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

15Jan/14Off

Where to Photograph in Grand Teton National Park

A Photography Guide to the Grand Tetons

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park has some of the most beautiful scenery in the U.S. It's a fantastic place for photography. I've written this guide to highlight some of the best places to photograph in the Grand Tetons.

First, it’s worth understanding the layout of the park. The Teton mountains runs north-south. There are two primary roadways around the park, and both run parallel along the Tetons. Both of these roads are on the eastern side of the mountains, so you’ll be looking westward for your photographs.

This guide focuses on the outer road where you can find many of the most iconic and famous viewpoints of the Tetons. It’s a highway and can be accessed all year round. The inner road also has many viewpoints and will be discussed as well, but note that it is closed in winter.

We’ll start our tour traveling south out of Yellowstone National Park into Grand Teton National Park. All through this guide I’ll include links to the various photography sites on Google Maps, so you’ll be able to find any of the locations even if you don’t follow the route below.

The road that heads into the Tetons from Yellowstone is Hwy 89/191/287. As you drive south from Yellowstone into the Tetons on this road, you’ll first pass Jackson Lake. Here you’ll get your first glimpse of the Tetons up close. FYI, Jackson Lake Lodge is along this route, and you can stop into the lobby to gaze through the large picture windows.

To get to the major photography sites, continue traveling south until the highway splits into the parallel roads that I mention above. These two roads form the Teton loop, along which you can stop to take your pictures.

Here’s the split:


View Larger Map

For any of the maps in this guide, you can send the link to your mobile phone and if your phone supports it, you can use GPS navigation to navigate directly to the site.

The outer road (further from the Tetons) is where many of the popular viewpoints are located, so we’ll start there.

   
Oxbow Bend

To reach the first major photography spot, Oxbow Bend, you’ll travel onto the outer road from the split, so stay on Hwy 89/191/287 as it heads east / south and go one mile.

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

The Oxbow Bend viewing area is very easy to see. The area is right off the main road. You may notice many people photographing right from the parking lot, but the best view is a short walk down to the water's edge. After parking your car, walk north a little bit along the road and you'll see foot trails through the long grass where people have made their way down to the water. If you don't see any trails, just blaze your own -- it's a very short walk down to the water. From there you'll have unobstructed views of the mountains and you'll be able to get beautiful reflections.

The photo above was taken at F8 for 1/160th sec, ISO 100 at 75mm (full-frame equivalent).

Oxbow Bend is here:


View Larger Map

   

Snake River Overlook

The next stop is the famous Snake River Overlook. Snake River Overlook is where Ansel Adams made his iconic photograph of the Tetons.

From this overlook, you're facing West so be there for sunrise. When the sun rises behind you in the east it illuminates the Tetons and the landscape below with a wonderful glow.

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

The area where you can set up your tripod for the best shot is not that wide, so get there early so you can get a good spot.

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod, F11 for 1/4 sec, ISO 100 at 20mm (full-frame equivalent).

To get here, head south from Oxbow Bend. You’ll reach an intersection after three miles -- continue south onto Hwy 26/89/191 and go about ten miles -- you’ll see the parking lot for Snake River Overlook here:


View Larger Map

You can plan what time in the morning to be there by looking up sunrise times here -- just enter the dates you’ll be photographing:

Sunrise / Sunset times for Grand Teton National Park

 
Schwabacher Landing

Just south of the Snake River Overlook about 4.5 miles is Schwabacher Landing. Schwabacher Landing is a stunning area down off the road and actually on the river, so you can get reflections of the Tetons in the water. As with the Snake River Overlook, you'll want to shoot in the morning when the sun is behind you and illuminating the face of the Tetons.

 

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

While there is a dirt road that you used to be able to drive from the highway down to the landing by the water, that dirt road was closed to vehicles when we were there. If that's the case during your visit, you'll need to park along the highway and walk down. It’s not a short walk (about a mile) and while it's not extremely steep, it is long. The incline on the walk back can be tiresome, so be prepared. You may want to bring bear spray as well. Once down on the water, you can walk north along the river for a variety of vantage points.

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod, F11 for 1/80th sec, ISO 100 at 45mm (full-frame equivalent).

Schwabacher Landing is located here:


View Larger Map

 

Moulton Barn and Mormon Row

To get to Moulton Barn, continue south on the highway about 3 miles until you see Antelope Flats Road. Make a left and follow along Antelope Flats until you come to Mormon Row. Moulton Barn will be to your right, and a few other structures will be to your left.

Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

 

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, F8 for 1/640th sec, ISO 200 at 78mm (full-frame equivalent).

Drive to the right to photograph the famous Moulton Barn, which is located here:


View Larger Map

   

If instead of going right, toward Moulton Barn, you make a left at the intersection, you'll drive a short distance and likely see herds of Bison in the grassy areas on either side of the road. If you can drive so that the Bison are framed by the Tetons in the back, park your car on the side of the road, and capture your images.

Bison, Grand Teton National Park

Bison, Grand Teton National Park

 

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, F9 for 1/640th sec, ISO 200 at 81mm (full-frame equivalent).

The image above was taken here:


View Larger Map

Those are some of the main highlights from the HWY 26/89/191 that is open year-round. Of course there are others, like Cunningham Cabin, so explore.

   
The Inner Road

In addition to the highway, you can also travel the inner road which runs parallel to the highway, but a little closer to the mountains. Starting at the top of the loop, travel west / south onto Teton Park Road:


View Larger Map

There are a variety of photo opps on the inner road, so explore, but I’ll highlight two of the main ones: Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake.
   

Signal Mountain

About 3 miles south of the split, you’ll find the Signal Mountain area, which has a lodge and restaurants. Nearby, you’ll find the road that takes you to the top of the Signal Mountain area, where there are scenic overlooks.

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park

The road to the top can be found here:


View Larger Map

   

Jenny Lake

Continue south for another 14 miles and you’ll reach the beautiful Jenny Lake area.

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake is here:


View Larger Map

If you continue traveling south, you’ll eventually reach the bottom of the Teton loop, where you can then turn north and travel the highway where all the photo opps in the previous section are located. All along the way on both roads you’ll pass beautiful scenery, so just stop the car, or hike a little, and explore as much as you can. There are so many amazing photography opportunities.

 
Horseback Riding

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can reach some incredible and off-the-beaten-path vantage points by horseback. We took a 3-hour horseback trip with Swift Creek Outfitters / Teton Horseback Adventures and it was incredible. Our ride was the “Big Pulpit Ride” and it took us way up in the mountains into some gorgeous scenery.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

If that seems interesting to you, their website is here:  Swift Creek Outfitters / Teton Horseback Adventures   

 
Grand Teton National Park is an absolutely amazing place to visit. The photo opportunities for landscape and wildlife photography are virtually endless. The park is just small enough so that it’s not overwhelming, but large enough to provide you with an incredibly wide variety of vantage points. Combined with its close proximity to Yellowstone, it is a fantastic photo destination.

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

 

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

 
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:


Paul Timpa Photography's Facebook

 
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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




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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12May/10Off

Camera Settings for Helicopter Photography and Aerial Photography

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

This post discusses the camera settings and equipment recommended for photography from a helicopter or airplane. It is a follow-up to my previous post that displayed images from an aerial photo shoot on Kauai's Na Pali Coast in Hawaii.

I recently returned from Hawaii where I knew I would be taking a helicopter tour of Kauai. Prior to the trip, I did much research into the appropriate camera settings and equipment for aerial photography. I was very happy with the results of my trip and thought I'd share what I learned from my research and from the actual photoshoot.

Equipment:

Assuming you'll have your D-SLR with you, the main choice you'll have to make is which lens to bring for the helicopter tour. Keep in mind that in most cases, you will not be allowed to change lenses during the flight. As a matter of fact, you will likely not even be able to bring additional lenses. It's important to make the right choice.

I recommend a zoom lens in the moderate-wide-angle to short telephoto range, such as a 24-70mm on a full-frame camera, or an 18-55mm or 17-85mm lens on an APS-C camera. This will enable the widest range of shots that capture the magic of aerial photography. Telephoto zoom lenses have too long a focal length to capture the spectacular wide sweeping views you can achieve from the air. I do not recommend bringing your 70-200mm lens. On the other end of the spectrum, ultra-wide angle lenses like a 16-35mm on full-frame or 10-22mm on APS-C have too limited a focal range, and equally as important, are almost too wide -- at the widest focal ranges you may actually get much of the helicopter itself in the shot, even on a doorless helicopter where you're able to shoot from outside (you'll still capture the rotor blades and the landing skids). Your best bet is a lens that covers approximately 24mm to 100mm full-frame-equivalent.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii

As far as accessories, don't bring any. Filters like polarizers will only get in the way and decrease your shutter speed. There is also limited time to constantly be adjusting the filter. The same applies to lens hoods, which will limit mobility, and in a doorless helicopter will get torn off by the wind. Leave all filters and lens hoods on the ground.

Use the largest memory card you have, preferably 8GB at minimum. Many helicopter tour operators do not allow mid-flight changes of your memory card, especially in a doorless helicopter.

Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Camera Settings:

There are a few things I recommend when it comes to camera settings. Firstly, shutter speed is the most important setting to monitor. You'll need very fast shutter speeds in order to combat the movement and vibrations of the aircraft. I suggest ensuring that the shutter speed is at least 1/1000th second at bare minimum, and preferably in the 1/2000th range. You can achieve these speeds with a combination of wide aperture and ISO. While there are many ways to set the camera, my suggestion is using Aperture Priority mode. Set the aperture to one of the widest settings to allow plenty of light into the camera. Depth-of-field is not an issue since most everything will be focused at infinity. Depending on the brightness of the day, start with the ISO at 100 or 200 and check the shutter speeds that are achieved with that aperture / ISO combination. If you're in the range of at least 1/1000 to 1/2000, you're OK. If the shutter speed is below that, raise the ISO until you're in that range. During the flight, you'll need to constantly monitor the shutter speed through the viewfinder, as lighting conditions can change dramatically depending on the scene. Be prepared to raise and lower the ISO quickly to compensate for changing conditions. I do not recommend just setting the ISO to 400 or 800 because if you encounter a very bright scene, you may reach your camera's max shutter speed and wind up with an overexposed photo. In addition to being able to adjust the ISO quickly, you will likely need to adjust exposure compensation frequently to achieve the correct exposure. Be prepared to adjust exposure compensation from scene to scene by quickly checking the LCD to confirm you're not over or underexposed. For this same reason, I suggest shooting in RAW so you have the most flexibility with exposure adjustments when you get home.

While I would normally suggest Manual focus at infinity for the shoot, to ensure the speediest shooting, I'm instead going to recommend auto-focus. The reason is that there is a lot of movement inside the helicopter, and it's possible you might accidentally move the focus ring out of focus and wind up with an entire batch of out-of-focus images. During the day, your camera will have no problem keeping up with focus.

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

As for shooting mode, you can decide between single-shot and continuous shooting. If you're going to use continuous shooting, you'll need an extremely large memory card, of at least 16GB. As previously mentioned, in most helicopters you will not be able to change memory cards mid-flight. Continuous shooting can be helpful to ensure keepers, and also to give you a better chance of capturing a shot without the rotors visible. Even at very fast shutter speeds, with wide-angle lenses, it's possible to catch the rotors in the shot. If you're going with continuous mode, just be sure to use it sparingly and in short bursts. You don't want to run out of memory card space half-way through the flight.

Aerial shots from a helicopter or airplane can produce some truly spectacular images. I hope these tips and suggestions will help you on your photoshoot.

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

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,
Paul

Rainbow, Kauai, Hawaii

Rainbow, Kauai, Hawaii

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/

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Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

11May/10Off

Hawaii Stock Photos, Paul Timpa Photography Aerial Photo Shoot, Na Pali Coast, Kauai

I recently had the opportunity to photograph Hawaii's Na Pali Coast on the North Coast of Kauai from the air. It was a spectacular experience. I highly recommend it, especially for photographers. You can capture amazing images during an aerial shoot of Hawaii from a helicopter. The image above shows the rugged coast with a secluded beach.

We chartered a helicopter from Jack Harter Helicopters, one of the most respected companies in Hawaii. They were fantastic. Most importantly, apart from their expertise, is that they offer charters in helicopters with no doors. Their tours are available in Hughes 500 helicopters flown with the doors off. This is essential for capturing quality images because you don't have to shoot through glass. It also allows you to capture a variety of angles that would otherwise be impossible.

The photo above is of a deep valley within the Na Pali Coast. You can really see how rugged the landscape is here.

The photo below of the Na Pali Coast also shows the famous Kalalau Hiking Trail (though it may be difficult to see in a lower res image). This challenging but incredibly picturesque hike winds its way along the Na Pali Coast. Further to the left in the frame, you can see Ke'e Beach.

The image below is of a stunning valley with several waterfalls. I counted at least five waterfalls in this image. Truly amazing.

Photographing a Rainbow on the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Photographing a Rainbow on the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

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"How to photograph from a moving helicopter": If you're photographing with a D-SLR, I recommend the following camera settings to get the most number of keepers. Provided it's bright enough, set the ISO to 100 or 200. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode with one of your widest apertures. Be sure to have your finger on the exposure compensation dial because you may need to adjust frequently if the meter reading is off. Most importantly, keep your eye on the shutter speed the entire time. I'd suggest ensuring that it is always at least 1/1000th of a second at minimum. If it drops below that, raise the ISO as necessary. You'll want to continually monitor the shutter speed and the exposure, because if you raise the ISO for a darker scene and then return to a bright area, you may find that you reach the maximum shutter speed resulting in overexposed images. Lower the ISO again if this happens. It's a constant balancing act between shutter speed and ISO, but it's a fun experience and the results are worth the challenge.

The photo below is taken with the camera pointed straight down (something that is somewhat impossible in a helicopter that has doors). This is a sea cave on the coast.

Below you can see a sweeping wide-angle view of the coast, and how beautiful it is.

For anyone visiting Hawaii, a helicopter tour will provide memories to last a lifetime.

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

My tutorial on camera settings when shooting from a helicopter is here:
How to Photograph from a Helicopter

My Photography Tutorials list is here:
Photography Tutorials List

To license these images as stock, click here:
Hawaii Stock Photos

Jack Harter Helicopters:
http://www.helicopters-kauai.com/

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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26Apr/10Off

Photography Tutorials List on Facebook

I've created a group on Facebook where I will be maintaining a list of amazing photography tutorials available on the Internet.

The group is here:

Facebook Photography Tutorials List

It was created to be a single place where you can find all of the fantastic photography tutorials and tips... There are so many people providing wonderful information on their blogs, websites, and newsletters. I thought it would be great to create a group where all these fantastic sites were listed in one spot.

Anyone in the group is free (and encouraged!) to add any tutorials to the growing list.

The Facebook group is here:

Facebook Photography Tutorials List

FYI, The tutorials that I've written for this blog are listed here:

Photography Tutorials List

My iPhone / Android app which teaches photography is here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and Android

Best regards,
Paul

Share/Bookmark

Facebook

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/

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/

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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/

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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.

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

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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:
http://www.photoshelter.com/image/I0000c_gIvAaRHcg

12Nov/09Off

Using Live View on your D-SLR – Tips and Tricks

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Live View can be found on just about all new D-SLRs introduced lately, and has become an incredible tool to improve your photography. When Live View originally started appearing on D-SLRs, many photographers dismissed it as a gimmick to appease those upgrading from point-and-shoots. As the technology has gotten better and new features have been introduced, more and more people are realizing what an invaluable tool it can be. This article will discuss some of the uses, tips, and tricks of Live View on your D-SLR.

First, let’s cover two of the more “obvious” uses of Live View. The first is when you’re taking pictures and the camera is in a location where it’s difficult to look through the viewfinder, such as very low to the ground. For dramatic low-angle shots, you used to have to literally lie on the ground to look through the viewfinder to frame your subject. Similarly, shots taken with the camera held high over your head for a bird’s-eye perspective were taken without looking through the viewfinder at all, and hoping to catch the shot you needed. Today, this is a thing of the past and lying in the sand on a beach is no longer a necessity to get low-angle shots. Simply switch to Live View and frame the subject using the LCD – today’s Live View screens can be viewed from almost any angle. Use this technique to get shots that otherwise might not be possible.

Live View is also great when you’re waiting for that “decisive moment”, for those times when you’re exercising your inner Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you’re taking a street scene and waiting for a random person to walk right into that “perfect spot” to make the shot, you can mount the camera on a tripod, have a shutter-release remote control in hand, and wait comfortably. When someone walks by, you can casually glance at the LCD and take the shot with the remote. In the past, you’d have to rush your eye back-and-forth to the viewfinder each time someone walked by, or worse, you’d have to keep your eye glued to the viewfinder for long periods of time. The same technique is useful for wildlife – frame the scene, and shoot when the wildlife is in the perfect position.

Now let’s talk about some of the less “obvious” uses for Live View – the uses that really make it an amazing tool.

Live View is great for focusing, and is one of the best things that’s happened to focusing in years. Whether you use autofocus or manual focus, you absolutely should be using Live View in tough-to-focus scenes. Even with the best, brightest viewfinders, it can still be difficult to focus on certain subjects, especially subjects that are far away or small. With autofocus, the best you can do is hope that the camera has focused correctly, and try to confirm its accuracy after-the-fact using the LCD to review the picture. This is still a hit or miss method. The better way is to use Live View. Using Live View, you have a much larger image to study for focus, making it much more accurate. Even better is that many Live View systems allow you to magnify the live image by up to 10x magnification! This is absolutely amazing. You can use Live View with 10x magnification to tweak the focus and ensure that a distant street sign is completely crisp and clearly in focus. This would have been virtually impossible before Live View.

Macro shooters have rejoiced as well. When you’re working with razor-thin depth of field in macro work, where even a millimeter’s mistake in focus can mean ruining the shot, Live View can be incredibly helpful. Mount your camera on a tripod, frame the shot, and activate the magnification. You can use your camera’s joystick or directional buttons to maneuver the magnified portion of the image over the area you want to check focus. Ultra-precise focusing is now possible like never before.

Another advantage is that Live View provides a 100% view of the scene, whereas many viewfinders provide slightly less coverage. If you’ve ever taken a photo and gotten home to find a tree branch, garbage can, or some other random object at the edge of the frame that you didn’t see when you took the picture, this is a result of a less-than-100% viewfinder. Those objects were there all along – you just couldn’t see them through the viewfinder. Live View provides 100% coverage of the scene, so what you see is what you get.

A great feature of many Live View screens is “exposure simulation”. This can be invaluable for quickly determining the correct exposure, especially in low light. Exposure simulation takes into account the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO you’ve selected and adjusts the image on the LCD accordingly. For the most part, the image on the LCD will match the exposure that will be captured in the final image. I find this incredibly useful in low light situations. I can choose an aperture, say F5.6, and a shutter speed of 5 seconds, and immediately see how bright the final image will appear before I even take the shot. Amazing. I can then adjust the shutter speed to get the exact exposure I’m looking for. I use this all the time.

Live View systems often provide the option of overlaying a grid on top of the image. This can be a fantastic tool for ensuring you have level horizons and straight lines. I have my grid turned on all the time and never turn it off. Many cameras allow you to fine tune the grid to have just a couple of lines, or a very fine grid – choose which works best for you. In architectural photography, this is a great tool to ensure that your verticals are vertical and that you don’t have the camera tilted up or down creating the “pyramid” effect with tall buildings. For me, the grid is one of the tools I use most often, as it’s very important to keep horizons straight and verticals parallel.

You can also use the Live View grid to assist with placing your subject using the Rule of Thirds. Many Live View systems provide a grid that looks just like a Rule of Thirds grid. You can use this to line up subjects on or near one of the grid lines, or at the intersection of two grid lines, assisting with composition.

One of the less obvious, but most useful benefits of Live View is that is removes the need to use mirror lock-up. In most cameras with Live View, when you activate it, the mirror is raised (and stays raised) so that the image coming through the lens is projected directly onto the sensor for viewing. This is great and results in sharp shots because it is not necessary to use mirror lock-up, which was the only method to reduce mirror vibrations before. (For those not familiar with mirror-lock up, it is a setting you activate in the camera that raises the mirror a few seconds before the shot is taken. This results in sharper shots because otherwise the movement of the mirror causes vibrations that can result in blur. If you raise the mirror a few seconds before taking the shot, the camera has a chance to stabilize and stop vibrating before the actual shot is taken.) With Live View this procedure is not necessary because the mirror is already raised the entire time. I find this especially useful for HDR images. I can take three bracketed images in very rapid succession using Live View, and the mirror is raised on all the shots. This is not possible using mirror lock-up.

Finally, Live View can be useful when used with your camera’s depth of field preview button. When depth of field is critical, many photographers use the depth of field preview to determine the effect of their selected aperture on depth of field. This can be difficult to see in the viewfinder depending on the subject and the lighting. Because Live View is “through the lens” technology, the effect of the depth of field button is visible on the large LCD and can be more easily seen.

I hope this article has shed some light on many of the benefits of using Live View in your photography. From assisting with focusing, to determining the proper exposure, to straightening horizons and increasing the sharpness of your shots, it’s an incredibly useful tool.

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

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

Best,
Paul

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Copyright 2009, Paul Timpa

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