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QIn Lightroom’s Develop module there is a tick box that says Soft Proofing. What does it do? Colin Gould
AIf you are printing your images directly out of Lightroom, the Soft Proofing function is very useful. I print from Lightroom via a Canon Pixma inkjet; by using Soft Proofing and selecting the paper I’m using, I get an accurate on-screen representation of what the print will look like. If you can’t see the paper you are using, download the ICC profiles and install them in your system.
When you view the image as a Soft Proof, it will look different. Often it will look worse, with the colours muted or the contrast dulled. You can then alter your processing to suit the paper you are using, and hopefully achieve a print you are happy with.
If you click in either corner of the Histogram you can also see if any of your colours are out of gamut. If any areas show as either red or blue, it means that they are out of the range of colours the printer can reproduce; and again, if necessary, you can tweak your processing to suit.
With the many different types of paper available, from glossy to textured fine art, it is definitely an advantage to be able to see how an image you want to print out will look on that paper. It should mean you don’t waste paper trying to achieve the print you want, although there is still room for some difference between what you see and what you get. I’d also add that you really need to have your screen calibrated to be sure that your colours are accurate in the first place.
Change of view
QWhy does the scene through the viewfinder of my Nikon DSLR look different to what I actually capture? Bruce Hartnell
AIt’s simply because your camera has an optical viewfinder as opposed to an electronic viewfinder. An optical viewfinder uses a mirror and prism to direct the light through the lens to the viewfinder, so you can see what it is you are photographing. This means it will give you a clear and bright view of the scene – but it won’t show you the scene as the camera is going to interpret it according the exposure settings you are using.
For example, whichever aperture you set, the viewfinder will not change; you will only see the scene at the widest aperture available.
That’s not the case with an electronic viewfinder. With an EVF, what you see is what you get; so if you set f/11, you will see all that extra depth of field through the viewfinder before you take the photo, as opposed to having to view the result on the back of the camera. You will also instantly be able to see through the viewfinder if your image is too dark, too bright or just right – and as you adjust the exposure, you can see this changing before your eyes. I am used to working with an optical viewfinder, therefore not seeing the scene exactly as the camera is going to record it feels totally normal to me. However, I have to say that a good electronic viewfinder definitely takes the guesswork out of exposure and aperture choice, so some of the highquality mirrorless cameras with EVFs are a joy to use.
QAt a recent camera club talk, the speaker mentioned using aperture to isolate a subject, but didn’t really explain what he meant. What he was referring to? Hilary Duff
AThe way I’d use aperture to isolate a subject from its surroundings is by using a wide aperture to achieve a very shallow depth of field. Typically I’d use this technique in a portrait scenario, choosing an aperture such as f/2.8 or f/4 that then helps to separate or ‘isolate’ the subject from the background, by diffusing the areas that are not in sharp focus. I’m sure this is what the speaker must have been referring to.
Although I’ve used shooting a portrait as an example, you can adopt this approach in all sorts of different scenarios, including sports, wildlife and nature.
The effect can be further exaggerated by lens choice. For example, a wildlife photographer using a telephoto lens will often isolate a subject with a wide aperture that throws both the foreground and the background out of focus.
You need very accurate focusing with this technique: there is no margin for error. You must achieve focus exactly on the subject – and perhaps even a precise part of the subject, for example the eyes in a portrait or maybe the very centre of a flower.
You must also consider your shooting viewpoint and try to position the subject so that its relationship with foreground and background helps to exaggerate the effect. In other words, you want the background especially to be as far away as possible, because this distance will increase the difference between the sharp subject and diffused background.
In my puffin image, I’ve actually used an aperture of f/5.6, but by shooting through foreground rocks with my 300mm lens and positioning myself so the background rocks are as far away as possible, I’ve managed to diffuse otherwise potentially distracting detail and isolate the main subject.
Cabin bag fever
QI’ve noticed that cabin luggage for flights seems to be getting smaller and lighter, often with big differences between flights. I know you travel a lot, so how do you get around it? David Lloyd
AIt’s an absolute nightmare, David – especially if, like me, you go everywhere on a budget and sometimes take several flights to get to the destination. It seems to be getting worse, with no industry standard.
The first point is really important – and that’s to be absolutely sure of sizes and measurements of all flights you are on. It can vary as much as six kilos per airline; although bag sizes are generally similar, you can still get caught out. I once, without realising, took a bag that was 1cm larger than the specification on one of the budget airlines. Going out it was no problem, but coming back they wouldn’t let it in the cabin, causing me something of a headache to reallocate the camera equipment!
However, generally it’s weight that’s the issue. It doesn’t take much DSLR kit to go over the 7kg some airlines allow. These days I make sure everything non-essential and robust enough goes into my hold bag. For example, my tripod is carefully wrapped and stored in it.
Second, I only take what I know I am going to need for certain; sometimes that means leaving a couple of lenses I might have used at home! Third, I always wear a jacket with large pockets – both internal and external. Therefore, if my bag is too heavy and it’s checked (it isn’t always), then I can pop a lens or camera body pre-packed in bubble wrap into a pocket.
The fourth, and much more radical, answer is to go mirrorless! I can’t help thinking the airline companies are boosting mirrorless sales with their restrictions. And by the way, your camera’s lithium batteries must be in your hand luggage and not your hold luggage.
QI recently took some photos of mist, but they were all too dark. What did I do wrong? Cathy Jeffers
ALeft to its own devices, your camera’s meter will typically underexpose a misty scene. It’s similar to when you photograph snow and the snow comes out grey.
The meter simply thinks there is more light than there really is. Dial in some positive exposure compensation – anything from +0.5 to +2, depending on how backlit the scene is and how much of the scene is pure mist. You don’t want to blow the highlights completely, so check the histogram.
Plan ahead for portraits
QI’ve been asked to do an outdoor family portrait session for a friend. Is there anything I can prepare in advance? Tony Hawk
AWhile you don’t know what conditions you’ll have on the day, my advice would be to decide the location and visit it, so you start forming some ideas. The light might be different when you return, but having a good understanding of what’s available will help the shoot go more smoothly.
QAre mirrorless cameras more prone to dirt on the sensor than SLRs? Tim Wood
AI can understand why you might think this, but I have no evidence from personal use of mirrorless to suggest they are any worse than a standard DSLR. Certainly asking a number of pros I know who shoot both mirrorless and DSLR cameras, there was nobody who flagged it as an issue.
The new EOS R mirrorless from Canon has a screen that comes across the sensor when lenses are changed, so clearly manufacturers continue to find ways to keep the sensor as clean as possible.
Soft Proofing highlights areas of colour your inkjet can’t print accurately.
What you see through a viewfinder
What you actually get...