Monday, March 11, 2013

Class Feedback

     It's crazy that the trimester is over already!  I've really enjoyed this class and am glad I took it.  I've never been great at taking pictures, and while I'm still definitely not an artist, I feel that I can take well-composed, properly-exposed, quality images and edit them on the computer.  My favorite part of this class was probably the photo assignments.  While they were the most work and I didn't like having out-of-class homework, I really enjoyed setting them up and getting creative with them.  My two least favorite parts of the class were walking around the school taking pictures (I don't know - for some reason I just don't like photographing the school!  And I feel like no one really puts effort into it) and the in-class critique (I like seeing everyone's pictures, but no one really volunteers anything constructive and sometimes it's kind of uncomfortable).
     I also really enjoyed the Photoshop assignments, because I think the Photoshop program is really cool.  The school context assignment was fun, and I liked seeing what everyone else did to their pictures.  I don't love blogging, but I don't know what a better alternative would be.  I sometimes felt rushed on Mondays when I had to edit all my photos and blog about the photo assignment and turn the best one in, so I ended up just doing all the blogging on the weekends to save time, but overall I think the pace of the class is about right - no on seems to get too far behind.
     I learned so much about photography in this class.  We first learned how to set-up and compose a photo.  The rules of composition, from space to rule of thirds to lines to perspective, were surprisingly simple and helpful guidelines.  Whenever I was stuck during a photo assignment - when all of my photos were coming out plain and uninteresting - I would just think back and employ one of the rules, and the photos would become instantly better.  I also learned about the actual mechanics of the camera, all of its parts, and how a photo is created.  In particular, we focused on the exposure triangle (shutter, aperture, and ISO), and how these three settings work in tandem to control the light, which in turn creates and dictates the quality of the image.  I still struggle a bit with keeping these three straight and adjusting them when I'm actually out taking pictures, but I understand them enough to make basic setting adjustments.  Particularly for macro, portrait, nature, and food photography, these prove really important.  Finally, we learned how to edit images in Photoshop.  I had never used this program before, so everything was new - and it's so cool!  By using a few simple tools, like the clone stamp or magic wand, you can instantly pull components out of a scene or smooth out blemishes.  So, each photo we turned in was edited to perfection, and I was amazed - by the end of the trimester, some of them really did look professional.

Here are a few of my favorite photos:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Photo Assignment 8: Black and White

Assignment Description:
For my final photo assignment, I decided to take black and white pictures.  Actually, I took pictures in color and then switched them to black and white in Photoshop.  I was running out of things to take pictures of in my house, but when I happened to glance at our grandfather clock, I realized how perfect it would be - it's beautiful, and its two sharply contrasting hues look great in black and white.  I tried to capture all parts of the clock, from the ornate face to the keyhole to the old-fashioned cleaning supplies to a profile of the whole thing.  Because this was a still-life, close-up shoot, I had to work hard to get the proper lighting, macro settings, and exposure.

Best Photo, Before Editing:

Best Photo, After Editing:

Technical Data:
-ISO= 800
-Aperture = f/3.2
-Shutter Speed = 1/25 sec

Twelve Favorite Photos:

I liked this assignment, and I'm glad that my last project is one I'm so proud of.  When taking pictures, my biggest problem was the lighting.  It was creating random, shiny reflections that would ruin otherwise perfect photos, and sometimes I'd see myself reflected back when I went to look at a picture.  Turning the flash off sometimes helped.  I also focused on getting really clear, crisp, shallow depth-of-field images by using fast shutter speed and large aperture.  I was indoors, relying completely on the light fixtures, so that lack of natural light was something I had to consider.  Some of the pictures did come out a bit blurry or have weird shadows or reflections, but I was able to find a few good ones.  In Photoshop there was lots to be done.  First I cropped and made every picture black and white (it was cool to see how the tone of each picture instantly changed!).  I used the clone and smudge tools to remove reflections and imperfections, and I made the contrast on each picture much higher.  I loved the black and white filter - I feel as though it instantly makes any picture ten times prettier and more interesting, especially for something as detailed and old-fashioned as a grandfather clock.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Photo Assignment 7: Macro

Assignment Description:
For this assignment, I couldn't decide whether to do black and white or macro.  I knew I wanted to take pictures of crayons and colored pencils, but couldn't make up my mind about how to shoot them. I liked the idea of taking the color out of subjects so inherently colorful, but I also liked how much detail I could get with the macro settings - the wood shavings of the pencils and the grainy-ness of the crayon paper.  So, I took some of both.  I even found a cool filter on my camera that puts the frame all in black and white, except for one other color (red, blue, yellow, or green), which was cool.  I eventually decided to go with macro, because I think that fit the overall shoot better.  My favorite picture, though, is probably the first one in the slideshow - the black and white pencil jar with the red pencils highlighted.

Best Photo, Before Editing:

Best Photo, After Editing
Technical Data
-ISO = 320
-Aperture = f/3.2
-Shutter Speed = 1/30 sec

Twelve Best Photos

I liked this assignment!  I worked a lot with the camera settings, because I wanted to capture as much fine detail as possible.  The crayon wax and pencil tips both ended up lending themselves really well to this.  I used the macro setting, and also experimented with shallower depth of field and faster shutter speed.  I was indoors, but there was lots of light coming in from the windows, so luckily there wasn't too much digital noise.  I liked the chaotic jumble of crayons and all the intersecting lines they created.  I also experimented some with patterns and symmetry, lining the pencils or erasers up, but I didn't have time to make that as cool as it could have been.  I also probably spent way too much time with the black, white, and one other color setting - those look so neat, though!  In Photoshop, there wasn't a ton to do - the photos looked pretty good already.  But I adjusted brightness, contrast, curves, and levels, cropped, and used the clone tool to remove the black blemishes on the end of the crayon.

Visual Dictionary

For this assignment, we again worked with Photoshop.  We used all the skills we've learned to create little collages, each the visual definition of a word.  I picked two nice words - serene and sweet - and tried to find online images that represented those words.  Sweet was easy - just sugar and little babies! But for serene, I had to think a bit more.  I combined the images using lots of layers, mashing them together, blurring the edges, and adjusting the opacity of each layer.  I then used the text tool to add the word itself and its written definition.  I wish I'd had a bit more time, but here they are:

Visual Puns

For this assignment, we used the skills we've learned in Photoshop to create "visual puns" - plays on words that are like little puzzles.  I think the hardest part was actually picking the puns I wanted to do. After that, it was just a matter of finding a few good pictures, putting them into Photoshop on a 5x5in canvas, and adding a colorful background.  I used the crop, smudge, magic wand, quick selector, and eye dropper tools to create the puns.  Mine are pretty easy to figure out:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Photo Assignment 6: People

Assignment Description: 
For this assignment, I took pictures of people - my parents and two little brothers.  We just learned how to take portraits in class, so it seemed like the perfect time to try.  In class, we used the studio with its backdrop and four different lights, and we also leaned how to take natural-light photos using a window and a bounce sheet.  For this project, my goal was to take high-quality, professional pictures of people, but not necessarily in the studio, formal portrait sort of way.  I wanted my subjects to look natural and happy.  I experimented with different backgrounds, light, and poses, and even went outside, and I was pretty happy with the results.

Best Photo, Before Editing: 

Best Photo, After Editing: 

Technical Data: 
-ISO = 800
-Aperture = f/3.2
-Shutter Speed = 1/15 sec

Twelve Best Photos: 

This assignment was a little trickier than I was expecting it to be.  I had trouble figuring out the right camera settings - I needed the people's faces to be clear and in focus, and I also wanted a lot of light.  Sometimes my shutter speed was too slow, and because I was inside the ISO was often too high.  But it was fun to take pictures of my family and we ended up taking wayyyy too long messing around with this.  I also was getting almost a halo of blurry fuzziness around my brothers in some of the pictures, which was hard to get rid of even in Photoshop.  For editing, I mainly cropped (you can't tell with the two above photos, but it is cropped, to better fit rule of thirds) and adjusted brightness, levels, and contrast.  I also really used the clone tool to fix skin - it's so cool, you can just make a blemish disappear!  Not so much with my little brother, because he has perfect skin, but I used it for my parents and older brother.  I also used it to get rid of the little scrapes on my brother's lip.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Assignment Description:
For this assignment we learned how to make panoramas, which are very thin, wide strips of a scene.  They are good for capturing landscapes, large crowds, buffet tables, or any other scene that is too wide to fit in the regular frame.  To create these, we started by picking a central focus point and adjusting our camera settings for that point.  We used manual settings (zoom, focal length, focus) so that they stayed the same for each picture.  We then used a tripod or a steady hand to take four to eight pictures of the scene, slowly panning across while overlapping each image about 40%.  This was the hard part - after, we simply let Photoshop stitch them together (File => Automate => Photomerge), and the results were these really cool panoramas.

Here are my five best:

What I Learned:
I really liked this assignment.  The hardest part was actually taking the pictures - you had to first find a wide, interesting background, then make sure there was nothing moving in the frame, then pick the proper settings, then carefully take the pictures.  We tried using the tripod once, but it wasn't working well and it made our images come out funny, so I ended up just taking the rest by hand.  Most of my panoramas use 6 or 7 photos.  Then I uploaded them to the computer and opened them in Photoshop.  Photoshop has a really cool feature that lets you simply select the photos you want, and it stitches them together.  I tried a few different styles (auto, collage, perspective), and I liked most of them.  Sometimes the stitching would be off or the borders would be jagged, but for the most part mine came together pretty well.  Then I just cropped out the uneven edges, used the smudge tool to fix and exposed corners, and adjusted levels/brightness/contrast.  I think that the wall mural picture is my favorite - it's such a long painting, so a panoramic photo worked perfectly!