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Thread: Newbie asking for C&C

  1. #1
    GreenTea's Avatar
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    Newbie asking for C&C

    Hi all,

    I never took a course in Photography, just trying to learn from the web and the camera booklet. I bought a Fuji Finepix, semi automatic (DSLR) a few months ago. I'd very much like to improve my photos, but don't know where to start... So I'm posting one in hopes of getting some feedback...
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  2. #2

    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    I like the idea of looking from one space into another, maybe a secret garden? An old wrought iron gate provides a great semi-barrier from one place into the other and a bit of foreground interest.

    However, although you've sort of done this, the contrast between light and shade is quite high and it seems to have fooled your camera into exposing for the shadows. This has caused the highlights to burn out.

    My suggestion is to have another go. Take a few shots. Use a tripod and 'manual' camera settings. Set the aperture to f8 or f11 and just vary the shutter speed to get different results. If you have a neutral density filter, place the darkest bit over the brightest part of the image. This will help to even up the contrast difference and make it easier for the camera's sensor to give you a good result.

    Alternatively, if you have Photoshop or another programme that allows High Dynamic Range (HDR) merging, combining a number of images taken at different settings will produce a more controlled result. Also, have a look at the photography tutorials on this site. They are excellent and there's one specifically about HDR.

    It's a nice photo but it has a couple of easily removed flaws....

    All the best. Paul.

  3. #3
    GreenTea's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Thank you so much, Paul ! I usually like to photograph light/dark contrasts, but I've no idea how to do it, so I either blow the sky or get a dark subject. I don't have PS or lenses, so I use fill light (Picasa) and then the subject is not dark, but everything loses sharpness and the vivid colors that attracted me to the scene in the first place...

  4. #4

    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Digital sensors, especially in compact point and shoot cameras, have a long way to go to compete with the latitude necessary to have 'detail' in rich, dark shadows in the same photo as detailed highlights. No camera, film or digital, can reproduce the exposure latitude that our eyes can.

    So, accepting that you will have to make a compromise, you must first decide whether you want details in the gate (important if that is the main subject) or in the garden beyond.

    Sensors are set to expose for an average 18% grey. That means that if you photograph a uniform grey scene (a bit darker than the background I'm writing this note on) with no reflective surfaces, the camera will probably get the exposure correct.

    If you are shooting a very bright / reflective scene, this will confuse the camera and you will get a very dark photo with a lot of blocked-out silhouettes. If your camera has an exposure compensation dial, try using somewhere between +2 and +3 and see what a difference it makes.

    The opposite is true of taking photos of a dark scene. The camera will produce a much paler and unsaturated photo. If you have an exposure compensation dial, try somewhere from -1 to -3 and see how much of a difference that makes.

    Most scenes you'll take will have highlights and shadows especially on a bright, sunny day - a lethal coctail and why most photographers prefer to shoot before / just after dawn and dusk. One way of bringing highlights and shadows into closer balance is by using a neutral density filter (either solid or graduated). These filters reduce the difference in contrast between the lightest and darkest areas and make it easier for you to avoid blown out highlights and blocked out shadows.

    The other option is HDR. That technique, used well, can be extremely good or, if not done properly, can make the shot look surreal.

    I don't know what camera you have or what your favourite photographic genre is, however, I was told by my friend (a pro wedding photographer) many years ago......

    Read magazine and books and decide on what 'look' you want to create. Check the photos in the books magazines and guess what time of day the shot was taken (light angle and direction). Check where is in focus and what is out of focus. Is the shot very contrasty or quite subtle? Are the colours vibrant or muted? Is shot lit from the front, side or is the camera pointing into the sun. Once you have a good idea of these variables, you can start to think about how to recreate a similar shot or, at least, one with similar elements.

    Don't be afraid to experiment. If you can afford it, buy Photoshop Elements 6 or 7 (not very expensive) and this has all the tools you'll need to begin with. Also, whenever possible, use a tripod....!

    Sorry to have gone on for so long but I always think too much information is usually better than not enough.

    Hope this has been of some help.

    Regards, Paul.
    Last edited by The Analog Kid; 1st November 2008 at 09:32 PM.

  5. #5

    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    i like ur screen name! greentea very healthy drink indeed! i like your pic too........shooting a closed iron door! very meaningful indeed againthere are pretty flowers beyond the closed door and then a path way that shud lead u too lot of knowledge about photography and stuff its a good pic,overexposed a bit......as u keep shooting n reading,watching professional pics,u will surpass a lot of other photographers here including me!mranalog has done a good job of giving u the first lesson here keep shooting,keep coming back here

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    pixel pete's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Hi Green Tea,
    The Analog Kid gave you some excellent tips. This post about getting good exposures might also help.

    I'm not familiar with the particular make and model of your camera but I suspect most cameras have a built-in histogram.

    You should enable that histogram display. Take an underexposed picture see what the histogram looks like and compare that to an overexposed picture's histogram.

    Something to be aware of is how the eyes is always drawn to the part of the picture which is of the lightest tone. So I darkened the sky a tad to try and hold your attention back to the gate.

    One of the best ways to pick up photography is to find a picture you like and try to emulate it. Not copy wholesale but borrow the "way it's lit."

    Best of luck
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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by pixel pete View Post
    Hi Green Tea,

    I'm not familiar with the particular make and model of your camera but I suspect most cameras have a built-in histogram.

    You should enable that histogram display. Take an underexposed picture see what the histogram looks like and compare that to an overexposed picture's histogram.

    Best of luck
    Agreed - on my Nikon D80 the review can be toggled between including the histogram OR highlighting the blown highlight area, see if you have similar.

    On difficult exposures, I would start with 1/200 (slowest to avoid shake, without tri-pod) & what the camera comes up with (spot metered at focus point around the centre of the pic) for f no, hopefully f9 or higher. On yours the top right 1/4 would be flashing 'highlight' something horrible, even tho the histogram might not look too bad apart from RH edge going all the way up to the top corner. I would then take one or two more progressively reducing exposure until there is only a small area of (blown) highlight left; it is often unavoidable on a wide range.

    Then on this sort of subject you probably need to choose whether it is the foreground or background that is of interest. I would have thought the gate could be silhouetted, its green is if anything a distraction from natural greens of the foliage. Lastly stand somewhere there isn't a great pole up the centre!

    As folks have said, for serious photography you need serious post-processing software. No news that Photoshop is industry favourite, but look at the Nikon Capture NX2 thread aswell. PSE is cheap and versatile, includes a good 'shadow' lifter and even I, as a dedicated PS hater, use it for plug-in FocusMagic and where cut/paste or masking layers are needed.

    Chris (own gallery at pbase.com/crisscross)

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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Thank you all very much for the very valuable lessons !!!

    I'm studying your replies and planning to buy PS (I love photo editing) and also starting to experiment with exposure compensation.

    I must admit the technical aspect of Photography puts me off, but then again I like to see a nicely exposed photo when I come back home, rather than a ruined subject.

    (By the way, this gate is in the beautiful fields of an international institution in Jerusalem, in the village where John the Baptist was born, a few meters from the church under which he's said to be buried. I love to be told the story behind a photo, that's why I'm sharing too)

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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenTea View Post
    Thank you all very much for the very valuable lessons !!!

    I'm studying your replies and planning to buy PS (I love photo editing) and also starting to experiment with exposure compensation.

    I must admit the technical aspect of Photography puts me off, but then again I like to see a nicely exposed photo when I come back home, rather than a ruined subject.

    (By the way, this gate is in the beautiful fields of an international institution in Jerusalem, in the village where John the Baptist was born, a few meters from the church under which he's said to be buried. I love to be told the story behind a photo, that's why I'm sharing too)
    Hi Green Tea, thank you for sharing the story behind the photograph. If that is your home (Israel) I look forward to seeing more of your posts, and learning more about your home.

    I would also like to thank everyone for their feedback to GT, I've learnt a lot as well.

    Cheers, Richard.

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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    I cropped, undid fill light, used auto contrast. Is this an improvement?
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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenTea View Post
    I cropped, undid fill light, used auto contrast. Is this an improvement?
    It is certainly a great improvement. If you want to persevere with optimising this particular shot, the next trick you need to learn is using a gradient selection, ie one that will act strongly on the top right corner, but its effect fades as it progresses towards bottom right. You might even be able to reintroduce more of the top that you have cropped at this stage. In the example below, I didn't like the grey sky changes were coming up with, so I have given it a blue rinse.

    previous attachment now deleted

    However, something you also have to learn is that some pics, unless never likely to be seen again in a lifetime, go in the bin and you should be aiming to improve the unaltered shots too.
    Last edited by crisscross; 3rd December 2008 at 10:49 PM.

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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    I certainly cant sum everything up in just one post, but you have got me messing with the image to see what could be done.

    There is loads of good advice here, but can I say firstly before you spend the rest of your life in front of a computer, read a few books on composition , decide what it is you are trying to focus on, hold the camera straight (if on a tripod use a spirit level), and try to create a subject within the frame that the viewer can concentrate on.

    Sometime cropping post capture can enhance this, but do not rely on PS or similar as being the cure for all ills.

    Before the days of digital, especially if using transparency film, you had to get it right in the camera, and Kodachrome was not cheap. So read the tutorials here, read books and magazines and try to mirror what you see. Compare with your own shots and I think you will find that you will start to change your shots.

    Personally I think the gate as a whole is interesting, it needs squaring up, and I would avoid in this case shooting into the light.

    I wouldn't crop it off at the top as it looks unnatural though, and finally for now, that telegraph post through the gate draws my eye every time. Bit distracting.

    I will see what I can do with the shot (which may be totally against what you had in mind (sorry, its all personal interpretation...) ) and post the results in a day or so.

    However do keep shooting and the more you take, the more you will find that you get the eye for a shot and eventually it will start to appear on screen as you intended in your mind.

    Please don't think I am being too critical. We all started somewhere and most importantly we are all still making mistakes and learning everyday. 'you only learn by your mistakes'.

    Keep on posting!

  13. #13
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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    I took a different crop from crisscross, although the lack of detail remaining in the top right hand corner makes total recovery of detail impossible. I am now unsure whether what I have done with it is better or worse than crisscross's attempt?

    The main thing that comes out of this for me is to go (if you can) and try it again without the strong backlighting and take a number of angles. There really is too much post capture work required at present in this shot and getting it right first time as with the approach demanded by a transparency film camera is a lesson worth learning.

    Is the gate locked? A part open gate can often suggest something to the view, inviting them to look further. Lots of possibilities and as I said before, try to ensure that there is a definite focal point in the picture, that the eye is led to.
    Last edited by shreds; 8th April 2009 at 06:15 PM.

  14. #14

    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    Shreds makes an extremely good point regarding the use of transparency (slide) film IMHO.

    My interest in photography dates back to 1974 when I was a 13 year old lad with a second-hand Edixa 35mm SLR as a birthday present. My parents gave me the camera, some print film and a book on the basics - understanding how light works, the correlation between shutter speed and aperture, depth of field....the sort of stuff that seems to be overlooked these days as cameras 'work it all out for you'. Fact is, they do, to a limited extent - but only in perfect conditions.

    Part of the problem is that light meters are easily fooled. Unless the photographer's done their homework on how to bypass the auto / programmed settings - and calculate what the camera needs to do to get the best result in the prevailing conditions - trial and error or multiple bracketed shots is the only answer.

    As soon as I started to get consistent / respectable results with print film, it was time to get serious with transparency film. As Shreds so rightly points out, slide film was (is) expensive and because there's no post processing / darkroom manipulation possible when you project the image, it's either properly exposed - or it isn't. You have to be a sniper not a machine-gunner with transparency film.

    I've seen many comments saying that the exposure latitude of digital sensors is similar to slide film. That's probably why many newbies struggle to get good results in difficult lighting conditions. Unless one is naturally gifted there is, sadly, only one answer. Study the generic 'how to' instruction books and read the camera user manual until you feel like you wrote it, then practice with the camera until you know what the camera's doing better than it does itself.

    Keep going and post lots. Hope to see more of your images.

    All the best, Paul.
    Last edited by The Analog Kid; 13th November 2008 at 08:09 PM.

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    Re: Newbie asking for C&C

    erm...where can I download you, SHREDS? You're the best editing tool my photos ever got...

    Could you post the photo in a less compressed version, for a couple days, to have a more detailed look at it?

    TAK, thanks for explaining that. This weekend I'm going to read the camera's manual again. Maybe now that I'm more familiar with the concepts, I'll benefit more from the reading.

    I'm posting another photo here, for general critique, and also a little present to all of you who have given me so much helpful advice and feedback.

  16. #16
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    The Holy Sepulchre

    This was shot on automatic on the roofs of the Holy Sepulchre, when the sunlight was in my favor.
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    Last edited by GreenTea; 13th November 2008 at 08:43 PM.

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