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Using Simple Tools

Useful Tool

Not all photography tools have to be expensive. Sometimes a simple piece of craft foam with some Velcro can be the most useful thing in your bag.

A number of people have asked me to elaborate on one of the pictures I posted to my 365 this year.  Its one of the most simple tools I keep in my camera bag and one of the most useful.

It’s just a bit of black foam that can be found at any craft store or art supplies place with some Velcro strips around the edges.  In general photography terms it’s a flag, or some object you use to block light.  Either from hitting your subject or from entering the camera directly.

This used to be a tool I’d only bring out from time to time when I had a specific problem to solve.  Thanks to a tip from Brian Mullins this tool has found its way onto my on camera flash when I’m forced to use it.

Lets start with a demonstration. First lets take a look at what we get when we do use on camera flash or a hot shoe flash pointed straight forward.

Direct Flash

Direct Flash

You can see that the exposure is acceptable and everything is lit. Problem is the light is very flat and not very flattering. Besides it looks like every other flash photo out there and who wants that. To fix it without using an off camera flash we can try a few things. Lets start by bouncing our light off of the wall to my left.

Bounce Flash

Bounce Flash

That’s a bit better.  Now the light has direction giving the face some shape and its a bit softer as well.  Overall much better, but it’s still a bit hot for my taste and you’ll notice if you look closely two catch lights.  The main one from the wall and a smaller one from the flash head.  This means there is still some direct light falling on the subject.  Lets try using our flag on the side of the flash closest to the subject.

Flagged Bounce Flash

Flagged Bounce Flash

Now all the light is coming from the wall we bounced our light off of and none of it is coming directly from the flash head.  The light is soft and doesn’t have any of the hot spots we were having problems with earlier.  The effect is subtle but makes for a better and more flattering shot in my opinion.

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Categories: Photography Tags: , , ,

GIMP Resynthesizer

2010-07-14 Comments off

I’ve been pretty amused by the buzz about the new “Content Aware Crop” feature in PhotoShop. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t have that feature because I’ve used Open Source tools to do the same thing for years.

The bench really distracted from the composition of this image so I simply used the Resynthesizer plug-in for GIMP to remove it.

  • Free select tool to “lasso” the bench.
  • Filters -> Enhance -> Smart Remove Selection.
  • Done

Firefox extension for taking screen shots

Screengrab!People keep sending me “screen shots” that turn out to be Microsoft Word documents with web pages pasted in them. Last time I checked screen shots were images not text documents. When I asked them why they didn’t send me an image instead they said $40 was to much to spend on an application just to take pictures once a month with it. Thankfully, there’s a Firefox extension that does this job quite well, works on all platforms, and its free!

Screengrab! is an extension for Firefox that makes it easy to save a web-page as an image. With it, you can save anything that you can see in a browser window – from a small selection, to a complete page.
Basically Screengrab! let’s you take what you want from a web-page: the entire scrollable document, just the visible bit, or a draggable selection. Screengrab will even save just the contents of an individual frame. — Screengrab! website

I use it to grab all my web page screen shots these days. It couldn’t be easier to use. Just click on the Screengrab icon in the bar at the bottom of Firefox, select save and you’re done. Go get it from the Firefox Add-ons site right now! You won’t regret it.

Screengrab! :: Firefox Add-ons

Categories: Linux, Tools Tags: , , ,