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Still Crazy
You say you want resolution? The whole world is watching these digicams.


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Old September 8th, 2003, 12:03 AM   #1
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Your best digital tips?

What is your favorite technique or tip for digital photography, in camera, in post, and in print?

As photographers we used to debate the nuances of film, our choice of film, and how best to use it. Film was everything to us. Now, all digital film is the same (relatively speaking). It is up to us to find other ways to create subtleties that define our own look and style. What do you do to get your best shot?

In Camera – My favorite function of my digital SLR (Canon 10D) is the ability to change ISO with the turn of a dial at any time I choose. ISO 1600 is one of my favorite settings. For many years professional journalists have been taking pictures in available light under very difficult lighting conditions without the aid of a speed light. That is often what sets their pictures apart from amateurs. Look at any National Geographic and you will see the look I am talking about, indoor photography with grain, shadows and no flash. Now, with a digital SLR anyone can create that look without 10 different types of film and 10 color correction filters in their bag. Just put your flash back in the bag, open the curtains or take the lamp shades off, select the lowest ISO conditions permit and the appropriate white balance, and have fun. The challenge is to make the high contrast and grain of these images work for you. It lends itself most readily to a photojournalistic look or to a very artistic look, depending on what you do with it.

In Post – Photoshop quick tip. Go to the brightness and contrast settings and crank them way over to extremes instead of the usual gentle adjustments they are made for. The wild colors and dramatic effect is like dialing in your own posterization effect. Works well for some weird shots.

In Print – I print with a Canon S9000 that I like very much. I print glossy prints on Canon Photo Paper Pro. I print all other prints (the majority of my printing) on Epson Professional Media, Premium Luster Photo Paper, Luster “E” Surface, 10 Mil. It costs about $35.00 for a 50 pack of 8.5x11 and worth it. Ink jet printing is like counterfeiting money, when you hand it to someone, it may look good but if it does not feel right in the hand they know something is wrong. It is the closest thing I have found to reproducing real photo quality prints on my system.

I have started this tread in hope that some of you will contribute your tips for me and others to try. I never cease to be amazed by what I find on this board.

Best Regards,

Steve
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Old September 8th, 2003, 06:03 AM   #2
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The thing I like the most about digital is the freedom to experiment. I love trying different things with my photography but with film you have to wait to see the effect and can't fine tune it. One thing I tried was mixing three different light sources, daylight, flash and a standard lightbulb on top of boosting the saturation and contrast. I tried Frank's 'turn the camera with a slow shutter speed' and I got some great looking shots, not to mention the fun I had changing the settings to see what I came out with. For serious work digital SLRs still don't have what I need so for now I'll stick with my EOS1nRS and keep playing with my little S45.
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Old September 8th, 2003, 09:10 AM   #3
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Adrian,

EOS1Nrs? That is a sports shooters camera. Are you the guy I read about here that is shooting snowboarding? If so you can see some of my old snowboard and ski photos at the photo gallery on my web site (click my web button or go to www.corporateshow.com). There is about 25 sports shots there.

Steve
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Old September 8th, 2003, 06:49 PM   #4
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Use the histogram display on your camera. The 10D, D60 D100 (I think) and other digital cameras display a histogram. It shows how your pixels are distributed, light vs. dark. You can tell if your highlights, shadows or both are blown. It's nice to have the instant feedback of the picture itself, but it's usually too small for careful analysis. The histogram tells you with a quick glance how the exposure was and if it should be reshot.
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Old September 8th, 2003, 06:56 PM   #5
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There are a few guys here that shoot action sports like surfing, skateboarding, and snow sports. My speciality is snowboarding but I also shoot skateboarding, wakeboarding and motocross, I shoot surfing with my XL as well. At the moment there is no digital SLR to replace the 1nRS. The EOS 1D come close but it's 4MB 1.3x CCD is the thing that kills it for me. I've had a play with one and know a bunch of sports shooters that use them but for skating and snowboarding you need to be able to shoot WIDE. If Canon come out with a 6-8MP full-frame version of the 1D then I'll be on it, a pillicle mirror like in the 1nRS would also be great but I'm not holding my breath.

I checked out your site, some really nice shots. I would have loved to shoot at the Olympics.
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Old September 8th, 2003, 07:38 PM   #6
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I believe the 10D has it, not sure. But on the D100, along with the histogram, you also have a mode that will show blown out highlights (sort of like zebra stripes on video cams). That I really like. I'll sometimes shoot -.5 to -1.0 just to tone down the highlights if there are some bad ones. Contrast, hue, sharpening adjustments I usually keep at default settings or off completely. I also like with the D100 you can load custom tone curves, I still haven't had the chance to tackle that yet, but will soon.

Everything I shoot is for b&w. Before I've been using 2 adjustment layers, one to desaturate the image and the other to imitate different filters. But I recently downloaded the trial version of Convert to B&W Pro from theimagingfactory. At first I wasn't sure about it, but the more I've used it the more I like the results. What I really like about it, is I can go to b&w at the beginning of the workflow now as it's a 16bit compatible plugin. Though it's $99 price might turn some off, I'm still debating whether to buy it or not, I think I will though.

Printing, grrr. I'm using an Epson 1280 printer. I've been trying to make a good print using MIS's VM Quadtone inkset. But so far I can only get prints that are extremely posterized. I still have about half of the ink in the carts left. So I'll try to get the printing down by the time the ink runs out then decide if I want to go back to Epson inks or not. For paper I've been using Epson Enhanced Matte (aka Archival Matte) as right now I still working on getting a good print and this stuff is pretty cheap, though a nice paper. But I don't care too much for the brightener that's applied to the paper, so I don't know if I would ever use it for something I wanted to last. I've also made some test prints with Arches Infinity Smooth (matte paper). It's heavier than the EEM and is also a natural white. Very nice tone for printing sepia or platinum toned prints. Legion Photo Matte and Hahnemuhle Photo rag I haven't used yet. I have sample packets of them, but even sample packs are expensive with this stuff. Ah so much to do!
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Old September 8th, 2003, 07:47 PM   #7
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This thread started with an ISO tip. Does the ISO setting control anything other than the gain of the signal ? Is this a digital multiplication of the sampled signal or a boost of the signal gain at
the amplifier stage before the digital to analog converter used to record the CCD array? The only advantage I see is that reducing the ISO setting would avoid exceeding the upper limit of the dynamic range, or "blowing out" the pixel and putting your images in the sweet spot of the signal range so that you start with OK-looking pictures.
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Old September 8th, 2003, 08:44 PM   #8
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The direct answer to your question about where the signal is modified or how, is, I don't know. But the effect of the ISO change is in several areas.

The first is that changing the ISO will change the shutter speed and/or aperture so that motion can be stopped or blurred by the shutter. The aperture may also change which will effect DOF, and physical limitations of the lens, such as MTF and diffraction.

The CMOS chips used in the Canon 10D is unlike film, in that it produces a virtually grain less or noise free image up to ISO 800. This is unlike the video chips were an increase in gain produces substantial amounts of noise.
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Old September 8th, 2003, 09:31 PM   #9
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OK, here's another hint for getting the most out of digital cameras. Expose to the Right Which means expose as far as possible to over exposure without blowing out any highlights. In other words don't under expose your digital image or your wasting huge amounts of the available data, or image detail. If you under expose 1 stop, fully 1/2 of your available data is gone from your image. How does this work?

If your shooting digital, you should probably be shooting in the RAW mode, not JPEG. This provides the data before any processing like white balance, brightness, contrast, sharpness etc. have been applied. RAW files have only exposure and ISO applied to the data (to the best of my knowledge). The image is a 12 bit image and can contain 4096 discrete levels of information. This is 2 to the 12th power or 4096. Logic might tell you that the 4096 levels are evenly divided between the lightest and darkest portions of the image. However, this is not the case.

Most digital cameras have approximately a 5 stop range between the lightest and darkest values. If we divide 4096 by 5, each stop should contain 819 levels of information. But CCD and CMOS chips behave in a linear manner, as has been discussed on the forums before. The first stop of brightness (first 5th, if you will) contains half the value or 2048 levels. The next stop darker contains one half again or 1012 levels. Each stop darker lets in half as much light, half as many levels. So if you under expose one stop, you have thrown away half of your available levels of detail.

How do you take advantage of this? Expose to the right using your histogram, or flashing exposure indication. But, do not go over, into overexposure. Anything over 100% is lost, too. Digital isn't film and your not going to saturate you color, like in transparencies, if you under expose.

All of this is nothing new. Andre De Clercq alluded to much of this in some of his earlier posts here on the forums. Most recently this information has been put forth in the digital photography forums by Michael Reichmann. Mr. Reichmann credits his knowledge of this to conversations with Thomas Knoll of Photoshop fame.
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 02:46 PM   #10
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Jeff,

I am fascinated by your photo gallery, great work. I have two questions.

One, you have an obvious preference for setting the white balance to –1. Why?

Two, your use of fill flash is amazing. I see the enhancement to the photo but it is undetectable to an untrained eye. That is what good fill flash should do but it is hard to achieve. Is there a standard flash exposure compensation setting you use? Are you putting a gel over the flash lens? Post? What ever it is you are doing it well.

Adrian,

Although I am currently shooting a lot of digital images for my assignments, I too am hopeful that the next Canon pro body will be full frame, and meet the speed standards of the EOS1nRS. I’ll bet it happens sooner than later.

Thanks for the nice comments on my pictures. Most of that stuff is old. The Olympic Games was fun. I covered it for the US Ski Team but have not been back to the Games since 1992. In about 2 weeks I am shooting 4 days of NASCAR racing. That will update the gallery a little bit.

Steve
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 07:42 PM   #11
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Thanks for the kind words, Steve.

I shoot only RAW files and custom WB in ACR, then to PS (boy, talk about alphabet soup). I guess -1 must indicate custom WB.

I use Canon 380EX most of the time, lighter and smaller than the 550EX. No filters on the flash, but I do use the Better Beamer for more light. I gain 2 to 3 stops, which translates to about double the distance. I use the histogram to determine exposure. Expose as far to the right as possible without going over and blowing out the highlights.
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 09:44 PM   #12
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Jeff,

And I thought your -1 was your preferred white balance setting, oh well, that’s funny. I have been using fill flash ever since the Nikon SB24 helped make it a fad in publishing for a little while. I have never heard of a Better Beamer. I'll check it out. Your recycle bin must be full of shots of animals with red eye!

Since we have gotten into exposure and format tips I’ll add a couple more. I would advise anyone shooting for a client to never assume what format the client wants. Always ask.

1. I understand your “expose to the right” and preference for raw, especially for your wildlife fine art. I will try your methods.
2. Much of my work is done in .jpg – for exaple 2 weeks ago I covered an event for 2 days and delivered about 250 .jpg images to the press officer at the end of each day. .jpg’s are what he wants because there is no time to process RAW and they are good enough for his needs.
3. When shooting for advertising agencies (still usually transparency) they may want you to shoot in RAW but deliver in TIFF
4. If you are going to shoot in .jpg shoot it clean without any modifications in the camera, like your own parameters for saturation or contrast. Yes they look good coming out of the camera but the art director will want to shoot you. Any image that goes to a printing press looses detail, and gains contrast and saturation. If you added it in the camera or post you may have ruined the shot for him. Leave the image manipulation up to the client unless you have been instructed otherwise.


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Old October 23rd, 2003, 04:31 AM   #13
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I rarely have a problem in daylight. The animal's pupils are already constricted. I loose maybe 1 out of 100 shots to eye problems (or fix it in PS).

Your points on jpeg are excellent reminders. I shoot very few stills for clients, but when I do they almost always want jpegs.

I went to PBase last night and saw the -1 is a rather common Canon setting. I'm almost sure it must mean a custom WB setting.
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