Wednesday, 9 February 2011

When photographing with available light = WIN

I recently attended a local dance performance as a spectator, I left the external flash behind thinking it would be off putting for the performers to be blasted with a flash.  Well it turned out the “pro” hired for the event had brought their flash and was not scared of using it.  They fired their flash directly at the performers no diffusers, reflectors or bouncing off a wall or ceiling, just firing face on from about 1.5 meters away.  They may have had their reasons but to me their photos lost all feeling and atmosphere of the performances, all the photos where lit up like a flood light and all light from the lighting rig used for the dance routines was blanketed in the light from their external flash resulting in unflattering harsh shadows.

After seeing what the their photos came out like I am glad I decided not to use my flash unit and instead use what light was available, it allowed me to take photos like this:

Post Processing - Selective sharpening, noise reduction and contrast boost.
Its times like this when a fast lens really pays off.

Revisiting old photos and applying new techniques.

I will often revisit my older photos to see what new techniques I have learned can be applied to make an “ok” photo something that has a little more impact.  Both photos taken below were just holiday snaps which I thought would look good but once I got the images off the camera and on to the computer decided something was missing or they lacked impact.   However this was before I started dabbling in post processing and by doing some selective sharpening, noise reduction, increasing contrast and playing around with the curves and saturation then you can very quickly and simply give a photo more “pop”.

Royal Parade in London

Fresh octopus in a restaurant on the Greek island of Skiathos

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Why should you shoot in RAW instead of JPEG

So what is this RAW format I speak about? 

First lets see what happens when you take a photo as a JPEG.  You have lined up your shot and press the shutter button, the light passes through the lens and onto the image sensor from here the data is passed onto a processing chip in the camera which takes this data and performs various “enhancements”, it will sharpen (non selectively), increase contrast, saturation, brightness and will perform noise removal.  It will then compress the file as a JPEG by removing data which it thinks is not required, and there you have it, your JPEG image. 

The information that was removed when the data was compressed into the JPEG format is gone and cannot be retrieved, this missing data could have held useful details in blown out highlights or in the under exposed areas of your photos that had you known it was there may have been able to rescue in post processing.  This is where the RAW format sometimes known as digital negatives come into play.  The RAW format offers a deeper and richer tone to colours and offers more control over the exposure levels during editing.  Editing of a RAW file in post processing software will not degrade over multiple edits like a JPEG can.

Obviously there are uses for JPEG images, if your camera has a small buffer then shooting in RAW is going to affect the burst rate and will mean you won’t be able to take as many images in quick succession.  The file sizes when using RAW are what put most people off, for a 10megapixel camera a single JPEG image can be around 3-5meg in size whereas the same image in RAW will be around 40-60meg and so if you're not careful you will quickly fill your memory cards.

I will try if I get time to follow up this article with some examples of using RAW images to rescue blown out highlights or underexposed regions in photos.