I recently stumbled upon Scott Robertson’s work. Scott is the Former Chair of Entertainment Design at the Art Center College of Design- Designer / Author / Educator / Co-Producer. What sparked my interest in particular was this lecture he gave on creating sources of inspiration. I want to share this lecture with you because I really enjoyed seeing his creative process.

Scott’s work is somewhat similar to what I’m starting to work on now. I haven’t spoken much about what I’m doing at the moment here on the blog but I’m definitely branching out from using just photography to create the images I want.

Scott combines his drawings with 3D models and other photographs and his lecture gave me a glimpse of the type of work you can do when you combine multiple mediums together. I’m not usually a big lecture fan but I bookmarked this one immediately after watching. Anyway, I’ll leave you with the video.

Hi Again,

I learned about a sneaky tick box in my Wacom Tablet preferences this week that may interest you. This tick box is called the “Force Proportions” tick box. I’ve seen this tick box before but have never paid much attention to it.

Most new computer displays are a widescreen 16:9 ratio that works wonderfully for viewing HD content. However, depending on your Wacom tablet’s surface area, you may get some distortion on your stylus inputs when they show up on a screen that is wider than your Wacom tablet. You may not notice this issue if you use just one monitor but you will definitely see some distortion if you use two monitors for double-wide display. When your display area is much wider than your tablet your tablet will squish and stretch your display area in order to fit it within the mapped area of your Wacom tablet causing this distortion.

To tell if your tablet is distorting your display to fit within your tablet area just draw a circle on your tablet. If your circle comes out as an oval every single time on your display in Photoshop then you know you have this problem. I’ve made a rough sketch to illustrate this distortion.

Tablet-Distortion-Example

 

When I noticed this problem I was confused for a few minutes because I don’t normally edit on a double-wide display but the easy fix is to check the “Force Proportions” tick box in your Wacom preferences. What this tick box does is it makes your mapped tablet area match the same aspect ratio of your display. With this box checked you should get no distortion on your inputs. The tradeoff is that the force proportions tick box may change the Wacom’s mapped area to something other than what you’re used to because it now locked to the ratio of your display but I think it’s a small price to pay in order to have your stylus inputs accurately represented on screen.

Tablet-Display-Proportional

This is a tricky problem that you might not notice right away but if you do any detailed Photoshop work like digital painting you should keep the “Force Proportions” tick box in mind when you sit down at a new workstation or if you are thinking about using two or more monitors.

-Alex

Hello again, I’m back to blow the dust off the blog and get things moving again. I’ve been very busy and very sick the past few months, it’s quite the long story but I’m happy to say I’m feeling like myself again. Let’s look at 10 things I accomplished in 2015.

Finished On-Campus Schoolwork at College

I’m officially off campus for good. I am on course to graduate from school in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Media with a double concentration in Photography and Professional Communication. This last semester I had to assemble a printed portfolio of my work for the required Comm-Media internship this spring. Your professors review your work and try to place you at an internship site to help you hit the ground running. I didn’t have too much trouble with any of that stuff but I’m just a Nervous Nellie. I’ll be starting my internship soon and I am very excited. Senioritis was starting to set in this semester, I’m definitely sick of sitting in a classroom learning as fast as the slowest person in the room. The classroom setting has its place, but I find I can learn a lot faster on my own my own. Everyone is different.

Shot over 8,000 Images for the Theater Program

I was the company photographer for my college theater program this past semester. I shot over 8,000 images across a 6-week production period for our play Noises Off. The stage manager and I also organized a weekend of headshot sessions with the entire cast of the play of over a dozen members. It was a ton of photographing and looking back it was more than I probably should have done given the circumstances so this is a big accomplishment. I added some of the new headshots to my headshot gallery on my website.

Mastered the Print Room

In 2015, I had my work-study position with the photo department moved from the photo lab to the print room. The print room at school is regarded by many as a mysterious and frustrating space because there isn’t a class you can take that includes a good introduction to the print room and all its digital machines. So, unless you have a photo you need to print for an exhibition or a portfolio, you may never actually need to set foot in the print room to learn how to use it. Unfortunately, for most students, the print room is intimidating and difficult to use when it shouldn’t be. That’s where I come in.

The work-study student is supposed to maintain the print room and help students print. I learned, by necessity and because I’m a perfectionist, how to maintain and operate all the printers in the print room. It doesn’t actually sound like I did a lot but you would be surprised how many students don’t have a clue where to begin. I’m glad I could be there to alleviate some of the stress that comes with walking into a room you know nothing about. I learned a lot about digital printing this semester and I found Jeff Schewe’s book The Digital Print to be of some use as well.

Survived My Ulcerative Colitis Flare

I’ve had Ulcerative Colitis since 2014 and this past semester I had the worst flare-up I’ve ever had. I lost 35lbs in just a couple of months, landed myself in the hospital and had to finish school from home. I’ve been back and forth to the doctor’s a lot the past few months and I’m now almost completely back to normal. I can’t overstate how ridiculously insane and slow the process has been but I’m just happy that I feel fine now. I made a new blog just for talking about Ulcerative Colitis where I’m going to retell my saga if you’d like to sign up for that.

Had My First Kidney Stone

I had my first kidney stone the other day on 12/30/15. Yikes. I wanted to put this on the list of accomplishments because I had just gotten over the whole thing with UC. It would be just my luck to get slammed by a kidney stone. Really? Come on. Glad that’s over.

Started Eating Healthy

Now that I’m home from school I’ve been able to control exactly what ingredients get put into my food. I can make all-natural everything from scratch. This has been a very necessary change for me in 2015 and it’s not that difficult to do. Although, after being on a clear liquid diet for 8 days through Thanksgiving and after only eating toast and rice for two weeks I can’t say I had a lot of desire to go back to eating fried foods. Get yourself a rice cooker. If mine broke tomorrow I would buy another one, they’re that good.

New Writing Projects

in 2015, I started a new blog called The Film Castle where I review films and stuff like that. I’ll be blowing the dust off of that blog in a few days. I also started my UC blog and I’m brainstorming up some ideas for a book or two.

Drawing

Lately, I’ve been drawing like mad. I recently realized the value of drawing for a person like me who is already into photography. Being able to draw out an image before picking up the camera is going to be worth its weight in gold because it will eliminate so much guesswork. There are a million other reasons why drawing is great but I’ll put them in another post soon.

Cinema 4D

I bought Maxon’s Cinema 4D software this past summer and it has opened up a whole new world of exploring for me. There is so much that goes into the CG work you see in motion pictures today and I spent much of my time last summer learning about that. Learning 3D software also gives me another avenue to a sustainable career outside of photography in some ways. For instance, I made a post a few months ago about IKEA and how their catalog is now 75% CG and that really moved me to start learning 3D software. I don’t think 3D will ever completely replace photography but it certainly has become more efficient and cost-effective in some areas of work.

My First Published Photoshop Tutorial

I wrote my first tutorial for www.PhotoshopTutorials.ws a few weeks ago and it is set to publish on their site on January 7th. I’ve written a lot of explanations and tutorials here on my blog but I thought this would be of significance because it’ll be published on a website other than mine that gets a good amount of traffic. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Thanks for reading.

-Alex

I’m starting to get into all my back to school routines this week, one if which is monitor calibration. At school I edit on my Macbook Pro but at home I usually just use my desktop monitor. So for most of the summer, and most of the time that I’m home, I don’t edit using my laptop’s display. I figured this week would be as good as any to calibrate my laptop screen again since I haven’t used it in a while and I ran into a couple of things which I’ll explain in a minute.

I’d just like to pause here and quickly explain for those of you that are unaware about calibrating your display. A computer monitor fresh out of the box will probably look great to the naked eye (which is why you bought it). The colors may look fine to you but they’re probably not even close to accurate when referenced against targets built into calibration software. Now, you could say, “Well I can just eyeball it right?” No, your eyes are not to be trusted AT ALL for “eyeballing” the color on your display. When you walk into a dark room from outside notice how your eyes adjust so that everything doesn’t look dark anymore? Or if you light a candle in a room, the room doesn’t seem that yellow/red but it is a lot more yellow/red than you realize. Your eyes adjust to whatever environment you’re in so it’s important to use some hardware/software combination to calibrate your monitor for you and ensure you are getting accurate color on screen. Initially it may look wrong or broken to you but that’s just because you’re used to looking at an uncalibrated display and often the first calibration is a big jump in the right direction. Anyway, buy a colorimeter from Datacolor (Spyder Series), or X-Rite (Colormunki/ i1 Display) and thank me later. They all do roughly the same thing so you have some options.

If you do some googling or talk to most any visual artist they’ll tell you that editing on a laptop screen is probably the worst type of display you could do any color critical work on. A lot of this has to do with the laptop display’s ability (or any display’s ability) to represent the full gamut of colors present in different color spaces. Most notably, AdobeRGB and sRGB color spaces. We’re not going to get into color spaces today because I think most people, most displays, and most printed work hasn’t suffered much from not being able to showoff the entire AdobeRGB color gamut.

I’ve never heard anyone print out one of their photos and say something like, “Crap, this picture doesn’t have as many colors from the AdobeRGB color gamut as I wish it had.” Depending on the picture it’s likely that it wouldn’t have a full rainbow of colors in it unless the picture was actually a rainbow or something. If you notice any BIG color discrepancies between your image on screen and your printed image it probably has something to do with using the correct ICC profile for your printer, paper and ink about 9/10 times. Again, this is another topic for a different day but I wanted to mention it because a lot of people will attribute a problem to the wrong thing. I’m saying that creating accurate color on a laptop display is a lot easier and more obvious than all of those things.

Realistically, the big downfall of laptop displays and the software that calibrates them is that the brightness (Luminance) is variable. You can always change the brightness of your laptop screen at the push of a button which you probably wouldn’t do nearly as often on a desktop display. Brightness on any display is measured by candela per square metre (cd/m2) which is the International System of Unit’s unit of measurement for Luminance.

As a rule of thumb most monitor calibration devices will recommend a brightness setting of about 120 cd/m2 to start. This is based off the International Standard: ISO 12646:2004 Graphic technology – Displays for colour proofing – Characteristics and viewing conditions which states, “The chromaticity of the display should be set to D50. The luminance level should be as high as practical but shall be at least 80cd/m2 and should be at least 120cd/m2. The black point shall have a luminance that is less than 1% of the maximum luminance.” which I found for reference here instead of purchasing myself a copy. Also you should take into account the lighting conditions of the room you are working in. Editing outside in broad daylight or near a bright window isn’t a good idea. Usually just having a low light setting is good, but again, it depends. If you really want to get picky you could work in a room that’s completely painted floor to ceiling in 18% gray reflectance paint with no windows and only wear black or gray clothes when you’re editing. This is the real world though and you’d probably want to kill yourself before doing any of that.

Ok, so the next big question here is “How do I get my laptop to calibrate specifically to 120 cd/m2?” The answer being, for example with my Datacolor SpyderPRO 3 software, is simply to change the default brightness target from the Laptop preset which is whatever the native laptop brightness is (this is what we don’t want because there’s no way to measure this against a target unit of brightness in the software) and change it to the standard LCD preset which is 120 cd/m2.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.08.09 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 12.52.18 PM

So now during your laptop’s calibration sequence (For this example in the SpyderPRO 3 software) it will pause at one point to allow you to change your brightness and match it as closely as possible to 120 cd/m2. If you’ve calibrated a desktop monitor before you’ve run into this step in the process where it makes you change the monitor brightness to match the target. This might be different in other software.

For some reason in the SpyderPRO 3 software it recommends that you use the native laptop brightness when really it should treat your laptop screen just like standard desktop LCD and calibrate to the industry standard brightness. I’m recommending that you do whatever you have to do in your software to make sure that you calibrate to 120 cd/m2 and make sure it stays that way. It’s also a good idea to recalibrate every week or two after your monitors warm up for fifteen minutes.

Just before I did this whole process my laptop brightness was set to half brightness (which was WAY under the 120 cd/m2 target at around 40 cd/m2) and there was a big difference between my laptop screen’s brightness and color VS. my desktop monitor which was already at 120 cd/m2. This hasn’t been a problem for me until now because I have only used my desktop monitor all summer but now that I’ve recalibrated both displays to 120 cd/m2 they are extremely close to each other if I use a picture for reference on both displays.

Now that your laptop is all calibrated and the brightness is set correctly you should probably make sure that you don’t accidentally change the brightness and screw up your calibration. I found that 120cd/m2 was not directly on one of the bubbles on the mac brightness and I had to change it in the System Prefs. Still though you could hit the brightness options on your keyboard, so how do you avoid doing that?

I wanted to find a program or something that would take a sort of screen shot of my laptop screen brightness so that I could come back to it if I ever had to change it, but I didn’t really find much. I did however, find this little program called “Function Flip” what this allows you to do is to instead of disabling all the brightness/volume F-keys like you can in the System Preferences on the Mac, Function Flip allows you to selectively turn some of your F-keys back to just F-keys and not a brightness adjustment. So it should look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.48.56 PM

Now I won’t accidentally change my monitor brightness from bumping the brightness key on my keyboard. You can also set it to start up at Login so you don’t have to try and remember every time.

This is kind of a bush-league way of keeping track of your brightness but I just screen shotted it in the system preferences so that I at least have a picture to reference roughly where my brightness is should I ever actually need to change it and can’t recalibrate that same day.

Anyway, that’s about it. I’m kind of boggled I didn’t pick up on this earlier. Don’t set your laptop brightness to some arbitrary brightness, try and set it to an international standard of 120cd/m2 and watch your room’s lighting conditions and you’ll be fine.

See you next time

-Alex

P.S.

Looks like I’ll be writing about ICC profiles, soft-proofing and color gamuts in a couple future posts because I also ran into some stuff with that recently that you might be interested in reading about.

As an artist I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching, listening and analyzing media from outside of the world of photography. But there’s so much “stuff” to consume now in the digital age that it’s amazing anything even sticks with us. Somehow we manage to find the movies and the music we love even though we are surrounded by advertisements for everything all the time.

How do you discern between two pieces of art or music or whatever it is when both things are created to perfection? On an even playing field, how do you decide what song you like more? Well, you probably almost always pick out the thing that you have an emotional response to. You probably always pick something up off the shelf at the store because you like how it makes you feel.

If you’re like me then I bet you have some emotional response to all of your favorite things. Let me give you some examples.

I played Skyrim the other day and I remembered it’s one of my favorite games because it’s so epic and endless that it makes every other game look unfinished.

steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_433341822_preview

Granted, I will say that the developers at Bethesda Game Studios spent years and years and years bringing this game to a fine polish in a way that not a lot of other game studios can even afford to do. It just has this epic quality to it that really pulls everything together and adds this extra level of realism and depth and a mood that you can only get from mixing a bunch of different things together. You can’t really point at any one aspect of this game and say “well, it’s great because the textures all look really nice” no that’s not it. That’s part of it but definitely not the whole thing.

For Skyrim it’s the time period, the vikings, the axes, swords, dragons, magical spells, traps, dungeons, the changing of the weather and feeling that every NPC in the game has a story of their own and that they have just as much purpose and weight in the game as the player does. There are no seams, when you play this game you feel like you are completely immersed like a dream you can’t leave. Everything in Skyrim holds up against the close prying eye of the player. The devil is in the details and the details deliver.

There’s a difference between being able to create something visually stunning and being able to also capture a specific mood or a specific feeling and have it translate to the viewer. Bethesda has done exactly that with Skyrim and it’s something not a lot of artists can do well. My favorite thing and biggest challenge in art is making something beautiful that doesn’t just make you feel something but makes you feel the same thing every single time. That’s why we play the same games over and over or watch the same movies or listen to music right? Because we like the way it makes us feel. That’s why we remember some things but not other things and how we find the things we love despite having a million different choices.

Blizzard Entertainment’s dungeon crawler RPG Diablo II is also a very good example of a game being able to capture a mood and deliver it to a player. D2 is perhaps one of the most atmospheric, dark, creepy, epic games of its time. I love cloudy, rainy disgusting days because of this game. It’s extremely difficult to put into words exactly the feeling I get from this game but it’s there every time I sit down to play and still inspires me to this day as I progress with my own art.

wall2-1152x864

You know you’ve done something right if your game or your art/music can force someone to not only be in your shoes but also feel the way you intended them to feel. Not a single dark cloudy day goes by where I don’t think “it’s looking very diablo 2 out today.” I’m so far beyond excited to continue my next big project which is almost wholly inspired by Diablo 2.

I think I’ve also mentioned Lord of The Rings in another post but I’ll mention it here too. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies have this same immersive epic effect that I’ve found in these games. To watch these films though you have to make sure you turn your phone off and give the film your undivided attention or else you lose the illusion. Just like if you’re at a theater production and someone comes in through the side door halfway into the performance. You remember you’re not really where the play is taking place and it takes probably about ten or fifteen minutes to regain your suspension of disbelief.

gandalf-720x1065

Peter Jackson could’ve made Lord of the Rings into one film but he didn’t because he knew it would’ve lost something. You just can’t capture the vastness of a story like that in one go. By the time Frodo ditches the ring at Mt. Doom (spoilers) you really feel how he feels, like it has taken forever and it’s been difficult but they did it. If the trilogy was only an hour and a half it would not have seemed like it took a year for them to finish their quest, it would’ve felt like a few weeks at best.

For me, this is what drives my love of art. Anyone can make something that looks good but it might not elicit an emotional response. Some artists just want to make something to make something. How something looks and feels and sounds is all part of the artist’s intention. You can make whatever you want.

I love the stuff in between, not so hot and not so cold. Art that feels like something about fall and winter that you can’t quite put your finger on but it’s there staring you right in the face. That thing that makes you do a double take. For stills in particular, although I have complete free reign over everything you see, I don’t have the benefit of sound or developing a story over time (at least not in one single picture anyway). But it’s all part of the fun, part of the challenge and part of the boundaries and limitations of my medium and I enjoy it for what it is.

 

Hi again, it’s been quite a while since my last blog post.  For about the past month and a half or so I’ve been working on getting some new product shots together for my portfolio. Yesterday was the last day of finalizing edits and uploading my favorites to the website. Check out my Product Shots page for some new images, I’ll also link a few here in the post.

Product Shot- Belt
Today I’ll be reviewing this project and talking about the process I went through to get from my planning stages all the way to the final product shots. I have a feeling this post might be kind of a long one.

Back in early April/May I was starting to think about what I wanted to try and accomplish for myself this summer. Usually what I find happens when I have a large block of free time is I’ve really only planned my schedule a week or two out. The summer then just becomes more and more of waste of time and then at the end of it I wonder what happened.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I work best with lists and calendars. For short term goals my head usually magically fills up with stuff I want to do right before going to bed so I write them down in my phone and look at them first thing in the morning to remind myself what I have to do. Some people can just wake up and think “okay I have to do this, this, and this” I can’t really do that. If I try to get up and just think of something to do I draw a blank, my head doesn’t work like that in the morning.

Doing this long project with product shots was interesting because I’ve never really had to habituate on one mindset for so long. I’m used to doing one or two conceptual images and calling it a day and moving onto a different idea. I think the most time I’ve ever spent on one picture was about a week off and on. I knew going into this first project that I wanted to do three projects and conveniently I had all of June, July and August to do it (Minus time for portraits/headshots/client projects). I mapped out each week of summer in word document so there were 15 weeks with two product shots and two conceptual images a week. This format worked really well for figuring out what I needed to buy/borrow for supplies and products before I even started shooting.

The shot list looks like this: Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.26.22 AM

You can add more or less information depending on what you’re trying to do. For me, having any type of list or outline is a huge help compared to having nothing.

I shot the first eight or ten product shots in the first week and decided that since I was in that zone it would just be faster for me to shoot all the products first and get into a groove doing that before shooting or editing anything else. It seemed easier to me at the time to do it that way all at once especially since I don’t have the largest studio space to work with.

I photographed every product on this little product table from Amazon. Despite a lot of the negative reviews it has worked amazingly for me, I’m also not trying to break it down and set it up every single day on-location somewhere. I can imagine the difficulty of trying to make this table portable but for sixty bucks it is nice to have your own designated product table.

Towards the end of shooting 30 product shots it definitely got kind of monotonous. It’s also important for me to differentiate here that if I wanted to do 30 product shots I could’ve easily done them in a day if I wanted them all to look the same, with the same lighting and backdrop but I don’t think that looks good for a portfolio. For portfolio pieces (and unfortunately pretty much everything I photograph) I like to take the time to make it as perfect as possible. To me it’s sort of stupid to go through all the trouble of shooting something only to go halfway with it. You might as well take your time shooting. Take your time editing. Obviously if you never finish anything then you’re taking too much time but still, take a reasonable amount of time and put the effort in. A lot of people will disagree with me but my argument is that it’s your photograph, it’s your work, other people are going to judge your skill level based on your work so go ahead and make the best work you can. I cringe when people ask me to send them “all the photos” or say “you don’t even have to edit them” don’t give in to those people, make them wait for the finished product.

Product Shot- Lamp
I finished shooting all 30 products around June 10th and started editing the following weekend. The reason I was able to acquire so many products is largely because I love going to thrift stores and buying a million things for five bucks. The caveat to my method here at the beginning of the project was that I knew I was going to have to edit a lot more on thrifted items as opposed to buying something brand new. If you have a ton of money you can go ahead and spend all sorts of money on stuff just to shoot it but I decided to throw a little more time towards the backend of this project and save a little money upfront.

I did end up spending a significant amount of time editing. I was planning on it but just me being the way I am I always go a little nuts with the healing and clone stamp tools on things like dust and scratches. Most people would probably have never even seen a lot of the dust and stuff if I left them in there because of things like image resolution and viewing sizes on the web. Unless I give you the option somewhere on my website or on Flickr you’d probably never otherwise be able to get up close and look at every little detail. However, editing all that little stuff gives me peace of mind because it would’ve bugged me if I left dust in my pictures. I also plan on printing a lot of these images out in a printed portfolio and I’d rather not realize while I’m clicking print that, “gee, I probably should’ve edited all these little tiny things out.” So I guess the amount of time spent on editing would’ve happened sooner or later anyway and I hate going back and changing an image months after I’ve called it finished.

The reason I liked doing all the shooting first and all the editing second was that I got to establish a rhythm setting up and breaking down all my equipment. I can do it now almost without thinking about it. I also got to edit all the images together at the same time and make sure they didn’t all look identical. I think if I had finalized each image one by one without looking at them all together I could’ve just made them look too similar without realizing it. Doing things this way allowed me to choose between all 30 images and decide which ones would look better together and not waste as much time editing images I was never going to use. You’ll notice I didn’t actually upload 30 new product shots to my website and that’s because I narrowed down the 30 I shot to my favorite dozen or so images. In the future, on the next project, I’m not going to shoot everything and then edit everything. Now that I’ve tried that method it’s a little extreme. Taking a happy medium would’ve been better. Shooting a few things and making some edits sooner, like within the same week, before finishing the shooting period would’ve given me more of an opportunity to go back and reshoot or shoot something else entirely. Starting the editing earlier would’ve helped make the daunting task of “okay now I have to edit 30 product shots” a little less daunting.

Product Shot- Wine Bottle

I would’ve liked to finish 30 product shots and upload 30 product shots but you can always kind of tell when you’re going through things that some images stick out more than others. Some products get cut because I shot two of the same type of product and picked the better of the two. Some stuff just clearly doesn’t look that good. I don’t think shooting a stapler was the best idea because it’s still just a boring old stapler no matter how I light it. At the end of the day when I’m looking at my work I’d rather have quality over quantity, that’s why I didn’t put nearly half of the products I shot in my portfolio. Still though, I ended up tripling the amount of product shots on my website. I feel much more comfortable now saying, “Yes, I do product photography” and I do stand behind my work, that’s the point of doing a project like this.

It’s more important for me to feel confident in my work than it is to have a million pictures online. I like that I don’t have many images from class assignments on my website. I try to show that I do spend most of my time trying to improve my work by doing things on my own and creating my own projects set with my own goals.

As for the next project I don’t really want to talk about it too much right now but I am excited to finally have some closure on this first set of images and move on to something else. After a month and a half of working on a bunch of product shots I definitely got obsessive about it, which initially is kind of a good thing. I wanted to make sure I picked a project that would be challenging while still pulling some great work out of it and I think I did that.

Until next time

-Alex

The other day I was printing some photographs and noticed when looking closely that there were some cut lines across one of my images.

Bicubic Automatic

An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Nearest Neighbor Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

Interpolation is something that, for the most part, goes unnoticed in Photoshop. I didn’t think too much of it either until I started seeing this jagged edge problem on a couple different photos. Normally I would disregard an issue like this as a resolution or an anti-aliasing problem but the lines are too uniform across the entire image for either to be the case.

As it turns out it is the Free Transform and Ruler tools that cause these lines because they use interpolation to perform their operations. In Photoshop’s default settings the interpolation method for all tools is set to Bicubic Automatic so you shouldn’t ever run into this problem unless your settings get changed. I won’t go into detail on all the interpolation methods that Photoshop has to offer but essentially what interpolation does is create or delete pixels depending on whether you want to size an image up or down from its original size. Interpolation also plays a part in rotating images which is why this issue is hard to find an answer for online. Interpolation is usually just associated with sizing images up or down but not rotating images.

After going through each of the interpolation options and trying a few free transforms I figured out that it’s the Nearest Neighbor (Preserve Hard Edges) interpolation option that causes this jagged edge problem after a free transform rotation or straighten with the ruler tool. The solution is simply to change your image interpolation setting back to Bicubic Automatic if it’s been changed which is what happened to my interpolation settings at some point without realizing it. To change your interpolation settings you can go to your Preferences in Photoshop by hitting Command+K (Mac) or Control+K (PC) and changing them in the Image Interpolation drop down menu under the General section.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 11.27.02 PM

You can also change your interpolations settings on the fly when you are using the Free Transform tool (Command+T) by using the drop down menu on the Free Transform options bar at the top of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 12.13.06 AM

Here is the same image from the beginning of the post rotated with the Bicubic Automatic interpolation setting

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An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Bicubic Automatic Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

 

Notice the lack of vertical lines in this crop. This problem shouldn’t ever occur while editing a digital image because it is digital. There will certainly be artifacts while upscaling an extremely small image to become billboard size but in a relatively small rotation like this there should not be so many artifacts, or at least not out of a file from a DSLR.

Until next time!

-Alex

Hello again,

it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here on the blog. I’ve been busy with school and a few big projects. I also have one of my photographs in Boston right now at the PRC which I’m very excited about (check my instagram for the info).

Anyway, I’m here to explain an updated data backup strategy that I put into place today. I’m a big fan of saving multiple copies of your work. As a photographer it is crucial to have a system in place here that works well and fits your budget as it would be very counter intuitive to spend all sorts of money on equipment and overlook the data management itself.

I like gear as much as the next guy, I would love to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of camera equipment but if I lose all the pictures I took then what’s the point? It doesn’t matter that you shot a Hasselblad with a digital back, those files are still just as vulnerable to a dead/stolen/lost hard drive as images that are shot on a phone or point and shoot Kodak. One of my biggest fears is having to give money back to a client because of images lost after a shoot. It completely undermines your reputation as professional if you can’t also handle and backup your data safely and effectively. Having said that I’m sure there will still be plenty of people who lose work because of some overlooked issue or mishap.

I’ve grown to actually enjoy purchasing hard drives although I know for most people it is a chore and nothing more than a necessary evil. You can do the bare minimum here if you want but there’s really no reason not to have at least a couple hard drives to backup your work considering how cheap they are these days. A 1TB external hard drive from Amazon runs about $55 which is such a great price.

Ok let’s get right into things. Let me explain my original setup that I used since I got my Macbook Pro in 2012. This is the setup I recommend to most people as it works very well until your hard drive fills up (which is what I’ve had to deal with the last few weeks and I’ll get into my new setup in a few minutes). I made a neat little diagram to show you.

Hard-Drive-diagram-1

This is possibly the most basic setup with redundancy you can have that doesn’t also include cloud storage. Cloud storage like Dropbox is great for delivering images to clients but not so much for backing up terabytes of RAW images which is what this setup is good for. You have two hard drives- One which holds all of your media and one that backs up that hard drive and the computer. In our diagram “External Drive A” holds all the media and “Time Machine Backup A” corresponds to “External Drive A” and the computer. For this type of setup it does not really matter what you name your drives if you know you’ll only ever use one external drive as your main storage drive and one hard drive to back it all up. For the next setup though it becomes a lot more important to have a consistent naming structure for your hard drives because they can get hard to keep track of otherwise. I would recommend changing the hard drive name in finder to something like “Drive A” or “External Drive 1” or whatever naming structure you’d like as soon as you take it out of the box and plug it in for the first time. It will save some time later on.

I found that after about three years my “External Drive A” in the diagram was getting full. So now what? I feel like this is where things can get a little murky for some people because the next step up from this diagram could be a multitude of things. There are so many options for buying hard drives what do you buy? Luckily there are enough hard drive options today to make your backup strategy scalable and affordable. I’ve been using the Western Digital My Passport Ultra external hard drives a lot recently and I love them. If you don’t know what to get and need more space those are a great option and I haven’t ever had issues with them (but I also take very good care of my equipment). They are also cheap enough to purchase in pairs of two which is great so you’ll have two more terabytes of space and another two terabytes to back it up. If you need all of these hard drives plugged in at once then a USB 3.0 Hub is also probably something you might want to look into buying.

One of my main points I wanted to keep in mind while adding more data storage to this diagram was not also having to lug around more hard drives with me. I love just being able to take one small hard drive with my photos and going to a shoot, shooting tethered right into Lightroom and calling it a day. I don’t want to have to keep track of what hard drive to bring with me and when, I just wanted one hard drive to work off of while I’m away.

I came up with this.

Hard-Drive-Explanation-2

What’s happening here is the same thing as the first diagram except that instead of storing all your pictures on “Drive A” you only keep your current year’s photos on “Drive A” to take with you wherever and move the rest to “Drive B” which has its own “Time Machine Backup B” drive to back it up separately from “Drive A”. This system works well because I rarely find that I need to have pictures from two years ago on-hand all the time. So essentially once the year is over, I’m done with those images and they’re really just taking up prime real estate on my “Drive A” that would otherwise be free space to shoot more photos. So all I have to do is move my previous year’s photos over to “Drive B” and back it up with Time Machine. This secondary “Drive B” doesn’t need to get backed up nearly as often because the files on it aren’t changing until “Drive A” fills up again. After a while if “Drive B” fills up all I have to do is buy another two Passport Ultras from Western Digital and move photos from “Drive B” over to the newly purchased “Drive C” and “Backup C” (not pictured). This method also saves me from losing all of my work if I lose “Drive A” when I’m out and about because it only has the current year’s images on it. Even then, “Drive A” is backed up so we’re still fine.

There are a couple other things I wanted to point out here too. Lightroom references and keeps track of multiple hard drives that you have attached. For example, you’ll notice in this screen shot of the folders panel in the Library module in Lightroom that I don’t have “Drive B” connected right now but Lightroom still knows what pictures in the catalog are on that hard drive. This is helpful once you start using multiple hard drives need to know what data is on what drive.

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I would also recommend color coding your drives with tape or labeling them with a P-touch labeler so you can easily pick the right hard drive to connect to your computer.

In terms of actually transferring files between hard drives, at least with images you can do so within Lightroom by just dragging the folder over to a different hard drive. I didn’t do it this way for a big move like this because it was a lot of data and I also wanted to stop using my main external “Drive A” as the drive I take with me everywhere. The new “Drive A” I put into place is 2TB as opposed to the previous 1.5TB which will give me a little more on-the-go space. Using my older hard drive as the secondary “Drive B” works well in this case because it doesn’t move around too much or get used that often anymore but is still useful for this setup. I was just getting a weary of still using it as a hard drive to work off of because I’ve used it constantly for the last three years and I’d rather work off a nice fresh drive instead.

I just used Finder to copy all the files over to the new hard drive. This way, by using copy I won’t lose or corrupt data if the computer shuts down in the middle of copying or something else happens because this much stuff takes a long time to transfer. Then to update Lightroom with the correct locations of the images you can just right click on the folder you want to tell Lightroom to reference from the new hard drive and click on “Update Folder Location” and pick the same folder. This “Update Folder Location” method is perfect for how we used finder to copy all the data over because we have an exact copy of Lightroom’s folder on the second hard drive. For any smaller moves that are only a couple gigabytes I would just drag them around in Lightroom.

So that’s about it for today. I just wanted to share my new file management setup with you because I know I had no idea what to do when my hard drive filled up. A lot of places online make you think that if you run out of space you need to buy one big huge 6TB drive, which you can absolutely do, but I think for the time being it might be better if you’re on a budget to increase your hard drive space incrementally as needed and that’s what this setup does.

-Alex

The other day I decided I would do a little (early) spring cleaning on some things. I wanted to clear out my Twitter feed a little bit because I was following almost 2,000 people which can get overwhelming. Every few seconds Twitter tells me that there are 40 or 100 new tweets and I couldn’t possibly get through them all. To my surprise I was able to find a website called Tweepi to help me handle this.

Tweepi analyzes your twitter account and lets you quickly scan through all your followers and people that you follow. You can also see some useful information using Tweepi that you can’t quickly see on Twitter. For instance, Tweepi let’s you see when the most recent tweet was of pretty much anyone on your Twitter account, so I was able to unfollow people who hadn’t tweeted anything or created any new content in years. Why bother? It’s not like I’m missing out on anything. I cleared out over 600 people I was following that had not tweeted anything in over a month/year(s) to make space for me to follow new people. So if you think you might be following a lot of crappy twitter accounts, go ahead and unfollow them easily on Tweepi.

*A side note: you may think you can just follow an almost infinite number of people on twitter but this is actually not the case. Unless you have about 2,000 followers or more, you are limited to following about 2,000 people until you get more followers to maintain a 1:1 ratio. So it’s very important who you decide to follow because, most people can only follow so many. 

Also in my search to become a Twitter power-user I found this browser extension called Buffer. What this extension does is it allows you to link up your social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and schedule posts to be shared automatically at a set time across all the platforms that you enable. You can schedule posts for specific times or setup a queue to post throughout the day. This is so convenient, scheduled posting is one of my favorite features from WordPress and Blogger that doesn’t really exist, or at least isn’t built in, for apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram until now.

The browser extension for Buffer has a pretty seamless integration into the top right corner of your browser and underneath social media posts.  If you’d like to add a post to your queue or schedule one without leaving the page you can do so at the click of a button.

 

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Then you can visit your queue by clicking on the buffer icon on the top right section of the page (right next to AdBlockPlus which I would also recommend if you don’t like watching youtube ads.) From there you can shuffle or reorder your queued and scheduled posts or even make a new one to share to all your social media handles.

 

 

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Buffer is free to use but some features like the queued posting is limited to only about a handful of posts unless you pay a monthly fee. Still though, it’s a great tool to use if you find a lot of cool content all at once and would rather share it over a few days than post it all at once.

 

-Alex

Hi again and thanks for all the birthday wishes, I appreciate it. I don’t have too much planned for celebrations this year other than maybe cranking the iTunes library a little bit louder than usual and eating a few more peanut M&Ms at my desk.

Taylor Swift- Blank Space

Back when I was in elementary school around about 4th grade we had an assembly. At the assembly there was a couple of people with a whole bunch of music equipment. The purpose of the assembly was to get kids from my grade interested in the band program because this was, for whatever reason, when they wanted to start to teach kids a musical instrument. I signed up for the percussion section of the school band.

My brother had already been playing guitar for a while at this point and I can confidently say that I was present for each and every one of his performances (whether I wanted to or not). He played in various music ensembles for what I remember as the majority of my childhood under the direction of man named Bill Egan from the Bill Egan’s CD Workshop program. The bands would practice every week up in a room behind the South Shore Music corner store and after a few months they had a final sort of Battle of The Bands-type performance. This was great because we got to see what the other bands had been practicing over the past few months, some were better than others but it was fun to watch nonetheless.

I don’t think there are any recordings of it anywhere but at one of these performances a group of kids did a very STOMP-esque performance like this:

I remember being in awe the entire time and afterwards I knew I wanted to play drums.

I started taking private drums lessons not soon after and once the music program was offered at school I took advantage of it. I had fun but It was a lot for a kid in the 4th grade, I had to carry around this extremely heavy xylophone bag to an in-school band practice at 1 o’clock in the afternoon every Wednesday. Then I came back to class and would get to do all the work I missed in that hour for homework that night. This hour got moved to an after school event after a while from 3 to 4pm. Every Thursday night from 6-8pm I would bring my own snare drum to the high school to practice in the concert band again. At the same time, my private drum lessons down at South Shore Music were on Tuesday evenings at 5pm for a half hour before being moved to Wednesday and I think even Mondays at one point.

Once middle school came I was able to drum in the marching band and the jazz band so I did. In middle school we didn’t have a band seminar period yet so one of the art or music classes would be replaced with a band practice on a rotating schedule from C days to E days. Then I would go back to the classes I missed on the off days and pickup any work I missed and do it for homework. Jazz band practiced on Thursday nights at the middle school after the middle school concert band practiced. Every time there was a parade that the middle school marching band could march in we did.

I debated playing drums in high school for a little bit but ultimately I ended up doing it. I didn’t know if I would be able to swing taking high school classes and also handle all the stuff going on with band. The high school band schedule was even a little more hectic than before except now we had a band seminar period designated for the concert band practices so no one had to be pulled out of class. Every Thursday from 6-8pm we would don the marching band equipment yet again but this time practice a field show to play during halftime at all the home games for the Football season. I still don’t think I’ve been to a high school football game where I wasn’t also playing drums in the stands and in the field show. I spent a lot of time in the cold with my band friends. We would march in every parade often two or three miles at a time in full uniform with drum harnesses on.

I stopped playing in the jazz band because I was late for being early to a concert one night and I was told I couldn’t play. It was kind of upsetting at the time but I really wasn’t that into jazz band anyway and I had a full plate with everything else. I also stopped taking private drums lessons because I was so busy. I took drum lessons for about six years, with three teachers, and did four ensembles. Not soon after this I became part of a blues band with my friends called Blue RevivalWe played a few gigs here and there including opening for the high school talent show my sophomore year and did an interview on the radio once. Now jazz and blues was never really my thing, I didn’t mind playing it but this was right around the time I bought my first DSLR and was getting heavy into photography. My friend Bryan Counter played bass in the blues band at the time but I knew he would rather play drums. Since I wanted to take pictures I decided he could take my place, someone else would rotate to bass guitar and everything worked itself out.

From there I spent almost all of my free time in marching band or taking pictures. Marching band got kind of monotonous after a while. Every field show and every parade, every thursday practice for four years. By the time college rolled around I didn’t want to do marching band anymore but I did see to it that I completed all the band stuff I was doing in high school and ended up getting a scholarship.

That was almost three years ago now. I took a lot of time away from drums and did other things. For the most part it’s been nice to have the time away from drums and the often busy schedule I associate with the high school concert and marching bands. I think after a while it’s easy to get sick of playing the same things all the time and reading sheet music, especially when what had originally inspired me to play were things like STOMP and Blue Man Group which have a very different feel, a very different groove separate from the rigidity of concert band music. I think sometimes it was very boring because I somehow ended up playing triangle and crash cymbals in concerts on more than one occasion. Also not to mention when I was playing drums for the show choir pit band and we crashed the car on the way home in the rain. When I was asked back to play another year for the pit band I said no.

I never really played much of what I wanted to play on drums, it was always sheet music that I felt like I had to practice because I had a lesson or there was a performance coming up at school. Once I started college I was free to pursue music on my own terms which largely involved computer programs. It’s been a sort of pet project of mine to fiddle and experiment with music inside of computers in the last few years and unfortunately I think a lot of my drumming skill has atrophied because of it.

In the last week or two I’ve been trying to think of what I wanted for my birthday. It used to be so easy to point and say, “I want that thing right there. That’s what’s going to make me happy,” but lately it’s proven very difficult. I’ve already got a lot of the photography gear I wanted and while buying another camera is nice it’s not like it’s going to make me a better photographer. It’s not like my camera needs to be replaced, it works just fine. I noticed that for most of the things I buy I try to think of at least two reasons to justify the purchase. If I can’t think of two reasons then it’s not worth buying.

Since I’ve become an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop I’ve found myself branching out and wanting to be more skilled at a variety of things like 3D modeling and Electronics. In the midst of all that I thought of playing drums again. Drums are still my favorite instrument and I love listening to songs with lots of percussion and nice sizzley hi hats. This one time I wore my high school band sweatshirt to my friend’s dorm on campus once and all of my friends went,”You play drums?” and I thought how strange it was that I had finally found a group of people that knew me only as Alex-The Photographer and nothing else and how I should probably change that soon.

So for my 21st birthday I took about a hundred dollars and bought some drum supplies, a drum dial, and some dampening materials to help me tune and sculpt the sound of my drums. My attitude has changed a lot since I’ve been focused on photography. I feel like I’ve developed an almost surgical precision towards photography and I’m looking to bring this new perspective back towards drumming and back towards making music. When I started playing drums I didn’t even really listen to music apart from Avril Lavigne’s 2002 smash album Let Go and I was quoted by my first drum teacher as wanting to be “like Steve Vai” in my first drum lesson, which is dumb because Steve Vai doesn’t even play drums- he plays guitar.

I think I’ve matured enough to take another honest crack at playing drums, not start over, but do things the way I would do them now and do them right. A lot of people like to start their kids on music early and I’m grateful that I did start early but I think there’s a lot to drumming that was beyond my comprehension for a long time. I never really attempted to tune my drums or play with a metronome on a practice pad. I never tried to play along with any of my favorite songs because I didn’t listen to a lot of music when I was younger.

I don’t think I could really appreciate the art of it. It’s not because I didn’t like drums though, it’s not that at all. I sort of equate my situation to those times when you sit down and watch an old childhood movie and you suddenly find so many more things that you missed the first time around. It’s like that.

I’m excited to see what new things I can learn and just how far I can go with drums and music now.

Give something a second go today for me.

-Alex