Monthly Archives: December 2018

Image Quality for Photo & Video

Most of us have heard the term, “Garbage in, Garbage out.”.  The saying holds true for photography and video.  Editing can fix a lot, but it cannot fix everything.  The key is to capture the best quality images to begin with, which will leave you with more options in editing later.

I produced a video on the subject which serves as a short synopsis of what to consider when capturing images, whether it be moving or still.  Read on for more detailed explanations of what is covered in the video, which can be found at the end of this post.

Image Size

Many cameras, both video and still cameras, offer several options for image size.  Using a smaller image size can certainly save space.  A smaller image garners a smaller file size which will effectively allow you to take more photos or longer videos before having to off-load to your computer.

The problem with smaller image sizes is that they cannot be enlarged and maintain a crisp image.  You may start off thinking your images will just be used on social media or small prints, but should you decide an image is destined for other applications where a larger format is needed you are going to wish you had taken everything at full quality and just brought extra media cards instead of trying to save space.

Larger images can always be scaled down in size to meet the requirements of the project you are working on.  Smaller images cannot be scaled up without loosing detail and clarity.  At some point smaller images become unrecognizable if they are scaled up too much.

Below are some images I took for a video project. I needed the images to fit a video frame size of 1920 X 1080.  Each of the images is annotated to show it’s original size and how much it needed to be scaled up by in order to fit the frame size I needed.

Image Quality.00_01_11_10.Still004Image Quality.00_01_21_10.Still006Image Quality.00_00_55_07.Still002Image Quality.00_01_06_09.Still003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, it is possible to scale images up to a certain degree and maintain decent image quality.  The extent to which you can do this depends on the size of the original image and how much you need to scale the image to make it fit into your project.

Lighting

To capture the richness of a scene’s color palette and to maintain overall crispness of an image, special attention should be paid to lighting.  In general, if lighting perfection cannot be reached it is better that an image come out a little too dark rather than being too bright.

Images that are too dark can generally be saved in editing.  The detail is still there and with a little help from photo editing software (I like Photoshop and Lightroom) the images colors, shadows, midtones and highlights can be enhanced to create the image you were hoping for when you originally took the photo or video.

Image Quality.00_02_10_01.Still007Image Quality.00_02_14_26.Still008

 

 

 

 

Images that are too bright rarely can be saved in editing.  When too much light is present in a shot it creates overwhelming highlights that drown out the detail of the photo. Darkening the image simply darkens the distortion created by the presence of excess light.  The detail is lost and cannot be regained in editing.

Image Quality.00_02_32_01.Still011Image Quality.00_02_37_19.Still012

 

 

 

 

To assure that you are closer to perfection with your lighting keep the following in mind:

  • The subject of your video should be evenly lit with the light source coming from the front and or sides of the subject.  The background should be darker than the foreground and for this reason the subject should never be placed in front of a window.
  • When possible make sure the subject is lit by a single type of light.  Outdoor light, indoor light and different light bulbs give off different temperatures of light.  This can cause an image to have a color cast (looks too blue or too yellow) if the camera is not white balanced correctly.  This can be fixed in editing, but better to avoid the problem to begin with.
  • Know your camera settings.  Most point and shoot cameras simplify exposure settings or make them automatic all together.  If you have a higher end camera that lets you adjust the three points of exposure manually (Shutter, Aperature & ISO) then some research on the type of photos you are planning to take should provide you with some best practices for using those settings to produce the best results.

Camera Stabilization

A moving subject and a moving camera can spell disaster for the outcome of your images.  While not all handheld images are destined for the digital trash can it is better to stabilize your camera whenever possible.

An expensive tripod is not always a better tripod but you do want to keep in mind the weight of the gear your tripod needs to hold.  When searching for higher end tripods you may see weight referenced in two ways.  One is the weight of the tripod it’s self.  The other is in reference to how much weight the tripod can carry in gear. If you have a large camera and will be attaching other accessories to that camera such as lighting and microphones you will need to take into account the collective weight of that setup and get a tripod that can accommodate that weight.

Lighter tripods may tip more easily if they are knocked into or caught in a good wind.  Weights can be attached to some tripods to help better stabilize them in these conditions.

If you are filming with a mobile phone or iPad there are adapters on the market for under $20 that will allow you to attach your mobile device to your tripod.

Monopods are a great alternative if you are traveling or will be shooting in a tight space that cannot accommodate a full tripod.  Some tripods come with a detachable monopod but they can also be purchased relatively inexpensively.

Media Storage

As discussed above, reducing image quality to make the most of your media storage space is not a good long term option.  Always buy the highest capacity media card your camera can take and then buy multiples of those.  No one every complained about having too much storage space.

If you are traveling and will have access to WiFi consider signing up for a cloud storage account.  You can transfer your photos to the cloud and then delete them from your camera or mobile device to make room for new photos. Check with some of the different cloud storage providers on rates and storage capacity.  I like Dropbox because it can be installed on and work with all types of computer operating systems and mobile devices.  Once in the cloud, your photos will sync to all the devices the account is attached to.  Do a few test runs using this workflow before using it for a project or going on vacation.

Check out the video below for quick visual review of topics covered above.

 

 

 

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Sunsets and Silhouettes

The most vibrant images can often times be images that play off light and dark and only display a handful of colors on the spectrum.

Capturing sunsets is a great way to experiment with natural light and the way it plays in various landscapes.

Sunsets on a backdrop of well formed clouds can be very dramatic.

If you photograph at the right time of day and look at ordinary things with a creative eye you can create some interesting scenes.

Generally speaking I have found that an hour before the sun goes down is the best time to photograph skies like the ones shown above.  The light is not as intense so glare is limited.  It also allows for more options in manually setting your camera for exposure.

I primarily use manual focus, except on images where the sun is directly in the shot.  Then I put the camera on auto focus, take a best guess at where I should start for settings and then aim the camera at the sun without looking through the lens.  After I take the shot I quickly review and adjust my settings and take another round of photos…slightly adjusting the position of my camera in the hopes one or two of the shots end up with decent framing.

If you think the fun ends when the sun goes down you are mistaken.  Keep an extra battery charged for the late show with our other favorite light source…the moon.

 

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