Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wedding pictures nearly ready

I confirm that I do prefer strong color and contrast

I think I am getting there (got to finish this week-end) still I must have already worked the equivalent of a week on these wedding pictures. That is lot of spare time. I don't regret though. I hope the family will be pleased and I learnt quite a lot from it too (see Lessons learnt from my first serious wedding as official photographer).

I confirm that I do prefer strong color and contrast to the point where the highlights start to go; but not too much: just a bit. I plan to make it "my style". I am sure it is not for everybody's taste (i.e. I am not sure the family will like it) nevertheless I do really like it. Worth noting that it does not always work well for every picture. Dark pictures become often too murky when boosting color and contrast.

I also got in the habit of using layers in Adobe PhotoShopfor the ajustments like curves and saturation. It is far more effective to compare the multiple effects applied to one picture using layers rather than history state. You can also adjust them indepedently from each other: that is absolutely great.

The IMatchcategory window is acting up. It automatically selects random categories when I click on one and then I have to close the window to select a second one; if not it does not select it (I think I had this problem before and fixed it). Quite annoying when one has 600 pictures to categorize.

Also I had a script to sync tiff files to raw files and it does not work anymore. I had to copy manually the properties for each picture. Plus the ratings don't copy across, I had to set them for the tiff files manually. Don't be scared IMatchis a great DAM tool!

I am going to reoganize (again) my category splashers (that is a cool feature of IMatch). I want to use them for groups now (like family units). They are often together on my pictures so it makes sense to have a splasher to add them all at once.

Also I have second toughts about my use of categories for my workflow. I still don't use labels. Maybe I should use them for that (the author of The DAM Bookdoes it so it must be right). My main problem with my solution is that there is no good short cut to change the status of the workflow. The only shortcut I now off is F11 plus categories number but then you have to press ESC to leave this mode.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lessons learnt from my first serious wedding as official photographer

You must come well prepared, know your camera, know your subject.

I went to my cousin's wedding on the 2nd of June. I sort of hijacked it and took control over the photography session as I was getting little bit frustrated with the number of people standing in front of everybody else for hours trying to work out how to take a picture "of the newly married couple" with their camera phone (yes a bloody camera phone).

I am not a photo snob but men if you want to take some pictures of a unique event like this please be prepared and most importantly be respectful of the people around you. You don't want to go fiddling half an hour with the buttons of your camera phones with ten people behind you about to strangle you!

Anyway, looking at my pictures, there are quite a few obvious problems. Quite a few are blurry, some are badly framed, some are boring, some are overexposed or underexposed. The list goes on. It was a revealing experience. Don't worry there are some good ones too.

Some of the blurry should not have been. They were taken at 1/60s - 1/80s with my wider lens (Sigma) at the maximum aperture of f4.5 and at a zoom level of about 40 mn. As a rule of thumb one considers that you can go as low as 1/Xs if your zoom level is X mn. I also think because my camera has a small CCD it makes the problem worse. To be safe I usually reduce that number by one or two spot(s). So at about 1/60s I should be able to zoom at up to about 40 mn i.e. the blur is not related to camera shake.

Interestingly most of the ones taken at an f5.0 looks sharper by a visible margin. Could it be that my sigma wide lens is a bit soft at its widest aperture? Yes, I think it is. I would generally suggest being careful around the max and min aperture of a lens. They tend to be softer than the middle of the aperture range.

The underexposed one can be corrected in RawShooter by increasing the exposure level. However doing so increase significantly the level of noise. You can reduce this noise using the noise reduction tools but then your picture can become a tad fuzzy: nothing beats a well exposed picture.

As for the badly framed pictures, practice should hopefully improve this. The key thing is to consistently review the camera viewfinder edges for intruders. Obviously this is easily said and far more difficult to do in real life especially in a wedding where people consistently move. Some of this could be corrected with a crop in PhotoShop or a bit of cloning. However in the former, you loose quite of bit of the image, and in the latter you will loose quite a bit of time.

Many of my pictures appear quite uninteresting, but some looks really original and dynamic. I used the wide lens for closeup portraits in the restaurant; it worked really well. It gave them life and makes the picture stand out immediately: it feels like you are inside it. I highly recommend this technique (get very closed to your subject using widest setting of your wide zoom lens). Also of the boring one, you could try to crop the closer towards the subject which will give it a bit more edge. The rest could be improved with a bit of PhotoShop magic but it gets quite time consuming (filters effects for instance).

Out of 500-600 pictures, I believe I have 10 great pictures and possibly 20 really good. I will possibly send about 100 pictures to my family. I would say 1/6 of the pictures are worth looking at. The rest will never see the day of light (sad). Don't be surprised though. This is a normal ration acceptable by professional standard.

In conclusion, all these little problems can be solved or at least improved easily with a bit of preparation and practice. I must say things go very quickly and people are impatient and somewhat unruly therefore you must come well prepared, know your camera, know your subject.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Photo: Old Alsacienne Window (d005910)

Copyright © 2005-2007 Marc Weiersmuller. All Right Reserved.

Title: Old Alsacienne Window (d005910)

Location: North - East of France (Alsace)

Date: October 31, 2006

Comment: Alsace is full of lovely old house making it a dream for photographer

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Amazing Flickrvision 2D/3D Flickr mashup

You have to check this out, this just hilarious. Flickrvision made a 2D and 3D map mashup using the Flickr picture stream. You can see the pictures appearing life on the map: just fantastic! Above is an example of the 3D map my favourite and below an example of 2D map:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Photographic backup strategy

My current backup strategy is very simple: I have 2 Seagate drives, I copy using SynToy files from one drive to the other one and I use one drive for working, the other one for backup. However reading the The DAM book, I can see that my current backup strategy has flaws.

Firstly the 2 drives are in the same location therefore are exposed to the same risk (theft, accident). Secondly drive fails, although I have 2 copies of my files, it is not a long term storage, eventually both drive will fail. Lastly the syncing process is manual, if I don't run it I am seriously exposed.

For the next iteration of my backup strategy, I will likely reorganize my files on the drive so that I can use longer life storage like DVDs more readily. I will put together the "negative" files (being literally raw files or simply jpeg), the working files together and the finished files together.

This means that I can then backup on DVD (read-only that is) the negatives as well as the finished files and leave the working one one the harddrives. This also means I could free space from the harddrives as when needed (I am already close to fill up the smaller drive).

This is not perfect but I am getting there. What are you doing?

Photo: White daffodil

White daffodil

Location: London Green park

Date: 22th May 2006

Comment: busy day at Green park but a large aperture got rid of the people

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Defect in the Canon EOS 20D battery pack

The whole process took about 10 working days no more.

My Canon EOS 20D is one of the early model and used to suffer from the well documented (see canon website) battery pack problem where after about 150 to 200 pictures the battery charge goes down to half and die pretty soon after (that is with 2 batteries by the way). It is due to a defective part in the battery pack fixed at no charge by Canon UK. I can now take more than 200 pictures on one charge.

Except that it is very hard to get through them (have to go through their lengthy automated answering system and then customer care), the service was very good and the whole process took about 10 working days no more. I even got a warranty for the work they have done.

Great service from Canon UK.

Thanks a lot guys.

Have you seen the light yet?

In case you are struggling to light with flash I highly recommend reading the Strobist blog. It contains lots of useful stuff (techniques, books, equipments, ...) for flash photography using small strobes (read small hot shoe flash). Also check the matching Strobist Flickr group where readers of Strobist go and discuss their favorite subject: flash photography.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Upgrade mostly done, feedback welcome!

That is it. I worked hard on it but it looks even better than before.

The layout is wider, there is lots of cool widgets like videos, news, pictures, .... I have dropped the AdSense for now. Not that I was making much money anyway. And I even now have a favicon.

I must give Hans from Beautiful Beta and Annie from Blog University a big thanks for their great hacks. Without it my blog would just be like any other one.

So here we go it is your chance to give me your views on my little new upgraded photography blog.