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Thread: 3 Flowers In A Vase

  1. #1
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    3 Flowers In A Vase

    I've not been pleased with the sharpness of my photo's, so tonight I asked the wife to cut some of her flowers and set them up in a vase so I could use them as a subject. (I know better than to mess with the wife's flowers myself..3 Flowers In A Vase....)

    Tonight's exercise was for the single purpose of taking well focused images that would remain sharp after PP, so I didn't pay too close of attention to the artistic side of the images, and instead concentrated on the camera settings, etc.. The Sun had settled low enough that the deck area was shaded, so I simply draped a white cloth over the table, set the vase there and started shooting.

    Used a tripod, and also tried out the Amazon wireless remote shutter release that was purchased at the same time as the camera. Photo's were shot in RAW (yes, I have now fully embraced the power of the "dark side".....), Manual mode, and processed in Nikon Nx2. Knowing that both the camera and I can do better (always!), I did learn a few things, and overall was pleased with the outcome.

    Also determined that while flowers have graceful lines and smell nice, they are not as sharp edged as many other objects I could have chosen. As always, the input from you experienced photographers is greatly appreciated, along with any suggestions for improvement that I might be able to incorporate into future sessions. Thanks for taking the time to look them over.

    3 Flowers In A Vase
    18mm, Focus Mode: AF-A, F/5, 1/400s, Manual, -0.7EV Metering: Matrix, ISO 800

    3 Flowers In A Vase
    62mm, Manual, Focus - Manual, F/5.3, 1/200s, -0.3EV, Metering: Matrix, ISO 1000, Flash Device: Built-in Flash, Flash Sync Mode: Front CurtainFlash, Mode: i-TTL-BL, -0.3EV

    And yes, they are pretty flowers, but unfortunately I failed to ask what kind they are ...

    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 12th August 2011 at 07:26 AM.

  2. #2

    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    Beautiful calla lillies! What I like with calla lillies is that they're nice to look at even without any fillers which goes in the vase. Thanks for sharing Mike.

  3. #3

    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    Mike

    You certainly set yourself a challenge with that white cloth in the frame. There a few things that puzzle me. 18mm shot must be cropped so selecting a longer focal length was probably best at capture. You have used a tripod but the camera settings were ISO800 at 1/400 sec and in the second the flash would have dominated the shutter speed. Use of matrix metering when you have a dominant white area in the scene. Having said that the images have turned out OK. You have suceded in you aim to get a sharp image (although a tad more PP sharpening may be in order on the first image)

    The fill flash on the second is obvious and I really think a reflector (even if white card) would have been better than an onboard flash. You really need to get a speedlight off camera for this sort of stuff. I dont even know if the built in flash works on my camera it has never been opened.

    I know that you were only experimenting but getting the shot is hard enough without introducing the white sheet It is also a good idea to get into the habit of studying your backgrounds just as much as the main subject. This would have looked stunning with a plain background. Art card at A0 size are very useful and can be taped together to provide improvised back drops. As a minimum look out for light sources, areas of contrast etc none of these tend to look good in focus blur

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    A very sound body of advice and guidance from Steve, to which I've got nothing to add (because he knows much more about subjects like this than I do!).

    But there was one thing in what you wrote, Mike. I wasn't sure if I was misunderstanding you or whether you have maybe got something not clear about sharpening. It was:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
    Tonight's exercise was for the single purpose of taking well focused images that would remain sharp after PP
    The only thing I could think you meant by this is that you are shooting in JPEG and were referring to image degradation when you did additional processing to that already done by the camera. If that thinking is way-off-the-mark, then my apologies.

    If you are shooting RAW, then you have to sharpen in PP. It's not a case of trying to keep the image sharp in PP. The fact is that it's not sharp coming out of the camera and needs sharpened up.

    Maybe it's just a matter of terminology. But it's better to make sure that you're comfortable with the concept of sharpening - what it is and when to do it, at this point on the learning curve.

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    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    My issues have little to do with the kind of flower or whether the fill flash was adequate, or as per your self-instructions, the PP focus held - and it really didn't do as well as if you had really nailed it in-camera (at 200%).

    My issues have to do with compositional strength. There is a large amount of dead space to either side of the vase and background leaves which does nothing to draw the eye into the setting and in fact, once the eye recognizes it is flowers in a vase, the eye tends to wander all over the place trying to see what else "there must be" in that space. Wandering eyes are never good.

    The second problem I found with the image was the white tablecloth; and it is that it is white because it pulls the eye away from the three flowers, again causing the eye to wander and wonder. As well, the tablecloth is not parallel to the horizon on the right side which really causes eye wander as it follows an irregular line.

    I did a square crop, toned the tablecloth to a very pale value of purple, and straightened out the tablecloth a tad to try to draw the eye into the frame and away from the extracurricular activity outside the focal point: three Calla Lillies.

    3 Flowers In A Vase

  6. #6
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    Quote Originally Posted by jupiterlush View Post
    Beautiful calla lillies! What I like with calla lillies is that they're nice to look at even without any fillers which goes in the vase. Thanks for sharing Mike.
    Glad you enjoyed them Al, and thank you for telling me what they are; now I don't have to ask the wife again..lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    You certainly set yourself a challenge with that white cloth in the frame. There a few things that puzzle me. 18mm shot must be cropped so selecting a longer focal length was probably best at capture. You have used a tripod but the camera settings were ISO800 at 1/400 sec and in the second the flash would have dominated the shutter speed. Use of matrix metering when you have a dominant white area in the scene. Having said that the images have turned out OK. You have succeeded in you aim to get a sharp image (although a tad more PP sharpening may be in order on the first image). The fill flash on the second is obvious and I really think a reflector (even if white card) would have been better than an onboard flash. You really need to get a speedlight off camera for this sort of stuff. I don't even know if the built in flash works on my camera it has never been opened.
    I know that you were only experimenting but getting the shot is hard enough without introducing the white sheet It is also a good idea to get into the habit of studying your backgrounds just as much as the main subject. This would have looked stunning with a plain background. Art card at A0 size are very useful and can be taped together to provide improvised back drops. As a minimum look out for light sources, areas of contrast etc none of these tend to look good in focus blur
    Hi Steve, and thank you for your analysis, as that is exactly the type of reply I desired/needed; your critique is much appreciated.

    I actually did take pictures at assorted focal lengths from 18mm - 105mm, and also tried all 3 metering options to see what the various results were. Here is one of the images taken using spot metering, with a considerable about of sharpening in Nx2 added:

    3 Flowers In A Vase
    1/200s, f/5.3, at 62.0mm, iso1000, Manual focus and exposure, Spot Metering

    The in-camera flash is the only flash I have to use, for now, so it will have to do even if it is lacking in performance. The natural light was fading, so I felt that using the higher ISO would help. I adjusted the shutter speed until the meter in the viewfinder achieved -0-, and then adjusted the EV (experimenting with -0.3 up to -1.0) prior the shot. I had never considered using a lower ISO and faster speed, but will try it next time.

    Understood about the background. The mottled greens and dark areas of the vegetation in the background created the opposite of the desired effect. I have an assortment of various colored pieces of cloth available, and one of them would do much better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    If you are shooting RAW, then you have to sharpen in PP. It's not a case of trying to keep the image sharp in PP. The fact is that it's not sharp coming out of the camera and needs sharpened up.
    Maybe it's just a matter of terminology. But it's better to make sure that you're comfortable with the concept of sharpening - what it is and when to do it, at this point on the learning curve.
    Donald, I must confess that, although I knew about the need to provide post processing enhancements to the RAW images, I had no idea that RAW images were lacking in sharpness to that degree. I sharpened those first pics only by a very small amount, as I was concerned it might degrade the image by over-doing it. Next time I'll know better.

    Chris: As mentioned, I was not overly concerned with the artistic/compositional aspect, and had directed the exercise solely toward getting a sharply focused image. Still, I very much appreciate your thoughts, input, and especially your efforts at reprocessing that image (it's an improvement, no doubt!).

    Providing I understood correctly, here is a list of the changes I need to make when I try again:

    • Different color cloth
    • Different (less dappled) background
    • Using a longer focal length to reduce cropping
    • Faster shutter speed
    • Lower ISO
    • Make changes so that the eye focuses on the flowers and not the setting or background.
    • Insure the background is level so it does not distract the viewer


    Will re-shoot those same flowers again this afternoon, and attempt to incorporate as many of the above suggestions as possible. Last night the light was fading as I got out too late, so hopefully shooting them this afternoon will negate the need to use any type of flash.

    Counting today, I now have a whopping 10 days of experience with a DSLR, and so far every day has been an great learning experience. Thank you all for taking your time to help a complete beginner. ..

    I'll be sure to post the "improved" shots into a new thread once I get them processed.

    Mike

  7. #7

    Re: 3 Flowers In A Vase

    Providing I understood correctly, here is a list of the changes I need to make when I try again:

    • Different color cloth
    • Different (less dappled) background
    • Using a longer focal length to reduce cropping
    • Faster shutter speed
    • Lower ISO
    • Make changes so that the eye focuses on the flowers and not the setting or background.
    • Insure the background is level so it does not distract the viewer
    Hi Mike

    Thats just about it but it is not the power of the flash that is the problem. Fill flash should just give a blip of light, just enough to fill the shadows. However, built in flash guns do tend to give a rather stark finish. For fill flash using the built in flash unit it may be best to stick the camera in Av mode. With Av mode, taking a shot in daylight with the flash in the open position causes the camera to automatically assume that you want to fill and gives a metered amount of flash light based on the camera settings and the reflective metering performed by the cameras light meter. I suggest off camera flash because it allows you to use the light provided by the flash gun in a creative way reducing the obviousness of the flash lighting.

    Also you will not need a faster shutter speed if you lower the ISO.You will need a slower shutter speed to get a correct exposure. This is where the tripod comes in.

    Remember that low ISO will require slower shutter speed and/or wider aperture (the aperture setting depends on the amount of focus blur you want for the background)

    If you are hand holding then you may need to increase the ISO to allow you to get a shutter speed that will allow hand holding (at least 1/focal length - although IS/VR will help)

    The above is a generalisation of course and creative photography takes full advantage of manipulating these controls to get the effect you desire but the exposure triangle principle remains the same. When using the camera in manual mode you need to decide which corner of the exposure triangle you wish to pin down. For action shots where you wish to freeze motion you will pin down the shutter speed (it has to be fast enough to freeze fast motion). For still life and landcape you are more likely to want to take advantage of the depth of field that opening or closing (stopping) provides. In these cases we need to make sure that the shutter speed is adequately high enough to negate camera shake and motion within the scene caused by wind etc. If the scene is dead still we can use a tripod, allowing us to take advantage of low ISO and small apertures. A photographer will rarely choose to pin down ISO since it has no creative effect, what it does do is allow us to extend the advantages of shutter speed and aperture in poor lighting conditions where the camera is handheld or where the camera is tripod mounted but components in the scene are subject to movement.

    This is highly simplified but it is a reasonable starting point. Things get complicated when we have scenes with wide tonal range or we introduce flash (other than fill) into the mix. Then we need to understand the effects of metering in different metering modes and how to compensate for assumptions that are made by the cameras reflective metering system.

    Chris, very nice salvage job

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