A short note today about leading lines. We use those to lead the viewer into a photo and call attention to the subject. You can use a wide-angle lens, and you can look for lines naturally occurring in the environment. Like the perspective lines here, in the parking lot at Place d’Orléans mall, that seem to point to Rose:
As soon as I saw r=those “Alhambra-like” columns, I knew we had a photo. It’s all about opening your eyes.
This, incidentally, is one of those images that can also work very well in Black and White – here, with the super-cool grainy Tri-X film look – and you really need to see it full size to judge:
In this particular case I am not sure which one I prefer – I love both. What do you think? Let me know!
When we fix images, as we do daily in the store (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) sometimes it is easy – and sometimes we need a lot more effort. Like in this before/after example:
White balance isn’t enough – not even close. For these colours I needed to use Lightroom’s white balance, extensive HSL, and especially the new excellent “Color Grading” tool. If you haven’t needed it yet – you will. And then a coloured local adjustment brush to add some skin colour, quite often – this is an art as much as it is a craft and a science.
But then there’s also Photoshop to remove the small imperfections, and an AI-based de-noise tool to lower noise. (“AI” stands for “Artificial Intelligence” – it’s not the name “AL”…)
In the end, it is always worth it. Memories preserved. Because when the photos fade, the memory itself fades.
Today, a repeat of a 2015 post that is particularly useful for travel photographers.
With the camera on a tripod and exposure set to manual, I can take pictures like these, one by one:
…and on on. As said, I am using a tripod, so the only thing that varies is me (I used a self timer).
And then I can use Photoshop or the GIMP (the latter is a free equivalent) to do things like this very easily:
Or even this:
OK.. so a cool trick. You do this with layers and masks. Hellishly complicated user interface, but once you know the silly UI, the process itself is very simple. It’s the only thing I have the GIMP for.
So. Why would I think this is useful, other than for fun?
Well…. think. You can also use it the other way. Instead of replacing the wall by me, replace me by the wall. And now you can perhaps see a benefit looming.
No? Think on. You are at the Eiffel Tower. Or the Grand Canyon lookout point. Or whatever tourist attraction you can think of. What do you see? Tourists. Right. It attracts them: that’s why it is a tourist attraction.
But not in the same spot all the time. So all you need to do is the same I did here: take a bunch of pictures. Say 10-20 of them. So that you have each spot of attraction at least once without a covering tourist. Then you put them into layers—one each—in PS. And then you manually remove tourists. One by one, poof.. they disappear.
Or you go one further: depending on your version, you can use function File > Scripts > Statistics. Now choose “median” and select the photos. And you end up automatically with an Eiffel tower without tourists, a Grand Canyone without other onlookers, and so on.
Since the store re-opened, I have been doing a lot of photo restoration. Like these two, today:
And these examples illustrate two things. One, I do it all in Adobe Lightroom. With a bit of inventiveness and experience, it can handle this. And that brings me to the second point: there is a big difference between “good” and “good enough”.
Of course in the ideal world, you only do “good”. But that can easily mean several hours on one image. Which means a couple of hundred dollars – which puts the restoration beyond most people. So instead, you do what is warranted. It does have to be good enough, as these are, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Whatever you do – do restore your old pictures. Or have an expert do it for you. When I fix old photos, I also print them as giclée prints, using pigments on permanent media. So that they will last an awful lot longer than the orginals.
Someone recently asked me “how do I take good photos of my wristwatch?”
Good question. A lot of people have hobbies that they can practice while quarantined at home. And two of those are (a) nurturing a wristwatch collection, and (b) photography. So the combination of the two is a logical thing to engage in.
Here, for the record, is what I am wearing on my wrist today:
So how do you do it? As so often, there’s not one answer: there are a few. Here are some of my quick recommendations. I will give you technical tips for SLR as well as for cell phone cameras; a few composition tips; and a few words about post-production.
If you are using an SLR or other sophisticated camera, especially using flash, these are my technical recommendations.
Use a macro lens if you can, so you can get closer. But not too close, because that will give you limited depth of field and image distortion.
Use an aperture of at least f/8; when using a macro lens, start around f/16 if you can.
If you are not using flash, especially if using a macro lens, you must use a tripod.
Using available light? Make sure there is lots of good diffuse light, e.g. from a north-facing window (no direct sunlight).
Use an ISO value as high as you need: when using flash, 200-400 is fine; when not using flash, you may need to go up to as much as 1600 ISO or more if not using a tripod.
Using flashes: Use off-camera flash, modified by softboxes or umbrellas; or use an on-camera flash by bouncing it off a white ceiling/wall behind you. Use manual exposure mode. 1/125 sec.
if using a tripod, focus manually (using live view preview).
An example, lit with two flashes equipped with softboxes, both 45º above the watch:
Technical: Cell Phone
It is perfectly possible to use a hand-held cell phone, as long as you do the following:
Light, light, light! There’s no such thing as too much light. The brighter your room, the better your picture. Why? Because when it is bright, the resulting faster shutter speeds result in less motion blur, lower ISO results in higher quality, and smaller apertures result in more depth of field).
Avoid direct sunlight, though.
Shoot from a little distance away and crop later. This gives you easier focus with less error, and greater depth of field. If you are close, focus is unreliable and depth of field is usually too shallow.
But sometimes you will want to be close in order to get a blurred background; see the compositional tips below.
Focus on the watch, if necessary by tapping it on the phone screen to tell the phone “focus on this”
Hold the phone – and the watch! – very still while you do all this.
Composing a good picture is the most important thing you can do after the technical requirements are met. Some tips:
A good picture is a simple picture.
Did I mention: A good picture is a simple picture. “Simple” means everything in your photo is there to tell the story – or else it should not be in there. “Simplifying” is the most important difference between a snapshot and a “professional” photo. Crop off anything that should not be in the photo. You’ll see the difference!
Consider using the “rule of thirds” (look it up) – although watch photos can also have the subject in the centre. make it look good.
10:09:31 is the prettiest time for a watch. All watch adverts have the watch set to this “aesthetically most pleasing” time. Just saying.
Turn the watch, turn yourself, reposition everything to minimize the refections in the crystal. Especially with watches without anti-reflective coating, this is important. Find a simple dark background, like a neutral dar wall, if the watch reflects it.
Have background objects help you “tell the story”. Your car, your suit, your hand.
Consider blurring out the background. You can do that without portrait mode, by being close to the watch, perhaps in slightly subdues light. (Yes, that flies in the face of the prior advice: yup, life is complicated and you have to decide what is more important for you!)
It is very important to post-process your image. This includes cropping and exposure, but also white balance (colour temperature), definition, and sharpness. Your phone can edit photos very nicely: especially recent iPhones do a truly excellent job.
It really is not difficult to make good photos of your watches, jewellery, or other small objects. Follow the tips below and go have some fun. I am looking forward to seeing your results!
Michael is an experienced photographer and educator, who teaches photography courses that are now available live, interactively, online. Check them out and learn more about Michael, his books, and his courses at www.michaelwillemsphoto.com
Yes, math is useful sometimes. And when I say “math” I do not mean simple arithmetic. I mean math. Real math. Calculus, and things like that – such as Fourier transforms.
I learned about FFTs (Fast Fourier Transforms) as an undergrad in university. And today I discovered a use for them in my photography practice. Namely, to remove unwanted repeated patterns from scans of old photos, printed on textured paper.
But let’s start at the beginning. What is a Fourier transform? Well… think about transforming a time-domain picture to a frequency-domain picture. (or, as Wikipedia puts it, “The Fourier transform (FT) decomposes a function (often a function of the time, or a signal) into its constituent frequencies. “. A picture full of repeated lines thus become two dots, for example.
And this (detail from a) picture, full of a repeating pattern due to the original photo paper…:
Becomes this, when transformed through an FFT:
But now I can remove the dots:
..and then I can do a inverse FFT, to end up with this:
And if that isn’t magic, I am not sure what is. There you have it: Magic through math.
Incidentally, the app I use is ImageJ, a free Java-based app from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Your tax dollars at work, here: https://imagej.nih.gov/ij/.
Adobe is stretching the limit of what is acceptable to me and other pros. If they gop on, I will look for alternatives to their software sooner rather than later.
One thing is the pricing model. You can no longer buy a license, you have to pay monthly “or else”. Thus costing you many, many times what a license used to cost. Over my dead body, Adobe. No way will I let usurious suits decide at any moment whether I am allowed to run my company. Forget it.
But there’s more. Adobe is doing almost zero development. Even bug fixes aren’t being done: When you try to export a slideshow, Adobe LR hangs if the slides include horizontal as well as vertical slides. Old bug, still not fixed. This is intolerable!
The speed also hasn’t improved. Again, intolerable.
So, another few nudges like this and Adobe, which is already a company I intensely dislike, will be a company I advise all my students to avoid.
In this, they are a metaphor for all US business, which thinks it is invulnerable. Apple is another example: $1400 for a cell phone? $600 for a Mac Pro screen stand? Really, Apple?
You have heard me say it many times: “Bright pixels are sharp pixels”.
Nothing wrong with this:
But it does not make the subject stand out as the bright pixels. And it does not feel special. This one does, and is also much more dramatic:
And the subject i s now the Bright Pixels. Shot at 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, at f/11, using a 40mm lens on a full frame camera and lit with a battery-pack powered Bowens strobe fitted with a beauty dish. Slightly desaturated in Lightroom.
This was a picture I shot today in a class I taught at Sheridan College in Oakville.
Many more courses coming up, so stay tuned. I can teach you how to do this, quickly.