Saturday, 18 May 2013

Watching seminars

Yesterday, I was fixing a problem with my photography website to do with how the flash settings of the image were stored in the database. One of the things I noticed was that a lot of photos had Off, Did not fire as the flash value, when I knew that flash had been used. I checked the EXIF of the original image, and that had Off, Did not fire, so it wasn't a website related problem. I also checked the exif flash setting stored in XMP, as to be expected, it had the same value as the exif value.

Looking into this, it seems that when the camera fires a 'dumb' flash, it has no way of telling whether the flash fired or not, and so it records the flash value as being off. (See discussion here: Does my exif lie to me?). In my case I was using a 'dumb' radio trigger in the camera's hot shoe. So, there is not a lot you can do about this. I do try to record my camera 'setup' in the XMP metadata, so I can write there that flash was used.

But it is still a bit annoying, as it means there is no way to search through your images to find only ones where flash was (or wasn't) used. A hack to get round this could be to always set your white balance correctly e.g. use flash when shooting with flash, use daylight when shooting in the sun, etc. But would I remember to actually change it every time I change light source? No, most of the time I would forget.

The past week I have been watching photography seminars on Creative Live. Both of them are to do with portrait photography, which I am not particularly interested in, but I still enjoy watching them. One thing that does annoy me about them is that they keep asking questions from the chat rooms that the presenter has already answered. It seems to be a common theme in everything today that people just don't pay attention. If you're not going to listen to what the person is saying (or writing), why bother asking a question (or replying)?

The first set of seminars I watched was called 'Crazy, Stupid Light' with Scott Robert Lim. On one of the sessions he told a story, emphasizing the fact that for Creative Live to continue broadcasting free seminars, they need cash to survive (and so you should buy the seminar download). Creative Live makes money by selling downloads of the seminars. If you purchase while the course is running, the cost is $99. If you purchase after the course has finished, the cost is $150.

For three days worth of workshop teaching from an expert in their field, that seems like very good value to me.

But this did make me wonder why he had told that story. Did he just want to boost sales of his course? Or is Creative Live actually having financial difficulties and could actually be cancelled due to lack of cash? Their productions are pretty high budget, they have a nice studio, multiple cameras, two compères (that ask the questions from the internet and keep the show on time), and a whole host of other people behind the scenes.

One would assume that they must be making piles of money to afford all this. If they aren't making money, they could cut down on production costs significantly. People watch Creative Live (and most other learning / tutorial videos) for the content, not the production.

The second half of the week was 'Fine Art Portraits' with Brooke Shaden. Yesterday she was showing how she edits her shots, and to me (and from the sounds of it, many other people), her editing process is horrendous. But she is happy with how she does things, and gets great results.

As an example, she applies curves directly to the image, rather than using an adjustment layer. She wanted to brighten the models arm, so she selected the arm, feathered the selection, then applied curves to brighten. She than had a slightly bright halo on the wall around the arm, so she made a rough selection of the area, feathered, then went to curves and dropped down the white point of the curve.

Personally, I would have used a curves adjustment layer to brighten the image, then used a layer mask to paint the effect in over the arm. If I painted too much and created a bright halo, it's just a case of painting out the halo on the mask. However, her technique might actually work better, certainly her result looked nice and seamless with nothing obvious to show that the lighting had been manually adjusted in post.

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