Tag Archives: composition

Free is always good

Just a quick post today with some free links from CreativeLive. If you have not heard of them, you need to. They have been putting on some amazing training sessions live on the internet with an option to buy it for a very cheap price. How cheap? How about three days of  Vincent Laforet and his class on shooting movies with HD DLSRs of  for 120  bucks? Oh yeahh..  champagne info and beer prices.

So here are are few more to check out – These are free for now!!!

Creating PDFs and eBooks with CS5

Photoshop CS5,  0 to 60

Watercolor 101

Right now I’m watching a three day treat with Zack Arias called

Studio Photography with Zack Arias

If you have not been to one of Zack’s training classes, you owe it to yourself to get this one given how cheap it is and the amount of information he presents.

And yes, these videos are iPad friendly. I download them to my iPad and play them during my “school time” which is really my lunch break 🙂

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How to easily make a pirate map

With the popularity of all things pirate since Johnny Depp introduced us to Captain Jack Sparrow, my kids are obsessed with pirates, swords and swashbuckling. So on the day of going to visit some of their friends for a play date, I gave them each a copy of a map I had “found” in our yard. It was a real pirate map!! Complete with skull and crossbones and “X” marks the spot.

Pirate Map

Pirate Map made from Yahoo Map

My kids were very surprised to find out that following the map took them to their friends house which was the “treasure” on the map. They were very excited about having a map to follow and never questioned that it had street names on it so they could look out the window of the van and watch for the signs.

What I had done was take a screen shot of Yahoo maps showing a reasonably large view of our neighborhood and cleaned it up of stray information in Photoshop.

Basic  Map from Yahoo Maps

Basic Map from yahoo Maps

Then I started on some basic ‘shopping of the map. I added an old paper texture to the map. The paper I got from MK Designs Little Pirates package and it worked really nice. An alternative for any of the elements in this project is to search Flickr or Google for Creative Common’s licensed elements or public domain elements. There is not any need to steal any of these, they are everywhere to be had as freebies.

I used a very simple method of just using Grab (I have OSX so use ther screen capture software of choice) to get a screen shot as a TIFF, opening that in Photoshop, then I flipped it to grey scale and added a curves layer to get nice dark blacks since I need them to show through the paper. I then opened up the paper and dragged the paper onto the map image. Then I dropped the opacity to about 60% and used a curves layer to bump up the black point.

I now have my simple textured “map” ready to add various elements to in order to make it “real”

Map with Paper texture applied

Map with paper texture applied

So now we can get on with adding various elements. I added a skull and cross bones and faded it to better blend into the paper. I also used a ragged brush to draw a dotted line route on the map. I used a strong font to make a large letter X then free transformed it bigger and to distort it a bit. I also added a compass to add to the nautical theme but you can go as nuts as you want. You could add burn holes, cuts, blood stains, smudges and more.

Pirate Map with added elements

Pirate map with added elements

The appeal of this map is how simple it is to make and how fast you can make it. Not to mention the points you win from your kids as being a cool parent who can make a pirate map.

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Over Processing, Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

Fads come and go and photography is not immune to the fad of the day any less than other creative endeavors. From selective coloring to the current trend of blown highlights and vintage yellowish looks, photographs are being over processed and passed off as art.
Yes, I’m ashamed to admit this was one of my own earlier misadventures into selective coloring. And no, I did not do it again.
Colorized

In particular, with wedding shooters, the advent of easily acquired Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions have unleashed a deluge of hyper sharpened, over saturated, distressed and generally mangled images. A good wedding image is not about the action used to create the colors, it’s about the moment in time being captured. And a good picture stands on it’s own, without needing to have it heavily manipulated. I just finished a wedding album where only one image was heavily processed for a very specific reason. I did flip a few to B/W but most of them were just cleaned up, sharpened a bit and cropped here and there. The bride, when she saw the KISS album for the first time, commented on how classy her pictures looked.

Bride and Dad in Black/White

In this case, this was the last set of formal pictures the bride has of her dad who passed away several weeks after the wedding. I’m proud my images are a timeless version and not a worn out trendy version. You never know how your images will be view in the future, I prefer mine to be viewed as keepsakes and not kitsch.

I an not a Photoshop luddite, I use Photoshop alot and would not give it up. There are actions and presets I use often in my own workflow. Most times I use them because in my work flow I need to repeat something over and over again. My most commonly used preset is a freebie from Cameradojo called “Bam”. There are three versions and all come very close to a D300 preset I made (was making) and since it was close and I liked it, I use it. When you shoot RAW, you have to process the image and at the very least apply a camera profile to it so the image on the screen matches what you saw on the LCD which is a processed JPEG. The Bam preset fits very well into my Nikon work flow and saved me the trouble of creating my own from scratch.

There is a set of commercial actions I like for eyes and teeth called The Eye Doctor and Dentist Actions from MCP. I love them because they put each adjustment on a layer so when I need to brighten the eye whites or work on the pupil, no big deal. I go to that layer, turn it on and dial it in. Done. I’m not getting weird with the colors or saturation, I’m working on the basics.. color balance, initial sharpness, eye clarity, teeth coloring.. all the small things that can really make or break a picture. It’s called “Basics” for a reason, one should always pay attention to the basics. Another source of knowledge and inspiration is David Cuerdon who has the Beauty and Portrait Retouching Kit on Kelby Training. He shows how to really get into the eye to make them beautiful and not alien.

When I have my basics in place, I do use a palette of actions by Focht Creative (partner of Fundy) called “Retouch Palette: or Touchflo. This is a very nice set of Photoshop actions that provide a lot of tools for touching up images fast. And there are some processing “tricks’ in the bag of actions for popping the color or going with a soft B/W conversion and so on. There are times that something like this is of great use. One action I seem to go back over and over again is called “Creamsicle” which is by Kevin Kubota but I got mine in OneSoftware Protools.

And lets talk about another basic skill, sharpening an image or what happens often, under or over sharpening an image. With the advent of digital photography, the photographer can now sharpen to his or her heart’s content. And many try to use sharpening to salvage an out of focused image. Sharpening will NOT save an out of focus image, it just makes it look jaggy. Sharpening is to bring up the contrast between light and dark areas which tends to be a bit smudged by the way a digital image is processed in the camera. When it’s done properly, it will add some “pop” to the image. My preference is to lightly sharpen an image in Lightroom and then use a high pass filter in Photoshop to really bring up the edges on a layer where I can really dial in how much or how little I need. In CS5, the claim is the sharpening tool really works like it should. I will be testing that shortly myself to see if I can optimize my workflow a bit more. Lightroom 3 will also help in the that regard. But even then, the tools will not fix an out of focus image. The photographer still has to get it right inside the camera first. Someday we will have software that can recalculate the path of the light through a given lens but not yet.

And the eyes!!  Man, I know the eyes are the window to the soul but having devil eyes popping off a subdued image is not a good thing. I’ve seen way too many pictures of late where the eyes are so over-processed compared to the rest of the image that it’s scary looking. You want to clean up the eyes, brighten them a bit, enhanced them not have them looking like polished glass marbles. And let us bring in skin smoothing while we are at it. Humans do not  have ultrasmooth skin without a single wrinkle or even texture. We have pores!!! we have wrinkles!! Again, the idea like the eyes, is to ENHANCE and not plastify the skin so much it should belong on a store bought barbie doll. Do I smooth skin? you bet I do.. I also remove major wrinkles but in both cases, I leave enough behind so it looks like the real person but a bit more polished. A good job in skin smoothing evens out the tones and still leaves some visual texture but loses the huge open pores, the blotchy skin and munge like pimples. I also remove large wrinkles in a few key places but I leave much because those wrinkles are what gives character to the person. It shows they have had a life and it has marked them to some degree. The exception are babies and children which tend to have lovely skin without the wear and tear us “older” people have. Even on children I will even out the tones and watch for blotches.

This little cowgirl had just a touch of tonal smoothing. You can still see faint freckles and shadows. Her eyes were cleaned up just a touch. They do not pop out of the image but they do draw you into it.

Today’s digital cameras can be too good at picking up details, even more so with a super sharp prime lens. I dont have any numbers but in looking at portraits I took with my film Canon AE1 with a 50mm lens and my digital D300 with roughly the same lens, the digital images are so much sharper across the board. I did shoot a batch of images using my old Tamaron 28-80 film lens on my D300. Definitely sharper even though I used the same lens nearly 20 years apart. And this sharpness does need a bit of smoothing to really make people look their best.

There is a time and a place for all looks and styles. High fashion loves the smooth, no fault look. I dare you to find a wrinkle on a Playboy bunny 🙂 But those images are not selling reality or a memorable moment in time, they are selling a fantasy that is unattainable by mere humans. When we as photographers shoot a wedding or a portrait, we are creating a visual representation of a moment in time and we need to be accurate and mindful of what that moment means now and can mean later. It’s not time to show off how much of a Photoshop junkie you are or what cool action you just bought. It IS the time show off how good you can make your clients look today and tomorrow.

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Traveling Light

Don’t you just love being invited to see someone’s travel pictures? Does the groan escape your lips before you can stop yourself or do you just bite the bullet and suffer quietly? But here is the kicker question, how do YOUR travel pics look to everyone else? hmmmmm? Thought so.. so here are some tips on creating memorable travel shots that wont put your audience to sleep OR cost you and arm and a leg in glass.

Bones of a BE2c

My first tip is a bit odd and not so much a tip as something to think about. Travel is all about seeing the sights and experiencing new things, people and places. Unless you are getting PAID for the trip, it’s NOT about dragging two bodies, half dozen lenses and assorted equipment along. So my first piece of advice is to consider, strongly consider getting a really good point and shoot camera.

In my case, I got a Canon G11 because I truly believe that Nikon’s point and shoots are best left home. None of them equal the G11 in features or flexibility. I also feel that Nikon is making serious mistake with that line of marketing. But anyways, there is the G11, there is the slightly cheaper but in some ways, better S90, the Panasonic LX3 and there are the newer four thirds which are a a marginal point and shoot with swappable lenses. I tend not to include the four thirds in this talk because of their size. The Canon G11 is almost too big but still qualifies as a “point and shoot” due to it’s fixed lens and smallish size.

I suggest a good point and shoot because when traveling with one like the G11, you have virtually all the control that you have with the DLSR. You do NOT have swappable lenses but then the zooms on the P/S camera are pretty amazing at the ranging they can work. I just spent a week in the UK and never pulled my D300 out of my ThinkTank bag. I shot everything with the G11. This leads to another tip.

Leave 90% of the “must have” accessories at home. I did a week in the UK and never used my remotes, my SB800 flash, graphics tablet, D300, 17-55 F2.8 lens, 50mm 1.4 lens, spare batteries etc. I DID use my Epson P5000 to archive my images from the Sd card, I DID use my Macbook Pro for email and fast edits for posting to Flickr so friends and family could see a few shots as I went and I DID use my USB hard drive for my Time Machine backups while in the room. So when thinking about the trip and really think about what you plan to do, be ruthless! Most museums will NOT let you use the fancy flash and/or camera without hassling you about it. Nobody gave a damn about my G11. I lived in my Luma Loop strap and it was great at the checkpoints where I could just unsnap the camera, hand it to security and then snap it back on. No mess and no fuss trying to lift straps over my head and jacket. I like it much better on my G11 than I do on my D300. For my D300, I prefer the Rapid Strap but since we are talking about lightweight point and shoots, really take a look at the Luma.

I consolidated quite a few of my chargers down to three and one I didnt need. The AA charger was not needed since I never used the SB800 flash I brought. The old Razor charger works on my Crackberry and is lighter and smaller than the OEM for the Blackberry. I had the Canon charger and a USB cable for the iPhone since it can charge while connected to the laptop. I had two more USB cables, both the same type so I could plug in both my flash card reader and the external HD at the same time. I did bring a spare power pack for the iPhone for while I was on the airplane since it was 11 hours of flying time and time at the airport. I also have a small two piece plastic stand that holds the iPhone horizontal and at a 50 degree angle for watching movies or podcasts. I brought spare earbuds since I have them fail before.

So what can you do with a point and shoot you ask? Am I going to “give up” anything? Yeah, weight and size. A good point and shoot can perform almost as well as the DLSR. Note I said Almost.. not As well. There is some give and take but we are talking TRAVEL pictures people, not the cover of Vanity Fair or Country Life. You want nice shots that wont bore people to death when you show them. And that my friend is more of YOU than the camera. So learn how to use the point and shoot CORRECTLY. It’s not the same as your DSLR and it will require a different technique to some degree. And it will require more post processing to get the most out of the image. There is distortion in the wide angles, noise even at relatively low ISOs like 400 and on my G11, a distinctly narrower tonal range between shadow details and totalling blown highlights. The G11 also fringes blue like mad on blown or close to blown highlights. So experiment before you leave and make sure you understand the limits and how best work around them.

When I use my G11, 90% of the time I am shooting full manual mode. I tend to shoot ambient light and the G11’s smarts do not do so well with backlit scenes. There is a feature on the G11 that I absolutely love. I can be in full manual, focus on the subject and dial up or down F stop and/or shutter in real time and see the changes on the screen. No guessing, I just focus and dial in what I want it to look like or as close as I can get. This is such a cool thing is nasty lighting like a dim church or museum. I dont have to take the camera away from my eye and look at the screen to see the shot. I just hold it up, focus and watch the screen in real time. The G11 also has a rotating screen which I LOVE!! My old Nikon 950 has one and that is the one feature I miss the most on my D300/D90.

Another tip is to shoot RAW if you can. The JPEGs on the Canon just plain out and out suck. In RAW, I can recover alot of those “blown” highlights and pull back the fringing if I want. I also can run my normal workflow of Noiseware and a highpass filter which gives me clean and sharp images. Much better than the in-camera JPEG processing could ever hope to be.

Use the built in flash but use it wisely. In other words, dont turn it on and leave “on”.. learn to set it just like you do aperture or shutter speed. The built in flash works very well as fill for getting rid of those nasty shadows under someone’s eyes in bright light. It works very well to bring up the shadows in a dim museum assuming you are allowed to use the flash.

Amanda Oxford Portrait

Play with different techniques and post work flow. Dont be afraid of blur or Black and White. I learned a trick from Jack Davis (How to WOW) about using slow shutters while shooting out the window of a moving bus or car for an impressionistic look. With a bit of luck, it looks very cool. Also, take interesting shots of family, they are the models traveling with you and since they tend to ignore you anyways, play into that.

Rider
Blue Skies

Black and white is easily accomplished with today’s tools and remember, it’s BLACK and WHITE, not middle grey which is what you get with default settings of greyscale. It’s all about tones and texture in B/W, not color so strong subjects, close ups and something with a large tonal range can work very well in B/W.

WWII in B/W

Stairs of Light

Dont forgot to use interesting composition!! Dont take the same damn shot everyone else takes. Well, take it first and get it out of the way then start experimenting. You have digital film for pete’s sake, damn near unlimited assuming you either have a large flash card or you brought spares. You DID bring spares yet?

Hyde Park in London

Museum of Natural History Oxford

And FOOD!!! Remember, this is traveling and you are not eating at the same old places (you had better not be!) So sometimes, the food can be quite interesting to shoot and share with friends later.

Pizza

Every one of these pictures were taken with my point and shoot Canon G11 under a varity of conditions. All are not your typical crappy image out of a point and shoot. The equipment helps but in the end, the photographer working the camera makes the biggest difference. The point and shoot allows you to travel very light on equipment and in many ways, frees you to be more creative by doing more with less. Try it and I think you might yourself addicted to using the point and shoot alot more than you think you will.

Happy trails!!

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Shooting Dinner

I tried something different tonight. I spent some time cooking up a dinner from a Food Channel show and it looked so good, I ran to get my camera and took some shots of it. I was also trying to remember some advice I had been reading in a book called Digital Food Photography
. So I attempted a few things with the bare minimum of lighting and the onboard flash.

Before Post Retouching

I used my 17-55 2.8 first wide open but really did not like the results from that. Way too shallow depth of field with the 55mm racked out. So I ended up at F8 to F10. I started shooting at ISO 1000 but ended up at ISO 2000 to get the shutter speed at LEAST to the 1/10 I shot at and without a VR lens.. ouch! I comp’ed the exposure by +.7 and the onboard flash was dialed down -2 stops. I used the slow shutter to get a bit of the ambient light and I shot RAW to make damn sure I had all the info I could get.

I did get some black poster paper to put on the wooden table for the table top shot. The tones of the food and the table just blurred all together too much and the black gave the badly needed visual separation. For the plate, I used the cast iron burners of the stove and under exposed them so you get just a touch of visual kitchen reference.

I ended up with two out of about 15 images that were lit nicely and not blurred from the hand holding at such an absurd shutter speed. Both had BAM presets applied in Lightroom and both had color balance adjusted and the color luminosity adjusted after I was done with the coarse adjustments in CS4. In CS4, I used Noiseware to remove the noise of shooting ISO 2000 and then flattened the image and applied a high pass filter. I did a bit color burn in here in there to accent some of the colors. I also adjusted the black point to give a bit more contrast overall. All of this in about 10 minutes worth of work in post.

My final results are here and I think given the circumstances, they turned out pretty well. I am certainly going to learn how to shoot food better and the above book is highly recommended as a good guide it it.

Shepherds Pie Served Up

Shepherds Pie

Shooting food is fun and quite the challenge even for a “snapshot” type of picture. You need to light it well, keep the focus and keep appealing visually. Get the overall tone wrong and food just looks bad no matter how well technically you have done in shooting the image.

I found some good tips at Foodportfolio.com. The blog is too busy for my taste with ads but there is good stuff there if you are willing to dig around.

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Snow Fall

I love playing with Black and White conversions. There is something about B/W that has always stuck with me over the years. I remember well in my first ever college photo class, we were told we were shooting in B/W only. There was a collective groan but by the end of the class, I really did not want to shoot color.

Snow Fall

When I took this, I knew it was going to be a B/W conversion. Snow and trees lend themselves to B/W like air is to breathing. I started my primary conversion by a clean up in LR but the heavy lifting was in CS4. I used the greyscale conversion but used curves to really bring up the whites and blacks. A simple 50% high pass filter finished off the clean up.

So many of the B/W “conversions” I see on Flickr and elsewhere are just grey.. flat middle grey. Do this people not look at the classic B/W images to see what makes them so rich? It certainly is not middle grey.

And lets talk about how much is done in camera shall we? In this image, there was a main highway that I hid by taking a few steps up the stairs leading to my room. Then a mild zoom cropped out the buildings on the right hand side. A touch in post cleaned up the rest and we were done with the cropping.

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FundySOS shooting, lighting and biz seminar

The crew at Left Turn Studio (FundySOS and TouchFlow) put on a two day seminar  called “Two guys that shoot” which covered alot of information. They hit on the business of running a studio and make money at it, how to market, what to market, how to shoot portraits of various types and do it cheaply. Kevin as probably forgotten more about lighting than many photographers will ever know. He shots have been on many bridal magazines, shot fashion for years and quite a bit more over 20 some odd years. Fundy is not much behind Kevin in world class experience as a photographer, teacher, studio manager etc. Together, they are a quite the pair in the studio and very successful at what they do.

The seminar was a mix of informal “class” teaching and real shooting with models, lights, flashes, beauty dishes, sunlight, shade etc. The information was very clear and concise and they took us through the entire process of shooting a modeling session to downloading, workflow, basic retouching in Lightroom then into Photoshop to use their own software to build out albums for the sale.

Some sample shots I did while in the class follows. Mine are typical of the results achieved by everyone there. And both Fundy and Kevin took the time to make sure everyone achieved good results and knew WHY they achieved them.
Jo - Jazz's Mum

This model was great to work with and we were stunned to find out she had just had her fifth child several months ago. In this shot, we used daylight from the storefront windows and a dual fluorescent bulb fixture from home depot with a silver reflector by her head to add just a touch of fill.

Jazz - railway

This was a former senior client who came back to model for us as a “senior” and was super to work with outside in the cool day. We used natural light and off camera flash for these shots. The off camera flash shots were taken with the flash in TTL but the camera set to full manual. All the reasons and settings were fully explained to us even if we already knew most of it. It was nice to hear it again and pick up all kinds of information on shooting seniors and what makes a successful modeling shoot for a senior album.

Jazz

This shot was taken in the classic LTS style of using flat light. This is one of the key concepts that the two guys that shoot (TGTS) really push during the two days. Flat light is your best friend for a flattering picture. It fills shadows, smoothes out the ski, helps keep the bags away from the eyes and more. Men can get away with more directional light but overall flat is where it’s at for a clean portrait. We saw this outside and inside the studio shooting with strobes.

Jo - B/W conversion

This was another shot using flat light from the front and set high shooting down. We also used white V cards and white seamless paper for the background. The conversion was done in LR and then tweaked in Photoshop with a couple of techniques plus Touchflow B/W Punch action. I used surface blur with a mask to smooth out the skin and pulled up the black point to get cleaner blacks.

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Shooting Mountains

We had a tremendous amount of rain this past week here in SoCal. The good news is that the mountains got ALOT of snow from all the water. Where I live, there is a bluff that overlooks most of the valley and has the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. It’s a popular place to shoot the snow capped mountains after rains like this week.

When you shoot something that far away, you can get all kinds of atmospheric issues. You get haze, color shifts, shake and sometimes, a heat “haze” effect. So to do this long distance shoot well, you need to shoot in the early AM when things are calm and cool. A tripod can help but my personal experience says to me that IF you are shooting with a VR or IS (some kind of vibration/shake reduction) technology, your tripod can actually add to the problems.

Point and shoots are really overwhelmed by this type of shot but still can pull off nice pictures within reason. I would highly recommend a DSLR of some kind and a reasonable length telephoto like a 200mm. In my case below, I was shooting with a 70-200mm VR Nikon lens by hand. One of the critical items to address is to shoot at a very low ISO to keep the noise down and fine detail up. I was shooting at ISO 200 and a high F stop of F10 for max sharpness. I also kept the shutter speed up to 1/500 which along with the VR technology gives me very sharp images even by hand.

At this point lets decide on what you plan to do with the images. If this is just a click and leave, then you need to be aperture priority and let the camera work out the rest with the ISO set by hand. But, if you want to do a pano where you stitch several images together, you need to be in full manual. The reason is that if left to it’s own devices, the camera will change the settings for each picture. This can plan havoc when trying to blend the stitched images, not impossible but harder than it needs to be. In full manual, you get exactly the same exposure and tones each time you press the shutter. Much easier to blend all together when you get home.

I also turn on the view finder grids so I keep the horizon in the proper place while swinging the camera around for each image. Dont forget that you can shoot both landscape or vertical when stitching. The pano multiplies the overall pixel resolution count so you can pick up a wealth of detail by shooting zoomed in and multiple pictures to build out a normal sized image after you crop it down.

Once you have the pictures, you will probably find them somewhat flat and blueish which comes from shooting RAW ( you are shooting RAW for this, never JPEG) and that when shooting to a mountain against the blue sky, everything seems to pick up the slight blue tint. Time for post in your favorite editor.

I tend to run a highpass filter to sharpen up the image and do a basic levels adjustment to get to a more neutral point in my colors. Then I decide if I want to amplify certain tones or go for a certain look.

The first image is right out of the camera with only the basic camera correction adjustments applied since I was shooting RAW.
untouched

The second image is after my post processing
retouched

The final image is here, adjusted and cropped to the final look

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Compositing

One of the coolest thing you can do in Photoshop is to “cut out” something and replace it with something else. One of the common uses for this technique is to replace the background of a subject with a different and hopefully better background. It can also be one of the trickiest things to accomplish due to tonal differences, lighting differences and just the subject at hand. If you want to fully appreciate this, try to cut out someone with fine fly-away hair to replace the background.

There are tools to help you do this and some of them work very well but it helps to understand the basics before you dive into the deep end using fancy tools. Photoshop has a quick selection tool that can work very well if the subject is a nice contrasty subject with clean lines.

For myself, I decided to practice this technique more in the coming year since it has many applications for portraits. To that end I have been trying different ways and methods. I have also bought a couple of the tools I mentioned before, Mask Pro from onOne Software and Fluid Mask from Vertus. In both cases, the tools came as part of a package deal with other tools so they were “extras” as far as I was concerned.

For this entry, I’m just using the quick select tool in CS4 since I have nice and clean image to start with. I have a shot of a landing jet on a very ugly day with bad, flat light and a light mist from the rain. My background is a typical dramatic sunset cloud sky from later on in the day. Both are taken in roughly the same direction to keep whatever direction light there is on the same plane.
Original Airliner Original Sky

Using CS4 (CS3 works the same way), I did a quick selection which cut out the white sky on the jet and then deleted (cleared) my selection. This left me with just the jet. I opened the sky image and using the move tool, dragged it over to the jet and dropped it under the layer of the jet.

Now I have the basics in place, I worked on matching tones and lighting. I did a fast levels adjustment on the place to bring up the colors a bit which came closer to matching the sky. I also used the blur tool to slightly smudge the hard edge of the plane after it’s cut out. I went around the place in the dark/shadow areas and sampling the color of the sky next to it, I painted on a new layer just a touch of color using the sample at 7% opacity. This helps blend in the edge and the tonalities.

I then used ProTools 2.5 to apply a filter called “Creamsickle” which punches up the colors and adds something of a “glow”

I could do more if I wanted to but this whole effort took about 30 minutes which included trying different filters and goofing with the images. My real work time was about 15 minutes to make this final image. Not perfect but definitely an improvement over what I started with. And if I put in more effort, it would be really nice but like I said, this was just a fast practice run. I will be posting more using better techniques and tools.
Sunset

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Portrait shooting

There are alot of comments flying around about why one should use a short lens or a medium lens or a long lens for shooting portraits. Personally, I find that I really like the look of shooting with my 70-200 F2.8 lens for many lifestyle portraits. The lens give me alot of flexiblity in where I need to be and how tight I want to crop in camera. At 100mm and beyond the depth of field with a wide aperture is just a very clean look. Not as “creamy” as it would be shooting with something like a 85mm prime lens but certainly very nice.

When I’m shooting portraits in the studio, I tend to reach for the 18-55 F2.8 first. I will shoot on a tripod but I find it very confining and I prefer to get down on my knees or whatever and get the cool angles on the fly. Of late, I have been mixing it up, I shoot first on the tripod and then freestyle it for the 2nd half of the shoot. It seems to be working well for me.

Speaking of angles, one of the most common mistakes I see people make when shooting pictures of their kids is that every picture is “shooting down”. In other words, the photographer is taller than the child so he/she has to tip the camera down to get the child in frame. Learn to get down to their level and shoot from the ground. It can make amazing differences in how the portrait looks.

In the images below, I was on my butt and knees in the wet sand to bring the camera and lens wayyyy down to where the children were playing. I was also using my 200mm to it’s fullest to keep out the “play space” so the children would be more natural instead of trying to “pose” for the man with the camera.
Christmas Beach

Sand and water makes?

In this image, I was standing but still far away from the parents so not to have them trying to pose also.
Happy Parents

The change in perspective up or down and the distance away from the subjects can really make a difference in how your pictures turn out.

These pictures could just as easily been shot with the much cheaper 18-200 VR zoom or even a 70-200 VR F4.5 lens. The trade off would have been some clarity and sharpness but they certainly would have been very usable for a photo album. Even a point and shoot would do better with just the going low to be level with the children. In this case, it is more about technique than fancy gear or expensive glass.

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