Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My Camera

My father has done much to encourage me in my art endeavors.  He bought me my first pottery wheel and my kiln. Really ....does it get better than that?  Yes, it does!  He also taught me how to string beads using wire and crimp beads, which led to me making ceramic beads. He passed on his incredible camera when he bought a new one. The list goes on and on .... 

During his visit a couple of weeks ago he brought some beautiful cactus photos with him and explained in detail the steps he uses to make them really pop out.  I have never used the 'sharpen' feature of Picasa, or any other of them for that matter, but he patiently went through photo after photo, demonstrating which function to use and how much to slide it to the left or the right.  At first I didn't see much difference.  Then, I started to understand.  By the time he finished, I had a much better understanding of how Picasa worked in general.  You can make a small change and not see much of a difference, but if you do about 4 or 5 small things, then undo them to look at the original photo, there is a huge difference. 

The camera my father gave me is a Nikon Coolpix 4500.  The best thing about this camera is that the camera lens can swivel and it is easy to capture any angle, which makes for great perspectives especially with the macro feature.  To my untrained eyes, the photos always looked sharp enough.  However, after he demonstrated on some of his own photos, moving that sharpen slider over to the right makes a wow difference.

I also tried the glow option for brightness.   The glow option is about equal to the brighten option in PaintShop Pro.  The problem with the glow is that it also gives the photos an intensity that they do not possess, but lowering the saturation tones that back to normal.  The added bonus is that with the lighting setup (see previous blog article), I don't seem to need the contrast option I previously used in Gimp.  The goal is to have an accurate photo which is pleasing to the eye.

Cropping is the last thing I do before exporting (copying) the pictures to a file folder to be uploaded to either Flickr or an Etsy listing.  Cropping pictures to be used on Etsy is an art all to itself.  The site advises a photo of about 1000 pixels wide.

However, if the object this is being photographed has equal negative space on all four sides, it won't show well in the gallery view.  There has to be more negative space on the top and the bottom than on the sides.  Therefore, the image has to be in the middle. This goes against the first rule of photography that anything can be in the middle. However, if you think about it, offseting the image to one side (left or right), and/or using the negative space in thirds (less on top and bottom than in the middle) will still allow for the basic rules to be followed.

I will not say my photos are up to the level of a professional photographer, but they are better than they were a couple of weeks ago and I'm grateful for that.  THANKS DAD!  THANKS ETSY TEAMS!

I'm hoping that if someone else is struggling that these tips will help a bit, and if you have conquered your photo taking/processing skills and have more to share (or correct), please do.  Thanks!


  1. You've encouraged me to go play with my Picasa. I have to start comparing to the original photo so I can train my eyes better. Thanks.

  2. I'm finding, Cindy, that the saturation function is my most important button, because once the photo has been lightened enough, the color of the object can go back to normal. Also, the sharpen function used after that really pops it out.

    Let us know if you discover some good tricks.

  3. I use Picnik but use all of the techniques you Dad went over with you. I find that editing and cropping is probably more fun that actually make some of my designs....ooops, did I really write that? :) Now that you laid this out there Natalie, I can't wait to see some awesome pics.

  4. Your dad sounds like a gem! My mom bought my wheel for me when I graduated from undergrad. It might be the best present ever! My husband bought me my kiln, but the wheel is more magical. I am considering getting a new camera this year - a digital SLR - going to upgrade, yet know that this will come with a whole new learning curve.

  5. You'll love the camera, Cynthia. That would be quite the fun shooting experience!

  6. Cindi, Picnik is really neat. I played with it a few times and was very impressed.