Category Archives: editing

Be Anywhere or Anything You Want with Compositing

The art of compositing opens up a whole new world for photographers and the client. You can be anything or anywhere you want with a bit of preplanning and work. Many people think you have to set up a green screen like Hollywood but in reality, it causes issues with improper lighting. Shooting on a white or black background is much more forgiving and considerably easier to work with. The color selection of the background is really immaterial to a large degree, the still photographer needs the contrast between subject and background to get a clean “cut out”. Proper lighting avoids what is called “spillover” or contamination of the subject with unwanted light and color from the background. I tend to shoot white as much as possible since any spillage looks just like some extra light unlike the day-glow of a green screen.

The image below was shot on a white background with single octobank light. I could have used strip lighting for a more edgy look but this was a “off the cuff” shoot at the end of a family portrait so I used what I had set up.

Olivia on white background

The background was a stock photograph from Depositphotos.com that saved me from having to drive into some sketchy areas on a weekend to get graffiti shots. Note!! Always take element shots when you can and keep them in a library. I take various texture shots and odd bits here and there just for stuff like this.

The Photoshop tool “quick selection” is your friend for this type of work. It’s fast and very easy to get decent results right away. Of course, the more time and effort you put into the selection, the better the results will be. For some work you will find the pen tool to be a better choice but that is a topic for a different day. To get the hair, you can push up the radius up and up. As you go up, Photoshop will go further out from the edge to look for what it thinks to be part of the selected subject based on color.

Olivia Graffiti portrait

You can also use compositing for enhancing images such as I did here for a Christmas card. It was something of a joke for the family since we live in a “non-snow” locality while most of the family lives in snow country. I took a family portrait which I shot against white, a picture of a snow globe, a picture of a local pier at the beach and use a technique for “making snow” in photoshop. This all combined into one image that went on the annual Christmas card. And yes, this is a service I offer and not just for the holidays. Compositing can be the adding of a new board me member, removal of an unwanted person/place or thing and much more.
Final Snow Globe of Sweeneys

You can also use compositing to show off someone or someone’s skill. In this last image, the subject made her costume by hand for Halloween and I composited her into her own movie poster that fit the theme of the costume. To be sure, a composite of this type is not just a “drap and drop” cutout inspite of what some software packages would lead you to think. It takes some time and few tricks to get everything to work together. I hope you can start to see that composting can really open up a world for the more artistic image or a precisely tuned image.
Queen of hearts Composite

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Clone wars – Bridal Retouching

While photographers strive for that perfect picture, often times we have to make do with where we are, the light we have and stray items or people in the shot. But, with modern technology and some skill, we can fix a good many things now in our digital darkroom. In this show and tell, I will be showing how I was able to remove a child who was not wanted in the image by the photographer. Just to make it clear up front, this was not my image, I do some work for hire and in this case, it was a friendly competition among several photographers as to who could do what with the image to meet the requirement of the picture being childless.

Bride and groom with child before edits

Here is our RAW image straight from the camera and without any edits at all. In the image you can see the color balance is off, the bride is not exactly the center of attention, there is the child in the foreground and there is the tilt thing going on. We need to fix several things here before we can give back the image to the photographer.  Now, there are many ways to correct this and I’m just going to show you one of many ways.  It does not make it any more correct or right than any other way. It just happens to be the way I worked this picture.

The first thing I needed to do was to remove as much of the little girl as I could. You could try and clone her out but it is a lot of work, you will fight the texture, the lighting, and you need the replacement floor, door jam and baseboards. So to keep things simple and because the human eye can be fooled given half a chance, I borrowed the wall from the right hand side and flipped it upside down. This gave me texture, lighting in the correct place and the clean corner.

start of edit with just the cloned wall

The result of the wall clone looks like this image. You can see with just the simple act of borrowing the right hand wall and moving to the left side then flipping it upside down, I have cleaned up the wall, the corner and erased most of the child. Now it looks much easier to fix what remains doesn’t it?

This still leaves me the floor, the door jam, baseboards and overall image corrections.  So lets move on shall we?  The next item on my list is the floor. It’s rather simple but like many things, paying attention to the detail is what makes it work. In this case, I selected a large piece of the floor and slide it sideways on it’s own layer. All my edits sit on their own layer so I can change and move things around without damaging my original image. I also lined up the darker boards so the eye is fooled into thinking all is well with the new cloned floor. A layer mask and a soft brush let me feather in the edges so there is not any hard line for the eye to see.

replacement floor with clean edge I drew in a selection with my polygonal lasso tool to get some straight lines, inverted the selection and then erased the wall that was in the way of the floor. This gave me nice clean edges.

This now leaves me with needing a baseboard. But, I dont have any baseboard to borrow or steal so what is a retoucher to do? You make it from scratch or in this case, I faked it by stealing part of the door jam and then using the transform tool to stretch it and bend it the way I needed it to be. If you notice, my wall is not straight but I have a perspective angle on the wall which is what you would see if it were real. The lines head back in a convergence and if you dont have this, the brain will note there is a problem and the picture will not look “right”.

baseboard and door jam replacement

I also took advantage of the good parts of the door jam to fix the parts that had the child in the way. One issue right now is that the edges of the new baseboard are too “sharp”, they stand out and do not really look part of the wall. A simple layer of gaussian blur takes care of that along with a soft brush to put just the right amount in place. Retouching is as much artistry as it is anything else so you have some leeway as far this sort of reconstruction goes. As long as you are close enough, the brain will automatically fill in the rest for you. And that is something you can use to your advantage when retouching.

At this point, I spent some time cleaning up the edges of the door frame by making small straight selections and moving them up against the door frame. This brought in texture and a clean edge to my edits and building out of the door frame. A touch of blur here also smooths things out. I used color sampling and a brush set to about 10% opacity to “paint” in color to smooth out the color on the door jam.

I used a grad filter on the left side to darken up the wall some which helps hide all the work. And then I used a white grad filter to add some “light” to the top. Again we are fooling the eye by putting in tones that the brain expects to see and using them to help blend everything together. My final layer was to color adjust and apply a high pass filter to the bride only.

Final Edited and rebuilt image of bride

In this image, I decided I liked black and white better as it fixed the color casts of the original. I was able to to use a yellow filter to really clean up the dress and I worked the face and dress to get good deals. The black and white version was the keeper and it made everybody very happy.

Asian bride with mom in black and white

 

I wish to thank Rengie Mendoza at renzaweddings.com for permission to use his image for this tutorial.

 

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So many words and a new book for iPhone photography

I’m in the last few laps of editing for my new iBook on Successful Iphone Photography. The writing of the book is easy, the editing will kill you. But I’m having a fun with this project. I’ve tried to put in imaginative images that I’ve taken with my iPhones and have gone outside the box to get some cool shots. This book is not a vanity project or an “art” project. God knows there are enough of those around. It’s just “here is how to get solid images from the iPhone”.

 

Here is a preview of some of the images being used in the book. None of these are traditional iPhone images but I have some of those too in the book. These are images to get you thinking about you can do with your own phone. The only limit is what you put on yourself.

 

Double shot of coffee

Nothing like a cup of joe in the morning ?

iPhone 4S using a Hoya R72 IR filter for infrared

Who says you cant shoot IR on the iPhone

Half a Moon with the iPhone

I had several people call me out and say there was not any way this could have been an iPhone shot. I have the EXIF data and the original file. Go ahead, make my day

Using Movie Filmmaking rigging and a iPhone

This was taken using suction cup, ball heads and rigging that I normally attach movie cameras or DSLRs to cars and trucks. This was a fun shot complete with the gaffers tape holding the neutral filter stack over the olloclip lens on my iPhone

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Brave New World of iBook Publishing

This post is sort of about photography but it also is about Apple, it’s about iBooks and it is certainly about diversification.  One reason I have been very quiet of late is that I’ve been head down on learning how to use iBook Author to put together a new book called “How to be successful at iPhone Photography”. In a past life, I use to write very dry technical books on geeky things like network security, Linux and Cisco stuff. If you were a network geek, you probably read one but for the average Joe, not so much.

Now, with photography as my life, it came to me that I could recycle my writing skills into something more than just blog entries. I decided to write a book on using the iPhone since it would be somewhat more easy than writing for Android phones and I happen to own an iPhone. This made it even a more simpler choice on my part. The reason is in the past several months, I’ve become quite the enthusiastic shooter using the iPhone. I am always amazed at just how good it can be and what can be done with a smart phone and some clever apps.

The book will be finished in a few weeks and then submitted to the black hole of Apple approval which I’m told can take weeks and weeks if I’m not so lucky. The price will be very cheap, between 1.99 and 2.99, I have not made up my mind yet. The goal is to make it a good book and high value for less money than a decent latte would cost you.

Now, some of you might sneer at the idea of using a camera phone for anything other than quick and dirty snapshots. I mean, a real photographer uses a brand name DSLR with a five pound chunk of glass hanging off the end. A few years ago that was true and I would have said it myself. But, with the advent of the iPhone, in particular the iPhone 4, 4S and now the 5, the onboard cameras are very capable systems indeed.

I have exhibit A which is a photograph I took using my iPhone 4S and a cheap ETX telescope. I did upgrade the eyepiece from the OEM Mead ETX eye piece to a nicer but still inexpensive Parker Silver Series eye piece. Good glass is good glass whether it be a camera lens or a telescope. But, that was the extend of my “upgrades”. I did not use anything special on the phone and most of the post processing was actually done on the phone standing in the front yard using Snapseed and PhotoFX. I did load the image into CS5 for a high pass filter and resizing of the image. But this image looks better than many I’ve seen taken with much more expensive equipment.
New Quarter Moon September 23 2012 taken with iPhone and Mead ETX telescope

As you can see from the image, the quality is very good. And this was without any real magic or special tricks or high priced hardware. It’s this type of shooting my new book will show you how to do for cheap.

Here is another iPhone picture and this time, I broke a few hearts with it. It’s the expected “ring shot” but this time I used the Olloclip Macro lens on the iPhone 4S to take an ultra close up of the wedding ring. Then I processed it in CS6 just like I would any other deliverable image. There is virtually no difference in quality of using the iPhone vs. using a DLSR with the 800 dollar lens.

Wedding Ring Shot using iPhone 4S and olloclip macro lens

So here are a few samples from my upcoming book. You will get a sense of the book and how it’s going to look. And being an iBook, it will be interactive unlike traditional print books.

Chapter 1 of How to be a Successful iPhone Photographer

Sample Chapter Content of How to be a Successful iPhone Photographer

So stay tuned for my announcement of my booking being approved by Apple for sale in the iTunes catalog. It’s been alot of fun so far in writing it and I hope when I get it done, you will find it an enjoyable read and inspiration.

 

 

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Practice, Practice and more Practice

One of the things that any professional photographer will do is constantly practice their craft. Practicing may not be dragging out the strobes and the fancy background, it can be as simple as just bringing a camera on a family walk.  For myself, I always have a camera with me whether it be my iPhone or my  “professional” camera. I find that like anything else, constant practice with my chosen equipment helps me on the job when I’m shooting for you and being paid for it. I personally and ethically believe that when I’m shooting “for real”, it is not the time for me to be practicing while on your dime. Any true professional would agree with that statement and when you are shopping around for a photographer, it’s something to consider.

You might question the use of an iPhone for practice but when I have limited equipment, I find that I get much more creative to get the most out of the camera and myself for that matter.  It’s no longer having a two thousand dollar lens or a five hundred flash, it’s all about me and what I can do with what I have. This translates directly into better pictures when I do have my expensive equipment handy.

I also practice with my normal shooting equipment but I may limit myself to a single lens or a certain setting to better learn how my equipment works under a wide variety of conditions. This works to your advantage as I can be shooting rather then messing around with the camera and constantly looking at the view finder while missing key shots. This becomes critical for events like weddings where things can be moving at a quick pace under a wide variety of conditions.

Here are some practice images that I took while on walks with the family using my main camera and a single lens.  I also use these images to push my post processing skills and learn new techniques.

Sara Portrait in Oak Canyon Nature Center Anahiem

This was taken at the Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim right at dusk. I also used a technique in my post processing to give a soft glow to the image while keeping the eyes sharp.

Three sisters at Oak Canyon Nature Center Anaheim

This image was also at the Oak Canyon Nature Center and originally was more cyan or blue than the the finished print shows now. The sisters were in a cool shadow at dusk which does not lend itself to warm tones.  So post processing turned it around into a warm summer’s night as it was and gave the nice warm tones. Again, a professional can adjust to conditions both by shooting differently or by making critical adjustments in the processing of the image.

The final practice image shows how I can take a blah scene and literally change seasons with some judicious post processing. the original image is on the right and the changed image is on the left. This was practicing some advanced post coloring techniques.

Oak Canyon Season Change comparision

As you can see,  as a professional, I practice constantly just like any other professional. This way when you hire me, I can be ready to produce very high quality art and results without dithering around trying to learn on your dime and missing the images you hired me to produce.

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The Great Gatsby Photog Shootout at the Tangled Vine

Our SoCal Photog Shootout group had an amazing time in San Juan Capistrano at the Tangled Vine Florist for a Great Gatsby themed shootout. Why a florist? Because The Tangled Vine has a way cool shop which used to be an old home. The Tangled Vine is on a quiet street behind the train station and has all kinds of fun areas to shoot in. They had some of their wares on display to use as props for the models and to be used to help decorate the sets.

tangled Vine Flower Arrangements

I was asked to be a leader for the first time,  so I decided to cover image composition and using things around you as “frames” for the subject. Also, I went over some fun things like using alternative crops, using negative space and more.

We had pretty models and gorgeous vintage clothing plus jewelry to really set things off. And as it happened, we had a classic car of the correct vintage crash our party and the owner let us use it briefly as a prop. How cool is that?

The models had some amazing hair and makeup done by some of our favorite make up artists. And they pulled out the stops for this shoot. Everybody really got into the theme and had alot of fun with it.

This would be an amazing idea for an different kind of wedding session and would be relatively easy to pull together.   Themed weddings are so much fun for both the bride and groom plus the guests. They make for awesome memories that are very unique and everybody likes to see even years later.

 

STYLIST:

Hope Stanley

MAKE UP

Amanda McDaniel
Joyce Luck

Hair

Diego Ortega

Assisted by:

Heather Renee
Jenny Sims
Brissa Watson

FLOWERS:

The Tangled Vine

LEADERS:

Matthew Saville
Kaylee Sizemore
Brett Hickman
Michael Sweeney
Brian Hamilton


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What is old is new again

Kodak Starflex Camera with inserted babty portrait

So I picked up some old vintage cameras this past week to use as props and “frames” for images. They add a really cool look and feel for a fun portrait.  I’m putting together a set of these new “frames” to be options for your portraits. I have some samples here to look at and enjoy. If you have special colors you want to match or even a special camera, let me know and we can work it out. This particular camera is a Kodak Starflex which was a very popular camera in the late 50’s and was considered to  be a ten dollar “point and shoot” at that time. Now it works as a pretty cool vintage  frame for a baby’s portrait.

Here is a different camera with a retro style of portrait.

Kodak Duaflex Camera with vintage hollywood portrait

These cameras live again in photographer by providing a unique and very interesting way to show off your images. And it’s not just portraits, I can also add a bit of flair to a favorite set of wedding pictures like this one with a 1957 Yashica camera with the bride and groom.

If you like what you see, call us up and talk about it. Even if you have existing pictures, we can certainly clean them up and add them to a very unique frame like this.

DSC9893 1957 yashica with bride and groom

 

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80 / 20 rule or how good is good enough

Point and shoot cameras are a dying breed. Virtually everyone now has a smart phone with a camera and that includes myself. Yes, I have my very expensive cameras for projects and assignments but in truth, often times for myself, I’m shooting with my iPhone. Why? Because it’s “Good enough”. For 80% of the time, it’s perfect for what I need in my daily life. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Only if you paid me AND signed a contract saying as much. For most people, it’s the old 80/20 rule where the 80% is close enough. The iPhone or other smart phone is 80% close enough and they dont need or even want that last 20%.

With the new software like Snapseed and Photoshop apps, you can do alot with the phone or iPad that even a year ago seemed out of reach. You can now get iPhoto for the iPad.. really? a real editor and photo manager on an iPad? Oh yeah.. now we are styling.

So here is an image taken with the iPhone and edited on the phone using Snapseed software. Pretty amazing !!

 

I love shooting 30 second video clips for one group I’m active with on Facebook. Why? Because it’s a fun way for people to really get to know me by HEARING me speak and watch me talk about something. I’ve included a small sample here of my “Cooking Show” for my friends on Facebook.

As Pros, we sometimes forget that the 80/20 rule really does apply in alot of ways. AS consumers, we live in great times but all the apps will not make you a professional photographer. If you want a professional shot, you need to track one of us pros down for that critical 20% of your life when the iPhone picture just wont do. But also remember  that with a bit of work, that small phone can take some amazing images.

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Shooting a veggie a day

So today was a practice day for me. I have been threatening for weeks and weeks to shoot some food and today was it. Or at least some of it. I used a 50 dollar battery operated LED video light, a mirror and a home made silk that uses Toughspun. I spent about ten dollars for the various veggies and fruits which is cheap for models. I used a c stand to hold my video light attached to my monopod stand which doubled as a boom. The mirror provided some light from the side and underneath the glass. My post processing was done in Lightroom using a preset that emulated Kodachrome 25 since I wanted that very contrasty punchy look. You can see from the set shot that I didnt do anything special other than clean off the end of the dining room table.

I used my D300 with two lenses. My first lens was a favorite of mine, the 17-55 F2.8 and the second was a Lensbaby composer at F4. My ISO was 400 and I shoot from 1/60 to /1/160. No flash was used, just the video light which I got from Amazon for something like 50 dollars plus 30 for a battery and charger.

When you are shooting something like this, it can be trickier than people at times as the still life does not move at all unless you move it. So you are always on the look out for reflections, lines, composition and so on. You need to worry about color and texture plus what props you are using. Lighting becomes critical for shadows and highlights.

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Repurposing a light box to be a light table

I saw a very interesting blog posting on how to shoot flowers using a light box. I took a different approach since I did not want to build a cardboard box so anything else. I took my large softbox and flipped it upside down. I could do this because I use C stands with boom arms and it becomes very easy to change the orientation of a modifier. I just made sure that the legs were in the right position to take up the low weight and added a few sand bags for good measure.

I then put a piece of clear plexiglass on top of the softbox or now light table and put my subject on top of that. I have a Photogenics 1250 strobe but now I would pull it and put in the 600 instead. The 1250 is too strong even turned down as low as it can go. I plan to try it with white plexiglass whereas I’m shooting with clear right now. The white should be worth a couple of stops.

White on White Lilly

 

 

I had a second mini softbox using an SB800 in SU mode on a monopod that I held over the subject. I manually set the SB800 to something around 1/8 power and about 3 feet high. I tried straight on, sideways and all kinds of angles. The best results seemed to be feathering the small soft box slightly to pick up some edge shadows.

I used a pair of Atlas pocket wizard clones on this shoot only because they were handy and my real PWs were packed away. I shot with:

 

SB800 flash mounted to small softboxLight table set up shot

Next time I will put the small light box on a second C stand instead of holding it. That was just too much trouble but I was in a real hurry to try this and get back to the family outside. The ladder was the only way I could get enough hight to shoot down on my subject, anywhere else and I was shooting across it and it did not work nearly as well.

 

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