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It could seem difficult de take a group photo.

Of course, you can always use the “school group photo” method et align everybody in two or three rows. The shorter guys in the first row (or seated), then several rows from shorter to taller. The last row of people could even stand on a bench.

As I do not like a lot this way of doing, I will advice you to take your photo from an high place. It will help to have a better point of view and you’ll be able to create a more creative alignment of the guys you are shooting.

If you are shooting a medium size group of people, you can align them and use a wide angle lens. Of course, do not create a strait line shape. It is better to have a shape that is like a M. Place on the center of the M (at the angle) the guy who is the most “important of the group”.

To take your photo from an high place, you could go on a balcony if you are taking your photo inside a building, or simply use a stepladder if your are shooting outside.

How to take great group photos - Use a stepladder

Place people regarding the shape you have choose, then use your wide angle lens to take your photo.

How to take great group photos - A group photo example

If you have a large group of people in front of you, be sure to have a light source that is coming from an high place (or you could reflect your light on a white roof) then place your group of people like a “rugby pack”, people should be shoulders against shoulders, in several tight rows, and you should not be able to see the ground. Then ask them to look at you.

Like for any portrait shoot, it is important to have people looking at you and having their eyes sharp.


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Introduction

In this post, we will use Argyll CMS and dispcalGUI to calibrate a monitor in Mac OSX.

Calibration goals

Monitor calibration is a must have for any photographer. The goal when you calibrate your monitor is to have color references known by everyone (humans and software), you will display “true” colors.

Each monitor is not equal regarding color rendition. For example, some monitors are able to display more color shades than others. Remember that monitor calibration is not magic: if your monitor has an average quality, the calibration will improve the displayed color but will not help to display colors that your monitor is not able to render.

Anyway, a calibrated monitor will help you a lot to know how the printed color will render.

Softwares

In this article, we are using two software (running Apple OSX 10.6.3):

  • Argyll CMS v1.1.1: download here. It is a free calibration software.
  • dispcalGUI v0.3.8.0: download here. It is a graphic user interface for Argyll CMS.

These two software are free and are also available for Microsoft Windows.

To use these software, you need a calibration device. I’m using a device provided with Monaco Optix XR that I bought few years ago. It is a X-Rite DTP 94. I have found Argyll CMS because the software provided in the Monaco Optix XR package is not working with Apple OSX 10.6… And I am happy to have found it because it is as powerful (but less easy to use) than other available software that cost more than 200$.

Calibration

First, install the software, following dispcalGUI quick setup guide.

Before starting the calibration process, your monitor must be turned on for at least 30 minutes, otherwise the color rendering will change before the screen is warm. You should also turn off your screen saver and your energy saving settings: you do not want to have you monitor or your computer turned off while the calibration process is running!

Launch dispcalGUI.

You can plug your calibration device, it will be automatically detected by dispcalGUI.

dispcalGUI

dispcalGUI, click on the image to see it larger

Define these settings in dispcalGUI:

  • Select “Photo” in the Settings combo on top, it is a good starting point for other parameters
  • Whitepoint: select 6500°K. If you have an high quality monitor (EIZO brand for example), you can select 5000°K.  This is the light temperature used in fine art exhibitions. It is also the best temperature to compare printed colors with your monitor colors. Nevertheless, 6500°K is supported by all monitors and provides a good color rendition.
  • White level: Other, 120cd/m². It is a good brightness if you are working in a room not too dark. If you are working in a dark room, define a White level of 100cd/m².
  • Do not change the black level (Minimal).
  • Gamma setting: 2.2. The default value is 2.4. After a reader sent me a comment regarding the default value of my EIZO monitor (2.2), I am now using this new value.
  • Black output offset: if you have a high quality monitor, set it to 0%, you will have a better dark color shades. Otherwise, use the default value of 100%.
  • Profile type: “Curves + Matrix”. If you are selecting a LUT profile (slightly better profile quality), Lightroom and Photoshop colors rendition could not match.
  • Testchart file: photo.

You are now ready to calibrate your monitor!

Click on “Calibrate and Profile”.

X-Rite DTP 94Center your device on top of the displayed window, like shown on the picture above. Then the process continues in a terminal window.

Argyll CMS menuUsing a LCD screen, we will use two options in Argyll CMS:

  • 2) White point: setting your monitor color temperature
  • 3) White level: setting your monitor brightness

Start by pressing 2 on your keyboard. Your calibration device will continuously calibrate your monitor. The goal is to have a DE close to 0 by changing your monitor color gains:

RGB Colors gainsIn this example, I have an almost perfect DE (0.1).

During your monitor setting, Argyll CMS helps you to find the color gains. For example R++ means that you must increase the red color gain. For information, on my EIZO S2410W, I can adjust color gains in this menu: “Color” > “Gain”.

The next step if the white level setting. Press 3 on your keyboard. The setting is easier to achieve than the white point setting. Argyll CMS displays the target brightness and the measured brightness. You have to increase or decrease your monitor brightness to reach the target (120).

If you cannot set the white point or the white level in your monitor, just skip the related menu option.

It is time to launch the calibration process. Press 7 on your keybord (Continue to calibration).

You have time to drink a coffee… It is a long process…

Once the calibration is done, you will be able to install your new profile. Before doing that, it is interesting to try the color rendition with your new profile versus your actual profile. You achieve that by selecting or deselecting the first option of the window (Preview calibration).

Conclusion

Your monitor is calibrated! If it is the first time you are working with a calibrated monitor, you will not like the rendered colors, because they are less saturated. It is normal as default settings for monitors renders highly saturated and contrasted colors to match TV rendition that are pleasing people. Once you will be used to your new calibrated monitor colors renditions, you will not be able to work again on an uncalibrated monitor!

Now, you have reference colors. That will helps you a lot for your prints.

Updates:

  • August 21th, 2010 : change of the gamma level value used.


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Introduction

When you are shooting sailing photography, you should not have 25 parameters to set before taking the photo, otherwise you will miss the photo!

So, you have to find settings that you will use during the whole race.

How many cameras ?

When I take pictures of sailing events, I always use two cameras (at the time I’m writing this article):

  • A Nikon D2X camera with a 70-200 lens for long distance photos
Championnat Grand Surprise - Thonon - Friday: Photo 22

Championnat Grand Surprise - Thonon - Friday: Photo 22

  • A Nikon D700 camera with a 24-70 lens for short distance photos
Critérium Surprise de Thonon - Sunday: Photo 37

Critérium Surprise de Thonon - Sunday: Photo 37

Having two cameras helps you to not miss a photo. You don’t have to change lenses to take a short or long distance photo: you just have to switch between two cameras. When you are taking photos during a sailing event, you are always switching between short and long distance photos.

Settings

Most of the time, you do not want to change these settings during the event. So, you have to find settings that will match your needs for most of the situations.

For long distance photos, I’m using these settings on the D2X:

  • Shutter priority mode: at least 1/1000 s (to change regarding amount of available light). When you are shooting a sailing event, most of the time you are also on a boat (that is moving). As you want a sharp picture, you have to minimize the exposition time to freeze the action. Furthermore, as boats are far, even if a small aperture is automatically selected, boats will be completely sharps.
  • Automatic ISO: on the D2X, I’m using ISO up to 400 to have a superb print quality. If you are selecting an higher ISO setting, the photo grain will be noticeable on the photo print.
  • White Balance setting according to the weather: This setting is not really important as I’m shooting RAW, that allows me to change the white balance in post-production. However, I am selecting a white balance according to the warmness I want in my photos to have less post-production work. Most of the time, I’m using a “cloudy” or “sunny” white balance for sailing photography.

For short distance photos, I’m using these settings on the D700:

  • Aperture priority mode: at least f/8. For short distance photos, I want a fully sharp boat. However, you have to check during the event that the shutter speed is not too slow. If it’s too slow, change to manual mode or shutter priority mode.
  • Automatic ISO: on the D700, I can easily use up to 800 ISO. When the weather is bad, I can use an higher setting without reducing the photos print quality.
  • White Balance setting according to the weather: same explanation than for short distance photos.
ISO 800 Photo example

ISO 800 Photo example

Conclusion

These settings are a starting point for you own settings. You will have to adapt them to your own cameras. Of course, during an event, you can change them to take a unique photo that you will have time to setup.

If you have one camera with one zoom, select the setting regarding how you will use the zoom: at short or long distance. If you will use both, select a shutter priority mode.