Photography News Issue 32

Technique 55

Photography News Issue 32

Photo school Camera class Everyone has to start somewhere, even pros, so every issue we’re looking at the core skills every beginner needs. This month, how live view autofocus modes can help you and how to fix problem portraits in Photoshop

Words by Kingsley Singleton

In association with

When you’re learning to shoot creatively, it’s natural to want to move away from on-screen, automated functions and take full control – and this applies to focusing, too. Getting to grips with different AF points, AF Areas and Modes is often done via the viewfinder and not the camera’s screen, one reason being that the contrast-detectAFusedwhen in live view tends to be slower than the phase-detect method used via a traditional viewfinder. However, for certain types of subject and situation, there are lots of benefits to shooting using live view AF, and some of the speedy, automated features it offers can mean the difference between getting the shot and not. Here are a few of them… 1. Face-detection AF Most DSLRs, CSCs and compacts’ live view AF mode features Face Detection AF (also called Face Priority AF). This smart function seeks out the characteristics of human faces and automatically focuses on those. And while it’s still better practice to shoot formal portraits using a single AF point – especially if you want to focus on the eye, rather than the whole face – face detection comes into its own when you need to work fast. For spur of the moment shots, you can rely on face detection to pick out a face straight away, and with the focus point usually linked to autoexposure, it’ll also be metered to make the best of the subject in the frame. Camera tech has come a long way, but it still can’t do anything about Murphy’s Law. That means, you’ll occasionally be faced with the apocalyptic situation of group shots ruined by blinking or gurning subjects. You can’t blame them for this, and the larger the group the more likely it is to happen, but fortunately there’s a method of dealing with it, and all it takes is a little bit of planning during shooting, and a quick bit of editing in Photoshop. The safety net is provided by capturing a burst of images, so you have several versions of the same shot. Within these you should be covered against blinks and unflattering expressions, the law of averages being that everyone should look fine at some point. With this set of pics, you can then bring out the best in everyone, simply by stacking themup in Photoshop, and then using Masks to hide the bits you don’t want and keep those you do. If you don’t want to use Masks, it works with the Eraser tool, but you do lose some editing freedom and it’s more difficult to correct mistakes. Softwareskills Fixinggroup shots

For creative photographers, face- detection AF really comes into its own when shooting candid pics and when twinned with a camera that uses a flip-out screen like the Nikon D5500 DSLR. By using the screen you can compose with the camera away from your eye, thereby escaping some attention, while the camera takes care of singling out the subject. Most face-detect modes will also track the subject if they move or if you recompose the scene, but you may need to be in the continuous AF mode to do it. When there are two or more people in the frame, most face-detection modes will focus on the closest subject. Face-detection AF should automatically be selected when the exposure mode is set to the Portrait scene mode and you’re in live view, but if you’re shooting in one of the other modes, like program (P), manual (M) or aperture-priority (A or Av), it’s selectable from the AF Area menu alongside the usual options like wide area or spot. 2. Smile and blink detection Because of the way that it analyses the human face, a camera’s face- detection functions can do a lot more than just focus. Many cameras, like those in Nikon’s Coolpix range, feature further refinements, and while these aren’t meant to compete with the immediacy of composing and shooting manually, there’s no doubt of their usefulness when it comes to capturing fleeting moments and avoiding duff shots like ‘blinkies’. For example, the Nikon P900 compact has a Smile

Mode that, when activated, will automatically fire the shutter when the subject breaks into a grin. When in live view, this mode is found via the self-timer options and it will wait to fire the shutter until a smile is detected. This, of course, makes it especially useful for group shots when you need to get from the camera into the frame. In its Smile Mode, the P900 and cameras like it can even tell if the subject is blinking, taking two shots of a subject in quick succession, and only saving the version where the eyes are open. 3. Edge focusing One of their limitations of using phase-detect AF is that its target areas are physically locked to the location of the actual AF sensors. This means that if the position of the camera is restricted, for example when you’ve framed up and placed it on a tripod, you might find that subject falls between the AF points or more commonly, that it sits outside the group. In live view AF, the AF target area can be positioned anywhere across the entire frame and with great precision, right up to the edge, so if the place you want to focus is there, you just need to move it. To do this you’ll need to be in the selectable area mode and then move the target either using the camera’s four-way controller, or touchscreen if it has one. The area can also be enlarged and shrunk to make focusing easier. Next month: Get creative with multiple exposure modes

Above Face detection is useful when you need to work fast and not draw attention to yourself, such as street portraits, while smile-detect can help group pictures.

Above Live view AF uses the contrast in the picture to focus so it’s not limited to a physical position as phase-detect sensors are. That means any point in the frame can be used to focus, right up to the edge.

Shot 1with blinks

1. Open and stack the layers Open the pictures that you want to combine, and on one of them go to Select>All then Edit>Copy. Back on the other picture, go to Edit>Paste. Open the Layers palette and you’ll now see two Layers called Background and Layer 1. If you’re using more than two shots, you can keep stacking them up in the same way. Shot fractions of a second apart, the pics should line up nicely, but if not, hold Shift and click the layer below to highlight both, then go to Edit>Auto Align Layers… choose Auto and hit OK.

2. Mask away the blinkies Now click on Layer 1, so that it alone is highlighted, then go to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All. A mask will appear on the Layer, and because it’s black the whole of Layer 1 is now hidden. To paint back in the parts you want, pick the Brush tool (B) and press D to set its colour to white. Set the Size and Hardness of the brush low so that you can work accurately, and with a soft edge. Now paint back the parts of the top layer that you want to use. Here it’s the gentleman on the right who has his eyes closed.

3. Crop and Save If you have more layers to use, they can be masked in exactly the same way. Finally, if the pictures were out of alignment you’ll need to crop the edges. Pick the Crop tool (C) and set its Ratio to Original Ratio. Now drag the corner handles to remove the white edges and click the tick when you’re done. Finally go to Layer>Flatten Image and then File>Save As… Save the picture using a new name, so that you don’t record over the original and have it on file for future reference.

Shot 2with blinks

Nextmonth: Makemultiple exposures inPhotoshop.

Shot 1 and 2 combined

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