Lost your friends to the shadows?

So often I see photos that show people almost totally lost in shadows. Maybe a group standing in front of the Eiffel Tower – beautiful detail in the landscape, but the faces of the people are totally unrecognizable because of the shadows falling across their faces. LJK11511-P7

Especially in photos taken with on-camera flash, the folks in front are way overexposed and the ones in the back row lost in the dark. It need not be so, there is help my friends! Some times all it takes is to let Auto Correct in Photo Gallery or a small move of the Shadows slider over toward the right to set matters right. In PicasaI’m feeling lucky” may do the trick or the Fill Light slider.

The dark areas of our photos hide a lot of detail that is often totally unrecognizable. Those details can be brought out. It may not result in award-winning photos, but it may make all the difference at a family gathering.

The photo above won’t let you bring out any detail in the figure, so don’t bother to try. It is a “doctored” photo, I made the figure, actually a flat sculpture, totally black.

I did make some experiments to see just how much information can be extracted from a painfully underexposed photo. I used a white cloth with a near-white plate and a white egg on that. The lighting was very soft, diffused window light so there would be hardly any shadows. My camera decided that the exposure at f/11 should be 1/15 of a second. Now we all know that cameras can’t tell an all white subject from a normal scene. You have seen photos of those white dogs romping in snow – they are just a dingy gray all over. So I over-exposed by 2 1/3 stops – used a shutter speed of 1/3 second. Here is my photo as seen in Photo Gallery.

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Note the histogram chart on the right. It shows the relative number of pixels of each shade, from totally black on the left to totally white on the right. There are just a few pixels that are below the halfway mark on the chart. The most pixels are bunched up near the right, the white, end. The cloth is not completely white and you can make out some texture in it. But looking at the photo you would conclude that indeed I had used a white cloth, a white plate, and a white egg, and the photo fairly represents my subject.

The next photo here shows the same scene but photographed at 1/250 second – four stops under the camera selected exposure, 6 1/3 stops below the photo above.

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Hopeless, wouldn’t you say? Take a look at the histogram. All the pixels are bunched up tightly on the black end. But note that they are just a tiny bit above the left end. There must be some data there.

Photo Gallery offers a number of sliders in the Adjust exposure panel. Those little doohickeys under the histogram are sliders too. They can be used to tell Photo Gallery to spread out the data. By sliding down the one on the white end you can tell Photo Gallery which pixel value to amplify up all the way to the white end, the rest will be proportionally lightened too. Lets see what happens when the “white” histogram slider is moved way left to just above where there is pixel data.

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Look at the picture. Amazing, isn’t it? Not quite as white as it should be. So let’s use the Brightness slider to finish the job.

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Well, what do you think? Yes, it is astonishing how much useful picture information can hide in shadows. I hope I have convinced you that you should take another look at your “uselessly underexposed” photos. As I said, maybe not gallery quality, but certainly very much worth doing.

For a bit more background on the histogram, see my post in Photography Notes & Tips Use the histogram to improve your photos.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

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A Fall View

Here is something that is hard to do in any other display media: A tall image that you have to scroll to see.

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This is actually a vertical panorama, stitched together from eight separate exposures. Photo Gallery doesn’t mind which way, or in what order you take a group of overlapping shots. It does a fine job of matching together your world.

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© 2013 Ludwig Keck

Dramatic B&W Photos

Create dramatic dark skies with simple tools

In black and white photography it is all about the light, shapes and lines. Such images offer a totally different appeal from their color photo counterparts. Dramatic dark skies are a hallmark tool for stunning images. Here are some tips for getting the most from your color originals using simple tools.

Let me start with a demonstration.

Men of Steel

This delightful sculpture showing workers taking a break on a steel beam gleams in this photo. The dark sky and deep shadows bring life to this image.

It was derived from a rather ordinary color photo. The normal process is to use a color-filter conversion when making it into a B&W image. Pretty much all the photo editors provide such tools.

In PaintShop Pro you can pick the exact filter color from a color wheel as illustrated below. PaintShop Pro - Black & White Film tool

Similarly, Picasa has a “Filtered B&W” effect and the filter color is picked from a palette. Picasa - Filtered B&W

 

Windows Photo Gallery offers a selection of B&W effects with several filter colors. Windows Photo Gallery - Effects

With all of these tools the reddest filter does not provide that dramatically dark, almost black, sky for a normal blue sky in a photo. There is an added trick to achieve the deep dark sky: Adjust the color saturation to a very high level. The image below shows the results. The outside (left and right) portions show the normal photo with the normal result through a red filter.

The inside pair shows a deeply saturated sky and the the resulting dark black and white image.

Lunch break

One note of caution: The resulting black and white image will show a good deal of mottling in the formerly blue areas. A uniform sky will make this even more noticeable. So make the conversion in the largest image that you have. Make any size reductions afterwards to maintain a clean sky.

This post was also published at Photography Notes and Tips.

.:.

© 2013 Ludwig Keck

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Sharing large images with Photosynth and Zoom.it

Panoramas and other large images can look puny in online photo sharing sites, blogs, and social websites. Two services can provide impressive views even of the largest images.

Photosynth provides a three dimensional simulation, and Zoom.it a flat presentation that can be zoomed. Here is a demonstration of a vertical panorama in both services.

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Sweetgum Tree Awaiting Spring

Click the images to see the expanded photo in Photosynth and Zoom.it.

Now for a quick review on how to generate a panorama for sharing in Photosynth.

There are two was of creating a Photosynth. For a smooth, three-dimensional appearing version the image is first prepared in ICE – Microsoft Image Composite Editor.

Overlapping images of the scene are loaded into ICE. The photos should overlap about a quarter or more, they can be made hand-held, ICE is pretty smart at stitching them together.   The photos must be taken from the same position in a rotating motion.

ICE assembles them and offers two “export” options. For Photosynth select “Publish to Web…” This will call the Photosynth program which then takes over and completes the task.

image

The second method produces a “classic” Photosynth and the overlapping photos are sent directly to the Photosynth program.

Both the Photosynth and the ICE program imagecan be called directly from Photo Gallery. Just select the thumbnails, click the Create tab, click More Tools… and select the program. Oh, yeah, of course, you have to have these programs installed on your PC. They are free and easy to get – from the same menu in Photo Gallery, see the illustration here.

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For the Zoom.it version the image is exported from ICE to the PC by selecting “Export to disk…” Note the cropping outline in ICE. The image can be cropped before exporting to the PC. That is what I have done for the demonstration image here.

Zoom.it needs an online image to work with, so just upload the large panorama to you SkyDrive and get the image URL from there for use in Zoom.it. Make sure that the upload resizing option is not set to resize the photo.

Once you have the image URL (from the address bar when View original is selected), go to zoom.it and load the URL into the entry field there.

image

Click the image to see the “classic” Photosynth way of showing overlapping photos.

.:.

© 2012 Ludwig Keck

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Managing a SkyDrive Photo Blog

As many of my readers know I like sourcing photos from SkyDrive. This article explains some of the details of how I manage my SkyDrive albums and my photo blog, Gallery Ludwig.

The SkyDrive Desktop App makes the SkyDrive look pretty much like any other folder on the computer. Updating a SkyDrive album is just a matter of dragging the photo or pictures to the folder. That can be done just as easily using SkyDrive in the browser, but with the Desktop folder not just files but folders – albums – can be copied to SkyDrive.

Copy pictures to SkyDrive folder

Of course, any subfolder can be the destination, just like copying or moving stuff around on your computer.

Like other files on a computer, the order of files inside a folder cannot be customized when using the SkyDrive desktop folder. However, using the SkyDrive in a browser provides the Rearrange option – a drag-and-drop feature.

Rearrange SkyDrive photos

You can arrange your SkyDrive photo gallery just the way you want, with the individual photos in just the order you like. As a “front end” or “lobby” to your gallery you need another site. I like using a photo blog for this. You can build some nice pages and have a blog post page showing the latest additions and any stories you would like to tell.

The photo blog is, of course, managed using Windows Live Writer. There is no better blogging tool. The Insert > Photo album feature can place nice link arrangements on a blog page or post. Just take a look at Silver Canvas – Gallery EXP 2. But even a single photo with a hyperlink to your album will be a fine “front end”. Let me explain that a bit more.

I use an album called Gallery EXP as one of my SkyDrive prime galleries. Inside this album are albums, folders for various topics. When a visitor gets to this album the tiles for the sub-folders show little slide shows of the contents. I think this is pretty neat. Here is a still photo of my gallery. Click the image to go to the live one.

Gallery EXP

Getting the link for the albums and photos is just a little bit complicated. For the prime gallery, sign in to your SkyDrive using the browser version. Navigate to your “prime gallery” folder. Click the little image“details” icon to open the information pane on the right side. Click Sharing then click Share folder. In the next dialog click Get a link. Then click Make public. You will now see a somewhat long URL in the address box. Copy this URL and file it so you can use it in the future to provide links to your gallery. You can click the Shorten link to get a short URL. You can see my short URL for Gallery EXP when you move the pointer over the image above. You can similarly obtain URLs for any folders in your gallery.

To inform my visitors of new photos in the gallery, I like to include the picture in an update post in the blog portion of my photo blog – my “landing page” for visitors. Here is how to go about that:

Navigate to the newly added photo in SkyDrive (not in the desktop folder, this requires the browser version).

Get image URL

Insert web image in Live WriterClick View original in the top taskbar. This gets you a view of the photo on a separate page. The address in the browser address field is the URL for this photo. It is rather long. Copy it and file it away. When you insert a photo in Live Writer – Insert > Picture > From the web…  this URL will allow you to source your actual photo and show it in your post.

Here is what such a post looks like:

Azalea Blossoms postOf course, you can see it better by clicking the image to go to that post. Be sure to click Latest in the menu bar to see the most recent posts. And don’t be shy about clicking the Gallery EXP link, it gets you to my gallery.

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© 2012 Ludwig Keck

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