Tag Archive for 'technique'

Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…

PinExt Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital...

And How it Can Change Your Life in 15 Minutes.

by Gavin Seim: Original article from Gavin’s f164 journal. (updated 11/15/11).

This may be the most valuable piece I’ve written on photography. In the last year, I’ve started working with 4×5 film and digital side by side. I’ve also explored extensive exercises in tonal control, truly learned to visualize, and implemented key parts of the Zone System that was developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer, both in my film and my digital work, in color and black and white.

The idea of visualizing and using Zones is not promoted heavily today. It seems much of the industry, including many of its educators, arrived at digital and decided that the past 150 years of photographic knowledge were somewhat irrelevant. What I’m about to show you is not taught much, but understanding it WILL change your photography forever. I’m not kidding; once you get this, you’ll never see light the same way again. And I hope you’ll share it with others.

zone system 1 Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital...

Sunsets Hidden Falls. Yosemite, 2010 - A general look at where I placed the scene elements in relation to the Zones. Each arrow leads to what I see as the zone on the scale.

I’m going to stay simple because these concepts are essentially simple. I have not come up with a new digital based zone system, a stripped down version, or an article full of nerdy equations, white papers, or complex systems. This is not hard, and you can start putting it to use TODAY for film or digital. Since most of us are in the digital world, I’ll focus on that. I’m going to show you how to use the core of the Zone System to make you a vastly better photographer. I’ve also brought along some examples for analyzing the Zones.

To those of you who already know this, kudos. But I challenge you to review and analyze whether you’re really using it, or just buzzing along in digital bliss and fixing things later. Excuse my bluntness, but this is happening to the best of us. We need to get back to basics, visualize, control tone, dynamic range, and image quality.

Originally, the Zone System was a complete approach that included everything from the initial exposure to the final print. Now we don’t use darkrooms much these days, so I’ll focus on the pivot point of the Zone System: the Zones themselves. That said, I would encourage you to study the whole process even if you don’t use film. It will help you gain a better understanding of light and photography. Not only that, but old books like Fred Picker’s Zone VI workshop, deal with it quickly and effectively and can often be had for mere pennies.

1. The Zone Scale.

The Zone Scale lies at the core of the Zone System. It consists of eleven squares that span from clipped black (Zone 0) to clipped white (Zone X). Each square represents a change of one stop. The first part of using Zones starts before you release the shutter. Truly visualizing your image is like nothing else. Once you master it, you see the image you plan to make, including your edits and refinements, in your mind before you ever take the photo. It changes everything about how you photograph and how refined the resulting images become.

Zone System Scale Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital...

Brilliantly simple, the Zone scale allows us to visualize all our light from complete black to complete white in one stop increments.

To begin, look at your scene. What’s outside your window right now? Visualize what zones in which the things around you fall. Then imagine you’re taking a photo. Imagine where the zones would be if the image came out exactly as you wanted. It does not have to be what you “see” but what you “visualize” for the finished image. How do YOU want to make it?

Think about what Zone levels on various objects in this scene would most complement your main subject as well as your supporting cast of elements. Sometimes it helps to begin by trying to visualize a scene in black and white, even if your final image is going to be color. Thinking in terms of only tones can be helpful, especially early on in the process.

Continue reading ‘Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…’

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Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds – 24 One Line Tips

PinExt Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds   24 One Line Tips

ghosts of spasm geyser yellowstone 500x285 Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds   24 One Line TipsBy Gavin Seim: (updated 09/11): I often hear from photographers asking me to look at their work and tell them how to be better photographers. In ten seconds I can usually tell them how to improve because we often overlook simple things. There’s nearly always something we can improve, no matter how much experience we have.

Most rules are universal to photography of any style or any experience level. Of course these rules are meant to be broken, but general concepts help us stay on track and we should only break rules for good reason. These are some tips I keep in mind with my own work. Hope they give you a few reminders. When your done here some join us in the forums to get some personal feedback. OK let’s roll.

  1. One primary subject. If you have more, you’ll have distraction.
  2. Omit needless objects. Getting them out will clean up your scene.
  3. Slow down. Many images are ruined because of RTC (Rush To Click).
  4. Tonal control is essential. Use the Zone Scale, Burn & Dodge.
  5. If a background detracts from your scene, change or carefully blur it.
  6. See Light. Where’s it coming from, how can you use it.
  7. Learn the rules photography. Then you’ll break them for good reason.
  8. Don’t just center things. Use the rule of thirds & others. They work.
  9. Eyes. Watch close, keep them sharp. They hold emotion.
  10. Use the Magic Hour. Around sunrise/sunset, light happens.
  11. Keep it sharp. Watch your shutter speed & subject movement.
  12. Space is valuable in a frame, keep clutter away with comp & tonal control.
  13. Harsh sun can be bad. Learn to manipulate it and find good light.
  14. Shadows are critical. Without them the light gets ignored.
  15. Great images start in camera. But don’t underestimate careful editing.
  16. Use fresh ideas, but also go for those old reliable images.
  17. If the weather is foul, it doesn’t mean the photos will be.
  18. Lines lead the eye. Pay attention to where they go and intersect.
  19. Change hours. Different times of day will transform a scene.
  20. Think about shadows and dimension. Flat light is usually boring.
  21. Motion Blur can be very powerful, but use it carefully.
  22. Take time to really LOOK at your subject before releasing the shutter.
  23. Study. Photography has 150+ years of history. Go learn about it.
  24. Remember… Slow down, refine, simplify. Analyze your scene.

 

seim bridge 600x400 Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds   24 One Line Tips

This award winning image has a lot going for it. Notice the balanced intersecting lines, bold colors, and simplicity of the scene. It leads the eyes and tells a story.

lensbaby Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds   24 One Line Tips

Focus Blurring was an effective tool here. The light at the ceremony was great but I wanted the focus on the couple. I used a Lensbaby to give me the soft edges and then some work in post production to make the viewers eye go right where I wanted. The blue could have also been done in post, but I enjoy the Lensbaby.

gavin seim 1 600x400 Become a Better Photographer in 90 Seconds   24 One Line Tips

Silver Waves of Grain: Motion blur was used heavily in this 5 min+ exposure. This gave a ghostly feel to the fields and clouds, completely changing the feel of this scene. Then detailed tone work was done to add depth and dimension. You can click the image to read a detailed article on f164.com about how it was made.

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Watch the details. Look To the Wind, is one of my early (and more recognized) HDR portraits. The space gives it a bold cinematic feel and the simplicity of the deserted beach adds strength to the scene. Looking back however I could have watched my lines more. The way the horizon cuts at the shoulder is not ideal. It's still a great image, but if I was doing it over I would try being higher with the camera for an even more powerful composition.

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HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)

PinExt HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)
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Look To The Wind. HDR by Gavin Seim. Canon 30D

~ Check out Gavin’s HDR workshops. More details here.

Updated 07/2009: Revamped & improved article. Added a new segment dealing with movement and blur (towards bottom).

by Gavin Seim: In 2007 I wrote an article about using true HDR techniques with people. Yep, portraits, fashion and wedding images can be utterly amazing using High Dynamic Range. HDR is not just reserved for nature and still life. We’ve been using it at Seim Studios for some time now and it blows clients away. Heres some of my secret sauce to get you started with HDR portraits and a few of my own images.

Link Resources>>

What’s HDR All About?
First lets cover basics. If you’re already an HDR master you can skip this part. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s better seen than described, so other than the images I’ve included in this article, you can see more on my website.

HDR is the combining of light and dark tones of multiple images taken at varied exposure levels and then blended using software like Photomatix, Photoshop, or another HDR program. Photomatix is the most popular among HDR fans and we have a deal worked out with them. You can save 15% with promo code PPS15. Basically this software blending allows the photographer to selectively choose how much light he wants in various parts of the image. You’ll have a light to dark range that’s much higher than that of a normal exposure, thus giving you much more control over the final image.

You can also check my two PPS episodes from 2007, talking about HDR and HDR portraits. HDR Podcast Part1 & HDR Podcast Part2. There’s also PPS #57, an HDR episode with Trey Ratcliff that’s full of insight.

Continue reading ‘HDR Portrait & Wedding Photography Techniques (2nd Edition)’

HDR Portrait, Fashion, and Wedding Photography

PinExt HDR Portrait, Fashion, and Wedding Photography

See The Updated Version June 08 – Read HDR portrait techniques version 2

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Don’t start using HDR. I want to be the only one… This phrase is often pretty close to what goes thru my mind when I think about the potential of properly implemented HDR photography in today’s market. So much so that I have thought of refraining from the subject and keeping the ideas to myself. My thought is this… “If nobody else is using HDR, that will make my work that much more unique” But alas that’s not what PPS is all about, and we’re here both to learn, and to help others learn, so here I go again.

In recent months I have been working to become a sort of guru of HDR. Whether I have succeeded or not will be left up to you, however I do feel that I have a strong enough knowledge of HDR techniques, and its possibilities in the portrait & wedding world to ask other photographers, and organizations What are you waiting for?

Now don’t get me wrong! HDR will boom before long, and when it does you can bet that organizations that are supposed to be leading the industry like WPPI, and PPA will be all over it. Since it’s my job to talk about the latest ideas in the photo world however I will speak on about this topic right here and now. In fact you’ll see that PPS has a special link in the nav bar just for special HDR posts, articles, and news.

What is HDR all about anyways!

You mean you don’t know yet? Well at least after today you’ll have no excuse to avoid trying it out. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s better seen that talked about, so other than the images I’ve included in this article you can see some of my latest HDR portrait implementation in my HDR portraits set on Flickr, as well as on my website of course . Essentially however it’s the combining of multiple images taken at varied exposure levels, and then blended using…

Continue reading ‘HDR Portrait, Fashion, and Wedding Photography’

PPS Episode #29 HDR (High Dynamic Range) Part 1

PinExt PPS Episode #29 HDR (High Dynamic Range) Part 1

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Show Notes…
Click here for HDR Part 2

Microsoft HD Photo has been announced. Get yourself started with Photoshop actions by going to the Adobe Exchange. Download Gavin’s free production enhancer action Visual Razor.

HDR Part 1.

It’s time to learn HDR. Listen to the main topic in this weeks show starting at time index 17:50, and more to come in next weeks show. HDR Software besides Photoshop includes Photomatix from HDR Soft. You can use our promo code PPS15 to save 15%. There’s also another HDR app available called FDR tools.

Here is an example photo taken off of Highway 12 in WA of a worker in the Tulip fields. This was done using Photomatix Pro & Photoshop, with 3 raw images. Notice how the detail can be captures in not only the foreground, but also the sky which would normally be washed out. At the same time however it’d still has a natural look to it, with some shadows and depth. (click for a larger version)

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By- Gavin Seim Wedding & Portrait Photographer