The “Red-Eye” Menace!! (Or why camera’s can be annoying)

Yesterday we discussed the whole light bounces in a straight line gig, so as I mentioned this would be a great time to discuss why we have red-eye, and I’m not talking about the 2am flight to Boston.

Red-eye is what happens when light from a source bounces off the reflective surface of the eye and hits the lens of the camera.  The result is a nasty red glow, which is cool if you a rabbid sheep, or perhaps doing Halloween pictures, but its not that great when you doing a portrait of grandma.

Here is my 30D with flash, you will notice that there is 6.5 inches from the center of the lens, to the center of the flash, what this means is that the light will usually travel from the flash to the eye, bounce and then due to the angle the reflected eye light will usually fall BELOW the lens, therefore no red-eye.

Now we are looking at a point and shoot camera, first thing you will notice is that instead of a good 6 inches, we go to 1.5, all of a sudden the light bouncing from the subject eye’s back to the camera is reduced to the point, that the reflected light is usually hitting the lens, and you have a lovely case of red-eye.

Now the fun part, how do we reduce or eliminate red-eye… Well I don’t have very good news, due to the design of current point and shoots, its a difficult proposition, now I could use the whole easy way out and tell you to go buy a SLR and a shoe mounted flash, but thats not a great solution.  Most point and shoots have a red eye reduction lamp, which works under the theory that the light will make the iris close down, making the pupil smaller, and that will reduce the chance of red-eye.  However this is spotty at best, and most the time just irritates the person you are taking a photograph of.  That leaves software which can do an ok job sometimes, or sometimes not either.

My advice for red-eye removal is simple, try to get the person into enough natural light so that there irises close down enough to help, get above or below the subject and then angle the camera up or down, this is a slightly flawed solution since by changing the angle of the camera it can distort the person (another article for another time on this one).  Finally and this one is the best solution I can give you, DON’T USE ON CAMERA FLASH!!! If you are taking a night time portrait find a nice lighted spot so you don’t have to worry about using flash at all, which of course isn’t always ideal, so its a choice you will have to make at the time.  As usual with photography there is always a tradeoff.

Well hopefully that will help you some, or at least give you something to think about.

Angle of Incidence Equals the Angle of Reflection or HUH????

This is actually a very simple little photography rule, yet when it gets explained to people they tend to get a glassed over stare, and then the drool comes…

Put simply light travels in a straight line, so when it hits a reflective surface it will reflect at the same opposite angle as it hits the reflected surface.  See clear as mud aint it?   To make it simplier I have used my considerable skills to create incredible visual aids.

Pretend that the diagram above is a flashlight and a mirror, if you go into a dark room with your flashlight and shine the light directly at the mirror, the light will bounce directly back to the flashlight, so as we have here, the green light leaves our lightsource, hits the surface and comes right back at us.  Now lets mix it up a bit.

Now we have moved our lightsource to the side, and notice what has happened, Now since the light will hit the surface at an angle, the light will bounce off the surface at same angle that it hits,  so again try the flashlight in the bathroom experiment and see what changes this makes, and you fill find it becomes quite clear.

Now of course the real question is how exactly does this this apply to photography, and how can it help us.  Well here is one MAJOR thing that this little rule explains…RED EYE, yup thats right, I could get all scientific however put very simply the back of our eye is reflective.  Perhaps tomorrow I will go into a bit more detail on redeye and the different approaches to combat it, but for now just put your thinking caps on and do some heavy thinking. 🙂  The other thing that this will effect is if in your approach to photography you decide to use reflectors to open up shadows, and highlight areas.

Well thats enough for now, I hope I did a bit of enlightening or at least showed you that my Photoshop skills extend into drawing very crappy diagrams….

Photography’s Compass

Well you are probably wondering about that title, and as well you should, it’s catchy, it’s not very telling, and I’m just positive it’s going to need some explanation so here goes…

A “friend” of mine is taking a photography class, which is good, so while we are talking I ask this person what they are doing, and they say “Today our assignment was to look at photographs”. Now of course I get excited about this thinking of all the famous photographers that have inspired me at some point, so I ask this person what photographers have they looked at. I was told that they just surf the net and looked for photos they liked. This answer bothers me a bit, since in my opinion photography and photographers are like a giant botanical garden, full of flowers and lovely trees, however just looking at work without knowing about who created it is like setting a person down in the middle of the garden, telling them to bring back a purple photo plant, and exit by the south door since the other three are filled with tigers, and man eating sheep, yet you have no sun for reference, no compass to know your direction, and no idea what the heck a purple photo plant is! (And if you have an idea what a purple photo plant is, perhaps you should lie down a bit!)

I would contend that for that particular assignment to really open the eyes, the students involved need to know about the person whose work they are admiring, since they can then use not just a photograph for inspiration or education but a total body of work. For example when asked my friend said they looked up photographs of “Fall Out Boy” well that’s wonderful, but who took that photograph, was it a cover? What kind of lighting was involved? What was the photographer’s inspiration? Normally these things could take considerable effort to find out, but lucky for us we have the World Wide Web, that miraculous thing that makes my blog possible, lets you forget about encyclopedias, and well to be honest finding a lovely recipe for chocolate chip cookies!

Some of my favorite photographers include Edward Weston, a man who not only was friends to Ansell Adam’s but continued to work even when diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. For Portrait photography three of my favorite photographers are Monte Zucker, who has passed away, he was a Canon Explorer of Light, and a genius with lighting techniques. Joe Craig, whose southern drawl and relaxed demeanor produces incredible results. And Chris Grey, who does some really amazing things using some items you wouldn’t necessarily think would work. There are many more, but this is my list, your list might or might not be the same.

My challenge to you now is simple, go research not just a photograph but the great photographers who make them, my suggestions to you are to Google Canon Explorers of Light, this is a group of people chosen by Canon, who they feel make the pinnacle of excellence, now I know some of you Nikon guys out there will be screaming that a Canon isn’t as superior to Nikon, and that there is some Nikon list, to you I say this… “My Blog, I like Canon, Nikon is stinky so Neener neener neener!!!” Seriously though I have nothing against Nikon but as stated above I’m Canon so that’s where my experience lies. Also if you see an album cover or some big name band you like a photograph, do some research, to find out who made that shot, it will inspire you and lead you down even more roads. The final person I going to recommend you go looking for is Rembrandt, yup I know he not a photographer, he was a painter, I going to trust you can figure this one out on your own  🙂

Well I think that is enough for today, to sum up, do some research, find not just the photographs but the photographers that inspire you, then learn all you can about them… You will learn something!

October 6th – October 12th Theme!!!

Well the weather is getting colder, the days getting shorter, and I have a sudden desire for baked goods, ok ok I always have a desire for baked goods but now I want them with more spice…   I think this weeks theme shall be, something that fits with the weather, I know the theme for this week will be… “foliage”

A New Category!

Well I have added a new catagory to the Blog, Tech & Tips.  This will be where I am planning on posting some photography techniques, technical crap and tips, since I am probably a large font of useless knowledge 🙂  So stay tuned and hope for the best.