Saturday, August 17, 2013

Taking Photos - In the Park

Well, just like any other couple with kids, we also visited the nearby parks for the entertainment of our daughter, Aarohi. This one was particularly fun, cause we were being visited by my in-laws and I got away with a few interesting clicks. The first one is basically a collage, what I like about this is that it tells a story. I caught Aarohi in the act of gobbling down Bobbies (Golden Fingers) and used the Continuous Burst Mode on the Camera to capture her activity:
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
This next one captures one of the rare moments in which Aarohi lets someone style her hair and at that time it was only her Azoba (Grandfather) who was allowed to even come near her with a comb, as her mother looks on:
Keeper: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
Next I caught my wife’s mother enjoying the above scene. I did frame this one with the Principle of Thirds in mind, but managed to also pick-up a little bit of Snehal in the process. This was a sure shot candidate for image correction and I removed Snehal’s arm from the image using the Awesome Cloning tools in Photoshop:
Keeper: Click to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
Then I found her brother hanging around and got him to pose for me. Since I wanted to decide later how to frame him, I took a wider shot of him with a lot of background and then later cropped it to get the correct Composition. The reds in his T-Shirt really gave the image a lot of vitality and with a little Spot healing, I was able to clear out the blemishes, the Camera picked up on his face:
Keeper: Click to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
As I bought my attention back to Aarohi, she was generous enough to offer me a share in her spoils. This time I had to Crop the image to better focus on the subject. Another rare moment which had to be captured without fail…ha ha ha:
Keeper: Click to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
At the end of the day, as we settled back home, away from the cold weather outside, the little one snuggles-up next to her Aaji (Grandmother) in a cozy blanket and taken away on another amazing journey into the fantastical world of Disney’s Flying Elephant. I corrected the composition to better focus on the main subject and used a Blur Filter to remove focus from the surrounding:
Keeper: Click to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View


Yours Truly,

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Taking Photos - First Steps

Finally, it was time to bring out the mean machine (in my case a Canon EOS 600D) and just like every other noob who picked-up a camera, I also started taking pictures, left, right and center without much thought to Camera settings, Composition, Exposure or any of the other technical jargon the professionals keep taking about all the time.
And Loved it…Someone once told me and I quote -
“Untrained Photographers sometimes have a great sense of Composition"
First thing I did was picked up one of Mom’s Flower Vases and clicked it from every angle imaginable. Most of them were useless, some were interesting but only one was a Keeper. I’m not gonna bore you and embarrass myself with the useless ones. So here’s a coupla interesting ones:
And here’s the Keeper:
Now, when I start clicking, I take a tonna pictures. At this stage I’m not really worrying about anything else, other than just capturing what I see, in as many interesting ways as I can. For every Keeper, I’ve got like 20 pics that never see the light of day. The ones that seem interesting are the ones that I keep in my computer and the ones that are Keepers are the ones that I actually take the trouble of processing in my choice of image editing software, the almighty Adobe Photoshop.
Well to be honest, every photo I click goes thru a Post-Process before I share it with the World. Here’s a small Before and After for my first Keeper (basic Color Correction): Click to View
Since I’ve worked in the creative fields for quite a long time. I truly understand the importance of keeping track of all my assets and sorting them into appropriate folder structure. I NEVER delete images from the Camera. I always copy all of them and decide which ones to work with, on the computer. It’s just my opinion, but I like deciding which ones to delete by looking at them on a 21-inch computer screen rather than the 3-inch screen on the camera. I keep the original images in a folder called; you guessed it, ‘Originals’. Then I make another folder called 'Keepers' and sub-folder called 'Color' and copy the one that I wanna keep, here. I also make a 'B/W' and a 'Tint' folder, as these are the two post processes that I always experiment with.
Folder Structure:
Keepers – Color, BW, Tint
Here's the Color, B/W and Tint for the Flower VaseClick to View
After the Flower Vase I went for the Window Grill.
Here’s the KeeperClick to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
Then the Wind Chime on the Window caught my imagination. I went all around the hanging beauty and here’s the KeeperClick to View
Before and After: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to View
And the first day of adventures ended with photos of Trees growing outside the window, in these cases, the B/W versions turned out to be the KeepersClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to View
Before and After:
In this case, besides the B/W Conversion, I also Cropped the image to better focus on the subject and removed the annoying black rod, right in the middle of the scene, using CloningClick to View
In this case, it's just plain B/W Conversion, although there's a tonna stuff you can do with each Color when converting: Click to View
Here I've again Cropped as well as Blurred the background, to focus more on the subject: Click to View
Color, B/W and Tint: Click to ViewClick to ViewClick to View

Yours Truly,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why Photography...???

By profession, I’m in the creative fields. I’ve worked in the Animation and VFX Industry for the last 13 years and counting. I also teach Animation VFX softwares, like, Toon Boom StudioMayaMotionBuilderNukeFCP and many more. Although I have a certificate in Digital Character Animation from VFS (Vancouver Film School, Canada), I’m mostly self-trained.
Animation Film Making involves 3 major departments. Pre-Production, Production and Post Production. Ideally one should get training in these departments in this sequence, but due to a “series of unfortunate events”, I learned the process in a very haphazard manner. I first got to learn the 3D softwares, then VFX and then Drawing. To explain what I am talking about, I’ll need to fill you in on what these departments are all about.

Pre-Production mostly takes care of Designing all the elements of the film, starting from Sets & Props (Concept Design), Character DesignStoryboarding, Setting the mood with Colors and Animation. All this is done on paper and one needs to be very good at drawing to be a part of this department.

Production is mostly the 3D part of the pipeline. All the designs created by the artists, is now re-created in 3D using any one of the many 3D Modeling and Texturing softwares. These are then Rigged and Animated and finally the output is Rendered out as an image sequence.

Post-Production mostly involves, Compositing and adding VFX, followed by Sound & Video Editing.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I got trained in 3D first, then VFX and finally Drawing. It should've been - Drawing, 3D and then VFX. Eventually I realized my mistake and started self-training thru a buncha online Tutorials and Courses.
When I was studying Concept Design, I got introduced to the term - Value Shading. I was following Scott Robertson’s awesome Perspective Drawing and Shading DVD series for The Gnomon Workshop.
When I was studying Character Design, I got introduced to the terms - Direct and Indirect lighting. I was following Glen Vilppu’s Awesome Human Anatomy Series.
When I was studying Storyboarding, I got introduced to the term - Shot Framing. I was following Feng Zhu’s Awesome Fundamentals of Shot Design for Environments DVD for The Gnomon Workshop.
When I was studying Color Theory, I got introduced to the terms, Color Harmonies and Contrast along with Bounced lightShadowsAtmosphere and Camera Effects. I was following Richard Keyes’s Awesome The Mechanics of Color and Jeremy Vickery’s Awesome Practical Light and Color DVDs for The Gnomon Workshop.

The one thing that was common in all the above-mentioned study material is, understanding how light effects everything that we see, how to capture it and how to show it to others thru your drawings. They all talk about the importance of observation and some of them directly talk about how learning Photography helps an artist in creating compelling Artwork.
This became very evident in Storyboarding and Practical Light and Color. Here the instructors very clearly stated Camera Esthetics, like, PlacementsAngles and Composition along with how the Camera captured Light & ColorDepth of Field and Motion Blur. The more I studied these topics the more I got interested in actually holding a Camera in my hands and practically trying out what these instructors were encouraging me to do.

That’s when I started doing my online research to find ways to learn Photography and the very first name that came up was the Awesome Karl Taylor, a British Photographer, who also offers Photography Master-Classes, perfect for amateur photography enthusiasts and even professional photographers.

After getting introduced to Photography thru Karl, I bought my first Camera, an entry-level Canon EOS 600D, that I wrote about in my earlier blogs, Anatomy of My Camera Part1 and Part2. I also did more research and found the's Photography Series, which I wrote about in another one of my earlier blogs, The Learning Curve.
As I learnt more about photography, I also started fiddling with the idea of maybe finding a way to sell my Photographs. Further researches lead me to the stunning new world of Stock Photography. I’ll be writing about how to sell photos online in subsequent blogs.


Yours Truly,

Friday, June 28, 2013

Anatomy of My Camera (Part 2)

Canon EOS 600D ( aka Rebel T3i in America)

It has an Eye-level Penta-Mirror Viewfinder with a focusing screen along with Depth-of-field preview. Ha ha ha…again a mouthful. It simply means that internally it has a 5 mirror system to reflect the light into the viewfinder and that autofocus can be previewed here along with Depth-of-Field.

Well, for sure, it has a very advanced Autofocus; only thing is, while it works great in the Viewfinder, it is a little slow in the Live View Mode.

Exposure Control, ISO Speed, Shutter Speed
These three controls are the very basics of taking good photographs. They are the backbone of the functioning of any good Camera. If you get this right, there’s nothing that can stop you from becoming a good Photographer. An over-simplification would be to say that all three of them combine forces to decide how bright or dark the image is gonna be. Along with this comes the shady business of Metering and White Balance. It would take me pages to explain what all this stuff means and how they come together to make-or-break your photos. My suggestion would be to study up on the Fundamentals of Photography before attempting to fool around with these suckers.
I can only say that this camera has got the goods when it comes to these features. It’s a bit technical, but for those interested in knowing:
1)   It’s got all sorts of Metering Modes, ranging from Evaluative metering (linked to all AF points), Partial metering (approx. 9% of viewfinder at center), Spot metering (approx. 4% of viewfinder at center) and Center-weighted average metering.
2)   Exposure Control is based on the Mode of shooting I choose, Program AE (Scene Intelligent Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Program), Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority, manual exposure and automatic depth-of-field. F-Stops range from 3.5 – 5.6.
3)   ISO Speed ranges from 100 – 6400 expandable to 12800.
4)   ShutterSpeeds range from 1/4000sec. to 1/60sec.

There’s a Built-in flash mounted on top of the Camera’s body. It is retractable and there’s a button to the side, to pop it up when needed. Also, in Auto mode the Camera’s Scene Intelligent Program decides when to pop-up the flash or not, depending upon the lighting conditions surrounding the subject.
It also has a Wireless master unit function provided, which allows me to fire an external Flash Wirelessly.
There’s also a standard Hot Shoe to attach an external Flash directly onto the body.

Drive System             
Drive mode in the Camera allows me to take Single shots or Continuous shots alongside a self-timer feature.
If I shoot with JPEG it gives me a Max. Burst of about 34 shots, with RAW approx. 6 shots and with RAW+JPEG approx. 3 shots

Live View Shootings             
This means that the Camera allows me to shoot a scene thru the display on the LCD Screen. Although it works just fine, has Face Detection, Contrast Detection and supports Auto Focus as well as Manual Focus, I’m not a big fan of this feature. Reason being it’s known to be slow and not very accurate, be it stills or video.

Movie Shooting             
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first defining reason why I bought this Camera. Full HD Video recording. It is capable of recording:
1) 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) video at 30fps / 25fps / 24fps
2) 1280 x 720 (HD) video at 60 fps / 50 fps and
3) 640 x 480 (SD) video at 30 fps / 25 fps.
Recorded Video gets compressed into MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 Variable (average) bit rate and saved as a QuickTime MOV. Audio can be recorded thru the built-in monaural Mic as well as using an external Stereo Mic.

LCD Monitor             
This is the second defining reason why I bought this Camera. It has your standard TFT color liquid-crystal monitor, 3.0-in. (3:2) wide with approx. 1.04 million dots. It also displays all the in-camera Feature guides and Menus. But the major feature is its angle adjustment.

The Camera allows me to display images in a coupla formats viz., Single image, Single image + Info (Basic info, shooting info, histogram).
Images can also be displayed in 4-image index, 9-image index. I can also rotate it in-camera.
Along with images, movies can also be played back. Audio out is thru the built-in speaker. It can also be connected to an HDTV via the HDMI Terminal for better viewing experience.

Post-Processing of Images             
It has a tonna built-in Creative filters viz., Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Toy Camera, Fish-eye and Miniature Effect. Also resizing your images is possible.

Direct Printing             
It also allows me to directly print my images, both JPEG and RAW with a buncha PictBridge-compatible printers, including Canon's own range.

Well, the Camera’s gotta interact with the rest of the world, like, Computers, HDTVs, Printers, Mics and such. There are a buncha jacks that allow it do just that:   
1) Audio / video OUT / Digital terminal allows it to share Analog video (Compatible with NTSC / PAL) / stereo audio output to Analog TVs. It also works as a Hi-Speed USB equivalent for Personal Computer communication and direct printing.
2) HDMI mini OUT terminal allow it to interact with HDTVs
3) External microphone IN and Remote Control terminal.

It comes with a rechargeable ‘Battery Pack LP-E8’ that goes into the base of the Camera. Life of the battery depends on whether I'm shooting thru the Viewfinder or the Live View mode on the LCD. It may range from 200-400 shots and approx 1 and a half hour of video shooting before I’ve to charge it again. My advice would be to start using the battery only once it’s fully charged and only recharge it once it’s fully drained.

Dimensions and Weight             
One of the best things about this camera is that it feels so comfortable to hold and is pretty lightweight. Even the design of the body gives the user a very comfortable grip, which automatically reflects on the quality of image taken. Specification below:
Dimensions (W x H x D) - Approx. 133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm / 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1in.
Weight - Approx. 570g / 20.1oz.

Operating Environment             
Finally just like any other electronic device, you gotta keep the Camera cool. They say that a working temperature range of 0°C - 40°C / 32°F - 104°F would be great to keep it in good shape. Buy frankly I’ve never really kept an eye on that, although I do take care not to place it in direct sunlight or near the stove…ha ha ha...all jokes aside, for a long life. it’s good to keep it in optimum temperatures and it’s absolutely necessary to save it from sudden, extreme changes in Humidity, like stepping out of an Air conditioned room. Easy remedy is to keep Desiccant packets in the camera bag. These are often found in new product shipments to absorb moisture.

Well, that’s just about everything I know about my Canon EOS 600D. By no means is this an exhaustive review of the Camera. Please don’t consider this sufficient information to take a decision about buying one. If you really wanna go in-depth into the nitty-gritty’s of the features and functions, then do visit this multi-page Camera Review by the awesome guys over at DPReview or you could watch this youtube video.


Yours Truly,

Anatomy of My Camera (Part 1)

Canon EOS 600D (aka Rebel T3i in America)

Well, it’s time to unpack the purchase and once the Open-Sesame moment is over, this is what comes out of the box.
The Kit comprises of: A) Camera Body, B) Software CD, C) Install CD, D) Battery Charger, E) Battery, F) AV Cable, G) USB Connector, H) Strap, I) Kit Lens
There are a few good reasons why I bought this particular Camera. Firstly, it was the cheapest one available. The cost keeps fluctuating, so for current pricing, take a look at the Canon website or you might also wanna visit your local showroom. For my first Camera, I wanted to go for an entry-level piece. The plan was to get trained in photography, click some photos and then, once I might start selling my photos, then buy more expensive ones. Although, now that I’ve started studying Photography, I have come to realize that, other than a coupla reasons, there’s not much need to upgrade the Camera’s body. Just need to keep buying new lenses (Wide Angle, Prime, Telephoto) and maybe a Tripod, eventually. I’ll be writing about the reasons to upgrade the body below. Second, would be a question, Why Canon? Well, no particular reason, I am sure all camera makers, be it Canon, Nikon, Olympus and many more, put the best features into their Cameras. My decision was based on the fact that most of the courses that I studied from used Canon Cameras.
Of course, I did find two reasons, in particular, that helped me finalize the purchase. First being the fact that I can shoot 1080p Full HD video and Second, Vari-Angle LCD monitor, meaning the LCD’s on a hinge which allows it to be swiveled in almost any angle, great for viewing the frame while recording at crazy angles.

Following is a basic breakdown of the key features of my Camera:

Body Type           
Well, so for sure, it’s a DSLR i.e., Digital, Single-Lens Reflex, AF / AE Camera with built-in flash. Wow, that was a mouthful. It simply means that it's a digital Camera and the body has a movable mechanical mirror system (Reflex Mirror), which is switched down (exact 45-degree angle) to direct light from the lens to an optical viewfinder eyepiece and flicks up when the picture is taken. Along with that, it has built-in Auto Focus and Auto Exposure features.
It also comes with a Revised kit lens - Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.6-5.6 IS II and is compatible with Canon’s range EF and EF-S lenses.
Combine the two and you get this piece of beauty.

In addition it has an SD Memory Card which happily sits on the side of the body, so that you can change it without lifting the Camera off the Tripod.
The CMOS Image Sensor sits right behind the Mirror and its size is approx. 22.3 x 14.9mm. Now this is the information that helps you decide whether to upgrade the body or not. To get the best quality without any compression one must have a Full Frame or 35 mm Image Sensor. This is basically the size of the conventional Film reel. Smaller sensors will have lower picture quality. With the advent of Digital Recording, the option to buy a full frame or reduced sensor is now open to buyers depending on their spending capacity.
Most of the controls for clicking photos are on the top right part of the body viz., Mode Dial, Display toggle, ISO button, Jog Dial and the Shutter button.
The Mode Dial has the entire range of standard shooting modes found in most DSLRs, starting from Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Program mode for the professionals, to the very reliable Scene Intelligent Automatic Mode for the novice, to a tonna Preset Modes for the enthusiasts.
The rear side of the body has the unique vari-angle LCD Screen, the Viewfinder, all the Controls for Camera & Shooting Settings, Image Viewing and Post-Processes.

Recording System             
The Camera allows me to record images in both JPEG and RAW formats, in various sizes, along with the option to record both at the same time:
JPEG: Ranges from Largest being 18 Megapixels (5184 x 3456) to smallest, approx. 350,000 pixels (720 x 480)
RAW: Approx. 17.90 megapixels (5184 x 3456)
Image size directly affects file size. Larger the size, lesser the number of pics you can click. My advice would be, keep the size large and invest in more storage. You could also learn photography properly and click better photos…ha ha ha. No point in having a tonna low quality images you can’t use anywhere as opposed to a few good ones you could probably sell later.
From post-processing point of view, it’s better to shoot RAW. Although JPEGs can be edited to no end in an application like Photoshop, Adobe’s Camera Raw allows you to do a tonna pre-processing before opening the image in Photoshop. Although you can also open JPEGs in Camera Raw, the range of controls is less. Hope that made some sense.
It also performs some amount of image processing during shooting which involves choice of Picture style, such as, Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome. Along with a buncha White Balance settings according to the type of lighting in the scene, like, Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom White balance correction and white balance bracketing features are also provided.
One of the most important features is the amazing NoiseReduction, applicable to long exposures and high ISO speed shots. Along with Automatic image brightness correction and Auto Lighting Optimizer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Learning Curve

Ok, so now I have a Camera, a DSLR no less. The next thing, is to find out what to do with it. You guessed it, gotta Learn how to use it…!!!
My learning Curve started by searching the Internet for learning recourses and tutorials on Photography and ended with an Awesome website called I must say, is, by far, the best one-stop-shop for all your learning needs. They are an Online Tutorials and Training website and have a huge repository of training material delivered by highly experienced Gurus who are themselves experts in their fields, be it, 3D, Animation, Audio, Business, Design, Developer, Photography, Video or Web.
The first one that caught my interest was by Author Derrick Story, a Professional, Writer and Teacher. 
He also runs a very informative website - The Digital Story where he shares weekly Digital Photography Pod casts, Photo Tips, Reader Submitted Pictures, Equipment reviews and more.

DigitalPhotography Principles: The Camera - This tutorial shows us how to master digital cameras and their settings to create magazine-quality shots.
Once I got a good understanding of the Anatomy and various key features of a DSLR camera, I did what Mr. Story mentioned as one of the most important things to do when starting to use your camera for the first time, and I quote ‘Read the Manual’. Although I won’t claim to have read the whole thing, whatever I did read made me a better Photographer for sure.

Next up I came across another Awesome Author, Ben Long, also a Photographer, Writer, and Teacher. Mr. Long has a buncha courses that really helped me in improving my skills as a budding Photographer. 
I picked up some of his courses and am studying them in the following order:
Foundations of Photography – Lenses This course shows us how to understand, choose, and properly use lenses.

Foundations of Photography – Exposure This course describes how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings relate to one another, and how these settings expand your artistic options with any photograph.

Foundations of Photography –Composition - This course is a detailed exploration of the concepts of composition, from basics such as the rule of thirds and leading lines to more advanced topics such as entry and exit points.

Foundations of Photography - Black and White - This course describes strategies for capturing the best black and white images and techniques for converting to black and white in Photoshop.

Foundations of Photography - Night and Low Light - This Course covers the tools, creative options, and special considerations involved in shooting with a DSLR camera at night or in low-light conditions, such as sunset or candlelight.

Shooting and Processing High Dynamic Range Photographs (HDR) - This course describes and demonstrates high dynamic range (HDR) photography, a technique that broadens the luminance or range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.

By the time I will finish the above listed courses, I’m pretty sure my Photography will be way better than when I began. 
Now, most of the Professional Photographers whom I have spoken to, as well as Trainers, advice to achieve the best possible version of the Photograph, ‘in Camera’. But some times a little Photo-Retouching can really bring out a look and feel you could never achieve otherwise. In this matter, the go to Digital Software is Adobe’s hugely popular Photoshop, now in it’s CS6 version. Yet again, has a huge collection of Courses for Photoshop and it’s implementation in Photography by various Authors. 
Following are the ones that I’m studying:

Author - Julieanne Kost
This course explores the Photoshop features and creative options and shows efficient ways to perform common editing tasks using Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Bridge.

This course provides in-depth training on Camera Raw 7, the Photoshop CS6 component that enables photographers to open and manipulate raw format images.

This course covers the essential techniques to create composites from multiple photos using Adobe Photoshop—from working around tricky exposure challenges to creating stronger group photos and crafting creative photo illustrations.

This course takes you on an insider's tour of the key photo-enhancement features in Photoshop CS6.


Yours Truly,