Just updated my photography training calendar with some new Photo Treks at Buscot Park near Faringdon.
You can get more info and book your place here.
See you soon!
A client came to me recently with a very special job. It was to turn his eighty-four RAW image files into a stunning High Dynamic Range (HDR) panorama, to place 24 priceless family images around it, and then produce a large, framed, composite print.
Some of the family images were very damaged and needed some serious editing time to rebuild them. Some were faded, or taken under challenging lighting conditions, and again needed a lot of photo restoration to make them look right.
This image is an example. The original had been folded in half at some point, and had serious creasing, a partly missing background, and other problems. The new “Content-aware” Fill tool in Photoshop CS5 was very useful here, although it doesn’t work miracles, so I did quite a bit a regular cloning as well.
The HDR panorama side was very interesting as well. One issue with HDR is that the final result can look somewhat unreal. The challenge comes when you want the benefits of HDR without the unreality.
This image, of a very rusty old Morris 8, shows the classic unreal HDR style, as it looks almost like a cartoon. (The car is not for sale but you can buy a print of the image from me). This treatment, whilst interesting with the right images, was not appropriate for the composite image I was working on. For that image I chose a more photorealistic look which was more natural.
The final HDR panorama needed quite a bit of editing too. As the images for the panorama were taken over a reasonably long period, some of the sheep in the foreground had moved around quite a bit, and had to be de-ghosted/cloned so they were nice and tidy. As well as the moving sheep, the lighting had changed while the separate images were being exposed, so the brightness variation across the image needed to be levelled out.
The HDR panorama, made from so many separate images, was quite a large file in Photoshop at over 350 Megabytes. It was amazing just how much detail could be seen in it. This image is of a section of the final image and is just 0.4% of the total panorama area. There’s good texture on the mountain and plenty of detail in the fields in the foreground.
The final image was printed to the agreed size, mounted on Foamex to give it rigidity, and then framed with a complementary moulding. It was a fascinating exercise to do the work, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Much more importantly, so was my client.
That’s the “wide” part of my post title, so what about the “long” part. It’s about taking a long-term view of the potential uses of the images you are shooting today. A lot of the images surrounding the HDR panorama were old. Some were well over 50 years old. You need to be keeping the images you take now in a form that will enable people in 50 years time to do a similar thing to what I’ve done here. The best form for that is a good print kept in a cool, dry, dark place. We don’t know that we will be able to read a digital file from a CD/DVD in 50 years, but in 50 years we will still be able to see a printed image.
* All non-Gale Photography images are copyright their respective owners, and were used with permission.
I’m a subscriber to a stock image library called Alamy Images. A stock library is a source of images for book publishers, website designers, magazines, newspapers, in fact anyone who needs images for their publications. Alamy is a large stock library, and it now has over 21 million (!) images for sale. The deal is simple: I take the images. I upload the images to Alamy. Someone searches for and then buys an image. They pay Alamy and use the image. Alamy take a commission and pays me the balance.
So what is it that people buy?
This image is my best-seller. It’s of a whirling hygrometer that’s used to measure the humidity of the air. It was great fun taking the image whilst holding the camera one-handed and whirling the hygrometer with the other. Not usually a good recipe for a sharp image! It’s been used in various textbooks in a number of countries round the world.
This image was my first ever sale on Alamy. It’s of some fly tipping just off the A420 near Swindon in Wiltshire. I was passing, and as always was carrying a camera. I stopped and took some shots. It’s not exactly very pretty, and it’s not a very creative image, but earned me a $250 sale, so I wasn’t complaining! This is a really good example of something that most people would walk past producing a saleable image.
This image, of the Sage Arts Centre in Gateshead, has also sold several times. I was on my way to a friend’s wedding in Scotland, and stopped off in Newcastle overnight. The weather the next day was great so I wandered around taking some stock images. This image was taken from the Newcastle side of the River Tyne, and it’s probably so successful because it’s a very simple clear image of a landmark building in sunny weather.
This is another wedding-related image. It’s of “Kit’s Coty” which is a Neolithic chambered long barrow near the Medway valley in Kent. It was taken whilst I was photographing a wedding reception in an appropriately named venue nearby. The blue colour comes from the use of a blue filter in front of the flash. The flash was on the ground just inside the railings and was fired remotely. This shot was used in a Halloween-related publication in October 2010. They clearly liked the spooky blueness.
This image is my most recent sale, I only found out about it today! It’s of the wind farm at Westmill near Watchfield, in Oxfordshire. It took most of a day to find the best place to take the shot. On another day, with the wind and light in different directions, somewhere else would be the best place. The image was used in a UK national newspaper this week (11th/12th Jan 2011). With Alamy you aren’t told where your images have been used, just that a sale has been made. If you are lucky someone sees it, and posts a report on the Alamy forum. So if you’ve seen it please let me know!
I’ve just had another batch of images accepted by Alamy’s Quality Control department, so I now need to do the keywording that will enable the images to be found, and then hopefully be bought. The great thing about stock libraries like Alamy is that you can earn money while you are sleeping!
It’s my 10th anniversary! On Jan 1st 2011 Gale Photography celebrated being in business for 10 whole years. Woo hoo!!!
It’s been great fun working with all the changes since 2001. Back then it was hard to predict just how much the technology of photography would change in just a few short years. The digital revolution was underway but many photographers still used film. Today the default is digital, and there are very few users of film.
When I went professional I used a Rolleiflex 2.8f medium format film camera. It was, and is, a fabulous tool ( I still have it), but it only took 12 images on one film, so it meant that I had to change films quite often. I shot colour on the Rollei, but as my wedding photography involved black and white images as well, I also had to have a 35mm film camera loaded with B&W film. I also carried a 2 spare 35mm cameras loaded with colour film. It was all very heavy, and all the wedding guests shot film too.
Digital arrived in my professional photography life in the middle of 2001, and my first digital camera was a compact. The Kodak DC4800 “Professional Digital Imaging System” was a 3 million pixel camera that cost an eye-watering £600. The 128Mb compact flash card I needed for it cost an even more eye-watering £175!! To put that into perspective, nowadays a typical 8Gb compact flash card, (64 times more capacity) is around £20.
I did use the Kodak the following week for an urgent commercial photography job and it was great. This shot was done in camera with a colour-filtered Vivitar 283 flashgun on a long lead lighting the background, and another 283 on the camera lighting the bag in the foreground. What you can’t see is my assistant standing up a ladder out of shot pouring the grain into the sack.
2003 saw the really big change when I got my first digital SLR. It was the oddly named Pentax *istD. This 6Mp camera cost me £1200 just for the body, and would be considered to have a very low specification today. From the first day of using it I was inspired! I loved the freedom, the flexibility, and the “insurance”. Insurance? Well, with a film camera you send away the precious original negative to be processed/printed, and if it gets lost you’re in trouble. With a digital camera you only ever send a copy, so you increase your customers’ confidence.
The really great thing about digital that I found so liberating was the ability to experiment and see the result immediately. This portrait of a guy and his beloved Range Rover is an example. I was able to slightly rearrange the composition and check it, then alter the exposure and check it again, to give the image I wanted. With film this would have been much more difficult. Digital makes the whole photographic experience much more interactive and much more fun.
In 2006 I moved from Pentax to Nikon as I wanted a wider range of lenses than Pentax offered, and I’ve stayed with Nikon since then. The fast response and great lenses let me get candid images, of people or their pets, that would have been very hard in the Rollieflex days.
That’s some of the technology changes over the last 10 years, but what’s stayed the same? Well, the need to be as photographically creative as possible and to offer customers; the best possible images, the best customer experience, and the best value, have been constants. Without offering these the equipment used is irrelevant.
I’ve met some fantastic people over the last 10 years, and it’s been a real pleasure to be part of your families’ lives, if only for a short time. Thank you!
I’m looking forward to the next 10 years!
In creative portrait photography how an image looks is down to the photographer. In the studio how you light your subject is critical, and for location images it’s critical to work properly with the natural light. How you then modify the light can dramatically affect the look of an image.
Once you have your lighting sorted, simple changes to the composition of the image can also change the look significantly.
Take this image: The lighting, a soft-box from the front, is quite simple. The interest comes from having the subject’s face split by a sheet of muslin that was hung up to act as a diffuser/reflector. I had taken a series without the muslin and then asked her to move slightly so that it was partly in front of her face. It was far enough away from her to be nicely out of focus, and its translucency allowed the obscured part of her face to show through sufficiently.
We tried to get some shots of her hair “in flight”. They were fine, but I wanted more structure to the image. We spread her hair out on the studio floor and I shot from a step-ladder directly above her. It was simple to light with a fairly directional light on her hair which gave a nice sharp shadow under her chin. Even though her expression was similar to the previous image, the end result was very different!
Away from the studio there’s less control of lighting direction, unless you carry remotely fired flash units, so you need to be careful with where you do your shoot. This urban image was at an abandoned car repair centre and the fly posters had been busy. I made sure that enough of a poster was included to clearly show the type of area we were in, but not so much that the poster’s text was a distraction. Her pose echoed the pose of the man on the poster. I’ve punched up the background colour by “cross-processing” it in Photoshop.
Same day, same shoot, completely different look. The pipes in the image were supports for a wall near the Railway Village in Swindon and were at quite an acute angle. By asking my model to lean on the pipes, and then tilting the camera so she looked more upright, her arms became much more elegant. The background brickwork also became less distracting. A crop to simplify the image, a bit of “diffuse glow”, and it was done.
Same day, same shoot and yet another look. This final image shows how the most mundane of objects, an estate car, can be used for creative portraits. My model is lying down on the load area floor. The car’s open rear hatch screened the direct sun, which meant that the remaining light was beautifully diffused. The grey carpet and shadow area from the rear seats acted as a perfect foil to her skin tones. The black and white conversion simplified the image.
As you can see: one day, one model, many different looks. Control your lighting and your composition to get variety into your images.