Category Archives: Photography Techniques

Scott Kelby: Two Lights, One White Background

(Originally published on 2016-03-28 as /archives/10922)

Scott Kelby made this video for Westcott, but it’s good information for everyone.

The next step would be to consider adding weak lights behind the subject: either to light-up the background, or to highlight the subject’s hair. A third light isn’t needed here, because the white backdrop reflects so much light.

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Lens Compression and Lens Distortion

(Originally published 2016-03-16 as /archives/10930)

This lens-compression-thing: we all agree on it correct?

Lens Compression

The definition of lens compression is this: if you use a longer focal length, then the background will appear to be closer to the subject. There are numerous examples of images that “prove” this out there (including the GIF below), but guess what? Lens compression doesn’t actually exist.

Here’s how the prove-it examples work:

  1. First the photographer makes a photo of a subject, standing in front of a background object, with a short focal length lens (wide angle, less magnification).
  2. Then the photographer takes the same picture, of the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, but with a longer focal length lens (telephoto, more magnification).
  3. Then we compare the two images, and note that the background object appears to be closer to the subject in image #2.Here’s the kicker:
  4. If we then crop image #1, so that the subject takes up the same amount of space in each image, we will note that the subject now looks to be the same exact distance from the background object as in image #2.

In other words: lens compression is just an optical illusion.

Lens distortion

Barrel Distortion, Pincushioning, Bokeh, etc., may be different with each of the two lenses. Generally the wider angle lens (shorter focal length, less magnification) will distort the image more and cause more foreshortening relative to the telephoto lens (longer focal length, more magnification), but not always. A lot depends on lens design, and post processing software is really good at removing distortion these days.

The following GIF was shared at “reddit /r/educationalgifs How different lenses affect portraits“. It shows the foreshortening issue and the so-called-lens-compression-issue at various focal lengths of a telephoto super zoom lens. For many people this will be proof that lens compression is real. It still isn’t real, and not all wide angle lenses will cause such drastic foreshortening.

OK: so if the focal length is changing, then why is the subject’s head mostly the same size? Because the photographer is moving physically closer to the subject, for the wider angle shots, and farther away for the telephoto shots.

Here’s the GIF:
XBIOEvZ - Imgur

Back to the Lens Compression Example

OK, so Paul must be wrong about lens compression. I mean look at how that tree in the background of that GIF moves closer to the subject: right?

In the following video, Dieter Schneider does the steps (from above) to prove that lens compression does not exist.

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Free Portrait Guides

(Originally posted on 2016-05-06)

IMG_9611
(The posing and lighting guides are below.)

The “Hers” blog Facebook page has a “Posing for one” guide.  I think that the negative reader comments are interesting:

The right way to make some one look better ????? In who’s eyes !!! That’s awful I’m sorry but this wrong on so many levels…so thinner arms make the shot better ??? Really come on this is hiding who you really are it’s as bad as photoshop …if you have fat arms or belly or bum so what you don’t look any less sexy ..in fact if you show your flaws and own them with confidence there is nothing more beautiful or sexy than that !!!!fact!!!!

This is silly. People, love yourselves for who you are, not for what you think is the socially acceptable version of beauty.

She looks thin whatever pose she makes cause SHE.IS.THIN

When you put a set of images in front of a subject, which ones do they want? The ones with the better poses. Plus: posing-well is easier, and more accurate, than digital editing.

Here are some posing and portrait guides from Digital Camera World:

 

 

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White Balance Does Not Work The Way That They Say, Maybe Not For You, Definitely Not For Me

(Original posting date: 2016-07-27)

Spiritia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s quite common for photography writers to write something like, “The human eye… adjusts the colors you see,” whenever discussing white balance. I never encountered one of these articles that also referred to scientific research, and I am unsatisfied with the explanation.

For one thing: it’s not consistent with anything that I learned in physiological psychology or psychophysics regarding vision.

For another thing: it is extremely common for scientific-thinking people to disprove much of what photographers teach.

By Håkan Bergknut (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For another: it’s not consistent with my personal experience, which is more like this:

I don’t believe that my “human eye… adjusts the colours [I] see.” I am very aware of color temperature. I suspect that most photographers develop this awareness, and some people have always had it.

When I am in an environment with soft white light, that’s what I see, but it’s everywhere. It’s even affecting the color of the photos on my wall. If those were white balanced, then the light from the too-warm bulbs is affecting the colors of those photos exactly the same way that it’s affecting everything else in the room, so it’s tolerably similar, but not changed by my eyes.

I left that as a comment on a Picture Correct article on white balance, and Wendy disagreed, but her rebuttal is not actually inconsistent with my comment above. She wrote:

Some say it’s the “eye” that adjusts, some say it’s in the “brain,” point is, you DO adjust to a “normal” WB. If you’ve been inside with a bunch of tungsten–especially low-light, like in a theater–and then suddenly go outside, the world will be blue-shifted for a few seconds while you adjust.

I make temari (embroidered thread balls), and I’ve got one that’s got a design in blue and three shades of purple. Thing is, in dim light, your eyes will try to convince you it’s red, yellow, green and blue–that you’re just seeing it in a different “white balance” than you really are.

She gives an example of an adjustment here, but I am not convinced it is. To me it looks like an example of becoming aware of the different colors of light, but I am always aware of them, and people that think about light will be too.

The “human eye adjusts” isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s an expectation. Photographers think about white balance this way, because that’s what they have been taught, but in reality, they do see three shades of purple as non-purple, because there’s no real adjusting going on.

That said: adjusting white balance in your image is important, because the colors in your photo are affected by the light that you are viewing it in, exactly as much as every other color that’s in that same light. Your photos won’t look “right”.

On the other hand, by all means: monkey with white balance in order to meet your artistic goals.

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Multiple Shot Panoramas

(Originally posted on 2016-05-08)

We experience the world in ultra widescreen; that’s how our photos should look.

Can’t I use a wide angle lens, and crop the image to make a panorama?
You could, but you will loose a lot of
detail. Even a perfectly exposed and focused image will look grainy (or blurry), if you don’t have enough resolution.

I have a lot more to say about this, and I will mostly do so when I share my own panos. In the meantime, here’s Richard Harrington’s take, and some of my comments:
https://youtu.be/QMR6nnPoeZ4

Handheld Technique
Do this instead of bracing the camera against your chest:
1) Look through the viewfinder.
2) Use the grid lines in your viewfinder to align your images. Also use them to make sure that you have at least 33% overlap between images. This is easy to do with the 3 x 3 grid.

On Tripod Technique
The distortion created by hanging your camera off the side is very difficult to deal with. If you don’t have an L bracket, then, yes, keep your camera in landscape orientation, and use a wider angle lens.

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How to Easily Simulate A Painting

(Originally posted on Jul 13, 2015 as /archives/10491)

This thumbnail is a cropped version of the image that is automatically posted to Facebook when you click the Facebook icon at the link.
This thumbnail is a cropped version of the image that is automatically posted to Facebook when you click the Facebook-share icon on Anita Farmer’s post. It is not my image.

For an excellent tutorial on how to easily simulate a painting via Photoshop blend layers please see Anita Farmer’s Beginner’s guide to transforming your photo into a watercolour masterpiece.

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World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial?

(Originally posted on 2015-02-16 as /archives/10105)

 

Photofocus claims that Fafa’s Photoshop Tutorial with Glove and Boots is the World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial. Maybe. You can see it here:

I say, “Nay. The You Suck at Photoshop series is the actual World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial.” Warning: it’s not as family friendly as Glove and Boots. It’s NSFW, and all-that that implies. Here’s the first video in the series:

As I get better at Photoshop, I always go back to the You Suck at Photoshop series, to get a better perspective on how I have improved.

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