Friday, September 9, 2011

What Is The Best Camera!!!

How's this for ego.  Today's image is of me.  I got a call the other day asking for a publicity shot of yours truly.  I only had one shot I (recently) like and that was setup for use on the web only. I asked what was the size they'd be using the shot.  They answer was "no more than 5x7".  Okay, for a 5x7 you really don't need a 12 Megapixel file.  A 1.5 MP shot would be fine (as long as it would be a full frame shot).  Rather than dig out the lights, softbox, stands and all the other gear, I glanced up at the top of my monitor.  There sits a Logitech webcam.  The last shot I was using was about ten years old and that was shot sitting in front of the computer with what was probably a .7 MP webcam.  I figured it was worth a shot (bad bun).  The lights in the computer room are daylight balanced so the monitors won't be thrown off by cool lights.  The monitor, being color balanced, with a blank white screen, makes a reasonable softbox.  So, I had a set of lights that might be workable.  I was educated as an engineer (but was a peddler most of my life) and one of the rags we used to say about engineers was the chief prerequisite was to be lazy.  A good engineer seeks the simplest way to do something.  The simplest way to get a quick publicity shot of me was to use the webcam sitting right in front of me.  I grabbed a 3'x5' five in one reflector and put it in back of me.  Had to do it.  The computer room is not the neatest place in the offices.  I took a quick test shot, tweaked the White Balance, exposure and aiming of the cam and took several more shots, most of which looked pretty dumb.  Eyes looking at the computer rather than the camera, head tilted at some bizarre angle, facing the computer with eyes toward the camera, facing the camera with eyes toward the computer, hand on chin, hand under chin, etc.  All together about ten different, bad shots.  As I was getting more and more frustrated I rested my hand on my cheek, elbow on the desk and looked into the camera.  Click and my head snapped back.  I'd gotten "something" I could use.  It wasn't perfect, but it could be quickly fixed in Adobe Photoshop CS5.  To find out what the fixes were, hit the "Read More".

Let me qualify what the image is not.  It's not cropped in any way.  I didn't extract my head and put it on another background.  This was supposed to be a quick, down and dirty, shot for the publication requesting it. 

My hand was too bright.  It was actually the closest thing to the monitor, so it got more light.  Using the Quick Selection Tool (W) I made a selection of my hand.  I then did a Save Selection (right click in the Layer box and pick Save Selection).  I deselected and made a copy of the entire image (CTRL J).  The reason for this move, rather than just putting the Selection up on another Layer, was that it was going to be applied to exactly the same image in exactly the same place and I didn't want any visible lines at the edge of the Selection.  I then changed the Blend Mode to Multiply, applied the Alpha Channel Mask (CTRL click on the Channel's thumbnail) and hit the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel.  Now my hand was too dark, so I dialed back the Opacity until it looked right (matter of taste).

The only other thing done to the image was to Clone (S) in a little gab by my lower shoulder.  The edge of the reflector used as a backdrop was showing, with a little bit of the messy office behind.  Not a pretty sight.
So there you have it.  A publicity shot in ten minutes and the publication sent back an email saying "great, glad you found it".  Found what?  There's a whole movement out in the world that says the best camera is the one you have with you.  That's why the majority of images on sites like Flickr come from phone cameras.  The little webcam just happened to be the camera right in front of me.  At the time, it was the "best camera" to get the job done quickly.