Yes, I use Photoshop

20151012-AFP_2794

I saw a lovely landscape photograph yesterday, which the photographer had felt the need to note that he had made with sunlight and not photoshop and asked that we support real photography, whatever that is. The comment was not necessary and the picture spoke for itself (or should have).

I always wonder why it’s those photographers who don’t use (or say they don’t use) editing software that feel they have to mention this. The careful use of editing software is a whole other skillset that enhances a photographer’s ability to either realise his or her vision or to meet a client’s requirements. Since I have invested time, effort and resources into learning these skills (with still a huge amount to learn) I’m certainly not going to throw it away by insisting everything is done “in camera”. Besides, if you insist on this you are entrusting your vision to the the camera, the technology (and limitations) of the sensor and the sensilbilities of those that design the software that converts the raw image data to the picture you download from the card.

As a minimum I make corrections for the lens used, correct colour balance, adjust sharpness to suit the subject and proposed use of the photograph and add global or local adjustments to contrast and clarity. If necessary I will adjust vibrance and saturation although, as often as not, I reduce saturation rather than enhance it.

AFP_2794
For personal work, such as landscapes or natural history photography, I rarely remove things, have never added anything and never changed a sky. I am, however, happy to make tonal and other adjustments to fit the mood I experienced at the time of taking the photograph.

20140115-AFD_4912
For client shots the sky is the limit – I have a brief to fulfil and will use any means necessary to make the right image, short of CGI and digital art. In these cases I am happy to blend photographic elements, remove objects that I have used to support a set-up and add or remove background effects or unwanted features. Circumstance often makes such adjustments necessary and, if I didn’t have the skillset to make such adjustments, I’d be selling my client short.

AFD_4912

Posted in Automotive, Commercial Photography, Jewellery, Lightroom, Motorbikes, Photography, Photoshop Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

How do you rate your profile picture?

 

 

Hospice-11

Mr Dennis Gallagher. Chairman, Kilbride Hospice

AFD_4842

Emma Craig. The Kilbryde Hospice

Eilidh Face

Eilidh Duff. My daughter and part-time model.

You’re a professional, right? You want to show people who you are, what you’re capable of, what you look like and, maybe, reveal a little bit of your personality. You can obviously do this through an elevator pitch or in your LinkedIn profile, but you have to ask; unless someone is really interested, are they going to read that profile unless there’s a hook?

That initial hook, that visual clue that might just provide that flicker of interest, is your profile picture. So why do people post fuzzy selfies, distant silhouettes on mountain tops, blurred party shots showing the dreaded red-eye or, dare I ask, apparently random avatars (I’ve been guilty of that one myself)? Actually, this is partly a rhetorical question as I’ve heard many of the answers before; “it doesn’t matter”, “a pro-photograph is expensive”, “I don’t photograph well”,  “this one will do”, “I don’t know what I want” or “I don’t have the time”. Well, I’m here to put the lie to all of those answers.

Firstly, as I mentioned at the start, the profile photograph does matter; it is the first impression of you that a new contact gets if that contact comes via social media, and we all know how important social media is for marketing and developing networks these days. The photograph, at a basic level, makes it easy for people to recognise you, either at that first coffee-shop meeting or at a conference or workshop.   It can also provide very distinct clues to your demeanour and personality and you want to make sure that that message is accurate and positive.

As an aside, if you want to see the damage that a “bad” image can do, check out the story of the iconic photograph of Alfred Krupp, by Arnold Newman, although this one was made deliberately bad by the photographer. I promise I wouldn’t do that to you!

20150224-20150224-AFD_5114

Publicity portrait of DJ Jerzyk

Sure, pro-photography is more expensive than the holiday picture or selfie, but it is probably much less expensive than you think and you are guaranteed of getting good results from a good pro-photographer. Also, the benefits of “bulk-buying” are enormous; the more staff to be photographed the less time the photographer will have to spend on taking the photographs compared to setting up the ‘shoot. Ask for a quote – I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the cost, considering what you pay for other marketing activities, of obtaining a high quality digital image that can be used on all forms of digital or printed media.

20131214-AFD_4878

Caroline Brown. Fitness and Lifestyle Coach, C & Believe Fitness

If I had a penny for everyone that has said to me that they don’t photograph well…………………………… !  This seems to be less prevalent with the selfie generation but still happens from time to time. However, a good photographer should be able to put you at your ease and know how to get that image that you would be happy with and that conveys the message you want to put across. They should also be able to guide you, with examples,  towards the sort of photograph you want; formal, semi-formal, environmental, journalistic, situational etc. It is your choice at the end of the day but the photographer should help you develop the ideas and make sure that they are made into a fully rounded portrait that meets your expectations. This is the added benefit that a good photographer brings to project – it is their creative talent as well as the technical skill and goes far beyond the push of a shutter button.

20090201-Lesley015Crop

Lesley McLellan, Flautist

Given all the above I often wonder why people can afford not to have the time to have a decent photograph taken! Taking a good portrait doesn’t take long and can be organised at a time to suit you at your place of work, at another location of your choosing or in a studio. Also, as said above, it is surprising how quickly members of staff can be photographed; either in a group or as individuals. These benefits of digital photography are in the interest of both the client and photographer – time is precious to both and both have a living to make.

Now, having got to the end of this blog, can I ask you a favour?

Have a look at your profile image and ask yourself; does it fulfil the requirements set out at the top of the blog and are you entirely happy with it?

 

If the answer is yes then please accept my thanks for taking the time to read my blog and I wish you every success for the future.

The same sentiment goes to those who have honestly answered no to the question. However,  please think further about what I have said and, if it makes sense, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to discuss the option of a professional shoot and to see if it might suit your requirements.

All the best

Fraser

AFD_0340

Little Old Me

Posted in Commercial Photography, Portrait photography

Canon 17mm F4L TS-E Lens

I had a brief opportunity to test the Canon 17mm tilt/shift lens yesterday afternoon and, in poor weather, opted to visit the Glasgow University cloisters to carry out a “real-life” trial.

The cloisters offer an enclosed space out of the rain, which protects the large front lens element, and a beautiful grid of columns  and paving to check out the distortion and edge-to-edge sharpness of the lens. The lens was trialled on a Canon EOS  5D MkIII at 100 Iso and at apertures of f8, f16 and f22 (continued below).

Canon EOS 5DMkIII & 17mm f4L TS-E Lens. f16, ISO100

Canon EOS 5DMkIII & 17mm f4L TS-E Lens. f16, ISO100

The first thing to notice (apart from the weight of the lens and the size of the front element) is that this lens really slows you down. As well as having to get the framing spot on, the lens has two axial adjustments; the front half of the lens, which includes the tilt mechanism, rotates through 90 degrees, so that the tilt can be adjusted horizontally or vertically (and anywhere in between). Similarly, the rear part of the lens , which includes the shift mechanism, also rotates through 90 degrees so that the shift can be adjusted both horizontally and vertically. It’s not rocket science but when you set the camera and lens up, properly framed, you then have to work out how both sections of the lens should be rotated to ensure you get the tilt and shift adjustments you have in mind. You also have to bear in mind that the initial framing should allow for any T/S adjustments you are going to make. All of this means a littler bit of trial and error, although I suspect the more you use the lens the easier and more intuitive this becomes. I certainly hope so, because the lens could otherwise become a bit of a mixed blessing in rapidly changing light.

Put simply, the shift mechanism slide the lens on the shift axis whilst keeping the plane of focus parallel to the sensor. This works by unlocking the mechanism and turning a small knurled wheel on the side of the lens to shift the lens. This effectively moves the image up and down or side-to-side on the sensor and allows the photographer to, for instance, keep the camera horizontal to ensure straight verticals but include higher parts of a building. In this example you would lose some of the foreground (the field of view remains unchanged). The shift would also allow the photographer to get parts of a subject in where tight space would normally restrict access to raise the camera or move it from side to side. All in all a fairly simple concept that works really well and is very intuitive.

The tilt mechanism is equally simple to operate and seems fairly straight-forward in concept too. A second adjustment wheel on the lens barrel tilts the front element of the lens, tilting the view along the plane of adjustment. As an example, in the building example given above, if you had to tilt the camera to include the top of a building, you can use the lens tilt mechanism to adjust the converging verticals back to parallel . However, the mechanism tilts the plane of focus away from the plane of the sensor and, because of this, focussing becomes very critical and it is important that all four corners of an image are checked for sharpness before packing up and going home. Clearly, with a 17mm lens at f16, the hyperfocal distance generally compensates for any focussing shortfall, but I find it’s always best to be sure.

The tilt mechanism can also be utilised to extend the depth of field. For example,  by tilting the lens downwards in landscape photography the plane of focus becomes closer to the plane of the ground and, by setting the hyperfocal distance of the lens, the photographer can achieve in the order of 35cm to infinity in focus at f16. It can also be used to narrow the depth of field; by tilting the lens to its maximum and opening the aperture up you can achieve, for example, that “toy-town” effect so often seen on the internet these days.

In use the lens shows minimal distortion (I can’t really detect any distortion in the photographs taken yesterday, although you may be able to pick a little up on a chart). Central sharpness is exceptional at f8 although there is some drop off at the edges. At f16 the lens is probably a touch softer at the centre but is much more consistent across the frame, whereas at f22 diffraction begins to rear its ugly head and starts to soften the image.

Vignetting is well controlled as is chromatic aberration, with only a little of the latter visible at bright/dark edges at f16. This is very easily corrected in post processing.

So, this specialist lens is optically superb and has many uses. Even though it is slow to use, many people would argue that that’s probably a good thing. Just be aware of the potential limitations in rapidly changing light; have the camera set up and the view framed before the anticipated and spectacular sunset begins!

As for me, I’d love one and this is another lens to add to the “wanted list”.

Posted in Uncategorized

Of Harsh Light, Deep Shadows and Limited Time

I was lucky enough to visit Aberdeen last weekend on business and had a bit of time on the Friday afternoon for photography along the coastline to the south of Stonehaven. It was one of those glorious winter afternoons that was cold, crisp and clear-as-a-bell. A lovely day to be out but a frustrating one for photography.

The weather was not too much of a burden at my first stop off at Johnshaven; a lovely little fishing village that clearly majors on lobster and crab fishing, judging by the number of lobster pots  stacked around the compact and picturesque harbour. Both the setting and the weather allowed me to make some postcard style images. nothing atmospheric but pretty enough with the right composition.

Aberdeen (1 of 4)

Aberdeen (2 of 4)

The second stop, at a place called Crawton, was more of an issue. The sun was dropping now and this caused deep shadows that sliced across the waterfall that plunges over the conglomerate cliffs here. I took the photos but there was nothing to be done other than plan a visit either at dawn or on a cloudy day. I did manage one image here; looking through a (probable) window hole in the remaining gable of an old cottage to the cliffs across the bay. Maybe a bit of a marmite image, but I like it.

Aberdeen (3 of 4)

My final stop was at Dunottar Castle, which must be one of the most photographed locations in the UK. The castle is in a truly spectacular setting on a promontory on the coast at the end of a deep gorge that runs out to the shore. The spectacle makes it very difficult (impossible?) to find an original viewpoint and I’m sure future archaeologists will be able to pinpoint the viewpoints by the identification of tripod  footholes at various locations around the castle. This factor, the harsh light, deep shadows and approaching sunset made for a bit of a mad-scramble to find something that worked. I think I succeeded, but, again, this is a location I must return to when I have more time to scope out the location and plan the shot.

 

Aberdeen (4 of 4)

Until next time.

Posted in Landscape, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Automotive Photography

Alfa Romeo 159 SportwagonI have to confess to being a bit of a petrolhead. I have had an interest in motorsport for many years and used to follow the Scottish Rally when it was in its heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s and it formed part of the World Rally Championship. Needless to say I started to photograph cars at that time, but in a sporting environment when they were on the move and creating a sense of action and movement was the main aim. Times change and, as I have a background in construction, the design and form of cars took on their own values for me and I became fascinated with the challenge a car design team has – to create a visually desirable object that has function and reliability as essential properties.

This fascination made me start to look at cars in a different way, particularly in exploring the thought that goes into achieving  the aesthetic aims of the designer while working round the restrictions of the aerodynamics, mechanics and ergonomics.  To create a beautiful object in these circumstances is a huge ask and, I suspect, hugely complex these days given the variety of shapes on the road that use swage lines and curved panels to capture and reflect light in a way that enhances the visual impact of the car. Creating an image that captures these nuances and sells the brand is both technically and aesthetically challenging. It’s also too easy to end up with a photographic cliché given the number of automotive images there are around these days.

Assuming you are not working to a strict brief and the photograph is to be taken outside you need to think about what you want to achieve with the photograph. Firstly determine what angle you think best conveys the visual impact of the car and is most likely to render the curves and swage lines effectively. Take care when doing this as using the light to pick these details out will also show up any flaws in the metalwork or paintwork. Some of these will be correctable in photoshop but it is always best to avoid problems like this in the first place if it can be done.

Next you need to establish what kind of location you think best suits the car (obvious examples are city cars in an urban environment and 4×4’s in the country). Finding a location is the next step, which may take some research and time, making sure that you can access the site at the time of day that you intend to make the shoot . Remember when you are selecting a location to think about the weather you will be hoping for and the direction and nature of the light. Remember, also, that the timing of an outside shoot will be affected by the weather and that both you as photographer and the client need to be patient if you want the best from the shoot.

So, you’ve got the car, you’ve got you’re idea, you’ve sorted the location and the weather and light is all that you could wish for; what next? Have a good look round the car and make sure the wheels are pointing where you want them to be. Are the sunvisors up? Is there anything that could do with a bit of a clean (always take some cleaning equipment, including detailing fluid and glass cleaner)? Do you want the tax disc removed? Are there any stickers on the car? Is there any extraneous stuff around the site that will end up in frame? Are there any spurious reflections in the paintwork (including you and your camera) that shouldn’t be there? This last item is an easy one to miss and can be difficult to avoid. If it can’t be avoided do what you can to minimise the reflection so that it can be sorted in photoshop.

With regard to reflections, polarizing filters are essential, particularly if you want to see inside the car and reduce reflections on the glass and paintwork but, remember, they don’t work on metallic surfaces. Grad filters are also very useful, both for controlling the light and adding a bit of drama.

Photographing a car often results in a very contrasty image and the exposure range can exceed the latitude of the digital sensor in the camera, particularly if the headlights are on. To get round this it is necessary to ensure you take a number of images at different exposures to cover the full range from bright highlights to deep shadows. The photographs will be blended using HDR software or manually using layers in photoshop, so they have to register to the millimetre and a tripod is essential (this should go without saying for car photography). I have a preference for manual blending as it is more controllable and leads to more natural images. It is, however, more time consuming and requires more patience than HDR so might not suit you. HDR can also add drama if this fits with your vision – just be careful not to overcook the image though as there are few things uglier than an HDR image made with all the sliders turned to high.

Finally, quality is key. Do all you can to reduce noise and artifacts when recording and processing the image; don’t over-sharpen and don’t over-saturate. Do think about effects that might add to the final image (for example, a little vignette can go a long way) and do keep in mind what you set out to achieve at the very beginning of the idea. If you do all of these things you should be well on your way to making a memorable image of an impressive, thought provoking and controversial technological marvel.

So, there you are, a very brief overview of the thought process that I go through when making an image of a car. If photographing cars is of interest to you I  hope this blog helps in some small way.

Fraser

 

Posted in Automotive, Commercial Photography Tagged , , , , |

Welcome to Alexander Fraser Photography

Versatile and hard working – that’s me!

Well, here we go. After some time in the planning welcome to my new website and my new photography business, Alexander Fraser Photography.

The business has been set up to make use of the 30+years experience I have in photography, photographing everything from mineral specimens and insects to buildings and landscapes and all subjects in between. You see, I graduated as a geologist in 1981 and took up photography to illustrate my thesis, which included geologically important landscapes as well as macro and micro photographs of mineral and rock specimens. It was a steep learning curve but both the aesthetic and scientific elements of photography hooked me and I was quickly taking photographs for personal satisfaction and to catalogue my own mineral and rock collection. My camera went everywhere with me and I would try my hand at anything, including portraiture, wildlife, sport and buildings.

It wasn’t long before I became the “official” photographer at family events and I covered weddings, on a casual basis, for some friends as the years went by. As far as commercial photography was concerned I was asked by some of my previous employers to provide photographs of staff members as well as construction projects, both in progress and on completion. I built up a pretty impressive portfolio in this way, photographing anything from the interiors of churches to huge cement silos that were used to load railway wagons. Unfortunately, those photographs are in the archives of my previous employers and my digital back-catalogue isn’t as extensive as I would like to start off the new business.

I now use high quality digital equipment and the speed and versatility of digital has opened up new avenues of creativity that simply weren’t available with film. I can also honestly say that with the best equipment the quality now also surpasses what could be achieved with 35 mm film stock and all available at a much reduced time scale and cost. Mastering digital imaging is about much more than pressing the shutter button, however, as a working knowledge of digital imaging software is also necessary to get the best out of a photograph, both in terms of quality and in realising the client’s requirements for creative vision. To that end I have spent many hours working on and learning Photoshop and Lightroom and recently completed a Photoshop course at the City of Glasgow College. I do all editing on a colour calibrated monitor, preferring to handle this work myself to ensure complete control of the creative process.

You can check out my more creative work at my personal website,  TwoPeople Photography. This contains mainly landscapes and wildlife images and it should give you an idea of my personal vision. I hope you like what you see at TwoPeople and on the Galleries on this website.

‘Til next time

Fraser

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |