Category Archives: editing

Sand Soccer Team Pictures

Shooting soccer is a lot of fun since it’s a fast paced game and often times, a lot of action. With kids, the action slows down a bit but they are no less serious about their games and just as enjoyable to shoot. There is a different subgroup called “sand soccer” where the teams play on the beach. It’s very intense play on a smaller pitch than normal soccer.

Sand Soccer collage 1

A few things I’ve learned in shooting on the sand, is that you need to get a few neutral density filters if you want to run a reasonably shallow depth of field. If you have one, a circular polarizer filter is even better to be able to knock back some of the glare. Shooting at ISO 200, F 6.3 will be pushing the shutter speed upwards of 1/4000 on a cloudy day. Also remember to add minus one ( -1) compensation to your exposure to help make up for the extreme reflection coming off the sand which acts just like snow and will throw off your metering. I don’t really like shooting with spot metering for this type of image. The spot is promised to be on the wrong spot half the time. I use center-weighted which gives me some forgiveness if I am not aimed exactly where I need to be. The camera is set to continuously focus and also to shoot release+focus. In this mode, the camera won’t wait for the first time to sharp focus but will get it for the second. This keeps me from missing key shots while the camera tries to decide who and what is in focus.

Both of these sets of images were taken with a Nikon D700 and using a 70-200mm F2.8 lens. I’ve tested in both manual and aperture priority modes and honestly, AP mode works just fine and can help with the fine tuning if the lighting is changing a lot like with cloud cover. I try to keep the shutter speeds about 1/1200 to /2000. The slightly lower speed still gives a sharp image but will let the feet/ball blur slightly. It is a balancing act to be sure.

Sand Soccer 2

Post processing will vary quite a bit depending on the lighting but on a cloudy day before prepared to add some black and a touch of red plus crank the daylight balance up a notch. All of this does assume you are shooting in RAW which is highly recommended in order to take advantage of recovering bright highlights even when the exposure is set correctly.

DO NOT shoot this type of game without a sealed camera. The sand will get into the normal consumer camera and destroy it. Do NOT even think about changing lenses out on the beach. You can bag the camera using a zip lock baggie and some rubber bands but the best tip would be to rent the gear and then return it when you are done.

Also posted in Articles, event photography, musings, photography, sports, Travel Tagged , , , , |

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.

Also posted in composites, event photography, photography, technique Tagged , , |

Why use a real editor for smartphone images?

We all have heard the myth of why iPhone (or any smartphone) cannot take a good picture. By now you have seen in this blog, many images that are very respectable and if I had not said they were from an iPhone, you would have thought they were from a “real” camera. But, to really get the best out of your smartphone picture, you need a real desktop editor. Not an app on a very small screen. I use Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe for a few reasons. One is that Lightroom is an asset management system and will let me keep track of ALL 80,000 of my images. It is also a kick butt editor that is very easy to get fast and smart results from. A bit of icing on the cake is you can buy it outright for about 150.00 dollars or you can pay 9.99 a month for it AND Photoshop CC. That’s right!! For about 2 dollars a week, you can have the defacto standard for editing and management. For this post, I will be showing what can be done with Photoshop since it does things like skin retouching better than Lightroom. Photoshop works really well at what I call “Heavy Lifting” editing. Lightroom does amazing work for very fast and general edits but when I need to replaces parts or have very fine control over the editing, I use Photoshop.

When I say all of this in my iPhone class, the next question is “Why”? Why do I need this? If you are just posting to Facebook or other social media, then you don’t. But, if the iPhone has turned into your main camera and you want some really nice pictures to print and hang, then you want to use the right tools to get there.

Here is a typical iPhone shot taken on the fly just before the Disneyland “Big Thunder” ride takes off. I liked the overall expression but I didn’t like the splash of bright light on her face or the background. I used PureShot on the MAX quality JPEG setting. This setting gives me over 3x the data to work with. The normal iOS image is about 1.5 Mb and the MAX is a bit over 5Mb in size.

Iphone image before Photoshop Editing

Here is the Photoshop edited version where I’ve used normal glamour retouching techniques to clean up the bright light, smoothed out skin tones, cropped it and tilted it slightly. I also used a slight blur on the overall image. I even removed myself from one of the sunglass lenses.
Edited iPhone Image using Photoshop

You can see that the iPhone image edits just as well as any other image from a “real” camera when using a real editor. The tips and tricks you know work the same. And just like any other JPEG, you need to edit with a gentle hand to avoid artifacts. For this edit, I use many layers and my Wacom tablet.

All this extra data really comes in handy when you want to pull down highlights or bring up shadows on an iPhone JPEG. Normally you cannot do either very well but with the MAX quality JPEG, it works pretty well.

None of this editing could have been done on the iPhone using an “app”. We do not have the apps and we do not have the fine control of a stylus needed on such a small screen. Even on the iPad, it would have been difficult at best.

Ultimately it is all about control and flexibility as to why use a real editor on your smartphone image. Again, this is wasted effort if all you are going to do is post to Facebook which destroys image quality anyways. But if you want really nice images, this is why.

Also posted in editing software, iPhone Tagged , , |

Pushing the iPhone Post Processing

The iPhone is really the most widely used “smartphone” on the planet. They are everywhere and some of us revel in pushing them far beyond what the Apple engineers dreamed we could do with them. One of the strongest features of the iPhone is also one of it’s weakest. Everyone loves the camera and apps of the iPhone. Those of us that know enough hate the JPEG processing currently used on the iPhone and iOS7. With iOS 6.x, the JPEG was somewhat loose on it’s processing and could easily handle being manipulated by apps and external software like Lightroom or Photoshop. But, with iOS 7, the processing of the JPEG was changed to a more highly compressed version and the end result is that the OEM JPEG cannot withstand nearly as much editing as it used to be able to.

This has lead me to work more with third party apps like ProCamera 7and PureShot. Both of these have excellent choices for saving files with uncompressed TIFF as an option. A difference is that PureShot offers a MAX JPEG that is very, very good with not too much post processing and quite a bit of data to work with. How much more? Well, the default Apple iOS camera app saves the 8 megapixel image as a 1-2 Mb JPEG file at 72 dpi. Pure on the other hand in MAX JPEG mode, saves about a 5Mb file at 300 dpi. The image dimensions have not changed, they are still 3264×2172 but the AMOUNT of data is significantly more going from 2 megs to 5 megs. This means you can really push the image around in post processing much more than with the standard Apple image. An added feature is you can embed your own copyright info into the metadata when the image is taken.

Pure Home iPhone 5S

Pure MaxJPEG screen iPhone5S

This image was taken in very bad conditions for the iPhone. In other words, extreme contrast in light going from very dark shadow to very bright light. Normally speaking, the iPhone (and most smartphones) doesnt have a prayer of getting a good shot. They just do not have the exposure latitude needed. But with PureShot, I knew if I got the highlights right and not blowout, I could pull up the shadows in post since I had so much data. Not only did I do that, I also applied a 25% crop which didn’t bother the image at all.

Sara dueling Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi School

With the standard iPhone app, you would get blocked out shadows and no hope to get them back or you would blow the highlights. I did the processing on Snapseed but in Lightroom, I could push it even harder. Lightroom excels at highlight recovery even if you cannot see them on the iPhone and has excellent shadow enhancement tools.

Here is the original image from Pure without any post processing
Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  untouched

And here is the same image cropped and retouched in Lightroom. You can see I could crop tighter, there is now details on Darth Maul’s outfit that didn’t show up in the Snapseed image and the Jedi sign is not looking like it melted. The post processing tool you use, makes a HUGE difference in the final outcome of your image. Don’t be married to the idea “I’m only going to use my iPhone”. You are cheating yourself doing that. The iPhone works very well but a real editor makes a difference.

Since I’m working with PureShot, even cropped as it is, I can still print an 8×10 without any issues if I wanted to. I was able to export out at 2500 pixels and 240 DPI without any issues

Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  Lightroom

This image shows that you can really push an iPhone image as long as you use the right tool to shoot with and the right tool to process with. I could push this image more to bring up some of the trooper’s white armor but I spent only 30 seconds in Lightroom to make a point.

I shot with PureShot but ProCamera 7 can produce the same results but using uncompressed TIFF files. Their JPEG is not quite as robust as Pure’s. I love the split focus and exposure of ProCamera but Pure shoots faster. So you decide which is more important to you and your style of shooting. I use both depending the situation.

*** edited 6-2-2014 to Pure screenshots ***

Also posted in editing software, iPhone, musings Tagged , |

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 composites, event photography, iPhone

Have iPhone, Will Travel

 

[dropcap_1]L[/dropcap_1]et’s see a show of hands, who has used their iPhone to shoot travel pictures? Yep.. it is soooo much easier to have an iPhone with you (or any smartphone) vs carrying around a DSLR with a couple of lens, a flash, spares and more. The iPhone slips right into the pocket which leaves your hands free for holding, swinging, looking, touching and more without the fear of the 10lbs of camera slamming into some child’s head or into that very expensive glass case in the gift shop.

You can get the iPhone camera lens right up to a glass case and lose the reflections that plague a normal DSLR trying to shoot through glass. The DOF is so wide that you can be be just inches away and still get everything in focus. In this shot, I was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and shooting through a glass fish tank with really dim light. By placing the iPhone right up onto the tank, I was able to lose reflections AND stabilize the camera for the the sharpest image with the slow shutter speed needed. I did try it with my DSLR and the results were less than satisfactory. Not to mention I really could not do anything with the image till I got back to my room while I was able to work with the iPhone shot and post it to social media while having a snack at the aquarium.

Flower of the Sea

In this shot, it’s myself with my FILM camera and the family at 8,000 feet in Bryce Canyon. I could and did hand the iPhone to a non-camera geek and just told her to tap the screen where I was standing then tap the button. Done. One nice picture without any mess or fuss. We even got “Flat Stanley” in the shot 🙂 When we went for our hike, I was not carrying eight pounds of gear. I had my iPhone and I was then able to carry my medium format film camera for some truly amazing images that only come with a negative that is over two inches square. In an interesting twist of the times, I used an app on my iPhone as a light meter to set up the exposure for the older film camera.

Family at Bryce Canyon High Point

Is an iPhone a perfect replacement for a DSLR or micro four thirds rig? No, but it IS an acceptable substitute perfectly capable of awesome pictures. In some cases, it is even easier than the DSLR because of the smarts built into it and the apps the iPhone can run right away while taking the shot.

[content_box color=”#000000″] The iPhone can produce some amazing pictures but to get the full quality, you need to use a real editor like Lightroom or Photoshop. Apps like Pixlr and Photoshop Touch can work wonders  but the big boys can pull out the very the best quality [/content_box]




The built in HDR app is OK, but the cool app is called HDR Pro. It’s one failing is that it over sharpens the image when it saves. I wish it would just blend and stop. But it is not bad for what it can do. Snapseed is still my “go to” app but Pixlr is fast becoming a good friend. PhotoFX does awesome black and white conversions. None of this is really possible on the normal pocket camera or DSLR. So you end up with the camera, a laptop, software and sitting in the hotel room processing images then uploading them. While with the iPhone, I can shoot, process and upload while drinking a cup of coffee or even sitting on a bus heading back to the hotel.

Also posted in equipment, iPhone, musings, Travel

iPhone Rocky

Olivia as a boxer gritty light

This was taken with a handheld iPhone 4S. I used a 60 dollar 300LED video light that also was handheld by the 6 year old sister on camera left and just a bit higher than eyeliner. You can see it in the catchlight. The LED light was about two feet away and bare. The background is about one foot away and is a piece of black polar plus I bought as surplus from the local sewing shop. The polar plus does not reflect light very much, in fact it works almost as good as felt curtains but lighter and cheaper.

My post processing was Lightroom 5 with the clarity way up to get that gritty look and I also over sharpened it some. I did some basic adjustments for color and then faded out the yellows and oranges by lower the saturation a bit. There was a hot spot on the forehead from the light being bare and so close so I used CS6 and my Wacom to “paint” in that hot spot with color sampled from the nearby skin.

This image was not an accident. I had thought about it all the way home from the office, pre visualizing the positions, the lighting, the look I wanted. So my set up and taking of the image took less than 10 mins. Post was about 10 more mins. Smartphones are VERY capable cameras when you work within and push the limits carefully.

Also posted in iPhone, lightroom, portraits

30 Days of Black and White iPhone Fun

I’m not much on things like 365 day projects and whatnot but a favorite group of mine on Google’s G+ called “Smartphone Photographers” is having a fun time with #30DaysBandW or 30 days Black and White. The deal is you shoot with your smartphone and post it as a black and white image. Thats right, no color, no fancy filters, no tints are allowed, just good old black and white images but we do allow traditional tinting like sepia toning, blue tones, duo tones and so on.

I find this really makes you think more about composition than you normally might. You always will find that you play with the tools more since a simple conversion to grey tones gets boring 🙂 You will rediscover that red, green, yellow and blue filter can really alter your tonal range in a B/W image. That grain is your friend much of the time. And that the iPhone (and others) very, very capable black and white shooting tools.

Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of concept shots, playing with processing, playing with textures and anything else I can think of. My go-to tool has been SnapSeed but I plan to use a few others before it’s all over. Here are several of my shots so far. All taken with an iPhone 4S and I’ve used Snapseed, Mextures, AfterFocus and Photoshop Express for the processing in various combinations. Something I’ve noticed is that with the iPhone, I tend to shoot much closer than I normally would think to do. The DOF is so much that I can be inches away and get a decent shot. None of this are using any third party lens, just the plain old iPhone lens.

Yes, I did a selfie as one of my shots but it’s a bit different than many. I tried to tell a bit of a story. What do you see as my story?
Mike Selfie iPhone 4S

I plan to try some landscapes and maybe some cool textures before it is all done. I also don’t think 30 days is going to be the end of it for me, I’m having way too much fun with this little challenge. And you know what? It carries over into my shooting with the D700 and other cameras. Practice is practice.

Also posted in Articles, iPhone, photography Tagged , |

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

Also posted in composites, photography, technique Tagged , |

Christmas Time in November

Oh yes, it is THAT time again with Christmas just around the corner. But, do not fear, you can make the killer gift for the extended family or friends by using all those pictures you took over the year. You can make books, cards, magazines, calendars and more using Instagram shots, Hipstamatic pictures, iPhone pictures, Droid pictures or pictures from any other camera.
iPhone catalog of images
And we ALL have hundreds and hundreds of pictures from the course of the year to pick from. Digital film doesn’t really cost us a nickel so we shoot much more than just a few years ago.

I offer many of these services as add on features to my photography sessions. I can do a themed session or do some photoshop magic for that one of a kind portrait for the gift of a lifetime.

You can always have some fun with the traditional family portrait. In this image, my own family and I decided to play off our Apple addiction that is well known in the family. everyone really liked that my oldest daughter was “in” the iPad and looking up at the youngest. That was a very simple trick with telling my oldest how to look when a friend took her picture since she was out of state at the time.

A Very Merry Apple Christmas

You can take the card into a whole new direction by compositing the family into some other place like, say, a snow globe which plays well off the fact we live in Southern California.
Final Snow Globe of Sweeneys

But for a real gift, there are many, many options in today’s digital world. You can easily use software like MyPublisher and build a very nice book with the year’s highlights in pictures for the grand parents. In this example, I made a picture book of my daughter’s first trip to Paris, France as a remembrance for her. This twenty dollar book was one of the best gifts I had given her (her words).

The best part of a picture book is that with the newest software from the vendors, they require no special Photoshop skills or expensive software. With iPhoto, the ability is built in and with vendors like MyPublisher, they give you the app for free to build the book. Other vendors like Adorama use online software and your web browser to build the book.

Amanda's Picture Book Paris France

There are dozens of printing houses that can do this type of book and Apple even has it as a built in option in iPhoto. You will hear of MyPublisher.com, Blurb and Lulu.com for a few common names. But there are many more including some books available from stores such as Adorama, Costco and Kodak.

You can decide if you are going to tell a specific story or just have a compilation of pictures from the year highlighting key events. I would strongly suggest that you write a few sentences with each picture or group of pictures so when someone is looking at the pictures, they can be reminded to what the pictures are about.

You can make calendars through many of these companies or you can buy templates with a dozen different designs ready to go with just your pictures added to finish it off. The calendars can be a single month, a year at a time or the more traditional flip calendar. You can have one, two or more pictures per month or year. You can do a lot with the newest templates and many of the templates are offered by the same fold that publisher the picture books. There are also templates available that you can use and then print anywhere you want including your own home with your own printer. In the sample below I used a Photoshop template and a picture I had taken at a school. I then printed out the new calendar at home with my own printer. My cost was twenty dollars for the template kit which has a dozen different calendars and about five cents for the printer paper and ink.
Olivia with 2014 calendar

Calendar templates are available from many sources such as Photoshop Island, RedBoot and others.

For the more advanced users, you can always make a story book by building the pages in Photoshop using templates and then exporting the resulting page out as a single JPEG file which you then print as a single page. In this graduation album, I made the pages in Photoshop and then used each page as a single picture printed on each page.
Graduation Album Pages

Also posted in Album Software, Articles, DIY, editing software, lightroom, osx, technique