Strategies for Improving Digital Photographs

by Andrew Bobeck

Learn how to photograph artwork, print and frame Giclées, make use of digital logic to edit and restore old photos, and use High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRi) to give your images more impact, among other creative techniques.

About the Book

This book is not a primer on introductory camera use. Instead the emphasis is on analyzing the properties and possibilities of captured images and understanding novel ways to work with digital photographs.

  • Photograph Artwork
  • Print and Frame Canvas Giclées
  • Restore Faded Prints Example: Frescos
  • High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRi)
  • Histograms, Pixels & ppi Made Easy
  • Preparing Digital Files for Shows
  • Detailed Examples Point the Way
  • Make Digital Logic Your Friend

A portion of the book is a how-to that leads you on a journey starting at a pixel then ending with a framed canvas giclée. Along the way you are introduced to topics whose understanding will clear the path to that destination. You will discover a novel way to mount and frame a canvas giclée print, and learn how to keep your printer and canvas on speaking terms.

You will be introduced to High Dynamic Range imaging (HDRi) through well-chosen examples. Afterwards, setting your camera to record in RAW will become the norm.

A chapter is devoted to understanding terms like pixel, ppi, MB and histogram. A histogram works well as a camera exposure meter but did you know that histograms are often used to correct or perfect an image? Manipulations of histograms are central to the author's techniques for restoring color in faded prints and captures of frescos.

Creating digital files for entering art contests can be a hassle. Procedures are detailed for photographing artwork, whether framed or unframed. Tricks (using optical logic) for photographing glossy oil or acrylic paintings are revealed. Also included is a discussion on understanding and meeting file submission parameters.

The book is loaded with colorful examples to illustrate these creative techniques.

Madame Matisse

Flash photography of oil paintings and the like is made difficult by the numerous bright-spot reflections one often encounters (left). The novel technique revealed in this book overcomes this problem (right).

Unwanted Shadows

It is possible to easily eliminate pesky shadows that arise in many photographs with a unique procedure. Combine the left and center images with a logic function and the essentially shadow-free image seen to the right can be obtained.

Madison Clock

The image on the left is a typical standard exposure. The shadows are deep and dark with lost detail, and the brightest areas, for example the yellow awning, seem washed out. Compare that original image to the wealth of details now visible in the right-side image which was brought to life with the help of High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRi).

Faded Photograph

Many old photographs have faded from their original glory. Usually the reds have faded from the image. That is especially true of any print that has been exposed to bright light over the years. It is possible to recover a faded image by restoring color once you understand the tricks.

Low Contrast Image

The shape of its histogram quickly confirms that the image on the left has very little contrast. That same histogram, when adjusted, brings snap back into the display. The histogram is your friend.

Stitching Adjacent Images

When photographing a work of art that is very large, it might be necessary to take photographs of sections of the artwork and digitally stitch them together. But never simply overlay one section of the image onto another or abut them directly. The eye will see the connection. Rather, shape an overlapping edge so that the "seam" is hidden within un-important features. Never use a straight line! Learn about the use of logic tools for combining images !

  • Andrew Bobeck

Andrew Bobeck, is an award-winning watercolor artist and photographer who has received many prizes for his work. He is also one of the most distinguished former employees of Bell Telephone Laboratories. Studying electrical engineering, he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University. Andy was honored by Purdue as "Distinguished Engineering Alumnus" in 1968. In 1972, the university awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. When he retired from Bell Labs in 1989 after 40 years of employment, he held 120 USA Patents, the most of any active employee. In addition to the many notable prizes he received throughout his career as an engineer, he was also listed in Who's Who in America in 1978, and in 1981 received the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award. He was also a Noble Prize nominee in physics.

Prior to his retirement Andy dabbled in oils, however he now enjoys the challenges of photography as well as mastering the nuances of watercolor painting. Although he acknowledges the technical challenges that photography incurs, he is rewarded with a medium of much versatility. He has had several individual shows of nature and still-life photographs and has consistently won awards for his excellence. Illumination by polarized light and multiple-exposure tri-color photography are but two of the special effects techniques he has pursued. My image "Six - Three Pear" relied on manipulations of polarized light to create the illusion of pears floating in space. That photograph won "Best in Show" at the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts. He is a member of the Millburn-Short Hills Arts Center, Drew Art Association and the Art League of the Chathams. Andrew lives in Chatham, NJ with Mary his wife of many years. Their children and grandchildren keep them young.

Buildings


These subjects pretty much just stand there waiting to have their pictures taken. Most photogenic are structures with interesting cast shadows. Capturing better images usually means shooting at specific times of the day or maybe the year! Always shoot RAW. Head-on is usually boring, so try some different angles. Stay as far away as possible to minimize distortions. Madison, NJ, a town very near to where I live, has a wide assortment of interesting structures. All the images are from sites in New Jersey. These images have all been improved using HDRi and other techniques described in my book.

Vehicles


Old, beat-up, rusted cars, trucks, etc make great subjects. While traveling I never fail to see an abandoned vehicle in a field somewhere or in a used car graveyard. Unfortunately, like colorful barns, these photo possibilities are rapidly disappearing so grab your camera and get shooting. A good place to start is in an old-fashioned junkyard. Shoot with RAW and use HDRi and other techniques described in my book to give old vehicles a second life !

Vehicle Cubism


It is called cubism but maybe squarism would have been a more exact handle. Introduced in the early 1900’s independently by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque their abstract depictions relied more on imagination than a photographic rendering of subjects. Needing entries for a show we entitled Fabulous Fakes, I developed my pictures with the aid of a computer graphics program.

Flowers


Flowers provide a never-ending array of subjects to photograph. It pays to have "green thumb" friends like Ed Micone who are more than willing to let you traipse through their flower gardens as you seek the perfect shot. It is hard to be original here so you'll just have to settle for the sheer beauty. Water spray or a few bees does help add interest.

Scanner Art


We all think we were the first to elevate scanner (copier) photography to an art form. I could claim that title but I won't. A scanner, of course, has its own built-in travelling light source. But things become more interesting if you supplement that illumination of a three-dimensional object, such as a rose or two, with outside lights. I've used slide projectors, spotlights and growlamps, to name a few, for that purpose.

Polarizer Art


Nulling out surface reflections when photographing a frog in a pond requires a polarizer ... any old-timer will tell you that. And no amount of digital doodling will suffice. The captures shown here used polarizers in a somewhat different way. Visualize a light table covered with a sheet of polarizer material and a camera with a polarizer attached to the lens. Cross the axis of the polarizers and essentially no light will enter the camera during an exposure. But many objects can upset this sensitive balance so then begins the fun.

Golf


As a charter member of Fairmount Country Club located in Chatham, NJ I have had occasion to record the layout as it evolved over the years. Many of those images now hang in the clubhouse. Fall, as the trees, bushes and poison ivies turn to color, is an especially good time to walk a course looking for the perfect photo op. And do not forget how great things are after a snowfall.

Unusual


These images are part photography and part digital manipulation. I guess one just lets his or her imagination run wild and then sees what develops! There is a bit of Escher, a bit of Dali and a bit of Bobeck. I especially like my depiction of String Theory. And who could pass up a try at exploiting the properties of a Moebius Strip!

Miscellaneous


These images were captured with a collection of vintage Nikon film or modern Olympus or Sony digital cameras, then edited using the clever techniques of digital logic described in my book. Nostalgic is the image, "Mom's Machine," while "Agassi at the US Open" is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The "1921 Chatham Basketball Team" was a labor of love using digital editing techniques of photo restoration (read how in my book!) because colorization of the faded original image was labor intensive. "Train #2317" is a part photo, part digital construction. And so it goes. There are so many creative ways to improve photographic images. I hope you will try some of the ideas outlined in detail within my book.