Week 3: Light

Basic Digital Photography with Matthew Swarts

Jessica Eaton.

Matthew Pillsbury.

Jessica Eaton.

Stephen Tourlentes, Federal Supermax Prison, Florence, Colorado, 2005.

Jessica Eaton.

Hiroshi Sugimoto.

For Next Week

Read:  “Sunday Night,” by Raymond Carver.

Download and review the slides from this week’s lecture: arts1850 slides week 3 light

Photograph light. Expose at least 60 images in which every file has light as subject. Continue to explore the basic optical principles of your camera; use shutter speed and aperture as tools for shaping the luminosity that most interests you.

Choose 6-8 of your best images and adjust them using either Camera Raw or the Adjustments panel in PS6, preferably both.

Save your adjusted images as .PSD files and back them up to your portable media.

Export, rename,  and upload (800 pix max dimensions) your files to the arts1850 folder on Dropbox.

Things to consider:

1)     Light has interesting physical properties: how can you explore them in your images? Is it possible to photograph “pure” light? Also consider how light is said to be both particle and wave, words that suggest physical substance.  Is this idea contrary to what we seem to experience?  How can you image this?

2)     The light you see is in constant flux. How things look in any given light is dependent on from where you are seeing.  You should move your body as you make pictures!  Consider the light from as many different points of view as is possible, and notice how many things are changing (the form itself, your exposure, etc.) as you shift your position. Again: the choices you make in this regard are elements that imbue your images with meaning.  When you find something you really care about, be conscious of the range of alternatives available to you.

3)     Use your LCD viewfinder! You should be evaluating every exposure and adjusting your exposure compensation settings accordingly.  All it takes is a little tinkering and your exposures can be better.  Don’t blow out highlights!  Keep shadow detail! Work for good color saturation.

4)     Get in the habit of experimenting with your ISO setting as you observe the light around you. What would happen if you lowered the ISO, for example? What would happen if you raised the ISO setting? Remember that as you increase the ISO, you correspondingly increase noise in your image files. Sometimes, this can be lessened in post-processing, but sometimes not. Evaluate your particular camera’s response to light as you change the ISO, judging what values are acceptable for your work and taking into consideration the size and nature of your final output.

Metering and Exposure (continued)

Be certain you know how your particular camera meters (reads the exposure) in front of the lens. With most digital cameras, if you push the shutter button down half-way, your camera will ‘lock’ exposure (and focus if you are using autofocus). Consult your camera manual and study up on the metering options available, recalling that for now, it is recommended that you use matrix or evaluative modes. Get in the habit of reading the exposure information inside the viewfinder, taking note of your settings for ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation! Remember that the amount of exposure compensation you should apply will likely change with each lighting scenario. Practice changing the exposure compensation and checking the LCD viewfinder for blown out highlights and missing shadow detail, and compensate accordingly!

Get in the habit of evaluating your exposures on the fly! Look at your LCD screen and work on understanding your histogram. Know what you are looking for: abbreviated highlight or shadow details!

Underexposed/Correctly Exposed/Overexposed.

Using Bridge for Practical Image Management

1. Bridge is a fantastic tool for managing your image libraries. When you open up bridge, the interface allows you to navigate through any navigational operation through the graphical interface with the mouse. In addition, the size and configuration of the panels in the main window can easily be reconfigured on the fly to accommodate your curiosity for varying the way image information is displayed. Get in the habit of resizing the window frequently, playing with the various view options. Seeing your image from more than one perspective is often refreshing and useful.

2. In particular, experiment with Filmstrip mode by clicking on the appropriate tab in the upper right corner of the window:

In Filmstrip mode you have the ability to easily isolate single images. You can minimize (or maximize) the size of the thumbnails below.

3. If you click on the Metadata tab, the interface window will again shift and appear similar to this:

In the Metadata panel, your image’s metadata will appear in tabular form in the lower left corner of the window. Information such as shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and other important camera data is recorded here. (Note: this panel is also visible in the main window on the lower right.)

Using Camera Raw

1. When you open either a RAW or a DNG file, the Camera Raw interface will appear and look similar to this:

2. Clicking anywhere in the image will allow you to zoom, while each of the sidebar sliders will affect a different characteristic of the image. The magnification is controlled by the lower left hand corner menu, in case you get lost in a zoomed version of your image. Experiment with each slider as liberally as possible and balance your image for maximized highlight and shadow detail, appropriate color, vibrancy, and saturation, and color temperature. Getting in the habit of liberally experimenting with your image’s possibilities in this way will produce the best results when you later open your image in Photoshop for further editing. Most of the controls in the upper left hand corner menu of the Camera Raw window are easily replicated once inside Photoshop. When using Camera Raw, get in the habit of working to minimize extremely white whites and extremely blackened blacks. Rather, strive for an image that, once balanced, exhibits good detail in both the highlights and shadow areas. Balancing your image like this preserves data that will be useful in the final output version of your image, regardless of whether or not it will be used for screen or print.

3. When you are satisfied with the way your image is represented on the monitor, and you are ready to further edit in Photoshop, click on Open Image.

Basic Image Adjustments in Photoshop

1. When you open an image either in Camera Raw or from Bridge into Photoshop, the interface will look similar to this:

2. Your first priority is to adjust your image as best as possible. To begin, look for the Adjustments panel in the upper right quadrant of the Photoshop window. It looks like this:

3. Clicking on any one of these Adjustment icons will bring up both a new Properties window and a new Adjustment Layer:

4. For now, when adjusting your image, strive once again to recover as much detail in the highlight and shadow details. Work with each adjustment panel independently, and experiment with the broad range of possibilities for your image.

Using a Curves Adjustment Layer to Correct your Image

1. Click on the Curves adjustment icon in the Adjustments panel. The Curves properties window will appear and looks like this:

2. Look for the Click and Drag/Hand Icon that looks like this in the icon menu on the left hand side of the Curves properties window:

3. Once this icon is selected, your cursor is linked to the curve in the Properties window. Clicking anywhere in your image will allow you to remap a new curve based upon whether or not you want that particular value lightened or darkened. By clicking in a highlight area, for example, you could drag the mouse cursor downward to darken that area. Conversely, dragging upward will lighten that area. Notice that any adjustment you make with the mouse will place a point on the curve to the right and remap the Curves properties window accordingly. Experiment with using Curves in this way to recover additional highlight and shadow detail in each image. There are also Presets available in a pulldown menu at the top of the Curves properties window. While these are great for quick adjustments, the Click and Drag technique described above is the most accurate way to remap your image using Curves. Depending on how you choose to adjust your image, your curves dialogue box may (or may not!) look similar to this:

4. You can add as many Adjustment Layers as you want to an image. Just click on the Adjustments panel each time you want to establish a new Adjustment!

Saving Your Work as a .PSD File and Preserving Adjustment Layers

1. When you are finished adjusting your image, it is often very useful to save a version as a .PSD (Photoshop) file, a robust format that preserves your adjustment layers for further editing. To do this, simply select Save from the File menu, and in the dialogue box that appears, be sure to select .PSD as the file format, preserving the Layers and the Color Profile as follows:

2. When you click Save your file will be saved to the selected path (in this case the Desktop).

3. Remember to use the ‘arts1850’ preset you created in Bridge during Week Two to export your adjusted .PSD files to the desktop (as jpegs, 800 pixels maximum dimensions) before renaming and uploading your work using Dropbox!

Artist Spotlight: James Turrell

James Turrell. The Wolfsberg Project. “Manipulating light as a sculptor would mold clay, James Turrell creates works that amplify perception. Unlike pictorial art that replicates visual experience through mimetic illusion, Turrell’s light works—one cannot call these shimmering events “objects” or “images”—give form to perception. Each installation activates a heightened sensory awareness that promotes discovery: what seems to be a lustrous, suspended cube is actually the conjunction of two flat panels of projected light; a rectangle of radiant color hovering in front of a wall is really a deep, illuminated depression in the space; a velvety black square on the ceiling is, in reality, a portal to the night sky. With such effects, Turrell hopes to coax the viewer into a state of self-reflexivity in which one can see oneself seeing.” from http://guggenheim.org