2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 10: Frame Your Subject

For this week’s composition challenge, we’ll explore creative ways to Frame Your Subject. Framing uses foreground objects to surround the main subject in the background. Doing so draws your eye into the photo, right to the subject. This is a great technique to help create more interesting, memorable photos.

phillytunnel_sm

Philadelphia Tunnel – Eric Minbiole

The shot above uses the tunnel as a frame for the landscape. Not only does it help lead the eye towards the clouds and the landscape, it also gives the picture a much better sense of depth. If this had simply been a picture of the clouds, you might not give it a second look. However, by adding the framing, the photo becomes much more interesting and memorable.

cupcakes_sm

New Year’s Resolutions – Tonya Bender

The photo above is one of my favorite examples of framing. While the cupcakes themselves are beautifully arranged and photographed, it’s the combination of the cupcakes and the surrounding pan that really make this a fantastic photograph.

The framing can be virtually anything. It can be a bit more subtle, like the branches around this deer:

deer_sm

Peek-a-Boo – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

… Or the framing can be more “obvious”, like the literal frame, below:

frameframe_sm

frame – Mario Mancuso

For this week’s challenge, you should frame your subject in an interesting, unusual, or fun way. Your framing can be most anything that you want– Natural, man-made, subtle, or obvious. You are encouraged to get creative and have fun with it!

Optional Twist: As I noted last time, my challenges will include an optional twist. This week’s twist is “Splash of Color“. (Last week, we focused on images that were predominantly red; this week’s twist is the opposite– add a splash of color to an otherwise muted image.) As before, the twist is completely optional. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your photo should still use framing as part of your composition.

Get your camera, and have fun!

Banner Photo: Into the Woods – Eadie Minbiole

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.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

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 8: Long Exposures Animated GIF

This may sound a little strange, but it’s as much fun as you can have with a camera, a computer and a little time on your hands. If you let your imagination run wild, there is no limit to what you can create. The foremost objective of this challenge is to produce a unique visual experience to dazzle your 2017 PhotoChallenge Community Members.

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The above image by Pedro Belleza is the perfect example of what we’re looking for, an animated GIF with a mix of long exposures. There’s also an added little touch of Tilt-Shifting. Long Exposures have been covered several times in the past ( SEARCH LONG EXPOSURE CHALLENGES ) and animated GIFs as well. ( SEARCH ANIMATED GIF CHALLENGES )

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Since we’re working with light, long exposures are by definition easier to create at night. With a few simple tools you can work your long exposures during daylight hours. We would usually use a Neutral Density filter or a Variable Neutral Density Filter to reduce the amount of light entering the camera through the lens. For those of you who want to avoid the cost of a pricey filter, you can always use a pair of dark sunglasses from the dollar store. Here are some DIY ideas on a GOOGLE SEARCH

deluz

Incorporating Light Painting and many other techniques we’ve covered in the past will help you create your very own unique touch for this PhotoChallenge.

What you will need to create your challenge image :

  • When working with long exposures, a stable tripod is a must. I would also suggest a wired or wireless trigger to make sure the camera doesn’t  move when pressing the trigger.
  • A way to reduce light. A store-bought filter or a DIY project. You will also want to reduce your ISO and close your aperture to increase your exposure times.
  • This will demand a bit of planning for each frame of your animated GIF. You may want to create a little story board to maintain your creative focus throughout your shoot.

When it comes to creating an Animated GIF there are plenty of resources online for which many are free. You can also use Photoshop and other purchased software.

Searching for LONG EXPOSURE ANIMATED GIF on Google will reveal plenty of inspirational images.

Our Friendly Community Guidelines are 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 2016 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.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 5: Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year everyone. This should have technically been a guest challenge, all fault of mine, I haven’t had a chance to organize it yet. I apologize to all those who have reached out to be a GUEST CONTRIBUTOR. Truth is I’ve been chasing down Wildlife Criminals (Poachers, Baiters, etc…). This year, Wildlife Agents have been doing a terrific job and we just have to give them the support they deserve.

The great news is, it’s officially the Chinese New Year and it’s my year with the Year of the Rooster 🙂

According to the news, it was the biggest celebration broadcast ever recorded in China with over a billion viewers. I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese culture. The flamboyant displays of colors and animated creatures just fascinate me.

One of my biggest challenges is how do we turn the celebrations into a PhotoChallenge, especially that not everyone will have a Chinese New Year Parade or celebration in their back yard.

Kushida Jinja

This will be a highly interpretive PhotoChallenge giving free liberty to your imagination. There are plenty of associated symbols around, we just need to keep our eyes open.

Hóng Bāo

Every child that has been exposed to a Chinese New Year Celebration is probably very familiar with the little red envelopes.

Rooster 02

Naturally being the year of the ROOSTER, our little feathered friends can take center stage.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: INFRARED - INFRAROUGE &emdash; Chinese Garden - Infrared / Jardin de Chine - Infrarouge

Another great source of inspiration may be your local Botanical Garden. Many Botanical Gardens feature a Chinese Garden that is most probably decorated for this very special occasion.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Chinese Lanterns - Montreal Botanical Garden

Keep an eye out and be on the lookout for displays of Chinese Lanterns. These intricately detailed lanterns are just incredible when photographed at dusk.

China Town Kites

When all else fails, a visit to your local China Town may just give you the inspiration you need.

 

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.
  • The posted image should be a still image or animated GIF and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

I’m very excited to join the PhotoChallenge team! My theme for this year is “Composition and Technique”, which will focus on some of the fundamentals of photography. I hope that the challenges will be enjoyable for beginners and advanced photographers alike. To that end, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback, I’m happy to listen!

This week’s topic is the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, the Rule of Thirds suggests that you should place your subject off-center (approximately 1/3 from any corner or edge), which results in a balanced, pleasing composition. Let’s dive in to some examples:

crop_coffeeSteaming Coffee – Eric Minbiole

The images above show the same subject, with two different compositions: The upper image has the coffee cup in the center of the image. Note that the composition seems a bit awkward– the steam is cut off on the top, and there’s too much empty space at the bottom. In contrast, the lower image follows the Rule of Thirds, and feels much more balanced: The steam has plenty of space to rise, and the overall image has a more pleasing composition.

Another benefit of the Rule of Thirds is that it can help clarify the subject, especially in case of a landscape shot:

crop_water

The upper image shows a centered horizon. While the water and the sky are both reasonably interesting, it’s hard to tell which is the intended subject of the photo, as both are given the same amount of space in the image. In contrast, the lower image better follows the Rule of Thirds, placing the horizon at the lower third of the image. This helps make it more clear that the sky and clouds are the main focus of the image, since they are given a larger portion (2/3) of the space.

crop_longwood

Longwood Home – Eric Minbiole

Certainly, the Rule of Thirds is not a hard and fast rule. Just like any rule of thumb, there are plenty of times that you can (and should) break it. However, it’s often a very good starting point when composing a subject, and is a technique that every photographer should at least be familiar with. As such, this week’s challenge is to create a photograph that follows the Rule of Thirds.

Optional Twist: Each week, I’ll add an optional twist to the challenge. As the name implies, these are completely optional, and are intended for those looking for a bit of extra difficulty. (Some twists may be harder than others.) This week’s twist is “Toys and Games” — feel free to interpret this in any creative way that you like. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your composition should follow the Rule of Thirds.

Get your camera, and have fun!

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 an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 3: SELF PORTRAIT WITHOUT SELF

Well, there we go, my first challenge as a photochallenge.org contributor! I’m really looking forward to contributing to the community of which I’ve been a part for some years now. My challenges will be losely grouped around the theme ‘Storytelling’, or how you can use your photographs to convey meaning, emotion, a series of events or a sense of wonder.

For this week, I’d like to invite you to shoot a self portrait…without yourself. That’s right, your submission should be about you, but without showing you as a person. To be frank, this idea isn’t my own, it’s an assignment that many photo clubs and schools use to get people thinking outside the box and have fun.

self_portrait_without_self_by_sabbathphotography-d5d1gq1
Self portrait without self by SabbathPhotography

This assignment invites you to think about yourself from various perspectives: what is it that makes you YOU, and how can you capture this in an image? How do you translate things like personality, character, likes and dislikes into photographs?

How do I do this?

Story-through-objects

There are countless approaches to telling your story. For instance, you can gather some objects that tell a story about you, your hobbies, things you hold dear, or that define you in some way, and create a still life. In this case, it’s the objects that tell the story, like in the picture in the introduction. This is perfectly fine; if you go for this approach, I’d encourage you to focus on composition and lighting.

Story-through-style

Another way of tackling this challenge is focussing on your storytelling style, and how it reflects your personality. The picture below, for instance, shows the photographer’s love for chocolate. However, it’s the minimalistic approach with clear lines and a balanced composition that conveys the main message here: the photographer’s need for order and being in control.

kevinkwee_chocaddict_1
Zelfportret zonder fotograaf – Kevin Kwee

This approach is great for playing around with various techniques. Think: macro if you’re a nittygritty-detailed type of person, blur or deliberate-out-of-focus for the dreamers amongst us, or simply breaking all the rules if you’re a bit of a rebel.

Story-through-feeling

As a final example, here’s one of the shots that I took as part of a self portrait series. With this picture, I tried to convey the feeling of being awake in the middle of the night, and not being able to get back to sleep. As a frequent insomniac, this is a very familiar situation for me, and in a way, it defines a lot of who I am, because people will notice immediately the next day 🙂

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Self portrait – Maaike Groenewege

Feel free to combine aspects of all approaches, and don’t forget to add your own personal flavor!

Guidelines

  • As much as I like you all, a self portrait without self means that I don’t want to see you at all  🙂 So no silhouettes, no reflections and no pictures of you.
  • Since we’re all on photochallenge.org, let’s assume that we all like photography. Of course, I cannot forbid you to include camera gear in your picture, but I would like to challenge you to go one step further, so that we don’t end up with dozens of pictures including cameras.
  • Other than that, HAVE FUN! Don’t be afraid to experiment, give your own personal twist to a challenge and try something different. The photochallenge community is one of the most friendly groups of people I know, so whether you’re just starting out, or have some experience already: we’re always looking forward to your contribution.

Group rules

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 an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.