Using Tonal Contrast to Boost Your Image


An image can be greatly enhanced by knowing how to implement tonal contrasts. A washed out photo can be made more vibrant or more striking. Used often in black and white photography, tonal contrast is the arrangement of black, white, and all the various shades of gray in between. 

High tonal contrast is when the blacks and whites are very pronounced, with hardly any shades of gray visible in the image. Low tonal contrast is when the image is mostly shades of gray with no pure blacks or whites. Medium tonal contrast would be a mixture of whites, blacks and grays. Bear in mind that in our mind’s eye, the light shades in an image will appear to move forward while dark shades retreat in the background. 

Tonal contrast can be adjusted in post processing. I am currently using Adobe Photoshop CS2 as my photo editing software but whatever you’ve got, there should be tools similar to curves, channels or the gradient map to adjust image contrast. 

The photo on the left is the original image in color. It was taken during an overcast afternoon. The towel is white but in the shot, it is almost as gray as the concrete wall behind it. There are no blacks or whites that are obvious so we can say this is a low contrast image. Since there isn’t much contrast, the image looks very flat and two dimensional. To get a high tonal contrast, I used a simple curves adjustment. The grays dramatically lessened and the towel became whiter while the background wall darkened. Going a step further, I used the gradient map to change the image from colored to black and white. Now the towel appears to have moved to the foreground with lots of dark empty space in the back.

Tonal contrast can also be applied to colored photos with fantastic results. The original image on the left looks dull and bland. After applying tonal contrast, the darker and lighter areas are more exaggerated and the result (right photo) is a more vibrant looking rooster. 

It is easy to overdo tonal contrast and there is the danger that the dark and light areas might become too amplified that the fine details found in medium tones will no longer be visible. A light hand is often enough to show your image at its best.  

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5 More Things to Remember When Shooting Car Light Trails

Images of car light trails are often captured by photographers because they can make for stunning shots. Since this subject matter often entails going out at night or twilight, plus using long exposures, there are quite a few things to consider. We previously listed four important things to remember when shooting car light trails, and here are five more to keep in mind:

Perspective – light trails by themselves are already interesting but add a creative perspective and your image can go even further. Aside from taking the shot at the often used eye-level angle, play around a bit by shooting low or taking a shot from top view instead. See if you can take the shot from an elevated viewpoint such as from the second or third storey of a building by the side of a road, or from an overpass. If you are situated on the side of a straight road and face the road straight on, the light trails will appear as moving from side to side. It might look flat and two dimensional, although it does not mean the image will turn out bad. By angling the camera so that the road has a vanishing point, the light trails created will also appear to have more perspective.

Framing – the basic composition rules still apply when shooting light trails. The Rule of Thirds, balance, leading lines, and the light can all help make the shot more visually appealing. Take note of your foreground and background and see to it that they add, rather than take away attention from the point of interest. The horizontal or landscape format is often used but if you were to rotate your camera and shoot using the vertical or portrait format instead, your image might achieve a more dynamic impression.

Exposure settings – knowing the right exposure settings will be a result of trial and error. Luckily, we don’t have to worry much about taking a whole lot of test shots with a digital camera as compared to film. By reviewing your shots in the LCD, you can already gauge how to adjust a particular setting. Let’s discuss the three settings in more detail:

Shutter speed – a slow shutter speed will allow you to capture the movement of light. Try starting with shutter speeds between 10-20 seconds to give the cars enough time to travel through the frame. 

Aperture – remember that aperture affects depth of field so if you want most of the scene to be in focus, choose an f/number that corresponds with a smaller lens opening such as f/8. Keep in mind that the smaller the opening, the less light enters the sensor and you might need to leave your shutter open a little longer.

ISO – grain or noise is usually most visible in low light scenarios and if you can, try to keep the ISO to a low value such as 100. At ISO 400 or more, there is a bigger chance of obvious grain. 

Use Bulb mode – some cameras have a Bulb mode that allows the shutter to stay open for as long as you want. This is especially handy when shooting light trails. It is ideal to use a remote shutter release when using this mode to avoid camera shake while the shutter is open.

Manual focus – during low light situations, it could be a challenge to get your focus locked in on the point of interest if you are using autofocus.  Switch to manual focus instead to make sure you get the clarity you intend. 

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Photographing Jewelry for Commercial Use

Jewelry is a subject often used in commercial photography. They are often seen in print ads, e-commerce shops and stock photos and they always appear to be all shiny and glittery. What is not commonly known is that a whole lot of effort has been placed to get those stunning shots. Jewelry is one of the most challenging objects to shoot, often being very small and made of metal or crystal, therefore having highly reflective surfaces. 

If the purpose of the jewelry shots is for commercial use, then it is essential that the shots be perfect, especially in online stores where consumers buy the products based on the visual impact of the photographs, rather than that of the actual pieces. No matter how pretty or expensive the jewelry item is, if it is presented poorly in a picture, then online buyers will be turned off from purchasing the product. 

When photographing jewelry, there are three main things to consider:

1.Proper lighting is crucial – it can’t be stressed enough how important the lighting setup is to getting great jewelry shots. Pieces have to be very well and evenly lit, with hardly any shadows. It can be easy to get blown up areas since gems and metals are highly reflective and bounce back the light. A light tent is a great way to diffuse the glare of the light while softening the shadows as well. Although you can buy a light tent in camera shops, you can also make one yourself with a few cheap materials. 

You must also remember that each jewelry piece is different from the next and therefore, the lighting varies as well. A diamond ring is lighted differently compared to pearl earrings in order to show it off best. Surfaces may be opaque or translucent, glossy or matted, smooth or faceted, etc. Knowing how to light jewelry properly is a result of practice and experience and this brings me to the next point:

2.Experience is the best teacher – it takes lots of practice to achieve good and consistent results when shooting jewelry. There are so many things to consider, from the cut of the gem to its size, kind, brilliance, opacity, color, and so on and so forth. Jewelry items are all shaped differently as well, and one must know how to present each piece in the best way possible. Although you can use guides and tips from photo books, other people or the internet, there’s a whole lot more to learn from constant practice, from trial and error, and from experimenting to find out the ways that lighting and set up can wholly capture the beauty of the jewelry piece. 

3.Use a capable camera and lens – a camera with a good macro lens or a macro mode would be satisfactory although ideally a high quality macro lens can best do the job.  Since the camera must not get too close to the jewelry because of the possibility of reflection, a good macro lens can capture pin sharp details and high magnification even from two feet away.  A great macro lens may cost a lot but it can truly deliver and if you constantly take jewelry shots for commercial photography, investing in this lens might be a good idea. 

4. Use a model – you can shoot jewelry by themselves on a platform or in their case but you can also make use of a model to give customers an idea how the jewelry would look on the body. For instance, you can have a close up shot of an earring dangling from an earlobe or a watch around a wrist.

Additional tips when shooting jewelry:

• Use wax to make the jewelry stand. If you want a pendant or a charm to be propped up while you are shooting it, place a tiny ball of wax at the bottom of the jewelry to keep it upright. 

•Add sparkle or brilliance by training light directly on the faceted gem. Move this light around until the gem starts to shine in certain areas without causing severe blown out highlights. There should also be a light on each side of the jewelry, separated by the light tent. 

•Create reflection for added visual interest. A black reflection, for example, can be achieved using a high gloss black acrylic platform. 

• Use one light source to make pearls more round. Two or more could make the pearls appear flat. Position the light source above the pearls and you can use a clear/white high gloss acrylic platform as its base to get a soft reflection. 

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How to Use Your Photo Editing Skills to Earn Extra Income
With the digital era having a firm foothold in the industry of photography, it is not surprising that most photographers are dabbling in photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to be used as their digital darkroom. Aside from photo editing software being pricey, it can also be quite tedious to master and learn but it can do wonders in creating effects and improving images. 
You will need determination and the willingness to learn the many technical aspects of any software to make full use of its advantages. But with all your effort, the rewards can be fruitful. It can provide many profitable opportunities that you haven’t even thought possible in the field of photography. Mastering any photo manipulation software coupled with your photography business can prove to reap a decent income. Learning the various photo editing techniques can prove to be a valuable skill to add to your talent in photography. Here are some tips on how to make money from photograph editing:
Pursue photo editing and restoration services – Digital picture editing and restoration services is a much sought after niche. More and more people and families want to restore old photographs that have been stored in old photo albums. This is a way of preserving family lineage and genealogy to pass on from one generation to the next.  Historical societies and museums always have a need for this particular service.
It is a relatively simple way of retouching water damaged or faded images to make it near perfect again. With technology, it is much simpler to store old photographs in your computer’s hard drive and it won’t be subjected to time and the elements. Even minor photography errors such as over or underexposure can easily be fixed. Altering the background, enlarging an image, and adjusting color contrasts can also be easily done. You can easily correct the color in an image, remove other people in a scene and even just copy old photographs that need no repairing.
Share your knowledge – Once you’ve mastered photo editing techniques you can now share your knowledge and earn from it by offering tutorials or write articles on how to tackle a certain area in photo restoration. There are many online sites that may be interested in buying your articles as long as the content is in demand, your writing is clear and concise, and most of all, helpful. Make sure you have a step by step screenshot for visual illustrations for the readers to be able to follow your instructions and base the ‘before’ and ‘after’ outcome of each endeavor. 
Create your own tutorial sites and be open for advertising- the internet is a great source of income. As long as you follow through with your initiative and work hard on improving your site and giving potential and your existing clients fresh material periodically, it will always make them keep coming back for more. Just make sure the content is useful and know what your readers are looking for. Stay abreast with all the latest techniques of all the more popular software available in the market. Most of them perform the same editing features but periodically some companies issue updates or release better and more advanced software that can do other things previous versions can’t.
In creating your own tutorial site, you can also earn extra by using banner advertising network in your site such as Adsense. You can even include a forum or a blog in your site where you share your ideas with other people. This creates a community that shares the same interests and can generate an influx of income.
Create stock photos that have been hyped up by image software – With all the unique techniques a software can do to manipulate an image to make it look out of this world, you can tap into a market that makes conventional images totally unconventional. This is a great way to hone your skills in photo editing, not to mention show it off to the world and earn from it.
Have an option for video tutorials – Since the popularity of YouTube hit the internet, video has reached internet mainstream.  People who use the internet have become more interactive and expect visual content and text content in whatever they do online. Having the option of offering video tutorials would give you further reach in a possible client base.

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What to Consider When Pricing Your Photography Services

The pricing strategy may be one of the most important and trickiest aspects of your photography business. Setting a price tag on your work against the market is a strategic move. Check around your area and your specific branch of specialty as well as the photographer’s market and you will be able to establish a base rate as well as a ceiling rate for the type of work you offer against the existing market.

The basic pricing for event or advertising photography consists of a daily fee, creative fee, usage fee and miscellaneous expenses:

Daily fee is the minimum base rate you charge for your time as well as your expenses with substantial revenue for a day’s work.

Creative fee is the amount charged for your talent on top of the daily fee.

Usage fee is an added fee charged for the type of usage required for the images you produce. 

Miscellaneous expenses are the out-of-pocket expenses related to the job you were contacted for plus a marginal percentage added to the price of any items as well as services used for the shoot such as extra gear, props, rentals, stylists, insurance and models.

For commissioned work that requires you to travel, you can add the travel and food costs as well other expenses required for the shoot. These may include accommodations, assistants, stylists, models, car rental, telephone, parking, and the like.

For the images that will be used for commercial purposes, you can include a royalty fee with a one time flat rate fee. These are best represented in coffee table books and magazines. Here an advance may be given to cover expenses and a royalty for each copy sold.

For clients that hire on the basis of retail photography, most photographers are hired with all inclusive rates. Such assignments include weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, etc. You can set a flat rate per hour. Usually you can require a non-refundable down payment to protect yourself from cancellations. You can also set a number on the size and prints of photographs per package.

Stock photographs are priced on a per photograph basis. Perceived value plays a large role in setting expectations for the value of an image and since this is subjective, it can range from a few cents to hundreds of dollars. Some factors that affect the pricing of stock photos are: budget range of a buyer, type of usage, rights upon being sold and the originality of the image. For example, a photograph used for a print advertising for a magazine with a circulation of 3 million will be priced differently from the same image used for a billboard seen on a freeway.

In any case, whatever your field in photography, always make sure that whatever way you price your work, you still make a profit from it. Pricing can be a challenge in the beginning but the more familiar you become with how the market works and how your services compare with those of other photographers, the better you can gauge a reasonable yet profitable price range.

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