Saturday, May 3, 2008
Many people figure that if their images are dark, they can always use photoshop to try to fix the light level later or create a fake white background. There are a couple of reason why this isn't the best way to solve the problem.
1. If your image is dark, it is underexposed. When a digital image is underexposed, the picture becomes full of "noise", that is the grainy, colorful particles that ruin the clarity and color of your image. Not what you want.
2. If your subject is underexposed and you create a white background around it using the paint tool, your subject will really look bad because the light on it doesn't match the brightness of the background.
One of the reasons many people wind up with dark images is they don't understand how a light meter functions on their camera. Basically, a camera captures light. When you point your camera at a subject there can be light with all different varying degrees of brightness. Your camera, set on Auto mode, will try to let in enough light to match the amount of light that would be reflected off of something that was nuetral gray.
What does that mean? It means that no matter what you are taking a picture of, no matter what color it is, the camera wants to expose the picture with an "average" amount of light reaching the sensor. Not too bright, not too dark. Gray. Not gray the color, think intensity of light.
Have you ever taken a photo in the wintertime on a bright, sunny day of snow? What color was the snow when you opened the photo on the computer? Probably gray. Why didn't the camera show the snow as white like your eyes saw it? Because to the camera, there was too much light. There wasn't an average amount of light, there was a lot of light, so it automatically underexposed the shot to get gray.
At the same time, if you point your camera at something all dark or black, you will not get black in the final image, you will get gray. The camera will automatically OVERexpose to compensate.
A lot of times I see people talk about using a light box to photograph products such as jewelry and in theory this is a good idea. But, without knowledge of how to properly expose a photo, the lightbox in itself won't help. If the person shoots their product against a very bright background, like a white cloth, the camera is STILL going to underexpose the shot.
To get the best results, you need to compensate for what your camera will try to do automatically. You do this by setting your camera to M mode, Manual, and controlling your shutter speed and aperture to allow exactly the amount of light that you want.
Tomorrow's entry, I will talk about how to use manual mode with a typical point and shoot camera that makes it easy for you to take better pictures under any lighting conditions.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
If you like these bags and want to buy one or take a look at the store on Etsy, you can find everything here: http://www.lauraohdesigns.etsy.com
If you like this type of photography and sell on Etsy, Ebay, etc and want your photos professionally done, I will be talking about that in my next blog, as I offer these services at deeply discounted rates compared to what I would charge large companies for a much more involved shoot. If you're already interested, message me and we can discuss your project.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Here also is a link to her site on Etsy where you can purchase her photography:
Onto something completely unrelated to photography. Ferrari and Formula 1. Hooray for Kimi Raikkonen to easily win the Malaysian Grand Prix. Both Ferraris were absolutely dominating and with Massa going off the track again, it won't help to quel the rumors of Alonso joining Ferrari eventually. Massa is off to a horrific start this year and even though the season is just starting, as we saw last year, every single point counts.
Today was Easter and it reminded me something about my photography. That is, I'm not taking enough snapshots. That sounds odd coming from someone who spends time carefully composing photos, but I've noticed that as I'm spending more and more time with my photography, taking nature photos, taking product photos for companies, etc, there is one subject I've been neglecting.
I don't see some of my family as often as I'd like to and there are some who are getting pretty old. As I was looking around today I realized that I haven't taken any photos of some members of my family for years. Neither has anyone else.
It's nice to take the group portraits at family gatherings and posed pics, but I've always preferred the more spontaneous shots. I'm sure everyone has that box of old family photos somewhere, with lots of faces you maybe don't even recognize anymore. It's fun to look at past generations and see how at one point, they were really just like you.
I'm in my mid thirties now and I remember my aunts and uncles when I was a kid, the family parties and the fun we had. To me, they seemed so old and responsible. Now, when I look at the family photos, I see that they were my age. Laughing around the table, dancing, drinking wine, enjoying great food and enjoying life and each other's company.
Looking over these pictures, and there are a lot, I wonder how I could be so lazy. Granted, my family is more scattered than it used to be, but there are tons of memories I could be capturing and I'm not. They had it much rougher than me. They had to shoot film, drop it off, pick it up, make albums, etc. All I have to do is snap the pics and archive them.
Maybe I think time, and my family, will always be around.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Since many of the bags have a country theme I wanted a rustic or cottage look to the backgrounds so we thought to head to the antiques market nearby. The one problem is most store owners don't want any photos shot inside their shop so we either had to sneak a couple shots or find something outdoors.
One setting I couldn't pass up as we walked through one of the stores was a chair by a window, and it seemed perfect for one of the bags:
For an Etsy shot, a lot of people would say this is dark and the entire product can't be seen clearly. We had plenty of time to take more shots of this bag later outside where there was plenty of light and opportunity to show the entire bag, but this shot was just meant for mood and beauty.
The wicker chair, yellowed walls and window light to me set the perfect country mood for this bag and so far, this photo has received more views on her Etsy shop than any other by far.
White backgrounds are great and often are the best choice for some products, but think about what you're trying to sell and think if there is a way to show off the beauty of your product in a natural setting too, besides just plain white or black. You might have an opportunity to not only show off your products features but also help to set a mood for the buyer.
For a lot of the other bags, we ran into a challenge in terms of location and had to take what we could get. We found two nice spots that gave us some decent light and gave us some backgrounds that would fit the products nicely. One was a country style porch with some wicker furniture, and the others were the outside walls of buildings with fading green and blue paint that gave the impression of age. Here are some pics:
The challenge of finding the right type of background, the right colors, enough space, etc made this a really fun shoot, especially since nothing was planned.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
There are three basic elements that control exposure.
2. Shutter Speed
I'll discuss each one separately first, then in the end talk about how all three work together. I see a lot of people on sites like Etsy and Ebay who do their own product photography that have trouble with exposure - mostly with dark, underexposed photos so I think this is going to help those people a lot.
Out of the three things that control exposure, Aperture is probably the most confusing to most people. But if you learn what it is and how to use it, you will be able to have more control over how your photos look, and you'll be able to take much more professional looking pictures.
Put simply, Aperture is the size of the opening in a lens when you take a picture. Well, what does that mean? This is one of the ways your camera (or you) determines how much light reaches the sensor. If the hole only opens up a little bit, less light enters the camera. If the hole opens up wider, more light enters.
Aperture is measured in F-stops. These numbers, such as F/2.8, F/5.6, F/22, etc simply denote the size of the hole that opens when you press the shutter and take a picture. Each time you change the aperture by one F-stop, you are either doubling or halving the amount of light that reaches the sensor.
So here is where it can be a bit confusing. If you look at these two F-stop numbers, which would you think lets in more light: F/2.8 or F/16? Actually, the smaller number is a bigger hole and let's in more light. Here is one of my shoddy charts to help you get an idea. Keep in mind this is not an exact diagram, it's just meant to help you visualize
As you can see, as you go from F22 to F2.8 the hole in the lens opens more and more to let in more and more light. This is one of those things that you just have to remember. "The smaller the number, the more light" F2.8 gives you more light than F4, which gives more light than F5.6, etc.
Aperture not only helps control the amount of light, it also controls what we call depth of field. That is how much of your photo is or is not in focus. But we'll save that for it's own discussion. For now, let's just focus on exposure.
The shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open to allow light into the camera. This is a much more simple concept than Aperture. Shutter speed is measure in seconds, then in fractions of seconds. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light enters the camera. Changing the shutter by 1 setting doubles or halves the amount of light entering the camera.
So, for example, a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second lets in half the light of a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second.
Faster shutter speeds are required when you want to freeze action, such as sports, flying birds, etc, or even when you are handholding your camera for product photography. If your shutter speed is too slow, it is impossible for you to hold the camera still enough for a clear picture.
This is one of the things that often goes wrong for amateur photographers. If your pics are often blurry, chances are your shutter speed is too slow without you knowing it, and you are getting movement. The shutter opens, you move and create blur, then it finally closes. If you are hand-holding your camera and it's not on a tripod, you need to use faster shutter speeds to freeze the shot even if you're a bit shaky.
ISO is simply your camera's sensitivity to light. ISO used to be controlled by the film you bought, as different films were more or less sensitive to light. Remember buying ISO 200 or ISO 400 film? Well now it's all programmable on the camera, and ISO can be changed from shot to shot.
Easier to understand than aperture, ISO is pretty straightforward with the numbering.
ISO is measured in numbers which differ a bit with each camera. Some cameras give you more ISO options than others, but basically you only have to know that as the number increases, the camera is more sensitive to the light. Going from less sensitive to highly sensitive would look like this:
100,200, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1320, 1600, 3200
Most cameras will start at either 100 or 200 and might go to 800, especially point and shoot models. When there is a ton of light, such as outdoors in the sun at the beach, you don't need to have a very sensitive sensor. So ISO 100 or 200 still gives you good shutter speeds. If you're in a really dark room and your ISO is set to 100, chances are your camera would need a LONG shutter speed to have enough light to expose the picture correctly. That is why without a flash, most people's photos in a dark room are totally blurry.
So now you know you have three elements to work with that control how light or dark your pictures are going to appear. Don't be concerned with the exact numbers as all cameras will be a bit different if you're talking about a dslr or point and shoot. Just remember the concept for each element and you'll be fine.
So how do we use ISO, aperture and shutter together? Well the first thing to understand and remember is that they are all dependent on one another. If you change one, it effects the other. For now, let's leave the ISO out of it because you won't change that as often as the other two.
Remember that each time you change either the shutter speed or the aperture by 1 unit, the light entering the camera either doubles or is cut in half. So let's take a hypothetical example:
Suppose you set your camera on Auto and take a picture, and the photo looks perfect at F8 and 1/250th of a second. If you changed the aperture from F8 to F5.6 (the next aperture setting), what would happen? Well, twice as much light enters the camera, and the photo would be overexposed. So to compensate and make the photo look perfect again, we increase the shutter speed to 1/500, cutting the light in half. Now you're back to good exposure.
To wrap this up and keep it as simple as possible:
If your photos are too dark : Use a bigger aperture (F2.8, F4 instead of F16 or F22), Reduce your shutter speed, or increase the ISO number.
if your photos are too bright: Use a smaller aperture ( F16, F22 instead of F4, F2.8), Increase your shutter speed, or decrease the ISO number.
I know that was a handful and maybe you have more questions now than when you first read this. Over the next week or so I"m going to talk about each element in detail - shutter speed, aperture and ISO so you will have it all mastered soon.
I"ll also get into a lot more detail about product photography tips, using different colored backgrounds and how that can throw off your camera's metering system, tips on lighting, etc.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Before I get to the white balance thing, I just wanted to take the time to thank two wonderful people who featured me in their blogs today. The first is Kelly Malouf who creates her own clothes, bead jewelry, accessories and home decor. Her blog is: http://kellymalouf.com/blog/ and of course that's also her website where you can view all her products.
The second blog was done by Jennifer from Jlcstudio http://www.jlcstudio.blogspot.com/ She's an Etsy artist and has some fantastic jewelry so please check her out at http://www.jlcstudio.etsy.com Great stuff and a really nice person. I'm thankful to both for including me.
Now, the other day when I posted my first blog ever, someone wrote and asked about white balance. Since then on the forums of Etsy I've noticed a lot of people aren't too sure what it is or how to use it. So I thought tonight I'd reprint my response so nobody has to dig for it, and also add a few things.
White balance is basically a way for your camera to figure out the "color temperature" of the light in the scene you are shooting so that your camera records the true colors in the scene.We can look at a white object in the sun, the shade or anything in between and our brains are able to always see it as white.
With cameras, unless they know what type of light is available, they might read it wrong.You've seen shots or maybe taken some, where the entire color of the photo seems to move in one direction...to red/orange, too blue or too green. This is because the camera was probably set to the wrong white balance, and the camera thought the subject was lit with one type of light, when in reality it was another.
You will typically see your white balance settings listed as little pictures - the sun, a light bulb, a fluorescent, a flash symbol, Auto, cloudy, shade and perhaps custom.
The spectrum of light is measured in Kelvins. Though you're never going to need this information, I'll give it to you anyway.
1000-2000 K Candlelight
2500-3500 K Tungsten Bulb
3000-4000 K Sunrise/Sunset
4000-5000 K Fluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 K Electronic Flash
5000-6500 K Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 K Moderately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky
You don't have to memorize this chart, it just shows you that different types of light have a different color cast. Depending on what the conditions are, you need to change your camera's white balance so that color is recorded correctly.In the days of film cameras, you might have seen multi-colored filters at the camera store to attach to lenses. This was how white balance was handled then.
If it was "cool" light, which would normally produce a blue color, a red or orange "warming" filter was used.Now with digital cameras, this is all done automatically. It's not perfect and you can get situations where it's a little tricky.You will most likely get good results with your camera set to "auto" white balance. It generally does a good job and if you use Photoshop or another editing software you can make minor adjustments.
If you shoot RAW files on a dslr you can completely change the white balance even after you've already taken the photo.I will usually leave the white balance on Auto, or if it's bright and sunny I'll switch to "daylight". Indoors with household bulbs, switching to incandescent really does work well especially at night when bulbs are truly the only source of light.
The trickiest situations are always shade and overcast skies. Even on a cloudy day, sometimes you switch the white balance to "cloudy" thinking you've done the right thing, and the camera compensates too much and the photo looks orange. Same thing for shade. In these two situations it's always best to take a test photo and change the white balance if needed. Most of the consumer point and shoot cameras have a live view LCD screen on the back. You can change the white balance and look at the viewfinder to see what effect each setting has on color.
Because light is a mix of red, green and blue, the ratios vary a lot and so finding the perfect setting on your cam can be tricky sometimes. Sometimes on a sunny day, the "sunlight" setting produces a shot that's too cool and blue. Sometimes on a cloudy day, the cloudy setting renders everything too warm and orange.
I hope that helps people understand what it is and why its important. If it doesn't I can understand that too because it's 3am and my eyelids are starting to sink lower than the US dollar. If you still have questions, feel free to message me here, convo me over at Etsy http://www.robertsocha.etsy.com or email me from my website http://www.robertsochaphotography.com
In my next blog I'm planning to talk about how to control depth of field. But if there are other topics you think are more important, feel free to let me know.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Since I'm up and tomorrow I can sleep in, I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about something I see a lot on the forums on Etsy.com. That is, how to get decent lighting for product photography when you don't have professional lights or a great camera.
Every product is going to be different of course but I think I can come up with some basics that most people can use effectively for better shots. The size of your product, the color, the shape, etc is all going to play a part but this should give decent results.
First, if you're using a typical point and shoot digital camera like a Nikon Coolpix or a Canon Powershot, forget the flash. On-camera flashes produce flat, harsh light and you'll most likely get a nasty looking hot spot on your product or background.
Shooting with natural light will give you colors that are more true to real life than if you shot with tungsten (regular household lamps) or fluerescent. I spelled that wrong, I never could spell it.
All natural light is not the same though. Try your best to wait for a day that is completely overcast but still very bright. One of those "white sky" days. They make your vacation shots look boring but that's the kind of sky that's really going to help your product shots. The cloud cover acts as one giant softbox, diffusing and softening the light. If you shoot on a bright, sunny day you are going to get harsh light, hot spots and bad shadows.
Position your product close to the window at about a 45 degree angle so the light is coming from a bit in front and above. set up your camera and try out different angles and set ups, depending what you are photographing.
On the opposite side of your product, place something large, white and reflective. If you go to a craft store you can usually find a big piece of white foam-core board. That's perfect. It will reflect some of the light from the window back onto your product and fill in those shadows.
Your background really depends what you're trying to achieve. If you want to include as a real element of the photo and have it in focus, place the background close to your product. If you want it to be less intrusive and out of focus, place it farther back.
Here is the basic set up in a shoddy little diagram I drew:
If you are shooting outside, try to shoot in the same type of conditions - bright but overcast. you may want to then try to move your background very far back to give it a nice blur. Try to choose a background with colors that compliment your product and you can create a nice blurred paint-like look.
Remember to check the white balance setting on your camera before you shoot. Most cameras will do OK with the white balance set to auto. If you are using window light or are outside in overcast conditions, typically the daylight setting still works better than the "cloudy" setting. Try both, but the cloudy setting might produce an orange color.
I hope this helped. If anyone has questions or suggestions, feel free to chime in.
Friday, February 22, 2008
1. My website is officially live. (I think). It seems to be, though in a slightly different form than I originally anticipated. I have opened only 50% of the website which shows much of my nature photography and gives all my contact info, etc.
The second part of the website will show commercial photography I have done and will be doing for individuals and companies. That part of the site I hope to have up in the spring after I finish some more projects.
So, here it is: http://www.robertsochaphotography.com/aphotography.com/ Let me know your thoughts!
2. I am currently published in PhotoLife magazine. One of my photos, Sentinels, took 8th in the Nature/Landscape category of their annual Image International competition. The bad news is that I spelled Sentinels wrong when I sent in the image, and spelled it "Sentinals". Nice going.
This is the image:
3. I was accepted to Trunkt.com which is a juried, online gallery to showcase your artwork to retailers, designers, etc. I know some people have gotten some wonderful exposure from that site so I'm banking everything on this. Well, no not really but it's still nice.
Now you might be wondering when I'm going to get around to a topic even remotely resembling the Blog title. Well, that time is now.
One thing I've learned in my 36 years of existence is that there is something to learn from everyone. Of course, that can really, really vary greatly depending on who we're talking about, but even people who seem to offer up nothing in this world can teach you something if you take the time to think about it.
What you know is all relative depending on who you are comparing yourself with. I know a bit about photography but there are tons of people who know less than me, and tons who know more. I'm fine with that and I'm open not only to learning from people who know more, but even people who know less. Why not?
The idea for this blog today came from an experience I had awhile back. I had purchased my first set of studio lights from Alienbee (great lights by the way) and to be honest, was not very good with them. The vast majority of my photography was always outdoors in natural light, but studio strobes was a whole different animal.
So, thinking I could get some friendly help, I went to a pretty famous website for help on their photographer's blog in the "lighting techniques" section. I kindly explained I was new, I had a certain problem and could someone kindly offer up some advice.
Well, what I got was a bunch of guys making fun of me, rolling their cyber eyes at the stupid question I had asked, and basically tried to make me feel stupid. I can only assume from their reaction that the first day they bought their studio lighting 20 years ago, they knew everything as soon as they opened the box, never needed to ask questions and were perfect photographers right from the start. (actually I checked their galleries, they had very little to be pompous about)
I laughed it off and they didn't bother or discourage me at all as I don't really pay much attention to idiots like that. But I know a lot of people do. If you're just beginning, don't think that a question is stupid. Whatever you are confused about, ALL of us had to learn it at some point too.
Over the next few months I practiced with the lights and got quite good. I don't really NEED help anymore, but this Sunday I'll be attending a lighting seminar in New Jersy with a photographer who has more experience than me. Why not? Chances are, even though i know a lot, I'm going to know more when I'm done and be a better photographer for it.
You might be struggling with some very basic problems and you just can't figure out what to do. Maybe your shots are all blurry, maybe they are weird colors or maybe you want to sell things on the internet but you just can't figure out how to get the shots to look good.
There are two things I'd like to see on my blog. (I'll use numbers again, this is important)
1. People with less photography experience and knowledge should be totally unafraid to ask questions and seek help.
2. Photographers with a lot of experience who happen by should lose the air of superiority and help out those who need to pick your brain.
If these two things happen, this should eventually turn out to be a fun and helpful place to be. So, what I'm thinking is if there are people who have some questions or problems, I can turn the answers into future blogs and we can all learn from each other. (that also saves me having to think too much for ideas).
Thanks for listening, and remember to buy 20 or 30 of my prints.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I'm creating this blog for a few reasons. One, as a place where photographers and lovers of photography can enjoy my occassional ramblings on the subject, as well as discuss products, talk about fantastic places to shoot, offer tips and guidance, and share any interesting news related to photography.
Another far more sinister reason is to shamelessly promote myself, my prints for sale, and my services as a photographer. But what would a blog be without shameless self promotion anyway? But I'll try to keep that part of the blog as easy to swallow as possible.
Just to give you a bit of my background, I'm 36 and live in New Jersey with my wonderful better half, Francesca. I have been interested in photography for years - I think the first time I used a camera I had to be under 10 years old when my mother gave me her Pentax K1000 to use. I took it to Arizona to visit my grandmother and it seems that's all I wanted to do was take pictures. I could not wait to get back and make enlargements and photo albums.
Unfortunately, I only dabbled in photography after that. I shot in highschool, some in college, and then it wasn't until several years ago in the late 90's that I began to get the shooting bug again. Eventually I purchased a Nikon F100 and then a Nikon D70, which hooked me on shooting digitally.
Over the past several years I've been shooting mostly nature and wildlife photography, with some commercial projects along the way, which I've very much enjoyed. Recently I upgraded to the Nikon D300 which is probably the most phenomenal camera I've owned and has allowed me to expand both creatively and professionally and has certainly made the commercial work much easier and pleasant.
Recently I have begun to sell prints, but locally in shops and on the internet. The latest venue is on Etsy. For those of you who have never been there, that really is a fantastic website. It's dedicated to artists and craftspeople, selling their handmade items from around the world. My shop can be found at http://www.robertsocha.etsy.com
Self promotion on the very first blog....criminal.
I hope to hear from lots of different people so please feel free to suggest topics to talk about, ask questions if you're a beginner, etc...the blog will shape itself I'm sure.
Thanks for reading and I will publish more very soon!