Assignment 5 submission

I took more than anticipated time to complete this assignment due to various reasons. However finally on 14th July 2012 I emailed my tutor the assignment and then went for a holiday with my family.

Assignment 5 is the final assignment for the course Digital Photographic Practices. I was required to use all the knowledge acquired through this course. That means in general, I would be displaying my pre-planning, workflow, editing and presentation skills to complete the project. While working on the Assignment 3, I had discussed the possible subjects for the final Assignment with my tutor. This time it did not take too long for me to decide on the theme. There were 3 choices. Out of which I chose  a photo story on my Father-in-law (not uncommon but something closer to my heart). This project has a personal feel to it. I had also been thinking of capturing the time spent with my father-in-law. He is 86 years old now. In general, he is in good health, but the old age has started to take its toll. I really want my kids to have some happy memories of the grand father. Hence, I decided to work on this subject.

I am uploading some documents associated with the Assignment 5.

 

  • A gallery of photographs submitted for the assignment

 

Photo Gallery

Importance of photo stories

Past few weeks have been way too hectic and demanding. Unfortunately, my study schedule has taken the maximum impact of this. I am churning out lesser articles on my blog than earlier. This does not mean it has affected my dedication towards the course. I have looked at some inspiring work and have also listened to a couple of photography related webinars. I also managed to attend a seminar, and as a result of that I have constantly been touch with my passion of photography. During the brainstorming, one question keeps coming back to me. How important is it to have a photo story in travel photography? Shouldn’t the story told in one photo be enough for it to be successful? This reminds me of a quote by Steve McCurry, “ What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling”. I strongly support the above statement. I also feel it is extremely difficult to tell a story with just one picture. However, once you get hold of the technique, and the skill it becomes increasingly easy. As you learn to put more and more research, planning and hard work for that one shot.

On the other hand, I feel it is an art in itself to create stories out of series of photographs. For this one needs to be planned and well research before the shoot. After that come the selection, which is the most crucial part of the whole process. In the seminar, Marc Prüst mentioned a strange but important tip, “In a photo story, if you have 9 average photographs and 1 outstanding image. Remove that 1 outstanding image, because this one image will make your other 9 images look substandard”.

At the moment, I am working on my last assignment. I feel all these webinars and seminars have helped me in conceptualizing and bringing the different images to gather into one coherent collection. I am sure this whole process will also ease my story telling dilemma in travel photography.

Steve McCurry Presentation

Saw these videos on Steve McCurry and his photography.  I also had a chance to see this images in person on his computer, when he was in Singapore for the Asian Geographic workshop. His work and presentation skills are outstanding. Learning photography from the master of photography will be a dream come true.

The legendary photo-journalist and Magnum Photographer Steve McCurry spoke to Phaidon.com about the stories behind some of his iconic photographs taken from around the world.
McCurry gave us a personal tour of his major retrospective at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (until 17 October).  (Narrative curtsey  YouTube: accessed on 5th June 2012).

Every image tells a story, but it’s rather special to hear it from the photographer.

Search For “The Afghan Girl”

The search for the mysterious “Afghan Girl,” whose haunting, green-eyed gaze captivated the world in a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine cover photograph, takes EXPLORER on a world-wide journey in an attempt to solve the case of a missing person. In January 2002, photographer Steve McCurry, who took the 1984 photograph and has been searching for the girl ever since, traveled to Pakistan with a National Geographic EXPLORER team to search one last time. The refugee camp where the original encounter took place was about to be demolished. War in Afghanistan continues. The plight of refugees there and in Pakistan is worsening. Has the “Afghan Girl” survived? With a lot of detective work and a little luck, the EXPLORER team, together with McCurry, finds a woman who could be the “Afghan Girl.” How can they confirm that this is the same person as the child photographed nearly 20 years ago? National Geographic uses several methods, including state of the art iris recognition, the FBI facial recognition techniques and the technology used by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Sigourney Weaver narrates. (Narrative curtsey  YouTube: accessed on 5th June 2012).

Steve McCurryy photography presentation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXoJBc2IojI&feature=related

Assignment 4 submission

Part 4 of DPP has been a great learning through exercises and research. After sending my assignment on 11th May. This was a very creative assignment in terms of technical and ethical debate. I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning and researching. I am updating the blog with the same.

I am uploading some documents associated with the Assignment 4.

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Final Image

Assignment-4-Modified

Assignment 4: Critical appraisal of the feedback

I was eagerly waiting for the feedback, and I promptly received it on 27th May. I was very happy with the feedback and have taken in consideration the points raised by the tutor. It is the best learning opportunity and makes me realise the areas to focus on.

After the feedback, I researched on Benson and Hedges advertisement campaign mentioned by my tutor http://www.retrowow.co.uk/adverts/60s_advertisements.php. It is definitely an interesting concept. I can only images how innovative and difficult it must have been to implement something of that sort in absence of today’s technology.

Right under the heading “Feedback on Assignment” my tutor has mentioned, You justify the practical reasons but do not discuss where the idea developed from or would a commercial magazine consider using such an image and technique and why?”  In the beginning of the assignment 4 document (Page 6, para 1) I have mentioned the following Mid October 2011, promos and adverts of George Clooney’s movie “The IDES of March” were out. The poster had caught my attention, and I had bookmarked the idea for the assignment 4. I have taken the concept of “Divided face” from this poster however; the magazine cover design is targeted towards the parents and children. I have used the imaginary name “Nurture”. This answers how the idea developed. However, my tutor has pointed it correctly that I have missed out on discussing the point of commercial viability. Frankly speaking, I have not seen any magazine that has such surrealistic cover page. I also do not have exposure in the field of marketing to judge the buyer’s response. From artistic point of view, I feel it is an attractive cover page that is different from standard magazine covers. Probably that is why it has capability of standing out from the crowd, and grab buyer’s attention. However, I am very flexible and go buy what client requirement is. Hence, if the editor/client says that this sort of surrealistic approach will not appeal to the market then, I would be adaptable to make the required changes.

Trompe-l’œil

According to my tutor I have used style somewhat similar to Trompe-l’œil. I will be honest; I had no idea of this style. I have done a Google search for the style and got many results, click on the link to see the images:

http://tiny.cc/j935gw accessed on 31/5/2012

As mentioned in my assignment the whole idea had developed after seeing the poster of George Clooney’s movie. I feel a magazine cover with subtle but definite surrealism quality will surely attract viewer’s attention and lure them into buy the magazine.

I completely agree with my tutor’s technical feedback about the shading of the blue border and the shadow of the fingers. I have incorporated both the points in the modified version of the cover page and posting it here for the comparison.  Though these are very minor changes, they surely impact the look of the magazine and enhance the 3D feel.

aaa Before After
aaa Assignment-4 Assignment-4-Modified

I also completely agree about the blown out details of the glass. I wonder how, I managed to overlook the imperfection here. I have also corrected this mistake in the modified version. See the image above.

There is a suggestion to make a minor improvement to the “Exercise 23 Alteration”. I will incorporate this feedback and add it to the exercise separately. I have also noted the point about keeping the presentation simple, and will go back to my previous style that puts more emphasis on the photography.

Overall all the comments have been very educative, and I look forward to the further suggested reading and viewing. I have been updating my physical learning log from time to time and the whole journey through the assignments and the feedback process has been really enjoyable.

Click here to see the Assignment 4 submission.

Project Web Gallery

Internet has changed the way we experience and access information. In today’s world for any individual or businesses, it is very important to have a web presence. A website is an electronic presentation of your portfolio or services. In fact, it is one of the most important marketing tools. It is not only easily accessible and convenient, but also makes advertising more cost effective. Of course, the efforts and time involved can vary, depending on the exposure one requires in the market. Web presence also makes it easy to access the power and the benefits of social media marketing. Keeping these and many more advantages in mind, I have established my website since in 2009. My website mostly represents a portfolio of travel images. If you are interested, these images can be viewed at www.lenstrail.com.

Idea of building a website is more complex than one can think of. To begin with, I had to decide what exactly was the objective behind building a web presence. Is it just for displaying the images for friends and family? Or will the website act as a portfolio for my work? Do I plan to sale my art through the website? These and many more aspects of design and e-commerce were considered, at the time of conceptualizing. Initial objective behind building the website was to demonstrate the portfolio however, it had to be scalable. As in, I required a service provider that was more than just a hosting agent. I looked-for a professional and Ecommerce savvy website. I was aware that I could design the layout (thanks to my web-designing background), but did not possess any programming knowledge to handle the backend. That meant, I was entirely dependent on the companies that would provide a full solution. After thorough research, I decided to go with www.photoshelter.com. It had most of the features that I was looking for. It has some minor constrains however; they are quite insignificant compared to the benefits. I already had a domain name registered with www.godaddy.com. Now between both the providers my website www.lenstrail.com was hosted successfully. It is mainly a travel photography related website. It doesn’t have a direct connection with the OCA course however, mentioning it here was important, as that is much robust website than the one I plan to set up for the course project (as I am looking at the free options). After discussions with my tutor we decided to have the project separately displayed from my website. This is done to ensure that the viewer’s attention is not diverted.

The following aspects were considered in conceptualizing both the sites to ensure the maximum benefits out of web presence.

Aesthetical Requirement:

  • The gallery should look great and is a positive reflection of my work.
  • The design is consistent in logo, typeface, colour palette, and other elements that are giving identity to the site.
  • As this is photography website the importance should be on the photos and not the graphics of the website.
  • Pleasant experience to ensure returning clients
  • Contact details are easily accessible
  • Text should be clear and easy to read
  • Clean and simple design

There are many articles available on the Internet that explains design aspects in depth, pasting some links here.

http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/designing-tutorials/9-essential-principles-for-good-web-design/

http://reviews.ebay.com/7-Fundamentals-of-a-Good-Website?ugid=10000000000313474

http://www.sitepoint.com/fundamentals-web-design/

Technical Requirements:

  • Easy navigation
  • Faster loading. A busy editor or a viewer will not have the time or patience to wait for the images or pages to load (this part is described in length below).
  • Search engine optimization
  • Publicly searchable
  • Personalized domain name (or it should have the possibility of using it in conjunction with other service provider)
  • Nested gallery option
  • Easy UI (for me as well as for the end user)
  • User-friendly e-commerce interface
  • Good customer support
  • Reliable provider
  • Vendor service for the product (photo) delivery
  • Non-flash site (as flash cannot be optimised for the search engines)
  • Full screen option (at the moment, I am compromising on this. Once I generate steady cash flow, I plan to purchase an option that will enable full screen display within Photoshelter’s interface.)
  • Robust image protection

Photoshelter also provides a reasonable amount of image protection by placing invisible watermarks. It also automatically downsizes the images for screen display (to ensure faster loading and image protection) however; high-resolution images are available for download with password access or after payment. Ways of protecting you images are described in the following blogs in details.

Protecting your images

http://blog.photoshelter.com/2010/09/five-things-you-can-do-to-protect-your-online-imag/ Accessed on 25/06/2012

http://www.makethephoto.com/articles/how-to-protect-your-images-online Accessed on 25/06/2012

http://www.naturefocused.com/articles/image-protection.html Accessed on 25/06/2012

Project web gallery

For the Project web gallery, I was not too concerned about the ecommerce part. As it is just to demonstrate module specific learning. Hence, I was looking for a possibility that is free of cost and easy to use.  I have explored the following options for building the website.

http://www.viewbook.com/portfolio-examples/

http://www.weebly.com/features.php?feature=themes

Above mentioned both the options did not have html templates, and I was not keen for the flash based site. As it can take a lot of time to load. As per statistics viewers leave a website that takes more than 2 seconds to load, check more here http://munchweb.com/effect-of-website-speed Accessed on 28/5/2012. Moreover, if I plan to do search engine optimization than flash is not readable by most of the search engines.  I also found the interface for above 2 services bit difficult to follow. Viewbook had some very nice templates, but it is not a free web hosting service. Finally (though I am not complete satisfied), I have settled for the HTML 5 version of www.wix.com to display some of the images from my archives. It is available for free, which was one of the deciding factors. The subject for this project gallery is “Faces”. It displays some of the faces covered in last few years of my travels across the world. In spite of being two separate web sites, they still have a coherent theme for the subject and colour scheme.

  • I have kept the gallery layout simple and uncluttered with a plain background to show the images at their best.
  • Navigation menu is clear and easily accessible from all the pages.
  • Under the portfolio tab, the images are displayed as thumbnails for ease of browsing. It has an option to enlarge images.
  • I have provided separate page, which provides information about me
  • A separate tab for DPP learning blog and personal website with screen shots makes the page more interesting.
  • I have also included a social media buttons on each page, which takes the viewers to respective pages.

Basic principal for this gallery as well as my other website is quality over quantity. Hence, the selection available is limited. Click on the image below to have a look at the website created with wix.

Tracking the traffic:

Once the website is established one can just choose to leave it the way it is or work on gaining the popularity by deploying little marketing and technological strategies. I do not have some knowledge of this and when ever possible I try to find time to promote the website. There are many ways of doing this like using Google adwords, doing search engine optimization, setting up newsletters and email marketing, affiliate programmes and many more.

I find the best ways to track the effects of you marketing campaign is through Google Analytics. I have set up lenstrail domain for this.

Google-Analitics

Other publishing services:

To experiment, I have also set up a blog with the same theme “Faces” on WordPress. I am quite happy with it however; it does not have full screen option or ecommerce function available. On the other hand it is more accessible by the search engines and has an options for visitor’s comments. That means more traffic, and potentially higher conversion rate for sale. Click here to see the website/blog established with wordpress that also serves the same purpose.

I am aware that web exposure increases the risk of theft of the image, copyright violation or stealing of the content idea (the intellectual property theft). To a certain extent this can be traced with TinEye. TinEye is a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. TinEye is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology…… http://www.tineye.com/about Accessed on 27/05/2012

Conclusion:

Hosting web gallery has made me revisit the research, I had put in few years back (that is before launching my website). I am even more convinced that  Photoshelter is the right choice for my requirements. Knowing that, I will give a boost to the plans I have made for the promotions of www.lenstrail.com. Supporting it with various blogs will be one of the initial strategies. As mentioned earlier there are few limitations within Photoshelter, that I am sure will be resolved with time. If not, I am still okay to compromise as they are not the showstoppers. The full screen option is something; I am most keen to change at the moment. I will take care of it once a steady cash flow is generated through www.lenstrail.com. The look I am aiming for can achieved by combining Photoshelter with graphpaperpress templates. However, it is an additional cost for me. Example of the look can be seen on Gavin Gough’s website, see the screenshot below:

Screen-Shot-Gavin-Gogh

After listening to feedback and tips from many editors, and as a personal preference I would prefer lighter colours scheme for my website.

Exercise 24: Sharpening for Print

Do we actually sharpen an image? To my understanding we are just creating an illusion. There are various terms used for this process, e.g. sharpening the image, unsharp mask etc. Understanding the traditional method (pre digital) of sharpening helps in grasping the concept better. The technique was first used in Germany in the 1930s as a way of increasing the acuteness, or apparent sharpness, of photographic images.…… Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsharp_masking  (Accessed on 15/05/2012). Certainly digital invention has made photography fairly adaptable, and at the same time quite complicated. No doubt editing process and the costs have become more and more accessible than earlier. However, the variety of media challenges the editing abilities. It is very important that images are appropriately sharpened for the medium of display. The images can be displayed on a wall with a projector, presented on a website, accessed through a smart phone or iPad like devises, or can be printed. Again print medium and size also vary from a postcard to a wall-to-wall advert. Most of the photographers use the sharpening technique to enhance the images, unless they are specifically looking for a blurry effect.

This exercise requires me to experiment with varied degrees of sharpening, and then compare the prints with the on screen appearance. This will surely help me to understand the required amount of sharpening for the print medium. Parallel to this, I also plan to observe the onscreen effects of sharpening. This is especially required as prominence on digital media is evident.

I prefer using Lightroom, when it comes to managing the workflow or basic images editing/processing. I do use “Edit in Photoshop” option for the images requiring Photoshop treatment. However, eventually all images are exported through LR 3. Hence, I would concentrate on the sharpening process used in LR 3. The link below explains the process of using the unsharp mask in Photoshop precisely http://digital-photography-school.com/an-introduction-to-sharpening-photos  (accessed on 15/5/2012).

Normally, I shoot in RAW format and keep the “in camera sharpening” option set to “Off”. This gives me flexibility to get desired effect of sharpening. LR does not over-right the image file, instead stores the processing information separately. Hence, reverting the sharpening effects in LR is very easy and does not affect the original image.

Sharpening stages:

One can influence sharpening at 2 stages in LR. Stage one: after importing the images, as a part of processing. Second stage: at the time of export. Let us look at both the stages. It is important to know that over sharpening can introduce imperfections like noise, visible lines, zigzag lines, and too much texture in an image.

Stage One

After importing an image, we can sharpen the image within the “Develop” module. Under the “Details” tab there are four sliders, which enable us to make these adjustments.

Screen-shot_Details Amount Slider: This slider allows regulating amount of sharpening; setting the value to 0 can turn off the sharpening. Depending on the amount specified, the contrast between varying pixels increases. This creates the illusion of the edges being sharpened.
Radius: Regulates the area to which sharpening is applied (outside the perceived edge). It is like the feather effect of “Photoshop”. Need to use this slider judiciously; otherwise it can produce strange effect.
Detail: This slider adjusts how much sharpening will be applied on the details of the image. Smaller number will be restricted towards the edge, where as a higher number will affect greater details. This slider can help to bring out the texture. However, there is a risk of increasing the noise in an image.
Masking : This is the most practical and nifty feature. It masks the area that does not require sharpening. It is similar to the mask tool in Photoshop however; it is not as controlled.

Stage Two:

The second stage sharpening can be applied at the time of exporting.

Screen-Shot-Export

The options are defined as follows (taken from the LR help):

You can apply an adaptive output-sharpening algorithm to your JPEG, PSD, a TIFF photos when you export. The amount of sharpening that Lightroom applies is based on the output media and resolution you specify. Output sharpening is performed in addition to any sharpening you apply in the Develop module.

  1. Select the Sharpen For box in the Output Sharpening area of the Export dialog box.
  2. Specify whether you are exporting for Screen, Matte Paper, or Glossy Paper output.
  1. Change the Amount pop-up menu to Low or High to decrease or increase the amount of sharpening applied. In most cases, you can leave the Amount set to the default option, Standard.

For more details please refer to the link http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Lightroom/3.0/Using/WS75C39DDC-B701-4840-A703-0755A5C04878.html#WS2bacbdf8d487e582-244c8e7b131dee359a4-7ffc (accessed on 15/5/2012)

Process description  

I have chosen an image from my archives to demonstrate the sharpening process. After importing the images and making some basic adjustments, I made 3 virtual copies of the image. After that I have applied the following sharpening process.

Original Image:

Ex-24-1

1. Original Image:

I started with the following image. LR applies default sharpening to all the imported images. Default sharpening values are: Amount – 25, Radius – 1.0, Details – 25, Masking – 0

Screen-Shot-Orginal

2. Virtual copy one:

As the exercise brief suggest, I applied sharpening. This was the image with least sharpening, and the changes were quite similar to the original image.  Before = original, After = Sharpened. Amount – 35, Radius – 1.0, Details – 25, Masking – 0

Screen-Shot-sharpen-35

3. Virtual copy two:

Still at this stage the image has not been affected dramatically, and when zoomed out looks pretty okay.  Before = original, After = Sharpened. Amount – 100, Radius – 1.0, Details – 53, Masking – 0

Screen-Shot-sharpen-100

4. Virtual copy three:

Now the image has lot of noise and other noticeable flaws. Masking the area will bring down the severity of the sharpness. However, to demonstrate the effects of over sharpening, I have refrained from using the masking slider.     Before = Original, After = Sharpened. Amount – 150, Radius – 1.0, Details – 25, Masking  – 0

Screen-Shot-sharpen-150

Note: in the screen shots above the difference is not so visible. However, on my screen the image looks damaged due to over processing.

I often use option/alt key while moving the sliders this shows the areas being worked on. See the image below; all the areas in grey and white colour are getting sharpened. This screen shot is taken while the alt key was pressed, and the masking slider was being adjusted.

Screen-Shot-sharpen-alt

This video on YouTube sums up the process I follow during sharpening the images. http://youtu.be/p0b9hB-lVOk (Accessed on 16/5/2012).

Normally, I do not print photos at home. Instead, I prefer using specialized printer for my large or canvas prints. For normal size matt finish photographs, I outsource the work to a local vender.

After printing the images, I observed them with a magnifying glass. Comparing the prints against 100% magnification on the screen reveled that the prints were more tolerant to sharpening. Prints did not show any imperfections on the first 3 variations of sharpening (till amount=100). However, variation 3 on the screen had visible flaws. On the screen, last variation of sharpening was totally unacceptable. It had noise and abrasions. Compared to that, printed image was slightly better. Must note that the print sizes were small. Hence, probably it had absorbed many flaws. I am sure it will be more noticeable on larger prints.

Conclusion:

Sharpening the image surely gives better definitions to most of the photograph. However, it is very important to understand that it cannot fix a photograph that is originally blurred or out of focus. In fact over sharpening actually damages the image and introduces unwanted imperfections.

Earlier for some of the images, I used to go bit aggressive on sharpening. However, when my tutor pointed out the problem during the assignment 1, I researched the topic and understood the importance of using the correct amount of sharpening. This exercise reinforces the prior learning. Now, mostly I use the default sharpening, and adjust it further only if required. Eventually I would like to look at the commercial aspect of the photography. Hence, it is important that I stick to the standard industry practices. The stock libraries discourage sharpening, as normally clients want the flexibility of sharpening the images as per their requirements. It is easy to sharpen an image. However, it is quite difficult to undo the sharpening effect. Thus, it makes sense leaving the sharpening to none or minimum.

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