Note: All information is based upon Windows operating system and Lightroom 2.2
In previous posts I have covered setting up a keyword hierarchy, applying keywords, and keyword settings and synonyms. Today I will cover how to manage your keywords, no matter how much thought and planning go into setting up your keywords, you will need to make changes.
As I have mentioned the key to keywords is to have a good hierarchy. What happens if I get a keyword where it does not belong? Do I have to delete it and start over keywording the photos? What if I need a new top level in my hierarchy, but the sub keywords are in other locations? And the answer is… “Drag and Drop”. That’s all it takes. In the keywording panel you can simply click on any keyword and drag it to the location in your hierarchy you want it and drop it. This will move the keyword and all sub keywords and retag all photos affected. This will only rewrite the Lightroom catalog, if you want the information written to the photo files you will need to select all affected photos, choose “Metadata” from the menu, and choose “Save Metadata to File” (or shortcut Ctrl + S). This process makes it very easy to make changes to your keyword hierarchy.
Ok you have just started reading these posts and find that you should have read them earlier because you now have lots of duplicate keywords in different locations in your hierarchy and want to combine them all into one keyword. Lightroom will let you use the same keyword over and over as long as it is in a different location in the hierarchy (this is a good thing). I may also have two keyword that are nearly the same that I want combined into one (I will then use the other keyword as a synonym).
As you can see in my keyword list above I have and “Eagle” keyword and a “Bald Eagle” keyword. All of the photos are actually Bald Eagles so I do not need both keywords.
To correctly keyword the photos with the keyword “Eagle” I click the arrow to the right of the image count showing only these photos in the library. I can then select all photos (CTRL + A)and drag the keyword for Bald Eagle onto one of the selected photos to keyword them all.
I can then delete the keyword “Eagle” by clicking the – sign as shown above, or right click on the keyword and choose “delete”.
I will get the above dialog box asking to Confirm the Delete the keyword “Eagle”?, which is what I want to do. This will only delete the keyword and remove it from the photos it was attached to. This will not delete the photos.
If you have keywords that do not have any photos tagged with them, Lightroom makes it easy to delete them. Go to the “Metadata” menu and select “Purge Unused Keywords”. This will remove all keywords that are not attached to photos. Be sure this is what you want to do, as it cannot be undone.
Import and Export Keywords
If you have more than one computer running lightroom, different catalogs, want to share your keywords with other, or just want a backup of your keyword hierarchy Lightroom provides a way to do this. Under the “Metadata” menu choose “Export Keywords” and choose a location and a file name to save to. Lightroom will then create a text file that can be imported into another lightroom catalog.
The file will look like the above, when opened in notepad, and can be edited if desired and the imported back into lightroom.
A major ice storm hit northwest Arkansas on Monday and Tuesday. It is estimated that many areas have 80-90 percent of households without power and that it could take 2 days to a week to restore power. The ice was up to 1 1/2 inches thick and snapped trees like they were toothpicks. Though they snaped like toothpicks the sounds ranged from gunfire to heavy artillery as branches and entire trees continued to fall.
My son Matt and I made a trip to one of the worst hit areas to take photos. Just after we left Fort Smith the heater on my truck quit heating (well at least we did not have to wory about condensation on the cameras). Although this is a terrible disaster there is still beauty to be seen from the ice.
View a slideshow of additional photos.
I participated in an Arkansas Strobist Meetup, (an informal group of photographers who correspond through the Flickr photo sharing website) at Fort Chaffee Sunday. What is a Strobist you ask? A Strobist is a photographer that uses a “strobe” (flash) for off camera lighting. The term Strobist came from a website run by photography David Hobby which he calls “Strobist”, which has branched into local groups all over the world. David says “This website is about one thing: Learning how to use off-camera flash with your dSLR to take your photos to the next level.”
We were shooting in abandoned and dilapidated buildings used during the Cuban Refugee Crisis of 1980 when approximately 25,000 Cubans were house at Fort Chaffee. Some of these were found to be criminals and along with the worst troublemakers had been confined to heavily guarded areas which are surrounded by 11-ft. chain-link fences topped by 2-ft. coils of razor-sharp barbed wire, to prevent them from molesting other refugees or escaping. This is where we were shooting.
The weather was not the best, it was cold, temp was in the 30′s with a 10-15 mph wind and very overcast skies. Even thou we were shooting mostly indoors, the windows were broken out and the buildings had no heat. Our models did a great lob of tolerating the conditions to work with the photographers between trips to the vehicles to warm up.
Note: All information is based upon Windows operating system and Lightroom 2.2
Keywording in Lightroom is a great organizational tool for your photos, however for it to function at peak performance there will be regular maintenance that needs to be done. Without proper keyword management you will soon have duplicate keywords, similar keywords, unused keywords, and keywords not in the proper hierarchy.
There are many ways to add keywords in Lightroom, my recommended method is to add keywords, as you need to apply them, by adding them to the keyword list. First you find where in the hierarchy you want to add the keyword and then right click on what will be the parent keyword (this is explained in detail in part 2 of this series). Adding keyword in this way you will eliminate most of your duplicates (or near duplicates such as “bird” and “birds”) and maintain the hierarchy. This will also allow you to apply the keyword tag settings at the time you are creating the keyword.
Settings for Keywords
Let’s go back to the “Eagle” keyword from part 1 and look at the setting for the keyword, we can do this by right clicking on the keyword in the keyword list panel and selecting “Edit Keyword Tag”.
You will see our keyword “Eagle” listed in the Keyword Tag Box. If we wish to change the name of the keyword we can do so simply by clicking it and editing. Say we want to change it to “Bald Eagle”, we just click in front of Eagle and type the word Bald.
When we click on the edit box the database will update and all photos that were keyworded with “Eagle” will now be keyworded as “Bald Eagle”. This is also real handy if like me you can’t spell and later have to fix a misspelled keyword after tagging several hundred photos.
The next box simply says Synonyms. Synonyms are different words with identical or very similar meanings. What this field does is let us add additional keywords automatically (these do not show up in your keyword list). These can be actual synonyms or other keywords you want to have on every “Bald Eagle” Photo.
I have added “American Bald Eagle”, “National Symbol”. “National Bird”, and “Symbol of United States”. These are all keywords that apply to all Bald Eagles and that I would want to be able to search by or have export with my photos.
By using our hierarchy and synonyms we can place only one keyword “Bald Eagle” on our photo and have it export all of the keywords as shown below.
As you can see, what looks like it would be quite complex keywording, is as simple as dragging one keyword from our keyword list to all selected Bald Eagle photos.
For all of this to work you must check the Keyword Tag Options “Include on Export”, “Export Containing Keywords”, and “Export Synonyms.
Just because the sun goes down does not mean that it’s time to stop taking pictures, yes there is the “Magic Hour” at sunrise and sunset that all photographers love, but that often means working fast and with constantly changing lighting conditions. I enjoy shooting at night, there is just something about the night – quiet, serene, peaceful, everything seems to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the day. With night photography you often have all the time you need to get the shot (assuming you do not have to get up early). Essentially night photography is the same as daylight photography except that you are working in super slow motion.
Your camera needs to have manual controls for best results, including a B or Bulb setting. What this does is keep the shutter open for as long as you hold the button down, giving the ability to take very long exposures, the limit being the muscles in your finger. This is where a cable release comes into play. Not only will it keep you from moving the camera but it will allow you to lock the shutter open and then you can have a snack and a Coke while taking the shot. The self timer can be of use only in situations where shutter speeds are less than 30 seconds for most cameras. For night photography we may be talking hours for an exposure.
Probably one of the most important items you will need is a tripod. Sure you can set the camera on a wall or other object to get a steady shot, but I have found block walls extremely hard to move around for just the right composition. You will want the most sturdy tripod that you can afford and more important that you can and will carry.
For all digital photography you need to be sure and carry extra batteries. Doing night photography with long exposure times your batteries will die much quicker than doing normal photography. Did I mention spare batteries; for your flash, flashlight, cell phone, Ipod and everything else?
Another important item is a removable flash for your camera. This can be used as a complete light source at night, fill flash, or painting with light. The power and features vary greatly with these units. A good full featured model can make a great difference in the quality of your flash photos. You will want a unit that you can set manually.
A good flashlight (big, strong and reliable like a Mag-light) and small flashlight like a penlight or my preference, a LED headlight. The large flashlight will be useful for finding your way, lighting the subject to focus, or painting your subject with light. The small light is for viewing settings on your camera, finding equipment, or locating that Snickers bar in the bottom of your bag. This also gives you a backup light in case one fails or if you did not read the part above about bringing extra batteries.
A watch or timer to be able to track how long your exposures are, sure you count seconds by one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, etc. but this could get old on 5 – 10 minute exposures, not to mention a two hour star trail shot.
Pack Snacks, drinks, and maybe a good book to read. Ok maybe this is not necessary for some of you but this is definitely on my equipment list, and at a minimum you should have water during the hot part of the year, you will still dehydrate at night.
Have Cell phone, identification, photo business card, maps, and related articles handy. You never know when you will have a problem and need help and a cell phone is the best way to get it. If you are stopped by police or other authorities you will need identification and having a photo business card will help add credibility to your ridiculous story about being out in this part of town at 2:00 AM taking pictures. If you are not familiar with the area and start looking for a good photo angle you can easily lose track of where you are, whether in the city or deep in the woods. A map, compass, GPS, or other items to help find your way may prove to be very necessary. A little insect repellant might not be a bad idea either.
Bring appropriate clothing for the weather. What may be a cool evening can turn to freezing cold when the sun goes down and you’ve been out in it for two hours or more.
Brains (yeah this could be an important one). Think about your safety, have a plan for what could go wrong and assume that it will. Be sure that someone knows where you are and when to expect you back. Think about what you would do if you fall from a cliff, get lost, mugged, arrested, etc. and be prepared. Prior to 9-11 if you were caught trespassing you would probably just be told to leave, today you may well be detained or arrested. The best thing is to have written permission if you are going to shoot on private property.
Think about bringing a companion. This may be a fellow photographer (yeah, they’ll learn all your secrets) or anyone else just to hangout with you (and maybe help carry equipment).
Almost anything can be photographed at night but some subjects are just made for night photography, below are examples of some of these subjects.
Night photography is not “no light photography”. You must still have a light source, either the moon, stars, city lights, or other source of light. There are many different ways of photographing at night. Some are actually exposing for the light source such as shooting neon signs, or you may be using the neon sign to illuminate your subject on the street. Each of these require different exposure settings and each can have different results that make good photos. There is no “correct” exposure in night photography. With most subjects we could expose long enough to appear similar to a daylight exposure (see the example at right of the two boats taken at the same time). With night photos we get a very flat image lacking the contrast that we get during the day with sunlight.
Shoot extra frames and remember you can delete the ones you don’t want. The more you take the better the chance of a super shot, especially if you are handholding a low light shot.
Use manual focus because you probably don’t have enough light for the auto focus to work. Auto focus may try and refocus for each shot, without results. “Ok great, but I can’t see to focus either”. Remember the big flashlight on the equipment list? Use it to light up your subject and focus, then turn it off to make the exposure.
You may also be doing night photography simply because that is when you can shoot your subject, and in this case will need a flash or other light source. A good example of this is shown with the photo of the tree frog, the photo below shows me taking the photo.
Photo by Kendrick Disch ©2006
Greg shooting tree frog with macro lens and flash mounted
on a bracket above the camera pointed down at the subject.
One of the biggest questions in night photography is how to set the exposure. If you search the internet you can find various charts with typical exposure settings for a number of common scenes. We are shooting with digital now, and the best tool to determine exposure is your LCD monitor. You can start with what your meter indicates. Take your shot, evaluate the results and shoot again until you get the correct desired exposure. Be sure to set your LCD brightness to normal, not to the bright level you left it on, for a true representation of what you are shooting.
I am a firm believer in using the histogram to check exposure. However for night photography, I find it to be fairly useless. For example the histogram below would indicate a badly underexposed photo with some burned out highlights. Which is what we have but I would not trash it based on this alone.
Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes (Oh yeah! and night photography). The difference between 3 minutes and 6 minutes is only 1 stop of exposure. During the day one stop of exposure is the difference between 1/50 and 1/100 of a second. The darker it is and the longer the exposure time, the less critical the exact time is.
Setting your ISO at 100 will give the best quality picture. If you are shooting a still scene and can take long exposures this is the best setting. With a higher ISO setting we get what is called digital noise. This is specs of color similar to film grain that stands out from the otherwise solid color. Digital noise shows up the most in solid dark areas. Yeah, we have a lot of those in night photography. The example below shows high digital noise shot at ISO 800.
However, you can set the ISO speed higher and in effect gain light. This will allow you to get shots that would not be possible otherwise, especially if you have a moving subject. Some cameras now offer a noise reduction for long exposures that can help a great deal.
Getting a good white balance is one of the most difficult parts of night photography. You often have mixed light sources with very different color temperatures. Sometimes you can not use a manual white balance setting because you are shooting the light source, not a subject lit by the source. I have two solutions to this. First, and my preferred method, is to shoot in a RAW file format and visually set the white balance on my computer during post processing. The second, is to shoot the same shot using different white balance settings and then pick your favorite later. Auto white balance never seems to give the best results in night photography.
Another feature of many newer DSLR cameras is mirror lockup. When the mirror of a DSLR camera snaps out of the way it causes vibration and possible movement. This feature enables the camera to lock the mirror up on one press of the shutter button. A second press shutter button opens the shutter allowing time for the vibration to stop. This is most useful on exposures of 1/60 to 1/2 second. For exposures in minutes, the amount of exposure during the vibration, is such a small percentage of the exposure that it does not affect the quality of the image.
I always set my camera to shoot in the RAW file format for night photography. This gives me the opportunity to fine tune the exposure and the white balance in post processing the images. Shooting RAW file format also provides a greater amount of information, should the image need additional editing or adjustments in Photoshop.
Painting with Light, is a term used in night photography where a light source, either a flash or other light, such as a flashlight, is used to light only selected areas of the photo. In the example of the coal miner statue, the coal pile in the back was completely dark. I used my flashlight to paint it with light during the exposure.
The photo of the canyon walls is an extreme example of painting with light using an alternative source of light. A truck with an industrial generator and 40,000 watts of spotlights lit the canyon wall along the Colorado river in Moab UT. This is what would be seen on the Canyonlands by Night boat tour.
Photoshop is image editing software that is designed for photographers and offers many capabilities to enhance and modify your photos. Using Photoshop to “Double Process Raw Files” is a way to get more tonal range from your photos. You adjust the exposure in the RAW converter for the bright areas and dark areas as two separate images and then combine them in Photoshop using layers (this will be a another article). The image below was actually made from two images made about an hour apart, without moving the camera, and then combined in Photoshop.
As you can see there is world of opportunity for great photography after the sun goes down. With digital you can experiment and check your results imediately, which makes night shooting easy to master with practice.