29 Nov. 2010

Lesson 8 - Camera Lux

Our final lesson. I mentioned in the previous post that I am desolate. In my everyday life, Tuesday mornings were my highlight, and now the beginners photography course is finished, I am probably going to have to go and do something ridiculous like pilates. It is Monday today, so I'm expecting quite a bit of grief tomorrow. Zahra, if you are reading this, please hurry up the intermediate course before I go and do something stupid like sign up for decoupage.

In our first lesson, Zahra took us right back to the beginning, when the camera was simply a box with a pin-hole in it that would replicate an image (upside-down) on the back wall. It was a dark room, so in the language of the day (Latin), this kooky little contraption became known as the camera obscura. Things have come a long way since then, and now we not only have digital SLR cameras (interesting that the name of our photographic contraptions translates simply as "room". The Italians must wonder what the hell we're doing, all walking around with rooms in our handbags...), but we have technology for after-photo treatment. In our lesson this week, Zahra gave us a brief introduction to Lightroom, which is an excellent place to start adjusting your photos if you are a little too immature in your photographyness to embrace Photoshop. I have affectionately renamed it in latin, Camera Lux.

First, I open Lightroom 2 (you can get 3 now), and then select File -> Import images from Disk. then I select the image I want, and a new window prompts me to add photos to catalog without moving (yes, that is what I want), so I select Import. Now the photo appears in my "Library". If I want to do anything to it, then I have to select it (click on it), and then click on "Develop" in the top right corner. I like to then go into settings -> before and after -> Left and Right, because then I can see what I have done to the photo, and make sure I don't make it worse.

In what has been some fortuitous timing, Carmi over at Written Inc has set us a challenge in Sepia, so I can knock out the two proverbial birds with my blog-stone, and show you my before and afters, and how to get there. I selected this bycicle, because I believe sepia conveys this lost-in-time, whimsicle feeling, and the bike here that belongs to our next-door neighbour's gardener is seriously about 400 years old. And apart from the fact that it usually has a grotty gardener (who is probably nice man) perched atop it, this bicycle is quite a stunner.

On the left toolbar, you will find a menu entitled "Presets". There is a whole stack of them - you will have a great time mucking around with them. I paticularly love the aged photo one - makes them look like washed-out old Polaroids, especially if you later bring up the saturation yellow in the HSL column later.... But we are going for sepia. There are two presets that will work that come standard: Antique light and sepia.

Antique light
But I found these washed the photo out a little. So I found a place (presetsHeaven.com)where I could download a free preset called Sugar and Spice Sepia, which not only lowers the contrast and brings out the darks, it also gives a little vignette (the dark shadows at the corners), and sharpens a little to give that old-school grainy effect. That is the photo right up the top.

You can actually do all this stuff manually on the right toolbar, and if you wish, you can fiddle around even after you have applied the preset. Once you are finished, go to File -> Export, and the window will open providing you with options. I like to put some custom text in the file naming box so I don't lose it in the bunch of 10000-odd IMG_xxxxx files.

Now I was going to talk about all the other cool stuff like exposure levels, the tone curve, colour saturation and hue, but I've been rambling on a bit...Are you still there? Anyway - download it and play - it's the best way to find out everything you can do. And the great news for dummies - no "layers" (although this does mean it is not possible to take ex-boyfriends and double chins out of the picture).

And the final words from Zahra - "Don't think that because you can edit now, you have an excuse to take bad photos. The most important work is done from behind the lens."

If you like these ramblings but are not interested in photography, check out my other blog: