How Colors are Created in the Digital World

This short basics post will prime you to understand how colors are specified in digital files. In the reproduction market, of which Reed Art & Imaging is a part of, we use digitally driven devices to make faithful reproductions of original art, photographic captures and digital graphic designs. To accomplish this task with any hopes of repeatable accuracy, there must exist a standard system by which colors can be recorded, transferred, translated and output. These standards exist in theoretical color models. These models are a virtual shape, such as a box, sphere. polygon or other shape that if it were real, would contain every color visible to the human eye.

By SharkD (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The RGB color model mapped to a cube. The horizontal x-axis as red values increasing to the left, y-axis as blue increasing to the lower right and the vertical z-axis as green increasing towards the top. The origin, black, is the vertex hidden from view.

Because the model is represented by a shape, they are referred to color “spaces”, for the space the object would occupy in the theoretical environment of all colors – visible and invisible. The graphic above is an example of a space that uses Red, Green, and Blue to yield the final color we want to create.

Colors come to our eyes in two ways – or transmitted from a light source or reflected off of a surface.

RGB is called the “primary” space and it’s numerical system can be equated to the brightness values of transmitted light – or how intense the Red light, Green light, and Blue light are shining. As the numeric value increases, the lights get brighter and the closer to white they become. More on that in a bit.

In a CMYK model (the secondary space) we are representing pigments that absorb light. So as the number increases in their scale, the more light is absorbed. So with CMYK, the higher the number, the darker the color appears – exactly opposite of RGB.

In either space, the ratio of how the colors are blended determines the color, while numeric values contribute to how bright or dark it is.

For simplicity, the rest of this article will use only one color model. I’ll use the RGB model for these examples because it’s the model that our clients use and best supports high-end reproduction digital printing.

How Color is Expressed

Color is usually expressed in human terms by it’s

  • Value (light to dark)
  • Saturation (how close to pure is it)
  • Hue (red, purple, green, yellow, orange, etc.)

In the data driven world, it’s expressed as a recipe of the colors required to build its final value, saturation and hue. Image and graphics applications usually use the standard scale of 0-255 ( what is called 8-bit color) to represent the amount of each color present, with 0 being none and 255 being maximum. Dark colors being closer to 0 and light colors being closer to 255. Equal amounts of each color create neutral hues ( grays ) and as the numbers increase from 0 to 255 the value moves from black to white.

Darker values are closer to zero and lighter values are closer to 255

Darker values are closer to zero and lighter values are closer to 255

 

These numbers from 0 to 255 are called “Levels” and in our examples fall into a model of 256 levels – with zero being included as a level.  In an RGB color space, each color is built using various levels, or recipes, of Red, Green and Blue.  Dark Red has a different recipe than Light Red, and the recipes are different for a saturated versus less saturated red.

Fully saturated red is a different build than a less saturated red.

Fully saturated red is a different build than a less saturated red.

Dark Red has a different build than Light Red.

Dark Red has a different build than Light Red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in the first example above, a fully saturated hue has 255 of it’s requisite colors and none of the other colors. As the color desaturates, it gains some of the other colors; it’s moving closer to a neutral gray.  In the second example we can see that the Darker Red contains none of the other colors, but the Red number is dropping closer to zero; thus making it “blacker.” This darker red is as saturated as it can get at this present value.

A critical point to understand is that in an RGB or CMYK file, color and density are inter-connected. Meaning that any change you make to color data will result in changes to density and visa-versa.

 

The other primary colors are built in the same way, like this:

Color builds of fully saturated Red, Green and Blue.

Color builds of fully saturated Red, Green and Blue.

 

The secondary colors are built from equal amounts of two of the three colors:

Graphical representation of the secondary color recipes

Secondary colors are built from two of the three colors

These secondary colors are thought to be the “opposite” colors to those in the previous example. You will notice their recipes are directly inverse. Red is R255 G0 B0 and Cyan is R0 G255 B255.  They are opposites because when the two colors are combined, they cancel each other out and make gray.  Equal parts of Red and Cyan make gray, same goes for Green with Magenta, and Blue with Yellow.

Intermediate colors such as Orange, Brown, Purple, Daisy Yellow, Lemon Yellow etc. are built by using various values of the three colors where at least one of the colors is greater than 0 and less than 255:

Intermediate color builds

Intermediate colors result from builds using two or more colors.

 

This 8-bit model, using it’s 256 level per color channel architecture allows for approx 16.7 million variants of color and density.  (256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216).

Other bit-depths exist that extend the number of available colors; the concepts are the same, but the numbers differ.

For example: 12-bit color – the depth that most digital cameras record in raw format, has 1,728 levels per color channel (instead of 256) with a total number of 5,159,780,352 available colors, much higher than present technology can reproduce in a print or display.  The commonly used 16-bit depth has 4,096 levels per color channel with a total number of 68,719,476,736 available colors – yes that’s 68.7 Billion!  While some professional pigment printers and their RIPs can support a 16-bit file, getting the subtleties from that many colors on paper and dots via a limiting 8 to 12 different ink colors is still problematic.

If you have questions, post them in the comments below.  If you want to see how this all ties together with Photoshop channels, stay tuned, that’s next!

 

Easy and Inexpensive Tips for Better Video Meetings

BadVideoInMonitor

So there you are, trying to video conference with the a client, vendor, investor, or mom and your video feed, well…. stinks. Nothing makes a bad impression like a bad impression.  I recommend that you always test your video setup a couple hours before you need to go live, making sure your webcam is working and the picture looks good. And just in case you need to call your tech support team or fix it yourself. Here are some basic and straight-forward things you can do to make sure a working system performs well.

 

Keep it clean!

Lens cleaner and microfiber are your friend. Get a cleaning kit from your local optician and keep your web-cam clean. Spray solution on the microfiber NOT on the camera. Gently remove junk and dust. The lens on your webcam is super tiny, so even a small spec of dust, lint or hair can have a major impact on image quality. Finger prints are worse, and can make your video look like it was shot through plastic bags – yuck. Leave the soft focus effect to Glamour Shots.

Can they hear you over all that noise?

Use a separate mic and turn off sources of background noise. The built-in mic on your laptop will

Head-worn mics sound much better than built-in computer mics and aren't as noise prone as a lavalier.

Head-worn mics sound much better than built-in computer mics and aren’t as noise prone as a lavalier.

likely pick up a great deal of background noise including the sound of your voice echoing off your walls. An inexpensive lavalier (Lapel clip style) mic can be plugged directly into the mic input of your computer. USB podcast mics can be reasonably priced if you don’t need portability. Head-worn mics are super the best of both worlds and unlike the lavalier, they won’t pick up the sound of your clothing as you move about.

When possible, use ear-buds instead of computer speakers. The sound from your speakers will be picked up by your mic and can lead to echos , feedback, or muddiness in your audio. Cheap ones can be purchased at the dollar stores but they’re not so good on your ear health. Be good to your hearing and invest in the best you can afford.

You can also get a head-set that has both head-phones and a boom mic. These are available from bulky down to slim and lightweight. Go light-weight if you’re not into that 80’s air-traffic-controller look.

A combo headset like this is portable, sounds great and can eliminate back-gound noise and echos

A combo headset like this is portable, sounds great and can eliminate back-gound noise and echos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heloooo? Is anybody there? It’s important to use sufficient lighting.

CFL’s run cooler than halogen and incandescent.In low-light conditions, your camera has to amplify the signal it sees and this results in noise that looks like graininess, ugly color and lack of sharp focus. This get’s worse with lesser quality webcams. The light coming from your monitor should not be considered sufficient.  A minimum of two 60-watt equivalent lamps within 6 feet of your face is a good starting point. A couple of cheap Harbor Freight or hardware-store clamp-on work-lights – one pointed directly at you and one bouncing light off the ceiling can create a soft and pleasing look. Use compact fluorescent bulbs since they run cool and won’t heat up your office.

Avoid back-lighting else you look like a talking silhouette with glowing edges. This type of lighting can also create havoc with the auto-exposure systems in your camera that can result in a visual pulsing that will serve quite well to annoy your viewers.

Inexpensive and available from tool and hardware stores. The larger the reflector, the softer the light. Get better light by using two or more.

The bigger the reflector the softer the light. A 10.5″ dish is better than a 6″ dish. You can also paint the interior white to soften the light a bit more. This will help reduce pore detail and the visibility of wrinkles too! Not that any of us are actually concerned about such things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah okay but those work-lights look terrible in my carefully designed office. What then?
Ikea has some great looking work lights in both clamp, table and floor options.

Certainly a step-up from the look of a shop light. Would also make a great background light.

 

Nicely styled clamp light. Moves easy and clamps about anywhere. Larger reflector provides a decent light. Point one at you and bounce the light of the other off an opposite wall for great looking light.

 

Part of the same Ranarp series, this could easily be combined with a couple of clamp-ons to create some fantastic light for your video sessions.

 

China Ball style lantern from Ikea for wrap-around soft light

China Ball style lantern from Ikea for wrap-around soft light

In the professional video world there exists a type of light called the “China Ball”. Inspired by the round paper lanterns of China, these cast a omni-directional light that is super soft, very flattering and somewhat mimic the look of a professional soft-box except they throw the light everywhere – not in just one direction. The lighting is not inspiring from an artistic cinemagraphic point of view, but the lights look nice in the home or office. The lanterns are intended to be hung from the ceiling pendant-style and can be found at Ikea and import stores for around $5. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70103410/ These are just the lanterns. You will also need a light kit that includes socket, cord and built-in switch. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70103410/

Ikea has many stylish lighting options that mimic the china ball for under $20
Floor: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/living_room/10731/?priceFilter=true&minprice=7&maxprice=20
This model allows for both bounce and direct lighting in one. It is a torchiere with a side light mounted on a gooseneck that can be pointed where you like.
Table:
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70096377/
and
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40172462/

 

Quality video streaming also requires a good network, fast internet and a computer that isn’t running at a crawl. For more tips on improving your video chats, check out the post: Improving Your Google Hangout Experience.

Do you have some tips you would like to share? You can show your stuff and help others by adding your ideas to the comment stream below.

Improving your Google Hangout Experience.

GoogleHOABadgeThe rising star in online networking is the Google Plus Hangout On Air, or HOA for short. This medium mixes the experiences of video conferenceing, webinars, screen sharing and chat all in one easy-to-use package. The affordable (can you say free?) tool also comes with the added benefit of increasing your SEO, your personal brand and the leverage of your YouTube channel.

If you are not using HOAs now, I urge you to look into them. Here are a couple of resources I highly recommend to get you on the right track towards understanding the benefits.

Entrepreneur and Social Media coach; Sandra Watson over at EasyFYINow.com provides valuable direction for those new to any social media platform.

Carol Dodsley has a G+ mastery course for those who want to dig deeper into the G+ community. She also hosts several weekly shows on G+ that cover a range of topics. You can find one of Carol’s posts espousing the virtues of G+ HOAs here. 

NewRay.com has a great post that makes a great business case for the use of HOAs

Regardless of the platform, a good video conferencing experience requires some attention to detail to avoid bugs and other road-blocks. 

Having troubles with your video dropping out during an HOA?  Not getting clear video into your stream? Here’s a few things to do before you start your broadcast:

Attach to your network via Ethernet cable and turn off wireless at your computer.  Unless you are running the new experimental gigabit wireless, your Ethernet is likely to be much faster and less problematic.

Turn off all devices on your network that do not need to remain on during the broadcast.  When devices are on , they are routinely sending various signals across the network, potentially creating congestion. This network traffic then get’s “heard” by your computer causing it to take processing cycles to evaluate the traffic and determine if it is something it needs to pay attention to. Quieting things down on your network will help your computer focus it’s attention on your feed.

Speaking of quieting… Network and modem cables should never be running parallel and close to a power cord.  Power cords emit a small amount of radio frequency interference (RFI) that is picked up by your network cables. This causes glitches that will effect data transfer rates ( slows your network down). It’s nearly impossible to route these completely separated as often they at least need to cross over each other to get to where they need to go – in this case, do your best to cross them perpendicular so they look like a plus (+) sign.

Same goes for USB and Microphone cables too. Keep them away from power cords when possible for all the same reasons.

Use the chrome browser when possible. It’s developed by Google and will likely be the most stable for the hangout plugin.

Speaking of plugins, they suck.  Memory and resources I mean. 🙂 They consume ram, processor resources and are constantly pinging the network.  Turn off any plugins, search bars,  and extensions you don’t need for the broadcast.

Close any browser tabs you don’t need open. One tab can consume between 50 and 300MB of addition memory, depending on what is loaded into that tab. Also, tabs that are open could be sending traffic across your network. Shhhhh…. a quiet network is a happy and speedy network.

Turn off ALL other applications – including browsers – you don’t need during the broadcast. Not only are they slowing down your computer, they are likely using your network. Email apps are always looking for new email. You don’t want to be downloading 25MB of attachments while you are trying to stream 3MB per second of HOA video.

If you are running windows, you can temporarily turn of automatic updates to prevent activity during your HOA. Just remember to turn it back on later.

Run a valid copy of a good anti-virus and anti-malware application and keep it current and up to date. An infected machine = a slow machine.

If all of this is not enough to get things looking good then:

In dire conditions where you have done all of the above and are still having video drop-outs, uninstall any applications that you don’t use on your computer. Many of these applications monitor your network to talk to the devices you just shut off. Printer utilities are a big resource sucker and can often be uninstalled. Do you really need some bit of software to nag you when you are low on paper or ink?  Some of your installed applications will also check the internet every few minutes to see if there are updates available that need to be installed – thus slowing your network.

On windows machines: turn off file indexing. This “feature” does make it faster to find files on your machine, but it is also doing a great deal of disk reads and writes, perhaps during your broadcast.

Whew! Sounds like a lot to do, but it’s not really all that much.  Once you have cleaned your machine of any malware and removed old applications you don’t need, and moved your cables the tedious work is done.  When you are ready to do an HOA the easy thing is to reboot. This will close any applications you have running. When the computer comes back up and you login, open just Chrome, launch one tab to G+ and you should be on your way to a great HOA experience!

Don’t discount the benefits of a good mic, and adequate lighting. For more on that, have a look at the post: Easy and Inexpensive Tips for Better Video Meetings

Looking for more LEADS through Social Media? This is a great place to start!

For my very first Google+ hangout I spoke on the panel as a Social Media expert for an HOA (Hangeout on Air) for SMGDenver and I had a blast! Lots of great information was shared. If you are looking to generate leads through social media, or looking to create an online business community with your existing social media platforms, this video is a great place to start.

 

Happy to answer any questions, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Lomography Introduces an Experimental Lens Kit for Digital Cameras

Lomography lenses for 2/3 format digital camerasFor the first time, Lomography has introduced a line of lenses in 3 focal lengths for Micro 4/3 digital format.
In true Lomography fashion, these lenses include fixed aperture: f/8  with two shutter speeds: 1/100sec and bulb. If you choose to use your camera’s shutter, leave the lens open on bulb and fire away.

Double exposures are possible with the Lomography 4/3 lens kit

 

Since these lenses incorporate their own shutters, double exposures are a simple matter of leaving your camera’s shutter on bulb and using the Lomo lens’ built in shutter.

 

 

The lenses include gel filters, and the kit includes focal lengths of 24mm, 12mm, and 160 degree fish eye and lists on Lomography’s site for $89.99 US.

Now if I can just get my hands on a Micro 4/3 body…

 

The Pinhole Camera: A Simple Revelation

“Who would believe that so small a space could contain the image of all the universe?”

Thus spoke Leonardo Da Vinci as he waxed poetic on the mysteries and wonders of the human eye. He could have just as easily, though, been describing the mysteries and wonders of the camera obscura and its successor, the Pinhole Camera.

The methodology of pinhole optics was first recorded back in the 5th century B.C. when the Chinese philosopher Mo Tsu noticed that images appeared inverted when projected through a small hole or ‘pinhole’ in a darkened room. He later referred to this as a “collecting plate” or “locked treasure room”.

JodyAkers_Pinhole2

—Photo courtesy of Jody Akers

A century later, Aristotle noted that “sunlight traveling through small openings between the leaves of a tree, the holes of a sieve, the openings of wickerwork, and even interlaced fingers, will create circular patches of light on the ground.” (It is not known whether the great philosopher pursued the idea much beyond this observation.)

It was during Leonardo’s study of perspective in the 16th century, that the first technical description of pinhole projection appeared in his collection of notebooks, the Codex Atlanticus:

“When the images of illuminated objects pass through a small round hole into a very dark room…you will see on paper all those objects in their natural shapes and colors…Here the figures, here the colors, here all the images of every part of the universe are contracted to a point. O what a point is so marvelous!”

Translated from its original latin, camera for “room”, obscura for “dark”; the camera obscura can be any sealed, lightfast enclosure with a hole to admit ambient light, and an opposing inner surface to reflect and view the projected image. To a more or less degree, every illuminated object reflects light. The pinhole allows this reflected light to pass through the small opening (relative to the enclosure’s size) and project a perfectly linear, distortion free, albeit inverted, reflection of the subject.

—Photo courtesy of Jody Akers

—Photo courtesy of Jody Akers

Later refinements saw the addition of lenses and mirrors within the enclosure to ‘right’ the upside-down image—photographic principles that are still in use today.

A pinhole camera can be almost any size and constructed out of virtually anything in which you can place emulsion in and poke a [pin]hole. Egg shells, peanut shells, hollowed out peanuts, soup cans, spam cans, oatmeal boxes, old Macs, old cameras; the list goes on…

Justin Quinnell, a photographer in Great Britain, has devised a pinhole camera for your mouth. He’s dubbed it the “Smileycam”. And then there’s also the garbageman from Germany who’s turning dumpsters into pinhole cameras. What does he call it? The “Trashcam”, of course.

Photographer Jody Akers converted this old Speedgraphic into a Pinhole camera. Note the Grateful Dead patch "shutter".

Photographer Jody Akers converted this old Speed Graphic into a Pinhole camera. Note the Grateful Dead patch “shutter”. — Photo by Greg Osborne

A popular small-form pinhole is this 35mm film canister method.

The largest camera obscura in the world—the Camera Obscura in Aberystwyth, Wales, boasts a fourteen inch lens and reflects a 360 degree sweep of the surrounding sea and landscape. Yes, you can literally stand inside the camera/building!

Aside from the mere entertainment value of the camera obscura, some of the Renaissance and Dutch masters were reputed to have used this device in the creation of some of their most celebrated works, allowing them to achieve near photo-realistic, distortion-free perspective in the layout and composition of their paintings.

The transformation of the camera obscura from a viewing and drawing tool, to a true recording device, happened in 1850 when Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster took the first known pinhole photograph. He is also believed to have coined the term “pin-hole” in his 1856 book, The Stereoscope.

—Photo courtesy of John Harris

—Photo courtesy of John Harris

With the addition of the film component, the pinhole camera was born.

Today, pinhole art is considered a legitimate sub-genré of photography. In addition to its place in art, pinhole cameras have proven their value to the hard sciences through their use in space flight and for high energy photography in the nuclear industry’s laser plasma research.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the pinhole is the absence of a “proper” lens. With only the atmosphere separating emulsion and subject, the camera’s depth of field is nearly infinite, wide angle images appear almost distortion-free.

Sounds simple enough, but the Pinhole is hardly without its quirks. Since the device operates without a viewfinder, framing ones subject can be a hit or miss proposition. Once, however, the photographer gains familiarity with his/her chosen camera, they will gain a feel for position and placement.

—Photo courtesy of John Harris

—Photo courtesy of John Harris

This placement, along with timing and exposure, relies heavily on the artist’s intuition and expertise. “Shutter” operation is a manual proposition, to say the least. Methods run the gamut, from electricians tape to, in the case of photographer Jody Aker’s modified Speed Graphic—a velcroed-on Grateful Dead patch.

Despite what some would call “limitations”, many accomplished fine art photographers revere this simplistic approach to their craft for the stripping away of technology that, may or may not, help in the creation of photographic art.

Twenty years ago, noted Colorado lensman, David Sharpe, felt “boxed in” by the sometimes tedious nature of traditional photography. He liked the way the Pinhole allowed for a more poetic interpretation of his subject matter—without the often cloying technology that had come to define modern photography. Hooked for good, Sharpe embraced the pinhole aesthetic and never looked back.

Although he agrees that the pinhole leaves a lot to chance, Sharpe actually likes not having to look through the viewfinder, relying instead on the intuitive feel that the pinhole requires of its adherents. “I love the alternative approach; the softer, not as ‘dead-on’ nature of this medium.”, David observes.

"Waterthread 24" by David Sharpe

“Waterthread 24” by David Sharpe

Sharpe’s platform of choice is the “small-form” film canister pinhole. Typically, he will bring 16 to 19 of these set-ups on photo excursions. Experimenting with different focal lengths and short exposure times, David has achieved amazing results with what he calls his “pinhole instamatics”.

Often, an artist will, at some point in their career, decide if they are photographing for the image or for the process. Many artists will agree that the process IS the art, or at least as important as the final image itself. The beauty of the pinhole camera, is that it lends itself so well to this creative process by almost forcing one to engage the subconscious creative power that technology often subverts.

The pinhole camera doesn’t overwhelm or try to ‘lead’ the artist with endless technology-driven choices. It is a collaborator that, by way of an almost misleading simplicity, works with the artist to reveal the art within.

"Waterthread 1" by David Sharpe

“Waterthread 1” by David Sharpe

Sound intriguing?

Get Pinholed!

You don’t have to be a professional artist-type to enjoy the existential rewards of Pinhole Photography

April 28th is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. To celebrate, we have made this week’s Facebook Photo Theme, drumroll please… “Pinhole” Drop by our Facebook Page and show us your stuff.

Giclee Fine Art Printing – Getting a Great Print Part 1 – Photography of Artwork

A Pigment print is a bit more than just an inkjet print. So what makes it fine art worthy? To qualify, the print must be achieved using archival grade pigmented inks on archival grade fine-art paper or canvas. While we love the look of the watercolor papers and canvas papers we don’t suggest using Giclee “photo papers”. For aesthetic reasons, we recommend that the artist get a fine art photographic print for that. But the quality of the fine art pigment print is not limited to the inks and papers you use. There is quite a bit more that goes into the craftsmanship than just the print alone.

There is a great many details that should be tended to, but the major areas can be broken down like this:

Photography of your artwork
Working the file before testing
Generating a worthy test print
Working the file again to refine the proof
Printing the final units or series

Each of these is important to understand so they may become an effective part of your workflow. Since there is a great deal of information to pass along,  I’ll split the content into a multi-part series.

Photography of art work

Every step in the production chain of your fine art edition is critical, but some steps, if improperly done, can be disastrous to the final viewer experience. The first step, photography of your artwork, is an excellent example. This step is the largest determining factor to the faithful reproduction of your original art. To create a great pigment print, the photography of the artwork should be:

  • Focused properly using high-end lenses
  • shot using a strudy tripod in a vibration free environment
  • photographed using the sweet-spot of the lens
  • in some cases, polarized light and or special lens filters may be required
  • exposed correctly with a critical attention to detail
  • evenly lit using the proper lights
  • correctly white balanced
  • shot in the proper file format and with sufficient resolution
  • shot in a colorspace that is large enough to capture the full range of the painting and supports the full range of the Pigment print

The right glass

Shooting with inferior lenses may result in various distortions, such as smearing around the edges, chromatic aberrations – where some colors focus differently than others, barrel or pin-cushion distortion, lens flares and overall lack of saturation and/or contrast.  Shooting with prime lenses and pro-level equipment will provide the highest possible image integrity and result in a file that achieves the closest honesty to the original.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Lens6a.svg/200px-Lens6a.svg.png

Chromatic aberrations of cheaper lenses result in out of focus images with color fringing.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/91/Apochromat.svg/200px-Apochromat.svg.png

Proper apo-chromatic focus results in all wavelengths (colors) focusing on the same plane for maximum sharpness and detail.

 

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Chromatic_aberration_%28comparison%29.jpg

Bottom photo clearly shows effect of apo-chromatic aberrations.

Distortions, or bending of the image are another issue with lesser quality lenses with “pincushion” and “barrel” being the most common. Pincushion distortion has the effect of the center of the image being further away than the edges while barrel distortion is just the opposite. With barrel distortion, the center of the image appears closer to the viewer than the edges.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5b/Pincushion_distortion.svg/200px-Pincushion_distortion.svg.png

Pincushion distortion created converging lines towards the center of the image

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/63/Barrel_distortion.svg/200px-Barrel_distortion.svg.png

Barrel distortion creates diverging line near the center of the image

 

A quality image capture is not dependent exclusively on a good camera/lens combination.

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art, and they are expensive.

All elements in the photographic process are important. For example: how the camera and art work are handled during the exposure process will add a measurable difference to the final product.

A good solid vibration free tripod is a must-have if you are serious about photographing your own work.  Any vibration in the camera or the original artwork during exposure will result in “motion-blur” that will visibly carry over to your reproduction prints. While lesser tripods may be appealing just because of their price, they are susceptible to vibration, “ringing”, sagging and slipping during exposure. Think of it this way, if cheapo gear would lead to professional results, then why would there be a need for “pro” gear, and why would the pros invest the top grade gear?

If you want to get the best looking print, and your are committed to doing your own photography of your art do yourself and your art buyers a big favor and use the gear that will get you fine art quality instead of drugstore quality.

A stable support for your artwork is equally important. Any movement in your art during exposure will result in motion blur issues that will leave the image looking out of focus or double-exposed. While it may be tempting to take your art outdoors for the photo session, keep in mind that your painting is much like a sail in the wind. The slightest breeze will result in movement in the artwork. Heavier breezes or gusts may damage your art. And shooting with only one light-source, such as the sun, does not provide even lighting across the entire painting. I know this sounds crazy, but it has to do with what is called “angle of reflection” This is basically a measurement of the angle the light-path takes as it reflects away from the subject towards the viewer or camera and it is always equal to the angle of incidence (the angle the light path takes to get to the subject).

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it's source.

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it’s source.

Light falling on your canvas is more likely to scatter in a direction away from the light source. So let’s take the example to the right. The light source, in this case the sun, is to the left of the painting and the camera is directly in front of it. As we move across the canvas from left to right, we have less light reflecting in the direction of the camera lens. This results in the right side appearing darker than the left. This is called “fall-off”. Our eyes and brains adjust for fall-off for us, so we tend not to see it with the naked eye. While much of the light will “scatter” off in multitudes of directions, it is not enough to eliminate fall-off.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting indoors gives you the greatest control over your environment for lighting and stability. When possible, setup your tripod on a concrete floor. Wood floors have flex and tend to amplify vibrations like a spring-board. If you must setup on a wooden floor, try to locate the load bearing supports under the floor and set your tripod in that area to minimize vibration. The farther you are away from the supports, the more amplified the vibrations.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series on Proper Lighting and Exposure. You can subscribe to our newsletter or via RSS to be notified automatically.

 

 

 

 

Beautify Your Photographs While Making a Great First Impression

We were recently introduced to a new type of laminate for photographs, ink jet and poster prints we call “Crystal” for its faceted like surface. This is very different than a normal gloss or lustre coating. Being 5 ML thick with full UV protection, this laminate is extremely durable. We put it to the test for over 2 months and found it to be one of the toughest cold mount poly laminates we have seen. Our test clients loved it immediately and all but demanded we add it to our lineup of products. No doubt about it, the blacks are much richer, colors have more pop and the image has more depth and clarity. We first started offering this product strictly on our Gallery Mounts because it is tough enough to go through our edging machine and not show any scuffs or damage.

Now, we have make it available for any print mounted to any type of substrate. Fine art prints from wildlife and scenic’s to abstracts and commercial prints never looked richer or have had better protection. Check out our samples at the lab or if you are out of town just call us to have one sent out to you. My personal recommendation for an incredible eye catching, heart stopping, WOW kind of print is to put this laminate on Kodak Metallic paper. Although it also looks great on Fuji Crystal Archive C print paper and Fuji Flex, the Metallic is killer.

How to Get Great Color, Save Profits, and Never Have to Work Color or Density in Photoshop or Lightroom. Part 1

I’m going to fill you in on the secrets of how to get great color, save your
profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. All without
the use of ICC profiles, confusing work-flows or batch conversions.
If you understood the above and it applies to you, chances are you are a
professional photographer. Professional print quality is much easier to achieve
than most photographers are aware.

Getting there requires Five crucial elements. With these five in place, you can go
directly from camera to print and get excellent results.

Yes, that’s right, higher profits and more free time with:
No Photoshop work.
No profiling magic.
No bag of tricks or fairy dust.

Rule #1 – If you have to adjust the density of your files, your metering is inaccurate.
You may find this hard to believe, but truly consistent spot-on exposures rarely come
from TTL metering. I know that’s tough to swallow, but reflective metering is just too fallible.

Don’t believe me? Here is a simple test to see if this rule applies to you.
1. Take a look at the average corrections you are making on your files in
Photoshop or Lightroom.
2. Jot down the number of exposure corrections you make in a work week.
3. If the answer is any higher than zero, guess what, I’m right – your TTL has failed you. So how do we correct this?
Get a GOOD new or used hand held incident flash meter, and calibrate it to your
camera using Will Crockett’s “Face mask Histogram Technique” copy and paste
the following web address into your browser: Go to
http://www.shootsmarter.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=116&acat=16
Keep in mind that digital cameras have only 1/8th stop of exposure latitude. If you
have an incident meter, compare it against Will’s meter reviews and see how it rates. Some
well known meters are unprofessionally inconsistent . Up to a horrible deviation of +- 1/3 stop from reading to reading. This is definitely outside of the acceptable range for a professional photographer and enough to put you back in an editing app to tweak density.

After you have calibrated your meter to your camera using the Face Mask Histogram, you have completed the first of a few simple steps towards a more efficient and predictable workflow. Take some test shots this week and fine tune your exposure calibrations to ensure you are keeping your highlight detail while maintaining good shadow detail.
Next time:
Part 2.

How to get Great Color, Save Your Profits, and Never Have to Work Color or Density in Photoshop. Part 2

My last blog post discussed the weakness of TTL metering and the need for spot on exposure to avoid working your files in photoshop. Thus saving money and time which should result in a more profitable business.

Rule #2 – If you don’t have proper white balance, you don’t have correct color.
This seems like a real “DUH!” statement, but it is astonishing how many pro’s still don’t grasp the importance of this.
Using auto white balance in a high-end professional workflow is a bad idea? Auto WB works if you have absolute
neutrals in your image, and even then it can be fooled by bright or near neutral tones in your subjects. If you are not getting consistent skin tones from sitting to sitting, or indoor to outdoor it’s time to adopt custom WB in your capture work-flow. And you wouldn’t dream of passing these auto white balance inconsistencies on to your final client prints – right?
The brief amount of time it takes to get an accurate custom white balance by using an accurate target can, and likely will, save your studio hours of Photoshop time.
And I am sure you know that in a pro studio:
Hours = (Profit – Dollars + extra time you could be getting more business).
And if you are paying staff to deal with exposure and white balance issues, don’t forget to add in payroll taxes and benefits to that equation. With accurate white balance control, you will NOT need to adjust the color of your files. Assuming of course that your camera is in a good state of repair. It is rare that the preset white balances on your camera will be accurate enough for professional standards.

To get an accurate WB, you need an accurate target.
If you are using a Kodak Grey card or one of those black/white/gray targets or a plastic over-the-lens diffuser, I would invite you to upgrade to something more accurate. If quality and/or profit margin are your #1 concerns; above all else get the most accurate WB target available. The Balance Smarter from the smart folks at BalanceSmarter.com.
Your color is only as good as the WB target you use. If you skimp here, you’ll pay the price later in additional work or reprints. Is it worth the risk?. After spending thousands on education, good gear and marketing to get business, seems a shame to put the investment and your reputation all on the line using a cheapo calibration target or tool.

If you are still tempted to take shortcuts during the shoot, every time you have the thought ” I’ll just fix it in Photoshop later”, say to yourself instead:
” I’ll just spend the time and money to fix it in Photoshop later”
Be Honest, isn’t the latter REALLY what you would be doing?

Next week:
Rule #3 – Using the right colorspace = great prints!