Quick Fix Fridays: Reduce The Noise In Your Nighttime Shots
Friday, October 18, 2013
My dad had a wonderful photo saying: "If a picture is so boring that you notice the noise, it's a boring picture."
That said, noise could actually add to the mood of a picture. On the other hand, it can be distracting. It's up to you whether or not to add, increase or reduce noise – which is easy to do with Lightroom, Photoshop or plug-ins.
I made the opening image for this post one night on my recent Iceland workshop. You can't see too much noise, and the image has a soft, painterly quality. That, however, is not how the image started out.
Here is my original image. You can see noise because, as the wonderful light of the aurora borealis was changing very quickly, I accidentally underexposed the image for my first test shot. The light was gone in a flash.
Generally speaking, noise shows up more in underexposed images, as well as in dark areas of the frame. Also, you get more noise at high ISO settings. My ISO for this image was 1600, which is not that high by today's standards. Again, the noise was caused mostly by accidentally underexposing the image.
Everything in photography is a trade off. That goes for reducing noise. You reduce noise, and you reduce the sharpness of an image. However, keep in mind that you can control both the noise reduction and detail rescue, which is the key to effective noise reduction.
One of my favorite noise-reduction plug-ins is Topaz DeNoise. Above is a screen grab of the Topaz DeNoise window. What's cool about Topaz DeNoise is that you can reduce the noise in the shadow and highlight areas somewhat independently. You can also control noise in different color channels, and of course you can control the amount of noise reduction.
When I started to reduced the noise and bring back image detail, I decided to go with a soft image, one that brought back the feeling of Mother Nature's light show. After all, the most important thing about a photograph is the mood or feeling. I often ask myself, and suggest to my workshop students that they ask themselves, "What would a painter do?"
Here is another image from the same Iceland shoot. Look closely to see the Little Dipper near the top of the frame. Also look for noise. Here, too, I reduced the noise with Topaz DeNoise.
Play around with noise reduction, and keep in mind what my dad used to say.
Got questions? Drop by my website at www.ricksammon.com.
Pinup Models Wearing Milk Dresses
Friday, October 18, 2013
Photographer Jaroslav Wiczorkiewicz has a thing for photographing milk. But the thing is, he uses it like fabric, photographing it in motion with high-speed photography techniques, and clothing his models with it. Traveling the world to give workshops on lighting and photography, Jaroslav recently completed a 12-month calendar of Vargas-style pinups wearing nothing but milk. They're really well done, and it's definitely a creative idea. There are a few images from the calendar in this story at SLR Lounge, but for more photos, more information on the photographer, his technique, and his worldwide workshops, visit his web site at aurumlight.com. The images do contain some nudity, but the real story is the technique of the photography, the lighting, and of course the milk.
Tiffen's Updated Photo FX Apps
Thursday, October 17, 2013
What do you do if your company has a 75-year history of making photographic filters, but then the photography industry does a 180-degree turn and suddenly "filters" are digital filters applied to images shot with smartphones? Well if you're Tiffen, you do something pretty smart and you start making a widely acclaimed app for smartphones and tablets. Tiffen's Photo fx and Photo fx Ultra apps are perfect for the boom in smartphone photography in recent years. With the update of the iPhone's operating system to version 7, Tiffen has announced the apps are updated for the platform. Photo fx Ultra recently won an award for innovation, ease of use and price-to-performance ratio for smartphone apps. It is available for iPod and iPad via the iTunes store for $4.99, while Photo fx downloads for just $2.99. Learn more about Tiffen's new offerings—including the company's traditional filters for camera lenses—via the company's web site, below.
Simple Landscape Composition Tips From A Pro
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I had the pleasure of interviewing outstanding outdoor photographer Adam Barker for the November issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. During our talk, Adam shared a lot of wonderful insights about making the most of your opportunities to take pictures in the outdoors. He also shared with me some tips on landscape composition that I didn't have room to include in the finished piece. "In my opinion," Adam told me, "composition is the rawest expression of who we are as photographers and artists. There are certainly rules to follow when it comes to composition, but I truly believe that one's own way of seeing is developed over a lifetime of looking through the lens." With that, he gave me these four simple tips that make for better landscape compositions.
1. Pay attention to where you place your horizon. It's most natural for us to shoot at eye level and put the horizon in the center of the frame. Experiment with a shooting angle that is lower or higher than eye level. This will aid in keeping that horizon out of the center of the frame.
2. Understand balance. If your image "just doesn't feel right," it likely has to do with the overall balance of the image. Pay attention to primary and secondary subject matter, and where you've placed those within your frame.
3. Study the edges of your frame. Make sure there are no intruding objects or areas of high contrast that pull your eye out of the frame and away from the primary subject matter.
4. Look for contrast to convey depth and dimension—this means contrasts in color, texture, subject matter, tone, etc.
For more on Adam Barker, check out the Outdoor Photographer article via the link below, and visit his web site at adambarkerphotography.com.
Michael Muller's Epic Shark Portraits
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I just read an awesome interview with photographer Michael Muller at the blog A Photo Editor. I've recommended him before, about a year and a half ago when the same blog ran a profile of his amazing shark-shooting underwater studio setup. This post is more of an update on his amazing series, with an explanation of how he finally accomplished one of the most tremendous photographs in his current book project—a shark captured mid-breach, flying through the air. I'm not particularly galeophobic, but I have to say this collection of photos really got my heart pumping. Lest I forget to say it, perhaps it's best that you not try this at home.
The Windy City At Night
Monday, October 14, 2013
Have you ever been to Chicago? If not, might I suggest you take a look at Max Wilson's spectacular time lapse video of the city at night? It's a gorgeous project, showcasing many different aspects of what just might be the most beautiful city in America. From bustling streets at night to glowing skyscrapers, moving lights in the sky, on the lake and in the river... It's a stunning piece of work that's sure to make anyone want to visit this beautiful city. It also makes me wish I had half of Mr. Wilson's patience and dedication to attempt to make a time lapse even one-tenth this cool. I'm glad he persisted with his long effort, though, because the end result—encompassing 200,000 exposures and 8 terabytes of data—is nothing short of spectacular. A beautiful video.
Feathering Grids For Refined Lighting
Friday, October 11, 2013
I think the video tutorials from Jay P. Morgan's Slanted Lens are generally wonderful, and this one in particular is especially informative—even more so if, like me, you light portraits on location. If you do, chances are you've probably worked with grid spots. I use grid spots on a fairly regular basis, but still I learned a few things from this video. It's all about Jay working with a subject in a corporate portrait on location (a busy Wall Street location, no less) with nothing but ambient light and a single strobe with a honeycomb grid. He covers mixing color temperatures for special effects, balancing strobe with ambient, and working with the focused light of a grid spot to create specialized directional lighting. It's a packed eight minutes, well worth a watch.
An Assortment Of Affordable Photo Products
Thursday, October 10, 2013
It can be hard to find affordable, useful photography equipment. The good stuff is usually quite expensive. To that end I am pleased to present this post from DIY Photography about 15 useful photography products priced under $50. Sure, anybody can compile a list of photo junk for low prices, but what if you want to invest your money into something that will make you happy you purchased it? Start here. For instance, at the top of the list is a memory card wallet from ThinkTank. I was given a similar wallet years ago, and I'd wondered why on earth I'd need this thing. Cut to all these years later and I rely on the wallet every day to perform a very simple, but also very useful task—organizing my media. That's just one of the many great items on the list. Check it out for many more ideas of how to get positive photographic return on a very modest investment.