Category Archives: portraits

Size Does Matter with Art

Animated Size of prints over fireplace

 

Years ago, people used to hang very large pieces of art on their walls as symbols of wealth and status.  In much of Europe, the art served to show off family, show status and to cover a portion of the ugly stone walls that made up their homes. Even in other countries that didn’t have stone castles as homes, large pieces of art were considered to be sign of status and prestige.

Over the decades, we have moved away from hanging large pieces of art in our homes. We have lost the perspective of what “large” really means up on the wall. When we order pictures, the “large” print in the typical package is an 8×10. This is what most people call “large” in today’s age of digital screens . Where my clients run into trouble is that they have trouble visualizing how big or just how small a piece of art will look against their wall or next to their furniture. When you are used to calling an 8×10 large, it is very difficult to comprehend how big a 16×20 or a 30×40 is when compared to an empty wall.

I will grant you that often times there are constraints to what size you can put up but even then, there are options available by using collections of smaller images to wrap around something or to make the art look bigger.

A benefit I have over many photographers is that I have digital tools where I can go onsite to my clients home or place of business and by using my iPad, take a picture of where they want the image then drop their pictures into the scene in real time on the iPad. The client can see right away how sizing looks and even how the print might look against the wall. This is a real benefit when there is some questions about how well the print would look in the actual environment it will be displayed in

To help my clients with deciding just how large of a print they should be looking at for their wall, I have created images with different sized art all hanging together to show the differences. This helps my clients visualize what the sizes really mean when compared to a normal wall or next to furniture.

Printed Image Size Comparison

.

 

 

Also posted in Art, Articles, musings

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 editing, iPhone, lightroom

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.

 

Also posted in Competition, editing, musings, technique, training

Making your environment work for you

For any photographer who is not in the safety of their studio, they are at the whim of whatever environment the location has to offer. The real professional and why the client pays for the professional is the small fact that the professional can make almost any situation into a great image. To  illustrate this point, I took a five year old to a local park on a blustery and cool day with virtually no skies, clouds or anything at all of interest in the sky. The light was basically flat and pretty low contrast from the cloud cover. So what is a photographer to do?  On the way into the park we passed onto a tree lined sidewalk and I was stuck by the beautiful yellow leaves on the trees, very fall-like even though it was mid December. My problem was the leaves are a bit high and my subject at five is a bit short. You can see my set up shot below. Just as a note of interest, the set up shot was taken with my 4S iPhone rather than my DSLR. I do this often in part because I use a location scouting app called “PocketScout” that lets me keep pictures of the site along with notes.

Tree lined sidewalk before portrait session at park

As I looked at it, I saw that at first glance while it is a nice landscape, it’s not much for a background with a five year old. But, we professionals have ways to make our images speak!  In this case, I pulled out the 70-200 F2.8 in order to use the compression of a racked out 200mm at a shallow depth of field. This compression of distance let me fill the frame with yellow leaves and get them nice and blurred at F3.5. I put my subject up on the rail and had her sit there. This got her up a few feet from where she stands and let me pull in the background right behind her. I shot a bit hot knowing I was going to go for the somewhat bright post processed look playing off the fall colour in the leaves.

little girl against fall yellow leaves portrait

 I shot several times given that kids do not give a natural smile on demand, you have to work it out of them. In the end, I was pretty happy with my final shot.

Also posted in commercial photography, musings, photography, technique, training

Holiday Pictures, Santa Claus, Travels and More

Christmas means more than just family time, it is a time to get some really spectacular holiday pictures of the family on the road or with relatives. It’s also a time to see some places all decked out in their holiday best. Disneyland is a special place to my family and we actually stay at one of the hotels every few years as a “stay-cation” for the kids rather than traveling long distances. Trying to fly a family of five somewhere is very expensive and driving is not much cheaper so we just go the 30 minutes or so to Disneyland and leave our troubles behind for a few days.

One of the keys for nice pictures at any park, ship, theme park or even just in front of the Christmas tree is shallow depth of field. You blur out the distractions but leave them clear enough so people can sorta tell what they are and where you are. It makes for a nice background that adds to the story.  I typically keep my camera at an F stop between 2.8 and 5.6 with Aperture mode locked in place. When I’m at Disney with the kids, things move way too fast to be in full manual mode much of the time but I want that F stop locked to control the DOF.

Three sisters at Condor Flats at California Adventure, Disneylan

This particular image along with a relatively shallow DOF also uses the popup flash to throw some light on the faces. I had moved the kids from sun to shadow and I wanted the eyes to sparkle a bit. So up goes the popup flash and I dialed it down -2 so not to over power the nice light reflecting off the cement.

Night shots are the best in my opinion as you get all the color lights and such that people put up. In this case, full manual is almost mandatory as the camera will try to exposure the black sky and blow out the lights themselves. I use a bit more DOF so I’m shooting through the sharpest part of my lens and I crank up the ISO to compensate for this. The ability to shoot clean at a high ISO is one of the big benefits for shooting with either a very HQ small sensor camera or a full frame sensor like my Nikon D700.

Its a small world at Christmas

So get out your camera and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Holidays are special days and it’s a great time to get some very memorable images of your loved ones. You never know what tomorrow will bring so enjoy today.

Also posted in Articles, event photography, technique, Travel, venue

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Also posted in Articles, editing, iPhone, musings, photography, venue Tagged , , , , , |

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


Enhanced by Zemanta
Also posted in editing, event photography, lightroom, photography, venue, wedding photography Tagged , , , , |

Portrait Photography Session Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips for any portrait or wedding photography session. These are simple tips but can make a huge difference on the outcome of the session. Having the proper rest and hydration will reduce the dark rings under your eyes. Having some extra make up handy will take care of the smudge or smear that can take place when you are changing your outfits or trying to brush back that stubborn fly away hair. A little bit of bling and accessories can really add some sparkle to your outfits and give you a chance to show of that new necklace, pearls or bauble.

Portrait Photography Session Tips

Also posted in Articles, studio, wedding photography

Mad Men Themed Photography Shootout

I’m a member of a local of photographers that gather every couple of months for a “shootout” where we have a themed photography event. This month, the event was a Mad Men themed “shoot out” where the group brought in  models, make up artists, photographers and rented a venue for a shoot that was a bit different than the normal “bridal” shoot. This Med Man shootout was held at “The Casino San Clemente” and offered a very different look and feel for the event.

Why are these events important? Because they offer a chance for local photographers to network with each other, to meet fresh faces for models, work with  talented and local make up artists plus to work in a venue that we might otherwise be unaware of. I had never heard of this Casino venue in San Clemente but now I know about it and what it can bring to my own clients looking for something unique.

Our shootouts would be considerably lacking if it were not for our stylists and make up artists. Here is who put together the awesome styling and make up for Mad Men

THE STYLISTS:
Heather Skelton   thesoundoflace.blogspot.com

Kaylee Sizemore   www.thetangledvineonlosrios.com

THE HAIR:

Diego Ortega – Lead Hair Stylist diegoortega.com  Assistant: Tricia Marie

THE MAKE-UP ARTISTS

Jennette Pulecio – Lead MUA and Casting www.jennettepulecio.com   Assistant: Amanda McDaniel

We had the perfect venue for this type of shoot and I highly recommend the venue for any affair that you want space and a cool vintage feel to the style of the venue.

The Casino San Clemente www.thecasinosanclemente.com

 

Here are some of my images that I made at the Mad Men shootout. When shooting this event, I tried to keep storytelling in mind and I tried visualize how they may have looked in the time frame that the series Mad Men is depicting.

A "film still" from Mad Men Shootout[pinit]

Blond bombshell admired by male admirer[pinit]

Don Draper Character from Mad Men photoshootout[pinit]

casino san clemente ball room[pinit]

[pinit]

Enhanced by Zemanta
Also posted in event photography, Portfolio, technique, venue Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The new cool, Vintage Collections and Props

Mad Men is a runaway hit in part for the fantastic  sets, costumes and not in the least, the acting. But there is a deeper part to what we connect to. There is a longing for what we were and what we had in the past. Each generation always looks back and wishes at some level that they had what is now gone.  This drives us today to the point of shows on cable about restoring old stuff to new, picking or the finding of old stuff in barns and garages and the uptick in vintage style photography shoots. it’s fun to dress up as Sam Spade for a black and white shoot or as Don Draper, Peggy Olsen or any of the other cast members from Mad Men. We have vintage style Pin Up photo shoots with cars, cafes or planes and then some retro post processing. We use vintage cars,  motorcycles, cameras, fans, radios and more as props for shoots to add authenticity to the vintage look. Vintage style clothing is making a huge splash in the market along with DIY books on vintage hair styles.

I’m not immune to this, in fact, I was probably ahead of the curve with antique telephones, my collection of vintage movies and restoring old tube radios as a hobby. Now it has spilled over into my photography and I’m not complaining at all. I have put together some images of some recent shoots using my cameras and radios plus a teaser from a Mad Men styled photoshoot I attended recently. So today I was goofing with my 1.4 50mm lens and some of my own vintage items.

The radios work and the camera do to. I love to have vintage items but I also like to use them as they were intended to be used. There is nothing sadder then seeing something stuck on a shelf never to be used again. My cameras and radios take pictures and play but they also serve as props for my themed shoots.

If you would like to set up a themed session, just drop us a line using the modern internet or call us and we would be happy to talk it over and work out exactly what you would like.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Also posted in musings, photography Tagged , , , , |