[Clayart] Latest clay and photos - some photo suggestions

Gayle Bair gayle.claybair at gmail.com
Wed Oct 26 10:35:34 EDT 2016


Ok I might take some heat for this but that's ok.  
For a couple years now I've been using my iPhone to take photos and also using it to correct color, cropping etc. I see little difference (actually no difference) between them!

Sent from my iPhone

> On Oct 11, 2016, at 10:28 AM, Girrell, Bruce <bigirrell at microlinetc.com> wrote:
> 
> Deb,
> 
> I have been struggling with how to answer you regarding your photography.  Since critiques aren't much fun, I have been trying to think of the things in general that will help your pictures. But that sort of response takes a long time to write and quickly becomes rambling generalities. So, if you don't mind, I'll pick a couple of issues from your pictures to address to provide some focus to my comments, but I'll be trying to be positive and not critical. Sometimes text communications aren't too clear, especially in this sort of situation. 
> 
> White balance
> In your most recent set of images, you show some impressed shapes on clay disks, lying on paper towels. Yet the paper  towels, which we know should be white appear with a strong cyan cast. The reason is that there is a lot of blue light coming from the sky. Because the color white is not represented correctly, we can be assured that no other colors in the image are correct as well.
> 
> Your DSLR will have a white balance adjustment and should be able to make a white balance reading. For these photos, the white balance setting should have been on shade or, much better, you should have obtained a white balance reading. Auto white balance should have worked here so your camera was probably set to something else. The paper towels would make a perfect target for a measured white balance. Get the camera manual and practice making white balance adjustments. Any white object will work. Styrofoam cups are one of my favorites. Beware that some white papers have fluorescent dyes in them to make them look brighter, and using that kind of paper as a target will throw off the white balance some (but it will probably still be better than doing nothing at all). 
> 
> The downside to measuring white balance is that you have to do it for each situation. If you're taking formal shots of pottery, no problem. Take the readings once and the next hundred shots are all going to be the same. But if you're chasing after insects in the garden, it's hopeless, going from full sun to shade. But think about what's actually being captured by the camera. If you set up the camera to capture a scene and you set the white balance differently between each exposure, each photo will look different. But wait - the scene hasn't changed. The same colors are in front of the camera and are being projected on to the camera's image sensor, so the actual image data recorded by the camera should be exactly the same in each exposure. So why are the images different? And which one is right?
> 
> Well, the truth is that the image data captured by the camera _is_ exactly the same in each shot. The white balance is a processing that is applied to the raw image before the picture is saved as a JPEG. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just record one image from the camera and later on, after you decide which image you like the best, apply the appropriate white balance correction to that image?
> 
> Well, you can. Your DLSR should have an option to shoot RAW images. If that option is not on your camera, get a different camera. I'm not joking. Turn on the RAW image capture. By the way, RAW doesn't actually stand for anything, so I usually just write it as "raw", but you will see RAW very frequently. You will use up memory on your camera much more quickly, but the results are worth it and most memory cards these days are big enough to handle an extended photo session even when shooting raw. 
> 
> To take advantage of raw image data you will need an image processing program. I use Photoshop, but that's because I have been using Photoshop since Version 3. Photoshop has a steep learning curve and there are other programs these days that do all of the basics without a lot of complexity of Photoshop. If you don't already have a favorite, ask around. 
> 
> Since I already mentioned JPEG, I guess I should also say something about that. Assuming that you want to save your final image in JPEG format, _always_ save a copy at the lowest compression (largest file size) or save an uncompressed (TIFF or BMP) version. After saving that image, go ahead and set the final image size and the JPEG compression as desired. You'll always be able to go back to the large image if you want to make changes later on. If you will be submitting images for possible publication, for example if you submit an image to Ceramics Monthly, then you should consider starting to save your files in TIFF format and avoid JPEG altogether.
> 
> Backgrounds
> One of the best things you can do to improve photos is to start paying attention to the background. Eliminate as much distracting material from backgrounds as possible. Often a small change in camera position can move a distracting element out of frame or can hide a distraction behind something else. A road sign can sometimes be hidden behind a tree limb, for example. It is sometimes said that photos are improved by _removing_ objects from them.
> 
> In the photos of your boxes you shot toward a very bright background in several shots. When people look at a picture, their eyes are immediately attracted to the brightest portions of the image. By placing a bright background behind your pots, you immediately shift attention away from your pots. In addition, because the background is so bright, the exposure causes the pot to be dark, making it look less interesting and muting its colors and features. 
> 
> While your pictures were clearly meant to be quick "here's what I'm doing" shots, it is not good to practice bad habits. Even if the picture is for a quick Facebook post, think about what it is that you want to show with your picture and how best to do that. Consider the light and the background. Go ahead and take the snapshot that you normally would take, but after you do that, take a moment to look at the piece from different angles. Move it around a bit. Try different backgrounds or light. Usually you will find that one of the later shots will be significantly better than the first shot that you took. 
> 
> Moving around is especially important for scenery or other nature pictures. Once again, go ahead and take the picture that first grabbed your interest. Stand at the same spot that thousands of other tourists have stood at and take that same picture. Then - look to see what they missed. Maybe a dramatic juxtaposition or maybe a detail in what is normally an overwhelmingly large scene. Just spend a little time to take some shots that everyone else turned and walked away from. And when taking formal pottery pictures, think about finding the "face" of a chawan. Where is the face of your pot? Take lots of pictures. Turn it little by little/turn it lots. High/low angle. Near/far. Wide aperture/small aperture. Long focal length/short focal length. Digital is cheap. Keep taking pictures - and then look at them. Decide what you like and what you don't like and then try again.
> 
> Landscapes
> When you take a picture involving the horizon there are two rules: 1) Make sure that the horizon is level (more correctly, make sure that vertical is vertical) and 2) Decide whether you are taking a picture of the land with some sky or taking a picture of the sky with some land. I can't say never, but in the great majority of cases, you do not want the horizon in the center of the image. It creates a visual confusion and neither the sky nor the ground looks right.
> 
> Exposure
> Since I learned photography the old way (I would love to recommend Ansel Adams' series of books, but it's hard to apply directly to digital work), when I started using a digital camera, I tried to control it much as I would have controlled a film camera using a dance of aperture, shutter speed and film speed. But somehow the digital camera would always seem to pull a trick out of its bag and my exposure still wasn't what I wanted. What I have learned to do is let the auto exposure system do whatever it is going to do with a given scene and take a picture. Then I look at the picture (this is where digital really shines) and decide if I am clipping highlights or if the shadows are lacking detail. I then use the exposure adjustment correction to move the exposure the direction it needs to go. Sometimes to get all the detail you may need to take multiple exposures - and that's where HDR comes in. But that's another topic.
> 
> Hope that helps
> 
> Bruce Girrell
> 
> 
> 
> 



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