Old 03-02-2009, 09:30 PM   #1
Todd Jackson
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Default Help needed desperately

Hey guys, I'm completely new to this stuff, so any help is much appreciated.
Most of my rejections are for lighting, which I completely understand, and 'Poor Image Quality', which I don't really understand. I assume it's more like a catch-all for plain ol' bad photography?

I've included a couple of my rejections so you can see what I'm working with:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...d=652383&key=0

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...d=651406&key=0

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=390761232

There you go. I don't expect these photos to be 'fixable', but maybe you guys could give me some tips on how to improve for next time. I take no offense so feel free to be frank with me.

Thanks in advance for the help
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:41 PM   #2
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Well the image quality is poor, what kind of camera do you use? Out of all the photos the first is best. The second shot isnt a bad location you just need better weather and light. It would also help if you used more zoom. The third is the worst, huge black strip up stop, sign at the bottom of the frame etc, etc.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:55 PM   #3
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I generally use a basic Canon A590 or a GE A835. They're just regular digital cameras. Do you have any suggestions on equipment I could/should use/afford?
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:15 PM   #4
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Hey Todd,

I think the most important thing you could do to give yourself a fighting shot is to pick better weather. These shots were all taken on days with either cloudy skies or very filtered sun. When it comes to common power....meaning engines that are commonly in use today, RP really wants a sunny day and they'd like that sun directly behind you when you shoot. Also best to shoot before 10 AM or after 3PM. Mid-day, high angle sun produces relatively poor lighting. You can probably get away with shooting in the middle of the day for another month or so, but then the 10 - 3 rule kicks in until October.

Better light will make your pictures look better, regardless of what kind of camera you are using. The next step (if you are not already doing this) is to shoot manual exposure. You set the ISO (100 preferred), you set the aperture and you set the shutter speed. Take test shots before the train comes and look at them closely to adjust for the right exposure. If your camera offers a histogram, it is very worthwhile to learn to use it.

If you are looking for a new camera, think DSLR. The Canon Rebel or Nikon D40/D60 would be obvious choices. I think Canon offers better bottom-of-the-line cameras, but as things get more sophisticated, I like Nikon better.

Best of luck!
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Old 03-03-2009, 02:03 AM   #5
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With all due respect to Kevin, the points he makes are valid to an extent, but for what I see here I would expect better image quality than this, even under these conditions. I have some shots on the database with a Canon A80 and these fall well short.

EDIT: I didn't notice that you had said you didn't understand poor image quality. It isn't bad photography ( there is a Poor Esthetic Quality for some of that) but rather poor technical quality of the image, blurry, etc. Sometimes it means an inadequate camera, sometimes a poorly used camera.

I look at the EXIFs and I see that all three of those shots are done with the GE A835. On the web I see that it is an $80 camera. Now, I am far, far from a camera snob. But I've never heard of this camera, I didn't even know GE sold digicams (is it a rebranded camera made by someone else?) and I think that there is a limit on image quality at RP such that the camera is simply not going to work. So no surprise to me that it sells for $80, given what I see in the images. Frankly, I suspect that if I were still using the A80 I would have problems with many (but not all) shots.

The A590 is well regarded as a digicam and it may do better, but none of the shots here are from that camera.

Now, it may be the case that if you sharpened these shots they might look better, I didn't try that.

Aside from all that, one can also do better in preparing shots for RP. The NS/lines shot is very nice, but RP generally does not go for a square crop and I think the shot would be well served by taking some off the top, despite the pretty clouds. But it is a very nice shot - too bad you didn't have a better camera with you.

The Scioto Tower shot has the train dead center, a definite no-no in most situations - try "rule-of-thirds" - and the intruding branch, rather than making a nice frame, is gruesome. The CSX, you cut way too close on the bottom, both with respect to the pilot and the MP sign, and you left a black bar across the top of the shot. Having the MP sign obstructing the engine, even a bit, is also frowned upon here. Both shots are taken in light too poor for RP standards, too dark, at least in terms of standard shots.

Good luck getting things up to speed for RP (or maybe you have shots on already, I haven't checked), come back for more help anytime. I'm not harsh to drive you away, I'm harsh to be helpful.
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Last edited by JRMDC; 03-03-2009 at 02:09 AM.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:05 AM   #6
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The camera you have is capable of taking RP quiltiy photos. Here is a picture of mine that was taken with a Canon PowerShot A590 IS:
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphot...wcomments=true
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:10 AM   #7
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I realize the weather/lighting was pretty crappy in most of these pictures, as it is in Columbus on a nearly daily basis. I've only been doing this for a couple months, and that was great help for a noob. I'll definitely have to try that stuff.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:11 AM   #8
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I didn't know GE made digicam until I opened it for Christmas. It's certainly not my first choice, but my Canon A590 was out of service. Thanks for the info on the framing and cropping. As for the sharpening, how might I do that? Currently I am using software (freeware?) called 'Irfanview'. Is this acceptable, or do I need to use something better? Perhaps a Photoshop version? Don't worry about being harsh. I need the help.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd Jackson View Post
As for the sharpening, how might I do that? Currently I am using software (freeware?) called 'Irfanview'. Is this acceptable, or do I need to use something better? Perhaps a Photoshop version? Don't worry about being harsh. I need the help.
The user manual or help system is your friend. Perhaps someone else will chime in; I'm pretty sure Irfanview does sharpening but I have never used it myself. If it doesn't (I'd be quite surprised if that were true; sharpening is a basic function), then look at the free Picasa by Google. For $$ I like Photoshot Elements, around $80.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:17 AM   #10
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Cooke Road in Columbus is a good place to practice in the afternoons. The sun is perfect there for Southbound trains.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:18 AM   #11
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Basic photography: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Also, hang around the forums for a while, look at all the pictures that people bring here with questions, consider the responses. You'll learn a lot.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:40 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
The user manual or help system is your friend. Perhaps someone else will chime in; I'm pretty sure Irfanview does sharpening but I have never used it myself. If it doesn't (I'd be quite surprised if that were true; sharpening is a basic function), then look at the free Picasa by Google. For $$ I like Photoshot Elements, around $80.
Hiya guys!
I just wanted to tell you, Todd, that you would be better off without Irfanview. It isn't good for train work. I did like to use it sometimes for my everyday photos but definitely not for trains/railroads. It just doesn't get the job done when it comes to exposure, sharpness, contrast, etc.

I would suggest if you want to go free, go with Gimp or Picasa (I've never used these myself, but I know a LOT of people use them and are happy with them). I do love my photoshop elements though. Tip: If you're thinking about buying Photoshop, go to Adobe's website, download it, and try it out for 30 days to make sure you like it. Even if you don't buy it, it is still nice to tryout for 30 days! lol If you're worried about trying to use these programs, there are TONS of tutorials on youtube and such. You'll get the hang of it, don't worry!

If you have more questions, definitely come to these guys. They are the biggest help you can get here. Nice too!!!

Most importantly! Have fun!
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:53 AM   #13
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Personally I liked picture one location looks good. The picture needs some cropping work and it has the look that a noise reduction setting was used on it giving it the soft quality.

Just my thought(s)
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Old 03-03-2009, 04:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Hiya guys!
I just wanted to tell you, Todd, that you would be better off without Irfanview. It isn't good for train work. I did like to use it sometimes for my everyday photos but definitely not for trains/railroads. It just doesn't get the job done when it comes to exposure, sharpness, contrast, etc.
I've used Irfanview for every accepted shot I have on RP. When used for basic edits on a technically decent shots, it's perfectly fine. Using a no frills editor helped me grow as a photographer, because I didn't have the luxury of half ass-ing a shot and go home to have photoshop save me.

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Old 03-03-2009, 04:16 AM   #15
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I've used Irfanview for every accepted shot I have on RP. When used for basic edits on a technically decent shots, it's perfectly fine. Using a no frills editor helped me grow as a photographer, because I didn't have the luxury of half ass-ing a shot and go home to have photoshop save me.

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Really?? Wow. It must just be me and not knowing how to work the dang thing...Figures!! lol Sorry about that!!!
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Old 03-03-2009, 04:32 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanedeemer View Post
Cooke Road in Columbus is a good place to practice in the afternoons. The sun is perfect there for Southbound trains.

It is good in the morning too, standing on the east side of the tracks there is less background clutter.
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:41 PM   #17
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Ok guys, try this one, what could be done to make this one better next time?

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...key=1282166428
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:06 AM   #18
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Id say that would work well as a vertical shot, not all that much to look at over on the right.The image quality is still pretty bad though, i can see tons of Jpeg artifacts.
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:42 AM   #19
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No, not necessarily a vertical (it would come out pretty square-ish, no?), just a less wide horizontal, try keeping the high voltage tower but cropping everything to its right. Take some off the top of the sky to maintain a rectangular-ish shape.
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:51 AM   #20
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Jpeg artifacts?
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Old 03-05-2009, 02:01 AM   #21
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Ya, there are some small square portions throughout the image, leading to a compression and/or a grain issue.

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Old 03-05-2009, 02:01 AM   #22
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Quote:
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Ok guys, try this one, what could be done to make this one better next time?

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...key=1282166428
Agreed with Nikos on the JPG artifacts. Are you sure you're saving your images with zero compression/highest quality? (If you don't know what something means, always remember that Google is your friend.)

As far as composition goes, nothing to the right of the signal contributes to the shot. You'd probably be better off zooming in more with the edge of the frame about midway between the signal and the high-tension tower.

I hate to encourage wedgie shooting, but I feel compelled to point out something that concerns me about this photo, particularly since you admit to being "completely new" to railroad photography: The head-on view as shown here really makes me feel like you're standing much too close to the tracks. I had the same initial impression regarding your original shot of NS 9279. Unless there were extenuating circumstances, such as the trains were only moving 5mph and you were able to get in the clear quickly, I'd encourage you to step back away from the tracks not only for your own safety but also to mitigate the possibility of crews calling you in for dangerous behavior. Part of our responsibility as railroad photographers is to understand the fact that trains can be dangerous and respect the railroads' concerns for safety -- we get enough negative press as it is from those few bad apples who do stupid stuff.
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Old 03-05-2009, 02:02 AM   #23
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Jpeg artifacts?
The sky is blotchy, not at the cloud level but at the pixel level.

Also, the image is oversharpened, you have a (modest) amount of white halo-ing around the engine and signals.
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Old 03-05-2009, 02:05 AM   #24
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Irfanview (to me) always oversharpened images, which is most likely why the sharpening seems to be a bit crude. Its either leave them like they are out of the camera or get an oversharpened look like above.

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Old 03-05-2009, 02:37 AM   #25
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To DWHonan,
I did not know about saving at the highest quality possiblity, so thanks for that. Thanks also for the concern about my safety as to standing too close to the tracks. This photo was taken with a decent amount of zoom, and I was not standing on the tracks, so I was able to clear quickly. As for the NS 9729 pic, I was well away from the tracks on that pic. But again thanks for the concern, I will keep that in mind when trackside
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