Old 12-23-2009, 09:38 AM   #1
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Default Q. How much is to much...

(kind of a long read, I really appreciate your time and feedback.)

Greetings...

I am a new member here. I stumbled across this site while doing some research one night about a year ago. I have been addicted ever since.

Before understanding the "feel/purpose" of the site, I tried unsuccessfully to upload some of my own rail fan photos. Understandably, they were rejected, shot on my cell phone camera or my old digital camera.

After hanging around for a while, I got a better feel for the site. I realize its not so much a rail fan site, but more geared toward the high quality photography of rail fans.

With the invent of digital cameras and photo editing software, the possibilities are endless. My career training was focused on graphic design and i work in the commercial printing field now.

With that being said, my question is this:

How much "after shot" editing is to much? When does the photo become "computer generated" and not just a great shot?

Do you personally have a basis for how much editing you will do to a photo?

How much editing do the veterans do?

Is it best to submit a raw photo and edit only based on rejection comments?

Basically, I am trying to get a feel for how far I can retouch a photo before it becomes "computer generated".

Thanks in advance for reading and responding, I look forward to your feedback!

~Jesse

(Instead of starting a separate thread: A question for admins/reviewers if I may. Do the photo reviewers use HD color corrected monitors?)
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:24 AM   #2
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Less is best as getting it right in camera works well. Post a shot or two and see if they get on or on this post.
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:34 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by milwman View Post
Less is best as getting it right in camera works well. Post a shot or two and see if they get on or on this post.
Thanks for the response. At this point none of my pics are worth posting. I am asking this as more of a training experience. I have some pics I can retouch the hell out of, and they may have a shot at getting in, but I would rather get the shot right to begin with.

Ya know what...what the hell. Here is a pic I took on the 4th of July. Was taken on a 2.0 mpx camera. Aside from the image quality, critique the hell out of it...it will be a good starting point for me.

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Old 12-23-2009, 11:19 AM   #4
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To start with what Camera do you have now?
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Old 12-23-2009, 12:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse View Post
After hanging around for a while, I got a better feel for the site. I realize its not so much a rail fan site, but more geared toward the high quality photography of rail fans.
Well, that is sometimes true

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©

Image © Travis Dewitz
PhotoID: 301581
Photograph © Travis Dewitz


But I think you mean high quality photography of trains.

Quote:
Is it best to submit a raw photo and edit only based on rejection comments?
NEVER - don't waste the time of the screeners. Give it your best effort.

More substantive comments later, or probably by then others will have responded.
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Old 12-23-2009, 12:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse View Post
(kind of a long read, I really appreciate your time and feedback.)

Greetings...

I am a new member here. I stumbled across this site while doing some research one night about a year ago. I have been addicted ever since.

Before understanding the "feel/purpose" of the site, I tried unsuccessfully to upload some of my own rail fan photos. Understandably, they were rejected, shot on my cell phone camera or my old digital camera.

After hanging around for a while, I got a better feel for the site. I realize its not so much a rail fan site, but more geared toward the high quality photography of rail fans.

With the invent of digital cameras and photo editing software, the possibilities are endless. My career training was focused on graphic design and i work in the commercial printing field now.

With that being said, my question is this:

How much "after shot" editing is to much? When does the photo become "computer generated" and not just a great shot?

Do you personally have a basis for how much editing you will do to a photo?

How much editing do the veterans do?

Is it best to submit a raw photo and edit only based on rejection comments?

Basically, I am trying to get a feel for how far I can retouch a photo before it becomes "computer generated".

Thanks in advance for reading and responding, I look forward to your feedback!

~Jesse

(Instead of starting a separate thread: A question for admins/reviewers if I may. Do the photo reviewers use HD color corrected monitors?)
Hello,

It will take a lot to make an image look "computer generated". Generally, basic editing with a decent camera will get a photo accepted (providing other factors, such as the subject is in good light, not distracted by unappealing shadows, the angle and balance of the photo is good, etc. etc). I generally will rotate, crop, slightly adjust color (if it needs it), adjust the contrast if need be, sharpen, and obviously, resize before uploading to RP. Sometimes I will apply some shadows/highlights to an image. If not done correctly, the s/h can quickly give the image an odd and rather "computer generated" appearance.

Hope This Helps,
Chase
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse View Post
Thanks for the response. At this point none of my pics are worth posting. I am asking this as more of a training experience. I have some pics I can retouch the hell out of, and they may have a shot at getting in, but I would rather get the shot right to begin with.

Ya know what...what the hell. Here is a pic I took on the 4th of July. Was taken on a 2.0 mpx camera. Aside from the image quality, critique the hell out of it...it will be a good starting point for me.

I have a tip for you, and it's harsh, but hear me out.
That photo is junk.
The light sucks, the image quality sucks, and the very conditions in which the photo was taken would make it hard for the best of us to get an acceptable photo.
Also, get a better camera.
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Old 12-23-2009, 03:26 PM   #8
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A 2.0 MP camera? Sorry that won't get you very far these days. Most cell phone cameras have a better camera nowadays. I'm a believer that a camera doesn't make the photographer but honestly a 2.0 MP camera doesn't give you much to work with.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:41 PM   #9
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2.0 MP can work if the sensor and optics are of better quality. Cell phone cameras are missing the other HQ parts. I am sure a 8MP Rebel can do better then a 16MP P&S.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:46 PM   #10
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2.0 MP can work if the sensor and optics are of better quality. Cell phone cameras are missing the other HQ parts. I am sure a 8MP Rebel can do better then a 16MP P&S.
Indeed. I had a 12 MP P&S, but the XSi (which is also 12 MP's) does a 10X better job of capturing detail with better quality results.

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Old 12-23-2009, 06:13 PM   #11
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2.0 MP can work if the sensor and optics are of better quality. Cell phone cameras are missing the other HQ parts. I am sure a 8MP Rebel can do better then a 16MP P&S.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chase55671 View Post
Indeed. I had a 12 MP P&S, but the XSi (which is also 12 MP's) does a 10X better job of capturing detail with better quality results.

Chase
I agree with you both. My point was that a 2.0MP camera in today's world of digital cameras is down right primitive.

Oh and Chase it's 12.2 on the XSi but who's keeping track!
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:15 PM   #12
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Hi Jesse,

I will agree with most of the folks who have responded to your thread in that the camera does not make the photographer, but your equipment will have to meet some minimal standards in order to give you a decent chance of getting pictures accepted here. If you are going to use a Point and Shoot Camera vs. a DSLR, you need one with decent resolution (at least 5MP and you really want 10 or more) and good optics. Fast focus really helps too.

Chase pretty much laid out the basic guidelines for photo acceptance. Your best bet is to start out simple and work your way up:
  • Simple, basic compostion (train coming more or less at you)
  • Front-lighting (sun behind your back)
  • Low angle sun (shoot in the early morning or later in the afternoon)
  • Don't waste your time on cloudy days. RP doesn't take most cloudy-day diesel shots.
Between Chase's advice and mine, you'll give yourself the best conditions in which to shoot....and conditions are VERY important.

As for camera operating techniques, I have only one piece of advice. Don't fall into the trap of letting the camera set your exposure. That's for tourists and shutter bugs, most of whom only care that the photo shows a recognizable subject. If you want pretty train pictures, you need to learn to shoot MANUAL EXPOSURE, and there's no time like the present to start. Manual exposure will give you more consistent pictures that require less editing on the computer afterward. And as folks have said, less is better.

Finally, WRT the photo you posted, there are several issues that I can see on my screen:
  • The shot is backlit (the sun is in front of you, so the nose of the engine is in shade)
  • The sky is very much overexposed.
  • The image is soft (either the focus isn't sharp or the image itself needs sharpening with software.)
  • Composition/cropping needs work. Subject is too centered, with dead space on the left. I would clip some off on the left.
As others have pointed out, this particular one is not something RP would likely accept. Your best bet is to follow the advice you are getting, do some shooting in ideal conditions and post the results here. Once you get close, you can try submitting. That will save you, and the Screeners a lot of angst.

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Old 12-23-2009, 06:20 PM   #13
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Oh and Chase it's 12.2 on the XSi but who's keeping track!
Chase has only been using 99% of his pixels!
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:27 PM   #14
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Chase has only been using 99% of his pixels!
Actually 98.360655738% of his pixels.

Okay, I'll stop now.
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:49 PM   #15
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Actually 98.360655738% of his pixels.

Okay, I'll stop now.


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Old 12-23-2009, 08:03 PM   #16
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I agree with you both. My point was that a 2.0MP camera in today's world of digital cameras is down right primitive.

Oh and Chase it's 12.2 on the XSi but who's keeping track!
Hehe, I bet those 0.2 MP's really make a major difference.

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As for camera operating techniques, I have only one piece of advice. Don't fall into the trap of letting the camera set your exposure. That's for tourists and shutter bugs, most of whom only care that the photo shows a recognizable subject. If you want pretty train pictures, you need to learn to shoot MANUAL EXPOSURE, and there's no time like the present to start. Manual exposure will give you more consistent pictures that require less editing on the computer afterward. And as folks have said, less is better.
Indeed, a very important piece of advice! I personally have only used the Auto setting a handful of times. Other settings such as AV, TV,etc. have never been used. I was told prior to purchasing an SLR at manual settings are the way to go. Personally, I agree! I like having full control over the settings. When I first started shooting manual, I had a hard time with getting the manual exposure just right, but I found the Live View mode to be very helpful! Of course, now, a year later, I've managed to get a feel for what is the correct exposure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Fladung View Post
Actually 98.360655738% of his pixels.

Okay, I'll stop now.
Jeez, couldn't get any more specific than the above comment.



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Old 12-23-2009, 09:09 PM   #17
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Quote:
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As for camera operating techniques, I have only one piece of advice. Don't fall into the trap of letting the camera set your exposure. That's for tourists and shutter bugs, most of whom only care that the photo shows a recognizable subject. If you want pretty train pictures, you need to learn to shoot MANUAL EXPOSURE, and there's no time like the present to start. Manual exposure will give you more consistent pictures that require less editing on the computer afterward. And as folks have said, less is better.
Quote:
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Indeed, a very important piece of advice! I personally have only used the Auto setting a handful of times. Another settings such as AV, TV,etc. have never been used. I was told prior to purchasing an SLR at manual settings are the way to go. Personally, I agree! I like having full control over the settings. When I first started shooting manual, I had a hard time with getting the manual exposure just right, but I found the Live View mode to be very helpful! Of course, now, a year later, I've managed to get a feel for what is the correct exposure.
Manual is in many ways better, but let's not exaggerate. One can do good work with the more limited settings. I shoot Av a fair amount of the time; going to manual when needed, which is hardly all or the time or even most, if shooting in daylight. Yes, good practice when becoming serious, but to a beginner trying to get one shot on I don't think that is necessarily the best advice. If you shoot a standard composition in good light, Av is fine. If the train is not moving I bet P is fine also, although I don't have personal experience with it.

At some point, fairly early on is better, sure, one should become familiar, not so much with using manual all the time but rather with understanding what shutter/aperture/ISO do. Then one knows when one must use manual and when one of the other settings is OK.
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Old 12-23-2009, 09:12 PM   #18
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In my experience (or lack thereof), if the image starts as a digital original taken with a decent camera that you know how to use and with good lighting, it should need very little post processing.....probably mostly cropping and leveling. This assumes you know some basics about shutter speed, focusing/depth of field, lighting, etc. A common problem with "consumer" cameras is they tend to overexpose because they assume you are an idiot and everything is backlit. So you may need to learn how to adjust your exposure. If the image is taken under "hostile" conditions such as backlit, heavy overcast, snow, etc. then it may need a bit more work. I have shot with a D40 and D90 and generally find the pics are pretty good the way they come from the camera, except under the most adverse conditions.

But most of my pics are from scanned slides taken many years ago. The scans often require a LOT more post processing for any number of reasons. It's with scanned slides that Photoshop really earns its keep.

I run all my stuff through Photoshop because my work flow evolved from slides. However, the working photogs I know (who all shoot digital) rarely use Photoshop and can usually get all the post processing they need from programs like iPhoto, Aperature or Lightroom.
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Old 12-23-2009, 09:38 PM   #19
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Manual is in many ways better, but let's not exaggerate. One can do good work with the more limited settings. I shoot Av a fair amount of the time; going to manual when needed, which is hardly all or the time or even most, if shooting in daylight. Yes, good practice when becoming serious, but to a beginner trying to get one shot on I don't think that is necessarily the best advice. If you shoot a standard composition in good light, Av is fine. If the train is not moving I bet P is fine also, although I don't have personal experience with it.

At some point, fairly early on is better, sure, one should become familiar, not so much with using manual all the time but rather with understanding what shutter/aperture/ISO do. Then one knows when one must use manual and when one of the other settings is OK.
I personally think if one is going to spend a large chunk of money on an expensive camera, they're most likely looking to pursue photography in a serious manner. I'm sure this is not always the case, but in some cases,and in my own personal experiences, I've found that upgrading to such an advanced camera most likely means one is serious with the hobby.

If one is serious with the hobby, the various settings and their purposes need to be addressed extensively to make a better photographer.

I suppose it really depends on how much the photographer is looking to be involved with the camera. I know many photogs who use AV, TV, P, and many other similar settings. They're content with using these settings and in many cases, do capture well-exposed images with decent quality results.

In my view, I personally find manual to be the better method for a couple of reasons. First, you have full control of the camera and do not have to be concerned with having an underexposed or overexposed image. Same applies for depth of field, etc.

Second, manual settings are not that hard to understand. ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are fairly easy to comprehend. Their purpose can be clearly explained if vaguely "googled" or read in a photography book, therefore making it easy for a photographer to understand manual and eventually, shooting in manual.

Don't get me wrong! I know both shooting methods are fully capable of producing amazing photographs, but atleast from my perspective, having full control over the camera will reassure me of a nice end product. I'm sure AV and other mentioned settings are in most cases, spot on, but I personally, prefer manual.

To each their own, I'm simply expressing my own opinion. I respect your opinion fully, J.

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Old 12-23-2009, 10:46 PM   #20
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While I agree that it is possible to get good images using some of the automatic exposure modes, the vast majority of the RP'ers that I've met trackside are shooting manual exposure. Before the train comes, you'll see them playing with composition and taking test shots. They're making last minute tweaks because they want to NAIL the exposure, not just get it close. This is particularly noticeable with folks who are dyed-in-wool JPEG shooters. Because there is less latitude in processing JPEG images, their goal has to be spot-on. Raw shooters can miss by a couple of stops (on the low side) and probably still "save" it. I rarely adjust exposure in ACR by more than a quarter stop....and usually, I don't touch it at all.

Before I "got religion", I shot auto exposure and JPEG for a couple of years and was very often disappointed with the results. As John W. pointed out, cameras seem to be programmed to overexpose a bit, because the average yay-hoo doesn't typically think much about the lighting situation before pointing and shooting.

For the average Joe, learning to shoot manual exposure is EASY. It will take you an afternoon of just going out in the backyard with your camera and playing with it. It is definitely not rocket science, and that one afternoon will take you out of the yay-hoo ranks and set you on a course toward becoming a real photographer.
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Old 12-24-2009, 12:54 AM   #21
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I think we just disagree on what a complete newbie should focus on first. Look at the shot in this forum. Is that the shot of someone who should first focus on learning manual exposure, or is that the shot of someone who should first focus on where to stand, on learning to notice where the sun is, on thinking about what to include or exclude in the frame?

Manual exposure will serve anyone well. But I believe is is not the first thing one should learn. Learn composition, learn light, let the auto or semi-auto capabilities of your camera carry you for a while, get some decent shots onto RP, get further enthused, then get into things like manual exposure. That is my view of the sequence of priority.
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Old 12-24-2009, 01:21 AM   #22
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Manual exposure will serve anyone well. But I believe is is not the first thing one should learn. Learn composition, learn light, let the auto or semi-auto capabilities of your camera carry you for a while, get some decent shots onto RP, get further enthused, then get into things like manual exposure. That is my view of the sequence of priority.
Actually, I think learning HOW to use the camera (manual setting) is more important than learning the other stuff first. Having a full grasp of how the camera works first will allow the person to better focus on composition, lighting, etc when the time comes. Besides, with today's digital cameras, learning how to use a camera's manual settings has never been easier.

Learn how to drive the car first before you try to get creative with it.

I'm sure that's just how they did it in the old days, too.
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Old 12-24-2009, 01:21 AM   #23
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To go back on camera talk for a second, when i bought my DSLR i went from a P&S 12mp and people were quite confused that i went to a 10.1mp DSLR, I know that the chips and such in this camera will beat out any P&S.

Now as where to start, I myself can't give much advice as i'm fairly new myself, but i can say you are in dire need of a camera upgrade. How much you spend depends on how serious you are about getting into the hobby of rail photography. If you're serious, spend some money. Start simple, don't go for over complicated shots like fancy night time lapses that i've seen chase do, i've tried it, and the shots weren't the best. Best advice, start simple and work your way up. It may take a while before you get your first shot onto RP as it did for me.

One other thing, you'll probally learn that a photographers biggest enemy is the clouds, they've ruined tons of my shots.
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Old 12-24-2009, 01:26 AM   #24
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I'm sure that's just how they did it in the old days, too.
Because they had to.
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Old 12-24-2009, 01:34 AM   #25
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One other thing, you'll probally learn that a photographers biggest enemy is the clouds, they've ruined tons of my shots.


I pray for clouds every day with my photography job. I'll take a cloudy day ANY day over a sunny day, thank you.
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Rhymes with slice, rice and mice, and probably should be spelled like "Tice."

This pretty much sums it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Thias
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