Category Archives: Research

The Digital Negative


The Digital Negative by Jeff Schewe, published by Peachpit Press, ISBN: 13 978-0-321-83957-2.

I have just read this book to try to get a better understanding of digital photography.  Schewe is a photographer who has also been working with the boffins at Adobe since the early 1990’s to help develop RAW, Photoshop and more recently Lightroom for photographers from a photographer’s point-of-view.  His books are therefore as close as you can get to finding a first class knowledgable author.  He has published two books ‘The Digital Negative’ and “The Digital Print’ the later I have just began to read.

The Digital Print briefly covers the basic background of how the digital image is made in the camera but drills in to the featured and functions in both RAW and Lightroom that you will use to process your RAW file in to a presentable photo.  This includes a recommended and sensible workflow, background information from the Adobe engineers explaining why certain features work the way they do.  Chapters 4 and 5 a dedicated to Photoshop for advanced editing beyond the capabilities of RAW and Lightroom for those images worth the extra effort.  Chapter 6 covers the recommended workflow from importing pictures from the camera, storing, backing-up, making copies, cataloguing on to developing.  This book does not however cover printing as this is a topic for his second publication.

This is a good book to read, I learned a few new features in Lightroom that I was unaware of and also instructed me in the use of RAW that I am unfamiliar with as I have only used Lightroom so far.  Lightroom was was developed with a lot of the features from RAW and both will talk to one another but changes made in one will alter the other’s parameters and this is a useful thing to be aware of if you use both RAW and Lightroom.  If you want a better understanding of Lightroom, RAW and Photoshop this ids the book to read.  This is not however a detailed book for Photoshop it covers the topics that most photographers need but doesn’t look at all the magic tricks possible in Photoshop.  This is a book intended to help the modern photographer become confident and proficient developing digital photographs to a point that they can print or advance to higher levels of editing using Photoshop and plug-ins.  Not too technically challenging and easy to read and fairly easy to understand without an engineering degree.

A very good book that I would recommend.

Good books that I used to research and plan for the subject illustration and Narrative and Assignment V

When I was studying for section five of my Art of Photography course, illustration and narrative, I purchased and read two very good books by AVA publications,  basics Creative Photography series, Context and Narrative by Marie Short and making Photographs by Mike Simmons.

Basics_Creative_Photography_Making_Photographs Basics_Creative_Photography_Context_and_Narrative

Making Photographs by Mike Simmons is a good book to use to help find ideas and then create a working plan for your photography project.  This book helped me develop the ideas for creating images for my exercises and helped my find the idea for using the M.R. James story for my assignment and story board it with sketched ideas for images.

Context and Narrative helped me with ideas of subject matter and a better understanding and use of juxtaposing images.

Both these books have case studies and exercises at the end of each chapter.  Both are good books and I will revisit then for my new course which is ‘Context and Narrative’.

Formal elements in art and composition

From the world of art and the compositional analysis of paintings, the formal elements are: line, shape, tone and form, texture, space and colour.  (Basics Photography 01, Composition, David Prakel, AVA.)

line DSC_6326-Edit-resized

shape  Wedding-5825

tone & form Low_Res-7603

texture  Patterns-8-resized

space  DSC_5785-Edit-resized

colour  DSC_6325-Edit-resized



Books and websites that I have used for narrative and illustration

The books read for this subject (illustration and narrative) are:

Context and Narrative, Maria Short, Basics Creative Photography 02, AVA.

Making Photographs, Mike Simmons, Basics Creative Photography, AVA.

The Fundamentals of Creating Photography, David Prakel, AVA.

Train Your Gaze second edition, Roswell Angier, Bloomsbury.

The Photograph, Graham Clarke, Oxford University Press.

Photography a Critical Intruduction fourth edition, Liz Wells, Routledge.

The photograph as Contemorary Art, Charlotte Cotton, Thames & Hudson world of art.

Websites browsed:


In simple terms reciprocity is the relationship between aperture and shutter-speed.

Film or electronic light sensors are designed to be very sensitive to light and therefore the light must be controlled in order to avoid over-exposure.

A camera controls the amount of light from reaching the sensitive film or sensor by the aperture in the lens and the shutter-speed in the camera body. The aperture controls the light intensity and the shutter-speed controls duration.

The wider the aperture; so allowing greater more light intensity to expose the film or sensor the shorter time the film or sensor can be exposed to the light, before we have a problem with over-exposure.

A simple analogy for reciprocity is making toast: Toast can be made on a high heat for a short time to get a perfect brown finish or toasted at a lower heat for a longer period of time to obtain the same result.
Substitute the idea of toast for film or sensor and consider the light acting just like the heat. The brighter / more intense the light the shorter the exposure time required and the dimmer the light the longer the exposure time will be required to obtain the same results.

A practice example in photography, the camera set to ISO 100 a shutter-speed (sec = seconds) of 1/30sec, f/5.6 (10 EV) will produce the same exposure as 1/60sec, f/4, (10 EV) the same as 1/125sec, f/2.8 (10 EV) the same as 1/250sec, f/2 (10 EV)
As the aperture opens wider; so the shutter time must shorten to compensate. These combinations can be charted on a table and allocated a single number to described all the same exposure values. All the above combinations are known as 10 EV on an exposure-value (EV) table (based on an ISO 100).

To sum up, reciprocity can offer the photographer a number of combined aperture and shutter setting to achieve the same exposure. The choice however, may be based upon a required depth of field or a need for speed to capture a specific moment. There is an inevitable trade off, one for the other, a smaller depth of field will require a larger aperture and thus a faster shutter-speed. A smaller aperture for a greater depth of field requires a slower shutter speed. These combinations can be referred to as an exposure value (EV) number. This is the basic rule of reciprocity.

Basics Photography 07, Exposure. By David Prakel. Published by AVA Publishing

Good books for lighting

Light Science & Magic, Fourth Edition, by: Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua. Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Basics Photography 07, Exposure. By David Prakal. Published by AVA academia.

Basics Photography 02, Light. By David Prakel. Published by AVA academia.

Digital Portrait Photography and Lighting. By Catherine Jamieson, Sean McCormick. Published by Wiley Publishing Inc. ISBN: 0-471-78128-2.

Direction & Quality of Light. By Neil Van Niekerk. Published by Amhurst Media. ISBN: 13: 978-1608955701

Subject-contrast, Subject-brightness-range and Lighting-ratio

Film and digital sensors are limited in the subject brightness range that they can handle and so it is important to understand these limitations, especially for studio work and when fine detail must be recorded that are found in both dark and bright areas of the same image.

Subject-contrast can present a challenge when photographing something with very dark shadows and bright highlights or is a mixture of very dark and very bright tones that both require exposing without loosing detail.

Subject-contrast is the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an evenly lit subject.
An evenly lit grey object would have no contrasting tones where as a black and white object would have extreme contrasting tones.

Subject-contrast can be described as a ratio against an exposure stop.
Therefore a subject contrast requiring a 1 stop adjustment of exposure compensation is described as a ratio of 2:1.
For every 1 stop increase the ratio doubles, therefore:
2 stops – 4:1
3 stops – 8:1
4 stops – 16:1
5 stops – 32:1
6 stops – 64:1
7 stops – 128:1
For half stops, the equivalent ratio sits in between for example 1.5 stops – 3:1. 2.5 stops – 6:1, etc.

Images that are considered high contrast are those that have a contrast ratio of 32:1 or above between the darkest and brightest parts of the image.

Low contrast images are when the difference between the darkest and brightest part are below 2:1 in difference.

Subject-brightness-range is the combination of subject contrast and lighting contrast. The subject contrast ratio is multiplied by the lighting contrast ratio to obtain an overall contrast ratio the camera sees.
For example a subject with a contrast of 4:1 is lit by lights in a ratio of 8:1 will produce an overall subject brightness range of 32:1 (4×8=32) This represents 5 stops adjustment on the camera from the suggested exposure setting given by the in camera reflective reading light meter.

By understanding this problem studio lights for an example can be set to different output settings to compensate for where additional light is needed but less light is requires else where.
An example would be a model wearing black trousers and a white shirt may require less light against the shirt and more light against the black trousers to record both highlight and shadow detail.

Basics Photography 02 – Lighting, by David Prakel, published by AVA

White on white

I gave myself a little challenge to take a challenging image of a white subject against a white background.
Following the steps outlined in Light Science & Magic by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Faqua, published by Focal Press.

White on white-resized

I used a Nikon SB910 speedlight inside a soft-box fitted to a tripod that straddled the set. The speedlight was controlled by a Pocket Wizard for off camera remote control. A black card was placed to the left of the subject to help with modelling, a black gobo was suspended above the subject to create a shadow on the top of the head and prevent a highlight from forming and obscuring the top detail. A reflector was also employed as a fill light to soften shadows on and below the face. I used a handheld light meter to take an incident reading and stopped down from f/22 as recommended by the light meter to f/19 to obtain a nice white background instead of an 18% grey background.

I have only sharpened and converted to black and white in lightroom without any adjustments to contrast, tones, or exposure, etc.

Set (1 of 1)

Using diffuse reflection and shadow to reveal texture

In this exercise, I have taken two photos of a garden glove to try to illustrate the difference between ‘flat lighting’ and ‘raked lighting’ the first image was taken with the speedlight fitted to the camera and produces a flat light that doesn’t really show off the glove at it’s best by revealing much texture or providing much of an illusion of a three dimensional object.
Small_light_at_high_angle_making_flat_light_very_little_texture_effect (1 of 1)

This second photo was taken with the speedlight moved off camera and set at a low angle to rake the glove with light in order to bring out the texture by creating tiny highlights and shadows in the material and producing shadows to help give it a three dimensional appearance.
Small_light_at_low_angle_making_raked_light_for_texture (1 of 1)

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Distance of light

The distance the light source has to the subject will effect the type of light you get on the subject.

The further away the light is from the subject the smaller the light size becomes and the harder the light becomes. A soft-box at a greater distance from the subject will act like a small hard light, creating harder shadows and direct reflections, this is due to the limited family of angles.

The closer the light source is to the subject the softer the light becomes, producing softer shadows and diffused reflection as the light source appears larger due to the proximity. At a closer proximity the light has more angles to strike the subject; so the effect is the same as a larger light.

Light, Science & Magic, 4th edition. By Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua.
Published by Focal Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

Further reading:
Basics Photography 02 Lighting. By David Prakel. Published by AVA Publishing.