Torgesen Family Times

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3 things that totally changed my pictures

There are 3 things that I think totally changed the way my photographs looked – monitor calibration, white balance correction and shooting in manual.  These 3 things have taken me from where I was to where I wanted to be – from snapshots to artwork. 


First, monitor calibration.  I’d heard of it, but didn’t really think much of it until I wanted my pictures to be better.  And the more I learned, the more I got confused with too many acronyms and concepts that were mind-boggling: color space, color temperature, sRGB, adobeRGB, RGB, CMYK, ppi, dpi, etc.    AHHHH!  I came across a simple post (I don’t remember where?) that talked about all these things, but at the end just stated that modern monitor calibration is easy and will do wonders for your photos.  You don’t have to know exactly everything, just starting with monitor calibration and it will fix A LOT.  So, there are millions of choices out there on which monitor calibration system to buy, many price points, so many options again!  I chose to go simple, read reviews, made a choice, purchased it and it is working well for me.  I chose this system below,  the Spyder 3 express.  I can’t tell you how much my photographs have changed!  Blacks are blacker, reds are more rich, skin color is realistic even in weird lighting.  Blues are clearer.  Amazing!  I have it set to remind me to calibrate every 2 months, I hook it up, click go and D.O.N.E!


Spyder 3 express



Datacolor DC S3X100 Spyder 3 Express


Second, White Balance correction.  I “get” this concept (making sure that the undertones of your photos aren’t skewed one way or the other), I just didn’t know how to do it best.  Again, after reading blogs and articles all over the web I learned how to do this that fits my knowledge level and workflow. 

In Lightroom, I have it set to auto white balance upon import (also, auto tone and sharpen a bit).  This corrects most problems.  But, sometimes auto WB is totally off.  This is where I manually make fixes.  In the develop module, I select the eye dropper and go to an area in the photograph that is supposed to be neutral, light colors are best.  White areas or grey areas are what I look for.  Hover over the spot and look at the numbers below, are they all close to the same number (ex. 99, 98, 99)?  If so, it is neutral and click on that area.  If not, scroll over more areas until you find something that fits this criteria.  You can also click and then select again if it doesn’t look right.  this will get you to a great spot, usually.  You might need to tweak a bit, but since you have your monitor calibrated – you can do this with more confidence. 



Eyedropper is on the right hand side, just below the word “treatment”, just click it and start moving it around your photo.  This photo was imported using the “auto WB” preset.


You’ll start to see the preview picture in the left side changing white balance.  Some will look pretty good, some will look really bad.  Here I have hovered over, and clicked, the white board behind my wonderful trust subjects.  See how the blue tone is gone?  It’s hard to see, but the numbers below the grid say about 76, 76, 75 RGB.  When these numbers are fairly equal – it means it is a neutral and is good to use. 





If I hover over the red shirts, this is what I get. (RGB is 45, 18, 14)image


If I hove over the brown frame of the white board, this is what I get.  (57, 47, 26 RBG)


The “Ah-ha” moment for me was that I didn’t need a grey card in each lighting setting (which I could not get myself to stop shooting and just do!)-  I just had to find something neutral in the picture already and use that!  Almost all pictures have something neutral.  If they don’t exactly, then get close and do the correction manually by using the temperature and tint sliders until you get something that looks good (using your newly calibrated monitor to assure you it’s the right color when printed).


Third, shoot in manual.  It took a workshop by Me Ra Koh to teach me how to shoot in manual, but once you learn it – you never go back.  I read books about it, couldn’t figure it out.  Read articles on line about how to do it, couldn’t figure it out.  I mean, when the lighting was great – sure I could do it a little bit.  But, when the lighting was even a bit tough – I switched back to auto.  I probably used Av mode, thinking that this was manual, it wasn’t!  It has taken me from where I was to where I want to be. 


From this, yes a cute photo – but maybe not the best.  Flash fired, dark background, flash shadows, bright foreground, etc.

18mm, ISO 400, aperture 4.0, shutter 1/60th = auto settings all around

IMG_2494 blog

cutie pie Alex at 9 mo old and Bella on Christmas morning enjoying their new toys – 2007


To this – metered on his face, adjusted the exposure to be within range and voila!  Snap!

50 mm, ISO 250 , aperture 2.8 , shutter 1/160th = manual settings all around

Alex-3 blog

Cutie pie Alex enjoying his hiding spot underneath the table, 3 1/2 year old big boy - 2010


Plus, practice practice practice.  And, I know so much more about light now.  Ahhh – light!  I’ve seen the light! 


Does this mean that I get everything right – in camera – all of the time?  Heck no!   But, I’m slowly working on it.  Slowly but surely. 


I’m sure having a ton of fun at it though!


Jamie said...

Good for you Allison! This is a great post. I remember when I finally had that ah-ha moment. It changes everything when you finally...see the light ;)

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel