Monday, 6 August 2007

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Realgrain Plugin Review

flowing water, long exposure

Convincing Black And White Digital Photographs

I feel comparing black and white digital photography with it's film equivalent is like comparing apples with oranges. They just are not the same thing in look and feel. I discussed this in detail in part 1 of this series. When speaking with photographer Hellen Van Meene she describe film as having "magic". Now I'm not sure what the techical term for magic is but creatively I know exactly what Hellen means.

Until very recently I didn't really feel there was anything available for the digital photographer that would add that magic to a black and white digital photograph. I already knew from bitter experience that transforming a colour digital photograph into a convincing black and white print is very difficult and can be inconsistant and unconvincing.

I felt the end results could be lacklustre and the process time consuming. Also doing excellent black and white conversion is beyond most peoples abilities. People want to take pictures not program computers. I resigned myself to shooting rolls of black and white film and paying exhobitant sums of money to develop them. This was the situation until I discovered some software called Realgrain.

Realgrain is a plugin for photoshop made by Imagenomic makers of the excellent Noiseware program. Essentially Realgrain claims to mimic the visual effect of various colour and black and white film stocks. Classic films such as Fuji Velvia 50 or Kodak Tri-X 400. I tried it out to see if these claims where true. I began by experimenting with the black and white film conversion.

Accessing the plugin is simple it sits in the menu of Photoshop with all the other filters and plugins and is simply selected from the drop down menu. Selecting a film type for conversion is equally simple. You just select a group from a drop down list. In this case Black and White Films. Then select a specific film from the second list.

realgrains creenshot

In this first screen shot I have converted the colour image at the begining of the article into a simulated Kodak Tri-X 400. I have to say that the conversion impressed me at once as this was my usual choice of black and white film stock and it looked very close to the original to me. You can also control luminance, grain density and tonal range to gain the effect you want quickly and easily.

realgrain screenshot

The second screenshot is a conversion to a colour film stock demonstrating that you can also adjust the tone curve for the shadows, midtones and highlights. Much as you would do in the darkroom by adjusting your developing and printing processes. Only on this occasion it's cheaper, cleaner and you have an UNDO button.

realgrain screenshot

On the third screenshot i've done a simmulated cross processed effect and you can also see I have available a control pannel to take total control over the hue and saturation value of every colour in the photograph.

realgrain screenshot

In the forth and final screenshot I have selected a simulated infrared conversion and have also showed the forth control pannel which allows you too tone the image as you would in a darkroom. With options such as Platinum/Silver available. You can also easily set the tone balance and add colour tints with the click of a mouse.

I have to say I am completely sold on this wonderful plug-in. It does it's job superbly well and is very easy and intuitive to use. It's not processor hungry so it works efficiently on any reasonable PC. I tested on a 2.6Ghz Athlon machine with 2Gb of memory and a conversion took around 6 seconds on a 60Mb .TIF file. The plug-in works on 8bit and 16bit files also. It's also a total bargain as it weighs in at a humble £45 ($90)

Please note I recommend things I like and find useful and good value. My opinion is not for sale.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Cooking On Photography Trip

Pans steam and two people cooking A photograph of two of my photographer friends cooking up a feast on a creative weekend away. I've been using this image and others to test Imagenomic's Realgrain. It's a photoshop plug-in which simulates film and darkroom effects on digital files. I'll post an article on with my thoughts on it soon.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Portraits Of Strangers - 3

Candid Portrait of Stranger - Image © David Toyne

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.

- Matt Hardy

When I took B's picture she said to me "I take a terrible picture". I told her obviously that was impossible she must have only met terrible photographers.

Portraits Of Strangers - 2

candid portrait photograph of stranger - Image © David Toyne

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

- Ansel Adams

Another candid portrait photograph of a friendly stranger as I photographed people at random this week in Liverpool. I felt the quote fits as my presence has obviously influenced the shot quite strongly.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Portraits Of Strangers

Kindly Strangers - Image © 2007 David Toyne

Usually I think if there is something imperfect in a photograph it makes the picture more real. Photographs that are slick, smooth, and perfect seem less honest to me.

- John Loengard, "Pictures under discussion" by John Loengard,
ISBN: 0817455396

I'm with John Loengard´s sentiments in this quote. Sometimes it's the quirks and flaws make the image for me. The above is one of my random street portraits taken this week in a Pub in Liverpool, UK. I think it fits in with the definition of flaws adding to the image.

Candid Photography Advice

Kindly Old Gentleman - Images © 2007 David Toyne

I have collected some of my thoughts on how to go about candidly photographing total strangers. More importantly my thoughts on how to make it home intact and without a black eye and a broken camera.

The fist piece of advice is about how you act. People are like mirrors of your own behaviour. So when you photograph in public if you are cagey and sneaky people will be guarded and suspicious in their dealings with you.

If you lack confidence they will distrust your motives. If you don't know why you are there and what you're doing then you will probably encounter hostility and more suspicion. It's sad but that's the world we are in now.

So I advise being honest, chatty and open if challenged by anyone. You have nothing to hide remember. Watch for peoples responses and act to reassure them if needs be. Sometimes having a business card saying you are a photographer or a small selection of your work with you is a great way to relax a person who challenges you.

Next thing is how to approach people? Do you take a picture and then ask or do you ask then hope that the moment will not be lost? This depends on if you are interested in the moment or the individual in your photograph.

When it's the individual you are interested in asking permission is often the best way to proceed. If you are open, honest and clear why you want to take a picture then usually they will say yes. Often in fact people seem quite flattered at being asked. However if they do refuse then be polite and withdraw. Never take a picture of them after they have refused. You know how you'd feel about that and also it's just plain rude.

In the first shot sequence in this article I was interested in the man´s wonderful face and slight inebriation not the scene that he was in. Due to this I asked him to take his picture and he readily agreed. We chatted for a while and as he relaxed I took my pictures. He was laughing at me by the third shot as it was only then he realised I was taking his picture. He'd forgotten me until that point.
Dog face - Image © 2004-2007 David Toyne

In the second shot it's the moment that is of interest. So asking would have ruined the shot. The shot depended on the eye contact with the dog but no eye contact with the people. It also required people and dog's heads in a diagonal line as they are in the shot. Asking would have disturbed all the elements critical to making this picture work. As such I didn't ask I just shot the image. Ethically I feel good about that as the shot is positive and in no way casts the subjects in a negative light.

Last but by no means least don't waste time fiddling with your camera settings. In candid and street photography you have very little time. You must be ready camera in hand to shoot a picture in an instant. Blink and you can and do miss it! In a normal day exposures change very slowly with slow changes in ambient light. I recommend setting the camera on manual, set shutter speed and aperture for the current conditions and then tweak it when conditions change significantly (or every 30 minutes or so). That way you're focused on composition and your surroundings not the technicalities of photography. You'll also have a camera ready to be used at all times. Worst case is your exposure is off by plus or minus 1/2 a stop which is easily corrected in the darkroom or lightroom later.