Tag Archives: Adobe Photoshop

Retouching a bride for a vintage look

Brides are beautiful and because of that, the bride puts a temendous amount of effort and money into this one day. One of the jobs of the wedding photographer is to see that beauty in the bride regardless of circumstances or environment. It also means that at times you need to shoot knowing full well you will be doing something specific in post to make the vision a reality.  This bridal shot which I took at Serra Plaza was one of those moments that I knew I had to shoot with postprocessing in mind and adjust accordingly.

When I reviewed the image in Lightroom, the raw  image had some basic qualities that I thought would make a really good solid image in Black and White. At the time, the key issue to me was that the quality of light was shall we say, less than optimal. It was very late in the day and we were in the shadow side on top of everything else. There was a mix of daylight on her face and some type of sodium light behind her and over her head.  There also was the same fact that  hall lead to a bank ATM and it had a massive concrete trash can off to one side. But I knew with some cropping, I could clean it up quite a bit.  And I also felt that I could clean up the image best in Black and White and dump the mixed colors.

Basic Bridal Color Portrait

Basic Bridal Color Portrait

In the image below, you can see the results of the cropping and the initial Black and White conversion. At this point, I had not removed the trash can or done any major retouching. But you can already see how the black and white treatment really brought the image to life in spite of the lousy lighting. I used Nik’s SilverEfex Pro 2.0 for the conversion and as always, it just works really well to get a clean black and white image.

First pass of bridal conversion to B/W
In the final image here, I used the content aware fill tool in CS5 to remove the trashcan on the left side. Back in Lightroom 3, I also applied a sepia like tone preset called “Silver Dust Hue” from Gavin Seim’s workflow presets. to the image to give a very light vintage look to it. And I darkened the corners a touch. I paid very close attention to my bride to make sure I did not ruin the skin tones or the details on the dress. Remember, along with the look of the bride, its ALL about the dress.  Ruining the details on the dress will ruin the image for the bride, she paid a lot of money for the dress so you had better show it off to the best of your ability.
Final Bridal Portrait with all Retouching

Now we have a keeper of an image and it took about 40 minutes start to finish. I put one version into a digital frame and it looks spectacular.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in editing, editing software, lightroom, photography, technique, wedding photography Also tagged , , , |

More hotlights and vintage portraits

I’m have a ball with my new hot lights. The vintage portrait project is coming together as I work out how to use the lights, get Lightroom and Photoshop to rework color to black and white and get a good workflow down. I’m also relearning how to shoot film as part of this project.

So the last entry on this subject was about shooting with a single light and this week, I’ve taken it to two lights. The idea is to provide some fill and highlights. And lest you think that one needs an expensive studio or alot of room for this style of shooting, that could be further from the truth. The sample shot I have included this week was taken in a 5×5 space right in front of my front door entry way with some white polarplus gaf-taped to the wall. Pretty low tech if you ask me.

So here is the “studio” shot. I have used my Wacom to mark it up a bit. As you can see, not very high tech at all or expensive.

Vintage studio in house marked up

Vintage studio in house marked up

But the results you can get are pretty amazing. I used Lightroom and Seim’s Power Workflow 3.0 Snapped B/W as my basic conversion from color to Black and White. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with this one but it’s a starting point. I then moved it into CS5 and used Focht’s Touchflow Palette to smooth out skin and add a touch of pop. I also used my Wacom to paint in and paint out extreme shadows, hot spots and such.

Blowing a kiss to fans

Blowing a kiss to fans

Not bad for the price of a doorway studio huh? I’ve found a book at Amazon called Hollywood Portraits: Classic Shots and How to Take Them
which goes into quite a bit of detail in how the old school Hollywood shots were created so that has been ordered. I’ve also ordered up Nik’s Silver Efex kit since it’s on sale at Adorama for a killer price. And yes, it soon will be 64 bit which makes those of us running 64 bit Photoshop very happy. You can download a free 15 day trial from Nik and give a workout to see if you like the outcome but I have to say, it makes some really nice B/W conversions.

I’ve mentioned the clone of the Arri lights before but here are the real deal if you are inclined or feel more comfortable with the brand named item. This can be very important if you want to rent out the kit as grip equipment or the like. This is the complete kit with 3 650 watt lights, roller bag, stands, barn doors etc.

 

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Review of Knoll Light Factory for Photoshop

I was given the opportunity to try a new plugin for Photoshop by Red Giant Software called “Knoll Light Facotry for Photoshop”. It’s a pretty nifty plugin that gives you access to over 100 preset types of flare and lens reflections. These open up a new creative angle for your images. They can add a whole new dimension or they can enhance flare already there. You can even build up your own presets using custom elements and settings. The claim is that the effects are based on real physics and I have to say that as a non-physics major, I think they look really good. You judge for yourself.

Some of the product highlights are:

Here is a screen shot of the user interface in CS5 Photoshop. You can see that it’s very clean and easy to understand. One of the best features for me is the real time preview of the effect as I dial in different adjustments or add/delete elements of an effect.

Knoll Light Factory Plugin UI

Knoll Light Factory Plugin UI

The system requirements are pretty easily met by any recent OS and hardware. For my demo, I used a MacPro dual quad workstation with 14 gig of RAM. I did run LR3 and Cs5 in 32 bit mode to get a better handle on how the software would perform under memory constraints. The performance was very good, no slowing that I could detect and no stability issues of any kind.

Apple Macintosh

Mac OSX 10.5.8 and later
Intel Mac
1 GB of RAM
30 MB of Hard Drive space

PC / Windows

Windows XP 32-bit/64-bit
Windows Vista 32-bit/64-bit
Windows 7 32-bit/64-bit
Intel or AMD processor 1.6 GHz or higher
1 GB of RAM
30 MB of Hard Drive sp

For this demo, I used and image I shot at Disney’s California Adventure of a Dobro player. The lighting was good and bad, good that it was shade but bad in that the shade did not do justice to the chrome resonator of the Dobro. Enter Knoll Light Factory. I used Lightroom 3 to dial in my basic adjusts which were a preset called “Heritage” from Power Work FLow 3 , fill light, contrast and dialing down the red channel a bit. Nikons run a bit hot on the red channel and I almost always bring it down a touch. If you have not seen PWF3 from Seim Effects, you should check out Gavin’s work. Also, his podcast is pretty cool so check them both out.

Once I had the basic edits in place, I opened CS5 Photoshop and loaded up KLF. What I wanted was a starburst flare on the chrome, it would be a low key effect but very effective at drawing attention to the metalwork.

Here is the basic image before I applied the KLF effect.

Prior to Knoll effects added

Prior to Knoll effects added

And here is the image after the effect as been applied. The effect took less than 2 minutes to decide on, place, adjust and save out. Now you would be very hard pressed to know that I was in total shade shooting this.

After Knoll flare applied to metalwork

After Knoll flare applied to metalwork

After working with the plugin for a few weeks now, I have to say that I’m pretty happy with how easily I can add/enhance flare in my images. One must like flare in images to really enjoy this plugin so it’s not for everyone, I mean, after all, major camera makes spend alot of money to PREVENT lens flare but there are those of us artists who really like it and will use it with abandon given a chance 🙂 So whether you are an artist of flare or curious, I would suggest to get the demo and try it out.

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Final Westcott Competition Entries

Some of you know that the photographic lighting supplier, Westcott,  did a pretty crazy cool thing at Photoshop World this year in Vegas. They set up four shooting sets and had live models, lights, props and watchers on hand and then let the public go nuts shooting the models. The payoff if that IF you enter their contest and IF you win, your image will be the Westcott catalog and you get some lighting equipment. And let me tell you that after shooting with their spiderlights, I’m lusting after a set of those lights! Cool, nicely balanced and bright, they are easier than strobes when shooting something like this where a subtle change in position or expression can have a profound impact in the image. Since the lights are continuous, you can shoot as fast as you can click the shutter without worry of the strobe not keeping up. In my studio here in Orange, this type of shooting works really well. I shoot strobes alot but after working with “hot lights” twice now, I really can see the value of them, especially the new cool “hot” lights.

Here are my entries for the contest. I’m also including a few shots of the sets so you can see the environment we had to work in. I used several different techniques with my entries. I worked only with the props and set given, I replaced the background in one, I flipped one to a “painting” using CS5’s new bristle brushes and I worked the tones. In all case though, the overriding concerns were sharpness, content, composition and overall impact of the image. I feel that without a sharp image and good solid composition, all the post work in the world will not push a bad image up the ladder.

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Repurposing Your Software Tools

Photoshop or your editor of choice actions can  help you cut time corners to make a better end product like blog entries. Say what?  Oh yes, you can adapt tools normally used for a task  like making albums into a killer tool for making story boards for blogs or displays or whatever else comes to mind. I just used my favorite album software from Fundy to make a batch of story boards for my blog here. Yes I could buy actions to do this but I wanted to see if I could do something close on my own with Photoshop.

I already have a couple of flavors of album making software, LumaPix, You Select It (YSI) and FundySOS Album builder. Since I’m on a Mac, I prefer to use Fundy Album builder. While LumaPix would do a really nice job, it’s Windows only and I need to start up XP just to make these. It’s more work then I want right now. Fundy means I never leave my workflow.  This is not intended to be a review of Fundy’s software but suffice to say it’s pretty powerful and is adaptable to virtually anything that requires arranging images, not just wedding albums.

Here is a sample of a three by three story board of a shoot in Colorado that I shot last year.  I tossed together in Fundy Album builder in a few minutes. Not only can I make the grid but I can save it as a design then load it back up and automatically fill the grids or fill them by hand. It can takes less than 5 minutes to make the entire grid and fill it this way. And I just have to insert ONE picture into the blog instead of a dozen or more.

3x3 Wedding Story Board

3x3 Wedding Story Board

And it does not have to be squares, it can be any shape I want, singles, squares, grids, puzzles and more. Also,  this is not just for blogs, this technique of story boarding or building paneled images  can be sold to a client or used in an album or picture book. So the time invested in making the templates can be time well spent. And yes, I had to buy the software but I had bought it  to make my wedding albums so now I’m using the same software for two or three other uses without having to buy anything else. That is money saved and in your pocket.

Here is a type of grid that is called a “puzzle” with several images from a local coffee house in the city of Orange  called Chapman Coffee. My business, Michael Sweeney Photography, had some art hung on the walls  there for a while and I had taken pictures for their website. Now I’m using them to illustrate a second type of collage that you can put into your blog by using album building software. I started with a blank canvas set to 1024 pixels square and used Fundy’s Album Builder Ninja layout and CS4 to make the puzzle. You can of course, make the squares manually using just Photoshop.

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

And you can take a single picture and use the panels as a design element. Use a strong picture and add a bit of space between the sections and you get a very cool effect. In this case, I made a quad panel and used a picture of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air automobile that I shot at the “Cars and Coffee” car show in Irvine, California. This image of the car works well spread across  the four panels with a visual break between each panel and gives an idea for a wall hanging upsell to the client.

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

If all this is cool but you either dont have existing tools like FundySOS  or you just dont want spend the time to mess around with Photoshop, then you can buy actions from a variety of places such as MCP who has the “Blog It Boards” among others. The actions give you a very fast way to get started on this type of presentation of your images.  You can find some free ones at coffeephotography.blogspot.com but keep in mind that free is good, sometimes paying for something is better.

So the take away is that for your blog, instead of fighting with posting a dozen images which can also be swiped, make a storyboard of them and post that. Everyone gets to see the pictures, admire your artistic skills in layout and you can shave time off the editing of your post.  You can also incorporate your album software or actions into your workflow as design elements.

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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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