Photography for Artists & Designers

Art & Design 265: Project


Project: Straight Photo

Week: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Schedule


The Short Version

— Find a single subject for all of these photos — one that you can shoot in several different lighting conditions.
Frame each image very carefully as you shoot, because no cropping is allowed during post-processing.
— Shoot in Manual Mode. Get accustomed to reading the light meter and adjusting aperture and speed.
Photograph the subject in at least 3 different lighting situations — it might be 3 different times of day, in direct light sunlight, in low morning light, in late evening light or in artificial light at night, in back light, etc.
Shoot 20+ images in each of 3+ lighting situations. (so, thats 60+ images for the project)
Do not edit the images, we want to see what you see and what your exposures produce.
— Combine a sample images from each of the three lighting contexts into a single composite image.
— Upload 15+ sample images, and your composite to G+; comment on your images and on your peers'.

— While shooting, concentrate on your theme, and on composing images through the viewfinder. Fill the frame well. Pay attention to focal areas, balance, and on generating adequate contrast and dynamism.
— Use Bridge to survey your images and to select the best exposure of your best images.
— Select 20+ images for initial editing. Narrow those to a series of seven final, thematically unified, compositionally strong images.
— Create a composite of your final image set, presenting them as a unfied whole.
— Convert final images and composite to mid-size JPGs.
— Upload to G+ photo album "002 Straight Photo". Add the album to your Photography_Art265 circle.
— Comment and crit yours and peer images.

Concept | Preparations | Process | Content | Sorting | Editing | Presentation | Turn In | Resources | Deadlines

Goals & Concept

You may do no cropping after you have shot your images.  This is a “straight photo” exercise, which means, whatever the camera gives you in the frame, is what you must present. 
So, you must compose and crop each image as you are looking through the camera’s viewfinder — and ONLY then. 
In this image-making exercise, the composition task happens as the image is shot, rather than in post-procesing. You will be looking for images that have some visually interesting, shared traits — a shared graphic concept. Find a subject that can be photographed repeatedly, capturing similar traits that will be useful when the images are arranged and presented as a set or a grouping.

You may select your subject. Select subject for graphic interest, particulary adequate light-shadow variety.

You’re going to shoot at least 20 images x3

Also involved: basic camera setup, image organizing, image editing, uploading are exercised.



Setup Summary:
Shooting Mode: Manual (M)
Auto-Focus: ON
Image File format: RAW

If needed, review the basic operations of a digital SLR.
DigiTutor: Intro/demo for D7000 features from Nikon      |      DigiTutor: Intro/demo for D90 features from Nikon

Download a PDF of the manual for the camera you are using: D7000 | D90 | D7000 Spanish | D90 Spanish

Note: Whenever you borrow a camera, you don't really know what settings were left by the prior user.
It's wise to reset the camera's default settings before you start your own setup.
On the D7000 restore default settings by simultaneously holding down both the Qual button (back... lower left)
and the +/- button (back... upper right) for more than two seconds.
D7000 Manual — p. 151
On the D90, simultaneously hold down the +/- button and the AF button for two seconds. Both are on the back, right side.
D90 Manual — p. 75

You may also want to check the Release Mode Dial.
For most photo shoots, you'll want it set to S (single frame).
D7000 Manual — p. 77-78 | D90 Manual — p. 64-65
Note that in this 002 Straight Photo assignment, you'll set it Ch.


— Set your image-file Format:   RAW
Set your camera to save RAW format files.
RAW offers deep image data, but you'll need to be familiar with the program "Camera RAW" that Photoshop opens when loading a RAW file.
Note that Nikon camera generated RAW files will have an .NEF filename suffix.
Canon cameras produce RAW files with a ____ filename suffix.

How to set file format:
Hold down the Qual button (back... lower left) and rotate the main command dial until RAW appears in the lower left corner of the control panel.
If you would like to save a JPEG file as well as a RAW file, feel free to select RAW+FINE or RAW+NORM or RAW+BASIC. which, on the D7000, store images of 16mpix, 8mpix and 4mpix respectively.
Camera Manual PDFs:          D7000 Manual — p. 85-86      |        D90 Manual — p. 62-63

— You may want to clear your memory card.
RAW images fill a memory card much faster than JPEG images do.
Though there are several variations of RAW image formats available on the D7000, using lossless-compressed, 12-bit RAW format, an 8GB memory card will hold about 290 images.  D7000 Manual — p. 320 
Because the D90 has a lower max resolution, the D90 will hold about 500 RAW images on an 8GB card.    D90 Manual — p. 262
Note that if you save a JPEG image along with your RAW file, fewer images will fit on your card.



Develop a graphic concept or theme.
Think about what could be done with that theme as you select your subject. Sketch thumbnails to explore visual ideas.
Think about whatever traits might contribute to images that could express that theme evokatively.
How might you frame and compose images based on a search for some particular trait — a shape or shapes, a rhythm, line or patterns.

Do you need a subject with bold or contrasting colors?
Do you need a subject with varied textures?
...with bold shapes?
...with flowing contours or forms?

You might select subjects that have a wide dynamic range. A wide dynamic range is present in an image with a vast difference between the scarce amount of illumination in dark areas, and the intense illumination in light areas. Strictly speaking, a camera cannot properly expose all areas of such an image. Either the camera or the photographer must choose whether to properly expose the lighter areas, or to properly expose the dark areas. When you expose one such region well, the other will be compromised. While there are various tactics for dealing with extreme dynamic range, for this image set, we'll be picking which area to properly expose during post-processing, not beforehand, while shooting.
Thus, to get experience with dynamic range exposure issues, find subjects in which there there are both very dark, and very illuminated areas.

Explore possible subjects — look around and think about what available subjects might offer the forms you're after.
You might shoot some sample images with whatever camera you've got — a camera phone might be fine for these rough images. See if the subject does what you were hoping for... are images what you expected? Are the traits that you previsualized as you anticipated? Is a particular kind of lighting needed in order to create the imagery you're after? Is there a time of day that would offer the right shadows or color? What other points of view might offer interesting compositions?
Generate some more sketches visualizing compositions of your subject that might be framed.

Select your subject(s) and the conditions you need to shoot it/them in. Visit the subject at different times of day — either take some quick photos or sketch what you see, noting, particularly, how lighting is changing the character of the subject. The more times you visit the subject, the more likely you'll discover unexpected differences in illumination that you can take advantage of in your images.

Get your camera set up, as described in the Prep section, above.

Look over your sketches and think about a shooting sequence. Don't overlook any ideas you sketched earlier, but feel free to shoot any ideas that come up. Take time to review your images occasionally to see if you're getting the images you intended. If not, troubleshoot alternative perspectives and lighting. Feel free to delete obviously useless images.

— Transfer these images to your m-drive or personal drive so that you can view them in Adobe Bridge.

When you get back to Adobe Bridge, Camera RAW and Photoshop, you will...
— Plan how you will organize your image files — consider Star Ratings, Collections and Folders.
— Select the best exposures for each viewpoint.
— Drag the weaker, not-to-be-used images into a “rejects” folder, or use star ratings to filter out unneeded images.
— Find the best 20 or so remaining images in terms of the theme you selected. Ask yourself which images create the most interesting expression of your theme?   

— Narrow down to 15 or final images.   Put the others into a “runners up” folder.
— Select one strong image from three different lighting conditions, and combine them into a single composite.
— Export copies your final + composite images to ~2mpix jpeg images.
— Upload your final images, and your composite, to your Google+ “002 Straight Photo" album.    Drag those albums to your Photography_Art265 circle.
— Add a comment to your final set album, describing your graphic theme.


— Upload your JPEG image set and composite to Google+ into your “002 Straight Photo” albums.  
Drag that album into your Photography_Art265 circle.

— Add comments to your photos and album. Describe the traits that unify this set of images.  Write a short (25-75 words) concept statement that describes the visual traits or ideas that this set of images emphasizes.

— Review and comment* on the photos uploaded by at least 7 other students before class.
* Provide relevant comments (25+ more words) discussing what you see in the photos presented -- comment particularly on what impresses you or what catches your eye.  Comment on what you think might improve the cropping or editing of the presented photos.


Tutorials and Resources

Bridge 101

(CS 6)
Bridge is an image organization tool.
It allows you to set up folders, favorites, collections and filters.  You can keyword, rank and sort your images.
This video goes through all prefs and the basic interface

Adobe Bridge CS5 Intro: Though this deals with the prior version (CS5) of Bridge, it does a good job looking at far more features, and most of them are identical to CS6 Bridge. (at 2.30 min he gets "in" to Bridge) | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Levels 101 The Levels controls offers one of the most versatile means of altering exposure and contrast traits in an image -- which is to say, its really a good panel to get to know.  Increase or decrease dynamic range.
terms:  Levels, histograms, pixels, dynamic range, clipping, blown out whites and value/brightness levels.

The Power of Adjustment Layers

Levels and Curves are important value (and color) editing tools.  You can apply them directly, or through an Adjustment layer.  
Adjustment layers allow you to make such changes non-destructively — which means, in part, you can change your mind later without degrading the image.
Image: Adjustments: Levels   (destructive editing)  
Adjustments Panel: Levels (icon)   (creates adjustment layer; non-destructive)

to create an Adjustment Layer Mask
Magic Wand selection tool.
Select: Inverse
AdjustPnl: Levels   (new mask automatically made based on current selection)

Bridge Batch Resize

Bridge Batch Resize/JPG Images2

These videos cover the basic batch conversion process that you’ll want to know.
For most of our in class uploaded images, save as JPG, quality 10 (or so); size W 2000 x H 1500  (these define the maximum dimensions of the final image -- so your converted image will be the same shape/proportion as before, but now the max height will be 1500 pixels and the max width 2000 pixels.  That’s actually a bit large for most online viewing, but should be fine.

Required — Deadlines and Details

By Tuesday, 8am

Shoot at least 60 image sets in three lighting conditions.
Select (at least) 15 of those for uploading.
Select 3 (one from each lighting situation) of those for a composite.
Downsize images to ~2Mpix JPGs before upload to G+.

Post to G+ :
Album: 002_Straight Photo (15+ selected from shoots & 1 composite image)

Write an artist's statement for the final series.
— Discuss whatever theme or emphases you explored.
Discuss whatever compositional traits, color traits, tonal and contrast traits, shape or allignment tactics that you composed with.

Write critical comments about the final series images:
— Discuss the strengths of several of the final images in relation to that theme.


Tuesday, before Class

Crit your Peers:
Go to G+ and review what your classmates have uploaded.

For at least 7 of your classmates, go to their 002_Straight Photo album.
(comment on different folk's work each week... vary who you comment on.)

Add comments to at least one image, or to their series as a whole.
You comments might include...
— Discuss ways in which the series is formally unified — what traits tie the separate images together?
— How compositionally successful are the images? What is interesting about them?
— What impresses you or draws you to these images?
— Make suggestions for any changes or edits that might improve either a particular image, or the series as a whole.


Thursday, before Class

Upload any reshot images or any re-edited images that you would like to replace and improve your series.

Add comments on changes and improvements.



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Greg Clayton
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