January 26, 2015 - Lighting, Styling & Prop, Framing & Composition

by Francine Way


It took me a whole week to go through chapters 3, 4, and 5. Mainly because I did not have many of the equipments and supplies that the chapters' projects required. Purchasing and making some of them from scratch took a bit of efforts and time. 

Chapter 3 intends to educate its readers on lighting, the different colors of light, their effect of photographs, and how to manipulate it with reflectors. Three projects were laid out on page 76. The first one is to compare a basic food setup in two different types of light - daylight & tungsten. Below are the pictures I took to complete the project:

Daylight

Daylight

Tungsten

Tungsten

As seen above, the color hue in the daylight picture is more neutral (less orange) than the tungsten one. Compared to the actual colors of the items photographed, the daylight picture is closer to reality. 

The second project in chapter 3 is to use the highlight alert & histogram to detect overexposed photographs. I took the pictures below to complete this project:

Regular

Regular

1 full-bar overexposed

1 full-bar overexposed

2 full-bars overexposed

2 full-bars overexposed

The third and last project in this chapter is to use a reflector to light the shadowy front of the backlit subject. I took the pictures below to complete the project:

Without a reflector

Without a reflector

With a reflector

With a reflector

As we can see from the above pictures, by using a reflector, the light bounced by the reflector fills in the front of the image on the right and brighten its shadows. 

Chapter 4 intends to educate its readers on food styling and props. Three projects were laid out on page 113. The first project is to compare a dish that is styled against a dish that ready to eat. Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat

Styled

Styled

Comparing the 2 photographs, it is obvious that the styled dish picture is more appealing. 

The second project is to compare fake ice against real ice. Below are the pictures I took to complete the project:

Real Ice

Real Ice

Fake Ice

Fake Ice

Comparing the two images, the fogginess in the real ice picture doesn't exist in the fake ice picture, resulting in the latter having a sharper, more appealing image. 

The third and last project in this chapter is to create a tabletop. I took a large piece of cloth and wrapped it around the a foam board to make my own. I also made my own reflector out of a cardboard I cut out of a box and some good old kitchen aluminum foil. Below are pictures of them:

DIY tabletop

DIY tabletop

DIY Reflector

DIY Reflector

Chapter 5 intends to educate its readers on framing & composition. Four projects were laid out on page 145. The first project is to find & create triangles. I use garnishes to create a triangle in an image. Below are the before and after pictures that I took to complete this project:

Before (without triangle)

Before (without triangle)

After (with triangle)

After (with triangle)

Comparing the 2 pictures, it is obvious that the one with the triangle is more appealing. 

The second project is to frame & use different perspectives. I took the pictures below from different angles and perspectives:

Vertical

Vertical

Horizontal

Horizontal

3 quarters

3 quarters

Overhead

Overhead

Eye level

Eye level

As we see, the background changes every time the position of the camera was changed - the same changes can be observed with the perspective and overall feel of the image. 

The third project is to use lens compression on an image. Below are the pictures I took to complete this project:

Overhead

Overhead

At 50 mm

At 50 mm

At 24 mm

At 24 mm

At 70 mm

At 70 mm

At 35 mm

At 35 mm

At 85 mm

At 85 mm

I had some challenges throughout this project, primarily in replicating what the author wanted in creating the perception that the depth is less with more focal length. I may try the experiment again the future. 

The fourth and last project is to play with color. Creating a dish with one dominant color and then placing something with complementary color into the scene. In the pictures below, I used the complementary green Italian parsley garnishes on a predominantly-reddish pasta dish. 

Spaghetti with Sausage and Parsley

Spaghetti with Sausage and Parsley

This concludes the projects in chapter 3, 4, and 5. The next chapter will touch on the use of Photoshop workflow in food photography. 


January 19, 2015 - Fundamentals & Equipment

by Francine Way


Today we will explore a new book titled "Food Photography" by Nicole S. Young. I selected this book for several reasons: it received a decent rating in Amazon, it is easy to understand, and it has a project for every chapter to reinforce the concepts covered. 

Chapter 1 intends to educate its readers on photography fundamentals, like aperture, shutter speed, and white balance. A project on page 21 drives home the author's points on white balance (WB), camera modes (Daylight, Shade / Cloudy, Tungsten, Aperture & Shutter Priorities, etc.), and ISO. Below are the pictures I took to complete the project:

WB - incandescent

WB - incandescent

WB - flash

WB - flash

WB - fluorescent

WB - fluorescent

WB - cloudy

WB - cloudy

WB - daylight

WB - daylight

WB - Auto

WB - Auto

WB - shade

WB - shade

Comparing the color differences, incandescent and fluorescent produce interesting shades of blue and purple respectively. Though I can see how these shades might be useful in outdoors setting such as sunsets, they don't produce appealing food photos. The daylight setting produces dark indoor picture in our case (I used a soft diffused light for this session) and the flash setting casts a bright light around the oranges & truffles, effectively flattening all of the subjects. The cloudy setting is a tad darker than the shade setting. The shade setting is my favorite amongst these photos as it lents a warm tone to the subjects. 

Mode: Aperture Priority (widest)

Mode: Aperture Priority (widest)

Mode: Aperture Priority (narrowest)

Mode: Aperture Priority (narrowest)

Mode: Shutter Priority (fastest)

Mode: Shutter Priority (fastest)

Mode: Shutter Priority (slowest)

Mode: Shutter Priority (slowest)

Mode: Manual

Mode: Manual

Comparing the images, the widest aperture priority photograph is better than the narrowest. All things being equal, the narrowest setting produces a darker tone for the photo. The fastest shutter priority picture is better than the slowest one due to the less time needed to take the picture (less shake & noise possibilities). Amongst these pictures, I think the aperture priority set to the widest possible f-stop is the best. 

ISO: 100

ISO: 100

ISO: 1600

ISO: 1600

Comparing the images, the ISO 100 picture is definitely better than the ISO 1600 picture (less noise). 

Chapter 2 intends to educate its readers on photography equipment, specifically the use of camera, lenses, tripods, reflectors, etc. to optimize the quality of light for the photograph. On page 43, a project is laid out to drive home the differences between point & shoot (P&S) and SLR cameras and the different lenses covered in the chapter. Below are the pictures I took to complete the project:

P&S

P&S

SLR

SLR

Comparing the photographs, as we can see above, the SLR picture is more flattering to the subjects than the P&S. Not only the color cast is better, the SLR doesn't flatten the subject as much as the P&S texture as much. 

Regular Lens

Regular Lens

Macro Lens

Macro Lens

Comparing the photographs, it is obvious that the macro lens takes better close-up pictures. 

That is all for today. Tomorrow, we will explore the next two chapters of this book. 


January 16, 2015 - Seeing Like a Camera

by Francine Way


It took me a while to complete all five projects in Chapter 9. It seems that the author wanted to tie all of the previous chapters together, focusing more composition, but not totally forgetting the technical details covered so far. 

Chapter 9 intends to educate its readers on breaking down picture-taking intuition into more conscious decision-making process and establishing common language with other photographers beyond layman's basic terms. In page 155, the first project tasks the readers to expose a few dozen digital pictures using the edges of the picture / frame in various ways. Below are the pictures I took to complete this project:

Main subject to one side / corner

Main subject to one side / corner

Empty center

Empty center

Looking outside the frame

Looking outside the frame

Entire Charcuterie Stand

Entire Charcuterie Stand

Unusual horizon line

Unusual horizon line

Headless personality

Headless personality

As seen above, I used the frame to zoom in/out of different subjects of interest. I don't always crop evenly all around nor do I maintain symmetry in all of the pictures. I think what worked best for me was when I kept the goals more as a guideline than a rigid framework - the outcomes turned out better. Ordinarily, I would do the opposite and adhere to the strict technical structure of "best practices", I also had more fun experimenting this way. 

The second project tasks the readers to make photographs in which the background complements or contrasts with the subject. Below are the pictures I took to complete this project:

#1 - complement

#1 - complement

#2 - complement

#2 - complement

#3 - complement

#3 - complement

Comparing the most successful prints, the background contributed to the subject in the above 3 pictures. 

The third project tasks the readers to use depth of field (DOF) creatively. Either increasing or decreasing the DOF to sharpen or blurred parts of the scene. Calling attention to certain parts of the scene while keeping notes on aperture size, focal length, distance, and why the subject was chosen. Below are the pictures I took to complete this project:

Regular

Regular

Increasing DOF

Increasing DOF

Decreasing DOF

Decreasing DOF

Comparing my results, I was able to get everything sharp when I used a tripod and set the aperture f-stop to its smallest. When I wanted something out of focus, it was out of focus enough. I might try other types of subject (buildings, people, animals, etc.) next time. 

The fourth project tasks the readers to show motion in a series of photographs. Specifically to use a tripod to keep the camera steady. Experimentations on keeping the subject sharp and blurred are also parts of the assignment, as well as panning so the subject is sharp against a blurred background. This project also asks for low and high angle pictures. Like the previous project, notes are to be kept, this time on shutter speed, distance, and relative subject speed. Below are the pictures I took to complete this project:

Regular subject

Regular subject

Panned subject

Panned subject

Sharp subject

Sharp subject

Low angle

Low angle

Blurred subject

Blurred subject

High angle

High angle

What worked for me are keeping the subject sharp, blurred, and sharpen. What didn't work so well were when taking low and high angles motion photographs - combining the right angle with panning was challenging for me. Too much blur can be seen in the high angle picture - the police car almost lost its entire markings. 

The fifth and last project tasks the readers to make a portrait. Specifically to make 3 dozens pictures of the same person in as many different ways possible, including the conventional head-and-shoulders portrait, different angles & heights, moving in closer, having the subject sitting or standing, having the subject expressed different emotions or role play, varying the lighting from all sides. Below are the photographs I took to complete this project:

#1

#1

#4

#4

#7

#7

#2

#2

#5

#5

#8

#8

#3

#3

#6

#6

#9

#9

My favorite photos are # 2, 5, and 7 because they depict such contrasting emotions and roles than each other. My subject seems to favor #5 and 6 because they are more rebellious in nature. The props (outfits) here do contribute to the picture since it portrays the roles that the subject was trying to showcase. The background (classroom studio's white wall) didn't contribute as well to each outfit. Someone who doesn't know my subject would probably think that he is a conman or someone with multiple personality disorder. Those who think that are not too far off - my subject is an acting student :-)

This post concludes the reviews and projects completed from this book (A Short Course in Digital Photography by Barbara London & Jim Stone, 3rd edition). I will be looking to another book next week, so stay tune!


January 13, 2015 - Organization & Using Light

by Francine Way


Continuing with the book, the next two chapters are quite good in giving advices. 

Chapter 7 intends to educate its readers on developing a habit to name & label photos to make them easier to find, to make back ups, and to choose the right materials & conditions for long lasting prints. It recommends the use of Adobe Bridge, which I downloaded yesterday and will try in the near future. It seems to be catered to professional photographers who churned out dozens of pictures regularly. 

Chapter 8 intends to educate its readers on making the best use of natural light, things one needs to know to use artificial light and electronic flash. There is a project on pay 136 for the readers to take photos of the same subject in different light: outdoor direct, outdoor from the side, outdoor backlit, and in the shade. Below are the photographs I took to complete the project:

Outdoor direct (#1)

Outdoor direct (#1)

Outdoor backlit (#3)

Outdoor backlit (#3)

Outdoor from the side (#2)

Outdoor from the side (#2)

Outdoor in the shade (#4)

Outdoor in the shade (#4)

It seems to me that outdoor in the shade (#4 above) is the best one out of the foursome. It captures the coloring and texture of the subject (my dog) the best. The texture is captured worst in the outdoor from the side (#2), followed by outdoor direct (#1), and with outdoor backlit (#3). In the three more inferior photographs, some parts of the subject's grey fur look almost black in the picture. The shadows are most pronounced in #1. The appearance of the subject's face is highly affected by the lighting: softer in #4 and harsher in #1. Photo #3 benefits from a more dramatic "thinking" pose, thanks also to the lighting. 

More to come with the last chapter in the book tomorrow :-)


January 12, 2015 - Editing, Printing, and Display

by Francine Way


Let me preface today's Photo Corner blog with a comment that this author did a much better job in previous chapters. The image editing chapter left me unsatisfied and wanting more details. Though it highlights what a photographer can & usually do in Photoshop, it majorly glosses over details on how these actions can be carried out. Not too different from being taken to a candy store, then told that you can't have much of the candies. Also, the version of Photoshop in the book is older than the one I downloaded last week, rendering some confusion over the different user interfaces. That said, the printing & display chapter is pretty good and have step-by-step instructions. 

Chapter 5 intends to educate its readers on creating a photographic workflow, introduce image editing using Photoshop, and go over aspects of copyright protection. The high-level introduction  of concepts such as Levels, Curves, Selections, Layers, Retouching, Sharpening, Compositing, and Filtering were laid out with the before and after picture nicely. The workflow checklist on page 110 is pretty good. There is no project in this chapter, but I decided to make one up for a situation that I encounter pretty often: brightening up a dark picture (page 97). Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Regular

Regular

Darkened (with Curves)

Darkened (with Curves)

Chapter 6 intends to educate its readers on selecting the right equipment & materials to print & display photographs, the importance of proofing (test-printing) before the final print, and styles of matting & framing for presentation. I agree with the author's comment that proofing is important, especially as someone who has been burned by expensive printing cost before. There is no project in this chapter and I did not make up one since I have matted & framed many prints before. I would suggest the exercises on pages 124 through 127 to those new to matting & framing. 


January 8, 2015 - Light, Exposure, Digital Office

by Francine Way


Today, we will continue where we left off yesterday with the book.

Chapter 3 intends to educate its readers on color systems, the use of a light meter & a histogram, and the ways lights and time of day can affect the colors in a photo. There is no project in this chapter, but I decided to make one up for a situation that I encounter pretty often: exposing scenes with high contrast (on page 73). Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Bottom light

Bottom light

Left light

Left light

Bottom left light

Bottom left light

As the author indicated, high-contrast scenes are harder to capture correctly due to its range of tones exceeding those of the sensor. In the pictures above, I focused the camera on the utensils when I set the aperture and shutter speed. I then re-compose the scene to include its surrounding black background.

Chapter 4 intends to educate its readers on properly setting a digital photography workplace, choosing the best file format & resolution, and having an efficient workflow that will prevent the photos from lost. There is no project in this chapter, but I decided to make one up to illustrate an important point on page 83: that color choices (channels) can impact the "moods" of photos. Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Red color temperature

Red color temperature

Green color temperature

Green color temperature

Blue color temperature

Blue color temperature

As you can see, there starting to be a lot of things to think about :-) More to come tomorrow in chapters 5 and 6.


January 7, 2015 - Camera & Lens

by Francine Way


In the course of my food & travel blogging, I have to take a lot of pictures. The need motivates me to improve the quality of my pictures. I had read through my camera manual cover-to-cover twice and took a foundational photography course at a local community college. Starting today, I will go through different photography books, documenting my progress through each in this Photo Corner blog. As a starting point to this journey, I have selected "A Short Course in Digital Photography" by Barbara London and Jim Stone (3rd edition). 

Chapter 1 intends to educate its readers on basic camera controls, types of cameras, and readying the camera for image focusing and settings adjustments. It also briefly talks about shutter speed and aperture. On page 3, a project instructs photographing subjects near & far, indoor & outside, in the shade & in the sun, a portrait, a landscape, and an action scene. Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Near (indoor)

Near (indoor)

A landcape

A landcape

Far (indoor)

Far (indoor)

A portrait

A portrait

Outside (sunny)

Outside (sunny)

An action (dog yawning)

An action (dog yawning)

Outside (shady)

Outside (shady)

Out of these pictures, I like the landscape picture the best. It has the best light quality resulting in a crisp image with a bright sky and details on the black grill. I expected both the food and the (non-yawning) dog pictures to show a bit more textures as I was standing very close to both subjects. One confusion that I ran into took place with the food picture, the camera was having difficulties focusing (the lens kept going back and forth) - which I suspect as having something to do with the current focal length set up in the camera. The next chapter will cover lenses & focal lengths a bit more. 

Chapter 2 intends to educate its readers on focal lengths, focusing on sharping a part of a photo, and playing on photo perspectives. It also talks about the different types of special lenses such as zoom, macro, and fisheye lenses; depth of field; and filters. On page 32, a project instructs photographing a subject with a short lens (35mm or shorter) and a long lens (85mm or longer). Below are the pictures that I took to complete this project:

Short lens (24mm)

Short lens (24mm)

Long lens (85mm)

Long lens (85mm)

Comparing the pair, the distance that I had to have between myself and the chair was far shorter with the short lens.  The long lens allowed me to stand almost three times as far away from the chair as did the short lens. With the short lens, I also had to angle my camera at a 45-degree down angle from the chair to fit the entire chair into the photo (versus the straight eye-level that the long lens allowed me). The impression of depth is much clearer with the short lens as the long lens compressed everything in the background to a flat surface (as the author indicated). Lastly, the entire chair and its details are better captured with the long lens, for example: the short lens hid the chair pole (the part between the base and the seat cushion). 

More to come tomorrow with chapters 3 and 4 :-)