The Tuscany of America; Palouse Photo Tour and Workshop

My favorite photography destination is Tuscany. There are so many things to love about shooting there. Several of the key elements are the special quality of the light, the amazingly sensual forms of the landscape, the incredible colors, and the sense of space. Well, if we define photography as “light on forms in space” and color photography as that, plus color, then I think that just about sums it up.

However, the cost, the time, the effort, and the uncertainty of international travel means that few American photographers get the opportunity to visit Tuscany, and even those who manage it, aren’t able to return often enough. Which leads to the title of this post. There is a location, right here in the US, which shares those characteristics with Tuscany: the light, the form, the space, the color. And that’s the Palouse.

If you haven’t been there, you owe it to yourself to experience it. And the best way I can imagine to travel there is with a great shooting team like David Saffir and Jack Lein. They will be running a workshop in the Palouse, June 19-23. These are seasoned landscape photographers who have something to offer any level of photographer. Its a pleasure to shoot with them anywhere, but especially in a location like the Palouse.

Here’s the link for more info on the workshop. Please take a look!

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

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Techniques for Floral Photography; or Any Photography

Floral photography seems to be a frequent topic recently. This article is a series of photos, each focused on a single concept that can enrich floral images, or many other types of images.

Include Architecture: Architecture can add to floral images by providing a context, telling a story, and strengthening the visual image.

Shoot LoChro: Flower images are often about brilliant color. But don’t forget to consider low saturation images as a way to produce subtle and unique floral images.

Create Geometries: Flowers have powerful geometries of their own. But that doesn’t stop the photographer from choosing to create image geometries with the camera.

Shoot Texture Shots: Texture shots are “field/event” images without the event, or more often with an unending field of events. Such images can be very emotive, if carefully planned. Here a long lens from above the field, at an angle to the rows, was used to create this unending sea of sunflowers.

Mix In Other Plants: Flowers aren’t the only plants or plant elements worth shooting. Adding in dead branches, other plant types, or in this case wheat heads, enriches the image. Anyone familiar with Tuscany will find a story about a poppy in a wheat field in this closeup, even though it was actually shot in a garden.

Shoot Impresssionist Canvases: Fields without individual events can become abstract expressionist paintings, or impressionist images, depending on the treatment. Here Lightroom’s Clarity control was uses in the reverse direction of usual, to create a smooth, dreamy effect.

Add Unexpected Elements: An image where the floral elements are insufficient to create a captivating image become more successful when another element is added. Here there is an element of surprise, an element of humor, and an increase in the color range added to the image, since the yellow wildflowers don’t provide the level of hot color that the red phone booth does.

Shoot with your Phone:  iPhone photography is becoming very popular, and as the phone cameras improve, and the phone software becomes more powerful, it is becoming possible to shoot, process, and publish great images, especially macros, directly from your phone, as with this image.

Shoot Intriguing Backgrounds:  An image is far more interesting with a contrasting background. Sometimes balancing the interest with an in-focus background element can produce a stronger image than going for the out-of-focus background that avoids competing. Here an old millstone had ferns growing through the hole in the center. The unusual color of the stone, and the lichens growing on it, are far more unique then the fern, and provide a second level of color, detail, and texture.

Shoot Aesthetic Decay: Not all of Italy has the well maintained stonework of Tuscany. Here the plain concrete stucco forms dynamic patterns as it absorbs the rain, the flaking whitewash on the window frame offers a finer texture, and the weathered wood enhances the sense of disrepair. Even the flowers are struggling, adding to the story.

Form Color Relationships: The most interesting aspect of this image is the color relationships between the flowering plants at the right, and the bicycle on the left. Without those relationships, this image would either have not been shot, or have been shot but never used.

Freeze Motion: In full sunlight shooting, fast shutter speeds can be used to freeze birds, bees, and butterflies, adding a dynamic quality to floral shots.

Compose Around the Flowers:  It would have been possible to shoot a number of compositions at this location. Including the flowers as a middle, instead of a foreground layer, adds to the image and the story it tells.

Offset Your Main Element: Don’t automatically center your main element. Symmetrical images are powerful, and are best for many uses, but in a case such as this, the organic nature of an off-center key element improves the composition and interest of the photo. Focal variation enhances the effect, giving depth to what could be a flat field with a single event.

Emphasize the Insects: Sometimes the insects are more interesting than the flowers. Be sure to shoot them for their own sake, as well as building them into floral-oriented images.

Utilize Focal Options: Focus can be a powerful tool. It can emphasize the areas that you want to focus on, and it can create dramatic effects in the rest of the image. Here a LensBaby has been used for both its dreamy variable focus qualities, and its macro abilities.

Replicate Forms and Colors: A shot with this butterfly’s wings up would be more typical, but here the form of the wings and the flower are related, as are their colors, strengthening the relationship.

Shoot the Animals: Nothing adds interest and life to an image quite like a live animal. Here the off-center location of the waterlily is counterbalanced by the location of the frog in the frame, and the contrasting color of the flower is contrasted by the matching color of the frog. All these relationships add interest to the image.

Shoot Dried Flowers Too: Last years flower heads may not look inviting, when there are bright, fresh flowers to shoot, but they offer contrast, and a different dynamic from fresh blossoms.

Include Lichens and Moss: They may not be flowers, but they can enrich an image, as can the color and texture of stone. Without this bright orange lichen, these modest stalks would hardly have warranted a photo.

Shoot Windowboxes: Be sure to include the building involved, for justification and context.

Celebrate Bokeh: The out-of-focus sections of this image are at least as enjoyable as the flower that it focuses on, due to the lovely bokeh pattern the lens forms. A deep focus shot here would be mostly about mulch.

Shoot Buds: Sometimes the story a bud has to tell is more compelling than the full-blown flower it will become. Here a macro lens offers lots of detail and texture to go with the single bit of color in the bud.

Let the Bees Stay: Even when you don’t choose to make them the focus of the image they add interest to an otherwise simple image.

Include Context: Its all too easy to fill the frame with blossoms, especially from a flowering tree or bush. But backing up and finding an attractive context for such a shot increases its interest.

Climb Way In: Some times the most satisfying shot includes only part of the flower, or has only part of the flower in focus. Paying attention to getting a good background is important when there is so little in an image.

Shoot Butterflies: Nothing goes with flowers quite like butterflies. But be sure to justify the inclusion, and form a strong relationship, with similarities or contrasts, between the butterfly and the floral elements. Here the butterfly contrasts as the only warm color, and the only high contrast element. The butterfly and the single in-focus stem combine to form a centered element against the strong focal distortion of the background.

Shoot Shadows: Paying attention to shadows doesn’t only mean avoiding them. It can also mean using them as intentional compositional elements. Here two different stories play out on the same surface. The color detail of the leaf, and the shadow pattern of the flower stalk.

Utilize Dark Backdrops: Dark backgrounds can provide excellent contrast to bright, and brightly lit, flowers, creating a different look in a floral image.

Shoot the Dew: Dewdrops are as beautiful as diamonds if shot with a macro lens. Early  mornings offer a wide array of dewdrop shots to those willing to get just a bit damp.

Form Patterns:  Flowers contain powerful patterns. Its easy to contrast this to random, organic spacings between flowers. But it can also be very powerful to align the lens in a way that defines a pattern of patterns, as happens here with the symmetry of the background flowers behind the central focal flower.

Shoot Dark, Rich Florals: Floral images don’t have to be bright to be beautiful. Deeper, darker images can be satisfying as well. Getting under the shrubbery produced this mysterious shot with no extra effort beyond stooping under the overhanging branches.

Shoot Off-Center: Despite the innate symmetry of flowers, moving off-center, and framing off-center, can produce dynamic, satisfying compositions.

Utilize Shallow Depth of Focus: Shallow depth of focus isn’t just a limitation, its a tool, and can add a sense of depth to a floral image, by defining planes within the flower.

Use Contast, Not Just Saturation: Floral images are so often about saturation, that it can be unique to produce images which are more about contrast. Here the deep green of the background still defines this as a color image, but the flower itself is all about the light-on-dark contrast.

Dare to Be Out of Focus: Most viewers are unwilling to accept an entire image that is out of focus, but the photographer gets to choose which elements are in or out. Here the poppy clinging to the rock is the dominant color element, and the dominant foreground element, but not the point of focus for the image, which goes on to emphasize the steep street, the valley below, and the cloud beyond. Sandwiching together an infinite focus image would lose the poetry of the blurred blossom.

Use One-Point Perspective: Street and Architectural photography frequently benefit from the power of one-point perspective. No reason floral shots can’t do the same, by shooting between rows, down walks, and in other locations where the vanishing point is at the center of the image. This image takes advantage of a number of the methods described in this article; see how many you can find.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Creating a WiFi Network on your Mac: Great for Using SpyderGallery

Overview: This article describes how to create a WiFi network directly from a Mac with built-in WiFi. Such networks do not require a wireless router, and can be used to communicate directly between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad. This makes them ideal for using with the Datacolor SpyderGallery application, which requires WiFi between the iOS device you wish to calibrate, and the Mac that has the Spyder plugged into it. Once you know this trick you will use it for lots of other things, including moving files between your devices.

Preliminaries: Before we begin, if you intend to use this article to set up a network for SpyderGallery, then you will first need to download SpyderGallery for the iPhone or iPad to your device from the Apple iOS App Store. Then you will need to launch the App, and follow the directions for going to Datacolor’s website, and downloading the Helper App for Mac or Windows. Since this article deals with configuring a network on the Mac, I’ll assume thats the version you will download and install. I will also assume you have a recent version of the Mac OS and an up-to-date version of iOS on your iPhone or iPad; otherwise things may look different, and options may not be available.

Location, Location, Location: If you are in a hotel or public place where the WiFi is slow, unreliable, or unsafe, or somewhere that there is no WiFi at all (really, this will work on a mountain top, as long as you have some battery power in your MacBook and your iOS device) then you may choose to create a Mac-based network. Another good reason for doing this is that the public network you are on is so big you have trouble finding your computer on it from your iOS device. If you are in your own home or small office, with your own WiFi router, then you can practice the steps detailed here, so that you’ll know how to do this later, but you won’t actually need to create a network to use SpyderGallery, as you will have an acceptable one already available.

Step By Step: Here’s the scoop. Start from the WiFi icon in your Mac menu bar. Don’t Know what it looks like? It looks like a quarter pie slice from an archery target.

WiFi Icon

If the icon is not in your menu bar, then go to System Preferences in the Apple Menu, as shown below.

System Preferences Menu

In System Preferences, choose the Network icon, as shown below:

Network Icon

In the resulting window, check the option at the bottom for showing the wireless network in the menu bar:

Check “Show Wifi in Menu Bar”

This will now make the WiFi icon appear in your menu bar, and you can follow the directions in this article, though directly accessing the WiFi settings from Preferences would accomplish the same thing. The WiFi menu that will popdown from the menu bar icon is shown below. You will select the “Create Network” option that is highlighted in this illustration.

Create Network Option under WiFi

This will open the window shown below, where you will name and create your network. Security won’t be an issue on that mountain top, but in other locations you should secure your network.

Create Network Options

Once you have created your network, it will now show a different menu bar icon, to represent your network status.

New Icon

Now your network is active, and you can move to your iPhone or iPad, where you can select this network as your current WiFi network. To do this, go into Settings, which will be on the first screen of you iOS icons, unless you have moved it to another screen.

iOS Settings Icon

Here you will make sure that WiFi is turned on, and then choose your newly created network.

WiFi Settings under iOS

Now you should be all set to use SpyderGallery, or any other application that needs WiFi to communicate with your Mac.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Tuning Printer Profiles to Specific Display Conditions

The issue of adjusting images for a specific viewing condition came up recently, and I promised to put together a short article on the tools available in SpyderPrint, from Datacolor, to make such adjustments as simple as possible. Lets assume you have already built a custom SpyderPrint profile for your printer, inks, and paper of choice. Now you just want your images to look the same in your display location, as they do in your own studio. Here’s how to make that happen:

Begin by opening SpyderPrint, and choosing the option to Select an Existing Measurement File, instead of Printing and Measuring a Target.

The Select an Existing Measurement File Option

Next you will choose the Measurement File that matches your Printer, Paper, and Ink profile.

Your Printer, Ink, and Paper Profile, selected from the Popdown List

This will lead you to a Soft Proof Preview of your profile, using the SpyderProof test images.

SpyderProof Soft Proof View of your combination

Now you choose the Advanced Editing option from the bottom of the SpyderProof screen, to edit your profile.

The SpyderProof - Edit screen, including PreciseLight sliders

At the bottom of this screen you will see two sliders, one for adjusting the Brightness from Dim to Bright, defaulted to a center position, and another to adjust the Color Temperature from Warm to Cool, also defaulted to a central location. These are the sliders you will use to print test images for checking under varying display conditions. You can print multiple versions of the Brightness adjustment by making changes to the Brightness slider, selecting “Finished” after each setting, and printing a sample image from the SpyderProof – View screen. Return to the Edit screen, make another adjustment to the Brightness slider, and repeat. A neutral version, plus two warmer and two cooler versions should be sufficient for most uses. Be sure to label each image with the setting it represents. Below the SpyderProof test images are shown with a diagonal split between Warm and Cool, for comparison.

Warm Cool Diagonal Split Comparison

What might not be apparent here is that the upper left part of the test images is from the “Warm” setting, and the lower right from the “Cool” setting. These are inverse of the control names, as they are to compensate for warm or cool lighting; adding warmth to the image compensates for cooler lighting, and visa versa.

Next a similar set of test images can be printed for Bright and Dim conditions. And again, the image will be lighter, with more open shadows, for dimmer lighting, and darker, with denser shadows, for brighter lighting. Label each print in this set as well. These images don’t need to be large; its possible to print four of them on a letter size sheet to save paper and make the samples as portable and foolproof as possible.

Now you take the sample sets to any location where you are considering hanging your work, be that a gallery, a museum, a customer’s home, or a commercial location. Determine which of the brightness samples is best suited to the location, and which of the Color Temperature samples works best in this lighting, or which pair are closest, meaning a setting between the two would be ideal. Note down the selected settings. This can be repeated for multiple locations; in fact, if this is your standard printer, ink, and paper combination, this set of test samples will be the only ones you will ever need, unless you choose to mail a set to an associate at a remote location for determining the best choice of print settings for display there. If settings vary in a space that does not offer consistent lighting, you may need to determine which prints you will place where before assigning adjustments to images. Shooting a SpyderCube in the various locations can help assign color temperature numbers to the lighting conditions, if you want to get scientific about it.

Once you have made your selections, build a new version of your profile (none of the test prints created above automatically save a profile, so you won’t be flooded in test profiles) and use this new profile, the name of which should note the slider values it includes, for printing the work for that location. Repeating this process for another display location is extremely simple, and building a new profile version to match takes only a few seconds. The only time it is necessary to repeat the entire process described above is if you change printers, inks, or papers.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Canon Announcement on 5D Mk lll Low Light Issue, and Effected Serial Numbers

For those of you who have been concerned about the 5D Mark lll low level light metering issue, and for those of you who haven’t really bothered to follow it during the rumor stage but are interested in the results, Canon has made an announcement on the topic that should be of interest.

I’ve been working with this camera with a number of associates. We’ll check our serial numbers, but have not found this to be a serious concern. Here is Canon’s statement:

To Users of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Camera

Thank you for using Canon pro­ducts. Concerning the EOS 5D Mark III digi­tal SLR camera, when the LCD panel illu­mi­na­tes in extre­mely dark envi­ron­ments, the displayed expo­sure value may change. Canon has con­clu­ded the inve­sti­ga­tion of this phe­no­me­non, and this announ­ce­ment informs you of our fin­dings as descri­bed below.

Phenomenon

In extre­mely dark envi­ron­ments, if the LCD panel illu­mi­na­tes, the displayed expo­sure value may change. However, based on the results of exten­sive testing this change in expo­sure value will not noti­cea­bly affect the cap­tu­red image.

Affected Product

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR Camera *Products whose sixth digit in the serial num­ber is 1 or 2 are affec­ted. For example, “xxxxx1xxxxxx” or “xxxxx2xxxxxx” ([x] repre­sents any optio­nal number.

 Support

Under almost all shoo­ting con­di­tions (inclu­ding dark envi­ron­ments) this phe­no­me­non will not affect your cap­tu­red ima­ges. However, if you would like Canon to inspect your camera, we will pro­vide this ser­vice free of charge upon request begin­ning in mid-May. Please con­tact Canon using the infor­ma­tion below to request ser­vice. This infor­ma­tion is for resi­dents of the United States and Puerto Rico only. If you do not reside in the USA or Puerto Rico, please con­tact the Canon Customer Support Center in your region.

Please regi­ster the EOS 5D Mark III. By regi­ste­ring, we will be able to notify you via email when ser­vice upda­tes are avai­la­ble. If you already regi­ste­red, please ensure you are opted-in to receive the notification.

Thank you, Customer Support Operations

Canon U.S.A., Inc

Information for Inquiries

Canon Customer Support Center

Phone:    1–800-OK-CANON

Email:     carecenter@cits.canon.com

For addi­tio­nal sup­port options: http://www.usa.canon.com/support

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Firmware Update for Canon 5D Mark lll; Download it Now

Its not unusual for a new camera to have a firmware update shortly after release. Canon has just posted such an update for the 5D Mark lll. You should definitely download and install this update if you own a Mark lll, and should check the firmware version in any Mark lll you purchase in the future, to be sure that the latest version is installed. There appear to be some Mac OS X Firmware Updater limitations, so OS X 10.7 (Lion) users please read to the end of this article for details.

FROM CANON:

Firmware Version 1.1.2 incorporates the following improvements and fixes.

1. Supports a new accessory, GPS receiver GP-E2.
2. Fixes a phenomenon where a pink cast may develop over the image when the shutter is completely pressed with the camera’s power turned off (by the auto power off setting).
3. Fixes a phenomenon where the camera operation stops after one shot when shooting in High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode.
4. Fixes a phenomenon where the Shooting Date/Time in the EXIF data of the image shows a later time than the actual shooting time.
5. Fixes the time zone for the Samoa Islands.
6. Corrects errors in the Finnish menu screen.

Downloading the  EOS 5D Mark lll Firmware Update is a fairly straightforward process. But the link to get to the Drivers & Software page does not always trigger the list of available content as it should. If you get a blank page, between the list of pages (Overview, What’s in the Box, Brochures & Manuals, etc) and the footer (prices and specifications may vary…) back up a screen or two and try again. If that still fails, then try a different browser. You can also check that a popup survey window hasn’t been missed, which is stalling the loading of the page content. Once you have the list of contents available, the bottom of the center section should contain Drivers and Software. Downloading  will take a bit of time, since this is about an 18mg file.

Screen, as it looks with Options Missing

Please note that this firmware update is listed as being available for Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6, but not for 10.7; which is Lion, Apple’s latest Mac version. Since firmware resides in the camera, not the computer, this leads us to assume that the Firmware Updater used to install such updates has not yet been updated to function under 10.7, unless Canon has made an error. Since all our systems are updated to 10.7, this required borrowing a 10.6 MacBook Pro for the update process, since firmware updating is a fairly serious matter, and disregarding Canon’s recommendations would not be advisable, even if it is possible.

Firmware Update NOT Available for OS X 10.7

Firmware update available, for 10.5 and 10.6

This shows you how to acquire the update, if you are under Lion, since it won’t show if you list that as your OS version. Please feel free to leave comments if any further news on Lion compatible firmware updates becomes available. If you are viewing this article from the blog’s main page, click on the article’s title to enter the article itself, where comments will be visible.

UPDATE: People are reporting success with loading the memory card with the disk image for the firmware update from OS X 10.7, and even OS X 10.8 beta. I find it hard to believe people are willing to play Russian Roulette with bricking their new $3500 camera bodies, but its reassuring to hear that they are getting away with it…

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

How NOT to Do Color Critical Work

Subtitle: Whats Wrong with this Picture?

A Great Example of How Not to Configure Your Workspace, Compliments of Dell

The intent here is not to pick on Dell in particular; they offer a range of displays that are often quite good for their price points. But they are promulgating The Myth of the Corner Office in the image captured from one of their ads above. Take a good look at it, and see if any flashing lights or sirens go off. If not, then please read the rest of this article, to avoid making similar mistakes yourself.

Views are a wonderful thing, and when you work your way up to a corner office, the idea of blackout shades dimming your room to low light levels, and not allowing you to even see whether the sun is shining or not is something that many resist. After all; you’re an editor (architect, advertising account manager, etc) now, not a photo retoucher (draftsman, graphic designer, etc). However; if you select the images for articles, choose amongst architectural renderings, or ad versions, or if you are in any way part of the workflow that processes images and layouts for press output, web output, fine art prints, wedding albums, or any other color critical use, then either you are part of the color managed solution… or else you are part of the color management problem.

Its particularly ironic that the ad copy accompanying this image talks about superb color and immaculate precision. Because the configuration shown will virtually guarantee inaccurate color, incorrect shadow detail, eye strain, and other problems. Lets start with the big issues, and work our way down.

Trick Question: Should you place your display with the windows in the wall behind it, in the wall beside it, or in the wall behind you, as you face it?

Correct Answer: None of the above! There should be nothing vaguely resembling a window in a color managed workspace. This means that users serious about color and density judgements on screen may have to resort to radical methods, such as applying their own black-out curtains to whole walls of windows at any time when they are doing serious image editing, image selection, or other color critical work. For the vampires in the audience: yes, you can do your image editing only a night, and avoid having to deal with window light, but it won’t automatically solve the other issues below.

Viewing Elsewhere: There are various ways of meeting this rather drastic criteria. One is to not review images for publication or other such work on your own computer. Instead, go to the color managed workstation of the person who prepares the files, and review them there. This loses the important cross-check of having viewed the images on at least two color managed systems, but it also avoids the much worse situation of having made decisions in an noncolor managed environment. Another solution is to have a central viewing location, somewhere in a readily available, dim room in the center of the building, where anyone needing to view images correctly can go to make such decisions. This could be as nearby as the secretary’s office right outside your door. Yes, they don’t call them secretaries any more, and yes, they don’t tend to even have them any more, but you get the idea…

Fixing Your Windows: If you are obliged to do your color critical work at your desk, and there are one or more windows involved, then consider acquiring a sheet of Typar, the dull gray building paper used to wrap houses before the siding goes on. Its inexpensive, especially if you have a friend in the building business, since the piece you will need to cover your window or windows with a generous overlap on all sides, would probably be considered a scrap at the building site. Why ugly gray Typar, instead of pretty white Tyvek? Typar is more opaque, and the medium gray color is a better background that bright white. And as you will see below, anything that makes your office or studio dimmer is probably a good thing. Tack the sheet of building fabric over your windows whenever you are doing color critical work, and your color perception will be much improved. It will also impress your boss that you are both serious and busy, when you put this up and take it down several times a day. Consider this a good form of exercise, and avoid standing on chairs and filing cabinets while dealing with the top corners, or it will go from healthy exercise to dangerous workplace behavior.

So, now that we have established that it is important to have low, consistent lighting, without glare from windows, variable light from windows, different light color from windows, or excess light from windows (or basically anything at all to do with windows; but please do not consider this a criticism of the operating system spelled with a capital “W”) we can move on to the second difficult problem with color managed work: Office Lighting.

Office Lighting: The level of light considered appropriate in the American office is bright, to say the least. Years ago, when all image work was done on big, deep CRT displays, the brightness that could be reached by such displays, and maintained for at least two years, ran about 75 to 80 candelas per meter squared. I won’t use that rather awkward set of units again, but remember the number, for comparison’s sake. At a brightness of 75, a display had to be used in the dark. So dark the USP driver can’t even see into the room to walk in without tripping over the furniture.

With Today’s LCD Displays, a new compromise has been reached. Instead of working at 75 or 80 candelas in the dark, color managed work is often carried out in relatively dim light (the UPS guy may still complain, but he can at least enter the room without tripping over things) and a screen brightness in the range of 125 candles, or moderate light, which still seems quite dim compared to a typical office (but where even someone from outside can see where they are going without difficulty) and screen brightness that it still well below 200.

Default is at Fault: Each generation of LCDs is brighter than the one before it; its now common to see LCDs being run at brightnesses of 350 or 400. These brilliant displays were created, at least in part, to do battle with bright office lighting and big windows. But, while such displays make it possible to see your screen under bright and variable ambient lighting conditions, it does not mean that quality color work can be done this way.

Real World Conditions: What I typically see in the field is two types of mismatches between ambient light levels and LCD display brightness levels. Either old school image editors and photographers, out of habit, keep their workspaces very dim. Too dim for the default brightness of LCDs, or in a few cases, too dim to even use with the LCDs at the lowest brightness setting the displays controls allow. This situation creates eye strain, and causes editors to make their images far too dense, resulting in dark prints. The other common situation is bright office lighting, which may or may not be balanced by bright LCD settings, but which does not offer a quality situation for editing or viewing.

Lighting Solutions: In order to produce a lighting situation dim enough for color managed work, you may have two or three options, if you are in a brightly lit office space. You can stand on a chair (Note to OSHA: I am not officially recommending this!) and loosen half to three quarters of the fluoresent tubes in the overhead fixtures. You may need to leave a note to building maintenance that you want it this way and to please not “fix” it. Or if you are lucky you may have multiple switches, so that you can turn off much of the overhead lighting without resorting to bulb twisting. And finally, if there is no hope of adjusting your overhead lighting, you can simply turn it off entirely, and use one or at most two desk lamps, ideally Ott-Lites or some other high CRI proofing light. Again, you can do this only for color managed work, but will you actually get up several times a day, if necessary, to adjust your viewing conditions? And if you have office mates, or work in a large open office area, none of this fixes may be practical.

Desperation Options: There are a few fixes for unfixable lighting. At a minimum buy or make a monitor hood for your display, to keep direct light from shining down on it. 1/4″ Black FoamCore board is the ideal material. Unfortunately, this tends to convince people that the problem is solved, when it is only reduced. Variations that actually do more good, but that look progressively more odd, are to use a big black golf umbrella over your workstation when necessary, or to use a photographer’s cloak, which is used rather like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter: you throw it over both you and your display to keep Voldemort, I mean excess light, from reaching you or your display while doing color managed work. LCDs may run cooler than CRTs, but you will find that much time under a black cloak with one or more heat producing displays can lead to worse health conditions than eyestrain.

Compromises: If none of the above solutions are possible for you, what can you do? I suspect that at least a shallow monitor hood should be possible in almost any situation. And if its a bit deeper, its possible to put your forehead up against it to block out most excessive light, and get a better sense of color, shadow detail, and other critical factors when necessary. And clearly you need to determine the actual brightness level of your room, attempt to keep it as constant as possible, and calibrate your display to a whitepoint appropriate for that light level, and a brightness appropriate for that light level. And last but not least, if you can’t neutralize the windows, at least works sideways to them, so that they are not in your field of view as you work, or causing reflections on your screen.

Next time I address color managed viewing conditions, I’ll cover laptops and tablets, which add a few other factors to the mix.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page