WEBINAR: Artistic Techniques in Phone Photography, Today 3PM EST

A1 Diner

A1 Diner, shot with iPhone 4S, Processed with NIK Snapseed

This webinar will be a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of phone cameras, and ways to utilize them effectively, including add-on lenses and editing applications. This webinar is sponsored by Datacolor . David Saffir and I will be discussing a range of sample images, chosen for their value in illustrating phone photography methods and techniques. Please join us for what we hope will be an interesting discussion on this hot topic. And stay tuned, as there will be a photography product given away to one attendee at the end of the session.

Sign up now, we’re hoping to see you at today’s webinar.

A recorded version of this webinar will be made available at a later date

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

Comparison: How Using a Lensbaby Affects Photography

I recently had the opportunity to shoot with my long-distance friend David Saffir. We are usually thousands of miles apart, so this was a great chance to work side-by-side. One of the goals of the shoot was for David to experience Lensbaby’s lenses and macro attachments, and since the upcoming webinar Datacolor is co-sponsoring with Lensbaby is on floral photography, we went to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as a prime location for shooting native California flowers, as well as landscapes.

When reviewing images after the shoot, I was struck by a pair of shots of the same view across Mission Canyon. David Saffir’s image was taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro1, with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Mine was shot with the Canon 5D Mark lll, with a Lensbaby Composer lens. Comparing the two images is a good opportunity to analyze Lensbaby photography; highlighting some of its unique features.

Final Image by David Saffir

Final Image by David Saffir

Lets start with the “straight” photo, shot with the X-Pro1. David cropped this image to what he felt was the best composition. The slightly hazy air, and its effect on the shaded portion on the opposite canyon wall was part of what had drawn his attention to this scene, along with the powerful silhouetting of the foreground tree trunks, and their dramatically lit leaves. Here the eye moves around the composition, following the dark lines created by the tree trunks and limbs, and settles on the leaves, and finally on the little vignette of the trees on the far side later in the examination of the image. This is how traditional landscape photography controls the eye of the viewer to draw it to the areas of interest.

Final Lensbaby image, by CDTobie

Final Lensbaby image, by CDTobie

Now, lets compare this to the Lensbaby shot. Here the branch with the orange leaves has been placed in the center of the image, where the sharp focal zone occurs, making it a more important part of the composition. And the sun has been placed where it will shine through the trees, producing a dazzling effect. So, even standing side-by-side, the intended compositions are somewhat different. But in both images the small story of the delicate tracery of branches on the far wall of the canyon is important. However, with the Lensbaby image, further emphasis is placed on this scene, as well as on the branch of orange leaves in front of it, by the selective focus of the Lensbaby lens.

Center Detail, David Saffir's Image

Center Detail, David Saffir’s Image

Center Detail, CDTobie's Lensbaby Image

Center Detail, CDTobie’s Lensbaby Image

The outer regions of the “standard” image are as sharply focused as the central area, allowing the eye to move into and out of them at the same tempo as the center of the image, with only the content to control the eye movement. But in the Lensbaby shot, increasingly less focus, and more distortion, occurs in areas farther from the focal center. This creates an artistic blur effect that mimics the way the eye sees, making this image look “right” when the viewer is in the right range of distances from the image, and looking at the center of focus. To look elsewhere in the image is to view the blur that can’t usually be examined, as the focus of the eye moves as the viewer attempts to view these regions, bringing them into sharp focus as well. Here that does not happen, allowing the viewer to examine the peripheral regions, examining the blur and the stretching of the elements further out from the image center, which have a beauty all their own.

Off-Center Detail, David Saffir Image

Off-Center Detail, David Saffir Image

Off-Center Detail, CDTobie Lensbaby Image

Off-Center Detail, CDTobie Lensbaby Image

Both images are good compositions, and interesting images. The less literal and more poetic feel of the second image is caused almost entirely by the use of the Lensbaby lens. Not all viewers will be comfortable with this different way of seeing, but those with a more artistic view will immediately see the beauty of the Lensbaby version of the scene.

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

WEBINAR: Exploring Photographic Composition in Landscape and Still Life, Today 3PM EST

Tuscan Window Image, as originally processed

Tuscan Window

This webinar will be an unscripted discussion of composition, gesture, and other factors that make images work, co-sponsored by Datacolor and Digital Silver Imaging. David Saffir and I will be discussing a range of sample images, chosen for their value in illustrating compositional features, and in some instances, chosen for defying easy analysis. Please join us for what we hope will be an interesting discussion on this very interesting theme. And stay tuned, as there will be a Datacolor Spyder product given away to one attendee at the end of the session, plus some excellent discounts for all attendees.

The recorded version of this webinar is now available here.

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

Image Critique: Times Square Pedicab

Times Square Pedicab

I have received a great many comments on the image “Times Square Pedicab” and decided it would be a good image to use for a review of a number of image attributes, and of image editing to the degree that it was used to address the image content.

Image Format

The main factor here is the crop of the file. There are those who believe everything should be uncropped, 35mm proportions. And those taking it a step further and demanding landscape orientation as well, on the basis that the eyes are side by side, and we see in a horizontal rectangle. Personally, I see in a big oval, but thats a bit tough as an image format, so I’ll simply claim the artistic license to crop to the strongest composition. For some images that means a very dynamic panorama scaled crop, and this is one of those image. The Vertical Pano format is even less frequent, but there are many images where it is the logical crop; or even the only crop. I don’t believe that the convenience of the framer should be a consideration in my image creation.

This image works as a vertical, in part due to the relation between the dynamics of a panorama crop, and the busy image content. If any city in the world can justify a vertical panorama, it is New York. And the oft photographed ends of the Square, with their towering signage are the ultimate justification. The tight crop also works to focus the viewer’s attention, in the very chaotic context, on the themes of the image.


An image is allowed to have more than one theme. Additional themes may weaken the focus of the primary theme, but they also add to the richness and poetry of the image. Here, the foreground element is dominant, and clearly the main theme. This is the pedicab, and its driver. Centered, in focus, with high enough contrast and color contrast to hold its own against the riotous background. One could even call this image an Environmental Portrait, as its main story is that of the Pedicab driver in his native environment.

The secondary theme is Times Square itself, represented by the dominant vertical element, the end-of-square signage. Again, high contrast, high color. Further repetition of this theme occurs with the secondary signage, which is lower contrast, lower color, and serves to move the eye out from the central core towards the edges of the image. Using a shallow depth of field could have provided a pleasant blur on the background, and a jumble of color without the detail this version contains. My decision, in the split second I had, kneeling in traffic to take the shot, was to go for depth of field, so the the subject, and the context, would both be detailed.

The tertiary theme is the storm brewing in the sky behind the buildings. This could be accentuated with various image editing tools, but a bit of dodging and flashing is all I chose to use, to avoid having this minor theme take too much attention away from the more important themes. This theme is in the background, low contrast, low saturation, and as such, provides a field for the events of the more dominant themes to play out on. This follows the rules for strong images: themes move from foreground to middle and then background, reducing in contrast and saturation as they recede from the viewer.

Eye Movement

The movement of the eye in this image is controlled by the dominantly vertical shape of this image crop, and the related shape of the image contents. From the foreground the eye is drawn to the driver, to his face, and then swept upwards to the signage above, where it slows and spreads to other elements in the composition, and returns for another lap, starting at the wheels of the Pedicab, then up to the subject and beyond.

Image Symmetry

The slightly off center nature of the subject and his pedicab is reflected in the slight off center nature of the main set of signs behind him. In each case secondary elements balance this to create a dynamic balance without an exactly central axis of symmetry.


The palette of this image is not heavily controlled, and yet it manages to support the themes. The foreground and middle grounds elements contain bright primary colors and contrasting darks. The background is much reduced in saturation and contrast, with the sky reduced further still, to a range of light grays. The skin tones of the driver are sufficiently smooth and saturated to bring the eye to him, given the innate human predilection for skin. One could make a case for a set of contrasts between the driver in lower saturation skin tones, and the cab and signage forming a non-human context in much more saturated colors. The modeling of the driver’s skin and clothes, against the flatter planes of his environment enhance this contrast.


The upward converging perspective caused by the upward camera angle enhances the tension of the image. The natural tendency of converging perspective to draw the eye is part of the upward direction of the eye movement in the image. And yet the convergence is weak enough to not cause difficulty in accepting the cab driver as the natural subject of the image, despite not being at the perspective convergence point (which would be well above the top of the image, given the minor convergence of the buildings). Adjusting the rotation of the image before cropping assured that the center of perspective, where verticals are actually vertical, is aligned with the central figure, and with the signage above him.

Central Figure

Highlight dodging and midtone burning on the Cabbie assured that the tonal range met our expectations of a portrait subject: even though the context of the image is far from portrait lighting, the eye expects certain density ranges for the human face, and is unsatisfied if it is too washed out, or too shaded, or lacks the necessary contrast range. Other adjustments were made with the central figure, its tonal range, saturation, and smoothness in mind. The end result is a figure that reads as part of the larger composition, but also as a person in his own right. The direct eye contact between the subject and the camera gives that sense of acknowledgement and permission that so often occurs in portraits.


Every picture tells a story. Some tell very abstract stories, but there’s some type of story in them, or we would not have any interest in the image. Here the story is quite concrete and engaging, with the cowboy attitude of the driver sitting with his elbow on his knee in the midst of Times Square traffic, in his very informal clothes. His personality shows clearly, even though his image in the photo is relatively small. The backstory about the traffic, the business of Times Square, and even about the storm brewing overhead, adds to the richness of the content. The enigma of the subject’s race somehow adds to the content; a skin tone that occurs around the globe, and features that could be attributed to various races on most continents. In that sense, the perfect representative of our new age, and of New York.

Process Notes

Shot with a Canon 5D. Shutter speed 1/80 sec, f/20, Focal length 28mm, Lens 24-105 f/4 is.

Shot freehand, kneeling in the street, with my “camera elbow” on my knee, a bit like the subject’s pose.

Processed from the original RAW file in Adobe Lightroom 3, exported as a high bit AdobeRGB TIFF, to Photoshop CS5 for local editing. File info added in Photoshop, down sampled to sRGB web rez JPG in Photoshop.

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