Friday, 6 June 2014

Last post

I have decided to quit writing to this blog. I'll leave the existing articles on here as an archive as long as they are relevant and then I'll likely delete this account in the future. I've been getting a lot of spam, links to spam etc in the comments. It seems only spammers are reading my blog! Oh well! It was a fun experiment while it lasted!


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Dodge and Burn to Reveal Detail

Hey folks, hope you all had great Christmas and New Year celebrations! This is the first post of the year for me. Just wanted to share a commonly used technique in photography known as "Dodging and Burning". It may sound like something you do to people you dislike on facebook but actually it's a very useful skill that can help you extract more detail from a RAW image.

This is not a new technique by any means as photographers from the film era having been using this method for decades. It basically entails manipulation of the exposure in selected areas of the photograph by either darkening an area (Dodging) or to brighten an area up (Burning). In digital photography this is usually done using software such as Lightroom or Photoshop through the application of an adjustment brush of some kind.

For the purposes of this post I'll be using Lightroom 4. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail but just give a general overview of what you can do with it and how it would work. I remember when I first got into digital photography I found it hard to get my head around this concept of selective adjustments. I think a visual example really helps. So here goes!

Let's start off with a comparison of the original RAW file and the finished result so we know what we're aiming for and how we would get there.

This is a screenshot from Lightroom 4 

Note that the RAW image looks almost void of any color and life and generally looks kind of drab. Also note the really dark areas under the roof. We know there's detail there but we can't really make it out. The goal here is to enhance the image but to keep the overall look natural enough that it reflects what it could look like if there was better light.

A point to note about RAW files is that what you initially see is not actually all of the information that was recorded by the camera. Instead what we see is a JPEG preview of the RAW data. In other words just ONE interpretation of the data. A decision made by Lightroom. You might argue that by manipulating the image it becomes fake. That's not true, we are just creating our own interpretation of the image and trying best to recreate something we originally saw. In this case I was drawn to the beautiful gold detailed architecture and the pillars of the temple. I wanted to show that but the camera had different plans!

I don't want to go into a long discussion about dynamic range here but if you have time it's worth learning about the limits of what a camera sensor can actually capture in comparison to what the human eye can see.

Anyway, we are here to talk about Dodging and Burning so let's get right to it!

Before I even think about D&Bing anything I need to fix the main problems first. These main problems are fixed via something called global adjustments; as in they affect all parts of the image. I talked about these in a previous post here. It's worth reading that post before continuing further.

First up I want to get as much detail as I can using the Highlights and Shadows sliders.

Highlights - 36 and Shadows +100 

That made a huge difference to those dark corners and toned down the outside area a bit to balance everything out. This is my starting point and I build from here.

Next I add Color and Clarity plus a little Blacks to add life to the image.

Clarity +29, Vib +33, Color + 19 

Not bad. It looks a lot better already and close to the finished image but there are a few tweeks we need to do first. I need to adjust the contrast and straighten it up. I'll skip the example image because it looks too similar to the one above.

Now comes the fun part! At this point I've done all the global adjustments and I take a step back and ask myself "OK, so what needs fixing?".

A few things were bugging me. The top right hand corner looks too bright and so do the outside parts. The iron fencing is a bit darker than I want and the lanterns are looking rather dull.

Let's fix the top corner first since that's easy. In Lightroom you have the ability to use something called the adjustment brush. It's real handy for a bit of Dodging and Burning. All I do is paint directly over the area and then set the exposure to what I want. In this case it was half a stop less.

Exp value was minus 0.49 

It's not a huge difference. None of the selective adjustments are. They're subtle changes that bring out a little bit more detail. The eye naturally goes to the brightest area of the image and I didn't want that to be the corner! The aim here was to remove a distraction.

You might not notice a difference if looking at this on a small screen but this close up comparison might help.

Before on the left after on the right 

Next the fence, lanterns and gold parts need brightening up. Pretty easy again, just paint away. One thing to note is that you should press enter after each area of adjustment and lock it in. Then, select a new brush and start afresh. This way you can adjust each area individually as you please and change the value later if you change your mind.

After all that that we sharpen the image up and tweek the color a little bit more to suit and we get our final finished image! Note those hanging paper lanterns are no longer dull and lifeless and the gold parts look nice and shiny!

The finished result 


By changing the exposure of an area you not only change the brightness but you also change the way the colors look. Since we expect gold to be shiny it needs a brighter exposure value to make it stand out otherwise it would look yellowy brown. One way to figure out what needs changing is to ask yourself if a particular object is the right color. If it looks too dull or too light changing the exposure will help bring it back to normal. However, if we change the exposure for the entire image we would muck something else up so the solution is to use selective adjustments on only the parts that need it. Think of it as painting exposure!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Rare and Exclusive Lenses to Drool Over

I do apologize for not posting anything since September but I've been rather lazy busy with work and what not! Anyway, let's forget about that and talk about something a lot more interesting - like very fast, very specialized lenses that cost a small fortune! Yay for lens porn!!

I love fast lenses but I haven't really found much use for them lately. I'm quite happy with my current collection. The fastest lens I own is a vintage Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 (manual only lens). The current fastest lenses in Canon's line-up are the 50mm f/1.2L and the 85mm f/1.2L II. They're a little bit pricey but worth it if you're a professional portrait photographer. 

I did some research to see what the fastest lens in the world was and it was quite surprising at first! I thought technology was much more superior now than 30 years ago, but I was wrong! Seems lenses have become slower - however, there's a good reason for that; usable high ISO.  

Anyway, lets take a look at some of the fastest and rarest lenses ever made! Enjoy!

Canon S-type 50mm f/0.95

Introduced way back in 1961 for Canon's 35mm Rangefinder cameras this was the fastest photographic lens at that time. To give an idea of how bright f/0.95 is - this lens lets in more than twice the amount of light than an f/1.4 lens, 1.3 stops more light to be exact. This lens cost 57,000 yen  ($570) when it was released, weighs 605g and has a 72mm filter diameter. A good one on ebay can set you back a couple of thousand dollars or more!

Canon 50mm f/0.95 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A beginners guide to post processing

If you're new to the world of post-processing RAW files this 5-step guide might help point you in the right direction. I mentioned Photoshop CS and Lightroom before here but that was just a brief intro. I want to take you through my workflow here and try and break it down as it can be a bit overwhelming at first.

For the purposes of this tutorial I'm going to demonstrate using LR 4 but you could use just about any RAW editing software like Adobe Camera RAW or Apple's Aperture, they pretty much all do the same thing.

Before doing anything though the very first step I do on LR is to enable the Lens Correction profile by checking the little box. It's under the Lens Corrections tab -

What this does is correct the distortion and vignetting that is found on almost every lens. It's smart enough to know which make and model lens you used though some of the older or rare lenses might not have a profile.

I do this first because the vignetting can sometimes interfere with your exposure corrections later. You can always add vignetting later in a more controlled way. If you shot wide open you'll notice the image become instantly brighter around the edges. If you stopped down you might not see much improvement but it's still a good habit to get into.

Tip - you can save this as a preset in LR and apply it at the import stage. Alternatively correct one image and then sync the rest.

Monday, 19 August 2013

How to take better photos

Whether you're using a smartphone or a point and shoot you might benefit from these top tips for helping you get sharper, clearer and overall better looking images. (Warning - made for extreme beginners!)

Lets begin!

1. Clean your lens (regularly)

Sounds like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised how many people forget to do this or just never bother. I'm not just talking about expensive top of the line lenses but also regular point and shoot, including the lens on your iPhone. It just takes a few seconds to wipe it! Use a microfiber cleaning cloth, they're cheap and can be found at almost every camera / electrical store.

Helps with - blurry or soft image and increased flare.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Got MILC??

Although Mirror-less Interchangeable Lens Cameras have been around for a while they haven't really appealed to me in any way. That was until several big retailers in the U.S as well as other places started selling the Canon EOS M with the 22mm f/2 STM lens for just $299! I'd be mad not to jump on that bandwagon .... so I did!

Before I tell you all about it I think I should explain a little more about the MILC system. Why would anyone want these over a compact point and shoot camera or a fully spec'd DSLR? Let's break it down.


  • No mirror = smaller and more compact design
  • Less vibrations as there is no mirror slap which should give sharper images
  • Very good image quality - on par with some modern DSLRs.
  • All the features and benefits of a DSLR like Av / Tv and M modes. 
  • Interchangeable lenses


  • Not as ergonomic as a DSLR and a little strange to hold
  • Still not as fast as a modern DSLR in terms of AF speed and continuous burst mode 
  • No optical viewfinder (though can be purchased separately)

It's kind of a niche market right now and it's made for those who want all the benefits of a DSLR, namely the image quality, but in a much smaller compact design that's easy to carry around when you're on holiday for example. 

It's not meant to replace the DSLR in my opinion but to compliment it. There are certain situations where a large bodied camera and bulky lens seem inappropriate. A small party or a restaurant when you don't want to draw attention to yourself for example.

The Canon EOS M

Friday, 31 May 2013

iPhone 5 as a back-up camera

The iPhone 5 has been out for a while now and I've used mine for about 5 months. I'm not going to write a review about it, I'll leave that to the phone bloggers. Rather, I wanted to explore the iPhone's camera and (sort of) compare it to a regular point and shoot camera. I'm fully convinced that the IQ from the iP5 is just as good as some compact cameras and can get the job done. See for yourself.

The iPhone 5 in Black