Camera Profiles and Colour Correction

When you’re shooting RAW images with an expensive DSLR and processing your images in Lightroom 3 (which is much better than LR2 which I loved) you’d think the colours that come out of the camera should be right on target. Right?

Well be prepared for a surprise. Michael Frye (on right) has an excellent short video called Camera Calibration and Profiles that shows how to pick the best preset colour calibration for your camera. Michael also shows you how to create your own custom profiles using a X-Rite Photo Colorchecker.

Here’s a bonus: On the X-rite site there’s a video that features one of my favourite pro photographers Rick Sammon (photo below) who talks about how he calibrates his cameras, monitors and printers and, what’s most important, he shows you how to shoot HDR images and why. Rick talks about how we all see colour differently. He even claims that drinking alcohol or even coffee can affect the way we see colour. OMG I’ve got to stop printing after drinking a pot of coffee 🙂

BTW I don’t use a X-Rite ColorMunki although if they want to send me one I sure wouldn’t complain. Guarantee a fair and honest appraisal. 🙂  But my point is this: Calibrate at least your monitor and if you want to be really spot on calibrate your camera, your monitor and your printer to get absolutely consistent colours in your photographic process. Without at least calibrating your monitor, you’ll have no idea what your final image will look like until you print it. And trust me on this, you can spend more on test prints over time than a calibration device would have cost in the first place.

Look if all you’re shooting is JPGs of special events or the kids on vacation then you’re accepting the colours that you get from the camera and printer and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re shooting fine art photography or high-end (read expensive) wedding photography then you are shooting RAW and the rule book on colours goes out the window. Doing your own calibration allows you to set your own rules that you can apply over and over again.

Don’t believe me? Watch Michael’s video where he applies his custom profiles on the landscape shot at dusk. Notice what happens to the greens in the image. Without a custom calibration of his equipment I don’t think he’d even be aware that those shades of green were possible. Very cool.

Heart of Darkness

The award-winning documentary Shooting Robert King is available online at SnagFilms.

This is not a documentary for the faint of heart. Be warned. This film at one hour 18 minutes takes you into the life of 23-year-old Robert King, a would-be war photographer who arrives in Sarajevo in 1993 looking for a Pulitzer Prize. The only problem is King is so naive that his fellow photojournalists don’t think he’s going to make it and is likely to get himself killed. After 15 years of covering wars King proves them wrong. But at what cost to himself?

Postcards for Pros

Marc Silber produces silberstudios.tv where he features 10-minute interviews with some of the world’s best photographers. In this edition about travel photography Marc interviews Bob Holmes a three-time Travel Photographer of the Year. Bob’s photos are some of the best examples of travel photography I’ve ever seen but that’s not why I’m suggesting you watch the video interview.

Bob Holmes Photography

Bob is a very gifted travel photographer but he’s also a very practical man. And here’s the payoff: One of the ways he gets those great images from exotic and distant places is he does his research before he leaves and when he arrives. And here’s the cool part. When Bob arrives in a new place he buys commercial postcards that have photos of the famous tourist spots.

So now armed with his own research about where to go and when, he also has photos of the traditional photo hotspots to guide him. Best of all when he’s in a taxi where the driver doesn’t speak English, Bob just shows him the card and off they go.

Bob also doesn’t take a ton of equipment. He also tends to shoot available light for simplicity and better results than using strobes. Most advanced amateurs could pretty much duplicate his professional setup with one DX (cropped) body with a wide to long zoom for walking about (18-200mm) and a fast 35mm f/1.8 for shooting available light. With this setup you could capture images every bit as good as Bob’s that is, of course, if you could see as well as Bob sees. Watch the video to “see” what I mean here 🙂

I’d even go so far as to say that if you bought one of the new 4/3 cameras like the Sony NEX-5 or the Panasonic GF-1 or the Olympus E-PL-1 with a fast lens and a zoom lens you’d have a travel kit capable of shooting really excellent images that would fit into a jacket pocket.

How to shoot people

Patrick Roddie has been shooting the people who attend the annual Burning Man event held annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for ten years. He’s learned a thing or two about how to approach people and photograph them in a way that captures the moment.

The strangest thing listening to Marc Silber’s video interview with Roddie is the fact that Roddie seems to me to be very shy. He’s almost inarticulate in some parts of the interview and yet the interview is one of the best I’ve heard on how to shoot people.

So where’s the gold in this interview? One is Roddie doesn’t use a ton of equipment. In fact, he advocates one camera with a 50mm lens. (On DX format cameras that would equal a 35mm lens.) He says he never loses eye contact with his subject and injects the camera into the conversation at the last moment.

In 2008 Roddie shot 54 rolls of Fujichrome Velvia using one Nikon F100 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens resulting in 1,302 scans and 938 images in his 2008 gallery.

And there’s lots more.

Anyone contemplating street photography would do well to watch this video.

Crazy clever

I don’t shoot HDR (high dynamic range) photography but if I did I’d go download Oloneo’s new software program right now!

(BTW the HDR photo here is from Trey Ratcliff’s wonderful Stuck In Customs HDR website.)

Why? Because this new software which is available for free right now in beta can do some amazing things to the illumination in your images. Actually what they are doing is incredibly smart yet relatively simple. If I’m guess right from what I saw at their website what the software does is combine photos (I’m guessing in layers) pretty much the same way as most HDR software (including Photoshop) works but the Oloneo engineers have brought forward controls so you can control the light values in each layer.

The website says the software can relight, tonemap and work as a RAW processor. Go watch the online videos and prepare to be amazed.

So what does this do? The software allows you to change the white balance in one layer while not changing the overall values. So if you’ve got a fireplace in one image you can control how the fire looks without affecting any of the other light sources in the photo. Here’s a link to Oloneo’s Flickr page.

Right now the software only works on PCs but when the MAC version is announced I will be looking at downloading a copy.

Here’s a comprehensive review at Photozine. com

Focusing with the D300

While I was shooting over 2,000 images at Mayor Rob Burton’s Baseball Tournament last week I kept worrying about how well the autofocusing system on the D-300 was doing.

I had setup the D300 for sports shooting. Here’s the setup as I remember it: JPG format at Large Normal (I almost always shoot RAW or at worst JPG Large Fine). Everything I was shooting need to be loaded onto a computer with no time to edit (okay I deleted the really really bad stuff) and projected on a screen during the celebratory dinner after the event. JPG Large Fine are still 3 megs in size. That’s plenty big enough to print 8″X10″ and way bigger than you need to project on a screen.

The focusing was set to 21 points (for speed) and continuous focusing. I switched between 21 points and 51 points 3D. Very occasionally the lens I was using would miss the odd shot so I kept trying different focusing setups.

I was shooting with a 18 to 200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens which is definitely a lens aimed at the advanced amateur and isn’t know as the fastest or sharpest tool in the box. However I was shooting for around eight hours continuously and the 18 to 200 allowed me stand either behind first or third and cover the action all around the infield. At its widest I could shoot inside the team box and at 200 I could reach out to the action at second base. BTW I love wide and had a 12-24mm on my D90 body.

Two of the other photographers I saw at the event were using 70-210mm f.2.8 zooms. At three times the cost of the 18-200 their lenses were too long at 70mm to cover the action in close. But they were using “pro” lenses which get heavier as the day goes on. I carried the d300 with the 18-200 and the d90 with the 12-24 and everything else was locked in my truck. And, even though the day was in the high 30 degree range I wore boots which gave me a stable platform and my feet never felt overly hot but stayed strong and comfortable.

If you’re shoot street photography you’d be much better off shooting with a cheaper and much lighter 70-300mm as compared to the really expensive, heavy 70-210mm zoom. I’m not saying I wouldn’t use one but it’s best suited for weddings as opposed to sports or other outdoor photography.

After reviewing the entire 2,000 images there were only a couple that weren’t tack sharp and absolutely in focus and for the most part that was an issue with the ability of the lens to keep up with the action. All in all I am very impressed with the ability of the D300 to cover sports. Sure beats my old film days shooting a Nikon F2 and a 75-300mm zoom with no autofocus.

You know, come to think of it, back with the film camera I’d have pre-focused my 50mm or 35mm lens on third and my 105mm or 75-300mm on second. I wouldn’t try to follow focus like I did with the D300. All in all a great day of shooting and I learned a few new things. How great is that?