Starting Photography, Digital Workflow, Orphans and Amazing Zooming Images

Starting out in Photography
A few weeks back, Tom asked me by email about starting out in photography as he recently bought a Canon 350D and started posting photos online!
Some people are born with a talent and an eye for photography, but for the rest of us, practise makes perfect. Bring your camera with you wherever you go and take photos at every opportunity. This method is scoffed at by many but it works, and by examining everything later you’ll find a few gems hidden among the duds. Occasionally you’ll remember the next time you’re out that a particular shot worked well and use that lesson to improve the composition of a shot.

You must buy “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson.. My understanding of my camera completely changed after I read that. I linked to it on my blog ages ago and I go back to it on occasion.
His Creative book is good too, but not as much of an eye opener!

I went to a meeting of the Mallow Camera Club last December. It was interesting, but for various reasons I haven’t gone back there yet. They meet every Monday night if you’re interested. Cork Camera Club meet in the Garda Social Club on Tuesday nights. I don’t know anything about them however.

Subscribe to the flickr Interestingness feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/InterestingFlickr – it has a lot of saturated/contrasty images but it’s still interesting. Bloglines sometimes quickly fills up with the max of 200 posts!

Digital Workflow
Your digital workflow describes how photos get from your camera to the screen and printed in a frame in your living room. It all depends on your software and operating system. If you’re using Linux, you might be interested in Jason’s one.
My own workflow revolves around a simple directory structure with top level YYYY directories, and sub-directories named after the current day in “YYYY-MM-DD – description” format. The description on the folder is generally good enough to help me find most images quickly. In each folder is another one called “Complete” which is a work and output directory. I save work in progress images in .xcf format, and the final result as 92% quality jpeg files. I use a simple script to copy files off my camera.
Here’s how I name images:

  • Large, original size or only cropped images have “-l” added to them. ie. img_9999-l.jpg
  • Medium size, 700 pixel wide or high images have a “-m” extension: img_9999-m.jpg
  • And anything smaller has “-s” attached to them.
  • Unfinished files have “-wip” appended to them usually.

I like Jason’s “current” work directory idea. I’ll have to modify my workflow somewhat and rename each image with YYYY-MM-DD prefixed to it if I’m going to use a global work directory but it would make backing up files easier.

Before uploading images I always resize them so the longest side is 700 pixels long. Almost all the images on this blog have that contstraint. Resizing an images involves the removal of information and makes the remaining pixels slightly more fuzzy. A straight vertical black line on a white background in a large image may have a ghostly border around it and it will be merged with the background colour making for a grey line. One of the most common ways of fixing this is to use the unsharp mask plugin which gives the illusion of sharpening an image by increasing local contrast. There are numerous unsharp mask tutorials online so I’ll let you find the one that best describes it to you.
Please remember, always resize your images before uploading them. Browsers are completely useless at resizing images!

Orphans, Zooming and Other Links

  • Urgent Call for Your Action on Orphan Works – a law is about to be passed in the United States making it much easier for photographs and visual works to be used without attribution or payment. Peter Marshall has a clear write-up about the danger of this bill while mrbrown describes it as a “possible disaster for all photographers”.
    How do I feel about attribution and image usage? Photographers and artists must be recognised. I have heard that my images have been used occasionally by others as desktop backgrounds or screensavers, and that’s great, but please leave a comment on that blog post if you use a photo. It will encourage me to continue posting!
    Printing my name and url on images is an option but it looks ugly and limits the appeal of a photo. Is it possible to embed those into the EXIF info?
  • Over on Hotwired I spied a very cool zooming image demo that could be built on to create a nice gallery script. I don’t like or browse gallery sites very often but this looks nice. It needs more work to be a polished work but I hope to see someone carry this project on to greater heights!
  • Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr – worth a read if you’re a Flickr user. A few tips I hadn’t thought of and new ideas I must put into practise.
  • Fluid Effect – more before and after shots of beautiful people. It’s amazing what can be done!
  • One tip I picked up from the Flickr advanced user guide is the upload by email and and “blog this” function. It works well, but inserts two line breaks into my blog posts for some reason.
  • Shooting action shots in low light is a useful read if you’ve ever wondered why everything was blurry after that night out in the pub!
  • Peter noticed that Digital Journalist turned 100 this month! This magazine is such a good read, but I haven’t had time recently to look at this month’s issue.
  • Canon 5D vs 20D – full frame vs APS-C. What do you need? The full frame sensor wins, but not by much. In a “Practical Photography” magazine review of the NIkon D200 vs the Canon 5D, the Nikon won because it offered the best value for money. If you’re printing at higher than A3 size then buy a 5D but otherwise a 20D or D200 will suffice!
  • A positive review of the Sigma 18-200 lens which is rarely off my Canon 20D!
  • Version 4.6 of Bibble, a RAW photo processing tool available for Linux, Windows and Mac now comes with Noise Ninja included! The press release doesn’t make it clear if Noise Ninja is included in the “Lite” version but I’ll be giving it a whirl over the next few days and I’ll report back here on my first impressions! Later.. Bibblelite for Linux includes “basic” Noise Ninja support but they forgot to include the library file in the 4.6 release! Follow the instructions here to install it. It’s not the full Noise Ninja plugin, but Bibble will use it if available. As Noise Ninja isn’t available for Linux yet it’s a boon to have access to this cut down version!

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7 Comments

  1. Enygma Reply

    I spotted some fella in town on Saturday afternoon with a 20D strapped to his hand and a camera bag over his shoulder, heading up towards Patricks hill. That you by any chance? Not too many willing to walk around Cork with that kind of gear on display I’d imagine! :)

    http://www.corksurf.com

  2. Donncha Reply

    Green camera bag and a black jacket? That would have been me! I got a couple of good shots that day but it’ll probably be next week before I post them.. plenty more Chicago images to post first!
    Introduce yourself the next time you see me!

    http://inphotos.org/

  3. Zero Dean Reply

    Some great advice and some great links in there!

    Zero Dean — Los Angeles Photographer
    http://www.zerotopia.com

    http://www.zerotopia.com

  4. LA Photographer Reply

    Any updates on the “Orphan works”? This had me concerned last year but working led to it slipping my mind. Thanks for the links

    http://www.tommyshihphoto.com

  5. james chen Reply

    wow its interesting…………

  6. Rob Greer Reply

    In reference to your file naming comments, I actually recommend setting your import software to change your filenames to YYMMDD-hhmmss. Using this method ensures proper sorting and when backprinting is employed on prints, it gives the holder the ability to see exactly when the photo was taken.

    http://www.robgreer.com

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