Tag Archives: digital

Why You Should Be Printing Some Photographs

On a recent trip to Disneyland and to Chicago, I was struck by how prevalent the use of smart phones, in particular the iPhone was being used for photos. People were taking photos of themselves, where they were, friends, short video clips, long video clips, video conferencing to friends while on the road and more. Heck, I had a Nikon D700 with me and I still used my iPhone to snap a few shots of Chicago. What I did not see were any people sharing PHOTOGRAPHS, only electronic images. No wallet prints, no small albums or any other printed media. People were passing around their phones and other devices.

John Hancock Tower Chicago

In talking with a some of these people, I  learned that very few of them actual printed the images on to paper, ever. The images lived on the phone, Facebook, Flickr or home computer. They were  looked at briefly online and then never seen again as new images take their place. And unlike photo albums of years gone past, nobody pulls out their cell phone or laptop at home to look at pictures.

As it turns out, very few people are printing any of their photographs any more. That’s a real crime in of itself,  but it also goes to show that prints should be part of your collection. Yes, you can have a thousand images on your phone or tablet but what good are they if nobody ever sees them?  What good are they if the kids can’t see pictures of their vacation because they don’t know where the images are out on your hard drive, they don’t have access to your computer or they dont know what widget the images are on? How can they share with friends at school about where they went on vacation or show off to neighbors?

We re losing something precious by not printing photographs. Facebook is well and good but we humans are tactile bunch. W want to touch and hold in our hands things like prints. And it’s not the glow of a tablet, we  want pictures that do not require software, hardware, power supplies, dim rooms and all that goes it with the digital generation of viewing pictures.

This is something we as photographers need to educate our customers to do  and we need to do it ourselves. When was the last time you made 4×6 prints to show off to friends your last vacation around the dinner table or coffee shop? Did  you just dump a few hundred images on Flickr or Facebook and call it good? People get excited about holding real pictures.. They get excited about real time sharing of stories. They get excited about touching pictures. It’s time to get excited!!  Make some prints and spread them around!!

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Shooting Portraits with vintage cameras and film

Who says film is dead? Not by a long shot around here. I just got a roll of 120 Ektacolor Kodak Pro 160 film back from the lab and scanned in a few of the negs. I shot this roll of film using my 1958 Yashica model D TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera. This camera is older than I am by a few years and after 90 dollars for refurbishing, it takes awesome pictures with that great vintage depth of field and “feel” to the picture.

 

Portrait using Yashica 120 film camera and adjusted with photoshop CS5This picture was taken out the front door of my house and I took two of them since the girls would not sit still and were goofing around.  So it’s a bit of a marriage of modern software using CS5 Photoshop and vintage film. I did a head swap on the center subject and did some basic color balancing and sharpening.  But that is pretty much it and what you see is what came out of the camera.

It only takes a few days to get the film back from the lab and then I load up my Epson 4990 and scan away. Once the film is scanned, I treat it like any other digital film with one exception, I do not run any noise reduction software on it. The grain of the film is a significant part of the charm of the look and feel of film and I dont want to loose that to overly agressive software.

The one thing that a photographer who is not used to with film is the wide exposure range. What normally would abruptly blow out is a nice gradual blowout and even then, you can still pull back detail that a digital file just will not  have available.  The key difference is that film is analog and has several stops of latitude (except slide film) where as digital has about three stops, maybe four stops on a really good day and IF you are shooting RAW. This is why when I first starting shooting digital in 99, I had some issues with getting my exposures correct. I was used to shooting for the shadow details since I could always bring the highlights back with more printing time for that part. Digital required me to shoot for the highlights since when the numbers hit 255, there was nothing left, not even a trace unlike a film negative.

This is probably the biggest gotcha for anyone new to film who has only shot digital. It is a small but critical item for the photographer to know and to remember as they switch around from film to digital and back. But, as you can see, when you get it nailed, you get some really cool images. Long live film 🙂

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Long Live the Pocket Camera, the Pocket Camera is dead

the top and sides of an iPhone 3G S.
Image via Wikipedia

Yet another single use device has bitten the dust or I should say, is biting the dust even as I type this. The “pocket camera” or “Point and shoot” is dying a fast and unlamented death. The cause of death is the smart phone of which no matter which one you use, iPhone, Droid etc, now have a reasonable camera built in. It’s the old “good enough” syndrome of the consumer. The smart phone hits the mark in convenience and is good enough for most consumers to grab that snapshot.

When I’m scouting for locations, do I pull out my Canon G11? Nooope.. I pull out my iPhone with the GPS and then shoot and tag. I use my G11 about once a month if that. I use my iPhone at least once a day to shoot a picture of something. It could be a reminder of a phone number, a product in the store, something I’m doing that friends would find interesting.

Just the other day, I replaced the seals on my medium format camera. As I did the job, I took the iPhone and shot pictures every  now and then and put them up on Facebook in seconds. Not real time but close and alot of people enjoyed it. Could I do that with my fancy G11? Not a chance. I would have to shoot, upload to the computer, resize and then upload. The phone literally took seconds to complete the entire task. And that included enhancing the images using software on the phone.

Facebook which has the most pictures online, even more than Flickr which is one of the best photo sites, has some interesting statistics.  Facebook at last count has something like 50 BILLION pictures uploaded on it’s site. Flickr shows that it’s most popular camera is the iPhone 3G with the typical Nikon/Canon DSLRs in the 2nd/3rd slots. Not a point and shoot anywhere to be found in the top listing. Personally, I take shots with my iPhone and load them straight to Facebook. I’ve become so used to that feature and the ability to shoot an email on demand, I would not consider any pocket or point and shoot that didn’t do this. Nobody wants to shoot images on their point and shoot and then take it home, transfer to the PC, fix them and then upload to Facebook or Flickr or whatever. They want to shoot and go right then. And so long as the image is good enough, they are happy.

Most popular camera on Flickr

Most popular camera on Flickr

PSExpress, CameraOne and Best Camera are three apps I use all the time on my iPhone. Between the three, I can normally get a “good enough” image out of my iPhone. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Nope.. but as a guest I would be happy to use it to get the occasional snap. I will say that once I used my iPhone 4’s video, I never shot video on my Canon g11 again. The phone was just that much better then my 500 dollar camera.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used G11?

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Posted in Competition, editing, editing software, equipment, firmware, Hardware, photography, ramblings, technique Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

A Scanners Tale

Fujitsu Logo
Image via Wikipedia

Paper is the bane of my office. I have magazines that I want to keep articles from, torn sheets from magazines that have ideas for shoots, bills, reference paperwork  such as maps from travels and more. All this information, no way to search it, no way to catalog it and no up to now, no way to digitize it quickly or easily.

Change is upon me in the form of a new scanner from Fujitsu called the Snapscan S1500M. This scanner comes in two flavors, Windows or Mac. And unlike many shops that claim Mac compatibility, this really IS compatible with the Mac. The software installs easily and has been absolutely reliable, not a single crash or hicup. The scanner is not cheap compared to others but 400 dollars for a scanner that does double sided scanning of 100 pages in less than five minutes is pretty cheap. The processing that takes the scan and makes it a searchable PDF only adds another five minutes to the time of scanning 100 pages.

So I have this PDf now on my computer,  just what can I do with it? Well, what I do is what I had told to me by XXX. I got a premium membership with Evernote and I sync this folder and files up with Evernote so now everything is in the “cloud” and available to all my devices. This includes:

  • iPhone/iPad/iTouch
  • Windows
  • OSX
  • Windows Mobil
  • Palm Pre
  • Blackberry
  • Android

It’s searchable so I can run a search on a topic and get just those matches. I do not have to thumb through old magazines guessing where I saw that article at. Or look for the sticky hanging off the outside with a scribble on it.

Here is the user interface for the OSX application. Clean and to the point.

Evernote OSX Application

Evernote OSX Application

And Evernote is not just for scanners, you can clip from the web or use your webcam to snap a picture. I love SOHO Notes but this might just replace it for me. You owe it to yourself to check it out even if you dont want to scan anything.

Now I can either chop the spine of the magazine off and scan it all then clean it up with Acrobat or I can just razor out the pages I want and scan those. In the past day, I’ve cleaned out one year of Photoshop User magazines and a pile of razored clippings. I clean up my scans by deleting all the ads and stuff I dont want since there is a monthly limit to the uploading at Evernote of 500 meg. This sounds small but the typical razored article is about 3 pages cleaned and under a meg in size or a tad over if I keep the color images.

I just put the scanned files into one directory and I have that sync automatically with Evernote’s website and I’m good to go.

So in short:

  1. Razor articles
  2. Toss remains
  3. Scan articles
  4. Clean up ads
  5. Sync

So far so good, I can access my new files on my iPhone or iPad without any issues at all no matter where I am. I have copies locally on my MacPro and I have them in the cloud. I have pulled about 50lbs of magazines out of my office and more on the way. I can even find things now with Spotlight. This is a win all the way around as far as I’m concerned even more so at the modest cost involved.

  • Scanner = 450.00 from Amazon
  • Evernote = 50 dollars a year for the premium account, the entry level account is free
  • Supply of razors = 10 dollars

Optional cost would be a real nice guillotine cutter that can handle 200 pages at a whack to take care of the magazines but so far, the razor works fine.

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Photoshop World 2010 Las Vegas Dispatch Weds

So here at Photoshopworld at the vendor Expo, Westcott did something very cool. They brought in four models (five counting the still life) and had them rotating between live demos to posing sets. Anyone with a camera could walk up and shoot the set/model from any angle you could get to. You could not change the lighting but you could have the model pose differently for you.

Here is the RAW shot from one of the posing stations. Straight from my D300 and zero adjustments.

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

Here is the same shot after my quick and dirty postprocessing. I will write up a complete “how to” post on how I got to the final product in a few days.

Catwoman in Gotham FINAL

Catwoman in Gotham FINAL

Why did Westcott do this? because they are having a contest going on that if your shot is picked from the Flickr feed, your shot will grace the 2011 Westcott catalog cover. Pretty cool idea and I saw quite a few taking advantage of the arrangement.

This is a short entry since I’m still in Las Vegas for the show and I’m trying to get this done before breakfast and another busy day.

Just a few words from the past few days.  The show is excellent as always but I think that the crowds are definitely smaller than what I remember a few years back. But everyone is very enthusiastic about the training, the show, Photopshop and everything that goes with it.

Scott Kelby and company did a righteous cover of the band KISS and a glam rock show complete with 9″ heels and pyrotechnics/steam/radio station sponsor and EVERYTHING was built on Photoshop/Adobe riffs.

Scott Kelby as KISS at PSW 2010 Vegas

Scott Kelby as KISS at PSW 2010 Vegas

JohnnyL from Adobe did a magic show and showed the crowd the magic of CS5. There was a poke in the eye at Apple for Flash and apps being rejected by the App store but accepted by Android. The irony there was ALL the computers used in the show were Apples as the iPad for the ePub demo.

Zack Arias did an awesome class on “Thing you need to know” as a photographer getting ready to make the switch from part time to full time.

I’ll write more in depth in the coming days along with more pictures of course. Back to the salt mines 🙂

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Color to High Key Black and White

One of the most classic looks in photography is Black and White. It is very interesting to me how even with our fancy digital cameras and ultra clean image files, we strive for a retro, grainy old school look without color. We will use all kinds of tricks to make our clean image look like the old Tri X or illford or TMAX. We add grain (noise), we unsharpen the image, we do all kinds of things to “ruin” the digital perfection that we as photographers pay dearly for.

And why? Why do we do this thing that we do? Because we have a collective embedded memory that black and white is artistic, it’s clean and pure and it really can make you focus on the image, not the colors. I’m sure there are a lot of other reasons but those are what come to my mind as I’m writing this missive.

I remember learning photography years ago in a community college and being very disgruntled to learn that my first semester would be just black and white. I thought it was going to be a terrible semester, why did we need to learn this old crap when we had Kodachrome and E6 slide film and more. Who even WANTED black and white?

That sure changed by the end of the semester to the point that when I signed up for my second semester, I took a second semester of black and white film studies. I lived in black and white film, I lived in the dark room with it’s chemicals and red light. I pored over catalogs looking at exotic papers to print my B/W images onto. I learned how to make my own developer to tweak the film into a direction I wanted it to go. Only then did I start to explore color.

But technology marches on and B/W became a niche player with color owning the world. Then came digital and really changed things around. Color was everything, saturated was better, grain or noise was the great evil and we strived to get as clean of an image as possible and some of us thought we might have lost a piece of our soul in the process and chase.

So now I see B/W more but I see really bad conversions where the folks end up with a monochromatic middle grey image and call it “Black and White” because that is what the preset says it is. With this thought, I’m going to write up a few entries on my ideas of B/W and how I got to certain pictures that I really like. My first one is a high key look where it’s dark blacks, stark whites and very little grey. It’s also a study in how to salvage an image that otherwise was not much to look at.

So lets start with the original image, no retouching or other processing. It’s got a bit of lens flare since I was shooting a 1.4 50mm wide open against the bright white background.

Jo Original No Retouch

Original Image - No retouch

As you can see, aside from the killer body, technically speaking, the image is not very special or very strong. But lets see what we can do with it. I always start in Lightroom since that is my workflow. The very first thing I do is apply a camera profile preset which brings in the various settings to match my camera, in this case, a Nikon D300. Then I will apply a B/W conversion preset and do some basic adjustments.

BAM – FREE Camera Dojo free Lightroom preset.
WOW BnW_02 – FREE Jack Davis B/W conversion preset from his How to WOW series

Highlights +40
Darks +75
Shadows -19
sharpness -80

The sharpness has been dialed down to let me run the noise clean up, then I reapply the sharpness as needed

luminance +54
color noise +27
sharpness +40

After Lightroom Conversion

After Lightroom Conversion

Now I bring the image into Photoshop to fine tune it and to clean it up.

I first apply a curves layer with a sweeping curve that starts from the lower left corner and bows to the left and up the right hand corner. This brings out the whiteness of the skin

Now I make a duplicated layer and start to sample the image and paint it using the samples. In this case I evened out a shadow under the chine, I made the eyelashes darker, whites of the eyes brighter and so on.

After Curves

After Curves Adjustment

I then apply a blur to a duplicate of the painted image. But I apply a layer mask which hides the new blur. Then I use my Wacom to paint in the blur at something like a 20% opacity.

Jo - Final Image

Final Image after retouching

Now we have a pretty sweet and dramatic black and white image. It really shows off her eyes and the overall beauty of her face without the distraction of lens flare, color and other attributes. Print this on black and white paper or aluminum and you have killer wall art.

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Real competition for Pocket Wizards?

I like PWs, they always work but at 170 USD each, they get expensive which is why I’m currently shooting with Cybersyncs. But I still would like to get a set of PWs or I did till I read a very interesting review on a new product called “Phottix Atlas Professional Wireless Flash Trigger“.

Charles Verghese wrote a really nice three part review on using the new Atlas triggers with a direct comparison between them and Pocket Wizards. In short, the Atlas triggers worked as well or in some cases, better than the old standby PWs.

You can see both side by side here.

wireless triggers side by side

Side by Side

Pocket Wizard and Atlas

Pocket Wizards and Atlas

As you can see, they look very close to each other. Charles makes the point that the build quality is very good unlike many of the ebay cheapo triggers.

These are interesting enough that I think for a 100 USD, I will spring for a pair to try out when they are released in the US in a few months. Right now, they are only CE certified for Europe. Maybe Pocket Wizard will finally lower their prices where I can afford the real deal 😀

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How to wirelessly remotely trigger your camera on the cheap

I have an upcoming project where I want to shoot a moving (slowly) car with a slow shutter to get a blurred background/wheels etc but the car to be sharp. This is normally done by putting the DSLR on some kind of rig which holds the camera away from the car/truck while you drive/push the car around. Hence the name of a”rig shot” and the website of the same name giving some cool “how to” articles.

There are many ways to do this but there are fewer ways to do it safely for both you, your equipment and the vehicle’s sake. In my case, I plan to have the camera sitting on a boom extending out from the car. So I have picked up some suction cups, super clamps, round stock and now, a new remote trigger.

I want to review the trigger in particular since I was pleasantly surprised when I got it in the mail the other day and discovered how well it worked plus the over all build quality. The trigger is made nominally by Vivitar but that brand was bought by Sakar so it’s not the Vivitar that we know and love from years ago. With that said, the Wireless Remote Shutter Release For Nikon D300 and D700 SLR Digital Cameras works very well and is a decent build quality. Vivitar also produces a version for Canon Cameras.

The transmitter is a sealed unit with a 12V 23A battery good up to 3 years. The receiver has a replaceable 3V CR2 battery. The stated range is 100 feet unobstructed and that is pretty accurate in my testing. So far, the D300 has fired every time I hit the button out to about 80 feet so far. The interesting part is that it works at 315Mhz which excludes it from interference from wireless phones, wifi and other more common electronic toys. It is however, the band that TPMS (tire pressure monitoring systems) work on plus things like remote keyless entry, some garage doors, Automated meter reading and some alarm systems. But most of these devices are set to some security combination so that lessens the chances of misfires. So far I have not had any issues.

Vivitar Remote Trigger Kit

Vivitar Remote Trigger Kit

The receiver mounts to the hot shoe on the camera and my wish is that it had a pass-through for the flash sync cord but you can always use gaffers tape or a ball-bungie to tie it to the side of the camera. it’s just not as elegant as it could be. The connector to the camera itself is well made and the cable is long enough to have some flexibility on just where to put the unit. As I said, it does have a hot shoe mount which works well.

Vivitar Trigger Top D300 Nikon

Vivitar Trigger Top D300 Nikon


D300 Vivitar remote trigger connection

D300 Vivitar remote trigger connection

These images were taken with a Canon G11 using a piece of foam core under the camera and a white mattress that I had handy as the background 🙂 White is white and when you blow it out, nobody knows any differently. There was some post work to bring up the shadows since I was shooting with ambient light and the built in flash on the G11. Not exactly a prime set up for product shoots but it got the job done.

Back to the conversation about remote triggers. Now with this trigger, I do not have to run a wire to the camera and be in the car or buy a very expensive set of pocket wizards just to trigger the camera. I could fake it with my Cybersyncs but it’s a hack and I can not push half way to set focus. Nikon does have a remote corded trigger but it cost 132.00 USD and it has a cord which is the deal breaker for this application.

There are cheaper clones but again, they are corded. There are several IR triggers but I find the IR trigger to be ineffective in daylight with very limited range.

When using this trigger, I can have it set to fire one frame, multiple frames or a 2 second delayed firing of the shutter. I can also hold the button half way and the camera will set it’s focus just like using the button on the camera. (or you can have it set to manual focus and tape it down, much better when shooting a moving car on a rig). I can also use it for “bulb” mode where the shutter opens and stays open till I hit the trigger again. Not at all bad for something under 50 USD. I would say that the manual sucks.. it’s short and terse but really tiny print so it’s hard to read. I would rather Vivitar forget the coated paper stock and give me a folded 8×11 plain laser printed page of large text.

So in closing, if you need to fire your camera remotely and wirelessly, I would recommend that you take a look at the Vivitar wireless trigger. It’s cheap, it works and what more needs to be said than that?

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Time Lapse or Interval Recording

The new cameras that are out now have so many features and options that many of us just work out how to take the basic picture and call it a day. But there are some cool things if you dig a bit into the menus. You need to be a bit curious and willing to put in a little bit of time.

For example, on my Nikon D300, I can set up the camera for “Interval Recording” or what we all know as “Time Lapse” photography. This is where the camera takes a picture every X amount of time and then the stills get strung together as a movie. It’s a bit like stop action movies. And if you think about, digital camcorders and HDDSLRs are doing this at 30 images a second or more so it looks very smooth. We want to go the other way though in time lapse, we want to compress a given amount of time into a much smaller amount of time. For example, in my test video below, I shot for three plus hours at a frame every five seconds. This gave me something like 2,000 images at the end of the three hours. I used Apple’s QuickTime to stitch it all together as a movie. Then I imported it into iMovie and crop it a bit and added a sound track plus the eye candy at the beginning and end of the movie. My total time was under an hour to make this two and a half minute clip. And this is just the first test to see how well it worked. There are all kinds of applications for this style of photography, I know a wedding photographer who records the entire wedding and shows off a two or three minute clip which contains the entire cermony and the clients love it.

My equipment was pretty basic.

Nikon D300
17-55 F2.8 lens
Flashp Point carbon fiber tripod
Flash Point ball head
Carton of steel BBs to hang under the tripod

Software was also basic stuff

Apple Quicktime Pro
Apple iMovie

The settings were pretty straight forward. I set the camera to manual mode and locked the shutter to 1/125 and the aperture to F8. I like the ISO be auto-adjusted so the camera could compensate as the afternoon started to go twilight. I had the rig on the hood of my truck away from bikes, skateboards and little hands.

The Nikon D300 only does 999 images and then you have to reset it and start it over. You can get around this by using an external timer but that cost money and up to now, I had not spent anything. Go to Instructables to see how to make a TI graphing calculator into an interval timer. You can also find interval calculators for the iPhone such as this one by ClamClam Video.

I set up the D300 to shoot the smallest JPEG (2144×1424 pixels) which still exceeds the HD standard of 1920×1080 at 24 FPS. This gives me just a touch of room for some minor cropping which I did in my sample below.

Here are some pics taken with my G11 when I was setting up and testing the D300 before I shot the actual afternoon event. The first one shows the settings in the Nikon LCD window.
Interval Configuration

This one shows the basic set up using the carbon fiber tripod, ball head and D300 with battery pack.
Nikon D300 Interval Test

When you open Quicktime, you want to choose “Open image sequence”. You go to the directory of the images and select the first one. You then select the frame rate you want to use. The selection of 24 frames per second is standard for film and digital recordings use as high as 30 frames per second. Alot of web sized video use 10 or 15 frames per second. In my case, I could go as low as 12 frames a second and still have a decent frame rate for the video. I saved the file as the default MOV file because I knew I was going to put it into iMovie for further editing and clean up. I wanted as much data as I could get and I exported it from iMovie for YouTube.

Overall, my test was a success and very easy to accomplish. I already have plans to use this trick again in a more production manner and I can see how one might make a reel from it using several shoots tied together.

In the end, the only reason I did this was because I was curious about it and I thought it might be fun. You should try it. You might like it 🙂

You can see some very cool timelapse reels here at 599productions.com

Addendum-

Here is a way cool DIY to make a tiny circuit that will trigger your camera based on the difference from the first press of the shutter and the second one. it will run till the battery runs out.

How To Build The Smallest Intervalometer In The World

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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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