Wednesday, 27 October 2010

For a laugh :o)

I found this and it made me true lol and how many of us have possibly thought or worried about the same things?

The Online Photographer: Great Photographers on the Internet

Exercise 7: Your tolerance for noise.

This exercise enabled me to find out how my camera reacts when using high ISO settings, the difference between each setting and how much tolerance I personally have towards digital artifacts in my images.

The remit was to take an image indoors using daylight, the image had to contain a combination of sharp detail and textureless areas, with some of the textureless area in shadow.

The camera was set on a tripod and using the AV setting a series of shots were taken using ISO 100 through to ISO 1600. The cream wall has no features, whilst the wooden vase and Russian dolls provide both texture, detail, colour and shadow against the wall. I shot at f5.6 so that the images were not too under-exposed or I did not incur overly long shutter speeds.

None of the following images were processed so that the true impact of the ISO adjustments can be seen.


ISO100 Shadow and detail
 At ISO100 the image is a little under-exposed but when viewed at 100% the details are sharp and there are no artifacts in the shadows or darker areas. When the exposure was adjusted in RAW the details remained sharp and the shadows "clear".


ISO200 Shadow and detail
 There appears to be very little difference between ISO100 and ISO200.


ISO400 Shadow and detail
 At ISO400 the exposure is slightly better but noise is begiing to become apparent in the shadow area and the details on the Russian dolls/vase are not so sharp.

ISO800 Shadow and detail
  The noise increases at ISO800 both in the shadow and is visible in the textureless area of the wall.

ISO1600 Shadow and detail

With exposure increased in raw the coloured artifacts become more noticable.

At ISO1600 the noise is very apparent and does not make for a very satisfactory image at all. Depending on what people are trying to capture sometimes it is better to obtain the shot than have no record whatsoever. Sometimes a little grain can add interest to an image especially if the image is converted to monochrome so the discolouration is less obvious.

The conclusion reached is that at a push I personally would not try to use a higher ISO than 800, but possibly would use 1600 if I desperately wanted to capture a specific event. The 400D seems to manage fairly well up to ISO400.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Shooting The Single Picture.

That's what happens when you start to read a book :o) It starts you thinking and you hopefully take out the best bits and take on board lots of useful advice. Hopefully you read the relevant chapter/s before you embark on a project but it's never too late to learn more that you can apply next time.

Taking some time out from taking photos I dived into "On Being a Photographer"* again, this time reading the chapter about shooting the single picture. Most of the information echos the advice given in most magazines and by photography tutors but I do love the chat style of this book, the conversations between Bill Jay and David Hurn makes you feel like you are a casual observer listening into a fascinating debate.

So what have they got to say? That the photographer should always keep in mind that 'there is a purpose to the reveal the chosen aspect of the clarify its essence' and ultimately produce 'a visually interesting picture.' (p37)

The way to achieve this? Of course the two basic fundamentals of postion and timing, but added to this the taking of many frames of the same subject slightly varying the angle and position. Hurn states that a fine photographer will admit doubt thinking 'I am willing to admit that many little subtleties of camera position, which I can not pre-see, might make the difference between an adequate image and a good one.' (p38)

I don't profess to be a fine photographer but I have taken on board these ideas and must admit that by taking many shots and really taking note of the important elements I find one that works better than the others when reviewing the images either on a contact sheet or in Bridge. The difference may only be subtle but it can make or break a shot. It is often the case that 'you never know if the next fraction of a second is going to reveal an even more significant, poignant, visually stronger image than the previous one.' (p39)

What helps is, as said before, narrowing down the subject, even when you have narrowed it down to one topic that too can have sub-categories. Make up your mind what it is you wish to capture and that will help focus your attention onto the potential subject to the exclusion of others. Shooting either static or moving subjects the same rules will apply to a certain extent, obviously with the moving you will have less control of positioning and all the other variables and elements that help create the 'perfect' shot. Even Hurn admits that these elements do not always fall into place 'but we keep trying.' (p41)

Ok so we start thinking about timing and position, juggling the elements, I have to ask myself what happens with the careful composition? Or are too many images these days staged? All along similar lines? Nothing new to say? Rules are there to be broken but what if too many are and the resulting image just isn't at all pleasing? Once more Jay and Hurn cover this believing that  good design is essential when 'design is the vehicle not the destination.....If the image is well designed you want to look at it; if poorly structured, you don't care about the image and, hence, the subject.' (p43)

An awful lot more is discussed with specific photographers of note mentioned such as Walker Evans, and Ansel Adams, apparently his iconic shot of Moon and Half Dome. Yosemite, was one of almost 10 identical exposures he made at the same time.

Jay asks how much is down to pure luck as compared to instinct sharpened by experience? The answer given? Ultimately a bit of both, but 'experience obviously helps - which is another reason to shoot lots of pictures.' (p46)

So there you go another wise truism that practice makes perfect....

*(Published by Lenswork Publishing. ISBN 1-888803-06-1 Third edition 2001)

Friday, 22 October 2010


I need to do some serious housekeeping! In both senses of the word ;o) Paperwork and books everywhere in the first instance but I am also rapidly filling up my hard drive..I feel a disk burning session is imminent before everything crashes and burns on me or grinds to a halt because I have no space left!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Digital noise is a grainy distortion that spoils pictures shot in low light conditions with high ISO settings or when using a long exposure. Noise appears as speckles which can be black,coloured or bright depending on the scene and the exposure. It is usually worst in the shadows but can also been seen as pink,purple and other colour speckles in what should be a blue sky. A large amount of noise in an image reduces the overall sharpness and clarity of the picture.

Selecting a higher ISO amplifies the output signal from the sensor. The amplification process has difficulty with finding the difference between image signal and noise therefore the noise is also amplified. This helps to explain why high ISO images are always more noisy than ones taken with a lower setting.
In digital cameras this noise can also be affected by a variety of factors for example imperfections in the electronic components of which the camera is made, also the electronic components can  be affected by background electrical fields and electromagnetic radiation. The size of the sensor within a camera and the number of pixels crammed on the sensor will have a huge impact on the amount of noise generated.
Occasionally temperature can affect the amount of noise produced.

The major cause of noise is when there is simply not enough light hitting the sensor causing a sampling error.

Useful information was found the following websites :o)

To try and reduce noise, if at all possible, avoid using long exposures and high ISO settings. There are several noise reduction software applications on the market and some image editing software has a noise reduction filter built in. Adobe Camera Raw offers noise reduction during RAW conversion. (The Noise Reduction section of the Detail tab has controls for reducing noise. Image noise includes luminance  noise, which makes an image look grainy, and chroma (colour) noise, which is usually visible as coloured artifacts in the image.)The Luminance control reduces grayscale noise, and the Colour control reduces chroma noise. Moving a slider to zero turns off noise reduction.

Most DSLR's have a noise reduction feature which can be turned on when required. On the Canon 400D this function comes under the heading of "Custom Functions" with the Long Exp. noise reduction known as C.Fn-2. It is accessed through the Menu button and selecting the Tools 2 tab.

Useful Tips for Viewing Clipping in Raw

Clipping occurs when the colour values of a pixel are higher than the highest value or lower than the lowest value that can be represented in the image. Overbright values are clipped to output white, and overdark values are clipped to output black. The result is a loss of image detail.
  • To see which pixels are being clipped with the rest of the preview image, select Shadows or Highlights options at the top of the histogram. Or press U to see shadow clipping, O to see highlight clipping.
  • To see only the pixels that are being clipped, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while dragging the Exposure, Recovery, or Blacks sliders.
For the Exposure and Recovery sliders, the image turns black, and clipped areas appear white. For the Blacks slider, the image turns white and clipped areas appear black. Coloured areas indicate clipping in one color channel (red, green, blue) or two color channels (cyan, magenta, yellow).

Exercise 6: Highlight Clipping

Hightlight is the term used to describe a light or bright area in a scene, or the lightest area in a scene. Due to the linear way sensors collect light there can be a point at the brightest end, at which the tones will suddenly become featureless, this is known as highlight clipping. In digital photography if an image is overexposed you will notice a sudden break rather than a "roll off" that you find with film.

My camera has a highlight clipping feature and I use it all the time.If any areas have been "blown" the area will flash on the LCD screen.

Exercise 6 allows me to investigate clipping and the effects it has on the highlights, specifically :-
  • Completely lost areas of visual information
  • A visible break in the form of an edge between nearly-white and total white
  • A colour cast along a fringe bordering the clipped white highlight
  • The colour saturation
I took a photograph of a scene which had a wide range of brightness, using manual settings I found the exposure setting at which the highlight clipping warning just appeared. I made a note of the aperture and shutter speed. I then adjusted the aperture so that I increased the exposure by one stop and then three more shots decreasing by one stop each time, resulting with five frames all seperated by one f stop.

These are the five frames side by side in Bridge.

The first image I shot was 5.6 @ 1/125 the highlight clipping just started to flash on the columns and in the sky. Looking at the histogram on my camera it showed it was a high contrast image as the values spread across the axis to both edges. The colour saturation is reasonable although the sky is a little washed out and the clouds do not show much detail.

f5.6  @ 1/125

White areas
 There seemed to be complete loss of visual information only in these small patches on the brickwork. I could not see a visible break between the nearly-white and total white.

red fringe
 There appears to be a reddish colour fringing but I am not 100% sure that it is caused by the highlights.

With the second image the exposure was increased by one stop, f4 @ 1/125, the highlight clipping shows the extent of the over exposure.The areas of lost detail increased exponentially in the sky and on the pillars, but I still couldn't see any visible break in the white/nearly-white areas. The exposure on the flagstones/bushes in the foreground is an improvement but the colours are a little weak and the saturation of the background trees is also rather poor.

f4 @ 1/125

purple fringe

A purple fringe is now very prominent along the beams of the pergola where they cut across the sky.

As per the remit the next three images were decreased by 1 stop. The shots taken were f8, f11 and f16 all @ 1/125. There was no highlight clipping therefore no loss of detail in white areas and subsequently no fringing. With each successive shot the colours became more saturated but obviously they all appear rather dark especially the last image where nearly all foreground detail is lost.

f8 @1/125

f11 @ 1/125

f16 @ 1/125

The conclusion I have come to after conducting this experiment is although the camera LCD may show little or no highlight clipping, colour saturation may still be weaker than required. This often happens with bright skies and clouds so it maybe an idea to shoot an extra frame with a lower exposure setting. I must practice stopping up and down using shutter speed so I don't alter my depth of field when shooting actual images rather than capturing solely for exercise purposes.

As these were all shot in RAW I could then open them all again and experiment with the Recovery slider. This makes use of the fact that the three channels (RGB) do not clip at the same time and so the Recovery control uses available information to "repair/rebuild" the clipped channel.

recovery slider
The best compromise was with the initial shot taken using f5.6 @ 1/125 ( I would prefer a more saturated sky with detail in the clouds) because the over exposed image did not recover enough detail in the sky and the paving aqcuired a strange, unreal look. The under exposed images were just far too dark in the shadows.

Purple fringe can be caused by chromatic aberration which simply put (as I can be confused by all the technical stuff) is a type of distortion in which there is a failure of a lens to focus all colours to the same convergence point. Other causes can be digital noise in dark areas, image processing done by the CCD and CMOS sensors or stray ultravoilet/infrared light.

Ways you can avoid this are: to avoid shooting with a wide-open lens in high contrast scenes, avoid overexposing highlights (e.g. specular reflections and bright sky behind dark objects) or shoot with a  UV filter.

I found this great on-line tutorial to remove purple fringing using photoshop . 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Thinking about Landscapes....and randomness

My original aim when embarking on my first photography course was to improve my landscape photography. It seems really quite strange that since my learning began in earnest landscapes are the last thing I have been photographing?

Many of the exercises both then and now call for so many different things to be explored, both with ideas and grasping the technicalities that I actually find I like taking photographs of people.... not so much the portrait side but the inclusion of people in more social landscapes rather than sweeping hills. Maybe thats more to do with the fact that there are not many sweeping hills near me and when I do manage to get out it is invariably not the best time of day to capture the texture of the surroundings! Discovering that I actively wait for people to walk into shot rather than curse them when they do, even getting more irritated by people apologising or hopping out of the way when actually I wanted them there I find amusing as previously I would wait ages for a "vacant" scene.

Pondering upon this I think it's because people help define the place as well as the era. Some locations never alter, a shot taken now would possibly be the same taken ten years ago, but if you include people the fashions change, the accessories change, think how much mobile phones have evolved. Even the demographic of the population alters. When I originally moved into my house the majority of the residents in the street were retired people. As the years rolled by these people have either moved out or sadly passed away, to be replaced by young couples with families. All these things help anchor a place.

Sometimes the most simple reason for including people in a landscape shot is to give an indication of scale or  just add a certain something. It can show how people live/work/play within a given environment. A while back I took this shot of my son (yes he got nobbled again) it's probably not the best portrait/landscape ever taken but it demonstrates the point I am trying to make.

Scouting about trying to find any articles or debates on the same topic I came across this blog posting

Of course the photographer that springs to mind straight away is Simon Roberts who produced a body of work called "We English" I love his image of paragliders over the South Downs Way.

More on this project can be found on this website and if you want to discover more about him in general check out

Other good examples of landscape photographers are :-

Galen Rowell
Charlie Waite
Michael Kenna
Andy Mumford
Ansel Adams
Carlos Esguerra

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Exercise 5: Sensor Linear capture

The object of this exercise was to simulate a linear image by applying a curves layer. To do this I needed to open either a TIFF or JPEG file and convert it to 16bits, this is to prevent banding which may occur using 8 bits, Then a curves layer was used, creating a smooth a curve as possible, to make the image dark, this image was saved under a seperate file name. The original image and the darkened image were compared side by side paying particular attention to the histograms. After this comparison was made I then returned to the darker image, opened the Curves dialog, created a curve which made the image look as close as possible to the "normal" version.

Original Image Cloudia - Elephant Parade 2010

I chose an image which had an average tonal range as shown by the histogram below.

Original Histogram

A curves layer was then applied (Image>adjustment>curves) which replicates what an image looks like before being processed in-camera.

Curves layer applied to make a linear image.

Having applied the curves layer the original image now appears far too dark.


Image as captured and before processing within the camera.

On examining the histogram, as expected with an image this dark, most of the tonal values are squashed against the left-hand side.

Histogram of the image before being processed in camera

The next step was to create another curves layer which replicates the camera's processor applying a gamma correction curve.

Gamma correction curve.


The gamma correction curve brings the image back to a normal appearance.

Histogram after gamma correction

Although not exactly the same as the original, the tonal values are spread more evenly across the histogram. A strange exercise to do was my first impression, but it has shown me the extent of processing within camera that occurs. I knew it happened, or rather I didn't really think much about it but appreciated something technical went on inside ;o) Now I know what :o)

Linear Capture

Digital sensors do not respond to light in the same way that film does. Film responds in a similar fashion to our eyes. The human eye has built in compression (we see in a non-linear fashion) which allows our senses to function over a large range of stimuli. According to Bruce Fraser "If you expose digital the way you expose film, you run twin dangers of failing to exploit the camera's dynamic range, and creating exposures whose shadows are noisier than they need to be."*

There may be a temptation to underexpose images as to not blow the highlights which can run the risk of introducing noise in the midtones and shadows. If you underexpose and make adjustments during raw conversion this can also exaggerate noise and introduce posterization. This is again where exposing to the right can be useful and in Camera Raw using the correct settings on the Exposurer slider and highlight recovery you can recover as much as one stop of highlight detail.

I found this online pdf very informative and helpful.

Our cameras perform "in-camera" processing so that the image is presented in a totally different fashion from it's original state, which left in its unprocessed state would be very dark.The camera's processor applies a gamma correction curve to give the image a normal appearance. Exercise 5 has been formulated to give greater understanding to the gamma correction curve.

Linear - A relationship where doubling the intensity of light produces double the response, as in digital images. The human eye does not respond to light in a linear fashion.**

Nonlinear - A relationship where a change in stimulus does not always produce a corresponding change in response. For example, if the light in the room is doubled, the room is not perceived as being twice as bright.**

 * pdf "Raw Capture, Linear Gamma and Exposure" was written by Bruce Fraser. It was adapted from his book Real World Camera Raw, published by Peachpit Press, in August, 2004.

**refer to Lowrie C K (2007 p248/249) Digital Rebel XTi/400D Digital field Guide

**Lowrie Charlotte K  (2007) Digital Rebel XTi/400D Digital field Guide  City: Idianapolis Wiley Publishing Inc

Project 2 : Digital image Qualities

This part of the course comprises of 6 exercises and 1 assignment .

Exercise 5: Sensor linear capture
Exercise 6: Highlight clipping
Exercise 7: Your tolerance for noise
Exercise 8: Camera dynamic range
Exercise 9: Scene dynamic range
Exercise 10: Colour cast and white balance

Assignment 2: Digital image qualities

Assignment Due Date 11 December 2010

Assignment 1: Workflow Feedback

My tutor has replied and I have my feedback :o) Pleased with and in agreement with the comments made.

I could have submitted the minimum amount of images but wanted some constructive critisism of the images I knew hadn't worked as well as they could.

Feedback below :o)

Thank you for sending in your first assignment which you have thoroughly understood and handled it very well. Your work flow is fine, but the only thing I did read somewhere in your blog is that you print in Pro Photo RGB. If you are happy with this then that is fine but beware that the color space is so large that many colors are not printable or viewable on your monitor and you may need to do complex editing on subtle colors that are not printable. Smaller color spaces are restricted to colors more likely to be printable, so color changes are fairly small when converted to print. For now I would use sRGB and as you gain more experience switch to Adobe RGB. However, please find below my comments on your images:

I have lots of things to build upon and think about with most areas. Obvious really, or I wouldn't be doing this course. Printing Pro Photo RGB was something I did with my last course when submitting my final portfolio, having had a discussion with regards to best practice and colour space. To be honest not having a large professional printer it probably doesn't have much benefit so possibly converting to Adobe RGB would be ok. I don't think I would use sRGB but it would be interesting to print 3 version sof the same image to see if there was much difference. I calibrate my monitor and using an Epson printer make sure I use Epson inks and Epson papers so I don't need to worry about custom profiles. My printer isn't high enough spec for paper manufacturers to provide free profiles and so far I have been happy enough with the results produced to continue using Epson. Sadly , I also have to run on a budget!

I found some interesting links online about printing, from some who say don't use Pro Photo, to some who recommend its use, to others who say use, but with care and not with every image. As ever divided opinions :o)


Image 1
This image is technically perfect and tells the viewer what is happening. There are nice catch lights in the models eyes and the make up artist is included so that the viewer is aware of the activity involved. A fairly wide aperture has been used to render the background out of focus, thereby keeping the eye on the main subjects themselves. Nice one.

Image 2
A similar shot the  previous image, this time the models face is half in shadow but it does high light the work of the make up artist. Nothing wrong with that but if you wanted to add a little sparkle you could have used fill in flash. To do this set your separate flash gun at two stops less than the camera, ie if the camera is set at f8 set the flash to f4. this would add catch lights to the eyes and help “fill in” the shadow area.

I couldn't find and so didn't take my flashgun, but this is a useful tip to remember, I did contemplate using the fill in flash but was torn between wanting to keep the shadow whilst also having catch lights. A similar shot with the model looking up with the sun shining provided sparkle but I felt the light was a little harsh, maybe I could have played with that a little more in photoshop to tone it down?

Image 3
As in all your shots the  exposures and color balance are very accurate indicated by the skin tones of the models. In this shot the dark back ground has forced the viewers eye to concentrate on the model. Well done.

Image 4
Again you have a good catch light in the models eye and apart from the make up you have a good profile of an attractive model. However the high light area in the back ground is a little distracting and should be toned down a bit in Photoshop.

Will rework :o)

Image 5
This one is a good candid image of the two people having fun and totally unaware of the camera. A very effective but simple composition. Nice one.

Image 6
I don’t think this is quite as good as some of your other images as it is a bit untidy, but nevertheless it is in keeping with the subject matter. As a viewer I would like to see a bit more of the models face but apart from that there is nothing else to say.

I also felt this wasn't a good shot but was being a bit OCD'ish and not wanting to submit an odd number of images included it.

Image 7
As you say in your notes the eyes do match the back ground very well. This is a better shot than the previous image as the model is nicely positioned within the frame and again there is “sparkle” in her eyes. Another nice one.

Image 8
Again this one could do with a touch of fill in flash to give that extra sparkle to the eyes, but you do have a nice diagonal composition with the head tilted to one side. This adds further interest to the image

Again I agree with the need to use flash, on this one the students were filming and I didn't want to have random flashes going off in their background. I should have waited until they stopped rolling and taken again.

Image 9
Again you have a competent image and the model is nicely cropped within the frame. The direct sun light is a bit harsh but in this case that adds more interest to the subject matter.

Image 10
An unusual low level shot and the models pose has formed a nice triangular composition. As you say in your notes the depth of field is excellent indicating that you have used the correct aperture for this subject.

Image 11
This one could do with either a more full length view to include the models limbs, or, going in closer for a more deliberate crop of the upper body and head. As it is it looks just like a grab shot without any thought to composition.

This was one in a series of shots, the others were taken a little further back still "cropping" the limbs, but the model was blinking or there was too much clutter in the shot also a lot of bags and coats were dumped just to one side, I cloned out part of a sign that said "Dead Meat Sucks" for the submitted image. It was a slight experimentation with subject matter; uncomfortable subject, uncomfortable pose, uncomfortable composition. It wasn't as successful as I hoped as it does look just like a grab shot. But if you don't experiment you don't learn from your mistakes :o)

Image 12
For me, the back ground is a touch too light and detracting and the back grounds on most of your other images are better. Also the models heels have just been chopped off slightly, which looks a bit untidy. In situations like these go in closer for a deliberate crop, or zoom out so that all the subject is included.

I quite liked the light background but will rework to see what effect it will have, I also was aware at the outset of the closer crop but wanted to get in just that little bit closer, my thought process at the time was along the lines of patterns and not always having to include the obvious, unfortunately as I didn't take a shot from further back I can't rework that part. However I will experiment with cropping in a little more to see what results it gives :o)

Thank you again for allowing me to comment on your work which I have thoroughly enjoyed doing. Your work flow is fine and your images are excellent, but from your notes you say that viewing and deleting files in camera reduces the cards life expectancy and can corrupt files. I have been doing this for years and never had a problem, so don’t worry too much about that.

Again this was information supplied by previous tutors so just something I have accepted as good practice. Once more divided opinions as to it is just older or poor quality cards that suffer from the deletion of individual images, to never ever do it, or try to limit the habit.

or just plain good advise as to why you shouldn't delete individual shots :o)

  1. The LCD on your camera lies. You got that right – the LCD on your camera lies. As of this posting, there is no way to calibrate the little screens at the back of your camera. Even if there were, there you can’t always control your ambient light – and that can sometimes make a gorgeous image look like crap on that tiny LCD. Wait until you get to a larger screen, then make your judgement.
  2. You can’t trust your fingers. If you delete images straight from you camera, you will, at some point, delete an image you don’t want to erase. Call it clumsiness, Murphy’s Law, or plain bad luck – but whatever you call it, it will give you a headache. Yes, you can try to recover it when you get back to your computer, but in the meantime, you can’t use your memory card.
  3. Your batteries are weak. That LCD at the back of your camera is a power hog, and the more time you spend reviewing, trimming, and deleting images, the less time you have to shoot. If you keep deleting images, before you know it, you’ll end up with an empty battery and an empty memory card.
  4. You’re too slow. Even the best multi-taskers cannot shoot and review images at the same time. If you keep deleting images from your camera, you’re going to miss everything you want to shoot. At the end of the day, all your shots will be reminders of the ones that got away.
Re-Worked Images

Toning down the highlight was a little tricky as it was totally blown, I used two different adjustment layers, levels and exposure to keep the result looking as natural as possible without getting any banding or usual effects. This does emphasise her profile more.

As suggested a closer crop of upper body and head. I had liked her pose in the original series, which I have had to lose in this final version, but agree that the submitted shot didn't work. Even after cropping I don't think it is a particularly interesting image. Possibly it would have been better to not have included it the final set but I did want constructive comments.

Again I have slightly adjusted the brightness of the background. It had to be done sympathetically as it started to look too fake. I also tried cropping in a little closer but none of my attempts gave satisfactory balanced compositions. The best compromise I got was adding a vignette but would not have done this within the set as it would not have been in keeping. As a stand alone shot it may have improved it. Next time I would step back to include the entire subject and use selective cropping if I felt it was needed. You can always take away but you can't add if you never included it!

Assignment 1: Workflow Review

I had several ideas about what subject I could choose for this first assignment, they included photographing Margate, which is a place I hold very dear from childhood memories and I also take my own children there, capturing Remembrance Day services, which is a project I undertook last year and thoroughly enjoyed and learnt alot from although I felt there were areas I could improve upon. Or finally update the documentary shots I have been taking of the change in my local High Street.

Then out of the blue my son was asked if he could help some friends with a media project they are doing as part of their coursework, making a 5 minute promotional video for a "film". Being teenage boys it was suitably titled "Zombie Apocalyse" and I thought it might have some interesting photographic opportunities. If it failed I could always try another topic! Not quite sure what I wanted to capture I had in mind a mixture of action shots, candid "before" shots and some zombie poses. I thought I could practice several things during this session, capturing shots within a limited time frame, my portraiture, using a longer lens than is my recent preference and using natural ambient lighting.

The workflow I followed was the one utilised in exercises 1 & 2.

[Choose model and arrange a mutually convenient time for the session

This was fairly straight forward as I was more or less taking advantage of something that had already been organised with the group of teenagers having agreed to meet at 11am at the local park, the majority arrived already in costume and wearing appropriate make-up (made for some interesting double-takes). I spoke to the person organising the shoot and he was more than happy for me to take photographs and all the people involved also had no objections.
[Choose a suitable location

A quiet corner of the local park where they wouldn't disturb the general public.

[Choose suitable equipment according to what you personally own or can be made available

I decided to use my 70-300mm lens as I wasn't sure what kind of shots I was after, the 70mm focal length would allow me to capture portraits while the 300mm focal length would enable me to capture any distant "action" shots whilst keeping out of the way of the actual filming. Still unable to find my flash I had decided not to take it in any event as it would interfere with their filming and I hoped to take advantage of the natural daylight.
[Prepare equipment. Ensure battery and spare are fully charged. Memory cards formatted and spare cards available. Lens and sensor are clean.

Both camera batteries were fully charged, any images on the cards were uploaded to my pc and formatted in camera. Lens was cleaned and I also took my 18-55mm kit lens incase I changed how I wanted to shoot my images.

[Set up session ensuring health and safety are taken into consideration

Some of the H&S was not down to me as I was not organising the whole event. However the organisers seemed to have it all under control and I followed all the rules associated with photographing outside; making sure there were no trip hazards, being aware of members of the public, trees and bushes, replacing any items moved, not causing obstructions and also being aware of the equipment being used by others.

[Ensure model is comfortable 

I knew some of the cast and those I didn't I soon got to know. All were comfortable with having their photographs taken and the poses and positions they adopted were either under my direction or the direction of the "film crew" They were all having a tremendous amount of fun and I hoped to catch that in some of my final images. If not a candid shot I spoke to the individuals throughout, asking them to turn their head or hold a pose until I was happy with the end result.

[Undertake photo session varying expressions and poses altering focal length and camera position throughout the session

Zombie expressions are fairly zombie-ish with blank stares or grimaces but with the candid shots I got smiles and laughter so am pleased with the variety of expressions in my final set, I also managed to vary positions and focal length while still managing to tie the shots together as a final set.

[Take photograph using  jpeg+RAW

I shot using Jpeg + RAW. Throughout the shoot I constantly checked my histogram and camera settings to ensure I was getting the correct exposure and the shots I wanted. I quickly reached the conclusion that the light was not good enough for the long distance action shots without the compromise of a larger aperture which would make me lose depth of field, or a higher ISO introducing noise which I also did not want to do. There were a lot of chase scenes, with our heroes being hounded by a mob of screaming zombies and I just could not get a fast enough shutter speed, I didn't mind some motion blur for the impression of movement and speed but everything was looking a mess. My panning skills leave a lot to be desired...another area to work on! I then decided to mainly concentrate on individual shots.

[Upload to PC using Adobe Bridge

[Use Template to embed metadata and apply custom name

metadata and file structure


Metadata was applied and the images were saved to My Pictures folder as well as my OCA folder. I have a set file structure; within the OCA folder I have a seperate folder for DPP Project 1 and DPP Project 2 (Eventually incorporating the other projects) and each exercise has it's own individual folder.

[view images, complete technical check deleting outright mistakes

I followed the editing process established in exercise.

1) Technical edit  - blurred and badly exposed/composed images were rejected straight away.

Technical Edit

2) The selects - using the star ratings I made my initial choices.

The Selects

3) First selects - these were chosen mainly due to the pleasing composition and lighting effects. I then took into consideration poses and expressions and did they sum up the atmosphere of the day? Did they tell a story and pull together as a body of work?
4)  Group and review. After making the first selects I placed them into a seperate folder and left them alone returning to the other images 24 hours later. I found this a useful exercise and I found I then did include some shots I had previously rejected and changed my mind on others I had included as I felt the lighting was either better or the photograph would prove more interesting to the intended audience.
Group and review

[Choose final images for processing

The final images I chose were then placed into a folder called edit. I calibrated my monitor using my Spyder3Express.

[Open in Camera Raw

[Use Workspace ProPhoto 16bit 300dpi

[Adjust if necessary. Exposure reading first, temperature, tint and anything else as required

I explored Camera Raw a little more with this exercise, experimenting with the Tone Curve, Sharpening, HSL/Greyscale and the Split Toning. Only minor adjustments were made in RAW as I like the control you can achieve in photoshop using layer adjustments.

[Open in Photoshop
[Crop if required

Most of the images were cropped, some more than others to make for better compositions and cut out distracting backgrounds and dead space.
[Create curves layer rename C&D (Colour and Density)

Again with most images I used a curves layer to bring out certain features or emphasise/reduce shadows and light.

[Create other adjustment layers/ layer masks as required. Fine tune adjustment layers using black and white paintbrushes to remove/reapply layer mask. Adjust opacity, size hardness of brush to obtain required effect.

With some of the images I created adjustment layers to clone out distracting elements or darken backgrounds.

[Save Master file with layers intact. Save As Tiff file, LZW, ZIP compression then flatten Image, Save As TiffV2 for conversion to other file/image sizes.
[Sharpen at last stage.

As I am not printing the images at this stage I resized for uploading to flickr, (as this is the method I have decided to use to enable my tutor to view my final set having emailed him) saved as jpeg to a folder called Zombie jpegs and sharpened appropriately. On this occasion I did not create an action to save my final Tiffs as jpegs but if dealing with a large number of shots I usually do. All files will be backed up on my external hard drive and also burnt to disk.

An excess of 80 shots was eventually reduced to 12. These are my final choices :-

1) I started off with the make up being applied to those who arrived without. I liked this shot as it includes the makeup artist and you can sense her concentration and the trust of the model as she lightly applies shadows under her eyes. The light was falling in the right direction to light the subject whilst creating interesting but not intrusive shadows.

2) I liked the paradox of an attractive young girl being transformed into a zombie complete with bleeding scar. I was pleased with the composition, the inclusion of the make-up artists hands, hair and make up tray help tell the story. I liked the subtle light, I did have an alternative shot where the sun had come out from behind the clouds but found the contrast between the light and the shadows too much.

3) Boys will be boys and revel in loads of fake blood....

4) Though having said that young ladies seem to enjoy a gory scar here and there. Again I liked the subtle light, the detail in the scar, the candid pose; catching her smiling up at whoever had engaged her in conversation.

5) Taken during the wait before filming started I loved this intimate pose, proving zombies need love too. Or it could be body warmth as it was a very cold day and during breaks people were huddling together.

6) Into character at last with vacant stares. I chose this shot as it showed the beginning of  filming and the effort the students made with their costumes, make-up and hair.

7) More blank expressions. This was interesting to me because of the texture of the tree and the colour  closely matching her green eyes.

8) Zombies rule ok....another brilliant vacant stare complete with leaves tucked into back-combed hair.

9) Mean glares and a growl, and I loved his contact lenses although this shot doesn't really do them justice. I took a series of shots and this was the best.

10) On set...waiting for action, the students really got into it, they didnt mind the cold, the damp or the mud. I chose this shot because I think it shows the willingness to take part no matter what. I love the depth of field, the composition and the colours.

11) Full length version of a  zombie, lurking in the background during a chase scene.

12) Great pose, great expression and the lighting was super to shoot in. I loved the depth of field and the fact that the background resembled the fake backdrops you can buy for studio shots.

In reviewing the exercise as a whole I think it was successful. My approach was flexible enough that when I realised what wasn't working  I adapted the images I was taking accordingly. Learning to read light much better with regards to location portraiture, I still think it is something to work on but I am much happier with the results achieved. With some of the failed shots I would have been better off using flash but limitations were in place due to filming. Prefering to travel light I can however, see the benefits of employing reflectors and diffusers. I feel these 12 shots encapsulate the day as I originally intended.

Reflecting on my workflow it works well, it has the main points that should be carried out no matter what or where you are shooting, decide the subject, organise the time, sort out the equipment and review the process throughout from walking out the door though to capture and print/uploading. I suspect that most photographers who employ a workflow follow one along similar lines. There maybe slight variations with software, ie using lightroom, not capturing in RAW, sports journalists or papparazi may not have the time to process images and need to make decisions quickly and upload images on location. Some photographers will review images and delete in camera but I have always been taught that this can shorten a card's life expectancy and also runs the risk of corrupting the files.

There will also be a variation on how people name their files and the file structure in which they store them.
I store my files on disk and external harddrive also printing off proofsheets. Some people back up on location on a laptop and have duplicate and even triplicate disks at seperate locations. The final images are also saved according to what the final intention is, ie print or web use, for a book or a large print for exhibition it even varies depending on if you are printing them yourself or sending to a printhouse as you will need to find out what colourspace/profiles they use.
I have learnt new things over this part of the course through looking at fellow students blogs and researching on the many web sites which I have linked in the relevant posts. Learning to read the light, how to reduce the intensity of my fill in flash was handy, even though I didn't employ it this time round maybe I should have. Trying to capture the spirit of the people involved as well as the occasion itself was fun, talking to your models, getting to know then is a recognised technique for relaxing all parties concerned and obtaining better results. Although this assignment was primarily to do with workflow so much else has been absorbed in the process :o)