November 2016 - Digital Group - FIAP Winners

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November 2016 - Digital Group - FIAP Winners

Post by spb » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:59 pm

Hurry, hurry, hurry – only 79 limited edition Leica M-P cameras will be built, covered in table tennis bat rubber bobbles. A Christmas bargain at £12,500.

Another camera under development is perhaps of more interest. The recent trend has been to use inherent software to fix the optical shortcomings of lenses. As previously mentioned, for example, the raw image from my Sony RX100 comes with a non-optional profile that fixes distortion, aberrations and heaven-knows-what-else. The L16 Light camera takes this trend to new lengths. By utilising 16 cheap ($1) camera modules of various focal lengths, software magic can combine all of this information to derive a continuous zoom range, large effective aperture and variable depth of field. All in a smartphone-sized housing but potentially superior to a dSLR. Although still in development, the first batch of cameras have all been pre-sold but it remains to be seen if this is an inspired example of thinking out-of-the-box, or a development dead-end like the Lytro.

In the past, APS has seen great success in national competitions and was in the top ten of UK camera clubs for several years. Despite ever-increasing membership, we have slipped from this peak in recent times. One theory for this is that we are not interested in producing certain types of images that are currently fashionable – for example highly constructed fantastical images of seals on penny-farthings or goths in graveyards. However these are only a minority of successful images. Another theory is that we simply don’t seen enough examples of successful images.

To try to address this latter point I showed a range of images that have been winners in FIAP Salons worldwide in the last 12 months. These are readily found on the FIAP Patronage Service website where the individual Salon websites will often show the successful images. It’s worthwhile seeking out the winning images as mere Acceptances are a numbers game – a percentage of all entrants will be Accepted.

International Salons often have large numbers of entries which means that judging is necessarily rapid. An image has no more than 5 seconds to impress the judges before it is marked. This strongly affects the types of image which tend to succeed. They tend to have a simple, single ‘story’ without competing elements or highlights. They may be quite heavily processed to emphasise the message by vignetting and positive control of contrast, focus and exposure. Something that has never been seen before is also valuable. Monochrome can often be effective by removing distracting colours that are not important to the story. One other factor is that the input of the photographer needs to be visible in the image – if it looks like a simple recording of an everyday scene playing out in front of the camera (even if it is not) it is likely to receive less credit.

This being the digital group. I was interested to observe processing techniques that have been used successfully in many of these images;

- Motion Blur or Soft Focus can be achieve in-camera or in post-processing
- High and Low Key images are effective at simplifying an image. Rather than over or under-exposing in the camera, there is more control by taking a normal exposure and then using Curves or Levels plus Dodge or Burn tools. Plug-ins such as the Nik Collection or Topaz Adjust also offer such pre-set effects.
- Texture can be added to a suitable image by combining a texture image on a layer with Blending Modes and/or Opacity controls
- Dramatic monochrome conversions can be achieved by a variety of methods but most commonly by dedicated plug-ins such as Nik Silver Efex Pro or Topaz Black and White Effects.

Many winning images possess very strong mid-tone contrast and this is especially seen on ‘characterful’ faces (wrinklies). Topaz Adjust is probably the most popular tool for achieving this effect and offers an unlimited number of variations on the theme. Other routes to pumped-up hyper-realism are HDR or Clarity. However Clarity can be used two ways;

In several recent meetings the word ‘Clarity’ has cropped up – not in the context of ‘the quality of being clear’ but in the context of ‘the Clarity Slider in Photoshop’. The response from many members has been a solemn nodding and a muttering of magical incantations. The rest of the members have just looked puzzled.

The Clarity slider is intended to increase mid-tone contrast, thus making an image appear clearer and sharper. However – and here’s where special magic happens – moving the Clarity slide to the left (ie the wrong direction) can produce some very interesting ethereal soft-focus effects and has been used to good effect by several of our members for years. As always, it should be used sparingly and on a suitable image.
Clarity Demo 800.jpg
Clarity Demo 800.jpg (174.86 KiB) Viewed 2572 times
A demonstration of minimum and maximum Clarity on an image is shown here. You may well say ‘I’ve never seen a Clarity slider’…. and you may be right, because in Photoshop it is only to be found hidden away in the Raw Converter. I always recommend that beginners don’t take raw images but hone their skills getting the correct exposure with the less-tolerant .jpg images. However if you have a .jpg image you can still put it through the raw converter. In Elements 14 use File>Open in Camera Raw. In Photoshop use File>Open As and then choose Camera Raw from the drop-down list. In Lightroom it’s always right there on the Develop screen. Other tools that play with mid-tone contrast include Topaz Adjust or Topaz Clarity and also if you are familiar with the High Pass method of sharpening this can be used with a high Radius setting or even inverted, for similar hard and soft effects.

A final thought on winning FIAP images – there are very many more submissions of projected images than of prints so it is logical that you will stand a better statistical chance of success with a print. Furthermore, prints are particularly appropriate where quality and detail are important to the story. Finalists in print competitions are likely to be judged ‘in the hand’ and given more careful scrutiny than a projected image which is increasingly judged on a HD TV screen.

Good luck!

Cheers, Steve

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