Friday, 25 June 2010

Guest blog post at Tip

I'm very pleased to be todays guest blog poster over at Tip

I wasn't asked to write about anything in particular so my post is about Lightroom vs Photoshop. There's also an exclusive Lightroom video that goes with the blog post. If you want to see it click the photo.

If you've got a few minutes to spare pop over to Tip Squirrel and have a read of some of the excellent Photoshop & Lightroom tips from some very well known authors.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Grey background lighting tips and tricks - Quick Shots 08

This Quick Shot question is from Nick Stewart who wanted to know what all the fuss is about grey backgrounds and some tips on lighting them.

First off I should say my studio is fitted with a seamless vinyl background which I absolutely love working with. With careful lighting I can make it pure white through to dark grey. I also have a roll of black muslin which I roll out if I need a black or light it with gels for some funky colour effects.

Much as I love my white seamless, if I only had the room/money for one background it would be grey. Why? Well watch the video to find out.

A couple of questions from the video.

What triggers were you using?
They’re the Yongno RF602

I love the gel idea who makes them?
I’m using the Strobist gels from Rosco Here's the link

Great, how do I attach them to the speedlite?
I use two little bits of blu-Tack at the edge of the flash. The gels stick every time.

Where have I seen that softbox before?
It's a Lastolite Ezybox and you might have seen it here

Where did you get the grey background?
You can pick them up from many places but mine came from my good friends at Here’s the link

Why didn’t you iron the background?
Good point. The reason was to show that creases can vanish when lighting the grey background to white.

So are you saying DON’T iron a muslin background.
No, always iron it before using it.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Last chance to win...

There’s just over a week to go on for your chance to win one of three limited edition signed prints from the Photo Beach Teach DVD.
To be in with a chance of winning you simply need to buy a copy of the Beach Teach DVD before the end of June 2010. Good luck.

Many of you know that I’ve been a freelance contributor to Digital Photo Magazine (The UK’s best selling photographic magazine) for a good number of years, but if you haven’t seen a copy here’s a sneak peek. Have a look for part of my article on capturing an action sequence.
The July issue of Digital Photo Magazine is out now.


Monday, 14 June 2010

What's missing from your DSLR?

Today’s digital SLR cameras are amazingly clever things, but turn the clock back 25 years or so and you’d find me using a Praktica MTL-5B. It’s feature list was pretty slim. Things like aperture priority, TTL flash and even a motor drive we’re luxuries I could only dream about.

A few years later I blew all of my first pay cheque on a Minolta 7000i, one of the most advanced cameras of it’s day. Now I had everything that was missing on the Pentax. The Minolta even had an auto focus that actually worked… as long as you weren’t in a hurry.

By today’s standards both the Praktica and the Minolta are technological dinosaurs, but despite all our new fancy “digital” technology there’s one thing our DSLR’s are no better at then my old Pentax. Can you guess what it is?

OK, I’ll put you out of you misery. The answer is YOU, or in my case me.

No amount of digital wizardry has yet solved the problem that only you can decide what will make a great shot and what won’t. You need to train you eyes to see photographs and the only way to do that is to get out there and take to photos.

Have a look at these three images. They were all taken last weekend on a family walk along the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. All three images were taken from exactly the same spot. In other words I didn’t have to move my feet to take the images, I just had to look for them. Of course Photoshop, or in this case Lightroom, played it's part, but far less then you might imaginge.

Great pictures are all around you. The hard part is point the camera at them.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Quick guide to reading a histogram

The chances are you already know what a histogram is or at least where you’re likely to encounter one, but do you really understand what it means and how it can help your photography?

Where do I find the histogram?
In Photoshop the histogram will appear in a couple of places but most of us will be more familiar with the histogram that appears when we press CTRL+L and open Levels.

The chances are your camera will also offer a histogram view of your images and it’s that we’re going to be focusing on in this article. How you access the histogram on your camera will vary depending on the make and model, so if you don’t know how to find it on your camera go back and read your cameras manual.

So why should you be interested in the histogram? Because your camera’s LCD tells you lies, that’s why.

Who hasn’t looked at their images on the back of the camera and believed their images look great only to get home and discover the horrible truth… Your images are poorly exposed.

Remember, use your cameras LCD to check a photos composition, use the cameras Histogram to check exposure.

What is a Histogram?
In its simplest form a histogram is a graph which shows brightness across your image. The left side of the graph represents the dark tones, the centre shows the mid tones and the right is the light tones.

Lets start with a nice snapshot of a general scene, it’s got a big blue sky and nice green grass. In an ideal world a correctly exposed photograph will have a histogram with a fairly smooth curve which touches both edges and peaks towards the centre. That would indicate the image has a full range of tones and good contrast.

A histogram which is weighted more to the left would usually indicate an underexposed image, where as a histogram weighted to the right usually indicates an overexposed image. If you see either of these you need to think about altering the cameras exposure compensation.

The histogram trap.
Once you’ve mastered the basic skills in reading a histogram, you’ll be able to check your images on the cameras LCD and be pretty confident you have captured a good image before moving on. But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and in photography that means you’ll need to understand what your photographing before deciding that the histogram is telling you that the exposure is incorrect.

Take this image. There is a large amount of light tones in the image, which needs to be considered when looking at the histogram. A correct exposure would have the histogram graph pushed towards the right hand side. If the graph was a neatly centred histogram (like our first image) we would actually have an under exposed image.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that because the histogram is pushed to the right side it automatically means that your exposure is wrong. It just means there’s a lot lighter tones in the image. You have to read the image as well as the histogram.

Conversely this is a very dark image so the histogram is pushed to the left. Once again it’s correctly exposed.

Understanding your histogram will allow you to capture better images and spend less time adjusting them in Photoshop and that’s got to be a good thing.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Selective colour in Photoshop - Quick Shot 07

Name:: Jessay, Winnipeg, Canada
Question:: Hi Gavin, Can you explain how to make a color splash in the photoshop.In a Big frame only one person in color and the rest in B&W.

Colour popping, selective colour, colour splashing... Many names but one technique which never seems to go out of fashion.

I expecting a few comments along the lines of "That's so easy... or, show us something more complex..." and so on, but before you post a comment just remember there was a time when even YOU didn't know this technique.

By the way, this video is also available in HD which is great if you watch the video in full screen mode. Have a look and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

More quick shot answers

Name:: Andrey
Question:: Hi, Gavin. Why I do not see "snapshot" icon next to "presets" icon? Camera raw 5.0
ANSWER: You don’t say what software you’re using, but if it’s Photoshop Elements then Presets and Snapshots are not available.

Name:: Alan Turrell
Question:: I am due to take some pictures at a comfirmation of a friend of mine, with permission. I have a Nikon D5000 + 18-55 kit lens and will not be able to use a tripod, so shooting hand held. It is a fairly bright church so not sure what settings to use
ANSWER: Three things to do. First set your camera to Aperture priority and choose the smallest number you can get. That’s likely to be f3.5 or f5.6. Second set the ISO as high as possible, which is likely to be 1600iso. Third shoot in RAW (or Jpeg & RAW) to give you maximum options in Photoshop.

Name:: michael leighton
Question:: Ahoey there...seeing as the sun is out(some of the time)whats the best way to take photos of a subject and getting sun flare in the shot i either get the subject too bright or too dark...cheers
ANSWER: That’s asking a lot of your camera meter, but two ways spring to mind. First involves taking several images using exposure bracketing to ensure you have one correct. The second, and my prefered method of working, is to exposure for the background and use a burst of flash to fill the shadows, just like I did in this photo.

Name:: Patrick
Question:: Hi Gav, I'd like to know how to use an UV-Filter effectively, particular in which conditions?
ANSWER: On our modern, expensive lens the UV filter is really there to protect the front lens from dirt and scratches. Mine never comes off my lenses.

David Fromming
Question:: I was wondering if you have any advice for building a wooden shed/studio in my back garden. My garage is too small and full of junk!
ANSWER: My office/studio is a very comfortable log cabin from Scandinavian log cabins Direct. As you'll see in the construction photo it's not a graden shed.Scandinavian log cabins direct were brilliant, even allowing me to design a photography friendly version of their Talbo design.

Name:: Erin K
Question:: Could you please explain how to calculate the correct settings for your flash/strobe when using off camera flash techniques?
ANSWER: A flash meter would solve your problems in a stroke. If you don’t have one set your shutter speed to the flash sync speed or just below (Use 1/125th if you don’t know what the sync speed is) and set the aperture to f8. Take a test shot and check the histogram. To dark? Try f5.6. It’s called trial & error.