Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creative Limits or How to Inspire Yourself

As an artists, we sometimes get into our comfortable rut of how we always do things.  We use the same lenses or we shoot the same way. We do this because it works and since it “works” we do not need to worry about the outcome. But, this leads to stagnation and boredom.

[blockquote_with_author author=”Orson Welles“] The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.[/blockquote_with_author]

Orson Welles’s quote is one that I have taken to heart. Often times, what I do is to limit myself with the camera , a certain lens or just a certain location that normally would not be a good place to shoot. I will intentional use environmental limitations such as shooting at high noon in the sun. I will  pick something that will push me out of my comfort zone and into someplace where I need to learn something.

I’ll do this with any camera I have at the ready ranging from my iPhone to my D700. I find that with the iPhone my composition becomes very critical since the iPhone is lacking many of the technical tools for adjusting the image when I take it. With my D700 I’ll pick one lens but tell myself that is the ONLY lens I can use. Or I’ll cover up the video screen and tell myself I have only 36 images in an homage to my film days. This kind of shooting really makes me think hard about my images. It makes me slow down and examine the world around me carefully and this is  a very good thing. I learn new things, I learn new skills for myself and for my clients to make better pictures.

Here is a set of images that show the set up  and then my final image using my iPhone.  Normally, the weeds by my house do not draw my attention but in this case, working the angles and using the limitation of shooting into bright light with the iPhone adds to the creativity.  I have drama,  powerful lines and you can  not see the light poles and condos as they are hidden behind the weeds.

Sky scene pull back and final dramatic iPhone shot

Who knew that weeds could be so much fun in photography!  In the second image, I went to Disneyland which is a favorite place of mine to shoot for practice. But, I limited myself to my 16mm fisheye lens. The normal convention is that a fisheye is a limited use lens. A funky lens where you take one or two shots to mix it up a bit.  I really, really like my fish eye because it makes me think and I can get really creative with it as you can see in this shot. I’m using framing of my subject and I’m using the frame to push the eye towards my subject. This shot would have been impossible without the wide angle of the fisheye lens.

Fisheye view of Star Tours at Disneyland
I have taken some of my best pictures while wearing the shackles of artistic limitations. Try it yourself the next time you are at lunch or waiting to pick up the kids at school. Take your camera phone and find something to shoot like the bricks in the wall or the plant behind you. Work the angles and the exposure for drama or details. You will find that you get into a zone and might forget the kids are waiting! I speak from experience on this one 🙂 Take your DSLR and pull out the weird lens you bought in a fit of being the artist and actually use it! If you shoot with zooms, borrow or rent a prime and use that only for a day. Use your flash ON the camera at high noon. Push your limits and you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

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Why Choose a Professional Photographer?

[dropcap_1]T[/dropcap_1]here are many reasons to choose a professional photographer and there has been much written about the why’s and how’s  but there has been one specific reason has been overlooked by many on both sides.  A professional photographer can help you fill your walls. What do I mean by that? I mean that while many people consider an 8×10 print “large”, it is really quite small when placed on a wall in the typical room. It is fine to hand to someone or to have on a desktop or even on the shelf but on a wall, but you need to have a much larger print to really show off the art and to provide visual balance.

Here is a sample of using a cluster of three prints over a couch to provide an easy to see and easier to appreciate set of images of a bride. The images were chosen to complement the color of the room and special software was used to mock up the room before any orders were placed. The now has a close up of the bride, a full shot of the bride and a very pretty detail shot of the bride’s hands. All of these images are art that can stand alone but together, it’s a very powerful set of images where the sum of the total is greater than the individual prints.

Three images over red couch mock up

We can easily provide this mock up of virtually any style of print in a representation of different rooms. We can even takes pictures of your actual rooms and then mock it up for you.

The art does not have to be single print, the image can be broken up into multiple piece to provide an artistic flair for displaying the image. A professional photographer can work with you in order to decide what style and type of print will work in your space.  And materials!  Oh yes, we have a large selection now to choose from ranging from the traditional canvas print to the newest metal prints where the image is actually bonded and printed onto a piece of metal for a spectacular look.

Multi Panel Chinese Bride in bedroom mock up

Art can go into any room in the house. It can be a bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room or living room. You can even buy art from a professional photographer or commission special art for the “Man Cave” such as NASCAR photos or whatever your heart desires. With the new metal prints, you can get away from the “softer” images like the big canvas prints and get a more masculine feel. There is also special items like the WallRider which is a skate board deck with a print on top of it. Anyone with a liking of extreme sports would love something like this. So ask your photographer about anything special you might have in mind since today anything is possible from having pictures printed on a child’s set of blocks to having the image printed to fill an entire wall in a house.

Wallrider Skateboard Deck Tribal Olivia

If you want to play with your own designs and you have Photoshop, you can buy the PSD files here at Ariana Falerni Design. This is where I bought my room files from for the images I’ve used in this post. They are very easy to use and very high quality.


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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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Also posted in editing, film, photography, portraits, technique, wedding photography Tagged , , , , , , , , |

500px and showing off your pics

[dropcap_1]M[/dropcap_1]y new site for showing off images is called and they beat the pants off Flickr and most other photosites by a large margin.  You can click on the image below and see what I mean. You get the image and all the details you would like to know about the image plus an comments.

You DONT get the infamous Facebook compression fuzziness or the dated Flickr interface.  And you can sell your images through 500px which is always a good thing.

You can write a blog on 500px. You can have a portfolio that is separate from the main photosite. You can embed images into your own website. You can track friend’s posting of new images and you can build a catalog of favorite images that you like. You can upload FULL SIZED IMAGES and to top it off,  it’s cheap for a year 49.95 for the year with unlimited uploads.

What else is there? How about an iPad app that brings an excellent way to show your images on your IPad. After fighting with Flickr on the iPad for the better part of a year, this means alot to me.  And you dont need to log in to see new images, just open the app. There are third party apps for the Droid users and they provide much of the same user experience. Since I dont have a Droid, I can not personal vouch for these apps.

You can find my 500px site here:

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New Year, New Site


[dropcap_1]I[/dropcap_1]  hate New Year resolutions as a rule. To promise to change something for a new year because you feel guilty about it can not be a good way to effect a change. But, in this case, I decide that this year I would do a few things differently. I started early by joining the studio coop in December. I posted about that a bit ago and so far, it has been a very good arrangement.

A second thing that I really wanted to do was make over my website. I had not been happy with my hosting service for a long while. It’s not that they were “bad” or anything but I had ongoing issues with memory and WordPress plugins not having enough and they could never get it to work quite right. In truth, they sell canned templates and hosting service for those templates. I dumped that two years ago and built my own wordpress site using iBlog. So I was already out of their comfort zone in doing that. I was also paying alot more than I needed to since I was not using their sites or any of their features. I had found them too limiting for what I wanted to do.

So last month. I ordered up a new domain name which will be the umbrella name for my photography, my fusion video efforts and some training work coming down the pipe. Signed a deal with (they host on Macs) and started a new site. After one disaster of a template, I started over, found a cheaper template that worked alot better and you now see the results.

[blockquote]Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.- Henry Ford [/blockquote]

Welcome to my NEW and IMPROVED website and blog for Michael Sweeney Media.. aka Michael Sweeney Photography. I’m able to put up my blog, my galleries, a nice splash page and more without any issues with memory or other troubles. I plan to get back on a regular posting schedule and I plan to put up more images now I can get it all to work better. Please, take a look around and be a bit patient while I get the bits and pieces moved over and working again.

Thanks for visiting!




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Get the YELLLOW out!

We have all seen this, the early color snaps with the gawd awful yellow tint, banding, splotching or all the above. The chemicals used then were not archival by any means nor were the colors in the actual print. So between the chemicals breaking down and the dyes breaking down, the poor print does not have a chance of staying pristine or even likable.

I have a client who gave me 8 photo albums of old prints that are tagged to which she wants scanned. The first four were black and whites from the 30s and up to the early 50s. Then I hit the color prints. Ugh.. some where not too bad but many were just awful with the yellow peril. It took the better part of an hour to work out how to get rid of it and to script it since the normal level adjustment was not working at all.

I have some pictures below showing the method I came up which fuses LAB adjustments to RGB adjustments. The trick is to find the channel in LAB that has the crap to be cleaned up. On 99% of the color prints I’m working on, this is channel B in LAB. So we need to neutralize the yellow in the B channel only then color balance the print.

Here is the start after I tried a normal levels adjustment
After normal levels attempt

Going in LAB mode and then looking at each channel to find the bad one

color before channel B adjustment

Ahhh.. here we go.. channel B has the bad data so thats the one we need to tweak

Removing B channel

One curve applied to B channel only. Fixed things right up

curves adjustment on B channel

Pretty done at this point. I can clean up the wall some more but it is really good enough for what the client wants to do with it.

Finished print

So what ended up doing since I had over 100 of these to do is to script the steps from flipping to LAB mode and applying the curve to back to RGB mode. I have it applied to a function key so I load the image and hit shift F13 and within a few seconds, the yellow is cleaned up and I’m ready to color balance the print.

The take away from this is really two items, one, learn to use LAB mode and second, learn how to use your channels. Channels are a very powerful tool in Photoshop and there are things you can do in a channel that you not do any other way.

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Painting or how to soften your portraits

I’ve always been fascinated with graphics tablets. I had one of the early ones called a “Kola Pad” for my C-64 even though I never had a real use for it. It was fun to doodle around with. I also goofed with a lightpen that let me draw on the CRT directly. It never worked as well as it should even though I spent a hundred 1983 dollars on it.

Now days I have a nice Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and I also picked up a copy of PainterX from Corel. The end game to all of this is to “paint” portraits and other pictures. I’ve seen enough “paintings” done to know if done well, they sell well. So I’m trying to get my skill set up to speed on using the tablet and software. Many people I know swear by the tablets and I have to admit in just goofing around, it is certainly easier than my mouse.

So to the end of figuring out how to make this work and how to paint with PainterX, I found a very cool book by Karen Sperling who knows much about PainterX since she has written many of the manuals for it. She has a new book out called “Painting for Photographers” and it’s very good. You can buy it in paper or as an EBook or both in a combo deal. I personally went for the combo because there are times I just want to hold the book and not worry about kill my screen’s batteries.

Karen has an entire line of stuff thats worth looking at if you are at all interested in using PainterX in making very cool portraits. Tutorials, video clips, webinars and so on. The one that I suspect most people should watch is the beginner’s tutorial to get used to using PainterX and the whole of idea of “painting” with a digital graphics tablet and software.

I’m also working my way through Jeremy Sutton’s DVD on using PainterX called “Learning Corel PainterX”. Not the best presentation in my opinion. He’s stiff on the screen and his voice tends a bit to drone which wants to put me to sleep. It’s not that the information is bad, it is really not, it just the presentation. One of the more useful tidbits aside from how to program the tablet to do useful things, was to learn that there different nibs for my Wacom pen. A princely sum of 25 bucks gets me some new nibs and cushions for my fingers. I had no idea this was available or even other “pens” were available.

I was able to get a nice Wacom preference pane dated 2009 from the Wacom site at no charge. Here is a screen shot of the interface along with the buttons programs to how Jeremy likes to use them. His button layout does make sense when you think about it.

wacom programable buttons

wacom programable buttons

Right now I’m using the tablet instead of my mouse for even the normal window open/close and so on just to get some time in on using it. The first thing I noticed is that my back is happier leaning back and having the tablet in my lap instead of one hand resting on the table top with the mouse. I may have to find the wacom mouse that came with the tablet.

I should have book and some videos in my hands in a day or so and one of them is to paint using Photoshop. It will be interesting to see if PainterX is really worth the money to paint with or can Photoshop easily do it also. I know it CAN do it, the question in my mind is Photoshop the RIGHT tool to paint with. I dont mind using more than one tool, I tend to collect tools but using just one and upgrading just one and so is appealing.

Using PainterX is very exciting since I have several images that I think will make very nice paintings once I learn how. I also feel that it will be a nice “up sell” for weddings and portraits. I knew a photographer in Chicago that offered this service and did quite well as an outsourced vendor for some of the major photographers in the area. In some ways, I think that would be a cool thing to back fill some of my hours when I’m not shooting.

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Smiles for you and me

My wife found a very cool service on the net for making slide shows to share pictures with friends and family. It’s called “SmileBox” and the basic service is a freebie and not too offensive with ads and such. It ties into iPhoto on the Mac and makes it very easy to assemble a slide show to email or if you buy the plan, burn to DVD using iDVD. The same features are available for Windows but I do not have any experience with them, only on the Mac.

I have a “gallery” show at a local coffee house (Chapman Coffee House) and my wife and I made a slide show using Smilebox to send it around. But an important part is that I can make a DVD of the show and give it to the owners of the coffee house for their own use. This keeps me and my business in their good graces and shows off that I can take foodie pictures of their wares, nice architectural shots of their business and more. Well worth the 39 dollars a year membership fee.

The membership also lets you using your own music but gives you a library of 2,000 or so songs to choose from which is very handy. You can choose from sideshows, ecards, scrapbooks, postcards or photo albums with a nice assortment of templates for each. And when you are done with your creation, they have it set up to post to all the major and minor social sites like, for example, WordPress 🙂

You can see a live sample in the slide show below of my gallery showing at the coffee house.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Chapman Coffeehouse August 2009
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NY Times Approves of Theft

OK, maybe not but it’s odd that a newspaper like the NY Times would approve a column that advocated the theft of intellectual property. To be specific, some dimwit called “Sonia Zjawinski” wrote a piece in the NY Times describing how she would search Flickr for art, download it, print and hang it in her home. 

You can read the original post here:

It’s a astounding to me that A: A writer would embrace theft and encourage her readers to do the same and B: that a supposedly reputable newspaper such as the NY Times would approve the publishing of such crap. 

She wrote a 2nd piece about the legal side but never did say she was sorry for misleading the public or that she was sorry that she misunderstood what her rights are and what the photographers rights are. Just because it’s on the internet does NOT make it fair game for anyone to use anyway they wish. Her lack of remorse shows much more about her own feelings and personal image than what she wrote.

You took my Kodachrome away

Today is the announced end of an era. Kodak is retiring one of the most storied films of it’s stable, Kodachrome. It has succumbed to the digital age. It’s too costly, too hard to make and too difficult to process anymore and make any money at it. There is only a single lab processing Kodachrome now in the US and it’s not even a Kodak lab.  According to Kodak, you have about a year to finish up shooting Kodachrome and get it processed. It was never a film you could process at home but man, did it look good even after some years of storage. Our digital “negatives” might look good if you could find a device to show them off. Slide film just needed the sun and your eyes for basic viewing. No batteries, no meg-clock cycle computer widget, no shifts in color due to un-calibrated monitors etc.

Sometimes change is for the good and sometimes it’s not. It remains to be seen how this will settle out. I know my own E6 Ektachrome slides look very good after twenty some odd years in storage so maybe it’s not such a hit. But you have to wonder when you see all the films that you grew up on like Polaroid and Kodachrome dying off to be replaced by a compact flash card. Not nearly as romantic holding up a flash card to the sun. Or the wonder of a image appearing like magic on a white card with a weird chemical smell, who remembers the pink “wand” of the earlier Polaroid film? Such a smell.. like smelling my dark room chemicals. It will take me straight back in time to the days of being cooped up in a dark room with a red light and getting maybe, if I was lucky, half dozen prints. Whereas nowadays, with Photoshop and my favorite printer, I can and have printed hundreds of prints in a day. Were my low rate prints better? I dont think so based on some of my older stuff I saved. My new prints (image AND techniques) are much, much better now.

But, I will still miss the real wet darkroom. It was the magic and while Photoshop is way cool, it really does not  have any romance or magic to it. Such is change..