equipment (as of summer 2016):
Sony DSC-H50 bridge camera, bought 2007, still working but hardly ever used anymore.
Canon EOS 550D DSLR bought in 2010, battered, but still used regularely, whenever I feel the need to have a second lense available, when working in conditions where I fear for my newer camera.
Canon EOS 750D DSLR (added in 2016) My main cam since june 2016.
Samsung Galaxy S4 (in use since 2014) for effect, for instagram, for occasions without a big camera. I think I use about 4 or 5 smartphone photos per year on PiXillY .
Canon EF-S 10-18mm 1:4,5-5,6 IS STM , (2016)
Canon EF-S 18-135mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS STM , (2016) the new ‚working horse‘, about 9 out of 10 photos were done with this zoom (or its predecessor below)
Canon EF 50mm 1:1.8 II , (2011)
Canon EF 75-300mm/ 4-5,6/ III USM , (2010)
Canon EF-S 18-135mm 1:3,5-5,6 IS , (2010) my most productive lens, until lately.
Software (now it gets very minimalistic)
picasa 3.19 – abandoned image management software from … Google. Still working superbly. I hate to think of the day, when I finally will have to look for an alternative. To this day I couldn’t find anything remotely as efficient (for my needs), not for windows, not for linux 😦
gimp – the GNU Image Manipulation Program (since 2010) I always used the newest version, 2.8.18 right now, looking forward to 2.10 (they are working on a development version, 2.9.4 just now in september 2016)
irfanview 4.42 – very fast, small, … graphic viewer for Windows (in use since forever!!)
and, obviously, a web-browser. Here I rely on google chrome, mostly. But, as I usually install both chrome and firefox on any windows or linux machine I use, the odd post is done in mozilla’s browser.
I’ll leave out the part of actually taking photos. Maybe I’ll share my thoughts about that topic some other time.
On Windows, I use the EOS Utility (free with the camera) to download all photos to my NAS (Synology Network Attached Storage), organised in folders. I keep the folders created by the download utility: a folder for each day, date included in the name. Then I manually add a one- or two-word description to the foldername, e.g. „2016-08-16 EOS 750D garden and cat“. New folders get included into picasas database as soon as I run the software again.
My Safety and Backup strategy consits of using a raid 1 constellation on my NAS (mirroring all data on multiple drives, precaution against hardware failure) and backing up all my photos in the Amazon Cloud (In case of loosing my entire NAS or accidentally deleting files).
Each morning, I get a cup of coffee. Then I open picasa and select a photo I want to use as ‚PiXillY Picture of the Day‘. Right-Click option ‚open in gimp‘.
In gimp I spend between 2 and 15 minutes (on very rare occasions up to maybe 40 minutes) editing (manipulating) the photo. This involves most of the following steps, in varying amounts and intensity, but always in that order:
Adjust for lens errors, chromatic aberration, distortions. This I do, if necessary at all, very quickly. My target resolution of 1500×1000 pixels and the target output medium, a computer, laptop or smartphone screen, both are not very demanding..
Adjust horizontal and vertical lines (rotation, perspective transformation, shearing)
Select and crop the part of the photo I want to use. I set a fixed 2 by 3 ratio for the crop tool, choose landscape or portrait (landscape for the majority of days). Then I select a rectangle anywhere between the original image size (6000×4000 in the case of my current DSLR) and my target resolution of 1500×1000. I never increase or scale up an image or part of an image.
When, on very rare occasions, I am comletely satisfied with the original photo’s orientation and composition, I skip these transformation and cropping steps. This happens maybe three or four times a year.
Now for the fun part: adjusting colours an light. Anything can happen: No adjustment at all (again, happens very rarely), or just minor adjustments with the curves tool, up to effects using multiple layers, selections and tools. A kind of standard manipulation for images with poor lighting or a general paleness involves three layers of the photo: the two layers on top set to mode ‚multiply‘ (the opacity of this one is generally set to very low, maybe 10-20) and ’soft light‘ (this one with an opacity of maybe 35-65). Sometimes I create a black and white layer I set to ‚overlay‘ and play with the opacity. Another technique I found to be very effective if one side of the image is too dark or too light (deep shadows on one side, or overexposed sky in the top region) is to add an empty layer set to overlay, and place a gradient from foreground color to trancparent on that layer. Experimenting with that can deliver dramatic improvements to the image. This is getting too much. I’ll have to sort this out and place it in a seperate article. Maybe. Sometime.
Then I create a new layer ‚from visible layers‘. On this layer I use the dodge/burn tool for final adjustments to dark and light parts of the image. Usually I dodge the highlights in the dark areas and burn the shadows in the light areas, with opacity set to 15-25 and a big, blurred brush. This enhances structures and contrasts. Clever dodging in darker shadows helps the lighten up those shadows, balancing the overall impression. Or that’s what I think. Finally I play with the opacity of this latest layer to adjust the amount of dodging and burning I want to keep for the resulting image.
Then I export the (as yet not scaled to size) image into a folder where I put all my daily images. Then I open this newly created file in Irfan View. I do this for the single reason I like the results of Irfan Views sharpening tool better than anything I could produce with gimp. I resize the image to 1500×1000 and I apply ’sharpen‘ and then save a copy of the file into the same folder, adding „_p“ to the filename. That way I mark the file ready for upload.
In wordpress – and I refuse to use the new editor – I go to WP Admin, create a new entry by copying one of the last ones, replace title and image. Publish. Finished. I set up WP and IFTTT to automatically share new entries with a number of other networks, such as twitter, fb, flickr, 500px. That’s it. Reading this takes almost as long as doing it 🙂 Finally, I grab my smartphone to check how the new photo is diplayed on the smaller and differently lit screen. Having posted more than 2000 photos, I think it happened once or twice, that I felt I had to go back to my file and do some more adjustments and then replace the file in wp. It looked way too dark before on the smartphone screen, if I remember correctly.
On most days, the steps between the cup of coffee and the check on the smartphone take about 25 minutes. Mostly this is followed by another 15 minutes of liking and commenting on photos by fellow bloggers whose pages I follow.