Canon develops Super Huge CMOS sensor

Canon announced on august 31 that they’ve developed the worlds largest CMOS sensor measuring a whopping 202 x 205 mm. Thats the beast up there to the left of a full-frame CMOS chip. Apparently this thing is so light sensitive, it is able to capture great images at just 100th of the light required by my EOS 5D Mark II full frame camera. Knowing how good a performer my camera is in this regard, its just mindblowing to think of the capabilities of a sensor this large. For instance, this sensor is able to do video at 60 frames per second at light equivalent to just 0.3 lux. That is one third the light off a single candle. At 60 FPS.

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How to do a high-key portrait

Greetings photo buffs! I have had a little hiatus from my blog, but now I’m back with a little tutorial, namely ‘How to do a high-key portrait’.

This technique should be in every serious photographers bag of tricks, if it aint already, so here is the lay-down:

1) Use a good camera/ lens combination for portraiture. I used the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 85mm 1.8 at F/2.2.

2) Use soft, diffuse light. I shot these photos with natural light in-doors by a west-facing window in the middle of an overcast day in early April. Generally, you want very soft light for this effect, so use plenty large umbrellas/softboxes/diffusers, or north light, or an overcast day, or even shade. You do not want direct light or sun. Also, you want the background to be very bright – these were shot in front of a south-facing window.

3) Use low ISO. While you want to overexpose a tad (‘expose to the right’), use as low an ISO speed you can get away with for ultimate image quality. I shot at ISO 200. I’m applying the actual high-key effect later in Camera RAW, to avoid clipping the highlights in-camera. Your mileage may vary, though, so if you prefer, aim for the overexposed look directly, by dialing in ~ +2 stops of exposure compensation.

4) Use a large aperture. You want to get good seperation from face to background for that 3D effect, but you also want to nail sharpness on eyes. On a shot like this with the 85mm 1.8, f/2.2 was a good compromise.

5) Get at least one eye in focus. Rule of thumb. Eyes will draw the attention first, so make sure you focus on an eye. With portrait lenses and shallow Depth Of Field, often you won’t be able to hold both eyes in focus, particularly if the subject’s face is at an angle, and close to the camera. As long as one eye is in sharp focus, you’re OK. You should only break the sharp-eyes rule for artistic expression. (The first picture in this article actually breaks this rule, but I feel it gets away with it. Sofie was swaying a bit back and forth, so critical focus ended up on her eyebrow, while her eyes falls a bit out of focus, showing just how little DOF there is to work with).

6) Once shot, select your best frames and process expertly. Post processing is what makes a good picture a very good picture. I spared nothing in Camera Raw on these ones. First, I pushed the shots about 2 stops to overexpose them, but kept highlights in check. Then I turned down Saturation by a large amount, and increased the Vibrance by about the same. Those steps will give you this high-key, neutral, soft look. I did some skin spotting with the heal tool in Camera RAW. Finally, I added effects, such as Vignette, Split-toning and Film Grain to give the shots a ‘film-like’ appearance. I added a bit of skin diffusion (duplicate layer, large gaussian blur, Overlay blend mode, low opacity) and monochromatic contrast in Photoshop at the end.

And thats about all there is to it! The rest is up to you. Happy shooting 🙂

Technology and photography

Just a few short years ago, high ISO color photography was virtually non existent. Anything above ISO 400 would mean shooting with B&W film. Some specialist ISO 800 films existed (such as Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 800), but the image quality was.. well, not good enough. The first digital cameras did not improve on this. Not only would you get a smaller image with less detail than with film, but digital noise would overcome your image, sometimes even at low ISOs, and the mantra was ‘always shoot at ISO 100’.

The game has now changed, though. As you may know.

Canon 40D with 50mm 1.4 at 1/500s f/2.5 ISO 1600

I am first and foremost a performance documentarist photographer, and today I shoot what was impossible to capture just a few years ago. Indeed, half of my work is done at ISO 1600 and above, and this is now possible to do, retaining high image fidelity and relatively low noise. Each time I buy a new DSLR body (which is not often – as I said I’m a documentarist photographer!), the evolutionary changes are very visible to me in terms of image noise and image quality, shooting the same demanding low-light work.

Now Nikon has released their new flagship low-light beast, the Nikon D3s, and I’m salivating. Lately Nikon has taken the téte for low noise at high ISO, and the Nikon D3s delivers everything you’d need in that department in a pro body, albeit at only 12MP full frame to keep the pixels large.

Robert Galbraith has done a review of this camera already in november, as he has ties with Nikon. Check out his review, with image samples comparing the D3s to Nikons former low-light king, the already very impressive Nikon D3. Keep in mind that this is a pre-release date camera, so final image quality is likely even better. He also takes a look at Nikons new AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens. Also note that the downloadable files are in AdobeRGB color space, and should be viewed in a color managed environment, such as Photoshop (you won’t see accurate colors in your browser, unless it is color managed, which is unlikely).

You can also compare the Nikon D3s to other cameras at DCResources’ Comparometer.

And here at Prophotohome comparing the D3s to Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 7D and Nikon D300.

I swear, ISO 3200 on this camera looks like ISO 100 of yesteryear. Just jawdropping high ISO performance.

I can’t wait to see some more images from this camera, performance, concerts, sports and astro… Oh, and video too!

On top of the hasty pace of hardware technology, software keeps improving as well, making revisits of old photos worthwhile. More on this soon.

Digital Camera Magazine – Photographer of the year contest

UK-based Digital Camera Magazine features this huge international photography contest, 120.000 submissions, and the winners of up to a top prize of £15.000 will be announced Feb. 15.

The top runners are an interesting browse. Obviously, there’s quite a lot of good work out there.

Reuters explores photo technique

Reuters has posted an interesting gallery of photographs exploring repetitive patterns:

Reuters Repeat after me.

Random photograph #2

My local cemetary currently features all the colors of nature. How about yours? Feel free to leave a comment with your best fall photo. 50mm 1.4, 3-shot HDR merge via Photoshop CS4 and Photomatix Pro 3.0. Photo: Mathias Vejerslev. Click for larger version.

TinEye – the image search engine

Speaking of copyright concerns, I’ve been waiting for this one for several years now, but the wait seems nearly over.

TinEye is an image search engine. It can crawl the net to find similar pictures to the one you feed it, excellent for photographers looking for copyright infringements. Scoundrels beware!

The search engine looks for a variety of similarities across images, and is not easily fooled by skewed, transformed, rotated or altered images! It lists its most likely candidates at the top of the search result, and allows you to compare images by overlaying input and result.

Using the search engine, I found that one of my photographs, this photo of the Eiffel Tower, has been stolen at least 11 times, probably a lot more, as the search engine is in beta, and is still indexing (currently about a billion images indexed). Thefts that include all kinds of wombly wackiness. Funny. I only got 2 comments on that photo page… Good enough to steal, but not good enough to warrant a comment?

As an anecdote, the Eiffel tower is itself copyrighted; it is not allowed to publish any nighttime photographs of it without paying a fee to SETE.

TinEye currently requires a free registration, but I’d recommend any photographer to do so, as there is currently no similar search engine out there. On the page you’ll also find a neat browser plugin that’ll allow you to search any image through TinEye via a simple right-click command.

UPDATE: The CEO of Idée Inc., creators of TinEye, Leila Boujnane, was kind enough to comment both on my Eiffel Tower photo, the photo in the post below, and on this blogpost. Cool, huh? Thank you Leila!

Random photograph #1

Once in a while I’ll be presenting a photograph and accompanying anecdote here on my blog, for your enjoyment (and hopefully I’ll be getting some critique and questions as well). Most often these will be my own photos – out of copyright concerns.

Mathias Vejerslev. Click to embiggen.

Cruising Copenhagen Harbour in a small wooden boat with a couple of friends. Photo taken after sunset, leaning back over the railing of a rocky boat. Shot as a JPG, this image required quite a bit of photoshop color balancing to come to life. 50mm 1.4 @ 1/125 f/2.8, ISO 800. Photo: Mathias Vejerslev. Click to embiggen.