Category Archives: Digital Imaging

Image Evaluation

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.27.51ERIK ALMAS PHOTOGRPAHY

Erik Almas is a Norwegian born photographer now resident in San Francisco and specialising in advertising photogrphy for major brands and organisations on a world wide basis.

This is an example of a surreal  image that has has been composed digitally as it would obviously not be possible for the model to be so close to the lava / hot water in reality.

I think this is an extremely successful image in that it looks entirely real but clearly cannot be.  I suspect it is 2 carefully planned and execute images that have been subsequently merged. One of the volcanic rocks and landscape and one of the model reclining in water.

Compositionally the images follows a traditional rule of thirds with the head of the model – the natural place for your eye to look – approx 1/3 from the left. The blue sky and clouds is diagonally balanced by the water and lava features.with the body and legs of the model forming a diagonal fold line.

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Loretta Lux Photography

German Artist Loretta Lux specialises in producing surreal images of young children. Lux has developed a distinctive style which whilst based on a photographic images her intent is to produce a more painterly style of image, openly stating she has no interest in traditional photography.

The images are all composites, with photographs of the child models  superimposed on backgrounds selected for each image. Then post processed  to appear painterly in creation.

Lux describes children as “the most honest models” as they have no reservations i.e. what you see is what you get.

I find the images more disturbing than attractive, the stares of the model, the often surreal backgrounds – even when they first appear quite mundane giving quite a dream like appearance to the final image.

Nonetheless whist they are not to my persona taste they are certainly distinctive and have achieved wide spread recognition in the art world.

 

 

Birth Announcement Design

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My daughter and her husband wanted to have some cards made to announce the birth of their daughter. They had looked at some commercial websites, however these are basically templates that you insert your own photos into and as a result are limited in terms of design and layout.

They had seen a design which incorporated some flower poppies which of course matched the name and was a pleasing design element. I mocked up a similar design in Photoshop using a stock image of poppies and an early photograph of Poppy. Collectively we decided the design was too cluttered and could be simplified as the cards were also to be used as “thank you’s” to the many friends and family who had given the new arrival gifts and some of the information was thus superfluous as the accompanying letter would provide it.

A revised design was developed which gave more prominence to the photograph, which is after all the point 🙂

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I still wasn’t totally happy with the layout particularly the flower image, fortunately I received an email from a stock library, GraphicStock,  offering a free trial with unlimited downloads and so I signed up and found a better stock image of poppies in a .png format with a transparent background so it was simple to overlay on the photograph. Then I tweaked the text, retaining a script style font for the name and a more solid typeface for the factual details. The “client” then had a last minute change of heart over the photo to be used but the final design was agreed as :

Poppy_Birth_01

I then found a local printer, MLL Print, in Swindon to print a 100 cards at a fraction of the price of the internet offerings. So in the end, a more personalised card at a significantly lower price – I would call that a win win 🙂

 

 

 

HDR – High Dynamic Range

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Stonehenge by Francesco Alamia

HDR photographs are images that have been combined together in order to capture the complete range of colours in a scene, this because the human eye is capable of a much greater range then even the most sophisticated modern cameras. HDR imagery is entirely a product of the digital era of photography and whilst it can produce interesting images there appear to be 2 distinct audiences for them – those that love them and those that don’t !

In fairness the hyper real colours and appearance of HDR image does depend on the software being used and the options set by the author as it can be used to create more subtle images and is sometimes used to great effect for interior shots where there is a wide exposure variance to create natural looking photographs. The shot below was created from 11 images.

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To produce HDR output requires a series of images, best tripod mounted, of the same scene with a range of different exposures covering the lightest to the darkest areas of the image – typically 3 to 5 images is used for the most extreme affects but they can be generated from a single image by adjusting the exposure in something like camera raw and then saving different versions of the same file. This has the advantage of ensuring perfect alignment of the layers but range is limited by the exposure setting of the original image and for example any blown out highlights simply can’t be seen as there is no data to work with.

For speed of processing I used just 2 images to generate an image of the interior of my local church, St Sampsons in Cricklade.

Base Images :

 

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Once the images have been captured they need to be processed with suitable HDR software, Photoshop has an HDR capability but there are also specialist tools such as Photomatix which is widely regarded as the premier HDR software.

Photoshop

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I thought this gave quite a flat, uninspiring appearance so I decided to download and install the Photomatix software which offers a great deal more control over individual aspects of processing.The trial software fully functional however it leaves  watermarks on the image. Photomatix also comes with a variety of pre-set effects and the images below were all generated from the same base images just by changing the pre-set option, clearly it offers a great deal more scope than Photoshop in terms of HDR options.

Photomatix Variants

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Painterly

HDR_05Monochrome

HDR_06Creative

HDR_07Vibrant

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Focus Stacking

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Focus_Stack_MG_7231_02This weeks digital task was to create an image that was sharp from front to back using a technique called focus stacking. Following guidance in an on-line tutorial by Gavin Hoey the basic technique is to take multiple images with a tripod mounted camera changing only the focus  and then combining (stacking) the images in Photoshop by using the auto-blend function to create a combined image that automatically extracts the sharply focussed area of each image to create a single uniformly sharp image.

A day trip to Hayling Island provided an ideal opportunity for some land and seascape shots to practice the technique. The images above are the first and last in a series of 4 used to create a final combined image clearly showing the different points of focus.

Care needs to be taken in creating the images to ensure there is minimal movement of the camera between images to ensure they stack as cleanly as possible, this was difficult on the day as although the weather was bright it was extremely windy. This can be offset to some degree using the auto align option in the “stack images” function but obviously the better the in camera alignment the better the final result.

The process is to open all the images required, then make any individual adjustments as normal post processing, using the “stack images” function a new file is created with each of the images on a separate layer. Then to automatically mask and create a combined image simply select all the image layers and then “auto-blend layers” from the edit menu. There are no user options for the part of the process it is completely automatic.

Combined image

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The resulting image has some issues e.g. around the 50p piece for example there are some aberrations, I think this is due to the movement of the waves behind the 50p across the various images and the focus  distance “jump” between the groyne the 50p is standing on and the beach area which is probably at least 20 metres behind it, indicating that such images need to be created from a scene where is a continuous scene i.e. the focus gradually and continuously changes.

A second series also resulted in some serious issues with the final image again I believe caused by movement in the scene i.e. in upper left area of sky and waters edge as the static part of the image – the line of wooden posts the processing has worked well.  The prevailing weather conditions were extremely windy which caused the clouds to be moving at speed and casting moving shadows on the beach.

Final Image 2nd Series

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I was able to improve the result by manually masking the last image i.e. the one with the furthest focus distance and obtain an acceptable image. This experience leads me to conclude that this technique is best suited to relatively static scenes with consistent lighting and continuity of focus and hence I can understand the appeal of this technique for macro subjects.

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I decided to try the technique with more static scenes and on a visit to Lyme House Park a National Trust property in Cheshire I took a series of images of the house and some landscape scenes which I believe are far more successful at demonstrating the technique than my previous attempt.

03_FS1_LymeMade of 4 images with focus starting on the branches in the foreground and ending with the sky.

04_FS3_LymeA different view, made from 5 images starting with the foreground grass and ending with the house. I manually adjusted the masking on this image to exclude some distracting figures on the path which appeared twice in different positions between exposures, lastly I selectively applied a high pass filter to the house and a graduated filter to the sky.

02_FS_LymeLandscape as shot from 4 images.
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Finally the same scene and technique shot in infra red. There is a slight difference in the scene due to the difference between the full frame Canon 5D and the crop sensor IR modified Canon 40D.

 

Iconic Photo

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This is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken during the filming of “The Seven Year Itch” a comedy filmed released in 1955 directed by Billy Wilder and starring Monroe. The film was based on a salacious play on adultery by George Axelrod, due to the prevailing Hollywood production codes of the day adultery wasn’t permitted to be depicted and the Monroe character was depicted as more of a fantasy, this Pin Up style image of Monroe struggling to preserve her modesty is the most enduring aspect of the film – many people would recognise the photo, far fewer few would know where it came from.

Our digital imaging task was to re-create an iconic photographic and I had considered this photograph as a candidate but the lead time requiring to find a suitable model, make up artist and set meant it was probably a non starter. Serendipitously whilst attending the Photography Show at the NEC in March 2015 one of the exhibitors – Hasselblad – had recreated the scene with a live model as the centre piece of their stand and was allowing visitors to shoot the scene, the only limitation was that it had to be done with their camera a HasselbladH4D-40 Medium Format DSLR Camera with 80mm f/2.8 HC Lens. A double bonus, I got to try a high end medium format camera and get my iconic photo! Some days you get lucky 🙂

For a small donation to the cancer research charity you could have a print of your shot and I chose 2 high resolution A4 black and white prints from the 10 or so that I shot.  I then scanned the prints when I got home and with minor adjustments to contrast created the digital versions.

Marilyn_01 Marilyn_02

 

 

 

 

Advertising Photography Research

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Advertising photography, particularly for well known brands, is typified by very high quality photography often featuring extensive post processing manipulation and sometimes creating surreal images either by compositing and blending diverse images (see football example above) or by creating a digital image such as the arm holding an ice cream emerging from the floor as per the image below.

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Click here for a gallery of sample advertising images covering a range of products such as alcohol, cars and and lifestyle items such as ice cream, perfume and watches.

There is clearly a great deal of creative thought goes into the planning and execution of such images, some are visually clever imagery such as the clothes depicted as Stonehenge and some funny such as the welder distracted by the girl carrying a bag of fireworks (part of a series for perfume).

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What is common to all of them is the high production values and presumably similarly large budgets both for the initial photography but also very significant post processing. The images are all very clean, immaculately lit to present the product in the best possible fashion whether it be low value but high volume product such as the shampoo or high value, low volume products such as the executive cars.

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Noted Advertising Photographers

Jonathan Knowles operates studios in New York and London, specialising in graphic still life, liquid and beauty, his unique photographic style has earned him award-winning advertising commissions and include campaigns for many globally recognised brands, such as Coca-Cola, Guinness, and Smirnoff

In the past ten years, Jonathan has consistently featured in the ‘200 Best Advertising Photographers in the World’ books. He is one of the top 10 all time award winners in the Graphis Annuals.

You can see more details and samples of his work on his website.

Advert_21 Dennis Pedersen“Particularly noted for his beauty portfolio,has become an inspirational figure in still-life photography. Although he did not attend art school, his career has soared due to hard work and the seizing of opportunities – which makes positive reading for aspiring photographers hoping to break into this tough profession.

Dennis’s story began in 1985 when he was working as a builder in London. He met his friend Greg Gorman, then working as a celebrity photographer. Greg, who remains a friend and successful photographer, inspired Dennis to try his hand at photography. Dennis rapidly built up a portfolio, learnt about the business and cold-called his favourite studios, showing his work to as many people as possible.

Dennis was then offered the opportunity to work for fashion and beauty photographer, Jean Claude Volpeliere. He assisted on location, learning his craft while traveling all over the world. Volpeliere then introduced Dennis to advertising still-life photographer, Jon Stigner, who had a reputation for impeccable detail and lighting techniques. Dennis grabbed this opportunity, and worked with large format 10 x 8 cameras under Jon’s tutelage.

In Stigner’s studio, Dennis discovered his love for the technical aspects of photography. He worked with Jon for three years, honing his attention to the detailed aspects of lighting, production both in and out of camera, and composition.

Dennis then took the next step: to open his own studio close to Hoxton Square in London. He began to build up a roster of clients, with advertising in particular. While the recession staunched the flow of some advertising clients, Dennis was then invited to submit work for an exhibition in Hamburg on the theme of liquids and water photography.

As he prepared for the show, Dennis became increasingly inspired by the opportunities presented by the depiction of movement in still-life photography – an under-developed arena, and one that Dennis has made his own. He realised that this approach gave him the perfect challenge to exercise his technical and creative skills in product photography, and he began to experiment with all kinds of volatile materials – liquids, powders, creams, smoke, sprays – creating a new portfolio of special effects. Crucially, he also learned how to gain these effects at high speed: “Working for yourself under pressure makes you learn incredibly fast,” observes Dennis.”

Biography from his website

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Tim Tadder  “is 6 feet 7 inches tall, he has a beard, 4 bicycles, and brown dog named Bailey. He was born in Baltimore, schooled in Virginia (BS Mathematics, he’s a geek) and Ohio (MA in Visual Communications, also an artist). Tim worked for newspapers in Baltimore, Colorado, and San Diego as a photojournalist, before turning his sights on commercial and editorial photography in 2005. Since then he has been commissioned to make heroic portraits some of the world’s most interesting humans, for example George W Bush, (liberal Tim did want to have a beer with him….) and Bill Gates (he cringed at the sight of his iPhone and mac book pro) Personal highlights include working with Michael Phelps, Kid Rock, Ice Cube, and Tom Brady. Best known for his powerful portraits and high action intense sports imagery Tim has enjoyed the privilege of working with great creatives creating award winning campaigns (Communications Arts Photo Annuals, Graphis Golds, Kelly Awards, Archive Showcases, Addy’s etc) for global brands like, Adidas, Budwieser, McDonalds, Under Armour, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Gatorade, Powerade, Sears, Craftsman, Mercedes Benz, Bud Light, Microsoft, Sony, Gillette and many more.”

Bio from Tim’s Website

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These photographers seem to have certain common traits which are key factors in their success :-

  • Originality, brining a fresh view to mundane items or much photographed scenes.
  • Technical excellence both in original photography but also post processing.
  • Good communication skills and people management to bring about a collective result
  • Passion for the subject
  • Business and sales expertise – to promote their work and appropriately value it.

 

 

 

Also posted in Advertising Photography

Advertising Photography Final Advert

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Proof images were shown to the client on 13th February as a requirement of the brief with a finalised proposal for an advert in the form of a design suitable for a roller banner in the size specified required by the 20th March.

Technical aspects of post processing of the images was very straight forward, this was very largely due to having ensured the lighting set up was correct at time of capture and thus minimal post processing required. This mainly consisting of adjusting levels, cropping and straightening or removing stray elements in the background e.g. where the size of the backdrop didn’t extend quite far enough to cover the entire image background.

The bulk of the effort was in laying out the design and ensuring all the required elements are present, this is not only the primary image(s) but also supporting information such as contact details, web address and corporate logo.

I looked at the competitors web sites mentioned in the brief – Irregular Choice and Ruby Shoo – along with the clients web site. Noticeably on the competitor websites there very few models used it is virtually all close up product photography of the products. Where a model is featured its generally a below the knee shot of the model wearing the shoes. As the client had specified a model be used this confirmed my view that it was correct to focus on the shoes in the images e.g. by including them in the background as in the bookcase shots or surrounding the model, or emphasising the shoes as a point of interest, e.g. model holding the shoes or on the cocktail tray.

The client provided some graphics for the corporate logo and strap line “Custom hand made shoes for whatever your heart and feet desire” in the appropriate font and colours, these were included in the final advert in order to provide consistency with the existing marketing of Bunny Pumpkin Boutique . The layout of the advert is specified in the brief as being 80×200 cm, this format tends to favour a single portrait style image  but due to the large area of image available on the banner I experimented with collages of various styles of images, see examples below, but finally decided on a single primary image.

The client requested heavily saturated images, personally I prefer more natural looking images but the client is King (Queen in this case :-)).

Final Advert Layout : (Scroll down for more)

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Leaflet Design :

This is a design for an A5 leaflet for the design service, the image selected to reinforce the idea of “serving up” a unique solution.

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I haven’t laid out the back of the leaflet but thought it could be a query / order form e.g. for clients considering either a special event or just wanting a particular themed shoe. So the information captured should be along the lines of:

  • personal and contact details of the enquirer (name, address, phone and email)
  • shoe size
  • event and date
  • theme required or suggested
  • any other information e.g. colour preferences

Business Card :

Image selected to suit format of a business card and style of client business.

Front

business card front

 

Back

business card back

Other Banner designs considered, these are mocked up concepts and not finalised designs :

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Also posted in Advertising Photography

POPPY Shoot

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March 23rd update. Triptych – a set of three images presented together. Typically its used as a means to present separate images as collection related by something they have in common, this could be for example colour, content, post processing treatment or time.

Images taken at the same focal length tend to appear more balanced when put together, however this rule isn’t set in stone. Another way you could create a Triptych is to use several parts of the same scene in three separate images, capturing a wider-view in the first then focusing on detail in the two that follow. Taking shots of the same scene at different times of the day or even the year can work effectively. For example, capturing an images of a tree during summer, autumn and winter to show the contrast in colour / weather.

We did an exercise as part of a lecture to create a sample tryptych but then the ideal opportunity occurred when, as a mothers day gift for her mother Stephanie asked me to create a triptych using old and new images.

The old image was of a Stephanie as a newborn in hospital with her mother, a similar image of Stephanie with Poppy and a portrait of the 3 of them as a group taken on mothers day 2015. I found and purchased a suitable frame for 3 x 7×5 inch photgrpahs, scanned the old image and re-sized it to suit. Some clean up was necessary from the scanning process to remove dust and other flaws. The new images were taken in Raw, desaturated adjusted for brightness / contrast and re-sized for printing which was done at home on a Canon inkjet in B&W. The three images were then mounted in the frame. (Click image to enlarge).

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Poppy

One of the most pleasurable tasks to photograph the much awaited arrival of our first grandchild  Poppy Evelyn Blackburn to our daughter Stephanie and husband Graham on 5th Feb 2015.

I was fortunate to be able to capture the first images of Poppy when she was 15 mins old, similar to those I took 30 years ago at her mothers birth. These were taken using available light, high ISO and wide aperture in the hospital recovery area as I dont like direct flash as its somewhat harsh and using flash also seemed inappropriate for the environment we were in with other patients either recovering or in early stages of labour.

Steph and Poppy with new uncles James and Michael.

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Once home I wanted to capture some more portraits and acquired a baby posing beanbag and did some research into photographing newborns as I a) want to create some memorable family images and b) this is a future area of family portraiture that I would potentially like to work in.

As my daughter and her husband wisely wish to limit the no of  images that are posted on public social media I have added a password protected gallery that can be shared with family and friends rather than freely accesible on the internet. Gallery can be found at http://55red.co.uk/client-area/poppy/ with password of her middle name, incidentally the name of Stephanie’s late Grandmother, “Evelyn”

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Photography considerations. The portraits were taken using a speedlight on a lighting stand with a softbox to provide even lighting and triggered with wireless radio trigger. Manual settings were used based on a flash meter reading. The posing bean bag proved extremely effective in being able to position the baby and am sure it will prove a worthwhile investment for my portraiture business.

So far the “client” is delighted with the results and the gallery will be regularly updated to chart Poppy’s progress.

Lastly the extremely happy new Grandparents.

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Also posted in Location

SSAFA Charity Shoot

heart_01._MG_6144_1SSAFA (Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association is the UK’s oldest military celebrating 130 years of support in 2015.

From the www.ssafa.org.uk website.

“The vision and drive of one man stands at the heart of theUK’s oldest Armed Forces charity. In February 1885, as the Second Expeditionary Force set sail for Egypt, Major James Gildea wrote to The Times appealing for funds and volunteers to look after families left behind. Within three months, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association was born. Since then, we’ve supported millions of people, and millions more are eligible for help.”

The college received a request to support the launch of a SSAFA fund-raising event in Swindon with photographers. Grace and I volunteered to attend the event and met with the even organiser Karen Thomas of SSAFA to discuss requirements for day at Debenhams in Swindon who were hosting the event.

The fund raising was about the creation of 100 decorated hearts echoing an original campaign from the 1st World War with the link to it being a 100 years later. A photograph of an original heart is at the top of the page and here are some images of the modern equivalents.

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The event was being attended by Swindons Mayor who was cutting a heart shaped cake to formally launch the campaign.

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SSAFA had arranged for various military representatives to be present including  serving soldiers, cadets, Chelsea pensioners and a Normandy landing veteran. Our task was to capture informal shots of the attendees / event that SSAFA could later use for various marketing purposes. Being a charity they of course wish to direct as much of their income as possible into their charitable work and there is thus little budget for things like quality photography.

Two professional photographers attended the event, mainly as the mayor was present, one from the local newspaper and one who more of a jobbing freelancer who sold images to various news websites. They knew each other, I guess attend many of the same events and even though we were clearly also there to take photographs we, in particular the youthful Grace, were treated with a certain amount of disdain and neither was interested in a discussion about photography or why we there. Possibly they regarded us as even more competition or had simply been told we were students.

However it was interesting to watch them work in that they were clearly focussed on getting saleable / printable images to the exclusion of everything else and were not afraid to either latch onto a good idea. For example I had set up a shot with the soldiers in the square and the mayor when the freelancer suddenly appeared and started directing operations in fairness I was about done but he wasn’t to know that.

Another example was the refusal of the newspaper photographer to take a photograph of the group of Debenham managers supporting the event on the basis “there is no chance of it being published” Whilst at one level this attitude could be said to be professional at another it seemed distinctly unfriendly and uncharitable.

Nonetheless I was able to capture a number of reasonable images despite a problem with my flashgun which meant shooting using available light with a relatively high ISO setting and wide apertures. Gallery of proof images can be found here.

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So in summary it was interesting day and especially talking to the old soldiers and the Normandy veteran who was 18 at the time and reflect on the good fortune to have been born when I was as their generations had little or no choice as to what they would do with their lives but were conscripted into the military and war and of course many did not return or returned physically or mentally scarred for life.

On that note it was a pleasure to support the event and a charity that supports the people and their families who have given so much.

Also posted in Location

File Formats and Management

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Digital Image File Formats.

Much of the information in this section is based upon an article by Ken W. Watson. (). Photo File Types. Available: http://www.rideau-info.com. Last accessed 28th Jan 2015.

There are literally dozens of digital image formats that have emerged for specific graphics / animation / digital manipulation purposes, but the three most common that are likely to be encountered by a photographer are : Firstly JPEG a lossy format, TIF, a lossless format and RAW an in-camera lossless format. Lossy means that image data is lost when the image is compressed (saved) while a lossless format retains all the original data, even when compressed.

Each format has pros and cons and is suitable for particular tasks.

JPEG (JPG, JPE) stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is a standard developed in the 1980s to handle colour digital images. It works best with photographic images (as opposed images of text) because it relies on the blending of colour.

It is the most common file format and is used and supported by every major software provider of photo edtiting tools.

It is a “lossy” format, it reduces the file size of an image by blending “redundant” image pixels. As the image is compressed blurriness can appears around edges of objects in the photo. In photo editing computer programs JPEG compression is usually expressed as a percentage where 100% is no compression and 0% is maximum compression (think 100% quality vs. 0% quality). Usually Adobe Photoshop uses a sliding scale from 0 to 12 (really 0% to 100%). Once compressed in JPEG format an image cannot be uncompressed (you cannot regain the original quality).

It is for this reason that professional quality images are saved in a lossless format and then a final images – for printing or publication – is saved in .jpg format.

Pros : Relatively small image size, very good photographic reproduction, best format for emailing or posting to the web, compatible with virtually every image editor and viewer.
Cons: “lossy” format, it compresses by removing information which can never be recovered, photo degradation after editing on save (even at highest quality setting).

TIF/TIFF – This is a lossless image format that is, no pixels are modified in the image. TIFF stands for Tag Image File Format. This generally results in very large image sizes (in terms of computer file size). TIF has the option of being compressed, using either LZW or ZIP, both lossless compression methods.

Using LZW or ZIP will shrink the TIF image with no loss of data. Note that some programs also provide an option for JPEG compression – if used it will result in data loss as per the jpg format Even compressed, TIF files are very large, much larger in computer file size than their JPEG equivalents.

TIF is a favourite of graphic designers since it was an early standard on the mac.
Pros: “lossless” format – all image information is retained.

Cons: Huge file size even when compressed, has multiple “standards” so not all programs can read all TIF files. Not web browser compatible.

RAW – This is a lossless image format offered by some digital cameras and especially DSLR format cameras. The JPEG image produced by a camera and typically displayed on its screen is an image processed by the camera’s software in which variables such as sharpness, contrast, saturation and white balance are applied to the digital image based on the camera’s settings.

RAW on the other hand is the direct unprocessed image as seen by the camera’s sensor. It allows the post-image processing using any of the camera parameters (i.e. sharpness, contrast, etc.). This format is generally preferred by professional photographers for their image “negatives” (originals) since it allows the greatest post-processing flexibility.

A downside of RAW is that the format is currently proprietary to the camera manufacturer and therefore it is not a good long term archival standard. There is work being done to standardize the RAW format, but a standard is unlikely to be set since new features (e.g. white balance, focus and HDR bracketing) being added into digital cameras end up being part of their RAW data and this keeps changing as new innovations are introduced by individual manufacturers.

Pros: “lossless” format – allows full post processing of all in-camera variables (white balance, saturation, sharpness, etc.).
Cons: Proprietary camera manufacturer format (multiple standards), not all software can view RAW files, large file size. Not web browser compatible.

Storage and Management of Digital Formats.

This is a discussion on good practice to manage photo files and design ideas to build storage systems.

The speed reliability and capacity of personal computers has improved measurably since they became widely available and affordable in the 1980’s none the less all computer media is subject to failure, this is often catastrophic i.e. total loss of the contents and is usually unexpected and can be triggered as simply as improperly removing a card from a mac or pc computer. The risk varies with the type of media. For example portable formats – memory cards, keys, CD’s and so forth are by their nature much more prone to physical loss or damage than data stored on internal hard drives on a PC kept in an appropriate environment.

There are a number of strategies that can be adopted to minimise such a loss but basically all involve having multiple copies of the data as you are clearly most at risk when only a single copy of the data exists. This is most true when the image is freshly taken because at that point only one copy of the image exists i.e. on the camera. To mitigate this some modern cameras aimed at the professional e.g. Canon 5D Mk III have the facility to write to 2 memory cards at the time of image capture thus mitigating the risk of corruption but you are still vulnerable to physical loss of the card(s). Ultimately managing this data in a risk adverse manner is a combination of good practice and resilient hardware.

First priority should be to create a copy of the image ASAP, for most people this will be by uploading to a PC however for some,  generally professionals, e,g, News and Sports photographers this may be done by wireless upload to a central server. For those working “off-line” e.g. in a remote location there are a variety of portable devices that will enable a copy to be made until you are able to return to base however the risk of physical loss remains during this time. Hence photographers will rarely allow this data out of their possession whilst travelling e.g. will retain as hand luggage rather than checked baggage on an airline. Good storage management is basically about adopting a “risk adverse state of mind” and so for example despite the large memory card capacities of modern cameras wedding / event photographers will often prefer to use multiple smaller cards to minimise the risk of losing large numbers of images in the event of a card becoming corrupted.

Once the image is copied the next step should be to ensure there is a backup copy created – typically using utility software that automates the process on a regular basis and preferably to a device separate from your main computer e.g. a simple external hard drive or a more sophisticated cluster of external drives – a so called NAS device (Network Attached Storage)  which typically employ built in resilience technologies such as RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) typically this means the data is physically spread over several disks and the hardware can automatically recover all data in the event of a single disc failure and replacement. Mirroring is also a resilience technology and as the name implies generates a mirror copy of the disk, this is relatively fast compared to RAID but at the expense of halving the available disc space.

Back up versus Archive. In the context of this article Backup typically means a working copy of images and is designed to cope with issues on the local PC e.g file corruption/ disc failure. Archiving is meant as long term, off site storage designed to mitigate a major catastrophe such as total loss of personal PC e.g by fire or flood. Data stored in an archive should be tested regularly to ensure it can be retrieved if and when required – no computer format has so far lasted more than 10 years or so before being replaced in common use e.g. an archive on floppy disc;s isn’t going to be much use if your current PC no longer has a floppy disc drive.

A good archiving strategy can be achieved at reasonable cost by using 2 external HD’s as follows. One of the HDs stays with the main machine, the second (archival copy) is stored at an off-site location far enough away to be unaffected by the same disaster e.g. if you live on a flood plain your best friend and neighbours house is probably not the the best choice but otherwise a friend’s house, a relatives house, bank safety deposit and so forth). Every month swap these, i.e. make a current archival set to the local HD and then take it to the off site location and swap it with the remote HD. If your house gets flooded out, blown away or burned down, the archive copy of your photos will still be available. With the monthly swap of the HDs, the drives are automatically checked and the data on them refreshed and any issue can be investigated and resolved.

If you are in an area with fast broadband then it may also be possible to do this with on-line remote storage but the volumes of disk space required maybe cost prohibitive and depending on your level of paranoia (or risk aversion) the idea of handing control of your data to a third party maybe unattractive.

Rule of 1/2/3 is a summary of a good storage strategy courtesy of : Ken W. Watson. (). Storage and Archiving of Digital Photo Files. Available: http://www.rideau-info.com. Last accessed 28th Jan 2015

RULE OF ONE – this rule states that there should be one set of untouched (unedited) photos. These are the original photos from your camera, in film terms, these are your “negatives”. Never overwrite these – if you’re editing, always edit a copy, never the originals.

RULE OF TWO – at any given point in time, ensure that no matter what you are doing, there are at least two separate sets of your photos. Initially, when you copy photos you’ve just taken from your camera to your computer, the two sets are the photos on the camera’s memory card and the copied set on your computer. Before you erase the photos on your memory card, ensure that that the Rule of Two is maintained i.e. make a backup of the set on your computer (to another HD, memory stick, offsite storage, a DVD, etc.). So, when you erase your camera’s memory card, there are still two separate sets of your digital photos. 

RULE OF THREE – The Rule of Two is for immediately working with your photos, the Rule of Three states that at some point, preferably sooner rather than later as disasters arrive without warning, you must have a further copy of your photos located off-site (away from a catastrophic disaster such as fire or flood – which would wipe out all the backups in your house). So, the Rule of Three adds a third, archival set, stored off-site.