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Discussions in Photography


Food Photography From Snapshots To Great Shots

I’ve just finished Food Photography From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S Young. This is one of a number of books in the Peachpit Press Snapshots to Great Shots Series. These books are good for anyone with a minimum knowledge of photography wanting to expand their photography skills.
Food Photography starts out with a quick couse in camea and lens basics and explains the basics of exposure; iso, aperture, shutter speed, and white balance. Ms Young explains the equipment you need to start taking food photographs. The book is very thorough in it’s approach. Each chapter builds on the new information presented. There are many illustrations explaining each step of the process of shooting food. There is plenty of examples of how the shot was taken and how the lighting was set up. The explaination of lens and especially lens compression are worth the price of admission.

The book is well written and easy to follow. There is plenty of detail on each subject although I wish she had included the actual lens setting on the images shot with zoom lens. That and there is a lot of images of good looking food. You will get hungry reading this book. “Food Photography From Snapshots to Great Shots” is good place to get a solid foundation in learning about this special form of photography.


Clouds as Subject

I’ve been shooting clouds since I first switched to digital. I finally realized that I’ve been pretty much putting the cloud subject in the middle of the image. Now you don’t always get a chance to move the subject to a more balanced place.  This image takes a bit of a different direction with the cloud filling the lower third of the image.

Makes for an rather nice image.  You don’t always get a chance to isolate the image like this.


Portfolio Presentation

I’ve been thinking about how to best present a portfolio of your images. Once upon a time you would make prints of your best work put it in some sort of binder and present it to potential clients with the hope of someone purchasing your time or images. Today I think we have a multitude of options on putting together a portfolio presentation.

The iPad seems to me to be one of the best ways to show off you images.  The device size and resolution give your images a chance to shine.  Of course your not going to be leaving your iPad with a potential client so your images may only be held in the clients mind for so long.

Putting your images in a PDF file or some other document that you can email is one possibility another might be to make a movie of your images.  I’ve done a little experiment with loading a number of images into iMovie to make a movie you can host on your website, host on another website or even email to a client. This seems to be an interesting way to present your portfolio.  I’ve whipped up a quick “Epcot” portfolio as a test case to see what I can determine the best way to show images in movie format.

Epcot Portfolio from Jim Roberts on Vimeo.


After playing with the settings in iMovie I’ve come to a couple of thoughts on the way to present your images.

  • I would turn off any Ken Burns effects.  While they are super hip and such you’re presenting your images as a whole. You don’t need your viewer to miss the overall balance of the image. You went to all that trouble to get the rule of thirds right so you need to show a full image.
  • Make sure the images stay on screen long enough.  While the viewer can pause the movie at any point you still want the viewer to have time to view the image.
  • Make sure the images don’t stay on screen too long. Viewers get bored easily.
  • I would not suggest a narrative other than maybe at the beginning and end of the movie. If you have to say “this is a picture of a dog” you probably aren’t doing stuff right.
  • Movies are landscape mode.  Images you shot in portrait mode are going to take up less of the screen with white/black space on either side and be smaller.
  • I’m not sure at this point if adding music to the movie is a good or not.

These are just a few ideas about presenting your work as a movie. Of course the hard part is alway which images to include. Like everything else experiment with the format and make it your own.


The Digital Negative

I’ve just finished reading The Digital Negative by Jeff Schewe.  I first became aware of Jeff Schewe when I attended a one day digital photography   seminar put on by Epson.  It’s been a number of years now as I think I had just upgraded to a Nikon D100.  There were two sessions a basic session and an advanced session.  I attended the basic session with Vincent Versace. The advanced session which I probably should have gone to had Jeff Schewe as one of the presenters.

Anyway, seeing that it was an Epson seminar there was a gallery of very larger prints by the speakers and a few others.  One of the prints was an image of a old fashion gum ball machine mostly in black.  The print was exceptional.  I’ve subsequently had the pleasure of sitting in on a few of his sessions at PhotoshopWorld a couple of years ago. Jeff Schewe knows a lot about photography and Photoshop and how to get the most out of digitally captured images.


In The Digital Negative Mr. Schewe put forward the premise that the raw image capture of your digital camera is really a digital negative.  Not in the sense that the raw file is the inverse of the printed image but in the sense that the raw file is the basis for creating your image.  The image that you will then print or publish to the web. I really like thinking of the raw files this way.  It frees you from the thinking that what comes from the camera and has had a default processing applied is as far as you should take an image. In fact the raw file is just the start of what you can do.

The book starts out explaining the technical side of how digital cameras work and the usual stuff about about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and how they affect the digital capture.  He then spends time on an overview of processing digital negatives in Lightroom and or Camera Raw and Photoshop.

A large portion of the book discusses the Library and Develop modules of Lightroom (which is where we spend all of our time). The book was published in 2013 which means it’s up to date with Lightroom 4. Each panel of the develop module is explained in detail. While reading the book you are presented with a lot of information.  The section on the develop module could be overwhelming. I read through it but didn’t commit it all to memory. It’s easier to use the book as a reference when you need a refresher on what a specific slider or button does.

After the thorough description of Lightroom, Mr. Schewe goes on to process several images step by step. Each step is explained in depth. The final chapter describes his digital workflow for the ingesting (his word) and storing of images.

This is a must read book for those who want to present the best output from our digital negatives.  I give it high marks.

The only issue I have with the book is that the Lightroom interface being fashionably dark does not reproduce well in the book and makes it hard to read the illustrations for Lightroom panels.  A magnifying glass may help.





This image looks really good on my calibrated 27″ iMac. When you convert it to the sRGB color space though it sure looks flat. Rather than converting to sRGB I left this image in the ProPhoto RGB color space. I’m sure by the time it gets to your web browser it will have lost something in the translation.


Photographer Self Portraits on a 57 Chevy.

You know those shots where you accidentally included your shadow or your refection, well it’s hard not to include yourself when you are shooting the chrome on a 1957 Chevy. Best to say I meant to do it that way. Counted about five or six self portraits.

Photographer Self Portraits in a 57 Chevy


Photography and The Inverse Square Law

I’ve noticed a number of photography instructors who dance around the inverse square law of light without really discussing it.  Basically they know that when you move the source of light ways from the subject you need a brighter light to illuminate the subject to the same brightness.  They just don’t seem to explain why.

It’s because of the inverse square law of light. The Inverse Square Law states that if the light is moved twice as far from the subject it only shines with one quarter of the brightness.

Say you have a light source 1 foot from your subject and you move it to two feet away, you will end up with only one fourth the amount of light at your subject. If you move the light four feet away you will only have one sixteenth the light falling on the subject.

Inverse Square Law

My crude attempt at drawing a diagram of the inverse square law. The light falling two feet from the source has to cover four times the area of the light one foot from the source.


Macro Or Not (Getting to know your equipment).

I have two prime micro lenses.  With either of these lens I can get really close to the subject. The problem with such close up shooting is the loss of depth of field.  No matter how closed down the lens aperture  is there is going to be some area of the image that is out of focus.  If you have a subject that you are shooting straight on like a painting and you can get your film plane to be parallel with the painting you can get everything in focus and sharp.

February Tulip

If the subject is at an angle to the parallel you will get parts that are out of focus once you get closer than a certain distance.  In some cases you can get pretty close to the macro image with a zoom lens or a longer lens without going to macro mode.  It pays to know how close you can get with each of your lenses.  You need to know your equipment.

In my case I’ve researched all my lens and have put together a list of minimum focus distances.  I keep them in Evernote because I can retrieve the information from all of my devices, computers, ipad, phone.

  • AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D                                              1.5′  (0.48m)
  • AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR                    1.25′ (0.38m)
  • AF-SVR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G IF-ED          4.9′ (1.5m)
  • AF Zoom-Nikkor 18-35mm F/3.5-4.5D IF ED                    1.1′ (0.33m)
  • AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8D                                        0.72′ (0.22m)
  • AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED                    1.0′ (0.314m)

With my 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR i can move in as close as 16 inches from the subject. At the 85mm zoom I can get some good detailed shots with a lot of depth of field.  I’ve just put my 70-300mm on the endangered list as the 28-300mm now out has a minium focus distance of 18 inches. At 300mm that should get me pretty close.


Shooting Orion

Last night was warm and as clear as could be.  I was out watching the rocket launch from my front yard and realized that it was a perfect night for some star photography.  I set up the tripod, set the D600 to manual (5.6 at 10 seconds ISO 1600) and tried a few shots.  I was disappointed with the results.  It is next to impossible to focus on stars in the dark through the view finder. So tonight being just as clear just about 20 degrees cooler I was back for a second time.  I thought that I might be able to use live view to get the stars in focus.  That didn’t work either.  What ended up working was using a flashlight to make sure that I was focused at infinity and then started shooting.


This image was taken with a 13 second exposure with the 24-85mm zoom at 80mm.  You can see some trailing of the stars.   If you look at the bottom of the image you can see Orion’s sword with the middle star that is the Orion Nebula.  As a second effort I’m please with the image.  For the next time I think I should wait until a little later at night this one was about 1 hour after sunset. I could have waited a little longer.  I think I will also try using a wider angle like 50mm or so to get more sky in.  I should also try 24mm for a wide view of the sky.