b/w or colour?
You are not going to fit more pictures on your memory card by shooting in b/w – a digital camera captures images using a three filter CCD (RGB). Setting your camera to shoot in b/w simply desaturates the file and you lose the ability to tweak the image at a later stage. It’s easy to convert any colour image file into greyscale with most imaging applications.
Converting to greyscale
The simplest way to convert to greyscale in Photoshop is to select Image > Mode > Greyscale. This merges the three colour channels (RGB) into one single channel and reduces the file size down to 33% of its original size (three channels make up a colour image). Another method is to desaturate, Image > Adjustments > Desaturate, or use a shortcut key stroke Ctrl + Shift + U. The desaturate method leaves the image in RGB mode, although it has discarded all the colour information. Use this last method if you want to apply a colour tone such as Sepia etc. Although I use the desaturate command from time to time, it is not a very precise method, I will show you why later in this feature.
An image which has been converted to greyscale, or desaturated, probably looks flat and dull. This can be easily fixed using Brightness/Contrast, Levels or Curves. The Brightness/Contrast is limited to basic overall adjustments, whereas the Levels (Ctrl + L) gives you extra control on the mid tones. The best option is to use Curves (Ctrl + M). This may take a while to get to grips with, but it allows you to fine tune any tone in the image.
Using the Channel Mixer
Once you have achieved the correct tonality in your b/w pictures you can add a colour tint for effect. Make sure that your b/w picture is in RGB mode – Image > Mode > RGB Color. The simplest way to add a colour is by using the Colour Balance sliders (Ctrl + B) and move the sliders until you have the desired tone.
Alternatively, use the Hue/Saturation… panel (Ctrl + U) and make sure the Colourize and Preview buttons are ticked. Reduce the saturation to approx 10 and then move the Hue slider to find the colour you want – you will see the colour on screen change. Increase or decrease the Saturation to taste.
Digital photography has widened the creative possibilities for photographers, you don’t have to worry about how many exposures are left on a roll of film, just shoot away until the shot is “in the can”. In recent years digital cameras have become more and more sophisticated, it’s now easy to produce technically near perfect exposures time after time. With compact consumer cameras the pixel count has steadily increased from 3 megapixels, to 10 or 12 megapixels. Professional DSLR cameras are producing 12 to 24 megapixel files. This, together with very advanced built in computer technology, means photographs are now technically superior to anything seen in the past.
So where are digital cameras going from here?
The next step was to produce digital cameras that could also capture the moving image. Although for some time compact digital cameras have been able to shoot short video clips usually 320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixel dimension generally using a slow frame rate, of 15 fps (frames per second), some of the more advanced cameras offer larger resolutions and 30 fps capture.
In 2008 Nikon introduced the D90, the world’s first HDSLR camera capable of capturing High Definition video (HD). Before the D90, it was not possible to capture video on a DSLR camera, due to the mirror which has to flip up in order to make an exposure. Although some professional DSLR cameras can achieve a frame rate of up to 10 fps, this rate is too slow and produces jerky video. Smooth action video needs to be shot at 25 or 30 frames per second and DSLR mirrors can’t flip up and down this fast. To get round this problem today’s Video-HDSLR cameras use Live View (as used on compact cameras) for monitoring and viewing. When in Live View mode the mirror locks up and a continuous live feed is given to the rear LCD screen.
The concept of just one camera that does it all sounds interesting, just imagine going out on a shoot and being able to switch between capturing stills and a High Definition movie at the flick of a switch. Well this is now possible with most manufacturers offering a choice of cameras, Nikon D3s, D90, D7000, Canon 5Ds MkII, D7, Panasonic GH1 etc. So let’s take a closer look at some of the features that will help you to decide which camera is the right one for you.
At one time there were two video formats VHS and Betamax, those days have gone forever. Now we have a plethora of format choices led by High Definition and they all have their uses.
Full – HD. – This is the largest frame size that most current HDSLR cameras offer, The frame size is 1920 x 1080 pixels, this produces stunning quality on large plasma and LCD screens. The downside is that this large size frame can make a lot of processing demands on your computer.
- HD – Still high definition but at a smaller frame size of 1280 x 720. Nikon digital cameras use this format and although smaller than Full-HD it still offers outstanding picture quality. If you intend to produce DVDs or want to upload to the web then the 1280 x 720 HD format is a good choice.
- HDV – High Definition Video, this format is mainly used on tape based camcorders. The format is 1440 x 1080 anamorphic. Once downloaded the frame expands to Full-HD (1920 x 1080), but because the frame is squeezed during capture it may lose some definition.
- SD – Standard Definition. This format conforms to the 720 x 480 (NTSC – North America) or 720 x 576 (PAL – Europe) formats. Almost all commercial DVDs are produced in Standard Definition. The image format can be either 4:3 (720×576) or 16:9,(1024×576) again the larger size is an anamorphic squeeze.
- VGA – Video Graphics Array, this is now a dated format of 640 x 480, which has its uses for web video and other presentation clips etc. Many digital cameras still have this as an option
- AVCHD – Advanced Video Codec High Definition, this is a system that supports tapeless recording media and has many options including 1080i, 1080p and 720p. AVCHD was originally conceived for the production of Blu-Ray discs.
Printing for the Professional Photographer
Today’s digital technology seems to be geared up towards images being viewed on multiple devices. These devices can be almost anything from SmartPhones, iPads, computer monitors to large LED TV screens and projection. It makes sense to embrace all and any new visual technology, even David Hockney is now using an iPad to create his latest masterpieces. However, the tried and tested method of producing hard copy is still as popular as ever. The Social/Wedding photographer will no doubt always have a demand for a framed photograph for display in the home. The Fine Art photographer still needs to produce a physical print. In short photo printing is not in decline, in fact far from it.
Although a relatively new medium, inkjet printer technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last ten years, to the point that it is now the preferred choice for print production by many professional and Fine Art photographers. From the outset inkjet printers suffered with a bad reputation due to fade and unstable colours. Today’s photo quality printers use dye inks for dynamic colours or pigment inks that can last for up to 100+ years.
Starting at a very basic level with water based dye ink printers, many manufactures use the phrase Photo Capable or Photo Quality. Photo capable printers generally use four inks Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). These printers are suitable for producing good colours on plain paper or for proof printing on photo quality media, however, they are not suitable for final delivery to a client. Photo Quality printers generally use six or more inks, which include CMYK plus a Light Cyan and Light Magenta. The light inks produce a much higher quality print with subtle shades of colour rather than dithered colour shades.
The advantage with dye ink printers is prints are instantly dry to touch and colours look vibrant especially when used with High Gloss Photo media. The delicate dye inks penetrate the micro pores of the media surface and are generally well protected against handling abrasion. However, the micro pores also let in airborne pollutants including ozone, it’s these pollutants that generally destroy the delicate ink dyes. The other problem is light fade, again this will be due to the delicate nature of dye inks being destroyed by bright light sources. Dye ink prints can start to show signs of fade after a relatively short period of time, especially when cheap inks and media are being used. For the Fine Art photographer, and indeed any photographer who sells prints, dye ink printers should not be a first choice.
The other ink type is pigment inks, these use larger ink particles, the particles are too big to penetrate the media pores, so they remain on the surface. Each ink particle is covered with a resin coating which offers some protection against handling. However, because the pigment particles remain on the media surface, Glossy Photo prints can display a gloss differential. This effect can be clearly seen when viewing a print at an angle, the effect being most noticeable on areas where the media has ink applied compared to areas where there is no ink (white paper base). Manufacturers use a clear Gloss Optimizer ink to fill in these white areas to reduce or eliminate the effect. Because of their heavier density and resin protection, Pigment inks are probably the most stable colours available and they are claimed to have a 200+ year life (not tested in a real time situation).
This makes a pigment ink printer the ideal choice for photographers who rely on print sales as part of their services.