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 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 2: WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

They say we are what we eat, it’s time for you to show us what you’re made of. This is nothing new for the PhotoChallenge, back in 2010 we would have week long challenges that involved posting your food images on a daily basis. We’re not going to post all our food for an entire week but contrary to our regular challenges, you will be able to post up to three (3), yes THREE images this week.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

There’s a catch, they can’t be from the same meal. You can choose Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner or go the route of cool treats, desserts and your favorite bar drinks and eats.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

I encourage you to be creative while shooting your image and in post processing. Don’t settle for a snapshot. We’re creating a photograph, it doesn’t have to sell as appetizing, but eye pleasing art is a good start. Naturally one can stick to editorial and give us a lesson in traditional foods from around the world.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

Depth of field is important. Rule of thumb, keep your foreground subject crisp and in focus if you’re going to have a shallow depth of field.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

On the flip side, you may want to get your entire serving dish in focus. Don’t be afraid to experiment and assemble multiple images together to get an overview of an entire meal or a before and after. In the image above we have an out of the even to the serving plate photo.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color filters, vignettes and borders. If you have to break the rules of photography to make your artistic vision a reality, then go for it 🙂

Theres a great deal of freedom in this challenge but please stay away from snapshots and apply yourself with composition, exposure and depth of field. Plan your shot and take multiple images at different angles. Food photography is an art in itself.

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 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 50: LEVITATION

You all know how I always tell you that I do the challenge myself before posting it? Well forget about that for this levitation Challenge. Although I’ve used layers and masking in Photoshop, I’ve never gone through the the steps of creating a levitation image.

catch

We do get the visual illusion of levitation but we all know there’s a camera trick behind it. In this case probably more than a stool, maybe some string to hold part of the dress up.

levitation//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There’s two basic theories to levitation images. One you do all kinds of Photoshop manipulations to remove stools, chairs and other gravitational defying elements, or you just simply jump and capture an image before gravity sets in.

Magic Slippers//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We can all see that playing with special effects adds a special touch to a levitation image.  Something a simple jump can’t replicate.

The folks at PETAPIXEL put together a simple tutorial – http://petapixel.com/2015/02/10/levitation-photography-tutorial/

Naturally Photoshop is the tool of choice to post process and complete your assignment. However there is a free compatible program called GIMP that can do the job. You can also do a search on google for (FREE IMAGE MASKING TOOL). That should help you get things done.

Levitation//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Think outside the box and don’t just limit yourself to levitating people. There’s a whole world of objects waiting to defy Newton…

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 #photochallenge2016
  • 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 not be a Video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 43: SPLIT FACE PORTRAITS

Here I am, suffering from an aching infected tooth plus a Strep Throat. As a compassionate human being, philanthropist and of course a humanitarian before all, my first thought is how can I make you suffer as I suffer, but with a portrait challenge 🙂 All joking apart I despise doing portraiture, so I need to find a way to make them fun!

Moka / Ashley//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I had a few ideas in mind and Split Face Portraits won this round. The foremost reason, it’s a great way to get started in the Halloween Spirit with make-up and all the accouterments. The image above is a good example of costume VS real life look. We still see the separating line as it is not blended, we’ll get into the blending in a video tutorial.

Vector / Micheal//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Traditionally used to show before and after, the concept needs two different images to get started. You don’t have to stick with the Halloween theme, you can capture different people and even match up an individual with their favorite pet.

ARE GEMINIS LIARS JIPOSHY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can also use but one image and post process one of the halves to your liking. However you do need to capture a brand new portrait to start off with this challenge.

collage idea//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I’ve shown you vertically split images finalized in post processing. Don’t let the post processing thwart your creativity. If you want to print your portraits and finish the job OLD SCHOOL STYLE with a pair of scissors, go for it…but please use your images shot and printed for this challenge.

Here are a few tutorials :

A GOOGLE SEARCH will also reveal a few APPs for Android and IOS. Don’t be afraid to complete this challenge  with a mobile device.

This is all about having fun! I know it can be tempting to use images off the Internet to complete this Challenge but this is a photography challenge and the photography part is entirely your responsibility.

A Little disclaimer and advice : Please do not alter individuals to the point of ridicule without their approval.

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 #photochallenge2016
  • 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 photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.
Featured image by Rebecca Krebs – Fabiola – CC – https://www.flickr.com/photos/missturner/17102516750/

2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 39: PORTRAITS IN NATURE

Gary and I are filling in for Trevor on the Portrait Challenges. Portraiture is far from my forte, and this one kept me up all night as I tried to come up with something new and unique in order to break the monotony of portraits. Being outdoors in the wilderness for the better part of my days, I figured Nature could be an intricate part of a portrait, not just a background, but a prop for your subject to immerse in.

toddler nature//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Being an editorial photographer, the first thing that comes to my mind is documenting a discovery experience in nature. Children’s expression as they discover nature can be just priceless.

Face of the Nature//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Framing a child with leaves can enhance a look of innocence. Leaves have a tendency to reflect light, so pay attention as to not let those reflections distract from your subject. Using a polarized filter can also help. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your light by using reflectors and diffusers…

Tina in Field//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Blurred out foreground vegetation can add depth and mood to your portrait. Pay attention to direct sunlight on your subject, a diffuser can soften the light. Take great care in properly orienting your subject so the light is just right for the photograph you want to create.

Untitled

Not all vegetation needs to be lush and green, dried out vegetation can add a more dramatic impact to your image. Post processing, contrast and monochrome tones can further enhance the impact.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Serie :: the Children of Ilúvatar 2//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Don’t be afraid to create a fantasy scene, nature can provide the ideal setting to let your imagination run wild.

November sun//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

At times nature can bring on such a sensation of pleasure that it just needs to be photographed and immortalized.

The original goal of the portrait challenges, as introduced by Trevor, was to use a different subject at every challenge. This challenge is as much a great opportunity for a self portrait as it is a great family activity in the great outdoors.

Collapsible reflectors and diffusers are a great tool as well as a polarized filter. If you can get your subject to stay absolutely still by running water, a VND or ND filter can create some amazing effects.

As usual, I always recommend a tripod. It allows you to take your time, think and experiment.

When outdoors please take great care, nature can have a few surprises waiting for you. Educate yourself on plants, insects and animals that can harm you or at times kill you. Don’t rely on what you once knew, nature is changing and adapting to changing climate. Plants like Giant Hogweed can now be found in places you’d least expect. Insecticides based on essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus can protect you from ticks and mosquitos and are less harmful than DEET based products for humans and their pet companions.

hallowwen

Coming this October, a month long PhotoChallenge for Halloween!

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.org or #photochallenge2016.
  • 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 photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

 

Featured image by Rebecca Krebs – Fabiola – CC – https://www.flickr.com/photos/missturner/17102516750/

2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 35: LIGHT PAINTING PORTRAITS

We’ve used traditional lighting techniques in previous portrait challenges. This time around I thought we could make things funky by using LIGHT PAINTING to enhance our portraiture.

Black Hole//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The above image is the simple and clean approach. One source of light for the subject and the light painting effect.

Self Portrait 5//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Things can get crazier even with only one light source such as a laser. You’ll need a long exposure to work something this complex, but with very little practice this remains a very easy goal to attain. EXERCISE GREAT CARE WHEN USING LASERS ON SUBJECTS – AVOID POINTING LASERS DIRECTLY AT EYES – LASERS CAN PERMANENTLY DAMAGE EYES.


This quick beginner’s tutorial (VIDEO) should give you the basic tools to get started with this Challenge.

LightPainting Studio at BeatFilms//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can work with a mix of standard lighting and compliment your subject with light painting or go entirely using light painting as your light source. Although this is portrait challenge, don’t be afraid to experiment with close-up portraits or whole body images.

I wanna be...//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You can also recreate an entirely new persona of your subject using multiple light sources of various colors.

A quick image search on Google will give you hundreds of examples to inspire your creativity : SEARCH GOOGLE

TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR CHALLENGE

  1. USE EXTREME CAUTION and communicate well with your model to prevent eye injuries from light sources.
  2. You will need a tripod to keep your camera stable as these images are all going to be long exposures.
  3. A wireless remote trigger is always handy.
  4. You may even want to use an ND or Variable ND filter to make your exposures even longer. (Depends on your surroundings).
  5. Choose a dark location with the least amount of distractions. (Indoor or Outdoor).
  6. Experiment with different lights and colors. Don’t be afraid to add shapes and colored filters on your light sources.
  7. keep moving as you work the light painting to prevent appearing in the image.

 

This should be a great deal of fun and can even be a great family activity.

 

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.org or #photochallenge2016.
  • 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 photograph, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.