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06-08-2013, 08:07 PM   #1
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Looking to take that step from beginner

Please excuse the topic jumps as it went from me asking a topic in PP to a topic about further my photography. So I apologize if this is in the wrong section since I've moved it around a few times before deciding to just post it here.
This topic jumps from asking about proper Post Processing to growing as a photographer and trying to find your niche to asking how to achieve photos worth selling.

I'm still a beginner in terms of shooting and PP. I bought my k-30 when it came out last summer and used it every day or edited every day to keep working and growing daily. With picking up more jobs in November I lost time and eventually stopped shooting / editing all together until recently. I still remember some stuff in PS but I'm far from knowing every must do / basic editing technic.

What editing is a must do? I shoot in raw so I play with the images in the raw editor for PS (the most recent edition).
How do you know when an image is "done" and achieve PP rivaling that of top images.

From temp/tint to exposure-black balance and even clarity. How much is too much? How much isn't enough?
Levels, sharpness, curve, hue/sat, clarity, bright/contrast, histogram balancing. How does it (and then some) all tie into making the image what you desire?

Looking back at old edits and file info of how I've taken shots I see things I've done wrong and how to shoot better and edit more effiently. I'm trying to take myself to the next level from just someone with a camera pointing and shooting to get lucky shots to someone who knows how to take the shots of the scene/subject that they desire. I've done a lot of reading online from tutorials on how to edit to articles of different technics and what not. And my next thing is trying to go from always shooting in AV to M. I used to try shooting in M when I was borrowing a Nikon d60 before my K-30 and even though the exposure bar would be balanced the images would be burned out or blown out so I turned to just shooting in aperture mode for most of my shooting other than astro.

I love shooting astro photography as I've been doing that as to slowly get back into the swing of things. I was only using some image stacking software in PS to stack the images and attempting to make the images acceptable. I have a terrible problem with light pollution so I'm un able to get jaw dropping images of the Milky Way and was just reading in a post about a program called Iris that supposedly takes care of light pollution. But I dont know of this works with stacking images in making startrails at all or if this only works in single shots.
I've been trying to figure out what iso is best. I used to shoot at 100 @10s but reading into it now looks like I should be trying 15s @ 800-1600 for startrails. I also read in a thread here talking about iris to also shoot a frame or two with the lens on to balance out Dark Frame Reduction which I've never done before and I'm sure there's things out there I dont know about or just aren't doing right.
I also have a celestron telescope that I bought a t mount and k mount adaptor for but when I went to use it last fall I realize I'm missing a piece to allow the camera to focus and I'm not sure if I need to buy an actual lens piece or what.
I also I'm curious if anyone here has the Pentax GPS1 and uses it for long exposure astro photography. How long of exposures can you do and is it worth purchasing?

I mostly shoot landscape / macro and looking back on my old images to edit I noticed my attempts at framing and "thirds" was spotty at best. Some things were "okay" or lucky and others needed framed a different way or some of the image cropped. Be it too much to a side or space on the bottom of the subject that needed to be gone. Or even the guilly hotizen down the middle of the frame. This also includes astrophotography and trying to find a suitable foreground.
I would like to start working with people but I'm not sure how to pose models and convey to someone how to pose. These would be friends an family willing to work with me but I'm not trying to waste their time or mine with having no idea what I'm doing.

I guess all in all. I'm trying to improve from just the guy with the camera pretending to take good photos ad wasting his time taking them all and attempting to edit them into something decent. I'm at the frustrated from overload on where to pick back up from and how to grow as a photographer stage. I want to better myself and my photography with what spare time I can get. But I'm unsure where to start and how to challenge myself without looking at images and seeing them as intimidating. There's so many talented people out there with beautiful images that are inspiring that make me try getting that compisition in camera or PP edit later that night that makes it intimating to try and sell or even post online for critiques.
There's nobody that's a bigger critic than yourself and I way to over come that to post some images I have to see what I can do better without just hearing how awful it is, when I'm already saying that to myself to begin with.

I apologize for such a long post. It started as a simple thread to better myself in PP and a thread about astrophotography to all of this. I know the post jumps all over the place and is vague at times as writing this on down time at work probably wasn't the best time to ask for help hah. Also wasn't sure if making a bunch of different threads for each subject was smart or this whole thing
I thank who ever reads and is able to give me some advice on how to move forward and grow as a photographer.

06-08-2013, 10:38 PM   #2
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LOL you certainly do jump around and aside from at the beginning there are not a whole lot of questions in there. Basically, the answer for most of your questions would be practice and perhaps read. There is no magical way to get good at photography and PP; no forum will be able to tell you in a post how to get to the next level. Sure they might give you tips to specific things, or give you critique on a photo you post, and that is a big help. But if you ask how can I edit this photo or how should I shoot it to look like the top pros... Well you are asking the wrong question.

How much processing is too much? That depends! If you are a photojournalist the answer is a lot different than if you are a fashion magazine photographer. Basically it will come down to the application and personal taste. You yourself noticed mistakes made in previous old edits and photos, and that is the key; as you practice and read and view other works that inspire you, you will develop your own style. But that can't and won't happen by others giving you formulas on how to take a good photo. I recently submitted a photo to the PEG and the horizon is right down the middle. Point is that even the "rules" in photography aren't really rules, they are more of suggestions or commonly used guidelines. Every landscape and scene is different, there can be no magic bullet method to photography.

Want to get better at astrophotography? Find photographers and blogs who dedicate to that type of photography, there is a lot to be learned from them. Want to learn to pose people? Find a blog that deals with portrait photography and never be afraid of "wasting" your time, rather see it as time invested in practicing (of course you better be practicing and learning, if you are making the same mistakes over and over you are really wasting your time). Take some shots, post them to the forum and ask for critique (and be prepared to receive it, both the things you did right and the stuff you didn't). Learn from your mistakes and keep shooting. People often "invest" in new gear and forget the biggest investment and the most important one: time. If you aren't putting in the time to learn and practice, you will not get better, no matter what gear you buy.
06-09-2013, 12:11 AM   #3
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Hello FragileBird,
Well, where to start? Jase036 is right, there's no magic formula for improving, you just practice and get used to the gear, get over the nerves, don't overthink the situation. When you take your camera out, have a plan. If the once-in-a-lifetime shot happens, take the photo, but otherwise stick to the plan. It can be as simple as 'people' or landscapes, macro, whatever you want to improve.
I've never had a problem with workflow, LR seems very intiuitive to me. The row across the top is there for a reason: the crop 'box' first. Don't waste time working on the whole photo, work on the photo YOU want, which is usually a cropped frame. So, crop and frame, composition can be hard sometimes and you may go back later, nothings written in stone. But get the basic 'frame' and move to redeye reduction. Don't need it in this shot? Good, move on.
Soon you get to the top row of sliders, what's first? Exposure. Try lightening the photo a bit, now darken it a little. By doing this, you're learning what the meter saw and recommended, and whether you agree. This can result in you using some exposure compensation on a similar scene or lighting situation.
Same with contrast: If you're always adding contrast in LR, there's ways to pop it up incamera.
The highlight, shadow, whites and blacks will teach you to read a histogram better. Move these sliders and look at the histogram. See the difference?
Same with saturation, fiddle with the sliders and it can (and will) improve your shooting technique.
Lightroom moves you along in a pretty logical manner and slowly your PP skills develop. But more importantly, LR teaches you to SHOOT better. It's ironic that the more you learn from LR, the less you need it, because the photos are closer to your vision and need less PP..
Keep shooting and learning. Practice, practice, practice.
Good luck!
06-09-2013, 05:58 AM   #4
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In addition to your own practice and reading, try to find a mentor. That is easier said than done, because I have reached the same point.
My wife's younger cousin's wife is a freelance portrait photographer. They will be vacationing locally for about a week this summer. I've never taken the time before this, but this summer I want to see if she can help me improve my portraiture, which is by far my weakest area photographically. I'm just hoping she is willing to assist with technique and not get hung up on why I should be shooting with top end Nikon gear!

06-09-2013, 08:35 AM   #5
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Hmm, this is a hard question to answer exhaustively, but....

In my opinion, "post processing" quickly becomes too much. I generally limit myself to setting white balance, exposure (including possibly tweaking highlight/shadows - which is the key reason for shooting raw) and sharpening. Very few photos get more than that - too much of a good thing, and all that, although I may occasionally do more.

A tool that I have found extremely useful to "learn to see light", as well as to make sure that I get the color balance etc. right, has been a graycard/color-swath. My current tool is this, I tend to schlep it along (it's very handy and compact) and take a shot of it whenever lightening conditions change. In "post processing", I calibrate white balance and other color adjustments on the photo of that card -- then stamp-and-apply on other photos taken under the same conditions. (On that token, getting a color management workflow tuned in is a good idea when looking to "take that step from beginner").
06-09-2013, 04:28 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by tclausen Quote
A tool that I have found extremely useful to "learn to see light", as well as to make sure that I get the color balance etc. right, has been a graycard/color-swath. My current tool is this X-Rite ColorChecker Passport ? X-Rite Photo ? X-Rite Passport,
List price for X-Rite ColorChecker Passport is US$99.
The cover and list price on my Kodak Master Photoguide is US$3.95. It was published in 1974. Aside from the included 18% gray card it has a huge assortment of photographic calculators, filter and lighting guides all within 3.5 X 4.5 X 0.25 inches. Some of the information isn't applicable (Instamatic flash cubes), but it is amazing how much is still useful in the field.

For what it is worth.... if you include the gray card in an image and use the 'levels" function in most of Adobe's photo editing products and click on a gray card in an image, you will set both white balance and exposure. The rest of the colors in a ColorChecker are, in my opinion, not all that necessary.
06-09-2013, 08:57 PM   #7
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You need to make sure your screen comes close to the rest of the world's idea of colors. If you only have one screen to edit and view, you can easily be making your photos look awful except to that one screen and be unaware of this. Some methods are already mentioned.

I do everything in Photoshop or Lightroom so my advice is mostly related to those two. They both use Camera RAW as a RAW processor. First, make sure the default settings on ACR are set the way you want them to be. Adobe uses a profile for your camera, and that profile can change the look of images a lot. The DNG format allows you to choose an embedded profile instead. Adobe also has a default minimal noise reduction and sharpening. I like those at zero. Check out all the defaults applied to your files and make sure you like them.

Adobe has their Camera RAW program organized with the important stuff up front on the Basic panel. Those controls and their order makes some sense. I'd call that the minimum set of processing for RAW shots. It is not necessary to move each slider on this panel. You should know what the controls do and why you are using them, not just zing them left or right until it looks nice.

A lot of my processing at first was identifying mistakes I was making when I took a shot that couldn't be fixed later. If the focus is wrong, there is no slider to fix that, and further processing is pointless. ACR is a good tool for showing where the red channel is overexposed, where the noise is excessive, where the lens is vignetting, etc.

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