Also in this issue...
- Interpreting the Histogram
- Seminar Updates: Singapore, Seattle, Vancouver
- Some upcoming books
- E-reader Hell
Are Classic Metering Modes Obsolete?
Remember when you first learned about your camera’s different metering modes? (You know, spot metering vs. center weighted vs. multi-segment?) Remember how confusing it was, especially knowing what mode to use in what scenario? And the disappointment you first experienced because you couldn’t get the tools to create the image you had in your mind?
Not many people realize it, but these tools are pretty much obsolete now. They (and the concept of bracketing in 0.3 stop increments) are throwbacks to the days of shooting film, when you were literally shooting blind. Well, with digital you’re not shooting blind anymore. (Just look at the picture you just took, and if you’re not happy with it, use the exposure compensation control to Make it Darker or Make it Lighter.)
Better yet, if you want to conquer difficult light with no real effort, get your hands on a camera that has Live View. Live View, in conjunction with exposure compensation (and optionally live histogram), are all you need. Using these tools you can see, in real time, what your image will look like before you shoot, and if you don’t like what you see you can use the exposure compensation control to make it darker or lighter. (And if you’re outdoors on a bright day and can’t see the live view display very well, then the live histogram will save you.)
Many people may be surprised to learn that there’s nothing that the older methods offered that can’t be duplicated with these new tools. Best of all – the Live View method is intuitive and easy to learn. Never again be frustrated that your camera’s automatic exposure meter can’t handle difficult light!
I’ll bet you want an example right about now. Let's use this difficult-to-expose-for shot of wedding photographer Grant Corban (www.grantcorban.com) I took back in 2011 when he was giving a talk about how to make it in the wedding photography business. Because I was using an A900 (an old-school camera with an optical viewfinder), I had to rely on the old tools: I switched to spot metering, filled the center circle of the viewfinder with his face (using a zoom lens), hit the Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) button, zoomed out, recomposed, and shot. Naturally, it came out perfect. How would live view help you nail this shot if you weren't already familiar with the old tools?
To get these illustrative shots I brought up Grant's picture on my computer monitor and pointed the A99 toward it. First, let's see how a camera would normally handle this kind of difficult scene while in Auto Exposure mode:
Yup! Auto exposure tries to make everything look 18% grey-ish, resulting in a picture which looks horribly over-exposed for this non-average scene. To fix this, you can use either the +/- control (exposure compensation) and set it to something like -2 or -3, or you can put it into manual exposure mode and adjust the f/stop and shutter speed until the image looks the way you want it to (below).
That's the ticket! Fast and intuitive, and nothing complex to learn. (You can stop here if you don't want to hear me discuss how to interpret the histograms on these two images.)
Interpreting the Histogram
There will be some instances out in the field where the ambient light will be so bright that it will be hard to see just when the exposure is "perfect". (This is true whether you're using Live View or reviewing the image you just took on your rear LCD screen). For these occasions the Live View Histogram can save you. Let's start with the overexposed example two images ago (Click on the image to make it bigger, and pay attention the red square). The vast majority of this picture is comprised of dark tones, which is represented by the large mound in the center of the histogram. (If it's in the center, that means it's being rendered as grey. If we could shift it to the left, then the same information would be rendered as black.) A tiny amount of this picture is comprised of light tones -- specifically, the speaker's shirt and face, and then less bright tones, like the speaker's jacket and the words on the powerpoint slide. All of these are tiny compared to the amount of dark tones, and that's why they show up as tiny spikes on the histogram, and because they're blown out in this image, you can see them very far over to the right (inside the red box).
Now click on the second image. You can see that the same information has all been shifted to the left on the histogram (which is what happens when you underexpose) - the black parts that were rendered as grey have now moved to the left - so far to the left that they're now being rendered as black with no shadow detail (which is perfectly OK for this particular shot). And the small amount of light from the subject that was so far to the right that it was being blown out is now safely in the center of the histogram (inside the red rectangle), where you want a neutral tone subject to be placed.
• Seminars – Singapore, Seattle, and Vancouver are now open for enrollment! Here's the current schedule:
|Singapore||March 23-24, 2013||Learn more and sign up!|
|Seattle, Washington||June 22-23, 2013||Learn more and sign up!|
|Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)||June 29-30, 2013||Learn more and sign up!|
|Australia and New Zealand||September 2013||Click here to register interest for AustraliaClick to register interest for New Zealand|
More information about these world-famous seminars (including the one key thing it covers that nobody talks about anymore) can be found at www.FriedmanArchives.com/seminars .
• The Spanish version of the RX-100 ebook is out! (And if you’re a member of a Spanish-language Alpha online forum, please email me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com.)
• Cameracraft – My favorite article from last quarter's issue was the story behind the portrait of eccentric stargazer (and U.K. equivalent of Dr. Carl Sagan) Sir Patrick Moore. Apparently he drank a lot and offered his photographers more than a few pints, after which they dutifully passed out. (Hard to shoot a portrait in that condition!) Subscribe today to see what happened after that. It’ll bring a smile to your face. :-) www.friedmanarchives.com/cameracraft
• A99 and NEX 5R/6 ebooks (the latter being co-written by Mike Hendren) are both going well and our target release date is “sometime in March” for both titles. Let me know if you'd like to be notified when either of these are ready.
as I did), and the book had lots of illustrations and photos. But what if in order to print it out, you were expected to hand-code your book in Postscript (Adobe’s page description language that first appeared on the Laserwriter)? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that’s kind of where the e-reader world is today when it comes to authoring content.
In a perfect world it would be possible to edit your document and just say “Export this as an e-book” and be done with it. But the only tools that claim to do that only work well with purely text-based books. There are currently NO tools available that can do that with complex-layout books such as mine. (None!) Every tool I've tried just results in disastrous layouts – the tables and figures are not aligned (and some roll right off the right edge), and the table of contents is anything but tidy. Since my customer base is switching to iPads and e-readers en masse, my only options were either to pay an outside firm gobs of money to make the conversion (by hand!), or learn how to do it myself.
So I've been on a mission for over a year to learn the inner structures of e-book formats like .mobi (for the Kindle) and .epub (for all other e-readers). There's nothing straightforward about it, and the only tools that are out there for formatting content are quite primitive.
So to meet the ebook format halfway, starting with the A65/A77 book I've converted to a vertical format to make the transition a little easier. (My books were originally horizontal because they were designed to be read on a computer screen.) Figures and tables had to all be re-done since epub can’t handle either. Lots of scripts to clean up the resulting HTML were run. I spent countless hours uploading various versions to various e-stores, all of which have their own .epub format checkers (and their own bugs) and NONE of which provide meaningful error messages. ("Cannot process file. Bad token"). After all this effort, I’ve got it to a point where the files are readable on their respective platforms, sans some minor functions (like taking notes or looking up words or keeping internal hyperlinks). You're welcome. :-)
So, why aren’t my titles showing up in any e-reader stores, like the iBookstore or the Kindle Marketplace?
Here's the thing about the Kindle store that you may not know. They have two pricing models: If you price your book under $9.95, Amazon lets you keep 70% of that revenue. (That translates to $6.95 for me.) But if you have the audacity to charge something higher than that, Amazon takes 70% of the revenue! This means you can pay $26.45 for my A77 ebook and I get to keep a whopping $7.93. I feel so privileged And if you go through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they try to lock you in for 90 days and not allow you to sell your ebook anywhere else. How do I benefit from this again?
Amazingly, Apple’s iBookstore isn’t nearly as greedy, but in order to get listed there you have to go through an aggregator like Lulu.com (who uses an old and bug-ridden epubcheck version to weed you out) or Smashwords (who can’t accept manuscripts larger than 10 MB in size (mine are significantly larger)). You are also forbidden to mention the words "Amazon" and "Kindle" in iBookstore ebooks. I tell you, it’s murder being a pioneer!
I'm not Stephen King. The audience for my books is quite limited and I pour a lot of sweat into making them. I believe the books offer an outstanding value proposition and I believe I've earned every penny that I charge. Amazon, in contrast, has not done anything to earn a 70% take. So, for the foreseeable future, none of my e-books will be available in any of the e-reader marketplaces. I still continue to bundle the .mobi version for free with the original .pdf download, so Kindle owners can still enjoy the book on their device. And those with other e-readers can email me to receive their own .epub version. You paid for the content, and you should be able to consume it on any device you own. Sometime after the A99 book is finished, I'm going to experiment with putting out the first three chapters for $0.99, and if you like it you can follow a link to purchase the full version (less $0.99, of course). We'll see how that goes.
But really, making your work available as an ebook shouldn't be so hard. Epub making should be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get affair, much like word processing (or photo editing!) has become, and expecting authors to tweak the underlying HTML code by hand is just unnecessary. (Hey! I smell a business opportunity!)
P.S. – I’m not the only one to blog about these problems. If you want more detail of another author’s experience, I highly recommend this 2010 entry from Henry Melton, an independent Science Fiction writer: http://henrymelton.blogspot.com/2010/04/getting-into-apple-bookstore-with-epub.html
P.P.S. - : 1) Yes, I know about Sigil, Calibre, and Jutoh. None of them solve my problems, although I do use the first two to get 90% of the way there. 2) Yes, I know InDesign’s claims to handle this effortlessly. They’re lying. I have proof.
Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman