Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

Feel the Flow

December 30, 2009

Life is a journey not a destination… right?

People always seem very interested in workflow so I thought I’d post mine here. At this time it’s pretty stable but flows are constantly evolving things so this is really just a snapshot of this moment (a moment where I shoot mostly digital and mostly ttv).

First… the software.

Picasa – it all starts with Picasa. Picasa is Google’s free image management/editing tool, it can be found here – I love it for 2 main reasons… It reads raw file formats and it’s got a great tagging set up stored in an external file in the same folder as the pics which makes searching archives easy even after they’ve been backed up to disk. It also has a decent little set of editing tools that are easy to use and it interfaces well with Picasa Web (Google’s free image web hosting). Picasa does take a little getting used to. It works by searching your computer for all the image files on it and storing a reference to them so it can show you everything you’ve got in it’s interface. So there may be times where it seems a little laggy while this is happening. Also, if you make edits in Picasa and save them it saves to jpg. It says it’s making a back up of the original but that back up might be a jpg file too. So I’ve got a system where I make one folder for my raw archives and a separate folder for the pics I want to work on.

Digital Photo Professional – This is the raw editing software that came with my camera. I’m just starting to use it because I heard it was better than Photoshop and I struggled a bit with getting my version of PS to read my version raw files. I highly recommend shooting and doing as much editing in raw as possible. It really makes a big difference in the tonal range and control you can get in your final images. I like DDP a lot. There are a few little quirky things about it (I wish it would crop) but in general it does really well with the things I want to edit in raw.

Photoshop – Photshop is Photoshop. Everybody knows Photoshop. If you don’t know Photoshop don’t be scared. It’s easy to do the really minimal things I do in Photoshop and they could probably also be done easily in a lighter cheaper version like Photoshop Elements or even one of the free softwares out there like Gimp.

So… the flow.

I cruise my Picasa archives to find the pic I want to edit and open it in Digital Photo Pro (it’s in the right click menu thanks to Picasa).

In DPP I start by making sure the white balance looks good then I usually bump up the contrast, saturation and sharpness just a bit (I shoot with pretty tame camera settings) maybe darken a little and finally try and improve any noise issues. Noise reduction can soften so it’s kind of a balance with sharpness and contrast. Make sure and double check all your settings after noise reduction. I do as much of this in the “raw” tab as I can for some reason. Lastly I convert and export to a 72 dpi jpg (no compression).

After Picasa finds the new jpg I right click and open in Photoshop (thanks again). Here I crop, fix any tilt (PS has the best tilt fix, don’t do it anywhere else), do a final check on color, any extras I might want, do final sizing and compression (I like PS’ compression too, usually through the save for web interface). The extras might be converting to black and white, adding a vintage look, vignette or texture (though I personally am not a big texture guy).

Picasa also has a great sharpening tool and a really killer filtered black and white conversion tool if you want to try doing those things as this point in the process.

So that’s it. Pretty simple but I’m pretty happy with it. Let me know if you have improvement suggestions.


Best Tip Ever

December 26, 2009

I recently upgraded my 10d to a 1000d. Apparently in the last 5 years cameras have gotten 100 times better. Joking aside… it really is 10 times the camera (at least) and it was about 1/3 the cost. Maybe I’m reaching that “old man can’t keep up with technology” stage in my life but I can’t believe you can get a quality DSLR, over 10 megapixels with a lens for under 500 bucks (well under). I found that one of the advances my new camera featured was live view. Live view means you can view your composition on the display screen as you’re composing. Live view can also be magnified… Do you see where I’m going with this? I can now put my camera on a tripod, compose my image, zoom in on the point I want to be focused on, focus precisely using that magnification and fire the shutter. The results are so much better than the auto focus and it’s really effective in hard focus situations like macro, ttv etc.

Through the Viewfinder

December 26, 2009

I’ve never been strictly a film or digital guy. I’ve always loved the look and old school feel of film but it’s hard to deny the benefits of digital like instant results and free unlimited bracketing. As digital evolves it’s becoming obvious that others feel the same and are finding ways to get some of those old school looks with digital.

My current favorite technique for merging these worlds is Through the Viewfinder or ttv. Ttv is basically using your digital camera to shoot through the viewfinder of an old twin lens box camera. These old twin lens box cameras would normally be held at waist level and have large viewfinders that you would look down through to compose the image. The viewfinders’ mirrors and composing lenses are made of plastic or glass that is pretty low quality so you get focus and light fall off at the edges similar to old or toy cameras. Often, since they’re over 30 or 40 years old, they’ll also have a lot of dirt on the lenses or mirrors that give an old vibe to the results too. The old twin lens box cameras can usually be found cheap (less than 20 bucks) on ebay, garage sales, swap meets and in your grandmother’s closet. There are a lot of them to choose from and they’ll all work fine. My personal fav is the argus 75.

Get one of the twin lens box cameras, point it at something cool, point your digital at it’s viewfinder and take the pic. It’s that easy… on the simple end of the range. Of course, like most things, you can get as complicated as you want. The next logical step is a shade between the 2 cameras. The viewfinders on the twin lens box cameras are usually convex so they tend to reflect everything. So many ttv-ers build shaders to eliminate reflection. I usually just use black construction paper rolled into a tube and taped then cut to length (or something like that). I’m also a huge tripod guy so I also take another step away from simple side and mount the whole thing to a rigid frame so I can connect it to my tripod.

More info available on request or visit the ttv group on flickr for tutes and samples.