Paul Timpa Photography Blog Photography Tutorials and Tips from Paul Timpa Photography

17Feb/16Off

What To Do With That Great Photo That’s Not Quite Technically Perfect

"What a great photo! Oh wait... it's blurry."

It's happened to the best of us. Even professionals. Sometimes in photography we take pictures that we would've really liked but they've come out slightly blurry, or they have too much digital noise from a high ISO, or maybe they were taken with an older camera that had a low megapixel count or quality not up to today's standards. It might be an awesome wildlife image of a rare animal, the sunrise over the Caribbean, a spontaneous photo from a family outing, or an architectural photo from some far away place. Often these otherwise great photos get deleted or just sit unused in a folder on your computer. The good news is there are many ways these photos can still be useful, even for producing art to hang on the wall.

Of course you can always try to sharpen up a blurry photo or reduce digital noise, and there are some great products that can do this for you. The purpose of this post though is to provide some ideas as to what to do with those photos when even the best software can't quite fix your photos 100%.

Wall Art on Alternative Media

One of my favorite ways to save photos that might otherwise be too blurry or too noisy for "traditional" prints is to print them on alternative media, such as canvas or wood. Not only do these surfaces create amazing pieces of art, but they help mask minor imperfections in the original photo. I recently wanted to make a print of an American Bison for a Western-themed wall, and all of the photos I'd taken with a 21mp Canon 5D Mark II were sharp and clear, but the subject matter didn't fit the wall. I found a much older photo of a bison on my hard drive taken with a 10mp Canon Rebel XTi, that I liked better. I decided to print the Rebel XTi photo on wood and it looks absolutely spectacular (Photo printed on wood by woodsnap.com).

Bison Printed on Wood

Bison Printed on Wood

Similarly, I have several very large canvas prints (36" x 24") that look great, even with photos of relatively lower resolution.

Gifts and Other Items

In addition to wall art, there are plenty of other items that you can print on these days. Everything from custom pillows and blankets, cellphone cases, shower curtains, candles, kitchen aprons, puzzles, playing cards, there are so many possibilities. The quality of the photo doesn't have to be the same as if you were printing a poster-sized wall hanging. Photos that are of "decent" quality will do just fine for many of the items mentioned above.

Social Media

If you're not printing the photos to a physical product but still want to make use of them digitally for sharing on social media, there are still many of ways to make them usable. If your photo has noise from a high ISO, one of the easiest ways to mask this is to simply convert to black & white. The most problematic noise is generally "chroma noise" which you see as all the tiny multi-colored dots. When you convert to black & white, this noise looks more like grain in old b&w film and is much less noticeable.

Statue of Atlas, Rockefeller Center, NYC

Statue of Atlas, Rockefeller Center, NYC

Both noise and blurriness are less visible when the size of the photo is smaller on-screen. Rather than post the photo to social media on its own in full resolution, you can reduce its size and include it as part of a collage or other multi-photo image. This allows you to include the image in context with other images taken at a similar time, and it's also easier for friends and family to share a single post (that contains multiple pictures) than to share many individual posts. Below is a photo grid of three city scenes from Rome, Paris, and NYC:

Photo Grid -- Timpa Photography

Photo Grid -- Timpa Photography

Even if a photo is not blurry and looks fine, I often include it as part of a collage for these same reasons. Mobile apps like "Photo Grid" for Android are great at creating collages, and also include some editing tools (brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, crop, etc.) as well as filters.

Filters

There are countless ways to apply filters that will not only enhance your photos, but also help hide imperfections. If your photo is slightly blurry, perhaps you can go for a tilt-shift Lensbaby type look to give it a dreamy feel. If the colors are muted, or the noise is high, you can try an oversaturated, high-contrast "edgy" look. Explore all of the filters or features of your editing software to see what works for your particular image.

Roman Forum, Italy

Roman Forum, Italy

Conclusion

Just because a photo hasn't come out technically "perfect", doesn't mean you have to deal with no photo of the occasion. With a little creativity you can bring new life to those old photos and they can take their rightful place on your wall, either in the real world or on social media!


For those looking to improve your photography, I've also created an app for Android which teaches photography and how to get photos like these while you're out taking pictures. It's perfect for when you're traveling. Click here:

Photography Trainer for Android

 
If you find this guide helpful, please share it:

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If you have any questions about the locations or photo techniques, please feel free to ask any time. You can also become a fan at my Photography Facebook page, add me to Google+ circles, or follow me on Twitter for more photography tutorials and tips:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

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Thanks for reading, and best regards,
Paul

 
If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

 
Copyright 2014, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

26Dec/11Off

Learn How to Use that New Camera you received this Holiday Season

Many people received the wonderful gift of photography this holiday season. If you're one of the lucky ones and are now the proud owner of a new D-SLR or lens, you're probably excited to start taking magical pictures!

Once you've played around with it for a bit and taken some photos on auto-mode, remember that it's the Manual mode on your new camera that really lets you take creative pictures. It's easy to learn, and if you have an iPhone or Android phone you can get download an app that will teach you how to use your camera.

The Photography Trainer app for iPhone and Android is a training tool that teaches you photography when you need it most -- when you're out with your D-SLR and taking pictures. Over 50,000 people have downloaded the app and learned how to use their D-SLRS!

The app doesn't require an internet connection, so it’s perfect for vacations and holidays too – learn photography no matter where you are in the world, whether it’s during a beautiful sunset on the beach or while you’re on a mountain top.

You’ll learn how to capture images with impact and creativity by understanding shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and how they all work together. Learn night and low-light photography, sports, wildlife, portraits, architecture, and landscape photography. You'll always have an expert with you in your pocket, there to help you take spectacular photos.

iPhone and iPod Touch users can download the app by searching on Photography Trainer in the App Store or clicking here to download from iTunes.

To download the app for Android, just search on "Photography Trainer" in the Android Market from your phone or click here: Download Photography Trainer for Android.

The app is also available on the Amazon.com Android App Store. To download with your Amazon account, click here: Download Photography Trainer from Amazon.com.

The app has three sections designed to help you:

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The Interactive Photography Trainer asks you questions about the lighting you’re in, what types of subjects you’re photographing (waterfalls, sports, city skylines, etc.) and then it guides you on how to set the camera. Most importantly, not only does it instruct you on the best settings to use, it tells you *why* to use them so that you actually learn photography in the process of using the app.

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The Photo Gallery with Camera Settings contains dozens of professional photographs, each with detailed camera settings for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, so you can see how the settings work together in real-life examples.

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The In-Depth Techniques section has photography tutorials that go into further detail on topics such as:

* Getting razor-sharp photos
* HDR Photography
* Night photography
* Sports, Action, and Wildlife
* Composition
…and more…

Take your photography to the next level with the Photography Trainer and learn when you’re out with your camera – it’s the best time.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhotographyTrainer

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can become a fan at my Photography Facebook page and follow me on Twitter:


Best regards,
Paul

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

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Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Tahiti

Tahiti

South Street Seaport, New York City

South Street Seaport, New York City




18Apr/11Off

Photography Myths

There are many "photography myths" out there. When you're just starting out in photography, it's fun to read and to learn and absorb as much information as you can. As you're learning, you may sometimes here things over and over again, that you take as fact. Some of this information may actually be long-standing myth. I've written this article to help provide some clarification on things you may have heard as you learn more about photography.

MYTH: Cloudy and rainy days are not great for photography

TRUTH: Cloudy days are some of the best days to get out with your camera. There are a variety of photographic subjects that are best taken on cloudy or overcast days, from portraits to macro and flowers, to landscapes.

For portraits, flowers, macro, insects, etc., cloudy and overcast days are often better than sunny days because of the significantly reduced contrast and shadows. When the sun is blazing, there are harsh shadows produced on the subject, whether it’s a person’s face or the delicate petals of a flower. These shadows can be a huge problem, requiring everything from flashes and external lights to diffusers and reflectors to overcome. When it’s cloudy, you get beautiful soft light on your subject. The clouds and overcast conditions act like a giant softbox, providing you with amazing soft light for portraits and flower photography. When it's cloudy out, I specifically head out to get the best flower shots!

For landscapes, thick cloud cover and even storms can create some of the most atmospheric and moody photography imaginable. This is especially true if you convert to black & white. Photos of landscapes with brooding skies, hinting at an impending storm, can have some incredible impact.

Tulip

Tulip

The photo above of a tulip was taken on an overcast day. Notice how there are no harsh shadows distracting from the natural beauty of the flower.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

The image above was taken in Sedona, Arizona on a day with thick cloud cover.

The next time it’s cloudy, get out there and try one of these types of photography and you may be surprised how happy you are with the results.

MYTH: Flash is best for indoor photos or photos at night

TRUTH: Many photographers think of the flash mostly as a tool to use in darker conditions, either indoors or at night. However, one of the best uses of flash is outside during the day in bright daylight. As mentioned in the previous myth, bright sunlight causes dark shadows on the subject, whether it’s a portrait or a flower or the foreground of a landscape. One of the easiest and best ways to improve the photo is to reduce this shadow by using your flash. (This is often called “fill flash” because its primary purpose is to fill in the shadows rather than illuminate the subject). I almost always use the flash when taking outdoor portraits. The best part is that all newer cameras handle this “fill flash” automatically, without overpowering the subject with light. Just turn on the flash and the camera will calculate the correct brightness so that the flash fills in the shadow. If you prefer the flash a bit brighter or darker than the camera chooses, you can always use the “Flash Exposure Compensation” feature available in most D-SLRs to tweak it to your liking.

MYTH: Wide Angle lenses exaggerate perspective and Telephoto lenses compress perspective

TRUTH: Perspective is the distance that objects “appear” from each other in a photo, from front-to-back. (This distance in the photo may or may not reflect "reality".) While it’s true that wide angle lenses often have the effect of exaggerating perspective and telephoto lenses may have the effect of compressing perspective, it’s important to understand that the lenses themselves actually have nothing to do with perspective. It is only your physical distance from the subject and background that determines perspective. Why is this important? Because in order to change perspective and change the way the photo looks, you need to physically move your body to a new location farther or closer to the subject. Simply changing lenses from wide-angle to telephoto will not alter the perspective in any way. The myth exists simply because when photographers use wide-angle lenses, they often move physically close to the subject, which exaggerates perspective in the final photo. When using telephoto lenses, you’re often photographing objects that are far from you – which compresses the perspective in the photo. Note that in both examples it’s the distance that has caused the effect, not the lens. If you took a photo of distant mountains with a telephoto lens, then stood in the same spot and took a photo with a wide angle lens, the mountains would like identical in both photos -- they would be compressed together because you are far away, regardless of lens. The only difference in the photos is that the wide-angle lens would include a wider “view”, meaning you’d see more to the left and right and in the foreground. The mountains however, would look the same. Keep this in mind when you’re out taking pictures. Always remember to alter your distance from the subject so that you can try out different perspectives to see how they affect the photo.

MYTH: HDR produces unnatural photos

TRUTH: Many people see HDR photos on the internet and are immediately turned off by the unnatural appearance and overly saturated, often “cartoony” look. While it’s true that these photos have likely been produced with HDR software, it’s important to realize that those photos were produced by photographers who’ve intentionally created images with that look. HDR can look incredibly natural, and very often you may not even know that a photo is HDR. It’s just easier to “notice” the over-processed, over-saturated, cartoony ones. Many of my own photos are HDR and it’s difficult to tell at first glance. Sometimes, after a while, I occasionally forget which ones of my own are HDR! HDR is incredibly useful for architecture, interiors, landscapes, and a wide variety of subjects. Once you learn the software, you’ll be able to create natural looking images that have the extra dynamic range (bright and dark tones) but still look very “real”.

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport

The photo of NYC's South Street Seaport above is an HDR photo and would not have been possible without using HDR techniques.

MYTH: When shooting landscapes, you should stop down your lens to the smallest aperture to ensure everything is in focus

TRUTH: Using the smallest aperture on your lens degrades image quality and is rarely necessary. Due to the way lenses are built, when you use a tiny aperture like F22 or F32, the photo can actually get less sharp because of something called "diffraction". Technically, the depth-of-field will be maximized and everything will be "in focus" -- however the overall image quality will suffer and be more blurry than if you had used a slightly wider aperture. You'll often find that apertures like F14 or F16 are sufficient for many landscapes, and will result in sharper photos that are still in focus. I rarely shoot at an aperture smaller than F16.

MYTH: It’s always a good idea to use a UV filter on your lens

TRUTH: Opinions vary on the use of UV filters. For me personally, I don’t recommend using UV filters for most photography. Of course this is just my personal opinion, and I respect those who wish to use them for an added layer of protection. However, it’s important to understand a few things about UV filters and lenses in general. Firstly, lenses today are pretty tough. They’re built to take the standard knocks and bangs you might encounter. If you’re especially accident-prone, then perhaps it may make sense to use one for protecting the front lens element, but otherwise, I suggest leaving it off. This is because from a “UV” and “haze” perspective, I’ve found they do very little to improve the photo. On the down side however, using a UV filter can definitely introduce unwanted flare in your photos. Flare is usually seen as several large, colored or white blobs in your photo. This is caused when bright light sources shine directly on the front lens element. Using a UV filter adds an additional layer of glass which increases the chance of light bouncing around and causing reflections and flare. Any type of photography where there are bright lights on the lens, such as sunsets or sunrises, or night photography where there are streetlights, etc., can be negatively affected by UV filters. For these types of photography especially, I recommend removing the UV filter. The only times I could see needing them is if for example you’re on a beach and there is a lot sand blowing around, or if you’re walking through a hiking trail and branches are frequently whipping at the front of the camera. Or perhaps you’re on a boat and there is salt-water splashing up. In those extreme examples, I could see if someone wanted to use a UV filter. Otherwise, I recommend leaving them off for the best possible image quality.

MYTH: Full-frame cameras are better than APS-C or Micro-Four-Thirds cameras

TRUTH: First let me say that just about any D-SLR on the market today is capable of taking incredible, professional-quality photos. I’m a firm believer in “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.” Even so, many photographers see the full-frame camera as the ultimate format to own. While it’s true that full-frame cameras may often provide some of the best overall image quality of the various camera formats, it’s also true that full-frame cameras may not be the best cameras for all types of photography. For example, Canon’s two full-frame cameras the 1Ds Mark III and 5D Mark II, shoot at 5 frames-per-second and 3.9 frames-per-second. While this is just fine for landscape and studio photography, it may not be fast enough for fast-action sports or racing. By contrast, Canon’s 1D Mark IV (a non-full frame camera) shoots at 10fps, twice the speed of Canon’s fastest full-frame camera. The 7D shoots at 8fps. If you shoot a lot of wildlife or sports, you may also be interested in choosing a non-full-frame camera. Without getting into the technical details, just know that non-full-framers have the “effect” of adding extra telephoto reach to any lens. For example, if you buy a Canon 400mm lens, it basically acts as 640mm lens on a Canon 7D. By contrast, that same lens on a 5D is 400mm. The price of a 600mm lens (which is what you would need on a 5D to equal the reach of a 400mm lens on a 7D) is much higher than a 400mm lens by several thousand dollars. So you save a lot of money by using a 7D and getting 640mm out of a 400mm lens!

MYTH: It’s always best to photograph landscapes and architecture with a wide-angle lens, and to take sports and wildlife with a telephoto.

TRUTH: While it’s true that most often landscapes and architecture are photographed with wider angles and that sports and wildlife photographers lean toward telephotos, there are plenty of times when you’ll want to do the opposite. Using telephotos for landscapes can be perfect for picking out important details or isolating a subject. You can also photograph scenes that are far away, and because of the compressing of perspective that is caused by the distance, you can get fabulously layered photos that are really interesting. Similarly, you can use telephotos in architecture to highlight certain details that may otherwise be lost in a wide-angle shot. One of the most useful times to use a telephoto for architecture is when you’re trying to avoid “converging verticals”, that pyramid effect that happens when you’re close to a tall building and shoot with a wide-angle lens pointed upwards. To avoid the lines of the building slanting inwards, use a telephoto lens and stand further back from the building. This allows you to keep the camera pointed straight ahead, rather than pointed upwards. When the camera is pointed straight ahead, you don’t get the slanted lines.

Telephotos are often used for sports and wildlife to bring the athlete or animal closer, but sometimes it’s great to see the subject in its environment. Some of my most favorite wildlife photos are silhouettes of a deer on a mountaintop with a gorgeous sunset in the background, taken at a wide angle. It can really add to wildlife photos if you can show the beautiful surroundings where the animals live.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica

The photo above of St. Peter's Basilica in Italy was taken with a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens from very far away.

MYTH: Low ISOs produce the best picture quality

TRUTH: While technically this is true, it’s important to understand the larger context of how ISO works. From a pure “image quality” perspective, low ISOs produce images that are clean and noise-free. However, low ISOs require you to use longer shutter speeds, which is what causes blurry photos. In almost all cases, it is better to have a noisy photo that is pin-sharp, than a noiseless photo that is blurry! Because of this, it’s important to make sure that you use a shutter speed that is fast enough to prevent blur, even if that means raising the ISO to 800, 1600, or higher. High ISOs also allow you to use a narrower aperture when shooting handheld, which increases depth-of-field ensuring everything is in focus. Today’s cameras are getting better and better at handling noise at high ISOs, so don’t be afraid to use them as necessary. Of course, if you’re using a tripod and shutter speed is not relevant, go ahead and use the lowest ISO to ensure the cleanest photo.

MYTH: A D-SLR is always better than a compact

TRUTH: Sometimes it’s easy to think that a D-SLR is better than a compact camera in all situations. You’ll often find this is not the case. Here are a couple of scenarios where a compact camera may be a better choice.

* Compact cameras are great for macro photography. It is difficult and expensive to design true macro lenses for D-SLRs. In addition, the small depth-of-field of D-SLRs compared to compacts forces you to stop-down your lens to tiny apertures like F22 to get everything in focus. These small apertures require long shutter speeds, and that’s why you almost always need a tripod with D-SLRs for macro photography where focus is critical. Compact cameras on the other hand naturally have a lot of depth of field. You can take amazing macro photos, without a tripod, with most compacts, even the inexpensive ones. Compact cameras are a great way to experiment with macro photography.

* Compact cameras are great for street photography or any photography where you don’t want to draw a lot of attention to yourself and your gear. There are many occasions and places where you may want to blend into the crowd to get more “natural” shots of people and places, whether it’s a bustling city or simply a friend's party where you’re snapping some candids. Compact cameras are great for this purpose.

* Compact cameras are the best and often only choice when you need to travel light. We’ve all heard the phrase before: The best camera is the one you have with you. (They also say that about tripods.) It’s true -- If the option is no camera at all or bringing along a compact, the compact of course wins every time. Whether it’s going on a long hike somewhere, or diving into the ocean with a small waterproof compact, there are many places where a D-SLR can be just too large, heavy, and cumbersome to bring along. Compacts are great for filling in, and many of the new advanced models have full manual control and outstanding image quality. I went hiking across the summit of Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii, with just my Canon S90 compact, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to not have my D-SLR. The hike would have been incredibly difficult otherwise. With the manual controls and a lightweight tripod, I was still able to capture long-exposure shots of the glow from the lava pools.

MYTH: Lightning photography requires special gear or quick reflexes

TRUTH: As you may have seen in my more in-depth article on Lightning Photography, photographing a lightning storm has little to do with special gear and quick reflexes. It’s simply a matter of using long shutter speeds and a bit of patience to capture the lighting. Using manual mode, set the shutter speed to around 30 seconds, and an aperture and ISO that suits the scene. Then just click the shutter and wait for lightning to strike!

Lightning Strike over NYC

Lightning Strike over NYC

MYTH: Professional photography is a glamorous job of jet setting, models, and exotic locations

TRUTH: Many people dream of being a professional photographer and one day traveling the globe taking photos of exotic locales or photographing models on the beach. The job can certainly seem glamorous and extremely fun, and on rare occasions it can be just that, but more often than not, professional photography is just like any other job. You’ve probably heard this before, but pro photography is probably 20% photography and 80% running your own “business”. That business is just like any other business, and running it involves all the activities of accounting, billing and invoicing, marketing, advertising and sales, administrative work, managing client relationships, etc. You may be amazed to find out how little actual photography there is! Also, many pro photographers generate income not just from photoshoots, but a variety of other “photography-related” pursuits. For example, despite generating income by working for my architectural clients, I also hold photography workshops, I sell prints of existing work as art, I have my iPhone app, etc. You’ll need to be able to juggle a lot of different photography activities, all while running the business side of things and handling the sales, marketing, and accounting. It’s a tough career!

MYTH: You don’t need a tripod these days, because high ISOs allow low-light handheld shooting

TRUTH: High ISOs do allow you to handhold the camera in dim conditions that previously required a tripod. However, these high ISOs are purely used to obtain a fast shutter speed. For me, the beauty of the tripod is that it allows long-exposure photography, something that ISO cannot help with. Long exposure photography is one of my favorite techniques in photography, because it allows the camera to capture “motion”, which adds so much interest to the photo. That motion can be the rushing water of a waterfall or stream, the car light trails in a nighttime cityscape, or the hustle and bustle of people. None of these types of photos are possible without a tripod, so you’re missing out on a whole world of photography without one. Perhaps even more importantly, a tripod is required if you want to do any kind of exposure blending, whether manually or using HDR software. You may already know that cameras are not great at capturing a wide range of brights and darks in a single photo. Exposure blending is simply the process of taking two or more photos at varying brightness levels and combining them on the computer afterwards so that all the brightness levels of the scene are present in the photo. This cannot be done without a tripod because all the photos at different brightnesses must be taken with the camera in the exact same position, so that combining them on the computer is easy. Sure, you can attempt to hold the camera very steady to try this technique, but for serious photography, a tripod is necessary to do it right.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

MYTH: Great wildlife shots require an expensive African safari

TRUTH: I’ve seen beautiful and incredibly natural wildlife photography that’s been captured in a zoo or local wildlife preserve. The key when capturing the picture is to take special care and attention to eliminate all of the “man-made” features surrounding the animal. For example, this can be done by using a telephoto lens so that just the animal is in the frame and you can’t see the man-made background elements. If the background is going to be visible in the frame, you can also use the widest possible aperture on your lens. This can blur the background to a wash of color where it’s impossible to tell what’s behind the wildlife. When photographing through glass enclosures, be sure to turn off the flash to eliminate reflections. Also get as close to the glass as possible, even pressing the front of the lens right onto the glass to ensure there are no reflections. When done properly, you may find you can take very natural wildlife photos very close to home.

MYTH: Setting your images to 72dpi is important for displaying them on a computer screen

TRUTH: To this day, I’m unable to determine the origin of this myth. The truth is that when it comes to displaying your images on a computer screen, the dpi (dots per inch) you see in your editing software is completely irrelevant. The size of your images displayed on a computer screen is only related to the dimensions of the image in pixels, for example 1200x800 pixels or 640x480 pixels. The larger the image in pixels, the larger it will appear on screen. Ignore any references to setting your images to 72dpi for on-screen viewing.

MYTH: Using image editing software is “cheating”

TRUTH: This is one of the most commonly discussed topics in all of photography. Everyone has their own opinion on it. The reality is this: No digital image produced today is completely unmanipulated. Even if you don’t personally Photoshop the image or fiddle with the adjustment controls on the camera, the digital photo itself is manipulated by the camera’s settings for saturation, contrast, etc. There’s no difference in choosing the black & white mode on your camera which desaturates the image, or the Landscape mode which intensifies blues and greens, than doing it afterwards on the computer. With film, images are adjusted in the darkroom in very much the same way, for brightness, saturation, contrast, etc, as well as dodging and burning to bring out specific details. Photographers throughout time have adjusted their images to make the best representation of what they saw. Many people like to do a little extra “adjusting” and that’s just fine – photography is art. Really the only area where minimal adjustment is required is in photojournalism. For my personal style, I prefer to keep it natural, especially with my travel and architecture photography where I know the images I capture need to represent reality. If you wish to enhance your images to make beautiful art for all to enjoy, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so! It’s all up to you.

If you have any questions about these or any other myths you may have heard, please let me know.

I've also created an app for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch which teaches you photography -- more info can be found here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and Android

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Best Regards,
Paul

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can also become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

Share this Tutorial with friends:
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Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/




22Mar/11Off

Photography Trainer app now availiable for purchase on Amazon

Photography Trainer, the best-selling app that teaches you photography when you're out with your D-SLR, is now available for download from Amazon.com for Android phones.

You’ll learn how to capture images with impact and creativity by understanding shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and how they all work together. Learn night and low-light photography, sports, wildlife, portraits, architecture, and landscape photography. You'll always have an expert with you in your pocket, there to help you take spectacular photos.

To download with your Amazon account, click here: Download Photography Trainer from Amazon.com.

* Please note that purchasing on Amazon is only available to U.S. customers on Verizon and Sprint. AT&T and additional countries will be supported shortly.

Of course you can still purchase it from Google's Android Market by clicking here: Download Photography Trainer for Android.

iPhone and iPod Touch users can download the app by searching on Photography Trainer in the App Store or clicking here to download from iTunes.

The app has three sections designed to help you:

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The Interactive Photography Trainer asks you questions about the lighting you’re in, what types of subjects you’re photographing (waterfalls, sports, city skylines, etc.) and then it guides you on how to set the camera. Most importantly, not only does it instruct you on the best settings to use, it tells you *why* to use them so that you actually learn photography in the process of using the app.

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The Photo Gallery with Camera Settings contains dozens of professional photographs, each with detailed camera settings for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, so you can see how the settings work together in real-life examples.

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

The In-Depth Techniques section has photography tutorials that go into further detail on topics such as:

* Getting razor-sharp photos
* HDR Photography
* Night photography
* Sports, Action, and Wildlife
* Composition
…and more…

Take your photography to the next level with the Photography Trainer and learn when you’re out with your camera – it’s the best time.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhotographyTrainer

Best regards,
Paul

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

Share/Bookmark

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Tahiti

Tahiti

South Street Seaport, New York City

South Street Seaport, New York City

8Jul/10Off

Your First D-SLR: Best Ways to Use It

Sunrise over Tahiti

Sunrise over Tahiti

Congratulations! You've purchased your first D-SLR and now it's time to start taking pictures. Many of my friends have also purchased their first D-SLRs too. For those without any background in photography (or who haven't yet read lots of books and magazines), you may not know where to start with your new camera. With all the buttons and new terminology, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just setting your D-SLR to “Auto” mode and letting the camera do all the work.

D-SLRs are capable of taking stunning photos. Before we begin, please allow me to let you know where it’s best not to start. Try to avoid using your new D-SLR like it’s just a larger version of a compact camera. A D-SLR offers much more important features than just great picture quality. D-SLRs enable you to create images that are not possible with point-and-shoots. That's what this article is about.

The easiest and best way to improve your photography is to embrace these features and use them to create photos that can't be taken with a compact camera. That will immediately set your photography apart from the crowd.

What are those features? There are quite a few of them and we'll go through them one-by-one so you understand what each feature is and how to take advantage of it for your own pictures:

First, D-SLRs enable you to take photos where the subject is in sharp focus but the background is intentionally blurred. This makes the subject "pop" out of the picture, and can be one of the best ways to make your images look professional.

Pina Colada, Mexico

Pina Colada, Mexico

These types of photos are not possible on a compact point-and-shoot. The physically small size of a point-and-shoot camera's sensor and lens prevents you from blurring the background on most shots. Because D-SLR sensors and lenses are bigger, you're able to blur the background. Blurring the background is important because it eliminates all the clutter behind your subject and draws attention right to what’s important. In order to achieve the blur, simply use a very wide aperture on your lens such as F4 or F2.8. You can set this by using either Aperture Priority (Av) or Manual (M) mode. The closer you are to the subject and the more you have your lens zoomed in, the greater the effect. So set a wide aperture, zoom in, and get close and you'll achieve that beautiful blur. Try this technique on portraits and sports. Portraits look amazing when the subject is in sharp focus and the background blends to a silky blur of color. Be sure to focus on the eyes of your subject when shooting with wide apertures. Sports are another great time to blur the background. The background at sporting events can often be cluttered with other players, the crowd, advertisements and signs, etc. By blurring the background, your bring the attention right on the athlete. Shooting food this way also produces great results.

Second, D-SLRs are much better at taking pictures in low light than point-and-shoots. D-SLR sensors are larger and are better at gathering light, so the picture quality is improved. You can often shoot with no flash. Use this to your advantage to get shots that would otherwise be impossible with a compact camera.

Statue of Atlas and St. Patrick's Cathedral

Statue of Atlas and St. Patrick's Cathedral

Set the camera to your widest aperture and the ISO to 800 (or even higher if the picture quality looks good) and get out there at night, or indoors in dark scenes and start taking pictures. With a wide aperture, a shutter speed around 1/40th, an ISO of 800 or 1600, and a steady hand, you'll be amazed at what you can capture in very dim lighting. Use it for everything from night photography on the streets to indoor photography at concerts, children’s recitals, birthday parties, weddings, etc. Remember, since there’s no need for flash, this is also great for taking pictures of people that are far away where the flash wouldn't reach, such as on a stage.

Third, D-SLRs allow manual control of the shutter speed, enabling long-exposure photography. Most point-and-shoots except for a few of the advanced models do not allow control of the shutter speed. Using long shutter speeds on your D-SLR can be one of the best ways to produce stunning images with loads of impact and movement.

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

Mount your camera on a tripod or rest it on something steady, and set the shutter speed to anywhere from 1/4 second to 30+ seconds depending on what you're photographing. You can use either Shutter Priority (Tv) or Manual (M) mode. Try 1/4 second for moving people in a busy place to show the “hustle and bustle”, or 30 seconds for cars and traffic, to capture light trails at night.

Wall Street, NYC

Wall Street, NYC

A shutter speed of a few seconds is great for capturing the glistening lights of a city skyline.

South Street Seaport, NYC

South Street Seaport, NYC

Use your camera’s Bulb mode and a remote control and you can take photos that last several minutes and show the stars streaking across the sky! Using long exposures is also one of the ways that photographers can capture photos of lightning striking during a storm. For all shots, it's important to use the camera's 10-second self timer or a remote control to trigger the shutter, because touching the shutter button will blur the shot.

Fourth, capture high-speed action. D-SLRs are very fast in two ways: (1) There is very little lag between when you press the shutter and when the photo is taken and (2) The shutter speeds can be very fast, such as 1/4000th of a second, allowing you to freeze action and capture images that you can't even see with the human eye.

Sunrise, Mexico

Sunrise, Mexico

Use this for capturing an athlete mid-air diving for a ball, bicycle riders racing down a mountain, raindrops splashing in a puddle, or birds swooping down to land on a lake. Find anything that moves very fast and see if you can freeze its movement. Use either Shutter Priority (Tv) or Manual (M) mode to set the shutter speed.

Fifth, use wide-angle lenses. Most compact cameras have a widest angle of about 28mm, with the occasional compact going to 24mm. By contrast, D-SLRs can go as wide as 15 or 16mm with fairly common lenses, and even wider with specialty lenses. While this may not sound like a lot in terms of millimeters, it is actually much wider and produces photos that are very different and often extremely dramatic.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

If your D-SLR has an APS-C size sensor, a lens that goes to around 10mm will be ultra-wide. If you're using a full-frame camera, a lens around 16mm will be ultra-wide. Capture wide sweeping views of a landscape, or get every person at the family reunion in the photo, even in a small room.

By using wide apertures to blur the background, high ISOs for low-light photography, very long or very fast shutter speeds for motion, and wide-angle lenses, you will immediately start taking photos that set you apart from the crowd.

One last comment -- I love compact point-and-shoot cameras and I use them all the time. I even have a few of them for different types of photography. They're perfect for carrying with you wherever you go, and they enable you to capture images that you otherwise might have missed. Today's compacts also have fantastic picture quality. There is a time and a place for everything, and using your existing compact camera along with your D-SLR for more dramatic images will give you the greatest amount of photographic possibilities.

If you have any questions, please let me know. I've also created an app for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch which teaches you photography -- more info can be found here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and Android

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Best,
Paul

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can also become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

Share this Tutorial with friends:
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Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

21May/10Off

The Louvre Pyramid by I.M. Pei, Paris Stock Photos, Paul Timpa Photography

Paris is such a beautiful place, and amazing for photography.

This is a photo of the Louvre Pyramid, which now serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum in the main courtyard, Cour Napoleon. It was designed by architect I. M. Pei and completed in 1989.

I wanted to photograph the pyramid at night so that it was internally lit. You can visit the courtyard fairly late in the evening, even after the museum closes. On this particular night, there were only a few pedestrians, so it was relatively easy to get a shot with no one in the photo.

The shot required a tripod and long exposure. On a calm night, you can get great reflections. This location is definitely worth a visit at night during a trip to Paris.

Enjoy.

My iPhone app which teaches photography is here:
Photography Trainer for iPhone and iPod Touch

My Photography Tutorials list is here:
Photography Tutorials List

Best regards,
Paul

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

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14Apr/10Off

New York Architectural Photographer Paul Timpa Photographs Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

This post is the first in a new on-going series where I'll discuss photo ops and locations that present great opportunities for photography.

This is an image of the Brooklyn Bridge, taken from Brooklyn facing Manhattan, New York City. It's taken from Brooklyn Bridge Park, a wonderful place to visit. I've taken photos from this location at dusk, but I wanted to try a very long daytime exposure to get something different. The long exposure smoothed out the water and gave this photo a very peaceful feel.

This image is available for purchase as a stock license or as a print, by clicking on the photo.

For more information on Brooklyn Bridge Park, click here:

http://www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org/

My iPhone app which teaches photography is here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and iPod Touch

My Photography Tutorials list is here:

Photography Tutorials List

Best regards,
Paul

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

Share/Bookmark

13Apr/10Off

New Direction for Photography Blog

Hi Everyone,

I'm excited to announce a new direction for my photography blog, that will add to the content available. In addition to posting tutorials and tips, I'm going to start including a wider variety of photography-related posts. Some posts will include more detailed insight into some of the photos and the locations where they were taken, I'll be adding links to other useful photography tutorial sites and blogs, and posting on interesting photography topics and news.

At the bottom of each new post, I'll include a direct link to all of the current photography tutorials that I've written, for those photographers that are looking to learn a specific technique.

I'm looking forward to the new direction of the blog, and as always, please feel free to ask any questions via my Facebook page here:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

My iPhone app which teaches photography is here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and iPod Touch

Best regards,
Paul

The full Tutorials List is here:

Photography Tutorials List

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/


Italy Collection - Images by Paul Timpa

Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments
7Jan/10Off

Manual Mode on Your D-SLR — When and Why to Use It


Italy Collection - Images by Paul Timpa

Manual Mode on your D-SLR can really help you take your photography to the next level, allowing for spectacular images and much more creative shots.  It is especially important for:

* Sunsets
* Night Photography
* Waterfalls / Rivers / Streams
* Sports / Action

Many of you who have read my previous articles have heard me mention "Manual Mode" on cameras, and how using it can really help your pictures.  I decided to write an in-depth article on the benefits of using manual mode, and why it is often actually easier to use than the automatic modes like "Aperture Priority (Av)" or "Shutter Priority (Tv)".  I hope after reading it, you too will give it a try and find that it's the easiest mode to use and also results in the best photos.

I've guest-posted this article on a colleague's blog, and you can read the full text of my article here:

http://www.digital-photography-tricks.com/manual-mode.html

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know.

Best,
Paul

I've also created an app for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch which teaches you photography -- more info can be found here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and Android

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Please feel free to share this article with Facebook friends:

Share

To keep up-to-date with the latest photo additions and other topics, you can also become a fan at my Photography Facebook page at:

Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook Page

If you'd like to purchase prints or stock photography licenses for my photos (for advertising and editorial use), please visit:

http://www.timpaphotography.com/purchase

Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

http://www.timpaphotography.com/

Share/Bookmark


Positano, Italy, Amalfi Coast

Positano, Italy, Amalfi Coast

18Nov/09Off

Color Management Made Simple – How to Calibrate your Monitor

Bora Bora, French Polynesia, by Paul Timpa

Bora Bora, French Polynesia, by Paul Timpa

Color management is one of those topics that is important to understand so that you can get prints that match what you see on your computer screen, yet a lot of what is written on how to do it is overly complicated or deals with technicalities that aren’t necessary in most real-world scenarios.  The goal of this article is to help you understand what color management is and why it’s necessary, and most importantly to tell you how to do it so you can get great prints.

First, let’s understand some concepts.  As usual, I’m going to provide some analogies and stories.  Hopefully this makes it more fun and easy to understand. 

OK, so we’ll start with color temperature.  You may already be familiar with this to some degree because it relates to the White Balance settings you may have on your camera – settings like “Cloudy” or “Tungsten” or “Fluorescent”.  Those settings deal with color temperature, or the color of light.  The next paragraph will explain what it means, and after you’re done reading it, you’ll probably say, “Oh, that’s it!?  That’s easy!”

The reality is that there really is no “correct” color for anything in this world, because it’s impossible to see something’s “correct” color.   Why?  Because everything we see with our eyes is completely affected by the viewing conditions at that moment, meaning the lighting at the time we’re looking at something.  Let me give you an example that will help make this perfectly clear.  This example will also be used later to explain why people’s prints don’t look right.  Here’s the example: 

Let’s say it’s summertime, and I have a nice summer tan going.  One day, I drive to the local gas station, walk into the mini-mart to pick up some snacks, and I pass a mirror.  The lights are that bright, greenish, hideous fluorescent color that you see in gas stations.  I’m shocked when I look in the mirror.  I look horrible, pale, and sickly.  Is that my “correct” skin color?  So, later that same night it’s my birthday party in my house, time to have cake, they turn out the lights, and I lean in to blow out the candles.  My skin by the light of the candles is a glowing orangey, candlelit color and smooth.  Is that my “correct” skin color?  Finally, I wake up the next day to go for a sunrise walk on the beach.  As the sun slowly comes up over the horizon my skin is reddish/golden, and brightly lit.  I think you get the point.  Which of those is my “correct” skin color?  The answer is all of them – my skin didn’t change at all – just the viewing conditions.  In each one of those scenarios, the color of the light was different – not my skin.  The color of the light is measured in temperature, so that’s why you hear the phrase “color temperature”.    The gas station’s fluorescent light is a particular color temperature, and candlelight is a different temperature.  We don’t need to get into any more detail than that… that’s really all we need to know for now.  So back to our examples:  Let’s say you have a picture of your family in your wallet.  You bring it over to my house.  For whatever reason, I’ve decided to have only red light bulbs in my house.  You look at the picture in my house and with all my red light bulbs, the whole photo looks red.  Would you say the photo itself suddenly has a red color cast?  Of course not.  Or if I had only one small lamp in my house, and it’s so dark in there that we can barely make out the details in your photo, would you say your picture is dark and underexposed?  Again, of course not.  It’s all about the viewing conditions.  Understanding this very simple concept is 90% of understanding color management.

So let’s talk about why your pictures may come out dark or orangey when you print them, even though they look great on the screen.  We already said that in the “real world”, what you see with your eyes is dependent on the lighting, color temperature, and viewing conditions at the time.  Well what you see from output devices (meaning printers, computer screens, etc.) is also dependent on how they handle color temperature and light.  And you know what?  Just like my skin may look different under the green fluorescent light in the gas station vs. how I look under candlelight, printers and computer screens have those same color differences when you look at photos.  As a matter of fact, your computer screen displays photos as if they were under the light of of the gas station while printers are more like the candle light.  So how does this cause poor prints?  It’s simple.  I’ll explain: 

Let’s say you’re with your friend and you’re on your way to a birthday party.  You stop off at the gas station to pick up some soda.  Your friend sees herself in the mini-mart mirror under the awful gas station lights and she’s horrified at how pale and sickly she looks.  She can’t believe she’s going to a party like this so she runs over to where they have the make-up,  she buys some self-tanner and bronzer and slathers it all over her face.  She loves the look once she's finished because she's back to her normal sun-kissed complexion and looking great.  It’s really bright in that gas station and she notices some bright spots on her forehead and nose, so she buys some powder and blots down the bright spots with a load of powder.  Perfect.  You leave the gas station and head to the birthday party.  It’s a small party, completely lit by candles.  Your friend?  She looks terrible at the party.  She’s looks a deep shade of dark orange from applying too much self-tanner in the gas station, and she has pounds of powder covering the bright spots.  Under the candlelight of the party, she's way too orange now.  It’s a disaster.  THAT’s what happens to your prints.  You see, in your friend’s case, she was viewing and correcting her skin in the gas station under unusual lighting.  She overcompensated for the pale green light in the mini-mart by over-applying self-tanner and darkening her skin.  But as soon as she left the gas station, she looked ridiculous.  That’s exactly what’s happening to your prints.  Your computer screen is that gas station lighting, and your printer is the candlelit party.  So you must  edit your photos using the proper viewing conditions.  Otherwise what you wind up doing is editing, tweaking, and changing the color and brightness of your photos on your computer, that you plan on printing – but you’re overcompensating for the unusual light of your screen and in fact ruining your images.  These problems are what color management and color calibration aim to correct.  Hopefully these two simple paragraphs have made a light bulb go off in your own head and you’re saying, “Ah, now I get it.”

OK, so now that we know what the problem is, what’s the solution?  The solution is color calibration.  So what is that?

Well we already said earlier that your computer screen is colored more like the lights in a gas station, and that printers are more like candlelight.  So we need to get them in sync.  That’s ultimately the goal of color calibration – to sync up the “viewing conditions” so that everybody is editing and printing their pictures under the same exact lighting conditions.  Let’s get back to our example with your friend and the birthday party.  At the birthday party you were all hanging out in a room where there were exactly ten candles.   Well if you had a room in your own house and you put ten candles in there, the room in your house would have the same lighting as the party.  So you could have your friend apply her make-up in that room, and she’d know that she’ll look exactly the same when she gets to the party.  That’s color calibration.  It’s syncing up the lighting conditions.  In our example, we need to change the color of our computer screen to look less like a gas station and more like candlelight.

How do you do it?  It’s pretty simple – you buy a gadget that does it for you, called a color calibrator.  You strap it to your computer screen and it takes a look at the colors your screen displays.  It then “reaches into” the video card in your computer and changes the colors for you, to match the colors that standard printers use.  That’s the basic process.

OK, before I go any further, I want to tell you that when it comes to color calibration, there are many different opinions on the best way to do it.  This is a hotly debated topic among people, as everybody has their own way.  I’m giving you my method, and it’s a way that works for me.  So on with the show…

First, you need to buy a color calibrator.  I use a product called the Spyder 3 Pro, made by Datacolor.  You can find it at B&H or any photo store.  There are a few brands out there, feel free to shop around and compare features and prices.  I’ve been happy with the Spyder.

Before you calibrate the monitor, there are a couple of things you should do.  Firstly, I recommend you do it at night in the pitch black with all the lights in the room turned off.  You don’t want any lights or colors interfering with the calibrator as it takes its readings from your computer screen.  *You could get strange colors if you calibrate during the day.*

Secondly, and one of the most important things in this entire article – turn down the brightness of your monitor, and memorize where you set it.  One of the most frequent problems that people see in prints is that they’re too dark.  This is because their monitors are too bright.  A picture that looks great on a screen that is too bright will likely print out too dark.  The calibrator will fix the brightness of your monitor “to a degree” (explained later) but you must turn down the brightness on your monitor.  I set my monitor to exactly two-clicks down from maximum brightness.  I memorize this, because when my computer reboots it can reset the brightness to maximum, and I need to know where to put it back.  Once you’ve turned down the brightness on your monitor and memorized where you set it, turn off all the lights in the room and run the software that comes with the calibrator.  The software will probably ask you to set two options – these are the options where you can fine tune the brightness/contrast and the color temperature.   They are called “gamma” and “white point”.   It’s not necessary to understand the technicalities of what they mean.  Just know that the gamma is for the brightness & contrast in the photo, and the white point is for the color temperature (like we described before).  If it gives you the options, I suggest a gamma of 2.2 and a white point of 6500K.  I’ve found that a white point of 6500K gives the most accurate colors to help match what you see on screen to what you get in print.  Once those are selected, you’re all set.  At this point, you can start the calibration and let the product do its thing. Your computer screen will cycle through a bunch of colors and gray patterns, and the calibrator will read the information.  When it’s done, you’ll instantly see all the colors on your monitor change!  You’ll probably see that it got a bit darker, and that the colors are now more orangey.  This is exactly what you want because now your monitor matches what will come out in prints.  For many people, you’re done!  Congratulations.  Using the calibration settings that were just saved on your computer, you’ll be on your way to getting prints that match what’s on your screen.  I’ll get into a few more steps in a moment, but for many people, the hard part is over.

So what’s next?  Well, now it’s time to get some test prints to see how you did.  If you have your own printer, you can print some right away and compare them to the screen to see how well they match.  If not, send some out to your favorite lab and see how they come back.  How you go about checking your prints, and how you send them to the lab matters, so let’s talk a little bit about this.  Firstly, when you check your prints against the screen, you have to do it in the right light.  Remember earlier in this article when I used an example about having all red light bulbs in my house and looking at a friend’s family photos?  They all looked red because the light bulbs were red.  Well this is exactly what you want to avoid when checking your photos for accuracy.  You want to do it in a relatively “neutral” light – meaning not too orangey (like candles or soft light bulbs) and not too green (like fluorescents).  I prefer to check my prints during the day, with the lights off, with the photos only lit by the light coming in from the windows.  I find the light in a room coming in through windows to be pretty neutral for checking prints.  I may then turn on a light or two to check as well.  The print should look good in both types of light.

Regarding sending your photos to the lab, there is something to keep in mind.  In some cases (many cases!), the photo lab has a person who sits there and color corrects your photos to what THEY think you want them to be.  Clearly this is not what you want, because there can be inconsistencies if you get “John” one day tweaking your photos and “Jim” some other day, and he has a different opinion of what your photos should look like.  I suggest you find a lab that offers the option called “No Color Correction” which means that nobody is going to touch the color of your photos.  What you send them goes straight to the printer.  This is what you want if you want consistent photos.  *If your lab does not offer this option then you have no way of ever getting consistent color in your photos.*

So your test prints are back from the lab, you rip open the envelope and take a look.  Hopefully the prints look much closer to what you have on screen now.  If they're still a bit off, you can do a little tweaking.  Adjust the settings, re-calibrate, and then see if the screen matches better.  For example, if the prints came back and they’re still too dark, then your monitor is probably still too bright.  Lower the brightness even more until it matches the test prints you have in your hand.  It may seem ridiculous to have your monitor that dark, but what you’re trying to do is to sync up the monitor with the printer.  You see, what’s going to happen, is that now your screen will be so dark that you’ll wind up brightening your photos using your editing software.  THAT is what you want.  That’s the whole point of this exercise.  It’s so that when you edit the photos on your screen, you’re editing knowing that what’s on the screen is what you’re going to get when you print.  So if the picture looks too dark or too contrasty on the screen (which it will if you’ve lowered the brightness a lot), you will then brighten up the photo in editing software to make it look right.  Then when you print it, it will have the correct brightness.  Similarly, if the screen now has people with really orange faces (which is common), you will use your editing software to remove the orange and return your friends and family to their normal skin tones.  Then they will print perfectly.  (FYI, I usually do this color adjustment by adjusting either the White Balance or Color Balance setting, depending on what software I’m using at the time).  If you keep getting prints that are too dark, also make sure that you look at photos on the computer screen when there is a lot of ambient light in the room, either by looking during the day, or with all the lamps in the room turned on.  Many people are night owls like myself, working away at midnight in relative darkness.  On the screen, while editing in a dark room, the photos may look fine.  But if you look at them on the screen during the day or with the lamps on and suddenly you can’t make out the details in the dark areas anymore, then you know you have to brighten the photos some more.  It make take one or two rounds of making test prints, but after a few tries, you will find the settings that are just right.  The key here is achieving consistency.  You always want to make sure you have your monitor at the same brightness, and that you use the same printing lab every time.  Find one that you like, whether it’s Costco, Walgreens, Mpix, or whoever, and get to know how their printers print.  Once you’ve got your system all set up, you will get consistent prints every time.  Also, recalibrate your monitor every once in a while (once a month or so).  Monitors can “drift”, meaning that the color settings can gradually change a little over time, so re-calibrating will bring everything back in line.

OK, so there is actually a lot more to talk about, which I’ll get into now.  What we’ve accomplished so far is getting the screen to match the printer, which is exactly what we want, and is the overall goal.  There are a couple of other things to think about though, before we get into the section with some of the more advanced topics for those that are interested.

Let’s talk about the Internet for a bit, and pictures for the web.  Everything we’ve described here is intended for the purpose of making good PRINTS.  This has nothing to do with how pictures look or should be edited for viewing on the web.  This whole topic of web viewing is one of the areas where opinion varies on how to handle it, and I’ll give you my opinion on the subject, and you can make your own decision.  The “issue”, in a nutshell, is that most people in the world are NOT viewing the Internet on calibrated monitors.  Your average person looking at Flickr or Facebook or whatever photo sharing site is just looking with a normal monitor, just like yours before you calibrated it.  You may see where I’m going with this now…  just like the problem with prints, a similar problem can happen for the web.  If you were to edit your photos on a calibrated monitor ONLY, you will wind up making them very bright and removing the orange so they look great in print, but then when someone looks at that same picture on the web, it will be TOO bright and there will be too LITTLE orange.  So…what to do...  Well here’s what I do.  The reality is that I only print a small percentage of my photos.  I may get 50 keeper photos on a trip, but I probably print maybe 10 of those, and the rest go on my website.  So I do most of my editing on an UN-calibrated monitor, and then turn on the calibration when I edit the 10 photos for printing.  There is usually a simple switch in the calibration software that allows you to turn on the effect or turn it off.  For normal everyday web surfing, I have the calibration turned off.  This allows me to see everyone else’s web photos as they intended – because they edited theirs on a NON-calibrated monitor too.  I’ll also be surfing the web on a screen that is not too dark, which it can be if I were to turn the calibration on.  I’ve had some discussion with other photographers about this, who have suggested that I just leave the calibration on all the time, and they say that if I haven’t calibrated at all, I’m editing my web photos using the exact peculiarities of my particular monitor and no “standard” at all.  While “technically” that is true, I have done an incredible amount of research on this.  I have looked at countless monitors, LCDs, laptops, etc. to see how my pictures look on a variety of uncalibrated monitors.  And I’ve found that most uncalibrated monitors look pretty much identical.  I’ve looked at all of my friends’ monitors, I’ve looked at monitors, LCDs and laptop screens in every store from Best Buy to B&H to the Apple Store, I’ve looked in Internet cafes, in hotels, airport lounges, you name it.  The look is pretty standard.  So for web viewing, I do all my editing on an uncalibrated monitor.  For the few images I’m going to print, I make a second copy of the photos and then I turn on the calibration and edit those separately for print.  This is the system that works for me, and provides the best results for both the web and in print.

Alright, we’ve covered a lot, and for many of you, what I’ve written above may be all you want to or need to know.  What I’ve written above applies to your casual everyday user who uses straightforward editing software like Microsoft Picture Manager or Apple iPhoto or Picasa, etc.  If you’re using one of those, congrats again… you’re ready to get great prints if you follow the steps above.  There are a couple of more advance topics however, and these include printer profiles / ICC profiles, Color Spaces like sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhotoRGB, etc.  If you’re interested in learning what these are all about, read on, but for the everyday casual user, it’s not “necessary” reading.  I just figured I’d cover it since it comes up all the time.  It’s up to you…  ***By the way, if you’re already calibrating your monitor but are still having significant color differences from your screen to your prints, then it’s probably worth reading the info below because it may be related to your problems.***


Before I begin the next section, I’d like to preface with a disclaimer.  This next section deals with personal preferences and opinions.  Not everyone out there will agree with what I’m writing.  In my other articles, we’re dealing primarily with facts.  For example, ISO 100 pictures are of better quality than ISO 1600 pictures.  That’s a fact.  So my suggestion to shoot at ISO 100 is based in fact.  On the other hand, the info below is largely opinion.  These topics are hotly debated among professionals.  I can only give you my opinion, take from it what you will and then make your own decisions based on what I’ve written here.

The next topic we’ll cover is “Color Spaces”.  These are spaces like sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. 

What is a Color Space?  A color space is just a description of the number of colors and types of colors that can be produced.  For example, let’s use sRGB as a starting point.  Let’s say sRGB describes all the colors than can be produced if I gave you 10 crayons.  You can create a picture with the 10 colors of the crayons, plus every conceivable color possible from combining and blending those 10 crayons.  With all the different combinations, you could create millions of colors.  FYI, sRGB is the standard for just about everything, from viewing on your monitor, to printing, to photos on the web.  I suggest you use sRGB for everything you do.  Moving on… Adobe RGB is a different color space.  It’s as if I gave you 12 crayons instead of 10.  Yes, “technically” there are a few more colors than can be produced.  But these would be in addition to the MILLIONS of colors you’re already getting with sRGB.  Plus, most monitors cannot even display Adobe RGB – you’d have to spend literally thousands of dollars to buy a special monitor to see these extra colors.  And even if you did buy a monitor that displayed Adobe RGB in your house, those colors are not used anywhere else!  The Internet is only sRGB.  You must convert photos that are in Adobe RGB format to sRGB if you want to put them on the web, Flickr, Facebook, etc.  Oh, and most PRINTERS only print sRGB, so you have to convert your Adobe RGB files to sRGB to print them too.  So why would anyone use Adobe RGB?  Well, in my opinion, you wouldn’t.  With all the converting that is going on, and the potential for problems, it’s just not worth it.  Just to give you the other side of the coin, some say that they like to use Adobe RGB because they feel that during the editing process, they are using the full range of colors that the camera captured.  So they set their camera to record in Adobe RGB, they output their RAW files in Adobe RGB, and they edit in Photoshop using Adobe RGB.  During this workflow, they are theoretically editing a picture which has more colors, which they feel helps with how the final product looks.  But in the end, as mentioned, all those extra colors get discarded when the photo is converted to sRGB anyway, as is necessary for it to be printed, viewed on the web, etc.  For me personally, that just seems like a lot of extra work with not a lot of extra benefit.  ***NOTE:  Using incorrect or mismatched color spaces is one of the primary reasons people get prints that do not match the monitor.***  Check to ensure that you camera is set on sRGB, your RAW file converter (if you use one) is set to sRGB, and that your photo editing software is using the sRGB color space.  FYI, ProPhoto RGB is yet another color space, and has even more colors than Adobe RGB.  Of course, it too would need to be converted to sRGB to do anything useful with it.  Only very specialized applications would require ProPhoto RGB.  To summarize, I recommend you shoot, edit, print, and view files on the web in only sRGB 100% of the time.

Alright, we’re on the home stretch now.  Time to cover the final topic.  This one is probably the most complicated, and is also the topic that is most debated among photographers when it comes to color management.  It’s the concept of ICC profiles.  Warning: This section is extremely technical.  I don’t normally get this technical in my articles, but if even one person can sort out their color-matching problems by reading this, then it’s worth it.

What is an ICC profile?  It’s a file that describes the characteristics of a particular device, like a printer.  You use it so that your computer can “learn more detail” about a particular device, and can (optionally) use that information to help with color matching.  Before we go any further, I'll mention that I don’t recommend using ICC profiles for normal everyday photography work.  That’s not to say that I personally haven’t used profiles at all, because I have, but only in specific unique circumstances.

So what is it exactly, and how is it used?  Think of it this way: an ICC profile describes the characteristics of a device in detail… for example, an ICC profile for Epson printer XYZ might say “I’m printer XYZ and my blue ink is a little more blue than most printers.”  (I’m oversimplifying, but you get the picture).  An ICC profile for a Kodak printer might say “I’m Kodak printer model 123 and my red ink has a slightly pink tone to it.”  So, what you can “optionally” do in software, is something called “softproofing”.  If you’re using Photoshop or another color-managed application, you can do softproofing.  FYI, a color managed application is an application that supports reading and using these types of profiles, among other things.   Softproofing is a technique that can help with color matching.  First, you download the ICC profile for the printer you’re going to be printing to.  It’s just a small file.  Then, essentially what you do is tell Photoshop that you would like to softproof using the Epson ICC profile for printer model XYZ.  Photoshop reads the information in that file and adjust the colors on your screen to more closely match that particular printer.  So in the example above, if you had blue in your photo, Photoshop might display that photo with “extra” blue to match the Epson’s ink.  Many people use these ICC profiles and do softproofing.  I generally do not, except on occasion.  For me personally, it’s another one of those areas where the time spent is not worth the benefit.  I have a pro lab that I use, I know exactly how their printers print, I have no need to start softproofing and using these profiles which only add to the complexity of what I’m trying to do.  It’s up to you if you want to try to use them, but I suggest against it if you want to keep your system as straightforward as possible.

There is one exception to this.  There is a separate and special type of a printer, pretty much a “printing press”, that is used for high-volume printing for things like brochures and magazines.  These printers use a completely different type of technology to print, called CMYK (which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (a.k.a. black)).  This printing method is so different than that of “normal” everyday printers, that the colors they produce can be drastically different from your average printer.  If you’re printing brochures, business cards, or preparing photos for magazines that use CMYK printing, then I can suggest you might want to look into softproofing with an ICC profile for that CMYK printer.  This way, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re photo will look like when printing using that method.  The process will also likely involve you actually converting the photo itself to CMYK, but that’s a whole separate process that we don’t need to get into here…

Now that you understand what an ICC profile is and how it might be used, we can cover the very last piece, and that is the concept of “embedding” profiles.  Yes, this is another area that is hotly debated.  And yes, once again, I feel this is an area that adds many layers to the complexity of what you’re trying to accomplish, and is not necessary for everyday use.  Embedding a profile in your photo means that you are including additional details alongside the photo that can be read by a color-managed application.  Remember, a color managed application is an application that is specifically designed to look for and read these profiles.  The goal of embedding a profile is so that if you’re working on your system under a specific profile, and you embed the profile with the photo when you save it, you can send the photo to someone else who also has a color-managed application, and their application will read the profile and adjust the colors so that they see on their screen what you see on your screen.  That’s essentially what it’s trying to accomplish.  (It can be used for printing as well.)  Here’s the problem.  Most people aren’t using color managed applications.  Most web browsers are not color managed.  Internet Explorer completely ignores the ICC profile.  So, the problem is that you may be viewing your photo in Photoshop using an ICC profile, you get it to look great, but when you post it on the web or send it to a friend, or PRINT it, it looks terrible.  Why?  Because you were viewing the photo using the profile and nobody else is.  It’s like our example at the very beginning with the friend who is applying her make-up in the gas station lighting.  She’s applying her make-up under the wrong light.  If you use ICC profiles and then post to the web, you’re essentially doing the same thing.  You’re editing your photo in one type of light, but giving it to people under a different type of light.  Below is a web page that is a fantastic example of this – I’m so glad this person put this together.  Click on the link below and look in the right-hand column a little ways down.  You’ll see a color chart.

http://www.gballard.net/psd/go_live_page_profile/embeddedJPEGprofiles.html

If you’re using Internet Explorer you’ll notice that the names of the colors in the color chart do not match the actual colors in the associated box.  For example, the upper left box shows the word “Red”, yet the box itself is blue.  Clearly this is wrong.  Well, this picture was produced using an ICC profile that is embedded in the image.  On the person’s screen that created this picture, the boxes were correct!  The upper left box was actually red on THEIR screen, because Photoshop was using the appropriate profile and correcting the colors.  However, Internet Explorer is not a color managed application.  Even though the ICC profile is embedded in the image, Internet Explorer doesn’t care.  It ignores the profile and just displays the image.  Not good.  Now, if you were to open this image in Photoshop, or open this web page in Apple’s Safari web browser (which IS color managed), then the photo would look correct.  But how does that help YOU?  It doesn’t, because most people are not using color managed applications.  Most everyday printing labs also ignore the profiles.  So unless there is a really specific reason you need to do this, I suggest avoiding embedding ICC profiles.  I also suggest turning off ICC profiles in Photoshop or your photo editing software altogether.  Why?  Because you may get inconsistencies across your system.  As an oversimplified example, you may see a photo while browsing the web with Internet Explorer and decide to download it.  Perhaps it has an ICC profile embedded.  Well when you open it in Photoshop, if you have ICC profiles activated, the photo will look completely different when you open it than it did in Internet Explorer.  You may no have any idea why it looks one way on the web and another way in Photoshop.  This is similar to the link above.  If you were to download that image to your hard drive and open it in Photoshop with ICC profiles activated, you’ll see something completely different than you would looking at it in Internet Explorer.  To me, this level of confusion and complication is just not necessary.  It can also lead to mismatched colors in your prints.  If you’re editing in Photoshop under a particular ICC profile, and you don’t even realize it, and then you send it to your printing lab and they ignore the ICC profile, your print will come back looking nothing like your screen.  Again, use the example in the link above.  In Photoshop, that upper left box in the color chart looks red.  Send that photo to Walgreens and that box will come back blue.  Now you see why it’s so easy to get mismatched prints!

We’ve covered a lot here and I hope this has shed some light on this very complicated topic.  With an understanding of these concepts, you may be well on your way to getting prints that match your screen.

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Best,
Paul

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New York City Stock Photos - Images by Paul Timpa

Photos used in this posting:

Bora Bora Bungalows, Tropical Stock Photos:
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