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Hello! Keen followers on Facebook or Twitter will no doubt have noticed that last week I wrote a piece for Hello! magazine that went live on their website on Friday afternoon. It offers some pretty simple tips on how to improve your holiday photos, for those interested in reading the whole story the link is here.

 

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    Understanding Exposure. Win a copy of the ebook.

    Ebooks are great, although I have to admit I´ve never really got in to the whole ebook thing, but here I am sitting on train flicking through a copy of the latest release from Andrew S Gibson, photographer and technical editor of the outstanding EOS Magazine. I think the reason I´ve not been downloading these digital books is because I travel so much it´s never easy to find the time, or the motivation to sit down and read, and when I final do I prefer to have a real paper book in my hand and use it as a means to escape these digital screens, however I´m starting to realise that perhaps I´ve been missing out.

    This book is aimed squarely at Canon EOS users, I should be made clear from the beginning, although most of what the book talks about can easily be transferred to any DSLR camera. Andrew´s book explains not only why your camera, with all its fancy tools, still gets things wrong on many occasions, it continues to explain how to compensate through examples and simple instructions. The book clearly explains how to get your camera working for you.

    “Exposure is a fundamental photography skill and essential to creating high quality image. If you get
    the exposure wrong even a Photoshop expert soon bumps up against the limits of what can be fixed in
    post processing… This book will help you get to grips with exposure on digital cameras”

    The book carefully explains each of the fundamental elements before pulling it all together at the end. It´s packed with almost 80 pages of useful information, with great examples and simple diagrams to help you get your head around the underlying principals of exposure. All in all its a damn good book. To purchase the book simply follow this link

    All this for only £7 what more could you ask for ??

    A discount? well if you use the code exposure2 when you checkout you´ll receive a £2 discount. But be quick as the code expires at midnight, April 30 2012, GMT. What could be better?

    A free copy?? I hear you cry, well here´s your chance. I´ve got 3 copies to give away simply share this post by clicking on one of the links bellow. Deadline is May 4th when I will randomly select the winners – one for Facebook, one for Google+ and one for Twitter.

    [viral-lock message="WIN A COPY OF THIS EBOOK - Share to enter: " gurl="http://tombourdon.co.uk/index.php/2012/04/understanding-exposure" turl="http://tombourdon.co.uk/index.php/2012/04/understanding-exposure-win-a-copy-of-the-ebook/" furl="http://tombourdon.co.uk/index.php/2012/04/understanding-exposure" tweet="RT @TomBourdon share to win a copy of the latest photography ebook by @andrewsgibson:"]Competition entered!
    You can enter as many times as you like with the links below[/viral-lock]

    Winners will be announced here on my blog on Friday 4th April, good luck.

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      ACDSee an often overlooked solution

      After writing yesterdays blog post where I mentioned the discounts currently available on Lightroom I found out that ACDsee where also offering incredible discounts on there photo management software ACDsee Pro 5, I headed off and downloaded myself a free trial version.

      The first thing you will notice about ACDSee compared to either Adobe Lightroom or Aperture from Apple is the speed, ACDSee really does fly though the directories almost instantly displaying large raw files. ACDSee is, unlike Lightroom and Aperture, a database and you don’t have to import the images to view them, you simply browse the directories on your machine. This obviously has negatives too but the positive has to be the incredible speed, even Adobe bridge (which is a similar image browser) comes nowhere near.

      I’ve only been playing with ACDSee for a short while but it has almost all of the tools I use in Lightroom and could be a viable alternative for me. It has a comprehensive set of image processing tool such as exposure compensation, saturation adjustments and selective dodge and burn. I really do like Lightroom, but speed is an issue, perhaps this is the solution.

       

      Here’s a preview of what they offer.

       

      http://youtu.be/nkCRtmFck6A

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        Taking portraits

        Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.It comes as no surprise, to me at least, that the people we meet on our travels are the highlight of any trip. Yet why is it that we still come away with without an engaging portraits of them?

        So what´s the secret? Well the problem is that people, myself included, are often uncomfortable approaching someone and creating a repport and, fearing a negative reaction, either just walk away or worse try to sneak a portrait without asking. Stealing a portrait in such a way does not only generally result in a poor picture, but it’s rude and rather invasive, trust me this is not the route to a pleasing portrait.

        To get pictures with feeling you have to engage the person whose portrait you want to take. It´s interesting to note that in Spanish, and it´s similar in other Latin languages, the phase ´to take a photo´ translates litterally to ´hacer una foto´ the verb ´hacer´ meaning ´to make´, enforcing the idea that photos are created and not just taken – I prefer the Spanish on this one.

        How you create your rapport will depend on how brave you are feeling, it often takes more than just asking the question. But remember – smile and be respectful, keep that in mind and you´re half way there.

        The key here is preparation but remember it´s your subject you need to prepare more than your camera (in fact speaking of respect, as I was, perhaps ‘subject’ isn’t the right word to describe the person in your image, but I´m struggling to find an alternative), the more you interact the greater chance you have of captureing the real person rather than a stiffly posed awkward image.

        Before you approach someone visualise how you want your shot to look, think about the composition and the background, set your exposure and make sure you´re set. Once you actually walk up to someone to take their photo, you´ll want to be ready, otherwise you´ll quickly lose their attention – so if you’ve already sorted the technical stuff before you´ve got a good chance to get the best shot without fussing around.

        Once you’ve done the hard work and approached someone, don’t just take one picture and move on. Shoot a few, improve on your composition and while doing so keep the conversation going, showing them images on the back of the camera.

        If you want truely natural looking photos you should spend time with those in the image so that they become totally relaxed. This can take just a few minutes, it could be hours or even days, or even weeks but the investment will pay off.

         

         

         

         

         

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          Basic Colour Temperature Explained

          It may not sound like a very interesting topic when I start talking about Kelvins and the like but actually having just a little knowledge about what changing the colour temperature can do to an image can really make a big difference to your work. I´ll try to keep this as simple as possible.

          The fact is that not all light is the same colour, most of use will have noticed this, if not really thought too much about how it relates to photography. We know for example that the light during a beautiful sunset is much warmer than the light emitted by the screen of your monitor or the floresent tubes in your kitchen. So how does this relate to photography?

          The human eye, or brain should I say, is actually extremely good at correcting these colours so the difference appears minimal, digital cameras on the other hand need to be told what colour the light is. Colour is measured in kelvins in photography we are only really interested in the range 2000 to 10000, it´s pretty simple that the higher the number the warmer the colour.

          The 2 images below are from one photo the only difference between them is the colour temperature, which has been adjusted in post processing, the top image has a colour temperature of 8000K and the bottom one

           

          I´m sure you´ll agree that there´s a massive difference. Which one is better is a subjective thing, I have my favourite as I´m sure you have  yours. So experiment with your colour temperature you can really change the feel of an image with just that one setting.

           

          This was post number 17 of 366, come back tomorrow for more.

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            I shoot raw, should you?

            Todays digital cameras are overflowing with features in an attempt to make your shots better. The thing is that if you want the absolute best out of your shots you are really limiting yourself if you are only shooting your images in .jgp format. The alternative which gives you greater image quality is to switch your camera to shoot in a raw format. Raw formats give you more freedom when it comes to processing your images, it´s like having more space to play before making a mess.

            The biggest problem with shooting in raw is you´ll need to convert it to a .jpg at a latter stage to be able to view them in most applications including web browsers. For this reason I am not suggestting everyone with the ability to shoot in that format should I am simply making the point that if you want to get the highest quality image from your camera then shooting raw is the way to go, if on the other hand ease and speed are what you require froma camera then stick with shooting .jpg

            At the end of the day if you only want to view your images on a computer or digital device then stick to shooting jpg, if on the other hand you have desires to print your work and don´t mind spending sometime converting files then try your raw format.

            That was day 14 of 366, check back tomorrow for more.

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              Better than histograms

              Yesterday I bored a fair few of you with a brief introduction to histograms, well here´s something a little lighter to digest. Now while many photographers go on and on about histograms and checking them as you shoot there is actually (in my opinion) something better and much simpler to understand. It´s name is highlight alert (at least that´s what its called on my camera, your´s may have a different name. Don´t ask me where that setting on your camera as I have no idea, but is certainly a feature of most modern cameras) and I have it permanantly on for all of my bodies. With this feature enabled it will display on your LCD the clipped highlights of an image as flashing black and white. What is a clipped highlight I hear some of you ask, it´s an area of the image that is completely white, with no detail. Sometimes it´s unaviodable in an attempt to bring out detail in the shadow areas, but as a rule it´s best to avoid clipped highlights, for the simple reason that the camera is recording no detail in that area.

              When faced with flashing highlights on your LCD what you should do is analize the scene and decide if you really want that part of the image to be represented in such a way. It is often difficult to judge with the human eye what is pure white and what is actually grey or white with some detail, so think about it. Once you have captured the image what is pure white will remain white you will not be able to bring out any detail in post production.

              For me personnally it is actually quite rare that I want any large part of my images to be be completly white, so I always verge on the side of caution and underexpose my images, this gives me far greater options when processing the image.

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

              That was day 12 of 366 come back tomorrow for more.

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                Understand Histograms

                I´m currently on my way in to the deepest darkest tribal regions of Northern India, probably moving very slowly and on an uncomfortable bus, but what to do, huh? So not wanting to suffer on my own, I´m giving you something a little geeky today, but I hope it´ll help some of you understand more about digital photography.

                A digital photograph is made up of small dots of colour, it may sound odd but each dot will be made up of a mixture of red, green or blue (known as RGB) each of the 3 colours is known as a channel (RGB obviously has 3 chanels). These dots can be seen by zooming in very close to an image, normally it wint be possible to view the whole scene at the same time.

                But how is an image created? well the cameras sensor assigns an RGB value to each of the dots in the image. It will say x amount of red, y amount of green and z amount of blue. these values are numbers between 0 and 255. So each dot will have 3 values, one for each channel, a dot may have the values of Red 22, Green 64 and Blue 195 which gives you a rather nice shade of blue.

                For each channel the lower the number the darker the colour, the number zero would be totally black with no detail, similary the number 255 would be the brightest value for that chanel. If all 3 channels are at 0 the colour would be black, if all 3 channels have the value 255 the colour sould be white

                Its interesting, and probably easier to understand, if you play with the colour picker here. Simply click a colour to view its RGB value (you´ll need Java installed to be able to use it).

                Remember Red Green and then Blue, so the numbers are in that order, note if you click on the most redest of the reds you get the values 255,0,0 this means there are the maximum amount of reds without any other colours, the same for green and blue. Note if you click on the yellowist of the yellows you get the value 255,255,0 meaning it is made up of the maximum red the maximum green and no blue.

                So what can we do with these numbers? Well if we group together each dot with the same RGB value they can then be mapped to a graph (also known as a histogram). It is perhaps easier to think of a black and white image that has only one chanel, grey, where zero is black and 255 is white, all other vales are various tones of grey. So a black and white ( or more correctly greyscale) image, if the full tonal range is used, could have 2,000 dots with the value 0, another 8,000 dots with the value 1…. and so on up to 255.

                A histogram uses the number of dots as the x axis (verticle) and values 0 to 255 as the y axis (horizontal). You can therefore just by looking at the histogram how dark or light an image maybe.


                The graph in the image above shows a grouping towards the left, this tells us the image has many dark dots. As the image show us this is true. So basically you can now tell from just looking at a histogram if the image has more dark or more light dots.

                Sorry if this has been a little complicated, it´s a rather technical aspect of photography that many new photographer struggle with, I hope this post will make things a little clearer to some. Check back tomorrow for something better than histograms, seriously – easier to understand too :)

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                  Photo Critiques


                  Towards the end of 2010 I was contacted by a very nice man offering me the opportunity to become part of a new venture called Gurushots that offers photo critiques from some extremely experienced photographers.

                  The idea is simple. For a small fee, occasionally free (more on that in a minute) anyone can upload an image and have it reviewed by one of several experienced photographers, the critique will be completed online and available for the world to see with in just a couple of days.

                  Now it takes a bit of bravery to agree to have someone critique your work, more so if the results are to shown online for the world to see. But having been though a few similar critiques myself I´m well aware of how they can help you, and me, become more aware of what we are shooting.

                  Impressed with the simplicity of the idea I jumped on board and I´ve already enjoyed completing a few critiques. It´s nice to have something I enjoy that directly helps others improve their photographic skills.

                  Now the site uses the words amateur and pro in almost every paragraph of text, which I know can cause some friction amongst photographers (I try and stay clear of categorising people in such a way), but they really do offer a great service at a silly price.

                  I’m told they are planning on expanding the the site to not only include critiques but many other services to help the budding photographer improve his vision.

                  And now for the free bit.

                  The best thing about this is for a limited time only I’m offering 3 free critiques to you guys. All you have to do is click on my profile (http://www.gurushots.com/tom-bourdon) then click the link for a free critique. If there is no link it means you were too slow and I’ve got the 3 critiques which will keep me busy for a while, but follow me on Twitter or Facebook when I’ll be randomly announcing more free critiques.

                  Check it out GuruShots Pro Critique

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                    Taking time out to improve

                    I’ve had a few days off from shooting. In fact I haven’t shot a single frame since last Friday. Some of you may view this as me being lazy, but its far from the truth. When I was at Kumbh mela I shot literally thousands of frames, often from sunrise to sunset. Needless to say the images in my ‘To process’ collection was mounting up and I was burning out, so many people, so much noise, so much to shoot, it never stopped, for weeks.

                    So I’ve taken this time not just to put my camera down and give my back and shoulders a rest from such weight but to work through my images and closely examine what I’ve shot and more importantly what I haven’t shot. I’ll be back shooting the the Kumbh mela shortly and I’ll go into it knowing what’s possible and what’s missing the shots I’ve already got. Photographers are spoilt a little by this event not only because there is just so much to shoot but because it goes on for so long, allowing time out to take stock. How many photographers are actually doing this I’m unsure.

                    I’ve been on the road now for 5 months now and I’m starting to miss some the creature comforts of home, reliable internet access and red wine are just to mention just two of them.

                    I’ll be in Mathura for Holi celebrations which promises to be another incredible experience, I shot this colourful celebration in the same location in 2007 and it was so good, I’m doing it al over again.

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