Category Archives: composites

Make Believe Awards

I wish I was there. How many times have I heard this about the Oscar awards in Hollywood. The Oscar award ceremony is always a popular around the house here. My wife loves to take advantage of the show as her excuse to “dress up” and have some fun with like minded movie folks. What has evolved over the years is that she takes on a costume of something related to the Oscars.  This year she rented a runway dress suitable for the awards and I did fast session against a grey background with the intent of putting her “into the Oscars” or at least in a movie style bake believe setting.

Why grey?  Because while white can look like rim lighting when you composite in your image, I would be working with mixed lighting images and I find that against the lighter dresses, grey works really well to help cut it out. The brightness of a light dress makes it  hard to get a clean edge against the white. And black is too noticeable when you don’t get a nice tight edge.

This image is one of the series I took of Jeanne in the runway dress. I used a single 42 inch octo with a 1600 watt alien bee. I had a V card reflector on the left side.

Jeanne on grey background for oscars

For one background, I used a image I found on Google of the past Oscar awards and chopped a section out of it. I had to do a touch of clean up to remove some feet and so on but I think overall it worked pretty good.
Jason-Sudeikis-stepped-back-take-snap-his-pregnant-fiancée

I then removed Jeanne from the grey background and added to her to my new background at the Oscars. I added a shadow to help add some depth.
Jeanne on Oscar red carpet

I also used a set up image of the Kodak theater and did some cropping and enlarging to get the sizing close.
Jeanne at Kodak theater
None of this compositing was difficult but the tricks like shooting on grey made it a lot easier than it could have gone. Another trick is that I use an average blue layer to blend in the different tones of the two images. That really smooths out the color blending, brightness and such. I also used a slightly different pose with the purse because that better fit the overall “theme” of my base images. If you can get 90% of the image to look right, the brain will fill in the rest without too much difficulty.

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Disney on Ice, How to shoot low light with an iPhone

Most photographers panic when they have to shoot low light with fast motion. They start to blubber on about needing uber-high ISO and uber-expensive glass. For those with smartphones like the iPhone, the common thought is “Don’t even bother, it won’t work”. And truly, for most photographers and most common users of the iPhone, that is true. And it’s true because they keep banging their head against the problem instead of thinking smart and letting that smartphone do it’s job.

First, let me show you what you can do with an iPhone when it’s in a dark place with a very bright spot light and something moving fast like the “Disney on Ice” show.

 

Disney on ice,  Beauty and the Beast

So the first thought is “Whoahhh”.. that’s an iPhone picture? You must have special access, special software, special lens blah, blah.. There is NO way I could do that. And you would be completely wrong about your assumptions. I shot this with an iPhone 5S and using an app called ProCamera for a couple of reasons. The app lets me set my exposure and focus points in two different places and it lets me save a TIFF file so I can really work with the image after the fact in something like Lightroom.

ProCamera is a replacement camera app for the iPhone that just rocks it. You get TIFF format, Fullscreen triggering, antishake and more like the separated focus and exposure points. At 99 cents, you cannot go wrong with it

I also use a desktop editor to get the best out of the TIFF files but for fast posting to Facebook, I will use Snapseed then re-edit later on when I get home. That editing with Lightroom or other desktop editor is the magic secret sauce to get the very best out of smartphone image. The TIFF gives you the latitude to work the shadows and highlights to recover details without ruining the image.

A very important trick is to learn to anticipate a slowing in the action to mimize the blurring OR to use the blurring to help tell the story. If you cannot fix a liability then embrace it and make it your own. In this image, I knew there would be tons of movement but I also knew some of the skaters would be pausing so I had the best of both worlds. I had the grand finale with the fireworks which I had set my exposure to and I had motion that made the image dynamic.
Disney on Ice finale

This is the trick, use a liability and turn it into a positive which in this case is the inherent blurring.

When you shoot something like this, don’t be afraid to try a few techniques like using the OEM HDR or alternative camera apps. Also, use techniques like panning to help lock focus on your subject, just don’t whack your neighbor. The flash off the iPhone in an event like this is useless and obnoxious to your neighbors so don’t forget to turn it off. Most of these images were cropped down some since I was not what you would call “close to the action” so keep your subjects away from the edge of the frame as you shoot.

Also posted in editing, event photography, iPhone

A California White Christmas or A Snowglobe

When you live in part of a state that has a well deserved reputation for 75 and sunny, you need to get creative to enjoy a “white christmas”. In my case, what started as a bit of a joke went significantly further than I had anticipated. Last year I had seen what purported to be a “photoshop template” of a snow globe and I was intrigued. I could not understand how such a thing could be made into a template with layers. So I paid an obscene amount of money (four lattes) and was promptly disappointed. I had been snookered. The “template” was nothing more than a JPEG file in the PSD format. As it turned out, bad karma followed the individual selling this thing and it became quite the broo-haw on the internet. I missed all of that and found out about much later.

This was the basic so-called template. No, I won’t link to the source because of the outrageous price of a JPEG file.
Snow Globe Template

So roll the clock forward a year and I took the family’s Christmas portrait. It was sort of plain this year and on a lark, I decided to drop us into the snow globe and send it to my wife as a joke. Turns out she liked it.. a lot.. and gave me marching orders to fix up as she saw it should be. I had to get the right type of snow and I decided I needed a stereotypical SoCal background which meant sand and sun.

I found a cool picture of Huntington Pier at sunset which fit perfectly in my vision. According to the copyright posted, free to use for personal use such as this. Please don’t steal someone’s work. There is plenty available for your personal use like this.

I had this family portrait from my shoot this year.
Sweeney Family Portrait

And here is the cool sunset I found

beach sunset

And I found a good tutorial on making “snow” in photoshop plus I used some snow from another snow globe picture for around the bottom.

I ended up compositing everything together for this final image along with a free font from DaFont.com. While this composite didn’t take magical skills, it did take some patience and subtle work to blend everything together well. The biggest trick was to use the “average blur” filter to even out the tones of all the bits and pieces I stuck together. I also paid close attention to the background by blurring it as if I had taken it with a shallow depth of field and that it showed up correctly in the blur of the glass globe. It did take a few tries to get everything the way I wanted it but I think it ended up pretty successful.
Final Snow Globe of Sweeneys

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