Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review: Understanding Shutter Speed by Bryan Peterson

Written By T. Michael Testi

Most people know of Bryan Peterson's 2004 bestselling book Understanding Exposure in which he explores in detail the relationship of aperture, shutter speed, and how to achieve successful exposures in difficult situations. In his new companion volume, Understanding Shutter Speed, he takes on one of those aspects in depth: shutter speed.

Unless working with still life, every moment offers up the movement of a subject. How that subject is captured brings the moment back to us. In every situation there will be a number of ways to capture that image. The goal of Understanding Shutter Speed is to give you the knowledge to make the best choice. The book 160 pages and is contained in five chapters.

"Shutter Speed Facts & Myths" begins by explaining that within most picture-taking situations you have six possible combinations of f-stops and shutter speeds that will result in correct exposures. This does not mean that each will take the same image, but rather will result in six quality images, each with a different look and feel to it. Also discussed is the affect of ISO on images and how it applies to action photos.

"Fast and Moderate Speeds" examines how to freeze action and how shutter speed affects what you see in an image. Here the author takes you through a number of shutter speeds from 1/100 to 1/1000 and shows you what they really mean in relation to your picture. While moving to faster stops action, slower speeds can create more artistic looks and you will see what can be done when slowing things down a bit.

"Slow Speeds" notches things down even further by exploring speeds of 1/30 to ¼ of a second and how — when used with the panning of the camera and the movement of the camera to follow the central object in the image — you can slow it down while everything else is blurred.

You will also explore the use of a tripod and how it can be used to imply motion. You will see how to paint with shutter speeds, how motion zooming can be used to bring motion to a still object, how by attaching a camera to what is moving you can get a different perspective, how to photograph ghosts and angels, as well as how to work with dusk and low light situations requiring a second or more of exposure.

"Exposure Concerns" takes on the topic of white balance (WB) and how, especially if you are shooting digital Raw, that this is not as much of a concern as it is with film since you can adjust WB in post production. Other topics are long exposures and rear curtain flash sync, the use of filters, and how you can use under exposure to get better images once you get to post production.

"Compositions" is really about order, structure, and creativity. Here the author talks about the different choices that can be made to compose an image and how each of the choices will bring out emotion in the image. Along with the choices of point of view, subject, shutter speed, and exposure comes balance and tension. These, taken together, bring emotion to the image.

I found Understanding Shutter Speed to be every bit as important of a book as Understanding Exposure, especially for those who are just getting into photography. It is a very easy read and is well laid out with outstanding images and excellent image quality within the book. The book is, like its predecessor, oversized with glossy pages that make its quality apparent.

While I don't think there is much here that is not already known for well-seasoned photographers, the techniques that are used would be beneficial to someone who is teaching a course on the subject. Each area is examined in detail, and cross comparisons are made between like exposures.

If you want to deepen your understanding of photography (especially with the topic of shutter speeds), if you are just learning photography, or are an instructor who wants a good book to use to teach the subject, then I highly recommend Understanding Shutter Speed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Review: The Photograph: Composition And Color Design By Harald Mante

Written By T. Michael Testi


After you deal with the technical aspects, the crucial elements that determine the quality and strength of an image are the organization of the elements and their content. It is these elements that make up the art of the photograph. Creative photography is built upon the mastery of these elements.

In The Photograph: Composition and Color Design, Harald Mante, a distinguished teacher of the photographic arts in Germany, explores the principles of line, shape, color, contrast, and design. His goal is to explore composition and design at a much greater depth than is available in most books to date. The Photograph is an oversized book with 280 full color pages and is divided into six chapters.

"The Point" refers to a means of organization in which the relation to the image plane is small or relatively small. A point is static and maintains its location. In this chapter you will explore various arrangements involving the point within an image. These points may be defined by an object, a color, a shape, or even multiple points, but they all draw you in. You will explore the point's simplicity, arrangement, repetition, texture, pattern, and more.

"The Line" is a method organizing an image in an active arrangement. By using lines, you actively draw the viewer's eye through the image, clearly creating movement. Here you will study how forces acting on a line force the eye to something in the image. You will study the properties of a line - how horizontal and vertical lines work differently in an image, and how diagonal, irregular, oblique, and groups of lines affect images.

"The Shape" is the design element by which areas of tone and color are bounded within or are allowed to cover the entire image. Described here are rectangles and squares, circles, ovals, triangles, as well as variants of irregular shapes. Also included are the contrasts of shapes.

"Universal Contrasts" are almost always present in a picture. These are the differentiations of light and dark, or of monochrome and colors. They give rise to the special effects within a picture. They are the differences between the figure and the ground, and the variations of space, and can be caused by the natural environment or the use of focal lengths.

"Color Contrasts" are, on the other hand, introduced into an image for effect. They can form from brightness, hue, or from complementary or contrasting colors. Much of the time, color reaction is based on one's own feelings or sensations. You will explore the primary and secondary color effects, the third order colors, complementary and contrasting colors, cold/warm contrasts, actual and apparent colors, and simultaneous contrasts.

"Using the Tools" puts everything together within artistic design. The quality of design can only emphasize a picture's content by presenting it well. Achieving expressiveness in an image requires creative and conceptual thinking. In this chapter you will work with color harmony, static and dynamic composition, imaginary and partial shapes, un-sharpness, and how to see them differently. You will also learn about sequences and series, and how they affect a vision.

The Photograph is different from the start in that the author does not speak of the traditional topics of composition such as the rule of thirds and other standard elements. Rather, he takes concepts like points and shapes and colors, and through the use of a massive amount of personal images (over 600 according to the publisher), explores them in depth.

The text in the book is very technically oriented. For those who pursue the aspects as they are taught, this will provide great insight into the creation of images that go beyond the ordinary.

If you are a serious photographer, then The Photograph: Composition and Color Design is a must-have book. While one could gain insight from this book just from reading the topics and viewing the images, one could also enjoy this book as one would a coffee table book since the images are so good.

This is not really a beginner's book. It is a book for the intermediate to advanced photographer. If you want your photographs to be the best they can be, you should study The Photograph: Composition and Color Design.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book Review: Practical Artistry - Light and Exposure For Digital Photographers by Harold Davis

Written by T. Michael Testi

The amount of power and capabilities in today's digital cameras give you a lot of technical sophistication, but all of these features alone will not guarantee the capturing of a compelling image. To do that, you have to have more than just technology, you must have skills. To do it well you must be one part photographer and one part digital artist.

In Practical Artistry: Light and Exposure For Digital Photographers, Harold Davis' aim is to present the best practices of the craft of photography in the context of the digital era. A great photograph begins with the photographer's understanding of light and proceeds with a good and creative exposure. Practical Artistry is 176 full color pages that are divided into six chapters.

"Understanding Exposure" begins with the exploration of what is an exposure, especially with regard to the capturing of light. Here the discussion is about the relationship of aperture, shutter speed, and light sensitivity - also known as ISO. Here you will learn about the exposure equation, measuring light, and intentional over- and under-exposing of images.

"Working with Aperture" provides you with a solid foundation of understanding what f-numbers are and how f-stops work. You will see how aperture and depth of field relate, how to work with selective focus, when aperture does not matter, and how it relates to macro photography.

"Selecting Shutter Speed" is all about time and how shutter speed is really about the duration of time that the shutter is open. The discussion is about the affects of time in the photographic equation, about shutter speed and camera shake, subject motion, and the creative use of motion.

"ISO and Noise" explains where camera noise comes from and how it relates to light sensitivity. You will see when to boost ISO, how to use noise creatively, and how you can reduce noise in post processing.

"Using Light" gets in to the use of light in the capturing of images and how a creative exposure can lead to a creative image. By finding the best light for a given composition, you will be able to create your best images. By being a student of lighting situations, you can gain an understanding of how light sources interact with each other and the external situations. You can also enhance the existing light by the use of artificial light sources as well. Here you will learn about white balance, front lighting, side lighting, back lighting, overcast lighting, night lighting, and flash lighting.

"Digital Darkroom" is all about post processing. Here you will learn about working with Raw Conversion, adjusting exposure, white balance, working with noise reduction, multi-Raw production, cross processing and working with black and white.

What I like about Practical Artistry is that it gets back to the basics about photography and does it in the digital age framework. In the old days before the advent of built-in light meters, a photographer had to understand the photographic equation; the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These techniques still are relevant today with the digital camera.

This instructional book is richly illustrated with full color photographs from the author. The text is explained clearly and in detail with an accompanying photo to illustrate the effects of decisions made.

Practical Artistry is a great book for anyone who wants to understand the traditional methods of photography within the realm of the digital age. I can easily recommend this book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Video Training Review: High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series One With Vitaly Druchinin

High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series One is the first in what will be a series of photographic retouching training videos that feature techniques that are in use by professionals in the fashion and beauty photography industry. These are not the same techniques that are in use in the glamour and portrait sector, the ones that soften and blur imperfections. Instead, these techniques attempt to be natural, clean, and unnoticeable.

High-End Industry Retouching Techniques is divided into two parts. The first part is "Retouching Tools" and contains detailed instructions for all of the tools that you will frequently use within Photoshop CS3 to master the techniques. The second part is "Complete Retouch," which will take you from start to finish in retouching a beauty image. All of the images come on the DVD (around 1.7 GB in high quality images). The video includes over three hours of training.

"Retouching Tools" begins with a brief introduction to the program and then gets down to business. First used is Levels, to control the look of the image. With Levels you can adjust density, color balance, and exposure. Next you work with the Color Balance tool as an alternative to Levels. Whereas with Levels you work with Channels, here you will work with the colors themselves. While not used as often, the Hue/Saturation tool lets you adjust the saturation levels in an image. The Clone Stamp is next used to duplicate one portion of an image on to another portion of an image. In this context it is helpful when you want to fill in something like eyelashes or skin imperfections.

This section continues with the uses of Healing brush, the Brush Tool, and the History brush, which are described in some detail. The video also explains where the best places to use them are. The Dodge and Burn tools are use to lighten and darken areas, the Eyedropper tool is used to sample colors in your image, the Liquefy tool for manipulating parts of the body, the Warp tool is used to manipulate larger areas, and finally the Unsharp Mask is used at the end to enhance the sharpness of the image.

"Complete Retouch" takes an image from beginning to end into high fashion retouching. This consists of 28 steps. In this section, you will work with the tools that you learned about previously. You begin with a 3D modeling exercise to show you how to get an image to have a 3D feel. This can prove to be invaluable when trying to change the structure of portions of the body.

Areas that are addressed in this segment are setting up, working with hair, head shape, and eye and ear shapes. You will see how to fade wrinkles, remove ear piercings, reshape lips, clean up teeth, add eyelashes, shape the body, as well as using local contrast and sharpening the image.

What I absolutely love about High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series One is that it is a very focused and well defined training video. It does not go into any areas that do not have to do with fashion image retouching. It does not take you down any paths that don't relate to fashion image processing; there is the one segment on 3D, but it has a specific point to get across that would not be easily demonstrated on an image. The techniques are sound, well covered, and explained with good background.

The instructor does a really superior job of going over the the techniques that he uses and he takes the time to explain what he is doing and throughout he is giving time saving workflow techniques and shortcuts. The other thing I like is that you also get the original file that was created using a Hasselblad H3D 39 megapixel camera to work with and to follow along to apply the steps.

You can watch a demonstration of how to shape lips or remove an ear piercing online; please note that these videos are smaller and compressed for web viewing. You can also see some samples of what these techniques will produce in a finished image.

You can get High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series Oneon DVD from Photoshop Retouching & Photography Tutorial Videos The DVD Training Package is $195 USD and contains everything you need.

One final thing, the video on the DVD is very good quality, it is clear and the controls are easy to use. If you want to really learn the techniques of the High Fashion Photographers then you need to check out High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series One

High-End Industry Retouching Techniques: Series One Lesson Listing:

Part One: Retouching Tools

  • Introduction
  • Levels
  • Color balance
  • Hue/Saturation
  • Clone Stamp
  • Healing brush
  • Brush tool
  • History brush
  • Dodge & burn
  • Eye Dropper
  • Liquify
  • Warp
  • Unsharp Mask
Part Two: Complete Retouch
  • Introduction
  • 3D Modeling exercise
  • ACR developing
  • Retouch setup
  • Image healing
  • Hair shape with liquefy
  • Head shape with warp
  • Ear & eye shaping
  • Modeling with dodge & burn
  • Wrinkle fading
  • Removing ear piercing
  • Hiding ear veins
  • Reshaping lips
  • Adding lip color
  • Removing eye veins
  • Fading eye redness
  • Teeth whitening
  • Teeth de-yellowing
  • Teeth shaping
  • Adding lashes
  • Filling in hair
  • Hair shape liquefying
  • Darkening lashes
  • Making pupils pop
  • Shaping the body
  • Removing fly hairs
  • Local contrast
  • Sharpening