What do you need to see in a photo?

I printed some images off last week, of birds – with textured backgrounds – and when the prints came (my printer has died and I still have no idea what new one to get, but I digress) – I was somewhat dissatisfied with them.

There was some lack of detail in the shadow areas, that I was sure was there in the digital image – but then I got to wondering how much detail did I really need?

A friend of mine looked at the image in question – this one below.. and said he didn’t think there was enough detail in the feathers on the right hand side of the bird.

DSED9524-Edit

He went on “it’s got a good feel to it, I like the colours and the setting with the background rocks, but it’s the bird”

I asked how much detail he wanted.. “you can see it’s a Jackdaw can’t you?”

“Yes” he said…

“Well how much more detail do you want then?”

How much detail do we ‘really’ want in a photo?  Sometimes I think we look for too much.  When I’ve judged National Competitions, we generally get no more than about 5 seconds to make a judgement.  Does the image have impact?  It’s not till the end, when we have all the top scorers, that there is a bit more time to look at detail, but even then, time is short.

I’m pretty sure we worry too much about our image making.  Are we crafting for ourselves, or for some judge.

I must confess to making images for myself, and if someone else happens to like them, then that’s a bonus.

A talk I went to earlier this year – was by a lady – whose photography is of the highest quality – and she was saying that she was editing her images to make them fit the requirements of a judge.  In her eyes she was changing them from something ‘she’ wanted – to something that fitted a rule.

I’m not saying this is wrong, but at least there was a recognition of changes that have to be made to suit an occasion.

I think it’s a shame that we do this, but I suppose it’s (as they say) ‘horses for courses’.

What I did appreciate was the fact that she was keeping the original images – -which she had crafted for herself, and appreciated that she would have to alter them if she wanted them to win a competition, or help her achieve an award.

I think that as photographers we love not just the image taking – but the process that happens afterwards, and we also have a certain love of art generally. I’m sure that this is important in the creation of our photographs.

I’m also certain also that a love of art – outside photography is a useful and beneficial thing, especially when we turn our photographic eyes out into the world.

 

The Golden Ratio

What is the Golden Ratio?  Putting it as simply as we can, the Golden Ratio (also known as the Golden Section, Golden Mean, Divine Proportion or Greek letter Phi) exists when a line is divided into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.  Whew !!!

The Greeks discovered that there was a ratio of length to height that they considered to be aesthetically pleasing. This is the 1.618 : 1, and this makes a print that is roughly 13 x 8.   What’s magical about this?  Well, it has unusual mathematical properties, which the Greeks claimed were divinely inspired, and therefore the best…. and this particular rectangle is the basic shape of all Greek architecture – including the Parthenon.

If you take the Golden Rectangle, and cut off a square, the shape that is left, is also a Golden Rectangle.  Cut off another square, and you are again left with the Golden Rectangle… ad infinitum.  If you do this repeatedly, you will end up with a spiral of rectangles, and if you then draw a line through these, you will end up with a perfect logarithmic spiral.

The Golden mean was studied at length by the mathematician Fibonacci, who discovered the set of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence. The series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … The next number is found by adding up the two before it.

Unknown

As a photographer we need to understand the simplicity of this, and how it can affect our images.  What makes something look ‘good’ without you always being aware of the why…..

In my last post, I showed a portrait, and I’ll show this again with the Golden Triangle superimposed on top.

Screenshot 2019-05-21 11.00.05

There is some magic in the Golden Mean – it’s worthy of study, if you are so inclined, and fascinated by such things (as I am)…

You can find these crop overlays by the way, in Lightroom.  Click on the crop tool, and then repeatedly press the ‘O’ key and different crop layouts will cycle round.  From the 1/3 grid, to the Golden Spiral, and through to the Golden Rectangle…..

Enjoy…..

Paper

Until fairly recently I didn’t print a lot.  Most of my work was created digitally, and rendered digitally.  Then I realised that I needed prints for competitions I was entering, talks I was giving, and more recently for qualifications I was working towards.

I rediscovered my love of paper…  I remember when I was at school, my fascination with reams of paper – the different textures and colours – and different shades of white.  Later, when studying photography at college, we were encouraged to print on different paper types – since then though, I’d almost forgotten about the exercise we did – and it was whilst looking for something else in a cupboard, that I came across the project – with all the different papers.

The images I made for my ARPS, were all printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, and they were lovely (if I may say so myself…….).

Since then, I’ve used a variety of papers, and find myself using high gloss less and less.  I really like the lustres, and satin mat for certain images.

Paper is sensual.  The texture, the colour, the weave.  In fact it’s a bit confusing to decide which to choose, and which will work best with each image.

My printer, which has been on its last legs for some time, finally ran out of one of the ink colours, and the way it is designed means that I can’t even print a text document in black (even though there’s plenty of that)… so I think that it will have to go to the great printer heaven at the tip.

I’ve been unable to make photographic prints at home for a long while because the fault in the printer heads meant that everything came out with a green cast – which looks pretty unpleasant – so everything has been outsourced to One Vision Imaging since last October, and it was whilst using them that I tried a number of different papers.

I kept using my old printer for documents, and drafts of things, but now it sits on my desk like an out of work dinosaur.

It’s going to take me a while to sort this out, but hopefully, when I do, it’ll be a smaller printer (everything used to be A3+).  The last set of prints I made were 12 x 8 (a ratio I like a lot), and I’m convinced that for the most part this is big enough.

When I’m judging at clubs – I try to find time to say that sometimes bigger means more margin for error.  With smaller prints, it’s harder to find some of  the mistakes.

For the moment though, it is outsourced printing, till I can get a new printer.

 

 

It’s a Giveaway – part deux

Five free prints to the first five people who ask for them.

At the start of April, I said that I would give away 5 prints to the first five people who asked for them, and I said I’d do this for three months.

Well, here we are, one month later, and the offer stands good.

I will give away 5 prints once again to the first five people that ask.

Last month, the offer went live at around 9am, and all the prints were gone by 4pm.  I posted some out, and delivered some by hand.  I did give away an extra couple to personal friends as well.

So, if you feel you would like a print – then all you  have to do is visit my website – http://www.dseddonphoto.co.uk, and let me know what you would like.

Prints will be no bigger than A4, and may be smaller depending on the image.  Let me have your address when you order, (and you can do this through the contact page on the website), and I’ll get them off to you as soon as I can.

The print that went the furthest last month was to Scotland.

All this came about following the reading of a book called ‘The Gift’ which encouraged people to share what they had, and gift things. It seemed a good idea so this is what I’m doing.

I don’t expect any recompense, but I’d encourage other photographers to follow suit.  As my old dad used to say “Cast thy bread upon the waters, and it may come back buttered”…….

I’ll do this again for the final time at the start of June.

Happy photography…………

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Technology Battles

We depend on technology so much these days – far more than when we all shot with analogue cameras.  It puts me in mind of a story I heard, (maybe an urban myth) when a photographer went through airport security in America, (it had to be there) and was asked to turn his camera on, to prove it worked.  He tried to explain that it didn’t ‘turn on’, and ‘no they couldn’t open the back’ – in the end apparently, the security guys opened up the camera to discover that it had film in it.  The young guy hadn’t heard of analogue cameras that didn’t have batteries in.  Whoever heard of a clockwork camera?

So our dependence on technology goes on – in film days, we depended on a different type of technology:-  the camera, the film processor, film dryer, the enlarger, printing developer, fixer, print dryers, special wash, and all the associated gadgets.

We had in our family in film years, any number of cameras, more than one enlarger – a dedicated dark room – a frustrated mother who didn’t want film in the freezer, or chemicals in a fridge. The print dryer was huge, and the print trimmer (which I still have) was big and heavy.  Everything took up a huge amount of room, and everything we did was either in the dark, or under a red light.

What I’m getting at is that although we’ve come a long way, in terms of technology, we still need the same amount of ‘stuff’.  I now have a ‘daylight darkroom’ but still, a dedicated room.  I have cameras, lens, computer, tables, and mounts, and cropping machines – it all takes up space.  I know photographers who have turned outside sheds and garages into dedicated studios.

Then there’s the problem of what to do when something fails.  All cameras fail in the end, I’ve had lens with failed diaphragms, cameras with failed shutters, I’ve dropped lens, and camera together (shattered on some marble) – cable releases fail, and I’ve even lost a tripod.

When the printer fails, (as mine did a month or two back) then that made me start to think about whether I needed a new one or not.  I love to print – I love the sight of a brand new photograph coming slowly out – and then the result is nearly the end of the process.  I can mat and frame, and there it is.  All my own work.  However, the cost of ink nowadays is nearly that of the price of gold!  I can get a lot of prints done if I outsource for the price of a set of 8 inks.

In the days of analogue, if there was no print, there was no image, so now we have to depend on our, or someone elses technology to produce the final (finished?) image.

Technology now is changing and developing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.  For a long while I didn’t look at what camera manufacturers were doing. I was happy with the gear I had, and saw no reason to change for the sake of it.  Then, when I was offered a trip to Spain 18 months ago, I looked for a small camera to take with me.  This is when I discovered that technology had moved on without me.  The mirrorless camera that I bought then, (the Fuji X-T2) was a revelation.  Beautiful image quality from such a small thing.  I’m more interested now, that I ever was in what is being engineered for photographers of the future.

So what comes out of the camera now, and photoshop? Sometimes it looks nothing like a traditional photograph.  Do we call this something different?  Digital art maybe?

Whatever we choose to call it, and whatever images you produce – it still starts with a camera, and most importantly, the photographer behind it.

Whilst you’re here – why not click the big black button at the top right of the page, and get instant notifications of new blog posts

Practice Makes Perfect?

I’ve been reading a lot this week about photography, and how we improve.  Practice is obviously the answer, but it is always?

When you go to a concert, you hear the singer, the pianist – you see paintings in a gallery, the prints on a wall.  To get this good, the artist must practice every day – to get out of form before a concert is unheard of (well maybe not always! but you get the idea)…  So when you look at images, you are seeing the end result of weeks, and maybe years of work, and practice.

I know it’s nearly impossible to get out and shoot every day, but what other ways are there to keep your finger on the button?  I think that talking about image making, talking about photography generally is practice – as is looking at other people’s work – visiting galleries – sharing images.  Even looking at images on Instagram, Facebook or even Google, is practice.  Every time you look at someone elses work, you are honing your own skills, mostly indirectly.

So, how do you practice with your camera ?  Well, there are a number of ways – you COULD just walk out the house and shoot anything and everything you see.  Is that practice, or just shooting for the sake of it?  Or, you could go on a workshop, and immerse yourself in the photographic life for a week, absorb, and create… that seems good to me… or you could set yourself a project!

A strategy is needed, and I think that the best way of learning, of moving on, is by ‘finishing’ things; and by finish, I mean print, or otherwise share your work with the wider world.  I prefer the former.  A book, a print to hang in your home, a set of images to a theme.  This makes it harder to do, but also offers a challenge to the photographer.

On the other hand, by sharing your images online, you leave yourself open to critique by others.  I’m intrigued by photographers (and I use the term loosely), who post images on Social Media, but who won’t accept that sometimes, not everyone will like them.  I like to ask people why they took an image, or why they processed it in the way they did.  The answers vary, but on ocassion, they take great offence that I had even the temerity to ask.  Why is this?

Back to projects.

As I said in a previous blog post, I used to be a one image producer.  I didn’t do projects, or even panels of three.  It was one shot, or nothing.  Since I became a member of the Linconshire Image Makers though, my whole ideal and attitude changed.  It’s taken months of talk, and work, (and nagging), but finally I’m seeing not only the results of the discipline, but I think my whole attitude to photography and art has seen a dynamic shift, and because I’m questioning my own work, I’m starting to question other people’s work too.

Within the group, it’s simple.  This is what we meet up for – we look at each others work, and work of the major photographers, and ask why this, why that, why this image, and not that one.  Outside the group, well, as I said, it’s not so easy.

I’m considering a Social Media blackout for a month or so – I need to get my head around where I want to go with my imagery, and I need to plan a strategy to get me through the winter, and maybe well into next year.  My website needs an overhaul (it’s long overdue), and I want to allow myself time to experiment more.  I’ve run through the multiple exposure sets, and I won’t stop doing these – they give me immense pleasure,  but I want to also run a set of images on a ‘what if’ basis….  What if I shot everything out of focus?  What if I did everything with a dutch tilt? (a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle), What if I photographed…………… (fill in the blank as you desire).  Maybe just 6 images – maybe a project of just one image, maybe 15 or 20.  What if I set myself a project to complete 100 prints in a twelve month period? (that might not happen)……. but what if it did….?

As someone said to me only today – “it’s only a photo”….. and when I questioned why denegrate it to “only a photo”…… I was met with silence….. and there the matter rested.

 

 

Take a photo – Make a photo ?

Is clicking the shutter really enough ?  Do we spend too much time post processing ?   Should we be ‘pure’ in our art.  What comes in the lens, comes out in the print….

I’d say NO.  Clicking the shutter for me, is only the beginning of the process.

Whilst digitally enhancing images has become far easier, it’s nothing new.  The practice has existed since photography began. There was an exhibition in New York in 2012 which examined this whole thing.  Click HERE for the link.  The exhibition featured images created in the period 1840 – 1990.  Look again at the first date…… 1840 !!!  The photographs were altered using a variety of techniques including multiple exposures, combination printing (images used from more than one negative), painting, and retouching.   Nothing new really here, apart from the speed – it was much slower then to get the same results as nowadays.

untitledUnknown Artist, American School
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House
Photo Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The earliest example I could find was this one…. a two headed man – created in 1855 !

untitled

So why is manipulation such a huge problem for some people?

My all time hero – Ansel Adams was one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time.  He was probably one of the perfectionists.  His images were printed, edited, printed, edited, and printed again.  His ‘zone’ system is complex, and, for his time, revolutionary.  Google him – look at his images before and after editing.  One of his most famous pictures – Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico’ – is a perfect example of his post processing skills.

So, next time the ‘purists’ start shouting about images coming straight out of the camera, because that’s how it should be done, just remind them that although sometimes it’s done that way – most times it’s not.  That old adage that ‘the camera never lies’ is bunkum.  It lies most of the time.

The reality is that the people who make the cameras in Japan, or where-ever are the people who are ultimately telling you what your image will look like – especially if you are shooting in JPEG.  They decide the colours, the saturation, the sharpness. You decide on the crop.

The ultimate decision of course is the photographers  own.  There is no right and wrong way to process (or not) your own images.  There is also no need to preach about perfect out of camera images – nor is there a need for people to stop manipulating images just as much as they would like.

There’s space for all of us…….

No go out and MAKE some photographs…………

untitledMaurice Guibert (French, 1856–1913)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, Albi 1864–1901 Saint-André-du-Bois)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
1892
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Henry P. Mcllhenny, 1982-14-2

Unsharp Mask – CS5

We all want our photographs to be sharp as can be, and that begins when you take the shot in the first place.  A camera on a tripod, sharp lens, accurate focus, all go to assist you.  Afterwards though, you process in photoshop or lightroom, and you can get something extra.

Sharpening is best done at the very end of any other processing that you do – as other things can actually soften the image slightly.  So what’s the best way….

I use unsharp mask in CS5 – it uses the same engine as Lightroom 3 – and you should get the same results.  Oversharpen an image, and it can result in a halo where dark parts of the shot, meet lighter ones.  This is caused because when sharpening happens in the software pixels are either lightened or darkened to make edges seem clearer.  Oversharpening can emphasise this difference, and you see the halo.

So, you look at the unsharp mask settings, and there are three sliders, Amount, Threshold, and Radius.

Amount is about how much you want to sharpen the image.  The higher the number, the sharper it looks, but overdo this, and you will get the ‘halo’ effect.

Radius – this affects how many pixels away from the edge the sharpening will be applied to.  Low numbers mean the effect is more exaggerated. The higher numbers will start to soften the effect slightly.

Threshold defines what the software thinks is an ‘edge’ – the higher the number, the more difference there has to be between pixels before it is counted as an ‘edge’.

So what’s a good setting to use ?  Well that all depends on the image – some (like landscapes) can stand more sharpening than others.  Portraits can stand being sharpened around the eyes and hair, but you would want the skin to be less defined.

Remember that when the image is finally printed, it can lose some definition, so oversharpen slightly for this reason.

In the shot at the top of the post I used the following settings…. amount 65%, radius 1, and threshold 3.

HP – Printer Drivers

I thought I’d write about this, because HP seem to be making lives a bit strained (not to say expensive at the moment) – the story goes like this …..

A little while ago, my MAC updated the HP drivers, as part of its normal software updates. After this, I still quite happily printed text documents, and drafts. Yesterday, for the first time since the upgrade, I tried to print some client images – disaster, the paper was flooded with very expensive HP ink. It was literally running off the sheet, and not only did I get covered in it, but so did the wooden unit on which the printer stands, the printer itself, and anything within a half mile radius..
So I did the obvious things, recalibrated the heads, self clean, printed a test sheet – all OK, so another go with a photo, and a repeat disaster.

Hunting round the web, I find that HP will only offer ‘chat’ and ‘e-mail’ support, if the product is still under warranty – so no help there then… thanks a lot HP….. But I did find the HP forum which discussed exactly the problem I was having – it seems that the problem is with the driver update, but it was proving difficult to find the old driver again. Fortunately with the MAC – I do have time machine installed, and so I was able to roll back and find the old driver software. I installed this, but then just got lots of errors flagged up, and an upgrade message from the MAC telling me to update the driver to the one I’d just deleted.

More research found this
Clearest way to solve the issue is to do following steps:

– Remove HP printer(s) from printer list (System Preferences > Print and Fax (MacOS 10.6) / Print and Scan (MacOS 10.7)

– Move the whole “hp” folder from /Library/Printers/ into Trash

– Download and install HP Drivers Update Version 2.6 from following link:

ftp://hppsu2_6:7iy*HW4i@ftp.usa.hp.com/

– Restart the Mac

– Add printer in System Preferences …

And so the problem (for the moment at least) is solved, and I printed my client images. How I wish I was getting paid by the hour, because it took just over 4 hours to identify, and solve the problem… loads of ink down the drain, and one 10×8 print at the end of it…. I’m going to do the rest today…. wish me luck….