Ebook review – Essential guide to B & W Photography

If you are a person who wants to make wonderful Black and White Photographs and many of your attempts proved to be futile, this book is a must for you. Of course – who does not wish to make great Black and white photographs? This book starts with a clear understanding about Black and White images.

As Scott Kelby once said – “The simplest black and white conversion is to remove saturation and boost contrast”. Yes, he said it is the simplest way. However, not all the conversion is going to be good at its first attempt. You may not aware what is happening to the colours. Possibilities are there you will end up making a dull, normal black and white photograph!

The book’s author David J. Nightingale, an experienced photographer, nailed down all the fundamentals of photography from Tonal ranges to Contrast, RAW files to ETTR, EV to Metering.

After the fundamental sections namely – The Aesthetics of Black & White photography, Equipment and shooting Black & White, David states about the conversion methods, why you should not use the default conversion method given in the software and what it does exactly to your image while converting. The software just takes the brightness level of a given pixel and converts it to a gray scale equivalent. In the next chapter, David explains about few other ways of making black and white photographs in Photoshop Channel mixing, Calculation method and Blending methods. In the end of this section, he talks about different plugins available for Black and white conversion from Silver Efex pro, Topaz and DxO lab in detail from its interface and what one offers. Also the author mentioned his personal favourite methods as well.

In the next section – Adjusting tonal range, Balance and Contrast, he explains about the single most powerful tool in Photoshop “Curves”. Adjusting the tonal range means shifting the original tonal range to what you desire via the curve tool. With the curves tool in place, you can adjust all the tonal ranges to its extreme without losing detail aka clipping. He further explains about the Basic S-curves, the baseline, altering the mid tones and how to do selective adjustments to a particular portion of the image using “Selective adjustments using Curves and Masks”.

Later, he explained about Creative vignettes aka Selective Vignettes – Vignettes been explained in detail here, starting from how it affects the viewer’s perception and the way it leads the eye and ends with how to make specific vignettes according to your photograph.

David made a separate section to cover Black and White Portraiture – Whoa; it is an interesting decision to add one dedicated section for portraiture alone. A section you would most probably love very much, since who does not want to make a striking portrait! David starts with the difference and importance between colour and B & W portraits, what kind of portraits would work with B & W and what won’t?

He clearly classifies the difference between different methods of converting one image into B & W and its drawbacks. For instance, why applying of red filter generically to all images will not work, or with Channel mixer or with Black and White conversion tool for that matter. He also clearly mentioned on how to bring out the details of the face and to brighten the eyes in the portrait. Why eyes are important in a portrait? He mentioned “Not only are the eyes the window to the soul, they can also be key to a successful portrait, but unless they are well lit they can often detract from an otherwise successful image – normally because they appear too dark in relation to the rest of the person’s features.”

The final section – “Monochromatic toning techniques” where David explains about the different methods of adding tone to your B & W images. He starts from the Black and White tool, Hue/Saturation tool, using Photo filters; using Selective colour tool, using Curves tool, and using Gradient Map tool. All of them explained in detail so that you can precisely tone your image as you might have envisaged to either your Whites alone or Blacks alone or to the mid tones alone or to the whole of your image. The important question is why you want to apply a tone to your beautiful striking B & W photograph. It is only to further enhance your image, as the sepia can bring a nostalgic feel about that image, a light blue tone will bring out a warm and industrial feel and so on.

The conclusion part is so striking and interesting that David made all the facts clear, I agree with all of his words. Hope you too will find this e-book helpful, in not only making striking Black and White Photographs, a better photographer as too.

This e-book is filled up all the way with necessary screenshots, interesting tips and tricks in a toned box, which will save you many time and energy. And more importantly this e-book comes with a separate recipe book which explains 10 different type of photographs and how exactly David converted it into a powerful Black and white photograph with all necessary illustrations and screenshots. He added both the original image and the final image after all the processing steps executed.

A word of caution – If you are using Photoshop as your primary editing software, you would love this book, but if you have recently switched to Lightroom as your primary editing software, this book helps you a little. Just thought of reminding you, but nevertheless there are some fundamentals about the filters, plugins, curves which I found very worthy. I hope that you might also feel the same, who knows. Grab one here and don’t forget to comment below how did you feel after reading the book.

Cheers and Happy Photographing.

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Steve – A living legend.

People who know about Steve McCurry, please do not read further as you might have read this earlier. What you are going to read further is an attempt of myself to understand few of his works, as I highly admire his work. Though there are/were many legends in this world, I admire him because of the following reasons. The first being that he has visited India 82 times so far in his life which eventually made him know about India better than any average Indian.  The second being the no. of photographs he included human elements in his photographs, the percentage is more or almost all of them. After all we are humans, we better perceive things if it is related to any human form.

Most of his photographs are highly evocative, in general his processing is a bit of boosting saturation, tonal curve adjustment to give the slight faded look and careful usage of vignette and most importantly his photographs are around half stop underexposed which are his trademarks. Another important thing is he doesn’t convert his photographs in to Monochromes often, very few images have had this transition. Many of his popular photographs have been discussed in many places and umpteen times, I have selected few of his less discussed photographs, at least relatively. His other interesting work is here in his blog.

Look at the harmony and the perfect balance in this photograph, two humans & two ships, two poles near by the persons & two poles where the net tied, everything is two except the umbrella and the net. Importantly the horizon is not at the dead center and his view point is bit off center, may be in order to not interfering the ships by the poles.. Could have been a late evening and drizzling too, careful selection of high f no, he must have boosted ISO for obvious reasons and the grains too are obvious to support in this photograph. Even if these two persons were motionless this photograph could have been a very good one, but he let some action happening between the persons, so that the viewer expands his thoughts. And most importantly Steve chose not to convert it in to a Monochrome which we often choose to do and give a lot of explanation to that. If you look at it in a layer based visualisation, firstly two persons – the distance between them is little. Second the poles, in relation with the persons it is wider. Next in relation with the poles the ships are slightly wider. Who knows? Steve might have different idea altogether and that is what is all about photography or for that matter any form of art. Isn’t it.?
The Tailor
You might have seen this photograph earlier, but let me tell you why this photograph is important. After this photograph published in National Geographic magazine, the sewing machine company found this old man in India all the way from USA and gave him a new sewing machine.! Have a look at this man, he is under crisis, his home must have been devastated by the floods. But he holds a smile with his toothless mouth (may be Steve cracked a joke!). No wonder Steve categorised this photograph under Universal language.
The boy and the foot ball
Sheer power of simple composition – If the kid stands upright, this photograph would be a normal one. The staircase balustrade line, the staircase slab line and the human body inclined with somewhat parallel to the above two lines makes this photograph an interesting one. The ball above his head is adding value and makes sense to his inclination.
Soldiers
Correlation – The soldiers on the wall painting, people inside the bus. Soldiers have gun in their hand, all those people’s hands are either supporting or holding, in other words all the hands are visible to the viewer. And the two ladies on the wall and the two persons outside the bus. The red colour patch on the wall and the red colour band on the bus.
Few of his other works, which I find difficult to write an insight kind of.
Prayer
Hunger

 

All of the above photographs has been taken from his website. If you have an opinion/insight about his above works do share in the comments section. I have made an earlier attempt here. An interesting article here about how digital photographers have fetishized sharpness and detail.
Cheers.

Loving Landscapes – A review

Are you new to photography? Do you roam around everywhere with your camera equipment to get that one amazing looking landscape photo? Are you disappointed about the fact that your photos aren’t that compelling enough? Well, to begin with, watch this TED talk video by Angela Lee Duckworth. She clearly states the fact that the key to success is not in the IQ or good looks or talents. It is the grit, the perseverance, the passion for long term goals and the willingness to start over again upon a probable failure. Before going ahead, please watch the video.

 A few weeks ago, while browsing through dPS, I bumped into this e-book which was dedicated to Landscape photography. It was quite intriguing to find a book which focussed only on one particular genre. I went on to read the book with a notion that the photographic idea in the book can be applied according to one’s perception on one’s style of photography. The contents page of the book clearly stated that the book is strictly for landscape photography but with a good understanding, one can apply the concepts to other genres of photography.

The book starts with a clear introduction and it speaks about what is covered in the book and what is not too. The entire book is divided into 12 chapters. The first chapter covers the basics of image capturing and attributes which play an important role in getting the right exposure in a given situation and in attaining an optimum sharpness for a decent landscape photograph. It also touches upon the negatives of a higher ISO, White Balance, Histograms and Focusing. The above attributes have been touched upon in a simple way, in a way not to confuse the readers with extremely technical terminologies.

 The second chapter is “Computers and backups” and this chapter deals with techniques that Sarah and Todd follow in their studios and is pretty straight forward. This topic is by far the most discussed on the internet and one of the most important in this era of digital photography. The next chapter talks about the power of RAW and why it is important to shoot in RAW format, every time! I have covered this topic in an earlier blog and you can check that out here!

 The fourth covers File management and using Lightroom to organize images. This chapter is very useful for those who would like to keep tab on their huge collection of images with ease. The uses of key wording are dealt with in detail along with the advanced search techniques in Lightroom which enables searching of images using the multiple filters. This chapter also explains about the collections and smart collections in Library module and how it works to help you finding the image you are looking for.

Todd

The sixth and seventh chapters explain about the export option in Lightroom which lets you export your image to different social media platforms like flickr or your own website. This chapters emphasize on the develop module’s functions and on how the sliders can be used to enhance your photograph by adjusting the exposure, opening up the shadows, bringing out the colours, enhancing the colours from the raw data your camera has recorded on field.

In the next chapter Sarah explains her work flow in detail. She starts with explaining the crop tool, goes on to the dust removal, applying sharpness, removing Chromatic aberration and also touches upon the basic panel adjustments. The importance of following the mentioned order during post production is explained clearly in the book. All the necessary tools in the develop module are touched upon in this chapter.

Chapter nine talks about the other tools in develop module. The noise corrections panel, HSL panel, Split toning panel, Effects panel and a few other local correction tools in develop module are explained in detail. The uses of these tools and they can be used to enhance the photograph is explained clearly.

Chapter ten touches upon some camera techniques which can be used in creating some effects, namely Photo impressionism, Camera spin and techniques on how to photograph the Milky Way in detail. The next chapter goes on to explain the use of Photoshop for landscape photography. All the important panels and necessary basic tools are explained clearly. Lightroom and photoshop has been explained in such ways that even a first timer (I mean it) can follow and get the results as in the book. The last chapter talks about the Multi exposure workflow in Photoshop, explaining the tools which are required for taking multi exposure photographs, like star trails, light paintings and HDR.

Overall, the book is neatly presented with appropriate screen shots wherever necessary. The photographs used in the books are available along with the book and lets you try what’s being explained while reading, this makes the book a practical guide. Open the e-book along with Lightroom and Photoshop to make this a worthwhile exercise. If you want to enhance your skills in landscape photography you might have to get this book immediately.

Cheers, Happy Photographing. 🙂

 

“R” in Lr.

♦  The moment you Press ‘R’ from whichever the module you may be in Lightroom, you will be taken to develop module with crop tool activated, and the “rule of thirds” overlaid on your image. Check the screenshot Fig – 01 below.

ImageFig – 01 Crop tool activated and Rule of thirds overlaid on your image.

♦  Now it is your turn to select an aspect ratio and give a try. Select an aspect ratio from the drop down menu in the crop tool bar (the tool bar works on demand based, you can’t see unless you activate the crop tool), once you selected the aspect ratio the size of overlay will change on the image. Now drag the overlay as you wish – towards your right, left, up or down – literally recompose your shot by placing the overlay in relation with the prime subject in the photograph. Press enter or click close or press ‘R’ once you are done. Check the screenshot Fig – 02 below.

ImageFig – 02 Aspect ratio selected as 1 × 1 and encircled in red.

And note the remaining portion apart from the potential image area is dim already, which makes decision-making as an easy one.

♦  How about adjusting your image to perfect horizon or to perfect vertical.! There are two options to do it in Lr, either by clicking the spirit level symbol in the tool bar, click the spirit level (encircled in the screenshot Fig – 03) and draw a straight line on the horizon or when the crop tool is active, keep the cursor out from the image area and drag up and down, there will be more grid lines overlaid (which will act as reference lines) as you move the cursor and you will be in a better position to evaluate your image to make it perfectly horizontal or vertical.

Image

Fig – 03 Spirit level tool encircled in red.

♦  Want to make a free form crop, with your own aspect ratio !. Click the lock symbol to unlock and to make it free form, drag your cursor inside the image area from one top corner to another diagonally opposite corner to make your own crop. Check screenshot Fig – 04

Image Fig – 04 Lock symbol encircled.

♦  When you make lens profile corrections, possibilities are there to include the corrected portion (the edges mostly). To avoid that click constrain to warp, as in the screenshot. Once you make constrain to warp on, the image will be cropped after the correction or it can be applied alternatively in the lens correction panel also. Check screenshot Fig – 05

ImageFig – 05 with Constrain to Warp check box encircled.

Here is the most interesting part in this tool.
♦  Want to see how your image will look according to different compositional rules, Lightroom comes very handy here. Your crop tool is activated by pressing “R” and the rule of thirds is overlaid, at this juncture press “O” and watch the image area, the different compositional rules will be overlaid as you press “O” repeatedly. These options are in Lr to make your photograph a much better than you thought while clicking the shutter. Look at the screenshots below.

ImageFig – 06 Screenshot with diagonal rule of composition overlaid

ImageFig – 07 Screenshot with Rule of triangle overlaid.

Image

Fig 7-a. Screenshot with Rule of triangle applied in a reverse manner (read further below on how to activate that).

ImageFig – 08 Screenshot with Golden rule overlaid

ImageFig – 09 Golden spiral rule overlaid.

There are total five no. of rules can be displayed and applied to your photograph in Lightroom.

a. Rule of thirds

b. Diagonal rule of composition

c. The golden triangle

d. Golden ratio

e. Golden spiral

Out of these five rules “The golden triangle” and “Golden spiral” can have a different versions like in Fig – 7.a, which can be activated by pressing and holding Shift along with press “O”. You can do the same for Golden spiral rule too, it has more versions. Check out and comment below, what do you feel about that.

I wish Adobe Lightroom add “Rebatment of rectangle” too in to the rules list in their further releases, it is also interesting one. The light intensity of the rule lines can be controlled by pressing and holding “Ctrl” key. Apply the rules together with different aspect ratios, the options are too many to make a better photograph.

Cheers. Hope you enjoyed this article. If so share it with your friends, they might also like as you did.

Y Processing.

As a photographer, it is not uncommon to come across these questions quite often; “Is post processing necessary?” “Why do you shoot in RAW and then convert it?” “Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?” This blog post is trying to answer these questions about processing.

“A photograph is made in the camera, not in the computer”; while this statement remains true, in this digital era, a computer and camera go hand in hand. Processing (Computer) is all about bringing out the best from the RAW data (Picture in RAW format) your camera recorded. This is literally impossible with JPEG.

Before getting into the real subject, a basic knowledge of how your camera captures images in RAW and jpg, will make things easier.  Firstly, RAW is not an Image format; it is the data that is seen by the camera sensor which is recorded into the memory medium. jpg, however, is altogether different. The sensor sends all the RAW data to the processor and the processor converts it into jpg format with the preloaded instructions based on the time the image was captured and exposure value. The important part to be noted here is that the processor discards the rest of the data after converting it to jpg. Remember, the instructions preloaded by the manufacturers are not specific to the images; it is generic and every correction made by the processor on the image like sharpening and contrast, such as, are global and not local. And the reason you get a fairly neat image is because the instructions are based on 10000+ images shot by the various top photographers then across the globe.

This is the very first reason capturing a picture in RAW and post processing is important to bring out the best of the camera.

The second reason is the ability to process the image. Processing here includes White balance correction, exposure adjustment, contrast correction or boosting, correct to the true colors, sharpening, color cast correction etc. The extent to which one has to process the picture is entirely a personal choice. It is your picture, so you should define how it looks, and tweaking around with the above given parameters is acceptable, in all contexts.

It is very important to note that post processing and image manipulation are altogether different. I don’t consider manipulation as a part of photography processing. By manipulation I mean the inclusion or exclusion of some or more parts of the image. The reason one should not manipulate the image is that, I feel that he/she is an expert photoshoper but not a photographer.

Photography is an art form and processing is also part of that very art. Learn it; there are lots of websites out there. I use Light room for my all processing requirements with few plug-ins like Nik collection, Enfuse, Mogrify, The Fader etc. I strongly say that photography and processing is equally important task by its very nature.

I can very strongly vouch that Photography and post processing are equally important tasks, especially in today’s digital era of photography.

Again, all this is a personal choice. Kenrockwell, a very technically sound photographer takes his images in JPEG only. So the choice is entirely yours.

Keep clicking,

Cheers.

Histogram

Why histogram is inevitable?

Before that what is Histogram?

“The horizontal axis of the graph represents the tonal variations, while the vertical axis represents the number of pixels in that particular tone. The left side of the horizontal axis represents the black and dark areas, the middle represents medium grey and the right hand side represents light and pure white areas. The vertical axis represents the size of the area that is captured in each one of these zones. Thus, the histogram for a very dark image will have the majority of its data points on the left side and centre of the graph. Conversely, the histogram for a very bright image with few dark areas and/or shadows will have most of its data points on the right side and centre of the graph.”

Histogram is the one and only tool to show the image’s exposure details, after you do all your composition, lights, metering, shutter speed, aperture, optics etc., you have only histogram to get checked. Even if you lack one stop of light in your image, assuming you going to fix it later in processing you are going to boost noise by pushing the histogram towards the right. Do it on field not via screens (Real good photographers do not want to process their image, they want to fix it in fewer clicks,and that too because of digital, if that cannot be done in few clicks they will throw the image, get out and get a another satisfying shot). And that one stop of light has the most details, more than the details than the rest of the 4 stops (A digital camera’s dynamic range is 5 stops and some more, but for better understanding I have taken 5 stops).

Here you go, divide your histogram in to 5 equal vertical parts (one stop each); the right most one got 50 % of the data in the image, and the next one got 25%, and the further next one got some 13% (middle one), and the next one 6 % and the last one stop at the left most got 3%. Next time when you check your histograms in field, if you are one stop down than you have lost already 50% of the data. When you push your histogram towards right, possibilities are there to clip the highlights, never do it as there are no software can recover those details and there cannot be one. It is not possible to bring back the detail where there is nothing; yes that is what will happen when you push right much.  Next time look at your camera’s LCD to check the histogram not the shot you just took, though looking at the image is helpful to check your composition and composition only.

For aesthetic purpose one might want to bring down the exposure sometimes even up to 2 stops selectively while processing, but no worry you are not going to bring noise by bringing down the exposure slider and that is why you have to push your histogram towards right when you are at field. There is no guarantee that you will be having a stunning photograph or even a moderate one, if you have exposed your image towards the right without clipping. A perfect exposure does mean that the image is well exposed, nothing more and nothing less. Photography is not about technical expertise, it is about your sensibility on the things in this universe.

There are two types of histograms, one is luminosity histogram and the other one is RGB histogram. I have talked about luminosity histogram; I will talk about the RGB histogram at a later point in time.

For further reading about Histograms and pushing towards the right here. Read about photography here.

RAW image capturing in 12 bit mode is assumed here.