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Best Time and Place for Photos 

If you want to realize the best results from any photography, lighting is the most important component to the process. With careful planning and attention to detail, light interacting with surfaces, etc... Photography can be done under most any lighting condition. However, there are periods that produce better results than others.

Golden Hour Morning. This is a period of between 40 and 60 minutes just as the sun rises in the morning. The light is soft and warm, which produces great depth of color and soft shadows. You can also use the 20 to 30 minutes before the sun is visible for some images, along with supplemental lighting to fill and create drama lost by too little light. However, this is followed by a time when the sun is low, the shadows are long - so the period just after the golden hour presents challenges best avoided when possible.

Golden Hour Evening. This is the same as the morning period, but in the last 40 to 60 minutes of the day as the sun sets. You can often extend this to the 20 to 30 minutes after the sun sets, for interior images and other details, using supplemental lighting adds drama lost from too diffuse low light. However, just before sunset, when the sun is low, but above the horizon, the shadows are long, and the sun is hard to escape, so the period just after the golden hour presents challenges best avoided by waiting a few moments longer.

Diffuse Cloudy Days. While the results can be drab and drama-less, diffuse cloudy days provide the most useable time overall for capturing images. However, it is still best to avoid the brightest period of the day, usually between 11AM and 2PM, as the intensity of light from the sky can be difficult to work with. In the morning and afternoon periods, supplemental light or use of reflectors can be used to improve shape modeling and detail capture.

Mid Day (11AM to 2PM) is most difficult. Mid day light creates challenges in controlling shadow effects, harsh reflections, deep shadowing, and harsh general effects. When possible, this should be avoided. Interior photography at this time is the worste. However, in some instances, there are cases in which mid day harshness can be used to enhance shape and color of some vehicle exteriors.

Night Time. There are a few instances when shooting a vehicle at night is a great option. However, finding a suitable location that is not filled with the noise of background lighting, parking lot and street lighting can be a challenge. Night time image capture requires significant use of artificial light sources.

Shade. When all else fails, a good option for capturing quality images is to find a shaded location. Ideally the shade will be continuous, like that from a building wall, or a dense tree canopy. Consideration that the source of the shade will likely be visible in the images at some angles, and that the area outside the shade may present brightness issues is important to factor into site location here.

Keep It Simple. The simpler the background, the better. Too many trees, buildings, fences, and other details that fight for attention with the subject being photographed need to be avoided. Further, shooting a car against any background that is of a similar color has to be avoided. Black cars are notoriously troublesome in reflecting complex splattering of light in ways that are unflattering.

Indoors is Generally Bad. Interior spaces restrict access and distance between the car and the camera. To capture the proper angles using lenses that do not distort the vehicle requires distance around the car, roughly 10 to 12 feet minimum. Highly reflective cars reflect what’s in the building, so other cars, safety posts, windows, doors, skylights, overhead lighting, people moving around, and general objects around the car, even at some distance, are going to show up in the images. Overhead lighting is often poor for photoghraphy, as are skylights, since they will be reflected as bright patterns in all horizontal surfaces. This is particularly troubling when the ceiling is a dark color like black. Further, dirty floors, grease stains, tire marks, etc… are all distracting in both background and reflections. 

The Car Will Need to Be Moved… A Lot. Even if the light is perfect and the background ideal, the car will need to be moved around to place the light on it most ideally for each of the viewing angles. This will require the car be moved, often many times during a photo session. Make sure the battery is charged, and the car is in good running order, or that there area other means for moving the vehicle (like car skates, which will require a smooth surface to move around on.)

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The Wonders of Enhancement

Bringing back old print photos and making them useable in the digital universe, for sharing and printing is one of the wonders of the modern age. In this example, the top original  image (scanned from a 4 x 6 print) was not only recovered, but made more attractive through the use of various AI based image processors and some diligent tuning.

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Cropping and Digital File Size Effect

Cropping digital images presents an effect on image quality that was not as prevalent in film image capture. Digitizing a film original, cropping was done in-process, so the resolution of the output file remained the same for full frame as it did for cropped frame.

Digital photography creates a fixed output of image pixels as the master file. Cropping is done within that - subtracting pixels from the original file. The effect can be apparent when a large scale output is desired from a digital image that has been heavily cropped.

Digital File Cropping Effect on Image Size
The following illustrates an example of what happens to a 45MP file captured in-camerr, when it is cropped:

Original 45MP = 8,192 x 5,464 pixels
Cropped 15% = 6,963 x 4,644 = 32MP
Cropped 25% = 6,144 x 4,098 = 25MP
Cropped 40% = 4,915 x 3,278 = 16MP

For this reason, where film photographer often left the subject very loose in the frame, then cropped it during scanning to digital, digital photography often favors pre-cropping the image in camera, or capturing multiple images in different zoomed-in states, to provide the opportunity to produce the desired high quality end product needed for an assignment.

In other words, the trick is to know early in an assignment, what the finished use of an image will be, and make adjustments in approach to produce the best match of image file size and requirements. Then, when collecting images, crop in-camera to a greater degree than one might have in the days of film, to increase the utility of the finished images. Or, in some instances, it may be required to capture an open framed image, coupled with zoomed in images, that can be combined later to provide the required page fill.

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Smart Phones for Photography

The emergence of the smart phones and advances in related camera technology have put the capability of capturing good quality images into the hands of virtually everyone. The smart phone delivers everything the disposable film cameras did many years ago, with the additional benefit of instant processing, and ease of sharing. The movement toward digital communication and lack of paper and film is a great matchup. Smart phones are undoubtedly great devices – but they do present limitations for capturing high quality images, due to their compact architecture.

Size Does Matter
Smart phones are hobbled by tiny sensors. These extremely small pixel sensors employed are pushing the limits of micro-electronics. While there are a few models offering 48 to 200MP capture, the numbers are more about marketing than actual image quality. In most shooting modes, the actual image capture is 12MP, using pixel ganging to improve light capture and image quality, where the higher MP images in other that bright daylight are of lower quality overall.

That 12MP is actually ideal for a smart phone image capture. See related article on image size and MP requirement. Do you really need to generate a 10 to 22.6MB file from a smart phone?

Sensor Size Comparison
To compare, Ssmart phone camera sensors are around 50 to 78 square mm. Compact digital cameras generally have sensors of around 116 square mm. ASP-C cameras 368 square mm. Full frame professional cameras have 864 square mm sensors. In each of these, as the size of the individual sensor grows , so does the size of the individual sensors within it. The rule is simple: Larger sensors = greater light sensitivity = greater detail and contrast capture. Small sensors = less light sensitivity, less detail and lower contrast capture (often with shadow details lost).

Comparison of pixel sizes between sensors
The larger the sensor area also produces a greater capacity for wider dynamic color range, better low light response, better image distinction within shadows, less instances of burnout in highlights on glossy surfaces, greater control of depth of field, and crisper small details. Control of bokeh (soft focus) areas is significantly enhanced, creating more dramatic images.Larger sensors mean larger lenses, which gather more light, have fewer issues with distortion, and more control of image shaping. There is a reason that the highest end professional studio cameras now sport very large sensors over 4" x 5", to support an  actual 400MP, creating monstrous files - but none of that applies to smart phone cameras.

Aperture and Lens Effects Missing
Smart phone cameras have no adjustable apertures, offering only exposure time to adjust for amount of light in the scene. Using apertures in photography is an important tool Small apertures create deep depths of field with objects near and far in sharp focus. Large Apertures create soft background and foreground bokeh effects that enhance drama and focus on the subject.

If All You Need….
If all you need is a quick pic to capture damage that has been done to a box received from a shipper, a smart phone camera will definitely do the job.

If all you need is a few quick photo of a low price item to post on ebay, or send to a prospective buyer, a smart phone will likely do the job just fine.

When You Need a Photographer with a Camera
Photographers bring to the image collection party these important attributes:

An eye for capturing images based on experience and training. This results in better approach in viewing angle and more complete image capture, use of lens effects and lighting.
A photographer knows how to tickle details and shapeliness out of a subject by just changing an angle, or moving the camera closer or further away, adding a light, or blocking light, along with camera settings to match.
Photographers are in their field because they love the work, and are invested in producing the best images possible from a subject assigned. It is not a casual ‘good enough’ business to them.
Photography with lighting is always better than available light. Photographers know how to bring light onto a subject to create shaping, draw attention, increase visibility in shadowed regions, enhance textures, etc..
A photographer with a camera has the capacity to use depth of field, focal distance, field of view, contrast, and aperture settings coupled with capture speed to produce clearer, more focused images that require less post-process manipulation.

The two technologies don’t exclude one another, they compliment, and expand the amazing collection of imagery that is great for everyone.
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What File Size Do You Really Need?

In digital imagery, the buzz is all about the Megapixel (MP). But, how much of this is real, and how much is hype?

For photography customers, the answer is found in defining where the images be used.

Here is a run down on the needs for display on smartphones and snap-shot print sizes.

Regular Image and Screen Output Targets 
Large Smart Phone display = 3,088 x 1,440 = 4.5MP
4,288 x 2,848 computer display = 12MP
7×5 Print at 300dpi = 2,100 x 1,500 = 3.2MP
7 x 5 Print at 600 dpi = 4200 x 3000 = 12.6MP

Most pictures need a little room over these full frame numbers to facilitate cropping. So, the 12MP image size for these phones is actually a great match, with over-kill, with display and common snap-shot size print uses.

Video Displays and Mid Size Printing
Here is a run down on common display and mid size print requirements.

10×8 Print @ 300dpi = 3,000 x 2,400 = 7.2MP
10 x 8 Print @ 600dpi = 6,000 x 4,800 = 28.8MP
13 x 19 print @ 300dpi = 5,700 x 3,900 = 22.3MP
13 x 19 print @ 600dpi = 11,400 x 7,800 = 88.9MP
Full HD (1080P) 1,920 x 1,080 = 2MP
UHD (1440P) 2,560 x 1,440 = 3.7MP
4K Display 3,860 x 2,160 = 8.4MP
8K Display 7,680 x 4,320 = 33MP

Based on this, for all digital display use to full page into the foreseeable future, any camera between 12MP and 30MP is going to get the job done. However, to provide room for cropping, a 45MP to 60MP image size is going to provide additional data needed.

Monster Prints, Ultra Fine Detail and Heavy Cropping Uses
To crop images heavily, print large format output, or the subject demands hyper-fine detail capture for maximimum enl;argement, you will need big files. This often demands use of AI enlargement or image capture using very high range camera equipment, or large film camera capture with digital scanning.

Here is a rundown of how big a print you can expect to need:
22 x 15 @ 300dpi = 6720 x 4480 = 30MP
22 x 15 @600dpi = 11,648 x 8,742 = 100MP 
77 x 58 @300dpi = 23,200 x 17,400 = 400MP
77 x 58 @600dpi = 46,400 x 34,800 = 1,600MP

So, when discussing your requirements with a photographer, communicate where the images will be used, so that an appropriate file size can be determined. Having larger files consumes storage space, so finding the right blend of image size and end use utility is key in this decision making.

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Enlargement Capabilities

use various software that utilizes AI image processing to evaluate and recreate photography for large scale printing, I can produce enlargements of any image up to a max of between 5X and 6X the original file size.

To demonstrate what the enlargement will look like, the image here is derived from an original image (5850 x 3900 pixels), taken with a 20MP camera.

Generally, the upper limit for enlargement is 6X original size, so with this original file, the largest image would be roughly 35,100 x 23,400, or 120MP. This will support a high quality print of 15" x 20" at 600dpi, or 30" x 40" at 300dpi.
The advantage to AI software, is that it steps beyond just making the image larger. AI seeks to reproduce surfaces and edges, creating a sharper image that is truer to the original file.

Using a 45MP camera, the native raw image file (high data density) offords an opportunity to produce prints as large as wall size (77" x 60").

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