Advice...

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mthao00, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. mthao00 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2007
    #1
    I plan on purchasing a Nikon d40x in the near future. Probably in the next couples weeks or so. I'm basically a beginner upgrading from a Canon Powershot, which is awesome for what it is.

    I don't need advice about purchasing the d40x but on how I can make my shots look like these pictures (see below). I love the look of them. Is it a filter, camera setting or photoshop editing? Remember, I'm a beginner with no photography training background whatsoever. I'm learning now but want higher quality pictures. However, I am a photoshop user.

    Thanks in advance. Forgive me... haha...
     

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  2. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #2
    it looks like photoshopping... maybe some levels, curves, sharpening, desaturation etc.

    It's not easy to just say how to duplicate shots... your best option is to just keep experimenting
     
  3. HckySo macrumors 6502

    HckySo

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    #3
    I suggest you look into purchasing the Lucisart plugin for Photoshop. That plug-in is the secret behind a lot of high end photographers out there. ;)

    But yeah that's photoshop.
     
  4. mthao00 thread starter macrumors member

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    Aug 24, 2007
    #4
    Thanks for the advice. I originally thought it was photoshopped but wondered if there was some kind of filter that would achieve the same look.

    The Lucisart plugin "looks" like a wonderful tool. Thanks for the heads-up on that.

    By the way, I plan on using this look in some of my future advertising. I'm starting to build my portfolio.

    Any more advice or opinions on achieving this gritty look... would be nice...
     
  5. bartelby macrumors Core

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    #5
    That Lucisart website is horrible!

    At $169 I'd expect more.
    Learn how to use Photoshop and you'd be able to do most of what that plug-in can do.
     
  6. mthao00 thread starter macrumors member

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  7. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #7
    If photogs are using a plug in to alter their photos they aren't photographers... they are graphic designers. :D
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #8
    Why do people suspect some photoshop filter? Looks to me like these could have been taken right out of the camera. The key here is the lighting -- They were taken on an overcast day which provides very nice, flat even light that is very "friendly" to the limited dynamic range of a digital camera.

    How to take these kinds of pictures? (1) have an eye for composition, go out with ideas in your head of what you want. Creat the image don't just react to things and point and click. A tripod help s LOT. Look, think, move the tripod a foot. Look at the edges of the image and placement of the main subject. Choose what to expose for.. Think again, move tripod then finally "click". (2) Wait for the light. If it's not right don't bother shooting. Or shoot something else that can take advantage of the current light. (3) Edit the heck out of your work show people only the best 1% (4) don't depend on post processing. Get it "right" in the camera.
     
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #9
    D you remember the quote from Ansel Adams? "The negative is the score. Printing is the performance" He was a classical pianist before he took up photography. He had a strong opinion that if the photographer was simply making a straight "record shot" of a subject, then the photograph could never be considered "art". He heavily manipulated almost all of his prints so that most did not represent reality at all. He said the image should communicate what was felt not what was seen. While he did shoot some color film he preferred black and white because he could make gross manipulations that did not look "fake". Color he said offered less room to be creative.
     
  10. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

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    #10
    Although I do see what you're saying, those look pretty desaturated to me. My vote is that they were photoshopped :eek:
     
  11. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #11
    These are OBVIOUSLY edited in Photoshop... no matter what camera you use, those shots aren't going to come straight from camera.
     
  12. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #12
    Me and a colleague got into a discussion about this topic one day. It was centered on the "great" (great in some but not everyone's eyes) photographers of the past and their techniques. I personally never liked anything Ansel Adams did, but then again I don't like the Mona Lisa either. His stuff was good but it didn't make me feel, think, or react to anything. They were really good photographs, but nothing I would hang on the wall.

    Main point is, in this day of ever changing, wide possibilities, do we strive to live by artists that had nothing to do with the current tools of today? Their techniques hold weight in basic photography, but when it comes to photo-manipulation, which has gone far from what Adams could ever imagine, can the same be said. Now that Photoshop has become synonymous with "fake" and is the primary tool of the illustrator, doctoring up photos and making then tell a different story or render a different feeling to me is bordering the boundaries of good ethics. When Adams manipulated photographs in his darkroom I am sure he stayed with the equivalent of dodging, burning, levels, and curves. Things even a PJ would do. But to completely change the content of the photo, rather than enhancing it, bleeds into the realm of photo-illustration; a recognized art form, but not wholly photography.

    Dag-on-it! I am on the soap box again.
     
  13. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #13
    I often intensely edit my photos in Photoshop, enhance skies, have various layer masks, curves and level layers etc. I see nothing wrong with it, AS LONG as you're working with one original photo file. If I take my photo and somehow pull dramatic skies out of it, it's fair game. The people I get irritated at are the ones who copy and paste a dramatic sky from another photo into their pictures... that borders on graphic design rather than modern photography in my opinion.

    If my post was hard to understand, 6 beers are to blame :D
     
  14. sblasl macrumors 6502a

    sblasl

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    #14
    Would you recommend that we all drink 6 beers to have a better understanding?;)

     
  15. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #15
    Because of this comment you're alright in my book :D :p

    Now-a-days you can get away with anything and call it art. Pasting this and that together, grabbing images off of the web and making a collage, everything is far game. I dare say the artists of yester-years had it a tad bit easier than we. They were true artists of their craft, now we have to struggle and fight to separate ourselves from the gloss photographers, and imitation graphic designers.

    As a journalist, I can enhance a photo, but adding information is breaking a code of ethics that is liable to get me and anyone working under me fired, and my paper held up for severe scrutiny, hence my bias against putting anything inside of an original photo that didn't belong. If you can pull detail out of blown highlights or get deep blue skies from a rather cloudy day then you are a good editor, but once you take a photo on an overcast day, marquee the sky and paint it blue you are breaking a serious rule of photography. Just come back on a bright sunny day. That to me is where illustration has to be put in the name.

    As for the OP's photos, the first one looks to be authentic and has great color and composition. I can't say the same for the second one. It looks original, but the color is a bit funny.
     
  16. MacUserSince87 macrumors member

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    #16
    For the OP....

    As you move from point and shoot to making photographs - both in terms of equipment and how you approach the craft - you will face three different inter-twined learning curves:

    1) Thinking photographically: Simply put a camera records a scene differently than how our brains process what our eyes see. In real life our eyes have a wide, nearly 180 degree field of vision and are constantly darting about really only focusing on whatever has captured our attention at the moment.

    Our eyes are attracted by contrast and we get "tunnel" vision because our brains tune out what isn't in the center of the field of vision where all the color receptors are located on the retina of the eye. Ironically, the thing which a still photo can't capture - movement - is the type of contrast which attracts the eye the most. It is an ingrained survival trait. In simpler times detecting a slight movement in an otherwise still field of grass could mean the difference between finding dinner or becoming dinner to a hungry Lion.

    When shooting the camera will record distractions in the background our brains will tune out unless we train it to look for them. When compositing a photo we need to keep in mind the natural tendencies of the eye and brain to dart about constantly, being attracted by contrast, and tuning out the less important parts of the scene. A thoughtfully composed photo will lead the eye of the viewer along an interesting path to the most important part of it where the message of the photo is. That is done with a combination of where the center of interest is positioned in the frame to create balancing negative space for the eye path and how strongly it contrasts with overall tone and distracting clutter of the background.

    Before shooting a photo I ask myself these questions: 1) What is the message I want to convey to the viewer? 2) What strategies will create the desired emotional reaction when they see it? 3) What in the scene will distract from delivering the message and how can it be minimized or elminated? Defining a goal for the photo and thinking in terms of the emotional message various strategies would evoke helps to quickly narrow down which techniques would be most effective.

    For example if making a portrait outdoors the goal would be to draw the viewer into the eyes of the subject to make strong eye contact because eye contract is a key factor in reacting emotionally to faces we see. The best strategy for drawing the viewer to the face is to make to contrast the most with everything else. How best to contrast it will vary depending on the clothing and background. Ideally the clothing and background should blend together and contrast with the face so if the subject is wearing a dark shirt I'd look for a dark background but if wearing white I'd look for a light one. When selecting the background I'd try to find a non-distracting one or employ techniques such as narrow DOF to blur a distracting one; which will signal the brain of the viewer that it is less important than the sharply focused face. With experience that whole process becomes instinctive and instantaneous.

    The difference between a "snap shot" and making a photographic statement is being aware of the factors which will affect the perception of the image and identifying and manipulating those which can be controlled when capturing the image.

    2) Understanding the technical limitations of the capture process: You are not going to capture images like those you posted out of the camera. In fact you may initially be disappointed in the image quality of photos coming out of your first DSLR at its default settings because as a general rule the more sophisticated the camera is the less the images tend to be manipulated in the camera because the manufacturers assume the photographer will want to do most of the manipulation in editing on a more powerful computer. That's the idea behind RAW format.

    The biggest limitation of the camera is that it really only sees in three colors - red, green and blue - over a limited brightness range. You will need to learn how to use the tools on the camera such as the histogram and overexposure warning to get the highlights exposed correctly. Getting the highlights correct - as judged by the brightest detail - is actually quite easy if you use a white textured reference object. I carry a white terry washcloth in my bag. I have the subject hold it, then adjust exposure until its brightest parts start to black out in the overexposure warning (OEW). Testing has shown me when than happens the exposure is perfect. For other subjects where I can use the towel the OEW on the brightest areas in the scene become my gauge. Get the highlights exposed correctly and the maximum range of the sensor will be used. Beyond that, there's not much more which can be done with a single exposure in the camera when shooting RAW.

    Experience is the only way to learn the limitations of your equipment and how it records a scene. The first thing I do when I get a new camera is put it in its default "dumb" auto mode and go around and shoot stuff with and without flash. That allows me to understand what its autofocusing and metering baselines are and how it handles difficult situations such as backlight, and how it differs from cameras I used previously. When I switched from film to digital and from P&S digital to DSLR I had to change my shooting techniques to get the best results with the new equipment. That type of "baseline" testing helped me quickly identify what I needed to re-learn. Your camera will not adapt to your old habits so you need to adapt your habits to how it does things best.

    3) Post Processing: If shooting RAW every image captured in the camera needs post processing. Even if shooting JPG and the WB and everything else is ideal the image will still need to be sharpened to compensate for the mosaic pattern of the sensor. In most instances the overall contrast the camera sensor captures will not match the contrast the eye saw in person and it also doesn't not respond to differences in tone as the eye does naturally. So just to get a "normal" rendition of a scene requires manipulation of the image contrast and color saturation. In Photoshop there are literally a dozen different methods to do that, which in part is why the editing process is so confusing to neophytes. Ask for advice on post processing and you will get a dozen different suggestions for the "best" method.

    I've used Photoshop since the first version in the early 1990s when there were not as many manipulation options. Levels is the first and remains the simplest way to adjust contrast. If you have a white object in your photograph simply running "AutoColor" will usually do a pretty good job of correcting it.

    The two best tools you can use for controlling digital are a gray card and the white towel. The white towel will help get the exposure perfect. The gray card, photographed in a test shot, will help get the color balance perfect. A shot of the card can be used to set custom WB in the camera and then in Photoshop it will allow the use of another powerful tool, the "snap to neutral" eyedropper. Clicking on the image of the card in a photo will correct both the color balance and exposure in a way similar to AutoColor. The main difference is that the changes are based on the known neutral value of the card. That correction can then be saved and applied to all the other photos taken under the same lighting.

    There are various paths you can take to get from where you are now to making photos like those you posted. The quickest path is to simply buy a plug-in. The longer but better path in the long run its to understand and overcome the technical limitations of the medium by first learning to match what your eye sees as closely as possible before attempting to alter reality creatively. Both approaches are equally valid but the latter will teach you more than the former. I've got about 40 tutorials which you may find helpful if you decide to take the longer road: http://super.nova.org/DPR/

    Chuck Gardner
     
  17. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #17
    That is a FANTASTIC idea!
     
  18. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

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    #18
    Can this be sticky-ed or something? That was some priceless knowledge for all photographers :D
     
  19. MacUserSince87 macrumors member

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    #19
    White Towel Method...

    Here's a link to a fill flash test where I used the towel which illustrates how I use it: http://super.nova.org/DPR/FillFlashTest/

    For more general discussions of exposure see:
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/Technique/BasicMetering.html
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/Technique/UsingTTLMetering.html
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/ZoneSystem/WhiteTowelMethod.pdf
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/Technique/Exposure.html

    There's been some discussion about Ansel Adams here in the thread. I learned B&W from his books and used the zone system for both 35mm and medium format so I understand the differences between it and how digital operates. With it the negative development time was the control variable used to match the range of the scene measured with a spot meter to the fixed range of the #2 printing paper he based the system around. With digital the range of the sensor can't be adjusted to match the scene range so you either need to add fill flash (if practical) to shorten the illumination range to match the sensor's or alternately shoot from a tripod both normally and + 3 stops overexposed and blend the two images together to extend the range in the final reproduction. More on this in these:
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/ZoneSystem/DigitalZoneSystem.pdf
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/ZoneSystem/MeteringAndPrinting.pdf
     

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