Tag Archives: photoshop

Why use a real editor for smartphone images?

We all have heard the myth of why iPhone (or any smartphone) cannot take a good picture. By now you have seen in this blog, many images that are very respectable and if I had not said they were from an iPhone, you would have thought they were from a “real” camera. But, to really get the best out of your smartphone picture, you need a real desktop editor. Not an app on a very small screen. I use Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe for a few reasons. One is that Lightroom is an asset management system and will let me keep track of ALL 80,000 of my images. It is also a kick butt editor that is very easy to get fast and smart results from. A bit of icing on the cake is you can buy it outright for about 150.00 dollars or you can pay 9.99 a month for it AND Photoshop CC. That’s right!! For about 2 dollars a week, you can have the defacto standard for editing and management. For this post, I will be showing what can be done with Photoshop since it does things like skin retouching better than Lightroom. Photoshop works really well at what I call “Heavy Lifting” editing. Lightroom does amazing work for very fast and general edits but when I need to replaces parts or have very fine control over the editing, I use Photoshop.

When I say all of this in my iPhone class, the next question is “Why”? Why do I need this? If you are just posting to Facebook or other social media, then you don’t. But, if the iPhone has turned into your main camera and you want some really nice pictures to print and hang, then you want to use the right tools to get there.

Here is a typical iPhone shot taken on the fly just before the Disneyland “Big Thunder” ride takes off. I liked the overall expression but I didn’t like the splash of bright light on her face or the background. I used PureShot on the MAX quality JPEG setting. This setting gives me over 3x the data to work with. The normal iOS image is about 1.5 Mb and the MAX is a bit over 5Mb in size.

Iphone image before Photoshop Editing

Here is the Photoshop edited version where I’ve used normal glamour retouching techniques to clean up the bright light, smoothed out skin tones, cropped it and tilted it slightly. I also used a slight blur on the overall image. I even removed myself from one of the sunglass lenses.
Edited iPhone Image using Photoshop

You can see that the iPhone image edits just as well as any other image from a “real” camera when using a real editor. The tips and tricks you know work the same. And just like any other JPEG, you need to edit with a gentle hand to avoid artifacts. For this edit, I use many layers and my Wacom tablet.

All this extra data really comes in handy when you want to pull down highlights or bring up shadows on an iPhone JPEG. Normally you cannot do either very well but with the MAX quality JPEG, it works pretty well.

None of this editing could have been done on the iPhone using an “app”. We do not have the apps and we do not have the fine control of a stylus needed on such a small screen. Even on the iPad, it would have been difficult at best.

Ultimately it is all about control and flexibility as to why use a real editor on your smartphone image. Again, this is wasted effort if all you are going to do is post to Facebook which destroys image quality anyways. But if you want really nice images, this is why.

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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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Always be looking for the shot

So I’ve been a bit delayed in writing my week’s blog entry due to going back to Connecticut for my oldest girl’s graduation. When we arrived there, I needed to rent a car and for 10 dollars more than a Chevy Malibu, I was able to get a very cool burnt orange Challenger. It was the ONLY one I saw the entire weekend of driving around and it gather looks and comments everywhere I went.

Along with the car, we needed a place to stay and I found a bed and breakfast that was a working farm (small) called “Butternut Farm“.  It was a very eccentric place to stay for a few days with good food, poor cellular coverage and virtual no lighting at night to see the sign or the building so I missed it a few times trying to find it at 9PM. It turns out that it’s really dark on country roads in Connecticut.

So what does a farm B&B and a orange Challenger have in common? Not too much till I came back to the farm one afternoon and saw a cool photo op by moving the car a few feet into the front of the barn and shooting with scene. I shot knowing full well I would need to photoshop the image since the light was not the best and rain had just started to mist down so everything was a dull blue tint. But I managed to rip off several images and by paying attention to details that I could control like the placement of the car, angle of the shot and waiting for the chickens, I got a good image to work with.

Here is the before and after shot.

2011 Challenger before and after with Lightroom 3

As you can see, I worried about my composition first, then I dealt with the lighting, color and so on.  Now that I have the shot, I loaded up photoshop CS5 and went to work using my Wacom and blend modes. The trick is to use a couple of layers to built up the color and detail of the car. You can see the original was a bit flat and the lower body panel was dark due to the overhead flat light. So I made a duplicate layer and used the multiply blend mode to darken up the very light highlights. I then applied a layer mask to hide it and re-applied it using a soft brush at 10% opacity to where I wanted to darken up things like the glass and top body highlights. I repeated the process again but used the screen mode to get a lightened version of the car. Again, I used my Wacom to apply a 10% layer to the lower body panels, the back and anywhere else that needed to be punched up a bit. Next was the application of an orange photography filter at 40%. Another layer mask let me paint out the orange on the blacks and wheels. The final touch was using Red Giant Light Factory to apply a “sun” to the tree line and tweak the final overall warmth of the image.

After all that which took about 30 minutes, I ended up with a pretty cool “product” shot of the classic Challenger in the farmyard. I did think about adding a flag but I thought would be too over the top of stereotypes.2011 Challenger in Butternut Bed and Breakfast Barnyard

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Behind the scenes of a photoshoot

Photographers love to show of images from their last photoshoot. Everyone likes to “ohhhh and ahhhh” over the images that are retouched, mashed up and worked over in a good way we hope. But, personally, I love to shoot the behind the curtain shots. You know, the things that make a photoshoot what it really is and can have you really appreciate all the more the very cool image when the environment is anything but cool.

I attend a monthly workshop that is a mix of a social hour, some food, shop talk, instruction and shooting over at Redgum Creative Studios. A friend of mine, Richard Radstone is the instructor and mentor for those of us who regularly attend these socials and it’s always fun to be there and be involved in the day’s shoot. We have a model or two with a MUA (make up artist) present plus the crew at Redgum to help pull it all together.

So in the spirit of sharing, I’m posting some of the set up and during the shoot shots of mine of the last social/training/breakout Redgum Studio shoot. It really will give you a sense of the afternoon and what a real photoshoot is like. I’m not talking about a “shoot” where the softbox is made from a empty box of corn flakes and the light stand will blow over with a single breath. I’m talking about a real photo shoot, with real models, make up artists, real grip equipment and a real studio setting. The only thing missing is the stress of  having the client on set breathing down your back.

I’ve already mentioned the MUA and I would like to point out the use of C Stands (century stands) instead of the more common tripod stands. These are portable only in the sense that you can carry them from one side of the stage to the other or roll them if they have casters. They are very stable and with the sand bags, they will not be falling over unless you really go out of your way to try to knock it over. The same goes for the big gun strobes, the hot lights, various bit of grip equipment holding it all together and the rest. Things are taped down, locked down and safe. Many photographers would do well to take some notes of the set up of the gear, I know I did when I first started and I have invested more than a bit of “extra” equipment that just makes putting a shoot together a bit more enjoyable and safe for all concerned.

In the other images you can see some of the students from Brooks Institute that were visiting, the cameras of choice for the day and of course, the model getting prepped and having some shots taken.

To myself one of the most interesting things are how the lighting is set up. You can see the lights used, the scrims and/or diffusion used and how the stage is configured overall. There is alot to learn from these types of events. And when you understand that the four hours of social mixing, shooting and listening only costs 25 dollars, you can see how it is a real bargin.

I hope you enjoy this short visit to the backside of a photoshoot and I hope you enjoy the detail shots. So here are two of the final images from the day. So now you know both sides of the shoot, the prep and set up of the shoot and the final outcome.

Final Portrait

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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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Painting for Photographers

The title is a double meaning, one is the obvious meaning, how can a photographer “paint” their images. The second is a reference to a book by Karen Sperling called “Painting for Photographers” which has been a guide for me while I explore how to use Corel Painter and Photoshop CS5 to change images into paintings.

I am a photographer, I am not a painter or at least I’m not in the classic sense of the word. But, as a portrait photographer, I use light and shadow just like a painter does to add texture and depth to my subject. Karen’s book really helps with understanding what makes a painting work and why it is different at times than a picture. I will say that while she is mostly oriented to the user of PainterX or Painter 11, she does not leave out the CS5 users who have the new bristle brushes and blending modes. Much of what she teaches crosses over to both. For example, when painting in the background, things like transitions, blending of hair, using different brush textures are not specific to one application but can be used by many different applications.

Karen shows alot of information on different styles of images using “chalk”, “watercolor”, “sponge” and more plus what makes each work for a particular style of image. You would not want to try to take a dark dramatic image and try to make it a watercolor. It would not look or feel right. Oils can lend a sense of formal stature to a portrait and sponge can really make a landscape pop with texture. Karen has all of this and much more in a relatively thin book.

What does all this mean to a photographer? Another revenue stream is what it means. Seeing a “painting” that is on canvas and LARGE is impressive to clients.  Most people really do not understand what a painting is all about, they are used to seeing pictures and snapshots. When they see a large portrait with the drama of blending and texture, they “get it”. And it’s unique enough that clients who really want that something “special” that few others have will be very interested.

So what can you paint? Portraits of all kinds, wedding shots are common because they lend themselves to a painted style of image. Landscapes are another type of image that works really well as a painting. Virtually any type of image can work with the right kind of technique.

I have a small gallery of a current project that shows the transition from a nice normal portrait to a painting that looks really nice. I’m still working on it and learning some of the fine points. I will say that you need to get used to using layers. I have several layers of painting so I can try different things and not ruin work already completed that I’m happy with. One of the big differences between the un-retouched and the painting is that I was able to really clean up the eyes and catchlights by painting. A second huge improvement was made to the overall image by the removal of the background to a more artistic painted background. One thing to remember with a painting is that you paint out alot of small details and use large details to carry the painting. This is true for most paintings and one of the hardest things for a photographer who has spent a fair amount of money to get megapixels of detail to turn around and paint out all the tiny detail. Why? Because it would never show in a real painting and since you are making a painting, you need to work like a painter. I personally find I like to blend the two where I keep some fine detail and lose other detail. But that is just a style of painting that I find myself falling into. Everybody has their own style or will have their own style just like their photography.

Digital Wedding Painting Bride

So what do you need to start painting your photographs? You need some type of software, normally Corel Painter or Photoshop CS5. You can do this with a mouse but I can not too strongly suggest a tablet like a Wacom tablet and pen. The control you get from using a tablet/pen is unparalleled compared to a mouse. With the pressure sensitivity of the pen, it gives you the feel and touch of using a real paint brush. So now that you have software and a tablet, what else? Find a picture you want to make into a painting. I did forgot one important item, you need to read Karen’s book FIRST and then use it as a reference as you start your painting. I will say this, while painting with Corel Painter is well documented, painting with CS5 bristle brushes is not nearly as well supported at this time.

To the end of trying to find some help for those with CS5 and not Painter, here are some links to help explain how to use CS5’s blend modes and bristle brushes.

Peachpit Press #86 Using the Mixer Brush

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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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Photoshopworld 2010

So I survived Vegas with it’s 30 dollar lunches, 25 dollar shots of Scotch and my cheap room at Mandalay bay. I guess it all balances in the end since I did not give a nickel to the slots. The keynote was awesome, the Tweet up was alot of fun, the Expo was crazy good fun and I did sneak out early because of the holiday and trying to fly home on Friday.

I split my time with several class this time. I noticed that in 2007 which was the last time I was there at PSW, I saw 95% software based classes. This time, the tracks were split between real photography classes and software like Painter, Photoshop and such. I ended wishing I could attend them all but settled on a mix of classes

My preconference class was “The Art of the Digital Canvas” with Faye Sirkis and I had high hopes for the class since I really wanted to see how to make CS5 work with the new bristle brushes. But, the class fell short of my expectations between a lack of real meat in the class and technical issues with CS5. The good news is that was the only class that fell short in my opinion. The two classes I took with Joe McNally were awesome to be in and Joe has a very good sense of presentation with humor and solid information.  I took a Fashion Portrait class with David Cuerdon who I found relatively recently on Kelby’s training site and have decided that I really, really like his style and teaching methods.. The fashion class was a wealth of info on how to shoot and more importantly, retouch the shots effectively.

Zack Arias did a couple of classes but the one I went to was “Stuff you need to know to be a photographer” and as always, Zack did a bang up job of getting down to the nuts and bolts of being successful as a photographer and to figure out what is really important to you and and your craft. A hint, passion only gets you so far as a photographer.

I did the concert and event photographer on something of a lark and it was very interesting to hear how it works behind the scenes as it were. Also the choice of gear, how to get the pass and what to expect as a photographer at a concert. Alan Hess did a very good job at showing the class the real world of Concert photography and proving that yes, you can have fun while working for a living 🙂

Here are some random shots from the trip. I split my shooting between my Canon G11 and my D300. Both worked well but the Canon struggled with the low light in the classes. The D300 would work but only but shooting at 2.8 with ISO 3200 or 6400. I was really wishing for a FX camera and ISO 25,000 🙂 The NAPP Keynote was completely shot using the G11 and it did very well considering I had the zoom maxed out and the lighting was so bad. The class shots of Joe McNally were taken with the D300 at ISO 6400.

Zack Arias

Zack Arias

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Metal prints were the hot item

Metal prints were the hot item

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

Photoshop Keynote

Photoshop Keynote

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Home Base

Home Base

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Photoshop TV LIVE

Photoshop TV LIVE

Joe McNally

Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Joe McNally in action

Joe McNally in action

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

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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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