Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

Orchid Photography – Ottawa Orchid Society’s 32nd Annual Show

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

This past weekend I was able to make it out to the Ottawa Orchid Society’s 32nd Annual Show and Plant Sale at the Nepean Sportsplex. It was my first time out to this event and there was so many great orchid displays that at first it was almost overwhelming. The show was well laid out with dedicated areas to the orchid exhibition, orchid art and jewelry, and buy areas. The show was definately well attended with many photographers which made for tight working spaces with tripods and lighting equipment everywhere (Sunday 9-11am).

Equipment and Technique: Camera set to manual exposure: ISO 100 1/125th sec. Aperture was between f/11-f/22. External SB-600 Key light (on light stand) was set to manual 1/4 power and fill SB-600 (hand held) was set to manual 1/8th power. Triggered wirelessly via Nikon CLS from Master SB-800 speedlight on camera. Lens on manual focus. Shot on a tripod for the most part (to aid in fine-tuning composition changes), with some handheld due to space restrictions. Due to the flash(s) firing a brief blip of intense light I am able to freeze subject and camera motion blur so handholding was not an issue.

Feel free to click each image for a larger view in the gallery and for fine-art purchase details.

Pink Masdevallia Bella Donna orchid flower. (Stephen Harrison)

Orchid Dtps. Nobby's Pink Lady (Dtps. Nobby's Valentine x Phal. New Cinderella) (Stephen Harrison)

Angulocaste Santa Barbara flower. (Stephen Harrison)

Orchid Dtps. Nobby's Pink Lady (Dtps. Nobby's Valentine x Phal. New Cinderella) (Stephen Harrison)

Pink Orchid flower. (Stephen Harrison)

Phragmipedium Belle Hougue Point orchid flower. (Stephen Harrison)

Orchid Dtps. Nobby's Pink Lady (Dtps. Nobby's Valentine x Phal. New Cinderella) (Stephen Harrison)

On the Flip Side – Metallic Macro World

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Sometimes with the right angle, lighting, pattern, and technique, you can make the ordinary into extraordinary. When walking through the grocery store a few weeks ago, my wife stopped to look at a set of shiny new frying pans. Of course she was looking at them with a purely practical mindset. When I saw them I thought “Wow, that base would be cool to photograph with a macro lens!” So home they came.

After sprinkling a bit of water from the kitchen tap on the underswide of the pan I set it on the counter, upside down. At the same height as the subject, I setup a Bowens Gemini 200ws flash on a light stand with a Softlite Reflector and Clip-on Barndoors. Using a Nikon D300 with Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens I began finding the image and working the scene. Working different angles and areas of the pan I was able to take away two neat images.

The first image focuses directly on an abstract fractured fish shape created by three water drops.

Fractured and distorted abstract fish shape. (Stephen Harrison)

The second is a composite with one exposure near the spiral center of the underside of the frying pan, the second exposure being an out of focus highlight shot of the water drops coloured purple and composited ontop creating a cool glittering bokeh effect.

Glittery purple bokeh over metallic spiral. (Stephen Harrison)

A behind the scenes setup shot displaying the location and placement of light in relation to the subject:

Bowens Gemini 200 with Softlite Reflector and Clip-on Barndoors. (Stephen Harrison)

Next time you’re out at the grocery store, keep an eye open for those neat items that might photograph well under the lens!

Retouching and Restoring Old Photographs

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Once in a while someone will come to me with an old photograph that has seen better days. Here is one such example:

 (Stephen Harrison)

Ripped corners, cracks, stains, and all around deterioration detracts from the original image. However, once scanned using a flatbed scanner at high resolution, the digital darkroom works its magic, and a priceless family image is restored to its glory days:

 (Stephen Harrison)

Before and after detail shots:

 (Stephen Harrison)

 (Stephen Harrison)

 (Stephen Harrison)

 (Stephen Harrison)

If you have a priceless image you would like to see restored, don’t hesitate to contact me so I can give you a quote and bring back what was once lost.

Digital Asset Management

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Several years ago, just out of Photography school I realized that I needed a solid workflow that would allow me to effectively work with images and their accompanying metadata in a fast, methodical, and proficient manner. Because if I didn’t have one, with thousands of images produced a year, things would get really messy, really fast. Essentially, it’s all about organization- from capture to transfer to storage to editing to distribution. Enter The DAM Book by Peter Krogh, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and Photoshelter. In addition, Thom Hogan recently penned his thoughts on digital asset management workflow.

Megapickles, gigsabites, copywight, backdowns, colorspacedout, namefiles, and metawhat?


Peter Krogh wrote the book on this stuff. Literally. He’s in his second edition already, as is usual with books involved in the digital imaging industry as things move fast. He too, realized early on that it’s imperative for each photographer to adopt a stringent yet flexible method of organizing, storing, and backing up digital media. Your method doesn’t have to mirror Peter’s method, but as long as it works for you, and that your data is safely backed up and can be located easily at a moments notice. If you take what you need and apply the principals, you’ll be far better off for it and starting off on the right foot.

But first, the camera side of things.

Make sure you set your filenaming option to continuous. This way each image has it’s own individual name (in batches of 9,999 as there are four digits). So each time you turn the camera on, if your last shot was DSC_5439.NEF then your very next file will be DSC_5440.NEF. This will help alleviate some initial pain in the transfer process when you are dumping images into hard drive as you won’t have ten DSC_0001.NEF’s laying around confusing you and trying to overwrite each other. (As an aside- fun fact if you’re a Nikon shooter DSC stands for Digital Still Camera). Second, I make sure my Date/Time/Time Zone is set correctly. If you forget to do this when say, Daylight Saving Time kicks in/out you do have the option of shifting it to the proper time in Lightroom (Select all images affected, go to Metadata -> Edit Capture Time). Also, if you are using a GPS Geotagging device (such as the Nikon GP-1), it will also embed the Universal Time Code (UTC) into the image metadata.

Also, with the correct Time and Date, if you shoot with more than one camera body as I sometimes do, then things will play nice when you group all the images from the shoot together and sort by capture time. Most camera bodies nowadays also allow you to add Copyright data automatically to each image captured, but this is something I do on import into Lightroom so don’t bother.

The memory cards once full are then turned over and stored with the label side face down in the camera bag/pouch so that I know it’s been used and needs to be downloaded/imported. Once it has been and I’ve backed it up, I format it in the camera so it’s fresh and set to go again. Think of formatting this way: Say your memory card is a warehouse, and your picture/video files are boxes inside. If you just delete an image or video it’s like having a worker pick up the box and walk out and throw it in the dumpster outside. Gone. If you select “Delete All” from your menu you are having a team of workers come in and remove all the boxes and trash them in the dumpster outside. Most people stop there thinking their card is now free to use again. Well, yes and no. What you should do is format it, as it’s like having the custodian come in and sweep/wax the floors to get rid of any debris. With no debris sitting around the card is truly “clean” and refreshed for use again. It will help protect against errant read/write errors that’s the bane of computer users. (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recovered other peoples corrupt memory cards…). If you are in the unfortunate situation of having a bum card with important images on it (or accidentally erased/formatted your card), fear not as you can download free data recovery software through a Google search.

Note: I shoot in 12/14bit RAW, and as such don’t really set my color space in the camera (it’s done in Lightroom at the Export stage).

Folder Structure

Once the shoot is complete I will manually create a new folder in the year of capture. So a shoot on Feb 3rd 2008 about Ottawa’s Annual Winterlude Festival will be copied to a folder structure like this: Drive Letter/My Pictures/2008/2008-02-03 Winterlude/2008-02-03 Winterlude RAW. That way I know exactly when the pictures where taken and what the pictures are about.

As usual, consistency is key. As soon as I start deviating from this file folder hierarchy things will get hard to find in a hurry.

Lightroom Editing

With the images sitting in their respective RAW file folder, I’ll launch Lightroom and Import the images. At this stage I’ll apply a Copyright Metadata Preset (one created for each year), and any relevant global Keywords (usually City, Province/State, Country, Continent, etc.). Also, notice how the Lightroom Folder Structure is a spinning image of the Hard Drive folder structure.

Everything is then brought in and I’ll quickly skim through the images to delete missfocusses/bad exposures etc. using the X key (flagging as rejected). Then it’s Photo->Delete Rejected Photos to get rid of them. I’ll then convert the remaining images to Adobe’s .DNG (Digital Negative file format) from .NEF and render 1:1 Previews if there’s time.

File Naming


One of the key things in image management is filenaming. I use Lightrooms Filename Presets to apply a Template that I created to each image file to change it from DSC_1234.DNG to HARR_20080203_Winterlude_0001.DNG Again, this naming schema was designed around recommended conventions from Peter Krogh. At a glance I can tell who the photographer was (HARR short for Harrison), when the image was shot, what the image is about, and it has a unique identifier number. Also, as an additional bonus, when sorted by Name in a finder window all the images are sequential as the program uses the Time Shot metadata to organize the images and apply the unique identifier #.

Star Rating

I’ll then go through in the loupe view mode and Star rate the images. Here is an area I took Peters advice quite to heart: reserve your rating stars.

Here’s how star ratings are broken down for me:
0 Stars (10,974 images currently hold this rating): The image isn’t bad enough to be deleted, but nothing noteworthy. I might just keep it for a visual record of the scene.
1 Stars (2,887 images hold this rating): The image is the best of the “family/personal” images.
2 Stars (1,333 images hold this rating): The image is sellable for stock imagery.
3 Stars (78 images hold this rating): Best portfolio work.
4 Stars (0 hold this rating): My select favourites of the portfolio work.
5 Stars (0 hold this rating): Reserved for “best of career” / award winning images.

Once the cream has risen to the top I will edit the worthwhile, and leave the rest as they are. At this stage I will add the remaining relevant keywords, and jump on over to the Develop module for straightening/cropping/dust spot removal/white balance/exposure/color saturation etc. The image(s) may also jump over to Adobe Photoshop (as a 16bit tiff file) for more advanced retouching like Panaroma Merge, HDR, blemish removal, etc and then with a quick File>Save they get re-ingested and stacked with the original into Lightrooms Database.

At this point I will do a backup of all the photos and Lightroom archive to an external USB Hard Drive (which gets backed up weekly with an off-site backup HD). This is accomplished by using a very inexpensive and very useful program called Second Copy.

Once the heavy lifting is done the images are then exported to my Photoshelter online image archive account either by using PS’s Desktop Uploader:

or using Pact Softwares Photoshelter Archive Uploader Lightroom Plugin:

The back-end Photoshelter Archive Browser is broken down into a similar folder structure that I am using on my computer, except it only drills down to the Year->Month level. For example all images shot in February 2008 are stored in “2008 – 02 Feb” inside the 2008 folder. Again, everything flows logically into one of these folders and can be found at a moments notice.

The image is then priced with a pricing profile (ie. rights managed or personal use licenses), marked publically viewable, and then copied to a gallery.

Photoshelter will automatically add a semi-transparent watermark I’ve pre-uploaded and place it in the lower right hand corner of the displayed image file. No need to upload watermarked versions, as they are generated on-the-fly for display use only. The service will also use the IPTC metadata about the image file to populate the Page Title, Caption, Image Size, Copyright Data, and Keywords fields amongst the webpage. Sweet. The image is now ready for licensing by clicking the “Add to Cart (Price/Buy)” button and selecting the desired usage.

The result of all this effort can be seen here.