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dark_lord’s latest blog : diffraction ? the enemy of sharpness


Diffraction – the Enemy of Sharpness

11 Oct 2021 9:41PM  
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Unique : 74

Using small apertures is good for obtaining large depth of field, but go too small and image quality worsens. How bad is the effect and is it worth being concerned about?

Let’s take a look at what diffraction is. I recall physics experiments at school creating waves in a water tank passing through various sized slits in a metal barrier and observing the patterns produced. The waves spread out from the slit, more so the smaller the slit. The observation applies to water waves, sound waves and electromagnetic radiation. It’s this spreading that causes the softening in an image.

During my experiments with depth of field, looking closely, that is at 100% on screen, there is a noticeable softness at smaller apertures. It’s not a lot, and it depends on how large you’re going to print an image and how far away are you going to view it. With higher resolution sensors this softening will be more apparent if you look closely enough. The result may just give the impression that you’ve shot on a lower resolution camera, and for web size images or small prints may well not be a concern for some.


The full image at f/32 as displayed on the web looks fine.

The effect is much more noticeable when I use an extender and extension tube on the macro lens below f/11, but then the lens was never designed for that extreme use. I’ve found apertures down to f/11 are fine, and as depth of field is so minimal at such close quarters I’ll forego that fraction of a millimetre for better overall sharpness.


I used my macro lens for these images which is designed to hold up well at these smaller apertures. I have to say I’ve very rarely gone below f/16 in normal use or noticed anything untoward on earlier lower resolution sensors. That said, all lenses are different so you need to do your own tests. Zooms, particularly at the cheaper end of the market, are much more likely to suffer image quality reduction at the small apertures. I have come across images online that even at that reduced size (from the original capture) do show a marked softness, while at the same time ruling out as far as possible camera rigidity and ISO effects.


Look closely and the detail isn’t as crisp as it is at f/8, but are you going to look this close?

Small apertures and diffraction effects are the reason you won’t find apertures below f/8 on small sensor cameras, and indeed f/8 will, on those cameras, give as much depth of field as you’re likely to need.

Are there good things about diffraction? When you’re down to X-ray wavelengths diffraction patterns are created by the arrangements of atoms which allow molecular structures to be determined. That’s important in areas such as novel drug development. So some diffraction is not all bad.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : differential focus


Differential Focus

5 Oct 2021 9:34PM  
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Unique : 30

The effect is used to isolate a sharply focused subject against an out of focus background (or foreground).It’s a good reason to buy a wide aperture lens.

Following on from my experiments with depth of field, the natural extension to that is differential focus. What is it, why is it useful why it’s harder to achieve with smaller format sensors and phones than larger formats such as full frame and medium format, and easier with wide aperture lenses than kit lenses.


So you may think you don’t need a wide aperture lens what with the good to excellent high ISO performance of sensors these days. That’s a fair point, and with a lot of photography done using mid to smaller apertures the point of using f/2.8 or wider may be questionable. The size and price may be off-putting factors too as wide aperture lenses tend not to be a bank balance’s best friend.

Smaller maximum aperture lenses (such as kit zooms that are f/5.6 wide open at the long end) are also less of an issue with mirrorless cameras where the viewfinder compensates for the less amount flight entering the camera. Conventional systems in DSLRs do go darker – not massively so but some may find difficulty. If shutter speeds become slow, then where you have image stabilisation in the lens and/or camera body you may feel safe. There is a caveat ad it’s in the name of the feature – it’s just the image that’s stabilised, not the subject. There are creative opportunities there of course, but it’s sometimes hard to explain to a novice that although they’ve got a perfectly hand-holdable set-up at 1/15 s their subject is blurred beyond reasonable recognition. Wider apertures will let you go on shooting as conditions get more challenging.


That’s it from a practical point of view. As a creative tool though, if wide apertures give the effect you want then you need to get one of these lenses. Software manipulation doesn’t come close, I’m afraid. You do need to be accurate with your focus, as there’s little or no room for error. An image that isn’t focussed strongly on the main subject just fails.

Forget the maths, experience shows it boils down to the size (diameter) of the glass, so I you don’t have an 85 f/1.2 then a 200 mm lens at f/2.8 would do (the diameter is similar). But for an even stronger effect try a 300 mm f/2.8 for portraits (the diameter is half as big again). Unconventional but give it a go.


Differential focus is used for creative effect in TV and cinema. Indeed, some sequences have been shot on cameras like the Canon 5D Mk III purely to make use of the effect. That’s why it’s useful to use full frame cameras for video.


There are many more exciting fast aperture lenses being produced for mirrorless systems, which is good to see. It’s true they can be expensive though some of the manual focus options are more wallet friendly. There is some good news hoverer, and that’s because of the plethora of adaptors available that many older lenses can be used. Get in there now for a bargain before everyone susses this one.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : depth of field (the illusion)


Depth of Field (the Illusion)

25 Sep 2021 4:02PM  
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Unique : 95

It’s something we often talk about but does it exist? Is it Scotch mist or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

A video I recently came across on YouTube set me thinking. It basically said that depth of field is an illusion. And in fact illusion is the most apt description for the idea once you look at what’s involved.

A lens can only focus on one plane at a time. Anything else, by definition (no pun intended, of course) is out of focus. You see this through the viewfinder a you’re viewing an image created by the lens at full aperture. It may not be so obvious when looking at a general scene, but as you focus on closer subjects it becomes apparent.


The narrow zone of focus at f/2.8

The idea that more of a subject comes into focus when using smaller apertures is a useful one, and both landscape photographers and macro workers use the principle to their advantage. So in that sense it’s something that clearly (again, no pun intended) works in practice. How is it an ‘illusion’?

There are mathematical formulae for working out the depth of field or any focal length and aperture. That won’t concern us here, a my brain (and possibly yours too) goes into blue screen mode at the very thought of them. The basic idea revolves around a ‘circle of confusion’ which is the size at which a point source is rendered as larger than a point on the sensor. Imagine out of focus street lights in a night-time portrait. That’s crucial, as defining that size affects the value of depth of field calculated. I hope you’re still with me.


More in focus at f/8

The amount of depth of field will vary depending on format too, as it depends on those parameters mentioned above. It’s true that smaller formats have an apparent greater depth of field than larger formats, but the laws of physics and optics come into play. Back in olden days you could buy tables of depth of field for large and medium format lenses as the upstart miniature format of 24×36 mm. It’s worth noting that depth of field doesn’t start and stop abruptly. You can tweak those parameters to ‘give’ you as much depth of field as you want. There’s a gradual change from sharply focused object to out of focus area.

Films of the time generally were of lower resolution and larger grain than those later in the 20th century. Larger negatives need less enlargement for a given print size than smaller negatives. Which raises another point about resulting image size. A small print will look sharper and have good depth of field because all the details are small. Think of a 10×15 cm print. Go up to A3 and you may well see some areas aren;t as sharp as you thought. But if you’re viewing the small print at arm’s length and the A3 from a metre or so away, then you’ll likely see no difference because the apparent size of the image would be similar.


The zone of sharpness is extended at f/16

That last point is also crucial, and easy to appreciate for prints. But these days it’s s easy to zoom into an image at high magnification and get disheartened with an apparent lack of sharpness. But you’re not really going to view all your images like that. With the huge resolutions of the latest cameras it’s easy to find ‘fault’ It’s not a fault. Such high resolution will allow you to see slight softness in parts of the subject (compared to where you actually focussed) that film grain in the past and lower resolution digital cameras wouldn’t allow. You wouldn’t, ordinarily, admire a large print in an exhibition from a few centimetres away. An image on an advertising billboard is designed for viewing from a distance (go up close and you’ll see the limitations). Nor would you go right up close to your 4k monitor with the image at 100%.


Viewing close reveals how narrow the sharp area is at f/2.8

That’s all very well as theory so I tried an experiment. I took a series of images using a 100 mm macro lens at full stops from f/2.8 through to f/32. Looking at the results, it’s easy to see that there is a greater amount of detail visible when using smaller apertures. However, looking closely, and the 100% crops show this, that the point of focus is still the sharpest region. Areas that are within the ‘accepted’ sharp area covered by depth of field are still ;’soft’. This is extreme perhaps, but you need to explore the limits as such o understand what’s going on. Viewed ‘normally’ there isn’t an issue. One useful outcome of using f/32 was that found my sensor was clean, because such small apertures show up dust particles very clearly.


Even at f/11 the edges of the figures aren’t fully sharp when viewed close

I discovered that there is more overall softness at f/22 and f/32 due to diffraction. Because of high resolution sensors and the ability to enlarge so much, the diffraction effects become evident. It’s worth knowing the performance of your lenses just as it is, for example, knowing he noise performance of your sensor. You know what to expect and, importantly, what level is acceptable to you. That’s another story.

That it ‘works’ is sufficient. Depth of field is, when it comes down to it, really a measure of how much unsharpness, or out-of-focusness, are you willing to accept?

If you’re wondering, the pot of gold does exist but HMG got their first (Boris needs the cash).

Scotch mist certainly exists, it rolls in off the Clyde.

Depth of field is an illusion, albeit a clever one.


Scotch mist

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : negative space


Negative Space

1 Sep 2021 4:14PM  
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Unique : 47

Negative space is something I use from time to time. It can be a useful tool in your image making. An antidote to in-your-face filling the frame?

I came across a video on YouTube recently talking about negative space. This got me thinking more deeply on the subject. Now, it’s generally regarded in photography that you should ‘fill the frame’. That’s all well and good and for many images it is best to see the subject at a reasonable size. That brings to mind a quote from the photojournalist Robert Capa (If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough) that essentially says you need to get your subject to fill the frame. To be fair, much photojournalism does require ‘getting in close’. Equally, strong photojournalistic images can make good use of negative space depending on the story being told.


There was a trend a number of years ago with bird photography to get the creature as large as possible in the frame, without cropping off the extremities. This created very claustrophobic looking results which at first might look impressive but could become tiresome. There was no sense of environment or surroundings or even space to ‘look into’ or ‘move into’. Of course, those last two ideas may to some appear as ‘rules’. They aren’t, though they are a useful guide and compositions do look better balanced and pleasing to view when those factors are taken into account in some way. The idea does live on in some quarters today because it’s so easy to crop an image. Some take it too far and crop the life out of the image because the subject is relatively small in the scene, to the detriment of technical quality. Sever cropping does not a wildlife photographer make. But that’s getting way from the point. Looking more constructively, if your subject is small, for whatever reason, use that to the advantage of the image.


So what is ‘negative space’ and why would you want to use it? (I have to point out before some ‘clever’ person does so, that it’s not about storing old film!). It’s an area of an image that’s not filled with subject. That area can suggest vastness of an open space, solitude, isolation, insignificance, contemplation, or a sense of scale.

Is negative space devoid of detail? It’s often the case, for example a large white sky, but could equally be a large area of concrete wall behind a portrait so there would be some texture.

How much negative space should you use? That all depends on how you want to portray your subject], the story you want to tell or the mood you want to convey. Try varying amounts. Don’t just limit negative space to white or light tones. An large area of darkness can be equally effective if that suits the mood.


Using negative space is just another compositional tool. One requirement for utilising negative space is for images used in editorials and advertising where text can be used in those areas. If you’re shooting stock photography it’s an idea to take some shots to allow for that.

Consider its use in landscapes, portraits, action, natural history and still life.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

Negative space

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dark_lord’s latest blog : flash filters the inexpensive way


Flash Filters the Inexpensive Way

19 Aug 2021 9:22PM  
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Unique : 92

If you thought plain flash is boring, how about mixing things up a bit. There are flash filter kits out there but they can be quite pricey. Time to look at an alternative.

Using colour filters (or gels as they are referred to albeit they aren’t actually gel as that’s something you iuse in the shower but made from a sophisticated polymer composition) on your lighting is an option to expand your creativity. I’m going to talk about their use with camera flashguns rather than studio flash or LED units as they do require heat resistant material.


A blue filtered backlight

Back in the day when I got my first flashgun, a hammerhead Sunpak Autozoom 3600 hammerhead style unit (40 years ago this yea if I recall correctly) there were various accessories available. One such accessory was a set of coloured filters that snapped onto the front of the gun. As I was still at school and of limited means I never bought them, which was probably a good thing as I’d have ended up with images having strong colour casts. The effects would have worn thin I suspect, rather like that of some of the more outlandish filters from Cokin which were making heir appearance a the time.

Then ideas developed. I got interested in low light and night photography. Walsall council put on a superb display of illuminations in their Arboretum. Sadly they stopped doing so few years ago now. As well as themed sets and lighting displays, the buildings and trees were lit with coloured floodlights. I’d also come across the technique of light painting. Put those two together and I could use my flash off-camera to illuminate a scene, with light from different angles and with different colours. The image had to be created entirely in-camera, on a single piece of film, no blending of multiple frames in those days. And it worked.


Aliens have landed,oh yes

There was, however, a stumbling block. That was sourcing some colour filters. Remember, before the days of having the ability to search for all sorts of accessories and gadgets knowing where to go or what to ask for in a local camera shop was fraught with difficulty. Sure, if you wanted a fisheye converter or other such device that you’d use only once there were plenty of ads for those in the photo magazines.

Christmas was coming. I don’t mean that was an opportunity to ask for a present. No-one in the family would have the slightest concept of what I was after, except perhaps my father who used to do photography. No, it was all to do with the ubiquitous tin of chocolates that everyone had at that time of year. More specifically the cellophane wrappings. I think perhaps you’re with me now. There were numerous colours and densities which could be combined to create a wide variety of different filter effects. Much greater than any ‘filter kit’ you could get. When sealed together inside some clear plastic covering (Fablon was one brand name I recall, that was used to cover oir school exercise books) you had a durable and easy to use accessory. Using a rubber band to attach them to the flash head may be seen as Heath Robinson but was easy and secure.


Vampire tree (it is on the Shropshire border)

There are some filter kits available today, but with very few colours, and they are quite expensive. That’s unfortunate, as sweet and chocolate wrappings have changed considerably. However, Lee Filters have a range of gels for studio lighting purposes under the Colour Magic name. I have a couple of sets of these, and while I can use them on studio flash units I can also cut off small pieces for use with camera based flashguns.

The Colour Magic sets have specific warming and cooling filters as well as stronger colours so effects can be subtle. While my cheap versions may provide a splash of colour, for example for background illumination, mood or effect I’m not after ‘colour accuracy’, though that’s the point with strong colours. I still have and use those I made over 30 years ago. Subtle differences such as cool blue or soft orange are best handled with the appropriate Colour Magic set.


It may look crude but it sure works

Photography isn’t all about the latest and expensive kit. Go back to basics, look at inexpensive solutions and make your photography fun!

[color=#aaf4a6][size=6]All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021[/size][/color]

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dark_lord’s latest blog : flash ? the horror story of photography?


Flash – The Horror Story of Photography?

10 Aug 2021 8:59PM  
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Unique : 55

Using flash to take pictures fills some photographers with dread. What is it that they really fear?

I’m going to start with an analogy. Our ancestors were afraid of fire, and understandably so. Then they learnt to control it and use it to their advantage, for warding off predators, to heating, cooking and to drive the industrial revolution. The same can be said for flash. Flash has ben a part of photography since the early days. Once, little more than a mixture of explosives, it’s now a finely controllable and sophisticated form of lighting.


Red eye and no modelling to the face

Flashbulbs and then electronic flash may have seemed like a godsend for many, enabling images to be taken in dark conditions. From family parties to press photography flash was (and still is to a large extent) king. Indeed many historical images wouldn’t exist without it so flash has helped record those moments for posterity.

However, even the very thought of using flash makes some photographers want to crawl under a stone. Not because they may have some vampire ancestry but because the results from direct on-camera flash produce awful looking results. If you were to design the worst lighting system for photography you’d put the light right next to the camera lens facing straight at the subject. So where do camera designers put the light? You’ve guessed it. And I’ll include mobile phones in that category. In practice though, if you want a built in source of light there aren’t many options.


Off camera flash gives more modelling and mood – this could be any light source but is in fact flash here

Direct flash causes red eye (the most common ‘fault’ that people notice), very contrasty images with harsh unflattering shadows, burnt out highlights especially with anything shiny, and a two dimensional appearance. As a photographer, those are all qualities that you don’t want to see. Look at the portraits from the Grand Masters of painting and see how they use the light sympathetically and creatively. OK, they never knew about direct flash (that’s not the point) but they did know a heck of a lot about light.


Off camera flash for close-up subjects

Over the years, there have been innovations. Bounce flash became popular for camera-mounted guns. Various light modifying attachments were devised. They all had different effects, some more successful than others, which I won’t go into here. The one thing they all attempted to do was make the light softer, and by increasing the surface area of the light. That’s another issue with small camera or phone based light sources – they are small. Small light sources are harsh. Think of the sun on a cloudless day (a small point source) compared to an overcast day (the most massive light source you can get). Size matters.


Macro photography of insects often benefits from using carefully controlled flash

Once you get the idea that you need to control the position and size of the light you can make efforts to improve your images. Here’s the thing – flash is just a source of light like any other. As an example, a small LED panel or work light can be just as harsh and need as much careful control as flash. Done well, you can illuminate a portrait or location with flash and emulate any sort of light. That warm low angled glow from a camp fire? Could be flash. Light spilling onto a background from a window or car headlights? How would you know? Maybe all three.

So who’s afraid of the big bad flash? Learn to control it and it’s your friend.

Next time I’ll look at a creative option for the humble camera flashgun.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : image enhancement ? still seen as ‘cheating’?


Image Enhancement – Still Seen As ‘Cheating’?

28 Jul 2021 9:46PM  
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Unique : 46

It’s a long held belief that using software to enhance an image is the devil’s own work. I’m not talking about creating misleading, fake or fraudulent imagery but using simple basic adjustments that many images benefit from.

The idea for this blog came from reading a description of post-capture processing on an image uploaded for critique. It’s welcome to see someone detail their processing steps, so that we know what has been done to the image. It must be noted that these were bread and butter adjustments such as contrast, levels, and so on. It’s a pity the original unprocessed image wasn’t included so that a comparison and assessment of the changes could be made. Were the steps taken enough or did they go too far? That’s what’s needed in order to provide the most useful feedback. While different people will have different ideas, further small adjustments did improve matters.


Straight from the camera

That last sentence is the caveat. Ten different photographers will produce ten different results from the same image. I don’t mean because they use different gear (hough that could be the case), but give them a RAW file to work on and the same software to use you won’t get ten identical results. True, some will be quite close to one another, but some won’t. Indeed, a single photographer can easily create several versions all of which they like.

While it’s hard, if not impossible, to dial out personal choice and style, and I don’t advise anyone to go that route (unless they’re) there are good practices to observe. We all want our images to look as good as we want. It can be that we’re too close to our own work. Coming back a day later and evaluating what’s been done can be helpful. Sometimes a small comment is enough to make us see what needs to be changed. For example, on one of my images, quite a number of years ago now, reference was made to a slight magenta cast. It was there, and using the white balance picker on the white background made the image so much more viewable.


Colour Balance warmed, Shadows lifted, Curves adjustment

I’m talking about basic adjustments required in order to bring out the best in an image. Good colour, contrast, shadow and highlight detail retrieval, a crop maybe, and so forth. Nothing that creates a fraudulent result (for example removing or adding people from a street scene for political ends or creating artificial looking skin in a portrait, though those types of manipulation have ben done decades before digital appeared).


Straight from the camera

Years ago, photographers would choose a particular film for its characteristics. Velvia to a boost insipid tons in a drab northern European winter landscape, Astia for more natural skin tones. Filters would be used to control colour, polarisers to boost saturation. Not to mention the renditions of different black and white films together with contrast enhancing filters and control over the print using different contrast grades of paper. All of which are choices you have using the basic adjustments of which I described above. You’re just replicating what has always been done, albeit with a greater degree of control.


Levels and Curves adjustments and further Curves adjustment on the sky

The allegation of ‘cheating’ is misplaced and comes from a lack of understanding, mainly from non photographers who don’t understand either analogue or digital methods and would have had negative film processed at a low cost (that must mean good value and thus a good job) minilab and accepting the results as given. Even some dyed in the wool photographers at the start of digital photography regarded the greater control with scepticism, and I think, apart from the fact it was a change, considered it cheating because they didn’t understand computers and software not realising the potential and freedom to actually produce the style of images they always wished for. Yes there would be a steep learning curve, and that doesn’t suit everyone. There is also the fact that so much more responsibility was put on the photographer to come up with the goods. No more blaming it on the local photo processing lab.

There are still purists who don’t like post capture processing, preferring to accept the jpegs straight out of camera (or other device), not necessarily realising that a whole lot of processing has already been done defined by algorithms with no creative appreciation. That’s their choice of course. In the end they’re missing out on getting the best from their efforts.

So, for the rest of us, let’s continue with our adjustments.


Too far?

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : wallpaper (not the decorating stuff)


Wallpaper (Not the Decorating Stuff)

13 Jul 2021 3:27PM  
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Unique : 61

We all have at last one device (well if you’re reading this you must have, unless you’re on a public device or borrowing from a friend) that you can display your images on.

Following on from my ‘A Picture for the Wall’ I’m turning to those other display spaces, the screen of your computer, laptop, tablet and phone. Before I go any further, I intend this blog to cover personal rather than work devices (unless you’re self employed and thus the boss so you can do what you want).


I bought my first computer for photography just before the turn of the century. I recall reading a suggestion not to use strongly coloured images as the wallpaper. The justification was twofold. In the days of the cathode ray tube monitor, bight images would be a strain over time on the phosphor coating. If you were editing bright images the same would be true so that argument is on shaky ground. The second issue, and perhaps related, was that a monochrome image didn’t overuse one particular phosphor. Imagine if you will a photo of your football team wearing red kit.

The main idea behind using a mono image was that it was neutral (so no sepia or cyanotype toning effects) so you weren’t over influenced by colour when coming to carefully edit your images. Again, from a practical point of view you wouldn’t be staring at your wallpaper for a long time before editing, and in any case most editing software could be set to be a neutral grey. The issue of overexciting (a genuine term, it’s all to do with energy levels of electrons, much of the theory I’ve long since forgotten) one particular phosphor was the main reason behind the use of screensavers (ah, there’s a clue in the name!).


Nevertheless, I used mono images. It was much easier to see when the screen calibration data loaded into the graphics card as I’d see a change to a warmer one in most cases. Modern LED monitors are much more stable in terms of colour wandering though I still regularly calibrate mine albeit not as often these days. However, I still use mono images, not so much as there may be a hint of logic in those old reasons, but because I prefer them. I find them ore comforting and relaxing. Oh, and colour icons do stand out very easily against them especially on darker and moodier images.

I create separate versions of image for my wallpaper so they fit my screen exactly and are sharpened appropriately. I have a separate folder for them and make each file name end in ‘wall’, to differentiate it from for example uploads to the gallery, website or blog which each have their own relevant ending to the file name. I find this keeps things in order, avoids confusion (and overwriting as they are all jpegs), and is easy to see where the image is used. That’s more to do with my general workflow.


Do you change your wallpaper regularly or do you keep a favourite image up for a while? The images here have been used as my wallpaper for varying lengths of time at some point.

What about you?

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : a picture for the wall


A Picture for the Wall

9 Jul 2021 4:14PM  
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Unique : 13

We all like to see a ‘good’ picture on the wall, but just because a picture maybe ‘good’ should it be put up on the wall?


I’ve heard it said, and even said it myself, that ‘that’s a good picture, it would look good framed and put up on the wall’. Now, you may already be thinking of a particular image you have or would like to have, or more broadly about the type of picture, to have on your wall. It’s a fair chance most will be thinking landscape.

I’m looking at this from the point of view as a photographer showing their own work, and as you’re reading this I guess that’s how you’re thinking too. I’m not talking about interior design (which I profess to know little or nothing about) but about personalising your space using your images.
Printers and framing companies would encourage this (of course), and there are a host of presentation options theses days including canvas block prints and acrylic panels.


While choices are entirely personal I want to throw in some thoughts.

Have you considered different types of pictures prints in different rooms. How about seascapes in a bathroom, if that’s not a clich? Then why not one of the local sewage works, at last it’d be relevant (though I’ve yet to take one myself). Do you want easy viewing or something that evokes a response in your visitors? Are abstract images a good bet? Would monochrome images make a statement? Would they suit a modern and minimalist setting? Maybe you’ve got, or intend to take, a selection of family portraits and have them placed around the lounge or dining room like a grand country house. A macro image of a caterpillar perhaps wouldn’t go down well in the dining room no matter haw excellent it is especially if you’re serving salad. How about a peregrine falcon with a freshly killed pigeon? Pictures of demonstrations or hard hitting social documentary images may get a conversation going or perhaps be uncomfortable for those on the political right. What sort of image would you put up in your study?


It’s not just physically printed images, the same applies to electronic picture frames. It’s a good idea to rotate and change images every now and again to keep things fresh. After all, it’s effectively a gallery you have.

So what are you going to put up on your wall today?

All text and images Keith Rowley 2021

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dark_lord’s latest blog : borderless prints


Borderless Prints

6 Jul 2021 6:51PM  
Views : 68
Unique : 53

A long time ago when you received your printed photos they all came with a border, Then came borderless prints which are now the standard style. But what if you print your own, what do you choose?

When I first got interested in photography the borderless print had become the accepted standard. I’m talking just over 40 years ago. Borderless prints were simple to produce with automated printers using long rolls of paper. I don’t know what method was used before that. It would be interesting to find out.

Home printing was entirely different. Each print had to be produced using an individual piece of paper using a printing easel that held the edges of the paper down so the whole sheet would lie flat. I have a recollection that there were devices that allowed a sheet of paper to lie flat without trapping the edges and so produce a borderless image.


I’m not aware of a printing service that offers prints with borders these days, though I guess there will be some specialists somewhere. Nevertheless, you could always produce a version of your image which includes a white border (or any other colour you like come to that, though I was initially considering the classic look) ready for printing.

If you print at home today you have the choice. There’s a checkbox somewhere in the printer driver dialog that allows borderless printing. You need to ask ‘is a border necessary’. If you’re going to frame the print, using a mount inside the picture frame, then, depending on the aperture in the mount any border may well be covered. A borderless print is useful if you want a seamless look. This is likely to be the default as most commercially made mounts are designed for standard borderless machine prints. Alternatively, you may want a border between the image and the mount if you want to print slightly smaller than the mount’s aperture and include a keyline around the image.

If you print your own photobooks it’ll depend on the style you want whether or not you want a border around your page edges or not. And if so, how large.


I’ve only considered physical prints. As an aside, what about images posted online? Most images you see don’t have a border and that’s the easiest and most straightforward way as, apart from any initial adjustments, there’s nothing else to do. Do you want to create a border to represent what a print may look like or to give the impression of how the image would look if it were in a picture frame? Going for the latter could fight against the image for attention. I’ve not seen it much for a while now but there was a trend for producing multiple outline borders around an image which was distracting and counterproductive especially with smaller size uploads. What is useful to demarcate an image, for example a low key image on a black background, is a thin keyline. It’s subtle and I guess part of my style. I sometimes use thicker borders for images originating on film but on the whole I’d rather make the most of screen real estate for the image itself.


Fashions change, often driven by convenience and automation. These days you have so much choice regarding presentation, so make use of it.

To border or not to border, that is the question.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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