I’m currently working on a new book which is probably going to be titled “B&W Mastery: Lightroom Edition”. The book is targeted at users of Lightroom who are trying to master the elements of black and white photography in the digital age, using Lightroom. As I was developing one of the Chapters I started to write about vision and realised that this is such an important subject that I wanted to share some key points immediately.
Vision is a term we see and hear a lot in Photography but it can be confusing. In my simple terms, vision is how you imaging the finished image to look before you actually create it. How you create the finished image is what you then need to work out. But if you don’t have a vision for the finished image, you’re not going to create a strong, compelling photograph.
The importance of having a clear vision is most obvious at two points in the photographic workflow:
- The point at which you take the photograph
- The point at which you edit the image
When you are capturing the image with your camera, having a vision will allow you to select the right settings to control the camera as well as use any special techniques. Important questions can then be answered such as will you use a slow or fast shutter speed to freeze or blur motion? How much depth of field will you use? Without a clear vision you can’t make these decisions and you’re reliant on luck.
When you reach the point that you want to process your image, you again need a strong vision. If you don’t have a strong vision of the finished image you will find yourself simply experimenting and not creating. Whilst experimentation has its place, you need a strong vision of the finished image in order to create the photograph.
The reason I share this particular image is that I shot it almost 4 years ago but never processed it until now. Now that I have come to review the image, I can immediately recognise what I was trying to create when I captured the scene. Recognising this allows me to quickly process the image to create the finished photograph.
So do yourself a favour next time you are out shooting. Spend time to develop your vision for each scene you shoot.
I was out with a friend yesterday at Barmouth in Wales. The weather didn’t really play its part but the cameras still performed wonderfully. The G7X was particularly nice to use (despite the criticisms I might have levelled against it in past blog posts). It was nice to have a pocket camera that I could easily slip in and out of my pocket and I’m growing to realise that Canon got it right in terms of size and usability.
The other feature that I found really useful was the Macro mode. It allowed me to get in close although my back tried to prevent me from doing so. The image you see above was actually shot one handed whilst leaning over a bush. I was able to pick the focus point with my thumb and shoot the image. My other had was hanging on to a tree in case you’re wondering. This also shows me that the image stabilisation is working well as I doubt I could have taken a steady shot otherwise, even with the fast shutter speed.
I also ran the image through my Lenscraft Vintage Colour Collection of presets so I could show a few variations below. I’m running an introductory 50% off offer until the end of September on all my presets. The discount code is 50MEMBER and is open to all Lenscraft subscribers as well as readers of this blog post.
Recently I have become more and more interested in creating images that exhibit natural colours. These might not always have been the colours present when I shot the image but the goal is to make them appear natural and believable whilst still being vibrant.
Part of this search for natural colour rendering is down to the camera equipment and part of it is down to how the image is processed when it’s converted from RAW. My current feelings are that my Sony RX10 is the most capable of my cameras when it comes to rending strong yet believable colours. It seems particularly good when it comes to Greens and Blues in the landscape. The EM5 is also a good performer yet not quite as subtle and strong. Canon also appear to be catching up but I still prefer the Sony rendering.
When it comes to the conversion from RAW, Lightroom is pretty good but Capture One is sometimes better. Despite this I still keep turning to Lightroom as I can load my own colour profiles which I created for my cameras (you can also download these from the Lenscraft website if you use the same cameras as I do https://www.lenscraft.co.uk/members-area/camera-profiles/).
If you do use custom profiles with Lightroom you would access these under the Camera Calibration panel of the Develop module. Here you will find a drop down Profile list with all the compatible profiles for the RAW file you are processing.
As well as your own custom profiles there are also profiles the camera manufacturer may have provided as well as the default “Adobe Standard”. In the past the Adobe Standard profiles have been pretty poor in comparison to the custom profiles. At some point, it might be Lightroom 6 as I can’t put my finger on when, this all changed. The standard profiles now appear much more natural and a pretty good match to the custom profiles.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth exploring this a little further. I would be interested to hear others views on the subject.
If you are a Lightroom user you are probably aware that the recent release of version 6 included Photo merge for panorama and HDR photography. In fact, that seems to be pretty much all that was in the new release. In the past I have written about the merge to panorama but not about HDR.
Over the weekend I made an exploratory trip to Wales with a friend and found myself on the banks of a river looking at quite a nice scene. At the time I was shooting Infrared but as the sky clouded up I decided to switch to conventional colour photography using the Sony RX10. Unfortunately the dynamic range of the scene appeared to exceed the capabilities of the Sony (even with a 2 stop ND grad filter for the sky) so I decided to shoot some HDR sequences.
Shooting HDR images in the Sony is a snap. The auto bracketing function allows you to set multiple exposures at quite wide exposure gaps. For this particular shot I chose a 1 stop interval for 3 images. This would give me a correctly exposed image, one that is under exposed by 1 stops and one that’s over exposed by 1 stops. (You can also use 2 stop intervals and a few other combinations if you like). The plan was then to combine these in Lightroom into a new DNG file that could be processed.
When I processed the images I decided to set the Ghosting option as the images were captured handheld which could have introduced movement. I also expected the trees and plants in the scene to be showing some movement between shots as there was a slight breeze. When I processed the image files and zoomed in the foreground looked quite good.
But when I looked at the upper part of the image I found a significant amount of blending artefacts in the leaves of the trees.
Following this disappointment I thought that I would try the blending in Nik HDR Efex to check the results.
It was a little better but still not perfect. What I did like about the Lightroom version though was that it looked totally natural whilst the Nik version appeared “fake”.
Then I tried reprocessing the RAW file with careful editing. The result is the one you see at the top of this page and came out much better than I had expected. The moral of this story is that you have much more power in your RAW files than you might at first think.
Last week I took a well-deserved break (at least in my eyes) and went on holiday to Cornwall. Whilst away I took this photo that I wanted to share with you. The reason for sharing is not that this is a great Landscape image (I have a much better one taken at sunset rather than on an overcast day, that I will share soon). No the reason for sharing this is that it illustrates just how much depth of field can be achieved with smaller sensor cameras.
This image was taken using a Sony RX10 which has a 1” sensor. This is slightly smaller than the micro 43 sensors but somehow Sony has managed to cram 20Mpixels onto it. If you were looking at the print of this scene you would say that the image was in focus from the foreground to the background. It’s only when you view the image at 100% magnification on the screen that you see the distant lighthouse is very slightly outside the depth of field but is still acceptably sharp. Also the flowers nearest to the camera (literally inches from the camera) are out of focus but again this isn’t objectionable. Interestingly you don’t notice either of these points on the print as the image appears very natural.
What really makes you stop and think though is that the Aperture used to achieve this is f/5.6. The trick to this if there is one, is where you place the point of focus. Here I was focussing on the hillside just beyond the foreground flowers (probably around 10 feet from the camera. Had I tried to get all the flowers in perfect focus I would have lost the distant lighthouse. This compromise appears to work very well.
I hope this gives you food for thought about depth of field and needing to use very small apertures.
I mentioned in my last blog that I had been using the Sony RX10 exclusively over the last week and in doing so I noticed a few things about how to get a good exposure. Here is what I learned:
When the highlights clip they literally fall of a cliff. This can make the areas around the blown highlights appear very ugly. The Olympus EM5 highlights by contrast seem to behave much more like film, which seem to be more gradual.
One of the features of the RX10 is that you can display “zebras” in the live view. These “zebras” show you where the scene is exceeding the dynamic range of the sensor and the highlights are blown. You can also set the level of this so that you see a warning before the damage is done. For my camera I have this set at 100%+ so that if I see zebras I know there is clipping which as mentioned above can look quite ugly. I do this because I shoot RAW and can usually recover some of the damage.
What I have found is that there just isn’t much headroom in the RAW files beyond the zebras so you need to take care. With most cameras I have found I can expose to the right (deliberately overexpose the image) and then correct this by careful processing of the RAW file. This typically results in a higher quality image with less shadow noise and more detail. With the Sony RX10 this doesn’t seem to be the case and leaving the camera to calculate the exposure without any compensation seems to render very good images.
So how much can I over expose the image by? Well it seems to be only 2/3 of a stop. BUT a nice feature I have noticed is that the histogram that you can display whilst taking the image seems to reflect what is being captured in the RAW file whilst the zebras seem to indicate where the JPEG file will blow the highlights. I have noticed that I can be showing the warning zebras (set at 100%) but the histogram shows no clipping. The JPEG will show clipping but when I get the RAW file into Lightroom I can fully recover the problem areas.
Hope this helps other Sony RX10 owners out there.
Well that’s Christmas and New Year over with, at least for another year. It was great in that I managed to see many of my family, some of whom I don’t get to see that often. On the down side I ended up not achieving much on my ever growing list of work. Current projects that I intended to finish over the period (and didn’t) included:
- Publish my latest book “Beginning Photography the Right Way”
- Launch a new set of Lightroom Presets called the “Polaroid Construction Kit” and which as the name suggests allow you to give images a “Polaroid look” in Lightroom.
- Produce Video Tutorials to support my “Essential Photoshop” book. I have wanted to do this for a long time but only now found software that I’m happy to work with.
- Finish the new website as there are some areas that need further development.
I did manage to:
- Publish the quarterly newsletter including a video tutorial
- Shoot some new material in the Lake District (see above image)
- Answer all the many emails that came in over the holiday period
I think it’s about time I set myself a strategy and defined some goals for the year or I could find myself busy without achieving anything. Hopefully I can include shooting lots of new material and sharing some video tutorials.