Math is useful…

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, oh Adobe

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?

Shaking my head.

 

 

Bright pixels.

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.

 

 

Black. And white.

Black and white, or B/W, or Monochrome, is underused. Much, if not most art portraits are B/W. And why?

Well – colour, especially when desaturated, is not bad at all. Here’s today’s self portrait:

Not bad.

But the B/W version shows the mood better.

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B/W reduces an image to its essence. And coloured items do not distract. And white balance is not an issue. So for both creative and to a lesser extent technical reasons, try some B/W. Shoot RAW so you can do the actual conversion in Lightroom.

Here, finally, is another one, of one of today’s students, using a beauty dish:

Stands out, no? I love that beauty dish.

 

Fix your pics

A “product”: picture, like this iPhone shot of my watch, needs some TLC.

Let’s look at the “before” and “after”:

Look at that full sized, and you will see the healing brush spots!

And these small improvements make a big difference. An iPhone is fine given the right circumstances, but the TLC is not an option!

 

Watch!

So. You want to shoot a wristwatch:

Watch at full size: it’s gorgeous.

But not all shots—especially iPhone shots like this one—start out that way. This one is no exception. It started differently:

As you see, I did a few things, and all watch (and most product) photos are like that.

  • I changed the geometry. To avoid reflections I had to shoot at an angle. I had to use the “Transform” pane with manual adjustments to fix that.
  • I changed exposure settings (blacks especially).
  • I removed noise.
  • I used the brush adjustment tool to increase contrast on the face.

And lastly, I removed any imperfections:

And that’s how it is done. So when you see a perfect watch photo and wonder why you can’t do it this way, rest assured that the pros don’t, either.

 

Who says?

…that you can’t get blurry backgrounds with an iPhone? And I don’t mean fake backgrounds, like with a newer iphone with two lenses, either. Here:

Just…

  • Get close!
  • Have plenty of light
  • Get close!

That’s all. Simple, really. Get close and your background is comparatively far, so it gets blurred.

 

Post work needed?

For most photography, I recommend keeping post work to a minimum. Quick crop, perhaps a small exposure adjustment: done. For some types of photography, like press photography, adjustments of any other type are forbidden.

But for some, they’re necessary. Even an iPhone product shot like this, of my Glycine watch, needed some TLC:

That’s one of my watches. Click on it to see the full version. And notice how perfect it looks. No dust at all, no smears or scratches, great contrast, and so on. All watches always look hyper-perfect in all ads.

And that’s because they’re hyper-edited. Things like focus stacking, and expensive editing.

In mine, above, I removed every speck of dust using the healing tool in Lightroom. Then I increased local clarity and decreased exposure on the watch face. I added a tad of sharpening and then noise reduction. And although small, the effects of these edits are important.

The good news: most of these edits are easily doable in Lightroom. For a commercial advert, you need Photoshop, but for everything else, Lightroom is fine.

 

Why manual?

Especially when shooting with flash, your camera (though not necessarily your flash) needs to be in manual mode. I’ll show you why.

This is Aurele Monfils in Timmins today, in auto mode:

And here is Aurele in manual mode:

In manual mode, I made a few adjustments. Namely:

  • Shorter shutter speed
  • Higher ISO
  • Flash TTL minus one stop (FEC, Flash Exposure Compensation).

After these, as you can see the dashboard is no longer unnatural looking, and you can actually see what little late afternoon sky blue there was.

 

Subscriptions are not the way

Apple, Adobe, but also makers of smaller apps like 1Password and many others are trying to go to a model where you pay monthly instead of a “buy a license once” model. Well, this “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model is not the way to go, and I’ll give you seven reasons why not.

First, and foremost: it is financially disadvantageous to the user. Under the SaaS model, you will pay much more than if you bought individual licenses, even if you pay for updates when needed. That $10-$20 a month for the rest of your natural life really adds up when you do the math.

Second: under the SaaS model you become a hostage to the software company. You basically have no choice but to keep paying or else. You pay even for months where you are not using the app at all (yes, that happens!)

Third: the companies no longer need to innovate. When you have captive users (see above point) who pay you on an ongoing basis anyway, why bother to write great software updates?

Fourth: licensing becomes complicated. See the article I wrote two days ago about Adobe Lightroom: with SaaS for all your apps, it becomes even more ominous. Shudder the thought.

Fifth: the software company thinks they are the app. In reality, they are one of maybe 25 apps you will have on your laptop or tablet. So now we’re talking about 25 times $20 per month – that’s enough to lease another car. Which you’ll need to do anyway, in order to get to your second job so you can pay said licensing fees.

Sixth: many people want to simply “own” what they buy, instead of “rent”. This is true in apps just like it is in music. It’s an emotional things and I completely understand.

Seventh: the licensing assumes a good Internet connection, and a stable location. That’s not always given. Travel can stop Internet connectivity cold. And recently, Netflix refused to reconnect me because, they said, “you live in Jamaica”. Huh? And when they make a mistake like that, you, the client, end up clenching your fists while listening to voice response systems that tell you to “listen closely as our options have changed”, and waiting forever due to “unusually high call volumes”.

Seeing trends can be disheartening. I see the societal trend to populism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and fascism. I see the trend to less autonomous car travel. And I see the trend to more SaaS. But like the others, this latter trend can be stopped too, if we all just say “no”.

 


Reminder: I teach privately or in small groups. And for all my students, there’s now a 30% discount for any orders (for training or anything else) paid by Dec 31, 2018. To benefit from this, all you need to do is to use discount code Student2018 on http://learning.photography. Happy festive season!