverlapping frames,
it will appear multiple times throughout your stitched panorama. The moral of the
story is to be patient and wait for bypassers to get out of the frame before you press
the shutter button.
Stitching Your Panorama
As I alluded to earlier, the difficult part of creating a panorama is taking the pictures
correctly. Compared with finding the lens nodal point, keeping the camera level, and all
the other preparations you need to take, running the images through a panorama-software
sewing machine is a breeze. The remainder of this chapter outlines the few important
things that you need to know to get the job done.
Stitching Software
If you are creating a simple, two- or three-image flat panorama, you may wonder
whether you need any special software at all. You could simply copy and paste the
pictures together, just as if you were building any photo collage—right? In theory, the
answer is yes. However, stitching software goes beyond simple image-stapling. It also
warps the individual images as necessary to correct any slight distortions that may occur
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due to the slightly different lens perspective of each shot. You can do these corrections
in your photo editor, too, but you’ll get better, faster results using a stitching program.
Because panoramic imaging has become popular among digital photography enthusiasts,
many photo editors now offer a basic panorama-building tool. Figure 7.13 shows the
Photoshop Elements panorama utility, which goes by the name of Photomerge. This
tool, like most stitching utilities, provides on-screen guidance to help you get the best
results. (Choose File | Create Photomerge to try it out.)
FIGURE 7.13
Simple stitching tools like this one in Photoshop Elements can produce flat panoramas only.
For flat panoramas, a simple stitching solution like Photomerge works just fine.
But not all basic programs can create 360-degree VR panoramas; for that, you need
more sophisticated software. Fortunately, sophisticated doesn’t necessarily translate to
expensive. Figure 7.14 shows a popular VR stitcher, The Panorama Factory, a shareware
program that costs just $35; you can download a trial copy at www.panoramafactory.com.
Also check out ISeeMedia’s Photovista, which sells for $30 (www.iseemedia.com).
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FIGURE 7.14
More advanced tools such as The Panorama Factory enable you to produce 360-degree
VR images.
You will have to move up the software price ladder to produce immersive imaging
that incorporates the kind of elements you find in video games and other high-end
digital media—audio tracks, interactive elements, and the like. Many professional VR
artists use Apple QuickTime VR Authoring Studio, which sells for about $400. This type
of imaging is beyond the scope of this book, but if you’re interested, visit the Apple web
site (www.apple.com) for more information.
Preparing Your Images (and Computer)
Before you bring your images into the stitching program, make sure that they all have
the same pixel dimensions (pixels wide by pixels tall). The images must also be in the
correct orientation; if you shot the pictures with your camera oriented vertically, as
recommended, that means that you have to rotate the pictures 90 degrees. (Some
stitching programs offer a rotate command that you can use to take care of this step.)
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You should also check your images for exposure consistency. Some stitching programs
include exposure correction tools that automatically adjust brightness to a consistent
level, but if your software doesn’t include this feature, make the exposure adjustments
in your photo editor before you begin the stitching process.
To avoid degrading your picture, save your edited photo in the TIFF format if
your stitching software can work with files in that format. TIFF does not degrade
image quality like the other popular image format, JPEG. See Chapter 10 for
more information about JPEG and its effect on image quality. Chapter 6 explains
how to correct exposure.
Before you launch your panorama software, shut down any other major programs
that are running on your computer. Image-stitching places a big demand on your
computer system, and closing other programs makes the maximum system resources
available to the stitching software.
Stitching the Seams
After preparing your images and system, just follow your stitching software’s instructions
to open and stitch the images. I’m sorry to be vague here, but every program uses
different commands to set panorama options (size, type, file format, and so on) and
launch the stitching software. Fortunately, most programs offer a wizard that guides
you through these steps; see the next section for more information about file formats.
When the program finishes stitching the panorama, you may need to give your input
about how you want to crop the image to trim off any ragged edges that are created
by the image-alignment process. You also may be given the option of manually fixing
alignment problems, depending on the level of software you’re using. The last step is
to save the panorama; file format options are explained in the next section.
Some stitching programs offer a blending control that allows you to specify how
much image manipulation you want the software to perform when creating a
seam. Adjusting this control can correct ghosting or obvious shifts in color or exposure.
Also, most stitching tools ask you to specify the type of camera and lens focal length
you used to shoot your images. Fiddling with these options can also improve your
panorama. You may in fact get better results by choosing a different focal length than
you actually used.
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Choosing a Panorama Format
When you create a flat panorama, most programs enable you to save the stitched image
as either a JPEG or TIFF file. For web use, choose JPEG, following the file-saving tips
outlined in Chapter 10. If you instead plan to print the panorama, TIFF is a better choice,
for the image-quality reasons just mentioned. You may want to make a copy of the
panorama in both formats just in case you want both a print and web version. (Save
to TIFF first, and then make a JPEG copy.)
VR panoramas can be saved in a couple of formats, the two most common being the
QuickTime VR format, better known as QTVR, and IVR, a format that was developed a
few years ago by MGI Software (now a part of Roxio software). Some stitching programs
also have their own proprietary format.
Among other things, the format you choose dictates how the program builds
the image, which is why you usually have to choose the format before you stitch the
panorama. QTVR maps the images around a cylindrical projection, for example, while
IVR uses a spherical projection. Each format also supports a different list of VR features,
such as the option of adding audio tracks and identifying “hot spots” that a viewer can
click to jump to another part of the image. (As mentioned earlier, these advanced VR
elements require professional-level software.)
Most important for panoramas that you want to share with others, the format
dictates what software you need to use to view the image product. Thankfully, the
viewers can be downloaded at no charge from the Internet; check your stitching
software’s help system for information on where to get the appropriate viewer.
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8
Manipulating Color
In the film world, knowledgeable photographers
manipulate colors to suit their artistic vision
through their choice of film. Some types of film emphasize blues and greens, for example, while
others subdue those same hues and enhance
warmer tones. A huge array of color lens filters
provide additional control over how a scene is
rendered.
Digital photographers obviously can’t swap out
image sensors the way that film photographers
change film. But filter manufacturers such as Tiffen
and Kenko now offer a variety of traditional filters in
sizes to fit digital camera lenses. In addition, you
can use your camera’s white-balance control to
give pictures a warmer or cooler tone. Some cameras even provide controls for fine tuning color
saturation.
This chapter explores just a few of the ways that
you can manipulate color with traditional filters,
digital features, or both. You’ll also find some easy
techniques for producing similar results in your
photo editor.
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Tweaking Colors with White Balance
Every light source emits a particular hue, influencing the colors of the objects it illuminates.
Candlelight infuses a scene with warm, reddish tones, for example, while cloudy daylight
adds a bluish tint.
The color of a light source, often referred to as its color temperature, is measured on
the Kelvin scale. You can see an approximation of the colors of common light sources
on Page 26 of the color insert. Read the sidebar “Measuring Degrees of Color” if you
want to know more about the Kelvin scale.
Our human eyes are pretty good at compensating for the various colors of light. We
perceive a white shirt as being white whether we’re looking at it across a candlelit table
or outdoors on an overcast day. But cameras need a little help in this area.
In the film world, specific films are produced for use with different light sources. On a
digital camera, the light-compensating function is performed by the white-balance control.
If you leave this control set to automatic, the camera adjusts to the color temperature of
the light source for you.
As a rule, white-balance mechanisms do a pretty good job in automatic mode. But if
you’re working with multiple light sources that have different color temperatures—say,
a flash plus window light—the camera can get confused. For this reason, most cameras
offer a manual white-balance control that enables you to select from five or six specific
light sources. Typically, you get a setting appropriate for cloudy/overcast skies, flash,
bright sunshine, fluorescent lights, and incandescent light (household bulbs). Some
advanced cameras also offer a setting for studio lights that use tungsten bulbs.
In addition, some cameras provide an auto white-balance compensation feature.
This feature works similarly to exposure compensation, enabling you to make the
exposure a little warmer or cooler than one of the standard settings provided. For
example, if you’re working on a partly cloudy day, you can choose “Cloudy +3” or
“Cloudy –3” if you want the image to be slightly warmer or cooler than the Cloudy
setting produces.
Although the main purpose of white balance is to enable you to record colors
accurately in any lighting, you also can use the feature as a sort of virtual warming
or cooling filter, as follows:
• For warmer colors, choose a white-balance setting appropriate for a light source
that’s higher on the Kelvin scale than your actual light source. In bright sunlight,
for example, choose the setting for flash or clouds. (Fortunately, your LCD
monitor will show you how your image colors shift as you cycle through the
various white-balance settings, so you don’t need to memorize the Kelvin chart.)
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• For cooler colors, choose a white-balance setting appropriate for a light source
that has a lower color temperature than your actual light source. Again, on a
sunny day, the incandescent or fluorescent setting would produce cooler tones.
I used this approach to create the variations on my carousel image on Page 26 of
the color insert. Note, however, that how much color shift you get varies from camera
to camera.
Of course, if you’re working on a cloudy day and you’re already using your camera’s
cloudy setting, you can’t get any warmer. Nor can you go cooler if you’re shooting in
incandescent light and using the incandescent setting. The next two sections discuss
some other options for times when you’re maxed out in the white-balance department.
You can use a traditional warming or cooling filter in conjunction with
manual white balance to produce a more pronounced color shift than
either delivers alone.
Technical Aside
Measuring Degrees of Color
Named for a Victorian-era scientist (Baron Kelvin of Largs, born William Thomson),
the Kelvin scale is a thermodynamic temperature scale. On the Kelvin scale, the zero
point is what scientists refer to as absolute zero, which translates to –273.15 degrees
on the Celsius temperature scale.
The importance of all this to photographers is that the colors emitted by various
light sources have been plotted on the Kelvin scale, enabling us to describe light in
specific terms. The science behind the concept is complex, but the gist involves a black
object—called a black body—that radiates different colors as it is heated. When
photographers speak about the color temperature of a light source, they’re referring
to the Kelvin temperature at which the black body emits the same color as that light.
Light sources that you encounter on a daily basis range from about 2000 to 8000
kelvin. (The scientific community decided in the late 1960s that we shouldn’t use the
word degree or the degree symbol when discussing this temperature scale—just kelvin
or K.) Toward the low end of the color temperature range, light emits a reddish cast.
As temperature increases, the light color changes, moving from yellow to white to blue.
Discussions of color temperature can be confusing because photographers use the
terms warm and cool to describe actual photo colors. Warm indicates a reddish color,
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Technical Aside
Measuring Degrees of Color (continued)
and cool refers to a bluish tone. It seems backwards that a light source with a high
temperature adds a cool color cast to a scene, and vice versa, but that’s what happens.
In practical terms, you don’t need to worry about the Kelvin temperature of a light
source—you just need to know what color cast to expect. Use the chart on Page 26 of
the color insert as your guide.
Warming Image Colors
In photography lingo, the term warm colors refers to hues in the red-to-yellow range.
Cool tones refers to hues in the blue-to-green range.
As discussed earlier in this chapter, you can add warmth to image colors by switching
to a white-balance setting that’s appropriate for a light source with a higher color
temperature than the actual light source—for example, using the cloudy or overcast
setting to capture a subject lit by household incandescent bulbs. (Your camera’s LCD
monitor will reflect the color changes as you shift the white-balance setting, so you
don’t need to be a student of light temperatures to use this trick.)
If fiddling with white balance doesn’t produce the warming effect you’re after, try
these alternative techniques:
• Go the traditional route and place a warming filter over your camera lens. These
filters cut down on the amount of blue in the light and give your image a rosy
cast, as illustrated by the top right image on Page 27 of the color insert. Although
warming filters are most often used to warm skin tones in portraits, as I did for
the last image on Page 12 of the insert, I also sometimes use them in scenic shots
to approximate the light that you get around sunrise and sunset—the so-called
golden hours for photography. The top right image on Page 27 shows an example.
Warming filters, like other color filters, are available in different strengths; for
both example pictures, I used an 81B filter, which indicates a medium-impact
filter.
After you take a shot with a warming filter (or any filter, for that matter), review
the image on your LCD monitor to double-check the exposure. If your camera uses
through-the-lens (TTL) exposure metering and you’re working in autoexposure mode,
the camera should automatically adjust exposure to account for the filter. If not, you
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need to handle that task manually. The filter package should tell you how much
exposure adjustment is needed. (Look for the filter factor number; see Chapter 1
for an explanation of what this number means to exposure.) Remember that in
autoexposure mode, you can raise the EV value to produce a brighter exposure.
• If you’re comfortable with computers, you can adjust image colors after the
fact using your photo editor’s color-balancing tools. The lower left example
on Page 27 of the color insert offers an illustration. For this image, I used the
Photoshop Elements Color Variations filter, shown in Figure 8.1. To produce a
warming effect, decrease blue and cyan, and increase red and yellow. I added a bit
more yellow than red in my example image to produce a more golden tone than
created by the 81B warming filter.
FIGURE 8.1 You can produce color shifts similar to what you get with a traditional warming filter by
using your photo editor’s Color Variations or Color Balance filter.
Some color-balancing tools, including the Photoshop Elements Variations filter,
enable you to adjust shadows, midtones, and highlights independently. If you want
to mimic the look of a real warming filter, keep all tones in the same ballpark.
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Note also that the Photoshop Elements Variations filter, as well as similar filters in
some other programs, appears at first glance to provide controls for adjusting the
amount of red, green, and blue only. But when you decrease red, green, or blue,
you simultaneously add the color that’s in the opposite position on the color
wheel. In case you’re not familiar with the color wheel: Red is opposite cyan;
green is opposite magenta; and blue is opposite yellow. So if you want to add
yellow, for example, you decrease blue.
If you’re really into digital color manipulation,
check out color-effects packages such as
those in the Color Efex Pro! line from nik
multimedia. I used the Brilliance/Warmth
filter, shown here, from the Complete
Collection to produce the final image on
Page 27 of the color insert, adding a golden
glow to the ruins without also toning down
the sky. Like most effects filters, the ones in
the Color Efex Pro! family are Photoshopcompatible plug-ins; they work with any
photo editor that accepts such plug-ins,
not just Photoshop. Prices range from $70
to $300, depending on the version of the
product you choose. For more information
and free demos, visit www.nikmultimedia.com.
Making Gray Skies Blue: Using a
Polarizing Filter
On days when skies are less than photogenic, you may be able to coax a little more blue
out of the clouds by using a polarizing filter. In clear weather, the filter can make blue
skies even more so.
Chapter 4 provides a detailed description of how polarizing filters work.
As an example, see Page 28 of the color insert. The top image shows the sky as it
really was on the day I took this picture—mostly cloudy, with just the vaguest hint
of blue. With the help of the polarizing filter, the lower left image shows a respectable
amount of blue. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly more pleasing than the first image,
assuming that you’re not going for that life-is-dismal, all-is-lost mood.
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A polarizing filter is not always effective, however. If skies are completely overcast,
don’t bother—the filter will reduce the amount of light coming into your camera, but
that’s all. Even on a clear day, the impact of the filter will be negligible unless the sun,
camera lens, and subject are in a particular alignment.
For best results, your lens must be at a 90-degree
angle to the sun. Unless the sun is directly overhead,
that means that it is at either your left or right
shoulder. But that’s not the only complication. Even
when you’re positioned properly, the polarizer has
maximum impact on a narrow arc of sky at a
90-degree angle to the sun. At noon, for example,
the sky at the horizon line receives the filter’s
FIGURE 8.2 A polarizing filter makes the
full-strength color boost; the effect fades out above
maximum impact on the arc
that line. Figure 8.2 may help you make sense of
of sky that’s at a 90-degree
angle to the sun.
this whole issue if you’re not a math major.
To determine what band of sky will be most affected by a polarizing filter, make
an “L” with your thumb and forefinger, pointing your thumb at the sun. Now
rotate your wrist in and out. The arc that your finger travels will receive the maximum
polarizing impact.
Bear in mind that a polarizing filter not only affects sky color, but also may eliminate
reflections in glass and other shiny surfaces. As discussed in Chapter 4, this glare-reducing
function also depends on the angle of camera, sun, and shiny surface.
In my example image, shown in grayscale in Figure 8.3, notice the glass panes in
the building (that’s the Indiana State Museum, in downtown Indianapolis). When I
first considered this view, the glass was reflecting surrounding buildings. I thought
that would be a cool juxtaposition of structures, so I snapped the picture without
the polarizer. Unfortunately, because of the camera angle, the reflections weren’t
quite strong enough to be clearly visible in the image. So I opted to use the polarizer
for the next shot, which not only pulled more blue out of the sky but also eliminated
most of the subtle reflections, giving the glass its more dramatic, almost black appearance.
Notice, however, that reflections in the canal that runs in front of the building are only
slightly diminished; the angles of the water, lens, and sun weren’t right for the filter to
make much impact there.
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Without polarizer
With polarizer
FIGURE 8.3 When deciding whether to use a polarizing filter to intensify sky colors, remember that the
filter may also eliminate reflections in glass and other shiny surfaces.
One final tip related to using polarizing filters: If you’re trying to capture sunlight
sparkling on water, leave the filter off; it will reduce those sparkles. On the other hand,
if you’re trying to photograph something that’s in the water—a koi swimming in a water
garden, for example—the filter can help you get a clearer image. Also keep in mind that
while eliminating reflections in a photo editor is tricky, shifting the sky color is usually
fairly easy. See the How-To sidebar “Paint the Sky” for some easy techniques you
can use.
How
To
PAINT THE SKY
Adjusting the color of a sky in a photo editor isn’t terribly difficult—some
programs even have special-effects filters that automatically create a mix of sky
and clouds. (Look for a Clouds filter.) The biggest challenge is to select just the
sky pixels so that only they receive the color change. In most cases, the best
selection tool for this task is the Magic Wand, which selects pixels based on color.
Depending on your software, the tool may go by the name Color Wand, Color
Selector, or something similar.
The following steps show you how to select the sky and then add a natural blue
tint in Photoshop Elements:
1. With your image open, click the Magic Wand in the toolbox (see Figure 8.4).
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PAINT THE SKY (continued)
Magic
Wand
FIGURE 8.4 Click with the Magic Wand to select sky pixels; SHIFT-click to select more pixels if your
first click doesn’t grab the entire sky.
2. On the Options bar, select the Contiguous check box and set the Tolerance
value to 20, as shown in the figure.
3. Click on a sky pixel. The program automatically selects any pixels that are
similar in color to the one you clicked and contiguous to that pixel—that is,
no pixel of another color comes between them and the clicked pixel. A dotted
outline appears to show you what areas you selected.
4. If the tool didn’t select all the sky areas you want to adjust, press SHIFT as
you click on those unselected regions. The program adds the clicked pixel
and any contiguous, similarly colored pixels to the selection. Keep
SHIFT-clicking until you grab all the sky pixels.
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How
To
PAINT THE SKY (continued)
5. If necessary, adjust the Tolerance value between clicks. At a lower
value, the tool selects only pixels that are very close in color to the
clicked pixel; at a higher value, the tool is less discriminating.
6. Open the Layers palette, shown in Figure 8.5, and click the New Layer icon.
This new layer will hold your sky color. Set the layer blending mode to Color,
as shown in the figure, using the menu at the top of the palette.
Eraser
Foreground Color icon
New Layer icon
FIGURE 8.5 Put your new sky color on a separate layer, setting the layer blend mode to Color.
7. Click the Foreground Color icon in the toolbox, labeled in Figure 8.5, to open
the Color Picker, and choose your desired sky color.
8. Press ALT-BACKSPACE (Windows) or OPTION-DELETE (Mac) to fill the selected
area with the foreground color. (You also can choose Edit | Fill and select the
Foreground Color option from the Use drop-down list in the resulting dialog
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How
To
PAINT THE SKY (continued)
box.) Because you set the layer mode of your new sky layer to Color, the
program retains the highlights and shadows of the original sky, producing
a natural-looking effect.
9. To tweak the sky color further, you can repeat the process and choose a
different color in the Color Picker. Or choose Enhance | Adjust Color | Hue/
Saturation and drag the Hue slider to shift the basic sky tint; drag the
Saturation control to adjust color intensity.
10. If those techniques don’t deliver the effect you want, change the layer blending
mode to Normal and reduce the layer opacity by using the Opacity control in
the Layers palette.
11. If you accidentally colored nonsky pixels, use the Eraser tool (labeled in
Figure 8.5) to dab away the blue on the new layer.
12. When you’re happy with your paint job, choose Layer | Flatten Image to fuse
the new sky layer with the original.
Strengthening Saturation
Your digital camera may offer a control that enables you to adjust color intensity, or
saturation. I recommend that you capture the image at the normal saturation setting
and do any adjustments on a copy of the image in your photo editor, however.
Why wait? Because your photo editor gives you more control. On most cameras, you
can increase or decrease overall color saturation by a few degrees, or you can completely
desaturate the image, which produces a grayscale picture (black-and-white, in everyday
lingo). Page 29 of the insert offers an example. I used the camera’s normal setting for the
first image, maximum saturation for the second image, and minimum saturation for
the third image.
Your photo editor’s Hue/Saturation filter, on the other hand, enables you to ramp
saturation up or down as much as you see fit, putting no arbitrary limits on your artistic
options. In addition, many programs enable you to adjust saturation of one range of
colors—blues or magentas, for example—but leave other colors untouched.
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FIGURE 8.6 The Photoshop Elements Hue/
Saturation filter enables you to tweak
saturation of one range of colors
while leaving others untouched.
In the fourth image on Page 29, I used
the Photoshop Elements Hue/Saturation
filter, shown in Figure 8.6, to adjust the
image. I boosted the intensity of yellows,
which affected the lemon and the onions
the most. Then I lowered the saturation
for blues and cyans to make the plate
a little less vivid. This fine-tuning of
saturation isn’t possible with in-camera
adjustments.
If your photo editor offers layering, give yourself even more flexibility by
duplicating the background layer and applying the Hue/Saturation filter to
the duplicate. You can then adjust the opacity of the filtered layer or change the
layer blend mode to produce different effects. In Photoshop Elements, you also
can apply the filter as an adjustment layer, which enables you to keep your original
pixel colors intact and to copy the adjustment to other images.
Exploring RGB Color
Digital cameras, scanners, computer monitors, and digital projectors create images by
combining red, green, and blue light, which is why digital photos are said to be RGB
images. In this light-based color factory, full intensity red, green, and blue create white;
zero red, green, and blue makes black. Equal amounts of each color in any other
intensity produces a shade of gray.
When you take a digital photo, your camera reads the amount of red, green, and
blue light in the scene. The light values are stored in separate channels in the image
file—one channel each for the red, green, and blue data. If you view each channel by
itself, as you can in high-end photo editors such as Adobe Photoshop, you see a simple
grayscale image, as illustrated on Page 30 of the color insert.
Bright areas in a channel image indicate a heavy concentration of that color of light.
For example, the lemon rind in the example image contains lots of red and green, but
very little blue. So it appears bright in the red and green channel images but dark in the
blue channel image.
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Converting from Color to Black-and-White
If you dig through your camera’s color options, you should find a control that tells
the camera to create a black-and-white image instead of a full-color photo. As with
saturation adjustments, I’m not a fan of this option except in situations when you need
to ship someone a black-and-white image immediately and don’t have access to your
photo editor.
Perhaps the biggest reason to capture your pictures in color instead of black-and-white
is flexibility. You can always make a black-and-white copy of your color original, but
you can’t create a convincing color photo from a grayscale original. Sure, you could use
your photo editor’s painting tools to infuse your grayscale pictures with color, but creating
a true, photo-realistic image requires a huge amount of time and skill. Converting a color
image to a grayscale image, on the other hand, is painless.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that you know you’ll never need a particular
shot in full color. If you want the best possible black-and-white photo, you still should
capture it in color and then do the conversion in your photo editor.
As detailed in the sidebar “Exploring RGB Color,” a digital camera produces an image
that contains three color channels—red, green, and blue (hence the RGB moniker). When
the camera creates a grayscale photo, it combines the color values from the original red,
green, and blue color channels into one channel, using a standard formula that gives the
brightness values from each channel a particular weight. This one-size-fits-all conversion
approach doesn’t take into consideration that the most important details in a picture
Grayscale versus Black-and-White
What most people refer to as a black-and-white photo is called a grayscale image
by people with a digital graphics background. In the computer graphics world, a
black-and-white image can contain only black and white, while a grayscale image
contains black, white, and shades of gray. I use the terms interchangeably in this
book but thought I’d give you a heads-up so that you’ll know what’s what if you
get in a discussion with someone who’s from the graphics side of the tracks.
Also note that your photo editor may offer a command that converts your image
to the Grayscale color model, which produces an image with 256 colors—again,
black, white, and shades of gray. When I speak of the Grayscale color model, with
a capital G, I’m referring to this particular type of file.
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aren’t always found in the same channel. It also has an averaging effect that tends to
reduce the tonal range of the image.
As an example, study just the garlic clove in the images in Figure 8.7. The top left
image shows the result of the standard grayscale conversion; the other three images show
the original contents of the red, green, and blue channels. Some of the best shadow detail
from the blue channel didn’t survive the journey to the composite.
Composite gray
Red channel
Green channel
Blue channel
FIGURE 8.7 You can split a digital camera image into its individual color channels, which reflect the
amount of red, green, and blue light in the picture.
By making the grayscale conversion yourself, you control how much brightness data
comes from each channel. This enables you to pull out particular details that you want
to emphasize—to custom blend your own grayscale recipe.
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To do a custom blend, you have to look beyond the standard color-to-grayscale
conversion found in every photo editor. (In Photoshop Elements, this command is
Image | Mode | Grayscale and it converts the picture to the 256-color Grayscale mode
discussed in the earlier sidebar “Grayscale versus Black-and-White.”)
The following list offers just a few of the other, better ways of going gray. You can
compare the results on Page 31 of the color insert. Note that which techniques you can
use depends on your photo software. For all but the first one, you need a program that
gives you access to individual color channels. (Photoshop Elements and most comparably
priced programs don’t provide this feature.) Also, I didn’t attempt to give each of the
conversions the same tonal qualities because I wanted you to see just how much variation
you can achieve.
• In Photoshop Elements, use the Gradient Map command in combination with
the Hue/Saturation filter, as explained in the How-To sidebar “Create Custom
Grayscale Conversions in Photoshop Elements.”
• Convert the image to the Lab color mode. This color mode, used primarily by
imaging professionals, also comprises three color channels: a Lightness channel
that stores just the pixel brightness data, plus two other channels for storing color
information. The Lightness channel by itself often produces an excellent grayscale
image. However, because photo printers are geared to outputting RGB images,
you should copy the contents of the Lightness channel to a new RGB image
instead of saving the file in the Lab mode. The red, green, and blue channels in
your new image will all contain the same brightness values. (Again, see the sidebar
“Exploring RBG Color” if all this channel stuff is foreign to you.)
• You also may find that the original red, green, or blue channel contains just the
grayscale tones that you’re after. If so, just copy that channel to a new RGB image.
• In Adobe Photoshop, the Channel Mixer command enables you to specify exactly
what percentage of each RGB channel you want your grayscale image to contain.
Other advanced imaging programs also offer this feature, although it may go by
a different name.
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How
To
CREATE CUSTOM GRAYSCALE CONVERSIONS
IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS
To control your color-to-black-and-white conversions in Photoshop
Elements, follow these steps. Work on a copy of your original image file, as always.
1. Set the foreground and background colors to black and white, respectively.
You can do this quickly by just pressing the D key (D for default colors).
2. Open the Layers palette and click the Layer Adjustment icon, labeled in
Figure 8.8. Choose Gradient Map from the menu that appears.
Layer Adjustment icon
FIGURE 8.8 The first step in the custom conversion process is to apply a black-to-white
gradient map.
3. When the Gradient Map dialog box appears, choose the Foreground to
Background gradient icon in the top drop-down list, as shown in Figure 8.8,
and click OK. The program then maps your original image colors to a
black-to-white spectrum. In other words, the darkest pixels become black,
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CREATE CUSTOM GRAYSCALE CONVERSIONS
IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS (continued)
the lightest pixels become white, and the other pixels are spread across the
range in between.
4. If you don’t want your final grayscale image to have that complete contrast
range, choose Edit | Undo to get rid of the gradient map and set the foreground
and background colors to match the darkest and lightest shades you want the
image to have. Then repeat Steps 2 and 3.
5. The next step is to add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer underneath your
new Gradient Map adjustment layer. To do so, click the Background layer in
the Layers palette and then click the Layer Adjustment icon. Choose Hue/
Saturation from the menu to create the adjustment layer and display the Hue/
Saturation dialog box, as shown in Figure 8.9.
FIGURE 8.9 After adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer between the Gradient Map layer
and the Background layer, use the Saturation, Lightness, and Hue controls to adjust
image tones.
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CREATE CUSTOM GRAYSCALE CONVERSIONS
IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS (continued)
6. In the Hue/Saturation dialog box, choose Red from the Edit drop-down
box, and select the Preview check box, as shown in the figure.Now watch
the image window as you drag the Saturation, Lightness, or Hue slider. You
should see a tonal shift in any areas of the photo that were originally red.
7. One by one, make your way through the other color ranges available via the
Edit drop-down list to shift the tones of those pixels as well. You also can
click in the image to select that color for editing.
Be careful not to ramp up Saturation too much, or you may wipe out subtle
details. Let your eyes be your guide.
8. When you finish adjusting your picture, flatten the image by choosing Layer |
Flatten Image. If you think you may want to do more work on the tones in
the grayscale image later, however, first save a copy of the image in the
Photoshop Elements native format (PSD) to retain the two adjustment layers
separate from the original, full-color background layer.
As noted earlier, you should leave your newly gray photo in the RGB color mode
if you will be printing it on an RGB printer. Keeping the image in RGB also enables
you to add a color tint to the picture—for example, to add a sepia tone or create a
hand-painted effect.
Creating Color Effects
Your photo editor likely offers a collection of special effects that play with the colors in
an image. You can buy additional, third-party collections from companies such as the
previously mentioned nik multimedia.
As a rule, I’m not fond of special effects, because they detract too much from the
subject of the picture. But effects can be helpful for rescuing a problem image. If you
have a slightly blurry or noisy photo, for example, applying a filter that produces the
look of a watercolor painting or pencil sketch can hide the defect.
Because the focus of this book is photography, not photo manipulation, I don’t want
to spend much space discussing software effects. The filters typically are easy to use,
anyway—you just choose a filter from an effects menu or palette and then let the program
do its thing. In some cases, you may be offered a few controls for adjusting the effect.
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I want to share with you a few color-effect tricks that may not be immediately
obvious, however:
• To add a sepia tint to your photo, create a new image layer and set the layer
blending mode to Color. Fill the new layer with the sepia color you want to apply.
In Photoshop Elements, you can also simply select the Colorize check box in the
Hue/Saturation dialog box (featured in Figure 8.6, earlier in this chapter) and drag
the Hue slider to adjust the tint color.
• Another fun color play is to use the Gradient Map command, discussed in the
How-To section “Create Custom Grayscale Conversions in Photoshop Elements,”
but set the foreground and background colors to something other than black and
white. In Photoshop Elements, if you apply the change as an adjustment layer, you
can play with different layer blending modes to alter the effect.
• To give your picture a hand-tinted look, first do your color-to-gray conversion as
explained earlier, leaving the gray image in the RGB color mode. Create a new,
empty image layer, again setting the blend mode to Color, and use a paint tool to
dab color on the scene. Adjust the layer or paint opacity to control color intensity.
• If your photo editor’s Saturation filter allows you to adjust individual color
ranges, experiment with desaturating all color ranges except one or two. For
example, keep the blues and cyans but turn everything else to gray.
• Finally, here’s a color effect that involves no computer at all: Just use a slow shutter
speed and move your camera slightly during the exposure. The result is a Monet-like
image like the one that decorates the cover page of the color insert. To create this
image, which features the flowers shown on Page 13 of the insert, I positioned the
camera lens a few inches above the flowers and set the shutter speed to 2 seconds.
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PART III
Printing and Sharing
Your Photos
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Becoming a
Master Printer
Now that digital cameras are commonplace, nearly
every retail outfit that offers film processing can
make prints from your camera’s memory card.
Online services such as Ofoto and Shutterfly provide another convenient way to turn a batch of
image files into frame-ready photos.
Although I often turn to these commercial printing services for everyday pictures, I take the
printing reins myself for special images. It’s not that
the quality offered by commercial services isn’t
good; it’s just that asking someone else to translate
my raw image file to paper is a little like mixing up
the ingredients for a soufflé and then trusting the
baking to a stranger. Just as a stand-in chef may not
share my philosophy about the perfect time to
remove that soufflé from the oven, a lab technician
may have a different idea than I do about what constitutes the best print of a particular scene.
For times when you want start-to-finish control
over your pictures, this chapter shows you how to
master the art of digital photo printing, from
choosing a printer to matching colors between
screen and printer. I’ll also share some advice for
getting better results when you do hand over printing responsibilities to a lab.
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Buying Your Next Photo Printer
As someone who’s tested photo printers since the first models were presented for public
consumption, I’ve seen my share of clunkers. Among the first and second generations of
machines, even the cream of the crop didn’t live up to their claims of “photo-quality”
printing. In the past couple of years, however, manufacturers have refined their products
to the point that I rarely see a photo printer that doesn’t impress.
The point is, if you’ve been waiting for do-it-yourself printing technology to mature
before you invested in a new printer, you can now buy with confidence. However, you
do need to shop carefully, because photo printers come in different flavors, and not all
of them may suit your needs.
Although I don’t have room in this book for a full-fledged buying guide, I want to
provide some basic information to get you started on your printer search. Appendix B
points you toward some web and print resources that offer additional shopping advice,
including detailed printer reviews.
Picking a Printer Type: Inkjet, Dye-Sub, or Laser?
Color printers for the home and office fall into three main categories: inkjet, dye-sub,
and laser. Your first step in finding the right printer is to decide which of these technologies
fits the kind of printing you want to do. The next three sections give you my take on
each type of printer, but here’s the short story:
• Inkjet printers offer the best solution for most home and small-business users
who need a machine that can handle light-to-moderate document printing as
well as photos.
• Dye-sub printers produce excellent photo quality but can’t be used for
document printing.
• Laser printers provide acceptable photo quality and are better than inkjets
for heavy-duty document printing.
Inkjet Printers: All-Around Champs
Inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of ink onto the paper to produce a print. They can
print on plain paper, on glossy photo stock, and on specialty media such as watercolor
paper, silkscreen-type fabric, and the like. On high-quality paper, inkjets deliver output
that equals that from a professional lab. In fact, many professional photographers now
use inkjets to print photos that they sell in galleries.
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Good photo inkjets range in price from about $150 to $700, with choices ranging
from tiny, snapshot printers to wide-format models that can output supersized prints.
For a look at just two options, see Figure 9.1, which shows a Hewlett-Packard
PhotoSmart 230 snapshot printer and the larger Canon i950. The first sells for about
$200; the second, $240.
FIGURE 9.1 Inkjet printers come in all shapes and sizes; shown here are the Hewlett-Packard
PhotoSmart 230 snapshot printer and the Canon i950.
✁COST CUTTER
Higher priced inkjets offer added features such as networking capabilities, memory
card slots (for printing directly from a memory card), and even small monitors on
which you can preview the images on a memory card. But spending more doesn’t
necessarily buy better print quality because manufacturers often use the same print
mechanisms in entry-level models as they put in their priciest offerings.
In a small office, an inkjet printer can do dual-duty as a document printer. Some
manufacturers even offer all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax machines, which can be
a great solution in a cramped office. For heavy document production, though, a laser
printer is a better choice. Inkjets are slower than lasers, and inkjet text doesn’t appear
as crisp laser-printed text. Also note that not every all-in-one machine offers good photo
quality, so read reviews and ask to see a sample print before you buy.
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Because inkjet printers are far and away
the best selling machines for photo
printing, a wide variety of specialty art
papers are available for them. In addition
to those offered by the major printer
manufacturers, several fine-art paper
companies also offer some terrific papers.
Shown here is an array of papers from
Pictorico (www.pictorico.com). Others
to try come from Ilford (www.ilford.com),
Lumijet (www.lumijet.com), and Legion
Paper (www.legionpaper.com). Check
camera and art stores for these products,
as most aren’t sold in electronics or
office-supply stores.
Dye-Sub Printers: Glossy Photos Only
Dye-sub printers use a heat-based process to transfer solid dye from ribbons or a sheet
of plastic film onto specially coated paper. Before inkjet printing technology was refined,
dye-sub was the technology to use for the best possible photo quality. Some experts
think dye-sub prints still outclass inkjet prints, while other people lean the opposite
direction.
For the record, I don’t lean either way—both dye-sub and inkjet look darned good to
me. However, if you’re considering buying a dye-sub printer, be aware that you can’t use
these machines to print text documents, nor can you print on plain paper or specialty art
media. Only the specially coated dye-sub media works.
Dye-sub printers tend to be slow beasts, too. The paper has to pass through the
printer multiple times because each dye color—usually, cyan, magenta, yellow, and
black—is applied separately. Some printers send the paper through the works an
additional time to apply a clear, protective overcoat.
Most dye-sub models offered to consumers are snapshot-size printers and cost in the
neighborhood of $200. You can find a handful of larger-format dye-subs, such as the
$500 Olympus P-400, which can output prints at sizes of approximately 7½×10 inches.
Laser Printers: Office Players
Laser printers turn data into print via a technology that involves a laser beam—hence,
the name. Instead of ink or dye, laser printers affix toner to the paper. You can print on
plain paper as well as on glossy photo stock. Figure 9.2 gives you a look at one offering
from the latest crop of lasers, the Minolta-QMS magicolor 2300W, which retails for $700.
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Engineered primarily as heavy-duty document
machines, laser models have long been the leading
technology for office printing, but in the past they have
not rivaled inkjet or dye-sub machines for photo quality.
Because imaging is becoming increasingly important in
office settings, laser manufacturers are now paying more
attention to photo-printing capabilities.
Although photo quality still lags slightly behind inkjet
and dye-sub output, it’s getting closer to the mark every
year. In fact, I daresay that if you weren’t comparing
prints from the various technologies side by side, you’d
probably be pretty satisfied with your laser photos.
Color lasers don’t come cheap, however; $700 is about
the minimum you can expect to pay. Remember that you’re
buying a highly capable document machine for that price,
not just a photo printer. In addition, most laser printers
offer document collating, two-sided printing, networking
capabilities, and other features that are important in an
office environment.
(Photo courtesy Minolta-QMS, Inc.)
FIGURE 9.2 New laser printers such
as this model from
Minolta-QMS offer greatly
improved photo-printing
capabilities than earlier
generations of lasers.
Sorting Through Printer Specs
Choosing a printer technology is the easy part of printer shopping. Finding the right
printer in a particular category is a little more difficult. To help you narrow the field,
the following list offers advice about the various specifications and features that you’ll
encounter when you browse the printer aisles.
Inkjet Ink Configuration
For inkjet printers, don’t accept anything less than four ink colors: cyan, magenta,
yellow, and black. Printers that skip the black do a poor job reproducing shadows.
Six- and seven-color inkjets deliver even better photos than four-color printers.
✁COST CUTTER
Ink costs are usually lower with a printer that uses separate ink cartridges for each
color. With multi-color cartridges, you often run out of one color before the others
are gone, leading to ink waste.
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Print Speed
Check the printer specs to find out how long you’ll have to wait for your pictures to
appear each time you click the Print button. Understand, though, that manufacturer
data gives you a best-case scenario, and printing at the highest quality setting may be
significantly slower.
Borderless Printing
Some printers can produce borderless prints, while others insist on adding a small
margin of paper around the image. With some models, you must use special paper
that has perforated tabs around the edges to get a borderless print. The tabs provide
the printer with something to grab onto as the paper passes along the print path. After
printing, you tear away the tabs.
Card Input
Many photo printers offer slots that enable you to print directly from your memory
card. Most printers offer slots for CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards only, so if
you use some other type of card, double-check to be sure that the printer offers a
matching slot.
✁COST CUTTER
Printers that have memory-card slots can serve as a card reader. When computer
and printer are connected, you can copy files from the card to your computer’s hard
drive as you would from a floppy disk or CD-ROM.
Direct Printing with DPOF
Most new photo printers and digital cameras offer a feature known as Digital Print
Order Format, or DPOF (dee-poff) for short. DPOF enables you to include printer
instructions in an image file. When you print directly from a memory card, the
printer reads the DPOF data and automatically prints the images according to your
specifications.
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Preview Monitor
Printers that have memory card slots sometimes also offer a tiny monitor that you can
use to review your images and select photos for printing. If you plan on printing directly
from your memory card on a regular basis, the monitor is a great feature. In some cases,
you can even do basic editing, such as cropping the picture, using the monitor as a guide.
Printer Resolution
Printer resolution refers to how many dots of ink, dye, or toner the printer can squeeze
into a linear inch of paper. Printer resolution is measured in dots per inch, or dpi.
Printer manufacturers make a big deal about resolution, but that doesn’t mean that
you should pay much attention to this number. First off, resolution requirements vary
depending on the printer technology. Prints from a 300-dpi dye-sub printer look just as
good as prints from an inkjet offering 1440 dpi resolution, for example. And while it’s
true that with inkjet and laser printers, a higher printer resolution theoretically means
sharper prints, many other factors affect print quality. So simply choosing a printer
based on dpi is not a smart move.
Cost Per Print
One reason why printers are relatively inexpensive is because manufacturers profit each
time you buy ink and paper—consumables, in industry lingo. Over the life of your
printer, you’ll likely spend far more on consumables than you did on the printer itself.
Unfortunately, calculating an exact cost-per-print is simply impossible because the
amount of ink, dye, or toner used depends on the image and the print settings you use.
You can get a general idea about cost-per-print from printer brochures, but these figures
are loose estimates, and no standard industry formula exists to calculate costs.
Before you buy a printer—or any digital photography equipment, for that
matter—ask whether you can return the product without paying a restocking
fee. Many merchants, especially online stores and computer superstores, charge
as much as 15 percent of the product price if you want to return the equipment.
Defective goods can be exchanged without a restocking fee, but if you decide that
the product just doesn’t meet your expectations, you’ll have to pay. Most camera
stores do not charge restocking fees, but double-check to be sure.
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Inkjet Printing for the Long Haul:
Archival Solutions
When the first high-quality photo inkjet printers became available, digital imaging artists
were overjoyed. Finally, we had a way to produce sale-quality prints in the studio, enabling
us to exert total control over our images, not to mention save money and drive time to
and from the lab.
The rejoicing, though, was short lived. Although prints looked terrific when fresh
out of the printer, they quickly began to fade or shift colors. Mind you, traditional film
prints degrade over time, too, but they last between 10 to 60 years, depending on the
paper and printing process and the environment in which they’re stored. Our inkjet
prints started to look sad in a matter of weeks, sometimes days.
Fortunately, the printer industry responded to the loud wails from the photographic
community and worked to develop more stable inks and papers. Thanks to their efforts,
you now can produce inkjet prints that should last as least as long as traditional
photographs, if not longer.
However, to give your photos a long life span, you have to select both inks and paper
carefully. The two work together to determine print stability. Newer photo papers often
state print-life estimates on the package; read the fine print to discover what printers and
inks you need to use to achieve that durability.
For maximum print life, you may want to invest
(Photo courtesy Epson America, Inc.)
in a printer that uses pigment-based inks, which offer
more stability than the dye-based inks used by most
inkjets. Note, though, that pigment-based inks have
a down side: They can’t reproduce as broad a color
range, or gamut, as dye-based inks. Always a catch,
eh? It may help to know that traditional film prints
can’t match the color gamut offered by dye-based
inks, either.
One popular printer in the pigment-ink category is
the Epson Stylus Photo 2200P, shown in Figure 9.3.
Priced at about $700, the 2200P can make prints up
to 13×44 inches and even has an attachment that
allows you to print on uncut rolls of photo paper.
This printer is the younger sibling of the Stylus Photo
FIGURE 9.3 A favorite with fine-art
2000P, which offered an amazing 100-year print life.
photographers, the
Some photographers thought the color gamut just
Epson Stylus Photo 2200
wasn’t acceptable with the 2000P, so Epson
uses special archival inks
for long-lasting prints.
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reconfigured the ink set for the 2200P, sacrificing some life expectancy for better color
reproduction. Print life on the 2200P is estimated at 44 years on Epson’s glossy media.
Let me offer a few additional points that may help you sort out the archival issue:
• If you’re not sure what to expect from your printer or paper, point your web
browser to the site of the leading authority on print life, Wilhelm Research
(www.wilhelm-research.com). Test results for popular printers, papers, and inks
are posted on the site.
• Most people think that light exposure is the main cause of print degradation,
but pollution, heat, and humidity are equally destructive, if not more so. You
can extend print life by framing your pictures under glass and not displaying
them for long periods of time in direct sunlight. Or store them in archival albums,
in a dry, clean, cool environment. (These precautions apply to your traditional
film photos as well.)
• Although plenty of testing is being done by Wilhelm Research and others, no one
can really say for sure how long any digital print will last. We just haven’t been
printing digital images long enough to know whether the aging factors introduced
in laboratory tests will hold true in real life. The rapid pace at which manufacturers
develop new technologies makes testing even more difficult—by the time researchers
devise a set of testing protocols for a particular printing technology, that technology
has been replaced by something newer and better.
• Finally, remember that as long as you retain your digital original, you can always
make a new print if the old one starts to look worse for wear. This safety net doesn’t
help for prints you plan to sell, but for cherished family memories, you can rest
easy as long as you take care of your image files.
Chapter 1 offers tips for archiving your original image files.
Preparing Your Picture for Printing
When you print a document from a word processor, you don’t need to do any
preparatory work—you just click the Print button and wait for the printer to do
its thing. Printing a digital photo, however, requires a bit more input on your part.
Before printing your picture, you need to use your photo software to specify two
key values:
• The print size.
• How many pixels you want to pack into each linear inch of that print. This value
is the output resolution and is measured in pixels per inch (ppi).
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Don’t confuse output resolution (ppi) with printer resolution (dpi). Output resolution
refers to the number of image pixels in each linear inch of the picture; printer
resolution is the number of ink, dye, or toner dots used to reproduce each linear
inch. Many printers devote multiple dots to reproduce a single image pixel.
In the upcoming How-To box, you can find instructions for setting print size and
output resolution. Although the steps are specific to Photoshop Elements, the basics
apply no matter what software you use.
Don’t jump to the How-To information, however, until you digest the next two
sections. They explain some background concepts that are critical to getting the best
prints from your image file.
Balancing Output Resolution, Print Size,
and Photo Quality
As explored back in Chapter 2, output resolution plays a large role in print quality. How
many pixels you need for good prints varies from printer to printer; most personal photo
printers do their best work with 300 ppi files, but commercial printing labs often ask for
200 ppi files.
Assuming that you keep the number of image pixels constant, output resolution is
inseparably linked with print size as well as print quality. As output resolution goes up,
print size goes down, and vice versa.
Figure 9.4 illustrates this concept. I produced both photos from the same 800×600-pixel
image file, simply changing the output resolution between prints. For the large image, I
set output resolution to 200 ppi. For the small image, I increased the resolution to 300 ppi,
which in turn reduced print size.
Again, the codependent relationship between output resolution and print size assumes
that the number of original image pixels remains constant. Most photo editors also
enable you to add or delete pixels to achieve a particular output resolution at a given
print size. Changing the pixel count—or resampling the image—is not always a wise
move, for reasons explained in the next section.
When you’re doing your own printing, you don’t have to be terribly precise with
output resolution. Your picture won’t look much different at 300 ppi than it does
at, say, 278 ppi. However, when you take your files to a professional lab for printing,
you do need to match the lab’s resolution guidelines exactly. Otherwise, your
picture may not print at the correct size because some labs are set up to adjust
print size automatically to achieve a set output resolution.
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800×600 pixels, output at 300 ppi
800×600 pixels, output at 200 ppi
FIGURE 9.4 When print size goes up, output resolution (ppi) goes down.
Adjusting Output Resolution by Resampling
Suppose that your image is 1280 pixels wide by 960 pixels tall. You like the image so
much that you decide you want to make a large print—for the sake of easy math, let’s
say 10×7½ inches. At that print size, the output resolution is just 128 ppi. (1280 divided
by 10 is 128; 960 divided by 7.5 is 128.) Your printer, however, needs 300 ppi to produce
good print quality.
You have two options: You can live with the print quality that you get at the low
output resolution, or you can tell your photo editor to resample the image, adding
enough new pixels to get you to 300 ppi.
Adding pixels sounds like a good solution, but in practice it’s not likely to improve
print quality. Image sharpness and detail typically get lost as the photo software goes
through the process of rebuilding the image at the new resolution. In fact, you may find
that your low-resolution original looks better than the resampled, higher resolution
image. Compare the images in Figure 9.5, for example. The first picture has an output
resolution of 128 ppi; for the second picture, I resampled the image to 300 ppi. The
lower-resolution print appears slightly sharper than its resampled cousin.
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128 ppi
Resampled to 300 ppi
FIGURE 9.5 Resampling an image to achieve a higher output resolution usually doesn’t improve print quality, and
may even degrade quality.
That said, I do sometimes slightly upsample a picture if I’m sending the file to a client
or lab that requires a specific output resolution. But I’m talking about adding just a
handful of pixels—going from 275 ppi to 300 ppi, for example.
Having more pixels than you need is less problematic. You can safely eliminate pixels
without worrying about doing noticeable damage to image quality. If the output resolution
isn’t too excessive, though, you can just print the image file as is, assuming that you’re
not sending the file to a lab that has specific resolution requirements. However, the larger
the image file, the more muscle your computer and printer need to process the data, so
ideally, you don’t want a massive oversupply of pixels. Be sure to make a copy of your
image file before you dump pixels in case you ever want to print the image at a larger
size in the future.
Because resampling is a standard part of preparing an image for screen display,
instructions for this process appear in Chapter 10.
How
To
SET OUTPUT RESOLUTION AND PRINT SIZE
These steps show you how to set output resolution and print size in
Photoshop Elements. The basic approach is the same for other programs,
although the specific command used to access the controls may be different.
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How
To
SET OUTPUT RESOLUTION AND PRINT SIZE (continued)
Note that these steps assume that you do not want to resample
the image (add or delete pixels). If you do want to adjust the pixel count,
Chapter 10 provides instructions.
1. Choose Image | Resize | Image Size to open the dialog box shown in Figure 9.6.
FIGURE 9.6 When setting output resolution and print size in Photoshop Elements,
uncheck the Resample Image box to avoid adding or deleting pixels.
2. Make sure that the Resample Image box is not selected. If it is, click the box
to disable the option.
3. Enter the desired print width or height in the Width or Height box. When
you change one value, the other automatically changes by a proportionate
amount. The value in the Resolution box also changes to reflect the number
of pixels per inch at the new print size.
4. Click OK to close the dialog box. If your picture doesn’t change size
on-screen, don’t be alarmed—you’ve just changed the output size of the
photo, not the screen display size. Display the rulers along the top and side
of the image window (View | Rulers), and you can verify that the output size
has been correctly set.
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Choosing Printer Properties
and Other Printing Tips
I’m assuming that if you’re comfortable enough with technology to have picked up this
book, you’re already schooled in the basics of using your software’s Print command. So
I won’t bore you with Printing 101 here.
I do want to urge you, though, to read your software and printer manuals thoroughly
so that you really understand the controls that may be available to you. Those controls
vary so much from system to system that I can’t provide any specific instructions. I can,
however, offer a few troubleshooting tips that may make the printing process go more
smoothly.
• For the best prints, use top-quality photo paper. You’ll be amazed at the difference
that a change in paper can make. In my experience, name-brand papers produce
better results than generic, store-brand papers.
• When you’re working your way through the printer options that appear after
you choose the Print command, be sure to select the right media type for the
paper you’re using. Most paper manufacturers include in the paper package
a sheet outlining the best settings to use with various printers.
• Any resolution options found via the Print dialog box relate to the printer
resolution, not the image output resolution. Some printer manufacturers
mistakenly use the term ppi when describing the printer resolution, an error
that adds to the confusion over this issue. (See the earlier sections about output
resolution for more information.) For most printers, the highest printer resolution
translates to the top print quality but also a slower print speed.
• Many printers provide you with a way to tweak saturation, brightness, contrast,
and sharpening. These changes affect only the current print job; for lasting
changes to your image, you need to use your photo software’s editing tools.
• If you’re having trouble getting printed colors to match what you see
on-screen—and who doesn’t?—check out the next section for help.
Solving Color-Matching Problems
Getting the colors that come out of your printer to match what you see on your
computer monitor is one of the toughest challenges in digital-photo printing. The
next few sections offer some techniques you can try to get things more in sync.
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Understanding the Limits of Color Matching
My first word of advice about color matching is to get your expectations in line. Don’t
drive yourself nuts trying to make printed colors look absolutely identical to your
on-screen image—it’s a battle you can’t win.
As explained in Chapter 8, computer monitors and other electronic displays are RGB
devices, which means that they create colors by mixing red, green, and blue. Printers use
a different color model, either CMY or CMYK. With CMY, the primary colors are cyan,
magenta, and yellow. CMYK includes those same three colors plus black. (Black is called
the key color, thus the K in CMYK.)
But more important than the differences in the primary colors used by displays and
printers is the role that light plays in the equation. Monitor colors are pure, projected
light, while the colors you see on a printed page are the result of light reflecting off the
ink (or dye or toner) and paper. Because of this inherent difference, you simply can’t
reproduce in print the most vibrant colors in the RGB model.
Although getting your print and display colors in the same ballpark is entirely
doable—and a good idea—your ultimate concern should be how a photo looks in the
medium in which you intend for it to be viewed. If the colors on the printed page look
great, don’t worry if they look different on-screen, and vice versa.
Calibrating and Profiling Your Monitor
One easy step you can take for better color matching is to use a monitor-calibration
and profiling tool, such as Adobe Gamma, which is installed automatically with the
Windows-based versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop. On the Mac
side, Apple ColorSync, provided as part of the Mac OS, performs the same function.
These calibration utilities tune your monitor to a set of specifications that are designed
to create a neutral canvas for your images.
After calibrating the monitor, the software creates a color profile. The profile is a data
file that tells your system more about your monitor so that images can be displayed as
accurately as possible. Depending on your printer and photo software, the profile may
also be used to help the printer understand how the image colors appear on-screen,
enabling it to reproduce those colors more accurately.
The upcoming How-To box walks you through the steps of using Adobe Gamma
to calibrate and profile your monitor. If you’re working on a Mac, start the ColorSync
calibration and profiling process by choosing Control Panels | Monitors from the Apple
menu. In the dialog box that appears, click the Color icon and then click the Calibrate
button to launch the Monitor Calibration Assistant, a wizard that guides you through
the rest of the process.
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Whichever system you use, follow these tips to get the best results:
• Let your monitor warm up for at least 30 minutes before calibrating.
• Perform the calibration in the light you usually use to view your images.
• Because monitor colors shift over time, you should recalibrate every month or so.
(Photo courtesy Monaco Systems)
How
To
The one flaw in calibration utilities such as Adobe
Gamma and Apple ColorSync is that they rely on the
user’s visual judgments about the monitor’s display
characteristics. Because of ambient room light and
other factors that affect color perception, what looks
right to your eye may not be the completely neutral
canvas that calibration is designed to achieve.
If you want a less subjective analysis of your
display, you need a colorimeter. When attached to
your monitor screen, this device records precise color,
brightness, and contrast measurements. Shown here
is one such device, the MonacoOPTIX, from Monaco
Systems (www.monacosystems.com). This product,
which sells for about $225, can calibrate and profile
both CRT monitors and LCD monitors.
CREATE A COLOR PROFILE WITH ADOBE GAMMA
Adobe Gamma is installed automatically when you install Adobe
Photoshop Elements, Photoshop, and certain other Adobe products on
Windows-based computers. But the utility isn’t immediately obvious because
the icon that launches it is tucked away in the Windows Control Panel. To open
the Control Panel and run the software, follow these steps:
1. Click the Windows Start button and then click Settings | Control Panel.
The Control Panel window opens.
2. Double-click the Adobe Gamma icon.
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How
To
CREATE A COLOR PROFILE WITH ADOBE GAMMA (continued)
3. In the dialog box that appears, choose Step by Step to launch a wizard
that walks you through the calibration process. This option is best
if you’re new to monitor calibration. But after your first few times
through the process, you may want to instead click Control Panel.
You then see the dialog box shown in Figure 9.7, which puts all the
calibration controls in a single panel. If you need help with any of
the controls, click the Wizard button.
FIGURE 9.7 Use these controls to adjust your monitor so that it provides a
neutral canvas for your images.
At the end of the process, be sure to save the profile. So that you can easily
distinguish the profile from other profiles that may be on your system, use a name
that tells you something about the profile’s purpose—for example, something like
MyMonitor17 for a 17-inch monitor.
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Fine-Tuning Printer and Monitor Colors
Calibrating your monitor gets you started on the road to improved color matching,
but if you want to bring screen and printed colors even closer, follow these tips:
• When you choose the Print command, the resulting dialog box should offer a
Properties button that enables you to access the printer’s own software. Many
printers provide controls for adjusting color balance, brightness, and saturation.
Play with these options to fine-tune your printed output, and then record the
settings when you find a combination that works well. With some printers, you
can save the settings so that you can easily apply them the next time you print.
• Colors vary depending on the paper stock. Color-matching tends to be better with
glossy photo stock than with plain paper because the paper itself is brighter and
whiter, closer to the canvas that your monitor provides. In addition, you often
get better color matching when you use paper made by the same company that
made the printer, because the inks and software drivers are specifically tailored
to those papers.
• If you’re working with an inkjet printer, make sure that the print has fully dried
before you judge the color match. Colors look slightly different when the print
is still wet.
Here’s one last secret that will probably get me in trouble with purists in the
color-management community: When all else fails, just use Adobe Gamma or some
other monitor-adjustment utility to adjust the screen display to what your printer
produces. Open the image in your photo editor, launch the calibration utility, and hold
the print up next to the monitor. Then just tweak the amount of red, green, and blue in
the display, along with brightness, contrast, and other settings, until the on-screen image
looks more like the print. You may even be able to accomplish this using controls for
your computer’s video card.
Keep in mind that if you go this route, your image colors will look different if
you display the photo on another monitor, print on some other printer, or use a paper
that’s significantly different from what you used as your color-match guide. You’re
also introducing a monitor bias, so the screen may no longer show the colors as your
camera captured them. As a result, you could wind up making unnecessary or incorrect
corrections to your image colors and exposure. But if all you want is an accurate
preview of how your print is going to look, this approach seems as logical as any.
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Diving into Color Management
Color management is an innocent-sounding term for a highly complex subject. Entire
books have been written on the subject, so consider this just a brief taste to help you
determine whether color management is something that you need.
Color management is a software-driven system that attempts to ensure color consistency
as an image travels from digital camera or scanner to monitor to printer. Each device can
produce a different color gamut, or range of colors. A color-management system—CMS,
for short—helps ensure the best possible translation of colors from one device to the next.
A CMS involves two components:
• Color profiles for each device
A color profile contains data that describes
a device’s color gamut. You can create custom profiles using products such
as Monaco EZColor ($300, www.monacosystems.com). Many hardware
manufacturers also provide profiles for their products; often, these profiles are
installed automatically when you install the hardware driver software. In some
cases, you have to download the profile from the manufacturer’s web site.
Color profiles are also known as ICC profiles because they follow standards set
out by an organization called the International Color Consortium. Software that
supports profiles is said to be ICC compliant.
• Color management module (CMM)
After building device profiles, you use the
CMM to apply an input profile and output profile to your image. Also known
as a color engine, the CMM compares those profiles with your monitor profile
and adjusts the screen display to approximate how your picture will look when
printed. (This print preview feature is known as soft proofing.) When you print
the picture, the CMM again references the profile data to translate the input
colors to the printer’s color gamut.
In systems that don’t have a CMM, the computer’s operating system handles
screen-to-print color translation, using profiles that are added to the system when
you install hardware. You do sometimes get lucky and get good color matching
from the system’s internal color brain. But more often than not, colors are off
because the translation is based on generic, one-size-fits-all profiles.
If you want more capable color management, you need photo software that’s fully
ICC compliant. Professional imaging programs such as Adobe Photoshop meet this
standard, but entry-level programs do not.
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Some intermediate programs, including Photoshop Elements, can read and preserve
custom profiles, but they don’t offer profile application or soft proofing. However,
color-profiling programs usually include a basic utility that provides these missing CMM
functions. Figure 9.8 offers a look at Monaco ColorWorks, the utility that ships with
Monaco EZColor.
FIGURE 9.8 If your photo software doesn’t provide soft proofing or allow you to tag images with custom
profiles, you can use a utility such as Monaco ColorWorks.
The theory behind the color management system seems simple enough, and it can
be for a so-called closed system—a single user who works with one scanner, camera,
monitor, and printer. But color management is most critical for situations in which many
people need to review, edit, and print the same image, each using a different monitor and
printer. Each user has to be schooled in color management and, just as important, use
the exact same profile settings when working with the image.
Getting that kind of system-wide compliance among users can be difficult, especially
because organizations that have a CMS tend to work with Photoshop and other
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high-end imaging programs. Such programs offer a huge assortment of options that
enable the user to tweak color rendering, both on-screen and for print. Figure 9.9 shows
the main CMS dialog box from Adobe Photoshop—and this is just one of several related
dialog boxes! Some users just can’t ignore the temptation to play with all those controls,
and when they do, color consistency can suffer.
FIGURE 9.9 Adobe Photoshop offers a host of options for specifying how profiles should be used when
you edit, view, and print images.
To sum up a very long story, if you’re a single user who’s interested in getting
closer color matching between camera, scanner, monitor, and printer, an entry-level
color management product such as EZColor is worth a look. ColorVision
(www.colorvision.com) also offers packages geared to beginning and intermediate
users. Understand, though, that if you want to be able to soft proof images in your
photo editor, as opposed to editing them in the photo editor and then proofing them
in the color-management utility, you’ll need to move up to Photoshop or another
program that offers full CMS support.
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If you’re in the position of having to implement a CMS in a multiuser workflow, try
to get advice from other folks who have done so. Ask what products they think work
best and, just as important, what tactics they’ve used to get good results from those
products. When you introduce the CMS to your team, make sure that everyone is well
trained in the basics, and emphasize that if they follow your guidelines, they can trust
the system to work.
Photoshop users can find extensive information about its CMS tools in advanced
books about the program. The Adobe web site (www.Adobe.com) is another good
resource for a better understanding of color management in general and how to
implement it in Photoshop.
Printing Black-and-White Inkjet Photos
Black-and-white imagery has always been a favorite with fine-art photographers, but
recently it’s also enjoyed a resurging popularity among casual picture-takers—in part
because you no longer have to decide between color and black-and-white before you
take the picture. You can shoot in color and then easily produce a black-and-white
version of the picture in your photo editor.
As you may have discovered with your own forays into black-and-white photography,
however, getting a good print from a color inkjet printer can be problematic. If you use
the printer’s normal, all-inks output setting, prints often have a slight color tint. The
reason is that color printers produce neutral grays by blending the exact same amount
of each ink color, and most printers just aren’t precise enough to maintain that balance
throughout the print.
Setting the printer to use only black ink removes the color tint. But this approach has
its own drawback: the image quality is reduced because you’re only using ink drops
from a single cartridge, when the printer is engineered to produce the photo using ink
drops from all cartridges together.
You may decide that your best bet is to take your important black-and-white images
to a lab for output. But first, try these techniques to improve your own printer’s
black-and-white performance:
• Don’t convert your image to the grayscale color mode. Instead, leave it as an
RGB image, using the techniques discussed in Chapter 8 to remove the color
components from the picture. Inkjet printers are designed to output RGB files,
so they work best when fed that type of file.
• Check the status of your color inks. If one ink color is depleted, the printer can’t
create neutral grays. Most people think that the black cartridge is empty when
they see a color tint, but it’s more likely that one of the color inks needs replacing.
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• Remember that the light in which you view your print can affect the colors you see.
• If you are a serious black-and-white enthusiast, you can explore the option of
replacing the ink cartridges in your printer with a third-party black-and-white
ink set, such as the Quad Black ink sets sold by Lyson, Inc. (www.lysonusa.com).
Other companies to shop include Luminos (www.luminos.com) and MediaStreet
(www.mediastreet.com). However, when you make this switch, you have to
thoroughly clean the print heads to remove all traces of the old ink, which can
be expensive and time-consuming. So you should really set aside one printer just
for this purpose.
• Adding a sepia-tone or other subtle tint to your images can be a nice way to
get around the problem entirely. Such tints have long been used to good artistic
effect in traditional printmaking, and they’re easy to apply in a photo editor. See
Chapter 8 for details.
Printer manufacturers advise against using third-party inks, and not just because
they’d like to keep you as an ink customer. The print heads and other vital
components in a printer are engineered around the manufacturer’s own ink
formulas, and when you put another brand of ink into the system, you can wind up
with clogged print heads and other malfunctions. In addition, the results you get
from various print settings and media may change significantly. For these reasons,
most printer warranties become void if damage occurs due to third-party inks.
With that warning in mind, I should in the interest of fairness tell you that many
photographers say they use third-party inks with no problem. However, most of the
folks I know who are doing so are working with specialty inks from companies that
are pursuing the high-end photography market. These products are designed for
specific artistic goals, such as black-and-white printing, rather than for cost-cutting,
like the cheap inkjet refill products advertised on late-night TV. I would caution you
to stay away from those cheap refill kits if you care about either your printer or your
print quality.
Working with a Lab
Love the picture-taking side of digital photography but not the printing side? You’ll be
happy to know that you can get great prints from your digital images at a reasonable
cost at just about any place where you used to drop off your film for processing.
You can choose from four basic types of digital-printing services:
• Most one-hour labs can make prints from digital memory cards or a CD, typically
for about 40 cents a print.
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• If you can’t wait an hour for your pictures, many labs and convenience stores have
do-it-yourself kiosks for instant printing. These kiosks have tools that you can use
for basic image correction, such as cropping and color adjustments, too. You pay
about $7 for one 8×10-inch sheet of photos; how many pictures fit on that sheet
depends on the print size you select for each image.
• Online photo services, for example, Ofoto (www.ofoto.com) and Shutterfly
(www.shutterfly.com), offer another printing solution. You upload your image
files to the web site, and your prints come in the mail a few days later. If you
create a personal album page at these sites, your friends and relatives can also order
prints of your files, which saves you the hassle of making and mailing the prints
to everyone who wants a copy. Print prices average about 45 cents for a 4×6-inch
print to $4 for an 8×10, not including shipping.
• If you live in an urban area, you can take your image files to a commercial imaging
lab for output. Most labs can color-match the prints to proofs that you make on
your home printer. For that reason, when I elect to have to lab prints made, I typically
choose this option. Expect to pay slightly more for the benefits of color-matching;
labs in my area charge about $7 for an 8×10-inch print but offer good discounts if
you print more than one copy of the same image. Many pro labs also offer the same
kind of one-hour printing offered at retail photo labs, at competitive prices.
All these services use printers that output your images on traditional photo paper, so
you can expect the same print life as you get from film prints. Assuming that the lab uses
archival photo paper, which is the norm, that’s about 60 years if you safeguard the print
from heavy light exposure, moisture, heat, and environmental pollutants.
Before taking your images to the printer, be sure to find out what output resolution
and file format you should use when preparing the image files. For one-hour photo
printing and do-it-yourself kiosks, you usually can take in your raw, unedited image
files; the printer automatically sets the output resolution to whatever ppi is needed
to output the image at the size you request. (Remember that a good print requires
an output resolution of 200 to 300 ppi.) But with an online printing service or
professional imaging lab, you need to follow specific file-prep guidelines.
Don’t forget that traditional photo sizes—4×6, 5×7, 8×10, and so on—have a
different aspect ratio than the image files produced by most digital cameras.
That means that the printer may need to crop your photo or add a blank border
to produce the print. See Chapter 3 for more on this subject.
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10
Putting Pictures
on the Screen
When Hollywood producers decide to take a popular novel to the big screen, they hire a screenwriter
to pare the book content to movie length. You likewise need to whittle down digital photos destined
for the screen. Otherwise, your pictures will contain
too many pixels, resulting in images that are too
big to fit on the screen. If you’re sharing the pictures via the web or e-mail, pixel-heavy images also
cause long download times.
This chapter shows you how to perform this vital
image-reduction surgery. In addition, you’ll find information about saving your screen pictures in the
two main web file formats, JPEG and GIF, and you’ll
get a look at some great ways to share your pictures online.
185
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Setting the Image Display Size
When you prepare a digital photo for screen display, you can’t set picture size the same
way you do for printed photos. The next few sections explain why a different approach
is necessary and walk you through the steps involved in establishing the size of your
screen pictures.
Screen Pictures and ppi
Chapter 9 explains how output resolution, measured in ppi (pixels per inch), affects both
print size and print quality. For screen images, output resolution is completely irrelevant.
This concept is critical, so let me repeat: Output resolution plays no role in either the
size or quality of screen images.
I know that you’ve heard many people say that you must set the output resolution of
web or e-mail pictures to 96 ppi or 72 ppi. But this recommendation is an example of bad
information spreading so widely that people perceive it as truth. (The sidebar “Tracing
the Origins of the 96/72 ppi Myth” explains how the notion originated.)
Here’s the real story: A display device, whether it’s a computer monitor, television
screen, or multimedia projector, builds everything that you see on-screen out of pixels,
just like a digital camera. When presenting a digital picture, the device pays no attention
to the output resolution value that you may have established in your photo editor. Instead,
it simply uses one screen pixel to reproduce each image pixel.
Figure 10.1 proves the point. Both images on the web page have 300 horizontal pixels
and 150 vertical pixels. Before adding the pictures to the web page, I used my photo editor
to set the output resolution of the left image to 96 ppi and the right image to 300 ppi.
As you can see, the two pictures display at the same size. Notice, too, that a higher output
resolution does not improve image quality. Nor would adding more pixels affect quality—
it would simply increase the size of the picture on-screen.
The only instance in which the one-to-one relationship between screen and image
pixels changes is when you open the picture in a photo editor and use a zoom tool to
magnify the image. You must set the zoom magnification to 100 percent to view the
image at the size that it will appear when placed on a web page, sent via e-mail, or used
for some other on-screen purpose. In many photo editors, this 100-percent view is called
Actual Pixels.
If you view the picture on another monitor, however, it may display at a different size
than the unmagnified size you see on your screen. This happens because the size of the
screen pixels used to display the image depends on the screen resolution, as explained in
the next section.
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FIGURE 10.1 Output resolution has no effect on display size; all that matters is the number of horizontal
and vertical pixels.
How Screen Resolution Affects Display Size
To emphasize an earlier point: Output resolution (ppi) does not affect the size of a screen
image. The display size depends only on the following two factors:
• The image pixel dimensions (pixels wide by pixels tall)
• The resolution of the screen itself
As I mentioned in the preceding section, the phrase screen pixels refers to the display
device pixels. Screen resolution refers to the total number of screen pixels. Screen
resolution, like digital camera resolution, is stated in terms of pixel dimensions.
On a computer monitor, the user can adjust screen resolution. Most systems offer a
range of resolution settings; standard options for a 17-inch monitor, for example, are
640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×1024, and 1600×1200. In Windows, you set
resolution via the Display Properties dialog box (right-click an empty area of the desktop
and choose Properties). On a Mac, you access resolution controls by choosing Control
Panels | Monitors from the Apple menu.
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At a high screen resolution,
images display at a smaller size
than they do at a low screen
resolution. As an example,
compare Figures 10.2 and
10.3. For both figures, I set
the Windows wallpaper
(desktop background) to
display a 640×480-pixel
photograph. The first figure
shows how the desktop looks
when the screen resolution
is 640×480. Because of the
one-to-one relationship
between screen and image
FIGURE 10.2 A 640×480-pixel image fills the monitor when the screen
pixels, the picture fills the
resolution is also 640×480.
entire screen. (The bottom
of the picture is hidden by the Windows taskbar, which I left visible so that you could
tell you were looking at a computer screen.)
Figure 10.3 shows that
same 640×480-pixel image
on a monitor running at
a screen resolution of
800×600. At that resolution,
the number of screen pixels
increases, which means
smaller pixels. Your
640×480-pixel image
appears smaller because
the screen pixels used to
display it are smaller. And,
of course, your photo
consumes only 640 of the
800 available horizontal
screen pixels, and 480 of
the 600 vertical pixels, so
FIGURE 10.3 Displayed on a monitor set to a screen resolution of 800×600,
the 640×480-pixel photo no longer consumes the entire screen.
the image no longer fills
the entire screen.
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Screen Resolution Terminology
In discussions about digital cameras, monitors, and digital projectors, you may
hear the terms VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, and UXGA used to describe resolution
capabilities. The following table lists the pixel dimensions indicated by each term,
as well as the name behind the acronym, which is important only for purposes of
sounding like a techie.
RESOLUTION LABEL
FULL NAME
RESOLUTION
VGA
Video Graphics Array
640×480 pixels
SVGA
Super Video Graphics Array
800×600 pixels
XGA
Extended Graphics Array
1024×768 pixels
SXGA
Super Extended Graphics Array
1280×1024 pixels
UXGA
Ultra Extended Graphics Array
1600×1200 pixels
Establishing the Image Display Size
Most of us are used to stating the dimensions of a photo in inches, picas, centimeters, or
some other traditional unit of measurement. When you specify the size at which you want
a picture to appear on-screen, however, you do so in terms of pixels.
Remember that a one-to-one relationship exists between the pixels in your image and
the screen pixels of the display device (computer screen, television, or digital projector).
So to set the display size of an image, just figure out how much of the screen you want
your picture to cover and adjust the image pixel dimensions to match. For example, if
you want to fill the screen of a monitor that’s set to a resolution of 800×600, you need
an 800×600-pixel photo.
The catch, of course, is knowing the screen resolution of the device that will be used
to display the photo, which is impossible if you’re preparing an image for the web or
e-mail. Most web designers create pages with a 640×480 screen resolution in mind
because that’s the lowest resolution at which most people run their monitors today.
For e-mail, I usually make pictures no bigger than 300×300 pixels. This size ensures
that the recipient can see the entire image without scrolling. (Remember that the
browser or e-mail window consumes some of the available screen space.)
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In most cases, you’ll need to dump pixels—downsample, in imaging jargon—to get
the picture to the appropriate screen size. The upcoming How-To sidebar walks you
through the downsampling process, but before you head there, here are a few final bits
of advice:
• For web images, smaller is better. Every pixel in your image adds to the file size,
increasing download time.
• Always make a backup copy of your image file before you downsample. You’ll
want all your original pixels if you later need to print the photo.
I include the word Web in the file name of a screen copy of a photo. That
way, I can easily distinguish the screen version of the picture file in the future.
• Some digital cameras can create a screen-sized photo and a high-resolution image
each time you press the shutter button. Depending on your camera and how large
you want your screen image to be, though, the smaller image file may still contain
more pixels than you need.
• Finally, one last reminder for good measure: More pixels does not translate to
improved on-screen picture quality, as it does for printed photos. More pixels
simply makes a bigger screen picture. If the recipient of your picture needs to
make a quality print from the file, however, you must send a high-resolution
image, preparing the print size and output resolution as described in Chapter 9.
If you want to apply a sharpening filter to your photo, wait until after you set the
display size. The amount of sharpening needed often changes after an image is
resampled.
Many photo editors, including Photoshop Elements, offer a web optimization tool
that you can use to resample the image and save the file in the JPEG format at
the same time. However, if you want the option of applying a sharpening filter
(or any other edits) after you resample the image, don’t set the size via your web
optimization tool. Otherwise, your picture will undergo two rounds of JPEG
compression—once when you set the image size and save the file and again after
you apply your final edits and resave the image. See the section “Using JPEG
Wisely” for information on why multiple rounds of compression are bad for
your photos.
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How
To
ADJUST THE PIXEL COUNT (RESAMPLE A PHOTO)
In most photo editors, you can change the pixel dimensions of an image
in the same dialog box where you set print size and output resolution. The
difference between the two procedures is that for screen prep, you need to turn
on the resampling function, which enables you to add or delete pixels.
These steps detail the process in Photoshop Elements. The approach is the same
in any program, but the specific menu commands and control names may vary.
1. Save a copy of your image and use the copy for your screen photo. That way,
you can always access all the original image pixels later if needed.
2. Choose Image | Resize | Image Size to open the Image Size dialog box.
3. Select the Resample Image option, as shown in Figure 10.4. When this option
is active, the Width and Height boxes in the Pixel Dimensions section at the
top of the dialog box become available.
FIGURE 10.4 After turning on the Resample Image option, you can delete pixels as
needed to adjust screen display size.
4. Select Bicubic from the drop-down list next to the Resample Image check
box. This option determines the algorithm the program uses to rebuild the
photo at the new pixel dimensions. Bicubic produces the best results.
5. Select the Constrain Proportions check box to preserve the picture’s original
width-to-height ratio.
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How
To
ADJUST THE PIXEL COUNT (RESAMPLE A PHOTO) (continued)
6. Enter the new pixel dimensions into the top set of Width and Height
boxes. In the figure, I set the pixel dimensions to 300×200. (Note that in
Photoshop Elements, the file size value shown at the top of the dialog box
is not the actual file size, but the amount of memory the program needs to
work with the photo while it’s open. Other programs may treat this issue
differently.)
7. Click OK to resample the image and close the dialog box.
To see your photo at the size at which it will display on-screen, choose View |
Actual Pixels. Remember that the display size will differ on a monitor that’s not
running at the same screen resolution as yours.
Tracing the Origins of the 96/72 ppi Myth
Like any good myth, the one that suggests that you prepare a picture for the screen by
setting the output resolution to 96 or 72 ppi has some basis in fact. In the early years
of computers, monitors came in few sizes and offered only one or two screen resolution
settings. Most new PCs shipped from the factory set to a screen resolution that resulted
in 96 screen pixels per viewable inch of the screen. Macintosh systems used a default
setting that translated to 72 screen pixels per viewable inch.
Because these standards existed, you could set your image size in the same way you
did for print output. If you wanted the picture to have a display size of 2 inches square,
you set the print width and height values to 2 inches. Then you turned on your photo
editor’s resampling option and specified an output resolution of 96 or 72 ppi, depending
on whether you were going for a PC audience or a Macintosh audience. The program
eliminated or added pixels as necessary to give you that 96 or 72 ppi resolution.
Although the result was indeed a screen image that was 2 inches square, the display
size didn’t have anything to do with the output resolution or print width and height
values that you set. As explained earlier in the chapter, display devices simply light up
one screen pixel for each pixel in the image. Resampling the image to 96 or 72 just
gave you the right number of pixels to fill a 2-inch square area on a monitor that itself
was producing 96 or 72 screen pixels per viewable inch of the screen.
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Tracing the Origins of the 96/72 ppi Myth (continued)
Even if display devices could interpret the width/height/output resolution values
used for printing, this method of setting display size is based on an outdated formula.
We’re way past the days when all monitors adhered to the standard of 96 or 72 screen
pixels per inch. In addition to a much wider range of monitor sizes, we now have video
cards that offer many more screen resolution options, so the number of screen pixels
per inch varies widely. On my laptop computer, for example, I have a 12-inch screen
that has a viewable area of 10×7½ inches. At a screen resolution of 800×600, that
means about 80 screen pixels per inch. On my 19-inch monitor, which has a viewable
area of 14×10½ inches, that same 800×600 setting results in about 57 screen pixels
per inch.
Saving Your Image in a Screen File Format
After you edit a digital photo, whether it’s to adjust the display size or to perform
retouching or creative work, you need to save the file in a format that is compatible
with programs used to display screen pictures—web browsers, e-mail programs,
presentation programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint, and the like.
A handful of file formats are screen friendly:
• JPEG
Introduced back in Chapter 2, JPEG is the default format used by digital
cameras. JPEG is the leading format for web and e-mail photos because it offers
file compression, which shrinks download times. Upcoming sections explain more
about this format.
• GIF
This format is a web-only creature. Among other things, GIF is used to
create GIF animations, those blinking graphics that web designers love and most
web users hate. GIF also enables you to make part of your picture transparent,
allowing the web page background to show through.
Like JPEG, GIF produces small files, which is what you want in a web format.
Unfortunately, GIF images can contain only 256 colors. That’s fine for text-based
graphics and simple line art, but as illustrated by the GIF example on Page 32 of
the color section, a 256-color limit doesn’t give you enough shades to reproduce
subtle color transitions found in a photograph. The resulting color-block effect is
known as posterization.
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GIF may be an option for photos that you convert to the grayscale color mode.
Read the upcoming section “256-Color Grayscales: JPEG or GIF?” for details.
• BMP (Windows) and PICT (Macintosh)
These two formats are primarily used
for incorporating images into program help systems, screen savers, and other
graphics that are displayed by the Windows or Macintosh operating systems. For
some of these uses, JPEG works as well, but check your help system to be sure. If
BMP or PICT is required for a task, follow the help system’s guidelines for choosing
specific format options when you save the file.
Most presentation programs also can work with BMP or PICT images. I prefer
JPEG, because I can use the same image file for the web or e-mail as well as in
the presentation.
• PNG and JPEG 2000
Imaging experts are currently developing these two
formats, both designed to produce better image quality at smaller file sizes than
JPEG and GIF. However, neither of these new players is recognized by older web
browsers and e-mail programs, so stay away for now.
Using JPEG Wisely
When you save your photo in the JPEG format, you’ll encounter some complex-sounding
options. Before I explain them, I need to share some strong words of warning about
this format:
• As explained in Chapter 2, JPEG is a destructive format. JPEG applies compression
to the image, which eliminates picture data to reduce file size. The greater the
compression, the more your picture quality suffers. But even the lowest amount
of compression does some damage.
• Because of the data loss that occurs with JPEG, don’t use this format to save a
picture between editing sessions. Each time you edit and resave your photo, you
lose a little more picture information. (Merely opening and closing the photo file
is perfectly safe.)
• Save your photos in a nondestructive format, such as TIFF, until you’re completely
finished editing the picture. Your photo editor’s own format—such as PSD in
Photoshop Elements—is probably an even better choice, because it’s designed for
full support of all program features. (In some programs, TIFF can’t preserve image
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layers and other advanced imaging features. Never overwrite your final, edited
photo file with the JPEG version. Always keep a backup copy of the photo in the
original, nondestructive format.
With those warnings out of the way, the next sections show two different methods for
creating your JPEG copy and explain the various JPEG options in detail.
Creating a JPEG Copy of Your Photo
Many photo editors, including Photoshop Elements, offer a web optimization utility.
This tool offers the best way to create a JPEG copy of your image, because you can
preview how your picture will look at a different levels of compression.
Figure 10.5 shows the Photoshop Elements version of this feature. To access it, choose
File | Save For Web. (A couple of the important controls aren’t labeled in the dialog box,
so use the figure as a map.)
Some web optimization tools, including the Photoshop Elements Save For Web
feature, automatically save your JPEG file as a copy of the original picture. After
you save the JPEG file, your original remains open in the program window. If you want
to view the JPEG image, you need to close the original and open the JPEG file.
Click to set
modem speed
Quality controls
FIGURE 10.5 Web optimization tools enable you to preview the effect of different amounts of JPEG
compression.
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If you don’t have a web optimization tool, you can use the standard File | Save As
command to create your JPEG copy. When the Save As dialog box appears, select JPEG
as the file format and enter a file name that distinguishes the image from the original.
In some cases, you’ll find JPEG options right in the dialog box; in other programs, such
as Elements, clicking the Save button opens a second dialog box that contains these
options. Figure 10.6 shows the JPEG Options dialog box from Photoshop Elements.
Selecting the Preview check box in the Photoshop Elements JPEG Options dialog
box does not enable you to preview the effect of your settings in the image window,
as it does in other dialog boxes. The Preview function simply turns on the estimated
file size/download time display at the bottom of the dialog box.
Regardless of what path you take to
save your file, you’ll encounter the same
basic file options. The next five sections
explain each option.
Quality
This option is key to both file size and
picture quality. It controls how much
JPEG compression is applied. As discussed
earlier, higher compression means smaller
files but reduced image quality.
To give you an idea of the quality/file
size tradeoff you need to make, the three
JPEG portraits on Page 32 of the color
insert provide an approximation of the
FIGURE 10.6 When you use the regular File | Save As
screen appearance of an image at three
command, the JPEG options may be
presented in a separate dialog box, as
different Quality settings. Starting with
shown here, after you click the Save button.
the uncompressed TIFF version of this
portrait on Color Page 6, I first reduced the pixel count to 250×300 and made three
JPEG copies of the image. For the first copy, I used the Minimum Quality setting, which
applies maximum compression. For the second copy, I set the Quality to Medium; for
the third, Maximum.
As you can see, the Maximum Quality setting produces acceptable image quality.
You’ll also get a significant reduction of file size even with this amount of compression.
My original 250×300-pixel TIFF image had a file size of 222K, for example, and the
Maximum Quality setting trimmed the JPEG version to 113K.
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How low you can go with the Quality setting depends on your picture. Some photos
survive heavy compression more than others, so you need to experiment. However, the
Minimum Quality setting almost always turns the photo into the same kind of blocky
mess you see in the Minimum example on Color Page 32. This destruction doesn’t apply
just to color images, either, as illustrated by the black-and-white photos in Figure 10.7.
Before compression, 103K
Maximum Quality, 66K
Medium Quality, 24K
Minimum Quality, 9K
FIGURE 10.7 Too much JPEG compression destroys photo quality.
Also, the controls related to JPEG quality vary from program to program. In
Photoshop Elements, which is the program I used to create the portrait examples,
you can choose a general Quality category—Maximum, High, Medium, and Low—or
specify a precise Quality value. (For some reason, the values range from 0 to 12 if you
save your file via the Save As dialog box but from 0 to 100 if you use the Save For
Web tool. A setting of 12 in the Save As dialog box translates to 100 in Save For Web.)
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Baseline Standard, Baseline Optimized, and Progressive
These options determine how your image data is pumped through the Internet pipeline:
• Baseline Standard
For the best compatibility with older web browsers, choose
this option. (If you’re working with the Photoshop Elements Save For Web utility,
you select the option by turning off the Optimized and Progressive check boxes.)
• Baseline Optimized
This option applies a special compression algorithm that
is designed to produce better picture quality at smaller file sizes than Baseline
Standard. Not all web browsers support Optimized JPEG images, though, so
I don’t use this setting.
• Progressive
When a web page contains a progressive JPEG, a faint representation
of the picture appears as soon as the first bit of data is received, and then the
image is completed in progressive passes. Images saved without the feature don’t
appear until all picture data is received.
On one hand, progressive images enable site visitors to see whether the photo is
of interest more quickly. However, the option actually adds to file download time
and causes problems with some older browsers. So again, I say, skip it.
Modem Speed
When you save a file in the JPEG format, most programs display the approximate
download time at a selected modem speed so that you can judge whether you’ve
compressed the file enough. I suggest that you set the modem speed used to calculate
the download estimate to 28.8Kbps (kilobytes per second). True, many people have
faster connections, but just as many viewers live in areas where slower speeds are the
norm. (If you’re using the Photoshop Elements Save For Web utility, refer to Figure 10.5
to find the button you click to set the modem speed.)
Embed ICC Profiles
As discussed in Chapter 9, ICC profiles contain data that’s used to achieve better color
consistency between camera, monitor, and printer. If your photo software supports
ICC profiles, you can embed the profile in the image file. Don’t do so unless you’ve
implemented a color management system (CMS) and are sharing the image with others
who have done the same. Embedding the profile increases file size, and profiles are
ignored unless the viewer also has a CMS.
If you need to create a screen version of an image that you’ve converted to the CMYK
color model for printing on a commercial press, convert the image back to the RGB color
model before saving it as a JPEG file. Some browsers can’t cope with JPEGs made from
CMYK files. See Chapter 8 for more information about CMYK, RGB, and color models.
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Matte
This feature was designed to give JPEG users one of the benefits formerly reserved for
GIF fans: leaving part of the picture transparent, so that the subject appears to float
on the web page instead of being constrained to a square frame. JPEG can’t preserve
transparent areas, but if your web page has a solid color background, you can create
faux transparency.
When an image contains transparent pixels, those pixels are filled with solid color
when you save in the JPEG format. The Matte option enables you to specify that fill
color. By default, the pixels go white, as illustrated in the left cable picture in Figure 10.8.
Match the Matte color to the color of your web page background, and you have your
floating picture, as illustrated by the second cable image. Of course, you can just as easily
fill the transparent areas with the background color before saving the file if you prefer.
Note that if your web page has a patterned background, rather than a solid color
background, the effect doesn’t work.
FIGURE 10.8 If your web page has a solid color background, match the JPEG Matte color to the
background to create the illusion of a free-floating subject.
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256-Color Grayscales: GIF or JPEG?
Chapter 8 discusses some of the many ways to turn a full-color digital photo into a
black-and-white picture. One method is to convert the photo to the Grayscale color
mode, which combines the red, green, and blue color channels into one, leaving you
with an image that contains just 256 colors (black, white, and shades of gray).
For reasons discussed in Chapter 8, I don’t use this method for important blackand-white conversions because it doesn’t offer the best control over the conversion.
In addition, most printers do better with RGB images than Grayscale pictures. But
Grayscale mode does have an advantage over RGB in terms of web use: With only
one channel and 256 colors, Grayscale images have a much smaller file size than
RGB photos.
If you read the earlier section that discussed the GIF file format, you may remember
that GIF also is limited to 256 colors, which may have you wondering whether GIF is
a good match for grayscale pictures. The answer is, yes, it can be. But depending on the
picture, JPEG may still offer a better balance of file size and picture quality.
When you save to the GIF format, you can specify how many image colors you want
to retain, saving anywhere from 2 to 256 colors. At the full 256, a GIF image may be
larger than a JPEG file, even if you apply minimum compression to that JPEG file.
To achieve a smaller-than-JPEG file size, you may need to strip the photo to so few
colors that you see posterization, as illustrated by Figure 10.9. These examples illustrate
the screen appearance
16-color GIF, 21K
Medium Quality JPEG, 19K
of an image that’s
approximately 300
pixels square. The left
image, which I saved at
a Medium JPEG Quality
setting, has a file size of
19K. To create a GIF
image of the same size,
I had to reduce the
picture to 16 colors.
As you can see from
the inset areas, this
FIGURE 10.9 To reduce the GIF image to the same file size as a Medium Quality
created significant
JPEG, I had to take the picture down to 16 colors, creating
posterization.
posterization in some
areas of the picture.
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The only way to know for sure whether GIF or JPEG offers a better solution is to
experiment. I suspect, however, that you’ll prefer the results that you get with JPEG
more often than not.
Exploring New Ways to Share Photos
You’re no doubt familiar with the three most common screen uses for digital photos:
posting them on a web page, attaching them to e-mail messages, and adding them to a
multimedia presentation. But you may not be aware of the following electronic avenues
for sharing and enjoying your pictures.
Online Photo Albums
You can create and store online photo albums for free though sites such as Ofoto
(www.Ofoto.com) and Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com). These sites provide the software
you need to upload your photo files and arrange them into albums. After creating an
album, you can send e-mails inviting other people to view the pictures and order prints
from the site. You can limit access to your photos only to those people, which is a nice
security feature.
Although you don’t pay anything to post albums, I urge you to buy pictures every
now and then to help keep the free photo-sharing option viable for the companies that
provide the service.
Don’t mistake an online photo-sharing site as a storage bin for your image files. If
the web site goes out of business or has technical problems, you could lose all your
pictures. Maintain your photo archive on your own system, CDs, or other storage
media. (See Chapter 1 for archiving advice.)
Web-Based Image Galleries
Many professional photographers run full-fledged web sites, providing potential clients
with a chance to browse online galleries of their work. But you don’t need to go to the
time or expense of putting up your own web site to create a simple image gallery.
Most Internet service providers (ISPs) offer customers a starter-sized chunk of storage
space to use for a personal home page, and that’s usually enough for a small image
gallery. (Check the ISP’s web site for information about size limits and instructions for
uploading your gallery.)
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Don’t worry if you don’t know about HTML (Hypertext Markup Language, the
language used for documents on the web) or any other aspect of web design, either, because
most photo editors and some image-cataloging programs offer a wizard that puts together
the gallery for you. Figure 10.10 shows the Photoshop Elements version of this tool,
which you open by choosing File | Create Web Gallery.
FIGURE 10.10 Like many photo editors, Photoshop Elements offers a wizard that automates the process
of creating a simple web image gallery.
Figure 10.11 offers a look at a gallery page that I created using the wizard. As is the
tradition with online galleries, you click one of the thumbnail previews to display a
picture at a larger size.
Multimedia Slide Shows
Check your photo editor or image-cataloging program to see whether it offers a wizard
for creating a multimedia slide show. After putting together a show, you can copy it to a
CD for on-computer viewing or to DVD for folks who have a DVD player. (Make sure
that your DVD burner uses a format that the player can read.)
If your current software doesn’t offer this feature, several companies offer stand-alone
multimedia programs. Figure 10.12 shows one such program from SimpleStar (www
.simplestar.com). Called PhotoShow, this $30 program offers a beginner-level interface
but provides enough features to create a nice show complete with music and special effects.
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FIGURE 10.11 In this gallery, clicking on a thumbnail image displays the image at a larger size.
FIGURE 10.12 Programs such as SimpleStar PhotoShow help you create a multimedia slide show
featuring your digital photos.
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Camera to TV Displays
A number of companies offer devices that enable you to display images from your
camera memory card on a TV. Of course, if your camera has a video-out port, you
can do the same thing by plugging your camera directly into the TV’s AV jacks, but a
dedicated photo player eliminates the need to keep hooking and unhooking the camera.
Player devices usually offer slots for multiple types of memory cards, come with a
remote control, and can automatically rotate images to the correct orientation. Among
products to investigate are PhotoZen, from SimpleTech (www.simpletech.com) and
eFilm Picturevision, from Delkin Devices (www.delkin.com). Both products sell for
about $80.
Minolta Corporation (www.minolta.com)
offers a nifty product for people who
need to pass digital photos along
a chain of colleagues or clients for
review. Called DiMAGE Messenger,
this $30 program makes it easy to
share thoughts about an image and
even mark the area of the photo that
you’re referencing. After adding your
input to the Messenger file, you pass
it along to the next person via e-mail.
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PART IV
Appendixes
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A
Glossary
aperture
An adjustable iris in a camera lens that controls how much light passes through
the lens to the image sensor. Aperture sizes are stated in f-stop numbers and written as f/2.8,
f/4, and so on. A smaller f-stop number indicates a larger opening and greater light transmission,
for a brighter exposure. Aperture also affects depth of field (focus zone); the larger the aperture,
the shorter the depth of field.
aperture-priority autoexposure (AE)
A variation on full autoexposure mode. The
photographer specifies the aperture setting, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter
speed to expose the image properly. On a camera dial, may be abbreviated with the initials
Av or A. See also programmed autoexposure (AE), shutter-priority autoexposure (AE).
artifact
A term describing color defects caused by too much file compression. See also
compression.
aspect ratio
The ratio between image width and height. Digital cameras commonly
produce images with an aspect ratio of 4:3; 35mm film negatives produce pictures with
a 3:2 aspect ratio.
autoexposure (AE)
A feature that automatically selects the proper aperture size and shutter
speed needed to produce a good exposure. On most cameras, pushing the shutter button halfway
down tells the camera to analyze the light and set the exposure. Sometimes called programmed
autoexposure. See also aperture-priority autoexposure (AE), programmed autoexposure (AE),
shutter-priority autoexposure (AE).
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autofocus (AF)
A mechanism that focuses the camera lens automatically; usually,
focus is set along with exposure when you push the shutter button down halfway.
barn doors
Hinged doors found on some studio lights; moving the doors affects the
angle and spread of the light.
BMP
One of several data file formats for digital images; officially stands for the
Windows Bitmap format. Used mostly for images that will be included in help systems,
screen savers, and other elements of the Windows operating system.
bracketing
A practice that involves taking the same shot three or more times, varying
the camera settings for each picture to produce slightly different exposure results; provides
a safety net when shooting a subject in a tricky lighting situation.
bulb exposure
A manual shutter-speed option found on some advanced cameras;
keeps the shutter open until you press the shutter button a second time. Used mostly
for nighttime photography.
burst mode
A camera mode that records multiple images with a single press of the
shutter button and then stores all the pictures to the camera memory at the same time.
Often limited to low-resolution image capture.
CCD, CMOS
Acronyms for two types of chips used in digital camera image sensors.
CCD is short for charge-coupled device (the most common chip); CMOS refers to a
complementary metal-oxide semiconductor.
center-weighted metering
An exposure metering mode that measures the amount
of light throughout the frame but gives more influence to the center of the scene.
clone tool
Found in most photo editing programs, a retouching tool that enables you
to copy good areas of an image to paste over flaws.
CMY
A color model that uses cyan, magenta, and yellow as its primary colors. Some
inexpensive printers are based on this model; they typically aren’t able to reproduce
blacks well. See also CMYK.
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CMYK
A color model, or system of producing colors, in which cyan, magenta, yellow,
and black (called the key color) are the primary colors. Most printers are based on this
color model. See also CMY.
color engine
The component of a color-management system that translates color
information as an image file travels between different devices (camera, scanner, monitor,
printer). See also color management system.
color management system (CMS)
A system designed to ensure better color
consistency as a picture moves from camera or scanner to computer to printer. Utilizes
color profiles, which describe the color capabilities of each device in the chain, and a
color engine, which translates color data between devices.
color mode, color model
Interchangeable terms referring to a system of defining
colors. Digital cameras, scanners, and monitors are based on the RGB (red, green, blue)
color model; most printers are based on the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black)
model. See also CMYK, CMY, and RGB.
color profile
A data file that describes the color capabilities of a digital
camera, scanner, printer, or display device (such as a computer monitor). Used in
a color-management system to help ensure better color matching between screen
and print images.
color temperature
Indicates the temperature of a light source as measured on the
Kelvin scale. As the temperature rises, the color of the light changes. At the low end
of the Kelvin scale, light emits a reddish cast; at the high end, it emits a blue cast.
CompactFlash
compression
A type of removable memory card used in some digital cameras.
A process that eliminates data from an image file to reduce the file size.
Can be either lossless, which does not sacrifice any important image data and so retains
high picture quality, or lossy, which is less discriminating and leads to image degradation.
The type of compression depends on the file format used to save the data; digital cameras
typically store images in the JPEG format, which applies lossy compression. See also
JPEG, TIFF.
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contrast
The range of brightness values in a photograph. A high-contrast image
has a broad range of brightness values, from deep shadows to bright highlights. In a
low-contrast image, little difference exists between the darkest and brightest areas.
crop
To trim away the perimeter of an image, usually with a crop tool in a photo editor.
cross-platform
Computer software or hardware that works with more than one
operating system; usually refers to a product that can be used on both Windows-based
PCs and Macintosh computers.
depth of field (DOF)
The range of distance in a picture that is in sharp focus. When
depth of field is short, only objects close to the subject appear sharply focused. With
large depth of field, most objects in the picture are in focus. Depth of field is affected by
focal length and aperture.
digital zoom
A digital camera feature with a misleading name; it does not actually
zoom the lens but instead crops away the perimeter of the image and enlarges the
remaining area.
downsampling
Eliminating pixels from a digital image file. See also resampling,
upsampling.
dpi
Dots per inch. A measure of how many dots of color a printer can output per
each linear inch. Don’t confuse dpi with ppi, which indicates the number of image
pixels per inch.
DPOF
Digital Print Order Format. Enables you to use your camera menus to add
printing instructions to your picture files. Printers that support DPOF read that
information and print the photos according to your instructions.
driver
Software that your computer needs to communicate with your camera, printer,
and other devices.
dye-sub
Short for dye-sublimation, a printing technology in which dye is transferred
from a plastic ribbon or film to photo paper. Dye-sub printers produce excellent picture
quality but cannot print on plain paper.
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edge
A digital imaging term referring to the border between two areas that differ in
color, brightness, or both.
equivalent focal length
A way to express the focal length of a digital camera lens
by comparing results with a lens on a 35mm film camera. Sometimes abbreviated as efl.
EV compensation
Exposure value compensation. A control found on most digital
cameras that enables you to increase or decrease the exposure setting chosen by the
camera’s autoexposure mechanism. Raising the EV setting produces a brighter exposure,
and a lower value darkens the exposure.
EXIF metadata
Information about the camera, date, and capture settings that some
digital cameras record in a part of the image file. This data is written in a format known
as EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) and can be viewed in image browsers and
other programs that support EXIF.
Flash EV compensation
A control that enables you to increase or decrease the flash
power that the camera thinks is necessary to produce a good exposure. Similar to EV
compensation except that it affects flash output.
f-number, f-stop
Interchangeable terms that refer to the size of the aperture (lens
opening). A low f-number translates to a large opening, which allows more light through
the camera lens. A high f-number indicates a small aperture. Values are stated in the
following format: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, and so on. Each step up the f-stop scale lets in half as
much light as the previous setting.
focal length
The distance between the optical center of the lens and the recording
element (the film negative or digital-camera image sensor). Focal length affects angle of
view, depth of field, and the size and distance at which subjects appear in the frame. See
also equivalent focal length.
gamut
The range of colors that a device can reproduce.
GIF
Graphics Interchange Format. One of two popular file formats for web graphics;
it’s not appropriate for most photographs because it preserves only 256 colors.
grayscale
Another way to describe a black-and-white photograph; an image that
contains only black, white, and shades of gray.
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Grayscale mode
The Grayscale color mode, which limits an image to 256 colors
(black, white, and shades of gray).
histogram
A graph that charts the range of brightness values in an image.
hot light
A general term used to describe a light that emits a constant light source
(as opposed to a flash, which emits a quick burst of light).
hot shoe
A bracket found on some cameras for attaching an external flash head.
inkjet
A printing technology used by the majority of home and office photo printers;
pictures are reproduced using tiny drops of ink that are sprayed onto the page.
interpolation
The process of adding pixels to a digital image file; usually results in
degraded picture quality. Also known as resampling and upsampling.
ISO rating
International Standards Organization rating. A number that indicates the
light sensitivity of film or a digital camera image sensor. The higher the ISO number, the
more sensitive the film.
jaggies
Photo slang for the stair-stepped appearance of curved and diagonal lines in
low-resolution pictures that are printed at a large size.
JPEG
A file format developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEG is the
standard file format used by digital cameras to store images and is also the best format
to use for web pictures and other screen images. The format applies lossy compression,
which reduces file size but also degrades photo quality because it eliminates picture data.
See also lossy compression.
JPEG 2000
An updated version of JPEG; too new to be fully supported by all web
browsers.
Kelvin scale
A scale used to measure the color temperature of light.
Kelvin temperature
Also known as color temperature, the temperature at which
a black body emits the same color as a particular light source.
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LCD
Liquid crystal display. The type of display technology used in most digital camera
monitors.
lossless compression
A process that reduces file size by eliminating only redundant
data. Certain file formats, including TIFF, apply lossless compression. This type of
compression does not affect image quality but doesn’t shrink file size significantly.
lossy compression
A compression process that produces large reductions in image
file size but at the expense of picture quality. The JPEG format applies this type of
compression. When you store pictures on most digital cameras or save a JPEG file in
a photo editor, you can control the amount of compression. The greater the amount
of compression, the more picture data is dumped, and the greater the quality loss.
matrix metering
One of several types of exposure metering systems found in a
camera; in this mode, the camera bases exposure on light throughout the entire frame.
Also known as multizone metering and pattern metering.
megapixel
One million pixels; a term used to describe the resolution capabilities of
a digital camera.
Memory Stick
The type of memory card used in Sony digital cameras and other Sony
devices.
metadata
Extra information about camera capture settings that is stored along with
the image file. See also EXIF metadata.
metering mode
Refers to the area of the frame that the camera considers when
analyzing exposure. See also center-weighted metering, matrix metering, and spot
metering.
moiré
A visual defect that occurs when the linear pattern of the chips in a digital
camera’s image sensor is out of alignment with a pattern in a fabric being photographed.
Appears as wavy lines, color halos, or both.
multizone metering
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native format
The proprietary file format used by a photo editing program (and
other types of programs). For example, the PSD format in Adobe Photoshop Elements
and Adobe Photoshop is a native format.
neutral density (ND) filter
A filter that reduces the amount of light that enters the
camera lens, enabling the photographer to use a slower shutter speed or larger aperture
in bright light.
nodal point
The optical center of a camera lens. When creating a panoramic image,
the camera needs to rotate around the nodal point to produce correct perspective in a
stitched photo.
noise
A digital-photo defect that looks like sprinkles of random color; often occurs in
images taken at a high ISO setting.
optical zoom
A traditional zoom lens (as opposed to a digital zoom).
output resolution
A value established in a photo editor prior to printing; sets the
number of pixels per linear inch (ppi). A good quality print typically requires a minimum
output resolution of 200 ppi.
panorama
An image that contains several separate pictures that have been joined in
a photo-stitching program to show a wider view than can be captured in a single frame.
pattern metering
See matrix metering.
PICT
An image file format used primarily to create system resources (help screens,
screen savers, and the like) for a Macintosh computer.
pixel
Picture element. The colored squares that are used to create digital images; can
be compared to the tiles in a mosaic.
plug-in
A software add-on that works in conjunction with a larger program; after
installing a plug-in, you can access its features from inside the larger program.
PNG
Portable Network Graphics. An up-and-coming file format for web images; it’s
not yet suitable for most purposes because of limited browser support.
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posterization
A color-blocking effect that appears when an image file has been
reduced to too few colors.
ppi
Pixels per inch. The value used to indicate output resolution.
programmed autoexposure (AE)
Same as autoexposure; both shutter speed
and aperture are set by the camera. See also aperture-priority autoexposure (AE),
shutter-priority autoexposure (AE).
RAW
An image file format available on some high-resolution digital cameras; stores
the picture file in its “raw” state—that is, without applying any of the image-processing
that’s normally done to improve the appearance of a picture. RAW files can’t be opened
directly in most photo editing programs.
reflector
A light-reflecting panel that’s used to bounce light from one source in a
second direction.
resampling
Adding or deleting pixels from a digital picture file; adding pixels is
sometimes called upsampling, and eliminating pixels is called downsampling.
resolution
A term used to describe the capabilities of various imaging devices,
including cameras, monitors, printers, and scanners.
RGB
The main color model for digital images; devices based on this model produce
colors by mixing red, green, and blue light.
screen pixels
The pixels used by a computer monitor, television, or digital projector
to display images and text.
screen resolution
The number of horizontal and vertical screen pixels; computer
users can set their monitors to several different resolution settings (640×480, 800×600,
and so on).
Secure Digital card
shutter
One type of memory card used in a digital camera.
A device behind the camera lens that opens and closes to allow light to strike
the imaging sensor in a digital camera (or the negative in a film camera).
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shutter-priority autoexposure (AE)
An autoexposure mode that gives the user
control over the shutter speed; the camera selects the appropriate f-stop (aperture size)
to produce a good exposure at the chosen shutter speed. See also aperture-priority
autoexposure (AE), autoexposure (AE).
shutter speed
The length of time that the shutter remains open, usually measured in
fractions of a seconds. Together with the aperture and ISO, determines image exposure.
slave flash
An accessory flash that fires automatically in response to the light from
the main flash.
slow-sync flash
A special flash mode that allows longer shutter speeds than regular
flash mode; at night, it makes backgrounds appear brighter.
SLR
A single-lens reflex camera; these models feature interchangeable lenses and other
features not found on point-and-shoot cameras.
SmartMedia card
spot metering
A type of camera memory card used in some digital cameras.
A metering mode that bases exposure on the light at the center of the
frame only.
TIFF
Tagged Image File Format. An image file format used primarily to store images
destined for the printed page; can apply lossless compression, which doesn’t degrade
picture quality like the lossy compression applied by the JPEG format. Not suitable for
web images and other screen purposes.
TTL
Through-the-lens. Used to describe viewfinders that show you exactly what the
lens sees; also describes exposure metering mechanisms that measure light coming
through the lens. Non-TTL viewfinders and metering mechanisms look out on the scene
from a window offset from the lens.
TWAIN driver
Software that enables you to access your digital camera files or
scanner from inside some image browsers and photo editors.
Unsharp Mask filter
A sharpening tool found in intermediate and advanced photo
editors; sounds more complicated to use than it really is.
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upsampling
Adding pixels to an existing digital image file. See also resampling,
downsampling.
USB
Universal Serial Bus. Now the most common technology for connecting cameras
and other devices to a computer.
VR
Virtual reality. Refers to immersive images that enable you to spin the display to
see a subject from a variety of perspectives.
white balancing
A feature found in all digital cameras; compensates for the varying
colors of light to ensure accurate color renditions.
xD-Picture Card
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B
Online Resources for
Digital Photographers
219
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PRODUCTS
DESCRIPTION
PHOTOGRAPHY ACCESSORIES
Bogen Photo (www.bogenphoto.com)
Tripods and other accessories
Cloud Dome (www.clouddome.com)
Domes for shooting reflective objects
Cokin (www.cokin.com)
Filters and close-up lenses
Delkin Devices (www.delkin.com)
Portable image storage, memory cards,
card readers, and more
Hoodman (www.hoodmanusa.com)
LCD shades and cleaning cloths
Hoya (www.thkphoto.com)
Filters and other lens accessories
Ilford (www.ilford.com)
Artistic papers for photo printers
Kaidan (www.kaidan.com)
Panorama equipment
Kenko (www.thkphoto.com)
Filters and other lens accessories
Legion Paper (www.legionpaper.com)
Artistic papers for photo printers
Lowel (www.lowel.com)
Studio lighting and accessories
Luminos (www.luminos.com)
Specialty inks and papers for inkjet printers
Manfrotto(www.manfrotto.com)
Tripods and panoramic heads
Media Street (www.mediastreet.com)
Specialty inksets for inkjet printers
Metz (www.bogenphoto.com)
Flash products
Monaco Systems (www.monacosystems.com)
Coloromiters and other
color-management tools
Peace River Studios (www.peaceriverstudios.com)
Panoramic tripod heads and tools
Photoflex (www.photoflex.com)
Reflectors and other lighting accessories
Pictorico (www.pictorico.com)
Artistic papers for photo printers
SanDisk (www.sandisk.com)
Memory cards, card readers, and more
SimpleTech (www.simpletech.com)
Portable image viewers, memory cards,
card readers, and more
Smith-Victor (www.smithvictor.com)
Desktop lighting kits and more
SRElectronics (www.srelectronics.com)
Digi-Slave accessory flash units
Sunpak (www.sunpak.com)
Flash products
Tiffen (www.tiffen.com)
Filters and close-up lenses
Visual Departures (www.visualdepartures.com)
Reflectors and other lighting products
Wacom Technology (www.wacom.com)
Drawing tablets
Westcott (www.fjwestcott.com)
Reflectors, light tents, and other
lighting supplies
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APPENDIX B: Online Resources for Digital Photographers
PRODUCTS
DESCRIPTION
SOFTWARE
ACD Systems (www.acdsystems.com)
ACDSee and other imaging software
Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com)
Photoshop Elements, Photoshop, Photoshop
Album, and other imaging software
Apple (www.apple.com)
QuickTime VR viewer
Applied Science Fiction (www.asf.com)
Digital GEM and other image-correction software
Cerious Software (www.thumbsplus.com)
ThumbsPlus
ColorVision (www.colorvision.com)
Color management tools
Corel Corporation (www.corel.com)
Corel PHOTO-PAINT and other graphics programs
IseeMedia (www.iseemedia.com)
Photovista and other imaging programs
Jasc Software (www.jasc.com)
Paint Shop Pro
Minolta (www.minolta.com)
DiMAGE Messenger
Monaco Systems (www.monacosystems.com)
Monaco EZColor and other color-management tools
nik multimedia (www.nikmultimedia.com)
Color Efex Pro!, Dfine, and other plug-ins
Panorama Factory (www.panoramafactory.com)
Panorama Factory
Simple Star (www.simplestar.com)
PhotoShow and other imaging tools
Ulead Systems (www.ulead.com)
Ulead PhotoImpact, PhotoExplorer,
and other imaging tools
MISCELLANEOUS SITES REFERENCED IN THIS BOOK
Ofoto (www.ofoto.com)
Online photo sharing and printing
Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com)
Online photo sharing and printing
Web Photo School (www.webphotoschool.com)
Online lessons in lighting techniques
Wilhelm Imaging (www.wilhelm-imaging.com)
Print-life studies and information
Additional Resources
To expand your technical knowledge and find more creative inspiration, also visit these
web sites. You can find hardware and software reviews, how-to articles, forums in which
you can chat with other photographers, and plain old creative inspiration.
WEB SITE
DESCRIPTION
www.dpreview.com
Hardware and software reviews and buying guides, plus discussion forums
www.imaging-resource.com
Some of the most detailed camera and equipment reviews you’ll find
anywhere, along with the latest digital photography news
www.edigitalphoto.com
The online edition of the magazine eDigital Photo
www.outdoorphotographer.com The online edition of Outdoor Photographer (which has great information
for indoor photographers as well)
www.pcphoto.com
The online version of PCPhoto, a magazine geared to digital-imaging novices
www.photographic.com
The online edition of Peterson’s Photographic, a well-known film
publication that now covers digital imaging as well
www.shutterbug.net
The online edition of Shutterbug, a popular publication that offers
a balance of film and digital coverage
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A
absolute zero, 141
accessories
adapters, 9
converters, 9–10
filters. See filters
flash units, 13–15, 77
hot lights, 15–17, 212
LCD hood, 9, 69
reflectors. See reflectors
resources for, 220
studio lights, 77, 106
tripods. See tripods
ACDSee program, 23–24
action mode, 42
adapters, 9
Adobe Gamma, 175–178
Adobe Photoshop, 179–182
Adobe Photoshop Album, 24
AE. See autoexposure
AF (autofocus), 40, 81, 208
ambient light, 76
Amount value, 99–100
angle of view, 90
aperture
depth of field and, 36, 94, 132
described, 4–5, 207
increasing, 106
large, 74
portraits, 49–50
aperture-priority autoexposure (AE), 5, 35,
78, 117, 207
architectural subjects, 84–87
archival considerations, 168–169
archival storage devices, 20
artifacts, 32, 207
aspect ratio, 48, 207
auto-bracketing, 38
auto flash, 39
autoexposure (AE)
aperture-priority, 5, 35, 78, 117, 207
described, 207
exposure value. See EV compensation
ISO settings and, 107–108
metering modes, 37–38, 68–69
motion and, 117, 119–121
programmed, 35–36, 117, 215
shutter-priority mode, 5, 35, 116,
119-120, 216
autofocus (AF), 40, 81, 208
223
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backdrops, 63, 73–75, 78
backgrounds
out-of-focus, 74
portrait photography, 63
for products, 73–74
still-life photography, 73–75
backlighting, 68–69, 84
barn doors, 208
Baseline Optimized option, 198
Baseline Standard option, 198
batteries
camera response time and, 121
electronic viewfinders and, 8
bitmap (BMP) format, 194, 208
black-and-white images
converting color images to,
151–153
printing, 182–183
vs. grayscale images, 151
black body, 141
Black Point control, 111
blurring
camera shake and, 8, 94, 113
motion and, 117–119
noise removal, 108
slow shutter speeds and, 94,
113–114
BMP (bitmap) format, 194, 208
bounce cards, 57–59
bracketing, 208
brightness, 109–112
Brightness/Contrast filter, 109–110
Brightness value, 109–110
bulb setting, 114
burst mode, 208
C
calibration, 175–177
camera. See digital camera
camera shots
close-ups, 89–103
nighttime, 113
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previewing, 95
quick snapshots, 59–60
CCD (charge-coupled device) chips, 208
CD-ROMs, 20
CD slideshows, 202–203
center-weighted metering, 38, 68, 208
Channel Mixer command, 153
channels, 150, 152–153
charge-coupled device (CCD) chips, 208
children, photographing, 59–60
circular polarizers, 81
clone tool, 208
close-up lenses, 102–103
close-up photography, 89–103.
See also zooming
camera settings for, 93–99
compression, 93
focusing, 93–94
lighting, 94, 99–101
macro focusing mode, 41
macro photography, 101–103
previewing shots, 95
resolution, 93
sharpening images, 95–99
CMM (color management module), 179
CMOS (complementary metal-oxide
semiconductor) chips, 208
CMS (color-management system),
179–182, 209
CMY color, 175, 208
CMYK color, 175, 198, 209
color, 139–157
Adobe Gamma, 175–178
CMY, 175, 208
CMYK, 175, 198, 209
computer monitor, 175–178
converting to black-and-white,
151–153
cooling, 140–142
correction of, 42–43, 143–144
degrees of, 141–142
GIF images, 193, 200
light and, 140–142
polarizing filters and, 144–146
RGB, 150–153, 175, 198, 215
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saturation, 112, 149–150
sepia tints, 157, 183
skies, 144–149
special effects, 156–157
warming, 140, 142–144
white balance, 41–42, 140–142
Color Balance filter, 112, 143
color correction filters, 42–43
Color Efex Pro! software, 144
color engine, 179, 209
color filters, 42–43
color management module
(CMM), 179
color-management system (CMS),
179–182, 209
color-matching techniques, 174–182
color mode, 209
color model, 209
color profiles, 175–181, 209. See also ICC
profiles
color temperature, 41, 140–142, 209
Color Variations filter, 143–144
colorimeter, 176
ColorSync, 175–176
ColorVision, 181
commands. See specific commands
CompactFlash cards, 166, 209
complementary metal-oxide semiconductor
(CMOS) chips, 208
compression, 31–33
close-up photography, 93
creative impact, 31–32
described, 209
JPEG, 31–32, 194–197. See also JPEG
format
lossless, 31, 213
lossy, 31, 213
photo enlargement and, 31
RAW format, 34–35
recommended settings, 33
resolution and, 33
TIFF, 31–32
web photos, 33
computer system, 18–24
contrast, 109–110, 210
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Contrast control, 110
convergence, 84–87, 91, 130
converters, 9–10
creative controls, 25–43
creative scene modes, 42
cropping, 92, 210
cross lighting, 83
cross-platform, 210
D
darkroom, digital, 17–24
density numbers, 119
depth of field (DOF)
aperture and, 36, 49–50,
94, 132
described, 210
focal length and, 91
Dfine product, 109
digital camera
angle, 51–52, 91
built-in color effects, 43
color intensity controls, 149
control accessibility, 8
displaying images on TV, 204
exposure controls, 4–5
features, 4–11
prosumer, 14
self-timer for, 113
shake, 8, 94, 113
SLR, 4, 7, 216
speeding response time, 120–121
digital darkroom, 17–24
digital film. See memory cards
Digital GEM product, 109
digital images. See images
digital photographs. See photographs
Digital Print Order Format (DPOF),
166, 210
digital zoom, 43, 91–93, 210. See also
zooming
DiMAGE Messenger program, 204
diopter lenses, 102–103
diopter power, 102
disk space, 18–19, 201
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distortion
architectural subjects, 84–87
camera angle and, 51
convergence, 84–87, 91
distance and, 52–54
panoramas, 130–131
DOF. See depth of field
dots per inch (dpi), 170, 210
downsampling, 190, 210
dpi (dots per inch), 170, 210
DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), 166, 210
drivers, 210, 216
DVD slideshows, 202–203
DVDs, 20
dye-sub (dye-sublimation), 210
dye-sub printers, 162, 164
E
edges, 95–96, 211
efl (equivalent focal length), 6, 211
EV (exposure value), 37
EV compensation
boosting exposure through, 56–57,
69, 106
controlling autoexposure with, 37
described, 211
EV control, flash, 40, 99–100
Exchangeable Image File Format.
See EXIF
EXIF metadata, 23, 35, 211
EXIF viewers, 23, 35
exposure. See also autoexposure
adjusting with Levels filter,
109–112
boosting, 56–57, 69, 106
bulb, 208
creative impact, 35–36
focal length and, 91
long, 112–115
manual, 5, 35, 119–120, 132
moving objects and, 116
noise and, 114–115
panoramas, 132–133, 137
recommended settings, 36–37
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exposure controls, 4–5
exposure modes, 35–38
exposure value. See EV
F
f-numbers, 4–5, 211
f-stops, 5, 120, 211
family groups, 59
file formats, 33–35
BMP, 194, 208
creative impact, 34
DPOF, 166, 210
GIF. See GIF format
IVR, 138
JPEG. See JPEG format
native, 214
for panoramas, 138
PICT, 194, 214
PNG, 194, 214
PSD, 194
RAW, 34–35, 215
recommended settings, 34–35
for screen display, 193–201
TIFF. See TIFF format
files
JPEG. See JPEG files
size of, 27
TIFF, 191, 196
fill flash, 39
film
grain, 39, 107
ISO settings, 38–39, 106–107
memory cards, 19–20, 92, 121,
166, 204
speed, 38–39
filter factor, 10
filter holders, 10
filters
Brightness/Contrast, 109–110
color, 42–43
Color Balance, 112, 143
color correction, 42–43
Color Variations, 143–144
cooling, 141
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Hue/Saturation, 149–150
Levels, 109–112
moiré-removal, 75
neutral density, 50, 118–119
overview, 9–10
polarizing, 79–82, 118, 144–146
Saturation, 112, 157
sharpening, 43, 95–97, 190
Unsharp Mask, 98–99, 216
warming, 70, 141–142
flash
auto, 39
auxiliary, 13–15, 77
built-in, 11–12, 76–77, 99
camera response time and, 121
drawbacks of, 106
external, 40
fill, 39
front-curtain sync, 116
handle-mount, 14
macro flash units, 100–101
not using, 39
portrait photography, 55–56, 60
rear-curtain sync, 116
red-eye. See red-eye
reflections and, 76–79
ring, 101
slave flash units, 14, 101
slow-sync, 39, 115–117
softening shadows, 56, 66
Flash EV compensation. See EV
compensation
Flash EV control, 40, 99–100
flash modes, 39–40
flash socket, 101
focal length, 52–54
angle of view and, 90
close-up lenses and, 102–103
depth of field and, 91
described, 5–7, 211
equivalent focal length (lef), 6
increasing, 91
long vs. short, 90
panoramas and, 131
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focus
auto, 40, 81, 208
close distances, 93–94
creative impact, 40
macro, 41
manual, 7, 41
out-of-focus backgrounds, 74
panoramas, 131–132
recommendations, 41
spot, 41
focus modes, 40–41
force flash, 39
formats. See file formats
frames
composing portraits for, 48–49
“head room” and, 48–49
traditional sizes, 48–49, 184
G
Gamma control, 111
gamut, 168, 179, 211
gear. See accessories
ghosting, 133–134
GIF format
color and, 193, 200
described, 193–194, 211
grayscale and, 200–201
glare reduction, 82
glass, photographing, 82–84
Gradient Map command, 153–155, 157
gradient maps, 154
grain, film, 39, 107
Graphics Interchange Format. See GIF format
graphics tablet, 21
grayscale
256-color, 200–201
described, 211
GIF images, 193
GIF vs. JPEG, 200–201
vs. black-and-white, 151
grayscale conversions, 154–156
Grayscale model, 151, 212
227
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H
halos, 96–98
hard disk, 18–20
highlights, 110–112
histogram, 110–111, 212
hood, LCD, 9, 69
hot lights, 15–17, 212
hot shoe, 14, 101, 212
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), 202
Hue/Saturation filter, 149–150
I
ICC profiles, 179, 198. See also
color profiles
image edges, 95–96, 211
image galleries, 201–202
image organizers, 22–24
image sensors, 5–6, 38–39, 106
images. See also photographs; screen display
archival issues, 168–169
black-and-white. See black-and-white
images
display size, 186–193
displaying on TV, 204
file size and, 27
formats. See file formats
immersive, 124
on-screen, 97
panoramic, 123–138
resolution. See resolution
RGB, 200
setting display size, 186–193
sizes of, 26–27
thumbnail, 202–203
transparency, 199
watercolor effect, 157
web, 28, 33, 190
immersive images, 124
indoor photography, 54–63
inkjet printers
archival issues, 168–169
color matching and, 178
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inks, 165, 168–169, 182
overview, 162–164
paper for, 162, 164
printing black-and-white photos,
182–183
specifications, 165
inkjet technology, 212
inks, 165, 168–169, 182–183
interpolation, 212
ISO film, 106–107
ISO number, 105
ISO ratings, 5, 212
ISO settings
AE mode, 107–108
described, 38–39
light sensitivity, 106–108
noise and, 107–108, 114–115
raising, 106
IVR format, 138
J
jaggies, 212
Joint Photographic Experts Group.
See JPEG
JPEG 2000, 212
JPEG 2000 format, 194
JPEG compression, 31–32, 190,
194–197
JPEG files
ICC profiles, 198
options for, 198
quality of, 196–197
saving photos as, 195–199
web optimization, 195–196
JPEG format
described, 33, 193, 212
grayscale and, 200–201
Matte option, 199
modem speed and, 198
panoramas and, 137–138
recommended settings, 34
warnings about, 194–195
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K
Kelvin scale, 140–142, 212
Kelvin temperature, 140–142, 212
L
Lab color mode, 153
labs, working with, 183–184
landscape mode, 132
laser printers, 162, 164–165
layers, 150
LCD (liquid crystal display), 213
LCD hood, 9, 69
LCD monitor, 8–9, 69, 167
lenses
adapters, 9
close-up, 102–103
converters, 9–10
diopter, 102–103
film cameras, 7
filters. See filters
focal length and, 5–7
nodal point, 125–129
telephoto, 7, 91, 131
wide-angle, 6–7, 52–53
zoom, 7
Levels filter, 109–112
light box, 84
light tents, 77–79
lighting, 11–17. See also flash
ambient light, 76
backlighting, 68–69, 84
close-up photography, 94,
99–101
color and, 140–142
color temperature, 41,
140–142
cross, 83
exposure value. See EV
hot lights, 15–17
importance of, 11
ISO settings and. See ISO settings
low-light situations, 105–117
panoramas and, 132–133
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for portraits, 55–59, 63–66
reflected light, 57–59
reflectors, 57–59, 64–66, 70
studio lights, 77, 106
sunlight, 68–69
white balance.
See white balance
lighting kits, 16
Lightness channel, 153
linear polarizers, 81
lossless compression, 31, 213
lossy compression, 31, 213
M
macro flash units, 100–101
macro focusing mode, 41, 93–94, 103
macro photography, 101–103
Magic Wand tool, 146–147
manual exposure, 5, 35, 119–120, 132
manual focus, 7, 41
matrix metering, 213. See also
multi-metering
Matte option, 199
megapixels, 26–27, 213
memory, 18
memory-card reader, 19–20
memory cards, 19–20, 92, 121,
166, 204
Memory Stick, 213
metadata, 23, 35, 213
metering modes, 37–38, 68–69, 213
Midpoint control, 111
modem speed, 198
moiré patterns, 74–75, 213
Monaco ColorWorks, 180
Monaco EZColor, 179–181
MonacoOPTIX device, 176
monitor, computer
96/72 ppi myth, 192–193
calibrating, 175–177
color and, 175
fine-tuning colors, 178
profiling, 175–177
requirements, 19
229
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resolution, 187–189
video card for, 19
monitors
LCD, 8–9, 69, 167
printer, 167
TV, 67
motion
AE mode and, 117, 119–121
blurring and, 117–119
capturing, 117–121
exposure and, 116
freezing with fast shutter, 119–120
panoramas and, 133–134
shutter speed and, 119–121
mouse, 21
movie mode, 121
multi-exposure mode, 38
multi-metering, 37–38
multimedia slide shows, 28, 202–203
multizone metering, 37–38
N
native format, 214
neutral density (ND) filter, 50,
118–119, 214
nighttime mode, 42, 113, 117
nighttime shots, 113
nodal point, 125–129, 214
noise
described, 214
exposure time and, 114–115
ISO settings and, 107–108,
114–115
removing, 108–109
noise-reduction feature, 108–109
noise-removal work, 109
O
objects
exposure and, 116
motion, 116
reflective surfaces, 76–84
Ofoto photo service, 184, 201
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on-screen images, 97
online photo albums, 201
online photo services, 184, 201
online resources, 220–221
optical zoom, 43, 91–92, 94, 214.
See also zooming
outdoor photography, 68–70
oversharpening, 96
P
The Panorama Factory, 135–136
panoramas, 123–138, 214
panoramic tripod heads, 126–127, 130
paper
commercial labs, 184
printer, 162, 164, 168–169,
174, 178
parallax error, 95
pattern metering, 37–38
people
children, 59–60
family groups, 59
portraits. See portrait photography
professional head shots, 63–67
photo albums, online, 201
photo editors. See also Photoshop Elements
color saturation controls, 149–150
correcting color with, 143–144
overview, 21–22
PHOTO-PAINT program, 22
PhotoImpact program, 22
removing noise, 108–109
PHOTO-PAINT program, 22
photo services, online, 184, 201
PhotoExplorer program, 24
photographers, professional, 54, 60
photographs. See also images
archival issues, 168–169
black-and-white vs. grayscale, 151
converting color to black-and-white,
151–153
creating panoramas, 123–138
cropping, 92
displaying on TV, 204
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enlarging, 92
organizing, 22–24
printing. See printed photos; printing
quality of, 170–172
saving as JPEG files, 195–199
saving in screen file format, 193–201
sepia tints, 157, 183
setting display size, 186–193
sharing, 201–204
storage space for, 18–20, 201
traditional frame sizes, 48–49, 184
photography
close-ups. See close-up photography
indoor, 54–63
online resources, 220–221
outdoor, 68–70
portraits. See portrait photography
products, 72–79
still-life. See still-life photography
PhotoImpact program, 22
Photomerge tool, 135
Photoshop Elements
assembling panoramas, 135
color profiles and, 180
color saturation controls,
149–150
correcting color, 143–144
correcting convergence, 86–87
described, 21–22
grayscale conversions,
154–156
painting sky with, 146–149
red-eye removal, 61–63
setting output resolution,
172–173
setting print size, 172–173
web image gallery, 202
web optimization, 190,
195–196
PhotoShow program, 202–203
Photovisita program, 135
PhotoZen product, 204
PICT format, 194, 214
pictures. See images; photographs
Picturevision product, 204
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pixels
Actual, 186
adjusting count, 191–192
black, 111
contrast and, 110
described, 214
downsampling, 190
file size and, 27
horizontal, 29
megapixels, 26–27, 213
multimedia presentations, 28
panoramas, 136
print size and, 26–27
printed pictures, 28–31
quality and, 190
resampling, 191–192
resolution and, 26–28, 169–172
screen images and, 27, 186
transparent, 199
vertical, 29
web images/photos, 28, 190
pixels per inch. See ppi
plug-ins, 214
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format,
194, 214
polarizing filters, 79–82, 118, 144–146
Portable Network Graphics. See PNG
Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format,
194, 214
portrait mode, 42, 50, 68–69
portrait photography, 47–70
backdrops, 63
basics, 48–50
camera angle, 51–52
casual portraits, 54–63
children, 59–60
connecting camera to TV/VCR, 67
exposure, 56–57
family groups, 59
flash, 55–56, 60
focal length, 52–54
frame sizes, 48–49, 184
“head room,” 48–49
indoor portraits, 54–63
lighting, 55–59, 63–66
231
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outdoor portraits, 68–70
professional head shots, 63–67
quick snapshots, 59–60
red-eye. See red-eye
warming skin tones, 70
posterization, 193, 200, 215
ppi (pixels per inch)
96/72 ppi myth, 186,
192–193
described, 215
output resolution, 169–170
printer resolution and,
170, 174
screen images and, 186–187
preview monitor, 167
previewing camera shots, 95
Print command, 178
print preview feature, 179
printed photos
quality of, 170–172
resolution, 27–31, 170–173
sharpening, 97
size of, 170–173
printers
choosing, 162–167
cost per print, 167
dye-sub, 162, 164
fine-tuning colors, 178
inkjet. See inkjet printers
inks, 165, 168–169, 182–183
laser, 162, 164–165
memory cards and, 20
paper, 162, 164, 168–169,
174, 178
properties, 174
resolution, 167, 170, 174
specifications, 165–167
tips for, 174
printing, 161–184
archival considerations, 168–169
black-and-white inkjet photos,
182–183
borderless, 166
camera resolution and, 27–31
card input, 166
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color-matching techniques,
174–182
color photos, 31
DPOF data, 166
from memory cards, 20
preparing pictures for, 169–173
speed, 166
working with labs, 183–184
prints, ordering, 184
product photography, 72–79
programmed autoexposure
(AE), 35–36, 117, 215. See also
autoexposure
Progressive option, 198
prosumer cameras, 14
PSD format, 194
Q
quality
JPEG files, 196–197
number of pixels and, 190
printed photos, 170–172
vs. file size, 196–197
QuickTime Player, 124–125
QuickTime VR Authoring Studio, 136
QuickTime VR (QTVR) format, 138
R
Radius value, 99–100
RAM, 18
RAW format, 34–35, 215
red-eye
causes of, 52
flash and, 52, 55–56
removing with Photoshop Elements,
61–63
red-eye flash, 39, 52, 60
red-eye reduction mode, 39
reflective surfaces, 76–84
reflectors
bouncing window light, 57–59
colors, 13–14
described, 215
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outdoor photography, 70
overview, 12–13
portraits and, 64–66
still-life photography, 77–79
types of, 13–14
reprints, ordering, 184
resampling
adjusting output resolution, 171–172
adjusting pixel count, 92, 170, 191–192
described, 215
resolution, 26–31
camera response time and, 121
close-up photography, 93
color photos and, 31
compression and, 33
computer monitor, 187–189
creative impact, 26–31
described, 215
matching to print size, 28–29, 31
multimedia presentations, 28
output, 171–174, 184, 186, 214
output vs. printer, 170
pixels and, 26–28, 169–172
printed photos, 27–31, 170–173
printers, 167, 170, 174
recommended settings, 28–31
resampling and, 171–173
screen, 27–28, 186–189, 215
SVGA, 189
SXGA, 189
UXGA, 189
VGA, 28, 189
web photos, 28
XGA, 189
resolution control, 26
resources, online, 220–221
RGB color, 150–153, 175, 198, 215
RGB images, 200
ring flash, 101
S
saturation, 112, 149–150
Saturation filter, 112, 157
scene modes, 42, 50, 113
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screen display. See also images
file formats for, 193–201
ppi and, 186–187
resolution, 27–28, 186–189, 215
setting image display size, 186–193
screen pixels, 215
Secure Digital card, 215
self-timer, 113
sepia tints, 157, 183
shadows
adjusting, 111
exposure and, 109–110
flash and, 56, 64–66
reflective objects and, 84
softening, 56, 66
sharing photographs, 201–204
sharpening, 95–99
sharpening filter, 43, 95–97, 190
shift lenses, 85
shooting video, 42, 50
shutter, 5, 114, 215
shutter-priority autoexposure (AE), 5, 35,
116, 119–120, 216
shutter speed
autoexposure, 5, 35, 116, 119–120, 216
described, 5, 216
fast, 36, 119
freezing action, 119
long exposures, 112–115
manual exposure, 35, 37, 119–120
motion and, 119–121
portraits, 49–50
slow, 36, 91, 106, 112–115
tripods and, 57, 91, 113
unable to control, 113
Shutterfly photo service, 184, 201
SimpleStar PhotoShow, 202–203
single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, 4, 7, 216
skies, 144–149
slave flash, 216
slide shows, multimedia, 28, 202–203
slow-sync flash, 39, 115–117, 216
SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, 4, 7, 216
SmartMedia cards, 166, 216
soft proofing, 179
233
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software. See also photo editors
ACDSee program, 23–24
Adobe Photoshop, 179–182
Adobe Photoshop Album, 24
Color Efex Pro!, 144
DiMAGE Messenger program, 204
image organizers, 22–24
for panoramas, 130, 134–136
PHOTO-PAINT program, 22
PhotoExplorer program, 24
PhotoImpact program, 22
Photoshop Elements. See Photoshop
Elements
PhotoShow program, 202–203
Photovisita program, 135
resources for, 221
special effects, 156–157
ThumbsPlus program, 23–24
spatial relationship, 91
special effects, 156–157
spot-focusing mode, 41
spot metering, 38, 68–69, 216
still-life kit, 72
still-life photography, 71–87
architectural subjects, 84–87
backdrops, 73–75, 78
described, 71
glass, photographing, 82–84
product photography, 72
reflective surfaces, 76–84
staging area for, 72
stitching panoramas, 134–138
storage space, 18–20, 201
studio lights, 77, 106
studio still-life kit, 72
sunlight, 68–69
SVGA resolution, 189
SXGA resolution, 189
T
Tagged Image File Format. See TIFF
telephoto lenses, 7, 91, 131
television. See TV monitors
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tents, light, 77–79
Threshold value, 99
thumbnail images, 202–203
ThumbsPlus program, 23–24
TIFF compression, 31–32
TIFF files, 191, 196
TIFF format
compression and, 31–32, 34
described, 34, 216
JPEG format and, 194–195
panoramas and, 137–138
tiling effect, 32
tonal range, 109–110
transparency, 199
tripod mounts, 11
tripods
avoiding camera shake, 91, 94, 113
for panoramas, 126–127, 130
slow shutter speeds and, 57, 91, 113
TTL (through-the-lens), 216
TTL metering, 10, 81
TTL viewfinder, 95, 103
TV monitors
connecting camera to, 67
displaying images from camera, 204
U
Universal Serial Bus (USB), 217
Unsharp Mask filter, 98–99
upsampling, 217
USB (Universal Serial Bus), 217
UXGA resolution, 189
V
VCR (videocassette recorder), 67
VGA resolution, 28, 189
video cards, 19
videocassette recorder (VCR), 67
viewfinders, 8
virtual reality. See VR
VR (virtual reality), 217
VR panoramas, 124, 135–136, 138
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W
warming filters, 70
watercolor effect, 157
web-based image galleries, 201–202
web images/photos
compression, 33
pixels and, 190
resolution setting, 28
web optimization, 190, 195–196
web sites, resources, 220–221
white balance
creative impact, 41
described, 217
hot lights and, 17
overview, 41–42
panoramas, 133
settings, 41–42
tweaking colors with, 140–142
White Point control, 111
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wide-angle lenses, 6–7, 52–53
wide-angle views, 90
Wilhelm Research web site, 169
X
XGA resolution, 189
Z
zoom controls, 43
zoom lenses, 7
zooming. See also close-up photography
angle of view, 90
digital zoom, 43, 91–93, 210
focal length and, 90
optical zoom, 43, 91–92, 94, 214
overview, 92–93
vs. moving camera, 90–91
235
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