Take Two

The September photography club meeting at the Havre de Grace Library was a beginner lesson, so there wasn’t supposed to be a theme. We convinced the librarian to let us take a bad picture, then reshoot it to make it better. I call the theme Take Two. I think that beginners should concentrate on composition and content and worry about technical issues when they are more comfortable taking pictures. My first pictures below show common mistakes, while the last one demonstrates a color problem that could be fixed in post-processing.

All of the pictures have the usual cropping and editing except for the bluish color in the last pair.


Bad Shadow

Bad Shadow

The first picture was taken with a “point and shoot” camera where you look at an LCD screen instead of through a viewfinder. I wanted to capture the daffodils and iris in my new landscaping. I concentrated on the flowers so much that I didn’t notice my shadow.

I moved to the side to eliminate my shadow. I don’t like the composition as much, but you can see the flowers without being distracted by my shadow. A similar problem is when your reflection is visible in a picture.

Good No Shadow

Good No Shadow


Bad Leaves In Way

Bad Leaves In Way

I was hiking on a trail when I spotted this fawn in the undergrowth. I was very close to him, and I didn’t want to move and scare him off. I took several pictures in the hope that one (or more) would turn out ok. In the “bad” photo, a large leaf is blocking much of his face.

The leaf is still there in the second photo, but now most of the fawn’s face is clear. Someone said, “The leaves in front of the deer could be there on purpose, like emphasizing the fact they are (should be) scared of people.” While I agree that the leaves create a nice setting, I prefer a clear view of his face.

Good Few Leaves

Good Few Leaves


Bad Clutter

Bad Clutter

While my other mistakes were accidental, this is an intentionally bad picture that demonstrates how you may manipulate the “depth of field” (DOF). Not only is my kitchen counter a mess (I’m installing new lighting), but it is clearly visible in the picture. I used an f-stop of f/16 to keep both the foreground and background in focus. The small aperture meant that I had to use 1/4 second, and I should have used a tripod to prevent blurring.

Bad Lighting

Bad Lighting

I moved Monster Mash to a different location and opened the aperture to f/1.8 to make the DOF as short as possible. I used a “fast” or “bright” portrait lens that allowed me to use a wide opening to blur the background. The shutter speed dropped to 1/160. Not only is the background blurred out, but I chose a pair of bookcases to avoid any possible distraction. Unfortunately, the light from the kitchen window caused too much glare.

I blocked the light to get the “good” picture. The shutter speed for the third shot was 1/100. I still should have used a tripod and made more effort to get a sharp focus, but this is not my usual portrait setup.

Good Portrait

Good Portrait


Bad Color

Bad Color

I spent a morning taking pictures of my farrier working. I thought that this picture looked fine until I saw the next one. The camera settings were f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 6400, centered metering. While ISO 6400 is super high and may cause noise (speckling), I needed to use a relatively fast shutter speed to catch the action. I used centered metering so the bright doorway wouldn’t cause the details to be too dark. I use RAW mode, and the white balance in this picture is “as shot”. It is bluish because of the fluorescent lights, while the sunlight in the doorway tricked the meter. I could easily correct this in post-processing, but left it as an example of bad color balance.

I used a flash (angled to the side) to get more light on the details. The shutter speed is 1/60 because that’s what flashes are synchronized to; the super short flash of light takes the place of a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Even though the shutter speed is slower, the bright flash caused the aperture to close to f/11. The side benefit of the flash is warmer colors in the picture without manipulating the white balance during editing. The doorway is still too bright and distracting, but it is not blown out like in the first photo.

Good Color

Good Color


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