2017 Photochallenge Week 25 – People We Love

I’m writing this post with a heavy heart. As many of you probably know, Trevor Carpenter – the founder of photochallenge.org – passed away last Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. We want to dedicate this challenge to him, and say a few words about our friend.

“Trevor Setting Up” by Jeremy Brooks

I met Trevor because of our shared interest in photography. He announced that he was going to challenge himself to shoot only in black and white for a month, and I thought he was crazy. At the end of the month, I was blown away by the results. Shortly after that he started challenging others to take their photography to new levels by shooting specific themes which were posted on a web site he started called photochallenge.org. Participating in these challenges really helped me grow as a photographer, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I will always be grateful to Trevor for that.

After participating in the challenges for a while, I began to assist with writing the posts for the site. In 2009 Trevor had the idea of doing a different challenge every day for a year. Writing a post a day is a lot of work for two people, but we managed to do it, and it was a lot of fun.

Trevor was an inspiring person who touched the lives of many people. I am honored to have counted him as a friend. He will be greatly missed.

— Jeremy Brooks

 

“Night Photowalk” by Gary Hegenbart

 

Photography is a hobby for me. It’s something I love, and do just for fun. It’s also what formed a bond between Trevor and me. Trevor was part of my inspiration about 10 years ago when I started participating in photo challenges. I can honestly say that Trevor inspired me to be a better photographer, and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. We become who we are through our experiences with other people. The part of me that is a photographer was shaped in part by Trevor. That means he’s part of me, and he lives on in the photos I take and share. When Trevor asked me to help reboot PhotoChallenge in 2012, I didn’t hesitate. I found great joy in participating, and like Trevor, wanted to share that with others.

Photochallenge was only a small part of Trevor’s life, but it’s the part that I know. I saw glimpses of the rest of his life through social media. What I saw there was a man devoted to his faith and his family. What I saw there was something I respect and admire. Thank you, Trevor, you will continue to inspire me and challenge me.

—  Gary Hegenbart

 

So, on to the challenge: People We Love.

“Mom & Dad” by Jeremy Brooks

This week, we would like to challenge you to make a portrait of someone you care about. It could be a family member or a friend. Take a few minutes to think about the people in your life. Do you have someone you are close to, but have not made a portrait of? Now is the time to change that!

“Litre Lunch” by Jeremy Brooks

This challenge is less about technical perfection or technique. This challenge is about getting in the habit of making photos of people you love before it is too late. We would like to think that this challenge would make Trevor smile, and then go out and point his camera at his kids and his many friends.

“The Bride” by Jeremy Brooks

***

Trevor and I had so many differences in our cultural upbringing and our beliefs, but Law Enforcement and photography brought us together. Our differences were shared with one another with great respect and propelled us into entertaining debates and amazing adventures. The Trevor I knew was just, fair, kindhearted and generous. An intelligent individual with an amazing curiosity for the unknown, constantly evolving and learning. He stood true to his conviction and showed empathy for those in need. Even when thousands of miles separated each other, we never stopped learning from one another. I truly miss you Trevor…

—  Steve Troletti

 

I first met Trevor when I joined this challenge a few years ago. While I wasn’t fortunate enough to get to know him in person, I’m forever grateful for the PhotoChallenge group that he started. I’m truly amazed that he was able to bring together such a great group of people, from all around the globe, connected by a love of photography. In addition to the fantastic photos created week after week, I love the great camaraderie and warmth of the group. None of this would have happened were it not for Trevor.

— Eric Minbiole

 

I didn’t know Trevor very well since I joined the Photochallenge after he had gotten sick, but I will always be grateful to him for starting the Photochallenge. The challenge (and by extension Trevor) came into my life when I was desperately seeking something to light my creative spark. I appreciate that he set a tone of exploration and learning for the challenge – something I will do my best to continue in his memory going forward. You’ll be missed Trevor!

— Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

 

I INVITE EVERYONE TO LEAVE A WORD OF SYMPATHY FOR OUR FRIEND TREVOR BELOW ON THIS BLOG. THANK YOU…

Our friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

 

 

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2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 9: RED

Everyone did a great job in our last histogram challenge! However, I noticed some confusion in the comments that I thought would make for a good follow-on challenge. Before we go any further though, I want to reiterate that the shape of the histogram is not important. There seemed to be some confusion about this. The truth is that there is no ideal shape for a histogram. What is important is that the width of the histogram should typically span the entire tonal range without blocking up against either side. (There are of course exceptions to this rule and we’ll explore some of those later in the year.)

rmnp-with-histo

Rocky Mountain Rainbow – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

Some of you followed this guidance perfectly in the last histogram challenge and yet you felt your image looked overexposed. You’ll be happy to know your eyes were not deceiving you! The answer can be found in the RGB (colored) histograms. In my last challenge I asked you to focus solely on the Luminosity histogram. That works fine for most photos, but can be inadequate for photos with a strong color cast (such as a sunset) or a predominant color (such as a red flower) as in the example below:

overexposed-red-with-luminosity-histo

Hopefully the above photo looks overexposed to you. The red tones look blotchy without a lot of detail. However the Luminosity histogram looks fine – maybe even a bit underexposed. To figure out this apparent discrepancy, let’s take a look at the individual RGB histograms. (The RGB histograms give us information about the individual red, green and blue colors that make up every color in your photo.) It doesn’t take a whole lot of sleuthing to discover that the Red histogram has a spike at the far right side, i.e. detail is blown out in the red tones of the photo.

overexposed-red-with-rgb-histo

Blown out detail in the red tones is a fairly common issue with digital cameras. Luckily it’s easy to adjust for it once you know how to identify the problem. If you are ever concerned that you’ve lost detail in your photo, take a look at the RGB histograms. If you see a spike on either side of any of the histogram, you’ve found the culprit. To correct the issue, you simply need to adjust the exposure compensation on your camera until you no longer have any spikes blocked up against the sides of the histograms.

red-flower-proper-with-histos

Anthurium – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

Note: The spike on the left side of the histograms above is on purpose. This is one of those exceptions to the rule that I mentioned above. In this image I wanted the background to be solid black, i.e. no detail. So in this case, the spike tells me that I achieved that effect. The important aspect of the histograms above is that there are no spikes at the far right side of the histograms, so no detail has been lost in the lightest parts of the image.

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Optional info: If you’d like to know the technical details behind why the Luminosity histogram sometimes fails to give a complete picture, read on. If not, skip down to the next line of asterisks for this week’s challenge. This is not required reading. 😉

To better understand why the Luminosity and Red histograms look so different, let’s compare the color and grayscale versions of the overexposed photo. In particular, focus on the two areas where the red detail is most blown out.

overexposed-red-vs-gray

If we look at the gray (luminosity) value of those two points, it should be obvious that they are squarely in the darker mid-tones, i.e. nowhere near white.

midtones

If you think about it, this makes sense. Imagine a red color and then imagine that same tone in B&W. It would not be white or anywhere close to white, right? That is why the Luminosity histogram is insufficient as the only tool for determining proper exposure. The Luminosity histogram reflects only the gray values of an image, but it is entirely possible that a single color may get blown out even though the color itself is in the middle of the Luminosity range. Luckily our cameras give us the tools we need to spot this problem so that we can make adjustments while we’re taking our photos: the RGB histograms.

 

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If you haven’t already guessed, the challenge this week is to take a photo of something RED and also post both the Luminosity and Red histograms in the comments:

  • At the very least, the color red should dominate the photo. If desired, it might completely fill the frame.
  • Think “bright red”. While there are some stunning images with deep red tones, this week I want you to focus on making the red tones as bright as possible without losing detail.
  • You will have an easier time if your red object is not shiny, but your choice of subject is up to you.
  • Please post both the Luminosity and Red histograms in the comments under your photo. (You can post the Green and Blue histograms as well if they are part of the same display as the Red histogram.)

What you will need to complete your challenge:

  • A camera with the ability to show the RGB histograms when reviewing photos on the LCD –or– a phone app which does the same. Some cameras show the RGB histograms right along with the Luminosity histogram, but other cameras show them on a different screen. You’ll need to look in the instructions for your camera. Here are some iPhone apps and here are some Android apps. (Be sure to read the app details to make sure it has a histogram. A “live histogram” means that the histogram is active while you take the photo, but may not be viewable afterwards. If that’s the case, you can simply take a screenshot to capture the histogram while your camera app is on.)
  • Knowledge of how to change the exposure in your camera or camera app. This may be needed if you find that your histogram is not optimal and you need to adjust your exposure. If you don’t know how to do this, look up “exposure compensation” in the manual for your camera.
  • The easiest way to capture the histograms on your camera LCD is to simply take a photo with another camera.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a still image or an animated GIF, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 6: PROPER EXPOSURE USING THE HISTOGRAM

My focus this year will be on Proper Exposure: what it is and how to achieve it. Have you ever wondered why some photos seem to “pop” and grab your attention while others don’t? There can be many reasons why, but often it’s a matter of proper exposure. Proper exposure maximizes contrast and the human eye is drawn to contrast.

Each of the following images has a problem with the exposure. The first image is underexposed, i.e. there aren’t any light pixels. The second image is overexposed, i.e. there aren’t any dark pixels. The third image isn’t too light or too dark, but it looks flat because the darkest parts are just dark gray (not black) and the lightest parts are light gray (not white) resulting in an image that looks somewhat lifeless. This can sometimes happen in shade or cloudy skies.

three-problems-no-histo

In general, a properly exposed image means that lightness values run the full gamut from black to white (instead of dark gray to light gray). There are always exceptions to the rule, but this is very often the case.

color-flowers-proper-exposure

Rainbow Bouquet – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

But how do we know for sure when we have the proper exposure? Simply relying on how the photo looks on your camera LCD or phone does not always give you a true representation of the photo. Luckily there is a tool called the Histogram that gives you the information you need at a glance.

What is a histogram? It’s simply a bar chart. As an example, imagine that we want to create a tile mosaic of a sunflower. Because we’re focusing on exposure (i.e. luminosity or lightness values) let’s make the image B&W so that it’s easier to “see” the luminosity values. To further simplify things, let’s reduce the number of lightness values to 10. If we were to count the number of tiles of each value and display those counts in a bar chart, it would look like the chart below:

sunflower-mosaic-with-histo

This is the essence of a histogram: a bar chart which shows the number of pixels in a photo of a particular luminosity value (which runs along the bottom of the chart). The difference is that the histogram of a photo has 256 luminosity values – 0 (black) to 255 (white) – instead of just 10. However if you compare the histogram of the photo with the simple bar chart from the mosaic image, you can see that the basic distribution is the same.

sunflower-bw-full-with-histo

It’s important to realize that there is no ideal shape for a histogram, i.e. you are not trying to get a “bell curve”! The histogram is a tool to help you understand how well exposed a photo is. Looking at the histograms of the three images we started with, you start to see what a histogram can tell you. When the histogram is weighted heavily to the left, the photo is typically underexposed. When it is weighted heavily to the right, the photo is typically overexposed. When it doesn’t stretch across the entire luminosity scale (from 0 to 255), the photo lacks contrast and appears flat.

three-problems-with-histo

While there is no ideal shape for a histogram, in general the most eye-catching photos have a histogram that covers the entire luminosity scale from 0 (black) to 255 (white). Note that the histogram for the good exposure is more spread out than the low contrast one. The left (dark) and right (light) sides of the histogram are more filled out which indicates that the dark areas of the image have gotten darker and the light areas have gotten lighter, thus increasing the contrast.

good-exposure-with-histo

There are two exposure issues that cannot be corrected in post-processing: clipped (aka blown-out) shadows and highlights. “Clipped” essentially means that there is no detail in the very darkest or very lightest parts of your image. Referring to the histogram when you review photos on your camera can help you avoid both situations! If a histogram has a tall spike pushed up against the right edge, your photo has blown-out highlights that you will not be able to recover in post-processing. I’m sure you have seen this in landscape photos where clouds look like white blobs in the sky without any texture in them. Alternatively, if a histogram has a tall spike pushed up against the left edge, your photo has blown-out shadows. Of course, you can have both of these situations in the same photo.

In the photo below you can see that the vast majority of the image is very dark and the histogram shows that with a large spike on the left. In the upper right corner however, there is a section of the sky that is pure white and has lost detail. You can see that in the smaller (but tall) spike on the very right of the histogram. This is a great example of what NOT to do, but at times it is unavoidable. (We’ll be covering how to handle this type of exposure challenge later in the year.)

clipping

The human eye does not easily forgive the loss of detail in the lightest parts of a photo and it is best to avoid clipped highlights unless your goal is to purposefully make a gray sky look white. The human eye is more forgiving of clipped shadows, but don’t expect to be able to lighten those shadows to pull out any detail in post. It is best to avoid clipping on both ends of the histogram!

I encourage you to play and experiment with a bunch of different photos this week. I’ll be referring to histograms throughout my challenges for the rest of the year so you’ll want to get comfortable with them. If you want to read more about them, here are some helpful articles. Remember we’re focusing on the Luminosity Histogram in your camera, not in post-processing (though the concept is the same).

The challenge this week is to take and post a well-exposed photo and also post the histogram in the comments:

  • Take your photo OUTDOORS during daylight hours and do not include any sky in your photo. (Sometimes sky can throw off the exposure. We’ll work on that in a future challenge.) If you have sun, I encourage you to take a photo both in sun and in shade to see how that affects your exposure (and histogram).
  • The actual subject is wide open this week, but don’t forget all of the other rules for good composition, depth-of-field, etc. This might be a good week for macro since you can’t have the sky in your image.
  • Post-processing is fine, but the goal is to get the exposure as perfect in camera as you can. If you do post-process, it would be interesting to see both the before and after histograms for your image.

What you will need to complete your challenge:

  • A camera with the ability to show a Luminosity Histogram when reviewing photos on the LCD –or– a phone app which does the same. Here are some iPhone apps and here are some Android apps. (Be sure to read the app details to make sure it has a histogram. a “live histogram” means that the histogram is active while you take the photo, but may not be viewable afterwards. If that’s the case, you can simply take a screenshot to capture the histogram while your camera app is on.)
  • Knowledge of how to change the exposure in your camera or camera app. This may be needed if you find that your histogram is not optimal and you need to adjust your exposure. If you don’t know how to do this, look up “exposure compensation” in the manual for your camera.
  • Knowledge of how to take screenshots to capture the histogram of your photo. If you don’t know how to take screenshots (aka screen captures), you can do a search for your phone model or operating system (Windows or Apple) along with “screenshot” to find instructions for how to do it. Or you can simply take a photo of the histogram on your camera LCD or your computer screen.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a still image or an animated GIF, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.