Case Study: Shooting NYC Skyline

NYC Skyline Final

A good friend of mine, Yechiel Orgel, who is a professional commercial photographer specializing in product photography out of NYC, contacted me last week and asked for some advice on shooting the New York City Skyline from a rooftop of a luxury condo building in Brooklyn. The aim of the shoot was to show the NYC skyline that can be seen from the roof of this building. The building is located in downtown Brooklyn, roughly 3 avenue blocks from the water. The client apparently wanted to get a really large print, which would be displayed in the lobby of the building, possibly made into a wallpaper. Yechiel was a little uncomfortable with these requirements, because it is not his area of expertise and he has never produced prints that large. So he wanted to get some recommendations on how to best handle the situation. He presented a list of the following requirements:

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Case Study: Skin Color Problems

Skin Color Problem

Another case study was submitted on Nikon D7000’s handling of colors. Here is what our reader writes:

Hello Nasim, 2 months ago I bought my first Nikon camera – D7000. I’ve read much about it and decided that this is best camera for me, but recently I am noticing that in certain lighting conditions colors are inadequate. There is an awfull yellow-green color, especially noticeable on people’s faces. Skin on pictures is also has strange color. Changing wb temperature is hardly helping. As an owner of the D7000 could you tell me if this is the problem of all D7000 cameras or is it malfunction of mine? What can i do to fix this?

And here is a sample image that was attached to the case study:
Skin Color Problem

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Case Study: Image Spots and Streaks

Spots and Streaks on Image

One of our readers sent me an image with the following question as a Case Study:

I have no idea what this streak is on my pictures could you give me an idea? I bought a new lens, because there was a small scratch on my old one. However, the same streak appears in the exact same place. It is a line about 1 inch on the top right of my pics. Usually seen when shooting skylines, clouds. etc.

Here is the attached image:
Spots and Streaks on Image

So, what are those spots and streaks that are clearly visible in the above image? First, the good news – the above spots and streaks have nothing to do with the lens. In fact, lens problems and even major scratches on the front lens element rarely ever show up in images. Unless the rear lens element is damaged/scratched, you should not see any lens defects show up in your images. Those of you who have seen my articles on cleaning DSLR sensors probably already know what these are. They are dust spots, along with a piece of hair that is sitting right in the middle of the camera sensor (the long dark line streak). Now the bad news – whenever you see something like this consistently show up in your images when shooting at small apertures, you will have to either clean the camera sensor yourself or send your camera for cleaning in order to get rid of all this dirt on the sensor. The latter is a safer method, but will cost you a lot of money to continue sending your camera every time you need it cleaned; plus, you won’t be able to take pictures while it is in service. The cheapest method is to clean your camera sensor yourself. As I have shown in the my cleaning DSLR sensor article, you can clean a sensor very quickly without any hassles, as long as you have the proper tools. Is it risky? Unless you do something stupid, the procedure is very safe (obviously, I take no responsibility for any potential damage to your camera). Just watch the video and then watch the more detailed videos on how to clean DSLR sensor and keep your camera gear clean for more info.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Case Study: Bird Photography

Bird with distracting BG

I have finally been able to more or less clean up my mailbox and sort through most of the emails that keep pouring in from our readers. The case studies that our readers are sending have been piling up in my mailbox and my to-do list, so I will try to do a better job in posting these on the blog from now on. Let’s start with a case study from our reader Gaurav Rajaram, a bird lover and photographer from Bangalore, India. Here is what he sent me:

I use a Nikon 300mm f/4 paired with a Nikon D200 for my bird photography. While shooting, I notice that I do not get a clean background, which I would expect from a prime lens. I have got such a background in one image of mine, however, the subject is a little too soft for my liking (the picture is attached). Is there any way to get a clean background so as to help the viewers’ focus remain on the subject (the bird in this case)? Could you share a tutorial with us? I’m attaching sample images for this case study in JPEG format with full EXIF info.

And here are the two images Gaurav attached:

Bird with clean BG but too soft

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How to submit your photos for a Case Study

Update: Due to an overwhelming amount of submissions, we are no longer accepting case studies at this time.

To make it easier for our readers to submit their images for a Case Study, I created a dedicated form which allows uploading images. The form is located on the top of this page and can be accessed through the case study link. I have been getting a lot of good feedback regarding the case studies I have posted so far and it seems like our readers find them beneficial, not only in terms of learning the gear side, but also the post-processing side.

As I have pointed out before, photography is not just about what gear you use and how you use it, but also about how you present it to your viewer. You have probably heard some people say that altering images in post-processing is “cheating” and that everything should be done right from the camera. I do agree about the camera part – you should always strive to do it right in camera. However, I certainly do not agree with calling post-processing work “cheating”. If you look at some of the masters of photography, you will see that a big portion of their photography workflow is dedicated to work with images in Lightroom/Aperture and Photoshop. Even those who shoot film, spend a considerable amount of time working in darkroom, after which they spend additional time making final changes in software. Ansel Adams, one of the most famous photographers of all time, used to spend countless hours working on his photographs in labs. He was a true darkroom magician and I am sure that he would have loved the ability to digitally manipulate images, if he was still alive. So don’t be scared to manipulate your images in any way you want. Learn how to perform the essentials first, such as aligning images, cropping them and adjusting exposure with white balance. Then after that, learn how to work with colors and how to add various effects such as vignetting to your photographs. Experiment and play with different settings. As far as post-processing software, don’t start out with Photoshop, because you might get lost and get frustrated with it. Photoshop is not a simple tool to learn. Instead, start out with either Lightroom or Aperture and spend a considerable amount of time in getting to know it inside out. Once you get a good grasp on Lightroom or Aperture, then get a copy of Photoshop and start exploring it.

Let’s get back to the Case Study Form. If you are having some challenges with your camera gear, photography or techniques and need some tips on how to improve your skills, please fill out the case study form. I can’t promise that I will post every single one I receive, but I will do my best to respond to each one via email at the minimum – it all depends on how many requests I get.

Have a good weekend! I will be working on posting the Nikon D7000 review this weekend.

Case Study: Image Quality

Sharpness

One of our readers sent me some sample images from his camera, asking why his photos are not sharp and often too bright and flat-looking. He is using a pro-level body (Nikon D700) and very good lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 that he bought after reading my reviews and he is disappointed with his setup. Here is what he wrote me:

I really need your help.

I own the Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 + recently bought the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 after reading you review. I wanted the 14-24mm f/2.8, but without filter it is a big problem for me. Anyway, I have owned the camera for about 8 months and I am not satisfied with the results…

I mostly shoot in RAW with Active D Lighting set to “Auto”. My photos never seems as sharp as the samples you put on your site and they always looks too bright and flat. It’s like they are “dead” without contrast and color and I don’t know what’s wrong with my setup. Maybe it’s a problem with the camera sensor or I don’t know what… I am not a pro photographer and not even close, but I expert much better results from what I have. I mean I can always fix in post-processing software like Aperture 3 which I have, but i want great photos out of the camera without playing with it too much in post.

Please let me know if you see what the problem is and if there’s something wrong with what I am doing? I totally feel hopeless…

Thank you for your time.

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Case Study: Exposure at Night

Case Study Crop

One of our readers, Steven Ross, was kind enough to send an image to me as a Case Study. He is wondering why his image did not come out sharp, with some light spill and overexposure. Here is what he sent me:

Case Study

San Jacinto Monument at night

And his comments:

I used the camera on aperture priority mode and on a tripod but it appears that since the monument was being lit by spotlights the shutter speed was too long and the monument seems much brighter/overexposed compared to the rest of the scene.

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Case Study: Night Shot

Case Study: Night Shot

Our first case study was submitted by our regular visitor Dennis, who lives in Singapore. Here is the description of his problem:

Hi Nasim, I have tried night shots using 35mm f/1.8G. It is a landscape shot with river reflecting street lamps. I do it handheld, aperture mode, f1.8, shutter 1/5sec, ISO 1600. Strangely despite a dark black sky, the shot came out reddish sky and the center focus point have some reflected light that shouldn’t be there. I tried to shoot other night shots on sky, it appeared to have this reflected light. The pattern is random, depends on what I shoot. I don’t understand why. Do I have to take out the UV filter attached on it? I have read through these tips, but couldn’t understand what causes this to happen. Yours look sharp!

Dennis sent me the following picture as an example, which was taken in a public park in Singapore:

Case Study: Night Shot

Case Study: Night Shot

Here are my comments on the photo, along with the solution to the problem:
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Our Reader Case Studies

Why Blurry

First of all, I apologize for not being able to write anything for the last couple of days. Lola has been very sick since Friday and both Omar and Ozzy have also been a little sick, although they seem to be only mildly affected by the virus. I have been taking the boys out every evening for Lola to relax a little bit and have not had a chance to work on the site content. So many things are getting piled up on my “to-do” list, I don’t even know where to start. When the whole family gets sick, everything comes to a complete halt and you cannot function normally anymore, hoping that things will get better in a couple of days. That’s basically the mode I’m in right now…

On the other hand, spending less time in front of the computer has not been bad either, because I spent some time planning ahead (and yes, putting more stuff on the list) and even came up with some new ideas. Speaking of which, one of the ideas is the subject of this article – “Our Reader Case Studies”. I came up with the idea after exchanging a couple of emails with one of our frequent visitors, who could not understand why his pictures at night were coming out blurry, with a lot of bright spots in the pictures. I requested him to send me a sample image in its original format, so that I could review it and see what could be wrong. When I received the image, I looked at it and I immediately knew exactly what the problem was, without even looking at the image data. I explained what the problem was and gave some suggestions on what I would do if I was shooting the same scene, with the exactly same equipment.

Why Blurry

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