Tag Archives: images

The light tent, and understanding white balance

Several weeks ago I had an email from a lady called Gwen Hartley who had read my articles about my self-assembled light tent (parts 1, 2, 3) but was having some issues with the colour of the images that came out. I’m reproducing our correspondence with her permission, as I think this is useful information.

Gwen wrote:

… all the pictures we take (without flash, right?) are YELLOW & people cannot see the true color of my husband’s artwork (he’s a glassblower).

… We’re currently using a larger, taller lightbox, as he needed to be able to put taller pieces in it to photograph for customers. We have 11 lights now — with 100 watt compact fluorescents in them, and they STILL look yellow & are not a true reflection of the piece’s color.

I attached 2 pics of the pieces we took yesterday… notice how YELLOW they look?! We even tried to brighten them in PhotoImpact… NO LUCK! What are we doing wrong? We are supposed to NOT use a flash, right, so we don’t get the light spot? It looks SUPER bright to the eye, but when we photograph it — it’s YELLOW.

IMG_8002.jpg    IMG_8007.jpg

At this stage I didn’t really have enough information make a definite diagnosis, but I thought it would be a good idea to work through the problem with her:

What kind of camera are you using to take the photos?

You need to set your white balance to compensate for the lighting conditions. If you are using a DSLR you can usually shoot in RAW and then change the white balance in your photo software. For a compact, sometimes they have an “indoor” or “tungsten / fluorescent” light setting… otherwise you can use some software to set the neutral colour – I’m not familiar with PhotoImpact though.

I use software called Lightroom which is intended for DSLR users primarily… by using the eyedropper white balance tool and tweaking the brightness and clarity / contrast settings the images look a little better to me.

Again, I don’t know enough about your specific situation, but basically you want to work out the colour temperature of the lamps you are using and compensate for it – lots of photo software has white balance or neutral balance tools – you just click on the bit of the image you know is white, and it rebalances the image for you.

I also attached some edited versions of the images she had sent me, which looked like this:

IMG_8002.jpg    IMG_8007.jpg

Gwen was pleased at the changes:

[we have a] Canon PowerShot S2 IS – 5 megapixels… I don’t need anything fancy – just TRUE COLORS of the pieces & non-yellow-looking images!

… I’ll check into the white balance… there HAS to be something on one of the many settings on this camera!

Now, luckily, if you don’t have a DSLR then something like a PowerShot S2 is just the kind of compact camera you’d want for this kind of photography, as it has the right level of manual control to allow adjustment of white balance etc.. I did a bit of research, and came up with the following advice:

A PowerShot is a nice flexible compact camera.

Looking into the details about the camera you have, I found this review.

It looks like if you set the camera to P or Av mode, and then go into the function menu, the second option down will be White Balance – try the Tungsten and Flourescent light settings (if you have the manual for the camera you’ll probably be able to learn more about this). That would help for getting the right colours straight off the camera. Custom WB would be even better, in this mode you usually photograph something you know to be white, and then tell the camera to use that as a marker to where the white is in the image.

I also did some reading up on the software you have, PhotoImpact, and I found this. This describes doing basically what I did with your other images – you get an eyedropper to pick a colour from the image that should be “white”, or the software can try to fix it in Auto mode.

I have to say that Gwen’s husband Scott does produce some truly beautiful artwork – check out Infinity Art Glass to take a look. I’m really glad to have been able to help them.

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Snapping web pages – LittleSnapper

I’ve written before about a little app I utterly love on the Mac called Skitch. It’s a really nice tool for taking and annotating screenshots, and I often use it to add an image to my blog posts, or simply to record interesting events in my gallery.

So what if you need to make images of web pages? I’m fairly certain that my new favourite application is going to be LittleSnapper, from my friends at Realmac Software. It looks simple, and gorgeous. They recently posted a demo of some of the features on their blog.

Incidentally, although I’ve not had any cause to use their RapidWeaver software before, I’ve had it demonstrated to me and it also looks like a fantastic tool if you are into web design. I think LittleSnapper is going to be the product that gets me on the hook, though 🙂

disclaimer: I know one of the guys from Realmac, but I’ve chosen to post this independently, and the opinions here are firmly my own

Creative Commons and attributions

I noticed Laura Fitton (aka @pistachio) twittering about Flickr and Creative Commons licensing of photos recently.

You can find the photos which I have CC-licensed here on my Flickr stream. This accounts for less than 20% of my total photostream.

I’m a big fan of CC. I use a lot of CC-licensed materials in presentations, for instance. Let me explain the rationale as to how I decide which of my images to make available under Creative Commons.

  1. If they are from a social media event, then generally I guess other people might want to blog them.
  2. If they are of gadgets or objects, or are quick snapshots, then the likelihood is that I’m going to blog them, and others might want to as well.
  3. If someone specifically asks to use an image, I’ll consider whether or not it could / should be CC-licensed. Generally, it’s nice when people want to use one of my images, so I try to oblige.
  4. If I find that an image has been used on a blog without the author checking and it is marked All Rights Reserved, and I subsequently decide that the image is generally shareable, then I’ll open it up.
  5. If they are family, portraits or landscape shots – i.e. the bulk of my work – then there’s a chance I might want to do something with them commercially in the future, or else there’s a good reason for me not wanting just anyone to use them (plus there may be rights issues outside of my control anyway). In these cases, I generally will not apply a CC license.

What no one ever tells you about bloggingThe license I most frequently apply is Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. The annoyance is that I seem to find myself having to “police” the use of the images… I have some web search feeds set up which look for references to my Flickr URL, and when I see them used, I’ll take a look at the site. The most frequently-used image seems to be this one of one of my favourite blogging books… but 90% of the time I have to go and ask for the blogger in question to add an attribution or reference back to the original site. I always add a link to the original Flickr page to the bottom of slides, and details of the images used in the notes for any slide deck. It’s part of playing fair.

I like Creative Commons. I just wish that more people understood how to use CC-licensed content.

Update: I just want to emphasise that 99% of the folks I do correspond with on this issue are very polite, helpful, and made the honest mistake of not necessarily knowing the background on CC licensing. The issue is usually fixed without hesitation. In the example I cited in this post, the author did link back to the Flickr page, and the alt text of the img tag very clearly references me – it’s just that many browsers won’t show that even in a tooltip, as the link URL will be shown in preference. A clear credit is usually a better option, in my own opinion.

Photos I’m particularly happy with

St Paul's and the PierProhibitedGraffiti shadows

Taken whilst in London for the Thames Festival a couple of weeks ago.

Filtering photos from a feed

I sometimes use my Tumblelog to post the odd photo from my iPhone. Generally I don’t want to post iPhone images to Flickr (typically these are spur-of-the-moment snapshots and low quality). There are actually two very nice free apps for the iPhone that let me post directly to Tumblr (called, imaginatively, Tumble and TheTumbler – I’m still trying to decide which one I prefer).

The problem is that I also feed my blog titles and my del.icio.us links to Tumblr, and my Flickr images, and sometimes I will also post a text note there too. Tumblr does not provide feeds on a per-item-type basis, it only gives an aggregated feed containing all the stuff you’ve uploaded there, or pulled in from other sources. Plus, if you then add that to FriendFeed, you get duplicates, even though FF can now work that out to some extent and roll them up into single entries.

Anyway… I put together a quick Yahoo Pipe which filters just the photos that were uploaded directly to Tumblr (ignoring Flickr images, for example). Feel free to clone and re-use, you can just enter your own Tumblr feed URL in the entry box at the top.

Update: well, shoot. It doesn’t ignore the Flickr images at all, does it? Gah. Apparently they are imported to Tumblr as images… which makes me suspect that even when I remove photos from Flickr they will stay on Tumblr. How annoying. And the more I look at the way that the Tumblr feed is constructed, the more I don’t like it at all.