This is a huge new resource for bloggers and website owners…
As a long time photographer, its always fascinating to try a new technique for creating images, and coming across such opportunities can get rarer and rarer. I had a fascinating evening figuring out a little photographic problem the other night. As part of The Gathering celebrations in Ireland this year, many towns and villages are hosting reunions, and Drumgowna in Co Leitrim is basing theirs around the old school – see their website at http://www.drumgownaschool.com .
A friend of ours who is living in the area came across a lovely find recently – an old shoebox full of old negatives. They looked really old, and were obviously well before 35mm film. I did some research and the film looks to be 116 film, which is 6.5 x 11cms and introduced in 1899 by Eastmas Kodak. As with any negative, holding them up to the light gives an idea of the image, but it's always difficult to really get a feel for the real image until it's been converted into a positive. So Reg arrived for the evening with the envelope of negatives and the question – could I turn them into photos she could see, and maybe then use as part of the village celebrations?
My first thought was that I might be able to use my new photo printer/scanner, but scanning the negatives just gave me very dark versions of the negative, so that wasn't going to work. then my wife reminded me that we had seen an app previously which claimed to be able to convert negatives, so I went on-line and soon hit on HelloPhoto. On visiting the Apple App Store I found that I already had the app, just not installed on my current iPad, but that only a took a few seconds to download. Reading the help screen I saw that this needed the app installed on my iPhone as well, so I did that, and was ready to begin.
My iPad mini was used as a light box – basically a light under the negative to make it stand out clear and sharp. HelloPhoto lets you set all kinds of screen sizes, colours and intensities, but I just set it to the maximum brightness (5500k) and full screen, then put the negative on the screen.
The next step was to fire up the app on my iPhone, and set it to photo taking mode in the app. Holding the phone about 12 cms above the iPad and negative, the iPhone then took a photo of the negative lit from below by the iPad, and then as if by magic, turned the negative into a real photo.
The buzz I got the first time I did this was something else! I never did film developing, only coming into serious photography with the advent of digital cameras, so the transformation and bringing to life of these old pieces of thin celluloid to images of real people from long ago was like magic.
It took a few extra steps to get to a workable process. I found that the negatives were not lying flat on the iPad screen, and after a few seconds the heat of the screen would make the negative curl up. I fixed this by finding a piece of card about the size of the iPad screen, then cutting a hole in it the size of the image on the negative – this could be placed carefully on the negative and held it down on the iPad screen with the card pressing down on the outer edges of the negative, just letting the image itself show through.
This had another benefit of reducing the upward glare of light, which was giving me an apple shaped reflection off the back of the iPhone. I got rid of this by cutting out a bit of paper the size of the back of the iPhone and sticky taping this onto the back of my phone, so there was no reflection.
Finally I had a bulletproof process, and the 30 or so negatives took about 15 minutes to turn into photos again – the first time these images had seen the light of day for over 80 years. I've reproduced a few of them below, and I think that the folks over in Drumgowna are going to use them as part of their exhibition for the School Reunion – check their website for more details of their events.
We had a great photo walk recently shooting the magnificent Powerscourt Gardens in Co. Wicklow, and for this post, I want to take a look at the process I went through to produce the shot shown here, because the original out of the camera looked VERY different. Read on to find out more…
Composition. Before you take a shot, you should be considering the elements in the scene you are facing. Around the house at Powerscourt there are numerous statues, urns and pots of beautiful flowers, and the lions on their plinths caught my eye. Big scenes often benefit from something in the foreground to start the viewer’s journey through your image, and such foreground interest should typically be located on one of the thirds lines. My lion and the vertical of the plinth below his head is a little further left, but this was necessary to compose the house behind as well.
Verticals. Especially with a wide angle lens, it can be difficult to maintain straight vertical lines. The key ones here are on the plinth, so I made sure to keep them vertical – means the right hand side of the house tilts a bit, which I could adjust using perspective correction in Photoshop, but I didn’t this time.
Depth of Field. Another creative decision for any shot is how much of it you want in focus. For this shot I wanted everything from the foreground to the house at the back nice and sharp, so I used A (Aperture Priority) mode on my camera, and selected F13 to give me this. Selecting that on the bright day we had gave me a shutter speed of 1/500th sec – plenty fast enough for a sharp shot handheld. If you are using scene modes on your camera, set your scene to the mountains icon to get a wide depth of field where most of the shot is in focus from front to back.
Focus. The general rule with large depth of field shots is to focus about 1/3 of the way into the scene. Difficult in this case, so I focussed on the lion’s face and trusted the F13 setting to give me enough focus all the way back to the house.
Polarising filter. I’ve written about this indispensable piece of kit in an earlier post, but on a lovely blue sky day it really comes into play, enabling you to darken the sky giving real “pop” to the clouds, lion and the house.
Check Your Histogram. A lot of people, especially beginners, shy away when they run into the histogram display on their camera, but it’s a very simply and VERY powerful information source which you should at least understand the basics of interpreting. Basically all you need to know is that the lines towards the left edge of the window are showing dark areas of your shot, whereas lines over to the right show that there are whiter areas in your shot. If the lines touch the left edge, you’re underexposed, losing detail in the darkness, and if the lines hit the right hand edge, you’re overexposed and blowing out your highlights, losing detail and whiting out areas of your shot.
On the left here is the histogram for the original shot in the camera – quite dark with no bright areas or white in it. After I’d made the post-processing adjustments I describe below, the final image’s histogram looks like the one here on the right – you can see the tones are much better spread and with no “clipping” on the right or the left.
So what did I do to change my original shot into the final one? By messing about in Lightroom for a few minutes – adjustments to an original image to change it is known as…
I deliberately chose a really dark shot for this post to show just what a bit of post-processing can do to an image, especially if you’ve shot in RAW. As long as you don’t over-expose on a bright day, you can pretty much rescue any dark shot as there is much more data stored in the darker end of the image than the bright. My programme of choice is Adobe Lightroom, but the same principles apply whether you use free software like Picasa from Google (a great choice for those just starting), Adobe Photoshop Elements, or even the big daddy of them all – Adobe Photoshop.
So everything up to now has been done in-camera, but it was a very bright day, which makes capturing a shot with high contrast like this quite difficult. I was also using my wide angle Tokina 12-24mm lens, and with the polarising filter on the front you can see some vignetting in the corners where the filter is showing at the extreme wide angle setting of 12mm.
So, reading from the bottom up (because that’s how Lightroom records the changes), here’s what I did to the image. Note – all changes to images in Lightroom are recorded in a separate file from the original RAW image, which means you can always undo them. Hovering your mouse over each line in the History shows the image as it looked at that point in the editing process.
Exposure was my first adjustment – and the original was so dark that I needed to increase by +2.26 stops – that’s quite a lot but you have up to 5 stops either side to play with when shooting in RAW, so as long as the detail is there and you didn’t hit the edge of the histogram, you can bring all the detail back.
Highlights is an adjustment which only affects the very brightest areas of your image, and after bumping up the overall exposure this then added even more punch to the clouds and the roof of the main house, also accentuating the relative darkness of the blue sky behind.
Black Clipping affects the other end of the spectrum, and the minus 13 adjustment here just made the blacks a little bit darker. After doing this I pushed the Highlights even brighter to punch the relative contrast even more, then a very small push to overall Contrast brought things to where I wanted them, with detail retained in the sky but also in the stone of the plinth and the grass in the plinth shadow.
Clarity was my final tonal adjustment – it’s a wonderful setting in Lightroom which punches up the micro-contrast across the whole shot, like sharpening but without the nasty edges which that can leave.
That just left a bit of cropping to lose the vignetting from the filter, moving the image around a little to keep a sliver of grass down the left hand edge, and I was done.
Do you have any more tips on anything I’ve mentioned here? If so, please share them as a comment
Joe Houghton Photography runs small group photo shoots, individual 1 to 1 tuition, and photography assignments. You can see some of Joe’s photography on Fine Art America, ArtistRising or on his Flickr site.
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Excellent article on how to auto-distribute your blog posts to other sites and social media…
I’m often asked – how did you get that shot, so this is the first post in a series called “Getting the shot” where I will post a photo and then discuss the process of seeing, taking and processing it to a final image. I welcome comments and critique, so feel free to have your say!
This image was taken on a night photo walk around Dublin’s Bord Gais Theatre and the south side of Dublin Quays earlier this week, and for this shot, rather than using my Nikon DSLR, I thought I would see what I could get using my iPhone 4. Low light poses a problem for the tiny lens and sensor on phone cameras in terms of getting quite grainy looking images, but nothing ventured…
Pre-visualization is a photographic technique which basically means having an idea in your mind’s eye of what you want your final image to look like. With a panorama shot, especially such a wide one as this, the image you end up with is actually quite different from any single view your eyes see, as to capture the 7 shots which make up this 1 image I had to rotate from left to right 180°. I wanted to get some sky, the buildings and also almost an equal depth of reflections, so for this set of shots I turned the iPhone portrait mode – so the individual shots were taller than wide.
The app I used for this composition is AutoStitch, but there are other good iPhone panorama apps which will do a similar job – Dermendar is one I reviewed here, and Microsoft have their PhotoSynth app which is also very good.
The reason I used AutoStitch is that it allows you to set quite high resolution settings for both the images, the blending process and the final output panorama – it can save a single panorama shot of up to 18Mb which makes for quite a large image. As you start to take your shots, and move round to the next position, you can see a ghostly image of the edge of your last shot which makes lining things up much easier.
Tip – always go into the settings of any photo app and set everything to the highest/best possible settings – anything less and you are really compromising the already limited abilities of the camera lens & sensor to deliver clean images.
There are many tripod mounts available for iPhones these days, but for these shots I was just standing very still and hand-holding – a bit crazy at 9pm with the light going fast, but hey – it was an experiment to see what I could get. Gotta have fun with your photography, and trying out stuff to see if it might work is all part of that.
So I took my 7 shots, then pressed the button to set AutoStitch to aligning and stitching the initial panorama together. Once this is done (which took about 10 minutes with the top quality settings and 7 shots to process) you end up with a raggedy looking wide panorama which you then need to crop to get a clean rectangle. AutoStitch automatically offers you the biggest crop area it can and generally I just accept that to lose the raggedy bits. Here’s the shot at this point of my process – note the quaysides showing at both edges of the shot showing that this is a full 180° panorama.
Now, for many shots this is job done, but being an inveterate tinkerer I like to run photos through some post-processing just to see if things might be improved at all. This can of course be done on the iPhone screen, but I will generally wait until my photos have synced onto my iPad at home and then do editing on the much bigger iPad screen. My app of choice these days for most photo editing on the iPad is SnapSeed by Nik Software – it is simply superb, and quite the most powerful and easy to use photo editor I have yet tried – and I’ve tried pretty much everything out there! In the image version below I’ve applied a bit of selective brightening to the very dark building 2nd in from the right, and also applied a touch of “structure” from the detail menu in SnapSeed, which also brightened the sky up a touch.
I actually quite like the initial version’s composition as I think that the composition lines of the quayside at each edge of the shot work in taking your eye out to the other side of the river and the lit buildings. Penny, my wife suggested I try a crop to lose the quaysides and focus more on the lit buildings and reflections, which is shown below.
Which do you like better, and why? – please do post a comment and let me know :).
Amazon.co.uk have a great offer on at the moment where you can get Adobe Lightroom 4 – the latest version, for only GBP 69.99 when purchasing another camera accessory. I use Lightroom for all my image cataloguing, editing, printing and publishing – it’s a simply superb piece of software which handles my 200,000 image catalogue with ease.
The offer ends Aug 31st, so if you have been thinking of getting Lightroom, now’s the time to go for it! Click here to go through to the Amazon page.
And remember, as a long time Lightroom user and trainer I can do 1 to 1 sessions any time if you want a session to get yourself up to speed. If you are interested, just book a 1 to 1 session at http://www.joehoughtonphotography.ie/courses/.
Finally, a working solution to using full featured MS Office applications on my iPad! When I first bought my now ageing iPad (version 1) the most important thing I found myself looking for after the initial few days of wonder had passed was a way to edit my MS Office created documents on this wonderful, portable tablet. Nothing really existed which would do it – Pages claims to be compatible but isn’t for anything other than the most basically formatted documents, but I tried it anyway, but never really got to grips with the different interface you have to adopt.
There are various business apps such as the one I bought as the best of the available functionality – DocsToGo, and it has been OK, but it doesn’t do what I really wanted – give me seamless editing of MS Office documents and the same menus and commands etc. as I have become used to from many years of laptop use.
So imagine my surprise when I came across what appears to be the answer to all my Office prayers whilst browsing the free apps in the app Store this week. No fanfare about this in the tech press, no highlight in my normal AppsGoneFree – source of many useful and otherwise hidden gems.
The app in question is called CloudOn! and the website, which will link you to the Apple and Android apps stores to download it, is at http://site.cloudon.com/.
MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all supported, and it’s just like being in your laptop copy of the same application. If you are a Microsoft user, and have been waiting for a proper way to edit and maintain your documents across platforms, this seems to be it!
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I got this in my email earlier and had to share it!
Gadgets and Products – Thurs 14th June 2012
One (€18) or Two (€30) SDHC 32GB Camera Cards
I bought 2 – get yours here: https://www.livingsocial.com/deals/370888?ref=conf-jp&rpi=65552658
Summer is here, which can mean only one thing: we’re at our most photogenic after a couple of days on the beach. Top up your camera as well as your tan courtesy of today’s deal from Gadgets and Products and prove your holiday hotness long after the strap lines fade. For €18, bask in the glow of a 32GB memory card for your digital camera or other device (an €87.56 value, with €3.74 paid separately for delivery); or make it two for €30 and snap up double the swimsuit shots (a €175.11 value, with €3.74 paid separately for delivery). We can’t keep this sizzling deal under our sun hat any longer: the SDHC card is compatible with most devices that have an SD slot, and can transfer images, music, video, and more to your computer at high speeds. Click ‘Buy Now’ before today’s deal hides behind the clouds, or wave goodbye to evidence of your gorgeous beach bod.
• PROMOTIONAL VALUE EXPIRES ON JULY 16, 2012
The Apple AppStore has hundreds of thousands of apps, and if you own an iDevice then keeping up to date with new apps can be a matter of seeing what your friends have come across. I downloaded a great little app a few months back which has become a regular in my early morning news trawl – AppAdvice.
It’s a feed of reviews of new apps, plus curated collections of “best of” on a whole variety of different themes. Very useful for checking out the best apps in different categories as well as staying up to date on useful additions to your iPhone or iPad which don’t make it to the top of the AppStore charts.
An example of an app which I came across this way is Dermandar – see my earlier blog post here – a brilliant panorama app for your iPhone or iPad 2 (it only installs on iDevices with a camera).
The website is at http://appadvice.com/appnn
Microsoft recently added support for viewing RAW files in the Windows Explorer. Previously you were unable to see thumbnails of RAW files in Explorer, so this adds a useful way to quickly see what you have in your Windows folders without having to crank up your image editing application.
It can be downloaded here http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=26829