Extremely Average #26: Photographing my Blog pt. 2

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 01-28-2010 06:46 AM 1717 reads 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 25: Photographing my Blog pt. 1 Part 26 of Extremely Average series Part 27: The Twins »

I have been giving one tip to people for years. It is so simple, I hesitate to even call it a tip, but alas I don’t have a thesaurus handy, so I have little choice. This applies to every photo, whether it is an image of your latest woodworking project or a prize winning picture of a yeti. The last thing I do, before I press the button, is to slowly force myself to run my eyes around the edge of the image. I know it sounds dumber than Jethro Bodine, but that is because it is so easy. In the words of a thousand commercials for footwear, ‘Just Do It’.
When you start to look at the rest of the image, not just the finely turned bowl, you will notice that there is a corner of a box of diapers sneaking into the image. You will also get better at taking pictures of people. The stop sign that is ‘growing’ out of your girlfriend’s head, or the car with your angry wife driving by the shoot, will suddenly pop out to you, and thus you can make slight adjustments (like making sure you take pictures of your girlfriend only when your wife is visiting her sister in Saginaw). This tip will work with any camera you have, though I still think you should get those lazy six years olds their first job, and get a fancy pants model. But I digress.

Along a similar line, when taking a picture of your work, if you wish to put some extra items in the background, like tools behind a project in process, or a delicious ham behind the aforementioned finely turned bowl, try to use a shallow depth of field. Depth of field is the distance (or depth) in the image, which is in focus. This generally applies to SLRs (Single Lens Reflex…aka…fancy pants cameras), but there are some point and shoots which have this capability. My mom’s camera, the Powershot G10, is able to set the f-stop. So when I say shallow depth of field, I mean a small number on your camera’s lens, or a small f-stop. For example an aperture setting of 3.5 will cause the background to be out of focus, thus causing the subject to stand out, while f22 (f stands for aperture, I could make up a story for why they use f and not a, likely involving a priest, a Rabbi, and an Episcopalian yak farmer, but I have already digressed.), would leave everything in focus. It is also important to understand how aperture works with light.

Shallow depth of field requires less light than a longer depth of field. This is helpful when you are taking pictures in artificial light, because the shutter doesn’t need to stay open as long as it would if you were trying to have everything in focus. If you are getting really excited about photography and are starting to read up on the subject, you might run across the term ‘fast lenses. This confused me for a long time. It is simply a lens that allows for a very shallow depth of field. They are generally much more expensive than a normal lens. For instance a zoom lens that goes to 300 mm, can be picked up for 3-400 dollars, a ‘fast’ lens, the giant lens that the photographers use on the sidelines of football games, those start at about $7000.00. This is not a lens you should need, as it is too ‘long’, for shooting your work, but it brings me to my next and last subject for the day.

This photo shows tilt shift in the table (sort of, it actually just demonstrates perspective, but you get the idea.), an annoying shiny bit from a Jet clamp in the top right corner, and also demonstrates shallow depth of field. This image can be improved substantially by simply removing the clutter in the top right corner. Were I to shoot it again, I would also slide the mortar slightly to the left. It feels slightly out of position where it is.

The amount of zoom you should use when shooting. If you are limited in space, you can use the wide angle portion of your lens, or zoom out. Zooming out, a back up the image, but it also causes something called bowing. Have you ever taken a picture of a tall object, like a dresser, and in the photo it looks warped? That is bowing. If you are taking a picture of a tall building, the building seems to bow out and the edges don’t run parallel with the sides of the image. That is tilt shifting. It can be corrected in Photoshop CS 2, 3, or 4, but that runs you another $1000 and 8 or 9 months of intensive study to master, so fixing it, is not the best solution. It is better to try to take the image of your dresser from a greater distance and then zooming in on it. This will give you much better results. If you can put the dresser in one room, and stand out in the hall and zoom in, you will be much happier with the results. One last note, if you are taking a close up of your girlfriend’s face while your wife is in Michigan, then try to stand further away, such that the zoom is at 135mm. This will be much more flattering. That is all for now. I am off to do some woodworking.

-- Brian Meeks,

19 comments so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4217 days

#1 posted 01-28-2010 06:57 AM

Thanks again Brian I’m still following the posts. Keep up the good work!!!
IMHO a photography class or 2 in High School should be mandatory in all schools.
I took a class at a Junior College in Kansas City Missouri, Penn Valley JC, and it really helped me out. That was 30 years ago so your posts are a great review for me.
John Gray

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3398 days

#2 posted 01-28-2010 06:59 AM

I am glad you enjoyed it John.

To everyone else, I know that I usually post around 8 am, but tonight a pre blog nap broke out and kept me occupied for a while.

-- Brian Meeks,

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

71 posts in 4074 days

#3 posted 01-28-2010 07:23 AM

The issue with tall buildings looking askew is because of perspective shifting, not “vignetting” and can be corrected with ungodly expensive tilt-shift lenses, equally expensive photoshop or cheap to free software such as GIMP.

The issue of bowing is more often than not caused by combo lenses these days where when zoomed all the way out they act more like wide angle lenses. These lenses can often give a fish bowl appearance to pictures. Once zoomed in, the focal shift against the lens changes and a smaller section of the center is used, which is flatter and does not bow outward for wide angle shots.

Vignetting is the condition in which the four corners of the picture appear darker due to lens shadow.

Tilt shifting can also be used to make scenes appear as though they are miniature as it shifts the depth of field along two parallel paths. More often than not this affect is done digitally these days, as can be seen here in GIMP .

I remember photography class in Highschool well.. It was in shop, had a darkroom and we worked strictly in black and white.

I much prefer Photoshop and Lightroom.. But I’m a digital geek.

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3398 days

#4 posted 01-28-2010 07:52 AM

You are absolutely right. My bad. I will fix the post. Thanks for the help.

-- Brian Meeks,

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4322 days

#5 posted 01-28-2010 09:57 AM

You do get around don’t you Brian? Woodworking, photography, writing, blogging, and whatever it is you do for a living must keep you extremely busy. If you aren’t extremely busy, I’ll have to like you decidely less because that means you’re one of those people that are very good at what you do and make it look easy. So, if it doesn’t take you at least a good three or four hours to write one of these blog entries and another one or two hours to post it in several places, we have nothing in common. If we’re on such different levels in blogging, I’m sure we’re on different levels on everything else too. You’ll soon be turning out two projects a week in addition to everything else like some of the experts do around here and I’ll feel different about you. I don’t think I can stand reading a blog that’s funny, well written, well illustrated and photographed, and by an expert woodworker too. Oh bother, can anything else go wrong today. I’m going to have to adjust my medication again I can tell.

-- Jim

View stefang's profile


16667 posts in 3666 days

#6 posted 01-28-2010 12:30 PM

I’m definitely out of my depth here in spite of the f stop, but I still appreciate the tips and I will try my best to follow them, at least the ones I understand. One problem with taking photos in the shop is that when one is working on a project, it’s hard to find an area that isn’t cluttered to take a pic.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4154 days

#7 posted 01-28-2010 02:26 PM

Thanks for the post, Brian. I am a complete novice when it comes to photography. If the camera works when I push the button then I assume that all is well. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View SPalm's profile


5332 posts in 4214 days

#8 posted 01-28-2010 03:46 PM

Thanks Brian.

So what about Macro or that little Flower Icon that is on a camera. If one wanted to take a close up of a small item, would it be better to use the Macro feature, or zoom in from a distance.

I believe I know that it ‘depends’, but I had to ask something.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3398 days

#9 posted 01-28-2010 05:05 PM


The dirtly little secret of photography is that the shots people see are a very small percentage of the shots taken. I had a friend who did stringer work for sports illustrated a long time ago, before digital. He told me that an average cover, the photographer usually took in the neighborhood of 3000 photos, to get the one they used.

That being said, I would use the flower icon, if you are taking a shot of a piece of detail from your project, and I would zoom in on a small project. Though to be truthful, I might try both, and take a lot of shots, then pick the one that has the most appeal.


-- Brian Meeks,

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4045 days

#10 posted 01-28-2010 05:25 PM

Brian, been shooting since high school and personally am glad to go to digital. You can shoot as much as you might like, edit at the computer, no film and chemical costs, no dedicated space etc and a modest priced Cannon point & shoot allows me to think about composition and other things that are more important. I’ll have to remember to check the edges, very good tip.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3447 days

#11 posted 01-28-2010 07:28 PM

always great to have some rewiew educasion for an amateur like me that fiddle around with
a mamia rb 67 and had mixed some cemicals in the dark room under the kandlelight ,with glass of redwine in my hands while the gassplates went thruogh the processing and developed philosophize over how fast
and easy things has to be done now a days instead of enjoying the process and relax when you do it.

thank´s for ´sharing your knowledge with us


View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3398 days

#12 posted 01-28-2010 07:39 PM


You make a valid point. 25 years ago, the first time I hovered around my photography teacher, trying not to knock over chemicals, as she explained the joys of burning and dodging, I found the expeience thrilling. Sadly, she told me that I really wasn’t very good at processing. She wasn’t mean about it, and I had already determined that it wasn’t my forte, but she was very encouraging about my abililties with the camera. So I abandoned the dark room with a bit of sadness. I remember reading about how Ansel Adams would take a picture that looked boring at the time he took it, and through careful and artful manipluation of the negative, he would get a great work of art. This always seemed like something to aspire to, yet I never did.

Years later, I would go to the Annie Leibovitz and Ansel Adams show at the Corcoran in DC. It turns out that she hated the darkroom and didn’t print her stuff at all. The next year, I worked during the Richard Avedon exhibit, and he never went in the darkroom, but would have his assistants do the work, bring him the print, he would tell them how to improve the print, and they would return. He would do this dozens of time, until he got the image he wanted.

From this, I determined that there are many ways to enjoy the artist process of photography. Which brings me to the point about processing in today’s age of digital. If you are one who likes the process, then you might want to investigate the tools available in photoshop CS 3 or 4. Though I was never any good in the dark room, and didn’t get to spend the enjoyable hours tweaking my images, I am now able to get that joy in photoshop. I have images that I have spent 2 – 3 hours working on. Usually it is me combining two identical shots, one taken greatly overexposed and one taken greatly underexposed and combining them to get an image that resembles what I saw at the time. This is common in difficult lighting situations, especially when I take images of stained glass window or shots in caves. The human eye sees so much more than the camera is able to capture, so by combining the two images, I can recreate the beauty which I saw.

The point is that the joy of the artistic side is still there, it just isn’t as expensive and doesn’t require a dark room.

Thanks for reading.

-- Brian Meeks,

View ChuckV's profile


3198 posts in 3859 days

#13 posted 01-28-2010 08:14 PM


Very interesting, as always, even for a nothing-special photographer like me. For instance, I never realized that combining an overexposed and an underexposed shot was done, let alone that it is common.

Now you mention caves! Are saying that you are a spelunker as well? I got a good laugh from what OutPutter(Jim) said above. Now this!

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3398 days

#14 posted 01-28-2010 08:22 PM

This picture looks exactly the way I remember it, when I was there, but it took me 3 hours to combine the two shots to get the image I wanted. The 3 hours was a joy and worth every minute, in my humble opinion.

I am not a spelunker. I don’t know that I could explore a cave, but touring a cave that is open to the public, is something I truely enjoy. Photographing the beauty of caves takes a bit of work though.

Thanks for reading Chuck,


-- Brian Meeks,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3447 days

#15 posted 01-28-2010 09:12 PM

11 years ago I was on a scool where I toke a class of photo… and the teacher introduse us to the great
Ansel Adams and his black/white teknik and I still think its damm hard to get near him but I can´t get tiered
off looking at those posters that I have seen so far (sadly not the original ) but still, I continue to get a thrill
every time I see the pictures from the skyescrabers I think the way he did it was the clossest you can get to
3D with only one picture and he did it in Black and white beleive it or not even that most off his pictures
don´t say people anything today, if you just make “a shoot and fire” , he is one of the old masters not that
there ain´t great pfotographers today but I think if people get the oppotunity to see an exebition of some
off the old ones they shuold go and see them. if you know what I meen

sorry for my spelling it´s realy hard to express how you feel abaut things when the English is so dam rusty
it´s 32 years ago that Ihave used it so much as I have here on L J it realy take me long time to write these
few lines allso becourse I a neaderthaler on a typeboard and thats why most of my comment´s are short
in words but always long in my head becourse I realy want to say what I mean but can´t I don´t have enoff
time :—))
Dang you realy got me aut of my safezone on this one
thank´s for that. hope I didn´t bored you but it was only becourse you put so much work in your blog´s
that I thought you deserve a response with a lot off work in
my brain is cooked now so I will just say ceep them coming


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